Luxury: The Allure and Significance of The Color Red

by Robert Anthony

The Initiatives in Arts and Culture was spearheaded by Lisa Koenigsberg, who hosted the 13th Annual New York Fashion Conference on Allure, Style and Significance of Red this past month in New York City.

This two-day conference painted NYC in all hues of red for the entire weekend filled with panel discussion on significance of red color in luxury, fashion, arts and society at large.

Speakers included well-known magazine editors, fashion designers, gem specialists, artists, writers and academic researchers who came together to discuss their love of the color red. Panelists discussed a variety of topics that included international development implications of red gem mining in third world countries, Valentino's historic Red marketing campaign, social activism fueled by with HIV/AIDS (RED) Movement, famous red style statements by iconic women, as well as the intellectual property controversy by Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent on the bright red soles of a shoe.

Matt Tyrnauer talked extensively about his film Valentino The Last Emperor, which gives a glimpse of an iconic fashion designer, his half a decade long infamous business partnership with Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino's empire run by his head seamstress Antoinette de Angelis and her small crew that bring designer's vision into life with algebraic precision and rare craftsmanship.

As many of you know that have seen the film, the documentary provides an intimate at what made the Valentino/Giammetti partnership so successful. Tyrnauer has been asked to speak at leading business schools, including Harvard and Columbia, on the subject. It was Giammetti who took Valentino's love for red and created a brilliant marketing campaigns that built awareness of the designer, a loyal customer following and a solid foundation for brand's sustainable success. Valentino's signature red, “Ferrari Red,” was the birth of high-end, couture fashion marketing.

Another topic discussed were the implications of ongoing Intellectual property controversy between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent. Susan Scafidi, professor and academic director of Fashion law Institute at Fordham Law School, illuminated audiences on legal aspects of the case.

Scafidi pointed out the disfavored status of fashion industry under the U.S. intellectual property law, and explained that while Louboutin's red soles trademark #3,361,597 stands, the battle is far from over. European courts lean toward upholding the trademark, while the U..S court stands against it using the argument that if, for example, Monet trademarked his famous Water Lilly blue color, it could have had disastrous effect on the creativity process of the rest of painters.

The debate over whether or not it is reasonable to draw parallels between fashion and art in intellectual property remains open, but it shows that there is clearly a need for a deeper discussion of what aspects of fashion need better IP protection and what elements of the creative process or a final product constitutes intellectual property worth protecting.

Legendary fashion designers Norma Kamali and Vicky Tiel graced the red-outfitted audience with their creations and talked about their personal journey and significance of red in their careers. Vicky Tiel, a designer behind perhaps the most famous red dress in entertainment–the red dress that actress Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman–admitted that while she was disappointed that she never received credit in the film, she was never angry because her Pretty Women dress became the longest running dress for sale in the United States.

Designer Norma Kamali, stunning as usual in her red dress, talked about the impact color has on women's lives. Depending on the choice of clothing, shoes and accessories, this color can empower or objectify women. In the context of her own brand, she described it as “a quiet, devoid of noise” and mentioned how she as been trying to find a balance between preserving that quietness and adpating to new social landscapes. Instead of employing traditional marketing and fashion shows, her brand makes 3D fashion movies and experiments with new technologies.

The RED conference was truly a feast for lovers of fashion, art and history red that reinforced the power of the color across varieties of issues and delighted audiences with the mix of serious and seductive, sea of red outfits and shoes. We can't wait for color red to reign over NYC all over again next year.