Sunday, February 20, 2011

Higher Commodity Prices Hit Fashion

One of the things that makes the fashion industry so great is the fact that it is global.  Ideas and people swirl around the world and normally it equals better fashion.  Well, it also equals higher prices.  Commodity prices have soared lately.

Fashion is the "textile industry"--I think they give it that name so that men in suits don't feel like they're talking about "womens' concerns", but that discussion is for another day.  The cost of your favorite new dress directly correlates to the price of raw materials around the world.  In the last 12 months, prices have skyrocketed.

Cotton prices are the highest they've been since the US Civil War.  In the 1860s, prices were so high due to war and blockade.  Now, it is a combination of ruined crops in Pakistan and Australia, coupled with growing demand around the world.  Higher demand plus lower supply equals higher prices.  That means your dress is going to be more costly.

Its not just cotton that is pricier.  Silk, leather, cashmere, fiber for synthetics, etc.... have all gotten more expensive.  Much of it is due to higher demand, transportation costs and in the case of vegetable fibers, failed crops.  One of the largest sources of the rising demand is China.  With the Chinese economy growing, the demand for garments and other textiles rises and so does the price of such things around the world.

What are designers doing about this?  Midlevel designers have been rethinking their collections so that they use less or cheaper materials, in order to not have to raise their prices.  For example, Luca Luca has been trying to order in bulk and use less fabric variety to keep the prices down.  But, they were far enough into their Spring 2011 collection to where they've had to eat much of the cost increases.  This is bad for fashion in the long term--when the designers become less profitable, it will be harder for them to survive changes in demand for their products and to invest in new talent and methods.  This means lower quality items with less innovation.  Hopefully next season Luca Luca will find a better way to deal with this than to eat the cost--it can only do that for so long before they'll have to fold, and then no more pretty dresses from them....

High-End designers are simply passing on the rise in costs to their consumers.  So, if you want high-grade silk to line your blazer, you better be prepared to pay.

Information from Wall Street Journal and Luca Luca runway photo from Style

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Huge Congrats to Narciss & Alise Trautmane!

One of my favorite up-and-coming designers is Latvia-based Narciss led by Alise Trautmane.  She knows what women want, and melds that Baltic/Eastern Europe sensibility with a good story and consequently consistently puts out designs that are beautiful & wearable.  I think this company is one to watch!

Well, Narciss was named DESIGNER OF THE YEAR for Latvia by the Baltic Fashion Federation!  I think it is a well-deserved honor for a designer that consistently does a great job.

To the left is a beautiful dress in her online store--its classic while being flattering and practical.  Its something the average woman could actually wear and not feel ridiculous.  It doesn't scream any particular season, instead it says "classic black dress".  I love it!

I can't wait to see the new collection that Narciss is putting out in February 2011!

Picture from NARCISS

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kat Graham + Filhas de Gaia = Questionable Judgement

I haven't seen a lot of great things out and about in the fashion world as of late.  I don't know, maybe I'm looking in the wrong spots.  One of these wrong spots if Kat Graham.

Ugh, she stepped out in public to the ASCAP Grammy Brunch wearing this horrible oneise jumpsuit thing by Filhas de Gaia.  I'm sorry, but it looks like some sad saggy-crotch getup she stole from the reject wardrobe pile of DALLAS.  I can't figure out why this is supposed to make her "aspirational" or an "IT Girl".  It makes me wonder instead if she doesn't own a mirror.  I'm so sad--the print is great and this designer does lots of great looks.

Filhas de Gaia is a great Brazilian designer that shows in Rio de Janeiro.  The Spring 2011 collection was full of great looks--super cute cocktail dresses and wonderful clothes for a woman of Kat Graham's age.  That's what makes me wonder so much at how she ended up in such an unflattering thing--she certainly had plenty to choose from.  *SIGH*  The world may never know.

Picture from WENN

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inspired by Shoson Prints--Time to BE Spring!!!!!

