Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fashion Report: The Althea Harper Trunk Show at Envy

As I mentioned last week, Althea Harper would be having a trunk show at Envy, at The Greene in Beavercreek Ohio. Being only a 20 minute drive from my house you know I had to go.

(Are you ready for a long post?)

Althea Harper, as you probably know, was a contestant on Project Runway who I've been keeping my eye on. She has local Dayton roots, be even if she didn't I think she'd still be a designer to follow. This was not the first time I had met Althea - but I had never been to a trunk show before. I didn't know entirely what to expect. When I hear the word "Trunk Show" I usually think "Bridal" but I know they are used in other contexts as well. I sort of knew a bit about them - that usually you get a chance to peek at samples of a designer's line and quite often the designer is there to answer questions. But that's really all I knew. I had been to Envy before and I was unsure how anything productive could happen in a store that small with the crowd Althea Harper would attract (more on that later).

Althea was as lovely as ever, very kind and gracious with her time with me as well as everyone else. She clearly had been working up to the last minute - her hands were blue! Poor woman! I bet she was dying those strips of jersey she was selling at Envy as scarves right before the event. There were even some dye splotches on her dress (which at least one person asked me if they were intentional). I'm pretty sure they were not - only Althea knows for sure!

About the Althea Harper Line
***Now Online at AltheaHarper.com***

The price range is about $150 to $500. Her sizes are from size 2 through 14, I believe. When Althea told me the sizes, I frowned and said I was dissapointed. Ok, I loudly pouted. She asked what size I was, and I replied to which she said "You are NOT a size 18, really???" and that I should just talk to her if I saw something I liked. She totally made my day with that statement! Her Sittella dresses did seem rather forgiving so I suspect there may be a piece or two I can fit into - but I don't think my body type is right for them. In any case, I had my eye on other items from her namesake line.

By the way, it seems that Althea Harper has continued her Sci-Fi influenced theme that she took to Project Runway. Personally, I'm excited about this because, well, you know me and Sci-Fi. If I can work that love into my wardrobe, all the better.

Assimilation - Spring/Summer 2010
While the name of this collection has me seriously freaked out (Assimilation?), the items in the collection are quite practical and serene. It reminds me a little of Stephanie Meyer's The Host - You will be Assimilated and peaceful! Although again, only Althea knows her true inspiration and why it was named "Assimilation".

Althea's favorite item from the collection, she mentioned, was the white blazer which she said could be used in a variety of occasions. I think it was the "Charley" jacket she was referring to (pictured right, image from Althea Harper.com). I am not positive if I picked out the correct jacket from her collection. I'll be honest - I didn't get a good look at it at Envy. However, there were a few other items from Assimilation that I did get a look at and loved quite a bit!

The Nicole Vest - $380
A knitted piece where the only thing special about it seems to be the yarn. Why did I like this piece? Anything that calls to mind visions of Tauntauns from Star Wars is a good thing by me - and that's exactly what I thought of when I laid eyes on it (sorry Althea - I hope you don't take offense). But you know what? I could see myself wearing it so it was one of the items I focused on the most. I am into layering at the moment. I think it makes me look thinner. Something like this light-weight knit would be perfect for me. I consider it to be rather seasonless in it's design (though the price is still too high for me to afford comfortably). You can see a much better picture of how it wears on her site. I suspect reader sorchabeanrmt will like it as well - I thought of her when I saw it.

The Horse Skirt - $275 (pictured way below on model)
This reminded me a lot of something I would see in Anthroplogie. In fact, I've seen skirts like this at Anthropologie. I would have considered getting a skirt like this at Anthropologie if they carried my size. Sumo owns a skirt from Anthropologie with this gathered detail but in a pin-stripe. Regardless, I still think this skirt is awesome! Althea Harper's skirt had a print with gathering detail, gathering to the right side of the skirt (if you're wearing it). The effect overall is quite pretty. I love skirts like this because if you're moving around or sitting you don't have to worry quite as much about wrinkling it because folds are already built in.

The Contour Dress - $275, image from AltheaHarper.com
My friend pulled this right off the rack and stated how much she liked it. I am including the image from Althea's website because it is much better than the picture I was able to take at the Trunk Show. If I were ever able to buy any dress from Althea Harper this might be it. I suspect that the nature of the print on this dress would do a lot to enhance a woman's figure and flatter rather than bulge.

