Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Beautiful Fall...

I have to admit that when I saw the first image from the Spring Summer 2011 Vuitton campaign it left me a bit underwhelmed. Besides not looking quite how I pictured it, I kind of felt like it could have been even more over the top than they were. I guess my attitude has always been if you're going to do gaudy, then do it big, you know? But I kept going back to that first image, and I suppose by the time the rest of the campaign made an appearance it had really grown on me. Now having seen the entire set (or what I assume is the entire set) I actually kind of love it.

For starters it perfectly captures the spirit of the collection, which was wonderfully flashy, fun and decadent. I love the kind of Tony Duquette-lite vibe, all of that glamorous chaos going on in the background. Combined with the sort of louche poses that Kristen, Raquel and Freja are striking and the lurid clothes the photos remind me of vintage Yves Saint Laurent Opium ads. There aren't any blatant similarities, just the hint of both the 70s and Orientalism in the styling, but there's still something similar about the feel of this. Going back to the poses, I like that they seem somewhat candid. I mean obviously they're not, but they don't seem as deliberate and precise as, say, the poses in the Gucci campaign. I have to say though that the one thing I'm not completely thrilled about was the choice to publish two separate images with the same clothes. There were a lot of looks shown in this collection, so it seems silly not to use different looks for each of the shots, but I guess that's a pretty minor complaint. Much as I've grown to like this campaign though I can't help wondering what Mert & Marcus would have done if they had shot this. I'm not necessarily saying that I wish they had, but I am curious about what it might have looked like if they did. Still, that doesn't change the fact that this is the first of Steven Meisel's campaigns for Vuitton that I've actually liked. I also have to say that these images don't do the photos justice. They look much better in print.

images from

Friday, January 7, 2011

Barbie Girls...

It is my belief that the only thing worse than falling into a rut yourself is having to bear witness to somebody else's. Unfortunately a rut is exactly what we're witnessing with Gucci's advertising these days. Now realistically it's only been a year since Gucci first tapped Mert & Marcus to photograph their campaigns but because Gucci releases campaigns for more than just the main S/S and F/W collections it seems like it's been a hell of a lot longer. Also worth taking into account is that when the dynamic duo revert to their comfort zone, as they have with the Gucci campaigns they've shot so far, the result is instantly recognizable and, by this point in time, predictable. Sure every photographer has a signature style that they carry with them throughout their career, but I think Mert & Marcus's has the tendency to come off as repetitive because it's so specific. It's also a bit of an acquired taste. I myself have seen more than enough of their turquoise skies, bronzed skin, reflective crimson lips and highlight-laden tresses to last me a lifetime. I guess it's no wonder that none of their Gucci campaigns have impressed me. Here's the thing though; I don't blame Mert & Marcus for how tedious the campaigns are. As specific as their signature style is and as boring as it can become it's not the only thing that they're capable of doing, and in fact I tend to like what they do when they branch out a bit. Clearly the only reason that their Gucci campaigns have become completely indistinguishable from one season to the next is because that's what Gucci wants. Why Gucci wants to repeat themselves and have all of their seasonal advertising blur into one never-ending campaign of plasticized beauty I can't say for sure, but the only logical explanation is that it sells.

I can respect that this may work from a business standpoint, but I'm not looking at it from that angle. Aesthetically I'm just plain sick of this look. I mean I could learn to live with and even enjoy seeing this kind of hyper-glamorous unnatural beauty if the composition of the photographs changed a bit, which was the case when Mert & Marcus were the photographers behind Vuitton's ad campaigns. But there really isn't any change in any of the Gucci campaigns they've done. I mean how many times can you look at a photo of a beautiful young woman who's been airbrushed into oblivion shot from a low angle while striking ridiculously overdone poses in some sun-drenched exotic location while the solid mass of her so-shiny-it's-practically-sparkling hair is billowing down her shoulder like some caramel waterfall before the whole package gets boring? Clearly I have a low tolerance for it to begin with, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I've seen it countless times before, but I know I can't be the only one who saw this campaign and promptly rolled their eyes at it's sameness. On top of the predictability this season's campaign in particular seems even more artificial than usual. I mean the satin clothes are practically glowing for chrissake. But bitching aside there are a couple of things I do like about it. For one the pops of bright color are extremely eye catching and very refreshing after two seasons filled with neutral clothes from the runway. They make a nice contrast to the ubiquitous turquoise sky and golden terrain. I also really like the models that were cast. Joan Smalls and Karmen Pedaru make a wonderful change from Natasha Poly and her cheekbones or everybody's go-to model Raquel Zimmermann. It's just a shame that two of the more beautiful models working today both look like they're the product of CGI in this campaign. It's also a shame that as long as Mert & Marcus are employed by Gucci this is all we're likely to see.

images from

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Return of the King Part II...

