Tea in London with Elliott J.Frieze

Photo of Elliott J. Frieze by Photographer Frederic Aranda
By Christine Suppes, Editor-at-large

Thirty year old, Welsh-born, Elliott Frieze has a pure, almost angelic quality in his face and voice. He loves to work in his atelier in Wales in the morning. “There are too many distractions in London,” he says, “much as I love it.” Elliott’s first season in London was this past February 2010. He designs for men and women, though his university degree was in history, politics and economics. “My father always told me it was always good to have a good degree behind you.” After studies in England, Paris and Berlin, Elliott’s good looks won him modeling contracts with Seeds Model Management in Berlin. He ended up at University College in London where he got his degree in 2002. As his first language is Welsh, early jobs included participation in television documentaries in Wales.

Enter his first fashion muse, Michiko Koshino, from the Japanese fashion industry. The two moved together to Notting Hill, where Elliott says Michiko taught him “how to work hard and make it work for you.”

“I wake up in the morning, I design, I think, I cut and I sew,” he says. “My work is quintessentially British with a slim, tailored silhouette. When it comes to cutting, you can draw it on. That’s Saville Row tailoring and (the late) Alexander McQueen’s technique.”

“I design with a wardrobe in mind—everything British.” Both Elliott’s sisters are equestrians, “so last season was equestrian.” He began his business under the name Kasimi with partner Prince Khalid bin Sultan of Sharjah after the two met in University College London.

Anna Popperwell, a good friend of seven years, who played Susan in Narnia and was in the picture The Girl with the Pearl Earring as well as Prince Caspian is another muse. “This season will have the Oxford-Cambridge influence. Tennis, society, especially political societies reflecting David Cameron and Boris Johnson, dressed in a certain English way. ”

Elliott is known for working with top models such as Erin O’Conner, Lily Cole, Yasmin and Amber Le Bon, Jaquetta Wheeler and Carmen Dell Orefice, in other words, women of all ages. “Fabrics for men and women are the same, but the cuts are different. My women’s collection is not overtly feminine but I always include draping. I always start by designing menswear and then interpreting into the women’s wear collection” “I want Elliott J. Frieze to be a life-style brand. I’d love to have boutique hotels. I admire Paul Smith and would love to someday create the same aura in my own stores.”

Elliott J. Frieze has set high standards for himself, and appears to love every minute of the business. A breath of fresh air, I thought, as we said good-bye, just what this sometimes jaded industry needs.

All Runway photos Courtesy of Elliott J. Frieze, 2010

Yves Saint Larurent Paris Retrospective

by April Hall, Paris Correspondent

After stops in Montréal and San Francisco, the retrospective exhibition of one of the most important designers in fashion history has arrived at the Petit Palais in Paris -- a wonderful location for a wonderful exhibit! Rooms filled with gorgeous, ground-breaking ensembles follow Yves Saint Laurent's phases, from his time at the house of Christian Dior until his final collection in 2002, enchanting the viewers with luxurious furs, laces, chiffon, beading, and sequins, virtually all of which are exquisitely timeless. The exhibit pays due homage to a man who truly innovated fashion, giving the world the jumpsuit, transparent dressing, and of course "le smoking". The exhibit shows how even some of the hottest trends of the moment, for example safarienne and camouflage, were imagined by St Laurent in the 1960's. An emphasis is also placed on the designers themed collections, which range from African beading and ankle accessories to long draped Russian looks. Toward the end, the retrospective takes on a sombre tone, an imperative nod to the great loss of the fashion world that was the passing of Yves St Laurent.

The exhibit also revisits the question of the future of Haute Couture. As geniuses such as St Laurent retire, and celebrities and society women ever distance themselves from superfluous and luxuriously high fashion, one must ask: are the days of Haute Couture gone? Will this centuries-old art form continue in coming years? Who will design it and who will wear it?

Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture Spring 2002, Photos by Style.com

American Master: Kim Hicks Couture

Embroidered satin gown, by special order, Kim Hicks Couture. Photo Courtesy of Kim Hicks New York.
By David Pedroza, Editor in Chief
In the United States there are very few designers that have mastered the Parisian art of Haute Couture. Though this craft is respectively French, and acknowledged by the Chambre Syndicale if a couturier maintains an atelier in Paris that creates hand-made, made-to-measure luxuries, there have been couturiers in the US, New York to be exact. We have legends such as Mainbocher, who held ateliers in Paris and New York during the 1930’s-1940. Arnold Scaasi, who would be considered by many as a court designer to the wives of American politicians. And master of cut and modern American Elegance, Geoffrey Beene.

There is a contemporary designer, who has quietly developed her craft and built a following of ladies who are always in search of unique and beautiful design. Her name is Kim Hicks, a Michigan native, who has established a couture business in the Tribeca district of New York City. Kim is a true couturier at heart; her style is American sensibility with old world elegance, with a touch of avant garde flair (her favorite designer is Alexander McQueen and she loves the work of Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga). For the past 10 years Kim Hicks has been catering to New York society with made-to-measure designs through Bergdorf Goodman.

" Four leaf Clover" Gown, price upon request, Kim Hicks Couture. Photo courtesy of Kim Hicks New York

One cool and rainy Saturday morning, I was warmly greeted by Kim at her Tribeca Studio. She is a beautiful, casual, and down to earth woman with a passion to create clothes that surpass the seasonal trends. It was like going to a candy store when I entered her atelier, rack after rack, of beautiful, colorful, gowns and cocktail dresses. We went straight into talking about her views in fashion and how she was trained (in the old-school fashion) the art of Haute Couture. Kim Hicks attended the School of Parsons, and landed a job at Arnold Scaasi, one of the great, few, Americans who also studied haute couture. Kim was taught this craft, like most young couturiers would in Paris. When it was time for her to venture on her own, she braved the fashion world the only way she knew, through designing made-to-measure couture. Kim has a Love for textiles that exceed quality and beauty of any standard, and works with textile mills such as, Abraham, Taroni, and Gandini, the same textile mills that provided fabrics to master couturiers Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent.

All the bead work is done by hand and everything is finished by hand on a Kim Hicks dress. According to her clients, she has created gowns with the most comfortable inner corsets that move with the body, without compromising support. Kim always works very close with her clients, developing designs and silhouettes that are flattering to each individual woman. Gina Sanders and Alexandra Lebenthal are two loyal clients that have turned to Kim for red carpet and gala gowns. Recently, Gina Sanders wore one of Kim’s gowns to the American Woman Gala, for the opening of the Costume Institute’s new exhibition on American women and style. These women are very busy and know that they do not have to take a trans-Atlantic trips to Paris, to buy couture, they have the best right at their door steps. Kim Hicks does have the intention of expanding her business overseas, London to be exact. She has clients in London, and many women in Paris love her work as well, which she has also taken her collection to Paris for a trunk show.

Gina Sanders in Kim Hicks Couture at the Met's American Woman Gala, Courtesy of Style.com

Alexandra Lebenthal in Kim Hicks Couture, photo by Manhattan Society.com
As she took me through the racks of beaded confections, Kim explained to me her design process; she studies historical costume, whether it is a military Cossack from Russia, a dress worn by the Gibson Girls, or a flapper dress worn to do The Charleston. Some of her influences come from another great couturier, Charles James, which she has re-created a modern version (more wearable as well) of his “Four-leaf Clover” gown. Kim Hicks is also a wonderful illustrator, many of her clients have pointed out that she is one of few designers, whose gowns actually look like her sketches. She has a strong ability to create what is on paper, to look as what she envisioned. As I left her studio, I was thinking what a joy it was to talk to Kim Hicks, and to see her work. She is a rare breed of American designers that care more about making beautiful clothes, than having a huge margin. She has proven that there are some American designers that are still making beautiful clothes.

Illustration By Kim Hicks, Courtesy of Kim Hicks New York

Post Script: Kim Hicks New York is available by special order at Bergdorf Goodman, NYC. A trunk show of Kim Hicks Couture will be held at Bergdorf Goodman, Monday May 10th and Tuesday May 11th, 2010.