Pandemic, Pollution – A Fashion Industry Wake-Up Call ?

- - Sustainability

Naomi Campbell wears Hazmat suit to the airport. (Photo credit: CNN)

2020 is turning out to be one of the most difficult years in world history. Globally, we are fighting a war against COVID-19, a virus that spreads so quickly and easily that the numbers of those effected and who die rises daily at alarming rates. Worldwide, people are on lockdown or partial lockdown, and a new word has been  added to our vocabulary, social-distancing.

COVID-19 is not only affecting our health, physically and mentally, but is greatly affecting the world economy, as companies and factories are shut down with only essential businesses remaining open. As we adapt to the new ‘work-from-home’ model, schools are asking teachers and students to move online. However, without accessible content, many teachers are finding it difficult if not impossible.

At University of Fashion, we are very proud to say that we are meeting the needs of schools by offering all schools free 30-day access to our lesson content. We are also offering flexible subscription rates & terms (contact us at cs@UniversityofFashion.com to learn more). The list of schools taking advantage of our offer is rapidly growing (last count more than 55). Schools such as Parsons, San Francisco State University, Buffalo State College, Virginia Tech, Western Michigan University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro to name a few,. Even high schools have taken advantage of our resource. And, for individual subscribers we are  offering a $20 discount on a yearly subscription (was $189/now$169, using promo code NEWS21Y (offer expires 12/31/20).

As doctors and scientists around the globe race to find a vaccine for the virus, environmentalists have found a silver lining among the fear and anxiety. They have noted that while COVID-19 is a global health crisis, the forcing of businesses to shut down and people to quarantine has had a positive effect on the planet. The biggest difference is the change in air quality, as industry, aviation, and other forms of transportation came to an almost worldwide halt, thus resulting in a reduction in air pollution. These air quality reductions have mostly been tracked in countries such as China and Italy. India, who recently went on lockdown, will hopefully soon follow.

Air pollution levels, as observed by satellite, are showing drastic improvements in many areas that have been undergoing restrictive quarantines due to COVID-19” Peter DeCarlo, an Associate Professor of Environmental Health Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told Newsweek.

However, in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday March 26th, announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing U.S. power plants, factories and other facilities to ‘determine for themselves’ if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution. The agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements during the corona outbreak and for an undetermined period of time. In a New York Times article on March 25th, former E.PA. administrator Gina McCarthy was quoted as saying that this new rule is “an open license to pollute.” Let’s all keep our eyes on this situation.

The water in the Venice canals is clear enough to see fish swimming below as the coronavirus halts tourism in Italy. (Photo credit: ABC News)

With all that Italy has had to deal with as a result of the pandemic, Venice reported that the water in city’s famous canals appear to be unusually clear, due to the fact that the canals are empty because of the coronavirus lockdown. The quarantine is also having an effect on wildlife across the globe. As people are confined to their homes, animals are roaming the streets looking for food.  According to a recent article in Newsweek, “In Japan, for example, sika deer living in the popular tourist destination Nara Park were spotted wandering into urban areas to look for food after restrictions on visitors from China and South Korea came into place. Normally, tourists buy special snacks to feed the deer, and many of the animals have become accustomed to eating these treats.”

As the pandemic manages to wreak havoc, perhaps now’s the time for the fashion industry to take a long hard look at changing our business model and commit to becoming more responsible earth citizens?

In an interview with Newsweek, Steven Davis, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine stated that as a result of the virus, “We will have a new baseline of what’s possible to do online: telecommute, educate, shop, etcetera. And to the extent our government, institutions, and social networks succeed by coming together, we may feel more empowered to take on daunting issues like climate change and a transition to sustainable energy sources.”

Once a vaccine is discovered and the world can get back to some sense of normalcy, it is important that the fashion industry come together to find sustainable solutions. As an industry, we are constantly producing goods. We use tons of natural resources and produce garments all over the world just to keep up with ever changing trends. A recipe for planet disaster!

Let’s ask ourselves how can we still create, design and produce, while making a smaller carbon footprint and a more positive impact while doing so.

Here are a few ways that fashion designers can work together to achieve sustainability and decrease that every enlarging footprint.

SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY & BLOCKCHAIN 

A sustainable textile is Organic Cotton. (Photo credit: What About Yves)

First, as a designer, examine your supply chain. It is important to know from where you are buying your textiles and whether these textile mills follow environmental guidelines, as well as protect the communities that surround them. This information can be easily found through organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition /The Higg Index and various textile exchange organizations, like Queen of Raw and The Textile Exchange.

Designers should also try to buy from sustainable textile mills and educate themselves on the global impact that certain textiles have on the environment. Today, organizations are working to certify fibers and textiles with more transparency, so that designers can educate their consumers to make educated choices.

Queen of Raw uses blockchain, a distributed database existing on multiple computers at the same time. It is constantly growing as new sets of recordings, or ‘blocks’, are added to it. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to the previous block, so they actually form a chain. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data, thus guaranteeing a transaction’s authenticity/transparency.

BRING MANUFACTURING HOME

Made in the USA. (Photo credit: US Chamber of Commerce)

Another way designers can make a positive impact on the environment is to manufacture their collections in their own country. In the 198os, 70% of our clothing was made in the United States, today it is only 2%. Bringing manufacturing home will not only help boost the economy, but it will also minimize the environmental stress that comes with shipping, which in turn, will produce less air and ocean pollution.

TEXTILE WASTE

Textiles go to waste. (Photo credit: Apparel News)

As consumers crave the latest trends and our landfills are piling up with last season’s clothes, designers need to make better products with responsible materials so that when they are discarded they leave less pollution. In turn, designers must train consumers to understand quality over quantity.

On February 25, 2020, a new sustainability initiative was announced entitled, Accelerating Circularity, an organization that works with major apparel companies such as Gap Inc., Target Corp. and VF Corp, helping to find ways to eliminate textile industry waste and recycle it into new fibers and materials.

Accelerating Circularity’s mission is to research and identify opportunities in apparel supply chains in order to make them circular, which means taking returned goods and items defined as waste materials and turning them into new textiles. According to Karla Magruder, the group’s leader, “If we’re going to have circularity, textile waste will be the new raw material. We’re going to have to find out how to get from point A to point B. Less than 1 percent of textile waste gets recycled into new textiles. It’s nothing.”

In a 2017 Apparel News article, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 16.9 million tons of textile waste is dumped annually. “There needs to be new maps for the supply chain that don’t exist today. We need to create the knowledge of where the textile waste is, how we should collect it and where we need to feed it to the appropriate recyclers.

FRENCH GOVERNMENT BANS COMPANIES FROM DESTROYING UNSOLD PRODUCTS

 

Twitter post from The Fashion Law (TFL).  (Photo credit: TFL)

Earlier this year, France began working on passing one of the strongest laws when it comes to the handling of unsold garments and accessories. The legislation will ban companies from destroying certain unsold products making good on the French government’s vow to “put in place in the [fashion and textile industries] the major principles of the fight against food waste in order to ensure that unsold materials are not thrown away or destroyed.”

According to TFL’s website, French companies are slated to be subject to more than 100 new sustainability-centric provisions, such as those that require the systematic phasing out of automatic paper receipts and single use plastic in fast food restaurants, followed by the outright ban on all single-use plastics by 2040.

The fashion industry has been especially called out according to French legislators  as “apparel retailers, in particular, as they renew their products more frequently [than other industries] and often have surplus unsold stock.” As a result of its longstanding practice of destroying unsold merchandise to avoid discounting it and/or paying to burn it, the industry itself is one of the biggest culprits in terms of the more than €650 million (nearly $710 million) worth of new consumer products that are destroyed, or disposed of in landfills on an annual basis, according to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s office.

For years prestigious brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, and even H&M, have destroyed their unsold goods as part of a large-scale scheme to maintain its brand image.

CLIMATE CRISIS WILL RESHAPE FINANCE

Laurence D. Fink, the chief of BlackRock. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, announced early this month that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as its core goal; stating his firm would avoid investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk.”

According to The New York Times, BlackRock will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business. It will undoubtedly put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched and in the 2020 edition he said that BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprint. “Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.

Fink anticipates a major shift, much sooner than many might imagine, in the way money will be allocated. This dynamic will accelerate as the next generation takes the helm of government and business,” he wrote. “As trillions of dollars shift to millennials over the next few decades, as they become C.E.O.s and C.I.O.s, as they become the policymakers and heads of state, they will further reshape the world’s approach to sustainability.”

This is meaningful news for those companies that are on the forefront of sustainability when it comes to looking for funding.

BEYOND RECYCLING

Puma Shoes. (Photo courtesy of Puma)

Global athletic brand Puma and First Mile have co-created a sportswear and shoe collection made from recycled yarn that is manufactured from plastic bottles collected by the First Mile network.

First Mile is a people-focused network that strengthens micro-economies in Taiwan, Honduras, and Haiti by collecting plastic bottles. This helps to create sustainable jobs and reduce pollution. The bottles are then sorted, cleaned, shredded, and turned into yarn, which is later used to create products with purpose that truly empower from ‘the first mile’ forward.

Plastic recycling in Bangladesh. (Photo by Flickr)

Even though one of the key benefits of this partnership is social impact, the Puma and First Mile program has diverted over 40 tons of plastic waste from landfills and oceans, just for the products made for 2020. This roughly translates into 1,980,286 plastic bottles being reused,” said Stefan Seidel, head of corporate sustainability for Puma. “The pieces from this co-branded training collection range from shoes, tees, shorts, pants and jackets — all the apparel is made of at least 83% to even 100% from the more sustainable yarn sourced from First Mile.”

The collaboration with First Mile is part of Puma’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact and lives up to its code of being “Forever Better.”

