Monday, August 27, 2012

Join the "Pep (Lum)" Rally

H&M black leather  peplum top $59.95

Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer hard and fast rules, and increasingly, there are often many opposing directions fashion will take at any one moment in time. But, after each round of fashion shows, a few major (and minor) themes will emerge and crystallize and we know instantly what store windows, store racks, store advertisements, magazine editorials, etc., will look like as the new season gets under way.

I personally deplore the word 'trend' (as well as the notion of it), and I don't think chasing trends, or being fixated on them, has anything at all to do with owning great personal style (far from it). But like it or not, trends do exist (I prefer to call them themes), and retailers, members of the press, bloggers, etc., are always keeping a watchful eye out for the best of the best. This was the subject of an article in The New York Times' Thursday Styles, August 23, "Freedom of Choice" by Ruth La Ferla.

The good news is that what starts out as rarefied, illusive, unaffordable, and seemingly unattainable (except to all but an elite few), inevitably finds its way into the mainstream. The bad news is that by the time it becomes nauseatingly ubiquitous (and available at JC Penny- LOL), it has lost its cache and you may not want it any more. Case in point: "The Peplum".

Jil Sander Spring 2011 RTW

Peplum fever has overtaken the world (unless you're living under a rock, I assume you've noticed). Of course, peplums are nothing new. They have been around for centuries, are routed in fashion history, and have long been associated with all things haute couture, stodgy, and old world. That is, until Raf Simons single handily proved otherwise; dusting them off and showing how modern, relevant, and dare I say, hip, they could be. For his spring ready-to-wear 2011 collection for Jil Sander, he featured peplums and peplum belts in arresting colors: hot pink, royal blue, and orange, often affixed to full legged pants or floor length lean skirts, and more often than not, they were paired with unfussy, simple and minimalistic tees, shirts, and boxy jackets. And, it seems that ever since, designers have been intent on proving they too could put their own youthful, up, to-the-minute spin on peplums.

Lanvin peplum jacket

Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Currently for fall 2012, peplums are available in stores and on websites, in a myriad of incarnations; there are peplum belts, peplums tops, peplum jackets, peplum dresses, peplum coats. They are available at all price points, from high fashion labels like Lanvin and Alexander McQueen, down to Forever 21( ) and H&M ( ), and everything in between.

Speaking of which, one of the fashion insiders Ruth La Ferla interviewed for her article, Garance Dore, (the award winning street photographer and blogger), revealed her fondness for menswear inspired matched pantsuits and peplums, "especially those at Lanvin". She admitted, "I already have maybe two peplum styles in my wardrobe. They are one thing I think will not go out of fashion". (I agree, but make sure they suit your body type and your style). A few weeks ago, as I was strolling the aisles of H&M on lower 5th Avenue (I was drawn to the peplum tops in the window), I spotted Ms. Gare along with her companion and fellow street photographer Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist), with an adorable little girl in tow, perusing the aisles. I couldn't help but overhear her gleefully exclaiming, "peplums!" I don't know whether or not she purchased anything at this store, but I actually walked away with a chic fitted black peplum jacket ($59.95) and a black short sleeved peplum top ($34.95). Unfortunately, the black leather sleeveless version was long sold out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Editorial: The Garment Center By Any Other Name?

A response to an Op-Ed August 23 "Needles, Threads and New York History" by Jean Appleton appears in Friday's  The New York Times written by Barbara Blair Randall, president of The Fashion Center BID.  She suggests that with most of the major designers moving downtown calling the area "The Garment Center" may no longer be appropriate.  While she laments the passing of the district as a center for fashion, it is for her just another example of the ever changing face of the city.

She sees the area as a future hub for hotels, restaurants, night life and retailers that will bring thousands of jobs and visitors into the area. But where, in the words of Joshua Barnett who wrote a letter to the editor: "... are the historical markers for the strikes led by garment workers... now that the gains from decades of labor struggles are under attack?"  And what of the many other important and historical events that mark this area as vital to the history of both the city and the nation? Are they to pass from the collective memory of those who now live there? Will there be nothing left but a few plaques placed strategically on buildings so that tourists can be directed by guides or tour bus operators as part of a historical tour of the city?

