December 16, 2010

Some Thoughts on a Career in Fashion

When you're 22, work is all about passion. Money is irrelevant -- more than that, it's vulgar. Be creatively fulfilled or bust! When you're 29 turning 30, however, living in Manhattan on a fashion magazine writer's salary goes from romantic to irresponsible to untenable pretty quickly.
Read the full post here. Johanna Cox was the winner of the reality TV show Stylista, and worked at Elle for almost two years.

Food for thought, indeed.

November 17, 2010

Alexis Bittar Spring 2011

Love love love, as usual! [Photos by me.]
A great monochromatic necklace and choker combination.

Camel Crush

View the full story at Front Row Mag. Shot by James Kachan.

November 12, 2010

The State of Fashion

"Young designers are now the focus of a New York City initiative to provide mentors and new retail concepts. Others are trying to save the garment district, where many factories have closed or laid off workers and raised prices. Fabric costs are up, especially for cotton, and just about everyone who deals with manufacturing in China knows you can’t get a minimum of anything: 1,000 blouses maybe, but not 100. Department stores threaten to cancel orders if a delivery is late. Meanwhile fast-fashion companies reap the rewards of being nimble and democratic while grabbing the ideas of others. Prestige labels hold on to their heritage. And consumers wonder: Where’s your app?" - Cathy Horyn
Again, why she's my favorite fashion scribe. Full story here.

October 31, 2010

Fashion In Real Life


With all of the talk about the influence of the Internet and technology on fashion consumption and media over the last decade, it's still amazing to me that sometimes we can still be surprised by our other senses. Sometimes, looking at a garment in real life is the only way to really understand the quality level, construction methods involved, and the designer's genius. As convenient as looking at a photo on Style.com can be, or fun to see a look on the runway, there's nothing quite like the process of actually touching a garment, turning it inside out, and trying it on (either yourself or on a model)!

I had seen the photos of Christopher Kane's Spring 2011 collection online more than once, and heard all the raves from editors and critics about his use of bold colors and sharp silhouettes. But I didn't fall in love with the pieces until I had the chance to look at a skirt on a photo shoot last week and realized that the neon leather was actually LASERCUT and that the negative space was where the leather had been cut away. I had assumed that the neon pattern had been screen printed onto a dark background, and was quite impressed with the level of workmanship in person.

Now, how to save up for one of these beauties...

October 17, 2010

Spring Summer 2011 Accessories

Some of my favorite accessories for Spring. Can't wait! All things I would actually purchase and wear...

Alexander Wang cutout booties
 Brian Atwood flats
 Christian Louboutin tie dye leather bag
 Kate Spade leather bag

3.1 Phillip Lim platforms
Tommy Hilfiger colorblock heels

October 15, 2010

No More Bargains??


The outlet concept took off in the 1970s, when VF (VFC), the world's biggest apparel maker, began letting shoppers rummage through cardboard boxes of its excess hosiery at its mills, says Linda Humphers, editor-in-chief of Value Retail News. About the same time, Nordstrom opened the first Rack in the basement of its Seattle flagship store to get rid of its leftover shoes. Outlet malls proliferated in the early 1990s. By 2008, the U.S. had almost 13,000 stores in outlet centers, and everyone from Anne Klein (JNY) to Kenneth Cole (KCP) to Elie Tahari had hopped on the trend.
This past week, I bought an amazing silk jacket (albeit missing a few buttons, which I will have to get replaced) from Oscar de la Renta for about 94% off of the manufacturer's suggested retail price. I found this bargain at a Neiman Marcus Last Call store in Austin, TX. These kinds of deals, however, will become increasingly rare, according to an article I just read today from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Entitled "Why Luxury Goods Are Scarce at Outlet Malls," the article examines in brief the conundrum facing discount retailers today - how to fill stores with discounted products worth buying when there are so many "off-price" retailers and retail outlets (including websites such as Bluefly and Gilt) to compete for the same remainders, luxury stores are cutting back on stock in general, and many outlet stores have cheaper merchandise specifically made for them instead of selling the same quality and designs that are offered at regular retail.
Not long ago, the upscale outlet was a secret weapon for fashionistas seeking leftover Dolce & Gabbana dresses at 75 percent off. Over 30 years ago, almost all the clothes at upscale outlets came from the main locations of tony retailers like Nordstrom (JWN). Now as little as 10 percent is made up of designer goods actually sold at upscale retail stores...At Saks' Off 5th stores, 10 percent to 20 percent of the merchandise is clearance from Saks' full-priced stores, about 20 percent is Off 5th store-label goods, and most of the rest is made for the chain by vendors, says spokeswoman Julia Bentley.
Takes away a bit of the magic, doesn't it? Knowing that 80 or 90% of the merchandise at these stores weren't actually marked down so much as just priced a little lower than the "suggested" retail price. Then what will happen to our outlet malls, discount stores, and sample sales? How will the American consumer face the new retail landscape....

