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Category Archives: fashion and clothing

Fashion designer says she won’t dress Melania Trump

First ladies have served as a canvas for both established and up-and-coming designers for decades. But it looks like the incoming FLOTUS may have a harder time leaving her fashion mark on history.

Last week, French-born designer Sophie Theallet, whose vibrant designs have been spotted frequently on Michelle Obama, shared an official statement on Twitter saying that she will not provide clothing for Melania Trump.

“As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” she wrote. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by. I encourage my fellow designers to do the same.”

Apparently, Theallet isn’t the first designer to distance herself from the Trumps.People reports that during the election campaign, several undisclosed designers refused to provide clothing for Melania or for the president-elect’s daughters Ivanka and Tiffany. As a result, the three pulled wardrobe pieces from Ivanka’s eponymous fashion line, bought them online and “shopped their closets.”

Although no other designers have come forth to outright state they will not dress the next FLOTUS, a few have pledged to donate some or all of their proceeds to charities that came under threat during Trump’s campaign, like Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter.

New York-based designer Kaelen Haworth, who designs the Kaelen label, announcedon Nov. 11 that all the designs on her website would be sold at a 75 per cent discount for one week, and all proceeds would be donated to one of 17 charities that were targeted by the Trump campaign.

Similarly, The Outrage, an ethical fashion brand with a feminist focus, pledged to donate 100 per cent of the proceeds from their “Pantsuit Nation” range to Planned Parenthood.

“To have such a qualified, intelligent and inspiring woman come so close and lose like this is absolutely devastating,” co-founder Rebecca Correa Funk said to Marie Claire. “But it’s also a signal that we have a lot of work to do.”

The range includes tank tops, T-shirts, sweatshirts, baby onesies, mugs and cotton tote bags.

It may seem unwise to take such a decisive stand, but for someone like Theallet, who is herself an immigrant (she’s now based in New York), some of the things espoused by Trump during the campaign felt like a direct threat.

“I am well aware it is not wise to get involved in politics,” she wrote. “That said, as a family-owned company, our bottom line is not just about money. We value our artistic freedom and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious and ethical way to create in this world.”

It seems doubtful, however, that the incoming First Lady will have trouble finding designers willing to dress her.

In an interview with the Business of Fashion, Venezuelan-born, New York-based designer Carolina Herrera said: “I think that in two or three months [designers will] reach out, because it’s fashion. You’ll see everyone dressing Melania. She’s representing the United States.”

Women, Fashion Has You Covered

It is a truism of the history of dress that decade-defining looks generally don’t congeal until quite late in the period they eventually come to represent. The miniskirts and Crayola colors of the 1960s, the power shoulders of the ’80s, the minimalism of the ’90s — all reached critical mass well into the midpoint of those eras, when whatever had been bubbling up in wardrobes and on sidewalks found its reflection in the wider world.

Well, we have finally reached that stage in the 2010s. The tectonic plates of fashion have shifted. Look around. What do you see?

Look to the runway: During the recent round of fashion shows, suits — and sleeves and long skirts — dominated. Look to the street, and the stores.

“Women who once bought strapless dresses with a little skirt are now buying evening gowns with sleeves and high necks,” said Claire Distenfeld, the owner of Fivestory, the destination boutique on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “Four seasons ago we couldn’t sell a blouse, and now everyone wants a blouse. Young women who used to come in and buy Balmain’s nonexistent dresses are leaving with knee-length skirts with a sweater or blouse by Emilia Wickstead.”

And speaking of Balmain — even that label offered long knits, long sleeves and long crocodile skins among the short-’n’-fringed styles in its last collection.

Look to the red carpet: There was Ruth Negga owning the last awards season in a series of generously sleeved frocks, and then showing up at the Oscars almost entirely covered in red Valentino — long sleeves, high neck, long skirt — and making pretty much every top 10 best-dressed list of the night. Ditto Jessica Biel (in long-sleeved, high-necked, floor-length gold KaufmanFranco) and Isabelle Huppert (in long-sleeved, crew-necked, floor-length white Armani Privé).

Look to your own closet.

