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Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear

Three womenswear graduates from Parsons 2017 BFA group have been awarded the opportunity to present and talk about their collections with retailers and exhibitors attending Coterie, the three-day trade fair which began on Sunday in the Javits Center.

Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear

Knitwear designer Panisa Busayanont’s thesis collection was born from studying the lifespan of the lotus flower of her native Thailand, watching it rot and eventually be eaten by a fungus. Following a personal experience of the loss of a loved one, her experiment prompted the question: Does every ending have to be filled with grief? She began to collect used sweaters from J Crew and other retailers, several that had shrunk in the laundry, from Brooklyn’s good will stores, and drape them on the body. She then introduced luxury Italian yarns that had been donated and wove them into the creations, combining the old and the new, the discarded and the desirable together. This form of upcycling is a concept upon which she would like to expand in the future by collaborating with brands and convincing them to donate their unused inventory so that she could produce more than just one-of-a-kind pieces.

Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear

Sijia Wu considers herself a minimalist and found inspiration from the subject of a Tang dynasty poem: a storm brewing in mountains. The subtle atmospheric shifts and precarious balance before the chaos is captured effectively in a sandy blazer of which the torso is held together by the merest slivers of thread so that the two halves appear suspended in the air.

Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear

Hayley Qu tackles through her collection that often awkward and polemic issue: women’s sizing. She looked at how throughout history women’s bodies have been modified for fashion: in Africa, the neck lengthened with rings; in Europe, the waist shrunk through corsetry; in Asia, the feet bound, whereas today What size are you? is the mundane, practical question that strikes terror into the hearts of many. Female sizing is riddled with power and meaning, and Qu seeks to go beyond unisex, entitling her collection ‘Non-Sized’ because through a process of wrapping, replacing side seams with zippers, and incorporating ‘sandwiching’ layers, the pieces are designed to be worn by women of all sizes.

Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear

The production of one garment is more ethical than replicating the same style all the way from 0 to size 22, she adds, before proceeding to demonstrate how an elegant and extremely roomy––by society’s current standards––pant envelops the body to become a neat-waisted bi-color two-tiered palazzo. The back overlaps the front, she explains, and non-sized means the same garment adapts to different bodies. ‘We should not have to change our body to fit. Our body should be served by our garments, not the other way, and the beauty of the body should be as it is.’

Some photos author’s own; homepage image SijiaWu.com; Knit image bpanisa.com

Coterie and Parsons Presents ‘Next in Class’ Womenswear The international Fashion Week season for women's ready-to-wear kicks off in the month of September, with all eyes set on New York, Paris, London and Milan for next seasons latest trends. For all the women's wear catwalk season must reads, click here.
Beyond the Runway: Parsons Presents Paths to Progress

As NYFW enters its third act, a group of insiders break away to occupy a different stage. Parsons in conjunction with diversity advocating designer, Becca McCharen of Chromat, presents as part of their Nth Degree Series a panel discussion on the topic ‘Fashion, Culture and Justice; A NYFW Dialogue.’ Not only did they feel it was imperative to hold it during fashion week but it poignantly coincides with the anniversary of 9/11. Before a young and diverse audience of curious minds, Elaine Welteroth, editor in chief of Teen Vogue, wearing Dries Van Noten’s Fall white boots and an Afro that recalls Mahogany era Diana Ross (‘It’s the biggest it’s ever been!”); Aurora James, designer and founder of Brother Vellies; runway hairstylist Amy Farid; photographer Anastasia Garcia, and moderator and Parsons professor, Kim Jenkins, launch a much-needed conversation.

Beyond the Runway: Parsons Presents Paths to Progress

Welteroth, who is of mixed race but grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, begins by revealing an early failure to embrace her cultural identity when she had her heart set on a certain doll but, upon opening the package, her heart sank and she rejected the doll. Her mother had bought her the black one. The white doll was clearly presented as the superior, an early sign that the power of imagery already had her in its thrall. When she joined Conde Nast, headlines blared ‘First black beauty director’ and she explains, ‘my race steps into the room before I do.’ From this she now takes her power.

