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 Does it still make sense for us as manufacturers and consumers to generalize and grade product using these outdated markers of quality that can be so easily manipulated?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.