Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vintage Kicks

I'm not sure what it is about February that makes me feel nostalgic, but I've been on a big retro kick lately. I'm looking all over for a tiny glass bottle of Coke (I used to beg my parents to take the empty ones home from restaurants for me when I was little), I'd love a piece of rock candy from the Sweet Shop in Northport, Long Island, and I desperately want a pair of plain white Keds, circa 1985. I even got out my old, dusty CD book and uploaded Greenday's Dookie to my iPod last night (my very first CD ever purchased, which was in 1994).

The editors of Lucky must have felt my pangs for the past, because they featured a piece on the origin of the shirt dress, another one of my favorite oldies. (Ann Taylor, founded in 1954, began with a simple shirt dress, named the 'Ann Taylor' and the rest is history.) A photograph of Brigitte Bardot donning a timeless khaki shirt dress from 1956 could have easily been taken in 2009. When I watch Mad Men (which I don't even like, but continue to watch for the inspiring fashions of the decade) I get the urge to throw out all my clothes and start from scratch at Kate Spade and Anthrolopolgie. My friend even got a new hair cut this weekend after being inspired by Zooey Deschanel, whose 1950's pinup aesthetic embodies the vibe I'm craving worse than a chocolate bar right now. A crisp, starchy, freshly pressed shirt dress would certainly make Monday morning less depressing for me (although my college roomie who used to do all my ironing is in Scotland and I still never learned how to do it myself).

Polka dots, cinched waists, ruffles and flowers make the falling snow and accumulating slush slightly more palatable at the moment, no?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Copy or Compliment?

With so many hours spent actually working on the computer these days, I rarely get time to read my favorite fashion blog (Fashionista) anymore. Tonight I was pleased to see a post asking the question that routinely creeps into my mind while I'm out in the field or in the marketplace- is this a knock off, or merely an uncanny resemblance? The picture at left (from Fashionista) makes it hard to discern, and I don't find an obvious answer (though I admittedly have a slight bias in favor of all things J.Crew, and am not personally familiar with Flutter).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Legally Speaking

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The question in much of fashion litigation is essentially the same thing. Because trade dress and copyright infringement in the industry are nearly impossible to prove, is there any violation when one designer knocks off another?

I'm sure I need not repeat myself when it comes to my own view on the issue (or re-post the picture of the 'I know your bag is fake' t-shirt my college friends gave me for my bridal shower), but the question lingers nonetheless. It is admittedly an impossible task to prove that one's goods are legally infringing another's designs when the grounds are trade dress (overall 'packaging' of the product) or copyright (exact replication of the product, not a mere 'interpretation'). Even if we can all look at a Forever21 dress and immediately see the Anna Sui that it directly imitates, that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg (and even if the insurmountable task of proving such a case made it to trial and to the damages stage, there would be an entirely separate battle of proving profits on the impostor, and then disgorging said sums. There's a reason lawyers drink.)

The same principals that prevent children from grabbing candy in the store and running out with it should keep the greedy at bay when it comes to designer digs. It's just not fair. Unfortunately, a lot of brands take the tree-falling-in-the-woods approach and pretend that because its hard to prove, it's not illegal to knock off. If they're not deterred by the moral turpitude of such acts, they should know that people like me are out there curling a lip at the sight of sad, sullen, saturnine versions of the real thing. If you want cheesecake, go to little Italy and have a slice, don't cross the street to Tasti-D-Lite and pretend it satisfies the urge.

Photo credit to Hip Candy

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kicking & Screaming

Out of work at the unexpectedly pleasant, civilized hour of 6PM last night, I thought I'd use the extra time before my dinner date with the Hubs to do a little shopping. Since I was walking home along 34th street through Herald Square, the following should not have been shocking. Yet I couldn't quite suppress the urge to unabashedly stare and audibly grunt.

