No Such Agency

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Last week, I ventured into Chinatown to visit the ready-to-wear showroom of No Such Agency, a boutique PR firm. They, along with a handbag brand and a lingerie brand, occupy the Triple A Loft, a cool, airy space filled with natural light. A zebra greeted me when I stepped out of the elevator, and I wandered past the mod yellow sofa and issues of WWD and Electrify in the lobby to the No Such Agency space, a charming area with a minimalist desk and table, an old-fashioned window, a floor-to-ceiling mirror, and six racks of samples. An intern greeted me and showed me around, telling me all about the collections.

I was immediately drawn to the Daniel.Silverstain rack. “I want to focus on this brand because I would wear every item here,” I stammered. I don’t always say this. Liking every item from a clothing brand is rare, in the way that it’s rare to enjoy every song in a music artist’s repertoire. What was it about these few items, hanging on a single steel rod, spaced a few inches apart? There was the recurrent pairing of black and white. There was the dramatic asymmetry, the kind that makes you feel perpetually a step ahead of the here and now.  There was the formality of each piece – being in my early twenties, I often like to dress older so I will be taken more seriously. And even though common prints and materials were used across items, as is typical for a seasonal collection, no two pieces blended together. There was nothing redundant, nothing forgettable. I could envision every item on myself, each one standing out on a crowded block, each one making a distinct impression.

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This is the Fall 2016 collection, shown last September as a see-now, buy-now presentation. Titled WHITE.CITY, it was inspired by the effects of the Bauhaus movement on Tel Aviv in the 1950s.

Me in the layered blouse, black pants, and crocodile-embossed shearling coat with separating panel in orchid. Though I prefer warm weather, I have always gravitated toward the grandeur of a long winter coat. All runway photos by Robert Mitra/WWD.  

Daniel Silverstain founded his luxury apparel brand in 2013. He takes inspiration from industrialism, modernism, and futurism. “I design to inspire women to be bold, to be courageous, to stand out, and to create a story of their own,” he says. Originally from Israel, Silverstain started his fashion career at the Israeli division of KEDS Kids in 2006, advancing quickly to Design Director. In 2009, he moved to New York to pursue a BFA in Fashion/Apparel Design at FIT. While in school, he interned at Marie Claire for a semester (see, even acclaimed designers pay their dues) and worked as an assistant designer at 3.1 Phillip Lim and a designer at Muuse and Elie Tahari.

He launched Daniel.Silverstain soon after graduating. Last year, he co-founded Flying Solo, a designer-owned retail incubator in Little Italy. Flying Solo provides a platform for startup brands to enter the brick-and-mortar market without selling to a retailer, which requires accommodating a retail markup and often supplying high minimum orders, or maintaining their own boutique, especially in New York where rents are high. Flying Solo is owned and operated by twenty-eight fashion brands.

     Daniel Silverstain Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe, my favorite actress now that she’s an actress, in a Daniel.Silverstain coat for Cosmopolitan. Photo by Max Abadian.

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I recognized KUT from the Kloth from Nordstrom, where I sold their jeans in the Point of View department alongside brands like Caslon and NYDJ. I really enjoyed seeing the brand on its own, in its complete form. I always knew they had great-fitting jeans, but I didn’t know that they also had dresses, tops, jackets, and pants! I loved the profusion of florals, the pinstripes, the sweeping bell sleeves, and the whimsical paper bag waist on a pair of dress pants.

Me in the Luz blouse and Regina pants. Life Stride shoes.

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The effervescent bell sleeve of a pink blouse. 

KUT from the Kloth is based in Los Angeles. Their core focus is “to offer women of all shapes and sizes the perfect-fitting jean”. They started with the denim concept in 1977, but expanded to add sportswear in 2006. The company has a strong commitment to workers’ rights, requiring that all of their suppliers and vendors adhere to their Code of Ethics policy. They make sure to work only with factories that do not employ workers younger than 15, pay a fair wage, properly dispose of all hazardous materials, and have an environmental management system in place that includes disaster and emergency preparedness. After the Rana Plaza collapse, this is welcome to hear.

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The Ruthy dress and Rosie skirt. 

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The off-shoulder flutter sleeve dress and Adyson dress. 

You can find KUT from the Kloth on their website, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Century 21, Zappos, Bluefly, and many boutiques nationwide. As a resident of Bushwick who likes to shop at little shops, my source of choice is Néda in Park Slope.

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No Such Agency’s fashion showroom makes appointments for editors, stylists, celebrities, bloggers, and “micro-influencers” to select samples to borrow for photo shoots and events. The biggest appointment witnessed by the girl I talked to was from Vogue, to select pieces for a Karlie Kloss spread shot in Australia. Karlie Kloss has been my favorite model since this article in 2007, so I was pretty excited. No Such Agency keeps six brands at a time. The founders, “This British power couple”, consistently choose independent ready-to-wear brands “with a cool vibe”. They also have a showroom in Los Angeles.

Besides fashion, No Such Agency represents clients in the media, music, art, and lifestyle industries; in other words, everything creative and glamorous. The founders, Dan and Helena Barton, came from marketing at Diesel. Dan has worked at Maison Margiela and DSquared2. Helena has worked at Rag & Bone and All Saints. On the music side, she has worked for James Brown, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, and Franz Ferdinand.

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

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Jessica Loundes; Danai Gurira

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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.

 

 

Love This Brand — Laura Ciccarello Collection

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.”

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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.

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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

 

 

Love This Brand — Judith Leiber

Love This Brand — Ganni

Love This Brand — Ellery