Thursday, July 30, 2009

The not-so-glamorous life...

So even though I completely railed on the Gucci F/W collection (and I stand by that review) I admit that I was looking forward to seeing the ad campaign for it, which mainly had to do with the casting. The female models include Raquel Zimmermann, Anja Rubik, Abbey Lee, perennial Gucci droid Natasha Poly, Myf Shepherd (couldn't pick her out of a lineup if my life depended on it), Ernest Hemingway great-granddaughter Dree Hemingway, Freja Beha, vintage Gucci Girl Jacquetta Wheeler, and unexpected curve-ball Jamie Bochert. Now, in my opinion Frida Giannini's taste in models skews pretty bland for the most part, not to mention almost exclusively white (no change there, unfortunately), so I was thrilled to hear that this collection would break the cookie cutter Gucci mold of late with seasoned Gucci veteran Jacquetta and quirky underground fave Jamie. And I'll admit that even though the clothes shown on the runway were beyond tacky, they at least make for lots of visual interest, as well as having a built-in nightclubby vibe to them. So needless to say I was expecting something really fun, really glam, and maybe even a little sexy or edgy...not unlike the F/W 06 campaign shot by Craig McDean. My expectations were high, higher than they've ever been for something that Giannini's had a hand in doing, and I was eagerly awaiting the finished result. The result, however, was so anticlimactic that I now find myself wondering why I was ever interested in seeing this campaign to begin with. Like I said in my post about the Givenchy campaign, I'm not an Inez & Vinoodh fan. Their appeal usually eludes me. I don't really get a distinct point of view from them, and more often than not I find the results of their work completely unimpressive. In fact the only times I can think of where I've liked their work was their Balenciaga campaigns from the early 00s, and the one Gucci campaign they did with Tom Ford back in 2001. Other than that, nothing, and this campaign has done nothing to change that. What all of the glitter, glitz, camp and trashiness of the runway amounted to was a white backdrop with black platforms and an overcrowded group of models striking random "unposed" poses while never interacting with each other. That's one thing I can't stand, intentionally random stuff that looks like it was meticulously planned. I'm fine with meticulously planned perfection, and I'm fine with meticulously planned randomness that looks effortless, but I HATE meticulously planned randomness that looks rehearsed, and this does. Plus, could the concept be more boring? If you're going to latch on to a cliche, and at this point that's exactly what the whole 80s nightclub thing is, then ride it 'til the very end. In all honesty, with less models this would make a decent enough editorial concentrating on graphic clothes or something like that, but as an ad campaign? How does this really differ from the mind-numbingly boring studio shoots that Anna Wintour is repeatedly lambasted for doing at Vogue? This is just as boring as far as I'm concerned.

After seeing three of the final shots already, I have a pretty good feeling that this won't get much better than it is now, though I'd be thrilled if I turn out to be wrong about that. Oh I'm sure that there will be at least one good shot among the lot of them, but I doubt if it'll be anything worth remembering. In a strange way I can't even fully blame Frida for this campaign. Yes, she had final say in everything, but that F/W 06 McDean campaign was worlds better than this, and I believe she had final say in that as well. I don't even think I'd care as much if it wasn't for the fact that Frida, I&V and both of their creative teams responsible for creating this campaign from start to finish had all of the right ingredients at their disposal; a decent mix of models, visually impactful clothes and accessories, and a fun theme to work with as well. What made them decide to go for the most basic possible result will probably remain a mystery, and one that I'm not even all that interested in figuring out. Consider the lesson learned; never, EVER get your hopes up where Gucci is involved. It's pointless.

images from and NothernStar @ tFS

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I ♥ MJ...

