Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus // Spring 2017 //

Rei Kawakubo probably laughs at the rest of the fashion industry. The Japanese woman is the most sought after designer, interviewee and maven in modern fashion history. Arriving on the scene in the 1970s and redefining the fashion scene with her brand of ‘anti-fashion’, Kawakubo became one of the most profound designers operating, and she still is. Along the way she’s opened department stores—Dover Street Market—in four locations London, New York, Tokyo and Beijing; designs for thirteen divisions of her label Comme des Garçons; and mentors the next wave of mavericks. Her proteges have included Junya Watanabe and more recently, Kei Ninomiya. What makes this famously elusive enigma so popular? She appears both in and out of touch with society, prefers ideas and concepts to the final product, and works in a way disparate to every other designer working. 

In February and September she presents her womenswear label, Comme des Garçons. In January and June she shows her menswear, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, a line she launched in the 1980s. Her inspiration for the Spring 2017 show was Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Emperor’s New Clothes. The illustriously dark tales, strangely for children, are more adult in their execution and provided an unlikely source of inspiration for the cerebral Kawakubo. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes follows an obnoxiously rich Emperor who is fixated by his appearance. He commissions two fraudulent characters to fashion him a suit that is invisible to anyone he considers beneath himself. The con-artists mime dressing him in his new suit and the king is naked. The interpretation of the story is about pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance “was blamed for exacerbating support for segregation in the United States in the 1960s” and you see it today with the blind support for US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

You could comment that this is an example of Kawakubo being in touch with what’s going on around her. Usually she foregoes the tumult of the world in favour of artistically expressing emotions—anger, loss, happiness—or reinterpreting mythical figures such as witches. Pondering pluralistic ignorance in fashion facetiously turns the mirror on the pluralistically ignorant fashion crowd. I wouldn’t be surprise if that was Kawakubo’s play. She forever has her collections grossly misjudged by fashion press who are eager to establish the deeper meaning in the show. Generally, everyone arrives at their own conclusions. That happened here, with many different interpretations of thematic influences. 

Nonetheless, Rei Kawakubo is still winning at her own game.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, August 29, 2016

Musings on Gang Mentality in Fashion

“It’s all about the gang mentality: fashion that satisfies the tribal and primal urge to belong, thus conform. The client is either in, and buys the aesthetic and the clothes, or out, and buys somewhere else. The power of fashion to create a group and a bond, after all, is potent. It generates affiliations and the sense of safety given by numbers of people sharing the same code. This is why the insular and subcultural approach to fashion-making is such an effectual marketing and creative tool: it draws in and reassures.” - Angelo Flaccavento, Business of Fashion, June 17 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about gang mentality in fashion recently. Angelo Flaccavento defined fashion’s gang mentality in recent Pitti Uomo article for the Business of Fashion. The Italian writer documented the Gosha Rubchinskiy and Raf Simons shows, two designers that have amassed a specific following and in-fashion crowd over the years. Their illustrious careers have seen them redefine fashion, whether if it’s deconstruction and re-appropriating articles of clothing like Raf, or painting a picture of the middle-class in high fashion like, both designers have garnered their fair share of positive press, excited buyers, and loyal followers.

The idea of gangs isn’t exclusive to the menswear scene. Many have formed in the womenswear sphere. Just look at the Givenchy gang that Ricardo Tisci has assembled. Kendall Jenner, Mariacarla Boscono, Joan Smalls, Lea T, Bella Hadid, Marina Abramovic and Kim and Kanye. Similarly at Balmain, Olivier Rousteing has cultivated an impressive lineup of Victoria’s Secret Angels and Kardashians. It should be noted, this gang has a combined social media following of more than a few hundred million combined followers. It’s the marketing tool that brands dream of.
Taking a look what Vetements have is amazing. Stylist Lotta Volkova, model and editor Paul Hameline, model and DJ Clara Deshayes. The list goes on and on. Something I’ve picked up on—the real purpose of this article—is why is it only cool for brands like Gosha and Vetements to have gangs? 

People are idolising Lotta Volkova and Paul Hameline, at least in fashion circles. I’m not sure the rest of the world are aware of their existence, but from Central Saint Martins graduates to editor level, the fashion industry is infatuated. They’re not as interested in the bevy of supermodels Olivier Rousteing has in his clique. His girls are a mixture of beauties and bombshells. They’re all well-known on the runways, well-known in the real world too: Karlie Kloss, Kendall Jenner, Doutzen Kroes to name but a few. It’s an exclusive club that nobody else is invited to, but I’m inclined to believe the fashion industry expresses disinterest because the general public are connected to it. The exclusivity is tarnished, not one hundred percent in tact. 
Yes, there is a vulgar element of celebrity culture at play with Balmain and Givenchy crews, but they are inclusive of a wide variety of people in the way that Vetements aren’t. Until this season, the Vetements casting was ridiculously whitewashed. For a so-labelled “cool” brand, that’s an uncool thing to do. Racist casting—the excuse? It reflects their friend group. It’s 2016, that’s not a good enough excuse. Meanwhile, Balmain has a melting pot of nationalities associated with it: Brazilian, Dutch, Puerto Rican, American, Chinese, Dominican and more. Fashion should be celebrating diversity more, not shunning it because it’s a ‘squad’ primarily made up of celebrity-models. 

Ricardo Tisci’s Givenchy gang accepted Lea T early on. He was one of the first designers to feature a transgender model on his runways. He continues to be one of the only designers to feature transgender models on his runway. That should not only be appreciated, but like the diversity at Balmain should be celebrated. As soon as a celebrity steps aboard, the element of coolness escapes, the fashion industry recoils.

Gang culture has permeated fashion in recent years more than ever. Exclusivity has forever made fashion an elusive industry. Cliques are forming in every neck of the woods, from Vetements to Balmain. They are polar opposites but they’re after the same thing: the effectual marketing and creative tool to bag them sales. At Balmain and Givenchy, it’s deployed more as a marketing tool, and at Vetements less so—with the increased interest in the brand, this could change. 

Marketing tool or aesthetic building, both types of brand interact gang culture but it’s a sobering thought to think something that is void of diversity—Gosha and Vetements—is more attractive than that which covers all bases from race, age, body type and background—Givenchy and Balmain. That’s more worthwhile and aspirational than not.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Public School // Spring 2017 //

Due to unforeseen circumstances—my laziness—I didn’t upload a post at the end of July called “Spring 2017 in July 2016, Why?” The post was to comment on the womenswear collections being presented early, while resort, pre-fall, couture and menswear were still being released. Menswear shows six to seven months in advance and there’ll be no changing that but I don’t necessarily think there’s much point in shifting the womenswear schedule. If anything, it allows for less distraction seeing as the customer will be presented with new clothes in four to six months. Many designers are switching up their modes of operating, consolidating womenswear and menswear, presenting during men’s fashion week. Labels such as Sibling, Julien David, Damir Doma and Vetements have all presented their Spring 2017 collections, as early as June—a year before the clothes are intended to be worn.

Others meanwhile are further complicating the structure of the fashion industry—is it breaking out of the system or forming an annoying amorphous entity that will damage the global fashion industry? I’m inclined to settle on the latter given systems are implemented for a reason. If designers are worried about customers getting bored waiting for a collection drop they shouldn’t release the clothes sooner, they should simply design better clothing. I don’t believe that fashion is dead, but sometimes, discussions like these would make you think otherwise.

Public School, fronted by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, has ‘broken out of the system’. The designers are no longer presenting their collections at New York Fashion Week and they’ve consolidated their womenswear and menswear. To throw another spanner in the works, they’ve decided to forego spring/summer, fall/winter models in favour of labelling their shows “Collection One” and so forth. It’s not difficult to comprehend, but is this complication necessary?
In early June, American press and international buyers returned to New York from a Brazilian, Cuban and British expedition only to view more resort collections, place orders and scribe reviews. Chow and Osborne jolted an audience with a presentation on a Wednesday afternoon. When the lights came, masked workers hammered away at a work station. Dressed in white bodysuits it impressed an ominous mood. The opening look, in grey, yellow and black—the first glimpse of the guerrilla uniform the designers wanted to create with this collection—was complete a beekeeper’s hat and a yellow cap. Strangely stylish or plain strange?

The guerrilla uniform was packed with Public School staples: a riff on the hoodie, blazers and flowing jackets, trans-seasonal coats, sneakers—of course. Through the looking glass you could pick up on the swishy femininity or the attempt to create unisex offerings. It all came in grey and black, bottle green and steel blue. There were occasional bursts of lemon yellow but for the most part the collection was muted, which is where it faltered. It was wholly forgettable and depressingly drab. This was disappointing given the breathing space and pressure alleviation the duo allowed themselves. Credit is due for them embarking as lone wolves in a commercially conservative New York fashion scene, even if it does just muddle things even more.

The fashion press are hyperbolising the “fashion system’s end” and the effect it has on designers could be detrimental. Smaller brands will wither away while the big ones continually prosper. Not that fashion is a meritocracy, but things will become more undemocratic and inaccessible and that’s not what fashion is about. 

The beauty of Public School presenting at New York Fashion Week is that international press and buyers, amongst the local force, will have the luxury of viewing the collection. With this presentation, there has been an isolation of important international press, who realistically aren’t going to take another week out of their already busy schedules or personal lives to travel to New York for one show. They don’t have that draw. Yet. But there’s still time to reconsider.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lanvin // Fall 2016 //

For more than twenty seasons Alber Elbaz plunged his audience into darkness at Lanvin. The models were illuminated by dim lighting. It was a distinct, memorable feature to each Lanvin show and it instilled a sensual, intimate mood, every time. Spring 2016 intertwined his three design processes: suiting, emerald tones and print. The first half of the collection was punctuated by models dressed in sharply tailored garments, slightly flirty and totally functional; when it progressed hues in ruby, topaz, amethyst, onyx, emerald, sapphire, diamond; the latter third was defined by the bubbly prints it consisted of. That collection in particular was especially lauded by critics. It was a collection where Elbaz compiled what he does best and built on it.

