Thursday, September 29, 2016

Olivier Theyskens // Spring 2017 //

Paris Fashion Week has begun; Olivier Theyskens is back. He launched his eponymous label in 1998 but discontinued it four years later, in 2002 beginning a series of stints at Rochas, Nina Ricci and Theory. This summer it was announced, exclusively by the Business of Fashion, that Theyskens would be reopening his eponymous label. This movement will see clothes retail at the higher end of the luxury ready-to-wear market. There won’t be pre-collections, just Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Theyskens is showing no signs of buying into the damaging madness of the current state of the fashion industry, and all it’s demanding requirements—he’s self-funding the project which allows this freedom. The team has been kept small, with only four to five people working in the atelier, Theyskens, and the CEO, Maximiliano Nicolelli.

This type of operation is unheard of in fashion in 2016. Younger designers should look to Theyskens as an inspirational figure, even if they don’t hold his darkly beautiful aesthetic in esteem. There is something to be learned here: work hard, build up a career and reputation, garner a wealth of experience—in the end, it presents the ability to fly solo, on your own terms. 

Theyskens aesthetic is surely business magic. He fuses minimalism and avant garde in a palatable way. His delicate mannerisms grasp attention subtly. Things are refined but proportionally experimental. The mix between minimalism and avant garde is one purveyed by Theyskens’ fellow Belgian: Martin Margiela. An essential figure in the vocabulary of the most successful modern designers; Theyskens’ eponymous label explored similar motifs in his collections. In 2016, however, refinement took centre stage over the avant garde. His Spring 2017 show was told through the restricted colour palette of black, slate grey, white, and dark red. 

The collection bore few cerebral touches. He interacted with proportion in ways similar to his time in the late nineties and early aughts, except, here much of that was diluted, to cater to a customer with a cleaner vision, fond of sharp lines. There was a slate grey blazer show, with wide, pointed lapels—an exemplary display of Theyskens’ tailoring prowess. Ditto, a lacquered croc abbreviated dress. To close the show Theyskens sent a black, sweetheart neckline evening gown down the runway. The model glided, the dust-sweeping train followed loosely behind. It was reminiscent of a dress he presented in his Rochas days—a time when conceptuality was also subdued. 

“I always embrace couture, as well as the reality of beautiful clothes,” Theyskens shared with Lauren Sherman, in the BoF interview in July. These were beautiful clothes, surely, but in 2016, virtuosos like Theyskens can’t rely just on that.
Photo Credit:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Salvatore Ferragamo // Spring 2017 //

On March 24 when it was announced that Massimiliano Giornetti was resigning at Salvatore Ferragamo you couldn’t help but mutter an expletive under your breath. The Italian designer, after sixteen years working at the label—six of those as creative director—was beginning to critically excite in a way his work hadn’t done previously. His Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 collections were applauded for their quiet excellence; the clothes were polished and posed—what Giornetti did best. 

With Giornetti out, a replacement was sought. It wasn’t until the show day, on Sunday, that the person was finally unmasked. Fulvio Rigoni, a disciple of Raf Simons, with previous experience as head designer of womenswear at Jil Sander and head of tailoring at Christian Dior, both stints under the Belgian designer. You’d be forgiven for quickly seeking Raf-ism in his work, it spins an amusing narrative. The modernist appeal, feminine approach, 40s tailoring, those were all counted for in this debut. 

It must be difficult for a designer like Rigoni to come into a house like Salvatore Ferragamo, with its backstory, and keep the torch lit. Giornetti had a well-received tenure that increased revenue for the Italian label, originally founded in 1928. With the sole of objective of continuing this commercial success, there can be constraints on creative success. Here, it appeared Rigoni handled the large task with aplomb. For starters the clothes were particularly strong. Model of the moment, McKenna Hellam opened the show in a yellow and blue, floral dress with an elasticated neckline, ballooned sleeves and a cinched waist. It was both Raf’s Jil Sander and Dior, but it worked perfectly for the brand in question. There was a subtle, pink tuxedo dress with padded shouldering.

There were further examples of impeccable tailoring in the show. This is unsurprising given Rigoni’s time as head of tailoring at Christian Dior, where he remained for more than three years. Italian tailoring was kept characteristically sharp and interpretative of others. It was like this collection in many respects: borrowing references from close to home. 

