Is the Industry Saturated with Too Many Independent Fashion Labels? Chris Gelinas Weighs In

Chris Gelinas with models at the CG AW14 collection presentation, presented by MADE. Photo: Aria Isadora/BFAnyc.com

With Band of Outsiders and Kris Van Assche both shuttering this week, another independent fashion designer, Chris Gelinas of CG, weighs in on the struggles of the industry.

Good night and good luck? New York independent label Band of Outsiders and eponymous collection of Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche both closed their doors this week. Van Assche announced the shuttering of his brand in a hand written letter to WWD, adding, “Times are tough for individual labels.”

Bruce Weber Book Launch hosted by Andre Balazs and Nan Bush at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach
Kris Van Assche with photographer Bruce Weber. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

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Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders with model Hanne Gaby Odiele at the 2014 CFDA Awards. Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com

With the punishing fashion schedule now demanded by the industry and consumers, designers are feeling the pressure. For those who can’t hack it (and how many really can?) it often means closing shop.

Business is tough when you’re small. You’d think a CFDA Award or an LVMH Prize nomination would help — but the prize money often hardly covers debt of doing business, not to mention the paying cost of production for work required to enter competitions in the first place. So the struggle is all too real, even for the designers who receive accolades and awards for their work.

Take, for instance, Chris Gelinas, designer of CG, who was once first assistant to Olivier Theyskens at Theory, and has also worked at Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, and Proenza Schouler before creating CG. (Theyskens has been highly vocal about young designers not starting their own labels, telling Dezeen earlier this year that the industry is oversaturated.) Gelinas’s label has been recognized as the 2013 winner of the MADE for Peroni Awards (for his very first collection), a 2014 LVMH Prize Finalist, and now USA Nominee for the 2015/16 International Woolmark Prize. It’s impressive, and you’d expect business to be booming. But what do the awards really mean when building a viable brand? Gelinas told us exclusively,

“I think it is harder and harder to compete as an emerging, independent designer in New York. This isn’t to say the hurdles are a bad thing; I think it is good to struggle because for a time it helped eliminate the more superfluous noise and allow those collections made with a lot of passion and determination to gain some spotlight.  Money talks, that’s not new, but these days it screams, and passion, emotion, and creativity aren’t enough to survive. Midtown factories are being converted into hotels and tech companies with deep pockets are happy to pay huge rents creating bigger hurdles just to operate, and putting more pressure on sales.

I personally think the whole conventional wholesale model is designed to make it nearly impossible to get established if you are not incredibly well funded. Deep discounts, charge backs, boring assortments that strip away the message and essence of a collection, compounded with the pressure to deliver more and more; it all robs the design process of enough time to properly craft and create.

The industry has fostered a calendar that relegates our prized ideas to the sales rack in a matter of a couple months, sometimes less. We have trained consumers to want store merchandise refreshed as quickly as their Instagram feed and emerging brands are expected to enable this type of consumption by offering more and more. I have been building my collections slowly with focus on fit and quality, and while those aren’t the glossiest elements or the most buzz worthy, I feel like I am hedging my risk by dedicating my energy to my clients directly. Loyalty is more fleeting these days in an industry obsessed with change and newness, but I have noticed that if you can engage your customer and give her pieces that make her not just look amazing, but feel amazing, she will always be back, and usually with friends.”

Gelinas’s “slow fashion” and personal approach to creating both clothes and a customer is refreshing in a world of Zara, with as he says, “merchandise refreshed as quickly as [a consumer’s] Instagram feed.” We’re watching CG closely, hoping his approach catches fire.

CG AW14 Presented by MADEFW
Chris Gelinas with BlackBook Style Editor Alyssa Shapiro. Photo: Aria Isadora/BFAnyc.com

Chris Gelinas Wants You to Feel Like You’re Wearing Sweatpants

Backstage at CG. Photo: Kelly Taub/BFAnyc.com

“It’s a technique that I’ve been developing for the last eight months, and it’s something that I’ve slowly been introducing to my earlier seasons, which is this embroidery stitch on an elastic base. I’m always thinking about ergonomics and how clothes move and wear, and that’s what I think is the modern element to designing clothes.”

This is Chris Gelinas’s take on comfort dressing — feeling like you’re wearing sweatpants without actually wearing them. Instead you’ll be wearing a skirt. A very cute, flouncy, grey mini.

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“You have these amazing little skirts that have such a cool volume, but it’s like wearing sweatpants. Which I always love. Wearing sweatpants without actually wearing sweatpants — which I don’t love.”

For fall, CG is offering up a new, toppled on its head version of “power dressing,” a concept that Gelinas finds quite silly, particularly the idea that the power suit, with its broad shoulders and oversized lapels, should make a woman feel powerful.