All I know is that I'm not returning that Oscar jacket!

September 22, 2010

Helmut Lang Accessories

How incredible are these leather goods? I need the brown ones!

Photos from Vogue.com.

 

September 12, 2010

National Affairs

Over the years, Italy learned the difficult lesson that it could no longer compete with China on price. And so, its business class dreamed, Italy would sell quality, not quantity. [...] And then, China came here [to Prato]. Chinese laborers, first a few immigrants, then tens of thousands, began settling in Prato in the late 1980s. They transformed the textile hub into a low-end garment manufacturing capital — enriching many, stoking resentment and prompting recent crackdowns that in turn have brought cries of bigotry and hypocrisy.
Thanks to a fashion production course offered at Ryerson University a few years ago, I've been quite aware of the way fashion merchandise is labeled - and the subtle difference of seeing something that is "Made in France" versus (for example) "Materials Made in France" or "Assembled in France." The labeling of country of manufacture and origin is important for tax and import / export purposes as goods move around the world, but in the last few decades this information has also helped to guide consumers -for better or for worse- to determine the relative quality of their purchase. The assumption of course is that labor and materials are better in European countries with a long and storied history of fashion production, such as Italy and France, compared to goods manufactured in countries such as India and China.
 This New York Times article brings up a new issue that I had never considered or heard about, however. Besides the issues of illegal labourers and dodgy business practices that the article touches on, what intrigues me is the question of what happens to country of origin in the age of globalisation and an increasingly nomadic work force? Does it still make sense for us as manufacturers and consumers to generalize and grade product using these outdated markers of quality that can be so easily manipulated?

September 4, 2010

Asian Designers in America

I was interviewing an old boss last week in Toronto, a well-known Filipino-Canadian designer who's been around for over a decade, and in our conversation we talked a little about the prevalence of  Asian-American fashion designers today compared to when he started designing. This hasn't been a phenomenon so much in Canada, but were were both astounded and proud to see so many Asian designers succeeding in a real way, and having a presence in the media.

In today's New York Times, there is a story about this very trend, entitled "Asian-Americans Climb Fashion Ladder." It's an interesting read, although perhaps in retrospect a little too similar to this WSJ article on the same topic from 2009.

[There is] an important demographic shift on Seventh Avenue. At the Fashion Week that begins here on Thursday, many of the most promising new designers are of Asian descent...names that are increasingly likely to represent the future of fashion. [...] The rise of Asian designers in America has actually come in several smaller waves, including one that marked the emergence of Anna Sui and Vera Wang in the 1980s. In the last few years, however, as a new generation of designers has asserted itself in New York, Asian-Americans have been at the forefront. In 1995, there were only about 10 Asian-American members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Today there are at least 35. 

Eric Wilson writes that there are two possible explanations for this shift:

First:

Major design schools around the world have seen an influx of Asian-American and Asian-born students since the 1990s, partly through their own recruitment efforts in countries with rapidly developing fashion industries, like South Korea and Japan, and partly because of changing attitudes in those countries about fashion careers.

