I’ve always been fascinated by those women who walk into a room and everyone notices. And I’m even more fascinated by the women who seem to get everything that they want, without having to over explain themselves. (Real talk? I’m wordy and would win a gold at over explaining myself.) So, when I had the chance to look at a way that one such powerful woman communicated, I jumped on it!
** Did you know that a spider represents patience and predatory behavior? I’m not the only one who suddenly wants to wear a spider on a night out, right?
***And you may have caught on, today isn’t a true “Desginer to Know”, but rather a way to wear a design. (Play on words? Maybe, but related)
Last winter at the LBJ Library in Austin, I got to go see the pin collection worn by Madeleine Albright during her time as Secretary of State. Fashion? Yes. But, Albright also used her collection of pins to communicate with other Global Leaders, and silently but clearly, make her positions and feelings known.
It’s all the best of everything I love about fashion. A personal way to say who you are, and what you’re feeling. It’s a bit cheeky. And pins are a way to stand out. Why don’t we all do this?
Some of my favorite pins from the collection:
Hear No Evil/See No Evil/Speak No Evil
Albright’s colleciton had flowers, butterflies, animals, and all sorts of patriotic symbols. She became known for her pins, and people became adept at interpreting what some of them meant. One of my favorite stories from the collection:
And I was thrilled to realize that a strong, powerful woman and I have similar tastes:
I’m left with two questions: Should we bring back pins?
(Answer: I’m game. I loved that not all of Albright’s pins were designer. Which means-yes, if you can, start collecting Cartier and high end pins. But it also means, Etsy, any jewelry or vintage shop, and any market can provide you with a pin to say something with. )
Do you have to use pins to make a statement?
(Answer: No. Let’s use all of our fashion, accessories, and personality to say what we need to say.)
Which leaves the question: What are you communicating?
I’m off to make statements with my fashion. Join me?
It’s sometimes scary as a vintage lover to see how quickly certain eras become vintage, or collectibles. I remember (vaguely) the 90s, yet here they are–vintage. However, loves, there is something to be said for great fashion standing the test of time, and reach a new generation of lovers. And if something from the 90s is going to come back, let’s be glad it’s Todd Oldham.
Todd Oldham was a fashion designer at the height of the 90s, he had a few fans, you might have heard of one-Cindy Crawford. His pieces were fun, intricate, and are still head turners. As a New York Times piece recently put it:
“Fashion is noisy, and Mr. Oldham had a lively run with it. His clothes were inspired by pot holders or wallpaper or kitschy paint-by-numbers paintings or garage sale treasures — toasters, gilded mirrors, loopy printed upholstery — all expressed in exuberant colors on cut velvet and silks, with trompe l’oeil effects that were the result of elaborate printing techniques, intricate beading, appliqués and embroidery.
His clothes were fun, but they were also beautiful, and his shows were like dance parties, packed with the coolest kids, both on the runway and in the audience: drag performers like Billy Beyond and RuPaul; old-fashioned supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell; and actors like Susan Sarandon, Rosie O’Donnell and Christian Slater. You might hear the theme song from “The Dating Game,” or 1970s-era curiosities, like War’s “Low Rider,” and the models didn’t stalk, stone-faced, down the runway. They skipped, jogged, shimmied and grinned, just as you did, watching them.”
Looking any Todd Oldham piece, it’s easy to see why the pieces are (were) cool; but loves, I have a feeling Oldham is (was) just as cool. He’s from Texas (Corpus Christi to be exact) and made his first dress at 15. His first fashion job was in the alterations department of Polo Ralph Lauren, but with a $100 loan from his parents he designed a collection that he sold to Neiman’s. The rest? Fashion History, but not the linear kind. Yes, Todd Oldham has his own line (incredibly popular) and won awards, was worn by models. He also consulted for Escada, designed a Batman line, hosted segments on MTV shows (Todd Time on House of Style and Fashaionably Loud), had a Target line, ran Old Navy and he made art and books.
