Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bankruptcy is the new Success Story!

Bankruptcy, namely , filing Chapter 11 which gives a company the chance to reorganize, keeps the wolves at bay. So many, too many companies to name are finding salvation in this limited form of bankruptcy. There has always been a stigma to the whole idea, only now there is little choice and precious few options to help the company in distress.
This is the new success story simply because it gives ailing companies another chance to save themselves and all they've built. The only way to weather this typhoon is to hang on. If you get blown away or just quit there goes the past and your future. So for those of you needing a safety net, find a good lawyer to steer you through the shoals and don't be afraid. Bankruptcty/ Chapter 11 is about winning the battle , not losing it.

Thom (Thumb) Browne

Well it looks like there's a tremor under the ivory tower known as the House of Thom Browne. Persistent rumors of an empty bank account, buyers less and less interested in the collection and investors not lining up . Well, welcome to the real world. People , even sissy men who like trench coats lined in layers of tutu tulle draw the line sooner or later. Personally, I was starting to worry there was no limit to the ridiculousness of these clothes.
He vehemently denies any trouble on the horizon . This is the stock response when you are a super star no longer in touch with reality. You deny the fact that your aesthetic and business model are completely out of synch with reality. I don't wish ill on even the most deluded but why not wake up and start smelling the stench which are businesses strewn down 7th Avenue. I would rather be in than out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CFDA Award Nominations:It's the Fabulosity Factor

Again , we have the usual suspects. Just goes to show you how quickly a year passes. It's so quick that the date changes , but the nominees stay the same. Slight variations in category placement but otherwise the roster remains unchanged. A pox on the CFDA; but that is a separate story... but one that will get it's fair scratch.
The first big joke is The Director's Special Tribute Award ,which goes to Michelle Obama. The New York fashion industry and the CFDA are determined to make the First Lady the Mother Theresa of New York fashion....whether she wants it or not. She was invited to every front row during the 5 ring circus that was Fashion Week. When only her lame , publicity starved secretary sat in for her (and grabbed every photo-op possible) they've decided to give her an award to apply even more pressure to show up. Michelle Obama doesn't have a favorite fashion designer any more than God does. Her choices are random when you consider one minute it's Narciso Rodriguez(nominated),Jason Wu(nominated, but why/how) Thakoon Panichgul(you guessed it, nominated)Alexander Wang(nominated and already a past winner), Isabel Toledo (NOT nominated, which shows just how brain dead the nominating committee and members are) and J. Crew (unqualified for nomination, as it is a company and not a designer, per se.) Mrs. Obama looks like the litmus test for nominations.....
Then there's Proenza Schouler( for accessories that are less than a year old , and probably the 3rd or 4th time consecutively they've been up for an award,also having won in a tie with Oscar de la Renta) who are perennial nominees. They just seem to slither from category to category. As long as they have their looks and Anna Wintour's blessing , they'll stay on the roster.
Marc Jacobs for menswear and the International Award for Louis Vuitton. Last year he was up for Women's designer of the Year, and also the previous year. It's a merry go round of the same players every year. This multiple category stuff is way over the top.
There's the "Shove'em Down your Throat " nominees like Rodarte who, like a noxious hairball, keep coming up for the past 2 or 3 years. Here we go again. The press is determined to make them the sisters of the tattered shroud, so back they come.
Alexander Wang, Thakoon Panichgul and Jason Wu are the new token nominees. All Asian , all yearlings and all derivative. Jason Wu and Crew are the text book example of how you get nominated. You get one unappealing , ill fitted gown on a First Ladies' Inauguration, get press up the ass and you're an automatic designer of IMPORTANCE. His sales have gone from maybe a few hundred thousand dollars a year ago to a whopping 4-5million as of now. We ALL know this is a fiction. The press prints it, people and the CFDA eat it up and he's considered the next Oscar de la Renta. Why isn't Oscar nominated. He's a force with the collections and the sales figures to back him up.
Alexander Wang is a shameless t shirt designing self promoter... a Fashionista blog Blob. Thakoon has more talent than the other two , but so what.He is still marginal in my book and in the books of many across the country. It's an insider's award show .
Anna Sui getting the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award is very smart. She is a hard worker with discipline and staying power. She is the most worthy of them all.
So it should prove to be another stellar evening of glamor, power and fabulosity. I only wish that it was worth all the time and money wasted.
The next day will be like the day before. The industry will still be in the toilet and shrinking by the minute.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Paris on Speed....starting to fade.

