The season finale of ALL ON THE LINE airs May 24th at 10p! Don’t miss your chance to vote for your favorite designer for a chance to win a $2,500 gift certificate from Rent the Runway. Click here to check out each designer’s collection and register for your chance to win. The designer with the…
I said it to Dana-Maxx, I said it to Leila Shams, and I said it to Julia Alarcon. There will always be something special about a woman designer designing for other women. There’s that innate, intangible quality of understanding what exactly another woman wants. With Julia, I felt she had a double advantage. She also – after starting Act 2 as a designer in her 40′s – had the advantage of her maturity.
Julia wasn’t a kid figuring out her life. Sure, she shared a lot of the same woes (freshly graduated, struggling to keep her business afloat, building accounts) but she was never wishy-washy in her approach. Her life was mapped out; she knew exactly what she should be doing and designing was it. This was a quality I would come to admire greatly in her but be equally frustrated by at the same time. She was so aware of what she wanted her collection to be, what it should cost (most of the time, too much), and who should wear it. Even during the times we disagreed, Julia, always courteous and polite, stood by her designs and her convictions.
Which may not have had quite outcome I had hoped for.
In an effort to not date myself, one of my all-time favorite movies is the Mike Nichols-directed WORKING GIRL with Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith. For me, it reeked of all the right elements: money, power, New York skyscrapers, sharp dialogue, good humor, strong women. It was all about big furs, big breaks and big perms and I loved it.
My favorite scene (duh! of course!) was when Tess McGill (Melanie’s character) had the run of Katherine Parker’s (Sigourney) closet after assuming her identity. The minute she threw open those closet doors you could smell the authority. There it all was: a lady in charge as embodied by a closet full of chic gowns, lush furs, immaculately tailored pantsuits and pencil skirts. You wanted to rummage and try everything on as much as Tess did because like Tess, these weren’t just clothes. No, it was more than that. It was the symbol of that ultimate chic working woman.
I was not kidding when I told Leila Shams that the difference between slutty and sexy is three more inches on her dress. In the world of fashion, those three inches can mean a completely different customer, a different store and ultimately, a different type of business. In her heart, Leila knew exactly what I was talking about.
Leila was a designer who designed for herself. This became quite evident to me during our time together (heels were her sneakers and minis were her comfort clothes!) and that philosophy of design usually works for me, except when you need to expand. Despite any of my initial impressions of Leila when we first met, she’s actually a very hard-working, bright girl and even under all her funny moments (ace bandages!) I knew she had talent. Talent that could make her stand out – if she could just elevate her sensibility.
And I’m so glad that happened and the items that Intermix responded to was exactly the direction I was pushing Leila towards. That hammered satin green dress was a good catalyst to the beginning of a quieter, chicer Leila. While the dress wasn’t perfect, it was a great start.
Keith Pollock, who you see every week, is an old-friend and a trusted cohort of mine, who generally has no trouble telling me exactly how he feels about my work. If I style a story that looks a bit lackluster, he won’t mince his words. Same said for something he likes. He’s been so familiar…
During the course of ALL ON THE LINE, many people constantly ask me what the most common problem among all the different designers were and while each one had very different issues, the most unifying thread – no pun intended – was arguably, finding that perfect marriage of art and commerce.
Of course, whenever I explain this, the one designer that comes to my mind is always Jeddah-Kahn. This is, of course, not a problem unique to him but a struggle constantly battled by all designers. Jeddah-Kahn was just the one designer that would, at times, drive me to the brink of frustration battling this point. I admired him for not wanting to give in but at times, as you saw on this week’s episode, we would wind up talking in circles, sometimes to a resolve and sometimes not.
There are many triggers that usually helps peak my interest with designers I’ve yet to discover. It can be anything from a unique name to innovative designs to a brilliant a-ha marketing idea that I wish I had thought of or just something as simple as their backstory.
