Contemporary New York fashion

 
Duckie Brown underpants with attached gloves, Autumn/Winter 2002-3. Photograph by PLATON

Duckie Brown underpants with attached gloves, Autumn/Winter 2002-3. Photograph by PLATON

Dynamic new fashion labels are invigorating New York's menswear. In the past half-decade, a handful of talented designers have founded clothing lines exclusively for men. Despite New York's tradition of classic tailoring and the acknowledged skills of its menswear manufacturers, until recently, upscale menswear has often been a postscript to the city's womenswear collections.

New York's emerging menswear designers provide the discerning shopper with distinct interpretations of the contemporary male wardrobe, from updated suiting to military dress.

The four featured designers all launched labels with previous industry experience, bringing know-how and connections to their new ventures. The menswear focus of these labels has resulted in some surprisingly experimental designs for the sartorially risk-averse American male.


John Varatos

John Varvatos, Cotton canvas jacket and trousers, cotton shirt, woven hemp belt, silk and cotton voile scarf, Spring/Summer 2007

John Varvatos, Cotton canvas jacket and trousers, cotton shirt, woven hemp belt, silk and cotton voile scarf, Spring/Summer 2007

John Varvatos launched his eponymous label after 15 years working for other designers. With financial backing from the clothing conglomerate VF Corporation, he has developed a brand-building strategy that mirrors those of New York's womenswear empires. In addition to two clothing lines, he now oversees eyewear, footwear and skincare products.

Varvatos dresses the affluent American everyman by offering updated versions of wardrobe staples - leather jackets, denim and tailored suiting. At the same time, he suggests a rock-and-roll edge through advertising campaigns featuring musicians such as Iggy Pop.

  • 1955 Born in Michigan
  • 1984-99 Works for Calvin Klein then Ralph Lauren
  • 1999 Founds own label
  • 2000 Opens first John Varvatos store. Receives CFDA Perry Ellis award for menswear
  • 2001 Receives CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award
  • 2005 Again receives CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award. Operates five stores across the country. Over 130 retailers across continents carry his designs
  • 2006 Launches more informal line 'John Varvatos * USA'

Cloak

Cloak, red kerchief shirt, slim plaid jeans, Spring/Summer 2007

Cloak, red kerchief shirt, slim plaid jeans, Spring/Summer 2007

Cloak, the short-lived enterprise founded by Russian émigré Alexandre Plokhov, offered a distinct sartorial alternative to mainstream American menswear. Its dark colour palette, military borrowings and structured silhouettes suggest a tough, flinty masculine ideal.

Despite awards and acclaim, Plokhov closed down his label after only eight years, citing financial pressures. But he said of being a designer, 'Seeing Cloak on the street worn by somebody I had never met continues to bring me the greatest joy!'

  • 1967 Born in Narofominsk, Russia
  • 1998 Moves to New York after studying fashion in Chicago and starting a custom tailoring business. Then works as a men's pattern cutter for Marc Jacobs
  • 1999 Founds Cloak
  • 2001 Featured designer in Gen Art's 'Fresh Faces in Fashion' event
  • 2004 One of ten finalists and then one of two runners-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
  • 2005 Receives CFDA Perry Ellis award for menswear. Opens flagship store in New York's Soho
  • 2006 Presents his last collection, Spring/Summer 2007
  • 2007 Announces closure of Cloak

Thom Browne

Thom Browne established his tailoring label after several years spent modelling and then designing for others. His reinterpretations of the classic suit show a preoccupation with cut and construction. The silhouette is particular. Suit jackets are trim, trouser legs are narrow, cuffs graze the ankles. In addition, Browne uses unexpected fabrics, silhouettes and surface treatments.

Brown sells bespoke suits and separates from his Manhattan studio, and ready-to-wear versions via high-end retailers, like Bergdorf Goodman Men in New York and Colette in Paris.

  • 1966 Born in Allentown, PA
  • 2001 Founds Thom Browne label
  • 2005 One of two runners-up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
  • 2006 Wins CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award
  • 2007 Debuts capsule collections with menswear, womenswear and accessories for the American retailer Brooks Brothers. Designs a line of men's jewellery for Harry Winston scheduled to launch spring 2007. Browne's designs now carried by retailers such as Barneys, Colette and Harvey Nichols
Thom Browne, Silk faille morning coat, linen shirt, ruffled cotton shorts, silk bow tie, nylon sleeve garters, Spring/Summer 2007
Thom Browne, Silk faille morning coat, linen shirt, ruffled cotton shorts, silk bow tie, nylon sleeve garters, Spring/Summer 2007
Thom Browne, Silk faille morning coat, linen shirt, ruffled cotton shorts, silk bow tie, nylon sleeve garters, Spring/Summer 2007
Thom Browne, Silk faille morning coat, linen shirt, ruffled cotton shorts, silk bow tie, nylon sleeve garters, Spring/Summer 2007
Thom Browne, Quilted wool four-piece suit of waistcoat, sleeveless jacket, inner waistcoat and trousers, cotton shirt, wool bow tie, Autumn/Winter 2006–7
Thom Browne, Quilted wool four-piece suit of waistcoat, sleeveless jacket, inner waistcoat and trousers, cotton shirt, wool bow tie, Autumn/Winter 2006–7
Thom Browne, Quilted wool four-piece suit of waistcoat, sleeveless jacket, inner waistcoat and trousers, cotton shirt,wool bow tie, Autumn/Winter 2006–7
Thom Browne, Quilted wool four-piece suit of waistcoat, sleeveless jacket, inner waistcoat and trousers, cotton shirt,wool bow tie, Autumn/Winter 2006–7

Sportswear-Chic

Claire McCardell, hostess dress, 1955. Museum no. T.77-1978

Claire McCardell, hostess dress, 1955. Museum no. T.77-1978

Many of New York fashion's new generation have established themselves quickly by creating fashionable, dressy women's sportswear - a way of dressing that suits the city's fast-paced contemporary lifestyle.

Sportswear, or informal interchangeable separate pieces, is an American industry term, suggesting its origins in sport and athletics. The stylistic precursors to today's sportswear-chic emerged during the 1930s - notably in New York - and continued after the Second World War. Layered knitwear, shirtwaist dresses and trousers for women formed part of America's practical, increasingly informal post-war wardrobe.

