John Bartlett Retakes The Runway
MADE at Milk Bottlenecks... Again
MM⑥, Diesel Black Gold And More

The Shophound has taken a lighter trip through Fashion Week this season, but there has still been plenty to see. Here are a few highlights from the past few days.

RamsesBardenJRSmithJohnBartlettSS13A RETURN TO THE RUNWAY: JOHN BARTLETT has done his own bit of reassessment over the past year or so, closing his own store and refocusing attention toward his wholesale business as well as personal causes like animal rights and welfare. Last season he did a static presentation, but this time he returned to the runway for the first time in two and a half years bringing everything his fans have come to expect from him including perfectly tailored trousers, a breezy djellaba and models with pecs (thanks for sharing, Tobias Sorensen and Pedro Aboud) along with news like the using linen for the entire collection and a new print made from the namaste symbol as an alternative to the camouflage patterns whose popularity shows no sign of waning anytime soon. Also new: bona fide sports stars in the front row like the Giants' Ramses Barden and the Knicks' JR Smith. Their appearance may have come courtesy of Details, who sponsored the space in Lincoln Center's Public Library for independent men's designers like Bartlett, Mark McNairy, Gilded Age, Marlon Gobel and Bespoken.

A FOND FAREWELL: SOPHIA KOKOSALAKI showed her last collection for DIESEL BLACK GOLD yesterday. Over the past two years she has formed the denim giant's premium label into a designer level collection in its own right with its own SoHo boutique to the point that justified huge, star studded runway shows in cavernous Pier 57. Though they keep the space so dark before the show that it is hard to make out exactly who the flashbulbs are popping for, editors like W's Stefano Tonchi, Carine Roitfeld and the one-woman attention machine known as Anna Dello Russo showed up to send Kokosalaki off as well as actor Adrien Brody and model Petra Nemcova who flanked Diesel Chief Renzo Rosso in the front row. The designer took inspiration from skater street style, and put a half pipe at the head of her runway with flipping skateboarders opening the show to underscore the point. Her black and white collection mixed graphic sporty looks with her signature sexy styles like grid mesh dresses and chunky fringed sandals, setting the label up for a seamless transition to her successor, former PHI designer Andreas Melbostad.

MM6-1A EUROPEAN VISITOR: It's not often that New York gets a Fashion Week visit from overseas designers known for their unconventional fashion shows, but MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA is putting a big push behind the expansion of its more accessible MM⑥ label including its recently opened boutique on Bleecker Street. Instead of a single show, the label staged a revolving series of casual runway shows in its showroom over the course of an entire afternoon. As visitors waited for the models to hit the runway, they were invied to peruse the same looks on racks throughout the multi-mirrored showroom which often created the effect of inadvertently looking at oneself over and over again. it wouldn't be Margiela if there wasn't something a little bit unsettling, now would it?

RETURN OF THE CLUSTER€#¢§: Last season, The Shophound was royally pissed off when MADE at Milk Studios thought it would be a good idea to schedule five designer presentations all at the same evening hour. What resulted was a line that wrapped around the block to get inside, and a wait that would have left no time to see anything if you had the patience to gain entry. Clearly this was some kind of ill-conceived boondoggle, right? Well, little did we know when we arrived for the Rochambeau presentation on Sunday at the appointed time that we would be faced with the same scenario all over again, this time in the hot, midday sun. After fuming for a sufficient amount of time, we did what we did the last time and snuck inside to cut the line.
Are we proud? No.
Would we do it again? Yes.
Are we going to tell you how? No.
You can figure it out for yourself if you have to. Look, we have limits to the amount of that kind of nonsense we or any other self-respecting person should put up with. Frankly, we were thisclose to simply turning around and leaving altogether. The upside was seeing all those collections in an efficient hour which included Rochambeau's presentation shrouded in green mist, Carlos Campos' photo shoot setup, and what we like to call "perp lineups" from Public School and Antonio Azzuolo that showed off some impressive tailoring that should get more attention. On top of all that was an entertaining presentation from up-and-coming eyewear brand Illesteva featuring The Eyal Vilner Bog Band along with Dida and Ame, a lively pair of dancers. it is worth mentioning, however that none of the same designers whose guests were faced with the ridiculous line last season, including Bartlett, Tim Hamilton and Erickson Beamon, participated in this season's version. What does that tell you?