What better way is there to start off the new year than getting a look at what was no doubt one of the most eagerly anticipated and hyped up fashion events in years. That's right kids, after nearly four months of waiting we, the viewing public, finally get to see Tom Ford's womenswear debut in full. By now I'm sure everybody has seen at least some of the teaser images that have been floating around the net. The clothes have shown up in a number of magazines and last month Harper's Bazaar previewed a handful of official runway images. Now I can only speak for myself, but seeing those eight or nine runway photos didn't satisfy my craving at all, quite the contrary in fact. They made me crave more. Well, now we have more and I'd say I'm satisfied.
Fabulous, no? The editing really creates a sense of excitement, of being there in the midst of it all. Watching it is actually kind of hypnotic, and even now having watched it, oh, a dozen times at least I still can't help but smile. Don't get me wrong, I'm crushed that it's been edited down to what is essentially a tease, and it sucks that we don't get to hear any of the commentary Mr. Ford was providing along with the show, but given the choice between a short video and no video at all guess which one I would choose. And btw, can I just say that I think the Karen Elson song playing over the footage is perfect for the presentation. I guess we'll never know if it was actually used in the show, but it's a great fit.

Before I go into the collection I have to get this out of the way first: I HATE the quality of the photography. I know that it was intentional, but I don't think all of the photos do justice to the clothes or the women wearing them.
Now, I tried to be brief and concise while writing about this collection, I really did, but it just wasn't working. Each look left me with something to say, so bear with me...

  • The first look confuses me. Maybe it's the kind of thing you need to see in person, but I'm afraid I just don't get it looking at this picture and the video.
  • Love the painted fringe dress on Liya. Something about it combined with the big, intricate updo and the bohemian-esque earrings gives me a kind of mid-Sixties vibe. It's such a dramatic look.
  • The smokings on Emmanuelle Seigner and Lauren Hutton are pretty much perfection, end of story.

  • I'm in love with the entire look on Natalia Vodianova. From the pompadour down it's got a haughty sex appeal that really works. The skirt has a gorgeous silhouette.
  • I like the dress in different shades of pink, but seeing something so femme and girlish from Tom Ford is kind of throwing me for a loop.
  • The purple chiffon wrap dress on Joan Smalls is beautiful, although I don't know if I love the color of that bolero with it. That's also not the best picture of her, and she's gorgeous so there's really no excuse.
  • Karen's cobalt fringed dress is easily one of the most striking pieces in the collection. It's such a simple design when you think about it, but between that amazing color and the all-over fringe it makes for a look that's hard to forget. I think I preferred it with stockings the way it was styled in Vogue.

  • I die for Rachel Feinstein. She looks so sexy and vibrant and gorgeous. That red hair suits her perfectly, in fact the first time I saw her photo it didn't even dawn on me that it's not her normal hair color.
  • The words leopard print pant suit don't necessarily paint the prettiest of pictures, but damn is that suit fierce. I never say fierce, so you know it must be true if that's the only word that I can think of.
  • I don't really love Julia Restoin-Roitfeld in her leather skirt suit. The pieces are nice, but the whole look with the Winehouse hair, raccoon eyes and fishnet boots renders it a little vulgar.
  • Anja's white suede trench coat on the other hand is gorgeous, though highly impractical if you ever want to venture outside of your walk-in closet. Nice touch tying the coat in with his Private Blend fragrance White Suede.

  • I don't love the saharienne kind of look on Jac, but I think it's really just the color that's bothering me. Olive green really doesn't relate to anything else in the collection.
  • The white skirt suit is beautiful. I love the longer silhouette, and I'd really love to see a close-up of the stitching on the skirt.
  • The only complaint that I have about Chanel Iman in an overblown Prince of Wale's check smoking is that I might have preferred it with a fedora instead of that cloche. Other than that the suit is fantastic. So, so chic.
  • I really like Abbey's Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker look. It's no the most exciting outfit in the collection, but it's styled really well. It's got a great silhouette, too.

  • The look on Karlie and the leopard dress that came next seem like filler looks to me. They're not bad, they're just lost in a sea of impact-making looks.
  • Carolyn Murphy's look is impeccable, definitely one of my favorites. It's very simple, bordering on boring, but the styling of that little black dress really takes it somewhere else. I'm a sucker for an open back.
  • The dress on Daria has already appeared in two editorials, once in American Vogue and once in Vogue Paris, and both times it looked amazing. The silhouette is just so unlike anything I would expect from Tom Ford. Here though the shape has none of the drama or precision that it did in the magazines. I also don't like those shoes with it.

  • I didn't really love the metallic embroidered jacket Freja's wearing when it first appeared in Vogue. Even though it recalls Ford's last YSL collection it read as a little too dated to me. Apparently it's grown on me since because I really like the look here. The jacket photographs beautifully.
  • The styling on Victoria Fernandez is great. Lingerie under mannish tailoring seems like such a cliche, but clearly it works, and I'm digging the cat eye shades under the veil. You don't see enough veils these days.
  • Love Stella's outfit. That jacket is stunning. For some reason when I first saw images of this look I assumed the skirt was floor length. I think I might have loved it even more if it was.
  • Beyonce is wearing a lot of look, and I guess that suits her personality. The dress itself looks gorgeous in that shot. Unfortunately the lighting didn't do Bey any favors.

