Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Service of Fur Clothing and Accessories: To Ban or Not

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

NYC Crest–Note beavers. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Sales figures don’t lie. Suzanne Kapner reported that compared to the low in 2009 [reflecting recovery from the mini crash of 2008 no doubt?] fur sales more than doubled in 2018, reaching their “highest level in 17 years, according to Euromonitor International.” The all time high was in 1999.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “Bans on Fur threaten a Resurgence,” Kapner wrote that in spite of brands such as Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Gucci which no longer use fur and others, such as Coach, that won’t as of fall, others add it everywhere. “Once mainly used in coats, fur is now used to adorn everything from sneakers to pillows to purses. Sales at Canada Goose Holdings Inc., known for its down parkas trimmed in coyote fur, jumped 50% in the most recent quarter from a year ago. Macy’s Inc., which sells a number of fur products including mink coats and rabbit-fur keychains, has said fur sales are ‘fairly strong.’” Kapner noted fur lined gloves and loafers as well and don’t forget hats and scarves.

Photo: friendsoranimals.org

The impact of those who support the fur ban is powerful. The Federal Trade Commission, according to Kapner, “settled charges against Neiman Marcus and several other retailers that were accused of selling real fur labeled as fake.” Imagine that!

LA and San Francisco already have banned sales and New York City, California and New York State are considering doing so.

About New York City, CBS News reported yesterday: “The council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business licensing will consider the fur ban which would prohibit the sale of fur apparel in the city except for fur that is worn for religious reasons.” Fines would range from $500 to as much as $1,500.

WCBS Newsradio 880 morning show’s Wayne Cabot tweeted: “Notice two beavers on the official crest of NYC, which was built on fur and remains the USA’s fur capitol. A city council bill to ban sales has fur flying.” Reporter Alice Stockton-Rossini responded: “Thanks for the Beaver update! Not sure you can ban fur w/o banning leather and eating meat! Can we be humane to animals and still wear and eat them?”

Photo: couponsforbloggers.com

CBS news: “Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.”

Kapner “‘Fake fur is made from petrochemicals and plastic, which is very harmful for the environment,’ said Nancy Daigneault, a vice president at the International Fur Federation, a trade group. ‘It will end up in a landfill and is not biodegradable. Real fur will decompose naturally.’”

Kapner added: “‘Virtually all legislatures that have banned fur—or are considering doing so—have exempted sheepskin,’ said Tom Garcia, the general counsel for Deckers Outdoors Corp., which owns Ugg. ‘They recognize that, unlike luxury furs, sheepskin is a byproduct of food like leather.’”

Back to CBS: “The furriers cast the argument in stark economic terms, pointing out that 98 percent of the industry business owners said they would move out of New York City if the ban were to go into effect…… costing New York City $3.3 billion in revenue in the next decade and leaving lots of empty storefronts.”

Should fur be banned in NYC and everywhere? If you own a fur coat or hat, will you continue to wear it if fur is banned in your city? What will furriers do to make a living? Will the public’s hunger for fur stay steady or be influenced by the bans? How will prices be impacted? If you’ve always wanted a fur coat and couldn’t afford one, will this be your chance to buy one or as contraband will they be even more expensive? Faux fur looks real: Won’t wearers be in danger of protester ire if they wear it?

Faux fur–Photo: dhgate.com

Service of Vintage Handbag Styles that Don’t Work Today

Monday, February 25th, 2019

 

I’ve tossed a lot of things in my various and far too frequent moves but out of nostalgia I’ve kept a few of my mother’s handbags. I’ve not worn them because they are impractical and too small for all my stuff but they make me smile when I see them.

My real issue is with their short straps or handles. To carry them I need to use one hand that has other things to do like answer a phone, carry a bag of groceries or hold on to a subway railing when the steps are slippery. Unattached to me I envision leaving the bag behind in busses and cabs.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

That’s why I like long straps that hang from my shoulder or slip over my head and across my chest.

