Designer Spotlight

1/15/2021 Mara Hoffman

Monocle_MaraHoffman_288-940x1410Mara Hoffman wanted to be a maker at the age of 9. After she moved from upstate New York to Manhattan and attended Parsons School of Design, she then launched her eponymous label in 2000. She told BURU, “The fabrics were all hand-dyed batik and I did everything myself from start to finish. Some of my favorite memories are from when I was first getting started.  I had to be industrious and make things out of nothing – I was forced to be more creative. That youthful tenacity and fearlessness is what ultimately gave me the drive to build my business.”
She made custom pieces for stylist friends. Patricia Field, stylist for Sex & the City bought some of her pieces at a consignment store and she sent assistants back for more.
Expressive, bold and inspired by Mara’s travels, her clothing line includes ready to wear, Swimwear, Kids, Bridal and activewear. It is an eco-friendly company, using organic and sustainable materials, like Tencel Modal. Her patterns are printed digitally, reducing water water waste. And packaging is all compostable.

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“I feel constantly in conflict,” she says to Coveteur magazine. “No matter how much effort we put into every aspect of our process, we’re still manufacturing new, and we’re still creating more things when our earth is begging for no more things because there’s no more room. But the way I can sleep and continue to show up at my office and employ the incredible people we employ, is that there’s such a web of human beings who depend on this.” Plus, as a lifelong lover of fashion in the position that she’s in, she doesn’t take her job lightly. “I have a huge responsibility,” she says, “a responsibility to make people feel good, feel their greatest, feel beautiful.”

Mara at her Spring 2015 RTW show in New York City

I really love the strides she has made in producing a fashion label with sustainable habits. And it isn’t at the cost of great fashion! Her bohemian designs are beautiful. She was even the first recipient of Unifi’s “Leading the Change” award in March 2019. Mara sells online and in boutiques like Saks Fifth Ave, Nordstrom and Anthropologie. She opened her first store late last year in downtown NYC.

She has to have coffee & green juice from Gregory’s near her studio. Mara lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn, with their dog Gypsy.

Photos courtesy of Anderson Hopkins, Haute Living and Vogue

2/10/20 Vera Wang

veraVera Wang, born and based out of New York City, is arguably the most prominent designer of bridal wear in America. Known for balancing modern designs with traditional elegance, Vera has a style all of her own and many throughout the world wear her wonderful designs.

Vera Wang was born in 1949 in New York City, New York. The daughter of affluent Chinese immigrants, Vera grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Before enrolling at Sarah Lawrence College, Vera attended the elite Chapin School and the School of American Ballet. During her sophomore year in college, Vera briefly studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, but soon returned to the United States where she earned her degree in Art History.

Through her teens, Vera competed professionally as a figure skater. In 1968 and 1969, Vera and her partner James Stuart placed fifth in the junior pair’s competition. Upon her graduation from college in 1971, Vera retired from competitive skating and took a post at Vogue magazine. Within a year at the age of 23, Vera was promoted to senior fashion editor, a post she held for the next 15 years. In 1987, Vera left that position to take the position of design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren.

In 1989 as Vera prepared to marry her longtime boyfriend Arthur Becker, she grew frustrated with the slim selections of wedding gowns available to her. Vera decided to sketch her own gown and commissioned a dressmaker to tailor the elaborate creation at a cost of 10,000 dollars. It must have been to her liking and spurred her on, because the following year, with financial backing from her father, Vera opened her own bridal boutique in the upscale Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York City.

When she opened her boutique, Vera initially catered mostly to celebrities and socialites. Vera offered couture gowns from famed designers such as Carolina Herrera, Guy Laroche, and Christian Dior. In the following several years however, Vera sharpened her skills and launched her own signature collection of streamlined and sophisticated bridal wear. Vera has since introduced an equally popular line of elegant evening wear as well as a made to order line. To date, Vera’s clothing lines are available at over 60 upscale retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Over the years, Vera has added to her empire with lingerie, jewelry and products for the home. In addition, in 2006 Vera reached a deal with Kohl’s to produce a less expensive line of ready to wear clothing called Simply Vera.

