Tuesday, May 26, 2009


So here we go folks, a brand new ad season is closing in and the first glimpse of something new is a preview of Givenchy's F/W 09 campaign. I've never been really wowed by a Givenchy campaign before, often finding them boring and kind of uninteresting. Since Riccardo Tisci started in 2005 his campaigns for the label have been shot by Dutch duo Inez & Vinoodh, which could perhaps be why I've never been especially moved by them (I don't want to say I've never liked anything by I&V, but it's rare that I do). But in the past, despite not liking the images much, I have always been intrigued by Tisci's choice in models which can only be described as eclectic. Lately he's been mixing hot new faces (Iris Strubegger, Edita Vilkeviciute, Lakshmi Menon), Givenchy perennials (Lara Stone, Mariacarla Boscono, Natasha Poly) and interesting curveballs (Frankie Rayder, Ujjwala Raut, Kristen McMenamy, Adriana Lima) on his runways to great effect, and the result is some of the most interesting casting around. This season Tisci decided to replace I&V with another dynamic duo, Bourdin-worshipping golden boys Mert & Marcus. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with M&M. Occasionally they really bring it, but more often then not their formula of inhumanly airbrushed perfection and cartoony color just grates on my nerves and bores me to tears. So I wasn't really sure what to expect when the results were unveiled. The fact that for a while Adriana Lima was the only girl mentioned as part of the cast wasn't exactly reassuring. However, what we wound up with is actually pretty solid, if the preview is anything to go by. Set in a fancy-pants boudoir, the cast, with their death stares and severe makeup, looks like some kind of really chic cult of sexual predators or something along those lines. I really like the contrast between the fussy interior and the aggression of the girls and clothing. Then there's Adriana's solo shot. It's kind of what you'd get if you crossed a George Hurrell photo of Jean Harlow with a Marilyn Manson groupie circa 1997, and I mean that in the best possible way. She looks nothing like "Adriana Lima" the bubbly, boobalicious, ultra-glossed Victoria's Secret angel everyone loves, and for that alone I'm kind of impressed. I wouldn't have thought it possible. There's also this Leonor Scherrer, the one who looks quite a bit like Malgosia Bela, thrown into the mix. Until I read the blurb posted from WWD on tFS, I had never heard of her before, though I found out she's the same woman I had seen in a picture by The Sartorialist that I loved. Overall the result is pretty different than what I would have expected, and if I didn't know that Mert & Marcus were behind the images I probably wouldn't have guessed it.

I don't want to say that I'm in love with them just yet, because I've yet to see the rest of the campaign and it'll probably be a few more weeks at least until more campaigns debut, but there is something about these that I like very much. Hell, it could just be that I really like the cast and the look, the whole "I might drain your blood as foreplay, I might not" kind of vibe. One thing's for sure, I can't wait to see more.

All images from wwd.com via MissMagAddict at theFashionSpot

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Life's a beach...