I did. And I discovered that after over four decades of believing long skirts represented women’s antiliberation, acres of material that impeded progress, of choosing to get married in a short dress and wearing short dresses to the Met Gala (twice) and cheering whenever celebrities wore miniskirts to awards shows as a declaration of independence, I had acquired over the past six months not just one ankle-length skirt, but two dresses with handkerchief hems that likewise reach my feet. Also long sleeves and round necks.

“It’s a macrotrend,” said Ghizlan Guenez, founder of The Modist, a new fashion site. Which is to say, a trend that goes beyond fashion. But what exactly is it?

The end of the naked look. The beginning of a new age of female “pluri-empowerment” (as Iza Dezon, a trend forecaster, told CNN), as expressed through the kind of dress that prioritizes the individual and her needs over the clichés of female role play. Arguably it began, as these things do, at least two years ago — The New York Times began chronicling young women on the streets of Brooklyn layering clothes in creative ways that shielded or swaddled their bodies back in 2015. But it is only now reaching critical mass, thanks to a convergence of social, political and cultural factors as reflected in clothing.

And as far as those issues go: Women, fashion has you covered. In every sense of that word.

The Men’s Shirt That Will Get You Noticed

SOME CASUAL OBSERVERS of fashion viewed the arrival of the Hawaiian shirt on high-end runways a couple of years ago with surprise. What place did something that for the most part symbolized boorishness and cultural insensitivity have in a luxury context?

But truly creative designers, like Miuccia Pradaand Dries Van Noten, excel in transforming the outré into the très chic. With their deft encouragement, the world of menswear said a hearty “Aloha!” to the picturesque Aloha shirt, which has stuck around as a stylish, springy piece for a few years.

This season, rather than retreat to a world of safe solids and polite prints (see gingham, madras, Liberty florals), designers have doubled down on in-your-face motifs. “We’re seeing a lot of wild stuff,” said Gabriel Ricioppo, creative director of Richmond, Va. store Need Supply Co. that carries shirts with big-scale florals and other patterns from labels like Obey, Gitman Vintage and Ami.

“People are looking for that one conversational piece in their wardrobe,” said Chris Olberding, president of Gitman Bros., an American brand known for its prints. And perhaps because men are generally wearing more attention-getting pieces, it’s necessary for designers to go bigger.

This season, Gitman Bros. is offering a shirt covered unabashedly with mint-green and teal palm trees and another on which red and blue parasols unfurl (pictured).

For Alex Colon, 31, an editor at tech website PC Mag and a fan of the scaled-up print motif, these shirts’ appeal lies in their slightly giddy and madcap quality. His current favorite shirt, from Chubbies, features a print of Froot Loops. “After winter, when everything feels and looks a little drab,” he said, “these prints are telling you that happy days are here again.” Arguably, you’re less likely to frown while wearing images of electric-hued cereal.

With so much joie de vivre compressed into one article of clothing, it’s important to keep everything else relatively understated. “The bolder the print, the less it needs,” said Mr. Colon. He pairs his with fairly subdued chinos, jeans or Bermuda shorts—allowing the shirt to do the talking. With their loose structure, camp collar and straight hemline, these shirts are inherently casual and should be filed under weekend and vacation. The only guys who can wear this to the “office” are lifeguards and professional surfers.

Need Supply’s Mr. Ricioppo recommends paying attention to proportions as well. “We’re seeing a lot of boxier fits in this shirt, and you need to make sure you’re matching that on the bottom.” He suggested slightly wider trousers hemmed to ankle height to complement the shirt’s shape. These shirts and slim pants are sartorial oil and water.

Our final piece of advice would be to get ready for a few curious stares. Said Mr. Ricioppo, “It’s big, it’s loud. You’re going to get some attention when you wear one of these.”

