Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Fur is flying. Fortunately for me, it isn't mine. Fur seems to have come back from catwalk extinction to an all time high. It turned up in almost every designer and sportswear collection from here to Tokyo, for guys as well as gals. This has given many people a sense of alarm. The proliferation of fur coats, jackets, trim, skirts, boots and hairy shoes are difficult to ignore.

The fur industry over the last 10 years has all but curled up and died. It is a shame, because it is one of the most specialized, not to mention old industries that from one season to the next kissed the oblivion of extinction. I've always felt that fur is a matter of choice that should remain a free one.

PETA and other over zealous zealots should take care of themselves and not resort to physical violence and unveiled threats to make their point. I had to laugh that PETA went after Johnny Weir just prior to the Olympics to remove one small piece of fox that was placed on one shoulder of his long program costume. He complied which was equally surprising. Why PETA harasses him and turns a blind eye to a whole industry that used fur in every imaginable way is a mystery. Even Gwyneth Paltrow got into the act when she's an Eco phreak, faux fur trapping, sometimes Super star. She certainly must have pissed off PETA turning up in a Tod's ad with real on , not Fo'. For the same token, the Naomis and other ex-Supermodels of the world who used to cop to the Gospel of PETA are now lapsed converts. The ads in the Times and fashion mags of Miss Campbell with only a do rag on her head and a fur minus any clothing, at all, is certainly a wake up call. Now why over the hill models have gotten it into their bubble heads that in order to work they have to be stark naked , show all and sundry is another sad story better saved for another rainy day.

Now the news on the bulletin board is that the Sisters Mulleavy of the Convent of Our Lady of Rodarte are taking the reins of Revillon Paris. This is probably the oldest and most venerable House of Haute Fourrure in the world. It's the Chanel of couture fur design. I know what you're thinking. What's up with that? I guess the girls are itchy to move out from Mummy and Daddy's house and find their own starter mansion. Money is tight and they need a gig that will pay the rent. When you read that the best seller from this springs collection are the gladiator boots, the clothes don't appear to be the hot ticket that Vogue declares to anyone who'll listen. So what, more power to them. BUT, fur? what will they have to offer to that dialogue? How will they carry a house that relies on customers being seduced by the most rare, expensive furs which have been designed in the most creative ways? Rodarte has the annoying habit of turning up their noses at luxury. They like to burn, melt and distress it. A bit of yarn, wire, a glue gun and bits of shredded fur will certainly cause the customer to stop and stare. I just hope there is a back-up team to pump out the goods while these two are busy making news. News is what they'll get and that's what Revillon will risk their business and pay dearly for.

Bon Chance all. I, for one will sit and wait. No one seems to think about the future, only the moment. They might as well have asked Lindsay Lohan to do the job. She's certainly got plenty of time on her hands and can attract the press probably even more with just as little effort.

Friday, March 26, 2010

ALT takes Yale by Tsunami

I, along with a few hundred Yale under grads, had the unique opportunity to hear Andre Leon Talley speak at a tea for the Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library 2 days ago. The theme was "The Elements of Style" and was moderated by the Curator for the American Literature Collection, Louise Bernard. The topic of the tea was the Life and Times of the great ALTalley. Never having visited Yale University it was a chance to soak up the atmosphere and hear him speak extemporaneously on his life from humble beginnings to... well, to the force he now is in the world of fashion and style. He didn't disappoint.

I learned things about his childhood that were familiar, having read his memoir a few years back but there was more meat to what he shared and correlations between his family who raised him and his adopted family in later years. Diana Vreeland and his Grandmother were interestingly similar. Both were passionate about style, presented and managed their personal lives in similar ways and had an equal effect on his life and world view. Andre shared that he'd always been voraciously curious about the world of manners and style from a very early age and was encouraged by the women who raised him. Imagine a 12 year old reading Madame Bovary while taking a Greyhound bus with his Grandmother from North Carolina to NYC for their annual shopping trip. Andre shared descriptions on how they both packed using tissue paper to preserve their clothes in their suitcases for the long trip. Mrs. Vreeland packed the same way for her trips to Paris. His appetite for life and experiences were nurtured and encouraged by both great women and set him on his course that would lead him to the present.

