Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boutiques take to the Web

LONDON: For a growing band of Europe's top fashion boutiques like Maria Luisa and Biondini in Paris, Feathers in London and Paleari in Milan, e-commerce is no longer a great logistical nightmare thanks to, a portal and Internet service company in London.

"We wouldn't have been able to do e-tailing on our own," said Robin Schulié, a buyer for Maria Luisa, one of the first shops to join the site when it debuted in October. "It would have meant at least a couple more people to work on it, a very strong organization, and it is an investment that at the moment would have been impossible. José came at the right moment when we needed to change and open ourselves to the Web."

Created by José Neves, 34, a fashion entrepreneur who also founded the b store in London, the site touts "10 cities, 20 fashion boutiques, 200 designers, 1 Web site.", which boasts 400,000 visitors a month, divides designers into three categories: Luxe (including the likes of Christopher Kane and Maison Martin Margiela); Lab (Ann-Sofie Back, Peter Jensen); and Cult (April 77, Cheap Monday).

Neves said he planned to limit the number of boutique members, although the list soon will add Milletre in London and Dolci Trame in Siena.

And he now is in talks with the U.S.-based site about creating a version of farfetch for about 20 U.S independent retailers. takes a percentage of sales from its boutique members, negotiating fees with each one. Neves said the company hasn't been operating long enough to disclose its revenues, but he noted it now has 35 employees.

In addition to the farfetch site, the company also operates members' stand-alone Web sites, including photography and content, and arranges group discounts on shipping costs.

"Our unique advantage is that from payment handling to stock management, we have proprietary software applications and logistics solutions, which cover all areas of e-commerce, leaving the retailer free to concentrate on their own business but still compete in the online arena," Neves said.

"At first we were just a business card, a face and an idea. So people were naturally suspicious," he added. "Eventually we managed to gather the support of a fantastic group of retailers, which made it all happen."

Neves noted that not only are e-sales expensive for a company acting alone, there are certain things that can only be done if there is a certain critical mass - all factors that make such a cooperative type of operation appealing to independent retailers.

"I think it's a great concept that is genuinely different," said Guy Salter, deputy chairman of the nonprofit luxury organization Walpole, in London. Salter said he would describe the concept as that of an "amalgamator."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Missoni & Ballantyne

Missoni Fall 2009, Photo by Giovanni Giannoni
By Suzy Menkes

MILAN: With soft shades of peach, apricot or powder pink, touched with blue, there was something sweetly appealing about Angela Missoni's exploration of the family heritage: knitting.

The snoods that draped like a nun's wimple around the face, the layer-on-layer of comfort clothing and the ultra-long scarves, their fringed ends sweeping the floor, made perfect outfits for global freezing.

There even seemed something Antarctic in those colors, suggesting streaks of sunset over the glacial ice. But Missoni's warm-up of fashionable knits was unmistakable. The point of the show was the weaving techniques that were projected on the backdrop. Geometric patterns on the woolly leg warmers, less abstract florals on dresses and tweedy mini-coats were faced off with plain surfaces, where texture was the message. Even the mule shoes had a nubby brocade finish.

Being a family company, there is yet another generation of Missonis to inspire and to make sure that a glitter of Lurex worked into mini dresses could take the clothes from an adult comfort zone to the party scene. Angela Missoni said backstage that her daughter Teresa had been the source of the draped headwear while Teresa's sister Margherita sat front row in a sophisticated version of the pink-tinged layers.

Ballantyne Fall 2009, Photo by Giovanni Giannoni

Ballantyne also went back to its roots, focusing on knitting rather than developing an all-embracing clothing line. But in an unexpected marriage of two cultures, the company's Scottish heritage and its distinctive diamond pattern was linked to 1920s artistic streamlining.

"Working with shapes and colors like a futurist artist," said the designer Dawidh di Firmo to explain the way that graphics lines were woven into geometric shapes.

Nature was the counterpoint to geometry, with butterflies and water lily petals worked in Ballantyne's exceptional intarsia techniques. But colors throughout were strong: purples brighter than in any Scottish hillside heather and dashes of orange and blue for a more urban take on the collection.

Suzy Menkes is fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

London's 'cool girl' starts growing up

Runway looks from the collections of, from left, Aquascutum, Luella and Twenty8Twelve (Chris Moore/ Karl Prouse)

By Suzy Menkes

LONDON: Sienna Miller, shaking her honey-blond hair over a cardigan that just about covered the rear of her black hose, had no doubt about who would wear the clothes she and her sister Savannah designed.

"She's a cool London girl," said the 27-year-old actress, talking about the Twenty8Twelve line shown as part of the current London fashion week.

The perpetual focus on an ever-renewing young generation seems to be the mark of British fashion: always the hip chick, never the adult. But there are signs in this London autumn 2009 season that the role model is growing up.

As "vintage" models Yasmin le Bon and Susie Bick walked gracefully down Aquascutum's runway, the models, as well as the well-thought-out clothes, gave British fashion a reality check. It also offered the house check, used for the first time by the designer Michael Hertz, who showed a slim dress covered with the graphic pattern as well as tapered pants, worn with a fresh white blouse and classy, but not heavy, outerwear. A lightweight rain cover that slipped over a top coat was a practical and stylish look.