In fact, while I consider his clothes works of art, he retired from fashion (unless you count his archives and museum showings) and is focused on the book and art making slowly. (The New Times piece is a great look at his goodbye to wholesale and his current endeavors, found here
But loves, we haven’t really lost anything. With Todd Oldham clothes becoming a great vintage find, we can still enjoy his creations; and they are still as fun and beautiful as they were in the 90s. So where to look? 1stdibs (Look for The Timeless Vixen, Rachel Zabar, and a general search) is a great place to start, Etsy, and your local high end vintage dealer (I love me some Recess LA, The Kit Vintage, and Vintage Martini. Some prices are high (the rarity factor), but I can promise any piece is stunning.
I was lucky enough to find these amazing bandana print pants (and yes, I’m claiming Cindy Crawford wore them) at Recess, and I want to live in them–they’re that great!
I’m a firm believer that fashion is art, fashion is supposed to be fun, and fashion is a community; and I’m just grateful Todd Oldham chose to play with us a while!
In the past week there has been a lot written about Kate Spade. About how her iconic handbag, bright and preppy aesthetic, and affordable pieces made women feel grown up. About her battles, and how she worried that her issues would negatively affect her brand. About how much she was loved.
I can relate to all of that. Like Kate Spade, I want my fashion and shopping to inspire you and make you feel like your best self. And, like Kate Spade, I worry that any personal issues I have might negatively affect my brand. Knowing how much to admit about what you struggle with is difficult in any setting, but especially so when you worry about how it might affect your business. This is the part where I let you know that I’m no expert. There has been so much written about how to reach out if you’re struggling, that you should reach out if someone you love is struggling, and how we should all be a little more compassionate. I wholeheartedly agree with all of that. And know it’s complicated. So, my take is that we all suffer a bit. We should all love each other a little bit harder, and maybe be a little more honest. And, maybe most important, maybe we should do a lot more of what brings us joy-be it having a bag that makes you feel like a grown up or something else.
Kate Spade was so much more than a bag designer and there have been wonderful pieces written about her brand, attention to detail, and how her bag changed “the game”. I hope you’ve read them and come to admire Kate for all that she was. Below is a short recap of Kate Spade’s career:
Katherine Noel Brosnahan (December 24, 1962 – June 5, 2018), known professionally as Kate Spade and Kate Valentine,was an American fashion designer and businesswoman. She was the founder and former co-owner of the designer brand Kate Spade New York.
After working in the accessories department at the fashion magazine Mademoiselle, Brosnahan and her husband Andy Spade founded the business in 1993, identifying a market for quality stylish handbags. The handbags that she designed and produced quickly became popular due to their sophistication and affordability; they have been described as a symbol of 1990s New York City.
The company expanded into other product lines. In 1999, she sold a 56 percent stake in Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus Group; in 2006 she sold the rest of her shares. In 2016, she and partners launched a new fashion brand called Frances Valentine.
Spade was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of June (Mullen) and Earl Francis Brosnahan, who owned a road construction company.Her ancestry was mostly Irish. After graduating from St. Teresa’s Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school, she attended the University of Kansas. Later she transferred to Arizona State University, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, and graduated with a journalism degree in 1985.
Fashion was a love, she recalled later, but not an obsession. Her original goal was to become a television producer, and she cited the example of Holly Hunter’s character in the 1987 film Broadcast News as her inspiration.
In 1986, Spade worked in the accessories department at Mademoiselle magainze in Manhattan, where she was credited by her maiden name, Katy Brosnahan. While at Mademoiselle, she started living with Andy Spade, a native of Scottsdale, Arizona. The two had worked side-by-side as salespeople in a men’s clothing store, Carter’s Men Shop, back when Spade was still in Phoenix.
She left Mademoiselle in 1991, with the title of Senior Fashion Editor/Head of Accessories. While working for Mademoiselle, she had noticed that the market lacked stylish and sensible handbags, and decided to create her own.
Kate Spade NewYork
Kate and Andy Spade launched the New York–based design company “kate spade handbags” in January 1993. “I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” Spade would later recall. She made six prototypes with Scotch Tape and paper, and found a manufacturer in East New York willing to work with a startup to turn them into actual bags. To finance the company, Andy, who had worked as a copywriter, withdrew his 401(k) pension plan, and sometimes paid employees with personal checks. The couple spent their shipping season living at friends’ apartments, since their own was filled with boxed handbags.
