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As a nearly 20 year Fashion Industry Vet, I've made TheFE my place to cover and discuss everything fashionable from books, to designer ready-to-wear to couture. All aspects of a fashionable lifestyle are included. BIG NEWS: I'VE MOVED TheFE TO WORDPRESS to take advantage of their superior publishing platform. See you there!!


Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Monique Lhuillier s/s2011 Collection

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As I sat looking at one of the best collections of this NYFW, I found it hard to believe that Monique Lhuillier started out as a bridal designer. I saw my first Monique Lhuillier collection, over three years ago, on a wet NY Bridal Week, somewhere downtown, on the lower West Side, probably Eyebeam Studio. Listening to the retailers in the row in front of me, I suspected that what I’d see was more RTW that straight-on bridal. The gowns that came out were like something out of a little girl’s fairy tale dream crossed with a knock-out Red Carpet gown. No veils, no extra bling, just beautifully constructed gowns that were flattering and romantic, all at once.
This September, at the RTW shows,
the white jersey dress Monique showed was drop dead gorgeous and fit for a modern day Grecian goddess.

Many designers reference + aspire to create a “goddess gown” [and there’s one on just about every line sheet], but most often fall short of the mark.
While Monique’s gowns are certainly Red Carpet material, she also designs gorgeous cocktail dresses that have just enough of a vintage reference. There were fifties floral A-line chiffon dresses
and a beautiful cream wool tailleur (suit)
with decorative paillettes. Other confections to wear for cocktails included dresses with delicate lace overlay and feather detailing that somehow never looked over the top. When you wear one of these dresses, do as hairstylist Rudi Lewis of Bumble and Bumble did, and go with a classic ballerina chignon, and accessorize as stylist Tina Laakonen did for the show. Tina, one of my favorite editorial stylists from across the pond, and a longtime British Vogue staffer, wisely kept the accessories to a bare minimum. There were gold sandals by Bruno Frisoni and diamond earrings by Fred Leighton. The green silk
shantung trumpet gown accessorized with Fred Leighton, [of course], screams, "Wear me to the Red Carpet!". The only question is, which lucky star will be wearing it to the Oscars?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Douglas Hannant s/s2011: Fashion V Clothes - Post #3

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Backstage is really where it’s at, where the insiders are. I’ve been faithfully attending Douglas Hannant’s well put-together RTW and bridal collection shows for the past three years now, and have come to respect this compact, reserved man. My first real look at his work was at long-ago resort collection I saw up in his Seventh Avenue Showroom, when I was writing resort trends up for The Fashion Calendar’s newsletter, “The International”. I was supposed to write up three to five designers, but the collection of refined trousers, structured tops and pretty cocktail dresses impressed me so much that I wrote only about Douglas Hannant that time. It was “only resort”, but it was a modern version of resort, which is no longer about just a few easy silk and linen pieces one takes for a mid-winter Caribbean get-away.
His Sales Director took the appointment, and was cautious in disclosing client names. When I pressed-on, I learned that Joan Lunden, longtime host for Good Morning America, was a client, as so were quite a few regulars in W’s “Eye Scoop” Page. Unlike most designers, Mr. Hannant does not unashamedly slaver and run after any and all celebrities, and beg them to wear his designs on the Red Carpet. That’s a Middle Man style ploy anyhow as the point of all that hoopla is that wealthy women will then go and order the dress, and the house will hopefully make a profit that season. Nor does he advertise heavily in the glossies or show in the Tents. Instead, he takes the show to his client and shows at the Plaza, on their stomping grounds.

This approach flies in the face of the current PR model described above, and put Mr. Hannant on the list of designers I wanted to talk about in my ongoing “Fashion V. Clothing” conversation.
My next Hannant experience was a few years later, at the sumptuous apartment of one of his clients when he debuted his Bridal Collection; I resolved to follow his Ready-to-Wear from then on. For the most part, I’ve been impressed at how on-track he stays, with only a few questionable deviations, such as his “Basquiat Collection”, which he remedied with his on-point “Palm Springs” Resort Show.

Over the years I watched him, I realized that Mr. Hannant speaks directly to the source, “his girl”. He has a good instinct for what he likes and he goes after her, and seeks to impress her with fashion that is beautiful and flattering. And guess what? It works; they buy the clothes sans the fanfare. There is now a D.H. boutique in the Plaza Shops that shows the full breath of his work: the RTW, the bridal, and the accessories.
Prior to this season, though, I hadn’t really talked to him, and had a conversation with him on what his priorities are when he designs a collection. Obviously, he has them straight, as he is one of the darlings of a jet set crowd that includes socialites
Cece Kord and Jamee Gregory.
Usually, it’s his partner, the charismatic Frederick Anderson, President at Anderson Douglas Inc., who steps-up and takes questions, especially the rather hard-nosed ones I like to ask regarding market share, customer loyalty and brand building.
This season, though, Douglas was on hand backstage, and gave me his take on the Fashion V. Clothing question. [Watch the video of the interview.] That day, Douglas Hannant looked relaxed, as designers do when they know they have produced and are about to show a good collection. The inspiration for s/s2011 resort was “candy”. If I hadn’t read the New York Magazine Preview, I would have gotten the point regardless, when I looked in the shiny goodie bag on my little gilt bamboo backed chair filled with rolls of pastel colored candies. The Smarties
were a nice touch; they matched the dresses that came down runway moments later.
Said, Douglas, dapper in his uniform of dark jeans, shirt [no tie] and navy blazer,

“My good friend and mentor, Geoffrey Beene, taught me to make clothes meant to be worn by the real women I design for. I'm not designing for the editors and magazines. This [gesturing to the goings-on backstage] is not a carnival for me.”

