Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bucking the Trend

I know we're in a recession, but every time I open the pages of WWD, some luxury company or other is posting gains, usually record profits. That, on top of announcements of new store openings in as-of-yet untapped markets, like Iraq or China. So it does seem a little odd when a high end designer like Gianfranco Ferre announces the closing of its Manhattan flagship store, doesn't it?

I mean, considering the current exchange rates right now, the Madison Avenue spot should be a steal. And usually, such sweet locales are a necessary trade-off to elevate a label's brand in the minds of potential consumers. So it does seem a bit odd.

Then again, who really shops at Ferre here in the US, anyway? You never hear of girls going crazy for the latest Ferre bag, or white blouse, an item for which the late designer was best known. In fact, not since Lars Nilsson was ousted and the house tapped the designers of little known 6267 to take over, has anyone really heard much of anything about Ferre.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Someone is thinking outside the box at Mango. Deciding to use Lauren Hutton as one of the faces of their fall campaign is brilliant. Especially considering that, at 64, she really is as striking as she was as at 24.

I've actually seen her in person recently and, despite the fact that she had just gotten off a long flight and was just a tad bit discombobulated, one of my first thoughts was just how striking she still is. Next time I see one of those infomercials where she's hawking her makeup line, I must actually watch, I said to myself. Because in fact, those early morning promos are the only place I've seen her in recent years.

Now, she seems to be popping up every where. And in the fall, she'll actually be seen alongside Alice Dellal who, if you don't know already, is the face of Mango's denim campaign. It's a bit of a weird mix, admittedly, since I imagine Penelope and sis will continue along with their capsule collection for the retailer. And it's not a perfect mix either, not really a mix until you add a bit of color in the campaign. But it's a start.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

British Imports

Sometimes I wonder what, besides American blockbusters and trysts with already established superstars, brings British talent under global limelight? Can a girl like Alexa Chung, who is so firmly rooted on English soil, come to garner the love and admiration of the world without those things?

If you don't know who she is, she's been touted for some time as England's new It Girl. Model, tv presenter, actress, style icon, oh yes, and paparazzi arm candy for Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner.

She's got that quirky, mix-it-up notion for clothes that only Londoners seem to be able to pull off. Plus, her half-Chinese heritage gives her that touch of the exotic. Only just lately have I seen her photos showing up here and there at premieres and parties. But does anyone know who she is....yet?

Monday, July 28, 2008

If I didn't have other things to occupy me this summer, I would be bored to tears. Thank goodness I can catch up on my John Cassavetes flicks because otherwise that big behemoth of a machine sitting in our living room would remain off through September.

Watching what's on cable makes me wonder if any of the bigwigs at Showtime must be in therapy, and I hope for their sake they are. Take for instance tonight's lineup: Weeds and new summer series The Secret Diary of A Call Girl. Seriously? One show is about a hot widowed mama who sells pot in the 'burbs and the other is about a high class hooker in London who loves her job.

Okay, okay, I admit to having watched both of them. But rarely have I ever fallen asleep in front of the television, usually it's like a big eye magnet for me, something about the image must trigger sensors in my brain or something. Not on Monday nights, though. I'm ready to turn off the set and head to bed for an early night in.

It makes me pine for the days when things were a bit slower, even movies and television. Actors emoted on screen, and the good ones did it so well, they developed layers in their characters like a millefeuille pastry. Catherine Deneuve's Belle is incomparable. Nothing like Showtime's modern day version, who needs to prance around in a thong and garter so we can see her flat abs...because there isn't much else.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wave Goodbye

I thought I had today's blog all planned out last night when I decided to stay in at the end of a long work day, rather than go out to an event, and fortuitously discover the absolutely gorgeous transsexual India Brooks on Kathy Griffin's show last night. How beautiful is she, I thought, and who is she?

Alas, news about Peter Som leaving Bill Blass just seems too monumental to ignore, so India will have to be noted on my mental list of "Things to Blog About", a list which seems to grow larger each day.

So, should this come as a big surprise after all the financial hullabaloo clouding NexCen, Blass' parent company? Well, not really. I guess a better question to be asked is, just how much did NexCen know about the business of fashion to start with? I mean, they are known for a portfolio of brands that focus well, primarily on junk food: Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzel Time, Pretzelmaker & Great American Cookies. The only other brand remotely in the area of fashion is The Athlete's Foot.

