Tag Archives: New York City

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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Black Friday (It’s Not a Holiday.)

I can’t help but remember the good old days, when vendors actually believed in the value of their merchandise and went through the exercise of telling us when we had permission to mark their items on sale – which used to be the day AFTER Christmas. Slowly, over time, it kept moving. It went from the day after Christmas to the 21st of December (to help merchants move extra inventory), and then they moved it to the 15th, then the 9th, then the 1st, and then the day after Thanksgiving. Now the vendors aren’t talking, and no one is listening anyway. Retail does what it wants in an effort to compete with each other, and make all of you compete.

Just last week I caught a news story of two women were already camped out in front of a Best Buy store in California for the store’s Black Friday sale. These two ladies have committed themselves to sitting in front of a store, on camp chairs, for over three weeks – to save money at Best Buy.

Should we laugh or should we cry?

To save everyone the trouble of sorting through the hot deals of the season, let’s just say that from now on, Halloween is the new sale date. Hell, why not back it up to Labor Day? At least the weather would be better for camping outside while you’re waiting for the doors to open.

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I find it a little unsettling that merchants can no longer seem to sell merchandise unless it’s on sale. It’s the only tool they have left in the toolshed and they’ve trained Americans to think they should only buy something if it’s discounted. How do you explain “Friends and Family,” if everyone gets the coupon? What exactly is a “Private Sale?” Because the last I checked, if it’s loading in your Facebook feed, it’s not so very private – is it? All of these “sales” really just translate to 6 consecutive weeks of discounted merchandise for the masses.

Which begs the question, Is it even discounted? It’s no secret that some pretty big retailers have been caught before marking things “up” to mark them “down.” Do they really think they are fooling anyone? Do you really think they would take a loss for you? Apparently, the consumer really does. And the vendors keep saying…declaring…insisting, that they do all of this because it’s what “SHE” wants. But isn’t that a bit insulting that SHE won’t buy anything unless it’s on sale? Do customers really want stores to open earlier and earlier every year in an effort to create chaos in the lives of employees and shoppers everywhere?

So I have to ask, why is Saks opening a new 250,000 square foot store in New York City? And why are they moving next door to Century 21 when they already ARE Century 21? Do they really need more space to sell more merchandise at a discount? The last time I checked, when demand goes down, you don’t add more supply. Eventually, like the mortgage industry, which never should have failed (right?), this system will implode too. Retail giants continue to open more stores, but they will remain empty and merchandise will continue to be sold at marked down prices online.

Too much supply, not enough demand? How will they save the industry?

Create a Holiday!

Alibaba.com, a Chinese e-commerce company, broke all records this year with over 9 BILLION in sales for Singles Day. Yes, Singles Day. A “holiday,” created in 1993 to celebrate the young, SINGLE, fashionable set. Brands couldn’t even participate unless their merchandise was marked at least 50% off. And just today I read an article on PopSugar Fashion about the Black Friday “holiday” and the top 21 sales to keep an eye on. I’m sorry, but Black Friday isn’t a holiday.

And while they’re building up New York City, the rest of the country is pulling away from expansion. Retail real estate is projected to contract 37% year after year because malls and other brick and mortar retail stops can’t compete with their own, and others, online sales. Who needs a store if you have 2 dimensional pictures to click on? Consumers are not expected to expect anymore, and most retailers have gotten complacent and have stopped educating their customers about what it means to appreciate something they can actually experience.

By now you may be asking yourself, Debi, why do you care?

I care because retail has always been a huge part of my life, and my observations of the industry help me make better choices for Louis and all who have loyally patronized our store throughout the years. I care because it’s my job to stay connected with the newer shoppers who, despite having a laptop, still appreciate and understand the value of what we do. You can’t find what I have on sale. I keep it exclusive so we can all be reassured that you are buying something of quality, and something more special than the 8 million of something else you can buy online.

I remember, during the last great recession in the late 80’s / early 90’s when my father, Murray Pearlstein, said to me, “Debi, I lived through the great depression, and while things were very tight, there was always somebody who still appreciated something special.”

So people, take a breath. There truly is plenty of time to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

No matter what holiday you observe, let the spirit linger.

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