Filed under: Trends

The New Black… Friday

imageThanks to the crumbling economy and my dwindling bank account, I’ve restricted my clothing intake to mere window-shopping (oh what fun!). During one of my recent browsing-only excursions at Saks Fifth Avenue, I was dumbfounded upon discovering dozens of “Pre-Sale” racks filled with unsold discounted designer duds on the sales floor, something unheard of at the beginning of November! Sales of this magnitude typically don’t start until after Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Black Friday). This prompts the question: how are retailers responding to such quick and major shifts in consumer buyer behavior in times of such economic uncertainty and volatility?

Lucky for you, I recently attended the Fashion Group International’s seasonal Prêt-a-Porter event in New York, where I witnessed a panel of leading fashion influencers (Barneys’ Simon Doonan to Vogue’s Sally Singer) banter about a host of these related topics. I don’t know about you, but as an avid shopper, I’m dying to know what tricks retailers have up their sleeves for luring customers in during what’s arguably the most dismal holiday season since the Great Depression. So before you plan your next shopping jaunt, do yourself a favor and arm yourself with these newfangled retail strategies. Read more after the Jump!

imageShopping Will Be More Fun. To boost business, retailers such as Barneys New York are looking for non-traditional ways to further engage the customer. Rather than pressure people to buy, they’re focusing on interactive in-store events that encourage shoppers to let loose and have fun. So in celebration of Woodstock’s upcoming 40th anniversary, Barneys is pushing their “Have A Hippie Holiday” ad campaign. Picture decked out window displays filled with boho-inspired fashions, psychedelic peace signs and corresponding sidewalk events that are expected to lure you into the shop. Peace out!

Less Equals More. Clothing collections are being scaled back and carefully edited to prevent overstock. The benefit for shoppers: a wider variety of clothing will be sold at more attainable price points.

imageShow Your True Colors. Retailers’ are encouraging customers to bring individuality back into their wardrobes. Since so many people are unemployed and don’t have an office to go to, now’s the time to experiment with clothes and push the envelope. Referred to as “intuitive dressing,” retailers are pushing a mix of unexpected patterns, colors and prints to excite customers and ultimately provoke a much-needed emotional uplift. As Barneys’ Simon Doonan remarked: “When times are tough, we have to look more fabulous and glam than usual to lift spirits.” So don’t be shy… dust off that gold lamé zebra-print dress and celebrate life!

We’re Shopping In Our Closets. Much to the dismay of retailers, consumers, including yours truly, have been rediscovering staples from their very own wardrobes. Consequently, retailers now have to work harder to offer clothes that make the customer feel truly special as well as complement existing items in their closets.

imageLipstick Sales are Surging. During times of economic uncertainty, women inevitably load up on affordable luxuries as a substitute for more expensive items like Nicholas Kirkwood shoes (his purple platforms are killer!) and Chloé handbags. As a result, there’s been a 40% surge in lipstick sales, also known as the “Lipstick Effect,” a phrase coined by Leonard Lauder, who saw a huge jump in Estée Lauder lipstick sales after September 11th. Not surprisingly, retailers predict that red lipstick will continue to be a big trend for spring.

Quality Control is Key. Rather than throw money away on multiple, lower-cost items (Hello, H&M!), retailers suggest splurging on a few investment pieces such as a coat, blazer or little black dress. That way you’ll have quality pieces with a much longer shelf life. 

Contemporary is Cool. Due to the tanking economy, a proliferation of hipper, more contemporary clothing lines have infiltrated the market. Rising stars in this rapidly-growing category include 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone (my personal fave), Hunter Dixon, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vince and Theory, all of which offer catwalk-worthy designs at more attainable price points than their upscale counterparts.

Comparison Shopping is Catching On. The best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to visit comparison-shopping sites such as ShopStyle.com and Glimpse.com before you buy. These sites enable you to search for just about any designer item by name and will instantly tell you how much that particular item costs along with a list of major e-tailers that carry it. This will save you from making costly impulse purchases. Plus, when you haggle at your favorite department store, you can mention you saw those butt-firming Seven jeans for $30 cheaper online and they’ll likely match the price.

imageLayaway is Making a Comeback. Believe it or not, but layaways, a payment practice that became popular during the Great Depression but dissipated due to the prevalence of credit cards, is suddenly back in fashion thanks to the credit crunch. So the next time you’re at your favorite store and find yourself drooling over that Diane von Furstenberg sequined vest, it’s worth asking the sales associate if you can put a down payment on the piece (typically 20% of the cost) and bring it home once you’ve paid it off. Just make sure you can cough up the cash before the pre-determined purchase date (typically eight weeks) or you’ll likely be stuck with a store credit.

