Category Archives: Fashion

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”- Oscar Wilde.

Protestable Fashion

Protest is defined as ‘expressing an objection to what someone has said or done’. Most people protest over mundane, even trivial things all day long (ever complain when the alarm clock sounds at 7am?), yet there are some objections that are so deep-seeded they can cause feelings of unrest that boil over and unite friends and strangers alike. This is what is known as a ‘movement’.  Such is the case with “Occupy Wall Street” currently residing in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan and quickly spreading to other cities.  The movement revolves around the richest 1% of Americans holding the rest of us (the 99%) hostage with the decisions they make to benefit themselves politically and financially, but negatively affect everyone else. It appears that this protest is the unifying theme for participants as a visit to Zuccotti will reveal a vast and decentralized list of issues protesters are attempting to draw attention to (rejection of student loan repayments, lack of universal health care, the stagnant economy, stale job market, inability of the government to hold Wall Street accountable).  Yet, the ability to unify numerous interests into one voice of discontent and fraction it off to smaller cities throughout the United States and Europe, speaks volumes.  In fact, it is quite similar to the anti-Vietnam movement of the late 1960’s- 1970’s.  By analyzing the protesters of both movements, we are able to see that fashion can go far beyond fabric, clothes and accessories and become a platform for people to communicate a message to the masses.

The 1960’s- 70’s was a time of transformation stateside and internationally. Massive groups rallied around the Vietnam War, taking issue with not only the U.S’s involvement but also the tactics and weapons being utilized.  The popularization of the television opened up channels of communication worldwide, allowing the international community to see first hand images from the war itself and from the many protest activities being held to speak out against it.  Information became power, and power became a voice, one that was all-inclusive.  Fashion as well became more democratized with women embracing the right to eschew the mainstays of female fashion (goodbye bras! hello baggy menswear pants!) and dress they way they wanted. The overarching style of the time was that of the hippie sub-culture, and it was seen in clothes that were worn, with looser, free flowing styles:

Advance 4o years and what we find is a similar set of circumstances occurring in Zuccotti Park, NYC with Occupy Wall Street. People are fed up with the political and financial status quo of the country and are again finding a voice to express their discontent and encouraging everyone else to speak up as well.  With advances in technology and the proliferation of  social media platforms that allow a free flow of information, the heart of the protest can be extrapolated to other communities quickly and efficiently.  The major difference between the protests of the 1960’s and Occupy Wall Street is that in the latter case, participants are living full-time on-premise and therefore, utility and functionality are of utmost importance when it comes to fashion:

The real fashion statement seems to be the written, not the worn kind:

The best fashion statement may have come from Kanye West when he visited the protesters last week:

Russell Simmons and Kanye West visit Zuccotti Park

His Givenchy plaid shirt, Alexander Wang t-shirt and Balmain jeans, with a combined price tag of $4,000.00, seemed a rather odd outfit to wear to a movement that stands against the 1% that Mr. West belongs to.  How many of us in the 99% could afford an outfit like that, even a Designer Impostor version?

Then again, they say in order to understand the end, you must go back to the beginning. It would appear that fashion is at the heart of it all:


$9.99, Are You Outta Your Mind?!

Where is the Value?

The answer to that question depends on what you are buying.  A pair of super trendy shoe clips for your tween-age daughter, probably not; its a good buy.  But a presidential economic reform platform? You might want to think twice.

Quite unexpectedly, Herman Cain, GOP Presidential nominee, and his 999 tax plan, have become the focus of a media frenzy.  Cain, a businessman who revitalized the Godfather pizza chain by closing down under performing stores and demonstrating his masterful marketing skills by dropping the cost of a large pizza by $.01 from $10.00 to $9.99, thereby making customers believe they were getting a real value, seems to be proposing the same tactics to transform the U.S. tax code.  His 999 plan contemplates eventually, and only temporarily, replacing the current tax structure with a  9% income tax, allowing no exemptions or deductions (in lieu of payroll taxes), 9% corporate tax rate with no breaks or deductions and a 9% national sales tax.  Unlike most people out there, we aren’t interested in debating if the 999 plan will generate as much revenue as the current plan. Rather, what strikes our interest is what is up with the magic number 9 that grabs our attention and more importantly, our wallets.

