Man, this is exciting.
Aspiring menswear designers, hold on to your pleated trousers, we are launching much anticipated menswear lessons! Read More
Man, this is exciting.
Aspiring menswear designers, hold on to your pleated trousers, we are launching much anticipated menswear lessons! Read More
Political unrest, devastating natural disasters, fear of war, the economy, racism, the #me too movement, every day we are all bombarded with negative news, not only from our own backyard, but around the globe. At times, it feels as if we live in a mad, mad world.
So, when friends who are not in the fashion industry ask: “How can you think about fashion during these volatile times?” the answer… it’s not easy. The fashion industry is a Goliath worldwide business. According to Statista, revenue of the U.S. Apparel Industry in 2018 was estimated at $102,820 million. Globally the retail value of luxury goods is estimated at $339.4 billion (according to Fashion United). But aside from the economic value of the fashion industry, there is also a psychological one – fashion is a great escape from the real world. And, this fashion season delivered!
Not only were the shows theatrical, but the craftsmanship and the use of bold, eye-popping color all contributed to an upbeat and happy escape from reality. Exactly what the doctor ordered.
Let’s take a look at what was happening at the Paris shows, which included debut and controversy at Celine, gender-diversity on the runway, avant-garde escapism and a space age look into a better future.
Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Celine was filled with mixed reviews. Even before his show, Slimane caused controversy by rebranding the company’s logo, removing the accent aigu (Céline). As editors, influencers, buyers and celebrities eagerly awaited Slimane’s collection, many were disappointed that he replicated exactly what he did at Saint Laurent (2012-2016) and his past collections for Dior Homme (2000-2007). Slimane fired back, targeting the American press and charging them with ‘homophobia.’ I mean, really?
For many, the re-branding at the hands of Slimane was the complete and utter destruction of Celine’s house codes and Phoebe Philo’s legacy, whose fan base expects smart, chic, and intellectual collections. Some even called Simane’s debut collection, ‘Saint Celine.’
And here’s why. The collection had a glam-grunge, rock n’ roll sensibility. There was a nod to the Eighties, with big shoulder silhouettes, exaggerated pouf details, mini lengths and plenty of shine. Maybe perfect for dancing the night away at your favorite trendy hot spot but not what the house is generally known for. Just goes to show that taking over as creative director at a heritage house is no simple task!
Slimane also introduced menswear to Celine, showing perfectly tailored skinny pantsuits that have become his signature look. But, ladies don’t fret, these looks are unisex as well.
On the retail front it will be interesting to see, whether Celine’s customers take to the ‘new vision’ or will Slimane’s consumer be his old Saint Laurent clientele. Only time will tell.
As the cultural discussion on gender identity keeps moving forward, designers are embracing the shift in acceptance and are positioning their brands to be all inclusive by showing their menswear and womenswear collections together, casting transgender models, and even launching entire unisex collections.
At Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller took cues from 1930s gender-bending writer and adventurer Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Keller sent her models out with cropped boyish haircuts in leather Perfectos tucked into military pants – a direct homage to a photo of Schwarzenbach. For evening, she showed elegant bias cut asymmetrical gowns. But her daywear was what really stuck out. There were plenty of chic army trousers paired with fitted jackets, smart suit alternatives and plenty of crisp shirts – all perfect looks for the fashion-forward working girl.
Haider Ackermann has been showing androgynist looks for years now, with Tilda Swinton as his muse. This season the designer decided to show both his womenswear and menswear collections on the runway together. The collections were perfectly intertwined, sending out his models in pairs of three to clearly make his point that his collection is cross-gender.
Ackermann has mastered creative tailoring. For spring, there were plenty of sharp suits in bold colors, boxy shirts with intricate laser-cut details and pajama-inspired pieces. Although the unisex concept has been seen on a number of runways this season, Ackermann’s version was effortless and elegant.
There are a handful of designers who are truly creative geniuses. Season after season these avant-garde designers take us on a breathtaking journey, their collections are thought provoking, witty and intellectual. Here’s a mash-up of the best!
Meanwhile, back to reality, well, almost. Karl Lagerfeld created a tropical beach for his Chanel spectacle. Yes, you heard me right. At the Paris Grand Palais, Lagerfeld recreated a beach that included an ocean with gentle waves, blue sky, wooden docks and lifeguards. He completed the scene with none other than former Baywatch actor Pamela Anderson seated in the front row.
