Tag Archives: Women’s Retail Boston

After All That Movement Where is The Real Fashion?

I just got back from Paris where the much anticipated shows from Dior and St Laurent produced a wild media frenzy for collections that were …um …OK. Yet again the media created controversy for the big houses with tons of copy and air time, and I am pretty sure the luxury consumer could care very little about the outcome . My take on these shows was that they were derivative of other designers work and the press gave the credit to these mega brands. Let’s start with St Laurent. The good news about the St Laurent show is that Mr. Slimane used the foundation of St Laurents original looks from the 70’s for his 2013 show.

St Laurent in the 70's

Now St Laurent 2013

St Laurent 2013

 Rachel Zoe’s has always been accused of copying St Laurent (but updating the fit). Here are pictures of her past shows and advertisements….

A Rachel Zoe Ad

From a Rachel Zoe Fashion Show

Confused? So was I….what was all the fuss about? Another show, much anticipated,was the return of Jil Sander, back to her namesake (which she sold for $250 million) . Granted Jil is still getting her feet back into the business at age 68. Her show was OK….good attempt…lots of press and lots of talk about it….But the Marni show was Jil Sander at her finest (only not designed by Jil) Marni has been exploring a new version of Minimalism for a long time but the press only talks about the big advertising accounts which is not Marni. If they do talk about Marni it’s usually a small blurb about her prints not her architecture. Who do you think did Jil better?

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Or Marni?

Marni S/S 2013

Marni S/S 2013

 

Raf Simons did a pretty good job for his first Dior Show…Over 50% of the show was decent. The press LOVED it which was over the top but of course Dior is a BIG advertiser. Here are a few shots of that show.

Dior S/S 2013

Dior S/S 2013

What’s the point of this blog? Fashion has so many dimensions and unfortunately  the public only gets about 15% of the information. Plus if advertisers are the only people that the press talks about how can anyone grow in this business? Same old houses, same old designers….no credit for the real new and different….this bothers me.

Does It Really Make A Difference?

Well the news has finally arrived, Raf Simons, formerly of Jil Sander is now the designer for Dior.

Raf Simons the "New" Designer for Dior

So what does that exactly mean? Let’s backtrack shall we. A year ago, the former designer for Dior, John Galliano, was fired from his post because of racial slurs spoken during a drunken rage at a Paris bistro. A year long search took place but in the meantime the interim designer was a “second in command”  known for his tame, well crafted collections.  The public statements by LVMH, owner of Dior, say there hasn’t been any fluctuation in sales, and they have been experiencing an increase in sales due to the Asian market. So one designer, who was slowly deteriorating, gets fired but had no real influence on sales.  An interim designer, whose aesthetic was completely different, takes over and surprisingly there is no change in sales. And now we have yet a third designer put in place and everyone is writing about the merits of his talent and what effect it will have on sales. My guess is “it” will make no difference.

The basis for this statement is looking at the numbers, or the numbers told to us by LVMH. They are doing a great business no matter what because the foundation for their unbelievable success is their BRANDING machine. The sales come from consumers that “want to be”. They want to be known as rich, they want to be known as part of the “style club”, they want to have instant recognition as if they were famous. That recognition comes from “stars” wearing their clothes, shoes and handbags. That recognition comes from editorial appearances in all the top fashion magazines around the globe which is LVMH’s top priority. LVMH has monthly reports done on how many times their products appear in the press (editorial and/or star related) and put constant pressure on their public relations army… the same way Toyota puts pressure on their dealers when they look at their monthly unit numbers.

80% of Dior sales are shoes and handbags (which only a few pieces are in the fashion show). They are sold around the world at Dior shops in malls and airports. global department stores and then specialty stores which tend to sell more clothing. So the “designer” and the fashion show are just SHOW, that’s it.  The fashion show is one big advertisement that makes the press and buyers feel important. The show also gets editorial immediately and afterwards. If the fashion show reads over the top expensive, that translates to the consumer as “luxury”. But the designs and integrity of the product (clothing) means very little. So my prediction is the Raf Simons will do just fine. Once again design integrity is last on the list of consumer importance.