As not to beleaguer the point of how retailers choose to price their goods, we can skim down the process to competitor-based and consumer-based pricing.  Competitor pricing is exactly what it sounds like, selecting a retail price that is based in a comparison to the price of similar products being sold by other companies.  A good example of this type of pricing strategy is Walmart. As the leader of ‘everyday prices’  Walmart looks to offer the lowest prices on goods also available at other retailers such as Kmart, Amazon and Target. The biggest problem with this pricing structure is the constant need to find new customers to stimulate increasing revenue.  Why might Walmart have a problem increasing its customer base if its prices really are that low?  Ego.  Walmart is not exactly the mecca of style and taste. It reeks of cheap.  Michelle Obama may have gotten ‘caught’ shopping for dog food at Target, but she isn’t coming out of a ‘value’ driven store like Walmart.  Target has Missoni, Walmart has Hanes tube socks 5 for $10.00. There is clearly a fashion quotient distinction.

Yet, fashionable or not, value is what consumers most seek out in their purchases these days, independent of the price point.  A luxury handbag costing $5000.00 that last forever given its superior quality has more value than a $29.99 bag from T.J. Maxx that falls apart after two uses.  Customer- based pricing strategy supports this fact.  Simply put, the customer-based, psychological pricing strategy implies there is a mental price barrier that limits what a customer is willing to pay for a certain item.  Research reveals when humans deal with numbers, we place a primary focus on the first number and significantly less on the subsequent digits.  This means that a t-shirt priced at $9.99 is the equivalent to 10% less than a one for $10.00 even if the real difference is only $.01.  The vast retail implementation and success of this pricing strategy is not only limited to Cain and his pizzas.  Sixteen of the top 20 best sellers of Kindle e-books on Amazon are priced with the $.99 strategy.

The underlying principle of psychological pricing is value (the ratio of benefits received from a product or services compared to what it costs to obtain them), and with products that offer awesome, or unique benefits like the iPad, the psychological assignment of value can skyrocket and therefore the price barrier as well.  As important as value is in today’s marketplace, should it be the primary concern when ‘buying’ a candidate to be President of the United States for the next four years?  That really is what we are doing here, buying one persons’ plans, visions and programs that will directly affect our quality of our everyday lives. Perhaps a bit of comparison shopping to see what the other candidates might cost and what their benefits are  before declaring Cain’s 999 plan a magical retail formula.  If you want to learn more about Cain and his programs, tune into Piers Morgan tonight on CNN as he sits down with Herman to discuss Tuesday’s CNN GOP debate held in Las Vegas and his plans to rule the GOP and possible the USA.

On a side note, someone should run now to TJ Maxx and grab that Dolce & Gabbana leopard print dress shown above on super discount. It is soo worth it!

The Women Behind the GOP Candidates and the Fashion Brands that Should Love Them

Of all the angles reporters have taken to discuss the GOP candidates for the nomination for the 2012 presidential election, I am unaware of one that has yet to speak from the viewpoint of the leading fashion designers that stand to gain the most from the triumph of a specific candidate. You may question why anyone should care what the fashion industry thinks of the candidates, but given the incredible power and influence the current First Lady has proven to have in putting emerging designers like Jason Wu on the map (he’s penning  a ‘thank you’ letter to Michelle O. for his upcoming Target collaboration as I write this) and driving sales at popular retailers like J.Crew, the style profile of the most visible American female can have a very significant financial impact.  So, looking at the top GOP candidates thus far in the race to the primaries, let’s see which designers might be lobbying for their chance in the social and economic spotlight as the First Lady’s fashion guru:

