University of Fashion Blog

Category "Women in Fashion"

All Hail the Queen of Raw

Nothing makes us happier at the University of Fashion than featuring power players who are making positive change in the fashion industry. And little did this designer realize I would have my design and production mind blown by the incredible woman you are about to meet.

Enter Stephanie Benedetto, self-proclaimed Queen of Raw.

This former corporate attorney on Wall Street and descendent of an Austrian immigrant turned Lower East Side master furrier is realizing her mission of turning pollution into profit. And maybe more importantly, she’s contributing to a world in which her son can grow up and thrive by breathing in clean air, enjoying access to clean water and wearing non-toxic clothing.

Benedetto suggests turning our traditional design process on its head in an effort to make design sustainable by powering design with dead stock fabrics.

Benedetto explains: Pen to paper or stylus to screen, designing a garment can be one of the most special and intimate experiences an artist can have. It’s no mystery why designers want to start their process with this creative expression. But it’s taking its toll on our world. Where is the business or environmental sense in designing a garment with a fabric in mind without having secured the specific material, figuring out the quantity available, knowing where it’s located, and the ethics in its production? The funnel is broken. Starting with design leaves the rest of the battle uphill.

Have you ever had one of those designer a-ha moments, where everything you’ve been taught somehow goes out the window, and suddenly you see your craft in a new light? Keep reading…

The Queen of Raw continues: The back and forth of swatching and communicating shipping, confirming color, managing orders, the possibility of the material becoming unavailable in the midst of communication – it happens all too often. What if (just trust me for two seconds), what if we started with a material? What if there was a way to see that something was already manufactured and ready to go?”

Once again, a-ah. I’ve faced this production quandary and it wasn’t pretty. On the flip side of things, as an emerging designer with only small orders to fill, I found myself wanting to use fabrics that I could only get by meeting the manufacturer’s minimums. This unfortunate situation left me with all kinds of extra fabric for some garments in my collection and running out of the right fabric (as Benedetto describes above) for others. Had I of started my design process with specific, available fabrics in mind, oh my, how things would have turned out differently.

As if reading my mind, Benedetto continues: You have all the information on where it’s [fabric] coming from, how much is available, how it was made, and it’s cheaper at the same quality you’re used to because it’s “dead stock.” What if designers began with what’s available instead of creating all the problems (for themselves) that slow production down by using/creating new? 

Benedetto will tell you exactly how a fledgling (or seasoned) designer’s business could benefit from this fabric-first design model, and this designer will concur.

Bottom lines would improve.

Price points on finished goods could be more accessible with production costs severely lowered.

Billions of gallons of water would be saved in using already existing excess (700 gallons per yard repurposed).

And fashion could move to the forefront of the sustainable mission instead of being the second biggest contributor to climate change.

Take in those last few words…fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change. As responsible designers and global citizens, it’s important for all of us to consider all the design and production resources (and options) we have at our fingertips, thanks to thought leaders like Benedetto. If sourcing existing fabric options first makes sense to you, waste no time visiting Queen of Raw. As a bonus benefit, Queen of Raw will calculate the environmental impact of your order free of charge and you can pass the good news (and the savings) on to your customers.

Finally, we couldn’t write a post on responsible design and sustainable uses of fabric without giving a shout out to our friends at FabScrap. This incredible resource transports unused fabric from designers’ factories and warehouses to its sorting location. Then FabScrap either recycles scraps or prepares them for sale at a lower cost for designers and crafters. FabScrap even offers fabric sorting volunteer opportunities where you can earn fabric in trade. If you are in NYC, take advantage of one of two FabScrap locations!

If you have sustainable resources of your own to add, please don’t hesitate to comment and share what you know with our community below!

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?

Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle Stuns the World in Clare Waight Keller

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

It was the most anticipated wedding of the year; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot today (May 19, 2018) at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. It was a ceremony that managed to meld centuries of British tradition with a distinctly contemporary American feel and British and America flags waved gloriously all over England.

As the world watched, Meghan Markle made the trip to St. George’s Chapel with her mother Doria Ragland. The stunning American actress has now become the Duchess of Sussex with a simple “I do” to Prince Harry. There was plenty of speculation on what she would wear on this momentous occasion. Many thought that she would wear a custom gown by Ralph & Russo – after all, she chose an embellished Ralph & Rosso for her engagement portrait. Up until yesterday, many were assumed she would wear a Stella McCartney, since McCartney is an ethical fashion designer and avid animal rights activist.

