Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Short Game

When things go horribly wrong my first instinct is to choke. All I can think to do is to escape or at worst bury myself deep under the covers. This response is good for about 2 or 3 minutes and I invariably man-up and move straight ahead; smack into the oncoming bummer that can be as wrenching as a lost business/career or as truly dreadful as a death in the family, whether blood-related or chosen. Facing tragedy of this sort the reflex to flee is understandable. The fact of the matter is that once it's acknowledged, one is forever changed. There's no going back as the road we were just on has disappeared and whatever route we see in the distance is foreign and unknowable. I hate that uncertainty. I hate when things change, though some changes one knows to be for the best. It's the seemingly random changes with no obvious benefits that leave me uncomfortable and disoriented.

Spring2013 A Wang
That's what I'm feeling at this moment in front of the fire preparing to cook dinner. I'm removed from the city for the weekend but the news of PPR's appointment of Alexander Wang to direct Balenciaga, creatively, has followed me here. Though I run, I can't hide. Why do I run? In short, it's kind of like when you imagine being in the middle of an earthquake, all you can think of is survival so you seek shelter in the most absurd places. These days feel much like a symbolic quake has befallen the fashion world. A second Golden Age has come to its end. That ending has been coming for the past 10+ years but it's here now. The days of design houses with clear identities, their designers with a developed aesthetic in charge of the image, the product and the direction it would take, this is all in the past now. Most designers don't even sketch any more. It's now about product development, tech packs and stylists. It's all about branding and the brand. The funny thing is that the "brand" has little to do with the product. In fact, the product doesn't have much bearing on the bigger picture. What does have bearing is the buzz. The designer as bad boy( there are almost no girls to be the designer or bad, for that matter...) the bag as "IT", the show as spectacle and the hyperbole surrounding the proceedings parade as fact.

Spring2013 A Wang
If you can get past the fireworks of the show, hang onto the thread of reviews, resulting ad campaigns to the day the clothes land on the selling floor, you'll likely see something that vaguely resembles the initial presentation minus the Greek chorus telling you how game changing these clothes are. They're far from that. Other than some banal shopping bag stuffers, the bulk of what you'll find are a few over the top runway pieces priced to be borrowed and a slew of bits and pieces (bags, etc). Its those bits that you'll see on the street, the all important street, that birthplace and graveyard of all great design... Almost nothing else. The only thing that matters is the buzz on the street and all the crap that gets watered down and shoveled into the gaping maw of the masses. That stroll down the "street" is a grim march. And that's how I view the appointment of Alexander Wang to Balenciaga. A 29 year old club kid is not an Yves Saint Laurent who took the reins at Dior at the age of 21. Neither was Ghesqiuere. In 15 years Ghesquiere was little more an influential designer than when he started. Sure there were some great bags and shades that hit the marketplace, even a few pairs of shoes. Other than a few isolated seasons with compelling clothes and shapes, though they never hit that all important "street" unless you count the smoking area in front of Conde' Nast or the Miracle Meter that sits smack in front of MBFW entrance at Lincoln Center. There were unusual fabrics employed that were more about research and development than fashion. What did appear on his watch were for the most part aggressively de-feminizing clothes that said much more about him than it did the women he was hired to dress. I don't count editors as women, more as devices. They were all too happy to emasculate themselves in those harsh, unappetizing clothes.

Spring2013 A Wang
The one shred of hope I have is the fact that the spring 2013 collection by Wang was lyrical, technically challenging and sophisticated. Gone were the banal T-shirts, leggings, and dumb uniform we associate with redundant models and their faceless, fleshless figures. The cantilevered dresses, jackets and cool graphics played off of clothes dissected and hanging together by his force of will were a leap above and away from his compatriots. Altuzzara, Gurung, Proenza Schouler and a herd of other post grads with little identity beyond party pics and capsule collections with Target, H&M and Kohl's, didn't come close to his effort. Perhaps, there is something there that is being forced like a hothouse bloom. We'll just have to wait and see. Some critics dislike him for "trying too hard". I would say the opposite. None of these guys try hard enough. They're satisfied with a few editors, stylists, fashion directors and the model of the moment with one hand down their pants and the other reaching for clothes off the rack. Knighthood by the likes of Princess Diane von Furstenberg and Ms. Wintour is enough validation for most. The client, the actual woman who buys and wears, is left somewhere out in the cold.

