Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chado Ralph Rucci S2012 : ∞ and beyond....

Let's start at the bottom and work our way up. If God is in the details, then this experience was like hanging out in heaven for a few moments. The floor was covered as the hordes massed. When all were seated the guys who run the show peeled away the plastic covering the runway to reveal a plexi-glass surface with the shade of nude emanating from below its surface. I can't speak for others but from that moment I sensed I was in for something special. Had there been seat belts I'd have buckled myself in and pulled the strap tight. The lights dimmed and from the far end where the models emerged was a wall of mirror fractured into squares. It didn't so much distort as it presented different elements of the room, the models and clothes with a simultaneity. The room, the runway and the crowd was huge. I almost wondered how one could command a space so vast and then remembered which show I was about to see. The sound system started and Bolero filled the air. Anyone with two eyes, 2 ears and a heartbeat knows that that music takes you from point A to Z and beyond. Knowing that he would in essence play with this audience of devotees by sending out a parade of ideas one building on the other, creating a tension through complexity, easing up on that tension through color, shape, detail and then build an even greater tension. It was not lost on me that the palette was almost all white in the opening with shards of silver in python and crystal embroideries. White is the black of the heavens. The collection was a study in light. From the weight of things, to the shapes and their movement, the surfaces and the overall intention behind them he seemed to be at ease. Ralph Rucci may struggle like many of us to keep the business grounded, viable and alive. At his level it must be very stressful, but you'd never know it to look at this collection. A work this profound must be born in a certain degree of anguish but the result was nothing short of joyous. Here is a man who has discovered many secrets to beauty. His signature techniques with double faced wool, the seaming and insertions that were for the most part clear plastic and tulle were bravura displays of technique. Where they had once been little tension points they now are curving, roaming lines that define shapes, reveal expanses of skin making planes of fabric, exquisite matelasse in particular, appear to be held together by air. The embroideries in crystal were so minute that they were almost microscopic. The surface of things in the world of Chado is misleading. What appears to be solid or sheer is more than likely a combination of thousands of smaller worlds joined together to create positive and negative space. There was magic to the experience with clothes that presented one picture as they approached and a completely different one as they passed by receding into the void. A column of wool in white revealed a cerise paillette gown enfolded from behind. There was as much or more interest in many of the looks from the back view. His Infanta gowns which are heady numbers on the best of days were almost stripped of all of their structure. They were beautiful examples of intricate dress making with none of the stuffing or stuffy about them. In all of the collection's intensity and complex techniques Ralph Rucci made it all look easy. The audience paid close attention to everything that passed in front of them. From his wealthy clients, to the editors and the rest of us, there was an atmosphere of intense interest and appreciation. The chatter was all about the incredible things he shared with us with pointing and audible sighs all around. The music grew to its climax and just like a precision instrument the clothes built to their inevitable crescendo. The lights came up over a room full of dazed and delighted pilgrims. Then the roar of a standing ovation 1000 strong. Pretty heady stuff. I would imagine when one has gone the distance season after season blood and sweat is no longer the issue. Going from A to Z is his warm-up and infinity, his destiny.

* check out, but better go to YouTube. there you see front and back views and the movement is everything.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Victoria Beckham S2012: Season to taste.

