Nina McLemore’s ‘power’ jacket

It’s an unfair and brutal truth: “The more women talk, the more men turn off,” says Nina McLemore. “One of the challenges for women is to learn to say fewer words in a lower voice.”

To be clear, McLemore doesn’t condone this prejudice. As a former executive at Liz Claiborne, she has always encouraged women to speak up. But she is a pragmatist. “We have unconscious biases we don’t know we have and not a lot of control over. We have to accept it and work around it.”

Nina (NINE-uh) McLemore is not a speech coach or life coach. She’s a fashion designer who advises female clients on how to dress for work — to land the promotion, reel in a client, state her case, win the election.

And in particular, she has made a name for herself with her softly tailored jackets, which over the years have both shielded and celebrated women such as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett — and yes, the self-described “pantsuit aficionado” herself, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

These are blazers you probably haven’t even noticed. You’re not supposed to. As the retail industry suffers a multitude of upheavals, the McLemore jackets have filled a niche, overlooked by the likes of Giorgio Armani and St John Knits, as the uniform for a woman of a certain level of authority. They’re not only designed to balance out a woman’s proportions or distract from a problem area — but to communicate power.

Not power as sketched out by Hollywood and Seventh Avenue, which tend to merge sex and ambition with skirts that are short, dresses that are tight and jackets that fit like a vise — but the version of power that strides briskly through blue-chip law firms, investment banks, the halls of Congress and, perhaps, the Oval Office. Power accessorised with a pair of sensible pumps.

Her signature jackets are cut with a narrow shoulder but a full back.

“Women are self-conscious about the shoulders being too big,” she says. But a woman’s got to be able to raise a gavel or gesture emphatically, so McLemore eschews the tight, high armholes favoured by high-end designers.

Her sleeves run about an inch longer than average, and she crafts 2 1/2-inch-lined cuffs so a woman can turn them up in a get-to-work posture. This aesthetic quirk also allows women to buy them off the rack, without seeing a tailor to adjust the sleeve length. Women, McLemore says, don’t like dealing with a tailor.

The collars stand up to frame the face and to elongate the body. And McLemore isn’t going to mince words: Long-and-lean is good.

McLemore came to be the guru of the power set after a dozen years at Liz Claiborne, where she launched accessories and sat on the executive committee. Moving on, she got her MBA from Columbia University, worked in venture capital and fancied herself a bit of a ski bum. Then a few women with sizable incomes and plenty of clout — bankers mostly — complained to her that they couldn’t find anything to wear to work, and asked whether McLemore, as a favour, would help them shop.

After marching these women in and out of boutiques along New York’s Madison Avenue, McLemore recognised their problem. High-end fashion lines had turned their focus towards trendy customers from China and other developing markets rather than catering to the more quotidien needs of those in the retail-saturated United States. And designers had also made the false assumption that baby boomers had aged out of fashion. They were all chasing millennials.

Armani had become obsessively committed to men’s-wear-style tailoring and a neutral palette that did not play well on television. St John, once beloved for its wrinkle-proof separates, had hired Angelina Jolie as a brand ambassador and ratcheted prices upwards. While Akris, a favourite of former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, still offered exquisite tailoring, it had become more pricey than most women can bear. And frankly, many accomplished women in their 50s and 60s were simply not ready to embrace the new power uniform as flaunted by gym-buff 40-somethings like Michelle Obama and the entire female on-air staff of the Today show: the sleeveless, form-fitting sheath.

In other words, fashion had left a lucrative market in the lurch.

When other designers talk about their inspirations, they often drift into poetic reveries about an art exhibition that moved them, a film that haunted their dreams or a landscape that left them in awe.

McLemore, on the other hand, is more likely to explain her creative process with sentences that begin, “There’s a very interesting study …”

Our brains, she says, make snap assessments about people that can determine everything from who gets hired to who we talk to at a cocktail party. We remember how someone looked more often than we remember exactly what they said. So, look capable, look confident, look good.

In spring 2003, McLemore debuted her collection of jackets, trousers and shirts for the kind of women who live a good portion of their professional lives on C-SPAN, CNN and PBS. She offered them comfortable tailoring in TV-friendly colours, fabrics that don’t wrinkle and at a cost — about $800 (Dh2,938) for a jacket — that’s a good 40 per cent less than the usual designer prices.

Her clients could afford to pay more, but those who have constituents rather than shareholders are loathe to be known for running up their American Express with $4,000 Akris blazers or a $12,000 Giorgio Armani leather coat, of the kind that Clinton recently drew criticism for reportedly wearing.

Although she calls the District of Columbia home, McLemore’s company is based in New York, and she manufactures most everything in the city’s Garment District. Of all her designs, three jacket styles stand out: the Suzanne, the Retro, the Car Coat.

The Suzanne, which is Warren’s preferred silhouette, flatters slender women with lines that gently follow the body. A jacket with a (American) size 8 bustline, for example, eases out to a size 10 at the hips. The Retro is a bit longer, covering the tush — we’ve seen it a lot on Clinton. And the Car Coat is longer still; it’s the style McLemore suggests for taller women or those who are thick in the middle but with skinny legs — a shorter jacket would make them look a bit like “a box on toothpicks.”