This remark prompted my query about the infamous “My Little Pony Collection”,
which refers to designer Steven Slowik’s first and only show for the house of Bill Blass, in which he showed clothes that were sparkly and unstructured. The finale dress had a cartoonish rainbow ribbon splashed across one side that looked like the pre-school toy.
Mr. Slowik’s collection did not remotely look like anything Mr. Blass’s “girls” would ever wear, and served as a cautionary tale for fashion designers that they need to remember just whom exactly they are designing for; a lesson that Mr. Hannant obviously learned well.

From the looks of what we saw backstage, Douglas was all-in for this collection. There were candy gloss pink sandals, meringue light ball gowns with tulle overlay in yummy sorbet colors.

There was a beautiful silk shorts

and blouse outfit, and a short cream dress with rainbow paillettes for day and lots of big bows, like the sort one unwraps with delight on an expensive box of candy. For evening, there was a pink and green strapless and a lemon cello yellow chiffon dress for evening.
The candy sorbet floral sandals and turquoise eye shadow popped the more sober hued outfits- of which there weren't many. The feeling of the collection was as delicious and frothy as a well-executed meringue.
Douglas is indeed the candy man for the uptown social set.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Costello Tagliapietra s/s2011 Collection

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In the crazed scramble that ensued this last NYFW, I was thrilled to have a contributor in town to cover the Costello Tagliapietra show for TheFE, while I was at the Ports1961 show, 40 blocks away, at Lincoln Center.

A former Vogue and Glamour Mag staffer, these days, Laura’s an agent for Fine Print Literary Agency. In retrospect, she was the ideal person to send to this show, as her schedule has her on the road with a small suitcase and garment bag, quite a bit these days. There’s not room for anything that won’t do double-duty and that can’t get her through a whole day. She, and so many other working women need beautifully draped, flattering dresses such as Costello Tagliapietra’s that pack well and make you look your absolute best with a minimum of fuss. In short, they have taken the angst factor of how to dress well for day without taking aeons to do it before you go off to a day packed with meetings. Comfy these dresses may be, they’re dressed enough to carry you straight into dinner. These hassle-free dresses are today’s answer to “How Should I dress for day?” for the modern workingwoman.

Said Laura, later that evening, when we met up at our room at the Cornell Club, “I’m in love with this sculpted charcoal top and slim midi skirt. It had a polished appearance, but could have been made out of sweat shirting; they looked so comfy. I could see walking into a room and people noticing I look great instead of the clothes wearing me.”
Comfort. That word usually evokes unfortunate images such as stretch waistbands, and sneakers traded in for heels to walk to the office in. True, women do want to be comfortable, but we want to look great doing it. Clothes such as these, fit the bill, not a pair of candy colored velour
Juicy Couture sweats, which I regrettably see all too often at the airport.
After scrolling through the archives, I realized that another reason I am a fan of this line, is that that Jeffrey and Robert are consistent. Consistency is key when one is building a brand. Another plus is that that you always count on soft colors that flatter just about any skintone.

That’s pretty much the remark the CFDA’s Lisa Smilor made last season, post-show. She’s right, season after season, Jeffrey and Robert show beautifully draped clothes
that hide any [God forbid!] belly bulge and flatter you in all the right places.

The seasonal tweaks relate more to the theme of the season, be it “Irving Penn” or “Punkster”, but strip-away the shoes, the makeup, and what you’ve got left are these same beautifully draped dresses that flatter a woman whether she’s a petite person or a tall woman, or anywhere in between. Regardless of her size, Costello Talgiapietra make a woman feel as if she is wearing fashion, not just clothes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Ports 1961s/s2011 Collection Showing

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Sometimes, waiting in line is worthwhile. In this case, I was on line outside the credentials office trailer talking to stylist, Miyako J, about how much we both wanted the jade green silk dress at the Ports1961 show yesterday. While the shoes were a visual treat, it was the wearability of many items in this collection that grabbed me. While I liked what Tia Cibani did for Ports, she seems to have had an edgier inclination than her sister, Fiona, who’s now at the design helm. Sometimes, it’s better to keep it simple. Take Miuccia Prada’s latest collection. She started off strong with a bright orange
dress with clean lines and proceeded to veer into alien territory, showing rugby striped dresses mixed with a cherub print fabric that frankly just looked….strange.

