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Posts Tagged ‘fashion news’

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Recently I popped into a clothing boutique that I visit maybe three or four times a year. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I don’t but, I’m always open.

The lone saleswoman was pleasant but completely uninterested in customer service. I explained that I know the owner and have written up the shop a few times and handed her my card. Although this wasn’t an interview, as I looked around I asked a few questions and I got friendly but short responses because the very nice woman was  more  interested in … texting. Yes, she was focused on her phone and continuing what I can only assume was a very important text conversation.

Not only was I a potential customer, I’m a fashion writer! It seems to me that part of the job of a salesperson is interacting, right? Tell me about the new merchandise, tell me about what’s coming in for fall. Tell me what you’re excited about or what I should be excited about. That’s how sales are made. Maybe not right then, but next time when a customer needs something she will remember that helpful woman in that charming boutique. In my case, often I will walk into the shop with no intention of writing about it but I get inspired and that can result in a post and/or a mention on Instagram and that equals free publicity! Not to mention, I just might make a purchase.

By contrast I had gone into another women’s boutique a few weeks ago and met a lovely saleswoman who chatted with me, noticed what I was looking at and filled me in on the details – “… those pants are all cotton, screen printed in Japan.” Twice I’ve posted that shop on Instagram.

Retail is hurting, we all know that. Thanks in part to the popularity of Internet shopping, bricks and mortar are shutting left and right. All the more reason for shops still open to step it up when a customer walks in, and keep in mind that they can walk right back out with a good or a bad impression.

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El Museo Del Barrio 2016 Pre-Gala Bash

The lovely Isabel Toledo (1961-2019). Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

This week fashion designer Isabel Toledo died of breast cancer. What a loss!

I was a fan of Ms. Toledo, who as a teenager immigrated with her family from Cuba to the US. She and her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, moved to New York City in the 1980s hitting the pavement and knocking on department store doors looking for a place to sell their avant-garde fashions.

 

 

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Michelle Obama wears Isabel Toledo for the 2009 presidential inauguration. 

Ms. Toledo made fashion fame in 2009 when she designed Michelle Obama’s inaugural outfit – a shift dress and coat in what she called lemon grass. I recall reading in her memoir (Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, & Fashion) that they knew it was going to be freezing cold in Washington that day so they sewed layers of padding in the wool coat.

Prior to that in the 1990s, she shunned corporate driven fashion shows working instead with museums. Although she remained an independent designer, for a short time she was creative director for Anne Klein and designed a line of shoes for Payless and fashions for Lane Bryant.

What I like about Isabel Toledo’s designs is her use of textured fabrics and off colors. She was a unique creative spirit and how sad for us that she is gone.

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Gucci magazine ad, 2019.

You can lose nothing to your beauty but you want to put more and more just to be crazy.

Alessandro Michele, Italian designer and creative director at Gucci.

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An early Michele design for Gucci.

Mr. Michele took over the iconic Gucci brand in 2015 and quickly turned it around with a 12 percent growth in the first year. Initially I liked the new Michele/Gucci look. It was elegance with a twist – mixed patterns, unexpected color combinations, chunky jewelry but not too much. The look was big – exaggerated but still this side of good taste.

Then it got to be too much, at least for me. Busy ensembles and mash-up of colors, textures, and patterns – plaids with floral prints in bright colors, stripes with checks, added lace and embroidery making everyone look like a clown.

He got carried away with “more is more” and this crazy idea to be Crazy. Still, I admire the designer’s talent and I’m hoping he gets bored and dials it back. We shall see.

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Designer Lida Aflatoony from University of Missouri, Columbia.

Part of the CSA Symposium was the Design Showcase where on display were unique fashions. These designs posed a problem, answered a question, or highlighted an historical period. One that I was drawn to was titled Tech and Craft Synergy.

Submitted by Lida Aflatoony and Jean L. Parsons from University of Missouri, Columbia the displayed jacket was made of white organza adorned with swatches of fabric decorated with floral motifs. Using traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, beading, and knitting the intent was to address the conflict between traditional hand craft and technology.  What was unexpected (to me) was that half of each design was done by hand and the other half by technologies like laser cutting and 3D printing.

