Thursday, March 12, 2009


John Galliano

John Galliano fashion shows are always a highly anticipated event, even if the previous collection was something of a let down, as was the case with Spring/Summer. Regardless, he is one of the few designers whom people seem to really count on to lift the spirits when the rest of fashion is a little low on joy and excitement. And it seems that when he does have an off season, it makes people even more hopeful that he'll really pull off a great new collection. While he succeeded in putting on a good show this season that's all he really managed. Don't get me wrong, the clothes were far from being bad, and I really don't think that John is capable of doing truly bad clothes, but they were both extremely costumey and out of touch with where fashion is.

Staged in a warehouse with a fake snowstorm falling for the duration of the show, colored lasers were used to create the illusion of a tunnel, like the snow was falling around the models in a cylindrical shape. This was actually the most amazing thing about the show, and my description of it hardly does it justice. The set, or rather special effects in lieu of a set, could have been the prelude to any number of things. Even though it was a snowstorm, the blue-ish cast from the lasers made the whole thing seem much more sci-fi than anything else, which might have been a welcome change from Galliano. He's never really been much of a futurist. The closest he's ever come to sci-fi territory was his F/W 1999 Haute Couture collection for Dior, partially inspired by "The Matrix". But it could have gone anywhere. Where it wound up was in Eastern Europe, territory that John has covered before both at his own label and at Dior. I was pretty let down right away. The opening looks combined the bundled, rounded shapes of Russian nesting dolls with the flared out Faustanellas worn by Greek soldiers. What that amounted to were jackets and coats with panniered hips that were sort of an extreme take on Dior's padded Bar jacket, and hugely flaring skirts in varying shades of gray. A gray checked wool coat had angularly cut shoulders, though the structure wasn't stiff like all of the shoulder pads we've seen this season. A black skirt was inset with godets in a yellow floral pattern while yellow flower embroidery traced the edges of the peasant blouse that was worn with it. After the monochrome looks that opened the show came a section of looks, predominantly short with full skirts and voluminous tops in bright red, royal blue, white and black that wre further lavished with Gypsy-esque embellishments and embroideries. Most of the skirts were paired with loose, billowy peasant blouses, while others were worn with heavily decorated jackets. A royal blue A-line coat was covered in thick black embroidery around the edges, and there was something vaguely Christian Lacroix about it. Overall this section of looks might as well have been a bunch of national costumes, at least that would have made sense. As fashion however, I just don't see what could be taken away from it, and I don't just mean in the sense of what can be worn. I mean, what's in there that women are going to desire, to aspire to? What is going to inspire them? The whole "Gypsy/bohemian" thing has been established time and again as more of an aesthetic than a trend, so it's not as if anyone is going to see this and feel the need to adapt it for themselves. And it's just so literal that I really can't look at this and feel inspired by it on a purely creative level either because the truth is, I just don't think it's that creative. So I was just left feeling pretty uninterested in the first portion of the collection.

Being that this was a very small collection, just 30 looks and most of them repetitive, the national costumes moved right into Galliano's signature bias cut eveningwear. While not much more interesting than the first 2/3 of the show, it was certainly the most wearable and the most beautiful part of it. Eight gowns, all in shades of gray, silver, and one in black, were beyond ethereal. Some were transparent, shown only over jeweled thongs, others were in metallic silk, one came draped in gray fringe and all of them were accessorized with veils, crowns of jewels, heavy Byzantine jewelry around the neck or waist, and a rosary. The whole look was sort of a combination of icons from Eastern Christianity and Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride". The dresses themselves, while nothing new for Galliano, were still mesmerizingly gorgeous, and even though I'm getting really tired of the transparency thing, I can't deny that. But then again, John has an instinct for making beautiful dresses. His bias cut numbers are stunning even when they're stripped of any kind of embellishment or dramatic styling, so maybe I'm being too easy on him there.

