Friday, September 29, 2017

Chloé // Spring 2018 //

Chloé’s new creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi presented her debut collection for the house on Thursday morning to an eager fanbase including her former employer, Nicolas Ghesquière. (Ramsay-Levi was one of three of Ghesquière’s disciples to present at Paris Fashion Week yesterday—the others were Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne, Antonin Tron at Atlein.) Chloé, founded in 1952, has long been characterised by an ‘attitude’—it being feminine, sophisticated, joyful. There are instantly recognisable staples but one observes Chloé as much more than just the clothing rolled out in stores globally. 

Over the years designers of distinguished pedigree have passed through the doors: Karl Lagerfeld, Martine Sitbon, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Hannah MacGibbon, Clare Waight Keller. Joining the ranks in the quest to reestablish the Chloé ‘attitude’ is Ramsay-Levi. (She is the first Frenchwoman at the house since Martine Sitbon in 1992.) For Spring 2018, one caught whiffs of Philo’s iteration—in those sumptuous velvet pieces and MacGibbon’s penchant for rich colouration and snakeskin. 
Towards the end of her reign, Waight Keller’s Chloé woman was too whimsical—it lacked depth and attitude. In an effort to restore that, Ramsay-Levi infused the collection with Ghesquièrian principles—the past, the present, the future collided in brilliant fashion; there was the futurist Western-inspired look; the cascading ruffle supported by a powerful shoulder; the way her silhouettes refer to both symmetrical and asymmetrical modes. Many will have qualms with the thematic crossover but one must remember Ramsay-Levi’s signatures will be similar to Ghesquière’s, the designer she worked with for fourteen years. Although there was evidence of her previous employer, one considered this to be a fine opening chapter with recognisable Chloé motifs. 

The 70s, specifically, were referenced. The brand was represented beautifully by photographer Guy Bourdin in the 1970s. Bourdin’s photography, according to Christian Caujolle, the author of the ‘Femininities - Guy Bourdin’ book to accompany this summer’s exhibition at Maison Chloé in Paris, creates a universe. “A universe in which the clothes are no longer the subject of a proposition but instead just one ingredient in a complex world, freed of the practicalities of day-to-day life but still suggesting something tangible and real. A world in which liberated, nimble and elegant actresses mischievously play at reinventing a world in which women are the fulcrum.” The eventual wearers of these garments were on Ramsay-Levi’s mind. She wants to fashion clothes allowing them to channel their inner strength, rather than power. One got the impression she was exploring the terrain of playful mischief, but was caught up in the rigour of modern day fashion presentation. Perhaps rectifiable in future advertising campaigns?

This was an exercise on how to debut at a fashion house as storied as Chloé. From the outset, Ramsay-Levi declared she would be reinvigorating the house codes, adapting her style around them and creating something that makes sense for women now. Her intention was never to create “Natacha’s brand”. Her brief has always been to interpret house codes, at both Balenciaga and Vuitton. Here, her knowledge was hybridised with that of Chloé’s and the results were remarkable. A rare statement to utter when a house is in the hands of someone new is: the future is bright. Assertively, one could say, the future is bright for Chloé.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Jacquemus // Spring 2018 //

Inauthenticity is rife in the fashion industry today but thankfully, it is unavoidably detectable. Fashion watchers can easily identify references, whether something is solely for the purpose of selling (diminishing the medium’s artistic credibility) or if something is dishonest. Fakery isn’t fashionable. Simon Porte Jacquemus opened Paris Fashion Week and ignited this discussion from the moment guests stepped inside the Musée Picasso, in the 3rd arrondissement, and read the show notes. “I don’t think I ever saw my mother more beautiful than on evenings after the beach and probably when she was in love,” it begins. “Evenings when we would go for a walk around the port, past the souvenir shops filled with earrings, ceramics, sarongs and headbands. That’s the woman I wanted to talk about this season. ‘La bombe’, as we say in the South [of France].” 

He shed the childlike sensibilities that permeated his early work. It’s youthful verve had gimmicks as a centric force but his moving away from that has allowed him to venture into an unexplored territory for him—one with sophistication and sexiness; where silhouette and cut are suitable for a woman rather than an expressive art exhibition. He is singlehandedly restoring modern French chicness in the fashion vernacular with his artfully-inclined shapes and an understanding of what women want to wear. He incorporated headscarves, extravagantly oversized sunhats fashionable sarongs, asymmetric heels decorated with trinkets—Jacquemus compiled the beach references and made them insatiably glamorous: from Marseille to Martinique. (Reasserting the meaning of what it is to be French has defined the first few days of Paris Fashion Week.)

Although the show notes would imply this show was solely about the South of France, it’s title was Spanish: ‘La Bomba’. Jacquemus mused on how to the two moods. In a way the show reminded one of J.W. Anderson’s recent work—his Spanish-inspired sun-kissed collections have been informed by his tenure at Loewe. Both Jacquemus and Anderson have borrowed the heat and flavour of Cristobal Balenciaga before them. However, it wasn’t irritating forgery—in either case. Jacquemus, along with many before him, have been endlessly inspired by those that have come before. Last season he dedicated his show to Christian Lacroix, an unorthodox French designer with a habitual liking for costume and decadence. Furthermore, his status as an untrained designer, one who merely worked in a Comme des Garçons store, proves his love of fashion and frames his referencing differently—it’s not appropriation. 

