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The circus has rolled in once more, along with it the usual cast of characters – ringmaster, clown and magicians. As with any circus there is always The Good, The Bad and the Damned. OK, I made the last one up but “ugly” is a subjective thing. One man’s Beautiful is another’s Rodarte, ouch!

Anyway, I’ve got some ideas for posts on fashion week. One of them will be what I call The Barbie Syndrome –– female designers objectifying themselves. A bit like the Mugler fetishization of women in the 80s in reverse_

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The show season’s nearly over, not without a whiff of scandal, drunken proclamations and talk of ominous place-shiftings at a high level… The clothes almost seem like an afterthought. Anyway, zees eez not zee playhss for shameless gossip.

Its been an odd season. I’m not sure how I feel about most of the shows. A lot of them inspired a feeling of blahhhh, more than anything else. I think to myself, how would that look all in black? Or will the world be a sadder place if so and so collection never existed? Shops need to be filled, I guess.

I’m still on the fence with Celine although I’m usually a big fan of Ms Philo’s work. The obvious bête noire was the woodgrain. Yes, it recalled Rodarte but that wasn’t my problem with the three or so looks. They felt out of place somehow and what woman in her right mind wants to  look like a coffee table or worse, Grandma Hickey’s crockery cupboard? Best left in a dowager duchess’ bedsit… Anyway with Celine the clothes are much better appreciated in the flesh. Lots of complex details not that apparent from an  image. They’re just bang on the money. Hell, I want to buy them and I’m no lady, no siree…

I really like this outfit, the pink ensemble. I’m a sucker for a good shirt, as you may well know, and a perfectly cut pair of trousers. If I was a girl I’d be lusting after this. Its a very simple look but one that’s harder to pull off than it initially seems. Imagine the frowns of disapproval or envious looks you’d draw if you wore this say to a summer wedding? No chintzy florals. Sort of a latter day page girl, if that makes any sense. SCANDALO!

I like how Ms Philo toys with the idea of masculine and feminine in such an economical and direct way. HEAD ON. And yet with such subtlety. Three shades of pink for a Tom Boy. And a fierce pair of heels. Perfect

 

 

Navy, Sky, Grey, Buttermilk, Fawn, Cranberry

Black + White (A lot of white) = Fashion HEADRUSH

Admittedly, its been a bit Sleepsville ’round these parts as of late. No more excuses about being too busy. I’ve just been plain LAZY. Paris kind of does that to you, I guess. It’s so easy to go horizontal. Stroll over to the Tabac, pick up my daily supply of Nicotine from my pusher-friend at Le Progres on Rue de Bretagne; maybe grab a coffee there as well, or venture a bit further but not much, to Rose Bakery; pop in to Nicolas and see my other pusher-friend for the day’s supply of Prosecco – that’s booze and fags sorted then, ‘innit?; pop in to me local Pressing to have a little chat with the dolly birds in there and see what item of clothing they’ve lost this week — last week was the Burberry cardi with the fancy shoulders that a friend got me from the Hackney outlet – Bitches, I loved me that bad boy… You get the picture. It’s like St Mary Mead in Le Marais, sometimes…

Anyway, back to the reason why I was jolted out of my Slumber State. The new Dries Van Noten menswear show.Yummmy. It was like a sartorial cattle prod that woke this Sleeping Blogger from her coma. A beautifully turned out kiss that traipsed that line between regalia and “utilitaria” so expertly. What’s there not to love? The colour palette? Greys, blues, whites, a touch of camel,  a bit of black, some salt and pepper knits. Bang up me Back Alley. Or perhaps the shapes? Er, hello? Those pants looked positively roomy – if you minus the cool zippy jodhpur legging thingies – not as scary as they sound but need the legs of street urchin to pull those off. And the coats? Amazing. Just lovely, perfect tailoring. Perhaps the best argument for the ’80s Wall Street banker shoulders that have been cropping up everywhere – just plain wrong at Prada, eulogise all you like about Miuccia’s clever subversion. Nobody wants to wear a eulogy at the end of the day.

Great inspiration. David Bowie, Thin White Duke period. Richard Nicoll was onto that with his women’s summer show but the results here are way more successful. Anyway, thats a 329 word count so far. Not a bad start for someone who has just been brought back to life. Cheers, Dries!

Photos: Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway.com

from Style.com

Some

post-fashion

week musings_

Valentino

Lace, flowers, rosettes, waft-y outbursts of tulle, crin, chiffon clouds… Somehow, and uncharacteristically so perhaps, I’m drawn towards prettiness. After the 90s-redux overload with its spin on severe intelligence pretty seems well, pretty avant-guard.

YSL

Take a closer at this nouveau coquette, presented to us mainly/partly by

Peter Copping at Nina Ricci, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccoli at Valentino, Marco Zanini at Rochas, Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, Stefano Pilati at YSL and MiuMiu

and you’ll notice a darker undercurrent. It might not be immediately obvious but this is what makes it even more alluring.

