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What I learned about luxury designer clothing from an afternoon on

12 Feb

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BREAKING: New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn resigns

31 Jan

Cathy HorynCathy Horyn has been the one great voice of reasoned fashion critique in a world full of of obsequious feigning that parades itself as fashion criticism–and today she announced her resignation as fashion critic for The New York Times.  I am going to greatly miss her astute observations  and constant question of “Is this wearable?”  As fashion moves further and further away from the wearable and real into pretentious kitsch, we need more critics like Horyn.  Hoping all the best for Horyn–she will be greatly missed.

The official announcement of her resignation states:

“Cathy’s reasons for leaving are personal ones, to spend more with her partner, Art Ortenberg, who has had health problems, and whom she feels would benefit greatly from her increased presence at home.”

Item courtesy of Business of Fashion

TODAY: Catherine Malandrino for DesignNation at Kohl’s.

27 Sep

Today, Kohl’s launches its third Design Nation designer collaboration.  This time it’s with French designer Catherine

Malandrino,  who has worked for the couture houses of Emanuel Ungaro and Louis Feraud and worked on the re-launch of Diane von Furstenberg in the late 90′s.  She’s been on her own for the past 10 years, and her work is, apparently, admired by many celebrities (she also has a boutique in NYC.)

However, I found this collection to be a bit disappointing.  The collection is very youthful and somewhat kitsch-y, with sweaters emblazoned with PARIS, or an Eiffel Tower, or PARIS JE T’AIME scrawled across what would otherwise be a very chic burgundy blouse.  The cuts of the sweaters are overly boxy, and while I don’t mind the pleated and gored skirts, I feel they

A "workweek" look from the collection

A “workweek” look from the collection

are kind of difficult to match with anything outside the collection.   The colors are limited:  lots of black, and black lace with some blue and burgundy.   Most of the pieces in my local Kohl’s store are black, and while the materials are very nice, and the workmanship is fine (as in all the DesignNation collections,)  there wasn’t much to invite anyone over the age of perhaps a youthful 30 to purchase.

Which makes me wonder: when a store has a full-blown juniors department, and several other designers who cater to youthful sensibilities, why bring in another collection to cater to an under 30 crowd?  Is there that strong a belief that women over 30 are buying mostly for their teen-agers and not interested in fashion?  or is it some other wrong-headded marketing scheme that says one has to capture the 24-30 demographic to make them consumers for life?  Honestly, I don’t think there is any one brand that I knew in my 20′s or 30′s–Levi’s not withstanding–that I would shop at regularly today because they completely forgot that I grew up and have different needs.   Most mass market store brands come and go with fairly good frequency, so whether or not one captures the youth demographic of one generation does not mean at all that the brand will continue to be purchased if it does not grow with the group it chooses to court at any length of time.

This whole bit of a “brand for life” is ridiculous.  and unless you are a true luxury brand, it’s wrongheadded in the wrongest of ways.  Honestly, the one brand I remember from my youth–Diane von Furstenberg–is one I would buy now because von Furstenberg has not ossified her view on one age demographic.  Unlike Betsey Johnson, who has struggled to survive because , I believe, she never offered her older fans anything that would suit their lives and their lifestyles (perhaps it’s because of her own outlook on life?  who knows.)

So, even though I found one dress in the collection I liked, it’s a special occasion dress that I would  not have much use for as my wardrobe is overwhelmed with special occasion dresses and not enough regular occasion dresses.

Beautiful embroidered shift dress. Wonderful for Special Occasions

Beautiful embroidered shift dress. Wonderful for Special Occasions

Oh well.  I’ll just look forward to the Peter Som collaboration in the Spring…..

Bloomingdale’s black tags expected to limit “wardrobing”

17 Sep

Have you ever bought a “special occasion” dress or gown, and returned it the day after you wore it?  Or have you ever


purchased an expensive piece of lingerie for Halloween or a special night, and returned it the next day? If you have, you’ve been engaging in a practice called “wardrobing”–the fraudulent return of used, undamaged goods–and Bloomingdale’s is cracking down on your nasty ways.

