Thursday, March 30, 2017

Loewe // Fall 2017 //

It is truly remarkable what Jonathan Anderson has done for Loewe over the past few years. The Northern Irish designer continually redefines luxury, he has awoken the house from dormancy, repositioned its status as a key player in luxury fashion. The Spanish brand has an extensive history and each season Anderson contextualises what the brand should stand for in six months. His latest collection reminded one of fond fashion memories of the mid-to-late 2000s before the proliferation of Instagram and influencer culture.

There is a underlying sense of youth at his J.W. Anderson presentations at London Fashion Week; there he is dressing a trendy twenty-something-year-old with a penchant for fashion with a hint of neurotic perversity. Loewe certainly caters to a more mature woman—after all the luxury customer’s age averages at 53, and Anderson strictly adheres to this with a modern offering for women who don’t want to expose too much skin; they might want to look their age or not, and there’s something for all of those women in his collections. 
The UNESCO headquarters—where he has presented his collections in Paris since his debut—were cloaked in darkness for the 9am show. The clothes matched the moody aesthetic. There were subdued tones—surprisingly stylish browns, rich patchworks, misty blues and whites of a seaside town, woodland greens dominated the palette. There were evident nods to the 18th century with the off-the-shoulder, ball gown and a checkered blouse and long day skirt. Amanda Goodge dressed in a green and white striped cashmere cardigan, an asymmetric, geometric printed dress matched the colouration of one of my favourite paintings, Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat (1884). Arguably, any of the models could’ve stepped out of a painting.

With accessories accumulating the most profits for the house, Anderson’s eye must be astute. Under his guidance, there has been the success of the Puzzle (an asymmetric calf leather shoulder bag), the Elephant (an elephantine leather construction) and the Hammock (a slouchy shoulder accessory with emphasis on craftsmanship and shape). This season he introduced a larger, bucket bag which sporadically appeared with the looks. There were necklaces and sturdy footwear too—suede brogues and leather boots, dainty sandals. The styling of the handbags is less than subtle: casting a glance at one of the models coming down the runway and one’ll immediate pinpoint the proposed focal point.

Fashion houses exist is to make profit. Some houses, unfortunately, make this clear as day—the only reason their show exists is to garner revenue. Whereas at others, you get the sense that you are being presented a creative proposition. Loewe, thanks to the leadership of Jonathan Anderson has become so much more than a cash cow. He imbues the Spanish house with integrity with his design handwriting which advances season on season. 
Photo Credit: Vogue Runway

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gosha Rubchinskiy // Fall 2017 // Menswear

There hasn’t been a more prolific designer in the world of menswear in recent times than Gosha Rubchinskiy, an unassuming Russian man who promised less than ten years ago that everyone would know his name in a decade. He has amassed a cult like following of committed teenage boys who have redefined what it means to be an influencer. They have become intrinsic to the brand’s marketing campaign, with imagery saturated on social media feeds from these willing customers, who are prepared to fork out the price tag for a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, tracksuit bottoms or a jacket. The fashion press similarly have latched onto the Gosha train and cover extensively his presentations, collaborations and projects, of which there are plenty.

The Fall 2017 show was the induction to a new collaboration with Adidas, the sportswear giant. Over three seasons, Adidas will sponsor Rubchinskiy. The collaboration comes with menswear presentations in Russia, where the 2018 Fifa World Cup is scheduled to be held. The first partnership saw editors transported, courtesy of Adidas, to Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad was formerly a German city, damaged heavily during World War II.

Rubchinskiy emphatically professes his love of country. To him, Russia is a great place. He also expressed his disinterest in presenting something political, but simply showing in Russia, especially in January 2017—when news of the US election hacking scandal was prominent—could be interpreted in other ways. 

The inadvertent political message in this collection came from the models, the teenage boys who marched in the anonymous, hollow show space. Their voices—they were all native Russian speakers; interpretations were offered following the show—were projected overhead. They spoke of their hopes and dreams, what they love doing. There were varying degrees of sentiment: some wanted to continue enjoying playing football with their comrades; others’ minds were occupied with furthering their education. Rubchinskiy’s penchant for fetishising youth culture was taken to new heights with that messaging. (Not to mention the show being held at the Regional Centre for the Youth Culture.)

There were football jerseys and finely cut tracksuit bottoms. (If there’s one thing Rubchinskiy’s stylist knows what to do, it’s convince the viewer of the boy’s presumed milieu.) A smattering of windbreakers and bottoms ensued, and there was some delectable knitwear in the mix. It was a collection replete with basics, but somehow they were associable with his sportswear, youth-centric aesthetic. However, some of the clothes took a more mature route. There were suits and ties, recognisably Russian motifs. They were daring for Rubchinskiy, whose meat and potatoes are t-shirts and tracksuits. Perhaps they could be considered an experiment: will a teenage boy be interested in a checkered double-breasted blazer or a dull, military uniform-inspired shirt?  

