What’s Hot Across The Pond: European Fashion Designers

It seems like Europe is always one step ahead of the United States of America when it comes to fashion design. Whether you know it yet or not, what’s fierce on the runways of Paris and Milan’s fashion weeks have likely not made it over to American runways just yet, and when they do, Europe will likely be on to more cutting-edge trends by then. So what is it that keeps the European fashion market one step ahead of the American market? Among many things, fashion school students speculate that it is the inventive European designers that keep their eyes wide open and their collections fresh and innovative. For those of you in speculation of this phenomenon, here’s a list of European designers who put on 2011 runway shows that awed young fashion lovers, photographers, magazine editors and seasoned fashion veterans alike!

Daughter of Beatle, Paul McCartney, the British-born Stella McCartney has been a successful designer since the nineteen-nineties. Though some speculate that she got an industry advantage because of her ultra-famous father, McCartney has proved herself time and time again to have immense creative vision and talent. After she graduated from fashion college in England, she was quickly appointed chief designer at the Paris fashion house of Chloe. Since then, her designs have been almost unanimously commercially successful. Her most recent collection for Autumn of 2011 plays with a lot of delightful gender ambiguity. McCartney has created loose, yet tailored women’s wear, including collared coats and blazers with a playful sensibility.

British shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood was raved about after February’s Autumn/Winter 2011 fashion week presentations. Relatively new as fashion industry insider, the designer has practically re-defined what is thought to be possible in shoe-design, with his alienous, decorative collection. Kirkwood’s shoes are usually unthinkably high, and they are often sprouting fur, feathers and beads. Often, they feature wild patterns, layered and diverse fabrics and materials, and always artful and unexpected angles. Kirkwood’s Fall and Winter shoes are truly a fashion delight.

Of Italian and Japanese heritage, Nicola Formichetti is the creative director for the French fashion house, Thierry Mugler, and the chief designer for pop sensation Lady Gaga. Originally an architecture student, Formichetti dropped out of school and became heavily involved in London’s club scene and immersed himself in the world of European street fashion. Eventually, he got himself a job at a fashionable boutique called The Pineal Eye quickly working his way up to art director and head buyer. His talent was soon recognized by fashion editors, which led to work in several high fashion publications, and eventually to his position at Mugler. Formichetti’s designs are often futuristic and hyper-sexual, evocative of the club scene he was once so heavily immersed in.

McCartney, Kirkwood and Formichetti are only three of the countless innovative minds in European fashion design. We look forward to future fashion seasons, and the striking collections that they will surely produce in years to come.

Fashion Photography

Do you want to be a fashion photographer? Fashion photography is an extremely tough market to break into, but if you are willing to work hard, have a good imagination and hold the ability to take perfect images you are off to a good start.

A fashion photographer must be good in two photography disciplines. First, you need to be a great portrait photographer – second, you need to be able to create images for the advertisement market. You must be able to combine the two if you are going to succeed.

To be a successful fashion photographer you must also have a love of fine design clothes – without it you will never achieve the heights that bring success. A fashion photographer must stay up to date with all the latest fashion and have the ability to use his/her imagination to sell new designs.

Selling is the key – the fashion photographer must be able to sell his images to the fashion editor. Fashion photography is advertising and selling clothes.

To establish a reputation in fashion photography, the first thing you must do is set up a portfolio. Your portfolio should display your best work and be your first selling point. The second, and equally as important as the first, is to set up an online portfolio – your own personal Website.

To set up a portfolio you first must hire a model. Contacting your local modelling agencies can do this. You don’t need to hire a well-known model for your fashion portfolio – you need someone who will act well in front of the camera.

To be very successful you need to build a good relationship with models. Some models can be tough to work with so people psychology will play an important part. If you intend to shoot from your home studio supply a changing room for them.

If a model becomes unhappy for any reason the photo session will be a waste of time. Allow your model to make their own suggestions – regardless of how trivial it may be, it will help to keep them relaxed and you may get results that may be useful.