According to a Bloomberg Financial report, the three-inch black plastic tags are placed strategically on garments,  in places where they cannot be easily hidden.  And, unlike regular store tags, these black tags cannot be re-attached once they are removed.

The National Retail Federation hopes that this sort of tagging will be a step towards reducing the $8.8 billion in retail fraud that the industry experienced in 2012.  Yet it is feared that the practice might send the wrong message to customers who spend thousands of dollars on high-end merchandise–that the customer is not to be trusted.

Having worked retail, and having turned down customers attempting to return worn, stained merchandise, I completely understand when NRF Loss Prevention V.P. Rich Mellor says “It is a delicate balance of loss prevention and good customer service,
and the relationship has to be handled with appropriate finesse.”   Retailers always fear that one single customer will have a completely deleterious impact on sales by using her own form of negative word-of-mouth marketing.  Already there have been some complaints about the tags on social media sites, but this doesn’t seem to be deterring Bloomingdale’s from sticking to their tag strategy for the time being.

Considering that  a recent survey conducted by the NRF found a 4 percent increase in wardrobing–up to 65 percent from the previous year’s figure of 61 percent–”wardrobing” is obviously on the rise.

There are, however, different strategies that different stores use in order to track fraudulent return–everything from database customer tracking to specialized inks for receipts.  Some of these strategies are better suited to specialty retailers rather than department stores like Bloomingdale’s, where the returns are restricted to certain types of merchandise.  Still, retailers can also discourage these returns by simply not allowing for the return.

However, in that case, the retailer, once again, risks getting bad W.o.M from customers.  And it is hard to track the extent in dollars that bad W.o.M. causes a store.  To some degree it is easier to track the spread on social media, but the dollars amount is a tough figure to calculate.

Bloomingdale’s is, however, willing to take the risks on bad W.o.M. in order to reduce their return fraud.  Can’t blame them really.  I’ve never understood people who think it’s o.k. to use a retailer like a tuxedo rental shop.  It just isn’t.  If you think “wardrobing” is OK, because all you want to do is look pretty for one night, or because you just want to play around with the clothes, then you might need to consider your particular shopping ethics.  Wardrobing is bad for retail and that makes it bad for all of us.

Fashion and Context: Marc Jacobs’ culturally tone deaf “boots” T-shirt gets the boot

13 Sep

Isn’t it interesting when a fashion designer, who’s supposed to be quite edgy, comes out with one of the ugliest tee-shirts ever, that ends up not only appropriating the logo of a skinhead band, but also ends up acknowledging a subculture that it may not want to have an association with.

Marc Jacob's tee and the Skrewdriver tee it resembles

Marc Jacob’s tee and the Skrewdriver tee it resembles

Even if the Marc Jacobs’ people (or Marc Jacobs, for that matter) knew nothing about Skrewdriver, someone at the house should have known enough about skinhead culture, and about the use of Doc Martens boots by that subculture.  Even if they didn’t know in depth about the culture, there’s plenty on Wikipedia about skinheads, Oi! and so forth.  And there are Oi! and skinhead tees one can buy over the Internet:  oi shirtoi skinhead shirt

Even though Oi! isn’t blazingly obvious as, say Miley Cyrus (it may be more visible in the U.K.) if someone’s fashion brand is associated with hipness,  one should have a basic understanding of subcultures from the 80′s into the 90′s,  These are two decades when musical subcultures seemed to thrive, with distinctive looks, clubs, names to their movements, etc.  It was serious business in those days, and is still quite serious to the people who follow these subcultures now.  It’s amazing the subcultures that exist in pockets all over the U.S. and U.K.   I’m not sure if we have the same level of musical subculture diversity today as we had back in those two decades, but someone like Jacobs should have an awareness of this stuff in at least the English-speaking countries of the U.S. and the U.K.

