Monday, July 27, 2009

A new era for fabrics

By: Anne Robinson
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If you have totally ignored all of the "go green" and eco-friendly media for the last few years, it's time to stop ignoring and jump on this bandwagon...because it isn't going away anytime soon!

This whole slew of new eco-friendly designer collections makes me think maybe I should "green" up my wardrobe. Eco-friendly fabrics have moved way past being bamboo and stiff and into a new era of fashionable fabrics made from very creative recycled materials.

A Taiwanese designer has started using....drum role grounds to make sportwear! The coffee grounds are turned into material and then injected with carbon (from coconuts) which makes the material water and sweat resistant. Any guesses as to how many coffee grounds are needed to make a shirt? Surprisingly, one cup of grounds makes a couple of shirts! This guy is brilliant! Stopping in for a morning coffee at Starbucks could benefit your wardrobe as well as your need for caffeine.

I'm sure the first thing that comes to your mind when looking at this plant is clothing. Well, ok maybe it's not your first thought.

This stinging nettle plant is easy to grow, it needs very little water and can be grown organically.
Using fabric spun from nettles was popular before the 15th century when cotton came along.

By nature, it is anti-bacterial and resists the growth of mould.

Nettle can be spun in a way which makes it's texture similar to linen.

A lot of European (particularly Dutch) countries have started growing stinging nettles to use in the production of fabrics.

Hemp is another eco-friendly alternative. The fibers are durable and flexible.
Hemp plants can be grown organically (without pesticides).
Hemp is a cousin to the marijuana plant; however, hemp is legal to grow and sell.
It is known for being incredibly soft and breathable. Check out a previous post I did on fabrics for more information on hemp:
If you are set in your ways and can't part with your cotton pants and top at least consider taking the organic cotton route. I posted about the benefits of organic cotton in a previous post so be sure to check that out before your next shopping excursion.
Dressing in eco-friendly materials doesn't have to hurt your sense of style. Eco-friendly is becoming the new way to be fashion forward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fashion designers: who is from where

By: Anne Robinson
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We all know that fashion has always thrived in Europe. But there are also some amazingly well known American designers. So here's a little guide to designers and who came from where.

Knowing a designer's origins and where their collections are made today can also keep you from getting a fake or knock-off. If your handbag made by an Italian designer says it was made in China, I hate to break it to you, but it's probably not authentic...but I'm hoping you knew that already.

So, just to be patriotic and show a sense of nationalism, I'll start with the top American designers.

Marc Jacobs (I'm sure you know by now that I love this man's designs!) is an American designer even though he has gone international, working with Louis Vuitton while living and working a lot in France.

Vera Wang is another designer that America has to be thankful for. Her name is embedded in pop culture and celebrities love to call her up when they get engaged.

You might be surprised, but Oscar de la Renta is considered an American brand. He is from the Domincan Republic but came to the U.S. to start his career.

Our good old American boy, Calvin Klein, his collections may have changed, but his roots haven't.

Can you get more American than Ralph Lauren? I don't think so... Mr. Lauren lives and works from within the U.S.

Donna Karan's designs are recognized throughout the world, but she lives and works in New York City. (Hence forth her brand, DKNY)

You might ask yourself, with these amazing designers why ever buy from an international designer? Well...America is lucky to boast some impressive fashion natives, but we can't forget about the amazing collections that come from Europe.

Let's travel to Italy next...or pretend anyway.

Giorgio Armani, who is the king of making men on the red carpet look fabulous, is one of Italy's most successful designers. Just an interesting piece of info, he was also the first designer to ban models who have a BMI of under 18 after one of his runway models died of anorexia nervosa.

Roberto Cavalli, born and raised in Florence loves to experiment and try new techniques. He lives with his wife and children in a villa overlooking Florence.

Fendi italian fashion house is best known for it's handbags. Fendi is based in Italy but has boutiques all over the world.

This is Italy, so as you can imagine the list goes on and on. Just a few more of the many amazing Italian fashion designers include: Gucci, Prada, Versace, Nina Ricci, and Salvatore Feragamo.

Now, on to France--home of haute-couture.

Pierre Cardin studied architecture in Paris, he is well known throughout the world. Sadly, he recently sold unfortunate hit for the fashion world. (Because I know you want to know...I wear his glasses and they are fabulous).

Chanel has improved fashion for the entire world, her skill and creativity is why she was the only fashion designer to be included in TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the 20th century.

Christian Dior, who hails from Normandy, actually opened up an art gallery before starting his career in fashion design. He died at the age of 52, although there were mixed reports as to how: some say he had a heart attack from: playing cards, having sex, or choking on a fish bone, while some other reports claim he died of a seizure.

To end out the French list I'll throw a few more names at you: Louis Vuitton (like you didn't already know that), Hermes, Christian Lacroix, and Yves Saint Laurent.

