Monday, June 27, 2016

In the Market Report

The Haves & Have Nots of Fashion

There’s nothing new about maximalism. But certainly, it’s been getting its fair share of attention as of late, and seems to be more in favor with the fashion world, thanks to Alessandro Michele's revival of Gucci and his eclectic more is more aesthetic.

It’s been hard not to notice that fashion designers appear to be divided into two distinct camps these days: the haves and the have nots. And by that I mean, they have either embraced maximalism, or they have not. But even if, like Miuccia Prada, they are not die hard minimalists, and may schizophrenically go back and forth between the two (sometimes within the same collection), in general, the ‘battle lines’ are drawn and continue to be more pronounced.

To best illustrate this ongoing polarity, I thought I would take some of fashion’s most popular items and show two versions. One that is stripped down, streamlined to its purist form; the other: more fanciful, embellished, and decorative.

Be sure to click on images for full size views!

The Baseball Jacket

Rag & Bone Resort 2017 & Gucci Resort 2017
(All photos


Valentino Resort 2017 & Thom Browne Resort 2017


Helmut Lang Resort 2017 & Dsquared2 Fall 2016 rtw

The Bustier Gown

Thom Browne Evening & Undercover Fall 2016 rtw

The Tuxedo

Saint Laurent Fall Winter 2016 rtw & Gucci Fall 2016 rtw


Valentino Resort Alexander & McQueen Resort 2017

Mixed Prints

Tibi Resort 2017 mixed prints & Moschino Resort 2017


Tibi Resort 2017 & Moschino Resort 2017

The Houndstooth Coat

Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2016 rtw &  Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2016 rtw

 The Black Sheer Lingerie Inspired Dress

Norma Kamali Resort 2017 Black Slip Dress & Alexander McQueen Resort 2017

The Ivory Wool Pollover

Jil Sander Navy Fall 2016 rtw & Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw

The Long Leather Glove

Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw & Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw

And finally, with the passing of Bill Cunningham fresh on on my mind, I would feel remiss if I didn’t make the observation that he was a man blessed not only with a maximum talent, but with a minimum ego.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In the Market Report: The Passing of Bill Cunningham

They Say a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

It’s virtually impossible to imagine life in New York without Bill Cunningham who passed away on Saturday. He was a one of a kind, unique, iconic fixture, who had his finger (and his camera) on the pulse of New York. Actually, at 87 years young, he WAS the pulse of New York. And I say young because he had the energy, stamina, curiosity, and unbridled enthusiasm of someone at least 80 years his junior.

Certainly, it’s almost impossible to imagine the corner of 57th and 5th, especially during the holidays, without seeing Bill standing there, taking it all in and reveling in every minute of the joy of the season, and recording it for all the world to see. Jeffrey Banks suggested they erect a statue of him at that spot and I could not agree more. And it’s virtually impossible to think of New York Fashion Week without spotting him seated front row, jumping up to photograph the crowd, and then quickly exiting in order to capture the interestingly dressed attendees on their way out. And then there’s his favorite: the annual FLO Awards Luncheon. It was a sight to behold, to see him, camera in tow, delighting in being surrounded by hundreds of women dressed to the nines with their fantastical hats. His face would literally light up.

I dare say that in a room filled with scores of fabulously bedecked and bejeweled revelers, the party only truly begun when the small man, dressed in a blue Chinese worker’s jacket (or non-descript blue puffer), with a camera around his neck arrived! Mark my words: attendance will drop at many high profile charity events because for many women, the main draw was getting dressed up and perhaps being photographed by Bill. He was a rarity in the fashion business: a major talent, highly influential, widely respected, liked by all, and yet he was always modest, honest, and outspoken. He received many awards and words of praise but was fond of downplaying all of it saying "you just go out and do your job". He preferred to credit his success to his wonderful "subjects''.

They say you always remember your first time. And I certainly remember the first time Bill Cunningham took my picture. I was a young assistant fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and was walking into Henri Bendel on West 57th street. A small man in a worker’s jacket pointed his camera at me and I had no idea who he was or why he was photographing me. Shortly thereafter, on Thursday, February 17th, 1972, my picture appeared in WWD. The caption read, “On the Streets of America” and there were images of women in Denver, Miami, Dallas, and New York. I was among 8 women photographed in New York by Bill wearing fur trimmed and fur coats

I especially remember the time he devoted an entire The New York Times on Sunday February 11, 2001, there I was. The column was called, “The Color of Money (In the Bank)” and there were 18 pictures of me, all in color.

