Jay Calderin

Reflections on the ideas behind fashion that place it at the center of my life’s work.

Boston Fashion 101: A primer for the local style scene

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As fall returns and Boston is buzzing with students coming back to school, there is no mistaking that among professionals, fashion is once again a priority. A ‘grass is greener’ mindset that focuses on what’s happening in fashion elsewhere makes it easy to forget that Boston has a thriving fashion scene of its own. An introduction for some, a refresher for others, the following is a quick reference guide to the abundance of fashion experiences to be had, right in your own back yard.

A Culture of Fashion

More than ever before, fashion is considered worthy of space at major cultural institutions. Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum recently hosted the awe inspiring collection of fashion icon Iris Apfel. Exhibitions at the American Textile Museum regularly explore cloth, culture and couture. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design was host to a collection of works by celebrated fashion designer Mary McFadden. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston struck an artistic blow for fashion with their Fashion Show exhibition in 2006. The museum continues to show its respect for the art of fashion with exhibits this fall like Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 and Scaasi: American Couturier.

From Runway to Retail

If you’re in need of a little retail therapy, you can shop until you drop in Boston and beyond. Newbury Street is home to everything from Urban Outfitters to Chanel, with each of those stores actually serving as anchors at either end of the street. Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan are just a few of the international designer brands that share the eight block stretch with important local boutiques like Alan Bilzerian, Riccardi, Serenella, Matsu, Calypso, and Betsy Jenney of Boston. Copley Place, Natick Collection, Legacy Place and The Mall at Chestnut Hill also offer high-end shopping experiences, as does the Boston-based online boutique Rue La La. For the thrill of a bargain, the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets serve up both savings and style. A little further north, Kittery Outlets in Maine continue to be a shopping destination for the thrifty fashionista.

Haute Tech Couture

Anyone who has experienced a winter in New England is familiar with Polar fleece, also known as microfleece. That fabric was created at Malden Mills (Polartec, LLC). Local innovations like this one are not an uncommon occurrence. The area has a rich history as a center of manufacturing for textiles, clothing and shoes. It also boasts some of the most creative scientific minds in the world. Massachusetts Institute of Technology for instance, is no stranger to fashion. Fusing technology and fashion was the theme of a series of shows called Seamless, which challenged what we wear to perform in some way that improved the quality of life.

A Fashion Education

The success of television programs like Project Runway have been credited with influencing an increase in enrollment at fashion schools across the country. In Boston, and throughout the area, many of the schools that offer an education in fashion design experienced that surge. A few of those schools include; Bay State College, Fisher College, Framingham State College, Lasell College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Mount Ida College, Rhode Island School of Design and School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street. In addition to fashion design, many of these schools and a host of others offer coursework in merchandising, marketing and communications for fashion. As a result the region is turning out the next generation of fashion professionals in record numbers.

Couture Connection

Fashion Group International was founded in 1930. A small sampling from the list of founding members sounds like a who’s who of powerful fashion professionals, not to mention a very influential First Lady. Some of those legendary women where Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Lilly Dache, Edith Head, Claire McCardell, Carmel Snow and, of course, Eleanor Roosevelt. Boston became one of the first FGI satellites shortly after its inception. Since then FGI has grown to become a well respected global organization. Originally conceived as an association for women, membership is now open to men as well. FGI of Boston has become a touchstone for local fashion professionals, offering networking opportunities and access to resources for its members and the community.

Homegrown Design

There is something for everyone when it comes to local fashion design talent. Sometimes referred to as the father of Boston fashion, Alfred Fiandaca remains a respected presence on the local fashion scene, while seasoned designers like Denise Hajjar and Daniel Faucher figure prominently as well.

More recent additions to the list of designers championing local style are Daniela Corte, Michael DePaulo and Jeff Lahens of ECC Genuine Bespoke, who is one of the areas few menswear designers. Shubhra Bhattacharya Chandra, Shelley Chhabra, Nirva Derbekyan, Daniel Hernandez, Prajje Jean-Baptiste, Andrea McLean of Drea Designs and Sam Mendoza are among those making a names for themselves in Boston.


The Next Generation

An innovative pilot program called The Launch was responsible for bringing five new faces – Millie Bautista, Pavlina Gilson, Nara Paz, Eddi Phillips, Elena Sanders – to the attention of the press and the public in 2009. This year during Boston Fashion Week, Victoria Dominguez, Aey Hotarwaisaya, Laura Kane, Sara Marhamo, Samira Vargas will be the focus of this industry effort to mentor and encourage up and coming designers.

Celebrating Style

This year Boston Fashion Week is scheduled for September 24th thru October 1st and takes place at venues throughout the city. The week has become an eagerly anticipated tradition since it began in 1995. Part of its appeal is that established professionals as well as aspiring newcomers from around the globe, who call Boston home, share the spotlight for this weeklong celebration of style. The official schedule is packed full of runway presentations, educational programming, exhibitions and of course parties, where everyone can see and be seen in the latest fashions.

Boston is about smart fashion and smart fashion is about balance. Global fashion concerns are certainly here to stay in one way or another, but a return to regionalism is the answer to retaining control over how we personally interpret and adopt fashion. Any wardrobe that reflects individuality is bound to include one-of-a-kind items that can only be acquired locally. Our regional reputation for innovation is at the heart of the renaissance that local the fashion community is experiencing. It is an exciting time to be creating and collecting fashion in Boston.

Boston Fashion Links






Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/September 2010


Written by jaycalderin

April 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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