Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ryan Lo // Spring 2018 //

Ryan Lo gained British citizenship recently. The designer was born in Hong Kong and to celebrate he paid homage to the Royal Family in his Spring 2018 show at London Fashion Week. It was a show that preceded Monday’s announcement that Prince Harry is engaged to be married to American actress Meghan Markle in summer 2018.

The world commemorated the 20th anniversary of Diana, Princess of Wales’ untimely death on August 31, a mere fortnight before Lo’s presentation. The unforgettable name reentered public discourse this summer when new items surfaced about her life. Her wardrobe was a valuable asset, connecting her with the public. How could one forget the famous ‘Revenge Dress’, or her jogging through Central London on Christmas Day dressed in a Harvard University hoodie? Lo was thinking of Victoriana lace, pussy bow blouses and her trusty trench coats, rendering them subtly in his distinctive kawaii aesthetic. The fanciful frocks featured frills, tulle dresses were accented with floral embroidery. It didn’t subscribe to the traditional saccharine princess role, as those Docs would suggest, but it was about becoming her own “white knight.” Diana, similarly, wasn’t a conventional princess.
The prim purses carried by Queen Elizabeth II at her public engagements were present here, created in special collaboration with Launer. Launer is the brand which makes the Queen’s handbags. Lo’s were far from the shapeless shift dresses the Queen wears. They were whimsical, decorated with delicate embroideries. Gentle daubs of pale pink and lilac were applied to outfits to inject them with a feminine joie de vivre. The connection with royalty came in the form of those reliable little black dresses which Lo astutely noted are a scarce commodity these days. 

The fascination with the monarchy—a questionable form of government, some might say—is as fascinating as the monarchy itself. Zadie Smith’s sardonic wit dissected the public interest in Her Royal Majesty in Edward Enninful’s debut editorial effort for British Vogue. She notes the “distinctly lower-middle class” mental picture many have of her, for her pragmatism and fondness of Antiques Roadshow. It’s an image which starkly contrasts with the news item that het “private estate invested millions in offshore funds”, according to the Paradise Papers. It was a celebration but is celebrating ideal when the slowing British economy continually borrows from the public purse to pad the Royal Family?

Moreover, with questions around citizenship in the United Kingdom constantly under scrutiny post-Brexit it is a statement unto itself for Lo to be a headliner at London Fashion Week. Secondly, the focus and direction signal displayed here show his desire to prove himself to the fashion industry but also to the customer. He’s not a one trick pony. Perhaps Her Royal Majesty would be interested in one of his frocks for the Royal Wedding in May.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

'Fashion Together' Exhibition at the Fashion Space Gallery

“Interdependence” is defined as the dependence of two or more people or things on each other. It isn’t exclusive to one particular thing—be it ecological or governance interdependencies. Fashion is one of the participating industries that relies on interdependency. In fashion it is referred to as collaboration. It’s all around us—see the recent success of Erdem’s H&M partnership—or behind-the-scenes—stylists, public relations, make up artists working symbiotically. Lou Stoppard’s debut tome, Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration, out now, chronicles the working relationship of creatives in the fashion industry who have perfected the art of collaboration. “It’s the collaborators, rather than the individuals, who really push the industry forward and inspire this collection.”

An art it is—for these figures to find one another and build a lasting working relationship. Featured are seventeen conversations between pairs, and two reflection (jewellery designer Shaun Leane on Alexander McQueen, who passed away tragically in 2011; the milliner Phillip Treacy on the late Isabella Blow.) A supplementary exhibition, featuring seven of the eighteen pairs, was launched at the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion in September, and during London Fashion Week I had a chance to visit the show between shows. 

An immersive experience, there are conversations providing a fascinating and demanding aural landscape. The teal flooring is littered with quotations and each collaboration is illuminated with the use of paraphernalia—notebooks, sketches, collaborative productions between creatives. The Fashion Space Gallery is a challenging space to work with. Unlike other galleries, the space is incredibly small and each of the featured blends into the next. If anything, it makes viewing the exhibition run smoothly.

