Category Archives: Fall Fashion

The Revolving Door of Fashion

A long time ago, when I started this blog, I used it as a forum to talk about fashion, but also to talk openly and honestly about the state of the industry and the things I found incredible and / or concerning about it. It’s a slippery slope to write about fashion because on one hand you want to be supportive of the art and design, and on the other you have to be realistic about fashion as a business and the often-ugly truths about it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about the industry too, and even more so lately with the honesty of some of the writers, and often times even designers who are questioning the state of things and the direction the industry is taking.

Last week, one of my favorite fashion writers, Cathy Horyn, wrote an excellent piece for New York Magazine about something I’ve been saying for far too long – that the industry, acting like a revolving door for some designers, is continuing to lose it’s luster.

If you follow the industry it’s no secret that in an effort to “revive” what were some very successful brands, there is a constant merry-go-round of designers that come in and go out, and get traded like athletes. But should they?

According to various sources, Carven, a fashion house founded in 1945, had many notable license agreements through 70’s, and has had substantial changes in investors and designers in 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and finally 2015 with Alexis and Adrien Martial Cailaudaud at the helm and showing their first collection for the brand. Is it even fair to keep calling it Carven?

Other examples, where new designers came in and I think ultimately undermined the essence of a brand were Alexander Wang for Balenciaga, and Karl Largerfeld for Chanel. The designers make an effort to identify with the style of the brand, but ultimately end up only able to offer an exaggerated example. They try to make things “modern,” but to many, educated eyes, they come up short and can’t quite deliver the authenticity they may strive to.

And while the fashion writers continue to try to figure out where the authentic designers are, the authentic designers are trying to resist the lure of big business and live a life as close to the integrity of their craft as they can get. Some eventually succumb to fame and fortune, and others (thankfully) say, if I can’t be authentic, then why bother?

What’s even more interesting is that most of the designers that can afford to stay authentic are usually wealthy women, who love fashion, have talent, and won’t – make that don’t – have to compromise for anyone. From Stella McCartney, to Victoria Beckham, to Rosetta Getty, to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row, they stay true because the can. The same holds for Phoebe Philo and Céline. While she doesn’t’ come from a place the others do, the brand has stayed true, and Phoebe has real talent, and that is the winning combination.

On the other hand, are people noticing that in most of the major fashion houses where the designers are rotating through are usually hiring men? They come. And then they go. Which begs the question: does having a “muse,” qualify you to design what’s best for women?

It’s just something to think about, really.

And all of this brings me back to the point I continue to make, that things with real substance and integrity are being honored less and less…and less.

I am hopeful for the future in fashion because while Cathy Horyn observes how “many designers have a one-dimensional view of glamour that boils down to tits and fringe,” designers like Phoebe Philo continue to look for ways to remain innovate and authentic – and try to answer the questions; What is too much? What is not enough? And what looks authentic?

Céline

Céline

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney

The Row

The Row

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Rosetta Getty

Rosetta Getty

 

Has New York Fashion Week Lost Its Luster?

This is the first February, in a very long time that I have not gone to New York City for fashion week. While I used to have a first-hand account of the over-saturation that is fashion these days, I have no choice but to rely on viewing the collections posted to Style.com and reading the witty wisdom and talent of fashion writers like Vanessa Friedman (http://nyti.ms/1wJFNwy) and Cathy Horyn (http://thecut.io/1CixejB) – who held nothing back this season.

Between the two of them (and many more) it was made abundantly clear that fashion week just isn’t what it used to be – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Friedman, who dubbed the ever-expanding spectacle “fashion month,” was concerned about finding focus among the “hundreds of shows in four cities on two continents.” Horyn, was refreshingly blunt with her “colorful” language, and after having been out of the industry for quite some time, was able to come to fashion week with a different perspective, one that helped her see the “yawning gaps” and “oversaturation” of the business. I think they were both trying to be upbeat, despite the state of affairs.

Of all the reports I saw, fashion week was over-run with an over-arching trend to revisit the 70’s. Platform shoes, suede coats, copious amounts of fringe and an abundance of psychedelic patterns ruled the runways. Now, I realize the millennials have yet to experience the fashion statements of that decade, but I’ve lived through it twice – once in the actual decade that was the 70’s, and again when it had resurgence in the 90’s – and sadly fall 2015 fashion is not experiencing a fresh take.

