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Articles By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

 

New York Fashion Week – Reflections on a Resurrection
By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris
French Touch Image Consulting LLC

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That bzzz bzzz bzzz you were hearing last month was the frantic bzzz bzzz bzzzing of designers and their worker bees in the fashion capitals of the world. The 2008 Fall Fashion shows are now behind us, and designers are hoping that the “bzzz” generated enough critical “buzz” to create some serious “biz,” as in – will anyone buy what they have so painstakingly created?
The answer to that question will not be long in coming.

Cathy Horyn of The New York Times weighed in on two of the heavyweights of Parisian Haute Couture – Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. According to Ms. Horyn, Stefano Pilati, who took over the YSL label four years ago, has finally found his voice by recapturing the “…swagger and spirit of the Rive Gauche era…” As to Karl Lagerfeld, well he has been channeling the great Chanel through his own voice for almost two decades now and never fails to dazzle and delight.

Meanwhile, in New York, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein eschewed channeling and spirit recapturing and went straight to resurrection. He breathed life into the long-dead Halston label to mixed reviews. The clothes were drapey and deconstructed and in muted colors, which one critic described as muddy. Nevertheless, for those of us who came of age during the 60s, there is still magic in the name of Halston.

It is a cold day in January 1961, and a dark-eyed beauty stands smiling beside her husband as he takes the Oath of Office to become the 35th President of the United States. Jacqueline Kennedy is wearing a pill box hat by a young designer who would shortly become a household name. Within weeks, every woman I knew was wearing a pill box hat. They were the perfect accessory for the bouffant hairdos that were becoming so fashionable. They did not disturb your careful coiffure nor did they obscure your face. They simply sat casually on the back of your head adding a dash of insouciant style to your ensemble. I had one in every color.

Ray Halston Frowick became the darling of the international jet set and following his licensing agreement with JC Penney, women of moderate means could afford to own a piece of that Halston magic, even if they could only afford to buy his signature perfume, Halston, second only to Chanel No. 5 in worldwide sales.

By the time he died of complications from AIDS in 1990, although he had long since lost the rights to his own name, he had earned the right to be considered one of the best designers America has ever produced. As for me, and for many women my age, the name of Halston will forever conjure up images of casual elegance, Jackie Kennedy and Camelot. The question remains, however, what will the newly reincarnated Halston name ultimately mean to the woman of today?

Despite the mixed reviews by the critics on the clothes themselves, the real appeal of the Halston collection may have a great deal to do with its immediate availability. For more years than anyone can remember, the fashion industry has shown its Spring/Summer collections in the Fall and its Fall/Winter collections in the Spring, because of the amount of time needed to make the clothes and get them to the consumer. Halston struck a deal with Net-a-Porter.com to sell key pieces of its collection on line before the show. Orders flooded in from around the world.

While fashion outlets like H&M have the flexibility to turn out clothes in a few weeks like fast food, the idea of a luxury label taking the risk of manufacturing pieces in advance of its runway show is risky business indeed – but is it really? Women have always had an enormous appetite for fashion and in a global economy where you are only a few clicks away from getting whatever you want, how quickly a designer can satisfy a woman’s hunger for the latest fashions might just be that little extra that will put them both on the cutting edge.

Women have always known the power of fashion and frequently used it to their advantage. In 16th century London, Anne Boleyn, fresh from the French court, caught the eye of Henry VIII, a very fashion-forward monarch himself. She dazzled him as much with her elegant style as with her lustrous dark hair and flashing eyes. Her dropped bodice, long fitted sleeves and beaded headbands were immediately copied by every lady at the English court.

By the end of the 17th century, the first fashion magazine, Le Mercure Galant, was using elaborate engravings from metal plates to keep Frenchwomen up to date not only on the latest Parisian fashion trends, but on the lifestyles of the rich and famous that went with them. From these engravings would come the expression that a well-dressed woman looked like a “Fashion Plate.”

In Colonial America, women could actually get their hands on a small piece of the latest Parisian designs. Articulated wooden dolls dressed in the latest French fashions from head to toe and from the inside out, accessories included, would arrive by boat to great fanfare. Local seamstresses would charge their clients a fee to look at them, and an even larger fee to take them home and study them.

Today we can actually stream fashion shows on line in the privacy of our homes. Is it, therefore, too far fetched to believe that one day a busy working Mom will be able to sit in front of her computer, watch a live runway show in real time after the kids are safely tucked in, see something she likes, type in her vital statistics and voilà!! it arrives at her door in record time? And, it’s a perfect fit! Someone wake me ------- I must be dreaming!!

I can already hear the fashionistas howling in pain, “Oh, my God --- Soccer Moms --- McMansions ---McFashion --- where will it all end?!” To the Ladies and Gentlemen of the fashion world, I offer this small piece of solace. As long as there are designers to conceive it, artisans to create it and clientele to purchase it, Haute Couture will remain blessedly inviolate and untouched by a hyperactive society demanding instant gratification. After all, I waited almost two years for my Kelly bag and was happy to do so. Besides, every woman needs something slightly out of reach to yearn for, dream about and drool over. It’s good for the soul.

And while we’re on the subject, aren’t change and innovation the life blood of fashion, or so the fashion gods keep telling us? And don’t they get downright peevish when they don’t get it? Maybe it’s time for a little change and innovation in the way designers actually deliver the goods. Perhaps Halston and company are perched on the crest of the next nouvelle vague in fashion. It’s certainly worth thinking about. And while you are pondering all this, I have only one question. Do you want that Lagerfeld for here or to go?

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