CARBON NEUTRAL AND CARBON NEGATIVE

In September 2019, Gucci announced it was going carbon neutral (net-zero), meaning it would no longer be adding carbon into the atmosphere.

Other companies are going ‘carbon negative’, meaning they will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit. In January 2020, Microsoft announced their carbon negative pledge, promising that by 2030, they will remove all of the carbon from the environment that it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975. That goes well beyond a pledge by its cloud-computing rival Amazon, which intends to go carbon neutral by 2040.

According to an article in Fashionista on how brands don’t know enough about their carbon footprint, Elizabeth L. Cline wrote:

” Stand.Earth, an environmental advocacy group, ranked 45 major clothing brands, and found that only two brands — Levi’s and American Eagle Outfitters — are doing enough to curb emissions to keep us under 1.5 degrees of warming, which is the limit recommended by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) published its Green Supply Chain CITI (Corporate Information Transparency Index) ranking, which scores over 400 global brands that manufacture in China, including 80 major clothing companies, based on their efforts to curb pollution and their emissions. What these rankings reveal is that few brands are doing anything to measure their carbon footprint, much less cut it back to an Earth-sparing size.”

Hopefully the tide will turn in 2020 and beyond, as more brands make a concerted effort.

NEW CERTIFICATION HELPS BRANDS

Many fashion brands are claiming to be carbon-neutral but are actually not, a term referred to as “greenwashing.” As of April 2020, a San Francisco-based company called  Climate Neutral is unveiling a Climate Neutral Certified label that will identify companies that have reached a net-zero carbon footprint by reducing and offsetting emissions released through their entire creation process, from design to production to shipping.

Designers can and should play a bigger role in the products that they design. With a trove of agencies, organizations and other resources, there is really no excuse not to be eco-compliant.

OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES

Here are a few additional organizations that are pushing the envelope in sustainability:

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2C)– An organization that educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer products to improve what their products are made of and how they are made.

Evrnu – A new fiber that comes from the recycling of cotton garments. They take garment waste to its supply chain in a way that is good for business, for the environment, and for consumers.

Let us know what you are doing to reduce your carbon footprint and what other agencies you might know to help designers “design green”?

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Art, Science & Fashion

- - Fashion History

 

Who’s She? a new guessing game created by Polish designer Zuzia Kozerska (Photo credit: Playeress)

In honor of Woman’s History Month and International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, University of Fashion would like to celebrate by focusing on female accomplishments in the areas of art, science and fashion. We are aware that there are MANY more influential women that could and should be listed here, but in the interest of space, we have only listed some and vow to cover this topic again in future blogposts. Let’s face it girls…we have lots to brag about!

Not since the suffrage movement, the 19th amendment (granting women the right to vote in 1920), the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 60s, and the Women’s Rights Movement of 2016, have women become as mobilized as they are now. In fact, if you haven’t already signed up to become a founding member of Supermajority (it’s free) then, what are you waiting for? Spoiler alert, women represent a majority in the U.S. and we CAN be the most powerful force in America if we work together.

Did you know that women now have their own board game! Who’s She? is a new guessing game created by Polish designer Zuzia Kozerska for Playeress, celebrating the achievements of famous women around the world. The laser-cut wooden board flips up to reveal the faces of 28 painters, athletes, scientists, and astronauts in a similar style to that of the classic game, Guess Who? from the late 1970s. However, instead of posing superficial questions like, “does your character have glasses?” this game asks players to inquire about achievements and contributions like, “did she win a Nobel Prize?”

Also, did you know that as of Mother’s Day weekend in 1996, a group of women dedicated themselves to moving Adelaide Johnson’s Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony out of the U.S. Capitol’s basement, known as the Crypt, to its rightful place in the Capitol Rotunda and thus created the National Women’s History Museum? Watch for the announcement of it’s permanent home at the Smithsonian Institution with a location on the National Mall. 

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and Women in the World are only the beginning of female empowerment. Celebrating women’s achievements and increasing their visibility, while calling out inequality, is key to today’s women’s movement. As women continue to strive for equality in the boardroom, in pay, sports, politics, the sciences, the arts, and in every aspect of life, we are definitely in the age of the “XX Chromosome.”

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been celebrated for well over a century. The first IWD gathering in 1911 was supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific and is celebrated on March 8th each year.

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 

Women’s History Month began in 1978 as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week.” The organizers selected the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day and the movement spread across the the U.S. as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.

On February 28, 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. He wrote:

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of men whose names we know so well.” 

In 1987 Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamation designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

WOMEN in the ARTS

According to My Modern Met, the 10 most famous female painters (dating from the Italian Renaissance), include Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Rosa Bonheur,Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Tamara de Lempicka and Frida Kahlo. 

Organizations like Advancing Women Artists work to ensure that the female talent of the past doesn’t get left out of the history books.

Frida Kahlo (Photo credit: Frida Kahlo Instagram)

 

WOMEN in the SCIENCES

As for women in the sciences, notables include: Marie Curie, Tiera Guinn, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jane Goodall, Mae C. Jemison, Jennifer Doudna, Rachel Carson, Marie Goeppert Mayer, Sara Seager, Katherine Freese, Jane Cooke Wright, Vera Rubin, Sau Lan Wu, Rosalind Franklin, Barbara McClintock, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Gertrude Elion. Another role model is the first tech visionary, Ada Lovelace, who is celebrated on the second Tuesday in October. Known for her achievements in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she is one of the early innovators of the computer.

Ada Lovelace –  first tech visionary  (Photo credit: the Mirror)

 

WOMEN in FASHION

Beginning with France’s earliest known designer, Rose Bertin (creator of Marie Antoinette Queen of France coronation dress) and the steady succession of female designers to follow, fashion has always been an industry where female talent could flourish. Let’s look at some great women who broke the glass ceiling:

EDITH L. ROSENBAUM

Edith L. Rosenbaum – Journalist and Titanic Survivor. (Photo credit: Encyclopedia Titanic)

Edith L. Rosenbaum was a Woman’s Wear Daily journalist from the early 1900’s. She was not only a stylist and buyer but a survivor of the Titanic. A few days after being rescued, she filed a story about people from the fashion industry who were also on board the ship. She wrote of Isidor & Ida Straus (of Macys and Abraham & Straus Department Stores), both of whom courageously died, and Ida’s loyalty to her husband by choosing not to be rescued if her husband could not join her. Rosenbaum also wrote about designer Lady Duff Gordon, whose career was marred by the tragic mistake she made discouraging crew members from turning back their half-full lifeboats to rescue more people, fearing the boat would become overcrowded. Rosenblum was a pioneer who opened the door for future female journalists to cover ground-breaking stories around the world, thus inspiring the careers of Diana Vreeland, Anna Wintour and Robin Givhan.

                      

Queen Elizabeth and Anna Wintour at Richard Quinn’s runway show at London Fashion Week in 2018. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Diana Vreeland Memos The Vogue Years. (Photo credit: New York Post)

 

MADELEINE LOUIS CHÉRUIT

Madeleine Louise Chéruit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Madeleine Louise Chéruit may not be a household name like Coco Chanel, but she is definitely an inspiration for female fashion designers in the ‘know.’ Chéruit was one of the first women to control a major French fashion house at the turn of the century. In the late 1800s Chéruit worked as a dressmaker at Raudnitz & Cie House of Couture. Her work was so exceptional, that in 1905 she took over the salon and its more than 100 employees, renaming it Chéruit.

Chéruit was known to champion other talented couturiers and helped launch the career of French designer Paul Poiret. During WWI, she was one of the few couture houses that remained open. Sadly the house closed its doors in 1935, but Chéruit’s influence is still felt when Elsa Schiaparelli famously took over Chéruit’s 98-room studio and salon, tying the two designers together in the fashion history.

COCO CHANEL

A 1960 photo of Coco Chanel. (Photo credit: Britannica)

Coco Chanel, without a doubt, is one of the most important designers in fashion. She single-handedly created the template for modernity that still exists today. Coco is credited in the post-World War I era, with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and for popularizing sporty, “casual chic” as the feminine standard of style. Coco’s tweed suits, little black dress, and piles of fake pearl jewelry are still a hallmark of her extraordinary career. In 1918, Chanel purchased and opened a shop at 31 rue Cambon in one of the most fashionable districts of Paris. Chanel herself designed her famed interlocked “CC”  monogram, which has been in use since the 1920s and still today is the signature clasp on iconic Chanel handbags.  Coco Chanel is the only fashion designer listed in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI

Elsa Schiaparelli fitting one of her designs on a model. (Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal)

Italian socialite Elsa Schiaparelli always had a flare for fashion. After working at various fashion jobs, “Schiap” as she was known, launched her namesake collection in 1927. Her business grew quickly with high profile customers flocking to her salon, including Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Gloria Guinness and the Duchess of Windsor.

Schiaparelli’s whimsical, “tongue-in cheek” approach to fashion was reflected in her theme-based collections beginning in 1935 with Stop, Look and Listen, the Music Collection (1937), the Circus Collection, the Pagan Collection, the Zodiac Collection (1938), the Commedia dell’Arte Collection (1939) and her Cash and Carry Collection (1940). She was greatly influenced by surrealism artists and was a pioneer of experimental, avant-garde fashion, which would later inspire contemporary designers, Franco Moschino and Jeremy Scott.

MADELEINE VIONNET

Madeleine Vionnet (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

French designer Madeleine Vionnet is a designer’s designer and her influence is still with us today, as designers continue taking inspiration from her mastery. Vionnet’s biggest contributions to fashion are her famous “bias cut,” “twists,” cowl necklines, zig-zag cut waist seams, chiffon handkerchief dresses and Asian-inspired body wrapping methods. Like Coco Chanel, Vionnet is credited with the move from stiff, corseted, formalized looks, in favor of sleeker, softer silhouettes. Isadora Duncan, one of the most admired modern dancers of her time, became Vionnet’s muse, hence the focus on clothes that flattered the natural curves of a woman’s body.

