Friday, April 18, 2014

Wishing You Happy Easter With "Show Stopping Hats For Spring" Artcile And Editorial on

 Every year just before Easter, I usually love to post colorful editorials to celebrate the Holiday and get into the Spring mood. This year it is even more so because for a while it felt like Winter here, in New York, will never end. New Article titled "Mad Hatters: Show Stopping Hats For Spring" went live yesterday via global Fashion site featuring editorial which included hats by yours truly and my secret millinery crush Eric Javits - legendary Milliner I admire so much.
 Editorial was photographed by Audrey Froggatt and Styled by the amazing stylist Faustina Rose. As you can see, there two models in each shot (well, besides the hats of course): gorgeous Model - Rachel Trachteburg of Elite modeling agency and a little doggie who was also given credit for this editorial - Philly Payne. :-) The hats of my Atelier featured in this editorial are : "Frida", "Pink Petite", "Loveless" , "Blue Lagoon", "Claudette" and "Sino". I absolutely love the end result of the editorial, definitely puts me into the Spring mood. :-) I am wishing all of you beautiful and blessed Easter.

 These last three images are the images of absolutely stunning hats by Eric Javits. I love his style of draping the turban and the way he commands color compositions. Phenomenal work and it is such an honor to be featured in the company of a Master Milliner like Mr.Javits. :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Business Of Millinery, Part 2: The Art Of Millinery Presentation.

  Fashion drawing is  created by Leonid Gurevich for Anya Caliendo.
My Grandfather, who served as a member of diplomatic mission  from USSR in China used to say : "Information is key to power". The more you know, the more you will advance, the more chances you will have to make correct, loss free decisions. This series of articles on The business Of Millinery (with Part 1 right HERE) is designed to give you a valuable insights into what otherwise known as  "the best kept secrets". Well, no longer...I hope my experience to a degree will help you in advancement of your own Millinery brand and as a result, will contribute to the powerful presence of modern day American Millinery Art as a strong, flourishing, exquisite and unique industry with in its own right. I believe with all my heart that together we can make it happen.

# 1 thing to always keep in mind is the fact that the creation of Couture Millinery Collection is just one of the steps in complex process of presenting it to the world. It is not an easy task, as I usually say: there is no easy steps in Millinery. You either live and fly with it, either sink. We, as Milliners, all have to pay so-called "business tuition" which often comes at a very expensive price tag. "Business tuition" is what you end up loosing before learning how to gain. I had my share of losses and for the most part I had to find my way via trial and error because, as I mentioned in my previous post, information on certain aspects of Millinery business is nowhere to be found. No one is generous enough to sit you down and explain how any of this works. At this point, I am not sure that any of the American Milliners working in Couture really know the ins and outs of the industry.

One of my favorite quotes is: "If the opportunity doesn't knock, start creating a door." I think it is safe to say  - building doors should be as important to you as creating new fabulous designs. Let's leave the subject of exposing your work via well known social platforms outside of this post for just a little bit. Social networks are extraordinarily important and often present the only gateway for the Milliner to position his/her work to the unlimited audience on more manageable budget. This subject deserves a separate post which I am working on right now and will post  shortly.

Today the subject of the conversation is "The Art Of Millinery Presentation". How does it really happen? What are the options? How much does it cost with in the main stream Fashion Industry? And, finally, is it really necessary?  Several years ago, when I just opened my Millinery Atelier I had very little or close to non idea about the culture and ethics of presenting solo Millinery Collection. I thought that the process stops as soon as you design the Collection: beautiful hats are all it takes. I was armed with tones of enthusiasm and strong vision of what I wanted my brand to become. I conducted very serious research on how, when and where to present my Collections. I was absolutely dumbfounded with realization that in the US the culture of Millinery Presentations (and I mean high quality, industry standard presentations) is absent from the scene. Two or three presentations popped up here and there, but all were done outside of the official New York Fashion Week and had very little or close to non press coverage. And so, along the way, as a new Milliner, I  ended up presenting in Paris. The first Presentation happened for me in THE BOX venue, in the very heart of Paris Fashion District on legendary Rue Cambon under the umbrella of Paris Fashion Week.

 The second was at the "Premiere Classe" in Paris the following year after THE BOX. And all though both showings went better than I could possibly imagine, generously sprinkled with new contacts and countless glasses of champagne,  the strenuous work that went into preparations leading to the shows drained almost all joy out of it. Just to give you an idea of the cost and effort that goes into presenting in the venues like this: you have to create an adequate, fresh, relevant Collection, get approval for participation in the venue, pay for the space which is usually 5,500 Euro per four days of showing (this is a minimum price for the 4' X 4' standard booth, the price increases according to the size of the space you choose), book a round trip airfare, hotel,  pay fees to the Customs for transporting collection so that the Collection doesn't get confiscated by the Customs on the way back to New York. Customs is a very difficult story and they usually require 50% of the cost of the Collection as refundable deposit, along with tones of paperwork. Don't forget, you also have to transport mannequins and displays to make sure your booth presentation is immaculate. Of course, there are rental options in Paris, but the price is usually so high that it ends up being cheaper to bring everything with you. As a reward you get to meet buyers from all over the globe who place their orders for the hat styles of their choosing right there and than. You are able to process all transactions right there and than and do business for the entire duration of the exhibits. Overall, the risk to be left in the red is very high. Mainly due to so many other expenses along the way like, for example, paying for your assistant. It is physically impossible to do all of the above by yourself and so assistant is a must. At the end of the day, you need to sit down and while carefully considering all expenses, decide if your Collection is strong enough to produce the kind of sales able to cover all of it + bring profit.

I felt Paris was a great place for me to start and I do not regret doing it, but at the end of the day - Paris is an Ocean away and since my Atelier is based in New York, naturally, I wanted to build solid base for business here.

