Saturday, April 26, 2008

untitled and unedited: Asian Invasion

The Orientation of fashion....with 6 you get egg roll! Remember that tired Doris Day movie, a yours ,mine and ours romp through homogenized southern california, where all is sweetness, success and light. The overall message was benign. That is the end when you distill the offerings of the Asian invasion in NYC fashion: Peter Som, Phillip Lim, Doo Ri, Andrew Gn,
NOT including Anna Sui or Vivienne Tam, those babes ROCK, but continuing the list of those who should be rolled, I can include Peter Som again for his role in the dumbing down of Bill Blass and finally, and last and also least....Kimorra LEE Simmons. She can play the Asian card when it suits and the black card for street cred. She's probably the most confused and successful of the pack. There is an Asian invasian in new york fashion. Peter Som is probably the most overrated and uninspired of the bunch. His collections these past 7 years or so(an eternity,not in a calvin klein compelling way, but in the long drawn out infomercial way) has been a point of interest simply because of it's mixed message. A collage of aesthetics are seemingly disconnected and untethered. A talent lurks under the surface, but never presents itself. He gets lost season after season caught in the bubbling quicksand of TRENDS. A lovely dress with a beauty in its simplicity paired with a tatty coat , a regrettable hand-knit sweater on top of all that and a waifs matted hair-do as a crown and presto : you have a truly forgettable look . Let's not forget that it was commented on in the NY Times that several of these LOOKS on the runway a couple of seasons ago were not complete without threads hanging and hems unfinished and uneven. These conceits I fear were not planned. That would be too clever and I don't think he's that quick. Despite this obvious genius, he's tapped as the new( new is the new OLD) face and designer of Bill Blass Collection. Someone over there, thought that his experience and the fact he'd once been an intern years ago made him uniquely qualified to pick up the reins of that whipped and heaving pony. That was baffling when you consider Blass as the last word in classic modern American luxury sport and couture . Those gifts were honed over a career that spanned 40 years. How could a 30-something tween with a career spanning all of less than 10 years take on that task and ALSO continue with his own collection. Only Confucius could wrap his brain around that one. A huge collection of the highest order complete with licensed divisions , multi seasons and pre-seasons to create and then add another collection on top and you get CONFUSION of the most mystifying sort. I do love the ad in Vogue with him ,TUXED,in a aged ballroom with a group of black kids dancing. He's seated at a grand piano with black super model Leeya Kabeede standing by in a signature evening dress that is confusingly an exact knock off of a dress by Oscar and Beene from about 18 years ago. Well, if it worked for them then why can't it work for Peter now....not much else is. In parting, I must commend him for his courage and ambition. Most would shy away from so daunting a task, but he has that Hari Kari inner resolve. If you go down, hopefully you get to eviscerate yourself before everyone else does.
Phillip Lim is another koi fish altogether. Before I go further, the references to these designers is not born of a racist attitude towards Asian people, I'd do a group piece on designers of color, mainly Black designers, but there are so few that have a presence or are allowed one....that's for another posting, or Latinos for that therefore, it's an Asian moment this morning.
So getting back to Phillip Lim. He has garnered so much press and early success. Barneys Julie Gilhart goes into a swoon over him. He's smart to produce cute and timely clothes at very affordable prices. He has a flagship store in MUST-BE chelsea and now thanks to his deep pocketed partners , also asian, he's opening stores across japan and china. That is definitely where the money is. This town and this country is BROKE. What doesn't pluck my shamazen or send me leaping is that the clothes are just simple and cute and hopelessly young. His Gap ad is so insipid . He stands with all these skinny blonde models in clothes for 20 bucks that look like they were designed for girls 15 and younger. All very nice, but the smokey eyed gaze directly at the cameras lens suggests something greater and more important than tween wear for women suffering from arrested development. But that hooded lidded gaze is the money shot. Every one
is seduced by that, by him that it will sell. Seems everyone wants what they can't have and will never be. Well you can afford this and you can ape a Lolita look. Maybe he makes it possible to disprove that fact.....just take a coldly objective look into that mirror before you hand it over. No one wants to be pointed at . That's too tricky a gesture to decode.
