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Jamaican escapism for Ralph Lauren on NY runway

American fashion's elder statesman Ralph Lauren headlined New York Style Week on Monday with a dose of escapism inspired by Jamaica for his 2018 spring collection, as his iconic brand struggles to reverse falling revenue.

If the rest of Planet Style is focused on fall/winter, the 78-year-old Lauren remains wedded to see-now, buy-now clothes, switching his schedule in 2016, which means that his runway clothes are immediately available in stores around the world. On a drab February morning, he transported his guests to a set evoking his stunning villa in Round Hill, Jamaica -- a society enclave frequented over the years by the likes of Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ian Fleming, where John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned.

His models walked down a blue infinity-pool effect runway in front of a beach-front sitting room watched by actresses Hilary Swank and Rachel Brosnahan -- star of hit "The Marvelous Mrs Maisel" show on Amazon -- in the front row. The show was a master class in the rags-to-riches designer's unique, clean silhouette that for decades has personified upmarket East Coast style. It opened with a calypso Caribbean beat as models walked bare foot dressed in delicate blue and white floral dresses with full skirts and flirty necklines, before giving way to models in stilettos and Bella Hadid dressed in a cocktail dress.

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It then segued into classic maritime look, updated with white plastic-looking shorts worn with rain boots, giant anchor-style medallions at the neck, and with striped sweaters and a black captain-style leather jacket for men.

Falling American sales

There was a classic white pant suit -- perhaps a nod to the color of suffragettes and the women's power dressing look seen elsewhere on the runway this season from a designer who has not only dressed Melania Trump but Hillary Clinton. If it was spring, there was plenty of inter-seasonal clothes, another trend increasingly used by designers when dressing a global market and with an eye on the Asian market. If Jamaica encapsulated a mood of escapism in difficult times, both business-wise and politically speaking, the label also proudly revived the classic Ralph Lauren navy sweater with an unapologetic US flag emblazoned on the front.

Colors were bright and energetic, with dresses in blocks of canary yellow, red, blue, red, green and white. Lauren walked the runway at the end, dressed in jeans, a navy blazer and brown cowboy boots, giving his wife a kiss. "In a way, it's like the Garden of Eden," Lauren has said of his paradise on earth in the Caribbean. But it remains to be seen whether his quintessential blueprint can help revive sales in an industry so beloved of change. Ralph Lauren announced on February 1 that company-wide third quarter revenue fell four percent to $1.6 billion, despite growth in the Asia and European markets.

Sales at its North American stores fell 10 percent during the crucial holiday season quarter, including a 27 percent decrease in e-commerce. "There is still a lot of work to be done to return to industry-leading revenue and earnings growth, but these results give us confidence that we are on the right track," said Patrice Louvet, president and chief executive officer. (AFP)

Photo: Ralph Lauren AW18/ Catwalkpictures
Black Panther fever hits NY Style Week

Marvel Studios brought "Black Panther" fever to New York Style Week, inviting designers to showcase clothes inspired by the iconic movie, already winning rave reviews ahead of its Friday release in the United States.

More than a thousand people packed the Welcome to Wakanda presentation in the West Village that featured the work of 10 labels, including Chromat, Cushnie et Ochs and LaQuan Smith. "The inspiration for me was female empowerment," Smith told AFP. "I wanted to create something that really just connected to the characters and the film... embodying power, and feminity, and strength and sensuality." Reviews following Monday's premiere of the movie that stars Hollywood's first black superhero to get his own stand-alone film were electric, calling the picture "iconic" and "astonishing."

"I think what made Black Panther more fashionable than other superhero films was really about the cast, the attitude that the cast really embodies," said Smith. "I hope it inspires young boys and young girls." Otherwise here is a quick roundup of the best of Style Week day five, before the global 2018 fall/winter season shifts to Europe.