With Jeddah-Kahn Blue, I will admit I was intrigued by that name but more so, it was when I discovered that he came from a long line of tailors and dressmakers. But it’s important to note that he wasn’t designing to get into the family business; contrary, he was designing clothes because he knew that was his destiny. There’s something quite admirable about it.
This was clearly not my favorite part of this week’s episode: Dana-Maxx not getting an immediate pick-up by Bergdorf Goodman. But the silver lining in this week’s episode is exactly what I had explained to her right after our presentation to Linda Fargo: That Bergdorfs may not have committed to the collection this season, but Dana-Maxx is now in a better position. She has the eye now of one of the most powerful Fashion Directors in the business.
Fashion journalist Blue Carreon loves reality shows — especially ALL ON THE LINE. Find out why he thinks you should be watching: What All On The Line does is give another dimension to the fashion industry. Zee lifts the veil of glamor often associated with fashion designers — especially in an age when many kids…
I am always intrigued by up-and-coming designers who have worked under major designers with strong, distinct styles. Case in point: Dana-Maxx, who peaked my interest for this week’s episode when I heard she had once done stints at Betsey Johnson and Marc Jacobs, two top-of-the-game designers with unique but very different sensibilities. I find designer apprenticeships extremely interesting because I am always curious to see how much of their former employer’s voice they actually retain, or in some cases if any at all. Some new designers can take several seasons to wipe that ingrained training out of their own DNA while others can find smart new ways to adapt it into their own work.
I think the interesting case here with Gemma wasn’t necessarily so much what she was going to learn from ME, but what she had hopefully also learned from her own past experiences. Gemma is by far the most mature and most successful of all the designers featured on ALL ON THE LINE, which can be an advantage and a disadvantage. Yes, she had the experience and know-how of making it happen again but the disadvantage laid in trying to make that happen in a very fickle and unforgiving industry. An industry she was trying so hard to impress once again.
There’s no denying that the fashion industry is always chasing what’s new and what’s next and not necessarily looking for what’s yesterday or once upon a time. She would need to jump that very hurdle and start being seen as relevant, welcomed and most of all, important again in the eyes of the fashion world. This would be my biggest challenge yet.
Deciding to work with Gemma Kahng was a no-brainer. She was, in my mind, a creative fashion force that may have dimmed over the last decade or so, but had the potential to shine bright again. This wasn’t just an assumption; it was a fact.
You see, Gemma had already tasted the success I try so hard to help the designers attain each week.
I met Gemma Kahng back in the early 1990′s when I was just starting out as an assistant for Polly Mellen at Allure magazine. Gemma was one of those names that were always tossed out whenever Mrs. Mellen was conceptualizing her shoots and needed clothing called in. This was commonly heard at her run-throughs: “What about those incredibly chic suits from Gemma, Joe?”
Obedient, I would head up to Gemma’s headquarters at 550 7th Ave — a landmark garment district building that houses the showrooms of only A-list designers, among them Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta. Gemma’s vast showroom there would have plenty of staff buzzing about and racks and racks of her new collections. She was the game back then.
In those days, Gemma was everywhere. I remember seeing her clothes make the cover of Vogue worn by supermodel Christy Turlington and a year later, it would be a butt-exposing jumpsuit worn by Madonna in the pages of Vanity Fair. And her clothes would fill the floorspace of every major department store from Bergdorf Goodman to Bloomingdale’s. To say Gemma was successful back then is selling her short.
Then one day it all just disappeared.
It’s true, fashion can be completely unpredictable, I will give you that. I never knew that when I entered into my venture with Layla and Josh, the dating duo from Between the Sheets, that our time together would have escalated into the finale that it did. I entered into it with the thought I could help BTS turn their business around by keeping what they do AND expanding into a burgeoning market at the same time. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out as planned. Which is too bad.