Today, women wear dressed-up sportswear to social events as well as to the office. While linked to a tradition of mixed-pieces versatility, sportswear shows an evolving sensibility. It incorporates the ornament, eclectic design references and luxurious fabrics desired by the 21st -century upmarket shopper. These design distinctions ensure that sportswear-inspired clothing continues to be the engine of New York's fashion industry.

Geoffrey Beene, jersey skirt, silk shirt, velvet jacket and knitted silk tie, 1974. Museum no. T.30:1-4-2006.
Geoffrey Beene, jersey skirt, silk shirt, velvet jacket and knitted silk tie, 1974. Museum no. T.30:1-4-2006.
Ralph Lauren, Cotton blouse, cable-knit wool sweater and plaid wool skirt, 1981. Museum no. T.509:1-3-2000, Given by Jill Ritblat
Ralph Lauren, Cotton blouse, cable-knit wool sweater and plaid wool skirt, 1981. Museum no. T.509:1-3-2000, Given by Jill Ritblat
Calvin Klein, 1986-7. Museum no. T.236:1&2-1997.
Calvin Klein, Dress, 1986-7. Museum no. T.236:1&2-1997.
Donna Karen, black wool day dress, about 1985. Museum no. T.98-1998
Donna Karen, black wool day dress, about 1985. Museum no. T.98-1998

 

Zac Posen

At 21, Zac Posen was the youngest of the four sportswear-chic designers to start his own label. A native New Yorker, he quickly devised a business strategy of stepping out onto the city's social circuit with Posen-clad celebrities in tow. In Posen's words, 'amazing hype from celebrities in the clothing drove the business'.

Though the ensembles displayed here show that Zac Posen aims for dramatic glamour, he cites a debt to America's 'comfort first' sportswear legacy.

  • 1980 Born in Brooklyn
  • 1994 Attended the pre-college programme at Parsons School of Design
  • 1998-2001 Studied womenswear design at Central Saint Martins, London. Shows his student work in the V&A's display Curvaceous
  • 2001 Founds his own label. Presents a collection as part of GenArt's Fresh Faces in Fashion
  • 2002 One of five winners of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award
  • 2004 Receives financial backing from Sean 'Diddy' Combs and receives CFDA Swarovski/Perry Ellis award for womenswear
  • 2007 Oversees 49 staff members and the worldwide distribution of his designs
Zac Posen, hook and eye dress, Autumn/Winter 2002-3. Museum no. T.213-2004
Zac Posen, hook and eye dress, Autumn/Winter 2002-3. Museum no. T.213-2004
Zac Posen, ‘Underwater’ evening dress, metallic silk jacquard, Spring/ Summer 2007
Zac Posen, ‘Underwater’ evening dress, metallic silk jacquard, Spring/ Summer 2007
Zac Posen, ‘Underwater’ evening dress, metallic silk jacquard, Spring/ Summer 2007
Zac Posen, ‘Underwater’ evening dress, metallic silk jacquard, Spring/ Summer 2007

Proenza Schouler

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the founders of Proenza Schouler, started their label in their early 20s in 2002. Their subsequent rise to prominence was rapid. Five years later they are selling their designs across the America, Europe and Asia.

The mixable pieces of their clothes reflect the sportswear roots of American fashion. However, Proenza Schouler's designs rely increasingly on luxury fabrics and detailing, as in the ensembles shown here. A signature piece is the bustier or corset top, trimmed with satin or contrasting material.

  • 2002 Present their joint graduation collection at Parsons School of Design, New York. Barneys buys graduation collection. Found Proenza Schouler
  • 2003 Receive the CFDA Perry Ellis award for womenswear. One of five winners of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award
  • 2004 Finalists and then the winners of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
  • 2007 Hired by the powerful American mass-market retailer Target to design a fashion range
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006. Photograph by Monica Freudi
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006. Photograph by Monica Freudi
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006
Proenza Schouler, trousers, cropped jacket and shirt, Spring/Summer 2006
Proenza Schouler, Linen and hemp skirt, pieced cotton top, leather belt, Spring/Summer 2007
Proenza Schouler, Linen and hemp skirt, pieced cotton top, leather belt, Spring/Summer 2007

Mary Ping

Mary Ping started her sportswear-inspired label at the age of 23 with little formal fashion training, after studying fine art at university. She produces two collections annually, selling them to stores in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Ping's collections are linked to America's sportswear tradition through their pared-down, versatile shapes, mix-and-match daywear and simplified eveningwear. Her design aim is to create a timeless wardrobe with a modern sensibility.

  • 1978 Born in New York
  • 2000 Graduates from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, with a degree in fine art
  • 2001 Attends fashion design courses at London College of Fashion. Works as an intern with London designer Robert Carey Williams. Founds own fashion label
  • 2004 One of five winners of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award
Mary Ping, 'Bette' dress, Spring/Summer 2007, photograph by Isabel Asha Penzlien
Mary Ping, 'Bette' dress, Spring/Summer 2007, photograph by Isabel Asha Penzlien
Mary Ping, Hound's-tooth sweater dress, Autumn/Winter 2005-6, loaned by Mary Ping
Mary Ping, Hound's-tooth sweater dress, Autumn/Winter 2005-6, loaned by Mary Ping
Mary Ping, 'Bette' dress, Spring/Summer 2007
Mary Ping, 'Bette' dress, Spring/Summer 2007

Derek Lam

Derek Lam established his fashion label at the age of 35, after a dozen years working for other designers, mainly Michael Kors.

Lam has described his design focus as 'finding my own tribe'. The informal spirit of his clothes references post-war American sportswear. Although Lam is inspired by Manhattan's urban thrum, like many new-generation New York designers he prefers to manufacture most of his clothes in Italy, not locally.

  • 1966 Born in San Francisco
  • 1990-2002 Works for Michael Kors
  • 2002 Founds own fashion label
  • 2003 Presents his debut collection, Spring/Summer 2004, during September fashion week
  • 2004 One of five winners of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award. One of ten finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
  • 2005 Again a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist
  • 2005 Opens a showroom in Milan to cater for the European boutiques that stock his designs
  • 2006 Appointed Creative Director by luxury shoe company Tod's to oversee its accessories and a clothing line. Lam's designs debut in select Tod's stores in February 2007

Behnaz Sarafpour

Iranian-born Behnaz Sarafpour grew up in Philadelphia and studied fashion design in New York. She started her own label at the age of 30, just before the attacks of September 11, 2001. As she said of her timing, 'The only way you could go was up.'

