October 27, 2010

In Times of Unpredictability...

Let's face it: the economy is unpredictable.

In one day, we may read from one source that the luxury market is improving; yet another will report news of closeouts and bankruptcies. We are living in difficult times and the future of our economy is as predictable as the weather these days here in New York City.

photo via: NY Times

So in order to stay afloat, everyone, from luxury brands to fast retailers are rethinking their game strategies. Today, the on-going trend among luxury brands is mass appeal branding. Just recently, Dallas-based luxury retailer Neiman Marcus opened a new line of outlet stores called Last Call Studio. Specifically located in suburban areas or strip malls that are not outlet centers, the stores will specialize in moderately priced goods aimed at the value-minded shopper who "may not have the reach level to buy the fine apparel that Neiman Marcus offers," says Wanda Gierhart, Neiman's chief marketing officer.

Instead of selling leftover stock from their department store lines, the store will focus on more affordable pieces from their existing lines that they already carry. In addition, they will also stock more heavily from their lower-end lines, bought directly from vendors. Unlike outlet shops, all of their merchandise will be in season and considered "new." And aware of the increase of online-shopping, they also launched an accompanying website earlier this month.

This new strategy is a clear reflection of the post-recession retail world. With an excess of unoccupied store front real estate and most traditional outlet stores having too little clearance merchandise to sell because retailers have cut inventory, Neiman's concept is one that works around today's financial circumstances. It also feeds into a market for the price-conscious shopper who still wants value and quality for their dollar. As much as it is a financial necessity, Neiman's new store concept is a smart response to today's economic situation.

Kinder Aggugini's moodboard for Macy's
photo via: NY Times

On the other hand, Macy's, a much more mainstream department store, recently joined the bandwagon of designer collaborations with plans to work with London-based designer Kinder Aggugini. The high-low concept is nothing new as H&M, Target, Gap, and Uniqlo have all already been doing such collaborations for years. However, it is a bit surprising that Macy's, a generally conservative department store, is collaborating with Kinder Aggugini, an edgy, rising designer, still relatively unknown in the States.

The collaborative collection plans to be sold at about 250 store locations, with prices ranging from $50 to $300. Attempting to offer more fashionable products, the collaboration hopes to attract more younger and trend-focused customers.

In times like today, brands must be strategic and wise in their decision making process. Even Uniqlo, the Japanese-based fast retailer, which had soaring sales this past year with more than 80 new shop openings since August, are facing financial difficulties. Due to poor product planning and supply chain management and marketing, the company has found itself in a downward slope.

The economy continues to affect the retail industry across all borders, leaving none unscathed. Although there is no bulletproof plan, creativity and smart decision making in a timely fashion proves to be only route for success.

October 21, 2010

The App Generation

With technology so completely absorbed in our every day lives, we can take a guess that most of our readers are iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android users. Maybe even some of you are reading this post with our app on your phone or iPad! But as tech-savvy we grown-ups may be, you may be surprised to find that your niece or nephew may be just as technologically advanced as you.

photo via: NY Times

In today's day and age, the latest toy for 1-2,- and 3- year olds is not a stuffed animal, Legos, or a Barbie doll. Just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, kids are following suit. And now with thousands of apps aimed directly at young toddlers and children, our future generation is hooked on their iPhones years before we ever had our hands on them.

Log on to YouTube and you are sure to find dozens of parents uploading videos of their young toddlers fiddling with the iPad and iPhone. Apple's user friendly interface is so easy even a two year-old is able to figure out the functions after several minutes.

photo via: Lunchbox Review

Educational, creative, or purely for fun, there is an overflow of apps to keeps kids busy and entertained. Just check out Lunchbox Reviews, a website launched only a month ago, devoted solely to kids apps.

Some parents are advocates of the phenomenon, firmly believing that the educational apps are helping their children to learn faster and have seen proven results. The phone and iPad have also been key for some parents to make day-to-day tasks a little bit easier. Whether it is a long car ride or a restaurant dinner, the kids are too distracted by their apps to complain. But at the same time, these parents are also aware that too much time in front of a screen can be dangerous. Some have commented that it was a bit worrisome how addicted their children were to their iPad and iPhones. But with a controlled and limited play time, they still believe it is a huge advantage to their education and just a natural adjustment to the times of today.