For the last few years Karl Lagerfeld has made it a tradition to ditch Paris and take his pre-season collections for Chanel around the world. The collections have shown up at Grand Central Terminal in New York, an airplane hanger in L.A., a theater in Monte Carlo, The Raleigh Hotel in Miami, and somewhere in London (can't remember the venue, it wasn't anything amazing though). This year's destination for the 2010 Cruise collection was Venice, and the inspiration, at least in part, was one of the cities most well known residents; Peggy Guggenheim. This being a Chanel collection though, Coco's spirit was definitely not far. So what do you get when you combine the artsy/bohemian chic style of Guggenheim (with more than a dash of the Marchesa Casati thrown in for good measure, if you ask me) with Coco's signature understatement and easy femininity, a bit of Visconti's "Death in Venice", and more than a hint of the city itself? Well for starters you get a great location. Shown on the Lido beach at dusk with wind blowing off the sea, the set was already worlds better than some of the borderline kitschy locales and sets Lagerfeld has chosen before (that airport show was just plain cheesy. It's jet set, we get it..) and I imagine it was pretty picturesque as well for the lucky bastards who were there. Now don't get me wrong, I would've LOVED to have seen models maneuvering from one teetering gondola to the next on the grand canal, or vying with the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco for space on the runway, but I'm a realist. I know that salt water and bird droppings just don't mix with expensive handmade clothing. Still, it would've been nice to be able to look at the pictures and see "Venice", ya know? But I'm just splitting hairs, cause from the pictures at least the location looks gorgeous. When I initially heard that Venice was to be the destination, I was a little worried. Given Karl's penchant for cutesy gimmicks that can sometimes drown an otherwise chic outfit (like the plastic "Barbie Doll" purses from Fall, or the mini 2.55 bags that looked like alcohol monitoring anklets back in '08 for example) I was dreading what seemed like the inevitable parade of straw boater hats tricked out with Double-C's and striped gondolier's sweaters thrown in with Carnival masks, or something equally touristy. I can thank the fashion gods that Karl thought better of this, and that where he did use nautical stripes, he managed to make them look grown up and chic. The first looks out were probably some of the most theatrical and "costumey" looks I've ever seen from him; black swimsuits worn with billowing black capes, tricorne hats and sunglasses perched on a rod to look like those masks worn at a masquerade. Even though they were no doubt inspired by the Venetian carnival celebration, there was something very "Eyes Wide Shut" about the looks, and having the slightly perverse sensibility that I do, I quite liked the Kubrick vibe. From there Karl went right into the Visconti allusions, sending out sailor-inspired tailoring, dresses and knitwear, but even though the first looks out were a kind of homage to the characters in Visconti's film, the clothes basically fit in with the whole early-20th Century life of leisure/jet setting thing that Coco herself embodied. Really the only thing exciting about the looks was the hair and makeup. Every model was outfitted with curly, fluffy little bobs (some better looking than others) and smokey eyes. Now here's where the whole Marchesa Casati thing comes into play for me. About 1/3 of the wigs were red, and paired with the dark eye makeup, the models wearing them really did seem to have been styled to look like her. It wouldn't exactly be random if Karl worked a bit of La Casati into the collection. She did spend a good portion of her life living in Venice, in the very same palazzo that Peggy Guggenheim would purchase after the Marchesa lost her fortune and was forced to sell it, which would then become the Peggy Guggenheim collection. But wait, there's more! According to something I once read (don't actually remember where I read it, just that I did), when the Marchesa's belongings were auctioned off, Coco Chanel herself was one of the bidders. So there you have it. No matter what, everything goes back to her. Karl knows his Coco lore, and for the first time it seems, I do too.

Anyway, from the sporty and nautical inspired opening looks, Karl moved into more decadent, and what I imagine could be called "Venetian" territory. Chiffon dresses were printed with baroque scrollwork over the signature double-C logo. Mini dress and cardigan combos came covered with gilt embroidery or vaguely mosaic patterns. A stunning printed column with a Fortuny-esque kind of vibe came with embroidery around the collar and under the bust, and was cut to leave the sides completely exposed. And dropped waist chemise dresses came accessorized with gorgeous necklaces and bracelets that popped up throughout the show. This being a Chanel collection, there was, of course, a number of tweed suits. Some of them had the jackets worn open over a bra and girdle type thing peeking out from the high waisted skirt, and I have to admit, it was kind of refreshing. For some reason I tend to find the tweed suits, arguably Chanel's most well known look, kind of stuffy a lot of the time. It's just something about tweed itself, I suppose. But like I said, it was refreshing to see them worn with a sort of, I hesitate to say vulgar attitude, but it sure as hell didn't look stuffy. For me though this Chanel outing was all about the dresses. Each one of them just really easy and beautiful. There was a gorgeous Venetian red off-the-shoulder column with sheer sleeves, a strapless draped black satin number worn with an incredible drop necklace that hung all the way down to the waist, a short red lace number with buttons up the front and billowing split sleeves, and an ecru column with metallic beadwork forming a Y down the front. All of them had that sort of slinky glamour of the late-teens and 20s.

I think that's why I liked a lot of the collection. I find that Karl does some of his best work when he channels that sort of flapper side of Chanel. I don't know what it is exactly, maybe it's the ease and simplicity of the fashions that defined the era, as well as the fact that Coco herself helped to champion those ideals. Maybe it's that there's less room to go all out with the baroque embroidery and heavy detailing that Karl loves to indulge in. Thinking back, most of the Chanel collections that I've really liked over the years have had a bit of a 20s flavor to them, even if it wasn't overt. In a way I think the paired down presentation helped the collection as well. Not that renting out the stretch of beach, flying in models, crew and clothing, and making sure all of the guests were able to get there as well is what anyone would call understated. But there was something really pure about having the models walk a straight line up and down a runway, or boardwalk serving as a runway, with nothing but a natural backdrop and lighting to set the scene. I've grown a little tired (okay a LOT tired) of these monumental Chanel presentations lately with the huge sets and all of the "Chanelisms" crammed into each outfit. Something like this, more intimate, more special, and more restrained, just seems really appealing. I guess the whole thing, clothes, location, styling, show, all just clicked for me. Needless to say, I haven't liked a Chanel collection this much in a
long time, and it's nice to know that Karl can still have that effect on me.

