Friday, December 19, 2008

What a relief...

So today, after months of waiting, guessing and hoping like hell you're not disappointed, the first image from the Prada Spring/Summer 2009 ad campaign has made it's debut and guess what? It doesn't suck, not even a little bit, and after last season's horrific campaign starring the incomparable (and unable to register emotion) Linda Evangelista, that's a HUGE relief.

I always get excited about campaigns. For me it's like an extension of the runway show, another way to capture the mood that the designer is trying to create. There's usually one campaign per season that really blows me away, that manages to completely overshadow all of the others in terms of beauty, power and creativity. I usually wind up forgetting about or ignoring the other campaigns. Now, it's still too early to make any kind of declaration of love, there have after all only been 4 or 5 major campaigns that have debuted thus far and campaigns like Balenciaga, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs (which are always highly anticipated) haven't surfaced yet, but I have a feeling that this campaign is destined to be on my very short favorites list.

I've gone on and on about how much I loved the collection, and when I love a collection I get my hopes up that the campaign will do it justice. It doesn't always work out that way, but luckily this time it did. Steven Meisel (who's done the Prada campaigns every season since '04 I believe) and Miuccia came up with something that was both unexpected and yet completely fitting for the collection. It was inspired by Greek and Roman bas-reliefs, and the glammed-up multi girl cast really does capture the look and feel of the Muses from Greek Mythology. The static movement, dramatic lighting and spare coloration with those streaks of black ribbon all work together really beautifully, and the way the image captures the crumpled texture of the clothes is absolutely gorgeous. It's nice to see these waifish models using their swanlike necks to full effect, and is that actual cleavage I see on the third girl from the left?!?! I don't care if it's the result of padding, good lighting or skillful photoshopping, point is there's a dicsernable breast on display!!! Most importantly though, it does what a good ad is supposed to do...captivate.

BTW, is that not the cheesiest title for a blog entry, or what? I promise, never again.

image: Steven Meisel for Prada from

Friday, December 12, 2008

Donna Karan Pre-Fall 2009

So, along with frigid temperatures (where I live anyway), having to hear the same mind-numbing Christmas music in any store you step into and stressing about what gifts to get for the people on your list, this is the time of year when designers unveil their Pre-Fall collections. In a nutshell, Pre-Fall is what arrives in stores earliest for the Fall/Winter shopping season. It's the precursor to the more expensive and experimental runway collection and in recent years, along with the Cruise/Resort collections shown in early summer, has become increasingly more important to buyers. As such it's earned it's own little mini season where most major designers do showroom presentations for press and buyers, and some, like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Zac Posen mount full scale shows.

But that's not really what matters. What matters is that the Pre-Fall collections serve as an appetizer to the hordes of ravenous runway watching fans to tide them over until the main course begins in February. The couture collections shown in January don't really count since couture is in a realm all it's own, on a whole other plateau of excitement. Pre-fall can sometimes offer a glimpse of where a designer will go with their runway collections, usually in it's distilled form, and if the Donna Karan pre-fall collection is any indication, I can't wait until Feb.

Working almost exclusively in a palette of black and various shades of red, Karan hardened up the soft tailoring and fluid draping she's so well known for to create a look that was a bit more aggressive and sharp than what one can normally expect from the Queen of 7th Ave. The silhouette was almost always very fitted, and many of the looks utilized a belt to anchor the shape at the waist. When she did infuse some drape into the design, it was kept close to the body and fairly minimal, as in a black knee-length dress with one drape across the front that flows naturally into the body of the dress.

Paired with sheer black hosiery, geometric jewelry and sharp looking pumps or booties, the look had a cool, severe sexiness to it, a nod to the 80's power woman that Karan championed in her early career, but without any overt references to the 80's. There was one detail that stood out among the fairly classic, clean pieces shown and that was oversized folds of fabric that fell in zig-zags down the front of some of the dresses. One in particular, a short, black sleeveless version with a jewel neck and an asymmetrical slit in front, was the best piece in the collection, and one of the sexiest LBD's I've seen since Balenciaga's now ubiquitous trio shown last winter as far as I'm concerned. It was signature Donna, but with a youthful edginess to it that I wouldn't normally associate with her work.

This being a DK collection, there had to be some of her signature Greco-Roman column gowns on display, but for some unknown reason, she veered from her restricted color palette showing one in sapphire blue, one in raspberry and one in a strange graphic print. It was honestly quite jarring after seeing the black, charcoal and reds against the stark white background of the photographs, and I think that, as a collection at least, it would have been much better had those two dresses either been edited out or shown in black or red. As they are, they're completely out of left field, it's not even like the colors compliment the rest of the looks. They just don't go.