Coachella and a Festival of Ignorance

The marketing of festival looks has become a huge fashion moneymaker, but cornrows and feathered headdresses seem to be the headlining act each summer. Amy Farid, a Native American, explains that the correct word to use is ‘regalia’, not ‘costume’ which she still hears to her dismay, and the headresses are ‘war bonnets’ which are earned in her culture where the eagle feather is viewed as sacred. “Do your research,” she says. “Google it. There’s no excuse.”

Beyond the Runway: Parsons Presents Paths to Progress

At 38, Farid admits she is still so unused to seeing her culture represented correctly in media that upon catching a glimpse of an image from a now-famous Teen Vogue shoot entitled ‘Cultural Appreciation’ which featured a model with eagle feather in hair, she assumed the worst. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that Welteroth had ‘streetcast' a native model and the realization brought her to tears. This was also, interjects Welteroth, the first time a beauty story went viral, becoming ‘a Twitter moment.’

Before you drag, do your research

Farid’s anecdote leads to an interesting discussion on the problematic nature of our headline driven culture. “I cannot afford to be misunderstood,” says Welteroth. “I am here to represent.” But she recounts how her well-meaning efforts put her in the line of fire. After a visit to Rwanda, she appeared in the office with her hair in Senegalese twists. Colleagues’ reactions so took her aback that it inspired her to organize a photoshoot featuring a brown-skinned girl, like herself, with braids. One Twitter user took the imagery out of context, and the online outrage traveled like a bush fire all the way to the Daily Mail which published headlines slamming the magazine for its anti-black stance. The matter was only put to rest when the model herself tweeted, “”For the record, if anyone cares…I’m half black and half French.” But the implication remained that the model, and therefore Welteroth, was not black enough to wear braids. “Nuance does not translate very well on social media” she cautions, “Before you retweet, drag, call out, do your research.”

Beyond the Runway: Parsons Presents Paths to Progress

Colorism and Throwing Shade

The idea of beauty as activism is one to which all five panelists are committed, but the issue is so much more than just black and white. Is your hair natural enough, your eyes dark enough, your body plus-size enough, your beauty pure? are questions that permeate society. Garcia who is Hispanic but refers to herself as ‘white presenting’ cannot count the number of times she has been told she doesn’t look Spanish, but each time she feels the sting of it. But as a plus-size female she is “cognizant of representing all diversity, bodies and race because it’s intersectional. As an imagemaker I don’t want to create imagery to damage people the way I have been damaged.’

Beyond self identifying, human identify

Aurora James, whose mother was adopted, grew up in Canada believing she was half-Trinidadian until her mother took a dna test which revealed she was half-Inuit, half-Irish. James was blindsided, but her mother asked, “And what does it matter?” Although she denies possessing strong cultural identification, she knew early on that she didn’t feel better about herself looking through fashion magazines nor did she feel empowered by their imagery. On a trip to Africa in her 20s, she was surprised by how the natives undervalued their traditional crafted shoes, more interested in footwear that Kanye or Beyonce would wear. James, who saw the beauty in their artisanal shoe, assured them “But Kanye would wear this.” Eventually he did, and she gains empowerment from the knowledge that she helps local craftspeople appreciate and make a living from their own artistry and highly values their creative input in her business.

Beyond the Runway: Parsons Presents Paths to Progress

Marc Jacobs and the Glare of White Privilege

To audible groans an image of an Isabel Marant blouse appears on screen next to one of Oaxacan natives in their indigenous dress from which the designer plagiarized the garment and reportedly sought to copyright it. But the above quote by Marc Jacobs, who has come under regular fire for cultural appropriation, ignites the conversation. “It’s just so whiny,” says Farid. “Get over yourself.” James remarks thoughtfully, “I’m a literal person so when I look at that quote, I think cross-pollination suggests a tangible exchange. Equality involves those people getting something out of it too. What he’s talking about is stealing.” Welteroth notes the glaring white privilege behind his remarks, and says, “The world hasn’t made you face the discriminations others have faced, but you can research it and understand someone else’s plight.” She turns to the other panelists, and says, “He has the power. We should feel incentivized to reach out him, even by personal message, because he can speak to the masses. We need allies. We must be able to sit at the table with people we disagree with, provide a safe space, hear them out, and then share our experiences.”

