Friday, December 24, 2010

And to all a good night...



See you in the New Year, kids.

image from guybourdin.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mrs. Draper, you're trying to seduce me...

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the intersection between Hollywood and fashion. On the one hand I understand it and have come to accept that most American fashion magazine covers feature celebrities instead of models, that red-carpet watching has become a national pastime, and that celebs are considered integral to a designer's success. On the other I wish the boundaries between Hollywood and fashion were more clearly defined because the open border between the two nations makes it far too easy for things like Lindsay Lohan to happen to perfectly innocent couture houses. But in all honesty things like celebrities gracing our covers or showing up in a campaign isn't something that pisses me off on principle. As long as the result is good I'm fine with it. Unfortunately the list of quality ad campaigns with celebrity faces is a short one, so in general I don't look forward to the news that a celebrity has been cast. I think so many of them fail to impress because the designer and their team and/or the photographer and theirs seem to think that having so-and-so with the famous face in the campaign is enough to make the campaign. Every so often though there's an anomaly, a case where all of the chips - celebrity, design house, photographer, photographic elements - fall into place and you're left completely shocked that the end result doesn't suck. Such is the case with the hot-off-the-presses S/S 2011 Versace accessories campaign staring Mrs. Draper-Francis herself, January Jones.
There's no mixed feelings about this. Stunning, stunning, stunning. It is without a doubt the best campaign Testino has done for Versace, one that really reminds us of exactly what it is that he's capable of. The choice of celebrity should come as no surprise to anyone since Jones is often seen wearing Versace to events. She's gorgeous to begin with, but she looks absolutely incredible in the shots that have been released so far. I love that the hair and makeup so clearly recalls January's look as Betty, not to mention that her expressions, from wan detachment to icy determination, seem right out of the ex-Mrs. Draper's handbook. But let's be honest here, there's a sexuality to these images that I doubt anyone would associate with Betty Draper. The pin-up poses and teases of nudity are more sex bomb than ice queen. It's a great contrast, and it makes for images that are both aloof and alluring, kind of look but don't touch unless I tell you to. These accessory shots really have me wishing that January was cast for the entire campaign. Clearly she knows how to model, and honestly I'd go so far as to say that she's putting a lot of today's models to shame. Call it sacrilege if you must, but I think that photos like these could even give some of the greats a run for their money. Oh and January, consider your sins at the Met Gala absolved.

images from wwd, telegraph.co.uk and twitter/styledotcom

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shiny, shiny...


In the year or so since I came into contact with my first Bond No. 9 fragrance I've spent a lot of time getting to know the line. For those unfamiliar with Bond No. 9 they're a New York based niche perfume line whose scents are inspired by and/or named after different areas of New York, mainly in but not limited to Manhattan. Bond's got a large range of scents, 40-something in all I think, so familiarizing yourself with the line takes some time. Having sampled at least half of their offerings I think I can say that I enjoy what Bond does. The collection is pretty varied in that there are different scents that will no doubt appeal to different tastes. Some of their fragrances are very classic, some are experimental, and some are just plain fun. Bond is also well known for their whimsical packaging. Many of the bottles are extremely eye catching and highly collectible.

At this point I'd have to say that my favorite Bond fragrance has got to by Silver Factory, which was the first in a series of scents that are inspired by Andy Warhol. Silver Factory is of course named after Warhol's legendary studio space that was famously decorated with tin-foil and metallic paint and which became a gathering place for the eclectic cast of people who surrounded him, everyone from socialites and Warhol superstars like Baby Jane Holzer and Edie Sedgewick to the Velvet Underground. Not only was the Silver Factory the place where Warhol created and produced some of his most iconic prints and films, it was for a time the epicenter of the zeitgeist.

Silver Factory the perfume is an incredibly interesting experience as far as fragrances go, which seems fitting given it's source of inspiration. The most prominent aspect of Silver Factory has got to be the smokey incense that's front and center from the first spray. The rest of the notes are pretty varied, ranging from grapefruit to violet to amber, though they all combine pretty seamlessly. The first time I smelled it there was something vaguely metallic about the first blast, which I was informed is deliberate, although the more accustomed to this perfume I've become the less apparent that metallic aspect is to my nose. Even still the smokey incense that really is the focal point of Silver Factory leans towards the cold side; to me there isn't really any warmth to it like there is with many other incense-based fragrances. I would guess the inclusion of floral notes like lavender and iris probably has something to do with that since they have a somewhat "cold" aroma to them, especially lavender. There's also bit of a sweetness alongside the chilly smokiness, thanks in part (I would guess) to the violets and the jasmine that are in the heart of the fragrance. As the notes blur together in a smokey haze the effect is really beautiful, and while it's not a completely bizarre smelling perfume it is pleasantly unusual.

As I was saying earlier Bond has quite a range of scents that will appeal to different sensibilities. Andy Warhol Silver Factory definitely stands out as something quite different, and I'd say it sits firmly in the "experimental" category. As such it will absolutely not appeal to everyone, particularly those who don't like bold, heavy fragrances. If light and transparent is your thing then I don't see you liking this at all. Floral fans shouldn't be fooled by the flowers that are listed among the notes because it isn't a floral by any stretch of the imagination. If, however, your taste in perfumes leans towards spice, woods or rich ambers then you might want to check this frag out. Silver Factory is marketed as a genderless scent, and to me it really is the epitome of genderlessness. Some might feel that it skews a bit masculine due to the overall lack of anything truly sweet or soft, but I don't really think that it skews one way or the other on the gender spectrum. If anything it's kind of androgynous, which is really how it should be considering who inspired it.

images from bbcicecream and saks.com; for more information visit Bondno9.com

Monday, November 15, 2010

Return of the King...


It's been six long years since Tom Ford took his last bow on a fashion runway, although take it from me at times it's felt like an eternity. There have truly been moments when I have been keenly aware that something was missing from fashion, and not surprisingly those times have usually coincided with fashion week. What I'm about to say might sound like I'm giving Ford too much credit, but I honestly believe that when Tom left Gucci fashion lost a bit of it's luster and excitement, and it still hasn't entirely recovered from that loss. While his departure certainly hasn't been the only cause of that, nor has it been the biggest blow to fashion, looking back it does seem like his farewell was the beginning of the end. Slowly fashion has become less glamorous and less seductive, not to mention that any kind of mystique surrounding the industry has been completely obliterated thanks to factors like the increasing influence of celebrities in fashion, the insane popularity of fashion among people who don't actually know anything about it, and the marketing of fashion as yet another form of entertainment. It also just seems like real fashion moments have become fewer and farther apart. Not all designers can create true excitement with a runway show, or an ad campaign, or a fragrance launch and whether you like him or loathe him the fact is that Tom Ford was, and is, capable of working a fashion moment for all it's worth.

In the six years since he bowed out of the theater of fashion he has collaborated with Estée Lauder, branded his name on status symbol eyewear, created a line of successful luxury fragrances, launched a full-scale menswear collection, dressed countless celebrities in said menswear, opened about 20 free-standing Tom Ford boutiques internationally, directed a critically acclaimed film, and recently expanded into cosmetics with his new line of lipsticks and soon-to-be-released nail lacquers. Writing it all down in one sentence kind of makes you appreciate just how busy he's been, and lord knows a self-proclaimed perfectionist like Ford isn't going to let any product with his name on it escape inspection. But despite all that he's done in the last six years the one thing that his fans have been most concerned with was when Ford would finally go back to designing womenswear and showing on a runway. Back in September right at the start of New York fashion week, after years of waiting, speculation, and wondering "what would it be like?" the news spread like wildfire that Ford would finally be launching his women's collection with an intimate presentation at his Madison Avenue flagship. As the scoop leaked we found out that not only would celebrities be modeling the clothes but that photography of any kind was strictly prohibited. That news just about killed my buzz until the reviews from the show started pouring in the day after it took place. In all seriousness I cannot for the life of me remember a show that garnered such unanimously glowing reviews from those in attendance, and the descriptions of the scene, the clothes and the impressive cast of celebrities, style icons, veteran supermodels and in demand new faces that graced the catwalk only stoked the flames of anticipation. With the reviews there were a few snapshots that quickly made the online rounds, adding to the excitement. It was after the show that the reason for the media ban was announced; Ford would not only be relaunching his website with photos and video footage of the presentation come winter, but he would also be guest editing the December/January issue of Vogue Paris where the collection would be featured in it's entirety. What we didn't know was that American Vogue would also have a feature on Ford's women's debut and that the feature would be available before Vogue Paris. So here it is, kids. Savor it, because who knows how long it will be before we get more.


