When you think of the synthetic rubber-like substance Neoprene – developed by chemical giant DuPont – you likely conjure up things like laptop sleeves, knee braces or electrical insulation. But not any more – the form fitting fiber is now the fabric of choice for some high-end designers including Clover Canyon, Ted Baker and Alexander McQueen. And here’s the deal, it’s much more forgiving than you might think. I know – when you grab hold of it while the dress is on the rack, you are thinking, “No way – I’m not wearing a wetsuit to a cocktail party.” But the truth is the thickness of the fabric smooths and conceals a multitude of body sins – it’s almost like pulling on a full body “Spanx” but much more comfortable.
Clover Canyon – a Los Angeles based company – first burst onto the scene in 2011 with its bold Neoprene shift dresses that look like paintings. The line first started showing up in niche boutiques around New England more than a year ago but now it’s mainstream and can be found almost anywhere including Saks, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. In fact the problem with Clover Canyon is that its designs are too recognizable and the dresses have become common to the point where you might find yourself at that destination wedding next to a gal from Dallas wearing the same piece.
Now though, other designers are taking a crack at the synthetic rubber scene with more subtle designs. I wasn’t crazy about the Ted Baker pieces, but Alexander McQueen knocked it out of the park. Look at it this way, if you don’t like it, cut it up into round circles and give it to aspiring musicians, I understand Neoprene makes a great drum practice pad.
The goal of the evening was a fashion magic carpet ride, an inclusionary “big tent” event that a diverse gathering of fashionistas, both men and women, could enjoy regardless of their personal approach to style. I wanted a designer dream team, each possessing an original vision for strong females with the type of talent that transcends and inspires. I chose the fresh, confident chic of Kreyol, the futuristic military vision of Julie Kontos paired with Race & Grant, and the red carpet drama of David Josef’s dresses.
Kreyol, created by the glamorous Haitian born designer Joelle Jean Fontaine, opened the show with her Capsule Collection. The collection included 50’s inspired garments with circa 1800 details and modern touches. The structured bouffant sleeves and full, oversized a – line skirts were reminiscent of a by gone era, but the form fitting pencil skirts and cropped tops in colorfully rich patterns gave the collection a distinctly modern sex appeal. Looks were completed with strong jewelry, flirty sunglasses, and leather driving gloves. Fontaine designs Kreyol for “the woman who creates her own reality, she is born to stand out and rule her destiny looking fabulously chic.”
The second presentation featured Boston-based designer Julie Kontos paired with Tracy Belben & Helena Grant, the accessory designers behind Race & Grant. This fusion created an evening wear collection that blends the team’s talents and commands attention. Kontos “classic with an edge” aesthetic evokes the structure of military styling with clean lines and symmetry, yet balances femininity by implementing thoughtful cut outs and flattering silhouettes. Touches of lace and shimmery fabrics enhance the crisp navy, gray, and white color palette. The fashion designer worked directly with Race & Grant to create customized accessories to compliment features within each garment.
Meticulously handcrafted by the designers, Race & Grant (aka ‘R&G’) is a fusion between chain jewelry artist (Belben) and handbag/ accessories creator (Grant). “In military styling, function is important. We created durable bags that incorporate both vegan and real leathers in rich color tones to accompany Julie’s collection,” states Grant, who crafts and engineers the structure of R&G’s bags. Each R&G bag is intricately wrapped and finished in hand-linked chainmaille, which further expresses the military concept within Kontos’ collection. “If you look closely, you will find hidden symbols such as crosses and American flags linked within the chainmaille”, says Belben, who finishes each R&G piece with chain adornments. This fashion stylist says “Sign me up!”
Closing the show and bringing down the house was designer David Josef, a force in the fashion world for nearly 40 years. He attributes his long success to recognizing the needs of each individual client and focuses on silhouettes that enhance a woman’s beauty, no matter her age or dress size. Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Ave have all carried his collections. David Josef has been featured in ads in Vogue, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar. The client list for his beautiful cocktail dresses and gowns is extensive and includes both national and local celebrities in film and news media. David has worked with Judith Light, Dionne Warwick, Debbie Reynolds and WCVB’s Susan Wornick. More recently, David worked on the wedding gown for Ariana Brown, daughter of former Senator Scott Brown and Gail Huff, for her July 2014 wedding.
Models provided by Dynasty
DAVID JOSEF – facebook
Seasons, like fashion trends, come and go, as sadly do the men of my love life. At Halston, it would seem the Board of Directors enjoys a similar game of musical chairs. The brand that made its name in the 70s with minimalist glamour recently said auf wiedersehen to SJP, Harvey Weinstein, and Tamara Mellon, and hello to Ben Malka.
Despite weeks of denying rumors of the shift, the former BCBG Max Azria Group President came clean last Wednesday and confirmed his new position as CEO and Chairman.
Malka has an impressive résumé. Most notable among his achievements is turning BCBG into a powerhouse in the contemporary womenswear market by actively expanding their branded retail stores, and establishing relationships with key retailers like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. I’ll admit, I’m already drooling in anticipation of the improvements he will undoubtedly make at Halston. But he’ll need to make them quickly: earlier this month the brand seemed doomed to sink faster than the Titanic.
But he’s not alone in his mission. Along for the ride is a serious cash infusion (a reported $20 million) and a cadre of staffers from BCBG. Formerly a multi-investor partnership, the company is now wholly owned by Malka and Hilco Consumer Capital. The plan is to eliminate Halston collection and concentrate on the lower-priced Halston Heritage diffusion label. The contemporary collection offers the streamlined silhouettes for which Halston is known at a much more streamlined price point.
I’m placing my bet now: this will be the comeback of 2012.
EDITOR AT LARGE
CHIEF FASHION CORRESPONDENT
Anna Paula Goncalves
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