So word is that Som left after the bigwigs at NexCen decided to cancel the pricey runway show in September. But apparently the tension had been mounting for some time as the suits had wanted to exercise control over Som's creative vision, which always makes for a very sticky situation.

Some time ago, The New York Times did an article on NexCen when news first broke about the financial woes, and there was one point I just couldn't get over: their big idea for Bill Blass designers to design apparel for The Athlete’s Foot. It was all a part of their plan to create synergies among their portfolio of brands. Are you kidding me? If that was true, I can just imagine the kind of "suggestions" Som had to listen to every single day, and the thought of them simply make me shudder.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Felicidades a Isabel

I get really excited when I hear of good things happening to good people. If you asked me today if there was anyone I admired in fashion, two names would come to mind. One of them happens to be Isabel Toledo, who is being honored by FIT's Couture Council and will have her twenty plus years of work featured in an exhibit...yay!

When I heard that she had been hired to revive the ailing house of Anne Klein a couple years back, I did think the pairing unusual. Toledo, to me, has always been a designer's designer, someone who brings an intellectual approach to clothing. Wasn't she just a little too cool for the Anne Klein woman, who I always pictured decked out in herringbone suits and silk georgette blouses?

Alas, her tenure at AK didn't last long. After a short year, she was "let go", and went back to designing her sculptural, intriguing, eponymous line. Not a bad gig, really, but I do hope she walked off with a big fat compensation package for her short venture in corporate design.

I mean, the woman is so cool and under the radar, she doesn't seem to have her own website, much less make her designs available online in any way. In order to look at her stuff, I need to pick my booty up from this chair, take a train crosstown, and peek into Barney's to admire her work. Which makes me all the more excited for this newly announced retrospective to kick off.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Good Reason to Smell Like Patchouli

Tom Ford is the kind of guy that I imagine would have his lawn cut with nail clippers, if he could. It's not that I don't like the guy. In fact, I can't think of anyone who has a keener grip on the role of the fashion designer in society. I know, I know, I'm making it sound a little high-faluttin'. It kind of is, but it kind of isn't. Especially when you hear him talk about how a good designer is just really someone who knows how to translate popular culture and the pulse of the times into clothing. Or at least that's what I remember him saying in one of the best episodes of the Iconoclast series on the Sundance Channel. Who was he paired with on the show? None other than pop art pioneer Jeff Koons.

That said, I know that beneath his meticulously manicured veneer, there's a brash bohemian just waiting to burst out of his made-to-measure French cuffed shirt. What else could explain his obsession with patchouli? Remember when he redesigned a bottle for Estee Lauder's Youth Dew which, incidentally, used to be one of my favorite scents as an angstful teen. Who am I kidding here? Heck, I wore that perfume to death into my early twenties.

And now, he's coming out with his own scent for women: White Patchouli. I have to admit I almost had a chuckle when I saw that he chose a very black Erykah Badu as the face to launch the scent. I mean, did he mean something by that? But then again, she is pretty crazy funky cool. And besides belting out a tune like no one's business, doesn't she look divine in this shot? No better face, really, than a woman as hip as headscarf brandishing Erykah Badu to sell you on wearing patchouli, right?

Now if I could just stop picturing Tom in some wacky dashiki tunic, swaying his hips to "Black in the Day Puff".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Sure Shoe

All the buzz this morning seems focused on fashion's newest partnership between Viktor & Rolf's Italian money man Renzo Rosso. Not that this doesn't deserve all the attention its getting. I mean, who isn't rooting for these renegade designers to become household commodities with a string of licensed deals in the works? And how can you not love a guy like Rosso, who has proven himself the risk-taker and stalwart of the underdog by backing creative forces like Viktor & Rolf and Margiela?

I just hope that all this hubbub doesn't sweep Beatrix Ong's good news under the media rug. Now that she's found backing in Jaeger, I'm holding out that this talented cobbler becomes a big name. I think she could certainly hold her place in the boys club, right along the likes of Louboutin, Choo, and Blahnik.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reigning my expectations

When I read last week that Miguel Adrover was returning to New York to present his Hess Natur line in September, I couldn't help but to get excited. A little further digging and I couldn't believe my luck. More pictures from his soft launch back in the spring when the collaboration was first announced.

