Monday, June 30, 2014

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. Paris Fashion Week SS '15

Paris Fashion Week has wrapped and here are some highlights and standouts:

Who knew jumpsuits would make an appearance again? 3.1 Philip Lim showed a blue version with pinstripes (the Hundredth Monkey moment for the season)...

...while Vuitton showed a collection based on Indian Shisha embroidery which attaches small mirrors, usually round, to fabric. Creative director Kim Jones is an adventurer and likes to travel to exotic lands. Past collections have seen Jones visit the Himalayas to research Bhutan silk brocade. For this collection, he traveled to India. And here we have Shisha on a flightsuit!

Another truly huge trend was the imagery and culture of Japan. McQueen showed a restrained collection of suits but festooned with the graphics from Kabuki theater make-up. Walter Van Beirendonck used Japanese silk brocades and a circular motif that looked like ancient Japanese family crests called Mon. Astrid Andersen showed sunset colored kimonos and accessories worn by Sumo wrestlers. AGI & SAM showed spartan, minimalist Zen-inspired pieces. And Craig Green showed us deconstructed Samurai padding in his highly-lauded anti-war statement. So it might be strange for me to point out that Junya Watanabe, a Japanese designer, showed a collection influenced by classical Japan, but look at Watanabe's past collections and see suits, Fair Isle knits, Depression-era patchwork work wear... so it is worth mentioning that Watanabe used traditional indigo blue boro, the traditional Japanese patchwork fabric of ancient peasant clothing. Models in lacquered hairpieces created by by Tomihiro Kono, and reminiscent of styles worn by Sumo wrestlers, wore boro or a close cousin, denim, decorated with Japanese designs of chrysanthemums, waves, dragons, or bamboo lattice.

Cerutti 1881 Paris: menswear designer Aldo Maria Camillo's recent trip to California sparked in his imagination a look that "surfed" between sportswear and suiting. Most of the collection did just that in a pleasant but plain way. But his silky tunics in Bohemian patterns fluttering under suit jackets were lovely...

...but what I really liked was the tasseled loafer-sandal, eerily close to what Ferragamo was showing, shown with toeless socks eerily similar to Andrea Pompilio!

And speaking of shoes, Miharayasuhiro found my weakness: metallic shoes. Look at those chukka boots--half or full metallic. The lace ups are great and the sneakers (trainers) are so fun. I actually have a pair of silver sneakers I bought years ago in Florence and I have worn them to death... I just love them.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Dior Homme

Kris Van Assche is a busy man--he designs not only his own eponymous label but for Dior Homme as well (Raf Simons takes care of the women's collections). And the Spring Summer '15 collection at Paris Fashion Week was visually lighthearted and fun, but the sense was rooted in history. Van Assche looked to the Dior archives for inspiration (as he did last season for the Fall Winter '14 -'15 collection here) and discovered a passage written by Christian Dior himself: "Traditions have to be maintained. In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions, which are our luxury and the flower of our civilization."

Van Assche was so moved by this passage, he made it into a scribble pattern for jackets, coats, suits, and jeans (I wold love a pair!). The graphicness of this script devolved into colorful scribbles for the rest of the collection that looked a little 1980s, a little 1950s, and just fun...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Comme des Garçons

Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo, the house's creative director, has a mind that would be a fascinating place to visit. Her collections always feel effortlessly esoteric, as if the machinations of her brain are naturally obscure and thus hard to follow for us normal folk. I feel the same way when I listen to the mind-boggling multi-media artist Matthew Barney speak. Oh, I understand what he is saying, what he means, and how he got there. It's just that I would never have gone down that road. Her collections consist of entire leaps of thought, strange non-sequiturs, and mash-ups of the unlikeliest kind. It must be like Mister Toad's Wild Ride in her brain, with ideas careening and bouncing off each other like pinballs. Some collide and create the head-scratching, jaw-dropping dense artistic statements for which Comme des Garçons is known.

But this collection, upon closer inspection, ends up being not so obscure after all. It was a clear and concise anti-war statement (Kawakubo wrote slogans on her pieces like "Soldier For Peace" and "Peace, Love, and Empathy") that joined the other marvelous anti-war clothing statements this season like Frankie Morello's "Make Art Not War" collection at Milano Moda Uomo, and Craig Green's powerful "silent protest" and Matthew Miller's anti-war collection both at London Collections: Men.

Tim Blanks writing about this most recent Comme des Garçons collection at, as usual, articulates it perfectly:

"It is impossible to be a thinking person and not be mortified by the world's descent into sectarian mayhem, from Nigeria to Syria to Ukraine, and beyond that, to the school shootings, the rapes, the acts of random violence that darken the urban landscape by the day. And Rei Kawakubo is a thinking person. But her protest was mostly in the form of metaphor, those few word pieces aside. The show opened with cadet-smart outfits infected with primal animal prints, which were quickly joined by camouflage netting overlays, like an effort to cage the beast within. Another print looked like a child's scribble of shells exploding in the sky, a reminder of who war's real victims usually are. A double-breasted suit in lilac silk shantung, as straightforwardly alluring as any item Kawakubo has ever shown, was ensnared in a camo netting coat, which maybe had something to say about the way that war camouflages beauty. 'Anything war can do, peace can do better' was the expression of optimism on the back of one of the finale's graffiti pieces. They're only words, but words are all we have. And that might have been Kawakubo's final, poignant comment on our fundamental powerlessness in the face of the global epidemic of violence."