 

 

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On each of these swatches, the left side was hand crafted and the right side was done by technology.

In their abstract Aflatoony and Parsons say: The design was created as an art piece that illustrates and recognizes the confluence of traditional handcrafts and current technology, with a transitional stage in the center. This concept aims to visually emphasize the transition from the handmade and craftsmanship to digital production. In addition, the aim was to suggest that craftsmanship as a precious heritage can fit hand in hand with emerging technologies. 

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Although there is nothing like something handmade, I like the idea of a crossover. And I wonder if as fewer and fewer people are learning traditional crafts, can technology play a role in preserving these crafts.

 

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Every year Costume Society of America hosts a symposium, where professionals gather to discuss historical and cultural dress.

Costume Society of America was founded in 1973. As a non-profit organization they seek to offer educational opportunities in historical dress. Their mission statement:

The Costume Society of America fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education, preservation, and design. Our network of members studies the past, examines the present, and anticipates the future of clothing and fashion.

This year I attended the CSA symposium for the first time. Held in Seattle, Washington it was four packed days of paper presentations, professional development workshops, meetings, exhibitions, and lots of chances to meet new friends among over 250 like-minded people. Attendees included professors,  historians, costumers, and museum curators. I’m not sure, but I might have been the only fashion writer. Although there were plenty of academic writers.

This year’s theme was The Pacific Rim and Beyond: Diffusion and Diversity in Dress. The keynote speaker Akiko Fukai from the Kyoto Costume Institute opened the symposium with an enthusiastic speech on the influence of Kimono and Japanese dress on western fashion.

Presentations varied and covered topics from costuming Shakespeare to pattern creation, from prison attire to clothing terminology, from modern Muslim dress to 1790s menswear.

My favorite presentations happened to be grouped together on the final day of the symposium.

Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century. Denise Nicole Green, Ph.D. discussed a multi-media exhibition at Cornell University that chronicled the rise and fall of union-made clothing in America.  The exhibit included union-made clothing, photos, sewing machines, ephemera, and artifacts from the the university’s costume collection and union archives. What a rich and fascinating topic.

Sustainable Clothing – Nothing New: Women’s Magazines Encouraged Clothing Recycling During World War II presented by Nan Turner, professor at University of California, Davis. We could learn a thing or two from fashionable women of the war generation. With all resources going to the “war effort” clothing was rationed both in England and Europe. Recycle, up-cycle and “Make-do and Mend” were a way of life. Researching fashion magazines of the period and interviewing women in Britain who lived through the war, Ms. Turner considered how women went about refashioning their clothing.  This paper is part of a book Ms. Turner is currently working on. I look forward to reading that book!

Corporate Fashion Archives and the Growing Role of the Historian: Using PVH Archives as a Case Study presented by Becca Love, PVH Archives. Ms. Love has a very interesting job – she manages part of the archives for PVH, a fashion conglomerate which owns brands Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and Geoffrey Beene, among others. PVH Archives launched in 2014.  In this paper presentation Ms. Love discussed this new avenue in corporate fashion houses for fashion historians. As legacy brands begin to tout their history, archives have become important for inspiration, research, and PR cachet. Growing archives create a need for professionals to manage these archives. With limited and competitive options elsewhere for museum curators and fashion historians, corporate fashion houses are an exciting option. I really enjoyed learning about this new and growing career path.

All in all it was a week of full immersion in fashion academics.

There is more to report so I’ll be posting again on the CSA Annual Symposium in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Arcopedico shoes have a long history since their debut in 1966. Made in Portugal, they are as unique today as they were back then. The uppers are crafted from a nylon mesh knit, allowing for breath-ability and stretch that can adjust to various foot shapes. The nylon is treated with a softener wax making it gentle on the skin. Additionally Arcopedicos have patented metal-free twin arch support soles that protect the arch and offer distribution of body weight. As soon as you put on these shoes you feel the contradiction of the soft cozy knit with the stable foot bed. It’s like you slipped orthotics into your socks.

