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Men Behaving Girly: Comme des garcons, Givenchy, Rick Owens [www.wwd.com]

Every so often, the menswear shows throw up a multitude of “man skirts”. Nothing new in that. Jean Paul Gaultier’s been hard at it for decades, never mind the Scots with their tartan kilts – a national costume not a quotidian option, I might add. The Japanese invasion in the 80s brought a more funereal take in Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo’s heavy, felted dirndls. Hedi Slimane tried again at Christian Dior in the early noughties. And now the man skirt is once more making another ferocious bid for normalcy.

How does your hemline flow? Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme, Marc Jacobs (inset)

Could this be down to Marc Jacob’s recent fixation with the kilt? Is it really about the skirt or just a way of expressing an Eastern influence of looser, more flowing volumes? See Rick Owens and Stefano Pilatti for YSL. Why should men wear skirts anyway? Do we feel the need to be emancipated? Do women now have the upper hand? After all they burned their bras way back in the 70s. Recent reports in the press on female inequality suggest otherwise. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and the French economy minister, Christine Largarde, have joined forces to ensure that at least 40% of boardroom seats are kept for women. Positive discrimination if you ask me. What if there aren’t 40% of women qualified for those posts? I digress, let’s talk about skirts, baby. Or, perhaps, trousers…

Panty Pose: Helmut Newton + Yves Saint Laurent // Le Smoking, 1966

Helmut Newton’s seminal image of Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking in 1966 made it OK for women to wear trousers and opened the boardroom door for the 80’s power suit. Le Smoking or Le Smocking, that is the question. I wonder, is it really that men should wear skirts or that women should give up wearing them completely – a final, symbolic burning of the bra for the new millennium? Skirts are feminine. See the pencil skirt and the fifties backwards glance at the tightly encased bottom, for example. I would be more shocked if women relinquished their ownership of the skirt than to see a man strolling down the street in flared number. Perhaps it is about ownership after all. Wanting what the other has. What a swap, hey… You can have as many boardroom seats as you like if you just let me have your skirts. Of course.

Skirts aren’t practical, either, and in a moment when both sexes are set to do battle why would a man want to be feminised? That’s really going to keep the shareholders happy as you simultaneously dodge bullets from the AK47 of the credit crunch whilst wearing a tweed A-line jupe. This obsession seems infantile. The joke’s worn thin. It’s just editorial fodder and down right silly. A cheap trick.

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Paparazzi

Lights, camera, ACTION!!

On the way to the John Galliano show last night the heavens opened. The torrential downpour was hardly surprising. It had been so close during the day that it took me nearly an hour too cool off after a shower. Arriving at the venue, a disused factory in the south of Paris, there was an eerie atmosphere as people stood huddled in groups under the railway bridge that ran parallel down the street, cutting it into two halves. The current state of fashion could not have been illustrated more succinctly. The bridge seemed to symbolise the disparity between what was real and the illusion of The Show.

The rain ceased, the Gods de la Mode seemingly having wept enough. A strange, quasi-comical dance commenced as precariously-heeled fashionistas gingerly negotiated muddy puddles in The Long Walk to the The Show. The atmosphere was quite laid back, all things considered. There was Queen Carine, the editor of French Vogue, leaning against a railing at the loading bay whilst being interviewed by a Japanese journalist. She wore a heavy man’s coat over her shoulders like a cape. Her kohl-smothered eyes seemed alert but the weight of the coat bellied the constant strain of a month of shows, mad scrums, transatlantic flights, parties, endless schmoozing and air kisses.

I stood for a while, people-watching. I pondered the meaning of the show invite, a mock clapper board. It hinted at the silver screen. It was clear that Galliano had gone to the movies this season. At Dior he had been inspired by film noir. For his own eponymous label the Hollywood brief was sure to be more recherché in its interpretation. It later transpired that his famous research trip for this season had been to LA.

Take One

Take One

We stood for a while longer.

Finally, we were allowed to enter a cavernous hall were we stood a for while. A sense of impatience grew as we were kept waiting, human sardines cloaked in darkness. The air was heavy with the scent of knackered perfume, warm sweat and sour breath.

We stood for a while.

A group of girls began clacking their clapper boards and soon the whole room followed suit. The bouncers at the curtained entrance to the inner sanctum paid no attention. The clacking eventually died down.

We stood a while longer.

Then bang! The rush inside began as a few hundred worn out souls funnelled their way in.