The appeal of Marc Jacobs ads, consistently shot by Jurgen Teller, usually eludes me. I don't want to say I never like them, for instance I thought the campaign for Spring Summer 2009 with Raquel Zimmermann was beautiful, but generally I feel like there's something I'm not quite getting, and that's never a good thing to feel. Given the delirious, over the top, glammy, clubby collection that Jacobs put out for fall I found myself really interested in seeing what the outcome for the ads would be. Then the first image (or rather, a collage of four images) was posted on the Fashion Spot back in June, and my interest was piqued. It was exactly what it should have been, if that makes any sense. Teller's signature washed out photography and candid shots combined with the gritty New York backgrounds and party clothes made for a perfect combination. Now the full series is up on, and for the first time ever I can honestly say that I love a Marc Jacobs campaign.

Like I said, the look of Teller's photography (that poorly done candid kind of look) suits the mood of this collection perfectly, and honestly I don't think the campaign would have been nearly as good were it shot by someone else. And even though I'm not usually a model person, I really love the casting here. The five girls, Natasa Vonjovic, Olga Sherer, Kamila Filipcikova, Irina Kulikova and Ajuma Nasanyana, really delivered, bringing life to the fun, chaotic mood of the photos (especially Natasa who is working the wild-child party girl vibe for all it's worth). I do wish we would have seen more of Ajuma, since she's kind of a favorite of mine and the fact that she was cast in such a huge campaign is kind of a big deal, but that's really the only complaint I have. Sure, the technicolor makeup and mega-sculpted hair from the runway has been toned down and disheveled, but I'm willing to overlook that since it adds to the trashed mood of the images, and they do create quite a mood. I absolutely love the whole "night out" vibe, with shots that go from waiting in your tacky, gaudy apartment or hotel suite to meet up with your friends, to wandering the graffiti covered streets and drunkenly hanging off of the scaffolding (admit it, you've done it too), to the next morning, wandering home in the same outfit you went out in the night before. They're almost like the party photos taken by those inhibition-free, exhibitionistic Facebook devoted youths, just with better clothes. All that's missing is the silly little caption underneath the images. Best of all though, I finally feel like I "get" a Marc Jacobs campaign. It probably won't last, and I'll be completely out of the loop by next season, but nothing good ever does last very long, does it?

all images from

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flashback: Versace Haute Couture Fall Winter 1997

In July of 1997, twelve years ago to the very day, I was eleven years old, and I can still remember what I was doing when I heard that Gianni Versace was killed. It's kind of like how people my parents age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy was killed. It's one of those memories that remains crystal clear among the haze of other moments in your life. At the time I knew the name Versace, thought I had no idea just how significant he was and how big a deal his death would be. As it turned out, Gianni's swan song, shown a mere week before he was killed, made for quite a final statement. I doubt anyone at the time, including Gianni himself, could have realized just how forward this collection would turn out to be. I mean, being ten years ahead of fashion is like being 100 years ahead in normal time. Now over a decade has passed, and only a blind person could fail to see how influential this collection has been. The biggest story in the collection, both literally and figuratively, was Versace's attempt to bring back the mega shoulder pad of the 80s. Everything including jackets, razor sharp LBDs, knit tops worn with mini skirts and Versace's signature slinky goddess gowns were built on a padded shoulder. Looking at the pictures, these are clothes that could easily have turned up on any number of catwalks in recent seasons. Also, you can't help but notice the similarities between the sharp shouldered black tailoring in this collection and the sharp shoulders that Margiela has been pushing since 2007. Though you can credit Margiela for helping to jump start the current shoulder pad obsession, credit is due to Gianni for putting the idea out there that 80s-style shoulder pads even could be brought back. Not to mention that some of the looks are just uncannily similar to things that Margiela has shown. You'll have to draw your own conclusions from that.

