Betsey Johnson Feels Very Lucky

Designer Betsey Johnson with CBS correspondent Serena Altschul. Courtesy CBS News

Betsey Johnson in her new home, California; Courtesy CBS News

And to me, it’s just a lot of good luck, and the talent and the work. But the luck for me has been the most important.” ~ Betsey Johnson

Betsey Johnson feels very lucky. CBS Correspondent Serena Altschul interviewed the 74 year old fashion designer about her life and her loves. Although she has hinted that she may be done with her runway shows, she is certainly not ‘done’ with other things! In fact, there is too much left for Betsey Johnson to create. For more than 50 years, since the 1960s, Betsey Johnson has given girls and women the chance to feel unique and fun. Growing up, Johnson never studied fashion or design but she always felt that she knew how to “do it,” as she says. Just doing it seems to come naturally to Betsey Johnson; she raised her daughter Lulu on her own, she survived breast cancer and bankruptcy. And though she says that it takes hard work, talent, and luck to be a success, I would say that Betsey Johnson’s story is as much about inspiration and resilience as anything else. Just ask the hoards of young girls and women who would follow her anywhere – put me in that category!

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Victoria Beckham Celebrates Daughter Harper in Target Campaign

Courtesy: Victoria Beckham for Target

The inspiration behind this campaign is – a world of possibilities – make believe – imagination – and the unexpected.” `~ Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham for Target collection launches on April 9 but the full lookbook is here – and it’s a celebration of the life and relationship Beckham shares with her daughter, Harper. It’s personal to Beckham and everything is lovingly designed. Much like Beckham’s VVB line (which Beckham started in 2011 when she was pregnant with Harper) and describes as the “younger sister to my ready-to-wear collection,” the campaign is whimsical and full of unique touches that feature 200 pieces and carry across women’s, girls’, toddler, and baby categories. The pieces range in price from $6 to $70, but the best part is that most items cost under $40. Says Beckham: “I see this collection being worn by everyone, everywhere. It’s fun. It’s functional. And it’s really cool as well.” I plan to be one of that ‘everyone!’ and pick out a treat for myself – I am thinking of a dress!

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Westwood Wants Unisex!

Vivienne Westwood at her unisex show on Monday during London Fashion Week Men’s.

Vivienne Westwood at her unisex show on Monday during London Fashion Week Men’s.  Photo Courtesy of Tom Jamieson, The New York Times

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood returned to London Monday, the city that made her fashion famous, for London Men’s Fashion Week. Her latest show was unisex, with male and female models taking the runway in the same outfits, a wide range of styles including suits with wide lapels and flared pants, and flowing capes and tutus. Says Westwood, “Unisex may sound like a joke, but, in fact, it’s all about styling and being able to dress however you like. Swapping clothes with your partner means you can buy less, choose well and really make them last.

At 75, Westwood is thinking ahead. She came home to London, not because she was feeling nostalgic, but because she wants to make her company more environmentally friendly. Entitled, “Ecotricity” the show illustrates that in designing for men and for women, Westwood may be the first designer hoping to sell less than more. Still breaking ground! I’m buying it!

 

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Fashion News from 10 Downing Street

Samantha Cameron, courtesy British Vogue

Samantha Cameron, courtesy British Vogue

Samantha Cameron, wife of former British Prime Minister James Cameron, will be launching her own fashion line the beginning of 2017. This is a story of perseverance, patience, and creativity. Cameron, a distant cousin to Diana, Princess of Wales, was preparing for this during her six years as the wife of the Prime Minister. She took that time to learn the craft of dressmaking and was at her sewing machine every day. Her new fashion line, Cefinn, which is named after the initials of her four children, is designed to “create an urban uniform for busy women” and to bridge a gap in the market for a British brand that offers a wardrobe that could take women from day to evening. Cameron told British Vogue: “I felt that there was a lot of American and French brands out there that fit that bracket of designer contemporary with the right price point and the right styling, but there aren’t that many British brands which fill that space.”  I love this story!

