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How to pick the best bridesmaid dresses now they’re fashion forward, not frumpy

If you ever want to know how not to dress your bridesmaids, then watch the romantic comedy 27 Dresses.

Fortunately, 10 years have passed since the movie was first released, and things are looking up for style-starved maids. The bridal world now takes its cues from the runways, with fashion trends inspiring not only bridal designers but big brands and high-profile talents to create collections specifically for this lucrative market.

“The bridesmaid category has become a lot more exciting. When we started in 2011 bridesmaid dresses were very standardised and consisted of one fabric – usually chiffon – and a limited colour palette of pastels. Now designers and brides are borrowing trends from ready-to-wear and thinking outside the traditional box,” says Cecile Chen, founder of Trinity Bridal.

Take for example, Hong Kong bride Feiping Chang, whose storybook wedding in Capri was covered by high-profile publications such as Vogue. Instead of cookie-cutter bridesmaid gowns, she opted for various styles designed by friend and Self Portrait designer Han Chong.

“I knew I wanted my bridesmaids to wear white, which most people tend to shy away from. Together we chose a selection of styles that would fit each girl’s body as well as their personal style. So overall, the dresses looked consistent but each was something unique that they could also wear again,” says Chang.

While individuality is important for modern bridesmaids, so are trends. Many are experimenting with fun prints like the patchwork florals popularised by British designer Richard Quinn while silhouettes have transitioned from conservative Grecian styles to the more fashionable cold shoulder and off-the-shoulder looks. When it comes to colour, many brides tend to err on the side of caution and opt for pastels, but there is also a return to bold shades such as yellow and blue.

Location also plays a role in determining bridesmaid dresses. Traditional venues such as hotels are becoming less popular thanks to the emergence of destination weddings. Exotic, off-the-beaten track locales have allowed bridesmaids to do away with formal styles and opt for fun and fresh looks instead.

“I usually advise destination bridesmaids to mix and match dresses with varied and multi-dimensional aesthetics. Colour choices can also be more modern and include navy, dove grey or even black. Instead of a flowy dress, you can experiment with jumpsuits and more structured dresses which look more contemporary,” advises Jacqueline Au, founder and creative director of The Loft Bridal.

A demand for more modern styles has also meant that brides can explore beyond the usual stable of specialised brands and opt for creations by ready-to-wear fashion brands like Needle & Thread and Caroline Constans. While purchasing off-the-rack can be tricky when you have larger groups to dress, it still opens a whole new world of possibilities in terms of fashion choices.

“Popular brands include Self Portrait and Red Valentino for entry-level price point while Zimmerman is ideal for a summer garden party type wedding. Valentino, Rochas, Erdem all offer beautiful dresses that could work for a bridesmaid. For more traditional dresses, Elie Saab and Maria Lucia Hohan are great,” says Suzanne Pendlebury, buying manager at matchesfashion.com.

Another easy way to inject a modern touch to your bridesmaid look is through accessories such as jewellery, hair pieces and shoes, all of which add a touch of personality and an element of surprise.

“Sometimes when you follow runway trends the photos can look out of date after a few years. I would still keep the dress refined but play with jewellery, be it chunky bold pieces a la Celine or maximalist Gucci-style with layers of pearls and crystals. Even if you are stuck wearing a cookie-cutter dress, you are able to inject a bit of your own personality through accessories,” says Au.

A final note of caution to all bridesmaids. While looking good may be your top priority, it’s not necessarily the bride’s. Avoid a Pippa Middleton situation and keep your choices stylish yet discreet. Your big day will come eventually.

Spring/summer 2018 runway trends perfect for bridesmaids

Ruffles: Velvet dress (HK$3,500) by Self Portrait from Lane Crawford.

Vintage florals: Long patchwork dress (HK$499) from Zara.

Bold colours: Rope detail silk satin gown (HK$16,625) by Roksanda from matchesfashion.com.

Embellishments: Andromeda ruffled embellished tulle gown (HK$4,810) by Needle & Thread from Net-a-Porter.

Sheer: Rosetta lace dress (HK$5,500) from S.Nine by Susanna Soo.

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Black Dobby Mesh Midi Dress

Pauline Van Dongen: Designing Fashion Tech Fit For Philips Electronics & Skyn Condoms

Thought the $5.8 billion global wearable technology market was all about wristbands? Wrong.