Jil at Jil

Will It Be The Real Jil?

Twenty five years ago we started carrying a line from Hamburg Germany called Jil Sander. It was perfect for Louis, incredibly well made, modern researched fabrics, minimalist styling and a price tag that matched all this luxury. At the end of the 90’s Jil descided to sell 75% of her company to Prada because “she wanted to improve on the breathe of her handbag-shoe business” . She was promised by Prada’s chief executive officer that the business would remain the same. Well it didn’t stay the same. The first thing that Prada demanded was that all of the clothing would be made in the Prada factories. There went the quality that Jil was known for, and the fabric research was cut in half, there went the modern take on clothing. Jil couldn’t work under those conditions, and feeling duped, she left. There went the design. We dropped the line as soon as Jil made the announcement. (how could it ever be the same value?)

After that, Prada worked hard to try and restore the value to the company which was of course, impossible. After a few tries they brought in a menswear designer named Raf Simons.

He Had Never Design for Womenswear

Raf had never designed for womenswear. (Somehow they thought it was a good bet). A few seasons later they sold the company to an English investment company who quickly announced that they were going to sell the company as soon as they made it profitable again (like that could happen). Raf’s first attempts at a collection were actually better than I thought they would be and each season you could see he was learning and growing, but the company still struggled . A few years later a Japanese/Italian company bought the company and continued to support Raf and you could see improvements with the collections and sales (the quality still could not match the standards of the original Jil Sander).

Last year around this time John Galliano was fired from the Dior house for racial slurs during a night of drinking in Paris (one of many nights). It was announced the Raf was a consideration for the job. Well now…. here is the fashion world in a nutshell. Gibo, (the Japanese/Italian company) who had been investing money (while losing it) in Jil Sander (a company abandoned by it’s designer) watched it’s designer publicly announce that he was interviewing for a job in a company that was trying to rebuild their brand that was abdondoned by yet another designer. (I know that was a run on sentence) So Gibo fired him.

The fashion world is in a tizzy…They are mad at Gibo for firing Raf (who, by the way, miraculously popped out the most beautiful collection for his last season). They are thrilled that Jil is returning, and they are expecting the company to return to it’s original splendor. Well guess what….in won’t. I was asked to start showcasing Jil again in the store. I thought long and hard about it and I refused. There were two reasons. First, Jil is now sold at many stores not just the controlled specialty stores that she insisted on originally . Second, Jil’s control on quality will be minimal. She will not have the control over the factories like she did before, and her obsessive control over details will be cost prohibitive. I’m sure she will push the envelope of the company owners, but the price of her pants in 1998 are still considered outrageous at $1200 (and that quality can not be replicated for the same price).

The musical chairs of designers that is going on with these fashions houses are going to catch up with their customers and eventually their sales. Branding IS important, I know that, but product integrity is also important. Is the consumer so gullible that it will eat anything companies throw at them? One change can be understood, but when the consumer needs a road map to understand how far away from the original concept the company has gone, the consumer will abandon the product. Success in a label is usually a combination of design, make and fit. When these elements are rearranged or eliminated the BRAND can’t stand on it’s own…look at the GAP. I wish Jil well and I will be watching carefully to see if I did underestimate the situation. But I thought I would give you, the reader, insight into how decisions are made. I will be the first to admit my mistakes, but I have to have some guidelines to give my store the integrity that I demand from my vendors.

Women Now Outshine the Men at Work…Is That Acceptable? Really?

Donald Trump Bad Hair Day

Here is the supposed KING of Business. So are we (I mean the work force of America) saying that it is OK for a man to parade around like this just as long as he makes a lot of money?  Would that be acceptable for women? Funny, every time a women runs for office, all the press and opponents talk about is her dress and her hair, but we don’t even speak about a man (well ok we are finally making fun of “The Donald”).

Is this Best We Can Do?