  • I still can't make up my mind about the gown on Marisa Berenson. On the one hand it looks like something that Travis Banton might have designed for Marlene Dietrich; on the other I'm not so sure that that's a bad thing.
  • I wish we could see all of Rita Wilson's look, although from what I do see I think I like it.
  • The tuxedo on Edita is, like all of the other suits in this collection, perfection. Cummerbunds are the new belt.
  • The painted fringe dress on Du Juan is actually the one look I'm having the most trouble making up my mind about. The print and colors are really beautiful and so unusual looking, but I'm not 100% sure that the whole look isn't too much.

  • I didn't really love the kimono-sleeved le smoking jumpsuit worn by Lou Doillon when I saw it on Lara Stone in W magazine last month. Seeing it now it takes on a whole new feeling. On the right woman, in this case Lou, that piece is unbelievably striking. It has entrance maker written all over it.
  • Julianne looks fabulous in her fringed and feathered gown, and judging by the picture she knew it. She was so fabulous in the video.
  • Considering that Lisa Eisner's gown is one of the simplest pieces in the entire collection it also happens to be one of the most dramatic, I think. That sharp column of black, barely touching the body inside and plunging in the front to show the top of the corset is so unlike anything that's been seen on a red carpet in god knows how many years that I can't help but love it. A dress like that is the perfect antidote to Marchesa-syndrome. To me it's the most Gucci-esque piece in the collection.
  • And finally there's Daphne Guinness in a look that only Daphne Guinness could ever pull off. It's so over the top, from the two-tone bouffant and patented Tom Ford smokey eye (which is a good look for her) to the feathered shoes. I love how the gown just seems to melt on her body. It's a lot of look, even more than Beyonce's, but it suits her perfectly.
Not that I'm surprised or anything, and I doubt any of you reading this are either, but I really ended up loving this collection. As plenty of people have already pointed out it's nothing new or radical, but that was never what Ford was about anyway. His strength was always his ability to take something old, or classic, or retro and rework it for the here and now. But while none of this is new or radical I do think that the overall feel of the collection is very fresh. These 32 looks are extremely dressed up and "done", which is the antithesis of what fashion and style have been about for years now. I love that the collection is unapologetic about that. Conviction to a mood is classic Tom Ford. As for the clothes themselves I think that there's a great variety. Not only are these clothes addressing women of different sizes, shapes and ages, they're addressing different styles and tastes as well. The woman who is going to wear the black column gown worn by Lisa Eisner probably wouldn't be the type to wear the sequined mesh sheath on Beyonce, just like the woman who'd choose a black silk tuxedo for an evening event probably wouldn't go near a ruched ballet pink georgette dress like the one Rinko Kikuchi has on. I think that's one of the best things about this collection, that rather than just talking about addressing different women Mr. Ford actually did. It's not about one specific look for one specific kind of customer like his work at Gucci and YSL was. At the same time though you can clearly see echoes of his Gucci and YSL women throughout, although to me it doesn't look distinctly like either of them, which I think that is a good thing. There is enough difference to separate his past from his present which definitely gives him license to play in the future. I'm extremely excited to see where Ford will take this collection now that he's back to doing what he does best, and while I know that this show is supposed to have been a one-off kind of event that doesn't mean I'm not holding out hope that Tom will change his tune and take up a more permanent residence on a runway of his own. If there's one thing that his hiatus from the fashion ranks made perfectly clear it's that fashion really isn't as exciting when he's not apart of it.

video and images from

Friday, December 24, 2010

And to all a good night...

See you in the New Year, kids.

image from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mrs. Draper, you're trying to seduce me...

