by Joanne Molina
When Hermes is only blocks away from H&M, shoppers are left with the ultimate showdown: designer vs. non-designer. But as luxury goods expert Claire Warner reveals, don’t give in to the urge to spend a month’s salary at Target: â€œThis past June we had a Birkin from 2002 sell for $11,500 hammer price, not including the 20% buyers commission.â€? But the rock-n-soul attitude of Alice Roi, Tracy Reese and Anna Sui persuade that â€œdesignerâ€? is the only way to go.
How to live like Roi-alty
Just as likely to appear on Charlie Rose as the runway, Roi embodies the idea of the young designer as risk-taker. But when asked what makes apparel â€œdesigner,â€? Roi shys away from a typical response that lauds materials or even investment value. Given her new line of furs available at Marshall Fields, this may be surprising. After all, what could be more luxurious than fur? â€œDimension,â€? suggests Roi with her intelligent intensity. Unlike many designers who embrace one signature look or the use of one material, Roi is a true underdog, nodding to everything from 80’s prepsters to the Amish. â€œI see a lot of designers either going in one direction or another, totally abandoning the notion of working a few ideas together. I think what makes me special as a designer – and as a person – is that I work with multiple themesâ€¦â€? This is what that makes Roi so incredibly likable: she knows who she is and isn’t afraid to use her instincts and conflicting moods to create exactly what she wants.
With her kaleidoscope eyes, Roi partnered with Tendler and went in some unlikely directionsâ€”most people associate fur with the Fendis weighing on shoulders of ladies who lunch. But Roi decided to conquer this lost art and go towards a youthful continental look a la Harold et Maude. The designer touch is in the details. Her line features braiding, laser cutting and organic dying, and the innovation doesn’t end with her use of new techniques. A far cry from furs that offer homage to Cruella de Ville, she embraces vests and skullcaps, as well as 3/4- length micro-sheared mink pea coats in mink, sable, and chinchilla. Even if the furs don’t make it into your closet, like any great piece of artwork, they will certainly be admired.
If you think designer duds just need a label and a high price tag, think again. â€œLuxury is a state of mind,â€?muses designer and Detroit native Tracy Reese. But she is also quick to point out that luxury doesn’t need to be expensiveâ€”and her line (which is at a self-described â€œreasonable price pointâ€?)â€”is proof. â€œIt has to be something that brings you joy and bliss. It can be everything from a covered button to an intricately embellished velvet dress,â€? she says. Inspired by a tapestry of experience and hard work, Reese shows wisdom beyond her years. But this should come as no surprise; her first fashion icon was her grandmother.
Reese’s â€œstate of mindâ€? design philosophy reflects a cosmopolitan spirit: her fall 2005 collection was inspired by Raoul Dufy and Edouard Vuillard, as well as London’s Edwardian and Victorian eras. With true European sensibility, she seamlessly blends old and new worlds without minimalizing either. It’s this organic fusion that makes a brand accumulate value. If, as auction expert Warner says, â€œcontinuing value is attributed to how the company producing the items manages its brand,â€? then Reese is a designer â€œdo.â€?
You would never know it from her Cheshire Cat smile or her coy curtsey after every show, but Michigan-born designer Anna Sui is all rock-n-roll. Deemed the â€œsorceress of New York’s fashion scene,â€? she finds fashionistas rallying behind her saucy apparel. She puts her heart on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to play. â€œBy keeping my price points lower, I feel I can have a little more fun with my collection,â€? she says. Sometimes â€œif the clothes are really expensive, it’s more like an investment, more serious.â€? Instead of loving the process, it’s easy for designers to get caught up in the marketing and selling points of their work. But catering to an editor just isn’t her style. Instead, finds many of her best ideas by looking back. â€œI’m so lucky because I am able to use whatever I’m interested in at any particular moment: exhibitions, books, movies, music and travel.â€? So the next time you’re tempted to pass by the Art Institute to get to the sale at Barney’s, don’t move so quickly. Sui says, â€œI learn a lot by looking at vintage clothing in flea markets and museum exhibitions. I’ve always been interested in embellishments: embroideries, appliquÃ©s, beading, trims and buttons.â€? Sui makes smart sexy. As she says, â€œI like mixing night with day, like wearing sequins to the office with jeans. I think that’s very rock-n-roll.â€? Sui’s eclectic elegance evokes the spirit of designer duds: a rock-on attitude that’s never afraid to face the music.
So, after three rounds with these design muses, who’s the victor in the match between designer vs. non-designer? For those who know luxe apparel is both an artistic endeavor and a product of a curator’s education, a designer’s eye always trumps the consumer dictatorship of any banana republic.
Julia Knier of Public I Fashion boutique tells us why we should pay big bucks for designer luxe
1. A Designer has real access to luxury materials, fabrics and finishesâ€”i.e. cashmere, Maria Piano woolâ€”and knows how to work with them.
2. A designer is trained. She has a degree (or possibly degrees) plus experience and connections in all areas of fashionâ€”even areas that don’t seem that glamorous, such as pattern making and grading.
Claire Warner of Wright Auction House in Chicago tells us how to cash in
What sells and what doesn’t? Warner says fashion trends tend to have a cycle of 15-20 years. Trends tend to exhaust themselves, rest and come back. Hermes, Louis Vuitton trunks and Gucci pieces from the 70’s are beginning to make a comeback. A Gucci side table from the 70’s bears pattern similar to the one recently reborn in Gucci boutiques and placed on many of their bags and accessories.
Want to sell your Hermes? Research the consignment deadlines and find the contact for consignment (usually available on the auction house website). Once you know who to talk to you can send a digital image for review or bring in the piece for evaluation. The house will then provide an estimate for terms of sale. We [Wright’s] try to make the consignment process as easy as possible.