This is a perfect example of why I find haute couture at this level so fascinating. It is exactly like conceptual or abstract art. It is the artist finding something within or without and wishing to express this raw sentiment, this idea that has moved the artist. But how to do this? Painters work with paint, sculptors can work with wood, marble, steel, and writers of course use words. But artists who work in fashion use fabric and clothing materials to recreate this sentiment, to convey this idea. And very complicated, profound ideas can be communicated within this medium.

And about those shoes... Blanks is a scholar as well: "For a hundred or so years, from the late 14th century onward, a fashion persisted in Europe for a style of shoe called the krakow, with a toe so extravagantly long (called a poulaine) that it sometimes needed a whalebone or a string tied to the knee to keep it from getting in the way while its wearer was walking." The inference of course is that the shoe is so unwieldy and so impractical, it could only be worn for lounging or posing, pastimes that have nothing to do with combat...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Kris Van Assche

Belgian designer Kris Van Assche has been on my radar for a long time, but just barely. I look at his work, his collections, keep tabs...

But his Spring Summer '15 collection at Paris Fashion Week had my mind making connections... it is a fun, pleasant collection that made me flash on a certain teenage, high school milieu. There is a fresh, young masculinity to the pieces that reference school uniforms (I love the shorts and pants with knee vents!) with ties disappearing into odd extra pouches across the shirt, but also a young man's first suit. "I wanted to return to that time in a man's life when he is stepping out into the world, maybe for the first time, and he is eager to conquer it," Van Assche said at the show. But what I love about this collection is that the teenagers in question seem to be European, and they seem to be quietly emulating a kind of California style that includes puca shell necklaces, nylon bomber jackets, and flip flops and sandals. But if these young Frenchmen were to try to blend in with a California crowd, they would seem different somehow, a little too stylish in an indefinable way... their clothes would be cut a little too well, and with a little too much intellect...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Maison Martin Margiela

Have we talked about Maison Martin Margiela before? In the world of fashion, MMM is an oddity, and that's saying a lot. The house's namesake designer is notoriously reclusive (only a handful of photos of him actually exist) and actually left the company many years ago. Since then, the creative control has remained anonymous. What is known is that collections are created by a team of designers, again very mysterious: names are not known and faces are not seen. Much like the Oompa-Loompas in charge of the day to day workings of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, Maison Martin Margiela "workers" ("representatives?" or are they actually the "designers?--no one knows) will helm, chaperone, or otherwise direct press conferences, dispensing impersonal information about the collections and how they were created. And something the house has always been about is a sense of deconstruction (check out their hybridized, subtly Frankenstein-ish Spring Summer '14 collection here), of recycling/upcycling (see their Monoprix trash bag winter coats in this post about several collection from Fall-Winter '12-'13), and of using unexpected materials for clothing in unexpected ways. Generally the MMM collection is about pure experimentation with many pieces never even making it to production. Often other more accessible pieces make their way to retail, but it is the strange, stone-faced, anonymous art studio nature of the house that draws people in.

True to form, their Spring Summer '15 collection at Paris Fashion Week was expectedly unexpected. The hybridization here is much more obvious with halves of business and casual wear sewn together in a sort of schizophrenic Jekyll and Hyde statement. The lab--er, house--used nylons, particularly parachute material (one coat was made from a real vintage parachute) for pants, coats, jackets. At the end of the collection, a series of flesh colored clingy long sleeved nylon tops came out. The sequined and beaded colorful designs (which look as if they are hybrids of vintage advertising crossed with Soviet propaganda material) are chopped up and banded into nearly abstract stripes of color. The look is quite disorienting; it forced me to do a double take and study what was going on to understand it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy Pride 2014!

Happy Pride Anniversary!

Forty-five years ago today, a bunch of fed-up drag queens, hustlers, and assorted gay misfits at the Stonewall Inn in New York turned the tables on a harassing police raid. That resistance gave rise to a series of riots and ultimately to the birth of the modern gay activist movement. It seems like a long time ago, and things (laws and minds) have changed, but we still have a long way to go, and a lot more irrational fear, hatred, bigotry, and misconceptions to fight.

But today, we thank the brave men and women at Stonewall and the ensuing riots for saying, "ENOUGH. I AM A HUMAN BEING AND I DEMAND TO BE TREATED AS ONE!"

There is a very nice, informative, and moving Wiki entry about the riots and the history leading up them:

Friday, June 27, 2014

BEAUTY: Clothing--Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck's enduring fascination with Papua New Guinea was on display again in an amazing mash up with Japanese aesthetics in his Spring Summer '15 collection at Paris Fashion Week. He can always be counted on to deliver a collection that clearly pushes the concept of fashion into art. There is a fearless sort of freedom with what he does season after season. His concepts are always engaging, puzzling, sometimes disturbing, and expansively liberating. The concepts seem to soar up and around like wild birds, or lightning. One never knows from what direction it's all going to come. Ideas assemble themselves in astonishing ways in his mind.

And it is also an example of why I find the world of haute couture so compelling. Clothing at this level truly is performance art and sculpture. And what Van Beirendonck is saying with this collection is, as usual, layered, oblique, and full of references and inferences. Intricate Japanese brocades were the fabric of choice for kimono-like jackets with slashes and gussets; random discs of contrasting silk brocade were attached, looking like floating Japanese Mon, or ancient circular family crests. This morphs, in Van Beirendonck's imagination, into gold epaulets and military accoutrements (tassels, braided cord, what passes abstractly for medals and insignia) that bring to mind the Emperor Hirohito.

Then we are detoured to New Guinea--those sunglasses with the tusks and bones are amazing. It gives the look of the pierced nose of a Papua native. Why has no one ever thought to do that to sunglasses before? Tim Blanks at explains the rest of the collection well: "...given that the symbol for CCTV footage dominated WVB's show notes, it was clear what we were being protected from. In his eyes, an invasion of privacy was a mere precursor to God knows what other predations. There is no one else who can spark such dark thoughts with such seemingly joyous clothes. This show ended with models reconfigured as exotic tribal birdmen, their faces bifurcated by huge beaks. On one side of the divide, they were painted in monochrome, on the other, bright colors. WVB imagined surveillance cameras confused by the split, in the same way that warships in WWII were painted with op-art 'dazzle camouflage.' But he was also thinking about Papua New Guinea, a longtime fascination, and how aboriginal cultures grant a totemic significance to ordinary objects from the West. Sitting in the audience at a WVB show, you were compelled to reflect on the way the same fetishizing impulse applies to our own culture."

BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

It is fascinating when designers take an inspiration that is unexpected for them and infuse their own sensibility with it. There are designers who interpret their inspiration, and the best example of that would be John Galliano when he was designing, but Rick Owens' dedication to his own singular vision is, admirably, unwavering. So when Owens takes on a rather, um, "high brow" inspiration like Nijinsky's ballet "Afternoon of a Faun" which Nijinsky choreographed and danced for the Ballet Russes in 1912, Owens does not make his work fit the inspiration, he makes the inspiration fit into his work. His signature tunics and highly futuristic simplified garments reference the ballet by using color blocks. His palette this season ventures into unfamiliar territory for Owens, with pale dusty shades reminiscent of the set and costume design for the ballet. He even painted his models' entire bodies those colors, mimicking not only the palette but the full body suit Nijinsky wore as the faun. There were also references to the scarf left behind by the faun's love interest (which he masturbates on at the end of the ballet) in the fluttering pieces attached to shirts. Models also sported silver boots tipped with wings...or horns?

The box-like nature of the collection echoes the angular, geometric nature of Nijinsky's original choreography which in many ways resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. The collection taken as a whole (and without knowing the inspiration) is possibly one of the most "alien" looking Owens has ever created.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Haider Ackermann

This Spring Summer '15 menswear collection is only Haider Ackermann's third but we again see a gloriously loose, unkempt, slouchy silhouette. But unlike last season's English Dandys or French Symbolist poets, this season's inspiration was revealed to be Keith Richards! And Ackermann's vision was tweaked just enough to reflect a kind of decadent, louche, languor. Ackermann recently attended a Rolling Stones concert and said, "They're not my generation, but their energy was beyond fantastic. Keith took my scarf and wrapped it around his waist. There was just a natural decadence." He caught Richards' disheveled, whatever-is-at-hand uniform but interpreted it in his usual sumptuous silks, satins, and brocades. I adore the dropped crotch trousers, and the layering of texture and pattern. It still feels a bit like a Dandy or a Symbolist poet, despite the rock n' roll overtones. Just like Yamamoto, Ackermann can't help but make a collection that is romantic...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto at Paris Fashion Week. Spring Summer 2015.

What can I say? The art of Yamamoto is so thoroughly steeped in his own beautiful style, his own mythology, his own culture. Here again we see unconventional, roomy cuts; loose, flowing Japanese-style trousers; sashes and scarves; and a sense of the hobo from the Depression--the one from the 1920s, not the one from the 2000s (patched and cobbled together suits, grease-stained patterns), and a sense of Bohemia (fedoras on turbans, tight ethnic patterns)...perhaps even of the romanticized version of the Gypsy (scarf headbands). I have used a lot of adjectives in past posts to describe the work of Yamamoto but the one I missed was "romantic." And indeed, despite the presence of some dark themes now and then (his models tromped through yellow "bile" for this collection, see his FW '14 collection of skulls and nooses here, and see his cut and bruised models on the runway for his SS '13 collection here), there is definitely a kind of sweeping, poetical romanticism to his work.

New this collection is a kind of half-jacket held on with strapping, random words and phrases like "Los Angeles," "Made in Japan," "No Ghost But You," and "No. 1" scattered here and there, almost imperceptibly. But the reproduction of a flyer for a missing dog that found its way to the back of jackets and onto a tee turned humorous when it evolved into a flyer for a missing "Yohji."