It has taken Kim Winser, the company's chief executive, a few seasons to turn around this heritage house. But now it seems to have reached the right blend of inventive and classic. Inserts of thick lace and a rag rug of a coat pieced together emphasized the tactile effects of imaginative fabrics, while big sleeves tapped into a current trend. And in a wise move by the designer, doing his first solo collection, houndstooth and plaid checks accompanied Aquascutum's own pattern, which came in just the right dose.

With girlish glee, Peaches Geldof grabbed the arm of her dad, Bob, as a bubble of a gilded skirt walked the runway at the Luella show. It seemed destined for her or the members of the Girls Alive band down in the front row - or for any of the hard-partying teen generation looking for a little (very little) something to wear.

Last season, Luella Bartley captured the flower garden spirit of Old England. But the show Monday went punk, from the soundtrack to metal hardware to hair that favored spikes, bunches and shocking pink. This 1980s revisit did not hide the designer's skills as a tailor with a lively, youthful touch. Her khaki or uniform gray jackets, decorated with hooks and eyes or with the garter-belt clips that seem to be all the rage, made for good strong looks for young London.

Danielle Scutt is a rock 'n' roll designer who had in the front row the peripatetic fashion observer Kanye West. If he had blinked he might have missed this tiny 14-piece collection, which Scutt called "focused." That focus was, inevitably this season, on a 1980s silhouette, with dramatic flame-red wings on the lapels of a sharp suit. Wildly colored patterns on dresses or on a bodysuit offered another look for this warrior woman, who strutted her stuff, flesh on view through cracks in a silver-sheen dress.

Julien Macdonald is on the young-and-showy register. And this season he turned to sexy 1980s clothes with bravura. There was a whisper of Balmain, where the designer Christophe Decarnin's ectoplasm has spread through the international season. But Macdonald has been doing upbeat sexiness since the start. He may have dosed this collection with sharp shoulders and what the model Stella Tennant called "1980s attitude," but he also included the spidery knits that jump-started his career.

The collection had all those details that are London trends: exposed zippers, big sleeves and brief skirts. There were also icicles of embroidery, great gobs of mirror and crystal that gave an even harder edge to the silhouette - but that seemed fun.

There was another, but romantic, take on the 1980s from Roksanda Ilincic, whose big shoulders were as soft and rounded as Mickey Mouse ears - and fierce only when crystals embellished the shoulders of a pantsuit or bold gilded metal circled the neck. An insertion of masculinity was a step forward in Ilincic's sweet-as-sugar world. There were still ultra-feminine dresses that were whorled into a giant flower, vast bows at chest and waist and lacy black bodysuits under liquid panne velvet. Yet the clothes look increasingly polished.

Jasper Conran has always been on the side of women, but there was a new thrust with the Carmecitas, who gave an erotic and exotic edge to Monday's collection. Conran's firm tailoring was there, slender black suits given a touch of Spanish grandeur. But dresses, lacy, full-skirted or in a semi-sheer fabric, the better to see the garter belts, won the day - and the night, where a network of grosgrain and velvet ribbons gave a sensual glamour.

Article continues at

Monday, February 23, 2009

Talking Art and Fashion with Ray Chang: Links a la Mode

Watercolor by Ray Chang
Ray Chang is Art Director at Oscar de la Renta. His blog fancygreysuit, serves as an outlet for his artistic talent and philosophical musings. Style Gourmand spoke with him about his thoughts on art, fashion and life.

I always think of fashion as a fine balance between art and business, one can't survive very long in the fashion without mastering both: As an art-minded person do you see think art still exists in fashion, or is it just strictly business?
I think that it’s more of trying to inject a little bit of art into business. But it’s mainly business. In these times, who can afford not to think that way? You’ll always have brands who push the boundaries of ‘commerce’ like Comme des Garcons, which is refreshing.

Have you always had an interest in fashion or is it just an occupational hazard?
I’ve always had an interest in the pictures, much less on the clothes. My favorite book of Marilyn photographs by Bert Stern, Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, those pictures really invoked something within me. That’s why I got into art direction, not fashion design (which I’d probably be terrible at anyway). The fashion industry to me is just a form in which I can tell stories.

How did you get into the fashion industry?
I got into the fashion industry by happenstance. My first job out of art school was to work on the Dockers account in San Francisco. I was hired by this really talented art director named Robert Lussier who now works in Paris on Dior. After that, we both went to New York, and I’ve had the pleasure on working on brands such as Gap, John Varvatos, Henri Bendel, Levi’s, Ann Taylor, K-Swiss and now, Oscar de la Renta.

What was the biggest difference you noticed in dress when you moved to nyc from the west coast?
More coats. You have to be a little more buttoned up here in New York. People won’t take you seriously otherwise. When I go back to LA though, it’s back to the white t shirt, shorts and a clean white pair of Vans.