For the past few years Ports has packed the house, but this is the fullest I ever seen it. As at the Daniel Vosovic show the previous evening, the Ports show started with a shortie nature clip. The first few outfits mimicked a dusty desert and the models looked like well-dressed desert nomads. The surprise was the presence of black. I loved the flowing empire strapless with Swarovski bust, the blanket dress,
and the slashed fuchsia high neck
goddess tunic. The flowing batwing arms and well executed draping brought it all down to the essential part of the equation, something Tony Alcindor, Ports 1961’s VP of Communications, had talked about a month or so earlier, over lunch.
Said Tony, “It’s not that complicated. We’re here to create a collection of pretty clothes
that are on trend but not overly trendy, clothes that women will want to buy to wear for their busy lives.”
That said, I’d say, “mission accomplished”.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fashion V. Clothes: Post #2 - How to Make a Piece of Clothing into FASHION

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The last day of the 8-day marathon that is Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is always the toughest to be motivated for. I had a backstage interview with one of my favorite designers, Naeem Khan,
to look forward to. From him I expected a collection that would allow me to bring this Spring 2011 collection season to a fashionable close. He did not disappoint, and in fact, exceeded my already high expectations. Look for this post next week. My day took an unexpected turn when I got a notice
about an event hosted by Woolrich
featuring photographer, Douglas Kirkland. The home office is full of oversized books on fashion and those photographs serve to inspire and remind me daily of what fashion is. Douglas Kirkland has photographed some of the fashion icons of the last 40 years and some of his photos are in that inspirational space for me. On the list of notables he’s captured in his lens: Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, Coco Chanel, and Brigitte Bardot.

Even so I found it odd for him to be doing a book for the Woolrich Clothing Company. There it is right in their name, Woolrich is clothing…case closed, right? On closer inspection, however, maybe not. In our ongoing discussion of what is fashion and what is clothing one aspect we should consider is the question, “How can one make a piece of clothing into fashion?”

A Woolrich coat in and of itself is not fashion. On the surface, it is a piece of utilitarian clothing meant to keep you warm while one rakes leaves or shovels snow. None of those activities happen often here in Manhattan. If you see a Woolrich coat on Madison Avenue it is usually on one of the delivery guys. Then I found out about this limited edition Woolrich red and black jacket with a white lamb collar I’m dying to get my hands on, once I realized how good I could make it look on a cool fall day wearing one of the great fall looks underneath.

Far fall, I’m thinking of Michael Kors’ chunky black cashmere sweater and thick trouser,

warm enough to keep the chill out. I'd wear it in early spring too, but paired with something lighter, like Christian Siriano’s black bootcut trouser,
and B Michael’s
perfect white shirt I’m utterly obsessed with. To accessorize the look, I’d go with comfort, as in a pair of George Esquivel’s

suede Oxfords with leather trim detailing, and pair of black and red TouchTec gloves from GASPAR GLOVES. BE&D’s ‘Dallas’ lambskin shoulder bag
is big enough for my laptop, and it’s got whipstitch detailing on the top flap and handle, which matches the gloves.

I then started thinking about fashionable women who looked every bit as chic “dressed down” as they did “dressed up”. Teen Vogue Fashion Director, GLORIA BAUME,
is just such a woman. My first glimpse of Gloria was when she came into the Michael Kors showroom. It was the dead of winter and Gloria then at Glamour, came in wearing a suede and lambskin “Elmer Fudd” hat.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how chic and right she looked in a piece of outerwear that was so attainable. I’d just started working in the fashion biz, and was starved for the seemingly effortless glamour girls like Gloria exuded. That night, I went home to CT and bought a tan suede Woolrich hat. This simple item was bestowed with fashion magic. All I had to do was to put it on and I felt fashionable. Over fifteen years later, I still have and wear the hat. Another important quality about good fashion is that it holds-up, and doesn’t fall apart - as a “GO designer collection” item does after a few wears.

The fact that the hat’s still holding up is a testament to this 180 year-old company’s commitment to quality.

As I researched this article, I came across a picture I’d saved on my desktop of the fabulous Kate Moss. This is one of my favorite photographs of her, taken in 2005. She’s wearing a pair of Wellington boots, leaving a concert with then-boyfriend, Pete Doherty, lead singer of his band, Babyshambles. Before Kate made Wellies cool, Hunter Wellington boots were something that fisherman and stable hands, not fashionistas, wore. After Kate’s Glastonbury Festival appearance, her short shorts and Wellies combo quickly became a look copied by other fashionable “It Girls” such as Lily Donaldson, Pixie Geldof and Alexandra and Theodora Richards. As you see, with the right mindset, even something as “ordinary” as a pair of mucking around Wellington Boots or a well-constructed piece of clothing such as a Woolrich jacket can be turned into fashion; especially if you’re the first to take it for a fall stroll through Central Park. Leave the raking to the suburbanites. We just like to look fabulous.