Overall though it was a promising look at what's to come when Fashion Week rolls around. Here's hoping Karan sticks to her guns.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The pink-is-the-new-black plague...

So, today on the Fashion Spot I saw that rapper, 80's new wave fashion enthusiast and front row staple Kanye West will be launching his own fashion line called Pastelle. It's a weird name to be sure. Maybe it's an extension of the obsession celebrities have for giving their children the most bizarre or downright stupid names possible. I dunno. It seems like every few months now another celebrity decides that fashion is lacking something, and that the something in question is them. All of the spoiled rich girl cast members of The Hills have their own line because apparently they've all dreamed of cashing in on their 15 minutes of fame however possible since they were young. P. Diddy, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani have all shown their lines during New York Fashion Week, and Justin Timberlake has picked up that torch by presenting his William Rast collection back in September. Apparently what he felt NYFW, and fashion as a whole needs more of are runway shows comprised mostly of jeans, t-shirts and "rocker" jackets. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking jeans, tees and leather jackets. That's what a lot of people wear, and street style has become a major focus these days, but I just don't need to see ripped up jeans and intentionally unintentional looking layers parading down a runway in the same venue as clothes that, while they might not be groundbreaking, still maintain a high level of craft and knowledge in their execution. The list of culprits doesn't end there, and now Kanye's ready to join the club.

Jennifer Lopez at her F/W 05 Sweetface show, Gwen Stefani at her S/S 08 L.A.M.B show
and Justin Timberlake at his S/S 09 William Rast show.

It's strange though, most of the actual a-list celebs (as opposed to the not-so-a-list ones *cough* Lauren Conrad *cough, cough*) that go this route are musicians, and this whole celebrity fashion designer thing seems to be restricted to the U.S. Why is that exactly? Is it this country's increasingly mind-numbing obsession with even the most useless and untalented of celebrities that makes people so excited about it? Is it pure arrogance on the celebrity's part, the belief that they can do it all and be it all better than anyone else? Are lip-syncing in an overproduced music video and cutting on the bias not as unrelated as was once believed? I have no idea and I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to guess the real motivation, but one thing is for sure, the whole celebrity designer hyphenate thing has reached epidemic proportions at this point and it doesn't seem to show any signs of waning. It's always bothered me when these actors, singers and miscellanious "personalities" decide that they're designers. It makes me yearn for the days when celebrities were only allowed into the inner sanctum of fashion as clients, models and front-row seat fillers. It was a much simpler time. As an aspiring designer I stick by the belief that just because you have style or like fashion doesn't mean you have what it takes to be a designer. Now I know that might sound a little hypocritical on my part, knocking people for actually doing what it is that I want to do. But think of it this way, how stupid would it seem if I suddenly decided that in addition to working in fashion I also want to be a pop singer? Pretty ridic, no? And it's not as if all of those other people who love fashion, the editors, critics, stylists, photographers, clients and legions of fanatics who live and breathe every step a stiletto takes on a glossy runway are going out there and slapping their names on a label. So to me the whole "well I just love fashion so much" reasoning behind all of this silliness is just that, silly. You love fashion? Then wear it.

But other than my admittedly elitist distaste for this trend (hey I'm owning it) I couldn't really pinpoint exactly why it bothers me so much. I mean, sure there's a disparity in that none of these "designers" have had to slave away in front of a sewing machine at school learning the craft, or work as someone's bitch organizing fabric swatches and doing beadwork (most people know this as an internship. Kanye supposedly mentioned wanting to intern for either Raf Simons or Marc Jacobs at LV, kind of a joke if you ask me. Does anyone really see Kanye being told to organize the showroom or work on spec sheets?). Obviously designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada aren't actually doing those things for themselves either, in fact nobody with the title of designer at a company will ever be making the clothes because that's not what they do, but they have the practical knowledge necessary to lead their design teams and dictate what they want done to make their design into a tangible product. So I do have my doubts as to how involved any of these celebs can really be when they don't have any of the necessary knowledge or skills to effectively run a label. Picking out nice colors and fabrics only gets you so far. But after reading about the Kanye line today I was finally able to pinpoint the real problem I have with all of this. These celebrities are putting fashion into the same category as singing, dancing and starring in blockbusters; it's become entertainment. That's why I don't scoff at singers who try acting or vice versa because at the end of the day they are performers, and they are merely trying out different areas in which to perform. Even the whole model-actress thing doesn't bother me much because models are performers as an extent anyway. I'm not saying they all manage to make the transition successfully, but when they try it's not such a radical stretch. I guess I feel that by turning fashion into just another way for people to become famous is wrong, and ultimately cheapens what it is that fashion designers do. Fashion already has a hard enough time being taken seriously as something more than a frivolous, mindless circus of vanity and stupidity. Why make it harder? And I'm not delusional. I know that celebrities and fashion are inextricably linked, but the roles that they play, wearer, spokesperson, cover-model, are becoming more and more blurred and I fear that if this is the direction fashion continues to take it won't be long before it becomes just another way for people to bask in the dim glow of their 15 minutes in this age of YouTube, home-made porn and, (being totally ironic here) blogging.

