Thursday, August 31, 2017

Yohji Yamamoto // Fall 2017 //

Yohji Yamamoto, along with Rei Kawakubo, was one of the Japanese avant-garde designers that acted as game-changers in Paris in the 1980s. Their unique brand of anti-fashion stirred, shocked and built them enviable empires. Yamamoto’s business took a knock at the beginning of the decade but has since regained momentum. Today, it is the quieter of the seminal Japanese set. However it is no less poetic than, say, a Comme des Garçons show; his shows are marked by intoxicating theatrical presence which invoke a rare emotional response—seldom fashion offers this, Yamamoto knows how. (One recalls his Spring 1999 collection, a study of the theatricality of wedding costume and gender roles—presented the year before I was born—and how powerful and lasting its legacy has been.)

His Fall 2017 womenswear was a monochromatic affair. Oftentimes, Yamamoto works strictly with the colour black. (He is famously quoted saying, “black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy—but mysterious. But above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you-you don’t bother me.’”) The beauty in focusing solely on one colour is the ability to fashion a collection based on silhouette and cut. Here the silhouettes resembled Picasso paintings: they had multiple perspectives and looked different from every angle. Like a novelist would, Yamamoto challenged himself to establish new silhouettes and emotions. The shapes were abstract findings in his search for new silhouettes, new emotions. As he is considered a master tailor, it was fascinating to see him approach the new shapes. 

Stylistically, he introduced punk-inspired elements with artful smatterings of purple and red paint on certain outfits. The models’ makeup was done in a similar fashion with abstractly, mismatching the colours on the face. (Wool headpieces adorned their crowns—they vaguely resembled cornrows, but methinks Yamamoto wasn’t exploring the appropriative style.) 

Newness is what pushes fashion forward. Designers either remix past tropes, rework them and present them in unseen ways or else they boldly brave uncharted terrain and create the new shapes. Few are confident enough to do it. The Kawakubos and Yamamotos of the world are rare examples, of those who will go out of their way to truly find something new, in a post-fashion way. It doesn’t have to be a recognisable item of clothing, why should it? When you’re Yohji Yamamoto, a master tailor, and have been in the business for over three decades you created the game and you’ll play it how you like. He’s aware people blindly worship him and he dislikes that, hence with this collection he was seeking ways to rightfully inspire his audience. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Lanvin // Spring 2018 // Menswear

In order for designers to thrive they must respond to the world around them. For Lucas Ossendrijver at Lanvin—where he designs menswear—he was thinking about the chaos of the tumultuous times we live in. The show was presented in June, shortly after the London Bridge attack and ahead of the summer which saw the horrific politically-motivated vehicle-ramming attack against counter-protestors in Charlottesville, North Carolina and terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Brussels, Turku. This isn’t to mention the incessancy of President Trump’s war on the media, constant administration changes and controversies; the aftermath of Brexit, effects of which are still being felt. On a personal level, more and more, as a society, we are consumed by our mobile phones and social media.

Ossendrijver’s approach could be likened to an Instagram or Pinterest feed this season. He was studying the contradictions, contrasts of modern dressing. Workwear vs activewear, sportswear vs relaxed attire. He collaged his ideas on single outfits. It was this curatorial response that I rather appreciated. He paired grey boiler suits with sharp coats, buttoned down shirts with loose trousers, double-breasted trench coats and shorts. The aim was to instil the show with a relaxed ease. Ossendrijver wanted to eradicate the sharp rigour, in favour of dressing the man of today in something less strict, more decontracté.

The scenography wasn’t exactly casual. The models crisscrossed the runway with a rapid, determined pace. As many noted, the finale was like a rush hour scene. Perhaps that was the beauty in it being something for everyone. These clothes could be transported to any street worldwide, exist alongside each other, amidst the chaos. 

