IMG_1810 Amsale

In 1985, Amsale Aberra started designing wedding gowns.  The Ethiopian born designer had designed her own wedding gown, so, why not?  From her apartment in New York City, she began creating wedding gowns, and ended up building a powerhouse in the bridal design industry.

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Her fall/winter 2018 collection is called, appropriately, “Nouvelle”.  It takes Amsale’s more traditional looks and adds a modern twist, making them both classic and fresh. 

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A high-necked gown becomes a princess dress with a whimsical tulle skirt.  A simple satin drop-waist top pairs with a bias-cut skirt.  French lace cutouts add even more romance to silk organza.

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It’s easy to understand why celebs flock to Amsale for bridal and bridesmaid gowns. And why brides-to-be everywhere seem to dream of spending their big day in Amsale.

© Red Stiletto Media 2017  Photography: Anton Brookes


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IMG_7108 Christian CowanThe list of celebs who have worn Christian Cowan’s clothes reads like a designer’s dream:  Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Sia, Fergie.  Not long ago he was a student at the London College of Fashion.  Now, Paris Hilton is strutting down his runway in New York.  “I’ve dressed a lot of celebrities over the last couple of years while I was at university,” he told me, post-show.  “When I was 10 years old was the defining moment when I knew I wanted to move to America.  I’ve always been obsessed with celebrity culture here.  Everything’s larger than life.”

Image2Dressing celebs is a big deal, but to turn design into a business, you need to get a lot more people to buy what you’re selling, and so Cowan has decided to combine both of his favorite things.  “I really want to, obviously, continue to dress those icons,” he said, “but now I want to bring that in an easier way.  I want everyone to wear it and feel like a million bucks, and everyone is happy wearing it, and everyone notices and compliments her.”

Image3Cowan says he dresses women who are “not afraid”, and you would have to be truly brave to wear some of his super-sheer, super-sparkly styles.   But for those who want to glitz up their evening wear and aren’t afraid to show a little skin, Cowan’s your man.

Image4The aesthetic here is pure, unadulterated joy.  It shows in the work.  It shows in the man.  “I feel like we’re at a time when everyone needs to smile and be happy about stuff,” he says, “and so I really wanted to design for people and give them something to be happy about. I feel like, this isn’t a time to hide, and people need to be loud and out there about whatever they feel, and I wanted to embody that in the collection.”


IMG_7017 Christian CowanI have a feeling we may require his brand of optimism next season, and for several seasons after that, as well.

©Red Stiletto Media 2017  Photography: Anton Brookes

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As it does every season NYMD kicked off New York Fashion Week:  Men’s.  It has a beautiful new home, Dune Studios, right on the riverfront, and a couple of new designers.  NYMD has been a mainstay, since long before there was an official Men’s Fashion Week, and every season, it just keeps getting better and better. We were only able to cover the afternoon session, but it was packed with independent designers, edgy looks and a decidedly casual vibe.



This is the sophomore season for Naman at NYMD, and he celebrated with a collection inspired by the ‘70s.  Color was a big part of the looks, with teal, maroon and a kind of pea-soup green mixing with the requisite blacks and grays.  Texture, too, played a big part.  Velvet blazers, corduroy pants and wooly turtle necks played into the season’s casual vibe.  Sweaters and sweat pants mixed with well-tailored suits. It’s young and playful, classic, comfortable and decidedly masculine.



There is always something edgy about a By Robert James collection, both in the looks themselves and in the way they are presented during NYMD.  Last season, it was a rock band.  This season, it’s the literal interpretation of his influence:  the times we live in. Models marched in a circle carrying signs bearing hashtags that have become all too familiar, all that have become the mottos of the resistance.  The looks, themselves, were as subversive as the presentation.   Clean cut leather biker jackets, perfectly tailored blazers, warm sweaters, tight-legged slacks.  There was, of course, lots of rebellious black, a few hoodies and even balaclavas.  Everything today’s man needs to go out and fight to change the world.



