Global Fashion’s Expanding Spheres of Influence

From the core four to the trendy twenty: while Paris, New York, Milan and London still serve as major centers of fashion, in recent years they’ve been joined by several international cities that also hold sway over the latest trends.

That’s according to “Global Fashion Capitals,” the Museum at FIT’s new exhibit in New York that traces the geographic evolution of the industry. While the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s latest exhibit extensively focuses on China, the FIT’s smaller scale show, containing 80 outfits, spans every continent.

The FIT survey emphasizes how governments worldwide have sought to rebrand their cities as creative centers, and are promoting fashion as part of that plan. While leading a tour of the show, curatorial assistant Elizabeth Way also pointed out that selected designers have transcended their country of origin, thanks to publicity. For example, the Spanish shoe brand Manolo Blahnik rose to international fame largely due to the U.S. TV series Sex and the City.

Global Fashion Capitals MadridAn annual timeline of fashion weeks taking place throughout the year is on display, and it appears that attendees could spend 12 months nearly non-stop as a runway spectator. Since seasonality varies worldwide, the shows aren’t limited to spring and fall. For those wanting a change of pace in the winter months, there are fashion weeks in January in Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen, and in February in Barcelona.

Way outlined how the 4 most renowned fashion centers rose to prominence and highlighted the essence of each. Paris, naturally, is about haute couture and luxury, New York is known for ready-to-wear and casual sportswear, London is about youth-oriented fashions and urban street styles and Milan is known for designer entrepreneurs and finely crafted garments.

Two capitals, Tokyo and Antwerp, have served as important fashion hubs for many years, Way said. Tokyo has been a source of avant-garde fashion, as designers made Japanese traditions more contemporary. In Belgium a group of designers with a conceptual approach became known as the Antwerp 6 because Parisian editors couldn’t pronounce their names.

What do Psy (Gangnam style video), Neymar (soccer star) and the pop rock band Abba have in common? They each hail from countries or cities that are influential newcomers on the scene. The expanded list isn’t limited to metropolises with sophisticated fashion tastes, like Moscow, Shanghai and Beijing. Other urban centers have made their marks based on a variety of factors.

Global Fashion Capitals SeoulGovernment promotion

Among the cities that have undertaken the most concerted efforts to promote their fashion credentials: Berlin, with its Create Berlin movement, and Seoul, which has invested heavily in making fashion exports (and KPop) a priority (pictured at right). Scandinavian cities Stockholm and Copenhagen are experts in marketing and PR, while in Barcelona, the iconic 080 catwalk has helped to put the Spanish city on the fashion map.

Political unrest

Emerging fashion cities that have been shaped by current or past political upheaval include Johannesburg, South Africa impacted by apartheid, and Kiev in the Ukraine. The ongoing turmoil there led to the cutoff of fabric supplies, so designers have used recycled materials.

Global Fashion Capitals LagosCultural influences

The new style capitals where local cultural references most inform fashion are Istanbul, Sydney and Melbourne. The contemporary art scene has clearly inspired Turkish designers. In Australia, the continent’s rugged interior, or Outback region, and the vast coastline have led to sportswear like bush clothing and surfwear.

Local craftsmanship

Other fashion-forward locales incorporate artisan’s works. Mexico City clothing and accessory items often utilize intricate beading, even on sneakers. Designers in Lagos, Nigeria use colorful local fabrics and interwoven patterns. (pictured at right) Those in Mumbai, India add embroidered elements, and in New Delhi they integrate Bollywood images.

Global Fashion Capitals Sao PauloUrban streetwear

Urban street culture has long exerted a strong influence on fashion trends worldwide. This was the case in Madrid during its counter-culture movement. In Sao Paulo, the Brazilian capital’s grittier side is evident in an outfit where razor blade patterns were sewn into the fabric. (pictured at right)

Cutting edge designs

Among the most innovative new fashion entrants are St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen. St. Petersburg lays claim to more avant-garde fashions, while the northern European cities are known for edgy designs that are “Scandi-cool.”