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the intersection between Hollywood and fashion. On the one hand I understand it and have come to accept that most American fashion magazine covers feature celebrities instead of models, that red-carpet watching has become a national pastime, and that celebs are considered integral to a designer's success. On the other I wish the boundaries between Hollywood and fashion were more clearly defined because the open border between the two nations makes it far too easy for things like Lindsay Lohan to happen to perfectly innocent couture houses. But in all honesty things like celebrities gracing our covers or showing up in a campaign isn't something that pisses me off on principle. As long as the result is good I'm fine with it. Unfortunately the list of quality ad campaigns with celebrity faces is a short one, so in general I don't look forward to the news that a celebrity has been cast. I think so many of them fail to impress because the designer and their team and/or the photographer and theirs seem to think that having so-and-so with the famous face in the campaign is enough to make the campaign. Every so often though there's an anomaly, a case where all of the chips - celebrity, design house, photographer, photographic elements - fall into place and you're left completely shocked that the end result doesn't suck. Such is the case with the hot-off-the-presses S/S 2011 Versace accessories campaign staring Mrs. Draper-Francis herself, January Jones.
There's no mixed feelings about this. Stunning, stunning, stunning. It is without a doubt the best campaign Testino has done for Versace, one that really reminds us of exactly what it is that he's capable of. The choice of celebrity should come as no surprise to anyone since Jones is often seen wearing Versace to events. She's gorgeous to begin with, but she looks absolutely incredible in the shots that have been released so far. I love that the hair and makeup so clearly recalls January's look as Betty, not to mention that her expressions, from wan detachment to icy determination, seem right out of the ex-Mrs. Draper's handbook. But let's be honest here, there's a sexuality to these images that I doubt anyone would associate with Betty Draper. The pin-up poses and teases of nudity are more sex bomb than ice queen. It's a great contrast, and it makes for images that are both aloof and alluring, kind of look but don't touch unless I tell you to. These accessory shots really have me wishing that January was cast for the entire campaign. Clearly she knows how to model, and honestly I'd go so far as to say that she's putting a lot of today's models to shame. Call it sacrilege if you must, but I think that photos like these could even give some of the greats a run for their money. Oh and January, consider your sins at the Met Gala absolved.

images from wwd, and twitter/styledotcom

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shiny, shiny...

In the year or so since I came into contact with my first Bond No. 9 fragrance I've spent a lot of time getting to know the line. For those unfamiliar with Bond No. 9 they're a New York based niche perfume line whose scents are inspired by and/or named after different areas of New York, mainly in but not limited to Manhattan. Bond's got a large range of scents, 40-something in all I think, so familiarizing yourself with the line takes some time. Having sampled at least half of their offerings I think I can say that I enjoy what Bond does. The collection is pretty varied in that there are different scents that will no doubt appeal to different tastes. Some of their fragrances are very classic, some are experimental, and some are just plain fun. Bond is also well known for their whimsical packaging. Many of the bottles are extremely eye catching and highly collectible.

At this point I'd have to say that my favorite Bond fragrance has got to by Silver Factory, which was the first in a series of scents that are inspired by Andy Warhol. Silver Factory is of course named after Warhol's legendary studio space that was famously decorated with tin-foil and metallic paint and which became a gathering place for the eclectic cast of people who surrounded him, everyone from socialites and Warhol superstars like Baby Jane Holzer and Edie Sedgewick to the Velvet Underground. Not only was the Silver Factory the place where Warhol created and produced some of his most iconic prints and films, it was for a time the epicenter of the zeitgeist.

Silver Factory the perfume is an incredibly interesting experience as far as fragrances go, which seems fitting given it's source of inspiration. The most prominent aspect of Silver Factory has got to be the smokey incense that's front and center from the first spray. The rest of the notes are pretty varied, ranging from grapefruit to violet to amber, though they all combine pretty seamlessly. The first time I smelled it there was something vaguely metallic about the first blast, which I was informed is deliberate, although the more accustomed to this perfume I've become the less apparent that metallic aspect is to my nose. Even still the smokey incense that really is the focal point of Silver Factory leans towards the cold side; to me there isn't really any warmth to it like there is with many other incense-based fragrances. I would guess the inclusion of floral notes like lavender and iris probably has something to do with that since they have a somewhat "cold" aroma to them, especially lavender. There's also bit of a sweetness alongside the chilly smokiness, thanks in part (I would guess) to the violets and the jasmine that are in the heart of the fragrance. As the notes blur together in a smokey haze the effect is really beautiful, and while it's not a completely bizarre smelling perfume it is pleasantly unusual.

As I was saying earlier Bond has quite a range of scents that will appeal to different sensibilities. Andy Warhol Silver Factory definitely stands out as something quite different, and I'd say it sits firmly in the "experimental" category. As such it will absolutely not appeal to everyone, particularly those who don't like bold, heavy fragrances. If light and transparent is your thing then I don't see you liking this at all. Floral fans shouldn't be fooled by the flowers that are listed among the notes because it isn't a floral by any stretch of the imagination. If, however, your taste in perfumes leans towards spice, woods or rich ambers then you might want to check this frag out. Silver Factory is marketed as a genderless scent, and to me it really is the epitome of genderlessness. Some might feel that it skews a bit masculine due to the overall lack of anything truly sweet or soft, but I don't really think that it skews one way or the other on the gender spectrum. If anything it's kind of androgynous, which is really how it should be considering who inspired it.

images from bbcicecream and; for more information visit

Monday, November 15, 2010

Return of the King...

