Afingo's "Behind the Seams" conference at FIT last week was a one-day enrollment at "Fashion University" with all the classes we wish we could have taken at college—and a stellar lineup of "professors" to boot: Fern Mallis, Steven Alan, Gaby Basora of Tucker, and Jen Mankins of the popular Brooklyn-based Bird boutiques were among the 30 or so fashion insiders speaking on various industry-specific panels.
We sat in on the "Trend Forecasting" panel discussion, which included Alan and Mankins as well as Stylesight's SVP of Trend Analysis, Sharon Graubard and the Huffington Post's contributing style editor Lesley MM Blume, discussing topics ranging from the power of Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford on today's trends, to Phoebe Philo's Celine-branded minimalist aesthetic, to trend projections for 2011 and 2012.
Afterwards, we caught up with Mankins and Alan for some further insight into what they're currently loving and loathing in this moment in fashion.
Jen Mankins owns, operates and curates the unparalleled selections of Brooklyn's premier chic boutique, Bird and is one adorably-chic lady herself (sidenote: Mankins served as head buyer for Steven Alan before opening Bird).
Between your three shops in Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg, do you notice a big difference between what's selling at the various locations?
It totally depends. I tailor the stores so that each store functions as a core part of their neighborhood, and each neighborhood has its own personality, so I definitely, from the beginning try to tailor the selection and edit of clothing to reflect specific customer base. That being said, it's not so shocking revelations. Park Slope is a little more mature, a little more conservative. Cobble Hill might be somewhere in between, Williamsburg might be a little younger, a little more fashion-foward and is going to experiment a bit more with the fashion—try some of the more out-there trends.
Is there one item from each store that is the go-to item that sells?
Textured knits and knitwear are so popular right now across the board, whether it's a basic cashmere from Inhabit or the new knit collection out—T by Alexander Wang, he introduced knitwear for this fall, and this great grandpa cardigan. I'm selling tons of them. Part of it is practical: we live in New York, it's going to get cold, part of it is always wanting to use fashion as a way to insulate yourself, be cozy and be protected, be comfortable.
What's your #1 thing you wanted for fall?
[Laughing] My must-have, I don't think it's for everyone, but I ordered a fur and lace patchwork vest from Thakoon that just came into the store yesterday, and it is fabulous.
Steven Alan is not only a designer and tastemaker known for his simplistic modern-Americana style, but he also works double-duty as a buyer, always on the lookout for other designers' wares to supplement the current stock at his 10 stores.
You mentioned that you "buy what you like," so what are you liking right now?
Long. I like things really long right now, in terms of length. I like skirts that are long, with long and lean silhouettes. That's definitely something I am responding to. Men's is different, men's is always the same. It's more iconic and things that are just forever. But women, yeah, there's definitely—I mean, I do both, I make things and I'm buying things so I'm responding in two ways. The long silhouette is definitely new and that's feeling right to me.
It's exciting because this is the first season that we really did a presentation since I started the business. And we were able to, in doing that, really broaden—we're selling a lot more blazers and skirts and pants.
So you're glad you held a presentation?
Yeah! Whether it went well or not—no, it did go well. Once you start, you have to keep doing it, is the thing.
Anything you DON'T like?
I don't like trashy stuff. I've never liked trashy stuff. You know, things that are overtly sexy in a bad way. I always like it when things are cut well, to me, that's very sexual. I like nicer fabrics, generally. Overly embellished stuff I'm not into, and that's stuff that is popular now, but I'm not liking it so much.