When I first started working in this industry as an assistant, a very important stylist I was working for said to me, “Whenever you dress a woman, make sure her look is complete head to toe, inside and out. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see as long as you know it’s there because that’s…
What I Hoped She Learned: “Don’t just say it. Do it.” That was the thought that was running through my head as Kara and I prepped on the morning of our presentation with Neiman Marcus. Kara had promised me that she would re-cut a dress in a size 8 to show the Neimans buying team…
I could lie and say there were many abstract reasons that led me to wanting to work with Kara Janx but I will be upfront and honest with you. I wanted to meet this Season 2 Project Runway alum, one who had no problem speaking her mind or dealing with confrontation. I wanted to meet the woman who infamously said “she would snip off a contestant’s pee-pee if he got in her way”. Ouch! She is, in short, the one designer I worked with this season, whom I would not want to encounter in a dark alley with those castrating scissors. But of course, I did also want to work with Kara because I realized her true potential while watching her on Project Runway.
What I Hope They Learned:
“Being bad is better than boring.” I said this to Andre and Liquica in Times Square when we were on our outing getting inspiration and it’s something I truly believe. A friend fought me about this fact just the other day but for me, it’s true. I can find value in the good and the bad. If you think about fashion being your ultimate self-expression, then speak loudly and boldly. There’s no room for anything dull, because boring is exactly that – boring!
Most weeks, the mail arrives at my office in large foam cartons, usually filled with lookbooks of every variety: large and spiral-bound; small and stapled, or even loose pictures in an envelope. You can only imagine how many collections I see each year.
Most of these are designers I’ve never heard of, but are begging to be discovered. That could be said of a certain lookbook I saw, one day at my desk, from the label, Radenroro. I was intrigued by – yes, the name – but more the art direction and image of the lookbook and some of the clothes in it, but most of it just looked unmemorable to me. In fact, I remember remarking to Keith Pollock, a good friend and the Editorial Director of Elle.com, that I could see girls shopping and wanting SOME of these clothes but not most of it.
Kim Kardashian wearing Leila Shams (via Monica Rose). Oh la la! What’s that we see? It’s fashion It-Girl Kim Kardashian in a perfect black skirt designed by our talented gal pal Leila Shams! Tune in to Sundance Channel’s all new original series ALL ON THE LINE to watch Leila Shams and other struggling designers as…
Joe Zee interviews Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Joe Zee hits the slopes (and the snow!) in Park City during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Check out some great images by Yvan Rodic of Facehunter here. Want to know more about his thoughts on the latest designers? Be sure to check out ALL ON THE LINE premiering in March on Sundance Channel. Joe…
(Photo by Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images)
It’s been a long week—exhilarating, grueling, and never, ever dull—but Sundance 2011 is officially over. The stars, the studio executives, and the filmmakers have all packed up their North Face gear and headed home, wherever that may be.
Looking back on the last several days, there were some amazing, quintessentially Sundance-ian moments. We got to meet Robert Redford! We got to talk to young, idealistic, and extremely talented new artists (Brit Marling, Mike Cahill, for instance) whom we will certainly be hearing more from, and who are a reminder of Sundance’s real purpose (beyond an excuse to see a lot of great movies in the middle of a snowy paradise). As Marling told us, just following the premiere of ANOTHER EARTH, “I feel so lucky to be a part of this. Sundance is bringing together all these people and you know, brings them all into this little, this tiny town in the middle of the snow, and everyone can just talk and revel in ideas and make them into realities. It’s pretty awesome.”
View all of Yvan’s photos with Joe Zee, Emma Roberts, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Janet Montgomery, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and more from Sundance here
Still from US Dramatic Competition film ANOTHER HAPPY DAY.
I met costume designer Stacey Battat way back when she was still working for Marc Jacobs in their Mercer Street store, which probably explains her close relationship to Sofia Coppola. Flash-forward to today, she was most recently the costume designer for Sofia’s newest film, Somewhere, as well as the recent Gwyneth Paltrow musical vehicle, COUNTRY STRONG.
Saturday. My first day at Sundance Film Festival and I’m feeling polyester. Tonight – at midnight to be exact – my good friend and ELLE cover photographer Carter Smith is debuting his new short, YEARBOOK. A short I helped costume. Just to be clear, I am not a costume designer, but I get characters and…