Monday, December 28, 2009


You know what kills me? What kills me is when you're looking forward to something and in the end all that excitement was for nothing. Anticlimax. Unmet expectations. Disappointment. Whatever you decide to call it, the feeling is a frustrating one. It pains me to say that it's exactly how I'm feeling about the hot-off-the-presses Givenchy S/S 2010 campaign, which debuted on WWD yesterday. Why was I looking forward to it you might ask, given that I was left feeling pretty indifferent about the collection? For starters, the cast. Oh it's not some eclectic ensemble of girls like it has been in past seasons, nor was there news that some super or another was making an appearance, not that either of those things would automatically whip me into a frenzy of breathless excitement anyway. But when I read that Tisci's go-to Givenchy girl MCB (that's Mariacarla Boscono to civilians) would be joined by Natalia Vodianova, my interest was piqued. I've made it clear that I'm by no means an avid follower of models, but I consider both Mariacarla and Natalia to be talented, which is an increasing rarity these days. I think I also have a soft spot for both of them since I can remember their individual rises to icon status. Plus, I was interested in seeing what Mert & Marcus would do with their second campaign for the label since their first effort was solid, though somewhat reserved by their standards.

As it turned out this season the campaign may as well have been by ex-Givenchy photogs Inez & Vinoodh, because it looked almost exactly like some of their Givenchy campaigns. That, my friends, is just the very big tip of the sucky iceberg. Granted M&M's campaign last season wasn't exactly their normal fare, but I just don't get the point of ditching every last thing you're known for, especially if it's in favor of something that someone else has done. On the other hand I have to question the decisions made by Tisci and his team. Why hire Mert & Marcus if you're not going to let them do their signature work? Granted their aesthetic can get a little grating sometimes, but it's distinct enough that you would never mistake it as another photographer's work. But this campaign, you would never guess it to be theirs. The fact that M&M resorted to a predictable Givenchy campaign formula of a group of models striking unposed poses in coordinating clothes is made even worse by the fact that neither Natalia or Mariacarla are at their best here. They're just sort of lifelessly staring into the camera, and on top of that Natalia's hair was inexplicably dyed brown. It does nothing for her, and paired with MCB she's basically overshadowed because she looks pretty much unrecognizable at first glance.

I will say this though, the clothes are shown very well, especially in the middle shot, and at the end of the day that is basically the point of an ad campaign. But then you could argue that a good campaign should do more than just display the product, it should make you crave it and if it's a really good ad, crave the life it's portraying as well. The thing is that there really isn't anything to hate about the campaign, but there really isn't anything to love about it either from where I'm sitting. Okay, so maybe that's not entirely true. There is one thing to love; Simon Nessman. He makes the campaign worth looking at more than once, for no other reason than the fact that he's unnaturally beautiful. It's shallow, yes, but it's as good a reason as any to pay attention to something. And really, you'd probably be lying if you said you didn't like the view of him as well.

images from via Flashbang at the Fashion Spot

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On pointe...

Campaign time is apparently right around the corner, and what better way to get into the spirit of things than to marvel at the stunning first image from Jeurgen Teller's campaign for Marc Jacobs. Given Jacobs' inspiration for the season (dance, theater, performance in general) the campaign could really have gone in any number of directions.

If the first shot is anything to go by, we're in for a gorgeous, dramatic and truly funny campaign from Teller and Jacobs. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see more.

No, you're eyes aren't fucking with you. That really is a toilet she's standing in. More to come as the story unfolds.

image posted by Luxx at tFS from

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Video: Haider Ackermann Spring Summer 2010

I confess, even though I have become a devoted fan of Ackermann's I have never once seen his clothes in motion, and actually that's kind of a mild tragedy. The man's designs are incredibly fluid as well as multi-dimensional, so not being able to see them move is like not being able to see Monet's water lillies in color. You can't really appreciate it. But this season I (and all his other groupies for that matter) have gotten lucky, because a full video of his mesmerizing spring show was published and let me just say that it doesn't disappoint. The designer and his team clearly know how to create a mood, and in a way I think creating real atmosphere for a fashion show is probably more difficult that creating a full on spectacle, because you're relying on a feeling to do the work that theatrics would otherwise do for you. In that way the presentation almost, almost reminds me of Tom Ford's old Gucci shows; spare, straightforward and hypnotic. The dim lighting pierced only by a spotlight at the beginning is pitch perfect for Ackermann's glam/gloom aesthetic, and even the slow, melancholic pace or moody, minimal soundtrack (things that would normally grate on my nerves) don't deter from the beauty of the show or from the clothes themselves. And I have to say, the image of Olga Sherer gliding down the runway with that haunting piano in the background, her smokey gown quivering while she moves is literally killing me. To. Die. For.

But don't take my word for it...

video from

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The body beautiful...

Ann Demeulemeester

It's rare that I ever swoon over an Ann Demeulemeester runway show. Clothes aside (and her clothes are always beautiful) her vision can at times be a little unrelenting. Don't get me wrong, I know that Ms. D has her clientele and knows what they want. She doesn't invest much time in thinking about what's trendy or of the moment. Some might say that's part of her appeal, others might dislike her for that very reason. I personally fall somewhere in between. I don't mind that she sticks to her aesthetic, it's just that sometimes I wish there was a little more variation from season to season. While Ann may not spend much time thinking about fashion's next direction, that doesn't always mean that she's completely out of the loop either. In a season where so many designers are revealing skin, Demeulemeester decided to cut away at her signature layers and bare some her own way of course. The collection she showed for Spring 2010 reminded me of two of my favorite Ann D collections of the past, S/S 2001 and S/S 2006, which could explain why I like it so much. Then of course there's the undercurrent of sex and bondage that's on display. I mean really, it'd be kind of strange if I didn't like it at least a little. Keeping the silhouette predominantly lean, with an emphasis on short skirts and black leather, Demeulemeester's band of nomadic poets looked tougher and sexier than they have in quite some time. Her artfully destroyed jewelry and soft, flimsy layers were replaced with chains of zippers and bare sternums. Her trademark cropped, boyish trousers were shown in black leather and paired with everything from roughly beaded tunics to matching leather bandeaus. Belts were made of zippers that had been undone so as to fall apart in places, making them look more like harnesses than belts. Those zippers also appeared sweeping down the lapel of jackets and coats, dangling down the front of tops like fringe, even wrapped around the models' faces (romantically, of course). Balancing out the aggressive elements of the collection was a black and white print of birds, which I honestly wasn't a big fan of. Normally I like Demeulemeester's prints, but overall the avian motif didn't really do much for me. Worn with most of the looks was a leather cummerbund/girdle kind of thing that gave the silhouette a high waisted look, and also prevented the looks from baring too much skin all at once. I love the look of a plunging neckline that's been interrupted by something that has the look of fetish wear. For evening, or at least Demeulemeester's version of evening, washed leather vests or slouchy jackets were worn open over long, sylph-like skirts that dragged along the floor. Accessorized with those multi-harnessed belts or a thin chain collar dangling from the neck and attached around the waist, they were an edgy update of a cliched evening silhouette.

