TEXT, VIVIAN KELLY
Backstage is really where it’s at, where the insiders are. I’ve been faithfully attending Douglas Hannant’s well put-together RTW and bridal collection shows for the past three years now, and have come to respect this compact, reserved man. My first real look at his work was at long-ago resort collection I saw up in his Seventh Avenue Showroom, when I was writing resort trends up for The Fashion Calendar’s newsletter, “The International”. I was supposed to write up three to five designers, but the collection of refined trousers, structured tops and pretty cocktail dresses impressed me so much that I wrote only about Douglas Hannant that time. It was “only resort”, but it was a modern version of resort, which is no longer about just a few easy silk and linen pieces one takes for a mid-winter Caribbean get-away.
His Sales Director took the appointment, and was cautious in disclosing client names. When I pressed-on, I learned that Joan Lunden, longtime host for Good Morning America, was a client, as so were quite a few regulars in W’s “Eye Scoop” Page. Unlike most designers, Mr. Hannant does not unashamedly slaver and run after any and all celebrities, and beg them to wear his designs on the Red Carpet. That’s a Middle Man style ploy anyhow as the point of all that hoopla is that wealthy women will then go and order the dress, and the house will hopefully make a profit that season. Nor does he advertise heavily in the glossies or show in the Tents. Instead, he takes the show to his client and shows at the Plaza, on their stomping grounds.
This approach flies in the face of the current PR model described above, and put Mr. Hannant on the list of designers I wanted to talk about in my ongoing “Fashion V. Clothing” conversation.
My next Hannant experience was a few years later, at the sumptuous apartment of one of his clients when he debuted his Bridal Collection; I resolved to follow his Ready-to-Wear from then on. For the most part, I’ve been impressed at how on-track he stays, with only a few questionable deviations, such as his “Basquiat Collection”, which he remedied with his on-point “Palm Springs” Resort Show.
Over the years I watched him, I realized that Mr. Hannant speaks directly to the source, “his girl”. He has a good instinct for what he likes and he goes after her, and seeks to impress her with fashion that is beautiful and flattering. And guess what? It works; they buy the clothes sans the fanfare. There is now a D.H. boutique in the Plaza Shops that shows the full breath of his work: the RTW, the bridal, and the accessories.
Prior to this season, though, I hadn’t really talked to him, and had a conversation with him on what his priorities are when he designs a collection. Obviously, he has them straight, as he is one of the darlings of a jet set crowd that includes socialites
Cece Kord and Jamee Gregory.
Usually, it’s his partner, the charismatic Frederick Anderson, President at Anderson Douglas Inc., who steps-up and takes questions, especially the rather hard-nosed ones I like to ask regarding market share, customer loyalty and brand building.
This season, though, Douglas was on hand backstage, and gave me his take on the Fashion V. Clothing question. [Watch the video of the interview.] That day, Douglas Hannant looked relaxed, as designers do when they know they have produced and are about to show a good collection. The inspiration for s/s2011 resort was “candy”. If I hadn’t read the New York Magazine Preview, I would have gotten the point regardless, when I looked in the shiny goodie bag on my little gilt bamboo backed chair filled with rolls of pastel colored candies. The Smarties
were a nice touch; they matched the dresses that came down runway moments later.
Said, Douglas, dapper in his uniform of dark jeans, shirt [no tie] and navy blazer,
“My good friend and mentor, Geoffrey Beene, taught me to make clothes meant to be worn by the real women I design for. I’m not designing for the editors and magazines. This [gesturing to the goings-on backstage] is not a carnival for me.”
This remark prompted my query about the infamous “My Little Pony Collection”,
which refers to designer Steven Slowik’s first and only show for the house of Bill Blass, in which he showed clothes that were sparkly and unstructured. The finale dress had a cartoonish rainbow ribbon splashed across one side that looked like the pre-school toy.
Mr. Slowik’s collection did not remotely look like anything Mr. Blass’s “girls” would ever wear, and served as a cautionary tale for fashion designers that they need to remember just whom exactly they are designing for; a lesson that Mr. Hannant obviously learned well.
and blouse outfit, and a short cream dress with rainbow paillettes for day and lots of big bows, like the sort one unwraps with delight on an expensive box of candy. For evening, there was a pink and green strapless and a lemon cello yellow chiffon dress for evening.
The candy sorbet floral sandals and turquoise eye shadow popped the more sober hued outfits- of which there weren’t many. The feeling of the collection was as delicious and frothy as a well-executed meringue.
Douglas is indeed the candy man for the uptown social set.