When news broke in October 2015 that Elbaz had been ousted from the company by the majority shareholder, Shaw-Lan Wang, a Taiwanese publishing giant, the immediate feeling was despair. The fashion world had to bereave the loss of a designer who was a perfect fit for the house he was at; one he transformed from a dormant, dusty label into a marvellous business. 

Regardless of the split’s acrimony, the house selected a brilliant successor: Bouchra Jarrar. Perhaps one of the most underrated Parisian designers, couturier Jarrar will massively appeal to the female customers of Lanvin. Her arrival is predicted to have the same effect as Phoebe Philo at Céline—a woman quietly reevaluating a house to cater to the needs of the modern woman.
In the interim between the Elbaz’s exit and Jarrar’s arrival, the in-house design team, led by Chemena Kamali and Lucio Finale, were challenged with designing the Fall 2016 womenswear collection. “Challenged” is the operative word there because it is virtuality unimaginable to think that a label piloted by the design studio can bounce back quickly in the wake of a creative director’s exit. Lanvin hasn’t been the resilient beacon of hope to light the way for other creative director-less houses. In actuality it’s just muddled the narrative, damaged the business’ credibility and created a peculiar extension of the brand that will probably be glossed over on the arrival of a new captain.

The collection was an agglomeration of the 50s and 80s. From rockabilly stylings to 80s brocades. Peppered throughout were flashings of lamé, check and lace—the overall collection viewed through a sepia tint. I could expand on this but there isn’t much point, to be cynical about it. This collection has veered Lanvin in an entirely wrong direction. The clothes didn’t feature any of Elbaz’s signatures. An ode to his suiting virtuosity was weak, the colours were significantly un-Lanvin and the fabrication wasn’t spectacular. In short: this wasn’t Lanvin. Topping this all off, the show was held in a brightly lit show space, with full, unadjusted visibility. And it’s when the lights turn on that’s when you can see all the cracks and the underbelly of a brand. 

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gucci // Resort 2017 //

When a runway collection is presented the likelihood of it all going into production is slim. Generally, the standout pieces of the collection are produced and sold in stores and online. At Gucci Alessandro Michele presents up to 95 looks each collection. Surely some of it is only for the show. That’s not the case; everything presented in the Gucci collection can be found in one of the 502 outlets worldwide. The proof: Margot Robbie’s stylist Christina Ehrlich selected a store exclusive, that remained unseen by the press for an American morning show. 

Gucci has always been about building a lifestyle for the rich man and woman. Tom Ford amped up the sex with his thrilling turn as creative director in the 1990s; Frida Giannini was a strange one, her Gucci was contrived sexuality—unimpressive in comparison. Not only was she unable to win over the press completely, Gucci under Giannini. and her partner, former CEO Patrizio di Marco, was unable to reach sales targets and the business side slumped. Enter the now fabled story of Marco Bizzarri and Alessandro Michele arrived to rejuvenate the Italian brand with an savvy fusion of business and creative minds. Sales recovered and the fashion industry has done nothing but rejoice. In the context of the Gucci label, it was revolutionary.

Is Alessandro Michele revolutionary in the context of fashion as a whole? Yes, he is. In the 2010s emerged the minimalist trend fronted by Céline, The Row, Victoria Beckham. Michele is the antithesis to this with an utterly maximalist approach that celebrates flashiness and loud self-expression. Michele has many sources of inspiration: film, fashion, art, literature, history. To pick up on the latter—history—Michele is avidly cites historical references as his inspiration for his collections. They offer depth and meaning to the excess of clothing items. The punk subcultural movement that electrified London in the 1980s, or even the Renaissance (which is akin to Michele’s creative directorship) are prime examples of endless sources of inspiration.
It should come as no surprise that for the travelling circus of pre-collection presentations Michele decided upon London as the resort 2017 location. While he could’ve opted for a warehouse, like he did in Brooklyn the previous year, or a high-rise building with panoramic views of London’s cityscape, Michele thought big! Westminster Abbey, no less, is the venue Michele wanted. Gucci’s communications team must’ve been left gobsmacked with that task. They managed to pull off the massive feat and acquire the monumental location, which has held the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011, Princess Diana’s funeral in 1977, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. The cloisters was the suitable section within the venue for the show. Custom designed cushions in emerald green, hand-embroidered with various animals, were placed on every seat—virtually every guest assumed them to be a parting gift. Gucci girls Soko, Elle Fanning, Bel Powley were perched front row, representing a new era of muses. 

Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II in palatial surrounds. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood developing punk on the King’s Road. Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare defining British literature. Those were six figures that Michele imbued in this collection. 

The final product captured the madness and eccentricity associated with British style. It sounds rather gimmicky and cliche, and in certain instances it was. You could help but enjoy yourself as you watch ninety five looks unfold before your eyes, each almost louder than the previous, culminating in a beige trench coat, printed skirt and top, slip-on heels and calf-high socks—a bit naff, but perfectly equipped for the often unforgiving British weather. 