Click the slideshow below for more highlights

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Workwear And Heritage Stores Take Root In L.A. At The Stronghold, Union Made, Civilianaire & RRL

Civilianaire3rdStClick all images for a larger view in a new window

Over the past few years, The Shophound, like everyone else, has seen a curiosity and interest in classic, American workwear and heritage brands blossom into a full-blown mania as once sleepy labels like Red Wing Shoes, Alden, Carhartt and Woolrich have become prized status brands among a certain set. We were interested to see how laid-back Los Angeles with its Goth-y, Rock & Roll tendencies had taken to the trend. It turns out that L.A. is looking more like a city that might be anxiously awaiting its own branches of Hickoree's Floor Two or Freeman's Sporting Club. In the meantime, the West Coast has grown its own practitioners of the trend which are scattered liberally across the sprawling city.

UnionmadeBrentwoodOne store we were widely encouraged to visit was the new branch of UNIONMADE (225 26th Street
Santa Monica, pictured at left), a San Francisco import that has opened a satellite location in the Brentwood Country Mart.
Yes, this hipster-inflected store chose one of the city's most suburban-feeling locations for its first foray outside the Bay Area instead of trendier Abbot Kinney in Venice or Third Street. The compact shop is surrounded in quaint shopping center by enough shops familiar to New Yorkers like Calypso, Intermix, Selima and Space NK, that we wouldn't ordinarily go out of our way to stop there, but we have been aware of Unionmade's reputation for a while. Not terribly unlike Steven Alan, the store has a carefully curated roster familiar brands, many of which are either recently revived or about to be. Exclusives are the order of the day including what would come to be the obligatory shelf full of custom styled, limited edition Alden shoes and a special collection by Northern California label Golden Bear. The store's windows betray its fashion insider credibility by being festooned with blown up sketches by Richard Haines, and the air inside is scented with an intoxicating, woodsy, campfire scent from a custom formulated candle by Baxter of California. After our visit, we were ready to take a trip north to San Francisco to check out the original, but we'll have to save that for another trip.

RRL-MelroseAnother store we wouldn't have bothered with in L.A. would be anything from Ralph Lauren, because, after all, don't we have the best of his stores here in New York? He is, not surprisingly, all over L.A., too but it took a couple of walks up and down Melrose Avenue to discover that what we thought was just a disused gas station next to The Improv had been cunningly converted into a RRL store (8150 Melrose Avenue, pictured at right). We have to give the tireless folks at Polo Retail credit for their smart, site specific store design that trades the "Ye Olde Haberdashery" look of the label's SoHo and Bleecker Street flagships for a cooler if no less dusty vintage garage aesthetic.

CivilianaireInsideOne of our favorite discoveries on Third Street was the year and a half old CIVILIANAIRE (8312 W. 3rd Street at near Sweetzer Avenue, pictured above, top and at left), a homegrown brand rooted in workwear basics including Japanese selvedge denim jeans and precisely cut khakis in bright, appealing fabrics. There's just enough retro details to make the line appealing without feeling excessively costume-y, and everything is made in California in time tested factories. It is a label that seems conceived for denim specialists, and can be found at Jean Shop and Atrium in New York, but we liked seeing the whole men's men's and women's collections as a retail concept on its own. We could easily see this store replicated in SoHo or the West Village —just sayin'...

TheStrongholdOf course, if costume-y is your thing, there's THE STRONGHOLD (1625 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice pictured at right), known for the selvedge denim jeans you might have seen at stores like Odin or Barneys Co-op. This brand, originally started in 1895 had been dormant for 55 years until its meticulous revival in 2004. The nostalgic store now features painstaking reproductions of vintage apparel with ready-made jeans around $295, and made to measure pieces starting at nearly $500. StrongholdShoes Such dedication doesn't come cheap. The store features other branded apparel and accessories, but will carry no label that wasn't active during during the brand's original early 20th Century run. That still leaves plenty of heritage brands eligible, and the shoe table (pictured at left) is crammed with every possible permutation of workboot and handsewn footwear from the likes of Red Wing, Alden, Wolverine, Russell Moccasin and other, even more obscure brands. Other labels like Filson, Pendleton and Stetson abound. The execution is impressive, even admirable, but, at this point in the heritage craze, it seems like the trend is starting to veer into self-parody (just have a look at The Stronghold's old-time nickelodeon-esque website). Perhaps the style is better taken in smaller doses, with a more eclectic point of view.


Rufskin Makes A New Home In Chelsea


Are you the kind of guy who can count his body fat in fractions of a percentage point? Do you find more fashion inspiration in Tom of Finland than in GQ? Do you prefer the waistline of your meticulously form-fitted jeans to be just high enough cover the required bits -or maybe not? Or let's just put it this way: Are you looking for something to wear to the Black Party this weekend?


If you fit even one of the above criteria, then you will probably he happy to hear that the San Diego-based denim and sportswear brand Rufskin (possibly SFW but probably not) has just set up shop on 19th Street in Chelsea. You probably remember that a couple of years ago, the brand opened a pop-up shop on Eighth Avenue and 22nd Street that was well received, and now they are back with a permanent outpost. This new store, however is no humble Chelsea jeans and underwear shop. The folks at Rusfskin have created a sleek, white-walled SoCal-style boutique on an eclectic block that includes the original version of the trendy menswear shop Behaviour, the thoroughly charming French fabric store Les Toiles Du Soleil, and Nasty Pig (whose website is somewhat more SFW than Rufskin's, but tread lightly).


Inside, there's a stacked stone wall announcing the brand and racks of jeans, shirts and leather apparel cut with undulating seams calibrated to make the most of your physique, which had better start out stacked if you're even considering trying anything on. In fact, the glass walled dressing rooms (at right in an image from Rufskin's blog) would appear to be designed with voyeurism as a priority, but there are, in fact curtains to be drawn for modesty. There are, of course, a few things available for folks who can't help but indulge in the occasional carb, like leather and metal jewelry, exclusive soaps and toiletries, several books featuring pictures of men who would look good in Rufskin (when they are wearing anything at all) and, uh, socks?

It says something that Rufskin has chosen this particular neighborhood for its second freestanding store after it's San Diego headquarters. It is, after all, the home of the archetypal well-muscled Chelsea Boy, who has been eclipsed lately by the Williamsburg or Hell's Kitchen Hipster, but with a big gay nightclub like XL roaring back to town, the Chelsea Boy may soon see his day come once again.

Rufskin 235 West 19th Street between Seventh & Eighth Avenues, Chelsea


The Only Time When More Acne
Is A Good Thing


It is a triumph of product over branding that the fashion company known as ACNE has been so successful over the past decade or so. Perhaps nobody at the Stockholm-based collective knew at its inception that they chose a name which also refers to a common skin condition that makes teenagers miserable and keeps dermatologists in business —or maybe they did. Perhaps they chose the name Acne over alternatives like Psoriasis or Eczema. Who knows? People love their jeans so much that it really doesn't matter what they called themselves.

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that Acne, which has been represented for the past few years with a charming but modest and somewhat out-of-the-way store at 10 Greene Street between Canal and Grand Streets is doing so well that they need more space. They will be opening a new, larger location at the corner of Greene and Grand, right across the street form the current epicenter of fashion cool, Alexander Wang. The new space, formerly the De La Espada design showroom, has 3,000 square feet on the street level which should be more than enough room for Acne to show off every style of jeans they make as well as their sportswear and accessory collections. The new store is slated to open its doors in April. Leave your Clearasil at home.


Fancy Basic Edition


In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica finds himself at SoHo's BLK DNM hoping to find some of the stripped down caché he sees in the fashion industry's invisible insiders. Unfortunately, he finds that the perfect basics that former J.Lindeberg chief Johan Lindeberg has created for his carefully curated new brand might not be as perfect as they are supposed to be,

The denim was handsome and sturdy, though available in only two cuts: Jean 5 ($190), pretty skinny; and Jean 9 ($170), only a little skinny. The beat-up denim shirt ($150) in gray or black is nearly perfect, as stiff as if it had been dropped in the deep fryer for a few seconds, but scraped as if it were rescued from a Goodwill in Tulsa. Were you inclined to buy a sheer white T-shirt that could double as maternity wear and Alexander Wang was sold out, this could be your second stop.