And secondly:
This has happened largely for the same reason that the New York fashion industry, through the ’80s, was populated most visibly by designers of Jewish heritage, like Calvin Klein, Ms. Karan, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Mr. Kors. Throughout the 20th century, generations of Jewish immigrants had created a thriving garment district in New York, first as laborers, then as factory owners, manufacturers, retailers and, eventually, as designers. Many of today’s Asian-American designers say they experienced a similar evolution from the factory to the catwalk, since some of their parents and grandparents were once involved in the production of clothes. 

These are both compelling agreements, but regardless of the reasons and rationales, having worked with numerous Korean and Chinese owned (and staffed) factories in downtown Toronto and midtown New York, and studied fashion design alongside a plethora of Asian students (born in North American and abroad) at Ryerson University, it's exciting to see that the face of the industry at large is starting to reflect the ethnic makeup of the behind the scenes population in some small way! Now if only there were more females in the mix...

September 2, 2010

Sally Singer on Fashion

People think that if they buy classics -- a trench coat, or a V-neck sweater or a great pair of flat boots -- they're safe because they've invested in things that are gonna last 20 years. But within six months, it's the wrong V-neck or the wrong flat boot, because suddenly the line is wrong. Fashion people are stimulated by proportion shifting -- getting taller, getting thinner. Hemlines go up, hemlines go down. Shoes get wacky, shoes get clunky, shoes get skinny. The fastest things to date are those classics, cause it's just proportions laid bare. There's nothing else going on. If you had invested in a feathered chubby or an incredible crinoline, it's never going to go out of style. I think the most eccentric things are the things that last the longest.
A very interesting interview with Sally Singer, Editor of T Magazine, from Paper magazine.

Read the rest.

August 24, 2010

Now and Then

[Nina Garcia's book is the] latest example of how Ms. Garcia is building her own brand by stretching the parameters of what a fashion editor is.
It’s a complicated time for the grandes dames atop the mastheads of fashion magazines. They face an advertising base shaken by a lingering recession, and the rise of bloggers and Web-savvy fashionistas...who are eating away at the once-uncontested influence of magazine editors to shape trends.  
“The fashion editor as it used to be has changed,” Ms. Garcia said, over lunch in the cafeteria at the Hearst Tower on West 57th Street, where Marie Claire is published. [...] “Now you have to wear many hats, and whoever tells you differently is wrong. Now you’re on TV, whether you want it or not.” 
An interesting if not very analytical look from the New York Times at Nina Garcia's career up close and also the role of fashion editors in today's media landscape. 

Editors as brands are an area of interest to me, because it's a fairly recent phenomenon (at least away from the top of the masthead) and one which is both very logical and yet impractical, in my opinion. On the one hand, it's amazing publicity and critically important for the media outlet to have photogenic, telegenic, articulate brand ambassadors out and about, taking over responsibilities beyond market work, writing, styling, and editing. On the other hand, the irony and reality is that all those TV segments, reality show episodes, reader events and additional pr-generating activities are extremely time-consuming, which may in some cases take time away from the initial editing workload.

The bottom line, though, is that these branding activities create added value for the employer, while empowering editors to become highly visible and individual entities for readers, and therefore much more difficult to replace. We imagine these shifts are here to stay.

Dear readers, how many mastheads have you memorized? Can you match the junior market editors to their Sartorialist snaps?

August 22, 2010

In Bloom

I'm loving this editorial from the September issue of Numero!! Makes me want to reenact the whole thing next spring at the Cherry Blossom festival in Brooklyn...just kidding!!


Source

PS. What my normal cherry blossom photos look like!