Like I said, I think the reason why I like this collection so much is because it's not territory that she always explores. It's not often that she goes for a really tough, aggressive, sexy mood; her vision has skewed more romantic and soulful these last few years. So it was a welcome change to see her embracing sex and severity. I also like that the lines of the clothes are kept close to the body, stripped down to their simplest forms instead of layered, gathered and voluminous. While I would give anything for her to delve into color more, like she did last spring, it's nice to see her shaking things up even a little bit.

Haider Ackermann

I've been aware of Haider Ackermann since about 2007, and in the two years since first seeing his clothes on I have followed his work and slowly fallen in love. On the surface there are some similarities to his fellow Belgian Ann Demeulemeester, as well as to Rick Owens. But once you look closer it becomes easier to spot what makes Ackermann distinct. For one, he uses sensuality and sexuality much more freely than Demeulemeester or Owens does. His clothes, from his twsited, super-soft leather jackets and fluid tailoring to his languid, soigné goddess dresses, are designed to exploit the female form. He has no qualms with baring flesh, cutting away fabric to reveal shoulder, back, hip or leg, which gives his work an erotic edge that isn't really to be found in the work of many of the designers whom he can be compared to. Perhaps that's due to his background. It seems natural that someone who was born in Colombia and raised in Belgium would design clothes that are a clash between passionate sensuality and moody romanticism. It also seems natural that Ackermann developed a bit of nomadic streak in his work. This season his mind went to India, though not being one for themes the results were anything but literal. In a way though the inspiration suits Ackermann's talents perfectly. On the one hand you have the elegant, regimental tailoring of the English colonial period; on the other you have the sensual wrapping of saris. That basically sums up the two things that he is best known for. Whatever led Mr. Ackermann to his inspiration, it produced what is probably my favorite collection of his thus far.

Opening with one of his signature washed leather jackets with attenuated shoulders and sleeves pushed up past the elbows worn over a short, twisted mini dress in what looks like suede that was slashed open across the hip bone, he didn't seem to stray too far from the look that has become his trademark. Sure, the silhouette was shorter, and the dress was more body conscious, but the look was instantly recognizable as his own. Then followed a number of riffs on a safari jacket. One was sleeveless and worn with cuffed leather shorts, while another in black leather was lengthened into a kind of mini dress. Yet another had been hacked away to create a halter top that was worn with a long bias cut fishtail skirt. Around look 7 was when the sari-esque elements came into play. A charcoal mini dress had cutout cold shoulders and was wrapped at the waist, while an asymmetrical top had one sleeve and was paired with slim pants in wrinkled washed satin. In the soigné department, a mannish safari jacket with face framing collar was worn over a mini skirt with a billowing train. All of these looks were in varying shades of black and gray, which isn't surprising as Ackermann tends to stick to fairly monochrome colors. Look 13 then was quite a surprise coming from him; a golden yellow silk military vest paired over matching draped shorts that swooped up across the front of the vest.

After that the collection lightened up. There was another head-to-toe yellow look of a cropped jacket worn over a draped halter gown with that same double-length skirt (which would appear throughout the collection. Then came a few looks in deep navy satin that were the perfect contrast to the bright yellow that had come before them (and which I wish there had been more of). After those three navy looks the color lightened even more into pale icy blue for a clingy v-neck column gown and an asymmetrically wrapped mini dress, faded blush for a halter dress and suede jacket combo, a soft sand colored jumpsuit in softly metallic looking fabric, and some pale, vaguely military inspired looks in beige and taupe before the collection moved into dark browns and finally black. Closing the show were three black looks, a single sleeved gown, a jumpsuit with cutout shoulders and a keyhole neckline, and finally an asymmetrical one shoulder goddess gown designed to bare one breast.

Like I said, I think this may be my favorite Haider Ackermann collection of all the ones that I've seen. His signatures are all there, the draping, the sensuous tailoring, but there's something more. Maybe it's because the pale color and the unabashed display of naked flesh is so on track with where the season seems to be going. Maybe it's just that all of the elements he's become known for seem to be amped up a bit more; the color is more unusual, the sex appeal is more overt. I'm honestly not sure what it is. It's also interesting to note that this is probably the first time that Ackermann's collection has been so much apart of the trends that are going on, but I'm sure that was purely coincidental. He's just not a trendy designer. Still, it doesn't hurt that he managed to give everyone what they want and expect from him while also managing to be a part of the moment. Whoever said you can't have your cake and eat it too clearly didn't work in fashion.