Pauline Van Dongen is one of Europe’s leaders in the field and says the future is about so much more than your smartwatch.

Apple fans may be “stuck in a device paradigm”, but cutting-edge innovators are all about the potential of smart clothes, the designer explains.

“The next transition is to embed technology into textiles, like we do in our studio, and to look at the materials from a material and aesthetic point of view, not only from a functional perspective.”

Photo courtesy of Pauline Van Dongen.

Pauline Van Dongen in her design studio.

Big brands are climbing on board

In Europe, fashion houses like Britain’s CuteCircuit and Berlin’s ElektroCouture have forged ahead of this curve. Now, big tech businesses have started taking note too (in recent years Google has made a smart jacket with Levi’s, while Samsung designed its own NFC suit).

And it’s Pauline Van Dongen’s studio in the Netherlandsthat’s breaking boundaries for some of the world’s most prominent brands.

It has worked with everyone from the $28.9 billionelectronics giant Philips to fast-growing non-latex condom company Skyn, a line that belongs to the $600 million Lifestyles Healthcare—and many publically undisclosed brands too.

Van Dongen projects typically cost from €2,000 to €100,000 (around $2,500–$123,000), with many often being run at the studio at the same time.

“By creating these projects, we generate a lot of value, whether that’s actual products partners can sell, insights into new materials and processes, or PR value,” says the designer.

Photo courtesy of Pauline Van Dongen.

The Issho denim jacket can give you a hug.

Transforming fashion

As you might expect, some of Van Dongen’s many groundbreaking designs have sprung from partnerships with existing fashion innovators.

For example, last year, the studio worked with Italdenim, a sustainable jeans pioneer founded in 1974 in Arconate, a small village near Milan.

“I particularly wanted to work with denim fabric because it’s a material that everyone can identify with – everyone has a piece of denim in their wardrobe,” Van Dongen says of the collaboration.

Motivated by a desire to make technology “more human” and “mindful”, the studio developed Issho: a jacket that uses senses if you’re constantly reaching for your phone, and gives a physical response back to the wearer.

“The jacket talks to you by giving you a gentle stroke on your upper back, inviting you to be more in the present moment,” Van Dongen explains.

The studio has also worked with sustainable Dutch fashion retailer Blue Loop Originals to create a solar-powered windbreaker. It’s today worn by tour guides of Germany’s Wadden Sea Society to help them stay charged and better assist their visitors.

“It invites you to go outside and be in the sunshine to harness your own energy,” says Van Dongen.

Photo courtesy of Roos Van Der Kieft.

The SolarWindbreaker.

Embracing technology

Quite evidently, technology brands also have much to offer to the booming wearable textiles scene too. And it was Philips’ understanding of the world of electronics that supercharged Van Dongen’s Mesopic and Phototrope sportswear designs.

Disappointed by her own experience of running at night with a “ridiculous” light-up bracelet, the designer worked with Philips to come up with a savvier solution.

In its latest form, the studio’s light-up jerseys even include interactive controls to allows sports trainers to alter light colors and enable specific games and activities.

“Our tops integrate lighting from a functional perspective, but also as a new type of aesthetic, just like we’d use any other kind of material,” Van Dongen explains.

“It creates playfulness,” she adds.

Photo courtesy of Pauline Van Dongen.

Pauline Van Dongen’s Mesopic light jacket was developed with Siemens.

Choosing collaborators

With such a wide range of companies keen to explore wearables, choosing who to collaborate with can be a challenge, but the Pauline Van Dongen studio won’t be “misled” by money, says its founder.

And—as long as Van Dongen believes in the creative integrity of a project—no area is off-limits.

Indeed, the studio jumped at the opportunity to work with condom company Skyn, where it explored how the business’s latex-free materials could benefit athletes.

“Of course we wanted to avoid created a ‘condom suit’,” says Van Dongen. “That was one of the bigger challenges, not to make something that would look silly and make people laugh.”

The designer succeeded, instead creating an impressive outfit with aerodynamic flaps that open to give long jump athletes extra time in the air.

Photo courtey of Pauline Van Dongen.

The Skynfeel suit developed by Skyn condoms.

Partnerships that empower

Many more of Van Dongen’s projects are socially-motivated.

