It’s a challenging time to be a furrier in the U.S. market, new fur bans are pending in both New York and California, and it’s clear that the cultural conversation around the material is changing.
For his part, designer Gilles Mendel takes a democratic approach to the issue. “For me, I believe everyone has the right to choose what he or she feels in life, as long as you preserve the freedom of choice. The fur ban takes away that freedom, but I do think times are changing,” he said at a private appointment on the second floor of his Madison Avenue store.
While he did offer a few fur pieces, such as a few mink coats, Mendel is a designer with many other tricks up his sleeve. For his resort J. Mendel outing he provides something else he has come to be known for, exquisite embroideries and prints in a mix of options, mostly evening.
The collection took its starting point from Henri Rousseau, the post-impressionist French painter known for his works of tropical places — think landscapes with banana leaves and jungle cats.
“It was fun for me to make my own interpretation of his imaginary world, using this jungle life and foliage. His color palette is so beautiful, goes from blacks and pales with pops of color from the flowers.”
Mendel parlayed Rousseau’s color palette into his embroideries giving three-dimensional elements to several of his evening dresses, some literal and some more nuanced and abstract. One example: a dress with embroidered pineapples with a touch of a surrealist bend, an appropriate look for an evening event in some far off warm locale. He played with volume incorporating poufy sleeves and bows on pleated dresses giving them a “dreamy feeling,” he explained. The collection leaned heavy on evening but had a few day options, too, such as a white-printed shirt dresses and a black laser cut black trench that were smart standouts.
While the times are changing, Mendel is steadfast in his mission of creating pieces for both red carpet dressing or high day events, offering any well-traveled girl a mix of luxurious yet unique pieces to dream about.