Fashion in the News 2006
India's fashion industry finds its feet: India's top designers have been unveiling ready-to-wear collections rich in hand-embroidery with an eye toward Western markets as global buyers scout for fresh talent at Mumbai's fashion shows. Elegant jackets with subtle beadwork, fluid skirts and linen tunics in off-whites and earth tones along with silk and wool have dominated the autumn-winter shows at the five-day Lakme Fashion Week, which ends Saturday.
Better known for garment factories that make clothes for big Western retailers like the Gap and Banana Republic, India is slowly gaining a reputation as a land where high fashion can be found alongside silk saris. Hollywood movie stars such as Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench have worn Indian creations. Indian designers sell their labels at high-end boutiques in London, New York and Paris, and a handful of Indian labels are available at London's Browns and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.
Still, the Indian designer market remains in its infancy -- about US$49 million in domestic sales compared to the sizable US$35 billion global market. India's total garment exports are worth about US$5 billion a year. While there are no exact figures for how much of those exports are high-end fashions, experts say it's likely not more than a minuscule percentage. In the past, most Indian designers looked to the local clothing market -- currently about US$4.8 billion in sales. But now -- as was clear at this week's fashion shows in Mumbai -- they are now being aggressively courted by Western buyers.
``India is hot now, everyone is interested in India. Designers must not let the opportunity slip by,'' said Lavelle Olexa, a senior vice president at American retail chain Lord & Taylor. ``With the recent trend of embellishments, department stores are looking for fresh and new Indian detail.'' Albert Morris, a buyer from London's Browns, came to India looking for new styles. ``I'm looking for new silhouettes, crisp designs,'' said Morris. ``I'm looking for something that could stand near an Armani that should make people say, `Oh, that's new and fresh. Who's the designer?'''
Reflecting a rising interest in Indian design, global and domestic buyers will move from Mumbai's catwalk to India's capital New Delhi for another major fashion show beginning next week. Designing for an international market entails toning down vivid colors and cutting back on extravagant embroidery that do brisk business locally. Indian designers say overseas recognition will be gradual. ``Designing for the precision couture segment takes time,'' said Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who has shown his collection at the Milan Fashion Week and retails in British and European stores. ``I'll stick to growing slowly -- first I need to learn the market in Europe and then move into America.''
Well-known designer Ritu Beri, the first Asian to head French fashion house Scherrer's ready-to-wear line, said she uses softer color palettes for clothes sold abroad. She said a fusion of Western silhouettes with rich Indian brocade or cotton fabrics worked well. ``What buyers are looking at is tops and jackets with an Indian spirit without directly spelling out India,'' she said.
Rajesh Pratap Singh, India's top menswear designer, makes no changes when he retails abroad -- he bridges the East-West divide with uncluttered, sharp designs. ``I keep it simple with subtle embroidery on wool and an emphasis on cut and new shapes,'' said Singh, who sells his clothes in stores from Palm Beach to Paris.
But designers like Manish Arora, who showed at the London and New York fashion week, believe bright pinks and blues can make the trans-Atlantic trip. ``My look is very embroidered and very modern. I believe the whole world will see our edge in craftsmanship and in textiles,'' Arora said.
Taipei Times: Thursday 06 April, 2006
Fashion in Art/Fashion as Art: In February of 2006, the Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri opens an exciting collaborative exhibition that displays artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection side-by-side with clothing from the Department of Textile and Apparel Management’s Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection. The exhibit, Dressing the Part: Art and Fashion in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, explores two hundred years of changing clothing styles, tracking the importance of fashion in the transmission of cultural and social ideas in European and American art.
Instead of trying to represent every fashion movement of the 1800s and 1900s, the exhibit focuses on certain particularly interesting social and cultural trends that are observable in both clothing and in art. The first portion of the show is devoted to fashions from the nineteenth century. Underwear, corsets, bustles, dresses and bonnets are displayed next to paintings, drawings and prints representing people wearing similar garments. Fashion in the 1800s was influenced by the social conditions of the time, and the attire on display reflects these conditions. Viewers will see how dress was connected to the restricted roles of women in society, and how clothing was associated with now forgotten social customs. For example, a number of artworks, objects and outfits displayed relate to the nineteenth-century custom of mourning. Mourning clothes, worn for months and even years at a time, manifested the ever-present awareness of death in this era of high infant mortality and short life expectancy.
During the 1800s, the wearing of particular colors, jewelry and garments indicated that a person was grieving for a dead relative or loved one. A nineteenth-century viewer, for example, would have instantly understood that the sitter in George Caleb Bingham’s Portrait of Thomas Withers Nelson was wearing a mourning pin. By displaying this artwork with objects and outfits associated with mourning..., the Museum allows today’s viewers to understand better the original meaning and context of both the painting and the clothing.
The second portion of the exhibit focuses on women’s working clothes and menswear from the mid 1800s to the turn of the century. Clothing worn by rural laborers is displayed next to pictures of working women by Jean Millet and Auguste Renoir. At the other end of the social spectrum, top hats, vests and suits complement prints and photographs representing men in formal attire by such artists as Honoré Daumier and Erich Salomon. All of these images reflect the important role clothing had (and continues to have) in representing the class and economic status of its wearers. By picturing people wearing such class-indicative outfits, the artists who made these pictures conveyed complex social and political messages.
