Home Fashion Fashion Editorial

Fashion Editorial

D.C. Women of Style: Robin Koval

A Q&A with the CEO and President of Truth Initiative, a New York Times best-selling author (twice).

Legends of the Fall

Our “Legends of the Fall” shoot shows the much-discussed bearded lumbersexual in his natural habitat: the great outdoors. The outfits are at once stylish, utilitarian and cozy, mixing thick-knit sweaters and wool outerwear with scarves, lambswool, leather and lots of layers. The look works in the woods of Vienna where our models Andrei Talasman and Andrew Dolan Miller (and trusty dog, Thaidy) were shot ­— or on the town for a night out in Georgetown or along the bustling, trendy 14th Street corridor downtown. Enjoy, Legends of the Fall. Photography by Angie Myers Models Andrei Talasman and Andrew Dolan Miller T H E Artist Agency Styling Pamela burns Grooming Jessica Ariane T H E Artist Agency [gallery ids="102331,125805,125782,125789,125811,125795,125800" nav="thumbs"]

D.C. Women of Style

D.C.’s successful women, including Frederique Irwin of Her Corner, prove that style and power can co-exist.

Valentine’s Gifts Straight From the Heart

Here's The Georgetowner's top 10 list for Valentine's Day gifts.

Take the Plunge Into Karla Colletto’s World

You’re on a beach. The sun sparkles on water the deep blue color of lapis lazuli. Palm fronds flap softly in an ocean breeze. These descriptions are the backdrop, but for Vienna, Va.-based swimwear designer Karla Colletto, it’s the women and the swimsuits they wear that bring an idyllic summer setting to life. Colletto grew up in the town of Wrentham, Massachusetts, on the Rhode Island border. Her grandmother was a seamstress and her grandfather was a tailor. Both inspired her from a young age. She went on to study fashion design, and after graduation was introduced to couture designer Alfred Fiandaca. “He gave me invaluable hands-on training, taught me the many intricate details that go into creating a couture piece and inspired me to start my own label,” she says. In the beginning, Karla wasn’t drawn directly to swimwear. Rather, she wanted to approach the fashion industry in a smart, progressive way while utilizing the fine dressmaker techniques passed onto her. In 1981, Karla and Lisa Rovan, her sister and business partner, created a custom design company with pieces ranging from sportswear to bridal gowns. “While I was designing custom pieces for clients, I became intrigued by stretch fabrics and realized that swimwear was overlooked in the world of high fashion.” Colletto learned to design swimwear through “trial and error,” using the skills of pattern making, grading and sewing to piece a garment together. Rovan had apprenticed with a swimwear contractor in the past, and, together, they honed in on the world of aquatic couture. By 1987, they sold a small collection to Saks Fifth Avenue. The following season, they made additional sales to Bergdorf Goodman. From the start, Colletto sought to give her designs an innovative edge. Undoubtedly, one of the distinctions of a Karla Colletto swimsuit is the fabric. “Textiles are always evolving,” she says. “Right now there is a push toward 3D digital printing on fabrics to give an illusion of depth and texture.” Colletto has experience with this technique, and with the use of bonded microfiber, laser-cut details and NoSo technologies. Colletto imports most of her fabrics from Italy. “We are able to buy in smaller quantities, important to our brand since we try to be as ‘green’ as possible by cutting to order and generating little waste,” she says. For 18 years, she has been working with Eurojersey Sensitive microfiber. Combining the best in eco-friendly manufacturing and fabric longevity (not to mention comfort), this fabric offers up to 10 times more chlorine resistance than traditional swim fabrics, plus UV protection and quick-drying fibers. Additionally, many of the fabrics Colletto uses are made with Xtra Life Lycra, a fiber that resists degradation and has notable recovery performance. “I like to combine fabrics and components in an out-of-the-box way. I pull, stretch, drape and slice the goods to discover unique textures and patterns,” she says of her approach. She adds that technology has revolutionized the industry. “Fiber and textile technology has transformed swimwear fabrics. They are technical, functional and fashionable, making the design possibilities endless.” Colletto’s design process is an intricate one and her attention to detail and artistic originality has earned her a name in a competitive industry. “I design with a mix of form, function and high fashion in mind,” she says. “For me, the fit of the swimsuit is just as important as the style.” She starts with inspirations and concepts, then chooses fabrics and the components for each garment before sketching and draping. She does this until she’s entirely satisfied with the garment’s overall concept. After that, she creates the pattern and the first sample of several is made. “Throughout the process, the swimsuit is constantly evolving. And usually what I initially set out to do transforms into something completely different and even better than what I envisioned at the start,” she says. After she has approved the samples, they go to