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Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: Alexx Jae & Milk

StartUp  Fashion resource designer Alexx Jae MilkWho ever knew that dressing sexy and looking good while taking care of the Earth could be so easy?

The two longtime childhood friends and founders of Alexx Jae & Milk, Alexx Jae Monkarsh and Bari Milken Bernsteing are proving that stylish dressing is easy and doesn’t have to harm the environment.

Growing up with environmentally conscience families, the two ladies knew that there was still room for eco-friendly changes in the fashion industry.  This presented Monkarsh and Milken with the urge and motivation to use their careers as environmentalist to aid them in making a classy yet contemporary eco friendly clothing line.

Getting the idea in 2009 to branch out into the fashion industry, it took Milken and Monkarsh around a year to get on their feet and start selling. The Los Angeles based brand, Alexx Jae & Milk has all of their fabrics sourced locally keeping in line with their philosophy of saving the earth while staying trendy.

Monkarsh and Milken take much pride that everything is made in Los Angeles ultimately helping to eliminate carbon footprints and waste in neighboring cities. But what makes this contemporary clothing line so unique is how they utilize natural products and recycled goods to craft beautiful pieces of clothing.  All of their leather goods are made with PET, which in technical terms means recycled plastic. Designer Milken tells us that, “The buttons are made from left over pieces of coconut shells, and our labels are printed with soy-based dye.

While using very basic colors such as blacks, whites, blues and reds, Monkarsh and Milken give us women the chance to personalize each look to our liking.  And by staying close to basic silhouettes, there is no doubt that when wearing an Alexx Jae & Milk piece, every woman will be enveloped in confidence and style.

Alexx Jae & Milk’s line provides all women with the chance to wear effortlessly modern pieces all while having a minimum impact on the environment.

Independent Designers

Interview with BreakThough DESIGNER Label: Misile

It’s time for another BreakThrough DESIGNER feature!  We are so excited to introduce you to Misile, a gorgeous womenswear label based in Brooklyn, New York.  The line is chic, sophisticated, edgy, and Made in the U.S.A!

Misile

StUF: What is your design background?

M: My studies in college were a focus on art and design but I spent the first 5 years of my career in men’s luxury apparel. This definitely wasn’t what I was aspiring to do but it turned out to be very influential on my current work. I started in C.A.D. and spent the last 4-1/2 years as assistant designer at Hickey Freeman. I was lucky that all of their manufacturing was still being done in house. Their most luxe suits retailed for an upwards of 10,000 and featured hand finished detail. I also handled manufacturing for both Burberry and Lagerfeld suits at that time. It was a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of manufacturing a luxury garment from senior designers and tailors from Italy.

Although Misile’s style is definitely a reflection of my own personal taste, my unique approach on manufacturing the line was largely affected by my passion to keep American Luxury Labels production domestic.

StUF: Tell us about Shop Misile’s aesthetic and mission.

M: Misile’s focus is to produce a high end, consumer conscious, contemporary line. What we offer that’s most unique is that this is not a mass produced line that’s outsourced to China. All of the styles are made in our studio with a strong focus on quality and fit. We have customers that stay loyal to the brand because they know they can always count on a consistent, high quality garment. These garments are viewed by us as wearable pieces of art rather than in dollars. Our profit per unit is much lower than other luxury brands that manufacture overseas. But I feel what we do is honorable and more rewarding. I still have a feeling of accomplishment after sewing a dress from start to finish and hanging it up on the rack. When I get a thank you email from a customer it means so much more to me to know that it was made here. It’s 100% Misile. It would be really hard to give that up for a higher profit margin.

StUF: Where do you currently sell your work?

M: Right now, mostly small, higher end boutiques in the U.S. We’ve also had wholesale orders come in from the U.K. and Australia. But last month we were signed onto Spring UP, an international showroom in Milan. They are a multi line showroom but Misile is their first American label. I’m hoping this will be a much needed boost for the label and will generate more sales in Europe. They will start our S/S 2012 sales campaign September 9th.

Online we are carried onlione at USTrendy, Smashing Darling, Indie Shopper, and our site ShopMisile.com will also be adding e-commerce over the next few months. Right now we have only been accepting our Haute Couture orders by phone or e mail.

StUF: Have you participated in any trade shows?  If so which and what was your experience like?

