December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Our third annual edition of Holiday Bytes is finally here! Please click the image above to view the PDF. All of us at MBF Trend Consulting wish you happy holidays and a joyous new year. This is our last post of 2009. See you in the new year!

December 14, 2009

Global Plans, Local Actions

In support of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, there have been over 3,000 events going on worldwide in hopes of establishing effective solutions of the world crisis. Organized by community leaders and individuals desiring to seek change, people all over the world are organizing candlelight vigils, wall signings, and marches in their cities and local towns. Bornholm, a small Danish island of population 43,000, also recently developed a program to cut its emissions to zero by developing clean energy. They are burning straw for district heat, using wind power for electricity, and developing a biofuels plant and infrastructure for electric cars. Rome is also now the first European capital to launch a plan for energy self-sufficiency, using more wind turbines and solar panels.

In addition, Native Land, Stop Eject also opened in Kunsthal Chalottenborg, Copenhagen last Saturday December 5, and continues till February 21, 2010. From the perspective of nomads, islanders, and indigenous people, the exhibition gives them a voice to speak on how the climate crisis is affecting human migration in all parts of the world.

And to give you the latest update on the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the EU leaders have committed to 3.6 billion dollars a year until 2012 to help developing countries. And the two countries, Norway and Mexico, have proposed a joint model for climate funding, using both the incomes from the UN-allowances and from individual countries.

The call to urgency and immediate action is louder than ever. And as there are only a few remaining days left of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, we hope that the agreements are finalized and change is near. As the 3.6 million supporters of Avaaz says to the three key leaders, Obama, Hatoyama, and Merkel, “fund the fight to save the world.”

December 7, 2009

Noko Update

Noko Jeans planned to launch their sales this past Friday at the PUB department store in Stockholm. However, the store's manager, Rene Stephansen, stated he were unaware of the North Korean-made designer jeans and pulled them out of their stock as soon as he was informed, saying the store wanted to avoid possible controversy of having ties with the communist nation. Noko jeans were planned to be sold at Aplace, a retail space within the department store. A representative of Aplace stated that this decision was "a bit cowardly" but understood Stephansen's point of view.

Because of these complications, the launch was delayed up until today. Aplace will still carry the jeans, but only through their online store. And if you can't find any left there, you can also get them on the Noko website.

Although PUB pulled out the jeans to avoid possible controversies, we suspect that this act may have done the opposite and ignited a spark.

via: New York Times

December 1, 2009

"Made in North Korea"

Besides their leader's cultish personality and a never-ending threat of nuclear tests, there is very little we know about one of the world's most reclusive nations, North Korea. But to even remotely consider North Korea as a future hub of fashion is probably the last thing on all our minds.

A group of Swedish entrepreneurs, however, thought differently; and in 2007, Jacob Åström, Tor Rauden Källstigen and Jakob Ohlsson started Noko Jeans. Because there is so little known about North Korea, the members of Noko Jeans were interested in knowing more about the country; and Noko Jeans was their way of gaining access.

After a year of email correspondences, negotiations, and business trips to North Korea, they managed to seal a deal with the country’s biggest mining company to produce 1,100 pairs of two styles of jeans, expected to go on sale this Friday, December 4th.

Priced at 150 Euros each and stitched with a "Made in North Korea" label, the team has designed limited straight-cut, dark-washed jeans, stark in its design to resemble the North Korean landscapes. With the launch includes a documentary of the company's trip to North Korea, exposing the world of it's rather transparent production method and further insight of an enigmatic nation.

As it is North Korea’s first denim product, it is likely that Noko’s first collection of jeans, Maneuvers in the Dark, will sell out in no time. However, although Noko has the cool, edgy look for a premium denim brand, it is still questionable as to whether their “Made in North Korea” tags will be embraced by their denim loving consumers. But even then, as North Korea may not have the best connotations, it’s isolated and somewhat secretive identity may work to Noko’s advantage, providing an unmarked territory as grounds to help spark a more positive association.

Noko’s website does not yet include the details of where you can purchase these jeans, but check back shortly and we’ll let you know as soon as we find out!

Via: Refinery29

November 23, 2009

Beijing: Where to shop

Going to Beijing, all the guidebooks urge visitors to shop at the markets, where stall after stall of vendors hawk camera batteries, fake designer bags, and gaudy cell phone accessories. To see the best of Chinese design, and find a few souvenirs actually worth carrying home, it's best to avoid those tourist traps.

The latest, brightest, and shiniest mall in Beijing is the Village at Sanlitun, which boasts an Apple Store, a Vero Moda, and a Uniqlo alongside Chinese brands such as b+ab, izzue, and G2000. Hidden in the basement, behind the cinema, is a sprawling design shop with housewares and T-shirts by local designers; while not named on the mall map, it's more than worth the trouble of finding it.

In the Gulou neighborhood, a pedestrian street called Nan Luo Gu Xiang has become a favorite of fashionable locals and expats alike, with its many bars and coffee shops, including the Pass By with its retro-Communist-style T-shirts. And don't forget the boutiques, with local brands such as NLGX and Plastered sandwiched between ironic, kitschy souvenir shops.

For Balenciaga and Alexander Wang, the place to go is Lane Crawford, which offers a concierge on every floor of their ultramodern department store, and plentiful shopgirls to assist in selecting items. They also stock Asian fashion designers such as Undercover, Commuun, and Toga whose wares are hard to find in the West.

Beijing: Eating and drinking

There's really no comparison between Chinese food in the United States or Europe and Chinese food in China. One is typically cheap, greasy, uninventive, and sometimes bland; the other is a smorgasbord of different cuisines, from Uighur to Sichuan to Cantonese, with an astonishing range of flavors and textures. In Beijing, the ever-present street vendors hawk all sorts of stuffed pancakes, roasted vegetables and nuts, and sweet or savory pastries, all for under a dollar; while restaurants range from tiny local dives to ultra-fine dining, with minimalist décor and maximalist prices, attentive waitstaff and jewel-like confections served in course after course. Beer is the usual drink with dinner, often Tsingtao or Nanjing.