Even though you didn't intend to have a career in fashion, you definitely have a distinct sense of personal style- how would you describe it?
Do I? (laughing). As I’ve gotten older (age withheld), it’s easier just to wear the basics. There are some pieces, or looks that have withstood the test of time, and everyone looks good in them. Simple. Except my socks. I like colored socks.

What's so great about American fashion?
American fashion is great because, like America, it’s so diverse. You have people of all cultures, and even things that are inherently American, have roots in England. Because of this, our fashion has no boundaries.

Tell me about fancygreysuit, especially the significance of the name to you.
fancygreysuit is a site where I put up all the random thoughts in my head and my drawings. They’re quick visual journals into things I’m thinking about, love, or comments on the world. I like things that look a bit innocent, where they’re seen with a bit of wonder, but hopefully, have a little bit of depth to them. When you’re young, you always have that one thing that you wish you had, whether it be a suit, or for a woman, a beautiful dress. And when you put it on, you’re more alive somehow.. And everyone should have a fancy grey suit. I’m still looking for mine.

Do you think all the constant buzz about what Michelle Obama will make people more aware of how they look and maybe have a positive impact on how women in America dress?
I think it will be not so much about her per se, but them together. You have a magical first couple that brings us back to the days of Camelot. And that has an aspirational effect on how we not only perceive them and America, but ourselves.

Complete the sentence: everyone looks good in _somebody’s arms.

Who would be your celebrity muse?
Marcello Mastroianni.

Since you started your career outside the fashion industry, do you still consider yourself a fashion outsider or are you now an insider?
Always on the outside looking in, but happy that it is the way it is. Don’t get too close to the fire!

- Style Gourmand

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not the Final Curtain for New York Fashion

"People are questioning 'Will fashion continue?' I mean, that's a pretty desperate question. That's like people sitting around museums asking 'Will people ever paint again?'"

- Fashion show producer Kelly Cutrone, Fashion Week Collides With Tattered Economy by Kaomi Goetz for NPR

Getty Images

Phillip Lim Gave Christmas Bonuses Last Year!

From The Cut,

Philip Lim

Philip LimPhoto: Getty Images

Phillip Lim presented a rock-and-roll-inspired collection in the tents this afternoon. Whereas designers like Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang are showing off-site to save cash, Lim showed in the biggest (and most expensive) tent space with live musical act Lissy Trullie. Lim told us backstage after the show that he "can't complain" about business these days, noting "no one's immune" to the economy. Indeed, Lim's line ought to thrive in these times. Like Alexander Wang, his price points are lower than most high-end designer pieces — something Bergdorf women's fashion director Linda Fargo told us she's especially looking for this season.

He's not laying people off. "We actually gave Christmas bonuses. Celebration!" he trilled. He said spending the cash for the space in the tents was worth it, because IMG makes life easy and he can do things like have a live band. "There’s so many different variables that can go wrong and you’re just adding more layers to it. Fern Mallis and IMG — they make it so easy," Lim said. "I’m like, 'I want to do this,' and I’m thinking, ‘No way.’ But they’re like ‘do it!’" Nothing went wrong in Lim's show. Model Hyoni Kang had to take off her shoes to complete her walk, but barely tripped. "She picked herself up and dusted herself off and pretended like nothing ever happened — is that rock and roll or what?" Lim said. How would he have felt if she fell? "Falling is a different story. I’d be mortified. Because I can’t even imagine everyone looking at you, you know?"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Akiko Ogawa

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fall 2009: Spring Comes Early at Chris Benz

By Xiyin Tang, Photos by Jeff Luker for Refinery29

Count on Chris Benz to show one of the brightest, splashiest, down-right coolest collections of this rather dour week, recession be damned. The dapper designer admitted that the economic downturn was pretty far from his mind. Rather, he was, "thinking about a return to New York nightlife and late '70's and early '80's clubs, about uptown girls sneaking downtown." Having always secretly wanted to be such a young lass, we almost cooed with delight. The strong looks of bold primary colors—reds, lime greens, bright blues— grouped together according to color and including a fiery red tights-and-skirt combo that Blair Waldorf would scheme to get her hands on. All collided at the very front of the room in a fantastic array of multicolored, splashy, and painterly silk dresses and blouses accented with sequined skirts. When Benz said after the show that he was hoping that by the end of fashion week "spring will have sprung," we felt that it already had.


Matthew Williamson

Carlos Miele

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rodarte Delivers Tattered Garments For the Space Age

Rodarte_DV_20090217172417.jpgGetty Images

For the past seven seasons, the tiny house of Rodarte has fascinated high-fashion aficionados with its avant garde, couture-like collections, reminiscent of the theatrical shows associated with Paris designers.

In a cavernous space at the Gagosian Gallery, Rodarte’s sister-act duo, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, delivered an intricate, artsy collection of space-age styles, centered around tight mini dresses and short jackets, featuring a patchwork of fabrics, including leather, silver, tattered lace, lame and deconstructed woolen yarns.The models marched in thigh-high stiletto boots covered with straps and buckles, winding through a maze of foil-covered chairs in front of guests including actress Kirsten Dunst.