1. Carolina Herrera -> Anita Perry

Anita and Rick Perry, 2011

Carolina Herrera, the reining queen of sophisticated and refined day and evening wear for the wealthy, ladies-who-lunch crowd, is a perfect match for Anita.  A former nurse, with an M.S. from the University of Texas, Anita is currently a full time supporter of her wealthy husband’s bid for the Republican nomination.  Between the weekly church services, supporter rallies and fundraising dinners, Anita will have ample opportunities to impress at a black tie affair in this frock from Herrera:

Carolina Herrera Fall Winter 2011

2. Oscar de la Renta -> Ann Romney

Mitt and Ann Romney, 2011

Like Perry, Mitt Romney has a boatload of moolah and his wife, a Harvard graduate, has quite refined, classic and expensive taste.  As the housewife of an experienced and successful businessman, Ann understands her role as a hostess and social connector quite well and has no problem buying the right clothes to project the correct image: conservative, classy and eternally chic.  Who better to go to than Oscar de la Renta.  Popular with the Park Avenue crowd, de la Renta is beloved for his sleeveless day dresses, lavish coats and fitted skirt suits.  Ann would make a statement in this gorgeous eggplant color sheath dress, accessorized with an amazing gemstone brooch:

Oscar de la Renta Fall Winter 2011

3. Chicos -> Carol Paul

Ron and Carol Paul

Chico’s,  a retailer catering to the everyday woman featuring a full line of private label apparel, accessories, and jewelry, with a focus on comfort, is a perfect fit for Carol, the seventy-something wife of Ron Paul.  Anne has avoided the campaign trail thus far stating that without her presence, “the house would fall apart”.  Unlike the previous two ladies, Carol is very relatable both in appearance and in her simple, yet attainable style which screams, average America.  For the same reason, White House, Black Market might want to join Chico’s in a 2-for-1 fashion fundraiser:

A look from Chico’s Fall 2011

A versatile day to evening dress by White House Black Market, Fall 2011

4. Ann Taylor -> Gloria Cain

Herman and Gloria Cain

The sixty-five year old housewife is known in inner circles to be incredibly supportive of her husband, an involved mother and also quite shy, so don’t expect her to be out front during the campaign season.  Given the little we have seen of Gloria, she appears to be a woman who prefers conservative, classic and tailored clothing with a pop of color or fashionable point of interest.  Ann Taylor, a clothing retailer catering to women ages 35-60, delivers sophisticated and high quality clothing with an affinity for tailored, conservative styling. Ding! That’s a match. Also, given the company’s choice of brand ambassadors over the past two years (among them Heidi Klum, Naomi Watts and Katie Holmes) as well as the current face, Demi Moore, the brand appears to be seeking to increase its style quotient and fashion following. Dressing the First Lady would be the ultimate ticket to exposure. Imagine the chic statement Gloria could make in one of these two looks from Ann Taylor’s Fall/Winter 2011 collection:

So, do you think we hit the nail on the head? Are there other designers who you think would be a better fit for these potential First Ladies? If so, post your comment so we can start a dialogue.  Up next is the most likely Democratic candidates for the nomination and the brands that are hot on their tales.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of “The Most X in the World ” Lists

Someone please explain how it is that Rhianna was recently named the ‘sexiest woman alive’ by Esquire magazine.  I mean, really?

Although the mens lifestyle magazine says that the winner is selected by readers through a “March Madness” style competition, with girls pre-selected, seeding and pitted against each other in a scheme devised by the Esquire editors to manipulate the results.  An example: the first round had Catherine Middleton competing against Brooklyn Decker. Obviously, Brooklyn took that one with over 70%. Not shocking when you consider Kate has to wear nylons and closed-toed shoes, so how much cleavage can she really show.  Not this much:

Brooklyn Decker, winner 2010

I digress. The point of this post isn’t to argue why the seeding is flawed and therefore unlikely to produce an objective result, but more to question what is going on with the definition of ‘sexy’ that Rhianna takes the trophy home.  She may be many things including a fashion plate (she killed in those orange pants and cropped top this summer), an entertainer, an intimate friend of power couple Jay & B, but ‘the sexiest woman alive’ is a hard, if not impossible title to hand her. Based solely on its own definition, a sexy woman is one who “arouses or tends to arouse sexual desire or interest”, and I would bet if there was a random pole* taken among men in any city of any state throughout the world between Rhianna and say, Sofia Vergara, the winner would look something like this:

Sofia Vergara in Vera Wang, 2011

Maybe its the accent, maybe its her unbelievable ability to flirt, maybe its her curvy body, but this woman is the only one who can get boys, men and Joan Rivers alike salivating.