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Rick Owens & Michèle Lamy
Michèle Lamy gave Rick Owens his first break in fashion. She ran her eponymous label and a bistro called Café des Artistes in Los Angeles in the 1990s. It was where the duo, who now collaborate on ‘fur and furniture’, met. The centrepiece for their section is The Alchemy chair, crafted from bronze and leather, marrying brutalist concepts with warmth. The furniture collaboration was built out of necessity—the couple needed to furnish their house. Collaboration, similarly, is a necessity. It goes without saying that neither member of the duo would be where the are today without the other.
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Inez van Lamsweerde & Vindooh Matadin
Study any newsstand across the world and you’ll be sure to find the photography of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vindooh Matadin who met at Amsterdam’s Akademie Vogue. Their glossy portraiture is regularly featured in the pages of international Vogue editions. One might ask: how do two photographers work together? Your answer is here. Interestingly, they work alongside one another with two cameras, both capturing the subject from their own perspective. A portrait of director Clint Eastwood fronts their section, indicative of their work’s experimentalist heart. Also provided is digital images of their leather-bound notebooks which store polaroids.
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Nick Knight & Daphne Guinness
Nick Knight, a self-defined ‘image-maker’, founded SHOWstudio, an unparalleled, seminal platform used to showcase fashion film and live media in 2000. Daphne Guinness is a British aristocrat, art collector and champion of unorthodox thinking in fashion. Both have supported Gareth Pugh and the late McQueen. They work frequently together exploring the technological boundaries and pushing them, interplaying that with the realm of fashion. Works featured include films they’ve made together and a 3D-scan of Guinness. For visitors, including this one, the exposure to 3D-scanning was a fascinating, new experience.
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Viktor Horsting & Rolf Snoeren
Viktor & Rolf are exclusively couturiers nowadays. Horsting and Snoeren’s working relationship began when they graduated the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem in 1992. Famously they court the realm of “fashion art”. How could one forget the bubblegum pink tulle flamingoes they created for Spring 2009? Their Fall 2015 couture collection saw them hang framed paintings on their models. Spring 2016 focused on sustainability in couture and it was a visual jog down memory lane, as they alchemised past collections into new outfits, giving the clothing a renewed sense of purpose.

“We love fashion but it’s going so fast. We wanted to say No this season,” the duo said in March 2008. They communicated this message with brilliantly curt manifestations of their frustration with the fashion industry. 3D lettering brought to life a grey coat, with No boldly confronting the viewer. 
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Gareth Pugh & Ruth Hogben
Never one to uphold convention, Gareth Pugh prefers to deconstruct it, manipulate it, perhaps some might put it lightly and say ‘interpret it’… His Fall 2009 collection at Paris Fashion Week broke protocol as he presented a fashion film instead of a formal fashion show. He continued to eschew from the formal fashion presentation format for his Spring 2011 and Spring 2018 shows. The films are always evocative, inspiring fear and terror in the audience more often than not. The reception is always positive. The woman directing these films? Pugh’s frequent collaborator Ruth Hogben. Hogben was formerly Nick Knight’s photographic assistant and Knight introduced the pair. Pugh is one of the few designers working with fashion film in innovative ways and Hogben takes her craft seriously, transporting the audience to otherworldly realms.
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Thom Browne & Stephen Jones
One of the finest tailors in fashion, Thom Browne never fails to enrapture audience with his theatrical brand of suiting. His partnership with milliner Stephen Jones has seen elaborate concoctions, including headwear renderings of elephants, bears, rabbits (from the Fall 2014 menswear show) and miniature jackets, shirts and ties (from the Spring 2015 womenswear show). This aspect to the exhibition is by far the most engaging and accessible for the average viewer. Undoubtedly, the headwear is fantastic and the element of spectacle grips the viewer’s attention. In tandem with the fine artistry of his Browne’s clothing, this pairing makes for striking viewing material. 
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Shaun Leane on Alexander McQueen
If one is to follow the exhibition from right to left, one will conclude their visit with jewellery designer Shaun Leane’s musings on Alexander McQueen, the late fashion designer, someone whose creative streak was unrelenting and he steered the fashion industry into uncharted territory with dramatic and innovative designs that take pride of place in fashion history. Leane lent his sculptural prowess to McQueen’s theatrical flair. Leane’s relationship with McQueen spanned seventeen years and according to Stoppard’s investigation, “the pair were as much confidants as they were work collaborators.” Included in the exhibition are photographs from Leane’s archive, including one of him and Lee, as McQueen was known amongst friends, smiling. A heartwarming note to end the show on.
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Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration, published by Rizzoli, is on sale now and available at clairederouenbooks.com.