Each Rodarte outfit was a high-concept creation, festooned with a slew of textured details that reflect painstaking handmade craftsmanship. It’s little wonder, then, that Rodarte turns out only a few hundred garments each season, which are snapped up by discerning, fashion collectors. — Teri Agins Wall Street Journal

Slideshow Runway Images

DVF Misses the Mark

Fall 2009: Emphasis on Shoulders

Photo by Thomas Iannaccone

From International Herald Tribune

NEW YORK: The difference between the male and female approach to fashion was proved by Jonathan Saunders, a British designer who took a bold creative stance. Strong shoulder lines, heads wrapped in nunlike covers and stiff brocade fabrics in arty colors were austere and almost medieval. Yet the cape-sleeve tops succeeded in bringing a fresh emphasis to shoulders without going back to the 1980s power woman look.

Whether Saunders, who also designs for the Italian Pollini label, was wise to bring his strong vision and inventive prints to New York is another story. For this is a city where a male designer seems less likely than in Europe to put a heroic stamp of high fashion on the independent woman's closet.

- Suzy Menkes

Tracy Reese

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jacobs’s Punctuality a Subtle War With Press

Marc Jacobs is timely. Continuing his ongoing war with the fashion press and the clock, Mr. Jacobs started his eighties-esque Fall ‘09 collection show on Monday precisely at 8 pm, which is the time it was scheduled for.

MJFW092_CV_20090216215651.jpgKurt Wilberding for The Wall Street Journal

So at least 20 percent of the hottest seats in New York fashion were empty, their possessors not having yet made it into the venue from their last appointment uptown in a long day of shows. What might have looked like punctuality was really a big wet raspberry to the audience – the third such payback for complaints 18 months ago that he was habitually, painfully late with his shows. Vogue editor Anna Wintour must have had an inkling … or a heads up: she arrived at 20 minutes before the hour.

This was all the more noticeable because Mr. Jacobs had hacked his normal stadium-sized guest list in half. Gone were the partiers in drag, the celebrities and their entourages and paparazzi, and the whole sense of mayhem that is typical for the brand. Instead, the show was dark, sedate, and un-wild.

Except for the clothes.

The collection, for those who made it there in time to see it, was an homage to the 1980s Manhattan. “What New York used to be before it was gentrified and such a boring place to live – when artists could make a living here,” Mr. Jacob said, chatting excitedly backstage after Monday night’s show.

“When people went out clubbing,” Mr. Jacobs added, wearing a dark pleated knee-length skirt and a fine white shirt unbuttoned to his sculpted sternum.

With vividly out-of-the-tube colors, space-age metallics and huge shoulders that could blast a person to the moon, the collection harkened to David Bowie’s androgynous Major Tom years.

MJFW096_CV_20090216223021.jpgKurt Wilberding for The Wall Street Journal

There was little sense of being practical for the recession – a theme that has been apparent in other collections. And there were no nods to fashion’s new first lady, Michelle Obama. Mr. Jacobs, as usually, expects to lead the way in a direction that no one else is going. Fashions shows are intended to be fantasy. He started to bring back the 80s a year ago, and now he has taken it to the hilt.

Yet his runway was far more reflective of our culture than most: he had more models of color – including four black models – than almost any show ever employs. And the look was pure Americana.

The first look Mr. Jacobs sent down the runway was one of his softest and most wearable – a gray cardigan over lovely wool flannel pants with a surprise in back: a pleated mini-skirt like flap over the rear.

What followed were clothes for discos and late-night partying.

The shoes throughout had raised toes pointing to the heavens like many of the shoulders – in heels, boots and flats. It was a severe look, but enticing – and possibly comfortable.

The models parading through the dark room wore makeup and hairdos so harsh that one photographer shooting the show thought that some of them were men. A spokeswoman says there were no male models. It was just the severe make up. No one ever said the ‘80s were flattering.

-–Christina Binkley

BCBG Fall 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

African Fashion Collective/Arise Magazine Fashion Show

'Obama Effect' hits New York Fashion Week

Obama dress by designer Lola Faturoti
By Hilary Alexander, New York Times

The event's tented village in mid-town Bryant Park was the setting for the first African Fashion Collective, 2009, starring the singer, Grace Jones, and featuring the collections of four designers,: Xuly Bet from Mali; Nkhensani Nkosi who designs Stoned Cherrie, the South African label; and Fati Asibelua of Momo, and Tiffany Amber, both from Nigeria.

The show opened with the voice of Jones intoning 'Man-Eating Machine', as a giant, black and white video of the singer – digitally-distorted and manipulated in the manner of 'The Terminator' – unfolded on a screen at the back of the stage.

The designs were modelled by a United Nations roll-call of girls from more than a dozen countries, including Ethiopia, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Russia, China and the Netherlands, along with Tyson Beckford, the most celebrated black American male model, and the black catwalk superstars, Alek Wek, from Sudan, and Chanel Iman.

Xuly Bet showed contemporary sportswear in denim and corduroy and T-shirt dresses printed with President Obama's face.

Tiffany Amber's collection featured silk shantung and traditional 'Ankara' fabrics, with intricate shell and bead embroidery.