Be it in the way a lace blouse has been edged in leather or a slit at the front of a ruffled skirt is just that little bit too high. The slit on arguably the skirt of the season at YSL – patch pocket displaced just so, convenient for a discreet scratch if need be!

Or the way a prim trench was slit under the arm, kimono style, or the back of a matronly blouse was cut in chiffon, again at YSL.

The aforementioned collections are all unquestionably individualistic but there is a fine silk thread that links them. There is nothing wallflower-y about this romantic heroine.

She is steadfastly urbane and knowing. And womanly.

She lives in the now and isn’t apologetic about her girlishness_

Rochas

Its such a simple conceit. No need for a footnote, just an appealing dose of femininity with a gutsy hit of low-key raunchiness. And that feels quite fresh.

Pretty simple,

really.

McQueen’s damsels distressed.

Catwalk images from http://www.vogue.com: Valerio Mezzanotti(Rochas) Marcio Madeira/firstVIEW(Valentino, Alexander McQueen, YSL)

Gaudy, bawdy

awful, I must say_

I went to my first Indian, or as we Brits say, Asian, wedding a couple of weeks ago – I’ve been to a lot of weddings this year – and I was stunned by the assualt of colour, sparkle and artificial flowers. The air was heady with the scent of jasmine and curry, a potent sensory cocktail. It was quite good, if a tad bit sedate.

It was a Muslim wedding so no booze. No sozzled Great Aunts doing the hokey-cokey.


The new Louis Vuitton collection waxes lyrical about Susan Sontang and is a diatribe directed at Good Taste.

Eye-popping. Chinoiserie. Lurex. F*ck the animal prints, let’s go  Mach 3 and slap on a veritable glitter ball Zebra on it. Woah, steady on Marc J… It was synthetic glamour – is there any other kind? – and while I find it hard to stomach there is something bonkers-ly brave about the whole proceedings. Note the dodgy 80s style catwalk exits when the models came out in groups and did their turns, hands on hip. And the House of Leonard inspired prints.

(I must give it to Leonard. They keep knocking out their house prints and make no apologies. Pucci, anyone?)

There were moments of beauty, mind you. Note Alek Wek’s gorgeous top and Fortuny-style pants being one. And I quite liked the clownish take on Diane Von Furstenberg – the wrap dress, half chic siren, half Bobo the Clown after a hard night, modelled by Freja Better Behave Yourself. The one-legged animal print Kaftan Jump Suit thingy bob, however… Should those words ever consecutively follow each other?!

Mr Jacobs thinks so.


Worrying for the models must have been all those scratchy fabrics. Imagine the crotch-rub on those!

MY L.V. KNICKERS

GAVE ME THRUSH!

Ouch! Anyway, it all reminded me of the Asian wedding, albeit in a more sped-up, hyper-real, lowdown dirty kind of way. LFN

catwalk images http://www.vogue.com,

Olivier Claisse/firstVIEW


There’s something about Renée…

For me, PRADA really delivered this season. I thought it was an extremely strong show. Precise, uncompromising and decidedly MODERN – a word bandied about so much these days. In a season of blindingly bright hues the PRADA electric blues, oranges and greens seemed the most potent and daring. The thing I like about PRADA is you really get a sense of the woman, the narrative. The total package. Miuccia Prada would most probably have been burned at the stake centuries ago. She is a witch, a magician and she can see the future!

The reviews of the show have referenced Josephine Baker, Carmen Miranda and sultry nights in Latin America but I see something much closer to home, more Southern France circa 1932


When the model Jourdan Dunn took her turn on the catwalk she was the spitting image of Renée Perle, the Romanian model who was the mistress of the photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. The finger-waved hair, a certain air of mystery and exoticism, grace and poise. It struck me that the PRADA show was less about hot tango nights and more about summers spent in the French riviera during the twenties and thirties. The broad stripes that recalled beach umbrellas, the easy, slightly drop waisted shifts that brought to mind the newly revealing swimwear of the period. That’s the genius of PRADA – you can read so much into it but at the end of the day, walk into the stores and you’ll find rail upon rail of brilliantly conceived, immaculately constructed clothes that you can wear. The message rarely overshadows the product.