Fashion Together runs at the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, UAL until 13 January 2018. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Louis Vuitton // Spring 2018 //

Nicolas Ghesquière’s instinctive approach to womenswear often finds himself landing on hybridisation—of garments, of epochs, of places. It doesn’t always work for him, case in point: last season, a haphazardly curated mishmash of ‘stuff’, it was beautiful ‘stuff’ but it didn’t bear the same impact as his latest, Spring 2018 show. Deep in the bowels of the Louvre, where he was invited to present once again, in their Pavillon de l’Horloge, the models walked the catwalk ensconced in an environment which aims to tell the story of the museum, under the following headings: “from palace to museum”, “one museum, many collections” and “The Louvre today and tomorrow.” Perhaps the ethos of the recently opened building was Ghesquière’s starting point. He has long been fascinated by the concept of time. He examines the effect of melding the past, present and future and the emphasis was placed on that.
“From palace to museum”
The democratisation of fashion is a conundrum as far as luxury is concerned. How does a brand selling ready-to-wear and accessories for thousands of euros democratise? Well, simply, they democratise for those people—not every customer is as brave as the peacocks outside fashion shows biannually. Ghesquière perfected his sportswear knack this season. There were bike and basketball shorts aplenty, seen in baby blue, pink and ivory satin. Thick-soled trainers, reminiscent of recent developments at Balenciaga, Céline and Yeezy—although thoroughly unfashionable—looked brilliantly perverse alongside monogrammed Vuitton totes. It was this mixture that grounded the collection. Embroidered jackets with an 18th century flair, reminiscent of French impressionist paintings, were enriched with PVC trousers with a denim hem and sneakers. It was unconventional and contextualised richness in terms of the bourgeoisie. 
“One museum, many collections”
Louis Vuitton is as much a French institution, engrained in French and world culture as the Louvre is. The Frenchman has been at the helm for almost four years and carved an incrementalist attitude. Seldom have there been wild departures from the previous season, it is about building upon the existing vernacular and developing that to suit the season. From the Resort 2018 show, presented in May in Kyoto, Japan, he carried forward the ostentation of print. Textural discord was on his mind—an iridescent jacquard waistcoat in a platinum hue contrasted with the lightness of a white blouse and against the stark black polka-dot trousers. It felt distinctly Vuitton, inspired by previous movements within the house. One felt Ghesquière transported some of his Balenciaga work into this show too—the asymmetric cascading ruffles reminded one of his flamenco-inspired Spring 2013 show. His self-referential nature provides for his reliable consistency and the distinctiveness of his design handwriting. 
“The Louvre today and tomorrow”
No matter how coherent a Louis Vuitton show is, and no matter how decisive its styling is, there will always be some exciting proposition on display. And there will always be something that will have you come back. The notion of the present and the future are integral to the fashion process. For one, brands present in the here and now and are tasked with creating a spectacle; the Instagram moment this season was centred around the ‘Stranger Things’ t-shirt. But in terms of fashion content, there has to be something to propel us forward. Those turned-up, cropped leather trousers, modern yet timeless? Heavily decorated waistcoats over floaty blousons, synonymous with the past but destined for a revival? He manages to handpick references from the past that will remix the current state of fashion. The aforementioned sportswear element—and its connotations—work in a sublimely antagonistic fashion against the luxury of the decorative beading on Marie Antoinette-worthy jackets. It’s the direction of dressing, and direction is sorely missed in fashion. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Yohji Yamamoto // Spring 2018 // Menswear

One imagines the Yohji Yamamoto man is as distinctive as the clothing he wears. Presumably, his playlists—or rather vinyl collection—are punctuated by glam rock, punk rock and smatterings of metal. His scent: musk, unquestionably. He reads Kazuo Ishiguro but has a soft spot for the romantic poetry of John Keats, while sipping a double-shot espresso. His mysterious charm isn’t lost on the swathes of clothing he assumes. 

Seldom does Yamamoto venture far from the confines of his trusty monochromatic palette but this season by imbuing the collection with shades of fuchsia, aqua and navy, red and patterned painterly additions. The generous silhouettes deployed, rendered in these new colours, added an edge to Yamamoto’s show. The Paris menswear schedule is dominated by the big names: Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Balenciaga. However, more thoroughly enjoyable is a quietly poetic assessment of the direction of men’s dressing. 