 

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Technology Advances Fashion

The Yves Saint Laurent "Sardine" dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

The Yves Saint Laurent “Sardine” dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

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

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A Parisian Treasure

Sonia Rykiel

Sonia Rykiel: copyright Sonia Rykiel

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.

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Borris Powell’s Next Big Adventure

Borris Powell embarks on his new journey in Amazon Prime's Prana Warriors

Borris Powell embarks on his new journey in Amazon Prime’s Prana Warriors

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.

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Singing the Praises of Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali

The question isn’t who isn’t going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?Norma Kamali

You may not know New York City fashion designer, Norma Kamali.  But at 71, she is ever a fashion influencer and inventor, pushing boundaries and bettering the lives of women. Here are some things to know about Norma Kamali – Allow me to sing her praises:

She has been in the fashion business since 1967

She has won awards for fashion, film, interior design, and architecture

She is known for ‘the sleeping bag coat‘ of the 1970s, shoulder pad trends of the 1980s, and her influential swimwear collection (she designed the iconic red one-piece swimsuit worn by Farrah Fawcett)

She loves denim and always has denim in her collections: “It’s American. And I am an American designer.”

She, in fact, is a jeans wearer and prefers jeans to the red carpet

She designed active wear long before it became ‘athleisure’

She created the Stop Objectification Campaign to build awareness of the universal objectification of women and with a goal to “free women of the stigma of those experiences that can take them down emotionally and spiritually, inhibiting their chances for reaching their true potential.”

She is committed to wellness as a lifestyle (something she learned from her mother!) and the power of meditation

Quite simply, Norma Kamali is a woman ahead of her time.

 

 

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Make Way for Alexa Chung!

Alexa Chung | Photo: Zackery Michael

Alexa Chung | Photo: Zackery Michael

I’m not making something that has got a crazy high price point. I want to make sure its something that is speaking to just everyone on the street.” ~ Alexa Chung

Exclusive news via The Business of Fashion: British television personality and model Alexa Chung will be launching her own design label in May 2017. Chung will step into the role of creative director at the helm of Alexachung, a contemporary-priced ready-to-wear line. After working on successful collaborations with clothing brands AG Jeans and Madewell, Chung has garnered the confidence to create her own label: “I just wanted the freedom to sort of make my own world, without someone else’s brand’s brief to stick to.” 

Known as a fashion icon and a style guru, I can tell that Alexa Chung loves fashion and creative pursuits. I enjoy her interviews with Vogue UK, “The Future of Fashion,” and her fashion voice hits a real chord with women in Britain and beyond. At 32, she represents the future of fashion in many ways – with her charm and wit, you have the feeling that she will indeed make her own world with her fashion line. Fashion is evolving and I get the sense that Alexa Chung’s curiosity, combined with her sense of style, will keep her finger on the pulse of what sells. Considering that her collaborations with AG Jeans and Madewell sold out after their debuts, I think she can do it.

 

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Princess Diana and The Story of a Dress

Princess Diana in a Catherine Walker design; Getty Images/

Princess Diana in a Catherine Walker design; Getty Images/Anwar Hussein

Getty Images

Getty Images/Karwai Tang

Getty Images/Anwar Hussein

Getty Images/Anwar Hussein

One of Princess Diana’s favorite designers was Catherine Walker. News that a dark green, sequined Catherine Walker dress that the Princess first wore in 1986 on a visit to Australia, and subsequently wore three more times, is going up for auction in a few weeks in The United Kingdom. It is expected to sell for over $100,000. Catherine Walker created the dress for Diana over 30 years ago. According to the auction house, the dress has a unique story: it was part of a large order for the Australia trip. Princess Diana didn’t ask to see the sketches, as she trusted Catherine Walker’s good taste, and she knew that she would create a beautiful dress. And she did: for the evening, Diana wore the dress with a diamond choker given to her as wedding gift by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Charles’s grandmother. The dress lived on with Princess Diana and will now be recorded in auction history. Continue reading

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