Anecdotes were shared on his years as the the smartest dressed receptionist at Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and the day that his friendship began with Karl Lagerfeld 30 plus years ago.
What was most telling and the message that resonated most for me and the audience was his advice to be a person engaged in life. To read, to think and make your most vital calling card your mind. More than once he stated that what we wear is so much less important than what we know, think and our ability to communicate. Clothing, fashion and the bells and whistles that create that image are simply visual devices. Our ability to engage in life and engage others in a meaningful dialogue is what makes for a charmed one. Rattling off designers, model's names and trends may serve you in the hermetic world of fashion but does little once you're shoulder to shoulder with humanity.

I've often been awed by Andre's intelligence, achievements and position. I've vacillated between being both drawn and cowed by his bearing. What I saw today was his immense humanity, inner strength and humility. Here is a man who has scaled the heights of the best there is in fashion, worked his way to a Senior editorship of the most important magazine, Vogue, and is on a best friend basis with some of the most celebrated designers of the century. At the very same time, he is a man of sincerity, kindness and a desire to encourage many others to follow their dreams to the same ends. The audience made up of students, professors and Department Heads were completely in his thrall. It was a sunny warm day outside, but a tsunami roared inside the hall. I didn't have the feeling that anyone wanted the wave to subside, I certainly didn't.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paris when it ROCKS : Rochas Fall 2010

Marco Zanini is the perfect example of what makes me love fashion and the mysteries of its power to transform. In the best of all worlds, fashion is a vehicle that takes you in, sets you up for a new way of experiencing yourself, the world around you and everyone you come in contact with, and is nothing short of a magic carpet ride. This can happen with something as small as a new tie, a different eyeliner or lip color or something as grand as a completely new look from head to toe. I've seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times. I've experienced it, personally, as a kid and as an adult. Case in point: my first Speedo at 16 in lemon yellow (Ogunquit Beach was forever changed) and Ladies who, as my clients, came to the showroom or a trunk show looking and acting one way (dead, dour and depressed) and left with a completely different mien: beautiful, alive and confident. That's not exaggerating and it's certainly not limited to those who I dressed but the many who experiment and experience the multi-layers that make up the worlds of fashion.

Marco, who too briefly was at the helm of the Weinstein's epic disaster film,"Halston: The Exhumation", was given too small a cameo appearance ruined with over direction. Like many of the Weinstein's projects of late, it took on water and swiftly drowned, again. They should have let him do what he does best (you'll shortly see) and leave the archive and old patterns of the original to the museums and reference libraries. It was a deadening display that bruised Zanini's reputation, briefly, and showed the Halston Corporation to be a soulless, rootless , brandless shell that to this day, it remains.

So what a fantastic treat to see what he's done for that venerable old Parisian couture house, Rochas. The collection which felt more seasonless an timely than most on the calendar was smart, directional, unforced and seriously great. It opened with luxe sportswear that was a mix of disparate pieces all coalescing into a very neat whole. If styling played a background role, it didn't show it's contrived head. The impression was one of decisions made and not solutions sought. The look was what Halston could have been. Had it been allowed, the press and editors would most likely have cooed with satisfaction. Clean, modern deceptively simple pieces to be bought/worn separately or worn straight off the runway. Double-faced cashmere coats and jackets over tops or sleek trousers. This was Halston vocabulary for the 21st Century. There was a swinging 60's vibe, but not in the vintage vein, but current. The mood and insouciance of then but translated for now. A sense of coy sexiness and fun was injected into most every piece.