The order of go is going to be my good to less than good list. My patience is running low and at this point my generosity of spirit is fading as well. Excuse my curtness if someone gets short shrift but if it doesn't ring true on some important levels I call it as I see it. If I fail to mention some designers whose collections were seminal in their freshness and importance, it's my own short sightedness, and for that I apologize in advance.
Hermes/Jean Paul Gaultier: Clever, classic,collectible, cool and Crocodile ...... All the elements that make Gaultier's Hermes one of the most coveted collections on the planet. I've never seen crocodile handled in such a masterful way. The colors of it from brown to taupe /grey are perfect as are the shapes and paired down details. The skins are allowed to entice with little or no tricks to get in the way. These are MEGA investment pieces delivered to you in such a way that they will never age, never ever be out of date or style. But that's the way the whole collection operates. Gaultier understands the rich heritage of the House and designs in a way that honors that heritage, making almost every single piece instantly collectible. The greys in cashmere, flannel,astrakhan, leather suede, everything are just perfect. The right degree of proportion , be it sleek to fluid is on the mark. His eye and sense of how best to mix leathers with fur with fabric with accessories are the mark of a designer at the height of his creative powers.
Nina Ricci/Olivier Theyskens: Aside from shes which I found disturbing, distracting and dumb, there were many beautiful clothes. This apparently is his swan song at the house and the collection was so assured and compelling. I can't see why it should be his last. It's not broken...there's nothing to fix! For whatever the reason ,it's again one of those pointless unanswerable questions which is the statement of Fashion today. So many fabulously tailored suits , fantastic draped dresses and gowns, all by a very consistent, creative and capable hand. I have not always been a fan but this collection was so great, deserving the praise and attention it garners world wide. There was a 60's feel to some of the mini tunic dresses over tights and turtlenecks and some unfortunate platforms. So sleek slick and seamless. They were looks that were retro on the one hand and a glimpse of the future on the other. So much of this collection was so complete your whole wardrobe is there ...or certainly all the pieces one could need to breathe new life into the things you already have. Why is he leaving?
Givenchy/Riccardo Tisci: Sorry, you lose me on this one. If this collection were under his name and not Givenchy's perhaps it would stand scrutiny. As a collection for Givenchy it doesn't make sense. Forced, fumbling,fatuous and ultimately false , is what I came away with. Cuts that were overwrought. Too much over and over again. Repetition of details and looks and with the exception of a parade of white gowns at the end, boring and banal. I don't see why Theyskens goes and Tisci stays.
Rick Owens: I don't see beauty, or feel that it is a vision of creation for women that is anything more than dark, darkness. Bummer. I know there are acolytes out there who call him God , but this believer is not of that faith.
Gareth Pugh: There is a talent there to provoke and to grip the press and all who crave the new flavor . It still reads Advanced Placement thesis work . I'm not boarding that boat. If it doesn't float in the kiddie pool, how's it going to fare on the open seas?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Paris on Speed....second wind!

