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Fashion Week for Fall, 2012, Profiled

Aired February 25, 2012 - 14:30   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a very special edition of "Fashion Backstage Pass." I'm Alina Cho at the Lincoln Center in New York City. We're taking you inside the tents for an exclusive look at fashion week and the fall 2012 selections. Let's go.

On this edition of "Fashion Backstage Pass," Donna Karan on the one part of the body that never gains weight. Plus, a peek at the gowns worn on the red carpet. And designers who aren't just designing for the runway, but for FedEx? We'll show you.

But first, your fashion headlines. President Obama is out with his spring collection.


CHO: The Obama campaign partnering with big name designers who created special merchandise for the project Runway to Win. Vera Wang designed a tote bag, Caesar Rodriguez a t-shirt. They're sold to raise money for the president's reelection.

Then dress code red -- the man behind the red soled shoes. Christian Louboutin celebrate 20 years in business. He made a special stop in this morning during fashion week marking the milestone by visiting stores around the world.

And high fashion hits target. Jason Wu became a household name after dressing Michelle Obama for the inauguration. Now Wu is out with a limited collection for Target, 53 pieces of clothing and accessories, each under $60. Now, that's frugal fashion.


CHO: Naomi, Christy, Gisele, now there's Joan. One name status for supermodel Joan Smalls. Seemingly overnight she went from catalog model to cat walk stunner. The face of Estee Lauder, the new star of Chanel. So what's it like to be Joan? We followed her during fashion week.


CHO: One look at her and it's clear Joan Smalls is not just a supermodel. She's a star.

JOAN SMALLS, MODEL: It's kind of like a go getter heart, like I'm coming. I'm coming to get it. I'm coming to be great.

CHO: On the cat walk, Mark Jacobs, Gucci, the it girl chameleon designers must have, like Derek Lam.

DEREK LAM, DESIGNER: She's like a seasoned actress.

CHO: Jason Wu.

JASON WU, DESIGNER: What's not to love? I just believe in her.

CHO: And Prabal Gurung.

PARBAL GURUNG, DESIGNER: She references the girl that I feel that I design for, the girl who never gives up.

CHO: So what does it take to be Joan Smalls?

SMALLS: Well, it happened with a leap of faith.

CHO: Born in Puerto Rico, in the early day Joan was a catalog model. Three years ago she wanted more. She switched managers who directed her to change her approach. For instance, at casting calls, dress the part.

KYLE HAGLER, SENIOR MANAGER, IMG MODELS: High heels, show off those legs, show off the great body of yours.

CHO: Joan started booking jobs. Her biggest breakthrough, an exclusive contract in January of 2010 during high fashion's most coveted runway, Couture.

SMALLS: My agency called me and said don't go anywhere else, we have the exclusive and I got goose bumps all over my body and I smiled so hard.

CHO: Did you realize that would be a breakthrough moment for you?

SMALLS: Yes. I think you kind of feel it that when you want something so pad and when something great happens, I think it's instinct that you say this is going to be the moment that's going to change everything.

CHO: It did.

HAGLER: Shortly after that, "American Vogue," and shortly after, signed to represent Estee Lauder.

CHO: The cosmetic giant's first Latina global face, a multiyear contract at a rate of more than $1 million a year.

AERIN LAUDER, STYLE AND IMAGE DIRECTOR, ESTEE LAUDER: It definitely makes them a household name immediately.

CHO: Fitted by Vera Wang in the ads of Stella McCartney and most recently Chanel.

SMALLS: I always wanted the greater and the bigger. I came here with a purpose and to finally achieve it and to also be an inspiration to others. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Joan Smalls may be the model to watch, but here is my pick this this season for designer to watch. Make that design duo.


CHO: Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs met at design school. When they graduated, they couldn't find work. Told they had too much experience. So they teamed up to start their own label. In just four year, Cushnie and Ochs has exploded. The first lady wore hair dress and their clothes even made the pages of vogue magazine.

CHO: Was it a dream come true?


MICHELLE OCHS, DESIGNER: It's great just to sell our clothes, great that we know that there are women out there buying our clothes.

CHO: Keep an eye on them. They're designers to watch.


CHO: Coming up, it's hard to believe this designer was once old she would never make it in fashion.


DONNA KARAN, DESIGNER: I was told I would never be a designer.


CHO: That was then. This is now. Today Donna Karan has a fashion empire and has taken on a special cause, rebuilding. My revealing interview is Donna Karan is next.


CHO: We're front row with the editors of "People Style Watch." When you see models come down the catwalk, what are you looking for?


SUSAN KAUFMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "PEOPLE STYLEWATCH": I'm looking for something new that feels different from what we saw last season. Our reader is really shopping. We're their best friend. They're there to shop.

CHO: At price points they can afford.

KATE DIMMOCK, FASHION DIRECTOR, "PEOPLE STYLEWATCH": Our reader is somebody who isn't going to wear the trend head to toe. She doesn't just wear look number five.

CHO: Like celebrities do. KAUFMAN: Readers love it because they relate to celebrities more than they relate to models because they feel more like real girls to them with slightly more realistic bodies than models.

