DESIGNERS, MEET YOUR MARKETS
It doesn’t matter what you design, putting your clothes down a runway or presenting your jewelry or accessories just isn’t enough. You have to sell them to stay in business, right? And that’s what brings hundreds and hundreds of designers into New York every January.
ENK’s Accessories Circuit and Intermezzo Collections, January edition, drew designers, exhibitors, buyers and press to the Hudson River, Piers 92 and 94 (on the coldest days of the year, I might add). Once inside the enormous tents, the sheer volume of creative companies pitching their wares was overwhelming.
The ENK trade shows, which now include ENK Vegas, Coterie and Children’s Club, among others, provide an exclusive environment for design companies of all types to meet their public, so to speak, in much the same way as 7th on 6th provided a way for buyers and editors to save time, energy and very high-end shoe leather by bringing the runway shows together under one tent, literally.
Once you get past the dizzying numbers filling the maze, you’ll find the most fascinating collections: clothing, jewelry and all kinds of accessories, from eyewear to belts, handbags to watches. Some of the companies are familiar, like Free People, Nanette Lepore, Hudson Jeans. Others, not so much. So I’d like to introduce you to just a very few of the designers on display, whom you probably never have heard of. But I believe they’re destined to become the next big things.
CHAIN OF JEWELS
“Seasonal Whispers”. It’s a name that’s romantic enough for a jewelry maker. But this company is much more than that. The jewelry, with a focus on body chains, is beautiful, the story, inspirational.
It begins with body chains. They are delicate, gold or silver filled and designed to hit your Chakras, or energy points. They’re also extremely versatile. Yafit told me, “you can wear them under your clothes, over your clothes. Every body chain we design can be worn as a body chain, as a necklace, as a choker. It’s the same with our hand chains, they can go on your hands, on your feet, or your arms as a regular bracelet.”
They are lighter than air and incredibly sexy, even hanging on the rack. It’s obvious that Yafit’s life has greatly influenced her current work. She was a professional violinist, which inspired a line of rings and bracelets made from violin wire, thin and malleable, sculptured into the most feminine pieces. She is a photographer, which explains the importance of the visual in every piece. And, she’s a dedicated practitioner of yoga, a definite influence on the body chain. “You can wear it while you’re exercising,” she told me. “You can wear it over or under your clothes. It’s empowering.”
You can find Seasonal Whispers jewelry in their shops, or on line at www.seasonalwhispers.com.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Maybe the passage of time has made reading that tiny print a bit more difficult. Or (here’s my excuse), you wear contact lenses for distance turning anything close up into one big blur. So, you head to the nearest Duane Reade for a pair of cheap and cheerful reading specs, sacrificing style for a better close-up view. Not anymore. Scojo New York (actually based in Minneapolis now) creates beautiful, high-end frames filled with distortion-free lenses. Why spend the extra cash on a simple pair of readers? The company’s VP of Sales, John Nides, told me the reason is simple: “these are your eyes. When you buy a pair of Scojos, you’re buying into quality, you’re buying into style, into fashion. But you only get one opportunity to protect your eyes. At the end of the day, we call Scojos a necessary accessory.”
Scojo may be new to you, as it was to me, but the company has been around for 17 years. Every pair is handmade, touched by no less than 100 people in the manufacturing process. That attention to detail shows. It’s probably responsible for their serious celebrity following. The frames are gorgeous, as stylish as any you’d find in a high-end opticians. They also carry a line of “gel” frames that are feather-light and come in a range of colors, from black to bright neon. Don’t want to keep taking your glasses on and off? Go for the bi-focal readers, with clear glass on top and 100% UV protection, so you can wear them all the time.
Nides said the average person owns six-point-five pairs of readers in a lifetime (not surprising), but Scojo’s customers care for their readers. “They keep them in cases, they see the value, they see the quality.” So what’s the price of all this quality? Surprisingly, not as much as you’d think. Scojos retail for between $40 and $85, and you can find them at Clydes, Zitomers and Bigelow’s in New York, as well as Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels across the country and, of course, on line at Scojo.com.
ACCESSORIZE YOUR LIFE WITH JOSIE
If sexy, high-end lingerie is your thing, then the name Josie Natori is a must in your fashion vocabulary. The iconic designer started her fashion empire when she brought a shirt from her native Philippines to a Bloomingdale’s buyer, who suggested she turn it into a night shirt, and the lifestyle brand was born.
Natori creates everything from lingerie and ready-to-wear to home fashions, fragrances and eyewear. But she never did a full line of accessories, until now.
Natori’s new line is big, bold and darkest black. The necklaces, body pieces and belts are made in her factory in the Philippines. These are the definition of statement pieces, available at Saks and various specialty stores.
BAGS FULL OF FUN
A shop full of cats, a dog drooling outside a bakery, a double-decker London bus, fields full of flowers and Frida Kahlo’s face. What do all of these things have in common? They all appear on handbags from Vendula London.
Vendula was started in 2003, but this is its first foray into the American market. Designers definitely bring their senses of humor to each of the handbags, wallets, eyeglass cases, decorating them with faces and flowers, famous landmarks and street scenes, shop fronts, bicycles and butterflies. But they also bring a sense of civic responsibility. The bags are made of animal-friendly faux leather, and prices are definitely affordable.
