Thursday, July 24, 2014

Haute Couture? Fall 2014

Ralph Rucci


Good question... This most recent round of Couture presentations for Fall 2014 further defined the new as well as begged the same nagging question, "What constitutes Haute Couture?" It should be more than the sticker price. If you read the reviews of the collections on Style.com or in the New York Times you might think that there exists a collective brilliance that centers in and around Paris' Grand Palais. Names such as Chanel, Armani Prive', Versace, Givenchy and Valentino represent the 21st Century concept of Haute Couture, or they certainly used to. One must be vetted by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to be accepted and invited to show. One must have a certain number of models (styles), the models must be made predominantly by hand, a minimum of Premieres d'Ateliers and Petit Mains working under them (the seamstresses and tailors) in order to technically apply. The larger question is a creative one but that's purely subjective though the Chambre Syndicale... is designed as an objective body of what at least used to be of the most stringent and high standards. All of these conditions as it were are neither here nor there when looking at an actual Haute Couture collection. Just for the record, I apprenticed at Givenchy Paris when Monsieur Givenchy was  at the wheel. While there, I sat as an apprentice assistant and watched 2 Haute Couture collections and 2 Pret a Porter collections conceived and created.

The price of fabrics, embroideries and woman/man hours, not to mention the multiple fittings that are included make this the Grand Daddy of dress shopping. The luxury of clothing made specifically to fit, flatter, hide, transform and enhance a woman's body is, I guess, something so astoundingly satisfying that women who can shop the Couture, do and those who can't, dream. None of that is at issue here. What stymies me are the motley crew of collections trotted down the runway that look neither particularly astounding, trans formative, satisfying and least of all "Haute". To read it in the press one might think the price tag was all that mattered. There was no criticism per se, just a droning dialogue on the beauty and sociological implications of clothes almost completely devoid of context or message.

Christian Dior

At Dior, Raf Simons' re imagined Marie Antoinette was yet another trudge down a chic cul de sac. With his Resort collection I started to change my mind about him and the validity of his message. His recipe for modernity left me starving in the beginning and only began to tempt me with little bonbons that started to become cupcakes if not full on cakes with lavish decoration. Fall and Resort gave me a jolt like the best of his last work at Jil Sander. The double dresses that laced and played color contrasting duets in a single piece pointed to a path out of the thicket he's busily created since taking charge of the house. To my dismay, the collection shown a couple of weeks ago was so silly in proportion, detail, and (tired) concept that my eyes glazed over after the 10th exit. His explanation of drawing from the past to create a language that is new and modern was little excuse for these sad sack dresses. Over lunch with a great friend we got down to the nitty gritty of the discrepancies that pass undetected by "knowing" eyes. Poor construction, a paucity of creative curiosity and the fact that ultimately this demi-couture may very well become just good enough for a public no longer even aware of what this highest form of craft used to mean. I was distracted by the shape of the skirts that suggested panniers but without the structure underneath to hold them up and out. Beyond that there was the question of proportion that was exaggerated beyond reason as the shirts shot out in some cases well below the low hip and then stopping at the shin. Very bottom heavy milkmaids in dresses that read more as upholstery than rich fabrics. Still it was passed off as a deliberate manipulation but read to my eyes as just lazy, crazy chop shop drag. There was more said on this and other subjects but that's private.

Chanel                                                  Alexis Mabille


Chanel didn't fair that much better. Lagerfeld's was a collection of tweedy ensembles molded into rounded shapes like a series of ellipses. Coats over dresses and suits were all rounded front, side and back, shoulders, sleeves, you name it it was molded to a round plumpness that made the thinnest of his models look short fat and dumpy. The strangeness of shapes culminating in a series of stark white dresses at the shows end didn't suggest so much the future as it did an undecipherable present. Lagerfeld can do no wrong and the press never came close to taking him to task. Rarely, do they. It seems that everyone is so convinced of his brilliance that they fear questioning his authority, much the same as that of editors at most of the big mags. Think Anna Wintour and extrapolate from there.

