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 Style.com

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 Style.com and Catwalking.com

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 Wikipedia.org and blastmilk.com

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...

....compare to this?

images from firstview.com, corbis.com, style.com

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 style.com

Friday, October 3, 2008

Panic at the Fashion Show....

Alexander McQueen

Today was, thankfully, a bit of a return to form for Alexander McQueen, who recently has been inconsistent in his output giving us strictly showroom type clothes one season, romantic historicism the next, then an aggressively theatrical presentation followed by more showroom type stuff after that. It's gotten a little frustrating to witness because, generally, when he goes commercial he neglects the things that make him "him" such as dramatic tailoring, macabre undertones and gothic romance. He's like his fellow Saint Martins alum John Galliano in that you can always tell what he was feeling just by watching his show. So in the past when he's shown lackluster commercial collections, the audience, both at the show and not, is left to assume that he was feeling frustrated. Not to point the finger of blame or anything, but this pattern seemed to start around the time that Domenico DeSole stepped down as head of Gucci Group...is this significant? I'd guess so. Last season he broke this pattern offering a blend of wearable McQueen signatures like built out hips, sharp tailoring and historicism and pure show in the form of a Maharajah meets Jane Austen meets Swan Lake fantasy finale. Needless to say that the Burton/Goreyesque gothicism which opened the show was seriously overshadowed by the finale that, frankly, was more Marchesa than McQueen. For all of the beauty of it, it felt completely out of left field for fashion's own Edgar Allen Poe. That finale was the main reason why I wasn't especially fond of the collection, and why I wasn't feeling completely optimistic about his Spring/Summer 2009 collection.

However, I've been wrong before, and luckily I was wrong today. It was fairly familiar territory for McQueen, but after a few years of not seeing this part of his personality, it was a very welcome reminder of what he's all about. At this point I couldn't begin to tell you what the inspiration or story behind it was, one look at the set would be enough to throw you off. An array of taxidermied animals was spread out as the backdrop like some sort of dead version of Noah's Arc, with the girls making their entrance onto the runway from beneath a giant glowing globe. Right away it reminded me of the hall of animals in Museum of Natural History in NY. Then come the clothes, some printed with this strange mutation of an animal print that was treated like a Rorschach inkblot; a mirror image on the right and left. This print was used on sculpted mini-dresses with kimono collars that stood away from the neck and shoulder, sharp frock coats and second skin blazers with peaked shoulders, skinny trousers, and even a voluminous parachute dress. Interspersed with these looks were two dresses in yellow and red that combined flesh colored tulle, crushed satin or taffeta and flattened out flowers that look like they had been dried and pressed, then inserted between the tulle and the body underneath so that they would "float" on the skin. There was also some of McQueen's signature skirts with built out angular hips. Two looks came lashed at the waist with embroidered leather corsets, which reminded me a lot of his famous S/S 99 robot/amputee collection, right down to the parchment and brown colors with delicate floral patterns worked over the fabric.

After this, the collection went a bit Sci-Fi with some short, stiffened bell shaped dresses covered with embroidery, a maroon sequined catsuit that reminded me a bit of the rubber suit worn by Jennifer Lopez in "The Cell" which was worn with a printed sleeveless jacket with built out shoulders and some more variations on those Rorschach prints, this time in multicolor brights or black and white which wound up looking a bit like an X-ray illustrated by H.R. Giger.

For evening, McQueen decided to forgo the traditional gowns in favor of skintight catsuits or more sculpted mini dresses completely encrusted with crystals in black, smoky beige or topaz. Overall, this wasn't his most moving collection, nor was it his most disappointing. This seems to be the general theme of the shows for the S/S 09 season, they don't blow your mind, but they don't let you down either. More than anything it's a frustrating feeling when all you want is to be blown away by something, anything really. But on the positive side this collection seems like a positive return to more traditional Alexander McQueen territory, and that's something any McQueen fan can appreciate.