Gorgeous, not that I'm at all surprised. I don't know about you, but for me winter can't come soon enough. Needless to say that when it does, and when the rest of the features finally become available I will be reviewing the entire collection as soon as the euphoria wears off.

all images from vogue.com thanks to Flashbang at tFS

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walk on the Wild Side...



Here in the Northeast fall is in full swing, and while I'm already sick of the shortened days and I'm absolutely dreading winter I do take some comfort in the fact that this time of year suits my perfume personality better than any other. I've already put all of my crisp citruses, beachy tropical stuff and light eau de colognes in storage and broken out the woods, incenses and ambers. Along with my regular lineup I have a whole slew of new samples that I've been dying to try out.

Thus far I've sampled about a third of the 21 individual scents in Tom Ford's Private Blend collection, which is his own niche-style line. Of those that I've sampled I've only ever worn four of them, and of the ones I've worn Tuscan Leather was the one that made the biggest impact on me. When I first smelled Tuscan Leather, and it was probably close to a year ago, I wasn't at all familiar with leather fragrances, but something about it called to me and I decided to put some on my wrist for the day. It didn't take long for me to love it. There is something very, very sexy about Tuscan Leather. I've always felt that there was something inherently sexy about leather clothing, but I always assumed that it's the look of it and, more than anything else, the attitude it conveys. I never really thought that the smell had anything to do with it's appeal, and frankly I still don't. But it could be that Tuscan Leather is so evocative of the way new leather smells that it paints a clear mental image of the way it looks and feels as well.



To me the spirit of TL is more Elvis' 1968 comeback special or Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" than pre-gentrification Meatpacking District or Folsom Street Fair. It hints at the wearer's bad boy side without going into specifics about what kind of kinky stuff they're into. While that smoky leather stage lasts the feel of this Eau de Parfum is very masculine, even to the point of being butch. At some point, I'd say between the 30 and 60 minute marks, the scent changes subtly. It's almost like a creamy haze spreads over the leather, softening the rough edges and taming the smoke without completely neutering it. That creamy, hazy, softened leather is what remains as the fragrance gradually fades out, and let me tell you, the fragrance fades out very slowly. While I've never actually timed it, I'd guess that one or two dabs of Tuscan Leather lasts for a solid 7 hours, probably longer.

I've truly enjoyed Tuscan Leather each time that I've worn it, and I'm thrilled that it's finally cool enough to wear it. It's probably the butchest, most unabashedly masculine fragrance currently residing in my scent wardrobe. Price notwithstanding (you could buy a decent leather jacket for the same price as a small bottle of this juice) I could easily see myself using it as an everyday kind of fragrance. To me there's nothing about it that's particularly dressy, not that it's really casual either. I guess depending on the setting it could go either way. What does limit it though is it's potency and it's strength. I couldn't picture myself wearing Tuscan Leather once the temperature tops 60° F. The name alone kind of tells you that it's a bit too heavy for the heat. To me Tuscan Leather is the perfume equivalent of a five o'clock shadow; a little rugged, a little dirty, and so very sexy. It's definitely my type.

images from musicaloud.com and fragrantica.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do. Not. Want...

With the number of fragrances I've smelled so far easily in the few-hundred region I'm surprised to say that I've only just come across a scent that, to me, smelled exactly like something else. Oh sure I've smelled things that remind me of another fragrance, I mean half of the products on the average men's fragrance counter smell indistinguishable to me, but I've never smelled something that immediately made me think of another scent. This is just my roundabout way of saying that my first taste of Giorgio Armani's Prive fragrance line was not quite as exciting as I had expected.

The Prive line was launched sometime in '04 or '05 with a small selection of scents that were supposed to be more luxurious and more exclusive than Armani's popular mainstream fragrances, and between the packaging and the price he definitely achieved that much. With spray bottles that come housed in kotibe wood (that's the PR talking, not me) boxes and caps that look like polished semi-precious stones the packaging certainly fits the Armani image; elegance and restraint. And at $185 US for 1.7 oz of juice in it's elegant and restrained container the line does maintain a bit of exclusivity, but when I read on various websites that the plain refill bottles which go into the refined, elegant kotibe boxes had popped up at TJMaxx and Marshall's stores nationwide for around $30 it became my mission to try and score at least one. The two that I was hunting for in particular, Bois d'Encens and Cuir Amethyste, appealed to me for different reasons. Bois d'Encens, a spice, incense and wood affair, sounded like the kind of thing I'm always drawn to, and Cuir Amethyste sounded just unusual enough to be potentially awesome. I never did find any for cheap, and I honestly just put the Prive line in the "low priority" section of my list of things to try. As it happened I was on one of my semi-routine trips to Saks with my intent being to continue my exploration of the Bond No. 9 line and I happened to pass by the Armani Cosmetics counter. Standing there on a perfectly minimal and orderly shelf was the Prive lineup in all it's wood-and-stone packaged glory. I hightailed it over, found Bois d'Encens and went right for my forearm, which I normally don't do but since there were no blotters and no sales associates to find some for me I figured what the hell. Before moving on I decided I needed to smell Cuir Amethyste too, so I grabbed a tissue from the makeup display and doused it. It's tacky, I know that, but I didn't really care.

Bois d'Encens

I had a feeling I would like BdE, which is why I decided to wear it, but I was completely unprepared to encounter something very, very familiar to me once the top notes faded away. Yes folks, for all it's elegant, exclusive packaging and the insane markup that comes with it Bois d'Encens smelled exactly like something that I'd not only smelled before but have been wearing for years. That fragrance, in case you're wondering, is Gucci Pour Homme. I've owned GPH since about 2004 and have worn it pretty steadily since, so I was shocked and frankly pretty amused to find that the $185 Eau de Parfum that was currently on my arm smelled exactly like something that I already own. For those of you who aren't familiar with Gucci Pour Homme it's a woody incense fragrance that was released in late 2003. I've read comparisons between GPH and cedar/pencil shavings, but there isn't any cedar in GPH. That's apparently the heavy duty frankincense, which I'm convinced is the same type of incense used in BdE. Maybe not surprisingly the two scents were created by the same perfumer, Michel Almairac. To satisfy my curiosity I paid another visit to the Armani counter and took a test strip sprayed with the stuff home to see if it smelled differently than it did on me. Apparently my skin amplifies the frankincense because on paper the scent isn't exactly like the Gucci after all, although they do have a very similar vibe. I'm not really sure what to make of Bois d'Encens now, although the fact that on my skin it smells just like something I have a bottle of is enough to convince me that I'll never need to own it. Even if it wasn't so similar it certainly didn't wow me, and for $180 it better knock my goddamn socks off.

