Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paint it black-ish...

Alexander McQueen

Last season was only the second time since launching his menswear line in 2005 that I was impressed by an Alexander McQueen mens collection. The first time was with his F/W 2006 collection, and not surprisingly there were quite a few similarities between the two. You could say that they were both "very McQueen", encompassing all of the things he's built his name on, delivering interesting, beautifully made clothing and inspired creativity in one dramatic package. So I was pretty excited to see what he had in store for S/S 2010, and wouldn't you know it? I was entirely let down, not to mention further reminded of why you should never, ever get your hopes up when it comes to fashion shows. This season McQueen opted out of a runway presentation, and that was strike one against him as far as I'm concerned. McQueen is a great showman, adept at creating an environment unto which he can project the clothing. Instead of his usual runway theatrics he and photographer David Sims collaborated on a short film (a growing trend lately, with Viktor & Rolf, Gareth Pugh and Stefano Pilati all getting on that bandwagon recently). I don't necessarily have a problem with creating a film to accompany a collection, so long as it's not some pseudo-arty piece of tortured soul b.s. Unfortunately that's exactly what we got here, and there isn't one moment in the clip that actually shows the clothing, unless McQueen is launching an underwear line now. By all means, go to alexandermcqueen.com and check it out for yourselves. It's short enough that it won't kill you or bore you senseless. My opinion? The film was an ultimately useless expression of the frustration that come along with being creative (seriously, the only thing I could think after watching about half of the clip was "yeah, been there and didn't make a mini-movie about it"). The clothes, presented in a lookbook, seemed to take inspiration from the life of an artist, meaning that a lot of them look like the kinds of crappy, beat up basics that an artist throws on to stand in front of an easel for hours, paint splatters and all. Needless to say the clothes were nowhere near McQueen's creative level. Honestly most of them weren't even marginally creative, let alone works of art in their own right. Sure, the tailoring was sharp, but even there it was done in such a run-of-the-mill kind of way. There was no surprise, no "how did he and his patternmakers do that?" shock, unless you want to count a ribbed athletic cuff at the hem of wool trousers as a surprise (and that's been done, it's nothing new). There were a few jackets that had brush-stroke edging to give the look of the piping or binding that comes on traditional English schoolboy blazers (also something that's been done), a white shirt with a sketch of an eagle printed on the chest and faded and bleached khaki trousers worn rolled up. For the most part these clothes were just that, clothes. I don't think you could really call them fashion. Judging from what I can see they just don't seem to cross that threshold into being something more than a garment.

Other pant options, besides the checked wool work out pants, Ralph Lauren looking khakis and bland, traditional trousers in bland, traditional fabrics were navy pants stained with paint splotches (again, been done by everyone from D&G to A&F). A shirt and jacket appeared to be assembled from god only knows how many pattern pieces that had the look of a quilt, unless it's in fact a print or some kind of woven design in which case they're far less remarkable. Then there were two looks, one a navy suit another a white shirt and navy pants, that had paint stains in the shape of hands on the chest and crotch, you know, cause no artist or house painter can resist groping a dude in dull tailoring. These pieces in particular were slightly offensive to me, and not because I've become some prude overnight. They offend me because the joke element of the hand prints is so utterly low-brow. It's cheesy, juvenile and gimmicky. The only thing I can credit McQueen with is actually having the balls to make them in the first place instead of letting that little blip of creative silliness pass. There was a suit that appeared to be streaked with silver paint, but the streaks were in fact woven into the fabric as opposed to painted on. It was kind of beautiful looking, though as a suit there is an unfortunate Tin Man effect that I doubt was desired. The last two looks were the most, or depending on how you look at it, only interesting looks in the collection; a vest/shirt combo and a jacket/shirt combo in an abstract digitalized mirror image like the prints McQueen used for his S/S 09 womens show. I'm actually kind of curious to know what images were manipulated to make the prints. Beautiful as they are though, I don't think I'd ever want to wear them. They're very busy, too busy even, and ultimately not something I see many men wearing very convincingly.

