Sunday, August 30, 2009


Marketing works!!!! I'm living proof!!!!! If one of my favorite models or movie stars are in the add, I'll buy it. If they say it'll make me thin, tan, or happy;I'll take it. I buy parfum because my favorite stars endorse it. I'll get the latest anything because someone has it or has been seen with it and usually because I thought the add made it look good. But after I've spent all this money it doesn't change anything, I'm still the same person. All the Hermes bags, Cartier jewelry, Saint Laurent parfum, Dolce coats, Pucci ties, and Armani underwear don't count for anything. All this stuff I've bought because of the pretty adds in Vogue or GQ don't make me a better person. I'm the perfect advertising target, I know it and I'll never change. But there are millions of people out there just like me who see these adds and want these things, but can't afford them. I wish the magazines would tell people that the things they show are not for everyone and really are not very important at all.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fashion and Politics

So often fashion is declared a frivolous decadent enterprise only followed by the rich, but those who make such statements often forget how important a role fashion has played in world history. The first name that comes to my mind when you say,"fashion has nothing to do with politics," is Marie Antoinette. We all know the story of the infamous Queen of France, but do we really know how important a role fashion played in the dangerous political climate of her time? She turned fashion into a high stakes political game that was deadly serious. Her endless parade of decadent fashions was not simply a choice of dress but a statement, a statement showing her own battle for freedom that at a time of extreme social unrest completely influenced the highest parts of government. The politics behind her clothing signed her death warrant and had political ramifications so far and wide we're still talking about them.

As you delve into history you find dress a key component to understanding the times. Louis the XIV once said fashion was "the mirror of history", and he was so correct. Although most people would still argue that fashion was unimportant and not relevant, when you look at history the key players in politics were often known for their clothing. Louis the XIV, Queen Victoria, Empress Eugenie, Jackie Kennedy, and Princess Di were all major power players in their time but are usually remembered for their clothing. Louis the XIV founded the look of the "Ancien Regime"that peaked with Marie Antoinette. Queen Victoria will always be remembered for her mourning attire that she wore from the time of Prince Albert's death to her own. Empress Eugenie will always be the best dressed woman of the 19th century. Jackie will always conjure up the image of the "American aristocrat" in her pill box hat and sunglasses. Princess Di will always be remembered for living the fairy tail and being the first British royal with style. All these people did amazing things yet are most remembered for their clothing. Caroline Astor for instance was merely a socialite, but when questioned on why she was not a supporter of the suffrage movement she said,"I do not require a vote; our leaders are chosen based on who I invite to dinner." She was just a socialite known for her extravagant lifestyle but she actually could influence who was elected President of the United States based on who she invited to dine. In conclusion fashion can be very important, but in the words of another power player, that of the Empress Josephine,"Do I not possess the pendants of Marie Antoinette? And yet am I quite sure of retaining them? Look at these sparkling gems ladies, and do not envy a splendor that does not constitute happiness."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fashion Licensing

Fashion Licensing is when a designer allows a manufacturer to make a product using their name for a percentage of the profits, usually 3 to 8 percent. Licensing allows a designer to get their name out there, on everything from handbags, jewelry, perfume, sheets, appliances, and sometimes even other clothing. Licensing enables a designer to reach out to a broader category of clients through affordability. Without it most people would never be able to own a product bearing a name like Yves Saint Laurent or Christian Dior, but through licensing everyone can have YSL perfume and a Dior umbrella.

One of the first designers to license their name was the great couturier Christian Dior. In 1948 he signed an agreement with the American hosiery manufacturer, Prestige, to produce Christian Dior nylon stockings. These were then sold at affordable prices in American department stores. Originally Prestige offered Monsieur Dior a flat payment of $10,000.00 dollars which he immediately refused. He instead opted for a percentage of their profits which would become the standard for any designer who was going to license their name. After Christian Dior’s death the house continued to license their name and by the mid 1980’s there were over two hundred Dior licenses. Often the royalties from these made more money than the actual clothing produced by the house. With the Asian markets starting to open to western business it became even easier to license and then very cheaply manufacture goods. These goods manufactured in Asia were very cheap and could hurt a company’s image. Once in the mid 80’s, the House of Dior’s head designer for more that 30 years, Marc Bohan, was browsing Bloomingdales in New York and was disgusted to find the Dior name plastered on everything from polyester scarves to plastic luggage. While the house could take pride in its licensed perfumes like Diorissimo and Eau Sauvage, its licensed goods quality often suffered greatly, and the brand would not be the same until it weeded out bad licenses and became a true luxury house once again in the early 90’s.

