A LOOK AT FASHION’S UP-AND-COMING DESIGNERS.
Byline: Lisa Arbetter / Alexandra Bellak / Janet Ozzard
C.J. YOON ONO
NEW YORK — While one can see the entrance ramp to the Holland Tunnel from C.J. Yoon Ono’s airy TriBeCa loft, the windows look above and beyond it to the grand lower Manhattan skyline.
Here, Ono creates evening gowns and dresses that are feminine, dignified, even a bit reserved.
The line starts with luxury fabrics, which Ono manipulates. “There are absolutely no embellishments. Zero. The fabrics should speak for themselves,” she says.
Cashmere, double-faced wool, velvet and, as always, silk, will be used for Ono’s fall collection, to be shown April 2 in a photo studio in TriBeCa. The presentation, as she describes it, will “show just the woman and the clothes, very white and light.”
While Ono was hesitant to divulge specifics, she did say her fall line is very soft. She’ll show about 24 looks, half shorter dresses and half gowns. The presentation will be divided into three groupings: cold, warm and short.
“The colors I did completely by feeling. There was so much snow I did a lot of white. Then I push it even further to the feeling that it is so, so cold,” she says of the cold group, which features white and shades of white that she mixed to achieve an even colder feeling.
Cream, ermine, mink and sable will be featured in the warm grouping.
For fall, the Korean-born designer has expanded her long silhouettes to include asymmetrical styles, which she’s never done before. She will also show A-lines and columns, as well as strapless and one-shoulder looks. Most of the gowns are full length, though she will feature a few tea-length gowns.
The shorter looks fall on the knee or just above. “The colors are really, really wearable,” she says, noting that the group will feature a lot of black. The focus is on soft tailoring. The details are subtle — a neckline made three-dimensional, sewn almost to look like the petals of a flower.
“Nature is my most powerful inspiration. Always has been,” Ono says. She is also inspired by sculpture and classical music, but it’s haute couture that really excites her.
“I am crazy about haute couture. That’s my passion. It consumes me,” she says. “I am sometimes inspired by the past great designers.” Some of her favorites include Balenciaga and Madame GrAs.
Ono studied design at UCLA and followed her schooling with a series of jobs designing casualwear in both New York and Los Angeles in the Eighties.
She has worked on her own for about 3 years, but declined to reveal her wholesale sales volume, saying only, “It is too small to mention.”
Still, she says she is doing well. Bergdorf Goodman, her main customer, doubled its spring buy after seeing her line and recently moved her from the fourth floor to the second. She also sold some spring looks to New York’s Linda Dresner.
The dresses wholesale from about $900 to $2,500, but can be more expensive. Ono doesn’t dismiss the idea of doing a lower-priced line, but not quite yet. “I could not sacrifice the quality of the first line,” she says. “I must take it one day at a time and improve my work. It is the only way I can live with myself.”
NEW YORK — Her company’s name notwithstanding, Sara Kozlowski’s life is no piece of cake.
As the only employee of her company, Cake, the 24-year-old spends more time working than most people — even by fashion industry standards. She has her eye on the future — and not only her own.
“I am very concerned with the next millennium,” she says. “I have been since I was small. I want to help shape [it]. By finding the most modern fabrics that I can, I think I will take a part in shaping fashion’s future.”
The result? Lots of nylon, matte rubber, spandex, cellophane, polyamides and polyester, whipped up into a line of junior clubwear that ranges from maxi skirts and tiny shirts to wild blouses and low-slung pants. And nothing wholesales for over $60.
The look of Cake, which she says is more intellectual and not concerned with sex appeal, is all about simple silhouettes in bright colors and synthetic fabrics — and prints.
“I am very in love with prints,” she says.
By developing her own prints, Kozlowski gets to combine her computer know-how with her sense of taste. “I like the correlation between computers and fashion,” she says. “My computer’s my best friend. I am trying to bring the two together.”
Showing off some of the dye sublimation pieces from her Feb. 15 delivery, Kozlowski explains the process: Both the ‘rocket’ and the ‘starflower’ prints from the group were designed on her computer by scanning in images and manipulating them using the Adobe Photoshop program. Once the image was output, it was heat-transferred onto sheer polyester matte jersey tops and blouses and nylon jackets and dresses, all in white.
While her clothes may be a bit spacey, this former club kid is all business.
On her own for 14 months, Kozlowski has seen her sales swell from $14,000 wholesale last year to $20,000 in the first three months of this year, and at press time, she had just completed her biggest shipment, of 500 pieces.
It all started after Kozlowski graduated from Parsons in 1993. She landed a job with Anna Sui as a design assistant, and while there, started designing on her own.