Rhianna’s ill-gotten title isn’t the first misuse of the “most” adjective.  People magazine does it every single year with it “50 Most Beautiful People”.  With past winners like Tim Geithner and Miley Cyrus, the list should really be named “A-listers, politicians and rising starts whose publicists campaigned hard to get the extra publicity bump for their client’s upcoming projects”.  Supposedly, winners are chosen by the editors after many long, and sometimes tense, meetings during which pictures of famous people are thrown around and judged for their “exterior beauty, buzz factor (how relevant they are) and most importantly, inner beauty”.  It’s enough to make you want to skip the issue all together (I say almost because why would anyone ever want to miss an opportunity to stare at a pic of Ryan Gosling?).  Let’s study the last three winners to see what can be learned about the selection process:

2011:  Jennifer Lopez

2011 was a big year for Jennifer.  She started her career comeback with a judging post on ‘American Idol’, launched a new apparel program at affordable retailer Khols, and began filming her first movies in a long time that might actually make a dollar at the box office. Sounds like a lot of projects that require promotion and what works better than the cover of a well- selling issue of People?  Also, it is beyond ridiculous that the magazine continues to label anyone the best of anything “in the world”, because after all, did they actually go to every part of the world in search of a beauty better than Jennifer Lopez?   Shoot, they probably didn’t go out of Hollywood.

2010: Julia Roberts

A repeat title holder, Julia was named the Most Beautiful Woman just prior to the release of her big comeback movie, 2010’s Eat Pray Love.  The movie didn’t do so well, but shoot, there is always another chance to get that lovable smile on the cover, right?

2009: Christina Applegate

A somewhat unexpected choice seeing as Christina isn’t an A- list star in the same way J. Lo or Julia Roberts is, but her crowning did come after a very public decision she made to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37.   This is one case where inner beauty shines through to heighten physical beauty to the upper echelon.

We can continue to analyze the choices made and how silly the whole thing is, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is that these magazines and lists actually influence the way as a society see and judge beauty primarily because the media is viewed as an insider, an authority if you will with power to make decisions that we mere mortals do not.  However, if you see the choices are part of a well oiled PR machine with ulterior motives, you may be less likely to agree with these lists, or even care.  And to that we say, Bravo.

On a side note, the only list that may have gotten it right this year was “Body of the Year”, a contest which resulted in prime posterior Pippa Middleton losing to fellow Brit Helen Mirren, who at 67, looks like this in a bikini:

Well done. At least someone gets it right.

*play on words intended

The Steve Jobs of Fashion

Earlier this week as the news spread of Steve Jobs passing, epithets were tweeted out by the masses, extolling the virtues of this man who brought wide sweeping change and innovation to the way we humans lived and experience life (Jane Lynch’s tweet was probably the best: “Steve, we will miss you. Sent lovingly from my iPhone”).  While there are many aspects of Steve’s vision to admire or marvel at, the ones that stand out in our mind were his ability to take something extraordinarily complicated, like a music cataloging, sharing and listening system, and turn it into a straight- forward and easy to use product like an iPod.  Secondly, his ability to render competition useless by being the first to offer a newer, better, enhanced version of his own product.  Steve knew what people wanted even before they knew themselves and by consistently delivering these products, before and better than anyone else could- Steve gained peoples trust and their hard earned dollars. These skills, combined with many other unique abilities help lead Apple to incredible success over the past decade and it got us to thinking, is there a Steve Jobs in the fashion world?  A designer who exemplifies this same vision of design and ability to harness the power of a brand?

The answer is perhaps not obvious, but if you stop to think, it probably should be. While there are certainly designers who are known for extremely detailed design (Karl Lagerfeld is tribe leader on this one; Hand sewing mini pleats requires enormous skill and detail to attention), few present collections that look as clean, basic and simple as the Apple product line. We liken this ability to the infamous scene in Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is negotiating her return home and Toto runs over to pull back the green curtain, revealing the flurry of frenzied activity required to make the Wizard mirage work.  In the same way,  an iPod appears to be simple concept because it is easy to use, yet it exists because of the “behind the green curtain” mind of Steve Jobs and Calvin Klein exists for the same reason- the mind of Francisco Costa.

When watching his collections come down the runway, it is easy to be fooled into thinking his designs are ‘simple’ or ‘not intricate’ because of the clean, straight-forward aesthetic.  However, a well trained eye can recognize the incredible amount of sketching, draping, stitching, tailoring, fitting, restitching and finishing that goes into one ‘simple’ dress like one of these:

Calvin Klein Spring Summer 2011

Precision, exactitude and an incredibly deep knowledge of fabric performance is required to even come close to created something as prefect as a Calvin Klein sheath dress.  If Francisco is the Steve of design, then Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton is the marketer.  Each season, Marc and his team create the new handbag that drives brand loyalists, fashionistas, celebrities and editors alike to almost hysterical levels trying to get their hands on one. With an average cost of an average LV handbag hovering around $1500.00, it isn’t quite as easy to just upgrade to the newest version as it is an iPod, but the marketing around the luxury brand is so well done, and the associated status so high, ladies around the world pull out the credit card  and smile all the way to bankruptcy court if necessary.  After all, how different are these twelve bags that one woman needs to have all of them, or more than say, three?

Yes, there are different features included in each bag (although why one is called Neverfull when clearly it can be, hence the need for additional size options), but functionality isn’t the only thing driving sales.  The associated status of belonging to the elite LV brand is an extremely powerful tool that Marc and his executive team harness. After all, look who their most recent brand ambassador is:

Shot in Cambodia, Angie is wearing ‘no makeup’ (no comment) and is using her own bag.  This ad had the fashion world talking months before it was released and sometimes all you need is enough people talking to drive interest, and the car, all the way to the boutique.  Steve was great at this same task with Apple. Remember this ad?

No celebrity endorser, only 3 colors, extremely simple yet super powerful because who doesn’t know what it is like to rock out to music that only you yourself can hear!

If we had been able to get these three guys together, who know what would have been possible.  Although I am sure the first task on deck would have been to convince the multi-billionaire to invest in a slightly more modern wardrobe for his global product launches.  I mean, mock turtlenecks and ill-fitting jeans?

Bad fashion and a brilliant mind.  The world will miss Steve, but luckily we still have Marc and Fran.

Quelle Horror! The Best Celebrity Wardrobe Malfunctions

Incredible beauty. Massive earning potential.  Free designer clothes. There are a lot of reasons to dislike the famous, or rather, infamous.  Here are ten reasons to rethink your position:

Alexandra Kerry, daughter of John Kerry and Theresa Heinz Kerry needs a stylist stat to explain the ‘camera flash transparency’ issue.

Reality star Frankel, who recently sold her “Skinnygirl” beverage brand for $100 million dollars revealed the secret to her success; Spanks.

Soon to retire Today Show co-cost Meredith Viera gave her viewers the best bon voyage gift.

No stranger to shock appeal, Lady Gaga not only showed her little lady, but a salacious body piercing as well. We’ll leave it for you to put together.

Jen Garner shows why low waist jeans are so over. No one likes a plumber butt. Not even Ben Affleck.

Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, could have used some underwear, or, a little less wind

Funk songstress, Janelle Monáe, seems to have forgotten to zip up. Classic. If I had $.05 for every time this has happened to me, I would have a totally empty wallet.

Gossip Girl actor Ed Westwick reveals even men can commit the nipslip. Scoop neck tees and the male gender do not mix.

Harry Potter s Emma Watson brings the sexy to Hogwarts.  With stylists paid thousands of dollars to dress their celebrity clients, its inexplicable how a big safety pin was missed here.

Repeat offender Lady Gaga isn’t even close to covering her nips at the 2011 CFDA awards where she was given the Icon fashion award.

Post awards she changed into this, which may in fact earn her the award for WORST STATEMENT EVER:

Pasties and a g-string at the Standard Hotel. Only Lady G

Finally,  Nancy Grace was able to bring in some the highest ratings yet on Dancing with the Stars with the indecent exposure.  Subjecting America to this is equally a mishandling of justice as the Amanda Knox debacle. Oh, if only ABC could get Suze Orman on the show to do a repeat nipslip. Just imagine, a detachable collar on a low cut ballroom gown.   Who would even focus on the musical group’s horrendous rendition of a top 40 song?

The Irony of Lady Gaga: Fashion and Her Little Monsters

Mother Monster. Fashion Icon. Total Wierdo. Musical Genius. World’s Most Powerful Celebrity. There are many titles that trail Lady Gaga like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe.  No matter what you may think of her as a person, her music, what the world is coming to if she is the most powerful celebrity we’ve got, or her fashion, Lady Gaga inspires millions around the world and more importantly, drives action, all by simply being who she is.

In a recent interview held in New York during Fashion Week, Lady G said she thinks the reason she resonates with so many people is because she is who she is. She is not different on stage than she is sitting on her couch in her apartment in New York. She has no filter.  She says what she wants and doesn’t care if people don’t like it.  She is only concerned with voicing what she feels at the moment.  Must be nice. Us mere mortals have to worry about everything we say because God forbid we offend anyone, even unintentionally.

The genius of Gaga lies in the fact that having the world’s largest stage and having no auto censure, she could have made many gaffes and been ridiculed for them by the press and everyone else, yet, that hasn’t happened.  She speaks thoughtfully, even deliberately, and hasn’t been caught in too many contradictions, or even negative thoughts.  Either she is sincere in her effort to spread of message of love and acceptance or she is the queen of self-control.

Gaga has often stated that one of her goals in life is to ‘encourage the youth, or people of any age, to find who who they really are and simply be that person. Find a way for people to love themselves more and stop judging others because with true love and acceptance comes authenticity’.  Sounds beautiful, even poetic. However, those who most adore Gaga (her fans, affectionately known as “little monsters”) don’t seem to heed her message. After all, what they appear to take away isn’t a message of being themselves, but rather, trying to be her.  A few illustrations to drive home the point:

Imitators, Fans at Gaga’s concert at the Staples Center in LA.

Japanese Fans

New York, New York

Cigarette glasses. The most copied fashion moment

Although there are millions of other examples to show, you get the point. The question is, why is the woman who most promotes authenticity and self-acceptance also producing the most look-a-likes around the globe?  It is arguable that she inspires people to feel free.  She is a free pass to do, what under normal circumstances, people wouldn’t dare for fear of judgment. And frankly, with the excuse of “hey, its a gaga costume”, no one is saying anything other than, “Oh my gosh, I love your outfit.”

I wonder if Mother Monster would be more proud of her fans if they stopped dressing like her, dismiss their fears, embrace creativity and put on what they think is awesome and daring.  In the bigger picture of fashion and identity, the same question takes on more power given the larger context.  Each season, billions of dollars are spent (and earned) on developing fashion trends, accepted ways of dressing common among the masses, and every Susie, Linda and Tom embraces them in their own way.  But isn’t this the opposite of being oneself? Trying to look like everyone else?  Where does the line get drawn between being authentic, having personal style, and participating in the fashion trends promoted by designers, editors, bloggers and retailers?

What do you think?  Send over your comments and we will post them.

Until next time, be you. Be great. Or, just try to emulate someone you think is.