DIMMOCK: I think it's really important to note that you're not seeing red carpet looks here. You're seeing them out and about, going to the market, grabbing a cup coffee.

CHO: In looks, readers want to buy.

KAUFMAN: It's not the edgy insider fashion girl. It's the real girl. We ask all the time would you buy this for this amount of money, is this something you would wear on a date.

CHO: Just look at this sample closet. Designers know a credit in the magazine means sales at the stores.

(on camera): Oh, my gosh. Wow. This is crazy. What happens when this goes in the magazine?

DIMMOCK: Quite often sells out really quickly.

CHO: That's great.

KAUFMAN: We're a retailer's dream I think.


CHO: Finding your own individual style can be difficult. But Donna Karan has made a career embracing her style -- strong seductive clothes with lots of black and just enough skin. In the midst of fashion week we sat down to talk about everything from the one part of the body she says never gains weight and her passion for hair.


CHO: The reigning queen of Seventh Avenue, she's been called America's Coco Chanel. Donna Karan is not just a designer, she's a one woman empire.

(on camera): You failed a draping?


CHO: How is that possible?

KARAN: You've got to fail to move forward.

CHO (voice-over): In the early day, she trained under women's sportswear pioneer Anne Klein. In 1985 the now 63-year-old designer launched her own label, Donna Karan New York, a global empire that today includes DKNY, men's wear, fragrance, home, and a separate company, Urban's End, a socially conscious line. More than 100 stores worldwide, and more than $2 billion a year in retail sales.

KARAN: It started as a dream. CHO (on camera): But did you ever think?

KARAN: No because I started did not in a Karan, I wanted to design send easy pieces that were just for me and my friends. And that's the truth. And then all of a sudden, everybody wanted them.

CHO (voice-over): Seven easy pieces that women could easily mix and match.

KARAN: Oh, my god, I'm working and I have to go out. And I have to pack. How do I pack? What do I need? How do I make it simple?

CHO: One of her most iconic pieces, the cold shoulder dress, because Karan says women love to show a little, but not too much skin.

KARAN: Women never gain weight on their shoulders. I guarantee you.

CHO: Hillary Clinton wore the cold shoulder dress to her first say the dinner at first lady. And President Clinton -- also a fan. Karan advised him onward robe on the campaign trail. And later when he won he wore a Donna Karan suit to his first inauguration.

KARAN: I have a crush on him. President Clinton has been so supportive that he is my inspiration.

CHO: One of the big reasons Karan decided designing just wasn't enough.

KARAN: With the world that we're living with today, and you talk about dressing, I could no longer just dress. It was dressing and a dressing, the health care problem or educational problem, the cultural problems, the impoverished lands of people.

CHO: Like Haiti. Since the earthquake in 2010, Karan has visited numerous times and makes it a point on go back about once a month. Karan supports Haitian artisans, helping market hair products by selling them in her Urban Zen stores.

KARAN: So what they are are recycled cereal boxes.

CHO: Necklaces and vases like these made of tobacco leaves.

KARAN: And 100 percent of the profit all goes back to the Haitian art is ans. So not only are we buying product from Haiti, but we're also found days alley giving all the money back to Haiti.

CHO (on camera): What do you get out of it then?

KARAN: My heart, because they really do need help and support.


CHO: And for more information on Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation, go to You can also learn more about it on my Facebook page, Alina Cho CNN. Dowdy workplace uniform, move over. Even FedEx is shipping out its old uniforms and delivering a trendier look. Designer uniforms are in and they're next.

And remember the gown Sandra Bullock wore at the Academy Awards when she won best actress, or that silver number Lea Michelle wore to this year's Golden Globes? Coming up, how Mark Haza built its name and business literally on the backs of celebrities.

"Fashion Backstage Pass" will return right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sense of style is glamour meets Goth rock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like to mix textures and layers of feminine and masculine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to mix simple and classic pieces with a bunch of color, like I have this neon shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mix it up today. A little bit creepy from "Poltergeist 2," a little bit David Bowie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think comfort comes confidence. It's fashion. Have fun with it.


CHO: Welcome back to "Fashion Backstage Pass." I'm Alina Cho in New York City.

A unique fashion sense is not only for fashionistas in New York. It's also making its way to the workplace. Say goodbye to those dowdy uniforms. Polyester is becoming a thing of the past. Designer uniforms are hot and a growing trend.


ALINA CHO, CNN FASHION CORRESPONDENT: What does this have to do with fashion? You'd be surprised. Designers aren't just creating clothes for the catwalk. They are also designing uniforms.

STAN HERMAN, DESIGNER: There was a time I walked around with a hamburger at McDonald, they wore my uniforms. My package delivered by federal express, thank you very much, everybody I touched seem to have a Stan Herman uniform on.

CHO: Stan Herman is multi award winning fashion designer who branched out in the world of the designer uniform.

HERMAN: TWA, that's cute. You would look good in that now.

CHO: That is great. Herman designing uniforms more than 40 years. For companies like McDonald's, JetBlue, and for decades, FedEx, so popular his uniforms arguably cover more bodies than any other designer on the planet.

