Monday, October 31, 2016

Paul Costelloe // Spring 2017 //

Fact: Irish women love linen. Fact: Women around the globe love linen. It was fitting that Paul Costelloe called his Spring 2017 collection ‘The Rejuvenation of Linen”. Linen is a staple but there’s no denying that it could use a sprucing up, a reinvention.

Costelloe’s message this season was about “confidence”. He is a self-pronounced dresser of the “confident, modern and exceptionally stylish power woman of today.” One of his opening looks was a well-structured evening gown with a centre-split; there were militaristic coats and great shirting, all fabricating from linens, organzas, brocades and metallic printed cottons. It was a festival of colour and texture. Moreover, they were form-fitting and imbued with 60s sensibility.

To most fashion folk, watching a Paul Costelloe show is a little too safe, too commercial. I agree, but there’s an innate Irishness to his work, a comprehension of how women in his homeland actually dress. Not all people dress like Matty Bovan’s models or Jeremy Scott’s caricatures. Costelloe doesn’t pigeonhole himself to Irish women either; a working woman or a lady of leisure in any local would look good in his clothes. 

(The most amusing part of this presentation was hearing traditional Irish music instil the warmth and rowdiness of a wholesome Irish gathering, and watching my fellow attendees’ faces change as the upbeat tunes were blasted overhead).

There was a political undertone to the usage of linen. Who knew? Costelloe continued to support “the special relationship between the UK ad Republic of Ireland.” According to the designer it was a “testament to the creativity that can only be borne from collaboration.” The British fashion industry is important for Irish designers who live and work and present in London. Costelloe has made the relationship synergetic. Dunnes Stores—an Irish retail chain with stores in the UK and Spain also—is the primary retailer of Costelloe’s work. His homeware in particular is a huge seller for them. In London he presents his work biannually, where a bevy of Irish and British celebrities flock to support him. 

He’s a fan favourite among the Irish and the British. His brand and legacy are intertwined between the two regions, and will continue to be. The obscured post-Brexit outlook doesn’t seem to have affected Costelloe significantly.  “The only way to stay on top is to keep moving, keep looking, keep creating. You can never stop in this industry.”
All images are my own

Friday, October 28, 2016

Xiao Li // Spring 2017 //

Undeniably, Xiao Li was the breakout star of London Fashion Week in February. The Chinese-born, London-educated designer first appeared on the fashion radar a few years ago when she won the Fashion Scout Merit Award. She presented a further season with Fashion Scout before taking a year’s break from the London calendar. She returned in February with a retuned brand, one that was more refined and impactful and saleable.

Her Spring 2017 collection touched upon something that we’re all guilty of doing: portraying a different life on social media, or at least a more polished version. It was hard not to think of the damaging effects of social media on teenager Essena O’Neill, who famously quit social media in October 2015. Kylie Jenner and that ilk, the ones who portray a distorted version of their lives to legions of online fans, too. 
This collection was a prescient affair, coming two weeks before Kim Kardashian West was had millions of dollars worth of jewellery stolen from her residence in Paris, during fashion week; she was bound, gagged and placed in a bathroom before calling for help. Days prior to the attack, Kardashian West had posted images of her engagement ring, costing an eye-watering $3.5 million, to her social media channels. The incident was blamed on Kim, who famously shares her entire life with the general public, whether it be on her reality television series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or on Snapchat and Instagram. The reality TV mogul and entrepreneur hasn’t reappeared on social media since. 

Li’s timing is perfect, on reflection. Commenting on something that has become intrinsic in everyday life yet we still don’t know While other designers sought the easy option, designing for a relaxed environment, without any groundbreaking discoveries or profound reference points, Li was playing with new shapes and interesting fabrics—appropriating the ruffle, taking large cuts from sleeves and adding a girly frills to hems. It was all modern and inventive, and bound for life beyond someone’s Instagram feed.

This exploration of social media was instigated by a recent trip to Santorini, which was another prominent element in this collection. The crisp whites that occupy the picturesque vistas of the Greek locale were present in the collection. Innovative yarns created transparent knits with feminine frills. Modest, floaty tops and loose trousers were lovely additions to the collection. Faded blues, a consistent member of Li’s palette, was used to make summery dresses and pinstripe trousers. At Dover Street Market, Lane Crawford, or 10 Corso Como, these pieces were destined to sell.
All images are my own

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Maison Margiela // Spring 2017 //

What John Galliano has managed to do at Maison Margiela has been quite fascinating viewing material. The designer arrived for the Spring 2015 couture collection, at the beginning of January 2015. When I realised that Galliano had been there for less than two years I was shocked, to say the least. As a designer who creates ready-to-wear, couture and pre-collections, Galliano has already accounted for 11 collections. What they all have in common is that they’ve been received warmly by press and they boast details worthy of fine art.