I really wish I can say that the collection moved me, but beyond reassuring me that Galliano hasn't lost his flair for the theatrical, it didn't do anything for me. This is mostly because it's just entirely out of touch with things, and I don't mean money-wise. I would be more than happy to indulge John in some over the top fantasy, especially now considering that money and wearability has become more of a priority than ever in the fashion world, but it's depressing that his inspiration has absolutely nothing to do with what's going on in fashion or outside of it. I mean, beyond the fact that there is minimal, if any, true imagination involved in this collection (it's basically a bunch of extreme takes on various national costumes) the whole folksy/gypsy/ Eastern European thing has been beaten into the ground for the time being. I could see if that was his aesthetic in a nutshell, just like Ann Demeulemeester is consistently dark, brooding and slightly gothic even when those things aren't in fashion, but that's not the sum of his aesthetic. It's one tiny fraction of the whole thing. And even in the past when John has done really out there collections for both Dior and his own line, they still do relate to the mood of things. I mean, even his completely over the top Victorian Dolls collection of S/S 2004, which may have seemed insane in a season that was in a very Gatsby sort of mood, the overt, delicate femininity of it made sense because really that's what everyone else was doing as well, just in a different way. But in this season, when designers were largely creating very strong, polished, aggressively elegant clothes his faux-naive peasant blouses and paisley prints make no sense. While I'm fine with his attempt to make people forget about things for a little while and maybe bring some joy to fashion in a pretty joyless moment, it would have been nicer if it didn't feel so trite.

Louis Vuitton

Question: What do you get if you cross Marie Antoinette with mid-80s Haute Couture and add a touch of the Pigalle district?

The Louis Vuitton F/W 09 collection, that's what. If Marc Jacobs' own collection in New York set the stage for the prevailing obsession with the return of the 80s this season, then his collection for Vuitton both cemented that obsession, and offered a different take on it. Instead of the the drug fueled glam club scene 80s or the hard edged Mugler/Montana 80s, the Vuitton show picked up on another side of Parisian fashion in the decade, the joyous, poofy, colorful, eccentric 80s of Christian Lacroix and Emanuel Ungaro. It was a much more overtly feminine take on the era than what has been shown for four weeks now, low on glitz, low on aggression and high on exaggerated prettiness. If most of the collections have left people seething at how literally the 80s is being used, the Vuitton collection actually did manage to deliver some clothes that wouldn't look retro worn today. Essentially what the show boiled down to was using things like ruching, tucking, folding and gathering to create volume. There was a certain haughty feel to things in that a lot of the looks were very pulled together, very "done", but there wasn't anything fussy about it. Combined with an almost cartoony girlishness and a tarty attitude, the whole thing made me think of a girl who has pillaged her mother's vintage couture, ripped it apart, reconfigured it for a night out and wears it with all the elegance of a streetwalker. It was that mix of something really chic and "Parisian" with something kinda trashy that made me like what I was seeing. The opening looks were mainly in black with one brightly colored detail; a long teal or coral ribbon tied at the waist, a candy pink lining peeking out the hem of a jacket, a hot pink pom-pom nestled in a puff sleeve. They weren't garish like neon, but against the black clothes they made an impact. A fantastic LBD came with two mismatched sleeves; on one there was a huge ruffled poof at the wrist, the other had a puff at the shoulder with the aforementioned pom-pom peeking out. A mini skirt was made of overlapping loops of black ribbon trimmed in fuschia and was worn with a jacket made of strips of fur. After the black with bits of color green looks started to come into play, first as a black coat with rows of scrunchy ruffles that was actually kind of ugly, then as a tulle and printed fabric tutu worn with a darker sweater and matching bra. There was also a tailleur of tightly ruched olive green iridescent taffeta worn with a giant black bow that looked like bunny ears. Those bunny ears popped up throughout the collection and added a really fun, Helmut Newton-esque touch.

After a few exits in shades of blue there was a black coat, very simple and chic, belted at the waist with two giant puffs on the cuff of the sleeves. Needless to say I love it and would die if I saw someone gutsy enough to wear it on the street. A midnight blue tailleur paired a short cropped jacket with short puff sleeves with a puckered skirt that had a huge puffed up ruffle around the hem. Even though I can see the 80s in it, I think it could absolutely work as an outfit on the right girl. As separate pieces, it definitely could. I don't see how that skirt is any more or less retro than the bubble skirts that first got huge a few years ago and still refuse to go away in certain market sectors. A beige draped dress in matte and shiny silk on Stam was worn with those black bunny ears and patent leather thigh high boots with lacing up the back. It was a weird mix of pretty and vulgar, but I liked it...though something tells me we'll be seeing a lot of these bunny ears when the fall magazines start circulating. That look led into a section of similar face powder beige and Barbie pink looks accented with black. A simple draped short sleeve mini dress in pink was probably one of the least threatening looks in the entire collection and I could see it on any number of girls in a heartbeat. There was also a fabulous brown leather coat with a slight bubble shape on the bottom that gave the model a fantastic figure. How it'll look on a girl that already has hips remains to be seen, but hey, it could work.

