Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The System is Broken .. an editorial



With many of the heritage brands being reignited as supposedly au courant fashion, it has occurred to me that the system is indeed quite broken. The question is if it is irreparably broken or can it be resuscitated back to its proper purpose and that is to sell clothes.



First LVMH appointed Raf as a creative director. Whether or not this was a wise choice, it really isn’t for me to say even though I abhor what he stands for and what his output has been. Yearly sales at Dior, as a brand, have risen but take note that apparel, including haute couture is not broken out in terms of what has grown under his reign. My gripe has been if you have a heritage that has a rich history and a huge archive, why must it be totally reimagined rather than its history massaged and evolved as a brand for the 21st century. I fear the next disaster waiting to happen to is the once esteemed brand of Bill Blass.


So, now after the supposed success of Saint Laurent, we have all sorts of assistants, fledgling and self-inflated designers being appointed as creative directors for breathing heritage brands or just these old school fusty names that must have been purchased for no other reason than attention or in hope that anyone might recognize the name they just paid for. Cases in point are Carven, Courreges, Vionnet and even Paco Rabanne; lest us forget Ungaro which has suffered numerous disastrous designers. Yes, there have been reimaginings that seem to work such as Balmain, Mugler and a few more but even those bear no resemblance to what made the names great or famous… so why use these names other than for attention? Keep in mind that just because a designer says they have been inspired by the founder, the end results are usually that you just shake your head from this convoluted and self-inflicted delusion.


Next up is a fawning media with the sheep mentality that seems to only be interested in garnering ad dollars and certainly not offering any insight or real opinions about a collection.  What happened to critics who actually understand what they look at and honestly have an authoritative voice rather than just the regurgitation of a ludicrous press release whose words usually belie what has been presented or even worse described in a single word like … FABULOUS!. Fashion is not a cerebral profession, you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to design clothes but you must have talent.


Talent is the next logical topic. While the skill set is highly individual to each designer, it is safe to say that these mega brands should require designers to be able to sketch and drape and not just espouse enigmatic inspirations and point. It is said that Raf would never meet with a private client even though the house does haute couture and it is my assumption  that he is either a misogynist, afraid of the female body or has never been in a fitting a room with a female. Designers need to be designers and not in charge of store design or advertising. There are such HUGE disconnects within brands such as Saint Laurent and Dior. We have Hedi’s moody trashy Helmut Newtonish photos for apparel then we have glossy Maybelline type ads for cosmetics not to mention the disconnects within the brand extensions such as printed lipsticks on shoes and handbags as if they were made for H&M. Take for instance Jennifer Lawrence in a Dior handbag ad who seems to not want to touch let alone hold or own the bag. Instead of hiring legions of design staff, let those equipped with the proper skills direct things such as store design and advertising and brand extensions. If fashion has become just another arm of big business then it should be treated as such. After all, you wouldn’t allow a bookkeeper to prepare the quarterly earnings report for LVMH, now would you? You can’t hand over the reins of a major brand to a creative director who has the skill set of an assistant or a vendeuse!


Having spent decades in this business, it is my opinion that yes, fashion and retailing have changed or evolved or whatever but the facts remain that women want to feel sexy and attractive when they spend thousands of dollars on clothes. They do not want to look like they are dressed for Halloween in May and even though today’s client is more body conscious, their essential concerns remain the same as they did 40 years ago. Case in point; women of every age, let alone women of a certain age, do not ALL want to wear sleeveless dresses! Furthermore they are forced to in great majority as when you tour any store, a dress with sleeves is as rare as hen’s teeth! So we can now speak to the reality of who is your brand's demographic?  Age?  Body type?  Disposable  income?  Or in other words the who, what and where of your supposed client. Carry on all you want but Gucci girls who want to look like nerdy schoolgirls can’t afford to spend $6000 on a dress and so they get their version from the thrift shops and various fast fashion chains and the same goes for Hedi’s clients. BTW, the thrift store, well that’s where so many of these designers get their new groundbreaking ideas.


IMHO. It is what happens at Dior that will determine the long term fashion climate. I firmly believe that if Arnault or whomever actually takes the bold step of hiring a seasoned designer to restore Dior to  its proper place in the fashion pantheon, then well… all the kids of fashion better be worried ... really worried.