It's been six long years since Tom Ford took his last bow on a fashion runway, although take it from me at times it's felt like an eternity. There have truly been moments when I have been keenly aware that something was missing from fashion, and not surprisingly those times have usually coincided with fashion week. What I'm about to say might sound like I'm giving Ford too much credit, but I honestly believe that when Tom left Gucci fashion lost a bit of it's luster and excitement, and it still hasn't entirely recovered from that loss. While his departure certainly hasn't been the only cause of that, nor has it been the biggest blow to fashion, looking back it does seem like his farewell was the beginning of the end. Slowly fashion has become less glamorous and less seductive, not to mention that any kind of mystique surrounding the industry has been completely obliterated thanks to factors like the increasing influence of celebrities in fashion, the insane popularity of fashion among people who don't actually know anything about it, and the marketing of fashion as yet another form of entertainment. It also just seems like real fashion moments have become fewer and farther apart. Not all designers can create true excitement with a runway show, or an ad campaign, or a fragrance launch and whether you like him or loathe him the fact is that Tom Ford was, and is, capable of working a fashion moment for all it's worth.

In the six years since he bowed out of the theater of fashion he has collaborated with Estée Lauder, branded his name on status symbol eyewear, created a line of successful luxury fragrances, launched a full-scale menswear collection, dressed countless celebrities in said menswear, opened about 20 free-standing Tom Ford boutiques internationally, directed a critically acclaimed film, and recently expanded into cosmetics with his new line of lipsticks and soon-to-be-released nail lacquers. Writing it all down in one sentence kind of makes you appreciate just how busy he's been, and lord knows a self-proclaimed perfectionist like Ford isn't going to let any product with his name on it escape inspection. But despite all that he's done in the last six years the one thing that his fans have been most concerned with was when Ford would finally go back to designing womenswear and showing on a runway. Back in September right at the start of New York fashion week, after years of waiting, speculation, and wondering "what would it be like?" the news spread like wildfire that Ford would finally be launching his women's collection with an intimate presentation at his Madison Avenue flagship. As the scoop leaked we found out that not only would celebrities be modeling the clothes but that photography of any kind was strictly prohibited. That news just about killed my buzz until the reviews from the show started pouring in the day after it took place. In all seriousness I cannot for the life of me remember a show that garnered such unanimously glowing reviews from those in attendance, and the descriptions of the scene, the clothes and the impressive cast of celebrities, style icons, veteran supermodels and in demand new faces that graced the catwalk only stoked the flames of anticipation. With the reviews there were a few snapshots that quickly made the online rounds, adding to the excitement. It was after the show that the reason for the media ban was announced; Ford would not only be relaunching his website with photos and video footage of the presentation come winter, but he would also be guest editing the December/January issue of Vogue Paris where the collection would be featured in it's entirety. What we didn't know was that American Vogue would also have a feature on Ford's women's debut and that the feature would be available before Vogue Paris. So here it is, kids. Savor it, because who knows how long it will be before we get more.

Gorgeous, not that I'm at all surprised. I don't know about you, but for me winter can't come soon enough. Needless to say that when it does, and when the rest of the features finally become available I will be reviewing the entire collection as soon as the euphoria wears off.

all images from thanks to Flashbang at tFS

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walk on the Wild Side...

Here in the Northeast fall is in full swing, and while I'm already sick of the shortened days and I'm absolutely dreading winter I do take some comfort in the fact that this time of year suits my perfume personality better than any other. I've already put all of my crisp citruses, beachy tropical stuff and light eau de colognes in storage and broken out the woods, incenses and ambers. Along with my regular lineup I have a whole slew of new samples that I've been dying to try out.

Thus far I've sampled about a third of the 21 individual scents in Tom Ford's Private Blend collection, which is his own niche-style line. Of those that I've sampled I've only ever worn four of them, and of the ones I've worn Tuscan Leather was the one that made the biggest impact on me. When I first smelled Tuscan Leather, and it was probably close to a year ago, I wasn't at all familiar with leather fragrances, but something about it called to me and I decided to put some on my wrist for the day. It didn't take long for me to love it. There is something very, very sexy about Tuscan Leather. I've always felt that there was something inherently sexy about leather clothing, but I always assumed that it's the look of it and, more than anything else, the attitude it conveys. I never really thought that the smell had anything to do with it's appeal, and frankly I still don't. But it could be that Tuscan Leather is so evocative of the way new leather smells that it paints a clear mental image of the way it looks and feels as well.

To me the spirit of TL is more Elvis' 1968 comeback special or Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" than pre-gentrification Meatpacking District or Folsom Street Fair. It hints at the wearer's bad boy side without going into specifics about what kind of kinky stuff they're into. While that smoky leather stage lasts the feel of this Eau de Parfum is very masculine, even to the point of being butch. At some point, I'd say between the 30 and 60 minute marks, the scent changes subtly. It's almost like a creamy haze spreads over the leather, softening the rough edges and taming the smoke without completely neutering it. That creamy, hazy, softened leather is what remains as the fragrance gradually fades out, and let me tell you, the fragrance fades out very slowly. While I've never actually timed it, I'd guess that one or two dabs of Tuscan Leather lasts for a solid 7 hours, probably longer.

