Showing posts with label Fashion news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fashion news. Show all posts

Countdown to Fashion Week, designer Jonathan Simkhai

10:33 AM
Jonathan Simkhai spends most of his waking hours chasing cool, an ineffable quality he might spy in a random pileup of deck chairs, their stripes meandering every which way, or in the image of a skateboard gang surfing the pavements of Venice Beach. Nothing is too crazy or far-fetched to escape his roving eye.

Countdown to Fashion Week, designer Jonathan Simkhai
Countdown to Fashion Week, designer Jonathan Simkhai 

During a recent road trip in upstate New York, he came across a crumbling barn, its whitewash peeling to reveal a layer of slate paint underneath. “Its weathered look felt very elegant,” said Mr. Simkhai, who promptly reproduced the effect on a fabric in the resort line he unveiled last month.

Will its grainy look re-emerge for spring? Hard to say. The collection Mr. Simkhai plans to show in September, at the start of New York Fashion Week, is only now beginning to take shape in his head. Some seven weeks before showtime, the line was in its gestational phase, Mr. Simkhai gathering with magpie energy the sights, sounds and tactile impressions that inspire him. “Inspiration,” he mused, “that’s really just a reference point, a way of keeping the collection concise.”

As he talked, he perched on an ash-blond wooden table in one of the incubator offices provided by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as part of its initiative to support emerging fashion businesses.

His two previous collections, athletically breezy and sassed up with techno detailing, trained a spotlight on Mr. Simkhai, who was singled out at, Women’s Wear Daily and Barneys New York, among others, as a talent to watch. Just the same, Mr. Simkhai, who showed his fall collection at Milk Studios in February, found himself vying for attention with industry stars like Joseph Altuzarra, who was presenting elsewhere at roughly the same time.

The competition was formidable, but he held his own, parading checkerboard-printed T-shirts, patchwork leather sweaters and twisted tomboy basketball jerseys and baseball jackets to an enthusiastic crowd that included Tomoko Ogura, the Barneys fashion director, and April Hennig, a merchandise manager for Bergdorf Goodman.

These days, his office doubles as his studio, a space that was hectically animated by fabric swatches pinned to one wall, and a pair of mood boards. One outsize sheet of fiberboard was covered in magazine tear sheets showing casually posed models in loosefitting jackets, baggy striped shorts and pencil skirts; another was plastered with photographs of adolescents in the natty clothes and challenging attitudes of the 1960s London youth quake.

Those oddly assorted images can help kick-start a collection. “They are almost like a diary,” Mr. Simkhai said, “even if nothing in the collection ends up actually looking this way.” For the designer, such photo references serve as talking points, providing his line with a unifying narrative thread, a story that, in his phrase, “the salespeople can latch on to.”

Spoken like a merchant. But then the designer, who is 28, got his start in retail, assigned at 14 to create window displays and act as a buyer for Habana Jeans in Scarsdale, N.Y., near his home. That brief apprenticeship taught him to anticipate his customers’ wishes or, as he put it, sounding a bit like Steve Jobs pitching a product release, “to give the clients what they want before they know they want it.”

His first designs, conceived about four years ago, were improvised, whipped up for a handful of friends needing beach cover-ups that would see them into town. Snatching shirts from his own closet, he repurposed them as minidresses, a breezy button-down look that became the foundation of his borrowed-from-the-boys aesthetic.

That fusion of male-female themes can’t help but seep into his work. “I can’t get into the head of a girl,” he said candidly, “so I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would want to wear. Naturally it gets masculine.”

Inevitably the boxy shapes, leather T-shirts and track pants that are his roguish signature will find their way into his spring line. “As much as I like femininity,” he said, “there will always be a button-down shirt.”

Still, he is always testing ideas. Lately his outlook has grown more refined. “I’m thinking of adding longer skirts,” he said. “They just feel right.” And he is giving increased weight to practical matters. Sure, a backless dress is charming and will probably have a place in the line, he said, adding with a wink, “but I’m finally catching on that women wear bras.”

