In time for New York Fashion Week, New York-based designer Adrienne Landau has recruited Cornelia Guest for a collaborative collection.
After connecting through a friend, the pair pulled the Adrienne Landau Cornelia Guest collection together within a month. Unlike most contributing guest designers, Guest brings with her a more intangible elan, having known high-profile designers including Halston and Carolina Herrera. Halston taught her how to walk like a model one afternoon in his Olympic Tower apartment.
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A wraparound sweater from the new collection is reminiscent of the simplicity of Halston’s designs, Guest said. “His clothes were so wearable. There was such a fine line between sporty, but elegant,” she said.
Greenlighting the project was an obvious decision for Olin Lancaster, chief executive officer of Meridian Brands, which secured a master license for the entire Adrienne Landau brand, including all intellectual property and regions of distribution globally about 14 months ago. “Our intention is to own it…we act like we own it wholly and completely, and welcome Adrienne’s input, which is frequent,” he said. “It’s really difficult to start a brand from scratch today. Customer acquisition costs are almost prohibitive. In Adrienne Landau, we saw a brand with a real designer, whose been in business for 40 years.”
The plan is to extend the brand into more classic and modern ready-to-wear and other categories, but nowhere near the “very overcrowded” contemporary space. Regarding the appeal of working with Guest, Lancaster said, “We’re all very familiar with who she is, what she’s done, her influence in fashion and her own sense of style and grace.”
After spending the better part of a day with the team, going over the product, discussing high-level fashion and what she thinks is important, Guest was “just spot on” with her views about developing the collaborative classically inspired brand, Lancaster said. Hesitant to forecast sales for the collaboration, he said the overall Adrienne Landau business is expected to be a “significant eight-figure or nine-figure business” within the next five years. Guest’s involvement helps to bring attention to the brand, as its distribution is broadening via online and specialty store sales.
“This is not a one-time collaboration. We see her as being involved with several drops a year and we are appreciative of her influence on the brand,” Lancaster said.
Guest’s proximity and friendships with some of the leading culture shapers of the 20th century would be tough to match. The ever-influential Pop Art artist Andy Warhol was another confidante of Guest, who was dubbed the first “celebutante,” and also inspired other designers. Just last season, her longtime friend Dennis Basso tapped into the lore of her great American family (and a few others) for inspiration for his fall collection. He also enlisted her to be the finale look for what was his 40th anniversary show.
Guest’s mother C.Z. was the ultimate style arbiter of a certain era, and is among Truman Capote’s “swans,” who are portrayed in the Ryan Murphy series “The Feud.” Her unfussy, understated fashion sense — what some might interpret as “quiet luxury” — still resonates today. Cornelia Guest said she still sports some key items that her mother gave her.
Her own designer favorites include Carolina Herrera, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel, but she also readily mixes in Banana Republic and J.Crew finds.
As a style setter in her own right, Guest recognized how shopping for “a beautiful trouser or shirt” was increasingly getting harder to find, she set about designing classics with a twist. The end result comes down to the essentials that she — and presumably others — will want to wear. An avid animal lover and a designer of cruelty-free handbags, Guest appreciated Landau’s faux-fur status.
Their collaborative 13-piece collection includes a faux fur jacket, wrist warmers, hat and other accessories. There are also minimalist options like a snowy white mock-neck cashmere top and a coordinating fluted skirt and jacket with a removable faux fur neck.
She attributed the scarcity of more polished options to the continuation of the casualization of America and the fact that jeans are such a huge market. “I love blue jeans just as much as everybody else, but I also like to have a nice trouser, or wear a nice skirt or dress for dinner,” Guest said. “In a funny way, I think people dress down because they can’t find ways to dress up. I think if you give people a great trouser and a beautiful blouse, people will wear them, because people like to look nice.”
That said, a $295 boot-cut jean is part of the line that is now being shown at the Adrienne Landau showroom. Wholesale prices for the apparel range from $175 for a bow blouse to $595 for a boucle blazer coat. Up for hosting trunk shows, Guest said she loves meeting customers (as she had for her own accessories), because everyone has a different take on things. “You meet so many different people and you get so much great advice,” she said.
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