Fashion Show: Desingers

Valentino Garavani: Hailing from Voghera Italy, this man knows how to make a woman look like a goddess. Though his shows speak for themself, the one place you are sure to find a Valentino dress is on the red carpet. Having dressed many of the world’s most famous leading ladies (such as Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Taylor), he has proven his talent and risen to the top as (in my opinion) The King of Elegance.


November 3, 2008 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

The Fashion Show: Designers

Tom Ford: The name is synonymous with high fashion, Gucci, and his own clothing line. The man who turned around Gucci and led it through its golden era speaks about his life and experiences.

ntrepid New Yorkers have several ways of making the most of summer’s swelter: There’s the day at the beach. There’s the day at the spa. And then there’s the day of climate-controlled, super-luxurious shopping, ducking into the city’s most delicious boutiques (whether to buy or just to ogle). Tom Ford, creative director of the Gucci Group and designer for both Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Gucci, knows the impulse well. And just in time for those 90 degree days, he has opened a new Yves Saint Laurent store at 3 East 57th Street. It’s got all those welcoming things one needs: a white-lacquered proscenium arch; an ebony sculptural staircase; white satin walls; plenty of horsehair, mohair, and Mongolian lamb upholstery. Then there are those jewel-like clothes, not to mention a whole room for shoes and a special salon dedicated to YSL Beauté products. Ford welcomed New York to his fabulously massive Mayfair office in London recently to discuss his new project (“It’s designed by Bill Sofield, who I’ve worked with on all the YSL stores—there’s a strong focus on accessories and beauty in this one”), explain his design philosophy, and give his theories on why we’re all about to do some serious shopping. He was as charming as he’s reputed to be and even more handsome than he appears in photographs. As a bonus, he was wearing a navy pinstripe Gucci suit with a stiff-collared white shirt, both of which were unbuttoned to just above his navel.

Q: Since you took the reins at Gucci in 1994, it has become a truly global brand. And you yourself spend a lot of time hopping between the United States and your offices in London, Milan, and Paris. Do you see a difference between the way, for example, a Parisian woman and a New Yorker might wear your clothes?

Ford: They do wear them quite differently. But then you can see and feel the history of each culture being expressed in the way anyone dresses. You can put a Frenchman and an American man in the same outfit, stand them next to each other, and you’ll still see a difference; you’ll see it in the way the Frenchman stands, the way his tie is tied. I’ve been in trouble before for saying that Americans are too perfect in their approach to dressing, but Americans are descended from Puritans, and sometimes that comes through in their style. To have too much style is looked down upon in America, whereas for the French it is something to be celebrated. But things are changing with globalization. You never used to see a Frenchman wearing tennis shoes at night, and now you see it all the time.

Q: Do you think we’ll all be wearing the same thing before long?

Ford: Sure. Good or bad, it’s inevitable. I think we are becoming more and more linked, and before long, we’ll all be one culture. It’s happening in every field, not just fashion. Actually, I think the only hope for peace is if culture is homogenized. Unfortunately, money seems to be the only solution to political disagreements. If we are all linked through culture and trade, it won’t be worth fighting each other.

Q: Has it been hard being an American in Europe, in Paris particularly, because of the war in Iraq?

Ford: Not at all. I am obviously American, but I’ve lived in Europe for years, and I feel very comfortable here. I speak French and Italian. Though I have to say my French is much worse now than it was in the eighties. Now that I’m the boss, everyone speaks to me in English.

Q: Do you like being in charge?

Ford: Yeah. I’m a natural-born boss, I have to say. I just like to be good at things. Even as a child, I was boss of my family.

Q: Are you easy to work for?

Ford: I think so. I’m very direct. I don’t have tantrums. I don’t yell or shout. I do expect an awful lot from my staff, but no more than I expect of myself.

Q: Did you know, growing up, that you wanted to be in a position of authority?

Ford: Probably. I think you make these things happen. You find the things that make you happy. I think also that the older you get, the more you become your true, essential self. You whittle away the parts of yourself that mean less to you.

Q: So life gets easier as you get older?