Here you go…here is the perfect illustration of our illustrious young male workforce, badly dress and groomed. Why aren’t the women of the world screaming for a revolution….Would you really look at these guys and think they are the best you could hire for your company?  How can you tell them apart?  They all think they look the part, and what they really look like is that they have white man’s disease, you can tell they can’t dance either. Maybe one of them could have worn a dark trouser that possibly would fit them without having a saggy ass. Maybe one of them could have worn a patterned shirt or dare I say a tie. We all know they were wearing blue blazers (without a spec of a design element anywhere). Somewhere there is a secret code that informs these men that it’s the only acceptable uniform to wear; khakis, a blue or white plain shirt and a navy blazer and you are all set for the business world. Get an $8 hair cut while you are at it.

Well guess what men of the secret code…your competition isn’t each other any more. it’s women. And I can say for certain, because many of them are my customers, women are grooming themselves to look more modern for business to beat the competition in their saggy assed suits from Joseph A. Banks. Get ready… So when you walk out of an interview all wrinkled (or unwrinkled in your stay pressed shirt and pants) that the women (or male) interviewer is going to respond better to a candidate with an aura of a well dressed and groomed person, not someone in the secret code uniform.

Now I know that I’m a woman, and women aren’t part of the CLUB…. But this code has gone on for way too long. It was cool to see men stop being so buttoned up, but of course we had to go to extremes and soon they are wearing pajamas around because they are comfortable. If that’s the case why wear clothes at all?

Is this Really Sexy? I Guess if You Have Money You Shouldn't Care..I Think You Should

Whether men like it or not, to compete in this business climate they are going to have to put more time and effort into their appearance or be left behind. There are leaders in this endeavor. The look may not scream out (which is the point) but check out the grooming and the variety of dress.

He Looks Modern Without Looking Stuffy

Look a Different Colored Shirt?

Now There's a Man Who Knows How To Tie aTie

See my point? Please….

What Do The Working Women Wear?

I’m in the middle of buying “Pre-Fall”…whatever that means…and I’m looking at some pretty nice things when it occurs to me that I keep say the same thing to these brands, “What is she going to wear “that” with to the office?” You would think I was asking the most ridiculous question. The answer is always the same “oh they can throw “that” over black pants or a skirt”. Really? So I ask “who do you think is wearing these $1500 tailored jackets?” The answer is women who work.

This kills me. I come from a time when women were lucky just to be able to be in the same office as men, never mind having the same job. We have gone through several incarnations of workwear for women and we finally have the freedom to express ourselves (granted with some limitations) and we still have to explain to manufacturers that all these expensive clothes are worn by women who have somewhere to go in them…they actually serve a purpose. it’s not just fashion.

Look at the Cut (which is outstanding,) the Fabric Brings in the Freshness

As you can see we are just getting in some great suits for spring that I think show there is creativity in this category…..which means someone is thinking about the customer,  not pandering to the unrealistic pages of fashion magazines. This next suit is from Jason Wu. He’s part of the new generation of great creative and technical designers that move the needle forward for womens wear.

His use of lace, technical fabric and zipper closure freshen up this spring staple

So Simple but is it Really?

Last but not least (at all) is what looks like a simple black suit from The Row, but upon closer inspection the delicious fabric, the hip structure that make you look skinny (believe it or not ) and the skinny pant makes this suit a head turner. These are just a few examples of the new work wear. This is also a reminder that when you come to Louis you are NOT just looking at “fashion” that a designer puts out there, you are looking at an edited collection of clothing that has a purpose for your lifestyle….and isn’t that why you buy clothes?

