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Fashion With Purpose

The First Fashion Week

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By Laura Connell · January 25, 2010 · 0 Comments ·


Up until the 1940s, American designers were being ignored in favour of the European houses, even by members of their own press. The frame of reference for American fashion had always been European: American designers would travel to Paris, view the twice-yearly collections, and return to emulate them, hence influencing American style in a very non-American way. Although New York was known as a garment manufacturing centre, its designers remained unknown. If an American celebrity wanted a dress for the red carpet, for instance, she would fly to Paris to get it.

 


In 1940, The Dress Institute hired pioneering fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert to help promote American fashion. The Institute had already set up a fund in which a fraction of the cost of each union-made dress would go toward an advertising campaign bringing attention to New York designers. In 1943, Lambert shrewdly decided to capitalize on Paris’s wartime misfortunes and organize an event in which New York designers would present their collections to members of the fashion press, thus bringing attention to New York and away from Paris. The event was called Press Week—today we call it Fashion Week—and it marked the beginning of major magazines like Vogue featuring American designs on its pages, looks which tended to be more innovative and wearable than their European counterparts.

 

Fashion Weeks have since popped up in cities all over the world, and New York continues to open each season, followed by London, Milan, and Paris (the Big Four). Although most fashion insiders agree Paris still rules haute couture, New York leads when it comes to ready to wear…and that’s where the money is. Very American, wouldn’t you say?

 

Image of first NYC Press Week

Image of Eleanor Lambert

Walk This Way Workshop

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By Laura Connell · January 19, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Thanks to advice from Retro Chick in the UK, For Those About To Shop has been accredited at London Fashion Week! Stay posted for news and images from the catwalks, exhibitions, and of course London street style. UK designer Alexander McQueen loves to push boundaries with his dramatic and often controversial showcases. Perhaps that's why in the past he has chosen Toronto model Stacey McKenzie to walk for him. Although she has also walked for Gaulthier and Lacroix, her unconventional appeal made the path to those runways a challenging one.

Stacey was inspired to pursue modelling at age 6 after seeing a picture of Jean Paul Gaultier and Madonna together. Her reasoning: if that odd pair can make it, surely I can! In a full circle moment, Gaultier wound up giving Stacey her big break in Paris, hiring her to walk his runway right behind Madonna! Before that moment, however, Stacey suffered countless hurtful rejections and felt very alone while pursuing her dream. Walk This Way Workshops is Stacey's effort to help other girls and women on their way to a successful modelling career. "I promised I would use all my expertise and advice to help model hopefuls make it to the next level. That's where this workshop comes from," she said at Toronto's Spoke Club this weekend, after being introduced by Bustle designer and Project Runway Canada judge, Shawn Hewson, whose runway she walked at Toronto Fashion Week. Evan Biddell, winning designer of the first Project Runway Canada competition made an appearance for the Owning You walk off contest.

Alannah Verneuil won her spot in the workshop after entering a contest in Verve Girl magazine on why she deserves the opportunity to learn from Stacey. At 5'1" she fears height may be an impediment to her career. She no doubt benefitted from Stacey's assuring words: "You have to find your niche. Technically, anybody could be a model." Stacey presented examples of various genres of modelling include high fashion, plus size, commercial, body parts (hands and feet, for instance) and lingerie. High fashion is the typical tall, skinny model, but Stacey was adamant that it is only one small avenue into modelling and to never force yourself to embody those proportions if they are not naturally yours:

"If you don't meet the requirements," she said, "but you have great legs, great hair, gorgeous hands, you could do body parts modelling. If all else fails," she joked, "get into body parts modelling! You could make some good money."

Cory, a successful model agent, warned against irresponsible agents who tell you to lose weight. "We don't tell people to lose weight. If you're naturally meant to be a (high fashion) model, great; if you're not, don't fight it." Stacey responded: "Find another niche; find another avenue."

Fashion photographer David Hou explained: "When people talk about beauty, there is a preconception that it is a certain look, but really it is about who you are, being natural. Don't try to be other people." Stacey added: "The camera doesn't lie. There are a lot of beautiful people walking around but they're not models because they're not photogenic."

The message of the day was: Take nothing personally! Stacey: "Modelling is a cut-throat business so it's important to love and OWN who you are. People are going to tell you you're not pretty enough, skinny enough, tall enough, and it's easy to get lost in all the negativity. You can't take the rejections personally. You can't let it stop you from doing what you want to do."