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From recycled denim to Seventies-influenced sportswear, Project sends a directional message for spring.
This story first appeared in the August 27, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
AG Adriano Goldschmied is revamping chinos for a new generation. Using a military-inspired Japanese twill as a base, the South Gate, Calif.-based premium denim brand softened the utilitarian material with Supima cotton to create a luxurious hand. It transported the pants associated with American soldiers in World War II and Fifties-era prepsters to the 21st century by applying the same treatments used in its top-selling AG-ed vintage grouping. Tiny tears expose the knees, 3-D whiskers pop on the pockets and hand-sanding reveals different shades of cream. Hanging loosely off the hips, the women’s slim styles are available in full-length pants and a rolled-up cropped version, both retailing for $215 as part of spring’s lineup. “Khaki is cool [because] it’s part of the quintessential American style,” said Sam Ku, design director for AG Adriano Goldschmied.
Gant will be showcasing its youthful Rugger label, which has been an engine of growth in the U.S. for the Sweden-based company. The collection, which started out with an emphasis on shirts, has grown into a full-fledged lineup of tailored separates, knits, denim, pants, outerwear, accessories and swim, with the spring offering at about 125 pieces. Designer Christopher Bastin, who formerly designed just the shirt component, has been given oversight of the entire label and has grafted a Seventies vibe onto Rugger’s preppie heritage. “The Rugger sublabel was founded in 1973, so what Christopher did was go back into the archives and really revive some of that history,” explained Ari Hoffman, chief executive of Gant USA. (The Gant brand was originally founded in New Haven in 1949.) In that vein, the line includes tennis shirts with horizontal colorblocking, pleated athletic shorts that show off quite a bit of leg, and varsity jackets with vintage details. Polo shirts have some of the sheen of Seventies poly blends but are actually made from 100 percent cotton for comfort and a more refined look, while blazers have the square patch pockets of the Ford and Carter years. Rugger shirts retail from $100 to $125, tailored jackets for about $450, shorts from $89 to $98, sweaters from $100 to $135 and outerwear for $175 to $275. The label is sold in about 300 U.S. doors, including Barneys Co-op, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Fred Segal Finery and Kitson. The company in October will open a renovated, 2,500-squarefoot Rugger space on the second floor of its Fifth Avenue flagship, and is currently in negotiations for a Rugger store on New York’s Bleecker Street in the West Village.
FACTORY BY ERIK HART
Erik Hart is giving cheap chic an edge. The Los Angeles-based designer is launching a new women’s label, Factory by Erik Hart, which shows his twist on Eighties-era Comme des Garçons with retail prices set for less than $200. Among the 70 pieces in the inaugural spring collection are a cropped nylon tuxedo blazer spliced with sheer panels, a Modal T-shirt designed with a cape that also can be wrapped around the neck as a scarf, and a racer-back dress feminized with pintucking on the side. The neutral palette of ivory, black, cream and gray is punctuated with peach in a marble print. “Customers are looking to try new things,” Hart said. And so is the designer, who’s making a name for himself in affordable fashion through collaborations with Urban Outfitters and Topshop. While he put his namesake women’s line on hold in order to concentrate on Factory, he continues to design his streetwear label, Morphine Generation, as well as a men’s line called MG Black Label. To meet a lower threshold for Factory’s prices, he made some compromises, such as backing a stretchy
silk crepe with polyester satin charmeuse and substituting vegan leather for real skins. “It’s the same designs, the same sensibility, but more people can afford it,” he said.