And I find that truly MODERN. New Oxygen©

catwalk images:  www.vogue.com, Olivier Claisse

J.H. LARTIGUE images:

RIVAGES

CONTREJOUR DONATION LARTIGUE 1990


Once again, I’m drawn toward a Chanel ad campaign. It’s interesting to see how brands translate their catwalk message in 2D. Some show no product, some place emphasis on what sold the best, others on what reinforces their brand image the most. In all cases they strive to tell a story that will convince Joe Public to part with cash. However, in some cases an emphasis needs to be placed on con. (Both French and English meanings.) What I like about this image is that it makes you focus squarely on the product, the omnipresent circular framed glasses, but it also discreetly highlights, for an accessories campaign, the clothing. In this case The Chanel Polo. Its not just there to provide texture, colour and fill the space between chin and edge of page. And it isn’t there just to help Chanel shift polo shirts. It helps create the image by conveying a certain mood and attitude. [The Trendies seem to have moved on to square frames now, BTW – maybe a byproduct of Avatar and 3d cinema glasses.]

Yes, product. Red, beautifully set against a muted background. Shot from an unusual angle. Boy sees girl. Or the other way round. They connect. Or they don’t? TENSION. You’re drawn in. A film still from an Ingmar Bergman? It’s a subtle and mysterious image. I think the art direction here is superb.

There is this trend towards the cinematic. Colin McDowell wrote an interesting post on the subject in his blog. The recent beau-pic by Tom Ford, A Single Man, exemplifies this. I’m not so keen on Mr. Ford’s recent ad-campaign though [I must have a death wish. First Vogue US, now Tom!] It’s that familiar Mrs. Robinson get up. It’s quite funny and the bra tan line is kind of subversive. But it kind of stops there, on just about the right side of glossy kitsch. Valley of the Dolls sex bomb partnered with a younger, uptown dandy.The image comes off as both aloof and inviting. That’s the lure of Mr. Ford – making you want to be part of his club but knowing deep down that you’ll never be that perfect.

Tom Ford: HOWDYho

The ad campaign reminds me of the infamous monogramed crotch that Mr. Ford masterminded whilst at Gucci, albeit more subtle, more knowing. It seems that he is now quite comfortable with poking fun at himself. Sex sold. Is it time for IRONY to have a go?

Squirt here.

As I flicked through the April issue of American Vogue – a mercifully thin, advertising-light edition – I noticed that every one of the three or so editorials were in the same style despite being the creative fruits borne from different creative minds. Grace C, Edward E, David S and so forth. All major players yet how come this similarity and reduction of their efforts to Dynamism? “Dynamic”. I loathe that word. Especially when used in the context of fashion to imply movement caught freeze frame. The jumping model, all gangly and wide eyed, arms flaying like spaghetti, caught in some contorted pose. Or the mock I’m-going-to-work executive power stride, model caught legs akimbo, feet comically just off the ground, bemused mock gasp at the camera, usually with a pair of sunglasses, arms tucked behind her ears, lenses perched precariously atop barnet.

Added to this, the way American Vogue portrays “serious” portraits of women of importance – goodwill ambassadors, presidents, first ladies – in a serious, classical style gives a mixed message. There’s a constant flit between composed worthiness and girlish excitement. Will the real SLIM LADY please stand up?


Its all very 80s. And quite repetitive yet stagnant for something that should suggest movement. What irks me the most is that this type of photography reduces the model to a gangly, that word again, school girl – hopelessly, haplessly happy! Women as time-starved hysterical beings, caught like rabbits in the headlights. I just don’t get it. It reduces American Vogue to a predictable door-stopper when really it should be breaking boundaries not just in content but  also in the presentation of style. After all, it IS a fashion magazine first and foremost, is it not?

Movement implied, even when absent

American Vogue isn’t the only culprit but it has somehow made this style its trademark. Now signatures are crucial but at some point the line between them and cliché becomes blurred. In general, magazines really need to evaluate how they portray themselves. Nary a day goes by without the naysayers foretelling the print industry’s curtain call. A bit premature, perhaps. Nothing beats flicking through real pages. It’s a bit like smoking – sometimes its the routine and process rather than what is ingested where the PLEASURE lies.

Regarding content. Fashion to flatter every figure? Is that possible? Diets, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery – The Beauty Lecture. Haven’t women read enough of these dogmas masquerading as good advice? Its spring so what’s new? Well lose weight and slap on the fake tan. Escapism. For sure. But what about an issue dedicated to staying in? Finding your own paradise at home, in your own company? The wardrobe foibles of a stay-at-home executive? I don’t know. Something useful. Something real. Something fanciful. Just get the models to stay perfectly, beautifully still. (From time to time, at least)


PS Amazing hair on Liya Kibede.

See also:

Vogue Italia: Ease up on the soft focus romanticism.

British Vogue: Keep it up.

Vogue Paris: Let Helmut Newton rest in peace.

I desperately want this _

Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons: Deyan Sudjic 1990

I first came across this in the library during my first year at university.

It seems strange now, and it wasn’t even that long ago, to imagine trawling through dusty books and Dewey codes. Google is incredibly useful but nothing can beat the excitement of happening on a great book after hours of fruitless searching in dank, sneeze-inducing aisles – its like its been sat there, patiently waiting for you to turn up. There was no quick fix back then.

