Friday, August 29, 2008

Recessionista: What is it?

Have you heard this term lately? Apparently it means someone who dresses stylishly on a tight budget. That’s pretty cool, I think anyone can learn how to do that. Remember a while back when I posted an entry on how to shop smart? Recessionistas use tricks that I wrote about, like knowing when to shop, hitting up consignment shops, et cetera.

Another trick I think that can work for a recessionista is spending your money wisely. Luckily, this fall it’s easy to do that. Not only are there lots of affordable, trendy accessories avaialbe from surprising places (Old Navy, anyone?) but the pieces that you will want to spend more money on—say, denim, a jacket or handbag—are pieces that will look good even after the snow melts (well, not a winter jacket but you get the idea ☺).

Many of the pieces we used in our “Legends of the Fall” spread are stellar examples of things you’ll want to spend your money on and will add versatility to your wardrobe. A great wide-leg jean or skinny jean is worth spending your money on; after all, jeans should work to fit you, you shouldn’t work to fit into them. Check out Atticus if you want to see examples of this fall’s “it” jeans.

Bop is a wonderland of everything you could ever want in your closet. Alas, most of us don’t have an unlimited budget to buy everything from there. But picking up a few key items, like a trademark blouse in a bold, graphic pattern by Trina Turk (like the one we used) or for a more affordable version, the French Connection bow blouse we used, are both pieces that will can be mixed and matched with lots of looks.

Luckily, next week I’ll tell you what the fashion mags and websites are telling us we need this fall as well as my personal picks for kicking up my fall wardrobe.
More exciting stuff like Q&As, retailer updates, Buys of the Week (I have my camera back, yay!) will be coming at you this fall.

Think Pink!

How many men do you know that are confident enough to wear pink? I’ve heard strong reactions from pro-pink and anti-pink camps from men: some don’t care about wearing a pink polo or button-up and some men snicker at the thought. (Side note: I think it’s cool when guys wear pink.)
Either way, if your man just doesn’t want to be seen in pink but wants to support a good cause, men (or women) can check out These one hundred percent cotton boxers are—you guessed it—pink. If he doesn’t like to wear pink on the outside, he can wear it under his clothes! (I received a sample in the mail and they’re pink, all right.) Pink Boxers was founded specifically to support the fight against breast cancer. The company donates one hundred percent of the proceeds to the American Breast Cancer Foundation. Bonus: October is breast cancer Awareness Month.


Ten Chimneys Foundation’s 2008 exhibition “Fashion Forward: The Gowns and Garments of Lynn Fontanne” sounds amazing (Madison Magazine published a tidbit on it in our August 2008 issue). Apparently Lynn Fontanne (half of the famous theater couple with husband Alfred Lunt) was quite the fashionista: she acquired garments from Dior, Chanel, Valentina and more. Many of these pieces are on display in this exhibition. What people might not now is that Fontanne was a designer herself and some of her handiwork is also shown in the exhibition.
“Fashion Forward: The Gowns and Garments of Lynn Fontanne” runs through November 15th at Ten Chimneys and admission is free. for more information.

Two other fashion events are coming up in our fair city: The Go Red TV Premiere Party on September 18th put on by the American Heart Association, and the “Overture of Style” show on October 2 put on by the Madison Symphony Orchestra League.
Go Red Women is a campaign that encourages women’s heart health. You may have seen the red dress pins that are the symbol of the campaign. The event, held this year at Sundance Cinemas, will feature a reception, fall fashion preview and premiere of the Go Red special that will air on TV. I’m excited to see what that will entail. With heart disease being the number-one killer of women in America, we should all take note of this informative TV special (air date still undecided).
If you’re interested in the party or TV special, check out or
The MSOL’s Overture of Style show is put on every other year and this year’s promises to be fun! Woldenberg’s will once again show their lovely special-occasion clothing and the Rock Agnecy will be involved in planning the show. Wanna go? The website is below.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Shopping Content!

From our September issue:

Window Shopping column: New on the Square Charlotte Ronson, Acne Jeans, Simon Miller and AudeKristin Wild's Capitol Square boutique Atticus carries these up-and-coming designers and more. Her well-edited selection and retail savvy belie her age—only 24. See how she's already making a splash in downtown retail.

Fall Fashion Preview: Legends of the Fall (see photo, left) Romantic ruffles, daring denim, sexy shoes and hot handbags are all in this month's fashion feature. See what local retailers are rolling out for fall. (note: to see better pictures of the shoot, pick up our September issue)

C3K Live with Dan Smith It's Dan's favorite topic: fashion! He and I discuss the "Legends of the Fall" fashion shoot. (Scroll down to August 21 to view the clip).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stylemaker Q&A

Mollie Milano
Store manager and buyer, bop

Mollie Milano has a dream job: managing bop, a retail store that sells some of the most fashion-forward, fun looks in Madison (not to mention nationally with and buying all of the store’s inventory: denim, tops, dresses, shoes, handbags and more. As bop’s only storefront, Madison is lucky to have this fashionista haven right in our backyard. And Milano’s been at the helm for four years.