Progression at Jacquemus hasn’t come at the expense of creativity. His fruitful business venture is attracting global customers. His work is soigné, sophisticated and sexy. It’s a distinct reminder of what clothing used to be exclusively, and want many designers nowadays are trying to resuscitate. Slowly, he’s scaling the fashion establishment’s ladder. What prevents him from being unapproachable is his innate emotionality. From the togetherness of his recent advertising campaigns or this, an honest depiction of his mother, Jacquemus is a French name exponentially rising. C’est le bonheur absolu.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Roberto Cavalli // Spring 2018 //

Consider Roberto Cavalli, an Italian luxury fashion house, and its flamboyant femininity, sex appeal and penchant for maximalism. Who better to succeed the namesake designer than Peter Dundas, right? The Norwegian had a prowess for early aughties disco glamour at Emilio Pucci, where he captured a moment in time effortlessly. His tenure at Cavalli was short-lived, spanning three seasons. His successor is a little-known British menswear designer whose held stints at Z Zegna and Acne Studios. It’s a rather bold move, the unknown, but his Milan Fashion Week debut last weekend stood for something positive: the modernisation of the Roberto Cavalli brand. 

A fresh start, but where would he begin? Surridge’s show space was an anonymous white hall with views of lush greenery outside, the daylight poured in. He captured the bohemian aesthetic Cavalli popularised since his debut and streamlined it. It’s not exclusively for the ostentatiously ritzy, he’s managed to tame the brand’s fiery spirit. 
There were some looks during the Dundas era, and even the eponymous Cavalli before him, that didn’t look like they would sell in stores. Frankly, many of them were garish. They lacked a certain vitality which even the velocity of the models couldn’t rectify. Here, Surridge engaged with the middle ground between minimalism and maximalism. The opening look, on top model Luna Bijl, was an ankle-length halter dress with a deep neckline and exposed shoulders; it was coloured in midnight blue tie-dye. For Cavalli, it was quiet, a departure from the loudness of yore, but it bore integral Cavalli components: print; sex appeal; it oozed femininity. Ditto, his zebra print dresses and jackets—he explored the house’s affinity for animal prints and subdued it. There were no feathery frocks; in their place, red and navy zebra print.  

There is work to be done concerning the fusion of the modernist and decorative bohemia. The two disparate concepts didn’t gel as sublimely as intended. A lilac top and lilac zebra-print trousers were a success. Comparatively, crocodile trousers and a lace top with leather bustier looked cheap, overwrought.

The goal here is to expand the customer base—as it always is with these new appointments in the industry. Surridge’s debut was subdued and subtly sexy. It was a starting point and one hopes he is afforded the privilege of designing here for more than three seasons, as his modern and refined approach to the house’s archive should be granted an opportunity to develop. It’s positively the most interesting thing to come from Cavalli in years, even if it was dull in parts. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Marco de Vincenzo // Spring 2018 //

Milan Fashion Week has come and gone in a flash. The six-day-long event officially closes today but the fashion press have already migrated to Paris, where Simon Porte Jacquemus will present his Spring 2018 collection tonight. However, a generally solid Milan was comprised of mostly strong collections from designers. There were debuts aplenty, tributes galore, references ranged from Italian futurism to Joan Miró to The Talented Mr Ripley. Marco de Vincenzo’s show on Friday afternoon caught this critic’s eye. Throughout the years he has progressively enhanced his output, while also carving himself a niche spot in the Italian city. His work is characterised by glamour, infused with a casual insouciance. Of late, his designs have been punctuated by gothic inflections which served to further enrich his fabrication and silhouette. 

Scenes from Jaws (1975), King Kong (1976), Lolita (1962), The Shining (1980) were depicted on needlepoint handbags, which the models carried elegantly, conveying notions of the upper class. Notably, two of the films referenced in the 30-year span of de Vincenzo’s references are by historic director Stanley Kubrick. Certainly, one felt the influence of Kubrickian perversity in both the styling and gothic execution.

He contemplated Italian summer’s of yore, while also mining his personal life. He explored the 1960s to the 1990s, incontrovertibly different times to the one we live in now. Rather esoterically, he emblazoned graphics reading ‘Ultrapharum’ and ’Triskelion’ on his clothing; both are names formerly used for Sicily.

A recurring motif in the Spring 2018 shows has been the personal exploration. Designers have loaded their work with biographical material. One recalls the Antonio Berardi in London: he, coincidentally, referenced his Italian heritage and told the story of his immigrant parents who moved to England from Sicily, the same island de Vincenzo hails from. (The duo at Dolce & Gabbana also consistently reference their Sicilian roots in their Italian-centric work.) The effect is an authentic glimpse into the lives of designers who are generally quiet about their backgrounds. In this case, in Milan, de Vincenzo was more interested in capturing the air of the time, rather than his own experiences. It didn’t achieve the same honesty and wholesomeness as it did at Berardi, but it did boast a fierce spirit. 

