Friday, August 31, 2018

Alex Mullins Strikes a Balance Between the Worlds of Art and Fashion // Spring 2019 Menswear

Alex Mullins, a London-based menswear designer, has always leaned towards artfully-inclined collections. Mullins is a graduate of Central Saint Martins, he launched his eponymous line in 2013, sparking an artistic approach to a stagnating industry.

5 years later, Mullins is part of the London menswear pick with an affinity for twisting familiar tropes.

His Spring 2019 show, presented at 180 The Strand, the British Fashion Council’s headquarters during London Fashion Week Men’s, arrived with a one-word description: ‘Triptych.’ There were nine in total, in this 27-look collection, which encompasses various ideas, silhouettes, and prints.

It’s interesting to see designers explore fashion with an artist’s approach. Generally, it points to two things: respect of pretension. With respectfulness, they regard fashion highly, in the same vein as art. As for pretension--it adopts a holier-than-thou stance. For Mullins, it’s clear art is a motivator, a driving force in his business and design handwriting. The messages he’s conveying are linked to a medium adjacent to fashion, one with enough similarities and differences to make it a cogent narrative. To put it pretentiously, it’s a conversation between art and fashion. It’s a balance which takes 

He deployed Keith Haring-inspired, leather vests with curved edges; he used splattered paint prints on suiting which resembled a Jackson Pollock work but the blue denim colour was reminiscent of a Helmut Lang classic from the 1990s when he used industrial paint on denim. 

The simpler, more commercial pieces stood their ground amidst the more artful offerings. There was a cropped metallic jacket which posed a counterpoint to gender stereotypes and a double-breasted peach jacket with a florid panel. They were subtly defiant but rooted in a functionality it takes to sell. 
Images courtesy of IPR London

Friday, August 24, 2018

Natalie B. Coleman is an Irish Designer Making Feminist and Political Fashion

In the #MeToo and Time’s Up era, the fashion industry has been grappling with conversations around female identity and the runway has been replete with feminist statements. 

Seismic societal shifts have spurred many to make feminism a commodifiable trend. Before that, there was Natalie B. Coleman, a Dublin-based Irish fashion designer who trained under the tutelage of the late Professor Louise Wilson OBE. Her career is built on pointed feminist statements. “Having been involved in the fashion industry for over 18 years as a student, a fashion lecturer, establishing and running my own business and as a consultant, I have always felt that there is a deep systemic inequality between the sexes,” explained Coleman, in an email. It’s a cultural observation like this that has formed the basis of her work since she founded her business in 2011.

Women’s rights in Ireland is a subject worthy of a thesis. In May, the country legalised abortion in a landmark vote which explains why Coleman’s designs for AW18, entitled ‘Guaranteed to Bleed,’ were charged with passion, cardinal reds, and bold graphics. 

The collection was released prior to the abortion referendum in May and based on the emphasis of Irish fabrics (tweed, boiled wool, rendered in charcoal, ivory or red), Coleman was examining the conflict between traditionality and rebellion, two dominant themes in Ireland throughout the campaign stages. The couture piece she designed for the Repeal charity fashion show in May could easily have been borrowed from this collection with its red heart embroidery, positioned like a scarlet letter.

Fashion and activism are interwoven concepts for Coleman, and they are in service to one another, rather than disparate ideals.

I hope you enjoy 5 Questions with… Natalie B. Coleman. 

What were the AW18 collection's influences?

 It was very much influenced by the change that I feel is happening in Ireland and other countries, we are in a time of multiple feminisms, and I wanted to reflect this.  The title, ‘Guaranteed to Bleed,’ is straight to the point.  I wanted to celebrate women's femininity and fertility, women's periods should not be an embarrassment or something to be ashamed of, the culture around menstruation needs to change to women and girls feeling empowered and celebrated. There has to be an end to period poverty; sanitary products should be free in all secondary schools. I appreciate the work that Claire is doing for Homeless Period Ireland to highlight these issues and help women that are directly affected. 

Also, the collection is influenced by the vulnerability and heartache of the slow dismantling of a relationship; the heart bleed, the bruised heart, the aching rebel heart, it has always been a fascination to me through art, poetry, history. 

Can you tell me about the fabrication?