Ford: For me, it’s better. I’ve never been happier. Though there are nice things about being young.

Q: Like what?

Ford: Well, your skin. Your muscle tone.

Q: Did you always think that fashion was what you were going to do?

Ford: When I was young, I wanted to be a movie star. But I realized that you have no control being an actor. So I went to architecture school in NYC, because I was crazy about buildings. Then I began to realize that I got more excited about Vogue coming out each month than I was about my projects. I also realized that the way I approached architecture was with a somewhat fashion brain. That didn’t get me very good marks in school, because everyone thought fashion was lightweight. In architecture they say, “Well, why is the door pink? Where does it go? What does the pink mean? What does it symbolize? All the other doors are beige, why is that one pink?” I was like, “Well, it’s pink because it’s pretty.”

Q: Do think of yourself as an artist or a businessman?

Ford: I’m a fashion designer. What I do is artistic, but I’m not an artist because everything I do is destined to be sold. That’s not to say that you can’t be an artist and a fashion designer. I think some designers are artists.

Q: Like whom?

Ford: Alexander McQueen. His clothes are designed to be sold, yes, but there is a poetry to his work that is truly artistic.

Q: You’re an art collector, aren’t you? Who do you collect?

Ford: Different people. Warhol, Reinhardt, Calder, Ellsworth Kelly. Sam Taylor-Wood.

Q: I’ve seen photographs of you in front of a series of large female nudes.

Ford: That’s Warhol. I have his male version, too. Penises are harder to hang, though. But in the same room as those Warhol nudes, I have these amazing Ellsworth Kelly paintings of slits. So that room has become a themed room. It’s the vagina room.

Q: What about real vaginas? Did you ever have girlfriends?

Ford: Yes, yes, absolutely. And I liked it and I liked them, but I prefer men. And I’ve been with my partner [Vogue Hommes International editor Richard Buckley] for seventeen years.

Q: Would you like to have kids?

Ford: I’d love to, but Richard is firm about not having them, so, you know, I guess not at the moment.

Q: Do you find that men feel threatened by you?

Ford: I don’t think so. I usually try to seduce them. I suppose I try to seduce everybody.

Q: You are well known for your sex appeal and for selling sex; making sexy clothes. Is sex something you think about consciously when you are designing a collection?

Ford: I suppose everything I do has sexual undertones, but I don’t set out to make everything about sex. My clothes are more about sensuality. What I do is dress and beautify the body. My feeling is, if you have something beautiful, then show it. I don’t start out by saying to myself, What can I do that’s sexy? It’s more that what I find beautiful is also sexy and sensual. That doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily making clothing to go out and pick someone up in.

Q: Is there a particular zone you home in on, in terms of designing clothes for women?

Ford: The hips. Hips are absolutely key to every shape I do, because whatever you do at the top or bottom, you want to keep it slim and narrow on the hips. One thing is for certain: No one, man or woman, wants big hips.

Q: Is there anything a woman should absolutely not wear?

Ford: Yeah. Anything she isn’t comfortable in.

Q: Has New York—and the life you led here during the late seventies, at Studio 54 and all of that—been an important influence in your work?

Ford: I love New York. It’s given me so much as a designer. When I moved here, I wanted to tap into the glamour of the city immediately. More than anywhere else, New York offers itself up—you arrive and get a rush in a flash. It’s dazzling. Everywhere you look, there is decoration, from a pair of jewel-encrusted shoes in the window in Bergdorf Goodman to the Chrysler Building. And New York is incredibly democratic. Everyone is packed into this tiny space. You are confronted with all manner of people, and I love that.

Q: Do you think the kind of carnival energy of Studio 54 will return?

Ford: Oh, sure. Maybe not to New York for a while. Right now, we’re having one of those in-between times of rest and recuperation, but you can’t get too down about it. Soon enough, the time will come when everyone thinks: I’m tired of feeling depressed, I’m tired of not buying anything, and I’m tired of never going out. Let’s throw a party. New York is always changing, and it will change again. But I do think not being able to smoke in a bar is carrying things too far.