Alek Wek closed Nkosi's Stoned Cherrie collection in a shadow-dyed, burnt orange-to-earth toned, silk chiffon gown with an elaborate, jewelled collar. Zebra, leopard, giraffe and snake patterns, printed on hand-woven taffeta, cashmere and metallic silk, in shades of pewter and gold, were the feature of Asibelua's Momo collection.

The African Fashion Collective was jointly sponsored by ThisDay, one of Africa's largest daily news outlets, and Arise, the glossy style magazine devoted to African global achievement. It was timed to mark the election of Barack Obama as President, and First Lady, Michelle Obama's championing of young, culturally diverse designers.

Although Michelle Obama has not attended any shows, her fashion spirit was evident in the collection shown earlier by one of her favourites, Jason Wu, 26, the Taiwan-born designer who created her inaugurall ballgown and the dress she wears on the cover of American Vogue's March issue.

Off the Runway: Jason Wu

Yigal Azrouel Fall 2009

A peak or a valley in fashion’s increasingly pathetic celebrity obsession? Depends upon one’s viewpoint. From this end, the presence of Ashley Dupré, the world’s most famous has-been hooker, suggested that Yigal Azrouël couldn’t get star power of a more reputable sort to grace his front row, somebody like Chris Brown, perhaps. Why he went with a tabloid toots is curious, because it only made her, rather than his excellent collection, the focus. Azrouël, like many of his peers, is fixated on the hip downtown type who tends toward stovepipe pants and strong shoulders. He had that angle covered with legging-like cotton and leather pants and romantic washed-silk blouses done with a level of sophistication that sets his clothes apart. Indeed, the voluminous top/skinny bottom silhouette often skews young and sometimes sloppy — likewise for the short-and-tight conceit. But Azrouël managed to show both with a controlled edginess that works for women and girls — and you know there’s a difference. Colors were moody, heavy on black, gray and blue. For day, he emphasized texture with a terrific, oversize Fair Isle cardigan that flew away over stretch wool pants, as well as tough, as in a studded cropped leather jacket. As for the dresses, a painterly print on a languid silk gown didn’t flow, but a black, relaxed-Morticia version perfectly captured the “dark yet romantic” tone Azrouël meant to set.- WWD Staff

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Decelebrification of Fashion Week

Photo: Patrick McMullan
As Fashion Week ballooned over the last decade to World’s Fair size, it became a magnet not only for celebrities but for those who want to be seen with, and treated like, celebrities. What was once a (glamorous, to be sure) trade show turned into a spectacle of entitlement. But this year that came to a halt. Calvin Klein and Zac Posen canceled their postshow dinners. Vera Wang moved her show to her boutique. And, in the most austere move of all, Marc Jacobs cut the guest list for his show from 1,800 to 700 and completely eliminated his notorious celebrity quotient. If you think that’s hard on Posh Spice, pity longtime Jacobs PR woman Kate Waters. “I’ve been getting texts all week saying, ‘Poor you,’ ” she said wearily. “Is there an I Hate Kate Waters blog yet?” Still, “only a handful of people have been really awful. The real irony is that they’re the ones who really have no reason to be there anyway—the real borderline people who you see at the show and you’re like, ‘Why are you here?’ ” And company president Robert Duffy has her back: “No one gets a plus-one. I made an exception for one person, and one person only—and that’s Anna Wintour. Anna gets to bring a guest because she got us our jobs. Anyone else who wants to get us a job, they can have a plus-one, too.” - By David Colman for

Cape Town Fashion Week

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Peter Som gets the greenlight for Fall 2009

Photo: Patrick McMullan

From Women's Wear Daily, February 12, 2009

Peter Som may have nixed his plans for a runway show this season, but he still pulled together a capsule collection of about 16 looks. The designer is expected to show the collection to editors and buyers at market appointments. He also had the collection photographed on Wednesday, and will distribute the photos to editors and buyers.

Som's fate was somewhat unclear after he and investor Creative Design Studios, the subsidiary of Lord & Taylor LLC, decided to go their separate way last month. At the time, Elana Posner, who coowns Peter Som Inc. and serves as Som’s president and chief executive officer, told WWD, “We will work with our key accounts. We are exploring every option, whether it be a showroom presentation, a look book or private sales and press appointments. We plan to find a solution that meets the needs of our retailers and the press, that is also cost-effective.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As the Economy Goes, So Do the Parties

by Jacob Weinstein for Women's Wear Daily

Last September, the folks at Calvin Klein erected a museum-like building on the High Line to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.

Attendees included Halle Berry, Naomi Watts and Claire Danes. People in the neighborhood noted they could actually smell the flowers from blocks away. The cost, the company admitted, was well over $5 million.

But this season, Calvin Klein isn’t even having a party to fete their fall collection. Neither is Marc Jacobs, whose semiannual Monday night postshow party is the hipster equivalent of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Zac Posen, who took over Balthazar in September, has also decided not to hold a dinner after his show.

None of this is exactly surprising, but it’s yet another sobering indication of how bleak things are these days in the fashion world.

