Friday, November 29, 2013

Alber Elbaz talks about his career and design/life philosophy

Alber Elbaz, designer of Lanvin, is just inherently lovable.  Since 2001, when he became the creative director, Lanvin has become a widely admired label.  I love his whimsical sketches and designs.  In this video, he mentions a distrust of people who are too perfectly dressed, because it indicates that their focus is on themselves.  On the other hand, he mentions his assistant who dress simply, but bring the fantasy to their work.  I'm often asked whether I'm wearing my own designs.  I tend to dress very simply, and I think it is because I want to bring my creativity to my work, rather than to dressing myself.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Riccardo Tisci discusses his experience at Givenchy

Relatively unknown when he took over Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci exceeded expectations and has revitalized the house.  He discusses his creative process and what it was like to come to Givenchy at 29.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Scottish designer Christopher Kane talks about his background, what inspires him, etc

Ever since he came out with those amazing fluorescent body-con dresses as part of his CSM thesis, I've been a huge fan of Christopher Kane.  His work is always exciting and inspiring.  Also, his Scottish accent is amazing.  Here he talks, quiet earnestly, about his life and the development of his career.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Who doesn't love Marc Jacobs?

Marc Jacobs describes what he does (tongue in cheek), and talks about what inspires him and keeps him going.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Stella McCartney discussing her design process

It's hard to separate Stella McCartney's success as a designer from her relation to her super famous Beatle father, but her clothes are always cool and female friendly.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tom Ford’s Definitive Guide on How to Make It in Fashion

Ford spoke at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards dinner earlier this week, shortly before presenting the prize to Public School.

1. “Never sell a controlling interest in your name. Ever. A few million dollars now will seem like a lot to you. But one day, when you’re the success that you know you can be, you’ll regret this. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of this very sad tale.”
2. “If you’re designing your own label, then know yourself. When you become well-known as a designer, you give the world your taste. You sell your taste — it’s no longer yours. You can only do this once. The DNA of your brand will become all your likes and dislikes. Once you hit the right chord, you’ll then be typecast and often pegged into a certain slot. No matter what I do, I’m always pegged as the sexy designer who loves black. Miuccia [Prada] is the intelligent designer. Yves [Saint Laurent] was the delicate, suffering designer. And so on. So my point is, know what you want to say.”
3. “Know your ideal client — the dream person you design for, your fantasy muse, so to speak. This will give your collection a point of view and a focus. Then know your real client, because he or she may be completely different than what you aspire to. Or your may not want to know them because in some cases when you meet your real clients they may actually scare the hell out of you. But on occasion, you will meet one that even exceeds your highest expectations and you’ll be so proud.”
4. “Decide for you if fashion is an art or an artistic business. This will affect how you set up your company. Some designers are true artists. Alexander McQueen, for me, was an absolute artist. Some are commercial designers who consider what they do artistic but not necessarily art. I would put myself into that category. Filmmaking for me was something that I attempted to do for art’s sake.”
5. “Choose your team carefully. So much of your success is due to the people who you surround yourself with. Your friends, your family, and the people that you work with — they all play an important role in inspiring you and supporting you and giving you stability. These are the people in your life who will be honest with you.”
Photo: Getty
6. “If your brand is to have a strong identity, it must come from you and not from a committee. If you’re ever in talks with a potential investor of financial backer and they bring in their wife’s blouse to show you for inspiration, run. If a potential investor has a wife or daughter who just loves fashion and can’t wait to come in and talk to you about the collection, run. If your president or CEO thinks they know the difference between a dark burgundy and an aubergine, fire them. Don’t ever let yourself be swayed in terms of what you design by the outside. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to the advice and thoughts of others because you should, but in the end it’s you, and you alone, who must decide what path to forge.”
7. “Have a five-year plan, a 10-year plan, even a 20-year plan. And possibly an exit strategy. You can always change that, but start with a vision. Where do you want to be, how big do you want to be, what context are you planning on designing in? I’ve personally always liked the idea of global domination. I never understood anyone who thought, “You know, I’m going to work really, really hard and I’m gonna be second best!”
8. “Think globally. And spend as much time outside the United States as possible. I’m an American and I’m very proud of being an American, but everything in the world today is global, and America can tend to be very inward-looking. I’m not sure I would have been as successful as a designer had I not left America. I had to leave my own culture in order to find my own design aesthetic.”
9. “Remember that our customers do not need our clothes. They don’t need another pair of shoes or a new jacket. We have to create that need by creating desire. I have at times in my life had a real problem with this, with the materialism and consumerism that is fashion. Part of me wants to rebel against this and move to the desert and live in a simple adobe hut and become a monk. The other part of me wants to enjoy the beauty of the way that a piece of silk velvet catches the light and takes color. Finally, I realized we live in a material world. We’re material creatures. We are sensorial, we feel, and we touch. We’re fortunate to live in the Western world where we do have luxury. And fashion is part of experiencing that material time that we have on earth. It really does add beauty and quality to our lives.”
10. “Try to remain positive. I struggle with this one too. When our job is to constantly scrutinize things for what’s wrong with them and to correct them and to remake them into our vision, it’s easy to see the glass as half-empty. Think about it: All day long we say, “No, no, no—it’s wrong!” It kind of a negative process. Our brain becomes critical. We have to always try to see the glass as half-full.”
11. “Believe in what you do. If you don’t believe in it, no one will. If you love something while you’re designing it and you’re excited, you can actually endow that psychical piece — whether it’s a handbag or a shoe or a dress — with that feeling. So when a consumer is flicking through a rack of clothes, they’ll stop. It will actually transmit your excitement to them.”
12. “Find a great business partner and don’t let them go. This is absolutely key. You’ll need someone who believes in you completely and respects your judgment and vision. I’m lucky to have this in Domenico De Sole. These relationships do not come easy, they’re marriages, really. I trust Domenico with my life, and I believe he feels the same. We love each other as if we were family.”
13. “Be thankful to all those who help you on the way up. You won’t get there without them. Cherish them, and don’t forget them.”
14. “Remember that we all have it in our power to simply say, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to bed.’ And somehow, the next morning, everything seems a lot better. This was my father’s secret to staying calm and making it through anything that life threw at him, and it’s given me a lot of strength over the years.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Milly Designer Michelle Smith Recalls the Toughest Moment in Her Career