I’ve been wearing the LS (pictured above) in Starry Navy daily for a couple of weeks. Since I stand at my writing desk, that was the first comfort test. I find in Arcopedicos I can stand for long periods of time without any foot or back fatigue. Out doing errands they are comfortable to walk in for short distances. I don’t know that I recommend them for long distance walking, but a few blocks, in and out of the car, plane travel, train travel, commuting to work – YES.

Now, on to another very important point – they are cute, cute, cute. The LS is an Oxford style with a nicely contoured black sole. Wear them with or without socks and pair them with jeans, shorts, leggings, or a  denim skirt. They have a unique sporty look, which makes a good alternative to the ubiquitous sneaker. They’re vegan, washable, and they come in many colors – red, pink, white, yellow, black … too many to list them all.

I have enjoyed wearing the Arcopedico LS and I’m happy to add them to my shoe wardrobe. They’re a great option for upcoming spring and summer events. I see them hopping on the merry-go-round at the fair; dancing at a music festival; strolling the farmers market; boarding a jet plane to faraway places.

Check out the entire Arcopedico line.  They make boots too!

 

 

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Traditional hanbok was worn for both everyday and special occasions by men and women from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the 1950s when western clothing took hold. The basic silhouette for women was a full skirt, often made of silk or ramie, and a short jacket in solid colors. Any embellishment was applied, embroidery for example, along the edge of the skirt or the shoulder of the jacket.

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Traditional hanbok.

 

While in Seoul, South Korea I had many encounters with traditional hanbok on the streets, in museums, and the fabric market but I was interested in seeing modern interpretations by local designers. I had first learned of this trend last year at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Couture Korea.

I heard about a shop that offers modern hanbok, so one day I set out walking through our neighborhood of Insadong and into Bukchon in search of Tchai Kim.

One hour and four tourist guides later (they had trouble too!), I found the elusive shop tucked inside one of the many little alleyways that are so much a part of Seoul. I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff member, Kim Ujin.

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Kim Ujin standing with my favorite reinterpretation of traditional hanbok.  It’s the unexpected plaid that does it for me.

Ujin explained that the shop is owned by designer Kim Young-jin, who had learned how to make traditional hanbok from a Korean Master. For several years Young-jin custom-made traditional hanbok mostly for weddings but she began to realize that the label “traditional” was variable – hanbok in the 18th century was different from hanbok in the 19th century and so on. Traditional Korean dress was ever-changing until it more or less disappeared. Young-jin felt it was time to bring hanbok back with a modern update and in 2010 she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Tchai Kim (tchai means different).

I was given a tour of various silhouettes all inspired by traditional hanbok of past centuries.

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Deoksugung Palace Guards, or actors who play guards. There is no monarchy in South Korea but there are five palaces in Seoul that, since 1996, hold reenactments of the changing of the guards.

 

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Here’s the cheollik dress with over-skirt.

One such silhouette particular to Tchai Kim is a dress based on the traditional cheollik, a one-piece tunic worn by men over loose fitting pants that were tied at the ankles. You can still see that outfit today on the palace guards. Designed originally for ease of movement, the reinterpreted cheollik for women offers the same ease for a busy modern lifestyle. The dress can be worn alone or with a pair of wide-legged pants or with an over-skirt as we see in the photo to the left.

Part of the traditional hanbok ensemble is the short wrap jacket, called jeogori. in solid colors. Young-jin has taken that idea and updated it with a v-neckline in cotton fabric and patterns such as plaids and polka-dots, shifting the look from youthful to sophisticated.

 

 

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There are many redesigns of the jacket. I tried on one that if worn in the U.S. would be considered very fashion forward but the inspiration behind Young-jin’s design makes the piece even more special. The pop of red embroidery (another Korean tradition) spelling out the name of the shop punches up the avant-garde factor. If I were to wear this jacket I’d mix it with vintage – 40s slacks and my signature suede shoes (look at my logo) and a grey or black beret with a red floral brooch attached.

The blending of traditional with modern is a marvelous way to move forward while honoring heritage and keeping it present.

Gamsahapnida (thank you) to Kim Ugin for taking time with me on that wonderful October afternoon! It was among the highlights of my visit to Seoul.

 

 

 

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