New to NYMD, WOOD HOUSE continued the casual, comfortable vibe that’s permeating men’s wear for Fall/Winter 2017.  The collection has a mix of mostly muted colors:  black, of course, khaki and gray, but big pops of color as well, with the odd powdery blue, teal, bright lemon yellow and, even, pink. Outerwear is king in this collection, with a mix of long and three-quarter length coats and short bomber jackets. Comfort is also key here, with lots of tapered sweat pants.  It appears to be designed with hipsters in mind, hipsters who know the value of warm winter clothes, as long as the looks are, well, hip. 



“What does the world look like through the eyes of the painter?” That is the question posed by the designers of Maiden Noir, another newbie to NYMD.  Influenced by the photographs of Cy Twombly, the collection is filled with warm, soft colors, muted browns, tans and rich evergreen. It’s also a collection filled with opposing textures:  coats made from natural wools over cloth shirting, bright satins and soft velvets, cotton blends paired with mohair.  Fleece and whale cords filled out the looks, mixing modern with traditional, comfort and warmth, everything you need for winter men’s wear.



Not only is this R. Swiader’s first visit to NYMD, it’s also their debut collection.  The New York-based design firm takes its inspiration from the city’s landscape.  It shows, in the structure of the design.  But, though the inspiration may come from NYC, it’s really a mish-mash of designer Rafal Swiader’s universe, from his native Poland, through the streets of Paris and the newly hip Brooklyn. It’s also a strange mix of mod and punk, with tailored pieces made in tartan plaids, plain and simple shirting and wild animal print.  There was even a two-piece band, putting its own folksy spin on familiar tunes.  It was crazy, hard to pin down, but easy to wear, a freshman collection to be proud of.



For Fall/Winter 2017, Private Policy took on the theme of globalization as their inspiration.  They called it “Polycephaly”, having more than one head attached to a single body.  Their interpretation came in the form of collaging and big, graphic patterns.  None was bigger than a jacket and pants made from the flags of many, many nations.  Biker jackets mixed with cropped pants, chains hung from hats, lapels, pretty much anything.  But the idea of opposites attracting was mostly shown in the unorthodox mix of fabrics:  velvet and denim, canvas, quilting and nylon.  It is, in way, a metaphor for our times, military looks for a time when war and government control weighs heavily.


© Red Stiletto Media 2017

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image9There is something that sets Naeem Khan apart from pretty nearly every other designer who shows at New York Fashion Week.  His collections are about pure, unadulterated glamour.  Look after look, walking down the runway, each more breathtaking than the one before it, gowns that take red-carpet dressing to a whole new, and more elegant, level.

image6He dedicated this collection to his mentor, the legendary Halston, for whom he worked in the ‘70s, and inspired, also, by his deep love of cooking.  In his notes, he said, “to me, taste has color.”  And this collection was about as full of vibrant, brilliant color as any I’ve ever seen.

image2image3With the ‘70s theme came graphic, mod-inspired prints, a series of color-blocked gowns that were fun and, somehow, flattering in black, white, red and a little pop of pink.  Then, suddenly, everything bloomed.  Starting with smaller, embroidered flowers, they grew in size and color.  Wild floral prints gave way to bigger, bolder patterns and what I wait for every season at Naeem, lots and lots of sparkle.

image4Image5.jpg One gown, shimmering white with red, coral and yellow flowers, made me swoon.  What I wouldn’t give for the money to buy it, the figure to wear it, and some place to go to show it off. A red-and-pink floral with a soft, white, flowing skirt was, well, magnificent.  But then, every look was.


