It's hard to believe that Anna Sui has been in business for more than 30 years, given the exuberant youthfulness of her work—and the woman herself. But that she has, having launched her first collection in 1980 after graduating from Parsons.
She didn't show on the runway until 1991, but Sui's shows have since become New York Fashion Week legend, what with the models (Naomi! Gisele! Coco! Agyness!), the music (The Beatles! The Cure! The Stones! Bow Wow Wow!), the celebs (Liza! Sofia! Mischa! Fergie!) and the designer's wonderfully idiosyncratic inspirations (Gustav Klimt! The New York Dolls! Busby Berkeley! Dr. Doolittle!), all of which come together twice yearly to make for a fun and fantastical fashion spectacle. Anna Sui is, in fact, one designer who really does deserve to show under a tent—so entertainingly over-the-top are her Fashion Week outings—and you can literally feel the love in the air when seated in the audience of her feel-good style circus.
"I've got the best job in the world, because I'm allowed to get inspired by what I like," says Sui, whose enthusiasm is contagious.
So it's no wonder that the designer has translated her passion into a multi-million dollar business, complete with clothing, accessories, fragrance, eyewear, cosmetics, skincare, lingerie, watches, mobile phones and Barbie dolls (whew!), the lot of which is sold in more than 300 stores in 30 countries, including Sui's 50 stand-alone boutiques (and that's not counting her accessory, beauty and Dolly Girl shops worldwide).
"My friends tell me since I was four years old I was talking about becoming a designer," says Sui, who was honored with the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 (she won the CFDA Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent back in 1992). And the Michigan-bred, New York-based designer shows no sign of slowing down: she launched her twelfth fragrance last year, published her first book (which chronicles the past 20 years of her career), and is gearing up for collaborations with Hanky Panky (to celebrate their 25th anniversary) and Hush Puppies, for whom she designed a capsule footwear collection for fall 2011.
The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden managed to squeeze in a brief chat with Sui to discuss music (natch!), flea markets and her favorite dessert.
What's the first concert you ever went to?
Iggy and the Stooges in Hines Park, Michigan.
What's the last concert you went to?
Phoenix at Madison Square Garden.
What's your favorite smell in the world?
My Mom's cooking!
Coffee or tea?
What's your earliest memory?
Trying to see what was on the other side of the wall on the balcony of our apartment.
What's your favorite street in the world?
Portobello Road; I'll always love the antique market there.
What's the biggest/most important lesson your parents taught you?
Discipline and hard work pay off.
When was the last time you rode the subway?
I went to The Hispanic Society and to a friend's for lunch uptown on 155th Street.
What's your idea of a perfect spring day?
A great outdoor flea market.
Lady M Mille Crêpes cake.
What makes you nervous?
Anticipating another fashion show season.
When are you happiest?
Spending time with my family and friends.
runway images courtesy Anna Sui
The Label: Quarry
Based In: New York
Designed By: Ninh Wysocan, who studied sculpture and furniture design at RISD and has helmed an eponymous fine jewelry line—notable for organic forms fashioned from precious metals—since 2003. She launched Quarry, a more accessibly-priced line of bold statement pieces, in spring 2011. "Making fine jewelry is something I really love, but because of the materials there are some basic constrictions that have prevented me from exploring larger sizes and more unusual stones," Wysocan told The Fashion Informer of her new line."With Quarry, the design is much more about creating statement pieces in bronze and brass with really beautiful, but rarely used, semi-precious gems/minerals. While my fine jewelry line is about organic forms, layering and drapery, Quarry is inspired by a wide mix of more minimal architecture and traditional tribal jewelry. I like to think about what it might mean to make amulets for our age: What kind of superstitions does today's woman need to ward off? And what sort of symbolic form does that yield?"
Looks Like: For Quarry's fall collection, Wysocan took her inspiration from traditional jewelry worn by the Tuareg tribe of North Africa. Each piece is hand-crafted from brass and bronze with occasional gold or silver plating, and blends elements of geometry with more organic curves, resulting in strong, talismanic jewelry that is designed to empower the wearer as much as adorn her. "I find it exciting that anyone can wear it, but I suppose I imagine that it's someone who's a bit creative, either professionally or artistically, and has a strong sense of personal style," the Guam-born, New York-based jeweler says of her ideal customer. "For Quarry it might be someone who needs to protect themselves from the evil spirits that haunt postmodern office cubicles. Office cubicle amulets sound like a wonderful idea!"
Sold At: The Quarry fall collection will be available at Stand Up Comedy, Totokaelo, Mayram Nassir Zadeh, Creatures of Comfort, Jumell and La Garconne.