I'm so sick of winter.  The cold, in particular.  I hate the cold, I hate the boring colors, I strongly dislike winter.  I'm so tired of being trapped inside!  I've found myself looking at Japanese Woodblocks and their beautiful images since a trip to a museum the other day and they make me look forward to spring like no other.  One of my favorites is this one by Shoson of cherry blossoms and birds, the ultimate image of spring.  I want everything to look like this right now!

Whenever I look at the Spring 2011 shows, I feel so annoyed.  Almost everything is black and white!  What's going on?!  Where's the color and celebration of being able to leave the house and wear something pretty without being swaddled in layers and layers of black coat?  Luckily, Dries van Noten had a few prints, and they remind me so much of Japanese woodblock prints.  The yellow is so nice, so warm!

The back of this dress is just delicious!!  I love it!  I want it both on a dress and a blouse!  The open back goes just low enough to be completely sexy and interesting but high enough to be able to find a bra to wear under it.  Dries van Noten is one of the few designers who is consistently unafraid of prints and this season, I'm so happy to see it.  I can just imagine wearing this on an early May day, out with friends.

This Spring 2011 Hanii Y dress just makes me sigh with relief!  Its not black or beige or white!  It looks like so much fun and thoroughly reminds me of the Shoson print.  Its got the same colors and captures that same spirit of warmth and beauty.  I love the shape, it isn't frumpy, and it looks like something that would be great to wear out on a Saturday when running errands.

I know I can always count on Tsumori Chisato for something colorful and happy!  This Spring 2011 get-up just looks so "spring-y"!  I love it!  All of the color and print just makes me smile.  The pink is that same pink in the Shoson print and just looks like candy.  What really makes this outfit are the shoes.  That little pop of yellow is the perfect finishing touch--like a warm vanilla sky sunset.

I'm so done with winter.  I want to wear a skirt and ballet flats and not regret doing so.  I want color and print and beauty.  I wish the world always looked like a Shoson print!

Runway pictures from Style and Shoson print from Ronin Gallery

Monday, January 31, 2011

Garden Party with Erdem!

Okay, so its no surprise.  I'm currently obsessed with antique-y looking floral prints on dresses.  I always have been.  Not everyone makes them look like something worth wearing, however.  One of the few who makes an awesome floral-print dress consistently beautiful is Erdem.

Erdem is a London-based design house led by Erdem Moralioglu.  He's of Turkish/English descent from Montreal, Canada and worked for a year under Diane von Furstenberg.  In 2005 he moved to London and started his own line.  Since then he won the British Vogue Fashion Award and is recognized as one of the top up-and-coming designers.  And, boy is he good!

One of the things he does so well is use print.  That's so rare!  His prints remind me of re-edited antique floral prints.  The yellow with the red and pink reminds me of this woodblock print by Kono Bairei from 1880.  To me, his dresses from Spring Summer 2011 look like he took prints like this, cut them up and made a collage and then painted over them with watercolors.  Lovely!
Another thing I like so much is the fact that the prints are strategically place to take your eye to the most flattering parts of the dress.  This dress is cut to slim the wearer and then the print leads the eye to the smallest part of the waist, the bust and then the hem to see the model's legs.  Its like a giant sign to "ignore my hips and admire the fact that I have a lovely shape!"  I love it!
Hands down, my favorite dress is the one.  It totally reminds me of antique Japanese woodblock prints of flowers, but in a modern, wearable way.  Love it!  Plus, you can wear this dress on your fattest day and never look like you've had too many cupcakes.  Its classic, its comfortable and its friggin pretty!  I don't know if you've ever played with these dresses in person, but the silk is to die for.  Erdem doesn't scrimp when it comes to materials.  Not at all.  Sure, his stuff is expensive but you get what you pay for!  In this case, its silk worth wearing for the rest of your life.  
Pictures from Erdem, woodblock print from A Private Collection
You may also be interested in my prior post about Peter Som

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chanel Spring/Summer 2011--Thug In A Cocktail Dress

Just because a designer is main-stream doesn't mean that they should be ignored.  Quite the opposite--they are the annointed taste-makers.  And, well, I happen to like Chanel.  Its classic, you really can go wrong with their suiting, so I'm usually excited to see their shows.  Spring/Summer 2011 is no exception!