Disregarding my better judgment, a cute shoe caught my eye and I headed into a store through a hoard of large, slow moving tourists (luckily store widows are not located in the middle of intersections or I would surely be run over by a bus one of these days.) Once I finally fought my way as politely as possible past the gaggle, I was able to more closely admire the foot ornament that had persuaded me to risk being mistaken for a tourist by shopping in this area at rush hour. I scanned the bustling space for a harried salesperson who might get me a size 7, but before I could locate such assistance my gaze landed on a 6'2 woman (I think) with calves the size of tree trunks desperately jamming one of them into a cognac leather riding boot. A shopping companion (in some unintelligible dialect) seemed to be encouraging the linebacker to keep persevering at her task. I looked at the poor, overstuffed boot and felt sympathy for the pressure building along its seams like the water below deck on the Titanic before it went under. Just as the top half of the tourist's tree trunk inched into the supple leather, the boot could not longer withstand the struggle and it let out a scream as it violently capitulated along its side gusset. I dropped the slim pump I was holding and could not order my eyes to return to normal size. Several other shoppers similarly spun in their tracks to view the source of the loud 'rip' that rang through the store. The tourist with the ham hocks was more angry than embarrassed, and with a swift kick of her hoof, she threw the mangled boot across the floor.

I had seen enough carnage for one evening and decided I didn't need a new pair of shoes after all. For now, anyway.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fashion Farewell

After the untimely death of fashion great Alexander McQueen last week, many people have questioned the pressures of the industry and the true impact that success can have on individuals who, at the end of the day, are not all that different from you or me. From my experience in the industry, I can say that the designers I have been in contact with are generally very emotionally invested in their craft, sometimes to the point of outright volatility. It would perhaps be impossible to compose such constitutions so consistently without this inner turmoil furrowing their creative brows. (Van Gogh anyone?)

I prefer not to engage in deep moral or psychological debate in my off duty hours, but I do feel the despondency radiating from the Brant Park Tents as I pass by, hoping for a glimpse of the splendor encapsulated within. People already fond of McQueen's trademark edge, by way of skulls and effusive patterns, will have to pay a premium for a piece of posthumous craftsmanship. (Anyone remember when Kenley on Project Runway season 5 sculpted that feather-adorned wedding dress, and was called out for swiping McQueen's original? I'll bet that the knockoff is all that most mortals could afford now.)

When you see a skull delicately dangling from a bootie zipper or cascading down an airy organza-esqe scarf, think of McQueen's legacy and the impact his work has had on the industry. Fashion lives on long after its engineers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top 10 for Spring '10

This weekend has granted me luxurious free time to finish all the Spring issues, including those I don't even subscribe to (I make the exception for fall and spring and read every single fashion magazine sold in NYC). After reading endless tabulations by creative minds such as Joe Zee and Glenda Bailey, I appreciate a few items they've suggested but decided like all things, I need a list tailored just for me.

For the record, Elle dictates that this season, all well-heeled women need to own an army jacket, a denim blazer, a cropped trench, a 'bed' jacket (yes, this is exactly what it sounds like), an 'ultrafeminine frock', a dress composed largely of khaki, tribal or calico, some sort of embellished, leather or distressed t-shirt, denim overalls, and something with fringe. (The last of these trends reminds me of the winter jacket I cherished in 5th grade, which was adorned with black velvet strands cascading down the back yolk that would blow gently as I ran on the playground or skied down the slopes. I think I'll leave fringe and overalls a distant memory from the 90's.)

My own top 10 for anyone who is actually going to spend money on 10 separate articles of clothing for spring, is a little less daunting and doesn't require any visiting of repressed childhood memories. I'd start with a classic, easy pair of ankle grazing khakis, like these stalwarts from J.Crew. The mid-July alternative to such pants, the khaki skirt, in either the traditional silhouette, or the modern office friendly pencil is also a necessary. Spring is all about the rediscovery of sportswear, which put American designers on the fashion road map to begin with. The combination of a skirt or pants with one of these bright, tropic-inspired, airy blouses is a foolproof way to update your cold weather separates. I personally can't get through a season without the most basic of preppy staples, and I will likely pick up another one of these oxfords from Ralph. Girls in the City might not know it was spring without a light, printed dress to pair with a warm weather friendly version of the fall cult favorite ankle booties (a la Rachael Bilson on any given day). Since they first appeared on the bohemian-chic hooves of fashionites south of Houston a few years back, I have loved the gladiator sandal. This season they are still going strong, and they have a firm spot on my list. My obsession with J.Crew's jewelery line only burgeons for spring, with pieces like this pale hued adornment. (Jewelery is also a nice way to totally change the tone of an ensemble without having to work too hard). For the plethora of dresses no doubt already hanging in the closet, a fresh equestrian belt is an easy piece to pick up and cinch over a narrow waist. (Keep in mind what my friend Rebecca likes to say when choosing a belt width, you don't want to 'put a string on a ham'.) On most budgets, even after a month's worth of grocery, cable and Con Ed bills have been paid, the last 2 items on my list are still manageable. I can't get on board with the neon nails I've seen on the runways and in the glossies (especially the blue, which makes your nails look as they would had you been deprived of oxygen for a extended period of time). But I do love the gray-lavender-taupe concoction that is Essie's Chinchilly polish as an alternative to winter's deep plums. A deliciously rosy lip tops off any spring outfit, and goes from day to night seamlessly in warmer months. Chanel's new Rouge Hydrabase lipstick in soft mink is smooth, not too saturated, and a cheap way to own a pair of those interlocking C's.