Meghan Markle in Givenchy Couture by Clare Waight Keller (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Meghan Markle in Givenchy Couture by Clare Waight Keller (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

As Prince Charles walked Markle down the aisle, the soon to become Duchess of Sussex succeeded in a making global statement by choosing: a minimalistic gown from a French couture house designed by a British designer (Clare Waight Keller), a diamond tiara on loan from the Queen (once worn by Queen Mary), diamond earrings from French jeweler, Cartier earrings and a veil bearing symbols of the Commonwealth. While Markle respected British heritage and tradition, she has also ushered in a new age of simplicity and global inclusivity.

Meghan Markle's crown (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Meghan Markle’s crown (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

William Hansen, an etiquette coach, said in an interview following the wedding “It’s a more traditional dress, although it does have a very contemporary and up-to-date feel to it. There are the covered shoulders and the veil. There’s a nod to the past with Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara, and a nod to the present, which is seen in her veil and in the embroidered flowers that represent the countries of the Commonwealth and Prince Harry’s role.”

The dress, with its boat neck, clean lines and lack of embroidery, was quiet and demure, a stark contrast to Princess Diana’s wedding dress. The palace said that after meeting Waight Keller in early 2018, Markle chose to work with the designer due to her “timeless and elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring,” and relaxed demeanour. The gown was a surprisingly subdued choice compared to her sister-in-law Kate Middleton’s intricate lace wedding dress by Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton.

Left: Kate Middleton in Alexander McQueen Righ: Meghan Markle in Givenchy Couture

Left: Kate Middleton in Alexander McQueen Righ: Meghan Markle in Givenchy Couture

The lines of Markel’s dress were achieved using only six seams, and the dress extended towards the back where the train flowed into soft folds cushioned by an underskirt in triple-silk organza. Waight Keller worked with an exclusive double bonded silk cady, which she developed which gave the dress more shape. Both Waight Keller and Markle wanted a “pure white” color to bring a fresh modernity to the dress, the palace said.

Waight Keller described the dress as a close collaboration between her and Markle and said the two had wanted to create a “timeless piece that would emphasize the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history (think Audrey Hepburn), as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

While the gown was relatively simple, the veil, in contrast, had plenty of intricate details. The bride wanted to have a distinctive flower from of each Commonwealth country with her on her journey through the ceremony, according to Kensington Palace.  The veil was five meters long and made of silk tulle trimmed with hand-embroidered flowers in silk thread and organza. Each flower was worked flat and in three dimensions, to create a unique and delicate design. The palace said the workers spent hundreds of hours meticulously sewing and washing their hands every 30 minutes to keep the tulle and threads pristine. In addition to the flora of the Commonwealth, Markle selected two personal favorites: Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), which grows on the grounds of Kensington Palace, in front of Nottingham Cottage where the couple lives, and the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) the state flower from Markle’s native California. Symmetrically placed at the very front of the veil, crops of wheat are meant to blend into the flora, to symbolize love and charity.

For those unfamiliar with Clare Waight Keller, here goes: She is a British mother of three and a talented, low-key British designer who is all about femininity, soft edges and beautiful fabrics. She also has a reputation for cutting a killer pair of pants. She attended both Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art in London. Waight Keller began her fashion career designing for Calvin Klein, where she worked for four years. She also worked with Polo Ralph Lauren as design director of Purple Label Menswear and was a senior design director with Tom Ford at Gucci. Waight Keller is known for her knitwear and her sleek, tomboyish, yet elegant style. In 2005, she became creative director at Pringle of Scotland and her first menswear collection was presented at Milan Fashion Week 2006. In 2011, she joined Chloé, where she coined the term “sister style,” a look that expresses clothes that are simple, comfortable and romantic. In 2016, Apple Music launched a fashion channel playlist and tapped Waight Keller and designer Alexander Wang to curate the music selections.  On March 16, 2017 she became the first female to become artistic director at the French House of Givenchy.

Clare Waight Keller

Clare Waight Keller

The stunning  couple married at St. George’s Chapel on the Queen’s Windsor estate — not at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral in London — and invited more than 2,000 members of the public to join them for the ceremony. The wedding wasn’t a state affair, but one filled instead with family — and some famous friends — including Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams, George and Amal Clooney, James Corden, James Blunt and Victoria and David Beckham. There were also a host of former classmates from Meghan’s alma mater Northwestern University were there, as well as the cast from her former TV series “Suits.”