Every inch of a McLemore jacket is in service to her customers’ authoritative image; there are no flights of fancy. And every straight-to-the-point observation uttered by McLemore is intended to tell a client what she needs to know and not what she wants to hear. How’s candidate Clinton doing? McLemore would like to see her occasionally dress a bit more casually: “She looks very formal. She’s too East-Coast-dressed-up.”

Being on the public stage makes a woman subject to scrutiny. But it’s also an opportunity, McLemore says. The question to ask is not “What do I want to wear?” but “What impact do I want to make ?”Read more at:year 10 formal dresses | red formal dresses

Three stylish women collect gowns that transform them into fashion royalty

Three stylish women collect gowns that transform them into fashion royalty.

On May 18 last year, fans of designer Oscar de la Renta glided into the Audi Fashion Festival tent dressed in their best from the designer.

It was the first Singapore showcase for the Dominican-American designer, who died in October last year.

Among them was Mrs Nana Au-Chua, who stood out amid a sea of beautiful women in a multi-coloured tube cocktail dress, even though she was standing in a dark corner of the crowded show space.

At 1.75m, she towered over other show-goers and possessed a sense of elegance and confidence. Her sleek low bun completed the red-carpet-ready look.

The chief operating officer of lighting company Million Lighting is a fan of Oscar de la Renta and has over 30 of his gowns and cocktail dresses. His gowns make up most of her collection, which is partially tucked away in a storage facility.

“My body is not perfect, but his gowns have the ability to make my flaws disappear and make me feel like a princess,” says the 43-year-old.

She adds that tube gowns work best for her. “Tube dresses draw attention to my shoulders so people don’t look at my tummy,” she explains bashfully.

“There’s nothing over-the-top about his designs. They are classic, but still have the ability to make people go wow,” says the mother of three, aged two to 11.

Her husband, Mr Edwin Chua, 42, is the chief executive of Million Lighting.

Mrs Au-Chua, a former bank executive, bought the gowns from the brand’s boutique at South Cove Plaza in Costa Mesa, California. She has been making annual trips there with her family for the last eight years.

The designer Carolina Herrera is another favourite. Mrs Au-Chua’s everyday dressing of a crisp shirt and voluminous skirt mirrors the Venezuelan-American designer’s personal style.

“I’m drawn to designers that are all about elegance and sophistication,” she says.

Her style icons – actress Audrey Hepburn, former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Queen Rania of Jordan – exude these qualities.

Mrs Au-Chua says that it was her businessman father who made her value the importance of looking presentable.

“Even if we were just staying at home, my father did not like us leaving our bedrooms dressed sloppily,” says Mrs Au-Chua, who grew up in Batu Pahat, Johor, as the youngest of seven daughters.

Towards the end of the interview, she takes out two scrapbooks filled with magazine clippings of her favourite gowns (mostly from Oscar de la Renta again) and make-up looks, and shows them off with girlish pride.

“Evening gowns are so special because they are always associated with happy occasions.”

As the managing director of DeFRED Jewellers, Mrs Sharel Ho can certainly afford to buy her own designer gowns.

But a strong sense of personal style and a desire to stand out have led her to design her own evening gowns.

More than 60 per cent of her gown collection, which she is unable to attach a number to, are one-of-a-kind pieces that she designed.

The rest are from an array of designer brands, such as Valentino, Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and Oscar de la Renta, which she stores in a bedroom with the rest of her clothes. She is staying in a condominium along Thomson Lane while she looks for a new house.

On the day of the photo-shoot, she arrives at the presidential suite of The St Regis Singapore hotel armed with some of her best designs made by local tailor Heng Nam Nam.

Among her favourites is a fiery red dress with a long train that features a racerfront neckline – a recurring feature in many of her gowns. She also shows off a gold one-shoulder number with a mermaid silhouette that she designed a year ago.

“I think my shoulders and legs are my best features, so I love to show them off. When I design my own gown, I’ll highlight all my best features,” says Mrs Ho, who is married to Mr Fred Ho, owner of DeFRED Jewellers. He is in his 50s.

Mrs Ho is quick to state that she is by no means a designer in the strict sense of the word and that she dreams up designs by drawing inspiration from awards and fashion shows.

“I can’t sketch; my sketches are really ugly. I’ll describe elements from gowns that I’ve seen and get Nam Nam to make them for me,” says Mrs Ho, who had her first bespoke dress tailored 10 years ago.

Each bespoke dress costs at least $1,000, she says.

“Sometimes it costs just as much as a designer gown, but I get exactly what I want,” says Mrs Ho, who attends more than 12 balls a year.

Exuding confidence, during the photo-shoot, she works her best angles wearing gowns that her maid Loreta Tablizo, 38, helps to select.

“I’ve been really busy and Loreta knows my closet well,” she explains.