In 1999, the Hayward Gallery, on London’s South Bank, ran an exhibition entitled  “Addressing the Century: 100 Years of Art and Fashion“. On show were some of the infamous dresses from the Body Meets Dress Meets Body Becomes One spring-summer 1997 collection, or, as it became known, the “Lumps and Bumps” collection. This was a concept Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons had been exploring since 1996 but that show was the most lucid expression of it.

Body Meets Dress Meets Body

Spring-Summer 1997

It was one of those collections that sent shockwaves through the fashion industry. Dresses were padded with oblong pillows that distorted the female physique. These random, irregular “growths” brought to mind Hottentot tribeswomen, goitre, thalidomide babies, tumors and bodily organs. They also bore a striking resemblance to the artist Georgina Godley’s padded underwear from her Hump and Bump collection. Even visionaries can’t always be totally original! What added to the eeriness was the use of sheer virginal whites that made the protrusions visible in parts and also, the picnic ginghams in pinks and pale blues – an influence still revertberating, if you look at Christopher Kane’s last summer collection of perverse Sunday school girls decked out in razored pastel gingham. What was also clever about that collection but not immediately obvious was that the pads were removable. Double whammy.

Those pieces, along with the Comme des Garçons book, were the starting point of my first essay at university in 1999, “Like Boys”. It seems a million years ago but flicking through it reminded me of how important Rei Kawakubo is. She is 100% pure, no additives Fashion Genius. When is somebody going to do a bloody retrospective exhibition of her work in the UK? Because_

*  *  *

 

 

 

Autumn Winter 2011

 

The recent autumn-winter 2011 Comme collection seemed to take its cue from the “Lumps and Bumps” collection. Timely, if you consider that most brands were returning to their core values. However, Comme des Garçons isn’t “most brands” so I found it quizzical. The oddness and shock of the new that characterised Kawakubo’s work and that of her contemporaries, such as Yamamoto, and protégés, Junya Watanabe and Tao, has become so familiar that you almost know what to expect – strange bird’s nest hair, theatrical make up, flat shoes, illogical, complex silhouettes. The most shocking thing Rei Kawakubo could do now, perhaps, would be an obviously sexy, stilletos-at-dawn, hair swept back collection. In a way I wish she would, to paraphrase Anna Wintour, “break out”. It would be so interesting to see her thoughts on celebrity culture filtered through her unique approach. A lot of her recent work seems like a retread, however beautiful it is. Consider this, Kawakubo made black the official uniform of Fashion Folk after seismically dividing opinions in the early 1980s with her black, hole-ridden clothes that were shorn of any obvious sex appeal or ostentation. I now struggle to see her influence on fashion. Rei Kawakubo as the charming old lady? Quelle horreur! I have a feeling that she isn’t completely done with us just yet. Don’t get too close; this one bites…

Lace Knitwear, 1982

 

 

The Rei is my shepherd, and I am her weakness…

As a student I worshipped at the Church of Comme. I was obsessed. And also, quite poor, so the very idea of owning a bona fide Comme piece was as alien as the clothes themselves. However I made-do and mended. Literally. Case point. Oversized sky blue Benetton shetland jumper. Boil washed. Yanked to one side and secured with a thick knot of yellow thread. I recoil now in horror but that was the closest I was ever going to get to the Comme look, by way of dip-dyed mass market Italian knitwear.

One of my favourite Comme periods was the tail end of the 90’s/ early noughties. The height of deconstruction, Brit Pop and a re-energised creative London scene. This was the time of The Pineal Eye, Jessica Ogden and Shelly Fox. I recall schlepping off to Brook Street, where the old Comme des Garçons shop was located, to study the haphazard, asymmetric, inside-out collages of tailored jackets and coat dresses trimmed in white cotton. Those pieces were poetry, and I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. The Japanese were on a roll during that period. Remember Yohji’s wedding collection? That incredible crinolined dress with the zippered pockets that contained a veritable trousseau with which the model proceeded to dress herself? Gone were the funereal statements. In was an artsy, lightness of touch.

Catherine Long in Comme des Garçons, Dazed & Confused, September 1998 issue.

Guest edited by Alexander McQueen [RIP]

What I’ve always loved about Comme is that its innovation encompasses more than just the clothes. Kawakubo is a boundary-pusher in every aspect of design, branding and marketing. Forward-thinking retail spaces? From the hallowed concrete halls of the 1980’s through to the red Paris store with moving cubicles and the legendary Dover Street Market in London, Comme des Garçons has tirelessly rewritten the rules on not only what constitutes clothing but also how and where it can be sold. Pop-up stores have recently been all the rage but remember the Comme Guerilla stores from a few years back that popped up in abandoned spaces in the most unlikely, unfashionable areas? Rei got there first. Indeed, the old Brook Street store stood on the periphery of Bond Street polish, close and present but also defiantly distant. On the edge. The Dover Street market site was an unoccupied office building and when it was converted into a modern day souk filtered through the Kawakubo Process it retained a lot of the original, corporate details – halogen lighting, abandoned filing cabinets and industrial fittings. The impersonal was used to create a very personal space.

Perfume? Odeur 53, the Incense Series, all challenging, non-conformist scents… Now everyone’s at it – Frederic Malle, Le Labo, Byredo… Rei Got There First. And how about abstract branding? The Marc Jacobs/ Juergen Teller campaigns, Alber Elbaz’s whimsical shoots for Lanvin, Celine’s new art direction that focusses on just the clothes all owe a lot to Kawakubo’s irreverent, subversive ad-campaigns in which she collaborated with leading artists and tastemakers. REI GOT THERE FIRST.


One of the most direct influences of Kawakubo on her contemporaries is evident in the Versace spring-summer 1998 collection. View the image below and tell me if you get the same sense of déjà vu? Rei most definitely got there first, with her autumn-winter 1997-1998 collection, to be precise.

 

Spot the difference.

Fashion needs people like Kawakubo now more than ever. Visionaries that aren’t afraid to push the envelope and challenge us. However, the element of surprise is all but gone and the Japanese style has become a little bit predictable and somehow  mainstream. No, that isn’t the right word. Acceptable is better, perhaps. The clothes are still innovative, don’t get me wrong. And I’m certain that she is still copied, be it more in terms of garment finishes and details now. What’s missing is the sense of danger, that definitive, driving message that has been absent for some seasons now. Hopefully, it will return, like a dormant volcano waiting to unleash one final attack. In the meantime a retrospective of Kawakubo’s oeuvre is long over due. We need to pay our respects and remind ourselves of what a powerhouse she is.

 

 

 

The most interesting developments this show season happened not on the catwalks. Yes, Miuccia Prada made us pause for thought with her sizeist polemic and Raf Simmons’ Jil Sander collection left some confused about what sort of working women wore tailored romper suits. But all that’s just a mere distraction from the matter at hand – Fashion Broadcasting.

Munch: The Scream

Information overload or a democratic putting across of one’s opinion? This is the season where live streaming went a few steps further and you could pre-order what you saw careening down the runway. Designers such as Christopher Bailey at Burberry became reporters. Domenico and Dolce took us behind the scenes to stamp a seal of authenticity on their heritage of craftsmanship.They also have their own TV channel. Everyone’s tweeting, blogging, streaming, self-publicising. Clothes? What clothes?

The choice is dizzying. You have the Rocks of Sages on one hand – Suzy Menkes, Sarah Mower, Cathy Horyn, Tim Blanks – and his trusty camera man. Admittedly, Cathy’s the most with it of the bunch – New York Times Blog and Twitter! Let’s not forget the bloggers – Bryan Boy, Tavi, Tommy Ton, Susan Lau of Stylebubble, Diane Pernet, Garance Doré, Scott Shuman of The Sartorialist… the latter two are a real life couple. Cute.

Most interesting is when editors themselves become TV presenters. See Sophia Neophitou from 10 Magazine coming over all Mother of Carrie. I love 10 Magazine and they seem to love every show. Is that possible? Never seems to be a bad word said. Hmmmph. Its all very entertaining. The show must go on but under what guise, I wonder? Props to Alex Fury over at Showstudio. I think we’ve found our heir to the Colin MacDowell throne.

What next? Fashion Big Brother or I’m A Fashionista, Get Me Out Of Here!? That really would be hilarious. A bunch of fashion darlings trapped in a desolate factory in Romania forced to do menial tasks like stitch on buttons or fold jumpers. You could have them show their fashion stamina by setting up challenges where they have to wear labels like Escada or St. John and see who took the longest to breakdown. Actually, some of the boys might enjoy that. And how about trapping them in a dark room with interns hellbent on getting revenge…? Scary.

Yes, interns. The unsung heroes of this jamboree. I interned once at Clements Ribeiro – during their original incarnation, I might add, on South Molton Street. Some of my tasks involved hunting down Suzanne’s Louis Vuitton cigarette case she’d left in a bar in Soho – which one she couldn’t remember – the night before and mailing flat-hunting letters by hand for the evil product manager who wanted to live in a W1 postcode but couldn’t afford it. She actually wanted me to go around every residential property within a 1km radius! Witch! Miraculously, luckily, quickly I found the cigarette case and proceeded to spend three hours in Soho Square, in the glorious sunshine, cruising the talent. As for the Evil Product Manager’s mail-outs, they ended up in a bin at the back of John Lewis and I made my way to Selfridges to dribble over Comme and Margiela. There you go. Just desserts.