He is quick to mine his archives. “Maybe there was something slightly rushed in the last collection that I want to revisit,” he said. As often as not, seeds of future designs are embedded in his current work. “The day before a show,” he said, “I tell myself, ‘I definitely want to explore this look next season, or I definitely don’t.’ ”

The fall 2013 collection was in part a product of his fascination with ska, the Jamaican precursor to reggae embraced by young Brits in the 1960s, their look an amalgam of skinny dark suits and ties, graphic checks, porkpie hats and, for girls, tight shirts and minis.

Spring 2014 will expand on that motif. “Coming off ska, I thought: ‘Who was listening to that music? What did it inspire?’ ”

The answer, of course, was mod. “ ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘there is definitely a lot of material here.’ ”

An illustrative sampling is pinned to a black-and-white mood board on a far wall, dominated by images of clashing teenagers and those overturned awning-striped beach chairs. The photographs document the Battle of Brighton Beach, a hostile 1964 encounter between mods and rockers engaged in a turf war at the storied British resort.

Those images coexist with snapshots culled from libraries or lifted from the Internet, spied in passing through the window of a vintage store, ripped from yellowing tabloids or reproduced from Instagram screen grabs. The board is always morphing.

“Sometimes I take pictures down because they’re no longer relevant,” Mr. Simkhai said. Others remain, functioning as “place-holders,” helping him return, when necessary, to his original themes.

On the wall behind him was a cacophony of fabrics in sunbaked colors or alternating shades of indigo and aquamarine. “This all is very provisional,” he said. “I pull fabrics that maybe don’t make sense. I can be all over the place. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

He doesn’t doubt, though, that in time that zany collage-in-progress will form a cohesive vision. For now those swatches serve as place-holders, too, pointing the way, he said, to the next stop on the road.

This is the first in a series of reports on young, under-the-radar fashion designers as they prepare for New York Fashion Week in September. We will visit five up-and-comers, each at a different stage in the process. Each feature in the series will include a behind-the-scenes video.

World’s First All-Diamond Ring

11:17 PM
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. If that’s the case, this ring ought to provide a lifetime of companionship.

Swiss jewelry company Shawish has created a diamond ring from one massive hunk of rock. To be precise, this is 150 carats of pure bling we’re talking about. According to the Daily Mail, the ring, which is valued around $70 million, took one year to create, using special laser equipment.

(SPECIAL: How Diamonds Are Made)

The company is claiming it to be “the world’s first diamond ring,” and while that assertion isn’t backed up, it’s clear that the ring is no doubt impressive. Just to give perspective, Elizabeth Taylor’s famed ring was 33.19 carats while Kim Kardashian’s clocked in at 20.5 carats.

Either way, some lucky lady will be set for life.

Fashion Designers Driving Innovation in Makeup

1:51 PM
At the Paris haute couture collections earlier this month, the makeup artist Peter Philips showed a flushed baby-doll look at Chanel that was capped with bushy brows. Over at Dior, Pat McGrath drew metallic pouts on models and flicked on reflective eyeliner. Armani’s Linda Cantello focused on flawless skin. And the designer Alber Elbaz of Lanvin gave one of the best-attended parties of the week, at Le Trianon concert hall, to celebrate his limited-edition cosmetics collaboration with Lancôme.

Fashion Designers Driving Innovation in Makeup
Fashion Designers Driving Innovation in Makeup
The competition to stamp the imprint of couture on mass-market cosmetics has gotten as thick as Pan-Cake.

“Everyone wants a piece of the pie,” said Karen Grant, a global industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research company. She added: “You still have a lot of play coming from the historical, legacy brands, like your Estée Lauders and Elizabeth Ardens, but the designers are definitely driving some of the innovation and statements.”

And not only in packaging. They have “really pushed the fundamentals further,” Ms. Grant said, meaning ingredients and formulations. She pointed to Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, led by Lloyd Simmonds, a makeup artist whose “hybrid lip products,” like a glossy stain, have transformed the market, she said. She also attributed the current rage for amped-up lashes to Dior and the nail-polish craze to Chanel, which, early on, was hip to unusual finishes and limited-edition colors.

Jostling for position in the category as well are Tom Ford Beauty, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy’s Le Makeup (which introduced its first cosmetics ad campaign this spring) and a line planned by Michael Kors. But perhaps the most curiosity has been about Marc Jacobs’s new line, which arrives at Sephora stores on Aug. 9.

