My name is Melissa Kaplan Guarino. Welcome to Turning Fashion Inside Out! I believe there is a connection between fashion and self-esteem and I am interested in understanding that relationship. Tell me … What is your story?
“I use so many processes in my work – some that involve the hand and some that involve the machine. For me, mixing the hand and the machine give the best results. I don’t think the hand or the machine have any use or value on their own. What matters is the form in relationship with the idea.” ~ Miuccia Prada
“In a way, the hand is being lost today. It’s important to me that a piece of clothing always feels like it has been touched by the hand at some point, even if there’s a lot of machine work involved.” ~ Sarah Burton
With just a week before it closed, I explored the exhibit at the Met: “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” I was extra lucky to experience it with costume designer and new friend, Katherine Winter, who has shared her story on TFIO. To see it through Katherine’s eyes, with her love of fabric and texture and construction, made this experience even more meaningful for me. Continue reading
“First I made a dress because I was pregnant and I wanted to be the most beautiful pregnant woman. Then I made a sweater because I wanted to have one that wasn’t like anyone else’s.“ ~ Sonia Rykiel
And it wasn’t like anyone else’s. Fashion designer Sonia Rykiel designed with women and beauty in mind; in a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Ms. Rykiel created clothing for the woman who wanted great style and value. The sad news from Paris yesterday that Sonia Rykiel died at the age of 86 leaves the fashion world a little darker. Reading about the life of Ms. Rykiel I am struck by her creativity and willingness to take risks.
In 1961, when she was pregnant with her second child, Ms. Rykiel began designing clothing that celebrated her body and the joy she felt to be pregnant. She wasn’t seeing maternity clothes that reflected her attitude – at that time maternity wear was designed to cover and hide. She started with a single dress: “I wanted to show the world how happy I was,” Ms. Rykiel told Newsweek in 1976. “My mother-in-law was scandalized, but my friends asked how they could find one like it.” She forged ahead without any formal design training – just her instinct – opening her first boutique on Paris’s Left Bank in 1968 with maternity wear and poor-boy knits (for which she was best known), developing a following and huge popularity. She continued to design chic, ready-to-wear pieces that were appreciated by women of all ages, without an age group in mind.
I find it interesting that Sonia Rykiel is likened to Coco Chanel because of the way their designs freed women from the outdated fashion restrictions of their day. Both were risk-takers and pioneers. And quintessentially French. In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy named her a grand commander of the legion for lifetime service to the French fashion industry. Yes, a true Parisian treasure.
Last week Madonna traveled to Havana, Cuba, with family and friends – to celebrate her 58th birthday. She posted this image on her Instagram – one of many from her trip – wearing white lace accented with red, to match the white and red of this ’57 Chevy. It’s the Madonna I know – looking Like-Her-Virgin self, having a fashion moment for us to enjoy. There is something about this image and this story that really touches me. I love Madonna’s style, I love that her celebration involved dancing on conga lines and on tables – enjoying the music scene with the locals, and I love that she was there with her children and her old friends Debi Mazar and Rosie O’Donnell.
What is it that draws me to it? Is it that I will be celebrating my 58th birthday in a few years? Is it my own Latin roots? Maybe. But I think it has more to do with feeling a part of it. And just seeing Madonna Havana Good Time!
Fashion designer Borris Powell is special – one of a kind. When I first interviewed him I was struck by his story; growing up in the projects of Alabama and taking a leap of faith to follow his dreams to be a fashion designer by relocating to Chicago. He left everything he knew to build his own fashion brand. His life is the ultimate testament to perseverance and optimism. And this Sunday, Borris is taking another leap of faith as he undergoes a new adventure – this times it’s a reality show on Amazon Prime called Prana Warriors. Borris will be traveling to Mexico, as part of a cast of four people – four survivors who have overcome extreme obstacles in their own lives – to inspire and serve orphans and make a difference in theirs. Says Borris: “I signed up to do the show for a couple of reasons: one, it’s a positive show about giving back and paying-it-forward. This matters very much to me. Years ago, when I was first trying to get into the industry, someone I had trusted hurt me very much. In that moment I knew that I would never be the kind of person to say no to anyone in need. I have a chance to help others. The other, is to see if I can follow the practice of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation that will be the cornerstone of the show.”
A special fashion note: during the filming Borris will be wearing shorts designed by fellow fashion designer, good friend, and Project Runway contestant, Peach Carr (from her new line, ‘The Lobster Collection’).
Borris will alert me when the show airs. For now, I will wish him well as he travels to Mexico to begin the adventure. And once again feel inspired by his positive attitude and ability to take risks to make things better for himself and the world around him.
Several years ago my Cousin Michelle surprised me with my Grandma Eleanor’s watch. Michelle wanted me to have it – this beautiful Longines white gold watch. My Grandpa had given it to her for a special wedding anniversary and when I held it in my hands I knew I would treasure it forever. I made it my own when I took in a few of the links and started to wear it every day. Little did I know that my Grandma wore this same watch, every day herself. When Michelle told me recently that every one of her memories of our Grandma were of her wearing this watch, I was moved. I loved my Grandma Eleanor dearly; to think that we share this piece of jewelry is like having her squeeze my hand and letting me know she is still with me. Strong magic for a piece of jewelry.
