The mood was set early at the American fashion awards ceremony at Lincoln
Center in June, an event often likened to the Oscars of the fashion world, with
a guest list that included celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Gwyneth
Paltrow and almost every top designer.
In quick succession, three men were called to the stage to accept their awards
as the best new designers of the year: Richard Chai for men’s wear, Jason Wu for
women’s wear and Alexander Wang for accessories.
It was the first time that all three prizes given by the Council of Fashion
Designers of America were awarded to designers who are Asian-American. That same
night, the fashion council announced three scholarships, each for $25,000, won
by student designers of Asian heritage.
“It’s so exciting,” said Mr. Wu, who became a household name not only in this
country, but also in his native Taiwan, when his dress was selected by Michelle
Obama for her husband’s inauguration. “Not too long ago, Donna Karan and Michael
Kors were the young designers of America. Now there are a lot of firsts for all
of us as Asian-American designers.”
Their ascent to the top tier of New York fashion represents an important
demographic shift on Seventh Avenue. At the Fashion Week that begins here on
Thursday, many of the most promising new designers are of Asian descent, a group
that includes Mr. Wang and Mr. Wu; Thakoon Panichgul, one of the stars of the
documentary “The September Issue,” about Vogue magazine; Prabal Gurung; Phillip
Lim; and Derek Lam — names that are increasingly likely to represent the future
Major design schools around the world have seen an influx of Asian-American and
Asian-born students since the 1990s, partly through their own recruitment
efforts in countries with rapidly developing fashion industries, like South
Korea and Japan, and partly because of changing attitudes in those countries
about fashion careers. At Parsons the New School for Design, roughly 70 percent
of its international students enrolled in the school of fashion now come from
Asia, according to school officials. At the Fashion Institute of Technology, 23
percent of the nearly 1,200 students now enrolled are either Asian or
“F.I.T. is a pretty diverse place, but this is the most obvious change we have
seen,” said Joanne Arbuckle, the dean of its school of art and design. “It is
remarkable when you compare it to many years ago. I don’t think we ever had
these numbers of students from Asian countries or Asian-American students. And
it is a growing population.”
The rise of Asian designers in America has actually come in several smaller
waves, including one that marked the emergence of Anna Sui and Vera Wang in the
1980s. In the last few years, however, as a new generation of designers has
asserted itself in New York, Asian-Americans have been at the forefront. In
1995, there were only about 10 Asian-American members of the Council of Fashion
Designers of America. Today there are at least 35.
This has happened largely for the same reason that the New York fashion
industry, through the ’80s, was populated most visibly by designers of Jewish
heritage, like Calvin Klein, Ms. Karan, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Mr. Kors.
Throughout the 20th century, generations of Jewish immigrants had created a
thriving garment district in New York, first as laborers, then as factory
owners, manufacturers, retailers and, eventually, as designers. Many of today’s
Asian-American designers say they experienced a similar evolution from the
factory to the catwalk, since some of their parents and grandparents were once
involved in the production of clothes.
Mr. Lam, whose luxury ready-to-wear collections evoke a classically uptown
ideal, is a designer of Chinese descent who came to New York by way of San
Francisco. His grandparents owned a factory there producing bridal gowns. His
father imported clothing from Hong Kong, but Mr. Lam said he wanted to pursue a
more creative course and enrolled in Parsons, graduating in 1990. Before
starting his label in 2002, he worked for Mr. Kors in New York.
“I grew up around clothes,” Mr. Lam said. “It was like a default. Fashion became
one of the few outlets for Asian-Americans who wanted to put their name out
When he went out on his own, Mr. Lam, though well received, faced a difficult
road. No one bought his first collection, and he and his business partner had
invested their savings in the business.
But after several seasons, the collection took off. He has since won several
awards, including the accessories prize from the fashion council in 2007; opened
two stores Manhattan; and developed a clothing and accessories line for the
luxury brand Tod’s. During a recent trip to Shanghai and Beijing, he said, he
was stunned by the level of awareness of his work there.
“There is this understanding that there is a group of Asian-American designers
who are coming up in the world, and there is a sense of pride,” Mr. Lam said.
The cultural changes that have enabled would-be designers to pursue their chosen
careers have happened slowly. Ms. Sui told The International Herald Tribune in
2008 that designers of her generation were often asked by their families, “Why
do you want to be a dressmaker when you could be a doctor?”
Mr. Wu said those pressures were still there as recently as a decade ago. “When
I was applying to Parsons, my mother had never heard of it,” he said. “Now,
everyone in the generation after me wants to go to Parsons. Fashion has become a
more prominent career in the eyes of Asian parents.”
Unlike the avant-garde work of Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake —
Japanese designers who took Paris by storm in the 1980s — there is no
discernible aesthetic connection among the designs of Asian-Americans. Alexander
Wang’s street style looks nothing like Mr. Lam’s polished dresses, nor the
colorful mash-up prints of Peter Som, who also consults on sportswear for Tommy
Hilfiger. None would care to identify their styles as “Asian-American.” Carmen
Chen Wu, a Parsons student who received one of the fashion scholarships this
year, noted that she is of Chinese descent, but was born in Spain, “so
technically, I’m a Spaniard.”
But one thing their heightened visibility has done for them as a group is to
create opportunities in Asia, where the realm of luxury fashion had long been
exclusive to traditional European houses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
Since his triumph with Mrs. Obama, Mr. Wu has been invited to return to Taiwan
in October to help design a residential building, and he is developing a line of
eye shadows with Shiseido that will be sold throughout China. Mr. Som said his
business was growing faster in Asia than anywhere else, noting that the speed of
information today has made consumers in South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand as
knowledgeable about new designers as they are about the historically major
brands. Mr. Lam said he had been invited to return to China next month to appear
as a judge on “Creative Sky,” a popular new reality television competition.
On that show, aspiring fashion designers compete in a series of runway
challenges, much like those on “Project Runway” in the United States. The major
difference is that the ultimate prize is not the chance to show a collection at
Fashion Week, but something that is now becoming far more prestigious in Asia.
The winner gets the opportunity to go to Parsons — as a student.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Donald G. Fisher, who co-founded apparel giant Gap
Inc., has died at age 81 after a long battle with cancer.
The company said Fisher died at his home in San Francisco on Sunday morning
surrounded by his family. Those who knew him said he was a great entrepreneur
and philanthropist who helped shape the retail world and his local community.
Fisher and his wife Doris opened the first Gap in 1969 in San Francisco, after
running into difficulties finding jeans that fit. They named the store after the
idea of ''The Generation Gap'' and sold jeans and music, to appeal to a younger
The simple, affordable style that became the namesake brand's trademark
resonated with shoppers and took off quickly.
A former real estate developer with no previous retailing experience, Fisher
initially anticipated maybe ''as many as 10'' stores. But Gap grew to be one of
the nation's largest specialty retailers with more than 3,000 stores in over 25
Gap Inc. now also operates the Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta
brands. It became a publicly traded company in 1976 and reported sales of $14.5
billion in its 2008 fiscal year.
Fisher guided the company through its largest growth phases, serving as CEO from
the company's inception through 1995 and as its chairman until 2004. He
continued as a company director and as chairman emeritus until his death.
''Today we lost a friend, a mentor and a great visionary,'' Glenn Murphy, CEO
and chairman of Gap Inc. said in a statement. ''Don and Doris took a simple idea
and turned it into a brand recognized as a cultural icon throughout the world
and changed the face of retail forever.''
National Retail Federation CEO Tracy Mullin said Fisher's true entrepreneurship
permeated everything he did, and was part of the reason Gap became such a great
''It feels like the end of an era in a way,'' Mullin said. ''He really was
unique in many ways and people really liked him.''
The company was one of the first dominant brands, pioneering the idea of cheap
chic, retail consultant Burt Flickinger III said. He said many retailers
continue to model themselves based on the company's design.
''Americans would not be able to afford well-made clothes at the low prices and
highest possible quality that they have today if it were not for what Don
started,'' Flickinger said.
Fisher was also widely recognized for his commitment to philanthropy and the San
Francisco Bay community where he was born and raised and the company's
headquarters still remain.
The Fishers' personal art collection is renowned and includes some of the 20th
century's most well-known artists, including Richard Diebenkorn, Roy
Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning. The San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art announced Friday it was partnering with the Fishers to house the
couple's some 1,100 works to create one of the nation's greatest art
Don Fisher was also a charter school advocate, and active in the United Way,
Teach for America and other educational efforts. The Fishers gave $15 million in
2000 to create the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Foundation, a national
network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools to serve
students in underserved communities. They have provided millions more to support
the organization through the years.
''Don's contributions to public education, particularly for underserved
communities, cannot be overestimated,'' said KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth.
''He used what he learned in growing Gap Inc. to show us what we could do in
public education, and tens of thousands of children have benefited from his
commitment and generosity.''
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said Fisher was a ''great San Franciscan, a
loving husband and father, and a dear friend. His unwavering commitment to our
city's arts and civic culture will be remembered for generations to come.''
Fisher is survived by his wife Doris, their three sons and 10 grandchildren. He
is also survived by two brothers and their wives, Jim and Diane Fisher and Bob
and Ann Fisher.
His son Bob Fisher continues to serve on Gap's board of directors and Doris
serves as an honorary lifetime member of the board.
BETH DITTO was livid. Topshop, the fast-fashion chain, had approached Ms.
Ditto, the outsize lead singer with the punk band Gossip, and a favorite mascot
of the fashion world, to perform at its flagship store in London. Blowups of her
heart-shaped face and rotund form would be on display.
But Ms. Ditto, who happily flaunts what the British like to call her “wobbly
bits,” was having none of it. “I don’t think it’s fair to put my face somewhere
where they would never let me in there to wear their clothes,” she complained on
a blog. If the chain hoped to capitalize on her grooviness, she wrote, why not
accord her the same status it does Kate Moss, and let her create a “big girl”
line for Topshop.
“Give me the job,” Ms. Ditto demanded. “I want to design.”
Her message, flung down like a gauntlet, reached the ears of the Arcadia Group,
the parent company of Topshop. This month, a couple of years after Ms. Ditto’s
sound off, Arcadia plans to unveil a collection that Ms. Ditto designed for
Evans, the company’s plus-size division. Available in the United States on the
Web, it highlights cutting-edge looks like a corset dress and a cropped biker
The collection is the latest in an outpouring of fashions aimed at trend-driven,
round-figured teenagers and young women, a population that has long echoed Ms.
Ditto’s complaint that it is ignored by most merchants and brands.
“Up to now it’s been difficult to provide adequate fashion content to a
large-sized customer,” said Jeff Van Sinderen, a retail analyst at B. Riley, a
research and investment firm. The woman of size, as she is euphemistically
known, “still wants to wear the same clothes as her slimmer counterparts,” he
Other stores and designers have picked up the message. Forever 21, a purveyor of
cheap chic, introduced its plus-size line, Faith 21, this spring. Target
recently began offering Pure Energy, exuberantly patterned dresses and tops for
young women. Those follow hip niche labels like Karen Kane and Kiyonna, which
are sold at boutiques.
All the lines see potential profit in offering stylish alternatives to the
ubiquitous track suit. From a business perspective, that makes sense: the
customer base is increasing, as health authorities have long pointed out. Some
17 percent of teenagers are overweight, according to the surgeon general’s
office, more than three times the rate of a generation ago.
The market for youth-oriented plus sizes (usually 14 to 24) showed strong growth
a couple of years ago, several years after the fast-fashion chain H&M entered
the business. (H&M has since dropped its plus-size line, for reasons it would
Last year, sales of plus sizes to girls and young women ages 13 to 34 reached
$5.8 billion, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.
With consumer spending falling everywhere, that momentum has been lost: Sales
declined 15.3 percent for plus-size shoppers 13 to 17 and 10.1 percent for those
18 to 34 in April and May, compared with the period a year ago, NPD says.
Plus-size lines aimed at older women have also suffered; chains including Ann
Taylor and Old Navy have removed larger sizes from stores (they still sell them
Despite the slump, some see the market inevitably returning to strength. “The
fact that more businesses are getting into this market is a clear indication
that the recent lack of growth has been more about the economy than about a lack
of interest,” said Marshal Cohen, an NPD analyst.
Faith 21 was introduced “because our customers were asking for larger sizes, and
to fill a void in the market for trendy and fashionable plus-size clothing,”
said Linda Chang, the senior manager of marketing for Forever 21. It includes
some 250 styles.
Smaller stores are also catering to shoppers who want figure-hugging fashions
like their thinner friends. “Some of those girls feel like they have the brio to
pull off a fitted look,” said Stephanie Sack, the owner of Vive la Femme, a
plus-size boutique on fashionable Damen Avenue in Chicago. She confided that
when she was 20, “I would have choked somebody to get my hand on a studded belt
to fit me.”
She might find updated versions of that belt today at Torrid, a division of the
youth-oriented Hot Topic chain, which began offering moderately priced,
rock-influenced looks to young women nearly a decade ago. Or at Fat Fancy, a new
boutique in Portland, Ore., that sells vintage and current styles in sizes up to
“When you’re fat you stand out anyway,” said Annie Maribona, the shop’s founder
and part owner. “It’s really important to go all the way and do something fun or
even outrageous with your clothes.”
