University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion History"

Happy Golden Anniversary: Ralph Lauren Celebrates 50 Years in Business

- - Fashion History
Portrait of Ralph Lauren (Courtesy of WWD)

Portrait of Ralph Lauren (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

Celebrating the big 5-0 in business is no easy feat for any company, let alone the fashion industry, where trends and styles come and go faster than the speed of light. So what is Ralph Lauren’s secret? Many young aspiring designers want to know the answer.

One key element to Ralph Lauren’s success is that he consistently stayed true to his vision. He was the first designer to create the concept of lifestyle dressing by tapping into Old English aristocracy and repackaging it ‘American-style.’ No matter what your social class, Lauren discovered a way to use fashion as a means of identify transformation and marketed that vision through carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns. Throughout the years, his brand has always been synonymous with American heritage, craftsmanship and an eye for detail in the very competitive and ever-changing world of fashion and lifestyle.

For the past 50 years, Ralph Lauren has been a key player in shaping American fashion, as we know it – his classic polo logo is known throughout the world – and can be found in a variety of closets from the preppy consumer to the hip hop crowd.

Ralph Lauren's classic polos (Photo courtesy of Ralph Lauren)

Ralph Lauren’s classic polos (Photo courtesy of Ralph Lauren)

“In an industry of hyperbole, Ralph Lauren is a genuine icon,” says Bridget Foley, executive editor of WWD. “He built his company into a global giant on a core belief in living well from the inside out, his designs are the stylistic manifestations of cultural codes of civility and respect.”

The accolades for Ralph Lauren’s major milestone have already begun. In June, at the CFDA Awards, he was the recipient of the first CFDA Members Salute by fellow American designers, including Thom Browne, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Jason Wu and Donna Karan, commemorating his incredible career. Last week, Rizzoli published a book in partnership with WWD, entitled “WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren,” a 192-page tome of five decades of stories, photos and illustrations from the publication’s archive. “Some people keep diaries of their daily lives,” said Ralph Lauren. “I never had to, because DNR and WWD have been looking over my shoulder since 1964.”

"WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren", Rizzoli New York, 2018 (Courtesy of WWD)

“WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren”, Rizzoli New York, 2018 (Courtesy of WWD)

 

"WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren", Rizzoli New York, 2018 (Courtesy of WWD)

“WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren”, Rizzoli New York, 2018 (Courtesy of WWD)

On September 7th, Ralph Lauren will host a fashion show and party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his company at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park during New York Fashion Week. According to WWD, the event will benefit the Central Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and maintaining the beloved park. It will no doubt bring a jolt of much-needed glamour and optimism to New York Fashion Week.

Ralph Lauren Resort 2019 (Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren Resort 2019 (Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren's Menswear Spring 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren’s Menswear Spring 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com)

It’s therefore only fitting that the historic park serves as the venue for the Ralph Lauren’s 50th celebration (and was the venue for his 40th year anniversary celebration too).  Central Park  became the first public park in America when it was designed by the American architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1857. Lauren’s love of history and preservation is what makes him so special.

For more on Ralph Lauren, here’s an excerpt from the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition, by Francesca Sterlacci (UoF Founder) and Joanne Arbuckle:

 

“Ralph Lauren is a native New Yorker born in 1939. The designer is best known for his ability to create lifestyle dressing. He was born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz, the son of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. As a young child, he exhibited a sense of style. Ralph and his brother could often be found thrift-shop hunting; it was here that Ralph discovered fashion as a means of identity transformation. Lauren began his design career with his 1967 tie collection, Polo, a division of Beau Brummel Company. The line was adopted by Bloomingdales. In 1968, Lauren and the name Polo joined forces with Norman Hilton, a men’s suit maker. Never timid to expand, Lauren created full lines of mens and women’s apparel. Possessing a keen sense of fashion marketing, Lauren understood the power of branding early in his career and his “polo player” logo is one of the most recognized logos throughout the world. Inspired by the colors of M&M candies, Lauren offered his famous polo shirts in the same vibrant colors. Today, a visitor to his New York headquarters on Madison Avenue will find bowls of mounded M&M candies, a nostalgic reminder of the company’s past. In the 1970s, when fashion was about flashiness and edge, Lauren was among the first to create a total image of classically-styled casual clothing. His inventive advertising campaigns featured the customer of his “creation,” the American blueblood and, by doing so, was the first to create a total “lifestyle image” as a means of re-creating oneself. In 1986, Lauren made retail history with the opening of his flagship retail store in the Rhinelander Mansion, an historical Madison Avenue mansion that exudes the projected lifestyle of the Ralph Lauren customer. In 2010, Lauren opened an additional location across the street from his flagship to house his womenswear and home collections.

While many consider Lauren more of a stylist than a designer, he has received numerous awards throughout this career beginning with Coty Awards in 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1984 and their Hall of Fame Award in 1981. His Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards include one in 1981 and their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. In 2016, Lauren was Women’s Wear Daily’s first recipient of the The John B. Fairchild Honor. Lauren is also credited with grooming many notable industry successes. Joseph Abboud and John Varvatos are two of the many menswear designers to train with the king of lifestyle design and merchandising. His former students credit him with an exceptional business sense, as well as a clear vision for the total design process through to the marketing strategy.

