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Designer Spotlight – Daniela D’Amico

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One of I.F.’s prime objectives is to spread the word about amazing, innovative, and creatively unique designers from around the world, and share their individual stories with the fashion community as they start to gain ground in the  industry.

The designers featured by I.F. have passed a series of requirements including (but not limited to) the use of fair labor practices and a knack for unique and awe-inspiring design that we believe set them apart from their peers and that will undoubtedly give them the ability to lay claim to a successful career in fashion design as they begin their journey in building their brand.

This week, I.F. is featuring Daniela D’Amico, a London-based designer whose Autumn/Winter 2014 collection is inspired by the picturesque scenery and architecture of her ancestral home, Lake Como, Italy. I.F. sat down with the up-and-coming designer who divulged all about her career journey and the story behind her brand. She also kindly gave us some exclusive photos of her Autumn/Winter 2014 Collection to share with the I.F. audience!

Daniela’s fashion journey started at a young age. Daniela was always interested in textiles and fashion in school and often spent her free time trying to create new textiles and using her home sewing machine to sew lustrous fabrics like silks and satins, “I loved to make interesting finishes using a princess pleater, this was my favourite tool for coming up with innovative creations,” says the young designer. Daniela went on to study Art Foundation at The London College of Fashion and from there went on to Chelsea College of Art where she received her BA in Textile Design. It was here that the designer discovered specialized design techniques including how to convey traditional techniques in a modern way, as well as how to use digital print and fabric manipulation – a complex technique which has become the designer’s trademark. When she graduated, Daniela went on to work in womenswear as Head of the Design Studio for Selina Blow. This year, Daniela decided it was time to pursue her dream of starting her own brand.

Daniela finds inspiration in her surroundings, “If I am in London it may be a part of architecture, an art show, color, or nature. It could be a different city that I may be in. Wherever I go, I will always carry my note book and jot down anything that I feel inspires me, or inspirational thoughts I have. I am usually inspired by a certain place, artist or movement – it can be a combination of them all. For this season I was also inspired by the work of Peter Doig who captured timeless moments of perfect tranquillity.”

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Peter Doig’s “Concrete Cabin” 1994, oil on canvas

Daniela’s strong dedication to her craft is more than admirable – it is inspiring. She works tirelessly from sketch to production in order to construct absolutely original, top-of-the-line designs, “All of the images are taken myself. I have manipulated the images and almost played with them like they are a piece of collage, working with each image on top of a sketch of one of my garment designs. I then work out which part of the print would work where and go from there.”

When it comes to materials and production, Daniela uses only the best, “I use a selection of cottons, satins, silks and velvets. All of my fabrics are either sourced from England or Italy. I like to mix textiles, you will see a mixture of soft satins on one piece with a fierce structured collar made in cotton velvet to finish. I use a small factory in London, it has a very nice, friendly and relaxed atmosphere and they are great to work with considering I am always challenging them with my printed textiles and luxurious, expensive fabrics!”

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The Lake Como-inspired A/W ’14 collection is the result of the designers textile design expertise combined with her eye for photography and knack for originality. The collection has an androgynous gestalt, achieved by a harmonious combination of intricate tailoring and romantic prints. Each and every piece is given special attention to proportion and design positioning ensuring an ultra-flattering silhouette.

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Emma Watson, Alexa Chung and Sienna Miller were some of the names the designer mentioned when asked about her dream customer, “a modern, laid back, strong woman who enjoys colour and bringing tailoring to life.”

Daniela has marked plans for the future, planning “to one day take the brand internationally, and show the collection to as many people as I possibly can. One of the most interesting parts in the job is meeting the people who want to wear my clothes and hearing their story, this inspires me to design.”

Though still in the stages of putting her on-line store, www.danieladamico.com,  together, be sure to check out her Facebook for updates on her collection and an inside look to her creative process.

Thank you, Daniela, for sharing your passion with us – we are looking forward to getting our hands on a few pieces from your collection!