The premier designer of bridal wear in America, Wang has been honored with a number of awards for her achievements, including the 1993 Chinese American Planning Council’s Honoree of the Year Award and the 1994 Girl Scout Council’s Woman of Distinction Award. Later that year, she was elected as a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In 2005, the CFDA selected Wang as the Womenswear Designer of the Year. I love the sultry mysterious techniques she uses. I think her work is phenomenal, especially how she can capture delicacy with light and sheer materials, but garments, and the women who don them, remain allusive.

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5/21/19 Isabel Marant


Isabel Marant is a French fashion designer known for her bohemian aesthetic and fervently coveted creations. Embodying a casual, perfectly tousled but never over-thought look, her clothes are worn by some of the world’s most fashionable stars including Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Weisz and Alexa Chung.

Marant was born in Paris in 1967 to a German mother, who modeled, and a French photographer father. Her parents divorced when she was young and Marant was raised primarily by her father, whom she resembles: “My father married a German model and dreamt of a little blonde daughter like his wife. Alas, I was his spitting image – very Frenchy!” she has said.

Tired of not being able to find clothes she liked in store, Marant began making her own pieces out of discarded clothing and fabric. Friends asked her to sew clothing for them as well, but a career in fashion still wasn’t a consideration for Marant. She wasn’t interested and didn’t know what it was. By 16 though, her earnings were significant enough to reconsider studying economics after graduating high school. So she enrolled in 1985 at the prestigious Studio Berçot fashion school in Paris. She created her own label in 1994, and her first store was opened in 1998 on Rue de Charonne in the Bastille District. Her diffusion line, Étoile by Isabel Marant, began showing at the Paris ready-to-wear shows in 1999.

She and her husband, Jérôme Dreyfuss, a handbag designer, live in Paris. They have a son, Tal, who was born in 2003. Marant spends most of her weekends with her family at their cabin just outside of Paris saying it’s a place where you clear your head and come back with fresh ideas. She also says her approach to design is asking herself, would I like to wear this garment? She is her first customer, her creations are based on her style. She told British Vogue in 2011, “I do prêt-a-porter; I do not revolutionise the fashion world.”

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12/2 Vivienne Tam

wall street journal

Straightforward, polished, and colorful, this is Vivienne Tam. She is noted for bringing a fusion of Asian prints with American flair that creates a beautiful fashion collection.

Vivienne was born in Guangzhou, and attended Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Vivienne discovered her love of fashion at an early age. She was inspired by watching her mother making clothes for her family. By the age of 8, she was making her own outfits and dressing herself and her siblings, even for Chinese New Year. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin.

After graduation, she relocated and settled down in New York City to launch her business. Her company, East Wind Code, meaning good luck and prosperity, was established in March 1982. It became the eponymous label, Vivienne Tam, before her first runway show at New York Fashion Week in 1994. In 1998, she was nominated for the Perry Ellis Award for womenswear by the CFDA and is one of the “25 Top Chinese-Americans in Business” by Forbes magazine.

She has boutiques from L.A. to Tokyo and her line is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. In 2007, Tam launched offshoot lines in both the contemporary and higher-up market called Vivienne Tam Red and Vivienne Tam Jade. That same year, she also redid the uniforms at Wakiya, a restaurant at the Gramercy Park Hotel. She loves to collaborate, in her Spring 2013 show, she partnered with Chinese jewelry brand TSL and her Spring 2018 line was in conjunction with the movie Monster Hunt, with the main character, Wuba having a starring role on the runway.

Vivienne is the author of the award-winning book China Chic, about her Chinese heritage blending with Western styles. She has designed HP computers and clothing of characters in Animax movie, LaMB. Pieces from her collections are on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. More of her designs were part of the Metropolitan Museum’s groundbreaking China : Through the Looking Glass exhibition in 2015.

Her brand is known for its East-meets-West polish, clean lines, beading, prints and palettes that you can’t help but love. When asked about the future of her label by Forbes, she says the brand is evolving into a lifestyle store. It will be an experience for her customers, especially as they add more technological advances. She hopes to add more eco-friendly material, smart fabrics and is researching how to dye materials without water. She is passionate about fashion and that comes through in her unique work. We can’t wait to see more!