Khan’s embroidery is legendary, and this season, he mixed it with lace to create his own signature materials.  Add on opaque glass fringe, and his painted prints, and this collection becomes unique, something only Naeem Khan can create.  And, every piece was, in some way, hand embroidered.

image7image8He says the collection was “born through my passion and love… un homage to the effortlessly confident woman.” It’s also the reason why his is, season after season, the one show I refuse to miss. Naeem Khan is what fashion week is all about, old school glamour mixed with very modern design.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016                   Photography: Anton Brookes

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Once a sort of afterthought in some of the New York Fashion Week women’s shows, the men stepped out on their own just a very few seasons ago with their very own Fashion Week, held a week before the women’s shows.  This season, the boys have taken another step away, showing their wares, and ready-to-wears, in late July, months before the girls.  But whatever the configuration, there has always been NYMD, a day put aside for mostly young or new independent designers to present their collections at individual spaces within Industria Superstudio.  The cooperative effort was the brilliant brainchild of Agentry PR.  What the designers do with the space is up to them, and what you find here are some of the most creative efforts, both in design and presentation.

Sadly, this season, we were only able to cover the second part of the day, but what we found was room after room full of beautiful design and innovative presentations.


Image6It starts, as all good, hot July afternoons should, with a beach party, courtesy of Krammer & Stoudt, the always interesting, creative and just-a-bit-out-there L.A.-based line taking the men’s fashion market by storm.

If you’re looking for inspiration in fashion, then this collection inspires pure joy, from the relaxed, loose-fitting pants that will have you humming “Margaritaville”, to the whimsical bomber jackets and baseball shirts.  Even their suits, some with three-quarter length swing jackets, offer up a summer of fun, alternative dressing.  Just in case you didn’t get that this was a true men’s summer collection (something that’s often hard to distinguish in men’s wear), the woven sun hats are there to confirm.  I hope they’re for sale, along with the rest of the collection, tailor made for men who love summer.


Image1How many times have I said it, “this men’s line is not for the faint of heart”?  Well, I’m saying it again.  Rideau is most definitely not for the faint of heart.  This distinctly New York-based line is for the most confident of men.  But if you find that part of yourself that believes clothes maketh the man, and you are the man who loves bright color, wild patterns and unusual cuts, then Rideau is the line for you.

The fabrics are unexpected in men’s suits, the softest silks and bright brocades, all, in keeping with the season, with shorts.  The patterns are wildly out there, one with an Asian dragon print on black background, another with a swirling, Van Gogh-style fruit motif.  Traditional biker jackets take on a colorful twist, in a bright yellow and a rusty gold.

There is little you could call “traditional” about Rideau, except the tailoring, which is impeccable, with beautiful, clean lines that allow the designs to stand out.  It is truly a favorite in the men’s fashion world.


Image2For Private Policy, sending a message is as important as producing fun, wearable fashion.  If it seems like a bit of a dichotomy, well it is.  And, it isn’t.  Nothing about Private Policy is exactly as it seems.

This season, they’re using their presentation to bring attention to the fishermen of Southeast Asia, many treated as slaves, forced to work, often around the clock, fearing violent punishment or even murder if they rebel.  Many stay at sea for four or five years. 

The designers used color, texture and pattern, mixed with what they call “symbols of imprisonment, restriction and pain” to interpret the horror of modern slavery.  Pants, shorts, even bomber jackets were made out of hazmat disposal bags.  Some models wore chains.

But, fear not, this collection is not all about maudlin messages, it’s also about cool summer styles.  The New York-based designers took much of their inspiration from Downtown neighborhoods, the Lower East Side, SoHo and Chinatown, where they observed people just walking around.  So, there is a lot of fun in this line:  menswear for girls, a bomber jacket in velvet and silk wool, and a wild match of bright colors and whimsical patterns.  They should be applauded for getting lesser-known messages out there, without forgetting the fashion.


Image5.JPG 72Classic, yet edgy, serious, yet whimsical, Chapter’s Spring/Summer collection kind of defies definition.  And that is no accident.  Looking to “the juxtaposition of a city’s harsh architectural lines intersecting with the socialization and human interaction”, and turning that into a cohesive clothing line is no easy feat.

But, somehow, Chapter accomplishes just that.  Inspired, according to their notes, by ‘90s culture, with a particular focus on Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the designers started with structured silhouettes, like tailored jackets, slacks and shorts, then mixed in soft details, embroidery, washing and printing.  The effect is pretty amazing. Longer jackets, wider pant legs and softer fabrics combine to take classic looks, like the standard bomber jacket, to new places.