Graduating from being woke

According to Welteroth, we need to find a new word for ‘woke.’ If her white father is using it, she jokes, that’s a sign we need to retire it for something else. I leave wondering if the word no longer applies because we have progressed to the next level, whatever that’s to be called. What next for this solutions-hungry, open and galvanized, new generation of fashion creators who see the power of activism through the vehicle of an industry once considered frivolous? They are already on the march, led by some impressive pioneers.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All images author’s own.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

‘Generation Six,’ a group of nine students from Parsons’ illustrious Masters of Fashion and Society program showed their collections during New York Fashion Week providing a nourishing dose of creativity to editors and bloggers now staring down a looming month of fashion shows across the globe.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

Nihl took stereotypical notions of masculinity to task subverting them through beading on shirting, shiny boxing shorts from which shirt tails protrude, and dressing one model in an eyewateringly high cut one-piece once the exclusive domain of only the most amazonian of 80s supermodels.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

Australian knitwear designer, Zoe Champion, explored the emotional responses triggered by the clothing of others, particularly her recently passed grandmother, and the idea of holding garments up to the body to imagine inhabiting them.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

Shanel Campbell’s collection strived to open a dialogue around the female body and celebrate today’s independent woman by juxtaposing nakedness with armor. Chinese designer Tingyue Jiang re-evaluated how textile application can challenge the silhouette as he translated inspiration about what is happening culturally and politically in his country of birth into bright bluntly patched knits for the NYC runway.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

Shizhe He is interested in the mundane, the everyday, and the routine, and her attempts to subtly disrupt these elements formed the basis of her layered menswear collection. Her love of fine arts and devotion to patternmaking married wonderfully in a slouchy suit topped with overcoat in a shade of cornflower blue straight out of a Johannes Vermeer work.

Di Gao took crochet techniques into new frontiers creating semi-transparent dresses in colors of henna, charcoal and rust with white stripes and dangling drawstring toggles that evoked the eternal charm of traditional African tribalwear.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

A current finalist for the Dorothy Waxman International Textile Prize, run by Li Edelkoort Inc, Venus Lo’s menswear collection was inspired by her hoarder father and incorporated felting and knitting with unwanted scraps and donations of everyday items into unique new assemblages because she believes perfection can be ugly.

Parsons MFA Show Signals Hope for Future of Creativity

For the finale, Caroline Hu, who makes no bones about calling herself a romantic designer whipped tulle into such a blizzard that it seemed to have scooped up everything else in the sewing room on its way out: froths of net, ribbons, beading, knit, frills and lace sponsored by French fabric company, Sophie Hallette.

All photos Monica Feudi, Parsons, Homepage image: author’s own.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

7 designers. 7 schools. 1 winner. 10,000 dollars. This NYFW marks the 10th anniversary of the Supima Design Competition, the contest that pits students from the country’s leading fashion schools against each other to design a five-look collection using the same five core fabrics––shirting, knit, velveteen, twill and denim––the winner of which is announced after the runway show. This year’s judges included Fern Mallis, the founder of fashion week, and a roster of professionals from Allure, Elle, WWD, and the New York Observer among others. The student’s mentor for the third year running was acclaimed designer, Bibhu Mohapatra.

First up representing Drexel University Lela Thompson worked in rich maroons and teal creating cascades of laser cut ruffles and bustles on floor length gowns and layered appliques onto knee length red denim so that the casual wear fabric came to resemble something closer to luxury brocade.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

From L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Nancy Hennessey crafted black-tie-occasion corsetry and built roses into sleeve heads or constructed them into the narrowest of pencil skirts. Cinematic allure arrived in the form of a scarlet floor-length twill coat with a sculpted rose blooming ripely from the hip.

Abigail Griswold from Rhode Island School of Design who after injury had to renounce her professional gymnast ambition found a way to stir this now-slumbering passion into her collection through the use of performance mesh, cording, and neoprene, but the contrast of a super-slouchy zippered jumpsuit in breezy shirting was a pleasant addition.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

Evolving an idea she began for her final year collection at Parsons, Margaret Kwon worked dazzling Swarovski crystals into a palette of pastels, deep forest green, and sky blue. A red shirting evening dress with multi-ruffled train drew admiring gasps.