Sarafpour's strength is an ability to infuse even dressed-up designs with a nonchalant sportswear sensibility. With early support from Vogue and New York retailers, she now sells her ladylike dresses and polished separates in around 50 stores worldwide.

  • 1970 Born in Iran
  • 1992 Graduates from Parsons School of Design, New York
  • 1991-3 Works for Anne Klein
  • 1994-8 Works for Izaac Mizrahi
  • 1998-2003 Womenswear designer for Barneys
  • 2001 Founds own label. Sells first collection to Barneys
  • 2003, 2004, 2005 Nominated for the CFDA Swarovski/Perry Ellis award for womenswear
  • 2004 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist
  • 2006 Commissioned by cosmetics company Lancôme to create a bespoke lipstick shade; also by mass-market retailer Target to design a fashion range

Avant-garde

New York has long supported the new and experimental in fine art, architecture and the performing arts. Yet, it often fails designers with more radical aspirations, perhaps because the traditional focus lies in producing saleable, commercial clothing.

In recent years, a handful of makers have challenged these constraints. Several features characterise their subversive approaches. New York's fashion avant-gardists explore unusual construction and silhouettes. They may also design according to a utopian manifesto, or make clothes that reference a story or narrative. Eschewing the traditional catwalk presentation, several have experimented with off-beat fashion show formats.

New York's fashion iconoclasts yearn for an audience that accommodates, even celebrates, the unorthodox. But instead they may be forced to compromise: one of the four featured fashion radicals has softened her original design vision. More sobering still, a further two closed down within five years of launching.

'Slow and Steady Wins the Race', reinterpretation of Gucci handbag, 'Bags' collection, 2002

'Slow and Steady Wins the Race', reinterpretation of Gucci handbag, 'Bags' collection, 2002

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

The anonymous creator of Slow and Steady Wins the Race (SSWTR) founded the label at the age of 23. SSWTR's thematic collections feature strong designs using inexpensive materials. Its anti-consumerist manifesto is to slow the pace of fashion's built-in obsolescence. Thus, each piece sells for under $100 (£50). The designer originally pledged to produce only 100 of each item, but it became difficult to honour this strict production limit. The limit has now been revised to 3500 units.

  • 1983 Born in New York
  • 2001 Founds SSWTR in her Upper East Side apartment

Tess Giberson

Each of Tess Giberson's poetic collections referenced a theme, ranging from shelter to magnification. Pregnant when she designed the Autumn/Winter 2005-6 collection, she exaggerated or enlarged details such as collars, lapels and pockets.

Her intellectual approach appealed to the arts community, and museums in New York and Tokyo displayed her work. At the same time, influential retailers such as Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman carried her clothes.

Recognising the particular strength of her knitwear, the cashmere label TSE then invited Giberson to design for them. She took the job, discontinuing her own label.

  • 1971 Born
  • 1996 Graduated with B.F.A. in apparel design from Rhode Island School of Design
  • 2001 Founds her own label. Barneys carry her designs 
  • 2002 One of five recipients of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award
  • 2004 Invited by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, to participate in the National Design Triennial
  • 2005 Participates in 'Cut and Construction', a group exhibition at the Pratt Institute, New York, examining the craft of dressmaking. Invited to design for TSE. Discontinues own label
  • 2006 First collection for TSE

Three As Four

Three As Four exemplifies New York's international mix. Gabi is Palestinian, Adi is Israeli and Ange is from Tajikistan. With curved or asymmetrical silhouettes blossoming around the body, their designs demand notice. Seeking alternatives to traditional catwalk shows, Three As Four have experimented with art gallery installations, art fair appearances and wind-up dolls as models. They have also launched a lower-priced denim line.

  • 1965 Gabi born in Lebanon
  • 1971 Ange born in Tajikistan
  • 1972 Kai born in Germany
  • 1974 Adi born in Israel
  • 1998 Together they found As Four
  • 2000 Invited to stage an unorthodox presentation of their designs during New York Fashion Week. The show was titled 'Puppencouture'. In place of fashion models it featured scores of miniature wind-up hula dolls wearing As Four designs
  • 2002 One of five recipients of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award
  • 2003 Participate in National Design Triennial, Copper Hewitt Museum, New York
  • 2005 Kai leaves the design label. It continues under the amended name Three As Four. Launch of Black Label, their denim collection. Launch Three As Four Parfum for Colette, Paris

Miguel Adrover

Miguel Adrover's fashion career illustrates the difficulties of expressing a radical design vision in New York. His label balanced skilled cut and construction with strident political references, such as rainforest destruction and the Islamic Middle East. But although Adrover's designs challenged convention, they never strayed too far from it. Thus, his clothes appealed to the crucial audience of fashion critics, retailers and editors. Despite widespread praise, Adrover struggled when his financial backer pulled out and was forced to close.

  • 1965 Born in Majorca
  • 1991 Arrives in New York
  • 1995 Opens a boutique, Horn, with friend Douglas Hobbs in New York's East Village
  • 1999 Founds Adrover, his own design label, and presents his first solo collection, Spring/Summer 2000
  • 2000 The Pegasus Group agrees to back the label. Adrover wins the CFDA Perry Ellis award for womenswear
  • 2001 The Pegasus Group pulls out
  • 2002-4 Adrover continues, combining two seasons' collections into single, annual catwalk presentations
  • 2004 Presents a last collection, Spring/Summer 2005. Closes the label and moves back to Majorca
Miguel Adrover, Dress, combining a distressed Coca-Cola T-shirt with a hijabinspired tunic, Autumn/Winter 2001–2
Miguel Adrover, Dress, combining a distressed Coca-Cola T-shirt with a hijabinspired tunic, Autumn/Winter 2001–2
Miguel Adrover, Dress, combining a distressed Coca-Cola T-shirt with a hijabinspired tunic, Autumn/Winter 2001–2
Miguel Adrover, Dress, combining a distressed Coca-Cola T-shirt with a hijabinspired tunic, Autumn/Winter 2001–2
Miguel Adrover, Wool suit, leather shoes, Spring/Summer 2003
Miguel Adrover, Wool suit, leather shoes, Spring/Summer 2003
Charles James, black worsted wool coat with white cotton piqué collar, about 1938. Museum no. T.291-1078. Given by Miss Philipa Barnes

Charles James, black worsted wool coat with white cotton piqué collar, about 1938. Museum no. T.291-1078. Given by Miss Philipa Barnes

Atelier

Within New York's fashion culture the craft of clothes-making can be overshadowed by sportswear's dominance. However, the zealous involvement with craftsmanship shown by a handful of 20th-century designers has been taken forward by a new generation of New York-based designers.