Russell Westbrook’s Fashion Week Photo Diary: Paris Day 3

Day three of the men’s shows in Paris saw two of the most anticipated runways of menswear week: Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain Homme show and Kris van Assche’s at Dior. Russell Westbrook, who’s been chronicling the shows for VF.com all week, gave us a front-row view of both.

First up was Balmain, where West wrote “I love the neutral tones and the desert- and military-inspired theme of the show, and how Olivier experimented with suede and coordinated with different fabrics. I was honored to be there at the first Balmain Homme show. I know this was a big moment for Olivier and I relate to his approach to style, he is a young fearless guy that takes fashion risks like myself.”

Celebrating with Olivier.

“Looking at the collection board. It was so well put together.”

“I got to catch up with [Barneys New York C.E.O.] Mark Lee at the show. There is no one better to go to a show with than my Barneys team. They know style on another level. I have the best time discussing each collection and sharing feedback with the team.”

Russell’s favorite Balmain looks.

Westbrook with Dior Homme designer Kris van Assche.

“The camo and argyle prints mixed together were a stand out combo,” Westbrook wrote of the Dior Homme show. “The collection was very refreshing. I also liked the zipper details on the suits. I love the progressive approach Kris took when designing various interpretations of the classic bomber jacket, using floral patterns on the sleeves and numerous fabrics.”

Russell arrives at the Dior show.

Guo Pei: Pop star Rihanna’s fashion designer of choice

For those in the know, China’s Guo Pei had already long been compared to some of the late fashion industry greats, such as Alexander McQueen and Coco Chanel.

But Chinese fashion design has only recently come of age and, until now, none of its home grown stars had made the leap to becoming an international household name.

Now the combination of Rihanna in a huge yellow dress, and the subsequent press and social media reaction, have done just that for 48-year-old Ms Guo.

The Bajan singer had got in touch with Ms Guo to ask if she could wear the dress to one of the biggest nights in the fashion calendar – New York’s Met Gala. The event is organised to raise funds for the city’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s Costume Institute.

The designer was happy to say “yes”, but was initially unsure if Rihanna could cope with its substantial weight.

“When Rihanna first saw the dress, she said ‘it’s so beautiful’, but I wasn’t so sure that she could handle it,” says Ms Guo.

“It was only after she appeared on the red carpet that she sent an email asking how heavy it was. I told her – 25 kg (55lb). I couldn’t tell her before because I was afraid she’d say she couldn’t wear it.”

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The dress worn by Rihanna took 50,000 man-hours to make
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Thankfully the singer was able to bear the weight of the dress – a canary yellow cape creation, trimmed with egg yolk coloured fur, and embroidered with flowers – without a hitch. Although it did take a team of three assistants following behind to carry the garment’s giant train.

While fashion commentators and aficionados were agog – Vogue magazine put a photo of Rihanna in the dress on the front cover of its Met Gala special edition – the wider public had a bit of fun.

With the dress being compared with a giant omelette, social media memes, amusingly doctored photos of the dress, spread thick and fast on the internet.

Ms Guo says: “A friend of mine sent me one of the pictures, and said she thought the dress looked like an omelette.

“She said she hoped I didn’t mind the comment and I said, yes I agree, it does look like an omelette.”

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Other food-based comparisons saw photo editing software deployed to imaginative effect, such as taking the dress for a pizza base and adorning it with olives and onions.

Marketing teams even got in on the act, with UK bakers Greggs turning the dress into a meat-filled pasty.

While many other designers with more delicate temperaments may have taken objection to such mockery of something that took a team of people 50,000 hours between them over two years to make by hand, Guo Pei says she didn’t mind.

“Actually when me and my husband saw some of the photos they gave us an appetite!” she chuckles.

“I felt that if the dress could stimulate people’s imagination and make them laugh then it has made entertainment as a result.”

Communist grey

Guo Pei was born in Beijing in 1967 and it is here, perhaps, that we can find the inspiration for the love of colour, extravagance and elegance woven into that yellow dress.

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“The Beijing of my childhood memory is very different from today,” she says.

“It was basically grey. The clothes people wore were mostly grey, there are not many colours.

