Ring Thomas Engel Hart‘s mobile phone in Paris and you’re greeted with a stirring, groggy-sounding voice exhaling a faint hello. Before you realize you’re being duped, you’re sent directly to his voicemail. A known prankster, Engel Hart’s spring 2002 menswear collection traverses the lines of utility wear, from combat jackets and vests to military accented trousers and denim ruching. On sight, sweatshirts and t-shirts appear basic, but slip them on and their luxurious fabrics and masculine silhouettes are happily revealed. True to his signature aesthetic, new striped button-down and plaid shirts look like you already own them.
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If your clothing tastes lean toward artisanal braiding, lacing, weaving, and fringing, then prepare to inject a splash of Latina to update your look. A few seasons back, Benjamin Cho scored copious editorials and red carpet appearances for his hand-braided silk fringe tops favored by J.Lo and Devon Aoki.
Yoko Devereaux and Just Another Rich Kid Living in the Ghetto could rest on their genius names alone, but the two labels are also designing men’s clothes for no special occasion. Built on the concept that fashion is simply clothing, fabled designer Yoko Devereaux targets men that already view their lives as fantastic. No aspirational brand mission for Devereaux, the clothes come with many little surprises: shirts with easy ruching and light asymmetry and hand-worked jeans spelling out secret messages. Just Another Kid Living in the Ghetto takes rich kid indicators such as argyle, Angelyne, and certain catch phrases (e.g.
Fashion and the French rubgy team are not usually uttered in the same sentence. But after randy lensman Matthias Vriens was hired to shoot the team’s 2003 calendar, the two worlds may now be eternally and inextricably linked. Vriens turned a downright sexpot lens on the players to create instant classic homoerotic images. May’s Gregoire Courturier straddles a forgettable piece of furniture while raising his bum to reach for the high heavens.
"Gearing up" is interpreted quite literally for spring. Hybrid designer/sport style has taken the stiffness out and put motion into several spring collections, signaling yet another turn towards more casual trends in coming seasons. Yohji Yamamoto hit a homerun collaborating with Adidas on his Y3 label, serving up classic Adidas stripes on trainers and moody separates.
On any given afternoon it’s standing-room only inside Edouard Nahum’s namesake Rue Faubourg Poisonniere jewelry atelier. Perched on cushy benches and crammed against glass cases of Audemars Piquet Royal Oak and Van Der Bauwede Magnum GT watches are cadres of Dior saddlebag-toting princesses pawing diamond-lined velvet trays.
A new generation of fashion designers in New York (Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen, the anointed leaders of the pack) is stealthily taking the baton from Marc Jacobs and Micheal Kors and filling the gap of such luminaries as Isaac Mizrahi and Todd Oldham. But where are the brands being built on a single product category?
Inexplicably, runway designers insisted on sexed-up harlots in jacked-up-to-there skirt lengths. But at Tranoi and Premiere Classe, the premiere accessories shows in Paris and key indicators of the accessories market, designers showed off impeccably crafted shoes and handbags in sensible saleable colors like cognac, carob, oxblood and black. The editorial edge was seen in rustic detailing with a distressed attic sensibility that was all classic luxury.
Hot-to-have music producers The Neptunes are not only setting music trends with their saucy sounds for artists from Beenie Man to Britney Spears, the premium trucker’s caps for their own group N.E.R.D are on the most wanted list of edgy urbanites across the States, and trendsetting Europeans with a penchant for hick Americana (a robust audience) are willing to pay big bucks for a N.E.R.D original.
Muscled men with a preference for skintight denim and macho leathers depend on the Italian label DSquared to cultivate that rough and tumble sex appeal. This Spring, a newly launched women’s line will lure equally daring babes seeking out the label’s aggressive fabrics, leather detailing on light military cuts and super-fit silhouettes engineered to bring out her best assets.
Query any fashion diehard or industry professional these days for market pulse or design direction and undoubtedly the response is laced with some reference to style.com, fashionwiredaily.com or fashionwindows.com. A not so subtle shift is taking place among style followers in where they access to-the-minute industry news and trend information and the new source is just a click away. These far reaching online resources serving up daily flavor have become indispensable tools for studying, detecting, forecasting (and in some instances copying) the business of
fashion: everyone sits front row at the collections, while design studios can confidently order yardage of that midnight blue satin at midnight, for instance — just approved as a key upcoming trend, minutes after the last model descended the runway in Paris. And you’re armed with the history of your latest fashion craving without waiting 3 months for a magazine to hit your mailbox. Dare we say the inbox is the new mailbox?
