New York Fashion Week: Lessons learned from Phillip Lim, January Jones, and Tommy Hilfiger
By metalia on September 21, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a few unique and exciting events in connection with New York Fashion Week. I was lucky enough to go to the grand opening party for Tommy Hilfiger’s flagship store (as well as his fashion show), and also see a special American Express cardmember-only Phillip Lim fashion show. In my mind, the viewpoints of Tommy Hilfiger and Phillip Lim couldn’t be more diverse. However, I found a common thread that ran throughout my experience at both events, which is, in essence, that fashion is becoming increasingly more about the personal.
My first inkling of this was when I had the opportunity to speak with January Jones (Betty Draper on Mad Men) at the Tommy Hilfiger store opening. Obviously, I had about 472 questions for her, but I decided to simply ask her if she feels as inspired and influenced by the clothes she wears on Mad Men as the rest of America is right now. There’s no denying that her character is a fashion icon, and to be honest, I was kind of expecting her to say, “Yes! I love the ‘60’s silhouette, too! Hourglass figures! Belted dresses! Full skirts! Also, you seem like a lovely person. Want to come to the set? You can play dress-up, and also paw at Jon Hamm’s arm! HE LOVES THAT.””
Okay, perhaps the last part was a bit of a pipe dream, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is this: The last thing in the world I was expecting her to say was this: “Not really. I try to avoid that silhouette, just because I wear it every day at work, so I try to let people know that I’m a modern person, and I don’t dress in the past, and when I’m out at an event or something and I try to dress up for something, I try to dress…like me!” At the party, she was wearing a gorgeous hot pink sheath dress with a distressed shrunken leather jacket. Her hair was styled in a choppy, mussed bob, and she had dark eye makeup and pale lips. In short, she was the anti-Betty Draper:
I must say, up until then, I’d been completely guilty of conflating January Jones with her character, but seeing her dressed, to paraphrase, “like her,” and hearing her speak about taking stock of her own style, and making that clear distinction with her personal fashion sense was eye-opening, and set the tone for the rest of my evening.
The experience of attending the party at Tommy Hilfiger’s store as well as his fashion show demonstrated that as a designer, he gets the importance of knowing one's personal style, as well. The store—which is full of and sits in an impressive space on Fifth Avenue—had touches of Americana sprinkled throughout, and demonstrated the stated goal of displaying a "modern meets traditional" style[[a Hilfiger hallmark. The show itself had very few surprises, which I believe to be a good thing. I (and many people) will forever associate Tommy Hilfiger with that sort of classic, all-American style; he knows that association, and OWNS it. It came across clearly in both the collection and the décor within his new flagship location.
After that, it was off to the Phillip Lim show, but before that got underway, I had a few moments to speak with with Jessica Igoe, Director of Global Sponsorship Marketing for American Express. I asked her what American Express’ goal was, in terms of offering an event like this to cardholders, and she told me that it’s an entrée into the tents, but that “it’s more about the experience overall, than just getting in, and it’s about connecting cardmembers with their favorite designers…And the deeper connections that you build, the more loyal your customers are…”
Jessica’s point is well-taken. I’ve long adored Phillip Lim’s clothes, but didn’t own any of his pieces. After attending this show—which began with a discussion between Phillip Lim, Andre Leon Talley (editor-at-large at Vogue) and Linda Fargo (Senior Vice President, Women’s Fashion Director and Store Presentation at Bergdorf Goodman)—I’m entrenched in plotting how to acquire a number of pieces I saw on the runway. As Jessica had pointed out, the experience is key; it makes it personal, and hearing the designer discuss their viewpoint goes a long way towards forging that connection and making a potential buyer care about both the designer and their work.
During the chat, Phillip said that he thinks of himself as a “democratic designer,” and describes his clothes as “classic with a sense of madness.” Linda echoed this sentiment, pointing out that his pieces are priced well, “appeal to all different types of women,” and all possess an “element of surprise.” The fact that Phillip’s line appears in Bergdorf Goodman, and yet he was also willing to do a diffusion line with the Gap last year certainly speaks to his desire to be, in his words, democratic. As for both Linda and Phillip’s description of his clothes, I couldn’t agree more. The dresses that came down the runway were breathtaking. There were classic lines, to be sure, but intricate pleating, incredible fabric combinatons and completely unexpected details kept me (and the rest of the audience) enthralled. Phillip also pointed out that he doesn’t work with stylists. “The clothes are my children,” he said, “and I have to let them go out my way.
Hearing once again -- from a top designer, no less -- the emphasis on making fashion personal really cemented the message, for me. I often feel bombarded by emails, magazines, and shows touting what’s hot and what’s not, or this season’s must-haves. It’s always a bit of a struggle to read and calmly filter these messages, and not get sucked into a “Ohmigod, ACID WASHED JEANS are coming back? WITH ankle booties, you say? How am I gonna pull THAT off?” wormhole. My experience at Fashion Week taught me that the industry is-- now more than ever --making a concerted effort to connect with the consumers, and make the consumers reflect on the designers’ work that matters to them. The collections seem to have been a bit more wearable, and celebrities and designers (and regular people like me) are really thinking about their personal style, and how to make it all work. It’s inspiring to see, and I hope to see it continue..If for no other reason than the fact that my personal style is telling me to take a firm stance against acid-washed jeans with ankle booties.
Many thanks to both Tommy Hilfiger and American Express for providing BlogHer with access to these events.