Q: Has the recession affected the way you work?

Ford: I think the world around you should always seep into your work. My last show for YSL was full of color and pattern: color, color, color. And I think that was a reaction to what is going on right now; a desire for happiness and life, for excitement and escape. Fashion is, after all, a form of escapism, and in fact people are buying more special things than ever, right now. They deny and deny themselves, and wait and wait, and then they get sick of it and spend to make themselves feel better.

Q: Can you remember the first extravagant piece of clothing you bought?

Ford: It was a pair of white Gucci loafers. I was 13 years old. I had to have them. I drove my mother crazy until she got them for me.

Q: The Gucci man and woman are quite defined now; would you be comfortable handing the reins over to someone else?

Ford: I have no plans to hand over either collection. I don’t want to get into that at all. I’m not going anywhere. I love what I do.

Q: But you recently sold a lot of shares.

Ford: I did, but I sell some shares every few years, so there was nothing unusual in that.

“Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration.”

Q: Is the House of Gucci planning on doing any more shopping?

Ford: Not for the moment, no. We’ve got ten amazing brands. That’s enough for now.

Q: What is your relationship with your business partner Domenico De Sole like?

Ford: It’s great. We are similar in that we are both competitive, but very different in terms of our eyes and brains. We had a famous first argument, and we’ve been through a lot together, but Domenico is honest. I would trust him with my life.

Q: What was the argument about?

Ford: It was in a handbag meeting in the factory, in 1994. Domenico interrupted me. I screamed at him and told him he couldn’t ever ever do that to me again. We screamed at each other like crazy. Since then, our roles have been clearly defined, and there haven’t been any more problems.

Q: Is it true you get only three hours of sleep a night?

Ford: Sometimes I sleep even less. I find I can get so much done between midnight and 4 a.m. Everything is quiet, no one is disturbing me, and if I go to bed then, I just lie awake thinking of ideas. They are very creative hours for me. One night a week I crash out, though.

Q: What are you proudest of?

Ford: My personal relationships, and the fact that I’ve been able to maintain them for so long. I’ve had most of my friends since I was 16, 17, 21 years old. And a lot of people have been working for me for twelve, thirteen years. I’m very proud of that.

Q: Do you dance?

Ford: Of course I dance! I went to a party in Milan just the other day where I danced.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

Ford: Life. It sounds corny, but it’s true. People always ask me how I start a collection, and I tell them that I just look around. What am I tired of? What am I in the mood for? Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration.

We’ll meet another designer next time..


October 31, 2008 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Fashion Show: The Buyers

Let’s take a look at the driving force behind the fashion show: the buyers. Fashion houses put on shows and parade their newest designs for the buyers to scrutinize and decide what they want to order for their respective stores and clients. Most of the audience you see at fashion shows surrounding the runways are buyers surveying the latest designs.

I want your job: FASHION BUYER

‘You need to have creative vision’

Lindsey Friedman, 27, is a product development manager at John Lewis department store in London, where she is in charge of buying men’s branded casualwear.

What do you actually do?

I work with clothing suppliers to select and build the perfect range of clothes for our target customer. I need to find the right balance between choosing some quirky, on-trend fashion pieces, as well as other clothes, such as classic white T-shirts, which I know will sell really well. A lot of the job involves building relationships with our suppliers, negotiating prices and making sure that deliveries of new stock arrive on time. I also work with department managers and a merchandising team within the store to build my vision.

What’s your working pattern like?

It’s very fast-paced. There are two key seasons: in January and February, I buy clothes for the following autumn in six months’ time, and in August, I buy clothes for the coming spring collection. During those seasons, I travel to a lot of trade shows in Barcelona and Florence on big buying trips. Day to day, I usually get in at about 8.30am and work until 6.30pm.

I look at budgets and gross profits, and work out how much I have to spend and how much I need to make in sales for the year. I also keep an eye on sales, monitoring our bestselling clothes and getting them back on to the shop floor quickly, before they sell out.

What’s the best thing about it?