The types of tea are innumerable; it's worth stopping by a tea shop to marvel at their selection, and possibly to buy gifts to bring home. In hipper neighborhoods, the abundant cafés offer bubble tea, along with wi-fi, espresso drinks, and a comfy couch for students or freelancers to lounge with their laptops. Unlike street vendors, brick-and-mortar establishments tend to charge something closer to Western prices; and Western chains, which include Starbucks and Coldstone Creamery, seem to charge about as much as back home.

Beijing: Architecture

After the blanket-thick smog, the second most striking thing about Beijing is the contrast between old and new. Construction sites are everywhere, and most of the city's old courtyard buildings, or hutongs, have been torn down to make way for mammoth, gleaming buildings that hardly even qualify as skyscrapers, since they're often as wide as they are tall. Many, if not most, of these structures house shopping malls, which provide an air-conditioned respite from the grimy air outside.

The remaining hutongs radiate out from the Forbidden City, and while some have been remodeled and gone upscale, in most of them life looks much as it has for ages: laundry hung out to dry, songbirds singing in their cages, old men playing games on folding tables, deliverymen on bicycles hawking handmade brooms and coal for fireplaces.

November 17, 2009

For the people, by... Adidas? The €1 shoe.

Having already pioneered the simplified 7-piece sneaker for their edgy eco-spin-off, SLVR, Adidas would seem like an excellent candidate to make the $100 computer of footwear: the €1 shoe. Toms Shoes are currently at the forefront of ethical footwear; but fresh off last year's scandal over underpaid workers at its Chinese factories, Adidas is looking to rehabilitate its image, and a charity shoe project could be just the thing.

Based in Bangladesh, the project would benefit that nation's poor by creating new jobs, as well as a product people just might be able to afford. Adidas would keep prices down by selling the shoe at cost, but no promises on the price just yet: €1 is "more of a concept," according to the company, and could change as the project develops. Following hot on the heels of the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car, this shoe seems to be the latest in a string of products targeted at third-world consumers. Slightly more expensive than the free shoes being given away by Toms, it does give the world's poor one more option for protecting their feet.

At least, as long as they have the equivalent of $1.48 to spend: as of 2005, 880 million people were still living on less than $1 a day, and 80% of the world's population was living on less than $10 a day. On those budgets, free is still sounding pretty darn good.

MBF exclusive: S/S 2010 runway report out now!

As promised, here's a preview of MBF's exclusive look at the Spring 2010 runway shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. We've broken it down for you by theme and specifics, so if you were wondering which colors, silhouettes, fabrics, prints, or embellishments are going to be big this season... look no further!

The full report is available for $300 as a high-res PDF; email to place an order.

November 16, 2009

Fashion goes digital with an LED gown

As a lower-powered alternative to conventional lightbulbs, LEDs have lately emerged from the stuff of blinking signs into many aspects of our daily lives. Times Square and Las Vegas are already famous for their flashing, colorful LED billboards, but lately we’ve been noticing a few NYC buses and subway entrances festooned with LED advertisements. As fashion channels developments in the world around us, it is no surprise that designers have been adapting this technology into their collections.

Hussein Chalayan tried it first, creating seemingly magical LED-lit dresses for his fall 2007 collection, and now, the Galaxy Dress, a new project from London-based smart textile company CuteCircuit, sparkles with more than 24,000 LEDs and 4,000 hand-applied Swarovski crystals. Its circuitry is hand embroidered on a layer of silk, creating a soft, fluid fabric. Although this dress is lightweight, ironically, the heaviest part is not the lights, but rather the 40-layer pleated silk organza crinoline.

The Galaxy Dress is still in its prototype stages, but demonstrates how clothing can create new forms of communication as technology pushes fashion into unmarked territories. Although it may not yet seem realistic to wear LED lit shirts or dresses as an everyday look, current developments like headphone wiring in snowboard jackets and solar-paneled laptop bags might have seemed crazy a few years ago, too!

via: Ecouterre

November 12, 2009

RTR update

Well, we snagged a password to the much-hyped Rent the Runway and after a good rummage around the site, we're simply underwhelmed. As it stands, the site carries 124 dresses and two jumpsuits by 27 (mostly contemporary) designers, and some of those dresses don't even appear to be in stock yet. Prices are about 10% of retail.

For anyone imagining they'd rent a Narciso, Thakoon, or Alexander Wang for their night out in Boise, be prepared for disappointment: the site's sizes tend toward the small end, its tastes toward the mainstream and girly, and some items don't even ship outside of New York.

Still, all the hubbub around the launch shows there's a market for this service, if they can just iron out the kinks. Here's hoping they can get it right before their adoring public gives up the dream.

Dresses by, from left, Hervé Leger, Richard Chai, and Proenza Schouler. Photos via Rent the Runway.

November 9, 2009

Something borrowed, something blue...

For your average fashion fan, without benefit of Anna Wintour's six-figure clothing allowance, the closest she'll come to owning a runway dress is buying a Forever 21 knockoff. Two recent MBAs in New York had another idea, though: why not rent designer dresses to women at a fraction of their retail price?

Their new online service, Rent the Runway, offers the chance to attend a party in high style for as little as $50 for 4 days, dry cleaning included; and as an online service, it's just as convenient for the birthday girl in Nebraska as it is for a debuting actress in New York. With all the complications of making sure a dress fits long-distance, it remains to be seen whether the business model can turn a profit, but interest is certainly running hot: A feature on the company has remained among the top 5 on the NY Times' most emailed list since it came out yesterday morning.

Photo via NY Times

November 5, 2009

Happy days are here again!? And other runway news.

Well, from the sound of it, things are looking up: The recession's over, say the experts! Sales are up at Saks and Nordstrom, and expected to be even better for Christmas!

The good cheer was evident at last month's Paris shows, where the colors were bright, the skirts flirty, and we were blown away by this highly unusual trend: the fashion world's famously scowling runway models were smiling — let me repeat that, SMILING! — at, from left, Chanel, Sonia Rykiel, and Stella McCartney.

Of the latter's upbeat show, WWD wrote about Natalia Vodianova's smile,
"it telegraphed Stella McCartney’s optimistic spring message as obviously as Trey Speegle’s huge paint-by-numbers mural of the Arc de Triomphe emblazoned with a giant YES."
Oh, we did spot a few clothing trends, too, including white-on-white outfits; bra tops (an improvement over no bras, we suppose); bloomers; and Rodarte-style wrapping, to name a few. The full round-up from New York, London, Milan, and Paris will be available later this month in our Ready-to-Wear Report — now printed on recycled paper, or even eco-friendlier as a PDF!

