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Student with mannequins

Winter Fashion Study Tour 2012

By: Leanne Pieczonka


We arrived in London on January 5th, which marked the beginning of our ten-day fashion study tour: five days in London and five days in Paris. During this trip I had many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I was able to expand on and gain new knowledge about the fashion industry. Being able to link real-life situations I encountered on the tour to the material I have learned in my TMD classes was quite thrilling. Furthermore, I was able to consider potential careers. Following is an overview as well as a reflection of the study tour from my perspective.


To become familiar with the city of London we started with a bus tour that covered Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the financial district. Nigel, our fabulous tour guide, was full of information on all of these sites. Once the tour was over, we checked into our hotel across the street from Hyde Park. To beat jet lag, we used the rest of the evening to do a little exploring in Oxford Circus. As exhausted as I was by this point, I was alert when visiting the intriguing department store Selfridges. My favorite department was the shoe gallery, which had a very fun atmosphere that reminded me of a nightclub. This among the many department stores that London had to offer was quite an experience.


Our first appointment was at The Victoria and Albert MuseumAngelica Eipert at the Victoria and Albert Museum where we had a guided tour. The textiles and costumes that we viewed came from all over the world and were from different centuries. I enjoyed this museum because although I have not specifically studied these particular textiles, I have an art history minor. I also really enjoyed the more contemporary Alexander McQueen piece, which incorporated an animal print and was comparable to something Beyonce would wear today. The first Barbie doll was also on exhibit; it was fun to observe her outfit, which included a black and white striped swimsuit that was definitely inspired by the 50’s when this doll was created. Once we were finished at the V&A museum, we went to the posh department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Harrods was another one of my favorite department stores, which was extremely large, had tons of upscale fashion, and a huge selection of different types of food! I thoroughly enjoyed the time we had to explore in these department stores that are not like anything we have back in the states.


Our next journey was to the Fashion and Jill Austin trying on a jacket at Zandra RhodesTextile Museum. Although this museum was small, I was very attentive to all the photos that displayed fashion icons such as Anna Wintour and the models that were wearing top designers’ garments. The museum had a very unique atmosphere as well. Once we were finished observing the photos and the clothing on mannequins, we headed next door to Zandra Rhodes’ workshop. This appointment was one of my favorites. We met Maria who explained to us how the company works and how clothing is created and manufactured. She shared with us several samples of their printed fabrics. She even let us try on some of the finished pieces! Maria’s story was very inspiring, considering how involved she is in everything that goes on at Zandra Rhodes. I would definitely love to be that involved in a company in my future, with more of a focus on the merchandising end.


Portobello Road on Saturday was a fun street to stroll down! There were antiques, which are always fun to observe. There were also some vintage shops that had a lot of neat clothing and shoes. After studying fashion history, it was definitely great to see old clothing and be able to identify the time period. Being in a vintage shop in another country also makes it more exciting than shopping in your own country! Once we came to the end of Portobello Road we had some free time to go over to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. The royal headpieces and jewels were truly a magnificent thing to see. Observing the world’s biggest diamond, which is over 500 karats, had me speechless!


For our trip to the British Museum we had an assignment, which I found useful because it narrowed down which objects to spend time with. Because there is so much in this museum it was impossible to see every piece. I was excited to find several of the objects because I had learned about them in my art history classes. Hokusai’s Great Wave was one piece that I was excited to see because it was used as an example of Orientalism in the Introduction to Design class that I just completed last semester. The Standard of Ur is another piece that I have learned about in my art history classes; I was surprised to find out how small it actually was. My favorite was the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. After the museum, we headed to Camden Market, which was more of a “punk” market than Portobello Road. It was interesting to observe how differently people were dressed there. We even discovered another fun vintage shop!


Liberty was yet another one of my favorite department stores. Liberty is a product of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which I learned about in the Introduction to Design class. Actually being able to observe what William Morris was so passionate about was a thrill. I even learned that the Art Nouveau movement was also known as Stile Liberty in Italy, which was named after this store. There were a lot of paisley patterns on the fabric because these dynamic, curvy, flowing characteristics were a part of this movement. I loved the layout of the store and how each floor had rooms connected to a main room, which gave it a very homey atmosphere. The fireplaces were also a very nice touch. There was a large selection of merchandise as well, which included sewing supplies and fabric, clothing, vintage clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. I loved the selection as well as the arts and crafts movement thinking behind a lot of the merchandise. I would love to be a buyer for this store!


Dover Street Market was a very different type of store with a fascinating approach. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons opened this shop to give designers a place to display their designs. Many of the designers were familiar to me, but some new young designers were featured as well. Each has their own space in this “bare bones” building that is transformed into something that is very personalized. The displays change often, which causes interior alterations every few months. The choice of fixtures in each section is unique. I find this to be a very interesting way of bringing together designers with different backgrounds to appeal to an array of consumers.


Our appointment at Pinaki Studios, which is a textile studio where textiles are transformed into materials that have unique effects, had me captivated. These textiles are used in stage costumes, fashion, interiors and in window displays. Arantza’s creations were used for the costumes in Phantom of the Opera. I understood what she was discussing because of what I learned in Textile Science class last semester. Arantza told us how she achieves these effects through burnouts and discharge. She also made it clear that when she tells someone the title of her job they mistaken it for the act of making clothes, which in reality, she is editing the material used to make them. I have never realized that this sort of job existed. I found it extremely fascinating!


