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."
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)