Stores as diverse as Kmart and Lord & Taylor have dispensed with conventional
big girls’ “dos and don’ts,” offering the hothouse colors and exuberant prints,
the ruffles and flounces of their so-called straight-size counterparts. Even
horizontal stripes, once a fashion sin for the overweight, animate some looks in
Kmart’s Piper & Blue collection.
“I’ve noticed lately that they are trying to make big sizes more into style,”
said Kathy Salinas, as she considered a zebra-striped Piper & Blue tunic at a
Kmart in downtown Manhattan this week. “You see that at regular stores, not just
the plus-size stores, and that’s a good thing.”
Round-figured young women have found inspiration in popular culture. Ms. Ditto,
who settled her girth on tiny gilt chairs at some 10 fashion shows this year,
along with the actress Jennifer Hudson and the singer Adele, all appear in
full-figured glory in the current issue of Elle.
The glamorously curvy Jordin Sparks captivated viewers on “American Idol,” then
moved on to a recording career. On Stylista, a reality show on the CW network
last fall, a curvy contestant named Danielle competed for a job as a junior
editor at Elle.
More than tokenism, such fashion and media tactics seem born of a conviction
that larger young women have become more self-accepting. “They are inclined to
show off the parts of their bodies they love,” said Ms. Sack, the Chicago
retailer. Pushing the trend is a broad movement of fat acceptance among
academics, anti-bias activists and some psychologists. “It’s important to
reclaim ‘fat’ as a descriptive, as even something positive,” argued Ms. Maribona
of Fat Fancy.
But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea
Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast
majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she
added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.
Shoppers, too, can be skeptical. Checking out the Piper & Blue line at Kmart on
Monday, Kristin Lopez, 20, a cosmetology student, said “a lot of the clothes
“I don’t like the way they fit, and, for the quality, the prices are too high,”
she added. The collection, which includes hot pink leggings, madras sundresses
and a boldly striped yellow tank dress, is ticketed from about $13 to $25.
Still, venturesome merchants are undeterred. “The plus-size market is an
attractive piece of the fashion business,” said Fiona Ross, the brand director
for Topshop’s Evans line, which includes the Beth Ditto designs. In the United
States as in England, Ms. Ross declared, “we may want to be part of that
October 21, 2008
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Mr. Blackwell, a designer of over-the-top fashions and originator of the
outlandishly satiric, but globally ballyhooed worst-dressed list, which likened
Elizabeth Taylor, a frequent honoree, to a dirigible and called Julia Roberts
“Godfather III in drag,” died on Sunday in Los Angeles.
In his extravagantly solipsistic way, Mr. Blackwell (as Richard Blackwell chose
to be known) said for years that he was somewhere between 39 and 100 years old,
and looked even younger if you squinted. But the fact is that he died at 86 of
complications of an intestinal infection, his publicist, Harlan Boll, announced.
Understatement, of course, was unknown to Mr. Blackwell, who once designed
bejeweled toilet seats, which failed to sell because they were uncomfortable to
sit on. His autobiography began: “Multifaceted as a Cartier diamond,
razor-tongued as Noel Coward, volcanic as Vesuvius erupting, wickedly
controversial as Paris in the ’20s.”
In fact Mr. Blackwell really did marshal grit, ambition and his fabulous,
completely unselfconscious, ultimately charming immodesty to climb from poor
Brooklyn boy to stage and movie performer to radio and television personality to
talent manager to fashion designer to author. In an interview with The Chicago
Tribune in 1991, he described this persona as “planned” and “programmed” — right
down to four or five face-lifts, depending on the telling.
In the 1995 autobiography “From Rags to Bitches,” he wrote that he aimed “to
become my most unforgettable creation; king of the caustic quote, arbiter of
good taste and bad, the ultimate mix of madness, marketing and media attention.”
Mr. Blackwell could not have cared less that almost nobody, particularly in the
fashion industry, took his annual lists, 48 in all, very seriously — as long as
everybody read them. And how could they not? Diana Ross, he said, was “a Martian
meter maid”; Martha Stewart dressed like a “centerfold from the Farmer’s
Almanac”; and Ann-Margret was “Marlon Brando in a G-string.”
Poor Miss Taylor, in another version of his list, “looks like two small boys
fighting under a mink blanket.”
The name Blackwell was given to him by Howard Hughes, the mogul-cum-producer who
at one time signed Mr. Blackwell to a movie contract. The use of Mr. as a first
name came in the late 1950s to go with Mr. Blackwell’s new ultraglamorous
But he had real ideas and accomplishments to back up this lovingly sculptured
identity. He claimed to be the first to present a line of superfeminine women’s
clothing on television, an assertion that seems to have provoked little
argument, as well as the first to make designer jeans for women, a more
If Mr. Blackwell was not the first designer to make his line available to
plus-size women, he certainly was among the most noticed. He made dresses up to
size 46 and shaped them to accent the curves of the feminine figure.
The New York Times in 1963 quoted a buyer from San Antonio as saying, “When he
designs a dress, he keeps in mind how a woman wants to look across a table.”
Richard Sylvan Selzer was born on Aug. 29, 1922, in the Bensonhurst section of
Brooklyn, where he was reared. He so feared his stepfather that he slept in the
alley with a broken bottle to protect himself. He wrote that he was a child
prostitute in Central Park, but told his mother that he made money by walking
rich people’s dogs.
He also made hats for wealthy socialites in his attic and took on small acting
jobs. He, his mother and brother took the streamlined Super Chief train to Los
Angeles, where he continued his career as a child actor, sporadically going to
school with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. His part in the movie for which he
changed his name, “Vendetta” (1950), landed on the cutting-room floor.
Mr. Blackwell eventually left acting to be a Hollywood agent and began to design
clothes for his clients to emphasize their sexy figures. He started the House of
Blackwell in 1958. By the early 1960s he was making clothes for Jayne Mansfield,
Jane Russell and Nancy Reagan, among others.
Mr. Blackwell’s partner in both the talent and fashion businesses was Robert L.
Spencer, who was also his personal partner for many years. Mr. Spencer survives
Mr. Blackwell’s popular success as a designer prompted interest in his first
worst-dressed list in 1960, and his acid wit long sustained it. But another
list, one in which he sincerely praised the best-dressed women, provoked only
yawns. “Who’s going to print anything sweet?” he asked.
In the 2008 list, Victoria Beckham placed first among what Mr. Blackwell called
“10 Titans of Taste-Free Terrors.” Presumably referring to skirts, he bitingly
noted her “skinny-mini monstrosities.”
July 28, 2008
The New York Times
By NATASHA SINGER
Dr. Donald Richey, a dermatologist in Chico, Calif., has two office telephone
numbers: calls to the number for patients seeking an appointment for skin
conditions like acne and psoriasis often go straight to voice mail, but a
full-time staff member fields calls on the dedicated line for cosmetic patients
seeking beauty treatments like Botox.
Dr. Richey has two waiting rooms. The medical patients’ waiting room is
comfortable, but the lounge for cosmetic clients is luxurious, with soft music
And he has two kinds of treatment rooms: clinical-looking for skin disease
patients, soothing for cosmetic laser patients.
“Cosmetic patients have a much more private environment than general medical
patients because they expect that,” said Dr. Richey, who estimated that he spent
about 40 percent of his time treating cosmetic patients. “We are a little bit
more sensitive to their needs.”
Like airlines that offer first-class and coach sections, dermatology is fast
becoming a two-tier business in which higher-paying customers often receive
greater pampering. In some dermatologists’ offices, freer-spending cosmetic
patients are given appointments more quickly than medical patients for whom
health insurance pays fixed reimbursement fees.
In other offices, cosmetic patients spend more time with a doctor. And in still
others, doctors employ a special receptionist, called a cosmetic concierge, for
their beauty patients.
Dr. David M. Pariser, a dermatologist in Norfolk, Va., and the president-elect
of the American Academy of Dermatology, said some practices did maintain
preferential policies for cosmetic patients.
“The message is that the cosmetic patient is more important than the medical
patient, and that’s not a good message,” Dr. Pariser said.
At a time when dermatologists are trying to advance the idea of a national skin
cancer epidemic, such a two-tier system is raising concerns that the coddling of
beauty patients may divert attention from skin diseases.
A study published last year in The Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology found that dermatologists in 11 American cities and one county
offered faster appointments to a person calling about Botox than for someone
calling about a changing mole, a possible sign of skin cancer.
And dermatologists nationwide are increasingly hiring nurse practitioners and
physicians’ assistants, called physician extenders, who primarily see medical
patients, according to a study published earlier this year in the same journal.
“What are the physician extenders doing? Medical dermatology,” Dr. Allan C.
Halpern, chief of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in
Manhattan, said in a melanoma lecture at a dermatology conference this year.
“What are the dermatologists doing? Cosmetic dermatology.”
There are no published studies showing that the rise of beauty procedures has
caused harm to medical dermatology patients. If patients with skin problems have
difficulty getting appointments, it is because over the last 30 years the demand
to see skin doctors has far outstripped the number of physicians trained in the
specialty, said Dr. Jack S. Resneck Jr., an assistant professor of dermatology
at the medical school of the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Resneck, who researches professional issues in dermatology, said about
10,500 dermatologists now practiced in the United States, the majority devoting
little time to vanity medicine.
Even so, dermatologists perform several million beauty treatments annually,
according to estimates by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery,
including more than two million anti-wrinkle injection treatments last year — an
increase of 130 percent over 2005.
Several patients interviewed for this article said that they believed the
dermatologists they visited for medical care treated them as potential cosmetic
consumers. Dianne Ryan, who works for an airline in Dallas, went to a
dermatologist in her insurance network three years ago after her husband pointed
out a mole growing on the side of her foot, she said. The doctor dismissed the
mole as benign, she said, but recommended she buy his brand of bleaching cream
for pigmentation on her face.
A few months later, Ms. Ryan said, she sought a second opinion from another
dermatologist, whose diagnosis was melanoma.
“I don’t know if dermatology, with all the new technology, is turning away from
melanoma or whether it is the glamour and excitement,” said Ms. Ryan, who was
called by this reporter after an exchange in a chat room of the Melanoma
Research Foundation. “If you do an extreme makeover on someone, you are a hero.”
Dermatology is one of the fields — along with plastic surgery and behavioral
sleep medicine — in which patients are not only willing to pay for
quality-of-life treatments that may not be covered by insurance, but also
willing to pay much more for such treatments than insurers would pay for a
medical procedure that takes a similar amount of time.
Some health insurers reimburse a doctor $60 to $90 for a visit including a
full-body skin cancer check that might take 10 minutes; for Botox injections to
the forehead, a doctor might receive $500 for 10 minutes, paid on the day of
According to a presentation for doctors from Allergan, the makers of Botox, a
medical dermatology practice might have a net income of $387,198 annually, but a
dermatologist who decreased focus on skin diseases while adding cosmetic medical
procedures to a practice could net $695,850 annually. The same material advises
doctors to “identify and segment high priority customers.”
People who wish to avoid a cosmetic-driven practice should simply seek
appointments with medical dermatologists who focus on skin diseases, said Dr.
Alexa B. Kimball, the vice chairwoman of dermatology at Massachusetts General
Hospital in Boston.
But many dermatologists now offer both medical treatment and beauty procedures,
which can confuse patients. And some doctors differentiate between patients —
either within their own practices or by treating cosmetic patients in
stand-alone facilities called medical spas.
Lecturers at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, held in
San Antonio in February, encouraged such segregation.
For example, Dr. Jason R. Lupton, a dermatologist in Del Mar, Calif., advised
young physicians to oblige cosmetic patients by giving them appointments within
seven days; empty appointment slots could later be filled with general
dermatology patients, he said.
In a follow-up telephone interview, Dr. Lupton said that, in his own practice,
he accommodated medical and cosmetic patients equally.
In an interview, Dr. Susan H. Weinkle, a dermatologist in Bradenton, Fla., said
that she typically spends more time with cosmetic patients because they come in
wanting to look better, the kind of amorphous desire that takes longer to
satisfy than defined medical problems. One of her staff members always calls a
beauty client to follow up, she said.
“It is very rare that you would call an acne patient and say, ‘How are you doing
with that new prescription?’ ” Dr. Weinkle said. “But with a cosmetic patient,
the consultant calls them the next day.”
This dual-class treatment system is not limited to the fanciest of private
practices. Even academic institutions like the University of Michigan Health
System in Ann Arbor are openly catering to beauty consumers. The Web site of the
dermatology department warns a medical patient seeking an appointment to obtain
a referral from a primary care physician “regardless of your type of insurance.”
A new profession — called aesthetic practice consultant — has emerged to advise
doctors in the care of cosmetic patients.
“Instead of laying on an exam table with a paper liner, you have them lay on a
sheet,” said Deborah Bish, a former nurse who works as a practice consultant in
Yardley, Pa. “You have to class it up for these patients.”
It makes economic sense that dermatologists competing for Botox dollars want to
create enticing environments, said Julie Cantor, a lawyer and medical school
graduate who teaches a course in medical ethics at the law school of the
University of California, Los Angeles. But Ms. Cantor said research was needed
to determine whether such environmental changes alter a doctor’s behavior with
“If you really started treating patients differently based on their ability to
pay out of pocket, that’s a real problem,” Ms. Cantor said. “People who want
their wrinkles fixed to go to a wedding should not be treated better than those
who have psoriasis.”