Photos via WWD

November 3, 2009

Designers to watch: Toms Shoes

The phenomenon started with an ingeniously simple concept: For each pair of shoes purchased, another pair would be given to a child in need. The design was equally simple: a unisex canvas slip-on crafted with a folded toe, so the fabric didn't even need to be molded into shape. Based in easygoing Venice, CA, Toms Shoes spread like wildfire through the bleeding-heart San Francisco Bay Area, across the country, and abroad to places like Japan, Finland, and New Zealand.

At $44 for a basic style, the shoes won't break the bank, and unlike similarly priced Vans or Converse, it's a feel-good purchase, a no-brainer in an era of guilt-ridden shopping. This year, the company debuted its first shoe with — imagine — laces. And now, Toms is going high-end: their glittery holiday collection, priced at $78 to $125, will be sold at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. No word yet on whether the needy child also gets a pair of sparkly silver Toms for each pair of sparkly silver Toms sold!

October 29, 2009

Fashion's Night Out and more: Updates from around the Web

Well, it looks like we were wrong, wrong, wrong about Fashion's Night Out's success, or lack of. WWD reports today that the Sept. 10 event was SO smashingly successful that it's going to be repeated next year — and it'll be bigger and smashing-er than ever!!! Everyone's still mum about actual sales figures for the night, with Bergdorf ceo Jim Gold pronouncing that "More importantly… Fashion’s Night Out set a fun, optimistic and energetic tone for the fall season.” Yes, we'd forgotten, retailers always measure their success by the tone. Bloomberg, Wintour, and co. are looking to outdo themselves by getting New York's sales tax repealed for the day, meaning deeper discounts for those buying items over $110. Can it work? Of course it can!!

In other updates, we made an egregious oversight in posting Tuesday's bike commuting story without linking to this handy guide to the two-wheeled commute in NYC. Let it be known that MBF does not in any way condone bike commuting without use of helmets (in the US, at least), lights, and a good contingency plan for rainy weather!

Lastly, we seriously underestimated the number of licensing deals inked for Where the Wild Things Are. In addition to the two clothing collections we mentioned, there was a skateboard series, Uggs, vinyl collector toys, and jewelry... Check out the comprehensive round-up at CoolHunting!

Photo by essgee on Flickr

October 26, 2009

It's a green recession at Condé

First, Anna Wintour was spotted walking to work. Then Grace Coddington outed herself as a subway rider. Now, as the latest result of 25% across-the-board cuts at Condé Nast, Self mag editrix Lucy Danziger is getting profiled by the NY Times — for her newfound routine of commuting by bike.

Danziger blows away all the naysayers who worry that biking is unglamorous, pedaling off in her Tory Burch outfit and arriving with still-perfect hair under her helmet — and even a still-warm morning coffee in her water bottle rack!

Unlike many bike-unfriendly Midtown office buildings, Condé even offers a snazzy bike rack in the basement, pictured above. Let's hope that's one amenity they won't be cutting!

October 22, 2009

Rallying around the Garment District

Yesterday's "Save the Garment Center" rally was well-attended — by fashion students, garment workers, and even high-end designers, reports the NYT — but it looks like the district could already be making a comeback. In a far cry from this summer — when Mayor Bloomberg proposed to consolidate the entire NYC garment industry into a single building — the city is now sponsoring incubator studios for young designers, who will be selected in a competition.

The 12 lucky winners will not only get a two-year lease at below-market rent in a shiny new architect-designed space, but will also receive counseling from the CFDA, making this something like a real-life Project Runway. Of course, for the landlords involved, even more than for the designers, it's a win-win situation: the floor being used for the incubator project was standing empty anyway.

Via The Cut; photo via NYT

October 20, 2009

Eco designers among latest CFDA/Vogue picks!

The annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund spread is out in this month's Vogue, and surprise! Not one, but two sustainable designers are among the 10 nominees: womenswear designer Alabama Chanin and jewelry designer Monique Péan.

This marks designer Natalie Chanin's second nomination, having already been selected in 2005 under her previous label, Project Alabama. Her clothes are made by local Alabama artisans from organic fabrics using traditional techniques, with a soft, country style.

Péan draws on the art of native cultures for her jewelry line, which is made from fair trade components including recycled gold and ethically mined gems, and donates part of the proceeds from each collection to charity, a full 50% in the case of her Charity:Water collaboration.

With an amazing crop of young nominees including Ohne Titel, Wayne — already a winner of last year's Ecco Domani award! — Sophie Théallet, and Esquivel Shoes, we're not betting on any horses yet — but it's fantastic to see ethical fashion getting the nod from Anna Wintour and company!

October 15, 2009

Real vs. fake: A model controversy

Once upon a time, not so long ago, hourglass figures like Marilyn Monroe's were considered most desirable; and even as recently as the 1980s, breasts were an accepted part of a model's body. These days, with the stick-thin heroin-chic figure continuing to dominate the fashion world as Americans grow ever plumper, the fight continues to escalate between defenders of runway models and advocates of "real women" as models.

By many accounts, curvy women are back: Mad Men star Christina Hendricks' bombshell figure has attracted widespread adulation, including an Esquire profile. Plus-size model Crystal Renn has been making a splash with Hungry, her new memoir of her eating-disordered days as a straight-size model. And popular German magazine Brigitte recently declared a moratorium on using professional models, issuing an open call for readers to be cast for an upcoming photo shoot instead.

Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren has been taking a lot of flack for not only Photoshopping longtime model Filippa Hamilton-Palmstierna into bizarrely unrealistic proportions (see photos above), but also terminating her contract for not fitting into their clothes, she claims. The 23-year-old is 5'8" tall and 120 pounds.

September 29, 2009

Wild Things, you make our hearts sing

So everyone and their mother has been presenting their lines via film lately, as we've been covering... but promoting a film by creating fashion lines — that's a new one for us!