PS The irony of a blogger taking a wry look at blogging, etc. isn’t at all lost on me. LFN


Tweet me, baby, one more time.

There seem to be two designers that have a strong influence over the collections thus far – Hussein Chalayan from his early work and Rei Kawakubo.

The Chalayan Construct_



_was evident in the styling and presentation of  the Marios Schwab collection for Halston – the hats may link back to the start of Halston’s career as a milliner but they remind me more of Chalayan’s headpieces. As do the almost medical-looking boots and the set design of the presentation. Jarring tongues of glass and metal. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se. I just like following the trail of thought – Fashion Etymology, so to speak.

Hussein Chalayan, Lilly Heine

Looking at the leather hats at Narciso Rodriguez brings to mind the leather headrests that Chalayan integrated into shifts in the Echoform A/W 1999 collection. One of the stars from the Saint Martins MA show, Lilly Heine, used laser cutting to create contoured reliefs in geometric forms that again hinted at Chalayan’s layered shifts from the Geotropics show. Add to all this, the current obsession with geometry and mathematics coming through in the complex folds and sculpted forms, everywhere from Peter Pilotto, Louise Goldin, Calvin Klein to Marios Schwab, it would seem that we’re having a Chalayan Moment. Not surprising as the late 90s seem to be the buzzword. It would be interesting to see what the man himself does this season.

clockwise from top left: Hussein Chalayan, Marios Schwab for Halston, Halston archive, Hussein Chalayan, Narciso Rodriguez

The Kawakubo Curse_

_childhood fables,the broken doll, ghost bride, Romance Fragile… The Zingara gypsy,commonly seen on the streets of Milan, around Stazione Centrale, on the Metro. Her full, grubby skirt swinging about her ankles, the floral blouses layered one atop the other, the chink of coin necklaces, pendants and bracelets, the gold teeth, a flash seen through a crooked smile, the greasy, khol-black hair, locks clinging around her weathered, desperate face, the cloying smell of patchouli… A frightful, thieving creature and an unlikely muse, you would think. I didn’t see this one coming but since Alexander Wang’s dubious outing in New York, The Gypsy Woman seems to be gaining momentum, running against the wind. Rodarte’s muddle of pattern and texture, Meadham Kirchoff’s Gypsy Rose bedouin vagrant, replete with crown and veil… Its a path much trodden by Rei Kawakubo. However, there is something artful and appealing about the spontaneity of the silhouette. Romantic, each decorative, colourful layer begging to be touched. Peasant Grunge, if you like but I’m not sure how this translates in a winter season. All those flyaway tendrils of chiffon. Broken down into individual pieces in a showroom the garments will be more evident and also how well they will assimilate into more contemporary looks. It would be interesting to see what actually makes it to the shop floor. The nomadic layering is something the stylist Alasdair McLellan had already started at Missoni last winter. There it somehow made sense and rejuvenated the house’s famed but tad démodé knits. It felt urbane. Nevertheless, its an interesting argument. Let’s see if the big boys and girls  in Milan and Paris take it further and give it a seal of approval or if this one’s going to flap away into the distance.

You beggar believe me: Meadham Kirchoff, Missoni

Full Circle: Hussein Chalayan, Ambimorphous AW 2002

catwalk images: style.com, http://www.husseinchalayan.com

A v.long post, I must warn. But this needs to be said_

That Louise Wilson gets about a bit, doesn’t she? She keeps cropping up in Sunday supplements and magazine articles, pushing her brand of tuition and guidance every which way. Straight-talking Louise knows a thing or two. Louise knows best and don’t we know it!

The Harder They Come: Louise Wilson

I’ve sort of fallen out of love with fashion a bit. Fashion, to me, has become unfashionable. The worldwide financial meltdown, the ethical, ecological, sizeist, ageist, racial and moral debates, the endless backslapping, the championing of a 13 year old blogger in an industry that now criticises the use of under 16 models whilst still balking at the idea of a size 16… I could go on forever. Too many collections, too many voices, too many opinions that sound the same. Too much lip-synching and paraphrasing. What is the point of pointless clothes that nobody wants to wear or has the money to buy? Or merchanise that gets whisked off the shop floor to make room for a new delivery before you can reach for your credit card?

Cathy Horyn premised the stress of running a global business and the constant need to deliver as a factor that played in Alexander McQueen’s suicide. A grain of truth in that, perhaps. Fashion has been eating itself from inside for quite some time now. Ugly. I’ve worked as a designer for the best part of a decade now and the change has been gobsmacking. Gone are the days of designing a collection, taking a break and recharging one’s batteries. Oh, no, the pantone ink’s barely dry before you have to reach out for another ream of paper and start churning out yet another collection. Pre-fall? Pre-spring? Winter-Spring? Autumn-Summer. Bummer. Makes you want to Resort to jacking it all in.