The idea here was to present something for everyone. Ossendrijver noted the increased amount of options. Presenting a wide variety of clothing does eliminate the possibility of cohesion. It also points to wider, internal issues at the brand. Following disagreements between Alber Elbaz and Shan Lan Wang, Elbaz was suddenly fired. Since the house has experienced difficulty on the business front, with sales plummeting. In the womenswear wing, Bouchra Jarrar, Elbaz’s successor, departed after only a year at the house before being replaced by the incoming Olivier Lapidus, who is responsible for the creative direction of the brand’s restructuring as a “French Michael Kors”. Meanwhile, Ossendrijver has been charging full steam ahead for the past twelve years. One hopes his stride isn’t damaged by this restructuring for he is truly the brand’s best kept secret—he isn’t a famous designer but he is a famously good designer. Despite the missed opportunity for Spring 2018 as a consistent body of work, there are pieces here that will undoubtedly sell like hotcakes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Raf Simons // Spring 2018 // Menswear

Prior to his arrival Raf Simons was the show to be seen at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Comparatively, NYFW:M has had difficulty taking off in the same way as London Fashion Week Men’s did five years ago. The week feels shorter, with less designers on schedule. (Other than Simons there aren’t many interesting names save for Rochambeau, Bode, Palomo Spain and Matthew Adams Dolan.) His Fall 2017 menswear show for his namesake label was about his adopted home, where he arrived last July to take on the position of Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein. While the first collection was based on a more idealised vision of New York, the second season at NYFW:M was informed by his experience of having been in the city for a year, settling in and channelling the spirit of the city into something. 

New York itself, as an entity, inspired Simons. In his first month of living there he got to know the city. He was influenced by the incongruity of architecture styles, good taste and bad taste, high culture and low culture. “For me it’s full on Blade Runner. Very hard contrasts between the sophisticated and the trash, the high and the low living alongside each other on the same street,” he told his friend and editor Ashley Heath, in the latest issue of Pop magazine. “In New York I have the Blade Runner feeling… and I love it.” Consequently, there was an air of Blade Runner that permeated the scene. Underneath the Manhattan Bridge, with trains rattling overhead, there were hanging Chinese lanterns, an array of neon lights illuminating puddles on the makeshift runway. 
Simons strived to punctuate this with filmic energy, hence the Blade Runner references. The word ‘Replicant’ was projected here and there, around the show space. It is a reference to the film’s bioengineered androids. The word was printed on shirts too. Did this whole collection foreshadow the future? The models carried umbrellas, but preemptively—the rain had yet to fall. Will the human race evolve into bioengineered robots, with the enhancement of artificial intelligence and technological developments? The bleakness of it all characterises Simons’ work of late, it has been sinister and driven by doom.

If anyone has a visual language as extensive and detailed as Raf Simons I don’t know who it is. He frequently collaborates with graphic designer Peter Saville who worked on this show. He was responsible for the Joy Division references in Simons’ oeuvre in the early 2000s. Here, Simons repurposed his graphics on the compilation album Substance on umbrellas; New Order’s Substance 1987 on lanterns and t-shirts; layering prints from Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, a black and white contoured piece, and pink roses from Power Corruption Lies by New Order. Other albums Technique and Movement featured also. One recalled the Spring 2017 collection when he collaborated with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation on a selection of printed garments. This work is distinctively memorable for it references the most famous post-punk bands of the 1980s. His visual language doesn’t stretch as far as the graphics he uses but to the shape and cut of his clothing. The ‘picture frame’ tops from Spring 2017, the slouchy oversized jumpers from Fall 2016.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Junya Watanabe // Fall 2017 //

Aside from the controversiality of his casting, one maintains Junya Watanabe is one of the greatest fashion designers today. The way he compelling conveys a message to the audience is remarkably unique and easily identifiable with his aesthetic. The natural progression of his ideas too should be noted for their boldness and insistence on being provocatively avant-garde. The Japanese designer’s exploration of subcultural movements is prevalent in his work, across menswear and womenswear. Here, he mused on the 70s and 80s in London  when Punk emerged in the city, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren were operating their shop Sex and youth culture was rip-roaring, dominating the city’s social scene. Underground club scenes were flourishing and, generally speaking, things began to change radically. Prim and properness were rebuked in favour of a distinctively harsh aesthetic with leopard prints, tartan in red, yellow and green, fishnet tights with every look and thick-soled shoes fit for any mosh pit one might encounter on their nightly travels. 

