My Trip to Fashion Week — Yuna Yang

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I keep getting closer. Last year, as a Michael Kors intern, I worked at Market Week for their Fall 2016 collection. This season, I was invited to Yuna Yang as a blogger. So last Saturday afternoon, I put on my coat and boots, crunched through the snow, and took the 30-minute train ride into Manhattan, cold and excited.

The show was at the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea, so guests sat at tables for two partitioned along the wall. I was pleased because I could hang my coat on a chair and place my purse on a table, two things you can’t do with the traditional rows of benches. I could also get to know my table-mate, who, as it happens, went to NYU like me! As the guests poured in, I noticed colorful faux-fur jackets, lace-up booties, and box clutches.

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Guests arrive and take their seats. 

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Two guests before the show. 

Every Yuna Yang collection has a name, and this season was called “Lights in the Shadow”. I appreciate this about Yuna Yang because attending the show felt like seeing a performance, like a play or a dance recital. The collection was inspired by the people’s protests against American president Donald Trump, especially the Women’s March, and South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last December. The show notes said, “Yuna Yang’s F/W17 collection pays homage to people who hold on to hope and belief in shadowed times.”

The models included Marina Albino, Phillipa Steele, Nastya Choo, Rachel Thomas, Alyona Subbotina, Liga Liepina, Val Debeuf, Jini Lee, Akua Williams, and Lisa Tomaschewsky.

Here are some of the looks:

FLOWER BOMBER PRINT

yuna-yang-flower-bomber-print-dress     yuna-yang-flower-bomber-pajama-with-yy-signature-beaded-camisole

WATERFALL PRINT

yuna-yang-yy-signature-beaded-camisole-with-waterfall-skirt    yuna-yang-waterfall-leather-trench-coat-with-flower-bomber-jeans

AUSTRIAN LACE

yuna-yang-yy-signature-austrian-lace-dress    yuna-yang-yy-signature-austrian-lace-trench-coat-with-lace-pants

LIGHTING CANDLE PRINT

yuna-yang-lighting-candle-print-dress   yuna-yang-twinkle-sweatshirt-with-lightning-candle-print-skirt    yuna-yang-lighting-candle-print-tunic-with-sky-blue-fur-coat

yuna-yang-lighting-candle-print-trenchcoat-with-twinkle-long-sweatshirt   yuna-yang-lighting-candle-print-trench-coat-with-twinkle-sweatshirt-and-wide-pants

AND MORE

yuna-yang-royal-purple-overcoat-with-twinkle-sweatshirt-2   yuna-yang-grey-shadow-leather-trench-coat-with-twinkle-slip-dress-2

yuna-yang-burgundy-slip-dress-3   yuna-yang-burgundy-slip-dress

My favorite look of all was the closing look, the burgundy slip dress. The collection was bright and full of energy, with gold, yellow, orange, lavender, green, and sky blue. Velvet dresses, sweatshirts, and skirts provided the durability one needs to get through fall and winter.

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Me before the show started. D-Face leather dress. Hue cross-hatch leggings. Merona boots. Vintage dragonfly necklace. 

As this was my first time attending Fashion Week, I was so excited to see up close that which I have looked at from afar for the past decade (yes, since I was in middle school). When I was 12, I wrote a story about an island of witches who wore only haute couture, every day, at every occasion. After seeing the beautiful Yuna Yang outfits, I was left wishing that everyone out on the street  looked as put-together as runway models. That may not be the case, but this week Manhattan came pretty close.

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Yuna Yang is from Seoul. Before starting her own brand, she thoroughly learned her craft; she earned a degree in Fine Arts from Ewha Women’s University, a degree in Design from Instituto Marangoni, and a degree in Womenswear Design from Central Saint Martins. She also gained valuable work experience, working with Alviero Martini in Milan and Ann-Sofie Beck and Clements Ribeiro in London. She debuted her New York based line, Yuna Yang, at NYFW Fall 2010, and has shown every season since. She has also dressed many a celebrity: Carrie Underwood, Jessica Loundes, Danai Gurira, Darby Stanchfield, Nicole Murphy, Dascha Polanco, Maye Musk, and Irene Kim to name a few!

