In the fashion world, it’s never too late for a makeover, dahling. And Los Angeles-based designer Allen Schwartz has done just that with a before-and-after worthy rebrand of his business that has amounted to much more than a mere nip and tuck.
Schwartz, who founded ABS by Allen Schwartz in 1982, which was a department store mainstay focusing on a younger customer, has renamed the company Allen Schwartz and given the business a complete face-lift by focusing on a higher price point, direct-to-consumer business and a more sophisticated 30-plus demographic.
ABS, which was a favorite on the red carpet in the 1990s, also garnered a following for turning out dresses inspired by red carpet looks. But now, the Allen Schwartz brand is focusing exclusively on dressing the contemporary woman: Think silky slip dresses and trousers, faux fur jackets, statement blouses with dramatic puffed sleeves and chic maxi dresses draped just so.
While the business now skews a bit older, make no mistake, its vibe is youthful and chic. This was on full display at the launch party for the LA pop-up, co-hosted by “it” girls and mega-influencer sisters Natalie and Dylana Lim Suarez, with tunes cranked out by model and DJ Harley Viera-Newton, who also has her own fashion line.
Surrounded by admirers and a bevy of lithe models previewing current and upcoming fall styles, Schwartz gleefully told us at the event how thrilled he was to be out of the department store business.
“I’m done with department stores,” Schwartz says. “It’s allowed me to be creative again. I’m inspired. And happy.”
Montage Magazine caught up with Schwartz again just a few weeks before his presentation at La Mercerie for New York Fashion Week.
Montage Magazine: The Allen Schwartz collection has a chic new vibe. Why, after years of being in department stores, did you choose to make the shift to sell direct to consumers and specialty stores?
Allen Schwartz: By going direct to consumers, we’re able to have a direct relationship with our customer. We hear her, we speak to her [and] we know exactly what she wants. This gives us the ability to be more strategic than ever.
MM: You also mentioned that this new direction helped to free you up as a designer. How so?
AS: We’re much more capable of trying and testing new ideas in a small run, which allows for more creativity.
MM: With athleisure dominating the market and changing the way we think about dressing, do you think that women are now looking forward to having more luxe options for dressing?
AS: I do. For so long, it was all about denim. Dressing up is back in style and current fashion is really mimicking the ’90s. Casually chic: That’s what the advanced contemporary [higher price-point category] offers and what is the DNA of the Allen Schwartz brand.
MM: What pieces in the fall collection are people already snapping up? And what are you anticipating some of your hottest pieces in the collection to be?
AS: The bestselling Eden [bustier] dress in the new fall fabrics continues to be a constant favorite. Our suits and satin sets are becoming a real signature. Women know they can come to us for a fun yet tailored look.
MM: You design and manufacture in Los Angeles. How vital is it to your business to be a “made-in-LA” brand?
AS: Even in the beginning of my career, before “made in LA” was a thing, my brands have always been made in LA. It’s really just a continuation of who I am.
MM: Los Angeles’ fashion cred has grown immensely in the past two decades. How have you seen that shift evolve and what more would you like to see in the future?
AS: A lot of contemporary brands have popped up in LA in the last decade or so, and it really helps the manufacturing scene in LA to be bigger and stronger. I’d love to see more contemporary brands that are willing to explore the sustainability of the manufacturing process.
MM: What are three must-have items from your fall collection?
AS: Fun faux furs, the Wesley satin suit (the satin jacket can be worn so many ways) and the Desiree dress [because] the fit is perfection; it’s another favorite that can be worn dressed up for a special occasion or dressed down with flats for brunch.
By Michelle Dalton Tyree
Feature Image: Outside of Allen Schwartz Los Angeles