Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fashion Group's RTW Presentation / Lord & Taylor "424 Fifth" Brand

C’mon Get Happy!

Amy Cheung with Margaret Hayes (center) & Evie Evangelou

On Thursday, I attended Fashion Group International’s Fall/Winter 2014 Ready-to-Wear Trend Presentation, held at the Time Life Building. FGI ( ) is now partnering with Fashion 4 Development (F4D), a private sector global platform whose mission is to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries and implement sustainable strategies for worldwide economic growth. To emphasize its commitment, the designs of Amy Cheung and her parent company Sung Hing Industries Holding Limited were showcased. Their motto is “Green At Heart” and they won in the top environmental management category honored by the OKEO-TEX Sustainability Award and were the only textile company from China to have that distinction.

Panel discussion

It is always interesting to review the collections, once you’ve had adequate time to digest, and FGI’s Fashion Director Marylou Luther sifts through the trends, always puts the whole thing together in proper perspective, ending with a summary of the Best Bets (the trends most likely to go from runway to reality). This time around, they are: Coats (“the fashion must have of the season”, especially wraps and maxis); Outerwear (standouts include military inspired parkas); Shearling (“It’s the yearling of the shearling”); Fur; Leather; Knits; Turtlenecks; Comfort; Prints; Plaids; Intarsia; The Shopping Bag’; The Bucket Bag; The Sneaker-Cum-Running Shoe; The Bootie.

Mickey Boardman, Brooke Jaffe, Elizabeth Kanfer, Julie Gilhart, Marylou Luther

One advantage of attending the noontime showing is the interesting and lively panel discussion that follows. Panelists this time were Paper Magazine’s Mickey Boardman, Bloomingdales’ Brooke Jaffe, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Elizabeth Kanfer, and Julie Gilhart (a consultant who was formerly with Barneys New York). Special Guest Moderator was Fairchild Publication’s Bridget Foley who got everyone talking about a range of subjects from the emotion of fashion, the notion of trends, the power of accessories, designers, and the fashion show system.

Bridget Foley (BF): “What excited you most about the shows”? 
Mickey Boardman (MB): “The gift bags (that got a laugh from the audience). Sparkle. It’s a trend that never goes away for me ( he was wearing a black sequined cardigan and toting a humongous leopard printed bag trimmed with a heavy gold chain). “I also loved ankle boots.” 
Brooke Jaffe (BJ): “The novelty and special details.” 
Elizabeth Kanfer (EK): “The energy and emotion of the shows. The challenge for us is how to translate it for the customers. I also loved all the maximalism (shine, furs)” 
BF: “How do you sift through trends?” 
EK: “We need to find the best and edit. It comes from the gut. But of course, our customer feedback is key.” 
BJ: “We always think of our customers. For us, huge trends this season are layering and texture, and we have to educate the customer so she knows how to wear it.” 
MB: “We pick things we love and decide what’s best and then we fill in. For example, this season we love ‘The Villain’ (as in Public School’s cartoon villains), and Gareth Pugh touched on that as well And we thought YSL was the best show.” 
BF: “Do trends even exist?”

Julie Gilhart (JG): “Yes, but they are more related to lifestyle now.” 
BJ: “Yes. Our customer is looking for direction in trends and our job is to point them out.” 
BF: “There are over 600 shows. How do you find ‘the core’ of what is important?” 
BJ: You have to be a good editor, take a position, and have conviction. The trends we feel are key this season are shine and sparkle, and bold florals rather than graphics and geometrics (our customer is girlie).”  
EK: “We go with what we love. It’s the instant emotion of fashion that is important to communicate to the customer.” Bridget agreed that emotion is key in fashion. 
MB: “Yes, it is truly about the emotion but unfortunately, you really must see shows in person because you don’t get that on or You must be there. It’s those few times (those major fashion moments) that really keep you going.” 
BJ: “I got the chills when I saw the clouds at Marc Jacobs. It’s all about communication. The challenge is to communicate that emotion to the customer. It’s all about street style and runway, and not just runway.” 
EK: “Everything is now special. We have to educate the customer so that she understands why things have gotten more expensive.” 
BF: “Accessories have steered the ship for a longtime now. Is that positive?” 
JG: “I had a conversation with a major designer who was very frustrated because women are becoming so casual and simple, and tend to spend their money on handbags rather than fashion. Accessories are an easy way to do that.” Bridget agreed that the increasingly casual lifestyle is frustrating to fashion designers. 
BJ: “Accessories lead the charge and understandably because the customer wants fashion credit for recognizable status symbols that they can wear every day. The good news is that we were in a cycle of minimalism for so long and so this new maximalism is an interesting shift.” 
BF: “What does it mean to be fashionable today?”

