Jason Wu Moves to the Grown-Up Table.
Jason Wu said he never gave the storm much thought. “What could we do?” he asked before his show on Thursday in a Park Avenue church. “We didn’t have a contingency plan.” In fact, looking around at the hairdressers and models backstage, you’d think it was a normal scene.
“Normal?” Mr. Wu said, sounding almost disappointed.
Twice chosen by Michelle Obama for Inaugural clothes, Mr. Wu picked a good moment to present a polished collection of feminine tailoring. There were few surprises in this collection, which opened with a black satin trench coat with fur pockets, stovepipe pants and peplum jackets (a bit prissy) with crisp white shirts. There were some froufrou bits, like feathery cocktail dresses and a well-done finale of pleated gowns in black, white and ink georgette, with belted waists, but tailoring was the main event.
Mr. Wu said he wasn’t interested in doing a theme this season, just giving a grown-up look. “Well, I’m more grown up,” he said. Themes are usually a bore anyway. Coats with a touch of military pomp looked great (especially in bright red), as did separates in wool bonded lace — a Wu specialty. The opening days of Fashion Week tend to attract young designers, so naturally one expects to learn something new about dressing, or at least see some decent troublemaking. Instead, we got socked with a dishwater palette of grays, greens and browns that was identical to the one in department stores last fall. Thanks!
Once you get past the name of Chris Peters and Shane Gabler’s label, Creatures of the Wind, and embrace their awkward sense of femininity, things start to make sense. They’re great with skirts — boxed-pleated, dirndls — and even their more complicated collage effects, done with high-contrast fabrics and colors, manage to retain a sense of proportion. Their patternmaking is O.K.
But the overall result is murky. One of the nicest things they showed on Thursday was a brushed cotton minidress with a wide belt in the same fabric and elbow-length sleeves. You don’t want to tell the designers to narrow down their fabric choices or be more straightforward in their cutting, because that sounds horribly discouraging to a pair of designers who actually like to experiment.
But they ought to put more thought into what they want to achieve from a fabric or a design. You can’t improve on that little brushed cotton dress, or on a windowpane check dress, or a skirt in filmy red polyester. For now, though, too many of their garments feel like charming strays with no home.
If you see a woman walking around on the Upper East Side in a tent dress with ridiculously cheerful dots, the outfit is sure to be a Lisa Perry. You won’t get an innovative take on the ‘60s from Ms. Perry; she’s more interested in updating a style for her customers, who clearly are not down for dishwater green.
Among her new additions are double-face wool coats and suit separates, with a dot pattern on one side and glen plaid on the reverse. She has also put some waist in her tents, so all that exercising and dieting won’t be in vain. A long-sleeve, funnel-neck dress in red wool was a nice departure from her A-line shapes. Indeed, the more freely she interprets the ‘60s aesthetic, the more interesting her stuff becomes.
New York Fashion: Prabal Gurung takes cue from military.
Next-big-thing designer Prabal Gurung is in the army — and the navy — now. The Nepalese designer found inspiration in a surprising source this season: servicewomen.
“I just read the Time magazine article that one of the best inventions of 2012 was this invention of body armor for women in the military,” he explained backstage before trotting out his 36 military-inspired creations. “That kind of set me thinking, then I started reading more about it and I found out that all these women have been wearing men’s uniforms for the longest period of time, so now they’re redesigning them for women, and even the small-statured men are wearing that.”
The structured, but feminine looks featured bold peplums, sexy harnesses, asymmetrical evening gowns ans stick thin stilettos that came in black and shiny metallic gold. Some of the heels were even to-the-thigh sexy boot styles with rows of gold buckles.
Gurung said the word that summed up the collection is “empowerment,” which he defined in his own way.”The whole idea means not just being forceful, but embracing your femininity and being a woman in a man’s world and ruling it. You no longer need to look like a man to compete like a man. That’s the power and tool that women have that men don’t have: femininity.”
Saturday’s show is just the beginning of a busy 72 hours for Gurung that will see him launch his capsule collection at Target stores nationwide tomorrow and put on another show Monday for his lower-priced line ICB.
“I’m grateful that I’m busy,” he said humbly pre-show. “I feel good that I have a platform like Target that I can reach out to all these people. Even if they’re not able to buy (the more expensive designer line), they understand the passion and my story, and hopefully they’ll explore that and be inspired themselves.”
In a neighboring room, Jennifer Meyer showed her newest creations amongst a setting of lush palm fronds. For Meyer, who’s sold her delicate array of fine jewelry in stores like Barney’s New York since 2004, the fund offered an opportunity to look outside of her already well-established box. “To be honest it gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things and experiment,” she explained of the experience. Once solely revered for her tiny gold pendants, Meyer’s recent efforts have exhibited an adept hand at colored stones and sophisticated, geometric shapes. As her husband, actor Tobey Maguire circulated the floor with his Great Gatsby co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, she waxed poetic about a different celebrity. “I have the most incredible mentor, Diane Von Furstenberg. I scored so big time I can’t event tell you…within the first week of me becoming runner-up she spent three hours in my office. She filled a book of notes…her advice is incredible.”
