By Alexandra Anastasio
It’s that time again when New York City welcomes Fashion Week. Descending upon the Big Apple twice a year, it is one of the hottest tickets in town. From the designers to the fashionistas, everyone is abuzz with excitement over what to expect on the runway. Thousands of countless hours are spent behind the scenes creating these eye-catching designs that will make their debut.
And while specific events are by invitation only, BELLA was granted exclusive access to three of the hottest designers in the industry to talk about their business, what inspires them, and how they bring their beautiful designs to life.
Native New Yorker Randi Rahm lived an interesting life even before she became a fashion designer. While her grandfather was the editor of one of New York’s most popular newspapers, the New York Daily Mirror, her grandmother was the one to introduce her to the world of couture clothing.
“My grandmother always dressed to the occasion,” recalls Rahm. “I always knew I loved fashion and came from a family where fashion was important.” Despite her stylish inclinations, however, she didn’t originally pursue that passion. “I was a classically trained pianist and conductor,” she shares.
But as circumstances happened, Rahm found herself walking into a new, unplanned career. After a quilt she designed for her son caught the eye of a boutique owner, a light bulb went off in Rahm’s head. From handmade quilts to little girl’s dresses, she began to follow a new path. “I had no idea at first how to even make a dress, but I had chutzpah and I just went for it,” she says.
When creating a new design, Rahm’s inspiration evolves from a variety of places. “I love texture and embellishments,” she says, specifically ones that evoke a certain feeling or remind her of a particular location like Mykonos, where she traveled this past summer. What Rahm feels at any given moment can set off a brand new collection.
In addition to what she creates at her atelier, Rahm’s designs have also been a part of ABC’s hit shows “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” for the past few years.
This past season of “The Bachelorette” featured seven of Rahm’s designs, including gowns worn for both the opening and the finale, the two shows Rahm says are the envy of all designers vying for the show’s selection.
When she’s not designing, Rahm is actively involved with a variety of organizations, including the Storefront Academy, T.J. Martell Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography. “I believe in giving back,” she says.
As she continues to design, her goal is produce a collection that represents all women, enabling them to look and feel their most beautiful.
“For me, beauty is the ability to get up every single day and do you what you love,” says Rahm. “I love all of the designs, but what I love even more is seeing the right person get into one and feel like a goddess. Now that’s beautiful!”
This season it’s all about the jumpsuit, says Rahm. “I’ve always loved them.”
Chiara Boni of Le Petite Robe
In 2007, Italian-born designer Chiara Boni began sharing her ready-to-wear label, Le Petite Robe, with the fashion world. Two years later the brand started its expansion into the international market, and in 2010 was introduced to high-end department stores and specialty boutiques in both Canada and the United States. Indeed, in just 10 short years, Le Petite Robe has amassed a cult following of women from all over the world.
Boni, who was interested in fashion at a young age, has her mother to thank. “Fashion looked like a dream to me,” she says. “All the models in Paris and Florence atelier, where my mother used to dress, looked like real princesses when they were modeling the gowns.” It’s no wonder the future designer envisioned becoming a princess when she grew up.
All of the pieces in the Le Petite Robe collection are incredibly versatile, and Boni strives to take a woman straight from day to evening. “It’s challenging, but rewarding,” she says.
When working on new designs, Boni is inspired by women and how they move in the environment. Creatively, she looks to the designers of the past who have left a recognizable imprint on fashion.
Her latest fall collection, in stores now, features feminine dresses where Boni’s signature fabric is combined with matte and patent faux leather to create charming graphics, as well as with velvet for a precious feel. “The sinuous shape of women’s bodies are exalted by the zippers, which decorates cuffs and necklines, injecting a graphic twist into the collection,” she explains.
With spring 2018 fashion ready to make its debut on the runway, Boni says we can expect to see a color palette that is focused on soft sorbet tones, including pale pink, lilac and avocado. As for her designs, Boni says just like in a wild, open field, flowers bloom on sophisticated dresses, jumpsuits, and separates crafted from her signature jersey fabric.
This past July, Boni opened her third store, the first in the United States, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. In looking ahead, her vision is to continue to build a presence in the most important markets around the world. “Retail expansion is among our projects,” she says.
Boni has been designing for many years. In the 1970s, she opened her own shop in Florence as an artisan called, “You Tarzan, Me Jane.”
FB: Chiara Boni – La Petite Robe
South African-born fashion designer Marc Bouwer grew up with a love for fashion despite the fact there weren’t many visuals to turn to for inspiration. “We were one of the last countries to get TV, so I read a lot of books as a child and listened to the radio,” says Bouwer. “I only had what was around me for inspiration—the colorful ways the South African people dressed and the animals around me.”
Once TV made its way to his country, the budding designer became enamored with old Hollywood movies, one of the few things that played on-screen. “The sense of old Hollywood was ingrained in me from an early age,” he says.
At 17, he won the South African Vogue Young Designer’s Award, which catapulted him to early fame in his home country. And while working on his collection and dressing South African celebrities, Bouwer knew that in order to see his star continue to rise, he had to make his way to New York City. “To become bigger and better, I had to leave.”
Fast forward a few years, and the designer found himself working alongside Halston, an iconic force he had long admired. “I’m very grateful to him,” says Bouwer. “It’s how I started in fashion in NYC.”
His first solo collection caught the eye of a then up-and-coming singer, Whitney Houston. At the beginning of her career, Houston was, as Bouwer puts it, in need of “just about everything.”
“I wanted the business and even though I wasn’t sure how to make all of the pieces, I literally taught myself,” says Bouwer. “I’m thankful I did because at this stage of my life I pretty much know how to make anything.”
The two worked together on and off until the singer’s death in 2012. Having dressed a lot of famous women, Houston remains the “biggest and greatest client” he’s ever had.
Over the years he’s dressed celebrities from Beyonce, Emily Blunt, Jaimie Alexander, Charlize Theron, Alicia Keyes, and of course Angelina Jolie, whose 2004 white satin dress for the Academy Awards put him on the map as a major contender. “It was pivotal moment in my career and will live on as one of my greatest achievements,” he says.
Bouwer is currently in the process of setting up his first e-commerce site within the next few months. “The business is changing rapidly, and you have to change with the times,” says the designer.
When it comes to inspiration, Bouwer cites the women he designs for as his muse, however, he also finds ideas through fabrics and the shapes the pieces take on as he begins to cut and create.
“I see what works and what doesn’t, and from there a story starts to take shape,” he says. “I also work on a couple of things at once…not getting too subjective allows for a more objective idea of how that collection should work.”
Bouwer also creates designs for Evine, an entertainment shopping channel that offers consumers hip and cool clothes at an affordable price. “We are their number one fashion brand, which is very exciting.”