What can I say about Lanvin that hasn't already been said before by those with more colorful vocabularies than mine? Beautiful, glamorous, feminine, flattering, timeless; all of them work. This season, in addition to all of those things, Alber Elbaz injected his collection with more than a little bit of sex, and a big dose of good old-fashioned fun. It sounds kind of cheesy when it's put that way, but really, that was the most exciting thing about this collection; it was all about the joy of going way over the top. If you look at this collection and last season's collection side by side, they'd appear to be polar opposites. But last season, besides the restrained glamour and echoes of wartime austerity, there was a hint of eccentricity. That's nothing really new for Elbaz, his collections always have this slightly askew feel to them, but last season the effect was a bit more least to me. This season however the volume was turned up all the way to 11. The collection seemed to revel in that beautiful eccentricity. The show opened with sharp, fitted dresses and skirts that were finished with exaggerated, exuberant ruffles that traced the edges of a top or the waist of a dress creating a peplum. Skirts were cut tight and cropped well above the knee, while dresses or tops with deflated puff sleeves fell assymetrically off the shoulders. This whole opening section had echoes of Elbaz's F/W 2007 collection, with it's focus on exaggerated mutton sleeves and sculpted ruffles. Here though the effect was sharper, more aggressive in a way. Paired with the models' messy chignons, smoky black eyes, mile long legs, as well as the cinematic lighting, these looks made for some of the most overtly sexy looks that I can ever recall on a Lanvin runway. Mixed into the sharper looks was a beautiful asymmetrically draped ecru dress that was twisted to one side. Even that though had a sexuality to it because with the dramatic lighting and the softness of the farbic, it seemed to blend into the models' skin. There was also a one sleeved draped black jumpsuit, a surprisingly trendy moment in the collection that was a sign of what would follow.

From there Elbaz began to lighten up, both in shape and in color. After the parade of monochromatic looks that had come down the runway, out came 5 draped dresses, some slinky, others more structured, in different shades of red and pink. Two in particular caught my eye and were a good indication of the new-found sex appeal to be seen throughout the collection. Both were softly draped with a wrap skirt that opened on the side, one with a draped v-neck and a single rolled up sleeve, the other seemingly tied and knotted around the neck and falling off one shoulder. The beauty of them was that, sexy as they were, they looked like they had simply been flung onto the body and artfully arranged; like they would fall into a puddle of fabric on the floor at any moment. That's the beauty of Lanvin though, as haphazard and spontaneous as the clothes appear, they're always perfectly made. There were two looks in leather, one a black dress with puff sleeves, the other a draped chocolate blouse worn with a black skirt, that offset the prettiness well, though I do think that they would have been better had they been shown with the more aggressive opening looks. After them Elbaz moved into soft makeup shades of blush, pale tawny orange, beige and taupe. This section of looks, all of them falling in soft drapes or gathers, tied in perfectly with the whole super-soft, super-pretty lingerie mood that's become the dominant theme this season, though the clothes never really referenced lingerie. Then came two more jumpsuits, one in a faded cocoa color, the other in a pinkish taupe. The fabric of the brown one almost had the look of loose Fortuny pleats, and worn with a jeweled belt and whopping enamel and brass snake collar, it definitely recalled the era when Fortuny was at the height of his popularity.

Up until now there was no embellishment on the clothes, but it almost seems like Elbaz made a conscious decision to not only embellish the evening clothes, but to go as far as he could with sparkle and glitz. First came a fleshtoned one shoulder jumpsuit completely covered in beadwork, accessorized with a jeweled belt and layered necklaces. A beaded t-shirt was worn with a draped skirt that had clashing beadwork lightly scattered on it. Another ensemble paired a matching top and pants completely encrusted with brass colored paillettes with a beaded track jacket, again finished off with huge layered necklaces. And finally a trio of sparkling party dresses, one each in green, sulphuric yellow and red, had contrasting pieces of black that almost looked like a t shirt layered under the dress. Mixed in with the over the top beadwork were simpler draped options. Two floor length dresses were slit all the way up the thigh. One in khaki was almost like a draped shirt dress, while the other in washed black was gathered on one shoulder. Again these looks were uncharacteristically sexy for Elbaz, but they still had the languid ease and unfussiness that is associated with Lanvin. There was a beautiful navy jumpsuit with those same destroyed Fortuny-esque pleats, a simple full skirted dress in pleated teal silk, and the final look which was a nude body that had randomly draped bright pink tulle covering it. It kind of looked like cotton candy.

Needless to say, I love, love, LOVE the collection. The one thing that Alber Elbaz consistently does is create beautiful clothes that make the viewer (and I would assume the wearer as well) feel good. I love the feisty twist that he gave the collection. There's a sexiness to it that feels both right for now and fresh for Lanvin. Don't get me wrong, Lanvin is always sexy, but it isn't usually so overt. I also love how deliciously over the top this all is. In almost any other designers' hands (save maybe for Lacroix) accessorizing a fully beaded, brightly colored party dress with multiple statement necklaces, bracelets and earrings would be way too much. For whatever reason though, none of this comes off that way to me. Instead of being tacky or loud, it reads as quirky and fun, and fun is something that fashion is in desperate need of right now.

all photos from

Monday, September 21, 2009

'Tis the season...

In a way New York Fashion Week is like Christmas; you have to open a bunch of gifts you didn't want and won't use before you get to a good one. That's really the best description I can come up with for it, lot's of filler with some moments of excitement. While that makes looking through the shows annoying, it also makes it possible to review the ones I like all at once.

Donna Karan

Last season Donna Karan presented one of her most perfect collections in years combining glamour and sensuality with modernity and authority...not that that's anything really new for her. She's always been about that. But included in the mix was a nostalgic kind of femininity, something really elegant and pulled together that brought her collection to a whole other level. I was definitely curious to see where she would go for spring. Donna, like many women, has two very different sides to her. One season she goes after the spirit of New York, delivering on the powerful female mantra she laid out in the 80s. The next she's following the Zen path towards serene sensuality with a distinctly Eastern feel. I can't recall a collection where she managed to fully blend her two opposing sides into the same collection...until now.

