Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sies Marjan Shutters Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic

After five years in business, Sies Marjan is closing. The brand, founded by Sander Lak in 2015, burst onto the American fashion scene with Lak’s rainbow-hued creations, gaining positive press coverage and a small but devoted base of quirky fans which included the likes of Jordan Roth and Dr Lisa Airan. “What we have worked on has been a dream come true,” Lak wrote of the brand he named after his parents. “Thank you to everyone who has given their time and talent to Sies Marjan over the years. We have built a singular brand whose legacy is not just in the clothes and collections but within each person who contributed along the way.”

Formerly the design director of Dries Van Noten, Lak secured funding for his own fashion label from Howard and Nancy Marks, American investors with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion (£1.74 billion) who had previously backed Chado Ralph Rucci. With a design pedigree, impressive backing, and a fully-fleshed out debut collection that spanned cocktail dresses, shearling outerwear, and footwear, Lak had all the makings of the American fashion dream.

But sustaining the fantasy of fashion is hard – especially now. While Lak’s creatively staged runway shows made waves in New York and he won the CFDA Award for Emerging Talent in 2018, the brand didn’t manage to produce an It-item or a runaway success at retail. Many loved Lak’s sense of colour, but few were daring enough to make it a staple of their wardrobes.

Still, Lak’s presence on the American fashion scene was a bright spot. Where homegrown designers headed abroad for Paris Fashion Week or struggled, Lak’s lively NYFW presentations were well-attended. In producing two collections a year, he followed in the footsteps of Van Noten, forging a path for menswear and womenswear collections to coexist on the runway in New York. When he decamped to Paris’s menswear week for one season, he presented a see-now-buy-now womenswear capsule. Recently, the brand partnered with Rem Koolhaas’s AMO research arm and the Guggenheim Museum on a collection centred around Koolhaas’s postponed exhibit Countryside: The Future, in which Lak collaborated with artists and scientists on fabric developments and new sustainable practices.

To the fashion community, the loss of a brand with so much going for it is a warning in an already tumultuous time. While European megaliths can survive the pandemic thanks to their enormous size and scrappy upstarts can scale back and sit a season out, the middle of the American market, composed of designer-priced brands with a decade or less in business, is struggling. The retail cycle of high markdowns and the fast pace of collections had already put a strain on medium-sized companies. Compound that with the economic downturn sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the road ahead for these brands looks challenging, indeed.

Vintage Retailers Rally To Raise Funds For Black Lives Matter With Designer Sale

In the wake of the international protests sparked by the senseless and unjust death of George Floyd, many major fashion brands have been slow to act and offer meaningful support. Small, independent brands have begun paving the way for an anti-racist industry with a focus on raising up others – and, now, vintage sellers have joined this vital move forward with actions, rather than words.

On 10 June, 20 archive retailers from around the world launched a designer sale to raise vital funds for Black Lives Matter organisations. Paris’s Nina Gabbana Vintage – which spearheaded the call-out – Byronesque, Serotonin, Pechuga Vintage and 16 other platforms listed between one and eight pieces using the hashtag, #VTG4BLM. One hundred per cent of profits will go to civil rights charities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The #VTG4BLM feed has quickly become a treasure trove of rare ’90s pieces, including mesh tops, printed trousers and workaday shirts from Jean Paul Gaultier’s autumn/winter 1997 Fight Racism collection. Tom Ford-era Gucci siren-red sandals and strapless dresses are also up for grabs, alongside classic Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake items, and revolutionary Alexander McQueen looks. 

“The millennials are taking on this never-ending fight and so far they’re doing a hell of a job,” said Vintage Star-Paris of the retailers’ ability to mobilise and generate funds for organisations, including the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Marsha P Johnson Institute, Harlem United, ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Nina Gabbana Vintage reminded Instagram users, “This isn’t about us. It’s about a cause we all believe in, and want to help and support. The black community has been [a] victim of racism and inequality for centuries now and people need to realise that and take action against it. Raising money through a sale for donations is one way of many to help, but not the only way. Raising awareness and speaking up about what the black community is going through around us is very important too. I hope that through this sale we have the opportunity to do both.” 

Christian Dior Gives Vespa’s Signature Scooter A Fashion Makeover

The thought of a summer spent navigating the coastal paths of the Côte d’Azur, or exploring the winding streets of a charming Italian village, will prove all the more alluring next year, when Christian Dior unveils a collaboration with Vespa that will take your travel plans up a gear.