New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology presented Alyssa Wardrop whose artful creations proved to be the most avant-garde of the evening. She hand painted and stitched onto large-scale squares like an artist approaching a canvas. Despite this potentially cumbersome shape, the garments wafted. Oversized twill tunics with dropped shoulders and top stitching, and dresses with arm straps outlined in graphic black evoked Rothko in their controlled placement of color always anchored by a white ground.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

With parents who are engineers, it’s perhaps to be expected that Sarah Johnson from Kent State University cites the importance of attention to detail in her work which featured an abundance of handcraft. A knit draped halter dress in liquidy saffron demonstrated a sophisticated taste level while extensive cartridge pleating suspended on rope and widelegged pants with double pockets and an obi-like belt added exoticism.

Last year’s winning school, Savannah College of Art and Design, nominated Alexandra Pijut to carry the torch this time. She created an airy floor-length asymmetrically draped dress of knit printed in pastel tartan, tucked a prim smocked dress under a tailored blazer, and layered a lemon-hued smocked and corseted dress over a white organza collared shirt for a cute and refined result.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

As the lights went up, Supima’s V.P. of Marketing and Promotions, Buxton Midyette joined by his co-host, stylist, June Ambrose, announced with pride the winner of the 10th Annual Supima Design Competition and the prize of 10,000 dollars: Alyssa Wardrop from Fashion Institute of Technology.

The 10th Annual Supima Design Competition

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos author’s own.

The Importance of A Designer’s Tribe

The modern designer does not operate alone. When he is poached from one house by another, he installs a coterie of friends around him in his new workplace, but those bold headlines trumpeting his arrival rarely mention the importance of this traveling entourage.

The recent case of Raf Simons’s appointment at Calvin Klein is a prime example. He made Pieter Mulier, his scene-stealing right hand man from the documentary, Dior And I, with whom he has worked since 2002, Creative Director, and Mulier’s boyfriend, Mattieu Blazy, Design Director of Womenswear; he enlisted the services of photographer Willy Vanderperre whom he has known since his 90s Antwerp club days to continue to shoot his ad campaigns, and Vanderperre’s boyfriend, Olivier Rizzo, to style them; he brought in L.A. artist Sterling Ruby with whom he has a 10-year friendship and set him to redesign the Madison Avenue Calvin Klein flagship store; Simons’s boyfriend, Jean-Georges d’Orazio, was also brought from Europe to assume the role of Senior Director of brand experience, whatever that is.

“My old studio manager called Raf my brother from another mother,” Sterling Ruby told the New York Times. “I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania; he grew up in a very small town in a rural area on the Flemish side of Belgium. We both wanted out. . . . And now we’re both walking on tightropes, trying to figure out what we’re doing.”

The Importance of A Designer’s Tribe

Making magic happen

The stakes are indeed high in these mergers of star designer and established house, and sometimes nothing less than wizardry is expected to turn the sleeping brand around and make it relevant again. Therefore, not unreasonably, the chosen one has a trusted cloister of Hermiones, Rons, Hagrids and Dumbledores to buoy him against the relentless, and possibly alien, corporate pressure that threatens to snuff out his creativity with the swiftness of one of Voldemort’s DeathEaters.

Of course, fashion is a business like any other and the highly paid, in-demand creative must perform, but when he is bombarded by opposing demands––create the “it” handbag, develop a formidable social media presence, dress celebrities, prepare the company for an IPO, then become beholden to stock market fluctuations, all while making the brand as cool as (insert competitor’s name here)–– it is often only one of his insiders who can utter that gentle reminder to trust his instincts and shut out the voices that don’t ring true. When the designer feels like he is so far out on a limb he no longer recognizes himself or what he stands for, this confidant can present him with a mirror while his new bosses will simply present him with more figures. No matter how much the designer now earns, if he jumped about on a dancefloor with someone twenty years ago, and that person is still by his side, then chances are that person’s worth to him cannot be translated into dollars. The designer’s tribe is no mere Warhol Factory. It is not an assemblage of interesting people hoping to be seen, but a fashion family, in which each one has the other’s back.

