Archive for July, 2012

For one thing, “Made in America” has got to make long term economic sense. The good news is China’s cost advantage has been slipping because of rising fuel prices and higher wages among Chinese workers. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to get our business back. Quality and design will be key, but technology just might be the best trump card we’ve got. If we can figure out ways to bring technological innovation to the shop floor, we can boost manufacturing efficiencies.
 – Rachel Weeks, Founder and CEO of School House a collegiate apparel design company located in Durham, NC. Rachel’s comments were recently featured on American Public Media Marketplace.
Congratulations to Rachel, who is committed to working with American manufactures. Her fashion-forward collegiate line is one hundred percent American Made. School House supports over 2700 jobs in clothing manufacturing across North Carolina by sourcing local fabrics and hiring local companies to cut and sew. School House even works with NC based packing and shipping companies.  
Wow! I am so impressed. A big thank you to Rachel and her team for leading the way back to Made in America.

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It’s quite odd that I don’t know how to sew. My great-grandmother was an accomplished seamstress, having sewn all the clothing for her three children. My grandmother did one better and not only learned to sew but also studied fashion design. My mother also made some of her own clothes including all her maternity dresses – Vogue patterns no less.  

I started off promising at nine-years-old with a small sewing machine of my own, but I could never get the bobbin to work right. Later I learned how to hand sew in a quilting class and I’ve always appreciated having that skill.  But in my generation, sewing was not important. Mom was working so she didn’t have time to teach me and home economics in school was a thing of the past. My interest faded and that was that.

Until now. Since I write about fashion, I want to understand the basics of clothing construction. So I recently took a beginner sewing class at Stone Mountain and Daughter with Alice Elliot. Oh boy it was a challenge, but fun and satisfying. I chose to make a kimono-style robe from Kwik Sew – a company known for their simple-to-use patterns.

The whole process is a bit of a blur but my approach was to take it one step at a time and follow the instructions, which often made no sense to me (simple-to-use is relative). Luckily, Alice saved me several times from messing up.

Some of the unexpected things I learned:

  • a lot of time is spent not sewing
  • cutting the pattern, pinning and then cutting the fabric is slow work
  • patience is required
  • ironing is involved
  • I thought the sleeves were going to be the hardest part, but it was the neckline that caused the most stress because sewing a curve is hard as hell
  • time and space are required
  • if you’re not in a good mood or otherwise feeling off, don’t sit down at the machine  … go have a drink instead
  • sewing is a bit like putting puzzle pieces together except you are also making the pieces

The fabric I chose is a reproduction of an Art Deco print in cotton. (No surprise there.)

My creation is not perfect but darn close. I look at it and think: My gosh, did I really make that? Can I do it again?  Sure I can. A friend has kindly given me her extra sewing machine (thanks, Sara) and away I go …

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Bridget Foley. Photo: Getty Images.

… houses have become brands, administered by ceo’s; some are parts of great luxury groups, brands unto themselves. Their operating principle (if not the price of their wares) is practically Marxist: The brand is supreme. The individual exists for the good of the brand. 

– Bridget Foley, Executive Editor for Women’s Wear Daily

In her WWD column on June 28th 2012, Ms. Foley discusses the issue of corporations buying closed fashion houses and then hiring designers to help set the tone and style of the new brand sporting the old name. The designer becomes all about the brand.

I’ve been following this trend and the latest is Diego Della Valle’s purchase of the Schiaparelli name. Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian fashion designer popular from the late 1920s through the 1940s. Her house closed in 1954. Vinatge Schiaparelli pieces are highly collectable.

Mr. Valle is President and CEO of Tod’s, a high-end Italian shoe and handbag company. As of now, the new Schiaparelli brand has set up offices in NYC and they are in the process of looking for a designer. The intent is to unveil the reinvented line in January 2013. How ironic that the Schiaparelli name, one of the first to blend art with fashion back in the 1930s, will now be a corporate brand. It will be interesting to see how the hired designer will rework the distinctive Schiaparelli style for a modern audience.

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The country was outraged last week when it became known that Ralph Lauren’s U.S. Olympic uniforms were made in China. This past weekend the company released a statement promising that the 2014 Winter Olympics uniform (also a RL design) will be made in America.

Following the scandal, the Olympic Committee announced that it intends to change its policy requiring that all U.S. Olympic uniforms be made in America.

But Americans are calling for a change right now with the current summer uniforms and clothing manufacturers around the country are stepping up to the plate claiming they can meet the two-week deadline. From the polo shirts to the slacks to the scarves, American clothing manufacturers are saying, “Yes we can!”

Loggerhead Apparel in Greenville, South Carolina, American Giant in San Francisco, CADET in Brooklyn and many more manufacturers have made it clear that they would be proud to supply the U.S.A. Olympic Team with uniforms sporting a Made in America label.

