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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends: A Start-Up Incubator With a Fashion Focus



PARIS — The jewelry designer Sara Beltrán owes part of her success to a Jaipur rickshaw taxi driver she met when on a business trip. From helping her find her house, to production and business contacts, he made the introductions. But a local connection can take you only so far. The Council of Fashion Designers of America is helping Ms. Beltrán develop her jet-set beach-vibe brand Dezso into a profitable global enterprise with its in-house incubator program.

The C.F.D.A., known for its charity fund-raising campaigns — particularly for HIV/AIDS research — and scholarships, introduced the incubator for emerging designers in 2009 as part of the initiatives of the mayor of New York at the time, Michael R. Bloomberg, to develop and retain entrepreneurs there.

The original proposal was to partner with the Fashion Institute of Technology, but Lisa Smilor, the council’s executive director, said she did not want to stake her organization’s reputation on students fresh out of school.

Instead, the C.F.D.A. set admission guidelines strictly to American designers who have established businesses at least two years old, and who have received notable press and orders from top-tier retailers. For its current class, the third generation, the council accepted 10 brands out of 35 applicants.

After starting their business with $8,000 of personal funds and growing 30 percent annually over five years, Farah Malik and Dana Arbib, the designers of the jewelry brand A Peace Treaty, hit a wall. They were looking for an opportunity. The designers, who produce in 10 countries, had organized communities of older artisans to train younger generations in order to revitalize dying craftsmanship techniques, such as camel bone carving in Rajasthan. Ms. Malik said the kind of mentoring they had fostered was missing for their own business.

Before the incubator, the C.F.D.A. already had a designer development program in partnership with Vogue magazine, which has been responsible for launching such designers as Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang. However the organization’s proprietary incubator is more of a slow cooker for young brands rather than the fast-paced cutthroat competition of the C.F.D.A./Vogue Fashion Fund, which is filmed as a Project Runway-like reality show.

Ms. Smilor describes the incubator program as less marketing for the organization and more “nuts and bolts” of supporting emerging designers. “The concept was to create a space where we can help nurture designers,” she said.

After applying to the C.F.D.A./Vogue Fashion Fund and making it through the first round, the designers of A Peace Treaty ultimately decided it was not right for the brand. Ms. Malik said they decided to focus on a “sure shot that would be more lucrative.” A friend and incubator designer Jonathan Simkhai suggested they apply to the two-year program.

The C.F.D.A. underwrites half the cost of a studio in a collective workspace in the heart of New York’s garment district, which Ms. Malik likens to being on a school campus. Before moving into their studio at the incubator, she said, the designers were “isolated” in their Midtown Manhattan office.

 “The excitement and creativity buzzes with us all there,” Ms. Malik said. “It’s nice to know we’re all struggling with the same business issues. That kind of sharing is really reassuring. We crack a lot of codes together.”

Ms. Smilor said that for 10 brands competing for the same investment dollars and editorial attention, the incubator is more of a community than a competition for the fellows. “They really are all for one and one for all,” she said.

In the first part of the two-year program, designers selected for the incubator get an intensive eight-month business finance and marketing education as part of the C.F.D.A.'s partnership with Stern School of Business at New York University. Because the designers have established businesses, their brands also act as a case study project for the M.B.A. students, who work with the designers to develop business plans that include e-commerce and finance strategies.

Having the tough love of aspiring business sharks pick apart and critique her business was sometimes uncomfortable for Ms. Malik. “We’ve been very proud about building our business ourselves from the ground up,” she said. “Sometimes it felt too big and I had to negotiate my feelings around the program. But it was the best treatment we could have gotten.”

Beyond the textbook education of running a business, Ms. Beltrán said the value of the incubator for her was also the introduction of work discipline. “I was dying to have routine,” she said in Paris during the recent fashion season. “I needed to have a more formal business structure.”

Integrating the M.B.A. students and designers has a marked effect on the designers’ language when they talk about their lines now. Ms. Malik refers to her brand’s “DNA” when discussing A Peace Treaty’s identity, which she describes as “global ethnic modern for the contemporary girl.” Ms. Beltrán also uses the same term when talking about Dezso’s look.

Before joining the incubator, Ms. Beltrán knew her company from every angle, but talking about it in a business pitch was stressful for her. That new business language also prepares the designers to present themselves and their brands to potential investors and executives, such as in a recent presentation to Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive of LVMH Fashion Group.

Throughout their residency, industry executives are assigned to incubator fellows as mentors to help them identify personal challenges and guide them in developing their businesses.