The Importance of A Designer’s Tribe

We are family

Often the tight circle has immediate family members at it's core: Demna Gvasalia began Vetements with his business-minded brother Guram, before stylist Lotta Volkova came on board. Then, arm-in-arm, the plucky trio trotted on over to the esteemed luxury house of Balenciaga to bestow their charm on it. “Lotta is a walking source of energy,” Gvasalia told Vogue, “We met at some party four years ago, and then she came over to see the first Vetements collection and told me, ‘I want to wear some of these things, but the styling is terrible.’ So she’s been working with us ever since.” This method of team-building has little to do with the human resources department but is not a new phenomenon. At the heart of Giorgio Armani’s billion dollar enterprise, which he started with his now deceased boyfriend, Sergio Galeotti in 1975, are his nieces Silvana and Roberta Armani, although it has been strengthened over the decades with a band of loyal followers. “Because he has no friends,” Armani’s sister, Rosanna, told Vanity Fair. When the magazine asked Armani about her comment, his response was: “Tell me: when do I have time to make myself friends?” But the essence of his motivation is revealed in this sentiment: “Whatever I did in work was done for Sergio. And Sergio did everything for me. So that was the heart.”

The king’s court

Often the job titles of a designer’s court members can be more difficult to pin down that those of Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein team. Amanda Harlech, who had worked with John Galliano since his graduation but famously defected to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel because she reportedly needed a better salary upon her divorce, told the Sunday Times Style Section. "Karl doesn't have a muse - he has a very close knit family who are incredibly loyal.” She explained her role as best she could: “If I do have a gift, it is as a map-reader, a pathfinder. I don't think I'm a muse. A muse inspires - but Karl is inspired by a lot of other women, men, books, a piece of furniture, a piece of music…’” Alexander McQueen kept two females at the center of his court: Isabella Blow who championed his graduate collection, persuading stores and editors to buy into his vision, and Sarah Burton, the young design assistant who apprenticed under him, eventually tasked with the company’s creative direction upon his untimely death.

The Importance of A Designer’s Tribe

For creatives, the building of a design empire is more than just a business. Emotional attachments override business strategies and growth projections. Current headlines suggest designers can be swapped out like outfits, but the designer’s tribe often has to be accounted for in negotiations. That bond is difficult to replicate in a new situation, but having his cherished people about him undoubtedly sets the heralded designer up to thrive. Tribe members shield designers from becoming poor isolated Icarus creatures flying too close to the sun. They bolster and protect. They inspire, invigorate, bathe wounds, and lift spirits. The designer is the lead figure fronting the charge for the house’s dominance over competitors, but it is the tribe whose arms he falls into as he returns backstage after taking his bow at the end of each show.

#TribeGoalz

“Squad” is an Instagram word used by celebrities to describe the elite crew they run with: Taylor Swift’s includes a bunch of Victoria’s Secret models and Lena Dunham, all of which she invites onstage at concerts. Leonardo di Caprio’s modern day Hollywood Brat Pack, which includes Orlando Bloom and Toby Maguire, enjoys hanging out with models on boats. The designer’s tribe isn’t basking in the sun or spotlit onstage or even being stalked by paparazzi. Its members are happiest being useful behind the scenes. Yves Saint Laurent described the essence of this unique relationship perfectly when referring to his longtime right-hand man, Pierre Bergé: “His strength meant I could rest on him when I was out of breath.”

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

The Importance of A Designer’s Tribe During the month of August FashionUnited will focus on Work in Fashion. For all reads on the theme, click here.

Photos from Calvin Klein, Armani, and Chanel Facebook pages.

Why The U.S. Is Trailing The Dutch in the Future of Denim

Statistics show that the people of the Netherlands wear the most denim per capital in the world, with Americans coming in second place. It’s surprising when one considers denim’s importance as a symbol of Americana, from cowboys to rock and roll; from James Dean’s rebel image to John Wayne’s rugged horseman to Obama’s “dad jeans”, all encapsulated in Raf Simon’s denim-on-denim debut for Calvin Klein. Even outside of its celebrity profile, the fabric has been integral to American workers’ uniforms for 200 years, increasing in popularity during the 1800s gold mining boom when a young German immigrant by the name of Strauss patented the riveted hardwearing cloth, and Levi’s was born. Still, it is acknowledged that the small central European country with no hills to speak of dominates the denim frontier, with its capital, Amsterdam, home to G-Star RAW, part-owned by Pharrell Williams, Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Levi’s Vintage, Kings of indigo, Denham, Tenue de Nîmes, and Kuyichi to name a few.