I've truly enjoyed Tuscan Leather each time that I've worn it, and I'm thrilled that it's finally cool enough to wear it. It's probably the butchest, most unabashedly masculine fragrance currently residing in my scent wardrobe. Price notwithstanding (you could buy a decent leather jacket for the same price as a small bottle of this juice) I could easily see myself using it as an everyday kind of fragrance. To me there's nothing about it that's particularly dressy, not that it's really casual either. I guess depending on the setting it could go either way. What does limit it though is it's potency and it's strength. I couldn't picture myself wearing Tuscan Leather once the temperature tops 60° F. The name alone kind of tells you that it's a bit too heavy for the heat. To me Tuscan Leather is the perfume equivalent of a five o'clock shadow; a little rugged, a little dirty, and so very sexy. It's definitely my type.

images from and

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do. Not. Want...

With the number of fragrances I've smelled so far easily in the few-hundred region I'm surprised to say that I've only just come across a scent that, to me, smelled exactly like something else. Oh sure I've smelled things that remind me of another fragrance, I mean half of the products on the average men's fragrance counter smell indistinguishable to me, but I've never smelled something that immediately made me think of another scent. This is just my roundabout way of saying that my first taste of Giorgio Armani's Prive fragrance line was not quite as exciting as I had expected.

The Prive line was launched sometime in '04 or '05 with a small selection of scents that were supposed to be more luxurious and more exclusive than Armani's popular mainstream fragrances, and between the packaging and the price he definitely achieved that much. With spray bottles that come housed in kotibe wood (that's the PR talking, not me) boxes and caps that look like polished semi-precious stones the packaging certainly fits the Armani image; elegance and restraint. And at $185 US for 1.7 oz of juice in it's elegant and restrained container the line does maintain a bit of exclusivity, but when I read on various websites that the plain refill bottles which go into the refined, elegant kotibe boxes had popped up at TJMaxx and Marshall's stores nationwide for around $30 it became my mission to try and score at least one. The two that I was hunting for in particular, Bois d'Encens and Cuir Amethyste, appealed to me for different reasons. Bois d'Encens, a spice, incense and wood affair, sounded like the kind of thing I'm always drawn to, and Cuir Amethyste sounded just unusual enough to be potentially awesome. I never did find any for cheap, and I honestly just put the Prive line in the "low priority" section of my list of things to try. As it happened I was on one of my semi-routine trips to Saks with my intent being to continue my exploration of the Bond No. 9 line and I happened to pass by the Armani Cosmetics counter. Standing there on a perfectly minimal and orderly shelf was the Prive lineup in all it's wood-and-stone packaged glory. I hightailed it over, found Bois d'Encens and went right for my forearm, which I normally don't do but since there were no blotters and no sales associates to find some for me I figured what the hell. Before moving on I decided I needed to smell Cuir Amethyste too, so I grabbed a tissue from the makeup display and doused it. It's tacky, I know that, but I didn't really care.

Bois d'Encens

I had a feeling I would like BdE, which is why I decided to wear it, but I was completely unprepared to encounter something very, very familiar to me once the top notes faded away. Yes folks, for all it's elegant, exclusive packaging and the insane markup that comes with it Bois d'Encens smelled exactly like something that I'd not only smelled before but have been wearing for years. That fragrance, in case you're wondering, is Gucci Pour Homme. I've owned GPH since about 2004 and have worn it pretty steadily since, so I was shocked and frankly pretty amused to find that the $185 Eau de Parfum that was currently on my arm smelled exactly like something that I already own. For those of you who aren't familiar with Gucci Pour Homme it's a woody incense fragrance that was released in late 2003. I've read comparisons between GPH and cedar/pencil shavings, but there isn't any cedar in GPH. That's apparently the heavy duty frankincense, which I'm convinced is the same type of incense used in BdE. Maybe not surprisingly the two scents were created by the same perfumer, Michel Almairac. To satisfy my curiosity I paid another visit to the Armani counter and took a test strip sprayed with the stuff home to see if it smelled differently than it did on me. Apparently my skin amplifies the frankincense because on paper the scent isn't exactly like the Gucci after all, although they do have a very similar vibe. I'm not really sure what to make of Bois d'Encens now, although the fact that on my skin it smells just like something I have a bottle of is enough to convince me that I'll never need to own it. Even if it wasn't so similar it certainly didn't wow me, and for $180 it better knock my goddamn socks off.

Cuir Amethyste

Cuir Amethyste on the other hand was a bit more interesting, although I really ended up hating it....a lot. On paper it sounds like a rich, lush mix of notes like violet, labdanum, benzoin, birch, rose, vanilla and patchouli. On my skin it was rich all right, rich in a tooth-achingly sweet, headache inducing kind of way. For a while there it was pretty hardcore powdery as well before the basenotes settled in. Oh, and it lasted a long, long time. I didn't really sense anything leathery about Cuir Amethyste, although there was a vaguely sourish something that seemed to fade in and out every now and then. I will say this much for Cuir Amethyste, it kept me coming back. I couldn't stop smelling my arm, trying to decipher what it was I was smelling. And it had a very noticeable progression from the top on down. On the tissue I first shamelessly sampled it on it was kind of nice and pretty unusual, a creamy, sweet/tart, rich concoction that actually did smell "purple" in a way. Apparently my skin just hates it, ruining anything that may be good about it by projecting the sugar coated violets through a megaphone and drowning out pretty much everything else. I also have to say that despite it's unisex marketing it skews a bit feminine to my nose, more feminine than I would personally feel comfortable wearing, and bear in mind that I'm not one to strictly adhere to gender classifications in fragrances. On the plus side I'm pretty sure that I won't ever be including Cuir Amethyste on my "to buy" list.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Camp Out...