Looking at what’s been trudged down the catwalk lately reaffirmed why I put my own label on the back burner for a while and focussed on consulting for other companies. Things are in a sorry state of affairs when Victoria Beckham’s fashion line looks fresh and new.

+ + +

Anyway, back to professor Louise Wilson, course director of the Central Saint Martins [CSM] MA and her right hand woman, Sarah Mower of Style.com. Back to London. Back to the future_

I hazarded a look at the show images of the CSM MA with the usual trepidation. Who’s trying to knock off Christopher Kane now? To be The Next BIG Thing? What’s this I see? I nearly fell off my chair. What, graduates having a direct dialogue with high fashion? Empress Phoebe Philo and her wipe-the-slate-clean approach having an influence? Graduates sat at a round table with the likes of Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, Nicholas Ghesquire, Miuccia Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Helmut Lang? I totally agree with Sarah Mower in her review that the new graduates had left their elders trailing in the dust. It must be noted, the elders in question have mostly labels less than five years old. It seems that even that’s too old these days.There’s been a lot of believing in one’s hype lately. Of regurgitating the same old idea thinly veiled with stylistic skulduggery as newness. Don’t get me started on digital printing – that cheap trick of making a basic shape look more interesting than it is – and of the twinkle-twinkle of Swarovski, who seem to have monopolised  talent with their sponsorship and quasi-shameless brand-pushing. Granted the funding such sponsorship brings comes in very handy and designers such as Peter Pilotto have really pushed digital printing techniques but FUSSY FINISHED, to quote Polly Mellon from Isaac Mizrahi’s mid 90s documentary, Unzipped. Indeed.

I felt totally energised watching these images. Perhaps they’re more in synch with what I believe is au courant. Perhaps… What really blew my mind was the focus of proportion and cut. The fundamentals. And then the plethora of techniques, detail, finish, use of colour and the unexpectedness of it all. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen all season. Controlled, confident, assured and an overall lack of the superfluous. And also, the return of womenswear to the fore. Relatively young as my career might be I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve gained in experience I’ve lost in freshness so its good to see something that sharpens the eye and points the way. Bravo graduates! And Bravo Louise! A job really well done. Fait accompli.


Postscript_

A dear friend of mine, Stuart Bourne, works for the acrhitects Stanton Williams and art directed their book Volume, celebrating their first 20 years. Why relevant, you ask? Well, Stanton Williams are the architects of the new Central Saint Martins campus in King’s Cross, London, uniting all the various branches spread about London in one space. There’s been a lot of tutting about how it will affect the course, how Soho is the lifeblood that makes the fashion school so good. Well Soho isn’t Soho anymore and change is good, is it not? This is an industry that demands change after all. Added to that, the cross-pollination of different disciplines and line-blurring that characterises modern design surely makes this a logical step forward.

With the architectural nature of the new MA show and the architectural influence of the most relevant shows of recent seasons – focus on line, balance and the essential – it sort of brings things round full circle. Back to the beginning. Back to the future. Adios. LFN

catwalk images courtesy of style.com

Louise Wilson, 10 Magazine, Issue 34

Stanton Williams, Volume, Black Dog Pubishing 2009

www.stantonwilliams.com

Queen Vic, on the cover of a magazinnnne

Soz. I’m away from my desk at the moment, so to speak. Some thoughts on New York fashion week_

Victoria Beckham: Top marks. Classy. Really loving me a bit of VB. Really great clothes. Very smart lady. Loved the fact that she let the buyers in on what she’d wearing to the Oscars. I wonder what the best-selling dress will be?


Marc Jacobs: Been gagging for Mr Jacobs to go back to his nineties roots when a pleated flannel skirt cost about $2000. Luxe frump. Really, really, lovely.


Rodarte: Jury’s still out for me. Nice colours, lots of clever styling but still struggling to see the clothes.


Alexander Wang: His T-shirt lines more on the money for me. I’m not convinced on how this qualifies as high end. Too many gimmicks obscuring an interesting concept. Lace, chenille, pinstripe and velvet. A bit student-y for my liking. Soz. too cool for school. And how do you make Natasha Poly look fat? See exit whatever it was.


Altuzarra: Assured and well-executed. A bit hard-edged but there’s nothing wrong with going your own way if you can pull it off. And he did. In spades.


Halston: A bit of a let down. Early days and all that but was really rooting for Marios Schwab. I’m not sure how relevant Halston is as a brand. And parts of the collection reminded me too much of Hussein Chalayan’s work. It didn’t feel luxe. I’m not sure. Need to muse over this one a bit.

Catch ya later.

Thank you, style.com for the images!