PS ... yes …  I use Hedi and Raf as whipping posts but there are legions more who fit the bill

Friday, October 23, 2015

Atelier Nicolas Caito.. the back rooms of fashion



Few, if any, of the fashion flock ever discuss, contemplate or comprehend how a dress or article of clothing actually transforms from sketch to garment; clothes do not mysteriously morph from drawing or concept to reality. In today’s world of fashion there are so many so called designers or creative directors that actually do not have the skill set to go beyond pointing or possibly sketching, let alone draping. So now most large brands employ scores of people whose only job is to sketch or others whose job it is to work on or with actual garments. In years gone by the magical transformation from flat paper to cloth occurred “in the back,” the inner sanctum which was located behind the showroom space where sample makers and designers met on a daily basis to actually create.
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Today’s focus is about Atelier Nicolas Caito whose profession and person is to literally make magic or in other words to take a designer’s sketch/idea and turn it into a unit of fashion reality. Have you ever wondered how Balenciaga, Capucci or even a brand like Hood By Air can create pieces that defy gravity, defy all logic or are just plain beyond the scope of one’s comprehension? Firstly, two of the three mentioned designers actually draped and sketched which surely goes a long way to creating wondrous fashion, but then there are those who haven’t the abilities to even accomplish one of those tasks which means you need a “toiliste” or translated to  patternmaker. It is the patternmaker who actually interprets and creates from flat sketch or concept to an actual three dimensional garment while solving construction issues while remaining mindful of the intricacies of each particular style. The patternmaker is the one person who must be of the same mindset as the designer, if even for that moment during the design process; think of a translator at the United Nations and their import for conveying exactly what the speaker actually says.

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The patternmaker (toiliste) is the sole person responsible for those jaw dropping runway pieces that will eventually grace the racks of some retail establishments. The patternmaker is a miracle worker of sorts and it falls upon them to make the impossible possible. For instance, if you look at Proenza Schouler from this past spring and you "oohed and aahed" about a seemingly amazing red dress, you might want to thank Nicolas Caito and his team for making that possible as the task of turning dreams to reality is what he and his team do on an everyday basis whether for Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, J. Mendel or The Row and that’s just to name a few. It is Atelier Nicolas Caito that is the sorcerer or voodooist of fashion who has the vocabulary and skill sets to pull rabbits out of hats and convert the fantastical into fact.

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So, you might wonder what prepared a gentleman like Mr. Caito for the tasks at hand and you have only to read his resume which includes Hermes, Lanvin (haute couture), Rochas, Margiela and Blass. The man’s talents know no bounds and his well-honed abilities are the sort that defy his age and that is why he is a man in demand within the cognoscenti of fashion.
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Next time you see a dress parade down a catwalk you might want to consider the genesis of the garment and not just the end result as a product from designer. In most cases said designer is only as good as his or her “toiliste.” Step up to the plate and take that extra step of actually considering more than just the immediate reflex of reacting to the finished product as what you see can tell a long story as to its path to completion.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Profiling Peter Davis of The Daily Front Row



Merriam Webster defines man–about–town as:  noun, a man who goes to many popular parties, clubs, etc. or a man who goes to many popular parties, clubs, etc.



The Urban Dictionary defines man about town as:  A sophisticated, suave male urban dweller; one who knows which bars to frequent, where the fashionistas dine, and which shows one must see.


Lastly there is this: a fellow who can often be seen around the city; particularly in the right places or with the right people …. Dapper, sociable, and fashionable.


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You might be asking yourself who is Peter Davis and the answer is quite simply that he is the man about town on an international stage, an editor, a writer, a social fixture or just a ubiquitous presence at so many social and fashion events. Nevertheless, Peter is a man on the move who has recorded and reported for the likes of Vanity fair, Vogue, Details, Wall Street Journal, Paper, Avenue, Interview and Scene, just to name a few. Catching up with Peter Davis is no small feat considering he is currently the Editor at Large of the Daily Front Row.

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Rather than detailing his duties at the Daily Front Row, this interview deals with Peter Davis, the force of nature, the unstoppable social workaholic and the man who has put his stamp on style upon the world of fashion and style. Depending on what events you attend or where you dine, you might run into him in any part of the world and ask him something that’s not covered by my questions. This is your opportunity to learn more about what makes Peter Davis tick as well as who is the real Peter Davis. So, in his own words and without further ado, here he is in his own words:


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Jeffrey Felner: You have an affinity with leopard so can we speak to that subject?

Peter Davis: Leopard is a neutral and really goes with anything. My leopard print Supreme denim jacket is a go-to and I bring it whenever I travel. I also almost always wear leopard slippers with black tie as I have three pairs by Stubbs and Belgian Shoes; leopard makes black tie a little less boring.


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JF: You’re having an intimate dinner party for five and who would you invite and why?