The following article was originally from Fashionista, but the link to the actual article appears to be broken so I'm just going to post it in its entirety (I saved it using Pocket).  Milly is a contemporary label that appears to have achieved strong and steady growth since its inception.
  • October 18th, 2013

Michelle Smith
Behind every successful small business, there’s a compelling story. An entrepreneur with a vision, the lessons he or she learned along the way, tales of marketing and money, and so much more. American Express believes in sharing these stories so we can all learn from them, so we asked ReadWrite to write an article with this in mind. If you want more great advice about small businesses, check out OPEN Forum® to get insights, see what works for others, and share what works for you.
When designer Michelle Smith launched Milly in 2001, there were very few brands that fell into the contemporary category. Today, the contemporary market generates more than $5 billion a year in the US, according to Telsey Advisory Group. More than a decade after debuting her first collection, Smith’s line of hip, made-in-New York City separates is a bigger player than ever. We sat down with Smith last week in her Garment Center offices to discuss where’s she’s been, how she got there and where she still wants to go.
Fashionista: So you went to Europe right after fashion week?
Michelle Smith: Yep, I went to Paris for the fabric show. My mom came along. I was working at the fabric show and she was going to the museums. My dad passed away a year ago so it’s a nice thing to do with her.

Where did you stay?
Hotel Raphael near the Arc de Triomphe. I’ve been staying there for about 15 years. They take good care of me (laughs).
You kind of got your start in Paris, right?
I did, but first in New York. I was always the kinda girl who knew what I wanted to do. Never questioned it. I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. It started off as fine arts and at the age of 11, I got into fashion illustration and did an arts school scholarship at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia—I did weekend programs while in high school. That was my first taste of going to a big city. Taking the commuter train home by myself.

Where are you from?
I’m from Connecticut but my father transferred back and forth from Connecticut and New Jersey. I was very set on going to FIT in New York. It was a design school I knew about in New York City and my art teacher told me about it and my parents wanted me to go to a traditional university first. I was really adamant about going to design school and I’m glad they let me do it. But I might do that with my daughter (laughs)—make her go to university first. But, it was great, it worked out well.

I came to NY in 1990, went to FIT, I lived on campus and did a two-year program in design. My parents paid for tuition and I had to pay for my expenses. I got a part time job at Hermès. I’m just a kid from the ‘burbs—anything I knew from fashion, I knew from magazines and I remember at the time they listed the price of all the products on the bottom of the advertisement at Hermès. I couldn’t even fathom that something could be thousands and thousands of dollars. But that’s where I wanted to work, so I pestered the manager and was very persistent and got a job there part-time.
In retail?
Yep, in retail. That really opened my eyes to the world of New York, to a whole other level of society, boomers, and shakers. I had captains of the industry as my clients. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I helped her buy a tie once. And I met a different cross section of people I would have never met before or never been exposed to. It was cool. And working there helped me develop an eye for quality.