Ultimately, de Vincenzo endeavours to create an unmistakably artful environment. He does that with his engaging set  For the most part it works, with a few falters hither and thither. His spring show was strong but one caught glimpses of recent Prada and Gucci collections and it prevented it from being a standout show. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

steventai // Spring 2018 //

Steven Tai was one of many designers at London Fashion Week to have the outside of his show swarmed by angry activists, protesting against the British Fashion Council's support of "animal abusing" fashion designers who use fur and leather in their shows. (Similar scenes were witnessed outside Burberry and Versus.) Once inside, one felt the juxtaposition between the Tai's sandy set and the leering protestors outside. The protestors couldn't take away from the fun of his show. It was perhaps his most literal translation to date. In the past his examination of inspirations such as birthday parties, your grandmother's house, school and social media respite have seen his playful oeuvre with childlike sensibilities tackle subjects in an allegorical fashion. This season it was about capturing an emotion, the unspeakable joy foreigners have when they step foot upon sandy shores, the satiated thirst for the pinnacle of summer fun. He was looking at Italian photographer Massimo Vitali, whose cool-toned photographs of beach scenes capture the magnitude of these attractions. One felt the calming inside almost immediately.

Seaside sensibilities in the stylistic expression narrowly avoided gimmick territory. One valued the way he didn't turn it into a comical affair, rather he balanced a sophisticated elegance with a zesty playfulness. It was a show loaded with bright colours—one registered them as rafts, floats—and nautical marinière stripes. It was trite at times but lovely nonetheless. 

The general consensus in London this season is that designers are approaching their collections in a pragmatic fashion, with clothing that can actually sell. It can be incredibly frustrating to see unsellable garments, 'show pieces' sometimes… it's acceptable in the case of Comme des Garçons or Maison Margiela, with various ventures sustaining business but many emerging brands, especially in London, where buzz can carry hefty weight, aren't paving a commercially viable path for themselves. Tai's innocent, childlike fantasy has been expertly balancing the two. A number of seasons ago he introduced a fine selection of tailoring and here he progressed that, but masqueraded it behind the nautical styling. There was a burgeoning sense of utilitarianism that has strengthened considerably since his debut. While he accommodates the necessity for on-brand sweet confections, he sprinkles great shirting and dresses also.

“It’s a rainy British September, and we all could use more clothing that swish with the sound of seagulls.” It’s certainly a positive riposte to the sounds of angry activists that stood outside. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Paul Costelloe // Spring 2018 //

Paul Costelloe continued his flirtation with the sixties and seventies, conflating the two decades in his Spring 2018 show, hosted at the grand Palm Court at the Waldorf Hilton in London. The Irish designer's exploration of the decades is fascinated with the colourful, playful edge—undoubtedly an optimistic response to the times. To a soundtrack including ‘Garde-moi la dernière danse’ by chanteuse Dalida and the poppy ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ by Spanish duo Baccara, the show unfolded. One was instantly greeted with a sea of bright spring colours.

He introduced some new styles for spring: evening gowns were rendered with rise-and-fall hemlines and in vibrant shades of fuchsia and fresh, dark green. Baby doll and sack dresses signalled the reemergence of the latter half of the previous decade in fashion; one is unconvinced whether women will want to wear them. The bow ties on the back of gowns were a further dive into the past. There was a stronger presence of menswear in this collection and it did challenge stereotypical men's suiting—in lieu of black tie there were presented in a pleasant pastel palette.   

Stylistically, it was a rather simple affair. He isn't really one for gimmicks, the simplicity of a sack dress sitting beautifully on a woman or the fine cut of a blazer on a man spoke for itself. It was a stark contrast to other designers in London—specifically the emerging designers at Fashion East, who collectively overstyled their collections. However, one became hungry for more of a challenge halfway through. 
As the models, including Ireland's own Vogue Williams, threaded the catwalk I wasn't looking for something groundbreaking in thought, rather it was an opportunity to be delighted by Costelloe's fine art: occasion dressing. He isn't required to shatter the earth with explosive ideas; however, he is required to satisfy his woman, and her image is concerned with the prim and proper nature of her social scene. Weddings! Luncheons! Galas! It's differs from Erdem, whose work echoes the perversities of high society, and Roksanda's architectural prowess; it's demure but still burning is a youthful fire inside. And while his dresses are catnip for the social elite one would like to see him migrate from casting teenagers in his shows and instead reflect his customer base, many of whom were in the crowd. Surely, they counted their blessings to have options aplenty.

When the man of the hour took his final bow, one witnessed a rare heartwarming moment in fashion. He posed for photographers and before ducking backstage, he stood one last time to face rapturous applause. It's pleasant to see someone outwardly loving in their job. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reflections on New York Fashion Week // Spring 2018 //

The most challenging dilemma to tackle during New York Fashion Week was the politicisation or depoliticisation of garments. From Tom Ford on the opening day to Marc Jacobs on Wednesday evening, one didn’t know whether to lambast designers for lack of political context or to examine the clothing as they are. 

These conflicts have been highlighted as the most controversial American administration continually eviscerate progressive legislature and the country reels from the effects of Hurricane Harvey in the south, wildfires in Oregon and on a human level, the domestic terrorism at Charlottesville. 

(Notably, on the topic of Hurricane Harvey, there is First Lady Melania Trump insensitively arriving to survey the damage of Hurricane Harvey in stilettos—one cannot comprehend the flagrant display of upper class white privilege at the site of such destruction.)

But, it must be asked, can fashion have a social conscience if its very nature is a consumerists’ playground? The proliferation of ethical fashion—supported fervently by Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway on recent promotional tours—has been a felt force, with stylists requesting their clients to wear vintage garments or pieces from sustainable fashion designers. However, sustainable fashion designers are few and far between with the exception of a label like Oscar de la Renta whose clothing is made in-house in the New York studio, ahead of fashion week. Those minuscule sequins, crystals, and leather patches on surrealist-inspired evening-wear was all done in-house—although as a whole, it was pastiche, lacked direction and the elegance synonymous with the brand.

It couldn’t match Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row outing at the Carlyle Hotel. It was unobtrusive, refined and sophisticated. It was everything we’ve come to expect from The Row—it is what women will want to wear in the winter months. Ditto Derek Lam’s return to the runway at the Pool Room. He reeled out a budding wardrobe of covetable separates, or the primness of Lela Rose’s colourful outing in Washington Square Park. 

Elegance has a counterpoint in the loudness of brands like Linder, Alexander Wang and Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma. Linder’s gothic-inspired collection was particularly underwhelming. Alexander Wang’s three-act runway show that began at Lafayette Street before moving onto Astor Place (two public-facing shows) before arriving for the editors to see it in Brooklyn. It recalled past looks that defined the brand in its infancy and it was a rather nice throwback but it synthesised with the newer, bolder, louder elements that have characterised the brand in recent years. (As is tradition, it was followed by a heck of a party.) Furthermore, Rihanna’s third Fenty x Puma show saw freestyle motorcyclists charge the X games-inspired event. The clothes didn’t do much other than boldly proclaim that they don’t have to: she’s Rihanna, avant tout.

The best shows of the week were spotlighted in the absence of Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne and Rodarte. Eckhaus Latta showed a searing post-gender amalgamation of clothes not confined to the rigorous silhouettes as predetermined by designers of generation past. Similarly, the work at Chromat was fabulous and flirty as usual, fit for men and women of all sizes. Jonathan Saunders finally hit his stride at Diane von Furstenberg after two quiet seasons. His debut runway presentation was one for the books: an ode to the 1970s, the creative heyday of New York City.

For some, the week rested on Shayne Oliver’s debut at Helmut Lang and Marc Jacobs. In the case of Oliver, he failed to create memorable fashion. His clothes were fine, some of them strong, but they didn’t create lasting moments and quite simply, that’s what one should expect from Helmut Lang, a label which defined the 1990s. Jacobs also missed the mark as his clothing—a greatest hits of sorts—was overly referential but it did eschew from the abbreviated skirts he’s grown fond of lately. 

New York Fashion Week is modern, forward-thinking in its approach to presentation. They may have taken a hit with the exodus of noteworthy labels but emerging talents rose to the challenge. One hopes they adapt more effectively, and speedily, to the political turmoil of their country.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Helmut Lang, Seen by Shayne Oliver // Spring 2018 //

The buzz surrounding the Helmut Lang revival has been second to none. The brand was founded by Lang in Paris in 1986. It is perhaps the most seminal fashion brand in existence for it continually inspires developments in the industry with everyone from Phoebe Philo to Raf Simons to Kanye West referencing the Austrian in their respective oeuvres. Modern fashion has undoubtedly been shaped by Lang’s penchant for minimalism, deconstructionism 

Sales plummeted after the label joined the Prada Group in 1999 because of the repositioning of the business. He exited to become a fine artist in 2005. The label continues to sell luxury basics in high end department stores, without Lang’s involvement. CEO Andrew Rosen appointed Dazed’s editor-in-chief Isabella Burley to become the brand’s first Editor-in-Residence. (The first look advertising campaign, seen by Ethan James Green features Chris Kraus, Traci Lords, Larry Clark, Mari Copeny, Alek Wek amongst others.) Former Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver—his brand shuttered in April—is responsible for the first directional clothing effort since 2005, with last night’s New York Fashion Week presentation serving as his debut. 

“We’re trying to ignite the spirit of the past,” Burley said to British Vogue during the summer. “There are a lot of people who really want to fall back in love with Helmut Lang.” It is understandable, Oliver’s appointment, as he is in touch with the youth-centric, nostalgia-loving Instagram generation. Moreover, he has a deep understanding of exploring gender in his work and the aim with this iteration is to create “gender-fluid, unisex pieces.” 
Helmut Lang Seen by Shayne Oliver was an opportunity for the designer to interpret rather than present an homage. It was loosely inspired by the archive but as Oliver said in an article with the New York Times; he was thinking about how it could be reflected in his own design handwriting. An admitted referencer, Oliver’s vision for the house was influenced by the founder’s minimalist streak but also his interest in fetish—which of course, Oliver has a keen interest in. His show was solidly good, from start to finish. He showed a surprising inclination for minimalism, but then it galloped freely into overwrought territory with the combination of fetishistic, BDSM-inspired looks. He did a fine job with both of them—exceptional even—but he misfired in his ability to integrate them.    

The best pieces were the ones that subverted every day items. The unzipped, folded-over gladiator sandals; the simplicity of the little black dress, an example of Oliver’s ability to discipline and stay on task; the slingshot-shaped bras that opened the show. These were ones which amalgamated the past and the present, which appears to be the aim at these shows: a fusion of Lang’s aesthetic, through the eyes of Oliver, with Oliver’s aesthetic. 

