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“IT” Accessory of the Year
This story first appeared in the September 16, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Chandelier earrings by R.J. Graziano, Mombasa bag by YSL, Puma sneakers, Gray flash shields by Christian Dior.
Designer of the Year
Many may think of Isabella Fiore as a one-woman show, but the handbag brand is actually the brainchild of the Los Angeles-based design team of Jennifer Tash and Trang Huynh.
The duo founded the company in 1995 as a scarf and evening shawl line and branched into handbags in fall 1998. Tash started as a visual display event manager and buyer for Los Angeles specialty store Shauna Stein, while Huynh was a former bridal designer.
The company name stems from the Italian phrase “bella fiore,” or “beautiful flower,” but it wasn’t florals that gave the Fiore brand an early signature look.
Customers embraced totes featuring prints of monkeys swinging from a palm tree or pug puppies encrusted with sequins for additional texture.
Pioneers in details, Tash and Huynh added whimsical linings, such as contrasting red cotton, stripes and checks, and more recently, a flag bag with the phrase “Old Glory” embroidered into the lining.
Women all over the world have embraced the creations of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. His feminine and sexy shoes, often with towering stiletto heels, are a favorite among A-list celebrities, starlets and fashionistas.
A native of the Canary Islands, Blahnik studied literature and architecture before turning his attention to inventive shoe designs. Now, his shoes are sold in his three boutiques in New York, London and Hong Kong and in upscale stores throughout the world.
Already well known among style mavens, Blahnik was further catapulted into popular culture in recent years on the HBO series “Sex and the City,” where Blahniks were mentioned from the show’s start.
Blahnik, who lives in London, has received numerous design awards, including three presented to him by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for outstanding excellence in accessory design.
KARL LAGERFELD FOR CHANEL
Karl Lagerfeld may have abandoned his signature accessory — the fan — but he continues to give the category much attention in his collections for Chanel.
For almost two decades, Lagerfeld has been updating signature Chanel symbols, such as the Camelia, bows and capped toe shoes in black and beige, and mixing them with elements from the corresponding ready-to-wear collections, including tweeds and chains.
“Karl Lagerfeld has continued to infuse new energy into each collection…creating new styles for Chanel like chocolate bar quilting, the recent chain fringe detail on bags and even hair accessories that relate back to our ready-to-wear collection,” said Barbara Cirkva, executive vice president of fashion at Chanel Inc., the U.S. arm of the Paris fashion house.
With Chanel, the designer has a strong accessories foundation to build on. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who established her fashion business in 1911, opened an accessories boutique selling hats and scarves in 1929. She’s said to have invented the women’s shoulder handbag with the 2.55, the legendary quilted leather handbag with a leather laced gold chain as a strap, which continues to be a reinvented style each season.
In recent years, Chanel has been stepping up its focus on accessories. In 1993, Chanel launched its fine jewelry line and opened a fine jewelry boutique on 18 Place Vendôme in Paris. The company opened its first U.S. shoe and handbag unit at The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills,, N.J., last year, followed by a similar boutique on Madison Avenue in June. This October, the firm will open a shoe and handbag boutique at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando.
Except for a brief absence, Carlos Falchi has been a staple in the American handbag scene for more than 30 years.
Falchi, a Brazilian native, came to New York in 1964 to work in the film industry, and he soon began making belts and designing costumes for performers including Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, before eventually turning his attention to handbags. He appeared in WWD in 1973 along with Ralph Lauren in a profile of Henri Bendel’s rising stars, and in the early Eighties, Falchi received the prestigious Coty Award.
The company faced some difficulties in the mid-Nineties, and then the designer spent some time working to regain control of his name and his business.
The brand was relaunched two years ago and is enjoying a renaissance. Falchi produces the bulk of his collection in his New York factory, where he takes a hands-on approach to design and production, and the firm now has its own showroom in Manhattan.
His signature bags are known for their use of exotic skins and materials, and shapes run the gamut from sleek clutches to roomy shoulder bags. Reflecting the strength of the brand, in recent years Falchi has branched out into new categories, including footwear, leather outerwear, belts and small leather goods.
TOM FORD FOR YSL
Tom Ford knows the importance of a must-have accessory.
The red-hot designer, who took over the creative helm at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche in March 2000, has been rebuilding and streamlining the brand’s business, including accessories. He has eliminated 152 licensing contracts and is sharply refocusing the classifications, including bags, belts and shoes.