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Carrie Underwood in the music video for “See You Again”

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Nicole Murphy; Irene Kim

yuna-yang-jessica-lowndes   yuna-yang-danai-gurira

Jessica Loundes; Danai Gurira

yuna-yang-darby-stanchfield   yuna-yang-maye-musk

Darby Stanchfield; Maye Musk 

2016 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 28: Actress Dascha Polanco attends the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Yuna Yang can be found at Foravi in Manhattan; Cami in Roslyn, NY; Deborah Gilbert Smith in Millburn, NJ; Joe Brand in Laredo, TX; Joe Brand in McAllen, TX; A&A in Taipei; La Scala in Taipei; Art to Wear in Taipei; Shin Kong Mitsukoshi in Taipei; Avenuel in Seoul; Galleria in Seoul; Lotte in Busan, South Korea; Isetan in Tokyo; and Arabian Apparel in Riyadh.

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Yuna Yang hats and headbands at Isetan. 

Past concepts: The New Woman, No Borders, The 100% Perfect Girl, Hunting Without Guns, The Butterfly Mother, 1920s Shapes Meet Modern Art, Che Bella, Civil Twilight, Magic, Bright Lights Big City, My Black Wedding Dress

Love This Brand — T. Tandon NY

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I met Tina at a Member of Tribe dinner party in the Hamptons. She wore a yellow backless gown, and when I told her I loved her dress, she said it was of her own design. We quickly bonded over fashion, and when I asked her about her clothing line, T. Tandon NY,  she invited me to her Spring trunk show. The event was held at the Waldorf Astoria in an intimate suite, where guests drank champagne, lounged on the couches, tried things on in the walk-in closet, and received henna tattoos. A photographer shot two models in full looks throughout the night. The Spring preview featured one rack for day and another for evening. The day offering was cheerful and delicate, with soft silk charmeuse blouses, bow and eyelet details, and incredible embellishments of fringe, feathers, beading, and embroidery. Part of me wanted to wear the poet collar blouse with a midi skirt, and part of me wanted to wear the cut-out dress and stop everyone in their tracks. The evening section was even more distinctive. Everything was leather, in its most feminine iterations. The classic black biker jacket stood out with gold flowers and chains. A dress  that was asymmetrical and peplum in front revealed itself to be backless. My favorite thing of all was a black dress with an abbreviated cowl neck and flower embroidery. It was in the evening/party section, but I could see myself wearing it anywhere! The trunk show also featured her other brand, Posh Pari Couture. Designed for the Indian market, the Posh Pari rack was filled with beautiful saris, scarves and suits.

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Tops and dresses for day. 

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Leather and sequins for night.

Tina Tandon was born in the United States, but spent her early childhood in India (ages 2-12) and her teen years in North Carolina before moving to New York for college. Her earliest memories of knowing she was interested in fashion were in India, going with her mother to the tailor for custom-made outfits. She had the desire to start her own line since “eight or nine”, saying that she has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In high school, she was teased for her background and her clothes. Now she focuses on the value of that experience. “It has given me a wide understanding of fashion, and how it relates to culture and the social dialogue in each region. In some regions, the lifestyle is more relaxed and casual, and so is their dressing choices, and in big cities like NYC, the ladies like to dress to the nines, representing their polished and ambitious outlook. In India, fashion has now become an amalgamation of traditional heritage and the western modernity.” She went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), earning the Faculty Scholarship, Presidential Scholar honor, and the Jay Baker Scholarship,  which is awarded to only ten students each year. It was during these years that she developed an interest in American vintage, which continues to influence her designs. Tina started the FIT South Asian Club, interned in public relations at Escada, and worked in showroom sales at Christian Lacroix before graduating summa cum laude. She embarked on her full-time career in design and product development at West Elm, then moved on to product development at Kenneth Cole and Liz Claiborne. In 2006 she went out on her own as a freelance fashion consultant, writer, and celebrity stylist before starting her own brands, Posh Pari Couture and T. Tandon NY.

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Tina’s take on the Aztec trend, with daring black fringe.     An ombré coverup.

Posh Pari came first, in 2006. Tina calls it “an ethnic fusion line”, designed for the Indian market. Posh Pari has shown at Indian Fashion Week and the Cannes Fashion Festival. Tina started her primary focus, T. Tandon NY, in 2007. She describes her namesake brand as “modern with a hint of vintage”. Based in Manhattan, T. Tandon shows Tina’s American side. “I think it would be very cliché for me to design an Indian-inspired collection for the American market, being of Indian origins. And I am anything but a cliché!” Tina says. “This line is designed for the contemporary young, hip, jet-setting fashion savvy girls all over the U.S. and internationally,” she explains, inadvertently describing herself. Every piece stands out for its details: a graceful drape, a smooth texture, an eye-catching embellishment, a dramatic cut. All of her pieces feature embellishment or asymmetry, sometimes both.  “I like the contrast of the fluid and the static in my collections. Silk crêpes, chiffons and georgettes are often paired with structured leather pieces,” she says. She is also eager to point out that the details, like a pattern of beaded flowers on a violet blouse, are always done by hand. T. Tandon NY has a practical orientation, offering dresses, tops, skirts, pants, and outerwear for Day, Career, and Party. But of all the categories, Tina considers her signature to be “the very unique leather jackets”. Half of new businesses fail  within the first five years, but T. Tandon NY is approaching its tenth anniversary, in part due to public relations success. T. Tandon showed at New York Fashion Week, sponsored the New York Indian Film Festival (held at my school, NYU!), and has been worn by many celebrities, including Brooke Shields and Padma Lakshmi. The brand is currently sold in 38 boutiques nationwide, including L.A.’s Kitson, and has also spread to Québec, London, Jeddah, Riyadh, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Tokyo. As a resident of Bushwick, Brooklyn, my source of choice would be Sunday Brunch  in Fort Greene.

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A signature moto jacket with chains and exquisite beading.

The brand makes a point of being environmentally and socially conscious. “Giving to children and women’s causes is an integral part of our company’s modus operandi,” says Tina. The fabrics, from silks to wools, are natural and biodegradable. Manufacturing takes place in factories owned by Indian women, and the brand supports the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).  A portion of the profits is regularly donated to help underprivileged children in India so they will not be forced into child labor.  Tina recalls, “Visiting India often and seeing the poor kids on the streets and seeing them skip school to work always broke my heart.” In the U.S., T. Tandon NY has sold product for donations at Super Saturday, an annual fundraiser started by Donna Karan to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF).

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The Keira party dress.

Inspiration for a collection is an organic process. “It can be anything from a button to architecture in a city I visited,” Tina says. That said, the process often starts with the fabrics. “Images of various possibilities usually dance in my mind, when I see fabrics that inspire me.” Her consistent sources of inspiration are “my travels, American vintage, nature, the current trends and demands of the market, and the future where the fashion is heading.” Her muse is her mother. “Looking through her pics from the ‘60s and ‘70s really gets me excited and inspired.”

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As if a rounded collar wasn’t cute enough, this blouse is embroidered with tiny bows.

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Sexy and sweet—this backless blouse has two large bows to bridge the gap.

Tina has her pulse on the Indian market and how it is changing. Indian fashion is “extremely wedding-driven,” she says, with bridal lines getting the most attention. But she is excited by the increasing global travel and purchasing power of the young generation in India. “India used to be focused on local tailors, custom wear. Now American and European brands have penetrated the Indian market, and Indian women keep up with them,” she explains. Indeed, T. Tandon NY is carried by India’s Samsaara chain. Of course, Indian fashion carries its own influence.  “Nothing can compete with the intricate embroideries, beadwork, and embellishment techniques of India,” Tina says. She appreciates chikankari  work in particular, sometimes incorporating the technique in her spring collections. Tina has been selected as a Roshni Honoree, an award given to top South Asian professionals in America.

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My favorite thing! Note the dangling sleeve straps. When on, they create the coolest cold-shoulder shape.

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Me at the trunk show. Halston Heritage dress and Style Paris handbag.

Having worked in so many different parts of the fashion industry, Tina is seen as an industry authority, full of insight and advice for those seeking to join the fashion world. “Fashion is so saturated these days that you not only have to know the people you want to cater to, but also fine-tune your unique selling point and aesthetic as well,” she says. She gained ten years of experience in the industry before starting her own business, and she recommends that aspiring designers take time to work in the industry and learn their craft. “It can get discouraging sometimes, but it’s important to stay passionate and believe in what you have to offer.”

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Tina Tandon stands proudly before her collection.