Yamamoto considered how men are particularly fond of borrowing from their girlfriend’s wardrobe nowadays. Nothing was distinctly feminine or masculine—the lines were blurred with billowy proportions. It wasn’t so much about gender-blending or gender-bending as much as it was about “I don’t just want any soft touch,” one of the calligraphic etchings read on a garment. Painterly brushstrokes were added with Suzume Uchida’s self-portraits and an emblazoning of actress Eiko Koike, scattered. It wasn’t an homage to the woman in his life; perhaps it was an “acknowledgement”… 

Much is made of the way Yamamoto’s PR team elects not to issue a press release and Yamamoto’s patchy English can often prove tricky to interpret and his comments often taken out of context or misunderstood by the fashion press. In a way, the only person it leaves scrambling is the lazy journalist. One see this as an acknowledgement to women in men’s lives, and also contemporary culture with the way textual strips are applied to garments and images of Japanese actress Eiko Koike are used. 

Romantic sensibilities run through the show and give it a necessary summery glow. Yamamoto’s work can often be imposing, presented exclusively in dark, gloomy shades in dark, gloomy venues, reflecting the state of the world. This season’s colourful affair was powerful in that it didn’t stray too far from what one has come to expect of the Japanese designer’s semi-autobiographical oeuvre and it innovated itself—trends are an afterthought, the Yohji man doesn’t adhere to those.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Marques'Almeida // Spring 2018 //

Marques’Almeida straddles the contemporary level market and also the high fashion frontiers at London Fashion Week. Marta Marques and Paolo Almeida’s brand has cool girl appealability and comes with a matching price tag, one that isn’t overtly expensive (in terms of contemporary fashion) and it serves collections which are gripping insights into the many manifestations of how women could dress in five months. Without fail, their shows imbue the modern woman’s wardrobe with a distinctive sense of character—it is idiosyncratic, oftentimes weird but never short of wonderful. Their Spring 2018 outing was presented in Brick Lane and it resulted in their truest 

What was initially borne out of distressed denim blossomed into a beautiful, multi-dimensional business serving more than just the signature that propelled them to mainstream success. Nowadays the clothing is permeated with a rough-edged 80s sensibility, that looks effortlessly modern but also delectably nostalgic. The ascription of country singer Dolly Parton and war heroine Joan of Arc to their mood board made for riveting viewing material; it built upon last season when they heavily emphasised the working woman and 80s power dressing. This collection’s motive was to reflect demanding nature of women’s lives today and fashioning a wardrobe for this climate. “Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living, barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving,” Parton sang famously. 

Amidst recent predatory behaviour in the workplace, specifically allegations against Hollywood despot Harvey Weinstein, and additionally fresh allegations surfacing in the fashion industry, many will find it difficult to muster a response. Although presented before light was shed on those atrocities, one can’t help but appreciate the boldness of the Marques’Almeida offering—shoulder pads on blazers and sturdy leather boots with dresses. It may seem facile—any comment in designer’s collections about the iniquity of recent allegations—but fashion’s sole purpose is to reflect the times. It would be remiss of them—neglectful, even—to continue to ignore what is going on. On that level, this would be brilliantly applicable for its confident quirkiness and its desire to emanate an unapologetically insuppressible self-assuredness.

The styling is unmistakably weird, however its peculiarities don’t ever come across as forced. In fact, there’s a subtlety even in the way summery tartan is paired with Holstein Friesian cattle print and lustrous heels or a striped, asymmetric neckline shirt with a brocade bustier and cargo pants. It is effortlessly chic and compounds the disparate worlds of Dolly Parton and Joan of Arc. It isn’t about being something to everyone so much as it is about a woman embodying many different things. It positively flips the current status of the fashion industry on itself. And there aren’t many out there brave enough to style a spangly bra with fashion’s answer to board shorts.

A cornerstone to their work has become the stripe. Difficult to master, the designers appreciate the oddness of the print. In its presentation, it is asymmetric, never conventional like a Breton stripe. It wouldn’t be Marques’Almeida if it was ‘just a Breton stripe’. 

Their genius social media strategy has attracted a loyal fanbase. They present a unique online shopping experience, their newsletter reads like a handwritten note from an old friend from college, eager to catch up. They champion the personal, both with their business strategy but their individualistic aesthetic.