The basic black is still there, but this season, mustard makes the occasional appearance offering up a little, muted, pop of color.  Chapter’s fans will recognize this as another step in their journey.  And the balance of hard and soft, order and disarray, new twists on old favorite, is bound to win over some new customers.


0E9H4885.JPG 72Part performance art, part fashion presentation, Uri Minkoff found the perfect way to showcase his Spring/Summer 2017 collection, a mix of performance wear and traditional men’s clothing.  Dancers, wearing suit jackets and cycling shorts, stretchy pants and dress shirts, stretched and danced, combining athletic and artsy moves the way the collection combined lifestyle and work style.

The colors, blues and pinks, were inspired by Italy’s Lake Como, but the inspiration came from men working hard, rather than relaxing, and from the designer’s own love of cycling.  There were three-quarter coats and impeccably fitted jackets, some with shorter-length pants, some with actual shorts (some very short).  Of course, there were bomber jackets and biker jackets.

One absolute constant was the tailoring.  Perfect, clean lines, details and fit were what anchored the serious side of this collection.  Men may, or may not, want to combine their active wear with their tailored suits, but every piece of this line, every suit, every shirt, every bit of active wear, are works of art on their own.


0E9H4901.JPG 72Music and fashion aren’t just for Lola.  The two have a long, synergistic history.  You can’t have a runway without the pounding beat of house music, right?  By Robert James completed the music/fashion marriage in his Spring/Summer 2017 presentation.  The music was the fashion, or vice versa. 

His sleek, tailored styles were worn by a fantastic band called “The Brittany’s” as they performed at Sub Rosa, a club just around the corner from Industria Superstudio.  The cool vibe of the place and the music provided the perfect backdrop for the collection, comprised of slightly relaxed suits, some with shorts, some with slacks, a jazzy collection of pants, the requisite bomber jackets, a gorgeous leather vest and chic, sturdy outerwear.

This is what the cool kids wear, hipsters heading for work, or a hot night out.  There’s a bright, young elegance to By Robert James, both in the clothes, and the presentation.  Fans of the line, and of the Brittany’s, will love it and, hopefully, that fan base will just keep growing.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016

Photography: Anton Brookes.   Video/Original Music Scott Fetterman.

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IMG_9621There is something so comforting about a Billy Reid collection: soft, tailored, wearable, real clothes for real men.  But don’t confuse comforting with boring.  There is nothing mundane about his looks.  There is always a creative edge that cannot be denied.

Image1For Fall/Winter 2016, Reid experimented with fabrics:  tweeds, blends and knits.  He also focused on patterns, taking his inspiration from nature, a perfect fit for his preferred neutral palette.

Image3There were so many standouts in this collection, relaxed pants paired with silky print sweaters, quilty coats and vests, buttery soft suede jackets, slightly oversized sport coats, baggy shorts and beautifully tailored overcoats.

Image2But this runway wasn’t all about the boys.  Reid showed his spectacular women’s wear collection, too.  Classic, with a twist, like a midi-length leather skirt in black and a deep orange tan, roomy slacks and a magnificent gold overcoat in the softest wool I’ve ever seen.

Image4Image5.jpgIt doesn’t hurt that this die-hard southern boy is also one of the nicest people in the industry, with lots of famous fans, including Jesse Tyler-Ferguson who showed up for the runway. But the real reason behind his popularity is that his clothes are just so damn good, tailor made for the man, or woman, who knows who he or she is, and dresses to match.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016       Photography: Anton Brookes

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IMG_9383.JPG 72It was a rainy, steamy September night when crowds gathered to see Greg Lauren’s creations for fall.  It all sort of came together perfectly to fit the designer’s theme.  Art Beam was transformed into a different world, a smoky, slightly dangerous-feeling, downscale men’s club from another era.