The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue that I passed last week celebrated the iconic handbag and some were reminiscent of my mothers’ in that they also sported short handles–much shorter than those on my mother’s bags. If I had a car and driver and the deep pockets required to pay for them and the handbags, I would be tempted because they are attractive.

Saks Fifth Avenue window

I’ve seen removable straps attached to small-handled bags that clip to metal loops on each end, but they ruin the bag’s silhouette and look awkward especially on a small bag.

Do you hold on to things you don’t use, even if space is at a premium, because you can’t let them go? Do you favor handbags with straps or are you comfortable with compact bags with short handles? Are there other vintage styles of clothing or accessories that you find best fit a previous lifestyle?

Service of a Once Iconic Brand That’s Lost Its Sex Appeal

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Photo: pinterest.com

A childhood neighbor used to tell me “You have to suffer to be beautiful.” In the day she was right. Women slept on giant rollers while now dryers whip hair styles into shape in minutes and fashions are also more relaxed. We’d never have dreamed of wearing sneakers or flip flops for any reason other than for gym class or to walk on the beach. Now both are the uniform of many in towns, cities and airports.

Christian Louboutin Baila spike flat. Photo: pinterest.com

With obvious exceptions—facelifts for example which I’m told are very painful and make deep dents in pocketbooks too–comfort over vanity seems to have won in many of the best places. “Why Smart, Chic Women Are Abandoning High Heels [Forever],” wrote Chloe Malle recently in The Wall Street Journal.

Victoria’s Secret’s drooping bra business is the main reason L Brands’ stock is down 41 percent this year according to Elizabeth Winkler in the same paper. Bras represent 35 percent of their sales she reported. Customers are looking to the competition for “comfort and ease, not airbrushed fantasy,” she wrote. “In July, Victoria’s Secret’s semiannual sale was so weak the retailer was forced to extend it by two weeks and offer steeper discounts, leading analysts to declare the brand broken.

Sports bra. Photo senitathletics.com

“Instead of $60 padded bras that sell male fantasies, women are opting for cheaper undergarments that prioritize their own comfort. Victoria’s Secret has tried to adapt with the times, ending its catalog, doubling down on sports bras and even releasing a collection of ‘bralettes’—bras without underwire and padding.”

Competition features different body types in its ads as compared to the Victoria’s Secret “traditional sex-infused marketing,” they wrote.

I wonder if the new team will adjust this image. The Christmas direct mail piece that landed in mailboxes this week [photos right and below left] featured the old Victoria’s Secret image and none of the sports bras and bralettes they claimed to have adopted. Clearly designed to inspire men to buy gifts and enjoy, it nevertheless ignored the reasons for the downturn in sales.

Victoria’s Secret’s November 2018 direct mail piece

In a subsequent article in The Journal, Khadeeja Safdar and Maria Armental reported on additional moves the brand is taking to regain its momentum from adding a Tory Burch veteran/former president to run the lingerie division to halving its dividend.

Are you surprised that Victoria’s Secret was knocked off its pedestal in part by the drive for comfort? Do you shun uncomfortable clothes and shoes? Are you surprised by the trends for fashion conscious women identified by Journal reporters regarding flats over stilettos and less challenging underwear? Do you miss the formal days of yore?

Photo: channelweb.co.uk

Service of Admiration for a Modest & Successful Fashion Icon: Eileen Fisher

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Eileen Fisher. Photo: famousfashiondesigners.org

I have always admired fashion designer Eileen Fisher for her simple silhouettes and comfortable clothes and over many years have mentioned to countless other designers the genius of her marketing strategy: In her ads she was the first that I can recall to feature models of all ages, often in one photo.

I didn’t know anything about Ms. Fisher until I read David Gelles’ article in The New York Times, “It Would Be Better Not to Call Eileen Fisher a Boss.” Her business approach is as smart and unusual as her using young, middle aged and old mannequins to show off her clothes and accessories. She sports the same hair color—white—as some of the women dressed in her fashions.

