Oldham is relocating to SoHo district


Todd Oldham's spring runway show felt like an epiphany, a moment where shards of his ideas from the past, of mirrors, gilt and decorated fabrics, fell away to reveal the talent beneath.

Surreal, nostalgic and futuristic, that show signaled that Mr. Oldham was ready to step forward.

That step will be taken this year. Mr. Oldham will be the latest artist in residence on Wooster Street in March, when he moves his offices and showroom to SoHo. He is looking for boutique space on the street as well.

"We didn't want to have an office space anywhere we didn't want to go," Mr. Oldham said. He is also going to Los Angeles to find a boutique.

Since 1990, Onward Kashiyama, a Japanese financing company, has been paying for about 10 percent of Mr. Oldham's runway costs, and distributing and selling both his Todd Oldham, and his lower-priced Times 7 collections. Now, Mr. Oldham is assuming those responsibilities for Todd Oldham himself. His Times 7 collection will be sold by Kashiyama.

"Kashiyama has been great as far as the mass product, Times 7, goes," Mr. Oldham said. But he stressed that the change in the structure would be minimal.

"Kashiyama never backed us in any way," he said. Mr. Oldham and his family own L-7, which manufactures both lines.

The new work space and showroom will be on the third floor of 120 Wooster, "a great big loft space, simple, quintessential classic SoHo space, with big windows, white walls and columns," he said. Mr. Oldham, known for his kaleidoscopic mixes of color and coveting of kitsch, added, "which of course we'll make look nothing like that." A store will open this year, probably on Wooster, and will include the complete Todd Oldham and Times 7 collections, the new shoe collection, accessories and home furnishings.

Museum's waistful looks

Richard Martin, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum, describes the next fashion exhibition, "Waist Not," as "a look at the waist as the defining element of the fashion silhouette."

So who better to document those waspish forms than Ruben Toledo, whose sketched figures of women pose like whippets on hind legs?

The catalog for the exhibition, at $9.95, will be a portfolio of 16 full-page illustrations by Mr. Toledo, taken directly from the dressed mannequins.

The exhibition explores waists from the 1700s to the present, a range that Mr. Martin said included Jean-Paul Gaultier, "who keeps moving the waist around"; Balenciaga, "who loved to create deceptions of the waist"; Christian Dior, "who one thinks of for the nipped-in waist of the New Look," and Paco Rabanne, "for the '60s basic chemise."

"Fashion is a great method of communication, more so than art in a way these days," Mr. Toledo said. "Whenever anybody sees something on fashion or style they instantly digest it and can give an opinion. Unlike art, which can be over people's head, fashion is digested by everyone. Everyone has something to say about it."

Teens' prom dresses

Niki Livas began tracking the anthropology of proms 25 years ago, when she opened Zum Zum, a party-dress manufacturer. Almost every night in spring is prom night for Ms. Livas, the co-owner and vice president of Zum Zum, who climbs into a limousine all her own and, wielding a camera instead of a wrist corsage, records the best, and worst, dressed teen-agers at dances everywhere.

"This past year, it's really changed," Ms. Livas said. The high-haired Scarlett O'Hara has turned into a toned-down, sometimes tattooed girl whose role model is Niki Taylor. So Ms. Livas hired Ms. Taylor for the April Zum Zum advertising campaign.

"We've seen very tight dresses," Ms. Livas said. "We couldn't believe these girls are 16 and 17 years old, showing cleavage and off-the-shoulder dresses. We never saw such bust lines in our lives. We don't know where they got them from."

Prom fashions start shipping to stores now, and the prom season is mostly in May and June.

Zum Zum, along with a West Coast manufacturer, Gunne Sax, has remained a favorite among high-school students.

Ms. Livas said the teens rarely buy designer dresses for the event, unless its Betsy Johnson or Anna Sui. The new ad will run in April issues of traditional teen magazines: Mademoiselle, Glamour, Seventeen and Young Miss. And, to go with the new attitude, Cosmopolitan.

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