M: When I first started the label I did a few trade shows in Los Angeles to get more exposure on the west coast. In all honesty, I thought they were all a flop for me. We made sales, but not anything like I had projected. The price point is harder to sell to clients that haven’t had much exposure to the brand. Our best orders come from the east coast where they know the brand. I’m hoping to gain more exposure over the next few years though, so we are going to start doing more shows again, but mostly in New York, Misile’s stomping grounds.

StUF: Can you tell us about your day to day?

M: I’ll start by saying my work week is generally Monday through Sunday. I haven’t seen a 2 day weekend or a real vacation in about 4 years. When you are manufacturing in house for a small label that’s the price you pay. My first order of business involves me checking emails on my phone before my feet even touch the floor. I always need to know what my day’s going to be like before I get out of bed. Some days I’m oddly excited to not see many online orders so I can get caught up on existing orders, building up stock on our RTW line, or working on next season’s samples. I try to have some orders cut out from the night before waiting for me in the a.m. I like to start the day at my Juki,  sewing and sipping espresso.

I try to spend the day getting online orders filled and packaged so I can have them shipped out later that afternoon. I periodically need to return phone calls and e mails. I get questions ranging from measurement inquiries, photo shoot or event planning, to style advice, and everything in between. I can spend over an hour answering emails and returning calls.

Lunch time! That’s usually coffee and crackers and more work. True story. Wholesale orders are a main focus. I do my best to stay caught up. Since we manufacture in house and hand finish certain styles it can be pretty time consuming. But I’m determined to have great lead time so I make sure orders go out timely. This is primarily the reason I’m always at work.

I’ll occasionally need to step out to grab some supplies that I can’t wait on. I remember a time when the designer used to send me out for an odd color zipper or something random and I was so excited to get outside. I’d take my sweet time and it felt great to be out of the office. That’s no longer the case. When it’s your own business you tend to be like a lunatic at every stop because you’re losing time. You don’t even care what people think about you running through the fabric store. You just hope you don’t know anyone.

No matter where I go I always come back with more coffee. I try to spend the last 2-3 hours of the day working on my patterns for next season. I am not always allowed this luxury, but when I am it’s a good day. I shut everything down anywhere between 8:30pm to 2:00am. I’m a night person so I tend to have my best ideas late at night. My down time after work usually consists of logging into the online sites we sell on, and entering tracking information, emailing out look books and line sheets to potential buyers, researching new boutiques and answering emails again. It’s usually a long day but I’ve found that it’s not possible to ‘relax’ while you have a long list of things to be done. So I wait until I get to a good place and take a little time for myself. People always want to tell me that I need to take more time off, but when you honestly love what you do it doesn’t all feel like work.

StUF: How are you using digital marketing and social media to expand your brand?

M: I love using ShopMisile.com and our Facebook page to keep customers in the loop with what we are up to. I really think without the internet small, independent companies without a ton of capital would have a really hard time surviving. The internet allows us the ability to reach to the far end of the world.

StUF: What do you find to be the most difficult part of being an emerging designer?

M: The hardest part for me was getting buyers to take a chance on a new label. Most emerging designers don’t have the funds for advertising and building up a name for their brand. I lost so much money the first few years. I’ve taken on second jobs during rough patches just to put all of the money back into the business. You really need to be prepared to give it everything you’ve got to succeed.

StUF: With that said, what is the most rewarding part?

M: There are so many rewarding parts of a job if you really play a huge role in all aspects of the company. I send out photo shoot sneak peaks and magazine press like other people email out photos of their children. I also really love when customers go out their way to tell me how much they loved their order or send me pictures of them out with one of our pieces. I love attending our trunk shows and meet & greets with customers. I am aware that it’s only clothes we’re making but I feel we put so much effort in making a consumer conscious product, made here in New York, not mass produced, and with so much thought into fit and design that it is more of an art form to me. It’s really rewarding when I get to meet customers and they feel the same about my work.  The sense of pride and ownership of hanging a dress up that you spent all day working on I can’t imagine ever getting old.

StUF: What are your favorite brands and why?

M: I’m obsessed with Marc Jacobs. His style is so distinct and every day wearable. As far as accessory designers right now definitely Coco and Breezy. Their style is very early 90s and absolutely gorgeous!

StUF: What’s next for Shop Misile?