From where I sit, revisiting the 70’s seems a little too safe for my taste, and I was really hoping that more than a designer or two would take more risks and go deeper into territories unknown – and a few did, but in doing so really just pushed the limits of all things absurd instead.

As I scrolled through show after show, image after image, I began to wonder why this theater of the absurd had become the choice. I wondered where the middle ground that represents the socio-economic climate of the times was. Instead I kept seeing regurgitated “looks” pumped out and every critic giving it a sartorial “thumbs up.” And it solidified, for me, that just because you call yourself a critic and claim to have an opinion, it doesn’t make you an expert or an authority in fashion. The truth is, you don’t have to “be” in fashion to know that everything looks the same.

If you want to know how I really feel, there is just so much bad taste out there – and good taste is not being honored…and it’s sad.

I feel for those who tried to cover fashion week this year. Summing up hundreds of fashion shows in one week…in the middle of some of the worst snowstorms ever…with nothing to write or talk about. Caught between the mediocre and the absurd, witnessing designers using crowd sourcing as a way of putting out their collections. Don’t they understand that by doing so they aren’t creating a desire for what they do anymore? Don’t they see that they are creating a paradigm of repetitiveness, and there is only so long a consumer can stay on the hamster wheel with nothing new presented to them before they become bored and turn their backs on an industry that can only continue to deteriorate?

I could relate to Cathy Horyn, and I sensed her struggle as she looked for bits and pieces to write about so she wouldn’t come across as some old lady. However, I don’t believe for a minute it’s generational, I think it’s just not so good anymore. I find fashion to be redundant, and not really what consumers want or need.

I have a profound appreciation for those who expose their jugular veins and really take risks in fashion. But they have to put their necks out with purpose, not simply to put on a show.

I’ve been surrounded by the business of fashion my entire life, and have been standing next to it for the last couple of decades, at least. And when I look back to the fashion of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s through the 90’s, it was apparent that designers of those times were really putting a mark on a world that they greatly influenced. Now I can’t help but wonder, who is making a mark, where is the passion, what is the legacy that is going to be left behind?

I wonder.

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Meanwhile, in Paris…

Each season I board a plane to Paris and expect to find some inspiration when I land. I attend shows and visit showrooms; I talk to other businesswomen and men; I meet with designers and exchange ideas with magazine editors…all in an effort to find and bring new ideas and inspiration back to Boston.

I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, but as my trip came to a close last week and I found myself ready to come home, I realized that overall, I wasn’t so inspired.

Actually, I’m quite happy with what I bought while I was there, and I had no problem committing to the designers and ideas that I did, but I’m glad I went into it with a definitive point of view – because when people walk into the major department stores in spring, I don’t know if they’ll be able to find one. Sure, you’ll see the trends – but inspiration? I’m not so sure.

I really enjoyed what designers like Haider Ackermann, Jonathan Saunders, Victoria Beckham, and Roland Mouret had to say, but beyond that most everything else smelled quite unauthentic. It seemed the creative air was sucked out of the city in some odd way. Paris has always been about the artistry, but more and more it’s become about going “global,” and the art is getting lost.

I understand that the name of the game is the bottom line, but we can’t forget that ingenuity has paved the road to the bottom line for many incredible designers throughout the ages. There is no question that fashion is losing its edge and becoming too commercialized overall. Authenticity is becoming lost and not only is it affecting the subconscious behaviors of consumers, it’s taking an evident toll on the industry itself.

One of the last shows of Fashion Week was Chanel. Karl Lagarfeld transformed the Grand Palais into a Paris Boulevard and it seemed, a feminist protest. Models strutted together in a large group, shouting with and without megaphones, carrying posters to protest…I don’t know what, or more importantly perhaps, why. Was it a protest of fashion? Quite honestly it left me feeling confused, not inspired.

It seemed there was a sense of anti-fashion off of the runway as well. I couldn’t help but notice the fashion bloggers who are usually very well dressed were a bit more casual in Paris. I saw a lot of boy jeans and white shirts and man-style shoes, indicating that none of them wanted to fall into fashion? I got the sense that Tommy Ton didn’t know what or who to shoot because everyone was dressed so similarly. Nary a Christian Louboutin heel or Céline bag could be found. The tone was definitely toned down and it felt unsettling to me that people were holding back.

Other unsettling news came via WWD where I learned that New York would be adding five new 250k square foot department stores to the borough of Manhattan. Why? So they can sell everything on sale? So the conglomerates that own a great deal of the fashion space can continue to seek a dominant space in the market? At what price?