Participation is MBFW has been a life long dream for me and one of my greatest accomplishments so far not only as an American Milliner, but a Milliner who is striving for personal professional advancement and,above all, advancement of modern day Art of Couture Millinery. I was naive in thinking that presenting on professional level here, in New York, will be less costly than in Paris...So what does it take to present on the highest level ? It takes A LOT! Not only in terms of strong, versatile, well thought through collection (which is a huge part of it too) but in terms of approval and capability to sustain costs too. First step is to be approved by IMG and since solo Millinery Presentations are so few and far in between, this along can be a challenge with in its own right.

The quality of the designs, craftsmanship, your vision in general, the values you stand for as a professional take center stage. Be prepared to go through countless meetings and be the greatest advocate for your art. Once you have passed this stage, endless row of technical moments kick in. For example: physically preparing for Presentation. Every step of it has to be properly coordinated with the industry representatives to make sure that your Presentation is up to the industry standard. This is where PR representation becomes very valuable. Your PR will handle all ins and outs of organizational moments, as a middle man between you and the Industry. You will be asked to produce Presentation lay outs via special computer programs, you will be asked to submit for approval every single prop you would want to bring to the set of the Presentation, every single display style, your Invitation images, your press release text, your preliminary Look Book appearance and even models - all subject for approval. Your PR will be responsible for getting sponsor participation of make up/ hair/ nail teams sent by the best brands in the Industry. All of it with a single idea in mind - to make sure that your Presentation is done in the most professional way. The price tag will reflect all of it. After all, Fashion Week as a premier event, everyone makes money on it ! And this means, everyone will make money on your participation too. You will end up paying premier prices for every single service required.

With in the past 10-15 years, the prices of shows, presentations and supportive services costs increased dramatically. Just to give you an example: the first ever Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show had a tiny budget compared to today’s fashion extravaganzas. The 1995 show (which was not televised) had a budget of $120,000. The show of 2012 had a budget of $12 million. I know this is a large scale but even for much smaller shows and presentation modern budgets are catastrophically overpriced. In my opinion, this  fact makes it almost impossible for new brands to sustain regular presence with in the context of main stream Fashion Industry. Even more so in Millinery - where the scale of Presentation is usually very compact due to the nature of the hats.

 Once again, let's look at the menu, shall we? Show production for a single show by professional PR firm will run you somewhere between 25,000$ to 35.000$ - and I am not talking about catwalk shows. I am talking strictly Presentation style. The prices for the venue which are limited by the Industry will also leave you, how should I put it mildly, in the state of quite frustration. Keep in mind that venues are limited not because there are no alternative spaces for Presentations, but because it is extraordinarily important that the venue you present in is located with in the so-called "fashion path" - close proximity to Lincoln Center so that editors and stylists can easily make it from one show to another without wasting too much time on travelling back and forth. Mind you, as a new designer on the scene, you are encouraged to go for Presentation at Lincoln Center because you will have more success attracting more audience by simply being with in the Lincoln Center. Makes all the sense in the world: for many your name is still too unfamiliar to travel somewhere else to see what you have to offer.

 Lincoln Center is a subject I would like to touch on separately. It is a great venue for presenting Apparel Collection. If you are a designer of clothes this is, indeed, the place to present in. Fabulous catwalk spaces, generous backstage areas. Unfortunately, it is not geared up toward housing Accessory Presentations.  This is due to the enormous spaces with high ceilings and all black backdrops which creates tremendous amount of negative space. It looks too industrial, too commercial and lacks that sense of chic Paris is so famous for.

Negative space is your greatest enemy. With negative space all around, you would have to put triple effort into making sure it is visually filled. There is nothing worse that Presentation with the effect of "lost in space" when due to a negative space all your displays become small and insignificant in proportion to the surroundings. Not even most beautiful, editorial hats will be able to save the day.  Negative space has to be filled and that's where props nightmare usually kicks in. "Props" is perhaps the scariest, most overwhelming word to the ear of any designer. Props are capable of quadrupling the price tag of your Presentation in a heart beat. "Props" are additional to displays objects used on stage or on set during Presentation. They have to be eye catching, theatrical, visually irresistible because remember - it is all about how your Presentation will photograph by the press. If it photographs well - you will get an enormous press coverage, if not - it is your loss. Plain and simple.

 Besides it, props have to highlight your Presentation in a way that compliments your designs. A single prop depending on the design can cost you anywhere from 1,500$ to tens of thousands depending on the size and complexity. One of the designers I know had a beautiful idea of creating large over sized jewelry box as a prop for her Presentation. Nothing too dramatic 3' X 2.5' with white finish. The price quote provided for this job by a prop company - 9,000$.  You will end up having an additional bill for transporting it to the venue of Presentation. Add to it a separate bill for  assembling props and presentation set because it is a venue policy that you or anyone on your team is prohibited to handle set assembly. It is all done by the staff of the venue who are paid much more for their labor because these people are union workers. The same goes for dismantling and loading everything back to the truck once Presentation is over. You do the math.

Additional mandatory items on the menu are: 1. Music. You are required to pay for every single song to make sure there is no breach of copyright law and you will be requested to provide proof of purchase - this will run you several hundred dollars. And this is the least expensive of two options with the second one being a DJ. Not just any DJ, but a celebrity DJ. The cost - 5,000$ 2. Catering for the entire crew which includes your team, beauty team, models, workers on the set - starting from 1,500$ . 3. Once again, venue provided crew of workers who are responsible for assembling and dismantling the set of your Presentation. - 1,500$ 4. Dressers, people who are responsible for dressing models - depending on  the number of the models participating in the show you would need one dresser per model  - $2,000 for all dressers on the set. 5. Insurance purchase - 750$. 6.Venue cost - Presentation venue at Lincoln Center - 18,000$ for the smaller venue . 6 Steamers, communicational radio sets  25$ a piece with minimum of 5.

Venue at 18,000$ will buy you 4 hours only. It means that with in this time frame the previous Presentation has to be dismantled, venue cleaned out, your Presentation has to be assembled, models have to be dressed, styled and prepped, hats placed on displays and the show must go on. 4 hours include 3 hours of prep time and 1 hour for the show itself. The rhythm of the entire experience is stressful and overwhelming. Your only way to preserve your sanity is to have couple of drinks and  a very strong, capable team of people who know exactly what to do, how to do and do it efficiently without asking you gazillion questions here and there. It would be unfair for me to tell you that this enormous effort doesn't pay off, because the truth is it does. Providing that your Collection is strong and everything is done correctly and in accordance with Industry standard, the returns are wonderful. You will end up with tremendously increased sales, you will be invited to work with the best names in the industry. The quality of editorial work will increase and your name will be forever written into the book of Fashion Industry contributors.