Individuality has never looked more authentic than it does at Marques’Almeida.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jil Sander // Spring 2018 //

“In the end, you can’t talk to everyone.” This is a quote from seminal minimalist designer, German Jil Sander. This is a powerful stance in an age where almost all brands are desperately seeking new ways to be relevant and appeal to everyone at once. Simply, it’s an impossible task. No matter how hard you try, no matter how close you come, a designer’s work is reserved to a certain group of people, whether they be likeminded in aesthetic or profession. Jil Sander stands for purist lines and fluid silhouettes, at the core of it all is minimalism, a design movement which holds a very different meaning today. Thirty years ago it was a pioneering, radical design movement and in the 1990s and 2000s there was a preference for glamour and sex, and in the 2010s a period of maximalism was ushered in. Hence, minimalism’s place in fashion has been renewed.

Interest in Jil Sander has also been reaffirmed after the exiting of Rodolfo Paglialunga, a Portuguese man with an unsuccessful three-year tenure at the house, and the hiring of his replacements: Lucie and Luke Meier. Lucie’s name may ring a bell as she was the placeholder designer, along with Serge Ruffieux at Dior following Raf Simons’ sudden departure, and Luke is the former head designer at Supreme and founder of OAMC, a high fashion streetwear label. They mostly succeeded in not attempting to talk to everyone with their Milan Fashion Week debut during the Spring 2018 season, an open-air consolidated menswear and womenswear outing in September. If anything, their appointment serves to energise the brand. It will inject some youthful flairs. 
Evolution is on the minds of the two designers. They paid homage to the serenity and clean lines that punctuate the house but introduced some new things: long fringe, netting and homespun fabrics which added an earthy touch to proceedings. They managed to balance commercialism with creativity and certainly maintained interest throughout the show. However, the juxtaposition of the long fringe and the minimalism jarred; the severity of the aesthetic strongly opposed the decontracté nature of the fringe.  Dealt with deftly were the homespun fabrics. They imbued tactility into colour-blocking which is uncultivated area for the brand. Secondly, one spied an oversized windbreaker on the runway which, unquestionably, is a signature of the streetwear minded Luke Meier. Thankfully, evolution didn’t come at the expense of over-saturating the brand with Luke’s streetwear knowledge or Lucie’s couture expertise.

Jil Sander, unlike Gucci or Lanvin, is a brand which is impossible to disembowel and reinvent entirely. Absolute reinvention is reserved for brands without a distinctive handwriting. Her minimalist oeuvre cannot be radically changed or tugged in an entirely new direction. The Meiers covered new ground, certainly, but they didn’t overemphasise the more decorative parts of the collection. Rather they were suggestive of an extension to what we’ve come to expect from the cool, crisp German brand. The best looks comprised of a camel macintosh, black trousers and a colourful knit sweater; and a beige short-sleeve shirt with ruched sleeve and pleated leather trousers in a butterscotch shade—they skewered the past and the present and if this collection achieved some things, that should be atop its list of accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Junya Watanabe // Spring 2018 // Menswear

Junya Watanabe has rightfully faced a reproach for his misrepresentation of men with his abysmal casting at his Paris Fashion Week shows. Season after season, there was a sea of white models, only one or two models among them, which undoubtedly doesn’t reflect the nature of the world, or even the city he’s showing in—a melting pot of ethnicities and races. He rectified that issue for Spring 2018 menswear with a more inclusive cast, both in age and ethnicity. It enhanced the flow of the collection; convincingly, this could’ve been any street in the world, the characters materialising from one end of the runway to take the runway in various iterations of modern day workwear. 

Workwear and the street are two cornerstones to Watanabe’s menswear. Far more perfunctory and in line with necessity than his conceptual womenswear, the clothing preoccupies itself with broadening the modern man’s horizons, enriching the varsity jacket with unconventional fabrication, cutting trousers to the calf or ankle, structuring blazers and jeans using patchwork methodology. It projects how integral craft is to the process at Junya Watanabe. The dialogue he opens with the customer is further developed with collaborations with The North Face, Carhartt, Levi’s and Karrimor. The effect of partnering with these instantly recognisable brands is that it opens Watanabe to a new audience but it also cements the brand’s message which, based on the nature of his collaborations, is to create sturdy apparel suitable for working conditions and also leisure activities.