The aforementioned order of teenage boys, the ones that have transformed Rubchinskiy’s business into a multimillion euro operation—recently, at the expense of my bank account, I became one of those acolytes. I purchased a t-shirt, printed simply with ‘Europa?’ in Cyrillic script; it’s a simplistic design and the quality of fabric is superior to that of ‘just another t-shirt’; moreover, it’s symbolic of our political history. His brand is worth the hype and the price tag.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thom Browne // Fall 2017 //

Thom Browne is an accomplished menswear and womenswear designer who operates slightly under the radar. He isn’t exactly a mainstream designer—his work is devilishly unique, rivetingly perverse. His unparalleled commentary, coupled with his razor-sharp attention to detail and tailoring contribute to him being a talented menswear designer. When you step foot in his Dover Street Market concession in London, you enter the world of Thom Browne: it’s a confined space, slightly claustrophobic, but mesmerising in the same respect.

His menswear show from January—he is one of the final shows during Paris Fashion Week, and thus the season—was perhaps the most Instagrammed show and most critically acclaimed throughout the month. Continuing on from his dissection and derision of the current state of fashion design last season, where Browne mocked the two-dimensionality of fashion, he explored another trend this season: proportion. With the rise of Vetements came new shapes, advanced versions of ones present in the 80s. The sharp, broad, quarterback-esqe was back—an ugly, almost militaristic trend, the wide-shoulder look was perhaps the most pervasive in recent fashion history. Dominating the Balenciaga menswear shows, Demna Gvasalia’s tenure signified a changing mood in fashion; there are new proportions, they are slightly obtrusive and ostensibly desirable. In response to that, Browne gave proportion and more… 
In a morbid, greyscale world devoid of colour, the boys wore variations of suit clung to the models’ bodies like paint. The seams were lined with buttons; like sinister eruptions bursting from the fabric. As the show progressed, so did the proportions. Distorting suits, Browne’s boys wore deconstructed two-dimensional outfits… Rei Kawakubo would be impressed. They questioned what could be considered fashion, and in this climate, we well know that anything goes.

That was the point of this collection, if you ask this critic. It was a mockery of what fashion has become. There is no register of what is considered good or bad anymore. Quality vastly diminishes as seasons pass by. It has also become incredibly boring. Writing, editing and rereading my own New York Fashion Week or Milan Fashion Week commentary alone can border worry—I become a broken record, lamenting the loss of creativity at fashion week more and more. Thom Browne’s greyscale show, the slow pace of his models, the mundanity of suiting as a thematic influence—it was an intellectual dream, a takedown of normcore, but intelligently becoming and manipulating the very thing it mocks.

His mordant lucidity and sense of self as a designer is remarkable. He poses the question, “is fashion entertainment?”, and concurrently answers it, “yes” is the answer. The sardonic nuances and unabashed bleakness aren’t much different to that of the world we live.

Vogue Runway

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chloe // Fall 2017 //

In a precedented turn of events, fashion has returned to the game of musical chairs. Rodolfo Paglialunga is out at Jil Sander after three years; Lucie and Luke Meier are predicted to serve as his replacements. Serge Ruffieux has assumed the position of creative director at Parisian house Carven, the house that Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud departed in October. Perhaps the most important news is Givenchy: Riccardo Tisci has left the house and is to be replaced by Chloe’s Clare Waight Keller. Tisci’s clear vision promoted diversity, positivity and his eye for romance generally veered towards the darker side of things. This is in contrast to Waight Keller whose expertise lie in frilly, fancy femininity edged with athleisure and traditional notions of luxury.

For her final collection at Chloé—Waight Keller’s tenure lasted six years—she continued to advance what she started in the Spring 2012 season: femininity that tapped into an everlasting fervour for youthful femininity at a mature age, with connections to sportswear and timelessness. Chloé isn’t exactly a boundary-pushing designer but they have a designer with varying complexities—having earned her stripes at Calvin Klein, a minimalist house, and Gucci under Tom Ford, where she was a senior designer, at a seminal time for the house. There is something about marrying the simplicity of Calvin and the sophisticated and often throbbingly sexy Tom Ford that has helped Waight Keller build her aesthetic. She brought this with her to Pringle of Scotland where she helmed the house for a number of years.