3 Emerging Top Designers on Their Inspirations

Rosetta Getty

Growing up in L.A.’s bohemian Silver Lake neighborhood, Rosetta Getty, 46, started making her own clothes as a child: “Fuchsia spandex leotards and tights, little wraparound skirts,” she recalls. Her color palette may have muted since then, but her creative impulse remains intact. A former model and busy mother of four—her husband is actor Balthazar Getty, the great-grandson of oil magnate J. Paul Getty—she founded her eponymous fashion line in 2014, designing sculptural dresses with cutout shoulders; blouses with kite sleeves; cropped, pleated pants and other wearable pieces. She also makes pared-down red-carpet looks for the likes of Alicia Vikander and Patricia Arquette, a longtime friend. Getty tends to design much of her collection at her New York office and then hop on a plane back to her family in California. Perhaps it’s no surprise that she describes her work in terms of movement: “I want to support women to maneuver the way they need to.”

Brock Collection

When Kris Brock, 30, and Laura Vassar, 29, launched Brock Collection in 2014, they focused not on trends but on longevity. “We wanted to create pieces that would be passed on for generations,” explains Vassar, a former stylist. She

and Brock, a tailor, have become known for elegant construction and fine materials like mink and taffeta, which elevate their timeless designs. The two, who first teamed up at Parsons, don’t divide their labor so much as double down on it.

“We both sketch, we both design, we’re both involved in every single fitting,” says Vassar. Their partnership is personal as well as professional: They married in 2014 and are now the parents of a toddler. As their family and brand expand—the couple recently opened an L.A. office and won the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in November—they stay true to their founding principles. “In the beginning, we were thinking of a woman who wants to feel beautiful and empowered,” says Brock. “I personally always think of Laura.”

Monse

Designers Laura Kim, 34, and Fernando Garcia, 30—who met while working at Oscar de la Renta in 2009—spontaneously named their buzzy New York–based brand Monse (mon-SAY) while visiting Garcia’s family home in the Dominican Republic in 2015. “It’s my mom’s name,” explains Garcia. “Laura thought it sounded strong and feminine—like how the clothes would look.” Two years later, the clothes do reflect that concept, playfully blending notions of femininity and masculinity with deconstructed takes on men’s shirting, pinstripe sequined chiffon caftans and “dad jeans” (“They’re too big, and they look like you cinched and stapled them together,” explains Garcia). The label’s effortless, unfussy glamour has won over Hollywood, with actors like Brie Larson, Blake Lively and Lupita Nyong’o parading the designs down the red carpet. Last year, the CFDA nominated Monse for its Swarovski Award for best emerging womenswear designer. In addition, as has been widely reported, the duo will also return to Oscar de la Renta this year as co–creative directors.

Buying Luxury Watches For The Busy Man

Some of the best-known online retailers include Tourneau and Saks Fifth Avenue. And some watch brands, like Rado and Bulgari, also sell through their own sites. Many others, however, such as Patek Philippe, Breguet, A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet and Rolex, refuse to sell online, either on their own sites or those of authorized dealers.

The reasoning? They’ve spent decades or longer building distribution networks and don’t want to squander that effort. They also believe buying a watch should be a special, emotional experience—one that requires a real-world environment where a customer can speak with a salesperson, try on a variety of watches and leave with the winner on his wrist. I have always purchased new watches in stores. I imagine the feeling I have coming home with a new timepiece is similar to the rush our prehistoric ancestors felt when returning after a successful hunt.

More caveats: First, there simply aren’t that many authorized online sellers. If you Google a watch model, a number of sites pop up, but most fall into the dodgy “gray market” category, sometimes associated with stolen watches or timepieces whose warranties won’t be honored. So, tread carefully and buy only from authorized dealers or brands. At reputable sites—like Cartier’s or menswear e-tailer Mr Porter—online selection can be limited. Cartier doesn’t sell its very high-end watches online. And while Mr Porter has a well-edited selection, you’ll find more options in stores.

Yet Mr Porter is worth exploring. The site is an official partner for several brands, including IWC Schaffhausen, Bremont, Oris, Zenith and Junghans and has seen success selling watches online. Toby Bateman, Mr Porter’s managing director, believes that’s due to the way their customers—mostly affluent, busy men—shop. “A lot of men will research to a large extent before they press the button on a purchase,” said Mr. Bateman. When they finally buy, he added, the purchase is often made using the Mr Porter app on a smartphone between meetings. They don’t have time for brick-and-mortar stores.