 

 

A Year in Creative Directors

Bold Fashion Exit

Starting with Donna Karan leaving DKNY in June 2015, and most recently with Raf Simons joining Calvin Klein, there has been an incredible amount of turnover of creative directors in high-end fashion. In many ways this is a response to trouble in the luxury sector. As new leadership tries to solve these problems, the industry is being remade in the process. Let’s take a look back.

June 2015 – Donna Karan Leaves Donna Karan International

Donna Karan stepped down as chief designer of Donna Karan International to focus more on her Urban Zen brand, a line of seasonless basics, jewelry, accessories, and home décor handmade by artisans in Haiti, Thailand, and Bali. Following her departure, DKI discontinued the Donna Karan Collection, DKNY C, and DKNY Jeans lines in favor of a stronger DKNY brand with a broader range of price points.

July 2015 – Alexander Wang Leaves Balenciaga

Alexander Wang left his role as creative director of Balenciaga after three years at the post. The move was a “joint decision”; Wang wanted to devote his focus on his namesake brand and bring on a new investor, and Balenciaga sales growth under Wang had been slower than that of similar brands.

October 2015 – Raf Simons Leaves Dior

Raf Simons, the artistic director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear, and accessories collections, left Dior after a three-and-a-half-year tenure. His decision had several components, including a chance to work more on his namesake menswear brand, the desire for a personal life in balance with his work life, a sense that Dior’s advertising image did not closely reflect his collections, and slowing retail sales.

Alber Elbaz Leaves Lanvin

Alber Elbaz left Lanvin after fourteen years as creative director, based on “the decision of the company’s majority shareholder”. The majority shareholder, publishing magnate Shaw-Lan Wang, had been the one to recruit Elbaz all those years ago. Yet last year they found themselves at odds over whether Lanvin should increase direct retail investment (Elbaz yes, Wang no), whether Lanvin should increase handbags investment (Elbaz yes, Wang no), and whether Wang should sell her shares to someone who might better develop the brand (Elbaz yes, Wang no). Elbaz departed with a letter of thanks, concluding with “I wish the house of Lanvin the future it deserves among the best French luxury brands” and signing with a heart.

Demna Gvasalia Joins Balenciaga

Demna Gvasalia, the cofounder and creative director of new streetwear label Vetements, was chosen to replace Alexander Wang as artistic director of Balenciaga. CEO Isabelle Guichot saw the renegade spirit of the brand’s founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga, in Gvasalia, a designer best known for marketing a plain t-shirt with the DHL logo and staging runway shows in a gay club and a Chinese restaurant. She also said that he would “definitely not” turn Balenciaga into a streetwear brand.

February 2016 – Stefano Pilati Leaves Ermenegildo Zegna

Stefano Pilati stepped down as the head of design at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture, stating only “I now wish to focus on other projects that I had put aside in order to achieve our common goals with Zegna Couture.” Founder Gildo Zegna praised the designer for making Ermenegildo Zegna “a show not to be missed in Milan”.

Alessandro Sartori Joins Ermenegildo Zegna

Alessandro Sartori was chosen to fill the new position of artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna Group, a role with responsibility across all Zegna brands and creative functions. Sartori started a ready-to-wear division at Berluti and raised the brand’s revenue from €30 million in 2011, when he joined the company, up to €100 million. Yet before that, he spent eight years as the creative director of Z Zegna, the Ermenegildo Zegna diffusion line.

March 2016 – Hedi Slimane Leaves Saint Laurent

During his nearly four years as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane revolutionized the brand. For one thing, its name was changed to “Saint Laurent” under his leadership. This move, ostensibly a mere replacement of “Saint Laurent Rive Gauche” for the ready-to-wear division, left many taken aback. For another thing, revenue rose from $385 million to $1.05 billion under Slimane’s tenure. The reasons for his departure are unknown, only that he and Kering failed to reach an agreement over his long-term contract. Many were left wondering how Saint Laurent, having become so transformed under Slimane, would move forward. Said Business of Fashion editor Tim Blanks, “I don’t think whoever goes into Saint Laurent will pick up where he left off…I think Hedi Slimane is such an obsessive, and I don’t think there are many other people with that degree of obsession.”

Ennio and Carlo Capasa Leave Costume National

The brothers who founded Costume National in 1986, Ennio and Carlo Capasa, departed at the same time. The brand, owned by investment bank Sequedge, had seen slow sales since November 2014, when the lower-priced C’N’C line was discontinued. It was with great sadness that the two left. Creative director Ennio said, “I was hoping this would not happen. I fought with passion…People say fashion is over, that marketing wins and that everything is an illusion. Definitely not for me.”