Image courtesy of Liscaro Scarves.

Among the enthusiasts is Lisa Devereaux, owner of Liscaro Scarves in Arlington, Texas. Ms. Devereaux contacted ABC World News With Diane Sawyer, who reported on the story, to say there is still time to make the scarves. “We want to make them right here, and NOW. We can meet the deadline.”

Ms. Devereaux says, “I wrote to ABC and said we would be honored to offer our scarves to the U.S. athletes for the Olympic games. Now it is in the hands of the United States Olympic Committee if they will allow us to move forward. If not for the 2012 games, then we will gladly provide our scarves for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to ensure that our athletes are clothed in American-Made apparel.”

Way to go, America! Take note Ralph Lauren and all the other fashion corporate brands out there: Clothing manufacturers still exist in the United States and they are ready for business. Hire them!

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A hat is something you wear for pragmatic reasons. Millinery is for fashion.

b. Michael told the Houston Chronicle in 1988.

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Ralph Lauren US Olympic uniforms sport a Made in China label.

The iconic American designer Ralph Lauren has made a serious misstep by having the entire U.S. Olympic Team’s opening ceremony uniform made in China.

Does RL really think this is OK? Is the company that cheap? So far we don’t know what they think as there has been no direct comment on the issue.

What a waste of an opportunity to give a much-needed boost to local production as well as highlight the fact that clothing manufacturing in America is still possible and preferable. Beyond that, it’s a bad reflection on the Ralph Lauren company and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Come on, American Olympic uniforms should be made in America. Period.  

Washington is up in arms with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggesting the pile of China-made uniforms be burned. Some American designs are also unhappy. Nanette Lapore, who proudly manufactures her women’s line in the U.S. shared her thoughts with CNN:  

It’s very disturbing because it completely could have been manufactured here in the United States in New York City or in any other city where there’s factories that still exist. And it’s frustrating for us because it’s a cause we’ve been fighting for, and we’ve been trying to raise awareness and trying to convince designers to move work back to our shores and stop off-shoring and start on-shoring. This would have been the perfect opportunity.
Although I have always been a fan of the Ralph Lauren style, the reality is that the line is not a fashion house it’s a big corporate brand. Sometimes corporate brands lose their focus while striving for big profits.
What a shame. Yes the uniform looks good, but it’s not made in America and like an ill-fitting suit, it feels all wrong.

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Chloe Sevigny for Miu Miu.

It’s true I don’t enjoy going to fashion shows. It’s very high school, it’s very the most popular kids in the front row. And everybody’s checking everyone else out. It’s not fun for me, it’s work.

Chloë Sevigny – Independent film actress and fashion It Girl.

Ms. Sevigny may not care for fashion shows, but she does enjoy fashion. In addition to designing her own line called Open Ceremony, she’s the new celebrity model for Prada’s Miu Miu. Watch for her print ads this fall.

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Fashion designer b Michael had the honor of dressing Whitney Houston in the upcoming film Sparkle.

A remake of the 1976 film starring Irene Cara, Sparkle takes place in the 1960s and tells the story of an up-and-coming sister singing group in Harlem. Ms. Houston plays the girls’ mother.

Mr. Michael has always been about style. As a youngster he’d redesign his grandmother’s hats. After an early and brief career on Wall Street he shifted into fashion and worked as a milliner for Oscar de la Renta. In 1980 Nolan Miller invited Mr. Michael to design hats for the hit television show, Dynasty. In 1989 he created his own line of hats and ten years later in 1999 he crossed over into women’s wear showing his label b Michael for the first time.

Last fall Mr. Michael was asked to work with Sparkle’s costume designer Ruth Carter in creating nine pieces for Ms. Houston. “Whitney was excited about working on the film,” Mr. Michael recently said in an interview with WWD. “I was excited to work with her. It was a once-in-a- lifetime moment.”

He told WWD that Ms. Houston frowned on the sleeveless dress he designed for a church scene. She pointed out to him that she needed dramatic sleeves for when she raised her arms up high while singing.

Mr. Michael listened to the feedback and designed a champagne-color silk and wool suit with exaggerated trumpet sleeves (pictured above). It’s lovely, but unfortunately the suit includes mink fur around the collar. Assuming it’s real, that’s disappointing. The use of real fur in fashion is unnecessary and inhumane. Still, the suit is a beautiful color and I love those sleeves.

We can see this suit and all the other b Michael originals for Ms. Houston when Sparkle is released in August.

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Prince Charles greets designer Tom Ford. Photo: Richard Young.

You can invest in a piece of British clothing, and it will last a lifetime.

–  HRH Prince Charles speaking at the London Men’s Fashion Week kick-off cocktail party held on June 14th at St. James Palace in London. It was London’s first official men’s wear fashion week, which ran June 14th-17th, 2012.

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