Environmental sustainability takes a pretty turn in the frilled peplums, arched cutouts and peekaboo panels in Amber Sakai’s namesake line. A former model, Sakai blended her previous experience designing body-conscious looks for Brighdie Lingerie and the surf brand Four Girls with her admiration of Moorish architecture. In a palette saturated with rich purple, emerald green and Damascus rose, a jersey racer-back bodysuit reveals a seductive back in lace and a demure drop-waist dress’ neckline plunges toward the small of the back. Aiming to pay equal attention to quality and the environment, Sakai uses twill and dobby made of organic cotton, as well as jersey woven from a blend of bamboo and organic cotton for her year-old line based in Beverly Hills. She sources other materials through conventional — albeit top-notch — purveyors: French leavers lace, buttons produced in the U.S., gold beads from India and elastic spun in Japan. While most items retail for $200, the most expensive is a $400 halter dress made of dobby with strips of black lace revealing a flash of leg. “There’s a little bit more bells and whistles to it that makes it unique and gives it personality,” Sakai said.
Rio de Janeiro-based Osklen is a newcomer to Project, and the fashion-forward brand will highlight the more
commercial components of its collections at the show. For men, these key categories include trousers, boardshorts and sneakers, which encompass easy, bright, lightweight fabrics with elements of bold Carnaval style. “Every collection I design expresses a lifestyle: a new, healthy hedonism and a way of balancing urban life with nature,” said designer Oskar Metsavaht, who founded the label in 1989 and has presented his runway collection during São Paulo Fashion Week since 2003. The spring 2010 collection is inspired by T-shirts, and Metsavaht reimagined the utilitarian item into trousers and bags, using silk, jersey and chamois. Tailored jackets in the collection retail for $600 to $800, shirts from $150 to $200, pants from $230 to $400, denim from $170 to $250, shorts from $90 to $200 and swimwear from $90 to $200. The company’s nascent U.S. business is relatively small, with two freestanding stores in New York’s SoHo and Meatpacking District, and a handful of wholesale accounts, including Atrium, The Webster in Miami and Bird in Brooklyn. “It’s not a significant percentage, considering in Brazil we have 54 retail stores and over 400 wholesale clients, but we definitely see room for growth in the U.S.,” said Claudia Guimaraes, Osklen’s director of global sales. Next year, the company will open a new U.S. store in Miami at 1111 Lincoln Road, the new retail and residential project from noted architects Herzog & de Meuron.
For eco-conscious shoppers, streetwear brand WeSC is offering jeans partially made from recycled denim fabric. The material comes from production scraps that are usually thrown away, as well as excess yarns from fabric mills. “The threads and fibers are collected from what would otherwise be waste, then ground down and made into new yarns and fabrics,” explained Thomas Flinn, product manager at Sweden-based WeSC. To further reduce waste, the jeans do not have rivets or hardware of any kind, and there is no printing on the pocket bags. Buttons on the jeans are made from wood. WeSC has also collaborated with the influential graffiti artist known as Mode 2 on a capsule collection that includes a suit, fleece, T-shirts and accessories, all adorned with his vibrant line drawings.
Tie-dye techniques liven up the Autumn Cashmere collection, but don’t think this is a hippie-dippy homage to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. “It’s on trend with what a lot of people are doing, but this isn’t hippie tie-dye,” noted Jem Fleury, men’s designer at the contemporary knitwear label. “It’s a sophisticated tie-dye that’s been refined and with beautiful color combinations, like reds and tans or dark gray with purple.” Also look for appealing pieces like hand-painted cashmere tops with abstract themes, dip-dyed cotton polos and open-gauge cashmere hoodies whose texture resembles mesh activewear. New York-based Autumn Cashmere was founded by Richard and Kathy Lee in 1993 and launched men’s wear in 1997. The company operates its own manufacturing facility in Shanghai, allowing it close control over design and production. The company has lowered prices 5 to 10 percent across the board this season in response to the retail climate. “We’re absorbing the price cuts,” said Fleury. “It’s worked because we had the best show in our history during the Blue show in New York in June, in terms of orders and retailer response.” Lightweight cashmere sweaters in the line retail from $215 to $300, while designs in organic cotton retail from $100 to $150. Autumn Cashmere is sold in about 200 U.S. doors, including Takashimaya, Atrium, Lisa Kline and Theodore.