Sunday, February 28, 2010

About face...


For me to say that I'm not Frida Giannini's biggest fan is something of an understatement. Anyone who has read either my blog or my posts on the Fashion Spot (which date back to the dawn of her career) can tell you without a doubt that I haven't always been kind to our girl Frida. So imagine my complete and utter disbelief to find that this season I was kinda impressed by her collection. That's right, I said impressed, so bear with me.

My issue with Giannini is three-fold; from the beginning she completely ignored the well established identity and aesthetic of the house, in her zeal to erase the memory of her iconic predecessor her collections were erratic and lacking in any kind of consistency, and the simple-minded trends/cliches she worked with gave the impression that her clothes were nothing more than luxed-up fast fashion. On top of those things her most recent collections have been too reliant on special effects rather than good design. By that I mean she spent too much time decorating basic pieces that, despite their astronomical price-tags and overt displays of "luxury", didn't actually seem all that luxurious. All in all her collections have been, to me at least, too self conscious, like after four years she still doesn't have the confidence needed to put her own permanent stamp on the Gucci legacy. Well apparently we may all be in for a change.

Giannini's collection for Fall Winter 2010 is hands down the best she has done in her eight-season tenure at the house. Gone are the gimmicks, the overwrought details, and the frivolous, youth-obsessed, flash in the pan trends. In their place are beautiful, sexy, timeless looking clothes for beautiful, sexy, confident women, not girls, women. Everything about this collection, from the rich palette of warm neutrals in contrasting shades, to the longer skirt lengths, and even the non-tricked-out accessories seem geared towards a more grown up clientele who doesn't need to flaunt their fashion cred. And unlike in past seasons this collection placed more emphasis on daywear, with sharp tailoring a focal point as opposed to flirty day dresses and party gear. Most of the day looks were built around this season's pant; narrow, low on the waist but not ridiculously so, and flared just enough to spill over the foot. In the past Giannini's pants, with their low waist, tapered leg and overall boyish look really didn't appeal to me, so it was nice to see her working on a new shape, especially one that's really flattering. With the pants she paired understated coats or furs that were luxe without being obnoxious and simple silk camisoles or blouses. As an entire look the pants, slightly oversized coats and silk button downs worn partially open definitely recalled Tom Ford's very first Gucci collection as creative director back in 1995, not that that's a bad thing. Mixed in with the pant looks were some sheaths with slashes along a bias seam held closed with polished gold hardware. Those few looks brought to mind the white jersey gowns with gold hardware that Ford showed in his iconic F/W 1996 collection which, again, isn't a bad thing. There were also a few looser draped dresses in smudgey prints or solid black before the collection moved into evening.

Let's face it, evening has always been a big deal at Gucci and it probably always will. In my opinion eveningwear has never been Giannini's strong suit, she's always showed a bit more skill with sportswear and casual dresses. But this time around, though I didn't love every look she sent out for after dark, I liked that the looks were more mature, more hedonistic and more "Gucci" than anything she's shown before. Most of the looks mixed python patterned lace or mesh with paillettes and ostrich feathers on the sleeves. Paired with coordinating patterned lace tights and metallic python sandals it was a lot of look, but because all of them were cut above the knee they avoided that sharp left into tacky territory. Sure, not all of them worked but the looks that did were really beautiful, and kind of unusual too in their mix of textures. A black one with a plunging v-neck held up by a metal collar worn with a bolero in ombré feathers had a beautiful degrade effect going on, from the opaque paillettes at the top down to the sheer tights on bare flesh at the bottom. The look reminded me, though very vaguely, of the beaded dresses and marabou boleros Tom did back in '04. Another, a cognac long sleeved dress with copper paillettes fading from top to bottom was also really beautiful. The best thing about these looks is that they're a more extreme, grown up take on glamour than what Giannini is known for. You're not likely to see some unkempt hipper-than-thou wild child pulling these looks off, that's for sure.