Dr. Richey, the Chico, Calif., dermatologist, said that in his practice, the
attention to cosmetic patients had no bearing on the treatment of medical
patients; he maintains daily walk-in slots for medical patients with urgent skin
problems, and many of his patients visit both sides of his practice.
“I don’t believe in differentiating,” Dr. Richey said.
Nonetheless, some medical patients said that they believed other dermatologists
brushed off their medical concerns in favor of marketing cosmetic procedures.
Melissa Bundy, a health communications manager in Atlanta, said that several
years ago she went to a dermatologist who seemed more interested in selling face
treatments than in conducting a thorough skin cancer examination. She has since
“Cosmetic things, it’s a really great business,” Ms. Bundy said. “But it really
does seem to be at the expense of people like me getting the medical services
that we are looking for.”
Since its debut last fall, “Gossip Girl” has always been more than a
television series about its overt subject, the social machinations of Manhattan
It has also presented a cavalcade of fashion, its primary viewership of
teenagers and young women tuning in not only for the plots, but also to render
judgment on the clothes. The extravagant wardrobes of the stars — a clash of
piped blazers, tiny kilts, dueling plaids and festoons of jewelry — have
inspired countless posts on fan Web sites, and magazine features about the
Now the show’s sense of style is having a broader impact, in the retail
marketplace. Merchants, designers and trend consultants say that “Gossip Girl,”
which is in summer reruns on the CW network before returning Sept. 1, just in
time for back-to-school shopping, is one of the biggest influences on how young
Fans stride into boutiques bearing magazine tear sheets that feature members of
the cast and ask for their exact outfits. Or they order scoop-neck tops and hobo
bags by following e-commerce links from the show’s Web site.
“The show has had a profound influence on retail,” said Stephanie Solomon, the
fashion director for Bloomingdale’s, adding that it appeals not just to
teenagers but also to women in their 20s, the daughters and the younger sisters
of the generation that made “Sex and the City” requisite viewing for aspiring
Although the series has had only middling success in the ratings, in stylistic
terms it “may well be the biggest influence in the youth culture market,” said
Stephanie Meyerson, a trend spotter for Stylesight, a trend forecasting company.
The show has given an unexpected mass appeal to patrician staples like crested
blazers, layered polo shirts and kilts. When cooler days approach this fall,
some retailers are predicting a run on argyle sweaters, knee socks and high
Thanks to the point-and-click shopping on its Web site and the fees it charges
some brands to be featured in the series, “Gossip Girl” has been able to profit
from its power to generate trends. It is not the first show to collect revenues
from product tie-ins, but it probably is the first to have been conceived, in
part, as a fashion marketing vehicle.
“We tried to launch trends from the get-go,” said Eric Daman, the show’s costume
designer, whose résumé includes a stretch working with Patricia Field on
costumes for “Sex and the City.”
Now some fall designer collections will also bear a “Gossip Girl” influence, a
trend first seen in February on the New York runways, when the series ignited “a
pretty huge resurgence of ritzy, preppy and collegiate looks,” said Amy Astley,
the editor of Teen Vogue, citing punky school-girl styles from Marc by Marc
Jacobs and Henry Holland, and crested blazers at Ruffian, among others.
Stefani Greenspan, a New York designer whose youth-oriented line, Priorities, is
sold at Macy’s, Dillard’s and Bloomingdale’s, acknowledges that “Gossip Girl”
was “definitely part of my inspiration” for a line of trim blazers lined in
men’s tie fabric, oversized cardigans and ruffled plaid shirts with gold
“I like that whole upscale collegiate feeling, mixed with a pair of Louboutins,”
Ms. Greenspan said. Sales at her eight-year-old company have doubled in the year
since “Gossip Girl” made its debut, she said.
In its 18 original episodes through May 19, the series attracted an average of
about 2.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. But its clout as
a cultural and shopping influence is amplified by the Web, including the show’s
own site, which lets viewers identify the brand of the clothes and accessories
in each episode and click through to buy them.
“We probably have 50 percent more of our traffic — close to one million viewers
each month — going into ‘Gossip Girl’ than into any other show,” said Travis
Schneider, the founder of StarBrand Media, which handles the e-commerce
connections for the series, along with other shows and films including “She’s
the Man” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
Covet the top that the character Serena van der Woodsen wears in Episode 12?
It’s made by Generra, available for $68, according to the links from the CW Web
site — or it was, before it and many other items seen on the show sold out.
Mr. Daman, the costume designer, conducted his fashion research at private
schools in Manhattan.
“I saw how edgy those girls were, how forward,” he said. “They wore their school
uniforms a little shorter, a little tricked out, definitely tailored to fit them
perfectly, and they took liberties through their tights and bags.”
The show is a soap opera about the indulgences of super-rich teenagers, whether
drugs, sex or Balenciaga, as told by the unseen Gossip Girl of the title, who
blogs about the other characters. Devotees generally fall into two camps: those
taken with the worldly nonchalance of Serena (Blake Lively), the show’s queen
bee, and others fixated on the fussier style of Blair Waldorf (Leighton
Meester), who is given to layering on brooches, pearls, scarves, a shrilly
colorful blazer and patent leather pumps, topped with a frilly headband.
Rachel Grinney, the manager of Intermix in Washington, part of a chain of hip
boutiques, said many of her young customers scour the store for variations on
Serena’s haute bohemian mix of lithe leather jackets with loose-fitting T-shirts
and knee-high boots.
Purists dismiss Blair’s look as visual clutter (“You don’t see headbands worn
with brooches and necklaces,” scoffed one 16-year-old in the December issue of
Teen Vogue), but admirers praise the show’s relative sophistication. “It
represents a stylistic departure,” said Sari Sloane, the vice president for
fashion merchandising of the 24-store Intermix chain, “a move away from a
Hollywood look that was very casual and improvised, to something more polished,
more big-city chic.”
Some like the deft mingling of mass and class, through a smorgasbord of
merchandise culled from stores like Barneys New York, progressive boutiques like
Opening Ceremony in downtown Manhattan and cheap chic chains like Urban
Outfitters. “The style is not alienating,” Ms. Meyerson said. “Girls can look at
these characters and feel like they can emulate them.”
Grown-up women, too. Leigh Luttrell, 26, who works for an advertising agency in
New York, would like to buy a party frock with a plunging back she recently saw
on the show. “I loved that style; I’ve actually been looking for it,” Ms.
The series has become a profitable showcase for certain designers. “Do you like
my new Nanette Lepore?” a character inquired in one episode. Ms. Lepore, a New
York designer, reports that “within days after one of our dresses appears, the
store gets calls.”
“Younger girls come in,” she added, “they know which piece was featured and they
look for it.”
Ms. Lepore said she did not pay to have her brand mentioned or be included in
the wardrobe, although some brands do, said Paul McGuire, the vice president of
network communication for the CW.
The designer Tory Burch, already a favorite with the private-school crowd, has
found that having an item on the show “translates to sales,” she said.
“We have girls coming in with magazine tear sheets of Blake Lively or Leighton
Meester, from location shootings or from everyday life,” Ms. Burch said.
But even those fans have some qualms. Julia Sledge, 26, an administrative
assistant in New York, who wears a mix of Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Taylor
and Theory, and is a fan of “Gossip Girl,” said the fashions could strain
credulity. “Sometime you see these girls from Brooklyn carrying Valentino bags
that cost $3,000,” she said. “That makes the show a little irritating.”
Friend of Madonna, Stella and Agyness.
Editor of the magazine that persuades
to take their clothes off.
Katie Grand has come a long way
who dreamt of editing Vogue.
Lynn Barber meets
an icon of cool
Sunday July 6, 2008
Katie Grand recently spent £2,000 on dry-cleaning all her clothes, because she'd
found moths in the house. The reason it cost £2,000 to dry-clean her clothes was
because she has kept every garment she has ever owned since the age of 15. When
her last house was completely submerged in clothes, she started putting some of
them in storage ... until she realised she was paying £250 a month in storage
fees and that it would be cheaper just to buy a bigger house. So a year ago she
bought an enormous house, in Tufnell Park, where she lives with her boyfriend
Steve Mackey, bass player with Pulp, two guinea pigs, and her fashion archives.
The sitting room is entirely lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves containing
bound volumes of Arena, Blitz, Dazed & Confused, Elle, i-D, The Face, Harper's
Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and British, American, Italian and French Vogue. Upstairs,
one room is devoted to shoes and handbags, with dozens of matching shoeboxes
with photos on the outside, but also great overflowing piles of shoes and boots
not yet filed. Then there is the clothes room, which contains 10 rails, tightly
hung with at least 500 garments, arranged in alphabetical order, A for Alaia, B
for Balenciaga, C for Chanel, but also G for Gap and W for Warehouse because
those were some of the first clothes she bought. There is also a rail of vintage
clothes (Zandra Rhodes, Ossie Clark) and a whole rail of Prada. But the room is
already full, so Grand thinks soon she will have to institute a two-tier system
or, of course, buy an even bigger house.
She can afford to do this because she is known in the fashion industry as
Katie-Grand-a-Minute. This is an exaggeration, but she admits after a bit of
arm-twisting, that she earns £3,000-4,000 a day as a fashion stylist and
consultant, and at present works 30-40 days a year for Louis Vuitton, about 30
days for Loewe, and another 30 days for a big Italian name. (She also works
about 20 days a year for Giles Deacon but does that for free because he is an
old friend.) This is all in addition to her day job, which is editor-in-chief of
POP, the drop-dead cool magazine she founded in 2000. But that, she says, pays
almost nothing - it takes up 70 per cent of her time, and produces only five per
cent of her income.
With this formidable fashion background, I was expecting Katie Grand to be,
well, grand, or at least terrifyingly glossy. On the contrary, she seems as
fresh and unpolished as a schoolgirl. She wears no make-up, uses no beauty
products (not even moisturiser), has frizzy hair and big gaps in her teeth and
speaks with a Birmingham accent. She is 37 but seems much younger. She invited
me to POP's office in Clerkenwell to meet her 'Popettes' - the editorial
assistants who double as models for the magazine - and also Clara who turned out
to be the office rabbit. Clara was hopping round the floor eating Ryvita; the
Popettes, clad variously in torn jeans, sequined tops and gladiator sandals,
were eating Ryvita at their desks. Grand clapped her hands and announced
'editorial meeting' and the Popettes gathered round her, giggling. She said she
wanted them to 'think the Queen', and, after more giggling and conferring, they
volunteered to go to Buckingham Palace, dressed as members of the Royal Family,
and pose with the guardsmen. Then they all broke into song, 'They're changing
guards at Buckingham Palace. Christopher Robin went down with Alice' and dashed
off. It was the quickest editorial meeting I have ever attended.
Given the playpen atmosphere, it's astonishing that POP ever comes out, let
alone that it's as slick, professional and successful as it is. It was launched
as a twice-yearly with a print run of 70-80,000 copies. It now comes out three
times a year - Grand is hoping to push that to four - and has a circulation of
125,000. With typical modesty, she says it's all thanks to Mark Frith, ex-editor
of Heat, giving her good advice on cover lines. But of course the covers are
brilliant too. For her first cover she photographed a group of her friends - but
they happened to be Stella McCartney, Luella Bartley, Liberty Ross and Phoebe
Philo - lounging around in their underwear. Then for the fourth issue Stella
McCartney suggested they should have Madonna and rang Madonna who said yes right
away. She arrived on time, agreed to everything the POP team suggested, posed
for seven hours and parted friends - 'It was the most smooth-running thing we've
ever done.' Then Victoria Beckham said she'd like to work with POP and Grand
agreed because 'It seemed like the right moment - she was the most famous woman
on the planet at the time.' And then she got Kylie, whom she'd worked with for
years, and Drew Barrymore, whom she also knew, 'So there was a certain
casualness about how it all evolved. Nothing ever felt that uptight.'
But of course it meant that Grand was then on the treadmill of having to find a
celebrity for every cover, which introduced her to the horrible business of
'celebrity-wrangling'. She'd never had to do it before, 'and you end up in these
great big pickles - one was so bad I was just crying all the time. A friend had
instigated a shoot with a big, big Hollywood celebrity, but it was never in
writing - and it should have been - that it had to be a cover. So I sent off
this email saying, "Really great pix but we've gone with a different cover". And
just got the biggest tirade back. The fallout was horrendous and it was a big
Hollywood agent who will never work with us again and at the time I was just
desperately trying to explain to someone, without sounding like a complete
idiot, "I'm really sorry, no one told me how to do this". It was a hard way to
learn and now I'm really careful that everything is in writing and we work with
an agency for all of our celebrity stuff.'
But, she says, it's still very difficult to predict which covers will sell and
which won't. 'Kate Moss was our bestselling issue ever but the Liz Hurley issue
- which took a phenomenal amount of work - didn't actually sell that well,
although it got tons of press coverage. [They photographed Hurley just six weeks
after her baby was born.] So you get a bit caught up in the hype, and then the
sales figures come in and you think, "Oh that's a shame!"'