With touches of Jil Sander Spring 2011 and 2012 (one of Raf Simons’ most memorable) and the Christian Dior time periods proved highly influential in the execution of this collection. It’s no wonder given Rigoni’s roots. Potential for longterm success is already visible in this collection’s creative endeavours. It was a remix of familiar ideas, but at least they were close to Rigoni’s history as a designer. Now, we wait and see if this designer will be protected and nurtured by the house it’s seated at, or will it be another cautionary tale.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Moschino // Spring 2017 //

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Jeremy Scott’s brand of comedic fashion. His debut collection hybridised McDonald’s, teaming it with the Moschino logo and Chanel codes—the collection was complete with cow prints, trays and uniform dresses. There was a 90s hip-hop element to that collection also, a caricature of the movement. Spongebob, Pop Tarts and punk also took a bow by the end of that one. If the intent was to stir, he did just that. He’s been influenced by Barbie (It was surprising to not see Ken, amplifying the already heteronormative notions of the house), styling her in bubblegum pink and abbreviated mini skirts. Looney Tunes, spray-painted gowns, tongue-in-cheek consumerism ploys, race-car driving and aristocracy—there is an endless list of kitschy references to pick from, ones that were literally explored, with a 60s sensibility, by Scott throughout his tenure. 

Scott is a showman and proof that fashion is, above all, entertainment for the masses. His designs have bled into non-fashion-industry circles too, with his accessible (in comparison to the cost of ready-to-wear) iPhone cases. McDonald’s fries anyone? You’ve no doubt seen one of these cases floating about. 
The approach Scott has to fashion is fascinating. Primarily, he pokes fun at it, mocks, laughs, all the while creating witty clothing that sells like hotcakes. This critic looks upon it pejoratively, but this season there was something about his Spring 2017 collection that struck a chord with me. It commented on the world around us, as dictated by social media’s rule—arguably his most socially aware endeavour yet. The show opened with supermodel Gigi Hadid in a gown with a paper doll print. The doll on her gown was wearing black lingerie, her waist, legs and heels undefined—a 2-D caricature. More cartoonish characters followed, the white foldable tabs poking out behind polka dot shirts, red jackets and secretarial-inspired dresses. 

How was this socially aware? We live our lives on social media, on a 4 inch, 2-D screen. These clothes were set to reflect that. We read, see, purchase, live and breath online. Newspapers like the Independent were once thriving publications but the rise of the internet made them rethink, switching to online only. Magazines have come and gone, subjecting themselves to the harsh print market. Print isn’t dead, I’m a firm believer of that, but the internet has made that difficult. As well as that, the majority of customers who purchase something from this collection will do so online, a two dimensional reality. And although this collection was presented in a bubbly and exciting format, there are harsh truths at the centre of this collection. 
There were many strange, thoroughly unlikable points to this collection. There’s the archaic depiction of women, who have literally been made into dolls this season; there is the cartoonish prints that belong in River Island and H&M, not high fashion; the outdated, boring, sexualised 60s filter that Scott clearly finds insatiable. But the if that had been edited out, this collection would’ve been a much more profound outing. It might’ve even bought Scott some favourability from the fashion press.

We shouldn’t be curious as to who’s buying an oversized t-shirt dress with a teddy bear print or medicine-inspired garb. There are many willing customers out there that will march to the doors of the flagships worldwide. Despite my opinions, it was fascinating to see the hopeless pandering to Generation Z meet a riveting commentary on the current state of the world.
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Simone Rocha // Spring 2017 //

London is oft castigated by seasoned fashion journalists for focusing solely on styling exercises and surface decoration. Many designers on the official schedule conform to this, and you see it especially with certain graduates. I don’t think that should be dwelt on—what makes London so special, specifically this season, is that its erupting with energy, colour and ideas. There are, as always, designers that don’t fit a mould, they’ve created their own and find comfort there. They operate in ways similar to the American kingpins in the sense that every collection is a character building exercise—except most of the London counterparts are more intellectually driven.

Simone Rocha is a designer who, in her five years in business, has developed unique signatures. Broderie anglaise, floral motifs, lace, the list continues… Last season she explored poetry in childbirth, the aftermath, how it changes you. It was a decidedly dark collection. Spring 2017 was a counterpoint to that collection. Simone said to Tim Blanks, “I felt like myself again.” For this next stage in her personal and business lives, she opted for a different venue: selecting Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral building in London, having been there since 606 AD. 

