Friday, January 18, 2019

BEAUTY: Clothing--Ann Demeulemeester

Ann Demeulemeester's creative director Sébastien Meunier says he wanted to take the brand in an edgier direction. "Fashion is like rock music. There is no rock music without rebellion," he said. The house's Fall-winter '19-'20 collection at Paris Fashion Week was indeed a bit rock n' roll, a bit neo-psychedelia, a bit punk, a bit grunge. But despite all that, the Romantic, swashbuckling roots of the house, its DNA if you will, still showed through. I personally love to add touches from other time periods to my own personal clothing choices, and a little bit of Edwardian glam never hurt anyone.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

Rick Owens titled his FW '19-'20 collection "LARRY." Shown at Paris Fashion Week, he explained that his inspiration was Larry LeGaspi, a designer and rock and roll costumer. In fact, Owens has been working on a book about LeGaspi for a few years now and it will be released through Rizzoli in October, at the time this collection will be available for purchase.

Owens told fashion journalist Luke Leitch, "For me, as a teenager growing up in Porterville, California, what Larry LeGaspi did was a huge thing—the way he infiltrated middle America with this subversive sensibility. He started out kind of inventing LaBelle’s look [around 1973]. Then Kiss took LaBelle’s look. He did stuff for Kiss [1974–1978] and then Grace Jones, Divine . . . So at the very beginning, he created that silver and black sleazy ’70s thing, to my eyes a combination of Art Deco and campy sci-fi. In fact, I found out later he was into the same sci-fi I was—the 1930s film of "The Shape of Things to Come," which kind of defined what "The Jetsons" did later. And Larry LeGaspi took it, too... He comes in and takes that and somehow, he connects with soul culture—black soul culture and music—with LaBelle. So that combination is already kind of a surprise, and then, with Kiss, he takes it into mainstream America, high school kids. And Kiss turns it into commedia dell’arte, kabuki, Greek tragedy masks . . . they add sex, lust, and vice. So all of this stuff coming together was very important to this kid in Porterville."

Because I am a man d'un age certain, I clearly recall Labelle and their larger-than-life costumes and of course the mega-band KISS with their larger-than-larger-than-life costumes! So of course the black and silver of KISS shows up in this collection along with some of the saturated jewel tones of LeGaspi's other creations. But Owens is a master for a reason: he does not imitate LeGaspi. He interprets LeGaspi through the Owens lens, so it feels referential but also totally unique since Owens has such a particular, defined vernacular. Kimono-like cuts, asymmetrical puffy coats, wide legged trousers, and the marvelous almost-ecclesiastical styling of an Owens ensemble (new: saddle bag pockets on the sides of overcoats!) are rendered in his unmistakable hand. But we need to take a moment to acknowledge the thoroughly incredible platform boot shown on these models. I am already pining for a pair.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Siki Im

This wonderful, moody Fall-Winter '19-'20 collection from Siki Im is deceptively simple. But the simplicity ends up reading like architectural statements, and even pieces influenced by a Japanese aesthetic. I love Im's inspiration for this collection. He told Nick Ramsen at, "It’s about the roots, literally and metaphorically. I’ve been in the mountains a lot lately, from the Catskills to Whistler in British Columbia to hiking with my parents in South Korea. What I realized in these places is that you’re disconnected. Instagram doesn’t work. As a city kid, I think we need more of a balance."

The lookbook for the collection released at Paris Fashion Week, appropriately photographed in a snowy forest and styled like an iamamuwhoami video, is chilly and lyrical. Fur tabards establish a wild man mood while embroidered bare tree branches adorn sleeves and pant legs (look closely). In the lookbook notes, Im pointed out that many pieces had a poem by Pablo Neruda sewn on. The opening line of that poem reads: "Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips: Maybe it was the voice of the rain crying, a cracked bell, or a torn heart."


BEAUTY: Clothing--Valentino and Undercover

The current creative director of Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli met Jun Takahashi of Undercover when Valentino put on its show in Tokyo at the end of last year. And the two hit it off, so much so that they decided to do a joint collection for their respective houses. And thus was born the following fascinating, hybridized, confusing FW '19-'20 collections shown back to back on the schedule at Paris Fashion Week.