I recently had a long and meandering chat with Tess Giberson, who is one of my all-time favorite designers (shhh, don't tell the others!). You can read it—and see Samatha Casolari's poetically evocative photos—on Dossier, one of my all-time favorite publications to work with (shhh, don't tell the others!).
images by Samantha Casolari for Dossier
Pull up a chair and join the always charming Rebecca Minkoff and me for a spirited lunch at Petite Abeille over at Rue La La.
"Everyday Icon" author Kate Betts spoke at FIT last week; you can find my coverage of the event on Rue La La. She had some very interesting things to say about First Lady style, from Michelle Obama to the other Mrs. O (Jackie, that is). But what I really want to know is, why does Kate look like she's afraid I'm going to skin her alive and boil her bones down for soup in the photo below? Am I really that scary?
photos by The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden; layout by Rue La La
Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos are not your typical fashion designers. Alumi of the 2005 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund-winning West Coast-based label, Trovata, the duo relocated to New York and struck out on their own in 2008 with Shipley & Halmos, a cleaned up, more refined version of the preppy chic clothes that had made their earlier label such a success.
"To be totally honest, we still don't consider ourselves fashion designers," Halmos (aka, the tall one) told us recently. "We love making clothes. It's the cornerstone of the Shipley & Halmos brand, but really, it's the brand as a whole that we spend most of our time thinking about. We enjoy coming up with new concepts, and figuring out ways to make them come to life. That's the best part about owning our own company—we can do what we want when we want."
And that's exactly what they do at the company whose clothing labels are subtitled "An offering of some clothing & things created with hand, health and heart," whether it's making S&H lighters and bottle openers, publishing DIY books, or hosting drawing competitions for their friends and fans, along with designing their men's and women's collection, which is now sold in Barneys, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Harvey Nichols and specialty boutiques worldwide.
"We self-publish all of the books we sell on our website," explained Halmos of their growing empire. "It's part of a new division of our brand called S&H Publishers. Most of the titles are designed and art directed in-house. We enjoy working on these projects. Aside from being fun, they are creative outlets for us that inspire our brand in new ways."
What they don't find so inspiring, not surprisingly, is doing prescribed runway shows every six months. And having attended what felt like 10,000 of them during the most recent New York Fashion Week, we can't say that we blame them.
"Jeff and I felt [a runway show] wasn't the right venue to express our brand," said Shipley (aka, the blond one). "It's too regimented. We're interested in no rules, to have complete creative freedom and to really connect with the customer. We're into meeting our customers and working with them. It's been unbelievably liberating to not have to show twice a year."
Not having to produce a costly and time-consuming runway show has also freed them up to focus on other things, like the men's shoe line they'll be launching this fall, and the formal ready-to-wear they're unveiling for holiday.
TFI's Lauren David Peden caught up with the dashing, multi-talented duo earlier this month to talk sports, scotch and shoplifting.
So, Sam & Jeff...
What is your favorite getaway spot?
Sam Shipley: My practice space. Just playing music with my band and not worrying about anything.
How do you relax/recharge after a particularly hard day?
Jeff Halmos: I like to zone out in front of the TV and watch a football or basketball game. For some reason, I can mindlessly watch and not have to think about work.
For what will you be arrested (hypothetically speaking)?
SS: Crimes of passion. Ha, ha, just kidding. Ah, probably shoplifting some Benadryl; my allergies are a mess this week.
Tell me about your pet(s).
JH: Roscoe, the black pug, is my dog. Pilot is Sam's dog. He's a Boston Terrier. Both of them come to the office on most days, so I guess you can say they're our company mascots.
What's your computer desktop pattern and how often do you change it?
SS: It's a photo of my girlfriend, Allison; been there for a while. Desktops are super indicative of who we are, it's almost like someone's apartment. I think a series of screen captures of interesting people's desktops would make a great book.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Who would play your co-designer?
JH: 1972 was a great year. Burt Reynolds could play me, and Robert Redford could play Sam. There would be a lot of facial hair.
What's the most you've ever spent on a purchase, other than a house or car?
SS: Well since I own neither this one's easy. My last guitar, [which cost] $1,400. Oh shit, I forgot about taxes; spent way more on those.
Beverage of choice?
JH: I enjoy a great glass of scotch or bourbon, especially during the winter when it's f-in freezing outside.
Favorite street in New York?
SS: Although it's fancy now, Crosby. Still can't believe a street can sit between Broadway and Lafayette and not be busy. Truly a metrological wonder.
What's your favorite/least favorite sport to watch? To participate in?
JH: I love pretty much all sports other than baseball and hockey. Sorry, they're just BORRRING!
What's your idea of a perfect spring day?
SS: Play soccer, Bulls playoff win, beer, cheeseburger, go out with some close friends, sleep in.