The company’s Managing Director, Raymond Lam, told me their goal is to make people smile. “It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s definitely not serious,” he says. “We try to be different from other plain handbag makers, by adding a little color.” Or, a lot of color.
Lam told me he had been getting lots of orders, mostly from “indies”, small, independent stores. But they are working on finding a larger distributor. So, if you have room for a little fun in your fashion life, log onto www.vendula.co.uk, and watch that space to find out when these amazing accessories will make their way to a shop near you.
A PASSION FOR COLOR, THE PURSUIT OF BEAUTY
You may not know who Donna Gorman is, but you’ve seen her colorful touch in places like Target, Crate and Barrel and Markimekko. The designer has a new pursuit, See Designs, combining tote bags, scarves, cushions and gorgeous caftans in one big explosion of color and pattern.
Her daughter, Lily, is the perfect spokeswoman for her mom. She told me the designs are created by Donna, then sent to mills in India, where they transfer the patterns (don’t get me started on the lack of textile mills in the USA). “We are all about simplicity,” she said. “Simplicity, and color”.
The bags are all 100% cotton and price points are accessible. The highest price bag I could find was an overnighter for $99.
Check out the website, www.donnagormandesign.com, for a complete look at the line.
Behold, the humble fanny pack. Simple, durable, utilitarian and maybe just a little bit dorky. Not anymore.
Bohemian Hips turns the lowly fanny pack/utility belt into a fashion statement. Made of some of the softest leathers you’ll ever feel, these belts can fit your every persona, from gunslinger to hippie chick.
Founder and designer Kimberly Ponniah said this is a labor of love, combining all the things important to her: art, travel, experiencing the cultures of the world. She said, “one of my favorite things is creating something I love, but more than that, it’s having control over my life. It’s the freedom.”
Bohemian Hips belts are more than a convenient way to carry your bits and pieces, each piece is so beautifully and impeccably crafted, combining unique form with function, a testament to the talents of their designer.
“I’m an artist at the core, and consider the products I create to be functional, wearable art,” Kimberly told me. “I tend to focus on niche items because I like creating products that push the limits of mainstream society’s focus on fashion, while still being something sophisticated, edgy.”
The belts are made in Indonesia and India. Kimberly says most of her sales are made direct to customer, at festivals and street fairs, but she’s trying to find a broader audience.
You can find Bohemian Hips online, at www.bohemianhips.com
If you’re a fan of big, bold color and kitschy designs, then Lolo bags are for you. You can spot their stall from the other side of the pier at ENK. The closer you get, the more you practically can feel the fun.
It all started with cosmetic cases, made in Lolo’s signature bright vinyl-on-vinyl. That led to an explosion of bold bags, from totes to beach bags to carry-alls, along with side items like the best luggage tags you’ve ever seen (trust me, you’ll never have a problem identifying your bag at an airport with a Lolo tag on it), wallets, pen/pencil cases and cute key chains.
Lolo’s owner, Bruce MacLear, told me the reason for the products’ popularity is their versatility. “Men like it, women like it, teens like it, grandmas like it,” he said. “If you’re a chic boutique, you can sell the more muted colors and the less fun and more sophisticated designs. If you’re a gift shop at the beach, we’ve got more fun colors and cutesy silhouettes. We’ve got something for everyone.”
iKen watches come in colorful kits. You choose the straps and the face and the color, and it all snaps together, easy-peasy. They even have a bling version, if bling is your thing.
Lolo bags are sold at Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s and in boutiques around the world. I dare you not to smile when you see the collection.
AMERICAN MADE FASHION FOR EVERY WOMAN
Steve Barraza, owner of Tianello, has been creating fashion since 1984. Formerly a designer for L.A. Gear, he branched out 24 years ago, opening Tianello, brightly-colored styles, proudly made in his very own factory in Los Angeles.
The eye-catching clothes are all garment-dyed (meaning they can be machine washed, tumble dried. Farewell, dry cleaning bills!), made from a variety of fabrics: cottons, silks and knits, but ultimately, he says, “it’s all about the texture for me.”
And there is a lot of that. Run your eyes down the racks of clothes at Tianello’s ENK booth, and you see countless different prints, all in different fabrics.
This is a good place to note a problem that faces every one of the U.S.-based designers determined to brand their clothes “Made in the U.S.A.” They can get their patterns cut, their samples sewn and, eventually, their collections put together, but there’s one element that simply can’t be achieved here: fabrics. There are virtually no textile mills left in America, and that is a shame. It’s a problem Tianello faced, as well.
“We have fabrics from France, Italy, silks from China”, Barraza says. “I go to the international textile show, select my artwork, then I have to send it to Shanghai. The printing is done there, then the fabrics come over, and I can make the rest of the garments in my factory. I get some knits in Los Angeles, where there are still a couple of knitters. The problem is, there are no weavers.”
And, Tianello is designed with every woman in mind. Barraza tells me, “I try to keep my collection as broad as possible, so each item will work for all ages, and a wide range of sizes.”
Design for every woman, made (as much as possible) in the U.S.A. You should definitely give Tianello a try: www.tianello.com
Photography: Anton Brookes