Caribbean cruise

American fashion elder statesman Ralph Lauren escaped to Jamaica in troubled times, both politically and business-wise, for spring, his latest collection adhering to a see-now, buy-now concept. On a drab February morning, the 78-year-old transported his guests to a set evoking his stunning villa in Jamaica with a blue infinity-pool effect runway watched by actresses Hilary Swank and Rachel Brosnahan. It opened with a calypso Caribbean beat as models walked bare foot dressed in delicate blue and white floral dresses with full skirts and flirty necklines, before Bella Hadid strode out in a denim cocktail dress with feather finish and clothes segued into classic maritime.

But if the show was a master class in the rags-to-riches designer's unique, clean silhouette that for decades has personified upmarket East Coast style, it remains unclear whether his quintessential blueprint can help revive sales in an industry so beloved of change. The company announced on February 1 that company-wide third quarter revenue fell four percent to $1.6 billion, despite growth in the Asia and European markets. Sales at its North American stores fell 10 percent during the crucial holiday season quarter, including a 27 percent decrease in e-commerce.

Bowing out

Across town, fellow septuagenarian and first lady favorite Carolina Herrera took her final bow as creative director from her eponymous four-decade-old label, handing the design reins over to Wes Gordon. Models ended the show at the Museum of Modern Art wearing crisp white shirts and single-colored taffeta skirts, belted at the middle, in tribute to Herrera's own signature style.

The Venezuelan-born 79-year-old was treated to a standing ovation and an extravagant bouquet of long-stemmed red roses, as she smiled and waved goodbye, joined by her white coated atelier staff. It was a nostalgic collection, perhaps reflecting her distaste with modern fashion, featuring plenty of monochrome, long hemlines and lametta-style coats and skirts. The standout was delicate pointy ankle boots in gold, purple, green and silver sequins.

Shooting for the stars

Duchess of Cambridge favorite, Britain's Jenny Packham unveiled a stunning collection of Cosmos-inspired evening wear via curated photo shoot following private appointments with retailers and the press. Her inspiration was the Cosmos -- the stars and galaxies, and the themes of Ridley Scott's dystopian "Blade Runner" -- showcasing a timeless, elegant silhouette beloved by her well-heeled client base.

Beaded gowns were covered in crystal star bursts, crescent moons twinkled on tulle and delicate capes offered more modest women a cover-up. Unusually for Packham, black, capitalized on the red carpet trend this awards season to protest against sexual harassment. "I do think perhaps it's a little bit of escapism, a sort of an other worldly experience at the moment because we're all a bit fed up," said Packham of the cosmic theme.

While she plans to show in London in September to mark the 30th anniversary of her label, she has been pleased with her appointment roll-out, now done two seasons running, instead of a catwalk show. Packham said she wanted her London extravaganza to be "forward thinking" as the brand looks to the future, now expanding into China and having just launched a bridal shoe collection with L.K. Bennett. (AFP)

Photo: Jemal Countess / Getty Images North America / AFP

Claudia Li presented the modern princess at New York Style Week

New York Style Week is no stranger to seeing a few princess gowns go down the runway. However, this season at New York Style Week, designer Claudia Li decided to give us a modern take on a princess. Her fall/winter 2018 collection was inspired by the Turkish fairytale "The Silent Princess."

Claudia Li presented the modern princess at New York Style Week

She presented a series of dresses, outerwear pieces and accessories that took the classic idea of a princess and put her in the shoes of today's modern woman. Brightly colored and patterned fabrics juxtaposed shearling and heavy wool pieces. Embellishments and crystal accents were also big in this collection with plenty of sequins and Swarovski rhinestone buttons.

Claudia Li presented the modern princess at New York Style Week

Claudia Li does fairytale inspired collection for NYFW

Coats, tops and dresses were featured in houndstooth wool, jacquards and woodland scene patterns. Elements of nature played a big part in patterns like floral patterns, peacocks and a pattern of a woman at a tree. Other details included double pleated skirts with metallic weaves. There was a lot of shimmer here to add to the whimsical elements of the collection.

