Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legally Speaking

Even if your ability to spot at fake is not quite on par with my sixth sense, many can recognize the prevalent, shamefully obvious fakes adorned with cheap, tacky plaid that try to pass themselves off as Burberry. And for all those low budget retailers who assuage their guilt with the justifications that trademark infringement is hard to prove and even harder to win, January brought some news sure to ruffle their parroting feathers.

While it is not about the money, Burberry was awarded a nice $1.5 million in its suit against Designer Imports, Inc. this past Januray (as originally reported by WWD) after alleging the retailer sold counterfeit goods. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) found in favor of the English design veteran and awarded them statutory damages based largely on the distinctive trade dress that Burberry has established (just ask any girl over the age of 15 living in New York for proof that their Nova Check is in fact 'distinctive' within the legal sense). This is a big win for fashion originalists, who, like Justice Scalia and the Constitution, believe contemporary interpretation or adjustment for modern convention is inappropriate when evaluating the law as it was conceived.

Burberry is getting busy. On March 3rd they sued TJX Co (who operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods) for selling knock-offs in a variety of apparel-related categories. As such suits gain momentum, expect more 3rd party defendants (real estate lessors, production counterparts) to be named. I'd take it to the streets and begin making citizen arrests of those I see so blatantly and wantonly flaunting their faux bags with the audacity bred by sheer ignorance. (Have you seen FX's new series Justified? I'd be the US Marshall who gets reprimanded for over zealousness on the job.) Perhaps you will take a more critical eye to your coworker's new tote, or that woman's suspicious carryall on the train tomorrow morning.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Perfect Skins

Besides the rough and tough biker chick often conjured up by the mere mention of the leather jacket, there is a softer side to the new staple. Though I admittedly have a hard time letting go in general, this spring, the new object of my desire has been a shale grey cropped leather jacket. (There is much debate about the proper spelling of the word 'grey' at work. I argue often with others about this very topic, and while it might seem pointless, I had to get to the bottom of it. If you have too much time on your hands, or also work in the fashion world where color reigns supreme, here is an interesting explanation of the 2 variations on the proper spelling of the color.) Either way you slice it, grey is an omnipresent tone for spring 2010 when black can be harsh, and brown feels too fall. (Please don't wear black leather boots past April 1st, regardless of your affinity for American Chopper or LA Ink).

After a long, exhausting, erratic week of work (one day, for example, began at 6:30am with a $50 car ride to the Queens Mall, did you know the mall doors are open at that hour? I surely did not) I came home ready for a glass of Trader Joe Cabernet and a frozen Fresh Direct pizza. To my surprise, there was a grey and cream colored gift bag with coordinating silver tissue on the table waiting for me. Confused at not only the aesthetic composure of the present, but its very presence in my apartment, I looked to my husband for an explanation (though he is the one who practices more traditional law in the household, he is always home before me). He smiled and urged me to open the treasure. To my delight, the leather jacket lay inside like an unearthed gem waiting to be harvested. I proceeded to wear the supple ectoderm around for the rest of the evening. Lets hope the weather is conducive to my new bounty this weekend.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rags, Bones, and Outsiders

Every now and then even the primmest, preppiest of folks crave a little dash of edge to their wardrobe. Maybe its the electricity in the air sparked by unseasonably warm days, or the early morning darkness that lingers slightly too long post day light savings, but whatever the cause, I too feel the rocker itch creeping down my back.

Two brands leap to mind when hunting for the perfect mix of masculine, rocker, ready to wear glam: Boy. by Band of Outsiders, and Rag & Bone. Since the founding of Rag & Bone in 2002, designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville have taken their mission to "make clothes that they and their friends would love to wear every day" right to the bank. Rag & Bone was a 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award finalist, and won the prestigious Swarovski Award for emerging talent in menswear in 2007. Their edgy offerings are available at a full array of locations throughout the city. I love the tuxedo jacket pictured at left, and this corset cocktail dress available at Barney's Co-op.

Scott Sternberg of Boy. by Band of Outsiders throws plaids, textures, leathers and denim into the cauldron and out emerges downtown chic pieces that go from the Gallery opening to a fabulous loft party where you might hope to be caught in the background shot of an episode of the City or Kell on Earth. (This striped skirt evokes the nautical bliss of spring without falling overboard into the cliche that other seafaring garb can often drown in.) Their website is reminiscent of an ironic Marc Jacobs Vogue ad, and offers a glimpse into the playful minds of the design genius at the helm of the brand. Enjoy a little edge in your morning coffee.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lyons (and Tigers, and Other Animal Prints)

In the virtual age where hard copies have become hard to come by, I relish the days when I come home to find a J.Crew catalogue nestled all snug in my mailbox like a weary traveler curled up on the couch. I can thank the uber-talented Jenna Lyons for taking my trusty middle school go-to for wooly sweaters and cords from elementary, to fashion superlative.