This month sees the premiere of Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book, Where the Wild Things Are. But with the film yet to hit theatres, at least two — count 'em, two — clothing lines inspired by the film have come out: perennial fave Opening Ceremony's collaboration with Jonze, above center, featuring shaggy jackets, dresses, and skirts that also capitalize on the current fake fur revival; and Urban Outfitters' collabo with Brooklyn designer Mary Meyer, a series of hip, slouchy printed knitwear pieces (above, left and right) that would be utterly wearable even without the movie tie-in.

Now to see what happens when Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland movie comes out next March!

September 28, 2009

TheGreenShows at NY Fashion Week

While the big names at the Bryant Park tents and MAC at Milk were busily hogging most of the attention at NYFW, a small, green revolution was going on in Soho... on Greene Street, naturally! With EarthPledge's usual high-profile FutureFashion show on hiatus, a new player stepped into the mix: TheGreenShows, featuring our longtime fave Bodkin along with pieces from Ekovaruhuset (above), a boutique carrying intricately crafted work from international designers; along with collections from Bahar Shahpar, Lara Miller, Izzy Lane, Mr. Larkin, and Study by Tara St. James, with makeup by eco-beauty line Suki.

September 25, 2009

The future of fashion is virtual.

As Fashion Week evolves from industry event to public phenomenon, designers have been contemplating how to keep their shows exclusive while making all of their customers feel included. Fashion's Night Out, while not a financial success, was a big step toward the democratization of Fashion Week, letting the public meet (or at least gape at) influential designers and buy in by, well, buying in.

Twitter-happy designer Alexander McQueen has another idea. His shows have always been as much performance art as fashion showcase, featuring real flames, live insects, giant chess sets, heaps of rubbish, and a hologram of Kate Moss among their wonders over the years. With video of previous shows already available on his website, he's involving the public in real time this season by broadcasting the SS10 catwalk live over the internet. And he's not the only one: Burberry, Sienna Miller's Twenty8Twelve, Michael Kors, and Isaac Mizrahi already did the same this spring; while some designers on a budget, like Shipley & Halmos, flipped the equation (above) by presenting their designs via video at their Fashion Week shows.

Photo via Racked

September 16, 2009

David Byrne, saving the world one bike at a time.

New York has gone bike crazy this summer, and David Byrne would like at least some of the credit, please. Best known as the geek-chic Talking Heads frontman, Byrne has been doing some thinking lately about how urban life could be better. And it revolves around bicycles — you see, he's been riding one around New York for 30 years.

First, inspired by judging a citywide bike rack design competition, he paid to have 9 Keith Haring-esque bike racks installed around New York, each an original design by, well, David Byrne. Now he's organized an exhibition of bikes created by artists other than himself, opening Oct. 4 in Connecticut.

And with a memoir-cum-philosophical tome, "Bicycle Diaries," coming out next week, he's penned an article in the Wall Street Journal summing up his vision for ideal urban planning: medium-sized cities, with human-scale construction, wide boulevards, mixed-use neighborhoods, and ample public spaces. His ideas are nothing new, but as with Bono and Africa, perhaps his celebrity glow can rub off on his cause: better cities for everyone. And if that's not sustainable, what is?

September 14, 2009

6 ways Fashion's Night Out is like the internet

Both are 1) open late, 2) extremely well-connected, 3) rife with celebrity appearances, and 4) swarming with enthusiastic visitors, making it 5) nearly impossible to filter out the noise… but at the same time, 6) neither has turned out to be the instant moneymaker everyone thought they would be.

This we suspected already the night of the big party, with crowds, performances, and fancy displays making it difficult to actually shop for clothes. As it turns out, we're not the only ones who felt this way: Barneys creative director Simon Doonan, admits that although "just from an energy point of view it was fabulous," the much-heralded evening of shopping was "not incredible from a business point of view." In the same interview, Doonan refused to say whether Barneys lost money on the night, but acknowledged that the event "was not inexpensive."

Of course, as with any promotional stunt, the question is whether Fashion's Night Out can have an impact long-term, perhaps getting people back in the mood for shopping so they'll return another time and actually buy things. Measuring that, however, is best left to posterity.

9/16/09: Comments NYC gossip blog Gawker on the situation:
The problem isn't that people don't like shopping, it's that they have no [unprintable term] money!
Well put indeed.

Photo via The Cut

September 11, 2009

When high-low goes even lower...

Hard to know which event this week was more shocking: Anna Wintour making an appearance in a Queens shopping mall for her pet project, Fashion's Night Out; or Emanuel Ungaro hiring Lindsay Lohan as an "artistic advisor". It's quite clear, however, which move was commendable and which was a bizarre attempt to pander to celebrity-obsessed fans.

Meanwhile, also during last night's Fashion's Night Out, Opening Ceremony had designers sell their authentic wares out of battered vans much like those selling counterfeit bags on nearby Canal Street; and Louis Vuitton, staunch anti-piracy crusader when it comes to its own much-copied bags and inciter of several recent Canal Street pogroms, was sued by New Balance for —drumroll, please — copying a pair of its sneakers.

Okay, people. We know the fashion industry has been shaken up plenty by the recession, globalization, etc, etc. But troubling as these times may be, they provide a fantastic opportunity to shake things up a bit: streamlining operations, improving the product, strengthening the brand, and coming out stronger than ever on the other side. Not to compromise essential values and cheapen your image — and yes, Ungaro and LV, we're talking to you.

September 10, 2009

Saving energy through fashion in Bangladesh

Loose lips may sink ships, but loose ties just may help to keep Bangladesh's power system afloat. Amid recurring energy shortages, the nation's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has changed the dress code for government offices, aiming to reduce energy use by banning jackets and ties for men, including ministers, and allowing shirts to be worn untucked. Air conditioners, meanwhile must be set at 75ºF or above.

Extreme as this might seem in the American business world, it's perfectly in keeping with retailers' newfound emphasis on selling clothes in season: shorts in summer and heavy coats in winter, and not the other way around. If we can buy seasonal clothes, why can't we wear them, too?

September 3, 2009

Sales down, theft up!

