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.”
So tell us, do you think Ralph Lauren is a true iconic American designer or just a genius at marketing? Let us know your thoughts.
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 Kennedy Onassis
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?
If you haven’t noticed, we’ve had technology on the mind—and on the blog—for the last few weeks. Showcasing what’s possible in fashion with advancing technology is one thing, but using advanced technology for the betterment of people and our environment is what most scientists and designers have on their minds as they find newer and better ways of redesigning the old. Read More
Imagine the cave man’s reaction going from animal skins to the advent of textiles. Around 5,000 BCE, textiles made from wool, cotton and silk fibers were being woven in Egypt, India and China. Those fibers and methods of weaving were the mainstay of the industry until the advent of man-made textiles like rayon in 1855, viscose 1894 and acetate in 1910. Then, along came the big disruptors…synthetic fibers. These included nylon (1931), polyester (circa 1941), modacrylic (1949) and acrylic (1950). Then there was a trend in creating fabric out of more sustainable fibers and materials such as bamboo, corn, pineapple and even plastic bottles and of course silver nanoparticles used used to impart antimicrobial properties to cotton fibers to aid in the healing of wounds.
Now… enter the 21st century and the latest version of textile disruption …technology. In our blog last week, we discussed the innovative possibilities of 3D and laser printing and the growing list designers who are embracing a futuristic approach to fashion. Let’s check out how technology is affecting and shaping the world of textiles.
This past spring, college researchers in Florida created a temperature-controlled color-changing fabric known as ChroMorphous. Consumers will now have the ability to change the color and pattern of their handbag or scarf, so that it matches their outfit…all possible with a tap of their smartphone.
Dr. Ayman Abouraddy, professor of optics and photonics at the College of Optics & Photonics at the University of Central Florida (CREOL), stated that the age of user-controlled color-changing fabric is here. “Our goal is to bring this technology to the market to make an impact on the textile industry,” he said.
So, how does ChroMorphous work? How can fabric change color and pattern? According to Dr. Abouraddy, “each woven thread is equipped with a micro-wire and a color-altering pigment. You can use your smartphone to change the color or pattern of the fabric on-demand, as the wire can alter the temperature of the fabric in a quick and uniform way. The change in temperature is barely noticeable by touch.”
Abouraddy and Josh Kaufman have been working on optical technology for over a decade at CREOL, but it has only been in the past couple of years that they have veered away from that work, to produce this new kind of fabric. “This is the culmination of our work,” said Kaufman. “We developed different fabrication techniques. This is our first foray in taking those optical fibers into fabric.”
In the past, color-changing fabrics contained light-emitting diodes, better known as LED’s, that release light in a variety of colors. But ChroMorphous’ technology enables innovative capabilities, in that consumers can control the color as well as the pattern in woven fabrics and cut-and-sewn products.
The threads are made from a synthetic polymer. Within each thread there is a thin metal micro-wire. Electric currents flow through these micro-wires, changing the thread temperature, slightly higher. But don’t worry they do not touch the customer’s skin. Embedded in the thread are special pigments that respond to the change in temperature by changing the thread’s color.
Just think of the infinite possibilities this advanced technology gives designers and consumers. ChroMorphous allows the user to control, both when the color change happens and what pattern they want to appear on the fabric. All this is possible with just a simple press of a button on your smart device.
“Can we expect an ever-expanding range of functionalities from our clothing? These were the questions we asked when creating the ChroMorphous technology that we began developing in 2016,” Abouraddy said. He claims that the technology is scalable at mass-production levels via a process known as fiber-spinning and is currently produced in Melbourne, Florida, with CREOL’s collaborators at Hills Inc. Founded in 1971, Hills Inc. is a well-known innovator in multi-component fiber extrusion technologies.
The CREOL team is working closely with Hills Inc. to minimize the diameter of the threads in order to produce fabrics for the wide-scale market. This innovative fabric can be used in everything from clothing and accessories to furniture and home decor.
So, I’m sure you want to know…how is the fabric charged and how can it be washed? Well, the fabric is powered by a rechargeable battery pack that is hidden inside the clothing. The texture of the fabric is like denim, and it can be washed and ironed.