PD: Dinner parties are all about the mix. I’d have Banksy, so I could see who he really is, Martin Margiela, my favorite designer and also like Banksy, Cindy Sherman, my favorite artist, Hillary Clinton as it’s always good to have a power person at the table and my sister Minnie Mortimer who is my best friend and the person I’d recap the dinner party with the next morning.


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JF: You have had various positions involving publications online as well as on paper; what was your favorite, and how do you envision your future?

PD: I was a teenage intern at Paper and it changed my life as I never thought about working in media since I was a painting major in college. After I graduated from Bennington I met Kim and David from Paper and they had me write some stuff which led to assignments from Vogue and Vanity Fair. I didn’t know how to type and I still don’t, but I had so much fun writing and running around NYC interviewing cool people. My first full time job was as Editor in Chief of Avenue and then I left that to start Scene with Observer Media. Doing my own magazine with a skeleton staff and a miniscule budget was beyond challenging but I learned more than I would have doing anything else. The biggest skill I now have is how to make a cover look like I spent lots of money without actually really spending any. Right now I’m focusing on writing, in particular a book. I have a great agent and a great idea. It will take me 6-9 months to write but I am ready to get it done.

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JF: If you could live anywhere in the world ... where and why?

PD: I grew up in Manhattan and moved to Williamsburg just 3 years ago. I never want to leave Brooklyn. The creative beat of NYC really has jumped the river and now lives in Brooklyn.

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JF: Let’s talk fashion now, so what do you love and why; any pet peeves about fashion?

PD: I love style more than I love fashion. Runway shows are often amazing, but street style is what really inspires and intrigues me. There are designers I love; I adored Martin Margiela up until he actually left his own house and the same thing applies to Helmut Lang. These days anything exciting on the catwalk happens in Europe where fashion is more art than commerce. In the states, Thom Browne and Marc Jacobs are two designers that are consistently surprising and fascinating for me to follow. Personally, I only wear Thom Browne button downs which is a pretty pricey choice to have made but they fit perfectly and age well. On my wish list is anything custom. My tailor in London Timothy Everest makes the best suits for me so I am always wishing I had more. Nothing is better than picking out everything right down to the interior pockets.
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Implausible Check List Spring 2016



Posit (v) : to suggest (something, such as an idea or theory) especially in order to start a discussion

After seeing as many shows as I could bear this season, it came upon that it is possible that there was an “Implausible Check List” that was circulated in New York, London, Milan and Paris ... it was let’s say “posited” by the design gods as a set of guidelines for the Spring season. It became obvious to me that many many designers took this as a mandate rather than a set of suggestions. It might have read like the below…..
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Memo to ALL designers for Spring 2016:The Implausible Check List

*Make sure all clothes look sloppy and droopy and look as cheap as possible

*All collections should have mesh, netting and souffl√© as well as see thru tops, in fact, don’t line anything


*To ensure that clothes are more unattractive, please use below the knee lengths with flat shoes or trainers or just plain ugly  shoes


*Use prepubescent models and make sure some are of questionable gender, then add matronly silhouettes and eyeglasses


*When doing a presentation, please make sure the theatrics overshadow the clothes so that the audience is distracted from the eyesore you call a collection


*Please style all models to look as unattractive as possible


*Bare midriffs should be used freely so no one can possibly wear them once they reach the age of 35


*When you copy another designer’s clothes make believe it is the first time it has ever been done

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*Please make sure that your clothes serve no purpose other than for runway and editorial


*If you are known for making ball gowns then by all means use an athletic wear reference and do day clothes


*Please make sure your press release is sufficiently arcane as if to justify bad design and incongruous to show off your supposed deep thoughts


*Feel  free to use floating panels everywhere and any gimmick you can find to jazz up the poorly designed clothes or just make them as nondescript as possible


*For those who design for heritage brands... please make sure you decimate any hint of the original DNA ... just make it look like yours


*Please make sure that your vision offers no clue that you ever graduated from any kind of design school and masks any talent you may have


*Please adhere to the “me too” rule as well as the beating of the dead horse syndrome

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*Outlandish and absurd does not pass for good design or good fashion even if you think it does


*Get a dictionary and look up relevant and accessible,  then know your price points and who can actually afford your clothes … demographic… also look that up


*Be aware that hype, false praise and maybe paid for praise does not sell clothes nor does your front row of so called celebrities


*Oh yeah then there’s this  ... the fashion business is about selling clothes which means many of you are behind the 8 ball


*Lastly, get your resume together because sooner than later your party is over!