Why The U.S. Is Trailing The Dutch in the Future of Denim

But perhaps what’s more surprising is that it’s already five years since Amsterdam opened the world’s first Jean School, and the U.S. still does not have such a facility. With so many fashion schools in existence and more students graduating into our field than ever before, streaming some of the flow into this popular sector would surely provide career opportunities for young designers with ambitions in denim. I recently visited the campus located in Amsterdam’s House of Denim and toured the workroom, the laundries, and the archives containing commissions they’ve created for different international clients. Inside a glass case a copy of a pair of black denims created for Karl Lagerfeld is emblazoned with the silhouette of the designer’s head. The Jeans School is preparing to open its doors next week to this year’s incoming group of students, and I learn enrollment is at capacity, with more international students than ever before.

Why The U.S. Is Trailing The Dutch in the Future of Denim

The Netherlands wear the most denim per capital

As a fashion educator here at home I’m aware of the absence of knowledge among students regarding denim, yet their hunger to understand more. As a former designer I’m also aware of the avid interest from companies in candidates with an in-depth knowledge of the washes, processes and innovations that infuse a simple pair of jeans with the power to fuel a global business. Red carpet gowns and runway drama is not necessarily what all fashion students aspire to create, but often under the banner heading of ready-to-wear, those are the avenues they’re obliged to pursue in fashion programs. Many young designers want to create for their age group, their peers, their lifestyle, but entry into the specialized world of denim requires more than the ability to design a five-pocket pant or riff on a traditional jean jacket. If the product is to seem authentic, possess the inherent swagger history has attributed to it, and exploit the durable no-nonsense aspect of the twill weave in a competitive marketplace, a profound understanding of the fabric's characteristics and potential is required. How are students expected to achieve this if their exposure to denim in school is so limited?

Some U.S. schools offer industry collaborations with denim companies which allows one or two students the opportunity to enjoy some on the job training. Amsterdam Fashion Institute offers a Bachelors in Fashion with Denim Minor. But the Jean School’s one or three-year course leading to a qualification of Denim Developer allows the student to drill deep into the world of mills, sewing rooms, laundries, as well as into the area of design. The students begin portfolio building from the first day and the curriculum places “emphasis on craftsmanship and sustainability across all steps in the production process ‘from crop to shop.’” This, combined with guest lectures from external professionals and the expertise of co-founder (and former organizer of Amsterdam Fashion Week, James Veenhoff, who now organizes globally-recognized denim trade fair, Kingpins) results in worldwide interest in graduates and a high employment rate. It helps that the co-founder, Mariette Hoitink, also operates the world’s only denim-focused recruitment firm, thereby closing the loop of denim connoisseurship within Amsterdam and ensuring its continued success.

Why The U.S. Is Trailing The Dutch in the Future of Denim

Denim's ubiquity shows no sign of dying, the focus on sustainability setting the scene for a whole new wave of innovation. There’s the potential for a new gold rush so why aren’t we in the U.S. digging, mining our homegrown talent? There’s indigo in them there hills.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos FashionUnited, curriculum image from Houseofdenim.org

Fashion’s Metamorphosis; 7 Changes That Disrupt Everything

The age of exploring new paradigms in fashion presentation is upon us. And all arrows point away from the anachronistic machinery and elitism of old, and towards a more democratic open-plan environment. Here are seven significant changes in the pipeline, if not already in process:

Concrete footprint

Rental of any kind, whether showrooms or brick and mortar stores, has soared beyond many price ranges in fashion capitals like New York and London, but luckily now more than ever there are other options to get product seen. Who would buy eyeglasses online? asked doubters when offered the opportunity to invest in 2010 e-commerce start-up, Warby Parker, now estimated to be worth 1.2 billion dollars by The Wall Street Journal. The rise of the pop-up store allows brands to create a spontaneous and temporary, personalized interactive retail environment––choose a cocktail bar to enhance the social experience or a well-appointed townhouse to create intimacy. Richard Lim, head of business information at the British Retail Consortium is quoted in Retail Week as saying, “We’re only at the beginning of the pop-up revolution.” One can’t help imagining that pop-up events featuring a group of like-minded brands launching together might not be too far off. Pop-up fashion weeks?