Louis Vuitton

Well, Paris fashion week has come and gone ending yet another season's worth of shows. I have to admit that this week in Paris has been sort of low on emotional reactions from me. That's not to say I haven't liked any collections, but there's a world of difference between liking something and having a visceral response to it. God bless Marc Jacobs for managing to stir something in me, and not a moment too soon. His collection for Louis Vuitton, always a must see, turned out to be just the high note I was looking for. Like his eponymous collection shown in New York which was easily one of my favorite collections this season, Marc's collection for Vuitton was positively brimming with glamour, color, sex appeal and fun.

The mix of colors, shiny fabrics, pop art-y animal prints, fringe, sparkle, transparency and a heady whiff of the Orient makes for a collection that's deliriously, deliciously over the top. All of the different ideas, all of the design elements and influences that Jacobs crammed into the clothes were cranked up to their loudest decibel resulting in a collection that's almost defiantly campy and excessive. Looking through the pictures and watching the video all I kept thinking was that this is kind of the idealized fantasy version of fashion that people who don't follow it have. In fact this is the idealized version of fashion that likely draws people in to begin with. It's so completely ridiculous and glamorized, so flashy and downright decadent, but most of all it's above the every day. I think that's what really draws me to it, that deliberately fantastical artifice. I'll be honest, following fashion with any kind of dedication can remove a bit of the glamour and fun from it. When you become very familiar with it some of the mystique is inevitably lost and when that happens you start to see that fashion can at times be really boring, which makes a show like this, loud, gaudy and ridiculous as it may be, a welcome dose of fun and frivolity. I don't know if I truly love the clothes themselves as much as I love the message of the show as a whole, but I will say that for the second time in a single season Marc Jacobs has made me, an ardent fan of black, absolutely adore bright color. That's no small feat, believe me. Say what you will about the level of taste or practicality shown in this collection but Marc is that rare designer who is so utterly attuned to the zeitgeist that he can give people, including me, what they're craving before they've even realized they were craving it.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The next chapter...

Alexander McQueen

Easily the most anticipated collection of Paris fashion week this season was Sarah Burton's runway debut since she took the helm of Alexander McQueen earlier this year. It must be daunting enough for any designer to follow in the footsteps of someone so iconic and so revered, so I can't imagine how that feeling of pressure and nervous excitement must be compounded by the fact that people are still coming to terms with McQueen's untimely death. On the one hand that's not an enviable position to be in, where not only are people's expectations high but there hopes for a successful debut are as well. On the other, if you do succeed it stands to reason that you will be embraced that much more warmly by all of the people - buyers, stylists, editors, critics, customers, and fans - who are watching. From the beginning people have been wondering what it is that Sarah will do with the label, and I think her resort collection served as a very strong mission statement. She kept pieces of McQueen's DNA, filtered them through her own sensibility and created something that was in many ways the perfect middle ground. It felt McQueen, yet it didn't try to be McQueen, if that makes any sense. But I digress...

After looking at the Spring Summer 2011 collection, taking it in and sorting it all out I feel kind of terrible to say that it doesn't wow me. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination and there's no doubt about it looking like a McQueen collection, but something isn't clicking for me. It's not the lack of runway theatrics, because her static resort collection clicked pretty easily], and it's not the lack of something macabre or perverse either. There's beauty here, that's not the issue, and the clothes look very well made too. I truly wish I liked this more than I do, but the most I can say is that I like the collection. It does what it needed to do, which is continue in the tradition of the label, but something feels off.

I just can't put my finger on exactly what's keeping me from feeling more for this collection. The best I can come up with is that I don't get a purposeful statement from what was presented. Pretty as the pieces may be they don't seem to add up to a whole, for me at least. And I hate to say it because I'm really rooting for Burton, but some of the pieces seem over-designed. The things I like best are the more simple looks like some of the tailoring and the few chiffon dresses that were shown. The more dramatic structured pieces, while very McQueen, just aren't working for me. Same goes for the elaborate prints, although I can't blame Burton for that. I'm honestly just burnt out on hyper-detailed photo/digital prints after seeing them everywhere for a solid two years, if not longer. Still, like I said, I'm rooting for Burton, and I really look forward to seeing her grow into her position and find her footing. Maybe in the long run this show will have served as something of a palette cleanser, something to bridge the end of one era and the beginning of another.