There are so many aspects to British culture that Michele touched on to enrich his sprawling collection. There were lion motifs, the rich florals, flaming reds, Scottish tartan, royal inspirations, Union Jack prints, odes to Vivienne Westwood—in the back of your mind you had images of cultural references, Queen Elizabeth I, the Punk movement, etc.

Cruise/resort collections that travel often bring out the cliched overkill of fashion references. England’s been tackily, especially in its own tourist memorabilia shops in the bigger cities, but also in fashion and in campy films. Michele drew out the tropes but he made them perversely provocative, something that he does well. It is campy, overtly loud and widely eccentric, but simultaneously it remains luxurious and perfect for any location. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, August 22, 2016

Off-White // Fall 2016 //

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say streetwear exists and those who say it doesn’t. Virgil Abloh is a firm believer in streetwear; so much so he is teaching a Mastered class on the subject. “It gives me something to work around,” Abloh relayed to the Guardian, commenting on the oft overused word. Nasir Mazhar is opposed to the word. Speaking to Dazed he deems the word outdated and demeaning. You can see where he’s coming from—streetwear is quite the loose term, both Abloh and Mazhar have expanded on it, with focus on intellectuality and quality. That’s what separates these two purveyors of—to borrow the odious term—streetwear maestros. 

Abloh borrowed a literal reference to the streets for his Fall 2016 womenswear collection. Pretty Woman, the 1990 Gary Marshall film starring Julia Roberts as a sex worker and Richard Gere as a businessman. The story has been coined as a “modern Cinderella retelling”. The reference to the iconic film was blatant. A quote was taken from Roberts’ character’s interaction with a catty saleswoman who remarks nastily, “You’re obviously in the wrong place”. Neon lights read this as the guests filled the show space. 
It wasn’t the only obnoxious statement in the collection. A black tee screen printed with an image of Chateau Marmont read, “do you have a table tho?” There’s something about rude sentiments like this that both enamours and infuriates me. In true Abloh style he didn’t want it to be reduced to just a tee. It wasn’t—it was styled up with a pleated skirt, accented with a criss-cross belt motif. Casually styled with trainers, this is the kind of girl you expect to see blasting Halsey on a sweltering Los Angeles day, running errands and sipping a green juice. 

That same girl is probably obsessed with thrifting and Instagramming, and combining those two passions. Abloh fused them both seemingly well with cropped sweaters branded with “OFF” and high waisted trousers, boiled wool coats, a modern aviator jacket, backwards facing denim jackets and a denim-shirt fusion. Those didn’t feel like the main talking points despite the frisson.

One look was punctuated by gargantuan gold trousers; another by a lustrous biker jacket; a dress exploding with silver pleated fabric; heavily embellished denim or a photo print dress. Those were the strange pieces in the collection that felt like they belonged elsewhere. Shockingly, they upset the rhythm Abloh cultivated with the sharp styling in this collection. They knocked it and muddled the execution. Without those pieces this collection could’ve excelled; without those we would’ve seen true streetwear, for lack of a better term. 

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, August 19, 2016

Balenciaga // Spring 2017 // Menswear

There has never been a formal Balenciaga menswear presentation. Under all previous creative directors, there was rarely even imagery shared with the public via Vogue or NowFashion. Demna Gvasalia arrived at the house at the beginning of this year and the label announced their first menswear show. When June rolled around, talk was fraught with anticipation for his debut.

On a Wednesday in late June sunshine burst through the glass ceilings at the Lycée Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague. Under the sun, a new chapter of Balenciaga menswear was welcomed. The starting point was a coat Gvasalia stumbled upon while perusing the expansive Balenciaga archives. The unfinished item was the product of, the founder, Cristobal Balenciaga’s hands. He completed his predecessor’s work and it opened the show. The camel-coloured, boxy-coat kickstarted his Balenciaga menswear reign memorably.

The male counterpart to haute couture is bespoke tailoring and Gvasalia wanted to explore that with this collection. The blazers had quarterback, boxy shoulders. They were ill-fitting and a necessary departure from the dull suits that used to—and still appear to—dominate men’s fashion weeks. Shirts were crisp and neatly buttoned to the neck, blazers fastened officiously. In the breast pocket of each jacket was a Balenciaga-stamped card which kept the measurements of the garment. On face value it appeared as a business card at the ready. Shoulders either extended normal width or else they looked shrunken, visually minimising the width of the shoulder. Trousers were cropped below the knee or kept Oliver Twist length. Double-breasted, single-breasted, these were wildly different from the classic and necessary wardrobe staple. 
The Vetements attitude permeated this Balenciaga collection. Under Gvasalia he’s ushered in “extreme normality”—a trend I’ll dissect further in the coming weeks. Suits, shirts and trousers are everyday items for men—just like hoodies and sweaters are, as seen at the Vetements show—but it’s how you remix them. Widening or shrinking proportions, shortening or lengthening hemlines, it sounds almost trivial but there is a burning desire for clothes like these. At the showroom many press and buyers asserted the comfort and appeal of the pieces. But with these clothes you don’t just buy a pair of trousers or a bomber jacket, the Gvasalia-prescribed attitude is attached.