The beginning of each look book underscores 'Jenna's Picks' where the Creative Director expounds on what you absolutely must have for the upcoming season. I rarely disagree with her selections (though, unfortunately, 2 new lawyers living in a studio apartment in Manhattan cannot readily dash out to buy all the items she so seductively recommends). The Wall Street Journal reported this past fall that Lyons was paid $1 million as a bonus for escorting the retailer to super-stardom in middle market merchant land. In banker town, this is a paltry sum that wilts next to 8 figure bounties. Yet in the retail kingdom (circa the economic havoc of 2009 and amidst a landslide of layoffs) $1 million is rather hefty.

This month's catalogue featured real people decked in J.Crew's decadent spring looks with brief descriptions of their professions. The free clothes alone would be sufficient motivation for me to participate (on the occasion that they'd want an average New York City gal with a shopping affliction and a penchant for prep in their pages). Shop the collection now and get 20% off all dresses! (Anyone else have a plethora of showers, rehearsal dinners and weddings to attend this spring?)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Buy Outs

Big news in the biz this week that Phillips-Van Heusen bought Tommy Hilfiger for a modest $3 Billion. The big buy is expected to burgeon Hilfiger's presence in the market, both at home and abroad. My very first internship was at Tommy Hilfiger in midtown, stuffing endless gift bags with luscious Tommy Girl and other goodies for a PR event. (I was hooked on fashion from my first paper cut.)

PVH is no stranger to acquiring American brands (IZOD, Bass, Calvin Klein, Arrow, to name a few). Though Ralph Lauren has become the synonym for classic, preppy American style, Tommy deserves his own share of the genre. (We can forgive and forget when it comes to the terrible reality show featuring Mr. Hilfiger's daughter, called Rich Girls, where she paraded into his design studio and, to the horror of the onlooking design staff, proceeded to make adjustments to their work with her abundance of non existence skill and experience.) Hilfiger's crisp, clean, yacht worthy pieces make you want to call in sick in favor of a waspy polo match (or perhaps a college frat style golf party). The fashion foodies can look forward to an expansive array of sailor stripes and cotton cables in the seasons ahead.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Walk on the Wild Side

Have you ever visited the Queens Mall at 5pm on a Friday? If you want to feel miles and miles from the preppy Upper East Side, or far removed from banker-ville downtown, I suggest a trek on the R train to the Woodhaven stop. If, however, you are easily scared by crowds of teenage hooligans, or volumes of polyester make your skin itch on sight, I don't recommend the venture.

Sent by my office deeper into the unknown land that is Queens, I needed a subway map to figure out how exactly I was to get from the train to the mystical urban mall. Crossing Queens Boulevard was taking my life in my hands, as was pushing through the angry line of hungry pedestrians waiting outside of the corner McDonald's to reach the mall entrance. (Had I known I was going to be commissioned to Elmhurst this afternoon I might not have gone with my flaming red Burberry rain coat and oversize Prada bag, and opted instead for a less ostentatious khaki trench and low key canvas tote. But you live and learn.) Once inside the labyrinth, I felt as I did the very first time my mom let me go to the Roosevelt Field Mall alone- terrified, lost, and utterly bewildered. I made my way down the first corridor with trepidation, first spotting a G+G (which I thought had gone out of business after the movie Clueless had faded into the archives), then a Claire's (home to $5 jewelery and ever popular with the teeny bopper generation I was once a part of), and next a Wild Pair (again, I had no idea the store was still in existence).

Just as I was getting my bearings and had stopped staring at the pink pleather shoes on display in the window I passed, a gaggle of no less than 15 teens dressed in micro-sized skirts and tops that might be illegal in some areas of the county nearly knocked me down as they paraded by. I took refuge in the first store front I could find, which happened to be a Victoria's Secret. This might have been an acceptable place to hide out for a few, but unfortunately the 14 year old renegades had already infiltrated the lingerie shop. Awkward looking, tangibly uncomfortable boys that looked years younger than their female companions fidgeted anxiously while their girlfriends held up underwear with pictures of dogs and 'PINK' slogans splashed across the butt. Their pimply faces and sweaty cheeks made me feel dirty, so I had to leave just as quickly as I had darted in.

About ready to give up on my competitive shopping trip and go back to work admitting defeat, I saw an illuminated image of a woman frolicking in a field dressed in telltale khaki and pink. The sight of the linen blend blazer beckoned to me like a preppy hand rescuing me from the bowels of the urban jungle. Never had I been so happy to see a Banana Republic before. I headed straight for the sanctuary, hoping it wouldn't disappear like a taunting desert mirage before I reached safety. I floated in and was instantly soothed by the trouser-donning salesman, who complimented my bag. Retail is not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Building Blocks

At the end of a long, miserable day filled with flared tempers, angry bosses, bossy subordinates, and aesthetically assaulting wardrobes, your dwelling should greet you with calm, peace, and the emotional stability that is so markedly lacking elsewhere. Cool tones like white, dabbed with shots of warmth can envelop an entire space in a sublime cocoon and melt away the scuff marks from the last 12 hours.