All images from Style.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flashback: YSL Spring Summer 2001

I've been thinking a lot about this collection lately, mostly because in the eight-and-a-half years since it was presented nearly everything shown in it has returned to the forefront of fashion (read: pleated tapered trousers, shoulder pads, the 80s in general). But I've pretty much always had a soft spot for this particular collection, and it was definitely one that helped shape my own tastes when I first got into fashion. The whole package is just so desirable; perfectly styled, sharply dressed, the right mix of masculine and feminine with more than a hint of sex waiting to be revealed. The odd thing is that for his very first effort Tom Ford did a really good job of making a clear statement by injecting a lot of himself into YSL and not getting bogged down in the legacy of the house, which is pretty immense. Interestingly enough (or maybe not so interestingly, considering the bitch fest that Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge were throwing at the time) the collection was met with lukewarm-to-negative reviews, with the main criticism being that it was all Ford and no Saint Laurent, or as someone quoted in the NY Times review put it, the collection was "slick -- and 'slick' is not what you'd call Y.S.L."

At the time it was shown I couldn't have cared less one way or the other, I just liked what I saw. Eight years worth of learning about fashion later and I can honestly say that I think the criticisms weren't entirely fair, and that you most certainly can equate the word slick with Saint Laurent so long as you bother to look beyond the respectable, fussy, bourgeois work that defined that latter half of his career to the erotic, scandalous, perverse things he did when he first established himself. No, this collection didn't look like Yves designed it but it did have an awful lot of what he originally stood for within it, interpreted through Ford's own aesthetic of course, which is exactly what should happen when a new designer is charged with working for an established house. That's the other thing that's gotten me thinking about this collection again, Stefano Pilati's recent work. When he started at the house his work was very feminine, very colorful and kinda fussy, much more like the work Yves did later in his career rather than the radical things he did when he started out. For the last two years though Pilati's work has grown progressively more severe, cold, and conceptual; the very opposite of Saint Laurent's ideal woman. Ford's own collections at the house went in the exact opposite direction, becoming more romantic, more overtly feminine and more subversive in their use of sexuality and seduction as he spent more time there. This all got me wondering; Why was Ford's work constantly criticized for not staying true to the house's DNA while Pilati's recent work is getting heaps of praise even though it's incredibly similar to what Ford did when he first took over? At the very least, Pilati's new work should be equally as criticized for not remaining completely true to the DNA of the house, because from where I'm sitting neither of them have addressed the whole of the Saint Laurent legacy, they've both chosen to focus on particular facet of it, which in truth is probably the smartest thing to do. But why criticize one person and praise the other when in reality they're doing the same thing, just in different ways? I just don't get it to be honest, and the only conclusion I can come up with is that a lot of people just wanted to find fault with Ford's work regardless of what he did. I'm not saying he was any more right for the house than Stefano Pilati is, but at the very least his cold, hard, sleek woman looked a hell of a lot more appealing. But you don't have to take my word for it...

Shown entirely in black or white, with the only shots of color being metallic gold or lavender wedge sandals and the occasional burgundy orchid tied around the models' necks, Ford concentrated mainly on sharp lines and construction, keeping texture and embellishment to a minimum. Le Smokings featured sharp shoulders, deep necklines and either pleated, tapered trousers or fuller cut cuffed trousers that fell over the foot. Occasionally they were worn with plunging, angular vests that looked like cummerbunds when worn under a jacket. For all of the structure though, there was a really sexy slouch to a lot of the tailoring, particularly in the pants. One of the recurring motifs throughout the collection was wrapping around the waists on dresses, tops and jackets, and I remember seeing the graphic black and white tank dress worn by Kate Moss in more than one editorial that spring. A top with a transparent back paired with a straight skirt was an update of Saint Laurent's iconic dress with the lace back photographed by Jeanloup Sieff in 1970, and paired under every look were boned garters and silk stockings. I have to say, I find something incredibly glamorous about sheer black stockings worn with a strappy sandal. And even though you can't see the garters on most of the looks, knowing that they're under the clothes is pretty f-ing sexy, especially on the more masculine inspired looks, don't you think? You can kind of see the garter underneath the second white smoking, and a clearer shot of it in the pic of Maggie Rizer from the side. Her look shown from the front is completely unremarkable, just a drapey knit top and silk trousers, but when you see that side view of her backstage the look takes on a whole new feel and you can't help but want to curse the photographers for not getting a shot of that on the runway.