Doo Ri , the silk jersey Queen, with the impressive credentials of having been the assistant to Geoffrey Beene up to the end of his life and career, has been a big fish in this standing pool of ny fashion. When she burst onto the scene , the editors figured she would display the brilliance of her departed boss. Just working for someone brilliant doesn't make you in turn brilliant. It's nice for the resume but the rest is up to you. Her collections were beautifully draped jersey...abstract and unique. The palette was grim, which was the first indication that all was not soaked up at Beene, but still everyone piled onto that too fragile cart and claimed her a visionary. Vogue threw money at her, the CFDA nominated her a few times and a career was hatched. It helped that mom and dad had a dry cleaning business. That detail was just too charming. A Korean restaurant would have been just as effective, but the clothes would have smelled of cooking and kimchi which could have been a slight impediment.
So with the cultural brass ring of an indigenous background, and the fact that she toiled in the basement of the family establishment warmed the hearts of all the politically correct mags, editors and stores sent her to the head of the class. As of late, she has fallen from the radar.She's selling , but without the fanfare of seasons past. I fear her fortune cookie said: Next.
Andrew Gn , another early success story has the most obvious talent. Having worked for various high powered designers, Ungaro and Balmain when Oscar de la Fantastique was driving the bus, he has come along with a clear and unique,personal style. He's cool and of the moment with an eye that is international and intelligent. So I'm biased, yes me...FLUFF, but he's got that thing that keeps you interested and feeling good in his clothes. They are clean, modern clothes ,well thought out, and beautifully made.They have a maturity that only comes from exposure to the fashion world at large. His sense of color is complicated and artful, he understands the fine line between too much and not enough. Lots of graphic elements are a common vein in these collections. Imagery, stripes,graphic elements all work together , in a young and yet all age encompassing way that make the overall vision one of discernment and that hard to find element:TASTE., Sportswear that works , and remains on this side of hip, not classic and dull. What impresses one the most is that though he 's yet another darling, he delivers. He takes more time in the studio working and less time at parties and grabbing the photo op. His commitment appears to be focused on the work and not desperate self promotion.
That is clearly not the case for Kimorra Lee Simmons. The empress of PHAT. Asian /Black/pseudo-Celeb/poor mans' Imelda Jones.....she makes the hair stand up on this hair free body of mine. I do have a few short hairs but they're situated in a place that shall remain private. She of the reality show stardom, ex-wife to Russell Simmons , and replacement red carpet critic......How she could critique style when hers is so thin it's absolutely transparent is way past me. Fabulosity is her catchword, and that is exactly what she doesn't possess in SPADES. Baby Phat started as a pitiful mish mash of clothes masquerading as fashion, but has come a long way over the past few years. It's a collection now with a particular taste level. I'd say, it's a rather low level taste ,but there's something there for the vulgar, uneducated, steaming , and ferociously acquisitive, stinking herd. Whenever one of her runway shows starts I sit back and take in it's sublime VULGARITY. Her approach is like a starving child let loose in Dean and Deluca. She's stuffing her purse, pockets and too tight clothes with every and anything she can get out the door. Yes, a style shoplifter. You'd think a woman with her means would grow some taste , having worked as a model at Chanel, girlfriends with Andre leon Talley and every stylist that can be bought, she remains a spoiled demanding oversized( bordering on truly large) wanna be. I can't say enough about how little there is there. To flip to blackspeak that she is fluent in: Girlfriend, you deserve a triple SNAP for pulling the cashmere over the eyes of the too easily led consumer.
Move over and go back to school. Stop pretending to be a designer, when your REALITY show gives you and your total absence of talent away. It's like fortune cookies after too heavy a meal. Forget the doggy bag......I feel queasy.
This DISH has too few ingredients and way too much MSG.


tintintoo said...

You're entitled to your fashion opinions, but you regrettably reinforce problematic views of Asian and Asian Americans by this post (as if the fashion industry didn't have enough problems with outmoded racial beliefs!). Asians and Asian Americans are not the same group--just as Africans and African Americans aren't--but regardless, neither should be stereotyped with the same old tired, MSG, Confucius-say, Mme. Butterfly, Orientalist brush. You would be more effective in saying that the fashion industry has an Asian fetish (that plays into some of the same stereotypes you invoke) than running down the designers for their ethnicity. Peter Som may very well be a lousy designer but don't drag his ethnicity in to tar him. You're smarter and better than that.

pjdflores said...

I am Asian myself and a designer, but Fluff, says the TRUTH.Thank Buddha someone said it. I was thinking if I were the only one that have this low opinion of the designers mentioned.