And so here you have it. Of course, alternative Millinery Presentation always remain an open option. By "alternative" I mean those Presentation that run outside of the main stream Fashion events. They are more cost manageable with every single decision under your full control. It doesn't mean that decision making process becomes any easier or that the number of decisions to be made goes dramatically down. Remember, that the goal, whether you choose to go via mains stream fashion Presentation or independent one, always remain the same: maximum exposure for your Millinery brand, maximum press coverage, maximum result. Otherwise you just invested in a really expensive party that a week from now will be just that - expensive party.

The images of the Collection would still have to be superb prior to the release (known better as Look Book images), editorial images (the expression of more artistic side of your Collection) as well as the images done during the Presentation. The way you present the Collection, style it would still play a huge role. The location would still matter a great deal,  the guest list would still have to be constructed with very careful thought with the main emphasis on guests who represent key fashion publications, influential figures of the industry, press and so on. And this is where you will feel the need for PR reps more than anywhere else. Coveted lists of press are usually priced at several thousands dollars and do not guarantee that the information is accurately updated. The rotation of staff in the magazines is usually very high, which means that the e-mail address of the accessorily editor, for example, may no longer be valid since it is a usual practice to "close" the e-mail address assigned to the staff member once the staff member is promoted or no longer with publication. If you decided to go with PR representation you will end up paying thousands of dollars and the lists of the key people in the industry with all contact info in tact will remain the property of PR. You will not see a glimpse of it. It is in a way a great money maker for PR firms because in order to obtain industry contacts you will have no other choice but to enlist PR services season after season to stay current.

In my opinion and from what I have observed so far, majority of alternative Millinery Presentations helplessly sink. It is especially painful to see when you realize the amount of effort that goes into putting them together. There are several reasons for disappointing outcome: 1. Poorly thought through budget. 2. Inadequate location 3. Bad lighting and as a result bad quality of the images. 4. Unprofessional photographers on the set. I insist that photographer must be a fashion photographer. Not a wedding photographer, not the guy who specializes in architectural photography or occasionally does family photography on the weekends to supplement his income. The photographer must be familiar with the certain rules of photographing models in motion, angels as well as static displays. 5. Bad model casting. Don't kid yourself thinking that your pretty next door neighbor will do. Or, perhaps, your good looking family member. Not a chance. And, by the way, let's leave that "real women" wearing hats BS aside too. If you want to run Presentation which has nothing to do with presenting it in accordance with industry standard than don't be surprised when you see very little returns. Yes, the standard is high. Yes, it is difficult. Deal with it. Instead ask yourself this: does the Art of Couture Millinery deserve to be presented to the highest standard, with the best effort, with the same very effort you put into designing every single piece of your Collection? If your answer is "no", well, than you don't deserve to be called a "milliner". As I say once and again - real women do not buy hats to look like everyday women, they buy a dream, a fantasy 6. Untested beauty teams (make up, hair) and finally 7. Weak guest list. Any of this points can bring the quality of your Presentation down.

The sad part is the majority of Millinery Presentations always incorporate some of this points and more often almost all of this points at once. The immediate damage to you, as a milliner, will be apparent without a doubt. But above that,  the damage on how modern Couture Millinery is viewed is often beyond repair. Poorly presented Millinery Collections contribute to the cliché view of the industry in general as the bunch of dusty "Mad Hatters" (hate  this expression, by the way!), who somehow got lost in time. No edge, no vision, no very knowledge of how to present their own creations in a  way that is relevant to today.

Here are my key recommendations:

- Meticulously budget your presentation. Make sure to create an "expense sheet" with every single expense, no matter how small or large" carefully listed.

- Location. Very important to consider the benefits of all options and select option that will benefit your goal best. Remember to address negative spaces vs. constricted spaces. Neither one of them is a good option for you. I wrote about negative spaces above. Constrictive spaces (low ceilings, bright coloring of the walls) - will produce suffocating effect, it will show in the images and it will not look good.

- The best type of Millinery presentation is so-called mixed presentation. Millinery Collections presented exclusively on models run high risk of  underdeliverining. Yes, this is correct - underdelivering. It is extremely difficult to style a model with a a hat as focal point. You must be very couscous of styling models in such a way that nothing takes attention away from the hat. Did you know that many of the apparel designers who present during MBFW in New York hire or have stylists on staff who are responsible for styling their Collection? Another words, putting pieces of the produced clothing together? It seems that apparel designer should know better than anyone how to present his/her own Collection and yet the help of the third party is enlisted... Styling catwalk where hats are the center of attention is even more difficult, not to mention costly. In addition, putting smaller designs on models almost guarantees you that no one will notice detailing of the hat or even its general design. Presenting Millinery Collection exclusively on static mannequins is also a very poor choice. Images of hats on mannequins are always least desirable by press. A lot of the times quality of displays is a huge issue (especially in the US). Invest in good quality head displays - they will serve you well for years to come. You want to make sure that you have the best of both options to offer. Part of the hats of your Millinery Presentation should be displayed on live models. Choose the hats for the models wisely. Make sure that they wear "loud" (in a good way) hats. Hats that are editorial, colorful, large, unique, show stoppers - this will bring attention of press and photographers. Place smaller designs on mannequins. This way your guests will have an option of a closer look to appreciate detailed work, quality of the materials and overall craftsmanship.

- Make sure to have professional models. Did you know that not every model is considered to be an industry standard model? Many editors and stylists respond better to a certain type of models. Always tall, size 0 or 2. All you have to do is to look at the models who are presenting during big fashion events. Cast them very carefully, make sure that their facial features and condition of the skin is impeccable. By the way, this is probably the only reason why younger models are more preferable. Remember that hat is always about the face of the lady who wears it. Keep in mind that make up, no matter how professional it is, will magnify all imperfections and since Presentation is always a "close encounter" it makes sense to be very picky and choosy about your models. Make sure girls move freely and are not afraid of camera. Presentations are very different from catwalk shows and often even more experienced on the catwalk models "freeze" in Presentation setting.