We have Irish linens, tweeds, silk taffetas, boiled wool embroidered with messages in French knots. The collection is mainly focused on Irish fabrics inspired by tradition, nostalgia, rebelliousness and romanticism. The materials are unique to the label, the softest textured Irish linens and heritage Donegal Tweeds that are woven by sixth-generation weavers. Our embroidery, crochet and beading are all hand embellished and knitted in our Dublin based design studio. 

You were one of the first designers to design with a distinctive, recognisable, and pointed feminist slant to your work, predating feminism becoming part of pop culture, what drew you to this area of design?

I had been reading research on workers in the arts and culture sector, examining how social inequalities connect to the development of creative economies. Having been involved in the fashion industry for over 18 years as a student, a fashion lecturer, establishing and running my own business and as a consultant, I have always felt that there is a deep systemic inequality between the sexists, I also believe that what we need to do is transform the image of business itself which for so long has been the exclusive territory of men. This led me to start studying Gender and Women's Studies in the philosophy department of Trinity College so I can join women that are weaving a better narrative for women in the creative industry. I also grew up in Ireland, which thankfully is changing but I found it quite repressive and patriarchal.

Something that I find interesting about your work is how the fashion is in service to the activism, and the activism is in service to the fashion. Is this a conscious decision and is it tough to find this balance?

I express myself visually through my collections, so I guess it was a natural progression for me and one that informs the other quite quickly. I feel like I am only getting started!
At the Natalie B. Coleman  studio, we are all about female empowerment and solidarity, which is why in the past we had teamed up with Plan International on the Because I Am A Girl campaign. Because I am a Girl is a global movement to transform power relations so that girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide and thrive. As part of the label’s social enterprise, we had a casual line titled ‘Support Your Local Girl Gang’ of printed sweaters and t-shirts. €5.00 from every sale went directly to the foundation.
Having worked in the fashion industry in different roles for many years and been a wife, sister, daughter and mother I am acutely aware that gender parity is an elusive goal for many areas of life and industry, and fashion is no exception.

Can you comment on the role of women in the industry?

It is especially ironic for an industry where 70% of the workforce are women and less than 25% hold senior management roles, and the majority of primary consumers are female. As is the case across many industries, the expectations of motherhood and childcare, which even today remain a female responsibility primarily, continue to create barriers to female success in the fashion world. We are working on an interesting collaboration for AW19; just at the beginning stages which hopefully will feed into my thesis, it has all started connecting quite seamlessly.

Photographed by Aidan O’Neill. Courtesy of Natalie B. Coleman.

Monday, August 20, 2018

In Oslo, Foundations Are Laid for the Future of Fashion

Last week, the international fashion pack descended upon Oslo, Norway, for Oslo Runway. Oslo Runway, in layman's terms, is Oslo Fashion Week. It joins the ranks with other emerging fashion weeks across the globe which continue to decentralise the focus from the Big Four in New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

Norway's fashion industry is developing, as it is in the other Scandinavian cities. It is smaller in comparison to Denmark and Sweden but, Fashion United reports, the domestic market value of the fashion industry is $6 billion. 

Oslo Runway is the Norwegian capital’s fashion week and this year’s press and buyer attendance built on the January instalment, the Fall 2018 season's success. The Spring 2019 season saw editors from international editions of Vogue and a phalanx of street style photographers. Like Copenhagen Fashion Week, the attraction is the pristine, perfectly packaged Scandinavian lifestyle that inspires women globally. However, this season at Oslo Runway promisingly proved itself to be worth more than clean lines and minimal colour palette. 

“People are hungry for more than the typical Scandinavian minimalism,” Norwegian designer Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen told Paper at her presentation on the opening day of the three-day-long event. She presented a collection tinctured with an aesthetic that belongs in London, where she studied under the tutelage of the late, great Professor Louise Wilson OBE. She also trained at Meadham Kirchhoff, the champions of queer spaces and kitsch in fashion. 

She used undesirable textiles and exaggerated silhouettes to communicate a tone of drama. She wanted something delightfully perverse, a ‘so good it’s bad’ moment which is particularly akin to the modus operandi of Meadham Kirchhoff. Also, she emphasised drapery as a signature technique. The myriad of ways drapery can be presented is a motif in Thorbjørnsen’s oeuvre. If you coalesce her themes, the aesthetic discord could point to many London stars but Thorbjørnsen’s felt honest and a continuation from her previous work.