He had been taking my picture religiously for quite a while and always stopped to talk. At one point, he called me on the phone and said he had some pictures in front of him and proceeded to ask me specific questions about 18 different ensembles I had worn previously. He was vague about what he was doing with them but about two weeks later, when I opened the Styles section of

11 years before Fern Mallis interviewed him for her 92 Y Street series (September 2014), he agreed to sit down with me in for what would be a highly personal video streamed interview for our "Masters of Fashion" series: see video interview and summary (he was always very private and was notorious for not granting interviews).He revealed that he designed hats ("they were less costly than clothing to create") and explained that he worked as a fashion consultant for Chez Ninon in the 50's, then became a writer for WWD with John Fairchild's encouragement in the 1960's, and was the New York and Paris fashion correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He has been a photographer/chronicler for The New York Times - both his 'Evening Hours' and 'On the Street' columns which are must reads - for the 40 years. Although he couldn’t remember what triggered his love of fashion, he did recall buying dresses for his mother whose clothes he didn't like. When talking about Doyle’s recent couture and Textile Auction, he said, “if you’re going to buy clothing and invest money, that’s the place to go. Saks and Bergdorf Bergdorf missed the boat completely … this is what should be filling up a department there".

 And what did he think about the spectacle the runway shows have become? As he puts it: "we should stop going to them and just go to the pre-show collections". He felt very strongly about designers returning to small presentations. On the subject of newspapers, and especially fashion magazines, he felt the greatest change in recent years is how the "advertising departments are taking over editorial content". While Bill admitted to reading as many fashion magazines as he can each month, he singled out French Vogue ("dazzling") under then editor in chief Carine Roitfeld, who he had been photographing for about ten years ("she has her finger on the raw nerve of fashion….just like Anna Wintour did in the late 80's and 90's").

He strongly believed that "fashion is the most personal thing you do …you get up in the morning and you get dressed ... no matter what you have on - good or bad - it reflects your feeling about yourself; there's no two ways about it!" And he chided, "of course, I Iook like hell. I'm just a worker in the factory …but I'm crazy to see it on people like yourself.”

His relationship with the street was a very special one - he admitted to hitting the streets with his camera, as an "Rx" for the blues, and says he "lets the street speak to me" for the ideas that turn up in his 'On the Street' column each Sunday. This perfectionist painstakingly works on stories for months, often dropping ideas if they don't hold up, or redoing them a year later if the trend is still there ("it can't be faked, it can't be hype".) He told me that he showed up at The New York Times, each morning at 7:30 for their oatmeal ("the best in New York"), and praised the company where he had worked for about 30 years (at that time) for their "honesty and integrity". He certainly seemed like a very content, happy man ("I just enjoy life and enjoy what I do"), and admitted to a very simple life…boasting he doesn't even own credit cards.

He laughed off a question about retirement, saying he "doesn't look at what he does as work", and it's obvious that he would be doing what he does without the paycheck. What about a 'successor'? "Who would be crazy enough to stand out in the street for three weeks just to find the perfect woman?"

The three most 'memorable' moments of his career? 1 - Dior's New Look in 1947 "feminine romance" 2 - The "totally pure designs" of Andre Courreges ("something you never saw before…he invented the third sex") 3 - The birth of French ready to wear.

When our paths first crossed, he would always call me “child” (as he was known to do). I was in my 20’s so that was not a stretch. But he continued to refer to me that way decades later, even though he knew my name. At some point, when I realized he stopped calling me “child”, I laughed to myself, “Boy, I must REALLY be getting old!” Well, he was forever young and there will never be another like him.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, June 24, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

FGI's Early Retail Bird Gets the Worm with Annual Robin Report

Robin Lewis
Photo Laurel Marcus

Bright and early yesterday morning Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Report and speaker and consultant to the retail and consumer products industries, gave an introduction for Fashion Group International's annual retail report entitled "Tick Tock Retailers: It's Wake Up Time." The event was a breakfast at the New York Hilton sponsored by Hearst Magazines. Lewis presented his "Back to the Future moment" which went something like this: way back in 1908 all 1,140 pages (8 pounds!) of the Sears Roebuck catalog would be delivered to your door. "In this catalog you could find everything from the cradle you were born in, to the coffin you'd be buried in," he said.