In May, Mr. Jacobs gave a press preview in an Upper East Side town house for his new line, named simply Marc Jacobs Beauty. There, among canapés served solicitously on trays by chiseled Adonises and vases plump with pink peonies, editors swabbed the demi-orbs of eye shadows in a pattern inspired by grosgrain ribbon, squirted tubes and cooed over black lacquered compacts. The compacts were inspired by the shellacked finish of Mr. Jacobs’s coffee table, he later explained to the group.

“I find shiny surfaces appealing,” the designer said.

That Mr. Jacobs, arguably fashion’s leader at the crossroads of commerce and cool, has waited this long to introduce a full beauty line was on the minds of many. But he was vague about why, both at the event and in a phone conversation a few weeks later, when he said: “I’m a big believer when the stars align things are meant to happen.”

It is surely no accident that the 120-piece collection, priced from $18 to $78, was manufactured in partnership with and will be sold exclusively by Sephora, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton; Mr. Jacobs designs for Vuitton. At the cosmetics chain, Mr. Jacobs has been a proven winner with perfumes including Lola, Dot and Daisy that “have been one of our most successful” scent lines, said Michael McGeever, senior vice president of Sephora Originals, the company’s brand creation arm.

It was Mr. Jacobs’s longtime business partner, Robert Duffy, who pushed the expansion to makeup, Mr. Jacobs said.

“I’ve always trusted Robert to present or initiate a kind of conversation,” said the designer, admitting he had to think through what his idea of beauty could mean.

“Maybe apprehension wasn’t the right word,” he said. “But I’m used to working with François Nars on the shows and I wanted to continue that. Also, to what degree or how willing were they open to my ideas?”

Apparently very: the line includes a few unisex items, including under-eye concealer and bronzer.

But mostly it’s for “this woman who doesn’t want old women’s makeup,” Mr. Jacobs said, noting that he liked Sephora’s youthful and frenetic retail experience (as opposed to department store counters) because it feels like “a theme park.”

“There’s a wordiness I go through, so I can paint a picture,” he said. “Even the word ‘gel’ has a soothing aspect to it.”

But while Mr. Jacobs seems genuinely interested in his new project (“black is black, but it’s what you do with black that makes it interesting,” he said of eyeliner), he will have to distinguish himself, said Ms. Grant of the NPD Group.

“The devil is in the details,” she said. “He has to really think what part of his line he wants to be known for. You can’t be all things to all people.”

Indeed, cosmetics lines by even successful designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta have failed to get traction. Not that this is stopping many others from trying. Women’s Wear Daily reported that Gucci is going into makeup. In June, Matthew Williamson collaborated on a beauty kit with Benefit. Sally Hansen works with Tracy Reese, Prabal Gurung and Rodarte on nail polishes each runway season. And Marchesa has signed on to a three-part deal with Revlon, including a 3-D nail wrap inspired by a runway ball gown; it will be available in October.

In Mr. Williamson’s opinion, a designer needs a following before coming out with a beauty line.

“It requires a certain longevity in the industry so your communication is clear,” he said, noting that his clothing line is 16 years old. Mr. Williamson said he hoped his kit with Benefit will lead to bigger things, perhaps a full line.

“I can see the line already,” he said. “But I’m an independent fashion house. I don’t have the structure or the funds. A lot of it is advertising.”

This is something Lancôme, which is owned by the giant L’Oréal and has also worked with Jason Wu and Olympia Le-Tan, can amply afford. And though the company is hardly abandoning promotion of its core products, Mr. Elbaz, whose line includes false eyelashes and a “doll palette,” is bringing a soupçon of whimsy to an industry giant.

“The real luxury of today is not what has always been done,” said Xavier Vey, president of Lancôme U.S., sounding less like a cosmetics executive than a fashion visionary. “It’s newness.”


POPE FRANCIS impact on the Italian fashion industry

11:42 PM
POPE FRANCIS, who was appointed head of the Catholic church in March, has inadvertently been causing waves on the Italian fashion scene. His humility and sobriety have apparently wooed some of the country's most notable designers - from Fendi to Dolce & Gabbana - away from the country's ostentatious signature fashion aesthetic.

"It's a whole new spirit in Rome," said Fendi co-designer Silvia Venturini Fendi. "This is evident when we have a new pope going back to real Christianity, which lately was far from the church. People are looking for meaning, and the real meaning of fashion is as a tool to express yourself. Sometimes fashion hides your language, but we look for meaning in materials and fabrics to allow true personality to come out."