On the other hand, there is also a lot of opposition as many parents argue that the phone is not a toy or a babysitter. Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University's Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, worries that fixation on the iPhone screen every time a child is out and about with parents will limit the child's ability to experience the wider world. And as these children are in a critical growing process, many argue that this interaction can lead to severely stunted attention spans, reducing their experience to a very low level of brain function.

We are a bit hesitant about where we stand on this case as there are obviously pros and cons to both sides. We'll leave it to you to decide. However, one thing we are absolutely positive about is that this further proves our point that technology is the driving force of today. Technology will continue to impact all aspects of our culture, whether we think it is beneficial or not.

photo via: iTunes

As such, there is also a huge market opportunity for developers to expand technological concepts related to child development and education. Since last year, many college and graduate programs, including journalism, pharmacy, and medicine, have included an iPhone as a mandatory tool for classes. With the ability to practice interactive quizzes and download study-tool apps, the iPhone has now become just another added expense on the students' tuition rate.

photo via: FT.com

Furthermore, the Kindle and other digital books have also been tested as a replacement for heavy, expensive textbooks. However, students who experimented with replacing their books for the digital ones found themselves going back to the traditional heavy text books. Some have argued that books defined 'academia' for a thousand years and their education wouldn't be the same without it. Others simply preferred the ability to flip through pages and complain that staring at a screen all day strains their eyes.

Although there are still some imperfections with switching to digital, it is clear that our society is moving toward a more technology-based direction. With the education system now getting on board, our future generation will be getting a much earlier start.

October 14, 2010

Brooklyn's One to Watch: Titania Inglis

photo via: Titania Inglis

A designer for the modern woman, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Titania Inglis creates clothes that are experimental yet functional, perfect for strong, stylish women on-the-go. And now after three seasons, Ms. Inglis has established her signature style of effortless, essential, and cutting edge designs.
But what makes her collection a particular stand-out is her underlying element of sustainability. Using minimal waste and sourcing only organic fabrics and vegetable-tanned leathers, all of her pieces are conscientiously sourced and sewn in limited quantities in New York's garment district.

So last week, we caught Ms. Inglis for an interview to get an inside scoop on what life has been like for this rising talent.  

1. Please share a little bit about your background:

I grew up in Ithaca, New York, and started out as a journalist after college before going into design. I studied at Design Academy Eindhoven and FIT, and learned the ropes of running an independent fashion line by interning for Jean Yu, Three As Four, and Stærk before launching my own line.

2. Were you always eco-conscious?

In a word, yes. In elementary school, I won a prize for dreaming up a wide-mouthed monster that would live in the ground and solve the landfill problem by eating garbage and digesting it into dirt. These days, I’m trying to counteract disposable culture by making clothes conceived for a smaller wardrobe: versatile pieces to wear day or night, with silhouettes that are of the moment, but with classic proportions and quality designed to stand the test of time.

3. Which designers are you most influenced by and why? 

Ann Demeulemeester, for her androgynous classics with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. Stella McCartney, who’s helping to lead the industry in a more environmentally conscious direction, and who designs lovely yet practical clothes that women really want to wear. Maria Cornejo, for her pared-down aesthetic and interesting shapes. Phoebe Philo, whose latest clothes for Céline are simply, unquestionably perfect. The product designers Naoto Fukusawa and Dieter Rams, who distill form down to its most basic elements. 

4. How do find inspirations for your collections? 

One thing I learned as a reporter was that inspiration is everywhere; the hard part is recognizing it when you see it. I draw mine from all kinds of sources: old movies, new architecture, vintage electronics, all the stylish girls pedaling around Brooklyn... and especially from my fabrics. With a sustainable collection, there’s a very limited range of organic fabrics available, so each season I’ll pick about 3 of the best I’ve found, and design my collection around those. For SS11, it was an organic cotton denim from Japan and an organic cotton-silk blend twill from Italy, both of which lent themselves to a sculptural, origami effect. I also try to incorporate at least one new natural fabric treatment technique into each collection; for the first, I experimented with rust dyeing, for the second, it was beeswaxing, and for the third, natural dyeing.

photo via: Titania Inglis

5. Please describe your typical work day. 

As a small designer, I support myself by freelancing at an apparel company in Midtown, so I have to squeeze in moments throughout the week to work on my own projects. First thing in the morning, I’ll get up and dash off some emails over breakfast before biking into the city for work. After I leave the office, I’ll run errands: some days I’ll stop by the factory in the Garment District that produces my clothes, other days I’ll pick up the latest print job from the little print shop that produces my lookbooks and hangtags. And before bed, I’ll be back on the computer, updating my website, working on lookbooks or press releases, updating my Facebook page. 

