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Warmest regards and thanks again for being here~ Michael Cress

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New Era In British Fashion Influence

Ava Bergman

Previously published in Life With Style Magazine (Click to enlarge)

A New Era In British Fashion Influence?

Are we entering a period of greater British influence in fashion and style? According to The New York Times, the Royal wedding between Prince William and the stylish Kate Middleton drew a worldwide audience of three billion. Since the engagement announcement, intense focus was on the now former commoner. Many wondered with great interest, who is Kate Middleton? Images of Kate flew about globally in magazines, newspapers and the Internet and her sartorial choices were scrutinised. By all measures, the future Princess passed the style test. To a lesser degree, focus on the wedding brought inevitable attention to Prince William as well.

What did observers see and what exactly is the British style? Kate Middleton donned elegant choices that were well-cut and flattering. Many found it interesting that some of her clothing choices were not from higher priced designer labels, but rather, from High Street retailers such as Topshop. She showed an ability to choose well-cut and flattering pieces from shops the masses could relate to. This had two important messages; the British public who wondered if this future Princess was someone they could relate to, found through her attire that she was down-to-earth and able to bridge the gap between the Royals and the masses. Sartorially, woman around the world viewed a potential role model with elegant style in a fashion that was particularly British.

Even on the day of the wedding, we learned Kate Middleton gave a courteous nod to English fashion by having the House of Alexander McQueen design her wedding dress. The global fashion community was abuzz with the confirmation that deceased Alexander McQueen would live on in name through the talented designers who filled his shoes and remain working under the label that bears his name. In itself, this sub-plot for the wedding proved to be a pivotal moment for the British fashion house and arguably, British fashion as well.

What exactly is British fashion? Working from the perspective of a New Yorker, British fashion seems to lie somewhere between that of American and French. American fashion, particularly in New York, seems to be driven by proper designer labels with less emphasis on good cuts that are flattering and feminine. The French tend to buy fewer clothes, focusing on acquiring pieces that are elegant, if not ostentatious, well-cut and often from lesser known but higher-quality boutiques. The high-quality, less is-more French approach to style is stark in contrast to American style, with that of the British falling nicely between the two.

Walking through the streets of London, it’s quite apparent that English woman are comfortable being feminine and conscious of clothing choices that are flattering to their unique build. London daywear is far more elegant than that of New York with flowing dresses and pleasing choices of accessories that breathe French influence. From top to bottom, English men are excellently attired. Bespoke and otherwise well-fitting, appropriate clothing and shoes is the norm with choices of understated accessories such as pocket squares, ascots and a fair amount of colour to show individuality. Most British men wouldn’t think of not wearing a suit and tie to an office environment whereas Americans have drifted to the ‘business casual’ abyss. Walking the streets of London is a sartorial pleasure of understated elegance.

When British style comes to mind I think of good friend, Londoner, Ava Bergman. A highly accomplished model who has appeared frequently in magazines around the world, including the cover of German Vogue, Ava’s style is impeccable. Conscious of appropriate and flattering clothing that is well-cut and tailored, she accessorises elegantly. Her look is eye-catching, feminine and graceful and her physical attractiveness is obvious. However, her accompanying sartorial choices present an overall persona, creating an aura of inspired magnetism that is clearly illustrated by the reactions of others, as they are drawn-in to her presence as she walks the streets of London.

If Kate Middleton and Ava Bergman are the epitome of British fashion, we can only hope it spreads the world over.

Michael Cress, The New York Sartorialist for Life With Style Magazine

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Ready ~ Alex McCord

Getting Ready ~ Alex McCord
Behind the scenes, Alex McCord of "The Real Housewives of New York" fame preparing for a public appearance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cycling Style~Jermyn Street (London)

Cycling Style ~ Jermyn Street (London)

You have to love the English for maintaining some sense of decorum.

~Michael Cress/New York Sartorialist

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Oscars: A Brief History of Fashion Designers, Hollywood & the Red Carpet

Anne Hathaway in Armani Prive

On Sunday is the most notable awards-show of the year, the Academy Awards. For months to follow, images of stars on the red-carpet will be filling space in magazines as everyone assesses the success or failure of outfit choices. The designers behind the most glamorous looks will receive untold amounts of "free" publicity. On this night they hand out Oscars, acting and fashion both take the spotlight. It should be no surprise that the majority of fashion designers are jockying until the final moments to have their clothes on as many stars as possible. However, it hasn't always been this way.

In 1955, Christian Dior was asked to make a wedding dress for Brigitte Bardot for a movie the rising starlet was in. Perhaps typical of the culture and the time, Dior refused. To him, the aristocracy were the truly aesthetically elegant and those on the silver screen were merely cheap imitations. There was no way he would willingly allow his designs to be put on what he viewed as vulgar display.

Later in the '50's, Hubert de Givenchy and one of the most stylish icons of all-time, Audrey Hepburn, developed a strong relationship. As a result, Givenchy became synonymous with Hepburn. Who can forget the little black dresses and her iconic style in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany's?
While there were occasional relationships forged between designers and stars, for the next 30 years it was the exception, not the rule. While the French didn't hold movie-stars in such high regard, Italians understood the power of film and publicity. Italy had a thriving movie industry and a head-start on forging relationships with actors and actresses at home. With the global influence of Hollywood, the transition was more intuitive.

Not a stranger to Hollywood, most notably for dressing Richard Gere in 1980's American Gigolo, Georgio Armani opened his Beverly Hills boutique in 1988. Using the boutique as a local home-base and developing a publicity machine, he used his already strong connections with celebrities to get his designs on Hollywood's most influential stars and become the designer of choice. His success became a major component of his master marketing plan. By 1991, so many stars were wearing Armani that Woman's Wear Daily dubbed the Oscars, "The Armani Awards". The publicity that resulted was priceless advertising. By broadening and deepening his relationships with the stars, he was then able to leverage it by inviting them to shows and special events. By having such  star-studded attendees, he was guaranteed widespread media coverage.

Quickly following in Armani's footsteps was another Italian, Gianni Versace. While Armani enlisted A-list Hollywood stars, Versace's flashiest stars included Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, Axl Rose and Tupac Shakur who mirrored his designs. Over time, a myriad of mainstream stars have been associated with the label. Gianni Versace felt that the public was tiring of unrealistic models and that those in Hollywood came across as more "real".
Jane Fonda in Gianni Versace with husband, Ted Turner 

So it was Armani and Versace who first used red-carpet star power to enhance publicity and image. Soon after the two designers had clearly made their mark, Hollywood and designers became a free-for-all. Many designers will send boxes of clothes to stars, with no obligation for them to wear them in hopes of wooing them into wearing their designs. While back in the 80's stars felt honored to be asked to wear designer's  clothes, today many stars ask for much more, including money, to wear a designer's gown or suit. The rat-race is on.

Armani was quoted as saying he was very against the idea of paying stars to wear his line. Fortunately for his great classical designs and his own star-power, Armani is still prevalent on the red-carpet as many image-conscious stars view his clothes to be a safe bet, even if they don't get paid for the privilege. So this year when viewing the stars and what they're wearing, imagine the drama and rush behind the scenes; that may be Oscar-worthy itself.
Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy

Michael Cress ~ The New York Sartorialist

Re-printed from March 6, 2010