The emphasis this season was placed on the workwear element of things in a more literal sense of the word. There wasn’t only garments that could be adapted to the wardrobe of workers but an insight into who they might be. For example, some jackets and trousers were splattered with paint, as if the artist had emerged from his studio after a day of painting. Tapping into artistic types seems to be Watanabe’s goal; his clothing isn’t entirely straightforward—sure, he has brilliant trousers and fantastic jackets but they aren’t traditional, the silhouette or the level of craftsmanship. And although one may consider it wrong to stereotype the men on the runway, generally many of them look as though they hail from creative backgrounds—they complete the ‘hipster workman’ aesthetic Watanabe has carved in recent seasons.

This season, there was an inherent lightness to proceedings; it was show that conformed to the softness of the summer season. This kind of nouveau dandyism is fantastic, he’s one of—if not the only—to have mastered this aesthetic without it veering into comical territory. As odious and pretentious as one may perceive hipster culture to be, Watanabe’s rendition is arguably approachable and accessible and he does it with aplomb.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Berluti // Spring 2018 // Menswear

Haider Ackermann assumed position of creative director at the menswear house of Berluti in latter months of 2016. When he presented his debut at Paris Fashion Week on January 20—the day of President Trump’s inauguration—the exquisiteness of his clothing gripped one’s attention and detracted from the enervating happenings in the US. His sophomore effort was shown in a Parisian courtyard.  

His inspirations are marked by his understanding of how men are dressing today. He taps into sportswear themes and interprets them in terms of luxury fashion. It isn’t as garish or vulgar as Dolce & Gabbana’s exploration of athleticism, it is polished and elegant. Vest tops are paired with slim-fit trousers; polo shirts adapt to the wardrobe of the working man; casual bomber jackets add flavour to otherwise severe outfits. Furthermore, his study of ‘wardrobe staples’ and which shades to render them in is as fascinating as it is mouth-watering. The collection’s palette is a mix of whites, yellows (sunshine, lemon and mustard), bottle green and olive. ‘Rich’ is an appropriate descriptor.

The relevancy of how radical the collection is should to be noted. Consider the taupe jacket and matching trousers, the black leather coat, the pewter bomber with lemon tapered trousers—compare that to the loudness of most things presented in London, Milan, Paris, New York. The simplicity of the overall look is wildly different and minimalism has never been as radical as it is now. Fashion is cyclical and the times aren’t determined by one mood—minimalism emerged in the aftermath of the financial crises in the latter half of the previous decade, when economies were declining: ‘stealth wealth’ it was dubbed. Now, minimalism is the sociological antagonism to the rise in maximalism, as led by Alessandro Michele’s Gucci remodel. The entire Berluti collection is built on simplicity, comfort and the notion of being well-soled. The necessary element of fantasy derives from the pieces’ fabrics—it is luxury at its finest; those leather coats will retail for upwards of €5,000.

His clothes aren’t staid whatsoever, rather powerfully poetic. The purpose of minimalism is ‘less is more’, and at Berluti the statement couldn’t be closer to the truth. Haider Ackermann is transforming something forgotten-about into something worth dreaming about.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sabinna // Spring 2018 //

We all have those items in our wardrobe which transcend time and trends. There’s no expiry date on a crisp white shirt that hangs pridefully, or one’s first designer clothing item invested in, or those trusty trainers for never to be thrown out or the requisite leather shoes, pristine and polished. “When does an object stop becoming something merely materialistic and become something special?” pondered the press release at Sabinna Rachimova’s Spring 2018 presentation at the Swiss Church in London, in September. Undoubtedly, it is a million dollar question. Fashion brands leverage their wares, aspiring to yield an enduring and timeless success with consumers. Oftentimes our runways are overflowing with stuff, superfluity and fodder—some will say fashion is dead, others will say it’s just not good enough.

Rachimova’s collection wasn’t the answer to the question—it’s too tall of an order for most designers to accommodate. However, try their best they may. Rachimova made a strong effort deploying a line of patterned basics and colour-blocking exercises. Exceptionally, she employed her virtuosic knitwear skills, creating floral designs.  

Rachimova’s mood was informed by the work of three British artists: Mar Goman (whose work comprises of silhouettes such as tunics and dresses filled with utensils from the affectionately titled ‘clutter drawer’), Celia Pym (a knitwear virtuoso who crafts brilliant sweaters with a stylish aged and battered mien, which acquaint themselves with the idea of imperfection, effortlessly achieving ‘owned’ status) and Oliver Jeffers (his socially aware illustrations lending themselves to the collection’s colour palette which consists of blood red and navy.) Her selection of art history references collate wonderfully, a successful attempt to procure warmth and homeliness, which act as contributory factors in ascertaining the status of being more than materialistic fodder. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and not every piece a designer creates will have the ability to last in a wardrobe somewhere forever. Rachimova played things relatively safe this season with outerwear but she excelled with knitwear, where her expertise lies. Despite the necessity of a fully developed collection with a variety of options, perhaps Rachimova’s strengths are where she should focus and in attracting mainstream she should strike accordingly, to create a bolder and more worthwhile outerwear outfit. 

The question on which this collection was founded is an interesting one. Although a designer can offer solutions, the ball is eventually placed in the consumer’s court, as they are tasked with acquisitively experimenting with the clothing options presented to them, road testing them and understanding the importance and worth of garments in their lives. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thom Browne // Spring 2018 //

Thom Browne is the latest American fashion brand to move his womenswear collection to Paris Fashion Week. He already presents his menswear there, in January and June. The other American designers to make the move—Rodarte, Altuzarra and Proenza Schouler—wore a distinctive title ‘Americans in Paris’ which became a term of critique more than an observation; the three American designers stood out as Americans, at Paris Fashion Week, where many designers endeavour to end up as it is a week steeped in history and it is also considered the most important of the four. Browne’s presentation at the Hotel de Ville didn’t have the same effect on the viewer, it was a powerful, moving affair but it was entirely in a league of its own, and competing against Chanel, Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton on the last day of Paris Fashion Week, one was awestruck. 

The worlds of dreams and nightmares collided. There were two asleep at the top of the runway before two more models pirouetted down the catwalk in ballerina shoes. Applied to their bodies were three layers of thick plastic and tulle. They reminded this critic of Louise Bourgeois’ unconventional take on the female body, presenting it in a surreal light. The next model danced monstrously down the runway in greyscale. 
The resourcefulness of this collection reminded one of the tasks prescribed to fashion students. Oftentimes they are requested to design a collection that is entirely one colour, or making use of only one fabric. In certain cases, this is all some students can afford. It tests their creativity and urges them to push boundaries in order to pioneer. Browne employed that similar method with this show in which he used mostly tulle. Almost all of the outfits—their silhouettes bearing the Thom Browne signatures—were rendered in the featherlight fabric and played to the overlying dreamy aesthetic.

The colourful fancies recalled the mesmeric Spring 2017 menswear show with its bird of paradise references, the grey suiting his Fall 2017 menswear outing. The self-referencing was mild, unobtrusive. It was subtle enough to pick up on without reducing the ground covered and innovation achieved with the tulle experiment. 

Browne’s womenswear presentations in New York never failed to amaze—he’s had haunting representations of Washington Square Park in the 1920s, a Japanese school, a two-dimensional dissection of suburbia. In Paris, in the baroque enclaves of the Hotel de Ville, there is a heightened sense of belonging. His dream/nightmare landscape had an air of the greater respectability that comes with the city in which it was presented. 

Instead of competing in the overcrowded and stagnating commercialistic market in New York, this Paris presentation was perhaps one of the most beautiful of the season. It was one that wished to transport the audience not only away from the usual venue in Chelsea to the 4th arrondissement but from the real world to a dreamland. He didn’t entirely lose touch of the world around us either, the nightmare portion of proceedings was undoubtedly an astute, lucid, mordant observation of the times. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preen by Thornton Bregazzi // Spring 2018 //

It’s no secret fashion loves a fad: some seasons designers are politically responsive, in others they employ evasive tactics; they represent a variety of gender identities and age groups one season, and they return to using the same thirty rail-thin models the next. Feminism and the role women play in the world have been potent subjects that have stuck around as models such as Adwoa Aboah launch organisations like Gurls Talk and Cameron Russell speaking out against sexual harassment in the fashion industry, in light of recent allegations against The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein and photographer Terry Richardson. It appears on our runways too with labels like Vaquera, Shayne Oliver at Helmut Lang, championing unconventional approaches to women’s fashion in imaginative, inventive ways—it’s not just about sex anymore: the Tom Ford for Gucci days are over, when sex existed for sex’s sake, now it’s a much more personal approach designers take sex appeal.

Take for example Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi’s Preen which imbues a fancy femininity into sex appeal. They are conscious of the fact their children are growing up in a post-truth world where one of the most powerful men in the world is a flaming misogynist and they chose to reflect that in their Spring 2018 show at London Fashion Week in September. 

Their vision consisted of frothy tulle confections, with sheer fabrics draped beautifully on the body, as if the models were in a vulnerable state of undress. It questioned your notion of sexiness and it rested on the line between sexy as something strong and powerful and sexy as something vulnerable and exposed. Occasion dressing being the meat and potatoes of a Preen collection, these were dresses that could be easily diluted and presented to the consumer beautifully hanging on a rail.  

They brought 19th century literature into things with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character Hester Prynne who has a child out of wedlock is forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her dress—the ‘A’ standing for adulteress. It was essentially a comment on suppressing female sexuality in a puritan society. They compounded this with the bonnet-wearing servants of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale which was recently adapted for television, starring the formidable Elisabeth Moss. Gender roles are the centrepiece to this contemporary fiction novel. (Vaquera designed a Hulu-sponsored capsule to promote the show last year; as far as fashion referencing the Atwood classic, this was a little too soon after that.)

Yet, a feminist statement can still be considered contentious. It’s integral to cultural development to see one on a catwalk but in the same breath you have to contend with the minimal ethnic representation (11 of 39 models were from minority backgrounds), the portrayal of only one body type, the artistic reflection of the times but no perceptible message or proposition for a way forward. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers. A feminist statement is better than no feminist statement.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Comme des Garçons Shirt // Spring 2018 // Menswear

If there’s any label that stands to the cult of fashion it’s Comme des Garçons. Designer Rei Kawakubo disrupted the fashion industry with her uniquely uncompromising ‘anti-fashion’ stance that electrified Paris Fashion Week in the 1980s. With a main womenswear line and twelve diffusion lines, the brand encompasses many different sub-lines with different purposes. One of the most notable ones is Comme des Garçon Shirt, a menswear label showing biannually during Paris Fashion Week. It is generally presented the morning after the mainline menswear and it starts two minutes early—if you want to see it, you have to be willing to be punctual. And people are! The fashion press turn out in their droves to see the collections which, simply, are replete with various shirting options.

Comme des Garçons Shirt isn’t groundbreaking or thoroughly interesting as the mainlines. It isn’t meant to be. The t-shirts, shirts, sweaters and more are retailed at lower price points and sell like hotcakes. Presumably, they provide for the bulk of profit. A Shirt tee, which is branded with a love heart and eyes, would set one back between £60 and £100 which rivals the high street nowadays. The distinctive love heart is the defining characteristic of the clothing.
The Spring 2018 show was inspired by the American artist Mary Heilmann. The relaxed pastels used were prominent features in the abstract artist’s pieces. It reminded one of a multicoloured painting from 1995, called Franz West, which sees various colours daubed on the canvas. The colours were distinctly reminiscent of Mojave Mirage, from 2012, an asymmetric canvas painted with uneven and undulating lines of colour. Dots are a recurring motif in Heilmann’s work and they dominated this Shirt collection. (One also though of the recent success of It, an adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling novel, in which a clown named Pennywise preys upon children in a Maine town. Clown costumes are punctuated with dot motifs and seasonal fairground festivities sprung to mind with the costume-y, campy nature of some shirts.)

Incorporating contemporary art is a discernibly easy route for those brands who wish to push product upon the customer at any opportunity, starkly contrasting the way that high fashion reverentially references artists. Loosely riffing on Heilmann’s oeuvre successfully creates colourful and imaginative basics. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, simply it joins in on its rotation.

Off the back of a successful exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which documented the Kawakubo’s singular vision one might be quick to say it renewed interest in the virtuoso. However, she’s always been intensely watched by the industry’s press and buyer contingent. If anything, it has instigated widespread interest, in every aspect of the CDG world, from the conceptual, anti-fashion, amorphous womenswear mainline down to stripy t-shirts with a love heart motif that are mass-produced and sold in Dover Street Market and other department stores, brick-and-mortar and online.