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Tremezzo

 

Montagna

 

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Everyone’s a Fashion Writer

Fashion and style blogs are a dime a dozen and everyone’s a critic. When “fashion writers” try to describe, contextualize, and critique collections, sometimes their sartorial lexicon falls short and clothing jargon gets, literaly, lost in translation.

Here are just a few terms whose meanings have become muddled as of late, often taking on a more macro-meaning than originally intended.

Appliqué: An additive process of attaching design components in layers onto the surface of an object, such as quilts or garments.

Brocade: Commonly used to describe many types of patterned fabrics, however, the term actually denotes a specific type of textile weave. A brocade is a fabric in which woven design is created with supplementary pattern wefts that are discontinuous (the pattern wefts do not pass across the whole width of the woven cloth).

Brocade

Brocade

Chambray:  A smooth, light fabric of cotton, linen, etc, of a plain weave with a colored warp (usually blue) and white weft, appearing like denim. Usually used in warm weather attire because of it’s light weight.

Gaberdine: A woven, warp-faced steep or regular twill fabric with a prominent diagonal rib on the face and smooth surface on the back. Garbardine always has many more warp than weft yarns. Usually made of wool and used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments.

Gabardine

Gauze: Popularly known as any sheer, lightweight fabric, however true gauze is a weave structure in which individual warp yarns across over adjacent warp yarns and then cross back into their original positions, held in place by weft yarns. The areas of crossed warps result in small, visible openings in the cloth, and these openings form the design areas.

Ikat: A resist-dyeing technique in which yarns are tie-dyed before they are woven into cloth. The term derives from Indonesian mengikat, meaning, “to tie”.

Ikat

Ikat

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Way Back Wednesday – Diane von Furstenberg

Way Back Wednesday - Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg in her warehouse – 1977. A dress that without any changes would fit perfectly in the zeitgeist of today.

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A Salute to Sword & Plough – A Visionary Made in USA Brand Bridging Humanitarianism with Fashion

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Sword & Plough is a visionary and philanthropic brand that up-cycles military materials that would otherwise be thrown away, into fashionable, sophisticated, unisex bags and totes; all the while employing U.S. veterans as they assimilate back into civilian life and after.

The brand is run by sisters Emily and Betsy Nunez, who were born into a military family. Understanding the plight of military members relating to their fellow civilian comrades, the sisters felt they needed to do, or create, something that would remind civilians, in a positive and beautiful way, about the challenges all servicemen and women face, and that everyone can do their part to help.

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As they discuss on their site, “Most individuals use a bag of some form throughout their day. By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, and working with veterans, we create sturdy and sophisticated products, whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen civil-military understanding. In this way, our bags are rugged, refined and relevant.”

The beautiful combination of olive and forest green hues, gorgeous leather detailing and heavy gold hardware creates a fashionable, unassuming statement piece that is highly functional and highly androgynous. For a bag that clearly has the quality (MADE IN USA!) and fashionability to last, the price seems none too steep (~$250).

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Black Friday Fury

Black-Friday-Phone-Deals

As the majority of Americans desperately search for the best post-Thanksgiving bargain, trampling fellow frugal fiends to be the first to grab branded merchandise at offensively discounted prices like 80% off, the UK celebrates “Buy Nothing Day.” This anti-spending movement combats the gluttony spill over from Thursday’s calorie intake to Friday’s credit card limits that has become “tradition” in so many American households. While in reality this is not expected to take hold in the US, at least there is the gaining movement of Small Business Saturday, encouraging consumers to support their local community if they are going to participate in Black Friday douchebaggery, I mean, debauchery.

Despite these efforts, the fact remains that consumer demand for cheap is causing mass destruction. The current Black Friday Death Count reports 7 deaths and 90 injuries to date, including instances of people being trampled to death, stabbed, and even shot. Devastating…disgusting…dismal, but it doesn’t even breach the surface of the monumental devastation that is derived from this insane demand. As retailers are forced to keep up with competitors, slashing prices to accommodate the insatiable consumer drive for cheap and available goods, the true cost is in the livelihood of the workers who actually make the products.