Inspired by the elements, specifically the sea and the breeze blowing off it, Karan maintained her tailored, hourglass silhouette from fall. The opening look said it all; a chalky gray nipped waist jacket with a wide portrait neckline worn with a simple pencil skirt in a lighter shade of gray. The pieces were typical Donna Karan staples, but with a twist. Below the latex ribbon tied waist on the jacket, random crinkles shaped the upper hips and added texture to the look. As it turned out texture and rippling crinkles would shape up to be the main focus of the collection. There were echoes of last spring's Prada collection in the focus on textured fabric treatments, though here the rumpled effect was used more sparingly and focused on one area of the garment. There was a strapless top in linen with tight crinkled texture at the waist worn over a pencil skirt in fabric that had the texture of crepe paper party streamers. Burlap jackets were left to fray around the edges which gave them the look of tweed. A gorgeous peach blouse reminded me of the dolman sleeved tops she showed last season. From the back though it was cutout to reveal the shoulders, and what appeared to be bat wing sleeves from the front weren't sleeves at all. And a fiery red tube dress with gray trim was shown under a matching sheer textured coat.

From there the collection continued on the way it started, though now the feminine tailoring was punctuated with the occasional soft, ethereal look. A flowy red and gray printed organza skirt which was worn with a simple fitted tank introduced an ethereal, almost balletic feel that balanced out the sexy urban tailoring. There were also chiffon or printed organza wrap dresses, one in an icy gray that was among my favorite pieces in the collection, a fantastic degrade washed leather jacket, softly draped goddess dresses that fell off the shoulder or wrapped tightly around the body, a drop-dead skirt suit in chalky white python and a simple full skirted white cotton shirtwaist-come-cocktail dress. Of course this being a Donna Karan collection there were a number of stunning, effortless looking evening dresses on display. My personal favorites were the asymmetrical white jersey toga with plunging neckline and the fiery red satin column with draped bust. Like I said last season I just don't get why Donna's gowns don't end up on more red carpets. They look like they'd be extremely comfortable, and they're stunningly gorgeous on top of that. Why any starlet would choose a frou-frou bulldozer of a gown over something sleek and sensuous is beyond me.

While I don't think the collection was as perfectly realized as her last (there was the addition of some unfortunate looking chapeaux, a criminal offense imo) it did a pretty good job of picking up where that one left off. And like I said, this collection was a great blend of Donna's two opposing sides. It was completely urbane; chic, sleek and practical, but the soothing grays and beiges combined with the rough textures that appeared throughout gave the collection an earthy quality that, I think anyway, provided a wonderful contrast. Donna's always been telling women that they can be it all - mother, executive, seductress and goddess - and this collection was a good reminder of that.

Marc Jacobs

In a way fashion trends work like a pendulum. At some point the pendulum swings out far enough that the only way it can go is in the other direction. As far as Marc Jacobs is concerned, last season fashion swung as far as it could go in the tough, studded, shoulder-padded, leather legging-ed, mini-skirted 80s redux that has dominated runways for a few seasons now, and the only logical thing to do was something else entirely. His logic isn't entirely off either. quoted him as saying that "it's not such an individual expression", the it in question being the predominant look of the moment. That would definitely explain his collection for next spring, because it couldn't be farther from what's going on right now. Combining what seemed like miles of swirling, pleated ruffles, lingerie, menswear and a touch of Zandra Rhodes' trippy bohemian spirit - all of which was styled in a bizarrely layered way - Jacobs sent out a collection which he claimed was inspired by the stage. There was a hint of kabuki in the model's whitened face makeup and burgundy bow lips, as well as the modified geta platforms that were worn with every outfit. Some looks were topped with ruffled Pierrot collars, while the layering of others suggested a dancer in rehearsal mode. Dresses in pastel pink or white came smothered in those swirling ruffles with pearl trim, while masculine pinstripe suiting fabric was softened with ruffles edging the lapel or trousers. One jacket in sapphire blue had a huge lamé ruffle forming a bib down the front. It was worn with matching shorts, which were worn over sheer chiffon track pants in a lighter shade of blue. An olive green military jacket was belted under the bust and worn over ruffled hotpants. Vintage-style bras were worn over crisp button downs or knit tops, and pencil skirts cut at mid-calf had mesh girdles built into the waist. There were pastel jacquard ankle length circle skirts, candy striped harem pants, and dresses or outfits in pastel colored plaid with ruffled trim. All of this was just in the first half of the show.

The second half of the show was what interested me more. Those ruffles that had appeared throughout the show were now shown in candy-colored metallic brocades and were used to completely cover some of the garments. Even though the clothes were girly to the point of being ridiculous, there was something almost humorous about them...not surprising given Marc's obsession with subversion. If anyone can make pastel ruffles just a little bit off, it's Marc. There were some beautiful chiffon dresses in pale mint, pink or white with layered hankerchief edges, a black skirt ensemble in a cutout fishscale pattern that was embroidered in sequins and trimmed with ruffles around the shoulders and cuffs, and a dress reminiscent of vintage Paco Rabanne was made of sequined red and burgundy ovals that were linked together. The last look was one of the most traditionally beautiful things in the collection; a white organza dress with delicate black spirals swirling across the bodice and skirt like wisps of smoke.

Honestly, I wish I could say I liked the collection more. I definitely get it, and the fact that it's so different from almost everything that's been going on for a while now is refreshing, but I just don't think this made for one of Marc's most compelling collections. More than anything it just doesn't move me, one way or another. Here's hoping that the Vuitton collection is more convincing.