Balenciaga.....Ghesqierre's collection in so many ways was an homage to Yves Saint Laurent . The liquid draping of skirts, dress, jackets , you name it ...they had such a strong feeling of YSL. You could say Ungaro was being channelled . I don't want to take the credit away from Balenciaga , though. That would be a disservice. Nicholas was clearly evident, but the shift was very apparent. The tailoring was there like last season just much softer. The shoulder went from peaked and rounded to more an Armaniesque slightly extended and round one. One look which appeared to be tweed , but was infact tiny caviar beads to create the texture and look of tweed with a draped crepe satin skirt, was a hybrid of both YSL paired with Armani. It was very beautiful. So many looks were very beautiful. Beautiful is not an adjective that I associate with Balenciaga lately. There is something romantic that has infiltrated this house. Perhaps Nicholas has fallen in love with someone other than his own reflection. Maybe, He wants to appeal to more women. Maybe he has gotten a little tired of the hard edge and is going another way. Whatever his motivation, it feels and looks right.
Louis Vuitton/ Marc Jacobs: He just doesn't do it for me. Not in New York, not in Paris. There is such a randomness to his work. I liken it to taking a big bowl of many types of well cooked pasta,tossing it against a wall and seeing what sticks. The editors treat him like a darling and it begins to look more and more like he plays to them and not the audience.....but I think the audience is mostly editors, so there you have it. Some pretty clothes, but there's no story there. It's a styling job for the magazines and the groupies who swear by him. I will say that what comes out of the LV workrooms is superior to his eponymous collections , but it is a similar message/look just with richer fabrics and a fatter checkbook supporting it.His collection had the feeling at times of early Lacroix Light. It was a nudge to ask women to drink and be merry...fiddle as Rome burns because in time this present day crisis too shall pass. With this in mind there were lots of bright colors and patterns, poufs, frou frou, all sorts of sweets to amuse and delight, but not relevant in the end.
Chanel/Karl Lagerfeld: Either way you slice it, he is the man. I've come to see that in a strange way Chanel is a rather static collection. The directions it takes each season may differ but the message is the same : Chic, modernity based on a romantic theme with an underlying melody that's composed of variations of a variation on the theme. It's all so masterfully interwoven that we think we're hearing a new composition when in fact it is a passage that has been revised, developed, altered , played in a different key but resolving itself back to it's original melody. This time it was a very Edwardian/ Beau Brummell riff. Lots of black and white coats, coat dresses, skirt suits all with layers of ruffed and rusched collars and cuffs. Cut away jacket shapes over draped empire dresses....very romantic ...very Chanel. Black and white subtly was invaded with the palest jade green until the looks were all jade with white. It felt familiar as shapes were all familiar , just tossed and paired in another way. Then pale pink invaded as the formal became more sporty and then shifted from romantic ,historical references to the sleek leather dresses of a modern woman. Suddenly bold graphic second skin body suits appeared under short puff ball jackets. On and on it went in typical Chanel fashion. In the end it was like a film you enjoyed but didn't really think about the next day or the day after. When you're asked if you saw it, you'll say yes, it was good but be hard pressed to remember the plot.
Azzedine Alaia: Fantastic. A master who hides behind nothing. No gratuitous decoration. Not one crystal any where. The models were glorious in their own beauty, enhanced by unreal shapes, seaming and beautiful fabrics and textures. A genius. This is a collection that makes one dream. It's a different way of looking at beauty. The difference between nature and artifice.

Paris on Speed....first hit!

I think it was a good season. Paris is still ground zero for fashion. Not NYC and not whatever is spit out from Central Saint Martins' (as a rule) or Milan either ,with one or 2 notable exceptions.London does have a growing energy that demands attention. The action is in Paris. That's where the big Girls and Boys play. So here is a lightening fast tour of what I saw that I liked and didn't.
Before I start, there's one detail I'd like to shine the light on. There was a leit motif that ran through many, not all collections. There was a prevailing reference to Yves Saint Laurent. This referencing started last season most notably with Marc Jacobs/ Louis Vuitton. This season it was more like a virus. Done best by Ghesquierre at Balenciaga and a handful of others. It was sort of strange. The auction of YSL and Pierre Berge broke records at the Grand Palais days before the season began and then everyone showed 'homages ' to the master. Interesting , but a little jarring.

Above, a look from Karl Lagerfeld, which does not reference YSL. (never in a million years....)

Dior/John Galliano
: The overiding theme was Orientalism put through the blender. Galliano is a master of technique. His imagination is so ripe its oozing and the collection was full to the brim with a feast of elements spilling over each other. From New Look shapes to transparencies in filmy embroidered chiffon, it was a collection like what must have run through the addled minds of the Opium addict. But in all ways sublimely beautiful. His imagination is the most fecund of them all there whether it's your cup of Absinthe or not.
Lanvin/ Alber(t)Elbaz:Real clothes for real (rich) women. A cool collection focused on the real and not on the sensational. That isn't to say Elbaz's unusual shapes, quirky draping and proportions aren't sensational, they are. He's just more firmly planted on the ground than Galliano. He is reaching out to a real woman, not one who is more a vaporous fantasy. The clothes that read more chic day were just that. The cocktail dresses were confections like a lot of the evening. Pieces whipped, beaten folded and stirred by the hands of a gifted chef. He designs from his soul. I have the feeling it is not a quiet , peaceful place, but that is unfortunately the truth for most truly gifted createurs. Their interior lives are a churning sea of conflict which find creation the balm. I liked it very much.There was a very interesting profile on Elbaz in the style issue of The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. Very enlightening. Get it.
Karl Lagerfeld: For the most part a very interesting collection. The shoulder for many designers is the area most altered. He played with it , exaggerating it , squaring it by way of sailor collars for the most part. I don't love that particular point of exaggeration but it worked in some pieces. The epaulets, jewelled and embroidered were ok but I preferred the simpler looks. This collection always has a very esoteric quality to it and as a consequence seems to go over peoples' heads , but there was beauty in this collection. One must go to style.com to get it's essence. He's a prolific designer. A force.
Time to take a walk in the woods....too beautiful to stay indoors.