Abouraddy stated that he expects mass production to begin within the next year. At the moment, the threads are too thick for clothing, but they will work with bags, scarves, and backpacks. “We would reduce the threads in the future to make it more comfortable for a shirt,” Abouraddy said. “It’s not just for things you would wear. It could be used for upholstery, wall decorations for a room … you could change it to darker and more soothing colors.”
This product is the result of a decade’s worth of research with the past year and a half focused on textiles. It may have taken centuries to get here but wow, the future of textiles has never been more exciting than it has been in just the past decade. Wonder what the future has in store?
So tell us, are you ready to embrace the future of technological textiles?
What if you were told to “think outside of the fabric store and a dress form” when creating a garment?
And we’re not talking “you’ve got one hour in the grocery store and a budget of $25 to create a red carpet look” Project Runway challenge.
If a trip to the fabric store was not an option, where would your creative mind go? Read More
Need an escape from a world filled with political unrest, nuclear threats and terrorism? Enter…haute couture. Yeah, we know covering fashion, especially the world of couture, may seem frivolous to many, but couture is about dreaming, escapism and fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to live right now in a world of beautiful handmade gowns while running through a garden in Paris or engaging in a leisurely walk along the Seine?
But the truth is, couture is so much more than fantasy. Costume and fashion history would not be the same without it and let’s face it… couture is the ultimate marketing machine!
We need only look back in time to a publication written between 1751 and 1772 by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert entitled Encyclopédie, ou dictionaire raisonné des sciences, des art et des métiers, to see how this pivotal tome gave instructions to the métiers (trades) in the art of dressmaking, forever placing this trade on equal footing with the arts and sciences of the time.
And of course we owe the ‘Father of Couture,’ Englishman Charles Frederick Worth (Paris circa 1856 ), the fashion genius who together with his wife as muse, transformed the world of dressmaking into ‘high fashion’. Over time, the House of Worth, along with other couturières (female) and couturiers (male) were able to take the craft to a whole other level by creating perfumes, shoes, millinery and diffusion lines. These spin-offs planted the seeds which would later become lifestyle branding with lots of marketing hype!
We know that these one-of-a kind haute creations come with a hefty price tag. On average, one couture gown can take over 800 hours to create and cost several hundred thousand dollars. Even couture daywear starts at around $10,000! It’s estimated that there are only approximately 2,000 couture clients, mostly from Russia, China, the United States and the Middle East, with fewer than 300 that buy regularly.
So, do the numbers. With only a handful of steady customers, you got it…haute couture is not a money maker. Couture houses spend millions of dollars twice a year, by selecting exquisite fabrics, hand-sewing each garment, employing top métiers for beading and embroideries and producing larger-than-life runway shows, using A list models, hair and make-up teams. The profits are negligible, amounting to less than ten per cent of gross profits for some houses, though most operate at a loss. However, their true value is in the selling of the house’s fragrance, make-up line and other less-expensive branded items like shoes and handbags.
So why do these houses still invest in their haute couture collections, other than pushing their ancillary products? They are selling a dream. Fashion shows attract huge media attention and gain enormous publicity for the couture houses. Think about how many actresses wear couture on the red carpet. These designers are selling a dream of chic cachet, beauty, desirability and exclusiveness, that the ordinary person can ‘buy into.’
Here are some highlights of the Haute Couture Fall 2018 Season:
Pierpaolo Piccioli has been on a role and his Valentino Couture show closed out Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris with rave reviews. This season Piccioli offered a brilliant line-up of rich saturated hues and swaggering proportions. According to Vogue.com, Piccioli stated, “Couture involves a deeper and more intimate perspective, to go further into your own vision of beauty.” His vision was a perfect blend of Greek Mythology, 17th- and 18th-century painting, the films of Pasolini and the photographs of Deborah Turbeville, medieval armor, and Ziggy Stardust. Whew, that’s quite a line-up of inspiration, eh?
This translated into intricate embroidered capes, a multiple brocade evening dress adorned with rhinestones, sequins and pearls, a red sculpted jersey gown and a trio of featherweight taffeta dresses that wrapped around the body.