Probably one of the best things about Rodarte's Spring 2010 collection was the fact that, despite the Mulleavy sisters' references, there was a lot that could be seen in the clothes. This season the sisters concocted a fairy tale about a girl who's burned alive and reincarnated as a condor forced to survive in a barren, apocalyptic world. From that tale though they created looks that called to mind everything from Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" and the warrior queen Boudicca to voodoo shamans and grunge. Every look in the 35 piece collection was shredded, frayed, patched and just generally destroyed to perfection. Given the inspiration the color palette was suitably dark, earthy and strong, ranging from burnt browns and tans, faded burgundy and plum, a few shots of chartreuse and black. Some fabrics were bleached or tie-dyed, while others were printed with a faded tartan and all of them were pieced together in the sisters' signature collage construction. Almost all of the looks were comprised of short dresses, with a few pairs of slashed and zipped cigarette pants thrown into the mix and a finale trio of gowns. Like last season that left me a little frustrated. I totally get the Rodarte aesthetic, and I can totally appreciate their approach to design, but I don't really understand why, for the past few seasons, they've been delivering collections that are comprised almost exclusively of dresses. They've done beautiful separates in the past that were no less special than their fantasy dresses and gowns. Just like last season I'm wondering why they didn't show them on the runway. I know that they have to have made them for retailers, so why not show them? The problem with showing one dress after the other, all of which use similar techniques and fabrics to achieve their effect, is that they appear extremely similar. Instead of noticing the subtle differences between each dress, most people will zero in on the similarities. Take the first three looks; each of them were short, comprised of a streaky tan skirt and a top that mixed gray plaid, a shot of chartreuse and a bit of mauvey tie-dye. Each of them was draped differently, but because they were shown one after the other they looked more similar than they did unique. The collection moved from those first mini dresses through to woven or crocheted patchwork tunics with fringe dragging on the floor, tops pieced together with thick bands of black separating each fabric, pieces made from swirling bands of leather with bits of skin peeking through, and finally a series of black dresses and gowns. If Rodarte's swirling, draped gowns with transparency on the torso have had an ethereal quality in the past, the ones shown this season were more menacing than goddess-like...not that that's a bad thing.

While the collection didn't disappoint me, I am reaching a point where I'd like to see something else from Laura and Kate. Don't get me wrong, I love what they do and I love their twisted view of femininity, but I think they're kind of selling themselves short by focusing on one very specific thing and reinterpreting it with each collection. Also, I want to see more of their separates front and center. Take their S/S 2008 Anime collection, which was really where they started exploring this more artistic approach to designing and was the collection that introduced both their streaky handpainted fabrics and cobwebby knits. But there was quite a bit of variety in the clothes, as well as in the fabrics and colors. I'm starting to miss that. I'm almost positive that if this collection had been shown last year I'd be over the moon for it, but since things are getting a little routine in Rodarte's alternate universe I think it's time to move forward.

Vera Wang

Vera Wang is one designer who I've always liked but never really loved. It's like, I can see where she's coming from and I find the results really beautiful, but it's never really been my thing...until now. I'm not sure what she did differently for Spring Summer 2010, but the things she's become known for came together in a completely fresh way. For the first time her collection was imbued with a bit of an edge, and that edge did the clothes a world of good. Working mainly in black and shades of gray with a few pieces in a periwinkle print, the overall look of the collection was ornate but worn with a street sensibility; think a black draped dress with a capelike sleeve worn with a chunky necklace and wicked black platform sandals, or a silver crinkled halter top paired with a puff of black tulle for the skirt worn with a jeweled chain belt slung around the hips. A crinkled black jacket was paired with a white blouse and black origami-folded mini skirt with an asymmetric hem. The look was very Vera, but with an almost goth feel to it that felt completely new for her.

One of my favorite looks was a dark navy sleeveless wrap tunic with tuxedo lapel worn over matching pajama pants. It would make such a sexy evening option for the artsy type who likes her elegance to be slightly askew. Overall the embellishment was kept to a minimum, which could be why this collection felt more hip than any of her past collections. The only real embellishment was the incredible jewelry done in collaboration with Philip Crangi. Seriously, from the dangling bibs of beaded spiderwebs to the chunky crystal flowers suspended from chain cuffs, the jewelry was to die for. Other than that though the only decoration on the clothes was the texture, swirls of tight pleating across a skirt, densely packed tulle ruffles covering the front of a mini dress, or a shoulder outlined with mongolian lamb fur.

Oddly enough what made this collection stand out for Vera was it's restraint. By streamlining the clothes, minimizing the details and condensing the lineup she really seemed to pull everything together better than she has in the past. The clothes also had a more youthful, sexy spirit which, balanced with the dark romance, feels contemporary. Sure, most of the clothes are in black or putty gray, but since so many other designers this spring and every spring douse their collections in super-bright color, I say that this collection is a welcome relief for the retinas.

Proenza Schouler

If Vera Wang's collection offered some relief from all things neon, the Proenza Schouler boys seemed to revel in it. Added to the intensely bright color were bold tropical prints, tie-dye and megawatt sequin embellishment. In type it sounds like the kind of thing that I'd hate on principle alone, but for some reason I have yet to figure out, I really liked it. The silhouette throughout was short, save for the two pants looks they showed. Some of the first looks paired sporty button down shirts with draped skirts that looked like jackets or sweatshirts if they were tied around the waist. There were two great shifts, one in cobalt and one in turquoise, that wrapped asymmetrically and buckled low on the hips. Shirtdresses in crisp white or tropical blue tie-dye had extended button plackets as if there was a second shirt wrapped around the bottom, and were shown layered over black and white tie-dye knits. There were a few intensely tie-dyed mini dresses with angular layered hems that had feather shaped paillettes peeking out from underneath. I have to say, I really like the clash of the casualness of a tie-dye tank top with the glitz of the sequins.

After those tie-dyed dresses was when they turned the color, print and sparkle up to 11. Tank dresses were beaded with iridescent bugle beads, trimmed with those feather paillettes and finished off with a bit of black chain mail. Tent dresses in purple or green came trimmed in a patchwork of beading, sequins and feathers that formed a print-like effect against the fabric. One of my favorite looks was a cobalt long sleeve top that looked a bit like a rash guard which was tucked into a jungle green beaded skirt. It was glammy and totally party ready, but just like with those tie-dye dresses it had a casual athleticism that worked as a perfect contrast to the sparkle. After a few looks that combined bikini tops with feather embroidered full skirts which I didn't really love, the boys sent out stiff silk mini shifts in multicolor prints that had the look of tropical fish. Some had ostrich feathers peeking out of the hems, others had plastic sequin fringe on the straps. The prints were absolutely incredible, and coming from someone who doesn't really like print or bright color, that's saying something.