For his Spring 2017 collection Galliano touched upon the incongruity between sportswear more formal attire, fusing them new, modern ways. It started with a beautifully draped mint coat and completed with a a cornflour blue trench over a mint jacket and yellow skirt; the closing model wore alien headgear and a golden belt—she personified the otherworldly creatures that Galliano has been creating during his Margiela tenure. Although otherworldliness hasn’t overwhelmed his collections. As the opening look would convey, there is a sense of subtlety and elegance within his collections. A black slip dress with a print of a hand holding a flower; deliciously-tailored suiting, fabulous jackets—Galliano has the meat and potatoes down.
However, to prevent from his collection being a total bore full of items we’ve seen thousands of times, he obfuscates slightly, with styling and the addition of pieces that make you beg the question, is it a jacket, or is it a dress, or is it neither? The third look was a hybridisation between a macintosh and a dress, another was a wetsuit-cum-dress. His undying spirit and brash British eccentricity bursts from the seams: take a look at one look where on the back of her cutesy knit bodysuit and cardigan, a model carried a yoga mat, a backpack and a handbag. Or the model wearing a wool scarf cross body, wide-leg shorts and alien headgear (a nod to wearable tech, perhaps?), her strange outfit combination was a portrait of eccentricity. It further highlighted Galliano’s burning passion for unorthodoxy and to fashion modernity in thrilling ways.

‘Thrilling’ is an apt word to describe Galliano’s current iteration at Margiela. He relies heavily on styling exercises but in a refreshing way. His work is stuffed with detail but it never veers into overwrought territory. His models are fairies and aliens, with fantastical headpieces and horse-hoof shoes.

This collection introduced sportswear—making sports glamorous, the main message. It was witty, exciting, modern. It’s only been eleven collections at Margiela, but I can hardly wait for the next eleven. A match made in heaven.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sacai // Spring 2017 // Menswear

As fashion inspirations go, A Clockwork Orange is the stone that has been left unturned. Anthony Burgess’ unflinching, borderline nihilistic, novel is a subcultural exploration of extreme violence following a 15-year-old boy and his horrifically vicious exploits. Stanley Kubrick echoed this years later in his brilliant film Chitose Abe, Japanese designer behind Sacai, wanted to plunge into the uncharted territories.

When I read the press release one imagined a literal interpretation with garish orange prison uniforms, or youth-pandering, commercial trap logo tees, but being Chitose Abe she didn’t fall into the tantalising trap—on the first statement anyway. But that’s not to say she dissected every aspect of Burgess’ novel or Kubrick’s film. Instead she took the fictional argot Nadsat, used in A Clockwork Orange, and printed certain sayings on t-shirts—original. There was “Horrorshow”, which translates to ‘good’ or ‘well. There was “Oddy-knocky”, meaning ‘lonesome.’ The clothes were good and the models’ faces were enough to evidence some solemness. 
The pink boiler suit that opened the collection was both amusing and startling. (An 11am wake-up-call, nothing quite like it). Underneath was a raver’s netted top. Certain men often avoid pink as it is too ‘feminine’—the gendering of colours, an infuriating polemic for another day. However, those characters might appreciate the pink on show here, it was deeper, darker, perhaps more palatable. (The same can be said for those dusty rose jackets at the end of the show). It evolved into raver pants in folkloric prints, made from Mexican poncho fabrics. There were ponchos too, a pleasant blend of dark green, pink, rust and grey. It evoked a backpacker vibe.

The young men who modelled this collection were probably not distant in age from Alex, in A Clockwork Orange. The young men wearing the clothes looked like worthy models, whether in a fuchsia pineapple-print sweater, white trousers or louche boiler suits. It bought into the fetishisation of the teenage boy. The narrative, the casting, the age-defying garments—it was visually indicative of fashion’s current obsession with youth and youth culture. Abe’s clothes, despite their context, have the ability to transcend age, which can’t be said for some of her contemporaries. 

Chitose Abe registers the clothes that men are wearing everyday and without opting for an entirely banal offering of menswear, she hunts for peculiarities. A tee with netted arms poking out of the sleeves? Jackets which look distinctly Sacai, a design language that takes years of practice to perfect. It’s a reference like A Clockwork Orange that highlights Abe’s fondness for slightly out-there, but her work is innately approachable.  

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, October 24, 2016

Junya Watanabe // Spring 2017 // Menswear

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter,” so says Google when you key in the word “hipster.” We all know, or have seen, what appears to be a ‘hipster.’ In business, in education, anywhere, there’s always an anti-establishment fellow who avoids the mainstream, drinks cold brew coffee and prefers wholesome, vegetable-heavy meals for lunch and dinner. Like my millennials rant last week, I’m sure hipsters everywhere hate when the terminology is used pejoratively.

Personally speaking I didn’t spot any hipster attendees at London Fashion Week in September—the preferred uniforms are all-black or eclectic colour-clashing. However, back in June at Paris Fashion Week, Junya Watanabe found an army of hipsters for his menswear show. The Japanese designer, former protege of Rei Kawakubo, sent his—alarmingly white—street-cast models down the runway in decidedly ‘hipster’ garb. He subverted this trope of the craft-beer-drinking, Mumford & Sons-hopeful by tattooing his models. Whether already tattooed or not, the makeup artist on hand branded the models in decorative swirls and geometric lines. It was quite jarring. 

The collection sought inspiration from the 1998 Serbian film, Black Cat, White Cat, a film I’m sure would please modern hipsters with an affinity for Balkan film. The model who opened the show wore black and white, naturally. His cropped trousers were paired with a floral-printed, summery shirt. Topping off the look was a bolero on his grown, and slip-on shoes. There were leather blazers, more cropped trousers—no socks, obviously. Hats, beards and abstract floral-prints dominated the ensuing collection. 

Despite the humorous inspiration, the gimmicky tattoos, one thing is for certain: these are well-made clothes. Having visited Dover Street Market, I can attest that Junya Watanabe’s menswear uses beautiful fabrics, which I felt were of the highest quality. Hipster or not, there are great things to take away from this collection; specifically the leather jackets and work trousers. 

The unfortunate thing about this collection was how it played things by the book. It didn’t stray far from the stereotype of hipsters, the stereotype of those adorned with tattoos and the preconceived idea of hardness with those characters. It was also styled in a typical, expected way. It’s a true shame, because individually these clothes will look great. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Versus Versace // Spring 2017 //

“Millennial” is probably the most odious words to be found in the English language. You often see it used pejoratively by older generations to dismiss the wrongdoings of twenty-something-year-olds—they’re “spoilt”, they’re “entitled”, they’re “narcissistic”. Generation X before them, and the generation before that, fail to recognise that they too possess a similar set of traits. We all have a sense of entitlement, don’t we? We’re all a bit narcissistic, given the rise of Facebook and Instagram, aren’t we? Older generations are also blind to the fact that millennials are a progressive bunch, who’ll make wiser political decisions than those before them in order to protect the futures for those after them, and to sustain their own. That argument belongs in The New Yorker, however. 

Millennials are very important in fashion: everyone is catering to, trying to appeal to them. No matter what city you’re in, they’re all after millennials. Versus Versace is a prime example of a label chasing “Gen Y” (another hideous term). The brand has always been popular among a younger crowd. That’s still the case today.  
At the brand’s Spring 2017 show in London, Donatella Versace drew the fashion crowd to a nondescript venue in Westminster, where she presented a studio-designed collection. Anthony Vaccarello, the previous creative director, has moved on to Saint Laurent, leaving the house without a creative leader. Before him there was J.W. Anderson, and prior to him was Christopher Kane—a triumvirate of provocateurs. Front row were Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik. Standard.

The collection was based upon the “rule breaker”. The one who marches to the beat of his or her own drum. The models that took to the runway were emboldened in their leather jackets, abbreviated dresses, and studded boots; they were also standoffish, an easy trope to tap into. It was all symbolic of a stereotypical portrayal of hardness. Attitude aside, there were some nice pieces in the collection on offer for twenty-somethings: the black leather jacket (worn by Bella Hadid) that opened the show, a military-inspired cropped bomber jacket in army green, sporty half-zips for men. It goes without saying there are ample opportunities for the purchase of a new party dress, this collection boasted more than ten. Also, Versus created the slider sandals popularised by Adidas of late, issuing their own stamp on the dating trend. However, even if they have overstayed their welcome, these seem to be popular with the exact age group Versus is pursuing.