So tell us, whose dress do you think was more fitting for a princess? Kate Middleton in Alexander McQueen or Meghan Markle in Givenchy Couture?

Most Fashionable Political Wives – Past and Present

Most Fashionable Political Wives – Past and Present

Kate Middleton's fashion inspiration is clearly her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana (Photo courtesy of au.ibtimes.com)

Kate Middleton’s fashion inspiration is clearly her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana (Photo courtesy of au.ibtimes.com)

Fashion is all around us, it’s at the tip of our fingertips with social media, blogs and fashion magazines, and in today’s society, everyone is a critic. We are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities, singers, reality television stars, artists and models on the pages of our favorite magazines, blogs and Instagram feeds. We remember their fashion choices – good and bad – and we judge them.

But today, more than ever, political wives are being critiqued, not only for their spouse’s political stance, but also for their fashion choices. Constantly in the public eye as they jet-set around the world, political spouses are expected to be intellectual, engaging, empathetic, strong, powerful, beautiful, and above all, be able to gain the trust of their people, all while fighting for causes that are close to their hearts.

Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy - two very chic first ladies in 2009 (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy – two very chic first ladies in 2009 (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Just like celebrities, political spouses are constantly on parade. They are criticized by the media and the public for their fashion choices and they are also judged as to whether or not they support U.S. talent.  Case in point, Nancy Reagan who wore Galanos at her husband’s inaugural ball, Barbara Bush wore Scassi, and let’s not forget those first ladies who came out in support of home-state talent like Laura Bush who wore a  local Texas designer, Michael Faircloth, and Hillary who wore Arkansas designer Sarah Phillips. Not since Jackie has fashion been so front and center, thanks to Michele Obama who wore Jason Wu to the inauguration and proceeded to elevate the profile of many young and up-and-coming designers. Heck, Michele even had the guts to make ‘off-the-rack’ J Crew cool and nearly crashed the internet when she decided to wear  bangs!

Here is a look at the world’s most fashion-savvy wives of political leaders worldwide, both past and present.

Jacqueline Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy wearing her signature pillbox hat in Paris, 1961 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Jackie Kennedy wearing her signature pillbox hat in Paris, 1961 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of chic and is still considered America’s most iconic first lady. Known for her impeccable fashion sense and  cosmopolitan lifestyle ‘Jackie’ captivated the American public both during and after her time in the White House. As one of the defining fashion trendsetters of the 1960s, women around the globe eagerly sought out the famous “Jackie look.” Department stores scrambled to produce affordable imitations of her sleek, classy dresses and hats. Nevertheless, her chic sensibility was often a point of contention. She was obsessed with pricey French couture and was criticized during the 1960 presidential campaign.  Once she became first lady, the Kennedy camp worried her taste for foreign clothing could make the family seem out of touch. To solve the problem she was paired with American-based designer Oleg Cassini. Cassini went on to design more than 300 of her most iconic outfits, and later dubbed himself the First Lady’s “Secretary of Style.”

In 1968 she married Aristotle Onassis and catapulted to fashion icon status worldwide wearing her signature oversized sunglasses, Gucci bags and printed headscarves.

Jacqueline passed away on May 19, 1994 in her Manhattan apartment in New York City.

 

Princess Diana

Princess Diana in Chicago wearing Versace, 1996 (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

Princess Diana in Chicago wearing Versace, 1996 (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

Diana, Princess of Wales, was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II. The royal was famously down-to-earth and brought a breath of fresh air to the House of Windsor. Diana married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the summer of 1981. All eyes were on Diana, approximately 17 million viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the ceremony. Princess Diana was in the public eye for the whole of her life—everything from her fashion choices to her haircuts became an international fad. Two decades after her tragic death, in the summer of 1997, people are still enamored with the Princess of Wales.

‘Princess Di’ ascended to the pantheon of the best-dressed women in history and favored British-based fashion by Bruce Oldfield, Catherine Walker and Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed her famous wedding dress.  She attended Gianni Versace’s funeral in a Versace and  just a few short weeks later, the Princess met a tragic fate of her own. She will always be remembered not only as a fashion icon, but as a great humanitarian, often raising awareness for AIDS and the poverty in Africa.

