In the midst of this week's shows there are some truly interesting conversations going on at Milk Studios. I've been fortunate enough to sit in on two of them.
Thursday night, it was the Proenza Schouler talk at the IFB conference. Design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez sat down with the Business of Fashion's Imran Amed to discuss The Web. (As in bloggers, e-commerce, and viral campaigns.)
Their perspective was honest. McCollough and Hernandez said that they stayed away from the web for sometime, only to realize its potential after they hired Allegra, a social media whiz who tweets for the brand. Today, Proenza not only produces web-specific campaigns, they also sell exclusive items online (like the Mochila PS1 wallet I bought a few months ago). Last season, they even released a short film via Nowness directed by Harmony Korine.
Of course the topic of blogging came up, as it was the Independent Fashion Bloggers conference. We're happy to report that the duo understands the power of blogs, and appreciates their support. As for their thoughts on Franca Sozzani's blogger rant, Hernandez slickly replied, "Maybe our idea of influence is different than hers."
The boys also talked about how they'd like to maybe do a lower-priced line someday, rather than collaborating with a discount retailer again.
And while they answered the Italian Vogue question in a diplomatic but honest fashion, they were quieter about their relationship with Andrew Rosen, who is rumored to be interested in buying the label from private equity firm Permira. Imran tried his hardest to pull it out of them, but it didn't happen. "To be continued," is all they would say. (But here's an update on that: I heard today from a source that the deal was supposed to go through last spring, and it keeps getting delayed.)
Yet even though I'm obsessed with the Rosen-Proenza deal, it wasn't what last night was about.
It was about how the web itself has influenced these two designers. While they used to spend the first few weeks of a new collection period sifting through images from a midtown picture library, they now sit for hours upon hours, "Googling our faces off."
The web was less of a star at this morning's Shopbop sponsored Parson's panel. Instead, the focus was on innovation offline. The topic of discussion for Tommy Hilfiger, Rosen, J.Brand CEO Jeff Rudes, Rogan Gregory, and New York Times reporter Stephanie Rosenbloom was “Made in the USA: What Should We Be Doing?”
There are a ton of clothes still manufactured in the USA, but how can we make that number bigger? And should we even bother? The general consensus is yes, we should, and much of that manufacturing should be done in New York. Hilfiger, whose daughter Ally launched a new collection today, said he advised her to produce all of her clothes here in the Garment Center, mostly because she'll have more control over the final product. Rosen wants to encourage more up-and-coming designers to do the same--he's working on a initiative with the local government to give young designer's more access to the Garment Center's resources. "What I want to do is pull it all together and modernize," he said. (PS--If you think it's funny that Rosen, CEO of mass contemporary brand Theory, is talking about keeping the Garment Center alive, you'll be interested to know that 35% of the company's production is done in the US.)
A great example of a thriving manufacturing community in the States is Los Angeles, where most of the denim we wear and many of the t-shirts we buy are produced. Rudes, who is based in Los Angeles and produces his jeans there, said that manufacturing in New York isn't a pipe dream. And it can also create new job opportunities for immigrants and lower income families. "Import not only brings manufacturing jobs, but service, pattern making, and sourcing," he said.