Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BEAUTY: Photography--Vilde J. Rolfsen

Magical views inside quartz crystals? The Aurora Borealis seen through ice caves in Sámiland?

No, they are photographs of the view inside the humble plastic shopping bag by Norwegian photographer Vilde J. Rolfsen.

Head over to her website to see more and to buy prints!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Clutches For Men

Seen on the streets at the shows, for several seasons now actually: clutches for men...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. Paris Fashion Week SS '16

Fashion season is over. There were some interesting shows in London, Milan, and Paris, but overall the season as a whole felt a bit lackluster. Too many collections shown were just versions of hip-hop, streetwear, or basketball clothing. Ho hum.

Here are some miscellaneous details from Paris Fashion Week.

At Haider Ackermann it was all about the waist with obi-like sashes and high-riding belts worn on the outside of jackets. Of course Thom Browne trumped this with his literal geisha outfits seen here!

In an interesting Hundredth Monkey moment, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino showed the kind of sateen Japanese tour jackets GIs brought back from Asia after WWII...just as we saw Kim Jones do at Vuitton here!

AND Christian Dada designer Masanori Morikawa decided to show the exact same detail--embroidered tigers and cranes along with the flags of Japan and Korea--on sateen jackets as well as leather motorcycle jackets...the collection was inspired by Marlon Brando in "The Wild One." These elements showed up on shirts and trousers too!

Perhaps the most startling shoe of the season came from this Christian Dada collection: are you sitting down? A FEATHERED ENGINEER BOOT! The classic motorcycle boot is here covered with guinea fowl, and multicolored feathers...as well as an all-black version. It IS a black leather motorcycle boot, after all...

And before we leave the 50s Asian souvenir jacket motif, Saint Laurent slipped one in during a collection of grunge-glam-rock based on Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love...

...as did Masaharuyashiro with embroidered palm trees, a wolf head and various crests.

Kolor showed a whimsical shoe: a mash-up of a hiking boot and a sandal! Love it! (It shares thematic territory with Balmain's lace-up desert boot, seen here.)

Finally, Julien David showed a whimsical idea that coincidentally crossed my mind the other day. I was trying to think of something new for a collection or a fabric, and as I took a shirt out of my closet, disappointed at some wrinkles it accrued while hanging, I realized that a way to avoid such disappointment is to pre-wrinkle the fabric. Go for it, do it up good. Wrinkle the hell out of it. That way, no one will see "wrinkles." David used a wool suiting material that was forcibly wrinkled twice to make sure it retains its form!


We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

For his Spring Summer '16 show, Thom Browne sent his usual grey flannel suits to Japan for a vacation.

Let's face it: his menswear is ultimately subversive. He has been feminizing traditional tailoring and menswear ever since he put a model in a fur stole for his first collection in 2006. Browne has augmented the staple of men's suits with what is generally thought of as "feminine" accessories, shapes, or cuts such as skirts and aprons. His '14 Spring Summer show used a military theme but he ballooned out uniform coats and jackets to feminine "A-line" shapes with models in bright red lipstick, seen here. He even put models in versions of fringed Flapper dresses, long strands of pearls, and cloche hats for his '12 SS collection, here.

While elevating and paying homage to the "male" silhouette, he has, at the same time, tried to pry it apart, loosen it up, to loosen its fear-based death grip on the trappings it uses to prop itself up. There really is no such thing as anything essentially "masculine." Masculinity defines itself not by any inherent qualities but by being the opposite of "feminine." Masculinity is a construct. By contrast, the feminine simply is. Masculinity looks at all things perceived as feminine and says, "I am whatever you are not." As I have said many times on "Oh, By The Way," this is where misogyny and homophobia come from.

The bulk of this SS '16 show was composed of straight-ahead suits but the jackets and pants featured a boxy cut that invokes the roomy cuts of Japanese clothing like the haori, or traditional kimono jacket, and hakama, a type of very loose trouser. The appliquéd embellishments (created by craftsmen in Japan), albeit in blacks, blues, and greys, are rich and varied showing pretty much every iconic Japanese symbol Browne could think of: cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji, pastoral scenes, bamboo, cranes, tigers, dragons, chrysanthemums, koi fish, and fans. Models naturally sported pale faces, but the black lips and intimidating round sunglasses were all Browne (and in fact, there was a spooky somberness to the show that was reminiscent of last season's funereal parade, seen here). And of course the footwear of choice was the geta, the traditional Japanese wooden sandal, but with the blue, white, and red Thom Browne stripe on the top.