Fashion’s Metamorphosis; 7 Changes That Disrupt Everything

Trends

“Today, the idea of a bunch people sitting in a room and deciding what the colors are going to be in two years’ time or what materials are going to be used in three years’ time is a complete nonsense,” says Marc Worth, co-founder of trend forecasting site, WGSN. The latest viral sensation can be all-conquering and then die off before traditional trend forecasting firms like Perclers or Trend Union in Paris, which traditionally work six months in advance and produce beautifully bound tomes of poetic inspiration imagery to sell to companies, even have it on their radar. Ideas now happen overnight which, combined with the industry’s lingering uncertainty of the bi-annual model of showing collections, makes any kind of long-term predictions redundant. Boho, military, 80s and 90s all appear on runways in the same season and the voices of celebrities, bloggers, consumers, and designers jostle for authority. With the rise of “influencers,” brands are now attaching themselves to lifestyles as opposed to trends, resulting in partnerships such as Alexa Chung for Marks & Spencer, Madewell and AG Jeans, or Man Repeller and NARS.

Fashion’s Metamorphosis; 7 Changes That Disrupt Everything

Models

“I don’t care about models. I care about faces,” says Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, “It’s a way to show humanity. It’s funny I think the era of ‘model’ is ended.” In today’s climate of inclusivity, the latest face is most likely to be the designer’s friend or someone spotted on the street, perhaps with physical characteristics previously ignored by fashion (Adwoah Aboa’s freckles or Winnie Harlow’s vitiligo) and with Instagram offering up a steady stream of model cards in the form of selfies, and “plandids,” candid and planned unironic head-to-toe posed photos, the need for casting directors and the traditional model go-see is diminished, while the opportunity of securing unique faces to represent your brand is heightened.

Haute exclusivité

Paris’s couture fortress was challenged more than ever for Fall 2017 with American sportswear label, Proenza Schouler, and fashion-as-art label, Rodarte, descending on the city to show their Spring 2018 ready-to-wear during the haute couture schedule. “We’ve been embroidering for, like, a month now,” said Proenza’s Jack McCullough. “That feather jacket took a month to make. There’s such a cottage industry of that here; three-people ateliers. A loom in an apartment…But it's, like, a 400-year-old loom!" Also included in the four-day event were Resort collections from Miu Miu and Hermès. In this era of disruption, the carousel of fashion weeks, which traditionally had editors complaining and overextended designers short-circuiting, could slow down as a result of further mergers.

Fashion’s Metamorphosis; 7 Changes That Disrupt Everything

Stylists

When Rag & Bone engaged Glen Luchford for Fall to create a series of Polaroid portraits of famous faces like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Amber Valleta and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, the celebrities were invited to style themselves in the collection. It was an opportunity for them to connect with the brand in a more authentic way than the industry practice of paying celebrities to wear their clothes as a straightforward business transaction. This process thus eliminates the need for those well-paid stylists, and indeed make-up and hair professionals, who swoop into famous houses each season to take over at the last minute the creative vision from the designer and put a fresh spin on the collection.

Runway shows

Two years ago when Givenchy, with the help of The City of New York, offered up 1,200 tickets to the general public for their NYC show, effectively opening up a previously cordoned-off world to the average person, the seeds of change were shown. Growing from that, Rag & Bone’’s creative director, Marcus Wainwright, says, “We’d done something like 25 shows in a row since we started, and I think the times are changing. I woke depressed after the election, as everyone else, and felt that there were no rules anymore.” The success of his February Polaroid project clearly got him thinking: “Part of me questions why you have to do it in September. Creating something powerful that represents the brand and engaging with the fashion press is obviously very important, but is Fashion Week the best time to do that?” Vetements designer, Demna Gvasalia, announced in June to widespread gasps, “We are not going to show in the classical system anymore. I got bored. I think it needs to enter a new chapter. Fashion shows are not the best tool.”