You've designed an S&L bottle opener, books, playing cards and a class ring. What's your dream design project along these lines?
JH: I'd love to work on a feature film in some capacity. I'd also love to collaborate with a car company on the interior design of a car.
What was the last Tweet you wrote and what did it say?
SS: "Forget about LCD Soundsystem, the Garden is about to really rock!"
What freaks you out?
JH: Spiders and snakes.
When are you happiest?
SS: At the exact moment of creative inception. When you don't have an answer to a problem, then in a flash, you do.
images courtesy Shipley & Halmos
I didn't attend the senior fashion show at FIT/The Fashion Institute of Technology this year, but I did stop by to see the graduating students' looks, displayed in the school's lobby, on my way to Kate Betts' Everyday Icon talk last week. Here's a peek at what the class of 2011 is up to, sartorially speaking. Nicely done, kids.
photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden
Who doesn't love a little sparkle in their clothing? I do! I do! But then, having been descended from a long line of crows, that is, perhaps, to be expected. In fact, my motto might well be: I BRAKE FOR SHINY OBJECTS. So it was with happy heart that I first spied these delightful sequin sweaters in the CFDA Incubator showroom of designer Tom Scott (he of the upside-down label), who introduced them as part of his fall 2011 collection. Upon closer inspection, I was even more delighted to discover that the sequins are, in fact, made of lightweight plastic with a translucent, iridescent coating that makes them glimmer and gleam yet remain nearly weightless—and when touched, they make a reassuringly gentle sound, rather like leaves rustling in the breeze. The kicker: unlike most sequins, which are sewn onto a garment after it's made, these sequins are actually threaded onto each sweater, one at a time, as it's being knit. Which is both ingenious and practical, as it means they're far less likely to shed when you wear them. Now the hard part: Should I choose the cardigan, the vest or the pullover? Decisions, decisions…
Tom Scott sequin sweaters will be available at Ikram/Chicago, Project No. 8/New York, Be-Jewel/Houston, Browns/London, Journal Standard/Japan and Couverture/London this fall.
images courtesy Tom Scott, styled by Haidee Findlay-Levin
Parsons The New School For Design hosted a show for their graduating fashion design students on Monday, which also honored alum Reed Krakoff. Here are some shots from the event, which we covered for Rue La La. The show also heralded the announcement of the graduating class's Designer of the Year, which went to David Ferron (for women's wear), T. Young Hwang (menswear) and Serena Chang (children's wear). And Joel Harding won the Coach Project competition, which invited students to reinterpret the iconic Coach Duffle bag. All told, it was a great display of emerging talent and we wish all the newly-minted designers the best of luck in their coming careers.
event photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden; other photos courtesy of the designers
What happened at the opening party for Tess Giberson's new store last Thursday, you ask? See photos below, we answer. A great crowd turned out at her Soho flagship to help the designer celebrate her first foray into retail, which you can read more about at Rue La La. Good times.
photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden
Knitwits, rejoice! While beloved knitwear line Lutz & Patmos is no more (co-designers Marcia Patmos and Tina Lutz shuttered their 10-year-old label last year), Patmos recently launched a solo line, M. Patmos, with a small spring collection that was instantly snapped up by Barneys.
For fall, the New York-based sweater girl—and 2011 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation winner—expanded the range to include other ready-to-wear pieces (wool trousers, leather shorts and skirts) alongside her signature knits. And, oh, what knits! In addition to long slinky skirts and classic pullovers, Patmos offered up a dress with long sleeves that unbutton at the elbow to become three-quarter length; chunky tribal print cardigans with matching removable scarves; a casual-cool fringed scarf/vest; and several pieces—including a pullover and maxi skirt—that were woven on a state-of-the-art Japanese loom using one continuous thread (look ma, no seams!).
"There are so many new directions I am interested in exploring, such as new methods of fabrication, new combinations of materials, and the increasing ability to create fashion with a conscience from eco-friendly materials or by working with sustainable artisan community collectives," the RISD grad told us of the inspiration behind M. Patmos, which is now sold at Barneys and specialty boutiques nationwide and at Le Bon Marche and Matches in Europe.
Having already featured eco-chic knits and a sweater handmade by a Bolivian women's arts collective, Patmos revealed she has a new shoe collaboration in the works (though it's too early to discuss specifics) and is gearing up to introduce e-com on her site once fall rolls around. Sweet! And the designer, a long-time flea market aficionado, is still overseeing Leroy & Perry, the more casual, vintage-inspired line she and Lutz launched in 2008.
The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden spoke to Patmos earlier this month about nicknames, Evita memorabilia and why manipulative wedding music never fails to make her cry.
What's your favorite flea market in the world?