Today marked Alessandra Faccinetti's second, and last, Ready to Wear collection for Valentino. In know what you're thinking, didn't she only present her first collection 6 months ago?. Why yes, she did. And didn't she only get one opportunity at doing a Couture collection? Right again. In yet another sudden, and this time sad decision, Faccinetti is leaving the house before she even got to show the world what she could do. Rumors have been swirling all week, and today after she presented the S/S 09 collection, the word seemed to be that she will be replaced by the duo who currently serves as the head of accessories at Valentino. Sound familiar? It could be because when she left Gucci in early 2005 she was replaced by Frida Giannini, the head of accessories. At the time that decision baffled me beyond belief, I mean, what does somebody who has been trained to design handbags and shoes know about designing clothes? Now that the fashion world has seen the situation play out yet again, and with the same woman, it all makes sense. Accessories designers wouldn't know anything about designing clothes, ergo, management can control what the ready to wear looks like. The people at Gucci clearly wanted more influence in what the ready to wear looked like and the Valentino people seem to feel the same way. It's one thing to eject one ready to wear designer for another, but when two major luxury fashion houses have made the choice to put people who don't have any background in designing clothes in the head designer role at the expense of someone who not only has a background in it, but talent too, it's a disturbing look at where luxury fashion is headed. Clearly, fashion design isn't even about design any more.

It's not as if Faccinetti went into the house and went off entirely in her own direction; quite the contrary. Her work was extremely respectful of the Valentino legacy, and she made it clear that she had no intent to completely rip apart a 45 year old image. Her work was overtly feminine, pretty, elegant, and classic, in other words, it was very Valentino. The only difference between the Maestro and Ms. Faccinetti's work was that her approach was lighter and more relaxed which ultimately translated into it being more youthful. There's so much riding on a debut at an established house. The designer is expected to keep the identity of the brand, show the world what they're going to bring to it and sell products. Many people accused her work of not being true to the Valentino name. Others accused it of being too safe. What the people throwing these accusations around fail to realize is that any new designer at an established house is faced with the inevitable situation that no matter which route they choose, it won't be good enough. If she was too literal in her approach to the Valentino DNA she'd be ripped apart for just mimicking a legend with less successful results, if she injects her own vision into the work she's not being true to the house. No matter what she did, not everyone would be pleased. That's the main reason why these rapid decisions to oust designers are so problematic. This isn't Hollywood. It's not a situation where you either screw up an audition or you don't. You need some time to be able to meet the challenge and it's unfortunate that the suits have lost sight of that fact.

The announcement certainly can't overshadow the beauty of the collection, which was like a breeze. It was light, easy and pretty and most of the palette revolved around soft neutrals; black, white, blush, soft yellow and icy blue, but there were occasional pops of color like foresty green, rich teal and of course, Valentino red. One of the predominent looks was a boxy jacket with bracelet sleeves and embellished detail paired with shorts. It looked particularly chic in a faded black/dark navy variation. Mixed into the daywear were short, loosely fitted shifts with strangely beautiful embroidery.

This being Valentino though the real magic was saved for nightime. Alessandra revisited the softly draped empire silhouette that she played with for her couture collection in July. Done mid calf in black polka dots or full length in assymetrical pale nude it looked like the perfect option for any summer evening, the kind of thing you could easily imagine blowing in the breeze at an outdoor soiree. But for me the best look in the lineup was a deep teal draped off-the-shoulder empire dress, worn with matching flat slippers and jeweled neckpiece. It was absolutely striking shown in the sea of soft non-colors, and was made even more striking worn by the red-headed Olga Sherer. In fact, it looked so beautiful that any woman who wears the dress should be required to dye her hair red, just to preserve the impact (you can't really tell her hair is red in this photo, but trust me, it is.).

Overall though, the collection felt a little....defeated, like she knew what was happening and her heart wasn't in it. I can't blame her for that really. It's a shame we'll never get to see her expand on the bold ideas she tried out for her couture collection.

These last few years the whole game of musical chairs in fashion seems more prominent than it was, say, 6 years ago. A lot of that could probably be attributed to the decline in the economy that's taken place, and not just this recent crisis, but the cumulative effect of the last few years. But overall it represents a sense of panic on the part of the big shots in the luxury biz, and as anyone can tell you, good decisions are rarely ever made when you're panicked.

all fashion show images from Catwalking.com via Inaya and Faith Akiyama at the Fashion Spot.