“All Roads Lead to Chanel”

Before I boarded the plane for my latest adventure to Paris and the South of France, I asked my darling friend and favorite fashionista, Melissa, what would she like me to bring her from the City of Lights? Her answer was simple: a photo of Chanel’s original store. And that is how my walking tour of Paris began. The mission was clear, but the challenge proved to be unexpected.

Who would have thought that not many Parisians know which one of the many Chanel stores in their lovely home city was the first one to open its doors and change the history of fashion forever? Such a piece of information, I later found out, is only known to the style experts or the eternal romantics, like Melissa.

After lots of walking, wandering, and practicing my French asking for directions (I couldn’t check Google since I had no Wi-Fi connection), I reached my coveted destination: a beautiful French chateau on the lovely Rue Cambon. The only problem was that the building was under renovation. Despite my disappointment, I was glad to have carried  out and executed my mission successfully. But mostly, I was happy to have brought Melissa’s soul along with me. So I closed my eyes, and let my imagination take me to that moment in time, when a petite but fearless woman decided to turn the world of fashion upside down with her fresh ideas, signature style, and most of all, her love of feminine beauty. – Myriam Alvarez

 

 

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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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Prom Dress Shopping, For Real!

Shopping fabrics with Kira

The conversation with my friend and fashion designer, Kira Ross, was not your typical, “What are you wearing to the Prom?” Not, because Kira wasn’t planning to go to a random store in search of a one-of-a-kind dress. Instead, Kira was going to do what she does best – pick out a fabulous fabric and make her dress herself, especially now, for her Senior Year. And as we talked about it I realized … I had to go along for Kira’s journey … and document everything. The shopping, the designing, and ultimately, the big reveal.

This Sunday was shopping day in The Garment District in New York. There are two blocks where Kira likes to “snake my way up and down the streets” to find the perfect fabric. It can take a while, Kira explained: “I like to touch the fabrics so I will know how it works and how it will fit. When a fabric has a little give, it is easier to work with … I don’t really have a specific color in mind, it varies so much. And a fabric looks very different once it’s off the bolt.” Knowledgeable words from a very talented artist and designer. As we strolled the stores and aisles of fabric and prints – plaid, gingham, silk charmeuse, silk satin, stone-washed silk, seersucker, crepe de chine, twill, taffeta, cotton – I was aware that Kira’s gift was to see the possibility of a dress. To look beyond the colors and textures and see herself in something she would make. To be so close to fabrics was intoxicating. Continue reading

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The Murray Brothers: Bringing Back The Cool to Golf

Bill Murray in February in a William Murray Golf shirt from the fall 2016 line (Credit Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The last time I saw Bill Murray on a golf course was in the 1980 movie, Caddyshack  -(Murray played the deranged grounds keeper Carl Spackler!). I never knew that Bill Murray was one of six brothers. I never knew that growing up, he and his brothers (Ed, Brian, John, Joel, and Andy) worked as golf caddies at the same club, the Indian Hill Country Club in Winnetka, Illinois. And I never knew that this lifelong love of golf would inspire the Murray brothers to introduce a golf-apparel line, William Murray Golf, last fall.

Youngest brother Joel Murray, and the chief executive for Murray Brothers Golf, said the clothes are intended to inject liveliness into the sport. Says Murray, “You look at the golf world right now, it’s just not that cool. I’ve got boys that are 26, 25, and they’re not into golf like we were growing up. They think it takes too long.”  The line recently released its spring collection with polos in tropical flower patterns and baggy shorts of aqua camo reminiscent of the loud patterns of 1970s. The brothers plan to introduce two collections a year and eventually expand into light jackets, blazers and pants.

This family of brothers who love golf know how to bring a little irreverence to the game – pairing whimsy with practicality. Who knew??

 

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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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