Overall, I don't think it would've been possible for me to be more let down than I was. The collection is brief, bland, not particularly creative, and lacking in the kind of beautiful, perfect clothes that make you overlook those things. For all of the tortured artist mumbo-jumbo that the video alludes to the collection sure as hell doesn't make good on what's promised, at least not as far as I can tell. What's most upsetting is the thought that last season, and F/W 06 for that matter were simply fleeting moments of creative clarity when McQueen's head was in the right place at the right time. It's depressing really, that one of fashions greatest contemporary talents has gotten to a point where his output is so uneven. Maybe Lee's more of an artist than anyone realizes, his creativity slowly burning away in his head and driving him to self-destruction. Hey, weirder things have happened.


So apparently for S/S 2010 Miuccia Prada sees life as one big gray area, and really, what could be more apt given that the world is broke, people aren't buying clothes and for the last few years most men's fashion has been stuck in the midst of puberty, giving guys who don't fit the gawky boy-man mold (ahem, me) a complex. But oddly enough, given that her collection was almost exclusively rendered in shades of gray the statement itself was as black and white as they come. There was a formality to the collection, with echoes of late 50s/early 60s menswear, but it was broken apart and softened to make sure the look wasn't retro. Prada stated that among her inspirations were black and white movies and the desire to make men feel "sexier, more beautiful, more sensitive—he wants to be vulnerable." and I actually think that, at least on the first two points, she succeeded. There was a certain sexiness to the looks (if you ignore the Lurch-like models blankly glaring into the camera). The show started out quietly, dully even by Prada standards, with a single breasted graphite colored jacket with narrow lapels worn with trousers in a slightly lighter gray and a deep v-neck top instead of a shirt. Then another variation on that look, the jacket now in charcoal. From there the jackets went from single to double breasted, only it was a single button double breasted look which, imo, isn't all that great looking. Combined with the drapey, straight cut it looked kind of sloppy, and one thing that a double breasted jacket should never be is sloppy, not to mention that the single button look strikes me as kind of dated. Much nicer were the infinite cardigan combos that were shown. Some were classic with sleeves cropped at the elbows and the hem of the white tees underneath peeking out for some contrast. Others were sleeveless, worn over sweater vests and sleeveless button downs with ties. Then with look 7 the detail that would be Prada's obsession for the season made it's first appearance. It was that same sleeveless cardigan, sweater vest and shirt combo, only now the cardigan and vest were perforated to look like mesh.

From there the perforations took over, with everything from coats, crewnecks, sleeveless mock neck tops and polos, right down to the shoes and occasional fedoras that topped some looks. There were four looks that combined jackets or parkas with short-shorts (a look I'm still not behind when it comes to menswear). Those looks were some of only a handful that had any kind of pattern or print to them in the form of small checks, dense paisley-ish patterns and what looks like some kind of digitalized herringbone. Aside from those pieces the rest of the collection was done entirely in solids. After this there were more iterations on the tailoring and knitwear that opened the show before Miuccia fully gave in to her obsession, sending out entire outfits in black that were marred with perferations which gave the pants a transparent look not unlike the organza bellbottoms she proposed for women back in Spring of '08. I wasn't exactly fond of the pants, mostly because I think they're just silly. Transparency for women serves two purposes; it creates a feeling of lightness and softness which serves as a foil to the seductive nature of see through clothing. You can be the Madonna and a whore while wearing the same dress. However men's methods of seducing aren't the same as women's, and seeing the silhouette of a pocket and knee high dress socks doesn't exactly have the effect of whipping me into an erotic frenzy. Who knows though, maybe it works on women. Anyone care to elighten me?

In all fairness, those perforated pants were really the only missteps in the collection. The rest of the clothes were essentially just good looking, well tailored classics tweaked through both fabric and cut. Even those perforated knits look completely believable to me. I can totally see those working as layering pieces for any number of urban males. Ultimately though this collection doesn't make as strong an impact as last season's menswear collection did. They were both based on the same premise, transforming classic staples of men's clothing as a means to transform the wearer, but while that one left so much room for interpretation, this one doesn't seem to have a very strong subversive undercurrent, at least not one that I've picked up on yet. I'm not about to knock it for that though, because ultimately the clothes look good and that should be the real gauge of whether or not a collection was successful. Who knows, it may prove smart on Prada's part that she didn't propose anything threatening this time around, because the next time she chooses to it'll pack even more punch than usual.

All photos from Men.Style.com

Monday, June 22, 2009

Want. Need. Now...