There's bad news, and then there's... more bad news. According to an article in WWD, retailers already hard-hit by reduced sales are seeing a wave of theft, both from organized and disorganized criminals. To wit:
A survey released in May by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which measured the first four months of 2009, found 61 percent of retailers had seen an increase in amateur and opportunistic shoplifting, while 72 percent had seen an increase in organized retail crime.

In a move straight out of a cops-and-robbers movie, one gang has been stealing jewelry from J.C. Penney's locations in Texas and Louisiana by hoisting themselves down from the roof.

But it's not all customers who are doing the thieving. In Chicago, high-end clothing boutique Jake has stiffed 28 designers for sums ranging from $860 to $48,000 by closing down their parent company and opening a new one, while continuing to run the shop itself under the same name.

The designers have collectively filed suit to recover their unpaid money; for smaller designers such as Costello Tagliapietra, the more than $20,000 they are owed represents a significant chunk of their business, while 3.1 Phillip Lim's brand director, Maria Vu, says the suit is also a matter of principle.

Regardless of the outcome, the designers, whose numbers also include Chris Benz, Lutz & Patmos, and Band of Outsiders, are pleased to have banded together created a community where they can discuss the issues facing them collectively as young designers..

Photo via Jason Tester on Flickr.

August 26, 2009

Anna Wintour, saving the world for fashion.

She was once so mysterious that "The Devil Wears Prada" resorted to thinly disguised fiction to betray her secrets — but suddenly Anna Wintour is everywhere: in the new documentary "The September Issue"; being interviewed on David Letterman; in this new commercial for her latest pet project, Fashion's Night Out; and even, on the big night itself, in Brooklyn and Queens. Shortly after, she'll make the hop across the pond to London, whose much-ignored Fashion Week she hasn't attended in two years — even though she was born and raised there!

But the big question remains: Can Anna Wintour save the fashion industry? Clearly, this season the rag trade has displayed an ingenuity and resourcefulness it lacked in flush times. Wintour's pet project, Fashion's Night Out, will bring top designers, fun, games, drinks, and shopping for all to stores around New York — and around the world — on the eve of Fashion Week; while London's Fashion Week, in a bid for relevance, has wooed back several prominent designers who had begun showing in other cities, including Burberry, Matthew Williamson, and Jonathan Saunders.

August 18, 2009

Moving Sustainability Forward: now in video form!

We're ready for our close-up! Here for the very first time, scrupulously edited down by the many-talented Laia Cabrera, is the video from our round-table discussion on sustainability a few weeks ago. If you weren't able to watch our Webinar in real time, this condensed version offers you choice bits of wisdom on greening your business from panelists Bill Hovard of WL2 Studios, Susanne Goetz of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Victoria Armentrout of Oval LLC, freelance event producer Brett Christina Thomas, Kim Ackert of Ackert Architecture, Dena Verdesca of Men's Health and, and yours truly of MBF Trend Consulting.

August 10, 2009

NYC print shows: an MBF exclusive report

Last week, MBF visited Direction by Indigo and PrintSource, where we spoke to a lively mix of established and up-and-coming print designers about their hottest trends for fall 2010.

While individual styles varied, the recurring themes were clear-cut: an overall move towards abstraction and textural prints, as painterly florals move into blurrier, barely-recognizable territory; nature motifs of feathers, leaves, and animal skins cropped up in neutral tones, morphing into blotchy, spotted abstract motifs; paisleys evolved into baroque scroll prints. On a more futuristic note, large-scale digital prints continued from previous seasons, some with a pixellated texture. Colorful, linear 3-d effect crystal prints and firework prints coexisted with flat, graphic black-and-cream geometric shapes, often with a pop of pink, orange, yellow, or blue.

At Direction, London-based Sukhanlee was having a surprisingly slow day, in spite of her whimsical, geometric collection. The first-time exhibitor, a RCA graduate who has collaborated with film director Wong Kar-Wai, was watching and learning, observing that "abstract splashy prints" were doing well, and that prints on the whole were, as we also noted, more abstract this season. Color, she felt, was denser and darker than usual; an observation echoed by Australian print house Karolina York, where a jewel-toned Cheshire Cat print was selling like hot cakes, followed by abstracted florals and what they called "non-prints" — splotchy, spongy, irregular prints. Their vintage illustration-inspired, gothic style was doing well among buyers, with prints on black bases — or just monochrome black.

Photos, from left: Sukhanlee FW10; Karolina York for Tigerlily, SS09; Sukhanlee FW10.

August 5, 2009

Designers to watch: Rodarte

Many high-end designers seem to be on the same invisible wavelength, spontaneously creating nearly identical versions of a mutton-sleeve blazer or drape-front pants for the very same season's runway shows. Not so with Rodarte, designed by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, which marches to a beat all its own — inspired not by other designers, but by a fantasy world of fairies, Frankenstein, and Japanese cartoons.

Season after season, the sisters pull out yet another beautifully hued collection of dresses and tights patchworked from their usual repertoire of draped, diaphanous fabrics; spidery, irregular knits; and tough, shiny leather. And every time, the fashion world goes wild: most recently, the CFDA bestowed upon them its 2009 Womenswear Designer of the Year award; and at the end of this year, theirs will be the latest of Target's Go International designer collaborations, launching Dec. 20.

While the collabos have garnered plenty of column inches in the fashion media, it seems doubtful that Target's core shopper really appreciates the edgy young designers the budget department store chain has been featuring, including Luella, Jonathan Saunders, and Erin Fetherston. Previous collections have been marked down to almost nothing, and this spring's much-hyped Alexander McQueen for Target launch was a bust: even here in fashion-forward New York, the pop-up store was nearly empty after early shoppers picked off the best pieces, and we've seen a large quantity of apparently unsold collection pieces pop up in local thrift stores, albeit with their original tags removed. Rodarte-obsessed fashionistas will undoubtedly plunder the upcoming collection as it hits big-city stores, but can this ultra-luxury brand cross over to the mass market? We'll just have to wait and see.

Photos: A few of Rodarte's relatively marketable looks, via

August 3, 2009

Wool and the Gang (Paris)

For designers and retailers, the inherent problem with the do-it-yourself trend is, what do you sell? Well, Paris-based Wool and the Gang has come up with an ingenious solution: these ultramodern knit-it-yourself kits, which come with needles, instructions, and luscious Peruvian wool yarns to be made into scarves, hats, or legwarmers in the season's hottest colors: for this fall, that's gray, teal, and purple, if you were wondering. For summer, there are vests, tanks, and boho shoulder bags in Pima cotton. Each kit also comes with a pair of pun-tastic patches so customers can customize their hand-knit pieces — and advertise for Wool and the Gang, of course — in '80s high style.