“There’s so much about a woman that’s powerful,” says Gelinas. “We’re flipping that on its head with giant cuffs and articulated hems, while respecting the hips, the waist and the bust. That’s powerful to me… I hope it’s reimagining what can make a woman stand a little taller.”

Gelinas introduced a French cuff detail throughout the collection, which popped up dramatically oversized on a cropped kimono-like sleeve, or at the back of a cocktail dress. The collection included plenty of Gelinas’s version of workwear, his sartorial take on the current American Dream. There were many great shirt dress options — each with a waist defined through a belt. His take on the business suit included blazers that were conscious of the body either in cut or with the addition of a crop top beneath, and cropped pants to match.

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Photos courtesy of CG

The Warmest Winter Outerwear Looks to Shop Right Now

Josilyn (DNA) in Alexander Wang mesh bonded shearling parka, Fendi mesh top, and Cosabella Cortina pant.

We’re already dreaming of those dreary winter days ahead spent warming up inside with Netflix, a stack of books, and lots of tea wine. What better to wear then than the season’s best outerwear paired with our favorite cozy things?

Photographer Adeline Mai shoots Josilyn in the best outerwear looks for winter.

burberryadelinemaiBurberry alpaca wool topcoat, Marissa Webb tunic, shorts by Fendi (call 212-795-4646 for availability), Burberry cashmere print scarf, Rag Cuff arm warmers

cgadelinemaiCG raccoon-collar coat, Fendi mesh top, T by Alexander Wang Melange Fleece Sweat Pants with Stripe Rib

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Derek Lam Double Face V-Neck Coat, J.Crew Colorblock Stretch Shearling Sweater and Striped Scarf

fendiadelinemaiFendi Pink Wool Coat (call 212-795-4646 for availability), Ann Yee Bettine Honeycomb Sweater (call Bene Rialto 212-246-5984 for availability), T by Alexander Wang Melange Fleece Sweat Pants with Stripe Rib. Kumi Kookoon Lattice Cashmere Throw.

maxmaraadelinemaiMax Mara Printed Patchwork Coat, Weekend Max Mara Mochi Cardigan, Kumi Kookoon Ashley PJ set and sleep mask

Photographer: Adeline Mai
Fashion Editor: Alyssa Shapiro
Model: Josilyn (DNA)
Hair/Makeup: Mariko Hirano
Fashion Assistant: Emily Ovaert

Special thanks to The Ludlow hotel, 180 Ludlow Street, NYC. For reservations, click here.

See Chris Gelinas’s Inspiration Behind the CG Spring 2015 Collection

For designer Chris Gelinas, spring was a chance to explore “culture and conformity,” as he told us. These photographs by Victoria Stevens each have a place on the CG spring 2015 mood board.

The CG girl for spring 2015 is all about a uniform — it’s just that she’s all about making it her own, adding special touches, and wearing it her own way.

 

Each of the subjects in these Victoria Stevens photos wears a uniform without managing to look uniform. There’s individuality, detail, and a special touch for each shining through — just like with the CG spring collection. We’re already looking forward to our new season uniforms. photo-4 photo-5

Photos by Victoria Stevens

See more designer inspiration here.

Get Furr’d Up for Early Fall: Coach Creepers and Fendi Bag, Part 1

Anni Jürgenson (Marilyn) photographed by Ben Rosenzweig in NYC

Tomorrow marks the official start of a cooler new season, and with the slight chill we’re granted access to the cozier parts of our closet.

Before the weather gets too harsh we have a few perfect weeks when a furry accessory is all the extra warmth you need — so to celebrate early fall, we rounded up our favorite shoes, bags, and even jewelry to keep you looking cozy, and the best pieces to wear it with to make sure you stay cool.

Keep an eye out for new looks all week.

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Anni wears jeans by Acne, top by CG, tri-color By The Way fur bag by Fendi, and shearling shoes by Coach.

Photographer: Ben Rosenzweig
Fashion Editor: Alyssa Shapiro
Hair Stylist: Corey Tuttle
Makeup Artist: Giselle Hernandez
Fashion Assistant: Emily Ovaert
Photo Assistant: Caroline Dorn

Chris Gelinas LVMH Prize Diary: The Designer Meets Karl + More

When Chris Gelinas jetted off to Paris for the final LVMH Prize announcement, we asked him to fill us on on his favorite Parisian haunts and keep us posted on how the inaugural competition went down. Find out where the LVMH Prize finalist and Peroni Young Designer Award winner hangs out in the city of light, and what it was like presenting to Karl Lagerfeld and Phoebe Philo. 

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