What’s your background? Where were you working before?
I was in Chicago working at Mark Shale, a women’s and men’s larger-scale boutique (there are eight locations in the Midwest). I worked at the Michigan Avenue location. It sold similar designer things that bop sells. They also specialize in suiting for men and women. I worked there from 2001 to 2003.
I started working for them part-time and then became manager of their outlet in Lincoln Park, and then managed the Michigan Avenue store and interned as a buyer.

Why did you move to bop?
There was an opportunity to manage my own store instead of being a co-manager. [I wanted to work on a] smaller scale with customers and work with them more directly. The biggest pull, though, was to be the buyer. I was learning about it, but to actually travel to New York and do that, that was a huge reason of why I took this job. It’s hard to find a buying job if you’re not in New York City.

What are your day-to-day duties with bop?
To run the store. I receive new merchandise, merchandise the store to look appropriate for the seasons; pretty much anything that would fall under a store manager’s responsibility: hiring, firing, window displays.
A lot of what I end up working on is buying for the next season and then doing re-orders for the current season.

What sells well at bop?
Marc by Marc Jacobs handbags sell really well.
We still do really well in our Seven Jeans.
The more casual, sporty stuff is our trademark, like bop basics T-shirts, denim (that’s what we sell the most of).

How do you as the storefront buyer, work with the buyers? Obviously the store carries less items.
We work as a team, but also individually. [ buyers] buy for different areas. One person buys T-shirts and denim. Another buys designer boutique stuff. I pretty much do the store. It’s not like [the buyers] buy a bunch of stuff and I pull from what they buy. I purchase everything separately for the store when I travel to New York. I keep the Madison customer in mind. I may buy something completely different than what the buyers buy.
A buyer is going to be buying stuff for a much broader audience because those things sell around the world. They need to be stocked in more fashion-forward and more expensive items.
For the Madison store, I look for clothing that’s trendy but has been interpreted for the Madison customer and the real-world girl. It might not be a $600 jacket but a $300 jacket. The quality will be the same, of course. The Madison customers are really stylish and trendy but not all of them are really stylish and trendy, so I have to make sure I get stuff for the more classic person as well as a few key trend pieces.

Why does bop only have a storefront in Madison? Are they thinking of opening more retail storefronts?
The store was opened here because the founders of the company live in Madison. They felt like there was a customer segment that didn’t have anywhere to shop in Madison—people who were trendy and forward thinking and wanted to wear things you see in larger cities and they felt like Madison didn’t have an outlet for that. [The store opened in 1999].
From there they went online in 2000. We had originally planned on opening more stores but because of the manpower required just to keep the site growing, the owners abandoned the idea of opening more stores. So they focused their efforts on growing the site rather than opening stores. [Ed's note: was bought out by in 2006].
We do very, very well as a boutique. We don’t have any reason not to have a store, but we don’t have any plans on opening more stores.

What is your trademark style?
Some of my favorite brands are Marc by Marc Jacobs and Theory. I like Splendid cardigans, bop basics T-shirts, C&C California tank tops, J Brand jeans and Citizens of Humanity jeans.
My trademark style is definitely more classic with an edge. I like skinny jeans with black boots. I like wearing a cardigan with skinny denim (I like anything with skinnys!). I love collared shirts and a preppy look. Preppy, but edgy preppy.

What are your favorite fall pieces the store will be carrying?
We’re getting these really cute slouchy boots from Oh … Deer! that I’m excited about. Seychelles is making a slouchy half bootie. ($275 and $110, respectively)
J Brand 912 skinny jeans with zippers at the ankle.
T-shirts from Retrosport that have old-school political slogans on them, recreated for 2008. They’re really cute, those will be a good seller. ($35)
Rebecca Taylor leopard cardigan. It’s a leopard print on a gray background and it’s long, so you can layer it. ($315)

What’s your favorite thing in your wardrobe of all time?
I’m a purse girl—I have a ridiculous purse collection. My favorite is a Louis Vuitton Speedy. It’s a special edition, perforated on the outside with green suede on the inside. I love it! My husband gave it to me for our anniversary a few years ago.