Shira Sue Carmi, a fashion business consultant, is acting as a mentor and helping Ms. Beltrán streamline Dezso and transition the brand from a casual summer line, which in early designs used materials like leather and sharks’ teeth cast in rose gold, to the high-end luxury market. Mexican bracelets from her first collection retail starting at about $100, and more recent pieces with semi-precious stones retail for up to $95,000.

The C.F.D.A. not only wants to elevate designers’ business operations while in the incubator, but also foster their creativity to continue developing their lines. Through partnerships, designers are granted allowances for travel and funding for business projects. Ms. Beltrán, for example, will shoot a video lookbook in Puerto Rico. A Peace Treaty will travel to Colombia for inspiration for their coming collections.

As the C.F.D.A. prepares to start taking applications in spring for the next generation, Ms. Smilor said it was exploring the possibility of creating a showroom for the designers.

The business development and skills the designers receive in the incubator are fueling more than just their existing brands.

“The idea is that when I leave the incubator everything is under control so that I can take the next step,” Ms. Beltrán said. “But I cannot do just jewelry. My dream is to design a hotel.”



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends: Green Is the New Black



With the rise of fast fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M, clothes and accessories are easier – and cheaper – to come by than ever. And while a pair of $10 jeans and an $8 necklace are hard to pass up, there’s also a dark side to production on such a mass scale – namely, making the fashion industry the third most polluting industry on earth after oil and agriculture.

That’s the likes of why Stella McCartney, G-Star RAW, Loomstate, Bionic Yarn and the manufacturer Saitex have joined forces with the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to revolutionize the fashion industry through Fashion Positive, a new initiative aimed at accelerating innovation in high-quality materials, products and processes to improve how clothes are made across the industry.

The program helps fashion businesses in five categories of sustainability: material health, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

At the initiative’s star-studded Second Annual Innovation Celebration Friday night, Lewis Perkins, senior vice president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, said the program is helping industry leaders create the future of fashion.

“It’s really retooling what we’ve been doing for 150 years, since the industrial revolution” Perkins said. “Now we realize that energy is not cheap and water is not indefinite, and we really have to look at different systems.”

The initiative’s first goal is to create Fashion Positive’s Materials Library of ethical materials and suppliers that other companies can then use to create their own products. Perkins defined this ground-up approach as a “continuous improvement roadmap” for sustainability, which also happens to make money for those involved.

“There’s a big shift that’s occurring, the whole industry has awakened to the fact that it’s wasteful, there’s toxicity, low price points are driving human rights issues, wage issues,” Perkins said. “We have to do something, and the whole industry knows it.”

Investors like Schmidt Philanthropies and the DOEN Foundation are funding the initial challenges associated with finding sustainable souring materials, modernizing manufacturing equipment and ensuring worker safety and healthy work conditions. And, naturally, creating products that are appealing — and sellable – to consumers.


While the issues won’t be solved overnight, the program is hoping to have partnering brands and designers reach the Cradle to Cradle Certified GOLD-level standard by 2016. And what’s more fashionable than that?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Style files: What Makes Tokyo Collection Special by Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends

Events called "fashion week" are held in most of the world's major cities twice a year. Typically, 30 to 100 designer brands - mainly from the host country - spend three to five days holding runway or other fashion shows to unveil the collections and fashion accessories they plan to introduce to the market half a year later.

As the clothes are worn by professional models and presented under special lighting with music, the shows are believed to be the best way to present designers' new looks.

Not all brand names can participate in such events, however. The ones that can are usually those enjoying profits from fairly large operations, since such shows naturally come with a high price tag. Most brands introduce their new styles in an exhibition format, in which clothes are simply hung up for display.

The most famous fashion week is held in Paris, the capital of fashion. The second most important one, in terms of scale and number of participating brands, is in Milan. This is then followed by the fashion week in New York and the one in London. Tokyo Fashion Week rounds out what are called the five largest fashion weeks by people in the Japanese fashion industry.

However, Tokyo Fashion Week, which ended its showing of 2015 spring/summer collections last month, hardly matches up to the other four because it lacks famous brands. Such world-famous Japanese names as Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Sacai do not introduce their new collections in Tokyo but in Paris. Anrealage, which made a name for itself at the Tokyo Fashion Week in recent years, also has moved its collection venue to Paris.

Needless to say, few journalists and buyers come to Tokyo from abroad to see the Tokyo collection. However, many of those who have walked the streets of Tokyo say the city is home to some of the world's most outstanding fashion sensitivity. I find the words are not entirely flattering, though. Simply put, the importance of the fashion week of a city does not necessarily reflect the degree of fashion sensitivity found in its streets.

