As someone who has spent a few years in the fashion retail business, I find it impossible to look at the end of the '00s and not be fascinated by the changes.
First, celebrities increased their influence as they leapt onto the fashion scene, touching every aspect of the creative process from apparel to fragrance to advertising/fashion magazine coverage. Second, retail consolidations across the country created fewer store options for the consumer to buy at and for the designer to sell through. The result? Designers reached out through their own factory stores/outlets and online stores. On a positive note, the growth of the small, independent shop owner is a win for the consumer.
American women’s approach to dressing changed also. They are looking at it as one aspect of their lives and are enjoying creating individual style. They care less about “who” they are wearing, but more about how they look in the outfit they have put together. Eclectic dressing is here to stay!
Following are a few of the highlights that emerged during the last 10...
Galleria Designer Boutiques
Barneys said au revoir to our Galleria at the end of the last decade (’98) as its space became Chanel’s first free-standing boutique in Houston. This opened the gateway to what would become the great facelift of Galleria I. In a time when couture houses such as YSL, Valentino and Christian Lacroix were shuttering their doors, designers were changing the face of their storefronts to open them up to more potential shoppers, appealing more to the volume of passers-by and inviting everyone in to see their luscious wares. Interiors were updated to a much more contemporary luxe feel. Shopping in designer boutiques such as YSL, Versace, Ferragamo or Ralph Lauren in the Galleria is no longer a private affair.
This NYC socialite, designer and businesswoman made her debut into the fashion world in 2004 with a pair of ballet flats named the Reva after her mother. She not only started a trend, but she has built a brand from those flats. Tory Burch has evolved into 14 product categories online, as well as a signature style in her own Galleria boutique and in many of Houston’s finest stores. She once told me of a time she ran into old friends, and when they asked about how Reva was doing she quickly spouted sale numbers, only to realize that, oh no, they were asking about her MOM!
It’s hard to believe that we ever wore a fitted evening gown or a pencil skirt before Sarah Blakely decided to cut off her pantyhose in the year 2000 and create the undergarment of all undergarments, which we have come to know and love as Spanx. I have said many times that I am not sure what I did exactly before my Spanx, but I do know that it has become an idea that has legs (no pun intended) when the starlets and their dates discuss on the red carpet which one is wearing their Spanx!
Dresses, Denim and Fitness Wear
It wasn’t that long ago that pants and pantsuits had become such an important part of our wardrobes we were sure to check with fine dining establishments to ensure we could wear them there. Those priorities shifted post-millennium as the new decade brought in some new ways for modern women to express their feminine side. Pants have been replaced in the No. 1 spot by the hottest new fashion look to come along in a while—the dress. Retailers pinned it the “rebirth of the dress,” to the delight of designers like the revitalized Diane von Furstenburg and the new it-boy Jason Wu. Where did it come from? It’s all about the new confidence women are enjoying. Women now know they can compete with men at the office, go out to dinner from work and still look feminine and amazingly flirty if they so desire!
7 for All Mankind
7 for All Mankind made it chic to wear designer jeans just about anywhere. This fabric that is about as American—as Texan, even—as you can get is now totally acceptable, downright fashionable and dressed up when properly styled. Some other designers who have enjoyed stardom from this trend shift are Earnest Sewn, True Religion and J Brand, to name only a few of the hot denim guys.
When in Doubt, Accessorize
If you asked many of the city’s fashion finest just what they wanted their one special holiday gift to be, I can assure you for most it would be accessories. Not surprising, as this category, once considered fashion add-ons, ascended this decade to the top of the list of must-haves in every woman’s wardrobe. Simply said, there is no other way to update last year’s look easier, quicker and in most cases, with less expense than to add the newest accessories. This uptrend has caused dedicated accessories stores like À Bientôt to flourish.
Some of the biggest accessories trends of the decade were:
- Fashion eyewear. Prescription or non-prescription readers make a statement. (Trust me… I know about this!)
- Bold earrings. Chandeliers and hoops are here to stay
- Cuff and bangle bracelets. These add sophistication to any look.
- Scarves. Long and skinny, wrapped and wrapped again, scarves are not just a wintery idea. They also look great with a tank and jeans.
- Handbags. The big and the small of it; large for day, clutch for night
- Exotics, animal prints and metallics. Great in every category
Cheap 'n' Chic: The Target Effect!
In 2004, designer Isaac Mizrahi took that first bold step and made a deal with Target. It was the store that we all felt was far too focused on the masses to possibly have anything fashionable enough that we would want. Not only was it a hit for Isaac and the great minds of Target, but it became the hot ticket in town. Soon, many of the hippest designers of the decade were standing in line to put their creative juices to work. Target (like Euro staples H&M and Topshop) built on this concept of one-time only, designer collaborations to feature both established designers such as Zac Posen and emerging talent such as Rodarte, which just hit Target stores last week. This concept has proven to open doors for many designer step-down lines. It has fueled the retail competitive spirit as other retailers, such as Kohl’s, have featured the likes of Vera Wang, Nicole Miller and Dana Buchman.
Small Screen Style
In a decade that saw the complete embrace of fashion by celebrities, no one can downplay the impact of TV on the style of the nation, starting with Sex In The City, which straddled two decades ('98-'04). Not only were the Fab Four a feast for the fashion eye, but no doubt Carrie Bradshaw made Manolos and Jimmy Choos household names and flame-haired über-stylist Patricia Fields an icon. Now we have Gossip Girl where Blake Lively, Leighton Meester and Taylor Momsen have taken classic NYC prep-school dressing and made it playful and ever-so-trend-forward. On a different note, Bravo’s 2004 launch of Project Runway—which brought fame for our town’s Chloe Dao—was the first to bring the creative process of fashion design to the masses and made a star of its guru, Tim Gunn.
Purchasing with a Purpose
As we end the decade with a given amount of belt-tightening on discretionary spending, designers and retailers have joined forces to ensure that fashion, one of the world’s largest industries, lends a hand to make a difference in the world. Designers and retailers have found many ways to give back through consumer purchases that support many of the most important health and social causes around the globe. The Gap’s Product Red Campaign for Aids in Africa, (’06), the Annual Celebrity kick-off of Go Red Day for NYC’s Fashion Week (’06) to fight heart disease, the Annual Saks’ Key to the Cure Breast Cancer Campaign are just a few examples. Leading Houston philanthropists, store owners, designers and media have found many creative ways to make shopping for a cause a regular happening here all year long.
Click it and Own it
Where do I start with online purchasing? If there is a need that you have, you can be assured that you can purchase it on the Internet. This has become a way of life and makes “The Net” the leading retailer in the world. Now that we are all so online dependent, it's hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that Natalie Massenet stepped out and began net-a-porter.com, the first online designer site, which has led the way for her own outnet.com, online sample sale house Gilt Groupe and many others. Every designer, department store and specialty chain relies heavily on online purchases and, from a non-fashion point-of-view, could we survive without Amazon or the iTunes store?
So long Foley’s, Hello to Macy’s
Houston’s most famous home-grown retail name, founded in 1900 by the Foley’s Bros., went away as part of the largest retail consolidation in history. That was the purchase of The May Company, owner of Foley’s, Hecht’s, Filene’s, Lord & Taylor, Marshall Field’s and many others, by Federated/Macy’s in August 2005. The official name change of all stores happened on Sept. 9, 2006. For many of us it was an end of an era, but left us with hopes of a brighter future for department stores.
Roz Pactor is editor of The Chic Sheet blog.