by Charles Beckwith with photos by Freda Henry

Freda and I had the opportunity to preview the Spring 2009 Women’s Collection from Tumi.

Tumi has long been known for producing some of the best functional luggage int he world. What I found particularly interesting in this new collection was a line of locking purses, where the zipper pull locks into the side of the bag for security.

This is available on several mid-sized hand bags and on some smaller accessories in their white and salmon-pink Villa travel line. They have made the function of traveling with your belongings secure a less obnoxious and more beautiful part of the accessory.

Tumi Creative Director David Chu is known for starting Nautica. When he moved to Tumi he did a lot of masculine pieces in functional black ballistic nylon. In 2007 the women’s collection was added. These pieces are mostly in the classic Mediterranean color range.

The Voyager collection is dark blue with turquoise lining.

Plenty by Tracy Reese

by Charles Beckwith

This season’s Plenty by Tracy Reese will be released in three phases. They are named Acrobat, Scheherazade, and Where The Wild Thing Are. Not a lot of innovation or passion on display in this collection. The clothes are made solidly, but there isn’t much exciting about them design-wise. There was a great sense of “I’ve seen this before.”

Three things did stand out for me. One was a blue lace over grey corset top (and dress) from the Scheherazade set.

Another was the black and bronze pattern in the Wild Things set.

In the back of the store was the frock! by Tracey Reese collection, divided into Fully Amused, Dreamland, and Mermaid Parade. I saw an undersea vegetation-looking lace strapless dress in green, which also comes in blue and purple. The layering of the lace was fun, but not much of a leap.

With this journal we are looking for sparks, and in this presentation there weren’t really any sparks at all. Perhaps we should stick with designers’ main collections.


by Charles Beckwith

I was at Reebok’s big launch party for their new season collections, when I noticed some unusual sneakers. When I inquired further, I was told they were the result of a collabloration with street style label Orchard Street.

They’re called Re-Up Pro Luxe and feature what Reebok calls “alternative lacing.”

Such a departure from everything else on display, everything else on the street. Very cool.

New Balance

by Charles Beckwith

I was recently in the New Balance showroom to look at their new collections. Not much revolutionary in the sneaker world, but I found their new Aravon line very interesting. Apparently a large number of podiatrists recommend New Balance sneakers to middle-aged women who were having foot problems, so the company created a line of more classical casual non-athletic shoes called Aravon for active people who need a bit more support from their footwear. The line is all womens, and various models are designed for daily routines in the workplace, being around the home, and for traveling. I think my mom needs a few pairs of these.

New Balance has been doing a lot of research into creating sustainable athleticwear. Their lightning dry fabrics are starting to incorporate a lot of recycled materials. A major component is cocona, a carbon residue that comes from burning coconut shells, which they mix with polyseter to provide UV protection, water wycking, and anti-bacterial properties in these new highly-resilient materials. Their NBX lightweight shell jacket is made from recycled soda bottles mixed with polyester. They aren’t quite off petrolium-based products, but seem to be gettign close.

I like this thumb-secure point on the mens jacket, which prevents the sleeves from working up your arms while jogging:

Ports 1961

Tia and her team make each collection a reflection of something visually exotic. A time, a place, or a culture is selected, and then merged with interesting bits of others. The design team forges an icon lens through which they focus their creations for the season, often in the form of a hypothetical girl who has a romantic life in exotic places, and they design the pieces for her to reflect her surroundings. This nameless girl with her faithful steamer trunk full of fabulous clothing and accessories has been to Egypt, New York, Prague, Tanzania, Argentina in 1936, and many other visually exotic locales.

story by Charles Beckwith
photos by Freda Henry

Ports 1961 by Tia Cibani is an interesting brand. It is a sort of perpetually phoenix-reborn brand.

The company was founded in 1961 by a man interested in yachts, and revitalized in 2003, by a woman interested in the places where they tie up.

Tia and her team make each collection a reflection of something visually exotic. A time, a place, or a culture is selected, and then merged with interesting bits of others. The design team forges an icon lens through which they focus their creations for the season, often in the form of a hypothetical girl who has a romantic life in exotic places, and they design the pieces for her to reflect her surroundings. This nameless girl with her faithful steamer trunk full of fabulous clothing and accessories has been to Egypt, New York, Prague, Tanzania, Argentina in 1936, and many other visually exotic locales. She has been a reflection of many women from many eras, both fictional and real, such as Lulu Mae Barnes (Holly Golightly) and Lucille Ball. Last year, one collection focused on the latitude N63, where one finds Iceland on the map, and the pieces reflected the Icelandic culture and natural beauty. The current Fall 2008 collection was inspired by Scotland, with Linton tweeds in prominence. This creative rebirth process in the Spring 2009 collection is based on a number of elements, including a large number of references to the Haida Nation of British Columbia, the Native Americans who still build totem poles near Cibani’s home town of Vancouver.