Teased and tousled hair along with subtle makeup was the canvas for these seductively youthful clothes. The shoes made of muted pastel silk velvet, many with square toes and low heals or leopard go-go inspired boots gave everything a cool, chick, unstudied feel. But the dresses, tunics over slim pants with controlled flounces along the hems of both and soigne cocktail looks , whether as 2 piece cocktails with pants or as dresses were youth quakes that sent tremors under the audience's seats. Beautiful, rich brocaded silks in sorbet colors and a touch of black silk velvet in the comeliest little dress and "smoking" were real high points. The bottom line is that the whole collection sat on a summit. None of it was in any way showed a lapse of imagination, craft, and never veered off topic. There was a musical quality to the presentation as if it were composed as a concerto: an overture which introduces the theme, a sprightly allegro and andante all culminating in a rollicking, romantic vivace.

Not much was written on this collection. Lagerfeld's Chanel was a tour de force, too much is made of Louis Vuitton and YSL and Givenchy for that matter. For my money, the news is with Zanini, Elbaz, Alaia and N. Ghesqierre. Notice the mix and its diversity. That is where the future lies; in the past, present and future present.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alexander McQueen

It's taken me some time to wrap my mind around the death of Alexander McQueen. I will not refer to him as Lee. That would be presumptuous of me, as I never had the pleasure of meeting him or being his friend. I, like most people, followed his career and admired his work from a remove. His was a talent that was so unique and specific that it took time for me to grasp its enormity. I started to understand it the first time I ventured into his boutique in New York's Meat Packing district. Looking at the clothes, touching them and seeing first hand the beauty of their quality and craftsmanship, opened my eyes wide. There were only a few people inside, more sales people than customers, but there was a very warm and comfortable atmosphere enveloping that store so jammed with amazing clothes, accessories, shoes and jewelry. Two women were trying on suits with the help of extremely capable salespeople and fitters. The suits on these ladies were so beautifully cut and quirky in their subtle detail that I stood watching and blurted that they must buy them, no matter the investment. Both of them turned to me and sheepishly agreed. Suffice it to say , I was very impressed and that much more intrigued by the person behind it all.

Two seasons ago, the collection that to me was more amphibious and extra-terrestrial than earthbound, sent me reeling. I couldn't get over the prints, the manipulation of such commanding fabrics, the absolutely strange shoes and lastly, the make-up and hair which utterly transformed the models. Though I wrote about it as otherworldly, I didn't get the gravity or his telescopic vision until Avatar appeared. It looked like Alexander predated and predicted a vision of women that made that film immediately look dated. I can be very stubborn and wary of art and design that attempts to dramatically alter the landscape, but he did it constantly and doggedly from his first collection to his final offering. Offering is the word that comes to mind looking at the last 16 pieces that he made. To call it a collection is to tether it to a season, this business, this earth. That would be an injustice and hopelessly mundane.

When I look at these last pieces I am sure that he and everyone working closely with him knew that he was finished with his work and preparing to move on. The fact that he cut them all himself, if in fact that is true and I don't for a moment doubt it, Alexander seemed to be making an offering to the heavens. They look as though they were his attempt to mirror the divine with man made images. It appeared that a man who had been given divine gifts was showing his gratitude by offering them back to the place from where they originated. I'm not religious in the conventional sense so I don't say this easily or lightly. It's all that I can come up with after wracking my brain for an answer.

Analyzing and dissecting each piece is a pointless exercise, just as much as trifling over who will take over the house. None of that is terribly important as they are the day to day mundane decisions that conglomerates and businesses occupy themselves with. What matters are the gifts that we were lucky to receive just by being present for the short time that Alexander McQueen wielded his mighty scissors. What luck of timing, what incredible visions of worlds he shared with us. I can only feel amazement and joy when I think of his life's work. And now that it has come to an end, all I feel is a profound gratitude to have been seated in the audience.

Images courtesy of Style.com

Thursday, March 18, 2010


There's a new warden at ANTM Correctional. He's about 6'7", clad in Chado Ralph Rucci couture, he walks tall and carries a very big stick. That stick is more metaphor than literal. The club he wields is one of intelligence, an understanding of what it takes to be an icon of style and a nuts and bolts knowledge of the business of fashion modeling. Now, becoming America's next top model is almost beside the point because just becoming a model and one with an ability to pose for the camera, effectively show and wear clothes and walk on a runway is the job he has to tackle as animal trainer, Deportment coach and prison warden.