Ralph Lauren's Menswear Spring 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren’s Menswear Spring 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren Resort 2019 (Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Ralph Lauren Resort 2019 (Courtesy of Vogue.com)

His company went public in 1997, though he retained a majority of voting rights on the board. By 2013, the Ralph Lauren empire, which included a successful range of accessories, childrenswear, eyewear, fragrances, handbags, home products, jewelry, neckwear and watches, had reached annual sales of $16 billion. In 2014 Lauren launched a ready-to-wear line, Polo Ralph Lauren for Women, in conjunction with the opening of a 38,000 square foot Polo flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and by 2015, the Ralph Lauren Corporation consisted of Polo by Ralph Lauren, Chaps, RRL, Club Monaco, and RLX Ralph Lauren. These collections were available at more than 13,500 retail locations worldwide, including many upscale and mid-tier department stores, in 490 Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco retail stores worldwide, in 580 in-store shops and on 10 e-commerce sites. In 2015, after almost 50 years at the helm, Lauren stepped down as CEO of his company and passed the reins to Stefan Larsson, former head of Old Navy. Lauren stayed on as executive chairman and chief creative officer and continues designing: Polo Ralph Lauren, Purple Label for men and the Ralph Lauren Collection. Forbes magazine reported Lauren’s worth that same year to be nearly $6 billion. In 2016, The Wall Street Journal announced a 50 percent drop in the company’s stock, store closings and lay-offs followed.

After losing close friend Nina Hyde to breast cancer, fashion editor of The Washington Post, Lauren focused on raising money to help fight the disease. In 1989 he co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University Medical Center. And, in 2003, with a $5 million donation from Lauren, in partnership with New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention was opened in Harlem, to help the area’s medically underserved African American and Latino population gain access to high quality cancer screening and treatments.

Ralph Lauren is also among the leaders in the wearable technology market. The company unveiled their Polo Tech Shirt at the U.S. Open in 2014, a shirt that reads biological and physical information via silver fibers acting as sensors, woven into the fabric, and connected to a “black box” chip that can be streamed to an iPhone, iwatch or iPod. The company also created a version of their “Ricky Bag” that comes with an LED light and a built-in phone charger. In 2015, Ralph Lauren utilized new technology to create smart dressing rooms, allowing for an interactive experience for his customers.”

Ralph Lauren's Ricky Bag with a chargeable USB cable and an internal LED light  (Photo courtesy of Inhabitat)

Ralph Lauren’s Ricky Bag with a chargeable USB cable and an internal LED light (Photo courtesy of Inhabitat)

So tell us, do you think Ralph Lauren is a true iconic American designer or just a genius at marketing? Let us know your thoughts.

The First Fashion Influencers – Before Social Media Mania

Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Kepburn ( Photo Courtesy of Movieboozer)

Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Hepburn ( Photo Courtesy of Movieboozer)

It’s hard to imagine life before social media became an integrated part of our everyday lives – there is just no escaping it. Our dependence on it has grown tremendously, especially over the last few years. It you are an Insta, Pinterest, Facebook or SnapChat follower, you don’t even realize how much of an ‘influence’ these channels, even subliminally, are having on your fashion choices.

In the not so distant past, however, fashion was presented to the world in an extremely controlled way, by a tight knit group of retailers and publishers whose stores, magazines, editorials and even the advertising that they chose, all projected a certain point of view…theirs. Every image presented was methodically staged and fully orchestrated by them. These carefully curated images usually represented a fantasy of beauty and inclusiveness that many in the ‘real world’ felt very out of touch with. Fast-forward to the digital age. Today, it’s a very different story. Thank goodness.

With platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, consumers have become their own magazine editors, as they share their personal style with millions of users. Fashion savvy customers no longer rely on magazines to tell them what the latest ‘must have’ item of the season is, and Millennials, Gen Zers and iGeners are looking to bloggers, influencers, celebrities and even their own sartorial friends for the latest fashion trends.

But when did the concept of the ‘fashion influencer’ begin? Let’s take a look back in time. The very first fashion influencers were royalty. When Rose Bertin (considered the first fashion designer) started dressing Queen Marie Antoinette during the 1770s, and Charles Frederick Worth (the Father of Haute Couture) became couturier to Empress Eugénie and Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s, these royal ladies became the first fashion influencers. This trend continued until the birth of cinema in the early 1900s, when starlets of the silver screen became the next wave of influencers.

While it appeared that these women wore whatever they wanted, the truth is, that many were dressed by famous designers and signature looks were created just for them (think Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn and designer Gilbert Adrian for Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Carol Lombard). Costume designers, such as Edith Head, also played a role in helping create  looks that accentuated that particular starlet’s figure type (think Dorothy Lamour, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly, Shirley McLaine, and Elizabeth Taylor).