POPE FRANCIS impact on the Italian fashion industry
Has The Pope Changed The Face Of Italian Fashion?
The previous Pope had, in religious terms at least, a more flashy approach to dressing - reportedly a keen lover of Prada shoes and historic robes, headwear and capes. Italy's new pontiff has actively discouraged his priests from being materialistic, urging them to drive "humble", rather than "fancy" cars.

The New York Times' Suzy Menkes reports that his humbleness is having an impact on the industry - with fashion houses adopting a more sombre, restrained aesthetic. Dolce & Gabbana's latest collection referenced southern Italian churches, while Valentino's most recent offering was demure and even featured a floor-length, plain red dress that echoed the robes traditionally worn by cardinals. Italy's emerging designers, who showcased work at last week's AltaModa event, also displayed a move away from the flamboyant, high-octane glamour that the country is known for.

"Maybe there is a moment when we want to focus on other things in life and give fashion a different meaning to clothing," Venturini Fendi said. "Women are thinking and dressing more ethically. This pope is what we all needed."

Fashion Boutiques On Wheels

10:14 AM
Those of us that live in cities in the United States have had front row seats to food truck phenomenon. During the luncheon hours it’s easy to find any number of  vans and trucks selling tacos, Thai noodles, falafel, BBQ, and of course ice cream—last week there was even a van parked in front of Forbes New York HQ selling doughnuts.

But trucks patrolling the streets of American cities are not only slinging hash, they’re hocking fashion.These unique entrepreneurs are taking a proactive approach to making sidewalk shoppers look good.
These days a number of cities boast vans and trucks that sell clothing and accessories. Around Chicago, on-street fashionistas may run into Fashion In Motion, a mobile shopping boutique run by Gina Crater-Lilja. “When you come home from work, a lot of women don’t have time to shop,” Crater Lilja told The Daily Herald. “So to fill that need for women who love the opportunity to get stylish clothes from a boutique, and do it on a lunch break, we decided to do this.”

In Boston, one entrepreneur that’s made a business put of a boutique on wheels is Emily Benson. Following her college graduation, a love of fashion mixed with inspiration from New York City’s food truck culture and Benson decided to move back to her native Boston to set up her own business. Her fashion truck – which she appropriately calls The Fashion Truck – first hit the streets in June of 2011.

All apparel and accessories Benson sells are under $100, according to her site, and she has begun offering a monthly class on how to make a profit as a “mobile retail business.”

In Pittsburg, Cailey Breneman decided to go mobile due to her boredom with malls and shops. Last month she kicked off her new business – a van full of apparel and accessories called Roadie – in the city’s Strip District. Breneman offers vintage and contemporary clothing plus accessories. When her vehicle is parked she lays out the clothing on racks so people can browse.

New York City’s Harlem neighborhood is also getting on the mobile boutique trend. Fashion entrepreneur Nneka Green-Ingram has laid claim to a spot on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue to park her Celebrities Mobile Boutique. Every item Green Ingram sells is between $5 and $30 and she also offers $40 makeovers.

Former owner of Soho’s The Garment Room, Tiffany Nicole McCrary has set up a mobile outpost in the latest of many hip Brooklyn neighborhoods to rollerskate its way into the spotlight. In Bushwick, across from the now legendary Roberta’s Pizza restaurant, the $10 or less Mobile Vintage Shop has been hocking vintage garb, receiving attention from local newspapers in the process.


Year's weirdest fashion trends

11:15 PM
Year's weirdest fashion trends
Teenagers in Thailand have got fixated onto a new trend- that of wearing items that have Adolf Hitler or items from Nazi army emblazoned on to them.

According to Christian Science Monitor, the new sensation began as a craze for T-shirts that were printed with cartoon images of Hitler's face.

This trend soon moved on to include SS style bike helmets, temporary swastika tattoos, and images of teddy bears doing the Nazi salute.

Teens have also been seen on the streets of Bangkok busily posing for photographs, and smiling next to cartoon effigies of Hitler.

Other incidents that have taken place include a Nazi themed school fashion show and a sports day parade in the northern city of Chang Mai in which some students dressed up as SS soldiers as a surprise for their teachers.