For brands, one advantage of selling online is the ability to reach a younger customer. As such, some have used the internet as a marketing tool—teaming up with a high-traffic watch website to sell a limited-edition timepiece.

In 2012, online watch magazine Fratello Watches started running an editorial feature known as “Speedy Tuesday” focused on the Omega Speedmaster chronograph. In January, the site announced a limited-edition Speedmaster ($6,500) to celebrate Speedy Tuesday’s fifth anniversary. Another editorial site, Hodinkee, partnered with Vacheron Constantin on a limited edition chronograph, priced at $45,000, inspired by a 1950s model. With both initiatives, customers requested the watch on the editorial site and were contacted by the brands to confirm the order. The brands handled the transactions and delivery.

The results? In 4 hours, 15 minutes and 43 seconds, all 2,012 Speedy Tuesday Speedmasters were ordered. It took 30 minutes to sell all 36 of the Vacheron Constantin chronographs. Impressive numbers. We are bound to see more of these partnerships. Said Raynald Aeschlimann, CEO and president of Omega, which does not sell on its own site and allows only a few authorized dealers to sell online, “It’s a new way for the people who are very interested in our watches to connect to us.” For his part, Stephen Pulvirent, managing editor and director of operations at Hodinkee, confirmed that the site is working on similar projects.

But we’re far from seeing a rush to get online. One hundred thirty-eight year-old watch retailer Wempe, which doesn’t sell on its website, recently more than doubled the size of its store on Fifth Avenue in New York. “Luxury shopping should be a pleasure,” said Wempe president Ruediger Albers, “not just a point and click and that’s the end of it.”

Next Top Fashion Designer? A Computer

Apparel seller Stitch Fix recently introduced a coral, sleeveless blouse with a split neckline—and an unusual creative provenance. It was one of three new tops designed with the help of artificial intelligence.

The San Francisco-based e-commerce company, which sends customers boxes of preselected outfits, is leveraging computers to analyze purchasing behavior and learn what elements of style are popular. The software then recombines well-liked sleeve types, cuts and prints into new looks to maximize the odds a client “loves the resulting style,” said Erin Boyle, a Stitch Fix data scientist.

The three tops sold out as part of preselected boxes last year, according to the six-year-old company, and in February, it started selling nine more items designed with the help of computers, including dresses and tops. It plans to sell more than two dozen others by the end of the year. (AI-created styles are priced similarly to human designs, according to a company spokeswoman.)

The “hybrid designs,” as they are known inside Stitch Fix, are part of a movement in the tech industry to develop software that can be creative, and produce content such as songs, logos, videogames, clothing and special effects. The field of computational creativity dates back decades, but is flourishing thanks to advances in machine learning, plus increased access to data and computing power.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Adobe Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. , and SonyCorp. have active research projects related to computational creativity. Some, like Adobe, have spent millions in this space. Tech companies and researchers hope that teaching computers to be creative could lead to more powerful AI systems. Long term, the results could improve processes that require complex analysis, such as computer-vision systems in self-driving cars, according to machine-learning experts. And some companies, like Stitch Fix and Adobe, are already using such software to produce products.

Can Machines Make Art That Moves Us?

Can machines make art and music that moves us? Engineers and artists are testing that notion with an array of new artificial intelligence that is expanding the boundaries of how imagery, music and videogames are created. Image: Adele Morgan/The Wall Street Journal

One primary goal for tech firms is to create so-called general artificial intelligence—machines that excel at multiple tasks. Currently, AI systems are typically good at only one thing, like categorizing objects, and training the systems can require extensive help from humans. Today’s smart systems also aren’t very good at dealing with unpredictable situations, according to machine-learning experts.

To get machines to learn on their own, some companies are employing what’s known as “adversarial training,” which pits two pieces of software against each other. The Facebook AI Research lab recently used the technique—developed at the University of Montreal—to make computer-generated images of churches and faces, among others. Others have since used it to create nearly photo-realistic images of ants, birds, monasteries and volcanoes.