One collaboration with the Dutch wearable business Elitac saw the creation of the FysioPal top: a garment that not only records data around back posture, but uses small vibration motors to give haptic feedback to correct it.

Similarly, the studio’s Vigour cardigan—a collaboration with Technical University Eindhoven, Martijn ten Bhömer and Textile Museum Tilburg—is about empowering the elderly.

Made of soft Merino wool, it has sensors that help those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia convey their activity levels to healthcare workers.

“Our garments are already on our bodies, what’s a more intimate way to communicate that via skin?” Van Dongen asks.

Photo courtesy of Pauline Van Dongen.

The Vigour cardigan.

The future of fashion

Today, if you’re dreaming of slipping into one of Van Dongen’s posture correcting cardigans, light-up tops, or solar-powered coats, you might struggle to track one down: at present, the studio largely relies on its partners to bring Van Dongen concepts to market.

But that could be about to change. And Van Dongen says her studio may set up its own sales channel “in the near future.”

To really move the market, however, far greater cross-industry collaboration is needed between designers, manufacturers, brands and technologists, says Van Dongen: “Otherwise we’re all stuck on our own little islands without building upon each of our expertise.”

Are you ready for futures wearables without a wristband in sight?

At Harrods, Vetements Calls Out The Fashion Industry On Overproduction

Unveiled today, Vetements is taking over four Harrods windows to create awareness around the corporate overproduction the brand’s co-founder Guram Gvasalia says is destroying fashion and its surrounding world.

TRUST Vetements and the brand’s cultish cool to tackle the touchy subject of overproduction heads on. Launching today, four of Harrods’ store windows on Brompton Road will be dedicated to the Swiss label’s call for action. “We have the luxury of being a young, independent brand, which has the opportunity to speak out without being afraid of powerful backers,” its CEO Guram Gvasalia says over coffee in the suite of his Mayfair hotel. “The problem with sustainability today is that people look at it from the wrong perspective. Yes, where you produce and how you produce is super important. But what people are overseeing is something that’s right in front of our eyes: it’s about how much brands produce and how much consumers buy,” the 31-year-old brother of Vetements’ creative director Demna Gvasalia argues. “Since my first-ever interview I’ve been saying this: the basic thing of economics is the supply meeting demand. If you go to a shop and you see something on sale, it means it’s been overproduced.”

Over the past year, Vetements has been highlighting issues of overconsumption, staging waste-focused events at Maxfield in Los Angeles, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, and Browns East in London. “But in this age, doing something once or twice isn’t enough. Our phone screens refresh so quickly that our attention spans have shrunk,” Gvasalia quips. He’s devoted the next twelve months to shining a light on the issue of overproduction with plans of fifty events worldwide starting with the windows at Harrods. Unveiled to the public this morning, they feature stockpile installations of clothes donated by Harrods’ four-thousand employees as well as original Parisian donation bins for charity, a regular occurrence on Instagram due to the “Vetements” logo featured on their fronts (simply meaning ‘clothes’). Throughout February, Harrods’ customers are invited to donate their own garments, the proceeds of which go to the NSPPC.

Gvaslia, who has been working on the projects for over a year, says he approached all the big fashion brands asking them to donate their stock. “Nobody wanted to take part. Not a single brand; really huge corporations. Everyone is afraid of admitting that they make more clothes than they can sell.” He spends his year travelling the world, trawling through department stores and boutiques, analysing the stock on display at various points of the season. “I find it particularly hard travelling in the United States during the sale, seeing all these luxury items on extreme discount,” he says. “There are mountains and mountains of clothes that were overproduced. Part of it is sold with huge markdowns, but what’s left becomes dead-stock. Statistically, thirty percent of what brands produce ends up in landfills. Garbage.”

What needs to change, Gvasalia explains, is the pride of the biggest companies in fashion, whose reported gross turnovers can only increase if they sell more merchandise. “At the end of the day, you only have a certain amount of people, who are actually willing to buy your clothes. No matter what you do, this number is limited. So instead, they have their own stores that they force their merchandise upon, just so they can increase their numbers.” In other words, the annual figures reported in designer interviews and reviews shouldn’t always be taken for granted. Nor should they necessarily be a source of pride. “For brands to become more sustainable today, they need to do one simple thing: have their supply meet their demand. It’s like throwing away food in a world full of hunger. Our planet is sick because of us, because we want more and more and more, without thinking of generations to come,” he reflects. And it goes for the customer, too. “Try to think, ‘Do I need all these clothes?’”