The 21st-century atelier is more of an artisan's workshop than an enterprise geared toward commercial production. It celebrates bespoke service and is preoccupied with material, cut and the final detail. New York's atelier designers avoid fashion fads and often limit distribution to a handful of outlets, thus creating a modern-day luxury: clothes that few people will own.

Lost Art

The label Lost Art, with its small team of artisans, was founded by self-taught Jordan Bettan. Since 1999, he has used fine leather, suede and other skins for his made-to-measure creations. Each commission is hand-crafted, using carefully selected materials and traditional leather-making techniques like intricate lacing and fringing.

Betten's distribution is limited in that he only sells from his Chelsea workshop, where the clientele includes musicians such as Lenny Kravitz and Cheryl Crow. Lost Art's other clients perhaps see the clothes as a way of associating with the glamour of rock-and-roll leathers.

  • 1970 Born in Connecticut
  • 1997 Designs his first leather creation, a bag
  • 1998-9 Commissioned by designer Anna Sui to make leather designs for her own collection
  • 1998 Featured in Gen Art's 'Fresh Faces in Fashion' event, an annual showcase of the best emerging fashion designers
  • 1999 Opens his own atelier on West 29th Street
  • 2000 Showcased in Gen Art's Styles International Design Competition

Jean Yu

Yu focuses on precise cut and construction. She uses supple chiffons and jerseys to design both ready-to-wear and bespoke garments. A concern with precision leads her to favour black and white, and she prefers machine sewing to achieve her linear, architectural silhouettes.

In her Soho shop front and studio Yu has created her atelier ideal: she meets clients, oversees fittings and crafts her creations all under one roof. Crucially, without a backer to satisfy, Yu maintains creative freedom.

  • 1968 Born in Korea
  • 1975 Moves with family to Southern California
  • 1990 Moves to New York City, starts a denim clothing line, enrolls at F.I.T.
  • 1991-2000 Designs Yujean line of ready-to-wear clothing. Then designs an anonymous clothing line, which she sells to Barneys, Harvey Nichols and others 
  • 2001 Opens her Soho shop and studio, Atelier=37, on Crosby Street
  • 2004 Singer Gwen Stefani models a Jean Yu dress on the cover of April Vogue
  • 2005 Launches annual collections and is a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award
  • 2007 Receives the Avenuel Designer award

 

Maggie Norris

Maggie Norris designed for Ralph Lauren for 14 years before founding her eponymous couture label specialising in tailored daywear and luxurious evening wear.

She sells her bespoke garments out of an atelier-like space with a workshop attached. Her made-to-measure creations harness the rarefied technical skills of the half-dozen accomplished cutters, seamstresses and embroiderers that she employs. In addition, Norris travels frequently to Paris and London to source antique textiles and specialist suppliers.

  • 1983-99 Works at Ralph Lauren
  • 1999 Leaves to start her own label. Spends a year travelling and researching suppliers
  • 2001 Opens atelier on 8th Avenue
  • 2002 Opens couture salon at Bergdorf Goodman

 

Costello Tagliapietra

A focus on fabrics characterises Costello Tagliapietra's approach. To achieve the desired draping and fit, the designers prefer double- or single-knit jerseys. Also, they celebrate what they call 'the treats inside': rolled edges, old-fashioned interior belts and zips with vintage lace trim.

Initially, their bespoke womenswear was only available at their Brooklyn studio, but they now sell a factory-produced line via retailers. Costello Tagliapietra is at an important juncture for a fledgling label with atelier aspirations, aiming to balance design integrity with international expansion.

  • 1962 Jeffrey Costello born in Pennsylvania
  • 1974 Robert Tagliapietra born in New York
  • 2003 Together they found their own label
  • 2005 Receive the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award and expand to sell a factory-produced line through fashion retailers
  • 2006 Finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award

Celebrity

Lost Art, leather trousers worn by Sheryl Crow in concert, Woodstock 1999, photograph by Tara Canova

Lost Art, leather trousers worn by Sheryl Crow in concert, Woodstock 1999, photograph by Tara Canova

New York, more than other fashion capitals, thrives on celebrity. Its fashion show front rows are celebrity-studded. Some of its designers have crafted global empires so powerful that they have become famous themselves.

The use of celebrity to promote designer wares is nothing new. Couturiers in the 19th and early 20th centuries capitalised on the patronage of famous actresses. The clothes of many late 20th-century designers have been popularised by high-profile musicians. But increasingly, New York's designers draw on the cult of celebrity, either their clients' or their own, to establish and then sustain their fashion labels.

The creations of  the featured designers in this category differ greatly in purpose and price. Yet they represent a range of approaches to a business strategy that has long been identified with New York's fashion culture.


Christiane Joy

Christiane Joy Hultquist, now Christian Joy, began making clothes in 2000. Soon after, Joy was crafting stage clothes for Karen O (for Orzolek), lead singer for the popular New York indie-rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Joy's wardrobe for Orzolek is part of the band's appeal - fans frequently copy Orzolek's look. The clothes, more costume than fashion, are often crafted by glue gun instead of needle and thread. However unpolished, they complement Orzolek's extroverted on-stage persona and feature slashing, painting and padding. Though Joy sells a ready-to-wear label on-line, Orzolek is Joy's signature client.

  • 1973 Born in Iowa
  • 2000-1 Began designing for Karen O
  • 2002 Article titled 'Even Odds' written by Johanna Lenander for June-July 2003 issue of Nylon magazine. This was the first significant press piece to focus on Christian's wardrobe for Karen O
  • 2003 Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut album went gold

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson started out as a self-taught bespoke tailor. He credits early success in part to dressing New York bands such as Calla and the Secret Machines in his accomplished, sharply tailored designs. Robinson has prospered with their success, which connects his label to the downtown cool of New York's music scene.

Harnessing the skills of New York's last generation of specialised tailors, Robinson's crisp, precise clothes give performers a distinct sartorial identity. Similarly, they lend an air of tough-chic to Robinson's other clients.