Cuir Amethyste

Cuir Amethyste on the other hand was a bit more interesting, although I really ended up hating it....a lot. On paper it sounds like a rich, lush mix of notes like violet, labdanum, benzoin, birch, rose, vanilla and patchouli. On my skin it was rich all right, rich in a tooth-achingly sweet, headache inducing kind of way. For a while there it was pretty hardcore powdery as well before the basenotes settled in. Oh, and it lasted a long, long time. I didn't really sense anything leathery about Cuir Amethyste, although there was a vaguely sourish something that seemed to fade in and out every now and then. I will say this much for Cuir Amethyste, it kept me coming back. I couldn't stop smelling my arm, trying to decipher what it was I was smelling. And it had a very noticeable progression from the top on down. On the tissue I first shamelessly sampled it on it was kind of nice and pretty unusual, a creamy, sweet/tart, rich concoction that actually did smell "purple" in a way. Apparently my skin just hates it, ruining anything that may be good about it by projecting the sugar coated violets through a megaphone and drowning out pretty much everything else. I also have to say that despite it's unisex marketing it skews a bit feminine to my nose, more feminine than I would personally feel comfortable wearing, and bear in mind that I'm not one to strictly adhere to gender classifications in fragrances. On the plus side I'm pretty sure that I won't ever be including Cuir Amethyste on my "to buy" list.

images from armanicosmetics.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

Camp Out...

Louis Vuitton

Well, Paris fashion week has come and gone ending yet another season's worth of shows. I have to admit that this week in Paris has been sort of low on emotional reactions from me. That's not to say I haven't liked any collections, but there's a world of difference between liking something and having a visceral response to it. God bless Marc Jacobs for managing to stir something in me, and not a moment too soon. His collection for Louis Vuitton, always a must see, turned out to be just the high note I was looking for. Like his eponymous collection shown in New York which was easily one of my favorite collections this season, Marc's collection for Vuitton was positively brimming with glamour, color, sex appeal and fun.





The mix of colors, shiny fabrics, pop art-y animal prints, fringe, sparkle, transparency and a heady whiff of the Orient makes for a collection that's deliriously, deliciously over the top. All of the different ideas, all of the design elements and influences that Jacobs crammed into the clothes were cranked up to their loudest decibel resulting in a collection that's almost defiantly campy and excessive. Looking through the pictures and watching the video all I kept thinking was that this is kind of the idealized fantasy version of fashion that people who don't follow it have. In fact this is the idealized version of fashion that likely draws people in to begin with. It's so completely ridiculous and glamorized, so flashy and downright decadent, but most of all it's above the every day. I think that's what really draws me to it, that deliberately fantastical artifice. I'll be honest, following fashion with any kind of dedication can remove a bit of the glamour and fun from it. When you become very familiar with it some of the mystique is inevitably lost and when that happens you start to see that fashion can at times be really boring, which makes a show like this, loud, gaudy and ridiculous as it may be, a welcome dose of fun and frivolity. I don't know if I truly love the clothes themselves as much as I love the message of the show as a whole, but I will say that for the second time in a single season Marc Jacobs has made me, an ardent fan of black, absolutely adore bright color. That's no small feat, believe me. Say what you will about the level of taste or practicality shown in this collection but Marc is that rare designer who is so utterly attuned to the zeitgeist that he can give people, including me, what they're craving before they've even realized they were craving it.

all images from vogue.com

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The next chapter...

Alexander McQueen

Easily the most anticipated collection of Paris fashion week this season was Sarah Burton's runway debut since she took the helm of Alexander McQueen earlier this year. It must be daunting enough for any designer to follow in the footsteps of someone so iconic and so revered, so I can't imagine how that feeling of pressure and nervous excitement must be compounded by the fact that people are still coming to terms with McQueen's untimely death. On the one hand that's not an enviable position to be in, where not only are people's expectations high but there hopes for a successful debut are as well. On the other, if you do succeed it stands to reason that you will be embraced that much more warmly by all of the people - buyers, stylists, editors, critics, customers, and fans - who are watching. From the beginning people have been wondering what it is that Sarah will do with the label, and I think her resort collection served as a very strong mission statement. She kept pieces of McQueen's DNA, filtered them through her own sensibility and created something that was in many ways the perfect middle ground. It felt McQueen, yet it didn't try to be McQueen, if that makes any sense. But I digress...

After looking at the Spring Summer 2011 collection, taking it in and sorting it all out I feel kind of terrible to say that it doesn't wow me. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination and there's no doubt about it looking like a McQueen collection, but something isn't clicking for me. It's not the lack of runway theatrics, because her static resort collection clicked pretty easily], and it's not the lack of something macabre or perverse either. There's beauty here, that's not the issue, and the clothes look very well made too. I truly wish I liked this more than I do, but the most I can say is that I like the collection. It does what it needed to do, which is continue in the tradition of the label, but something feels off.




I just can't put my finger on exactly what's keeping me from feeling more for this collection. The best I can come up with is that I don't get a purposeful statement from what was presented. Pretty as the pieces may be they don't seem to add up to a whole, for me at least. And I hate to say it because I'm really rooting for Burton, but some of the pieces seem over-designed. The things I like best are the more simple looks like some of the tailoring and the few chiffon dresses that were shown. The more dramatic structured pieces, while very McQueen, just aren't working for me. Same goes for the elaborate prints, although I can't blame Burton for that. I'm honestly just burnt out on hyper-detailed photo/digital prints after seeing them everywhere for a solid two years, if not longer. Still, like I said, I'm rooting for Burton, and I really look forward to seeing her grow into her position and find her footing. Maybe in the long run this show will have served as something of a palette cleanser, something to bridge the end of one era and the beginning of another.

all images from style.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

Striptease...

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann has become one of the shows I consistently look forward to during Paris fashion week, and that mainly has to do with the fact that he consistently makes clothes that leave me breathless. I know that sounds like your typical melodramatic fashion hyperbole, but it's true. There's always something in his collection, be it an idea, a look or a single piece that stops me in my tracks, so to speak.

I don't know for sure what was going through Ackermann's mind while he was working on his Spring Summer 2011 women's collection, but if I were to go by what he showed it would seem that he had sex on the brain. Almost all of the looks he sent out onto his runway appeared as if they were either in the midst of falling off or as if they'd been hastily thrown back on and as a result there were copious amounts of skin on display, whether it was a neckline plunging down to the navel, a back that's completely cut out, or a skirt slashed open over the hip and up the leg. The double whammy of clothes that appear to be barely hanging onto the body and glimpses of naked flesh definitely gave the collection a bit of an erotic charge. The hints of kimono dressing, seen most prominently in ribbons tied and bunched into half-tied obi-like bows, as well as the few striped silk pieces that recall men's pajamas only added to the collection's overriding sense of elegant seduction and déshabillé.


I'm absolutely in love with this collection, as I have been with all of Haider's work for a couple of years now. Something about this one in particular feels more forceful, more assertive than I would normally think of his work being. You can see that in the colors, those bold splashes of crimson, yellow, emerald, cobalt, turquoise and purple that were used as a contrast to black. But you can also see it in the sometimes graphic way the clothes are cut. Those few skirts that are slashed along the hip, or the tops that look like a sliced up tuxedo jacket are a good example of that. Those qualities give this collection an entirely different spirit than what I've come to expect from Ackermann. It's still 100% in keeping with what he does best. Bright color aside there's no way you would mistake this for anybody else's work. One thing that's bothering me though is the shade of green that was used for a few looks. I'm generally not a huge fan of green, although I can tolerate it sometimes, but that particular shade is a huge turn off. I wouldn't have included it and I probably wouldn't have included the single turquoise dress either, but mostly because it's just kind of random among the other colors. Other than that this is yet another beautiful offering from Mr. Ackermann, which is exactly what I've come to expect from him.

all images from style.com

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bare Essentials...