A note to young fashionistas: before you co-opt a style or look from another decade, esp. those of the 80′s and 90′s, please do a little research.  Some of those subcultures are still alive and kicking, even if they’re not in your suburban neighborhood.  If you are going to be into fashion, you must understand cultural history as well.  Fashion isn’t just about you and your self-expression.  It does not always happen in the vacuum of the designer’s studio either.  Jacobs’ lesson is an example of what can go wrong when one does not pay attention to fashion’s historical context.

More about the $70 tees, and that they have been pulled from high-end retailers at Yahoo!Shine

Menswear: Aaron Taylor-Johnson looks gorgeous in plaid suit for GQ

7 Sep

Oh, let’s just admit it: he’d look gorgeous in or out of a plaid suit……ATJ in Sept 2013 GQ

Not to mention that this stunning GQ pictorial also has great pointers for how to wear a plaid suit.  I love when GQ gives the detailed info on how to pull a look together, and sometimes think that women’s mags would benefit from similar features.  Lord knows so many women have zero idea how to pull off some of the more complicated, and flimsy, jersey knits, or structured, tailored clothing.  Unlike men, who wear much  more simple undergarments, women need more complicated–or at least supportive–garments to get the right fit.

BTW,  this also brings up the brou-ha-ha last year about John Hamm’s little bulgy problem in many of his Mad Men suits.  If you look at the tailoring on AT-J’s attire, you’ll notice that there’s some nice, um…welll…I hate to point it out, but I think  you know what I mean.  It’s not glaringly obvious, like the pic that circulated over the summer of the young guy in leggings that was totally TMI….but, hey, men aren’t supposed to have the crotches of a Ken doll, now are they?

Speaking of leggings, I had to laugh at this article from last September’s New York magazine that discussed leggings were for the “fashion  forward” male customer.  Really???  Um, not.  A gorgeously tailored plaid suit is far more fashion forward, and stylish–because you’ve got to be able to pull the look off with amazing aplomb–than any pair of leggings on any man.  I’m sorry, but leggings are, for the most part, egregious on pretty much everyone (unless  you’re female and wearing a tunic, which a whole lot of women seem to have forgotten about.)  so we shouldn’t even be thinking about wearing the darned things out of the house unless we keep everything between the waist and high mid-thigh covered.

For that matter, can we get guys out of those straight leg jeans that look like women’s jeans???  And guys, if you *are* wearing women’s jeans, put them back.  they don’t look any better on you than they do on your girlfriend.

Closer to fashion than you think: Why I’m not following Mecedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2013…..

6 Sep

As far as I can tell, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is full-steam ahead in New York City right now.   But I don’t feel like giving it any big-time press over here.  There’s enough social going on about it, and, well, since they’re not real big on giving back any

Fashion: Sartorial Opiate or Shamanistic Magic?

Fashion: Sartorial Opiate or Shamanistic Magic? (Photo credit: Earthworm) It’s up to you to decide.

linklove, I’d rather put my energies elsewhere….

You see, over that August hiatus, I took a  look around where I live and discovered a whole bunch of fashion going on.  Really. Interesting. Fashion.  In museums, in shows, in places I’d never expect (like the Holyoke Mall–which will merit its own blog post shortly.)  All of this made me think that we spend so much time looking at New York and Paris and so  many other places that we might neglect, or even not know, that fashion happens in a lot of places.

Where you live might not be any kind of big fashion hub like New York, and it might not be the place you dream about going, but there are people who are creative (you might even be one of them!) who are doing fun things with fashion (because fashion is about fun as much as about personal style) and it might be great to get out and see what they’re doing–rather than spending time looking at all the big designer stuff….

Which we can see on so many websites and in so many magazines, and in so many videos.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the stuff that goes on in the Big Wide World of Fashion, and I look for ideas and trends that I can use to update my personal style.  Yet there’s some thing about sharing this fashion love locally rather than dreaming away about another landscape far, far away….

Think about it.

Maybe you, too, are closer to fashion than you think.


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