Nicolas Ghesquière took us on a futuristic voyage for his Louis Vuitton collection. The perfect escape mechanism to avoid the reality of these times.
Modern dancers performed during Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Christian Dior Show. It was a nice break from traditional cat walking.
Anthony Vaccarello’s girls walked on water under the Eiffel Tower for his Saint Laurent show.
For Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu collection, the concept of ‘deconstructing beauty’ continued by putting her spin on DIY, recycling, and upcycling under a backdrop modern art installations.
Fashion week season wouldn’t be complete without a ‘romance-inspired’ collection. Beautifully feminine looks, from whimsical tulle confections to vintage floral charm, these saccharine-savy looks had just the right dose of spice.
In a galaxy far, far away…..some designers looked ahead to the future, creating looks that were out of this world.
Ok, all these fantasy looks are spectacular, but sometimes we need to see some real clothes on the runway, right? But always with a twist!
Here at UoF, we love and support new, emerging designers. Here’s a fresh crop who are disrupting the establishment……
For a minimalist at heart, covering Milan this season might be one of the tougher tasks I’ve had—and I’m not just referring to the fashion. Upheavals in the fashion world and beyond have altered and challenged the status quo as we know it, leaving many to wonder about the future, or perhaps wanting to escape it altogether. Read More
London Fashion Week, founded by the British Fashion Council in 1983, has definitely established itself as one of the most creative and avant-garde fashion cities in the world. Known for showcasing a mixture of emerging designers and established brands – this season was no exception. Who could forget last season when Her Majesty The Queen sat front row at Richard Quinn? While that moment may be hard to top, there were plenty of exciting moments at LFW SS/2019. From Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection for Burberry to Victoria Beckham’s ten year anniversary show and everything in between. Oh, and let’s not forget that all of London’s runways are now fur free! Here are some outstanding moments and trends from the week.
Riccardo Tisci is ushering a new day at Burberry – his debut show was not only the most anticipated show of London Fashion Week, but possibly of the whole spring season in general. For the past 5 months, ever since Burberry announced Christopher Bailey’s departure and Tisci as his replacement, the fashion industry has been obsessed with how Tisci might put his mark on the brand. Well, just as Hedi Slimane changed the iconic YSL logo and the company name to Saint Laurent, Tisci began by changing the Burberry logo -it is now a “TB” monogram (the initials of founder Thomas Burberry.) And, for the first time ever, Burberry is now fur-free – thanks to Tisci.
Using the tried and true formula for revamping a heritage brand, by hiring new, young, hot talent, (Virgil Abloh and Nicolas Ghesquière/Louis Vuitton, Hedi Slimane/Dior/Saint Laurent/Celine, Raf Simons/Dior/Calvin Klein), Burberry is counting on Tisci to reinvigorate the label and give it the star-studded colt following that he successfully achieved at Givenchy. So, imagine everyone’s surprise when industry insiders took their seats at Monday evening’s show and discovered that there was not a single celebrity in sight (except for Kendall Jenner on the runway). When Samantha Conti of WWD asked Tisci why he opted for a ‘celebrity free zone,’ Tisci replied, “The [guests] are all people I know and they’re very good friends, so for this first season it was very important for me to really work with the people in the business: the fashion journalists, buyers, friends and family. Celebrities can sometimes give the wrong message and I don’t really like using them as windows.”
What a breadth of fresh air! No distractions, just beautiful and wearable fashion. Check out the full show using the link below:
Naming the collection “Kingdom,” Tisci told Vogue’s Sarah Mower, “It’s like a patchwork or a mix of the British lifestyle.” He wants to dress all generations, “The mother and the daughter, the father and the son.” It was Tisci’s vision of British culture from Punk to Establishment. Could he have been channeling Ralph Lauren a bit here?