I'm reminded of that sure-to-be-a snooze film about to open, "I don't know how does she do it." with Sarah Jessica Parker looking at these clothes. Last season Ms. Beckham had a very singular vision that really, for me, was startling and beautiful. Posh Spice, the bad girl, soccer mom, international clothes horse got serious about her new found vocation as leader. Her days of making a spectacle of herself in every over the top look from the best collections were calmly put aside. These clothes are serious and so is she. I had little faith that she could so effectively change horses so late in the race, and then she did. The accessories are as refined as her taste in fashion. The tarty almost trashy aesthetic she once promoted is now an exercise in restraint. A tit show with hems climbing up her tiny butt is a thing of the past and not just because she's spent the last year in a state of with-childom. She's embraced the mysteries of cut, grown-up fabrics like double faced wool, razimir, grain de poudre and shapes that suggest. So with that said, I was a tiny bit disappointed with this collection. It is again beautifully made, in wonderful rich fabrics with details like luggage straps and accompanying hardware that tells a story of her jet setting life. The colors are cool, clear and fresh. The shapes are at times oblique and at others almost coy. It has the look of a collection for the world stage which is something when you consider that she's only been at this for a handful of years. Today felt a bit like Allspice, a touch of this and a pinch of that. Things felt a bit familiar like her go to looks that have filled her closets over the years. There were some jackets that felt like Versace. Chanel was brought into rotation with those sexy, lithe leather leggings. Gucci and Saint Laurent made an appearance lending some moral support. That isn't to say that they were literally employed only that it felt like she was a little overwhelmed with other things to make the sort of statement of last season. The bags continue to delight as does the general high standard of the make and fit of the clothes. They are clean, clean, clean with little or no distracting details. The satin faced organza bubble jacket, like a sexed up Zoran, in dreamy oyster looks like something she probably wore in the final days of her pregnancy. A number of looks would be ideal for a super model on maternity leave. Now that the baby is baked the nannies can take over and she can resume her role as the world weary, Super Spicy, Soccer Mom. For the life of me, I don't know how she does it.

Altuzarra S2012: A question of taste

It's never good when even the biggest girls on the runway can't make the clothes look like, well, great clothes. In this instance they (the big girls) didn't even look like they could muster the interest to try. They looked bored. Last season it was the winter coat I wore to high school with the nasty road kill trimmed hood, or at least a very exact replica of that coat which I can't seem to locate and this spring it's tired windbreakers, anoraks and poorly cut coats over depressing bits of this and that. The python, leather and stretch collages of 2 seasons ago have developed into Hawaiian printed cotton, poplin and silk collages for this season. It looks like a lateral move to me and one that's headed perilously away from center stage. These sartorial statements land like cannonballs in the shallow end of the pool. Big splashes as far as the press goes and we the audience just get soaked on the sidelines. I looked closely at the clothes, especially the coats and outerwear that everyone makes so much fuss over. The construction is perfunctory, the leather mixed with cloth looks like a battle lost on both sides and the silhouette is like the artistry of a sloper without nuance, forget poetry. Its a lot of hard doing all it can to appear soft. Knowing that much of what he makes including these samples is done off site it's not surprising that it all looks so vague. This is a feast cooked up by a committee of technicians. What good is a made in Italy label when you had little or nothing to do with the process beyond a sketch and some specs? Fitting the clothes on models a day before the show is not the same as making the samples in your own studio and working out the kinks. I will cool my jets and leave the decision up to you. To me, at the end of the day it's a question of taste.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Prabal Gurung S2012: Command Performance

This collection is a major step forward. For the past two years Prabal Gurung has been lauded as one of the most promising new designers on the scene. Unfortunately, so much of that noise has been a distraction. Experiments in the past with tricky cuts and even trickier construction have overshadowed an aesthetic that is more sophisticated and salable than his contemporaries. Unlike many of these young designer conscripts, Prabal seems to be one who genuinely loves the work as much or more than the annoying pose. This collection shows that he, more than most, has what it takes to command attention. His Rorschach print is a welcome departure from the stock digital rose prints that have spread like weeds throughout many collections. He echoes it with abstract embroideries that snake and mirror across surfaces of dresses and trousers. His tailored pieces are every bit as strong as his dresses and gowns that are divided by wedges of tulle inlaid in silk crepe and satin. He uses tough fabrics which can only be tamed by precise cut, fit and workmanship. Unlike outings in the past where the fit was sometimes less than precise, he has gotten that pesky detail firmly in hand. The tricks of his cut now create wonderful shapes that flirt with the body. You see traces of Beene and Rucci in these cuts but they remain his own. The mix of elements is exciting to see as though he is at ease with the complex as much as with the straight forward. What satisfies the most is his maturity and singular message. Luxury doesn't depend on rote messages from old masters and is also not the exclusive domain of the French. I think the heir to the old guard here is Prabal. It isn't who you dress but what you make that matters. The ultimate test is the selling floor and not the cover of a magazine. I wish him luck. He deserves it.

Jason Wu S2012: Wu Who?