There were some really cute dresses in the show.  Feminine, but tough, like someone in their 20s could wear them out for a fun night and not feel like they're robbed their grandmother or that they're looking like an Italian divorcee.  My favorite was this black & white number, looks totally Chanel but still young and fun.  I like the contrasting trim over the major seams, it gives the dress a nice shape and really makes the wearer look trim.  I hate the shoes, they look like clunky bricks.  Oh well.  Can't win them all.

Another look I really liked was the art deco-inspired A-Line dress with the front bib and the tulle.  I know, its a bit fussy, but its pretty! Its one of those dresses that you'd wear to a big event, but its interesting and it doesn't scream "I'm wearing Chanel!  Out of my way bitches!!"  Instead, the model looks very well dressed and doesn't fall prey to what Chanel sometimes does of just looking to...elderly.

Not everything in the show came up roses.  In fact, a large portion of the looks just...sucked.  Okay, so why is Karl Lagerfeld trying to dress Chanel-thugs?  What's with the open golashes, booty shorts and just ugly?  What's he thinking?  Tweedy booty shorts?  REALLY?!  Does he picture women who wear Chanel out trying to pick up men in alleys?  Girl looks like a thug.  Another look I particularly disliked is the floral dress that I'm sad to say came from the Chanel show.  Is it just me, or does it look like that horrible prairie dress that your aunt gives you when you're 7 and your mom makes you wear for the family portrait?  It's even got that silly pilgrim collar, awkward length and frumpy waist.  The way that the model is standing says it all--her pose makes me think that she's about ready to pull a HULK on it and rip it off.  Poor girl, having to wear something so embarrassing.

The Chanel spring-summer 2011 show started out so nicely, with lovely tweed and ended with beautiful cocktail dresses.  For some reason, the middle was filled with girls who looked like they were going to jump you for your hair clip.  So sad!  But, that doesn't take away from the fact that I needs to get me another tweedy jacket....

Pictures from Style

You may also be interested in a prior post about Chanel Accessories

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vicuna--A Sweater Fit For The Sapa Inca

There's more variety to protein fibers than just wool & cashmere.  There's all kinds of different animals woolens can be produced from!  One of these is Vicuna, the hair from the vicuna animal of Peru.  Traditionally, vicuna in Incan culture was so valuable that it was only for the royals to wear.  Vicuna or Vicugna, is considered to be the finest and softest wool in the world at 12 micrometers in diameter--the fibers are only 70% as wide as cashmere and even better at trapping warmth.  It is so fine that normally, it is left its natural color for fear that dyes will ruin it.

Vicuna is a threatened species of camelid (camel!) native to Peru, Chile, Bolivia and other parts of South America, previously endangered.  What has allowed this species to come back from the brink is its wool.  The Peruvian government made it its national animal and came up with a scheme to bring both jobs to the locals and save the animal.  Once a year, the locals hold a Chaccu, a traditional shearing ceremony where the vicuna are rounded up, shorn and then released.  A vicuna can only be shorn every 3 years and there are specific standards for how long the hair can be in order to be shorn.  This system of only allowing vicuna wool to be harvested in specific situations and the ending of vicuna hunting has allowed the species to bounce back and become a very valuable commodity to the community.  The practices that are currently being followed are considered sustainable and vicuna is an eco-friendly textile.

There are some things to beware of.  Despite the best efforts of the Peruvian officials and community, there is an illegal trade in vicuna.  Because of this, several countries have outright banned it and many require an official certificate that it was legally harvested.  Make sure that you purchase your vicuna from a legitimate source and try to stick to an established, reputable company like Loro Piano or Jacques Cartier yarns.  Also, if you really look closely at most of the items that come up when you search "vicuna"--you'll notice that they're not ACTUALLY made of vicuna, instead vicuna is just the name of the color.  Don't be fooled and get stuck with lamb's wool!  The high price of vicuna is worth it!

