Monday, January 26, 2015

"This Is The Thing" by Fink


"This Is The Thing" by Fink.

Oh my gods, I love this man.

I don't know if you notice anything different
It's getting dark and it's getting cold and the nights are getting long
And I don't know if you even notice at all
That I'm long gone

And the things that keep us apart
Keep me alive
And the things that keep me alive
Keep me alone
This is the thing

I don't know if you notice anything missing
Like the leaves on the trees or my clothes all over the floor
And I don't know if you even notice at all
'Cause I was real quiet when I closed the door

And the things that keep us apart
Keep me alive
And the things that keep me alive
Keep me alone
This is the thing

And I don't know if you notice anything different
I don't know if you even notice at all

This is the thing

Sunday, January 25, 2015

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. Men's Paris Fashion Week, FW '15-'16

Here are some odds, ends, oddities, and notable side notes at Paris Fashion Week for FW '15-'16

Rope seems to be an unlikely motif for clothing, but somehow it managed to pop up in at least three different collections at three different houses.

3.1 Phillip Lim
Notice the rock climbing D-rings as a belt, and the rope netting as shirts, over shirts, and coats. The general idea of rappeling was certainly present.

Off White
Here we have the same rock climbing suggestion inspired by designer Virgil Abloh's trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

And finally, Kim Jones created a tribute to influential English cult 1980s fashion designer Christopher Nemeth (1959 - 2010) by using some of the the late designer's rope imagery and motifs from the Nemeth archives...

...and the collection was topped off with amazing jewelry of buttons and old keys made by the consistently amazing Judy Blame.

Gender was a huge issue this season with most designers sending out women along with their menswear collections. But it seems that many designers were interested in not just putting a man in a skirt--because the shock value of that wore off a decade ago or more--but to question the ideas of gender and equality, what it means to be a man or woman, through the narratives that we tell the world and how we portray ourselves. Miuccia Prada spoke about gender being a context in her show notes, Rick Owens styled a few models without pants thus giving us a glimpse of some cute uncut penises, and Gucci put men in full-on blouses, the kind my sixth grade teacher would have worn. This is all just a necessary loosening up and a shedding of anxiety associated with gender. And it does seem to be a truly anxious-making topic for a great many people. When there is anxiety and nervousness, there are definitely issues to be found...

At Acne, gender equality was spelled out, literally, on scarves, along with the phrases "RADICAL FEMINIST" and  "WOMAN POWER."  In some circles, the word "feminist" has taken on an ugly meaning that has nothing to do with the true meaning of the word. Something that was meant to be empowering and uplifting has, unfortunately, been hijacked and politicized. But those of us in the arts know better...

Loose, flowing trousers are the thing now. The silhouette pendulum always swings between large and small, tight and flowing, long and short, and we have been in a narrow, skinny trouser valley for a while. Here are some sexy, wide pants at Maison Martin Margiela...

...and at Lanvin (I love the 1940s feel of the higher-waisted cut here)...

...and some extreme examples from Juun J.

Great shoes from Kenzo! Creative Directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon created a collection based on the lore of UFOs and Nazca drawings supposedly of UFOs and their ancient landing sites. But it was the shoes, either alien ribbed or deconstructed and sewn back together like some kind of alien experiment, that stood out.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

For his Fall-winter '15-'16 collection for his own label, Thom Browne showed us the death of a man all in white in a white room...which turned completely black for the funeral that immediately followed. Mourners came to pay respects to the recently departed wearing traditional black for mourning. But not just black...they wore black. I mean BLACK. Inky black, impenetrable black, light-sucking black, Manet black. The collection was BLACK.

We know from past collections that Browne is a highly cerebral designer. Like Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçon, Browne's mind is a labyrinthine place with concepts and ideas coming from darkness, colliding, and creating unlikely and surprising inspirations (1920s Flappers for men, and Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch quilts as coats). And for this exact reason, this collection, while on the surface resembling Edward Gorey, "Dark Shadows," The Addams Family, and possibly a few Hammer Horror films, is actually about death, loss, and grief, and the traditional ritual that death entails. The slow, stately pace of each model stopped only to face the "body in repose" for a moment of respect while a steady fall of black ash fell like snow from above. An ominous bass drum kept time. The pale-faced mourners wore top or cloche hats with veils of wide netting or tight tulle. Browne's "short suits" were present but so were Edwardian breeches, and Browne's now standard skirts, wraps, and aprons. It all gave the impression of a widow or a dowager in a Tim Burton film.

But there were some light touches like the jacquards that featured the little whales and tortoises Browne has used in the past for his SS '13 collection. There was even a satchel/backpack in the shape of a tortoise--in black, naturally. Another woven fabric featured a tight layer of argyle and geometrics reminiscent of not only his solo work but some of the argyle collections he has created for Moncler Gamme Bleu. But the palette saw a tiny bit of relief with a few midnight blue jackets and overcoats.

Despite his theatricality, Browne really does manage to make collections that are wearable. Isolate any one of these pieces and you can see it stands on its own.