production. All Karla Colletto swimsuits are made in-house and rigorously inspected, ensuring the best quality control. Colletto uses dynamic fabrics and tests different patterns and constructions to ensure the best fit, with comfort and durability in mind. “We even continue our quality trend in the smallest pieces of our swimsuits using the best eyelets, underwires, zippers and other components,” she says. Colletto finds inspiration in myriad places, from modernist paintings to old movies, in classic architecture and the intricate details of a dahlia. Ever the artist, textures and colors in the surrounding world can trigger moments of stimulation and creativity. “It could be a coral dress in a magazine or a piece of coral I find on the beach,” she says. As a Virginia resident working in close proximity to Washington, D.C., Colletto is also inspired by the region’s multicultural landscape and the strong women she designs for. Who is the Karla Colletto girl? She is “a modern, confident woman who wants to make a fashion statement with her swimwear, whether it’s in her own backyard or while on some exotic getaway,” she says. “She appreciates good quality and is smart when it comes to the best fit for her body.” Most people abhor the process of bathing suit shopping – that is, magnifying their own bodily insecurities before mirrored walls and fluorescent lights. Colletto aims in her designs to counteract this tendency. “It is so important for us to make swimwear that women feel absolutely confident in,” she says. “It’s about finding the right swimsuit for your personality and your body. We like to think our swimwear offers the best of both worlds.” The team constructs each garment with progressive patterns and innovative techniques, while incorporating details such as silent underwires and ruching (gathering or pleating) to enhance the silhouette. Over the years, the designer has noticed swimwear’s burgeoning place in women’s wardrobes, a stylish intertwining of swimwear with ready-to-wear. “My goal with each swimsuit is to create an innovative, fashion-forward piece without degrading the importance of a tailored fit,” she says, adding, “A swimsuit should be more than just a beautiful piece. It should be a reflection of the wearer herself.” Colletto’s artistic talents are well known, yet she’s also business savvy, with a shrewd awareness of the marketplace that’s changing around her. “Marketing and advertising have changed incalculably over the years, especially with the advent of social media,” she says. “Our social platforms give us a firsthand connection with our admirers.” Though Colletto’s brand is not currently in the e-commerce game, the designer has plans to enter the online market over the next year or two. “We want to take the time to do it right and ensure any online shopping endeavors match the quality of our brand,” she says. And when that time comes, Colletto believes that people will confidently buy her swimsuits online, even though that means not trying them on in a dressing room. “Because of the consistency of our fit, once the customer knows their size, it’s easy for them to buy online,” she says. In addition to social media, Colletto uses stylish, retro-chic video campaigns to promote her collections, working with Pum and Jake Lefebure, co-founders of D.C. based Design Army, and the talented director and cinematographer Dean Alexander. “Their input and unique approach is a huge part of our brand success in collaboration with our social media platforms,” she says. Colletto’s branding has an air of whimsy and nostalgia to it, a faint reminder of the past coupled with a strong sense of the future. Her swimsuits manipulate modern fabrics to achieve silhouettes that are unflinchingly fashion-forward, even when influenced by past designs. “Although my designs have changed over the years, there are some distinctive Karla Colletto details that make our suits recognizable,” she says. The Colletto design team often looks to their own archives for designs that could be taken in a fresh, contemporary direction. “I continue to experiment, challenge and innovate,” she says of her process. Colletto has been a pioneer in the swimwear industry, utilizing the best of today’s fabrics and manufacturing processes, while defying the limitations of design. This drive and steadfast commitment to originality has garnered recent attention from Elle, InStyle Spain, Glow Magazine and Trillionaire Magazine, to name a few. Colletto works with retailers both large and small. She recently designed an exclusive swimsuit for Everything But Water in honor of the retailer’s 30th anniversary. The bold red one-piece, triggered by a 1960s photo of model Peggy Moffitt in Rudi Gernreich, features a plunging V-neck with cutouts, crisscrossing bands and strong structural details. Like the swimsuit, Colletto’s brand is bold, strong and structural, and there’s much still ahead for the company. In addition to adding e-commerce to the business model, Colletto hopes to expand her brand into active wear and sportswear in the future. In the meantime, however, Karla Colletto’s swimwear offers women everywhere the opportunity to suit up in style this summer. Go ahead – take the plunge. [gallery ids="117765,117782,117778,117773" nav="thumbs"]