Let me introduce two collections I thought were very special during the latest Tokyo Fashion Week. They were also very typical of the Tokyo collection.

Lad Musician, designed by Yuichi Kuroda, organised its 40th show during the week.

Lad Musician has always presented shows in a unique manner by, for example, accompanying them with so-called shoegazer rock music typified by guitar effects and creative guitar noises, as well as theatrical smoke.

The latest show had fantastic features, too, thanks to a presentation using laser beams, LEDs and other effects.

The show, held under the theme of the rock band Spacemen 3, actually seemed to be an homage to the shoegazing band that broke up in 1991. Sonic Boom, a former Spacemen 3 member, gave a live performance during the show.

Kuroda designs minimal and simple styles, but the show itself was great entertainment with its music and visual presentation. It can be regarded as a kind of otaku world, but it was as beautiful as fireworks in the summer night sky, if you could forget it was part of the fashion business.

The other impressive show was that produced by Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture. It organised the evening fashion festival Kawaii Hate Night at Club Diana in Tokyo's Hibiya district on Oct. 27, which included a runway show.

To attract general audiences, a photo session took place in collaboration with a street snap magazine. A special version of a T-shirt jointly made with the magazine was sold, and a live concert was held.

The main event, of course, was the 2015 spring/summer collection of Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture held in cooperation with rock band Flying Dutchman Effect.

Ishiguro, who worked at Comme des Garcons' planning department, advocates designs with a message. According to Ishiguro, Kawaii Hate Night reflects a "hatred for Japanese girls and women who keep using the word kawaii." The remarks sound very Ishiguro, a designer known for a spirit of rebelliousness.

Ishiguro believes it does not mean anything if a designer just makes clothes and then lets models work the runway. He thinks actions and statements must accompany clothes.

His belief might have made the latest festival happen by symbiotically combining the euphoria of a rock festival with a fashion show.

Both Lad Musician and Nozomi Ishiguro are truly unique. Tokyo must be the only city where fashion designers like Kuroda and Ishiguro can proudly show such a personal collection.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Tokyo Fashion: Meet the 8 Anti-Diva Design Stars Who Are Transforming Fashion Now

The fresh green shoots of fashion are gathering in a baking New Jersey cornfield for their generational portrait. Joseph Altuzarra and Danielle Sherman, creative director at Edun, have driven out from their studios in New York City. From London, Simone Rocha, Peter Pilotto, and his design partner, Christopher De Vos, are blinking in the blinding sun. Their London compatriot Jonathan Anderson of J.W.Anderson is looking dazed after landing from Tokyo, direct from the opening of a new outpost of Loewe (his new gig). Anthony Vaccarello has arrived from Paris, Marco de Vincenzo from Rome.

Though it’s up in the 90s out here on the farm, there’s no sign of anyone wilting or complaining. Hanging in the shade of the location truck, they’re behaving true to peer-group form—being sociable, joking, keeping one another going. They’re happy to be here, this hardy crop. They’re the anti-divas, the grounded ones. The children of the crash.

Their background stories could make an economist’s mind boggle. All eight began slap-bang in the carnage of the global financial crisis, sending out their delicious micro-varieties of clothes—colorful, individualistic, well made, and expertly targeted things—into a fashion world that had turned dull and conservative. “What happened with our generation?” Altuzarra is trying to explain how things went right. “We really had to sell those clothes. Because we’ve built these brands during a recession, there is a pragmatic approach to clothing. You have to be unique—be your own brand.”

It’s been less a style movement than a careful infiltration by fresh, creative, business-sensible minds coming from behind the scenes and out of cupboard-size studios in New York, London, Paris, and Rome. Altuzzara vividly remembers starting up in his Manhattan apartment in 2008. “I was at Givenchy, and I thought that if I wasn’t going to do it then, well, when? We opened selling the day after the market crash. Which”—he laughs—“was awesome.”

A fearlessness came into it. Vaccarello says he didn’t feel a moment’s angst when he left Fendi and gambled his livelihood on a tiny collection of five jackets and five swimsuits in Paris in 2009. “It was the perfect time!” he insists. “I’d saved up—I never wanted to borrow from a bank like designers did before—and I knew my customers were waiting.”