August 19, 2010

Fashion GPS Takes Over the World

As they move to Lincoln Center, the runway shows, which will take place from Sept. 9 to Sept. 16, are turning the invitation and check-in process over to a computer system. Instead of creating lavishly designed paper invitations, many fashion houses will send email invitations and bar-coded confirmations. If all goes according to plan, guests won't have to swarm around clipboard-wielding assistants but will line up at airport-style kiosks to receive their seating assignments.
The new technology is designed to make admitting guests faster and more orderly—and possibly more resistant to gate-crashers. But with thousands of fashionistas using the system for the first time, it also may introduce more confusion, as well as the possibility of computer glitches delaying guests.
I'm really interested to see how this experiment at New York Fashion Week will pan out. No more gate grashers? Or chaos?

I've always liked getting the hard invitations, but carrying them around was always a pain. Fashion GPS revolutionized the way that samples and also rsvp'ing for events has happened in the past few years, and this may be another point of no return for the industry. Stay tuned!

Source: WSJ

August 15, 2010

Shop Til You Drop

This week, for work, I literally had to spend days (I know, poor me) and days shopping. Online, in department stores, and at boutiques throughout New York City. There were firm guidelines of what to look out for, but almost no budget...and the most interesting thing about the entire exercise was it allowed me to get a glimpse into how differently the wealthy shop compared to the way that I (and most of my friends) do. While these perks might seem common to you, dear reader, they are not part of my normal shopping experience.

Instead of messy sale racks and long queues for crowded sample sales, there are private dressing rooms, cool glasses of ice water served with a slice of lime on a silver tray, and a tailor and multiple sales staff attending to your every need. Sizes not on the floor are procured instantly, whether from the stock room or shipped overnight from the Chicago boutique. At select designer boutiques, regulars can be heard requesting that their favorite items be made in alternative fabrics, colors, patterns.

Besides being exceedingly pleasant, the experience made me really wonder about the rise of e-commerce within the luxury sector. Finally, I understand first-hand the hesitation that so many designers and fashion houses had (and that some still hold) about selling their wares online. As lovely as sites like Net-A-Porter and Barneys.com are, for the most dedicated clientele the experience can't exactly compare to the attention and assistance they are given when they stop by their favorite boutique. No matter how pretty the shipping box may be.

August 8, 2010

Dream a Little Dream of Me

One of the most interesting look books I've seen in a while, from Them Atelier. Who cares if you can't see the clothes when the models look so dreamy?
More and source.

August 6, 2010

Consumer Reports

I just finished reading the cover story on a recent issue of Bloomberg Business week, entitled "The New Abnormal: American Consumers are Cutting Back. Except When They Are Not."

Basically the article attempts to discuss and gauge the current mood of the great American consumer, to see if how it influences spending patterns and the overall economic health of the consumer goods industry. It questions, but doesn't manage to explain, the seemingly contradictory signs currently coming out of patterns of consumption. Specifically, why is revenue for "luxury" or discretionary brands such as Apple or Starbucks on the rise when shoppers are financially insecure enough to be clipping coupons and switching to store brand toothpaste en masse.

The answer (and I'm sure you know this already, perhaps from personal experience) is simply that humans are not rational creatures, and we make "deals" with ourselves that are more emotional than factual, and have become accustomed to the idea of consumption as a "treat" and reward against the monotony of daily life. Which explains, exactly, why I might have bought a very expensive pair of leopard-print Louboutin boots at the same time that I canceled our household Netflix account (which costs less than $10 a month).

How has your spending patterns changed (if at all) during this recession?

August 4, 2010

Smile Like You Mean It

I had the chance to work with Lindsey last week, and she was so sweet and adorable. I love this story that she was featured in for the Spring issue of Pop - styled by Vanessa Reid and shot by Paul Graham. I usually love more broody, romantic images...but there is something so refreshing about enthusiasm and joy. Love her!



Source (and to see the rest of the images).

July 28, 2010

Vacation time!

Sorry for the lack of posts! I've been working and vacationing in SoCal and will be headed to Vermont for more holidays shortly. More posts and musings to come!

July 26, 2010

Object Lesson

My new obsession for Fall is this lovely Louis Vuitton reworked Speedy bag. Need. It. Now.