- Professional lighting. I can not stress enough how important it is to any Presentation. Many of the times, professional lighting is not considered at all and I think it is a huge mistake. The difference between the images produced with professional lighting vs. natural lighting is enormous. Bad quality images will bring your press exposure to a dangerous minimum.

- Make sure to test make up well before the Presentation. Running test make up on models prior to the event is a must. This will ensure the quality and will help you to determine if what you had in mind for the make up options does indeed work in reality.

- Have professional photographer work on the set. Good quality images will go a long way for you not only in the immediate aftermath of the Presentation, but long after. Start building photo library for your own brand. This will come handy when dealing with the press inquiries and creating powerful presence via social network platforms like Official Face Book page of your Millinery, Instagram account.

- Be consistent. Make sure to have Presentation, even if they are on the smaller scale, with every release of your new Collection. This will ensure the currency of your operation and will help to staple your name in the minds of large audience. Another words, be present.

-Work on you verbal presentation. Many times correctly written press releases are overlooked by Milliners. You need to make sure that you present very clear description of not every single hat name by name, but also materials used and, of course, inspiration behind your Collection. This is your chance to control how press will view your Collection and how they will describe the Presentation.

- Make sure that supportive elements are carefully thought through. Your signature colors, your packaging, you logo, your tags - everything has to be put together in cohesive manner.

Finally, it is my personal belief that heard work always pays off. Whether you choose to be an independent Milliner working in Couture or a be a part of the group, make sure to maintain your own identity. For me, being an independent Milliner works better. I believe that there is absolutely nothing you can't not achieve standing on your own, providing you have a good head on your shoulders. You and only you can influence the prosperity of your own brand. So, be informed, keep creating beautifully made hats, believe in yourself and I can guarantee you will have no limits to what you can achieve. :-)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Today I Am "Incognito".

 The idea for "Incognito" took its life from two inspiration sources: The first one was purely philosophical in a way, a bit dark but full of unexpected guesses and mystery, a difficult task of visualizing the masks we all wear in our ordinary every day routines vs. who we are once we are left along at the end of the day in the privacy of our own sanctums. The second source had more of a mechanical nature: I always wanted to experiments with half over the face shapes and heavy attachments in such a way that it still has lightness and crisp structure.
"Incognito" carries the side attachment filled with violet and black silk rushed flowers made out of whopping 6 yards of silk! Each of them adding to the obvious drama of the hat. One of my most challenging designs in terms of construction and I have to say, one of the darker pieces I have ever worked on...
 Friday is here - which makes it unbelievable fact #1 in my book for this week since I woke up today convinced that today is Wednesday. :-) I will pretend that I somehow lived out the lost days while wearing "Incognito" and simply have no recollection of it. :-) Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Introducing "Miss. BourjouiX" of "Confessions" SS2014 Collection.

 In continuation of my previous Post on Kentucky Derby hats (which by the way, as I was told, created swirl storm of reaction via certain social platforms) I would like to introduce you to "Miss. BourjouiX" - the hat of my SS2014 "Confessions" Collection which was designed with the idea of elegant race wear in mind. I stand by my previous thoughts and comments on how I view Kentucky Derby hats. Again, not all of them, but the vast majority. I don't believe in sugarcoating bad taste because bad taste in hat wear comes from variety of different places, including milliners who produce it in the first place. It is contagious and dangerous because ultimately it dramatically lowers high standards (which, by the way, at this point must be clearly announced the same way Royal Ascot announces its guidelines) of the legendary event like Kentucky Derby. So forgive me if I seem a bit too emotional on the subject. I believe that  the only way to address it is to confront the issue head on and call things for what they are instead of substituting it with weak attempts to perhaps-somehow-maybe-slowly-God-forbid-not-to-say-something-that-might-upset-some-invisible-face- in-the-crowd, change the reality of what we see right now. And one more thing - "negative" is not always a bad thing. I have been writing my Blog for years now and 95% of my posts are very positive. Sometimes "negative" is the only way to address the issue. In any event, it is MY opinion, which I express in MY Blog and if you strongly disagree, well, than, too bad. There is nothing I can do. And I say it with the most positive smile on my face. Believe me.
 "Miss. BourjouiX" was created out of a yard  and a half of luxurious double faced Italian silk satin and has been such a pleasure to work with. It is everything I would want a Race hat to be - elegant, crafted to perfection, detailed with exquisite accents like French Veiling, couture silk flowers and velvet ribbons to enhance its beauty. I don't use any sewing machines anywhere in production ever and so every stitch is done by hand, with not a single one of them out of place. It did not came as surprise to me that after is was shown at my Presentation at MBFW in New York it became one of the most requested hats by stylists. :-)
 I am wishing everyone a great week ahead and hope that this week you will get to do what you love to do the most. Because it is the most amazing, blessed feeling one can only hope for. I feel very lucky. :-)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Editorial Work: The Hats Of My Atelier For "Vanity Fair" Italy, March 2014.