Gvasalia isn’t a big shopper himself. On this day – as any – he’s clad in his trusty uniform of all-blacks: jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie. His wardrobe can be counted on a few hands, and whenever he acquires a new item of clothing he donates an old one to a relative. Asked if he publicises Vetements’ turnovers he rolls his eyes. “Of course not. It’s not the main goal. The goal is to create amazing clothes for people who want to buy them.” How do he and his designer brother take responsibility, then? “First of all we don’t have our own stores. Secondly, we don’t push stores with minimums. We’ve started to limit quantities,” Gvasalia says, admitting he sometimes puts a stop to buyers when they try to buy stock beyond their customer demand. “Of course, there are buyers that are amazing. Natalie Kingham bought 250 of our unicorn hoodies,” he says, referring to the buying director of MatchesFashion.com, “and they were gone in a day. But some buyers put debts on pieces that are just insane.”

What of all those coveted, perpetually sold-out it-items we hear about, then? “What brands do – which is very smart – is to limit the online stores, giving one store maybe forty pairs of the hottest sneaker. So of course it sells out,” Gvasalia explains. “I sold four-thousand pairs of sneakers on Ssense.com in four days, but this is not my goal anymore. It breeds greed. I’m not chasing numbers. I don’t need my company to be worth a billion. You can make money like that much more easily outside of fashion.” It’s perhaps an easy thing to say for the owner of a brand like Vetements, which sky-rocketed in sales just a year into their existence, in 2014, shifting hoodies at £600 and denim trousers – sustainably made out of recycled jeans, by the way – at £1200. “Our stuff is expensive because it’s limited,” Gvasalia asserts. “But then people go and buy the high street items that look like our work. I want to tell people: buy less, buy quality and buy long term.”

Last year, Vetements relocated their studios from Paris to Zurich in a move interpreted by some as tax conscious. Gvasalia begs to differ. “We moved the company to Switzerland because I wanted to protect myself from an industry I feel is toxic and wrong. I don’t want to be distracted by the wrong business strategies. I moved the company because I wanted to be left alone in a world where we can operate without distractions.” So there. Vetements, of course, stills show in Paris, like in January when the brothers borrowed an old flea market free of charge and invited guests to watch the show – styled in copious layers as a reflection of overconsumption – from market chairs already in place. “My show was completely sustainable,” Gvasalia nods. He says his commendable outlook is the result of age, of running a growing business, but also rooted in a childhood of extremes

In the early 1990s, the brothers and their family fled their native Abkhazia amidst the Georgian civil war. “When you see stuff as six years old that I don’t even want to share as public knowledge, you start to appreciate life. You start to understand that if you have to cancel a T-shirt because of a minimum, you don’t have to care. It’s not the end of the world,” Gvasalia says, raising his eyebrows. “I appreciate life because I know that things can change in one second.”

Milan Fashion Week Men’s Street Style

Blac Chyna Poses in Pink Wig and Plunging Dress Amid Kardashian Lawsuit Drama

Hair color chameleon Blac Chyna has switched up her look yet again for an impromptu photoshoot in her own home.

The star is known to experiment with the boldest hair hues — even rainbow! — so it’s not surprising that only a few days into 2018, she’s giving baby pink a go. Chyna posed for a sultry photoshoot in her kitchen (because why not?) wearing a plunging, cleavage-revealing Fashion Nova dress and her millennial pink mane.

She didn’t keep the trendy hair color for long though. Soon after Chyna shared her sexy photos on Instagram, she posted another wearing a patterned bodycon Fashion Nova mini. But this time, she opted for a platinum blonde wig instead.

Blac Chyna/Instagram

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Although her hairstyles don’t stay with her for long, Chyna’s lawsuit drama with the Kardashian family is continuing to follow her into the new year.

In October, Chyna filed a lawsuit against Rob Kardashian (the father of her 13-month-old daughter Dream) and his family alleging that he was damaging her brand and verbally and physically abusing her. But the Kardashians are fighting back.