The two brands – both founded in 1946 – have come together to create a limited-edition scooter that marries their individual histories in one covetable item, set to land in Dior boutiques, as well as a selection of the Piaggio group’s Motoplex locations, next spring. The collaboration is designed to capture “the freedom of movement and expression that [Dior and Vespa] hold so dear”.

The Vespa 946 Christian Dior model sees the scooter’s retro appeal reimagined with a fashion slant, thanks to the Dior Oblique motif that adorns the seat in a Riviera-ready palette of white and navy. Coordinating accessories — a helmet, luggage box and Dior’s Book Tote — will also be available to discerning motorists ready to elevate their on-the-go wardrobe.

Christian Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri is behind the design, which brings together the Parisian couture house’s aesthetic with that of a storied brand from her native Italy. “I was very excited about this project with Vespa,” she said. “For me, Vespa is linked to my city, Rome. It’s linked to the freedom to move around the city with ease, like in the film Roman Holiday, which has left that extraordinary image of Audrey Hepburn clinging to Gregory Peck on a Vespa forever etched in our collective memory.”

She continued: “I have so many happy memories starring a Vespa. It’s how my husband and I used to get around Rome, and go to the seaside in Fregene. It’s a symbol of Italian-ness that is intricately linked to my personal history, and it’s now part of my professional life at Dior.”

Stephen Jones Crafted His New Couture Collection In Collaboration With The Digital Influencer Noonoouri

Maestro of milliners Stephen Jones collaborates with many designers—right now he’s hard at work on Dior menswear and cruise for Kim Jones and Maria Grazia Chiuri, respectively. But the heart of his work is the couture collection he produces out of his studio in Covent Garden, London. Working on his latest collection in lockdown presented Jones with a unique problem: beyond conceiving his designs, sketching them into existence, and creating toiles, how could he nurture the work into actuality?

Via Zoom, Jones says: “I also knew everything was moving online and I wanted to do something special. And the best digital representation of fashion I have ever seen is Noonoouri.” The literally digital influencer Noonoouri is the creation of Munich-based graphic designer Joerg Zuber, who readily agreed to Jones’s suggestion of a collaboration. From his window on the Zoom, Zuber explains: “This was a new and challenging process. Because usually when we work with Noonoouri, we have an already produced piece. So that means I get a lookbook shot of a dress or a hat and I adapt them to her body. In this case we had the sketches and the little sculptures and the imagination of Stephen… So the challenge in this project is basically that we created something that doesn’t exist and right now you can see it as it would be.” Jones adds: “And she actually quite influenced the design of what I was creating. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career, I started making hats for specific people.”

Working together, then, Jones and Zuber have digitally manufactured a couture collection for which Noonoouri is the prime client—you can see her modeling the results here (with annotations on each design kindly provided by Jones) and in the film dropping on the London Fashion Week platform today.

Watching that film, what is evident is the level of digital creative craft Zuber has applied to render Jones’s analogue creative craft on Noonoouri. It also suggests that in the evolution of reasons humans wear hats, the rise of digital conferencing might be a tech-driven opportunity for new-millennium millinery. Does Jones agree? When asked he reaches off-screen for a boater, applies it at a jaunty angle, and says: “Absolutely! You don’t talk through your feet, do you?”

Michael Kors Announces New Approo Fashion Calendar

In the wake of social distancing measures, store closures and fashion week cancellations as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, brands have begun to reassess the way in which they design and present collections to consumers, with many advocating for change. Today, Michael Kors announced that he will bid farewell to the traditional fashion calendar in favour of a new, more streamlined approach. His announcement follows similar declarations from Gucci and Saint Laurent.

In a detailed press release, the American designer revealed that he will not show during NYFW in September (it is still yet to be seen whether this event will go ahead in light of current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and social distancing) and will instead present his S/S21 collection “sometime between October and mid-November” of this year in an as-yet unknown format.

Beyond that, Kors will only present two collections a year for Michael Kors Collection – one for spring/summer and the other for fall/winter – and deliveries of these collections will happen “incrementally” over the season so as to “more closely [reflect] how customers in today’s world actually live and shop.” Furthermore, the brand will sell its collection to retailers ahead of revealing them to the press and public to help introduce a more reasonable pace for retail supply chains and factories. It will also reassess when its Fall collection is released, noting that it will likely be “sometime between mid-March and mid-April.” Kors said these changes are “long overdue” and that they “will be a huge win-win, most importantly for the customer.”