MADAME GRÈS

Madame Grès, couture at work. (Photo credit: Vogue.it)

While Madame Grès was one of the most influential fashion couturiers of her time, she was also one of the most elusive. Grès was a true master technician. Known for her draping masterpieces that included intricate tucks, folds, and pleats, she was always tight-lipped about her approach. She fervently concealed from the public’s eye her prized techniques, therefore earning her the nickname, “The Sphinx of Fashion.”

JEANNE LANVIN

                    Lanvin logo depicting Jeanne Lanvin and daughter Marguerite (Photo credit: Lanvin)

Jeanne Lanvin was trained as a milliner and dressmaker. Her fashion career began when she began creating clothes for her daughter, Marguerite. She soon found herself in the childrenswear business. In 1909 Lanvin expanded her collection to include womenswear and would then go on to become of the most successful couture houses in the world. In 1927,  Lanvin launched her famous fragrance Arpège.

Lanvin’s clothes have always had a youthful and whimsical quality. Her signature dress, known as the “robe de style” is a silhouette that flatters all female figure types and is still popular today. In 1926, Lanvin expanded into menswear, making her the first haute couture house to design for all members of the family.

Although we have witnessed a series of artistic directors at Lanvin throughout the years, one thing has remained consistent –  the logo. Created by Jeanne Lanvin, the logo depicts a playful mother and her child, the beginning of the Lanvin story. Today, Lanvin is the oldest surviving fashion house in continuous existence.

CLAIRE McCARDELL

Claire McCardell sketching. (Photo credit: CR Fashion Book)

Claire McCardell is considered one of the pioneers of the “American look,” i.e., uncomplicated, comfortable clothing for the casual American lifestyle (the actual beginning of ‘lifestyle dressing’). Her design philosophy was in sharp contrast to her European counterparts of the 1940s whose clothes were fitted, fussy, decorated and tailored. During World War II, McCardell took advantage of fabric shortages by working cotton and twill into both her day and evening looks. American publicist Eleanor Lambert and Lord  & Taylor’s then president, Dorothy Shaver, were early pioneers of American fashion. They quickly placed McCardell’s designs front and center in marketing campaigns and thus helped launch McCardell’s career. Her 1942 popover dress (that could be worn as a beach cover-up or cocktail dress) was in high demand, and just like that, the chic American Look was born. McCardell is also know for her “five easy pieces” concept, which would become the foundation for today’s ‘mix and match’ sportswear separates category and later serve as inspiration for Donna Karan.

BONNIE CASHIN

Bonnie Cashin in 1961 wearing one of her designs. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

Bonnie Cashin, along with Claire McCardell, was another champion of American fashion. Cashin designed casual looks for the modern, independent woman by creating pieces with a minimal use of seams and darts; she also introduced layered looks that suited her jet-set lifestyle.

Cashin started her career by designing clothing for chorus girls in Los Angeles and eventually made it to the silver screen by creating wardrobes for films like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Anna and The King of Siam. Cashin. She is also credited with creating flight attendant uniforms for American Airlines.

In 1962, Cashin was hired by Miles and Lillian Cahn for the launch of their accessories business, Coach. Her designs for Coach included the shopping bag tote, the bucket bag, the shoulder bag and the clutch-style purse with removable shoulder strap. In 1964, Cashin introduced a brass turn lock/toggle closure that was featured both on her bags and her clothing designs. This piece of hardware quickly became her signature and Coach still uses it today.

MARY QUANT

Mary Quant – style icon who changed the face of fashion in the Sixties. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Mary Quant is widely credited as one of the most instrumental designers of the 1960s London Mod and Youth Fashion movements. Her invention of miniskirts and hot pants helped catapult the growing trend in women’s fashion liberation.

Ernestine Carter, an authoritative and influential fashion journalist of the 1950s and 1960s, wrote: “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

Vivienne Westwood at her fall 2019 show surrounded by models. (Photo credit: L’Official USA)

In the early 70s, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood became the go-to designer for punk and new wave clothing through her affiliation with English impresario Malcolm McLaren and his King’s Road boutique, “SEX.” Although punk music actually began in the United States with bands like the Stooges and the Ramones, Westwood and McLaren made it famous globally. Rebellious teens craved Westwood’s clothes that featured tears, holes, safety pin embellishments, clan plaids and plenty of faux leather. To this day, Westwood is still creating fashion with a rebellious twist.

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

 

Diane von Furstenberg in her Manhattan flagship store. (Photo credit: Vogue)

Diane von Fürstenberg, formerly Princess Diane of Fürstenberg, is a Belgian fashion designer and former wife of Prince Egon von Fürstenberg. The royal couple were separated in 1973 and divorced in 1983, however Diane continued to use his family name.

Most known for her wrap dress, which catapulted her to fame in the 70s, the designer took a brief hiatus from fashion but relaunched her namesake label in 1992. Today, her collection is available in over 70 countries and 45 free-standing shops worldwide. Von Furstenberg was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) from 2006 to Jan. 1, 2020. In 2014 she was listed as the 68th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, and in 2015 was included in the Time 100, as a fashion icon, by Time magazine.

REI KAWAKUBO

Rei Kawakubo at her 2017 Met Exhibit. (Photo credit: MTV)

Rei Kawakubo is a self-taught Japanese fashion designer based in Tokyo and Paris. She is the founder of her clothing company Comme des Garçons and the trend-setting retail concept Dover Street Market. Kawakubo founded Comme des Garçons in 1969 as an avant-garde brand, specializing in clothes best described as anti-fashion, austere and deconstructed. In the 1980s Kawakubo revolutionized Paris fashion by introducing a style of dress that merged Western and Japanese influences. Her clothes have always been both directional and powerful, challenging the concept of feminine beauty. Kawakubo is considered one of Japan’s most innovative fashion designers and remains one of the most unconventional designers of our time.

DONNA KARAN

Donna Karan in her studio. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

Donna Karan launched her signature collection in May of 1985. Her genius concept began with a jersey bodysuit and several mix-and-match pieces that she would refer to as her “easy pieces” (reminiscent of Bonnie Cashin). Karan has always been a champion of woman’s empowerment. In fact, her 1992 advertising campaign was based on an aspirational female president of the United States. Karen’s signature look is centered around the career driven woman with a love of fashion, the arts and philosophy.

In 1989, Karan introduced her secondary line, DKNY, which she described to WWD as, “the embodiment of all that is New York – fast, loud, bright, funny, egotistical, demanding and generous.”  Donna received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014 and stepped down from her company in 2015. Today, her focus is on her Urban Zen line, which centers on wellness and artisanal goods. Karan refers to Urban Zen as a “philosophy of caring.”

MIUCCIA PRADA

A portrait of Miuccia Prada. (Photo credit: Vanity Fair)

Miuccia Prada is the youngest granddaughter of Italian heritage brand founder Mario Prada. In 1978 she took over the family-owned luxury goods company. In 1988, Miuccia introduced her first ready-to-wear line and has been captivating the fashion scene ever since.

At the helm now for the past 30 years, Miuccia continues to retain an aurora f mystery about her. Season after season one never knows what to expect from this creative genius. Her motifs have run the gamut from futuristic to granny chic and everything in between. She launched her secondary line Miu Miu (her nickname) in 1992. Although it started off as a less expensive womenswear collection inspired by her personal wardrobe, today it is just as expensive as the Prada label but with a younger aesthetic.

Miuccia Prada was honored by the CFDA with the International Award in 2004. In March 2013 she was named one of the fifty best dressed over-50s by Forbes. The magazine also listed her as the 75th most powerful woman in the world in 2014, when her estimated net worth was reported as $11.1 billion. This past February, during Milan Fashion Week, Prada announced that Belgian designer Raf Simons would become Prada’s co-creative director along with Miuccia. It will be interesting to see how these two creative intellectuals work together.

FEMALES SUPPORTING WOMAN’S HISTORY MONTH

Ashley Judd, Gloria Steinem, and Diane von Furstenberg were speakers at Tory Burch Summit. (Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter)

Many female fashion entrepreneurs are supporting Woman’s History Month in their own way. Tory Burch hosted a day of panels with the likes of activist Gloria Steinem, actress Ashley Judd and Time’s Up chief executive officer Tina Tchen. Burch will also donate 100 percent of net proceeds from her limited-edition Embrace Ambition bracelet and tote to support female empowerment and entrepreneurship.

The Tory Burch Embrace Ambition tote. (Photo credit: Tory Burch)

According to WWD, other brands are paying homage to influential women throughout history. Contemporary fashion label La Ligne launched pieces that included the monograms of such women as Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Frida Kahlo and more.

La Ligne’s limited-edition sweatshirt. (Photo credit: La Ligne)

The Great. x Cotton Inc. are paying homage to Rosie the Riveter with a re-imagined denim jumpsuit that gives a nod to the iconic figure.

Carli Lloyd stars in The Great’s campaign. (Photo credit: The Great)

Jewelry designer Kendra Scott celebrated International Women’s Day by launching the Everlyne Friendship Bracelet as part of the brand’s Shop for Good give-back collection. The bracelets come in six colorways and include stones such as rose quartz, turquoise and mother of pearl. Throughout March, 20% of proceeds from the bracelet will be benefiting various women’s organizations.

A bracelet from Kendra Scott’s collection. (Photo credit: Kendra Scott)

Net-a-porter is celebrating International Women’s Day with its third partnership with Women for Women International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides practical and moral support to women survivors of war. The retailer asked 20 female designers to create exclusive T-shirts for the e-commerce site, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the charity. Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Alexa Chung, Isabel Marant, Carine Roitfeld, Jimmy Choo, Rotate, Rosie Assoulin, Charlotte Tilbury, Cecilie Bahnsen and Roxanne Assoulin are a few that participated.