As for who the next visionary to take the leap into high fashion will be, my guess is Rhianna. Let's look at the evidence. She's huge on MTV (or so I hear, MTV nowadays is kind of like a temporary lobotomy so I avoid it like I do sporting events). She opened a DSquared2 runway show in Milan last fall. Now she's currently featured in a Gucci pre-season campaign for a line of truly heinous Ed Hardy knock-off handbags that benefit Unicef. It all follows the J.Lo plan of attack; make sexy music videos even though you aren't a hugely talented singer, show up to events in sparkly designer duds, frequent big name fashion shows even if you can't pronounce the designer's name, star in an ad campaign for multibillion dollar luxury label. The next logical step? The runway, of course.

All images from

Monday, November 10, 2008

A breath of fresh air...

So, magazines aren't usually my main area of obsession. It probably has something to do with being bored by American pubs and the fact that the European editions are so insanely expensive over on this side of the pond. And even those European mags are getting a little predictable. But I digress...

The American mags seem to constantly feature the same small group of celebs on the covers, occasionally throwing a curveball into the mix. It's become almost cyclical. Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson....they all appear with some regularity on the cover of mags like Vogue, Bazaar and W. Then there are the curveballs, like October's Vogue cover girl Rachel Weitz (a fabulous choice in my opinion).

The December W cover has been unveiled and features *drumroll please*....

Now, I have to say, I don't love the cover photo. I don't think it's the best she's ever looked, and there were two other photos that would've made better covers, namely this one or this one. The first is very dramatic, and I will always love b&w for close up portraits. The second has the sort of sex kitteny appeal that the actual cover was going for, it's just a better shot.

That said, I do like the choice of celeb for a few reasons. First, she is a pretty girl, not stunning, but she has a certain something. Second, she's not one of the many young celebs that are constantly splashed across the tabloids because she made out with her friend's sleezy ex-bf, got drunk at a club, passed out and woke up with her lady bits exposed in a pool of her own sick....or something along those lines. That's a quality that should not be underappreciated in this day and age. But most importantly, she's someone new. Unless my memory fails me, she's never been on the cover of a fashion mag, so in that way she's an unexpected breath of fresh air. The fact that I'm addicted to the show she's on barely even enters into the equation.

So that's why I was a little surprised to see the vitriolic comments about the cover on the Fashion Spot. I mean, this is a crowd (myself included) that calls for Anna Wintour or Glenda Bailey's head on a pike when the same boring and expected celebs are featured on Vogue's and Bazaar's covers. So shouldn't there be at least minor appreciation for the fact that Lively is a new face and the W is giving us something just a little less predictable? And even if we want more from our cover subjects than just a new face, let's not forget that she is, first and foremost, pretty. If the fact that she's young, attractive and on a very popular TV show isn't enough for her to "deserve" a cover, then what is exactly? I mean, can anyone tell me the last time Drew Barrymore was considered a fashion icon, or Angelina Jolie was featured in a magazine because of her work or style instead of her personal life? Anyone?

I thought not.

I can agree with them on one thing, though. Get Ed Westwick (aka Chuck Bass) on a fashion mag pronto!!! I might be compelled to buy that.

photos from MissMagAddict at tFS via and

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Video: Prada Spring Summer 2009...

So after seeing the collection in motion I've got to say, I still love it. Maybe even a little bit more now that I've seen the looks from different angles. The one concern I had about this collection was the fabrics. In photos the fabrics looked very crisp, the type of fabrics that are great for creating volume or tailoring but don't move very nicely. For the most part though the fabrics don't look overly crunchy (with the exception of the brief white section towards the end. You might as well just wear paper). I'm looking forward to seeing it in the stores come winter and feeling the fabrics for myself. I was surprised by the shoes though. For all that we heard about how problematic they were (fair enough, they took down 2 separate models and made some others noticably nervous), there were a fair amount of girls who managed to work them pretty well.