It didn’t take long for socialites to join the royals and starlets and of course, lest we forget…  fashionable FLOTUS and British royalty, who, either with the help of some very talented designers, or by using their personal fashion sense, were added to the list of fashion influencers.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Marlene Dietrich was the original style chameleon. In the 1930’s, she was the first woman to be photographed wearing a tuxedo and the first to introduce the androgynous look. At that time, women could be, and were, arrested if they wore pants in public and detained for “masquerading as men.” Dietrich’s penchant for menswear became her signature style and yet the look was both elegant and chic.

Babe Paley

Babe Paley  mixes high low fashion (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Babe Paley mixes high low fashion (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

While not a starlet, this society icon was the innovator of the high/low approach to fashion in the 1950s. Babe Paley inspired many women with her eclectic mix of designer clothes mixed with cheap costume jewelry. Who can forget that iconic image of her with a scarf tied around her handbag? This sparked a trend that still remains popular today. Babe dressed purely for her own pleasure, and her style was effortlessly elegant.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn in her classic cigarette pant look (Photo Courtesy of Pintrest)

Audrey Hepburn in her classic cigarette pant look (Photo Courtesy of Pintrest)

Audrey Hepburn was a major fashion influencer beginning in the early 60s and throughout her long career. In fact, her style lives on even today!  Her classic Holly Golightly look from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic ‘Old Hollywood’ photos out there. That fabulous little black sheath dress by Givenchy and Edith Head’s straight, black-cropped pants and boatneck top, worn with slip-on loafers, which were designed by none other than Salvatore Ferragamo. Hepburn is arguably the originator of minimalism.

For a lesson in creating the little black dress, check out:  https://www.universityoffashion.com/lessons/sheath-dress/

 Grace Kelly

Princess Grace Kelly carrying the Hermes Kelly Bag (Photo Courtesy of Beyond Grace Kelly)

Princess Grace Kelly carrying the Hermes Kelly Bag (Photo Courtesy of Beyond Grace Kelly)

Grace Kelly’s classic, sophisticated style was always impeccable. Her iconic feminine dresses and tailored ensembles made her one of the most influential fashion icons of her time. In fact, Hermès renamed one of their purse designs, the Kelly Bag, after the actress was spotted toting one on numerous occasions. The American actress married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, on April 1956 and her grace and style were inspirational to women all around the world.

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn in a scene from the film 'The Philadelphia Story', 1940 (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Katharine Hepburn in a scene from the film ‘The Philadelphia Story’, 1940 (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Katharine Hepburn was one of the most idolized actresses of her generation. On and off screen,  Katharine fashioned her very own personal style that embodied the ‘American look.’ She was not only a Hollywood Star, but an icon that forever changed the landscape of fashion and feminism.

For a lesson in creating the perfect pant, click this link:  https://www.universityoffashion.com/lessons/basic-pant-sloper/

Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Jackie O signature look (Photo Courtesy of Town & Country)

Jackie O signature look (Photo Courtesy of Town & Country)

Jackie O influenced millions of women worldwide with her signature style. In the 1960s, as First Lady of the United States, she became known as the ‘First Lady of Fashion.’ Women everywhere copied her look – simple shifts, pillbox hats, elegant scarves, peacoats and oversized sunglasses. Today, women of all ages still sport the ‘Jackie O’ look. It’s timeless!

Nan Kempner

Nan Kempner in trousers (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Nan Kempner in trousers (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Nan Kempner, a New York socialite, was a clotheshorse, fashion rebel and an avid collector of couture. It was rumored that she never missed a Paris couture show over a span of forty years. In the 1960s, when Nan was refused entrance because she was wearing a pantsuit to La Cote Basque, a chic New York City restaurant, she took off her trousers and walked right into the restaurant wearing only her top. #womensliberation

Bianca Jagger

 Bianca Jagger in a white wedding suit (Photo Courtesy of Glamour)

Bianca Jagger in a white wedding suit (Photo Courtesy of Glamour)

Bianca Jagger had a style all her own. Married to Mick Jagger and a regular at Studio 54, Bianca epitomized the glitz and glamour of the 70’s. She often wore sequined sheaths, fur, high-waisted pants, crisp suits, and unbuttoned blouses. She had the eclectic flare to be able to mix and match old pieces with new in a thoroughly modern and entirely rock and roll kind of way.

Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin in her signature denim style (Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire)

Jane Birkin in her signature denim style (Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire)

Jane Birkin, English actress, singer, songwriter and model, rose to fame when she married Parisian pop poet/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg in the 1980s. Birkin defined a new era of gamine chic. Known for wearing bell-bottom  jeans, simple knits, delicate jewelry, white tees, and short minis – all with effortlessly cool ease – her style is proof that casual can and always will be stylish when done in the right way. In 1984, Hermès created the now iconic ‘Birkin’ bag in her honor. Every influencers dream!