Nancy Reagan: Fashion Icon

America has lost not only a former first lady but also one of its greatest icons of fashion. Nancy Reagan was known for bringing a sense of style to the White House of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s that had not been seen since the days of first lady Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s. Reagan represented glamour, grace and impeccable style. “Nancy never made a fashion faux pas,” said designer Oscar de la Renta. Her signature color was called “Reagan Red,” and it soon became the color choice of the Republican Party. Her preferred designers were Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, James Galanos and Arnold Scassi.  She will be buried at the grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library, next to her beloved husband, "Ronnie," as she liked to say. With all her other achievements, her fashion style endures. [gallery ids="102262,128734,128741,128770,128749,128757,128762,128777" nav="thumbs"]

Holiday Getaway

    Photography by Angie Myers Stylist Ana Gambino,  Gambino Fashion Consulting Makeup by Nicole Greenhouse Models Rocky Buttery, Front Management and Gabrielle Montes de Oca, Posche Models Location Waterstone Resort and Marina Boca...

Boutique Saks Jandel to Fold By Year End

Among the regular patrons of the 128-year-old store were Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Condoleezza Rice.

D.C. Women of Style: Diane Butts

"Why not try to be your very best every day?" asks Butts, creative director for the Voice of America.

Joseph Abboud’s All-American Summer

Ten years after parting ways with his namesake brand, Joseph Abboud is as busy as ever—charting new retail concepts, suiting up presidential candidates, dressing NBC’s Olympics broadcast team and power-dressing Washington players at his one-year-old Streets of Georgetown store. “If I put a blindfold on either of you, and I helicoptered you in and dropped you in a mall somewhere in America, you wouldn’t know where you are,” said leading menswear designer Joseph Abboud, whose companies’ suits have been worn by both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. “That’s the problem with retail in America. It’s too homogenized.” Though it is fewer than 50 days from the general election, Abboud was not discussing politics. He was talking about his latest retail concept in men’s clothing stores—Streets of Georgetown—which created a major buzz when it opened its Wisconsin Avenue doors a year ago. And the buzz continues. The store’s focus on luxury tailored menswear has made it a destination for people seeking the best service and product for the best price. Abboud, who began his career as a salesman, has a deep passion for retail, and he delights in talking about the Streets concept. Abboud is best known for his contemporary design interpretations on traditional menswear. Beginning as director of merchandise at renowned Boston department store, Louis Boston, Abboud worked at Ralph Lauren in the early 1980s before launching his own line in 1986. Now, as chief creative officer at New York City-based HMX Group, the largest producer of tailored menswear in the country, Abboud enjoys updating historic American brands, such as Hart Schaffner Marx and Hickey Freeman, for a new generation. You saw his suits on everyone this past summer—from NBC’s announcers covering the London Olympics to Romney at the Republican National Convention. On top of that, Abboud is working hard on new projects, including a revitalized Argyleculture brand with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. The Streets concept is to provide a shopping showcase for HMX’s different menswear brands under one roof. HMX—which also owns the Bobby Jones, Sansabelt and Ivanka Trump labels—does the majority of its business in department stores. The company sells approximately 750,000 suits a year. Abboud wants to create a retail experience totally distinct from a department store or a mall. Currently, the only other Streets store is in Beverly Hills, Calif., Streets of Beverly Hills. HMX Group plans to open another Streets location in Chicago after it closes the Hickey Freeman flagship there. To make each store special, Abboud is keen on tailoring the store to its location and its clientele. “As you open these stores, you have to use them as sort of laboratories,” he said. Streets has been carrying small runs of exclusive products, just to see how the market responds to them. “Interestingly enough, the customer responded to our higher-priced product,” he