Justin O’Shea Joins Brioni

Justin O’Shea, the global fashion director of multi-brand ecommerce hub MyTheresa, was appointed creative director of Brioni following the departure of Brendan Mullane. Though O’Shea’s background was in buying and not design, he was seen as a promising creative director for his potential to create a strong image for Brioni across all of their channels. O’Shea is known for his sharp-edged, heavily tattooed appearance, and he started to move the traditional suiting brand in a rock direction by casting Metallica in his first ad campaign.

Bouchra Jarrar Joins Lanvin

Bouchra Jarrar, whose couture background includes Christian Lacroix and her own namesake label, was chosen as the new artistic director of women’s collections at Lanvin. Her position differs from that of Alber Elbaz in that she will focus only on womenswear. Jarrar, who has likened herself to founder Jeanne Lanvin, described her target customer as “Très real. The Lanvin woman has a real life,” and said she aims to “bring to Lanvin the harmony and consistency of a fashion designed for women, a fashion of our time.”

April 2016 – Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli Leave Calvin Klein Collection

Francisco Costa, the creative director of Calvin Klein Collection women’s, and Italo Zucchelli, creative director of men’s, stepped down, becoming the last to occupy those positions. “Collection is not a money maker,” said former CEO Tom Murry. “It’s a marketing expense and we generate an incredible amount of editorial that is based on being in that business.” Going forward, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Collection, ck Calvin Klein, and Calvin Klein Jeans would be managed by one creative director with one Calvin Klein vision.

Anthony Vaccarello Joins Saint Laurent

Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of both a namesake line and Versus Versace, withdrew from both brands completely to become creative director of Yves Saint Laurent. The name Saint Laurent, associated with Hedi Slimane’s tenure as creative director, was to stay. Yet in terms of imagery, the brand started with a clean slate. All photos from Slimane’s time were removed from Instagram, and in the interim before his first collection, Vaccarello released an ad campaign with no clothing at all.

May 2016 – Alessandra Facchinetti Leaves Tod’s

Creative director Alessandra Facchinetti left Tod’s after three years, saying only that she would “focus on other projects…put aside in order to be able to achieve Tod’s’ strategies.” A relatively short tenure was something she had in common with Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, and Hedi Slimane.

Danielle Sherman Leaves Edun

Danielle Sherman stepped down as creative director of Edun, also after three years. She was known for giving a high-fashion image to the socially conscious, artisanal brand founded by Bono and Ali Hewson.

Jonathan Saunders Joins Diane von Furstenberg

Jonathan Saunders closed his namesake brand and joined Diane von Furstenberg as chief creative officer. Diane von Furstenberg herself said, “I could not have found a cooler, more intelligent designer and I cannot wait to watch him shine as our chief creative officer”. Von Furstenberg did not retire, but Saunders’ appointment would give her more time for philanthropy and mentorship, especially as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

June 2016 – Hedi Slimane Sues Kering

And the plot thickens. Three months after his exit from Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane sued the brand’s parent company, Kering, over the terms of his contract. Kering had removed the non-competition clause, meaning that Slimane could continue to design anything he wanted. However, Slimane wanted to have the non-competition obligation, and the financial compensation it would entail, reinstated.

July 2016 – Peter Copping Leaves Oscar de la Renta

Peter Copping left his position as creative director of Oscar de la Renta after less than two years at the company, stating that “personal circumstances require me to return to Europe.”

Haider Ackermann Joins Berluti

Haider Ackermann, who has his own line, was hired to replace Alessandro Sartori after Sartori replaced Stefano Pilati at Ermenegildo Zegna.

Maria Grazia Chiuri Joins Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri, co-creative director of Valentino alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli, left the brand to become artistic director of Dior, the first female to hold that position. Chiuri and Piccioli were very successful in reinvigorating Valentino, expanding the accessories business and increasing profits. But Dior has a greater scale, with €5 billion in revenue last year to Valentino’s €256 million.

