What's Old in New Again: Cool Old Folks

January 14 2015

Here’s a trend I’ve been noticing for some time now, certainly in the UK marketplace. There is a new focus on projects that are inspired by stylish and accomplished older folks. I first noticed it when Tim Walker published “The Granny Alphabet” in 2013. Beginning with the letter A, the text by Kit Hesketh-Harvey establishes the book’s intentions: “A is for alphabet, (ABC), and aged ancestors (Awfully like me.) Twenty-six letters, that’s twenty-six Grannies.” Walker describes the book as both a photographic love letter to the elderly as well as part documentation of a dying breed of little old ladies, with all proceeds going to the charity The Friends of the Elderly. It’s incredibly adorable.

From Tim Walker's The Granny Alphabet

Interestingly enough, I do notice when I’m in the UK that older people are not scorned, shut away, or buffed down with Botox the way can be here in our youth-obsessed culture in the US. Right now, Todd Selby has shot The Bright Old Things for Selfridge’s, the upscale and enduring retailer based on Oxford Street in London. The campaign is dedicated to gifted artists, artisans and designers who have embraced new professions and disciplines in their senior years. They range from a topiarist (who even knew that existed?) to a punk hero to a Vlogger to a painter. Selfridge’s has also installed an in-store and online boutique where you can buy these talented oldsters’ work .


I can remember my cousin’s incredibly cool grandma Gert. She was a total original, very effervescent and funny, who frequently entertained in diamonds and a peignoir, while lavishly serving champagne and chocolates. She had a dedicated suitor and was a gifted storyteller and magical, creative presence in everyone’s life. One day, I’m hoping to be a Bright Old Thing myself, and love that I have creative inspiration to build on in my own family. Who's your Bright Old Thing?

Brand Meld: Fashion at its best, and most curious

August 14 2013

What happens when you have two brilliant designers with similar sensibilities, one who has rarely made a misstep in his storied career, and the other a rebellious, self-destructive genius? Obviously, you put the two of them together, mix it up, and come out with some extraordinary, unbelievably desirable evening wear.

                                  Images via www.thefashionspot.com and www.winterbellskw.files.wordpress.com

John Galliano and Oscar de La Renta are both about all-out glamour, both with a deep understanding of what makes a woman look and feel like Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner. Galliano has always been more subversive, dark, and gothic than de la Renta, but the clothes that come out of the melding of his dark and light attributes are always spectacular, modern and yet with a deep reverence and knowledge of the past. His evening gowns can be theatrical – theatre married with the Duchess of Devonshire married with a sex club in some dark corner of the world.

De La Renta, on the other hand, has always called upon his Latin roots and love of women to inform his designs. He lives in the same sophisticated, refined world as the women he sells to – socialites around the world, women who want to look feminine and desirable. His work is meticulously adorned and often filled with a color and fire not frequently seen at the highest levels of haute couture.

De la Renta always claims that he won’t retire, but now in his 80s, he needs to plan for the future of his brand. The whole fashion industry has waited to see what would happen after Galliano’s try-out earlier this year, as at their roots, these two designers have a tremendous amount of crossover in their brand sensibilities. Fashion is the best place to study how brands are constructed and maintained, and in this regard, de la Renta would be making a smart move for his brand legacy and its ability to survive. Galliano will take the de la Renta brand and sex it up in a darker way, but he has the same understanding of how fantastic a woman feels when she is dressed, and desired, like a goddess.

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Macy's and the Capsule Collections

April 18 2012

Macys' is making some upscale and perhaps curious choices in their selection of limited collection designers for their Impulse shops. First up was Karl Lagerfeld, then CFDA winner doo.ri, and now Alberta Ferretti. I would say that in these designers are connected in that they are all upscale, kind of dressy, refined, and polished. I was very curious about the Lagerfeld collection and hightailed it over to Macy's very soon after its release into stores only to find that hundreds of pieces remained on the racks at the Herald Square store. Hmmm. So I queried the sales staff at length, who said that the collection did not sell well at all. They said that neither the design nor fabrication worked. When I went back some weeks later the collection was in serious markdown.

Why no ka-ching ka-ching? And why these designers? What is the decision behind the choice to associate the egalitarian Macy's brand with designers who are upscale (that we understand) and slightly unknown by main street USA (doo.ri and Ferretti)? Limited edition capsule collections are meant to reinforce a store's prestige, help the retailer gain traction with new audiences (consumers who might not normally connect with Macy's, for example), and to create a sense of urgency in the buying experience, so that it drives any curious and/or interested traffic to the brick and mortar stores and to the website. 

Then there is Macy's association with the new Fashion Star show. Ack! The fashion on the show is awful, but it's a great PR move, and is definitely driving sales. According to Women’s Wear Daily, the three retailers associated with the store are really pleased with sales as the items from the show are selling out. So here we are again in the realm of high/low, which any readers of my blog know is one of my major interests. What's working better for Macy's? Lagerfeld (advertised and promoted traditionally) or Miss No-Name Designer (with millions of viewers and panelists like Jessica Simpson and Nicole Ritchie)? I would LOVE to see those sales numbers!

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