Speaking of the decisions, Kors said, “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change. It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar – from Giorgio Armani to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe – about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work. We’ve all had time to reflect and analyze things, and I think many agree that it’s time for a new approach for a new era.”

First Look At The M Missoni X Yoox Capsule

Italian label M Missoni and online retailer Yoox are teaming up for a summer capsule collection, releasing tomorrow. It will be M Missoni’s premier collaboration since Margherita Maccapani Missoni became creative director of the brand in October 2018. To accompany the upcoming M Missoni x Yoox 11-piece collection, Yoox is exclusively unveiling a colorful campaign video here.

Accompanied by bold makeup and an organic backdrop, the sun-soaked video perfectly captures the natural elements important to both M Missoni and Yoox. Now 22 years old, M Missoni, the sister to the legacy fashion house, is adapting to the values of today’s consumers. Providing a fresh vision, Margherita is doing away with restrictions of gender, age, shape, and size, presenting a collection that is genuinely inclusive and mindful.

M Missoni x Yoox nurtures the “Reuse, Remix, Respect” mission and fashion philosophy of M Missoni. Many articles in the capsule are derived from sustainable recycled, repurposed, or upcycled materials.

Accented with Missoni’s signature chevron print, the collection offers dresses, jumpsuits, skirts, trousers, T-shirts, and sweatshirts. The M Missoni x Yoox offerings are showered in resplendent, shimmering hues of fuchsia, blue, and white, all denoting an effortlessly chic and luxe bohemian flair that culminates in a collection that is quintessentially Missoni. These consciously curated, high-energy pieces definitely warrant a top-tier spot within warm-weather wardrobes. The M Missoni x Yoox collection will be available online from May 29th.

Olivier Rousteing’s Avatar Greets Buyers At Balmain’s Virtual Showroom

Already uber-active on social media, Olivier Rousteing has also spawned an avatar to help Balmain unveil its next cruise collections for women and men. On June 15, the French fashion house will open its first virtual showroom with Rousteing’s 3-D likeness playing host and guide. He is to recount the backstory of the collections, realized under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and unleash a “Balmain army” of virtual models to present key looks.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Rousteing said he leveraged high-tech means to reveal the humanity behind the collection, interspersing CGI razzmatazz, Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups with footage of seamstresses, tailors and embroiderers toiling at home, pausing occasionally to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. “People are more interested in the process that goes into the perfect picture that you see at the end,” he said. “One word that is becoming very important is savoir-faire. It’s what brings out the uniqueness of your clothes.”

With many international borders still shut, Balmain realized few retail buyers would be making the trip to Paris to buy cruise and pre-collections, even though Balmain’s clothes will be hung in a physical showroom for several weeks. To wit: Visitors to the digital showroom can “discover the collection 360 degrees, and learn the storytelling behind the collection,” said Rousteing, whose avatar greets visitors at the tall doors to 44 Rue François-1er, the hôtel particulier where Pierre Balmain founded his couture house in 1945. Today, the building houses a Balmain boutique, and some of its offices.

“It’s going to be like getting into the Balmain world from far away, but at the same time feeling really close,” Rousteing remarked. Visitors to the interactive “digital house” can visit various rooms to discover a variety of content. The designer said he was “really particular” that his avatar was able to convey true expressions and emotions — the latter being one of the tougher things to transmit in digital formats. He heightened this by recording his voice for the narration and choosing his words carefully.

Behind-the-scenes videos also help animate the proceedings and capture the lively, collaborative spirit of the house. “There’s real passion behind everything we do,” Rousteing stressed. Some elements are purely for amusement, including videos of some of Rousteing’s favorite musical performers from his confinement playlist. Balmain worked with a variety of tech companies in recent months to build its virtual showroom. “We wanted to make sure it was closest to the Balmain DNA,” he said. “It’s a long process. Digital is much more complex than any real experience because everything has to be planned in advance. You cannot change much at the last minute so you need to be really focused.”

The designer hinted he would present the cruise collections to press in “a completely different way, really soon. There is the press and there’s the buyers and it can’t always be the same experience,” he argued. The virtual showroom will be housed at a password-protected site. Roughly 70 percent of Balmain’s revenues are from wholesale distribution.

Looking ahead, Rousteing said he hopes to be able to mount a physical fashion show during Paris Fashion Week this fall. “I might be one the most digital persons in the fashion industry, but there’s one thing you cannot bring into digital today and that’s the emotion of a real experience,” he said. While allowing that technologies are advancing quickly, “real emotion is something you can only get when you’re close to the clothes as well.”