Along with the sharp, aggressive tailoring and major shoulder pads there were floral brocade cocktail sheaths, sparkling crystal mesh mini dresses, padded tubular straps, asymmetric mandarin collars, Japanese floral and Byzantine cross embroideries, corseted leather and gold chain mail mini dresses. The whole collection was distinctly Versace, but from what I've seen of Gianni's archival work this collection is a bit harder and darker than his usual fare...which of course means I love it. Because of the fact that there's virtually no patterns/prints, much less color and embellishment and a predominantly strict silhouette, this collection comes off as almost minimal by Versace standards. Of course, knowing what would happen to Gianni after this collection was shown the dark, severe, borderline somber mood of this collection takes on a certain poignancy. It's a shame that the world never got the chance to see what Gianni would do next, because this collection and the RTW collection shown before it hint at a harder, darker, more streamlined direction. I honestly don't know what the general consensus on this collection is within the industry, but for me this makes for an amazing final gesture from a legendary designer.

Here are all of the images from the collection. Obviously they're not in order, but they're worth looking at anyway.

And unfortunately since YouTube is run by fascists you can no longer hear the music in this short clip of the show, but it was "Smack My Bitch Up" mixed with a bit of opera. Good stuff.

all images from

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Under the sheltering tent...


It's been interesting, over the last month or so, to see the way that the three Givenchy collections presented in the same time frame have related to each other. It started with the Resort 2010 collection, continued with the Mens show for S/S 2010 two weeks ago, and culminated with the F/W 2009 couture collection shown yesterday. All of these collections, which are worked on simultaneously at some point or another, have been influenced in part by North Africa, though in Tisci's hands you can bet that you won't get something all that literal. After seeing the resort collection in June, and then the mens show later in the month, I felt pretty confident that the couture collection would be in a similar vein. It wouldn't be the first time that Tisci's resort collection has been an indicator of the couture show that's shown after it, but even still, knowing the vague direction that this couture show would go in I didn't know what to expect, and in a way that's become one of my favorite things about Riccardo Tisci. He keeps your attention.

The show opened with a double breasted black velvet coat that had an exaggerated hourglass silhouette and a sheer hood, and right away I loved the look. It reminds me a lot of a coat Nicolas Ghesquiere did in his F/W 2001 Balenciaga collection, same wasp waist and all. That's not a put down though, and the silhouette feels somehow fresh for Riccardo. Then came a second coat in strips of exotic leather with a similarly curvy shape, followed by a velvet jacket with built out hips worn with matching trousers. These few looks, though easily the most simple in the collection, were also some of the ones that excited me the most. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you. Then comes look four and you're pretty much whacked over the head by the impact; a black hooded cowl top with full, draped zouave trousers accented with huge golden bibs, facemask and bangles, a look clearly inspired by traditional womens fashions in Muslim and Islamic cultures. After this look there was a black velvet jacket worn with ballooning trousers embroidered with gold beadwork in a vaguely Moorish/Moroccan pattern. I honestly hate the silhouette, but the beadwork on the pants is absolutely gorgeous. There was a flowing black draped chiffon mermaid gown, worn with that same heavy gold jewelry which was followed by my favorite look in the collection; a black turtleneck top paired with a high-waisted black mermaid skirt covered in sequins that had sculptural detailing at the waist. There were jet beaded zouave pants (which looked just as unfortunate as the ones Balmain showed for fall), and a stunning high-necked long-sleeved jet beaded gown with spikes protruding around the chest and shoulders.