What are some classic pieces you suggest women invest money in? What should a woman spend less money on?
A good pair of classic, basic, bootcut jeans in a dark wash. They can be dressed up or down. If you take care of them they’ll last you a long time. There’s no reason to go and get a pair at the Gap that will get really stretched out and worn looking; you’ll just keep buying the same pair over and over again. If you take care of premium denim it will last a while.
A nice pair of flat boots you can wear with everything.
It’s important you spend money on your accessories: pumps, boots, jacket, a handbag and cashmere cardigan sweaters.
You can spend less on something like a great knockoff of a trendy blouse, or a cute camisole you might wear for one season in a bright color.
You don’t need to splurge a ton on jewelry. Costume jewelry is prefect, and jewelry trends change season to season.
You have to make sure the pieces you spend money on are classic pieces and not trendy pieces.

What celebrity has your dream wardrobe?
Katie Holmes. I think she’s adorable. I just think she always looks put together and classy. She’s trendy but she does it in pieces, she doesn’t go all-out trendy. I don’t think Katie will look back and say, “What was I thinking?” She’ll think, “I looked cute, I looked stylish.”

Is it hard being a buyer and buying things that you don’t like or wouldn’t wear?
It’s a tough line to walk. I won’t buy a piece that I think I won’t wear and that I don’t think others should wear, either. If it’s that unacceptable, I don’t want it to represent bop and I don’t want it in my store (laughs)! Every season there are things I won’t wear and don’t love, but I know my customers will wear. There’s a lot of younger stuff in here I wouldn’t necessarily wear, but I have younger customers high school and college age that would wear these items.
You learn your lesson as a buyer you can’t buy all things that are your taste. You have to remember that having a boutique means that you can’t just buy for your style, the point is to let your customer express their style.

Finally: Major fall trends you’re seeing?
Brightly colored jewel tone stuff in green, purple and fuschia.
People will be doing minidresses with boots.
High waisted skirts with a blousier tank top tucked in (see photo, above).
Animal print. We say that every season, but we have quite a bit. We don’t sell any real fur in the store; that’s a statement I like to make in the store.
Girly jewelry. Things threaded with a piece of ribbon, for example. We got a Marc [Jacobs] necklace with a little gold bow that’s cute.
We’re still seeing layering necklaces, people are wearing a couple.

bop, 222 W. Gorham St. 255-2570.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stylemaker Q&A: Gilles Montezin

Gilles Montezin’s work has appeared in the Sex and the City movie and he’s dressed big-name actresses. And he’s coming to—Milwaukee? That’s right, Montezin is taking part in Milwaukee’s Fashion Week, October 3–6.
Montezin studied at LEcole de la Haute Couture and went on to work for Opera Bastille and couturiers Loris Azzarro and Christian Lacroix Couture. In 2006 Montezin moved to New York and started his own line called—you guessed it—Gilles Montezin.
I asked Montezin about his experiences in the couture world, his favorite look he’s designed and what how he got involved in Fashion Week.

How did you become involved in Milwaukee Fashion Week? What will you be doing during this week?
A good friend of mine, Jean Vouté Pratt (who is a wonderful stylist) will be a guest speaker for Milwaukee Fashion Week. [She] talked to Hillary Fry, the organizer of the event about me, and Hillary called me!
Hillary Fry was generous enough to give me a prime spot in the calendar of MFW and she offered me to show at the Milwaukee Art Museum on the last day. I could not have dreamed of better!
I will present pieces that are typical of mine, also some pieces that were in movies or worn by celebrities. The final group will be a “Hommage a Yves St. Laurent” who passed away this June.

How was it working for Loris Azzarro and Christian LaCroix Couture? What was a day in the life like working there?
Monsieur Lacroix is a fantastic being; he really takes good care of people that work with him. He will try to use the product of every artisan that presents their work to him.
He wants to work with everybody and make them evolve in their art! [He is] a great artist!
I remember a night when everybody was home and asleep, it must have been 3 a.m., and I was with the chief of the workshop. We started to play with fabric to do a dress to present to Mr. Lacroix the next day and we draped, twisted and pleated the fabric according to Mr. Lacroix’s explanations of his sketch, with his poetry and images … It was magical.
I went home to rest [while] everyone was coming in to start their day and my head was full of the lights and shadows on the fabric—with the pleats and folds—magical!
Mr. Lacroix saw the dress the next day and loved it! He did not change a single crease!

Do you have a favorite look or garment you’ve made? Why?
I like very much a coat I did: it is a huge black-and-white wool coat with houndstooth in velvet printed on it—fantastic!
Mary Tyler Moore told me it was her new best friend!
Debra Messing tried it on in Saks New York, but she has reactions to wool. She left the store, then came back and said, “I will have to suffer, but I cannot leave without it! I have to have it!”
Top model Carmen del’Orifice used it for a photo shoot for a Barbara Walters special (see above). She made me promise to make one for her too!

What are the trademarks of a Gilles Montezin “look”?
A woman cannot be discreet and demure when she wants to wear my clothes.
I like to do bold and strong pieces that accentuate the personality of the woman who will wear them. I am not afraid of patterns and colors too!