Claudia Li presented the modern princess at New York Style Week

In terms of silhouettes, there were clean column lines for a relaxed fit, as today's modern princess wants to be more comfortable. Suiting pieces had a regal, tailored look, but didn't read as constricting.

Claudia Li presented the modern princess at New York Style Week

This season, Claudia Li also introduced two new shoe styles for fall including a bootie and a pump featuring the designer's signature oversized tab. The 'Kete' bag from spring/summer has also been reinvented, featuring a solid leather rectangular shape available in black and forest green as well as larger style with Mongolian curly shearling trim.

photos: courtesy of Linda Gaunt Communications
Jonathan Simkhai gives us the girls revolution at New York Style Week

While fashion hasn't been as loud politically this season compared to last year when we were fresh off of the election of Donald Trump, that doesn't mean designers have forgotten the importance of women's empowerment. Quite the contrary, it is still manifesting itself in collections through different ways. For his fall/winter 2018 New York Style Week show, designer Jonathan Simkhai found inspiration from different turning points in American history, specifically the suffragettes and Gibson girls.

Jonathan Simkhai gives us the girls revolution at New York Style Week

Jonathan Simkhai takes lessons from American history to design for today's modern woman

This resulted in a collection utilitarian motifs mixed with whimsical, romantic touches. The opening look included a grey wool plaid gidot sleeve jacket paired with a cigarette pant. Here we saw Simkhai's ability to reinterpret more traditional pieces for women, and bring them to a contemporary customer through details like architecturally designed sleeves.

Traditional tailored suiting pieces and dress shirts were reconstructed with low necklines and bell sleeves for updated feminine touches to once classic pieces. Simkhai also took pinstripe shirting and tucked and pleated it into fanciful blouses. Today's modern woman also wants to embrace being sexy as well, so, he took velvet, lace and silk to create lingerie-esque dresses and reinterpreted denim into corset-like silhouettes for jackets and bustiers.

Jonathan Simkhai gives us the girls revolution at New York Style Week

The designs truly spoke for themselves as he went for a more muted color palette of grey, almond nudes, deep bordeaux, warm tobaccos and inky blacks. For Simkhai, this collection was about looking towards the future and what tomorrow's fashionable woman wants. She's well dressed in Simkhai's designs, and not afraid to take on the world.

photos: courtesy of Karla Otto
Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

Known for blending uptown and downtown style, in addition to her bright prints and patterns, Nicole Miller has developed a strong customer base and a known name in American fashion. The Nicole Miller we got at New York Style Week this season wasn't the Nicole Miller for the mothers at Bloomingdale's though. This season, the designer went younger and more edgy as she designs for a new, more contemporary customer.

Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

The end result was a collection that was edgier, still true to her brand and aesthetic and a testament to her abilities as a designer to evolve with the changing times and stay relevant.

Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

Nicole Miller creates a more youthful collection for fall/winter 2018

Her opening look was a leather reefer coat, with stretch velour pants and a plaid double-face mini skirt. From the get, Miller let us know she was getting sexier this season, in addition to meeting the demand for stretch that customers want nowadays. Talk about a woman who knows how to appeal to her customer, Nicole Miller is one without question.

Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

The office girl got her due next with a black satin back crepe double breasted pantsuit paired with a grey boy T-shirt. The woman of the workforce today is a bit more relaxed and can do things like wear T-shirts to work, but she also knows how to elevate with a good pantsuit.

Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

Don't think Miller forgot to offer something for her traditional customer though. She still used the patterns and prints that she has always been known, which came to life through pieces like a plaid reverse silk charmeuse biker dress, a paid handkerchief shirt dress, and a silver beaded silk dress.

Nicole Miller goes for the millennials at New York Style Week

Although she's trying to go for the younger women now, she still knows how to give her older, classic women that colorful, yet refined aesthetic. The collection was cohesive, new and a brand new Nicole Miller who should be welcomed with open arms.

photos: courtesy of BPCM
Christopher Bailey champions LGBTQ+ communities in final collection for Burberry

London - Christopher Bailey, President and Chief Creative Officer at Burberry, will dedicate his final collection for luxury fashion house Burberry to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Queer (LGBTQ+) communities, as Burberry solidifies its commitment to promoting diversity around the world.