IMG_9342 Greg Lauren Greg Lauren Greg LaurenImage1From a distance, we saw sketchy-looking characters holding up the walls, or joined in hushed conversations, while far-too-pretty boxers seemed to slug it out, slowly, in a ring in the center of the room, all dressed in tattered tops and sweats or slacks, ripped and worn, like the men wearing them.

IMG_9387 Greg Lauren Greg LaurenThen you get a bit closer, and realize the wear and tear is decidedly calculated, a kind of trademark of the Greg Lauren line, relaxed, tattered, yet classic, and oh, so luxurious. Even the leader, or “Hero”, of this rag-tag but handsome bunch, is Tyson Beckford.  Nothing is as it appears.



IMG_9292 Greg Lauren Greg Lauren Greg Lauren

IMG_9322 Greg Lauren Greg Lauren Greg LaurenThough the scene was a bit world-weary, the clothes definitely are not.  Lauren, who has tried his hand at so many things before discovering designing, has been evolving since his first collection, and this is a big step forward in that journey.

IMG_9331 Greg Lauren Greg Lauren Greg Lauren This is fashion for style-conscious men on the days they don’t want to look polished, but still want the world to know they care about how they do look. They’re clothes are beautifully made, ooze comfort, style and, perhaps most importantly, confidence.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016        Photography: Anton Brookes

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Let’s Hear It For the Boys: NYMD Day 2



Sleek and sophisticated, with just a touch of whimsy.  That’s the best way I can think of to describe Robert James’ Fall/Winter collection.  These are grown-up styles for grown-up men, no boys’ “athleisure”, no trucker caps, just real clothes for the real world.

All black and white and shades of gray, James’ perfect tailoring was present in every piece, from trousers to outerwear.  There were so many standouts, from a classic black overcoat to monochromatic suits, from a gorgeous houndstooth coat with black lapels to a leopard print blazer (hence, the touch of whimsy), along with a beautiful black leather coat.


This is a standout collection, notable for its modern take on traditional styles.  That’s what Robert James is all about, a man who knows his customer, the successful, well-dressed 21st century man.



NYMD is where you find menswear designers you may not be very familiar with, but have a very definite point of view that may be a bit outside the mainstream, and have a growing group of fans and customers.  Matiere fits in perfectly with that ethos.

Designers Scott Sandalove and Jake Zeitlin were inspired this season by modern-day explorers, travelers making their way across the globe.  The story is told through fabric and texture, achieved with Italian wools, gauze, cashmere, mohair and jersey. Color is just about a complete non-issue, all blacks, grays a touch of cream and a little dab of burgundy.

This is a beautifully straightforward men’s collection, with tailored pants, fun and functional outerwear, comfy sweaters and, of course, the required-for-this-season, Doc Martens.

Functional, wearable, manly yet fashionable, this may be the perfect men’s collection for Fall.



There are the sleek, classic looks of a Robert James, then there are the cool, out-there looks of Lucio Castro.  The two couldn’t be more different, yet both are masculine, wearable and inspired, each in its own way.

Castro’s inspiration was Stonehenge, the U.K. spot that is the site of unexplained stone sculptures, where Druids gather to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  He reached back to the ‘80s and’90s, a time when the spot was also home to a series of rock concerts.

IMG_8651   Lucio Castro

You can see the influence of both the time and place in almost every piece.  The colors were earthy, forest greens, gold, brown and brown-reds.  The cut was relaxed and comfortable in everything from bomber jackets to suits, sweater-vests and overcoats. The rock ‘n’ roll was in the patterns, multi-colored stripes, paisleys and prints.

Then, of course, there were the culottes.  Definitely not for the faint of heart, in green tartan plaid and a more subtle beige, they push men’s fashion to a new and different place.

Lucio Castro’s collection takes a nostalgic step backward, to a fun part of the past, then gives it a bold, modern edge that makes it work for the man of today.



There is no doubt about Min Hur’s inspiration for Fall/Winter 2016:  military precision in design and tailoring.  It was obvious in some looks, like the flight jackets, uniform overcoats and even a vest, clearly fashioned after one of the bullet-proof variety, complete with navy caps.