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“The downward spiral of cheap clothing has led to a situation where the people who make our clothes are paid starvation wages and can’t afford to eat or to feed their children. This has to end.” said Anna McMullen, author of “Shop ‘Til They Drop,” a report studying the widespread factory faintings that have been plaguing the Cambodian factory industry in recent years. The report is an in-depth study of the factors contributing to these widespread faintings (up to 300 workers collapsing at one time on factory floors), with findings reporting extreme malnutrition of workers and an analysis as to why this is so. It’s no surprise the variety of factors triggering these faintings include poor working conditions such as overheating, exhaustion from working overtime with no breaks, no access to water, chemical exposure, etc., but the underlying nutritional deficit was the fundamental cause.

Cambodia

The report gathered data that showed Cambodian factory workers consume less than half the recommended amount for a diet suitable for their 10 hour day of industrial work. The reason why lies in the incredibly low wages they are forced to accept as payment for their tireless work:

 basic needs

You aren’t doing it directly, but if you play into the buy-cheap-buy-more milieu, you are just as bad as the unremorseful woman who stabbed innocent strangers for the last Xbox. Every time you decide to buy a cheap trend from a chain retailer, you are showing that a cheap find is more important than a human’s well being, like these Cambodian garment workers.

Don’t let the %off sale signs blindside you, be cognizant of your actions – if a price seems “too good to be true,” it most likely is. Don’t buy superfluous objects just to fill a stocking, make something from the heart or go downtown and support your local artists. Don’t buy into the Black Friday Fury.

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On The Brink of American Made Matters® Day – Nov 19th

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Why does buying “American Made” products matter?

Let’s take a look at some stats:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.1 million fewer American manufacturing jobs now than at the start of 2001
  • According to ABC News, if consumers spent 1% more on American made products, it would create 200,000 additional jobs, 5% it would create 1,000,000 jobs
  • According to the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturing supports an estimated 12 million jobs in the US. This number was more than 19 million in 1978.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, every factory job added creates three additional jobs. Other estimates are as high as five additional jobs. This is more powerful than any other segment of our economy.
These are just a few of the many facts provided by the American Made Matters® (AMM) website, www.AmericanMadeMatters.com, an organization dedicated to educating consumers on the importance of buying Made In USA products.
With a current Facebook fan base of over 19,000 and a collection of well over 100 Made in USA brands as members, AMM is a leading pioneer in the Made In American Movement. In an effort to expand their cause, they created American Made Matters® day, encouraging consumers through social media avenues to dedicate that day to buying American,
On November 19th, 2013 we’re encouraging consumers to buy at least one American Made product…Our hope is that consumers will see how easy it is to buy made in USA and begin checking tags and looking for the American Made Matters logo when shopping this holiday season and throughout the year. Share your American made finds by tagging American Made Matters or using hashtag #AMMDay2013.  (AMMD Facebook page)

As a fashion theorist/journalist and style writer dedicated ethical production practices, I am a huge proponent of American Made fashion brands – and am sympathetic to their agony over finding manufacturing solutions on American soil. This particular Tedx talk tugs on the heart strings, and gives a real life example of the tough struggle presented to those who try to keep their garment production in the US:

During 2012, America exported $22.6 billion in textiles and apparel and imported $100.93 billion (according to the U.S. International Trade Administration), it’s time for this to change. I talk a lot about supporting the American Fashion industry, see my article about the decline of the NYC garment district in this months issue of NYC magazine Inside Hell’s Kitchen here: page 12, bottom left. There are a few initiatives set in place to revamp the American garment manufacturing industry, planning to upgrade the current factories in the NYC garment district and providing scholarships for emerging designers to use some studios in the area for workrooms and showrooms, but that isn’t enough.