I have soft spot for certain fashion publications. "Vanity Fair" Italia is one of them. I remember sitting in my Atelier back couple of years ago on Sunday, with a badge of fresh Issues of numerous fashion magazines, flipping through the pages of "Vanity Fair" Italia and thinking how cool would it be to one day see my hats on the pages of it. If one lesson I learned through the years of operating my Millinery is that dreams do come true. Not only that, but they do come true and than some. So thrilled to see three of my hats gracing the pages of "Vanity Fair" Italy, March 2014 Issue. I just LOVE saying it: "Vanity Fair" Italia, "Vanity Fair" Italia, "Vanity Fair" Italia! Lol I can go on...
Two separate editorials, both styled by the amazing, sweet, extraordinary visionary-stylist Selin Bursalioglu (I am such a big fan of her work!) include hats of my Atelier:
"Avatar" hat created for my "Sanctum" 2013 Collection you see on the picture above in a dark editorial titled "Prendere Il Volo".
Another hat titled "The Thief: Ruby Hunter" of "Confessions" 2014 Collection is also appearing in the same "Prendere Il Volo" editorial.
Finally, "Blue Lagoon" hat, also initially created for my 'Sanctum" Collection 2013, looks beautiful in "Pop Tribale" editorial for the same issue of "Vanity Fair" Italia. What a great way to start my weekend. :-) My April Session of my Millinery School is in full progress and I am enjoying not only the company of amazing, talented, very accomplished people who came to stay with me for the entire month of April, but I am also looking forward to many more press coverage we works so hard to obtain. I will share every bit of it with you. Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Business Of Millinery, Part 1: Hats and PR. What Are The Options And How Does It Really Work?

Illustration Created by Leonid Gurevich For "Anya Caliendo.Couture Millinery Atelier."

     Or does it work at all? There are some topics in the modern day business of Millinery in the US, nobody talks about. Somehow vital and important bits of information on how to advance your Millinery business in the context of todays
Fashion Industry remains hidden. They are as mysterious as black holes scattered in space-time. Since the establishment of my brand, I came to the conclusion that this phenomenon might be attributed to the following fact: Couture Millinery, as a part of Accessories Family, is not marketed and supported by the main stream Fashion Industry as aggressively and consistently as the rest of the family in accessories division such as shoes, bags, scarfs, belts, sun glasses and etc.. Traditional Couture Millinery in the US is itself a big black hole missing from the map of action. A little disclaimer: I am not talking about accidental milliners, milliners who decided to be a part of the profession for the shier love of hats and to whom creating hats is more of a hobby rather than an attempt to build strong, viable, successful Millinery. I will also leave outside of the discussion factory made, mass produce hats simply because this is entirely different direction in Millinery and has nothing to do with Couture aspect of it.

Disappointingly, the business of Couture Millinery in the US is not supported by Fashion Industry nowhere near (often feels like not at all!) as strongly as it is supported in Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. There are many fantastic initiatives created in support of the Millinery Art overseas. For example, "Headonism" initiative by a British Fashion Council curated by Stephen Jones which celebrates  new wave of emerging London milliners is keeping the art of Millinery alive, updated, strong and present, securing the path way for new generations of Milliners of the future. British, who don't really have to worry
about the survival of the Millinery as an Art Form, because of the traditionally  formed hat culture, go an extra 10 miles to make sure that Millinery remains as strong and rich in diversity as ever. "Headonism" doesn't get just few hours on display in legendary Somerset House in London during London Fashion Week. It stays on display all through the entire Fashion Week.

Majority of  Parisian Couture Houses have Millinery departments and, as we see every season, hats continue to have strong presence on Parisian catwalks. Some of the Parisian Houses choose to employ efforts of well established Milliners located near by. In 2005, if my memory serves me right, Karl Lagerfeld invested funds of the House Of Chanel into purchasing rare artisians like Atelier Legeron , Ecole Lesage and Maison Michele - couture Millinery the only one of its kind remaining in Paris to secure  and protect the survival of the artisians. Italy with Milan(the birth city for the word "milliner"), at the very heart of best traditions in craftsmanship, continuously supporting one of the best headgear in the world starting form beloved brand "Borsalino"  and all the way to romantic, airy, fabulous hats and headpieces on its catwalks.

We, as Milliners in the US, to this day do not have a firm platform upon which American Millinery can reignite its strong presence as a unique, independent, rich with an amazing historical tradition trade, alive and well, in all its glory  on the forefront of major Fashion events and American Fashion in general . Some of the iconic names in Fashion like Donna Karan, for instance, still turns overseas to order hats for her collections as well as some other well established, legendary names of American Fashion.

 Today, it feels like American Couture Millinery is an orphan sister of Accessory Family whose rare appearances you see during countless family functions. Her appearances are random, brief and sporadic. It is somehow always a glimpse and rarely a full view. Lets take a close look at what is really happening with American Couture Millinery vs. main stream Fashion Industry.

The support of the Fashion Industry is established in a variety of different ways. If you look at the  members of CFDA, the main lobbying force in the American Fashion Industry, you will easily notice that the ratio between apparel designers, jewelry designers, shoes/bags/glasses designers vs. milliners is astonishingly inappropriate. Out of 400 members of CFDA 4 ( + 2) are Milliners. Think about this for a minute... The support of Fashion Industry also comes in a variety of editorial features. For example, pay attention to very popular widely run features like "Top 10 Accessories for Spring", "Best Accessories Of The Week" and so on. If you monitor it closely, you will see that hats are present 5 times out of 100 (lucky if that many!). In addition websites like , for example, don't even have "hats" listed as a separate category in the sub-list of "accessories" tab.  Often, major American Fashion Publications choose to consistently cover well known Couture Milliners located overseas. We all have tremendous respect for their names, but at the end, American Couture Millinery remains in the shadow as if it does not exist at all. The assumption is that the place of American Couture Millinery is somewhere on the dusty shelves of archives or rare millinery exhibitions, in the nooks and corners scattered all over the place, in unassuming workrooms, ateliers, home studious - away from the spot light. We are struggling for the shier survival of the Art Form of true Couture Millinery.

While the support of the Fashion Industry is critically important, it is also important to understand how the marketing of the brands happen in the context of today's Fashion Industry. Having been around the corner or two, my impression is that the current state of affairs makes it almost impossible for any Milliner to gain altitude and succeed in chosen direction without substantial (the word should be "insane" really) monitory investments in the brand. I am deliberately leaving the legends of the American Millinery like Eugenia Kim, Eric Javits out of this conversation. Eric Javits established his brand back in 1985. Eugenia Kim in 1997. Both started in the time when it was significantly easier to market due to an entirely deferent order of things: powerful PR firms did not yet influence the market cost of presentations and shows, things were often done on a very modest budget, connections were established much more easier, the vast majority of production for the Fashion Industry was still located in the Meatpacking district in New York, not in China, and the body of Fashion itself did not shift its focus from appreciation for the art of design and craftsmanship to the glitter and lights of huge, theater-like show productions at the price tag of hundreds of thousands dollars a pop, the first row attendees and flamboyant after show parties. And so here we are. The truth is: in the modern day business of Fashion it is all about who you really know and who represents your name.

