Monday, February 24, 2014

Gnossem's US Launch: Asian Fashion Meets Italian Sports Cars

(Photos: Laurel Marcus)

Lisa Crosswhite, former model, brand strategist for Ogilvy and Mather,  and now founder of online fashion retailer, believes that being attired in  well-known luxury designer's wares can" take a little piece of your soul" meaning that you are not displaying your own individuality by the acquisition and donning of these items. It would almost appear that Ms. Crosswhite is biting the hand that feeds her with that statement as she was named to Louis Vuitton Singapore's"Top Ten Most Stylish Women of 2012" list as well as Harper's Bazaar Singapore Stylish Women 2013.  Ms. Crosswhite held a cocktail preview for's US debut featuring independent designers and artisans, on Saturday night in conjunction with Maserati of Manhattan in the luxury car's showroom (619 W. 54th St.) to an over- capacity crowd. Other sponsors included Zico coconut water and Besfren chocolates. The name "Gnossem" is a made-up name inspired by French classical composer Erik Satie's "Gnossienne" that Ms. Crosswhite used to enjoy playing on the piano. She always thought the composition was "really mysterious" and so she used the derivation, to represent uniqueness and innovation.

Lisa Crosswhite being interviewed showcases designers that you are probably not familiar with unless you heard of them "from a friend of a friend" or are an extensive traveler who likes to uncover 'secret' craftsmen in their native locales. Most of the labels she has discovered are from Asia (she is a native of Vancouver but lives in Singapore) and has traveled all over the continent to find and source the labels she represents. The website features everything from lingerie and swimwear, to custom- made evening gowns (made to measure), to sportswear, as well as footwear, jewelry and other accessories all curated by Lisa herself. The prices range greatly from label to label but most are at an "affordable range." Ms. Crosswhite stresses that she only represents craftsmen who are involved in every manner of the scope of work from designing, to sourcing materials, to manufacturing. Since the items are made in small quantities (she mentioned one designer in Singapore that she works with who only makes 12, including all sizes, of a particular dress) each piece is "rare, exclusive and has a story. One of the labels she represents, GEORGINE, recently gave a show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center.

At the event, the line formed outside for entrance beginning early in the evening and didn't wane for most of the night.  Inside the large showroom it became quite crowded in certain areas including the bar,  step and repeat press area and the coat check.  The guests were a mix of fashion industry types, Maserati enthusiasts and perhaps friends of the popular DJ (and fashion designer) Timo Weiland who was supplying the music. Live models were featured on pedestals displaying various fashions to be found on however there was no identification of which designer they were wearing--a card with the designer's name on it would have been a nice touch. The models changed at least twice while I was there. All the chocolates, featured in open boxes, were immediately scooped up leaving just the paper doilies, within the first half hour so I'm assuming this was not a particularly weight watching crowd. There were also some specialty dessert liqueurs which I did not personally sample, likewise the coconut water.

Lisa Crosswhite is intent on filling a niche in the retail market between mass produced clothing such as H&M or Zara, and the ultra luxury of a status brand name such as Gucci or Chanel. Her own style of dress which she describes as being less conventional is not the only type of clothing featured on Gnossem as she strives to maintain a variety of unique designs for just about any stylish woman.  It is certainly an interesting idea, but only time will tell if it is a viable one.

- Laurel Marcus

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