However, Watanabe wouldn’t express his thematic influences simply or in straightforward fashion. Quite the contrary: he flexed his architectural prowess and modelled the designs with the utmost level of subversion. Jackets were structured in haphazard fashion, as if they were mid-transmogrification, into something amorphous and unrecognisable. Others, meanwhile, were preoccupied by a finer line, almost like origami. (One was reminded of Rei Kawakubo’s 18th-century punk incarnations at Comme des Garçons for Fall 2016, with black zip-accented red tartan skirt with a devilishly delightful, architecturally-sculptured jacket.)

Watanabe was thinking of Soo Catwoman, Ziggy Stardust. Models wore brightly-hued wigs in pastel shades and rich berry colours. The wigs were a pleasant addition but weren’t a necessity. They didn’t detract from the overall beauty of the looks, nor did they deter. Simply, nothing could take away from the quality of these clothes. They were exacted with aplomb, classically Junya. The show closed with a mohair cloak over a white shirt, printed with a Union Jack design on chairs. The curvatures of the chair implied something sinister to this critic. Akin to Gothic script, the pattern was imposing, dark; the model’s top hat and pink hair too breathed a different life into the show, one which was characterised by anarchic rebellion.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Teatum Jones // Fall 2017 //

Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones, the designers behind Teatum Jones, proudly took home the International Woolmark Prize last year in a victory for the emerging label but also British fashion. They had the honour of opening London Fashion Week in February. Fresh off the success of their recent prizewinning, the designers were thinking about the body and rejecting the perfect body. (Inclusivity in fashion is battle worth fighting. In order to broadcast an image of equality, the industry has to make shifts to eradicate gender bias, prejudice against race and sexuality. The top three runway models of the previous eight months have been white. The majority of major September issue covers are fronted by white celebrities and models.) Here, the designers made a positive change to their casting that will have hopefully been potent enough for other designers to pay attention: their lineup of models included two disabled models, male models and models of colour. One hopes this isn’t a gimmick because representation isn’t a matter used solely to grab headlines—it’s a serious, important direction we must take. 
But as fashion designers the show cannot be about the casting, it has to be about how the inspiration informs the clothing. Their shapes were fluid and sensual, with fabrics in rich and bold hues of midnight blue, violet, mustard and an eye-catching deep rust hue. The womenswear was tinged with a bubbling sexuality, enlivened by the brand’s signature prints. Certainly, there was a German fair to the collection, perhaps influenced by the anatomically inaccurate dolls of German artist Hans Bellmer, from the 1930s, which they referenced on their mood board. To be noted, those dolls were crafted to rebuke the Nazi party’s push for physical perfection. Coupled with an extract from Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech in which she lambasted the asinine President Trump, denouncing his alleged mocking of a disabled journalist on his victory tour. The political prescience of the past may be repeating itself in unwelcome fashion and Teatum Jones are aware of that. Their place in the narrative is to be the voice for the marginalised communities, specifically those who aren’t the product of society’s idealised vision of physical perfection. 

Understandably, the strive for inclusivity garnered more headlines than the clothing. It is a shame, though. As always, Teatum and Jones made clothes worthy of our attention—the fabrication was of high quality, their colours and use of print were remarkable as ever. However, should they continue to normalise the appearance of disabled models on runways their clothing will speak for itself. Like the voice they have provided marginalised people, their volume of their clothes is loud—now all we need is to start listening.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

MAN // Spring 2018 // Menswear

Imperceptible have been the changes at London Fashion Week Men’s with the decampments of mega-brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, Moschino. The four-day event has held its own in the absence of those brands. In fact, the spotlight is where it should be when in London—on the emerging labels. Lulu Kennedy, founder of Fashion East and MAN, curated a lineup of rising menswear stars for her Spring 2018 MAN group show. Per Götesson, Art School and Rottingdean Bazaar’s presence electrified day two of proceedings, and the laudatory response that permeated the Old Truman Brewery cemented the show’s success.

Swedish designer Per Götesson completed his MA in Fashion at the Royal College of Art last June and the following day he presented his first collection as part of the MAN initiative. This was his third and final outing; he made the decision up the ante and focus on producing a more mature, commercially viable output that doesn’t deter from his distinctive aesthetic. He furthered his study into gender, silhouette, proportion and cut. What’s interesting about the four tenets to his work are how informative they are to fashion as a whole: gender, silhouette, proportion and cut are the basis on which fashion design is built. Designers interact with all four in order to produce a collection but it’s the impetus for Götesson. Denim was drastically disproportionate; skimpy fishnet tops contrasted wildly with billowing pink trousers which could effectively house two wearers, a leg for each. 

