Top designers celebrate major milestones
Fashion Week always fetes, well, fashion, of course, and the brilliance, creativity and vision of designers from all over the world. But this season, a bunch of these talented folks are celebrating more than just the clothes -- they're uncorking the champagne (literally and figuratively) and toasting their anniversaries in the biz.
In the early '70s, the Jerusalem-born Elie Tahari, now 61, came to America and worked as an electrician, moonlighting at a boutique in Greenwich Village, and sometimes sleeping on park benches. He popularized the tube top in 1973 (fluky, a manufacturing error), and then the handkerchief hem "disco dress" and began designing his eponymous label in 1974. He has been dubbed the "King of the Suit," in part because of his transformation of the then-masculine suit from boxy to foxy. Today, his calling card is luxurious but affordable wardrobe options that are sold all over the world.
On the milestone Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City of New York declared last Wednesday "Elie Tahari Day" in honor of the anniversary, to which Tahari said, "It sounds great, and makes you feel good, and it's humbling. . . . I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I've been a good taxpayer all these years."
What excites him "What's going to happen next. In five or 10 years it's really going to be a phenomenon -- a time of sharing and understanding. We are here to celebrate our customer. And I feel like I'm just starting out."
The celebration "My celebration is when I see people and they're having a good time. After a show, I want to go home, take a bath and go to bed."
What started as a ragtag shoe business out of a trailer for Kenneth Cole, 59, has turned into a huge global brand: well-priced ready-to-wear for men and women, accessories, shoes and fragrances, all with a hip veneer. Cole is well known for his social activism, using his company as a platform for creating awareness about issues such as AIDS, homelessness, gun safety and women's rights. He marked his anniversary year with a comeback to New York Fashion Week last season after a seven-year hiatus. He showed again on Saturday, and this fall will release a book, "This Is a Kenneth Cole Production" ($75, Rizzoli), about his journey over the past three decades.
Did he ever imagine he'd be doing this for 30 years? "I had no clue," he said, laughing. "The beautiful part of the business is that it's so ever-changing. I had no way of anticipating what would happen five years ago, let alone 30 years ago."
On the milestone "I'm very reluctant to sit back and give it a whole lot of thought. It's a time to reflect, but to be careful and still stay focused on where you're going," says Cole.
What excites him "The way people consume today. They pin it, they post it, they tweet and retweet it. Everybody defines themselves on their Facebook page, on their Instagram," he says. "With the pervasiveness of social media, we can engage with the brand in simultaneously meaningful . . . ways."
The celebration "I'll reflect and feel good for about 15 minutes. Maybe I'll have a sip of Champagne. And then I'll go back to work.
FRANCISCO COSTA FOR CALVIN KLEIN
Brazilian-born designer Francisco Costa, 49, was tapped for the job as creative director at one of America's most prestigious fashion houses 10 years ago, and suffice it to say he had some big shoes to fill. Not that he lacked experience, having worked behind the scenes with the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford. Over the past decade, the designer has twice been named CFDA womenswear designer of the year, and has imbued the minimalistic brand with his own sensual, luxurious signature.
On the milestone "The fact that I have been with Calvin Klein Collection for 10 years feels like a major accomplishment," says Costa. "I am very thankful for my team and the support the company has given me, which has allowed me to push the brand forward."
How he'll celebrate "In honor of the occasion, we are planning a special runway show and after-party at the new Spring Studios in TriBeCa. This will be the first time we have shown the women's collection at an outside venue during Fashion Week in over five years. I am looking forward to it all," he says.