“Sensuality” is something Oliver was after with those gossamer looks in black and white towards the end. It is an overlooked element of the jam-packed collection, stuffed mostly with minimalism and fetishism. Again, they showed Oliver’s functioning discipline as a designer who generally favours chaotic theatricality. They had a decontracté simplicity that is prevalent in New York. However the pieces weren’t exactly memorable, nor will there be a chance for there to be progression next season. 

Different designers will be approached to work on the label and respond to the archive in a way that reflects both the label and the designer. The purpose of this is to acknowledge the influence of Lang’s work on the new generation of fashion designers. Is this the future of fashion? 
Vogue Runway

Monday, September 11, 2017

New York's New Lynchpin Designers // Spring 2018 //

Seismic shifts are sending shockwaves across the industry. 

Changes are afoot at New York Fashion Week—Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, Altuzarra, Rodarte have decamped to Paris; Fenty x Puma is back in the Big Apple; the week heralds the return of Helmut Lang, perhaps one of the most influential fashion brands of all time. You have legacy brands such as Calvin Klein (now steered by Raf Simons and Peter Mulier) and Marc Jacobs alongside emerging labels like Vaquera and Area. New York may have lost some of its heavyweights but there are still reasons to attend.

Victoria Beckham is always a pleasantly digestible watch. Her show was easy like Sunday morning, at her usual Wall Street venue. Her aim was to empower women with clothing; in essence, she wanted to prove delicacy can too be strong. She missed the mark on that one but she attempted to convey this with spring’s finest pastels: turquoise, peach, rose, lilac. She contrasted this with some black and white looks. The clothes were fine but the messaging didn’t correlate, quite simply.

When she shifted her focus from hourglass dresses to tailoring and drapery her work enhanced exponentially. Frankly, it became more interesting. Her understanding of femininity to progressed too: she introduced trousers, unconventional shapes that women would want to wear. The influence of Phoebe Philo’s Céline has been indelible, to say the least, with her work regularly informing Beckham’s winsome aesthetic.
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne have been experiencing turbulence with the business side of their creativity. Firstly, they spent two years revamping DKNY to make it appeal to a younger generation but LVMH, who sold the company subsequently, cited “months of disappointing performance” as a reason for selling it to G-III. Secondly, they repositioned their own company, Public School, switching to presentations during the off-season in April and November—an experience that lasted a season and surely damaged sales. Now, they are back on the New York Fashion Week schedule and the press still flock. 

Their Spring 2018 show was called ‘Come Again’ and it was a mishmash of Americanisms—they tackled sportswear, workwear and expressed in the only context they know how: the street. There were Prada-inspired bum shorts and an olive green top and trans-seasonal parka that succeeded, or a shoddy emerald green skirt belted with an overly-large corset that didn’t. The overriding sense of chaos was impossible to ignore. The narrowness of the runway contributed to this sense of claustrophobia and cemented the necessity of control, refinement and some simplicity. I am not requesting Calvin Klein circa 1990s minimalism, but a more disciplined approach to fashion design would allow their garments to speak articulately rather than shout irrelevantly into the void. Public School tries—credit where credit is due—but it regularly falls short on what it wants to achieve. However, with the backing of media magnate Anna Wintour, this brand is something to stick around for even if it leaves little to desire.
Following in the footsteps of Peter Pilotto in London two seasons ago, and Azzedine Alaïa who preceded them all, Sander Lak’s brainchild Sies Marjan ensconced its audience in the design studio in Chelsea yesterday lunchtime. The salon show reflected a simpler time of fashion week, when shows were more intimate and the audience viewed the clothes from inches away as opposed to five rows of tiered seating. His latest collection was rather brilliant. Its palette was as diverse as its casting, the silhouettes progressed from last and he laid the foundations for a future menswear pursuit.

Restlessly energetic was the outpour of colour—from start to finish we were treated with delightful hues ranging from cyan, a violet blue, blush, flame and mint. The back of the runway was a wall containing a multitude of fabrics, in any shade imaginable. The show was a palette cleansing delight, an afternoon refresher. 

Sies Marjan is worth getting excited for. Simply look at street style photography from the week so far and in every other one you’ll spy editors in the spirited shades of Sies. The former Dries van Noten studio designer channels a spirited European energy into the week which differs from the sea of contemporary level brands and the tony American labels. Lak, a European, is one of the best designers on the New York schedule. Does that say more about Lak or New York Fashion Week?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

To Politicise or Not to Politicise, That is the Question // Spring 2018 //

One might consider it difficult to reprogram oneself to think critically about fashion after the summer we survived. The destructiveness of the Trump administration is disembowelling any semblance of national pride in America; globally, white nationalism is on the rise, with neo-Nazi groups more visible than ever; the Islamic State are claiming responsibility for the many terrorist attacks that are reported every other day. The sociopolitical turmoil the world is enduring is important to address and fashion week rightfully takes the backseat. However, one must continue to offer reportage on the happenings for they are the impetus of this website.

The most difficult challenge a critic faces is whether to criticise brands for overt political messaging—oftentimes it is diluted by insipid sloganeering—or to lambast those that don’t engage with politics remotely. It is a double-edged sword, engagement or no engagement. I believe, for fashion to move forward it is necessary to have both: those who engage, those who don’t. 