It's always kind of a good thing that the mens collections for the following spring are shown just before the current summer even hits it's peak. It means that guys like me who love fashion and don't want to wait 'til next year can update our wardrobes as the shows on the runway unfold. I mean, I can't be the only one who does that, can I? The Milan menswear collections for S/S 2010 are under way and so far things are looking up. Maybe it's the current crappy weather that has been hovering over New York for what feels like a month already, but I'm definitely needing a bit of lightness, ease and color, and some of the collections so far are doing a pretty good job of keeping my attention.

Bottega Veneta

There are always those collections, few and far between as they may be, that leave me with no other thoughts but "I like it". It's rare. I'm one of those people who always has a thought on fashion shows, as this blog proves. But this season's Bottega Veneta collection has left me simply liking what I see, no thought process or deeper meaning necessary. To be honest, even if there is some kind of story or message at work in this lineup of looks, I don't care enough. I'm too distracted by the pieces. BV is always a good looking collection, even when it slips into predictability. This season however, on top of looking good, things were also quite a bit less predictable. The mood was a bit more youthful and casual, the colors were more bold and the whole thing came off as kind of playful and (gasp) fun. Leather baseball jackets, colorful polos with contrasting bands around the sleeve, safari jackets, floral wallpaper patterns and tie-dye were some of the things that made an appearance, and that was just within the first 15 looks. There was a great tie-dye cardigan in cocoa brown, sage green and seafoam paired with olive green shorts, tailoring in grapey purple, poppy, and brick, sometimes worn as full suits, other times worn with bright pink or orchid colored v-necks for contrast. Preppy striped fabric was dyed with splotches of blue, red and pink, and a ridiculously gorgeous aubergine washed leather jacket may very well have been designed specifically with me in mind. Seriously, that's one of my absolute favorite colors, and unfortunately it's pretty uncommon for menswear. There was also a leather baseball jacket like the one that opened the show in that same shade of purple with sleeves in pale blue. Soft, drapey tees and fine knits came in a variety of reds, coral and oranges, and were worn with tapestry patterned cropped pants that were oddly cool looking, though they're not exactly a look I'll be trying to replicate. And for evening preppy navy blazers were paired with checked shirts and creased jeans worn cuffed at the hem.

The one thing that I always appreciate about BV, both for men and women, is the ease. Even if it isn't always my taste I like that the clothes always look comfortable and easy to wear an yet completely pulled together. It's worn in and familiar, but never sloppy, the perfect look for a summer wardrobe. The whole collection is filled with pieces that I'd like to own and wear asap. Hell, it even has me wanting to wear bright color, and that, my friends, is huge.


What is it about the exotic clash of cultures and time periods in North Africa that keeps designers so transfixed? I've never been to the region myself, but my fantasy images of sun-bleached villas, bustling souks and barren sand dunes baking in the heat are enough to sustain me. It was this imagery that the Versace collection was drawing on for S/S 2010, and boy did it have an intoxicating effect. Shown in airy shades of white, cream, beige, gray, and khaki with shots of rich tan, inky blue and black the collection was a wonderful mix of ease and formality. The opening look, a crisp white suit with double breasted jacket and wide cut slouchy trousers was worn with a knee-length djellabah/shirt hybrid tunic. A creased suit in buttery cream was worn over a taupe t-shirt that almost, almost had the look of being stained by sweat, but in a romantic, swarthy, non-gross kind of way. A beautiful ivory suit had a jacket with patch pockets on the front taken from safari jackets, and one of those airy tunics worn open underneath. There was a fantastic collarless cardigan (or unstructured jacket, hard to tell) that had toggle closures up the side which was worn with one of the many great looking pairs of pants in the show, not too tight, not too baggy and with a slit at the ankle to help it break over the foot. After the whites and creams came looks in dusty grays, taupes and streaky, tone-on-tone tie dye or reptile skin prints. A matte snakeskin jacket with asymmetric button closure was particularly lust inducing, as were the boys in itty-bitty, teeny-weeny earth and animal print bikinis. When it comes to Milan you've gotta love the guy candy, but that's material for an entirely different kind of blog.