Another Meadham Kirchhoff progeny appeared in the form of Michael Olestad Nybråten who work distinctly points to his training ground—there were more questionable material choices and the use of tacky sequins and bejewelled denim. It evoked nostalgia—a slightly garish vision of the early-00s.

His scope reached both Ann-Sofie Black and Acne Studios, where he served stints, and inspires a commercialism in his work. Ultimately, despite its storming success with the press, Meadham Kirchhoff failed to sustain itself commercially. In order to bottle a chintzy aesthetic for a general audience, a distillation process which involves pieces anyone could connect with is necessary. 

Cathrine Hammel founded her company in 1997. In effect, she is an enduring force in Norway’s fashion scene. A scan of her archives will reveal a steady progression in her work, a confident acceptance of one’s talent and ability to create. Her work is self-described as personal but it’s something she hopes connects with other Scandinavian women with its approach to gender equality and sustainability, two intrinsic tenets of Nordic society.

For Spring 2019, she created a series of tableaus which reflected a summery mood. It was as if a group of girls flocked to a vacation home for a weekend, indulging in local delights and in some downtime. The lineup consisted mostly of dresses which were in white or black and boasted relaxed silhouettes. There was a sense of Scandinavian simplicity but she injected an element of surprise and fancy with the use of gossamer-like tulle.

Kit Wan, like Cathrine Hammel, was intent on updating the codes of Scandinavian style. He induced streetwear a degree of intrigue—he describes the focus of his work as “exploring manga, high-tech, sci-fi and mechanical aesthetics.” One could be quick to quip that his shows could look fresh from the wardrobe of Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum or a Studio Ghibli film but the way he works with tailoring and surface decoration is quite inventive and aspirational. (A special mention also for his diverse cast.)

Recent graduate Tonje Plur echoed the same themes as contemporaries at Oslo Runway: Opulence is as much engrained in the narrative as minimalism. The thirteen looks were marked by their extravagant proportion, florid fabrics and crystal-encrusted evening wear. It was reminiscent of Halpern and Richard Quinn. They references weighed this collection down. However, the way she mixed textures and added graphic prints which pleasantly contradicted the formality of the show.

Oslo Runway distinguished itself from Copenhagen Fashion Week by stripping back the polish of Scandinavian fashion, the immaculate minimalism, and bold modernism. It replace it with something quirkier, a playful edge worth revelling in. Even Cathrine Hammel managed to pose a counterpoint to Nordic minimalism without forgoing her identity. 

The thing is: at emerging fashion weeks you are often presented with the awkward transitioning periods of companies as they transform from fledgling businesses into serious operations. There is an aesthetic confusion which thwarts entire collections. However, in Oslo, designers like Anne Karine Thorbjørnsen and Michael Olestad are capitalising on eclecticism and eccentricity, traits which catapult locations like London to centre stage. Oslo is up next. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alice Archer's Quintessentially British Bucolic Scene Fails to Excite // Fall 2018

Photo Credit: Barney’s

Alice Archer’s was a narrative well-spun. The British designer looked to a bucolic setting for Fall 2018 at her London Fashion Week presentation in February. 

The British pastoral is well-trodden territory in fashion design, frequently listed by romantics in ready-to-wear. She envisioned was the Somerset countryside where winter jasmines, snowdrops, anemones withstand winter’s affliction—a quintessentially British story. 

Last season, she coalesced three disparate influences: David LaChapelle’s photography, Italian summers, and the stately portraiture of John Singer Sargent. It encapsulated summer in a myriad of guises. Her influences for Fall 2018 weren’t as varied and the result wasn’t as eye-catching. While the models had had flushed cheeks from a winter walk and the litany of flowers she spoke of were hand-embroidered on dress, it wasn’t as evocative. If anything, it summarised a winter slump. 

Despite the trite inspiration, the redeeming quality of the collection was the hand-embroidery. (She trained at Dries van Noten in Antwerp—one of the best.) Her skill as a craftswoman is impressive. It produced an endearing feminine whimsy and it will serve her clientele’s purpose. However, it would nice to see her arrive at a different destination in the future.

To possess a signature is one thing but in order to reinvent, one should endeavour to excite.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Francisco Risso's Marni Charges Full Speed Ahead // Spring 2019 Menswear

Francisco Risso debuted at Marni in January 2017. Fresh off the success of his Spring 2019 menswear collection, Risso has weathered the first year at a storied fashion house. When he arrived he struggled to match his creativity with the legacy of Counselo Castiglioni, his predecessor, the house’s founder, and to shed parts of his own design handwriting which were too redolent of Prada, his former place of work.

As time has gone by—which isn’t a lot come to think of it but 10 seasons at a fashion house is worthy of a gold medal—he has melded his aesthetic with Marni, envisioning a more modern rendition of the house. For Spring 2019 he tackled the ubiquitous theme of sportswear. 

He described his interpretation of sportswear as his ‘Imaginary Olympics.’ Of course, sportswear at Marni could only be characterised by an eclectic hodgepodge of colours, patterns, and silhouettes. He layered vest tops over t-shirts, pairing them with loose-fitting shirts and pulled-up socks; he infused the erotic with prints of Florian Hetz’s hypersexual photography and artist Betsy Podlach’s sensual, poetic nude paintings—it beautifully juxtaposed with the charming naivety of Risso’s riff on sportswear.
Photo Credit: voguerunway

A point was made about his casting. It was diverse, for one: he’s one of the few designers at Milan Fashion Week intent of diversifying a pool of white models in the Italian fashion capital; Miuccia Prada and Angela Missoni are others. 

He attempted to shift male beauty standards with his casting, from rail-thin adolescent models, ones that slouch like question marks and look displeased, to fuller types. Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane are proponents of the skinny man, the duo at Dolce & Gabbana propagate ideals about washboard abs and bulging biceps. Risso wants to shift that paradigm and it’s a subject as relevant as ever in the current climate where issues around body politics are coming to the fore. Perhaps next season there could be more forceful efforts in that field but the grounds for change were present. In a typically unwavering fashion system, subtle changes have to be accepted in the same way as radical ones. 

The changes he made this season reflect the image of Marni he’s trying to create—its eccentricity is primed for everyone.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

London's Fashion Scout Showcase // Fall 2018

At London Fashion Week, a densely-packed schedule can include more than eighty names. That’s just the British Fashion Council’s official schedule. Unbeknownst to many, there are plenty of off-schedule displays from established names. In February, Phoebe English wove a spellbinding story surrounding the loss of her grandparents in the Clerkenwell neighbourhood on a Friday night and Ports 1961 commented on the internationalism in the bowels of the Tate Modern on a Saturday afternoon. Emerging name, and a favourite of Rihanna and Björk, Micol Ragni showed in a car park one evening—the Italian will join the official schedule for Spring 2019. 

Fashion Scout, an independent showcase, enlists a number of emerging and established names and puts them under one roof—the Art Deco Freemasons’ Hall near Holborn and the BFC’s venue on the Strand. The event runs throughout London Fashion Week. While most of the fashion pack in senior positions flock to the official schedule, Fashion Scout attracts energetic eccentrics in the early stages of their fashion careers—the mile-long (an exaggeration but they look endless) queues are replete with bloggers, photographers, and stylists-in-the-making.

There were a few presentations I caught off-schedule this year, some are below. Where most of them stunt themselves is in their emphasis on concept. Creativity runs amok which can be a pleasure to watch but also incredibly bemusing. What are they trying to achieve with esoteric references and overwrought notions? Style over substance.
Amy Thomson

Leeds isn’t exactly the most fashionable city but Amy Thomson emerged from there. The designer/illustrator studied at the Leeds College of Art and she recently returned for the Leeds International Festival Showcase. Her collection featured eight looks and they explored “youthful aspirations." She was thinking about childhood dreams and the unknowing eyes of an infant when perceptions of the world are tinted with naivety. 

She touched on the aesthetics of kitschiness—something which most twenty-somethings are drawn to nowadays, it seems—which felt relevant in the current climate, but also true to the reference to youth. She used cerise and fuchsia, eye-popping colours that cemented the idea of rose-tinted glasses.

The childlike sensibilities she endeavoured to capture were an obvious reference. With widespread political upheaval, it’s times like this when designers are reverting to childhood and adolescence as a method of resolving with the turmoil.

What distinguished Thomson from her contemporaries was her illustrations. This is where she possesses a raw talent.

Cassey Gan

Malaysian-born, Australia-raised, and London-based Cassey Gan also walked a well-trodden path with her Fall 2018 show. It was about “how social media has brought us to create fictional versions of ourselves in the pursuit of perfection.” She continued, “As beauty standards become more pronounced, the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred and we tend to forget our true selves.” It’s a deeply conceptual trail and only the mastery of John Galliano at Maison Margiela has successfully portrayed the millennial condition in a fascinating way. 

Gan, aside from her investigation into the facsimiles of Instagram, looked at Maria Svarbova’s photo series ‘Swimming Pools.’ The photo series, a Google search later, reveals itself to be quite spare—contrasting bold hues with mundane subjects. (This was better but kind of random. The connection between the remnants of Slovak communism and the social media age didn’t make the slightest sense.) It was the nods to Svarbova’s work that proved to be her strong point. She lobbied for bright patterns and interesting linear cuts which resembled architecture. She juxtaposed tonal pieces with prints and layered fabrics quite nicely, reflecting the photo series’ compositions.

Ilaria Lepore

There was a ritualistic ceremony taking place at the beginning of Ilaria Lepore’s presentation, on the Monday afternoon, with burning incense and interpretive dancing. 

It was a world of “sexual power, spiritual awakening, and rebellion.” It was a world of all-black attire, a design technique to emphasise cuts and shadows. It was a world where gender was cast aside.

Supposedly the use of cotton, wool, and leather was set to “challenge mainstream fashion norms.” Where was the challenge?

Her work wasn’t as bold as it was marketed. She’s on the right track in that she’s not shy to sidestep conventionality in terms of gender politics and sexuality but the ideas she’s proposing don’t seem as countercultural or shocking as they would have a number of years ago. Perhaps a bolder expression awaits.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tata Naka Joyous Celebration of Eastern European Culture // Fall 2018

Identical sisters Tamara and Natasha Surgulazde have been designing Tata Naka, the label called after their respective childhood nicknames, for 18 years. The Georgian designers predate Demna Gvasalia and Vetements, and the rise of Tbilisi Fashion Week (heralded by Mr. Gvasalia). They don’t conform to the post-Soviet froideur that underscores the collections presented at Tbilisi Fashion Week, or to Gvasalia’s enraged politics of a youth in an oppressed country. Conversely, the Surgulazde’s work is jovial, joyous even. 

At the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, during London Fashion Week in February, their models descended the steps on purpose-built Georgian kilims (woven tapestries) evoking the 1920s and 1930s in the form of figurative prints portraying the images of Red Army officers on horseback, two lions or deer. 

It was a celebration of Eastern European arts and culture.

In the way that other Georgian designers respond to Russian influence with rigorous tailoring inspired by austerity, the Surgulazde’s looked to the shawls of Pavlovo Posad, a symbol of the Eastern Slavs artistic capabilities. Pavlovo Posad shawls feature elaborate designs and are typically rendered in wool. The designers infused this reference by emphasising the use of folk prints on dresses, taking something bordering kitsch and transforming it into something visually striking in a modern context—they applied the patterns to sleeves on lilac dresses, as peplums, and on polka dot shifts.

The stronger looks were, in contrast to the way they used folk prints, the ones which recalled a bygone era. Slightly frumpy baby doll dresses had elongated hemlines, representing a conservative society, knife pleated sleeves were a nice touch and easily perceivable as daring considering their traditionally ladylike aesthetic.

While they contribute something inherently feminine and wholesomely creative, what they don’t bring to the representation of Georgia in fashion, in the same way that other Georgian designers fall short, is creating a nuanced dialogue. Together with other Georgian designers, they make the whole story, but apart there is a disconnect comprised of many one-sided stories.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Confused or Creative? Analysing J.W. Anderson's Menswear and Womenswear // Fall 2018

What began as a playground of concept has slowly filtered into a sellable vision of high-quality garments. We’re talking about J.W. Anderson, the much-lauded Northern Irish design, whose artful creative streak captured the hearts of his stalwarts over the past ten years. It became strikingly apparent this is well and truly the New JW at his Fall 2018 show in February, where he consolidated his menswear and womenswear.