Ms Tablizo, who has worked for Mrs Ho for 11 years, also doubles up as a production assistant by snapping behind-the-scenes shots of the photo-shoot. It turns out that she is also behind many of Mrs Ho’s OOTD or Outfit of The Day photographs on Instagram (shareltanho26).

Mrs Ho, a mother of two daughters aged 16 and 12, is also fond of taking selfies or self-portraits.

“It’s how I found my best angles; I realised that I like my left profile best,” says Mrs Ho, 40.

She has no qualms about being called vain. Neither is she afraid to admit that she relies on monthly radio frequency treatments to lift and firm her skin.

“Women should be vain. Only then will you take better care of yourself.”

It may seem risky to go online and drop thousands of dollars on an evening gown, but lawyer Min-Li Tan has amassed a collection of over 20 gowns in this fashion.

With an astute eye for style and good deals, her online shopping jaunts have reaped gems such as a Zac Posen bustier gown with an asymmetrical hem that was priced a few thousand dollars less due to a technical fault.

Not one to be deterred by sizing issues, Ms Tan has even purchased dresses that are bigger that her size 0 frame.

She notes that odd-sized dresses tend to get marked down and can be altered to fit.

“I never buy any of my gowns in Singapore, because the selection is rather limited,” says the corporate lawyer. She counts Net-A-Porter, Shopbop and Matches Fashion among her go-to e-commerce sites.

In her wardrobe – a bedroom set aside for her clothes and shoes – hangs voluminous gowns from Oscar de la Renta, a lacy Lela Rose number and an embellished Carolina Herrera gown, just to name a few.

She shops online partly because her workdays stretch beyond midnight on some days.

Even though this interview and photo-shoot take place during her week off from work, she responds to work e-mails and takes phone calls while getting her hair and make-up done.

And once the shoot is over, she hurries out of her landed property in the central part of Singapore, and heads to the office.

“Sometimes my job gets really intense because of difficult people and situations. I love it, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break and enjoy the lighter side of life, like fashion,” says Ms Tan, who declines to reveal her age and marital status.

She bought her first gown five years ago when invitations to balls started to come her way. On average, she attends five balls a year and the occasions allow her to live out a childhood dream of dressing up,

“Growing up, I loved watching my mother get dressed up for parties. I would also borrow her fashion magazines and do sketches of gowns that I liked,” says Ms Tan, who is a fixture in glamorous society magazines.

She has taken her passion for fashion a step further by designing a collection with local accessories and ready-to-wear label Mad About Hue.Read more at:pink formal dresses | orange formal dresses

Fashion and textile industries can grow African economies

Textiles Ghana 

(Photo:yellow formal dresses)African culture is on the rise, not just on the continent but across the globe. The life and music of Fela Kuti attracted thousands to the Broadway musical in New York and elsewhere.

Nollywood produces more than 1,800 movies per year and has turned into a US$3.3 billion industry, according to the 2015 article by Jake Bright in Fortune Magazine entitled “Meet ‘Nollywood’: The Second largest movie industry in the world”. African movies and music can now be accessed through online platforms across the world.

Africa-inspired designs are now regularly shown on the catwalks in fashion shows in Paris, London and Milan.

Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the US, wears African-influenced clothing from Nigerian designer Duro Olowu.

Fashion is big business: the combined apparel and footwear market in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be worth US $31 billion according to Data from Euromonitor International.

This shows that African culture is an asset. Yet we are only starting to recognize its potential to support development, create jobs, integrate countries, connect societies and strengthen identities. These so-called “creative industries”, i.e. African music, dance, clothing, TV and cuisine, can earn billions of dollars for African countries and create jobs for our growing workforce.

It is important to look at these industries through a value-chain approach to see the contribution that a “made in Africa” brand can make to African economies. Creative industries can diversify the economic base of our countries and attract tourism.

Technological changes in manufacturing, distribution and marketing are driving the growth of these industries in which many young men and women would like to work.

The fashion industry is expected to double in the next 10 years, generating up to US $5 trillion annually. In the USA alone, every year $284 billion are spent on fashion retail, through the purchase of 19 billion garments. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Africa at various levels of the value chain: from design to production to marketing, the fashion industry is a profitable business.

What does Africa need to do to build its fashion industry?

The good news is that the fashion industry is already developing. But it is still in its infancy. The textile industry value chain begins with the production of cotton, spinning and twisting of the fibre into yarn, the weaving and knitting of the yearn into fabric, and the bleaching, dying and printing of the fabric to obtain the fashionable garments that we all wear today.

At each step value of the value chain, more value is added and additional jobs are created. Targeting the fashion industry means targeting the whole value chain, from the smallholder farmers to the fashion designers. The fashion industry in particular holds considerable potential to motivate and bring change to some of the most disadvantaged people, especially women and youth, while advancing structural transformation.

At the African Development Bank, we look at these global value chains to see how each country can join in at a particular stage based on its comparative advantage. Today, international textile firms are looking at Africa not only for the purpose of production in view of increasing labour costs in Asia. They are also looking at Africa to take advantage of the growing African consumer market. This presents an opportunity for African countries to find their place in these value chains, from the producers of raw materials on up.

