Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cherchez la femme...

Louis Vuitton

I really don't use the word "charming" to describe very much, least of all fashion. But it's probably the only word suitable to describe the Vuitton collection for fall. From the neat, perky little pony-tails bouncing behind the models' heads to the full, mid-calf circle skirts swishing as they walked the entire presentation was such a throw back, so retro and pretty that I'm finding it impossible to hate even though I know that I probably should. Both of Marc Jacobs' collections this season revisited the past, but where his namesake collection was a personal exploration of his own past, his Vuitton collection was a nostalgic trip back in time to the era that gave us one of the most enduring images of idealized femininity. With their breasts pushed up and out, waists belted and skirts flaring from the hip, the girls were the epitome of traditional womanhood. It's not at all the type of femininity I'm normally drawn to or inspired by, and yet like I said I'm finding it hard to resist. It's certainly not Marc's best collection, and truth be told his Spring 2001 Louis Vuitton collection was a much more interesting, contemporary take on the same era and look, but there's still a freshness to this despite how literal and familiar it is. Even though this is missing the hint of subversion that would be needed to make these clothes something other than revisited vintage, the look is something that hasn't been seen in a while. The message within this collection is far stronger than the ideas used to create it.

The shift away from hard, boyishly androgynous, extremely youthful, pseudo-edgy femininity has really been the driving force behind this season, so it seems appropriate that the most forceful effort was saved for last (well, last-ish anyway). On her blog Cathy Horyn pointed out how Vuitton in Paris and Prada in Milan served as bookends for the European shows, and as usual she's dead on. Let's be realistic, if the two designers who are, arguably, fashion's most accurate barometers for what's next have zeroed in on the very same idea, chances are it could signal some kind of overall shift. Had it been just one of them out on this limb by themselves, you might be able to brush it off as just another one of their seasonal fixations. But the combined powers of Marc and Miuccia aren't something to be ignored. We may just be in for some change come spring.

all images from

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In Bloom...

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann is one of those rare designers who actually measure up to the sudden new attention they're getting. As opposed to other designers who seem to let the hype go to their head and seem to think they don't have to work as hard as they used to once they have it, Ackermann's work has steadily improved, and considering that he was good before the attention that's saying something. This season, compared to the languid glamour and subtle exoticism of Spring, Ackermann went more structured. Two of the features that he's added to his signature leather/suede/wool jackets were undulating folds with concentric rows of top stitching or layered peplums that could be unzipped at the waist to fold towards the rear. The overall effect of the fluid folds in front and the more jagged, almost obi-like folds in back was of a giant, poisonous flower in bloom on a forest floor. The collection was beautiful in the textures that were mixed as well, most impressively in the intricately laser cut leather that was so delicate it looked liable to fall apart, like beautifully decomposed lace. Perched atop a narrow bottom half that included Ackermann's signature wraith-like skirts and leather leggings, the tops were like sculptures displayed on pedestals.

Technically I think this is probably his most impressive collection yet. The folding, curling shapes that are the focal point of the collection are really a marvel to behold. And the overall look is, as always, calmly beautiful and sensual in that way that's become his signature. But calmness and tranquility aside, I think these are some of the most extreme clothes Ackermann has ever shown, at least of the collections that I've seen. Somehow though the shapes aren't completely overwhelming. They don't look like architectural experiments grafted onto a body. the effect is more organic than that. While I wish there was a bit of color in here, like the touches of saffron, indigo, sky blue and blood red that have highlighted his most recent collections, I'm willing to overlook that the palette doesn't stray from Haider's signature neutrals. The clothes on their own are simply that good.

all photos from

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hot Voodoo...


The words "Lanvin" and "tough" aren't usually found in the same sentence. Commanding, assertive, bold; all of them could be used to describe what Alber Elbaz sends out on his runway, but tough? Not exactly. That could be why I find the Lanvin Fall Winter 2010 collection exciting. There's a hardness and severity to it that I've never really seen in Alber's work before and I'm really liking it. It's as if he took all of his signatures--the loose draping, the rounded shoulders, the soft tailoring--and sharpened them up. Those flattering sheaths are more angular, darts and seams are reversed to contour the body, coats are shaped like an inverted triangle with exaggerated shoulders and pegged hems, and those goddess drapes are pressed flat into place to form pleats. Combined with the blunt cut jet black wigs each model wore and the aggressive looking accessories, Elbaz showed off a different side of the Lanvin woman, one that's more than a little bit dark. Even the flamboyant feather embellishments look more sinister than Swan Lake, with patches of ostrich or coque feather sprouting randomly out of the torso and trimming edges. Overall the impression was of a woman caught somewhere between civility and savagery, human and beast. With the predominantly dark color palette of black, browns and beige with hints of plum, burgundy, blood red and burnished gold or bronze, there was a subtle hint of tribalism to it. As the collection progressed it became louder and more aggressive until metal, feathers and sparkle were combined for an effect that was almost bombastic. It always impresses me that Elbaz never quite loses control of the elements he's working with. When it comes to embellishment, beads and feathers can easily go overboard and turn ugly quick, but somehow he manages to make it work, no matter how random or extreme they might seem. That's definitely easier said than done.

I'm sure a lot of people would gravitate to the more ornate evening stuff towards the end, and with good reason I suppose. There's just so much visual interest, from the sharply pleated lame to the tufts of ostrich feathers, they're the kind of clothes that beg to be touched. But for me the most exciting pieces come earlier in the collection. All of those plain dresses with their sharp, angular cuts and the coats with their domineering shoulder line were what really drew my attention. It's probably because, while the over the top embellished stuff at the end is fun to look at and probably fun to wear as well, the simple, graphic pieces feel fresher. That's the overall impression I'm left with from this, it's fresh, a little jolt of something different to keep people's attention after a few years of softness, volume and draping. I have a feeling that combined with the showroom collection this season's offerings will probably resonate with more customers than Alber's spiraling togas and filmy satin do. Women can't be goddesses every day, can they?

all images from

Friday, March 5, 2010

Domestic miss...


If Ikea were to make clothes, what would they look like? That question could definitely have been what led Nicolas Ghesquiere to create the collection he showed for Fall Winter 2010. If you've ever shopped at Ikea, you'll have no trouble conjuring at least a vague image in your mind; bright, pop-y colors, lots of plastic and other synthetic textures, and a huge dose of mid-century modern decor. Throw all of that into a blender and that's sort of what you're looking at with the clothes. At first the whole thing comes off as another one of Ghesquiere's explorations of technology and futurism, but once you know that he was, in fact, looking a items in a home like formica cabinets, kitchen supplies, and even sleeping bags, that ends up being exactly what you see. The opening cocoon coats in patchworks of techno fabric and shaggy fur brought to mind the inside of a microwave. The colorblocked knitted dresses or peplum tops looked straight out of a late 60s kitchen. A trio of sweaters worn with geometric jacquard mini skirts almost looked like machine-mad afghans, while two top/skirt combos looked like high-tech crocheted doilies. Several looks fused a top with either narrow quilted pants or a mini skirt, the top unzipping like a sleeping bag to reveal prints that were a like a collage of magazine clippings and road maps or, with the skirts, a puffy down coat . They were probably the most interesting looks in the collection because they simply defy description or categorization. I can't even tell if they're a single piece or separates, let alone how they're built and how they work. And finally there were three dresses in fabric that looks like packaging peanuts, printed with those same magazine/map collages. That's the best I can do as far as describing the bubbling, grid-like fabric.

At this point I still don't know whether or not I really like this collection. For sure it's one of the most unusual and technologically advanced collections that has been, or will be for that matter, shown this season. But whereas last season Ghesquiere used the incredible techniques that have become his trademark to create easy to comprehend clothing, this season the result is much more challenging. What struck me about this was the combination of very familiar silhouettes with cutting edge technique. The shapes aren't anything unusual, they're mainly straight, kind of boxy, and very Balenciaga, but the textures, fabrics and the way they're combined renders these clothes completely new. The almost chemically bright pastels and primary colors that are used only add to the boldness of the clothes. As with any of Ghesquiere's collections there is so much to look at here, and when it comes to pictures the higher the resolution the better, but honestly it leaves me a little cold. It interests me, that's sort of a given, and I always appreciate the vision that Ghesquiere puts forth. But there really isn't any emotional tug for me, no feeling of true excitement, no jolt of electricity. Since the two collections have quite a bit in common, I can't help but compare this and spring and for whatever reason I prefer that collection to this one. I think it might have achieved the mix of the familiar with the advanced better, and ultimately it was filled with familiar clothes that were amped up to become something more. By comparison this feels almost stuck in concept mode.

all images from