Armani Prive'


Armani Prive' was just old. The shapes, the tame jackets that were straight out of his archives from 20-30 years ago and splashy beaded numbers were saying not so much about the future as they sat sleepily in the past. The sound was more the sharp outtake of a yawn. There looked to be no future there, only a past whispering its authority.

Alexis Mabille was just ugly. This young man who looks like a student or some one's kid has consistently delivered stillborn collections for years now. Poorly conceived, wretchedly executed and totally lacking in chic, his clothes leave me annoyed. There is no mystery there. Enough.

Versace


Versace is, well, Versace. Think of the girls who service oligarchs or Naomi Campbell and you get the picture. Vulgar displays, the lead foot instead of the soft touch, the obvious over the implied, blood and sweat instead of ease and elegance and you get where I'm going with this...

Giambatista Valli


The exceptions to this curious state of affairs would be someone like Giambatista Valli. His collection that played a symphony of stripes in black and white with his signature shots of yellow were a treat. It looked to me as though it were the collection that should have walked down the Dior runway. Valli is a clever iconoclast with marvelous technique that gets better with time but is it Haute Couture?
Ralph Rucci, the American Couturier based here will never lower his standards which are some of the most staggeringly high in existence. He shames the "competition" just by his mere existence. Valentino is another that shames the competition. The work coming from the team of Pierpaulo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri is exceptional in so many ways, but they are worthy of their own story as they showed us again what the Couture can and should mean for today and the future. Just look closely. You can't miss it.

Ralph Rucci


Monday, July 21, 2014

YSL: A Myopic Biopic.



I don't know about you but I was very excited to see the new film on the life of Yves Saint Laurent by Jalil Lespert. Things got in the way of racing to catch the premiere so it wasn't until last night that I finally sat down to watch. Maybe it didn't help that we'd just ridden bikes in the dark to watch the fireworks display over the harbor here in East Hampton. For a mere 15 minutes the sky was alight with displays of pyrotechnic wonders, all of them more astounding than the explosions that preceeded. I kept thinking that it all looked so new, so abstract and "modern". It was almost an intellectual experience beyond simple entertainment. The grown-ups standing at the water's edge all seemed to be thinking and saying the same thing. We were witnessing something new and it was somehow moving in a hard to describe way.



Pedaling home in the dark praying not to flip over onto the concrete by way of some unforseen pothole or worse, being flattened by an oncoming car careening its way to yet another Saturday night benefit, the thought of a yummy dinner and exoticism that was YSL caused me to pick up the pace. Like so much in life, the journey was more interesting than the destination. From the first minutes something felt off. Pierre Niney, the actor playing Saint Laurent with his requisite heavy black framed glasses, enormous eyes and beak-like nose was a dead ringer for Hamish Bowles. Fragile, melancholic, and fay Saint Laurent goes from wunderkind at the controls of Christian Dior to basket case in a psych ward of a Paris hospital over a letter of conscription. The melodrama from here on in was so thick it became a chore just to get from one dress to the next. Little or no explanations were supplied for who characters were and a timeline so pock marked it was impossible to follow unless one knew the story and the players. Lou Lou, Karl, Pierre and Mama were little more than paper dolls. It seems everyone in the circle functioned purely as enablers. That much is probably fact but the film serves up this dish with all the grace of a short order cook stumbling through the kitchens of Le Cote Basque.



That Pierre Berge sanctioned the film is no surprise as it is more his story, again, than that of the "master". That sanctioning is the only thing that gives a hint of life to this DOA docu-drama. Some actual pieces from seminal periods like the Mondrian dresses, a group of looks from his Russian collection, and sketches give much needed flesh to the otherwise brittle bones of the story. But even they are as lifeless as the narrative. The models and "faces" chosen by the director to recreate YSL's legendary cabine and closest friends, Betty Catroux is one, were incredibly unattractive. The stand-in for his most famous of muse/models, Mounia, was a sad choice. Others were simply grotesque, that would be Betty(Catroux) and Karl(Lagerfeld).



