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Tag Archives: SCAD Style

In town for SCAD Style, Fern Mallis shops Savannah and stops to talk about not making plans.

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[caption id="attachment_8737" align="aligncenter" width="380" caption="Domenico De Sole. Photo courtesy of SCAD."][/caption] Who knew one of fashion’s leading innovators was also a neighbor? Domenico De Sole, a resident of Hilton Head, S.C., led the venerable House of Gucci out of bankruptcy in 1995 by rebuilding relationships with committed craftsmen, re-establishing the company’s historical fashion-forward mission at all levels, reimagining storefronts and, most important, hiring Tom Ford as the company’s creative director.  Within three years after taking the reins, Gucci had recorded a billion dollars in sales and Ford had become an international superstar. He “retired” with his wife Eleanor to her native South Carolina in 2004.  Not long after, Ford came a callin’ and asked Domenico to lead his eponymous fashion firm—a proposition Domenico could not refuse. Speaking at SCAD Style 2013, Domenico delivered some lessons he learned in luxury to a rapt audience of students and fashion-savvy Savannahians.  Some takeaways:
  • Recognize great talent.  Hire the best possible, most competent and aggressive people.
  • If you make mistakes, figure it out instead of assigning blame so that you can correct the process.
  • Listen to people and let them do their jobs.
  • Learn your trade from the bottom up.
Sage advice, no matter the profession.  Savannah magazine was fortunate to steal a few of Domenico’s moments before his engaging talk to discuss why “quality will be remembered long after price is forgotten.”
SM:  Our May/June issue—our epicures issue—celebrates the good life here in Savannah.   Yet, we grapple with answering the question of how do you define luxury in this age of economic uncertain and the fact that a lot of brand names sell at all different price points.  How do you define luxury?
Domenico:  It’s very difficult to define, but at the end of the day, to me, luxury is a mix of a few things: High taste level and standards of elegance.  It’s an issue of quality of product.  An issue of craftsmanship.  And then there is an issue of a little bit of scarcity—something people aspire to.  Something difficult to define in a more precise way, but that is what I look for in a luxury product—this combination of design, quality, craftsmanship and scarcity.
SM:  What are some of those markers for "standards of elegance"?
Domenico:  It’s one of those things where if I see it, I can tell you.  It’s hard to define in an abstract way…but let me give you an example.  I love contemporary art and architecture, and I can go to a place and say this is really beautiful, and it’s really close to me and my taste level.  But I can go to an old house with more traditional furniture, and I can see that this may not be my personal taste, but this is really beautiful.  You can be really beautiful and luxurious in a lot of different ways with a lot of different looks.
SM:  When we talk about aspiring to luxury, how does someone develop good taste and not simply define luxury by a label?
Domenico:   The issue there is a little bit of the strength of brands.  What happens—and this is true not only with traditional luxury goods but true with a lot of expression.  I’ll give you an example—hotels.  I travel all the time.  Let’s assume I’m going to a place I’ve never been before—Kuala Lumpur.  I don’t know where the best hotels in Kuala Lumpur are.  I’m sure there are a lot of local names that can be magnificent.  But, if I see a Four Seasons, or a Park Hyatt—I would pick it.  I don’t know anything … but at least I know if I go to a Four Seasons the brand gives me something that is attractive, beautiful and first-rate service.  I’m sure I’m going to be happy.  Then, is that the most beautiful place in Kuala Lumpur?  I don’t know.  But, I know that I can trust that brand to provide me an experience I’m going to enjoy. All great brands have a point of view.  Hermes tends to be very classic.  That’s what they’re all about.  Prada is very, very trendy…and beautifully manufactured.
SM:  If someone is in Savannah and makes handcrafted, one-of-a-kind things—we see these as a local luxury.  But, how would an artisan in Savannah grow into a luxury brand?
Domenico:  The way to grow a new brand in luxury, in general, the thing that really helps you at the beginning is the wholesale business because stores are very expensive.  But if you can afford to open a shop in Savannah, do it, so people can come and visit.  And second, I would contact the big department stores—the Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstroms.  That’s the way you can get known.  You have to have a great talent to drive the brand.
 
   

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[caption id="attachment_8629" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Marisa Berenson, Halston and Liza Minnelli from "Versailles '73""][/caption]

In this age of anything-goes style choice, have you ever wondered what a real fashion revolution looks like?  Danielle Austin gets a glimpse.