During adversarial training, one network tries to create images the other network can’t tell were dreamed up by a computer. From their interactions, the generator learns to create images on its own that can pass for real-world pictures and the other network figures out what’s real—and what’s fake.

Such training is “a way of handling the uncertainty in the world,” according to FAIR chief Yann LeCun, who says such adversarial networks are the “best idea” to come out of machine-learning research in the past decade.

Other techniques, like that used by Stitch Fix, use algorithms to meld existing ideas into new combinations. Autodesk has spent the past seven years developing an AI system called Dreamcatcher that could be used in industrial design, according to Michael Bergin, a principal research scientist at the San Rafael, Calif., software firm. The system creates designs after users enter certain performance desires, materials and the tooling available.

Researchers at Autodesk created a proof-of-concept car part that was about 35% lighter than the original that could be used to connect a vehicle chassis to the wheel. Autodesk has also used Dreamcatcher to design a chair inspired by Hans J. Wegner’s Elbow chair and is working with design company Hackrod to create a car. The Hackrod team aims to reveal the design to be 3-D printed later this year, according to Autodesk.

London-based startup Jukedeck has developed an AI that composes melodies. Logojoy, a Toronto-based online service that helps small businesses, freelancers and hobbyists create logos with the help of machine-learning software, has sold 3,000 logos, according to founder Dawson Whitfield.

Online, there is also an active community of hobbyists who experiment with various AI techniques to create art, ranging from computer-generated poetry in the style of T.S. Eliot to special effects that mimic artists like Pablo Picasso.

Are You Man Enough to Buy These Skin-Care Products?

SOAP MADE FROM beer. Deodorant that smells like bourbon. Shave cream named after a sherpa. All of these indelicate products come to us thanks to skin-care companies, launched over the past few years, that are marketing strenuously—some would say, overcompensatingly—to men.

As anyone who remembers the musky scent of Lucky Tiger aftershave can attest, aggressively male-targeted products aren’t a new phenomenon. Relegated to the shadowy corners of drugstore shelves by the endless array of eye creams and makeup removers for women, they’ve always seemed like an afterthought, and never particularly cool or stylish.

A shift is under way due to millennial males, more blithely vain than their elders. According to Karen Grant, a global industry analyst for beauty at market-research firm NPD Group, younger men are much more apt to buy these products. “Overall, only 25% of men say they use grooming products,” said Ms. Grant, “but when you go under 35, it becomes almost 40%.”

These relatively fresh-faced customers have made skin care one of the fastest-growing categories at Huckberry, an online retailer launched in 2011 that started out selling Americana-influenced wares like Tellason denim and Topo Designs backpacks. Since it added skin care late in its first year, sales of these products have increased more than 150% annually; and in the first months of 2017, they’re already up 265% from the same period last year. You won’t find a Clinique or Dove product in the mix, though. Huckberry stocks rugged-sounding brands like Duke Cannon Supply Co., Juniper Ridge and Oars + Alps. While each has its own ethos and witty slogan, Huckberry co-founder Richard Greiner said they’re united by “manly names and scents that are not ‘foufou’.”

Both genders might welcome the latter. Oars + Alps co-founder Mia Duchnowski said she launched her company because she was tired of her husband using her expensive, exquisitely fragrant moisturizers. “Whenever I was kissing him,” she said, “I felt like I was kissing a girl.”

Mr. Greiner has found that macho marketing helps men feel more comfortable buying grooming products. But within the macho stereotype in which the brands traffic, there are nuanced distinctions men may not appreciate at first. To make it all clearer, we compared five recently launched brands, breaking them down into helpful, he-man subcategories.

THE MANLY HIPSTER

Portland General Store

Back story Lisa and Troy Brodar launched women’s beauty products on Etsy in 2007. Two years later, the Portland, Me., couple turned their focus to men.

Macho factor Medium. The font and “General Store” moniker feel rooted in menswear’s late-aughts Americana revival with its Paul Bunyan overtones.

Natural habitat In the bathroom of a home with a decorative ax.

Ideal spokesman Johnny Depp—bearded and bespectacled—with an environmentalist bent. The range is mostly vegan and not animal-tested.