When the video is available, I will definitely post it here. Stand by...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Givenchy

Black and red have made up a kind of standard color palette for Riccardo Tisci, head of a Givenchy, for a while now, most notably in the form of a black and red American flag for his '12-'13 FW collection. So, what else can be done with black and red? It seems to be a color combination that conjures dark, sinister, even hellish images.  And that seemed to be a stone's throw from a twilit world of spirits, magic, animism, rituals, gods, and zombies. Tisci zeroed in on the milieux of Haitian Voudou and Candomblé from South America.

Models walked a path of red glitter laid in a maze through the audience (Tim Blanks at likened it to a "highway to hell"). Some models wore face paint which make-up artist Pat McGrath said were versions of African masks (Candomblé is a mixture of spiritual beliefs brought with slaves taken from West Africa with Native South American beliefs and Catholicism, much like Santeria in Cuba), but looked more like Baron Samedi, one of the loa, or gods, of Haitian Voudou, usually depicted with a top hat, black tuxedo, and a white, frequently skull-like face. Black suits trimmed in devilish red, a shirt that appeared to be scorched, and an image of an upside down skull were neutrals next to a fantastic print based on the weavings of the indigenous peoples of South America, which showed up on a variety of suits and separates. Look how the print fades to black on some pieces...

But a standout turned out to be how the collection was styled--the jewelry added an absolutely perfect macabre, ghoulish touch with chicken feet (used as ingredients in Voudou rituals), fangs from wolves (? or werewolves?), crosses, bits of red coral, and bells. So daringly imaginative and AMAZING.


Japanese designer Mihara Yasuhiro celebrates fifteen years of collections with a '15-'16 Fall-Winter show at Paris Fashion Week which took for its inspiration--and how is this for a wild cross-temporal, cross-cultural hybrid--hobo culture from Depression 1930s and "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass, the seminal consciousness-raising book that brought Buddhism to America in 1971.

Naturally what caught my eye first were the little graphics of 1920s-30s caricatures, cartoons, and advertising illustrations peppered on trousers and shirts. I am actually a devotee of that time period and the visuals it produced, so I immediately knew the context--then, as now, the wealth gap was a deep and wide chasm. Then upon closer inspection, I spotted patches with the identifiable phrase "Be Here Now." I read Ram Dass' book in the late early 80s, about 10 years after its release, and it was still relevant then... and it is just as relevant now.

But what do these two things have in common--or rather, what has Mihara Yasuhiro created out of the confluence of these two disparate elements? Well, the suits, jackets, and trousers that came down the runway were not so much "ripped" as they were simply worn. Collars, pockets and edge details were frayed with age, and models wore layers of double trousers (something homeless men and women have figured out as a way to keep warm). A motif in the patchwork sections of these pieces showed the names of cities and states in the United States. And thus the narrative emerges of itinerant men (and women), traveling the States during the Depression, looking for work where ever they could find it, whether helping to build a road in Wichita or picking fruit in San Diego. With the additional layer of Ram Dass' book title, "Be Here Now," Yasuhiro alludes to a kind of dignity in such a situation. As the saying goes, "Where ever you go, there you are." You are only here now. That is all. Whether in Kansas or California, you are undeniably here. You are the center of the universe, as each of us are. Stand proud.

It is true that over the years we have seen so many designers present collections based on or inspired by a homeless/hobo theme, and while this Miharayasuhiro collection may not be anything new, it is still interesting enough for me to take notice. But the psychological and political tension in the meaning is something that troubles me. I am positive it is not Yasuhiro's intention to diminish the very real struggles that the homeless must contend with, so we are left to conclude that the sense in which he means it is more of a cartoon hobo from a more naïve time...a conclusion that is supported by the cartoon-y graphics from that period.

Friday, January 23, 2015

BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

So you may have seen in the news by now (yes, a fashion show made main stream news) that Rick Owens has finally gone and done it: he showed models' penises for his '15-'16 FW collection which he has titled "Sphinx."

OK. Now what.

Seriously. Designers have been sending female models down the runway in sheer tops and pants, or with no tops at all, for decades now. Breasts and pubic regions are clearly visible in many womenswear collections, time and time and time and time again. In popular culture, the bizarre "cult of the camel toe" is something that many women aspire to (in case you do not know of this fashion preference, it involves pants tight enough to ride up a woman's vagina, spreading the lips and creating a bifurcated region in the crotch area that resembles the toe of a camel). Between designers and the public, the female form is so objectified and displayed, and no one bats an eye because it is so expected. Conversely, we live in a supremely phallic phobic society (how many times does one see a woman's breasts or entire body in a film as opposed to seeing a man's penis?). And again, as I mentioned in my wrap up of the Milan shows here, this has everything to do with misogyny and homophobia, twin symptoms of the same disease, which is: the fear of appearing feminine. Homophobia is the fear that men will be treated the way they treat women. Funny at first, but the hypocrisy is so true. If men are objectified, that takes away their "power." It is expected and demanded that women show their breasts and sex organs, but for a man to have that same demand placed on him is frightening to him--only woman, after all, are to be sexualized. That is if you are buying into the whole heterosexual gender stereotype thing. If you don't own your own sexuality--or sense of sexuality--it will be made bland and condensed into the lowest common denominator.