Upon closer look, I could feel myself sinking back into my chair, almost reeling back from my computer screen. Besides the gorgeous lamb vest I had seen previously, everything else was so, well, uninteresting. But after taking a quick look at the rest of the line, what could I expect?

I wasn't really familiar with Hess Natur to begin with, and it had sounded like some hip eco-conscious line worn by waifs with money and a concern for political causes, not unlike the Adrover girl. Now I see that the clientele must be significantly older and less fashion-minded. Hey, my mom would definitely go for that knitted dress.

Do I blame him? Heck no. Given his history, when the financial floor was pulled out from under him after his backers folded themselves, who can say no when a serious offer shows its Benjamins again? Still, I'm holding out that when Adrover gets around to his presentation, his gift for theatrics will come alive again, and we'll all be quietly blown away by a familiar face.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where is Lars?

With the collections coming out in just a couple of months, it got me wondering. Where, oh where is Lars Nilsson?

Since having abruptly left Gianfranco Ferre just before the Fall shows (and receiving none of the credit for the work, which was handed entirely to the in-house design team) there's been not a peep from the designer who, despite being recognized for his talent, has torn through design houses like Hurricane Bertha.

He's worked at Christian Lacroix, Balmain & Dior before his highly public firing from Bill Blass, and his abrupt departure from Nina Ricci. While there's been some speculation that Nilsson is a difficult personality, I have to give him some slack. Have you ever worked for a European company, and a privately held one at that? Not to make a generalization, but I can just imagine the inner workings of some of these houses. It is fashion, after all.

But chaos makes no distinction by nationality, especially in this business. I think Halston is proving that point since news broke of Marco Zanina's abrupt departure after less than a year. Come to think of it, with Nilsson's gift for mixing architectural design with his know how of draping, he could be a potential replacement for Zanina. If only personality didn't have to figure into the mix.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Season of Awards

It's that time of year again when the CFDA announces its nominees for its Fashion Fund, which awards one talented design hopeful a spectacular 200K of much needed cash. Straight on its heels is the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, which has often served as a spring board for the CFDA award.

While there's no doubt how extremely prestigious both awards are in the industry, I wondered just how far the accolades and money can get you in what is probably one of the toughest businesses out there. I might be underestimating the gal on the street, but just how many of us have even heard of some of these rising stars, and just how long is their trajectory?

Take for instance Jose Ramon Reyes, who was an EDFF award winner last year, along with household name Alexander Wang. Though the guy is certainly talented, but how many us recognize his label? Or those of past winners Mark Kroeker, Vasseur Esquivel, or Palmer Jones, all of whom, I believe, are now defunct?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smart Porn

Sundance Channel is showing Green Porn, a new series directed by Isabella Rossellini on the subject of sex in nature and someone just sent me this clip of one of the episodes.

If you don't know already, I am a great admirer of Isabella, who I think is one of the most iconic faces of our time. But that's not why I hold her in such high esteem. She really is an artist and has that artistic spirit which, I think, comes out in this series (along with a pretty wicked sense of humor about love, life and sex.)

Did you also know that the woman volunteers to train seeing eye dogs for the blind? Yes, on top of being one of the most beautiful people to have walked the face of the earth, as well as smart, funny and creative, she has a soul.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Emily's Intervention

Sometimes my earlier posts get me thinking. Now, I don't want to give the impression that eating disorders are something that I think of often, but I just happened to be watching the documentary series on A&E called Intervention.

Have you seen it? It's fascinating. Somehow they manage to get into the lives of families suffering from addiction, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or in Emily's case, anorexia, all within the span of an hour. And even before that hour is up, the show stages an intervention to help the addict seek treatment. It's a series that actually does some good in the devastated lives of normal human beings. What an idea.

If you watch the full episode, you can see learn her story: how she was drugged at a college party and gang raped, how she wasted away to less than 90 lbs, and how her family, with all its dysfunctionalities, somehow managed to come together to help her.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Bastille Day

I've always been a big fan of Carla Bruni, the model, that is, not the chanteuse. When she stopped modeling to pursue her music full time, I couldn't help but to think what a loss it was to the fashion world.

After listening to some tracks from her new album, I guess I can't help but to think that again. With all these older supermodels on the comeback of late, Bruni still looks as stunning as she did in her heyday. And she's a smart cookie. I guess I would just prefer to listen to her speak (in one of the 4 languages she's mastered), or admire a shot of her smartly dressed in Dior, rather than hear her sing.