As I previously stated: everyone’s chasing millennials. They’re lowering prices, developing stronger social media presences, all in hopes of attracting them. Do fashion shows communicate this message effectively? No. It’s brand collaborations with Zayn Malik (that venture was recently announced) or Bella Hadid wearing a chainmail dress to a birthday function that gets this crowd going. The element of celebrity culture that underscores our daily lives does influence purchasing—that’s perhaps where Versus Versace should be focusing their attention more. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

J.W. Anderson // Spring 2017 //

The J.W. Anderson show during London Fashion Week is simply the most anticipated show of the week. He is a forward-thinking innovator with a passion for startling and impressing his audience, simultaneously. There’s a simplicity to his shows too, amidst the deluge of ideas. There’s no overt theatricality, in fact there’s the opposite—guests are confined to narrow rows, a democratic approach to fashion show seating; moreover, the guests are positioned inches away from the models who fleetingly storm past. There’s no Instagirl detracting from the brilliant clothes. (Bella Hadid was the face of the Fall 2016 advertising campaign, but she was a no-show here). It’s pure design wizardry.

What was on his mind for Spring 2017? Let me rephrase that: what wasn’t on his mind for Spring 2017? It would be easier to answer. Dancing on the beach in Ibiza and Spanish sensibilities, Henry VIII and the Renaissance, rest and relaxation, balancing high-strung attitudes with a graceful, easy air. What was most intriguing about this catalogue of ideas was the fact that these were opposite to the picture you’d paint of Anderson’s cerebral fashions. Ease is not a characteristic you’d immediately pin to his work—generally speaking, it’s figure-hugging and tight, but in a refined manner. This was a farewell to all that but it didn’t bid adieu to Anderson’s unique touch.

This collection was noticeably influenced by Loewe, the 170-year-old Spanish luxury brand that Anderson is currently fronting. There he is designing for a customer who is probably older than his J.W. Anderson woman. What they both have in common is that they strive for modernity and luxury. That was on display at his London presentation. A Henry VIII-worthy shirt opened the show with 3-D quilted patterns, over a sunset-hued handkerchief hem dress. 18th century meets summer 2016. The following looks operated in a similar vein: light, swishy fabrics, handkerchief hems floating in the wind (one dress appeared as a life-sized, refashioned napkin—only at J.W. Anderson), and more Henry VIII remixes.
Seeing this softer side to Anderson at his namesake label is an unprecedented mood. The relaxed mood is preserved for his prolific Loewe collections. They weren’t unwelcome here. Underneath an angry blue owl sweater with inflated hemlines, was a wool skirt equipped with tassels—it could’ve easily been stolen from a Loewe collection. Ditto Mayowa Nicholas’ red-green-blend handkerchief hem dress with an asymmetrical waist, handkerchief hem and round neck. 

As aforementioned, the oddities of a J.W. Anderson were not lost under this modern interpretation of nonchalance. The closing dresses had randomly attached sleeves, serving no other purpose than to mimic—what I thought—were wetsuits. The padded jackets with layered sleeves and belt fastenings reminded me of a straightjacket. It wouldn’t be a J.W. Anderson show without these obscure perversities.

The fashion press were quick to latch onto the narrative that this was Anderson’s most relaxed, most “commercial” offering to date. Relaxed, yes; commercial, certainly not as instantly palatable to a shopper as last season. There were some great selling points here that will surely please the woman on the hunt for something different, something special. Difference and uniqueness, that’s his legacy right there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Off-White // Spring 2017 //

Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, inspired Virgil Abloh’s Fall 2016 Off-White collection. The 1990 film was the backdrop to a collection that was complete with reworked wardrobe staples for the modern woman. They referenced the street but had an undeniable compatibility with the boardroom. It’s effect was prominent: the street style photographers captured many industry folk wearing Off-White jackets and accessories during the recent fashion month; the high street stores have taken note too, one can spot duplicates in the likes of Bershka and Topshop. There’s a universal appeal to Off-White. The affluent buy into it’s sophisticated brand of streetwear—it’s well-constructed and tailored—and the everywoman has caught on too. 

