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


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...


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