So a penis is a penis is a penis. I happen to love them. So no big whoop. Time for everyone to get over it. Time to face masculinity as it is, not as the construct it pretends to be.

But what was Rick Owens working toward when he created this collection? He spoke of an old black and white French film that takes place on a submarine and he mused about the idea of so many men in such close quarters. This naval setting inspired some beautiful pea coats, some of his most straight-forward, wearable pieces ever. But Rick Owens is Rick Owens: watch as the coat morphs in each look, growing wider and flaring out from the body, growing a cape at the back. One of the coats is stained with maritime rust. Another classic, sea-worthy garment, the fisherman's cable knit sweater morphed into a jumpsuit. The deconstructed pieces that followed, draped and shrouded or worn like a type of apron, seem to be made of a pullover whose body and sleeves have been cut open, essentially butterflying the top (or spatchcocking, to use an apropos cooking term). These deconstructed garments appear to have two neck holes: one of them still functions for a head to go through, but the other one, a little lower, functions as a port hole for the other head. A on a submarine?

Once the smoke clears from the whole penis thing, this collection is yet another spectacular example of Owens' dedication to a singular, unique vision of clothing that speaks to volumes, planes, angles, and positive and negative space. It is another chink in the chain of his glorious, tunic-y, ecclesiastical-y, futuristic, ascetic minimalism that he has been forging for many seasons. I admire tremendously his dedication and unwavering integrity to what he sees in his head and heart.

And did you see those awesome shoes and boots? They are a collaboration with Adidas--oh my gods, those soles are amazing, like little UFOs attached to the bottom of a hair-on-hide boot. Or river rocks worn smooth.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Walter Van Beirendonck

When I first looked through Walter Van Beirendonck's '15-'16 FW collection shown at Paris Fashion Week, I flashed on something I posted here on "Oh, By The Way" after the Paris terrorist attacks during London Collections: Men a few weeks ago.  It read in part (if I may quote myself, ahem...):

"The world is a tighter, uglier, more volatile place than it was, say, even ten years ago. But there is also such tremendous hope and potential. And art plays a part in this potential, whether it is a satirical political cartoon, a film, a play, a painting, or a sculpture. And couture at this level and in the hands of artists who work in cloth and fabric, is certainly an art whose concepts and execution can either offer a mirror to our troubled times or a soothing balm to remind us that there is still beauty to be had."

And it seems that Walter and I were thinking the exact same thing after the Charlie Hebdo office was attacked. But, take your pick, there are plenty of other near-daily terrorist attacks and if one is paying any attention at all to the world, one might come to the same conclusion. The first look of the collection sported the manifesto: "STOP TERRORISING OUR WORLD." Can't get clearer than that.

The larger, overarching message was about censorship, whether it involves a political/religious cartoon, or a piece of art: Van Beirendonck referenced the highly controversial art installation/sculpture entitled "Tree" by American artist Paul McCarthy which was shown, very briefly, this past November in Paris. The enormous inflatable sculpture could have been a very simplified green tree, but taking into consideration McCarthy's catalog, the shape was intended to be a butt plug. Who knows if the piece generated so much hatred because it was situated in the Place Vendôme, home of the fabled Ritz Hotel, or if it would have provoked the same reaction had the giant inflatable sex toy been placed anywhere else in Paris? McCarthy was physically assaulted and "Tree" was destroyed within two days of its debut. But as many Americans understand--and it seems that an equal amount don't understand--you can't pick and choose who gets to speak. If free speech exists, it exists for all, not just for messages we agree with. It is a bitter pill to swallow--and there's a fine line between free speech and abuse or violence directed at individuals or groups. But for Van Beirendonck, the issue is about stifling creativity.

To this end, he created large lapel pins of eagles (the symbol of freedom) with butt plugs dangling from chains. Some may find that shocking, but there is a reason for its presence in the collection. Freedom is beauty. Other slogans on clothing in the show: "DEMAND BEAUTY," "WARNING EXPLICIT BEAUTY," and most tellingly this marvelous Gandhi quote, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind," a direct rebuke to the radical Muslim-led terror sweeping the globe. This served as a springboard for an eye motif that showed up on sweaters and shirts, and in an ethnic looking (Guatemalan?) woven fabric. Even the models sported a black line around a single eye, emphasizing the quote.

The concept of freedom seemed to express itself in clear plastic sleeveless tunics, pieces that were both jacket and poncho, and some fascinating coats in a typically fearless mash-up of fabric, plastic, leather, and faux-fur.

Creativity and creations can be anything and can come from anywhere. One may not like a creation, but one does not have a right to destroy it. In that case, it is best to simply move on to something one does like. The only world you can control is your own. Surround yourself with what you find beautiful.

Here is Paul McCarthy's inflatable sculpture before vandals destroyed it:

Photograph: Bertrand Guay / AFP/Getty Images