The Kiss

The Kiss

A solitary Grace Coddington. Her haunched I’ve-seen-it-all before shoulders said it all. What followed was a bizarre procession of the ridiculous. One by one, and sometimes in pairs, The Celebrities began to arrive. Dita Von Teese! Sequined pale blue dress, ruby lips, porcelain skin. Fragile. Her lips smiled in a strained way. Hey, she’d seen a lot of shows and done a lot of smiling over the last few weeks. Give an artiste a break-down! David Lynch kept flashing through my mind, no doubt aided by the soundtrack to Mullholland Drive that played. John, what are you saying? The paps were in a feeding frenzy, like piranhas gorging of the flesh of the famous. Flash! Flash! Dita! Ditaaaaaa!!! Then like the fishy shoal that they were they suddenly shifted focus as they caught the scent of more celebrity prey. Katy! Katy! Kay-teeeee!!! She’s-hot-then-not-so-cold Katy Perry appeared for role call, veritable beau Brummel, Russel Brand, in tow. Overly glamorous pink evening dress. Perfect hair. Placid expression. Anna Piaggi, fashion’s greatest living eccentric, shuffled past, ignored. You know that things have gone awry when fashion’s grande dames are treated almost like gate-crashers walking into their own party to find it full of strangers.

Then it was the turn of Leigh Lezark, girl about town. This was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Squashed next to the International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes, the earlier downpour had created a leaky cavern. Suzy dutifully held up an umbrella to protect La Lezark but perhaps, more importantly, her signature quiff  as the paps “papped” away. Hilarious!

Purple Haze

Purple Haze

Then The Almighty arrived. Prince, pretty in cyclamen. Frenzy. Frenzy. Frenzy! The show finally began, photo-ops over with, deals sealed in tabloid and cyberspace.

What about the show?

Well, it was classic Galliano. Pigalle Revisited via Sunset Boulevard and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” crossed with “Grey Gardens”. Faded grandeur. Expired fame. Mild schizophrenia. All paraded through a red laser show and large bubbles that descended onto the catwalk to disappear into a puff of smoke moments later. A beautiful but telling commentary on the ephemeral nature of celebrity. Katy and Dita looked slightly at unease. Prince loved the bubbles, apparently. One stunning dress in yellow bias cut chiffon with panels that danced around the model had every red-carpeter clocking it it up, licking their ruby lips… In reality, the real show centred on the Piranha Moment and Galliano’s infamous bow. He apparently even has a rehearsal for his bow. Now that I would love to see, the master posing for an absent audience!

And then it was over. I leave you with this post-show image. My camera died on me so I regrettably couldn’t take more. It says it all in a nutshell.

Show's Over

Show's Over

The Usual Suspects

It was destined to be a disaster from the start. It was like the Cassandra Crossing all over again. One train. One wobbly bridge. One colossal bottle of fake tan. One liberal squirt on the tracks. A no-brainer, really.

Which begs the question: who was the brains behind this? Who was the Keyser Söze  in this caper? Mounir Moufarrige, C.E.O. of Emanuel Ungaro? Are there external forces at play? Forces from beyond the boundaries of logic, taste and good old business nous? What did they expect? Duh.

To be honest I’m a little bit disappointed in the fruits of the “collaboration” between tan-aholic Lohan and Estrella Archs. I expected something so earth-shatteringly bad that when the pictures started coming through I kept hoping that it would get worse. The collection was so redundant of any sort of spark, good or bad, that I’m not even going to bother posting them. See the usual suspects – Vogue.com, Style.com, The Fashion Spot – for your fix. Cheesy love heart print. Sequins. Dubious colour combos. Ham-fisted  styling. I mean sequinned love heart pasties? Really bad tailoring. The excuse is that Archs only had about a month to damage control but if that was the case why present 45 or so looks? Why not edit and sharpen the focus? Why not just do a presentation and follow with a stronger outing the following season when you’d at least tested the water? Whole thing smacks of desperation to me. Of a quick fix.

Part of me wants to think “victimless crime”.

Li-lo wasn’t up to much anyway. At least this gave her  something to do. Apart from self-basting, i.e.

Archs. Well had you ever heard of her before?

There is a lesson in all this but the sad thing is I don’t think that it will be learnt anytime soon. There is no shortage of two-bit celebs more than willing to put their name to any piece of tat and call it “designer”. There is no shortage of big wigs to Smell The Money and milk the Cash Cow. Squirt squirt. This time it seems that the move backfired.

The house of Ungaro has had a beleagured history since the eponymous couturier let go of the reigns: Giambatista Valli, Vincent Darré, Peter Dundas, sapling Esteban Cortazar. It’s like fashion roadkill. Admittedly, some of those designers have moved on to bigger and better things. The big question here is what does Emanuel Ungaro really mean today? Where does it fit in? In the eighties Ungaro was the go-to frockmeister for the party girl set. All those intense, flouncey florals and fuchsia flashes. Are those strong enough signatures to rebuild a brand? Christophe Decarin is doing nicely catering to the party girls of today at Balmain. And for those of them who don’t quite qualify as girls, well, there’s always Lanvin.