When I met Grand she'd just been to New York for a POP shoot with the art
photographer Ryan McGinley and model Agyness Deyn. She'd never worked with
McGinley but he said he'd like to photograph Agyness, whom of course Grand knew,
and Grand suggested they should do some nudes, because Agyness had never done a
nude shoot, and McGinley agreed. 'And then a week later he sent me this
reference photograph of kids falling off a fire escape - it was from the 1950s I
think - and said he'd really like to have her falling. And naked. So we ended up
with two stunt men and Agyness jumping naked from five storeys on to a huge huge
crash mat. It was incredible.' Soon afterwards she did a shoot with Grace Jones,
who arrived six hours late, but Grand was expecting that - 'We did her for Dazed
& Confused about 10 years ago and then she was two days and eight hours late, so
we kind of knew what we were getting into. But she was amazing, when she came.'
Then Grand flew off to Madrid to do some styling for Loewe, and straight on to
Milan for the menswear shows.
She works nonstop - she has only had three weekends off this year. But she likes
hard work. She used to be a big drinker in her twenties - 'loud and obnoxious
and falling over' - and found, when she stopped drinking in her thirties, that
she had so many more hours to fill.
What does Katie Grand have that makes her worth £4,000 a day? She giggles at the
question and, typically, deflects it with a joke. 'I've got a great collection
of CDs which always helps when you're preparing a fashion show. At 3am everyone
likes to hear some Dolly Parton - that's always a winner - and I'll never forget
Miuccia [Prada] spinning round to Kylie.' But seriously? Obviously she must have
a great eye, but what else? 'I suppose I've got a certain point of view that
people like. And I'm crazy about shoes and bags and want every look to have a
bag, and I love working with people on design. And I'm really quick at cutting
to the chase. A lot of creative people tend to overthink and procrastinate and
need to analyse things, and when you're working with big designers and you've
got a show next Sunday, you have to say, "I like that, don't like that, let's do
that, let's do it in grey".' In addition, I would guess, she is valued for her
energy, her puppyish enthusiasm, her willingness to give other people the credit
and the fact that she is fun to be around.
Her obsession with fashion started when she was 12, and her father brought her
Vogue and The Face to read when she was ill in bed. 'I was really nerdy. And
then kind of overnight I can remember clearly thinking, "I just want to be
cool".' She grew up in Birmingham where her father was a research scientist at
the university (the only Birmingham university scientist, she says, to wear Jil
Sander) and her mother was a primary-school teacher. They separated when she was
seven - her mother went to hospital to have some cartilage removed and never
came back - and Grand stayed with her father, though she still saw her mother
every day after school.
She failed her 11-plus - 'I was always useless at exams' - and went to 'quite a
rough school where everyone was very kind of street-savvy so you end up with a
bit of that. And my dad was very liberal and used to let boys sleep over, so me
and my friend Jo were very social from quite a young age.' Her father meanwhile
had a succession of girlfriends but eventually settled with one called Dianne,
who encouraged Katie's interest in fashion and took her on shopping trips to
London. 'I was quite relieved when he settled with Dianne - though for the first
few months when she moved in, I kind of smashed lots of things.'
She also stopped eating. 'From 15 to 25 I didn't really eat much. I just wanted
to be thinner, but I couldn't get under eight stone no matter what I did. I
would eat two tablespoons of muesli a day with two tablespoons of water - I
still can't eat muesli to this day. And then I'd maybe have two fruit pastilles
about five, and then three satsumas and on a really bad day I'd have a banana. I
can remember meals I had during those years because they were so rare.' And -
presumably because of the extreme diet - she has never had periods, ever. But
that doesn't matter, she says, because she has never wanted to have children.
She has been with her boyfriend Steve Mackey for 10 years but 'he doesn't want
to get married and I don't want to have children'. As the only child of two only
children, she is adamant that the Grand line stops with her.
When she was 17, she wrote to Liz Tilberis, the editor of Vogue, asking how she
could become editor one day. Tilberis advised her to go to Saint Martins so she
went on an art foundation course at Bournville, Birmingham, where she was
student of the year, and on to Saint Martins, where she made good friends with
Stella McCartney and Giles Deacon. But she found the course disappointing and
was happy to drop out when she met the photographer Rankin. He asked her to come
and help on a magazine he was doing called Eat Me, and then on Dazed & Confused,
which he started with Jefferson Hack. She says she learnt a lot from Rankin:
'He's very positive and he always had that mentality of do-it-yourself rather
than work for someone else. That spirit of Oh let's just do it, let's have an
exhibition, let's start a magazine.' They had an affair for a year or so, but
she carried on working for Dazed & Confused for seven years, with no budget, no
salary, but limitless opportunities to learn, and to show off her talents as a
Her big commercial breakthrough came when the Italian leather goods house
Bottega Veneta decided they wanted to give themselves 'more of a fashion edge'
and hired her to revamp their image. She got Giles Deacon to design for them,
and 'We made a big splash with the fashion shows and BV was talked about as
being this very cool label all of a sudden, and that brought me to the attention
of Mrs Prada, who said, "Come and do something fun for me". It was an amazing
opportunity and I think that was when people started talking about me as a
Miuccia Prada, she says reverently, is the most inspiring person she's ever
worked for. 'She is so bright, so smart, and so good at her job. Any suggestion
she ever made would always make something so much better. She's just an
amazingly smart woman with impeccable taste.' So why did Katie stop working for
her? 'She stopped working with me, unfortunately. I think she got bored with me.
I was due to go and shoot the Miu Miu campaign and I got a phone call saying
they'd decided to use a different stylist. So I cried a bit. I still see her
socially and still adore her and she's always very sweet to me, but I think she
was bored. She kind of gets over people. But it's just horribly upsetting to be
at the receiving end.'
Meanwhile, Emap, now Bauer, (Heat, Grazia, FHM) had lured Katie from Dazed &
Confused to be fashion director of The Face in 1999, with the promise that she
could eventually start her own magazine. She launched POP in 2000 and it made
money right from the start, largely because it had such low overheads, whereas
The Face quietly expired under the weight of its own payroll (it had 25 staff at
one point). Katie chose to put almost all her budget into production and very
little into salaries - she used to joke that she was the lowest-paid person at
Emap. 'But I'd much rather keep the standard high as it is, than that I got paid
more. That's how we get everyone to shoot for us - because the printing is
beautiful. Often the photographers are using their own money, so you feel you
owe it to them to print as well as possible.' And bright young things flock to
work for POP for peanuts because they know it will look good on their CVs and
eventually translate into the sort of grand-a-minute advertising gigs that will
pay their mortgages.
Last year Mulberry tried to hire Katie Grand as creative director and she had a
long think about it but in the end decided that, 'when push came to shove, it
didn't feel like the right thing for me to do, because I never felt I was
particularly good at design. I love working with people who are very very
talented - Marc [Jacobs] is amazing, Giles [Deacon] is amazing, Miuccia [Prada]
of course is amazing - they're just so much better than I am. I recognised at
art school that I might be adequate - but there's a ton of adequate designers
out there. And the problem for designers like Giles is that the actual
designing, the fun bit, is probably less than 10 per cent of how they spend
their day. Whereas the stylist can come in and just create this whirlwind -
"Ooh, can we do it in red?" - and then you leave. So I always thought being a
stylist was a much better job!'
But her first love is still magazines. She has abandoned her initial ambition to
become editor of Vogue, because 'I realised a couple of years ago that, much as
I love Vogue and W, the kind of magazines that are closest to my heart are the
style magazines, like The Face, i-D, Interview. I find Interview magazine really
inspiring - not that I'm comparing myself to Andy Warhol! - and I suppose I want
to build POP into something equally iconic, with covers people remember.'
What else, apart from that? Does she have any wild ambitions? 'Ooh, that's hard.
I'd love to meet the Queen! I keep saying to Giles if ever you get an OBE, I'd
better be coming with you!' No, seriously, what does she dream of doing? 'I
don't know. That's a really hard question. You know when you're in your twenties
and working out what you want to do with your life, you say OK, by the time I'm
30 I'd like to work for Prada, edit a magazine, buy a house - and I ticked all
those boxes quite quickly. But during my thirties I suppose I've solidified what
I started in my twenties and I want to just carry on working with nice people
doing nice things. I'm not unhappy with what I'm doing. But I really don't
July 5, 2008
The Wall Street Journal
By RACHEL DODES
On a recent morning, Romualdo Pelle was in his Madeira, Ohio, shop outside
Cincinnati, pinning and tucking a dress for Carol Armstrong, the wife of the
astronaut Neil Armstrong. Mr. Pelle has done alterations for the Armstrongs for
more than a decade. Mr. Pelle's wife, Maria, makes homemade sauce with Italian
sausage for the family.
"Everybody knows me," says the 73-year-old Mr. Pelle, one of a dwindling
generation of "master tailors." His A-list clients include Henry Heimlich, the
inventor of the famed antichoking maneuver, whose son recently bought him a
cummerbund and white tie from Mr. Pelle's shop for Father's Day; James
Zimmerman, the ex-chairman of the company that is now Macy's Inc., who recently
had Mr. Pelle make a silk-cashmere coat; and Peter Frampton, the 1970s rocker
who brought his wedding tuxedo to Mr. Pelle to be restyled.
Wiry and spry with thin, long, fingers, Mr. Pelle has done most of his life's
work by hand, from measuring clients and drawing patterns to cutting and sewing
fabric. Like most master tailors, Mr. Pelle, when he constructs a suit in house,
uses a sewing machine only for the long seams on the arms and legs. His garments
match his clients' measurements to within a quarter of an inch. By understanding
how his clients stand -- this one with an arched back, that one with rounded
shoulders -- he crafts clothes that flatter their bodies, no matter the shape.
The painstaking method of the master tailor, or "bench tailor," as they are
sometimes known, is a dying art in the U.S. There are only about a dozen master
tailors left who are members of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association,
the industry trade group, down from several hundred in the 1950s. The few
hundred master tailors who aren't members are probably well past retirement age,
says Mark Metzger, the association's president. The group had to cancel its
annual "lunch with the masters" two years ago because most of the masters
couldn't make the trip to Las Vegas.
Because tailoring is an apprentice-based occupation, there are no tests to take
or other official credentials. But it takes years to learn the skills required
to design and create an entire garment by hand. Traditionally, training often
began before the age of 10. Young apprentices first learned how to sew,
"basting" fabric with hand stitches to a canvas foundation. Then they learned to
measure, then to draw patterns on pieces of canvas. They learned how to cut,
with the fabric properly oriented. On a pin-striped suit, for example, a master
tailor will line every stripe up perfectly. Apprentices master trousers before
jackets, as pants are easier to construct. It took Mr. Pelle 10 years of
apprenticing before he made his first coat.
Behind the master tailor's disappearance are economic shifts. Italy, the leading
source of master tailors in the U.S. after World War II, has a stronger economy
today, and most Italian tailors can earn more money at home. In Italy, young
people don't want to put in the years to become an apprentice under a master.
"Becoming a doctor takes less time," says the tailor association's Mr. Metzger.
At the same time, factory-made custom clothing keeps getting better. Retailers
such as Brooks Brothers and Saks Fifth Avenue offer high-quality made-to-measure
services, mostly by having an individual's measurements plugged into a computer
to generate a pattern, rather than hand-drawing it and hand-cutting and -sewing
the fabric. Over the past 10 years or so, Mr. Pelle himself has been outsourcing
this work on most of his suits, as demand has outstripped his ability to keep
up. He still designs and draws patterns, but he relies on a factory to cut and
sew the fabric pieces. He puts the finishing touches onto the garment by hand in
Some machine-made custom garments are almost as well made as those from the
hands of a master. But they can't compete with the personal relationships
tailors forge with their clients. Mr. Pelle's customers appreciate that he
remembers everyone who comes into the store and doesn't ask too many questions.
Mr. Frampton, the British-American musician known for his "talk box" guitar
effects, had Mr. Pelle redesign his expensive ready-to-wear wedding tuxedo back
in 1996. "It was made lousy," Mr. Pelle says. He also rented tuxedos and did
prewedding alterations for Mr. Frampton's father, brother and groomsmen. Mr.
Frampton came back to show Mr. Pelle his wedding pictures and later invited him
to a concert in Cleveland, offering him front-row seats and backstage passes.
Mr. Pelle was too busy working to make it. ("What else is new?" he says.)
"We'll have to get him to come this summer," says Mr. Frampton, who is set to
play a concert in Cincinnati in August. "Romualdo is one of those wonderful
characters," he says. "Once you've met him, you feel like you've known him all
Each master tailor develops his own style. Mr. Pelle is known for classic
Italian tailoring with English details, such as soft, natural shoulders; his
jackets taper a bit at the waist and often have an extra "ticket pocket" at the
waist. His hand-constructed men's suits start at about $3,000 -- which is less
expensive than many ready-to-wear suits from Italy; his factory-sewn suits start
Mr. Pelle's biggest tailoring feat occurred two years ago, with a wedding vest
and pants he created for a local golf pro, Tyler Kangas, to wear. When the
unfinished garments didn't arrive from the factory in time, Mr. Pelle stayed up
all night to hand-sew replacements; he sent an employee to hand-deliver them to
the bride's mother on the morning of her flight to the wedding in Aruba. "It's
funny now, but it was quite an event," Mr. Kangas's wife, Kelly, says. "We built
a good relationship with them."
"I can do almost anything," Mr. Pelle says. "And I don't like to say no."
Mr. Pelle sold his business 10 years ago, but until recently, he was still
working five days a week, arriving at the shop at 8 a.m. and leaving at 6 p.m.