The film's pace and the poaching of scenes from other YSL films, namely L'Amour Fou, added up to less than zero. We basically watch Hamish Bowles complain about how he will die if he can't design and how the world is his enemy. I can think of few designers who had it so incredibly good. The backing of Charles of the Ritz, the brilliance of Berge as business partner and guard dog and the clients who elevated him to the heavens do not add up to a hard luck story. But if you're inhaling cocaine and alcohol like other people do air and water sooner or later things are going to get messy. Watching Hamish, I mean Yves at a sex club with manacles on his wrists and some dark business going on behind his heaving body is somehow too much and not enough information. Better to stick to books like  Alicia Drake's "The Beautiful Fall"  in order to get a clearer picture of the players and how they knew one another and interacted. This film does little more than give you a reason to question why we find these people and this industry, Fashion, so compelling. Perhaps it was the sub-titles that wandered veering maddeningly away from what I assumed was being said. I will need to hear my dear friend Spirou's take as she's the real deal; French and someone steeped in the fashion and players of that period in Paris. Actually, Spirou would have made a much, much better film simply as someone who lived on the frontlines of fashion both in Paris and here.



Unfortunately, this film failed to illuminate a period when a single man changed the way women dress. Unlike the fireworks that not only amused but confounded us this film failed to shed even the tiniest sliver of light on a world that's slipping deeper and deeper into darkness.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mutha's Day!

Jan Crouch, the Mutha of all Mothers
Looking at this woman, I was reminded of the new Charles James exhibit at the Costume Institute at the Met. I should refer to it as the Anna Wintour Institution at the Met but I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around that. Still the grandiose gowns by James that were in his words more about negative space, sculpting the air around the clothes dovetails so nicely when you consider not just the hair on her head but also her eyes, lips and hands. Look closely. She is a marvel of creation. Isn't that what Mothers are? They are not like you or me. They carry us and give birth to us then continue to love, nurture and look out for us until their last breath. They instill in us values and the tools we need to go forth and flourish. And if we don't go forth they're there to welcome us back, the conquered, the fallen, but heroes in their eyes.
 This outlandish creature, the Mutha of all Mothers, is a delicious amalgam that perfectly symbolizes what a Mother means: Her eyes are all seeing, the hair is a metaphor for all knowing, her hands show the endless hours of soothing caresses and battles waged and those full lips speak truths only a mother can know. Nothing means more to her than our happiness and well being. So let's celebrate our Mothers today and everyday. It's the least we can do for the one person in our lives who will do anything for us simply because their love knows no bounds.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Galliano and de la Renta Marriage cancelled!


a birdy told me...

What passes for news? It shows you just how far we've come when almost 2 years ago, the universal smack down of John Galliano from his Olympus perch was the passing of gas heard and smelled round the world. Remember how stricken the good people of Vogue, Harper's, International Conde Nast, and every other rag worth its weight in ads. The lines were so clearly drawn over this "problem" that you'd think the earth had cracked open with the beliebers on one side and the who gives a shits on the other, which would include all of the offended faith based shoppers and the shoppers who couldn't afford the high cost of faith or his clothes. The shock of his precipitous fall, the court appearances, the suave hats and soberly colored suits, the downcast gaze, the drooping mini-stache, his look of befuddlement, the constant airplay/YouTube play of the rants in question at La Perle, the offended patrons who baited him, laughed and kept their phone's video app rolling, the loss of his job at Dior, the loss of stewardship of his eponymous collection, the search for a suitably glamorous Centre de Rehab, the rallying of his friends using their pull at the same said Centre de Rehab where they've all taken the waters, as it were, all of that.... Remember? Barely.

No to the nuptials...
My Mom is the ultimate disseminator of news. If it's not on CNN, then sorry, it ain't news. Mommie doesn't let a moment pass on any given day that CNN is in her direct sight lines or loudly playing in the background. I asked if she'd heard about Oscar and Galliano's negotiations to take the wheel of La Finca de la Renta. "No, Baby", she said. "There's that terrible funeral for the firemen in Boston, the plane to nowhere is still, well, nowhere to be found and I heard from Aunt Willie. Her pneumonia is much better." End of news flash. It wasn't til I was at the gym, pumping iron, kicking ass and watching Maury Povich on the monitors with some Baby Daddy and his accusing ex he'd never to that moment met, let alone, lay with, in the biblical sense (straight out of Johnny Weir's lips re. his divorce proceedings against his Russian husband, make up sex was NOT happening after a fist fight. Some people just don't know when to kiss and lay) that my trainer JOE LAZO of LAZO FITNESS and a budding reality star of a pilot in the works for Bravo, "Fit and Frisky", that Galliano's demands for a studio of the quality he's used to employing was just too, trou, cher, (means expensive). I had to get the news from my fitness Guru who also happens to be my life coach and personal savior. I've learned more about women from him than in the 30 years I designed clothes for them, but that is another story, too long, too steamy and too damn fascinating to take the time here. He'd read it in WWD and though it was a Thursday, NYTimes Style section day, not a word was printed, not even on their blog. ZILCH. None of the important newspapers bothered to mention it at all.

