Thursday, December 22, 2016

Y/Project // Spring 2017 // Menswear

“I had no background, no knowledge. I had never heard of Margiela.” Those words came from Glenn Martens, creative director of Y/Project, in an interview Revs magazine. Martens spoke to the online magazine about his beginnings, how he graduated as an interior architect before deciding to pursue fashion. It was a chance happening, so he says, turning up to the entrance exams for Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts from a music festival. The school’s alumni include Dries van Noten, Demna Gvasalia, Martin Margiela and… Vincent van Gogh. (The school is Belgium’s answer to Central Saint Martins, a breeding ground for international talent.) Fast forward and Martens was appointed creative director at Y/Project.

I didn’t know until recently that Y/Project has been in existence since 2010 when it was founded by Gilles Elalouf and Yohan Serfaty—a businessman and designer partnership.Serfaty died of cancer in 2013. Elalouf searched for the successor and eventually he chose Martens, who had worked as Serfaty’s first assistant once upon a time. Martens is quick to point out the difference of aesthetics between Serfaty’s and his own. He compliments Serfaty’s subversion of the classic trope of darkness—Rick Owens name pops up often in his interviews—but Martens asserts he is of a different spirit. His work is touched by a brighter brush although it’s not always gentle.

In his profile in the New York Times, Martens labels his aesthetic “poppy, trashy, transgender vibe.” He regularly teeters on the line between good taste and bad taste. The Belgian designers that have come before him have a keen eye for doing this—Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia is a prime example. There is something problematic about saying your aesthetic has a “transgender vibe” seeing as transgender issues are never reflected in fashion, transgender models are rarely seen on runways and all designers seem to do is use it as fashionable lingo to attach to their collections. Y/Project does present most of its clothing as unisex, but Martens words were slightly miscalculated. 

“Freedom and absurdity” are terms he has used to describe past collections. They are perhaps a better caption for his concept. They could belong to any of his collections but particularly his Spring 2017 menswear show presented last June during men’s fashion week in Paris. Drawing on the items he sees on the street, Martens takes even the ugliest of items and challenges himself to make them pretty. While most young labels strive to show grit and rawness in their work Martens’ sensibility brings subverted beauty to the table which, in turn, is free and absurd.

He opened the show with a peach-hued silk blouse and baggy joggers—good-taste, bad-taste fused in each item. The ensuing lilac suit once again merged an distasteful colour with a classic wardrobe piece. His odd colouration continued with maroons contrasting to yellows, dark pinks and rust, pale green and off-white, bright blue and denim. The ill-fitting trousers returned in elasticated joggers. Other items that thrived on the good-taste, bad-taste methodology were the voluminous denim jeans that probably belonged in a family member’s closet in the 1980s. The modern items were the bomber jackets (would it be a menswear show without one?) and the peculiarly cut leather jackets. There modernity derived from the fact Martens cut them interestingly, thoughtfully.  


The innovations in his use of denim were also fascinating. The turned-up bottoms were brilliantly inventive, as were modified waistbands that appeared on some looks. Less so the aforementioned “dad” trousers that lived and died in the 1980s. It was indicative of Tumblr culture, the intense need to repopularise things of the past—fashion’s current addiction to nostalgia present.

“I felt totally ridiculous sitting behind a sewing machine and had to work day and night to catch up with my classmates.” It is Martens who has had the last laugh.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Courrèges // Spring 2017 //

Sebastián Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant met at Mod’Art International Paris. Meyer graduated with extensive knowledge in design and sewing; Vaillant specialised in the business side of things. It is one of those dream pairings for fashion students, one that the industry should promote more often. They opened their own label Coperni Femme in 2013. It received high praise from the fashion press but it was shuttered when they were appointed co-artistic directors of Courrèges, a dormant fashion house. They joined the brand in 2015, presenting their first collection that October. In January, André Courrèges, the brand’s founder, passed away. 

Courrèges famously manipulated modern technologies to develop to his futurist aesthetic. Meyer and Vaillant’s retro-futurism is punctuated by similar discoveries in technology. They proposed 3-D printed peplum tops, as seen in the show’s denouement. They were daring—in the context of this brand—to say the least. The boys fashioned a suit from neoprene, a material traditionally used in scuba diving suits. This reworking of classic brand ideals keeps the brand relevant. They didn’t however entertain the idea of a go-go boots in 2016. André Courrèges made them a staple wardrobe item in the 60s. They opted instead to use a modest sandal. Although a go-go boot would’ve enlivened some of these looks, not even technological advancements could convince me they’re “in fashion”. 

There’s something about Courrèges that doesn’t gel. While technological experimentation is wonderful and designers, where possible, should invest in exploring the area, Meyer and Vaillant can’t seem to electrify this brand, one which electrified 60s fashion. The clothes sell like hot cakes, but why does the runway presentation strike one as cool and lofty. Perhaps its the pointedly commercial execution that fetishes consumerism. Yes, fashion shows are designed to sell clothing but the dream element that is essential to the fashion show is missing here.

Fernanda Ly, model of the moment, closed the show. She wore one of the aforementioned, skin-bearing 3-D printed peplum tops. With her bubblegum pink locks she almost looked out of place compared to the other models whose hair was either brown, blonde or black. The pink was a shocking contrast but weirdly defiant; the sheer top contrasting to the formality of the entire collection. A casting happenstance and exploration of technological possibility or the grounds for change?
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chanel // Pre-Fall 2017 //

A barnyard mise-en-scène in Dallas; a sequestered schloss in Salzburg; the sensuality of the Italian film studios in Rome; an Indian festivity in the corner of the Grand Palais in Paris; the Russian pomp and frisson défile. Karl Lagerfeld’s globetrotting spectaculars for the Metiers d’Art show, or pre-fall in layman’s terms, is an opportunity to flaunt Chanel’s standing as the leading fashion house and also his affinity for the globetrotting customer. The Metiers d’Art show is also an opportunity for Karl to mine Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s history and connect her with these far-flung locations he decides upon. For example, Coco went to Dallas in 1957 to accept the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion; Bombay, now Mumbai, is where Chanel fabrics are crafted.