Kate was undecided as to what name to give the company, because she and Spade had not yet married, and “Kate Brosnahan” did not sound like an ideal name for a fashion label. She considered a number of names, but agreed when Andy suggested “Kate Spade” — a combination of their names that he found euphonious. After an early show at the Javits Center at which the department-store chain Barneys ordered a few bags, Kate decided to put the bag’s labels on the outside, a change that took her all night to make, but established the brand.
The bags, priced in the $150 to $450 range, quickly became popular, particularly in New York. Teenage girls with disposable income appreciated that the bags at the lower end of the price range were affordable. That was “a real shift” in fashion, said Fern Mallis, director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) during the 1990s. “Everybody had Kate Spade bags. You could afford them, and happily buy more than one.”
Young American women at the time also liked the sophisticated look. One woman recalled to Sarah Maslin Nir in The New York Times later that the Kate Spade bags looked mature, without being too adult for a teenager as a Burberry bag would have been seen. “At the turn of the last century,” Nir wrote, “her bag came to encapsulate a decidedly Manhattan moment in time”, a moment when Vogue editor Anna Wintour recalled that it was impossible to walk a block in the city without seeing one.
The company sold mainly handbags at first, but soon extended to clothing, jewelry, shoes, stationery, eyewear, baby items, fragrances, tabletop, bedding and gifts. In 1996, the Kate Spade brand opened its first boutique, a 400-square-foot shop located in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district, and moved its headquarters into a 10,000-square-foot space in West 25th Street.
In 2004, “Kate Spade at home” was launched as a home collection brand. It featured bedding, bath items, china, wallpaper and various items for the home. Later in 2004, Spade also published three books on the subjects of etiquette, entertainment, and fashion—Manners, Occasions, and Style. That same year, a Kate Spade store was opened in Aoyama, Tokyo in Japan.
Neiman Marcus Group purchased 56 percent of the Kate Spade brand in 1999, and the remaining 44 percent in 2006. The Group sold the label in 2006 to Liz Claiborne Inc., for $124 million; it was later renamed Fifth & Pacific. The company was purchased by Coach, Inc. in May 2017; both Coach and Kate Spade are now part of Tapestry, Inc.
After selling the remaining portion of her ownership stake in the Kate Spade brand in 2006, Spade took time off to raise her daughter. In 2016, she and her business partners launched a new collection of luxury footwear and handbags under the brand name Frances Valentine. The name Frances is a family name on Spade’s paternal side; her daughter is named Frances, as were her grandfather, father, and brother. “Valentine” came from Spade’s maternal side; it was her grandfather’s middle name, given because he was born on Valentine’s Day. In 2016, Spade legally changed her surname to Valentine.
There are so many personal details -her husband, her daughter, and we know more about details of her death than maybe we should. My heart breaks for the loved ones she leaves. But, as much as I believe in love and honesty, I think that there are some stories that are only your families to tell. So,I’m not addressing her personal life. Her creations brough me joy, I understand her struggles, and so I’m chosing to love hard and wear great shoes as my homage to Kate Spade.
It’s NYFW, we’re getting treated to the upcoming fashion and new (and beloved) designers and all the trends/designs/spectatcle that we will get to enjoy and wear over the next few months. So it seems a little odd that we’re talking about LA, right? LA and NY are different: in climate, in people, in fashion. Loves, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and it is aok to love both cities (I do). But, this is unofficially LA week here on Investment Piece, and it wouldn’t feel right to leave out how special the fashion scene is here, and how many designers you know and love call LA home. My deserves our love, but let’s share some with the he West Coast too!
My favorite LA designers: Rachel Zoe
My most favorite things about LA Designer to Know Rachel Zoe is her strong point of view. From vests to flares to maxi dresses to fringe, a Rachel Zoe piece is easy to identify. And loves, that’s a great thing. I’ve mentioned more than once, a strong point of view is an important part of success; knowing who you are and who you’re talking to is a part of that, call it niche if you will. Rachel Zoe shows in NY often, but her vibe has her LA roots all over it. The fun fringe, the flared jeans, the platforms. All of these are LA approved.
