The Queen of Cashmere

Laura Biagiotti, center, with her daughter, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, right, after the presentation of her collection in Milan in September 2011: Credit Daniel Dal Zennaro/European Pressphoto Agency

“Being a fashion designer is like taking vows … It becomes your religion for life.” Laura Biagiotti

Italian fashion designer, Laura Biagiotti, died last Friday in Rome at 73 years old. I didn’t know her, I didn’t know about her business, I didn’t know that her elegant fashions made from fluffy goat’s wool defined her as the global queen of cashmere. But I love her story and it touched me to read it.

Biagiotti was born in 1943, and was envisioning an independent life for herself when she enrolled at a university in Rome to study literature and archaeology. But her life changed course when she was drawn to her family’s dressmaking studio where her mother, Delia Biagiotti, designed the uniforms for Alitalia employees. In 1972, she went into business for herself and presented her own collection by introducing a relatively new material at the time: cashmere. According to the New York Times: “Her original collection was so small, Biagiotti recalled, that at her first show, models wore the same white jacket three times, with two skirts and a dress. She developed a passion for linen and also for the color white, which many mourners wore to her funeral last week.” 

A woman in a profession dominated by men, Biagiotti told an interviewer in 1981 that “a woman designer faces the same odds as a woman trying to get a job as a 747 pilot.” But she did it and by the 1980s she was making her mark. In 1988 she became the first Italian designer to put on a fashion show in China presenting dresses and blouses in silk and cashmere, and in 1995 she was the first to have a show inside the Kremlin walls in Moscow. Today, The House of Biagiotti (based on Via dei Condotti in Rome) is listed among the largest fashion houses in Italy. Her daughter, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, is the creative director of the business and represents the third generation of Biagiotti clothiers.

 

 

 

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Going Back in Time for the Perfect Trouser

I love to take fashion ideas from different decades and mix them into my wardrobe. I am partial to the easy and bohemian style of the 1970s, but one of my favorite all-time looks actually comes from the 1940s: a classic high waist, full leg, trouser. Even better if combined with a silk or satin blouse. There is something about a high waist that is so slimming and flattering. If you have the opportunity, add one to your wardrobe immediately and bring the 40s back to life!

Trouser, Krizia (Italy); blouse Michael Kors; shoes Boden

Photo: Alexandra

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The Journey of Kira’s Prom Dress

Two trips to New York’s Garment District. Two concepts. Two types of fabric. Four hours of assembly and sewing. One incredibly talented artist, visionary, designer, and seamstress … KIRA! One, one of a kind prom dress. One magical Senior Prom.

Here is Kira’s journey in her own words: “Sometimes it’s so easy for me to see a design on the red carpet and I think ‘Oh, that’s exactly what I want!’ so I try to replicate it which is what I tried yo of got my first dress. However, as it came together I realized it just didn’t fit my personality. So I went back and started over using my own designs and ideas and I liked the result so much more. I never expect anything to come out perfect on the first try so I wasn’t surprised that happened. My sewing always takes unexpected twists and turns but in the end, whenever I’m wearing something that’s completely mine, I feel confident and that’s really all I want from this.” ~ Kira Ross Continue reading

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Rising to the Occasion

At 5’4″ I am always looking for a way to stand taller. This spring I found one – with my new wedge sandals by Spanish designer, Pedro Garcia. I had been looking for a unique pair of white sandals – for a long time. I tried several styles and was hoping to find espadrilles but no luck. My search led me instead to this high wedge. I hadn’t intended to go this high but I think I was inspired by Christian Louboutin! If you want to add height but avoid the discomfort of a spiked heel a wedge can feel both tall and solid at the same time. No wobbling and no teetering. I wouldn’t wear these every day but for the days I really want to rise to the occasion? These are my shoes!

Photos by Kendra Olson

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Insult In the Dressing Room

Jeans and a tee – my favorite way to dress

A t-shirt and jeans is pretty much my favorite way to dress. And I am always on the lookout for fresh new t-shirts to add to my repertoire. So today when I found myself in the dressing room with three tees I was hopeful that I would find a new favorite. There was a simple black v-neck (a classic and always a go-to for me), an off-pink (because I love a little pink!) and a greenish-grey with a red strawberry front and center. After trying them all, the one with the most potential was the strawberry tee … but I wasn’t sure if the background color was good for me. I don’t often ask for an outside opinion but I was on the fence and I peeked out of my dressing room to find a mother and daughter team trying on dresses – so I gave it a try and asked their opinions – about the color. I asked if they knew what the color was – blue, green, grey? And then I asked them if the color washed me out. I could tell that the mother wasn’t sure what I was talking about and the daughter looked at me for a moment before telling me that the color was more of a blue-grey. Then she said, ‘it’s a bit Junior, with the strawberry on the front.’ Hmmm. That was unexpected. A bit Junior? Meaning more specifically …. it’s a bit Junior for you! I thanked them (for what – the insult?) and snuck back into my dressing room, took off the tee, replaced it with my white v-neck tee, and promptly left. Continue reading

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Christian Louboutin: “There is a Showgirl in Every Woman”

Post-show, Abrina and I found Jessica, who has worked for Christian Louboutin for 8 years, looking so chic in her shoes and bag. Louboutin says that a heel hight should be no more than 5″ and Jessica agrees: “It’s all about the pitch,” she says.