The grumpy-looking models looked the part as malcontented businessmen on their morning commute, not gawky teen models (who were mostly white; although it was a meek improvement upon his Vetements catastrophe casting). They quickly inform the robotic ‘men in the grey suits’ from The Matrix franchise. There were whiffs of the iconic film in the collection were spotted by astute, comedic fashion writers who likened bespectacled models to the nefarious Agent Smith and his cohorts. That movie was released in 1999 and as with every Demna/Lotta collaboration there was a distinct 90s mood in the air. The nineties have well and truly been revived.

I’ve had issues with Demna Gvasalia’s oeuvre in the past. I disagree with the questionable motives; the incongruity of what he believes and wants Vetements to be and what it actually is; the borderline anti-fashion approach; the pushing of stuff. This Balenciaga collection didn’t change that, but the aesthetic being pushed here is more palatable despite the unerring loftiness and chilliness. Also to be valued is the aversion to traditional suiting. A fine start from Gvasalia at Balenciaga menswear. 
Photo Credit: voguernway.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Jacquemus // Fall 2016 //

In the past two years Simon Porte Jacquemus rose with the new guard of Parisian designers that stormed the French capital with their unabashed individuality, freneticism and off-kilter exploration of tired tropes. Jacquemus was perhaps one of the fiercest standouts in that crew—which featured also Wanda Nylon, the Coperni Femme boys now at Courrèges, the Carven duo, Vetements—and that’s a feat in itself, especially when in the same sphere as the Vetements juggernaut. His oddly captivating shapes whisked the fashion industry off their feet. 

For Fall 2015 the shapes were cut strangely; his poetic expression was divine that season but the talent was there. He interacted with nudity in a delicate, innocent way. He captured ease with barefoot models. Ease was something that strings the thread between all of his collections. For Spring 2016 he looked at suiting and sportiness. There was something more rigid about the lines and colours but there was still an effortless. He derives this effortlessness from the South of France, his locale. Speaking from experience, the South of France is the most mesmerising locations and designers never fail to translate this to their collections. Jacquemus’ experience with the South of France isn’t contrived, image-driven, it’s simply the lifestyle he is familiar with.
For Fall 2016 he wanted to evoke a new incarnation of his woman. He saw her in heels, but it contradicts with his image of her—usually, she’s in white flats. But Jacquemus worked with this contradiction. He introduced heels, a more grownup option that signified his personal growth as a designer. The girl has grown too. Whether she’s wearing her father’s pinstripe suit (of Margiela proportions), or a waist-cinching evening dress—the Jacquemus girl is exploring adulthood. There’s the age old trope of dressing in your mother or father’s clothing and it looked like that was at play in this collection. Cong He donned a crisply cut light-blue shirt pinned to centre of the body; Kai Newman before her wore a pinstripe and block-coloured tuxedo with a slash diagonally, fastened together with haphazardly tied white bows. Following this, models emerged with single opera gloves or wide-shouldered blazers; their mother’s thigh high boots from her disco days; a prom dress draped across a navy jumpsuit.

With progression comes the growing pains that designers find difficult to steer away from. This collection evidenced little signs of confusion, or questions as to where he will drive the second act in the early stages of his career. It’s his subtle poeticism that strengthens proving Simon Porte Jacquemus to still bear the title ‘wunderkind’.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, August 15, 2016

Courrèges // Fall 2016 //

In September 2015 Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant were tasked with the revival of Courrèges. The French duo put their successful label Coperni Femme—which won the ANDAM First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize—on hold to solely focus on their new role. The objective of their turn as Courrèges co-creative directors is to make things “desirable and cool”. Undoubtedly, they’ve done just that. With leather jackets, bodysuits, boots and mini dresses, the duo have reinterpreted founder Andrés Courrèges signatures through a modern lens. 

It was modernity that underlined Courrèges career. The 60s fashion era was punctuated by many revelatory discoveries. Mary Quant, or Courrèges, depending on your source, created the mini skirt; Courrèges pioneered the bodystocking and the go-go boot; Yves Saint Laurent impacted fashion with Le Smoking tuxedo. Nowadays there aren’t many introductions to new ideas due to fashion’s unoriginality. However, it’s how you retell the story is what makes fashion so effective. 

Meyer and Vaillant, as aforementioned, are creating a festival of twenty or so key items to build a wardrobe for the modern, cool woman. Their collection opened with sporty, skintight bodysuits—the founder championed sports luxe in his time. With a keyhole cutout, red, white or black stripes, the piece is an adult onesie that’s appropriate to wear to the shops with a leather jacket. On that front, the duo had you covered too. Sheeny, cropped leather jackets in black, blue or red. There were sumptuously tailored day coats and winter coats too. Elsewhere in the collection, there was a few miniskirts popularised in the 60s.

For their first presentation Meyer and Vaillant introduced the looks. This luxury is only awarded at pre-collection or intimate presentations. They did away with that for fall and the magic was lost. The clothes didn’t have the same personality or thought as the season previous; it was cold and unmoving—just a load of unnecessary stuff. Where this collection could’ve excelled is refinement. Instead of showing 58 looks with many repeats, it could’ve been whittled down to one of each. Not only would this have been a better portrayal of skill, it would’ve prevented boredom.

The Courrèges revival has been commercially successful. The fashion press has warmed to it. Most magazine have done expansive features on the label’s reincarnation or on the designers behind the operation. The presentation format needs to be requestioned. For the pre-collection the designers had the opportunity to talk press and buyers through the collection but the clothes were suspended in midair, museum style. For the main event there were too many clothes. Perhaps a film or static presentation would be more effective. Food for thought.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, August 12, 2016

Luxury in 2016: Bottega Veneta & Dries van Noten // Fall 2016 //

“a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense”
“very wealthy and comfortable surroundings”
“something desirable but expensive”
“something very pleasant but not really needed in life”

There’s a lot of humdrum in the fashion industry at the moment (isn’t there always) about luxury and what how to define luxury in 2016. In fashion terms, there’s age old luxury—expensive watches, gold accessories, fur coats—and new luxury—cerebral clothing or intangible things. Both are desirable but expensive, pleasant but not really needed in life and generally they belong to people who are very wealthy and life in great comfortable surroundings. 

Few designers these days appreciate the meaning of luxury. They present the customer instead with sloppily-made, poorly-fabricated garments that could be replaced with better ones from the likes of Primark/Penneys. One designer that has truly mastered and captures luxury is Tomas Maier, who designs at Bottega Veneta. He’s been seated at the house for 15 years, after stints at Sonia Rykiel and Hermès. The German designer has an unerring knack for grown-up posh dressing. That continued with his recent Fall 2016 collection.

Like many designers before him, and many after, Maier forewent any thematic influences—uncertain times call for exemplary clothing and expert workmanship. Instead, he worked from his own volition exploring potential uniforms for the superrich woman for fall. Jamie Bochert opened in all-black. A trench, a turtleneck, wide-leg trousers and a effortlessly worn scarf. A purple lip and silver heels punctuated her look. There were more uniforms subsequently: some of the suit kind (an unforgettable off-white double-breasted tuxedo as seen on Julia Nobis), and an assortment of wintery dresses—the Sunday lunch kind. The collection could’ve slumped had it been focused solely on tone but Maier injected interest with printed V-neck sweaters, leopard coats, colourful checks and polychromatic, embroidered sweaters. Of the items listed above, none are on offer below €1,000.

Maier understands the intricacies of a posh lady’s shopping list. His nuanced take on power-dressing displays such knowledge. He is a man who appreciates fit and tactility that results in elegant sophistication. Some may call it archaic, others won’t; for the others, it’s the way of life. They live and breathe the polished lifestyle the Bottega Veneta brand exudes on its runways.
Another designer with the same level of expertise as Maier at Bottega Veneta, is a Belgian designer who took Paris by storm years ago. To this day he is still one of the most exciting talents on the Paris Fashion Week schedule—Dries van Noten. Notably, van Noten is a master craftsman with a keen eye for tactility.

Unlike Maier at Bottega Veneta, van Noten’s clothes don’t cost quite as much (in terms of high fashion pricing), however he doesn’t discount ideas of luxury. His clothes are styled in such a way that they look like demo-couture, costing thousands of pounds, but therein lies the wizardry. Furs used in Dries van Noten shows are faux, eco-friendly. His wools look like the most spectacular ever found—assisted by embroidery, as seen in his Fall 2016 collection. 

The affair between Marchesa Luisa Casati and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio served as the inspiration. The decadent lifestyle they led and believed in was the true source. The models emerged with charcoal eye-makeup smeared in their sockets. (The handmade invites came painted with a similar image). Hair was lacquered and swept to the side, clean cut, masculine—like d’Annunzio. The clothing was a mixture between the two lovers. Casati’s was a known leopard-owner; faux furs and wide-leg trousers were printed with leopard spots. Lavish faux-furs acted as collars and chokers. Masculine tailoring and suiting, fitted to the model’s lithe bodies, insinuated d’Annunzio’s presence. 

Elsewhere in the collection an air of the 70s swept the catwalk. Scholarly influences were felt throughout. A jacket printed with an elaborate coat of arms was a luxe take on the bomber jacket’s recent popularisation amongst youths. Preceding it was another piece akin to a uniform—Yasmin Wijnaldum decked out in a posh school blazer, a striped skirt and tie. Contrary to school uniform norms, she was draped in a faux-fur pelt and snakeskin boots were her footwear choice. 