Spring2013 A Wang
 Many people think that Wang's appointment has everything to do with the emerging Chinese market. There's probably a fair amount of truth in that considering Mr. Pinault's statements to the contrary. (He protests too much.) I loved the statement regarding Wang's visit to the Balenciaga archives to soak up the mood of the house and sink his teeth into its DNA. He was reported to have "wanted to spend the night" there, it was all so fascinating. I guess there wasn't time as he was reported to be on the party circuit the following night in NYC... At the risk of sounding like a meannie, I hope that he makes a bolder statement than Hedi Slimane and a more inspired effort than Raf Simons. The short game is the new long shot, but, hey... this is the new game with new rules.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monkey Business

I, like so many other New Yorkers, am stressed out. With the hurricane, the election and our early- bird blizzard, things have just gotten to be a little too out of control. Anxiety is the new normal and upheaval is the order of the day. One doesn't have to be flooded out of their home, without electricity or heat or water for going on 2 weeks, unable to find gas or public transport to get from what was once your home to your job to feel a sense on unease. All those mornings I didn't want to get out of bed are nothing to the feelings I've had of late. Things just don't feel right.

Fortunately, the election went the way I'd hoped. That's all I'll say about politics. Except, I'm still struck by the look on Anne Romney's face as Mitt conceded. In her red Oscar or Fiandaca or whatever it was she wore, with those boulder sized rock crystal beads around her neck, she looked as though she'd been woken from some nightmare only to find that the dream was real and all of it while standing in front of millions of people. So much for smug, self satisfaction.

 Smug self satisfaction is the operative phrase. Fashion today, or more to the point, the fashion business, has drowned in its own puddle of standing water. Reading the news of Balenciaga, the exit of Nicholas Ghesquierre and the machinations of LVMH to somehow show up PPR, Nicholas' supposed dissatisfaction with the lack of "support" given by Mr. Pinault, his unhappiness at the "freedom" and "license" so freely given to Hedi Slimane for his re-tread of (Y)SL, all of this "business" is stultifyingly dull and has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion, that poor unsuspecting victim, not to mention all of us who have followed her, as though she were a siren song or the pied piper, have come to a place in the forest empty of trees, water, sky or light. It's a scorched earth we stand on.

Slimane's (Y)SL means little or nothing to me. Other than editors and the conglomerate that owns and supports it and a few die-hard sheep it has no validity. Balenciaga has been the same in my eyes for years. Sure, the accessories, shoes and bits and pieces made money and noise.
lock-step editors
The gush of hyperbole from editors like Suzy Menkes at the International Herald Tribune and others at the Times, WSJ and a host of blogs/bloggers made Ghesquierre out to be the most influential design force of the past 10 years. The item he sent the world scurrying to copy was a pair of cargo pants. Gee. ( I know I over simplify, but I'm trying to make a point here. Work with me on this...) From his beginning where he "designed"a much photographed vest that was a COMPLETE copy of one by the master of collage, Koos van den Akker, put an sour taste in my mouth. Koos was my last boss before I struck out on my own. There is only one Koos, and fortunately the world is about to learn a great deal more about him thanks to an up-coming book and documentary film.

Nicholas who pointedly avoided the Balenciaga archive made one unfortunate misstep by that decision. The ethos of Balenciaga's approach to design was that the fabric, no matter its property: hard or soft, must move with the body. Never should it be in combat with the body. Despite all the creative experiments that Nicholas achieved with his fabrics, many of them man made state of the art manipulations of disparate materials they rarely worked with the body. Hard, harder and rock hardest is one way to describe them.They were the stuff of a trend poisoned editor's dream. Aggressive, self-consciously studied clothing rested on the shoulders of models like provocative sandwich boards, one moment drwing attention and the next repelling it. The rare times I came upon women in the street wearing the label it was too often re-issued designs from the original archive. They were often coats that made your heart stop. So, no tears from this corner. If LVMH now wants to give him his own label, he should remember that is in name and contract only. One need only to look at Galliano and his eponymous label to see that it is only yours as long as you have a job. The moment you're no longer essential, the name stays and you go.