Now, he has cut his work week down to four days. At 5 p.m., he drinks a glass of
red wine -- the secret to his youthful appearance, he says.
Mr. Pelle says he learned to work hard during his childhood in southern Italy.
When he was 4 years old, he survived a famine by drinking the breast milk of a
woman who lived more than a mile away. His family hid in a cave for nine months
during World War II. When he was 8, Mr. Pelle began learning the tailor's craft
from his godfather.
Emigrating from Italy in 1960, Mr. Pelle settled in Blanchester, Ohio, to be
near his wife's family. He landed a job at a small Cincinnati tailoring shop and
soon moved up to Pogue's, a now-defunct department store, where he made $2 an
hour. Within five years, he had saved $1,500 -- enough to open his own business
in what is now the 12-foot-by-12-foot pressing room of his shop. High-profile
clients soon came his way, including the billionaire financier Carl Lindner Jr.
Mr. Pelle began thinking about selling the business 12 years ago. He'd tried
persuading family members to work with him, but nobody was interested. He had a
few offers, but none of the buyers had the right mix of passion and
entrepreneurial skills. Mr. Pelle got the feeling he'd found the right candidate
while fitting a wedding tuxedo for Trevor Furbay, a salesman for a Baltimore
manufacturer that produced some of Mr. Pelle's designs. Mr. Furbay was from
Ohio, had retail experience and was excited about the future of the tailoring
Four months later, Mr. Furbay decided to buy the business. Mr. Pelle agreed to
continue working there for a three-year transition. But the two men grew so
close that Mr. Pelle stayed on well past the agreed-upon end date.
"I still am quick," Mr. Pelle says. "When I lose my touch, I will know."
Mr. Furbay has fixed up the store, adding antique fixtures such as wood hat
blocks and old alligator suitcases. Annual sales, including those from his
wife's women's boutique upstairs, are now about $2 million. He has added
ready-to-wear brands such as Bill's Khakis, Ralph Lauren and a new label called
Crittenden. When Mr. Pelle first saw an $895 Crittenden jacket, he admired the
delicate hand-stitching on the long sleeve seams, something few ready-to-wear
makers bother to do anymore. He pegged the suit as made in Italy and was shocked
when Mr. Furbay told him it was from China -- hand-finished but machine-made.
"He couldn't believe it was possible that anyone other than an Italian could do
that," Mr. Furbay says.
Now, Mr. Furbay is worried about his mentor's eventual retirement. He readily
admits he'll never have Mr. Pelle's charm. "He is like my godfather," Mr. Furbay
says. "Where will I find someone like this?"
September 9, 2007
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:36 a.m. ET
The New York Times
NEW YORK (AP) -- Ralph Lauren took a well-deserved extended bow Saturday
night as he both presented and celebrated his 40th anniversary collection.
Lauren sauntered down the runway at a tent erected just outside the Conservatory
Gardens in Manhattan's Central Park to Frank Sinatra's ''The Best Is Yet To
Come.'' A crowd that included Sarah Jessica Parker, Martha Stewart, Diane Sawyer
and Barbara Walters gave the designer a standing ovation. Fellow top-tier
designers Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg and Vera Wang,
who once worked for Lauren, also were at the black-tie event.
The theme of the spring collection, debuting during New York Fashion Week, was a
day at the races. Some models wore oversized hats with garden-party dresses --
one of the best being a pale-blue floral printed silk plisse gown with a halter
neckline and ruffled jabot -- while others wore menswear-style jackets, ascots
and tailored trousers. Spatlike shoes completed the look.
The jockeys were even represented with crystal-embellished jodhpurs, a yellow
jersey dress with an equestrian print, and a bright pink equestrian-print
taffeta jacket with splashes of blue, white, green and yellow, and a peplum at
Spring '08 features more colors than Lauren has shown in years.
The clothes, however, were secondary to recognizing Lauren's long tenure at the
top of an industry always looking for the next big thing.
Lauren is one of the ''nicest, warmest and loveliest'' in the fashion world,
said von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
''He is so successful because he lives his fantasy with such passion. I just
love him,'' she said.
After the last gown -- a slinky and stunning silver chain-beaded gown --
disappeared from the runway and Lauren had his moment in the spotlight, the back
wall opened to reveal an elegant and elaborate party set up in the Conservatory
Garden itself. This was the first private event ever held at the Gardens by a
A sprawling fountain in the middle picked up the light from the dozen
chandeliers hanging from arched arborways on the terrace and from the hundreds
of candles on the tables.
''Like a Henry James character, he (Lauren) is the last true idealist about
America's imagination of itself,'' said Harold Koda, curator at the Costume
Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ''That makes him the greatest
ambassador of American style.''
September 8, 2007
Filed at 4:13 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Inside the sprawling tents at New York Fashion Week on
Saturday, beauty was found in the smallest details.
Old-fashioned dressmaking touches, such as pintucks and pleats, showed up in
multiple collections. Macy's fashion director Nicole Fischelis said she thought
customers would appreciate the details in the Max Azria collection, such as the
pintucks on the front of a pretty sheath dress or the ruffles added to a blazer
at the hip.
Catherine Malandrino displayed a knack for artistry -- and drama -- with a
neckline decorated with fabric beads that looked like jasmine buds. At J.
Mendel, presented Friday, designer Gilles Mendel is known to hand-pleat gowns
Later Saturday night comes one of the anticipated highlights of the week, a
black-tie dinner celebrating Ralph Lauren's 40 years in fashion.
New York Fashion Week lasts eight days, previewing the spring-summer looks of 60
designers for fashion editors, retail buyers and stylists.
Catherine Malandrino's spring collection offered a garden's variety of looks,
all rooted in the colors of tangerine, olive and geranium that the designer said
evoke the peacefulness she associates with a small town in the south of France.
A white blouse with a neckline decorated with fabric beads that looked like
jasmine buds paired with an organza skirt with scalloped tiers showed her
mastery of handicraft, and a green gown with a neckline adorned with beads
mimicking lemons, limes and grapes showed her sense of humor.
But she might have crossed the line into too avant garde to be wearable with
overwrought balloon sleeves on jackets that she paired with slim pencil skirts.
No one would want to sit next to someone wearing them, especially at these
crowded fashion shows.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the Lacoste label, creative director Christophe
Lemaire looked back at the crocodile's life and created a path for its future in
the spring collection.
The brand has its roots in country club sports such as golf and tennis, and
Lemaire found new inspiration in the spirit of Basque region of southwestern
France, home to the golf club Chantaco.
The white outfits that opened the show -- a white blazer with a white ribbon
edge and ankle-length trim white pants on the man, and a white blazer paired
with a crisp A-line skirt on the woman -- surely would have fit the Chantaco
dress code then and now.
Lacoste also offered high-waisted gingham shorts and super-short tennis dresses
for women and colorful flat-front pants rolled into a tapered shape above the
ankle for men.
The best visual from the show was the finale: a rainbow of brightly colored
polos, tennis shorts, bathing suits and cover-ups, representing the core of what
Lacoste is always likely to be.
Cynthia Rowley's fashion show is always a trip. This time around, she sent the
models down the runway on bicycles -- high heels and all.
Rowley is known to add a little kitsch to her collections -- biking and summer
sports seemed to be on her mind on Friday. There was a tennis frock and a
Long T-shirt dresses were among the standout items. ''Ringlet'' dresses with
loops of fabric as the embellishment didn't fare so well.
When the looks turned dressier, Rowley turned a chain-link print -- surely
inspired by a bicycle chain -- into a surprisingly serviceable canvas for
Even the pantsuits were looser and more relaxed, and models wore them with
rolled legs so they could hop on the bike just like a green-minded commuter.
The jewelry featured in the show all came from eBay, another nod to
Many of the items were retro painted enamel, and will be donated to 7th on Sale,
the fashion industry's fundraising initiative for HIV and AIDS organizations.
They'll go on sale Nov. 15 at
A woman's lingerie is not supposed to be seen by the outside world. Apparently,
Max Azria thinks that's a waste of often feminine, delicate garments.
Azria turned a slew of lingerie looks into springtime outfits for his runway
show held Friday, with an emphasis on dainty slip dresses and silky charmeuse
fabric. In the audience were Nicole Richie, Molly Sims and Carrie Underwood.
Azria and his wife Lubov, who co-designs this more upscale collection than their
BCBG line, also favored the subtle earth-tone palette, with grays, taupes,
creams and blacks, adding blush and rose as accents.
There were a few outfits, though, that risked looking a little too much like
loungewear to be worn outside. Hammered satin blouses and cropped pants with
camisoles underneath come to mind.
November 30, 2006
The New York Times
By NATASHA SINGER
In her three years as an obstetrician and
gynecologist in Brooklyn, Dr. Ngozi Nwankpa-Keshinro delivered several hundred
babies, conducted several thousand pelvic exams and diagnosed everything from
infections to infertility. But this year, with a little additional training, she
has entered a new field: cosmetic medicine.
As one of the owners of a medical spa in Brooklyn that opened in January, she
has given dozens of clients Botox injections to relax their wrinkles and
Restylane injections to fill out their smile lines and plump their lips.
“The two fields are as alike as an apple and an orange,” Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro
said. “One can be lifesaving, while the other is not. But when you clear up
someone’s acne or facial hair, they are as grateful as if you delivered their
Cosmetic medicine also provides a more relaxing lifestyle, she said. “And it’s
Five years ago, cosmetic medicine was primarily the domain of plastic surgeons,
facial surgeons and dermatologists — medical school graduates who undergo
several years of training in facial skin and its underlying anatomy. But now
obstetricians, family practitioners and emergency room physicians are
gravitating to the beauty business, lured by lucrative cosmetic treatments that
require same-day payments because they are not covered by insurance and by a
medical practice without bothersome midnight emergency calls.
Dermacare Laser and Skin Care Clinics, for example, is one of the nation’s
largest medical-spa chains. It has 28 franchises run by 32 doctors, including 6
internists, 7 family physicians, 3 emergency room doctors, 2 urologists, 3
naturopaths, a chiropractor, an ophthalmologist and a psychiatrist, according to
the company’s Web site, dermacareusa.com.
There is also one dermatologist, a facial surgeon and another doctor whose
specialty is not listed. And there are five obstetrician-gynecologists,
including Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro and Dr. Oyenike E. Kilanko, her business partner,
whose Brooklyn spa is a Dermacare franchise.
Dermatologists and plastic surgeons refer to their new colleagues as “out of
scope” or “noncore” physicians, and they strongly object to the intrusion,
insisting that cosmetic medicine requires lengthy training.
But the dispute also has all the elements of a turf war, with specialists
reluctant to cede ground in a field in which Americans spend an estimated $12
billion a year.
“Dentists are doing Botox, and urologists are doing hair transplants and vein
removal,” said Dr. Ellen Gendler, a dermatologist in Manhattan who is a clinical
associate professor at New York University School of Medicine. “Everyone wants
to be a plasticologist.”
For their part, some doctors from other fields contend that the latest cosmetic
procedures, like facial injections and vein removal, are far less complicated
and risky than Caesarean sections or appendectomies and that the fundamentals
can be learned in continuing-education classes.
“We are all doctors with the same primary training whose education continues
after medical school by learning new techniques,” Dr. Kilanko said. “I know core
physicians don’t want noncore physicians like me in it, but dermatologists and
plastic surgeons can’t own aesthetic medicine by themselves.”
In the United States, all doctors with state medical licenses are allowed to
administer all kinds of treatments, regardless of their training. But after
residencies in specialties like ophthalmology or anesthesiology, doctors have
not commonly set up shop in fields far outside their expertise, administrators
at medical associations say.
That has been changing. Insurers and medical groups do not track what kinds of
doctors perform cosmetic medical procedures. But specialists and pharmaceutical
companies who make cosmetic medical products agree that more and more doctors
from other fields are joining in, with some incorporating beauty treatments into
their practices, and others opening medical spas.
MedSurge Advances, a Dallas company that trains doctors in beauty procedures and
sells them devices like lasers, said that in the last four years, it had helped
more than 300 doctors, including emergency room physicians, internists and
gynecologists, to go into cosmetic medicine.
The American Academy of Family Physicians, a national group that represents
94,000 family practitioners and medical students, has started offering courses
for its members on how to use Botox, facial fillers, lasers and chemical peels.
Dr. Larry S. Fields, the group’s chairman, who is a family physician in Ashland,
Ky., said that such “cash-upfront treatments help family doctors stay in
business at a time when Medicare is cutting reimbursements.”
Some see a danger in the trend, especially as nonspecialists move into
more-invasive cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation and liposuction.
“You can’t assume that everyone with a pilot’s license can fly a 747 as well as
a Piper Cub,” said Dr. Stephen H. Miller, president of the American Board of
Medical Specialties, an umbrella organization for the examining boards that
certify doctors after their residencies. Dr. Miller said certification confirmed
a doctor’s ability to deliver quality care in a specialty.
“When you use a generic medical license to practice other forms of medicine,” he
said, “there is an inherent danger to patient safety.”
Dr. Mark L. Jewell, a plastic surgeon in Eugene, Ore., who is a past president
of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, said the advent of
physicians from other fields was likely to confuse patients, who do not always
investigate a doctor’s training when looking for a cosmetic medical expert. Even
more confusing to consumers is that many nonspecialist physicians are marketing
themselves using terms like “cosmetic surgeon,” “aesthetic surgeon” and “laser
surgeon,” he said.