Inevitably, the fashion pack has taken notice. During the fall collections, a number of front-row editors sported his Mombasa bag, a hobo-shaped leather bag with a horn handle, and consumers followed suit, turning the style into a must-have look of the season that quickly sold out at YSL boutiques.
Ford also designed his first watch design for YSL, a tank style warped into an eye-teasing asymmetric shape that wraps neatly around the wrist. YSL watches were initially licensed to Cartier and then sublicensed to Citizen, but that deal was terminated when Gucci Group took control of the company in 1999. The watches are now manufactured in Switzerland through Gucci Group’s luxury timepiece division. For eyewear, the company licensed Safilo Group, which also makes sunglasses for Gucci.
“Accessories can transform a look,” Ford told WWD last year. “You can almost show a collection with just hair and makeup and a great pair of shoes and determine who the woman is.”
Best Accessories Advertising Campaign
Coach Inc., Christian Dior, Echo Design Group, Louis Vuitton, David Yurman
Rising Star Award for Emerging Talent
Lulu Guinness, Michelle K Footwear, Mia & Lizzie, Hollywould, Kooba
Ace Hall of Fame Award
LONDON — When David Linley first displayed his collection of jewelry boxes and picture frames inlaid with some familiar plaid patterns, visitors to his Pimlico Road shop in London were alarmed.
“Does Burberry know about this?” asked one, pointing to a picture frame decorated with the company’s trademark plaid.
Two years ago, when the fashion house opened its New Bond Street flagship, Linley, a cabinetmaker and son of the late Princess Margaret, made the store’s central oak table, which is inlaid with the Burberry plaid by means of a 17th-century decorative technique called marquetry.
Now, Linley designs a small home accessories collection known as Burberry by Linley, which includes jewelry boxes and picture frames, and features reinterpretations of the Burberry plaid.
Linley is one example of how Burberry is rapidly building its accessories collection in different, offbeat directions. Today, the company’s accessories line ranges from traditional leather goods to home accessories and baby carriages.
Accessories are also the company’s fastest-growing division and today represent about a quarter of overall company sales, which more than doubled to $750 million over the last two years. Burberry is working freely and playfully with its various check patterns, and using its signature trench buckles and belt stitching details for bags and footwear. For fall, there are bags and footwear with the buckle details, as well as bags with the subtle carpet check made from water-resistant and thorn-resistant Scottish wool.
Burberry has also launched a home accessories line and a series of fun items, such as checked gum boots, transparent umbrellas with peepholes, a baby carrier and a three-wheel stroller.
While growth and product diversification are on the agenda, Burberry is keeping the division in perspective.
“Accessories is our fastest-growing division, but we will never be a company that does 70 to 90 percent of its business in accessories. We will always be strong in apparel,” said Rose Marie Bravo, Burberry’s chief executive officer. “In our own stores, more than one-third of the revenue comes from accessories. At the same time, our roots and our heritage are in apparel, and especially outerwear. For Burberry, it’s a balancing act.”
Recently, Bravo has been the driving force behind the renaissance at Burberry. The company was founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856, the year he opened a shop in Basingstoke, England. In 1880, he developed a fabric that was resistant to tearing and weatherproof, but still breathable. He called it gabardine. Soon, his trenchcoats made of gabardine were being worn by British military officers, South Pole explorers and men climbing Mount Everest.
To say Burberry’s gabardine trench was a well-loved wardrobe item would be putting it mildly. The book “Open Spaces” is a history of Burberry that includes a collection of letters — or rather, fan mail — to Burberry praising the indestructible trenchcoat.
One customer wore his through the South African campaign and said that he “would rather have spared his bed than his coat.” He “had been in the saddle for 12 hours in heavy rain, but never had it come through.” He was still wearing it and it “was as reliable as ever,” the letter said. Major B. wore his coat all through the war and slept in it for five months, and “it was as good as new,” wrote Mrs. B. from Newcastle-on-Tyne.
One step in the process of Burberry’s rebirth was taking the company public in June, and not under the best market conditions.
“It was a really trying moment — what with the market dropping and all the new [corporate] scandals,” Bravo said. “The process required a lot of tenacity and stamina. We were working against all odds. Now we’re all back to running the business and the goal is to work on improving profits and revenue.”
In addition to accessories, Burberry has been expanding its business on other fronts in large part by opening more company-owned stores in locales including Barcelona and London.
Innovator of the Year
Roots, Timothy Schifter, Jane Elfers
Retailer of the Year
Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus,