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, 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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Memento mori...


I must admit that when it was announced a couple of weeks ago that Riccardo Tisci made the decision to scale back his Haute Couture collections for Givenchy, nixing a runway presentation and cutting the total amount of looks shown to the press down to 10, I wasn't thrilled. I could see the logic in his choice, because taking a still photograph of a garment up close is the next best thing to seeing it in person (which is what press and clients would be able to do). But I tend to prefer some kind of runway like setting, whether it's a traditional up-and-down runway or something more complex in the vein of old school Galliano. It's not even that I find a static salon presentation boring, it's that it's really hard to give context to a collection when you're simply photographing it in front of a wall. With music, lighting and set design you can create some kind of ambiance that complements the clothes. It also allows a designer to bring the audience into a world of their creation, to give the audience a more multi-dimensional look at what was going through their heads when they designed the collection. I also wasn't thrilled about the fact that last season's clunky, and honestly borderline ugly collection would be the last impression of a Givenchy couture show, until further notice at least. But I'm enough of a Tisci fan to have faith that he would deliver something special now that the focus would be entirely on an extremely limited number of clothes. On that count I don't think I was wrong.

Anyone who has been following Tisci's career at Givenchy can view the 10 looks he presented and see things that are similar to work he's already done. For the first time though I don't see that as a negative thing. My rule for designers is that if they're going to revisit something they've already done or rework a piece from their past they had better improve upon the original. In my opinion it's rare that that actually happens. I can't speak for everyone, much as I might like to, but I think that this time around Tisci actually did manage to take those old ideas and make them better. Each one of his ten looks had something familiar about them, from religious motifs to heavy beadwork, geometric cuts to intricate embroideries and appliques. But even at their most baroque, as in a narrow column dress completely encrusted in gold sequins and beads, the clothes didn't seem as labored as they sometimes have in the past. They were detailed to nth degree, no doubt about it, but I really don't think any of the clothes felt overwrought. Tisci's use of his inspiration felt completely under control as well. Even something like lace applique in the form of the human skeleton doesn't seem as gimmicky as it could have been. In fact, I think there's something really beautiful in that blend of purity and darkness, beauty and physical decay. You could also make the connection between the reminders of mortality as seen in the porcelain skulls that apparently adorn some of the white jackets and the seemingly imminent death of Haute Couture.

So yeah, I'm not entirely in love with this scaling back thing. At the very least I would have like to see a larger collection. But then I stop and think to myself that if scaling back was what it took for Tisci to make clothes that are this beautiful and this focused, then I really shouldn't have anything to be upset about, should I? If it wasn't for how small the collection was, I might go so far as to call this Tisci's best couture collection yet.

Unfortunately there's some copyright issue going on with the images Conde Nast is using at the moment, so you'll have to go to yourself to check out better quality images and rear views of each look. I'd recommend viewing them in full screen mode.

all images from

Monday, July 5, 2010

In the golden afternoon...

Christian Dior

I was absolutely not planning on having anything to say about the Dior F/W 2010 Haute Couture collection. That's pretty much why I stopped reviewing Dior shows, because I've had nothing to say about them except the same-old same-old; boring, stodgy, out of touch, beneath Galliano's capability. It gets tiring complaining about the same thing. But as it turns out I have something to say this season.

I don't hate it, not at all. In fact, there are things about it I quite like. For starters I like that Galliano took what is an extremely cheesy inspiration (flowers) that could easily have resulted in an equally cheesy collection of fusty Dior rehashes, and threw a bit of a curve ball. The clothes are flowery all right, but any flowers that inspired these clothes were probably seen on one of those neon black light posters with black flocked background, not in a garden. I honestly think that the black light poster comparison is kind of apt, because there is something delightfully tacky and kind of vulgar about this collection. Whereas a lot of Galliano's recent collections, both couture and ready to wear, have seemed like earnest attempts at doing tasteful, elegant clothing, this doesn't seem to be going for that effect at all. It seems like it was meant to be over the top and a little ridiculous. Why else would the model's heads be wrapped in colored cellophane like a floral bouquet? That little styling trick, coupled with the technicolor makeup and cartoony pompadours, was a nice touch that helped keep the collection from feeling stodgy. Same goes for the raffia craft ribbon tied around the waists of jackets and dresses. Overall there was something a little haphazard about things. This collection doesn't seem like it was the result of John and his team studiously poring over the Dior archives and painstakingly trying to recreate their beauty. Instead it looks like it came from the inside. It also looks like it was somewhat fun to create. The clothes may be tacky, or silly, or completely ridiculous, and they may not have that madcap spirit of old, but you can't deny that they have a certain liveliness to them that has been all but missing from the house recently. For me, that's the most exciting aspect of this collection. There's more passion in these 30 dresses than there has been in all the collections of the last two years combined. It also doesn't hurt that all I can think about while looking at this collection are those bitchy singing flowers from Alice in Wonderland.

Don't get me wrong though, this is still a far cry from what Galliano is capable of creating. As pretty as the colors and details may be, the fact is that these clothes are still not particularly contemporary. And I can't help but feel like it's kind of easy to look at flowers as a source of inspiration and just end up creating dresses that are meant to look like flowers. It doesn't take the strongest imagination to put hand painted petals cascading down the side of a dress. But on the plus side the clothes don't look like something Dior himself would ever have designed, so that's a bit of progress right there. Another positive is that for once the bright, borderline garish color palette makes utter sense given the theme of the collection, not to mention that some of the clashes are really quite beautiful and very well done. Even though this collection doesn't exactly erase the memory of the last few years it doesn't leave me wishing I hadn't bothered to look at it, either. That may not sound like much, but believe me, at this point that's high praise for a Dior collection.

all images from

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Color me shocked...

If I said that I've hated the ad campaigns Mario Testino has shot for Versace since 2005 it wouldn't be entirely true. Hatred is a feeling, and unless you want to count apathy I haven't felt a thing about any of them. My first experiences with Testino's work were his Gucci campaigns, and whether or not you liked those they were neither bland or predictable. When he took over from Meisel as Donatella's lensman of choice, I suddenly realized that I probably liked Testino only when Tom Ford and Carine Roitfeld were calling the shots. His American Vogue covers and editorials, ranging from pretty but banal to just plain banal, did nothing to convince me that I was judging too harshly. Now I don't want to make it sound like I always loved Meisel's work for Versace, because that's not the case. But even at their least interesting I can't remember any of his campaigns being mind-numbingly bland. Hell, even if they were the fact that I don't remember them that way should mean something, right?

But for some reason Testino's campaigns have always had this aura of lifelessness about them, and while that would be undesirable for most labels, it's downright sacrilegious for a label like Versace. Suck all the fun, sexiness and glamour out of Versace and there really isn't much left, is there? Needless to say Versace isn't one of the campaigns I look forward to seeing anymore. But still, curiosity got the better of me and I took a look at the campaign on the Fashion Spot and my jaw promptly hit the keyboard. It looks absolutely nothing like the work Testino has done for the house in the past five years.

I may just love it, though it's still too soon to tell. By Testino standards this campaign is almost edgy, and edge is something that Versace has been struggling to regain lately. There's something slightly gritty about the photos that compliments the mens and womens collections perfectly, and even though I wouldn't normally consider Versace gritty, the photographs are doing a pretty good job of making me reconsider. Quite frankly I wouldn't have thought Testino would be the photographer to make me reconsider that. Even at his best his work isn't exactly known for it's grit. This not only feels fresh for Versace, but very much of the moment. Lord knows I've bitched and moaned more than once when a designer or photographer falls into predictability, so to say that I'm thrilled about Testino doing something completely out of the box is kind of an understatement. And Kudos to Donatella and her team for knowing when to shake things up. I'm not at all surprised by the mixed response the campaign is getting so far; people don't like change, and neither Kate Moss or Gisele are in this campaign. But in fashion change isn't just inevitable, it's essential. So if this is a hint of the direction Donatella is going with the brand, I say bring it on.

all images from via tarsha at theFashionSpot

Turn the page...

Alexander McQueen

Sometimes I kind of get the feeling that when a new designer is chosen to replace someone there's almost a desire for that new designer to fail, and a need to pick out their every flaw. My guess is it's a resistance towards change. I completely understand that, even if I've only ever experienced that once. But I think it's safe to say that Sarah Burton, the woman chosen from within the company to take the reigns after Alexander McQueen's death this past winter, has garnered quite the opposite response. When the news broke that she would take over as Creative Director of Alexander McQueen, people seemed positive about the decision. It's as though people don't just want her to succeed, but need her to. Let's face it, there is no one who can truly replace McQueen, but with his untimely passing leaving a gaping hole within the ranks of international fashion designers I get the feeling that people just want to see his name live on. That's where Burton comes in. Honestly I think that the position she's in seems more daunting than having a public hoping you'll fail. If expectations start out high and you don't meet them, it's all the more disappointing for everyone who was rooting for you. I wasn't going to judge Burton based on her first menswear outing shown earlier this month, and even now with the debut of the very first women's collection overseen by her for Resort 2011, I'm still not ready to completely judge whether or not she can shoulder McQueen's immense legacy. Ultimately her collection for Spring Summer 2011 will be the moment to judge her on. But I will say this, the collection of clothes that she showed is, in my not so humble opinion, a very promising start to a new chapter in the history of McQueen.

I guess nobody should be surprised by how "McQueen" this collection is. After all, Burton was his right hand for many years. Without being told that these photos are of a McQueen collection, I would have absolutely no doubt that they are. But this doesn't look like a case of one designer trying to emulate their predecessor, and it's not some caricatured version of "Alexander McQueen". Instead this looks like the work of somebody who was so in tune with the person she took over from that the change is seamless. You can see traces of something new in the hints of softness and the less aggressive spirit, but those hints of something different seem completely natural. There's nothing jarring about them at all. My biggest concern when is was announced that the label would survive beyond it's namesake was that the person chosen to replace McQueen would try too hard to follow in his footsteps and would end up designing on auto-pilot as a result. As much as seeing clothes that could have been designed by McQueen himself might appease some people, to me there would be something kind of soulless about simply trying to replicate another designer's personality. I doubt if anyone could question Burton's understanding of the McQueen DNA, after all she contributed to it, but I'm happy to know that she seems to have her own voice as well. It also doesn't hurt that she seems entirely capable of creating breathtaking clothes without the leadership of McQueen himself. I'll still wait to see her runway debut in the fall to decide whether or not she is the true heir to McQueen, but for now it seems like the label is in very capable hands.

all images from