And the products? Like the stock of an old-time apothecary: beard oil, beeswax pomade and a gritty bar of pumice soap. A warning: The fragrances, like that of the Wood hand cream (pictured, $14, portlandgeneralstore.com) can be overpowering.

THE BURLY BARTENDER

Olivina Men

Back story Olivina has made olive- and hempseed-oil products since 2002. But after noticing that few men’s brands use these natural ingredients, CEO Joseph Moore shifted Olivina toward XY-chromosome clients 18 months ago.

Macho factor Medium-high. Mr. Moore drew inspiration from craft cocktails, so Olivina’s natty labels look straight from the liquor cabinet.

Natural habitat As close to your bar cart as possible.

Ideal spokesman Sam Elliott—a classic with a touch of whiskey.

And the products? Cocktail references aside, items like the all-natural Bourbon Cedar deodorant (pictured, $10, olivinamen.com ) are a non-greasy, environmentally friendly alternative to drugstore brands.

Finding Chic Kids’ Clothes

SYLVANA WARD-DURRETT remembers the late nights well: The former director of special projects for Vogue and mother of two (with one currently on the way) would find herself hunched over her laptop, hunting for kids clothing into the wee hours, the only spare time she had. “I would have no less than 25 browser tabs open,” she said. “You have the mass e-tailers for basics, but for more special and higher quality pieces that will last more than two wears, I’d have to scour the internet for small, indie boutiques.” After she vented to fellow Vogue alum Luisana Mendoza Roccia, a mom of three, the pair realized there had to be a better way. “You’re used to shopping for everything in your life with so many conveniences, but then you enter the children’s clothing market and you’re back to 1991,” said Ms. Mendoza Roccia.

And so the pair teamed up to create Maisonette, an online marketplace which launched this week. The site pulls together a carefully edited assortment of kids clothing, accessories and décor from a global network of boutiques and brands. You can find embroidered cotton rompers from Acorn Toy Shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., striped chino trousers from cult-favorite Spanish brand Bobo Choses or Oeuf’s mod birch twin bunk-beds. Maisonette, which features merchandise for newborns up to 12-year-olds, is a mashup ofFarfetch with its direct link to boutiques, Moda Operandi for its curated mix of brands and Net-a-Porter for its user-friendly luxury experience.

Rockets of Awesome, launched last summer by Rachel Blumenthal, wife of Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal, serves a similar market. “Parents today are really busy. Kids have this recurring need—they’re outgrowing their clothes and staining shirts so you’re replacing their wardrobes every season,” said Ms. Blumenthal, who was formerly the CEO and founder of Cricket’s Circle, a website for new and expectant mothers. Rockets uses a quiz—paired with a data-driven algorithm—to divine the fashion tastes of your children (sizes 2 to 14) and then sends a handpicked box of 8 to 12 items for them to try on. You only keep and pay for what you like. It sends boxes four times a year, at the start of each new season.

Though Ms. Blumenthal describes the company not as an apparel brand but rather “a data science and technology service that delivers a dynamic retail experience,” the clothes—designed by an in-house team of alums from J. Crew, Ralph Lauren and Gap—have plenty of charm and just enough sophistication. The signature item is a silver bomber jacket (printed with “Rockets of Awesome” on the back) that kids can customize with patches and pins. Parents can also write in special requests, such as “my son only likes dinosaur prints” or “my daughter won’t wear anything she has to pull over her head,” which the company can use to further tailor your deliveries.

Existing fashion retailers are also expanding into children’s clothes, which isn’t a surprise considering sales reached $31 billion in the U.S. last year, according to a report from market research firm Euromonitor. Last spring, Farfetch, the e-commerce site that pulls inventory from an international mix of high-end boutiques and brands, added children’s clothes. The response was immediate, said Candice Fragis, director of buying and merchandising. Its children’s selection favors high-end designers whose clothing parents may well wear themselves. Moncler, Burberry and Stella McCartney are top sellers, and Kenzo’s animal-embroidered sweatshirts fly off the site, along with anything worn by royals (see: Prince George, Princess Charlotte) and other tiny influencers (North West).