Princess Diana

Princess Diana in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Stylemagazine)

Princess Diana in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Stylemagazine)

Known as the People’s Princess, Princess Diana of Wales was known for her savvy fashion sense just as much as she was known for her humanitarian efforts. When she wed in the ’80s wearing a huge, fluffy white wedding dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves, brides around the globe copied her gown. Women also mimicked her signature style of off-the-shoulder gowns worn with classic pearls. Princess Di helped put British fashion on the map, wearing labels such as Catherine Walker, Bellville Sassoon, and Gina Fratini. She was also known to wear plenty of Gianni Versace’s creations and attended his funeral with her dear friend Sir Elton John.

You can learn more about fashion history and style icons in Francesca Sterlacci’s book: Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition. Available on Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442239085/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=univeoffash00-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1442239085&linkId=aa3cfeb6a3083b551c5658a3fdff7f05

So tell us, who makes your top 10 list of 21st century fashion icon influencers? And Why?

The Magical & Technological World of Couture: Fall 2018

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of W Magazine)

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of W Magazine)

Need an escape from a world filled with political unrest, nuclear threats and terrorism? Enter…haute couture. Yeah, we know covering fashion, especially the world of couture, may seem frivolous to many, but couture is about dreaming, escapism and fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to live right now in a world of beautiful handmade gowns while running through a garden in Paris or engaging in a leisurely walk along the Seine?

But the truth is, couture is so much more than fantasy. Costume and fashion history would not be the same without it and let’s face it… couture is the ultimate marketing machine!

We need only look back in time to a publication written between 1751 and 1772 by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert entitled Encyclopédie, ou dictionaire raisonné des sciences, des art et des métiers, to see how this pivotal tome gave instructions to the métiers (trades) in the art of dressmaking, forever placing this trade on equal footing with the arts and sciences of the time.

And of course we owe the ‘Father of Couture,’ Englishman Charles Frederick Worth (Paris circa 1856 ), the fashion genius who together with his wife as muse, transformed the world of dressmaking into ‘high fashion’. Over time, the House of Worth, along with other couturières (female) and couturiers (male) were able to take the craft to a whole other level by creating perfumes, shoes, millinery and diffusion lines. These spin-offs planted the seeds which would later become lifestyle branding with lots of marketing hype!

 

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of W Magazine)

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of W Magazine)

We know that these one-of-a kind haute creations come with a hefty price tag. On average, one couture gown can take over 800 hours to create and cost several hundred thousand dollars. Even couture daywear starts at around $10,000! It’s estimated that there are only approximately 2,000 couture clients, mostly from Russia, China, the United States and the Middle East, with fewer than 300 that buy regularly.

So, do the numbers. With only a handful of steady customers, you got it…haute couture is not a money maker. Couture houses spend millions of dollars twice a year, by selecting exquisite fabrics, hand-sewing each garment, employing top métiers for beading and embroideries and producing larger-than-life runway shows, using A list models, hair and make-up teams. The profits are negligible, amounting to less than ten per cent of gross profits for some houses, though most operate at a loss. However, their true value is in the selling of the house’s fragrance, make-up line and other less-expensive branded items like shoes and handbags.

Draping Technique (Photos courtesy of Pinterest)

Draping Technique (Photos courtesy of Pinterest)

So why do these houses still invest in their haute couture collections, other than pushing their ancillary products? They are selling a dream. Fashion shows attract huge media attention and gain enormous publicity for the couture houses. Think about how many actresses wear couture on the red carpet. These designers are selling a dream of chic cachet, beauty, desirability and exclusiveness, that the ordinary person can ‘buy into.’

Here are some highlights of the Haute Couture Fall 2018 Season:

VALENTINO

Pierpaolo Piccioli has been on a role and his Valentino Couture show closed out Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris with rave reviews. This season Piccioli offered a brilliant line-up of rich saturated hues and swaggering proportions. According to Vogue.com, Piccioli stated, “Couture involves a deeper and more intimate perspective, to go further into your own vision of beauty.”  His vision was a perfect blend of Greek Mythology, 17th- and 18th-century painting, the films of Pasolini and the photographs of Deborah Turbeville, medieval armor, and Ziggy Stardust. Whew, that’s quite a line-up of inspiration, eh?

This translated into intricate embroidered capes, a multiple brocade evening dress adorned with rhinestones, sequins and pearls, a red sculpted jersey gown and a trio of featherweight taffeta dresses that wrapped around the body.

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

FENDI

How does a house known for its use of fur adapt to the changing landscape of the anti-fur movement? After all, major fashion houses such as Gucci, Versace and Michael Kors have all announced they would go fur free and use only faux fur in their collections. Fendi on the other hand, made no such promise, but did abandon their Haute Fur Show in favor of a couture show.

Though Fendi did include some fur pieces, what they also did was produce something much more creative than fur and faux fur (which by the way is also a major earth pollutant). They ingeniously manipulated textiles in such a way as to resemble real fur; case in point, a coat created with fine strips of chiffon that were frayed and stitched together so closely that it could have been easily mistaken for an intarsia’d mink. While there were plenty of real fur looks in the line-up, it was refreshing for a house like Fendi show alternatives. And oh, what a great upcycling concept!