His exploration of gender is marked firstly by colour studies. He took bubblegum, dusty rose, pale lemon and juxtaposed them nicely with traditionally masculine hues of black and blue. Secondly, he processes gender ambiguity and androgyny with his model selection before, thirdly, messing with the silhouette. All four components are present in his show but the interplay between them isn’t always impactful. Götesson, unlike many others, makes the sole focus of his shows those four and one can’t help but wish he’d strive for more. 

Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt of design collective Art School emerged firstly in January 2017 when they featured in the Fashion East presentations at London Fashion Week Men’s. They presented their clothing untraditionally, by means of a sprawling dance routine. Nothing about them is traditional—they stand for the opposite. Gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality is cast out the window to allow this breeding ground of difference to flourish. 

Predominately, the duo are looking at queer culture and the most effective manner in which to express that to the fashion crowd. Thus far, they have endeavoured to flavour their presentations with fun and energy certainly emanates from all four walls of the show space. It opened with a rose-printed evening gown which was a fine start to the show—it proposed an idea of glamour and from afar it was traditional… it was worn by a male model in beautifully exact makeup. The show’s opening was extrapolated, into something informed by the 90s. There were cowboy boots, jewel accents, mini dresses and power suiting. The loucheness of the 90s club scene began to unfold on the catwalk. An explosive final walk to the Macarena delighted the audience. 

Despite the entertainment factor, the clothes do not maintain the interest as much as the characters that inhabit them do. A face covered entirely in glitter? A bottle green bob? Hairy legs in a plaid mini skirt? A man dresses in a skimpy red dress and heels? Rarely do the clothes speak louder than the models. In terms of Instagram likes and social media success they are ahead of the game but in the context of commercial viability, this brand runs risk of dying young if they don’t either match the flamboyancy of their models of if they don’t design powerful clothes that won’t require a model to breathe life into them.

Rottingdean Bazaar were the final label to present under the umbrella. James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks have carved themselves a place in London. They have championed comedy in fashion. Although their work might imply low skill, the way they flatten and apply everyday objects to garments is rather complex. For Spring 2018 it was workman trousers, balloons, cans, hammers, copper coins, matchsticks and saws. From head to toe, one model was decorated with miscellaneous garden tools. 

The last thing one wants is for the naysayers to be validated: it would be unfortunate for something like Rottingdean Bazaar and its lightheartedness to stand for frivolity in fashion. If anything, Rottingdean Bazaar is akin to a movement such as pop art, in which everyday objects are present as works of art—the vulgarity of the objects symbolising a sociological study, an assessment of contemporary culture. However, to read into fashion requires a level of thought many don’t elect to engage with. To this critic, Rottingdean Bazaar does what it does best but when will it be time to progress? 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Joseph // Fall 2017 //

For Louise Trotter at Joseph, the art of dressing is a psychological process. To her the most attractive women are the ones who dress for themselves rather than anyone else. Secondly, her tenure at the brand founded in 1982 has been characterised by her subtle departure from the masculine overtones that dominated the label in the 1980s, when the brand was for women and designed by men. A woman at the helm of a house like Joseph, formerly designed by a man, is always an interesting shift for it spotlights the shift in perspective. A woman designing for women will offer a different point of view to a man designing for women, quite simply. 

Despite Trotter’s subtle subversion of the brand, it hasn’t been well-documented by the fashion press. In fact, one might say it has been unfairly underreported. She joined the label in 2009 but in the past year there has been an influx of press attention. 

For Fall 2017 Trotter explored the infusion of traditionally feminine codes into the masculine wardrobe. She took suiting and men’s tailoring and subverted it with looser silhouettes with an elevated element of flounce. Blazers were presented in rich floral patterns (the Balenciaga-esqe ones) and lace trimming was added to blouses; trousers were fashioned in blue silk and pink bodysuits contrasted with military green. 

This season marked the first time Trotter used heels in her show. Filled with a pragmatic air, the house endeavoured to create a pair that didn’t obstruct walkability. The designer ensured that these were fully-functioning, adaptable and reliable wardrobe additions for the customer. 

Joseph prides itself on pragmatism and its approach to beautifully practical outerwear. The notion of the uniform serves as a cornerstone to the brand’s outfit and Trotter has long been fascinated by them; as a child she despised her school uniform and she sought ways to disrupt the uniformity of it and personalise it. At Joseph she seeks to find multiple answers to the question: what is the everyday wardrobe? To her, it is perfection. Her clothes strive to achieve the highest order of functionality without removing the dream quality to fashion. Yes, there were whiffs of Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga iteration and some of his Vetements output, but her designs were positioned in the centre of the two—where dreams and the quotidian converge. In the most basic sense: Joseph is the convergence between dreams and the quotidian. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Louis Vuitton // Fall 2017 //

There have always been artful inclinations in Nicolas Ghesquière’s oeuvre. From his early Balenciaga days to his current Louis Vuitton stint, the Frenchman has thrillingly explored the possibilities of ready-to-wear, luxury and how those two things can be much more than a camel coat. The reductiveness of that statement aside, Ghesquière’s position as a luxury fashion designer has never been as important as it is now. In difficult economic times all eyes are on creatives to see who will weather the luxury slow down and global economic crises. Deftly, he exercises his sleight of hand and continually presents the possibility of a hearty womenswear wardrobe. 

This season the brand showed at the Musée de Louvre, under a glass pyramid architected by I. M. Pei (who is the mastermind behind the Miho Museum near Kyoto, where the brand hosted their Resort 2018 presentation in May). To show in the Louvre, amidst the otherworldly art pieces signifies the strength of Louis Vuitton as a fashion house. They wouldn’t be where they are today without the indelible influences of Marc Jacobs, Ghesquière’s predecessor, and Ghesquière; both were remarkable designers with searingly lucid perspectives. However, the meaninglessness of playing Frank Ocean’s ‘Pyramids’—despite it being a tremendous, sprawling sonic landscape—beneath the pyramid was vaguely irritating.

Furthermore, the clothes were rather sublime. You name it, Ghesquière referenced it. Sportswear, formal wear, workwear; Russia, France, America; masculinity, femininity. He hybridised all his references points and churned them out in the form of layered—figuratively and literally—garments that captured the aesthetic of contemporary Vuitton. The travel references were present, the notion of luxury in its purest form too. The silk slip dresses towards the end of the collection—pieces fragmented and linked with black lace—could be construed as symbols of global connectedness but the overall lack of poeticism would act as a counterpoint to that.

One’s mind returns to the global stage that is the Louvre. With objects dating from prehistory to the 21st century, the museum houses works from civilisations such as Greece and Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and historical region Mesopotamia to modern day paintings in France and Italy, from artists such as da Vinci, whose painting Mona Lisa famously hangs in the gallery space. Louis Vuitton was founded as brand for the jet-set, with the monogrammed trunks selling from the 1850s. Travel is integral to the house but Ghesquière’s fusion of cultures from far-flung destinations didn’t work, this season. 

Unlike in a museum, his curatorial approach was a distinctly shoddy endeavour. Truthfully, it lacked coherency. Individually these were exemplary clothing: the technical feats in the form of fur jackets; flared, cropped leather trousers; fitted, sportswear-inspired suiting. Together the haphazardness of it all was befuddling. Although he is artfully-inclined, one couldn’t help but itch and scratch at the lack of purposeful editing—artist, curator: who should designers be more like?


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Edward Crutchley // Spring 2018 // Menswear

The landscape of menswear design has shifted considerably in the past decade. Not only has the industry blossomed and multiplied in size, but the themes which designers explore are reshaping the way men dress today. Challenging masculinity has been the cornerstone of the development of the menswear industry. Edward Crutchley, an upcoming designer at London Fashion Week Men’s, is at the fore of this rebuff against traditional notions of masculinity. His Spring 2018 show, presented at The Ironmonger’s Hall in June, commented on the irrelevance of gender, the relevance of sex. 