I think that this collection is completely refreshing coming from Giannini. It's not relying on anything but quality clothing and good styling, which is what made Gucci a powerhouse to begin with. It takes a bit of maturity to hold back and let the clothes be the focal point instead of a theme or overdone details. Are these clothes anything new? No. Are they bound to shake fashion to it's core? Probably not. But that's okay. I am still pretty shocked by how much I like this, although I'm starting to think that maybe I shouldn't be. The fact is that a lot of this bares a resemblance to Tom Ford's work at the house, especially in his disco-loving early days. Looking at this I'm left wondering why Frida spent so many seasons trying in earnest to avoid the territory he mapped out, because while this doesn't have the same heady punch of Ford's work, it fits his Gucci blueprint very well. This woman seems to be the softer, less depraved sister of Ford's femme fatale. She may not have that same predatory sensuality that leaves a path of broken men in her wake, but I bet she's got a few of her own tricks up her ostrich feather sleeve. Here's hoping we'll get to see them.

all images from

Thursday, February 25, 2010



The name itself may as well be fashion shorthand for rapid and startling change. Each season people wait with bated breath to see where Miuccia will go, and the results are pretty much always bound to captivate and alienate due to their unfamiliarity. While Prada doesn't reinvent the sartorial wheel with her work what she does is take things that are mainstream or banal and subvert them somehow, breathing new life into old ideas and changing the eye of the viewing public. A Prada show, more than any other, elicits a strong reaction upon first glance. It's always a love it or hate it kind of experience.

But this season rather than sending out something strange and unexpected Miuccia sent out a collection that was so quintessentially Prada it could almost be considered predictable. From the first look to the last it was a reminder of what the house has always stood for; traditional, nostalgic femininity with more than a hint of oddness. Retro geometric prints in icky colors? Present and accounted for. Intentionally frumpy, cheap looking knitwear? Also on display. Dirndl skirts and A-line coats? The collection was filled with them. Just like with Marc Jacobs' collection in New York this was Prada reworking her own past. But as familiar as all of the elements were, as unmistakably "Prada" as the clothes appeared don't for one second think that Miuccia wasn't changing everyone's eye. The first look out, a long sleeved black wool dress with a fluted skirt and molded bust was prim and almost dowdy in that Italian widow kind of way, except that the folds used to give the bust it's almost pointed shape looked like nipples. Many of the looks, like a a few sleeveless tops worn with some of the only pairs of pants in the collection, or a series of dresses in wool, melange cable knit, PVC or colorful mid-century wallpaper printed silk had rows of curving ruffles on the bust. A few other pieces had a single ruffle tracing the underside. And many of the slightly A-line coats were cut with an empire waistline. All of these details drew the attention right to the breasts, and more than anything else that was the focus of the collection. It seems like years since a voluptuous decollete has been a priority in fashion, and I find the shift away from a boyish, layered, unstructured shape completely refreshing. Mixed in were many takes on Prada's signature 60s prints in muddled shades of tan, brown, purple, mustard and blue, chunky knit or patent leather separates like skirts and pea jackets with double collars, and a few black felt pieces covered with dense jet beading. Paired with the big beehive 'dos, sexy pointed toe stilettos, bulky knee high socks and the occasional pair of exaggerated two-tone cat's eye glasses the entire collection was all mixed signals; quirky but chic, dowdy but sexy. But the one thing that was crystal clear was how womanly the clothes were. It was impossible to miss.

I'm still a little torn about the collection to be honest. On the one hand I love a lot of the clothes, and I love what the collection is saying. It's completely exhilarating to see something that requires a bit of a body to actually pull off. Not that all of these clothes will flatter everyone, but they certainly seem geared towards a decent variety of grown women with grown women's parts. I also think that the way Miuccia reworked all of her signatures was well done, and will no doubt appeal to a lot of different people. On the other hand, the look of this collection is completely familiar. Save maybe for the ruffles on the boobs this collection is made up entirely of traditional Prada elements. Even though it's a surprise because a) it has almost nothing to do with where fashion is right now and b) it has nothing to do with what Miuccia did last season there really isn't anything jarring about it, and for me that jarring newness is what I look forward to from Prada. But in a way it makes sense. Every so often Miuccia does go back to the template that made her famous to start with. It's a bit like a palette cleanser before her next bout of restless experimentation.

all images from

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh make me over...

Proenza Schouler

Last season was the first time I ever really loved a Proenza Schouler collection, so naturally I was looking forward to see what they'd send out for fall. But the problem I find when I get my hopes up for a collection is that they're rarely met. While I can't say that I love Jack and Lazaro's Fall Winter 2010 presentation, I do really like it. A lot in fact.

In a way it's a bit of a continuation of last season when they seemed to be exploring a bit of early 90s street and youth culture; skateboarding, surfing, graffiti. This time around the look is more grunge, a glamorized take on grunge obviously, but grunge nonetheless. Sharp, accordion pleated minidresses in dark colors were worn over trashy sheer mesh shirts with neat little collars in leather. A short A-line toggle coat was worn over a mini skirt, white blouse and black sheer thigh highs. Cropped pea jackets were paired with layered crop-tops and mini kilts. And varsity jackets were trimmed with fox fur in lurid shades of violet, teal or blue. Try to imagine the bastard child of Cher from "Clueless" and Courtney Love with some 90s-era GAP thrown in and you've got a vague idea of what the look is.

Then came a few graphic printed looks in a combo of black/white and cobalt/white followed by kaleidoscopic printed pieces in shades of green and blue. The prints used for these pieces were apparently made from manipulated photocopies of tartan plaids, not that you can really tell. There were a few cute printed baby doll dresses with black mesh cutouts at the collar and sections of sequin embroidery that really cemented the Hole-era Courtney Love comparison. The final five dresses, two with cutout sides and three draped with bubble skirts, were worn over crop tops. I didn't like any of them. The colors were odd and really stuck out among the rest of the collection, and the dresses themselves were just not very attractive. Unusual considering that one of the duo's strengths are great party dresses. These lacked finesse for the most part, and besides that the draped bubble dresses aren't anything you can't already find elsewhere.

Overall, a pretty cool collection, especially the first two-thirds of it. The way they twisted and subverted both preppy and girly was really well done. I love the idea of an over-sized varsity jacket with a bright fur collar worn with trashy thigh-high stockings and chunky platform clogs. Or of neat pleated wool dresses worn over a mesh top. Where the collection lost steam for me was around those baby doll dresses and other printed pieces. It's not that I didn't like them, but when you look at them compared to the amazing printed pieces that were done for Spring they don't quite stack up. Still, the dresses especially were cute, especially the yellow one. The final dresses were a complete dud in my book. Still, the collection has a great energy to it; tough but still pretty, boyish but feminine, cute but sexy. I never pictured myself liking the gradual return we've been seeing towards the early-90s, but I guess if it's done with a bit of humor and irony then it can actually be kind of appealing.

all images from

Video: Chanel Haute Couture Spring Summer 2010


Almost a month later my love for the Chanel S/S 2010 couture collection is still going strong. Those gowns at the end look so much better in motion, and let me just say that the details do not disappoint in the closeups. The music got a little repetitive, and for whatever reason the best song was saved for the last minute when Karl took his bow and the girls took their final lap. I also think the editing was kind of chopped up in parts. Minor complaints in the end, though, because the show itself (save for the ever scowling and pouting Baptiste in that silly space suit) was gorgeous.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brown bag it...

Marc Jacobs

There's something about Marc Jacobs' new collection for Fall Winter 2010 that has the feeling of comfort food. It's familiar, and it leaves you satisfied, content, and all warm and gooey on the inside. Since about 2007 or so Marc has been pushing himself to expand upon the his reputation, moving beyond the cool, effortless, quirky style that made him famous. As a result his shows became more polished, the ideas he explored more avant garde, and his collections more challenging. All that paid off though, because he went from being fashion's darling to being a fashion leader. Somewhere along the line he also became a household name and something of a pop culture fixture. Now personally, I liked that he took his work to a new extreme. Regardless of the fact that he's been accused of pillaging other designer's work for ideas while abandoning his own identity, the truth is that besides putting a new spin on the ideas he was influenced by he also proved that he's capable of creating more than reworked vintage pieces and it-bags. But I'd be lying if I said that there wasn't a small part of me that didn't miss the good old days when things were simpler.

Well for next winter Marc seemed to be channeling those good old days, revisiting a lot of the things that made him famous to begin with, and the results couldn't be more refreshing. Stripping away the references, trends, themes, and statements Jacobs sent out the bottom line; clothes. But it was so much more than that. The lack of hype, the lack of forced newness was kind of like a statement in itself. It was honest, pure and simple to understand. Because Jacobs was drawing on his own past, his love of vintage, his love of quirky shapes, his love of sportswear and high/low parallels the show and the clothes had soul to them. Normally it's fun to try and spot the mish-mash of references that go into a Marc Jacobs collection, and to try and decode what it is that he's saying, but this time around there really doesn't seem like much of a need to go there. The mellow palette, made up almost exclusively of neutral colors with an emphasis on beige, brown, tan and cream was relaxing and practical, and the soft, rich colors made me think of the way fresh baked bread or warm sugar cookies smell. Beyond that all I get is a big dose of old school Marc Jacobs with a more grown up kind of polish to it.

From the A-line skirts and dresses to neatly belted coats with fluffy Mongolian lamb fur collars and cuffs, sharp wide leg trousers, sweet lingerie looking chemises, and finally evening gowns with a broken in, dishevelled kind of beauty the collection was filled with pieces that were both pragmatic and whimsical. This being Marc Jacobs, there were touches of wit in things like a sweater with trompe l'oeil "sleeves" tied at the neck like a cardigan or a peacoat with a misplaced center button that made the coat looked shrugged on with a slight flare to it. But for the most part the clothes were straightforward, and that's their strength. Even without the over the top styling, staging or statements the collection has managed to excite people, probably for no other reason than the fact that it's beautiful. The ease and familiarity of the clothes, coupled with the renditions of "Over The Rainbow" that provided the soundtrack made for a serene show that, cheesy as it sounds, cast a spell over the viewer. I feel like it's been a while since many designers, not just Marc, have shown a collection that had no greater ambition than to just be beautiful. More and more it feels like there needs to be some kind of hook, gimmick, or lots of flash to get people interested in a collection. The expectations of a designer have gotten so high that very few can actually meet them, let alone exceed them. Besides providing excitement on a runway, they're expected to deliver something unique, something flattering, something that's going to jump off the pages of a magazine, and something that women will need. Leave it to Marc, ever ahead of the game, to remind everyone that if you've got the goods they'll pretty much speak for themselves.

all images from

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Strange, I've seen that dress before...


It's a complicated frame of mind I'm in after looking at Joseph Altuzarra's collection for Fall Winter 2010. I'm torn between feeling that little jolt of excitement which comes from seeing a collection that I like, and feeling ashamed of myself for liking a collection that appears to be based almost entirely on an older collection by one of my favorite designers, which is largely considered by many of his fans to have been his best. See? Complicated.

Altuzarra's collection, his third since debuting his eponymous collection at New York Fashion Week last year, is, in a word, wicked. From the sheath-like pencil skirts and cinched waists to the buckled harnesses and pointed-toe pumps the look was dangerously sexy. It was also straight-up Gucci, F/W 2003 to be exact, with a touch of the iconic red velvet tuxedo from 1996 thrown in. The opening looks, comprised of fitted patchwork jackets with panels of shiny goat fur worn with pencil skirts spliced to the thigh and lace-up boots, pieced leather dresses or catsuits, and sharp, dramatic coats with harnessed closures made an instant impact paired with the spike heels and slick hair. I liked it right off the bat because there was nothing wishy-washy about it. Altuzarra went for it and made the first powerful statement of the week. There was a sleeveless jumpsuit with a plunging neckline worn with a mannish jacket shrugged on the shoulders that made for a cool, edgy kind of evening look, and a pair of skintight leather leggings had curving seams that were loosely laced together to show a winding sliver of skin. At this point any similarities to another designer's work were minimal, and if anything the collection seemed to be a continuation of the 80s inflected show he presented last winter.