July 29, 2009

News flash: NYFW turns into a catfight, er, catwalk fight!

We've all heard plenty of gossip about rivalries between designers (Yves vs. Karl, anyone?), editors (Anna vs. Carine!), models, and even retailers, but this is something else – dueling New York Fashion Week venues! For September, Milk Studios and M.A.C. beauty products have teamed up to offer an alternative to the Bryant Park tents, and have snagged a bevy of hot young designers, including Alexander Wang (pictured), Proenza Schouler, and Peter Som. Best of all, the new venue is free for the designers. That's right, FREE – a $26,000+ savings over Bryant Park.

Lest IMG's Fern Mallis feel that M.A.C. is stealing her thunder, Estée Lauder group president John Demsey points out that all but of these designers don't show at the tents anyway; M.A.C. is simply consolidating them under one roof. And IMG is providing a shuttle bus between the two locations – provided, that is, that the shows don't conflict with IMG's.

Hard as this may be for IMG, it's great news for designers, who can concentrate their budgets on staying in business in these tough times rather than putting on shockingly expensive shows. And this Meatpacking District location is a great replacement for Bumble & Bumble's dearly departed venue, which featured up-and-coming designers showing in the hair empire's flagship location.


July 22, 2009

Berlin trade shows go green: an MBF exclusive report

Photos, from left to right: Hedda William S/S09; a bag from Royal Blush; Blue Notch S/S09.

MBF brings you an overview of the Berlin womenswear trade shows for Spring/Summer 2010, where we talked with quite a few companies about sustainability and shifts in the marketplace. We were most impressed with the two eco tradeshows: Green Showroom, featuring 16 sustainable collections from the high fashion segment, and TheKey.To, with 40 collections from the streetwear and sportswear segment, including the Green platform at the Premium Exhibition.

For Magdalena Schaffrin and Jana Keller, co-founders of Green Showroom, it was their objective to give like-minded designers and buyers a press platform for high-end collections by creating a trade show that would be both eco and luxurious. At other eco fairs, they felt, there was no fit for high-end fashion lines, because they were mixed in among yoga collections and lower-priced collections.

At the showroom’s debut event, one could see amazing collections from designers such as Julia Starp, who uses peace silk and organic cotton for her line of dresses and coats; Liv Lundelius from Blushless, an avant-garde bridal collection with eco fabrics; and Reet aus, an Estonian designer who is represented by Mica Lamb, the founder of Agent for Change, a London sustainable fashion showroom. This particular collection is very feminine with an antique feel, incorporating delicate lace, organic dyes, and re-used fabrics from a textile recycling centre in Estonia. Other standout collections were Van Markoviec, a Dutch designer working with Japanese cotton certified by JOCA, the highest standard for certified fabrics and production; Jana Keller, designing Royal Blush, a handbag and jewellery collection made of vegetable-tanned leather sourced in Italy; Magdalena Schaffrin, whose men’s and women’s wear collection has a long-lasting, understated design; and Hessnatur, which has used eco fabrics since its founding in 1970, and added fair trade in 2005, growing their own cotton in Africa. After hiring the designer Miguel Adrover, they feel they have all the elements – eco fabrics, fair trade, and design – to make it a successful company.

TheKey.To, another first-time eco-trade show, co-founder Gereon Pilz van der Grinten explained that the show was created because eco collection exhibitors were asking more and more for their own independent platform. Down the line, he sees TheKey.To becoming the eco-Bread and Butter. Highlights from their first show included Redesign, which uses only recycled materials; 1000-2000 tonnes of textile waste per day comes back to the recycling compound where they are buying materials to design new garments. At Slowmo, we talked to founding partner Melchior Moss about his nearly 4-year-old label, which uses eco-fabrics and produces in Berlin with a fair price strategy and high quality. Their biggest challenge these days is how to become even more sustainable regarding packaging, transportation, and energy usage. For them, it is very important that everything they do is coming from their heart; Slowmo's version of sustainability must include great design.

At the Premium Exhibition’s Green Forum, two collections in particular stood out. Odd, an organic design house based in New York, fuses everyday objects and innovative Japanese textile engineering for their soy cashmere and milk fibre-wool blend fabrics. This collection will soon be sold in a major department store in New York, Paris and Tokyo; 1% of their revenues go to charity via 1% For The Planet. Raffauf, a rainwear collection, uses organic cotton and banana fibre fabrics that are treated with beeswax or natural rubber coating to make the coats and jackets water-resistant.

Surprisingly, Bread and Butter did not have a green platform; still, we did see some labels moving towards sustainability in their own ways. Just to mention a few, Braez, from Holland, sells a collection of tops and tunics that changes only in colours and fabrics from one season to the next. Sack’s, from Israel, also makes very plain, almost seasonless clothes; Skunkfunk, a Basque-based company, is introducing 50% of their collection with sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton. Mikel Elozo, the general director, tells us that a lot of their clients ask for organic pieces. Although they use eco fabrics, they are not marketing the eco aspect of their collection, as they fear being accused of greenwashing since they have not yet achieved complete transparency in their production process. Meanwhile, cosmetics line Uslu Airlines presented a charitable initiative: a collection of 11 up-to-the-minute colors of nail polish, from which 90 cents of each bottle’s sale would go to help underprivileged children in Berlin.

The Premium Exhibition had a very nice, relaxing atmosphere, with a more upscale overall feeling to the participating brands. Again, we saw a shift happening in the different ways to apply sustainability: Philo-Sofie, a cashmere collection of 50 sweaters, hats, scarves, and capes, is produced sustainably in close partnership with their Chinese factories. Blue Notch Jeans, a South Korean label that launched in the US two years ago, is making skinny jeans out of organic cotton denim from Japan. Hedda William from Hamburg designs simple styles meant to last: 20 tops and blouses each season, each offered in 12 colours. Instead of using a factory, her knit pieces are made by a family in Thailand.

