As a longtime contributor to such fashion bibles as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle, Kathleen Beckett wrote countless articles about the behind-the-scenes workings of the fashion industry, profiling designers, covering events, and keeping a finger on the pulse of this ever-changing creative field. Even during her tenure as a journalist, however, she realized that what she loved most was learning about the individual passions driving the people she met. "Of course, I also profiled big names," she says, "but I really appreciated the lesser-known designers who were doing beautiful work." Eager to share the discoveries she made with her insider access as a journalist, Beckett launched an exclusive personal shopping venture called Beckett's Black Book. This year, the company transformed into something even more exciting: Friends of Fashion, which functions as a social fashion community whose members are invited to private shopping parties (some at the designer's studios or homes), as well as intimate events hosted by such legends as Donna Karan, Proenza Schouler, Nicole Miller and Cynthia Rowley. "A long time ago, while on assignment for Elle, I realized that there might be people out there who would enjoy the same inner access that I had as a journalist," says Beckett, who is offering a special Friends of Fashion tour for Indagare this spring, which will bring attention and funds for Save the Garment District. Beckett spoke to Indagare about her take on the world of fashion and why New York's fashion industry is in peril. (Read more about the tour; how you can sign up and the rest of the interview).
Can you describe Friends of Fashion's involvement with New York's Garment District?
New York City's Garment Center is in danger of dying, which is one of the reasons I decided to donate a portion of all sales at Friends of Fashion events to Save the Garment Center. This non-profit was formed to protect designers and manufacturers that are being forced to close as the city eases the zoning laws that protect apparel businesses. The end of the Garment Center would be a huge loss for the city, and I believe that this will be the next chic--and worthwhile--cause, like the Highline.
Will some of your tours incorporate this historic district?
Yes, absolutely. There are some wonderful stories. For instance, those who join the Save the Garment Center Tour on March 16 will meet the descendants of those who started some of these factories. There used to be 400 factories specialized in decorative stitching and now there are only four. Statistics like that are jaw-dropping. We will examine how the times have changed. For instance, there are factories that used to do all the work for a designer; and those same places are now producing a single sample to be shipped to China where the line is produced cheaper and of lesser quality. And of course, when a graduate from FIT gets his or her first order from a small boutique for five pieces, they can't outsource to China. It truly is fascinating when you dive into the behind-the-scenes.
What are some other highlights of the Save the Garment Center Crawl?
We will go on a behind-the-scenes tours to see the factories and meet the people making the clothes we all love to wear. We'll see designs by Oscar de la Renta, Nicole Miller, and Calvin Klein come to life at one of the last remaining factories for decorative stitching. The tour will end at Nanette Lepore's headquarters, which house her offices, showroom and design studio, and we'll chat with Nanette about why she chooses to produce in New York City. Most exciting is also that the designer has agreed to host her first-ever private trunk show for us. Members of our group will be able to place orders for her Fall 2010 collection, which is straight off the runway. She'll also have her Spring 2010 line for shopping.