At the Corcoran’s A Designer and His House Screening

Posted on April 9, 2009
Filed Under Around Town, Events | 2,033 Comments

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{Lesley Benn in some insane Givenchy shoes and FW’s Betsy Lowther with Lesley’s friend whose name I can’t remember…we were just calling him ‘Mr.Benn’…..and an attendee wearing one very very soft Chado Ralph Rucci jacket.]

The Ralph Rucci film at the Corcoran the other night was about an hour of energizing inspiration for me, in the form of a film about dedicated, creative people making incredible, unapologetically amazing haute couture (hand-sewing, beading, threading…). The film took us behind the scenes with Ralph Rucci and his team as they prepared for the Olympics of the fashion world: showing at the Paris couture shows. There was this incredible part when the clothes were shown on the runway, all in the slow motion and sound off except for the click of the model’s heels and the swooshing of the fabric….rapture! Everyone in the audience was totally in love with David Boatman and Ralph Rucci and everyone asked great questions…it was so fun! He’s in talks to do a doc on James Galanos and might be doing some video work for one of Ralph’s next shows in Bryant Park. I will definitely be keeping my eye on Mr. Boatman and his work!

There was nothing flashy or even character-driven about the film – instead, we saw a very intimate, very real (it’s a documentary, after all) portrayal of a fashion house producing the kind of art that’s fading in an industry overrun with sex, celebrity, marketing noise and Big Brother.

By the way, if you missed this the other night, I’m hearing from the folks at Neiman Marcus that they’re planning to screen the film at some point soon…stay tuned for details on that. And keep the Corcoran calendar bookmarked…some sweet events coming up, including Stephen Drucker (how adorable is he?!) and Art Spiegelman, who did the Maus comics….

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Devi Kroell on Keeping it Real.

Posted on April 7, 2009
Filed Under Interviews, Women | 4,071 Comments

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Last week at the Hu’s Wear opening, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the designer Devi Kroell, who is enviably elegant and composed while remaining totally normal and approachable. We’d like her to say “Lanvin” over and over again, in her lovely accent, perhaps in place of fairytales before bedtime (can we bring those back, please?!). Pieces from her sumptuous Spring 2009 collection are available in the city exclusively at the just-opened store.

Tell us about this amazing spring collection.
DK: I presented it in September [in New York, at Milk Studios]. We did a presentation in basically, an architectural landscape, inspired by the work of Donald Judd. We wanted people to be able to walk around. We had twenty-five girls, all standing on different sculptures. My pieces were inspired by architecture, shapes, sculptures…I was interested in volume. Everything about it was to be very modern, the colors were kept muted. We didn’t want to go overboard with color. The direction of the spring collection was very much about following what I did with accessories, which was very puristic shapes.

The fabrics are incredible.
DK: There was a lot of research that I did with various mills in order to get the textures. [Gesturing to the silk shirt she was wearing] The silk gets woven in a certain way that after it’s done weaving, the threads are kept very long and you have to take one of these long sabers – is that what you call it? – to cut off the strands.

Made in the States?
DK: Everything is sewn in the garment district. It’s important now, to support our economy.

So…about that.
DK: Especially now, when all the stores are closing, rumors have it that fifty percent of all the factories are going to close by the end of the year. Designers are reducing their orders. It is really a pity.

Why essentially launch yourself as a ready-to-wear designer, now?
DK: It was a good time for me. When I started handbags, there was a gap in the market and I felt that all the needs weren’t being addressed. I felt the same thing again now. Yes of course not the best time with this economy, but, we do have buyers, people do buy our clothes, and I think we’re growing. It’s really more of a personal choice. I needed to do this in order to be able to grow in all the other areas we started – with the handbags and shoes – it was part of my personal evolution of where I wanted to be as a designer. Now more than ever, it’s relevant to have great design and great quality because people really are looking for that. In a way, the recession is good because a lot of unnecessary things will disappear…it makes room for better design and people will focus attention again on really important things.

What about lower-priced design at stores like H&M and Target?