The most satisfying thing for me has been building my department into a credible fashion destination. People often think about John Lewis as just a place to buy their cushions, so we’ve had to shout about the fact that we do fashion, not just homeware. When you’ve spent months planning a new collection, seeing it hit the shop floor is so exciting. It’s amazing when we take a gamble and include a quirky, unusual look and it takes off and sells really well.

What’s not so great about it?

It’s my job to stay on top of the trends and create newness. If I want to try out a new brand, I have to drop an existing brand, even if we’ve always had a long working relationship. That can be unpleasant. You have to take the emotion out of it and remember that it’s business. On the other side, we’re playing catch-up in fashion terms, and sometimes we get rejected too. There are cool brands of clothing that we’d like to sell that don’t want too many accounts, so they won’t let us stock them.

What skills do you need to be a great buyer?

Any type of fashion degree is a good way to start – my degree was in textiles and apparel management. But the main thing is to get retail experience by working on the shop floor. You need to be really enthusiastic and motivated. You have to be strategic, analytical and very well- organised, and you need to have a creative vision of what the perfect collection should look like. And you also need to be numerate, because you need to balance your budget.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a buyer?

The first thing is to get some retail experience. Many big department stores run executive training programmes, and if you can get a place on one, it will move you up the ladder very quickly, from being a buyer’s administrative assistant, to an assistant buyer to a junior buyer. You need to keep on top of the fashion industry and keep reading fashion magazines. Learn as much as you can about the product you are buying, and think about the target customer you are selling to.

What’s the salary and career path like?

At the lower end, a buyer’s administrative assistant might earn £20,000 a year, but an experienced buyer might earn more than £40,000. You can work your way up to become a buying manager for a department store, or move into the supply side. Tons of people dream of opening boutiques, but it’s very risky.


October 29, 2008 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Fashion Show: Male Models

While female fashion models generally get all the attention in the media, men battle it out on the runways as well. Let’s meet some of fashion’s leading models:

Mathias Lauridsen: Hailing from Denmark, Mathias is currently the top ranked model according to

Interviews with Matt Gordon, Stan Jouk, Tom W, Philip Huang, Blaine Cook, Sam Saffman, Chad White, Joshua Walter

While the men likely work as many shows and do as many shoots as the women, it seems that they take themselves much less seriously and enjoy their time as models more. Most of the guys were extremely laid back in their interview and talked about how they stumbled into modeling as a career. On the other hand, women generally strive to become models and take many steps just to get noticed.

Check back soon for the next segment..


October 26, 2008 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Fashion Show: The Models

Whenever we think of fashion, of the first things that comes to mind, is the omnipresent model. Model has become a part of our everyday culture, no longer just linked to those who strut their stuff on runways all over the world. In this spirit, many may have lost sight of the real model, what their life is like, and even who they are. Let’s meet a couple:

As the videos demonstrate, the often glamorized and misleading media portrayals of models are off-base. While they do enjoy their share of celebrity, models have serious work to do to get and stay in the positions they now find themselves in. For example, Gisele Bundchen lamented she was doing around 100 shows a season. Chanel Iman finds herself in the position that Gisele was once in, working nearly every show of the season just to get her name out there and increase her popularity as she gears up for an entry into other fields. Finally, Jaslene Gonzalez talks about the excitement about entering the modeling world, but then discusses the dangers of working in a field that so many work so hard to break into. She notes that many girls eat disturbingly small amounts of food and endure eating disorders simply to position themselves to apply to be a model.

That’s all for our look into female models for now, next time we will look at the male model.


October 22, 2008 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Runways: Part 2

Last time, we took a look an a contained, yet effective and innovative Versace runway design that focused on a single model walking a single path. Let’s turn out attention to a stunning Prada runway that refuses to be confined under the stereotypical image of a runway we have engrained in our minds.

Much like Versace in their men’s show, we can see that Prada exerted a great time of time and effort along with expending a large sum of money in creating their runway design. However, the similarities between the runways end there. Prada took on a three-pronged design that was designed to create a sort of controlled confusion. Models would either emerge from the center, as in a typical set-up or from the right side entrance and make a semi-circle around the stage, never striking the standard model pose.