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6/28/18 Jason Wu

Jason Wu

Jason Wu was born in Taiwan, and raised in Vancouver, British Colombia. Wu took an early interest in fashion, sketching bridal dresses he saw in the windows of local shops. He also worked in doll dress-making designs. Those earnings are what would launch his eponymous ready-to-wear line. His first fashion collection started in 2003, with Ready To Wear available in 2007. His designs are both glamourous and sensible, while also being feminine. His attention to detail and construction in his designs are what make them so lust-worthy. A cool fact about the company is almost 90% of the brand’s clothing is manufactured in NYC’s Garment District. Of his designs, he says, “I create clothes for women who are not only fiercely fashionable, but also own their power and femininity.”

Accomplishments include Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award in 2008. He was also nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2008. Bruce Weber shot the designer for W magazine’s “Summer Camp” portfolio in July 2008. In June 2010 he won the Swarovski Award for Womenswear at the CFDA Fashion Awards and nominated for the CFDA/Swarovski Award for Accessory Design in April 2011. Wu collaborated with Creative Nail Design for his Spring 2011 collection to create a set of four nail polish colors that was to be retailed that May. In June 2013, Wu was named as the Art Director of German fashion house Hugo Boss overseeing women’s wear in 2013. Most recently, Jason was honored with the Fashion Star Award at The Fashion Group International Night of Stars 2015, and won the 2016 International Designer of Year at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards.

He is best known for dressing First Lady Michelle Obama for the first and second Inaugural Ball at just 26 years old. Other clients have included Ivana Trump, January Jones, and Amber Valletta; while fans include actress Diane Kruger, Kerry Washington and RuPaul. Wu is an intriguing and eloquent designer, who I look forward to seeing much more from in many fashion weeks to come.

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3/20/18 Jill Stuart


At just 15, Stuart sold her first collection to Bloomingdales. It included suede hobo bags and several accessories. In 1988 in the Upper East Side still focusing on accessories. A couple years later, they were sold in shops like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. The eponymous label was launched in 1993 and included Skinclothes – a range of leather garments, such as slip dresses, kilts, jeans and jackets.

The brand has around annual sales of around $30 million in the US, but is very popular in Japan, with Asian sales at nearly $100 million. The brand’s aesthetic and light color palette has similarities to anime. There are over 70 stores throughout the country and is also popular in South Korea. A few celebrity customers have included Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Swank, Kate Bosworth and Leighton Meester. Items from her collection appeared in the 1995 movie Clueless, including the famous yellow tartan ensemble.

Jill Stuart celebrated 25 years in 2017. Jill Jill Stuart is a label exclusively at Macy’s. Her beauty concessions will debut on March 29 in Singapore, offering a full best selling product range, including lipsticks, eyeshadows and blushes. Dreamy, romantic styles with a bit of edge, these clothes are it girl pieces. The light materials and colors from this brand are livable and versatile. Her resort collections have had me dreaming of a tropical spring break destination. She lives in New York City with her husband and has three children, one of whom works at the company.

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Photos courtesy of Vogue & Pinterest

1/14/18 Azzedine Alaïa 


Azzedine Alaïa was born in Tunisia in 1940. He was raised by his grandparents, where his art talent caught the attention of his mother’s friend, and the midwife who delivered him, Madame Pineau. She had him work by her side, teaching him to deliver babies. He was fascinated with her collection of department store catalogues, Vogue magazines and art books, which inspired him to be a fashion designer. She registered him at the local school where he studied sculpture. To pay for school supplies he worked as a dressmaker with his sister Hafida, who he said also inspired his couture.

He started work at Christian Dior as a tailor, then went to Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler until he introduced his first ready to wear collection in 1980. He was given the nickname “king of cling”, a sculptor of the female form, as his garments were notorious for shaping women’s bodies. He was notorious for rejecting the fashion system, believing it corrupted creative power and art form. He rarely bowed to the official show calendar, saying, “the clothes will be ready when they are ready,” rather than when retailers demanded it. Alaïa was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best Collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984.