Barbara believes what is good for business is good for New York. But is it always so? What about the soul of the city? Look what happened to the Fulton Fish Market and Seaport area. This historic district was converted into a theme park/shopping mall by the Rouse Corporation stripping the area of its charm in the name of attracting more tourists.

It is axiomatic that this city is ruled by real estate and Wall Street interests. Manhattan especially is becoming more and more the playground of the rich and tourists. Have we forgotten what made this city great? It was the struggle of the rich and the poor, those on the way up and those on the way down, the bringing together of so many divergent cultures and peoples, of the artists and the ditch diggers, that gave our city the vitality that made us great.

The garment center and its workers were at the heart of this great city. Its future development is too important to be left only in the hands of real estate developers and business improvement executives. Ours is a legacy to be cherished and remembered, not raped on the altar of the almighty buck.

-Ernest Schmatolla

Saturday, August 04, 2012

"Don't Bug Me!"

 Mosquitoes, flies, ants, bees, mice, snakes, etc., may be annoying and unwanted creatures, but that does not stop designers from using their likeness in clothing and accessories where they become playfully decorative. And on certain occasions and in certain settings, they could not be more perfect.

Peter Hidalgo's Mosquito Dress

Case in point, Diana Broussard ( ) wore Peter Hidalgo's Mosquito Dress to the Couture Council Summer Party last August. It was held inside/outside at the Boathouse in Central Park and the mosquitoes were all around, so it could not have been more fitting. By the way, the $600 dress is part of an insect series by Peter Hidalgo ( ). There is an Ant Dress and a Fly Dress as well, and they are available at Diana Broussard, (22 Christopher Street, 646 336 6365), in a variety of fantastic colors and luxurious fabrics (satins and crepe de chines).

Delfina Delletrez's Beetle Brooch

When fashion original Shala Monroque attended the Costume Institute Gala in May, (in celebration of Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations), she took the subjects and the subject matter to heart, accessorizing her Prada dress with Delfina Delletrez's ( ) surrealistic, larger than life, pearl encrusted beetle brooch. It has become a signature accessory as of late and she was photographed wearing it at the Couture Shows in Paris in July. As she told, "I'm tired of very pretty things. There can be beauty in what is seemingly ugly on the surface, we just have to change the context".

Schiaparelli's Insect Necklace

Of course, one major theme that runs throughout the Costume Institute exhibit is the notion of 'ugly beauty', and both designers are known for challenging existing notions and periodically shocking. How can we ever forget Schiaparelli's macabre Insect Necklace, which created the illusion that the insects are crawling directly on the skin of the wearer’s neck?

Delfina Delletrez Insect Ring

Along those same lines, Ms. Delletrez, an Italian born 4th generation Fendi, who launched her eponymous line in 2007, instantly became known for her unusual and nontraditional approach to fine jewelry. She frequently uses poisonous insects ("Insects are so detailed and complex, I love everything about them,” she said) as well as skulls, fierce animals, and eyes. Beauty is indeed, in the eyes of the beholder.

Melvin Jewelry Fly Wings Pendants

The idea of incorporating non traditional elements into a jewelry collection (elements that could be perceived as strange, ugly, or even dangerous) is also at the heart of Melvin Jewelry ( ), a new line of unique designs and the brainchild of Martha Clifford (of M. Clifford Designs), and her niece Morgan Walker. (The prices for the line range at wholesale from approximately $28.00 for a Bullet ring to $210 for a large wood bead necklace featuring a mask and charms or agates).

It is divided into three distinct collections. 'Out of Africa' makes use of the symbols from African Mud Cloth which are translated into necklaces, bracelets, and there are a few funky African masks which are applied to either leather bands or necklaces. 'Deconstructed' is composed of earrings, rings, bracelets, cuffs, and necklaces creatively fashioned out of bullets in antique rose gold, antique gold, and antique silver (and no, they don't resemble bullets at all, though for obvious reasons, this is a tad too close to home for me at the moment).

My favorite collection is 'Untamed', which is comprised of wide cuffs, earrings, necklaces, and pendants featuring the likes of flies, octopus, tree frogs, hippos, mice, rams, elephants, and tigers in a choice of antique gold, antique silver, and antique rose gold, (sometimes mixed with leather). For more information, contact Jodi Lin Wiener, PR Director at 212-564-3210 or