Bailey, who is set to leave his dual-roles at Burberry by the end of 2018, has incorporated a new rainbow check in support of LGBTQ+ communities across the heritage label’s February 2018 collection. “My final collection here at Burberry is dedicated to - and in support of - some of the best and brightest organisations supporting LGBTQ+ youth around the world,” said Christopher Bailey, Burberry President and Chief Creative Officer in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength, and our creativity.”

Burberry shows support for LGBTQ+ communities by launching new rainbow check

The new rainbow check, the latest iteration of Burberry’s iconic symbol, is based on the LGBTQ+ rainbow - an emblem for optimism and inclusiveness. The rainbow check is said to ‘feature prominently’ across Burberry’s upcoming collection, Bailey’s last collection for the heritage fashion brand, which will be unveiled during a catwalk show during London Style Week on Saturday, February 17th. All rainbow check pieces in the collection will be available for purchase immediately after the show in Burberry stores worldwide and online.

The introduction of the new rainbow check comes as Burberry continues to cement its support of LGBTQ+ communities. The luxury fashion house recently made a series of donations to three charities - the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Trevor Project and ILGA - which are all dedicated to helping spread awareness, mentoring and resources among these communities around the world. The Albert Kennedy Trust is the UK’s national LGBT+ youth homelessness charity, which provides safe homes to those in need, while the Trevor Project is the only accredited national organisation providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under the age of 25. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a worldwide federation of organisations which strive for equal human rights for LGBTI people.

All three of the charities aim to use Burberry’s donations to support their ongoing work. “This generous donation will continue to empower efforts to raise the voices of and mobilise LGBTI people,” said Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General of ILGA. “ It will help us to support activists as they advocate at the United Nations for repeals of discriminatory laws, equip and train LGBTI human rights advocates in Africa, Asia and Latin America to sustain movements in these regions, to help bring about societal change, and to research laws and attitudes impacting our communities, shining a spotlight on the unequal treatment LGBTI people face the world-over.”

Bailey, who has been credited with transforming Burberry into one of the industry’s leading luxury fashion houses, became the first openly gay head of a company listed on London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index when he was named Chief Executive Officer in 2014. However, sales began to stagnate under Bailey’s leadership following a period of rapid expansion and Burberry relived him of his dual role last year, appointing Marco Gobbetti, former head of Celine, as CEO.

Photo: Courtesy of Burberry

Bibhu Mohapatra out to expand his customer base for fall/winter 2018

Designer Bibhu Mohapatra, known for his red carpet dresses, found his inspiration for his fall/winter 2018 collection from Francesca Clemente's portraits from the film "Great Expectations," based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name. Mohapatra attempted to explore the concepts of love and neglect and forgiveness and censure, as evidenced by two of the main characters in the novel, Miss Havisham and Estella.

Japanese lace contrasted with structured silk wool, and organic shapes and linear patterns blended with a color palette of plum, merlot, red and berry. Mohapatra's choice of bright colors for his color palette this season was surprising, given that designers tend to go more muted for fall/winter, however he was going for evoking passion.

Bibhu Mohapatra out to expand his customer base for fall/winter 2018

Bibhu Mohapatra launches Sashi by Bibhu collection

While Mohapatra is a luxury designer, he knows how to create high-low aesthetics as he goes for the more casual-luxe customer. An instarsia mink bomber jacket with fox trim was paired with a berry velvet t-shirt and leathered canvas and pleated mini-skirt. Yes, this look is still very much luxury, but it's for a new customer aside from his traditional evening wear woman.

This season also marked the launch of Bibhu Mohapatra's new capsule collection of separates, Sashi by Bibhu. The collection is an extension of this season's line and offers transitional dresses and sporty separates. Skirts, knitwear, streamline pants and outerwear can all be found in the collection.