From there the clothes moved from soft, warm earth tones to cool, soothing shades of gray. There was a gauzey dip-dyed button down worn open over a deep v-neck top with pants that had a bit of sheen to them, a streaky printed tunic worn under a dove gray trench, and a sleeveless shirt with military epaulettes paired with wide leg pants. As with the rest of the collection the looks had a languid ease to them, though the color palette was decidedly more urban looking than in the first half of the show. By this point those djellabah/shirt tunics started to seem like a pretty good idea. Honestly if I had Versace-type money burning a hole in my wallet, I wouldn't be entirely opposed to trying the look out. It's very Saint Laurent in Marrakech, lounging on a pile of pillows smoking some kind of pipe or another. The final passage of looks was all in black and geared more towards evening, but even here there was nothing overly formal about the clothes. Options included black and white striped blazers worn over one of those printed, sheer knit collared sweaters, a cardigan with some kind of frogging or toggles down the front (not nearly as silly looking as it sounds) paired with sharp black trousers, and a final version of that omniprescent tunic in glazed black fabric (likely cotton) paired with a classic jacket and pants.

I kinda loved it. The mood was right, the looks were right, the colors and prints were right and best of all the lineup was filled with pants for men who have thighs. But even better than that, the pants were good looking too!!! The whole package was just really desireable. As practical and unthreatening as the clothes and colors are, there's still a sense of fantasy to it all due to the subtle ethnic and militaristic touches. Were I offered whatever lifestyle it is that these clothes portray, I'd be hard pressed to turn it down, especially in this horrendous weather.

All photos from men.style.com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Crusin II...

Marc Jacobs

In a riotous mix of color, print and eras (though not as riotous as S/S 09) Marc Jacob's collection for resort 2010 was a mix of old Hollywood, vacation cliches like sailor stripes and souvenir prints, mid-70s Parisian bohemian, and mid 80s party girls. Sailor striped tops were embellished with tropical flower motifs, intentionally cheesy floral printed bandeau/skirt combos and jackets were right out of the tourist-in-a-tropical-locale handbook, and cropped trousers in vintage geometric or paisley patterns could be right from the flea market. A red and black party dress was covered in a print that, from a distance looks like some kind of flower but up close is actually made of colored scribbles. A sheer black mini dress had bands of neon across it that kind of looked like barbed wire. It was paired with a gray tweed jacket edged with shredded neon fringe. And a black cap sleeved wrap dress covered in pop colored parrots had the same feel to it that Saint Laurent's 40s collection; vintage, a little trashy and flirty.

From there things became a bit more decadent. Orchid pink satin shorts were paired with a cropped black jacket trimmed with what looks like passementerie that recalled late 70s era YSL. A blue short sleeved jacket with a slight peak in the shoulder was paired with more of those cropped trousers, now in a shiny jacquard. Ochre satin high-waisted shorts were worn with a printed blouse with billowing sleeves, and the final piece was the dress worn by Kate Moss to the Costume Institute Gala back in May (I still love it, though it fit Kate better than Olga). I'm currently reading "The Beautiful Fall" by Alicia Drake, about the Paris fashion scene of the 1970s, and this whole second half of the collection looked like how I imagined Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise to have dresses back then, a mix of high fashion with the bohemian spirit of Biba and Ossie Clark in London. Every single look was paired with massive platform sandals that made me think of the shoes Jodie Foster wore in "Taxi Driver". So there you have it, a mad mix of looks that spans who knows how many eras, trends and personalities, but could you expect anything less from fashion's favorite mix-master?

Miu Miu

In contrast to Prada's kitschy, almost cartoony take on destination dressing, the Miu Miu collection was a slightly more sedate affair. Still sticking with a vaguely "life of leisure" vibe combined with the 70s infused bourgeoise sensuality of the F/W collection, the look was a mix of athleticism and glamour. Think Saint Tropez, the rich, fashionable Parisian elite on holiday spending their days by the pool or on the tennis court court, lacquered red lips and all. The main portion of the collection was built around maillots, worn as layering pieces under short tennis skirts, slouchy track jackets, and beachy cover-ups for day wear. Shown in muted shades of beige, cream, pale celery green, and a super pale blush pink. Two sheer halter gowns in a gorgeous retro Calla Lily print (worked in two different colors for the top and bottom of the dress) were worn over plain maillots and had a blouson effect at the waist that billowed in the back.