Creating the right policy environment for businesses to thrive and attract investments is essential.

The Government of Rwanda is a good example: it is one of Africa’s most competitive economies and a top reformer in improving the business environment.

And it has recognized that fashion means business. This has created the foundation to attract foreign investors to work with local designers, establish garment factories and boost the textile and fashion industries. H&M is building a factory in Ethiopia and PVH is looking at Kenya for the production of its brands, including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

But the cost of doing business is still too high. Energy shortages, high costs and poor access to energy, combined with high costs incurred by transport, logistics and custom facilities, can erode the advantages of lower labour costs and impede a country’s ambitions to industrialize. Sub-Saharan Africa consumes a mere 181 kWh in power. Compare this with 13,000 kWh in the US and 6,500 kWh in Europe and it is obvious how little this is – 1.4% of what the US consumes and 2.8% of what Europe consumes. About half of all firms across Africa have their own generator to complement or replace electricity supplies as needed. This represents a big disadvantage for firms trying to grow their business.

Finally, building an industry requires investing in the skills and qualifications of people. Achieving high quality production flexibility while raising productivity is only possible with a workforce that has the necessary skills. As governments become increasingly aware that apparel production offers large-scale employment opportunities, they need translate this awareness into investments in their people. Lesotho, Ethiopia and Kenya, for instance, have recognized this and are establishing training centres and tertiary institutions to promote the technical qualifications for people in the textile and apparel industries.

What can we do?

Industrialization is one of the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities. Africa currently accounts for just 1.9% of global manufacturing. There is an urgent need for Africa to rapidly industrialize and add value to everything that it produces, instead of exporting raw materials that make it susceptible to global price volatilities. The fashion industry is a case in point. Instead of exporting raw cotton, Africa needs to move to the top of the global value chain and produce garments targeted at the growing African and global consumer class. By fostering value chain development, the Bank prioritizes, among others, the agriculture and agro-processing industries, given their potential for value addition, and close interactions with the textile, fashion and clothing industries.

The AfDB initiative ‘Fashionomics’ intends to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operating in the African fashion and textile sectors.

The Bank is currently undertaking a study that will be launched by September 2016, looking at the feasibility of setting up a Fashionomics online platform with the aim of strengthening the value chains in the textile and fashion industries.

The platform will link designers throughout Africa with other designers, buyers, and suppliers. It will also connect them to financial services providers and mentors to help them grow their businesses.Read more at:green formal dresses

Style lessons to learn from Royal Ascot that will work for every summer event

Here are some lessons, learned through bitter experience at Ascot, to ensure that your clothes don’t just look the part, they enhance the experience. And even if you’re not attending the races this year, these are style lessons that are worth considering for every summer event…

1. Don’t try too hard

There are an awful lot of women at Ascot who take the dressing up theme into Hello Dolly territory. It is possible to look quietly stunning. This is something to aim for whether you’re dressing for the Royal Enclosure, your best friend’s wedding, your first born’s bar mitzvah or the party to end all parties.

2. Soft colours are more flattering than fuchsia

The biggest mistake women tend to make at Ascot and other major events, says designer Suzannah Crabb (she should know, she dresses many clients there) “is that they come with a preconceived idea of how they need to make an impact. They’ve been looking at mood boards of colour. They want fuchsia and feathers but in real life that can look garish.” Crabb encourages her clients towards flattering, simple, architectural silhouettes in soft colours – pinks, corals, blues – that will stand the test of time (and photographs) and encourages them to accessorise with bright pops of colour to satisfy their cravings.

3. Opt for a coat over a jacket

For most women, especially if they’re short, a coat and dress are more flattering, especially in photographs, than a jacket, unless the jacket is worn as part of a matching suit. Unfortunately this does not mean any old random coat. It should be spring or summer weight and in a complementary or toning shade and silhouette. Length is crucial – probably no more than two inches shorter than your dress

4. Don’t confuse Royal Ascot with cocktail dressing

Sequins and high shine look gaudy in daylight next to green turf.

5. Navy is perennially chic and demure

But if it makes you feel Quakerish next to all that colour, Suzannah Crabb suggests tuning it up with metallic accessories. You could also try a silver-grey hat with neon or coral flowers. White accessories have also become increasingly popular with all shades.

6. Open toed sandals don’t look right

It may sound archaic, but thems the rules. Go with them and wear a closed toe. It’s more comfortable anyway. Patent is good: sharp, shiny and rain proof. Suede is obviously not.

7. Dress for the weather you have not the weather you want

If your one and only outfit is dependent on scorching sunshine, at least pack a pretty umbrella, some flats, a warm cover up. Not a droopy pashmina, which looks dated but a boxy tweed like jacket of the type Zara excels at, a blazer or a pastel rain coat.

8. A word about handbags

Many an outfit is wrecked by a battered work bag. It needn’t cost a fortune. Keep it small, elegant and fun and it will complement your outfit.

9. Buy a hat that can work for multiple occasions

The biggest pit of all. “Smaller women should avoid huge brims,” counsels Suzannah. Other tips. A bright hat can look fabulous with a neutral or pale outfit, but if you’re planning on multiple uses, you might find it more useful to have a grey or natural coloured hat and add your own embellishment.