In normal recessions, the upper end of the market typically does comparatively well. But as this economic downturn has deepened, with unemployment reaching 7.6 percent nationally without even including the people who have simply stopped looking for work, no one is safe, and fashion designers are clearly tightening their belts.

It’s Jacobs’ cancellation in particular that has people worried. Because — as always — what Marc says goes, so if he’s decreed restraint to be the new black, well then even companies with money must now sit on it. “Everyone follows him,” said Paul Sevigny, the current disc jockey of choice among people in the fashion world. “So when Marc pulls out, it’s really bad. Things are definitely going to be quieter this season.”

Moreover, with the Oscars now falling at the end of fashion week, designers will likely have fewer celebrities in the front row. And that means less publicity in the tabloids, and therefore fewer opportunities to get attention for the brands at a time when designers need it most.

“There are very few celebrities coming, and the few that are are exclusive to large brands who can pay,” said Scott Cooke, whose company Cooke & Co works on forging partnerships between celebrities and brands. “It’s particularly tough on young designers who are having trouble to begin with and could use the association with a celebrity.”

Cindi Berger, co-chief executive officer of Hollywood p.r. firm PMK/HBH, whose clients include Jennifer Aniston, Sharon Stone and Gwyneth Paltrow, put it similarly. Fashion week “is sandwiched between the Grammys and the Oscars, and the economic downturn has put everyone’s sensitive antennas up. People feel more aware of accepting money to go to a show or accepting airline tickets at a time when millions of people are losing their jobs. And it’s too bad because now is the time we do need to support designers, particularly up-and-coming designers.”

Roger Padilha, whose company Mao PR does media strategy and show production for just those sorts of designers, was trying to see the silver lining. “The upside is that the attention may move back to the clothes,” he said.

It’s a fair point to make, but consider the side effects. Hotels will likely see less business. Catering companies will employ fewer people. Florists like Belle Fleur — whose clients include Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta — are already saying business is down.

“We’re not doing arrangements for any of the actual fashion shows,” said Meredith Waga Perez, who runs the company with her mother, Marilyn. “In the past, we’ve done floral backdrops and large displays for the shows. We’re still getting work, but the events we have on the board are much more intimate. They’re at restaurants and people’s homes, not big venues.”

Welcome to the new fashion narrative, where “back to basics” and “intimate” are the current buzzwords being used by a reeling industry.

So what are the events that will still be happening?

For one, Giorgio Armani has a store opening on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, for which there will be a cocktail reception next Tuesday. And Diane von Furstenberg will host her regular postshow dinner at her company’s 14th Street headquarters on Sunday.

On the Left Coast, meanwhile, Dior Beauty is throwing a dinner at the Chateau Marmont, whose attendees are expected to include Sharon Stone (a paid spokeswoman), as well as starlets like Camilla Belle and Ginnifer Goodwin.

But again, expect all of it to be scaled back, which means drinks instead of dinner (à la Armani), 30 people instead of 500 (à la Dior) and, in the Big Apple, lots less star wattage than in previous seasons.

“There are still too many events for actors to attend and not enough real work” said one high-profile entertainment publicist, who asked that her name not be used because she “has too many friends in the fashion business” — and because people in Hollywood always prefer not to be on record. “There are less movies being green-lit because of the economy, it’s pilot season and NBC has knocked out all scripted shows in the ten o’ clock hour to make room for Leno. That means more people are out in L.A. auditioning and less people are getting hired. It’s just not a good time.”

Michelle Obama Chooses Jason Wu For Vogue Photo Shoot

Michelle Obama on the cover of the March 2009 Vogue.

AP Photo/ Annie Leibovitz/ Vogue
From's Heard on the Runway blog

Jason Wu is getting yet another boost from Michelle Obama – in the first lady’s cover shot for Vogue’s March issue, she appears in a sleeveless, magenta silk dress by the designer who also created the evening gown she wore to the inaugural balls.

Mrs. Obama, who is only the second first lady to appear on the cover of Vogue (the first being Hillary Clinton in December, 1998), worked with the magazine on picking pieces from her own wardrobe to wear for the shoot, says Vogue spokesman Patrick O’Connell . “We thought the first lady should wear what she felt was appropriate,” he says. “And we couldn’t be happier with her choices.” Annie Leibovitz shot the pictures in early January at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

For the inside pages, Mrs. Obama appears in ensembles by Narciso Rodriguez and J.Crew, labels that she’s also worn during important events. (She chose a red and black Narciso Rodriguez cocktail dress for election night and wore J.Crew to an inauguration event.)

In the magazine, which hits newsstands Tuesday, Mrs. Obama addresses the fashion fishbowl that she now lives in, given that blogs and media are tracking every sartorial decision she makes. “I’m not going to pretend that I don’t care about it,” she said to Vogue, according to the AP. “But I also have to be very practical. In the end, someone will always not like what you wear — people just have different tastes.”

Mr. O’Connell says the magazine has a “long-standing tradition of photographing first ladies” that dates back to 1929, when Lou Hoover, the wife of president Herbert Hoover, appeared in its glossy pages. “But this also was a historic election,” he says. “This was something we were very interested in doing.”