It wasn't until look 21 that I kind of thought "hmm, that kind of looks like...", but I wrote it off as just a random similarity. They happen all the time in fashion. After a few more sharp black looks with lacing and cutouts Altuzarra sent out a series of looks in crimson velvet. The first, a fitted cocktail dress with body-con seaming and a satin tuxedo lapel was a sexy twist on two staple pieces. But then he sent out 3 different takes on a smoking suit, all in that same red velvet worn with matching velvet stilettos. Now, there is just no way that anyone who has either been following fashion for a while or is obsessed with Tom Ford's history at Gucci wouldn't recognize the similarities between these looks and an iconic look that not only appeared in one of Ford's most lauded collections, but also the campaign that accompanied it and on Gwyneth Paltrow at an event that year. But hey, if that was the inspiration, that was the inspiration. Altuzarra at least had the good sense to rework the suit from his own p.o.v. Unfortunately though he planted the seed of suspicion and that made me re-examine every look that came before it. Suddenly I was seeing similarities everywhere. The collection was good, especially considering that most of the early shows during each NYFW are filled with non-descript, non-impact clothing that is only meant to sell. That wasn't the case here. And some of the pieces, especially the coats and tailoring were really well done.

But those similarities, man. They were just too plentiful, and as much as I may like the collection, the fact that it seems reliant on another designer's work for inspiration bothers me. I'm actually willing to let the red velvet tuxes slide, same goes for the pointed toe pumps with the ankle cuffs that are nearly identical to the ones from Spring 1997. But so much of this, from individual pieces to the overall styling is reminiscent of Tom Ford's blockbuster F/W 03 collection that I just can't let it go. The dramatic upturned collars, the belted waists, the hobbling pencil skirts with body-con construction, the shaggy fur worked onto the sleeves, even the harnesses holding up some of the dresses. Like I said, I didn't even notice the references to Gucci until I had looked through most of the collection already, but once I did notice that's all I could see throughout the lineup. Really what this collection boiled down to was Gucci-lite with a hint of Edward Scissorhands thrown in for contrast. The examples I chose are just narrowed down to the obvious ones, but really the whole collection felt drawn from that Gucci show in some way.

(This is the aforementioned look 21)

(This one is vague, it's only up in the shoulders & sleeves)

I guess it's no wonder I like this so much, because to this day I still love the Gucci collection. Judging by the similarities, some more overt than others, I can only assume that Altuzarra either loved that Gucci collection too and it worked it's way into his collection without his realizing it, or that he actually was trying to channel it consciously. If it's the former, then it's unfortunate because anyone who notices how alike they are will probably jump right to the accusation that he was knocking it off. If it's the latter, then he's going to need to work on adding more of his own personality when he references another designer's work. At the end of the day though it might have been a smart move on Joseph's part, to target the woman who is still searching for a designer to cling to since Tom Ford left the scene and effectively ended the look he championed. It's not like the Ford woman is still shopping at Gucci, so why not cash in on that? I just wish that this had more of the spirit of old Gucci rather than just looking like it.

all photos from and

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Memoriam - Alexander McQueen

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the news that Alexander McQueen has died. For the 10 years that I've been reading about, learning from and witnessing fashion, Alexander McQueen was a part of the experience. Whether brutally severe, aggressively sexual, achingly romantic, or as was common for him a combination of those things, his work never failed to amaze. The way that he could harness the powers of technology, sound, makeup, theater and clothing to not only express his own emotions but also manipulate those of the audience is no doubt what he will go down in history for. He was a designer who set trends, who changed the collective eye, who challenged convention and used fashion as a means of expression. But beyond all of that, he was simply a creator of beauty.

Earlier today I was thinking about how, more often than not, McQueen would close his shows with a final cinematic moment, a powerful image that would burn itself into the memory of all who happened to see it. From a model in a dress made of blood red beads standing in a circle of fire, to Shalom Harlow rotating between two robotic arms as they spray-painted her voluminous white dress, a yellow rainstorm falling over the models as they walked the plexiglass runway, or a voluptuous naked woman in repose wearing a demonic gas mask while butterflies hovered around her. In retrospect those final images are like a reminder that beauty is ephemeral, which is all the more reason to savor it before it ultimately burns out. But none of his finales illustrates this point more poignantly than this from Fall Winter 2006.

I think's Tim Blanks said it best today when he wrote...
For everyone left behind, there will eventually be consolation, however scant right now, in a body of work whose power will never die.