Fendi Haute Couture faux fur Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Fendi Haute Couture faux fur Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Fendi Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Fendi Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

JEAN PAUL GAULTIER

Always known to break with tradition, Jean Paul Gaultier showed his haute couture collection on both male and female models as the versatility of the collection was genderless. With a strong emphasis on tailoring, his suits were oh so chic! Gaultier was able to take the iconic “Le Smoking” and update it for the 21st century.

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

MAISON MARGIELA

John Galliano has now taken to podcasting and for Margiela couture he stated that this is collection is “the raw, raw, undiluted essence, the parfum of the house.” Following in the footsteps of his Artisanal collection for men, Galliano presented a highly innovative, high-concept collection exposing the craftsmanship of haute couture –  literally – by revealing the exquisite stitching that goes into the construction of a hand-tailored jacket. The true genius of Galliano came through by layering garments between tubes of filmy nylon, thus creating what Vogue called “translucent fabric sandwiches.”

“We’re all nomads today,” added Galliano, “. . . we do move in tribes.” Galliano calls it “nomadic glamour.” Reminds us a bit of Yeohlee and her “Urban Nomads” collection, only this time, on steroids!

Maison Margiela Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Maison Margiela Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Maison Margiela Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Maison Margiela Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

ARMANI PRIVE

Ahhhh, and then there was Armani. Known for his master tailoring and Red Carpet artistry, the fall Armani Privé collection didn’t disappoint.  Armani’s press notes noted “A sculptural, almost regal style.”  The first half of the show (there were almost 100 looks in all), was a sea of black and champagne-colored pantsuits and evening looks, all that captured the chic essence of Armani beautifully. However, in an attempt to keep up with the times, half-way through the show Armani switched gears and sent out electric hues in everything from an ostrich feather cape to a hot pink and turquoise pantsuit that was a complete disconnect to the first half of the show. Go Armani!

Armani Prive Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Armani Prive Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Armani Prive Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Armani Prive Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

CHANEL

We fashionistas can always count on Karl Lagerfeld to create a wonderful backdrop for his Chanel collection. And for this collection he did not disappoint by sending his models for stroll along the Seine with its wide sidewalks and low stone walls framing the magnificent Institut de France, built by Louis le Vau for Cardinal Mazarin in the 1660s (and where the Academie Française is housed). Perhaps with age, Lagerfeld is feeling a bit reflective about his first days in Paris as an 18-year old. In an interview with Vogue before the show, Lagerfeld remembered a city still suffering from postwar neglect, with dirty streets and dark, unrestored buildings. “People said to my parents, ‘but he can get lost,’” he added. “My mother knew better: I had a strong survivor instinct!”

The collection was filled with the House’s signature tweeds all in shades of grey. There were plenty of long skirts that unzipped to reveal sexy miniskirts adorned with magnificent embroideries. Lagerfeld also showed a silver foil ball gown skirt, a bevy of chic jackets and plenty of transparent chiffon pleated eveningwear.

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Chanel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

CHRISTIAN DIOR

After years of over the top glamour and in your face sex appeal at Dior, at the hands of Raf Simons and John Galliano, the tide seems to be turning toward a more minimalistic approach to fashion. At the forefront of this evolutionary change is Maria Grazia Chiuri. Her couture 2018 collection involved some feminist research.  She read up on Leonor Fini, one of the avant-garde artists Christian Dior chose to exhibit in the gallery he was involved with before becoming a couturier. The results were beautiful, somber, sculpted and pleated pieces that were way more complex than what met the eye. These were serious clothes. Only a seasoned designer like Chiuri knows how to design clothes, utilizing the talents of finest ‘hands’ in the business, that will attract the most discerning couture clients. Chiuri showed cashmere suits, simple strapless gowns that grazed the ankle, effortless pleated dresses and demure eveningwear.  This collection is timeless and elegant yet modern and refreshing. A hit!

Christian Dior Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Christian Dior Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Christian Dior Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Christian Dior Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

SONIA RYKIEL

For the past 50 years, the name Sonia Rykiel has been associated with fun, lighthearted knitwear. This season, designer Julie de Libran presented the first Sonia Rykiel couture collection. And, staying true to the Rykiel code, presented a collection with the same joie de vivre that the house’s founder was known for.

Gone from this collection were the traditional evening gowns that epitomize the world of couture. Instead, de Libran presented a youthful and edgy line-up. Looks ranged from a striped hand-beaded off the shoulder Marinière sweater to a black sweater dress with a trompe l’oeil bikini embroidery and a bridal corset look with front-lacing, a feathered knit veil and blue jeans. Surely de Libran is a couture disruptor but is this collection really worthy of being called couture?

Sonia Rykiel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Sonia Rykiel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Sonia Rykiel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Sonia Rykiel Haute Couture Runway Look (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

IRIS VAN HERPEN

Always a fashion renegade, Iris van Herpen decided to show her couture collection at the Galerie de Minérologie et de Géologie, a fitting choice, since the name of this collection was “Ludi Naturae,” translated from Latin, “nature play.”