Rodarte, another LA Designer to Know (even though they show in NY), is the stuff of my fashion dreams. Fantasy meets fashion sweat pants, the line makes everything from gowns, leather sleeves, blouses, fur coats, and sweat pants. And I want it all, it’s just that good. In the line’s own words:
Rodarte is available at several high end stockists and at Rodarte
Another LA Designer to Know is a personal friend, Elaine Kim. I’ve written about her more than once (see here and here
I just adore the laid back, classic pieces, that Elaine makes. Linen pants and trenches perfect for the beaches, drop pants and leather jackets perfect for LA nights and all the nights from here to Europe, around and back. I fall in love with every single piece, and I think LA ladies, from all over, will too.
Loves, I admit, I learned about Bree Layne doing research for this article. I made up for lost time, however, by quickly falling in love with her fashion though. Bree Layne, founded by actress of the same name, gives a nod to vintage styles, a nod to substainable fashion, and her pieces make you look like a modern Audry Hepburn. I’m in! In the Brand’s own words:
You can shop this exciting new brand at Bree Layne
LA is a magical places full of it’s own brand of fashion and people. This list of designers to know in LA is by no means definitive, in fact, I’d love to know yours!
You can shop my collection of LA designers below:
By now the Met Gala, theme of Rei Kawakubo, has come and gone–you probably have an opinion about the red carpet, and may agree with me that Rhianna won it (just because she stuck to the theme). What you may not have is a wide understanding of Rei Kawakubo, her designs, and her label Comme des Garçons. Loves, you should know. Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons are fashion in its highest form, and I don’t mean that you’ll find the perfect LBD; but in the sense that clothing will be playful, fantastical, experiment with shape, form, and gender roles, push boundaries, and be a calling to something higher.
Comme des Garçons and Kawakubo are known for original designs, big shapes, non-genderconforming designs, and mixing tailored pieces with corsets. The first few collections were done in only black, white and gray; and the runway shows to this day are more performance art than collection presentation. Comme des Garçons were the first to present designs that seem conventional now: unfinished hems, asymmetry, black, overblown and deconstructed silhouettes; what we wear today holds a debt of gratitude to these collections that read more like poetry than a standard runway. Kawakubo is known for playing with these themes:
These these run through every collection and are on view in the 150 outfits on view at the Met.
Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo in 1942, the oldest of 3 and the only girl.After college she took a job in advertising/textiles, but also worked as a freelance stylist. With no design background, Kawakubo started her line in 1973, opening her first boutique in Toyko in 75. Comme des Garçons grew, adding a men’s line in 78, presenting in Paris in 81, and opening a Paris boutique in 82. Kawakubo now splits time between Paris and Toyko. Known for powerful and directional design that’s been called “radical abandonment of conventions” and “stunningly audacious”. Kawakubo not only dares to rework the relationship of clothes to the body, she involves herself in all business aspects from graphic design to advertising to shop interiors. However, Rei Kawakubo is till thought of as a recluse, an extreme introvert who keeps to herself; even though she is a fashion icon, she doesn’t think of herself that way.
Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons have inspired all aspects of fashion, as well as sub labels such as Junya Watanbe, Tao Kurihara, and Comme des Garçons Tricot. There are also several collaborations Comme des Garçons participated in including ones with :Fred Perry, Converse, Speedo, Nike, Moncler, Lacoste, Cutler and Gross, Chrome Hearts, Louis Vuitton, H&M, and Supreme (all of which might be found on a luxury resale site or eBay). Much of what we wear or think is cool is owed to Kawakubo.
Shocked that someone who is a self admitted shy girl can design clothes that make such loud statements? I’m not. Isn’t that part of the fun of fashion? It speaks for us, when we can’t? In fact my favorite quote about Kawakubo comes from Paul Gaultier, who said:
“I believe that Kawakubo is a woman with extreme courage. She is a person with exceptional strength. Moreover, she has a poetic spirit. When I see her creations, I feel the spirit of a young girl. A young girl who still has innocence and is a bit romantic. Yet she also has an aspect of a fighting woman, one who fears nothing as she thrusts forward.”
If your clothes can say all that, what else is left to say?
I’d love to know: what are your thoughts on Rei Kawakubo and the Met Gala?