Tisci opened his show with a Heritage Trench. This time, buttoned-up and cinched at the waist with a thick elasticized belt. He continued to send out versions of trench coats throughout the show, for both men and women. His menswear looks were polished, with perfectly tailored suits, sleek knits and terrific outerwear. For women, Tisci introduced eveningwear – minimal, simple, long black jersey dresses, with just a hint of sparkle that were oh so chic and refined. For day, Tisci showed smart, sophisticated looks: bow blouses, printed silk dresses, tailored suits and polo shirts. And of course, there were plenty of Burberry’s signature plaid. Let’s not forget, Tisci was one of the first designers to make street-style – high fashion and he didn’t disappoint. In the mix were anoraks, biker-inspired leather skirt suits, rain ponchos, and utility shirts most notably a pop culture print—echoing a Sex Pistols song—that read, “why did they kill Bambi?”
After all the hype and anticipation, Tisci delivered a smart collection that pushed the boundaries of Burberry just enough, while at the same time was commercially safe. After all, these are clothes that are meant to be worn in the real world, right?
Happy Anniversary Victoria Beckham! To celebrate her 10 years in business, Beckham decided to celebrate in her native country. To kick off the celebration, she recreated the famous T-shirt that Marc Jacobs masterminded a decade ago, featuring Beckham coming out of a shopping bag, a symbol of her journey as a fashion designer. Juergen Teller shot a brilliant ad campaign for the anniversary and limited edition tees can be found on Beckham’s website.
Beckham opened the show with non-other than 90s fashion icon Stella Tennant – wearing an effortless white pantsuit paired with a silk and lace lingerie-inspired top – the epitome of 90s cool. This look is the perfect example of why Beckham has transitioned so easily from a Spice Girl to a serious designer – her clothes are ageless, timeless, elegant, chic, and yet appeal to Millennials, Gen Zs and fashionable woman of every age.
The 90s theme rang throughout the collection but with a refined hand. There were plenty of ‘dresses-over-trouser’ looks that were polished and that had a posh edge. Beckham showed a variety of perfectly fitting slim trousers, tailored blazers, delicate lace tops and sexy knits with handkerchief hems. These were real clothes that real woman can wear. Beckham is a fashion force to be reckoned with and has definitely hit a chord with fashionable women around the globe.
London is known for its over-the-top fashion and designers here like to have fun on the runway. One of the biggest trends of the week was a modern day take on Victorian-inspired looks. From Erdem’s tapestry floral dress with exaggerated puffed sleeves to Simone Rocha’s ornate collars. Here are some of our favorite interpretations of this trend.
LFW was a bright and colorful explosion of neon that will surely be insta-worthy hits.
Stripes are always a favorite on the runway for Spring, but this season designers infused them with a refreshingly bold new twist.
Romance was in the air as flirty ruffles were found on a variety of sexy dresses.
Off-the-shoulder numbers are still going strong as designers show plenty of options on the runway.
I know I am late to this party, but I finally had the chance to see the Alexander McQueen documentary. If you’ve been under the same rock I have, check out the trailer here. Then, make sure to stream the full length version.
The reason I bring up the McQueen documentary is that it reminds me of a time when fashion shows told tales, the viewer was taken on a visceral journey, and when fashion felt like art, not necessarily commerce. As I sat down to write yet another NYFW review, I realized that I have been covering fashion weeks for over a decade. Whether as a wanna-be fashion student, actual fashion student, designer or blogger, I’ve clicked through countless slides, attended umpteen shows and shown my own collection at NYFW.
While I identify most with the “little guy/gal,” I have big expectations from well-established designers with financial resources and substantial backing. With very few exceptions (especially since Thom Browne packed up for Paris), I rarely see the likes of a McQueen-worthy vision on New York runways. So with McQueen as my guide, I’ve selected the most exhilarating, tale-telling collection (in my humble opinion, of course) by an established player in the NY fashion scene to cover this NYFW. And the honor goes to…none other than Marc Jacobs.
This is not to say that Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary collection or Raf Simons showing for Calvin Klein shouldn’t receive a mention, but three elements push Marc Jacobs S/S 2019 collection to the top.
Trans Model Finn Buchanan Image: Vogue.com
Much like movies were an escape during the Great Depression, I think Marc Jacobs’ confectionary creations for S/S 2019 offered us a bit of an escape from negative news, a growing division between people and an impending and intense political cycle. But just because Jacobs’ larger-than-life ensembles were bright, well-crafted eye candy, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a serious stance embedded in the fluff. Models of all races graced the inclusive Jacobs’ runway, as did trans models, Finn Buchanan and Dara Allen.
