I hope all is going smoothly in your life, and that the Fall is off to a good start, now that it’s officially here.
I was thinking about ‘fashion’ in general and specifically tonight. I write about it often, when I go to fashion shows, or see my daughters’ work. Three of my daughters are professional stylists and design consultants, to a variety of designers. All three of them have the same job, but perform it in very different ways, depending on who they’re working with, and their own individual styles. A design consultant works closely with the designer to develop their next collection, how it should look, what colors are strongest, fabrics, textures, details, and a huge amount of research and collaboration goes into putting the new collection together. They may be inspired by a period in history, a country, a culture, or even world events, or street culture. First they help develop the concept, and then in the case of one of my daughters, she does an immense amount of research, delving back into fashion books, and even looking at vintage pieces, for inspiration. And then the hands on work begins, helping to choose fabrics, seeing how they work, what colors work best with those designs, then they have samples cut and sewn and fit them on models to see how they move and drape, before cutting the actual clothes for the collection. And once the real samples are made, they fit them on the models who will wear them in the fashion show (and pick the models), and then their role as stylists comes in, as they put together each complete look that will be worn by a model on the runway, and the accessories that will help create that look. The tension before a fashion show is enormous, my girls stay at work long after midnight, and are often back at work at 6 or 7 am right before a show. And the day after a show, it’s not over, and then they begin shooting photographs for the “look book”, which buyers can refer to when they order the clothes. And by the time they finish that, a week after the show, they begin work on the next collection. Designers (who actually do the drawing of the designs) and their consultants work closely together, and have to come up with 3 major collections a year: spring, fall, and ‘resort/cruise’, which used to be beachwear people wore to resorts in the winter, and is now essentially an early spring collection. In addition, for spring and fall, they do a “pre-collection”, which is a simpler, more commercial, sometimes slightly less expensive version of what is shown on the runway. So you’re really talking about designing 5 collections a year, with the pre-collections. It’s a stunning amount of work, and that’s true for all brands, whether low, moderate, or high priced. “Fashion Week” happens twice a year, for the spring and fall collections, and is really fashion month. It starts with a week in New York, where American designers show their wares, then on to London for the British designers, Milan for the Italians, and then the grand finale in Paris, for all the French ready to wear designers. It is four intense weeks where magazine editors, the fashion press in general, store buyers, and anyone who follows fashion go from city to city for an exhausting month. It begins in early September in New York and goes into October, showing spring clothes for the stores to order, and then happens again in February, into March, to show the fall collections. One of my daughters actually worked all 4 cities at times, but mostly my daughters work in New York and Paris. All three are talented and work with major designers, and it’s a thrill for me every time to see the collections they worked on, and to see the influence they had, and the results of their hard work. I admire them immensely for how hard they work, and am very proud of the results. (I’m proud of all my kids, who work in very different fields, the eldest is a social worker in pediatric oncology, the youngest has a passion for music, two of my sons work in startups, and another works in the film industry. And my late son Nick was a talented musician, and lyricist, and lead singer in a band. And best of all, each is following their passions and expressing their individual talents.)
I guess the 3 girls, Samantha, Victoria and Vanessa (listed by age, and not preference!!) caught the bug from me. Even as a very little girl, I loved to draw dresses and my dream was to become a designer. I went to college early, and to French schools before that, and when I went to New York University at 15, I enrolled in a combined program with Parsons School of Design. And what I discovered there is how incredibly stressful the fashion industry is—-too much so for me, I thought, with constant pressure, harsh critics ready to eat you alive, and 5 collections to produce a year. I opted out of fashion professionally after college, and at 19 began writing, which seemed gentler, working alone in a quiet room—-only to discover that writing and publishing isn’t for sissies either, and publishing 4 books a year (instead of producing 5 collections a year) is also about as stressful as it gets. But I love writing, which is my real passion!! And fashion has remained great fun for me, and almost a hobby all my life. I love shopping and just seeing fashion, seeing how things change, and sometimes come back again. I grew up going to fashion shows, and have gone to the Haute Couture shows in Paris all my life, and my girls introduced me to the fashion shows of the Ready to Wear industry, and I find them fascinating, and love going to the shows with them, or to see their work. All 3 girls have designer clients who are well known brands. They went to school with several of the designers they work with, and it has been really exciting watching them all grow up, and become major talents in the fashion industry. The now very successful designer Alexander Wang, whom one of my daughters works with on the collections he has been doing for Balenciaga in Paris—–Alex practically grew up in our house, and he and the girls went to high school together. I used to give him hell at 14 and 15, when he’d hang out at the house and I’d walk into the girls’ rooms and find him with scissors in hand “redesigning’ and ‘restructuring’ their clothes, and I was horrified to see him cutting up some new outfit they’d just gotten—-but he was right, and he always improved the clothes he cut up. But who knew he’d be a big designer one day??!!! He is a lovely person, and a major talent in the fashion world today.
I have loved fashion all my life as a consumer, and an observer. I love watching the trends, and the traces of history in fashion, the beauty of the designs, and the imagination. It’s interesting too, seeing my daughters’ different styles and how that translates into their work, some more casual, another one more of a purist about design. I have always loved bold, very structured but simple fashion, and have saved many things for my daughters. I tend to hang onto some special things (and some not so special ones!!)—–and will confess to making a number of mistakes. If I don’t wear something for long enough, I offer it to my daughters, or a few close friends, and the girls have taught me a whole new outlook. Now if I really don’t wear it, and it doesn’t appeal to my daughters or some close friend, I sell the clothes I no longer wear, which is a way or recycling them at good prices, and making them available to other people (and recouping my losses on the mistakes I made). Fashion, in every aspect, is a mammoth business today, and a huge industry. And I find all of it fascinating and exciting. And I can get just as excited by something I buy at Zara for $30.00, as I do about a higher priced item that’s more of an investment. There are theories too that fashion is a barometer of the world economy. I never remember quite how it works, but there have always been theories that in hard economic times, hemlines go up or down, and the reverse in good times.
These days, I have to admit that I own more pretty clothes than I wear. People dress up less than they used to, and I don’t go out as much as I did in the past. When I was married, and the kids were little, I went to lots of events in evening gowns. Today, everyone is less formal. I used to wear dresses and suits every day—now I wear black jeans and a black sweater (or regular jeans) on most days, which is a uniform for all of us. I haven’t worn a dress in ages, and mostly pants, but I just bought 3 dresses for this winter, which will be a nice change. Even going through my closets is fun, getting rid of what I don’t wear, and rediscovering old treasures which I wear again.
As I write this, all 3 of my daughters are recovering from the brutal (but exciting) hard work of fashion week in New York 2 weeks ago, one is already working on the next collection for the designer she works for in New York, and another is working on a collection in Paris, after just finishing a show for a designer in New York. Paris fashion week begins tomorrow. It’s a hard, fast pace, but exciting work, and so much fun to watch them from the sidelines. So I guess you could say fashion is my hobby, and one of my passions. I took all of my daughters to fashion shows with me when they were growing up, and 3 out of 5 of them caught the bug. It’s a major industry today. And I love writing, but fashion is a great distraction, and can be a lot of fun to watch and wear! Take care and have a great week!!
much love, Danielle