Invest in good quality flowers and feathers from somewhere like VV Rouleaux. While it’s perfectly possible to find reasonably priced straw hat bases (John Lewis, or VV Rouleaux), cheap flowers and ribbons look really bad, especially in daylight.

10. Go easy on the make-up

Panstick might work for photographs but looks terrifying and weirdly grubby in natural light. Sometimes you have to forget Instagram and just enjoy the experience in real time.Read more at:purple formal dresses | one shoulder formal dresses

Hong Kong designer Kathy Lam wows with elegant debut collection

Who started it? Kathy Lam was raised in Hong Kong and studied at the London College of Fashion. Her graduate collection in 2011 was nominated for several honours, including the Biddle Sawyer Silks Award, and caught the eye of fashion blogger Susie Bubble. Lam launched her eponymous label in 2014 and made her runway debut at Tokyo Fashion Week for spring/summer 2016. Already her clothes have been spotted on Japanese celebrity Rena Matsui and local artist Ava Yu Kiu, and in Women’s Wear Daily.


(Photo:blue formal dresses)Why we love it: Lam is part of a new generation of Hong Kong designers creating contemporary collections with a feminine spin. Her designs are elegant and airy, with unusual twists such as sheer fabrics and screen-prints on silk separates and dresses. At first glance, her spring/summer 2016 collection seems classically feminine, but closer inspection reveals unusual details such as see-through collars and criss-cross necklines. Blurry, distorted floral prints appear on halter dresses and separates and the entire collection comes in her signature summery shades of blue and white.

What we’d pick: the chambray dress with a sheer and pleated panels (top right; HK$2,890) is fun yet feminine. Must-have separates include the Elizabeth wrap jacket (HK$2,590) and sheer striped trousers (HK$1,890; both top left). Or make a statement in the sheer maxi coat (HK$3,790) in silk organza and lined with an abstract lily print, worn with the silk-trim crop top (HK$990) and A-line skirt (HK$1,290; all right).

Where in Hong Kong can you get it?Lam’s collection is available at Walk On Water (K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) and Amelie Street (Flat 1M, Po Ming Building, 2 Foo Ming Street, Causeway Bay).Read more at:backless formal dresses

Star and Style

Dulquer Salmaan always cuts a dashing figure in the latest fashion trends, whether it’s to film promotions, an award function, an inauguration, or a night out in town. While DQ, we imagine, has an innate sense of style (he’s Mammootty’s son after all), the young heartthrob, in his regular fashion updates to his legions of fans on Facebook and Twitter, always makes it a point to thank his stylist, ending his posts with ‘Styled by #Not Just Black by Kalyani Desai.’

“It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half now since Dulquer got me on board as his stylist. He and his dad have a great sense of style. So, when I signed up, I just had to understand his likes and dislikes and style him based on his personality. I didn’t want to style him in anything that would take away from that. I like that Dulquer is open to experimenting with new trends, yet he has a certain simplicity that makes his style unique and endearing,” says celebrity menswear stylist and designer Kalyani, in an email interview.

In just over a year since the Mumbai-based lass began her styling company, Not Just Black by Kalyani Desai, she’s become a go-to stylist for not just Dulquer but also many male celebrities (and business honchos) up and down the country – Prithviraj, Susanth Singh Rajput, Nagarjuna, and Mammootty too, in fact – all of who appear to have Kalyani on speed dial to help them rock their looks.

She styles them mainly for events. “I contact designers for looks that would suit the particular actor and event well and put together a couple of looks I think will work for them to choose from. Sometimes, I do work with designers to design a look specifically for an actor for a particular event as well. Prithviraj’s brief to me for events, for example, has always been to keep it simple and classy and that’s what I’ve always gone for,” she explains. A graduate of Raffles Design International, Mumbai (marketing and management in fashion, to be exact), the 24-year-old says that fashion has always been a part of her since she was a child.

“I would always find myself gazing at pictures in magazines, eventually graduating to reading them. I started styling soon after I graduated from college. However, since I have a degree in marketing management, I interned with many design houses under their marketing departments beforehand,” she says.Read more at:

Her interest in styling began rather off the cuff, when she had to style her brother, Madhukeshwar Desai, for an event. “He got a lot of appreciation for what he wore. It was then that I told myself that menswear styling might be a possibility. I actually had to take up a menswear topic for an assignment in college because by the time I got to picking, all the women centric-ones were taken! I was given an option to opt out of it considering no one at the time, my juniors or seniors, had worked on menswear. But I chose to stick to something I had not done before and I haven’t regretted it, considering this was what gave me my initial push into menswear fashion,” she says.

The fashionable youngster doesn’t give out too many of her wardrobe secrets when it comes to styling men, which, we’re guessing, couldn’t be as easy as styling women, simply given the sheer variety of garments and styles. Nonetheless, she does let out that one of the most important aspects of styling with menswear is the fit.