Even though she hasn't launched any new fashion campaigns, she is launching a campaign of another sort, though, isn't she? I mean, how many of us really ever keep up with French politics, anyway. But now it seems every one knows everything about the Sarkozys, or at least what the missus is wearing on her official visits abroad. Whether or not this is all just some big publicity stunt by the head of Matignon, as some have wondered, I guess we'll never know. But at least one thing is clear, that Sarko is one smart, and lucky, guy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm A Boy Anorexic

When I was a teen, I struggled with anorexia and bouts of bulimia. Thank goodness I outgrew this condition and, as an adult, have been lucky enough to be blessed with both a healthy body image and fast metabolism. It probably doesn't hurt that I was a long distance runner for many years, until my doctor took one look at my knees and had me promise to take up another sport immediately.

Because of this personal brush with the malady, I guess it always strikes a pretty hard chord whenever I hear the stories of others who are still battling this affliction. The other night, I happened to see this documentary on the BBC about boys with anorexia, or manorexia, as the word-smithing Brits seem to have coined it.

When I see kids so young, no matter what their sex, I guess it just strikes a harder note, especially the ones pulling at my heart strings. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a good full clip anywhere, just this promo. But if you should get the chance, look it up, rent it if it's available, or check your BBC listings. It's worth the watch.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lam & Labelux

If there is any young designer I'm rooting for, it's probably Derek Lam. Judging purely on design, that hasn't always been the case. But in recent seasons, I've come to appreciate his particular take on how women should dress. I guess the only measure I can offer to explain this is that if I had the money to buy an entire wardrobe of designer duds, I would certainly want a few of his pieces in the mix.

So when I opened up yesterday's WWD to learn that the designer had a financial partner in Labelux, it dawned on me that he'd be one of those smart, talented few, who will probably be blessed with a very long, and hopefully profitable career. He certainly had all the tools in place to start with. Business plan and business partner, check. Design talent, check. Charisma and cool, double check.

But while he may have been armed with all those things, he was still smart enough to know that he needed something more to take his business to the next level. And after being in business for some five years, which is akin to dog years in fashion, he knew that that something more was a serious cash injection and an even bigger expansion plan.

How smart is that? Which brings me to my next question. When will I be walking along 7th Avenue and see his name on the sidewalk, along the likes of Calvin Klein and Donna Karan?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mas on Mango

Spain seems to be in all the news, or at least the sports pages, what with Nadal at Wimbledon, and the country's victory on the soccer pitch last week. So, maybe it's a bit appropriate that mass retailer Mango is breaking out on some news of its own, unveiling plans to open a number of stores in Iraq.

Not sure how one decides to go into a war-torn country to capitalize on the markets there. Well, it's not like Mango will be the first one. (I have to admit, when I was recently watching some footage of a recent bombing in Iraq, I couldn't help but to notice that the reel had been taped in front of a Bata store. Bata, if you don't know it, is a lower priced mass Swiss shoemaker.)

Enough politicizing, on to the fashion bit. I know Mango is doing loads of business, and is even planning to open up stateside in the future. But I've never been keen to know exactly when and where (though I'd bet New York is in the cards.) And here's why.

Though they've been smart enough to capitalize on Spain's biggest export, Penelope Cruz, Mango just hasn't gotten what Zara and H&M have made multi-billion dollar businesses on. No, I'm not talking about ripping off designs straight from runway. I'm talking about the slightly fashion forward bent that make girls want to run to your store and plop down some cash to look good in a frock that you might wear one season, but be happy tossing out the next. Why? Because you've stocked your stores with a new style they'll want to wear instead, and the low prices can justify such frivolous action.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wishlist in July

It's a little sad, but sometimes while I'm working I'll take a quick break on and do some virtual window shopping. It's a completely vicarious pasttime, as I've only been weak enough to click "buy" on the website just once. I simply had to have a pair of delicious studded sandals which, alas, have only come out of their box for one occasion. I have to admit, they were still worth their steep price tag because once in a while I'll just take them out to look at them, even put them on inside when I'm sewing away or draping. That's enough entertainment for me most days, way better than a blockbuster movie (and I'm a big cinephile) or a beer (not so much) at my local bar.