For the cashmere connisseur, this fabric holds a special, very personal significance in a way that perhaps only fur or vicuna (for those lucky enough to own a piece) can. A bit like your favorite blankie as a child. And to that end, two relatively new cashmere companies of the super luxe variety are trading on a very personalized message that’s all grown-up. Lutz&Patmos, a New York-based label from Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos is defined by a plain but precious marketing concept — "simple but special, modern but comfortable, familiar but unique" — and delivers the pieces to back it up.
Utility wear was all over the runways at the Spring 2003 collections, decorating a sea of stylists and models in both London and Paris. Designers from Blaak to Sonia Rykiel hit up the Katharine Hamnett and Norma Kamali archives hard for parachute and combat inspiration while editors excavated Maharishi "snopants" and descended on army surplus stores for multi-functional military gear. Reminiscent of the "techy" late ’90s trend that sated our desire for loads of compartments to fit our new gadgetry, the current movement surrounds clothing that signal strength and security — pieces that appear structurally sound and physically protective. The economy is floundering. War looms. And the frill and flounce seen in recent seasons is giving way to sturdier dressing.
Five years ago, shortly after Rubin Chapelle began producing clothes from a studio apartment in New York, Allure creative director Polly Mellon heralded the arrival of the next Jil Sander. But after their first wave of media attention, the Austrian Sonya Rubin and her boyfriend Kip Chapelle withdrew from the spotlight to focus on developing their line — women clothes with mildly asymmetrical silhouettes, a certain sculptural fluidity, and what the New York Times has described as "a chilled sex appeal." Since then they’ve streamlined their production, steadily increased the size of their following, and secured placement in some of the country best stores. Now they’re returning to visibility, beginning with a sprawling boutique that just opened this fall in the meat-packing district.
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Photo credit: Markus Wilhelm
When you hear about Barneys NY snapping up a complete debut collection from a just-graduated design duo, looking to Europe to crack the mystery of fashion’s newest stars is probably the first instinct. But this time, Proenza Schouler, the new label from Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, is a New York born Parsons School of Design bred design team that has retailers and editors buzzing for their polished elegance, luxe fabrics (sponsored by Marc Jacobs and Micheal Kors) and precision silhouettes with an air of a dressier past-all features that defy their junior status in the industry. And as recipients of "the future of fashion" award from the CFDA and with strategic supporters such as Anna Wintour and indefatigable stylist Patti Wilson, this duo’s stars are certainly on the rise.
The explosion of medium-sized branded apparel lines is forcing some of these labels to aggressively seek brand loyalty through compelling point-of-purchase collateral. Diesel and Abercrombie and Fitch (and Benetton before them) have built brand identities on edgy, provocative lifestyle books, putting the pinch on smaller players to engage with their consumer audience in similar ways. Antwerp-based Zoe & James by Anne Sophie de Campos Resend, for example, produces a seasonal "travel guide" where her two designers choose a destination, travel throughout the region and design a collection inspired by their adventures — culminating into a serialized look-book that customers leave with at point-of-sale. For Fall it was the Himalayas. Spring 2003? Casablanca. Next winter? See you in Russia…. Retail architects take heed.
Fashion’s recent expedition into the animal kingdom for savage, feral and tribal inspiration brought with it an entomological side effect that’s starting to decorate edgy first-adopters across the globe. Yes, my friends, insects are buzzing into style, and they are set to be as ubiquitous as butterflies were just a few years back (thanks to Dolce & Gabbana). For the record, butterflies are insects, too — but fashion’s current brewing fascination focuses on their less beautiful but far more interesting dragonfly, wasp and beetle cousins…. How to apply these miniature marvels?
Just as Los Angeles’s Rick Owens has entered national notoriety under the not-so-accurate label of "new designer," Hollywood’s Magda Berliner has been awarded the media-friendly standing of "ultimate insider." She has famous friends, and they wear her clothes. Her husband, Alex Berliner, is the photographer of choice for Jewish rites of passage at the Dustin Hoffmans’ and for celebrities in need of a discrete passport photo. But family ties with sundry Stillers and Coppolas aside, Berliner has established herself as a designer to watch, working in the old-meet-new genre and whipping up quirky, seemingly one-of-a-kind pieces. The former I. Magnin shopgirl and Fred Segal manager, who as a child was watched over by the Hare Krishnas while her father minded the parking garage, is now in Fashion.
To respond to consumer desire for faster delivery, easier transaction, and detailed product information, a hot new production technology called d.i.v.a was developed by the digital media solutions and production company iNDELIBLE.tv. Working for companies such as MAC, Chanel and Polo Ralph Lauren, iNDELIBLE.tv brings visual and knowledge assets to life for internal and external use in corporate branding and educational strategies with an eye on the new ways, in which consumers are buying and selling.