Jason Wu, on Friday, was a world removed from politics. At the South Street Sea Port, the show space was decorated with colourful floral arrangement suited to the spring season. His clothing was more relaxed than usual, a confident departure from his days creating rigorous womenswear for the ladies-who-lunch. He still caters to that crowd but nowadays it is informed by casual sensibilities. 

Here, he combined his Resort and ready-to-wear shows. Early next week he will present his GREY Jason Wu diffusion line. His fragrance arrived with show invitations. Wu is centred on becoming the next Michael Kors or Ralph Lauren. All the power to him.
Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia at Monse were somewhat more socially aware than Wu, thinking about their national pride. Having separated the show from their Oscar de la Renta endeavour, which presents Monday at Sotheby’s, they transformed their show space into a basketball court for a collegiate-inspired outing. The catwalk was stamped with a university-like seal. The clothes reflected the collegiate theme but weren’t too literal, thankfully. A vast improvement on last season, the clothes captured the brand’s spirit: it’s youthful with elegant brushstrokes. There was red, white and blue; stars and stripes; riffs on American workwear and sportswear. It was replete with Americana references and one appreciated the almost satirical element of perversion in some looks; for example, an abstract American flag sweater with a red baseball cap, resemblant of Trump’s Make America Great Again presidential campaign merchandise. 

The set design at this show may have been planned months ago, the collection coming together in the past four weeks—one cannot ignore the prescience of it. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is currently trying to rescind Title IX protection for sexual assault survivors on campus or in schools—endangering educational environments, an egregious attack on liberty. The message Kim and Garcia were hoping to propagate was one of hope, optimism. It’s hard to be optimistic nowadays but at least there were efforts in this collection to show they at least cared. 

Brandon Maxwell has been a champion of diverse casting, representing America of today rather than yesterday—this isn't the case with many of his peers who whitewash their runways, notably. His Spring outing showed progression. He left behind the black and white staples that were his claim to fame. Fuchsia! Raspberry! Lemon! Scarlet! Cobalt! There was denim aplenty: new developments. His colouration was a bold move but perhaps he pushed the boat out too far, and it overturned. It was ersatz American glamour, a level of skill procured by his contemporaries at Monse. In conclusion, the most political this got is that one could easily imagine Melania Trump wearing it.  
Adam Selman, on Thursday night, talked about the notion of celebrating America and embracing its culture. He referenced a recent exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at the Brooklyn Museum. There was some red, white and blue; denim; and Old Hollywood-inspired garments. Speaking about politics was rather redundant seeing as the collection had nothing to do with it. It was much more glamorous than usual, inspired by the merge between high society gatherings and underground raves. One can’t say it worked. 
A pregnant woman, artists, actresses and Kelela on the runway? Where else other than at Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta’s fifth Eckhaus Latta on-schedule presentation at fashion week. There haven’t been designers as progressive with casting as with this bi-coastal duo who represent people from all different backgrounds—a mixture of gender, race, age, physicality, is accounted for in their presentation. 

Their latest showing, in Bushwick, was their most refined to date. Now that they have a store opened in LA and worldwide stockists have proliferated, it is imperative for the duo to present some more commercially-inclined pieces amidst the usual idiosyncratic garb which exists in the wonderfully weird world of emerging New York talent. The cut of their trousers is unmistakably modern, informed by the past. There is a shapelessness to some pieces and one registers it as modern for it is down to the model to carry the piece. (It sits perfectly in the post-gender arena, a world distant from our own which is riled about during gender talks.) Artist Maia Ruth Lee, heavily pregnant, boasted her burgeoning bump in an open-stomach lilac cardigan dress; low-slung “bumster” jeans and revealing cloudy organza tops. 

The use of opaque fabrics was fascinating. Perhaps they were thinking about censorship. This critic was certainly, imagining the garments’ opacity as a metaphor for America’s current stance and aversion to free speech, governmental surveillance schemes and the inherent problematic nature of censorship. The designers may not have intended for their clothing to be read politically, but they undoubtedly belong in these times. There’s power in talking politics.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Terror and Horror at Calvin Klein // Spring 2018 //

When Raf Simons and his right hand man Pieter Mulier rebranded Calvin Klein Collection—the runway division of the American brand—when they arrived last August to Calvin Klein 205W39NYC. It is a more appropriate title and captures the American spirit the chief creative officer and creative director, respectively, strive to instil. They repositioned the brand’s high fashion presence at New York Fashion Week, making it the show to attend, not just another one… Their Spring 2018 show returned to the same Sterling Ruby-decorated space at the company’s headquarters, where they staged their debut. 

It is imperative to contemplate the first advertising campaign, photographed by frequent collaborator Willy Vanderperre, is captured on the highway in the desert plains of California. Models wear the most prominent looks from the collection—androgynous workwear, the American flag dress, the steel-capped cowboy boots, the plastic-sheathed fur coat. Roadside billboards feature last season’s promotional campaign. It effectively portrays modern America—something Simons and Mulier endeavour to convey in their runway collections.