Recurring themes among both collections was the underlying theme of uniforms. The posh uniform specifically directed Maier and van Noten towards the final product. Both results were tremendously lavish, desirable and elegant. Each collection was undeniably synonymous with luxury. While there are arguments to be made that these clothes don’t affect the larger fashion conversation, it remains unarguable that these clothes don’t possess an overwhelming demand. That’s luxury.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Calvin Klein's Advertising Campaign Works

Back in 1992 a then unknown Mark Wahlberg modelled for Calvin Klein Underwear. Photographed by Herb Ritts, the former model was captured alongside supermodel Kate Moss. Of course the campaign is still the most recognisable, and most memorable, of the past thirty years. They don’t make campaigns like that anymore. The Calvin Klein brand clearly realised that advertising in 2016 is ineffective unless you can create a timeless, unforgettable campaign. So they did just that. At the end of January 2016 the brand released imagery from their latest campaign series for the Calvin Klein #MyCalvins Collection. 

The casting in the campaign was diverse, representative of today’s zeitgeist. Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, Kendall Jenner, FKA twigs, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Sung Jin Park, to name but a few, were enlisted to star in the Tyrone Lebon-lensed advertising campaign. Each image was accompanied by a single line, following the mould “I *insert word here or short phrase here* in #MyCalvins”. The results ranged from “hypnotise” to “make money”. Each image uniquely existed in the Calvin Klein world. From models to actresses, rappers and singers to actresses and reality stars, the campaign encompassed a wide variety of occupations. 

The idea for Fall 2016 was to build on this world that Tyrone Lebon has created for Calvin Klein. Grace Coddington, Kate Moss, Bella Hadid, Young Thug, Margot Robbie, James Rodriguez, Frank Ocean and more were added to the roster. Stylists, models, rappers, actresses, footballers and lyricists. Not only are the job titles a departure from the failsafe model choice, the decisions intersect race and age. 
All these different intersections—race, age, job, body type, gender—make these campaigns energetic and enlivening. There are teenagers and septuagenarians—that is unheard of in fashion advertising in 2016. Styling male rappers in the womenswear line is also a rarity; generally it’s women styled in menswear: another refreshing counterpoint to industry norms. There’s also the 90s vignette that underscores the portfolio. The 90s are uber-fashionable nowadays and brands are finding ways to reconnect with it. Calvin Klein have done that brilliantly by allowing the masterful Tyron Lebon to photograph. 

1992 was twenty-four years ago. Mark Wahlberg has progressed to acting and producing; Kate Moss is still one of the most sought after modelling personalities; Herb Ritts sadly passed away in 2002. The legacy the Calvin Klein imagery from ’92 leaves behind is inimitable, but not unsurpassable. Tyrone Lebon’s electrifying turn as campaign photographer will define a new era of fashion advertising—Calvin Klein win again!
Photo Credit: Calvin Klein

Monday, August 8, 2016

Christopher Kane // Resort 2017 //

At the beginning of June in London, august houses Christian Dior and Gucci presented their resort (or cruise—whichever you fancy) collections. Dior showed at Blenheim Palace; Gucci occupied Westminster Abbey (the first fashion ever to be held there). There was a rest day in between the events which allowed the editors to flock back to London—many of them were housed in the London EDITION thanks to Gucci. Christopher Kane saw this an opportunity to show the international press his resort 2017 collection. Like in the olden days, Kane used the shop-floor to present his wares. His store on Mount Street was transformed into a functional runway with floral arrangements.

Kane was inspired by the pansy. “The pansy seems so simple, so everyday; it just came into my head to use it as the basis for a collection.” Simple is not what Christopher Kane is about. He likes to subvert things—in this case he wanted the pansy to be “menacing” and “mischievous”. He did it with finesse, of course. A heat-print of a pansy emblazoned a black sweater; it’s acidy hues punctuating dreamy slip dresses; in one look, photo prints of pansies had been blown up to a large scale, forming a dress that unfurled around the body. 
Elsewhere gingham made a return to the Kane runway. For Spring 2010, a collection I recall fondly, Kane sent gingham chiffon dresses down his London Fashion Week catwalk. Sure enough the spring trends were dictated by Kane’s innovation—utilising a fabric that serves as tablecloth. It opened this collection. A day coat in burgundy gingham; there was a black dress fused with an asymmetric pansy print; ‘your grandmother’s cardigan’ in a berry shade. 

Resort and pre-fall have become a chance for Kane to reflect on his own body of work. While there were deliberate reflections on his famous Spring 2010 outing in this collection, it was Resort 2010 that I was thinking of. The “hyperreal” prints that served as the basis for this collection were also used back in 2010. Languid silks were bedecked with sheeny prints of mushroom clouds. There were notes of last season too: see, bag lady accessorising and embellishment, black silk-satin with rich embroideries. 