With graphics done by Takahashi, the pair (shown as a conjoined V for Valentino and U for Undercover logo) utilized a visual narrative that explores the underground idea that Edgar Allan Poe was a time traveler (this is supposedly supported by the fact that several of his writings seem to have prophetic undertones to events that took place after his death). Pairing Poe's image with a face-obscuring UFO gives the idea a sort of loony-conspiracy theory edge...but the graphic as a whole is compelling. And then down the runway saunters Beethoven on a sweater and an overcoat...the why was continued at the Undercover show immediately following.

At Undercover, we see how Beethoven crept in. Takahashi was working with the classic Kubrick film "A Clockwork Orange" for inspiration (which KTZ's Marjan Pejoski expertly explored in his '15-'16 Fall-Winter collection here) and Alex, the lead character in the book by Anthony Burgess and subsequent 1971 film (played by Malcolm McDowell), is a rapturous fan of Beethoven. Of course you cannot cite "A Clockwork Orange" without showing the gang aspect and the violence. For the opening of the show, models wore phallic masks reminiscent of the infamous rape scene in the film while Wendy Carlos' original film score played. They also carried laser-pointer canes, an upgrade from the canes Alex and his Droogs carried in the film. In Takahashi's collection, sweaters were branded with words in the Nadsat argot, the future English-Russian hybrid language from "A Clockwork Orange," words like "prestoopnik" (a criminal), "choodessny" (wonderful), "bezoomy" (crazy), and a knit cap appropriately said "mozg" (brain). Some overcoats bore the distinct font from the Milk Bar in the filmed version of "A Clockwork Orange" and finally Beethoven shows up ("the ol' Ludwig Van" as Alex refers to him), again on outerwear. But what I find particularly fascinating about the clothing pieces themselves is that Takahashi managed, much like the fictional hybrid Nadsat English-Russian language, to cross pollinate the futuristic gang clothing from "A Clockwork Orange" with a kind of Medieval-Renaissance-y silhouette that is, dare I say it, somehow Romantic! When you really look at the costume choices from the film, the bowlers and canes did introduce a sartorial anachronism so it feels somehow natural to reference another time period on top of it all!

For those who have not seen the Kubrick film, here are some images for comparison:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

BEAUTY: Clothing--Études

And here we are, finally, in Paris.

Jérémie Égry, Aurélien Arbet, and José Lamali of Études presented a Fall-Winter '19-'20 collection that, while structurally pretty pedestrian, featured the dynamic, iconic work of the late artist Keith Haring (previously here and here). In collaboration with Keith Haring’s Haring Studio, they used his squiggles and doodles to nice effect.

Haring is such an iconic 80s artist, coming from the downtown Manhattan art scene along with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Madonna, and although Haring died in 1990, his work still speaks to us today. His graphic street style translated well onto large canvases in which he railed against injustice of all kinds: apartheid, the destruction of the planet, rampant consumerism and greed, and the bigotry and hatred that allowed thousands and thousands to die of a disease that, if we had gotten a jump on finding a cure, might be eradicated by now.

His work reads like hieroglyphics, recording and marking the rage, terror, and sadness that infiltrated the dark Reagan years. Figures either dance in rapture, or shake and run from a restlessness born of frustration. I lived through those years and while Madonna sang "Everybody/ Come on, dance and sing," there was an anxious, fearful energy in the air because of AIDS and the very real threat of nuclear war with Russia. I think both of these paradoxical feelings--joy and fear--informed Haring's work. Things may have been difficult, but we still wanted to dance and have a good time...and perhaps the trio of designers at Études feel we are in the same spot now. I can feel it.

So few artists have created their own vocabulary. By that I mean that artists traditionally have painted landscapes or still lifes, figures of mostly women and some of men, allegorical scenes or scenes from the Bible. But who else created anything akin to barking human-dogs, a radiant baby, or persistent and zapping UFOs...and used them in their own visual language. Oh, there are some who created their own semaphores: maybe Cocteau... maybe Francis Bacon in a way...certainly Matthew Barney with his oblique Cremaster Series. But this is not so common to painters. And Haring did manage to invent his own visual language. So if you are going to put someone's art work on your clothing, go for the most unique you can find!