However, Van Herpen’s idea of nature flirts with synthetic biology through her iconic laser-cutting techniques and 3-D printed illusion fabric innovations, which she has taken to new heights and labels it “syntopia.” To quote van Herpen: “I think we as humans don’t even come close to the intelligence within nature. It’s funny how people think that nature is simple and technology is complex—it’s the opposite; technology is simple and nature is complex.”

Known for her artist collaborations, this time it was Amsterdam-based artist duo Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of Studio Drift who created the backdrop her runway ‘science fantasy. She also partnered with Dutch sculptor Peter Gentenaar who is known for capturing ‘organic memory’ and motion through his delicate, large-scale cellulose sculptures,  and together they created a show that was ‘other-worldly.’

Considered fashion’s ‘futurist-in-residence,’ couture season would be incomplete without Iris van Herpen and her vision.

Iris van Herpen's Fall 2018 Couture Show (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Iris van Herpen’s Fall 2018 Couture Show (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Iris van Herpen's Fall 2018 Couture Show (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Iris van Herpen’s Fall 2018 Couture Show (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

 

DO YOU THINK THE SONIA RYKIEL COLLECTION MERITS COUTURE STATUS? IF SO, WHY?

 

 

Ball Culture: Inspiration from the LGBTQ Underground Scene

Pride month – there’s no more colorful month of the year. And what better opportunity to acknowledge a part of LGBTQ history that has influenced fashion, music, dance and culture for almost four decades?

Attention, legendary children!

We are about to give you the basics of ball culture.

Since the early 1920s (and possibly even earlier), LGBTQ people have been coming together, often in underground secret spaces, to celebrate the art of dressing a part, dance and creating a safe space for creative expression. In the 1980s, these gatherings, or balls, were where those often cast out from society (many black and Latino) could be whoever they wanted for a night.

And while many equate balls with drag shows, there is much more to ball culture than sequins and feathers. Runway competitions included categories like “Executive Realness” allowing LGBTQ people of color the opportunity to dress the part of a Wall Street executive—an option not available to minorities during the day. And for young LGBTQ kids kicked out of their homes, ball culture offered a family, shelter and safety.

Thanks to the summer’s breakout hit show Pose on FX, a new generation is getting schooled on what life was like for a segment of the LGBTQ community in the early 80s in NYC. Severe shoulder pads and all.

Pose is ground-breaking in that it stars/employs more transgender actors and extras than any other scripted show currently on the air, however, Pose is hardly the first show to document ball culture. In fact, any in-the-know designer should immediately move the documentary Paris is Burning to the top of their must watch Netflix list.

In addition to a primer on late 80s/early 90s fashion, Paris is Burning reveals the roots of voguing as a dance and art form, so named from the model poses seen on the actual pages of Vogue magazine. And as an emerging designer, the deeper your understanding of history, the bigger pool of inspiration you have to draw from for your future collections.

So sit back, children, and learn your ball culture. If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race (anyone else #TeamAquaria this season?), Mama Ru’s catch phrases are about to make much more sense.

Houses and Families

At a ball, participants walked as houses. Houses were often named after fashion houses or beauty icons, for example, House of Saint Laurent. Each house has a mother who sets the tone/rules for the house and takes in new family members. Family members often adopt the last name of their house, not only showing their loyalty, but also creating a sense of belonging not provided by a biological family. And house mothers refer to their children as legendary.

Walking in a Category

Balls are made up of runway competitions and each competition fits into a theme or category. The emcee of the ball will call out, “Category is….” and all those who are participating will prepare to show off their best super model, evening wear, military, school girl, uptown/downtown, etc. garb.

Serving (Category) Realness

In order to win a runway competition, participants are judged on realness, or how likely they are to actually pass in real life as the individual they are representing on the runway. Serving Park Avenue realness means the participant could fit right in strolling down Park Avenue with the ladies who lunch.

Mopping

Because the ball participants of the 80s had very few resources, some mopped or stole the materials they needed to create their runway looks. We don’t advocate stealing at U of F, however, we know many designers are operating on a shoestring budget and therefore, studying ball culture can be pretty inspiring to see what those who had nothing can create on no budget at all.

Reading and Throwing Shade

To read another participant in ball culture is to ruthlessly insult another’s outfit, look, walk or presentation without breaking a sweat. Reading is in good fun, and thus, the phrase “the library is open,” often clears the floor for a good read. Throwing shade is a more subtle form of reading, saved for the most clever and witty of readers. The library doesn’t necessarily have to be open for shade to be thrown.

From Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen to Jeremy Scott to Vivienne Westwood to…the list goes on and on… designers have drawn inspiration from underground club scenes over the course of history. You can, too. Just make sure to learn your history before attempting to throw shade, darling.

RESORT 2019 – What is Resort and Why?