Looking back on your extensive oeuvre is forever a welcome walk down memory lane at a Christopher Kane show. The past allows him interesting ways to move forward, to focus on the next ‘thing’. Lately I’ve been thinking of them as exercises for designers, brainteasers before the big event in February or September. Namely, it’s been only London designers (with exceptions) that have injection effort and care into their resort collections this season. Christopher Kane is a prime example of a designer who doesn’t consider it a throwaway season—yes, it’s the opportunity to present saleable items but more importantly, it’s a presentation of refreshing, gripping ideas. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, August 5, 2016

Christopher Raeburn // Fall 2016 //

Designers are unsure. They don’t know what, where, when and how to present. On top of that they must trudge through crowded markets, take risks in a challenging and slow luxury market and face the critics of the fashion industry. Those are reasons why younger designer are confused as to how to continue. They don’t necessarily want to work for the big brands, they want to work for themselves but it’s too difficult to get the ball rolling. More established designers are beginning to struggle too. Is the catwalk show effective enough to sell a vision and product? Christopher Raeburn experimented with his show format in February. The designer opted out of a runway show, choosing instead an interactive presentation.

The interactive presentation wasn’t the only departure for Raeburn. Usually he presents upwards to thirty looks but this season he kept things simple with eight. A massive decrease, but fashion is finally coming to terms with quality over quantity. A good collection isn’t always made up of 90 pieces. Three to six could be just as effective—examples being the latest crop of London designers. What Raeburn managed to achieve with this smaller offering was a more refined, polished result. Each individual piece had a greater amount of effort poured into it; that would’ve been lost in the rapid production of a thirty piece collection.
Collaborating with Woolmark once again, this season’s focus was a further reiteration of the importance of craft and sustainably producing clothes. Upcycling military surplus has always been on his design agenda. A winter jacket with a cape-like folding hood was printed in cool navy and grey. The heavily-fringed, hand-knit colourful sweater in the collection was perhaps the most daring of the bunch. However, it didn’t compete with Raeburn’s innovative riff on the Horse Guards uniform (those men in red jackets and a busby positioned outside Buckingham Palace and other royal residences. The jacket, equipped with badges and printed 3-D panelling was lined with soft fleece. As Maya Singer noted, his “matter-of-factness is fundamental to [his] approach”. 

Raeburn’s name isn’t on the provisional London Fashion Week for September. He did present a slew of womenswear looks during his menswear collection during London Collections: Men in June. Like many other designers at the moment, Raeburn could be consolidating his men and women’s lines and opting to show on the menswear schedule, where he receives more press. But that’s speculation. 

When things aren’t concrete, the industry’s movements swirling, arrivals and exits announced quicker than at an airport, you have to find certainty somewhere. For me, the surest thing about Christopher Raeburn is that he’s showing no signs of slowing down and no signs of giving up.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Calvin Klein Collection // Fall 2016 //

April 19 2016. It is announced that Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli are exiting Calvin Klein Collection. The creative directors “are leaving the company as part of a new global creative strategy unifying all Calvin Klein brands under one creative vision.” So the rumour mill churned. 

August 2 2016. Raf Simons is revealed as chief creative officer of the historic label. As predicted, once his non-compete agreement with Dior expired, Calvin Klein immediately announced his arrival on their socials. Raf will have creative control over Calvin Klein Jeans, Calvin Klein Underwear, Platinum and Home divisions (respectively), as well as the Calvin Klein Collection ready-to-wear offerings. This level control is unheard of in the commerce-minded fashion industry in 2016—save for Peter Dundas at Cavalli.
The announcement that Costa and Zucchelli couldn’t have come at a worse time for the in-flux industry. The heart-wrenching moment marked the sixth and seventh designer exit of the year; Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent departure preceding them by two weeks. To offer personal interest, I lamented the loss of Costa, whose womenswear had inexplicably improved in a mere few collections. I’d never spoken favourably of his interpretation of the minimalist aesthetic, but fall 2015 marked a sharp change. A year later, Costa presented his final collection at the usual Spring Studios venue. The show, thankfully, didn’t contain the repetitive minimalism that punctuated the early ‘10s. There was an “urban” air, that in turn made things look more youthful.

Roos Abels kickstarted proceedings in a fitted tuxedo with a silk slip underneath—a mix of structure and fluidity. The show continued to play with that juxtaposition: sharply tailored tops with loose bottoms; well-tailored coats with large faux-fur collars teamed with floaty shift dresses. 

In a truly unexpected turn of events Costa introduced print. Print! In another review it would be trivial to marvel at the fact that print was introduced. But Costa’s Calvin Klein Collection has been empty of print for years. How better to introduce it than an innovative way—printing lynx or skunk on leathers. Welfare is obviously on the mind of those at Calvin Klein. Luscious furs that lined collars, decorated straps and made entire coats were faux-fur. 

With animal prints and furs making the cut at the show, Costa explored his Brazilian heritage in the collection with focus on ornamentation. Agate shapes filled purposely-crafted holes in dresses. The result is a decorative approach to the minimalist aesthetic that Costa has been pushing forward with new developments in seasons just past.  

In recent times Francisco Costa’s show was the penultimate show of New York Fashion Week. Shown prior to Marc Jacobs, which rarely I saw live due to my slumberous proclivities, the show essentially closed out my NYFW coverage. I looked forward to Calvin Klein Collection from February 2015 onwards. The anticipation for Raf’s debut will be palpable (he’ll debut next February), but for now I hope Costa ends up designing elsewhere; I’d like to see more from him.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com