As for the show itself, the music is fantastic, it definitely created a mood. It has a real slinky, sexy, sweaty Southern blues joint feel to it. Cathy Horyn was dead on when she pinpointed a Blanch DuBois vibe in the show. My only complaint is the staging. I don't mind the stripped back concrete and wood set at all, but the overly complex movement of the runway is a bit grating to watch.

thanks to JadoreHauteCouture for the video

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Video: Balenciaga Spring Summer 2009...

So, the sound quality is a little effed up, for reasons unknown on the Balenciaga website, but still, the visual is pretty amazing. This is definitely one of the most brilliant shows I've ever seen, up there with practically everything that Galliano and McQueen did back in the 90's. I definitely emphasize the word show here, however. Granted, it would hardly have the same effect if a bunch of LBD's and Oscar gowns were parading down the catwalk instead of the cyber suits and reflective dresses, but after seeing this video I think I've figured out why this collection didn't slam me in the gut as I had hoped. The clothes just aren't the most exciting factor.

Is it just me, or are the flashing lights a bit like Space Mountain at Disney World?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The rundown....

The Spring/Summer 2009 collections are probably not destined to be among the most memorable collections in recent seasons, and that was bound to be the case. Overall this season was defined from the start in New York by a sense of precariousness. During the Fall/Winter collections all you heard about was an impending recession which could account not only for the overwhelming amount of black clothing, but also the overall theme of the season; asserting power. Unfortunately, with the recession becoming a reality and a financial crisis arising half way through the show schedule, that message of power just didn't carry over into the the collections for S/S 09.

It has me thinking about the last time fashion was affected by major life changing world events. The Fall/Winter 2003 collections were marred by the ongoing threat of war between the U.S. and Iraq (not to mention the international controversy this created) with the U.S. declaring war not long after the collections came to a close. When you're forced to think about the cold, hard reality of things, fashion loses a lot of it's importance. But the interesting thing is that either in spite of, or perhaps even as a result of these issues, many designers delivered really strong, confident and directional collections. Maybe it was simply an attempt to lure in customers with exciting fashion. Maybe it was a collective realization that fashion does serve a purpose in tough times, the same purpose that glamorous movies served during the Great Depression and WWII. Like those films, fashion, and on a broader scale beauty itself, are an escape. Buying something that you love isn't going to change the world, but it could make you feel just a little better about things. But besides the escapist element of that season, designers were showing collections that conveyed a message of strength, empowerment and confidence.

Most of what was shown this season was exactly the opposite, perhaps largely because the worries are financial instead of political, which is bound to impact what people will buy. But it's still strange that so many designers played it so safe. Sure, it seems like that would be the obvious solution; deliver dependable, customer friendly clothes that people will want. But let me pose a question, if you were going to spend $1,000 of your money on what is essentially a luxury item in troubled financial times, would you be drawn to basic, dependable clothes that you could find elsewhere for a bit less money, or would you buy the bold statement piece that feels a bit special? Granted I'm looking at women's fashion as an outsider and something of an idealist as well, but I can't help but feel like if I was in the position to spend, I'd want that something special. That's why the few collections that really went out on a limb and fully embraced "fashion", the concept not the clothing, really stood out for me.

Hands down, one of the highest of the highlights this season was Marc Jacobs' signature collection. His show was full of everything that makes fashion exciting; color, glamour, eccentricity, beauty and real creativity. This being Marc Jacobs, the presentation masked the fact that so many of the clothes, pulled apart and worn out of the context of a runway show, are bound to be fantastic. I mean, the clothes look like wearing them would make you feel good. I don't know what it is, but the collection just radiated a joie de vivre that was really lacking in most of the collections that were shown this season. More than that, it was a timely return to form for Marc, who in the last couple of years has strayed too far into the realm of experimentation and gimmicks (his F/W 07 collection being the exception to this). This collection was much closer to what he's always been about, and because of that it felt right. I kind of felt like it picked up where his Fall/Winter 2006 neo-grunge collection left off. So what if it took him two and a half years to get here?

The guesses as to what the collection was all about were endless; Cukor's "The Women", Saint Laurent's Broadway collection (which was inspired by "Porgy and Bess"), Sufragettes, Prairie women, Depression Era glamour. My own guess was George Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatt". But Marc summed it up concisely as "America". That has a nice ring to it, and it allows plenty of room for people to read into the collection whatever they feel. But forget all of that, the only thing that matters is that it was fashion, with a capital F.