If you view the collection in order, look 10 comes as quite a shock after the black looks that opened the show. A pale beige gown with strong shoulders and a plunging neckline was decorated with inexplicable hot pink beading around the shoulders and below the waist. This dress was followed by another with cutout sides and a keyhole neckline, this time embellished with bright green jewels at the hip and scattered down the skirt. Both of the dresses were really quite pretty on their own, and the fabric had some kind of subtle design woven into it, but those garish, cheap looking embellishments made me cringe. In all fairness the green version is slightly more appealing than the hot pink one, but still, it's like taking a beautiful painting and putting it in an ugly frame; the accent ends up taking away from the beauty of the artwork. Then came an ecru jacket cut with asymmetrical flyaway panels at the hem in signature Tisci style worn with tapered trousers. The jacket was embellished with red beadwork in a tribal kind of pattern that was pretty, but having seen an HQ image I have to say I would rather that the detail had been embroidered in thread rather than the chunky plastic beading. It would have been more refined looking. Following this was a strapless gown in degrade silk that went from ecru to intense red at the hem. Compared to the garish neon beading, this use of color actually made sense in the context of the collection. Another look had a top in white with an asymmetrical train draped off the side and back that had illusion sleeves embroidered with more of that red tribal bead-work. Again, I wish the beading had been done more subtly. Even changing the beads to smaller shapes would have helped. I'm just not digging the chunkiness of it. Billowing white veils covered two strapless, embellished bustier looks, one with pants, the other with a sheer skirt in chiffon that I can't wait to see in motion once the videos start popping up. A white sheared fur jacket was embellished with gold studs and chains, and here I thought the chunkiness of the embellishment worked. A strapless white dress was also embellished with gold studs and had an underskirt in black peeking out. And the final dress, strapless, white with embroidered patterns on the fabric and an angular infrastructure giving the silhouette a jagged sort of shape, was kind of dull compared to everything before it. It definitely wasn't a "finale" look, that's for sure.

First for the positive; I love pretty much all of the black looks that comprised the first half of the show. They were beautifully understated and kind of fresh for Tisci. I also love the inspiration behind the collection, and in Tisci's hands it yielded some interesting and beautiful results. The mystery, drama and sensuality of North Africa combined with the incongruent elements like spikes, studs and corsetry worked surprisingly well, and it's nice to see him playing with ideas he's toyed with less successfully in the past (hardware and fragility being one of them). Now for the negative. First, there were just too few looks. Givenchy has majorly skilled workrooms and plenty of people working in them, so there's really no reason why the collection should only contain 21 looks. I'm not asking for some lengthy 40-plus look parade, but 21 is cutting it way short as far as I'm concerned. Besides that, the less looks you have, the less room you have to really say what you're trying to in a coherent way. That was another negative, the coherency was definitely lacking here which is unusual for a Givenchy couture collection. Even when he throws different looks and different ideas out there in one collection there is almost always a good progression, and everything makes sense. But that wasn't the case here. It was too scattered. What did those two neon embellished gowns have to do with anything else he showed? Why was that corseted tailoring that opened the collection dropped after the first few looks instead of expanded upon? I awaited this collection with the standard he set last season weighing heavily on my expectations and unfortunately it didn't quite live up to them, which is disappointing. Also disappointing, but maybe not really worth complaining about, is the fact that a lot of this collection is familiar coming from Tisci. Yeah, the look and details aren't the same, but unlike last season this is all stuff we've seen him do before, and my policy on that is if you don't improve upon something then you shouldn't bother revisiting it.

all images from

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Behind the seams...