What’s your take on the shifting retail landscape? Would you consider layaway? Would you sacrifice quality for quantity? Perhaps you’ve curtailed your holiday shopping altogether? Don’t be shy… share your thoughts with the Fashion Junkie community!

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Filed: News & Views, Trends

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Fast Lady Fashions: Flop or Fabulous?

imageNow that all the hoopla surrounding the election has subsided, I thought it only fitting that I comment on the next geo-political newsworthy subject: Michelle Obama’s much talked about fashion sense… or lack of it, depending on your partisan beliefs.

The general consensus is that the First Lady-elect will usher in a much-needed shot of style to the White House. Finally… no more boxy tweed blazers and dowdy pantsuits! Judging by the red-and-black confetti-print dress that Mrs. Obama introduced on election night in Chicago, fresh off the catwalk from Narciso Rodriguez’s Spring ’09 collection, she’ll clearly be the most refined First Lady to have entered the White House in the last decade (sorry, Hillary!). In fact, she might even be channeling a little Jackie Kennedy. C’mon… don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the pretty strands of pearls, ‘60’s-inspired shifts and sleek, shoulder-length flip?

imageBut I digress… back to that dress!  I think it was apropos for Mrs. Obama to don a dress by a well-regarded, but not-so-mainstream, American designer on election night. Plus, it flattered her toned figure and the bold red hue was a perfect power statement.

While I’m not particularly fond of scoop necks, I like how this style revealed a hint of skin without screaming sex kitten (a plunging V-neck like the original runway version pictured here would have been inappropriate). Those corset-like bands of black intersecting at the waist were a bit of an eyesore, but at least they cinched it in and broke up the speckled paint. No matter how cold the temps were in the Windy City that night, Mrs. Obama should have nixed the cropped black cardigan, which threw off the proportions of the dress altogether.

For not having a stylist, at least not yet, Mrs. Obama has certainly gained my vote… at least in the dress department! Michelle, if you happen to be reading this, I have something in mind for the inaugural ball.

In case you overlooked Michelle Obama during the campaign trail, here are some of her sartorial highlights and my take on them.

Her wardrobe is down-to-earth. The First Lady-elect mixes frugal finds from places like J. Crew and H&M along with designer threads by Narciso and Thakoon. She also favors custom-made frocks by Chicago-based designer, Maria Pinto.

imageDuring her recent TV appearance on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, she donned this modest J. Crew cardigan ($90), tank ($100) and skirt ($148). Pretty fab, don’t you think?

imageFor The View, she wore this smashing White House/Black Market shift – a steal at only $148!

She frequently accessorizes with ultra-wide belts (the ultimate waist-cincher) and over-sized brooches – the best way to spice-up an outfit.

• She favors prints and bold colors like purple, turquoise and red – the ultimate power shade.

She’s sassy. For example, did you notice how the Obamas wore color-coordinated red and black outfits on election night? So chic!

Since we live in a democracy, I’d love for you to cast your vote for Michelle Obama’s Narciso Rodriguez dress. Was it a fashion statement or a fashion faux pas?

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Hairy Times

imageNot that I need a reminder to know that we’re in the midst of what promises to be a long and deep recession, but thanks to an unsolicited phone call I received the other day from Garren New York – one of the city’s poshest hair salons, the country’s economic crisis just became that much more evident.

One of the salon’s receptionists cold-called me the other day to gleefully inform me that a time slot with the “shear genius” himself (a.k.a. Garren) had magically opened up. The funny part: I never asked to be put on a waiting list (yes, they have one) in the first place! And even if I had, that would have been well over a year ago. I’m no Suze Orman, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that even the most affluent of New Yorkers are doing a bit of belt-tightening in these troubled times.

Call me frugal, but even during a healthy economy, I wouldn’t even consider blowing $700 of my hard-earned cash on a pricey designer haircut. Just to put things into perspective, since I need to trim my chin-length Shirley Temple curls at least every eight weeks to maintain its shape (read: frizz grows out in width rather than length), that would mean an annual maintenance of $4,200 on haircuts alone, not to mention tax and tip (eek!). No wonder Garren’s regular clients have names like Kidman and Blanchett.