M: This season A/W 2011 we started to offer a Haute Couture line along with our standard RTW line. Many years ago I did actual couture garments for galas and other events. It was amazing and I loved it! I started focusing on Ready to Wear and slowly phased out Couture. I’ve recently seen more requests come in to get back into it so I decided to introduce a small haute couture collection where all the garments are ‘made to measure’. I felt like that was somewhere on middle grounds and the prices would remain reasonable considering these are custom fit garments. Price point varies from 385.00 for palazzo pants to 2,400.00 for a silk and feather gown. Clients contact me directly with their specs and I make the garment to order. I didn’t think with our industry’s economy being in the state it’s in, that this would go over too well. But we’ve had a great response so far so we will definitely continue to offer both a RTW and Haute Couture Collection.

Since we also started our first sales campaign in Europe this September,  I think the possibilities are endless. I’m very optimistic about Misile’s future. At some point all these long hours will need to pay off. At that point I will take that much needed vacation!

Independent Designers

Interview with Womens Wear BreakThrough DESIGNER Label Threadware

On a sunshine-filled spring New York City afternoon, StartUp FASHION visited the cozy, brick-lined studio of emerging womens wear label Threadware. Chatting with Rachel, the creative half of the sister team, we learned a little about what it has been like to start a clothing label in a competitive climate and how Threadware aims to stand out from the crowd.

Here’s what she had to say:

Check out photos from our visit with Rachel on our Flickr page.

Fashion Industry Resources

Global Fashion Brands Offers a Real Runway Experience for One Lucky Emerging Label

Hello talented designers.  I wanted to write a quick post about an opportunity that was just emailed to us.

GlobalFashionBrand

Global Fashion Brands, an online marketplace that connects shoppers to independent fashion designers and through a personal shopping and discovery platform,  has partnered with Maleku Jewelry to offer one womenswear designer a free collective runway show at Nolcha Fashion Week in New York this September.

The winning apparel line will have its own runway exhibition of ten looks, all of which will be accessorized by Maleku Jewelry.

Here’s what ya get:

  • Professional staff (on-site): event managers, fashion director, assistants to fashion director, lighting manager, sound and production staff, hair and make-up team, choreographer, security and dressers
  • Registration and Guest Relations staff and on-site ushers
  • Photography images of collection on catwalk
  • Company name and live link on event website
  • Company name included in PR campaign
  • State-of-the-art venue
  • Professional lighting throughout
  • Professionally built catwalk
  • Professional surround sound
  • Changing and preparation area complete with clothing racks, clothing hangers, mirrors and make-up lights
  • Professional Models from reputable New York City Modeling Agencies
  • Professional Hair team
  • Professional Make-up Team

Here what ya have to do:

Editor’s Note: While we think this opportunity is great (getting to enjoy and understand the runway process is a fantastic experience for emerging designers), we think it kinda stinks that you have to have a shop on their site. However, if you are interested in selling on their site, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal.  From what we can tell, they take 10% of sales (not fantastic but not terrible either).

Check out their How it Works page for more info.

Independent Designers

A Look Inside the World of BreakTHROUGH Designer Carrie Parry

We were lucky enough to be invited to visit emerging women’s wear designer Carrie Parry in her home studio in Brooklyn, NY to learn a bit about her work; past, present, and future.

She’s not only a talented fashion designer and lovely person, but she also created her line with a thread of environmental and social responsibility. You know how much we love that!

Enough talk, check out what she had to share:

Check out some photos of our visit with Carrie Parry on our Flickr page!

Fashion Industry Resources

Judging the Independent Handbag Awards & 5 Things to Remember as an Applicant

A few days ago I had the pleasure of being a preliminary judge for this year’s Independent Handbag Awards. Myself, along with a handful of other influencers in the fashion writing world, were invited to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon at the beautiful Paramount Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, looking at handbags, nibbling on treats, sipping cocktails and coffee (LOTS of coffee!), and ultimately helping to decide the fate of some of the world’s emerging handbag designers.  Pressure?  Um, yeah.

Independent Handbag Awards
Independent Handbag Awards Preliminary Judging Event

You may think I’m exaggerating about helping to determine the fate of the applicants but, honestly, I’m not.  I don’t think I fully understood the impact of our little group’s decision making until I arrived at the judging event on Sunday. While having a good time, sipping Figenza Fig Vodka and enjoying things like manicures by Incoco were all encouraged, we were ultimately asked to really give our full attention and a discerning eye to all contestants.  We took this request quite seriously once we learned the following:

Independent Handbag Awards
Last Year’s Winner for Best Overall Handbag

Best Overall Handbag Winner will receive a booth at WWDMAGIC , the opportunity to develop a capsule collection for Saks Fifth Avenue and the chance to design a limited-edition bag for Isabella Fiore.

