Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DVF Goes to ‘Town’ (Hall, that is)

Yesterday morning, CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg presided over a Town Hall Meeting held at FIT’s Katie Murphy Auditorium. It was part ‘cheering section’ and part, ‘fashion call to arms’ (Who can forget that now famous mantra, “Can’t we all get along?”) With a large screen emblazoned with the words, “New York Fashion Week- Looking Forward” serving as a backdrop behind both Diane and the organization’s Executive Director Steven Kolb, (who stood together on the stage), it was obvious what the topic du jour would be (not that there was any question about that at all).

This event came about not only as a way for DVF to start an important dialogue and make things happen, but to help the designing woman effectively “process all the thoughts” that have come into her head beginning last October, when “things went really bad”, prompting calls to retailers in a frenzied attempt to find out what was going on and to see “what we could all do”.

“I always try to look for the light at the end of the tunnel” she said. “Last October, things went really bad. Everybody went too far. Everyone was too greedy and thought the party was forever. All of a sudden, it was too much of everything. Everything went too far”. (Among her remedies?: “Reduce offerings and create the demand. A better product at a better price equals more value.”)

Among those influential fashion heavy hitters in attendance (editors, designers, retailers, publicists, etc.) were WWD’s Executive Editor Bridget Foley, Donna Karan, Fern Mallis, Stan Herman, Neiman’s Roopal Patel, KCD’s Ed Filipowski and Julie Mannion, the designing duo behind Proenza Schouler, Betsey Johnson, Marylou Luther, Dennis Basso, Conde Nast’s Jonathan Newhouse, Vogue’s Sally Singer, Candy Pratts Price, Andre Leon Talley, Virginia Smith, and last but not least, Anna Wintour, (whose conceptualization of “Fashion’s Night Out”, www.fashionsnightout.com, a CFDA sponsored, global shopping event which will kick off New York Fashion Week on September 10th, received kudos from all).

After her quick greetings and open remarks, the ‘Type A’ personality multi-tasker got right down to the sobering business at hand. She admitted having been up since “3:30 this morning”, and wasted no time in highlighting the pressing issues that have been tantamount to her and everyone else in attendance. The dialogue and discussions to follow would center on the concept of ‘trade vs. consumer’, the never ending seasons, the issue of markdowns and discounting, the relevance of fashion shows (who are they for and are they necessary?), and how to make New York Fashion Week the best in the world.

Since the session was only an hour and a half, Steven Kolb diplomatically asked those who would be called upon to make their feeling known, to keep their words as brief as possible. He also promised an email address to go to, fashionweek@cfda.com, for those who wanted to make their thoughts, comments, and suggestions, known.

These are some of the highlights of the session:

DVF: When you’re in the midst of a Tsunami, you can’t change everything all at once.”

“There has to be a balance. We live in a world of immediacy. Sell a little bit of ‘wear now’ and a little bit of fall. We should ship less but more often.”

“The issue is trade versus consumer.”

“Retailers are not the end. Nor is the press. They are all a part of the distribution. We all have to support each other so we can survive. It’s important that we’re all together. We’re not enemies; we’re friends.”

“I want to make New York Fashion Week the best fashion week in the world. Part trade, part consumer. We can’t fix everything all at once and we need each other and shows are relevant. We will work together and work with the city. We all have to vote for Bloomberg. ‘Fashion Night Out’ will begin this. There should be a Fashion Week that is trade, and a Fashion Week that says, “SHOP”! We have to drum up excitement and create momentum. Lincoln Center promises a dynamic Fashion Week. We should look at the positive and build on the positive.”

Donna Karan: “The final answer is the consumer. She is now completely confused. It’s no wonder she’s saying “enough”. We have to focus on the problem and find a solution. The clothes in the stores are not the clothes that are in season. We have all these pre season seasons.”

Ed Filipowski: “Having 4 or 5 seasons a year makes it very confusing.”
“The media landscape has changed and pr people have to adapt at the changing times.”

Sara Easley (co-owner, Kirna Zabete): “It’s all about the economics of supply and demand. There’s been too much supply and not enough demand. Also, designers have to edit their collections better.”

Betsey Johnson: “I’d love a show at Madison Square Garden. I’m lucky because I have a retail operation. What I’m seeing is more spending on incredibly unique things that are as seasonless as possible, and where prices are down.”

Stan Herman: “I think the shows are relevant; they are what put us on the map!”

Sally Singer: “The big problem is the incredible overproduction and overstocking. Produce a little less and the consumer will feel more confident about the value she’s getting.”

Fern Mallis: “This discussion is absolutely relevant and important. The shows began as a press vehicle and they succeeded well past our wildest expectations. It wasn’t fashion’s fault people stopped shopping. It was Wall Street’s fault. Nobody in this room probably needs one new anything but that’s not the point. It’s the job of the designer to create dreams and items that become desirous by the consumer.”