The Ports team does not work alone, striving to incorporate the work of freelance designers and artists whose work fits with the season’s given icon aesthetic. The assembly of the collection is inclusive, rather than exclusive, and leads to a rich diversity of looks from season to season.

Right now the work of German artist Mathias Hornung is on display in their New York studio and showroom, and reflected in the clothing.

In January 2009, Ports 1961 plans to open a new flagship boutique with an open-air courtyard in an exquisitely renovated 150 year-old space on cobblestoned historic Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, New York City.

7 For All Mankind – Spring 2009 Collection

by Charles Beckwith

I recently had the opportunity to preview the 7 For All Mankind spring collection. I noticed lots of color, detail, and good pockets. Definitely saw some earmarks of a trend following brand, but then… they do it so well. Great detail on the pockets, well-executed lines, and design director Larissa Noble’s team seems well aware of what really works with denim. Tops, purses, and light outerwear are on the way. They seem especially adept with small leather items.

The company makes a lot of jeans, but this season a select few of their highest end pieces will be specially numbered, with only a limited series of 777 being produced. Sure to be collectors items, but not for the faint of wallet.

I was prodded to feel one specific pair of “summer jeans,” and the material was very airy, almost as light as silk, but still possessing the durable material strength one expects from jeans. Surely something many women will be interested in for the warmer months.

As always, looking forward to another of their Patrick Demarchelier-shot campaigns.

Fratelli Rossetti – Spring 2009 Collection

by Charles Beckwith

photos by Sandy Ramirez and Charles Beckwith

Fratelli Rossetti, producers of Italian leather shoes and accessories, recently premiered a new line at the Italian Consulate on Park Avenue, anticipating the upcoming 30th Anniversary of their New York Boutique, established in 1949. All their products are made in Italy, about 20 minutes drive outside Milan. Shoes and handbags of impeccable quality are produced and expected.

Although they come out with new shoes each season, their products are rarely something you would discard after one year. Their design team seems to not chase or try to make short term trends, preferring to make timeless pieces that will be as attractive this season as next, and perhaps equally 100 years from now.

“One” is the newer active womens’ collection, with comfortable yacht shoes, running shoes, and other more casual footwear.

Standing out in the main Fratelli Rossetti womens’ line was a distinct pair of masculine-form oxfords.

Look how elegant the shape of the heel is on the white shoe pictured below. These are works of art.

They are accompanied by a large number of other strong casual and formal footwear silhouettes, and a lot of fun warm colors.

Less fun was on display in the mens variants, but still shoes I think people would look forward to putting on and walking about in.

Blanc de Chine – East Comes West – Spring 2009 Collection

by Sandy Ramirez

East Comes West

When I came to New York three years ago, one of the first things I did was walk. I walked all over Manhattan, familiarizing myself with it’s neighborhoods. One day I walked by the corner of West 53rd Street and 5th Ave on the way to the MOMA, when I noticed a new boutique: Blanc de Chine.

The clothing in the window had a minimalist austerity that was, in truth, beautiful. Ever since, the store has been one of my favorite Manhattan landmarks.

Founded in Hong Kong in 1995, Blanc de Chine is perhaps one of the worlds most exclusive marques. The name itself is an indication of that exclusivity, as it is the French term for the purist white porcelain of the Ming Dynasty. The porcelain was extremely rare and prized for it’s clean iridescence. Even today, this porcelain is made only in small quantities in a tiny corner of China. The company has a motto – “Simplicity, Serenity, Harmony, Subtlety, Purity, Comfort, Sensuality, & Functionality.” Much like that namesake rare white porcelain, Blanc de Chine’s designs share it’s scarceness, manufactured mostly by hand in only 20-25 copies of each design for distribution only in their four stores. Besides New York, there are two locations in Hong Kong, and one in Beijing.

The Spring 2009 collection completely adheres to the ideals expounded in their motto. Inspired by traditional Mandarin dress, this collection is history realized in silk, an understatement of pure elegance that is rarely achieved by any brand. The most noticeable were the sleek, modern reinterpretations of classic Chinese garments. Perhaps the most stunning piece presented was a Cheonogasm in white sequin that seemed to flow around the model with a current at the slightest movement.

A close second was a Hanfu-inspired black dress with Mandarin collar made of black silk jersey.

Here we see the use of traditional silk knot buttons on the shoulder of a white Dao inspired balloon dress, another highlight of a collection with so many stand-out designs.

Blanc de Chine is a new vision of the East, and much like the East, it is veiled in mystery; a place for the adventurous to explore and be enlightened by delicate dreams realized in silk.

In New York, Blanc de Chine is located at 673 Fifth Ave, on the corner of West 53rd Street.