Sometimes I play a little game with myself, just to keep things interesting. I do my best to study a collection, feel the feels and then give my best stab at the designer’s inspiration before reading a word of a review. Marc Jacobs sited a 1960s Barbara Streisand as inspiration for S/S 2019, but a more detailed story played out in my head. So whether my story has anything to do with Jacobs original inspiration or not, the fact that his collection inspired such a tale means it was a collection that sparked imagination—a “Marc” of an exquisite collection.
The 60s reference was clear in hair and makeup, but the volume and silhouettes were a far cry from the mini dresses popularized in the 60s. I imagined vivid scenes from the 1967 cult classic Valley of the Dolls in which three girls found their way into showbiz, became famous and depended on “uppers,” sleeping pills, and diet pills (which they called “dolls”) to sustain a life in Hollywood.
The top hats, the ruffled collars, the oversized bows and rosettes felt doll-like and the voluminous cloud confections felt like “doll”-induced hazes in which the models were floating down the runway. And then there’s the pastel heavy color palette…call me “on dolls,” but I couldn’t help draw a few parallels.
Yes, the Pierrot collars may have been over the top, but look underneath. Jackets with the kind of purpose and wearability any power player would be proud to don. Pleats and wide leg trousers gave new meaning to “power suit.”
Take away some of the styling and take a look at the phenomenal cut of Jacobs’ garments. The drape on the jacket below alone…
As Vogue’s Nicole Phelps claims, and this blogger seconds, Marc Jacobs “is New York’s keeper of the fashion flame.” Bravo. Again, bravo.
Your turn. Which S/S NYFW collections inspired you? And more importantly, why? Comment below!
New York Fashion Week is in full swing with the Spring 2019 collections and street style stars out in full force. Just look on your Instagram feed and hundreds of runway images will pop up. From Tom Ford’s show, which kicked off the week to Jeremy Scott’s celebrity heavy front row.
There are literally hundreds of shows that editors, buyers and the general public will get to see during the grueling Spring/Summer 2019 season in New York, London, Paris and Milan. And, while attendance is always high at established designers’ shows, with everyone traditionally looking to those brands for fashion trends and direction, at University of Fashion we feel that it is time to take note of the many new, young, up-and-comers… the future of the fashion industry… and we want to celebrate and promote these new design talents.
After all, here at UoF know that breaking into the fashion industry is no easy feat. It not only takes incredible talent, but lots of hard work, time, and the right team to help put the collection together, let alone the money to be able to show during fashion week.
Here are some of our favorite young designer collections so far:
Mija Zhang and Wei Lin are the design duo behind the hot, new knitwear label PH5. These young designers experiment with textile technologies in their collections to create effortless pieces with a cool edge. For their Spring 2019 collection, the designers looked to Miami’s Art Deco district for inspiration, which translated into graphic silhouettes in an array of colors. For those who shy away from color, there were plenty of neutral pieces that were both modern and chic.
Winnie Beattie is the young designer behind the label Warm. The brand is quickly becoming known for its pretty print dresses with a laid back vibe. For spring, Beattie was inspired by summer vacation mode – but this beach inspired collection looks just as pretty in a beach town as it does in the city. There were plenty of bold pajama looks, romantic floral dresses, bohemian inspired frocks, and playful jumpsuits. While the collection is casual, it is balanced with a sophisticated twist giving the overall collection a charming je ne sais quoi.
What do you get when you mix 90s ravers, 80s schoolgirls and 50s couture tailoring? A bold and youthful collection created by Matthew Adam Dolan. This young designer showed both his menswear and womenswear looks on the runway and they were packed with functional-meets-utilitarian references. Adams Dolan showed plenty of neon bright colors, as well as a nod to Goth kids with all black denim looks. This is a 90s kid dream collection.
Yoon Ahn sure has her hands full. The designer started her label Ambush as a jewelry line, but for spring she expanded her brand to include a full ready-to-wear collection. This designer has also announced her appointment by Kim Jones as the lead jewelry designer for Dior Homme’s jewelry.