Was that when Margiela was there?
No, it was before they brought on famous designers to design the line. It was an in-house person, I don’t remember her name. But it was a really cool moment. I wrote a letter to the president of Hermès when I finished my two-year program at FIT, requesting an internship in Paris. And I got the internship, I was the first American employee that they sent to work in Paris. 
I did a little bit of everything—I worked in retail, I worked in the buying office. It was a general training program, and it really helped me with my French as well. The Hermès internship was three months, and then I realized I really wanted to stay in Paris. I applied to design schools and got accepted into several. I chose a school called Esmod, but between Hermès and Esmod I interned at Louis Vuitton.
You have a very strong leather goods background. Did that help when you decided to launch a line of bags?
Yeah, definitely. Once you’ve been exposed to that… I can spot a fake in seconds. It’s just a part of me, you just know it and see it. It helps me a lot having my own bag collection and I love working with leather still today.
But back to Paris.
While I was at Esmod, I applied for an internship at Christian Dior haute couture. I got it! It was for painting watercolors of the haute couture models—Gianfranco Ferré was the designer at the time. I started in January after the show, so all of their orders were coming in, but all of the women would make modifications, Betsy Bloomingdale, etc.

So we would create modifications in watercolors, the house would get one and she would get a copy. There were Arabian princesses and all sorts of amazing clients and I would go try on these couture dresses. The girls were so nice, probably the only chance I’ll ever have to try on a Dior couture gown. It was like a fairytale. I remember my first watercolor I did for them, my supervisor said “no no no, this is way too heavy.” I had a heavy hand with the brush and she said to lighten it up. I remember her correcting me and I really got the technique down, so I know all sorts of illustration tricks. I would have to run into Mr. Ferre’s office and I was scared of him because he was really big and intimidating.

After Dior and Louis Vuitton, you moved back to the US?
Yes, I wanted to stay in Paris but it was impossible to find someone who would sponsor an American. The economy in Europe wasn’t great. But in the US, it was the boom-boom Clinton era. I interviewed around and I had a job offer as a design assistant at Calvin Klein. And I went to Hermès and asked a friend if she knew anyone that was hiring and she was like, “do you want to go on this date with this guy?” I said, “no I have a boyfriend in Paris, but do you know of anyone hiring a designer?” She called me a few days later said she wanted me to visit this guy at a coat company on Seventh Avenue. I walked in with my portfolio, we were interviewing and I was falling in love. That man is now my husband! I ended up taking a job at the company. I worked there for two years and it was complete opposite of my land of couture and French luxury goods. But I learned so much there about the business side of fashion. How to sell clothes, how to make clothes that will sustain a business, how to source—I had no idea about production schedules or fittings or how to cost things.
When did you decide to launch your own line?
I was working for a designer called Helen Wang. I saw that my specific designs were getting orders, and I started to develop my own voice. The look of her collection was changing as I was getting more involved. Suddenly I had the confidence to launch my own collection.

How did you come up with the funds?
I started in a very modest way, I didn’t start with a big fashion show. I started by making a sample collection, and my husband—who was my boyfriend at the time—agreed to back me. The initial investment was $50,000—that’s not that bad to start a business. I sublet a little office with a pattern table, a sewing machine. I bought sample fabric, and I applied to be in fashion Coterie—the trade show. It was a juried show, and I was selected to get in and was so excited! Barneys bought my debut collection. So did Fred Segal. From that show, I launched my business.
Presented by OPEN Forum®.

Inside the sample room at Milly.

Was it very quick moving in terms of orders? I feel like a lot of designers, if they get a ton of orders early on, they don’t know how to manage it.
I felt really prepared because my husband was my business partner. He has a lot of knowledge about production, coming from his family business, but he was still just helping me out at night. We went out and we found factories. I know every part of my business and how to do it—it’s good to know it from the inside out. It was great—I couldn’t have done it without him. And the most successful designers—not that I’m putting myself in the lot—but people like Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino, they always have a very savvy business partner. Creative people don’t want to be worried about accounts payable. Get bogged down with all of these accounting issues and production issues when we want to have creative time. It’s impossible to do everything and do it well.
How did the business grow from there?
Mid-2000s was an exciting time. The contemporary floor was born, and the business just self-financed itself. I showed in September, my first collection shipped in January, it just propelled and grew at an amazing pace. It was doubling, I think, every year until 2009. And then there was the collapse and it went down. Now it’s climbing back up. That was the first time that it was not fun. It’s pretty lucky to sail for eight years. It was just fun and song and games.
What was the toughest moment during that time?
It was very tough because stores were going out of business. I always had tried to balance my accounts between independently owned stores and department stores and to have a nice balance. But a lot of the independents were going out of business and the department stores were becoming very insecure about—how should we buy it? What does our customer want right now? Does she want dependable, basic clothing that she can wear for several seasons, or does she want the “oh my god I have to have it” piece. But then, is that too frivolous? There were too many questions in the air. I look back now and I laugh—everyone had it so easy before 2009. Everyone just had money, or people thought they had money and they were living on credit. We lost a whole customer segment that was maybe living outside of their means, and that will never come back.
As things got back to the new normal, do you think your design process changed?
Yeah, I do. I think about it harder. I used to always go into the collection just having fun and designing exactly what I want to wear. Now, I think a lot harder about the different regions, where is this collection shipping, I have to incorporate a lot of heavy weights for the north, lighter weights for the south, Europe wants something else…. There are a lot of different markets to think about, not just me and my happy bubble in New York City. I think more practically about what the wants and needs are of different markets. But I still love what I do. I’m skipping to work every day. Development for me is the most fun.
In two sentences, what does that entail?
It’s the fabric research. I was just in Paris at the fabric show collecting swatches. For the next few weeks I’ll lay them all out on my floor and make boards. Some fabrics I like as they are but often I want to customize them and change them, redesign them, add lamination. A lot of customization happens during this time. So now we’re getting into heavy workload. Moodboards used to be ripping tear sheets out, now I’ll have mood boards on my phone. I create my fabrics, order my fabrics, and then design into the fabrics. Some people design and then say, what should I cut out of this design, but I do the reverse.