And just like last season, the looks kept coming and coming. Bright color, bubbled, ruched, be-ribboned and tucked to the nth limit. There was a really cute look that paired a plain black long sleeve top that had a big blush colored ribbon at the neck with a short, transparent black bubble skirt that had rows of what looks like pleats running horizontally across it. It was lined in the same blush color as the ribbon on the top and paired with trashy patent platform boots with ribbons lacing up the front. Another fitted black mini dress had a panel of colorful print ruched across the front and a slight ruffle at the hem. It was, I hate to use the word cause it sounds kind of cheesy, but it was sassy. It had attitude, and I like attitude. There were some pieces with dense paisley-ish patterns on a red or yellow background paired with matching leggings, striped t shirt/tunic mini dresses, a voluminous astrkhan coat, a fitted wool motorcycle jacket paired with a pleated bubble skirt and gold brocade hooker boots, and finally a shiny lame and tulle bustier paired with capris that had a huge ruffle around the cuff followed by a ruched lame mini dress worn with patent hooker boots.

I actually love the spirit of the collection, particularly the joy in dressing up and the fact that none of it is taken so seriously. I also think that, unlike Jacobs' own collection, there are bunch of really great pieces in here that aren't complete throwbacks to another era. But I really don't mind the 80s vibe of this, particularly because it's such a different side of the 80s then what has been popular for a few seasons now. I get that it's not something that will appeal to everyone, but I was actually kind of surprised by how negative some of the comments were towards it on tFS. When compared to last season's LV show, which was pretty well received on tFS, I can't see how this is so bad. Yes it's tacky and over the top, but so was last season, probably even more than this was, so I really didn't get the complaints about this being too much. It was as if the handful of really, really bad looks were all people were seeing, while the good look or the look that were a least really fun got ignored completely, and I have a theory in regards to that. I think, and I may be wrong, but I think that people who have an interest in fashion are sort of trained to hate the 80s. All I've heard about for four weeks of shows on the Fashion Spot is how horribly, dreadfully evil the 80s were in terms of fashion and how anything inspired by the 80s should be nailed to a cross, not worn by people today. Now, I'm sure some of the people moaning about the return are old enough to have lived through the 80s and experienced wearing these clothes first hand. That's fine, but that doesn't mean that a younger generation should be told that they should hate the clothes as well because they're ugly. But the thing is, the people who lived through the 80s probably aren't the best people to lay judgement on this whole comeback that's being staged right now simply because their opinions aren't unbiased. Then there are those who didn't live through it and probably hate it because they're taught that the 80s = BAD. Sure, there are people who these clothes simply don't appeal to on a gut level, but I'd guess there's a decent amount of people who don't hate the clothes, they just hate what they think the clothes represent. Let's be real here, most of the high fashion clothes in the 80s weren't hideous, in fact, plenty of them were beautiful and also pretty interesting in their newness. It's the look of the 80s that's so abhored, the big hair, big makeup, big nails and big jewelry that went with the big shoulders, not the shoulders themselves, but I don't know if many people would be willing to stop and think about that. Sure, there were bad fashions in the 80s, but from what I've heard in my 2 short decades there have been bad fashions in EVERY era. I mean, polyester leisure suits, bellbottom jeans worn with patchwork leather jackets, vinyl minidresses....none of those things sound particularly appealing to me. Yet the 80s is always the one decade that is declared universally bad because of the bad things that happened to come with the good. I just don't get it, and I probably never will. Don't get me wrong, I understand that at this point people are probably sick of having the 80s redux rammed down their throats, but let's keep "sick of" and "hate" separate. I'll be honest, I really do hope the 80s thing dies down by next season. Not necessarily because I'm so sick of it, though I am, but mostly because if I have to endure another four weeks of complaints about the 80s I may just have to start following sports instead of fashion.

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