Overall this line didn't really catch me as much as her fall line. My friend thought that the colors were too drab for her liking - I agree but I don't mind. I would have a hard time finding homes for some of these pieces individually in my personal wardrobe. I just don't dress in light blue and tan. But I know some people who do and the piece they need could be found in Assimilation.
Contour Dress detail on the Print

On the Left: Contour Mini - $375 (reminds me of Cylons in a good way, the sexy way)
On the right: Horse Skirt - $275 and The Boyfriend Tee $165 - I thought this shirt was overpriced. Actually I think the outfit is overpriced for my tastes. I wish the model had untucked the shirt and slapped a cool belt around her waste and the shirt instead. tucked in just looks strange.

On the Subject of Althea's Scarves
I suspect these were a last minute decision of Althea's, probably something quick and cheap fans could buy to support her brand. I had every intention of picking one up - until I realized that the threads on the end of some of the scarves was coming undone - the last thing I would want would be to lose the Althea Harper label off my strip of tie-dyed jersey cloth! I don't want one rushed, though. Also, I had a difficult time finding Althea's mother to make the order. So I will wait until these are available on her website (if they are to be available).

Guess what! Prices and styles for Althea's spring collection are available to purchase now from her website! It's up so get shopping!

Anyway, on to Fall!

Althea Harper - Fatalistic Futurism: Fall 2010
I wanted to highlight a few pieces I love from Althea Harper's fall collection. You can view the entire collection on her website. Sadly, not all of it was available at her trunk show so I don't have great pics for you.

The Big Large Chunky Hoodie (name unknown) - Image from Althea Harper.com
This stood out to me mostly because it's a knit and I love knits. I think the model in this picture absolutely sells the look. I got to see this lovely chunky wonderfulness in all it's glory at the show and you know what? It's just straight knit stitch! The twist - it's made of shoe string yarn! Althea let me in on that little secret. I'm busy trying to track some down now because I absolutely think it would be fun to knit with. This sweater, though I could make it myself, is on my short list of things that Althea Harper has created that I would like to own in the near future.

The Dress I'd Love to Own But Could Never Wear (name unknown) - Image from Althea Harper.com
I specifically asked Althea about this dress because it has been in my mind for weeks since this collection debued. At first I thought the knitted sleeve on the sheath was strange but it really grew on me. When I asked Althea how she came up with the idea for this, she said that she "threw it in at the last minute" as a way to bring the print into the show in another way (she had previously used it on a shirt). She then added "It's in L.A. at the moment - Kourtney Kardashian has it." My jaw pretty much hit the floor. Of course I would pick the dress La Kardashian had her eyes on! Considering I don't always agree with the Kardashian Fashion Sense, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Regardless, I love this dress. LOVE!

I do hope that Althea returns at some point to really show off her fall clothing, because she did have some quite fun pieces in there.

Sittella - Althea Harper's Other Line

What is a "Sittella"? Based on some Google searching it's some type of song bird or a winery. I am not sure which one Althea Harper intended to evoke (if either). But my money is on the song bird.

I did not know this before the show but Althea brought a line of dresses, all of which were jersey (that I saw) and around $200 or less (most around $150). I was excited to see her designing for those of us who can't afford her namesake label. Nearly all the models were wearing clothing from this label, probably because she was expecting the cheaper brand to be more popular with the Daytonites. Of course, if you're shopping in Envy, you're probably used to paying a bit more for your clothing, but that's another story.

The Characteristics of Sittella
Based on what I saw of this line, here are the characteristics I can tell you about it.
  • Sizes: Small, Medium and Large - Sorry ladies, no XL. I was hoping!
  • Jersey, Jersey, Jersey - It was breathable, light, soft, and apparently (according to the models, very comfortable. But I questioned how well it would hold up.
  • Blue, Grey, Green, Brown color palette - a little drab. I would have loved to see some of these dresses in awesome bright shades. The friend I took with me was very turned off by this. I love drabs, but I do think Althea could totally rock this line by producing a rainbow of colors.
  • Long dresses - at least knee length or longer.
  • Very Body-conscious - if you have curves of any kind, this clothing will show them. If you have curves you don't want seen, they will be seen! Not for the woman who is self-conscious of her spare tire.
  • You better love your boobs - because they will get shown off! And you know I love myself items of clothing that are boobalicious but I have fears about wearing these dresses. I think they would look lovely on the less-endowed-than-me crowd.
I really saw some of these dresses being layered either over swimsuits at the beach, or with a cardigan at work. As Althea's sister pointed out - they could even be worn on the red carpet if properly accessorized. I'm not sure I totally agree with that statement, but Althea has worn the same dress her sister was wearing at an award event so it has happened. The point is - these dresses are easily adaptable. Am I jealous of those who can wear these dresses? You bet I am! I encourage you to check out the line when it becomes available on Althea's Website next (next month I believe).