  • 1972 Born in New Mexico
  • 1990 Opens a boutique on Route 66
  • 1998 Moves to New York
  • 2001 Establishes his own label
  • 2003 Opens atelier on Lower 5th Avenue
Craig Robinson, 'cavalry jacket' worn by Josh Garza, drummer of the Secret Machines, Autumn/Winter 2006-7, photograph by Rudy Archuleta

Craig Robinson, 'Cavalry Jacket' worn by Josh Garza, drummer of the Secret Machines, Autumn/Winter 2006-7, photograph by Rudy Archuleta

Craig Robinson, 'Carter' 3-piece light wool suit worn by musician Jon Spencer, Autumn/Winter 2006-7, photograph by Rudy Archuleta

Craig Robinson, 'Carter' 3-piece light wool suit worn by musician Jon Spencer, Autumn/Winter 2006-7, photograph by Rudy Archuleta


Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John

Sean John store, opened on 5th Avenue, New York, 2004

Sean John store, opened on 5th Avenue, New York, 2004

In 2004, fashion journalist Suzy Menkes observed, 'It seems that anyone in America can produce a collection, as long as they're already famous.' One of the most high-profile celebrity-turned-designers is hip hop producer Sean 'Diddy' Combs. In the 1990s, through his record label and a savvy cultivation of his own image, Combs became the public face of American rap.

His clothing line, Sean John, focuses on ubiquitous streetwear staples like athletic tops and denim, later adding suits and accessories. Through association with his own personal swagger, the label compliments Combs's powerful taste-making empire.

  • 1969 Born in Harlem, New York City
  • 1998 Founds Sean John
  • 2004 Opens flagship store on 5th Avenue, New York, and wins CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year award
  • 2006 Launches men's fragrance, 'Unforgivable'
Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John, Parka, top and trousers, Autumn/Winter 2003-4, photograph courtesy of Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John

Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John, Parka, top and trousers, Autumn/Winter 2003-4, photograph courtesy of Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John

Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John, jumpsuit and fur-trimmed coat, Autumn/Winter 2003-4, photograph courtesy of Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John

Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John, jumpsuit and fur-trimmed coat, Autumn/Winter 2003-4, photograph courtesy of Sean 'Diddy' Combs for Sean John

 

Interviews

Interview with Alexandre Plokhov of Cloak

IV Interviewer, Sonnet Stanfill, Fashion curator, V&A
AP Alexandre Plokhov

IV Working in New York, how does that inform your work aesthetically and also in terms of logistics and production? Also, what does it mean to be a New York-based designer? Does it inspire you or not?

AP Absolutely. For me, it does. Because if you look at the colour palette it is a fairly dark and luxuriating colour palette and Cloak aesthetics is influenced also by the New York cloths and just a cool skirt of warmth and loneliness of New York and a slight danger to it too, and that's how all of us perceived New York, even when I was in Russia. So, you have a change. It's the only place I wanted it in. Cloak is born in New York and I think that's where it should stay at this particular point.

As far as the logistics, it's easy and it's hard. The company has been around for five years. We've kind of figured out how to do it. There are factories that can do any kind of level of work, which is comparable to anything the Europeans can do, from hand tailoring to beautiful shirt-making. The only thing that is sort of missing in New York is knitwear. It's easier to do hand knits and it's a little bit more complicated to do machine knits and that we outsource. Other than that we have beautiful leather factories that we work with. We have a beautiful hand-tailoring factory that we work with in Brooklyn. So, everything could be found. The problem is the variety of these sources is quite limited. It's not like in Italy. There's a region that has 20 factories that just make shirts. That does not apply here. There is one factory that makes shirts. But now we know them. When you start out it's a little bit difficult.

IV Finding your way through?

AP Yes, because of the minimums and things like that. But if you stay in the business long enough they start trusting you.

IV Have you felt, being a relatively new designer on the scene in New York, that the infrastructure has supported you?

AP At first we really didn't feel any support, up until four years ago, and then all of a sudden last year everything changed.

IV Why?

AP Because for some bizarre reason I decided to participate in the CFDA/ Vogue Fund and then there was a movie, then a CFDA nomination, then all of a sudden I won. So, now I get a lot of support. Before that I don't know if there was any.

The impact of the CFDA/Vogue Fund was in part about the money and part of it was about a mentoring programme. They paired us up with Julie Gilhart from Barneys. All of a sudden you get advice as far as trademark protection or where do you make this or where do you make that. You know who to call, and these people answer the phone call, as opposed to it going to the secretary and never going anywhere. I'm a grownup person. I don't need somebody telling me that pink is going to be big next season, that I should really do that. I don't need that. Sometimes I need advice when I'm about to make a strategic decision. I just want to make an informed decision and having the ear of people like Julie Gilhart or anybody from Barneys, it helps.

IV What motivated you to go into menswear?

AP Selfishness, basically. I don't know. For a long time I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I know we talked about the suit but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to make a suit and it was a kind of a challenge. Eventually I figured this out. I think that was like waving a red flag and eventually I progressed into it.

I always wanted to make clothes, not necessarily for myself but I just thought there's less of a disposable factor to men's clothing. It's like, yes, the seasons matter, but it's not so frivolous. It's a bit more serious and it's not so psychotic. With women's fashion one day it's Russian, the next day it's bohemian hippy, the third day it's Romeo Gigli. With menswear, it doesn't quite go like this.

IV Do you feel that it's also perhaps less celebrity-driven?

AP I think so because, in all fairness, it doesn't go in any magazines. Men don't shop like this. Very few men shop from magazines. Most of them find a designer that fits them and reflects their personality and just keep buying. Yes, there is a certain element of it helping if a band wears your clothes, that appears in the media or in a magazine spread but that is secondary to the design, the fit and on-time delivery. It really is because it's not driven by a profile in Vogue.
 
IV Do you have in your mind an image of the man that's buying your clothes?

AP Not really. It's something you cannot control. I do have in my mind what I believe that should be, it's silly kinds of things, because once you've sold to a store… You are doing the pre-selection by choosing the store. So, you trust you're going to be in good hands. Obviously they really want to buy you also, but past that point I pretty much have no control. A salesperson would sell it to whoever it suits. We can talk about the ideal target customer until we're blue in the face but it's a business.

IV Have you ever seen random people just walking down the street wearing your clothes?

