I was not privy to many of the tent shows at this year’s Fashion Week in Lincoln Center. While I was invited to a few shows, attendance conflicted with my teaching schedule. I do however keep my eyes and ears open, and did manage to make it to a few evening events held off site. Naturally, I read WWD, the NY Times Style Section and visited a slew of sites online. I know the consensus was that for the most part the silhouette has not changed radically, skirts are a tad bit longer, the color palate remains as static as an AM radio station, jewel tones for women, light grays for men. Once again we are being offered uniforms AKA tailored suits. As for trends and the new “hot” items, it remains as conservative as a Republican, it’s the same old party line, metallics, military, western, the 70’s-80’s, leopard and tropical floral prints. While the tent shows are fabulous and provide a glimpse into the industry, some of the best work is happening elsewhere. Enter Lois Samuels.
Lois Samuels is a familiar face in the fashion industry. It is a very attractive face. Ms. Samuels might be best known as a model. She was part of the sexy CK One ads in the 1990's and has starred in campaigns for Eileen Fisher and Saks Fifth Avenue. She appeared with great frequency in magazines like Harpers Bazaar and stood out against the then au currant grange/waif look. Her elegantly androgynous look has inspired photographers like Ellen von Unwerth and Steven Meisel. If Hollywood ever makes a bio-pic on Grace Jones, Ms. Samuels would be perfectly cast. Ms. Samuels was born and raised in Jamaica. She has that elegant patouage that is deep, almost husky and feminine. We make elect to forget it, but the vanilla bean is dark, and Ms. Samuel's skin has the sweet dark color of the vanilla bean. She is simply stunning! In a world where women of color are too often marginalized, Ms. Samuel erupts as a triple threat, with beauty, intelligence and talent.
There’s an old saying “Beauty Fades...but truth lasts forever!” If so, Samuels will endure. Not content to be just another pretty face. Ms. Samuels is equally adept on the other side of the camera as well; her book of photos, Jamaica Through My Eyes was published in 2005. Ms. Samuels always had an eye, and applied that talent to design, hence the ambitious line The Vessel by Lois , debuted in 2009.
It is not news to many of you that there appears to be very little diversity in the fashion community. Well, at least on the catwalk and fashion pages, except when Vogue or Cosmo deigns to do a dreadful “exotic” editorial. Our fashion tabloids tend to promote luxury brands, mainstream retailers, couture poseurs, and every once in a blue moon, a breakout artist. Despite the obvious obstacles, great work is too irresistible. Samuel’s collections have been featured in Vogue Italia, The New York Times.com, Clam, Elle and WWD.
She describes her collection as urban, bold, effortless, chic, and feminine with a modern minimalist twist. The collection tantalizes customers with tailored suits, cocooning capes, simple and transitional dresses and overalls (yes overalls!) that flatter and enhance the women who wear them. An aesthetic that reflects the confidence and versatility of the brands global customer.
So here I am on a Tuesday evening in NoHo on the tenth floor of a small white cinderblock clad studio with a breathtaking assemblage of nearly every fashion editor worth their salt to see this years Vessels collection by Lois Samuels. It’s not a runway show. It’s her fall collection (seven looks) set on mannequins that rest on unfinished pine wood crates. Truth be told, and I may be misquoting, or misattributing to Diana Vreeland, “Everything I need to know about a designer I can tell in five to seven looks”.I t’s a pity that Ms. Vreeland is not alive. If so, she would have snatched the collection right off the mannequins, and woken Richard Avedon out of a sound sleep to do a slick black and white spread on Samuels’s collection. In fact, she would have Ms. Samuels kidnapped and brought to the Conde Nast Building to model.
What did the collection look like? It was alternately classic, with puritanical touches like white Shaker collars artfully woven into a sort of glamorous tailoring, reflective fabrics, short skirts with cute chiffon bustles with pebelumed jackets, and tiered capes reminiscent of a Gheary building.
Ms Samuels finds inspiration in all sorts of places. Jacob Lawrencewas the inspiration for her Spring/Summer line 2011 Collection. Ms. Samuels describes it as "fun, free spirited, and lovely to work with all those colors. It was quite experimental for me, and I liked it allot. The response was good, not great... but all a part of the process".
Most recently Ms. Samuels did a bit of traveling. She went to Prague, which she describes as is a beautiful country. She spent her time there thinking through different ways of handling the business of the business (an art in itself.) And she worked on a smaller collection for fall which would introduce delicate fabrics. It will be sexy and beautiful! She is also working on Her-Tie, a line of accessories for women, and a small line of t-shirts that will benefit an organization in Jamaica she wishes to continue assisting.
If you are a woman who likes to dress well, wants something different, and sees fashion as something more than clothing, you can visit Ms. Samuel’s site at www.thevesselbylois.com. Her photography monograph is available on www.amazon.com. Some of her shows are on www.youtube.com, and naturally you can just google her to examine her work. You can email her at [email protected] or call at 646 420-0594