said. The goal of Streets of Georgetown may be to get more Washingtonians in HMX suits, but Hickey Freeman is already a popular brand among politicos. “Politicians, we say, they buy sincere suits,” Abboud said. The salespeople at Hickey Freeman on Madison Avenue were quick to run down a list of names. “My colleague, he dresses Rick Lazio [former U.S. Representative from New York],” said Ines Hyun, a sales associate at the store. “The senator from Nevada, Harry Reid, he comes in here once a year, twice a year. Mitt Romney has been coming here for the last ten years. Since he’s so famous, now we go [to him].” Stephen Pindar, another sales associate, dressed Romney when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008. “Now, he chooses something that’s a little more of an off-blue color, this kind of color,” said Pindar, pointing to a medium dark blue shirt. “Not a navy blue, but he prefers something that’s a little more of a medium blue, a softer blue.” Of course, Abboud delights in seeing his designs on both presidential candidates. “They’re both tall and lean and, you know, the interesting thing is that Obama wears Hart Schaffner Marx, and the governor wears Hickey Freeman,” he said. “We’re politically correct, whether we want to be or not.” Obama wore a Hart Schaffner Marx tuxedo for his inaugural balls in January 2009. The suits are perfect for politicians, given that they are made in American factories. “We’re all trying to protect American icons, American jobs,” said Abboud. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Those are important things. You know, it isn’t appropriate for the President of the United States to be wearing a suit made in Italy.” That concern by politicians proved invaluable last month, when New York Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Louise Slaughter, helped to secure additional lines of credit for HMX. As more American manufacturing has been lost overseas, American-made products are finally starting to have a resurgence among a growing number of consumers looking to support American jobs. This summer, Abboud had his biggest opportunity yet to argue that made-in-America is best. In July, many Americans were outraged when they learned the U.S. Olympic Team would be outfitted in Ralph Lauren uniforms that were manufactured in China. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced a bill to ensure that future teams’ uniforms would be made in the U.S.A. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that the Olympic Committee “burn [the uniforms] and start all over again.” Doug Williams, CEO of HMX Group, offered another solution. Hickey Freeman, at its factory in Rochester, N.Y., could manufacture new uniforms for the entire team before the opening ceremonies in London, then only two weeks away. Cutting, sewing and tailoring uniforms for 539 athletes in only two weeks sounds like a tall order, but for HMX Group it would have been anything but. The apparel conglomerate employs a small army of workers in factories in Chicago, Rochester and Toronto. The team ended up keeping the original uniforms, but viewers watching the Olympics still saw plenty of Hickey Freeman designs on Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Pat O’Brien. All of NBC’s on-air presenters were outfitted by Hickey Freeman. Abboud has worked with NBC anchors since he began dressing Bryant Gumbel for the Today Show in 1988. “I know how to offer them the things they liked. So, they’ve always felt comfortable, and they’ve trusted me,” Abboud said. “So, that’s why I think the networks have always come back to me. They say, ‘Would you do it? Because our guys want to work with you.’ ” In addition to dressing TV news anchors, Abboud frequently recruits sports figures to market his lines. New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira served as spokesman for Hart Schaffner Marx in 2008, and Sean Avery, the recently retired left wing for the New York Rangers, was the face of Hickey Freeman’s spring-summer ad campaign. In recent years, Avery has made a foray into the fashion industry by interning at Vogue and serving as a guest judge on Lifetime’s “Project Runway: All-Stars.” To Abboud, Avery represents a new menswear consumer, the likes of which have boosted market sales over the past few years. “You know, guys love clothes,” he said. “It’s really funny. There’s always been this sort of taboo. You don’t want to be, you know, too interested. Those things are all gone, and guys now are starting to know about it. There’s more information on the