What counted vitally was a laser-like instinct for knowing whom you’re speaking to—whether that means Vaccarello and his talent for sexily sliced tailoring or someone like Sherman, his polar opposite, who started her career with Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen as the perfectionist designer of T-shirts at The Row. “Everything I do has to be quite functional and have an integrity and honesty,” she says. A fabric geek, Sherman took a route behind the scenes, where she learned to work closely with local factories, and then to Asia with Alexander Wang. (“I was his twelfth employee!” she boasts.) She’s now quickly upgrading Edun to a polished designer level for New York Fashion Week while building the collection’s ethical production to 85 percent–made in Africa status.

Now aged between 28 (Rocha) and 37 (Pilotto), these crash babies have become adult professionals attracting all kinds of fashion attention amid an upsurge of sponsorship, mentorship, and prizes that arrived to support young designers in the mid-2000s. Altuzarra benefited from winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in New York; Peter Pilotto, Anderson, and Rocha from London’s NEWGEN sponsorship; Peter Pilotto, meanwhile, also won the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund in London. In France, Vaccarello took both the Hyères prize and the Paris ANDAM prize, and in Italy, de Vincenzo emerged through Italian Vogue’s Who Is On Next? competition. It’s made them all much more open to building relationships than the designers who went before. As independents, they’ve been meshed into the culture of publicity-generating collaborations—most recently, Anthony Vaccarello x Versus Versace; J Brand x Simone Rocha; Altuzarra for Target. With Instagram and Web video, they’ve moved even faster.

Rocha, with her sweet-but-tomboyish dresses and Lucite-heeled brogues, and Peter Pilotto, with its mesmerically textural colors, have quietly gathered customers from across the globe—a far cry from the fate of London’s lone-wolf indie designers in the nineties. They get out and travel, learning to calibrate their collections for different climates and cultures—and they’ll never boast about just how successful they have been. Pilotto practically has to have his arm twisted before he admits, “Well, we sell to 200 stores on six continents. There’s only one we don’t sell to—Antarctica!”

This serious, savvy generation has even transformed the attitudes of major luxury-fashion conglomerates, which are suddenly in a flurry of competition to sign them up. Altuzarra is in expansion mode, designing in a renovated office after negotiating a minority investment from France’s Kering group. “Having a partner like Kering, who are able to fold you into their manufacturing capabilities, is something that makes a huge difference,” he says. Anderson, with a new minority investment from LVMH, has moved out of the unheated basement in Shacklewell Lane where he and his stylist Benjamin Bruno froze in the winters; now he’s in a three-story building with an e-commerce studio. In Rome, de Vincenzo is turning out his beautifully elaborate, streamlined clothes with a different kind of LVMH backing: He’d worked as a highly rated Fendi bag designer for ten years before telling the company he was desperate to start his own collection of clothes. “Silvia Fendi was brilliant,” de Vincenzo says. “She said I could stay and have my own studio. I think it is a unique arrangement.” LVMH, Fendi’s parent company, smartly got to keep its star bag designer—and to bet on his future in ready-to-wear on the Milan runway.

Now their talent and knowledge are beginning to be almost as highly valued by the fashion establishment as Premier League footballers are in sport. The analogy works for the 30-year-old Anderson: As he shoulders the dual responsibilities of managing his own brand and being creative director of Loewe, he talks about it in sporting terms. “My dad was an Irish national rugby player. He’s always drilling it into me: ‘It’s all about your team!’ ”

What’s really different about this generation, though, are the family, friends, and loyal stylists around them. “I like growing with the people who know me and support me,” says Vaccarello. Rocha’s mother, Odette, is her business partner. Anderson’s brother, Thomas, is his HR director. Altuzarra’s mother, Karen, is chairman of the board, and Altuzarra’s words stand for the whole group: “I believe in creating this like a family—one that has worked together from the beginning. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.” If there is a common denominator among all these disparate talents, the thing that has taken them all past survival to the point of flourishing, it is their normality, their loyalty. They’re rooted.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Tokyo Fashion - The Shiny Uniqlo Empire Has A Dark Side

I’m a snob about Japanese fashion. After living and shopping in Tokyo for a couple of years, I could no longer go shopping in the US — I had no patience for it. The styles, silhouettes, creativity, and perfection of fashion in Tokyo just don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

You might be thinking I'm a pretentious snob, right? But I promise I’m actually on decently sound footing here.

Valerie Steele, a fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology and director of the school's museum, is with me. "In Tokyo, you have access to so many really brilliant designers," she says. "I think shopping in Tokyo is the best shopping in the world.”

