Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Real Deal......Fashion that keeps the Shops Alive.

I'm always Reading, Choking, Heaving, Hissing and Spitting over those considered to be THE IMPORTANT DESIGNERS. At first I thought it was a HAIR BALL until my therapist finally got through to me.The leaders of the pack are selling the MASSES their particular BRAND of MYSTERY MEAT. Well, there is a scant bit of truth in it, but way more NOXIOUS GAS and CRACKED MIRRORS . The FACTS of LIFE are this: (sit down and listen closely to FLUFF, because I would never lie to you or try to frighten you....this HURTS ME more than it will HURT YOU)......Fashion MAGAZINES are CLUELESS. They don't mean to be but they can't help it. None of them wants to be out of step. It's cold and scary out there alone.
So we're told that SO and SO this and YADDA-YADDA that, are the CAT'S MEOW.These are the designers who are supposedly the life force of the INDUSTRY. If you look closely at the ZINES, then go to an actual STORE,what you'll find are windows full of these PERPS WORK but actual departments filled with other merchandise.
The shop in shops display their WEARS peopled with a smattering of shoppers, usually more when there is a 70% OFF SALE. The EDGIEST of the MOMENT SHOPPER( suckers for a 15 minute thrill) will help to fuel this Myth, but BUY in LARGE, the action is happening off stage and slightly to the left.
The BEDROCK of the luxury business is rather a large group of DESIGNERS who are rarely talked or written about. They are often crammed onto a rack by color and almost never by name. The same can be said for sportswear designers. But still the EVENING clothes that sell most consistently off the racks and through TRUNK SHOWS are from Designers like Angel Sanchez, Heidi Weisel, Robert Danes and others. These men and women sell steadily, season after season, to a very loyal and growing group of ladies. I'm talking about women from a cross section of the SOCIAL STRATA. The same women who own Oscar de la Fabulous, ChadoRalphRucci, CarolinaHerrera,Valentino,and Chanel , fill and FILL-IN their wardrobes with the work of these American Masters. She can easily buy 2 pieces of theirs for 1 piece of the others. This INTREPID shopper, the one not blinded by the Conde Nast Codex, wants to look original, at occasions that happen and matter most EVERYDAY and NIGHT:LIFE .There are other events the MAGS rarely if ever make reference to: THE BAR or BAT MITZVAH, the WEDDING, the MOTHER OF, the GUEST, or the occasion of the BLACK TIE.
In SOCIAL CIRCLES the same people hang with the same people. There are those who are LABEL-OBSESSED favoring the flavor of the moment, no matter how BLAND, but others want to show up in something not splashed over the pages of every magazine. She'd actually like to wear a design that says "Look at ME FIRST" and the dress second. These designers create a' MYSTERE'. Women rarely fail to look CHIC and Modern in their clothes. For this reason, word gets around that wearing the work of some of these designers is a Wise Investment. They are not EVERYWHERE, they don't age or become dated in a season or less. There is a TIMELINESS and TIMELESSNESS to much of their work that allow women to wear it agin and again over many years. This is a good thing. VALUE means VALUE . GREAT still means GREAT.
I love seeing someone with style, no matter how QUIRKY, and asking them who made that? Women love to be asked that question, ESPECIALLY when it's a design that's NOT from one of the usual SUSPECTS. They feel all the better for stepping out of the PACK and jumping to higher ground. Not slavishly following the Fashion Herd.
Go to Bergdorf Goodman, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and ask an INFORMED Sales Associate,"Who sells well in this dept?". She will very often say these above mentioned designers for a number of reasons. Let's face it ...WOMEN WANT TO STAND OUT... They want to look young,beautiful, alluring and of the moment. It's harder to do that in clothes that never for a moment take their needs and wishes into account. Status label packs are much like a roomful of tuxedoed men . A sea of SAMENESS.
This brings me to try to figure out why these relatively UNKNOWN Designers remain RELATIVELY unknown. The single largest reason is probably MONEY. They own and support their own businesses without partners. They are not out to SHOCK and THRILL the press. Therefore, this creates a MISCONCEPTION that they aren't important. 'They aren't PUSHING the ENVELOPE', some might say. Their clothes are ORIGINAL, COUTURE quality in workmanship and fabrication but not out to turn the world on it's head. You might go so far as to say "These clothes are SAFE". That is TRUE and FALSE. BEAUTIFUL does not have to equal STRANGE or OVER WROUGHT. The pressures of survival can have an effect on the most IMPERVIOUS of people. So a valid criticism of these unheralded designers could be that they are too much of this world. GROUNDED vs. UNTETHERED. Perhaps GROUNDED is the new BORING. They rarely appear on editorial pages , though they often have GREAT collections , POETIC, but they fail to get CONSIDERED.
The problem lies more with the consumer. The VAST MAJORITY of WOMEN may look at these magazines, titillated by the inventiveness of the UNWEARABLE andUNAFFORDABLE. But the BOTTOM LINE is , SHE IS NOT A RISK TAKER. Looking cool does not mean looking like a fool. Perhaps 'FASHIONISTA' is another way of saying:'VICTIM'.
These designers build their businesses keeping in mind these shifting paradigms ,blending them with their own particular AESTHETICS. NOT second guessing the buyer or the client , but INCLUDING HER in their own CREATIVE PROCESSES.
I keep one eye open for what comes out of those HOUSES to see REAL vs.MEMOREX. You see it in Isabel Toledo, Eskandar, Shawn Ray Fons, and others. Granted, this is a very mixed group of HOUSES,what they share in common is a true following. Young Ladies as well as the more MATURE consistently buy season after season. The numbers in sales is consistent and often better in the end compared to the TOUTED names and INFLATED numbers because it is pure profit.These designers don't have as large a burden of commitment costing hard dollars. Charge backs are not as crippling , and advertising agreements are sometimes shared by the store.
The down side is that the store in turn doesn't pump much money into promotion (THOUGH THEY SHOULD OUT OF GOOD MERCHANTS' SENSE) and make TONS of it off the backs of these HARD WORKING designers. SOMETHING for NOTHING.
The next time you're shopping for something special,hang a left, dig a little deeper and look for these guys. Chances are YOU will be the BEACON at your next gig, the ENVY of all.

Never doubt for a NEW YORK minute.......You're wearing the REAL DEAL.

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