When designers are selected as finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, they compete in a set of challenges to win the grand prize--$300K and mentorship for the year--which this year went to Billy Reid. One of these challenges was presented by Ann Taylor. The 10 finalists--Joseph Altuzarra, Billy Reid, Christian Cota, Eddie Borgo, Gregory Parkinson, Oliver Helden and Paul Marlow of Loden Dager, Moss Lipow, Pamela Love, Prabal Gurung and Robert Geller--were each given a box of images from Ann Taylor campaigns from the '50s, when the brand launched, through to today, and asked to create a look that would "rejuvenate, redefine and modernize the concept of wear-to-work dressing and set the next major career style trend."
The results? Pretty amazing. Last night, to celebrate the opening of their new concept store on 5th Ave. and 21st St., Ann Taylor revealed all the challenge looks. Winner Billy Reid created a look that paired high-waisted houndstooth-print pants with suspenders and a magic trench coat--the lining comes out and turns into a bubble hemmed shift dress. Pamela Love created a leather bag with a horn handle and a matching necklace and cuff. The color combination of Loden Dager's aqua blazer and blush pants was spot on. You can check out the looks modeled by the incomparable Karlie Kloss below.
But how did the designers fare in making career wear at an Ann Taylor price point?
Prabal Gurung had to sacrifice craftsmanship without compromising on design. "I just changed a few details," Gurung told us. "Instead of hand stitching and pleating it was machine done." But the challenge gave Gurung insight into where he could see his brand going someday (someplace we can all afford hopefully...like Target?). "When you're thinking outside the box and having to make something that's really presentable and well made it's a challenge but it's something that prepares you for what the future could be." He says he'd like to be designing more for mass "not very soon, but as some point it's something I definitely want to think about."
Christian Cota took Ann Taylor's heritage to heart in designing his look. He used white oysters from New England, where Ann Taylor started, as the inspiration for a water-color print blouse. Though Cota is known for his evening wear, he says he's keeping the modern woman in mind for fall and knows that she's at a computer all day--meaning, she has got to be able to sit comfortably. Amen to that.
As for Billy Reid, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner says he's "still in shock" over his win. But he's already reaping the rewards. He says he's already seen an uptick in sales for the month, and that accounts his team has been trying to nab forever are finally coming through.
But the pressing question, of course, what with the crazy popularity of high-low designer collaborations these days, is will we get to buy any of these fabulous pieces? Yes and no. But mostly no. Sadly, the challenge looks won't be produced for sale but the folks at Ann Taylor say there is an auction in the works (money raised will go to the CFDA) so stay tuned for details.
Now you can go ahead drool over these amazing creations.