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The Spring 2009 "Recession Collection" of Esther Nash

Written by Francesca Simon

Opposite Photo:
Esther at the Malan Breton Show
Photo Credit:
Wendy R. Williams

Fashionistas filled the tents for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week extravaganza with a vengeance but this year one factor was evident on the runaway: we are still in a recession. The gift bags weren’t giving as much and the runway also reflected the economic issue. “You could definitely sense [recession] in the collections,” says Esther Nash, fashion designer and stylist. “I don’t think the recession will be going away for a little while yet,”

Esther was child prodigy in the fashion world, who at the age of 18, owned her first retail store, by age 19 a second, and by age 21 was regularly having her own runway shows. Patricia Fields, fashion visionary, sold Esther’s designs in her Soho shops and when she became stylist for the TV hit “Sex and the City” she featured Esther’s creations and also in the recent movie. So Esther is no stranger to fashion and during Fashion Week Esther saw small details that only an industry insider would notice.

Cognac Wellerlane and Esther Nash
Photo Credit Cindy Ord

“There was big difference in little details. They definitely skimped on a lot of the closures, buttons and zippers -- all that metal and bead work is expensive. You could see lots of outfits made of fabric but not leather. With bathing suits it was all ties – no special closures – they’re more expensive too.’ Many dresses she says were slip-ons made with elastic and there was lots of jersey. “There was definitely less fabric in the garments.”

But the glam and fanfare was ever present and Esther got into the act as well. This year she was personally dressed for the Malan Breton show by the designer himself. With her flowing dark hair and deep brown Esther slinked into the show wearing a tight, black satin dress with a short matching bolero style jacket. “It was so exciting,” she gushes, “no one had ever done that for me before. She worked the glam outfit with attitude, “I walked very slow,” she giggles, “because it was very tight. It fit like a glove.”

While basic black is never out of season, purple is the chosen color for this fall and Esther says there’s an economic reason for that too. “The fashion world has grown up little. Purple is a totally safe color. No more neon pinks, greens and yellows. It’s back to classics. “If you’re a man you have to be very sure of yourself to wear pink. Purple is different. These days you can’t waste fabric – you have to be able to sell everything. Classic colors – like purple -- don’t go out of style.”

Even shoes, Esther says, have fallen victim to the recession. Shoes, she notes, were simpler. “They were platforms but without the embellishments – no feathers, no rhinestones, no ornate buckles – mostly ties.

This new trend afoot in the world of fashion has got New York Times Photographer Bill Cunningham excited. The new shoe show is from the ground up movement, so to speak. His photographic shots of the season’s shoes are a testimony to the low frills/tie trend that has got women on their toes with stiletto heels but with a pair of flats in tow. “Believe me,” Bill says, “no one is dictating that that’s the look. They’re doing what they want to do “It’s exiting to see.” And despite the fact that Bill says the women are sure to have sore feet fifty years from now the women just don’t seem to care. “They’re going to have fun now!”

“Fun” is the fashion mantra Esther Nash chants every season. This year her service to humanity was creating “The Recession Collection” to match the tight purse strings everyone is pulling these days. Even if you’re not ridiculously wealthy, Esther says, it is possible to be fashionable despite the recession.
Esther’s Rock Star Glam Wear Collection 2009 still features one-of-a-kind creations but with less bling and more bang for the buck. “It’s not tailored, not embroidered, no detailed stitching and no beadwork. I’m working with cotton, rayon and spandex -- no sequins, satin or silks. And I’m working with denim – that won’t cost a lot. Plus dry cleaning is very expensive and ironing takes time.”
These fashions, she says, you can just “throw in the laundry.”

Her “Recession Collection” is featuring tee-shirts– something everyone wears but each is unique enough to make a statement. They’re only about $150. “I usually design for the celebrity crowd,” Esther says, “but these fashions you can dress up or dress down.”She’s also created a bandana line with hair accessories complete with the sequins and faux jewels. “This way you’re not missing the glitz,” she says.

Esther Nash
Photo Credit Darryl Reece
Darryl Reece Photography

Esther’s Fashion Week event, held at the Serrano Contemporary Gallery (547 W. 27th Street 5th Floor) on September 4, 2008, was a combination art installation and fashion show featuring her “Recession Collection” in photographs, on mannequins and as art. Tacked to the wall like an abstract mural painting were her denim skirts, pants and jackets painted with greens, blues, turquoise and earth tones.

Admiring Esther’s hand painted works of art at the opening, Gallery Owner Ramses Serrano says he wanted to host her show because to him one-of-a-kind fashion is art. “That’s why it’s so valuable,” he explains, “it’s personal.”

Until the backers beat a path to her door Esther says she’s still got to find unusual approaches to get her fashion art to the public. She made a fashion statement last week using the art of illustration to make her point. “I studied art for many years,” she explains, “and I wanted to go back to my roots in fine arts.” Her theme for the illustrations? Fashion freedom! Her drawings featured stripped pants and tops – the prison wear look complete with the ball and chain.
“It was just for fun,” she admits, “just to make a statement.”

“Fashion is pretty much like you’re behind bars,” she says pointing out how designers dictate what one should wear. “They brainwash you into thinking you have to spend a lot of money to be fashionable. That’s not true! You just have to have a little taste and be creative.”

Esther suggest using glam makeup and vibrant nail color like greens and yellows to make your budget outfits pop. Plus unique jewelry adds another level to any look. “You don’t have to scream poverty – you don’t have to look the part. Let’s just let it be our little secret.”


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