Just what does a $700 Garren haircut buy you, you ask? According to the fine print in the services section on the salon’s website, you’re entitled to a relaxing scalp massage, shampoo and conditioning treatment in shiatsu chairs by Takara Belmont as well as choice of complimentary cappuccino, espresso, tea, or Garren’s own New York-branded bottled water. So I ask you, dear reader, who is the real offender here… is it Garren for having the gall to charge $700 for a haircut or the well-deserving diva who agrees to pay it?

I’m curious… would you spend that much cash on a designer coif? Don’t hold back… share your thoughts with the rest of the Fashion Junkie community!

 

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Recession Obsession

imageBlame it on the current economic crisis or Suze Orman on-the-brain, but I’ve finally decided to smarten-up and tighten the purse strings. That’s right. Aside from no longer blowing my hard-earned cash on impulse clothing purchases at ShopBop.com (read: $475 sequin encrusted Pedro Garcia pumps), I’ve also put the kibosh on weekly manicures and Sally Hershberger designer haircuts (well, at least as of yesterday). Perhaps the biggest benefit to have come out of the collapsed economy: I’ve rediscovered staples from my very own wardrobe!

Much to my husband’s delight, I recently resurrected a few neglected items such as a bronze Andy The Ann blouse, which hasn’t seen the light of day since he bought it for me back in ’04. Other wearable and surprisingly stylish pieces I’ve pulled out from the crypt include a double-breasted tweed blazer (thank G-d the borrowed-from-the-boys look is back!), a pleated Club Monaco skirt that I scored whilst working at the company’s Toronto-based headquarters back in ’99, black Acne stovepipes that I haven’t been able to squeeze into since my honeymoon (an added bonus of no longer dining out), an ‘80’s-inspired acid-washed jean jacket that I completely forgot I owned and a faded chocolate brown wool Mackage coat that I miraculously spruced up by throwing on a patent leather belt. Now if only I can somehow reclaim that fitted hounds-toothed vest I graciously donated to Goodwill out of duress.

Don’t ditch those clothing cast-offs just yet! Get the most mileage out of your existing wardrobe by following these expert Fashion Junkie tips:

Raid your boyfriend’s closet! Over-sized items like a black vest, boxy blazer and the classic white button down shirt look beyond stylish when paired with skinny jeans and even short skirts.

• Add life to any lackluster coat by throwing it on with a cinched patent leather belt.

• Transform a dull jacket into dazzling by sewing on some of granny’s glitzy antique buttons. Plastic is so passé.

Befriend your tailor! Simple alterations such as shortening a skirt hem will make a world of difference.

• Modernize any dated ensemble by throwing on vintage accessories such as chunky jewelry or a print neck scarf.

• Punch up a faded frock in a flash by tie-dying it. As noted above, acid-washed denim is back… hint, hint!

• Instantly update your look by layering unexpected fabrics. For example, pair a chiffon floral dress with opaque tights and a fitted ¾ length belted cardigan. Add a pair of chunky cowboy boots and you’re good to go!

I’m curious to know how the current economy has made you rethink your wardrobe. Don’t be shy… share your tips and tricks with the Fashion Junkie community.

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Christopher Kon: Exclusive Designer Profile!

imageAs a follow-up to this week’s Crazy for Christopher Kon… Handbags write-up, I thought it only fitting that I also blog about the brains behind the biz: Chris Kon. A dedicated follower of fashion since the tender age of 7 (I repeat, 7!), Chris clearly has always had a “handle” on his career path.

Praised for his winning purse-o-nality and business savvy, Chris has been churning out wearable works of art for women of all ages for nearly a decade. Spotted on the shoulders of fashionistas from Montreal to Manhattan, Chris’s coveted leather carryalls can be found hanging around leading retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, Macy’s and Nordstrom. Fashion Junkie chats-it-up with this cool Canadian about his obsessions from surfing (who knew?) to satchels. Check out more, after the jump.

imageFJ: What prompted you to become a handbag designer?

CK: I have always been creative. I started designing around the age of seven and I started formal teachings in Painting at the age of 12. Handbags were the family business and I knew it well, so it was natural for me to evolve my art into the business.         

FJ: Describe a day in the life of a handbag designer.

CK: Magazines and coffee to start. From there, styling, designing and working with customers to better understand what they need.