His show was densely packed, filled with wide-reaching ideas and global touchstones—“Northern splendour, remote Arcadia”, tribes in Borneo, adolescent males in Japan, all through the lenses of Victorian and Elizabethan England. A multi-epochal exploration of masculinity, the show spotlighted “manly pomp, feminine vigour.” To say gender the show’s impetus wouldn’t be a misjudgement. Crutchley was thinking about the 1980s, with designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Giorgio Armani appearing on his mood board. Specifically, he was referencing early Armani, the deflated 80s volumes, the dropped shoulder and the wide-shoulder. He was interested in the interplay between 80s power suits and gender ambiguity. One look for example combined a taupe, oversized blazer and an extravagant corseted, full skirt. Another keenly observed the principles of 80s sportswear but rendered it in a decadent print, implying the feminine vigour. The manly pop derives from the prints in the collection. Perhaps more interesting than the 80s power suit contrasting with the subversion of gender is the historical references juxtaposition with the notions of masculinity. 

Historicism affords the theatricality of expression, the general acceptance of the masses— men’s dress in the 15th to 19th centuries were characterised by different approaches to masculinity. From the Edo-era wakashū he studied the inclusion of the kimono in their work. An owner of a kimono, Crutchley brought his to a factory where he studied how to fashion one himself. The ones in this collection were elaborate, luxurious.

Commercialism was something Crutchley worried about this season, and misinterpretation. It is common for designers to question the commercial viability of their work and so they should, if they want to continue working in the industry. However, despite the possibility the press might misinterpret this work and buyers mightn’t want to buy certain pieces, he charged full steam ahead to create looks that were important to him and his interests. Whether you enjoy the aesthetics of it or not, one can’t help but appreciate the self-serving agenda of a creative designing something they’re passionate about. Generally, it produces good work. This was a thoroughly engaging show.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Halpern // Fall 2017 //

Glamour became unglamorous in the infancy of the 2010s. Designers were disinterested in portraying traditional notions of glamour and hardened their edges, deployed ugly chic methodologies and entered a heightened normality stage. To tell the truth, it isn’t always fun to watch a disgruntled model storm the runway in a hoodie and thigh high boots or jeans and a denim jacket; one yearns for the Steven Meisel-lensed Balenciaga advertising campaigns from the Ghesquière era or John Galliano’s Dior iteration. Michael Halpern, graduate of Central Saint Martins, is an American designer showing in London and his designs are Glamourous with a capitalised, underscored and italicised G. Inspired by fashion movements in the 1970s, dancing at Studio 54 and singer Cher, his work is pointedly referential of a bygone era, where dressing up and hedonism were simply ways of life.

He gave his Fall 2017 collection—his London Fashion Week debut—a dystopian twist with his venue of choice: a bare, exposed brick retail space in St James. A dystopian disco in London, how fitting? The soundtrack too was rather unnerving: there was a haunting ringing sound to accompany the final procession, for example.
He rendered his designs in jewel tones and opted for a beautiful melange of fabrics. Double duchess satin, sequins, silk… Intricately embroidered sequins shimmered and glistened in the harsh, bright lights of the venue. They flickered like fireworks dancing across the night sky. One could imagine characters in a seventies-inspired film bedecked in Halpern’s beautifully bedazzled outfits. However, there is something incontrovertibly modern about his creations. Although they’re an honest ode to the 1970s, they aren’t swept up in the epoch—it’s a fantastical foray into the future, with elongated hemlines and flattering cuts. 

The dearth, or death, of glamour—whatever way you want to look at it—over the past number of years is symbolic of fashion’s cyclical behaviour. However this jolt of electrified energy from Halpern has been something this critic has been patiently awaiting. My writing roots belong in red carpet coverage and this is a dreamland of dresses and jumpsuits fit for movie stars. They are enrapturing, wonderfully weird. 

His expertise was acquired from stints at J.Mendel and Oscar de la Renta, two American houses with commercialistic viewpoints and an insistence on pushing stereotypical visions of glamour. Couture sensibilities are evident in his work; he consults for Atelier Versace, Versace’s couture division. There are undoubted whiffs of subversion in Halpern’s designs and it earmarks him as one to watch. His affinity for blurring the lines between good and bad taste, for one, and the suppleness of his silhouettes, their over exaggeration and aggressively outlandish lengths, present these facts. Welcome to London, Halpern.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Phoebe English // Fall 2017 //

Phoebe English is a storyteller. She not only operates in the realm of fashion design but she heightens her approach to craft with a penchant for dissecting contemporary culture, the politics of today with richness and focus. ‘Focus’ is the operative word when analysing English’s work. Her previous womenswear collection explored the days before and immediately after Britain’s referendum on European Union membership, the aftershock of which still reverberates around the continent, plaguing us with uncertainty. For Fall 2017, English decided to follow the same outline as last season where she contemplated the times through seven characters; here, it was eight emotions applied to eight looks.

