Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fashion Forward



From L to R: David Neville and Marcus Wainwright (Rag & Bone), Naeem Khan, Phillip Lim, Maria Cornejo


Zero + Maria Cornejo


NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17: A model walks the runway at the 3.1 Phillip Lim Fall 2010 Fashion Show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Tent at Bryant Park on February 17, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for IMG)
3.1 Phillip Lim (the jacket is all of a piece, although it
looks like it's composed of layers)


NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: A model walks the runway at the Rag & Bone - Presentation Fall 2010 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on February 12, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)
Rag & Bone (featuring Harris tweed)

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: A model walks the runway at the Rag & Bone - Presentation Fall 2010 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on February 12, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)
Rag & Bone


Feb. 18, 2010 - New ork, New ork, United States - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Fall 2010 .Naeem Khan Fashion Presentation - runwa. Brant Park, NC 02-18-2010.Photos b Photos Inc 2010.K64205SMO. © Red Carpet Pictures
Naeem Khan

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 18: A model walks the runway at the Naeem Khan Fall 2010 Fashion Show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Promenade at Bryant Park on February 18, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IMG)
Naeem Khan

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 18: A model walks the runway at the Naeem Khan Fall 2010 Fashion Show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Promenade at Bryant Park on February 18, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IMG)
200-300 hours to make, all done by hand!

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to welcome Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur on the North Portico of the White House for a State Dinner on November 24, 2009. This is President Obama's first state dinner. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg Photo via Newscom
Naeem Khan-designed dress for Michelle Obama

On October 2 I attended The New Yorker Festival event called "Fashion Forward," featuring the designers Maria Cornejo, Naeem Khan, Phillip Lim, and David Neville and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone in conversation with Judith Thurman, one of the writers for the magazine. It also featured a mini fashion show of the designers' Fall 2010 collections, which was a wonderful opportunity to see the clothes at close range. I didn't bring my camera so the clothes you see are from when they were shown on the runway back in February of this year.

It was a packed house and a fascinating panel. Some highlights:

None of these designers were born in the United States--Maria Cornejo was born in Chile and partly raised in England. Naeem Khan is from India. Phillip Lim was born in Thailand to Chinese parents and came to Southern California at an early age. David Neville and Marcus Wainwright were both born in England.

Every one of them said they never could have become fashion designers in their home countries, they had to come to the United States, they had to come to New York. It is amazing to me that New York City is STILL the center of opportunity in so many ways! All of them talked about how in New York you can watch your work being made from start to finish and how exciting that was for them as fledgling designers.

They all spoke of the importance of owning your company in the fashion business. Maria Cornejo said the "backing situation is dangerous. You lose your power."

The Rag & Bone guys talked about being frugal when opening new stores, to fuel growth by continuing to do what they do (lots of denim, menswear-inspired clothes for women, and a military influence on both the men's and women's lines).

Phillip Lim said there was "no fat to cut out" of his shows, what you see on the runway he and his staff are on the phone selling to stores the day after the clothes are shown.

Naeem Khan spoke of the downfall of the American designer Halston. As Halston's onetime assistant, who better to make the statement, "Enterprise killed him." Because of witnessing firsthand the decline of a great name in American fashion through too many owners and dilution of the brand name, Mr. Khan wants to keep his own brand small and profitable.

You could feel their passion for what they do in how they all spoke of their clothing lines. I especially loved it when Mr. Wainwright, after admitting that yeah, it was great when someone like Brad Pitt wears one of your jackets, talked about how their clothes aren't cheap and how it actually means more to him to walk down the street and see a stranger wearing his clothes, knowing that person worked hard for the money to pay for them.

A note on some of the clothes.

The Harris tweed featured in the Rag & Bone jackets are made by women in England who weave the fabric at home. Mr. Wainwright said there are even "bits of straw" in the tweed. Love it!

The glittery dress by Naeem Khan featured here takes 200-300 hours to make since it is beaded by hand. He said making a dress like this is "like designing a bridge" because of the intricacies of the fabric, how that has to be taken into account when putting together the dress. This particular geometric pattern was inspired by a broken window near Mr. Khan's desk. He was fascinated by the look of the shattered glass. In case you don't know him, Naeem Khan designed the dress Michelle Obama wore for her first State Dinner, the one that tacky couple crashsed.

Speaking of Michelle Obama, when asked by an audience member if they would rather dress her or her French first lady counterpart Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the panel was unanimous: Michelle Obama. They loved her style and influence and her support of American fashion designers.

Maria Cornejo then said, "I've met Carla before and there's not much up there."

About 400 people (including me) then went, "Ooooooh!"

Ouch! I figured this would get out and sure enough, I saw her comment has been mentioned on Huffingtonpost.com and Stylebistro.com.

I guess Carla (whose style I love) won't be asking Maria Cornejo to design for her any time soon!

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