“Getting the fit right is a challenge sometimes. Sometimes you see a really nice garment that would work well for the actor and event, is measured to their size but when actually worn wouldn’t fit because every designer/brand’s cut varies,” she says.


As a stylist we help you understand your sense of fashion and what suits you best. Keeping in mind a celebrity’s personality and likes and dislikes are our foremost priority. I think styling is necessary not just for actors but for every one in general, because you get that extra confidence and assurance when you know what you’re wearing looks good on you and you look good.


Kalyani has clients who are industrialists, for some of whom she design clothes too. “Since I’ve got a good response for this, I will soon be launching my menswear only, e-commerce brand under the name Not Just Black.”Read more | best formal dresses

Uniqlo targets global stature with fashion identity

Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo has leveraged its prowess in mass production to build a fashion empire filled with shelves upon shelves of affordable, good quality items like down jackets, underwear and T-shirts.

Now the 17-nation, 1,734-store retailer is on a quest to beat Western giants like Gap, H&M and Zara to become the world’s biggest apparel maker.

In the overcrowded, highly competitive casual fashion market, size is important but no guarantee of success: analysts say Uniqlo’s challenge is to carve out a brand identity of its own, going beyond its formula of delivering no-nonsense quality at good prices.

“To win over consumers and break through the clutter, Uniqlo needs to get even more personal,” says Stuart Green, chief executive of Asia Pacific at Interbrand, which consults and ranks brands.

“It will be critical for Uniqlo to maintain product quality and, most importantly, create a deeper, more emotional connection with its customers to drive brand loyalty,” he said.

Interbrand ranks Uniqlo as Japan’s most valuable retail brand, and eighth among Japan’s global brands, including Toyota, Sony and Nintendo. The company’s founder and chief, Tadashi Yanai, is Japan’s richest man, according to Forbes magazine.

Analysts say that to move it its next stage of growth, Uniqlo also needs to beef up its digital presence and adapt to non-Asian markets. Winning over the huge market of suburban American shoppers will be crucial.

Consumers these days are picking brands on digital platforms and social networks, as they increasingly shop online. To cope with the mind-boggling volumes of information online, consumers now rely on brands to serve as filters and curators, Green said.

To help drive its global expansion, Uniqlo is tapping outside talent.

It just hired Christophe Lemaire, formerly of Hermes and Lacoste, who started his own Uniqlo line last year, to head its Paris research center.

In 2014, it brought in a global branding expert, John Jay. An American of Chinese origin, he who worked on ad campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, and a fleece campaign for Uniqlo, at U.S. marketing company Wieden+Kennedy.

“Whether they’re in Beijing or New York, there is a commonality to young people and what they want in life,” Jay, whose title is president of Global Creative at Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, said at a recent Tokyo event, centered on Uniqlo’s second fashion show ever.

“We have barely scratched the surface. Our potential is amazing,” he said.

Uniqlo is still relatively small, with 44 stores in the U.S., 449 stores in China and 846 in Japan, its biggest market. Retail giant H&M of Sweden has 4,000 stores around the world, Gap Inc. of the U.S., 3,700 stores, and Inditex of Spain operates 7,000 Zara, Bershka and other brand stores.

H&M and Inditex have posted healthy financial results recently, but Gap, which has the Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, is struggling, slashing prices to draw buyers and closing dozens of stores, including some in Japan. The Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency recently downgraded Gap’s debt to junk status.

Uniqlo’s profits also have slowed recently, hurt by a warm winter that slowed sales of its down jackets, HeatTech underwear and other winter apparel.

Fast Retailing, with 100,000 employees, forecasts a profit of 60 billion yen ($560 million) for the fiscal year through August, down 46 percent from the previous fiscal year, mainly because of falling profits at Uniqlo.

Yanai’s turnaround plan includes sweeping cost cuts, improved efficiency, pricing reviews, and, perhaps most importantly, greater flair in the company’s fashion offerings, building on collaborations with designers.

The company asked Nigo, a Japanese DJ with a reputation for innovation who created The Bathing Ape clothing line, to add more flair and edge to his T-shirts.

Nigo added to the T-shirt line motifs from pop artist Andy Warhol, music producer and singer Pharrell Williams and from traditional Kabuki theater, in addition to old-time favorites like Mickey Mouse.

A partnership with Carine Roitfield, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, has brought into Uniqlo stores chic designs unlike most anything else you’d find.

The company has strengthened its sportswear, signing on tennis stars Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic.

Uniqlo also has partnerships with labels like Liberty London, with its colorful flower-pattern fabrics, and Hana Tajima, a designer who specializes in Muslim clothing such as head scarves and long dresses.

“Uniqlo has a smart format, which stands out from most of the mass fashion retailers. Less concerned on fashion trends, and more focused on ‘basics’ or ‘investment pieces’ of good fabric and quality,” said Luca Solca, analyst with BNP Paribas. “They are trying to spice this up with designer collaborations.”

Uniqlo executives believe fashion is globalizing, and people around the world, from China to New York, more or less want the same thing — quality for reasonable prices, and clothes that suit their lives.