Once your portfolio is created you need to get exposure for it. If you have previously published work – use them as a statement with the picture editors. You need to establish a good working relationship with all fashion editors that you’ll be working with. So be professional.

Fashion photo editors are looking for concise images that clearly communicate an idea. You must, as a fashion photographer, have the ability to create unique settings.

When you do gather a large amount of fashion images, submit them to a fashion agency: Women’s magazines all over the world buy hundreds of stock shots every month. Photo agencies exist to sell photographers images – some of the larger fashion agencies have buyers all over the world. Some agencies can also re-sell your work in several different markets, and others will give you great career advice.

Keep up to date with fashion magazines, study the market and always be on the lookout for changing trends.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step. If a fashion editor has no interest in your work – don’t worry – try contacting different magazines or agencies – most great photographers have their work rejected some time during their career.

Before They Were Brands – How Some Top Fashion Design Labels Got Their Start

They’re the must-have fashion design labels, the status brands that we just have to wear. But some labels and designers have become such a part of our fashion culture that it’s easy to forget that they weren’t always successful brands. At one point, the founders were fashion school students, stock boys or sales clerks. In fact, learning about how the designers got their start makes one admire them even more. Here, then, are some top fashion labels and the story of their humble beginnings.

Marc Jacobs. One of today’s top design celebrities, Marc Jacobs’ first job in fashion was as a stock boy at Charavari, an avant-garde clothing boutique in Manhattan. After graduating from high school, he went to fashion college, where he launched a line of hand-knit sweaters. His first job out of fashion school was at Perry Ellis, but he designed a grunge collection there that led to his dismissal. In 1986, with the help of financial backers, he designed his first collection bearing the Marc Jacobs label.

Kenneth Cole. Not many people realize that the full name of Kenneth Cole’s brand is “Kenneth Cole Productions.” Why is that? In 1982, the designer wanted to show his first line of shoes at Market Week at the New York Hilton, but couldn’t afford a hotel room or exhibit space. So instead, he parked a trailer two blocks from the hotel to sell his shoes. The only catch was that only production companies were granted permits to park trailers on the street. Not letting that stop him, he turned his shoe company into a film production company, shooting a documentary about his business and selling 40,000 pairs of shoes in the process.

Juicy Couture. The label that popularized the velour track suit was founded by fashion school grad Pamela Skaist-Levy and and Gela Nash-Taylor, wife of Duran Duran’s John Taylor. Believe it or not, their first product was maternity pants. After changing the brand’s focus to active wear, the brand continued to struggle until they sent a free track suit to Madonna with “Madge” emblazoned on it. The superstar was photographed wearing it in public, and Juicy Couture was on the map.

Vera Wang. She may be known for her elegant wedding gowns and costumes for figure skaters like Michelle Kwan, but Vera Wang actually started out as a figure skater as well. She competed at the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and was one of “Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd” that year. She failed to make the U.S. Olympic team and began a career in fashion journalism. She was a senior fashion editor for “Vogue” for 16 years, but left when she was turned down for the top job that Anna Wintour secured. She then became a design director at Ralph Lauren before striking out on her own.

Anna Sui. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Anna Sui loved fashion as a little girl, clipping out fashion magazine pages for her scrapbook. After attending fashion college, she worked for various junior sportswear companies by day, and designing her own clothing by night, eventually launching her own label out of her tiny New York apartment.

Ralph Lauren. Born Ralph Lifshitz, the designer’s first foray into fashion was selling neckties to his fellow classmates at his Talmudical academy. After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked for Brooks Brothers as a sales clerk. In 1967, he became an entrepreneur and opened a necktie store where he sold various labels, including his own, which he called “Polo.” He soon introduced men’s and women’s suits to his line, and eventually gained international recognition when he designed the clothes for the Robert Redford movie, “The Great Gatsby.”

These brands may have started out small, but they became fashion giants. And that’s inspiration indeed for anyone wanting to break into fashion design.