Dorothy Roberts likes to say that she has three children: daughter Lynn, son Steven and Echo, the design company that her parents founded 85 years ago. Certainly, as chairman of the New York-based design mini empire, she likes to keep it all in the family: Steven is the brand’s chief executive officer and president, and Lynn is the vice president of advertising and public relations.
When Echo was first started in September 1923 by newlyweds Theresa and Edgar C. Hyman, it made a small selection of scarves that it sold to stores such as Saks, Marshall Field’s and I. Magnin. In the eight-plus decades since then, Echo has gone on to have a combined staff of 170 in New York and at a distribution center in New Jersey, and its various offerings are available in some 3,000 to 4,000 doors nationwide and another 500 globally. In addition to scarves, which continue to be a staple, Echo makes puffy nylon jackets, rainwear, hats, wraps and leather gloves. There is a comprehensive home line that extends to duvets and pillow shams, table linens, paper napkins, ceramic soap dispensers and shower curtains. The brand’s core products are priced anywhere from $38 to $200 at retail. And the one unifying element among all these seemingly disparate categories: the vibrant and eclectic prints that have always been at the heart of Echo.
“We’ve always said that our brand is about print, pattern and color,” says Steven Roberts. “We’ve always woven our products into this kaleidoscopic design, and everything else grew out of what we were good at and what we enjoyed. We mix patterns and colors and brushstrokes, and engineer them into interesting and compelling designs.”
To commemorate the company’s anniversary, Echo has launched a new ad campaign that will carry through to next spring. The ads, which first bowed in The New York Times in August, focus specifically on the prismatic nature of the prints, and are more about the overall aesthetic of the line than any tangible product.
“It’s really all about the design, and how it’s interesting and different and unusual,” says Lynn Roberts. There is also a redesigned Web site, echodesign.com, which was launched a few months ago to coincide with the release of the company’s third home decoration book, and plans for a series of personal appearances and trunk shows with key retailers are planned throughout the rest of the year. In short, after 85 years — at least half of them spent working in licensing deals with brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor and Talbots — the company is looking fresher than ever.
“We love newness, and much of the innovation here is inspired by what’s happening around the globe, through music, films, the streets,” says Steven Roberts.
That explains the wide retail mix. Echo products are available at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, as well as at trendy boutiques such as Shop Intuition and Kitson. Internationally, the company sells at Harrods in London and Le Bon Marché in Paris, and is seeing a spike in business in Japan. On the agenda are new accounts in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia.
Despite the economic downturn, Steven Roberts says that business is up about 6 percent this year over last. “It’s challenging, but when times are difficult, we develop more, do more, take more risks,” he says. “We innovate as much as we can. These days, we don’t cut quality. We reinvent.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast