Last week I was in New York for a busy buying trip. Fashion Week had just ended and so the serious work of reviewing collections and making decisions was in progress in showrooms across the Fashion District.
One of my favorite stops was the Marc Jacobs showroom. I was there to shop the handbag collection. This designer has long been a leader in this category and the Marc Jacobs line of handbags has been among our top sellers.
Marc Jacobs, of course, is an American design success story like no other. A former designer for Louis Vuitton, he is a creative genius who knows what women want. Today he continually surprises the market with his creations and holds a significant role in the industry.
However, I first knew of Marc Jacobs 30 years ago when he was only 23 and just starting out. In fact, designs from his very first, very small ready-to-wear line were shown at Tres Mariposas in 1986. I’ll never forget how that showing came about.
Back then, once a year, our New York fashion consultant brought interesting items from a number of design houses to El Paso to present at Tres Mariposas. In 1986, her selections for us included a few wool sweaters from some unknown guy named Marc Jacobs.
I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, those shrunken little sweaters look like he found them in his grandmother’s attic.” Turns out, my impression was not far from the truth! Jacobs began his fashion career by learning to knit from his grandmother. Our New York consultant said, “His sweaters may look like moth-eaten nothings, but you watch, he is going to be big.” Boy, was she right!
Marc Jacobs has always been known for retro-influenced designs and fresh takes on vintage looks. Frequently, his designer collection runway shows are full of things that are just fantastical and far out.
But they are also so on target. His show for fall 2016 was no exception and even featured Lady Gaga on the runway!
“Jacobs showed his extravaganza of fashion noir on a stark white set to the sound of single chimed notes by Japanese musician Keiji Haino,” wrote a reporter in Women’s Wear Daily. “The models’ eyes and lips were black. The clothes were dark, wondrous, inventive, eccentric pilings of tweeds, furs, silks, and endless decoration, Victoriana meets Goth meets Biker Chic meets Varsity Chic meets Red Carpet meets Violet Incredible and countless other girls of Jacobs’ runways past.”
The collection was indeed flamboyant, fanciful and exaggerated. The showroom that we visited was set up like a runway with looks from his recent Fashion Week show, so we got to see some of the styles.
Sure enough, what we saw in the Marc Jacobs showroom set the tone for our entire trip. Fashion is moving to a Victorian-inspired trend for fall. Think high necklines, lace, femininity and some gothic darkness. This trend was also pleasantly interpreted at hip, contemporary lines like Elizabeth and James.
This designer has certainly come a long way since I first saw his work 30 years ago – and I’m always curious to see what he’s going to come up with next!
Last week we enjoyed hearing about current trends from a fashion insider: Gregor Simmons from New York, who has worked as an independent buying consultant for the last 20 years.
I enjoy working with experts in a variety of fields, whether it’s a management specialist or a store designer. Gregor is one of those experts who challenge us to take our business to the next level.
Each year, she speaks at the Dallas Market and other markets, but she works in only a few trend presentations at stores, so we were delighted to have her visit Tres Mariposas. She understands what most women look for when they think of trends: “They want to look good: not cutting edge, but not dated.
“Trends transcend more than six months or a season,” she says. “And trends can be interpreted in different ways that are all age-appropriate.”
Illustrating her talk with dozens of examples pulled from two long racks of clothes, she looked at what’s happening in fashion this fall:
• Stormy weather: “It’s unclear to me whether the design community had a crystal ball, a secret Farmer’s Almanac or a groundhog hidden in a bunker,” Gregor says, “but the weather certainly had a huge influence of this fall’s fashions.”
Shades of gray can be found in the sky this time of year – especially during last week’s hail storms! – but also in jackets, sweaters, tops, pants and accessories.
You’ll see a variety of soft and cozy styles that conjure up comfort and warmth, no matter what the weather conditions are outside. Warm and comfortable fall must-haves include ponchos, turtlenecks and cowls, robe coats, chunky sweaters, fur or faux fur long scarves, leather or leather-trimmed leggings and quilted accessories.
• Pro-sport/tomboy: Think of all of today’s styles that have been influenced by physical activity, such as yoga, bicycling, skiing and working out – and you invariably think about stretchy fabrics and functionality.
“Active wear and athletic references are powered by technical fabric,” Gregor says. “Nylon, neoprene, fleece, cotton cashmere sueded ponte, jersey and elastine – all present.”
But this trend doesn’t mean grungy sweat suits. Hoodies in luxury fabrics, bomber jackets, drawstring pants and leggings are popular, along with what is known as the “two-fer,” a crop sweater layered over a shirt combo. She showed us some nice-looking quilted vests that would be good for our weather here and that fit into this sporty trend.
• Boudoir/retro chic: This trend doesn’t mean you’re dressing for the bedroom! It refers to soft, feminine looks in satin, lace, velvet, silk charmeuse and brocades. Inspired by old Hollywood glamour and luxury, this trend includes soft or flowy dresses, blouses and jackets embellished with fringe, bows and occasionally ruffles.
Look for glamorous details, such as a jeweled or pearl-trimmed collar on a simple blouse or a fur trim on a jacket.
• Folkloric/hippie chic: “It’s a mix of Bohemian and folk with some funk,” says Gregor. “Some of these pieces are a work of art.” This is where you’ll again find lots of fringe, plus appliqués, embroidery, beading, patchwork and prints from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Sheer print peasant blouses, with the little string tie at the neck, are back, as are long maxi-dresses.
After the fall trends presentation, attendees had the chance to chat with Gregor about such topics as which pants to wear with which tops, what women wear in different regions, and why it’s so darn hard to shop for men! Stay tuned for a future column on what Gregor has to say about trends for spring 2016.
I’ve been on the go lately and have had an unusually fun time seeing what’s new and exciting at market.
Two weeks ago I was in New York, combining pleasure with work. My husband Sammy and I went a couple of days early for a Broadway play, great dining, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lunch with some El Pasoans transplanted to New York. Nothing beats experiencing all the best of New York.
Then last week, I was in Dallas for a couple of days. I don’t go to every market with our buyers, but I am especially drawn to Dallas because of the information we gather as members of the “prestigious Retail Advisory Board, selected by Dallas Market Center management and exhibitors to provide valuable feedback on the industry and how markets can better serve retailers.”
While some claim this is a “prestigious board,” the real reason for attendance is to reconnect and laugh with longtime industry friends, have a great meal with wine and see what tips we can gather from our retail peers about hot sellers and innovative practices.
Among those friends from around the Southwest is Patty Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room in Austin, who thought it was cute to give me bunny ears in a photo with the dinner’s special guest, Rawlins Gilliland! By the way, when you are in Austin, do stop by The Garden Room, which is a wonderful women’s boutique.
This board meeting didn’t fail to entertain. The Market Center had invited Gilliland to share his insights on this year’s holiday gift items. Gilliland scours the market so he can share his finds with retailers on the wonderful private tours he leads through the various vendors.
Gilliland is an interesting guy. He started his retail career with Neiman Marcus where he was named top salesperson and eventually earned the title of National Director of Sales and Product. He helped create and direct Neiman’s amazing personal shopping program. Since 1999, he has been a consultant to the wholesale and retail industry, specializing in market buying and sourcing for specialty stores and small businesses.
Gilliland is also a natural entertainer, humorist, philosopher, poet and National Public Radio commentator.
“Rawlins Gilliland and his stories are one of a kind!” says Jim Gold, president of Neiman Marcus.
Needless to say, Tres Mariposas buyer Bobbie Baldridge and I had a thoroughly fun evening at our Retail Advisory Board meeting.
We did pick up plenty of suggestion of products from Gilliland and other retailers that might be great holiday gift items.
The part of buying trips that I rarely talk about is the products we don’t buy. Part of the joy of being a buyer is the thrill of the hunt. I will go check out just about any tip, even though some explorations lead to groan-worthy products. Even though they may be bestsellers for some, these are items you won’t find at Tres Mariposas this year:
• A birdhouse that looked like a miniature Airstream style RV complete with 1950s decor and porch
• Giant Christmas ornaments made with wishbones
• Lit Coolers, for campers who need their ice chests complete with interior lights
• Bling-A-Go-Go, t-shirts that can be customized
That last one sounded so bad that Bobbie refused to go with me to check it out. Of course, she was right and Bling-A-Go-Go wasn’t for Tres.
A few holiday gifts that you can look forward to seeing:
• Jeweled evening bags in Art Deco patterns
• Limited edition individually hand-crafted fashion jewelry with Egyptian themes.
• Italian Renaissance-style candles with domes
In future columns, I’ll be sharing with you some of our observations about the styles and trends we saw in both New York and Dallas. We’ll also be giving you some ideas that might inspire “the thrill of the hunt” in your own clothes shopping this fall!
We had an unusually fun and amazing event take place at Tres Mariposas last week.Let me start by sharing some insights into the apparel buying cycle. Like other fashion retailers, we go to different markets for different lines. Normally, we buy high-end and European lines the furthest in advance and in New York.
These designers do not take their lines to the regional markets like Dallas or Los Angeles. And the more premium the fabrics and construction, the longer lead time is needed. The high level of quality means these are not fast-fashion productions.
Every February, we shop Escada, the famous German luxury collection. This February, however, the collection was not in their New York showroom due to unusual circumstances.
Happily, Escada offered to bring the entire fall 2015 collection to El Paso so we could see it all here, right in our own store. “We will just bring the showroom to you,” declared Rebecca Evans of Escada. What a fabulous idea!
And what an unforgettable sight it was to see all the beautiful dresses, tops, jackets, skirts and pants in all their glory, right here in El Paso. Unlike our typical New York showroom experience, we had the luxury of more time to get to know the collection – and we got to hear reactions and recommendations from all our staff and even a few customers.
I have a special affinity for Escada. The brand was founded in 1978, the same year I came to Tres Mariposas. A few years later, an Escada outfit – a peasant-influenced skirt and blouse – was my first-ever luxury apparel purchase.
I felt on top of the world when I wore it. The fabric was divine. The fit was perfect. The workmanship was flawless. There really is a significant difference in luxury apparel; I felt elevated and special.
Escada had interesting beginnings. Margaretha Ley, a model and designer, and her husband, Wolfgang Ley, were on holiday in Spain when they bet on a winning Irish racehorse named Escada. The winnings became the seed money for Escada the brand.
Margaretha’s distinctive creations with their unusual combinations of colors and patterns soon stood out in the fashion world. Escada became Germany’s leading luxury fashion brand and a leading player in the global luxury clothing market. North America became a strong market, in part because of American women’s love of color. Today Escada is a go-to brand for celebrities and many of America’s best-dressed, most stylish women.
Having the complete Escada line at Tres Mariposas for our buyers to make their selections was such a treat. We had a great time – too bad we can’t always get a major fashion design house to come to us!
Last week I wrote about designer Tory Burch’s gorgeous new book, “Tory Burch in Color.” Her collections are known for including colorful fabrics and accessories and the book certainly shows her love of color. Even the book’s chapters are arranged by color!
The book ends with a very brief interview on the “science of color” with Dr. Samantha Boardman, one of Tory Burch’s friends. The interview really intrigued me – enough so that I wanted to learn more about this person.
With a little research I found that Dr. Boardman is much like Tory Burch. She also grew up privileged and well educated, with an intense interest in style and fashion. Both women share an enthusiasm for color and interior decorating. Both are strong career women and both are passionate about what is positive and good in life.
Dr. Boardman is a psychiatrist at Cornell Medical College, and just last year she added another degree to her M.D.: a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. On her website, www.PositivePrescription.com, she writes, “I am a psychiatrist with little interest in what is wrong with people and a lot of interest in what is right with them. I care about the tweaks and changes that make a difference.”
Here are a few things I found interesting from the interview with Dr. Boardman in “Tory Burch in Color:”
- Dr. Boardman agrees wholeheartedly with psychologist Ulrich Beer who said, “No one can encounter color and stay neutral. We are immediately, instinctively and emotionally moved. We have sympathy or antipathy, pleasure or disapproval within us as soon as we perceive colors.” That is indeed apparent, but I hadn’t thought about it in just that way. For instance, as soon as I see red or yellow, or I even hear someone say a color, my brain has a reaction.
- Her research has shown that colors affect how others treat us and how we see ourselves. “One of the first things we notice about someone is the color of what they are wearing,” she writes. “Waitresses wearing red lipstick receive bigger tips and studies show men find women in red clothing to be more attractive, more sexually desirable, and they tend to sit closer to them. Ladies wearing red tend to feel more attractive – they stand taller, smile more radiantly and are more outgoing.”
- It turns out that the color pink can have a significant effect on behavior – a pink environment can make us nicer, gentler. “In the book ‘Drunk Tank Pink,’ Adam Alter describes how a certain shade of pink decreases aggression among prisoners and improves behavior,” says Dr. Boardman. “The University of Iowa’s locker room for visiting football teams is famously painted pink for the exact same reason – to calm opponents and put them in a passive mood.” UTEP Coach Sean Kugler, are you listening?
It is true that color is amazingly significant in our culture and in fashion. When women find out I’m supposed to be an expert in fashion, their first question is, “What color is in this year?” Here’s a finding from my own research: the number one reason certain items of clothing do or do not sell at Tres Mariposas is often the color of the item.
I like Samantha Boardman’s emphasis on positivity. According to an interview with her at twenties/collective.com, she lists just three activities as the most significant lifestyle/outlook changes a person can make for a more fulfilling and positive life.
- Sleep more.
- Build more activity into your daily life.
- Spend more time with friends face to face and less time looking down at your mobile device.
P.S. Coming soon: a report on the top colors forecasted for 2015
Animal prints have become a classic trend, which means they are always in style. However, in some seasons these prints mimicking the markings of wild animals are more popular than other seasons. This fall and winter, animal prints are super popular.
Why do women like them so much? These fabrics have a strong graphic identity, and some women even say they feel empowered when they wear animal prints. Grrrr…..Hear me roar!
Animal prints are also so easy to wear, because they are like neutrals. Think about it: this season’s animal prints feature variations of browns, beiges, greys, and blacks.
But wait, what about zebra prints? They’re not brown and beige – they’re black and white. Alas, although I am a lifelong lover of zebra prints, the zebra is just not popular this year. In fact, even when I see them, they look wrong somehow right now.
Right now, animal prints that have darker, neutral backgrounds are in. White and black zebra prints and orange and black tiger prints are not (sorry, El Paso High Tigers).
Here are a few tips on how to wear animal prints this fall and winter, along with a run-down of what’s hot and what’s not:
- A little goes a long way. It’s fantastic to have an animal print blouse, pants, scarf, and handbag in your closet. Just don’t wear them all at once. One at a time, please.
- Done right, a pop of bright color, such as in a handbag, looks great with an animal print.
- Do accessorize with animal prints: handbags, shoes, and scarves add some of the best touches.
To stay ahead in the retail industry, owners of all kinds of stores work to keep up with the latest new products in their field. No matter what you’re selling, you need to stay apprised of trends in your niche – and be ready to tell your customers about them.
In the world of fashion, new trends are what inspire us and keep our jobs fun. We are always curious about what’s coming down the pipeline from Parisian runway to Dallas showrooms, from visionary couture to reasonably priced ready-to-wear.
It’s not enough to just name a trend to a customer; we retailers need to understand that trend and know how a new trend can make a customer look great. I can’t speak for retailers in other industries, but in the fashion world, we often watch presentations by designers who talk about new trends and then share it among ourselves in the store.
Last week, two of our younger “fashionistas” held a fall trend presentation for the staff and it was excellent. We’d love to share their fall 2014 recommendations with you.
Fall 2014 Trends List
Chunky Knits: Fall’s favorite sweater can be dressed up or down. Heavy knits paired with J Brand skinny jeans and booties are an effortless yet chic way to wear this trend. For the more fashion forward: pair your chunky knit sweaters with dressier pieces like pencil skirts and kitten heels.
Shades of Grey: Grey is the new neutral. Worn monochromatic or paired with blush, black, or white separates, grey is becoming a staple in contemporary style. This fall we’re seeing everything in grey: handbags, shoes, tops, and, of course, denim. Grey is a color storm that should not be taken lightly.
The New Pant: The choice for fall pants styles all depend on the consumer. Thanks to the vast difference between our trendy jogger pants and the classic skinny, your pant game can go either way. The main focus on the pant trend is to keep in mind proportion and body type.
Fringe: The one word that describes this trend is IMPACT. From bags to cardigans, fringe is the overstated accessory that every it-girl has her hand in. Depending on your level of comfort in the trend, it can be as subtle as a fringed cardigan or as dramatic as a cropped fringe vest or fringed cross-body bag.
Shoulder Bags: Shoulder bags used to be classified as ladylike quilted bags. This season the shoulder bag is also offered with tomboy qualities. Spacious and easy to tug around, the shoulder bag is giving the backpack a run for its money.
Statement Earrings: While certainly dramatic, these decadent baubles are also festive and elegant. Statement earrings offer a modern way to energize just about any look imaginable. For the more fashion-forward, an ear cuff is the way to go.
Chunky Heels/Booties: Fall’s favorite shoe offers major elevation along with a reassuring sense of stability. Rag and Bone booties return season after season and project that sort of off-duty cool that iconic fashion models carry off so well – and yet are as comfortable as flats. More looks here:
Fringe, as a fashion trend at least, is no longer on the fringe. Fringe is front and center and seriously chic on sweaters, handbags, boots, blouses, everything possible.
If fringe makes you think of Pocahontas or Great Gatsby-style flapper dresses, give your brain an update. Today, fringe is a refreshing option that is fun, edgy, and stylish with a luxe vibe. It’s luxurious because it’s purely ornamental. Fringe can also be tactile and sexy: there’s nothing quite like the sensuous feel of long fringe running through your fingers.
I’m thinking that this is one trend that will stay a while. Elegant tasseled earrings have a certain classic feel to them. I predict that women will continue to adore the fringed handbags and scarves we’re seeing in the stores these days. Fringed tops and ponchos have a universality that can work for anyone - any and all body shapes.
What I like about this do-able trend:
- You can go all out, over-the-top fringed, or wear it in an understated way.
- Motion! Fringe sways and moves.
- Fringe works on nearly everything: dresses, blouses, handbags, scarves, shoes, jewelry.
- You can add a few fringe pieces to your wardrobe and you have an instant update.
As you probably know, the fashion cycle has a rhythm all its own. New style trends emerge each season, and retailers have to predict months in advance what they think will sell in their own stores. As buyers, we do our best to guess which items are going to be big winners for the season. Which looks and outfits will our customers desire the most?
Right about now, mid-October, retailers are finally seeing what trends customers are responding to with the most enthusiasm. It’s interesting — bestsellers at Tres Mariposas invariably reflect the bestsellers emerging with other retailers across the country. Our tastes on the Border are in line with national trends.
Here are a few early winners for this fall:
Jacquard Pattern Jeans
Why it works? Texture!
Fashion is all about texture – and everyone needs jeans in her wardrobe. These are basically textured jeans! The term jacquard refers to fabric with a pattern woven into it. Your interesting fact of the day: French inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the first loom for these intricate patterns in 1801.
Fit and Flare Dresses and Skirts
Not all of us look fantastic in straight pencil skirts. The fit and flare style is fitted at the waist and then flares out into flirty fullness at the hem. It’s been a classic since the 1950s. Every skirt and dress in this style that we’ve received at Tres Mariposas seems to fly out the door. Women must be hungry for something feminine and flattering.
Why it works? Instantly ups your cool factor.
Every girl needs a bit of racy biker machismo now and then. The motorcycle jacket in black leather and other fabrications has been cool since James Dean. Wear it over everything in your wardrobe. Add boots and you are set for the season.
Why it works? Makes the outfit.
New design techniques and technology have morphed furs into garments almost as lightweight as sweaters. These are not your grandmother’s mink coats. Friendly to El Paso’s climate, fur vests are great for casual lifestyles.
We may very well see other bestsellers emerge as the season goes on, but these four trends have already taken El Paso by storm. The customer has spoken!