“I remember clearly that I wanted to wear a yellow dress when I was a child, but my grandmother told me that normal people are not allowed to wear yellow.”

The Communist drabness of those days, it seems, fostered in Guo Pei a desire for beauty.

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She says: “I loved painting when I was young, I liked to paint people and clothes, but my parents never supported this desire because my father felt it had no potential and no future.”

Ms Guo’s father was a senior Communist Party official, and her mother was a kindergarten teacher. She describes a loving, but strict, home environment.

“I remember my father tearing up one of my paintings because I hadn’t finished my homework.

“He said: ‘Can you live on painting? Can it support your life?’.”

But in this rather austere atmosphere another passion was being nurtured, born of necessity.

Ms Guo says: “My mum’s eyesight wasn’t very good.

“The coats we wore in the winter, and our blankets, were sewn by her but because of her eyesight, she couldn’t thread a needle.”

“I remember I helped her, even from the age of two and slowly, it became one of my hobbies.”

‘New desires’

In 1982, Guo Pei chose to study clothing design and became one of the first such students in a by now rapidly changing China.

“When I graduated in 1986, she says, the period of reform and opening up had just begun.

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“China had become a very different place and you could feel that people had new desires.

“They were looking for beautiful things and they were accepting of change. It was a great time to be a designer.”

Ms Guo became the chief designer of one of China’s first independent clothing companies, and through her work she set about painting in all the missing colours from her childhood.

“There was one year I remember everyone was wearing red skirts,” she says. “They liked to ask what was the popular colour, and then everyone would wear it.

“On the way home from work on the bus, everyday, there are at least ten people I could see wearing my designs.”

By 1997 Ms Guo had set up her own haute couture (high fashion) business in Beijing, a move that coincided with the growing affluence in China. She would spend many hours making single dresses for the country’s rich, famous and politically well-connected.

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Today, she has a team of 500 employees – designers, embroiderers, pattern-makers and sewers, and a list of clients that include A-list stars from around the world.

While Ms Guo’s most prestigious dresses may take months or even years to make, they are profitable because they command prices as high as $800,000 (£500,000) per item.

Yet not everything she makes is so expensive. Ms Guo also designs traditional Chinese wedding dresses, which cost about $8,000, and are very much in demand.

It is talking about the wedding dresses that makes her emotional.

“One day a mother came to me with her savings [$8,000], and asked me to make a wedding dress for her daughter,” she says.

“I told her that she could [instead] give that money to her daughter, it was not a small amount.

“But she said that if she did, it would be nothing more than $8,000, but if she spent the money on the wedding dress it would enlarge her love as a mother, it would carry her blessings, and her love for her daughter.”

By now Gou Pei is fighting back the tears. She adds: “I will never forget customers like her.”

The designer is now working on a more affordable, much faster to manufacture, “ready-to-wear” collection, which is likely to see dresses retail for between $800 and $1,500.

Ms Guo says: “Many people ask me about my experience designing for celebrities, but they don’t know about my real customers. They’re the people who really touch me.”

Nottingham personal stylist fashion favourites

Personal stylist Hayley Smith in the Jigsaw store, in Victoria Street

Body shapes, colour charts and mood boards are just an average day’s work for personal stylist, Hayley Smith. Lucy Budge gets some summer styling advice from the Notts fashion expert


Spending a day hitting the shops may be a luxury for some, but for personal stylist Hayley Smith it’s all just part of the job.

The 33-year-old, of Edwinstowe, has been running her personal shopping company Hayley Eleanor for just over a year, with the aim to help women across Nottingham create their dream wardrobe.

She regularly spends her days travelling to clients across the region to discover what styling fix they desire, as well as taking them on educational shopping trips in Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln and Derby.

From colour analysis to body shape and wardrobe review, Hayley can transform your style whether it be for a special occasion or every day duties.

The fashion expert says: “For most clients I set up a capsule wardrobe and show them pieces that are missing in their current wardrobes.

“I get together with them first and discuss their personal style and what they want their wardrobe to do, or how they want it to change. It’s important to find out what they do day-to-day.