 

Grace Kelly

Princess Grace Kelly in Philadelphia hiding her baby bump with the iconic Hermes Kelly Bag, 1956  (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

Princess Grace Kelly in Philadelphia hiding her baby bump with the iconic Hermes Kelly Bag, 1956 (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

Grace Patricia Kelly was a successful and beloved American actress who became Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III, in April 1956. Their fairy-tale wedding took place in Monaco and it is estimated that the royal event was watched by over 30 million viewers on live television. The event was described by biographer Robert Lacey as “the first modern event to generate media overkill.” Grace’s wedding gown, which took six weeks and three dozen seamstresses to complete, was created by MGM’s Academy Award–winning designer, Helen Rose.

While pregnant with her daughter Caroline in 1956, Grace was frequently photographed clutching a  leather hand-bag manufactured by Hermès.  The now famous ‘Kelly Bag’ was often used by Grace as a shield to hide her baby bump from the paparazzi. Kelly was inaugurated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960, giving her fashion icon.

On September 13, 1982, Kelly was driving back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel when she had a stroke. As a result, she lost control of her car and drove off the steep, winding road and down mountainside with her daughter, Stéphanie. At the hospital doctors attempted to resuscitate Kelly but because of the extent of not only her brain injury but injuries to her thorax and a femur fracture, they were unable to save her life.

After her death, Kelly’s legacy as a fashion icon lived on. Modern designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen, have cited her as a fashion inspiration. She was known for introducing the “fresh faced” look, one that involved bright skin and natural beauty with little makeup. She is remembered for her “college-girl” everyday fashion, defined by her pulled-together yet simple look.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama in Jason Wu for both Inauguration nights - left: 2009, right: 2013 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Michelle Obama in Jason Wu for both Inauguration nights – left: 2009, right: 2013 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a highly educated, incredibly smart, and by many accounts as warm and gracious as she appears.  Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer who was First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American First Lady. Graduated from Harvard Law School, she was her husband’s mentor, and she seems to have a marriage based on equality and love. Michele works tirelessly for her causes, advocating for kid’s health and inspiring young women.

Obama has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy due to her sense of style and has quickly become a fashion icon and champion of young American-based designers. Her style has been described as “fashion populist.” She had the bravado to mixed high-end designer clothes with less expensive pieces from J.Crew and Target. She became a fashion trendsetter, in particular favoring sleeveless dresses, including her first-term official portrait in a dress by Michael Kors, and her ball gowns designed by Jason Wu for both inaugurals.

Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan wearing evening separates in 2016(Photo courtesy of EW.com)

Queen Rania of Jordan wearing evening separates in 2016(Photo courtesy of EW.com)

Rania Al-Abdullah is the queen of Jordan. Since marrying the now King of Jordan, Abdullah bin Hussein, she has become known for her advocacy work related to education, health, community empowerment, youth, cross-cultural dialogue, and micro-finance. She is one of the most inspiring royals in the Arab region. Throughout her reign as queen (1999 to present), she has taken a stand for gender equality, education, and entrepreneurship to name a few.

Queen Rania is known not only for her humanitarian efforts in the Middle East, but also for her impeccable fashion sense through the years. She is just as comfortable and effortless in both Western attire as well as some pieces that echo more regional influences; Queen Rania can wear an elaborate bright sapphire-blue gown or bold red dress as easily as a simple and conservative black dress.

Her style seems to always be the center of attention; always on point and done right. There’s no doubt that Queen Rania of Jordan is one of the most stylish royals in the world.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Dior coat in England, 2008 (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Dior coat in England, 2008 (Photo courtesy of Rex Features)

 

The former supermodel caught the world’s attention as the wife of the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and has been compared to Jackie O.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is an Italian-French singer-songwriter and former model. In 2008, She married Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president and Co-Prince of Andorra. She held her role as First Lady of France from February 2008 to May 2012.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy epitomizes French style, its timelessness and classic. It may evolve over the decades but never strays too far from its hallmarks. As a supermodel, singer, and France’s former First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s perspective on fashion is one of a kind. She tailors her fashion choices by occasion, when attending state dinners or political functions its Dior suits with kitten heels, but on tour, she opts for jeans and boho blouses. She’s become a front row fixture during Paris Fashion Week, nailing it perfectly, relying on a fail-safe combination of skintight black trousers, stilettos, and elegant jackets from the designers whose collections she’s favored.

Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron

Brigitte Macron in a sharp tailored blazer, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Brigitte Macron in a sharp tailored blazer, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Scandalous even for the French, Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron is the wife and former high school teacher of Emmanuel Macron, the current President of the French Republic.  At 64, she is 25 years his senior and epitomizes a new spin of French style which is at once soignée and glamorous.

Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron appears to look more like a former model than a former teacher and dresses accordingly. Images of the couple together during their recent years reveal her chic sense of style, opting for mini-length dresses, skinny jeans and luxe accessories.

Her elevated French style does not conform to the low maintenance, relaxed vibe of many Parisian “It girls” but rather Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron ops for more figure-flattering looks – looking sensual, sexy and ageless. She has panache and a cool attitude pairing her designer tailored blazers with skinny jeans and kitten heels. She is definitely a fashion icon in the making.

Kate Middleton

Princess Kate Middleton in an Alexander McQueen floral gown, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Harpersbazaar.com)

Princess Kate Middleton in an Alexander McQueen floral gown, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Harpersbazaar.com)

She’s a modern-day princess. Catherine Middleton is the young Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Kate Middleton emulates her mother-in-law’s style (Princess Diana) as well as her passion for charity work and love of her children.

Princess Kate has quickly become a fashion icon and has been placed on many “best dressed” lists. Her Alexander McQueen wedding gown catapulted her fashion status on the world stage. Princess Kate can effortlessly transition from wearing a glamourous gown to running around in skinny jeans and sharp blazers – she  nails the casual look every time.

In June 2016, she participated in her first magazine photo-shoot for Vogue’s centenary issue; she appeared on the cover of the magazine. While she wears many new designers, she has also worn dresses by Catherine Walker, who designed many of Princess Diana’s favorite evening gowns and day suits. She is also known for recycling her looks – making her a modest yet modern royal.

 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

Sophie Gregiore Trudeau in Canadian designer Tanya Taylor, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Sophie Gregiore Trudeau in Canadian designer Tanya Taylor, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is a former television host with a passion for charity work, and is vocal about woman’s issues. She married Justine Trudeau in Montreal 2005 – a decade before he became Canada’s Prime Minister. The young couple has quickly become a stylish set in the political arena.

More often than not, one does not think of Canada as a fashionable country, often Canadian designers struggle to make their voices heard, but Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is changing the world’s perception on Canadian fashion.  She has made it her mission to expose the fashion talent in her country. While she has yet to earn the status of international style icon like Kate Middleton, Canada’s “first lady” has raised awareness at home for the fashion industry.

Fashion isn’t new territory for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, She first started honing her fashion chops as a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew, and even helped design her own wedding gown. Today, she has made a point of wearing the designs of local brands, including Beaufille, Lucian Matis and Smythe at every opportunity.

Eva Perón – Evita

Eva Perón in 1947 (Photo courtesy of Huffpost.com)

Eva Perón in 1947 (Photo courtesy of Huffpost.com)

María Eva Duarte de Perón was an aspiring actress before becoming the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is usually referred to as Eva Perón or ‘Evita.’

Eva Perón broke gender rules in Argentina. As First Lady, she unofficially took over the Ministries of Health and Labor; she devoted a huge amount of time to meeting with poor Argentinians, visited hospitals and orphanages, and founded the Female Perónist Party, a political party comprised of female voters.

In 1947, Eva Perón traveled to Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland. Dubbed the “Rainbow Tour,” Perón’s goodwill trip included meetings with Francisco Franco, Pope Pius XII, and Charles de Gaulle. Dressed impeccably in designer clothes, she gave money to poor children in Spain, visited the Palace of Versailles, and encountered protesters in Switzerland who threw stones and tomatoes at her. Some Europeans distrusted aspects of Juan Perón’s fascist rule and ties to Nazi war criminals, while others disapproved of what they viewed as her ostentatious “famewhoring.”

Eva Perón died of cervical cancer at the age of 33, on Saturday, July 26, 1952.

In July 2002, to commemorate 50 years since her death, Museo Evita (The Evita Museum) opened in Palermo, Buenos Aires. The museum features Eva Perón’s portraits and designer clothing—she famously wore Dior dresses, tailored suits, and eye-catching jewelry, especially after her return from Europe.

 Melania Trump 

All eyes are now on Melania Trump. For a designer, her model figure is the perfect canvas. She wore Ralph Lauren to her husband’s inauguration (a robin’s egg blue ensemble which was a very definite nod to Jackie) but some designers such as Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Christian Siriano and Sophie Theallet have declared that they will not dress her. Many feel that dressing her could generate enough negative publicity to seriously harm their brand as was the case for Lauren, when #BoycottRalphLauren trended across social media. Since the inauguration in January, Melania Trump has worn more foreign fashion brands for public appearances and events than American. During his inaugural address in January, President Donald Trump declared, “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.” Is Melania seeking revenge against the American design community by not wearing American or is she caught up in a political cross-fire? Let’s hear your thoughts?