How does a house known for its use of fur adapt to the changing landscape of the anti-fur movement? After all, major fashion houses such as Gucci, Versace and Michael Kors have all announced they would go fur free and use only faux fur in their collections. Fendi on the other hand, made no such promise, but did abandon their Haute Fur Show in favor of a couture show.
Though Fendi did include some fur pieces, what they also did was produce something much more creative than fur and faux fur (which by the way is also a major earth pollutant). They ingeniously manipulated textiles in such a way as to resemble real fur; case in point, a coat created with fine strips of chiffon that were frayed and stitched together so closely that it could have been easily mistaken for an intarsia’d mink. While there were plenty of real fur looks in the line-up, it was refreshing for a house like Fendi show alternatives. And oh, what a great upcycling concept!
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Always known to break with tradition, Jean Paul Gaultier showed his haute couture collection on both male and female models as the versatility of the collection was genderless. With a strong emphasis on tailoring, his suits were oh so chic! Gaultier was able to take the iconic “Le Smoking” and update it for the 21st century.
John Galliano has now taken to podcasting and for Margiela couture he stated that this is collection is “the raw, raw, undiluted essence, the parfum of the house.” Following in the footsteps of his Artisanal collection for men, Galliano presented a highly innovative, high-concept collection exposing the craftsmanship of haute couture – literally – by revealing the exquisite stitching that goes into the construction of a hand-tailored jacket. The true genius of Galliano came through by layering garments between tubes of filmy nylon, thus creating what Vogue called “translucent fabric sandwiches.”
“We’re all nomads today,” added Galliano, “. . . we do move in tribes.” Galliano calls it “nomadic glamour.” Reminds us a bit of Yeohlee and her “Urban Nomads” collection, only this time, on steroids!
Ahhhh, and then there was Armani. Known for his master tailoring and Red Carpet artistry, the fall Armani Privé collection didn’t disappoint. Armani’s press notes noted “A sculptural, almost regal style.” The first half of the show (there were almost 100 looks in all), was a sea of black and champagne-colored pantsuits and evening looks, all that captured the chic essence of Armani beautifully. However, in an attempt to keep up with the times, half-way through the show Armani switched gears and sent out electric hues in everything from an ostrich feather cape to a hot pink and turquoise pantsuit that was a complete disconnect to the first half of the show. Go Armani!
We fashionistas can always count on Karl Lagerfeld to create a wonderful backdrop for his Chanel collection. And for this collection he did not disappoint by sending his models for stroll along the Seine with its wide sidewalks and low stone walls framing the magnificent Institut de France, built by Louis le Vau for Cardinal Mazarin in the 1660s (and where the Academie Française is housed). Perhaps with age, Lagerfeld is feeling a bit reflective about his first days in Paris as an 18-year old. In an interview with Vogue before the show, Lagerfeld remembered a city still suffering from postwar neglect, with dirty streets and dark, unrestored buildings. “People said to my parents, ‘but he can get lost,’” he added. “My mother knew better: I had a strong survivor instinct!”
The collection was filled with the House’s signature tweeds all in shades of grey. There were plenty of long skirts that unzipped to reveal sexy miniskirts adorned with magnificent embroideries. Lagerfeld also showed a silver foil ball gown skirt, a bevy of chic jackets and plenty of transparent chiffon pleated eveningwear.
After years of over the top glamour and in your face sex appeal at Dior, at the hands of Raf Simons and John Galliano, the tide seems to be turning toward a more minimalistic approach to fashion. At the forefront of this evolutionary change is Maria Grazia Chiuri. Her couture 2018 collection involved some feminist research. She read up on Leonor Fini, one of the avant-garde artists Christian Dior chose to exhibit in the gallery he was involved with before becoming a couturier. The results were beautiful, somber, sculpted and pleated pieces that were way more complex than what met the eye. These were serious clothes. Only a seasoned designer like Chiuri knows how to design clothes, utilizing the talents of finest ‘hands’ in the business, that will attract the most discerning couture clients. Chiuri showed cashmere suits, simple strapless gowns that grazed the ankle, effortless pleated dresses and demure eveningwear. This collection is timeless and elegant yet modern and refreshing. A hit!