Impressive, right?  So serious we were (well, we did have our share of fun mind you) and we proceeded to sift through 1200 handbag submissions, choosing the top 10 in each category, for final judging by the event sponsors.  It was an enormous but fulfilling task.

Independent Handbag Awards
Independent Handbag Awards Founder Emily Blumenthal Getting Down to Business

In addition to being exposed to some of the most impressive globally based handbag designers out there, another exciting part of the experience was being introduced to, learning about , and connecting with 10 of the most innovative and forward thinking bloggers and writers that New York has to offer.  Who are they?

So, what happens when you put all this great talent in a room to help decide on the future of other great talent? Something grand!  We discovered amazing labels we didn’t know existed, learned about some labels that still need a little guidance, came to realize that the indies are just as active in determining trends as their more established counterparts, and each put in our 2 cents to determine who should move on to the next round.

Independent Handbag Awards
An entry I found to be quite lovely

Oh, we also collectively made a few points about what not to do when submitting your work for the Independent Handbag Awards, or any other fashion competition for that matter.  (Kind of inevitable, right?)  So I thought I’d share that as well:

  • Photography: there is nothing more important when submitting online than the image of your work being absolutely wonderful.  This is the only representation of your work that the preliminary judges will see.  Make it great.
  • When asked to submit only one image, don’t submit an image of the inside of your bag.  We cannot possibly get a good handle on what the bag looks like.
  • When there are several categories from which to choose, do your research and think hard about which one best suits your work.  There were several beautiful bags that we saw that, sadly, were submitted in a category that was not at all relevant to their work and therefore disqualified. When in doubt, submit to more than one.
  • When sifting through your collection to choose the design you want to submit, consider asking several people in your circle (and even out!) which they would choose and why.  Tally the votes, analyze the feedback, and make an informed and discerning decision.  You get one shot, then you have to wait until the following year’s awards to try again.
  • READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  A surprising amount of designers submitted sketches in the categories that required produced bags and submitted produced bags in the categories that required sketches. Don’t be careless.

OK, I think that’s all I can share about Sunday’s festivities.  In the next few weeks we will learn about the finalists and I will absolutely share all the juicy tidbits.  Until then, you’re just gonna have to sit tight. 🙂

Fashion Trade Shows

TexWorld USA – Open for Registration

As fashion designers, textiles are your medium.  You dream about hand, drape, silhouette, wovens, knits, prints….. They act as a constant source of inspiration when creating your work. So staying on top of industry trade shows and fully understanding everything that is available to you as a designer is quite important.

So with that, we wanted to remind you that registration is open for TexWorld USA!

texworld

Event Dates:
July 19-21, 2011

Exhibit Hall Hours:
Tuesday, July 19 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Wednesday, July 20 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Thursday, July 21 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location:
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
655 West 34th Street
New York, NY, USA

See you there!

Fashion Industry Resources

Fashion and Beauty Week is Looking for YOU!

When it comes to fashion, New York City tends to overshadow pretty much every other place on the planet, or so is our opinion. While places like Paris and Milan stand their own, other cities, mainly based in the U.S.,  simply don’t seem to get their deserved props. Well, it is part of our mission to highlight those places that get lost in the shuffle. Enter West Orange, New Jersey and its Fashion and Beauty Week.

Fashion and beauty week

Fashion and Beauty Week, a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle event, highlights top emerging talent from around the world. A combination of runway show, accessories showcase, beauty bar, silent auction, and cocktail dinner the event is full to the brim with exciting opportunities for anyone involved in the fashion industry.

The event committee is currently looking for emerging, high end talent to show their work at this years event in October. Here’s a little clip from last year’s event. While this is a nice summation, from what we hear, you can expect even bigger and better for this year.

Here are some of last year’s participants:

Veronica Spadaro

veronica spadaro

Adolfo Sanchez

Alfonso sanchez

Kahri

Kahri

Think you’ve got what it takes? Contact the folks in charge. Good luck, we’re pullin’ for ya!