So, do you want to know the real story behind the iconic and now-trademarked red-lacquered soles of Christian Louboutin shoes? To hear Monsieur Louboutin tell it himself is pure storytelling and the stuff of fashion legend! Inspired by artist Andy Warhol’s bright colors Louboutin says it was watching his assistant, Sandy, paint her nails red that gave him the idea to paint the soles. Louboutin was trying to bring the reality of his designs to life but it didn’t happen until he saw Sandy apply that red nail polish. He grabbed the polish, a fight ensued (Sandy didn’t want to stop polishing with only 2 nails completed!), he won, he grabbed the red polish and painted the black sole of the shoe. Once he saw that red it transformed the shoe and a brand was born! It turned out that red was the perfect choice because women don’t see red as an actual color. In the 90’s when women were wearing black and more black, Louboutin noticed that these very women also wore red nails and red lipstick. When he asked them about the red on their lips and nails, they replied: ‘that is different – that’s not a color!’ – and in that moment Louboutin knew: “If it’s different on the lips, it would be different on the soles.” He had found instant success …

Last night, as I watched Louboutin interviewed by Fern Mallis in her Fashion Icons series at the 92nd Street Y, I was charmed. Quintessentially French, born and raised in Paris, it was clear from the start that Louboutin was a perfect blend of artist and businessman, dreamer and doer. And also a bit of a dickens … Continue reading

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Pippa Middleton Makes A Fashion Move for Her Wedding

Pippa Middleton – getting married! Image courtesy News Group Newspapers LTD

In just a few days Pippa Middleton’s wedding will take place – Saturday, May 20 – and I hear that she may be asking her guests to bring a second outfit for the reception. Apparently, she has several rules for her wedding, but this one feels over-the-top. A bride will sometimes change into a second wedding dress for the reception but to ask guests to do the same is a pricey and anxiety-producing request. Weddings are already expensive. Vogue has labeled this move ‘unusual’ and ‘slightly high maintenance.’

This could be gossip, it could be real – but could this snowball into a real fashion trend for weddings in the future??

 

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The Future of Zero Waste

Daniel Silverstein and Lauren Singer, courtesy of Package Free Shop

The numbers are staggering: The average American produces approximately four and a half pounds of trash per person, per day. My friends, fashion designer and originator of Zero Waste Daniel, Daniel Silverstein and Lauren Singer, creator of Trash for Tossers and an expert on sustainable living, both of whom I have featured several times on TFIO, have taken their commitment to zero waste living to the next level by opening Package Free Shop. Package Free Shop (Brooklyn, NY) is a way for consumers to find a practical space and hub to learn about sustainable living and creating zero waste. “The reason that we started this store was because the hardest part to going waste-free was finding all the tools that you needed to live a sustainable lifestyle in a convenient way … We really believe that every positive change when it comes to the environment and environmental sustainability, is positive.” says Lauren.

I am making my way to Brooklyn to see my friends again, and to learn more and do my part …

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Debra Winger On Aging and Fashion

Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

Last week I found Urban Cowboy on television, one of my favorite films from 1981, for its music and story – but mostly, because of Debra Winger! I loved her in that movie, as Sissy – so sexy in her black cowboy hat and sleeveless tee! That was the moment in her career where Debra Winger was everywhere … and then, she wasn’t. So it was with joy that I found news that Winger was at the Tribeca Film Festival, talking about her new film, The Lovers. Ruth La Ferla interviewed Winger over brunch, and she shared her views on aging and fashion. On aging, Winger says, “It’s hard to accept your aging face. You’ve got to be tough.” On fashion and her evolving style over time her comments made my smile: “It’s all about finding your groove at every age. I refuse to go into the future nomadic,” she all but rasped. “I’m not going to wear some tentlike schmatta that doesn’t say anything.” 

I love it! I, too, think about finding my groove, as my body shifts and I make small adjustments. But seriously, no tentlike schmattas for now, or ever, for any of us!

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‘Tis the Season for Hats

One of Ms. Colon-Lugo’s creations
Credit Dina Litovsky for The New York Times

Tomorrow marks the 143rd running of The Kentucky Derby – a day for horses and hats! Extravagant hats. That is why the recent New York Times feature about milliner Ellen Christine Colon-Lugo, is inspiring. This is Ms. Colon-Lugo’s, owner of Ellen Christine Millinery in West SoHo, New York, busiest season. And she herself has already spent hours preparing hats for women who will wear them at tomorrow’s Derby. Not to mention that May 15 marks Straw Hat Day, when people used to trade in their winter felt hats for spring hats.

Ms. Colon-Lugo has quite a story: she studied costume design at the School of Fashion Design in Boston and later at New York University. Her hats have adorned the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and W Magazine, and she is president of the Milliners Guild in New York. Says Colon-Lugo, “The idea of balance is very important in a hat. I don’t do yoga, I do hats. Hats reveal our inner characters, and we have many of them.

Which of her hats will be watching the Kentucky Derby tomorrow?

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