DALLAS -- Seeking to build on its booming in-house custom design business, Lilly Dodson here opened a Fe Zandi boutique last fall that will sell only made-to-measure looks.
Zandi, an Iranian who is based in Los Angeles, designs luncheon and social occasion silhouettes priced from $1,800 to $9,000.
At Lilly Dodson, a high-end women's store in Highland Park Village, Zandi's collection, typically 65 pieces, hangs as samples from which customers make selections. In addition to making adjustments like split-sizing, raising a hemline or adding beads to a bodice, Zandi also designs one-of-a-kind garments for customers.
First-year sales at the 500-square-foot boutique are expected to hit $1 million, according to owner Bill Dodson.
"There's a void bigger than a football field for custom apparel in the U.S.," said Dodson. "This customer typically goes to Paris for the couture collections. She's willing to pay for the look, the fit and the service. We're bringing it to her at a lower price."
Last January, Lilly Dodson opened a custom studio manned by local designer Michael Faircloth, where sales are projected up 20 percent over 1993's $500,000. The store currently counts about 125 women as custom clients, a figure that is expected to grow.
Dodson has aggressive plans for the Zandi business, which he'll take on the road to select cities starting in February. The first stop is Mexico City, where a two-day show will be staged in the home of a wealthy Mexican socialite. Similar events will likely follow in Houston and Palm Beach, Fla., among others.
Embroidery by Lesage and fabrics and findings from across Europe accent Zandi's styles, which generally are updated classics. For spring, Zandi will show a panoply of pastels rendered on four-ply silk and cotton and embellished with straw passementerie, among other looks.
Bestsellers from the fall collection included the black silk lace illusion-hem dress, $4,400; the black wool brocade suit with gold Lesage embroidery, $4,300; the loden silk suit with gold Lesage embroidery, $7,900, and the black silk velvet dress with gold Lesage embroidery, $4,600.
Zandi, who started her career designing for the Iranian royal family, fled Iran in 1979 after the overthrow of the Shah and started her custom business.The designs also are available at Neiman Marcus, which said it has been successful with the looks.
Zandi expects volume this year, excluding sales at Dodson, to hit $2 million at retail, even to last year. Sales climbed to a high of $5 million in 1991, when Zandi also operated a boutique on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. The store, which opened in 1986, subsequently closed in 1991 after Zandi and her husband divorced and separately moved back to Iran for a short time. They have since remarried. Tentative plans call for the reopening of a namesake boutique there in the near future.
Kamran Behbahani, Zandi's husband and business director, said the company also is exploring the possibility of producing a ready-to-wear collection, which would mimic Zandi's custom collection but use less pricy fabrics and trims. It would be priced from $1,200 to $3,500, according to Zandi.
Dodson is so bullish on the custom concept that he thinks the Zandi business could eventually only be eclipsed by Escada sales.
"Escada is the best designer apparel in the world, but it's ready-to-wear," Dodson ex-plained. "With Zandi, we're talking about couture in the purest sense of the word. And the demand is definitely there."
“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