LVMH Sells Donna Karan International

A year after Donna Karan’s departure, Donna Karan International experienced another seismic change. LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton, the parent company of DKI and some 70 other brands, sold the brand to G-III Apparel Group, a manufacturing and licensing company. The sale was initiated by G-III, who offered a valuation of $650 million – much higher than the $243 million LVMH had spent to purchase the brand from Donna Karan in 2001. “We had moved the pieces in the right direction and I think we were starting to move forward,” said LVMH fashion group CEO Pierre-Yves Roussel, “But [G-III] came with a very high price.” Still, Roussel genuinely feels that DKNY will be better off with G-III. In LVMH’s portfolio of luxury and contemporary brands, DKNY stuck out as a diffusion brand that required a different business model, one of wide wholesale reach as opposed to selective distribution and an emphasis on runway and editorial.

August 2016 – Raf Simons Joins Calvin Klein

Raf Simons joined Calvin Klein as chief creative officer. Simons’ minimalist aesthetics align with the Calvin Klein look, but his move is a bit surprising considering how he had spoken about the pressure placed on him at Dior and his desire for a better work-life balance. Regarding his position at Calvin Klein, Simons said, “Technically speaking, it works. Does it work for me emotionally? No, because I’m not the kind of person who likes to do things so fast.” Nevertheless, he is up to the challenge, conceding that spending more time on something does not always make it better. “Sometimes you can work things to death when you take too much time,” he said.

This frequent movement of creative directors is a sign of change across the luxury fashion sector. The omnipresence of social media, especially Instagram and Snapchat, demands that more news be shared at a faster rate to attract the same amount of attention. This has made staging new runway shows with eye-catching set design ever more important, fueling the need for more collections per year (pre-fall, fall, fall couture, men’s spring, spring, spring couture, resort, men’s fall…) The creative director cannot be simply a designer of garments, but a creator of a distinctive brand image, one that must constantly be maintained, and some, like Raf Simons and Ennio Capasa, seem to have caved under this pressure. As Simons has said, “Fashion became pop. I can’t make up my mind if that’s a good or a bad thing. The only thing I know is that it used to be elitist. And I don’t know if one should be ashamed or not to admit that maybe it was nicer when it was more elitist, not for everybody.” When brand building relies on visual stunts for Instagram, people like Demna Gvasalia and Justin O’Shea become the ideal type of creative director. Vetements always had superbly constructed clothing, but it was the satirical collections that put the brand on the map. Justin O’Shea has no formal design training, but he clearly has a strong visual instinct and has become a street style star on Instagram with 79,000 followers.

Another issue is that when many brands are controlled by one conglomerate, like LVMH or Kering, each brand is expected to be able to prove itself as a financial asset relative to the others. Donna Karan has said “I’m married to my company,” but LVMH is not married to DKNY. Alber Elbaz may have been an iconic designer, he may have been most responsible for making Lanvin the exquisite brand that it is today, but he was not the one who owned Lanvin. And of course in the financial world, it is not enough to be consistent – a brand must grow. Sustained growth as a luxury brand has become difficult in our time. Shoppers can easily look online and find the lowest prices available for a brand, and then wait for them to go lower. Many people choose to spend on experiences, from vacations to more restaurants, over fashion or any other material goods. The movement of creative directors, which has often been compared to a game of musical chairs, gives the signal that a brand is trying to update and improve.

The standard contract for a creative director is three years, and clearly these contracts are not always renewed. What this means is that a brand is not defined by its creative director; creative director is becoming more like just a job. Nicolas Ghesquière was the creative director of Balenciaga for 15 years. John Galliano was the creative director of Dior for 14 years. Tom Ford was the creative director of Gucci for 10 years, Frida Giannini for 9. Stefano Pilati was the creative director of Yves Saint Laurent for 8 years. And of course Alber Elbaz was the creative director of Lanvin for 14 years. Relationships like these are becoming few and far between, with brands less attached to a specific designer, and designers less allegiant to a specific brand, in an era where it might not make sense for anything to remain consistent for ten years anymore.