The third and largest portion of the exhibition is dedicated to fashion in the twentieth century. Changing clothing styles in the last one hundred years reflect developing technology and evolving concepts about race and gender roles. For example, Romare Bearden’s abstract representation of African-inspired clothing in Conjunction echoes the interest among many twentieth-century African Americans in proudly proclaiming and re-claiming their African heritage through their dress. In the exhibit, Bearden’s print is displayed beside authentic African outfits. Such outfits were and are often worn by black Americans as a way of celebrating their African heritage.
People are often unaware of the social statements made by their clothing. By understanding fashion in the context of history, we begin to see how dress affects and reflects a culture’s values and priorities. When artists incorporate fashion into their paintings, drawings, photographs and prints they communicate a variety of social messages to the spectator. Visitors to Dressing the Part: Art and Fashion in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries are encouraged to contemplate these messages and consider the political, cultural and economic factors that have affected fashion design in Europe and America over the last two centuries.
Museum Magazine (Winter 2006: Number 48)
Chicos strategy wins customer loyalty: Experienced almost exclusively by women in midlife, Chicos is characterized by an infatuation with relaxed-fit jackets, tummy-skimming tunics and acetate/spandex pants. "Thank goodness they make clothes for me, because no one else seems to," says Joan Balfour, a 64-year-old retired social worker/psychotherapist.
Look around any mall and you'll see store after store kissing up to teenagers and women in their twenties. They're the cool customers, fashionably slender of hip and open to quicksilver trends, the conventional wisdom goes. "Some retailers are embarrassed by the real women who shop there who aren't as fashionable and edgy. Retail fashion is notorious for that," says marketing-to-women whiz Mary Lou Quinlan, author of "Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy." "Some retailers and merchandisers have wannabe customers. The customer they want is the customer they don't have, and the one they have is the one they don't like."
Chico's clearly adores its customer, Quinlan says. "They probably have pictures of her in their hallways, and they're not going to desert her or disappoint her. And they're willing to forgo fashionistas in favor of the much, much larger group of women who have a look, a lifestyle, that's very Chico's."
That much larger group of women includes Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. "This is an audience that's used to having the world focus on them, but when it came to their clothing needs, only Chico's cared," says James Chung of Reach Advisors, a Boston-based marketing strategy and research firm that studies how demographic and lifestyle shifts impact the consumer landscape. "Chico's couldn't care less if they are mocked by others outside of their core audience," he says. "All they care about is the upscale 50-year-old woman, and they do it well."
Chico's was born in 1983, in a small Sanibel Island store that also sold Mexican art. Now the publicly traded company operates 763 stores, including 499 Chico's stores and 31 outlets. White House/Black Market is part of the fold, with 196 locations, and Chico's just launched a new offshoot of lingerie stores called Soma by Chico's.
From the beginning, Chico's not only understood the psychology of sizing its clothes but also did something about it. They invented their own scale, sizes 0 to 3 (roughly the equivalent sizes 4 to 16). The psychological benefits of single digits can't be denied. "They understand women's issues of body image," Quinlan says. "They understand women, especially grown-up women who live in a world infatuated with a (traditional) size 2. It's discouraging to go shopping and find nothing but low-ride jeans and belly tops or go someplace where you feel like an outcast. . . .
"Their sizing is brilliant. It's genius. Why it took so long for someone to stop saying Extra Large. . . . Right away there's permission to be who you are and be happy about it." When Margot Banke learned that she could wear a 2 or 3 at Chico's instead of a 12 or 14 somewhere else, "you don't know what that did to me." One thing: It kept her going back for more.
The fact that most Chico's items are machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant in even the fullest suitcase adds to their appeal. "Women are stressed," Quinlan says. "They don't need more work to take care of their fashion."
Quinlan says women can sense when a company respects them. "They respect women in the way they design clothes and sell clothes, and they're loyal," she says. "They keep certain styles. They don't make you start from scratch each season. What Chico's knows is it's not just about the clothes. It's about the heart. That's what they've got nailed."
The Austin American-Statesman: January 09, 2006
A Year Full of Eastern Promise: Oriental designs, the Sixties look and the duster coat will be big in 2006, predicts Clare Coulson. Memoirs of a Geisha promises to be the most sumptuous film of the year. Oriental designs have already been seen on the spring catwalks of Dries Van Noten and Hermès, while at Lanvin, Alber Elbaz cinched his pared-down looks with beautiful obi belts.
Biba, the label that defined Swinging Sixties fashion, is making a comeback, French Sole is introducing a Sixties collection of ballet slippers and Bath's Museum of Costume will hold a retrospective of John Bates, one of the most influential designers of the Sixties (from July). For spring, hemlines are heading well above the knee, with swinging mini-dresses and Mod-inspired short skirts.
Further predictions of trends for 2006 include bows; duster coats; chunky, long gold chains and pendants; luxurious fabrics; A-line skirts, shift dresses and straight coats worn with platforms and a Mod-inspired bob.
The Daily Telegraph: January 04, 2006