Photo: inhabitat.com

There’s no CEO at her company because of “Ms. Fisher’s belief that consensus is more important than urgency and that collaboration is more effective than hierarchy,” Gelles wrote. And her 30-something year old business is successful. Owned by Ms. Fisher and her employees, annual sales are around $500 million. “And at a moment when many consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality, sustainability and durability, the company’s longstanding values are deeply relevant.”

She lived in a chaotic household as a child with nobody telling the kids what to do so having a boss in her first job at Burger King at 15 was “kind of strange for me” she told Gelles. She said she had an authority problem.

Photo: fashionoverfifty.com

“I wanted to create a place where people weren’t powering over people. Where people were kind and people were together and shared.”

In New York she started in interior design and when she went to Japan with her then Japanese partner and first saw the kimono she was “very intrigued by the way it moved…..I was fascinated by the idea that one design, one shape, could transcend time, and be made new just by different patterns and colors.” Her fashions revolve around eight basic pieces to which she adds or subtracts a few pieces every season. Her customers read The New York Times and The New Yorker, not Vogue.

She started her fashion company with $350 in the bank, going by subway, carrying the pieces she cut on the floor of her loft in garbage bags to a factory in Queens. She sold those clothes–$40,000 worth– at a boutique show.

Photo: wallawallaclothing.com

“I think of myself as leading through the idea, trying to help people understand what I’m trying to do, or what the project is about, and engaging them. I always think about leading through listening. I was a designer, so I didn’t have preconceived ideas of how this business works.”

The company has a leadership group, a board and she’s founder and chairwoman of the board, “but that’s not really what I do.” She thinks “co-creation and collaboration absolutely can work in a big company.”

The company offers generous benefits, Gelles reported, and employees own much of it. Ms. Fisher says she knows that the sense of ownership works when she hears in a meeting, “don’t spend my money on that.” Ms Fisher thinks “corporations should have to share a minimum 10 percent of their profits with the people working. It’s not socialism, it’s good for business.”

Have you worked for an employer like this? Would you have fit in? Are you surprised at how successful this business is especially in the fashion world with a reputation for rough gruff souls and primadonnas galore?

 

Eileen Fisher Photo: shopdropapp.com

 

Service of Antidotes to Decorating and Fashion Insecurities

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Alexandra & Michael Miller, Everyman Works, Brooklyn

Americans’ insecurities about decorating their homes is well documented. Google the subject: you’ll see. I know this first hand from interviewing retailers and interior designers over years, starting with a stint eons ago at Art & Antiques Magazine. Fine antique shop owners had a heck of a time fighting a fear of being different. For starters, people dread unsolicited feedback from friends and mothers-in-law, as in “Why did you choose THAT style, color or pattern?” on walls and upholstery to china. Frame shops thrive when called in to fill a new house with art because a homeowner doesn’t know where to start [and perhaps would like someone else to blame?]

Renee Weiss Chase, Cloth2Clay, Collingswood, N.J.

The good news: According to Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I maintain that there are those who bend over backwards to achieve a special look in their homes filled with visual surprises that they love—that are the decorative equivalent of a squeeze of lemon or lime to perfect a dish or drink. And these people are in luck: American-made decorative accents, photography, sculpture and furniture will be exhibited this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum at my client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn. [The Eastern Parkway subway stop is literally steps from the museum door and there’s a large parking lot.]

Lori Kaplan, NY jeweler

Does the same self-doubt apply to fashion? I’ve not studied the industry so I can rely only on my own experience and observations: A remarkable accent—scarf, jewelry, hat or jacket–on a classic ensemble brightens the wearer whose posture and expression beam with joy and confidence. Imagine giving such a bonus with your holiday presents this season. One Brooklyn Museum member, a loyal craft show visitor and successful business owner told me: “My whole wardrobe this year was from [last year’s] show. ”

Why do you think so many fear decorating their homes? Do you? What is one of your favorite fashion accessories? Where did you find it or was it a gift? Do you explore fine craft shows as a resource for unusual, handsome gifts and additions to your home and wardrobe?

 

Milliner Karen Morris, Minneapolis, Minn.