The fund’s final 2012 class member, Tabitha Simmons, occupied Milk’s largest block of space in an elegant room overlooking the Hudson, which she filled with industry luminaries like J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons, buyer Ikram Goldman, and designer Tory Burch. “Looking at Tabitha, who I think is one of the most talented footwear designers out there, it’s really exiting to see that she was a finalist and now you can come see her presentation here,” Burch said of Simmons, who created the shoes for her fall 2013 collection. Simmons, who’s long served as a Vogue contributing stylist, leaned towards a bit of the Ziggy Stardust magic for fall by peppering her classic shoes with electric glitter and rhinestones. “I think what we’ve done is expand,” she enthused of her brand in post-fund mode between takes of congratulatory praise from Goldman and beyond.
Fashion and wine, a designer tripple.
There are two cliches about Italians that generally hold true. One is that they dress well.
Another is that they make great wine.
Now the two industries are joining forces in a publicity push designed to capture the US market and boost Italy’s global wine exports. Italy already comes first in terms of volume of world exports, with a market share of 22% as of 2010. According to Coldiretti, Italy’s Agricultural association, Italian wine exports rose 13% from 2010 – 2011 to a value exceeding 4 billion euro. This is an all time high. On the flip side wine consumption in Italy is falling and the country has become increasingly reliant on exports to buoy up the industry. France – Italy’s long-standing rival, comes first in terms of value.
Istat, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, identifies the closure of 2011 with a general levelling off of wine exports, in keeping with the economic climate. Italy remained flat at 4%. Istat issued a word of warning: ” Italian exports are still largely concentrated on the ‘old world’, that is Germany and the US, who account for over 900 million euro each. In terms of knowledge of the market, this is positive; but with regards to Italy’s impact in emerging markets, it is negative. Instead of being seen as a protagonist, Italy looks like a support act.” France is no longer the only threat. Pressure is mounting from relative newcomers like Australia, South Africa and South America who have carved out a name on the international stage with fine tasting wines and appealing prices. Italy’s primary market is the US where it dominates with a 33% quota. This is good news. The US is the largest export market and it is predicted that they will soon become the largest group of wine consumers in the world with a net value of 45 billion dollars. But aggressive competition from new wine-producing nations coupled with the global economic downturn is making Italy nervous. It is time to wheel in the big guns. There are few better ways to grab attention in the US than with celebrity endorsement. Better still are celebrities from the world of fashion whose very presence beside a bottle of wine, or on a wine label, could spark a buying frenzy.
“As soon as you say ‘Prada and Brunello’, ‘Ferrari or Maserati and Brunello’, it makes a very vital association, especially for consumers around the world that might not know the differences in the wine,” said Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEO of Banfi, who produce the full-bodied Brunello red. Altagamma, Italy’s luxury industry body, is getting behind the push for celebrity endorsed wine with a photo exhibition of Italian luxury products, including wine, to start in Shanghai this summer. Altagamma Chairman, Santo Versace, brother of Donatella Versace, explains: “It is clear that fashion is more eye-catching, better known around the world. Wherever we go, we bring along our Italian wines and make them known.”
Italy has long used its VIPs – or they have used it – to cement the association between lifestyle and wine. Roberto Cavalli, himself a Tuscan, produces wine from his Tuscany vineyards and embosses the bottles with leopard print and RC logo’d labels.
Salvatore Ferragamo sidestepped fashion in the early nineties for the more relaxing pursuit of crushing grapes – to deluxe standards, and Diesel boss Renzo Rosso has his very own Diesel Farm on which to lovingly harvest his crop. Versace, Missoni, Valentino, Blumarine and Alberta Ferretti have all put their names to special-edition wines. And Giorgio Armani went one step further by inaugurating the opening of a Tokyo wine bar with 300 bottles of Italian wine. In other words, wine is the ultimate jet-set hobby and there are countless high-profile evangelists clinging to its cause. This is likely to resonate in emerging markets like Russia, China and India, where knowledge of Italian wines is at present, limited but celebrity knowledge high.
This year’s VinItaly in Verona – the biggest international wine conference in the world, saw a marked increase in the number of Chinese, Canadian and South American buyers. Along with Russia and India these emerging markets have large and young populations who are receptive to Western influences. What works in terms of marketing in the US will likely do well when rolled out there. The VivaVinoLA wine conference, set to take place in Los Angeles in May, will further bolster Italy’s presence in the US.
Organised by the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, this year’s fair features 150 wine producers.
Collectively, they will emphasize the uniqueness of Italy’s diverse wine-producing territories. “If wine consumption in the US continues to rise, it’s due to two categories of consumer: the young, and women – especially in the 21 – 33 year old age group. The American consumer prefers Italian wine not only for the taste, but above all for the sense of culture and tradition that the bottle transmits,” explains Letizia Miccoli, Director General of the Chamber of Commerce.
If this is the same demographic who would buy Roberto Cavalli clothes, Italy is on to a winning deal.