“I wanted to have a deeper and bigger conversation about fashion. Fashion can no longer be an exclusive club for a certain size only. Fashion is an idea, it’s a dream, it’s an emotion, it’s an aspiration that should be allowed for various people who understand your aesthetic.“ – Prabal Gurung
I was one of the throngs who ran-didn’t-walk to the Prabal Gurung/Target collaboration a few years ago; a chance to own something from this fresh, new designer was too compelling. And I ended up with a summer dress and crystal necklace that I would never have been able to afford otherwise. In this new interview with Gurung, he addresses this collaboration with Target and the one next year with Lane Bryant: “I’ve always wanted to create a luxury brand with a soul. When you’re at a certain price point, you’re already alienating a lot of your consumer base.”
Gurung goes on to say that there is sizeism in the fashion world – no doubt about it. He says it is getting better and that the conventional idea of beauty is “no longer a size zero” but there is still a long way to go. I love that he is willing to change the conversation and bring his brand to a higher standard. I love that Gurung, who is from Napal, embraces not only his heritage but also the knowledge that he grew up different and that difference led to the right path for him. And I love that Gurung started a foundation (The Shikshya Foundation Nepal to educate poor children) that is actually saving lives and making a difference. I think he is achieving his goal of creating a luxury brand with a soul.
“The cosmetic companies have everyone brainwashed. I don’t retouch anything.” ~ Peter Lindbergh
Next month, 71 year-old renowned fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh will have an exhibition of his work, “A Different Vision on Fashion Photography,” opening in Rotterdam. The Guardian’s Tamsin Blanchard interviewed Lindbergh and addressed why he does not follow the cosmetic industry’s standard of beauty and perfection. Says Lindbergh, “I don’t retouch anything. ‘Oh, but she looks tired!’ they say. So what if she looks tired? Tired and beautiful.’”
Lindbergh’s natural and truthful approach to photo-storytelling is awe-inspiring. How I wish I could be in Rotterdam this September and see his work up close.
Yesterday’s New York Times’ Metropolitan Section featured a story about an East Village shop, owned by couple, Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal. The Goyals have owned Dress Shoppe II since 1878 when it was originally, Dress Shoppe. Mr. Goyal has garnered favorites of the shop, where the main offering is Indian clothing made of cotton, silk and linen – and where his business philosophy is full of kharmic charm: “Just relax, and if you feel something, buy it. We want only happy money.” Among the favorites is costume designer, Katie Novello, who shopped at Dress Shoppe II to buy outfits for the cast of Hulu show, “The Path.” “It is a treasure trove,” according to Novello, who, as a costume designer spends huge amounts of time shopping for the perfect pieces to tell a character’s story.
The Goyals were about to close shop at the end of the year but they received so many letters from customers that they decided to postpone their retirement until 2018, which will be the store’s 40 anniversary. I must make a trip to this shop – this magical place where fabrics only sell for ‘Happy Money’ – and meet the Goyals myself. I love their message!
I have been on vacation this week. After spending a few days in a lovely beach town, I was reminded of an essential fashion fact: stay true to your own style. This is a lesson hard-learned, especially growing up a woman. It starts in the middle school years – that feeling that you have to look like everyone else in order to fit in. And so you tell your mom that you have to have a certain kind of clothing in order to be successful (your mom, wanting to help you, will be tempted to succumb to your whims in order to help!). It gets better once you enter high school and begin the process of wanting to stand out – even if just a bit. And so you experiment with new styles and explore different attitudes, but the truth is that the need to fit in rears its head at different points in your life, especially when you find yourself in new environments. It did again for me when I started college – a very preppy college – and found myself in a sea of pink and green with nothing to wear! (I have shared the story of how my darling mother bought me several fair isle sweaters in various colors while on my first break from school freshman year. I returned with my sweaters and wore them a few times before leaving them in the closet for good and embracing my true style). Moving on in life, with each new setting, with each transition, the need to fit in is a tempting pull.
But the beauty of growing up and finding your way is identifying when you know yourself and your style. And even though you may feel unsure entering a new environment, you eventually realize that your individual style is what will help you feel stronger – on your own. When I walked through this beautiful town on the beach I wanted very much to treat myself to a piece of clothing – something that would always remind me of being on holiday. But I couldn’t find it. Everything looked the same to me and though the style of the town was lovely – it wasn’t mine. I didn’t want to look like everyone else; I wanted to look like me. So I left the beach having bought nothing, wearing my tried-and-true jean shorts with a tee, and the last favorite article of clothing I bought on summer holiday a few years ago: my black dress.
Even in the heat of summer days and nights there are times when you need a little cover. The trick is to find one that is functional and lightweight but at the same time fashionable. A few years ago the silk bomber jacket made its way into the fashion scene because of its style and versatility. I loved the trend but I didn’t like the high prices and I waited a long time to purchase one. When I saw this G by Giuliana paisley print on HSN I knew it was the one for me – and the price was right – under $100. I paired it with this black lace top and a good cup of coffee for the perfect accents to my day.