For the past 50 years, the name Sonia Rykiel has been associated with fun, lighthearted knitwear. This season, designer Julie de Libran presented the first Sonia Rykiel couture collection. And, staying true to the Rykiel code, presented a collection with the same joie de vivre that the house’s founder was known for.
Gone from this collection were the traditional evening gowns that epitomize the world of couture. Instead, de Libran presented a youthful and edgy line-up. Looks ranged from a striped hand-beaded off the shoulder Marinière sweater to a black sweater dress with a trompe l’oeil bikini embroidery and a bridal corset look with front-lacing, a feathered knit veil and blue jeans. Surely de Libran is a couture disruptor but is this collection really worthy of being called couture?
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Always a fashion renegade, Iris van Herpen decided to show her couture collection at the Galerie de Minérologie et de Géologie, a fitting choice, since the name of this collection was “Ludi Naturae,” translated from Latin, “nature play.”
However, Van Herpen’s idea of nature flirts with synthetic biology through her iconic laser-cutting techniques and 3-D printed illusion fabric innovations, which she has taken to new heights and labels it “syntopia.” To quote van Herpen: “I think we as humans don’t even come close to the intelligence within nature. It’s funny how people think that nature is simple and technology is complex—it’s the opposite; technology is simple and nature is complex.”
Known for her artist collaborations, this time it was Amsterdam-based artist duo Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of Studio Drift who created the backdrop her runway ‘science fantasy. She also partnered with Dutch sculptor Peter Gentenaar who is known for capturing ‘organic memory’ and motion through his delicate, large-scale cellulose sculptures, and together they created a show that was ‘other-worldly.’
Considered fashion’s ‘futurist-in-residence,’ couture season would be incomplete without Iris van Herpen and her vision.
DO YOU THINK THE SONIA RYKIEL COLLECTION MERITS COUTURE STATUS? IF SO, WHY?
Stop for a moment and imagine—what if the wrap dress didn’t exist?
You know the one.
The looks-good-on-every-body-shape, waist-slimming, made-in-every-color-and-pattern, made-popular-the-world-over-by-Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress, also known as a staple in the vast majority of American women’s closets. The wrap dress has even earned it’s own Wikipedia page due to its longevity and popularity. Read More
The whirlwind of Men’s fashion week is coming to a close as its last stretch will be in New York, but there were plenty of dramatic moments.
Virgil Abloh presented his first collection for Louis Vuitton
Virgil Abloh is an American designer, D.J. and stylist who gained recognition as Kanye West’s creative director. Today he is the designer behind the cult label Off-White and has become the newly minted creative director of Louis Vuitton Menswear collection. This is a major moment for Abloh. Not only is he the artistic director of men’s to one of the most powerful houses in history, but he is also the first African-American designer ever appointed as the artistic director to a heritage brand.
This was the most anticipated show of the season and his front row was a star-studded event with everyone from Kanye West to Rihanna supporting the young designer. Once his first look exited, the world new Abloh was the perfect fit for the job and elevated streetwear to the highest level of lux.
According to Vogue.com, Abloh was inspired by “the idea of white light hitting a prism, and dividing into its component colors,” which translated into an assortment of tailored white suits, most noteworthy was the double breasted blazer paired with pleated trousers. Then Abloh moved to bright, bold colors and plenty of 90’s Helmut Lang references. There were harnesses and a finale with lots of “Wizard of Oz” inspired prints. This collection was truly a magical, over the rainbow moment for Abloh and the giant hug he received from Kanye at the end was a testament to what a milestone moment this was for African-American designers.