Meet Up-and-Coming Designer Laura Ciccarello

Laura Ciccarello Logo

Laura Ciccarello has spent all of her life immersed in art and fashion. Growing up in Virginia with her brother and parents, her creativity was strongly encouraged. As a child she drew and painted constantly, and her family would often sit and draw together. Her obsession with gemstones was also fueled by her upbringing. Some of her favorite earliest memories are of digging through her mother’s jewelry box and wearing the jewelry – and not just for dress-up. “My mother said I could wear whatever I wanted,” she recalls, “and she had a collection of fine jewelry. So when I was in kindergarten, I wore chunky sparkly necklaces to school. I probably looked like a nut job, but I was happy.” She grew up to sell her oil paintings as a young teenager, win an international design competition by The Sak Company, complete pre-college at Pratt and college at FIT, design for multiple brands including Fernando Sanchez, provide fashion consulting services to major retailers, and found the company Red Lipstick Inc., under which she launched her eponymous brand Laura Ciccarello. Her creative origins continue to inspire the “glamorous yet organic” aesthetic of Laura Ciccarello Collection.

Laura Ciccarello Lookbook

Lookbook shot at a penthouse overlooking Central Park; model wearing Big Blingy Starry Night scarf

Laura Ciccarello Collection started with scarves, then extended to handbags. The product category Laura is most excited about right now is jewelry, which launched at the Accessories Circuit trade show just this fall. Every piece in her Metal Lace and Gemstone Jewelry collections is made of silver or gold, with the latter bearing evidence of her childhood gem fascination. She sees her jewelry as a bridge between costume and fine jewelry, two of her favorite things. Each piece is handmade in Manhattan’s Diamond District. Manufacturing close to home is challenging because the production landscape is dominated by ready-to-wear and it can be hard to find people who identify more with stones than cloth. “It would be cheaper to make the jewelry somewhere else,” Laura says, “but I like to do things the better way. New York is higher quality. Overseas uses ‘flash’ plating that wears off in two months and we use ‘heavy plating.’”.

 

Laura Ciccarello Lace 4      Laura Ciccarello Lace 6   Laura Ciccarello Lace 5    Laura Ciccarello Lace 3

Silver lace filigree ring, $93; La Ventana silver lace ring, $180; La Ventana gold lace ring, $180; Gold lace filigree ring, $93

Laura’s design process is serendipitous but clearly effective. “The process of creating a collection starts with me going out all the time and getting a lot of random ideas from what I see. The idea starts out with a sketch, and then I do more sketches, maybe change a few things, before doing the painting. Then I infuse photos I take with Photoshop and start to digitally print the fabric.” This process caters to our ever more technology-focused world with fabulous and luxurious results. With names like Queen of Everything and Diamonds Are More Than My Best Friends, the five scarf collections are full of motif surprises. These include Marilyn MonroeKarl Lagerfeld, and even handcuffs, which have a subliminal feel when infused over her colorful abstract paintings.

Laura Ciccarello Tied Up and Painted    Laura Ciccarello Diamonds Are More Than My Best Friends    Laura Ciccarello Karate Karl 2

Tied Up and Painted handbag; Diamonds Are More Than My Best Friends scarf; Karate Karl handbag

“My perfect situation would be designing all day and making thousands of SKUs,” Laura says, “but that’s not the reality.” As a business owner, Laura spends much of her time on manufacturing and logistics in addition to design. When designing a collection, she chooses the best thirty or forty ideas to produce. The scarves and bags are manufactured in India and China, but Laura is seeing an industry shift to South American manufacturing, thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a growing workforce that is becoming more educated in patternmaking and manufacturing. Fashion has a reputation as one of the world’s fastest-moving industries, where everyone discusses Fall when it’s spring outside and work on a collection must begin a full year in advance. This is not an issue for Laura. “I am hyper-decisive,” she says, “so I take less time than average to complete a collection. I always like to be ahead of the curve, so I exceed my deadlines.”

Laura Ciccarello Rock Royalty     Laura Ciccarello Stone Roses

Crowned Royal scarf; Stone Roses scarf

In a volatile industry where a large number of brands are selling similar products to similar markets, Laura Ciccarello Collection stands out. “Individuality is the biggest trend that no one’s talking about. The woman wearing my clothes values individuality above all else. She wants something bold, something beautiful, not just trendy,” Laura says. “It’s about standing out, doing something different, and having a quality product. This matters more than artificial marketing and grey-area-press. Press and marketing are making major changes right now. The reality few are talking about is you don’t sell from publications anymore, you sell to people.”