With in the past 10 years PR firms (Public Relationship firms) in Fashion have positively reaffirmed themselves as often the only option on the way to the golden gate of Fashion Industry.  They are the go-to middle man between you and your dream. The Gray Cardinals of backstage who are capable of  making it all happen. There are many things one must be aware of before choosing to go with PR firm option, countless underwater stones that must be taken into consideration very carefully because this business is all about smoke and mirrors where nothing seems to be what it seems. Challenge # 1 is choosing the right PR firm that is not only well connected to the key people in Fashion Industry, but also the PR firm that has extensive experience in marketing hats. Do your research carefully, make sure to go through the existing list of clients to see the level of operation. Make sure to prepare a list of questions to ask on preliminary meeting and listen very carefully. Make sure to have a very clear picture of  how this particular PR firm operates. How often do they let people on the staff go and hire new interns? Because if they can not keep their own staff permanent, chances are - they are disorganized and overwhelmed. And this means - your case will be footballed from one case worker to another creating gaps and holes in your representation.

You will be surprised to learn that not every PR firm positioning itself as Fashion PR has enough experience and connections to do a good enough job. New York is housing hundreds of them courtesy of young, determined, hungry for success and money people fresh out of "Fashion Merchandising" faculties  of FIT and Parsons. Remember, PR is always about two things: communication and selling. Any PR person speaking off the record will tell you that the main objective of any PR firm is to sell their services to you. They will promise you the stars and the moon, tell you exactly what you want to hear (after all, they are excellent in communications and building client strategies), but at the end of the day YOU will be the one paying for every single choice and step they make on your behalf.  So, essentially, lets get a little cynical here, they don't give a rats tail about the art, craftsmanship, inspiration behind your Collection and so on. What they do care about is all mighty dollar. And there are plenty of those required along the way. Let's take a look at price points on the menu, shall we? 

One of the popular PR services is product pitching. For example. PR firm receives a request from a certain important fashion publication preparing to run a story on, lets say,  "Flowers in the Attic". Editors would like to request certain head pieces in the certain color pallet. Mind you majority of the stylists and editors do pitch to PR firms in search of what they need because it makes things easier on them. They choose not to have their interns contact each designer on the list one by one. PR firm than pulls out suitable designs from those designers who a signed up with them and ships selection directly to the magazine. Sounds wonderful except... not a single PR firm will sign you on a month to month basis. Instead, you would have to sign up for a year worth of services in advance which will cost you $ 5,000 per month x 12 months = $60,000 + tax . You are expected to pay out this figure without any guarantee that the hats you provided will make it in the publication at all. You will, however, be responsible for the shipping bill. These shipping bills no one ever discusses with you in advance but, potentially, the price of shipping can easily escalate to the sizable sum very quickly, leaving you in the red. This is due to the fact that in Fashion everything is last minute, everything has to be done yesterday. Especially if it comes to hats. The request for the hats always comes last.  Stylists will go above and beyond to secure apparel and shoes, jewelry and glasses weeks in advance. But hats are always the last to be thought about. More along the lines: "Well, it would be nice to have some hats... just in case...". In my next post I will touch on the difference between PR firm dealing with stylists on your behalf vs. you dealing directly with stylists.

Everything is shipped overnight or with a messenger (don't forget you also paying for the return shipping the same way) which brings the cost to 150$ to 300$  for a single magazine. Multiply by the number of inquiries PR firm gets and you will start picturing the shipping expense you would have to pick up each month. PR will pitch your hats every which way they can without any regard to shipping cost because well, you know, they are working for you and need to show you the result. The results will look like a statement letter at the end of each months sent to you with complete run through of the names of the publications, the months of the issues the photo shoots were done for and with a note on whether your hat made it into the issue or not. I chose NOT to be signed up with PR firm I hired to produce my show at MBFW for additional services, but decided to educate myself on the subject since the opportunity was there.

Do not be disappointed when you see big fat "0" next to this one. After all, remember? - nobody guarantees you anything. Just like no one will guarantee you that the condition of your sample hats will remain pristine. PR will never guarantee you a safe return of your hats, nor will it guarantee you a suitable replacement cost in the event of the loss. The hats are often mistreated on the sets, tossed aside carelessly, packed badly without care and as a result - your samples will have damage, often permanent. In term of money - you will never be able to sell them at their original price, will never be able to replace the cost of materials and production cost. Let's be clear on that.

Another thing to realize is that you are not the only designer they represent. You are one of many and so just as they pull your hats, they pull every single headpiece they see suitable from every other client they represent to put into the same photo  shoot. Independent Milliners are rarely represented by PR firms. You will never see solo Millinery collection resting comfortably for the world to see in the caves of PR showrooms. The head pieces, hats and head gear of all kinds come to PR from many different sources. For example, many apparel designers add hats, always factory made, always in very traditional classic shapes to their collection to extend revenues of income. Not only hats, but bags, gloves, shoes and belts too. So, if you are told that you are the only solo milliner represented by PR it doesn't mean that you will be the only source of hats and it doesn't mean your hats will be exclusively pitched. In a nut shell, for 5,000$ a month you get to play a great old-fashioned game known as Russian Roulette while only dreaming about exclusive representation of your hats.