Lanvin

Imagine, if you will, a Lanvin collection stripped bare of all beading, feathers, fringing, draping, volume and jewelry. Easier said than done, right? That's because all of those things, which of course sound like a successful recipe for a drag revue, are at this point so much a part of Lanvin's identity that imagining a collection without them is like not imagining a collection at all. But the lack of all those things is precisely what defines the Spring Summer 2011 collection that Alber Elbaz whipped up. Compared to recent offerings this one is uncharacteristically spare, and it's probably better off for it. Don't get me wrong, I love what Alber does with embellishment and drape, but he's been on that train of thought for a while now. I loved (and still love) his Fall collection, but like I said when I reviewed it, the pieces that I responded to most were the sharp, simple ones that opened the show. At the time they felt fresh and this collection sort of picks up where those looks left off. The clothes for spring have been almost universally stripped bare of anything extraneous and as a result the clothes, from the zippered day dresses worn with flat sandals to the billowing skirts worn with what appear to be bodysuits, read more like sportswear than anything Elbaz has done in a while. In fact many of the opening looks, with panels of draping inset onto a fitted dress or those aforementioned billowing skirts, almost make me think of modern dance wear, the kind of stuff Martha Graham would have worn. Actually looking at it now quite a few of the looks make me think of that. Pieces like that chocolate off-the-shoudler caftan, the full, billowing nylon parkas, and even the few short chiffon goddess dresses in colors like rust, nude and lichen could be costumes for some kind of performance.




In place of beading, volume or heavy draping there are details like zippers, leather belts or harnesses, and tight Fortuny-esque pleating. Even the colors are mostly on the subdued side, save for a middle passage that included neon yellow, hot pink, crimson, and plum. Much as I like some of the pieces from that section I don't really get the color choices. Compared to the rich mineral colors that opened and closed the show they seem kind of jarring, pretty as they might be. I also don't get the four suits comprised of a jacket, matching skirt and matching skinny pants. They seem really odd for the sake of being odd, and that's never a good thing. As usual the collection is pretty dress heavy, though a number of them could be worn for day as evidenced by the choice to pair them with flat sandals and shoulder bags. Overall the clothes were easy to like and seem like they'd be really easy to wear, and while I kind of feel that the pendulum might have swung a little too far into the direction of "practical", robbing the collection of some of it's potential lust-worthiness, the bottom line is that these are still pretty clothes. It must be said though that the collection is extremely disjointed, like it's unsure of what it's trying to communicate. I don't think that's ever been an issue with a Lanvin collection before, so it's a little hard to process. Still, I think this might prove to be the right direction to take the house in moving forward. I don't think anybody wants to see Lanvin lose any of it's luster because it refused to change.

all images from style.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Like a strand in the wind...

Roberto Cavalli

In a way it makes sense that Roberto Cavalli, granddaddy of the glammed-up boho babe aesthetic, would have the final word on all things hippie-deluxe this season. In just 40 looks he managed to make every other collection that has toyed with the look seem so sad and half-assed by comparison, at least to me. Cavalli's been in an ongoing state of flux these last few years, trying, it would seem, to move his brand forward. Some of the results, like his F/W 2009 collection, struck me as positive steps in a new direction that still kept his aesthetic intact, while others have abandoned everything the label is about for reasons unknown. I guess I'm of the mind that if you're good at something you should stick to it, and what Cavalli is good at is super glamorous, super luxurious rock star clothes, which is exactly what he delivered for Spring Summer 2011, his 40th anniversary. I'm not even going to try hating this collection because frankly between the craftsmanship and the conviction of belief I think it's an extremely well done take on one of the season's prevailing moods.




On the Fashion Spot some threw out a comparison to Cher, and I can kind of see that. Hell, Cher was probably wearing Cavalli back in her early bohemian days with Sonny, so it's not far off the mark. But if the hair and hiphuggers are Cher then the more ethereal, floaty pieces trailing fringe every which way are pure Stevie Nicks. The dreamy sun-baked color palette certainly adds to the effect. I mean really, can't you just picture her twirling around in some of these dresses while singing Edge of Seventeen? Part of what makes Cavalli's brand of trashy, flashy fun stand out has always been his commitment to beautiful workmanship. Questionable taste aside the man and his staff have quite a way with leather, embroidery and printmaking, and this collection is a testament to those specialties. From the whipstitched crocodile, ostrich and python jackets to the lacing that held together pants and dresses the work that went into the clothes is obvious. To me that's one of the things that separates his take on this look from all the other designers who have done it this season, it really does look handmade, homespun even, but in the best possible way. Even the way it's styled seems somewhat authentic, like real women put these looks together with the things they own. It comes pretty close to looking and feeling one of a kind. The other thing that sets this apart from the crowd is how it really goes there. It risks being ridiculous in order to be convincing, unlike collections such as Gucci and Pucci which only dip their toes into the boho pool. Cavalli dove in head first and went as far as he could, and whether the clothes appeal to you or not I think that kind of commitment is something worth praising. Like Versace or Prada earlier in the week this collection is focused and uncompromising, which of course means that it won't please everybody. But since when is anything that pleases everybody worth noticing?

all images from style.com

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The long and the short of it...

Versace

If you were to play a word association game and the chosen word was Versace, I'd be willing to bet that "restrained" wouldn't be a response. Let's face it, there are dozens of adjectives that can be used to describe Versace, but words like restrained, minimal and spare aren't among them. Leave it to Donatella when she's in the mood for something different to change that perception.

Everything about the collection feels extremely focused and considered, from the restricted color palette to the sharply tailored (and limited) silhouettes. Even the house's signature Greek key pattern, which hasn't made an appearance on the runway in a while, was used very carefully in abstract painterly prints or as PVC/patent leather insets or appliques. Nothing about the collection, not even the silk fringe that was the only embellishment on evening dresses, felt excessive. But despite the rigor displayed in the clothes the collection recalls so much of the house's past. Watching the video I saw a lot of Gianni in the collection, although to me the collection doesn't feel burdened by references to his work. It's classic Versace but Donatella really made the look her own. None of Gianni's work that I remember was quite this slick or controlled. This being a Versace collection there's certainly no shortage of sex appeal, but this time around there's something about it that's very grown up and, dare I say it, sophisticated.




I haven't been this nuts about a Versace collection in a few years. Something about it feels genuinely fresh, unlike anything that's been seen from the house in recent memory. While the fall collection also had a graphic quality to it, I think this collection achieved much more appealing results. I do have a couple of complaints which I almost feel bad bringing up, but can't avoid. The first is the total lack of pants. I can appreciate that Donatella presented an extremely uncompromising vision - that's something to respect a designer - but considering how sharp the tailoring in this show was I wouldn't have minded a few looks based around this season's pant. But then I may just be idealizing that in my head and in reality pants would have lessened the overall impact of the presentation. The second complaint is the gowns at the end. To me they feel less like the logical conclusion of the collection and more like meeting an expectation. People expect gowns from Versace, and if we're being honest Versace does them well, but the three that made it onto the runway, all of them made of fringe built onto bodices and swinging from the skirt, weren't as strong as all of the pieces that had come before. They weren't necessary, and they weren't the best I've ever seen from Donatella, though I will grant that they also were not predictable Versace gowns, either. Ultimately the good far outweighs the bad in this collection though. It's a wonderful synthesis between past and future, and the result couldn't be more perfect for the present.

all images from style.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tourist Trap...