“I started with a 30-piece order at Liquid Sky, and it sold out right away, and then they reordered, and then X-Girl ordered a little bit,” she recalls.
So in January 1995, she left Anna Sui and “decided to just try.” So far, thanks to careful bookkeeping and saving, she has been able to make her living as a designer. “I just make sure every penny goes back into the account,” she says.
One of her biggest customers today is Antique Boutique, here, which has carried the line since last fall. According to buyer Lisa Fogleman, the line has performed well. “She has prints that are very unusual,” says Fogleman, “They are not your basic photo prints. They have done well for us.”
Other customers include TG170, Patricia Field, 99x and Steven Alan, all here, as well as Ad Hoc in London and some specialty skate shops. Kozlowski says she met most of her customers through the International Boutique show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. From the January show, she was able to pick up two stores in Germany and two Japanese accounts, bringing her number of customers this season to 20, up from six last year.
“I also try to really keep in touch with my customers,” she says. “Not everybody makes it to the show. I try to do mailings and I do get maybe 10 percent of orders that way, just by calling myself.”
Kozlowski has also been helped by editorial exposure, including the cover of UHF magazine, as well as features in Time Out New York, Urb and others.
Currently she is working on her next three shipments and her fall collection, which she hopes will include a lot of custom prints. She plans to do 12 looks for the season, including a fitted, printed sweater dress. The colors, she says, will be muted lavender and green and even brown. But because her prints take a lot of time to develop and because she has her hands full with her March 30 and April 15 shipments, the fall line will not be ready until April.
Kozlowski’s plans for the near future include finding a showroom and a rep. She is also looking to move into an office share in the garment district. — L.A.
NEW YORK — Antonio Garcia says he’s ready to bring back Forties glamour, with a healthy dose of color and contemporary design thrown in.
The 33-year-old will be showing about 50 pieces from his line of dressy suits and eveningwear for the first time on March 28th in the Trustees Room of the New York Public Library.
“I have always had a passion for eveningwear and to make women feel special when they put on one of my designs,” Garcia said in a telephone interview.
Inspired by Seventies ‘Arabesque’ — a “Middle East meets West” concept with very ornate patterns — Garcia has created a vibrant collection of shapely suits and eveningwear. Working primarily with fabrics from Italy and Asia, he has created tailored looks in silk, wool, silk barathea, duchesse satin, leather and suede.
The signature pieces from his collection are the Op Art floor-length gowns in bright colors — fuchsia, iridescent pinks, turquoise and pearl. Another look for evening is the fitted dinner jacket with crystal buttons paired with a floor-length serpentine skirt, both made of silk barathea. The suits are also colorful, with options including tweed jackets with suede and leather embroidered trim that are nipped in the waist and come in tangerine, terra-cotta, clay and rust. “Brown is my black for this season,” Garcia said.
Garcia, a native of the Philippines, said he knew he wanted to pursue a career in fashion while he was helping run his family’s women’s wear manufacturing business in Manila.
“I wanted to go to a reputable school in the States and better my skills as a fashion designer,” Garcia said. He eventually attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where he left an impressive mark. He won various fashion awards, including the 1993 Designer of the Year Award at the Rencontre Suisse de Jeune Talent, an international competition in which the judges included HervA LAger, Ted Lapidus and Paco Rabanne.
Soon after graduating, Garcia decided to go into business for himself, with financial help from his family and his partner, Robert Hadstate, who handles the managing and sales aspect of the business.
“I wanted my own business where I could design beautiful eveningwear for women and make them feel and look special,” Garcia said.
Garcia is currently working closely with Henri Bendel to distribute his pieces, and his clothing is available at Davantage in Los Angeles, Bottega in Chicago and the Gallery of Wearable Art in New York.
Wholesale prices range from $220 to $450 for jackets, $80 to $130 for skirts and $750 to $1,300 for evening gowns. Cocktail dresses cost $380.
“My customer is a stylish, strong, social woman who is full of personality and commands a lot of attention,” Garcia said.
“[Antonio] appeals to a very upscale clientele, someone who is a world traveler and knows couture,” said William Pass, store manager for The Gallery of Wearable Art. “He has a wonderful sense of combining textiles and he has been a great seller in our store.”
NEW YORK — Douglas Hannant’s West 42nd Street loft-cum-design studio is more than a little off the beaten path, but the renovated warehouse’s views of sunsets over the Hudson River more than compensate for any inconvenience.
Still, the 33-year-old visual merchandiser is thinking of moving to a new space.
“We’re just out of space,” he said, pointing to a cabinet bursting with fabric samples. There are seamstresses in the kitchen busily correcting samples, industrial sewing machines in the hallway and threads piling up in the corners.
“Out of chaos comes order,” said Hannant, referring to the first collection of his signature sportswear line, which he’s introducing for fall 1996.