It was also apparent in the ever-so-crisp lines in his suits, a collection of beautifully-designeD, ‘40s-inspired, jewel-toned dress-up wear, masculine, mysterious and a little bit dangerous.


Make no mistake, reaching back to the World War II era doesn’t make this a nostalgic collection.  No, it is most modern, but designed for a man who cares about his appearance, loves being neat and noticed.  Overcoats are straight and serious, but burgundy instead of black.  Suits are cut perfectly, but just a bit relaxed.  This is a serious collection, for the man who is serious about fashion.



This is how I see Winter:  cold, wet, bleak, scratchy, bathed in shades of grey.  Because I choose to live in New York City, I shiver through it, but not happily.  I only grudgingly see the beauty in freshly-fallen snow, and only for about a minute before it becomes an unidentifiable, filthy mess.  My only real comfort comes from watching the weather, post-December 21st, to confirm that the sun is setting a minute or so later, every day.

For Fall/Winter 2016, CWST designers Derek Buse and Joe Sadler fed right into my dreary vision, and turned it into something warm and cuddly, if still bleak.  Inspired by the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound, an isolated, mobile-free zone north of Seattle, their vision of winter wear is seen through “grey washed rain shadows, cordovan tide lines, sandstone outcroppings and weathered Douglas-fir”.

That inspiration is clear in the washed-out colors, greys, blues and blacks, and also in the warm, comfy fabrics.  Shearling and wool coats, vests, panchos and manly pashminas are designed to fend off the cold and damp.  The styles and patterns take this collection from a utilitarian way to stay warm to fashion-forward looks, made to warm cold, hipster hearts.

This may not be a collection for every man, but it is on point for the young and hip, determined to stay warm in the worst of Winter.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016    Photography:  Anton Brookes

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Before they had their own Fashion Week, there was New York Men’s Day, a full day to OD on all things menswear.  Put together, somehow, by the good Fashionistas at Agentry PR, it groups together designers  for morning and afternoon presentations, always in Industria Superstudios.  Now, NYMD opens Fashion Week: Men’s, with the same level of creativity, talent and brilliant design as ever.  Here’s our look, starting with the morning session:



The suit’s the thing for Fall at Max ‘n Chester. The line designer Peter Trainor showed at NYMD started with suiting, and ran from there.  The fit was relaxed, comfortable, almost sporty, the base colors, grey and black.

Creativity came in the form of fabric, pattern and texture.  Winter wools were joined by denims, cottons and quilts.  There were stripes and plaids (sometimes together) to match the solid, nearly tweedy, feel.


Mixed in with the menswear was women’s wear, a perfect fit, maintaining Max ‘n Chester’s design aesthetic, relaxed and comfy, expressed in shirt dresses, jumpers and, yes, suits.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in your clothes, as long as you’re chic.  And Max ‘n Chester has found the way to combine both, effortlessly.


IMG_8315  Kramer and Stoudt

There’s more than a hint of the rebel in Mike Rubin, founder and designer of Krammer & Stoudt.  He looks more Wild West than SoCal, but his inspiration has come from the skaters, surfers and punks who populate the beaches and boardwalks.

For Fall 2016, Rubin didn’t step away from his past inspirations, but he enhanced them, pulling some influences from a German artist, then shining it all up with Western flair.


Smartly tailored suits were matched with plaid shirts and pleated pants with ankle-length hems paired with Rubin’s take on the bomber jacket.

But outerwear is where this collection really shined.  Functional, masculine and completely creative, his fabric choices turned simple coats into winter must-haves. 

His debut NYMD presentation featured models standing on stage, then mingling with the crowd, fitting in with the fashionistas.  It was a real winner.


IMG_8382  Kramer and Stoudt

It’s becoming a big week for Doc Martens.  Designer Jae Wan Park paired the utilitarian fashion statement with his entire Fall/Winter 2016 collection, but then, they were the perfect finishing touch for PLAC’s looks.