Quite often I feel like Vanessa Freidman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic of the New York Times, is one of the only other people who sees what I see, and is willing to talk about it. If you read her articles it’s clear she wants to know what the purpose is of fashion these days, and why the industry is behaving as it is. What’s going on and what’s it really all about? Do we need another paparazzi picture of Kim and Kanye arriving late to a fashion show?

Unfortunately, my need for authenticity and integrity wasn’t quite satiated this season. It seemed the designers wanted to say or demand something, but they didn’t quite know what it was – and it’s for this reason that the reaction of the industry to build more toward dominance seems quite counterproductive at this time.

My hope is that the industry starts to see and dismantle the hamster wheel they’ve built for consumers to build an appetite with, and instead find ways to encourage consumption that has some meaning behind it. Find a way to encourage originality and authenticity, and understand that people want to devour that even more.

Meanwhile…I’m walking around the city streets of Paris wearing pieces that I brought from Boston. Pieces from Louis, past and present – all mixed up but with a distinct point of view. People were stopping me, asking me how I put things together – finally something to talking about!

…and so I ask, do you really care where Kim and Kanye are today?

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann

Jonathan Saunders

Jonathan Saunders

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Roland Mouret

Roland Mouret

(all images: style.com)

Menswear 101: Intro. to Pants

Last week I wrote about fashion categories for women, and how I like to avoid them for those who shop at Louis.

This week, I want to talk about fashion categories for men, and how they’re pretty much unavoidable.

If you are a man, or shop with a man, or shop for a man…or own a clothing store that has been selling the best in menswear for decades, you’re probably already familiar with the rules of men which are: 1.) They’re always hot, 2.) They don’t want to wear anything scratchy, and 3.) They’ll only buy what’s comfortable.

You’ll also be familiar with the fact that men have fairly standard choices when it comes to fashion, and those choices fall into categories. It’s because of this, and the nature of what I do, that I embrace the predictability of those categories and find the very best in them: the best tailoring, the best fabrics, the best in comfort, and always the best in style. Especially so when it comes to pants.

Besides a very avant-garde few, every man will wake up, get out of bed, and put on a pair of pants – every day – one leg at a time. Therefore, it makes me wonder why the majority of them are so willing to follow the path of least resistance (also known as khakis) and less willing to take the time to search high and low for the pair that will ultimately make them look and feel good at the same time.

When men come into Louis to shop for pants they politely explain that they want something in a soft “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain. Then I laugh and ask them if they understand that finding “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain is like finding a unicorn running down the Esplanade. It doesn’t exist. And then I ask, “Do you really want to walk around with the most precious parts of you all wrapped up in Teflon?”

As you can imagine, after the shock of my question wears off, the answer is pretty much always “no.”

I understand that you can walk into any store and get a “pair of pants” for $75-$200, but what you won’t get is what you’ll find at Louis … hand tailored pants crafted from incredible fabric with an incomparable fit. And unlike the aforementioned, these pants will be worth every penny you invest in them.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll notice that they’ll have the most spectacular fit. They won’t sag in the ass or be cut too wide in the leg, but they will have enough of a cut to allow you to sit down, or drive a car, and be comfortable.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll have a better understanding about innovations in fabrication including corduroy made from cotton and cashmere, brushed or twilled printed cotton, and lightweight flannel wool. And he’ll appreciate the fact that when he comes into a store like Louis he’ll have the opportunity to see it all and have it available – in his size.

Listen, I’ve been in the business of menswear for a very long time, and I know that if men want to expand their repertoire and be prepared for every occasion they can do so by having 4 different types of pants in their wardrobe: wool tailored, cotton tailored, cotton washed, and either a jean or track pant – or some other kind of casual pant. And they should all be equally comfortable across the board.

In our response to the rules of men, I can say with confidence that the collection of pants we have curated here will 1.) Not overheat you (nothing is heavier than 250 grams), 2.) Will never feel scratchy, and 3.) Will be tailored to perfection and always feel comfortable.

Guys…I beg you, please don’t let your jeans become your excuse. Jeans are not okay for every occasion. There truly are so many more interesting options, and I promise they will be just as, if not more, comfortable than denim – and they will definitely look and feel better.

Life presents more opportunities than ever before. Put your pants on one leg at a time and walk through them effortlessly.