Everything about this design was innovative, from the extravagant and sensual runway design to the off-the-beaten-path music selection. Bathed in gold lighting, only slightly elevated from the ground, and surrounded at times by columns, the design created an intimate atmosphere that stood out from every other fashion house. Moreover, the unique music selection slowed down the show for the models and the audience and added to the creative atmosphere Prada was going for.

We have covered a couple types of vastly different, yet very effective runway designs utilized by fashion houses as they strive to display their product in the most appealing and innovative manner. Next time, we will cover the models and take a behind the scenes look at a couple.


October 20, 2008 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

The Fashion Show: Runways

Our first section will cover the most publicized and one of the most important aspects of the fashion world, the fashion show. This is where the designers take their products to the the people and media.

An integral part of the fashion show is the runway and its own design. Let’s take a look at a clip of a fashion show first:

In its show, Versace is embracing the individuality of the model through the runway design. The deep black theme, contrasted only by the single Versace logo places all attention solely on the model and the designer’s clothes gracing the runway. While many designers choose to litter the runway and entire hall with lights, glitz, and glamor Versace went with a minimalist design that works very well with the line that they introduced and the demeanor of the models. In addition, the small, contained runway design creates a personable atmosphere and fosters a strong connection between the models (and clothing) and the audience.

Next time, we’ll take a look at a contrasting runway design and see how it works.


October 17, 2008 at 10:19 pm Leave a comment

The Transition

We are going to shift gears and narrow the focus of this blog to refine what we talk about and make some progress. The entries from now on will generally focus on a specific area of fashion in-depth, enriching your understanding of that area and, as a result, fashion on the whole. In addition to the focus on specific areas of fashion, we will take a look at some interviews of leaders in the industry to gain perspective from those who know it best. Finally, we will continue to keep an eye on new trends that pop up and also take a look at some smaller designers who are making strides.

October 13, 2008 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

Skinny or Bust?

I want to talk about the pervasive influence of fashion and image in the Italian, and specifically Milanese culture. Anywhere you look in Milan, you’ll find beautiful people, skinny to the bone, and draped in the finest fashion one can find behind the Duomo. While aesthetically pleasing, I soon realized that there was something truly disturbing about Milan’s fascination with fashion and concept of beauty.

My travels this semester have taken me to nearly every corner of Italy, from Capri and Naples to Venice and Lake Como. As I wandered the cobblestone-laden paths of these cities, I noticed many similarities in the architecture and way of life throughout the country. However, one aspect of Italian culture was noticeably different: the people.

People all over, whether it be in Rome or Parma, sit down to hearty meals with an appetite for food. The resulting body types are full, curvaceous, and attractive. However, the Milanese seem to have a fight to the bottom of the scales, a sort of constant race from food. It is truly disappointing to see a city with so much energy and character to be so shallow in the way it sees people. While Americans are essentially a foil to the Milanese, there is a lesson to be learned. We have plenty of people who are overweight and out of shape (too many, to be honest), but lack of obsession with image leads to a more relaxed and accepting culture.

I have been carefully observing the people of this city and I am always hard pressed to find anyone who is even slightly overweight. While this would generally be considered a good thing, the ramifications for someone who is overweight and the lengths to which people go to avoid it are frightening. Many a times, I have heard talk of skipping meals, eating a select few foods everyday, or more direct references to eating disorders.

Let me help you all visualize what the typical Milanese woman is expected to look like (as dictated by the media and culture):

Off to Dinner =]


October 8, 2008 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

High fashion goes printed?

Fendi sends out a another uninspired, printed dress.

Fendi sends out a another uninspired, printed dress.

Yet another printed mess, this one from Gucci.

Yet another printed mess, this one from Gucci.

A few of the big houses seem off this year, especially with the rash of printed dresses we’ve seen on Milan’s runways. Most of these dresses look like something you could buy from from Charlotte Russe (a typical American thrift clothing store), not an inspired, intricate piece you are willing to spend a paycheck on.

– Binoy

October 2, 2008 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

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