On a recent weekday, the company’s 12-story Ginza store was crowded, as tourists milled around in front snapping selfies in front of what has become a city landmark.

Olga Symonenko, an IT worker from the Ukraine, said she had heard about Uniqlo from friends who had been to the store in the U.S.

“The prices are good, and the quality,” she said, happily clutching two blue dresses. She said she and her husband planned to pick up 20 items.Read more | bridesmaid dresses australia

Independent Handbag Designer Awards Founder Emily Blumenthal On Discovering New Talent

This evening, the 10th annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards will take place at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in New York City. The acclaimed awards ceremony will serve to highlight a new crop of talented, up-and-coming handbag designers.

Every year, hundreds of aspiring designers submit applications in the hopes of becoming a finalist. The featured panelist of judges are some of the industry’s biggest names, and this year’s judges include Kenneth Cole, Design Director of Guess Handbags Suesan Faulkner and Rebecca Minkoff (who was the 2015 recipient of the Iconoclast award), among others.

Awards are distributed across several different categories, from ”Most Socially Responsible Handbag” to ”The Bernina Best Handmade Bag.” Previous winners have gone on to have their designs picked up by retailers like Saks or have snagged partnerships with HSN.

Emily Blumenthal — founder of the IHDA Awards, author of ”Designer Handbag 101″ and founder of the popular website by the same name — has worked tirelessly to shine a spotlight on emerging talent, or, ”highlighting the creations of the underdog.” Blumenthal, a former handbag designer herself, first launched the Independent Handbag Designer Awards in 2007 and the awards ceremony has since become a leading international showcase for the handbag industry.

We recently interviewed Blumenthal to discuss the Awards and some of her favorite IHDA winners’ success stories. Read on for the full interview below.

Fashion Times: What inspired you to create the Independent Handbag Designer Awards?

Emily Blumenthal: ”After many years of being a handbag designer and a former career in media, it was clear a platform was needed to highlight the creations of the underdog. Since talent and creativity are only half of what makes a successful designer, I knew that this would resonate with the designer community as a means to be discovered. In addition, I knew brands would be keen to sponsor to have access to the next ”It-Bag” creator as well as [to] support emerging design. Handbag Designer 101 became the source to shop with the largest selection of curated bags by independent designers, which is the sister brand to the Handbag Awards and where most of the designers are found.”

FT: What is the criteria for selecting the finalists?

EB: ”Since it has been free to apply, we receive an extraordinary amount of designers who want to be a part of this. Once the application process closes, ourpreliminary judging panel meets to review each and every designer in every category. It is a very long and arduous task as they are sequestered for a full day doing this. [There is] a lot of dialogue and back-and-forth, disagreements and campaigning for those they feel are worthy or who have struck a chord. Their votes narrow down the designers to five finalists. The designers send in their bags, [which] go to InStyle to be shot for the ”Audience Fan Favorite.” Then ouresteemed panel reviews and votes on all of the finalists’ bags. From there, the winners are selected and then announced on the night of the Awards.”

FT: How do these awards benefit the designers?

EB: ”Our prizes are not monetarily based but more about branding and alignment opportunities. We take unknown designers with limited reach and catapult them to international brand awareness. This is our 10th year, and we are the only design competition in the world that exists that does this for the handbag designer community.”

FT: Do you have a favorite designer success story?

EB: ”There are so many. There is Danielle DiFerdinando of Danielle Nicole who was a finalist and was discovered at the Awards by Steve Russo, who is now the superstar of HSN with partnerships with TopShop and Disney. We have Clara Yoo who was our ”Best Student Winner” and is now the VP of Design at Global Brands — I would say every fifth handbag you see on the street was designed by her. The ITA Collection’s prize was to have their line sold at Saks; There is British brand Florian London, which has taken Europe by storm and is a blogger favorite. However, this is much like anything where it takes more than just talent to succeed. This win is a golden ticket, but what these designers choose to do with it is up to them.”

FT: Do you have any advice to offer to emerging handbag designers?

EB: ”Be smart. Do your homework and research. Don’t overprice your bags. Read my book. It will help.”

The 10th annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards will take place on June 15 in Manhattan. Be sure to check back for our update on the award winners!Read more at:formal dresses online |

Worth the Salt

The slate grey interiors of Salt Studio in Panampilly Nagar offset the textures and the fabrics, the embroideries and the sequins. The lighting gives off a warm, welcoming glow. Rich silks, delicately embroidered blouses, tunics, pants, dresses, tops, saris…Salt is an interesting mish-mash.

Diya John calls her boutique Salt to emphasise that subtlety in her design, embellishments and the colours she uses. She believes subtlety in design is essential as salt is to food. A degree in fashion design from Acharya Institute of Technology, Bengaluru, Diya found herself in Kochi working for a television channel; all the while never losing her love of fashion. Along the way she found the encouragement to launch her own label.