Her aesthetic is interlinked with timelessness and sweetness rather than notions of expression of sexuality—hidden or blatant. It is why she is so commercially successful and is tasked with creative director roles at august brands. The 60s and 70s influences that dominated her Fall 2017 show made for a lineup of clothing that will forever hold a place in the Chloé customers’ wardrobe. There were abbreviated coats, in classic shapes, in classic fabrics. The short dresses were an interesting proposition, one that I reckon the customer will want to see styled differently. There was the playfulness of chiffon evening wear… One of the strongest pieces was an oversized jumper in mustard, grey and white, with the shape of two lovers. It captured her design methods in a look…

Chloé doesn’t constitute as revolutionary fashion. It is clothing that will serve its wearer well… Waight Keller completed her job successfully, presenting feminine designs with a French flair, but from the perspective of an Englishwoman. Every so often, there is a moment of true excitement in a Chloé collection, but as someone who favours collections that are either wholly engaging on a stylistic or intellectual level, this isn’t the brand you arrive at. If you have a penchant for practicality and an unassuming nature, this is where to shop.

Next season will see the arrival of Natasha Ramsay-Levi, a former design director of Louis Vuitton, who served as Nicolas Ghesquière’s right hand woman. It will be intriguing for Chloé, a French house, to have the perspective of a creative director who operates in a darker, more perverse and tough world of design. An interesting move, to say the least—another indicator of unsettlement in the industry. It will keep us on our toes… Doesn’t it always?
Vogue Runway

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jamie Wei Huang // Fall 2017 //

A presentation space at a fashion show is generally an indicator as to what’s to come. For Jamie Wei Huang, who presented at her alma mater Central Saint Martins in London for the Fall 2017 season, it was a blank canvas, an opportunity to start afresh. In an intimate projection room, the anonymous space with white walls and flooring was decorated with garden chairs and verdant foliage: the atmosphere was refreshed, a replenishment to come. A breath of fresh air is always welcomed during fashion week; simply showing in North London meant Jamie’s guests were whisked away from the hustle and bustle of central, where all the fashion week events were taking place. 

This was Jamie’s first catwalk presentation since the Spring 2016 season. Recently, she’s been showing via lookbook and in the BFC fashion week nuclei at Brewer Street Car Park and 180 The Strand. This also marked Jamie’s first time showing on the official London Fashion Week schedule, albeit with a placement on the digital schedule. On the topic of the intimate space, it allowed for all guests to be seated front row and indulge in her tailoring expertise and fabric innovation. Models strut to the booming soundtrack comprised of Depeche Mode and other 80s classics. (She’s always to be counted on for a smashing soundtrack; one of her earlier shows saw the blearing of the Nymphomaniac soundtrack, a fond memory of mine.)

The 80s for Jamie and many others have been the starting point for collections. Regression to “fun, old romanticised times of youth” have dominated the shows for the past three seasons. With the rise of Trump to power in America, the politicisation of this regression has posed many questions. Is complacency the best modus operandi, or is it the luxury we can no longer afford? Should clothing have to reference political discourse? For Jamie, her collection entitled ‘Lily’, set out to do what all her collections do: to make women feel great in what they are wearing. That message in itself is political, with notions of empowerment in our minds. There were bell-sleeved tops and flared trousers, incorporating the dance floor with practical workwear. Elements of playfulness shone through hither and tither with an emphasis on youthful, creative styling. Similarly, the metal trimmings and metallic patches were inspired efforts of enhancing tired wardrobe staples. 

A recurring motif in Jamie’s collections is in the combination of leather and wool. Since her debut years ago, I have always been enamoured by the juxtaposition of the toughness of leather and the gentle nature of the soft wools. In this show, they came in a gorgeous wood green. It was indicative of how far Jamie has come and the design handwriting she has developed. It’s unmistakably her own, easily recognisable and conceded with the contrast between luxury and contemporary, and studying the borders between the two.

It’s confusing how Jamie is still under the radar. She has the necessary components to be a great fashion designer: she has a vision, and it is clear; she’s designing great product that deserves recognition; she has the attention of important stockists Dover Street Market and Farfetch—it’s time the press caught up. She’s London’s best kept secret at the moment. 
All images are my own

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Balenciaga // Fall 2017 //

Demna Gvasalia and super-stylist Lotta Volkova have risen to become fashion royalty in recent year. Transforming Vetements, a much-buzzed about Parisian-based label comprised of a collective of designers hailing for luxury conglomerates into a global brand with hundreds of million in revenue annually. Not only has the business prospered under the guidance of Demna’s brother Guram Gvasalia, the CEO. In a few years Demna Gvasalia has been appointed in the prestigious position as artistic director at couture house Balenciaga.