Stella McCartney and Roxanne Assoulin’s T- shirts. (Photo credit: Net-a-porter)

Each design is the brand’s interpretation of female empowerment, including Stella McCartney using an illustration from her fall 2019 campaign where women come together in support and love for the earth and Jimmy Choo designing a T-shirt that reads “Choos women,” among others.

MZ Wallace teamed up with fashion label Lingua Franca to create a limited-edition tote that supports She Should Run, the nonprofit that provides resources to women aspiring to run for political office. The black-and-blue patterned tote is inscribed with the phrase, “I’ve got this.”

MZ Wallace and Lingua Franca collaboration. (Photo credit: MZ Wallace)

Author and activist Cleo Wade worked with Kate Spade for International Women’s Day. The brand created a capsule collection of totes, pouches and sweaters that feature motivational quotes written by Wade. The collection is part of the brand’s Purposeprogram, which is a partnership between Kate Spade and a production facility in Masoro, Rwanda that produces the leather goods. The facility is a certified B-corp manufacturer that employs more than 230 women from local communities and provides them with fair wages, health benefits and access to life skills education.

Cleo Wade working with a facility in Rwanda for her Kate Spade collaboration. (Photo credit: WWD)

Diane von Furstenberg planned a number of initiatives celebrating International Women’s Day. She hosted her third annual “InCharge Conversations” event at her Meatpacking store in Manhattan on March 6, a daylong series of panels that featured speakers including activist Gloria Steinem, actress Jameela Jamil, author Naomi Klein, author and lawyer Judy Smith, singer Jennifer Nettles, Facebook App head Fidji Simo, FEED projects CEO Lauren Bush Lauren and Girl Scouts of the USA chief executive officer Sylvia Acevedo, along with von Furstenberg herself.

DVF’s Girl Scouts-inspired scarf. (Photo credit: DVF)

The brand is also releasing a number of limited-edition pieces tied to the holiday, including an “In Charge”-inspired dress, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Vital Voices, a nonprofit that provides leadership training and mentorship to women. DVF also created a limited-edition scarf and wristlet inspired by the Girl Scouts of the USA, with a portion of proceeds going back to the organization.

Cynthia Rowley is donating 15 percent of sales from a selection of items — including its “I Love You” bucket hat and sweater and a cloud-print sweatshirt — to CARE.

For detailed bios of these and other female designers, get the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry

Also, check out these fun links in celebration of Woman’s History Month

https://mymodernmet.com/badass-women-history/

https://mymodernmet.com/cristi-smith-jones-black-history-month-photo-project/

https://mymodernmet.com/disney-princess-dream-careers-matt-burt/

https://mymodernmet.com/barbie-international-womens-day/

 

If you have a fav designer that inspires you, let us know?

Fashion Week, Face Masks, the Timeline & How the Fashion Industry Coped with COVID-19!

- - Fashion Shows

The New Fashion Accessory: The Face Mask

Some medical experts debunk the use of face masks to contain COVID-19 (unless they’re N95s). Others say that masks are effective at capturing droplets, which is the main transmission route of coronavirus. According to The Guardian, “some studies have estimated a roughly five-fold protection versus no barrier. If you are likely to be in close contact with someone infected, a mask cuts the chance of the disease being passed on. If you’re just walking around town and not in close contact with others, wearing a mask is unlikely to make any difference.”

And so, fashion brands wasted no time creating and embellishing their own versions, and adding them to their collections. Can’t you just hear the cash registers ringing?

A model wearing a Pitta Mask walks the runway for The Blonds during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery I at Spring Studios on February 09, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Model wearing a studded face mask at The Blondes NYFW 2020 show (Photo credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

 

London Fashion Week face mask video by The Telegraph

Guests wear protective masks as a model walks the runway at Dries Van Noten in Paris. (Photo credit:  ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

What started out last season as “anti-pollution” masks at French designer Merine Serra’s spring show, has quickly morphed into “virus protection” accessories for fall 2020.

Models wearing facemasks at Marine Serre's Paris Fashion Week show

                                                                                                                                           Marine Serre Paris Fashion Week Show (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The Timeline

The timing couldn’t have been worse, but I guess you can say, New York Fashion Week dodged a bullet. A few days before NYFW (Feb 6-13) the CFDA issued a coronavirus statement on their website with info given to them by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). The message:

” the risk to New Yorkers is low, there are ZERO cases in NYC and only 6 cases as of 1/30/20 had been confirmed in the U.S. but none in NY State.”

London Fashion Week (Feb 14-18) wasn’t so lucky. A majority of Chinese press and buyers were unable to travel, a forewarning of the serious financial impact that the virus will have on business, since China is responsible for a third of all global luxury sales and where many of the textiles used in collections are made. Thousands of people, including about 2,500 ticket-buying members of the public were scheduled to attend more than 60 presentations. To assuage fears, each night London’s fashion show venue was given a  “deep clean” and antibacterial hand sanitizers were distributed to those who did attend. Some attendees even brought their own face masks! Adding to the problem, several Chinese designers were unable to travel due to a travel bans, and therefore had to cancel their New York, London, Milan and Paris shows.

Giorgio Armani poses in front of models at his Fall 2020 show. (Photo credit: Instagram@GiorgioArmani)

By Tuesday Feb 18th, the scheduled start of Milan Fashion Week, the fashion industry was jittery. The coronavirus outbreak first hit the city that weekend as Milan Fashion Week neared its end. As a precaution, on Feb. 22nd Giorgio Armani announced that he would no longer host a runway show to an audience, instead, he would live stream his show behind closed doors in an empty theater. Armani posted the announcement on Twitter, adding that it was a preventative measure in support of national efforts to safeguard public health. The company also closed its offices and plants in Northern Italy for the next week. During the end of Milan Fashion Week (Feb 24th), a number of shows and events were cancelled and then on Feb 26th, the first case of coronavirus, linked to Milan Fashion Week, was confirmed in Greece.

At the start of Paris Fashion Week on Monday Feb 24th, anxiety was at a fever pitch, although no shows were cancelled (gotta love the French – the show must go on!). Models both on and off the runway were donning designer face masks validating the newest fashion accessory…the Designer face mask  I mean, who but the French would pass up a “new fashion accessory opportunity”?

Japanese fashion model Kozue Akimoto, seen wearing a face mask and red coat outside Marine Serre during Paris Fashion Week. (Photo credit: Christian Vierig/Getty Images)

More Coronavirus Fashion Week News

LONDON

Burberry’s creative director, Ricardo Tisci, presented his Burberry fall 2020 show in London with great success but announced that because of COVID-19, they would postpone their fall 2020 Shanghai show slated for April 23rd  and a new date has yet to be revealed. 

During an interview with Vogue, Tisci talked about how he’d lived in India and learned meditation after studying in multicultural London at Central Saint Martins before he started his own label in Italy. For fall 2020, Tisci featured sophisticated tailoring with an innovative twist, such as looped collars on trenches and double-layered coats. There were plenty of references to India, with pleated madras checks on everything from layered dresses to men’s suits. For evening, a category that Tisci introduced for the label, he showed a silver chainmail dress with crystal fringe detail that was a real showstopper. Perfect for Tisci’s fashion-forward clients.

Riccardo Tisci and his models at the Burberry Fall 2020 show. (Photo credit: Instagram @burberry)

 

MILAN

Prada has also postponed their upcoming resort 2021 show, which was to be held in Japan on May 21.  The company released the following statement: “The decision was made as a precautionary measure as well as an act of responsibility and respect for all the people working on and planning to attend our resort 2021 show.” Prada will reveal a new location and date in the near future.

Fortunately for Prada, the coronavirus did not affect their Milan show.  Miuccia Prada, always the feminist, when asked about her collection,  “We can be strong and feminine at the same time…women carry the weight now. You can be delicate and frivolous and still hold power and be in command.” So it was no surprise that on the runway, she mixed “clichés of femininity,” as she described them to Vogue, accompanied pieces traditionally considered masculine. The designer combined boxy belted jackets with fringe skirts and crisp bib-front shirts were glammed up with strips of crystal fringe. There were also plenty of flirty embroidered car-wash skirts, delicate sheer layers dresses with lotus-flower prints, and terrific outerwear, most notably the belted leather puffer jackets.

Prada’s Fall 2020 women collection. (Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo)

In other exciting Prada news, it was just announced that Belgian-born Raf Simons will be working alongside Miuccia Prada as co-creative director for the brand. The collaboration between Simons and Miuccia – who has been at helm of Prada since 1978 – is said to come from “a deep reciprocal respect” between the two designers. “It opens a new dialogue, between designers widely acknowledged as two of the most important and influential of today,” said the brand in a statement.

The fashion world eagerly looks forward to the possibilities of what these two creative geniuses will construct.

Prada announces co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. (Photo credit: Vogue)

 

PARIS

Chanel’s artistic director Virginie Viard will show her fall 2020 Chanel collection on Tuesday, March 3rd, but the house revealed that they are postponing the re-staging of its Métiers d’Art show in Beijing, which was slated to take place in May. The collection was originally shown in Paris on Dec. 4th.

Chanel released a statement: “Considering the current situation and following the guidance of Chinese authorities, Chanel has decided to postpone its project of a replica of the Paris – 31 Rue Cambon 2019/20 Métiers d’Art collection in May in Beijing to a later date and more appropriate moment.”

Dedicated to CHANEL’s Fashion Métiers d’art, this collection highlights the creative dialogue between Virginie Viard and the Maisons d’art, enhancing the creations of the House. (Photo credit: Chanel)

 

At Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s show notes stated, “All our thoughts are with our teams, clients, friends and partners in Asia, Italy and around the world.” Known for her feminist movements, Chiuri did not disappoint with her fall 2020 Christian Dior collection. This season the creative director worked with the neo-conceptual artist collective Claire Fontaine in designing the runway where neon lights flashed messages such as, “When women strike the world stops.” “Patriarchy = climate emergency.” “Consent. Consent. Consent.”