Julia Sloan, a beauty executive based in Brooklyn, N.Y., used to do a grand children’s-clothes shopping spree once a year while visiting her parents in upstate New York. “I’d take inventory and my husband and I would hit the mall while the kids stayed with the grandparents,” she said. “It was a whole-day affair.”

The 8 Best Stylish Sneakers to Buy Now

WHEN CÉLINE DESIGNER Phoebe Philo walked on to the runway for her post-show bow in March of 2011, her outfit—gray turtleneck, dark trousers and Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoes—punctured many women’s preconceptions. Coming from Ms. Philo, then fashion’s most influential designer, the idea that sneakers could be worn with office-appropriate garb suddenly seemed not lazy but inspired. It was also something of an official directive.

The stylish set obliged. Six years later, Stan Smiths are no less acceptable than Manolo Blahnik BB pumps, and sneakers in general anchor a fashionable wardrobe, along with a well-cut blazer or high-waist jeans. As a result, style options abound, from pricey designer models—like Simone Rocha’s black leather high-tops, laser-cut to resemble broderie anglaise, and Common Projects minimalist white sneakers—to old-school kicks like the Nike Cortez and Adidas Gazelle. Even companies that have not normally sold sneakers have snuck into the game. J. Crew-owned label Madewell is collaborating with Vans and Saucony on exclusive styles and will increase its sneaker selection for fall. “I look around and we’re all in sneakers,” said Joyce Lee, Madewell’s head of design.

In short: Sneakers are everywhere, and at every price point. But women are so spoiled for choice that they can easily become overwhelmed by the onslaught of mesh and stripes. Which athletic sneakers have enough style cred to cut it as a fashion statement? Which luxe sneakers are over-designed fashion-victim fare? Which once-beckoning sneakers have crossed the line into sad ubiquity? Women like Joanna Drescher, 40, are asking themselves such niggling questions. “It’s stressing me out. I don’t know what to get,” said Ms. Drescher, a stay-at-home mom who formerly worked in retail and needs a pair to replace her Stan Smiths. “I want something with a certain level of coolness, but not too cool because that’s not me.”

We might steer her toward the streamlined Common Projects Achilles as a fitting replacement. Or a pair of Gavia Biancos from fledgling label Koio, which are utterly minimal save for gold mountaineering-style eyelets that telegraph distinction with extremely modest flash.

An all-white tennis shoe like these remains a great baseline option. “It works with jeans, a skirt, trousers—with everything,” said Claire Distenfeld, owner of Manhattan boutique Fivestory. It can be the sporty punctuation mark on a dark, conservative look or temper a more recklessly vivid outfit. “I don’t like a funky sneaker. I don’t like glitter, I don’t like studs,” said Ms. Distenfeld, who currently stocks Koio.

But increasingly many women are going in for sneakers with more personality. Among the 30-odd pairs of sneakers in the closet of Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships for Instagram, Gucci’s floral embroidered versions rival Roger Vivier’s crystal-buckled slip-ons for charisma. Both let Ms. Chen attain adequate heights of chic without backaches or bunions. “Comfort is important,” said Ms. Chen. “I feel like I’ve been pregnant for the past three years, so I’ve lived in them.”

Benefits of athletic shoes over designer sneaks include price and the way they offer a grounding foil to potentially precious designer clothes. “When you’re wearing a high-fashion look, it’s cooler to go with a traditional athletic sneaker,” said Veronika Heilbrunner, co-founder of Hey Woman!, an online magazine. Ms. Heilbrunner’s collection includes Converse All-Stars and Vans Old Skools. Some stylish women staunchly oppose designer takes. “The fashion sneaker doesn’t have the same appeal it once did,” said Los Angeles stylist Annina Mislin. One athletic favorite of hers: a pair of custom-made, all-black Nike Flyknits. She pegs retro running shoes from brands like Saucony as the newly minted hot style.