#AMMDay2013 has inspired me to turn up the volume on my voice against offshore apparel manufacturing. I want to get in the faces of “American” brands like Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Nordstrom and Lands’ End who use large Chinese factories for most of their production. I want the CFDA (the Council of Fashion Designers of America) to do MORE than just give out lifetime achievement awards, I want them to care about the American Fashion industry, I want them to help emerging designers, even those who aren’t in the hot areas of NY or LA – I want the American Dream back.

american_made2So, for American Made Matters Day, I plan to dedicate the day to speaking out, exposing those “American” fashion brands we know so well for their unAmerican business practices, as well as showcasing and thanking the revolutionary pioneers dedicated to keeping their brand exclusively Made In USA.

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Transparency Tuesday – Wits + Beaux – Expressive Men’s Accessories Made In NYC

Wits + Beaux – a men’s sock, bow tie, and pocket square e-commerce company – has an honorable dedication to supporting American manufacturing; all of the production processes of their brilliantly colorful, expressive menswear accessories are conducted in The Garment District of New York City. For Transparency Tuesday, I.F. takes a behind-the-scens look at this NYC start up brand who puts quality and high design at the forefront of their business model.

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Wits + Beaux Merch

In a time when large fashion corporations outsource their production to factories abroad where labor is cheap, small start up companies like Wits + Beaux  are rethinking the way the supply chain has been circulating and realizing the benefits of having production be local.  An honorable anomaly in the world of American fashion brands, Wits + Beaux makes it a priority to support the movement for keeping manufacturing in The States – a movement that has seen a resurgence in the small business community with the help of platforms such as Makers Row, but still has yet to fully take hold. As the insatiable fast-fashion consumer hunger for new fashion products continues to drive companies to stock new merchandise on the shelves more and more often, the focus remains on finding the cheapest labor possible to keep prices low, rather than having quality pieces.

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Wits + Beaux Intsagram

Luckily, there are pioneers for change like Wits + Beauxwho value the artisanal craftsmanship that can be found in one’s local community, and who believe that quality takes precedence over expense. With the amount of dedication and attention to detail the New York based team of Wits + Beaux puts into the designing of each piece, finding expert artisans to work with and discuss materials, patterns and design was extremely important. By working with The Garment District, the team could easily converse with and visit the workshop where the production took place. They were able to discuss with the experts, in person, how to make certain engineering aspects of their products possible. (Check out the video where the Wits + Beaux team discuss their use of the NYC garment district: http://kck.st/18A4az3)

The collaboration has led to a series of unique features that have become the trademark of  Wits + Beaux design including a unique stitching technique – seamless on the tips, an elastic arch support eliminating bunching, and an few extra inches in height, ensuring a day long wear without having to hike up fallen socks.

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Wits + Beaux Intsagram

Wits + Beaux’s inspiring dedication to keeping production at home  is equally matched with a passion for providing the fashion forward male consumer with “expressive” accessories. Which, for now, at the beginning stages of the brand, includes brightly designed, high quality sock wear, bow ties and pocket squares. As the website explains,

“Wits + Beaux was born from a singular quest – finding a well-made, unconventional and expressive pair of affordable socks. From that seed grew a dream to create a virtual men’s accessories boutique and cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who want more than just a shopping cart to fill; they want an experience. Our customer wants to engage in the design process as much as be inspired by the latest trends of the season.”

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Wits + Beaux Instagram

Fun, witty, friendly, and personable with a pinch of edginess is the perfect way to describe the voice of the brand, with the origin of the brand’s name perfectly corresponding with the mantra,

“’Wits’ and ‘Beaux’ are nicknames from early nineteenth century, Regency-Era England—known for distinctive trends in fashion and culture. We were intrigued by the contrast of these terms to the modern, technology-driven vision we had for our business. ‘Wits’, as they were known, were the poets, orators, and politicians of their time. The ‘Beaux’ were the trend-setting gentlemen of fashion. So, with a tip of our hats to this rich history of sophisticated and stylish gentlemen, we hope you enjoy the smart, superbly designed and crafted men’s accessories Wits + Beaux brings you without having to have a royal checkbook or a horse-drawn carriage to get them!”