Chanel Resort 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Accessories Magazine)

Chanel Resort 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Accessories Magazine)

Over the past several years, the fashion industry calendar has twisted into something beyond recognition. In today’s era of rampant consumption, social media and the internet, designers and brands can no longer rely on two show-seasons a year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections) to stay relevant. This has placed a tremendous burden on designers who have become increasingly stressed with the workload. Burn out and, in some cases, death (think Alexander McQueen and L’Wren Scott) can play a role.

Earlier this year, designer Alexander Wang announced that would not be showing his main Spring 2019 collection during Fashion Week (in  September) and instead, is choosing to show that collection during pre-collection season. Maybe Mr. Wang is on to something?

Ten plus years ago, Resort and Pre-fall collections were only shown to buyers and were basically a brand’s best-selling items, used as store fillers between seasons. Once brands decided to open the season to the press (WWD and Style.com were the first publications to fully cover pre-collections) the flood gates were opened!  Today, Resort shows start in early May and continue through the second week of June. Some designers and retailers think that the resort season has become almost as important as the Spring & Winter collection seasons.

Valentino (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

For Resort 2019, designers have made it a lot easier for the press, celebrities and buyers by choosing to show in fashion capitals. Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Gucci decided to show in France, while Valentino and Prada chose New York.

Gucci (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Gucci (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

 

LET’S LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF RESORT SEASON

While many fashion lovers enjoy the visual stimulation of Resort shows, many are in the dark about what this fashion season truly means and why it exists. So, here’s a brief history:

A Cruise or Resort collection (also referred to as a Holiday or Travel collection) is an inter-season or pre-season line of ready-to-wear clothing produced by a brand, in addition to their recurrent twice-yearly seasonal collections – Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, shown during major fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan.

Cruise collections were originally targeted to wealthy customers or  seasoned jet-setters, cruising or vacationing in the warm Mediterranean sun during the winter months. Cruise collections usually consist of light spring or summer clothing, when weather at the points of sale actually calls for winter apparel. However, today, Resort/Cruise collections are targeted to consumers who have finished buying their fall wardrobes (ideally) and are looking ahead for something new. Resort collections range from warm weather looks, such as pretty sundresses and swimsuits, to winter looks, like fur coats and cozy sweaters (perfect for that Aspen getaway).

In the past, only high end houses like Chanel, Christian Dior, Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs produced resort collections. But thanks to consumers who are always looking for something new, now almost every brand creates a resort delivery (November delivery), from Michelle Smith for her label Milly to Tory Burch.

Tory Burch (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Tory Burch (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Resort is also an opportunity to satisfy the generation of consumers who travel all the time. It also answers the climate change dilemma where these days, in many parts of the world, there is little to no winter. Additionally, thanks to online shopping, brands at every price-point have global customers. Some of the biggest spenders are in the ever-important Asian, Arab, and Russian markets. For major brands, the resort delivery is a commercial necessity.

Resort collections are available for consumer purchase in November and perfect timing for Holiday shopping. While Resort is an extra opportunity for brands to make money, it has become an incredibly important season for those brick & mortar retailers who are struggling with how to lure customers back to shopping in stores. Unlike Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections, Resort remains on the sales floor the longest (Spring merchandise arrives February) before hitting the sale rack, which makes it the most profitable season for most brands. Not  a lot of mark downs.

So, let’s take a look at some Resort collections from the start of this season:

Gucci (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Gucci (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Roberto Cavalli (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Roberto Cavalli (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Prada (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Prada (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Jil Sander (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Jil Sander (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

 

Chanel (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Chanel (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Burberry (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Burberry (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Valentino (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Givenchy (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Givenchy (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Christian Dior (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Christian Dior (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Louis Vuitton (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Louis Vuitton (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Oscar de la Renta (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Oscar de la Renta (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

DO YOU BELIEVE DESIGNERS ARE BURNING OUT BY CREATING FOUR COLLECTIONS A YEAR?

5 Surefire Ways to Get Inspired Today

I’ve always wanted to teach a class on how to find inspiration as a fashion designer. I’ve often thought, “How dreamy to spend my days finding and exploring what inspires me, never mind the satisfaction that would come from fostering inspiration in others.” For me, finding inspiration is the most thrilling part of what we get to do as designers. Read More

IS COUTURE RELEVANT IN TODAY’S WORLD?

COUTURE SPRING 2018
Chanel's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Chanel’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Fanciful, exquisite, luxurious, unique, all these adjectives come to mind when one thinks about the exclusive world of Haute Couture. While the spring 2018 couture shows in Paris have recently come to an end, we can all expect to see plenty of these dramatic, breathtaking creations on the Red Carpet on Oscar night. But the question remains, is couture relevant in today’s world?

By definition, Haute Couture is the French word for “high sewing,” “high dressmaking” or “high fashion”; it is the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. These one-of-a-kind creations are constructed by hand from start to finish by the most experienced and talented sewers, known in the biz as les petite mains. Check out the movie Phantom Thread to get a sense of how hard and talented these ‘golden hands’ work to create  magic, often on the most severest of deadlines. The fabrics used are the most luxurious and expensive textiles created. All of the beading and embroidery in couture are not only sewn by hand but take weeks and months to execute.