Whether you buy 1 or 10 new things for the season, wear what you have with confidence and a smile, because that won't clash with anything.

Happy birthday to my dear friend and loyal blog reader, Cara. XOXO

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Canvas Calling

Amongst the may treats in this month's issue of InStyle was a coupon for free shipping from a new concept by Lands' End called Canvas. Part safari, part Sunday stroll through Soho, the line offers a mix of weekend casual with a dash of office wear sprinkled in for flavor and polish.

The brand universally known for their classic washed canvas Boat and Tote bags has seen an opportunity for expansion and tackled it like a lithe high school athlete. Though I wouldn't call any of the pieces groundbreaking or revolutionary, I think they offer a compelling image at beyond great prices (I'm not talking about Forever21 level $10 dresses, which, by the way are largely produced in illegal, sub-humane sweatshops, but rather prices in the $30-$150 range for most items.) 'Groundbreaking' is rarely what I go for when shopping for a new outfit, so I am pleased with something fresh and unexpected in terms of brand, price, or subtle texture, all of which Canvas has nailed.

Few 20-somethings born and raised on the East Coast can say they don't own a Lands' End Boat and Tote, and in my case, I own 5. (I got a small thrill when I ordered a new set in canvas and red to serve as our preppy honeymoon luggage this summer, and was able to place my new monogram front and center.) Your tote will feel right at home over the arm of one of these gingham oxfords or this cropped anorak. I used my coupon for this look, and cannot wait for our friendly UPS delivery man to drop it off next week. Add a little prep to your weekend, use promo code "INSTYLE', pin 5286 at checkout.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gifts in White

It is true that there is no gift quite as sweet as a paid day off. A month ago, a day like today may have been just another day for me, but now it is a blissful treat. The snow has accrued since I first woke up at 6 and has created layers of soft tulle on tree branches and awnings. Fur-lined hoods and candy-colored boots trot up and down the sidewalks, hurrying from one canopy to the next. After I write this, I'll be pulling on some Nova Check Burberry and heading to the local Starbucks to sit amongst the literary types with a fabulous new book about the trappings of of growing up privileged on Manhattan's Upper East side. Delicious.

Enjoy the view from your window, no matter where your window is located today.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Legally Speaking

When your in-laws start tearing out articles for you to read about certain designers being sued for the 100th time, you know you've spoken your mind sufficiently. Though this suit is about 6 weeks old, its prickly effects are still felt like freshly shaven skin on a cold winter morning. (Credit to Fashionista for the story and image at left.)

Filed in the District Court of Eastern New York (all trademark/copyright suits are federal matters, imagine how difficult the arena would be if each state had its own spin on IP law), the suit alleges various grounds for relief, including trademark infringement, copyright infringement, counterfeiting, and "other wrongful and tortious conduct." (Click here for the full text of the complaint.) Though those may sound like some fighting words that pack a punch, in the reality of fashion law, they will only mildly graze the cheek of the oft challenged middle market retailer, who is no stranger to such legal conundrums (Alexander McQueen tried their hand at stopping the madness in October.)

Though I'm personally enraged by such outright fakes, some people believe this is just good old fashion competition, and they may be right. After all, what is true capitalism without a little oppugnancy? (I haven't been able to use large words in weeks, as I'm paying my dues for being out of work for so long right now with menial tasks and mind numbing projects.) But there is a stark contract between a knock off and a utilitarian item, the latter being ripe for reproduction. (For one, trademark law does not protect functional instruments or components of articles that are classified as 'useful' and therefore anticompetitve if protected for exclusive use by the creator.) I often ask where the line should fall, because I keep coming back to this central issue in the IP wars.