July 12, 2010

Culture of Couture

What’s not in doubt is that haute couture – the term translates as “high sewing” – is a spectacular anachronism. Colossal in its costs, tiny in its clientele and questionable in its influence, it still remains one of the great themes of Parisian life. [...] At this stratospheric peak of the rag trade, many designers never even meet the women who buy their clothes. Some are known only by numbered codes, do their buying through intermediaries and settle their bills from Swiss bank accounts.

To qualify as couture, a garment must be entirely hand-made by one of the 11 Paris couture houses registered to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Each house must employ at least 20 people, and show a minimum of 75 new designs a year. So far, so stirringly traditional, but the Big Four operators – Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and Gaultier – increasingly use couture as a marketing device for their far more profitable ready-to-wear, fragrance and accessory lines.
Quotes from a good primer from London's Telegraph newspaper on the issues surrounding the couture segment of the fashion industry today.

Personally, while I love Chanel I can't understand why someone would buy something minimalist like this black dress from their haute couture collection rather than something similar that is RTW. And perhaps that should be part of the conversation about couture - whether couture garments have the responsibility to be more extravagant. fashion-forward, and fantastically detailed if they are meant to inspire sales of other (relatively inexpensive) products, or if it is just the conditions of production and exclusivity of sale that defines the genre.

July 2, 2010

Retail Identity

I've been doing a lot of shopping for work and photo shoots and ad jobs and just for fun lately, and what I find is interesting is the special magnetic pull when a store's aesthetic and projected customer is...you! Haven't you noticed how there is a huge difference between walking into a store you don't necessarily identify with (for me, Banana Republic or J. Crew) and loving individual pieces...and then going somewhere where they have you pegged spot on (Oak in New York for me) and everything would be just perfect for your life and you need to have it right away. So dangerous!

Some of my favorite things from Oak's annual 304050 sale, happening right now.

June 23, 2010

The Hermes Scarf

Over at Searching for Style, there is a great read about the process behind the making of an Hermes scarf, ultimately becoming a discussion about what luxury is and an explanation for the pricing behind an item that may at first seem extravagant.
These are the kinds of behind-the-scenes glimpses into the business of fashion that I'm always interested in, and the sort of thing I tried to go into (albeit more briefly) when I wrote posts over at my old work that were also called Fashion 101.

June 21, 2010

In Bloom: Stella Resort

Everyone's been talking and talking about how many presentations and full-on collections there have been this season for Resort, which is normally a lot more low key.

Personally, I'm too obsessed with these amazing Stella McCartney prints to worry about the cultural and logistical significance of adding another entire season to the formal fashion cycle right now.

June 13, 2010

Book Club: Priceless

Sometimes, I feel that I need to work on learning more about the history of fashion design (it's been a few years since we did that primer course) and also become one of those people who can recognize an item from the Chanel 1986 Spring Summer collection just like that.

But maybe that's just not the kind of fashionista I am meant to be!

This week, I've been working through William Poundstone's book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (And How to Take Advantage of It), and trying to see the ways in which his findings and research apply to my fashion practice as a stylist, consumer of manufactured goods, and sometimes editor.

Some very interesting claims so far (I'm just a third of the way through the book):

1. In practice, we understand prices really in terms of the product's "relativity" to it's previous price (or what we think it should be priced at), and the prices of competitors rather than what a certain dollar amount is "worth" or "means." Which certainly explains why we feel like a discounted $500 pair of shoes can be a "bargain" even though  we may not have paid $300 for the same pair at retail "on principle."

2. After a certain point price stops being an objective marker of value to the buyer - for example, a $1000 watch would not bring you 100 times more happiness (or tell time that much better) than a $10 watch, but regardless you might want to buy the much more expensive timepiece...

I'm just now trying to figure out what these findings mean for my personal shopping habits...

June 8, 2010

Location, Location, Location

How amazing is this Tatler Hong Kong May 2010 photoshoot styled by Holly Suan Gray and shot by Baldovino Barani? Lovely and amazing! (see the rest here)