There's a lot more to be said on this. I don't want to go on and on and risk boring you.  The newspapers and blogosphere are jammed with innocuous stories and pathetic bits passed off as news. It's not. Tory Burch's legal problems with her husband Chris of C.Wonder fame (and the guy whose money set her up and continues to head her business' board) is all just a mammoth luxury problem. Anna Wintour and DVF climbing in between the battling parties is unseemly. Kate Moss' supposed nervous breakdown while shooting CK ads in panties sans bra with Marky Mark is simply fantasy. The prescribed Valium to help cope wasn't as effective as coke. Simple math.
Model pregnancies, break-ups and break downs isn't news. Reed Krakoff looking at the camera in a NYT's story about being the consultant to the architects in charge of building the new tower in the Hudson Yards that will house the new Coach headquarters as though he were president of MOMA instead of a handbag company and another that couldn't make a dress that storm victims would take even if it were offered for free. He can design a great bag, but that's the beginning and end of story. He knows how to buy pedigreed art, furniture and homes like the best of them. But that's not rocket science when you have that kind of money. It buys you a cozy seat on the board of the most important body of American Fashion designers, too. In the end, this is all just monkey business. The big ape getting throttled by the rabid chimp with the hairy low hanging balls. Its all just a jungle, and we're just the suckers off to the sides watching helplessly like forlorn bunnies forgotten on the sofa.

*all images shot by me at Montreal's Musee' de Beaux Arts

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York City: Humbled and Healing

NYC Hurricane Sandy
The unimaginable happened. Hurricane Sandy, that unwelcomed and uninvited guest to this teeming city of communities and commerce stealthily slipped up the coastline breaching every barrier in her path. Like so many storms in the recent past New Yorkers had become immune to worry, sure that the weathermen and women were simply hyping a flurry or drizzle to grab the spotlight from the bigger stories in the world.
THANK YOU TO THE NATIONAL GAURD!
Preparedness for many of us consisted of buying extra mixers to go with an extended cocktail hour and a back up of popcorn to get us through the extra films we’d rented. Many of us eschewed the nasty business of taping our windows simply because the messy residue of glue left behind was more trouble than its worth when time came to remove it. Better to just kick back, keep the yummies coming and for god’s sake have enough batteries at hand for the TV’s remote. I even ventured to New Jersey to an auction of art and mid-century modern furniture the day the storm hit thinking I’d have an edge with fewer people as foolhardy as myself to venture out. Needless to say, the sparse auction room was but a trick of the eye with 1000 people on the internet and phone lines bidding everything out from under we poor suckers sitting impotently on our folding chairs.
NYC Hurricane Sandy
Well upon leaving at 7 p.m. the rain had started and there was a bit of a gust in the air. By the time we got to the Goethals Bridge and on into Brooklyn Heights (I needed to close my windows, block the fireplace, a wind tunnel for soot and wild life, get some fresh undies, my computer and my rain boots) the rain and wind was blowing sideways down the street. Staying on the UWS seemed wise considering the Mayor had shut down all public transport and closed almost all the bridges; so needlessly dramatic, not to mention inconvenient to my way of thinking. Throughout the night I kept waking up to the screaming wind and rain battering the windows but chalked it up to a noisy storm. It wasn’t. NYC Hurricane Sandy
The following morning showed me and everyone else from New England to North Carolina and New Jersey most dramatically of all that Hurricane Sandy came, saw and conquered us all. Power for many tens of thousands, if not millions is but a memory, even a week after the event.
Got Gas???
Lower Manhattan (from 39th street down) is without light, water or heat, other than what little generators are able to muster. Businesses are shut for the time being. Underground garages, basements of buildings and lobbies and low-lying parks are submerged. The subway system to a large degree is a series of subterranean waterways. Many, many homes in the outer boroughs were burned to the ground with remaining gas lines still burning unabated. Trees are down throughout the city and suburbs taking with them essential power lines, access to roadways and internet/cellular services are compromised in unprecedented ways.
NYC Hurricane Sandy
All of this is just to say that unlike the past where we all squeaked by with little more than a snow day from school or some branches and the odd tree down in a park or some less fortunate neighborhood, this time we got kissed by the big one. All we can do is exercise patience, be helpful and understanding to those around us who are suffering the same discomforts and keep an eye on how the state and national government work through this catastrophe for and with us. That is a telling and important story, of its own. The next time we are threatened with a visit by a boisterous, inelegant blow-hard like Sandy, let’s do all we can to keep her where she belongs… outside instead of in.
The President, Govenor Christie, and The National Gaurd