Last week, Kris JennerKim Kardashian and Rob’s attorneys filed a “demurrer” objecting to and asking for a dismissal of Chyna’s lawsuit against them, in which the mother of two claimed the Kardashians were responsible for E! not moving forward with the planned second season of Rob & Chyna.

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Soon after, court documents also revealed that Rob is denying all assault claimsalleged by Chyna, including that he grabbed “phone from her hand and violently knocked her to the ground where she landed on her hands and knees” and ransacked her closet. However, according to Rob’s statement, “She did not suffer any injury or harm as a result of any conduct by [Kardashian].”

CENTRESTAGE: Wambui Mukenyi’s grand fashion launch on a plane

Celebrated Kenyan fashion designer and wedding connoisseur Wambui Mukenyi has unveiled her latest luxury bridal line, dubbed “Wambui Mukenyi Luxe”.

The event, unlike most others witnessed locally, happened on a “runway” 20,000 feet above sea level. The launch is apparently the first ever of its kind in Eastern, Western and Central Africa. The launch was an exclusive, invite-only affair and in partnership with Moët & Chandon.

Among invited guests were NTV‘s Kobi Kihara, model Pinky Ghelani, stylist Connie Aluoch, Couture‘s Olive Gachara, Kris Senanu and K24‘s Anjlee Gadhvi. They were served with free flowing champagne during the flight to Malindi and the experience extended to Diamonds Dream of Africa Beach Resort over an exquisite lunch.

“Well synchronised event, creative chic designs, great crowd and brilliant execution,” said Senanu, an entrepreneur and investor in the TV programme Lion’s Den.

16 BRIDAL GOWNS

According to Ms Mukenyi, Kenya is ready for luxury fashion. “Growing demand and support from our customers is the main reason we unveiled Wambui Mukenyi Luxe, ” she said, adding, “The miles-high launch was to signify the leaps that the brand is making. From Kenya to the world, by bringing the best of Kenya to the rest of the world. Making great strides together with partners who believe in us, like Moët & Chandon, and our consumers who trust us to take the journey together.”

Every collection showed the designer’s love for luxurious fabric, while at the same time instilling her African heritage to produce timeless, feminine pieces. The dresses, in particularly, stand out because of the statement they make. They have a contemporary and elegant edge perfect for today’s modern woman that needs to be unique without making too much effort.

During the unveiling, 16 bridal pieces were showcased. The first catwalk was in the plane, which saw the models display the four designs. The collection featured elegant and trendy pieces, each of them an easy fit with the power to make an ordinary woman feel and look stylish.

On landing in Malindi, the models took turns to showcase the rest of the designer’s work on the beach. Wambui admitted that it was not easy and that she wanted to do something that has not been done here before; to test unchartered waters. “This was a good experience. I showcased the new designs that are definitely going to take wedding gowns to the next level.”

SAMANTHA’S BRIDAL SHOW

“The feminine gowns are carefully made with every bride in mind. This is showcased by the daring, strapless necklines, complemented by delicately boned bodices that are reminiscent of Victorian corsetry,” she said.

The shy and soft-spoken mother of one has an eye for detail, perfect designs, fabric choices and silhouettes, while at the same time guaranteeing her clients’ style and confidence on their big day. She embraces both classic and new styles, which are effortlessly eye catching and capture many a bride’s fantasies.

Founded in 2009, the Wambui Mukenyi label is the brainchild of the self-taught designer. She joined fashion company JF Fashions as a finance intern, but her destiny twirled on the wheel of fortune, resting on fashion and design.

Ms Wambui began by making custom-made pieces for her clients in 2009, before she branched out to wedding gowns and ready-to-wear clothes full of creativity and style. Her big break came later in the year when her products were used by the cast of Shuga, a drama series themed on love, sex and money. Since then, demand for her label has been soaring. Her pieces have been featured in prestigious fashion magazines in Kenya.

In 2012, Wambui participated in Samantha’s Bridal Show and The Hub of Africa Fashion Week. She described the fashion week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as a learning experience. In the same year, she collaborated with media personality Janet Mbugua to launch the Janet Collection, which boasts 20 designs.

Together they came up with designs that Ms Mbugua would be able to wear while travelling and for other formal occasions. Ms Wambui helped bring the combined ideas to life. Asked what is next for her, she said: “All we can say is, this is just the beginning. Stay with us, grow with us, and you shall see what awaits”.