Balenciaga is a house that was formerly defined by the founder, a glamorous couture endeavour that morphed into something connected with the street and synonymous with sophisticated, futuristic sportswear developed by the creative director at the time: Nicolas Ghesquière. Ghesquière’s tenure concluded and Alexander Wang ushered in a confused, occasionally successful era of romantic sportswear that didn’t strike a chord with many; needless to say his directorship lasted three years before the CEOs ushered in Gvaslia. Gvasalia was a gamble but an interesting spanner in the works for the fashion industry. There have been some controversies with the appointment: firstly, there was the issue of the racist casting in the first show—this season there was another casting nightmare with maltreatment of models; there was the bleakness and lack of romanticism too, a Vetements-isation of the wrong house.

There has been wide shouldered, off-the-shoulders, now he presents us with a new way of pinning your outerwear to one shoulder, creating an asymmetric flair. There were more geometric coats and windbreakers that have been present in the past few seasons. (One noticed the consistency of the Balenciaga menswear aesthetic has bled into the womenswear.) There were nods to Ghesquière-era futurist sportswear, which in itself was a romantic turning back of the clock to Balenciaga’s golden age in modern times. 

Romance is something Gvasalia challenged himself with developing in his latest collection for the house. The Georgian-born designer issued Balenciaga couture dresses to commemorate the house’s 100th anniversary. The lineup consisted primarily of floor-sweeping gowns that had the Gvaslia edge but nonetheless had the desirability and romantic nature of couture. Worn by Alek Wek, there was a sublime sweet-heart-neckline evening gown with a rise-and-fall hemline, punctuated by an oversized bow—it had all the components of a couture look, an extravagant ball gown but it also resonated with the designer’s aesthetic: oversized, unexpected. To accompany it? Neon yellow boots.

The trends have, in recent seasons, been dictated by the styling of Lotta Volkova, the acerbic nature of their pithy and sometimes pathetic political statements, the enlarged proportions of the silhouettes. Fashion has been dominated by the collective and it looks like it will continue to do so. For the first time, I can say that I am enamoured by the shedding of cynicism and favouring of romance—it finally proves Gvaslia to be a dynamic designer, if you ask me. 
Vogue Runway

Monday, March 20, 2017

Edeline Lee // Fall 2017 //

Political messages were here, there and everywhere during London Fashion Week. Of the shows I attended, each could be interpreted within a political context. The times we live in are turbulent and, frankly, frighteningly surreal. The uncertainty, the bigotry, the contradiction of the time never ceases to amaze one. A pointedly political offering in London came from Canadian-born designer Edeline Lee. Lee was one of the few designers in the Spring 2017 to react to the Brexit fallout, with a collection that was a bittersweet ode to London, a city that accepted her as a designer, immigrant and woman. Her Fall 2017 outing saw her channel feminism into her show with the influence of the work Hannah Hoch, an German Dadaist best known for her work during the Weimar period.

“I was inspired by how Hoch’s work concurrently addressed issues of female identity and her cultural context,” said Lee. The female subjects of Hoch’s work were distorted and explored with her Dadaist streak—it resonated somewhat with the Edeline Lee brand: there was something wholly unique about it, with tinges of familiarity. She interpreted Hoch’s collagist methodologies in her drapery and styling. Shirt sleeves were overlong; block-coloured buttons punctuated shirting; sweaters were enlivened with patches; skirts were asymmetric, a lesson in Lee’s architecturally-inclined aesthetic. A beautiful lead grey dress with a flared skirt with cobalt blue accents was a more refined, more mature result of the deepening of Lee’s design handwriting, connected with architecture and art.
The previously mentioned embroidered sweater could be linked with the #FreeTheNipple movement. A lead grey sweater with a saffron yellow breast patch. It was both flirty and feminine—it had artistic appeal; a piece aimed at one of Lee’s customers who hails from the art world. Something about this bordered on facile. You could look at Anthony Vaccarello’s unabashed expression of female sexuality in his debut collection at Saint Laurent, where models walked bare breast down the catwalk. It teetered on the lines between radical and simply a pointed expression of body autonomy. Here, we have Lee delving into the movement with a less sexual, more artistic effort. It made for instant thought-provoking material and it had desirability necessary for sale. However, the cartoonish flair which almost jeopardised the look’s meaningfulness was the very thing that connected it with the work of Hannah Hoch.

“How can she dress now with relevance, power, femininity, grace and dignity without being nostalgic, unnatural or uncomfortable?” That question should be on the mind of every designer—for most it already is. What is the most efficient way to proceed, how do you advance the visual language, cultural context and technical skills of your brand? The designer posed that here: yes, undoubtedly, there were a few bumps in the road with Lee’s collection. Perhaps the weight of the inspiration or her mostly minimal aesthetic interfered with total success. 
All images are my own