“Next thing you know, chiropractors will be doing liposuction,” Dr. Jewell said.
“And psychiatrists will be ‘head surgeons,’ giving you Restylane with your
Robert Huckels, vice president for marketing at MedSurge, said some
nonspecialists were turning to cosmetic medicine because they were tired of
heavy patient caseloads, long workweeks, high malpractice insurance premiums and
the paperwork and payment structure imposed by Medicaid and managed care.
But Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry
group, denied that managed care was the impetus. “These doctors are just looking
to generate new revenue streams,” Mr. Ghose said.
According to an annual survey of doctors’ incomes published in July in Modern
Healthcare magazine, family physicians earn $142,000 to $190,000 a year, while
emergency room physicians earn $180,000 to $262,000 and obstetricians earn
$219,000 to $302,000.
But doctors have increasingly been complaining about their income, particularly
as malpractice insurance costs have risen, Mr. Huckels said.
The average medical spa takes in $40,000 a month, with popular ones in big
cities taking in $100,000, he said.
“It works well for emergency room doctors seeking less stress and for
gynecologists who already have a ready-made female audience,” Mr. Huckels said.
Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro and Dr. Kilanko are board-certified
obstetrician-gynecologists who graduated from N.Y.U. School of Medicine. After
several years of working at hospitals — Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro at Brookdale
University Hospital and Medical Center and Dr. Kilanko, who is still practicing
at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, both in Brooklyn — they wanted to
open a practice. But Dr. Kilanko said the $160,000 they would each have to pay
yearly for malpractice insurance for obstetrics in New York was prohibitive.
The doctors, who both have young children, wanted to find a specialty that would
allow them to continue working in women’s health but spend more time with their
families, Dr. Kilanko said. They settled on cosmetic medicine, where they set
their own hours; malpractice insurance is costing them about $20,000 each this
year, Dr. Kilanko said.
“This is another part of women’s health that we can contribute to without
managed care telling us that they are going to pay us $90 per visit, regardless
of what gets done during the visit,” Dr. Kilanko said.
The two started their Dermacare franchise in August 2005, when they traveled to
the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz.
After a week of training at Dermacare, which included learning how to use
several kinds of lasers and injections, Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro and Dr. Kilanko
enrolled in a daylong training course on Botox and another on Restylane in New
York, they said.
In January, they opened their storefront spa on a bustling block of Atlantic
Avenue in a neighborhood of town houses. The spa has warm terra-cotta-colored
walls and wall-to-wall carpeting; the menu includes face peels, acne treatments
and laser hair removal.
Dr. Nwankpa-Keshinro said she expected the clinic to take in about $300,000 this
year but projected that revenues would reach $1 million within the next two
She said the doctors’ backgrounds enhance their ability to work with female
patients; they also treat men.
But Dr. Kilanko said she and her partner knew their limits. “We are introducing
these treatments for the everyday woman who wants to take care of her lips and
her frown lines,” Dr. Kilanko said. “If a woman wants her cheeks or chin
sculpted, I refer her to a plastic surgeon.”
Still, critics say treatments by physicians with one week of training cannot
compare in safety and efficacy with those performed by dermatologists and
Dr. Amy E. Newburger, a dermatologist in Scarsdale, N.Y., says she regularly
treats complications caused by noncore physicians. One recent patient, she
recalled, came in with a botched Botox treatment from an oncologist: one eyebrow
was almost an inch higher than the other.
“All the patient got was a wallet biopsy,” Dr. Newburger said. Dr. Alexa B.
Kimball, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, said
that while there were no studies specifically focusing on complications caused
by doctors from other fields who practice cosmetic medicine, there were ones
showing that other kinds of doctors make more mistakes diagnosing skin ailments
“When doctors practice out of their scope, you would anticipate problems to
arise from inadequate training,” Dr. Kimball said.
Dr. Kilanko said that in their first year of cosmetic practice, she and Dr.
Nwankpa-Keshinro have not seen complications among their patients except for
“maybe a couple of ulcerations in the skin, but no permanent scarring.” She said
that the doctors were as qualified and adept at performing cosmetic procedures
as were some dermatologists who did not focus on aesthetics in their residencies
and now study how to inject Botox at medical meetings.
Still, Dr. Kilanko said she understood the discomfort over physicians who
practice outside their board certification, and she objected to the suggestion
that a dermatologist might perform a Caesarean section after a day course in
“They would have no business performing a C-section,” she said. “But you can’t
compare the knowledge of the anatomy, level of difficulty and risk of
complications of a C-section with Restylane injections.”
Dr. Gendler, the Manhattan dermatologist, vehemently disagreed.
“They don’t think it’s brain surgery until they have a problem,” she said. “Then
the first thing they do is send the patient to a dermatologist.”
Revealed: UK fur imports at record levels,
'IoS' investigation shows
Top designers and celebrities
defy the anti-cruelty lobby
Published: 26 November 2006
The Independent on Sunday
By Jonathan Owen and Marie Woolf
Record numbers of Britons are buying real fur,
overturning decades of campaigning by activists who say substitutes should be
Sales of fur clothing have hit £500m for the first time, up 30 per cent on two
years ago, with £40m of new fur products being imported every year.
To the fury of the anti-cruelty lobby, the championing of real fur by
supermodels and top designers is sending sales soaring, with, say protesters,
young animals being clubbed and shot by hunters as a result.
The fashion designer Stella McCartney last night told The Independent on Sunday:
"The continuing use of fur is a real problem in the fashion industry, and there
is an issue with people assuming that fur trim is fake when most of it is real."
More than a decade after top models posed in placards with "I'd rather go naked
than wear fur", new figures show that sales of fur have risen by 30 per cent in
the past two years.
Figures compiled for the IoS by HM Customs and Revenue show that almost one
million tons of fur are being imported each year - and that the global market
for fur has hit almost £7bn.
Fendi, the luxury retailer, has led the move to "rebrand" fur, selling products
using dyed and shaved fur to make it look more appealing. Other top stores have
followed suit, with designers such as Julien Macdonald, Jean-Paul Gaultier, John
Galliano and Alexander McQueen staging shows with models in real fur.
The British Fur Traders Association said that sales of fur have risen by a third
in two years, while Hockley, a London furrier, is reporting a 45 per cent rise
in business. Concern over the comeback of fur in the UK is so great that the
RSPCA is preparing to mount a major new anti-fur campaign early next year.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals blamed the fashion industry for
fuelling the rise, saying catwalk shows were making fur seem acceptable to the
public. "Fur-bearing animals are forced to endure life in cruel cages and are...
slammed against concrete floors and skinned alive," said a spokesman for the
Such is the scale of alarm at the rise in fur use that the Government is moving
to ban all imports of harp and hooded seal products into the UK.
This has been prompted by a sharp increase in the past year in the amount of
seal skins imported into Britain. Official Customs figures show that the amount
of seal pelt imports rose from 3.6 tons in 2004 to 4.1 tons last year. In 2004,
the UK imported almost a third of the value of all Canadian seal skins into the
EU. Protests continue over the Canadian seal hunt, where hundreds of thousands
of animals are clubbed or shot each year. Campaigners claim that some seals are
still alive when they are skinned.
We are buying more fur than ever.
Seal skin is
now so popular
that the Government is to ban imports.
The suffering this trade causes to animals
is as great as ever.
So why can't we
do without it?
Jonathan Owen reports
Published: 26 November 2006
The Independent on Sunday
When five of the world's biggest supermodels
posed with an "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" placard in 1994, it was the
high point of the anti-fur campaign. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy
Turlington, Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson had achieved celebrity status,
and their influence had others queuing up to join the anti-fur protests. The act
of wearing fur became a social crime and those deemed guilty risked being abused
by strangers in the street.
How things have changed. Naomi, Cindy, Elle and Claudia have returned to
promoting fur, with just Christy remaining true to her word. Fashion is
notoriously fickle and the famous slogan "It takes 40 dumb animals to make a fur
coat... but only one to wear it" is being disregarded by many designers and
models. Britain's fur industry, almost driven out of existence in the 1990s, is
back - and thriving. It has been quietly restyling fur to appeal to a new
generation of customers.
An investigation by The Independent on Sunday has revealed that more than a
thousand tons of fur worth £41m came into Britain last year. The British Fur
Trade Association claims that retail sales of fur have risen by a third in two
years. In London, one furrier, Hockley, is reporting a 45 per cent increase in
business. Global sales of fur reached a record £6.6bn in 2005, according to the
International Fur Trade Federation.
Concern over the comeback is so great that the RSPCA is to mount a major new
anti-fur campaign early next year aimed atfashion-conscious 15- to 30-year-olds.
An RSPCA spokesman said, "There are concerns that people may be starting to buy
fur in ignorance. Although full mink coats may be still ethically out of bounds,
the fur industry is going for trim and trinkets. Most consumers often don't know
what they are buying, and would be horrified if they realised the suffering
Stella McCartney, in an interview with this newspaper, said, "There's nothing
fashionable about a dead animal that has been cruelly killed just because some
people think it looks cool to wear. The continuing use of fur is still a real
problem in the fashion industry and there is an issue with people out there
assuming that fur trim is fake when most of it is real."
More than 50 million animals will be killed for their fur this year, most of
which will have spent their short lives in miserable conditions on fur farms
before they are killed, sometimes being skinned while still alive.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals has joined the calls for action.
Major General Peter Davies, the charity's director general, is calling for a
boycott of fur, blaming the fashion industry for fuelling a rise in sales "by
flaunting it all over the catwalk".
Yet the "fur fatwa" of the past is no more. High profile designers such as Jean
Paul Gaultier, Prada, and Roberto Cavalli regularly celebrate fur in their
catwalk shows and defy the attentions of animal rights activists. A generation
has grown up without being exposed to the mass-media shock advertising campaigns
that helped launch the anti-fur movement in the Eighties.
Campaigners are concerned that people need to be constantly reminded of the
cruelty involved in fur. But issues like climate change and global poverty have
taken centre stage.
"I think there has been a fall-off in consciousness and fur has crept back
insidiously," said the style commentator Peter York. "Fur trim is just a
texture; it is not a pelt or mass of pelts, and simply does not look like fur."
Mink and fox are being joined by an array of other animals. One of the most
notorious is karakul lambskin, worn by stars such as Keira Knightley, which is
made from the pelt of new-born lambs that are killed days after birth or even
taken from the womb. Growing numbers of seal skins are also being imported and
the Government is so concerned that it is to back a ban on the import of all
sealskin products. This comes just a week after the European Union announced a
ban on dog and cat fur from China, one of the world's biggest fur exporters.
Undercover animal investigator Peter Joseph (his details have been changed) has
visited several mink and fox fur farms in Norway in recent months. He describes
what he found at one mink farm.
"People think of these places as farms, but they are really more like animal
warehouses, where the animals are there for one reason only - to be killed for
"In one dimly-lit cage in a corner of the shed was a large mink. I couldn't help
wondering how people who buy fur would react if they could have seen what I did.
This particular animal could barely move. It seemed to have resigned itself to
its fate and just lay there - its eyes swollen from the ammonia fumes from its
urine and faeces and an open wound on its head."
A spokeswoman from the International Fur Trade Federation claims that the
popularity of fur is increasing due to people making up their own minds about
the issue and "reappraising natural, sustainable materials with modern
But Mr Joseph is trying to forget his experience of a fur farm. "If I close my
eyes I can still see them there. Walking away from the farm was one of the
hardest things I have ever done."
Additional reporting by Marie Woolf and Sonia Elks
Nicole Richie and the rabbit fur jacket
WHERE AND WHEN: Book signing in New York, 2005
WEARING: Grey rabbit fur jacket
COST: Estimated £1,000
CRUELTY FACTOR: Rabbits are farmed in terrible conditions. A large proportion
are bred and killed purely for the fur and the RSPCA says that people should not
assume that rabbit fur is automatically a by-product of meat. In the wild,
rabbits are roaming social animals that live in burrows. In a cage on a fur farm
they are denied this freedom and are usually killed by having their necks
broken. The use of rabbit fur in costume is first recorded in 13th-century
Dita Von Teese wears mink
WHERE AND WHEN: Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Awards, Beverly Hills, March 2006
WEARING: Mink cloak
COST: Anything up to £8,000
CRUELTY FACTOR: About 85 per cent of all mink are farmed, something that is
incredibly stressful for these wild animals. They live for just six or seven
months before being killed; common methods include gassing, electrocution or
beating them to death. They are perhaps best known for their dark brown fur,
which turns white at the chin and runs to black at the tips of their tails. It
takes 60 to 80 minks to make a fur coat. Young tend to be born in May. They are
dead by December.