Apart from the creativity, she says, ”Japanese are very concerned with quality and with attention to detail — much more than Americans who really wouldn’t know a good garment from a bad one for the most part. ... But the Japanese are looking very carefully at every detail, the material, construction, etc. and have very high standards of what qualifies as good, well-made clothing.”

Uniqlo, Japan’s largest apparel retailer, opened a store in New York City in 2006. I was over the moon. Finally, I could get Japanese clothing in the US.

In Japan, Uniqlo isn’t exactly considered "fashion." It sells relatively cheap, well-made basics. But basics cut in a Japanese style, with that attention to detail? Here in the US, that is a kind of fashion. And Uniqlo has become really popular.

”The key example I think of is the little puffer jacket that Uniqlo launched," Steele says. "Now you see everybody wearing it, everyone from kids on the street, housewives, workers, to the trendiest fashion people.”

And with their special "techno-fabrics" and collaborations with well-known designers, Uniqlo has become a mainstay in the retail and fashion worlds. This fall, Uniqlo nearly doubled the number of stores it operates in the US, opening new branches from Los Angeles to Boston.

There’s also been a lot of appreciative gushing over Uniqlo’s Japanese-inspired customer service. Employees are taught to present and take customer credit cards with two hands, in formal Japanese style.

“You greet the customer always smiling, perfect posture, things like that," explains Delese Baker, a store supervisor at Uniqlo’s Soho store. "At meetings, everyone’s supposed to stand feet apart, hands in the front — always have your badges, notepads.”

There are even "Six Standard Phrases" that every Uniqlo employee has to memorize: phrases they chant to each other at store meetings. There are a lot of rules, and expectations are high. "These shirts right here that are button-down, you’re supposed to be able to fold seven in a minute,” Baker explains cheerily.

It all makes for a pleasant shopping experience. But all the nitpicky rules, rigorous standards and emphasis on perfection have also generated some flack.

Japan is known for its rigid work culture, where long hours are the norm. But even by Japanese standards, Uniqlo has a particularly bad reputation. 

Fumihito Matsuo, a former Uniqlo store manager in Tokyo, says the working environment at Uniqlo was just bad — strict enough to be the military. “In Japan, Uniqlo is known as a 'black company,'" he says.

"Black" or "evil" companies are ones that exploit their workers, harrassing them and forcing them to work excessive hours and unpaid overtime. Some ex-workers in the US have said it’s worse than the military — it's more like a slave ship.

And it’s not just a few people complaining. In 2011, Japanese journalist Masuo Yokota published a book called the "The Glory and Disgrace of the Uniqlo Empire." The book alleges almost slave-like treatment of Uniqlo’s factory workers in China and store employees in Japan. Uniqlo sued for defamation, but lost both the case and the appeal. They’ve now taken the case to the Japanese Supreme Court.

Matsuo thinks things may have gotten somewhat better since he quit a year ago, but he insists the book tells it like it is.

Larry Meyer, Uniqlo’s US CEO, points out that perfection has trade-offs. “Retail is not for the lazy. We are a team. Our brand is a function of how well our team represents our brand. To that extent, it’s not a free for all," he says. "If you want to be an individual artist, I’m fine with that; you don't have to work for me.”

He says there are mechanisms here and in Japan to ensure that people are treated fairly and are properly compensated.

And even Matsuo points out that working for the company had its upsides. For a 23-year-old only a couple years out of college, he had a lot of responsibility and opportunities to advance.  He wouldn’t want to work there again, but he still shops there.


“As a brand, I still like Uniqlo," he says. And, of course, so do I.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Tokyo Fashion Review: Moshi Moshi Nippon at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium


Offering non-Japanese people free entry to Moshi Moshi Nippon was a risky move on the part of Asobisystem, but it seemed to have paid off.

Nearly 15,000 punters showed up for the Sept. 28 event at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, and organizers say that 7,000 of them were non-Japanese.

Speaking to some attendees, the main draw was a chance to see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the Asobisystem management company’s star act, for free. She played a lineup of hits: “Fashion Monster,” “Ninja Re Bang Bang” and, of course, “Ponponpon.”

Likely motivated from Kyary’s overseas notability, the Moshi Moshi Nippon has sought to draw in like-minded fans of Harajuku’s kawaii brand of culture. This has included TV shows, websites and events in France, England and the United States.

A long line of non-Japanese, including teenagers and 30-somethings, wound its way outside the site and reception was pretty smooth. Translators, marked with their job description in green font emblazoned on black T-shirts, wandered around the venue in case of questions. Moshi Moshi Nippon looked less like a music festival and more of an Asobisystem showcase.