Thankfully, Chiuri’s collections for Dior always live up to the dramatic spectacle she creates.  She opened the show with the houses’ famous Bar jacket, but this time in a chic pantsuit version. The show had a relaxed and youthful elegance with homage to Marc Bohen’s tenure at the house in the ‘70s.  Chiuri showed logo puffers, denim jackets and jeans, jumpsuits and plaid looks that ranged from belted coats to miniskirts. For evening there were silk fringe looks that were cohesive with the youthful collection. Hint, hint…fringe is back!

Looks from Dior’s fall 2020 collection. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Dries Van Noten took virus precautions very seriously as he had ushers hand out face masks at the entrance to his show at the Opéra Bastille on Feb 26th. There were also large pump bottles of hand sanitizers stationed just beyond the metal detectors, which, by the way, now greet guests at every show. While the outside world all around us may be a frightening place, due to the epidemic of the coronavirus, political turmoil, and a rise in hate crimes, Dries Van Noten’s runway was a happy place, filled with glamorous looks inspired by the ‘70s and ‘80s. In an interview with Vogue, Van Noten stated, “It’s about going out, enjoying life—having fun, that’s very important! I thought of this party girl. Something mysterious. Something dark. But I questioned how far it could go, while staying contemporary.”

So, how did Van Noten translate his idea on the runway? Think casual glamour. Case in point, a plaid coat thrown over a chunky cardigan and feathered skirt. The designer also showed plenty of jungle prints in acid green and fuchsia, as well as a nod to grunge with plaids and shirts tied at the waist. There was definitely a Christian Lacroix influence, since the two collaborated with each other last season (they started the whole creative director collab trend). Van Noten showed a velvet blazer in emerald green, Art Deco-inspired iris print dresses, a purple paillette jacket and a heavily beaded sarong, paired with a semi sheer blouse.

 

Dries Van Noten’s Fall 2020 Show. (Photo credit: Reuters)

At Maison Margiela, John Galliano had several models walk the runway in face wraps. However, this wasn’t post-apocalyptic in any way, rather a delight of rejuvenation.  During his post show podcast, Galliano exclaimed “Restorative! The idea of giving something a new life…Kick-starting a new consciousness.”

Galliano opened the show with a series of outerwear elements, or “memory of” coats attached to a sheer base worn over sheer layered dresses that were whimsical and delightful – all in rich hues. Later he showed full coats in generous proportions. At times they were spliced together, as if they were once two separate garments cut in half and sewn together. These deconstructed looks, or what he calls a “work-in-progress” technique is what makes Galliano the perfect designer for the Maison Margiela label.

Maison Margiela Fall 2020 Show. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

At UoF, we’ve been asking about the relevance of fashion shows from the standpoint of cost/benefit, as well as their carbon footprint. Is it time for us to embrace 3D technology and create virtual fashion shows? Care to share your thoughts?

 

 

Celebrating Black History & Fashion

(Photo credit; University of Fashion – Vlisco print – Perelman Museum, Philadelphia)

As Black History month draws to a close, we thought we would end the month by focusing on the historical contributions that African Americans have made to the world of fashion.

Before we do though, let’s take a look at the origin of Black History month. Started as Negro History Week in 1926, it was the brainchild of Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson (known as the “Father of Black History). In 1970, the Black United Students and Black Educators at Kent State University expanded the idea to include the entire month of February, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas (leader of the New York & Massachusetts abolitionist movement) Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month in observance of African Americans; how they fought and continue to fight for freedom through hard work and activism.

 

African Prints

(Photo credit – University of Fashion- Vlisco African dashiki print Perelman Museum, Philadelphia)

When most of us think of African dress, the first thing that comes to mind is the dashiki, a loose-fitting garment made of a colorful printed cotton. But, do you know the origin of those prints? African Prints are wax prints that are industrialized versions of hand-drawn, hand-blocked and hand-dyed batik patterns that date to 8th century China and India. It wasn’t until later in the 13th century that islanders on Java refined the technique. The two factories that originally created these prints, ABC (an English wax company that moved to Ghana), and Vlisco, (located in the Netherlands), eventually found a market for them in West Africa around 1867. Since then, the prints caught on and have been made popular by African vendors who assign meaning and value to them. The powerful businesswomen who sell these prints in Africa are nicknamed “Mama Benz” after the fancy cars they buy with their earnings.

In the U.S., African prints are worn as a symbol of pride and they continue in popularity among designers on the global stage.

(Photo credit: University of Fashion – Vlisco print at Perelman Museum, Philadelphia)

In fact, the Vlisco bull’s-eye pattern below was used in Burberry’s spring/summer 2012 collection. And Studio 189, a Ghana/U.S.-based sustainable fashion line debuted their print collection at NYFW 2019.

(Photo credit: University of Fashion- Vlisco print designed by Piet Snel 1936)

Studio 189 New York Fashion Week 2019 (Photo credit: okayafrica.com)

 

African Head Wraps

Another major contribution of African dress is the head wrap, head tie or head scarf, worn either for day-to-day activities or for ceremonial/religious purposes. These headdresses go by various names depending upon which part of Africa. For example the gele id from West Africa while the doek and the duku  are worn in Southern Africa.

Check out this cool YouTube video to learn how to tie 10 different variations of head wraps.

Head Wrap (Photo credit: Oladimeji Odunsi)

 

African Dress Symbolism

African clothing patterns often depict religious beliefs and political commentary. The colors are also of particular significance, as they interpret the meaning of the pattern, with red symbolizing death, green meaning fertility, white expressing purity and blue signifying love. In West Africa it’s the agbada and in East Africa, the kanzu is the traditional dress worn by men.

Men’s agabada (Photo credit: Fikayo Aderoju)

For women, it’s the gomesi and the kanga (a colorful piece of printed cotton fabric with a border that is wrapped around the body).

Women’s gomesi (Photo credit: mywedding.co.ug)

 

African American Design Pioneers

Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was the first African American fashion and costume designer as well as the first black designer to open her own shop in 1948, located on Broadway in New York City. Her designs were worn by such famous entertainers as Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt and Sarah Vaughan, among others.

Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes (Photo credit: blackthen.com)

Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was born on June 28, 1905 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She studied her grandmother’s work as a seamstress and also worked in her uncle’s tailoring shop. She began work as a stock girl at a high-end boutique around 1920 and worked her way up to become the boutique’s first black salesclerk and tailor. In 1948, at the age of forty-seven, Valdes opened her boutique in Manhattan on Broadway and West 158th Street with her sister, Mary Barbour, who worked as her assistant. She called her store, Chez Zelda. Valdes’s boutique soon attracted numerous celebrities and society women.  In 1949 Valdes was elected president of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers (NAFAD), an organization of black designers that was founded by educator and political activist Mary McLeod Bethune. In the early 1950s, Life Magazine described Valdez as the “Black Marilyn Monroe.” In 1958 Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner hired Valdes to design the first Playboy Bunny costume, however the original design had taller ears and the ensemble lacked the trademark bow tie, collar and cuffs.

In 1976, designer Willi Smith launched his company, WilliWear. Smith is considered one of the most successful African American designers in the fashion industry, grossing over $25 million in sales by 1986. To commemorate his work, New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum is planning a retrospective of his work from March through October 2020 entitled, Willi Smith: Street Couture.

Willi Smith and his model sister Toukie Smith (Photo credit: Cooper Hewitt)

The first black female designer to be recognized by the contemporary fashion industry was Tracy Reese, who founded her eponymous brand in 1998. Based in Detroit, Reese recently announced the launch of a new ethically-diverse label, Hope for Flowers, building on her already diverse and size-inclusive platform.

Tracy Reese (Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris)

Although we are celebrating African American designers here, we thought that this designer deserved mention. Meet Ozwald Boateng. Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Boateng was the first tailor to present a collection during Paris Fashion Week. In 1994, he opened his retail establishment just off Savile Row and was the youngest and first black tailor ever to do so. In 2014, Harvard University presented Boateng with the prestigious Veritas Award for his achievements and his commitment to global socio-economic development.

Ozwald Boateng (Photo credit: ozwaldboateng.com)

 

22 Black Fashion Designers You Should Be Following

(Click links to see their work)

Andrea Iyamah

Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa

Aurora James of Brother Vellies

Christopher John Rogers

Cushnie

Dapper Dan

Datari Austin London

Demestik by Reuben Reuel

Dumebi Iyamah of Andrea Iyamah

Fe Noel

Hideoki Bespoke

Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss

Kyemah Mcentyre

Laquan Smith

Miguel Wilson Collection

Rihanna’s Fenty Empire

Romeo Hunte

Sean John

Studio 189

Telfar Clemens of Telfar

Tia Adeola of Slashed by Tia

Virgil Abloh

 

On the Subject of Natural Hair

There has been a lot of press surrounding natural hair in the past year. Read this Forbes article about the natural hair-care movement and how Hollywood A-lister Gabrielle Union and a high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, have been hair-shamed. Here’s another article entitled, Black Hair Defined that you’ll find interesting.

Did you know that Colorado, Washington and Minnesota—have either introduced or are advancing bills that ban hair discrimination in the workplace? It’s known as the Crown Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The act is already law in California, New York, New Jersey, Cincinnati and Montgomery County, Maryland.

You’ll also want to check out the award-winning Oscar animated film called Hair Love or get the book.

To learn more….

For more info on African American history, be sure to download and listen to The New York Times podcast entitled, The 1619 Project or read it here.