Kate Moss's seal boots
WHERE AND WHEN: Leaving a London restaurant in March 2004
WEARING: Mukluk boots
COST: About £200
CRUELTY FACTOR: Mukluks are a soft boot made of reindeer skin or sealskin and
worn by Inuit. The sealskin is taken from seals that are clubbed to death at two
Sophie Dahl chooses mink and white fox
WHERE AND WHEN: Fragrance Foundation Awards, New York, April 2005
WEARING: White mink coat, fox fur collar
COST: Estimated £7,000
CRUELTY FACTOR: Millions of mink and fox endure terrible conditions in fur
farms, where they live their short lives in cages so small that they can barely
turn around. White foxes that are caught from the wild in steel-jaw traps are in
so much pain that some bite off their limbs in order to escape. Many die
horrible deaths before the trapper arrives to kill them. Those on farms are
gassed or killed by electrocution: electrodes are clamped in the mouth and the
Keira Knightley opts for karakul lambskin
WHERE AND WHEN: British Independent Film Awards in London, 2005
WEARING: Black karakul lambskin coat
COST: Between £3,000 and £6,000
CRUELTY FACTOR: One of the cruellest forms of fur, according to animal
welfarists. Undercover investigations have documented how heavily pregnant ewes
are killed and their unborn lambs removed for their coats. Newborn lambs are
routinely killed after a few days, before their velvet-smooth coats have had a
chance to uncurl. The fur is also called Persian lamb, astrakhan and broadtail.
It is also used to make high-end hats, carpets and rugs.
May 28, 2006
The New York Times
By MICHAEL BARBARO
Twenty-five years ago, America's department
stores — long obsessed with that Seventh Avenue archetype, the tall, thin, leggy
lady — discovered her shorter sibling, the petite woman. They gave her a special
clothing size, her own department and, over time, access to top designers like
Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.
Small was suddenly sexy. Or at least sexier.
But the love affair with little women appears to be over. Three of the country's
most influential fashion emporiums — Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and
Bloomingdale's — have quietly eliminated or drastically scaled back their petite
departments in the past several months, infuriating many longtime customers.
Given that manufacturers produce clothing in only a handful of standard sizes —
among them, juniors, misses and plus size — the abandonment of petite sizes at
the highest levels of American retailing represents a sea change in fashion,
forcing some designers to either stop making special sizes for smaller women or
re-evaluate how much to invest in the business.
Executives at the three department stores said the decision was based on the
poor sales of petite sizes, which are traditionally designed for a woman
5-foot-4 or smaller, with pant lengths and jacket proportions cut accordingly.
Petite women, they said, would rather wear the more youthful, skin-baring and
tighter-fitting clothing in the contemporary departments, even if it does not
fit them as well. And, they point out, there is always tailoring.
But despite what executives say, overall sales of petite clothing sizes have
grown in the past several years, reaching $10 billion. So petite women suspect
another culprit: high-end department stores that they say view the petite
consumer as older, unfashionable and undesirable.
"It's not like American women suddenly got tall," said the designer Dana
Buchman, who has supplied petite-size tweed jackets and chiffon skirts to Saks
and Neiman Marcus for years. "I think it's a mistake."
And so do many short women. Feeling overlooked and undervalued, they have
written the stores angry letters and groused, often loudly, to salespeople.
"It's horrible, just horrible," said Laurel Bernstein, 60, a 5-foot-1 Manhattan
resident who stormed out of Saks's flagship store in March after learning that
the company had stopped carrying petite sizes. A lifelong Saks shopper, she has
not returned since.
The emotional response from petite consumers has proved so strong that Saks is
reconsidering its decision. "It appears that we have frustrated some customers,"
said Ron Frasch, the chief merchant at Saks. "We are trying to figure out how
many we have frustrated."
The shock has been particularly acute because the changes are happening
simultaneously at three of the nation's most important destinations for fashion.
As if in lockstep over the past year, Saks ceased selling petite sizes,
Bloomingdale's cut the space it devotes to petites by nearly half in some
stores, and Neiman Marcus reduced the number of stores with petite departments
by nearly half. Neiman Marcus now carries petite sizes in just eight of its 36
stores; as of the fall, it will stock them in just two.
The shrinking sales floor space for petite sizes — which has not been duplicated
in the plus-size department — has already claimed several casualties on Seventh
Avenue. The clothing label Ellen Tracy, a mainstay of the petite department at
Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, said it had stopped producing petite
sizes altogether because its biggest retail clients were not buying enough
"We would love to stay in the petite business" said Ellen Tracy's president,
Howard Rosenberger. "We didn't have a choice."
For those designers, like Eileen Fisher, who continue to produce petite sizes
for department stores, there is a growing unease about the business. "There are
not enough vendors anymore," said Mariclare Van Bergen, vice president of sales
at Eileen Fisher, which supplies petite clothing to Neiman Marcus and
Bloomingdale's. "So how do we keep the energy in the petite world?"
Petite sizes did not reach large numbers of consumers until the early 1980's,
when a handful of major apparel labels like Liz Claiborne and Adrienne
Vittadini, having discovered that millions of smaller women did not fit into
their regular clothing lines, agreed to produce petite sizes.
The new sizes were not simply smaller, they had different proportions. On a
woman's blazer, for example, designers reduced the distance between arm holes
and the waist. Labels on the new clothesbore a "P" to distinguish them.
A petite craze was soon born, with Jones New York, Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein
creating special lines and department stores establishing a separate section for
smaller sizes. Rather than tracking down petite sizes on different floors, women
could shop all of them in one place, relying on one salesperson for help.
Specialty clothing retailers like Talbots and Banana Republic then created
separate stores for petite women. Last year, sales of petites rose 11 percent,
according to the market research firm NPD Group. But at department stores alone,
sales of petite clothing fell 5 percent.
Still, stores like Nordstrom, Macy's and Sears have not cut back on petites, and
report brisk sales. So what went wrong at Saks, Neiman Marcus and
For the record, their shoppers did not enjoy growth spurts that catapulted them
out of petite sizes. The average American woman, who was about 5-foot-3 in 1980,
was 0.3 inches taller as of 2002, according to the government.
What did change is that petite departments gained a reputation for traditional —
some would say frumpy — career-oriented clothing. Chic looks, clothing
executives said, never made the leap from regular sizes to petite. So the very
word petite became synonymous with many women who shopped there — working women
over the age 50.
"It's a segment of the population that these stores don't care to maintain,"
said Andrew V. Jassin, the managing director of the Jassin-O'Rourke Group, a
fashion consulting firm, "It's a snobbish appeal. The retailers want to keep the
contemporary women — and she does not want to be called petite."
In the battle for space on the sales floor, executives said, the petite
collections from Dana Buchman, Anne Klein and Ellen Tracy, which produce slim
profits, are losing out to contemporary clothing brands like Theory, Laundry and
Tahari, which draw more dollars.
Mr. Frasch of Saks said that smaller shoppers preferred to buy those younger,
sexier brands and pay for alterations. "It's not a perfect situation, but it
appears to service what they want better."
Ann Stordahl, executive vice president for women's apparel at Neiman Marcus,
said that designers were making clothing smaller than a decade ago and that
Neiman Marcus orders extra size zeros and twos, knowing they will appeal to
petite women. Even without petite sizes, she said, "there are many offerings for
the smaller size customer."
Bloomingdale's declined an interview request. In a statement, Frank Doroff,
Bloomingdale's senior executive vice president of ready-to-wear clothing, said
the size of the petite section "is commensurate with the demand" at every store.
But for women of a certain height, a certain age (45 and older) and a certain
rung on the economic ladder (that is, wealthy), no amount of size two skirts or
dresses will replace the original, spacious petite departments at Neiman's, Saks
Because for her, the petite department was not about indulgence or convenience,
but about parity. It meant that even at 4-foot-11, she could wear the same sheer
cascading vest from Eileen Fisher as a woman who was 5-foot-7 — with no
It meant that designers really did care about the little people.
Inside Bloomingdale's last week, Manhattan resident Judy Strauss, who is 65 and
5-foot-2, tried on two short-sleeved shirts from the designer Sigrid Olsen.
Neither was available in a petite size, so she tried on a small and an
"The saleswoman and I joked that maybe I should go to the girl's department,"
she recalled. "I really don't know where I should go."
Referring to the department stores, Ms. Van Bergen of Eileen Fisher said that
"you have this consumer who can no longer shop here, no longer shop there." The
petite woman, she said, "is feeling a little bit lost right now."
December 9, 2005
The New York Times
By ROBERTA SMITH
Talk about an opening salvo. "This is not your
usual museum fashion exhibition," claims the first text panel in "Fashion in
Colors" at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The imperious italicized
sneer may grate a bit, but the claim is justified.
Where there is art, there is almost always color, and at the moment New York's
big museum shows seem to be unusually steeped in it. One can bask in the radiant
golds and pastels of the early Renaissance in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's
Fra Angelico exhibition. The same palette echoes through the icons that lead off
the "Russia!" show at the Guggenheim Museum and the New York Public Library's
movable feast of illuminated manuscripts. At the Museum of Modern Art, the
sonorous hues of Elizabeth Murray's shaped canvases are offset by the ethereal
tones that dominate the Redon exhibition downstairs. The Richard Tuttle show at
the Whitney explores color as material, often to exuberant effect.
Still, for a ravishing, eye-bending, mind-altering experience of color as color,
try "Fashion in Colors" with its superbly selected and presented array of 68
garments and ensembles. Sartorial gorgeousness abounds. Each design is a
standout in one regard or another, and each rewards extended study.
This show transcends the usual fashion exhibition because color has been allowed
to reign supreme. Rather than style, technique or chronology, the installation
is ordered according to the spectrum. It starts with a gallery of black garments
and after a wild-card multicolor section proceeds through galleries devoted to
clothing that is exclusively blue, red or yellow and finally white.
"Fashion in Colors" is a collaboration with the Kyoto Costume Institute, a
prestigious collection of Western garments in Kyoto, Japan, and has been
organized by Barbara Bloemink, the Cooper-Hewitt's curatorial director, and
Akiko Fukai, the institute's chief curator. It ranges through 300 years of
Western dress for women, concentrating on lavish gowns and ensembles from the
19th and 20th centuries. Names like Vionnet, Chanel, Dior, Commes des Garçons
and Balenciaga recur. (So do Viktor & Rolf, the Dutch avant-garde fashion
designers, who organized a larger version of this show with Ms. Fukai and Shinji
Kohmoto, chief curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto last year.)
Lighting by Leni Schwendinger Light Projects reinforces the show's
color-by-color progression, along with the color-coordinated mannequins,
pedestals and walls that are part of the installation designed by Tsang Seymour
Design. The white screen-like structures that function as palate cleansers
between some of the sections are a bit gratuitous, but one transition almost
counts as installation art. The ceiling of a long corridor following the gallery
of multicolored garments is stretched with a pixilated camouflage fabric whose
colors and patterns are in constant rhythmic flux, thanks to invisible
computerized lighting. Resembling an artificial sky fast-forwarding from night
to day and through the seasons, it wordlessly demonstrates a basic principle:
color is a variable in which both light and matter collude.
This show has a formal rigor and wholeness that Minimalist gurus like Donald
Judd, Dan Flavin and James Turrell might endorse. The garments and their
carefully orchestrated presentation place color midway between art and life,
making you think about it aesthetically while experiencing it viscerally. This
is unusual and intense. Perhaps because clothing relates so directly to the body
and to personal taste, its impact can sometimes exceed that of other artworks or
Tailors and dressmakers have known for centuries that color changes when its
materials change, but this concept is relatively new in Western high art. It was
brought to the fore in the late 1950's and early 60's, when artists like Judd,
Flavin, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana began to
take strong undiluted color beyond the traditional materials of painting and
sculpture. (Judd in particular complained about the lack of color in
three-dimensional work, but he might have paid closer attention to fashion.)
The impact of material on color emerges slowly in the all-black opening
galleries, where the prevailing darkness attunes the eye to subtle tonal shifts.
The garments skip from ostentatious 19th-century mourning gowns (an American one
with jet beads and lace dates from 1865, the last year of the Civil War) to
early examples of the sexy, modern little black dress developed by Vionnet and
Chanel in the years following World War I. The black materials include a long
skirt of chenille fringe over lace-covered cream-colored satin (!), gabardine,
cotton, crepe, silk gazar (a puff-sleeved dress by Balenciaga) and silk taffeta
(a spectacular example of one of Viktor & Rolf's effusively bowed ribbon
dresses, also puffy).
The multicolor section provides instant relief from the austerities of black. A
pungent A-line dress from 1967 by Yves Saint Laurent combines an enlarged
paisley motif in magenta, yellow, green and black with a broad, glass-bead yoke
that is worthy of Cleopatra. The importance of materials is repeatedly driven
home. The soft reds and greens of an Armani evening dress made of woven velvet
ribbons contrast with an equally colorful draped vest, by Rei Kawakubo of Comme
des Garçons, covered with hard, shiny sequins. A 1775 French court dress in
heavy brocaded silk rife with flowers and vines measures its considerable mass
against a frothy parfait of a skirt by Vivienne Westwood from 1993, which takes
up almost as much room with layers of contrasting nylon tulle, dotted and plain.
The show's most sublime section, also one of its largest, is devoted to blue, a
color that only the royal or the rich could once afford. There are several
garments from the high-income brackets, including an imposingly broad Mantua
dress from 18th-century England whose light blue silk taffeta is brocaded with a
bold leaf pattern in silver. And there are some fascinating modern excursions
into color: a tiered pouf dress from 1956 by Christian Dior that seems printed
with a photograph of watery blue reflections - actually just watered silk - and
a gown of polyester organdy by Junya Watanabe so bulky that its mannequin seems
wrapped for shipping. A red and yellow jacket and skirt ensemble is only
slightly less sculptural.