Park gave a nod to the Eighties, the good fashion part of the Eighties, with tapered trousers, jogging pants and denim, his original design choice.  Hoodies and sweaters (super-long, roll-necks and crews) were staples of this collection, along with the odd tee and turtle neck. 

IMG_8379  Kramer and Stoudt

But outerwear is what truly shined.  The season’s favorite bomber jackets were done in truly original fabrics and textures, hooded parkas had small details, like quilted sleeves, that stood out, and macs and even a Chesterfield, were beautifully tailored.  And I loved the long, long scarves.

The colors were dark, mainly black and gray, but the vibe was young and hip and made great strides forward for this once all-denim brand.


IMG_8389   Garciavalex

If you are in search of a clothing line that can transport you to a higher level of self-awareness, wellness and relaxation, then Carlos Garciavelez’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection is the one for you.

His man is taking a step back from the stress of everyday life and spending a little time at a thermal spa in Switzerland.  What does that mean?  It means, relaxed, layered looks designed to wrap the wearer in warmth and comfort.

IMG_8390   Garciavalex

Garciavelez accomplished that goal with loose, slouchy trousers, most resembling tracksuit bottoms, given an extra chic edge by pairing them with layers of printed tees and sweaters, and sleek, tailored coats. He added extra drama by combining textures:  leathers with wool in a sweater quilting and color-blocked wool in an overcoat.

The designer said, “the collection is about calming and focusing your senses through self-reflection,” and it works on that level, cozy, comfortable looks elevated by beautiful design.

© Red Stiletto Media 2016    Photography: Anton Brookes

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IMG_3214.JPG 72“The artistry of the zen garden, minimal and austere, with bold strokes of color and form, with lacquered hair.”

Image1So begins the inspiration statement of the legendary designer, Carmen Marc Valvo for his Spring/Summer 2016 collection. “This season’s collection is very Asian inspired”, he said, backstage before the show. “It’s very yin and yang with a lot of calligraphy, brushstrokes, Koi and cranes. We have butterflies, we have dragon flies, we have all sorts of things.”

Image2And that combination makes this one of his most magnificent collections ever, and that’s really saying something. Black, white and bold, bold red were the colors of this catwalk, inspired in great part by the designer’s butterfly koi. It took two years to bring this vision to the runway. He said, “they had babies about two years ago in the pond, which is kind of cool. I wanted to try to do this, but the timing wasn’t right, then I didn’t know how to accomplish it.” But, two weeks before the mills closed, it all came together in these strong yet delicate looks. Hence, the yin and yang.

Image3Painterly prints and big florals added to the Asian-inspired theme, along with soft chiffons mimicking gossamer wings, leather and python patterns reflected shimmering fish scales. The fabrics were perfectly chosen, as well: double-faced wool, crepe, chemise, linen and leather.

Image6Shift dresses, either color blocked or patterned, had a real updated ‘60s feel, a truly modern mod. He brought palazzo pants to a new level, with a peony-printed pair, topped with a mesh inset maillot and another with a calligraphy crane design with an ivory racerback maillot. They were just so sexy.

Image5Then there were the swimsuits, all one-piece, most using the same brushstroke motif, all amazing.

Image4Of course, where Valvo’s collections really shine are in eveningwear, from a sleek, ebony organza lacquered gown to a poppy brushstroke gown (this, along with an ebony pleated gown inset with python is where you could really see the Koi influence), to the true show-stopper, the Changshou organza gown, they were light and airy, and oh, so glam.

Image7Image9I’ve focused on womenswear because that made up the bulk of the collections. His menswear used the same patterns and textures in perfectly tailored jackets and shorts, shirts and suits. And tailoring is so much a part of what makes a Carmen Marc Valvo collection truly special.

Image8While the looks are easy to wear, so much work goes into each piece, fit and cut to perfection, with touches like double pleated overlays and hand stitching that truly elevate the looks. Valvo says he is not an artist, but rather an artisan, dedicated to his craft, and it shows. I can’t wait to see what he creates next.


© Red Stiletto Media 2015                                  Photography: Anton Brookes

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