Catherine Joseph, C Joseph NY, Huntington

Furniture maker Bok Read, Media, Pa.

The Gift of Giving Back: Handmade Global Design at NY Now

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

 

Aid Through Trade “Coral Reef”

Charity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of NY Now, the former NY Gift Show. This August I visited a different section than in previous seasons: Handmade Global Design. Giving back was a recurring theme for many of these exhibitors. In some cases they donate money to charities; in others, through their efforts, lives of poverty and hopelessness are transformed by work, education and access to global markets.

Some were members of the Fair Trade Federation. It describes itself as “part of the global fair trade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty…by continually and significantly expanding the practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people.”

Meyelo’s Fynn Rucksack

I call out two of its some 50 members listed in the directory: Aid Through Trade, one of the Federation’s founding members, and Meyelo.

The original creator of the Roll-On® Bracelet made with glass beads, Aid Through Trade employs 200+ women from Nepal. Founded in 1993 by former Peace Corps volunteer Damian Jones, he recognized that women’s lives changed dramatically when they have an income.

As I passed by Meyelo’s booth, I heard one of the sales staff say to a customer, “Our for profit gives back to our nonprofit.” Eighty women from Kenya make bags, earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, scarves and sandals sold through Meyelo. On its website: “Every purchase provides our artisans with a source of fair trade income, support for their community, and a global platform for their work.….We work in community development with Maasai villages and provide access to education, water, farming co-ops and medical needs. We empower women, girls and their communities with sustainable programs.”

Bella Tunno’s Giraffe Pacifier Lovie

A striking poster caught my eye in the Bella Tunno booth filled with collections of children’s accessories. It touted: “You buy one product, we give one child a meal.” Founded by Michelle Tunno Buelow, the website reports that “A portion of every Bella Tunno product sold is donated to the Matt Tunno Make a Difference Memorial Fund.” To honor her brother Matt, Michelle Buelow’s fund supports drug and alcohol abuse education, prevention and rehabilitation and programs for at-risk children and teenagers.

Aid to Artisans

Aid to Artisans creates opportunities for low-income craftspeople and designers in East Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Central and South Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa “to build profitable businesses inspired by handmade traditions.” According to its website, it offers “access to new markets, business training, eco-effective processes and design innovation through a network of partners to promote sustainable growth and community well-being.” The artisans make a range of products from decorative pillows and children’s accessories to desk accessories, ceramic vases, shawls, jewelry, home furnishings and decorative pieces, glassware and ornaments.

“Comfort for a Cause,” is The Elephant Pants Company’s slogan. Founded in 2014, it donates 10 percent of its net profits to save elephants. “Thanks to you, $145,615 has been donated to charitable organizations dedicated to saving elephants,” it declares on its website, as a result of selling over 400,000 pairs of what it says are “The most comfortable pants that anybody had ever worn.”

For a company to combine help for impoverished foreign artisans or to donate a percentage of profits to charity is nothing new but it appears to be a successful approach given the numbers of companies doing it. Do you favor such products when you buy gifts and decorative pieces for your home?

The Elephant Pants Company’s harem pants

Service of Fashion in August 2017

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Photo: lipstickalley.com

A friend wrote: “You have to address the issue of the way we are dressing!!!!! I don’t know where to start!!! Women are the worst offenders I’m afraid.”

She follows fashion and always looks just-so.

 “Coincidentally,” she, continued, “Boston is addressing the way female broadcasters are forced to dress.” She mentioned Heather Unruh, a longtime lead newscaster on WCVB-TV who resigned last fall. Unruh talked to The Boston Globe’s Beth Teitell about “the pressures women feel about how they dress on TV.”

Heather Unruh Photo depauw.edu

Teitell asked: “Should a TV anchorwoman be required to dress for work in a cocktail dress? Or Stilettos? What about body-hugging tops?” In “For at least a decade, women broadcasters have been pushed to look sexier on-air,” Teitell quoted another newscaster who said “management at her station has told women to wear ‘tighter, smaller, shorter, more revealing clothes.’”