As the collection moved from basic daytime separates styled with a decidedly after-dark feel into more traditional evening options, the wrapping that appeared throughout the collection became more structured, turning into obi-esque bands around the waist on some cocktail dresses and on a strapless bustier paired with trousers. The only real decoration shown in the collection made an appearence in the form of black feathers embroidered onto black dresses or on the lining of square panelled skirts with a train in the back. There was a trio of tulle covered mini dresses, tuxedo jackets spliced into asymmetrical harnesses or dresses, a gorgeous black satin three-piece smoking and an extremely sharp white bandage dress with the afforementioned obi detail. The final look was definitely where Ford let loose and had some fun, sending out an anatomically correct molded leather bustier complete with a diamond barbell pierced through the nipple, an homage to the copper molded bust and torso that Saint Laurent comissioned from sculpter Claude Lalanne in 1969 to be worn over chiffon evening gowns. I cannot fully express how much I love that particular piece. I know it probably makes me some pervy misogynist or something like that, but I love it. And I think this collection was a clear case of just how trained Ford's eye for details and presentation was as well. From the layered fringed hair that dipped over the models' eyes to the ribbons and orchids tied around their necks, right down to the tiny little "cigarette case" purses that came complete with lighters that slid out of the side. I kid you not, they came with working lighters. Check the blog header if you wanna see it for yourself. I might actually be convinced to take up smoking if I knew where to find one.

I really do think that given the current fashion climate, and the nearly ten years since it was shown, this collection definitely deserves a re-evaluation. It's just too chic to ignore.

All images from Firstview.com. To see the entire collection, click here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Party of the Year?

Every year I, along with countless other fashion following die-hards, await what could arguably be called the most fashionable event of the year, especially these days now that the Oscars has become so predictable in terms of the red carpet. The Costume Institute Gala, held every May, always packs a major fashion punch because the rules that apply on other red carpets just don't hold any water here. It's encouraged, if not expected, that anyone in attendance go all out. So why is it that this year there were many, many looks that either did nothing for me at all or left me scratching my head thinking 'WTF?". This year's exhibit "The Model as Muse" has left me feeling a lot less anxious to trek up 5th Ave. to see it than I normally am, mainly because I think it's stupid-bordering-on-insulting that the models, most of whom cannot be called muses, are the focus instead of the clothing. But I'll await judgment on that until I do drag my ass uptown to see it. I will say this though, given the evening's theme I was expecting big things on the red carpet if only because every non-model female guest would have to contend with unnaturally beautiful women and presumably up their respective antes in order to do so. Unfortunately that was not to be, and a lot of the models upstaged everyone else. Last year's Superhero themed event, 2007's Poiret event, 2006's Anglomania, 2005's Chanel and 2003's Goddess themed evenings all had some fantastic fashion moments, so what exactly went wrong here? First, as my fellow tFS-er Kimair already pointed out there were just too many people in miniskirts, and for every one that worked, there were many more that looked cheap or underdressed. Call me crazy, but I love a gown, I always will, and really, even for a celeb how many events can you go to where "the more dramatic, the better" may as well be the dress code? Combined with an overwhelming amount of tough, clunky shoes and booties too many people wound up looking more appropriately dressed for clubbing than they did for a gala. But like I said, there were some mini-length looks that worked for me.

First there's co-chair Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs. Now normally I find her style pretty overrated, and I still don't get what the whole obsession is about. But as sick as I am of her face I gotta say, the dress is gorge, kind of a modern take on 30's movie glamour, and the turban is a fun, theatrical touch. The only thing I don't love is the shoes. A sandal with tiny, painful little straps over the toes and ankle would've looked better.

Next there's Stam in Rodarte. Love it. Love the colors, love the soft hair and darker makeup. Love the accessories (here the tough, chunky shoes work). Need I say more?

Then there's the stunning Alek Wek, who has never looked better imo. The truth is, I'd probably hate the dress on someone else for being too garish, but with her coloring and that dramatic makeup I'm kind of swooning over it.

Another look that under normal circumstances I'd be hating was Sasha P's Giambattista Valli. With the exception of the tiara, I think it's just the right side of kooky and dramatic. Either that or it's true that models do in fact know how to wear clothes, and can make a peacock feather cape and mini dress seem like a great idea.

Now, onto the gowns...

Iman. Donna Karan. Platinum/ivory hybrid color. There was just no way in hell it could've looked bad.

Natalia Vodianova in a pink Fortuny "Delphos" looked great. The color was just unusual enough to be noticed in the sea of neutrals and brights, she's gorgeous as it is, and I'm obsessed with Fortuny. It wasn't a standout look per se, but her choice to wear Fortuny is pretty fabulous in and of itself.

Iris Strubegger (who has quickly become one of my favorite faces on the runway) looked amazing in one of my favorite looks from the Givenchy S/S 09 couture collection. I rarely say fierce, preferring to save it for special moments when my inner queen just can't help herself, but I'd say it applies here...