Yes, I know. Obnoxious title. Well, I would argue the same for this collection. Billed as "modern" and "couture" it is for me another long winded line up of his expected fare; a raid on the Oscar de la Renta oldies collection you can buy at a Palm Beach resale shop mixed with items that scream modern like anoraks, shorts and gladiator shoes. The sleeveless, peter pan-collared blouses, pencil skirts, beaded tops over tiered evening skirts and gowns with short lengths in front and trailing behind are all shapes we've come to associate with O de la R. Even the little ostrich feathered cocktails he keeps hauling out season after season are still vain attempts at the originals. I would imagine that his copious use of peplums on jackets and cocktail dresses is his ode to the couture. What I see in this collection and in many collections by "young designers" is this idea that covers are the new originals. It appears that Wu has bought into the murmurings in the past that he is the heir to Oscar's business, the next Bill Blass, the Carolina Herrera of tomorrow. If that were the case, it should act as inspiration to work hard, create an identity (his own) and become worthy of that honor. Not to sit back and copy every line of a handful of tepid shapes over and over again until you start to believe they're your own ideas. The press encourages this sort of stunted growth. It takes much more than tricky runways in gilded hotel salons to make good clothes. The St. Regis should be spanked for making him their style ambassador world wide. What has happened? His program notes indicate his collaboration with a hot shot graffiti artist who came up with his falling leaves motif and another meeting of the minds with Tom Binns for jewelry. If the product of those collaborations is any sort of indication of the fireworks to come, the St. Regis needs to think about what sort of image they want to project: a 5 star luxury hotel or a Days Inn.

Duckie Brown S2012: War of the Roses

Steven Cox and Daniel Silver held a gang meeting at Industria the other day. These boys appear to do battle by means of much style flexing and disaffection. It's no longer who's the meanest, toughest kid on the block. Now, it's who's the leanest, most androgynous man on the runway. Clothing that used to act as armor has melted into something more akin to skin. Bombers, hoodies, puffers and trousers with many pleats are cut in nylon so weightless that it all but disappears on the body. The closest thing to a banal denim or leather were a few pieces cut in waxed cotton and tweed. The effect was compelling like so much of what these guys do season after season. They have an uncanny way of altering ones view of what is, nudging you to embrace what could be. I've never left one of their shows without feeling the urge to try something new. The dated romance of garish logos and cumbersome hardware has been shelved and traded for moody shaded cabbage roses digitally printed on silk satin faced organza in matching anoraks over boyfriend shorts, t-shirts, shirts and trousers. Whatever aggression these roving packs of testosterone pumping warriors project or the fear they inspire, we are disarmed by their beauty. We stand and stare and no longer run and hide. What was once a threat is now pure seduction. Fay is the new butch.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hard Time

With John Galliano's conviction today for his anti-Semitic rants and the ravings of an inebriate with controlled substance complications, it would appear the worst is behind him. Losing his gig with Dior and also his own collection is probably not so stinging as his expulsion (seeming) from the VIP section of all things fashion, unless you consider last month's Vogue spread on his design of and participation in the festivities surrounding Kate Moss' nuptials to another inebriated rocker. So with fines of approximately $15k (which was in fact suspended unless he has another slip of the tongue) and time spent in a rehab boutique hotel which for designers of note is the new slammer, he's all set for his comeback. Some people would argue that he's gotten off easy and to them I have a suggestion. Maybe the best way to ensure his rehabilitation would be to impose a sentence of a forced march through every Godforsaken shop, store, stand, bar, bodega and boutique that's celebrating Fashion's Night Out this evening. Considering it may be pouring rain he could perform this hard labor without benefit of an umbrella, a hair/makeup assistant, press agent or INTERN for that matter. I would wager that when he's finished with all the high jinks planned at every last spot from here to there to Queens, he'll be as good as new. Honestly, I can't quite see the whole point of this exercise (his trial) except maybe to take the attention away from the machinations of the MAN and their global finger f%#@*g with the system. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water someone dropped a charging Blackberry in it. Good thing I've got on my new chocolate rubber Tretorn puddle stompers!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