Ahn’s spring RTW collection was young and playful. Inspired by Hawaii, the collection had a laid back surfer vibe; she even created functioning wetsuits for both men and women. For girls, the collection included crochet tops, voluminous drawstring trousers, oversized knit sweaters and hoodies with palm tree motifs. Ahn’s menswear included tie-dye tops, boxy shirting, a puffer jacket vest and striped baja shirts. To complete the collection, Ahn also created two metallic surfboards, just perfect for riding her wave of newfound success.
We all need a little zen in our lives and this season, Hillary Taymour, delivered a pure and thought-provoking collection for her label Collina Stada. The opening looks set the tone, a crisp white blouse tied just below the bust paired with a simple slip skirt – it was sophisticated, chic and yet effortless. Key looks ranged from a simple slipdress with a tied hem paired over a sheet mock-neck top, a pony hair skirt, and a muted checkered trouser. To add a pop of color to the collection, Taymour created some alluring tie-dye pieces that ‘tied’ the collection together perfectly.
Mayte Allende started her fashion career as a fashion editor for WWD viewing thousands of young designer collections through her 15 years with the publication. Today, Mayte Allende sits on the other side of editor previews as Creative Director for the label Bande Noir. It’s her second season with the contemporary brand and she is gaining a following within the fashion crowd.
Bande Noir started out as a luxury basics line that was known for its great shirts, but Allende is expanding the line into a well-rounded collection. New looks include floral print dresses, bustier tees, menswear-inspired trousers with ruffled detail, a sequin striped shirt, and an evening trench coat with a pleated back. Allende managed to perfectly balance what buyers are looking for but still managed to keep her clear and focused vision for the brand.
This season, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, the designers behind the label Echhause Latta presented one of their strongest collections to date with an emphasis on tailoring. The duo struck the perfect balance between whimsical and sales oriented pieces. For women, the designers created beautiful spider web crochet T-shirt dresses, plaid dresses, and a stellar knitted argyle dress that closed the show. Their menswear collection had plenty of terrific jackets, with oversized dropped shoulders and cinched waists. The designers also offered a range of dip-dyed denim and color-blocked knits – all in pretty pastel tones that were youthful yet chic.
It’s not often that you see celebrities sitting in the front row of a young designer’s fashion show, but at Christian Cowan’s presentation, his front row was filled with pop stars from Christina Aguilera to Kim Petras. So naturally, Cowen offered plenty of stylish options for these stars. For evening, there were over-the-top black tulle gowns with sheer tops, a sexy sequin zebra print mini dress and a showstopper lilac pantsuit with exaggerated feather trim. The collection had plenty of stage-worthy costumes, such as a checkerboard bodysuit with voluminous sleeves. Cowen also showed some day looks that were anything but basic. Case in point, a black logo hoodie with silver sequin embellishments – perfect for a pop star coffee run.
Jean-Raymond, the young designer behind the label Pyer Moss, has been known to use his platform to stand up to social and unjust causes during his runway shows. This season Raymond looked to the current landscape of African-American life in America. Through his research he found a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book, published in the 1930’s, as a guidebook citing all of the restaurants and hotels that were safe for African-American travelers. This had Raymond thinking about the racial tension at the time and what life must have been like, and so his collection started to unfold.
Raymond commissioned 10 paintings from Derrick Adams (a rising star in the art world) and incorporated these paintings throughout his collection; portraying everyday life of African-Americans during the 1930’s. Raymond also payed tribute to African-American designers who came before him and this season he focused on the popular 90s streetwear brand FUBU with logo-driven tops. It was a beautiful and powerful tribute to the community as he continues, season after season, to blend social issues and fashion with a sophisticated hand.
Studio 54 and all the decadence and glamour of the 80s was the inspiration behind Greta Constantine’s Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong. The designers delved deep into research and were influenced by the silhouettes of Christian Lacoix, Yves Saint Laurent and Halston. While the 80s seem to influence so many designer collections today, Pickersgill and Wong translated the era beautifully. The collection was filled with party looks: flirty puff sleeve minidresses, sultry animal print maxi dresses, a sexy lame jumpsuit, and even a pinstripe look with ruffle trimmed sleeves. Perfect looks for hitting the dance floor.