Christian Dior

Haute Couture. Just mentioning the words conjures up images of intense beauty, mind-blowing workmanship, and unbridled drama....ideally at least. Unfortunately these last few years the situation has been anything but ideal where Dior is concerned. Instead we've been treated to a string of collections singularly obsessed with the Dior archives. Don't misunderstand, there's nothing really wrong with scouring the archives for inspiration - that's essentially how fashion works - but how many times can the viewing public stand to have the significance of the f-ing New Look jammed down our throats? Seriously, one more season of a Bar suit reprise and I may snap. It's both numbing and painful at the same time. This season, besides finding inspiration in (read; rehashing) the New Look, Galliano found inspiration in backstage images of Christian Dior's cabine models while they were getting ready for a couture presentation, specifically in the state of undress captured in the images and the lingerie that the models were wearing. His desire, as it has been for quite some time now, was to show the inner workings of traditional haute couture. It's a nice notion, but it's not newsworthy in the least. Ever since his infamous Spring/Summer 2000 Hobo collection Galliano and his ateliers have worked to expose the inner secrets of couture clothing. Since that show nine years ago John has ripped clothes apart, exposed linings, boning and padding, turned things inside out and upside down, and rendered the clothes in complete transparency so that every stitch is visible, all with the goal of showing the work that goes into making a couture garment. So this season that means showing padded bar jackets in unsophisticated colors paired with black or flesh-toned garters, satin tap pants and stockings. As a look there was a little jolt to it that was a welcome respite from the stuffy faux elegance everyone has come to hate, but the truth is that this was just a styling trick. Honestly, there was no real undercurrent of eroticism or vulgarity to these looks. They were safe and unthreatening, a kind of sterile, PG-13 soft-core sensuality where any hint of something perverse or even truely sexual is hinted at only in passing. There isn't anything to really read into the looks, which probably accounts for why they're ultimately benign. And let's be real here, exposed undergaments are something that designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Miuccia Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Tom Ford and Galliano himself, notably with his S/S RTW collection for Dior, have already done. Those are just the names off the top of my head, there are countless others who have done it at some point as well. I'm not saying that since it's been done a;ready that no one else can do it, but considering that the arena we're talking about right now is Haute Couture I expect more than just pairing a jacket with stockings. If that's all I wanted I could just buy Vogue Paris. Besides those looks, with jackets that ranged from hot pink, lime green, and yellow to zebra stripes and nude with a black dotted tulle overlay, there were tailleurs with jackets that had a garter built out of the jacket hem, transparent flaring skirts in tulle or pleated chiffon, draped dresses and tops covered with embroidery and a truly hideous deflated orange bubble skirt worn with a black bra and opera length gloves. Even though there wasn't anything remotely fresh going on with the clothes, a simple change of the colors would have made all the difference. If John would just ditch the dowager pastels and tacky brights the clothes would probably feel much less dated than they do...though the drag queen makeup, Irving Penn poses and silly hats that always accompany these collections don't exactly help either.

There were, of course, a number of dresses. A blush and black dotted tulle cocktail sheath looked like the A.B.S. version of the stunning nude and black embroidered transparent dresses John showed back in 2005, while a cherry red organza dress with a frothy top half covered in embroidery was sheer enough to show the stockings underneath. The stockings were nice. The dress...not so much. There was a hot pink pouf skirted dress, the top half of which was a beige bustier, some knee length numbers in some very off shapes that weren't quite draped but weren't truly structured either, and finally a selection of debutante-ready gowns. One look in draped white chiffon had a panel of leopard print down the front that was, to put it plainly, tacky as all hell. Another was a lumpen mass of embroidered pink faille with a skirt that was split open in the front to reveal the garters underneath. A pale lemon tulle skirt was scattered with crystals and worn with a nude colored bra. I get the point of that look, but it's execution is kind of tactless, no? It just looks awkward, and kind of immature as well. The rest were in a similar vein, pairing a corseted top with a full skirt in tulle, lace or one in faille draped in swags and seemingly suspended from the garters attatched to the corseted top.

This was yet another season of territory that has been covered by Galliano before with much better results. I'm truly tired of this obsession that Dior is having with a world that doesn't exist anymore. The days of the salon and the cabine, of gloved hands and outfits that are always finished off with a hat are long dead. I could say it's time to move on, but given that Galliano didn't start his career at Dior obsessing over these things it would seem odd to say that. What he needs is to let go and stop giving the suits what they think Dior needs. There's nothing wrong with looking at the past, but you need to run the inspiration through a sieve so that all that's left is what's essential, and if a businessman is telling you otherwise then any designer worth their praise should know better than to listen. I'd be repeating myself at this point if I expressed how utterly frustrating it is to see this creative rut play out, so I can't even think of anything else to say. The whole formula is stale, and the only thing to do with something stale is to toss it. I just hope that John and/or the Dior execs realize that sooner rather than later.