The Council of Fashion Designers of America offered a crash course in business for aspiring and up-and-coming designers Wednesday at Saks Fifth Avenue — the first of a three-part lecture series.
Four panelists — Peter Arnell, chairman and chief creative officer of the Arnell Group; Kimberly Grabel, Saks Fifth Avenue's senior vice president, marketing; Nanette Lepore, and Kristina O'Neill, Harper's Bazaar's fashion news, feature director — talked about their views on such subjects as celebrity gift-giving, unsolicited e-mails, runway shows and media-savvy consumers.
Arnell recalled how after studying architecture and engineering at Columbia University, he taught at Princeton University but agreed to work for Dawn Mello at Bergdorf Goodman designing windows and creating ads to help pay the bills. Through Mello he met Donna Karan, for whom he wound up creating ad campaigns.
"I don't think anyone in this day and age can plot out a road map. They just have to really listen and decide what they want to do," Arnell said.
Lepore said her company has always centered on product rather than marketing. One of her first hires was a patternmaker — "I knew my limitations," she said.
Fit trumps hype, according to Lepore. "Everyone is trying to rush to do a show. I think it's ill-advised," she said. "The stores give you one or two seasons and then you're out if you can't pull your own weight."
Grabel said Saks looks for the combination of "a gifted, talented designer and a really good business partner." Young designers need to have a clear sense of who they are designing for and the marketplace void they are hoping to fill.
O'Neill advised newcomers to pace themselves: "Let your résumé develop. Put your time in."
Courting celebrities was another matter. When Lepore was starting her business, she worried about giving freebies to friends and family, but her accountant assured her that was good for business. "The more people wearing the clothing, the better, even though it's not Sienna Miller and it's your neighbor. Give them really good prices or give them clothing to get your message out there," she said.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“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