While we're on the topic of Marc Jacobs, let's talk about his Vuitton collection. It was just as vibrant as his signature line, probably even more so, and the spirit of enjoyment in dressing up was present here as well. It was a delirious mix of so many different references, colors, textures and details that I can't even imagine what it must have been like to sit in the audience at the show and take each look in in a matter of seconds. Lucky for those of us who weren't special enough to be there, we get to see the pictures. Marc's collection was meant to portray America, and according to him his Vuitton collection was all about Paris, seen through Yves Saint Laurent's exotic lens of course. But just like with his own collection in NY, the idea behind it really didn't matter. It was, you guessed it, fashion with a capital F....multiplied times 10.

Who knows what had Marc in such a good mood while he was working on these collections, but clearly he was feeling optimistic, or at least trying to pretend he was. The thing is, the optimism here didn't seem forced, it felt real. And if someone like me, an ardent lover of all things black, slick and bitchy-looking, can wind up enjoying something so exuberant, upbeat and colorful, then he's definitely done his job well. After watching the video I'm hooked, and I can't get Edith Piaf off my mind. It's a must see.

Louis Vuitton Spring 09 Fashion Show - FBK

Another strong, directional collection was Prada in Milan. As always with Prada, it was bound to garner polarizing opinions. She is one of those designers whose shows always end up in one of two categories: love or hate. You rarely see or hear people expressing indifference about a Prada collection. There really isn't much middle ground with her, and I think she's the type of person who likes it that way, which would explain why she tends to make very focused, very particular and very strong statements with her work. People always question the hold she had on the fashion world. The simple truth is, she doesn't seem satisfied to just make something that people will like. That in a nut shell is why she is so revered. She pushes buttons and makes people think, not only about the subtexts in her collections (of which there are many), but about what they think is beautiful. I admit, I'm not always a fan. Sometimes I'm intrigued and sometimes I'm repulsed, sometimes it takes time to grow on me and sometimes I start to like it quickly, sometimes I see the point she's making and sometimes it goes right over my head. But I always look, it's unavoidable. Even if you detest Prada, you still look.

This season it suprised me, in a very good way. I loved it instantly. Like I said in my review of the collection, I can't remember ever being in love with a Prada collection right off the bat. More than that, I can't remember ever being able to read beneath the surface with a Prada collection right away either. It usually takes looking at it a few times before I digest it. This season not only did I like it right away, but I got it too....or at least, I got something.

It was a fantastic take on sex, and in that way it reminded me of her work circa 2000/01. With Prada there's usually this hint of frustrated sexuality to it. For all of the directions she's taken off in, the fairies, the furry bathmats and the Forties pinups, Prada is, at it's core, about a vintage type of traditional feminity that's part mousy odd-ball, part sexually quirky slut. In this collection I saw Catherine Deneuve as Severine Serezy in Belle de Jour, the frustrated bourgeois housewife who lives out her sado-masochistic fantasies as a prostitute during the day while her husband is at work. It's not that there was anything in the collection that screamed "woman living a double life", but for some reason that's what I got from it. Thinking about it now, two weeks after it was shown, I can't help but respect how a designer, any designer, can make you think just by showing bra tops, wrinkled fabrics, pencil skirts and platform shoes. You can never underestimate the power of good styling. And you can never underestimate the importance of imagination when it comes to fashion. Not the designer's imagination, but the viewer's.

Balenciaga, as well, was certainly one of the most outstanding shows of the season. This isn't really news since a Balenciaga collection is always, for one reason or another, a standout each season. But to be honest, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It's strange. It isn't one of those collections that I just plain hate. But I don't love it either. My ambivalence about it comes from the fact that I just don't see the point that Ghesquiere was making, and the actual designs don't seem as directional as his past collections have been. Creative and technically masterful, yes, directional and trendsetting, no. Maybe they are and the direction just eludes me this time around, I'm not sure. But if I put my frustration about that to the side, I can say that the clothes and the presentation really are beautiful, and memorable. Truth be told, the presentation is actually kind of genius. For Ghesquiere to use something as simple as light, color and reflection, things that are such an integral part of daily life that nobody even thinks about them, to create an entire collection is brilliant in my not so humble opinion. It's something you need to see for yourself, really.

So maybe I don't get the point yet, and maybe I'm not dying from my excitement about it, but even still it was one of the most interesting and captivating shows of the season. Balenciaga is like Prada in that way, if you love fashion, you have to look.

Other than that, I can't really think of any collections that really made an impression on me. There were others that I really liked, like Versace, Jil Sander, McQueen and Rodarte, but even though those collections were beautiful, they didn't really move me. I didn't feel that electric buzz about many of the shows this season, and even though I was pretty much expecting to be underwhelmed, I still can't help but feel a level of disappointment about it.