The managing director for Germany at Filippa K, Norbert Reipert, proclaimed that they incorporate their values into the product, making it true, sustainable and reliable. They are using eco fabrics for some garments, and fair trade is a must, but their low-impact strategy still wasn’t comprehensive enough to qualify them for the green platform. Nonetheless, Reipert had strong feelings on the subject:

“We know there is a consumer out there called the LOHAS in Germany, who are really knowledgeable. But the masses just know enough to make a choice, and these masses will count in the end. [People will question,] why would you eat something based on chemicals? Why would you wear something that harms you?”

On the whole, we could see a definite shift in consciousness taking place, with many young and not-so-young labels expanding the boundaries of ethical production methods and sustainable materials, both traditional and high-tech. Needless to say, a lot of work is still to be done: What will it take to move sustainability from a trend to a lifestyle?

Want to read more? Click below to purchase the full PDF version of THE ECO TRADE SHOW REPORT JULY 2009, complete with lots of photos and in-depth designer interviews:

For a breakdown of the trends we observed at the trade shows, click below to purchase the full PDF version of THE BREAD AND BUTTER/PREMIUM REPORT SS 2010:

July 21, 2009

Presenting the new green giant: Wal-mart!

Pilloried in the media, and notably in Barbara Ehrenreich's must-read Nickel and Dimed, for its low, low pay and appalling lack of benefits, Wal-mart has cleaned up its act. Okay, conditions for workers may not have improved so much, but perhaps they will: surprisingly for a company whose employees often have to supplement their incomes with welfare, the mega-retailer recently announced it's officially supporting an employer mandate on health care.

Which would be great in and of itself, but another announcement has knocked that one out of the water: Wal-mart is creating a (self-reported) scorecard for its 100,000 global suppliers detailing their impact on energy and climate, natural resources, material efficiency and people and community, which will then be converted into an index – a number, for example – to label the product in stores. With one main challenge of sustainability being the difficulty of standardizing eco-claims, this project could be a huge boon to many companies looking to go green, as well as consumers looking to compare the relative claims of various products. Wal-mart will not own the index, which it says is a collaboration with universities, NGOs, governments, suppliers, and retailers.

Meanwhile, Wal-mart isn't just regulating its suppliers – they're greening their own stores, too. Lately, they've cut their energy consumption 15% by installing a "daylight harvesting" system that dims lights when natural light streams in from windows and skylights.

July 14, 2009

Saving the world through social media

Nonprofit organizations can be many things: caring, diligent, altruistic, painfully earnest. One thing they rarely are, though, is chic. Enter charity: water, started by Scott Harrison, an ex-party promoter who leveraged his natural flair for marketing into a group that, in only 5 years, has helped provide clean water to almost 1 million people in third-world countries.

With only 11 employees, charity: water has raised money (over $10 million so far!) in ways so catchy, for-profits can only dream of catching up: asking people with September birthdays to request donations in lieu of presents; holding "Twestival" gatherings on Twitter; and producing videos, including the one above. The group has nearly 600,000 followers on Twitter — slightly more than the population of Washington, DC.

Declares Harrison, “Guilt has never been part of it. It’s excitement instead, presenting people with an opportunity — ‘you have an amazing chance to build a well!’ ”

Via Nick Kristof in the NYT

Update 7/21/09: Social media can be a winner for for-profit businesses, too. A study in PSFK today shows a correlation between engagement in social media outlets and financial success for companies including Starbucks, Dell, and eBay.

July 8, 2009

News flash: Less is more, again

Looks like minimalism is back – both as æsthetic and business strategy.

This summer, Camilla Stærk's sudden, unannounced closing of her Soho boutique set off alarms, but it turns out she was conserving her resources to regroup for the recession in a clever way: by creating Stærk Signature, a tiny line consisting of the 8 essential pieces that her customers demand from season to season.

Like designer, like retailer: stores, too, have begun paring down their inventory, as WWD reported yesterday. The still-suffering (and possibly for sale to Uniqlo?) Gap learned years ago that too much merchandise can mean smaller profits, as customers learn to wait for sales instead of buying at full price; a lesson missed by many retailers who have been offering deep discounts since before Christmas. Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, was recently rated the most valuable luxury brand in the world – thanks largely to its tight control of distribution and its strict no-markdowns policy.

July 7, 2009

News flash: What recession? SS10 fashion weeks defy expectations.

With all the design houses going out of business lately, one might have imagined September's upcoming fashion weeks would be tragically quiet, underattended affairs. One would, in that case, have been utterly mistaken: IMG is reporting that the number of designers wanting to show at New York Fashion Week is up this season, while the British Fashion Council is staging a concerted – and so far quite successful – effort to lure back local designers to London's much-ignored fashion week.

Prodigal sons and daughters returning to the British Isles for SS10 include Burberry, Matthew Williamson, Pringle, Jonathan Saunders, and Clements Ribiero. Next step: Bring back the editors. WWD barely even bothered to cover last season's shows; this time around, PR diva/reality star Kelly Cutrone has been charged with filling London's front rows with American buyers and media. Will it work? Let's hope so – London has always been a hotbed of fresh talent and wild prints, and it would be a shame to lose its quirky charms.

June 30, 2009

Designers to Watch: Charlotte Ronson (New York)

Falling somewhere between Isabel Marant and Chloë Sevigny on the vintage-inspired-downtown-chic fashion spectrum, somewhat lesser known than her twin sister who famously dated Lindsay Lohan, designer Charlotte Ronson has nonetheless managed to carve out a significant niche for herself in the fashion world, and with a surprising business partner: J.C. Penney.

What could a New York scenester and a staid department store chain have in common? Well, teenage shoppers, apparently. Ronson's accessible, sweet-but-almost-grungy Liberty-print dresses and rompers, high-waisted shorts, and back-buttoned cardigans translate so fluently to the mass-market line that it's nearly impossible to tell which of the above photos are from the discount line and which from her runway line. (Answer: the J.C. Penney line, called I Heart Ronson, is on the left). WWD reports today that Penney's stock has been upgraded, largely on the strength of their direct sourcing and private-label lines – including I Heart Ronson, no doubt.