In previous years, especially those predating his appointment at Spanish leather goods house, Loewe, Anderson designed for a man and woman encased in a conceptual milieu, where oddities were common than practicalities. It was visceral and arresting, sometimes even frustration. In essence, it was akin to a tormented art student trying to figure out who they wanted to be. Nowadays, it’s mostly levelled out, it’s more mature and, in turn, generally more wearable.

Anderson has a knack for mingling different historical reference points. This time around, he fused a Victorian-inspired paisley patterned high-neck blouse with a handkerchief skirt, a belt with a coin purse. There was a dress with a narrow waist and full skirt had exaggerated darting on the bodice—it felt like a confused mishmash of Azzedine Alaïa’s sculptural dresses and Elsa Schiaparelli’s ‘Skeleton Dress’ with its surrealist imprint of a ribcage, but interesting nonetheless.

As fashion designers wrestle with what vision of female identity they should portray in the post-#MeToo era, Anderson’s message is about ease. The flowing silhouettes accommodate liberation but, to remain true to his aesthetic, feature eccentric idiosyncrasies like odd folds on trousers and drop waists belts on coats which muddle his message. Not everything is relaxed, there are complications—usually confusingly placed accents like bows at the thigh, asymmetric zips, and oversized ruffles at the neck.  

It coalesced quite nicely with the menswear—also rendered in earthy tones. He nodded to the professional, the sailor and the hipster, in a playful casting of stereotypes. He continued to balance the more juvenile designs with ones catering to the sophisticate. It’s taken him some time to find his footing in the commercial landscape of menswear, but like his womenswear, it’ll never be as electrifying as Fall 2013, when his men wore frilly bum shorts and truly stirred audiences. One hopes that era will reemerge.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Ludovic de Saint Sernin's Fascination with Fetishistic Manhood and Mapplethorpe // Spring 2019

To ascribe the word ‘Mapplethorpian’ to the oeuvre of French menswear designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin is to encapsulate his aesthetic: inherent beauty with throbbingly sexual undertones. It is true: his work evokes Mapplethorpe, a reference he openly admits. In previous seasons, his work has been inspired by Patti Smith’s Just Kids, the 2010 autobiography which documents the author’s relationship with artist Mapplethorpe. His leather lace-up boxer shorts wouldn’t look out of place in a Mapplethorpe photo either.

It was HauteLeMode, a fashion critic who uploads videos to YouTube, who described his aesthetic as “Paco Rabanne meets Phoebe Philo for Céline if she was a gay man in a really nicely lit and somewhat clean BDSM leather bar.”

Although it might be a reductive comparison, it seems Pieter, designed by Sebastiaan Pieter, which used to show in London, was the litmus test—how ready was the menswear industry for the vision of a gay man designing through an erotic lens. Pieter made subtle references to Grindr, the gay hook-up app, ‘masc’ stereotypes. In a couple of years, society has developed into a relatively more open space and queer culture is more prevalent. Pieter’s work, which survived until June 2016, was laced with sexual suggestion but it didn’t catch on with consumers. de Saint Sernin’s work possesses a romantic edge, a softness which contrasts with the leather and lace-up accents, and he’s recently launched womenswear which gives him another chance at lasting.

But beyond the sex is a simpler concept: purism. (It's an attribute he borrows from Mapplethorpe.) His Spring 2019 collection, ‘Summertime Sadness,’ loosely inspired by Call Me by Your Name, was comprised of simple silhouettes. There was nothing challenging in terms of design or concept but it conveyed the mood succinctly, in 15 looks. There was leather and denim and ribbed wool. It was summery in shades of blush, lilac, canary yellow and azure blue—dusty shades invoking nostalgia. 

There are whiffs of French designers past in his work. Paco Rabanne, namely. The way de Saint Sernin splices together patchworks of leather—on a pair of daring trousers—is reminiscent of how Rabanne bonded chainmail. Copyist watchdog DietPrada were quick to flag nods to Geoffrey Beene, the esteemed American fashion designer, on Instagram about the collection. But de Saint Sernin’s point of view is uncompromising, and it’s clear based off his Instagram where he headhunts models. 

Sex sells but this is sex like we haven’t really seen it before—it’s not hyper-sexualised machismo, the kind you’d associate with a Dolce & Gabbana fragrance advertisement. It’s fetishistic of the post-Timothée Chalamet man—slender, sinewy and obsessed with doe-eyed youth. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Faustine Steinmetz Explores the Meaning of Clothes // Fall 2018

In London, Faustine Steinmetz experimented with a runway show but the provisional schedule for next season’s instalment of London Fashion Week reveals she will be hosting a two-hour-long static presentation. Why the presentation is a more favourable milieu in which to situate her work is rooted in craftsmanship. Steinmetz’s ‘couture-denim’ isn’t suited to the blink-and-you-miss-it fashion show. Five minutes is not enough time to examine twenty-two looks whizz by. Five minutes with her work should be spent inspecting the sheer quality of it, in a purpose-built set and not an anonymous venue.

The result of her past two collections, as visually and viscerally impressive as they’ve been, has not been as impactful as previous season, where shows have been staged in conceptual environments.  With a catwalk show you can grasp a feeling but you can’t really get a sense of the work embedded in an individual look. 
Her Spring 2019 was inspired by the bon chic bon genre (French for ‘Good style, good class’) denizens of Paris. A French designer, Steinmetz reimagined the affluent in the 2000s and their Hermes scarves, Levi’s jeans, trench coats and Fendi baguettes. It’s an extension of last season’s exploration of the cultural significance of certain items of clothing. In an era of bucket hats and fanny packs, her appropriation of reliably stylish garments felt refreshing.

There was felted denim, deconstructed denim, silk and crushed silk. Silk scarves were encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Argyle sweaters were felted. Everything was familiar but nothing was the same. She managed to alchemise the tropes of modern fashion and present them in a new light. If nostalgia is the name of the game to sell and to generate likes on Instagram, this is how you successfully bring something new to the table.

For a designer whose career is based on craftsmanship over concept, presentations are the way to go and it’s clear she’s aware of that. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Jamie Wei Huang Reimagines the Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema // Fall 2018

For Fall, Jamie Wei Huang thought about the 1990s in Hong Kong and the golden era of the entertainment industry. It was an epoch moulded in the vision of revolutionary film figureheads. A dominant theme was love. Not sugary romance but a reckless, headless nosedive into the depths of infatuation. She spoke of the “foolish fearlessness” of young hearts.

The theme recalled the cinematic oeuvre of Wong-Kar Wai—namely Chungking Express, and the lovelorn denizens of Hong Kong whose stories are explored in the film. Although it was released in 2000, In the Mood for Love, perhaps the filmmaker’s most prominent work came to mind. The wistful longing and slow-burn build of love. Both films are cinematographic feats, not least due to the fantastic craftsmanship of Christopher Doyle.

The clothes were similarly defined by a late-1990s and early-2000s sensibility. She styled double denim aplenty, compellingly contrasted block colours, and trousers came in variations of baggy and loose. 
For all the nostalgic Huang proposed, undoubtedly there was something darker at play. The sentence in the press release which stands out like a sore thumb is her musing on the 1990s film industry: “the nostalgia it brings is a reminder of what’s been missing now.” 

In the past twelve months, the film industry was the epicentre for seismic societal shifts. Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film director, was one of many facing sexual misconduct allegations. It was a watershed moment for Hollywood: decades of abuses and injustices against men and women were revealed in the international press. It’s been sombre, a landscape marked with silent protests in the form of wearing black. Huang recalled a bygone era, which is as idealistic a wish as you’d expect from the characters she created for the show.

She delved into menswear with embroidered sweaters and oversized jeans. It could use some more refinement and consideration—it felt derivative. It spun a youthful verve but her skills lie elsewhere. 

Huang’s womenswear is singular. Her primary signature is found in the silhouette: the way the shoulder slopes like a rolling hill. It’s soft enough to not demand attention but it subtly creates volume. Other motifs are ribbed wool,  colour-blocking, and utilitarian elements. There were parts where she updated collections as far back as Fall 2015 when I first saw her work and parts where she introduced new concepts. Huang’s balancing the line between familiarity and newness.

It’s like the calm that rises before love swells, only in this case, before her career reaches a wider audience. She’s thoughtful and taking things slow and she’s all the better for it.