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Monday, October 4, 2010


Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann has become one of the shows I consistently look forward to during Paris fashion week, and that mainly has to do with the fact that he consistently makes clothes that leave me breathless. I know that sounds like your typical melodramatic fashion hyperbole, but it's true. There's always something in his collection, be it an idea, a look or a single piece that stops me in my tracks, so to speak.

I don't know for sure what was going through Ackermann's mind while he was working on his Spring Summer 2011 women's collection, but if I were to go by what he showed it would seem that he had sex on the brain. Almost all of the looks he sent out onto his runway appeared as if they were either in the midst of falling off or as if they'd been hastily thrown back on and as a result there were copious amounts of skin on display, whether it was a neckline plunging down to the navel, a back that's completely cut out, or a skirt slashed open over the hip and up the leg. The double whammy of clothes that appear to be barely hanging onto the body and glimpses of naked flesh definitely gave the collection a bit of an erotic charge. The hints of kimono dressing, seen most prominently in ribbons tied and bunched into half-tied obi-like bows, as well as the few striped silk pieces that recall men's pajamas only added to the collection's overriding sense of elegant seduction and déshabillé.

I'm absolutely in love with this collection, as I have been with all of Haider's work for a couple of years now. Something about this one in particular feels more forceful, more assertive than I would normally think of his work being. You can see that in the colors, those bold splashes of crimson, yellow, emerald, cobalt, turquoise and purple that were used as a contrast to black. But you can also see it in the sometimes graphic way the clothes are cut. Those few skirts that are slashed along the hip, or the tops that look like a sliced up tuxedo jacket are a good example of that. Those qualities give this collection an entirely different spirit than what I've come to expect from Ackermann. It's still 100% in keeping with what he does best. Bright color aside there's no way you would mistake this for anybody else's work. One thing that's bothering me though is the shade of green that was used for a few looks. I'm generally not a huge fan of green, although I can tolerate it sometimes, but that particular shade is a huge turn off. I wouldn't have included it and I probably wouldn't have included the single turquoise dress either, but mostly because it's just kind of random among the other colors. Other than that this is yet another beautiful offering from Mr. Ackermann, which is exactly what I've come to expect from him.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bare Essentials...


Imagine, if you will, a Lanvin collection stripped bare of all beading, feathers, fringing, draping, volume and jewelry. Easier said than done, right? That's because all of those things, which of course sound like a successful recipe for a drag revue, are at this point so much a part of Lanvin's identity that imagining a collection without them is like not imagining a collection at all. But the lack of all those things is precisely what defines the Spring Summer 2011 collection that Alber Elbaz whipped up. Compared to recent offerings this one is uncharacteristically spare, and it's probably better off for it. Don't get me wrong, I love what Alber does with embellishment and drape, but he's been on that train of thought for a while now. I loved (and still love) his Fall collection, but like I said when I reviewed it, the pieces that I responded to most were the sharp, simple ones that opened the show. At the time they felt fresh and this collection sort of picks up where those looks left off. The clothes for spring have been almost universally stripped bare of anything extraneous and as a result the clothes, from the zippered day dresses worn with flat sandals to the billowing skirts worn with what appear to be bodysuits, read more like sportswear than anything Elbaz has done in a while. In fact many of the opening looks, with panels of draping inset onto a fitted dress or those aforementioned billowing skirts, almost make me think of modern dance wear, the kind of stuff Martha Graham would have worn. Actually looking at it now quite a few of the looks make me think of that. Pieces like that chocolate off-the-shoudler caftan, the full, billowing nylon parkas, and even the few short chiffon goddess dresses in colors like rust, nude and lichen could be costumes for some kind of performance.

In place of beading, volume or heavy draping there are details like zippers, leather belts or harnesses, and tight Fortuny-esque pleating. Even the colors are mostly on the subdued side, save for a middle passage that included neon yellow, hot pink, crimson, and plum. Much as I like some of the pieces from that section I don't really get the color choices. Compared to the rich mineral colors that opened and closed the show they seem kind of jarring, pretty as they might be. I also don't get the four suits comprised of a jacket, matching skirt and matching skinny pants. They seem really odd for the sake of being odd, and that's never a good thing. As usual the collection is pretty dress heavy, though a number of them could be worn for day as evidenced by the choice to pair them with flat sandals and shoulder bags. Overall the clothes were easy to like and seem like they'd be really easy to wear, and while I kind of feel that the pendulum might have swung a little too far into the direction of "practical", robbing the collection of some of it's potential lust-worthiness, the bottom line is that these are still pretty clothes. It must be said though that the collection is extremely disjointed, like it's unsure of what it's trying to communicate. I don't think that's ever been an issue with a Lanvin collection before, so it's a little hard to process. Still, I think this might prove to be the right direction to take the house in moving forward. I don't think anybody wants to see Lanvin lose any of it's luster because it refused to change.

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