London......I should have gone.

Paul Smith

...but I didn't. I think though that we could skip New York and put the time and attention on that hot bed.

Milan Fall Collections

First of all, no one and nothing is any longer immune to the ongoing unravelling of life as we once knew it. The Titans of business in all areas have been brought to their knees and reality has driven a wedge , and in some cases a spike, into the heart and soul of so many. IT Holding SpA, the holding company for Ferre, Just Cavalli,VJC Versace,Costume National and Galliano labels filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11. So no one and nothing is really safe from the wolf at the door. He's just circling , gnashing his teeth and waiting. So with this news flash at the beginning of Milans's Fashion parade the shows started.
Some good , some not and many just as we all expect. Gratuitous trend whoredom is excruciatingly boring and in poor taste:Everything from Cavalli.
Armani. Well that about sums it up. His secret like Lagerfeld's is that he found his niche 30 years ago and stuck with it. Hence superstardom. Albeit, typecast, NEVER changing but just what that customer wants. Enough said.

Prada/Miu Miu are an intellectual's paradise. Beautiful mixed up clothes. Texture , color form nature or shot through with chemicals. All sorts of functionality. And then there's STYLE. Nothing was uncool, and more importantly, these are clothes that suit all ages sizes and types. You can pick and choose or be a total victim and pile the whole thing on ,shopes ,bags, all of it and still look uber-cool. It is unassailably MODERN. Too expensive? Unfortunately. Honestly, and truly a wise investment for the long haul: Damn STRAIGHT.
Raf Simons's Jil Sander collection was artistic, technically inspired and very compelling. The shapes, very architectural and plastic in their manipulation was refreshing and provocative. Super cool. He is a designer pushing the envelope in a steady but still intelligent way. The rhythm of the collection went from quiet ,classical super clean shapes to abstraction. The progression was so subtle you didn't realize you'd been transported until the air was suddenly thinner and the view more fantastic. He keeps his audience right there in the cross hairs and it was very exciting. Others like Gareth Pugh and Rick Owens have more of a "Mow them down" aesthetic that leave me cold. There is real thought with a sense of referencing the past that make s his poetry understandable. Even when you don't get a word for word translation, you get the meaning. His dress is the one shown.

Then Bottega Veneta showed. Thomas Maier is a fantastic designer. A qiuet storm. The collection is thought provoking, hip and essential. It's as though you're in the dining room, the smells from the kitchen are making your mouth water and you can't quite catch what is cooking. When the dishes are served it's not at all what you thought. It's better. These clothes, lots of dresses in delicious colors,his use of leather and fabrics,and shapes are of the moment and ahead and have something for all women and men. I constantly find that I want to wear it all and to see women in droves dressing in these pieces. His imagination, technique and eye for proportion is razor sharp. He's my hero and I, his champion.
Gucci is tired. And by extension/extinction ,so is Tom Ford. His legacy is one that has not stood the test of time. Next:
Dolce is just that. A riot of candy. Great , over the top candy, but in the end there's rotted teeth and sugar shock. I'm still of the mind that all is not well in the kitchen.....
Lastly, Ferre was inching it's way down the kitty walk. The 2 guys(Tommaso Aquilano andRoberto Rimondi) did their best but the elizabethan theme was not exactly fresh or interestingly rendered. It takes time to find one's way in a house with such history and reputation. I think it will get better as they go. Clearly, they possess taste, skill and a point of view which will ripen over the seasons. I hope they are given the chance to realize it.
For those I didn't mention, go to Style.com and look for yourselves. Same goes for the ones that I did mention. Style.com shows the complete collections that shouldn't be summarized in one specific look.

Enjoy, discuss, dissect!

Out of sight...out of my mind

Me with my birthday toy!
Yes, For those of you not sure, I am a boy......

I've enjoyed a tiny hiatus.I just realized Fluff has been in circulation for a year this month! What a fun ride this has been. I never thought I'd have the energy and imagination to keep the ball rolling,but roll,it has. Thanks to all of you for your indulgence and patience with a sometimes unhinged alley cat . The truth is that like all beasts I only seek love and a sense that I'm ok even if the world is not.
I feel a little guilty not weighing in on the collections in Milan and Paris, which had much more meat than what New York for the most part exhibited...but I'll get to that.
There's also the CFDA award nominations that beg discussion...and I'll certainly get to that. When the kitchen got too hot I got out of town. Where to if you want refreshment, an open and expansive horizon filled with style, fascinating people and places??? There's only one destination that satisfies those prerequisites: Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. You heard me, BRATISLAVA. I'll share that fantasy trip as well. Nice to be back with you all, even if being back at the scene of the ongoing crime isn't.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My thrilling Saturday night!