With an approaching move, and an online shopping cart at bursting with delicious new furniture, I can hardly contain myself. As with most things, I feel there are no true rules to decorating, other than pleasing yourself (and anyone you happen to be sharing your new space with). Start with something you can't live without and build a room around it (a paint color, a black and white vintage print, your adorable spouse). I predictably fell in love with a white-washed wooden dresser and a silk, pewter Donna Karan bedding set. All that's missing is the perfect Nantucket cottage to nestle the new finds into. The dreams are what get you out of bed in the morning to face another day, right?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day to Night, and then the next night too

When getting dressed for work on Fridays, many of us require an outfit that will multitask from the office into an evening out. Since I work in a fashion forward environment, this is usually pretty easy for me to accomplish. This past Friday with a friend's birthday party after work, I faced a stylist's version of writer's block. I stared at my clothing for an inordinate amount of time (through 3 separate rounds of my husband asking me what exactly I was doing in the closet) and could not find anything I wanted to wear.

Though my shelves and hangers are home to easily over $20,000 worth of choices, the outfit I landed on centered around a seasonless wardrobe staple: the $8 slouchy cotton V-neck T-shirt from H&M. I own approximately 8 of these T-shirts in a variety of colors, and always seem to go for the white or heather gray (of which I have at least 2 per color). Decked in my trusty T, a multi-strand crystal necklace and black blazer, I was ready to go to work and then play.

By time Saturday evening rolled around, I faced an identical fashion impasse. Dinner with friends was at a restaurant more akin to a frat party than a New York City dining experience, and the venue afterwards had a similarly surly vibe. My gaze landed again on the shelf of H&M V-necks, and I found myself pulling out the second gray T (with its twin in the hamper from a full day of work and a brimming night out afterwards Friday). To switch things up I went with a single strand of J.Crew baubles, different jeans and heels as opposed to boots. (My husband of course didn't notice the repeat, but I brought it to his attention, expecting him to be proud of how practical I was being. Instead he was more excited about ordering pulled pork and drinking from a fish bowl to comment on my thrifty togs.)

A few of my favorite cotton T's with just the right 'slouch' and the perfectly scooped 'V' are any offered by Madewell, this one from American Apparel, this T from the Gap, and this option from Jcrew. (Never spend $50+ on a cotton T regardless of who makes it, because at the end of the day, it's just cotton, the armpits will eventully turn yellow, and the dryer will inevitably mangle the fit.) Don't underestimate the power of the V-neck!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Heavy Footing

My affinity for the 90's extends as far as Greenday, and perhaps the occasional plaid mini skirt, but no further. I am slightly perplexed by the reemergence of a style I thought was surely left in a heap among the archived rubble of the prior decade. But you can hardly open a clothing catalogue or flip through a spring fashion magazine without a pair of clogs staring you in face.

They may be dolled up a bit with some bling, and some have gotten a tapered nose job for a sleeker silhouette, but at the core, they are all still clogs, circa 1990. Elle, Harpers, and Lucky may rave about their comeback and egg readers to run out and snag a pair before they are all sold out in the ever popular size 6, but I'm not rushing anywhere. I tried on a pair at work to see if perhaps the addition of a foot to the empty shell would bring a certain life and style to the article, but to no avail. This wouldn't be the first trend I can't get on board with (I refuse to wear underwear as outerwear, I still do not own a pair of actual leggings, and don't get me started on denim leggings, or 'jeggings', as Kelly Cutrone called them last week).

If you, unlike me, are only too happy to slip your toes into a piece of the past, there are a plethora of clunky, amped up versions for Spring. Jessica Simpson (appropriately, speaking of remnants of early decades,) has a selection, as do Steve Madden, Cole Haan, and Nine West. I'll stick to peep toes and stacked heel sandals when the warm winds whirl.

Monday, March 1, 2010

American Dreams

Is there anything more intimately or profoundly American than a navy blue Ralph Lauren shawl collar cardigan? The rich, plush sweater makes me want to quit my job and take up figure skating again. The triumphant athletes donning America's finest designer was the icing on the Olympic cake for me.

Though it may seem simple, the choice of Olympic gear says much about the country's culture. (The Canadian sweater, for example, complete with embroidered moose, was too reminiscent of the sweater vest my friend's mother in law gave her for her birthday in college for my taste, yet very 'Canadian'). The selection of Ralph for the USA is a way of wearing the country's heart on its sleeve. Ralph Lauren is the epitome of of preppy, cool, casual, chic- exactly how the rest of the fashion world views the US. Not taking ourselves too seriously (France? Ehem), yet excelling in the most difficult of winter sports and fashions.

While I appreciated the patriotism radiating from every country's athletes, there was no finer display of the encapsulation of Americana than those blue cardigans.