Prada

Not many designers can manage to do something interesting with as tired a theme as resort-wear, but then not many designers have as twisted a mind as Miuccia Prada. In rapid change mode yet again (she is the queen of rapid change, after all) Prada ditched the headline making curves of her Fall collection for light, crisp, sometimes boxy clothes that combined such clashing elements as rugby or sailor stripes in a rainbow of crayon colors, prints inspired by baroque-era interiors, medical scrubs, the 20s, the 40s, the 50s, and souvenir t-shirts. The overall effect, at least to me, brought to mind a kind of retro tourism vibe, the look of post-WWII American or European women traveling to places like Cuba, Mexico and Brazil with a brand new wardrobe of clothes perfectly suited to a tropical climate. This being a Prada collection the results had a kind of intentionally cheesy and tacky quality to them.




While I don't necessarily love all of the clothes on their own, I can appreciate them for the most part. For instance, I don't actually like the three chemise dresses embroidered to look like souvenir t-shirts, but I certainly enjoy the humor of them. Same goes for the cartoon banana and baroque monkey prints, which I don't think many people would be able to pull of very convincingly. But they're still pretty clever. The pieces I do like are some of the colorful striped looks. More than sailors or rugby they make me think of beach towels, and that's really not a bad association when you're looking at summer clothes. I also love the fox stoles that a lot of the models were carrying. It's such a ridiculous idea, a fur stole for the summer, made even more ridiculous by the fact that they weren't even being worn. I'm especially fond of the striped ones. With the dangling tails they kind of look like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. I don't know if anyone else got that, but it makes me smile, so who cares? One thing that this collection makes clear, yet again, is that Miuccia is undoubtedly at her best when she's fucking up a cliche.

all images from style.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crash and Burn...

Gucci

I knew it couldn't last. The restraint she showed, the optimism I felt. They were temporary, erased by the new. Logically I knew that I'd probably be feeling let down, but I still hoped I wouldn't. This is my way of saying that the Spring Summer 2011 collection that Frida Giannini presented was such a drastic departure from the positively good collection she put out last fall and which won me over, despite my distaste for the woman's prior work. With this new collection she reverted back to her former tactics faster than you can say "stiletto", and it's killing me. Watching the show, which seemed to unintentionally be broken up into three separate collections, was upsetting because after last season I've seen what Frida is capable of. She's still no Tom Ford, and she never will be, but she can do luxurious, sexy, grown up clothes that positively reek of Gucci's essence. Why she decided to shoot herself in the foot instead of going 2 for 2 is beyond my comprehension.

The collection started out with jewel tone silk separates, tapered trousers, blazers, blouses, and tulip skirts and in their clashing shades of orange, jade, purple and cerulean accented with gold accessories and red lips it would be nearly impossible not to think of Yves Saint Laurent. He was the master of these kinds of lurid mixes of color. I wish I could say that Giannini's homage did the originator justice, but instead of looking artistic, beautiful and unusual Giannini's mix of colors just looked cheap. There was zero sophistication which, mean as it sounds, is a testament to her eye for color. She may like using it but in this case anyway it wasn't used well. Ignoring the color the pieces are no great shakes with their slight 70s vibe. Compared to Marc Jacobs collection, which went there and back, it's no wonder I find these looks completely forgettable. I do like the black blouse on Natasha though. Apparently the back was cut out.



The next section, which was significantly larger, was done in shades of beige, tan and black and had a vague "safari" flavor. You know what that means, harem pants, neat jackets in exotic skins detailed with lots of junk like tassels, fringe, and braiding, and a bit of ethnic beading to finish things off. Again this section recalled Yves Saint Laurent, though an entirely different side of his work. If the opening looks harked back to his vibrant disco days then this section was pure, unadulterated, mid-60s Saharienne with just a hint of Marrakesh thrown in to cover all the bases. It's a look that's been done countless times, and honestly Frida isn't adding anything remotely new to the theme. Save for the overload of details this was textbook fashion, the kind of ready-made go-to inspiration that designers latch on to like flies to a zebra carcass. While this was the largest section of the collection it was also the most uneven. There were some beautiful pieces, but between the over-styling and the over-embellishing that went on they got a little lost in the shuffle.



The third and final section was, unsurprisingly, eveningwear and for evening Frida referenced yet another moment in Saint Laurent's career, his African collection of 67/68, in all it's tribal beaded, feathered and fringed glory. After sending out three black jumpsuits with gold detailing that, were it not for the extremely dropped crotches would have been kind of pretty, Giannini sent out what were no doubt meant to be her "drama" pieces, the ones that end a show with a bang. It's unfortunate that, for me at least, the obvious work that went into making them is overshadowed by the fact that they are both overdone and unflattering. Watching the live stream, with the size 0 and 2 models walking down the runway in their fringed, beaded, and feathered dresses, hands thrust into side pockets, I couldn't help but think of how insane it is to make a dress that is already wide around the hips appear even wider by adding pockets. Frida's a woman, and if a woman is making dresses that look kind of bulky on a too-thin model (forget about a woman who actually has a waist and hips) there is seriously something wrong.



Besides feeling like a completely unfocused collection it also feels like a giant step backwards for Giannini. I've always felt that she has relied way too heavily on special effects and not enough on the basics of designing clothes such as cut, shape and fit. There are times when it feels as though she's thinking of the embellishments first and simply applying them to whatever garment will accommodate them, and there are others when it seems like she thinks she needs to work a piece to the nth degree for it to be luxurious or special. I don't understand why she'd revert back to this comfort zone after showing that she can in fact restrain herself and produce results that are better looking than when she goes for the glue gun. I also can't help but criticize the lack of continuity in this collection. Style.com namechecked Guy Bourdin and Chris von Wangenheim as two sources of inspiration, and while I could maybe grant that the bold colors that opened the show have a vaguely Bourdin kind of feel (and I do mean vaguely) I don't see much of Wangenheim's twisted sexuality here. I also don't see how photographers who helped define the look of the mid-to-late 70s relate to Marrakesh, safari or tribalism via YSL. Fact is those references come from an entirely different decade than Bourdin and Wangenheim. There's no real connection between them and Frida didn't succeed at creating one, which is why this one collection of 44 looks is broken up so jaggedly. There's no flow from those colored disco silks to the beige harem pants and leather jackets that came next, just like there's no flow from the desert tinged safari section to the glitzed up sub-Saharan tribalism that closed the show. Weird thing is I don't all out hate this collection. It's certainly not the worst that Giannini has done and some of the pieces, like those black jumpsuits which are really the only pieces that successfully merge all of the references, are kind of nice. But I can't say that I think the collection is very good. It's not. Like I said, I knew that last season would turn out to be a fluke, I really did, but I still hoped that it might be the start of a new chapter at Gucci. It was nice while it lasted I guess.

all images from style.com

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Something Old, Something Nu...

Engrossing myself in the world of fragrance has brought about many different emotions ranging from sheer boredom to pure ecstasy. Falling into the latter category is one of the fragrances I am currently obsessing over, Yves Saint Laurent's now discontinued Nu Eau de Parfum. Blame it on ignorance, but while this feminine release was still on the shelves I paid it absolutely no attention. I'm not even sure why to be completely honest. I don't think it was because it was marketed as a women's scent and I was not yet in my "I don't give a f*** how it's categorized" phase. I distinctly remember sampling Alexander McQueen's Kingdom when it came out in 2003, despite the fact that it was also sold at the women's counter. Honestly I think I was just unaware of it, shocking given my well documented obsession with all things Tom Ford. Nu was his first contribution to YSL's fragrance division after all, and having now smelled it for close to six months I can say that it was a great first effort. What a shame that it was killed off, because it's absolutely gorgeous.


the ad campaign photographed by Mario Sorrenti

I've very quickly learned that I respond well to incense fragrances in general, and that's exactly what Nu is. Mixed in are bergamot, black pepper, white orchid, sandalwood, vetiver and some other notes that vary depending on whose word you take for it. It must be the fact that any bottle of Nu is about 5 years old by now, but I got absolutely no bergamot top notes from the sample I ordered, not that I'm complaining. When I popped the cap on that vial I knew I was a goner. It was love at first sniff as the 'fumies say. That first intoxicating whiff was like a drug. First off, it's quite genderless. I had read plenty of reviews that had said it was, but smelling it in person convinced me of it's possibilities as a unisex fragrance. The white orchid does make an appearance but it doesn't scream FLORAL, it just kind of hints at it and combined with the incense and pepper, which really balance it out, the overall effect is at the same time exotic and urbane. It's quite stark in that the composition is very simple and also very linear, at least on me. My one complaint, which I guess is relatively minor, is projection. Even though Nu goes on strong it mellows out considerably, and while it's probably got more projection than a "skin scent" it's still relatively quiet. I'm honestly not sure what breed of perfume Nu would be categorized as (neo-minimalist oriental?) but like a lot of incense fragrances I find it both sensual and serene, not a bad mix of qualities if you ask me.