You’re in a ton of different product categories, and I’m assuming that built up as you went along.

From the ready to wear perspective, I always wanted to have a complete collection—dresses, tops, bottoms, coats—because there are always cycles in fashion where, “oh the hot item is a top, oh the hot item is a dress,” so I never wanted to be the one trick pony. I never wanted to be pigeonholed.
Milly Minis was very natural. I had a daughter—when she was three or four I started making clothes for her. The collection started with one little shift dress. I took it to Bergdorf Goodman and asked them if they were interested in having the exclusive. They’re my number one single standing store in the world, my best account other than my own store, I let them take a look and it built from there. But again, it was natural, I don’t like to take on too much work. I guess you get to the point in your career when you have to decide, are a few extra zeros going to make a big difference in my life? Or am going to be happy and have a nice balance? I go through my exercises with myself.
It seems, too, that you like to do a lot of the work yourself. You’re not a delegator.
I do like to do it myself. That’s why I got into it, that’s what I love. If I had to delegate it to a team, it wouldn’t be personal.

You’ve got a store here in New York, a summer pop up in the Hamptons, shops in Japan—any other plans to expand retail-wise?

I’m opening several stores in the Middle East—one just opened in Doha last week and I have two opening in Dubai. I’d like to open more here in the US. After opening Madison Avenue, we still have a lot to learn from the business, and we wanted to focus on the website this year because I just felt like there was huge potential there. So we redesigned the website and it just relaunched, actually.
Well, my brand has evolved over time, and my old logo no longer represented my brand. So I modernized it. The website had to reflect that as well. So I cleaned it up a lot. I also launched a blog, the Milly Mag, fun stuff. It’s updated every day.

What was your goal with relaunching the website, other than drawing more people in?
Well, my brand has evolved over time, and my old logo no longer represented my brand. So I modernized it. The website had to reflect that as well. So I cleaned it up a lot. I also launched a blog, the Milly Mag, fun stuff. It’s updated every day.

What’s your strategy for the next couple of years?
I’d like to open more stores. I love being able to control my image and perception of Milly. I love my accounts, but they’re always going to show it in the way they want to, or put it next to a brand maybe I don’t want it sitting next to. I just want to have my own world. And I’d love to have a shoe collection when the time is right. I feel like shoes have gotten so expensive over the past 10 years, I don’t know why! I used to be able to find great shoes for $400, now you’re lucky if you’re able to find something for under $1,000. That could be the next opportunity.

If you have one piece of advice to succeed in the fashion business what would it be?
It sounds like a cliché, but you have to have such determination—I never thought for a second that it was not going to happen for me. Now I realize, looking back, “who the hell was that girl?” because you get burned by life and things happen, eventually things don’t go your way. I never thought for a second that I wouldn’t get that internship. Each door opens up a new door. I think just having the will, determination, and working. I sound like an old lady! But the young generation needs to work hard! You have to believe it yourself.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bouchra Jarrar, Nicolas Ghesquiere

I've decided, in addition to writing my own posts (which I know, I haven't done, in some time), to post links to articles about designers where either the designers or the writer of the article discusses the development of the designer's career/business.  Here are a few I liked from this past week:

The Slow and Steady Ascent of Bouchra Jarrar - after working with Nicolas Ghesquiere as studio director of Balenciaga for a decade, Jarrar started her own line to much critical acclaim.  This article discusses how she has been growing her business.

Ghesquière Named Vuitton Women’s Design Director - Nicolas Ghesquiere is probably my favorite designer, and after he suddenly left Balenciaga (and was replaced by Alexander Wang), everyone was wondering what such an influential designer would do next.  Once upon a time, when I was a middle school student dreaming about a career in fashion (this was in the 90s), I idolized Marc Jacobs, and I think that's why I've always felt a personal attachment to the LV brand.  Looks like that attachment won't fade any time soon.