AP Yes, many times. That actually was one of the highlights. I saw a guy in Starbucks wearing a sweater and some people in the street, when I got on the subway, wearing my jeans. It's cool. It's a very rewarding experience. But it's never in a way that you thought it was going to look!

Alexandre Plokhov was interviewed on 26 July, 2005 at Cloak's design offices in the Meatpacking District. Cloak closed down in early 2007.


Interview with Daniel Silver & Steven Cox of Duckie Brown

IV  Interviewer, Sonnet Stanfill, Fashion curator, V&A
SC Steven Cox
DS Daniel Silver

IV Do you feel that there is a camaraderie between designers in New York?

SC  No. That's been the unfortunate thing. I guess designers are secretive. They don't want people to know what they're doing. I don't know. I wish there was more of that. Like the circle of writers at the Algonquin, where they got together, every month or every week. I wish there was something like that, so that we could all use each other. I don't know whether Donna, Calvin or Ralph had anything to do with that. It's very singular. It's also a time thing - we don't really have time. We're working here and we don't know what people think. So, for you to find us you have to know about us because we're so small. We're so delighted that it happens more and more because people are getting to know about us. It's very intimate the way we work. So, we don't really have time to go and see others.

IV How small are you?

SC We are in, I think, 13 or 14 stores around the world. We're at Barneys in New York on the third floor. Tokyo is our biggest market. We're in many stores there. We're in Moscow, we're in Monte Carlo, we're in Denver, we're in Tennessee, we've got family there. I think we have about $500,000 a year in sales and we do everything out of our studio. We ship out of here. We don't make it here but we do everything else here.

IV Where do you manufacture?

SC We make everything mostly in New York. We make our shirts in New Jersey, our trousers in Brooklyn. All of these factories are really old-time.

DS We are very small and very specific and, of course, part of the challenge of starting up your own company is what factory do you having making your garments, how good is the factory and will they deal with you. What are their minimums and will they deal with such small orders? That becomes difficult. We have felt people, especially in the New York area, have been extremely helpful and supportive and the people in all the factories have been so behind us. They've been willing to make up 12 of one jacket or just two dozen of one pair of trousers.

SC  One of the guys at our trouser factory has definitely become a huge mentor for me. It's that respect for the old that is important for me. He really is behind us and he almost pushes me. He's very special. I still can't believe we showed in a tent at New York Fashion Week. So you have our particular look being made in a conservative trouser factory. It's interesting. That whole old school has helped us a lot.

IV  And it's very interesting to me that everything's made in the area.

SC We even have sweaters made in the area. Our handmade sweaters are made in Queens but we also have a factory in China where they make our less expensive sweaters. Our mills are all over the world. Fabrics come from everywhere but basically the bulk of the production is done in New York. We have a main New York label.

DS For us it's a two-pronged situation with regard to where we have things made up. The only way we can really maintain control of the collection and the bulk of what we're turning out is if we have access to those factories. That's one reason why we have everything made here. It would be cheaper for us to have things made in Europe and in Asia but then there would be the monetary issue, the time issue, how often we have to go to those factories to check on the orders. We don't have the relationships with those factories like we do here. So, there's much more of a chance of our order being put back to very last minute because they've got a million dollar order from Ralph or Calvin. So, in order for us to maintain the business in terms of being financially solvent, delivering on time and maintaining the quality, it became very apparent very quickly that we had to centre on doing as much as we can out of the area.

SC When we grow we would like to make elsewhere but at the moment, control-wise, my factories can phone me up now and I can be there within 15 minutes or half an hour. I can actually go out there and really just say, this is the way it's going to be. In Italy, how could we do that? If they made something incorrectly in Italy it would be a disaster, but here everyone checks with us. So, I'm always at the factory.

IV  In terms of your business, what's your role?

DS Well, I would say that Steven is definitely the designing force; he is the one who has been schooled in design. He went to Liverpool and graduated and worked within the industry for 15 years before we started Duckie Brown. I had been a glove designer in the early 80s and made leather gloves for men and women. But then I became a TV producer and I worked in daytime television for 12 years. So Steven is the design force and I'm more at the business end. Still, when it comes to the decisions we're making with regard to each collection, it becomes this collaboration between us. Sometimes I might even want to say: 'you know what? We need to do it in navy because that's going to sell,' or I might say to him: 'No, no, no, we need to do that jacket, it's so wacky, it doesn't matter whether we sell it or not, I think it's worthwhile'. I try to do the knit part of the collection.

SC He's head of knits!

DS I'm head of knits, which we joke about.

SC I think also that Daniel has become a better designer and I've become a better businessman. So, it has become, I don't know, symbiosis or whatever the word is.

DS A synergy.

SC For example, on the fabric subject, I don't want to go there on my own because I want Daniel's input into the decision. That's an important part of the design process. Daniel, because of his business in television, he's able to phone up the dealers. I'd be a mess. But he gets right on the phone. But then I can go to the factory and explain how to make a jacket and the collar's wrong and all that, which Daniel can't do but has learnt to do. I think that we're closer than we think in our roles within Duckie Brown.
 
IV Do you think there's a way that designing in New York influences your clothes aesthetically?

SC I've worked in New York for 12 years for a lot of designers - Ralph and Tommy [Hilfiger] and Club Monaco. My fantasy is that the collection would look a lot weirder and that the English schooling with the American merchandising means that we do have a black Duckie collection and black trousers and stuff that will sell, because I worked with Ralph Lauren. But I think that in England it might be that we've got that three-legged trouser.
 
DS  There's something about New York that means you either survive here or you don't. I think that no matter what we design there is a sensibility that it's totally wearable. Now, it might not be everyone's aesthetic, especially with men, because the roles are so tightly drawn and the lines of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable are so crazy. Of course, the essence of Duckie Brown is challenging those things. What is acceptable?

IV But in a subtle way.

SC In a very subtle way.

IV Because things have to be wearable.

SC Yes.

DS There's something about New York that it's very business-centric. Even when it comes to doing our shows. We believe that a show is a show. It's not necessarily about showing pieces that are totally wearable but it's about a fantasy. You're putting over an idea, a concept, a smell, a vision. So, yes, we'll have pieces within the collection when you're giving a show but why not have those fantasy pieces? New York is very critical of that when you do a show. They want each piece to be wearable and they want to be able to recognise it, understand it and figure out how it works into each collection. It's interesting because we struggle with that every season. Every season we do a number of pieces that are not particularly wearable and we don't give a damn because that's a show.