Pictures from Livanti Alpacas and The Guardian

You may also be interested in my prior posts about Qiviut and Ramie

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Barbara Tfank & Reimagined Antique Print Dresses!

Its no secret.  I'm a huge sucker for print dresses.  I LOVE them.  I don't know why.  Clothes shouldn't be boring; flowers make me happy.  One of the designers who constantly delivers some of the coolest print dresses is Barbara Tfank.

Barbara Tfank is a Los Angeles-based designer.  She got her start in fashion as a costume designer in Hollywood and then started her own line in 2001.  And, I think she does amazing stuff with print fabric!

One of my favorite pieces from her Spring Summer 2011 collection is the floral dress on the right.  The cut is absolutely classic--all at once femme fatale Art Deco but also somehow 1960s flower child.  What makes it really modern is the pleating at the neck that's so hot right now.  Also, the cute little cap sleeves are ADORABLE!

The print of the fabric looks like redone antique flower lithographs--classic and beautiful but unique.  You don't see it every day, probably because its easy to make that kind of print look like you stole your grandmother's curtains and made a toga.  What makes this print work is that the dress cut is so modern and wearable that it balances out the possible stuffy-ness of the print.

Sure, its the height of winter but I can't stop thinking about how nice it would be to sit in a garden full of tulips and wear this dress!

Dress picture from, antique flower print from Collectors Prints

You may be interested in reading my prior post about Barbara Tfank

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Materials Management Relief Corps--Fashion Gives Back

Fashion gets a bad rap that it is all superficial and doesn't really contribute to the things in society that matter.  That's entirely not true!  A great example of that lately is Paul Sebring, fashion photographer, who stepped up and is making a difference in Haiti.

Paul Sebring owned a photography company, Sebring Photography, in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area and was climbing the ranks.  He was photographing the likes of Avril Lavigne, Noelle Wheeler, Mark Salling of Glee, Julianne Hough, and Doug Reinhardt.  Paul was really starting to establish himself and make a name in the fashion world.  It had been a long, hard road but it was really starting to go somewhere.

Paul Sebring knew as soon as the earthquake in Haiti happened that he needed to go and help.  He had no idea what that help was going to look like, other than it was going to be hard, messy and going to take some commitment.  When he first went in 2010, he was just supposed to be there for 3 weeks.  He didn't put his stuff in storage, he didn't cancel his lease, he just went on a short term aid project.  But, once he was there, he knew that he had found his passion.  Once he was back in the US, he quickly started working on starting his organization with Paul Waggoner known as Materials Management Relief Corps--MMRC.

Big Paul (Paul Sebring) and Little Paul (Paul Waggoner) saw that there was a huge void in the delivery of aid services in Haiti--there was no one to transport and distribute the aid materials.  Aid poured in from around the world, but it was sitting in warehouses and tarmacs and not in the hands of those who needed it.  MMRC's mission is to transport goods and people around Haiti for the better delivery of humanitarian services.  They aren't looking to make a profit, they're looking to make a difference.  They've encountered some major obstacles in their path so far, like their vehicles breaking down and Paul Waggoner being arrested on charges of using voo-doo to steal children.  Paul Waggoner was released and cleared of charges and donors have stepped in to help have the vehicles be repaired.

With the one year anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake having come and gone and it looks like nothing much happened.  But, that's not because people haven't stepped up and help.  MMRC has helped rescue orphans, provide medicine and save countless lives.  People in the fashion industry DO care about the world and are just as willing as anyone else to step up and help.

Photos from Big Paul's Blog.  Don't be afraid to contact MMRC and ask how you can help!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zuni Petit Point Jewelry--Something to be treasured!