Teitell continued, “What you don’t see is that many times women have clothespins in the back to make [their clothes] tighter.” She wrote about broadcasters who didn’t want to put on what consultants selected; who cried about how they were pressured to dress; who were told to copy the sexier look of another anchor who “wore her skirts short and her tops unbuttoned” and one who was reprimanded for wearing blazers that were “too boxy.”

Grasswalkers

My friend went on: “Too much information prevails for everyone, but I want to see no more:

  • exposed behinds
  • gigantic ripples of jelly fat especially near views of underpants
  • décolletage causing women to spill out from center and SIDES of cutout or strapless concoctions
  • garments that threaten to fall off
  • leggings in outrageous patterns and colors that make even toothpick size legs seem gigantic
  • dizzying, horror prints
  • excess of assorted animal patterns together
  • infantile embroidery over patterns–(including Gucci)
  • overweight women tottering on super spikes that generally impede balance and are often inappropriate for the chosen moment. A ridiculous off-shoot of super spikes are grasswalkers–transparent platforms that protect spikes when the wearer walks on grass.” [Note: I think the grasswalker concept is ingenious!]

 

“And it’s not just women’s fashion,” she wrote:

  • men’s bare legs are everywhere
  • the sockless high water line of men’s ankles stare at us out of tie shoes
  • the sickening view of men’s undies or behinds peeking out of pants that are about to fall down
  • relatively sheer exercise shorts that are generally not attractive outside of the gym no matter what designers tout

This is all without touching on age appropriate fashion for either sex or work versus leisure. We have become both boring and repulsive in our tastelessness. I don’t mean that I think I am a paragon of style and taste, but I try to err on the side of discretion.

Even though traditional TV viewership is down in the first quarter—11.2% by millennials 25-34 and almost 5 percent by Gen Xers 35-49 according to marketingcharts.com–do you still think some women take their fashion cues from broadcasters squeezed into their attire or is the desperate attempt to drum up male viewership unrelated to style?

Is fashion out of kilter or is it that some men and women have lost their compass for what looks good on them?

What or who is influencing some to dress in such a sloppy way?

Kim Kardashian Photo: dmarge.com

Service of Dress Codes

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Photo: vimeo.com

Photo: vimeo.com

I’m late to the discussion of whether or not the United Airlines gate agent was right or wrong to refuse two teens’ entrance to a flight because they wore leggings that were considered inappropriate dress. Nevertheless I still wanted to chime in. I wrote about a similar subject last September referencing a radio talk show host’s wish that airline crews would be more assertive in refusing entrance to passengers who were dressed in clothing with offensive messages, in outlandish décolleté and the like.

Regarding leggings, I see people out in public in NYC who shouldn’t be wearing them anywhere but the gym. They are easy to maintain and less expensive than some fashion alternatives which no doubt accounts for their popularity.  But would you wear your bathing suit on the street if you were going to the Y for a swim?

One woman on the subway with an unusually beautiful face and hair had thighs the size of wine casks—I’ve rarely seen such huge limbs–and she proudly wore lycra leggings with no jacket or shirt to cover an inch of them. 

Photo flagship.com

Photo flagship.com

Back to the gate agent: The airline had rules that if you were a “pass rider,” as the evicted teens were, you were subject to a certain dress code because you were given a deep dish discount thanks to your friend or family relationship to an employee.

In this case, I side with the airline: If you accept their gift, they hold the cards. Pay full price and dress as you like.

Children in uniformMy siding with the airlines happens for a lot of reasons. First, I believe in rules: you break them at your own risk. Second, I wore a uniform for grades 1 through 12 and we were told we represent the school when dressed in identifiable clothes. Although it’s impossible to tell who paid what for the ticket they hold, and therefore who represents the airline, United presented a similar argument in designing its regulation.

