Less than three months ago Mayte Allende left her 15-year career as a senior editor and stylist at a fashion publication to consult for a start-up label launching for fall. [Full disclosure: The publication at which she was formerly employed was this one.] Within weeks of starting the new job, the consultancy turned into a creative directorship for which Allende had to conceptualize, design, brand and name a new collection to be ready for February market. “I had a blank canvas,” she said.
The first season of Bande Noir, an 80-piece advanced contemporary lineup, is being shown to press and retailers at Spring Place today through Feb. 10.
After a decade and a half covering the women’s ready-to-wear market, from Coterie to couture, Allende knew what she wanted: T-shirts. Not the perfect classic plain white crewneck or plain black V-neck — images from the late Eighties and early Nineties of Romeo Gigli Ts that wrapped like a bandeau around the bust or draped and tied at the lower back had appeared on her mood boards for photo shoots over the years many times. “I said, ‘These things are not in the market right now,’” Allende said. “I want to wear these T-shirts with my jeans, under my blazers, make them casual, dress them up, because that’s how girls dress. You want comfort but to be pretty.”
The T-shirt inspiration resulted in a range of novelty cotton tops, including a white T-shirt with a black bustier detail, a mariner striped rugby shirt with a corset waist and styles that can be wrapped around the waist or into halters. Tops make up 70 percent of the collection — a white-poplin off-shoulder blouse; a navy pinstripe wool tailored wrap vest, and a fitted gray wool crew-neck that laces up the back compliment the T-shirt range. A mix of tailoring — high-waisted pants; a pinstripe wool dress with wrap details and a camel wool bomber — and softer, more evening-oriented pieces — a black beaded ruched tulle dress — complete the collection.
The aesthetic is adult; the retail prices are well within the advanced contemporary arena. T-shirts start at $165; pants are $395; jackets go up to $995. The collection is produced in New York.
“I wanted a more sophisticated approach to advanced contemporary,” Allende said. “When I got to a store, I always look for that piece that I know people will notice, but at the same time I don’t like being the center of attention.”
Bande Noir is operated by the Kittrich Corp., a manufacturing firm based in Pomona, Calif., with 40 years of experience developing home products, such as housewares, yard goods, stationery and writing instruments. Its president and owner Robert Friedland prefers to remain behind the scenes. Kittrich’s holdings have diversified to include several lines of organic and natural brands in product segments ranging from health, beauty and cleaning supplies.
Bande Noir is not Kittrich’s first fashion venture. The company previously backed designer Rolando Santana, whose evening-focused collections were sold at Neiman Marcus. After Santana’s business shuttered in 2015, Kittrich decided to utilize its already established design studio, sales and production team in New York to launch a contemporary endeavor, which has become Bande Noir.