This summer, the rarest, most coveted sneaker collaborations were on view on Park Avenue at the Tongue + Chic, Sneakers X Artists exhibition. The exhibition ran for only about a month and a half, and we were lucky to make it in before the closing date of August 31. Sneakerheads came from near and far (and formed lines around the block) just to get a glimpse of famous collaborations between Nike, Converse, Puma, Reebok and various artists and influencers. Read More
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
For those of us New Yorkers who each day walk past the Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue, we are already mourning the shuttering of this retail monument, scheduled for early 2019. While L & T may not have always been every fashionista’s ‘go-to’ destination for the most current fashion trends, this retailer has had a rich history of promoting American designers. Beginning in 1932, Dorothy Shaver (then L & T president), established a program known as the “American Look,” during a period in time when French fashion reigned supreme. This fashion visionary jumped at the chance to promote the work of American designers like Claire McCardell, Tina Lesser, Clare Potter, Vera Maxwell and Bonnie Cashin. It was a defining moment for American fashion designers and put American fashion on the world map. Oh, and by the way…Shaver was also one of the founders of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York!
Well, thankfully, another retailer has finally stepped up to the plate. As of this week and leading up to New York Fashion Week (Sept 6-14), Saks Fifth Avenue is showcasing the work of various American brands. Each of the American-based brands below were invited to create a window (and pay for their installation) that best represents that brand’s identity.
Although not all of the designers at these brands are American-born (Carolina Herrera, Philip Lim, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander Wang, Derek Lam, Jason Wu, Diane von Furstenberg, Naeem Khan and Tanya Taylor), the spotlight is on American-based fashion labels.
Other designers included are: Rosie Assoulin, Alice & Olivia, Coach, Eileen Fisher, Lafayette 148, Leila Rose, Milly, Rag & Bone, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Brandon Maxwell, Gabriela Hearst, Jonathan Simkhai, Monse and Proenza Schouler). While the windows are intended to celebrate American style, some brands chose to focus on things such as their heritage, or social justice and sustainability. Here’s a sampling:
Carolina Herrera’s window is a take on her iconic eveningwear (white shirt and ball skirt). Whether intentional or not, Herrera’s choice of rainbow-colored mannequins against a rainbow background could easily be interpreted as a nod to the LGBTQ community.
Coach’s window paid homage to their company roots. Inspired by the suppleness of an old baseball glove, Miles Cahn founded Coach in 1941, in a New York City loft. Artisans hired by the Cahn family handcrafted soft leather into handbags and in 1962, hired American designer Bonnie Cashin, who pioneered the use of brass toggles on handbags and clothing. Coach’s window included ubiquitous New York phone booths and a shout-out to Dreamers, with a decal of an 8-Ball (as in disadvantage) with the words, “Calling All Dreamers.”
Eileen Fisher is known as a pioneer of cotton grown without pesticides and a promoter of California’s Central Valley organic cotton growers since the late 1990s. This brand’s window was less about ‘selling product’ and more about an education in recycling. In 2009, Fisher initiated GREEN EILEEN, a “buy-back policy” whereby customers turn in their gently used Eileen Fisher products, in return for a store gift card. The brand either resells that item or, through their “third lifecycle initiative,” artists get the chance to upcycle these clothes into new designs. Her Saks window featured a recycled garment, a video showing the upcycling process and cages filled with clothes ready for recycling. Thanks Eileen, for thinking responsibility about a circular fashion cycle and less about sell, sell, sell.
The newest (and youngest designer) brand to get a Saks window is Canadian-born designer Tanya Taylor. After having studied finance at McGill University, taken a course at Central Saint Martins and then attended Parsons School of Design, Taylor launched her brand in 2012. In 2014, she became a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Her quirky fashion is a bit H & M-ish (without the low price tag).
The inclusion of Tanya Taylor, just begs the question…why are aren’t stores like Saks and other major retailers getting behind and supporting more American start-up designers?
Hundreds of American fashion designer entrepreneurs who graduate from fashion schools, or those who learn online at University of Fashion, could greatly benefit from the support that these high-profile windows provide. So…Saks (and other retailers)… if you are listening… and you really want to take on the role of promoting American design talent that Lord & Taylor started in 1932, then do your homework and start showcasing home grown talent who need it the most!
Let us know what you think. Should American retailers start a movement to promote more American fashion design start-ups?
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 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.
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 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’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 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 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, 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 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, 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!
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?