The good news: With rules like United’s at least a fraction of the travelers will be required to exhibit some kind of respectability. Who wants to be subjected to the repulsive appearance of fellow passengers while confined in the space of a plane? We appreciate our freedoms but people can’t be trusted to use common sense. I can hear a chorus of “Who determines what is and isn’t appropriate anyway?” My response, arrogant though it may sound, “if you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” Do you agree?

freedom

Service of the Comfort of Vintage

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

La la Land movie poster

Whatever “vintage” means to you—if you’re 20, 1980s films, fashion and décor might describe it while if you’re 50, it could be all things 1950. For some there’s comfort and perhaps a soothing visual to live with a grandparent’s furnishings; for others, reminiscences shared with an uncle while watching Audrey Hepburn on Turner Classic Movies brings smiles.

I thought of this after seeing “La La Land,” a movie I enjoyed. The writer/director Damien Chazelle is 31 yet he picked the 1940s/1950s romantic musical genre for the setting of his story. He added zero pyrotechnics, violence or gore and none were missed. The film set a record at the Golden Globe Awards winning seven including recognition for best motion picture—musical or comedy—performance by an actor and actress, director, screenplay, original score and original song.

Elle.com ran a article about what’s in or out in fashion. Nikkitight jeans Ogunnaike reported we should “anticipate a shift toward contrast denim styles in vintage silhouettes.” [This look is in contrast to skin- tight jeans popular today.]

I’d saved a December, 2016 section of The Wall Street Journal‘s “Off Duty,” because of its cover story, “Presents with a Past,” that featured 50 nostalgic gifts “whose origins date back decades and beyond.” The subhead continued that the gifts will “conjure a simpler time when the holidays were lower-voltage, but just as bright.”

Sidney Garber bracelet

Sidney Garber bracelet

Speaking of voltage, most of the suggestions would burn a hole in most wallets. There was a gold bracelet by Sidney Garber reminiscent of flexible metal coils first popular in the 1930s for $12,200; a 3-day slumber party at a historic English country estate @ $15,600/night for 16; Prada’s jewel encrusted mules for $1,150; a $685 pair of retro headphones; a mink stole for $5,500 and a chauffer to drive you from Paris to Versailles in a period Citroen starting at $370.

I don’t spend that kind of money for the loved ones on my list. The Wall Street Journal editors chose a few things under $100 too. There was a box of Turkish delight [$35]; a rubber band-propelled toy car [$25]; an apron [$47]; a ‘70s popular fondue pot [$95]; traditional Belgian speculoos cookies [$20]; a Mickey Mouse wall clock featuring a 1930s style rodent [$65], and an Italian knit necktie [[$90].

The J. Peterman Company catalog seems to be going strong with its focus on vintage-inspired men and women’s fashion.

Have you noticed vintage influences creeping back more now than in recent years? Do you welcome them or consider them old fashioned and therefore not worthy of your attention? Do you think that in turbulent times people look back to what they recall or think may have been a calmer period?

 Belgian Speculoos cookies

Service of Buyer’s Remorse

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Photo: realsimple.com

Photo: realsimple.com

“The Lists Issue: Style and Fashion” page of last weekend’s Wall Street Journal’s “Off Duty” section asked five “stylish men” to report their “most regrettable purchase.” These included three pairs of a Clark shoes–all the same–that the owner tired of; a suede Ralph Lauren car coat with too much fringe; Nike sneakers with pink and purple accents bought online while under the influence of Ambien; a $450 umbrella from London enjoyed for 31 minutes before being left behind in a taxi and boots purchased on Piperlime, [it’s out of business now], with too thin soles discovered while walking five miles in a parade.

Too tight shoesShoes that hurt account for most of my mistakes along with a pasta maker I never had time to use so I eventually gave it away after dragging it, with good intentions, from home to home.

However, the one that stings the most and longest was a red dress I pleaded with my mother to buy when I was in eighth grade so I’d have something to wear at a Christmas party at school. We wore uniforms—except on Friday when we could dress in civilian clothes. My mother said, “You don’t like red and will never again wear this dress.” Nevertheless she bought it for me and I don’t think I ever did wear it again. When I think of it I still cringe at my selfishness.

What are some things you’ve regretted buying? Have you learned something from each experience or do you keep making the same mistakes?

 Girls red dress

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