It's over. Labor Day came and went like Irene. Tons of anticipation and then done. I'd been thinking about it since April hoping that I'd keep my mind on the present and not anticipate summer's end. For the most part I did. I was surprisingly in the here and now for large chunks of time. Visits from family, my mother and Anton's niece who stayed with us for camp for several weeks, culminating with a visit from his sister and another of his nieces. It was fun being an uncle and took me a bit further from myself. As slow as time passed it did find its way into August and then the final stretch. Labor Day has always been bound up with a return to the city and a return to this business. The last escape has always been the Hampton Classic. I remember the first time I went way back before we owned this house and before I drove. Sure, I was already kissing 30 but a late bloomer in some areas. We rented an antique fire trap and I rode my bicycle to the show grounds in the pouring rain. Torrential is more like it, but I went and slogged through the mud as happy as could be. The competition was great to see but for me it was all about the warm-up arena where horses and riders prepared to enter the ring, their dates with destiny. To this day I love the warm-up area best of all. The tension of some riders and the almost zen quiet of others is palpable. Its the horses that captivate me no matter the noise around them. They're so brave, so guileless and willing. They make it all look so easy as they wind up and spring over fences that top the heads of trainers, grooms and helpers standing by. I love the tack, the beautifully made saddles, bridles and the precision of the braiding of their manes and thick, lush tails. The gear that the riders wear is also impressive in its strict, clean lines. I tune out the posturing and the all too obvious celebration of money fondling others with money to revel in the beauty of the sport. It gives me pangs of longing for the days when my horse was a central part of my life, but also brings back the joy I felt with our connection.

It brings to mind a similar feeling - the excitement we felt in the studio just before a collection was to debut - when I realized that the battle was not to be won or lost - it came down to the joy of creation. The collaboration between one's heart and mind, the team that makes the dream real and the good fortune to be able to play the game at all is everything. I'm going to see a number of shows this week and next. Victoria Beckham's in one I am very curious to see. Marc Jacobs is another I'm curious to see. He's on the cusp of a great turning of the tide. Will he ride the wave or be ground under, a victim of the undertow? Ralph Rucci's Chado is sure to be a very high point in the lineup. If there is anyone who understands the importance of digging deep, it's Ralph. Just when I think he's created a new language he comes up with something even more elemental. He shows us that beauty is something that can never be easily named. I love the feeling his clothes give, that fashion can be something that transports one far beyond the narrow confines of trends, or the trappings of celebrity, even beyond the definition of fashion. Big ideas, I know, but look at his work and tell me I'm wrong. After having Run and Jumped, all that's left is to Walk. Starting Thursday we Walk.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I promised myself when the summer began that I would get back into fighting form after a 2 year hiatus from life or the life I used to lead. It started with signing on with a trainer at the gym, yes that gym. I'd been a member for a while but never really went. So as of May 1st I started going 3 days a week, first thing in the morning, to workout with Brad. On the weekend I joined Anton on what used to be his run. Each weekend we'd go out on Saturday and/or Sunday and run through the woods and along a couple of roads before returning to the woods finding our way back home. It began, like the standing date with Brad, as a chore. I dreaded it and would approach it the same way I did anything I hated: first anger, then procrastination then grudging acceptance. What I found was that though my mind abhorred every single step, lunge or squat, my body actually liked it. I came to understand that I wouldn't really feel good or feel like me without the exercise. So I gave myself up to it.

This weekend I'm home alone. Anton's in Germany for his mother's 90th birthday celebration and I'm here doing solitary things. The one given each day has been the run. Without him to push me I thought I'd just sit it out and say I did it if anyone asked. Its so interesting because I see it all so differently on my own. I took some pictures along the route to share with you. I wish we all could do it together. Imagine the conversation? Anton keeps suggesting that I arrange a dinner and invite any of you who might be around and interested to meet. It feels like we've been having one these last 3 years and I'm frankly very curious to meet some of you. No one is more surprised than me that there are so many others out there who share similar views on this world. Perhaps, I'll screw up my courage and plan dinner. I'm not clear on my fear of it, perhaps only that no one would show up or just some people I've pissed off would come and berate me. Oh well, they're invited, too.