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm: and Sandy was her name-o!

the sun room with Silas Seandel (attr.) bronze table
It seems that I've traditionally reported to you all from the storm centers of the eastern seaboard. More specifically, the nerve center of art, style, finance, architecture, real estate and society: East Hampton. Well, I have an apology to make; I skipped the gilded confines of our dacha in the woods for the grittier environs of NYC and rural New Jersey. New Jersey was due to the Rago Auction of 20th century modern furniture, objects and art on Sunday in Lambertville. On an almost deserted New Jersey Thruway we rocketed our way to Rago early Sunday morning in time to preview the lots before the gavel dropped promptly at 11 a.m..
(my) Silas Seandel sculpture
The sky was a silvered grey with clouds shaped like racing chariots. The air pressure was shifting causing my feet to swell in my new Tod's. About an hour into the proceedings I was ready to cut them off and walk bare foot. Despite a light rain it was hard to imagine that a cataclysmic weather event was barreling its way up the coast. The distraction of a Nakashima furniture, Bertoia sculptures, Jensen sterling flatware, Prouve, Adnet, Parzinger lighting and Robsjohn-Gibbings chairs and tables took my mind off of the house in East Hampton surrounded by mature trees, 8-foot potted Elephant ears plants on decks, around the pool and heavy chairs and lounges here and there all over the property. The fact that 3/4 of the house is made up of large planes of glass gave me little comfort. But I turned my attention to beauty, and the game of bidding against sharp shooting collectors in the room, but also an army of bidders on the phones and Internet.The skylights overhead in the auction space kept the room abreast of the storm's progress.


Silas Seandel tables

The problem with collecting steadily over the past 10 years for a apartment, house and a studio/showroom leaves little room for more. When I've found things I love they are gotten for the long haul, not to be flipped and switched for something else. I feel the same about my friends. I'm not an up-grader by nature unless its shoes, clothes or phones. Other than lamps that could be squeezed into the mix, I was limited to small objects. There was a cast steel sculpture by a furniture maker, Silas Seandel, known for his amorphous bronze and aluminum occasional tables, like enormous kidney shaped masses. This piece suggested an armless figure in patinated steel. It drew me like a magnet and I swore to myself ( and Anton with the auction paddle) that that was coming home with us, NO MATTER WHAT. Beyond this treasure were a pair of Jacques Adnet floor lamps with the look of bamboo in cast bronze. So delicate, so glamorous and so f%*^#$g expensive. The auctioneer actually stopped the bidding to ask if I was ok, my expression was so noticeably stricken. Oh well.

Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce
The best of the day were a pair of chandeliers from 1958 ( my birth year) by an Italian designer Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce. I'd never seen anything like them. Cast bronze arms that range against the ceiling like an enormous spider with frosted glass bubble globes like enormous cultured pearls. It resembled a modernist brooch scaled for a ceiling 80" in length and 50" across. It was so striking I would have gladly eaten below it sitting on the floor. Well one sold for $18k and the second went for a song at $12k. Silently, I wept but it planted a seed. I will never forget that chandelier and from now on whenever I have a moment to dream I will search high and low to find other examples that may come available. Light is so important to me. The feel of a well and subtly lit space is essential to my piece of mind. This work of lighting art did just that with the added bonus of being a thing of beauty to behold.

So we came back to a stormy, windblown city. I shut up tight Brooklyn Heights( my love shack) and came to West 72nd st to stay with Anton. We stocked up on food, lined up a ton of films, including Season 3 of DOWNTON ABBEY (oh yeaahhhh), The Heiress, Prometheus, Marnie, The Paperboy,
Jacques Adnet lamps
the NBC Peggy Fleming specials from the early 70's, my video of my last horse show in Palm Beach with my beloved Gomer (Fandango) and the on demand lineup of Homeland, Boss and Honey Boo-Boo. The highest, the lowest and all the flotsam and jetsam in between. I called to caretaker in East Hampton for an update and though the power is out, no real damage happened to the property. A tree or 2 down on the back acres squishing the deer fence and lots of branches and leaves all over the yard, decks and floating in the pool. Fortunately, that it. I miss not being there but this time I'm glad I tempered the stress with a little auction/retail therapy. We were the first to arrive at the auction and the second to last to leave at about 8p.m. It felt good to show solidarity with other certifiable aesthetes. Just after David Rago the proprietor and auctioneer went around dispensing shots of vodka to the hard core survivors of 1400 lots that went under the gavel. Then he and the room thanked us for coming and staying the duration.
Pamela Sunday sculpture, my next find...
The city welcomed us back with rain flying horizontally. Still, as the windows rattled and wind screamed like a deranged Harpie, we settled in, in our jammies, apple-cranberry pie with vanilla ice cream and a remote control freshly stocked with brand new batteries. Though the city all but flooded and blew away, we had a sexy new sculpture, a warm well lighted place and best of all each other.

Monday, October 1, 2012

(Y)SL Spring 2013: One down...



Fashion shows come and go. In a matter of minutes, that thing we all anticipated, argued about, took bets on and convinced ourselves would change the way we face tomorrow happens and it's as though nothing actually happened at all. Here I sit in my Paul Smith multi-striped robe, freshly showered, shaved and sipping an awesome cup of Assam tea watching the (Y)SL collection on YouTube. Hedi Slimane's debut was billed as nothing short of a divine intervention. He was the cherry on top of a cake that's been listing alarmingly to one side. Actually, both he and Raf Simons at Dior were the new Archangels of the moment. Raf's wings were not as buoyant as some predicted. There will be plenty of discussion on the strengths of Hedi's, as well. I will say this: there were moments that had a bit of zip but in the long run, the collection seemed distressingly earthboound.

The opening salvo of Smokings, jabot tied throats of billowing chiffon blouses and his signature skinny, crotch foreshortened trousers were interesting for the first 6 exits until I saw quickly that this was the big and the small of his message. The trousers looked ill suited to the models attenuated and emaciated bodies. Though he ushered in this (new) proportion 7 years ago, it no longer has the sizzle it once did. Coupled with shoes that challenged the best of the ladies to walk seductively, or to just walk at all, there was a feeling of tension in the parade. The hats didn't help. It looked like a coven of witches had descended though I know that was not his intent. Still, they looked like witches. The beaded cardigans were beautiful as were many of the jackets, both Smokings and leather motorcycle versions. But the trousers whether in leather or wool stopped the flow of the picture. Slimane's takes on classic YSL iconic styles like the long suede Safari gown, the Moroccan blouses and long billowing skirts and some tiered pleated chiffon gowns were neatly presented but didn't feel new or different. They merely referenced and failed to presage anything to come.

Black was everywhere with momentary breaks of grey/brown and a grey with a few exceptions near the end. Tailoring was the sole technique at play. The "Flou" that we all have loved and anticipated, at least I did, was basically 7 shapes in blouses, long swinging skirts and a djellaba. That's it. They were cut again and again, mostly in black and then in brown, grey, green, red and blue. Making a statement and sticking to it is the name of the game, but this was a little short on ideas, or at least new ones. I liked the black chiffon gowns for their purity and spare detail. The belts were also great. I wondered if he and Rachel Zoe had spent a few nights on the town in L.A. before he got down to work. The clothes looked distressingly like her idea of (Y)SL. I do think that it all had more sizzle than Dior. At least it was sexy. Perhaps, over time Hedi Slimane will do for women what he so ably has done for men.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Christian Dior Spring 2013: Iffy GPS

Surely everyone and her stylist was waiting with bated breath to see how Raf Simons would follow his debut at Dior. My first response with the couture was that it was a bit light on effect and somehow oddly safe. A couture collection , certainly one at such a venerable house as Dior, should give a designer the means to soar and explore. With atelier that are capable of unimagined alchemy, why such a slim, even alarmingly stripped down offering? I don't think the world would suffer any less without yet another rack full of Bar jackets. Still, over time I came to realize that there was something beautiful and compelling in his restraint. Perhaps, it was the walls and walls of blossoms that colored my thinking. Their profusion, incredible colors, scale and probable intoxicating scent seemed to upstage the show that paraded under their exquisite noses. The severity of the clothes seemed to pale in contrast to the setting. So I sat back and waited to see what would come next.

Today is the tomorrow we all dreamt about yesterday. With his first ready to wear collection for Dior Simons has nudged the envelope a few centimeters forward. I ran back to my hotel to get a look as soon as my IPhone beeped that the images were in. I'm hanging out in Montreal for the week while Anton attends a conference. It seemed fitting to be here as it's such a French environment, even though it's still on the wrong side of the pond. I digress.... So back I ran, and here I sit.

The first looks took me by surprise. I hate to jump to conclusions, though like most humans, whether slinking on four hairless legs, or walking on two, I am not immune to quick judgements. The parade of "Smokings" felt so familiar, but not in a Dior-ish familiarity. They were so (Yves)Saint Laurent. There was a bit more volume down below in a strapless version, and the white ones were a departure, but still they didn't strike me as Dior/Simons. With all the talk of a prize fight between Raf and Hedi Slimane, this beginning felt like a theft of the (Y)SL script, an odd sort of appropriation. As the new (Y)SL is yet to debut, I seriously doubt that Slimane will opt to ape the bible we all know as Yves Saint Laurent.


















Next came interesting miniatures of vintage Dior-isms in metallic organza, all draped and tucked over little black shorts. They were sweet confections but the shorts felt too derivative of so much that's been shown the last several weeks. The metallic organza also felt derivative of Armani's over heated Prive' collections of the last few years. Again, I have to stress that I don't approach fashion in order to 'relate and tag' to preceding designer's work, unless it smacks of it.

The graphic color field dresses with asymmetric panels drifting off the sides and contrasting colors appearing on the undersides were beautiful as were the crisp satins with contrasting panels of color and the stripes in duchesse satin. The embroideries were the most satisfying with shocking yellow paillette linear patterns on floating black chiffon. The trapeze shapes of several of these later exits brought back the heyday of Dior/YSL A, H and trapeze lines, but without all the stuffing. Still some of the cocktail/evening looks with layers of frothy tulle skirts looked forced. What wasn't forced were a string of very spare dresses in black with little or no decoration. A jacket or two with a small smattering of floral embroideries dancing near the the bottom were smart, lovely and felt original.

The end of the collection was vintage Jil Sander/Raf Simons with full printed skirts and black second skin T shirts. Very pretty but not much of a stretch. I'm sure the rest of the planet is going to need smelling salts today like they did with his debut couture collection, that is until Hedi Slimane shows (Y)SL next. Then they'll most likely crown him king and need smelling salts all over again. The direction that Raf Simons is charting still feels rather vague, like the new IPhone 5 maps app. The land is clearly laid out, but how to get from one place to another is any ones guess.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kiddie Pool: NY Fashion week SPR 2013

  I put on my waders, bought through Filson's catalogue, and gingerly stepped to the edges of New York fashion week.( I know this is late considering London blew in and now we're sipping Americanos and wolfing pasta Putana in the miasma that is Milan, but I had to get this down. We all know and remember the kiddie pool. Whether it was your back yard blow up pool, the shallow end of the public/country club pools or the charming tidal pools at the beach's edge, no matter the temperature of the water, the kiddie pool, that safety zone your mother would allow you to wade and splash in, was always 30 degrees warmer. I often wondered as a kid why it was so warm, even hot. Then I figured it out.

Jason Wu
  The New york shows were for the most part one large kiddie pool. With roughly 300 shows over the course of a week, everyone and his style challenged sister was having a show. Though I didn't attend them all, I did spend a great deal of time on line and on the street watching the proceedings. From my vantage point there seemed to be an inordinate amount of kids splashing around in a standing puddle that rose to boiling by week's end. Not all of them were technically kids with some well past the age of consent. Those infantalized grown ups were probably the most distressing of all. Doubtless, some of you will disagree with my list, but hey, that's ok. Others of you may find my list wanting. That's the fun of a discussion...

  Jason Wu was one of the first I saw splashing around. He certainly was too busy doing his business to pay any close attention to the real business; namely his. Leather and Lace and the female as Domina was so spectacularly off base. I knew something was amiss when he opened the show with an unrecognizable Carolyn Murphy, trussed up in an ill fitting leather dress, Maria Braun hair and cheap shoes. Going to Wu for sex (appeal) is like shopping for fish at a hardware store.All the talk of his succeeding Oscar de la Renta is just a lot of mindless blather. Sad dressed as silly.

Rodarte
  Rodarte was another interesting pair to watch sitting up to their waists in roiling water. Shovels, matches, dull scissors and gargantuan egos couldn't get their collection to dry land. Out takes from Game of Thrones and some pilfered looks from sophomore and junior class school projects looked like the inspiration for this uneven presentation. Hell's Angels biker jackets over tortured dresses and decidedly unsexy cocktail dresses and gowns, shows that these sisters' fantasies of sexy and eroticism is limited to things they see on a saturday night at a Sacramento roadside joint or whatever forbidden treasures they unearth in sealed boxes in their parent's basement.When are people going to wake up and smell the...the tide receding?

Peter Som
  Peter Som is another water wing wearing junior lifeguard with little business being in the shallowest edges of the pool. Like Jason Wu, his clothes have always played the line between dull and pointless. His contribution to Hilfiger's women's collection is still a mystery. His own collection has been a case study of anonymity. What is a Peter Som collection? What is his identity? How can you tell a Som when it stares you in the face? Now with Spring he's chosen to take the Subway down to the land of the Hip. He proposes marriage between his Upper East Side Uptighty and his louche Lower Chelsea Gallery groveler. The end result by way of innocuous florals and awkward proportions is a confused girl, neither cool nor informed, stuck in some massive traffic jam.


Reed Krakoff
  Reed Krakoff is another repeat offender in the pool. He's simply too old to play with such small children. Its unhealthy and unseemly. I credit the rise in temperature to him, directly. The collection (I use that term loosely) is still a beard for his bags.
The bags work. The clothes just don't . Perhaps they are the filler for his shop in shops whose purpose is to fill racks. I think they are for the benefit of his muse/wife, Delphine. I can't forget the New Yorker article where he stated he couldn't live a moment without being close to her; jealous of any man who'd come before him. Blah blah blah. He protests too loudly to a room full of the deaf, the dumb and the blighted. If she means that much then design something she might wear, willingly.

Proenza Schouler
  Proenza Schouler were heralded this season as the new forces to be reckoned with. After a glowing profile in the NYTimes, discussing everything from playdates in their couture Teepee with (couture grade) shearling rugs to the "slushies" their new money Daddy whips up just to watch them carouse and coo, to their new boutique on Madison (impressive), we've been given a front row seat to witness their coronation. Well, it didn't happen. The show was an aggressively unattractive march filled with rat haired waifs dressed in last year's Balenciaga along with appropriations of Gerhard Richter's work printed on dresses riddled with grommets and pink nail heads. The splashing was so raucous I had to protect my eyes. I've seen collections by the duet in the past year that were far more mature and interesting. It's that same trap of where does the hunger go when suddenly you have "slushies" and "pigs in a blanket" any time of the day or night? The hunger and thirst were missing and in its place were some diapers in need of changing.

Altuzarra
Believe me, there were many more people crowding that pool than I've taken time here to mention. But the list would go on and on and even if you didn't get bored I would be. The chatter that is the new "discourse" is so mind numbing that I marvel at the ease with which these and other designers dispense it. Listening to Joseph Altuzarra talk about the sensuality, empowerment and eroticism of his clothes left me puzzled. Sensual? Sure, in certain cases. Empowering? Well, anything you put on your back making it possible to walk out the door is in itself empowering. But, Erotic? Um....no.




So wade into that pool with caution. Don't for god's sake go barefoot and whatever you do, fight the urge to sit down in it. You have no idea the things that are swimming and multiplying in the blinding glare of some clueless camera man. In the event some splashes in your mouth or eyes call your doctor.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alexander Wang Spring 2013: The space between.

At the show’s opening, an army of models, all dressed in white, stood black light lit creating a space-aged electric green glow. Obviously, Alexander Wang was taking us on a trip to his own parallel universe. Gone were the downtown hipster T shits and leggings of yesteryear and in marched a vision of a new galaxy of COOL.

His idea was to play with volumes that not so much hew to the body but hover and float around it. He dissected shapes that are the vernacular of American sportswear: T shirt dresses, shorts, shifts and anoraks, but in his hands they were cut into planes that cantilevered by way of invisible fishing line and tiny worms of coiled thread. The effect was arresting and even more astounding as the whole collection pivoted on this technique. His message was clear and he never for a moment wavered….