Even the trends, which are essentially what defines a season, were largely untraceable. There were only a few major trends that I noticed, and most of them were carried over from the last few seasons.

One of the big trends I noticed, and you can see it at both of Marc's shows, was the color yellow. I know what you're thinking. In your best Miranda Priestly voice you're thinking "yellow, for spring...groundbreaking". Of course it isn't, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yellow is one of those quintessentially "spring" colors. It's something to do with sunshine and dandelions or whatever....I'm not usually a fan myself. But I found the timing interesting. Yes, on the surface yellow is a perfectly happy color. Those ubiquitous smiley faces are yellow after all. But symbolically, yellow means something entirely different. You've probably heard that old cowboy cliche of being a yellow-bellied something-or-another. That comes from the fact that yellow represents cowardice. Not to mention that, at least in States, many hazard signs are yellow. I highly doubt if any of the designers who used it did so because of it's symbolic meanings. More than likely it was forecasted as a color for this season and designers chose it because it looked fresh and upbeat, but you've got to love those rare moments when fashion is so dead on. Especially when it's not trying to be.

clockwise from top: Alexander McQueen, Giles Deacon,
Louis Vuitton, Versace, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs

The biggest trend, however, was something I keep calling "3-D", clothes that utilize special fabrics, folds, seams and pleats to create sharp, angular lines that are molded around the body. This isn't an entirely new trend, designers have been playing with geometry for a while now, but this season it's much sharper and much more exaggerated than it has been for the past few seasons. It's actually a pretty interesting trend, though probably one that needs to be worked out a bit more before people fully embrace it. Even though the results weren't always entirely wearable, it was nice to see a bit of risk and experimentation in a sea of blandness. And besides that, it feels contemporary. Even though there's this sort of retro futurism feel to it, a bit like the way the future was interpreted in the 1960's, it doesn't look like it's borrowed from any particular time period. It looks like now, and that's becoming increasingly rare these days.

clockwise from top left: Calvin Klein, Christian Lacroix, Christopher Kane,
Dolce and Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferre, Giles Deacon, Marchesa and Versace

And who knows, with less extreme proportions this could actually yield some beautiful and flattering results. It's like Cristobal Balenciaga used to say "If you come to me, you don't need a body. I'll give you one".

Another trend that's also been brewing for some time now was transparency. It was everywhere last spring, continued into the fall and into the spring collections this year. Overall I don't have a strong opinion about this trend, at least not anymore. Last spring when designers began showing airy, vapory looking clothes over nearly naked bodies, I was definitely into it. There's something both romantic and sexual about seeing sheer silk layered over a body with nothing underneath. It's also just downright pretty looking, the epitome of delicate femininity. Of course, there was the whole "how is that wearable" reaction to it last year. Perhaps people lost sight of the fact that no one is actually expected to wear the clothes without a layer underneath, and that sheer clothes worn without a slip is nothing new on the runways. But a year on and people have definitely adjusted to this trend, and there are plenty of ways to make it work. As for me, I'm a little burnt out on it. It still looks beautiful, but it doesn't feel particularly interesting to me anymore.

Clockwise from top left: Calvin Klein, Givenchy,
John Galliano, Rodarte, Vera Wang, YSL

Overall though, I don't think this season was particularly directional as a whole. It was more like one of those times where designers work to distill trends that have been in the air into understandable fashions. For instance, when the futurism thing started up in the collections for Spring 2007, designers were using techno fabrics, extreme silhouettes and an overall aggressive feel to push fashion forward. It didn't seem entirely realistic at the time because the trend was still in it's raw form. Two years later and designers are now translating those extreme ideas into wearable clothes. The public's eye has shifted as well. What seemed unreal two years ago is slowly becoming apart of mainstream fashion. Right now fashion seems to be in a transitional period, the time after one movement has been proposed and another has yet to be created. I guess we'll just have to stay tuned to see what happens next.

all fashion show images from

Sunday, October 5, 2008

La Vie en Rose Colored Glasses...

It's a wrap. The Spring/Summer 2009 collections have come to a close and now the world can know what they'll be wearing next season...or something like that.

I wish I could say that the designers whose job it was to make what will ultimately be the last impression of S/S 09 hit it out of the park, but like a lot of what's been shown this season I'm left wanting something more.


