Bridge has been a relatively sleepy sector as retailers struggle to find ways to reinvent it amid competition from the hot contemporary zone.
However, the category is seeing some signs of a resurgence, led by fresh entries such as Premise and merchandising formats like Bloomingdale's New View department and Saks Fifth Avenue's Modern floors. The renewed activity is giving hope to younger labels that are looking to bring a point of difference to bridge. Here, a roundup:
Hilton Hollis aims to become a strong bridge player — just don't label him as such.
"I find the word 'bridge' so dirty these days," the designer said, echoing sentiments of many contemporaries. "We like to refer to it like a modern collection. I feel like some people have a bad idea about bridge, which comes from many years of the 'same old, same old' mentality. Now it's seeing some life injected into it."
Before launching his label in June 2005, the Fashion Institute of Technology alum was an assistant designer at Dana Buchman. He apprenticed with Tim Gardner when Gardner was a creative director at Calvin Klein, and freelanced for John Bartlett. Hollis, 33, was inspired to start his own line after speaking with several retail salespeople on a trip to visit his family in Atlanta. "I asked them, 'What are you missing?'" he recalled. "I heard there was a sophistication missing in the price point that was the bridge area, so I wanted to take the designer aesthetic and bring it to the bridge customer. Our customer is a woman who shops at the high end, at Valentino and Oscar de la Renta, for example, as well as from our collection, which is at a more affordable price."
The collection has an architectural feel, with classic silhouettes enhanced by exaggerated seaming. Much of it is inspired by Hollis' travels. For fall 2008, he sought inspiration from a recent trip to Amsterdam, with prints loosely drawn from Van Gogh paintings.
On average, wholesale price points range from $395 to $595 for coats, $195 to $445 for jackets, $125 to $185 for trousers, $125 to $185 for skirts, $65 to $135 for shirts and $95 to $135 for knits. The line is distributed to more than 80 better specialty stores, including Gus Mayer in Birmingham, Ala., Julian Gold in San Antonio and Top Drawer in Westport, Conn. It has a wholesale volume of about $1 million.
Hollis said he had no qualms about taking a swing at the bridge sector. "I am all for a challenge," he laughed. "When I looked at starting a business, I wanted to do something that wasn't offered. I am not looking to be the next big hit in the fashion industry, but for me, it's about appealing to my customer...especially with women who are senior executives and Baby Boomers, there's a huge void out there for sophisticated, modern, affordable clothing that fits a woman's body."
WILLIAM & AUGUSTA
Christian Schofield Arkins wants his new bridge-priced brand to have staying power, so he looked to his mother's family for inspiration.
William & Augusta takes its name from the president and creative director's maternal grandfather (William) and great-grandmother (Augusta), in addition to adopting a Chanel aesthetic that nods to the Schofields, his mother's family, whom Arkins called a "very old-world New York City family."
"There's a lot of new labels that don't stick around too long, but we based our story on the heritage of my mom's family," said Arkins, the former creative director of Original Penguin. "We make the collection here — her family was made in New York, too."
Launching for spring 2008, the line wholesales for $200 to $1,400. The dresses and sophisticated separates use European fabrics, like silk chiffon, Lurex tweed and jacquard, in neutral solids, as well as paisley prints and polkadots. The first collection's look book is tagged "The Secret Grandma Diaries," but the suits, dresses, skirts and blouses look shorter and girlier than anything worn by a grandmother.
"I haven't seen a lot of new American labels offering a refined and sophisticated perspective," Arkins said.
Arkins, who also designed for J. Crew and RRL, projects the line will do less than $500,000 in the first year. The privately funded company has plans to launch both a contemporary and a men's line within two years.
Helene Kidary's path to Seventh Avenue was anything but conventional.
The designer spent more than a decade in the technology and telecommunications fields before stumbling on an article about the strength of denim in the Wall Street Journal in 2004. "I thought, 'This is taking off,' and has an iconic factor and momentum at the time with no signs of slowing down," she recalled. So Kidary put together a denim collection based on blending the workwear fabric with silks, linens and different cotton mixes. More recently, as the denim sector cooled, Kidary decided to switch gears and produce a complete collection targeting the bridge sector. "The concept of the woman I am dressing hasn't changed, the fabric has," she said. "We have women aged 35 to 50 who lead a fast and furious lifestyle. She is the head of the home, the company and the social club. If you look at the shift of wealth that is occurring with women today, women are in charge of the majority of home purchases, automobiles and electronics.
"It's catering to the woman who has to go from corporate to cocktails, from after-school to dinner," she added. "Who is dressing these women for all the different facets of her life? That is the HK woman. She wants a refined look; it can't be cost prohibitive for her."
The new bridge direction will bow at retail this spring. Key pieces include a Flapper wool-stretch blend pinstriped suit inspired by Audrey Hepburn with a 24-inch-wide leg hem and a traditional suit jacket, and a high-waisted skirt in that fabric teamed with a jacket featuring a cutaway label and an arched back.
Overall, wholesale prices range from $190 to $320, with skirts from $110 to $140, pants from $120 to $160, tops from $70 to $140 and dresses from $120 to $180. For spring, the line has been picked up by stores such as Vivaldi in New York; Flair in Stony Brook, N.Y.; Nada & Co. in Chinchilla, Pa.; Chickies Daughter in Lafayette Hill, Pa., and Susan Lee in Atlanta.
"The 'neo' or modern bridge category is where I see these women shopping repeatedly and I am here to cater to that woman," Kidary said. "I think women want to be fashion-forward and it allows them to demonstrate their strength and confidence but they want it at affordable prices."
Kidary cited multiple sources as inspiration for her designs. "It can come from reading an article about a woman who has achieved a point of success or done something inspirational to other women, or from existing designers and how they choose to interpret a silhouette based on a woman as it serves to empower her," she said. "We have such challenges throughout our day that the last thing we want to be worrying about is how we look...anything on how to make a woman dress and feel more comfortable in her day and night is an inspiration to me."
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye