Derek Lam is back in the New York Fashion Week mix. In January, he was named creative director of Callas Milano, the brand founded by his husband Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann and Marco Panzeri as a direct-to-consumer source of well-designed Italian-made essentials. Though its profile remains small, its name is whispered by in-the-know shoppers who appreciate the finesse of its tailored pants.

The essence of Callas Milano hasn’t changed. At a salon-style appointment in a Chelsea Hotel suite Lam said, “we came together to create what we hope to be special clothing, clothing that you look at and say, ‘I want that,’ because I know where I’m going to wear it and I know I’m going to wear it a lot.” But Lam’s vision for the label is more ambitious. The checked three-button coatdress that he opened with is sculpted through the waist for an hourglass silhouette, with 3/4-length sleeves, while a fluid, layered black dress is draped with a nod in Madame Grès’s direction. Lam and Schlottmann live in Paris now, and a visit to the Fondation Alaia’s Grès exhibition last year proved inspirational.

There’s an array of attractive pants, the category being one of Lam’s strong suits from the 15 years he had his eponymous brand. A straight-leg black style with a removable button-on corset and another in white with a black chiffon veiled overlay were two highlights.

All around this week, there are independent brands downsizing from the runway to presentations or bowing out of a calendar slot altogether. Shows are prohibitively expensive and the retail landscape is shifting beneath everyone’s feet. Lam and Schlottmann are veterans who have been chewed up and spit out by the system before (though they may reject the characterization, being of a decorous manner). Their DTC model and focused offering could prove inspirational to other brands trying to right-size for the future.


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