 Alexander Wang at Hirshleifers ETC

Black, white, sand and silver were the sum total of his palette. Cantilevered leather jackets over crisp white shirts were paired with python skirts using the same floating panel technique. As delicate as these pieces appeared it was clear that they would withstand wear beyond the runway. Hand knit sweaters, one of his trademarks were unexpectedly sexy by way of large cutouts at the sides and peek-a-boo openings at the chest and torso. These sweaters were paired with faux croc skirts made up of individual scales attached to the others by way of invisible threads, like puzzle pieces not quite fitted into place. It was a bravura example of his imagination and technical skill.
Some of the most memorable pieces came near the end in shift dresses that were divided into planes covering the bust, parts of the torso and divided horizontally from hips to hem. Whether by means of fishing line or as appliqu├ęs on an invisible scrim of net, the dresses looked to be held together by his sheer force of will and vision. The show was a huge departure from his recent work and one of the clear standouts of the season. The negative spaces, namely the body beneath, were as artfully displayed as were the garments themselves. Alexander Wang’s spring 2013 collection was a very exciting and inspired New York moment.

Alexander Wang at Hirshleifers ETC

Sunday, September 16, 2012

marc jacobs spring 2013: redemptive


When reviewing a collection one is supposed to do it clear eyed, without sunglasses, and never with any personal or professional axe to grind. It's unseemly and unprofessional to comment on a designer's personal life, their foibles, quirks of dress, excessive tattooing, abuse of cologne, megalomania, obsessive body building, sparkling good health, their penchant for romantically hitching their wagon to rent boys and out of work porn stars. No, none of this sort of talk has any place in the discussion. After all, we all just saw from Cathy Horyn's unfortunate mishap, that commenting on a designer's collection beyond the actual clothes can get you publicly upbraided and can even hamper one's chances for future invitations to that designer's shows. The idea is to dish  (responsibly) and not get dished. That said, let's get back to the task at hand: Marc Jacobs' spring 2013 collection.
First, let me come clean and lay down this heavy burden. I've long looked askance at the antics of Marc Jacobs both on the runway and in the locker room. Am I envious of his physical vitality? Yes. Am I just a bit envious of his enormous success? Well, um... uh, ok... yes. I admit it. Yes. So is it easy to put that all aside and confess to you all what I'm going to say next? NO, but still... "I LOVED Marc Jacobs show". There, I said it. He had me with his first satin black and white striped short jacket and low slung pleated and striped skirt. "Hello, my name is Fluff and I'm an addict. I'm unable to resist stripes". Go through my closets, my chests of drawers and the evidence of my addiction will spill out for the world to see. Marc, like me, is a connoisseur of stripes. They must be intelligently scaled, colored and placed and must above all relate and interact with their fellow stripes in a compelling way. In the end, it is the active and not the passive stripe that moves the conversation forward. 

His army of models in black/white, tan/white, yellow/white, red/white, silver/black combinations of stripes, dots, spots and checks were so focused, smartly cut and elegantly proportioned. A silver/black leopard printed silk coat and dress along with its partnered jersey leopard spotted dress was just this cat's meow. I purred, I cooed, I sharpened my claws on the monitor's screen and begged for more. 
 






The message, something that precious few designers have or even consider, was crystal clear: God is in the Graphics. No need for silly digressions or a section of leather and lace, just bold, brash, bravura graphics delivered at a strong and steady pace. The show was a mere 7.5 minutes with a ton of looks. A spotlight followed each model as she paraded the enormous runway. Even the shoes and bags were a perfect marriage to the clothes.

Jacobs was just as clever with a series of plaid and checks in jackets and coats over dresses and skirts. Everything was handled so masterfully, that it felt as though he had traded in his cloying cleverness for a kind of brilliance. It wasn't until near the end when long jersey columns in enormous snaking stripes of black, tan and red on a white ground with cut out necklines, front and back, did I really start to pace. The engineering of those stripes, playing games on the surface of the body just had me begging for more, more, more. ( I told you...I have a problem with stripes...)


When the lights fell and the show was over, I expected the usual tedious parade, but the models disappeared behind a wall of mirrors. The wall then opened like a thousand doors showing the entire collection lined up across the width of the stage with everyone advancing like an army of bold, bi-colored beauties. They took position in a large triangle with every look visible individually and the lights were extinguished. Damn....