The subversion came in the last several looks when models came out in full-on geisha outfits, all silvers and greys, made up of a kimono, obi (the sash that goes around the waist) and Stephen Jones headpieces--a wig with kanzashi, geisha hair ornaments with small mums and wisteria. But before we extrapolate that Browne was putting men in women's clothing as a modern day gender statement, let's remember that the Kabuki and Noh theaters of Japan traditionally used men in all stage roles, including those of women, much like Elizabethan England...

The show itself, like all Browne's shows, was a sumptuous theatrical affair. A tea house stood in the center of the space while his models assumed the positions of scarecrows in kimonos all around the rice fields. Geishas came from the teahouse to "free" each scarecrow from his kimono and bamboo frame to walk the space...

All show photos above by Corinne Jeammet


BEAUTY: Clothing--Umit Benan

I love when a show's inspiration surprises me and Turkish designer Umit Benan did that by proving that inspiration can come from anywhere. It must be the newly opened Cuba that made Benan think back to the Communist revolution days that closed it to the rest of the world in the first place. Taking Castro and Che Guavara as models, he outfitted his men in versions of green military pieces for his Spring Summer '16 show at Paris Fashion Week. But the addition of cool aquas and awning pinstripes add a kind of sultry, bossa nova flair with the result looking like luxurious clothing--polo shirts for a drive around Havana, loose belted suits to wear to a nightclub to listen to Afro-Cuban jazz, pajamas to wear on the balcony of the hotel at noon for brunch--one would take on a trip to modern-day Cuba...

I'm aware that the collection is not groundbreaking or avant garde but I appreciate it for its costume-ness...and its wearability. Benan loves to design for cultures (previously here), and if I ever go to Cuba, I will absolutely costume myself in this way. This kind of wardrobe is perfect for sipping a Cuba Libre on a beach under the stars of the southern sky.

And Benan came out in cool white for his bow with a Cuban cigar and a Cuba Libre...of course...


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Pride 2015!

Happy Pride Anniversary!

Forty-six 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--MARRIAGE EQUALITY IS NOW THE LAW OF THE LAND!--but we still have a 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 the Stonewall uprising and the ensuing riots for saying, "ENOUGH. I AM A HUMAN BEING AND I DEMAND TO BE TREATED AS ONE!"

While The Stonewall Inn was already part of the city-designated Greenwich Village Historic District, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, it became an official New York City landmark on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 in order to preserve the site and honor its historic importance.

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

BEAUTY: Clothing--Balmain

Balmain went on a wild adventure for its Spring Summer '16 collection at Paris Fashion Week. Safaris in pith helmets (here rendered as caps), the Foreign Legion, and English campaigns in deserts formed the basis for a stunning show of luxury versions of khaki clothing.

Woven leather and tiger printed hair-on-hide make an appropriate appearance. And fashion journalist Luke Leitch at Style.com noted that "the house's Fabergé lush military braiding was reissued in a jute-ish organic twine."

Also present is the idea of some kind of medieval chain mail...and the connected medallions of wood or metal. At first glance, it all might seem uneventful, but keep looking. Olivier Rousteing, Balmain's creative director has created a cohesive sartorial statement with depth. Rousteing has been head of Balmain since 2011 when, at the young age of 25, he took over for Christophe Decarnin... and this collection is all the more amazing because it is his first menswear show for the catwalk!

I don't usually post close-ups from shows but in this instance, I can't help it...this Balmain show has so many fascinating, mind-boggling details that need to be studied to be appreciated. Look at these textures like the latticed braiding and twine, and materials like the linked square medallions...it's all fairly breathtaking.

And last but NOT least, I need to draw your attention to these fantastic sandals! A cross between a desert boot and a Roman sandal, they are exquisite. Wow!