HERMAN: I was a hot designer on Seventh Avenue, someone approached me would you like to do uniforms, what is that? I discovered I loved doing it because it was like branding, branding corporations.

CHO: Pucci and Hallston designed uniforms for Braniff Airlines in the 60s and 70s. Dior and Nina Ricci did it for Air France. At Sephora, the inspiration is the employees.

PRABAL GURUNG, DESIGNER: They said we want to feel good, that is such a universal emotion.

CHO: Sophie is showing this on the runway, this at the Gramercy park hotel. Cocktail uniforms in spill-proof silk.

SOPHIE THEALLET, DESIGNER: For me it's not uniform at all, it's really one dress, more like a cocktail dress, really.

CHO: But how do you design a uniform that suits, well, everyone?

CINDI LEIVE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GLAMOUR: It's almost like a reality competition how I can take constraints and make them look fantastic.

HERMAN: The most important thing is likeability. When you put on your dress, if I don't like it by the end of the day I'm a grumpy guy. A corporation walks around in and I form they don't like, they become a grumpy corporation.


CHO: Coming up, from the Golden Globes to the Oscars, the red carpet isn't the same without Marchesa. So what does it take to get an a- list celeb into a Marchesa gown? You don't want to miss it. Plus we're giving you an inside peek at Marchesa's celebrity closet when "Fashion Backstage Pass" returns.



CHO: These are never before seen images of 110 American women, some of fashion's brightest stars as seen through the lens of "Vogue" photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank. This former assistant to Anna Winthorp worked with each of her subjects on wardrobe, jewelry, location, a formula she still follows today. The result is this new book called "American Beauty."

CLAIBORNE SWANSON FRANK, PHOTOGRAPHER: Every woman had the courage to follow their dreams.

CHO: Even CNN journalists made the cut. "American Beauty" is featured in the March issue of vogue.


CHO: From the pages of a book to the red carpet, Hollywood's runway for some designers, awards season is just as big as fashion week. And who knows better than Marchesa, a red carpet staple that has built its entire business on celebrity dressing. From Hally Berry to Blake Lively, they all wear it. And you won't believe just how farm Marchesa will go to land an a-list celeb.




CHO: You don't have to travel far on the red carpet to hear the name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of a kind Marchesa.

CHO: This year alone, dressing Viola Davis, Leah Michelle. Renee Zellweger was the first, wearing this Marchesa dress to the 2004 premiere of "Bridget Jones, the Edge of Reason."

(on camera) Do you remember what it felt like to see her walk down the red carpet?

GEORGINA CHAPMAN, MARCHESA CREATIVE DESIGNER: It was amazing. I woke up the next day and it was in every newspaper. And I was like, oh, my gosh. I couldn't believe.

CHO (voice-over): When Zellweger wore that dress, Marchesa was just starting out. The designers didn't have the budget for ads, so they made a strategic decision to build Marchesa not on advertising, but on the backs of celebrities instead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The celebrity or the star in effect is their advertising campaign. And the more women who are coming down there wearing Marchesa and the more beautiful they look, the more designable the brand becomes.

CHO: So what does it take to get a Sandra Bullock in Marchesa for the Oscars? During awards season, Marchesa takes out a hotel suite in Beverly Hills.

CHAPMAN: We have like racks of dresses, we have beautiful shoes.

CHO: And then the real work begins. Take this this gown Vanessa Hudgens wore to the Oscars in 2009.

CHAPMAN: We were working through the night. We actually got miner's lights so the light was good enough in the dark.

CHO: And then there's this.

(on camera) What about what they call the "Harvey factor"?

CHO: Chapman is married to Harvey Weinstein. Does having a Hollywood heavyweight behind your label help?

(on camera) It doesn't hurt.

CHAPMAN: It doesn't hurt, no you can it doesn't hurt. I think you know his relationship with actresses is a very different relationship. I don't think that anybody's going to let Harvey tell them how to get dressed.

CHO (voice-over): And when it comes to the red carpet, actresses make game time decisions.

CHAPMAN: They usually have about three or four choices. So I give myself some leeway to have a feeling on the day.

CHO: Because those pictures can last a lifetime. And that's good business for Marchesa.

CHAPMAN: I think red carpet dressing really has made Marchesa what it is today. And I'm not sure Marchesa would be here today if it wasn't for red carpet dressing.


CHO: Fashion week wouldn't happen without the designers, so we give a special nod this season to the CFDA. The council of fashion designers of America is celebrating 50 years with a special exhibit of iconic designs from over the years, pieces that endure. But will these? Here are my top five picks from New York fashion week.


CHO: Number five, this silk dress. Number four, this pine colored cashmere sweater and satin skirt form J. Crew. Number three, this Mongolian top and patent leather skirt. Number two, this ivory dress. And my number one pick from the fall, 2012, New York collections, is this sapphire dress with bell sleeves.


CHO: Thanks for watching this special edition of "Fashion Backstage Pass". For more on my fashion specials, follow me on Twitter @AlinaChoCNN or visit my Facebook page. I'm Alina Cho in New York. Thanks for watching.