I ran to the showers where Paul Wilmot, the uber-P.R. guy through the ages and yes, a member of my gym, was showering after his grueling routine. I whipped back the curtain just as the soap fell to the floor and asked him what the skinny was. He didn't answer, just kept reaching  for the soap. Dismayed, I ran from the gym, no towel, no clothes, NO HAIR and made a bee-line for 7th Ave to get to the bottom of the story. The cops grabbed me. They were unmoved by my plight and also unable to shed any light of the issue. With hand-cuffs and leg chains and a tranquilizer dart still dangling from my haunch, I wasn't moving either.

Joe Lazo/Lazo Fitness/my trainer and Guru
 Eventually I was released thanks to Cathy Horyn and Eric Wilson who vouched for me. As both are no longer at the Times they were as clueless as yours truly. Suzy Menkes was gonna come too but was still tied up at Conde Nasty hammering out her new deal with Madame le Ambassadresse de Wintour. But that's ok, Suzy never would have made it through security with that hairy nob on her head. It wasn't til I got home and turned on my computer that I dug it up under layers and layers of the 3rd rate news feeds online. Crap like London's Telegraph, Daily Beast, Daily News, The Cut and Fashionista, the blog that banned me and my comments in my infancy. What an afterthought it all was. The de la Renta's and their brilliant stewards, the hapless son-in-law and his spoiled, unpleasant wife whose mom is Mommy de la Renta. Between the two they could barely tie a bow or tell a sequin from a paillette. With so much money (maybe there isn't as much as there was) you'd think they'd do all they could to land such a big fish, guaranteeing buzz, the retreading of their listing brand and even make some great clothes in the process. well, um, no. Not happening. Hence, not newsy.

So back to ambulance chasing, searching for the next fashion star, continuing the search for missing fashion stars and waiting for the next episode of Game of Thrones. Now that's news.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saint Laurent Fall2014: Toot Toot, Ahh, Beep Beep!



Fashion shows nowadays too often bring out the very worst in people. By people I mean the designer and the audience. A lazy, self absorbed designer is as unlikely to go that extra mile as is an audience so starved for anything resembling something new that they will cheer anything hanging from the shoulders of a model as long as it’s coming from a “brand “of note. This sheep mentality only encourages overpaid, under-achieving talents to do even less on an ever grander scale.


Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent is a case in point. His collection for Fall2014 though more coherent than last season is again a parade of mod, Edie Sedgwick-inspired naughty, nasty girls that had their day when heroin addiction, cinematic bad behavior and self-destruction were the pre-requisites for 15 minutes of fame. Well that along with pet rocks, Opium perfume and Escher prints on your dorm room walls should be things of the past. The “Slim-mutts” or "Slum-mettes" take your pick, Hedi’s posse of bad girls, sulked down his runway with its golden beams that rose and fell hydraulically creating an alee’ one minute and a tunnel to nowhere the next were all parodies of naughtiness. These fetishized girl/women in their little leather skirts, micro-mini kilts, tights and multi-strapped Mary Janes were like a pack of zombies come back for blood. With enormous eyes, long lank hair and knobby knees, they made a valiant attempt at taking charge of the conversation, if the dull drone of mumbling counts as conversation…


Coats were best. Capes were redundant by then, as everyone had gotten the memo that capes were it. Little shift dresses in gold sequins with naïve abstract shapes tossed on them or as a jungle of animal prints came one after the other with little effect. They were too close to the regrettable little Baby Doll dresses of last season that looked poor. But considering Slimane is challenged to find novel ways to tell the one sliver of a story he has to share, there’s little else to trot out to drive home the point. Leather biker jackets took up some slack but not in any way that seemed new.