Where Simone excels is that she hasn’t given in to the crucifying commercial constraints that brands don’t return from—most New York labels, for example. She creates pretty dresses, sure, but there’s perversity, eroticism, religious elements. They undoubtedly enrich her oeuvre which we’ve seen progress from black slip dresses to fully-fledged dream dresses that are imbued with a personal story, and a blank page for the customer to live out their story. 
Simone is one for a story. The hardworking Irish mentality was a potent influence in this collection. Jackie Nickerson’s photographs of the agriculturalists, Paul Henry’s The Potato Diggers seen in The National Gallery of Ireland were the collection’s starting points. Selena Forrest opened the show in all white—a border anglaise coat and frilled trousers, lucite-heel Wellington boots, prim gloves. Deconstructed tulle appeared frayed, messy, worn. Collapsing tailoring: items were falling off the models bodies from an arduous day’s work. Deep reds from Henry’s paintings, yellows and greens from Nickerson’s photography. My mind kept referring to famine times in Ireland, although these women were slightly too polished for that. There was knowing vulnerability but also collectedness, Simone fine-tuning the duality.

The way that Simone incorporates Ireland in her collections never ceases to inspire endlessly or pique an unexplored interest. Though not directly stated, there were whiffs of an Irish communion, working culture of yore; more directly, the ‘Sunday best’ dressing, the visual effects of labour. These elements of Irish culture are still prevalent in certain parts today. The collection wasn’t wholly conservative, like Ireland, either—there was the bubbling sexuality, the perversity.

It would be foolish to declare this collection her best to date, because she’ll return next season with another unforgettable knockout.
Photo Credit:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Faustine Steinmetz // Spring 2017 //

For London-based, French-born designer Faustine Steinmetz, being presented with the opportunity to present immediately after the Fashion East show, in the same venue, is as lucky as London scheduling comes. Subsequently after Mimi Wade, Matty Bovan, A.V. Robertson and Richard Malone presented their latest collections, Faustine’s collection took place in an adjacent room, at Old Spitalfields Market. The international press had finally arrived in London and initiated their fashion weeks with two brilliant presentations, both representative of London. Colourful, eclectic, unique. There’ll be more on the Fashion East graduates another day, today is dedicated wholly to Faustine, the wunderkind.

Her room was enclosed, dark, The only illumination came from horizontal alcoves in the wall, where they models lay sideways, seductively. The blue light was emblematic of Faustine’s chosen material denim, but also her willingness to create theatre and a true fashion moment, one that will live longer than the fifteen seconds it takes you to scroll past on Instagram. The lighting imbued a eerily beautiful ambience. It was 11:30 but it served as a wake-up call for many.

The show was a further progression of her aesthetic—deconstructed, destroyed, damaged, distressed denim subversion. The first model was daubed in indigo paint. Her trousers were made from 60,000 individual Swarovski crystals, and reminded me of stalactites. A fascinatingly picturesque opening to an undoubtedly magnificent presentation. As you moved forward—the only direction available in this presentation format—you saw different types of denim: heavily frayed and sewn back together, second-skin skirts, iconic jackets. Many of those pieces were simply made to look like denim, they were actually jacquard and fringe.  

There was also many branded items. The Faustine Steinmetz logo emblazoned on trousers, waistbands, slippers, jackets and coats. The purpose? To sell. I tend to harp on about branded clothing, how it’s a weak attempt to make a buck. However, in the case of Faustine, you can be assured the garment you purchase is of the highest artisanal quality. This isn’t a cotton t-shirt with a gimmicky print on it. It might be a jacket with a logo on it, but it’s also a commentary on denim and where it belongs in our everyday wardrobes. It might sound trivial, but denim is a member of closets everywhere. Moreover, Faustine has to run a viable business, branded articles are destined to sell which in turn allows more of these compelling clothes and presentations to enliven London Fashion Week.

Faustine has once again proved her presentation is unmissable. Even if it was at 9pm, in a random basement in a far-flung corner of London, people would turn up. She’s merely a few years into her career but she already has that draw. That counts for a lot nowadays.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

London Fashion Week Street Style // Spring 2017 // Part 3

Alexandra Shulman
US Elle’s Jade Frampton (right)
Eva Herzigova
Sir Patrick Stewart OBE
Eva Varlamova
Veronika Heilbrunner and Justin O Shea
Odette Pavlova and Lineisy Montero
Yasmin Sewell
Eva Chen
Caroline Issa
Susie Lau
Balenciaga jacket
Sarah Rutson (left)
Lula’s Anna Foster and Mimma Viglezio
Bryan Boy in Givenchy
Sarah Harris
Salma Hayek

All images are my own