You may have wondered how fashion from Europe makes its way over to the United States. What exactly happens between designers and sellers to bring it here? Every year, Marilyn Hellman spends several weeks in Europe, meeting with designers, studying trends, and selecting the best possible fashion options for her clients. She opened her shop eight years ago, and has been consistently serving the most stylish among us.
According to Hellman, one of the big difference between European and domestic buying is that in Europe, the designer is almost always present when the buyer visits the showroom. The designer will present their collections, typically with models walking in certain garments. During the initial presentation of the collection, the designer will share the concept of the season. They will discuss their vision and ideas. Color and design choices, as well as inspiration for the collection will be explained. Marilyn has seen many collections with many different inspirations. She notes “inspiration can come from anywhere. A new baby, a culture change, or even a current event. For example, 9-11 brought a lot of dark colors to fashion that year.” The style, theme, and colors are referred to as the story. There will be more than one story in a collection. A style that has a lot of detail, lace, flowers, or print, is referred to as the fantasy in the story.
There are three main elements to Hellman’s selection process. First, she selects items that she believes will excite her customers, and that will convey the designer’s inspiration and intentions. Second, she chooses the pieces that will be relevant to her customers’ lifestyle. And finally, she considers her customers’ current wardrobe, and how the new pieces will fit within. Hellman firmly believes that fashion should be worn for the pleasure of the wearer.
After pieces are selected, those items will be modeled specifically. Sometimes entire outfits will be selected. Often, though, separates will be chosen to be paired with items already at the shop in Naples. The models walk while wearing the various selections, illustrating how the clothes look on the body. This enables the buyer to make sound decisions about the fit, and the natural flow of the pieces together. Hellman is driven to bring home fresh fashion and exciting looks for her customers. Marilyn creates different styles by mixing and matching various fashion pieces, all with the goal of creating unique and exclusive looks for her store and customers. She says “I want to be able to show a customer not only what they can be now, but how to become all that they imagine. Fashion can be such a fountain of youth, if you let it.”
The final step of the purchasing process is writing the actual order. Now that the pieces themselves have been chosen, the styles, prints, fabrics, colors and fantasies of each garment will be selected. It is easier in Europe to make customizations, changes, or special request. These requests could include slight design changes, sizing requirements or even sleeve lengths. Six months from this day, her orders will arrive in store, ready to dazzle and delight her customers.
All images in this story were photographed at The House of Natan in Brussels Belgium. The creator of the collection, Edouard Vermeulen, has created a personal style of contemporary purity, a source of femininity and refinement. A style resolutely suited to an active and refined woman of today.
Highlights from Natan’s Spring/Summer Collection, available at Marilyn’s