He lived in his studio in Paris, where he often held gatherings with famous guests. His system was built out of his family of supporters. He wasn’t the least bit discouraged when his style fell out of fashion for deconstruction and minimalism in the 1990s. By 2000, people returned to his atelier. In 2007, Compagnie Financiere Richemont bought majority stake in the business. A perfume was introduced and the brand expanded globally.

Alaïa died at 77 of a heart attack in November 2017. He was an important voice of striving for value, exploring aesthetic and resisting pressure to produce collections. Though I wasn’t familiar with much of his work beforehand, his strong ideas about fashion ring very poignant. As he was remembered by mainstream media, he proved his influential and engaging mastery of fashion. His show will continue at Paris Fashion Week and WWD posted that London’s Design Museum will be honoring the late couturier’s career, creative process, and legacy with a forthcoming exhibit titled “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” set to open in May 2018.

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10/23 Taoray Wang

2b6039d54bf69f72c27b3c7af13c5678-600x600Over the past decade, Tao Wang has grown from an aspiring designer to one of Asia’s most successful female entrepreneurs. Her goal for her namesake brand is to create collections that independent, international women will be drawn to. Classic mens fabrics are tamed into feminine silhouettes with edge. trendsetting and cutting edge, the styles have captured my attention.

After graduating from East China Normal University, Wang Tao trained at Japan Tokyo Mode Gakuen, where she was awarded five international fashion awards. From there, Wang Tao headed the studio for Junko Koshino, a highly acclaimed Japanese designer. Wang Tao was recruited as Chief Designer for a women’s wear brand in London. In 2002, she returned to China and became Creative Director and CEO for broadcast:bo, one of China’s top ten women’s label. Taoray Wang debuted at New York Fashion Week in September 2014 to accolades from both retailers and media. She is currently a board member of Shanghai Ribo Fashion Group who owns Taoray Wang and broadcast:bo among other brands. I love that each collection has a specific theme that can be seen through the entire collection, with the latest season being Shanghai Baroque, using Caravaggio inspired light and dark contrasts, exaggerated sleeves and tassled corsets. There were also a few looks on the runway that used a delicately patterned sheer top against classic navy pinstripe that added an artistic touch, even if I might not wear it. I am so happy I discovered this brand this season and can’t wait to see what Tao does next.

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7/10 Franco Sarto

franco-013Though he is based in Italy, he works with American footwear firm Brown Shoe Co., producing six collections a year of his signature shoes. Born in 1949 in Dolo, outside of Venice, at 14 he was a craftsman apprentice. He worked in a shoe factory putting together long lasting shoes by hammer and nail.

He launched his namesake like in 1990. In 2015, he debuted a premiere line simply titled Sarto, a curation that paid homage to Italian sensibility mixed with effortless style. In an interview with Footwear News, he talked about drawing inspiration from observing people and that he strongly dislike unconstructive criticism.

Franco Sarto shoes are available in 20 countries and Mr. Sarto plans on continuing to expand internationally. He says, “..In this moment, I have more enthusiasm and am more secure [as a designer] than ever before. Artists like Picasso and Van Gogh did their best work later in their lives, so I’m not finished yet.”

I bought a pair a few months ago, although I was unfamiliar with the brand, I loved how comfortable and sleek the shoes were. I like that the brand prides itself in use of quality material and the designs are phenomenal. I have my eye on a few of these styles!

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Photos courtesy of Franco Sarto and QVC

6/20 We Are Kindred

we are kindred

Sisters and friends, Lizzie and Georgie Renkert started the Australian label We Are Kindred in 2013. Providing a melodic curation of seasonal and timeless pieces, they’re latest collection really caught my eye at Australian Fashion Week. With light fabrics providing movement with delicate patterns and an effortlessly cool color palette, these pieces are as trendy and luxurious as they bohemian and versatile. The silhouettes are innovative, the sisters drawing from experience in the industry in magazine editing and design and development. They have exclusive house prints, which I’m sure has helped them become one of Australia’s fastest growing labels. It was a highlight from this season that they debuted swimwear.

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Their website ships to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Taiwain, England, Ireland, Wales, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, Lebanon. You can email them for a quote if you don’t live in one of those countries. I know next time there’s an event I need a dress for I would love to wear We Are Kindred.

Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia

4/22 Francis Valentine, Kate Spade


Fashion designer and business woman Kate Spade was born in 1962 in Kansas City, Missouri. A few years after graduating from Arizona State University, she launched her own line of handbags in 1993. The company, Kate Spade grew to include clothing, accessories, fragrance, home decor and stationary in several retail outlets in over 450 stores globally as well as selling its products through high-end stores. In 1996, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored Spade’s classic designs by giving her the “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” award, and in 1999, her handbags were exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Museum celebrating American design excellence. She sold the business to the Neiman Marcus Group in 1999, but remained active within the brand.

In 2016, Spade, along with her husband, Andy, and their longtime friends, Elyce Arons and shoe designer Paola Venturi, launched their new fashion endeavor, Frances Valentine, named after the Spades daughter Frances and Valentine was gleaned from family history. It is crisp and bright line that has a wide selection of sophisticated and charming shoes and handbags. I love the colors and details, and can’t wait to see what else they do.

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photos courtesy of Francis Valentine

3/6 Alejandra Alonso Rojas


Born and raised in Madrid, a fourth generation hand knitter, inspired by the heritage of the women in her life, Alejandra seamlessly blends finesse and stylish glamour to her women’s line. Combining tradition and experimental technique to her creations in cozy knits and feminine dress silhouettes, her style is sophisticated and luxurious. The second season is centered in Spanish roots, personal and homey. She has been gaining stride since picking up the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award in January. Alejandra lives in New York City with her husband and dachshund, Latte.

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Photos courtesy of Alejandra Alsono Rojas & WWD

1/24/2017 Unravel, Ben Taverniti

Barneys New York Hosts A Private Dinner : In Honor Of Ben Taverniti and the Launch of UNRAVEL

Model-off-duty/athleisure is the latest movement in fashion, but it’s nothing new for Ben Taverniti. He has left his impressions on the fashion industry since being design assistant for Jeremy Scott, working at his father’s company, Taverniti Couture, and being creative director if Hudson Jeans before gaining even more influence with his booming new collection, Unravel. Born in Toulouse France and studying at the famed Parisian fashion school ESMOD, he now lives in Los Angeles with his fiancee Joyce Bonelli, famed makeup artist for the Kardashians. Unravel is meant to be about a lifestyle movement. The brand has the laid back LA feel, but touches on his French roots with European sensibility.

At Unravel, its about destroy and rebuild. Make stuff you love and grow organically. There is no compromise. It can take days to hand treat, wash and distress some pieces. Every piece is one of a kind and season less. That’s what makes the fashion so unique. Pieces included lace up pants, graphic tees, bomber jackers, luxury hoodies and other edgy garments.


Unravel is stocked at Barneys New York, FWRD by Elyse Walker and Selfridges among other stores, will expand its footwear collection with sneakers, heels and boots for fall 2017 as well as grow its men’s collection. In March, the brand will stage its first presentation during Paris Fashion Week.

Photos courtesy LA Racked and Barney’s 

Brand expansion courtesy of WWD


November 6, 2016

Paul Andrew


I stumbled upon Paul Andrew while I was doing research for London Fashion Week. He has an impressive fashion background. After graduating from Berkshire College of Art and Design, he worked under fashion houses like Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez and Alexander McQueen.

In 2012, he launched his eponymous footwear brand. It was picked up by 100 stores internationally including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lane Crawford.

In 2014, as part of winning the Vogue Fashion Fund and becoming the first footwear designer to do so, he launched a collaboration with finds inspiration from art, classic film and travel, but most importantly, the individuals who wear his shoes. His father was upholsterer for the Queen of Windsor Castle, where he was surrounded by exquisite fabrics and the interaction of form. Among numerous awards include Designer of the Year at London Graduate Fashion Week, Who’s Next 2013, Business of Fashion BOF 500 2015 listee and CFDA Fashion Awards Swarovski accessories design in 2016.

I love so many of his designs, they are colorful, bold and expressive. They are everything you could want in a shoe. I’m excited to continue following his work.cpl3623

Photos courtesy of and novo magazine

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