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The Luxe Starts Here

August 16, 2012 By:
Mimi James, Inside magazine feature
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Photo courtesy Nordstrom

Call it 50 Shades of Grey meets Kate Middleton: leather, lace and shimmery metallics sewn into tailored, polished garments are the biggest look for fall and winter. “When I was in New York looking at the fall collections, I saw influences of Kate everywhere I looked,” says Susan Cooper, co-owner of Gabrielle, the Bala Cynwyd boutique.


Long sleeves, A-line skirts and refined details make cool-weather clothes sexy in a subdued, elegant, powerful way. This is the influence of Kate Middleton, and of Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie and other women who have proven that being sexy doesn’t have to involve showing skin.


“It’s really about being tasteful,” Cooper says. “Kate Middleton, for example, is very covered, much more covered than other current style icons. I think she redefines ‘sexy.’ She wears long sleeves, high necklaces and long skirts. But everything she wears fits her perfectly, showing off her figure in a quiet way. The clothes she wears are tailored and classic with a twist, and that’s very wearable for a lot of women. Of course, Kate is very tall and very lean, so her style doesn’t translate to every body type.”


But that’s not going to stop us from trying.


Leather, Lace & Shimmer


What will further our fashion fantasies are the luxe looks available at Gabrielle and at Suzanne Roberts, the Center City boutique. Cooper and Denise Lomento, manager and buyer at Suzanne Roberts, say that fabrics are the name of the game for fall and winter.


“It’s a lot of luxurious fabrics, like velvet, leather, charmeuse silk tops, mohair and cashmere,” Lomento says. “Those fabrics are being used in pants, blouses, sweaters and jackets.”


For Cooper, lace is the fabric of the season. One of her favorite pieces is constructed from a unique kind of lace. “In New York, we saw a gorgeous piece from Kevin Hall, one our favorite designers, who did a dress in lacquered lace,” she says. “The way he used the material gives it more body than standard, soft lace. This is black, lacquered lace made into a tank dress with a peplum. It’s stunning.”


Lomento says that leather will be big this season and she’s liking it in pants, blazers ... Wait. Leather pants? For the non-rock star set? “Absolutely,” Lomento says. “Leather pants — skinny, but not skin-tight — pair perfectly with a big, comfy sweater. The fitted look of the pant balances the boxiness of the sweater; bodies of all kinds can wear it.”


Leather and faux leather are very trendy for fall and winter; they were favorite fabrics of fashion’s biggest designers. The faux leather is a composite of various textiles that creates the shine of leather but makes garments more stretchable and easier to care for, and doesn’t require the sacrificing of animals.


Both leather and its faux cousin are flat-out sexy. “Sexy but in an upscale, definitely luxe way,” Lomento clarifies. “Pairing leather pants or a leather skirt with a chunky cashmere sweater adds another luxurious, feminine fabric to the outfit. You could wear those pieces throughout the fall and winter.”


Suzanne Roberts’s boutique will also have leather blazers, leather pencil skirts and other pieces to pair with silk, mohair and other yummy fabrics. Lomento is also big on plaid for fall and winter. Plaid pants, to be specific. Like the leather pants, Lomento suggests these be worn in skinny-fitted fashion.


Plaid and leather go swimmingly with tops in another of Lomento’s favorite fabrics: velvet, especially black velvet, if you please. “Black velvet is always slimming, and velvet in general gives every outfit a luxe feel,” Lomento says. “We have evening dresses in velvet as well as velvet brocade tops that go really well with leather pants.”


 Cooper’s also grooving on fabrics that include micro-metallic beading and monochromatic sequins. “They shimmer and shine in a very ladylike, upscale way,” Cooper says. “They are gorgeous in dresses, and we carry bags made of those materials. Our clients love them so much that we can’t keep them in stock. They are pewter, gold and combinations of the two. Our customers like to put metallic bags with everything because metallic is a neutral and not matchy-matchy.”


She also says that many of the season’s most fashion-forward dresses are trimmed in feathers. “Not crazy-looking feathers,” she clarifies, “but interesting, small touches. Very feminine. Very Kate Middleton.”


Capsule Collections

England isn’t the only European country influencing fall fashion. Maison Martin Margiela, the legendary French design house, is creating a special collection for H&M that will be available on Nov. 15.

“Maison Martin Margiela is one of the most important and influential fashion houses of the past three decades,” says Margareta van den Bosch, creative advisor at H&M. “I am so excited [that] this collaboration will give fashion-lovers around the world the chance to wear special pieces. This collaboration will be a great and memorable fashion moment.”

The “moment” will be spent admiring Margiela’s sleek, modern designs. Think Calvin Klein-meets-Coco Chanel. The higher-end version of Margiela’s work is available at Joan Shepp, Barney’s and other posheries. The H&M version will include pieces for men and women, innerwear and outerwear.

Margiela’s collaboration with H&M is just one of the “capsule collections” that designers are doing with retailers. Kohl’s will introduce a capsule collection from Narciso Rodriguez in November. This is the first collection in Kohl’s new DesigNation, each of which will pair a high-end designer with an international locale. Rodriguez’s inspiration is Istanbul. Samples were not available at press time, but odds are that the collection won’t be a turkey.