It's saturday night and I'm getting together with a friend I've wanted to see for 20 years! No kidding....20 years. We're going to have dinner, try to catch up and commiserate at how profoundly excruciating fashion can be in the age of Madoff. I think it's gonna be just great. He, like me is a lifer. Wish you could all join in , but this one is a table for 2. Have a great night, try to slough off the doldrums and party like it was 1992!
See Ya!!!!!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lambertson Truex Redux

It's never simple, this business of fashion. I was ruminating over their situation all afternoon and started to see a slightly different angle to this unfortunate turn of events. In many ways this is yet another cautionary tale. Here's a 10 year old company who sold a large stake to Samsonite. Then the old store roll out routine. Grow , grow grow til you bust.
The numbers bear out this problem. Samsonite opens store in L.A. , Las Vegas and NYC. Rents are exhorbidant.Sales don't support the overhead, and next thing you know assets are in the 1million dollar range with liabilities soaring in the 10-50million dollar range. Any math majors out there? So there you have it. I believe guts and a willingness to protect your business will win in the end. In this case I certainly hope so. LT just needs to keep their collective eyes on the bag and not on the fast buck.

Lambertson Truex

Chapter 11. Seems no one is safe. Whatever happened to the luxury market and the people who kept it alive? This is a really sad statement. These guys were 2 of the best this country has to offer. There wasn't anything they didn't touch that wasn't of the best quality, proportion and taste. I hope they pull through.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nip and Tuck?

Is it my imagination or does it look like Todd has had some work done? These pics span a year or 2 but the one on the right is the most recent and the one which looks the most"altered". I know it's ill-mannered to point and stare, but it's seems so odd to see the differences in these portaits. I hate to see that in a middle aged man...midlife crisis, career crisis, or what have you. That's no reason to go running to the local butcher. .....Plastic surgery is pretty scary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Todd Oldham Overboard!

Don't say I didn't tell you the boat was carrying one too many passengers. Ironically, it's the captain who got the heave ho. Todd , as Creative Director at Old Navy since October 2007 took a long walk off a short plank . This is a little stale as it happened last month , but his performance record has been stale all this time. Sales at the venerable house of low brow design have been wheezing for some time now and he's been the Go-To guy for just about every aspect of the chain's performance. Technically, Todd walked out late in February, but the sharks have been circling for the past several months. Reports of weak sales and uninspiring product have been bubbling to the surface for some time.
He was ushered up the gang plank to great fanfare , and proceeded to do what he does best from the days of his eponymous collection and his stint with Laz-Y-Boy. That easy chair gig alone should have been a harbinger of things to come. Lots of big plans were put in place, as is his M.O. There would be home and beauty products along with clothes all branded as Todd Oldham for Old Navy. As we've all failed to see, none was to come to fruition. He and his production company are very big on big ideas but woefully short on imagination and follow through. That's 17 months of big time planning with nothing to show for it but a lackluster performance and a typically greedy lawsuit against GAP,Inc. . All of this is apparently over a "business disagreement". Most disagreements are discussed and worked out. Few go straight to Federal Court unless one side is out for blood. Considering the Gap is the injured party with a huge chain of stores crippled from little creative direction, one would expect them to pull out the swords. In this case it is the other way around. Breach of contract( whatever that means) and other sealed claims are the gist of the suit. This fishy stink is so in keeping with today's economy. If you can't earn it , then just take it.
Puss Cat has heard from very reliable sources that there is a history of the GRAB technique used by L-7 Designs Inc , Todd's holding company for his various trademarks. His other ventures in the licensing world have gotten him in to hot water before. His folksy charm is a foil for back alley tactics.
Apparently, Gap,Inc. isn't in the mood to be kicked around by this Keds shod was-been. They have there own lawsuit cooking in the galley and have no plans to take this sitting down. Something tells me that they possess a bit more spinach in their guts than Todd, and they intend to flex those muscles.Gap Inc.'s spokesperson Louise Callagy says that Gap is confident in their ability to defend themselves on all points and are filing their own breach of contract claims against L-7Designs Inc.
The jib could swing this way or that , but I have a sneaking suspicion that the mast will end up in a place unplanned. Greed and lust are rarely satisfied bedfellows. Let's watch and see how this tattered sail unfurls.