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The New "It" Bag: A Digital Clutch

The Digital Clutch from HP, designed by Vivienne Tam, $699.99 at

Monday, February 9, 2009

Berlin Fashion Week 09: Schumacher

The video is in German, but you can still enjoy the fun, flirty fashions of Schumacher

The Make or Break Season

Daniel Silver and Steven Cox of Duckie Brown; Lisa Mayock
of Vena Cava; Andrew Buckler; Sophie Buhai; The New York Times

By ERIC WILSON, New York Times
Published: February 4, 2009

ONCE upon a time, American fashion was a fickle, brutal business for young designers.

Newcomers would arrive to great fanfare and then disappear in a few seasons. To reverse this pattern, the industry came together five years ago to create a more welcoming environment. Magazines, stores and trade groups began to nourish and heavily promote a new generation of potential Calvin Kleins and Oscar de la Rentas, handing out prizes, sponsorships and mentoring that made it hard for just about anyone to fail. It is no small measure of their success that New York Fashion Week has become a haven for instantly famous unknowns.

Of the more than 200 fashion labels that will begin showing their fall collections in New York next week, at least half came into existence only in the last decade. A full quarter of them are less than five years old. This season alone, during the worst economic environment in decades, no fewer than 10 new companies are vying for fashion’s spotlight.

The age of the young designer, however, may be coming to an end.

As stores reduce orders by 20 percent or more for fall, the toll on small fashion businesses, many without independent financial backing, is likely to be severe. In the last month, two promising designers lost the support of their investors and face uncertain futures: Peter Som, who makes ladylike sportswear; and the Obedient Sons and Daughters collections, quirky takes on tailored clothes made by the husband-and-wife team Swaim and Christina Hutson.

And among designers, there is fear that the fallout will be far worse after the shows, once orders for fall clothes are confirmed. The more stores that close, the more designers will follow.

“To be honest, we’re writing this whole year off,” said Andrew Buckler, the designer of a seven-year-old collection called Buckler. “We’re just trying to survive.”

Like most of those companies started in the last decade, Buckler is small, with sales less than $10 million. But the line, originally based on jeans, was growing; and two years ago, Mr. Buckler sold a minority of his business to a Turkish manufacturing company, Hey Group. The investment enabled him to open four stores, including two in Manhattan, and to have runway shows for a collection that looks like weekend wear for James Bond.

Six months ago, the Hey company said it would pull back its financing.

“We knew things were getting really tough out there,” Mr. Buckler said. “But it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.”

Things began to look bleak, he said, when some of the 30 small stores around the country that carry Buckler $600 military jackets and $116 knitted polos were taking longer to pay for their orders. Payments that once arrived within 30 days took 60 days, then 90 days to collect. Worse, some of the stores, like Brick Lane, in Los Angeles, went out of business, leaving Mr. Buckler with clothes that had been ordered and produced but never paid for. He had to lay off about a third of his 30 staff members.

For his fall collection, he decided to cut back to the bare bones, condensing the number of styles by half and focusing on jeans and underwear and woven shirts — comparatively inexpensive items that have sold well in the past. To save costs, he plans an informal presentation at his store on Grand Street, instead of on the runways in Bryant Park, where even a small show can cost $100,000 for the designer who pays for the space, hair, makeup, models and, of course, the clothes. At least Mr. Buckler has his own stores to sell the clothes, but going forward, he said, “It’s going to be a lot more about relying on personality and experience, instead of cash.”

In the days before Fashion Week, which begins Feb. 13, a similar story has been playing out in showrooms around the city, as designers adapt to a new reality, one in which talking about new clothes means talking about the new economy. You could sense the dread at a meeting last month between show producers and newspaper reporters to discuss the recession’s impact on Fashion Week, when Paul Wilmot, a leading industry publicist, said, “We need to come up with talking points!”

He already knows the question: Who can afford these clothes?

Flora Gill and Alexa Adams have received enthusiastic attention from retailers since they started Ohne Titel in 2006, but so far only a few stores have carried their eclectic knits and architectural suits, which cost $500 to $3,000. Now buyers are even more hesitant to commit to new talent, so the designers are lowering some prices and moving their dress production from Italy to New York. Even so, Stephen Courter, a partner in the business, sees a silver lining. “I think we are still so small, with lower overhead than the established labels, that we have less to lose,” he said.

What is amazing is how often designers have taken matters into their own scrappy hands.

Continued at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rani Jones: Fabulous, Eco-Friendly Fashion


Jan 5 230x400

Rani Jones is the brainchild of designers Rani Patel and Lucy Jones. While it seems that eco-friendly fashion should be an oxymoron, these designers have managed to meld the two to create a collection that is as fashion-forward as it is socially responsible. Their clothes are sharp, inspired by geometry, and the of the type that can punch up your everyday wardrobe. Read ahead to see how these two designers came to create their unique label, and then let me you what YOU think!

—Rebecca Suhrawardi Austin

Can you tell me a bit about your background and how the two of you became a designers?