For the first time in a few years, Karl brought the show back to Paris but finely executed the confluence of Chanel’s past and the brand’s present relationship with the city. The brand’s headquarters is in the City of Light and its most famous store can be found on Rue Cambon. The Pre-Fall 2017 show was held at the recently refurbished Ritz Hotel on Place Vendôme. Chanel famously lived there during World War II when Germany occupied France. At the time she had been dating a German baron and Nazi propaganda officer. (Many Nazi operatives stayed here during the German occupation.) Chanel died at the Ritz in 1971. In her honour a lavish suite is named. The hotel has changed considerably since 1971. It underwent a four-year renovation which cost $450 million. It reopened its doors earlier this years; Lagerfeld throwing the first party there. 
It was an uncharacteristic fashion show in one sense.. Firstly, the models didn’t wear sour looks and looked as if they wanted to be there. Secondly, they danced and pranced down the runway, sashaying between seated guests in the ballroom. Moreover, they all wore roses in their hair highlighting this newfound ease. Out first was Cara Delevingne whose signature strut transformed into a sensual sway. Karl also enlisted some other famous friends: Pharrell Williams doing the twist on the catwalk; Bob Dylan’s grandson Levi Dylan and Sylvester Stallone’s youngest offspring Sistine appeared (what a time to be descendants of icons); new Chanel faces Willow Smith (face of eyewear; daughter of Will and Jada) and Lily-Rose Depp (face of No. 5 perfume; daughter of Johnny and Vanessa) took to the runway for the first time. By employing friends of the brand, Cara et al., it promotes Chanel on social media and also its warm message. 

As with most Chanel reviews, its easy to lose sight of the purpose of the show—selling clothes—but it would be remiss of me to forget to mention them, and also a real shame because they were wonderful. Chanel can often find itself lost in the past or in clunky territory, however, Karl balanced effervescence with tradition in this collection which created modernity. The 20s, the 30s and so on popped up; Karl commented that because the references were indistinguishable from the classic Chanel codes it resulted in modernity. Cara Delevingne’s evening gown, with fluttery feathers and gold embellishments. A matching jacket completed the look. Absolute excellence.

Paris-Cosmopolite this collection was entitled and it was a bubbly, cosmopolitan affair with brilliant clothes. There was optimism to bookend the annus horribilis we endured. Karl Lagerfeld is an entertainer, a fashion designer and promoter of positivity. Those three titles aren’t to be used separately: he’s the whole package.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, December 19, 2016

Koché // Spring 2017 //

Christelle Kocher has taken Paris by storm. Literally. It was quite the whirlwind at her Spring 2017 fashion show at the recently reconstructed Forum des Halles shopping centre and metro station, as the sun set over Paris. The guests were seated on steps and they watched on as the models pounded the thoroughfare. It was amusing to see disconcerted, disgruntled commuters wander on to the catwalk or bemusedly witness a fashion show en plein air. It should be noted that Forum des Halles isn’t a quiet shopping centre or metro station. In fact, it’s the second busiest shopping centre in France. With upwards of 150,000 visitors daily—at rush hour, when the show was held, one can only imagine how many pass through. 

The venue choice pointed at something Kocher dabbled with in her last Koché show—connectivity, bringing fashion to the street. Tracksuit pants and trainers, unbuttoned polo-shirts given the high fashion treatment; lace slips over wool trousers; swishy summer dresses. Don’t be fooled, while the models could’ve blended in nicely with the Parisians on their evening commute, charging through the complex, this wasn’t about functional, banal separates, Kocher added some sparkle and pizzazz. After all, she is the artistic director of Maison Lemarié. Maison Lemarié are responsible for the feathers, flowers, pleatwork, smocking and ruffles for the Chanel couture and Metiers d’Art collections. On offer here was a lace bolero over a Bill Cunningham blue, French workman’s jacket; a white tunic with painstaking embroideries; a multicoloured feather coat. 

The models were city slickers, partygoers, dispatches from les banlieues. Kocher referenced hip-hop culture in France, its swagger pulsating from some of the looks. The models, including Karly Loyce, stomped with exaggerated swagger, gold chains dangling from their necks. With ease, they could’ve stepped out of an early 00s music video. 

Every look intrinsic to everyone’s wardrobe, from Paris to the Philippines, were featured in the collection and each of them was remixed—creativity assassinated banality here; a plea that I have been making for months. 

The gumption and chutzpah it takes to throw a fashion show during rush hour in the place which is the second busiest shopping centre and Paris’ most-used rail station is unimaginable. Christelle Kocher fuses the street and couture elements in ways that aren’t tacky or overly-reliant on chav culture; it’s more rooted in reality than that. She’s ahead of her contemporaries in mixing sportswear and heightened luxury—it’s more literal, but it proves for a far more effective result. 

Koché is the best of the Paris New Wave. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Effect of Teen Vogue in 2016

Fernanda Ly and her bubblegum-pink tresses; Amandla Stenberg, educator, actress, activist; the gaze of Zoe Kravitz, stepping into the limelight; musicians making their own music and rules, Grimes, Willow Smith; ‘boys of summer’ Cameron Dallas and Anwar Hadid; virtuosic Olympic gymnasts, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas; fashion blogger-cum-actress with a legion of impassioned teenage girls behind her, Tavi Gevinson; politically-engaged Chloë Grace Moretz; generation-redefining prowess of Rowan Blanchard and Yara Shahidi. Those were the faces a generation of adolescents were faced with when they visited their local newsagents this year. The faces before them were inhabiting the inspiring, important vision of Teen Vogue’s editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth. 

Forget everything you thought about Teen Vogue, hitherto… well, most of it. 

Under the guidance of Elaine Welteroth, who replaced Amy Astley in May, when Astley joined Architectural Digest, Teen Vogue has been continuing in the direction Astley set forth for it in the final months as editor-in-chief at the magazine. Throughout the years Teen Vogue has notably featured the likes of Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Posen, Hayden Panettiere and a bevy of other celebrities who represent a particular era of celebrity culture—they are the preened Disney and Disney-lite stars in the world who occupied the minds of adolescents for many years. In its infancy, the magazine was the cutesy little sister to the polished Vogue. Now, approaching it’s 14th year in publication, Teen Vogue stands for so much more than the young Hollywood starlets and heartthrobs that fill its pages. 

The first indication that Teen Vogue was changing for the better was in August 2015 when three unknown models (at least to the masses) were placed on the front cover. Lineisy Montero, Imaan Hammam and Aya Jones, three young women-of-colour on the pages of a magazine that had previously, sadly, been mostly whitewashed. A gamble it was to put relatively unknown faces on the cover of the magazine, but the issue ended up being the bestselling issue of 2015.

As each month came by and the cover for each issue was revealed, one couldn’t help but feel excitement at the cover choices. Not only do they appeal to the readers, but for the most part each of them embody something important about today whether it be their feminism, sexuality, activism, or use of social media. 

Teen Vogue doesn’t demean its audiences either; it doesn’t belittle or speak down to teenagers. It appreciates them for the intelligent, knowing and politically-engaged people they are but also it addresses their other interest which include celebrity culture, makeup and fashion; it doesn’t label its audience ‘postmillennials’ or another horrid excuse for a word. There is a level of appreciation and trust between Teen Vogue and its readership. On December 14, if you were to take a look at the day’s headlines in the mid-afternoon you would be met with the following: “Why We Should Be Talking More About the Victims of the Charleston Church Shooting”, “National Parks May Be Under Danger Under Trump Presidency”, “This Will Be the BIGGEST Fashion Trend of 2017”, “Drug Use Has Actually DECLINED Since More States Legalised Marijuana” and “Kendall Jenner’s New Vogue Shoot Features Her Rumoured Boyfriend.” A rounded mixture of content grabbing your attention.

Last weekend the magazine made mainstream news headlines when an article about the President-elect Donald Trump went viral. Written by weekend editor, Lauren Duca, the piece is a scathing takedown of Trumpism—the piece is entitled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.” In the article, she addresses Trumpism in the post-truth world, how he threatens America’s freedom and the president-elect’s tendency to lie through his teeth. The response was astounding. There was of course a barrage of hateful comments at Duca’s door—it should be noted: she should be applauded for her fearless act. There were also the ignorant comments from the Alt-Right asking Teen Vogue to return to talking about manicures and boy problems. 
The ironic thing is: the magazine has never just been about ‘manicures and boy problems.’ Yes, the magazine can be quite facile and indulge itself in things that don’t necessarily better the lives of teenagers or enrich them in anyway. But, Teen Vogue has always published riveting think pieces in every issues. Subjects tackled range from sexual health to eating disorders to transgender stories to anxiety, depression and self-harm. The wide range of topics affecting teenagers daily lives have all be explored by the magazine and their acute writers. 

Those writers will continue to bless Teen Vogue with their knowledge, acerbic wit, appreciation for dismantling the patriarchy and which nail polish shade goes best with a green dress. It was announced recently that the magazine will be scaling back its print issues, from ten to four issue per year. The objective is to make them more like a collectible for teenagers, seeing as we are consumed by our mobile phones.

Strengthening their digital presence is another intention of the magazine as we enter 2017. In the politically turbulent times of today it will be important to balance the weighty subjects of Trumpism in America with pieces about the new Spider-Man: Homecoming film and the facets of Kylie Jenner’s personal life. Teen Vogue has never been as relevant as it is now. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Phoebe English // Spring 2017 //

Phoebe English is the most underrated fashion designer at London Fashion Week—and now London Collections: Men. The designer’s approach to fashion and the way she presents her work are truly profound. There’s a poetry to the way she works.

Even with little she says a lot. Her Spring 2017 womenswear collection presented in September at Carlton House featured a mere seven looks. Of those seven looks each were named characters: there was an archer, a water bearer, an inquirer, a smuggler, a chanter, a strangler and a mourner. They were the seven characters inhabited by Phoebe’s selection of models. They also embodied seven different and moods: anger, sadness, questioning, despair, anticipation, sorrow, dishonesty. “It was my creative way of dealing with those changes,” Phoebe acknowledged. The changes in question were the Brexit result. 

Brexit has undoubtedly impacted the fashion industry in interesting ways. Following June 23 the pound plummeted to a thirty year low, allowing foreign tourists to flock to London to avail of their currency’s advantage over the pound sterling. Although the industry, by and large, campaigned against Brexit, it meant good things for business. With more tourists and increased spending, companies such as Burberry saw a boost in sales. However, it comes back to the fact of the matter: fashion’s collective distaste for the referendum’s outcome. Phoebe’s chose to have seven looks, to mark the week of and after the referendum, when emotions were swirling.

There were notable, if allegorical, nods to the flagrant asininity of the xenophobic Nigel Farage—who championed and eventually won the campaign to Leave the EU—in the “lying smuggler”. After all, it was his dishonesty and demagogic manipulation that allowed the ‘Brexiteers’ their result. In response to this, the nation’s disgust and revolt were captured in the chanter and archer who express their contempt. The archer: a sullen model in cascading cloth—a semi-put-together effort of dressing in a world where you’d rather not leave your bed—was preparing to draw her bow. Away from anger and dishonesty was an even more raw and visceral portion of the collection, where sadness manifested itself. The aforementioned “mourner” carried a bouquet of flowers, the green of the stems sharply contrasting with her black tulle dress and veiled headgear. It bequeathed a certain sadness, to say the least. 