SC It's not taken that well with the press and we have to show it. This [indicating a pair of men's underpants with gloves attached] was the first piece we ever did for Duckie Brown. It was in my sketchbook when I was 18. I don't know where I got it from but I did a sketch of a pair of underwear with gloves attached because men put their hands in their trousers so much.

IV So, who do you think is buying your clothes?

SC We are surprised. Because of what we've just been saying we have a very, very broad variety of customers from Metallica to Wall Street guys to my brother. And then we do have Graham Norton. People expect more.

IV Is there a wide variety in terms of what buyers in New York are buying for the stores and buyers in Denver are buying for their customers?

SC The Japanese will buy…

IV …everything.

SC Yeah. The crazier, the better. We do certain things for them that… We don't do it for them but we know that this is going to be for the Japanese. They are kooky, they're eccentric, they buy the underwear, they will mix and match things up. What was very interesting, though; last week, before we shipped we had six racks of the clothes, and then you look at the collection itself - which had quite a lot of colour in it - there was hardly any colour being shipped.

IV So, you talk of clothes that move away from the boring black, grey and navy. What inspired you to focus on menswear was the fact that you couldn't find things like that.

DS That was one of the things and we also felt business-wise it was easier to make an impact in the men's market.

SC I think it's about being a man. That's really it. I have done women's. With all these places I've worked, I never did men's. I did women's at all these places and when we started everyone was like: 'When are you going to do women? When are you going to do women!' I don't know whether I want to do women's. It's very different.

DS It would have to also be the right situation.

SC When we first started, we were going to do a men's line. We did a business plan at the beginning. It was more of a middle contemporary… I had worked at Theory and we were going to do something like that but we were, I think, in denial ourselves of what we were actually going to do. But as soon as we started it was expensive and beautiful. Expensive fabrics and it's gone even more expensive and even more handmade. We're going that way.

IV Is that what you anticipated?

SC Well, we did and we didn't.

DS I think from a business point of view we thought, well, if the price point was a bit softer we'll sell more, but it became apparent very quickly that it was really about us doing what we wanted to do and what our fantasy was: beautiful, fabulous clothing. We're also aware, especially now, that we're not for everybody. We're not going to be in a huge department store. We're going to be in the best fashion store in the city. That's what we aspire to. And so, that customer is not concerned about a price point. They're in the zone. That fabulous cashmere coat, I want it. $5,000? Wrap it up and charge it. It's that. We're not going to sell a hundred of them, we'll sell five of them, but we love this idea that it's very specialised and people that want it, enjoy it.

SC We love that we laugh doing it because I didn't laugh at a lot of places I worked. It was very frustrating. If we can buy a polka dot fabric and it makes us laugh for five minutes making it, then that is worth it and we laugh a lot doing this. We can do what we want-there are no people telling us what to do and we have fun. It is only clothes. We are not saving anybody's life. And we want to have fun doing it. It's hard and there are headaches sometimes but it's a different headache to working with somebody else.

What we have found, though, is that it's almost like a football team - the local football team -that we are a New York designer. The sales staff are very behind us. Also, when you've got to the third floor of Barneys, it's incredible to be there. The other designers like Gucci, Alexander McQueen…we are the only home team playing in that third floor and we're also very accessible to the people.

Steven Cox and Daniel Silver were interviewed in their design studio on 25 July, 2005.


Interview with Thom Browne

IV Interviewer, Sonnet Stanfill, Fashion curator, V&A
TB Thom Browne
MH Miki Higasa, Kaleidoscope Consulting

IV Tell me about starting out.

TB  America has always been, at least in terms of fashion sense, commercially driven. I think in a way people have figured out that maybe we can just do our thing and it won't be so commercial at the beginning. But in the end it is precisely because you're doing something that's so unique and so specific that people find it. They see the viability of it without compromising and trying to make it commercial. Then in the end it becomes something that is kind of the best of both worlds because you're doing your thing and - oh, my gosh - it's also commercially successful! And that's what I think is the exciting thing.

When I first started to do my own thing I made five suits and I made them exactly the way that I was always looking for myself. That's all I did. Whether or not people were going to like it was not the point. I just knew that this is what I wanted and I thought, well, if I wanted it then there must be somebody else that wants it, and we've found that out. I literally do exactly what I want. I never think whether something is going to sell or not.

MH So, Thom's core business is still so-called 'custom business'. It's not custom in the sense that he'll alternate. He'll basically do his silhouette, but in proportion to that person's body. He has a lot of customers come to him and they'll say, well, can you make it a little bit longer and he'll often turn them away because that's not what he does. He feels that there are other people who do it. It's not his signature.

TB And it doesn't do me any good if they come and they want something that in the end is not how I'd like mine, nor do I actually have any desire to do it.

IV Can you describe how that process works with the customer fitting? Where does that happen?

TB I have a studio down on Little West 12th Street. That's where the custom-fitting is done. So, basically the business, my collection, is broken into the ready-to-wear collection and then also the custom which is downtown. But the ready-to-wear is basically made the same way. It's the same handmade quality, it's just pre-made.

One of the most important things, my biggest hope, is that young guys get back into this whole suit thing. So, when I was thinking about putting my office together I wanted them to come into a space that was very unique, away from their perception of going to get a suit made, where they would come in and lay fabric all over, with a tailor. I wanted to not have any of that because I think so many young guys have gotten away from clothing in general because of that fussy and over-the-top clothing feeling to it.

IV The dark room and measuring tape?

TB They're just intimidated. I think in a way I wanted to just undo all that and that is the reason why, even sometimes when it's shown, I like it to be shown in a way that sometimes it looks like it doesn't even fit. I want this level of handmade clothing for men to be given to people in a way that they've never seen it before so they'll think: 'ah, that does look cool. It doesn't look like something my father would be wearing', or 'it doesn't look like a suit I had to buy for work five years ago'. If they're going to spend the money on reinvesting in clothing, they should feel that they're buying something that's cooler.
 
IV Could you comment on whether being a designer in New York has informed your work both aesthetically and also logistically from the production side?

TB Well, from the production side I make everything here. So, everything is in New York.

IV In Manhattan or in the New York area?

TB New York area. I need it here because I need to be with it all the time.

MH He works with a tailor. The collaborating he does with the tailor is all basically trial and error. But he deals with the best guy.