That Grand Feeling of Perfection

I love my new boots. Yes I know you hear it all the time the “perfect boot” for Fall. But I mean this…but how would you know. Every magazine, every website, every shopping website, every catalogue, even every store claims this every Fall. It kinda looses it’s meaning. Having said that when you find the right one for you, it feels sooooo good. Every time you put them on, with every outfit, you say to yourself, “wow these are great boots”. Your start to take care of them…you bring them to be resoled with a rush charge. When you pack to go away you start with the boots and figure out your outfits that will surely highlight the boots. You find yourself wearing them everyday and when you have to wear another pair you sigh and make sure your wear the “great boots” the next day. Sometimes if you are really careful you wear them two years in a row everyday until the boots just plain wear out.

cool side buckle, tight at the ankle and calf, tall, great leather, flat, comfortable

Great heel, no shiny leather, open at the knee, easy to get on and off

Sorry for the blurry pictures I was in a hurry but you get the picture right? Pierre Hardy had these boots last year, but he perfected them this season. You will probably not find these in any magazine, you will probably not find these on any website….because they do not register as perfection from the photos. They do not register perfection from the description. They do not register perfection from the name brand. Actually they would only register perfection if you actually saw, felt, tried on these boots when someone pointed to them in front of you and you tried them on immediately. The consumer is missing so much by falling into the trap of brands, ease and the addiction of point and click.

When I “buy” for the store, I look at each piece I purchase with the same inspection as I did buying these boots for myself. That feeling of perfection when you own something that rewards you every time you wear it, is the goal. There are so many items that are chosen that even looking at them on the racks of our store you wouldn’t know were perfection until you tried them on. I make sure I see everything on a body before I “buy” the product, especially shoes. Shoes look so different on and off the foot. Not everything comes out the way it was shown…fabrics can change fit can be funny, but to be sure I am inspecting and selecting with a sharp focus, and aiming for no mistakes.

But what I’m really reaching for ALL of the time is giving you that feeling of confidence every time you pull that garment out of the closet and put it on your body…..ahhhh appreciation!!!!!

Why Is Ugly The New Black?

So I land in Paris at 6:30 A.M., make it to my hotel at 8:00 A.M….of course the hotel room isn’t ready so I have a leisurely breakfast (lots of coffee) and take a walk down Rue St. Honore to look at the selection Fall clothing displayed in the French shops. I see a glimpse of the beginning of “Ugly” which is what I’ve seen in New York for the last two weeks (buying women’s Spring/Summer 2012). I’ve been trying to digest the large quantities of FASHION that have been thrown at the retailers/consumers and I keep asking why?  Why now is the industry (and it’s pretty unanimous) pushing ultimate, in your face, loud, FASHION? These are clothes that will wear you, that scream VICTIM !!!! Why now?

It has it all loud color, embellishment, mixing everything

Shiny and Overly Designed

These Shoes have been promoted in every Magazine this Fall

There are two theories I have about this. First I think the internet has such a strong influence on the designers and the industry that it forces a consensus of trends and these “trends” make every designer look the same. When most of the designers and magazines utilize the same trends they are pushing these trends on the consumers as if they were already a fact, which they assume will force the consumer to buy. But not all consumers are blind followers. Second, I think no one knows the answers to the economic downturn so designers are trying too hard, looking desperate, thinking they will jump start the consumer into buying again. In the end the collections look all over the place.

I am not afraid of FASHION, but I’ve been around fashion long enough to reject superficial techniques as an excuse for modern design. I’ve seen merchandise on my sale rack that scream that mistake…my mistakes…the customer has taught me well…they will spend money on new, innovative and yes, different but the consumer will not fall for clown like clothing (especially expensive clothing) readily.

When consumers have such a lack of confidence in…well everything…. why would the clothing industry push such over the top FASHION on them? This will only make them feel more uncertain.

Meanwhile I have managed to find some beautiful clothes for next spring, yes it has color and it has innovation but it’s not theatrics…it’s clothes you will want to put on your body and make it your own. But as I keep looking around I shake my head and ask is Ugly the new Black?

I Forgot How Much Fun We Had in The 70’s

 

I usually poo-poo the fashion worn in the 70’s…it definitely was the worst time for men…it ruined the industry, Men have never trusted Men’s Fashion media and manufacturers/retailers since.  Separates dominated Women’s fashion during the 70’s and were the vehicle for individual expression. After the 70’s, the fashion mantra became EVERYONE wears black or EVERYONE wears denim and EVERYONE carries the “it” bag. Actually Women’s dressing during the first 50 of the 20th century were dresses, dresses, and dresses with a nod to jeans during the 50’s and a bigger nod to them during the 60’s. The 70’s gave the newly liberated woman a fashion choice with separates…separate tops, jackets, sweaters, pants, skirts and yes dresses. We had lots of fun in the dressing room the other day channeling the 70’s and here are some of the results. 