DK: I think it’s really good. Not everyone can afford the high price points and I think it’s important to have everyone be able to afford, even if it’s a knockoff. I take it [knockoffs] as a compliment I have to say. I was given the opportunity a few years back to do the Target collection – the bags retailed for $30. Yes they were plastic and yes it wasn’t the same, but we were so happy to be able to do that. We could touch a different customer.

How has the economy changed the way you design? How does the retailer opinion influence, or not influence, you?
DK: I have been keeping an eye on price points. For example, I try not to choose fabrics that are too expensive that will make the garment too expensive, or I try to choose leathers that are reasonable for handbags and shoes. So that affects how I design. But what I do not do is…I try not to listen too much about what other people think you should do, what they think is going to sell. Because in the past, Ive learned my lesson. A lot of retailers have told me, you know, ‘you should do that, because it will sell, people look for that’ and so forth. And there’s always a lag of time, between the time somebody tells you what is selling and the time your product actually hits the market. By the time it comes out, these people, who are not visionaries, told you something a few months back, and then it comes out and it’s just not relevant anymore. I came out with some product in the past where I didn’t feel that it was my soul, and I didn’t really love the product, but I did it because I was told that this is what I should be doing. So it kind of took me away from what I’m really about and what my things really are about. It’s really a fine line to walk, and I’m not ready to do that again.

Wow. That must be really hard – to do that balance.
DK: I’m not ready to give up what I’m really about to please the retailers. Because at the end of the day, if it’s not really you and you can’t stand behind it, then you know, there’s no relevance to it. The funny this is, once you do that, that’s what sells. People want the passion. People can see that this is something special, something that they haven’t seen yet. Because you try to do something special.

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The Future is Now.

Posted on April 6, 2009
Filed Under Everything Else | 32 Comments

This video from the 30s on “futuristic fashions” (for year 2000) is so oddly and awesomely relevant. A white jumpsuit (cinched with a MObama-worthy black belt) in the season’s gently pleated, tapered pant! A dress in transparent net with swirl detail (hello, Preen Fall 2009!), asymmetric zippers! Crazy cutout wedge heels! Strong shoulders everywhere! I am totally loving this video at the moment.

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The Hu’s Wear Report.

Posted on April 3, 2009
Filed Under Shopping Events & News, Women | 2,063 Comments

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Designer Devi Kroell with Hu’s Wear owner Marlene Hu Aldaba.

The day I heard about Hu’s Wear was the same day I drove in to Georgetown to see about it for myself. The press release said it and the visit confirmed it: Hu’s Wear (2906 M Street, NW) is setting a sophisticated new standard for Washington’s well-dressed.

Open the doors to the airy former gallery space and wander over to the right. There you’ll find LA-based Guilty Brotherhood, a line of expertly-cut separates in the softest but-still-structured cottons. To the left, Willow’s flirty but unfussy dresses and tops. Downstairs, Devi Kroell’s light-as-air ivory silk tanks, precise jackets and fall-on-the-body sheaths. Spotted across the room: Daniele Calcaterra’s silk pants in the most perfect shade of dove gray-meets-tree-bark brown. Next to it, Kaylee Tankus’ deconstructed black jacket.

Honestly, every item of clothing could take the place of 5 not-quite-right garments in your closet. When Coco Chanel said something along the lines of “all a woman needs is a black pencil skirt,” she was referring to the right one. The one that is expertly cut, that feels great against the skin, and will always be timeless.

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Inside Hu’s Wear.

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A glance through the racks (Lanvin bag to the left).

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The Patton Group’s Barbara Martin, in Willow, and Jayne Sandman, in Guilty Brotherhood, all Hu’s lines.

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Dr. Tina Alster in a necklace (I’m pretty sure she said under $100) from Apres Peau with husband Paul Frasier.

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Hu’s Wear partner Marty Souliere and Daily Candy’s Erin Hartigan.

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The back wall downstairs is plastered with vintage posters. The table in front plays host to gorgeous clutches, handbags, and Devi Kroell belts.

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We liked this python envelope bag (with detachable gold chain). Classic, sophisticated, and a definite investment at $1290.

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An elegant partygoer in D&G dress and trench.

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Hu’s Wear’s Courtney Caldwell, in a Mischen dress (nope, not two pieces!).

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Devi Kroell in Devi Kroell shoes.

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