IV Was it difficult to find someone who could create things to your specifications?

TB Well, it's a dying art. It's really hard to find this level of quality and I really feel like there's only a couple left and, unfortunately, they're all old. I think about whether I should invest in his shop and try and start some type of interning programme because it is such a dying art. What is going to happen in 20 years? Everybody is no younger than mid-40s.

People have to realise that hand-made clothes are more expensive. That is the challenge sometimes. It's not a challenge for us because we've been very good from the beginning in saying this is what it is, it's handmade clothing, and people have to realise that it's handmade clothing. It's not what people have gotten used to in a store. It's not just been shipped from a factory like 95% of the things that are in the stores right now, especially in Manhattan.

It is touched by people and each piece is actually touched by the designer. So, it's so much more unique and so much more special. I think stores are lucky to actually have it, not because it's mine, just because it really elevates the level of what they're putting in their stores and good for the people that actually got it at the beginning.

IV Does being based in New York inform your look or your aesthetic?

TB Yeah, it definitely does. I'm not really inspired by things in the business. I'm more inspired by the energy of people here in town, especially the people that actually lived in the 50s and 60s that you still see now walking down the street and you still see glimpses of clothing that they've had since then and they still look really good. That's what fashion is. It's something that you can buy and really invest your money in and then it looks so timeless that you can wear it for a very long time.

TB For me that is what fashion is, especially for men, because in a way it's like hyper fashion because the guy is so sophisticated and so fashionable that he doesn't need the overt fashion of the day. He knows who he is and it transcends fashion in a way.

IV Can you talk a bit about the decision behind actually starting out on your own?

TB It was the easiest decision, actually wanting to do it. But it was very hard because at first I started in my apartment. In the beginning, nobody really knew about me, so it was basically friends doing me a favour by buying a suit.

Financially it was tough because I wanted to do it all on my own and that's one of the reasons why I started doing it all custom, because I didn't have to pay for anything myself upfront, really. So, it was kind of the chicken way of doing it, but I also didn't want to overwhelm myself with the burden of overheads. I just wanted everything to go into the actual clothing. I wanted all my interest to just be in what was actually going to be out there.

IV And also a really good experience for the one-on-one custom work, working with clients and making to measure.

TB Yeah. It was a good experience. At the beginning they would say things like: 'oh, this stuff just doesn't fit; the jacket's too short and the trousers are too tight'. But that's the whole point of it!

IV You had to patiently explain.

TB Yes! But it's a lot easier now.

IV I would think that that would be a fear for every young designer, someone just starting out on their own, that you're fighting against the world.

TB In a way that is the problem. Well, not a problem. That's the challenge that people shouldn't actually think about. They should just do their thing and if you do it and it's unique and exactly what you want, it kind of will happen. As long as you stay really true and everything's really pure to what you set out to do and you just do it the best way you can do it, from a quality standpoint. I really feel like there's not very many people doing that. It's not easy and you do have to make sure that you're ready for the long haul because it's not going to be there overnight but the last thing we thought about was 'we have to make sure that we are doing things that everyone's going to love'. Not everyone will love it, nor do you want to do something that everyone loves. You just can't worry about that part of it.

IV Some designers I have spoken to have said that in order to maintain the integrity of their core business, their line, they would be open to doing things like an extension line for someone else, so that they can make the money that way and therefore keep their line pure and their look the way they want it. Is that something that you would consider doing, an extension or designing something other, apart from your core label?

TB I wouldn't do an extension of this because I want to keep it exactly what it is. Yeah, I think it's interesting. I definitely would. But it's so nice being on my own and doing my thing that going back to actually working for someone else is not really that interesting.

Thom Browne was interviewed on 27 July, 2005.


Interview with Tess Giberson

IV Interviewer, Sonnet Stanfill, Fashion curator, V&A
TG Tess Giberson

IV Tell me about your 'Shelter No. 1' collection of Autumn/Winter 2003-4.

TG It was about individual community and shelter. I started thinking about community and what made up a community. I was looking at a lot of architecture that was not done by architects but by people, and how the whole community centres around the shelter. Then I started breaking it down. I spent a while reading and studying different structures, and then I wanted to take it away from that and get something that could be explained more simply, so I was really just thinking about what made a community and the individual, and you need everyone. All the individuals have to work together and you need some kind of shelter structure. To do that we built this wooden structure. I designed 10 outfits and I had 10 models, each one was wearing a white slip under their clothes, and then they had their actual outfits on. So I choreographed this presentation, where they each took off, both working together and then also alone, their top goes off and is then put onto this structure and through the whole performance we actually created an inner wall. With a structure you need inside spaces.

I worked with a dancer to do the choreography because I knew she knew bodies, so she really helped me figure out the pacing for how they would do it. Then by the end, the last person had white fabric and they passed it on to the next, going all the way round, then it was all enclosed and they went inside. It was very beautiful at the end. They were all wearing white slips and they went into the shelter. This is a nice example of the way that I like to work.

IV Does living and designing in New York inform your work aesthetically or not? Could you do this anywhere?

TG I love New York and I love living in New York. I love that there are a lot of different kinds of people. It's a great place to work because there is a lot of variety in it. I don't think it really affects the aesthetic of my work because I don't have what I consider an American designer aesthetic. People don't usually know that I'm American from my work. There are a lot of frustrations with showing in New York because it's very, very commercial, and what's accepted as fashion is a very narrow category of what they consider fashion. Not in Paris. They're much more open, and the same people can see your show in Paris and New York and they'll criticise it in New York, but love it in Paris.

IV It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about starting out on your own and what led you to do that, and also how you feel about New York as a place for young designers to launch their own label. Is it a supportive city, or not?

TG To a degree, but only in the very beginning. It's very supportive for the first two seasons, but then it's not supportive of developing the business. So, it's great when you get the initial hype, get the initial energy, but there is no support set up for what comes next and how to really build your business, so then you've got either very young designers or much more established designers, and there is a real gap in between.

IV Well you've made it through the first few seasons. How did you do that without support?

TG I've had a lot of support from people who have believed in me. It may not be the CFDA but people like Miki Higasa [of Kaleidoscope Consulting]. Miki has been a really big part of my business because I work really closely with whoever I work with, and the people who've been helping me out and believe in my collections. That's how I've been able to continue. I have a lot of determination.

Tess Giberson was interviewed on 28 July, 2005.

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