Fashion Group using data to sell more than clothes

11:19 AM
Listed retail company Specialty Fashion Group has so much data on its 6 million customers that it is considering expanding into general lifestyle products targeting its audience of plus-size, middle-aged women.

Chief financial officer Alison Henriksen says the company has been collecting information on its customers since it was founded 20 years ago and can now analyse that data to find new business opportunities, thanks to IT investments made in the past decade.

“Our market is generally under-served because she is not particularly wealthy, not particularly young and not particularly healthy,” Henriksen says.

“We see great opportunity to leverage our knowledge of our customer, expand that knowledge and bring to her products and services she can’t get anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be fashion garments, it could be other lifestyle products, and that’s how we see our ability to extend our share of her wallet.”

The Specialty Fashion Group brands, which include the Katies, Millers, Autograph, City Chic and Crossroads clothing chains, have already expanded into jewellery, shoes and lingerie. Henriksen says the company is now looking actively at new opportunities such as lifestyle experiences, holidays and even financial products.

The company is the largest fashion retailer in Australia, according to Henriksen. It has 900 bricks-and-mortar stores here and in New Zealand, five online stores focused on the Australian market and a separate online store in the US.

Henriksen adds that the market is generally either plus-size or mature-aged, or both, and is focused on the value end of the market, competing with the likes of Target, Big W, Kmart, Rockmans and Suzanne Grae.

Investment in IT infrastructure

Henriksen, who as CFO also has the group IT and marketing functions reporting to her, says the company standardised on a new enterprise system, including customer relationship management, about six or seven years ago. This meant that all the data was in one place.

The database of members is 7 million, or about 6 million when adjusted for overlap, which is about 55 per cent of the Australian women’s market.

“About three years ago we realised we needed to find a way to use that data more effectively and more easily because what we were doing up until then was downloading files into Excel and trying to manipulate the data,” she says. “You can only get so far doing that and certainly in terms of speed it’s just not there.”

The company adopted Alterian through a reseller. About a year ago, SDL bought Alterian and Specialty Fashion Group now manages the software in house, through a direct relationship with SDL.

City Chic fashions
About 80 per cent of sales are to members, whether online or in store. Henriksen says the high cost of postage means that they focus their campaigns on the 2.8 million members who have supplied email addresses, and this translates directly to sales.

“The proportion of sales we get from these customers we can engage with directly has increased,” she says. “Two years ago less than 30 per cent of our sales came from our emailable members, today it’s close to 50 per cent. Because of our ability to engage directly with her, we’re seeing returns from that.”

The company uses SDL to segment customers by propensity to shop, whether she is a bargain hunter or more interested in new-season fashion and so on, and tailors email communication accordingly. The retailer has also identified which customers who don’t currently shop online are the most likely to in the future.

Henriksen says it is quite common for the company’s email campaigns to have an open rate and click-through of 40-50 per cent and because they use control groups, they know the impact on sales. A typical email campaign delivers an uplift of at least 3 per cent of sales and because there are only seven people in the data team, that means a return on investment in the thousands of per cent.

Shortage of skilled data analysts

Henriksen says she has hired a couple of university graduates and is training them up but nearly all the experienced members of the team were recruited from the UK.

“It’s a challenge not just in retail but globally to find and keep people who truly have that analytical skill and ability,” she says. “They can’t just be analytical geeks, they need to be commercial too and have this marketing bend too. The team that we’ve built, I’ve hired them nearly all from the UK, because this is an area, particularly for the retail sector, where the UK really leads the way – Tesco is our benchmark and John Lewis is another example that’s had incredible success with their omni-channel strategy.”

“We always want to employ Australians – it’s more costly, more time consuming and more complicated to hire someone from overseas and bring them to Australia. It’s not our choice, but the reality is we do have resource shortages in Australia in certain areas and in retail we have a number of functions where it’s impossible to find the people we need. In the Australian retail market we’re many years behind in this field, we just don’t have the people with the experience.”

Some of the British recruits came on 457 visas, while some had Australian connections. Henriksen says the changes to the 457 visa system will make it harder.

“It’ll just mean it’ll take longer to bring people on board, it won’t mean we’ll find more people in Australia,” she says.
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