As you can see, fashion can thrive and spread anywhere in the world. But, you don't have to run off to Paris to be the ultimate fashionista.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Celebrity fashion lines falling off the radar

By: Anne Robinson
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What do Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Simpson, Jay-Z, Lauren Conrad, Carlos Santana, Patrick Dempsey, Mandy Moore, and about a thousand other celebrities have in common? Well, for starters, they all have their own line of clothing/accessoriers/perfume or cologne.

Is it just me or does it seem like celebrities feel the need to be a part of everything? Singers become actors and vice versa, they design their own clothing labels, they run for political offices....what's next? Will they continue until they've mastered every field possible?

So, how did this fad of celebrities needing to integrate into the design world start and is it really coming to end due to the bad economy?

In general, people tend to be drawn to celebrity collections. They are often much less expensive than other high-end designers and they design their clothes and accessories with their fans in mind. You can buy their collections at stores like Kmart, Target, JCPenney, and other relatively cheap and very accessible stores.

It can be a win-win situation for retailers and celebrity designers. In the case of Miley Cyrus designing for Wal Mart, both reap benefits. Miley already has a following of fans who will undoubtedly buy items from her collection, which benefits Wal Mart. Wal Mart is now sponsoring her upcoming tour, when benefits Miley. What a nice working relationship...

However, it is not always a successful business venture. Many celebrities overestimate how well their collections will sell to people outside their fan base or simply lose interest in the design process after a short time.

So, are they on top of the game or losing steam? Celebrity clothing lines are definitly taking a hit this year, many have halted production or shut down all together.

Both Mandy Moore's and Lauren Conrad's collections were put on hold last Spring. Jennifer Lopez recently halted production on her line, Sweetface. Sarah Jessica Parker's line, Bitten, has an unknown future after the only store that carries the line, Steve & Barry's, filed for bankruptcy.
So, you decide. Should celebrities dive into the design wolrd or leave it up to the true designers who have been doing this for a career...and not a short lived new hobby.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pret-a-Porter Fashion

By: Anne Robinson

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Recently, my fashion sense has changed. I am more aware of eco-friendly fashion options and am definitely never buying anything from a street vendor ever again (or even looking at their selection for that matter).

With all of this, is a new found interest in really understanding how and where my clothes and accessories were made.

Incase you had to ask yourself, when you read this post title, what is pret-a-porter fashion, I'll translate for you. Pret-a-porter means ready-to-wear fashion.

Basically, reread my haute couture post ( ) and then think opposites. Ready-to-wear fashion is, in a sense, the opposite of haute couture fashion.

These designs are manufactured, by a machine, in bulk and are sized according to standard sizing charts. Then, they go on the shelves. You may have also heard this fashion style referred to as "off the rack". These designs are much cheaper than couture and much more accessible to consumers.

I feel a little history coming on.
The clothing industry first began to flourish in the 1700s, mostly in the U.S., China, and Europe.

Surprisingly, it was the need for military uniforms that started the production of different styles of clothing.

In 1790, the first sewing machine was invented by Thomas Saint. In the following decades, many other inventors tried to improve the machine. In 1830, Frenchman Barthelemy Thimmonier invented the first fully-functional sewing machine.

Just to throw in an interesting fact, Thimmonier's shop was burnt down after his invention went public by tailors who worried the invention would cause them to lose their jobs.

A few years later, Elias Howe and Walter Hunt improved the invention and patented it. In the 1850's sewing machines became mass produced.

Ready-to-wear clothing is produced based on the U.S. standard clothing sizes chart, developed in the 1940s. However, over the years sizes have become bigger and now do not closely resemble the original chart. These sizes are referred to as 'catalogue sizes'.

As people (women mostly) began to get bigger, so did sizes. A woman is more likely to buy something if it's a smaller size than she usually wears. What used to be considered a size 12 is now a size 6.

So, to sum up, the two big distinctions in fashion are haute couture and ready-to-wear or pret-a-porter. Haute couture is hand-made to fit a specific person's measurements and is extremely expensive. Ready-to-wear clothes are manufactured by machines, based on the standardized clothing sizes and goes right to store shelves, making the clothes more available to the average consumer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How designers are combating the counterfeit market

By: Anne Robinson
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It amazes me that some people can justify buying a fake or counterfeit designer item, by assuming that designers make enough money off their collections that the counterfeit market doesn't really hurt them.

Supporting this illegal market is the same as saying we have the right to determine when a wealthy person no longer deserves to make money off their work. Fashion is a business, not a hobby. It's about money.

High end fashion designers are very aware of the fact that their designs are being copied and sold around the world. There is a misconception that they don't care and ignore this fact. Designers are on top of this issue and have done a lot in attempt to end the counterfeit market.

Not only do designers lose millions of dollars each year because of the counterfeit market; they are now forced to employ people to fight against it and protect the company's trademark, which also costs millions of dollars.