Update 7/8/09: In a new survey, J.C. Penney ranked second, after Old Navy, among mall stores visited most by teens. Go, Charlotte, go!

June 24, 2009

The new face of retail: Personalized service for all

Business as usual just doesn't cut it anymore. The recession has proved to be fertile ground for innovation as lackluster business shift their strategies to keep up with our fast-changing world. According to a recent article in the NY Times, even super-sized Wal-Mart stores is cutting brands and streamlining inventory, while moribund department stores Sears and JC Penney are entering the 20th century by copying Barnes & Noble's longtime innovation of offering in-store customers the use of computers linked to the store's inventory system. If something they're looking for is out of stock, they can place an order right away.

Meanwhile, Macy's has introduced "My Macy's," a system of merchandising that customizes the selection for each individual store by getting input from the people who know best: the sales staff, who know, for example, if strapless dresses are too modest for Salt Lake City's clientele. Saks is going even more custom by installing software that gives salespeople easy access to a database of clients' preferences and earlier purchases, so returning customers can be welcomed with tailor-made service.

Another way to cater to client preferences has been through the internet, where Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming the preferred way for designers and retailers to interact with their clientele, according to a new WWD article. Designers such as Charlotte Ronson and Rachel Roy tweet sales as well as tidbits from their personal lives, putting a more human face on their brands, while the more established Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan have Twitter feeds written by their PR girls.

News flash: High-end copycats?

And the copycat saga continues... In an especially egregious copycat case, CFDA president and prominent anti-copying advocate Diane von Furstenberg voluntarily settled out of court with under-the-radar Canadian label Mercy after a newspaper columnist accused her of copying a floral-print jacket, above right. Mercy co-designer Jennifer Halchuk explained to the National Post that the jacket pattern was entirely unique, having been custom-made to fit their idea of a vintage bed jacket, and pointed out that DVF's version (at left above, and worn by Jessica Alba on the cover of Elle) copied nearly every detail – the asymmetrical bias neck bow, an interior drawstring, elasticated sleeve cuffs – except the copyrighted fabric.

Meanwhile, at Balenciaga, influential designer Nicolas Ghesquière has been known to draw his inspiration from the house's archives as well as from other vintage sources. Most recently, a Resort 2009 leather jacket featured distinctive curved seams nearly identical to those on the Parrot jacket by defunct San Francisco label East West Musical Instruments. Given that the brand is no longer in operation, an homage seems reasonable, but it does beg the question: How close should a garment be to its inspiration, and where do we draw the line between inspiration and imitation?

Photo via National Post

June 16, 2009

Designers to Watch: Beth Ditto for Evans (London)

A proud size 28, singer Beth Ditto is an unlikely fashion icon -- but icon she is, having played Fendi's after-party in a custom-designed (by Karl himself!) costume, which she proceeded to strip off, and gracing the cover of Love magazine's first issue with her ample curves. As the frontwoman for Gossip, a West Coast punk band, she made a splash by talking openly about her weight and homosexuality, and has lately evolved into a pundit on fashion issues for "women of size." Most recently, the British plus-size chain Evans, not known for its fashion-forward wares, has hired her to create a capsule collection, which promises loud patterns, fitted jackets, jumpsuits, and other garments rarely seen on larger women. Stateside, the chain Torrid has been a huge hit in the malls with its sexier clothing for bigger girls; perhaps Evans can find similar success as Ditto follows in the footsteps of her new BFF Kate Moss.

June 10, 2009

Going green: YSL New Vintage comes and goes in a single day

Maybe it's the continuing appeal of limited-edition wares, or perhaps a sign that it really is time for luxury houses to go green, as the NY Times's Cathy Horyn so elegantly put it at her talk last Saturday. No matter how you explain it, though, the much-anticipated 60-piece YSL New Vintage collection had mostly sold out by the midpoint of its opening reception, reports WWD

Made from "vintage" fabrics left over from YSL collections of the past 10 years, the pieces were designed by Stefano Pilati according to his latest manifesto, in which he called the line 

“a general attempt to give a sensibility and an education to our public so that it can act consciously toward its environment,” and a way to “start a dialogue with the market using known codes and a common language that are reassuring and familiar.”

“New Vintage is my way to reflect our social and economic state by capitalizing on existing resources to translate sustainable ‘values’ into ‘forms,’” he added.

Photo via WWD

June 9, 2009

News flash: Department stores, up and down

Wal-mart shareholders just got out from their star-studded annual meeting, in which Ben Stiller, Miley Cyrus, and various company execs celebrated the mega-retailer's status as one of few chains with, um, not-so-terrible sales amid the recession. 

Meanwhile, in Germany, the department-store and catalogue group Arcandor has filed for bankruptcy in another American Apparel-like situation: Three days from now, a bank credit of €710 million comes due, and without a serious rescue and restructuring plan, they won't be able to cover the debt. This creates a looming spectre for Germany: What kind of impact will it have on the economy if a major department chain, the Arcandor-owned Karstadt, simply vanishes?

Back in the States, Neiman Marcus isn't disappearing entirely, but some of their opening hours are. After analyzing traffic patterns in their stores, they've decided to open some locations later, and close others earlier. A smart move, even if it hadn't been prompted by the recession: Why spend money to keep your store open if nobody's there?

A more drastic version of that scenario is playing out in New York as Virgin Megastores North America follows its UK brethren into oblivion. Founded by Virgin impresario Sir Richard Branson, the Stateside part of the chain of cavernous music and bookstores was purchased in 2007 by Vornado Realty Trust, which quickly determined that the stores' real estate would bring better profits than did the stores themselves. How the truth hurts…

Saks, meanwhile, is betting on a $30 million renovation to boost sales on its designer floor. Chanel will be front and center, joined by younger designers including Doo.Ri, Erdem, and Martin Grant. But they're not exactly putting all their eggs in the luxury-goods basket: Saks is actually planning to get designers to lower prices, dropping them from the "best" into "better" tier of clothing. Can it work? Will designers survive the narrowing of their already-slim price margins? With Jens Laugesen, Emma Cook, and Veronique Branquinho already folded, the recession will surely claim more casualties as it unfolds, both among small designers and giant retailers.

"The Fall of the Mall" illustration via NY Times
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