Running gives me a clear and open mind. My thoughts reel from what to eat when I get back to the coming collections and my curiosity is mixed with ambivalence. Reading the paper this morning (in Paul Smith signature multi-color striped boxers and matching terry cloth bathrobe) I was non-plussed with the article on the destruction of the Halston brand. Its like a game of 3 card Monty with a pack of overpaid, under appreciated and unqualified shills. It has had so little to do with design since Bradley Bayou, Piyawat Pattanapuckdee and Craig Natiello diddled it to death. (There were some high points with a shred of hope but management took swift measures to kill even those.) I'm not going to bore you with more discussion on this dead horse of a topic but the tenures of Harvey Weinstein, SJParker, the Choo shoe lady, Rachel Zoe with her 50 vintage Halston pieces and deluded mind are all way past the 15 minute limit. Since when did personal style or a stylist's badge constitute design ability? Not even Jacqueline de Ribes could pull off an original idea without copying something in her closet. It's over. Put the gun down and walk away.

Coming through a thicket that's a camp ground for the deer I was thinking about what the press considers news. I can never be sure if what they're not saying is more important than the pith they do write. Personally, I could care less what the menu is at Chado Ralph Rucci for his team. I would hazard to guess that many of you are equally uninterested. What I do want to know is what he has up his articulated sleeve for this coming Spring. I'm curious as to why he's moved his show from his loft in Soho to the tents at Lincoln Center. I also want to know what astral plane he's surfing that will certainly exceed the RED fever dream of his collection of last season. A white jacket is mentioned with trapunto swirls. Could this be his color for Spring?

This run is like a cross country course for horse and rider minus the big jumps. Since Irene blew through here last week there are lots of fallen trees creating natural obstacles along the route. Its exciting and gives me a thrill. I have to climb under, tear through and jump over things that weren't there before. It reminds me of Three Day eventing competitions I watched as a kid in my hometown in Massachusetts. Horses and riders went over the most grueling courses. I'd tuck myself into the woods by the most forbidding fences to listen as they thundered their way through the forest. The jump judge would yell,"Horse on course" and we'd all have to stay still and quiet so as not to disturb or distract the pair. Then up and over fence they'd bound. These obstacles were huge and solid. The legs of many of the horses were coated in Crisco so they'd slide over the barriers in the event they rubbed them. These men and women played for keeps. They either made it or they didn't. My route through the woods is similar only I run it without a horse. Just my thoughts.

Proenza Schouler has come a long way since their days nursing at the tit of Mother Vogue. The clothes are interesting and beautifully made. Their voice is becoming clearer and starts to have its own particular ring. Still, when I come upon them in a story sharing space with Ralph Rucci I can't help but notice the disparity between the two. Their recent news with regards their partnership with Andrew Rosen and their visit to Congress to plead the case of the counterfeit laws is all just so much filler. Why not just work? Why say things that give people the impression that you're immature, irresponsible and self serving? Why draw attention to yourself with wildly inflated numbers? Spending "$3million per season on development" for a company of their size is pure fantasy. Perhaps, mother's milk was tainted as I've long believed. Their discussion with The Times regarding late fabric deliveries and the dispatch of an Intern to fetch it in Italy brought to mind the fate of the Intern in today's world. They have become the equivalent of the crack whore trainee; the lowest position in fashion. I'm sure they learn lots but I wonder how much of these lessons help keep the flame of ambition alive. Sending an Intern to fetch a package in Italy sounds glamorous until you factor in that they fly coach, get little food or rest, never leave the airport on the other end and turn around with the parcel only to repeat the process. Where's the glamour in that? How about ordering your fabric in a timely manner and put the money to some better use? The smug tone of their exchange was telling. It's a "let them eat cake" attitude that is poisoning the well. Interns are the new slaves. If Interns got together and struck today, most of the over bloated schedule for this coming week of shows would disappear like a bad dream.

The final leg of my run is through a path with vegetation that grows like an arch over head. The sun barely breaks through and deer and turkeys rustle through the undergrowth on either side. Its been about 45 minutes and I've covered about 4 1/2 miles. The way is so deceptive with its changing landscape and hills mixed with flat stretches. The constant change keeps me interested and engaged. Taking a walk break is as satisfying as running along with so many beautiful things to look at. The approach back towards the house is like a gift. I can come up the back way and through a large gate to the back acre and the pool. Nothing is sweeter than taking off my shorts, t-shirt, shoes and hat to dive into a cool quiet pool. What felt like a chore is now an accomplishment. If I choose to do nothing else today, I've done the most important thing. My blood is pumping, my mind is active and I feel light and alive. I don't even feel lonely like I did when I woke up. The day is mine.