Chris Benz has all the elements of someone who I think is awesome. He attended Parsons where I have been enjoying being a student for the last year. He was an intern at Marc Jacobs (cool) and went on to work for J. Crew (double cool) and he obviously just wants to have some good old-fashioned fun. Going through the images of the Chris Benz Resort collection, there is an obvious nod back to a delightfully nostalgic 1950s South Beach and you just want to jump into the clothes and participate. There is a certain degree of playing dress up while being ever so serious about how fashionable you are when it comes to this collection. I think it would be rather difficult for some of us 'common people' to pull off some of these looks but by golly I'll appreciate them and I'll probably try. Martini, anyone?
It was probably with the help of my being a student at Parsons (the birthplace of a fair few of the nominees) and a brilliant reality show about the selection of winners, but this year I was really into following the CFDA Awards. If you are not familiar, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honors the best of the best in fashion every year with their highly anticipated awards show. It is the Oscars of the fashion industry. The most exciting award that is handed out is the Emerging Talent award which celebrates the up-and-comers who are looking for not just their big break but also are gifted mentoring opportunities by fashion legends and heroes. Past winners and finalists include Rick Owens, Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen, Derek Lam, Rag & Bone, Rodarte, Band of Outsiders, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung (literally to name a few). Vogue and CFDA are serious about who they give their award out to...they look at designers who have been working to make a name for a while to prove their dedication and integrity in what they do. When you look at so many of the nominees, you're really humbled. Running a label takes a hell of a lot of money and exposure, just having great designs is not enough to fund a business, and it is crazy to see some of your favorite labels admitting that they struggle to keep their doors open.
This year, some of my favorite names showed up as nominees and having the chance to watch them compete for the prize was so exciting. From Cushnie Et Ochs to Creatures of the Wind to SUNO to Pamela Love, these are beautiful designers of apparel and jewelry that really have dedicated their entire existences to their craft.
And the judges/mentors are nothing to laugh at either. The fellas from Proenza Schouler sit around a table with the likes of Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, Reed Krakoff and Jenna Lyons. I'm intimidated just writing the names out, can't imagine what putting your livelihood out for critique would be like.
What is really great, and a true show of the amazing work that Jenna Lyons has done and continues to do at J. Crew, is that this year, the winner and two runners-up had the chance to design their own capsule collections for the reborn brand. Winner Joseph Altuzarra was the first to release a collection of apparel for J. Crew and, from the looks of it, there isn't much left to get for yourself!
Probably the collection I was most excited to see was that of runner-up Pamela Love, whose jewelry designs I adore. She champions a tribal, somewhat undone but always hard as nails aesthetic that really is a genuine portrayal of her own style. Most surprising about the collection is that she did not design the expected big necklace, cuff and slightly awkward ring. She went with denim! I especially love the jean jacket (it's on my bday wish list, wink wink) and I am so happy to see a bit of a departure from her comfort zone. These items are available online now so get them while they're hot!
Up next is the final capsule CFDA collection by Creatures of the Wind, launching June 14th. The preview looks adorable, as to be expected.
It would be impossible for me to write this post and say that I wasn't a patron of J. Crew because, in reality, my first credit card was a J.Crew one. That should say it all. But it has to be admitted that I've been a little bored and let down with a fair amount of the designs from the brand as of late. There seems to have been some panic about positioning and all of a sudden the store is awash with outrageously priced basics and even more outrageously priced key pieces that seem to have no place at the retailers. It's not even a case of 'I went in for a t-shirt and walked out with a feather dress made entirely of sequins' because anyone going in there for a t-shirt is never going to believe the salesperson when they tell them said skirt is over a thousand dollars. I just haven't understood the angle. Their outlet store must be packed to the brim.
HERE'S WHERE IT GETS GOOD. The Spring 2012 collection that J. Crew showed not only had me scratching my head, but doing so while jumping around, clicking my heels in excitement. Admittedly, 'the Crew' has always been very good at styling but this collection is even great without it.
CRASH BACK TO REALITY. This stuff is going to be expensive. Or the majority of it will be astronomical, making the rest of the collection seem very affordable indeed. But it almost doesn't matter. I'm in love. Where's that credit card...