We both feel that dressing up and make believe played a huge part in both of our childhoods. We had vivid imaginations from a very young age and so design was inherent in both of us whilst growing up. We graduated in different years, both with First Class Honours in BA Fashion Design from the London College of Fashion, by April 2008 the rani jones label was born.

How would you best describe your label?

Rani Jones is a London based eco-luxury womenswear label. Our designs are based on simplifying and modifying conventional pattern cutting techniques to create strong geometric shapes. This approach combined with our exacting attention to detail produces innovative, progressively designed womenswear and accessories.

I'm curious as to why you went the partnership route rather than to start your own independent labels?

We met a year and a half ago whilst designing for the same company and realised that we had similar beliefs and styles of working. Past work experiences opened our eyes to the reality of fast fashion, we had spent time in India, sourcing materials and working with factories and it became apparent to us that our focus had to be on slower fashion. The partnership developed naturally due to our close working relationship.

The cornerstone of the Rani Jones brand is social responsibility and eco-friendliness. Does staying true to that ever interfere with the final design of a garment?

The Rani Jones philosophy challenges pre-conceived thoughts about ethical/environmental fashion, to prove that great design can be enhanced by an eco-approach. We incorporate socially responsible principles and eco-sourcing throughout all decision making processes. Of course this can be quite limiting but it can also be very exciting as due to our research being much more in depth and considered, it can lead us to discover fantastic fabrics etc and things that we wouldn't have come across otherwise.

What sort of woman do you envision wearing your clothes?

The Rani Jones woman is independent and stylish, edgy and sophisticated.

What sort of inspiration did you pull from for this current collection?

Geometry is the basis for all Rani Jones designs with main inspiration derived from Brutalism. The Brutalist architectural style sees buildings formed with striking repetitive angles to give a raw unadorned concrete appearance. We take the rough blocky Brutalist aesthetic and transform it into something that speaks of luxury-resulting in beautifully constructed wearable garments that retain a sexy feminine edge.

What do you think makes London so special as a fashion capital?

London encourages very expressive, creative fashion which is supported by the amazing fashion colleges which are here. London as a city is saturated in history and has an amazing cultural diversity and so is always bursting with inspiration.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

We absolutely support and encourage any avenues that allow people to be creative, generate and share their ideas. Make the most of your surroundings and never take things for granted.

See more at

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The It bag is over. Cue the hit shoe

By Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune

Balenciaga shoes,

PARIS: Like an attention-grabbing wild child who finally grew up, the handbag has resumed its former role as a polite appendage to the family of fashion.

After its decade in the limelight, the It bag is finally over. That does not mean that purses, holdalls and totes are finished. How could we live without them? But that the focus is on other accessories: designer jewelry, broad bangles, wide belts and madly creative shoes.

The bag is now blending with an outfit as though it no longer wants to show off its voluptuous shape, rattle its heavy metal chains, or be a one-season wonder that is then auctioned on eBay to pay for the next hot design.

The deflation of the bag's status is partly from fashion fatigue. When a Victoria Beckham, a Paris Hilton or any reed-thin Hollywood star wears a uniform of skinny jeans and sexy top, jazzed up with a vast bag, there has to be change to entice customers to buy.

Judging by the designer offerings displayed in post-sale shop windows, shoes are out to steal the limelight, with mighty platforms, carved heels, cages of straps and all sorts of decoration, from feathers to beading.

Since the "model wobble" was a feature of the recent runways, the concept of "falling for" a pair of these pricey pieces is going to take on a whole new meaning. Yet, to some extent, the It shoe makes sense, in that it is a rare piece of footwear that survives the assaults of uneven sidewalks, heel-trapping grids and wet weather. Only flats - and they are the least fancy styles on offer - tend to linger in the closet.

A bag can give lasting pleasure, maybe even be passed down from mother to daughter, as were the Hermès Kelly, Chanel's classic quilted purse or even - in the pre-Tom-Ford era - Gucci's bar-and-bit bags.

Inevitably, classicism is on the way back in a jittery financial climate that is encouraging customers to look for lasting value. So there is also an emotional and intellectual reason to look for a fresh fashion start after the dramatic end of the bling-bling era.

Clothes themselves, after taking a modest position during the era of star accessories, have become more substantial. So bags become polite partners, not flashy competition, to a leather dress or to black and white patterned pajamas, both color and texture folding in together.

The concept of sustainability, a conscience about a wasteful society and the pertinent problem of finding the money for new purchases, all contribute to a mind-set where the It bag seems frivolous.

Yves Saint Laurent Spring 2009 shoe
photo: International Herald Tribune
Luxury companies have anticipated the change. Where there are logos, they tend to be quiet and classic - the Stephen Sprouse collaboration with Louis Vuitton excepted. And the more familiar LV logo canvas or Damier patterns make up the main stock.

Bags have also become smaller, with the clutch or traditional purse competing with the vast empty space in which a woman's life - phone, wallet, makeup, scarf, sneakers, change of hose, food and water - is hurled.

It all adds up to good sense, and sensibility to changing times. And if there is also a history of a recession producing wild design, well, those fantasy shoes, where design and craftsmanship are compressed into such a small space, could add a springtime fillip to clothes recycled from the closet for another season.