Melania Trump caused controversy when wearing a Dolce & Gabbana coat that coast nearly $70K in Scilily, Italy in 2017 (Photo courtesy of AP/Domenico Stinellis)

Melania Trump caused controversy when wearing a Dolce & Gabbana coat that coast nearly $70K in Sicily, Italy in 2017 (Photo courtesy of AP/Domenico Stinellis)

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Models Who Move Us

- - Women in Fashion

Let’s face it. We look forward to “the new face of”… fill-in-the-blank.

The face of Dior’s new scent campaign.

The Alexander Wang ‘It-girl’ who overlooks Manhattan from a Times Square billboard.

The newcomer set to open the first show of couture week.

Models often make the brand. Their contribution to the fashion industry cannot be denied. Yet many models make their mark well beyond the runway. From switching careers entirely to using their model fame to contribute to worthy causes, we salute these game-changing women. Read More

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons:

Art of the In-Between  

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Is fashion art? This has always been a debate among the creative crowd, but a walk through this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2017 exhibit, the answer is clear.  The exhibition focuses on the avant-garde works of Rei Kawakubo, the reclusive founder and designer behind the cult label Comme des Garçons. The fashion forward exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, is on view from May 4 through September 4, 2017.

The show examines Kawakubo’s obsession with the space between boundaries. Her aesthetic can be viewed as unsettling at times, but upon close examination, her work wavers on creative genius. Kawakubo challenges the conventional perception of beauty, good taste, and fashion. A thematic exhibition, rather than a traditional retrospective, this is The Costume Institute’s first single-subject show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Walking through the exhibit it is clear that Kawakubo has blurred the line between art and fashion. She is pushing us to think differently about clothing. Her creations are sculptural, intelligent and creative. She deconstructs fashion to the core. Her genius is that she is challenging us to think differently about fashion and beauty. According to Francesca Sterlacci, the Founder/CEO of University Of Fashion, “She challenged the status quo meaning of clothes and succeeded in disrupting the notion of  ‘traditional beauty.’ In light of the controversy over body fat and body shaming, Kawakubo sends a powerful message.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

The exhibition showcases approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection. The white-walled exhibit is broken into nine dominate and recurring aesthetic expressions in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Each section examines the “in-betweenness.”  The exhibit guidebook suggests a pathway through the circular layout inhabited by puzzle-piece-like structures framing the looks, but guests also are encouraged to choose their own adventures and let their imaginations go wild.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

In her career, the 74-year old designer has been hailed a revolutionary; she has managed to break down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate the endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity. The exhibit reflects Kawakubo’s enduring interest in blurring the boundaries between body and dress.

Studying Kawakubo’s work it becomes clear, she loves to experiment with forms and clearly ignores the norm — she is in a constant search for “newness.” Her clothes are sculptural objects, non-functional at times, but maybe we should forget about clothing and we should view Kawakubo’s work as a true contemporary artist whose tools involve fabrics, utility and the body.

Rei Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” A hallmark of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-wabi.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

To learn more about Rei Kawakubo and other key players in the fashion industry, pick up the second edition of “The Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry” (due out in August) by UoF’s founder Francesca Sterlacci, as well as checking out Google’s latest project “We Wear Culture” – Now the world will get to see Kawakubo’s genius.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

 

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

Celebs Turned Designers – A Fresh Perspective?

Several years ago when it seemed that every celebrity under the sun was starting a clothing line, we gave the dramatic of-course-she-did eyeroll. As designers and educators, we know what it takes to draft a pattern and how many muslin samples we must sew to get an immaculate fit. The thought of some untrained celebrity waltzing into a boardroom and lending her name to a collection developed by hard-working no-name designers in an effort to make millions off consumers made us cringe. Read More

The Women Behind the Accessories

- - Women in Fashion

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

Thanks to the Academy Award-winning film, Hidden Figures, these names are now synonymous with launching NASA’s astronauts safely into space.

But did you know that the fashion industry has many hidden figures of its own? Strong, powerful, talented women who are the creatives forces behind brands such as Gucci, Valentino and Marc Jacobs? And like the love of math was the thread that tied Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson together, accessory design is the common tie between the three female powerhouses in the fashion industry you’re about to meet. Read More