Rolito Reef dress__$92__Zappos.com
Girl Can dress__$115__Custo Barcelona store
Eureka Sound dress__$176__Custo Barcelona store
Darla Stripes coat__$226__Zappos.com
Trivi Heart top__$123__Zappos.com
Spring 09 RTW__New York Magazine
It is difficult to come up with a word that would define Custo Barcelona's clothing. The term "t-shirt" is insufficient and does them little justice, for it does not express or reflect the exuberant display of imagination and fantasy that can be found in Custo Barcelona clothing designs. Custo Barcelona is known for their exquisitely designed men’s shirts, women’s dresses and tanks and blouses. [Zappos.com]
It all started on a bit of a whim. Brothers Custo and David Dalmau’s year-long motorcycle trip around the world in 1980 was meant to be a youthful rite of passage. The result, however, was Custo Barcelona, a lifestyle brand with outposts in locales from Qatar to Kiev. “That trip changed my life,” Custo says. “I was planning to be an architect, but suddenly I felt drawn to designing clothes. I knew we had nothing in Spain that looked like the bold, psychedelic T-shirts I saw in California.”
Style.com: Why the unending affection for prints? What do you think they do for a woman?
Custo: Prints are color in motion. They take on a life of their own. There is so much seriousness out there—so much that is neutral and monochromatic. A woman needs an outlet for her creativity and her whimsy. I want to give that to her. Style.com
Custo Barcelona - official site
Two Toned Panelled dress__Alessandro Dell'Aqua__£370
Metallic Strappy shoe__Alexander McQueen__£525
High Heel Lace Effect shoe__Fendi__£465
Cut Out shoe w / Zip__House of Holland__£340
Crepe Shibari Shift dress__Thakoon__$1,495
Foil Print Bandage dress__Herve Leger__$1,450
Soutine Asymmetric dress__RM by Roland Mouret__$1,775
Neon Baroque Jersey dress__Matthew Williamson__$1,850__The Statement Dress
Striped Cotton dress__Michael Kors__$1,395
Ruffle Neck top__Catherine Malandrino__$255
Studded Mini skirt__Balmain__$7,830
Despite falling sales and industry redundancies, the fashion show that most editors and buyers can't wait to see this season is by a French fashion house that has become famous for its £1,000 jeans.
Balmain was founded by Pierre Balmain in 1945, but under current designer Christophe Decarnin the fashion world has succumbed to "Balmania". One of the most expensive clothing lines ever has become the label of choice for celebrities and is adored by the industry.
Editors and buyers are now in Milan on the third week of the biannual fashion shows. So far, events in London and New York have been low-key. Industry insiders have grumbled about a lack of canapés and gifts at the shows, there have been few parties and some designers have quit the catwalks altogether, holding cheaper showroom presentations instead.
But despite this season's gloomy mood, the big hit of Paris Fashion Week will be Thursday's Balmain show, where it is unlikely that anything on the catwalk will sell for less than £1,000.
"What Christophe Decarnin has done to the house of Balmain is broken tradition," says Kate Phelan, Vogue's fashion director. "It's become a cool label. Quite trashy, but glamorous - rock'n'roll and sexy - and there's a lack of that in fashion."
Like many labels, Balmain has benefited from celebrity endorsement. Penélope Cruz wore a Balmain dress to the Oscars last week, saying that it was so special that she had waited eight years to wear it, wanting to find the perfect occasion. Gwyneth Paltrow also wore Balmain to the première of her film, Iron Man, last year.
But it's not just the A-list who love it. The label's jeans and biker jackets are its key looks. Balmain hit the headlines in January when its jeans, priced at £1,060, went on sale in London - and promptly sold out. Balmain T-shirts also sell for more than £1,000 and dresses for up to £15,000.
Erin Mullaney, buying director of Brown's fashion boutique in London, says: "I'd worked in the industry for seven years when I saw his [Decarnin] first season in 2005, and I'd never heard of prices at that level. I choked. Now we joke about it, because it has become relative. Balmain moved the bar up, but Givenchy and Prada have moved in that direction, too. Customers have re-adjusted their pricing."
The cost does seem to be no object: Balmain's owner, French businessman Alain Hivelin, said sales had doubled since Decarnin was appointed in 2005 and he expects revenue for 2008 to hit $28m. While most fashion houses are scaling back, Balmain launched menswear in January, has hired more staff and a new range of shoes is on the way.
Mullaney says the credit crunch has shown no sign of touching sales. "It's the best season we've had so far. We have waiting lists and we're reordering constantly; we can't keep it in the store. People know it's an investment. The fashion house is a name that people want to invest in, and they want to buy it because Christophe has made it desirable."
Mullaney says Decarnin's influence is visible in other designers' work and in the clothes that she has seen industry insiders wearing on the front row: "We're calling it Balmania," she says.
Phelan added that his costly catwalk designs are even influencing the high street. "I think the high street has picked up on this because it's something they can do well - the biker jacket is back, and ripped jeans and T-shirts."
Despite the flush of success and his rock'n'roll style clothing, in the flamboyant business of fashion Balmain's designer stands out by saying nothing. Harper's Bazaar recently described him as "about as chatty as a mountaintop monk" and the New York Times as "colourless and shy".
"He may pretend to be shy, but Christophe knows exactly what he's doing," says Mullaney. "He's a man of few words, but the product speaks for itself - it's loud and brash and doesn't hold back."
[guardian.co.uk - Mar.01/09]