[click for full runway show]

Caroline Hedaya – Spring 2009 Preview

by Charles Beckwith

The Caroline Hedaya Spring 2009 Preview at the Red Market Salon on Gansevoort Street was well attended by a friendly fashion-forward crowd.

Designers Caroline Hedaya and Donna Baxter were well dressed themselves, and presented an interesting collection. Continue reading “Caroline Hedaya – Spring 2009 Preview”

trade show report – ENK’s Fashion Coterie

by Charles Beckwith

The Fashion Coterie is much larger than The Train and Platofrom 2, which I attended yesterday. It encompasses Pier 90, Pier 92, Pier 94, and a large chunk of the sprawling Javitz Center.

I go to the trade shows looking for what is not on the runway, but should be. To do this one has to develop an eye for unusual silhouettes and do a lot of walking. You immediately start to see patterns overlapping to a ridiculous degree, and if you are trying it is not difficult to spot the avant garde in the chaos.

Having walked down the first two long aisles in Pier 94 and seen zero real innovations, I was starting to get frustrated. I can see why most of the brands are represented by PR and sales people, and so few actual designers. Everywhere I looked, riffs on the inane. “Jeans with cut #23,” or “generic seasonal top in 19 colors of jersey with decorative object #537 glued in an oblong ring around the neck.” Where was the breathtaking mastery of craft, or amazing renovations of concept? I want to see “new X jeans,” not “jeans like yesterday but with a new little twist of X.” I saw too many pointless silk screens, affectations, and clueless PR people who couldn’t even tell me the names of the brand’s designers.

That said, half way down the third row I saw something unusual, which led me into the stall of Maxime Cossoguy, a local New York designer. He was displaying his “Drowning In My Sleep” collection. Maxime has been designing for 15 years, and this namesake line has existed for 3 years. Maxime is a FIT graduate, inspired by music and poetry. The logo incorporates the G-clef symbol, and his poetry is written inside some of the garments. He says he travels a lot for inspiration, and has recently been to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Cypress, Barcelona, China, and Japan. This diversity of influences is well reflected in his small collection, from the triple collar denim jacket to the short bib overalls a model was wearing in the booth. I like his style, and the little twists of the unexpected. Maxime’s work is definitely a refreshing break from the all too standard silhouettes.

Near the back of Pier 94, sharing a booth with Missoni Accessories, I found Masacva, by Russian ex-model Irina Medelie. She showed in Russia last season, but this Spring-Summer collection is her first in the US market. Most of her pieces were relatively standard, but a few stood out, including a fun looking jumper. Her trademark seems to be “simple with detail,” and I think it works. I was told by her showroom reps that many of the buyers were coming in and looking at the Masacva pieces, but not purchasing, because they think it is not conservative enough for their clients. I have to disagree. It is edgy, but not in a liberal way. I think the edge is in the craftsmanship, not so much the lines. She has some beautiful clothing, and I hope to see people wearing it on the street.

I met designer Zoe Zheng in her Zoe Couture booth. Usually I avoid even glancing at the booths of small American brands which label themselves as “couture,” but I saw the side swept sweater before the sign on this one, and was pleasantly surprised. Zoe has some very fun looks. She likes her customers to be able to play with their clothing, and proudly says “if people buy one or two pieces they can have five silhouettes.” Zoe’s family manufactures cashmere, and her first collection was all cashmere. Now she is moving on to incorporate a wider range of materials, and this is her first spring-summer collection. For inspiration, she spent time looking at paintings in the Getty Museum. Well-cut cotton, and a few nice bits of knitwear. Classification: luxury casual.

I moved over to Pier 92, where I spotted the creative cuts of Dimitri Tcharfas and Shannon Nataf, in their Suh-Than booth. The line features a lot of multi-layer material mix garments; denim, linen, leather, silk, and suede incorporated together in vest-jacket-dress sorts of gestalts. I saw a lot of simple but dramatic silhouettes, with entertaining flares and things like little gull wings the wearer could unbutton and play with in a lot of ways. The line is 4 years old, and this is their fourth collection. It is titled “inner workings” and is inspired by the surf, the way you can see the sand and shells under the surface after a wave crashes in. Using sheer materials layered over architectural lines, they have worked to reveal their skillful European-style tailoring, making a unique statement about quality of work, and taken a bold step where they have risked showing any flaws in the assembly of the garments. Fortunately, there seem to be none. Beautiful lines and a lot of creativity make this duo one to watch.

Just as people were starting to shut down and close up their racks, I spotted some interesting webbing on a pair of shirts labeled Akiko, which turned out to be Akiko Yasuda. Looking closer I saw other interesting details in her garments, and when I started asking questions, her showroom rep got me on the phone with Akiko herself in Los Angeles. Akiko is originally from San Diego, and she related to me that the inspiration for this line was a specific Japanese tea garden. This is the same beautiful garden she went back to when it was time to shoot her look book, and flipping through it, the pieces really do look like they belong there.