Kim Jones makes his debut at Dior Homme
Another menswear designer debut was British designer Kim Jones at Dior Homme. Jones, the former menswear artistic director for Vuitton since 2011, pre-Abloh, helped revitalize the house for a younger generation. His show was also one of the most anticipated of the season with a front row filled with celebrities ranging from Kate Moss to Victoria Beckham. For his Dior Homme collection, Jones announced that is was time for couture values to be imported into menswear, and dubbed his collection “romantic, rather than feminine,” according to Vogue.com. He opened his show in ‘royal fashion’ with Prince Nikolai of Denmark wearing a classic shirting-stripe, turned inside out, and paired the look with sneakers. Looking to the past with a futuristic eye, Jones recreated many prints that referenced the late Monsieur Dior. For example: beautiful jackets with tiny feathered flower motifs made to replicate the pattern on Dior porcelain dinner plates, toile prints that imitated the walls on the Dior Boutique in 1947 and the bee motif Dior used in 1955. Jones even gave a shout out to John Galliano with his inclusion of tiny saddle bags. Among the sea of toile prints and florals, there were beautifully tailored suits, effortless trousers and terrific outerwear. Jones mastered the balance between fashion fantasy and commercial hits.
John Galliano, known for his Vionnet -inspired bias cut gowns (among other things) brought couture references to his Maison Margiela collection that he called ‘Artisanal’ menswear. An absolute first for menswear! In a category where tailoring is the usual mainstay, Galliano told Vogue.com, “It’s the highest form of dressmaking, but for men . . . I hope it’s going to define a new sensuality, a new sexuality.” In a podcast released to the press, Galliano explained why he decided to elevate his men’s collection to couture level. Part of it was an epiphany about the shifting codes of formalwear that he had seen at the Met Gala. “Seeing the youth present, and their interpretation of black-tie . . . a seismic change from the last time,” he said. Another part of the decision stemmed from his daily dialogues with interns at the Maison Margiela studio. But possibly the biggest reason was, he was just raring to exercise his dressmaking skills and bring imagination to menswear.
Galliano’s mixed British bespoke tailoring and couture techniques and the end result was a sexy and glamourous menswear collection. There were plenty of iconic Galliano moments, such as his use of corsetry as well as flamenco and bullfighting references from his Gibraltar roots.
Raf Simons left New York for Paris
After presenting three collections during New York Fashion Week, Raf Simons decided to return to where it all started for him as a designer, Paris, to show his menswear collection.
After many years of streetwear-inspired looks ruling the menswear runway (think Supreme, Off White, Kim Jones for Vuitton, etc.) and with every fashion-forward boy and girl owning a plethora of designer hoodies and sneakers, Raf Simons is looking to change that. The cult favorite menswear designer showed a highly energized collection of tailored looks with New Wave club references. His collection was a consistent parade of beautifully tailored jackets and coats, mostly in satin, all in bold colors. It was New Wave at its best with references to Stephen Sprouse and elevated glamour that he was responsible for bringing to New York downtown 80s club scene. Simons was quoted as saying: “There are all these references to punk, like safety pins and studs and black leather, but I was thinking of how to do them in a way that was not that—so you don’t recognize them.” That’s where it got interesting. There were glimpses of tiny knots of diamanté jewelry and silver D-rings embedded here and there, suggestive of piercings and fetish. And, wittily, a twisted translation of plastic six-pack holders, made into a version of a punk string vest. “Like when kids hang out, carrying their beers,” as Simons put it. “But also, like Paco Rabanne.”
Saint Laurent takes on New York
Italian-Belgian fashion designer Anthony Vaccarello took us back to 1978 for his spring Saint Laurent collection. How inspiration was a party Yves Saint Laurent hosted to launch his Opium fragrance, which was held on a ship docked at New York’s South Street Seaport and featured a giant bronze Buddha with thousands of orchids flown in from Hawaii. Forty years later, Vaccarello hosted an equally impressive, ultra-modernized version of that event across the Hudson at New Jersey’s Liberty State Park.
Vaccarello said he wanted to represent “the idea of New York, the idea of the icons of New York, in the ’70s.” Parts of that were Studio 54 in verve: a diamanté shirt placket and a double-breasted blazer with a gold-trimmed peak lapel. But more so, it was the New York’s dive-ier Max’s Kansas City that sprung to mind— the sort of dirty glamour that has proven itself an immortal style, with distressed denim hoodies, patchworked boots, and show-stealing high-waisted, boot-cut trousers with just a slightly amplified flare at the kick. Vaccarello noted that these were new.
The highlight of the spectacle was the finale, when every model made their final walk in silver disco ball body paint – the moment was pure Studio 54 glamour.