Wits + Beaux invites men to a unique shopping experience while still relaxing in the comfort of their own home. This will soon become even more unique of an experience with the addition of the “Design Your Own” feature which is set in motion to be added to the platform soon. Customers will be able to easily customize their products by selecting the pattern and color to make their very own, original design.

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Wits + Beaux Instagram

I.F. commends Wits + Beaux for thinking critically about their business practices from the very get go and putting an emphasis on quality over quantity – high design over cheap trends.  Another A+, and we wish Wits + Beaux luck with the expansion of the brand and getting backed for another round of inventory for holiday! Support Wits + Beaux today by clicking here!

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Foes and Follies of Fashion Week – A Technology Takeover

With the close of the major fashion weeks upon us, and a solid month of nonstop collections in our rearview, there is a lot to digest. One thing is for certain, technology and social media are seriously changing the dynamic of Fashion Week  – A Technology Takeover.

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Anna Wintour Waiting For the Start of Marc Jacobs

Without physically attending, one could get a front row view of the shows in real time, get VIP access to the backstage, and see outfits worn by the fashion elite attendees including Anna Wintour and Kate Moss. While you are basking in the glory of never having to leave your sofa to be a part of the clearly glamorous events, you would never guess that secretly, designers are pulling out their hair – cracking under the pressure of trying to satisfy the insatiable thirst for constant newness that has, with the help of technology, picked up to a ferocious speed, causing a whirlwind in its wake.

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Backstage – Victoria Beckham

The Designer’s Demise

What was once a reasonable 4 season collection per year expectation for designers has, with the inclusion of men’s wear, resort, prefall, and a couple of promotional shows around Asia, become a norm of about 10. That is a new collection almost every month. Designers, including Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, were quoted saying  that they no longer have time to go on inspirational outings. How can we expect them to keep creating when they have no time to take a breath from one collection before diving into the next? We have seen designers drown in the fast paced fashion current before (think of the John Galliano breakdown and the suicide of Alexander McQueen, RIP) yet the push for constant newness continues to grow ever more fervent.

Between the various social media networks of the designers themselves and all the fashion blogs, newsletters, magazines, pages, and websites dedicated to giving their fans 24/7 instant updates, the never-before-seen designs at these shows are immediately transported to anyone with access to the internet. Once the looks actually get into the retail stores, they have become old news. This is especially true since fast fashion stores like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M have the ability to knock off these looks simply by having access to these images. By using cheap fabrics, intimidation design techniques, and assembly-line factory work, these stores are able to provide the same look, for cheap and much faster than the real designers.

An i for an eye

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Fashion show images are getting dispersed so quickly that it only whets the thirst for MORE fashion, rather than quenching it. With designers, fashion editors and bloggers dedicated to having the most up-to-date, inclusive and exclusive, images for their social media sites, there was an undertone of distraction as people seemed to only be paying half of their attention to what was going on around them, and the rest on their device.

This becomes even more unnerving remembering a wonderful interview conducted by The Business of Fashion with Lighting Designer and Show Producer, Thierry Dreyfus. In it, Dreyfus discusses the importance of a perfectly executed lighting scheme of a fashion show, how he communicates with designers for weeks beforehand about the feel of the collection, and how he personally positions all the lighting for the event. Seeing the sea of little rectangle boxes of glowing light as attendees hold up their devices, trying to capture the looks via Polyvore, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook really makes one wonder how much is being taken away from the experience of the live show because everyone’s focus is in the cloud. On top of that, as was the case last year, many chose to hold up their device to capture the finale, rather than applaud the work of the designer. Not polite.

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Oh, Look At All the Lovely People

Overcrowded with attendees and designers alike, there was a common complaint that too many shows were constricting people’s ability to appreciate the collections. This was particularly true for New York Fashion Week, where the venue, Lincoln Center was nearly bursting at the seams to accommodate the fashion elite. A few smart designers actually found alternate space for their shows – including Marc Jacobs who showed at the 69th Regiment Armory and Jason Wu who showed at 82MERCER.