Another stunner in Givenchy was Kristen McMenamy. I love her, and I love the dress, so even though I'm slightly disappointed that she chose something from an older collection, I'll get over it. Plus, how ballsy is it to wear white when you choose not to color the gray in your hair? I love ballsy. Always will.

Erin O'Conner looked just as fab as always in Gaultier Couture. Seriously, the dress and pose makes her look even more long and lean than she is.

A controversial choice as far as most on tFS were concerned last night; Blake Lively in Versace. I love the color, I love the sleek hair and makeup, sure the girl can't pose and the dress is slit down to here and up to there, but my guess is that if that dress showed up on someone else very few people would be ripping the wearer to shreds and saying she looked like a slut. Do you really mean to tell me that Gisele didn't look just a smidge on the trashy side in a sparkly blue micromini? Come on people, double standards!!!

As for Shalom Harlow, let's just say that Lisa Fonssagrives would be proud. This isn't the first time she's worn a dramatic, borderline weird look to the event. in 2007 she wore a fringed Viktor & Rolf gown and cape, and just like I did then I think this look works.

I adore Coco Rocha in this bronze Isaac Mizrahi. The color with her pale skin and deep red hair is a risky, but pretty damn fabulous, combo.

And finally, some much needed guy candy in the form of Mr. Chuck Bass himself, Ed Westwick. I couldn't care less what he's wearing. I will throw this suggestion out there though, him + Tom Ford menswear = a very good thing....just sayin'.

Other than that, nothing much to write home about. Due to the drama between Azzedina Alaia and Anna Wintour, the red carpet probably missed out on some fabulousness since something like 7 people were slated to wear his clothing, including Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour, who decided to sit out in protest with him. I think the whole thing is so silly. I get why Alaia's pissed that his work was completely ignored for the exhibit despite the fact that he was HUGE during the Supermodel era, but to me his asking the women he designed clothes for not to wear them was kind of foolish. The ultimate revenge would have been to have all of those women show up looking incredible in clothing by a designer who wasn't given his due. Instead the whole thing comes off like a hissy fit from a temperamental diva who asked his friends to pick a side.

Now for the WTF moments I had mentioned earlier.

Erin Wasson in Phi: This is a look that's begging for someone to give her a good slap across the face for completely ignoring the fact that she's attending an event that's become known as "The Oscars of the East". Wintour and Co. should institute a door policy or something. Anyone looking like they've got a hypodermic needle in their clutch and day old underwear on is not permitted.

Dr. Lisa Airan in Balmain: This isn't a Kiss concert, hon. I usually think she looks ridiculous and overdone though, so this is no surprise.

Agyness Deyn in Burberry: No joke, the first thought I had was of Gene Hackman in drag in "The Birdcage". It's a shame cause the dress was pretty on it's own.

Molly Sims in Dolce & Gabbana: You know what that beautiful gold Christmas gift-wrap looks like after a kid rips it off of the box? This is it in ensemble form.

Anne Hathaway in Marc Jacobs: I actually liked this dress on the runway. But here the hem looks about half a foot too short. I'd almost be willing to overlook that if it wasn't for the Jacqueline Susann hair and jewelry.

Victoria Beckham in Marc Jacobs: I'll admit, I like the dress. It's cute and kinda fun. But she always, always overdoes everything. Her skin is too tan, her posing is too posed, her hair and makeup are always too severe for her bone(y) structure. No matter what she wears the bad always seems to overshadow the good for me.

Rhianna in Dolce & Gabbana: The word dopey comes to mind, trying too hard is a close second and ridiculous comes in third. A safe bet is this, if an outfit looks silly ON the runway on a model it's practically a given that it's gonna look silly on a real person in real life where you aren't strutting to a thumping beat with a spotlight glaring on you. And WHAT is with her obsession with driving gloves? They don't go with everything ya know!

Madonna in Louis Vuitton: If you can't figure out my reasoning for this one, what the hell are you doing reading this blog?!?! Seriously though, I kinda liked that dress on the runway (though even without the stupid styling the dress is way too youthful for a 50 year old woman). I kinda liked those boots on the runway. I even kinda liked those bunny ears on the runway, but combined as one outfit on someone who, it must be said, is becoming more and more past her prime everytime she's seen the whole thing comes off as tragic.

It was a pretty odd night as far as Met Galas go. There wasn't much "WOW" to be had on the carpet, and even the selection of guests wasn't as fabulous as usual. I just pray that the exhibit isn't as much of a letdown as the event was, but be assured that when I do go to see it you'll be getting a rundown.