Althea's Sister Wearing One of the Dresses
(Due to the cramped space I took this sitting down - not the most flattering shot, I am sorry)

Hair and Makeup For the Models

Hair and Makeup was apparently provided by Hausfelds (which you know I love if you follow my posts about my ever changing hair color). The hair was very carefree, and fit very well with the jersey dresses in the line. I did ask one of the models for a closeup of her makeup (above). You'll notice the double eyeliner - black, followed by a streak of gold before the shadow complimenting her dress. The look was quite striking, in my opinion. It reminded me of a subdued version of the MAC for McQueen look back in 2007 - just a smidgen Egyptian with a less bold blue than McQueen wanted.

Lips were neutral with a little bit if shimmer. Because there wasn't much shimmer in the eyes I think this worked very well.

I didn't get a chance to find out what was used but I know that Hausefelds used to sell Jane Iredale - I don't know if they still do. If it is Jane Iredale I suspect they had to do something trixie to get that awesome gold used on the double liner here.

Envy As a Trunk Show Location for Althea Harper

While the Trunk Show was fun I did think there were some things that Envy could do to improve the experience for their attendees. Here are my suggestions:
  • Check "The List" - If you're going to take the time to take names, give them priority. Otherwise, why bother with a list?
  • Open On Time - The doors opened about 15 minutes late. When it's raining outside, not a good thing.
  • Organize Your Interior - People seemed to expect a "Meet and Greet" line for Althea. There also seemed to be maybe a line for drinks. In the end, there really was no line. Having a clear delegation of space would help. If you don't intend lines, then make that more apparent by having your staff mingle instead of huddling around the register.
  • Don't Block The Doorway - There was a big round table directly in front of the door with tanks and scarves as well as Althea flyers. Put a stack of fliers on a pedestal by the door, move the tanks and scarves to the side. Let us enter easier. It may work for day to day traffic, but in this case it was too much of an obstacle.
  • Give The Models A Plan - The models hung out in the back at first and didn't really seem to know what was going on. Make sure they are helping the crowd mingle if anything.They are there to be seen! Use them as greeters even.
  • Provide Better Access To the Designer's Clothing - There was a rack in the corner which made it difficult to get to and browse. If you don't intend on selling your stores regular content, I suggest removing it from your racks temporarily and putting Althea's content in it's place somewhere. There was great "Along the Wall" rack in the back across from the food that would have been perfect.
  • Food And Drink Should Be Easier to Access - Put that table along the side, not in front of the register where the hallway narrows. Remove clothing from that area if necessary.
  • Use the Register For Orders - Yes, Althea's Mother was taking orders but unless you were psychic it was hard to get that information, and she was sitting back by the dressing rooms. Why not provide a place behind the counter where it would make sense to put her and allow shoppers for easy access? I didn't purchase anything partially because it was so hard to get to the person taking orders.
  • There was no place for anyone to sit - I was lucky enough to share a seat with Althea's soon to be Grandmother-in-law (yes I did offer her the entire seat but she suggested we share - very sweet woman). Other people might have stayed longer if there was some seating.
  • Showcase the Designer Immediately - There was a good 10 minutes before Althea made her move to introduce herself and her collection. While that's ok to take the time to get everyone in, Have a set up that puts her in a place of importance and lets people know where she's going to talk (and that she'll do it soon). It's her day, let her shine!
  • Offer a Discount on Regular Store Merchandise to People Who Attended - Just a little bonus of goodwill I'm suggesting. :)
Yes, I'm being really picky on Envy. But I do think improving the attendee experience would assist both the store and the designer. So says the User Experience Specialist in me!
    Talking With Althea (and Her Family) About Personal Things

    Quite by accident, as I mentioned, I ended up chatting with Althea's sister and Grandmother-to-be. The mentioned that Althea would be getting married in Dayton, and did not reveal a date. Grandma-to-be said she didn't know it, so I'm not sure if it's set yet or not. However, I did ask Althea a very important question: Would she be designing her own wedding dress? "Of course! And the Bridesmaid Dresses!" she answered. She said that many of her Twitter followers have been telling her she should have Carol Hannah (friend of Althea's and former competitor on Project Runway) design her dress. But Althea dismissed that idea quickly - "Like I can't design a wedding dress?" Of course she can! And you know what? I can't wait to see it!

    Myself (left) with the Gorgeous Golden Goddess Althea Harper (right, of course)

    Did anyone else attend? If you did I would love to hear what you thought. I was so excited about this. It was quite a fun event for me to attend, but I'm looking for some other Fashion Lovers to go with me if she ever comes around again. Let me know who you are in the comments below!