This may be geeky, but one of my dreams as a fashion writer has been to observe a designer walking a department store sales staff through his or her collection. The great ones all do this--Michael Kors is legendary for it--but because it happens before the store opens, it's not something that onlookers often witness.
But yesterday my luck turned. I watched Katie Holmes and Jeanne Yang explain their collection to a small group of tenured Barneys New York staff. "If you have questions about the garments, email us," Yang told them. "We want feedback from the customers." This quick statement conveyed that Holmes & Yang is serious business--definitely not a silly side project from an actress and her stylist.
After the floor meeting, I followed them up to the penthouse for some tea and breakfast. "I love your tights," Holmes said of my leopard print hoisery, breaking the ice so seamlessly in a way only an actress who's been interviewed a gazillion times could.
The Fall 2011 range, which was previewed at a trunk show today at the store, featured plenty of silk, including a red and purple silk blouse that Phoebe Philo wouldn't be able to resist. There were also pencil skirts and pretty dinner-date frocks--a whole wardrobe for the woman who can afford its price tags. (One blouse I spied cost over $1,000.)
But there's a reason for the expense: In creating Holmes & Yang in 2009, the duo set out to design beautiful clothes with masterful construction.
Well-made for Holmes and Yang means Garment Center-produced. While some of the fabrics are sourced in Europe (a particular lace comes from the same supplier used by Hermes), the clothes are manufactured in the US. Much of it right in Manhattan. Their silk is even milled down the road--who knew there were silk mills in New Jersey? "It's important to us," said Holmes, whose mother owned a curtain business. (Yang's mother was a sewing contracter.) "The Garment Center has lost so much money over the years, so it's not only nice to work with those wonderful artisans, but to help contribute to [their survival]."
Yet the collection, despite it's exquisiteness, isn't precious. "I traveled with one of our long dresses this weekend and I was so proud of myself because I packed everything in a very small Valextra bag, and I rolled up our dress, shook it out when I got there, and it was ready," said Holmes.
Yang went on to reveal the ease and practicality behind the her pencil skirt. "We've added seams to break up the lining in the back." Holmes finished her sentence, "and there's power mesh as the lining! It's basically Spanxs without having to wear Spanx." As a power-hosiery hater--not for their talent but for their inability to stay put--this appeals to me. "There's not fat days with this thing," said Yang.
But jokes aside, what Holmes and Yang are trying to do, besides make great clothes for great women, is simplify things for those of us who maybe don't have access to a world renown stylist.
"We want to make things easier," Yang told me. "It's all about less clothing, more shoes."