(Photo credit: Dolce & Gabbana, Fashion Show Winter 2013, Woman) Over the past year, the study of best practices in visual merchandising has become a special area of interest for me in the formulation of plans for marketing Fashion Belle sewing patterns, both on package covers and possibly in retail fabric stores with a display of custom fabric. New York City's concentration of designer flagship stores offers a stunning introduction to what can be achieved through the use of construction materials, finishes, color and layout in visual merchandising within retail stores. While perusing these stores in 2008 at the end of my 18-month stay in the city for patternmaking work, the Dolce & Gabbana store at 825 Madison Avenue impressed me as my favorite. (Future visitors to New York should be aware that with the company's anticipated opening of a nearby location at 717 Fifth Avenue, speculation exists that the Madison store may eventually close). The interior design was not one that I would have naturally chosen, with expanses of reflective black surfaces, oversize chandeliers and gold accents, as my tastes generally lean toward light colors and simple fixtures. However, the Dolce & Gabbana interior offered a perfect balance of simplicity with luxury, and I felt transported into a world of modern luxury as soon as I stepped inside. Plenty of open spaces and a grand staircase kept the black from overpowering, and the chandeliers provided contrast to the remaining simple shapes.
Because of my impression of the Dolce & Gabbana store in 2008, I have since visited the company's website several times to see what I might learn about online visual merchandising. Over the past few seasons, the site has offered a burst of random photos on the home page, and links lead to a maze of other entertaining material. People who want to spend time enjoying the fashion experience probably enjoy the depth of the Dolce & Gabbana site layout, but shoppers who want to go straight to the products may prefer more direct navigation. During a recent visit to the site, I was delighted to find a beautiful collection of needlepoint florals inspired by Sicilian Baroque for the Winter 2013 women's collection. Two of my favorites are pictured. To view close-ups of the needlepoint florals and the handcrafted gold accents that define the collection, see the Dolce & Gabbana FW13 Womenswear Video Guide.
While Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are far from being known as designers focused on modesty, they do produce modest styles from time to time, as is common among most designers at their level. Designer fashion accommodates a generous budget for fabric, making the addition of extra yardage for modest coverage an easy task. Skimpy styles require less fabric and are therefore cheaper to produce, thus the overstocking of short, tight clothing in budget lines. If you can afford to purchase couture, then the clothing will be custom made for you with any extra length or lining you request, and you will enjoy the authentic handmade details exclusive to the designer. For those of us who sew, fashion from designer lines usually serves as better inspiration for modest clothing than fashion from an average department store. Adding a lining or raising a neckline on a designer style is often all that may be needed to turn a look into something with enough style to be beautiful and enough modesty to be comfortable. Of course, patternmaking and sewing skills are essential to creating your own versions of designer fashion. If you are not already skilled in sewing, think about picking up sewing as your next hobby. The satisfaction of making your own clothes exactly as you wish rewards your effort. Becoming fast at sewing is like any other skill; it can be learned, and it takes practice.