How was dressing the Sex and the City actresses? Any other movies in the works?
The women at SATC are so enthusiastic about clothes; it is a designer’s dream!
And Patricia Field is such an icon, you cannot help but adore her.
After SATC, costume designer Patricia Field did another movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic. And she also used some of my favorite pieces for the actresses!
I have also been asked to do a collection for the inaugural ball in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are you influenced by other designers? If so, who and why?
We are all influenced by each other—it is a very tight fabric! We all try to say something and use the same language—fabrics and buttons. I adore seeing the work of other designers. I think there are great designers out there.
Some of my favorites are Lacroix, Galliano, McQueen and Saint Laurent.
Lacroix is probably the most influential couturier of them all; he really set trends by being creative, not by being “fashionable.” Women want to wear his clothes because they are beautiful, not because they are “trendy.”
Galliano is the exuberant one, he is a magician with volume and colors!
McQueen with his poetic visions will probably lead us into the “look of the 21st century.” (Every century has a specific look. We haven’t found the one for this new century; probably it is too early or we are too commercially oriented to do so!)
Saint Laurent was a woman’s man: he really made women look and feel modern, elegant and gorgeous. He helped to define what women should wear according to their lifestyle and their needs. He was very closely connected to their needs.

What is the most complicated look or sewing technique to do? Are you sewing it start to finish, or do you have assistants that help you?
The invention of the sewing machine really revolutionized the way people conceive clothes. Before, everything was handmade so the techniques were created to make clothes by building them.
Now, with mass product clothes, we just put the pieces together, like a formula, a puzzle. Every garment is made the same way.
Haute couture in a way is very close to the old-fashioned way of doing clothes. You have to forget everything about the modern way of dressmaking and create the piece as if it was the first dress on earth. And that is why it’s also very close to art. You have to have a love affair with the dress! You don’t do couture dresses by the thousands, it is artisanally made, like a painting—it has a soul!

Any favorite colors/patterns or fabrics you tend to use often? Where do you find your fabrics?
I love patterns and textured fabrics! It gives an extra presence to the clothing.
We don’t get to see prints or textures too often now because it costs more. I try to choose colors that will be flattering for the women who will wear the clothes.
All of my fabrics are from France, Spain or Italy.

How many people work for you, and how is production split up when you’re making the clothing?
I am very lucky to have the most wonderful team to work with. They are people who are very interested in what they are doing. [They’re] also very competent, and want to contribute to the beauty of the clothes. I worship them every day!
My luck doesn’t stop there: I am also very privileged to work with an excellent contractor who takes care of my production. His reputation is excellent for working with the top American designers.

Many people are confused by the term “haute couture.” Can you explain the meaning, and explain what a “couturier” is?
Wow! I am very impressed you asked that question!
First of all “Haute couture” is a trademark. It is a registered name just like “Champagne.” One cannot use it legally without permission. Haute couture is a group of people that created a syndicate, and decided to create clothing of extreme quality, design and making. They even created a school to make sure workers would study and work with their specific techniques—I was lucky enough to study there! You have to be part of the club, pay fees and respect rules.
While working on their collections couturiers are mostly concerned with the way the clothes are built; it is an experimental way of designing and constructing clothes.
It is very much like doing a sculpture; one never knows how it is going to look until it is finished. It implies a lot of time evaluating the proportions, mix of colors and textures. Just like a painter would “build” a painting, spot by spot, color by color. Take time away from it, then come back to correct here and put more there …
I worked on a dress by Lacroix that was borrowed by French actress Sabine Azema for an award night, and at the end of the night, the dress was wilted, like a flower! It was so touching.

How does French fashion compare to fashion in the United States?
I think it is all in the state of mind of the customers.
European women like to dress accordingly to people they will meet during the day and the events they will go to. Clothes are like an accessory for them to meet people and to go to places.
American women dress accordingly to what they will do during the day: the clothes have to be practical, functional and serve a purpose, above all. It has to have pockets, be comfortable, not too warm …
A European woman will carry around a pair of sexy kitten heels, perfume and a nice bracelet.
An American woman will carry sneakers, deodorant and her car’s logo key ring!

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the fashion industry, and what’s your least favorite part?
I like to think I play a role in making women look their best and feel good about themselves. It is constantly on my mind when creating my dresses.
What I like the least: success is all a question of who you know and when. Many very talented designers never get to be known because of lack of exposure. Success has nothing to do with talent!

How does New York compare to Paris? What do you like about each?
Paris offers centuries of knowledge in every aspect of the arts. You choose what will most influence your vision! You are constantly surrounded with arts! But to do business it is very difficult.
New York offers an open door to people who want to do things. You want to do it? You just do it! People here are hard workers!

See Gilles Montezin’s work on October 6th during Milwaukee Fashion Week’s Indudstry Icons Day.