Job requirements: A minimum of five platinum records, three Grammys and 150 magazine covers. Weekly intimate revelations in at least two gossip magazines preferred.
New York’s designers better start working on their résumés since they’re facing tough competition. When Jennifer Lopez takes the customary bow in the finale of her first fashion show tonight, she will close yet another New York Fashion Week filled with front-row celebrities (OK, many of the B class) and paparazzi mayhem. Lopez is expected to be joined on the show calendar next September by Beyoncé Knowles, who has plans to stage a show for her House of Deréon label, and perhaps even by P. Diddy, launching his long-awaited women’s collection.celebrities (OK, many of the B class) and paparazzi mayhem. Lopez is expected to be joined on the show calendar next September by Beyoncé Knowles, who has plans to stage a show for her House of Deréon label, and perhaps even by P. Diddy, launching his long-awaited women’s collection.
“Fashion is polarizing into the people who really are trying to keep the sense of the craft alive in its 20th-century sense, and the 21st-century version of fashion, which is inextricably linked to hype and celebrity,” said Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys New York. “It’s confusing to people what fashion is anymore.”
If Lopez, Knowles, Sean John and Baby Phat manage to ignite the fashion crowd, they could potentially alter the landscape of fashion weeks to come by encouraging other fledgling celebrity designers such as Jessica Simpson, Nicky Hilton, Gwen Stefani, Eve and Macy Gray to follow their examples. As Nicky Hilton said at the Luca Luca show on Sunday, “Hopefully, in some way, [we impact fashion]. I am a designer.”
“New York fashion has now become the epicenter of the fashion-plus-hype movement,” Doonan said. “Europe is still relatively tranquil. People still consider it a very chic trade show. Here it’s become this explosive, deranged, hype-driven dolce vita, which can be amusing and brings a lot of energy to fashion in New York.”
But with the energy also comes new challenges for designers, particularly young emerging talents who have little or no advertising budgets. To them, a runway show is the most effective tool to reach editors, buyers and thereby consumers most effectively, but with Lopez and her ilk on the official calendar, they naturally will be hard-pressed to get a slice of the attention.David Wolfe, a creative director at The Doneger Group, the trend and color forecasting company, noted, “Even the most creative, innovative kid will get lost in the star shuffle. I don’t even think the future consumer will get to a new name. And if Jennifer Lopez’s career should go in decline, then thank heaven there is a new star in the wings.”
Indeed, this presents a daunting prospect for young talents, who have to compete for media attention with celebrities who have graced hundreds of magazine covers. And it isn’t only the up-and-coming who are under pressure these days. Ralph, Calvin, Donna and Tommy might be household names, but in an age of insta-celebrity, even Hilfiger is getting his own reality TV show, which will help keep his name in front of the public.
“It’s another barrier of entry for young designers with talent,” said Andrew Jassin, managing partner of retail consulting firm Jassin O’Rourke Group. “The combination of media and entertainment boils down to the know-how to promote oneself. Face time is essential for a young designer.”
Wolfe at Doneger concurred. “If you want to be a successful designer today, you have to cut a record first,” he said, only half jokingly. “You have to have media presence. When you think about it, the designers who have handled the media well are the ones who have succeeded the most. I saw Tom Ford at an event in Los Angeles, and to see him in action was almost scary. He is such a media creation, a star personality. And Zac Posen hasn’t been around long enough, but he gets the same kind of treatment as Karl Lagerfeld. Let’s be honest, he looks so good in photographs.”
Posen only hit the fashion scene in 2001, but a combination of design talent, media-savviness and a high-profile business partnership with P. Diddy have given him the recognition of a veteran.
“It’s become fashion-tainment, and it puts a good challenge on us to step up to the plate,” admitted Posen, who is all for celebrity designers showing during fashion week. “There have always been all different kinds of shows, and I think celebrity designers are fine because they are new, and everything new is always good.”Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel for Nordstrom, also pointed to Posen’s success and explained that buzz can sometimes help prolong a designer’s testing phase by keeping the media interest alive — as long as the designer has the goods and business acumen to back it up.
“If I were a young designer, I’d try to figure out a way to get the buzz. If you can get it at first, you have a good chance, but you have to have something substantial coming out of the box,” she said.
Case in point: P. Diddy and his Sean John label. The music mogul surprised editors and buyers with polished men’s wear collections that earned him the Council of Fashion Designer’s Menswear Designer of the Year award last year. Combs is clearly serious about fashion, last fall opening his first freestanding store, on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and signing a fragrance deal with Estée Lauder Cos. Now he’s targeting women’s apparel.
“When Sean John jumped into this, everyone thought he wasn’t going to be paying a lot of attention to it, but he made amazing clothes,” said Patrick Robinson, the New York designer and creative director at Paris-based Paco Rabanne. “You have to step up to the plate, but at the end of the day, it comes down to quality.”
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s, noted, “I am sure that if I were a young designer and I was competing against Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Lopez for space and impact in the stores, I would consider it an added pressure, but we at Bloomingdale’s are looking for quality and creativity, not the hype.”
Some executives maintained the explosion of celebrity lines in stores is a result of too much merchandise at retail, which makes shopping a challenge for consumers. Getting through the clutter is increasingly difficult for any brand, and one with a connection to a celebrity in the news almost weekly can help spur consumers to make a purchase.
“If the clothes are good, the celebrity status can enhance the sell-through,” Ruttenstein conceded.“By wearing them, fans express allegiance to their heroines, and also to the lifestyles which these celebrities are actually projecting,” said Andrew Bolton, associate curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “These celebrity designers are molding fans into their image and value system.” And that’s not a new fashion phenomenon, he added. “Coco Chanel also tried to mold women into her own image and expressed her modernity through her allegiance to her lifestyle. Celebrities are doing the same thing.”
Heatherette co-designer Richie Rich — a celebrity in his own right as a club kid before launching his collection — noted, “If anything, celebrity designers help elevate us, as well, since we dressed pretty much all of them. They are known on such a mass level. The kids will say J.Lo wears this, but then they may make the connection and say that she also wears Heatherette and Marc Jacobs. If anything, I think it adds to the party.”
The jury remains out on whether celebrities can cut it in fashion — most of these businesses are only a few seasons old, too young to judge whether they have staying power beyond their latest record or movie — but they come at it with a clear advantage beyond worldwide fame. “Beyoncé is a young woman; she goes on tour and sees her target customer firsthand. That may help her and her team do market research,” said Robinson.
“As long as real designers are dumb enough to give Beyoncé a front-row seat, she’ll get plenty of ideas,” barked Wolfe.
Does New York Fashion Week need celebrity designers to compete against the creativity of Paris or the commercial behemoths in Milan? The general consensus among executives is that creativity will always succeed in the end.
“My advice to a young designer would be, focus on the craft, focus on the skill, focus on giving women what they need and tune into their lives and see what they need,” Barneys’ Doonan said. “All the fame and glamour should be a by-product of a magnificent talent. It shouldn’t be a result of how much money you spend on a publicist. If you focus on fame and glamour, you’ll end up some tragic freak and no one knows why you have become famous in first place.”That said, a little bit of star wattage can’t hurt. “It’s sort of like the icing on the cake,” Jassin said. “Do you need the icing to have a great cake? The answer is, probably no. It’s still a good cake without the icing. But it’s nice to have some occasionally.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
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