MB: “How do you want to look? I think about that every day.” 
JG: “In the same way a merchant must take a stand and own that stand in order to be successful, the best dressed women take a stand and own it. You must have a look that is yours and nobody else’s.” 
BJ: “Regardless of the trends, the most fashionable women always look like themselves.”  
BF: “What about the fashion show system? Are there too many shows?” Everyone agreed there were. 
JG: “It’s excessive but there are exceptions. Last season (spring 2014), Rick Owens illustrated perfectly why you go to a show. It provided images that went all over the social media. And for fall 2014, Nicolas Guesquiere’s debut for Louis Vuitton was a benchmark collection”.

BF: Proving that the shows are important, “Miuccia Prada admitted that she gets ‘cracking’ for her runway shows.” 
MB: “There should be a certain criteria in order to have a show. As soon as you knit one sweater yourself, you think you should have a show. H&M does not need to stage a show during Fashion Week.” 
BF: “It’s harder and harder to be blown away when there are so many shows, but I love going to them because of the creativity. We are never ‘not looking’ at clothes it seems. The vast 90% of people should not be staging formal shows.” 
BJ: “There should at least be some rhyme and reason regarding location. Downtown shows and uptown shows should be scheduled more intelligently.”  
BF: “What excites you this season? What do you take away from the season?”

JG: “All the emerging talent. The new emerging designers and street culture brands. The key thing is to stay positive. Life is tough for everyone.”  
EK: “We are excited by new talent as well but we have to make sure the brand has the ability to produce and to work with us. It’s like a marriage. At Saks, we take a careful approach.” 
MB: “There are so many designers, the least amazing thing about them, are the clothes (this got a lot of laughs). Sometimes you just want someone nice and easy. If someone is really fabulous, I can put up with a difficult person.”  
BF: “What was the most compelling show of the season?” 
EK: “Fendi, Chanel, Givenchy.” 
JG: “Vuitton: it was more simple than I thought it would be with easy things to wear; Altuzarra, which was American Classic; Simone Rocha: she is living a legacy now; Givenchy (amazing dresses).” 
MB: “Givenchy; Prabal Gurung; Anna Sui (it was the first time she was ‘Chinese- y’); Valentino (I know I’m supposed to be a hipster but I couldn’t help it); Chanel (not the clothes as much as the energy)”. 
BJ: “Fendi, Gucci, Misha Nonoo, Chanel, for the energy, and I loved Michael Kors. Fabulous chunky knits and scarves, and the models always look happy, which they never seem to on other runways.” 

 Pharrell Williams Happy soundtrack from Dispicable Me 2

FYI, regarding all this talk about ‘happy’. The FGI audio visual presentation began with the soundtrack, ‘Happy Days are Here Again”, ended on a ‘happy’ note, and somewhere in the middle, featured tall hats that referenced Pharrell Williams. I (along with everyone else it seems), cannot get his contagious tune “Happy” out of our minds. Is it me, or does it seem to be a reaction to Alber Elbaz’s bold, statement making brass scripted ‘Happy’ necklaces that made their appearance for fall 2013 and were seen on some of the most fashionable necks around?

Marie Holman Rao, Liz Rodbell, & Kate Young

And continuing on with this sentiment, Lord and Taylor’s chief creative officer, Marie-Holman Rao, sure has a lot to be happy about these days, thanks to 424 Fifth, the fabric driven well priced (from $29 to $300 retail) private label collection. To properly celebrate, there was a formal launch on Thursday night, hosted by stylist Kate Young and the American Museum of Natural History with 10% of the sales going to benefit the museum.

Kate Young & Marie Holman Rao with models

Named for the store’s Manhattan address, 424 Fifth is “a compelling women’s brand, inspired by their rich heritage”, and it “offers a full lifestyle collection for the modern woman," according to Mary Turner, Executive Vice President of Specialty for Hudson's Bay Company, the parent of Lord & Taylor. Included are both everyday essentials and statement pieces, and for spring, the color palette is predominantly ivory and black with hits of electric color and a smattering of prints and patterns.

424 Fifth Cherry Red Skirt & crisp white button down shirt

Among the standouts: the vibrant cherry red full satin skirt and crisp white button down shirt; the black patent leather bomber jacket, white Supima cotton t shirt, and tweed pencil skirt; the ivory and black striped cropped jacket, black bralette top, and ivory faille midi skirt. The line is available at Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay stores, and online:;

-Marilyn Kirschner

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