Once in a while you will come across spectacularly, deliciously peculiar situations which have PR written all over it.  Some time in 2011, numerous fashion blogs and various publication announced that a young lady, American, by the name of Gigi Burris is appointed by Chanel as a resident milliner. The news seem to hit media outlets simultaneously which means that the press release normally issued in cases like this was distributed (as it should have been) by Chanel in its usual manner - via PR to all international media. Needless to say, it created a swirl of interest for the mysterious and lucky Gigi. In an instant her name became everyone's destination. At the time, 23 year old Gigi, fresh out of Parsons seemed to be the most unlikely candidate: first of all,
Chanel likes to keep it in the family so do speak and see Chanel going with American (not French)  resident milliner was absolutely unthinkable. Secondly,  Gigi, although wonderfully charming and enthusiastic, was too inexperienced for this sort of position and had absolutely no signature style developed. Finally, her hats - flirty, young and very uncomplicated at the time created very obvious dissonance between what she was capable of delivering as a milliner and high standards of Chanel. Few days later the same media outlets who reported the announcement had to post disclaimers and updates carefully adding that the story is not confirmed and that Gigi herself has no idea and absolutely lost as to who would have an audacity to report a false story on her behalf anonymously. At that time, I happened to be in Paris visiting the very same workrooms of Maison Michele where Gigi (according to the story) was suppose to begin her residency. The manager and CEO of Maison Michele, Mr.Hardouin  was extremely puzzled by the news and said that it must be a mistake. Turns out, the entire story was a...well, you do the math. I still smile when I think of it. What a brilliant, brilliant, pardon my French, ballsy move on the behalf of that terrible "anonymous" person. How awful! Very inconsiderate!

Among many other strongly suggested services on the menu are curious little things like "Promotional Week". In addition to your retainer cost you PR will highly motivate you to pay another 5,000- 6,000$ for Promotional Week. Essentially, Promotional Week usually runs 2 times a year and consists of the following: you place your entire Collection with your PR firm and they arrange a full week of visits to PR headquarters of the wide list of stylist, editors, buyers, clients and celebs they deal with. In many cases this Week is done outside of the New York Week Schedule and is arranged not only for New York office of PR firm but also alternative offices in LA (for LA the cost is separate and also will run anywhere from 5,000$ to 6,000$) . I am not sure if this is beneficial for the prosperity of the brand.

Another curious little appetizer is called "Celebrity placement" . And this is where, I have to be honest with you, all of it stops making any sense to me. AT ALL !!! According to this service you, as a designer of fabulous hats, is expected to shed 10,000$ for a single celebrity of a D-list to have an opportunity for this celebrity to grace their own head with you creation so that than this celebrity could grace  your own presentation or show with personal appearance OR to wear your design and credit it to your name at coveted Fashion events. What!? Really!? Duh, dummy, look how silly you look with you pretty little jaw on the floor! Now, sweetie, suck it up, reapply, put back on that cute little topper you just lost while having temporary stroke and listen to the rest. The idea behind this tremendous fees to PR is the push effort to gain clientele of a certain stature and financial capability who would actually be able to pay for the superb combination of design and craftsmanship. You just paid for another month of PR representation, sweated over huge 4 figure shipping bill - all in a single effort for those very people who can afford your hats to discover you and buy your hats. And apparently YOU end up to be the one who is expected to pay 10,000$ to a very person who, by all means, is perfectly capable of purchasing the hat. The best part (please drum rolls and a drooling cup because you will need it after another round of  convulsions) is that you are kept in the dark about who exactly this D-list celebrity will be. Anybody's wild guess here. I mean, with all do respect, Honey Boo-Boo's Mama anyone? Possibly?...

    And again - no control over the situation. It would be logical to assume that the fee is much higher for A-listers. So, how many of those celebrities we see on the front row of the coveted Fashion Shows each season are paid for by the designer vs. invited as a guest and loyal client? How many of the clothes and accessories produced by the designers are actually sold to celebrities? Very little. It is now considered a great luck if your hat is pulled by the stylist for a brief evening for a celebrity to  borrow and than return. Celebrities are now viewed as a walking sales pitch and many of them act like one. Why not? They all are getting to keep their fortunes untouched courtesy of new generation of PR who throw merchandise at them with a speed of  the bullets flying out a trace gun.  Well, remember it is all smoke and mirrors. All this style awards and best dressed awards  lost meaning and essence, because everything is borrowed not bought and the styling in the overwhelming majority of cases is done by someone else. The fashion crowd containing so many familiar faces of those who desperately want to be viewed as style icons and well promoted Fashion Bloggers - majority wear clothes they borrowed form PR showrooms or wear the clothes they are paid to wear as a form of advertising. Modern Day Fashion industry is more and more resembling giant glamourized second hand store. The time of sublime style icons who use to own their wardrobe and, oh horror!!! - dress themselves too: Nan Kempner, Millicent Rogers, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith, Anna Piaggi and Isabella Blow are long over. And YOU, as a designer working with PR, is lured into believing that you are a part of it and that you should breathe and dream of lending your hat for use free of charge...while trying desperately to establish and sustain your Millinery business...

   Why am I stressing this point? Because I believe you have to have a very clear picture before you will start feeding the always hungry monster of PR. This little Monster is about to get even hungrier since we did not even cover the topic of Fashion Week Show production expenses. In order to keep this series of articles on Business in Millinery manageable, I decided to post them in several installments over the next few posts. With in the next few takes I will cover the subject of successful Millinery Presentation/Show Production, compare alternative and price points between the shows that employ PR vs. independent shows. I will cover the alternative way of obtaining cost manageable PR services and make few suggestions on how to bring it all together, how to build your own personal relationship with stylists and secure wealth and prosperity of your brand without going bankrupt with in the few first years of operation. Meanwhile, if you would like to ask any questions with regards to this subject along the way , I will make sure to cover them as we go. Wishing you wonderful week ahead! :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Atelier Life: Very Recent Press And Editorial Work: "The SFP LookBook, SS2014", "Genlux" Magazine and "El Pais Semanal", March 2014 Issues.

 While I am working on the series of articles dedicated to the business of Millinery, on the subjects that are almost never discussed in the open, I decided to post  a bit of recent updates on Press and Editorial work of my Atelier. Our very talented IT guy, Richard, is currently working on posting new updates to my official website which should become available early next week. Thankfully, editorial requests are coming in and features on the hats of my Atelier pop out here and there, often unexpectedly, courtesy of different fashion publication. Thrilled to see my hats in the official The SPF Look Book for SS2014 Collections presented at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York.
 Always such a joy for me to see hats I have worked so hard on featured in the solid business fashion publications like this magazine. I count it as wink from the industry my way. Thank you, guys! :-) 
"GENLUX" Magazine, March 2014 Issue ran a small feature on the hat "Good Night, Amy!" Very kind of them. Thank you, GENLUX!