One thing I’ve learned about being a one-woman company is that the work never ends. Except for the sewing and printing that I outsource, it’s all me: sales, marketing, accounting, shipping, sourcing, production, even bike courier... And all the while, I’m constantly keeping my eyes open for inspiration for the next collection.

6. After three seasons, what has been the greatest challenge as an independent NY eco-
   conscious designer? What are the advantages?

The advantage is being in New York, with such a thriving cultural scene around me. I’m friends with quite a few other young designers, and we help each other out with advice and sometimes even late-night sewing marathons! The garment district is also a wonderful resource; it’s incredibly convenient to be able to buy fabric and zippers and get my patterns graded and clothes sewn all within a few-block radius. As a sustainable designer, I’m thrilled to have access to so many slow-fashion-minded organizations; for example, Earth Pledge has compiled a library of sustainable fabrics, while the new Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn is helping to revive hand-weaving, natural dyeing, and other traditional techniques.

The downside is that there’s a lot of competition here, so without a big PR budget, it can be tough to get your work out there. It’s really a matter of building the business step by step, season by season, relationship by relationship, and proving to buyers and editors one by one that I’m serious, I have staying power, and most importantly, that the clothes are worth their while.

7. Who would you love to see wearing your clothes?

Just to name one, Tilda Swinton. She’s already a muse to so many designers, but there’s a reason for that: she’s an independent spirit with a stellar fashion sense, and she’s so poised and intelligent, and beautiful in a tomboyish sort of way.

8. What is your favorite piece in your most recent SS11 collection and why?

The Reverse Dress, because it really epitomizes the values of my collection. I based it on the idea of an artist’s smock; I own a vintage one that only gets better the more it’s splattered in paint and dye. The dress is super versatile, since it can be worn front or back, day or night, layered or alone; it’s practical and easy to wear, with a simple closure and two pockets; the fabric (the Italian silk-organic cotton blend twill I mentioned before) is both gorgeous and eco-friendly; and it has a look that’s beautiful and tough at the same time.

photo via: Titania Inglis

9. Favorite places to shop:

Project No. 8 has a fantastically curated selection of avant-garde clothing. Tokio 7 is a great source of used clothing from major labels and local designers alike. The Chelsea Garage Market and Hell’s Kitchen flea market for vintage finds, including the cool botanical prints I spotted last week for my apartment. The Future Perfect in Williamsburg, which has a fascinatingly quirky selection of current furniture design.

10. Favorite places to dine:

As a slow fashion adherent, I love slow food, too. When it’s time for a real treat, my boyfriend and I head to the General Greene in Fort Greene, Westville East in the East Village, or Diner in Williamsburg, which all have incredibly delicious menus based around local, seasonal ingredients.

October 7, 2010

October MBF Favorite Picks

No matter what in life, there will always be conflicts or issues we all have to struggle with and overcome. However, whether it is environmental, economic, or personal, the weapon of choice is always fueled by empowerment and belief in the self and/or community. Considering October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, today's picks focus specifically on the topic of empowerment, highlighting people, books, films, and events that reiterate the value of personal and/or cooperative strength.

Our hope is that you will be inspired as you read through our personal selections and remember that we all have the same capabilities to encourage and empower one another. And as always, we encourage you to share with us any other stories you find relevant to today's topic.

photo via: Ralph Lauren

1. Pink Pony Womens Clothing for Breast Cancer from Ralph Lauren Polo
Ralph Lauren Polo has launched a month long breast cancer awareness campaign. 10% of all proceeds will support the Pink Pony Fund for Cancer Care and Prevention. With a charity auction and a collection of men's and women's clothing, sportswear, accessories, and gifts, this is definitely the most fashionable way to show your support! (Click here to shop and learn more about it.)