Like I said, I have no idea why I like this collection as much as I do. Don't get me wrong, I've always appreciated Proenza collections, but I don't know that I've ever really loved one. I think it might be that this one is more over the top than their past collections, more fun and brash...I'm not sure. One thing's for certain though, if I were a skinny, leggy 20-something with a big enough credit line I would be all over those dresses.

all photos from

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it...

...and it's not even 2012 yet.

Earlier today it was announced, and I'm still trying to process it as I type this, that Lindsay Lohan has been hired as the artistic adviser for the house of Ungaro. Back in July the designer Esteban Cortazar left his position after Ungaro's management told him that they were pursuing Lohan to be his collaborator. According to an article posted by the New York Times, the deciding factor in his resignation was when he was made aware that his bosses wanted Lindsay to take a bow with him after showing the collection. Now before you judge this as a temper tantrum from a diva designer, consider this; the person who takes a bow at the end of a fashion show is the person to whom credit is given for the collection. They are the person held responsible for either it's success or it's failure. With that in mind, would you want to share what is essentially equal credit with someone who doesn't really deserve it?

I didn't think so.

Add to this the fact that the person who will be given half the credit is a celebrity who, it must be said, is more well known for their tumultuous personal life, substance abuse issues and immature behavior, and you really can't blame Cortazar for leaving. I mean, you smell smoke, you get the fuck out of the building, right? Cut to now. Hired alongside Lohan is an unknown designer by the name of Estrella Archs, who has done stints at Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Nina Ricci among others. As for her, I wish her luck, but I don't see her lasting too long since as it stands none of the four designers who have preceded her have managed to jump through hoops the way that management wanted them to. As it stands, the record for longest stint post-founder is held by Giambattista Valli, who was chosen by Emanuel Ungaro himself to head the Ready to Wear when Ungaro stepped down to focus on couture. Since then there have been 3 different designers in just under 5 years, not one of them lasting more than 3 full seasons. At that rate of turnover, it seems illogical to blame any of the designers for not doing a good enough job because none of them were given enough of an opportunity to really make their mark. I mean seriously, there's even an unspoken rule in fashion that you can't fairly judge a designer until their third season (or something to that effect). How on earth could any of them be expected to establish their vision, please editors, create buzz and make the house money in that amount of time? It's an unrealistic expectation. Now Ungaro CEO Mounir Moufarrige believes that the only way to make the brand money is to give some creative control to a celebrity, and a washed up irrelevant one at that.

Quoted on why she's well suited to this position, Lohan had this to say:

"When I say I love fashion, I really do,” she said. “I live and breathe fashion and clothing. There are so many designers I really admire and look up to. It’s such a rush for me. There’s this Balmain motorcycle jacket, and when I got one of the few they made without the shoulder pads, I literally screamed."
Just as I said when I ranted about Kanye's pending foray into fashion design, that "I really love fashion" catchphrase is always the justification for these celebrities, and it's usually preceded or followed by something to the effect of "I've always wanted to be a designer". I have news for Lindsay, for the last three or four years it seems like everyone and their mother has "lived and breathed" fashion, and everyone thinks that wearing what's trendy and "fierce" automatically means that they're designer material. Let me be the first to tell you, if that's all it took then it wouldn't be so hard for those of us without connections or money to make it after we learn what we need to know.

Here's my $.02 on this whole thing; I think this is probably the best example that we will ever get of just how messed up so much of the industry has become in such a short amount of time. It's absolutely disgusting to me that a celebrity with no skill, talent or training in fashion has been given such a responsability, and equally disgusting that the company is using such a low-brow tactic to garner attention for the label. This goes so far beyond my frustration with celebrity vanity labels because at the end of the day, those don't matter and they never really will. They put their name on something and entertain the delusion that they're a "designer" for a few years before people lose interest. But this, this is big. This is handing a piece of control over the creative direction for a 40 year old fashion house to someone who has absolutely no knowledge of or experience in fashion design. Things like this just make it that much harder for fashion designers, and the fashion industry itself for that matter, to be taken seriously. Furthermore what Moufarrige's decision basically says is that designers are irrelevant and unnecessary, that all you need to sell your product is a celeb with a proud legacy of tabloid cover stories. I'm sure I sound like an overly dramatic queen or a raving lunatic (it's six of one, really) but think about it; How long will it be before Moufarrige decides that he doesn't need Archs and gives the reins to Lindsay alone? How long will it be before other desperate CEOs decide to do the same? I'm not saying it will happen, but this officially means that it can, and that's a scary thought.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going into my dark corner to reminisce about the days when designers were designers, actresses were actresses, and Lindsay Lohan was a child star.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The agony and the ecstacy...

When I had heard that Jennifer Connelly would be appearing in a Balenciaga campaign for the second time, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy. Given David Sims track record as the photographer of Balenciaga's campaigns since 2002, the resulting campaign thoroughly sucked, and seemed to rely solely on the fact that there was a famous face starring in it, as opposed to actually doing anything interesting with that famous face. But for F/W 2009 Ghesquiere enlisted a new lensman, Steven Meisel. That gave me hope, though not much.

My ambivalence about it only grew once I saw the first image. It was kind of awkward, the colors were dull, and the hair and makeup team took the striking Ms. Connelly and ruined her. Reclining on a chaise with fried, semi-teased hair and smudgy burgundy eyes she looked like the drunken aftermath of a Valley of the Dolls theme party. So I wrote the entire campaign off as a failure (having only seen the first image, but I'm like that) and didn't think much more about it. A few weeks later I happened to pop into the thread on tFS and the newest image posted did more than just catch my eye. Jennifer was sprawled on the floor, gripping the chaise which had toppled over, and her face was tilted back in a look that was somewhere between ecstasy and pain (the good kind, obviously) . I liked it. A lot actually. So much so that I wanted to see more. Now the whole campaign has been unveiled, and even though it's not perfect, there is some gorgeous going on.