So what to do? The Ungaro fiasco is only a symptom. The cause? Greed, perhaps. Or maybe misguided goodwill to get a return on an investment, if we’re being kind. Most likely, a warped sense of what and who is cool and relevant. Ungaro isn’t the only fashion house out there trying to crawl its way back into relevance. Pucci – incidentally, with Dundas at the helm. Vionnet. The list goes on…

The fatal error was to associate an ailing fashion brand with someone who spends so much time in the tabloids and Worst Dressed Lists that she could take up permanent residency. Buy the whole condo to be honest. And that’s just plain foolish.

rodarte 3

Slash and burn. Rip tide. Fashion Arson. Trailblazing. The Sœurs Mulleavy are a force to be reckoned with. A backstage interview goes something like this: “Yeah, she was a witch that got burned at the stake and came back as a vulture, yeah!” At which point the interviewer takes a few tentative steps backwards whilst secretly trying to seek out the nearest fire exit. The prom scene from Carrie flashes through her mind. She starts to perspire slightly. Thank God she chose to wear the black Lanvin with bracelet sleeves – they might not notice…

Oh, yes, the Sœurs Mulleavy love a good horror movie. Their latest collection shown at New York Fashion Week, under the Rodarte moniker [a friend once comically quipped Rodent Arte!!! Haha!]  brought to mind a little known B movie called Superstition. A medieval sorceress gets burned at the stake and drowned in a lake. Many centuries later – 1984, actually – she returns to haunt the lakeside house and seek her revenge. Hokum of the highest order but quite fun to watch.

I’m in two minds about Les Sœurs Mulleavy. On one hand they have a really strong aesthetic that is unmistakably their’s. On the other, I struggle to see the clothes. I felt a pang of disappointment when I realised the Atzec-y tattoos weren’t clever tulle bodysuits onto which their collage dresses were underpinned but just… tattoos. I wondered what the clothes would look like once you took them out of the show setting, off the back of some ludicrously lanky model and hung it on a rack in a store next to say a Lanvin dress. How would it match up? I also find myself playing spot-the-difference with the outfits. Ah, this one has a slightly higher neckline. Right.

Well I guess in New York it pays to be different. No 50’s couture inspired dressing here. Or generic downtown cool. They make a statement alright. I just wish they would start to move the clothes on a bit.

P.S. The film Superstition came out the same year as Firestarter AND the Thriller video – 1984. Spooky…

Balenciaga ss2010 - white shirt

Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2010.

Bah-lence-seey-ah-ga!

Oh, yes, Nicky boy seems to have come back down to earth and what other-worldly beauties he brings us. After last season’s Belle du Jour time travelling debacle our Nicholas has gone back to the streets. Amazing.

Amazing pants.

Amazing Sherman Tank hoodie thingies [see previous post Fashion Fatigue].

Control deck collage dresses.

Best of all though is his take on the generic white shirt. I want this. I need this! It’s the new oxygen.

Shirts have been so over-looked recently, however grandiose that might sound. Love these bad boys. The Pope meets 2001 Space Odyssey in an intergalactic confessional.

Pop-e your collar!

Papa2001

5098903.JPG

The show notes at Raf Simons for Jil Sander in Milan last week [I wasn’t there, by the way] cite the film Zabriskie Point – love and sociopathic misdemeanours in an urban/desert setting. Ripped, frayed edges. Rough-hewn. Happenstance. Make do and mend. Rhythm in chaos. And so forth…

I saw something else.

A very popular breakfast cereal, actually.

Shredded Wheat, actually.

Real Shredded Wheat. And Oliver Twist.

I can see it now. Raf boy, in his arte-povera get-up going up to the orphanage maîtresse – Suzy/Cathy/Sarah – and asking, “could I have more shredded wheat please?”

What?!

“More shredded wheat, please…”

At this point La Maîtresse will pull Raf up to her bosom, give him a hug, stroke his hair and coo from her-her-her triple lips: “Of course you can, my darling, of course you can! Miuccia, another Shreddie for Raf. NOW!” [You see, Miuccia has been a very, very naughty girl this season and as punishment she wont be having any breakfast until  the next round of pre-collections at least.]

He is Raf and he can do no wrong in her-her-her eyes.

See for yourself. The man has a winning way with ripping and melding fabric. The way he subtly layered texture was quietly  powerful. He put bone white with cream  and made it work which is extremely difficult to do. The styling was also great. The way the models hiked up their belted hessian-y coats and put their hands in the pockets of those beautifully cut mannish trousers created a hybrid 50s meets Victoriana silhouette. Very clever. And the focus on daywear was also quite refreshing. I must say, I thought it was rather beautiful. A tad overlong and a few shockers here and there. But beautiful all the same. Sexy, cerebral [sic cereal] clothes that felt new even though he was reading from a well-thumbed manual. That takes genius. Talk about needle in a haystack!

Go on, Raf, you can have two.