Tyranny, Fear, Apathy, Voice, Courage, Unity, Repair, Hope. The linear structure of emotionality highlighted her acuity and presented seemingly disjointed concepts in a digestible fashion. Without this structure, there would’ve been a boneless collection without direction—certainly, it would reflect the havoc we’ve engendered as a species but it would defeat the purpose of English’s storytelling. This is a story, an unfinished, unresolved manuscript. There is no end in sight but we must latch onto Voice, Courage, Unity, Repair, Hope. It was as much a fashion show as it was a story, and as much a story as it was a manifesto.
Her modern manifesto was portrayed in a limited colour palette comprising of lustrous bronze, wood green, off-white, black, grey, crimson and cobalt. Attaching colour to emotions, a synesthete’s conclusion. Tyranny was red—a symbol of aggression, anger, war. Fear was rendered in black satin, the model’s hair was decorated with black daggers. Apathy, typically, came in a dull hue of pewter; it’s silhouette was slouchy, disinterest personified—the laziness of the shaping reminded one of English’s insistence against passivity, it being a luxury we can no longer afford. Courage was bronze; the model’s crown was adorned with a marvellously grand headpiece signifying confidence, strength and power. Hope was green, the model standing in a flowery mise-en-scène became part of the set design in a compelling fashion. Voice, Unity, Repair were delivered in various shades of white—doubled-faced mesh, gossamer and silver accents were combined to create a poetically beautiful conclusion. 

The political, the personal intersect in Phoebe English collections. Their interconnectedness is spotlighted by the way our emotions are linked to our politics. Tyranny, fear, apathy, voice, courage, unity, repair, hope are emotions, possessions and in the context of politics they are omnipresent. More and more, one finds themselves drawn into the heartbreakingly honest world of Phoebe English, her organic design process and her emphasis on craft. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ryan Lo // Fall 2017 //

When you take perspective into account a collection becomes a wildly unique entity. Chinese-born designer Ryan Lo flipped societal normality on its head with his Fall 2017 show at London Fashion Week in February, presented on a chilly Saturday morning in the nondescript BFC Show Space at the Store Studios. We’re accustomed to the American perception of Asia—the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York dedicated their 2015 centrefold to exploring the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion. However, a role reversal isn’t as common; an Asian perspective of America, as explored by Lo in his latest outing, is innately special and noteworthy. 

“It’s almost like a weird Asian take on American culture,” Lo said in his show notes. He was endlessly inspired by the effervescence and vitality of the 90s, specifically 90s hip-hop culture, but also youth culture and the resurgence of nostalgia, courtesy of the Instagram generation. Skateboarding references, Hello Kitty were inducted at some point throughout the design process and they completed a collection replete with a smattering of everything, all rendered in shades of saccharine pink. 

Not only does this show present an Asian man’s perspective on American culture, it flips the expectation on its head—this wasn’t cultural appropriation, rather appreciation and amalgamation. Hello Kitty is a famous Japanese cartoon character, defined by a red bow worn on her ear. Lo infused 90s America with the youth-centric, street fashion craze of the Harajuku district in Tokyo. This melange of far-flung regions is presented in London, which is a melting pot of culture itself.

The girlish narrative also shifted the basis on which 90s hip-hop stories are generally told. The sugary sweetness of Lo’s infectious, intoxicating concoctions are undeniably saccharine but not repulsively so. You accept them for what they are and understand that a bold, positively young woman will latch onto their flamboyance, without worrying it’ll come across as meretricious. Meretriciousness isn’t in Lo’s lexicon: his oeuvre has long been punctuated by this brand of punchy, teenage dream delights. The youthful verve that enlivens his work clashes with hip-hop and skater culture but fabulously; intercutting sickly sweet creations with scenes of nineties raves, street culture merely heightens the effect of the work, presents unexplored possibilities. 

There aren’t just two sides to every story, rather a multitude waiting to be told. They all need to be expressed to us, and what better manner than fashion design.