Laura Ciccarello 3

Laura herself wearing the Kryptonite scarf

Laura Ciccarello Collection has received attention from many high-profile sources, like Neiman Marcus and Miss Universe. Laura tells me that her PR success comes from networking. “I like to go out, go to events, go to parties, and I meet so many people,” she says. “You need to be out and present. I have seen people pass up big opportunities because they stayed at home all the time. Home is a very comfortable place, but as a designer you’ve got to put yourself out there.” But she is quick to note that networking comes with a caveat. “My favorite show is VH1’s Behind the Music,” she tells me. “I don’t go crazy like the celebrities in Behind the Music. I have fun but I keep my priorities straight. I always want to be 100 percent on point. If I were swinging from a chandelier, I would be sending a business email from my phone with the other hand.” That might be the best advice I’ve ever heard.

Laura Ciccarello 4    Laura Ciccarello 2

Laura at a studio wearing the Fool’s Gold scarf and handbag; a chandelier from Laura’s Instagram

Laura Ciccarello Collection has a website and a presence on Facebook and Instagram, but Laura’s ambitions for the brand center around wholesale. As someone with extensive experience designing for department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and The Home Shopping Network, pitching her own brand to high-end retail is a natural progression. She is excited about expanding into a new product category and “going outside my design comfort zone.” Can’t wait to see the results!

Laura Ciccarello Malificent   Laura Ciccarello Big Blingy Starry Night    Laura Ciccarello Queen of the Aztec

Malificent handbag; Big Blingy Starry Night handbag; Queen of the Aztec handbag

 

 

Remembering Vince Camuto

Vince Camuto passed away last Wednesday, January 21, 2015. He died before his time, succumbing to prostate cancer at the age of seventy-eight. During his lifetime Camuto was a legendary force in the footwear industry, founding the brands Nine West (1978), Gianni Bini (2002), Antonio Melani (2002), Michelle D. (2002), Nurture (2002), Jessica Simpson Collection (2003), Vince Camuto (2005), and Two by Vince Camuto, VC Signature, and Louise et Cie thereafter. He is known for injecting style and variety into middle market women’s shoes, and for making high platform heels walkable with his innovative use of foam rubber. Today the Vince Camuto brand encompasses women’s shoes, handbags, accessories, ready-to-wear, and even jewelry. He was in the midst of planning a menswear line before his untimely death.

Yet before his illustrious career in design, he learned about women’s footwear and fashion merchandising as a  salesperson at I. Miller in Manhattan. He was quickly ranked #1 in sales, not only for his acumen but also for his personality. He made many, many friends in the fashion industry, all of whom are sad to see him go. This is what they had to say:

Vince Camuto young

“He was a unique man. I’ve never worked with anyone like him, and I’ve worked with a lot of people.” — Calvin Klein

“I can’t say we had a collection until Vince came on board.” — Tory Burch

“Vince Camuto was my mentor, my friend, and my constant inspiration. I will be forever grateful to him for changing my life for the better.” — Jessica Simpson

“What was so inspiring about Vince was that he was constantly evolving and reinventing himself.” — Reed Krakoff, designer

“He was a shoe god. There is no other way to say it.” — Steve Madden, shoe designer

“He was dedicated to his business, but most of all, to friendship. ” — Max Azria, designer, chairman, and CEO at BCBG Max Azria Group

Vince Camuto and Louise

“His passion for the footwear business and his vision for style meeting function were unmatched.” — Alex Dillard, President at Dillard’s 

“When it came to product, he was absolutely the best merchant in the business, period.” — Pete Nordstrom, Co-President at Nordstrom

“Vince has been a true partner and a fashion leader.” — Tony Spring, Chairman and CEO at Bloomingdale’s 

“Vince was one of the most magical people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.” — Muriel Gonzalez, EVP of Shoes at Macy’s 

“Vince had a warmth with all those he touched and the greatest of humility in all he did.” — Neil Cole, Former Chairman, CEO and President at Iconix Brand Group 

Vince Camuto Kase Vince Camuto Kiotio Vince Camuto Graydin

 Vince Camuto Fairlee  Vince Camuto Cresida   Vince Camuto Melisha

Vince Camuto Celindan Vince Camuto HainesVince Camuto Carolyn

Vince Camuto Sukey  Vince Camuto Lamont   Vince Camuto Yvonne

 Vince Camuto Quote

Kase, Kiotio, Graydin, Fairlee, Cresida, Melisha, and Celindan from Vince Camuto; Carolyn, Haines, Sukey, Lamont, and Yvonne from VC Signature