One cannot walk into a store and purchase haute couture. These unique pieces are created for the client and specifically tailored to her body. Considering the amount of time, money, and skill needed to create one piece, haute couture can only be purchased by the wealthiest of clients. Generally, there is no price tag when it comes to couture and the saying goes…”that if you have to ask the price, well then…you can’t afford it.”

The pre-history of couture dates back to the 17th century, when Rose Bertin, the first known designer, dressed Queen Marie Antoinette. But it would be Englishman Charles Frederick Worth who would receive the honor as the  ‘Father of Couture.’ In 1856, Worth and his future wife, Marie Vernet, opened the House of Worth, in Paris. As his muse, Marie attracted the attention of the French aristocracy and in 1860, Worth became the official court couturier under Empress Eugénie. Up until that time, stylish women would visit Paris and bring back clothing that was then copied by their local dressmakers. Worth was the first designer who would not let his customers dictate design, which had been the practice until then. Rather, he was the first to design and display, via a “fashion show” on live models, his own creations for women to choose from, four times a year. He would only allow the client to select the style, fabrics and trim.

In 1868, La Chambre Syndicale de la confection et de la couture pour dames et fillettes was founded by Charles Frederick Worth to organize Parisian design houses. The name was changed in 1910 to Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, to more accurately define the organization’s haute couture relevance and in 1973, the name was again changed to Fédération Française de la Couture.  Couture such as Callot Soeurs, Patou, Poiret, Vionnet, Fortuny, Lanvin, Chanel, Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Dior followed Worth. Some houses are still in existence today, in fact, Lanvin is the oldest!

Marie Antoinette (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Magazine)

Marie Antoinette (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Magazine)

 

After World War II, rules were implemented to prevent misuse of the name Haute Couture, and to outline certain criteria with regard to creativity, design, quality, and reproduction.  The term Haute Couture is legally protected — and fashion houses are granted the designation by the French Ministry of Industry. Originally, the number of required looks per collection was 50, but in 1992, it was cut in half. Then, in 2001, the goalposts shifted again, to introduce a qualitative assessment from the Fédération.  Only designers who fit their strict requirements are invited to present during the couture shows in Paris in January and in July. To become accepted, you have to play by the rules, and there are many, including that a label needs to produce at least 25 outfits per season and maintain a workroom in Paris.

 

Christian Dior fitting a client in the 1950's

Christian Dior fitting a client in the 1950’s

By the late 20th century, designers such as Christian Lacroix, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Theirry Mugler started their own couture houses, but due to the high expense of producing these collections, Lacroix and Mugler dropped their couture collection.

In today’s fast-paced, fast-fashion oriented world, where such a small percentage of the population has the wealth to buy Haute Couture, how do these houses survive? The answer is….luxury shoes & handbags, fragrances and cosmetics! While it once was true that the couture was a way for designers to try out new ideas, today couture shows serve as a vehicle for brand marketing and publicity. Yes, it’s true, some of these clothes are ordered by a small number of wealthy women or loaned to celebs for a walk on the Red Carpet, but by and large, it’s about brand-building. Those who can’t afford the hefty price tag of a couture gown, can purchase ‘a piece of the dream’ via a couture houses’s perfume, lipstick, ready-to-wear, shoes and bags.

 

Let’s take a look of some of those ‘dreamy looks’

 

 Armani Privé

Armani Privé's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Armani Privé’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Armani Privé's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Armani Privé’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Chanel

Chanel's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Chanel’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Chanel's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Chanel’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Christian Dior

Christian Dior's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Christian Dior’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Christian Dior's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Christian Dior’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Giambattista Valli

Giambattista Valli's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Giambattista Valli’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Giambattista Valli's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Giambattista Valli’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Givenchy

Givenchy's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Givenchy’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Givenchy's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Givenchy’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Jean Paul Gaultier's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Valentino

Valentino's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Valentino’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Valentino's spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

Valentino’s spring couture collection (Photo courtesy of Vogue.Com)

 

Let us know your thoughts, do you believe couture is relevant in modern day society?

Finding “Infinite Hope” in the Fashion Industry

- - Fashion History

Today, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. The spirit, purpose and importance of this day feel weightier in the current political climate. And the change Dr. King brought serves as a much needed reminder that “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

As professionals in the field of fashion, we’ve always been committed to the idea that our differences are what make our works original.  Diversity in where we come from or how we think or how we identify ourselves brings rich variety to that which we create. And therefore, if everyone does not have an equal chance to make their voices heard, then we are all missing out on what the silenced have to offer. Read More

A Proud Look Back and a Sneak Peek into What’s Ahead at the University of Fashion

Happy 2018, U of F designers! 2017 has wrapped, and our hope for you in 2018 is that you take a moment to look back and recognize your accomplishments over the past year with as much excitement as you look forward to your new goals.

So, what are your top 3 proudest moments of 2017?

And your top 3 plans for 2018?

We’re asking ourselves the same questions. Read More