The great question in high fashion licensing is, is it worth it to stake your name on a product you don’t make? You could make tons of money licensing, or you could make less and stick to quality. In the past, once entered into a licensing agreement, the designer sat back and watched the money pile up instead of checking quality. They wanted to increase sales so they had to increase production and cut corners to keep it inexpensive. For example, handbags would be trimmed in vinyl instead of leather so they could retail at a lower price and therefore sell more. Often licensees were told by the great houses never to sell their product to discounters like Loehmanns, but happy with their royalties they turned a blind eye and licensees would ship to any store they pleased. By the late 1980’s many of the old prestigious fashion houses had a bad image for lack of quality control on licensed goods.

The man responsible for “big business” in licensing is Pierre Cardin, the great couturier and business man. He holds the record for having the most licenses and is the wealthiest French fashion designer with an estimated fortune of over $2.5 billion dollars. After quickly establishing his own couture house in 1950 he would go almost unnoticed until the 60’s when he would become one of the biggest names in fashion. By the late 1980’s Cardin had accumulated more than 800 licenses on everything including apparel, cosmetics, fragrances, food, linens, furniture, and appliances. Almost every manufacturer was happy to put the Pierre Cardin logo on anything. He went so mad with licensing that he was even taken to court for giving the rights to Pierre Cardin lighters to two different companies. His name became so diluted that fragrances and clothing lines bearing his label were being sold at low end department stores like J.C. Penny’s and at high end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. Who wants a Pierre Cardin coat for $500 dollars when you can get it for $100? It was simply outrageous but it made him very wealthy and successful. Cardin was still going strong in the late 1990’s. He had weathered the storm unlike any other house. In the mid 90’s when other houses were hurting he was quoted as saying, “I don’t understand what they are doing(the other fashion houses), they’re not selling caviar; they’re selling t-shirts, jeans, and underwear. It makes no sense!!! Anyway, I already did all that.” Somehow Cardin had found success through licensing, it hurt his image a little but it made him very rich.

While Pierre Cardin was putting his name on everything, the reigning king of fashion, Yves Saint Laurent was a little more skeptical. For more that 20 years Yves Saint Laurent was the end all and be all of French and world fashion. He was the greatest couturier in the world and every woman wanted to wear Saint Laurent. But even Yves Saint Laurent couldn’t resist the money you could make licensing. YSL’s first license oddly enough was for cigarettes. But Yves stood for quality and nothing ever hurt his image as the world’s preeminent fashion designer. He was able to hold his place due to his success in the licensing and marketing of YSL perfume. In 1978, Yves launched Opium, one of the biggest selling fragrances of all time. Although the product was licensed, Saint Laurent was a huge part of its development and marketing. Opium was a spicy oriental fragrance perfectly suited to the Saint Laurent woman, mysterious and sexy. Opium’s launch party in the US was held on a Chinese junk in New York’s East River with fire works and a slew of international celebrities in attendance. It was the first time a star studded party was given to expose a product to the public, and it was a huge success. Opium’s sales alone reached more than $100 million dollars a year at the height of its popularity. Yves Saint Laurent proved you could keep your prestigious image and make a killing. In a way the success of Opium was the end of fashion as art. The houses didn’t have to worry about clothing sales, they always had licensed perfumes waiting in the wings to help them on.
Today fashion licensing is standard practice. In the beginning when the grand couture houses became greedy, licensing hurt fashion and many an important house was hit. But they quickly learned their lesson and they fought very hard to restore their image. Without licensing houses like Dior and Saint Laurent wouldn’t be household names and only the very wealthy would know the genius that were those names. In my opinion through licensing, the great houses only helped to insure their importance by letting the masses glimpse true glamour.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Who doesn't love an "icon"? Names like Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Liz Taylor, Catherine Deneuve, and Audrey Hepburn all conjure up the glory and glamour of the past. Everyone knows who they are and although most of us have never even met them we somehow feel a connection. Personally I go through stages with the people I consider icons. As a child I loved Audrey Hepburn. I saw all her films, literally, and obsessed over her image for quite a long time. Next came Liz Taylor in all her Egyptian glory and amazing jewelry. Then Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, Great Garbo and Bette Davis and in than order. With Bette it lasted for quite a long time, her "forget the world" dramas and larger than life persona entranced me. After several years stuck on Bette Davis I moved on to Marlene Dietrich. Her deep voice and risque pictures kept me on the edge of my seat. After Dietrich came Bardot in all her sex goddess beauty. Finally my latest icon obsession, Catherine Deneuve. The thing about icons is that they're more than just actors or models, they are part of our culture. Icons are such a part of our culture that they become part of us, almost like they're family. It would be my ultimate fantasy to design for the likes of Grace Kelly or Greta Garbo but the sad thing is that most icons are only considered icons after their time is over. I like to think that I've been working with these women since I was a little boy, as they have been working their magic on me since those early days in front of the television.