Share your thoughts with us about Black History month and how you celebrated

IT’S SHOWTIME – NYFW FALL 2020

- - Fashion Shows

Michael Kors Collection Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

In November 2019, The University of Fashion posed the question; “Are Fashion Shows Still Relevant?” that blog post covered the history of fashion shows and why designers still prefer a show. While many argued that fashion shows were an outrageous expense, designers mostly felt that it was worth it if they attracted Instagram Stars and Fashion Bloggers. Today, fashion shows are more about exposure and how many “likes” the’ll get on social media than selling clothes.

This season there were many changes to New York Fashion Week’s calendar. Tom Ford skipped NY and decided to show in LA, Tommy Hilfiger is showing in London, Telfar is showing in Florence and Ralph Lauren is skipping the runway altogether.  So, with so much change, it’s not surprising that famed fashion blogger Bryanboy asked if somebody could look into “why NYFW [has] pretty much died?”

While this may seem like an exaggerated question, it’s a valid one, as designers continue to search for unique places and ways to create buzz. They’ve tried live-streaming shows, opening up their shows to the public, showing their menswear and womenswear collections together, and they even tried to entice sales by showing buy-now-wear-now collections (which ultimately failed). But as we all know, today, consumers shop differently, especially due to the internet. And, unlike their predecessors, Gen Zers are more concerned about their carbon footprint and issues surrounding  over-consumption than they are about the runway.

So, why should designer’s invest thousands of dollars on a runway show? Well according to Jeffry Aronsson, the former CEO of Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, who currently consults luxury brands on growth strategies, told Fashionista, that at its core, “the business case for investing in a seasonal fashion show, or any other fashion event, is that it should get the brand the attention of the market and press.” Aronsson states that the measures of success come in the form of online impressions (including social commentary and likes), editorial coverage (both digital and print) and, though difficult to quantify, word of mouth, which helps raise brand awareness, desire and, hopefully, sales.

Erin Hawker, communications expert and founder of Agentry PR, notes that a brand can get 50 to 100 press hits in one single day globally after a runway show (and even double that if there are big-name celebrities involved), as well as millions of earned impressions on social media. “If you assign an editorial value to shows with or without celebrities, it’s usually in the tens of millions of dollars’ worth of impressions,” Hawker says. “This far surpasses the cost of a show.”

So, designers have been listening carefully to the experts. And for those who chose to a have runway show, those brands pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable; a spectacle that their consumers would enjoy, as they watch the videos and images that blow-up their social media feeds. Oh, and in the end…hopefully generate sales.

Here are some images of the more memorable NYFW shows of the Fall 2020 season:

TOM FORD

Tom Ford’s Fall 2020 Los Angeles Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

In June 2019, Tom Ford took the helm at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Many fashion insiders were upset (Ford is based in Los Angeles), with one calling it a “slap in the face” to New York Fashion Week. In a statement to the Business of Fashion site, Mr. Ford said: “Someone asked me the other day how I could justify showing in L.A. as I am now the Chairman of the CFDA, and I reminded them that CFDA stood for the Council of Fashion Designers of America and not the Council of Fashion Designers of New York.”

Mr. Ford opted to show in Los Angeles because of the Academy Awards, which took place on Sunday night (Feb. 9, 2020) at the start of NYFW. In a statement to Women’s Wear Daily, Mr. Ford said “the excitement in L.A. on that particular weekend” was a big factor in his decision.

As for the show, it was a star-studded extravaganza and one of the biggest pre-Oscar events. Everyone was there from Jennifer Lopez and Renée Zellweger to Miley Cyrus and Lil Nas X to James Corden and Jon Hamm. There were so many power players, that some celebs were even pushed back to the second row.

As for the clothes, they were infused with Mr. Ford’s signature glam, mixed in with streetwear elements. Case in point; a chic oversized leopard print coat, worn over a sweatsuit. The collection also featured plenty of menswear inspired high-waisted, baggy trousers paired with logo sweatshirts and topped off with terrific outerwear. For evening, Mr. Ford turned up the glitz with bold colored turtleneck sweaters paired with sequin maxi skirts, delicate lace dresses and a show-stopping crystalized halter gown.

This extravaganza was anything but the traditional runway show.

RODARTE

Rodarte Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Laura and Kate Mulleavy have always been inspired by theatrics and Hollywood for their beloved label Rodarte. For Fall 2020, the sisters looked to vampires for inspiration, more notably, Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, which in turn inspired—Francis Ford Coppola’s indelible 1992 adaptation of the book, starring Winona Ryder. The sisters found the perfect setting as the backdrop to the gothic tail; a dimly lit St. Bartholomew’s church in Midtown Manhattan.

While the Mulleavy sisters created a cinematic goth setting, the clothes were anything but. The collection featured a nod to the forties with playful polka-dot dresses, dramatic pouf sleeve blouses and bold floral gowns. Then, things became dramatically dark and sinister with cobweb embellishments on a few gowns, as well as black fringe capes that resembled clumps of witches’ hair. Laura and Kate Mulleavy returned to their gothic roots in a fashionably haunting way.

TORY BURCH

Tory Burch’s Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Forever the art aficionado, Tory Burch chose the iconic Sotheby’s as her latest show venue as models strutted among the auction merch. It was the ideal location for her Fall 2020 collection as it was a happy jolt of vivid floral prints in everything from tailored suits to cozy sweaters and everything in between. Burch was inspired by the Francesca DiMattio’s ceramic sculptures (which were situated on the runway) and had the artist design many of the floral prints found in the show. Bravo Tory Burch for creating such a joyful collection in these unsettling times.

BRANDON MAXWELL

Brandon Maxwell’s Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

One can always expect to have fun at Brandon Maxwell’s show. In the past he even served Shake Shack to editors before his show.  For Fall 2020, the celebrity stylist-turned-designer did not disappoint. He showed his youthful eveningwear at the American Museum of Natural History with their iconic dioramas  of ‘taxidermied’ moose and grizzlies. It was like a genuine slice of Americana. Maxwell also offered plenty of daywear this season with beautifully tailored outerwear, chic knits and low-cut trousers. For night, there were a few sheer numbers that felt out of place, but overall, this was a strong show, one that proves Maxwell is more than just a red-carpet designer.

COACH

Debbie Harry Performs at the Coach Fall 2020 Show (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Coach’s Creative Director, Stuart Vevers, likes to draw inspiration from artists and has often incorporated their work into his collections. In the past, he’s featured works by Keith Haring (Spring 2018), Kaffe Fassett (Fall 2019) and Richard Bernstein (Spring 2020). For Fall 2020, he referenced Jean-Michel Basquiat — not just by weaving his drawings into his ready-to-wear and accessories  but also by bringing some of his family members to the show. The late artist’s niece, Jessica Kelly, actually walked the runway! She, and the rest of the models, made their way across a warehouse-turned-runway — meant to replicate the feel of a city loft — all while the legendary Debbie Harry performed on stage.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN ROGERS

Christopher John Rogers Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Dia Dipasupil for Getty Images)

Recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award winner, Christopher John Rogers, brought back old-school glamour but with a modern twist for his Fall 2020 collection. His gowns were bold and vivid, perfect for young scarlets wanting to stand-out on the red carpet.

Rogers infused saturated hues into his collection and is fast becoming known for his shapely silhouettes. Think balloon sleeves, voluminous skirts and innovating draping – all in oversized, exaggerated shapes.

MARC JACOBS

Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2020 Show (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Everyone looks forward to the end of NYFW because of the Marc Jacobs show. For Fall 2020, the designer didn’t disappoint.  The show began with a surge of energy. Dancer/choreographer Karole Armitage, found the spotlight in the darkness of the Park Avenue Armory and reminded us that, why in the 80s, she earned the nickname the “punk ballerina.” Although her performance was brief, it was electrifying. Following Armitage, a crew of dancers followed, creating an entertaining and engaging backdrop; the dancers were clad in Marc Jacobs dance pieces, such as bras, slip dresses, skirts, basic T-shirts and black pants.

As for the clothes, it was a nod to the Sixties – Jackie Kennedy, Rosemary Woodhouse, the mods – all with a touch of nineties minimal. It was pure Marc in the early days of his career. He showed three-button A-line coats, pastel minidresses with matching jackets, tailored suits and simple sweaters worn over straight leg trousers; Miley Cyrus made an appearance on the runway wearing a black bra and trouser. For evening, Jacobs created a number of sequin sheath dresses in a variety of colors and a pink opera coat worn over a gown with a tiny bow at the bust that had Jackie Kennedy written all over it.

It wouldn’t be NYFW without a bit of controversy, right (in addition to Tom Ford showing in LA, Tommy Hilfiger in London and Jeremy Scott in Paris)? Well, thanks to a New York Times article, we learned that NYFW shows leave the biggest carbon footprint when it comes to travel, buyers, and brands.

So tell us: Time to rethink the runway show?

 

 

Is TikToK Fashion’s Newest, Latest, Greatest Big Thing?

(Photo credit: TikTok)

So, what’s all the buzz about TikTok?  Wasn’t it supposed to be a national security risk according to U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R- Arkansas), and Chuck Schumer (D-New York)? In 2019, these senators asked the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to conduct a security assessment of the Beijing-based video-sharing platform, especially as it related to their data-collection policy.

And what about the most recent headlines, whereby the U.S. government is charging Chinese military officers in the 2017 Equifax hacking of social security numbers and other sensitive data stolen from nearly 145 million Americans?

Are we really ok with sharing our data with TikTok? Well it looks like some fashion industry brands think so. In 2019, Ralph Lauren, launched its U.S. Open campaign on TikTok and was joined by other brands like Sephora, Calvin Klein and Fenty Beauty. In January 2020, Women’s Wear Daily launched their @WWD TikTok account featuring behind-the-scenes coverage from Fall/Winter international fashion weeks, industry events and celebrity coverage. According to Business of Fashion, TikTok is sending three TikTokers to fashion week 2020 in an attempt to create some buzz among the platform’s target audience, Gen Zers.