Jewelry is always an essential part of an outfit.  Personally, I prefer to keep things rather minimal and understated.  That's not to say that over the top isn't great too.  But, one of my favorite things to wear has always been Native American jewelry.  Maybe its because I live in the Southwest and its normal here, or maybe its from growing up with all of those Ralph Lauren ads, but I just love it.  (By the way, it was Dee Morris who made most of the jewelry in the Ralph Lauren ads.  He was based out of Sedona, Arizona and made some AMAZING pieces)

One of my favorite styles is Zuni.  The Zuni tribe lives in New Mexico and is a Pueblo tribe.  They are primarily agricultural and have a rich religious and cultural tradition.  They learned silversmithing in about 1870 and many members of the tribe have gone on to be master craftspeople.  The Petit Point style is one that is unique to the Zuni tribe. The pin to the right is a classic example.  The turquoise is Kingman and is completely hand cut.  The stones are bezel-set into the silver and the entire piece is hand-forged and from about 1970.  What makes the style so unique is the settings--they are more or less bezel set, but have tiny prongs around the top that are sometimes decorative and sometimes functional.  To set the stones, the larger ones are held in with matchsticks while the maker sets them, the smaller ones are held in with toothpicks.  The pieces are kind of like a mosiac--lots of little stones, all methodically set next to each other to spell out a larger pattern and with the settings, has a sort of "embroidery" look to it, unlike any other style of jewelry.  Traditionally, petit point jewelry is only for women to wear.

This piece is from Chief Dodge and is Zuni needlework (same as "petit point") with Sleeping Beauty turquoise.  It is a vintage piece.  I love it because it is so detailed and with very fine work, would go perfectly pinned on a black dress with several other pins.  Its not too big, not too loud and is a very classic design.  This piece, like so many others isn't signed, which is unfortunate because now we can never know what person took the time to make something so beautiful.

When it comes to Zuni petit point/needlework there are fakes out there, particularly coming from China.  Be careful what you buy!  Personally, I suggest that you buy from somewhere like Chief Dodge of Scottsdale because they only deal in authentic jewelry, have some of the best prices and have experts on site.  Plus, they're really nice and carry just about every sort of style imaginable.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Veritable Wax Hollandais--Vlisco Prints!

One of the most exciting fabric manufacturers in the world if Vlisco, the maker of Wax Hollandais fabrics. I know that I've written about them before, HERE, but due to the overwhelming interest I've received regarding that post, I've decided to write some more.

Vlisco started in 1846 in Helmond, Netherlands to take advantage of demand for batik fabrics.  At first, the focus was on Indonesian batik fabrics, but demand in West Africa for vibrant, beautiful fabrics took off and that market has since become the sole focus of Vlisco.  Currently, no fabrics are produced with Europe or US in mind, instead the focus in on Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and surrounding countries.  The consumer that Vlisco is meant for are the women of those countries who have their clothes custom made and are interested in beautiful clothes of lasting value.  Vlisco is trying to branch out and be a fashion brand and not just a fabric manufacturer.  They are currently opening Vlisco boutiques around the major cities of their target countries to cater to the tastes and trends of their customers.

At first, the fabrics were printed by hand with huge stamps but in 1910 the company started to transition into using mechanical printers.  The last hand-printed fabric was produced in 1993.  The fabric is produced by applying a specific kind of wax and then dye to high-grade fabrics.  The process that Vlisco uses is proprietary, but that is the gist of it--the fabric is repeatedly stamped with wax and dye to form the print.  The fabric itself isn't white--Vlisco uses a variety of base colors for their fabric, such as indigo, sepia, claret and related colors.  This gives the colors of the fabric more vibrancy and depth.  The wax that is used is made to crackle different every time, so the print that is produced is different in each spot and no piece of fabric is ever the same.

A new fabric collection is produced once a quarter, both because the customers want new prints regularly and to keep ahead of the copy-cats.  My favorite print from the latest collection is part of the Gallery of Poems line.  It's so cool!  It reminds me of traditional perfume bottles, kinda Arabian Nights but not overwhelming.  It would look so cool is a full, pleated skirt so that print could be seen but wouldn't look like a costume.

Vlisco is clearly one of the top producers of beautifully printed fabrics.  Not only are the prints interesting and innovate but the quality of the fabric is worth wearing!

Image and information obtained from Vlisco and their representatives.
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