Color reaches a searing intensity in three opulent day dresses made in England
and France between 1865 and 1875. Two are mauve, one is an almost violently
bright deep blue; all were made after 1858 when aniline dyes were invented and
saturated colors became more widely available and wildly fashionable. As the
next gallery demonstrates, there was such a rage for red in England that it was
used for corsets, bustles and petticoats.
The red section also includes a handsomely severe French redingote, or
full-length coat, from 1810, which shows the influence of military uniforms on
women's fashions, and a visite, another coat favored by French women, that
suggests a Japanese kimono made from a fringed paisley shawl. There is also
another ribbon dress by Viktor & Rolf, strikingly sculptural and gloriously
impractical, in shades of pink.
This exhibition confirms that color is one of the natural world's greatest gifts
and also one of its most inherently refined. It is not a raw material that we
transform; we can only emulate colors that already exist, hoping to copy them or
equal them in brilliance. "Fashion in Colors" reveals some of the fruits of that
effort, amplifying the power and nurturing force of color to a revelatory
degree. Revel in it. What sharpens the senses sharpens the mind.
April 10, 2005
Claudia Croft, Fashion Editor
ELEGANT and understated,
Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall, entered the Guildhall in Windsor wearing an
oyster silk basket weave coat over a chiffon oyster-coloured dress and a
wide-brimmed hat adorned with feathers and lace.
Commentators praised the outfit for its simplicity. It was the first of several
worn by the duchess on her wedding day. For the blessing in St George’s Chapel,
she opted for a floor-length, porcelain blue silk coat dress embroidered with
gold, changing back into the first dress later.
Arriving in Aberdeen at the start of her honeymoon, Camilla, whose official
title in Scotland is Duchess of Rothesay, wore a cerise coat with Rothesay
tartan trim complemented by a tartan shawl, black court shoes and black handbag.
Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed the wedding dress worn by Diana, Princess of
Wales, said of Camilla’s choices: “She looked very chic, very elegant, perfect
for the occasion.”
The handmade wedding outfits were designed by Robinson Valentine, the
dressmakers based in Kensington, west London. They took 11 weeks to complete.
Anna Valentine, the designer, said: “We wanted a crisp, clean look with subtle
detailing for the guildhall. For St George’s Chapel we felt the dress should
have a sense of occasion while remembering it was a blessing rather than a
In keeping with the understated mood of the occasion, the duchess’s outfit for
the civil ceremony featured simple details. The silk coat was decorated with
herringbone stitch embroidery and the chiffon dress appliquéd at hem and neck
with woven lacquered discs.
After speculation about her chosen colour the duchess opted for oyster. The coat
and chiffon dress created a gentle silhouette that suited her figure. The
below-knee hemline, allowed the duchess to show off her legs.
The bride’s matching suede shoes had a comfortable 5cm heel and she carried an
ivory leather clutch bag by Launer, the royal bag makers. At her reception she
wore a court shoe in pale grey shot silk designed by Linda Bennett. She kept
jewellery to a minimum, opting for large diamond and pearl drop earrings and a
diamond lapel pin in the shape of the Prince of Wales feathers.
Philip Treacy, the Irish milliner, crafted her wide-brimmed hat from straw
overlaid with French lace topped with a spray of feathers.
Joanna Lumley, the actress, wore a colourful outfit in gold brocade with a
wide-brimmed hat sporting a silk flower.
THE Men’s Fashion Council collected a large
audience of critics to see their “1957 style presentation” in London yesterday.
As one of the younger women reviewers put it when all was over, the show
contained nothing for the yachtsman.
The point was well (and charmingly) made, for every schoolboy knows that whereas
it used to be tennis in summer and skiing in winter, today it is still skiing in
winter but sailing in summer.
Accordingly, a style presentation that mirrors the man of 1957 all dressed up
for sport, for country, for morning and for evening, and for the Monmouthshire
Hunt is on the forgetful side if it does not also figure him as the model
The Monmouthshire Hunt came into yesteday’s picture as its climax — a dress suit
in midnight blue barathea with the hunt’s traditional black velvet collar and
cherry-coloured facings and linings. An ambassadorial figure wore it and swayed
graciously along the presentation platform bowed down by medals and ribbons that
took most of the cherry out of the left facing.
Many of the critics stood up and cheered, including even the young one who
thought that a better show still would be put up by the commodore of a
Monmouthshire yacht club.
There was, of course, nothing to rival the hunt dress suit for sheer
impressiveness, but there was a glimpse of colour earlier when a cocktail jacket
was paraded. It was a double-breasted affair technically listed as “claret 100
per cent cashmere”, and was worn above trousers of “midnight blue shadow
herringbone worsted”. It made one irreverant critic think of what his dressing
gown would look like if it were cut down, but the Scottish commentator described
it as “a very elegant thing”, to which his English colleague replied: “As you
say, very aristocratic”. In fact, one could well imagine it in use as a smoking
jacket on a yacht.
The tailors of 1957, in so far as they are venturesome at all, seem to
concentrate on modest deviations from the traditionalism of evening wear. What
shall it avail a man to have all that ultramarine face cloth hidden away when
his friends have tired of Glenurquhart?
The Times Archive > On This Day - May 7, 1957, The Times, 7.5.2005.
July 16 1926
Penury shapes the tunic of Diana
From The Guardian archive
July 16 1926
It is often alleged that the new freedom of women — games, sport, enterprise
of all kinds — is responsible for modern dress. Games have done away with
imprisoning features such as the armour-plating of stays, high choking collars,
The natural figure when it is thin is freely permitted, and when it is stout
dieting and exercise instead of compression is resorted to.
Dress is loose, straight, and nowhere constricting. It hangs from the shoulders,
is open to the air; shoes and gloves are equally loose and comfortable. There
are no more unnatural waists, no more deformed feet.
Modern dress probably strikes a higher average of suitability and aestheticism
than any since the Greeks.
Not even sport and hygiene have been the sole determining influences in women's
clothes. Their plainness and straightness are, for one thing, not alone. They
can be seen in architecture, in painting, in the crafts. Compare the average new
shop building with the older methods. In the latter there are a thousand
details. In the former ornament is used sparingly.
The reason is not far to seek. It is the general penury. A hundred or so years
ago fashions were not dissimilar from those of to-day, and, likewise, after a
long period of war.
The Georgian hoops were cut down to give way to Empire plainness and
straightness, just as the crinoline and the dress that used to boast of being
five yards round the bottom have been cut down to one yard. The ample dress
to-day would cost a fortune. The age is nevertheless accused of being luxurious.
It will have silk stockings, and silk stockings stand for luxury rather as
playing-cards stand for vice.
The question of the beauty still remains. There are many people who look
ridiculous in a dress which is merely a tunic. But would they not look
ridiculous in most forms of dress?
Englishwomen have enormous feet, and they show more now, but after all they were
always there, and their exposure has made for much better footgear. The
cigarette figure is monotonous, it is true, and very largely because it
approximates that of men, instead of lending variety by being different. But men
and women also have, both of them, two eyes and one nose and nobody complains.
Apart from its exaggerations, the chief fault of the modern dress is this
monotony. It makes little allowance for sex, none for age. Otherwise it is
comfortable, easy to make, economical, hygienic, and, at its best, more
aesthetic [in] line and colour than has been dress for many generations.
The strong prejudice shown by even the poorest
Londoners against clogs - which the high price of leather is said to be
weakening - would have seemed ridiculous in the eighteenth century when clogs
were worn by women of all classes.
The more refined variety of clog had a thin
wooden sole, which was cut transversely in two pieces, attached to each other by
a hinge. Anne Bracegirdle, the most beautiful actress of her time, wore clogs.
Horace Walpole notes in one of his letters that "Mrs. Bracegirdle breakfasted
with me this morning. As she went out and wanted her clogs she turned to me and
said, 'I remember at the playhouse, they used to call for Mrs Oldfield's chair,
Mrs. Barry's clogs, and Mrs. Bracegirdle's pattens.'"
Pattens, which clogs have entirely superseded, consisted of a wooden sole with a
large iron ring attached to the bottom for the purpose of raising the wearer
above the wet and mud. They were fastened round the instep, and made a greater
clatter than clogs. Many churches used to exhibit notices requesting worshippers
to leave their pattens in the porch so as to avoid disturbing the congregation.
Even in Lancashire the wearers of clogs are becoming more fastidious. A decade
ago the youths and young men of the mills and workshops wore their clogs during
the evenings, and only rose to the dignity of boots at the week-end. Now clogs
are worn in at least one Lancashire town merely for work (writes a
correspondent), and as soon as that is ended the workers put on their "everyday"
boots as distinguished from "Sunday" boots. Of course there are the conservative
exceptions who still retain clogs for evening use, but even they have been
influenced so far as to have a change, the heavy working pair giving way to a
These latter are often works of art. The heel is high and comparatively slender,
and the sole is thin, deeply curved, and finishes with a sharply pointed,
A rim of highly-polished brass nails fastening the uppers to the soles stands in
bold contrast to the equally highly-polished black leather, upon which various
designs are traced. Further ornamentation is sometimes achieved by numerous
lace-holes edged with brass and bored in a triangular group with the base lying
on the instep, one pair I have seen having no fewer than 56 lace holes.
The price of this type is about seven or eight shillings. Those who indulge in
this gaudy footwear invariably keep it as bright as new, bestowing particular
pains on the brasswork.
One of the first inquiries just now with
regard to fashion is, what will be the form for mantles this summer?
We really cannot inform our readers of very
much novelty in out-of-door garments. That called saute-en-barque last year,
rather shorter and slightly more fitting, is in favour.
Collets or camails to match the dress are also much seen. They are frequently
trimmed like the skirt, and lined with white taffetas or foulard. The latter is
an extremely suitable material for linings. A band of taffetas, trimmed with
braid, or a wide grecque of taffetas ribbon, is a style of trimming much used
for the collet, when made of fancy material, alpaca, or mohair.
It may be considered positive, too, that the thin materials, such as bareges, or
printed muslins, will be worn with straight scarves of the same trimmed like the
dress, either with ruches a la vielle, or fluted flounces, or sometimes with
Mantelets, shawls, rotondes, and bournous of Chantilly lace, and also of woollen
lace, will be reserved for warmer weather. We are tired of repeating that
foulard is in as much favour as ever. We may remark, in passing, that all the
striped materials this season have the stripes lengthways down the skirt.
The first on our list this month is a dinner dress. A robe of taffetas antique,
of a Mexican blue; the bottom of the skirt trimmed with a chicoree ruche
festooned, and above that, about ten inches higher, another ruche. Between these
are placed some insertions of black lace.
An Irish poplin dress, of the colour known as cheveux de la reine; the skirt is
trimmed with three bands of black taffetas bouillonne; the bottom one about five
inches wide ; the second three and a half ; and the upper one about two, each
edged round with a narrow black and cheveux de la Reine chicoree.
A dress of violet poult de soie antique, trimmed round, above the hem, with a
black lace insertion, put on in festoons. Down each breadth, reaching a little
lower than the knee, are flat pieces of black taffetas, and down the centre of
each of these are arabesques, formed by black lace insertion, under which the
taffetas is cut out, so that the violet of the dress shines through.
Longchamps has decided, which we have already hinted to our readers, that the
spring bonnets would be less raised in front, and consequently in our opinion,
much more becoming. The Mary Stuart gains favour daily. Blue is la mode.
English Dinner Party Dress - Dress of plain
India muslin over pink satin, with three rows of clear muslin round the border;
between which rows are broad spaces richly embroidered in raised spots, or
filled up by letting in of broad lacey spotted muslin or lace sleeves to
correspond, wreathed round with puffings of muslin.
The mancherons of plain India muslin, braced
in puckers in the antique coronation style, with pink satin rouleaus. Falling
tucker of fine Mochlin lace, surmounted by a row of puffing.
Agnes Sores cap of fine blond, with diadem points towards the back part of the
head, ornamented in front with a full blown rose, and drooping yellow lupines or
Scarf-sash of white sarsnet, beautifully fringed; white satin slippers, and
yellow kid gloves.
Walking Dress - a cambric muslin dress; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed with
a flounce of scolloped work, disposed in deep plaits, and the spaces between
left plain; in the middle of each space is a muslin tab; this trimming is
surmounted by another composed of full puffings of muslin, with lozenges
between, and a rouleau of muslin at the top.
High body, ornamented with work and trimmed at the wrists and throat with
scolloped lace. Spencer of cerulean blue soi de Londres
It is tight to the shape; the waist is the usual length, and it is finished with
a full bow and ends of the same material, corded satin in the middle of the
The bust is formed in a most becoming manner, by a fold of satin edged with a
loop trimming of soi de Londres, which goes in a sloping direction from the
shoulder to the bottom of the waist.
The long sleeve is finished at the band with satin folds and loop trimmings; the
epaulette is a mixture of satin and soi de Londres, disposed in an extremely
novel and tasteful style, falling collar, finished with bands of satin and loop
Head-dress, a bonnet composed of white watered gros de Naples; the brim, of a
moderate size, turns up a little, and is ornamented under the edge with a band
of blue tufted gauze; a piece of gros de Naples goes round the crown, cut at
bottom and top in the form of leaves, and edged with narrow straw plait.
A full bunch of these leaves and a bouquet of marguerites are placed on one side
of the crown, and a bouquet of marguerites only on the other. Broad white satin
strings, tied in a full bow, on the left hand side. Black silk shoes. Limerick