Thanks to Versailles’73: American Runway Revolution, a documentary written and directed by Savannah-native Deborah Riley Draper, you can relive the night in November 1973 when five American designers won the most profound battle in fashion history.  Their weapons of choice: Fresh, ready-to-wear designs and bold African-American models who marched like soldiers and turned like dancers. Draper doesn’t leave any casualties on the battlefield in this carefully crafted film—a true David-and-Goliath story that pits the reigning fashion capital of Paris against the upstarts from New York.  Draper examines every angle, from the catfights behind the scenes to the catwalks that turned the fashion industry upside down.  And, of course, she does it with style. The film opens with archival footage of Walter Cronkite reporting about the lavish fundraiser that helped restore The Palace of Versailles.  Then, the film cuts to a whirlwind of fashion photos and fast-paced music from the ‘70s as the opening credits roll.  The story unfolds through a series of interviews and well-placed documents, photos and videos from 1973. [caption id="attachment_8631" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Designer Stephen Burrows. Photography courtesy of SCAD."][/caption] The mastermind behind the fundraiser-turned-fashion throwdown, publicist Eleanor Lambert, knew that an international runway challenge would put her clients Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Halston—as well as New York—on the fashion map.   But these newcomers were going up against established French heavyweights—Yves St. Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Christian Dior designer Marc Bohan.  And even though Lambert wasn’t necessarily planning on a fashion revolution, she believed wholeheartedly that a change was gonna come. “Eleanor Lambert was tough, but she loved American fashion and she thought we had a voice and she was set to prove that to the world. And she did, there in Versailles in 1973,” recalls Burrows in the film. The French might have been reluctant to hear that voice, but by the time the show was over, they had to admit that American designers had changed the course of fashion.  And in more ways than one. While most people are aware of the affects this show had on the descent of haute couture and ascendance of ready-to-wear designs, a story that isn’t as commonly told is how it broke down barriers for African-Americans models in the fashion industry. After seeing 12 black models walk in the American show, audience members were shocked—in the best way possible.  These women exuded a radiant energy with each step they took.  It was unlike anything anyone had seen on the traditional European runways and they couldn’t get enough—an attitude that has since changed in today’s fashion industry. [caption id="attachment_8632" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Model Pat Cleveland. Photography courtesy of SCAD."][/caption] But Draper allows us to reminisce about a time when the fashion industry celebrated our differences through the riveting and often humorous first-hand accounts of Versailles models Pat Cleveland, Billie Blair, Alva Chinn, designer Burrows and a variety of art historians and curators—some of whom Draper interviewed at Versailles. “To be able to shoot in the actual theatre and the King’s apartment and go to all the places that the girls had described, I felt like I was there 9in ‘730,” said Draper.  And so will the viewers watching the film. Even though it took 40 years for someone to tell this truly American story, it’s apparent that Draper was the one to tell it.  Cast members Burrows, Cleveland and Silver agree.  All three were on hand with Draper for a panel discussion following the screening. [caption id="attachment_8630" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Stephen Burrows, Pat Cleveland, Cameron Silver and Deborah Riley Draper at the SCAD Museum of Art for SCAD Style 2013. Photography courtesy of SCAD"][/caption]

Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution might have been Draper’s directorial debut, but the film feels as if it was made by a seasoned documentarian.  And pretty soon she will be. She’s already working on another fashion documentary about model Donyale Luna as well as two features films, one of which Savannahians may get to be a part of.

“I think when I’m going to do my feature, I’m going to come home and shoot it because there’s so much talent here [Savannah] and a lot of movies are shot here. Plus it will be good to be home,” said Draper.

Read Danielle's Savannah Morning News opinion piece on racism in the fashion industry HERE >>

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A celebrated interior designer brings her vision for an inspired life to SCAD Style.  See the possibilities.

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SCAD Style kicks off with a lesson in celebrating style from Tiffany & Co.'s design director.  Take notes.  

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April showers Savannah in sartorial splendor from April 15-26.  Start your fashion spree here.

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Seasoned (and multi-hyphenated) freelance writer-stylist-editor and brand consultant Amy Flurry shared her secret ingredients for being your own best publicist in her first book, Recipe for Presswhen she was in town April 18 for SCAD Style.

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