The menswear season has come and gone, and a good one it was. Another show I really liked, apart from Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens, was Lanvin. I liked how they’d shifted focus with a more aggressive slant on the Elbaz/Ossedrijver take on deconstruciton. You can only take pretty so far, especially when rivals are catching up. I loved the Aryan/ albino meets Mad Max spirit that was omnipresent in the show. A menacing gang of left bank warriors. The use of the belts on utility albeit luxe rucksacks to suggest a cummerbund was clever. As was the South Pacific take on an Aran sweater by way of fringing.There were also some new ways with colour, such as bleached out mustard with an odd, faded sienna. Quite 70s. Take apart the styling and all the Lanvin signatures are clear and present. Great coats, suits and shirts.

Brooding Aggression: Lanvin Menswear Autumn-Winter 2010, Paris

http://www.style.com

This is going to be a long post I must warn you. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the three protagonist houses showing  Haute Couture  in Paris: Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and Chanel. A 70’s redux runs through those shows like the finest silk thread and I can see the shadow of one man cast over all three collections – Halston_


Give Me More// Givenchy par Riccardo Tisci


Reading Suzy Menkes’ and Sarah Mower’s reviews of  Tisci’s efforts he pretty much had  the audience eating out of the palm of his hand and gasping for more. I’m a huge fan of Givenchy womenswear and actually think the menswear is on the up – looking forward to see what effect the new head of menswear will have. The show centred on a less aggressive take on the 70’s. Doe-eyed Natalia Vodianova closed the show in a gobsmacking evening dress that poured itself into a flurry of gossamer-fine ombre pleats around her feet. The show was precise, modern, accomplished, relevant and beautiful. I agree with the slight tut-tutting that it was perhaps a bit too abbreviated but better that way than to induce front row snoozing.

The Halston Effect can be seen in the sculptural ruffles, sequins, chiffon cloaks and linear draping.



2010 Space Odyssey// Chanel Par Karl Lagerfeld

The man is bonkers but a bonkers genius if there ever was one. There’s no stopping him. The Chanel shows can sometimes induce the need to retch into the nearest champagne bucket but there isn’t a fashion house that reduces women to spluttering, stuttering heights of deranged obsession as Chanel. The sugary fondant fancy palette was a tad queasy and there were some proportions and flourishes that were just plain wrong but amidst all that there were some  exits that made you realise how bloody important haute couture is. The sustaining of craft is reason enough for it to exist. Even if a single dress isn’t sold those petits mains need to be kept on a payroll. No other house pumps the lifeblood into couture like Chanel, love or loathe.

Despite the baroque-ice-queen-goes-to-Saturn-for-two-scoops-of -vanilla-and-one-of-pistachio theme there was a way of the 70’s about those draped satin columns, neat culotte pant suits and mirror ball sparkle. Sort of Marie Antoinette goes to Studio 54. Again, see Halston. In particular his pastel-hued dresses from 1972.


Full Circle//Giorgio Armani Privé


Lunar eclipse. Looking to the stars… literally. Cate Blanchet & co have a go-to for Oscar night. I’m not a huge fan of Armani but I respect his work. you know an Armani when you see one – so strong is his handprint. He styles every look himself and that makes his shows some of the most personal. I’ve actually warmed to the Privé collection and I’ll bet anything that next to Chanel no one else shifts more couture frocks. You look expensive in an Armani so it reasons that if you’re spending €50,000 on a dress you want to look so. Also he focussed on trousers, the hardest of garments to cut and perfect. Why don’t other houses push this?

La Luna. The Moon. Silver, space age organzas, a nocturnal palette, crescent motifs & circular cutting, the sporty, minimalist columns and, once again, sculpted ruffles. The influence of Halston is undoubtable.


Postscript. Looking forward to see where Marios Schwab takes the Halston brand next now it seems to be on fashion’s frontline again.

catwalk images http://www.style.com

HALSTON, An American Original: Elaine Gross & Fred Rottman, Harper Collins Publishing 1999

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.

Mad About the Boy

Zach Condon has a band called Beirut. You could quite call Zach a nerd and I’m sure Zach was called all sorts of things prophylactic in high school due to his surname. But we wont go there. Zach’s music is very good. Sort of Eastern Europe Slovenian folk pop. Quite tender. Sometimes tinged with melancholy. Zach plays amongst other things, the ukelele, accordion, glockenspiel, and mandolin but perhaps not the fiddle. I’m sure that he could if he tried. Zach should wear  Prada next winter. A lot of the looks seem like they tumbled out of his wardrobe. Zach seems like a very nice guy.

www.beirutband.com

It takes two to Tango

It takes two to tan-go

Just had a thought. Are we all being taken for a ride, pawns in a game of fashion skullduggery? Perhaps the idea is to focus attention on the house of Ungaro again (✔), ditch La Li-lo pronto pronto and get in someone proper to do the job. Sounds implausible but there has to be a reason. Wonder who Keyser Söze will turn out to be…Hmmph.

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.