“A lot of them just don’t know what they’re doing with their wardrobe and clothes, and feel like they’re missing important bits. I advised a lady recently who had lost a lot of weight and wanted a new direction in terms of her style.

“Most of my clients are busy working women who have children, and just don’t have the time for fashion and shopping. You can lose yourself as you grow up and your life changes.”

A range of packages are available, starting with the complete style experience for £120, which includes a mini wardrobe review, body shape analysis, online inspiration gallery and a consultation.

But for the full personal stylist package, clients can opt for the ultimate experience at £300, which includes a four-hour shopping trip.

“I’ve found my clients are generally aged from early 30s up to late 40s and 50s,” says Hayley.

“I can offer a range of things, including a colour analysis, where I look at whether they are warm or cool.

“I find out what colours they should have in their wardrobe and the colours that sit well against their skin tone. This way they can co-ordinate everything they have.

“I put all of the information together into a booklet. They can then put it in their handbags and take it out when they go shopping.”

She’s always had a passion for fashion but working as a freelance personal stylist is a far cry from Hayley’s first career as a family solicitor.

“I went on maternity leave and it gave me the chance to realise that I wanted to do something that I enjoy.

“I’m starting to go into bridal styling, as well as bridesmaids.

“Brides tend to have a set idea of what they want for their dress, but what they have in their mind is not necessarily what suits them. With bridesmaids it’s difficult to find something that will suit everyone.

“I have a lot of clients who want styling for special occasions too. One of my clients is renewing her vows.”

For this summer season, Hayley advises to head back to the groovy seventies for outfit inspiration.

She adds: “This summer is very 70s. Yellow is a key colour for this and shirt dresses are very fashionable.

“Shoes are also rather comfortable this season, with sliders being popular and also block heels.

“Denim is very big – think dungarees and boyfriend jeans.

“For something alternative to black too go for blue. It’s a very good colour for a lot of people and comes in so many different tones and shades.”

Y-3

Yohji Yamamoto is 71, a legend of fashion, master of the aesthetic avant-garde, and captain of his own ship. So it seems disrespectful not to quote in full what he said of Y-3, his consistently interesting collaboration with Adidas, to Style.com before today’s show.

“I’ve been doing this 13 years already. At the beginning moment I was inspired by sneaker culture. At that time I felt like I became too far from street. I was looking for how to come back to street. Then I hit the sneaker. And I made a phone call to Nike. They gave me a very proper answer: ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Yamamoto, but we are going never to fashion, we are going only to sportswear.’ Very nice answer: ‘OK, thank you very much.’ Then I called Adidas: ‘Why don’t you work with me because I am interested in the sneaker.’ Instantly they said yes. And then, like after seven or eight years, Y-3 outfit became a little bit boring. Casual outfit. So I felt, this is not my job. We should stop or continue—we had an argument, inside company. But finally we arrived at continue—[but] if continue, we should do something more sport in spirit, because in the world there are so many people who are motorcycling, jogging, and their wear is very attractive even if they are using terrible color like neon yellow. Functionality. So I told my team of Y-3, ‘Let’s go back to sport.’ This collection should be motion and action.”

And that it was. Much of both motion and action was provided by the sinuous extensions of the TAO Dance Theater, whose performance both preceded and paralleled this show. But the clothes held drama too. “I don’t bother you,” read the neon slogan of a T-shirt worn under a diaphanously fishtailed bomber-cum-parka: “Don’t bother me,” read the back. As in Yamamoto’s mainline collection, there were plenty of stripe motifs, incorporated here both as homage to his collaborator and reference to the hazards they so often indicate. Both for men and women, Y-3 continues to operate as a uniquely pure experiment into the potential for sportswear to metamorphosis into something beyond the limits of its conception. Everything else is fashion pretending to be sportswear. Or, worse, sportswear pretending to ignore fashion when it’s doing anything but. Yamamoto might well be feeling a little weary with the wheel he is chained to. As he said: “Every time I make a show, I put pressure on me—Yohji—to go to the next. What is next? Who knows?” That’s an eternal question whose answer—even when you get it right—lasts only for six months.