Perhaps its success is not only in how reliable the make of the clothing is. There’s the possibility it could be the filmic references, which have undoubtedly won over the fashion press. This season he focused on Working Girl, the 1989 film starring Melanie Griffith. Big hair, big shoulders—the 80s has resurged, thanks to Demna Gvasalia’s—it was all there. It opened with Selena Forrest—big hair, big shoulders—as the modern day working girl. She wore an abbreviated striped blouse with overlong sleeves, a necktie and a layered, asymmetrical shoulder accent. Styled with spangly heels and blue jeans, the functionality of her look, albeit with added glamour, allowed the narrative to flourish from the get-go. 

The show continued in a similar fashion. Easy clothes, each with a dose of intrigue, rebuking normcore. There were different interpretations of the shirt—the polo-cum-dress-shirt, two shirts layered and falling off-the-shoulder (รก la Balenciaga)—and denim. The denim came in shirt form but also in witty pinstripe jeans. There were scarlet tracksuit pants with sharp blazers; bombers and skirts; asymmetrical cocktail dresses. A slew of 80s-inspired evening dresses were seen; one in particular, amethyst in colour, with regal layers, bouncing as the model charged the runway. Things then explored a sportier realm, a familiar stomping ground for Abloh. There were tie-dye raver pants, printed sweatshirts over loose skirts—where the boardroom met the disco and the gym. 

Off-White is quickly becoming one of the must-see shows during Paris Fashion Week. Need proof? The Wests, the Kardashians were present, supporting Kanye’s friend, the designer Abloh. (Abloh serves as Kanye’s creative director). R&B sensation Frank Ocean was also present (his song ‘Solo’ from his sophomore album, the recently released, Blond closed the show). Buyers and press turned out in droves—Sarah Rutson at Net-a-Porter enthused to Fashionista; Amy Verner at Vogue Runway called it a “career best.”

Last season I criticised Abloh for including incongruous There was no incongruity to this collection. It was a searing day-to-night, stream-of-consciousness design process with unforgettable pieces—a superb show.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ryan Lo // Spring 2017 //

There’s something irresistible about Ryan Lo’s knowing saccharinity. The LCF-trained designer is a purveyor of hyper-girly fashion with unswerving spirit and confidence. This comes from his love of Disney films. (Also, it comes from the late Sonia Rykiel, to whom he dedicated the collection to.) Like any other Ryan Lo collection, it was optimistic and fun. There were references to The Bangles ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie in the Bottle’ and to Disney’s Aladdin

There’s something kitschy about the Western portrayal of Middle Eastern ideas. Realistically, Disney isn’t the best way of educating people on foreign cultures. There’s flagrant cultural appropriation, stereotyping and unrealistic beauty ideals, but nonetheless the message behind them is always sanguineous. Lo takes these cultural emblems and reworks them in a more honest way. You know it’s honest because he takes such pride in the work he presents. Last season he recreated a scene from London’s Chinatown last season with the assistance of set designer Gary Card; this season Card was back to created hanging tinsel lanterns in pink, gold, red and purple—a fascinating runway fixture. These brightly coloured lanterns remind Lo of his Hong Kong upbringing, the vibrant hues, the Cantonese music videos, his exposure to other cultures.

Egypt, Turkey, India, Japan. Aside from his native Hong Kong, these were the touchstones he landed upon his collection. There were whiffs of the Ottoman Empire, odes to Japanese manga characters. Most intriguingly, there was his “Victorian pirate” wearing a purple and orange sweater dress over a genie lamp print dress with an extravagant marabou trimmed tricorn hats, courtesy of milliner Stephen Jones. This promoted the collaborative elements to Lo’s brand—the show was styled by Victoria Young, words from friend Susie Lau, set design by Gary Card. These elements perfectly complement his unconventionally beautiful designs.   

Amidst all the mad shapes and colours there were calmer moments; a lilac tea-dress with ruche details, with a shimmery bodice; and a black mini with inflated sleeves and a lantern hem. Those were the simpler moments in this collection, palatable entry points for customers who have a hunger for something playful but not as daring as the orange harem pants with magic genie lamp prints—a nod to Venetian clowns and the 18th century Ottoman Empire dress codes. 

“Hop on a carpet and fly to another Arabian night,” the press release read. Lo’s narrative is so strong he’d make you believe that with his clothes, you could.
All images are my own