To start our Paris excursion we went on another bus tour that also covered the main attractions. Besides the Eiffel Tower, my favorite was the Opera House, which was breathtaking with its Baroque designed exterior. Our first appointment was at Colette, which is a fashion-forward boutique that is often compared to Dover Street Market in London. I felt that the buyers for this store have a good technique because of how often new shipments come in. The store was not huge but had a large assortment of clothing designers and a good selection of books, magazines, DVDs, bracelets, candles and a lot more fun little things on the first floor that are constantly changing. Being able to compare these two stores in two of the most fashionable cities was a great experience and was thought provoking for me on the different approaches buyers can take.


Our appointment at Yves Saint Laurent was another thrilling moment of the tour. Being able to stand inside the studio where his designs were created was almost unreal. Then watching a video of him fitting a model in his studio, while we were actually standing in that exact room topped it off for me. A few of his garments were presented on mannequins in the studio. I really enjoyed observing the heart dress, which was constructed extremely well. A long, black, sleeveless gown on display was something I definitely would still wear today. We then entered a library room with numerous notebooks that held sketches from all of his collections. While I was familiar with some of Yves Saint Laurent’s creations such as the Mondrian dress and the Le Smoking tuxedo suit from the Development of 20th Century Fashion class, I enjoyed learning about the history of the company and actually being able to stand in the place where his ideas had originated.


When visiting the Louvre we also had a short list of objects to view. Because it was my second time there, it was my second time seeing a lot of these pieces, such as the Venus de Milo and Napoleon’s Coronation, which I did not mind. In addition to the assignment we went and viewed Napoleon’s apartments, which were beautiful. I could spend all day in the Louvre. Another museum we took the time to see was the Musee D’Orsay, which in itself is absolutely gorgeous. My favorite part of this museum was the wing with the Monet paintings; I could look at them all day!


The Frederic Malle appointment taught me a lot about the creation of perfume and the actual company, who I was not familiar with. I had no idea how much schooling was necessary for someone to become a perfumer. Their fragrances truly seem to be very authentic. Their motive is to provide the customer with a scent that is not specifically personalized for them, but yet personal and something they can consider their own scent. They figure out the best scent for the consumer by asking them several questions so they can narrow down the options and select a few that may be appealing. The associates at Frederic Malle really want the customer to take the time to find the right perfume, so they sometimes suggest that the costumer go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air because the coffee bean technique is not accurate. I felt that the large tubes they use to trap the scent of the perfume is a really effective way of letting the customer get a full sense of what the perfume smells like. If I had the right nose for this type of thing it would be a unique option for a career path, but that is something I don’t have. But, I do know that when I am ready to purchase a new perfume I would like to buy one from Frederic Malle or a company with a similar background!


The appointment at Alain Lalou was one I was anticipating eagerly because I have always been interested in bridal gowns and weddings. Being able to meet the designer and listen to his story and advice about his career was fascinating. I would have loved to see his actual bridal gown creations because the photographs he shared with us were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t realize that he also designs much more than bridal gowns but also specializes in women’s wear. The fact that he had one of his bridal gowns displayed on an ad all along Madison Ave is huge! It was obvious that he is extremely passionate about what he does, which to me, is a top quality in a designer!


The Edelkoort fashion forecasting appointment was eye opening. The staff provided us with a lot of information on the company, which involves forecasting, that goes beyond fashion, something I did not know at all. It’s amazing how a company like this can be so successful at making accurate predictions. My favorite part of the appointment was when we had the chance to go through the magazines and catalogs for the 2013/2014 seasons. I was very intrigued with the thought process that goes along with this sort of position.


There was no better way to end the trip than with the Louis Vuitton Museum and workshop. Students at the Louis Vuitton House and MuseumAfter this appointment I had so much of a greater appreciation for Louis Vuitton that I was compelled to purchase a handbag! Margarita was definitely a character whom I absolutely loved. She was very inspirational and told us how important it is for us to believe in ourselves and to just go for it. After hearing her speak to us about herself, the history of Louis Vuitton and the mansion we were in, we took a tour through the entire workshop. The craftsmen were working on handbags and trunks all by hand, which was definitely a sight to see. I learned that they create about 500 custom pieces a year. I also learned that the LV symbol that appears on many of the bags was created by his son. Therefore, the LV is never cut through on a bag because it is to honor his father (also a way to distinguish a fake bag). In addition, I learned that when the straps on my bag begin to become darker it is completely normal because just like the way we tan, so does leather. This appointment made me realize how outstanding the company Louis Vuitton is!


Once we finished at Louis Vuitton we headed over to Versailles, which was breathtaking. On Hall of Mirrors at Versaillesthe guided tour we learned that there were two versions of the Coronation of Napoleon I, one in the palace and one in the Louvre. I have learned about several of the paintings in the palace in my art history classes, including the portrait of Louis XIV. Marie Antoinette’s room was my favorite, especially because of the rococo decoration. I am now inspired to watch the movie as well! I hope that the next time I visit The Palace of Versailles it is warm out so I can witness all the beautiful flowers that grow in the gardens!


I was extremely pleased with this fashion study tour to London and Paris. I was able to learn about several different positions in the fashion industry from the professionals. It was extremely inspiring to hear their stories because I will soon be entering the work force. The range of jobs to consider has definitely expanded as a result of this trip. I was even able to reinforce knowledge that I have acquired in my TMD classes with what I was learning and seeing abroad. And of course spending time in these fashion-oriented cities is always a delight!