image via: Amazon

2. Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
"Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist.  Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of State... As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman -- trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference. " (Click here to continue....)

photo via: A Peace Treaty

3. A Peace Treaty
A Peace Treaty creates employment for skilled artisans working in places of socio-political strife, effectively supporting their craft while elevating their products to the levels of high design for an exclusive, international audience.  Each season, A Peace Treaty travels to a particular region and seeks out local village artisans to re-define an accessory, creating limited edition pieces in style-unique colorways. The S/S 2010 season comprises of three collections, hailing from Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Click here to view all collections.)

video via: YouTube

4. Last Train Home by Lixin Fan
"Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos, as all at once, a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train. It is the Chinese New Year. The wave is made up of millions of migrant factory workers. The homes they seek are the rural villages and families they left behind to seek work in the booming coastal cities. It is an epic spectacle that tells us much about China, a country discarding traditional ways as it hurtles towards modernity and global economic dominance.(Click here to continue...

photo via: TEDWomen

5. TEDWomen: Reshaping the Future
" The first ever TEDWomen -- co-produced with The Paley Center for Media -- invites men and women to explore this question in depth: From the developing world, where a single micro-loan to a single girl can transform a village; to the West, where generations of educated women are transforming entire industries. The diverse international program takes a long look at women through the lens of change agent, intellectual innovator, idea champion ..." (Click here to continue...)

photo via: Osborn Handcrafted 

6. Osborn Shoes
Launched in 2009, Osborn offers the marketplace a unique collection of handmade footwear cultivated with positivity, hope and dedication. Co-founder Aaron Osborn, whose family runs one of the largest orphanages in Guatemala, stumbled upon the idea for Osborn in 2007 when he met an out-of-work cobbler while doing charitable work in the country. He and co-founder, Carla Venticinque, were searching for a way to combine their artistic backgrounds with their desire to uplift their adopted homeland. This search lead to Osborn Shoes. That first cobbler still works with them full time, as do a small driven team of 20 other gifted artisans. Nestled in the volcanic mountains outside Guatemala CIty, these artisans craft shoes in a time honored old-world manufacturing environment dedicated to integrity and quality. 
Osborn's vertically integrated manufacturing practice sets them apart, establishing a work environment that is sweat-shop free, worker driven and brand focused. Each shoe is signed by its maker, as a testament to the sense of pride for the maker, as well as its wearer. (Click here to continue...)

METI - Handmade School, Rudrapur, Bangladesh
Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag
photo via: MoMA

7. Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, MoMA
October 3, 2010 - January 3, 2011
This exhibition presents eleven architectural projects on five continents that respond to localized needs in underserved communities. These innovative designs signal a renewed sense of commitment, shared by many of today’s practitioners, to the social responsibilities of architecture. Though this stance echoes socially engaged movements of the past, the architects highlighted here are not interested in grand manifestos or utopian theories. Instead, their commitment to a radical pragmatism can be seen in the projects they have realized, from a handmade school in Bangladesh to a reconsideration of a modernist housing project in Paris, from an apartheid museum in South Africa to a cable car that connects a single hillside barrio in Caracas to the city at large. These works reveal an exciting shift in the longstanding dialogue between architecture and society, in which the architect’s methods and approaches are being dramatically reevaluated. They also propose an expanded definition of sustainability that moves beyond experimentation with new materials and technologies to include such concepts as social and economic stewardship. Together, these undertakings not only offer practical solutions to known needs, but also aim to have a broader effect on the communities in which they work, using design as a tool. (Click here to continue...

photo via: Amazon

8. Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is widely considered to be one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has bestowed his entire extant personal papers, which offer an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life.
A singular international publishing event, Conversations with Myself draws on Mandela’s personal archive of never-before-seen materials to offer unique access to the private world of an incomparable world leader. Journals kept on the run during the anti-apartheid struggle of the early 1960s; diaries and draft letters written in Robben Island and other South African prisons during his twenty-seven years of incarceration; notebooks from the postapartheid transition; private recorded conversations; speeches and correspondence written during his presidency—a historic collection of documents archived at the Nelson Mandela Foundation is brought together into a sweeping narrative of great immediacy and stunning power. An intimate journey from Mandela’s first stirrings of political consciousness to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations with Myself illuminates a heroic life forged on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice. (Click here to continue....)

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