Internet. They want to know about heritage brands.” In this stage of his career, Abboud is eager to share his knowledge with young men and believes he’s been focused on his role as an educator. “I’ve thought that I was a teacher more than a designer, because I always wanted to teach,” he said. When he graduated University of Massachusetts Boston in 1972 with a degree in comparative literature, he originally wanted to be a teacher but instead took a full-time sales position at Louis Boston. Getting a well-positioned storefront in Georgetown was half the battle to get the brands to younger customers. Inside, Streets of Georgetown is sophisticated, not stuffy. The store’s salesmen are hip and extremely knowledgeable about men’s style. Abboud holds them in high regard. “They’re kind of like emissaries,” he said. “They’re spreading the word.” For Abboud, updating HMX Group’s brands for younger consumers while preserving the company’s traditional roots is his most important role. “There’s a discipline to the brand DNA,” he said. “Knowing how to stretch it but not breaking it or going outside of it.” This strategy should come as no surprise. Abboud’s style has always been on the more progressive side of traditional menswear. He started his own line in 1986, because he felt boxed in by the status quo at Ralph Lauren, where he was associate director of menswear design. At Hickey Freeman, he’s introduced slimmer silhouettes and subtle European details on jackets like ticket pockets and double-vents. “He comes out with a nice soft shoulder, you know, patch pockets, and he also likes to use really, really fine fabrics,” said Hyun, the sales associate at Hickey Freeman’s Madison Avenue store. “Hickey Freeman needs to go fashion-forward a little bit. Joseph is introducing us to a younger generation. So, that’s where I think he comes in. It helps us a lot.” Abboud’s design philosophy at HMX Group may be best explained in a portrait of Hickey Freeman co-founder Jacob Freeman on the wall of Abboud’s office. “I had him framed in cashmere, and he always looks over my shoulder so I do the right thing,” said Abboud, who considers working for these legendary American brands “an unbelievable privilege.” Inside Streets of Georgetown, the tools of the trade are on display. Spools of thread, bolts of fabric and sketches of suits evoke the bespoke tailoring and hand-made quality of the store’s luxury goods. On the second floor, photos feature architectural highlights of Union Station and other D.C. landmarks. The space is remarkably similar to Abboud’s office on Park Avenue in Manhattan, which has a view of the statue of Mercury which graces the exterior of Grand Central Terminal. Both spaces have been furnished by Restoration Hardware. “I have a really good relationship with them,” Abboud said of the home furnishings retailer. “I love it, because it has this sort of French boulevard feel to it. I love the color pallette. I love the distressed woods. They do a great job.” Like HMX Group, Restoration Hardware is exploring a new retail concept to attract new customers. Since 2010, it has begun opening new, larger-than-life flagship locations dressed up with in-house flower shops and valet parking. In Boston, the houseware company has leased the historic former New England Museum of Natural History, a 40,000-square-foot building built in 1863. “They’re forcing a customer to look at life with a more sophisticated taste level,” Abboud said. “I like that.” Apart from vacationing on Nantucket, gardening, and cheering for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the 62-year-old designer recently bought a property in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and is working “with some folks from Restoration Hardware to do some cool stuff with it,” he said. “[The building] was built in 1887, the same year that Hart Schaffner Marx was established.” With all of his work, it doesn’t seem fair that Abboud’s name doesn’t even appear on the labels of his current designs. “There’s no celebrity aspect to this thing,” Abboud said. “Everybody’s a celebrity today. It’s much more about being proud of your work. . . . The greatest accomplishment for me is to see someone who doesn’t know who I am buying something I designed and walking out of the store and being very happy about it.” “So, that’s, for me, what I’ve done my whole life—be proud of the work I’ve done . . . try to do the best for my customer. You know, you can’t ask for more than that.” [gallery ids="102479,120460,120455,120465,120438,120445,120471" nav="thumbs"]