 

Check Out The Bag and Boots

 

This picture was taken with my IPhone and the Hipstamatic App. The film was “Float” and the lens was “Jimmy”. I love this App. Finally after eliminating the creativity of photography with digital cameras, there is an app that can change your photograph before you take the shot. It allows you to change the mood or the color or brightness….the possibilities are endless…what fun. Here’s another outfit created by “separates”.

Here's a Long Dress with a Knitted Fur Jacket

This again was shot with “Float” film and a “Jimmy” lens. Just as the word indicates the designers of these items are all separate as well. That’s the beauty of “separates” you can create new outfits everyday. This may change the way you shop, suddenly items have more merit by their flexibility, what you can put them with, instead of its’ designer.  It’s like the photograph you can mix films and lens and have multiple possibilities. Here’s another possibility:

 

Don't you just love Corduroy?

“Jimmy” again was the lens but the film was “Ina’s 1969” , doesn’t it look like it ….it matches exactly with the outfit. The color of the film looked like it came from a Kodak Brownie. Candice looks so cute and fresh with a vintage twist….so individual….Corduroy…. I don’t think I have worn that fabric since the 70’s. I forgot that it makes noise when you walk, and that it’s soft and comfy.

It is fun looking back….it’s fun teaching the next generation a look we created 40 years ago…..they look just as cute as we did…maybe.

 

Is It Relevant?

 

Who Are They Talking To?

In today’s style section of the New York Times, Cathy Horn wrote an article about the five things you need for Fall. The article starts off with her version of how the ads in all the “Big” September Issues of the major Fashion magazines have nothing to do with the modern working women…she then proceeds to ask all the editors from these magazines and others, what are the five top items that they are really lusting for  (meaning the items that they really WILL buy) this Fall Season.

The way that the fashion magazine world works is that if a brand advertises, then their clothes will be prominent in the editorial sections in the back of the book. A certain major editor set up that paradigm many years ago and now the integrity of fashion journalism has been tainted and the magazines are completely IRRELEVANT.

So much money, time and energy are wasted on advertising and editorials that the true American consumer of these kind of clothes wouldn’t buy. As always I ask…What’s wrong with this picture?…..In a time when the economy is forcing everyone in this industry to be as sharp and clever and as economical as possible, how can these people be wasting so much money on bad fashion and bad fashion advertising?

The joke of the NYTimes article is that after reporting on these fashion shows last spring as if they were the gospel, they dismiss all their efforts in one article that gets to the heart of the matter….what is it that the consumer WANTS to buy instead of what “god(the magazines)” tells them to buy. I remember one vendor saying to me that it doesn’t matter what you buy for your store it’s more important what the magazines TELL you to buy….really???? We never bought into that.

These paradigms are fading…slowly. When something become too obvious it’s time to move on. Another one of these is the combination of a “Famous Person” in association with  “DESIGNING” clothes and other products. First they are not designers….they sell their name to promote clothes that are copies of other peoples work, in Chinese Factories. I don’t fault the people who make these clothes they make lots of money doing this….the fault lies with the consumer for buying into this falsehood. Madonna’s daughter is 13, I’m sure she’s creative, but you can’t put her in the same category as Proenza Schouler who have , I think, reached 30. Jessica Simpson is probably going to meetings and saying “I like this I like that” but she hasn’t had the training to know how to construct a garment. But it seems everywhere you turn this formula is appearing…..make-up, bed linens, QVC…..Are the top requirements for purchasing items; 1. They have a “famous” name attached to them  2. That they appear in magazines (maybe worn by Stars), 3. That there is a fake discount (or flash sale) attached to the purchase? Is it that formulaic? Are we not capable of judging  a product on it’s own merits anymore?…I don’t know you tell me….We’re betting that you can….and we are  betting that you will prefer it that way.