First off, the girl can pose. Some of what she's doing looks intensely uncomfortable, but you'd never guess it by looking at her face, and I'd expect nothing less of an Oscar winner. The poses are really the most striking thing about the campaign. They're just not the kind of thing you see every day in fashion photography. I also love the rich, warm color of the set. Coupled with the lighting, the whole image has a beautiful painterly feel to it. I'm guessing that's the point here actually, because some of the seemingly random props (a guitar, a bust, unrolled bolts of silk draped across the furniture) are the kinds of things you would see in renaissance or baroque portraiture.

Of course with the good comes the bad, starting with hair and makeup; it's just wrong. I can see what they were going for, but it looks like the screwed up, beauty school version of it. Plus, I just don't think that smokey eyes suit Jennifer very well. It's not her look. I'm also a little disappointed in the styling. They neglected some of the more striking looks in the collection, instead picking some of the duller pieces from a lineup that was extremely rich and colorful. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not a firm believer in the collection itself, but I do think there were much more photogenic pieces in it to choose from than some of the ones seen here. I also think the lack of variety in the looks and colors that they chose, focusing mainly on the blurry, streaky prints in muted colors from the second half of the collection, ends up taking away from the individuality of each image. In the end it's a solid campaign that has a lot going for it, but just misses the mark on being really good. It has, however, made me far less cynical about the whole celebrity-as-model thing. I wouldn't have thought that possible.

all photos from

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Flashback: Dior Haute Couture Spring Summer 2000

To celebrate my 50th post, which, considering I started this blog one boring, sleepless night during fashion week is kind of a big deal, I'm going to look back at what was one of the most controversial fashion shows ever presented. It also happens to rank amongst my all time favorite collections.

The collection that John Galliano presented in the first month of the new millenium provided me with my very first hit of a wondrous drug known as Dior Haute Couture. I don't know how, why or where I first heard of this collection, a collection that has since gained a level of infamy within the industry, but I do remember hearing about it and after all, that's the most important thing. Even so, at my age and having not yet fully immersed myself into the world of fashion I didn't realize just how big a deal this collection was. The collection was inspired mainly by the homeless population that John frequently saw during his morning runs along the Seine, with inspiration also pulled from Charlie Chaplin's iconic "Tramp" character, Diane Arbus' photography of social outsiders and oddballs, mental patients, and the artist Egon Schiele. Pretty intense stuff, huh. But keep in mind that Galliano is nothing if not a romantic. From the earliest part of his career he has loved to concoct stories built around an impoverished, eccentric muse, whether real or imagined. As I've heard it explained by him in many an interview, including one for
back in 2001, he imagined that these people had chosen to live outside of society, to retreat from their lives and that out of their need they inadvertently created a kind of style all their own. Also brewing in John's head was a desire to expose the inner workings of haute couture garments, while also chipping away at the elegant, respectable image that Dior had always maintained.

The clothes themselves drew heavily on the deconstruction and reconstruction techniques championed by the Japanese and Belgian avant garde designers who first gained noteriety in the early 80s, as well as his own experiments with deconstruction from his days at Central Saint Martins. With his penchant for drama and romance, as well as the expertise of Dior's atelier's, Galliano managed to make deconstruction, something which had been firmly established as an aesthetic unto itself, all his own. Probably the most interesting thing about this collection, and for me the real genius of it, is the dichotomy between the impeccable craftsmanship and the worn, destroyed look of the clothes. That the garments were painstakingly crafted by hand using the finest materials and most precise handwork, and yet look as though they've been ripped to pieces and are libel to fall apart at the seams is probably the most brilliant bit of "high/low" fashion I can think of. Another thing is that this collection was shown to an audience that included some of the worlds most well-off women, with the hope being that they might buy the clothing, and yet the clothes themselves were inspired by poverty. I mean think about it, many of these haute couture clients give donations to or throw benefits for various charities. It's not unlikely that somewhere along the line they've done something towards helping those in need, and yet they're being offered a selection of incredibly expensive fashion to buy from that looks like the clothes worn by the very people they've worked to help. It's completely perverse really, a fashion mind-fuck for the ages. The controversy that resulted from this collection was so great that it was being discussed heavily outside of fashion circles. While I can understand some of the sensitivity that the public felt about the topic, I think that Galliano was dead on in that SHOWstudio interview when he pointed out how hypocritical it was for people to attack him for his perceived insensitivity and vulgarity in using poverty as an inspiration, given how so many of the go-to cultures and destinations that designers look to for ideas are completely poverty striken themselves. Besides, other artists have found inspiration in povery, but since fashion is often derided as vapid, useless and shallow it's a much easier target for criticism than contemporary photography or painting.

By far my favorite pieces in the collection were the four closing looks, inspired by Egon Schiele. The gowns were entirely de-and-re-constructed, featuring fans of fabric held up by exposed boning, asymmetrically sliced slits bound with lacing, angled seams traced with a shadow of black tulle and trains with lopped-off hems. Each of the gowns were streaked with paint in faded colors taken directly from Schiele's work, and the illustrative quality was enhanced by the aforementioned tulle, which was veiled over the fabric. That little trick gave the seams the look of dashed off brushstrokes, as well as making the creamy silk taffeta look a bit like canvas that had been ripped off of it's frame.

That was the real beauty of the collection, the romantic little details, from belts of twine strung with
objet trouves (broken jewelry, books, miniature liquor bottles, love letters) to the raw edges on the fabric which had been delicately frayed by hand, one thread at a time.

To this day I think that this collection was one of Galliano's best, and certainly most thought provoking. It was such a huge departure from the elegance, drama and overt glamour that he built his reputation on and which had characterized his work at Dior up until that point; that alone was risky. Combined with the subject matter and the inherent social commentary within it you have to at least respect just how far out on a limb John went. Even though I don't believe he was deliberately trying to push buttons (that just doesn't seem his style) he had to have known that there would be some reaction to this collection. The fact that he stuck to his guns and did what he felt without hesitation is proof, to me anyway, that he is one of the few fashion designers who truly is an artist.

all photos from

Friday, August 7, 2009

Not A-mused...

