By Karyn D. Collins
Paul Sinclaire is that precious commodity in the fashion world – a man who knows what women want in fashion and knows how to deliver the goods. Especially goods that will sell.
Sinclaire has made a career out of this – first as a fashion editor with a trio of Vogue Magazine editions – American, Italian and L’Uomo, then as a consultant with a series of top fashion houses – Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Dries van Noten. More recently he’s put his stamp on the fashion world as a creative director, helping to establish the label Club Monaco, Toronto-based Tevrow & Chase and the Twist line, which is sold in South Africa Woolworth stores.
Now, Sinclaire has employed his intuition and creativity to produce a new line – Sinclaire 10 – a collection of classic pieces with whimsical and creative twists, created exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue.
“This collection is all about giving women – stylish women with stylish lives – what they really want,” Sinclaire says. “They want super cute clothes that are well made at a good price. And they want something that has a unique touch but is something that they can wear season after season.”
How does Sinclaire know so much about what women want? He talks to them. And not just any women, mind you. The women in Sinclaire’s world are some of the most influential women in social and fashion circles. Their names are synonymous with the concept of effortless chic. Names like Aerin Lauder and Sara Handreke. These are the women who inspire Sinclaire. He studies their look from head to toe, filing away seemingly every detail.
“I remember Aerin came to a luncheon in Toronto and both she and Sara were wearing the most simple outfits. Aerin had this simple, double knit black dress on, simple makeup, super clean hair, these incredible little Jimmy Choo’s with a kitten heel. It was just so super chic,” he says. Sinclaire says looking at women like Lauder and Handreke is the look many women try to achieve but struggle to do so as effortlessly.
Sinclaire 10 is designed to help women attain that style. “The sense of style I like is really sporty chic. It’s not sexy or vampy,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything better than having just a slim silhouette and anchoring the look with a fantastic bracelet, like a Schlumberger bracelet.” Let other designers do edgy and outrageous. As Sinclaire sees it, his role in fashion is to deliver what women really want, especially wardrobe staples. “It all goes back to something quite simple which is women tend to like what they like. If you ask them what they want, or what’s in their wardrobes that they’re really wearing, it’s not the over-the-top stuff,” Sinclaire says. “That may sound simple but to me, what’s most important is interpreting the whole idea of classics. It’s all about listening to what they say and then creating around that concept.”
The Sinclaire 10 collection features a series of timeless classics created with the idea that women can return to these items season after season. The collection’s standout pieces include a classic styled trench coat in red accented with a bow on the back; a round-necked, cablestitch cardigan; a striped, sequined cardigan; and a t-shirt augmented with a corsage of gathered fabric. Prices range from $89 for t-shirts to $399 for coats. “We like the creative design spirit that Paul brings to the project,” says Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Saks Fifth Avenue. “Paul has been terrific in developing these key items with a sense of fashion but also a sense of fun and a wonderful spirit.”
Boitano says fun was a key word that kept coming up in customer surveys Saks conducted. “Customers all said they wanted more fun and they wanted more spontaneity in their dressing,” Boitano says. “Paul really brought that to this collection along with a sense of sophistication.” But, Sinclaire pointed out, the Sinclaire 10 Collection also gets back to basics. “The conversations I’ve been having with women are reflected here. Every woman needs that great pair of pants, that simple skirt she can wear with anything, the classic white shirt,” he says. And, Boitano adds, the line has another key selling point.“It’s also extremely well priced,” Boitano says. “You’re getting a lot of sophisticated fun, a lot of fashion, for a great price.”
You can almost hear Sinclaire cringe through the telephone at the term good price. He’s not fond of the term affordable either. “I realize it’s important to discuss pricing, but I do hate that word. Affordable. When you start talking about clothes at a price it all sounds a bit, well, suburban to me. And the thing is these clothes are anything but suburban or pedestrian,” he says. “These are sophisticated classics for the woman, who, yes, still wants that fabulous piece in her wardrobe and wants something for the red carpet. But she also wants some pieces she can return to again and again, that will last, and that are a good price.”
Sinclaire has opinions about other aspects of how women dress. How a stiletto heel can be too much for women of a “certain age,” factoring one’s teeth color (including stains) into selecting the right lipstick, or how the correct shades of lipstick and nail polish – along with a good haircut – are key essentials to a woman achieving just the right look. But for now, Sinclaire’s main focus is on creating the must-have items for a woman’s closet.
So what more do women want? Sinclaire says he’s getting plenty of input, from his socialite friends as well as from Saks
employees and customers. “Ask a woman an opinion and you’ll get one, especially when it comes to what she wants to wear,” Sinclaire says. “The way I see it, my job is not to try and reinvent a jacket and then convince a woman that she’ll
want it. My job is to create the jacket she’s always wanted.”