But don’t wrap yourself up in Teflon.

Please.

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

 

Valentini pant, Mastai shirt

Valentini Pant, Mastai Shirt

Tim Coppens pant, Sartoria Partenopea jacket , Common Project sneakers, Malo sweater

Tim Coppens Pant, Sartoria Partenopea Jacket , Common Projects Sneakers, Malo Sweater

Sartoria Partenopia pant

Sartoria Partenopia Pant, Robert Clergerie Shoes

No Categories. No Repeats. No Hesitations.

I suppose it makes it easier for everyone when fashion and fabric are separated into categories. And it’s probably safe to assume that when the typical consumer walks into a department store, large or small, it’s easier to ask where the silk blouses are so both they, and the sales person, will know exactly what the shopper is referring to.

But to be honest with you I’m beginning to feel like the “category” has seen its day, and that day is passing – at Louis anyway.
Right now, when you walk into Louis, you’ll find carefully curated pieces that don’t fall absentmindedly into any particular category, and that’s just the way I wanted it. Designers including SUNO, GOAT and Proenza Schouler have all created spectacular garments in matching and/or coordinating fabric that ironically make them some of the most versatile pieces you’ll find for the Fall 2014 season. While pants are pants, and skirts are skirts, and dresses are dresses – what goes along with them are not tops, blouses, or jackets. Instead they are pieces that compel you to discover how you want to embrace and incorporate them into your life. Wear them together or wear them apart – they are stunning, and they are going to allow you to really own your individuality.

The other half of the affair I’m having with fashion this fall has arrived in the exploration of innovative fabrication. From GOAT’s denim wool crepe fabric, to Proenza’s viscose knits and razored leather and wool, to Otto’s ultrasuede, to Simone Rocha, Alice Roi, Jonathan Simkhai, and Jacquemus’ bold and beautiful use of neoprene, technology has gone further than it ever has and is ultimately answering the needs of a generation.

Neoprene? Yes. Neoprene. Invented by DuPont scientists in 1930, it thrills me to no end that designers have taken hold and are using it for something other than what it was originally made for – as they should! The fabric has incredible flexibility, provides stunning shape and volume, and keeps you warm without adding any additional weight.

Even after all this time that I’ve been in the business, I still find a fashion season like this to be incredible. Overflowing with innovation that gives us all an opportunity to honor those who refuse to fit into a category and purposefully create things that should be seen and touched and APPRECIATED.

For those who find satisfaction in discovery…I look forward to meeting the women who are bold enough to wear these looks this season.

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GOAT

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SUNO / Proenza Schouler Shoes

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Jacquesmus / Robert Clergerie Shoes

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Proenza Schouler / Paul Andrew Shoes

“Loose Luxury” – Fall 14 – @Louis_Boston

For the first time since I’ve been in this business, I find that the evolution of fashion has moved us into a moment of androgynous, and/or ambisexual dressing. I suppose you could say punk and deconstruction flirted with the notion, but today any distinctly feminine element you may have found there have all but been omitted.

It’s no secret that I’ve been attracted for some time now to the casual, luxury, athletic inspired designs that line the racks at Louis, and as we move into fall, that tone continues to evolve. A lot of the new pieces arriving here hold on to those sensibilities, but increasingly they are embracing androgynous qualities that effortlessly accompany them. And it’s been interesting to observe our customers as they approach the new season because I’m finding the pieces I have bought, whether cut for men or women, show very little difference in the nuance of the design, yet they are being very well received and appreciated by both sexes.

In particular, pieces from Baha East and Greg Lauren.

Baja East, the recently launched brainchild of Scott Studenberg and John Targon is a new line to Louis. Studenberg and Targon met while working on the wholesale side of the businesss for Lanvin, and Celine and Burberry respectively, and come to us in Boston with what is only their second collection.

Creating clothing that “everyone wants to wear all of the time,” the pair has coined their look “loose luxury” and produce pieces that are easy and casual, but finished in luxurious fabrics.

From their sleeveless hoodie made out of the softest glove leather you will ever lay your hands on, to another made from luxurious pony hair – I saw the collection in their showroom in New York, and I knew you had to have it.

Greg Lauren, Ralph’s nephew, has also created quite a buzz at Louis with his incredible distressed pieces. Since 2011 he has been finding vintage army duffle bags and tents at flea markets and vintage dealers, and manipulating them to create collections full of astonishing contradictions. The pieces for men and women differentiate a bit, but I didn’t buy that way for the season. Instead I bought similar pieces for everyone. His cashmere patchwork coats look and feel like nothing you’ve ever seen before and his exquisite, yet casual pants have sold out for women and soon will for men.