So as fall shipments hit stores, here's what netaporter has. I've made my early wishlist. I'm sure it'll change by the time they get their full shipments, and second deliveries. And I'm sure I'll be back on the website to take a gander again at what they're stocking.

(From top left, clockwise: Missoni semi-precious bracelet, Christian Louboutin suede boots, Stella McCartney black ruffle dress, VBH alligator clutch, Burberry studded sandals, Azzaro snap dress.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Color Me Pink

All this rain and humidity already has me pining for Fall. But as a fashion designer, I probably have an ulterior motive in saying that. Fall is always so much more interesting as a season for dressing, isn't it? All those layers, sweaters, jackets, tights, and boots. The possibilities are endless. And frankly, if I see (or wear) another tank top, I know my sensibilities will just nosedive into a deep fashion coma until September rolls around.

Which brings me to the subject of color, which we've been seeing a lot of recently. Not loads of it at once, but nice little splashes mixed in with the requisite black and dark hues.

I was once asked by a very smart college student, why is it that you see so many fashion designer showing the same trends at the same time, like certain colors? Well, that's enough for a blog on its own. But it does make me wonder which colors we'll see on the runway for Spring 09. My bet is that there may be some designers taking their cue from Marc's Fall 08 line and opt for a sorbet-like palette. And then, I wonder whether these strong colors, like Tisci had in mind for Givenchy couture, will look old by the time Fashion Week rolls around in September?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

If I were...

Today's blog is as non-fashion as it gets. Not that there isn't enough to write about. Alessandra Facchinetti's debut collection for Valentino, why Rouland Mouret is showing during couture week (why is he?), and how curious it is to hear of Monique Lhuillier attending shows in Paris (perhaps she's good friends with the couturiers?).

No, today I'm writing about Ingrid Betancourt. No doubt by now you've heard her name. She was rescued yesterday after being held captive for 6 years. According to foreign press reports, her rescue goes something like this.

Some months ago, the leaders of the Marxist guerillas who were holding her hostage had been captured and/or killed. A laptop was intercepted which may have helped the Columbian government learn that the guerillas were planning to move prisoners to the south. When helicopters arrived to execute this move, they were operated instead by the Columbian military, which safely transported the prisoners and disarmed the accompanying guerillas. Not a single shot fired.

Betancourt is a dual Columbian-French national. If I were Galliano, Lagerfeld, Lacroix, heck, even an exec at Kookai, (instead of the one-woman design company that I am) I would offer to dress Betancourt in all her public appearances for her natural God-given days. I mean, the woman was imprisoned for 6 years in the jungles of Columbia. She deserves as much, and much much more.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Look At Dior Couture

I'm not sure how Galliano does it, designing under his own name, as well as Christian Dior ready to wear, and couture. (Well, a fleet of designers and well-staffed ateliers probably helps). Add another line and he'd be right up there with the Kaiser, who designs Chanel, Fendi, as well as his eponymous line.

It's not that I don't appreciate Galliano's aesthetic, but I do think that he has mastered the art of a show. Galliano knows better than anyone how to maximize the use of theatricality to the nth degree. Dare I say it, but strip down to the clothes, and sometimes they're a little hit or miss for me.

His recent couture show, however, is a hit. Besides some of the vampy transparent looks, I thought these were among the best. I'm sure the ladies who lunch will love the white lace number in particular.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Season of Old Comers

I can't count the number of comebacks I'm reading about lately. Christian Francis Roth, who won a CFDA Perry Ellis Award way back in 1990 when he was something like 22 years old and hailed as the next wunderkind, is making his return in September after an absence of some 8 years. And the British Brazilian designing duo Clements Ribeiro are also staging a comeback after leaving a lucrative but unimpressive stint designing for Parisian label Cacharel.

Though Roth's return is likely to cause a bigger splash, especially considering the critical success he garnered at such a young age, I'm rooting for Clements Ribeiro. I've always been a big fan of their easy knits, which had just enough interest to make them special. Look at this shot from their 2001 collection, which I could easily see being worn today.

And who blames them for having left their own eponymous label to go design for a huge money-making machine when the euros were beckoning? Even though the work they did at Cacharel wasn't mind-boggling, I guess I still give them some props. It's never as inspiring to design for someone else as it is for yourself, which is why I'm looking forward to what they have to say next.