Hannant, an Illinois native, studied painting at Northeast Missouri State University and fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology here. He worked at various department stores in display design before starting Anderson Hannant with his partner, Fred Anderson, in 1992. The pair produces events for fashion and beauty clients.
But Hannant said creating a quietly elegant sportswear collection has been one of his long-term goals.
“Simplicity is key, but these aren’t basics,” he said. “Everything has something special to it.”
In keeping with his low-key but luxurious styles, Hannant said he wanted to keep “lines long and lean” for the first collection. Styles include funnel-neck, zip-front or cardigan jackets, wrap or slim skirts, low-cut pants and tailored dresses. Closures such as buttons are concealed beneath a placket, because “buttons would distract from the line.” For the same reason, his low-slung pants and skirt styles are waistbandless.
Hannant is as excited about the inside of his clothes as he is about the outside.
“Everything is lined with silk shantung or charmeuse — I don’t use china silk,” he said. “All the seams are bound, even on the knitwear.”
Wholesale prices range from $155 for a merino wool crop top to $1,450 for an evening style of a molded leather bustier paired with a sweeping matte jersey skirt.
The colors are neutral — ivory, chocolate, camel, navy and black — and most of the fabrics are wool, including a knit crepe, merino ottoman, a waffle weave and a double-face knit. There are also blends of wool and angora or wool and cashmere. There are touches of leather binding on some styles, and Hannant has a few leather tops, including the bustier and a vest. He’s also used high-quality matte rayon jersey for some bodysuits.
Hannant said he doesn’t have a projection for his first-year wholesale business.
“The production company is paying for the collection right now,” he said.
Anderson added, “If it doesn’t work this season, we’ll show it again next season, and the season after that, and the season after that.”
NEW YORK — If they ever make a movie out of designer Rebecca Danenberg’s life, Fran Drescher is a shoo-in for the lead.
Danenberg’s dark hair, pretty face, quick wit and heavy accent are all very similar to the Nanny’s, but the designer is definitely more downtown than outer borough.
The native New Yorker has gotten considerable attention from the fashion magazines of late for her sportswear line, but she’s spent quite a few years designing for the ultrahip, including rock stars like Keith Richards, Billy Idol and the Psychedelic Furs.
Her current line has been around for 1 1/2 years. The collection of sophisticated sportswear is sold in New York boutiques Untitled, TG170 and Steven Alan. It also hangs in Fred Segal and Swell in Los Angeles and stores in Florida, Boston, Oklahoma, Japan and Germany.
Danenberg has been designing on her own for about four years. She started in “fetishwear” and then made the transition into dresses, which she sold to 109 in SoHo and TG170.
Since then, her clothes have evolved. “We are pretty elegant,” Danenberg says of the latest look. “My stuff is more European. I think I would do really well in Europe.”
Danenberg says she gets her ideas from the streets and the Sci-Fi Channel. “I watch the Sci-Fi Channel a lot,” she admits. “It’s my favorite channel,” she says, citing the likes of “Lost in Space” and “Space 1999.”
The fall collection, which she will show at GenArt May 18 and at the International Boutique Show in June, is made up of 200 pieces or 50 looks. It features five groupings: The ski group, made of jackets, jumpsuits, skirts and pants in quilted cotton and nylon trimmed in fake fur; a military group of jackets and skirts in wool suede and nylon; a leather and suede group that includes jackets, pants, skirts and a trench; a knit grouping of dresses, sweaters and pants, and there will be a few lace shirts and dresses. Colors for the line include gray, khaki, black, bright red, royal blue, plum, yellow navy and brown.
Her pieces retail from $80 for pants to $600 for a leather trench, and Danenberg says business is booming. Last year, the company’s sales hit $300,000 and, based on last month’s $60,000, she expects to at least double that this year.
Steven Alan, owner of Steven Alan in New York, says her line sells well. He carries almost her entire collection, and plans to carry it in its entirety in his new store, which was previously the Rebecca Danenberg store. “She gets a feel for what is going on, and she does it at an affordable price and with her own flair,” Alan says. “And the cut is great. For me, it is fun to sell. I feel I’m selling a good, quality item, and I mean, the pants are $90.”
Having spent her lifetime around clothes, it’s no surprise that Danenberg is where she is today. Her parents manufactured junior lines for more than 20 years. “I used to help my mom out with the designing sometimes,” she says. She even designed her own wardrobe from the age of nine.
Today, she and Charles Helm, her husband of four years, are partners in the company. She handles the design with the help of her assistant, Sherry Youchison, and he handles the business, just like her parents.
She hopes to find a rep soon, and would like to enter the accessories, shoes, jeans and men’s wear markets, possibly through licensing agreements.