And while I would like to say the success of both lines at Louis should be attributed to my good taste, that’s honestly not the case. It’s truly just the confluences of things that are going on right now. With no other real way to describe it, pieces from both designers are just very “now,” and that kind of says it all.

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Make no mistake about it, the mainstream industry at large doesn’t quite know how to describe it either, but they are determined. True to form, the fashion rags (magazines and trade publications) want so badly to talk about this new incarnation of luxury, but they first need to categorize it and make it accessible to everyone by lining it up nicely along side of the “athletic” inspired brands of the moment (think LuLu). And while one could argue that there are shared components as things relate to comfort, the Common Project sneakers and the elements of Baja East and Greg Lauren are truly in a category unto themselves, yet there is nothing categorical about any of it.

Not to mention the fact that each and every garment produced is made purposefully, by hand, one at a time. And you won’t know what that means in terms of unique look and delicious feel if you are shopping from your computer. You simply have to try it on. The garments are made to drape differently on every body. You really have to throw out your ideas about traditional sizing because some prefer these pieces more fitted, and others with a little more room. Either way they look fabulous but they have to be tried on.

And this is what I’m referring to when I speak about the evolution and movement in fashion. Your jeans are an option, but now they are only that…an option. If you embrace new ideas and are open to evolving the way you think about clothing it’s inevitable that you’ll find pieces that may not replace your favorite jeans, but they will certainly make you think twice before automatically reaching for them. You have options now – Incredible, luxurious, forward thinking, innovative, versatile, striking options.

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Nothing thrills me more than when a customer comes to Louis, sees what we have to offer them, and understands the philosophy behind it. They get it.

Just last week a woman came in and grabbed a pair of Greg Lauren pants that were washed and dyed to give them a very unique look and texture. She put them on her body and her face lit up. Before we had a chance to explain anything to her she was explaining to us how she would wear them with heels or sneakers, and dress them up or down as the occasion dictated. When she said she thought they would look great if she wore them under a silk slip for an evening out I couldn’t hold back my smile. She had to have those pants. She got it.

These pieces that embrace “loose luxury” represent a new way of dressing and a new generation. The designers are really putting their stamp on things and owning something fresh that is also holding steadfastly on to luxury and elegance.

When you come to Louis I want you to discover incredible pieces and understand that you can use them in ways you never would have considered before.

I want you to invest in a wardrobe you actually want to wear…

And I promise you will.

 

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

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Jason Wu Fall ’14 Preview @Louis

There really are so many good things; but one of the best…about being Louis, is the relationship I have with some incredibly talented designers. And it’s because of these relationships that we are able to bring some really unique experiences to Boston season after season.

While all eyes are now on the signs of spring that alluded us for so long and are beginning to come to life right out side of our walls (or should I say magnificent windows), ours were on designer Jason Wu a few weeks ago when he brought a preview of his Fall 2014 collection to Louis.

Jason debuted his first collection in 2006, we hosted a party to celebrate him and other young American designers at the ICA in December of 2007, and by 2008 he had been nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award and won the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award. Also that year, Bruce Weber shot the designer for an editorial spread called “Summer Camp” in W magazine. Since that time he has certainly amassed some very well known clients, the most “famous” perhaps, being Michelle Obama.

Assuming you’ve been here and assuming you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m currently quite excited about a new crop of designers and interesting pieces that reflect an aesthetic of urban and athletic luxury…but that’s not what I appreciate about Jason, or why he fits in so well with what we do here.

I like to call Jason Wu the “lady collection” in my mix. However, he’s really never too ladylike, and there’s an edge his designs possess that continually keep me interested.

Presenting to a rapt audience, Jason showed us some gorgeous pieces for fall. In addition to the sportswear and bias dresses in beautiful colors and fabrics he’s known for, he brought some striking dresses and bags that truly turned heads.

The collection was loved by all of course, but for me…it was really about his coats. A category that has sadly been lost to the “North Face” set who haven’t been able to slip out of their “puffers,” Jason’s coats were sexy and sophisticated and as always tailored to perfection.

So when the chill comes back (after it hopefully leaves us for good this spring), remember, you have some pretty incredible options…

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(All images from Style.com)