Crowds swarmed outside venues with photographers and bloggers taking pictures of street style for their blogs and social media sites. Designers and editors were annoyed. Renowned designer and President of the CFDA, Diane Von Furstenburg even made an off-hand comment that in the future, Fashion Week may become completely digitalized – no physical attendance required.

What would the world look like if that actually did come to fruition? Would designers still be required to show on a specific date at a given place? If so, how do you keep people from crowding the streets to see a first glimpse? And who gets to go, and who decides who gets to go? If not, then designers could potentially film their show whenever they wanted, taking some pressure off – but how could a fashion week exist without critics and fans getting together and seeing the designs in the ambience set by the designer.

No matter how you look at it, with the increased demand for NEW fashion, NOW, technology has been seriously reshaping the mold of fashion week. In order to take it back, fashion councils may be forced to change the dynamic of the show which would cause an inevitable loss of meaning and context of the collections, and isn’t that the whole point of a fashion show? How do we solve this conundrum?

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Primark’s Mark on UK Youth

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Broadly speaking, fashion can be divided into two separate industries. Firstly there is High Fashion: the big name designers, haute couture clothing, and celebrities that epitomise the fashion looks. High Fashion is only a small part of the fashion world, the majority is the Grass Roots of fashion. This is reality, the normal, and the every day fashion of consumers.

High fashion is trying to sell an ideal of what we should look like, and what we should buy. In order to make more money this ideal changes rapidly and often. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as this is part of the fashion industry: it’s meant to make money.

One of the problems that grass roots fashion faces is that because this ideal changes so frequently, it becomes more expensive to mass produce garments and get them to the consumers before they go out of style and the ideal changes again.

This is where the bargain store super giants come in. In the UK you have Primark as the market leader for the latest fashion trends at an almost irresistible price (very rarely does an item of clothing breach the £15 mark). According to their own website it can take as little as 6 weeks for the trend to be recognised and then be available in their stores. Primark state that they keep the costs low with bulk buying stock and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.

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Primark, or Primarni as it is sometimes referred to, is the go to shop for many young adults in the UK, as the price point is low and young adults have the one of the highest rates of fashion consumption.

Young adults in general, but specifically teenagers and pre teens, are one of the main targets for Primark as a business. Most are at the age of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world, they have a disposable but quite limited income – pocket money or part time jobs, and no major expenditure as often living with parents while they are at school. Another major attraction of Primark is that because of the low prices, it’s possible to create whole looks and wardrobes for a fraction of the price of their style competitors in the UK (H&M, Topshop, River Island, to name a few). This ability to purchase a large quantity of clothes serves to make these young shoppers feel more independent, which in turn makes them feel even more connected to the experience as learning independence and doing things without parental controls is a big part of growing up.

Primark Oxford Street

Due to the mass production of styles and garments, at a price a lot of teenagers can afford, means that whole groups of friends wear similar clothes from the same shop, creating their own high street trends. This means that Primark is effectively creating their own trend, which attracts more consumers due to the availability and the low cost of the products.

Of course this isn’t to say that the youth of the UK is blindly purchasing whatever is put in front of them, driven only by consumer need. The way clothing shops are accessed in the UK market has part to play in how teenagers shop.

Almost all clothing shops in the UK will be found on the high street of the town or city, much like Oxford Street in London. This high street may have stemmed from the original town centre, sometimes dating back hundreds of years. These high streets are often pedestrian only areas with good public transport links. Put this together, and you can see that teenagers often go for shopping trips with friends, but without adults as they can make their own way there. Once at the high street, it is much like visiting a mall: all the shops are close together, with food and restrooms nearby.

These unsupervised trips with friends are pivotal moments for the individuals involved. It helps them to build their look and identity based on the opinions of the people they are with. These opinions are the most important to them, as they affect their ability to belong and connect with the people they want to. One of the most fundamental parts of growing up is learning how to be part of society and to feel connected. What Primark is enabling is a way for these teenagers to feel like they belong, whilst also securing a large number of repeat customers.

 

YLATI Footwear

YLATI Footwear

Quick video of the production of high quality leather shoes

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The Aubergine Coat

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