Anna Wintour: “There is a deep psychological block on the part of the consumer NOT to buy, but we all need your help for “Fashion’s Night Out”

“Could someone lead a committee that regulates discounting and makes rules about discounting? I know that’s a tall order but can’t there be an agreement about everybody discounting at the same time?”

--Marilyn Kirschner


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“Geoffrey Beene – An American Fashion Rebel”

The late designer was remembered last evening at the CFDA’s celebration of the publication “Geoffrey Beene – An American Fashion Rebel.” The CFDA book, written by Kim Hastreiter (co-founder and co-editor of PAPER magazine), is published by ASSOULINE Inc. Kim, who was busy all night signing books for a never ending line of buyers said, “Mr. Beene inspired me and hopefully this book will inspire others.” It has been just over four years since Geoffrey Beene’s passing and Ms. Hastreiter’s tribute to the great designer attracted a vast and diverse crowd of his admirers.

The party took place at Diane von Furstenberg’s store on West 14th Street. Among the attendees were; Kim Hastreiter, Mickey Boardman, Diane von Furstenberg, Stan Herman, Yeohlee Teng, Ralph Rucci, Ronaldus Shamask, J. Mendel, Bill Cunningham, Randy Brooke (whose 1992 Beene photo is used for the cover), Carlos Falchi, Joan Vass, Richard Mauro, Ruth Finley, Koos van den Akker, Jeffrey Banks, Yigal Azrouel, Adi, Ange & Gabi (Three as Four).

Geoffrey Beene was known for his originality, staying true to himself and not following the rules. The “rebel” emerged when Beene dropped out of medical school as he realized his passion while sketching dresses in his Grey’s Anatomy book. His approach to design was sculptural. Thinking and styling in a three dimensional manner rather than flat, he managed to work with the body in unique, flattering ways. This creative vision coupled with his respect for women (due to his Louisiana gentleman upbringing) produced wearable and memorable clothes. Fabric was the key element as Beene determined design based on drape and color. Graphics and geometry were important and the use of the triangle was a constant, showing up in different techniques and treatments. Beene was never afraid to mix the unexpected and although he was quite serious about his work, he infused a sense of wit and humor into his clothes.

Not only was Geoffrey Beene highly regarded as a designer, he was also revered for his philanthropic nature. All net profits from Geoffrey Beene, LLCC fund the philanthropy which now totals more than $140 million. The lead causes are Cancer (over $100 million to the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center) and Scholarships at the CFDA and YMA. Other causes include Heart Disease, Alzheimer's, Protection of Women and Children (Family Violence Prevention Fund), and Protection of Animals Tom Hutton, (President and CEO of Geoffrey Beene, Inc.) through the Foundation helped fund the establishment of the GEOFFREY BEENE DESIGN SCHOLAR AWARD. And in 2007 a $5 million dollar gift greatly expanded the CFDA's core scholarship program.

Fashion misses Geoffrey Beene, however, his work will continue to inspire, influence, and motivate. He will forever be known as a creative icon and Kim’s book is a fitting homage to his legend.

-Stacy Lomman

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

CFDA "Cop-out" Over Thin Model Controversy

Diane Von Furstenberg, facing her first major issue since assuming the role as the new president of the CFDA issued the following statement regarding the "too thin model controversy": "It is important as a fashion industry to show our interest and see what we can do because we are in the business of image...But I feel like we should promote health as a part of beauty rather than setting rules."

So, after a meeting with industry leaders that included Anna Wintour and several members of her staff (what happened to representatives of other major fashion publications?), health professionals including a nutritionist, psychiatrist, physical trainer, model agency booker and a representative from the pr firm KCD, the best this group could come up were some non-binding "guidelines" for designers that included providing more nutritious food backstage at fashion shows, scheduling fittings earlier in the day for young models, and encouraging them to get more sleep?

The CFDA recommendations fell far short of Madrid's banning models who have a body mass index of less than 18 and the recent "manifesto" by the Italian Chamber of Fashion that proposed models should hold a license issued by a panel of health experts and city officials attesting that they are in good health. And Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, has indicated that he plans no action regarding regulating the weight of models.

Perhaps the best way to approach the issue is to take the decision away from the designers who have neither the training or time to enforce standards and put it in the hands of the doctors? Why not require all models to have a recent certificate (say no more than a month before NY shows) from a doctor stating that he or she is in good health? Certainly most designers, the CFDA and even 7th on Sixth could mutually agree to enforce this minimum requirement?

-Ernest Schmatolla

(For more on the "too thin model" controversy, check out Eric Wilson's article section C page 2 in today's The New York Times)

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