The British fashion designers have been galvanised by the Brexit outcome, in the same way I hope the American designers will be provoked by the reign of Trumpism in their nation. Edeline Lee celebrated the London she knows and loves in her collection; Paul Costelloe emphasised the importance of Anglo-Irish relations in this precarious time; Christopher Kane spoke about the idea of making do and mending; Phoebe English had us relive the experience with her collection and it was all the more powerful for it. It will be the design journey hereafter that one eagerly anticipates.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Balmain // Spring 2017 // Menswear

Gone are the days when fashion designers would trawl through monographs and picture books in search of inspiration. In the Digital Age everything is done in the online sphere. Some designers will resort to Google Images to construct their mood boards and, in turn, their moods for a given season. However, most designers are flocking to Instagram. You saw it recently with the duo at Marques’Almeida whose whole world is built on the existence of “trendy” girls who share their lives on the social networking app. Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain, operates in a similar vein, except the characters he turns to aren’t the artsy twenty-year-olds of London—it’s the excessive glamour of Kim Kardashian West and her ilk. Rousteing too belongs to this school of thinking. He himself is a Instagram star, with 4.1 million followers.

The social media, one of the most prominent of them all, was the starting point for his Spring 2017 menswear collection, presented in the height of summer, in June past—days after the Mayhoola acquisition announcement; Balmain is now owned by the same luxury holding group that has stakes in Valentino, Anya Hindmarch. Qatar, where Mayhoola is based, is the world’s richest country. It’s easy to conjure up images of the lifestyle, borne from our understandings of the world of the superrich from, isn’t it obvious, Instagram. This Balmain collection was something—the Instagram imagery in mind—that would appeal to a customer in the Middle East. From the denim jackets and skinny jeans, tunics and joggers—the collection could easily be transported to that part of the world and worn out by those who thrive on revelry, if a luxurious, impeccably clad revelry. All just a click away from Instagram.
From luxurious denim incarnations Rousteing presented suede jackets with tassels—an annoying addition—and jungle-appropriate khaki greens in the form of overcoats, blazers, and one heavily embellished jacket that certainly costs more than a college tuition. Money isn’t an issue with the Balmain customer—it’s not exactly a label you save your pennies for unless you’re uber-rich, because it will take a considerable amount of time. The consumer has an array of colourful options to choose from. Ponchos for travelling, bomber jackets and skinny jeans for partying, sandals for hitting the beach, shorts for hitting the gym. It seems to have reached peak luxury with Rousteing. 

Fashion doesn’t have to be drenched in subtext to be satisfying. Generally, the collections are better but that presence or non-presence of a deeper meaning doesn’t always negate the purpose of that particular fashion show, especially in the modern age where fashion is entertainment. 

(Note to editors: it’s acceptable to enjoy yourself at a show without it being on the level of Proust or Hockney, in their respective mediums.) 

Instagram, despite its availability for the constructing the picture perfect, superficial life, is a form of escapism for many. Sure, it’s not the Tate or LACMA or the Musée d’Orsay, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be powerful. For many Instagram is a form of escapism. This was Rousteing’s great escape.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sharon Wauchob // Spring 2017 //

The Sunday night revellers at London Fashion Week, back in September, religious or not, had to visit the church the next day, not once but three times. Huishan Zhang brought his evening wear mastery to St Andrew’s Church in Holborn (where Bora Aksu showed last season), Osman Yousefzada ensconced his audience at the Church House at Westminster Abbey. Earlier in the day, Sharon Wauchob held her Spring 2017 presentation in St Cyprian’s Church, which effectively echoed her body of work. The church, with vaulted ceilings, laden in gold detailing and religious iconography, colourful stained glass windows, had similar levels of decorative and narrative functions to Wauchob’s clothing.

(Wauchob presented her collection at Paris Fashion Week hitherto. For Fall 2016 she put together a lookbook for the press; there was no formal show. Spring 2017 marked her return to London, where she studied at Central Saint Martins. Arriving on the London Fashion Week schedule at a time when it is overflowing is a brave move. But the editors and buyers flocked, Sharon Wauchob’s work is gold dust to them.)
The meat and the potatoes were to be found in lavish leathers, such as the jacket in a crimson shade, and supple trenches. Wauchob doesn’t only nail outwear, she also has a knack for creating lingerie-inspired garment that aren’t just alluring, but functional. Gossamer French lace, lustrous silks in striking hues, and glittering floral embellishments stood. Where sexuality bubbled the collection excelled. Boudoir dressing, boardroom dressing—the collection’s opulence blurred the lines between the two. It was a portrait of a lady, in the truest sense of the label. These women were reminiscent of 18th century oil paintings—they’re possibly art collectors, who enjoy afternoon tea and winters skiing in St. Moritz. What’s their profession? Who knows—they’re loaded.

The silky pyjama tunics were flowing—not exactly flattering, but ideal for an afternoon relaxing, or walking in the countryside (it was certainly clear to this critic that’s what the Wauchob woman would indulge in.) Slouchy leather trousers with feather accents, and a beige shirt decorated with an embroidered flower—luxury loungewear suitable for travelling. Where comfort was concerned, it appears Wauchob is touching all bases, all situations. 

“Youth and positivity” were the two words Wauchob mentioned when speaking of her return to London. There was a positivity to the affair, what with it being a homecoming but also the warm colour palette. While there was a refreshing air to the collection, it wasn’t one overrun with references for a 16-year-old girl to enjoy. Mature woman have a friend in Sharon Wauchob. She mixed modesty with expression of sexuality, formalwear with loungewear—she balanced everything with aplomb. Welcome back.

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, December 12, 2016

Paco Rabanne // Spring 2017 //

Julien Dossena is part of the new guard of French designers whose success skyrocketed in recent years. Alongside Vetements, Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud (who spent a year and a half as co-creative directors at Carven, Spring 2017 marked their last collection), Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant (who shuttered their label Coperni Femme to take on the revival of Courrèges), Wanda Nylon, and Simon Porte Jacquemus. Dossena, like many of his contemporaries, has a wealth of experience. He worked at Balenciaga, alongside—his boyfriend Nicolas Ghesquière—as senior designer and promptly left along with Ghesquière in 2012. Accompanied by his friend, he founded Atto, a short-lived label, whose end came with another exciting opportunity for Dossena: the artistic director position at Paco Rabanne.