Perplexing though it may be, the plethora of interesting options for women’s sneakers is a step forward. “Until three or four years ago, you couldn’t get a cool sneaker in a women’s size,” said Ms. Mislin. “Before that, they were all pink and pastel.”
1. The Definitely Designer | Tough but sweet shoes whose leather mimics broderie anglaise exemplify Simone Rocha’s buzzy sensibility. Flower High-Top Sneakers, $665, Simone Rocha, 646-810-4785

2. The Avant-Garde Remake | Maison Margiela’s backless riff on the German Army sneaker, a favorite of stylish men. Deconstructed Replica Sneakers, $495, Maison Margiela, 212-989-7612

3. The Fashionable Throwback | Care of Ms. Philo, the ’70s-style plimsole is the ne plus ultra in un-blingy designer-sneaker chic. Plimsole Sneakers, $590, Céline, 212-535-3703

4. The Pleasing Print | An easy-to-wear (and buy) shoe that adds a dash of zhuzh and comfort to your summer look. Madewell and Vans Authentic Sneakers, $60,

5. The Baseline | The universal donor of sneakers. These may be very popular but are sleek enough to fly under the radar. Tournament Sneakers, $388,

6. The Classic Runner | Now that the popularity of the court shoe is winding down, the running shoe is hitting its stride. Stalwart Sneakers, $300, Dover Street Market, 646-837-7750

7. The Retro Chic | Beloved by fashionable women, the Cortez, launched in 1972, comes in a wide array of colors. Cortez 72 SI Sneakers, $130,

8. The Almost Gym Bunny | Performance meets panache. You could go from the gym to dinner in these without missing a beat. Adidas by Stella McCartney Ultra Boost X Sneakers, $200, adidas.com

4 Ways to Instantly Update Your Wardrobe for Spring

DRIVEN BY both a lack of excessive disposable income and a fear of amassing too much stuff, I’ve always been a strategic and minimal shopper. It’s rarely easy. I agonize over the decisions, revisiting various pieces of designer clothing and accessories to determine whether each is “The One.” This may sound tedious, but what voracious style consumers—women who can indulge in big seasonal hauls—may not realize is that one or two pieces, when properly selected, act like a key that unlocks and updates your entire existing wardrobe. But again, what to buy? To save you from the sort of inhumanely prolonged pondering I impose on myself, we came up with four approved options. A caveat: These are not what you’d consider basics. To look like you’re not stuck in 2010, you need a dose of trendiness. But all will single-handedly do the job.

1. A Mannish Blazer

If you’d don’t own a long, square-shouldered jacket in a menswear fabric, now is the time. Demna Gvasalia introduced the piece into fashion’s biosphere last fall in his debut collection for Balenciaga, and it’s gone viral since. Wear it over a crew neck sweater and straight jeans. Wear it over that old dark jersey dress to make it both office-friendly andcool. Blazer, $4,200, gucci.com; Jeans, $290, shopredone.com; Bracelet, $51,000, Van Cleef & Arpels, 212-896-9284

2. A Satin Day Shoe

Yes, you own satin shoes, but the teal pumps from your sister’s wedding don’t count. These counterintuitive slingbacks are a clever collaboration between upstart fashion collective Vetements and cobbler-to-the-elegant Manolo Blahnik. Sporting satin casually before cocktail hour is fresh—and fun. Wear these with everything but your evening clothes. Vetements and Manolo Blahnik Pumps, $1,585, net-a-porter.com; Jeans, $290, shopredone.com; Coat, $2,690, loewe.com

3. Something Yellow

The fashion world has done a 180 on this previously unloved color. On the spring runways, yellow was second only to pink. A little dab will do but why not have some fun with this tulle confection of a skirt. Pair it with any neutral top you own. Skirt, $3,950, rochas.com; Sweater, $425, nililotan.com; Michael KorsCo llection Belt, $290, michaelkors.com; Shoes, $3,995, dolcegabbana.com

4. A Logoed It Bag

Anonymity is so yesterday. Luxe brands have newly revived the must-have logo. Carry Chanel’s new Gabrielle backpack every day, with everything. Bag, $3,000, Chanel, 212-355-5050; Coat, $2,815, Miu Miu, 212-641-2980; Dress, $2,390, Carolina Herrera, 212-249-6552