Fashion’s Metamorphosis; 7 Changes That Disrupt Everything

City-specific fashion weeks

For years, London has been viewed as the creative breeding ground of young designers, Milan the showcase for traditional family-based craftsmanship, Paris, the city of light and couture, and New York, the capital of commerce-driven apparel. But McQueen, Burberry, and Westwood began some years ago to jump ship for Milan and Paris; Moschino, then Armani, showed in London; Givenchy in NYC; then Rodarte and Hood By Air turned their backs on NYC for Paris, followed by Proenza Schouler… Who can keep track and do we really need to anymore? What about a bi-annual world championship of fashion where global brands gather in a different city each time?

No swipe left response

You can’t get more analog than a Polaroid camera which provides a single image with no delete or filter option. But the Rag & Bone experiment highlights an important aspect of fashion that we had lost sight of in our race to compete with a sped-up system, Instagram’s immediate gratification, and that apparently insatiable Veruca Salt-like consumer. Clothes are analog. They are IRL sensory items in which we wrap our bodies. They are like hugs, the epitome of touchy-feely. No device or online interaction can replicate that. And the more forward-thinking in our industry are beginning to recognize it.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Images: catwalkpictures, Empty Bleeker Street storefronts author’s own; Rag & Bone Facebook; officialwinnieharlow.com; New York Fashion Week Facebook

Dress to impress - how to take the fashion industry by storm

OPINION What should I wear? This question arises often but with particular urgency when working in the fashion industry where one has to dress to impress. Be it for a job interview or a particularly busy day at the office: FashionUnited knows the no-go criteria and how to make a good impression.

The usual business attire in 'normal' jobs consists of a pantsuit or pencil skirt with blazer in neutral colours, combined with a white blouse.

Fun fact: Apart from one white blouse with frills, I do not own anything of that sort. The last time I wore such a 'uniform' was in college when I worked as a hostess for a well-known bank at a trade fair. The money I earned, I quickly invested in clothes that one needs as a fashion professional: a woolen coat by Max Mara, Acne boots and something by Margiela.

Three rules for a lasting impression

Especially in the fashion business, it is impossible to recommend a particular outfit. Every job is different and everyone's boss is different too. But there are a few rules of thumb.

The first and non-negotiable rule: a well-groomed appearance. Regardless of what you wear, make sure to acquaint it - even fleetingly - with an iron. A lint brush may also be a good idea.

The second golden rule: Always wear one unusual piece and have a good story about it ready. The fashion industry appreciates if you show that you are taking it seriously but at the same time, be fluent in sarcasm. At the moment, everything that Paris Hilton would wear is also good for you.

The third golden rule: Do bring your Supreme brick to work. Other fashion insiders will understand.

Dress to impress - how to take the fashion industry by storm

International Dresscode

If in doubt: Black is the uniform of fashion professionals - especially in New York and Berlin. In London, it is important to show one's true colour(s), whereas you can be a bit sexy and more extroverted in Italy. And in Paris - well, if you managed to score a job in Paris, then you will most certainly already know how to dress. If you have been called for a job interview in Paris, then follow one of the numerous ‚How to dress like a Parisian/French Woman‘-Guides. By now, there should be a separate section for them on Amazon. In any case, you should either wear brand new sneakers (worn out ones are a big no-no) or heels. In Berlin, the opposite is true.

Stay cool in summer

The sun is beating down mercilessly. But 35 degrees Celsius plus are not an excuse for dressing sloppily - not in fashion. For women: The new keyword is body positivity. That means, you may wear what you feel like, when you feel like it. Our tip: Always cover your breasts, as least the nipples. For men: Resign yourself to the fact that you will have to sweat. Short pants and half-sleeved shirts are a no-no. After all, you have to be at a disadvantage somewhere, right? Just see it as one week in the year that you have to pay for your usual priviledges. And thankfully, European summers are short.

Last but not least: Even if you do not have one, pick a favourite designer. You will face that question sooner or later and if you cannot produce an answer, your cover will be blown. The best is if you pick someone from the '90s because then you will prove that you know your history and that you also know what is hip. I would suggest Comme des Garçons, Walter Van Beirendonck or Helmut Lang.

Dress to impress - how to take the fashion industry by storm During the month of August FashionUnited will focus on Work in Fashion. For all reads on the theme, click here.

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.de Translated and edited by: Simone Preuss

Illustrations: Studio Iva (IGM: studio_iva)