Commandeering the revival of a house whose recent iterations has seen designers come and go like the wind. It appears, although it’s only been a few moons, Dossena is the man for the job. He arrived in 2013 with the mission of refreshing a dormant fashion house—although it’s beauty division thrives. The fashion press has been warm, even expressed their pleasure in laudatory critiques. He has certainly reignited the flame of the French house. He has taken the founding designer’s staple—unconventional materials: metal, chiefly—and transformed them into something light and breezy and sporty, harnessing modern technology to innovate, develop. 

His Spring 2017 collection was another light, sporty, if lofty, affair. It was a show replete with references to the namesake designer, to sports, 60s Space Age fashion, science fiction. There were NASA-worthy space suits, shimmering dresses, fine tailoring, sports garb fit for an intergalactic traveller on his or her expeditions. 

The show also saw a collaboration with revered graphic designer, Peter Saville. The collection featured an extension on the capsule Dossena and Saville released earlier in the month. Selena Forrest opened the show wearing a race car driver’s flame retardant protective gear and a shimmering sheath fashion out of chandelier-worthy crystals. Her top read “Futuresex” which previously appeared in the collaboration. Was it a reference to progressive attitudes towards sexuality and gender? Perhaps, it could’ve been referencing the ever-expanding vocabulary of sexuality and gender? Or, maybe it was just a catchy slogan to slap onto a t-shirt? I’m on the fence.

Dossena presented 34 looks, with varying degrees of success—much of it fell flat. But that’s where nostalgia, Space Age fashion comes into play. While Space Age fashion and the brilliance of its founders André Courrèges, Mary Quant was innovative and thrilling in its, but it’s excitement has worn and Dossena is stuck in the past-future, and like his 34-looks, it’s with varying degrees of success.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, December 9, 2016

Marques'Almeida // Spring 2017 //

There’s something about the Marques’Almeida press release, a conversation between the brand director and co-creative director, that echoes the brand’s message, which is one of nonchalance, informality and attainability. There are no airs and graces about the label, or the people behind it. You could attribute some of their success to this—they convey their message with optimism, understanding. The label’s newsletter alone signifies the care they take in presenting their readership with an interesting piece, not just “buy this! buy this! buy this!”.

Marques’Almeida were the recipients of the 2015 LVMH Prize, where the won €300,000, as deliberated by a bevy of illustrious designers including Karl Lagerfeld, Phoebe Philo, Nicolas Ghesquière and Jonathan Anderson. The investment has allowed Marques’Almeida grow. E-commerce, the scale of their business, the fashion shows—everything has significantly improved and enlarged. They have more money to spend on production, on hiring new employees, on their presentations. According to Delphine Arnault, director and vice president of Louis Vuitton, it was the designers’ “technical expertise and their unique approach to working with colour and texture” that won them the prize. For Spring 2017, they continued to work on that basis.
“We start with these random ideas of collages of vintage negliges with vintage basketball t-shirts and tulle sleeves hanging on our wall and then punkish references and then Baroque and then skaters,” Marta continues in the conversation with the brand director. The opening look was a smattering of all those ideas collectively: a baroque mini-dress with lace trim, a vintage basketball shirt, ostentatious red tulle sleeves, orange metallic boots. The model—with her eye-catching pink hair—captured the spirit of Marques’Almeida, the brand and the character who wears the clothes. (The British eclecticism was felt, but an innate nod to their continental European heritage was also noticeable.) The collection progressed with baroque skater girls, saccharine girlishness, 90s references, hip-hop nods. 

There was a dazzling array of different cultural movements represented in the show: punk, skate culture, hip-hop culture, Victoriana, the 20s, the 90s. There were even samplings of bad taste in the collection—something Marta and Paulo are masters at—with the use of their signature denim, but also their expanding catalogue of fabrics. This season that included embroidered tulle, tacky feather accents, satin. Although it bordered on sensory overload, Marta asserted intention behind this. “We’re building a wardrobe and something that these girls want to wear and is special and made for them and the more girls we know and embrace, the more we understand and focus on them, the more complex it gets.” The girls in question are the ones on Instagram who present carefully curated versions of their lives—that is where the inspiration behind this Marques’Almeida collection is derived from.

“It’s only really when you see one of the girls wearing it it makes sense. Is it that thing of every girl being all these things in a way?” so the conversation went. Everything about this made sense: the Marques’Almeida girl is something to everyone.

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Roksanda // Spring 2017 //

The general consensus about the Spring 2017 season is that is has been one about moods and feelings rather than concepts and intellect. In comparison, a mood is inferior to conceptual ideas. A designer whose interpenetrates fashion with disparate mediums and subtexts generally provides a distinctly layered experience, more invigorating than, say, a collection focused on “happiness”. However, sometimes something will feel good and look good and that’s that—it doesn’t require any further inquisition.

Roksanda Ilincic’s recent show fell into that category. The Serbian-born, London-based designer’s collection was a “song to summer”, a convincing ode to the languid months we all eagerly anticipate. It was the “freedom and laziness” of these months that captured Roksanda’s attention in the designing of the clothes. Those two terms formed the basis for a collection that was complete with loose, relaxed fabrics in subtle earthy tones. 

“I was thinking about nature, pebbles, sunflowers,” the designer said in her show notes. She asserted, “The palette was more about lakes and mountains rather than the seaside.” Hues of rich rust, earthy brown, and warm sand dominated the collection. Brown is always a contentious colour—put the frivolity of that statement aside—in fashion shows. Usually it is avoided but here Roksanda diluted it, as if she was a artist using white paint. The sandy and golden colours contrasted nicely with sharper, bolder purples, reds and navies. They also exemplified her colour-blocking prowess. After all, in recent times she was praised for her colouration and affinity for abstract and geometric colour-blocking.

Abstract and modernist art has been engrained in Roksanda’s niche for quite some time. (In her earlier years there was flashiness, gaudiness but over time her aesthetic became more and more elegantly demure, which lends itself to art world referencing.) A peppering of Henri Matisse, French painter, was present in the show. Her husband, Gary Card provided a set which resembled the work of the renowned artist. Similarly, painterly brushstrokes on a dress worn by top model Mayowa Nicholas resembled the late artists work. 

One gets the impression that the Roksanda woman belongs to an art community. If not art, then somewhere in the creative industries. Matisse references, her stylist, Venetia Scott’s discerning eye for colour, will bode well with that woman. These clothes will be available for her—stocking the shelves of Roksanda’s impressive Mount Street store, where moments later they’ll fly off the racks, going home with the lucky woman who will have a great piece in her wardrobe for years to come. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

Paul Smith // Spring 2017 // Menswear

Paul Smith’s concession at Dover Street Market is a to-scale recreation of his first shop, which he opened in Nottingham in 1970. The 3 x 3 metre space has character, like the designer. There are artworks, vintage magazines, action figurines, and the all important clothing. Sandwiched between two other designers, Smith’s space does take the prize for the most inventive on the basement floor. There is a certain optimism imbued in the space that is readily apparent in his clothes also.

The ebullience of his Spring 2017 menswear show is difficult not to appreciate. One of the last designer’s to show on the Paris Fashion Week schedule, Smith’s catwalk was spectrum of bright hues which mimicked the clothing. Some models wore beaming smiles, others polite grins. The message of warmth and positivity was dearly felt, a satisfying sanguine denouement to fashion month.
The UK EU membership referendum result—the aftershocks of which are still being felt as the government negotiates a ‘soft-Brexit’ —came days prior to the show. “I was surprised as anybody by the result of the referendum. Without question I am loyal to Europe. I have shown my men’s collection in Paris since 1976 and buy fabrics from Italy and elsewhere in Europe,” the designer said to Charlie Porter, at the Financial Times. The result put the show in a political context in a way, but Smith took your mind off the political uncertainty for twenty minutes in his colourful world.

The collection was inspired by the 60s nightclub scene in Soho, London. It opened with a a navy, geometric print tuxedo with a buttoned down white shirt underneath boasting a collar in the Rastafarian symbol colours. Multicoloured tartan blazers, Caribbean coolness, brightly coloured trousers. Notions of a summer festival and South American holidaying ran through the collection. 

The diversely cast models—in the truest sense, not just a pitiful attempt of inclusivity—were a running commentary on London today, a multicultural city, a melting pot of nationalities, ethnicities and religions. Many shows draw on the idea of cities, the urban jungle, but most of them fall short of actually representing the people they are trying to appeal to. It’s easy to become cynical about diversity, when fashion rarely promotes it. 

2016 saw the proliferation of cynicism—in politics with elections, referendums and impeachments; in fashion with the designer musical chairs, business shakeups, and the Vogue-blogger fiasco, in music with the ever presence of manufactured artistry. Honesty and love are few and far between, but in the end they will prevail. Paul Smith knows how to put a smile on someone’s face with his brilliant clothes and showmanship. And sometimes, it’s simple pleasures like those that you can count yourself lucky for seeing.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Changing Face of Fashion Presentation

The fashion industry is changing. The so-called system is coming to an end. The establishment vs the outsiders. What season is it, again?

Fashion like many other industries, rapidly moves and morphs into an uncontrollable entity. Industry dignitaries can only watch as this all unfolds around them, adapting themselves, their content and output to the developmentally temperamental fashion landscape. Publications are changing, fashion houses are changing—internally and structurally. Publications such as Elle in the UK are changing their release schedule, InStyle are making the move to online-only; Teen Vogue in America are switching to quarterly publishing to incentivise their issues and to make them more special, like books worth keeping and not throwaway papers for their loyal teenage readership. Brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Vivienne Westwood are consolidating menswear and womenswear. Vetements, Public School are presenting their collections off the official calendar, opting for different show times throughout the year.

Vetements is a notable disruptor. Nobody foresaw a small Parisian fashion brand, comprised of designers from Céline, Givenchy and Margiela and led by Georgia-born Demna Gvasalia, who showed during the Spring 2015 season, to rise meteorically and change fashion. They started as anti-establishment provocateurs presenting in gay clubs and Chinese restaurants, but sure enough, they became the establishment—in fact, they are now redirecting it.

Demna and Guram Gvasalia, the creative and business minds behind Vetements are two men wielding a great deal of power. When they announced six months ago they would be presenting their Spring 2017 collection ahead of schedule, in July, on the eve of couture week, the industry reacted accordingly. Other designers swiftly followed suit. 

Offering their brand as the guinea pig for their own experiment, it proved opportune time to ask a plethora of answerable questions. What does it mean for the brand to present Spring 2017 in July? What does it mean for designers who will also opt out of the official calendar? What does it mean for the entire industry, particularly the ones who operate on the official calendar?
Ownership & Control
The first reason behind this switch to showing Spring in July is perhaps the simplest to understand: brands have full ownership and control. Speaking to the Business of Fashion, the Gvasalia’s said that the switchover came about due to the fashion buyers, the ones solely responsible for purchasing what men and women will eventually get the chance to buy. The fashion buyers are in town, after the men’s shows and to view the pre-collections. They argue that the buyers have more to spend and thus, it would be appropriate that they adjust their show schedule to allow maximum sale opportunities.

Secondly, by presenting in July, the designers have an extended period of time to manufacture the clothing that will go into stores earlier and stay longer. The current shop floor system only grants a few months to each designer’s collection. By showing earlier, having an extended production and delivery period, the designers can maximise profits.

There’s also something about seeing a spring/summer collection, albeit eight months before the seasons actually arrive, is the timeliness of it. For some, excluding this critic, there is something disconcerting about seeing a mini dress or a t-shirt-shorts combo in October when temperatures are beginning to plummet.
Pace
What’s with all the fuss? People in the industry are becoming burnt out. Jeremy Scott, a pop-cultural provocateur if there ever was one, mused on the idea of becoming burnt out in his Fall 2016 Moschino collection. The collection featured tattered tuxedos, licked by flames, scorch marks visible on dresses that were falling apart. Forging his own design signature on a Marlboro cigarette box, he changed “smoking kills” to “fashion kills”. Along the line it has and it will continue to if creatives aren’t given breathing space.

Designers work instinctively and reactively. A million and one things are expected from them. They have deadlines to meet, figures and projections to meet; they have customers and editors to please. Exposure after all is what their clothes will need to sell. First and foremost, they have to please themselves. And in a creative field, if they can’t do that then what’s the point? 

Preserving the mental health of the designer is the most important task at hand. In her brilliant piece for the Business of Fashion this week, ‘Does Fashion Have a Mental Health Problem?’, Helena Pike interviews an anonymous London-based creative director who shared his experience. “As I progressed through my company, things only sped up. Expectations were high and the momentum got to the point where I was taking on too much work, pushing myself too far. I finally crashed… I was exhausted like never before.” 

A seasonal shift might the designers piece of mind. 
Discord
Personally speaking, I was initially opposed staunchly to this switch. Months later, I’m still on the fence, not knowing whether all this change would be truly worth it in the long . However, the more you rationalise the move, the more you can understand why brands, such as Vetements, would choose to switch their schedules.

The reason why I oppose the seasonal switch is the discord it will cause in an industry which already confused and complex enough, without throwing another systemic spanner in the works. 

The beauty of the big four fashion weeks is that they have every press and buyer and stylist under the sun at the same time. They’re all in town to preview, view, purchase, interview, borrow—outside of that month timeframe, everybody returns to their corner of the world. Everybody convenes in January and June, February and September. Outside of that time it’s particularly difficult to rally all the possible supporters. (Side note: Menswear and womenswear are rightly separated. Not only do they cater to different people, but together they would cause a hideously overcrowded schedule and it would result in the fashion month becoming fashion months.) 

What would happen is that fashion’s governing bodies, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, and the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, came to together and decided whether or not they should shift their schedules accordingly? Should womenswear commence at the end of January, at the beginning of July—those bodies have the power to cement the foundations of change. In consultation with designers, a conclusion could possibly be arrived at. Fall in January, Spring in July, maybe so.

To conclude, here is a powerful quote from the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman, “Sartorial spaghetti is being thrown at the wall to see what sticks. But something will, and then the whole sparkly, chiffon-clad edifice could tip.” 
Elle, Harper's Bazaar, NowFashion, Autre Magazine

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Peter Pilotto // Spring 2017 //

There is a wide variety of presentation spaces during London Fashion Week. There are stately ballrooms in the cosy enclaves of plush hotels, glamourised car parks, derelict warehouses and public markets, underground station entrances, art galleries and churches. In London and Paris, particularly, the designers’ so-called ‘venue game’ is strong. A venue that most designers don’t however use is the one closest to the heart of their business: their studio. There are a litany of reasons for this. Firstly, the dimensions of their workplace simply may not facilitate fifty to one-hundred plus guests; secondly, leading on from the first reason, it is probably a fire hazard to do so. 

Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos, masterminds behind Peter Pilotto, took a gamble for their Spring 2017 collection. They invited selected press and buyers to their studio, along Regents Canal in North London. They exposed the ‘underbelly’ of their operation, the less-than-pretty location—as opposed to what they show in venues that have included the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Brewer Street Car Park, the V&A Museum. Guests sat on colourful plinths, the studio's lighting illuminating the collection—the boys worked with their regular collaborator Bureau Betak to bring the setting to the next level. 

You could view the location as a form of subtext: to emphasise the focus on craft. Influenced by the hot hues of architect Luis Barragán, sun-bleached frescos, tropical baroque—a melange of summer, warmth and colour. Latin America proved to be an important factor in the development of this collection. See, Pilotto and de Vos travelled there recently, to Peru (where part of de Vos’ ancestry is found), Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Cuba. The European perception of the Latin continent is always dreamy, optimistic and colourful. This isn’t the reality but when spun, the narrative makes for pleasurable viewing. Tropical vistas, regalia, palm trees, psychedelic pineapples and other fruits, flowers and abstract animal prints. Print being at the crux of their business, it was nice to see the boys play to their second strength: craft.
Subtle adornments of mother-of-pearl and cotton embroideries added a textural depth to the clothes which strengthened the narrative. If one was to recall Central and South American art forms of fashion, literature, film, art, richness and exuberance are adjectives typically associated. 

A carnival-ready full-skirt in a bold shade of amethyst was paired with a multicoloured knit poncho complete with the image of a crying moon. The fuchsia top, with blue, yellow and orange piping, adorned with summer iconography, was styled with a green, white and blue, striped, floor-sweeping skirt. The explosion of colours, the splicing of different textures and the sun-kissed glow and ease of the model captured the essence of summer in Brazil. The top was a more flattering interpretation of the rash guard; the bottoms both a beach towel or an inflated version of evening attire. 

With multiple colour schemes at play the duo ensured there was something to be found for everyone. There was the aforementioned sunbleached hues, the vivid pigments of architect Luis Barragán, and New Zealand-born contemporary artist Francis Upritchard, whose fusion of bright and subdued colours also appeared. It was a fascinating encapsulation of all the possibilities a woman would desire come the summer months. And it was all presented merely feet from where it was made.

The simplicity of the venue not only proved the difficulty of venue hunting in a vast city such as London, but it showed how frivolous the location and the setting are. Without many Instagrammable moment, the boys transported the guests back to the not-so-distant past when designers had nothing to hide behind and the clothes were the focus of a fashion show.
Photo Credit: Vogue Runway

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fashion East // Spring 2017 //

The Saturday during London Fashion Week is always the busiest. There are a million and one to things to do and see, and the “geographical discord” of day two is perhaps most frustrating for the editors and buyers who, in a panic, race to the next show. One heard reports of many editors missing shows due to traffic pandemonium—some resorted to the less glamorous, more efficient public bus or the tube. First thing on the agenda (always an advantage) was the all-important Fashion East presentation where the bright spark—that will soon dominate the London schedule on their own two feet—are given an incubation period, an elevated platform to present their wares. 

