Northeast Valley News

Designers bring fashion back to U.S.A.

‘Fashioned in America’ shows return to American garment manufacturing

Sharlene Celeskey

Sharlene Celeskey, Contemporary Culture Editor, Puma Press, PVCC

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Oscar De Le Renta’s expertly draped scarlet silk evening gown wows at the entrance of the “Fashioned in America,” exhibition. The showstopper is part of the Phoenix Art Museum’s 40 outfits by various American designers who drive the trend of manufacturing fashion in America. The red carpet gown, a typical example of De Le Renta’s masterpieces, is produced in Manhattan. The late design master used local manufacturers to retain control over his creative process and production from start to finish.

Nicole Miller’s ebony cocktail outfit comes into focus next. Her classic and sexy dresses have been a staple at department stores since the ‘80s. This body hugging silk dress with intricate multicolor beading bears close examination to see the delicate workmanship.

Next up are the more casual and businesslike ensembles. The multi-textural structured pants outfit by Bibhu Mohapatra and the luxurious cashmere sweater and relaxed jacket of Creatures of the Wind show well-constructed American workmanship.

Fashions displayed are by both well-known and young upcoming designers. All produce the majority or all of their clothing in the United States. Why the shift? Concern for the environment, reviving American economics, designers wanting hands-on control, and consumers asking for nationally-made clothing, drive this much-needed trend.

Upbeat, trendy short dresses by Nanette Lapore and Anna Sui appeal to the younger crowd milling in and out of the crowded exhibition hall. Lapore cleverly combines cotton, leather and viscose to create a striking red and black flowered dress. She produces 80 percent of her clothes in the garment district of New York. The Victorian charm of Anna Sui’s Pre-Raphaelite inspired ivory embroidered tulle dress appeals to women. Sui uses small sewing shops in the garment district of New York City to construct almost all her fashion lines.

The most visually stimulating and talked about ensemble on display is Libertine’s red wool cape with multi-colored embellishments. It looks like a ‘60s abstract painting exploding on to Little Red Riding Hood’s cape. Libertine repurposes vintage clothes by altering them and adding decoration. Influenced by literature, art and international themes, designer Johnson Hartig’s collections are sought after by likeminded clients. As demand increases the company adds more new garments to their collection. All manufacturing is done in New York and Los Angeles for greater artistic control.

The current trend of domestic garment manufacturing can be seen in the better women’s clothing department at Dillard’s Department Store in Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall. “Made in USA” in bold red, white and blue letters leaps out off a clothing tag of designer Karen Kane’s spring collection. Out shopping? Check to see where your garment is made. And check out “Fashioned in America,” at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibit runs through March 15. Admission and information at:

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Designers bring fashion back to U.S.A.