Caramanica seems too perceptive to us not to be able to sniff out the pretension that lurks in the corners at BLK DNM, but just in case you can't quite tell which side of the fence he is on regarding this store, he mentions that the store's recent party for louche Purple Magazine impresario Olivier Zahm featured Lindsay Lohan as an honored guest. Shouldn't that pretty much tell you all you need to know?

Critical Shopper: Official Outfitter, Fashion Week Pit Crews By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
BLK DNM 237 Lafayette Street between Spring and Prince Streets, SoHo


Diesel Black Gold
Gets A New Look In SoHo
With A Contemporary Showcase


Diesel has carved out a unique position for itself with a long, continuing reign at the top of the premium denim market, but this week it is turning its focus to its Black Gold label, which pulls the brand away from its core material into the more rarefied designer arena. Though the line's women's runway show happens this afternoon, today also marks the opening of the Contemporary Showcase for Black Gold in SoHo. Regular neighborhood shoppers will recognize the Green Street address as that of the brand's former premium premium Denim Gallery, but now the Italian jeans giant has tasked interior designer Ryan Korban with transforming the space into a sleeker, more refined environment for the first and only store that exclusively carries Black Gold's men's and women's collections. Yesterday, The Shophound took a break from Fashion Week to get a preview of the new shop. As styling assistants completed fittings for today's runway show around us, Korban walked us through the transformed store, showing how he departed from his signature black and white scheme to include softer browns and beiges including zebra wood display tables, an upholstered suede wall and two huge aluminum monoliths that break up the loftlike 2,500 square feet. It all makes for a perfect setting for Black Gold designer Sophia Kokosalaki's striking collection, which, with its intricately worked leather accent pieces, will either look great with your jeans, or more likely, make you forget about denim altogether.

Click on the thumbnails below for more views of the new store
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Diesel Black Gold Contemporary Showcase opens today at 68 Greene Street between Spring and Broome Streets, SoHo.


Looking At Spring From Levi's, Dockers & A Mambo Launch With Jason Stackhouse Ryan Kwanten

Spring Previews are still coming fast and furious from brands that don't need to be bothered with the New York Fashion Week circus. In the past couple weeks, The Shophound checked out Levi's and its newly revitalized little brother Dockers as well as a new Australian line you won't find in New York City.

DockersSS12Last week, we headed over to West Chelsea, ground zero for these sorts of events, to se what was going on with Dockers. In all honesty, had this been a couple of years ago, we would only have been lured there by the promise of an open bar, free hor d'oeuvres and a lively DJ set from The Roots' ?uestlove, but suddenly, the brand credited for the shapeless chinos that gave Casual Fridays a bad name is doing collaborations with Steven Alan and GQ's Best New American Designers, a group that includes winner, T by Alexander Wang, and runners-up Patrik Ervell, Gant by Michael Bastian, Miller's Oath, Warriors of Radness, and Riviera Club. Suddenly, Dockers is kind of a cool brand, or at the very least vastly improved on the style front. Last week's preview was focused and well edited, highlighting slim, tapered khakis that gave a lift to the classic sportswear looks. There were reversible shorts, updated fitted shirts, and even the cargo shorts looked trimmed down and sleek. We're guessing that those camouflage printed khakis (pictured right) will sell out fast, so put in your orders early. For taking the trouble to go out on a stormy night, we were presented with a pair of Dockers' new slimmed down Alpha Khakis.

LevisSS12-BThis week, we headed over to Stage 37 to see what Levi's has in store for us for Spring. This season, the legendary denim brand ramped up its presentation production values in the cavernous studio. Models casually moved around between ever more elaborate vignette installations (pictured at the top) including a small house built to present the women's CurveID line. Levi's has been very skillful in mining its vast archives to take advantage of the endless trend for vintage looks. For spring, they are reviving their sixties-era Sta-Prest wrinkle-free brand as a counterpoint to the rumpled thrift-shop-hipster look. New technology has not been abandoned, however, as they are continuing their high-tech Commuter line (pictured left) for cyclists and remain committed to the Water<Less program to produce denim jeans with a minimum amount of water usage. A well received collaboration with American brand Filson will continue as part of a Made In USA program for Levi's premium lines, and there will be more selvedge denim next season for those who worry over that inner side seam on their jeans. The whole time we scarfed down some superior deviled eggs from chefs Jeremy Fox & Charlie Parker and listened to string quartet Cello Street reinterpret the music of Lady GaGa and other pop stars. Sadly, since some special ingredients were late to arrive, we missed some special Patron tequila cocktails, but we had to move on.

Mambo-ANext up was Chelsea's Drive-In studios where the Australian beachwear line Mambo was being launched through an exclusive arrangement with Bon-Ton stores which is also home to John Bartlett's exclusive men's labels. With skaters flipping over a half-pipe in one corner and custom t-shirts being made in another over earsplitting music, The Shophound's drinking companion remarked that the whole scene looked a lot like Entertainment 720 from Parks & Recreation. While the cacophony was a little forced, there were sexy models in bathing suits hanging around (below), and who doesn't like that? It all looked like an easy sell for Bob-Ton's mostly midwestern stores. There was also Jason Stackhouse, as True Blood star Ryan Kwanten, looking appropriately scruffy and Stackhouse-like, was pressed into service to promote the brand from his homeland. Luckily, there were no missing ingredients at the bar, and there were plenty of little tacos, tiny meat pies and spicy shrimp (with no barbie in sight). Before we took off with our free t-shirts, we even tried a tiny vegemite sandwich, which didn't taste nearly as gross as we thought it would.


Levi's Launches A Capsule Collection
For City Cyclists

As New Yorkers continue to debate the value of all the new bike lanes that continue to pop up in the city, Levi's is launching a new denim collection aimed at those who have turned to the bicycle to get themselves where they need to go on a daily basis. Available in select Levi's and Urban Outfitters stores this month, the Commuter by Levi's 511 jeans and specially redesigned Trucker Jacket have been subtly infused with a plethora of features, both high and low tech, meant to improve performance, convenience, safety, mobility and protection for bike commuters without their having to turn to athletic performance gear. Senior vice president of Men's Merchandising and design, Erik Joule tells us,

“This product was born from innovation, classic American style and a personal passion for cycling – it’s about designing product for people who ride bikes, by people who ride bikes.  We knew that our jeans were already being worn by urban cyclists across the country, including our own designers.  We listened to what they wanted and created a product with performance traits for biking that also functions as daily street wear.”

Levi's designers took the brand's most popular men's skinny jean, the 511, and adapted it in both cropped and full-length versions. Why a skinny jean, you ask? Well, it's for cyclists who are usually skinny because they cycle everywhere. It's certainly making us think harder about getting a bike. Also, nobody needs baggy jeans flopping around when they are on a bike. Anyway, the jean has been reconceived with various cutting edge technologies that add stretch, of course, but also repel dirt and water and add resiliency. Special hygiene functions will protect against odors and that's shiny 3M Scotchlite you see in the picture above binding the seam edges for reflectivity and placed in strategic places. A raised back yoke will keep the waistline from falling under the equator while pedaling (no coin slots, please), and reinforced crotch gussets will protect that particular high-stress area. The Trucker Jacket has been adjusted in similar ways with extra pockets, accordion sleeves and other modifications engineered to make it more suitable for cycling. (The fine folks at Cool Hunting were lucky enough to test drive the line a couple of months ago, before it was officially announced. See more pictures HERE) With all those extra added features, the jeans are still retailing for only $78, and the jacket for $128.

To promote the line, Levi's and Urban Outfitters are teaming up to launch the “Get in the Saddle” Bike Shop Tour hitting major U.S. cities starting with New York this August. The mobile shop will include a bicycle tuning center, a custom commuter tailoring shop and that cycling necessity, a bicycle photo-booth. It winds up its journey in Portland, Oregon in late September, so if you aren't in New York, keep an eye out for it in a city near you.


Has The Jeans Fetish
Reached Its Apex At 3x1(Made Here)?

The Shophound was naturally looking forward to checking out 3x1 (Made Here), the new jeans store tucked away at the bottom of Mercer Street near Nike's Sportswear store, the new Agnès B., and VPL. After all, the store's mastermind is Scott Morrison, the denim guru who created Earnest Sewn and the once adored now nearly vanished Paper Denim & Cloth and was coming off a somewhat fizzled attempt to revamp the Japanese jeans brand Evisu.

Is it possible to add anything new to the already heavily saturated jeans market in New York? There's an abundance of everything here from Levi's and The Gap to increasingly banal premium boutiques like 7 For All Mankind to connoisseur destinations like Self Edge. the new 3x1 store is impressive in its quiet way. It's main angle is that the production facilities are all on the premises —behind glass, as a matter of fact. the privilege of watching workers slaving away over sewing machines and cutting tables is something of a dubious one. Though it ensures that your jeans are not secretly constructed in some offshore sweatshop, the idea that production staff also serves as a selling tool somehow does not sit well with The Shophound. We hope they get a commission of some kind. The rest of the store is pristine white, with basic denim models displayed in plexiglass cubes on the walls, and under glass tables. in a nod to the latest technology, the cash register consists of two tricked out iPod Touchs sitting neatly on a counter. Ready-to-wear product is found in tidy stacks under the tables, but the focus here is clearly on custom options.

Morrison pioneered custom orders in his Earnest Sewn shops, but here he has taken it to a new level. One wall is covered with bolts of imported selvedge denim for your perusal. Production items are made only in runs of 8 to 24 units at the most, and fewer than 25 pieces are manufactured in total on the premises on any given day. Order your own and choose from over 60 different denims and choose you own rivets and buttons, and imagine the possibilities when it comes to stitching colors. So your 3x1 (Made Here) jeans, culled from the finest, most coveted materials with the most meticulous manufacturing standards, will be a very special pair of jeans.

Except that they are jeans. And everybody has jeans. Everybody wears jeans. Everybody.

Sure, all jeans are not created equal, and The Shophound has fallen victim to the need for the perfect pair from the right brand in the right silhouette. At times, we have stalked the ones we wanted until we could afford them on the last day of the Barneys Warehouse Sale. But after more than a decade of educating ourselves about selvedge and chainstitching, and enduring an ever more sophisticated obsession with denim, we found ourselves standing in the middle of 3x1 (Made Here) mildly intrigued but hardly gripped with the feverish need to trash all our Nudies and Earnest Sewns and get ourselves a new pair of magically perfect jeans that would have easily overtaken us only a few years ago. We are officially no longer jonesing for jeans.

We get it. We are still able to fall down a rabbit hole of sartorial minutiae when it comes to all sorts of clothes. Maybe it was the day we realized that no matter how amazing the denim, all of our jeans were destined to wear through embarrasingly at the crotch, that our obsession was downgraded to passing interest. OK, that particular concern is really mostly between us and our thighs, but somehow, with 3x1 (Made Here) we have hit the denim wall. We're not putting them down. We appreciate the immense amount of work and expertise that has gone into developing the concept. We know that there are innumerable customers out there just waiting for the artisanal denim store of their dreams, but The Shophound, who is slightly embarrassed to report that our former obsession has left us with more than one pair of jeans tucked away, still waiting to be worn for the first time, is surprisingly... over it.

3x1 (Made Here) 15 Mercer Street, SoHo


Gap Dismisses Patrick Robinson

While many saw this coming when Gap hired 7 For All Mankind's Rosella Giuliani to take over denim design, the giant chain has fired Patrick Robinson, executive vice president of Gap Global Design for Adult and Body. Hired in 2007 to revamp and update the company's apparel, his offerings never caught fire with the buying public as the chain's numbers remained flat over time. Pam Wallack, head of the Gap Global Creative Center decided to let Robinson go after a three month review of the design team.

Well liked by the industry, Robinson has represented the closest the Gap has gotten to having a designer serve as the public face of the chain, often making appearances on behalf of the company. Unfortunately, The Gap represented yet another example of Robinson being brought in to fix an ailing label. He originally gained attention in the late 1990s when he was hired to design the Anne Klein Collection after Richard Tyler's unsuccesful stint at the label. Ultimately, the designer line couldn't be rescued and was closed. Later, he was tasked with reviving the women's collection at Perry Ellis, an effort that fizzled when the company refused to put his acclaimed runway collections into production for luxury retailers, instead preferring to focus on more lucrative moderate offerings.

Still, Robinson was well regarded enough to be recruited for a Target capsule collection before landing the Gap job, but The Shophound is hoping that, ultimately, the charming and talented designer will revive his own short-lived signature women's ready-to-wear collection. Then he won't have to answer to anyone but himself.

Patrick Robinson Out at Gap (WWD)