 Finally, "El Pais Semanal" Magazine, March 2014 Issue (I posted it via Facebook yesterday) ran editorial which included gold leather headpiece editors of "El Pais Semanal" custom ordered from my Atelier for this editorial. Love the dark look of the images and always enjoy working on very special, custom design pieces. :-)
 Wishing all of you wonderful weekend ahead. It is, finally, feels like Spring. :-) It makes it so much easier to work on several very special projects here, in my Atelier. :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Ko-Ko Muse" Hat Of "Confessions" Collection, SS2014.

 You know that the Spring is here when the orders for upcoming Racing Season begin to come in. March is almost at the end of its course but New York is still gearing up for that last blast of snow today. Well, snow or no snow, the production is always extremely intense here, in my Atelier. I like doing things far in advance and so "Ko-Ko Muse", which I am introducing to you here, has been created for my "Confessions" Collections with a very specific thought behind it - to bring elegance and chic to the hats of Kentucky Derby. I admittedly dismissed Kentucky Derby for years. I did design several hats for several of my clients attending the event but with one condition only - the design aspect was always left to me, I insisted I was given complete freedom when it came to the design of the hat. I did, however, refused every single request for the creation of your typical, ghastly, overwhelmingly ugly hat Kentucky Derby is so famous for. As far as I was concerned - I am not putting my name I have worked so hard to create on the hat I think is far below the standard.
 Unfortunately, big, bulky, acid colored, "rip your eye" kind of hats are still a big YES-YES for Kentucky Derby attendees, for the very rare exception of course. Thank God for this rare exceptions - without resting my eyes on them I might go blind one day. I think this is due to the fact that to American women attending Kentucky Derby the hat for the occasion is still more of an afterthought rather than a well thought through accessory. It is often ordered very close to the event and the main objective is to be noticed at all costs hence all this horrific giant bows and hyper flowers. / text edited/ Of course, there are beautiful hats we are treated to in Kentucky Derby round ups, but those, in my opinion, are far and few in between. Overwhelming majority of hats I view as unsuitable. I divide these in two categories: 1. Tasteless kitsch - these hats don't appear out of the thin air, they are created by milliners who cater to the idea that bigger is always better and that it is the hat that wears a woman not a woman that wears a hat. 2. Hats I call "safies" - these are the hats that would be suitable for work in the garden or casual wear - plain and average. In shoe terms, it is like flip flops in comparison to lets say Manolo Blahniks. They are obviously picked not because they are Kentucky Derby material, but because, well, it is hat and anything goes . Neither two of this categories are acceptable because neither one of this two categories serve up to the high standard of Kentucky Derby. I am puzzled and taken back by continuous lack of effort on behalf of Kentucky Derby attendees who bring less that acceptable headwear to the pride and joy of American Racing in the US.   Notice the difference: if European lady will always order her hat first and then built the entire outfit around it, American will most likely to leave the choice of the hat to the very last minute. Neither is necessarily write or wrong but it points out to the existing hat culture and tradition in Europe vs. absence of such in the US. This is precisely why the choice of Kentucky Derby hats we see year after year is so disappointing High standards of the Royal Ascot is there for the entire world to see and admire and yet always such a disappointing turn around of hats in Kentucky Derby chronicles. The word "standard" is a key word here. While Ascot have strict guide lines on what is viewed as appropriate race wear, Kentucky Derby does not. And so here you have it, just like with anything else - the absence of appropriate dress code will always reflect on what we see during Kentucky Derby. I hope I can contribute to slowly changing it to the higher standard. Let's start with "Ko-Ko Muse" - :-)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Editorial Work: My Hats In "Queen Selita" Dannijo Jewelry Line Add Campaign, Styled by The Glamourai.

 Absolutely love the end result of the "Queen Selita" editorial and Add Campaign created for the anniversary collection of the chic jewelry line Dannijo, styled by one of my secret style crushes The Glamourai. It is amazing to see the transformation of hats I created in the context of strong African aesthetics. One would imagine that the clash between two is inevitable but seeing it put together by the talented hand of The Glamourai team completely overwrites any doubt at all.
 You can view entire editorial with complete credits right HERE . The colors of it are so vivid, it makes me feel almost as if the Spring has already arrived. We have a beautiful sunny day here, in New York and I am looking forward to the day full of great new ventures. Wishing every one fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Editorial Work: My Atelier For "Interview" Magazine, March 2014 Issue. "Into The Darkness".

 As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, my Atelier has been overwhelmed with the number of requests for the photo shoots over the past several months. It is always mega exciting when your hats make it into high profile editorial and,in this case,  even more so, because this editorial titled "Into The Darkness" was styled by the stylist whose work I admire oh so much - brilliant Karl Templer and photographed by Craig McDean for the March 2014 Issue Interview Magazine. Sasha Pivovarova - one of my long time  favorites in the glamorous world of super models, took a center stage in telling the story of "Into The Darkness" editorial: "Rejecting the traditional conventions of all that's bright, white, and breezy, this summer embraces all that's dark and shady. The high drama plays out with a deeply personal, almost costume-y take on exaggerated silhouettes, rich fabrics, theatrical headpieces, and many shades of black". So proud to see my very strange, awkward darling "Vertigo" hat getting to enjoy spotlight in this editorial (you see it on the first image of the post).
The wardrobe for the photo shoot is equally impressive and consists of the pieces from the Collections of Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Schiaparelli, Ann Demeulemeester,  Haider Ackermann, Tom Ford,  Maison Martin Margiela..It is a little bit strange to see your name alongside these legends and I take tremendous pride in it. . This, my friends,  in a nutshell is the reason why I love what I do - to see the hats I work so hard to create as a part of the fashion story written with the help of so many brilliant creative minds. You can see entire editorial with complete credits right HERE . Wishing everyone inspiring and productive week ahead. :-)