To get some history and a better perspective on TikTok, we asked our resident Gen Zers, Noelle Conklin and Toph Dorry, what they think:

TikTok used to be called Musical.ly, but since being sold to ByteDance Ltd. on November 9, 2017 things have been changing within the app. Users can become famous from videos with no context. Users can also go live to reach out to their fans and make money from donations. New trends on TikTok have spread to clothing lines and dancing. I see people on the street and in schools wearing the trends and dancing to TikTok songs.    

TikTok allows us to lip-sync to songs and dance to them, which in this era there really hasn’t been an app with this much sing, dance, and sparkle. You can also get promoted through the app, as well as collab (collaborate) with other businesses on the platform. TikTok lets you record for fifteen to sixty seconds so the user can get more content in that time frame rather than just a six-second clip like on Vine.

Most people that use or have seen TikTok have heard of Charli D’amelio, Nathan Berno, and Lilhuddy. They all have a specific style. Charli and Lilhuddy have a 90s aesthetic style and Nathan has an E-boy (Emo Boy) style. Some of the negative aspects of trying to become famous are how you look. Most of the time people who are famous on TikTok are all skinny and well-groomed. Not saying that you shouldn’t be well-groomed, we all need hygiene!  

Other reasons as to why TikTok draws us into the app is because of its aesthetic. The app has multiple effects to add to your videos. You can easily edit your video with just a click of a button. Now you don’t even need to use editing software, you can just make a video, and cut out whatever edits you like.

Another reason why TikTok drew most of us in was because of Vine. Vine was an internet platform that came out in the mid-2000s where you could make short six-second videos and post them on the internet. Vine closed and was forgotten until TikTok came along. However, a Vine reboot launched on January 24, 2020 called Byte where creators can earn steady ad-share revenue” – Noelle Conklin

(Photo credit: Byte)

TikTok has grown its base relatively quickly into 400 million daily users and is becoming a very popular and very well-known app. With TikTok, you can record a video and put sound on top of it or record a video with your own sound, or a mix of both.

There are so many things you can do on TikTok, from hundreds of thousands of user-created sounds to their many filters. A huge majority on TikTok are funny videos, or things happening with a funny audio track playing along with the video. By September 2019, TikTok was rated the #1 non-gaming app available on the app store and peaked with 6 million installs in December.

TikTok will most definitely influence fashion due to the fact that anybody can post whatever they want on their account. There are tons of videos of people showing off their outfits. Under just the hashtag “fashion” alone, there are 6.2 billion views, so there is definitely room for a lot of videos on fashion, along with many other hashtags that are included under fashion.” Toph Dorry

 

TikTok’s demographic

All you need to do is to check out TikTok’s Pinterest page to get a sense of the demographic:

And check out TikTok’s Instagram:

In an age where privacy is becoming all but impossible to control, call me old-fashioned, but I’m not so sure I want to compromise anymore of my personal data by posting to TikTok. What do you think?

SPOTLIGHT ON UNIVERSITY OF FASHION SUBSCRIBER: HALLEH ATRI

(Designer Halleh Atri)

In December 2019, UoF did a social media blast offering our subscribers the opportunity to have their work featured on our Instagram and Facebook channels. We proudly posted each entrant’s designs and then picked one designer to be the recipient of a free one year all access subscription to UoF. The lucky winner was Halleh Atri, a 33-year old designer based in Iran. Here’s her story:

Halleh did part of her studies in Australia as a textile engineer, fiber scientist and researcher. Her enthusiasm for fashion started only four years ago when plans to complete her doctorate fell through. To overcome the disappointment of not completing her doctorate, she began taking part in fashion design courses and immediately fell in love with everything related to it. She did a few online courses and during her research discovered University of Fashion.

In Halleh’s own words:

I found University of Fashion the most comprehensive online source for learning. My plan is to keep learning as much as I can…and this subscription is going to help me with that a lot, especially because I am about to start another fashion course in Europe.  Yeah why not? I mean we often think our dreams never change, well I am a living proof that sometimes the only thing that we need is new dreams and mine is creating aesthetically beautiful outfits which bring joy and smile to wearer faces even for a short time.”

(Halleh Atri Sketches)

Halleh’s aunt is a professional dressmaker and also a certified Somebana flower maker (a very old Japanese technique to make flowers usually from very expensive fabrics). She used to watch her aunt working when she was a child and her aunt has certainly been her first inspiration.

(Halleh Atri- Somebana Handmade Flower)

Halleh’s future plans include starting her own business. In the meantime, she is designing, sewing, styling and even flower-making all the time. According to Halleh:

The entire process of creating a look to me is like writing a story and I am still a researcher but here, instead of researching scientific topics, I research fashion. As an engineer the first thing that we must learn is coming up with a solution, as someone who practiced PhD, the most important thing that I learned is never giving up until I find a way out…During creating an outfit, especially the pattern making and sewing process, I sometimes find myself incapable of working out the problem and this is when my past experiences help me and miraculously I find a way out! University of Fashion tutorials help me a lot during these situations. And, now that I have a one-year subscription I am planning to go through draping tutorials and lectures first. I may refresh my drawing skills too. ”

(Halleh Atri-Sketch)

(Halleh Atri – Sketch)

According to Halleh, “Unfortunately we live in an era of climate change and fashion/textile is the second most polluting industry, therefore the future belongs to those who practice sustainable fashion.” We applaud Halleh for her talent and for her commitment to sustainable design.

Join us in wishing Halleh lots of success in her future career as a fashion designer!

AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) FOR FASHION RETAILING

AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) FOR FASHION RETAILING

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, what color looks best for the ball?”

MemoryMirror (Photo credit MemoMi Labs)

What exactly is AR? Per Wikipedia, Augmented Reality is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. Augmented Reality for retail here!

For example, MemoMi Labs offers the MemoryMirror, which enables customers to try products virtually. How does this work?  The mirror is a reflective TV screen linked to a camera and controlled by AR software to create a virtual fitting room.

Per Morgan Drake of X-cart.com, “63% of retail brands plan to use AR in the next two years, however, 52% of retail executives do not feel prepared to support advanced technologies.”  That is, there is a demand for employees trained in AR.

Further info links:

Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

https://www.x-cart.com/blog/augmented-reality-retail.html

https://memorymirror.com/

AR TRAINING

(Photo credit: Fashion Institute of Technology)

How does one train for this soon-to-be required skill? 

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) will be offering an AR/VR course in their Content Design Certificate Program as of Summer 2020. The course will focus on using 360 photo/video, Unity (cross-platform game engine), WebVR, and A-frame (a web framework for building virtual reality experiences) to build experiences for the web. The content includes AR/VR tools, creating 360 content, creating 3D animated models, and other content.  Enrollment require a basic understanding of coding, such as HTML and CSS.  Experience with basic JavaScript is preferred. HTML and CSS are coding languages used in constructing web sites. Check the links below for more details.

(Photo credit: Kode with Klossy)

Most fashion schools concentrate on technical skills such as draping, sewing, pattern making and fashion illustration. However, in article from the October 2016 edition of Vogue Australia they explain why designers should learn to code. In today’s technological world, this skill set will be required if one wants to remain relevant. In fact, recognition of the need for coding skills has led supermodel Karlie Kloss to set up “Kode with Klossy” coding camps with scholarships for girls age 13-18.

If you are over the age of 18, there are other options to learn to code, such as the Code Academy or other online training programs.

Further info links:

Links

http://www.fitnyc.edu/ccps/designing-tomorrow/arvr-content-design.php

https://www.vogue.com.au/vogue-codes/news/this-is-why-you-need-to-learn-how-to-code/news-story/53362905dad4927674d1a433aae5c699

https://www.kodewithklossy.com/program

https://www.codecademy.com/

DESIGN VISIBILITY USING AR

Many designers struggle with how to get their collection visible to more people without a runway show. 

As Brooke Roberts-Islam noted in Forbes, AR is expanding from pre-recorded content to a live runway show in a customer’s physical location. The London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) partnered with HoloMe to present selected collections from London College of Fashion MA graduates. Viewers were able to watch the show via smartphone in real-time.

The HoloMe website explains the four categories of AR: marker-based, markless, projection-based and superimposition-based.  Superimposition allows the customers to have human holograms model clothing products within their own homes or via another chosen environment.

This technology can be used to generate “buzz” through which customers gain first looks into what is possible. HoloMe states that they are able to provide a real-time streaming experience with their existing hardware kit and mobile platform, which can accommodate up to 1 million users simultaneously.

Further info links:

Links

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brookerobertsislam/2019/03/05/groundbreaking-augmented-reality-fashion-show-streamed-to-global-audience/#25cd5a5b45b6

https://holo.me/

https://holo.me/the-a-r-industry-and-experiential-marketing/

Can you just imagine how great that would be for an upstart designer, a fashion college student’s senior project or an ITAA design competition? Let us know what you think?

WHAT LESSONS ARE YOU CRAVING?

WOW, we’ve received an outpouring of lesson suggestions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Since we put out our request 2 weeks ago for new lesson suggestions, we have been inundated with responses from students, teachers, industry professionals, home sewers and fashion entrepreneurs from 38 different countries and still counting. It’s been amazing!