Long v-neck halter dresses were shown in black or a dusty lilac version of that Calla Lily print, while seperates took on an even sportier feel shown in crisp white, navy and black paired with high lace-up athletic looking stilettos. The Calla Lily print made it's final appearences as a short red on black shift, a red on black maillot worn with a pink on black A-line mini, and a black on lilac full skirted mini dress. Closing the show were three short dresses in the same pale solids that opened the collection trimmed with bands of taupe and embellished with oversized buttons. Like I said, the whole thing had a very 1970s life of leisure feel to it, clean, sporty, a bit louche but tinged with undeniable glamour. I have to admit I'm loving it, probably even a bit more than Prada, but mostly because this collection has a whiff of decadence and vanity to it that Prada didn't.

all photos from Style.com

Thursday, June 4, 2009



This season for resort Miuccia Prada has returned to one of her recurring themes, the quirky mid-century suburban housewife. This time around she, her husband and their two-and-a-half kids have packed up and headed to a warmer climate on holiday. Bright, beachy colors like candy pink, lemon yellow, coral, sky and cerulean blue, red, and orange were mixed together in eye watering combinations that are definitely not for the faint of heart. Draped batwing tops were paired with short, layered A-line skirts. Mini shifts had color blocked bands around the skirt hem. And bikini briefs with ties on the side (very Malibu Barbie) were layered and worn with two-tone button down shirts or sweater vests.

After the bold solids there came a retinal assault of prints. Vaguely wallpaper prints, bold geometrics borrowed from Prada's F/W 2003 collection, overblown paisleys and illustrated tropical florals were used for everything, from wrap skirts with ties on the side, blouson tops with contrasting trim, preppy button downs, v-neck mini shifts, more of those A-line skirts and dropped waist chiffon chemises, and in almost all of the looks there were at least two prints used at a time. Combined with the Carol Brady hair the whole collection had a fun, kitschy vibe to it. It reminded me a lot of Miu Miu's S/S 2003 collection, just in a more extreme form. Overall I'm not in lust with it like I have been with Prada lately, but I'm definitely intrigued to see how, or if, this collection has anything to do with the S/S show.

Calvin Klein

Francisco Costa's recent collections for Calvin Klein in the last few years have managed to preserve the integrity of the house by making contemporary, clean, timeless clothes for an urbane, unfussy type of woman while also taking the identity of the house forward. While I admire the fact that he does such good work channeling the house DNA in new ways, there are occasional times when I've longed for the ease, simplicity and cool sensuality of Calvin himself, not to mention that I have grown a wee bit tired of the lack of color on CK runways in recent years. Granted, Klein himself was never known for bold, intense color, but he didn't use exclusively black, white and shades of gray either. For resort 2010 Costa has brought a little bit of that easy sensuality back to Calvin Klein in a collection that was much more light and easy than his recent work has been. Eschewing strict tailoring and severity for transparency and soft volume, Costa used a subtle palette of different whites and parchment, smoky grays and slates, and a handful of what I call "hybrid" colors. One was a sort of faded citrus yellow/green, another was a dusty mauvey-nude, and yet another was a pale creamy tawny orange. Like I said, they're hard to describe, much like Calvin's own color choices were back in the day. Separates consisted of narrow cropped transparent trousers, sheer organza jackets and coats that closed asymmetrically, and simple textured tops. Those trousers appeared throughout the 24 look lineup alongside occasional skirts with an unusual drape to them. More than separates though this was a collection of beautiful dresses, many featuring off-the-shoulder necklines that highlighted the collar bone. With subtle transparency and volume in the skirts they were extremely feminine without being the least bit girly.

A stunning shift in a slate gray had the transparent portion worked over the arms, while a strapless dress in charcoal had a deflated bubble shaped skirt with pleating across the front. Ivory or beige dresses had a soft drape over the hip and hems that fell to mid calf, while two full length gowns in shimmering gray or ivory organza closed the show. The whole lineup, even the pants, was a reminder of Calvin Klein's obsession with underwear and his penchant for making a sexy, unassuming little slip dress. The only real flat note (if you'll pardon the pun) in the collection was the shoes. Boyish lace-up oxfords or ankle high pixie boots did nothing for the clothes, and rather than doing what they were likely intended to do, contrast with the lightness and softness of the clothes, they just looked awkward. The clothes weren't all perfect, but it was the most "Calvin" collection Costa has done in a couple years and I really hope that he continues on this train of though for spring.

all photos from Style.com