Her store is the fruition of that dream. Almost two years old, the boutique has fans in the city and abroad. “We get a lot of orders from overseas, thanks to Facebook. And at Bengaluru too we have many clients,” says the petite designer. Forever on the lookout for new interpretations, her latest collection ‘Brushstrokes’ has, instead of de-rigueur surface embellishment, design painted on it. When you hear ‘fabric paint’, the conventional florals come to mind, but here they are abstract motifs in subdued shades that give the garments a style twist. The embroidery settings are minimalist and the work subdued. “I don’t like too much shine and glitter that reflects on my designs as well.” However, there is the odd client that insists on more glitter and heavier work, and she indulges.

Diya has her own unit, with embroiders, tailors and cutters, where she does her designing in collaboration with her team of designers. The garments are more party or rather, dressy. Some have the quirk element while others spell smart, chic. Her husband John too is closely involved in the work; in fact he vets the designs. The couple spent a year on research, finding their niche. They had to work around mindsets too, the hesitation to wear certain styles.

“Initially we thought of starting a store, of curated designer wear, then we realised that Malayali women might not be comfortable in those. That crystallised our decision to strike out on our own. It was John’s idea that we manufacture and retail on our own,” she says. The garments are designed to accentuate the average Malayali woman’s ‘shape’. One of their first collections was Sufi-inspired – flared, mirror-worked outfits – was a huge hit. Emboldened they got bold with gathers, drapes, box-sleeves and the like. “Gradually there is a perceptible change in attitudes. Once our clients try out our designs, the feedback probably is encouraging and they return for more.”

Occasionally she is a striking model for her designs such as the sari-pant that she wore for a function. “It has been all word of mouth, people like and they ask and…”

She is working on a couple of new collections, but the one that she appears to be excited about is the Kanchipuram sari collection, which she is getting woven. The collection, she promises, will be different. She and her team have developed butis/motifs – “these are largely western. It will give a different spin to the conventional perception of a sari.” Before that there is a linen sari collection that is set to roll out. Her plate is full. She also undertakes customised designing.

Since Facebook is an important marketing tool, she emphasises the necessity of an eye-catching photo-shoot. “We don’t spend too much on these; we personally chip in to cut in the costs. But good photographs are very important and it matters in the branding. Once you see a model wearing a garment it gives you a sense of it.”Read more at:formal dresses | bridesmaid dresses online

Ladies Oaks Day winner off to Flemington for fashion

SHE won with her savvy fashion sense on home turf, and now Woombye resident Eliza Icke is hoping to be ahead of the fashion pack when she heads to the Flemington in November.

Eliza said her and her husband only joined the Sunshine Coast Turf Club this year and the Ladies Oaks Day at Corbould Park was the second time she’d attended an event, but the first time she’d had such a big win in the fashion stakes.

”I was lucky enough to be chosen by the judges from 28 as a final three Best Dressed Ladies 40+ and then win my category out of those three taking home prizes to the value of $2,300,” Eliza said.

”I then went up against three other finalists – Best Millinery, Best Dressed, Best Dressed Lady 39 Under, where I was selected as overall winner, collecting a $3,000 travel prize from Ambassador travel to attend and compete in Myer Fashions on the Field at Flemington on Ladies Crown Oaks Day, November 3 representing the Sunshine Coast.”

Eliza also received a $1000 gift card to spend at Morayfield Shopping Centre, which she will no doubt put towards a new outfit.

”I had a fabulous day of walking away with approx $6,300 worth of prizes,” she said.

”I was absolutely overwhelmed and surprised with my in each category and overall.

”The standard of fashion was high and the ladies all looked beautiful.”

Eliza said the race day was a fantastic social event.

”To get dressed up and just be confident and happy within yourself,” is how she described the day.

”It is also great to see the gentlemen getting out to the track and also up there and competing in the fashions on the field and showing their style in some gorgeous suits and hats.

”We try to attend race meets, local and interstate, whenever possible… we found the SCTC to be of a high standard with excellent amenities and track with an overall great atmosphere for a great day out at the races.”

Having moved from Melbourne two years ago, Eliza said she competed in the Myer Oaks Day Fashion on the Field and made it to the preliminary finals.

She said when putting together an outfit, she takes a few things into account.

”When deciding on my outfit I tend to stay with what is bet suited and season race wear appropriate opting for a classic look,” Eliza said.

”I source different milliners and custom-made outfits.

”I research season trends in fabric, look, colour, and create ideas from there.

”The outfit I was wearing on the day was made by Shelley Barton from Live Love Race Fashion in Western Australia. she is an amazing and talented dressmaker.”

With her millinery made by a designer in South Australia, Eliza credited her hairdresser Rhonda Billett-Haire from Uptown Hair Salon in Nambour for helping pull her entire look together with her ‘do.

”(It’s) very hard to find a good hairdresser that can do up styles and races appropriate,” Eliza said.

”She is amazing… my make-up was done by Cathy J from Glamerous Make-up Artistry at Woombye – there are many local milliners and dressmakers I look forward to working with in the future especially the talented Sandy Aslett Hats By Sandy – her millinery is amazing.

”I love fashion, racing, horses and everything associated with the events and it is great fun with groups of friends or just as an outing for a couple.”Read more at:formal dresses | formal dresses adelaide