The furs were the most glaring items to raise the question of just what is luxury to the house of Saint Laurent. No Broadtail, Sable, Chinchilla or other exotic fur or skins were in evidence. Not one bit of croc was anywhere in evidence except one fawn colored mink  jacket, so pretty it stuck out like a sore thumb. It must have belonged to a model that refused to take it off. Otherwise, the coats and jackets were cut from “plates” of assembled fur scraps. These plates consist of bits and bobs from the bellies, tails, armpits, ears and butts of furs, in this instance sable. Many of those little pieces that make up this collage are paws. This is not a PETA rant, this is a CHEAP rant. One uses “plates” when one cannot use whole pelts to be assembled by master furriers. Plates are like a hunk of fabric to smack a pattern onto, cut away and sew up on any old machine. Like spam or headcheese, these furs were just conglomerations of scraps, and they looked like it; spam patties parading as Filet Mignon. “Road kill… from the ditch to the b…..” well you catch my drift.



The few variations on the classic Smoking saved the show, as did some interesting boots and bags, the only things showing any real value to my eye. The provocation that the clothes and petulant expressions of the girls created was still little more than an annoyance. Juxtaposed against a collection like Valentino's full of ideas, modernity, luxury and desirability, Saint Laurent had no such effect. Pierre Berge must be suffering in silence or we’d be hearing his rant by now.

In contrast, at the end of the Valentino show, Mr. Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giametti are seen embracing the pair who are now at the helm of the house. Tears shared between the 4 of them and cheers from the audience were a stark contrast to the Saint Laurent proceedings whose front row was crammed with rockers passing around and guzzling magnums of champagne. But that’s the difference a ditch can make.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Louis Vuitton Fall2014: Nichola's Ghessing Game

Considering Nicholas Ghesquiere's (pronunciation : Knee-ko-lah  Guess-ski-yair. Now you try it.) astounding coronation 12 years ago when he took up the scepter and Orb as Directoire Creatif of Balenciaga, (pronunciation: bah-Lawn-see-Ya-ga), (for fun let's try another. Lanvin is really Lawn-van...the last N is semi-silent) Fun, non?


When he took the wheel his first collections were homages to the master with faithful adaptations of original styles from the archives. They were a bit arch without the fluidity, loft and movement of the originals, in large part due to a possible lack of understanding of how fabrics must be left to lead, not forced to comply. Still, they were interesting in their newness to many eyes uninformed and unexposed to the originals. I'm sure Hubert de Givenchy (pronunciation: you-Bare De Zhee-von-Shee) twisted on his Louis Quinze  (Loo-ee  Cans) settee reading about or watching the proceedings.


Still the ever elusive DNA of the house was respected; the "codes"adhered to and all was well in the jungle. Then the inspirations of the Directoire bubbled to the surface setting off a DNA storm. One such burst of creativity was the appropriation of Koos van den Akker's collage vest that appeared on the runway much to the chagrin of those who knew who and what that was, creating a frisson of questions and doubts. For the following 12 years the house and its codes teetered off into space like a scene from "Gravity". Some people are just happier in space.


The clothes became harder and more self-conscious by the season. New"man-made" high tech fabrics appeared and all the talk became about the march towards modernity with Nicholas leading the charge, metal yardstick in hand and hordes of lemmings in his wake. Editors from here, there and wherever. Only one successful IT bag came from his tenure and a few truckloads of clothes that were increasingly more difficult to wear or grasp though liberally copied by many in the marketplace. Fashion at Balenciaga became a thing so precious, its siren song so high pitched that only dogs could hear it. Then the party stopped. Finis! (pronunciation: Fee-knee)



Fast forward to Marc Jacobs's exit from Louis Vuitton and enter Nicholas to the relief of all the major fashion mags, assorted hangers-on and every Intern (definition: Slave. Granted, minus whip marks and shackles. At least not obvious ones.) worth his weight in Starbucks coffee filled trays. Word next to the 3-D printer is that he's the Messiah.