Well, I hope to visit many more, but Noordemarkt in Amsterdam is my favorite so far. Part of why I love it is that it is held on Monday mornings (they don't work half of Monday in Holland). If I am there, it means I am visiting good friends who are super fun to hang around with. It also means I am having amazing apple pie with them. But really, there is just great stuff there and tons of great Seventies textiles and Northern European sweaters. All foreign flea markets are intriguing because you see different versions of things than you would normally find. In Florence or Milan, you find amazing Murano glass chandelier crystals or intricate lace table linens you would never see here. At San Telmo in Buenos Aires, there is amazing old silver, Evita memorabilia and tango clothing.
What's your favorite flea market find of all time?
It is an ongoing collection of vases (ceramics and glassware) that I have been collecting for many years. I love them because I can wrap one in some t-shirts and bring them home safely in my suitcase. I now have a multicolor collection that reminds me of everywhere I have been. Flea markets are fantastic because you see different variations of the same things everywhere—so you can end up with a focused yet varied group of your favorite items.
Beverage of choice?
Organic Assam tea with soy milk.
Most inspiring work of art?
I thought about this a lot and there are so many possible answers for so many reasons. I love Andy Goldsworthy's wall at Storm King Arts Center because of the beautiful interaction of human craft with nature. I love an installation on a fence under the Manhattan Bridge because of its urban beauty and renegade nature. But what inspires me on a daily basis is what I look at as I have my morning coffee: My own personal curation which consists of art I have won at benefit auctions, gifts from artist friends, a fortieth birthday present, and works purchased from local artists and galleries [shown below].
Clockwise from top left: Will Yaculic drawing, Victoria Burges guache on vintage map drawing, Deborah Forman mixed media painting, Diane Patmos painting, Lauren Garfinkel photograph, Allison Kyner etching, Elizabeth Peyton portrait of Marc Jacobs. Around corner, top to bottom: Michael Lazarus screen print with collage, Julian Jackson painting.
What is your computer desktop pattern/photo and how often do you change it?
My iphone has a new photo of cherry blossoms taken yesterday at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I change them when inspired.
What's your go-to snack food?
Lately, it is cashews and dried mango or California apricots.
Tell me about your best friend.
I have two and am not sure that I could choose just one. David is an event planner and Lolo has a vintage textile studio. Both live in Brooklyn and are the only people I pick up the phone for after 10 pm.
Favorite mode of transportation?
What was your nickname in junior high, and what's your nickname now?
I didn't really have one then, but my college nickname was Peatmoss, and my current one is Marcia (pronunciation: Mar-cee-ah, inspired by the Dominican mail carrier at a former job).
What is it about fashion design that you love, as opposed to any other form of creative expression?
I love to see it walking down the street. I love the fact that it is a constant collaboration with others, from the designer to the manufacturing process to the wearer. The audience participates in this art form more so than in any other. It is so exciting and interesting to see how real people incorporate pieces into their lives.
What's your charity of choice?
NRDC, because we and our successors need a healthy earth to live on, no matter what is going on politically or economically.
What talent would you like to possess that you don't already?
I am very well versed in how to connect and manipulate soft materials, and I would like to learn more about connecting hard materials like wood, glass, metal and ceramics.
What never fails to make you cry?
Manipulative movie music, wedding vows and talking about my grandmother(s).
When are you happiest?
Walking on the beach. Preferably on a sunny day, but rain or fog is also beautiful.
images courtesy M. Patmos
We got a sneak peek at the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Monday morning. It is curator Andrew Bolton's finest exhibit to date and allows viewers a truly intimate, immersive glimpse into McQueen's macabre world. Here are some shots of the breathtaking show, which is equal parts fabulous and fatalistic, in keeping with the late designer's mad, melancholy and envelope-pushing oeuvre. And you can read our complete coverage of the exhibit on Rue La La.
"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" will be on display at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 4-July 31, 2011.
We attended the party for Ines de la Fressange's new style guide, Parisian Chic, at the Roger Vivier boutique on Madison Avenue last Wednesday, which was co-hosted by Elle (French Elle fashion journalist, Sophie Gachet, co-wrote the book). The window was dressed for the occasion with copies of Parisian Chic (surrounded by Vivier shoes and bags, bien sur). Inside, waiters proffered cocktails and Bon Musique played live while guests, including Robbie Myers, Joe Zee, Kate Betts, Amanda Ross, Mark Holgate, Derek Blasberg, Fabiola Beracasa and Lynn Yaeger, chatted or waited to have their books signed—and illustrated—by the gracious and irreverent guest of honor, who sat behind a table in the upstairs salon, a glass of red wine close at hand. You can read more about the party on Rue La La.
photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden