Saturday, May 15, 2010

Everyone and their mother...

That's who's been wearing the debut items from Gucci's new made-to-measure line, Gucci Première. Seriously, Cannes is only into it's fourth day and so far no less than five different women (not including Frida Giannini herself) have walked the red carpet wearing pieces from Gucci's couture line, some more than once. Now when I first read about this line about two months ago on WWD I nearly choked on my own tongue. All I could think of was the amount of bells and whistles a Gucci couture gown would be covered in, given some of the recent runway collections. Oh sure, I praised the F/W 10 show because I thought it was good, but that doesn't mean I have complete faith that Frida won't lose control and relapse into her sequin abuse problem if she's left unsupervised for too long. At the time the news leaked Gucci had no comment, and I forgot all about it...until this week when the steps at Cannes were swarmed by starlets wearing Gucci. Now the impression I get from what's been written about it, and what I've seen so far, is that it's sort of Gucci's answer to Armani's Prive collection, although if memory serves Armani's collection is permitted to be called haute couture by the Chambre Syndicale, which would mean that his clothes meet the standards of true couture. Gucci isn't promoting this as haute couture, but more as a made to measure custom service for red carpet types and rich people who want something exclusive. But custom made red carpet pieces are nothing new for Gucci, they've been doing them since Tom Ford was still at the helm, so I don't really know why they're launching this as a completely separate collection.

The first woman was, somewhat fittingly given her marital status to Mr. Gucci Group himself, Salma Hayek. Now I'll say right up front that I think this is a pretty dress, and I like that the sparkle is kept to a minimum and restricted to two specific locations. It's a little bit more interesting than all over beading. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't beyond sick of the one-shouldered thing. It's become such a ubiquitous look for red carpet events at this point. I also think that this particular specimen would have been better without that little drape falling on the arm. So yeah, it's pretty dress, but it's not all that remarkable and it certainly isn't something unique. Also, it must be said that I'm a little peevish in general about gowns with rear zippers. The only reason to put a zipper up the back is if you absolutely don't have the option of putting it on the side. I can't really tell how this dress is constructed from pictures, so I'll let it slide, but it's a little annoying because you can see the little bubble in the back where the end of the zipper is, and that's precisely why I hate rear zips. But still, Salma looks beautiful in it, and I suppose that's the most important thing.

Next up was Camille Belle in a navy column, also one shouldered and also featuring strategically placed beading. The dress is fine I guess, although the only thing that made me look twice was the way the beading sort of dissolves down the back, which is a beautiful effect. But everything else about this look is both bland and kind of mature. The dress itself, from the color to the cut, seems destined for an older woman, probably in the over 35 age range, if not older. There's something almost conservative about it, despite the bit of sparkle and the slit up the leg. The hair and makeup really isn't helping matters as it makes Belle look about 15 years older than she is. But most of all this dress just looks like something you'd find in any number of department stores or dress shops. It's a standard evening wear template, not something you can go wrong with, but not something that's going to turn heads either.

The dress Kate Beckinsale wore was, at least, somewhat interesting to look at...although I don't really like it. There's something about the mix of the very dense silver beading and the sort of ethereal look of the draped shoulders and flowing train that doesn't quite work. I don't think the armor like panels really work well against the soft, romantic silhouette and delicate beading in the drapery at the hips. I dunno, it just doesn't work for me. From the back it gets worse, because in addition to the weird clash of hard and soft, the sewing in the rear seam is a little fucked up, to put it plainly. It's the kind of thing any fashion design professor would teach you how to avoid. That puckering, and especially right on the ass, is not pretty. I don't know if it's because the fabric has lycra in it, or if the dress wasn't properly altered, or if it was just poorly sewn, but it's shoddy looking and that's a shame, especially with Gucci promoting these looks as the most exclusive of all of their products.

Camille Belle also showed up to an event wearing a short, fitted, off the shoulder dress completely beaded in a degrade pattern. The dress is boring as hell, but it's cute and sparkly and a hell of a lot more youthful than the other dress she wore. But it's been almost 3 years since every young actress and "personality" in Hollywood has had their stylist slather them in Crisco so they could slip into an Herve Leger bandage dress, which is exactly what this looks like, and I'm completely burnt out on that look. More than anything I just like the effect that was achieved with the beading. Also wearing a short, sparkly number was Giannini herself, making the rounds of events along with her coterie of clients. Her dress is another that I've seen a million of, from runways to department store racks. It's nothing I'm about to piddle over.

The dress that French actress Lea Seydoux wore was by far one of the most interesting dresses of the ones I've seen. It's also one of my least favorites. There's just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. I wish I could offer an explanation as to why, but I have no effing clue. I will say this though, at the very least it's not a predictable red carpet choice (I don't even know when I last saw a cap sleeve) so that's a positive. But other than that I think I might actually hate it.

Naomi Watts has the distinction of wearing my favorite dress out of the ones that have been seen so far, which isn't saying much, but it's something. I love the angular pattern that basically makes up the entire dress. Despite how blah a pale beige strapless column gown is by it's very nature, there's at least something really graphic to look at with this one. I would have loved to see this in a darker, more severe color, something to play up the sharpness of those pleats. I for one am completely over the pale flesh-tone thing that so many women seem to gravitate towards for the red carpet. At the very least if you're going to go for a neutral color, go for black. It doesn't have that aura of "meh" to it. Still, it's a pretty dress, although I'm a little concerned about the workmanship. It looks a little rough on the bust.

And lastly there was Mrs. Gucci Group again, although I have to say I detest this dress. There's something cheap about it that I can't quite pinpoint, but the two things that come to mind when I look at it are: department store evening dress on the 50% off rack at Lohmann's, or some novice fashion student's attempt at making a "Versace" gown. I doubt if that's the kind of association Gucci want's anyone to have while looking at any of their products, least of all a custom made dress for the wife of their CEO.

Now, I'm fine with Gucci wanting to up their exclusivity factor by creating one-off pieces for celebs. They're not the first and they probably won't be the last. But here's the thing, if you set out to create a line that promises exclusivity, you better make damn sure that the product makes good on it. None of these dresses are the kind that would really pop on any red carpet, and I truly think that were it not for the fact that Gucci was promoting the line at one of the biggest red carpet events of the year, nobody would look twice at any of them. I also find it hard to believe that a paying client would want a custom made dress that was so indistinct. No, ultimately the label in a dress isn't important if the dress is beautiful, but you wouldn't go to Chanel to have a suit made for you that looks like any other suit, so why would you want a Gucci gown that looks like any other gown? I'll be honest, even when I've hated them Frida's evening gowns and party dresses have usually had some personality to them. Take the dresses she did for fall, there's no way those would blend in on a red carpet. Even though a casual observer might not know right away that they're Gucci, they would no doubt assume that they're high fashion. These dresses however could be by any second rate red carpet designer. It's kind of ironic that the dresses which will be produced in quantity look more exclusive and unique than the ones that are one of a kind. And I know I'm guilty of bringing every Gucci related post back to Tom Ford in some way, but I can't help pointing out that his custom designed pieces while he was at Gucci and YSL got people's attention and stood out at an event. For proof look no further than the one-sleeved nude column covered with clear crystals that Nicole Kidman wore to the 2003 Met Gala. Seven years later and nude beaded gowns are a dime a dozen, but that trend can probably be traced back to that one Gucci dress. Simply put it had the wow factor that none of these new designs possess, but it wasn't some completely out there design. I guess in the end high impact dressing doesn't need to be ridiculous, it just needs to be well calculated. If these new looks are an accurate representation of what the Gucci Première line is going to be about then to be honest I just don't see the point.

all images from, and thanks to Flashbang at The Fashion Spot

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

American woman, listen what I say...

Well kids, it's that time of year again. That's right, it's Costume Gala time. What is it about the combination of fabulous fashion folk and starved to perfection A-list celebs that proves so exciting every year? Wait...I may just have answered my own question. That's exactly what's so exciting about it, because unlike at awards shows and premiers when celebrities are expected to dress according to some rigid fashion standard that will appease people who don't actually care about fashion, the Met Gala is an invitation to go a little over the top, to wear something more daring than normal. Well, that's the theory, anyway. Despite near unlimited access to clothing by all of the designers in attendance there are still many celebrities who go safe and unthreatening. Now I'm not one to criticize a starlet for choosing something simple, in fact in these days when the red carpet standard is a rigid mile-wide bulldozer of a gown with all manner of beads, sequins, feathers and ruffles by Marchesa, something simple but stunning is a welcome relief for me. Safe on the other hand....well, it doesn't really get my pulse racing. Unfortunately safe is largely what we got this year. Someone on the Fashion Spot, and I can't remember who, pointed out that in the past the best red carpet arrivals for the Met gala have been when the exhibit has a very specific theme, and naturally people dress to reflect it. Whoever it was that said it was absolutely right. I've watched the event since 2003's "Goddess" exhibit, and since then there have been a few years when the red carpet action has been off-the-charts. The goddess exhibit, the Anglomania exhibit in 2006, Poiret in 2007 and the Superhero themed 2008 gala all had people upping their fashion game, and the results were far more interesting than you're likely to find at your standard black tie affair. Needless to say for the second year running the Costume Institute team has gone with a pretty basic, pretty general theme and the attendees' fashions reflect that. This year, sadly, there wasn't one "wow" moment for me. Even Lady Gaga who skipped the red carpet entirely went safe in a Prada tux. So while there were some beautiful looks, and while there were some really bad looks, most of the night's attendees filled up the huge gray area between gorgeous and God-awful.

Anyway, enough of my b.s. On with the dresses.

The Good

Kate Bosworth in Valentino Haute Couture

It doesn't hurt that Kate is stunning regardless, but the fact that she picked one of my favorite pieces out of the mixed bag that was the Valentino HC collection for Spring scores points from me. I knew it was only a matter of time before some stylist snatched that dress, and frankly I'm surprised it took 5 months for someone to wear it. She looks gorgeous, and even though it's hardly a challenging or unusual look, it's styled (and worn) beautifully.

Donna Karan in Donna Karan

Love it. Yeah it's a predictable Donna Karan dress, but it's gorgeous. Donna is proof that her clothes work just as well on a woman with an average body as they do on someone who fits into the sample size.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Halston

So I was definitely in the minority of people who liked SJP's Chanel Oscar gown. The hair should have been more polished, but overall I liked the whole 60s vibe she went for, and I loved the dress itself. But she took a lot of flack for that dress, and while I get that it didn't appeal to most the fact is that she was one of the few attendees who did something unusual. Now I dare anyone to question her fashion cred. I don't even know what it is about her look that I love, I mean it's such a simple dress, almost boring except for it's metallic sheen. It's by no means the most interesting or fashionable thing she's ever worn. I guess it's just a case of the right dress, right hair/makeup and right accessories coming together to bring life to a look. Honestly I think this was my favorite look of the night.

Charlotte Gainsbourg in Balenciaga

I'll freely admit that I am one of, like, 10 people who don't swoon over Ms. Jane Birken jr. style-wise. I really only see her at events, and at events she is always in Balenciaga straight off of the runway. I don't think that wearing a runway look makes you stylish. It says more for your taste level than it does for you style or individuality. Needless to say the only reason I like her look is because I liked that dress. Not sure why it was cropped to cooch level though.

Diane Kruger in Calvin Klein

When I saw the first picture of Diane last night I nearly died because my first thought was "OMG is she wearing one of the white Gucci gowns from 1996?". Then I saw another picture and realized no, she is not. But still, her stark fitted white column looked fantastic. This is what I was thinking of when I said there's a difference between simple and safe. It's such a plain dress, a plain look in fact, but it just isn't the kind of dress that shows up on the red carpet these days. Were I Francisco Costa I might have cut out the back just to add a little something (although that might just be my obsession with the aforementioned Gucci gowns talking). My only complaint is the hair and makeup. It's not bad, I just would have gone with lighter eyes and a side part instead of center. Other than that she looks gorgeous.

Gisele in Alexander Wang

I do like the dress, and it DEFINITELY stands out, but even though I like the dress and even though Gisele looks great in it I don't think that's the kind of dress you wear to an event like this. It's not that it's too short or whatever, but that the look of it just isn't formal at all. I can handle a little bit of trash, after all I still count Courtney Love in John Galliano's destroyed Dior trashbag gown at the 2000 Golden Globes among my favorite red carpet moments. However this particular look is a little too trashy and clubby for the setting. But I'll lump it in with the good because ultimately I think Mrs. Brady looks good.

The Bad

January Jones in Yves Saint Laurent

Besides starring on one of my favorite shows January has quickly become a part of the list of women that I look forward to seeing on the red carpet at events. She's nailed it more than once, and she's taken some chances along the way. But this look is unforgivable. January, I urge you, repent now. Fire whoever styled you and start fresh, preferably with a new designer ally. And as for Stefano Pilati, I haven't liked his work in years because for years he's been neglecting his job of making women look beautiful. This is just the hot pink straw that broke the gay camel's back. He's dead to me.

Kristen Stewart in Chanel Haute Couture

I'll give her this, she's clearly trying to up her style ante, and in theory this dress is perfect for her. It's edgy, with that slight punk vibe from the mesh fabric, but whoever hemmed it completely botched it. It's too short, and that isn't helped by the platform shoes which I don't like with the dress. The top looks kind of fucked up too. Overall whoever was altering this butchered what could have been (and was, in it's runway incarnation) a striking dress. I also don't like what her peeps did with the hair.

Elizabeth Banks in Gucci

Poor girl. It's a shame that she and/or her styling team chose that dress out of all of the dresses Gucci showed for fall. I hated this one on the runway because there's way too much going on, and all of the surface decoration gives the wearer's body an indecipherable shape. From the front she looks bigger than she actually is because of all that extra fluff. From the side it's no better because those feathers just looks like a giant landing strip. You tell me, which sounds worse?

Janet Jackson in Lanvin

In case you don't recognize the dress, here it is on the runway. Now I realize that what I'm about to say will probably offend someone, but she doesn't have the body for that dress. It does nothing for her and she does nothing for it. I'm not a size Nazi, and I definitely don't think that only skinny women look good in high fashion, but if your body distorts the garment you're wearing to the point that it takes away from it's design, or conversely if a garment distorts your body to the point that it no longer makes you look good, that garment isn't for you. Besides that the styling is bad regardless....not that the Jackson's are known for their subtlety or taste.

Carey Mulligan in Miu Miu

Mulligan caught my attention during awards season when she was making the rounds of events and ceremonies while parading a variety of dresses and gowns for all to see. While I didn't always love what she opted to wear, her quirky choices piqued my interest because she usually managed to stand out. I personally loved her tool embellished black Prada gown and newly blond pixie cut at the Oscars in March, so I was looking forward to seeing what she'd wear to an even more fashion-conscious event. Turns out it was a dud. The lilac colored granny lace Miu Miu babydoll she chose couldn't have been more anticlimactic. I still haven't warmed to the collection it came from, and I just don't think it was dressy enough. On top of that I honestly think it's kind of ugly, like some relic in the Brady Bunch costume department.

Honestly, those are the only looks that I even had a strong reaction to, and at the end of the day none of them are particularly extreme; the good ones aren't mindblowing and the bad ones aren't horrifying. Pretty much all of the other looks were predictable red carpet fare. If you've ever watched an awards show you know what most of the people will turn up in; draped one shoulder goddess chiffon, Barbie-worthy mermaid dresses and big, beaded ballgowns. I certainly hope that this is just a slump and not a sign of things to come. If the last event on Earth where fashion trumps mass appeal goes down the same individuality-free, pre-packaged crapper that the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, et al have gone down I honestly don't know what I'm going to write about when there isn't a fashion show happening each Spring.

all photos from