The anthem that opens the show was so ironic. "Copy Cat", a cheeky drone of a tune frighteningly apt:

"OOO Copy Cat...You're my puppet...sit on my lap as I work, Baby Girl... I'm such a fan of this dress, I bought it 5 years ago" and on and on." That summed up much of what marched through a labyrinth of a place; stuff from 5 years ago."


The clothes were almost all an homage to Nicholas's glory days at Chez B. Hard, stiff leather a-line skirts zippered down the front, a billion of them cut the same with an added pocket, a printed fabric instead of leather at times plus or minus a single bold pocket. Lots of turtleneck sweaters and sweater vests tucked in, a white one with a wide lace band crossing the sleeves and body, the same shoe over and over paired with quilted little bags or rectangular metal mini-cases.

The coats and jackets in leather, bonded leather, patch worked leather, leather with the look of signature Courrege, especially a zippered knee-length black crocodile coat, slick and tough looked really right. Baby doll empire cut dresses appeared along with some regrettable softer ones that looked like he hadn't a clue what they should say or do. Booties with criss-cross straps and thorn heels (Roger Vivier-isms by way of Walter Steiger-isms)  completed the look. Leather and cloth high-waisted trousers looked sexy with their stiff zippered polo sweaters including a smart tan top were wrapped and tucked in. They were hot looks, like a taste of something great but then the waiter takes away the dish you've only just begun to savor.


The problem for me was that it wasn't a new message but the same one just moved  down the street from one house to the next. He plans to create a "total look" for LV as though one doesn't already exist. Marc Jacobs did a fine job of it, especially in the last 3 or 4 years. It wasn't broken, but now its showing signs of fractures. There were only 50 looks but it felt like hundreds with an audience of thousands looking kinda bored. But, hey, its the second coming so maybe I'm just blinded by so much divine light. You decide.


*images courtesy Style.com   *Video courtesy Fatalefashion   *Layout courtesy of Garnet

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vogue Magazine: The Final Frontier

 Dear Peeps,
Commanderette Anna Wintour and her crew of stalwart, stoic and steadfast recruits are not as dim as they sometimes appear. Where I've questioned her heavy-handed games of teacher's pet and her flip side as Miss Hannigan to an orphanage filled with the privileged, her latest move to offer up Kim and Kanye as poster children with the intent of a mass adoption is pure bizness brilliance. I shuddered passing the newsstand seeing the innocence in Kim's hooded eyes and Kanye's studied "baby daddy" pout. It was the dress that caught my eye. Following those "couture" folds up, up, up til my eyes landed on their faces, I was almost seduced to pick it up and thumb through. But above those mugs was writ large: VOGUE. Vogue? The Kimye Westdashians on the cover of Vogue? It must be a joke parody cover like MAD magazine used to publish...? well, um, no. It's real. I'm all for the zeitgeist but not when it is more the "Paranormal Activity" sort.

Lots of folks have been confused by this. I was until it finally clicked that Ms. Wintour is not so much the arbiter of taste as she is a balls to the wall bizness lady. Sell magazines? That's one thing she can see how to do through those sunglasses that increasingly remind me of the ones you can buy at 4 in the a.m. on an infomercial for Snow Birds nesting in Boca. You know the ones I mean... They look great at the early bird special at Olive Garden and perfect on the mini-golf course. So it looks like this issue will be a blockbuster. Perhaps with a slightly different demographic but money will change hands. Anna's explanation for her choice was straight out of the Cloud (gaseous and foul smelling):

Anna says,“There’s barely a strand of the modern media that the Kardashian Wests haven’t been able to master, and for good reason: Kanye is an amazing performer and cultural provocateur, while Kim, through her strength of character, has created a place for herself in the glare of the world’s spotlight, and it takes real guts to do that.”

So, there it is. The Oracle has spoken. If strength of character, making a place for ones self in the world's spotlight and guts is what it takes to be a super star, I probably would also have let some cretin make a porn video of me taking it up the chutney shoot with a look of wonder, satisfaction and surprise.... Just sayin'....

xo, Fluff

pics courtesy of P Hilton blog (couldn't resist)