A viewing area was roped off near the front of the stage and labeled “foreigners only,” which caused some people on social media to wonder if the special treatment would ostracize them from Japanese fans. They needn’t have bothered, though, because the non-Japanese attendees seemed to be more interested in the antics of the Japanese fans than what was on stage.

Hard-core idol fans were out in full force, with acts such as Silent Siren and Dempagumi.inc playing the main stage and other stages catering exclusively to up-and-coming idol acts. They performed otagei, specially rehearsed cheering dances, everywhere — even outside the venue at the DJ-centric Matsuri stage.

The smaller and busier Nippon Stage even offered non-Japanese and Japanese alike the chance to learn more about the idol subculture they likely only know via megastar groups such as AKB48. Nearly 30 new groups, such as drop, Camouflage and Cheeky Parade performed there and the audience was filled with dedicated fans.

Those fans were what really made the Nippon Stage entertaining. They screamed out lyrics during the performances, and dance moves looked as if they were influenced by martial arts at times — many non-Japanese stood in the back and watched with fascination. Not bad for a free ticket.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Tokyo Fashion: Zen-Loving CEO Rewrites the Rules of Retail




On a gray spring morning in Paris, behind the facade of an 18th century building on the Place Vendome, a flying insect has somehow made its way through an arched doorway, past a limestone courtyard and into the headquarters of Comme des Garcons International, where it is now buzzing around the head of Chief Executive Officer Adrian Joffe.

Not for long.

As Joffe sits at a glass table in his office, calmly discussing the relationship between artistic integrity and profit, he suddenly raises his right arm and executes a rapid swatting motion reminiscent of an Andy Roddick first serve. In a split second, the fly is gone and Joffe continues speaking, making no acknowledgment of the interruption aside from a barely perceptible grin.

To those who aren’t familiar with Joffe -- a seemingly mild-mannered executive with a background in Zen Buddhism and linguistics -- this matter-of-fact extermination of another living being might seem surprising. But as Bloomberg Pursuits magazine reports in its Autumn 2014 issue, those who know him well would recognize one of his most-marked qualities: not a killer instinct exactly but, rather, a clean efficiency, a knack for swiftly removing distractions so as to focus on what’s important.

Innovative Brand

Comme des Garcons, founded in Tokyo 45 years ago by the reclusive designer Rei Kawakubo -- Joffe’s wife since 1992 -- is perhaps the most enduringly innovative fashion brand of modern times. From the start, Kawakubo’s goal has been to rise above market forces to freely create new things, be they jackets with three sleeves or androgynous, abstract garments that upend standard notions of clothing, gender and beauty.



Despite its renegade bona fides, Comme, as its devotees call it, is also a business, and it’s up to Joffe to help keep it profitable. At a time when the art-commerce balancing act is a daunting challenge for many creative companies, Joffe, who has no formal training in either art or commerce, has become an unlikely master of juggling both. His ideas often seem uncopyable -- until they’re widely copied. Such was the case with Comme’s guerrilla stores, one-off, limited-run boutiques that served as the prototypes for today’s ubiquitous pop-up shops.

Creativity

Pharrell Williams -- whose new unisex scent with Comme puts him in an esteemed club of fragrance collaborators that includes the design firm Artek and London’s Serpentine Gallery -- says that creativity remains Joffe’s top priority, with commerce running a very close second.



“Money doesn’t make ideas; ideas make money,” Williams observes. He describes Comme des Garcons as a kind of brilliant biosphere, with Joffe as the curator who gives Kawakubo’s creations their essential context. “If Comme is like a snow globe, Adrian is the water,” Williams says.

Joffe certainly doesn’t fit the standard profile of a 61-year-old CEO -- and not just because he dresses in head-to-toe black, often with a pair of graffitied Doc Martens on his feet. The shoes are a limited-edition Comme collaboration adorned with slogans by his wife, including, significantly, “My energy comes from my freedom.”

One of Joffe’s many tasks at the company is to act as interpreter and gatekeeper for the resolutely private Kawakubo, who speaks little English and shows no interest in making herself understood to the outside world.

“That’s the worst part of my job,” Joffe says. “It’s hard to explain her, and I don’t really want to. But I am somewhat of a realist, and for business, you have to try.” Continue reading...




 

Newport International Group Runway

When we talk about fashion, appearance is crucial for obvious reason in the fashion industry. With that in mind, Newport makes and styles a virtual fashion haven with an excellent source of design inspiration.

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