What of Target, which practically invented capsule collections with Isaac Mizrahi? Now that everyone else is doing it, Target is doing something else. The company’s new “The Shops At Target” concept, a “buy-local-in-a-national-retailer” kind of thing, features apparel and home decor collections co-created with boutiques. The boutiques will change every season. For fall, they are: The Curiosity Shoppe in San Francisco; Patch NYC in Boston; and New York faves Odin and Kirna Zabete. If it sounds odd to pair with stores and not designers, remember that ... Well, yeah. It does sound odd.

Not odd are the designers pairing with TV shopping networks. Over the summer, Rachel Roy debuted her collaboration with the Home Shopping Network. “I love how HSN has become such a trusted voice in fashion,” Roy says. “my label — Rachel Roy Collection — feels like the perfect complement. We all strive to find things that make us feel and look stylish and chic and my new line makes it so effortless.”

And this month, QVC unveiled the debut collection from Jennifer Hudson, the Academy Award-winning actress, singer and inspiring Weight Watchers spokeswoman. The 14-piece collection features skirts, dresses, leggings, tops and outerwear garments that range from Hudson’s former size 16 down to her current size 6. “I feel like I represent every woman,” Hudson told Women’s Wear Daily. “I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been a big girl and now whatever this is, the average size, whatever you want to call it.”

Something perhaps not average: Hudson admitted she owns 300 pairs of leggings. “I’m the legging queen,” she told WWD. “What I love about a legging is [that] it’s a piece you can dress up or down and it’s still comfortable.”

Even more comfortable: FIVE, the new men’s shoe line created through a collaboration between Hush Puppies and Vibram, inventors of the Five Fingers sole that brought “barefoot” running into the mainstream. The collection hit stores in September and is composed of three styles: the Brogue5, a classic wingtip, Boot5, a wingtip boot, and Base5, a casual loafer.

“This partnership sprang from a concept that Vibram owner Marco Bramani had been thinking about,” says Dani Zizak, vice president of global marketing for Hush Puppies.  “He had personally created a one-of-a-kind Vibram shoe for himself to wear to more formal occasions. The idea seemed like a natural fit for the Hush Puppies brand, and it became an instant marriage of two brands.”

Runway Report

Good news: the “oooh, I could wear that” thought was practically audible during runway shows that displayed fall’s finest fashions. Designers, even the hot and haute, seem to be creating garments that normal, non-model women can wear in their normal, non-red carpet lives. Sure, there were forays into fashion fantasyland (a skirt of hot pink feathers from the house of Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga’s silver-and-blue spacesuit dress), but, by and large, the clothes were very wearable.

To wit: one of fall and winter’s biggest trends is what Vogue calls “the new pant.” Of course, very little is new in fashion. Ideas are simply reinterpreted. So, in a bit of fashion upcycling, designers like Prada, Céline, Tory Burch and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton presented the “new” cigarette pant. Cropped to the ankle, the pant flares ever so slightly. Worn with “new” loafers or heels during the fall, the pant can be tucked into “new” lace-up shoes or boots during the colder months of winter.

On the runways, the pant was paired with a fitted jacket, sometimes in the same funky-chic print or pattern. The effect was a pantsuit — a sleek, flattering, fashion-forward pantsuit. Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Giorgio Armani and other classics-minded designers showed pantsuits, banishing all thoughts of Hillary Clinton circa 1992 and replacing the image with something that might be worn in 2012 by Chelsea Clinton.

There was another flavor of “new pant,” this one from Alice + Olivia’s designer Stacey Bendet Eisner, the nice Jewish girl and Penn grad. She rocked the runway with faux-leather, cargo, skinny jeans. They were shown in black and in slate gray and paired with big, chunky tops. Exhibit A(mazing): the leather-ish cargo jeans tucked into black booties and topped by a black-and-white, zig-zag capelet with a black, faux-fur collar over a sparkling, black tunic. Sounds crazy. Looks fabulous.

Creative coats captured and enraptured the audiences at fashion shows. Marc Jacobs’s outwear is a modern take on Victorian coats. They are fitted close to the torso, then flair slightly at the waist. Done in emeralds, plums and other deep colors, the coats are flattering and instant classics. Also classic, but A-line, knee-length and done in pastels, are the feminine but functional coats from Jil Sander. Prada also showed interesting coats, most of them done in bright colors and cinched at the waist with wide belts that created something of a mod, ’60s look.

Many of those coats were incorporated into another “new” trend: the equestrian look. Not only does equestrianism go back to the 1880s, it was revisited in the 1980s. Here again are Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger with their knee-length riding boots, luxurious sweaters, plaids and hound’s-tooth, high-collared blouses and fitted jackets. This time, those designers are joined by the likes of Jason Wu, Alexander Wang and Gucci, who make the look modern with leggings of interesting fabrics and super-high collars.

And, finally, there is the trend of adhering jewel-like embellishments to blouses, sweaters, skirts and dresses. Vera Wang, Lanvin, Versace and Oscar de la Renta got blingy in very tasteful ways, adding bunches of brooches or beading-esque gems to garments.
 
They aren’t the crown jewels ... but a girl’s got to get bling where she can get it.

Mimi James has been wondering why it took designers so long to get luxe-y.
 

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