I think certain retailers (ahem) should move on to new frontiers and think on their own two feet, rather than swiping whats on the feet of those to their right.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


After 4 people mentioned this new store to me (including one friend who also asked me what a womens 'pump' was) I decided I had to check it out. What store? Uniqlo. Featuring designs by Jil Sander, the Japanese chain carves a niche in the fashion landscape that has been previously unoccupied (wallet friendly but not cheap and brimming with poly-blend). Since Comme des Garcons' Spring collection in 2008, (not to mention Project Runway's season 3 winner Jeffery Sebelia) I have been a fan of Japanese inspiration in fabric form.

Uniqlo manages to hit the much sought after price point without the usual sacrifice of fit and fabrication that is typical of chains like Forever21 and other lower-market offerings. Their 'synthetic leather' campaign demonstrates an awareness of the cultural rejection of genuine leathers, yet the industry's refusal to part with the stylish staples often crafted from such skins. (Forget 'pleather' like the mini dress Carrie Bradshaw donned in an early episode of Sex and the City where she dated a guy who also dated guys, and then played spin the bottle with Alanis Morissette.) The mens selections are a little too modern for my prepster hubby, but with prices starting at $49 for a cotton blazer, he might learn to embrace the more fitted, urban genre of Japanese dressing.

When you want to spend less money on a new outfit than you did on this week's Fresh Direct delivery, its sometimes hard to find items that don't ooze polyester and ill-finished seams. Check out Uniqlo on Broadway and Spring and dazzle your next dinner date, or the boss at Monday's weekly recap meeting. (MTV is filming a new series on getting a job after college at my office beginning tomorrow so I've already devoted too much time to choosing the appropriate wardrobe option. 'Dazzling' is the last thing I can conjure up at the moment, but we shall see what happens.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Khaki Coming

I've made it through about 3/4 of the spring issues of my favorite fashion mags, and have noticed an overwhelming sea of sameness. I know that I complained recently about the industry's increasing reliance on 'newness' as a substitute for actual taste or wearability, but there has to be a happy medium between the two.

You can hardly flip a page in the March Harpers without the pale, smiling face of a freshly buffed woman, decked head to toe in blush and taupe staring back at you. (Check out the ads for Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Vera, etc. I felt like I was looking at the same tall amazon in various grass fields donning the same 3 ensembles.) I love a khaki shirt dress as much as the next girl, but please give me something to make the drab, beige month of February speed by faster and part with haste to the tantalizing treats that lie in the floral months ahead. A hot pink bauble necklace, and mint green cashmere cardigan, a pair of electric blue suede pumps, anything! (But not that horrendous harlot shade of red seen all over the depressing runway on this week's Project Runway, which, sadly, I just can't get into since it left Bravo.) Besides the thrill of crisp spring air against bare toes peeping through delicately crafted leather cut-outs, I can't yet feel spring fashion. Perhaps a long over due pedicure tomorrow on a treasured day off will get me more in the spirit.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Must Read

My friend Rob was nice enough to pass this along to me today, I plan to head to Barnes & Noble this weekend (which will make my hubby very happy) to pick it up. A snowy Saturday is the perfect time for some good IP fashion law reading! Though some days at work I must swallow my opinions about the styles our retail buying department 'adapts' from the market, I am forever on the side of the designers in the fight against fakes. Just as this bridal shower gift from my college friends says, I can always smell an impostor from a mile away.

(No, that is not me in the picture, but that's basically how I look wearing it. Including the smirk, I can't quite help myself.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cutrone Couture

Since work now keeps me away all day (and part of the night as well) I just caught Bravo's new series Kell on Earth on DVR this evening. I know people think shes harsh, under dressed and brutally direct, but I must say that I love fashion PR princess Kelly Cutrone.

The series premiere made me woeful over my lack of invitation to fashion week, but also made me feel less bitter about having to work this past Sunday setting up aisles and shelves of shoes for NYC's FFANY shoe show this week. The assistants and interns bear the brunt of Cutrone's sweatshop, but the owner herself is always on site directing her staff like a well oiled, albeit overworked, machine. The brief scenes of Cutrone with her daughter balanced her insane edge a bit, and shone a sliver of light onto the softer side beneath the black and leather. (And I appreciated her condescending yet accurate description of how most Americans assume 'Juicy Couture' actually equates with real 'couture' as in custom, hand made pieces originating in France. The two cannot be confused.)

If making it big in fashion requires 24/7 work days, a thick skin, and tears only outside the office, I doubt I'll ever get off the ground floor. But Monday nights at 10 can make me feel slightly better when I've had an unrelenting 12 hour day in the office or in the stores. There's always someone whose had a worse day than you.