“Realism” and “practicality” are two words back in fashion given the recession, and four new lines out for fall are striving to fit into the zeitgeist. Callula Lillibelle, Blaise Kavanagh, Whit and Veronica Beard seek to appeal to independent-minded women, hoping to capitalize on their brands’ relatively unknown status as a sales plus with consumers — as well as their fairly selective distribution.
William Calvert is still rolling along designing made-to-measure clothes from his Hell’s Kitchen town house, but now he is extending his reach with Callula Lillibelle, a desk-to-dinner collection line that makes its debut in stores this fall. The designer has formed an alliance with Melanie Fraser Hart, a film industry executive venturing into fashion, who he met through a mutual friend, the Los Angeles-based artist Jeff Poe. Calvert said he liked the prospect of creating “a hip, affordable line that is dressed up but not dopey.” The collection is aimed at “thinking women” such as architects, graphic designers, academics and entrepreneurs who “want something sleek and smart,” said Calvert, adding, “It’s not about being a cockatoo.”
Saks Fifth Avenue Dubai is among the retailers that have picked up the inaugural collection. The 60-style line features daytime dresses, crisp jackets, cocktail dresses, T-shirts, skinny pants and gowns, with wholesale prices ranging from $50 to $250. First-season sales should fall between $250,000 and $500,000, said Calvert, whose post-Labor Day schedule will include numerous in-store appearances.
Cynthia O’Connor & Co. is representing the label, which was inspired by Fraser’s daughter’s name. Chiffon, taffeta, crepes and other fabrics are sourced from Japan, Italy and France, with some of the production being done in New York and some being done overseas, he said.
Given the economy and shoppers’ hesitancy to replenish their wardrobes, Callula Lillibelle’s prices are positioned to be more attainable than designer-priced clothing and not as throwaway as fast fashion, Calvert said. “It’s exciting. These are not cheap clothes — it’s a totally different entity,” he said.
When not working at his day job in design at Bill Blass, Blaise Kavanagh has been using his spare time to develop his first signature collection. Shooting for “well-made clothes that are functional and relevant” may not be the most scintillating sell, but that kind of practicality is very much what the Pratt graduate is all about. Kavanagh, who trained at Thom Browne New York at one point, favors seams and darts for shaping as opposed to anything “too forced or tricky.”
He described the compact 14-piece fall collection as American sportswear that consists of “fun and versatile wardrobe-building pieces,” such as a cashmere coat, a knit dress with chiffon-edged belt and a daytime dress with petal sleeves. Wholesale prices start at $290 for a daytime dress and go up to $1,620 for a plissé chiffon gown. While Kavanagh genuinely enjoys designing and sculpting clothes, he has resisted the temptation to get carried away with overstylized pieces. “This is just not about me and ‘Look what I can do.’ That’s ego,” he said. “There is nothing better than having someone who wears my clothes feel beautiful and confident.”
Kavanagh was so intent on working at Bill Blass that he wrote to the label’s former designer, Michael Vollbracht, to spell out his intention in 2006. However, Vollbracht had already exited the company when Kavanagh joined last year.
He is also committed to producing his collection in New York. “If we don’t honor that tradition, it will disappear,” he said. “I love to stand there with a patternmaker and go over every detail. You can’t do that if you’re overseas.I hope in the future to continue to do that and it doesn’t become too price prohibitive.”
Françoise Hardy, Anjelica Huston, Jane Birkin and Mia Farrow — those are among the inspirations Whitney Pozgay cites for her new contemporary line of clothes called Whit. The look of these women in the late Sixties and the early Seventies, just as one decade’s Mod era was ending and the other’s more soft aesthetic was gathering momentum, guided her when she was putting together her first collection.
The fall launch, as a result, has a nostalgic, almost irreverent touch, which probably has a lot to do with Pozgay’s career trajectory as well. After graduating from the University of Texas in Austin, where she studied theater with a focus on costume design, Pozgay took her first design job with her aunt Kate Spade, where she designed accessories and apparel including working with Threeasfour on an apparel collaboration. She left Kate Spade after four years to design for Steven Alan, where she spearheaded collaborations with Uniqlo and with Lark and Wolff at Urban Outfitters.
“I have always really wanted to do my own line, but wanted to hone my craft and learn the business before doing it,” Pozgay said. “I waited until I felt I couldn’t wait anymore. It was an itch that needed to be scratched eventually.”
The fall lineup includes a twill cape coat, a dress with oversize polkadots, a floral print minidress and a high-waisted wool faille miniskirt she teams with a French Stripe top. Pozgay said she aimed to exude a sense of nostalgia, “without being dainty or frilly.”
Whit, which wholesales from $40 to $180, has so far been picked up by Steven Alan in New York, Lileo in Toronto, Isetan in Japan and Septieme Etage in Geneva. Pozgay projects wholesale sales of $200,000 for the first season.
“I like the idea of a tomboy in a puffy skirt,” she said, explaining her style philosophy. “I might choose to wear something a little more girly, and some friends may wear the same item but with a motorcycle jacket. We buy the same pieces but just wear them differently.”
A new line of tailored jackets is named for not one Veronica Beard, but two. Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard, the duo behind the label, have the same name after marrying two brothers, their only difference being maiden names, which they still sometimes use for distinction.
Besides their names, the sisters-in-law are also big fans of tailored jackets and decided to start in the fashion business with a line of them, replete with dickeys that can snap out and swapped to give each piece a versatile quality.
“We think of a jacket like a pair of shoes or a bag,” said Swanson Beard, who honed her fashion skills as a buyer for Marissa Collections in Naples, Fla. “It’s an item and an investment piece.”
Miele Beard, who comes to fashion after a career on Wall Street, added that both she and her business partner are mothers, whose morning school runs have made them appreciate the merits of a jacket. “You put this jacket on and look pulled together for the school master,” she said with a laugh.
Slightly reminiscent of a schoolgirl uniform with some pieces featuring piping, elbow patches and a chest pocket crest, the dickeys come in stripes with matching cuffs, animal prints and a chunky cable knit, among others. The duo plans to sell additional dickies separately.
The designers work with remnants of fabrics to avoid excess materials, making many of the pieces unique. Kirna Zabête and Wilkes Bashford are among the stores to have picked up the line for fall.
The hooded jacket wholesales for $350, the wool jacket for $415 and the cashmere one for $450.
“We wanted to be at an entry level designer price point that doesn’t break the bank,” Swanson Beard said. ‘Women are being realistic about clothes now.”
The duo said wholesale projections for the first season range between $150,000 and $200,000, and the Beards are already thinking past the first season — they are hoping to extend the concept to men’s wear soon.
Alberta Ferretti's "Rainbow Week" sweaters are back. The designer closed her #MFW show with a few day-of-the-week sweaters, which first debuted on the catwalk last January as part of the pre-fall 2017 collection. #wwdfashion (📷: @delphineachard)