I finally took the time to go up to the Met and check out this years Costume Institute exhibit, The Model As Muse before it closes this Sunday, and as promised here's my $.02. Honestly there was a part of me that was debating whether or not to even bother since it's such a schlep up Madison by bus to get to there. I just wasn't as interested as I've been for past exhibits, and the only reasons I went were a) because you're not required to pay the full admission fee at the Met and there aren't many things to do in Manhattan for $3 and b) because I haven't missed an exhibit since Chanel in 2005, and I wanted to keep that track record going. Plus, I figured maybe I'd be surprised and it would be better than I thought...didn't quite work out that way, such is the power of positive thinking. I'm sure I'm making it sound like it was just a train wreck, and that's really not the case. As always Julian d'Ys did an amazing job with the wigs, masks and "makeup" that adorned the mannequins, and the set design was pretty good, particularly in the "Grunge" room (graffiti on the walls, dim lights and Nirvana on the sound system). But on to the subject itself. Being that the focus of the exhibit was models there were a lot of photographs, more than any other Costume Instititute exhibit I've seen anyway. There was everything from prints by Penn, Avedon, Newton and Meisel to archival issues of Vogue displayed in showcases. Getting to see such iconic images, like Avedon's "Dovima With The Elephants" or Erwin Blumenfeld's January 1950 Vogue cover of Jean Patchett up close and personal was actually pretty cool.

"The Doe Eye" by Erwin Blumenfeld
Vogue Jauary 1950

Sunny Harnett in Gres by Richard Avedon
Harper's Bazaar September 1954

"Dovima With the Elephants" by Richard Avedon
August 1955

Marisa Berenson by Hiro
Haper's Bazaar February 1966

Twiggy at FAO Schwartz by Melvin Sokolsky

"Fetching is Your Dior" by Chris von Wangenheim
Christian Dior advertisement 1976

But the photos were just part of the story. The other part of the story was the clothing. The exhibit was divided into rooms which each housed a decade, and therefore represented a "look". It started with post-war Paris, since really the mid-to-late 40s were when the idea of the supermodel was born. In that room there were poised, haughty looking mannequins with arched brows and red pouts dressed in clothes from the golden age of haute couture like Balenciaga's "shawl" coat and sack dress, and evening gowns by Charles James. The next room focused on the 60s youthquake, the mod era of Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Rudi Gernreich and early Saint Laurent. The centerpiece of this room was three aluminum dresses worn in the movie "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?" rotating on a platform under psychedelic lighting. Then came the 70s, which was pretty much glossed over with one small display showing what was supposed to be a V.I.P room at a club, but struck me as looking more like a painfully hip Williamsburg loft space than Studio 54. Lounging on a couch were one group of mannequins in gilded peasant blouses and ball skirts from Saint Laurent's Ballet Russes collection, and another group in slinky Halston jersey. Like I said, the 70s disco era was completely glossed over in terms of clothing. Then of course came the 80s and the supermodel era, which you'd think would be treated as some sort of holy grail kind of experience given that everyone (not including me, however) worships the supermodels. Here's what the supermodel era amounted to as far as Harold Koda and his team of curators is concerned; a couple of Versace, Chanel, Armani(?), Ralph Lauren(??) and Donna Karan (???) looks in front of a projection of George Michael's "Freedom" music video. That's all. The pinnacle of the model obsession and all we got was a music video and some clothes. I can't imagine why Azzedine Alaia wasn't featured in the exhibit given that this room was so utterly flat. I mean, are Ralph, Donna and Giorgio really the designer names that come to mind when you think of the supermodels? Where was Mugler, or Galliano, or Dolce and Gabbana even? After that came the phase of alternative beauty embodied by grunge and unusual looking models. The clothes were nothing special, mainly just some grunge looks from MJ's infamous Perry Ellis collection and some Anna Sui with a side display of Prada and Helmut Lang to cover the "minimalism" end of the 90s, but the room itself was pretty cool and completely blew the f-ing supermodel section out of the water.

The post-war years: Balenciaga (left photo), Charles James (right)

The 60s Youthquake

The late 70s

Alternative beauty - 90s grunge

One thing that was done in an attempt to really combine the two concepts of models and clothing was to recreate iconic images using mannequins and the actual clothes that were photographed. So there was a life-sized recreation of Dovima with the Elephants or a group of models dressed head-to-toe in Charles James photographed by Cecil Beaton, Peggy Moffit in Rudi Gernreich's "monokini" from 1964 and Brooke Shields' infamous Calvin Klein jeans ad. Unfortunately these little vingettes were limited, and the majority of the clothes were really just like a brief walk through fashion history, and were basically incidental to the pictures of models wearing them. Ultimately they weren't the focus, and about halfway through the exhibit I found myself thinking that the theme would make for a much better photography exhibit than a fashion exhibit since the images were what it all boiled down to.

All in all, not a great exhibit. Like I said in my post about the Gala back in May, I think calling the exhibit "The Model as Muse" is completely misleading because the truth is that the models didn't actually inspire the clothing, they merely embodied an aesthetic that the designers were striving to achieve, so to imply that Peggy Moffitt inspired Rudi Gernreich to bare a woman's breasts, or that Gianni Versace never would have printed Warhol's image of Marilyn Monroe on a gown had it not been for the models he surrounded himself with is simply untrue. The most that can be said about the women to whom this exhibit was dedicated is that their images defined an era in fashion, which is nothing to scoff at. But ultimately that doesn't have anything to do with clothing because the clothes would have come about with or without the models who wore them. This wasn't so much a fashion exhibit as it was an examination of changing ideals of beauty throughout the second half of the 20th century. I stand by my statement that this subject would have made a much better photography exhibit, since that was really the focus here. But since there was also a Francis Bacon exhibit open, I wouldn't consider my $3 completely wasted.,,,,,, metropolitan museum of art