TEXT, VIVIAN G. KELLY
WHEN & WHERE: After NY Fashion Week, at Miguel’s Showroom, the Garment Center, NYC
Designer MIGUEL ANTOINE’s story is the story of David and Goliath, set in the world of fashion.
The Goliaths are the LVMH’s of the world and the Davids are the little designers who are trying to get retailers to give them a chance.
Until recently, it was pretty dismal being a David. Not any more. Thanks to social marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter and to very high-end qualified websites such as GILT GROUPE, all of a sudden, David’s got a chance.
We sat with Miguel after the flurry of Fashion Week was over and we’d all had time to digest what we’d seen and to reflect on the designers’ performances.
THE FASHION EXAMINER: What was the biggest statement you made this season?
MIGUEL ANTOINE: I showed 32 looks.
I’m not the kind of designer who cuts my own fabric. My strength is marrying casual and tailored.
FE: What are you wearing?
M.ANTOINE: I’m wearing a button down shirt and casual slacks. Fabric is so important to what I do, I import all my fabrics from Japan and Italian.
I like working with 120s light wools and goat and lamb leather. Goat has the rugged finesse to it; it withstands a lot of treatment. For instance, you can [even] give it a pebbled treatment.
FE: What do you look for in leather?
M. ANTOINE: The visual, the hand and that it’s not heavy. I try to be conscious of what’s endangered and what’s not.
FE: How many years have you been in this game?
M. ANTOINE: I went to FIT and was a buyer at Bloomingdales – sweaters and knits and then tailored clothing – an assistant. at both, suits and sport coats, and fine china where I had Mark Selig – a wonderful boss who really teaches a profitability model. I really took a liking to it and I check out the china now wherever I go out at restaurants! [laughs]
FE: You’re young and new. Any advice for newbies?
M. ANTOINE: Now people are more apt to do business with you as a little guy. I do my homework; I’m not a designer who wants a handout. I try to think like a buyer – “This guy may be talented, but there’s no brand equity, I can’t even sell my Varvatos unless I knock it down 60%.”
FE: A lot of you have the dream of going to work with Bernard Arnaud.
M. ANTOINE: Yeah, a lot of my friends and I had that dream. What’s happening now is that PEOPLE ARE ASKING FOR IT which is the result of the e-commerce site. My 1st 2 orders came from London. I’m going to focus my energies on getting things to the consumer. I can tell my story on the ecommerce site www.miguelantoine.com
FE: How did you do it? How hard is it to do?
M. ANTOINE: I built the bare bones and invested in some backend functionality so I can change things instantaneously with click and point. I’m the designer playing tech junkie!
FE: any partnering?
M.ANTOINE: We’re talking to some affiliate sites to do some partnering. We have 2 collections a year. We’re also exploring the Asian market place. 80% of the inquiries at the Project NY Trade Show were from the Asians. The trip this summer was such an eye opening experience in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
There’s a huge investment in menswear. Style for them is just that – style.
FE: What else do you want to do?
M.ANTOINE: Down the road I’d like to do shoes.
My favorite shoes are Dolce & Gabanna.
FE: What’s your strategy for getting through this rough patch we’re in now?
M. ANTOINE: When you start a new business you expect it to be rough for 3-5 years. I’ve had to revise plans I have for year 3. I’m going to keep designing and I won’t skip a collection.
In a nutshell – It’s about figuring out cost effective ways to show to the industry and to the consumer.
FE: Tell us about your spring/summer 2010 show and how you think it went.
M. ANTOINE: it’ couldn’t have gone better. There’s a layer of sophistication that came through that I had imagined being there. But I ‘m a businessperson first and you’re constantly thinking, “Who’s in the front row”. That’s when the pressure comes down.
FE: How are you financing yourself?
M. ANTOINE: I have investors, it took me years to secure them and I have to answer them, they’re my bosses. They stay out of the day-to-day opportunities.
FE: What’s your balance?
M. ANTOINE: I’m always creative, it’s intuitive, but I balance a great deal of strategy – how was what we did effective or not? The magazine business is folding but that’s exciting, the consumers themselves are dictating that to a point.
FE: Who’s done it right? Who knows how to brand effectively in today’s environment?
M. ANTOINE: I’d go back to Gilt Groupe, the way they quality people. It’s invitation only; they qualify people. By going that route, you’re not just exhausting your efforts to the masses. It saves them substantially a lot of money and gives them better control over analyzing their efforts.
Another one’s YOOX Group – a huge online luxury site. He [Yoox Founder, Federico Marchetti], grew it with $1,000 and a home page. It’s grown into a mega empire, again qualifying their prospects and reaching out to them. The investment is far less than with brick and mortar.
Images of the YOOX GROUP can be seen on www.thecorner.com, “the virtual space showcasing a selection of artisans and cutting-edge brands for men and women. Each brand has its own mini-store where the value of image and DNA is raised through its new collections, editorials and exclusive video content”.
For additional information on the YOOX GROUP, YOOX Group Press Office Headquarters
Via Villoresi, 19/8
T. +39 02 83112811
F. +39 02 83112821
Images of Miguel Antoine from New York Social Diary and FLICKR.com