Like I said I'm obsessing over Nu, constantly scouring the internet and any of my reputable shady fragrance discounters for a good deal on it. But there's a part of me that's afraid to commit. It's this fear I have that after buying it, wearing it and enjoying it I'll find another incense that I like even more. I'm exactly the same way with big clothing/shoe buys, like the time I happened to be outlet shopping and popped into John Varvatos only to find that the entire store was 75% off the marked price. That means that the $1,500-ish leather jacket that looked fantastic on me was in the $375 range, the only catch was that it was final sale. I'm still kicking myself for not adding that jacket to my closet for fear that I'd find one I liked better. I never did, and the jacket was lost forever. There's also this little voice in the back of my head wondering aloud if I only want Nu so badly because it's rare. I mean I doubt I'd spend any time hunting something down that I don't like at all, but would I want to own it so badly if it wasn't for the fact that it's not easy to get? This is just a taste of the thinking that goes on whenever I'm about to go in for the kill. At this point I think I just need to take the plunge, if for no other reason than keeping my sanity.


image from mes-parfums.com

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A clean slate...

Narciso Rodriguez

Once upon a time at the beginning of the decade that is rapidly coming to a close, I was a Narciso Rodriguez fan. His razor sharp, super spare dresses that were cut to hug the female form were some of the sexiest clothes around, certainly some of the sexiest clothes being shown on this side of the pond. There was, I would guess, a two year period where I really grew to love his aesthetic and the way he dressed women. Sex on legs is actually a pretty apt way of describing it, though it never veered into Versace/Cavalli/D&G levels of skin and sin. But, as with all good things, he had to change things up to keep people interested. In the years since he has played with volume, movement, shape and color, and while there have been times when I've liked the results overall they never really whipped me into a tizzy.

But for Spring Summer 2011 he sent out a collection that, while not quite the same as the good old days, certainly shared some similarities. Back was his familiar long, lean silhouette that ended somewhere between the knee and the ankle, though this time around, with many of his dresses rendered in soft, fluid fabrics, it was as if all the internal structure was removed from his signature sheaths leaving a languid fabric shell that barely grazed the body. God only knows why but pieces like a long white satin t-shirt dress with a scooped neck or a slip made of contrasting panels of gray silk held up by spaghetti straps and slit up the leg just looked damn sexy. Granted I'm not an authority on what makes a woman sexy, but even still I'd stop and look if the right woman walked by wearing one of those dresses.






While I realize that the length and shape of the majority of these skirts are extremely uncompromising, they're the kind of clothes that make me wish more women could be flattered by them because it's such a beautiful way to look. I feel like I say this a lot, but I really, really hope that this collection signals a change in direction for Narciso. Plain as they are these clothes are a welcome return to what made me fall in love with his collection to begin with.

all images from style.com



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love to love you, baby...


Marc Jacobs


One can always rely on Marc Jacobs to provide a solid jolt of electricity when fashion week is off to a slow start. It's not that the collections shown so far have been bad necessarily, it's just that most of them have been lacking a point of view. I guess it's not really a surprise that Marc's should stand out; it's just about as different from everything else that's been shown this week as it could possibly be. Everyone else is showing tons of white and barely-there pastels, Marc goes all out with rich jewel and spice tones. Everyone else does sharp, streamlined silhouettes, Marc does volume. And while I wouldn't go so far as to call the collection maximal, compared to the recent movement towards minimalism fashion has been experiencing there was a sense of frivolity and fun on Marc's runway that I just don't think you can achieve when you're stripping clothing down to their most basic form. I don't think this collection is such a departure from the beautifully restrained collection Jacobs showed last season. Yes this is louder and far more extroverted, but just like last season the focus here is primarily on the clothes. There's nothing conceptual about it, no message to decode, no figuring out what is and isn't meant for retail. Really the only difference, except for the surface stuff like color, shape and fabrication, is the mood. In that way this collection is last season's polar opposite. Whereas fall was sedate, soulful and romantic spring is sexy, vibrant and very, very glam.






While I was watching the live feed I kept thinking of "The Beautiful Fall", author Alicia Drake's non-fiction account of Karl Lagerfeld's and Yves Saint Laurent's individual but parallel rises to fame, a large part of which took place in Paris during the early 70s. In the book there is quite a cast of supporting characters, including model Donna Jordan who was something of a muse to both Lagerfeld and illustrator Antonio Lopez, and whose look must have inspired this collection to some degree. I also see bits of Donna Summer, Loulou de la Falaise, Pat Cleavland, Bianca Jagger and Jodie Foster's character in "Taxi Driver", not to mention vintage Saint Laurent and Chloe designed by Lagerfeld himself. Those are just the references I myself can spot, I'm sure I'm missing some. It's no surprise that the clothes are unmistakably retro when you can see style icons of the decade so clearly in the show, but that doesn't really bother me. Maybe it's because this particular look that calls to mind the transitional period between the early 70s bohemian and late 70s disco eras isn't something that's been big on the fashion landscape recently. There have been hints of it in stores with items like high-waisted flared denim and printed maxi dresses, but it hasn't been a main theme in fashion of late. Even though a lot of the clothes are fairly literal interpretations of the past I can still see a great deal of them appealing to women of today. Of course the styling, from the frizzed out Bourdin hair and vampy makeup to the flower and feather chokers and those fantastically kitschy parasol hats, really help make the look as fabulous as can be, but I accept the fact that those things probably won't catch on with the public. All in all this was a wonderful shot of energy in what's been a fairly lifeless New York season so far.

all images from style.com

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guilt trip...




It's been a few months now since Gucci first announced the launch of their newest feminine fragrance, Guilty. My reaction to the news was ambivalence. Gucci has been churning out fragrances a lot more quickly than they used to, and while that doesn't automatically mean the products aren't good it does make you question whether or not enough time and care has been given to the new scent. It hasn't helped that the promotion for these new fragrances has seemed like too much, especially once you get to smell them. To be frank there isn't one of their newer releases that I really love all that much, although if you forced me to pick a favorite I'd probably go with Gucci by Gucci Eau de Parfum, and that's only because as a scent it's closest to the kind of stuff I gravitate towards. The appeal certainly doesn't have anything to do with the kitschtastic bottle it comes in, with it's engraved striped ribbon and chintzy horsebit charm. The other fragrances which have been directed by Frida Gianinni, Gucci by Gucci Pour Homme, Flora, and Gucci by Gucci Pour Homme Sport, strike me as utterly generic, to put it kindly. Not to beat a dead horse, but as with the rest of the brand Gucci's fragrances aren't what they used to be.

But enough back story. Despite my ambivalence towards yet another new release, the name of this new fragrance caught my attention. It definitely fits in nicely with Gucci's two most well known perfumes, Envy and Rush. All of them have names that connote a sense of danger and sin, and really what could be more old-school Gucci than that? I'm undecided as to whether or not I would have called this new one Guilt instead of Guilty, and I definitely would have called it Guilty by Gucci instead of Gucci Guilty, but sadly no one over at double-G headquarters asked for my input. Still, I think the name itself is good. Also good is the print campaign. The first shot that debuted with the announcement of the launch was, to quote Marisa Tomei, dead-on balls-accurate. In it actress Evan Rachel Wood, who I think is an unusual but interesting choice of spokesperson, kind of looked like iconic Gucci girl Georgina Grenville...at least to me. Who knows, maybe I'm just projecting. Maybe the familiar sight of a couple in a naked, sweaty, mid-coital embrace against a shadowy background looked enough like something out of Tom Ford's old play book that I was just visualizing Georgina's face on Evan Rachel's neck. Needless to say it's my favorite out of all the Giannini-directed Gucci fragrance campaigns for reasons that should be obvious.





(Tell me I'm imagining the similarities... )

However my love for the campaign ends with the photos. The TV commercial directed by Sin City creator Frank Miller might as well be another campaign entirely, because from where I'm sitting the look and feel of it is completely different from the still photographs. I don't think that Miller's neo-noir aesthetic suits Gucci very well. His aesthetic looks great in comics and in action films, but let's be honest, his work is designed to appeal mainly to heterosexual men, and this commercial is no exception. On top of that I find the blatant depiction of sex both trashy and banal (and again, something that would mostly appeal to men). While Gucci has always been about sex, it was never used so tactlessly. I find the print ad sexier simply because something is left to the imagination. That single photo is doing a better job at telling you what Guilty is supposed to evoke than the minute-long commercial is.



As for the fragrance itself, it's billed as a floral oriental with notes of mandarin, pink pepper, lilac, geranium, peach, amber and patchouli. Although I was determined to give it a sniff when it hit store shelves it sounds a little light weight for a perfume described as any breed of oriental. But when I saw that gleaming gold bottle (which has grown on me a bit since I first saw a picture of it) perched on it's display pedestal at Bloomingdales' fragrance counter I hightailed it over, made sure the SA was busy with someone else and liberally sprayed a blotter. At first I found it pretty, though as the notes implied, kind of light. I didn't remember there being anything heady or exotic about it whatsoever. So I forgot about it and left it to sit in my car. A day later when I accidentally found the blotter I had forgotten all about sitting in my cup holder I took a sniff and liked it a hell of a lot better than I had when it was fresh. Instead of the flowers and mandarin from the top what was left was a combo of patchouli, amber and something else that may or may not have been the remainder of the peach. I have a recently sprayed blotter in my hands as we speak and smelling it now over two week later it's more potent than I remembered it being, the florals are more pronounced and a bit powdery, though I still don't get much, if any, spice. Maybe I've just huffed my mother's vintage Opium one too many times and my nose has become jaded. Personally I could have gone for some incense or heavier spice or even a bit of musk somewhere in there. Frankly the drydown, which is nice, is the only thing that makes Guilty worth wearing, though I will say, considering the multitude of sugar bombs currently residing on the shelves at Sephora Guilty should provide a nice antidote for those who don't want to smell like a candy store. As for whether or not the name fits the scent, I'm not convinced that it does. To me the name suggests a hint of something corrupt or dirty, even if it's only fleeting. After all, guilt is the result of doing something that you know you shouldn't have done, or doing something that you've been told is wrong to do. Even if you repent the fact remains that you still did it. I wish Guilty had that implied hint of badness; it could have been really good if it did.

images from nstperfume.com, wwd.com, and mes-parfums.com

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Big BANG...

I was excited when I read about Marc Jacobs' new masculine fragrance release earlier this summer. To be completely blunt I detest his original men's scent and regretted wearing it each time that I used my sample. Something in there, and I'm still not sure what, just did not agree with me. But even with the knowledge that the one MJ fragrance I've ever worn made me want to jump into the closest shower, I was looking forward to trying out his sophomore effort named BANG. Of course with the news of the new fragrance and a preview of it's fantastically ridiculous bottle that looks like some pretentious piece of abstract sculpture you're supposed to stare at very meaningfully while secretly not getting it, there was the very first glimpse of the ad campaign. Shot by Jacobs' go-to lensman Juergen Teller and starring Marc himself the ad is quite possibly the gayest thing I've seen all year, and trust me, that that's saying something. It's been floating around the net for a few months now, but for anyone who's not yet seen it, it's high time you did.



It's got all the essential ingredients for an Out editorial; abs, body oil, shiny stuff, random mismatched tattoos, stubble, a come hither expression (which is, ironically, not at all lust inducing) and a complete lack of clothing and shame. Now I know the ad is probably supposed to be at least partially tongue in cheek, but to me it just reeks of desperation and, oddly, insecurity. Once upon a time Marc was this nebbishy little downtown dude who just happened to be the coolest of the cool kids and didn't seem to care about fitting in. Over the last few years he's made himself over, and while I'm still a great fan of Marc the designer I honestly can't stand Marc the Chelsea scene-queen/pop culture icon. Something about his new image seems wrong to me, and this ad is just a glaring example of that. When I first saw the ad I remember saying something to the effect of "the old Marc would have found this ridiculous".

As for the scent itself I was intrigued by the list of notes that accompanied the announcement of it's impending launch. With an opening act of black, pink and white pepper and a combination of woods, benzoin, vetiver, moss and patchouli in the heart and base, it sounded like something I might be into. I managed to snag a sample while visiting the fragrance counter in late July when Bloomingdales was previewing it and I have to say, I'm not feeling it. The top notes are exactly what the name of the fragrance suggests, a big bang of dry, scratchy, spicy pepper. It's a bit like sticking your nose directly into a container of the stuff and taking a deep breath. That's how realistic it is. While it does have an appealing zing to it, and as unusual as an all pepper top is for a fragrance it gets to be really overbearing after the first minute or two. Thankfully it does chill out (eventually) and moves into a mellow spiced woods groove. With the traces of pepper it has an almost pine-y kind of vibe to it. Then again, since some of the notes are just listed as "woods" it could very well be pine. Or it could be that the mix of notes is playing a trick on my nose and creating the illusion of it. Whatever the case I'm not really a fan. For whatever reason pine is a smell, be it natural or synthesized, that I have never liked, so it's for damn sure I don't want it wafting from me all day long. Turns out though that I don't have to worry about it invading my nostrils all day because from start to finish the fragrance has only lasted 2-3 hours on me both times I've worn it, and while it does last it seems relatively tame as far as sillage goes. I guess this one just doesn't work with me. If I had liked what the scent was doing on my skin that would be a bad thing, but since the peppercorns outstay their welcome and the woods/resins don't combine to an effect that I find appealing the fact that it doesn't last isn't such a negative after all. I will give BANG this much, it's pretty unusual as far as mainstream designer men's fragrances go. There really isn't anything sweet or fresh or clean about it, and that opening is a little on the strange side. You'd be hard pressed to come up with something that smells similar if you were shopping the men's side at Sephora or any mid-to-high-end department store. I think it's worth trying for that pepper medley top alone, but I'd recommend spraying with caution.


Friday, September 3, 2010

F.Y.I...

Okay, so by now I'm sure that anyone who has read this blog is well aware of my all-consuming obsession with fashion, and if there are any doubts keep in mind that the word "addiction" appears in the blog's name. It's that serious. What you probably don't know is that I also have a borderline unhealthy obsession with fragrances. It's still pretty new, but like a weed it took no time at all to grow. Funny thing is it didn't start because I had a genuine interest in scent. It started as a result of searching for a new scent that was different from the few that I already own and have worn for years. I'm a full fledged junkie by this point, scamming samples out of any SA who will give them and hording them like food rations. I figure that as with any obsession, talking about it can only help. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Stay tuned...