FJ: If you weren’t a handbag designer, you’d be a… ?

CK: Jewelry Designer, musician of pro surfer.

FJ: Who is the typical Christopher Kon woman? For example, is she a student, a full-time Mom, a career-obsessed fashionista or a jet-setting retiree?

CK: I think a Christopher Kon customer is less about lifestyle and more about the values that our customers have. Someone who doesn’t need a label to let them know they have made it. Someone who is confident and knows what they want. Our bags don’t take away from a woman, they add to her.

FJ: There are so many back-busting (a.k.a. over-sized) bags on the market. Can you offer Fashion Junkie readers tips on choosing (and using!) a silhouette that flatters their figure?

CK: with the exception of a few bag lines that are known to be “heavy” to start with, the biggest problem with big bags is the stuff women put in them!!! More room = more stuff!!!!! Women live with their bags… all the things they carry are important to them, so our solution is to make the lightest leather bags we can. The thing is, that the bigger the bag, the more dramatic it is. The leather falls better. I love the way flat hobo’s look on women, they fall really well, and they suit most body types. Most of all, they are easy!

FJ: Now that the “It” bag status has finally subsided (thank G-d!), a plethora of contemporary handbag lines have suddenly flooded the market. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition?

CK: By keeping a focus on what we have always done: keep things simple, yet edgy with our silhouettes and timeless design.

FJ: Your Fall/Winter ‘08 collection is absolutely stunning! I’m especially obsessed with your “Amy” shoulder bag in plum (style #0155). Who or what inspired this particular collection?   

CK: manipulation, moulding, patching.

FJ: Myself (and hundreds of hardcore Fashion Junkie handbag fanatics) are dying to know how much labor goes into each Christopher Kon bag design? Can you please explain the production process from start to finish?

CK: I always start at the bottom…with a pencil and paper. All designs are done old-school here at Chris Kon. No computer aided design programs…it’s the only way to really FEEL it! From there, I work on the pattern to make sure proportions and details look right…then were off looking at leathers!! Once we find the leather (by the way, the inspiration can start with the leather also) we start the sampling process. The average time for a bag to be produced is 3 hours.

FJ: How has the state of the current economy affected your handbag collection?

CK: we are focusing on service, quality and price. We try to stay creative in all facets of the business, not only in design.

FJ: What prompted you to launch your new entry price-point brand, Co-Lab? How will this line differ from your original handbag collection?

CK: due to popular demand. We can reach a lot more people at those price points and felt that it was the right thing to do. The reaction has been great and our history in manufacturing has helped us greatly as we know what to look for when it comes to possible problems in production and materials.

FJ: I love the name of your new Parachute JUMPER collection. When will this line be launching and what exactly is it?

CK: It won’t be launched – we will throw them off a plane across all of north America! It’s called jumper, because we are using high quality parachute material for this line and trimming it with Veg leather. It’s an answer to the big problem women are having with heavy bags… I also felt it was time to bring Nylon back baby… it’s been too long!

FJ: What are the hottest handbag trends and fabric innovations in the market? How will these be incorporated into the Christopher Kon Spring ‘09 lineup?

CK: again, it will be about the Nylon… I’m not big on canvas, although we do offer it in Co-Lab. Nylon and Leather is where my focus is for spring/ summer… super light, super bright!

FJ: Who’s sense of style do you most admire and why?

CK: I love Karl Lagerfeld. It’s crazy rock. I don’t know, on him it works! Anyone who just doesn’t care too much about it… it’s all too serious sometimes..

FJ: Where are your favorite places to shop in Montreal and New York?

CK: hmm…tough question. I don’t really shop in Montreal, but if I had to pick: Simon’s for basics and American Apparel. When I’m in New York, my favorites are Laundry, Atrium and so many others.

FJ: What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to break into the fashion (design) business?

CK: DON’T DO IT NOW! It’s a tough time to start now as most retailers are not bringing in new vendors. My advice is: keep you head down and work hard. Always stay inspired and don’t worry about anyone else’s business – worry about your own. Hard work will get you to point B!

FJ: What’s next for Christopher Kon?

CK: VACATION! I’m leaving in December with my girl and I’m so excited to get a little time off. After that, it’s about super luxe snakeskin for Christopher Kon in Fall ‘09! I can’t wait!

Craving even more Christopher Kon? Visit christopherkon.com and make sure to join his Facebook fan club!

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Filed: Interviews, Trends