Many counterfeit sales take place online, especially on online auction sites, such as ebay. Some designers have people employed whose only job is to monitor these sites. As soon as products go up for sale, the site or company is sued. In some cases, ebay has been sued for allowing the items to be posted.

Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tiffany, L'Oreal, and Rolex are among the list of designers who have taken ebay to court over counterfeit items.
Some designers have gotten a little more face-to-face contact with the people selling counterfeit items. Thousands of raids have occurred. Most notably, Louis Vuitton is known for leading over 30,000 raids (mostly in China) of stores that are selling counterfeit items. In the case of a raid, store owners are arrested and sued, and the store is shut down.

Not surprisingly, technology is also used to combat the problem. The difficult part is making something that will be easy to detect but hard to replicate. Special chemically altered dyes are sometimes added to fabrics. Some designers are embedding devices to track what subcontractors do with the products. Tags with holograms are also becoming popular.

So, is the government cooperative in helping designers shut down counterfeit trade? In general, the answer is yes. This market costs the government millions of dollars. It also is bad for national security. The profits made from counterfeit sales often contribute to organized crime and terrorism.

In the end, remember what the Harpar Bazaar campaign against counterfeiting states, "Fakes are
never in fashion." If we could all live by this, we could quickly put the counterfeit market to shame.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Who's who among designers

By: Anne Robinson
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This post is really just for fun. Are you familiar with a designer's name but couldn't put a face to their name or spout off facts about them? Here are some of my favorite designers and a little info about them.

Vera Wang: (born in 1949) Best known for her wedding gowns which she started designing after her own wedding, because she couldn't find a dress she liked. Vera wanted to be a professional figure skater and even tried out for the U.S. Olympic Figuring Skating Team.

celebrity clients include: Michelle Kwan, Jessica Simpson, Uma Thurman, and Jennifer Lopez.

Marc Jacobs: (born in 1963) Studied at the Parsons School of Art and Design in New York. Jacobs was working for Louis Vuitton when he started his first ready-to-wear line. He lives mostly in Paris.

celebrity clients include: Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, and Dakota Fanning.

Prada: started in 1913, today is run by a great-granddaughter, Muiccia Prada (born in 1949). Distinctive trademark is using materials in a unusual context. Prada clothes are desribed as simple and minimalist, loud colors and patterns are avoided.

celebrity clients include: Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Katie Holmes, and Eva Longoria Parker.

Oscar de la Renta: (born in 1932) Left his native, Dominican Republic, at the age of 18, to go study in Madrid. He came to NY in 1963 to design the couture collection for Elizabeth Arden. He is a patron of the arts, and helped build a school for 1,200 children in the Dominican Republic.

celebrity clients include: Jackie Kennedy, Beyonce, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Well that puts you off to a good start about knowing a little bit about some of the world's greatest designers. Where would we be without their amazing collections?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great labels with great discounts

By: Anne Robinson
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Believe it or not, there are legal ways to buy authentic designer items for less than their original retail value. The key is knowing which designers allow their collections to be sold at discounted prices.

It would be impossible to go through the policies for every designer. So, instead I'll highlight a few.

Outlet malls are a great place to do some bargain designer label shopping. Designers such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Calvin Klein have stores in many outlet mall shopping centers. This selling technique allows designers to interact with a new level of consumers. The products are usually from a previous season's collection and are sold at discounted prices. In general, consumers save an average of 20% off the original retail price. Although savings can be less, or much greater.

An alternative to buying a designer item is to borrow one. Websites such as Wear Today Gone Tomorrow, have members who borrow clothes. The average savings is about 90%. So, you don't get to keep the borrowed items, but you have them to wear a few times.

Some designers have special collections that are priced lower than their regular lines. Emporio Armani and Armani Exchange, designed for younger buyers, are less expensive than the exclusive Giorgio Armani collection. A pair of jeans averages around $130 and a shirt around $80.

Marc Jacobs started his Marc by Marc Jacobs collection which is less expensive and more accessible to the average consumer. To keep the discounts even better, there is a new line called Don't Miss the Marc (it's under the Marc by Marc Jacobs label). Everything in the collection is priced under $200.

Some high-end department stores, such as Saks Fifth Ave and Neiman Marcus, sell designer collections. It's possible to catch some good sales toward the end of the season. The stores will be clearing out left-over stock to make room for the new season's items.

Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Dior, and Caroline Herrara are some of the many designers who have collections at Neiman Marcus. Saks boasts an impressive list as well with Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Oscar de la Renta.

Stores that sell things at only discounted prices, like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, can be a gold mine. It may take patience, shuffling through multiple racks of clothes, purses, and shoes, until you find something with a designer label. Everything is discounted to begin with, but because they are constantly bringing in new items, additional sales are common.
See? I told you it was possible to buy items from certain designers that are priced below the original price. It just takes some investigation...which is, afterall, why I am here for you.