And in case you were wondering no, I still haven't found that one new fragrance to add to my collection.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hate is a strong word...

But sometimes it's the only word that seems appropriate. When the first image from the new Gucci Fall Winter 2010 campaign hit the Fashion Spot, I was excited to see what it would look like. The collection itself left a good impression on me, so naturally I was hoping the campaign would do the same. Let's just say that my initial impression of it wasn't so good. But I was willing to hold off announcing my verdict until I saw more. Unfortunately seeing more didn't change my feelings at all, and I pretty much hate what I've seen of the campaign. Now frankly, I don't think that Mert & Marcus' style suits Gucci. Their work is always recognizable for it's hyper-fection (I know that's not a word, but give it time), and I think that their super exaggerated look has it's place in fashion, Gucci just isn't it. But these photos go beyond exaggeration; they're downright cartoony looking. Seriously, I look at them and I see a digital illustration, not a photograph. I'm assuming that's the point, but I honestly cannot stand the way it looks. The plastic Barbie and Ken doll quality is just extremely unappealing. It's also kind of odd considering that most of Gucci's appeal is based on the suggestion of sex. As far as I'm aware there isn't anything sexy about a Barbie doll. The poses are unappealing as well, and despite what seems like a lot of effort on Raquel's part, I don't see anything "fierce" about them. To me they just look ridiculous and far too modely. Back in the day you never would have seen a Gucci girl hamming it up like some contestant on America's Next Top Model, trying to out-pose the competition. She was far too cool for that. Apparently that's not the case anymore, and that also goes back to Mert & Marcus. Love 'em or hate 'em those poses are very much a part of Mert & Marcus' ouvre. Something about the color palette is bothering me too. Rather than enhancing the warm tones of the clothes, the goldness of the sand is just sort of washing everything out. It's just one big blur of different shades of beige paired with a shade of blue that's better suited to the ocean thanthe sky. Color wise I think the shots with black clothing are marginally better, although that's not saying much. But I think I might be able to look past the aesthetics if these ads had anything at all to do with the look and the message that both the men's and women's collection delivered. Both collections were slick, sharp and very polished looking, they wouldn't be out of place on the streets of any metropolis or in a dimly lit nook at the chicest of nightspots. However, the clothes do look completely out of place in a desert. I mean, I don't demand utter realism from my fashion ads, but the sight of a fur coat or velvet hiphuggers in a desert with the blazing sun glaring off of every surface is a little too ridiculous.







Oddly enough this isn't the first time a Gucci campaign has taken place in a desert. It's happened at least twice before that I can recall, and one of those campaigns, Fall Winter 2000 by Alexei Hay, seems to have inspired this one. There was even a shot of a model in a fur coat reclining on a desert rock (for the record I believe all of the backgrounds used in that campaign were fake/digital). I actually happen to like that old campaign quite a bit. I've been trying to figure out why I like that one and dislike this one, and I suppose it boils down to two things; while the backgrounds in that F/W 2000 campaign look intentionally fake the models themselves don't, and the incongruity of the backgrounds (there were also shots that took place in front of a freeway overpass and on a stormy beach) seemed intentionally weird, whereas this background in the Moroccan desert probably wasn't meant to be as incongruous as it is. Those ads didn't make sense, and I get the feeling they weren't supposed to. They were just supposed to be beautiful, unusual images, and that's exactly what they are. I don't think this new campaign has either of those qualities going for it. More than anything I'm just disappointed that this collection, easily Giannini's best and probably just a fluke, wasn't better represented in print. It deserved to be.

images from oystermag.com, stylelist.com and twitter/rushes via ThiagoMello at tFS

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paris, Je ne t'aime...

Jean Paul Gaultier

You know it's like clockwork, twice a year at six month intervals I'm reminded of just how much I used to love Gaultier. I wish I still did but I just don't anymore. In fact there are times, like last season, where I don't even like Gaultier's haute couture. I've wondered if maybe I've changed, that I've seen more of fashion than I had when I first became aware of Gaultier's work, or that my taste has simply evolved, or maybe even that I just idealize his past collections. But then I've looked at those older collections, the ones that left an impression, the ones I loved then and still love now, and it's plain to me that it isn't me that's changed, it's Gaultier.

As for what has changed about his work, that's not as easy to pinpoint as it is with, say, Galliano's work at Dior. The general impression I'm left with is that these days there isn't much subtlety in Gaultier's work any more. It's a given that he's always liked to play with wit, subversion and kitsch, but these days it seems like those elements are the dominant ones, whereas in the past his couture collections were a wonderful mix of wit, intentional bad taste, faultless French chic and old school glamour with whatever his seasonal inspiration happened to be. Comparing his older work to his newer work is like comparing wry humor to slapstick. The former uses intelligence to make you laugh, the latter uses silliness. To me this season's collection highlights that difference between Gaultier's past and present extremely well. The collection was inspired by Paris via Yves Saint Laurent's infamous 40s collection of 1971. That collection, if not the most famous collection of Saint Laurent's 40 year career, is certainly one of the most famous. It's been extensively referenced by many, many contemporary designers over the years. The look of that collection is instantly recognizable; turban, red lips, a fox fur chubbie or stole, ruched jersey dress, stockings and heels. Once you know the formula you can see exactly where Gaultier found his inspiration this season, from the exaggerated knotted turbans (or hair styled to look like turbans), to the exaggerated rounded shoulders on coats and jackets, and the fishnet stockings with exaggerated Cuban heels that were actually a photo print of the Eiffel Tower. Notice I'm using the word exaggerated to describe everything. That was the overall effect; too much. Considering that the original Saint Laurent look is pretty exaggerated to begin with, Gaultier's riffs seemed more like caricatures than anything else. Paris isn't a new inspiration for Gaultier, in fact it's where he always seems to wind up even when his inspiration comes from somewhere else. That innate Frenchness is why so many people regard him as this generation's Saint Laurent. So it was disappointing to see him channeling that inspiration in such a cartoony, almost childish way this time around.




That lack of subtlety is really what bothers me about Gaultier these days. He just sort of whacks you over the head with how "witty", "ironic" or "chic" each look is, instead of letting you decide on your own whether they are or not. Even the shout outs to Saint Laurent, which have always been present in Gaultier's couture collections, are done in such a loud, obnoxious, tactless kind of way. I think it's safe to say that most people who are attending a Gaultier Haute Couture collection, whether as a client, critic, or editor would be able to recognize even the most subtle or subversive nod to YSL, so I really don't understand why Gaultier needed to scream them through a loudspeaker as if he were speaking to the hearing impared. And to me it's not just the styling or the presentations that have changed. I just don't think the clothes have the same magic that they used to, not for me anyway. Of course they're beautifully made, and of course his clients will buy them, but it's been a while since he sent something down a runway that took my breath away or made me do a double take. Even his extravagant show pieces don't do anything for me anymore, because they're usually so far over the top that they could make some of Galliano's mile-wide ballgowns seem almost subtle by comparison. I don't know, maybe this is the real Gaultier and all of those collections where he created sophisticated, sexy, chic, subversive clothes that were presented in an equally sophisticated, sexy, chic, subversive way were just the result of Gaultier holding back. If that's the case then I personally wouldn't mind seeing him shackle his more outlandish impulses.

Take a look at some of his older collections and see if you feel the same way.

Spring Summer 2001
Spring Summer 2002
Fall Winter 2002
Fall Winter 2003
Spring Summer 2004

all images from Style.com