Alber Elbaz has been fashion's darling since he showed his first collection for Lanvin back in the winter of 2002, and since then his reputation has grown so exponentially that he's one of the only designers I can think of where almost anybody, regardless of what their personal taste and style usually is, can find something to like about his work. It's universal in it's appeal, but strangely, it still manages to demand respect as some of the highest of high fashion. His clothes are easy to comprehend, but because Mr. Elbaz is so thoughtful and contemporary in his approach to dressing women his clothes don't become banal. His light hand for draping, soft tailoring and intricate detail ensure that his clothes are, above all, beautiful. Because of his simple approach to fashion, and all of the things he's managed to contribute to it, he is arguably one of the most influential designers working today.

Last season, Elbaz reigned in a lot of the volume and drapery he's known for in favor of something more fitted and more graphic. He based that entire collection on using ribbons of fabric to construct clothes. In print it sounds very pretty and very feminine, even girly, but it was quite the opposite, in fact, it was down right erotic. Because the collection was comprised of only black, navy, brown and beige the ribbons had a hard edge. I actually think that ribbons and bows are much more suggestive than anyone would have you believe, they're delicate and flirty on the surface, but in truth they have a kinky, sexual undercurrent that people probably wouldn't notice.....unless they've've got the imagination that is.

This season however Elbaz went back to what he is more known for, trading his curvacious lines of last season for something colorful, voluminous and more overtly pretty. Many of the opening looks revisited the voluminous, vaguely leg-o-mutton sleeves that he first played with for F/W 2007, though here they were less exaggerated. Paired with tulip, pencil or gathered skirts that were cut above the knee, tapered cigarette pants or as the top half of a shift dress they looked beautiful and are certainly on trend with all of the attention shoulder pads have been getting, but they were familiar Lanvin territory.

Mixed in with all of the color and volume were some of Elbaz's signature easy classics like unstructured jackets, trench coats and LBD's. I especially loved a grey textured jacket/skirt combo with voluminous hips and cinched waist, and a sexy off the shoulder gathered mini-dress that, unfortunately, got drowned out by some of the more colorful and decorative looks.

For evening it was back to color, with ensembles that often paired two clashing shades of the same color together; red-orange with scarlet, maroon with burgundy, cobalt and sky blue. It made me think of Saint Laurent and how he mixed colors it shocking and sometimes odd combinations, but that's not surprising since Mr. Elbaz was a protege of Mr. Saint Laurent's, Since YSL's current designer, Stefano Pilati, seems so hesitant to use any daring colors in his collections, somebody needs to carry on the legacy.

Overall this wasn't Alber's most powerful or directional show, it was more of a re-evaluation of some of his recent collections. The thing about Elbaz is he's not the type of designer who's trying to reinvent the wheel every season. His approach is to zero in on one thing, a detail, a shape, a feeling, and build an entire seasonal wardrobe out of it that can easily integrate itself into any number of women's closets. He's at his best when he focuses on something as unassuming and minute as a length of ribbon, the shape of a sleeve or the movement of the fabric. This season he threw a few too many ideas, but not enough work, into the mix which is probably why this isn't his best collection. Even still, it's a testament to his talent that even when his collection isn't great, it's still pretty damn beautiful.

Louis Vuitton

Marc Jacobs' signature collections are viewed by many in the industry as being the unofficial start of the fashion season. His collections for Vuitton are among the last collections to be shown on the major fashion calendar, and for that reason can be viewed as the end of the fashion season. The interesting thing is that these two collections, more often than not, are coming from a very similar place. I know what you're thinking, they're by the same designer so it's kind of a no-brainer that they're similar looking. But Marc makes no secret of the fact that out of the three collections he does per season, his signature line is the one that's the most personal. In relation to this, Vuitton is usually a more perfected, more exaggerated and more concise essay on what Jacobs was thinking. Even with that knowledge though, you can never really predict what Vuitton will look like.

Inevitably, one of the two collections ends up being better than the other, if only by a fraction. This season, for me at least, his first outing was more powerful and more clear than his second. The Marc Jacobs show was easily the highlight of New York fashion week and up til now is one of few collections that I actually felt really enthusiastic about. It was joyous, nostalgic, optimistic and had some really fantastic clothes hidden in the layers of references that comprised each look. That collection was vaguely described by Jacobs as being about America, though many people saw references to Yves Saint Laurent. For Vuitton, Jacobs and his team were in fact inspired by Yves Saint Laurent, not surprising since the late master seems to have been on a lot of designers' minds this season. There was one comment on the Fashion Spot that went so far as to say that Vuitton looked more like Saint Laurent than the recent Saint Laurent collection did....and in a way, I have to agree. Each look presented would require an entire entry just to describe it head to toe, so here's the highlights reel; Opium collection, decadence, Africa, glamour, strong shoulders, bold color, mix and match, big jewelry, tight waists, Obi belts, full trousers, lots of leg, feathers, shiny, the 70's, the 80's, patchwork, kimono, Josephine Baker, Harlem Renaissance.... i'm probably missing something. Each outfit was styled to the hilt, to the point that the bags, LV's bread and butter, could almost go unnoticed. I mean, how could something as mundane as a bag possibly compete with an outfit that comes with everything but the kitchen sink?