Matt Wood, Nadia Shouraboura, Robert Harrison
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Inventions such as the automobile gave people increased mobility; by the 1960's the "big box" chain stores such as Walmart and Target were born and consumers began going to the stores. Flash forward to the '90s when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon which "sparked the explosion of e-commerce back into the living rooms of consumers." In 2000, Steve Jobs' iPhone "truly did change the world" and "flipped traditional retailing on its head with retailers going to the consumer once again." Lewis forecasts that the next big thing is "personalization" and "predictive analytics." To illustrate this he told a story of a guy coming home to an Amazon package on his doorstep which contained a light bulb. He is confused because he did not order the bulb -- later that night, one of his existing bulbs burns out. Creepy, isn't it?

Left to right -- Robert B. Harrison, Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, Robin Lewis, Nancy Cardone of Marie Claire who gave the welcome, Dr. Matt Wood, & Paul R. Charron
Photo: Bruce Borner

Paul R. Charron, chairman of American Apparel served as moderator for the panel of three including Dr. Matt Wood, GM, Product Strategist at Amazon, Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, CEO of Hointer, a new type of in-store automated retail experience which sells jeans in Seattle, and Robert B. Harrison, Chief Omnichannel Officer of Macy's Inc. Charron recounts how, in his past life in the late '90s when he was CEO at Liz Claiborne, "everything was product, product, product" as opposed to now when things like logistics and supply chain are taking center stage. "We thought we controlled our own destiny and if we just made a better product everything else would fall in line," he said. By 2010, the buzzword was "technology" and making it "faster, smarter, better. Take the complex and make it relatively simple" and of course, direct to the consumer, he said.

The first topic that the panel discussed -- organizational capabilities. Harrison remarked on how the retail "environment is changing dramatically. We have to demonstrate a much greater agility" in order to keep up. "If you cannot provide something that isn't available somewhere else, you will not be relevant," he added while stressing the importance of a format that blends and merges retail stores and devices.

Dr. Wood spoke of his "data fly wheel" which would create a better experience for customers. "The faster you can spin it, the better for customers." He spoke of mobile devices that scan things in the kitchen that need to be repurchased and even a washing machine that somehow becomes sentient (like the light bulb story) and knows when to order more fabric softener.

Dr. Shouraboura, the comedienne of the panel, told a hysterical story about overhearing her husband conversing with a "woman" which she thought was possible, "I travel a lot," she explained. It turns out that he was cooking with Alexa, from what I gather she's the Siri of the kitchen. She also spoke of a $7 device which converts your mobile phone into a magic wand so that you can "feel like a princess." She predicts a future full of even more "different devices that will take our husbands away and make us feel like princesses."

In answer to the question of what managerial capabilities or skills will become important with technology, Harrison mentioned the ability to "thrive in an environment of change" and to work in teams. Once again Shouraboura launched into a story about the day that a well-known European designer walked into her Seattle store ("He was very well dressed and in Seattle you know that means something is up"). After he tried on about 50 pair of jeans he remarked that he didn't feel anything and had no emotional connection to the experience. Shouraboura joked that as a scientist she didn't get the idea of emotion tied to shopping. Thinking of something that she felt passionate about she got the idea to substitute the word "sex" for "shopping" which worked well (example: "you don't want the customer in and out in a flash").

More talk ensued about conversion rates of the online experience versus a physical store (some things do better online and others such as clothing are better in a physical store), cosmetics (some customers may want help IRL with makeup not just watching an online video), as well as the fact that there's still a community of consumers who go to a store for entertainment, connection, theatre, experience, comradery and a human touch. (That last one's starting to sound a lot like Dr. Shouraboura...)

Data sharing was another hot topic; some people feel comfortable doing so online while others do not.  Of course, the more information that a store can get from the customer the more they can curate the images they show you, so that one is not faced with having to scroll through thousands of things to find what they want. Ways to streamline fulfillment, such as a machine which scans the inside of a package to confirm its contents, saves on having to actually open, "count widgets" and seal up a box.

Other changes in today's retail climate: new products must resonate quickly and anything that erodes the customer's trust is taken very seriously. Dr. Wood mentions Amazon's ability to, with the press of one button, quickly take down any item that is perhaps defective or getting bad reviews. Building the customer's trust and creating good will (Macy's does so with its Thanksgiving Day parade) is also tantamount.

Lastly, in response to the question regarding whether Millennials are really game changers to retailers, all panel members agreed that rather than use the term as an artificial grouping, they are really just a bunch of individuals; a segmented part of the broad ecosystem, like anyone else of any other age category. Apparently there are Millennials who shop like 70-year-olds as well as 70-year-olds who shop like Millennials, which hopefully debunks this overblown retailing myth.

- Laurel Marcus