Bibhu Mohapatra out to expand his customer base for fall/winter 2018

His fan base has grown to include more than his red carpet women, and he's responded accordingly. In order to succeed in this business as a designer, listen to your customer. He still remembered to cater to his evening wear customer too.

In contrast to the mink coat with t-shirt and mini-skirt, there was an intarsia mink coat with arctic fox collar paired with an ivory Peciosa crystal embroidered dress. There were other notable pieces too, like a black velvet mini illusion gown with silver barathea draped sleeves.

There was a lot of new here for Bibhu, but he built from the old. He knows how to keep his longtime customer satisfied, while designing for a newer, younger woman. A smart move on the designer's part as he continues to grow his business.

photos: Catwalkpictures
Topshop taking a break from London Style Week

British high street chain Topshop will be “taking a pause” from the London Style Week schedule this season, the retailer has confirmed.

The brand said in a short statement: “Topshop will be taking a pause from the London Style Week schedule this season. The brand remains committed to the development and support of emerging and established talent and will be hosting the Topshop Showspace.”

This will be the first time since it made its London Style Week debut in 2005 that Topshop and its Unique collection hasn’t been part of the official schedule. Its catwalk shows had become one of the biggest draws in London, with high profile editors including Anna Wintour sitting front row alongside Philip Green and celebrities such as Kate Moss and Olivia Palermo.

Topshop will still have a presence during fashion week as the retailer is continuing its ongoing sponsorship of Style East, as well as hosting the collective in the showspace. Its venue will also showcase a roster of designers including Molly Goddard, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, House of Holland, Shrimps and Nicopanda.

Topshop taking a break from London Style Week

It is hardly surprising that Topshop has an announced a “pause” from the catwalk, the retail group Arcadia has been undergoing a few challenges in the past few months, including a drop in sales, requesting a 2 percent discount from suppliers , as well as beginning a consultation on a major business restructuring, which could put hundreds of manager roles at its stores at risk, which it claimed was in response to the “ever-evolving fashion retail landscape”.

Topshop not showing at London Style Week this season

In addition, there have been a number of changes at the top of the retail group, including Topshop’s long-standing managing director Mary Homer leaving to join The White Company, with former Burberry exec Paul Price replacing her. While both Kate Phelan and Gordon Richardson left their roles as creative directors of Topshop and Topman, which led to the appointment of David Hagglund to take up the creative reins for both brands.

On Hagglund’s appointment, Philip Green chairman and owner of Arcadia, said: “The appointment of David Hagglund, in the newly combined role, continues to mark the start of a new era for Topshop Topman in moving both brands forward in their ongoing global expansion.”

Topshop taking a break from London Style Week

The latest addition was Anthony Cuthbertson as global design director for Topshop and Topman. Cuthbertson, who was most recently design director of Just Cavalli and previously served as the creative director of Australian denim and contemporary label Sass and Bide, joined the fashion retail group in January and oversees a design department comprising of more than 70 employees.

It seems that its London Style Week catwalk show is the latest cost-cutting measure after the retail group saw its total profits fall 79 percent in 2016 following the fall of BHS and its ongoing pension scandal.

Images: Topshop SS17 collection, Catwalkpictures

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

Designer Christian Cowan, who has become a star among those with a flare for club kid and Lady Gaga inspired styles, continued his mission of bringing glitz and glamour back to the runway for New York Style Week this season. In an era of maximalism, Cowan has capitalized on all that glitters and his ability to use fashion to uplift people's spirits.

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

Cowan's inspiration this season was a quote from Amy Winehouse. "She once had this quote where she said 'When I sing, I want people to forget about all their problem for three and a half minutes', and it was so simple, but I thought it was so nice," Cowan says. "I thought to myself, I really wanted to do that with a collection." Cowan stuck to his brand DNA by doing things like playing with textures, and using bright colors to create what he described as "escapism from the rest of the world."