And it just kept coming, multilayered references mixed together in an array of madness and extravagance.

At first, I was more than a little overwhelmed. It's a lot to take in, and tbh it reminded me of his S/S 06 Vuitton collection in spirit, which I despised at the time and I'm still not fond of it to this day. But now that I've been looking at the pictures for a while, it's started to grow on me. It's certainly one of the more "alive" collections we've seen this season, and for that alone you have to appreciate it. Even though I think his first outing was more successful at getting his point across, it was nice to see a designer embrace all of the things that make fashion so captivating and so exciting. But above all it was nice to see a little bit of optimism, even if it's completely irrational.

all images from and

Like getting a lump of coal instead of Louboutins...

John Galliano

Today marked one of the most exciting days that comes twice a year; the day that John Galliano presents his signature ready to wear collection to the masses of editors, buyers and diehard Galliano groupies. Now that Dior has become stagnant, boring and not even all that beautiful (do we recall the Mrs. Robinson nightmare that was F/W 08?), Galliano's signature line has become a safe haven for all of his refugee fans. Not only is it more "him", it's also experienced a creative revival. After years of experimentation and overindulgence in which Galliano's gifts became obscured by too much theatre, John finally managed to grab the reins and give the world what they love from him; drama, romance, sex, glamour, eccentricity and some seriously gorgeous gowns. Starting with F/W 07, he set off on a roll that came crashing to a hault with his S/S 09 collection shown today. Gone was the sophistication, the madness, the decadence that Galliano is all about and in it's place was something that was entirely marketable, bland and more than a little bit flat. We all know that these are some tough financial times we're going into but the thing is, John's best collections have always been completely out of the realm of wearability....until you see the clothes on a rack without the hair, makeup, platforms, accessories, sets and stories that the runway presents. Once you see the clothes, they make sense. This time he gave it to us in pre-packaged bites so that even the most dense non-fashionista can comprehend them; bland jacket, drapey dress, printed ruffles and silky blouse, all of which are wearable, salable and forgettable. Worse than that, they're not even particularly beautiful, which could be the most tragic thing about them.

Inspired in part by Napoleon-era charicatures by James Gillray, the opening looks were more Queens Guard than Waterloo, at least to me, but I'm no expert in European history so don't take my word for it. Sure, you could see hints of charicature-like wackiness in the overblown technicolor wigs, Napoleonic bicorne hats and flowery bonnets, but the clothes barely registered anything close to humor or exaggeration. The main problem was that, for all of the historic inspiration that apparently went into making this collection, you don't see any of it in the clothing. Obviously it would be too easy to do military frogging and epaulettes in wild colors, and frankly, Galliano is above that. But would it be asking too much to actually see some inspiration in the designs?

James Gillray charicatures
images from and

Of course with Galliano, there's always an array of lighter than air or sexier than all hell bias cut dresses, but even those failed to elicit any sort of admiration on my part. It was a sort of "been there, done that much better" situation because quite frankly they didn't look on par with John's usual work. He's like Vionnet re-incarnated, he knows how to drape and mold around the female form better than most designers could even pretend to, and he can practically do it in his sleep, so why did he squander than on dresses that don't look all that special or even that well thought out? Even the fact that they're completely transparent doesn't save them from being mediocre.

I mean, how could this... to this?

images from,,

Bottom line; it doesn't. The technique may be the same, but the results are worlds apart. The one real highlight of the show, for me at least, are the shoes. They're insanely fabulous. Part tranny, part Jetsons, part chopine...and in so many shiny colors. No they're not entirely wearable, but I think if you love something, then who gives a f*** about wearability?

Overall, this has been a pretty lackluster season, as so many people predicted it would be, but it's been particularly off for John. Even the joyous cartoonery (that's officially a word now) of this collection, which does stand out for being a little more upbeat than most, can't change the fact that this season fashion has been missing a lot of the things that make it so incredible. It's been four weeks of shows that are like waking up on Christmas morning to find that Santa didn't bring you anything you asked for. Here's holding out hope that Marc, Alber and Miuccia can at least end the season on a high note tommorow, but in the meantime, a glimpse back at one of Galliano's finest moments....

all fashion show photos from