This week, three newcomers to the New York runways will be shaking up the status quo in a distinctly L.A. way.
Halston, Herve Leger and Shipley & Halmos come to Fashion Week by way of Hollywood, celebrity and the Internet. And their runway shows are only the beginning of how they present their vision, and market, distribute and sell their clothes. Here's a closer look, and maybe a glimpse of the future.
In what can be described only as uncanny prescience, Halston once said, "You are only as good as the people you dress." Back in the day, the ever bronzed and debonair designer clothed celebrities such as Liz Taylor and Lauren Bacall. The pillbox hat -- worn by Jackie Kennedy at the 1961 presidential inaugural -- was Halston's first foray into red carpet dressing.
These days, fashion is still about dressing the beautiful people, which the label's new owners know too well. Last March, the Weinstein Co. film studio and private equity firm Hilco Consumer Capital purchased the iconic brand. They promptly attached a gilded roster -- celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and high profile Jimmy Choo President Tamara Mellon -- to helm the new/old house.
Marco Zanini, most recently head designer at Versace, was later appointed creative director and is designing the new fall collection that will show Monday in New York.
With all these stylish collaborators, expectations are high. Fashion pundits haven't been this excited since Karl Lagerfeld took the haute couture reins at Chanel in 1982.
"Will it work this time is the million-dollar question," vintage-clothing expert Cameron Silver says, referring to the ill-fated past attempts to revive the legendary name. "It's been revamped so many times."
Indeed, since Halston's death in 1990, designers Randolph Duke, Kevan Hall and Bradley Bayou each has taken a mostly unsuccessful turn at re-creating his signature, glamorous style. Even before these recent incarnations, Halston underwent a series of corporate changeovers that included owners Playtex and Revlon. The fact that Halston himself once licensed a line for J.C. Penney didn't exactly endear his label to his jet-set fans either.
The difference now is that the Weinstein Co. and stylist Zoe have enough connections to immediately get the Halston collection onto the right A-list bods. (And product placement in Weinstein films is almost a certainty.) There is also a Weinstein-produced Halston biopic in the works, with Jude Law in talks to play the dashing designer.
And just last week, Halston execs announced that select pieces from the runway collection will be available Tuesday, the day after the show, at online retailer Net-a- porter.com. This new distribution strategy bypasses buyers, magazine editors and brick-and-mortar stores, effectively bringing the entertainment industry's consumer-minded, want-it-now approach to fashion.
But the real issue is whether the clothes will be good enough. Will Zanini pay precise homage to Halston's glory days of dressing Studio 54 VIPs? His work at Versace was highly regarded, particularly his colorful, Grecian-inspired goddess gowns, which actually looked a lot like Halston.
"Halston's look was all about simplicity and a persona, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel," said Silver, who wondered if Zanini will also befriend his well-heeled clientele and become part of the social circuit. "So much of the attraction to Halston was because Halston was a part of the world he dressed."
-- Monica Corcoran
It was the red carpet, not the runway, that was responsible for the '90s-era Herve Leger bandage dress roaring back into fashion last year, when everyone from Kate Beckinsale to Cate Blanchett wore the style.
And now that the hype machine is in full swing, the label's latest owner, L.A. designer Max Azria, is staging the first runway show for the brand in more than a decade at the Bryant Park tents today. (Azria, who is also chief executive and designer for the BCBG and Max Azria lines, will be the first American designer to produce three fashion shows for three distinct collections.)
The Leger brand, which Azria acquired in 1998, was founded in 1985 by Parisian designer Herve Leger, who debuted the signature bandage dress in 1989 after experimenting with winding seam bindings around a mannequin.
Azria nabbed the Leger archives, a treasure trove of original designs, and began quietly shopping dresses around to stylists and their celebrity clients, to set the stage for the brand's return to the runway (remember Emily Blunt in that taupe cylindrical number at last year's Golden Globes?).
In preparation for the new fall collection, he's clearly spent some time in the vault. "The bandage dress is definitely the foundation of the fall collection," said Azria, who hired a small, dedicated design team to bolster the brand. But they will be experimenting with more sculptural interpretations of the classic, along with some air-brushing, embroidery, hand beading and color blocking.
"There is always the possibility of a fresh perspective and something new to say," said Azria. He was tight-lipped about looks that don't fall into the dress category, but said he plans to introduce some cashmere knit pieces and eventually accessories, footwear and intimates.
Whether the bandage (which has already logged more red carpet time than the Olsen twins combined) can transcend its second 15 minutes of fame remains to be seen. But buyers are expecting a return to more body-conscious dressing, so the timing could be just right.
-- Emili Vesilind
Shipley & Halmos
Since departing the high-profile, quirky, Southern California design collective Trovata -- the brand that ushered in the West Coast prep look that has dominated American men's fashion for the last few seasons -- co-founders Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos may have been off the radar, but they haven't been off the clock.
The duo, friends since college, relocated from Newport Beach to New York City last year, and set about launching a new clothing line.
After debuting Shipley & Halmos last season online at Men.style.com, the designers are going live today.
"It generated a lot of industry interest. Tons," Halmos said of the new-media launch. "Now, this is the next logical step.
"This season was inspired by the noir films of the late '50s," he said. "Especially Hitchcock's -- the ones that contrast the conservative way people dressed with how they're at this brink of sexual liberation. They managed to look elegant and sexy."
The collection has more of an East Coast sensibility than Trovata, with men's suits and shirts, women's silk tops and dresses, and lots of layering pieces.
"We've added a men's leather jacket, a braided leather belt and two men's bags," Halmos said. "One's a briefcase, and the other is a canvas-leather weekender."
If their track record is any indication, the success of Shipley & Halmos may already be in the bag.
-- Adam Tschorn