Americana dominates Simons’ menswear oeuvre. He is fascinated by the work of artist Cindy Sherman, filmmaker David Lynch and regularly references American horror films. (Horror is a repetitive motif.) Last season he examined the cultural polarity of the country, he mixed high with low, the classicism of workwear with more casual pieces, By Appointment looks (the brand’s made-to-order wing) to mass-produced ready-to-wear. This season’s cornerstones were Warhol, Carrie and The Shining, his friend and artist Sterling Ruby, cheerleaders.
He structured this with reference to Warhol’s screen printing, his colouration. Prints from the late artist, made available by his estate, were asymmetrically applied to the nightgowns, which informed the Carrie inspiration, t-shirts and jeans. Ruby’s graffiti work was used on Western-inspired outfit, 50s-inspired skirts, well-tailored leather coats—one of them resembled blood splattering, perhaps poured from the Sterling Ruby buckets installed overhead. It segued into another American theme: cheerleading. There were red PVC tops and A-line skirts and they carried pompom-inspired handbags. Some of the fringe looks that closed the show resembled pompoms also. Simply, there was an overriding sense of horror. 

It’s easy to contextualise the notion of horror in America at present. With domestic terrorism and threats to people’s freedom, for Simons to display something informed by sinister, macabre reference points is timely. The way he does is it is inspired; he takes the classic tropes—the prom dress, the cheerleader, the cowboy, whatever it may be—and rethinks it in a way that is subsumed under broader understandings of horror, terror, fear. The ‘blood-stained’ coats, a figurative expression of the blood on our hands, if the country doesn’t galvanise against the Trump administration.

Last season, ‘This is Not America’ by David Bowie intoned a message of the changing face of America. Frankly, this is America. This is a melange of cultural topics, rendered artistically by two outsiders, two immigrants. If it points to anything, the dissonant convergence of themes conveys America to be divided yet diverse. It is a metaphor for the fashion industry too: divided yet diverse.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tom Ford Returns to NYFW — Again // Spring 2018 //

The see-now, buy-now trend that emerged in 2015 has been the nadir of the fashion industry. Its nascency instigated many discussions surrounding the state of the fashion industry and, truthfully, it was important in that sense. However, as a business strategy it has worked for some, not for others; many are opposed to it—after all it is rooted in fast fashion, which some call the death of fashion. 

On the first day of New York Fashion Week, Tom Ford presented his Spring 2018 collection. He had been one of the designers to experiment with see-now, buy-now and it didn’t stick. On Monday April 3 he released images from his Spring 2017 show. On Thursday April 6 he was receiving press and buyers at his New York showroom to present Fall 2017, a return to presenting his in-season. Nothing about his presentations have been conventional. (The unconventionality could be credited to his other pursuits, such as writing and directing the neo-noir thriller Nocturnal Animals.) He has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the official fashion calendar, he’s presented in Los Angeles during awards season and through the medium of film with a Lady Gaga music video directed by Nick Knight. His Fall 2016 show, presented last September was a dinner-cum-fashion show. Spring 2018 was a return to the run-of-the-mill show but his was at the Park Avenue Armoury, Kim Kardashian West and Julianne Moore were front row.
He revisited the 1990s sensibilities that punctuated earlier part of his career, when he was designing at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. His work looks to the 1990s as the pinnacle of sex, fabulosity and richness. These clothes were pristinely tailored, making use of the methods at his menswear shows—his female clients were reportedly asking for their own iterations; here, there were options aplenty with wide-shoulder, double-breast suiting in classic black or more exciting in hot pink. The best look in the show was Gigi Hadid’s pale pink form-fitting wrap dress with shoulder pads and disco-ball sleeves—it was a distinctively modern reimagining of the decade. 

There were denim looks too, rendered in high-waisted trousers and bra tops, blazers. His signature deconstructed jacket with inflated sleeves and an abbreviated skirt featured alongside knee high boots. The polish prevented most of the collection from veering into kitschy territory, although there were a few misfires—the audacious leather bomber jacket, the silver baggy top and trousers combo with the hems turned up, the black leather harem trousers, or a similar rendition in orange. Fashion operates in a cyclical universe, but there are some looks that should remain in the 1990s. 

The aesthetics in this collection will not be universally appreciated as “fabulous”. However, the show was remarkable cohesive and didn’t jump from one epochal conquest to the next: this is one of fashion’s gravest issues, in the creative realm. Not only that, it was all unmistakably Tom Ford.
Photo Credit: Vogue Runway

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Designer Musical Chairs // Spring 2018 //

As ever, the fashion industry is in a constant state of change. Executives, designers, writers, photographers are endlessly enveloped by a revolving door, a conveyer belt of positions aweigh. There have been many designer exits and hires in the past six months and they will all be spotlighted in the coming weeks when the labels present their Spring 2018 womenswear, or joint womenswear and menswear in some cases. Predominately, changes are afoot in Paris with four of the recent switch ups taking place in the French capital. Elsewhere, Milan sees the emergence of two new creative directors at storied houses with a history of short designer turnarounds.  

Out: Bouchra Jarrar, one year
In: Olivier Lapidus

Never has one heard a statement more depressing than Shaw-Lan Wang’s aspirations to transform the historic French label, founded in 1989 by Jeanne Lanvin, into “a French Michael Kors.” Not to denounce or diminish the empire Michael Kors has established in America, but for an owner to aspire to that in the context of the brand’s creative output is rather depressing. The proposed shift will be spearheaded by Olivier Lapidus (former designer of Balmain’s menswear) who replaces Bouchra Jarrar, the couture designer. Jarrar only joined the house a year ago. Her tenure spanned four shows, two ready-to-wear, two pre-collections. Her short tenure damages the company’s public image, especially after the fallout following Alber Elbaz’s dramatic firing in 2015. One hopes Lapidus doesn’t reduce a former couture house into the French equivalent of Michael Kors—if that happens, the house’s image will further crumble.

Out: Clare Waight Keller, six years
In: Natacha Ramsay-Levi

Clare Waight Keller lasted six years at Chloé, comparatively. She followed in the footsteps of Hannah MacGibbon, Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld and Martine Sitbon. Her work was marked by its sophisticated yet playful femininity and requisite odes to the seventies. She did what she did well, and her replacement may usher in a new era of modernity and innovation for the brand. Natacha Ramsay-Levi joins from Louis Vuitton where she was responsible for the translation of Nicolas Ghesquière’s vision to the design teams.

“Chloé for me feels super natural,” she tells British Vogue. She spoke about her intention to develop the Chloé aesthetic organically, not drastically. “I am not doing Natacha’s brand, I am doing Chloé’s brand. The bags have to stay Chloé, the clothes have to stay Chloé.” Perhaps her designs will be bear the same urban and futuristic edges as her previous work at Ghesquière-era Vuitton and Balenciaga did.

Out: Ricardo Tisci, twelve years
In: Clare Waight Keller

Waight Keller, having exited Chloé, decamped to another Parisian label: Givenchy. Replacing Ricardo Tisci who worked at the house for twelve years, her appointment was unexpected and sent shockwaves across the industry. Rumour had it that Off-White’s Virgil Abloh was eyed up to take the reins at the house; alas, rumours are rumours. There were doubts about Waight Keller whose Chloé iteration was punctuated hyper-femininity and breezy elegance were at odds with the sportswear-influenced Givenchy but her resume doesn’t just include Chloé and the then staid Pringle of Scotland. Her career dates back to stints at Calvin Klein in the 1990s and Tom Ford’s sex-driven Gucci in the early 2000s. Questions were also raised around Waight Keller’s menswear proficiency; in the 1990s, she worked on Ralph Lauren Purple Label, the ready-to-wear menswear division at the brand. Couture, it seems, is the only challenge she faces. 

We were given the first glimpse at her Givenchy incarnation with the release of a Meisel-photographed advertising campaign in July. Models wore black lace tops and tuxedo trousers, they carried felines. Words used in the accompanying press release included “bold, powerful… graphic… seductive.” She envisions the house’s evolution to focus more on the power of the individual, empowering them through clothes. How so? Fashioning them to meet with the notions of the modern attitude and expression. Her debut awaits.

Out: Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud, two years
In: Serge Ruffieux

Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud, French virtuosos, were tasked with energising the house of Carven with their youthful spell in the absence of Guillaume Henry, two years ago. In twenty four months the designers decided to exit the house which hopes to pursue different avenues. They have employed Serge Ruffieux to oversee this new chapter in the French house’s history. Ruffieux was famously a placeholder post-Raf Simons at Christian Dior, with his design partner Lucie Meier. Carven will be an opportunity for Ruffieux to shape his vision as a fashion designer and hopefully cement his design handwriting, as it was sorely missing at Dior. 

Roberto Cavalli
Out: Peter Dundas, one year
In: Paul Surridge

When I heard the news of Peter Dundas’ departure from Italian label Roberto Cavalli I was shellshocked to say the least. The Norwegian designer appeared as perfect fit for the house, after the eponymous founder had left the year previous. He had the same vision: party girl chic. He knew how to dress the Ibiza-destined, shoe-shedding, nightclub-attending members of the international elite from his days at Emilio Pucci. His work for Cavalli was significantly less impactful as it was at Pucci but nevertheless he suited the aesthetic.

His replacement is Paul Sunridge, who was quietly appointed in May. His experience lies in menswear. He previously held positions at Calvin Klein in the 1990s where he met future collaborator Christopher Bailey, whom he shifted to Burberry with. He worked alongside Raf Simons at Jil Sander, in menswear and switched to another Italian label, Z Zegna where he remained for three years before branching out to consult for Acne Studios. Perhaps he’ll lend his English sensibilities to the brand or maybe he’ll distill the brand into something more minimal in accordance with his experience. We will find out during Milan Fashion Week next month. 

Jil Sander
Out: Rodolfo Paglialunga, four years
In: Lucie and Luke Meier

 Jil Sander is also undergoing change. Tragically, Rodolfo Paglialunga has exited the house after a paltry three years. The designer was finally hitting his stride and his Fall 2017 collection was truly remarkable: bold hues and strong 80s shapes, the show exuded confidence and radiated a sophisticated beauty. His replacements are husband and wife duo Lucie and Luke Meier. Mrs Meier worked with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. She ended up at Dior and served as the interim designer between Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s directorships, alongside Carven designer Serge Ruffieux. Meanwhile Mr Meier earned his stripes as head of design at cult brand Supreme and as co-founder of streetwear label OAMC. Blending high fashion and the street may well be the key to success for Jil Sander.