In recent years Fashion East has produced Caitlin Price (who was subsequently shortlisted for the LVMH Prize), This is the Uniform (now showing in New York), Ed Marler (the ghost of Meadham Kirchhoff), Louise Alsop, knitwear virtuoso Helen Lawrence. Ashley Williams, subject of Monday’s critique, was also among the recent Fashion East graduates. She was on the register since 2013 when she appeared alongside Ryan Lo and Claire Barrow, two prominent names on the London scene. 

The current roster includes: Mimi Wade, Matty Bovan, Amie Roberston of A.V. Roberston, and Richard Malone.

Mimi Wade foregoes the runway show, although her sassily feminine designs would undoubtedly benefit from a theatrical stomp from one of her petulant looking girls. She favours instead an installation which is available for viewing prior to the runway show. Drawing on filmic references once again, she created a “MimiMount” set, a play on the historic film company Paramount. Mimi is cultivating her niche nicely with saccharine womenswear that is heavily influenced by her grandmother, the Hollywood B-movie actress Pamela Curran. 

For Spring 2017 she takes note from “some noir and some 1970s Japanese sci-fi horror films”. Mimi describes the collection as “an angry note on the fridge door covered in bunny rabbit stickers, a passive aggressive floral print and, finally, a cute but nasty postcard that reads, ‘Glad you’re not here.’” Although she was willing to assert the collections sassiness, it was unnecessary: taking one glance at this presentation and you read flirtatiousness and old-world-meets-new-world type glamour. Imagined movie posters, MPAA slogans, logos were all realised on the fabrics, which came in, you guessed it, bright hues. 

An endearing love letter to a bygone era and an amusing homage, Mimi Wade is doing her grandmother proud no doubt.
Matty Bovan opened the catwalk show. His first season, Matty stepped up to the challenge, with a few helping hands. Super-stylist Katie Grand and casting director Anita Bitton joined forces, as they usually do—a huge coup for any young designer. In tow, they had top models Hailey Baldwin (anxiously Snapchatting her bleached eyebrows pre-show), Marjan Jonkman and Dilone, who surely added some more star power to proceedings. 

However, Matty is already well known around London. He notably won the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award at the Central Saint Martins graduate show in 2015, and the LVMH Graduate Prize. His resume counts Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and Miu Miu. Prior to his first show he had appeared in Love magazine. 

With an impressive reputation preceding him, I was eager to see how Matty’s debut would fare out. ‘Spontaneity’, ‘rainbow’ and ‘offensively saturated tones’ were the keywords from the show notes and aptly describe the collection. A boldly-hued collection complete with fabric shredded and knitted, crocheted and woven like raffia with reflective tape. The focus on fabrication and texture was heightened with the accessories: Coach handbags, Linda Farrow sunglasses. His dazzling agglomeration of fabrics and colours did prove, for some, to be sensory overload, myself included. His love for making clothes and the discotheque are, however, charming.

While Matty’s collection did feature fabric innovation—always a plus amongst young designers who are often too busy aestheticising—you couldn’t help but wonder whether these clothes live beyond the runway. In the right hands, yes.
Amie Robertson, who presented subsequent to Matty, was supported by Katie Grand and Anita Bitton last season. She had worked, alongside Matty, at Marc Jacobs on illustrations for his Spring 2016 show. (She and Matty are friends—the shine theory in effect.) Her handmade embroideries quickly caught the eye of the American designer, and they are the defining feature in A.V. Robertson collections.

Her Spring 2017 explored the post-apocalypse where the triffid, a highly venomous plant species, has risen . Day of the Triffids, a 1951 dystopian novel, was the source. In the collection, it took the form of garments inspired by the doctors and scientists’ lab coats; however, they are reconstructed. Vines and tails, the “cosmic spores” that attacked the population and took over the world in the novel take over the models in this collections. 

Amie is trying for an intergenerational take on dressing; there were certain pieces in the collection that could work for women of all age but the majority of this collection was destined for the 20- to 29-year-olds of the world. There is room for improvement here and as Amie matures her vision she could be onto something. In the meanwhile we can enjoy her expert embroideries. 
Last but not least was Richard Malone. Hailing from Co Wexford in the southeasterly region of Ireland. While the other three designers propose generational fashion ideas, Richard doesn’t completely buy into that. Yes, there are references to youth culture in Wexford, with the go-faster stripes on tracksuit-like bottoms and cutaways. An older woman, possibly his mother or his aunt, two characters he’s previously referenced, have an ostensible effect on his oeuvre, on the maturity of his work. 

Working class culture is engrained in Richard’s work. As aforementioned, Wexford is in the southeast of Ireland, a region that isn’t exactly a hive of activity. The nucleus of Irish commerce can be found in counties Cork and Dublin, also home to the two largest cities. Richard’s mother is an employee in the local Argos. Her uniform continually Even with his more architecturally-inclined garments, his focus is on “comfort rather than restriction.” 

There was a counterculture to Instagram within the collection. Notably, Richard doesn’t wish to dress celebrities and participate in celebrity culture. Famous for his sculptural masses that cloud the upper body—those pieces are in fact clip-ons and can change with every wear, nullifying photographic documentation. Moreover, the Irishman had something to say about the waist-trainer craze that has proliferated on the social media platform. Here, Richard offers and alternative, based on corsetry, linking back to the idea of “comfort.”

Many designers accused of misogyny are the ones who restrict and bind their models; they appear stiff and uncomfortable. With these clothes you witnessed the opposite—you get the impression that Richard’s working class background grounds him in reality. While he does channel glamour into the tracksuit-favouring youth culture aspect to his work and the workwear for grownups, he never strays into illusory worlds. That is why he is one of the best young designers working today.
Vogue Runway