Text, Vivian Kelly
It was early in the morning, mid-way through NYFW, and in the dash from our West 56th Street hotel to the Lincoln Center tents to go backstage for Callula Lillibelle, no time for some sorely needed coffee. The lobby at Lincoln Center was weirdly empty, but Neiman Marcus’ Fashion Director, Ken Downing was there, Starbucks in hand, and we stopped by to chat and to get a bead on what one of fashion’s sharpest forcasters thought of the New York s/s2012 season so far. I mentioned we were on our way to chat with William Calvert, backstage at Callula Lillibele.
“Is it Neiman’s?” Ken asked us as Mark [Behnke, of Fashion Tribes],whiled- away those few pleasant moments before hitting backstage.
Good question. I replied, “Hm, well there was a great coat I saw last time.”
“Honey, it takes more than one coat to be in Neiman Marcus” he joked. It struck me then, how hard his job is. I kept that question in mind a few minutes later, as I watched the models get into their looks and pose on the white backdrop backstage, presumably for the lookbook that would be in stores for spring.
I finally actually “met” the designer, William Calvert, after an aborted attempt to record our phone conversation a few months earlier, in which he told me that C.L. had a few winning silhouettes that worked well from size 2-12 and that he worked on tweaking the winning formula each season. I botched that interview, but this describes Callula’s mission – to make women look good and to as the French so aptly put it, “look comfortable in their skin”, and to be proud of their curves.
During our backstage interview, that took place in front of the scrim where the models were posting for the look book, William said “Callula Lillibelle is primarily a dress collection” and in answer to our other question, “it sells at Saks”. Unsurprisingly, the strongest looks were dresses such as the lemon/silver stretch tweed boatneck one that would look as good on a curvy woman as on the size zero models posing in the Box presentation.Best in show was the white “Penelope Cruz” – that had a beautiful wrap front bodice, that was both glamorous and practical.
While pointing to the models posing in front of him , he told us that he was inspired by strong curvy fashion icons such as Sofia Lauren, Penelope Cruz, Beyonce and Rihanna. Clients and fans include curvy ladies such as Oprah and Gayle King.
There were though, non-dress looks that stood-out, such as the right-on-trend pink jacquard jacket over an ivory dot lace tank and ivory pin dot slouchy shorts. It seems that grown women really WILL be wearing shorts to work, after all. Both looked great with a pair of chic Stuart Weitzman pumps.
To answer Ken’s question, ["Is it Neiman's?"], we concurred that Callula is a solid collection that is perfectly placed at Saks, rather than Neiman’s which houses cutting edge design and where shoppers go to find what they expect to see on the pages of US Vogue. The Neiman’s woman is one who counts fashion and her wardrobe in her top three life priorities. Neiman’s top customers have Ken on speed dial.
By contrast, Saks and Callula are more mellow in their approach to fashion. This brand offers an excellent fit and the fact that the designs do not vary radically from season to season is reassuring to women who want some style but who don’t want a whole new wardrobe each and every season. This collection fits her lifestyle, as while she enjoys her fashion, she doesn’t want [or need] it delivered at warp speed. She paces herself with easy to wear fashions such as Callula. Fashion and her wardrobe are important but rank lower on the priority list, and like Saks, there is a sense of decorum in her attitude. Despite the year-round throng of tourists and buzz, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship continues to maintain the air of stately dignity when well-to-do ladies shopped there on their way to lunch and their choice of gloves was an important matter. Similarly, Callula also possesses that gracious sensibility but there’s no better way to experience it than to slip on one of William’s dresses and to see for yourself.