THERE’S STILL TIME FOR YOU TO SEND YOUR SUGGESTIONS TO:
suggestions@xemaps.com
by February 1, 2020

Here’s just a sampling of what we’ve received thus far:

Pattern Making  

  • Different pant styles
  • Plus size patterns and pattern grading
  • Various coat styles
  • Half scale pattern making
  • Jumpsuits
  • Box pleats
  • Athleisure: men and women
  • Various skirt styles: layered, tiered, divided
  • Knit garment grading
  • TR & Subtraction Cutting Techniques

Sewing

  • Jacket/Skirt: drafting & sewing
  • Cutting, sewing and invisible zipper-setting on a bias skirt
  • Piping on a notched collar
  • Faced waistband for skirts/pants
  • Collars: drafting & sewing
  • Cuffs drafting & sewing

Draping/Fitting

  • Lingerie
  • Swimwear
  • Corset with cups
  • Wrap dress

Lectures

  • Costing
  • Historical Costuming
  • Fashion vocabulary: types of pockets, lapels, coats pants, sweaters, etc.
  • Sustainable dyeing techniques
  • Design Theory – Clothing that flatters
  • Fitting: bodices, sleeves, dresses, jackets

As many of you already know, our video library has grown over the years from 100 videos in 6 disciplines in 2013 to 500 lessons today in 13 disciplines:

  • Draping, Sewing, Pattern making, Fashion Art, Accessories, Menswear, Knits, Childrenswear, Product Development, CAD Art & Pattern making, Fashion Business, as well as Fashion Lectures that include textiles, trend forecasting, fashion law, fashion history and other fashion related topics.

We are still accepting suggestions so don’t be shy, send us what you’d like us to shoot. We love you guys!

Please send your suggestions to us at suggestions@xemaps.com
by February 1, 2020

How Indie Brands are Revising & Revolutionizing Retail

- - Fashion Business

A busy street in NYC’s Soho neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

2020 is here and there’s much to look forward to (and not just the election). Although our beloved Barney’s has shuttered its business and major chains such as The Gap and Victoria Secrets are closing stores across the U.S., and a stroll down Madison Ave., uncovers a retail graveyard of a few dozen empty store fronts, good  things are happening for NYC retail. For years now, we’ve been hearing that traditional retail is dead, but wait…hold the presses….indie brands are starting to open boutiques in Soho! Is this a sign that brick-and-mortar will survive after all? Is it that millennials prefer downtown over uptown for their retail experience?

While many digital native brands, such as Glossier, Warby Parker, and Bonobos, started online. Today, these brands are expanding and opening retail ‘concept’ shops for their clients. “According to real estate experts, digitally native brands are predicted to open 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next 5 years, with New York being the most popular destination,” according to Tinuiti, a NYC-based marketing firm. Through research and marketing, Tinuiti stated that “most of the digital brands opening stores sell apparel, which makes sense; it’s a category where shoppers definitely benefit from interacting with the product in person. We’re sure to see plenty more storefronts from these ecommerce brands — apparel and other categories alike.”

The outside of Glossier’s store in New York. (Photo courtesy of Glossier)

Another trend that is sure to continue is the rise of omnichannel. Retailers need to offer a consistent buying experience across channels, both online and off. The lines between digital and physical shopping experiences are a blur. Retailers need to be agile and responsive to customer needs with branded touchpoints at all parts of the purchasing journey. According to Ray Hartjen, Marketing Director at RetailNext, “Consumers simply don’t think in terms of channels. This isn’t 1998. No one is sitting around and thinking, ‘Hey, I think I’ll do some online shopping.’ For many years and certainly in 2020, it’s all just ‘shopping.’ Shopping journeys now go through a variety of branded touchpoints, digital for sure, but physical touchpoints too, and they are nowhere near linear shopping journeys. Brands need to be nimble, agile and responsive to shopper needs, and they need to deliver seamless, friction-free paths for their shoppers to navigate.”

Through marketing research, Tinuiti states that retail is in fact in the midst of a Retail Renaissance. A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) showed that opening a physical store increases online traffic by 36% for established retailers and 45% for emerging brands. According to the marketing firm,” In-Store Purchase Funnel is about to be integrated seamlessly into Unified Commerce. The stores will become Experience Retail. In addition to Interactive Technologies such as Smart Fitting Rooms, watch for more in-store immersive innovations in 3D Printing, Eye-Tracking, and Augmented Reality.”

In today’s retail environment, direct-to-consumer brands are reinvigorating the retail scene in NYC. A growing number of e-commerce brands are opening storefronts to grow their businesses further. “Physical retail embodies a social and tangible experience that America’s Amazon-driven format of online retail has yet to duplicate,” Web Smith, the co-founder of Mizzen+Main, said. And so, “digital-first retailers are … investing in extending their direct-to-consumer relationships by owning permanent storefronts in worthwhile locations.” It’s a theme that’s expected to continue to ring out in retail this year. A study in 2018 by real estate research firm Green Street Advisors found so-called digitally native brands altogether have more than 600 stores blanketing the U.S., and counting.

Rents across NYC have also dramatically dropped and are nowhere near levels seen in the peak of 2014. Even Madison Avenue — known for its prestige and high end boutiques such as Chanel, Prada, and Celine— is not immune to the trend of falling rents.

According to CNBC, “in the second quarter of 2019, average asking rents across New York City declined an average of 4.5% from a year ago to $776 per square foot, according to an analysis by commercial real estate services firm CBRE. It marked the seventh consecutive quarter of declines. Rents along Upper Madison Avenue (57th to 77th Streets) in particular dropped 11.7% from a year ago to $1,042 per square foot.”
Thanks to the falling prices of rents and more flexible lease terms, its open the possibility for smaller brands to open shop. At some point, landlords had to budge. A lot of these new retailers weren’t going to pay sky high rents. “If someone was renegotiating a lease today, it’s a very different market than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” said Nicole LaRusso, director of research and analysis at CBRE.

After 2014, as rents started to fall and store closures picked up, “landlords didn’t want to hear it,” LaRusso said. “But most of that lesson has been learned now.” There’s much more negotiating being done today, she said. “I think we are getting to that equilibrium.”

Indie Brand Retail Invasion 
“Meatpacking today is what I would call New York’s ‘it’ neighborhood,” said Jared Epstein, developer at Aurora Capital Associates. Epstein worked on RH’s roughly $250 million deal for a 15-year lease in the area. An RH hotel is also set to open in the Meatpacking District next fall.

“New York has a certain resiliency that is proven time and time again,” Francis Greenburger, founder and CEO of real estate developer Time Equities. “I would never doubt New York resiliency.”

And as a resilient city, here are a few indie brands that have opened retail shops in NYC and across the United States.

Glossier NYC Boutique. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Beauty brand Glossier is a direct-to-consumer label founded by Emily Weiss in 2014. In 2018, her small business surpassed $100 million in revenues. Weiss opened her flagship boutique in Soho, in November of 2018. The store is such a hit that you can find shoppers lining the sidewalk streets to get in, whether it’s to shop or pose in front of the companies signature millennial pink-covered walls. Glossier also has a store in Los Angeles and is experimenting with pop-up locations.

Rothy’s San Francisco store. (photo courtesy of Rothy’s)

Rothy’s, a woman’s shoe label, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco in 2018. The label was launched in 2015 in San Francisco by Roth Martin and Stephen Hawthornthwaite, the direct-to-consumer brand created and sold shoes that ranged from ballet flats to loafers for women and kids that are made out of recycled plastic bottles. The brand decided to open its first store so customers can see the shoes in person and try them on before making a purchase. In 2018, Rothy’s gained a $35 million investment from Goldman Sachs and has raised over $42 million to date. Rothy’s booked a little more than $140 million in revenue for 2018.

The outside of Koio’s store in Venice, California. (Photo courtesy of Koio)

Koio, a high-end sneaker brand, was launched in 2014 by Chris Wichert and Johannes Quodt. In 2018, the brand has already raised $5.1 million and opened a handful of stores throughout the United States, including, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and are planning to open more in the near future. The brand creates sneakers for both men and women, but the men’s category outperforms women’s. Wichert and Quodt are already creating new silhouettes to keep up with the growing ‘designer’ sneaker category which has exploded in popularity.

Outdoor Voices Boston Store. (Photo courtesy of Outdoor Voices)

Outdoor Voices is a woman’s athleisure brand that was founded by Tyler Haney, the 31-year-old is also the CEO of the brand. Outdoor Voices was started in Austin in 2014 and has raised over 56.5 million to date. The brand has a number of stores throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. Tyler told CNBC in 2017 that in the future she planned on opening at least 50 stores, one in every state. Giving investors a vote of confidence, Mickey Drexler, the former CEO of J.Crew and Gap, serves on its board. Haney said he’s played a key role in helping Outdoor Voices grow offline.

Ganni store in Soho. (Photo courtesy of Ganni)

Ganni, the Copenhagen-based brand, opened its first U.S. store in Soho this past October, followed by one in Los Angeles and Miami.”We always dreamt of opening stores in the U.S.,” explains founder Nicolaj Reffstrup. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to be stocked in some of the U.S.’s finest boutiques and retailers; seeing our U.S. audience connect with our Scandi 2.0 sense of style has been incredible and we’ve resonated well with the market. This next step of having our own physical stores means we can welcome our community into our universe and experience Ganni in real life. It just made sense. There’s been so much talk of the death of retail, but I don’t think retail is dead, it’s just entering a new phase. It’s about figuring out how you give your community a unique real-life experience, a high level of service, interesting interactions with real people and an easy, effortless shopping experience where your community feels welcome.”

Self-Portrait Boutique. Courtesy of Flaunt Magazine

Self-Portrait is a contemporary label launched in 2013 by Han Chong. The London based label is known for its feminine dresses with a youthful twist. In August 2019, the label opened its first brick-and-mortar concept retail space in the U.S. in  Soho; but Self-Portrait is testing out the New York City store-front experience before fully committing, with the concept store set to close in June 2020. “This is a great opportunity to welcome anyone, not only to shop, but also to explore the Self-Portrait experience,” says Chong. “What I’ve seen happening is that stores are now becoming brand ambassadors both online and offline. We want to blend these experiences to create that connection with our clients. We’ve built this amazing community digitally with them since we started the brand and now we get to invite them into our home to get know us more intimately.”

Are you considering opening a pop-up or a retail shop for your brand? Share your thoughts!