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

Christian Cowan creates Amy Winehouse quote inspired collection for NYFW

In these turbulent times we are living in, Cowan wants to use his designs to empower women and stop objectifying them. In his design approach, he always wants to make women feel amazing for them, rather than how they look for everyone else. While Cowan's designs are known to be sexy and revealing, he takes a careful approach to dance the line of women's empowerment, making things sexy and avoiding objectification.

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

"It's always a balancing act," Cowan says. "For example if I use a material that's slightly transparent, it won't be a low-cut thing, it'll have a super high neckline. Whenever I'm having fittings for my runway shows, I always ask my models if they feel good, and if not, I change them immediately. People need to feel good so the clothes look good."

Cowan is also very adept at creating original pieces inspired by other visuals. One of the most striking accessories in his collection was a pair of gloves that were rolexes all the way up the arm that were inspired by a photo of a man wearing numerous rings on his fingers. He believes the most fabulous things are those that are easily recognizable but reinterpreted.

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

As for the customer for his collection, "She's definitely not someone who wants to fade away and not be noticed," he says. "She's someone who wants to be noticed, feel powerful, and have a lot of fun with fashion. It's really about enjoying yourself."

To that end, the runway show opened with a creme fringed sweater dress with fringed knee high boots, that set the tone for the party-like show to come. The color palette for the collection included black, white, yellow, green, red, orange and silver for a burst of color. Black and white pieces were done in a mod style checkerboard pattern, in Cowan's true British fashion. The grand finale look of a floor length sequin evening wear gown accessorized with a miniature neon dress silhouette attached to the front was attention getting, statement making and let us know that fashion is still fun.

Christian Cowan goes for glitter and glamour for New York Style Week

This season, Cowan also unveiled a new shoe collaboration with Stuart Weitzman that featured fringe, glitter and sequins. Party-favor inspired accessories made in collaboration with Chrishabana were also featured.

photos: courtesy of Purple PR
Walpole names 2018 Brands of Tomorrow

Walpole, the luxury trade body that represents some of Britain’s best-known luxury brands, has named 12 emerging brands as part of its Brands of Tomorrow initiative, including men’s underwear and loungewear brand Hamilton and Hare and bespoke tailor Kathryn Sargent.

Walpole names 2018 Brands of Tomorrow

The other fashion and accessories brands, who will also enter the year-long programme of workshops and mentoring to help them develop their businesses, are: Castore, a premium men’s sportswear brand; Rae Feather, who have become known for their woven basket bags; Malle London, which makes motorcycle accessories; Love or Nothing Baby, which makes travel-inspired luxury leather goods; and Acsceno, a brand known for its sandwashed silk pyjamas and premium swimwear.

Others to make the list include: whiskey brand, Chapel Gate; online flower delivery service, FlowerBx; Method Studio, a boutique creative production house; The Jackal, a disruptive new media brand and a vehicle for luxury brands; and Votary, a beauty brand founded by Arabella Preston and Charlotte Semler.

Walpole names 2018 Brands of Tomorrow

Walpole names bespoke tailor Kathryn Sargent among Brands of Tomorrow 2018

Helen Brocklebank, Walpole chief executive said: “It’s excellent to see a diverse range of British luxury entrepreneurs entering the market from luxe sportswear to tailoring, skincare to whiskey.

“With many success stories from the programme over the past decade, Walpole’s mentorship programmes ensure we are secure the future growth of the luxury industry in the UK. The sector as a whole is committed to creating a pipeline of luxury brands and to developing jobs and skills. It feels more important than ever that these new businesses are given the support they need.”

Walpole names 2018 Brands of Tomorrow

The 2018 participants will now take part in a year-long programme of workshops and mentoring to help accelerate their growth, including being paired with some of the UK’s most experienced luxury executives who provide 12 months of personal mentoring and one-to-one coaching.

Walpole names 2018 Brands of Tomorrow

This marks the 11th year of the Brands of Tomorrow programme, previous years have included some of the UK’s best-known luxury brands including Charlotte Olympia, Emilia Wickstead and Orlebar Brown.

Images: courtesy of Walpole