The opening episode last week introduced us to the new bevy of soon to be beauties. At first glance, there were some promising looking girls and some that begged the question ,"Which reality show did you sign up for?". Immediately, we were bowled over by the fearless Super Model, Mademoiselle Tyra. Her team of enablers, Jay and Jay jumped to it with immediate make-overs for the 12 girls. There was hissing, crying and cheering after their initial blood letting and coif cutting. The tears that flow like a leaky faucet are maddening. The ladies were a mix of sullen, sweet, doe-eyed and down right dangerous. Demure Debs mixed with swearing , threatening, Banshee Bad-asses.

The group's pen was like a kennel despite its luxurious loft-ness. The ladies bickered and elbowed their way to lay claim to closet space and top or bottom bunks. It was a bunch of unruly, uncouth moths in boot camp hoping to become butterflies. None of the rest of the episode resonated except the incredible aggression of ladies acting like petulant urchins. Fast forward to episode 2 and the lowering of the boom or the swinging of the pendulum.....take your pick.

This is when we picked up a bit of speed and the temperature started to rise. The first casualty was on her way back to wherever and the new set of judges were seated on the bench. Little did we or the hapless harpies know, but one of the judges happened to possess Supreme Court status. The Right Honorable Andre Leon Talley of Vogue, erudite and the Uber-Arbiter of Taste was seated and ready to slam that gavel. The ladies tittered and cooed while he looked on with a certain bemused grin. I couldn't tell if he was going to pull an assault rifle from under the generous sleeve of his Edo-period inspired, bronze Razimir robe created especially for him by Chado Ralph Rucci Couture or bless them with a wave of his hand. School was clearly in session as the first utterances from his lips were on the difference between a drawing room and a Salon and what one appropriately does in the latter. Even Tyra appeared to take notes. I knew this was going to be not only amusing but also an education for all. Let's face it; ALT is a well of experience, intelligence, taste, dry acerbic wit and can reference the most obscure details regarding style, thought, manners, fashion and life. The Then and Now of it is his raison d'etre.

Tyra went from cloying to a Countess in a New York minute. Her game changed before our eyes. The other guest judges raised their games as well, though Rachel Roy was very self possessed from the get go. ALT read his charges in a language they understood exclaiming that one dressed in razor slashed leggings was the essence of "Dreckitude". He's never lost for words or imagery, never. The improvement in the girls was evident by the end of the episode. The howling, hissing she wolves were noticeably tamer and looked like modelhood was a distinct possibility. I'm intrigued with what is to come. Andre has definitely got his work cut out, but he's definitely up to the task. Watching these girls become models is going to be interesting. For the first time in many cycles, I think they just might bring one of these hot house flowers to full, arresting bloom. Whatever happens, we're going to get a free graduate school degree from one of the most gifted professors on the planet. Take notes and bring a sharpened pencil.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chanel's Successor : The Air Apparent.....

Whispers on the wind are murmuring that Alber Elbaz will take the helm of the mighty ocean liner H.M.S. Chanel. It's not official and for that reason I'm extremely uncomfortable with this post. But it appears that the heir apparent is Alber Elbaz. An official announcement is moments away so you and I will have to wait and see. It's an interesting and compelling choice, confounding in some ways and very prescient in others. I'm going to ruminate on this for a few hours and get back to you. I don't like rumors and especially when they're fuelled by hot air, but there just may be something to this. I pride myself with tackling what is and not chasing or trumpeting what isn't.....It's just another manic Monday .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dior Fall 2010: Intervention Time

How many times can John Galliano exhume the dead bodies of down and out courtesans? We've watched them rise and fall like the shallow breaths of a consumptive concubine. Opiates no longer muffle the roar or dull the ache that she must feel trodding that sodden path. Now it's not much more than a side street littered with memories. I miss the brilliance he brought to the house years ago . The inventive cuts, the compelling themes and most of all the clothes that I think women craved. Now it just feels like a cookbook of too often prepared TV dinners. Sure, the work is technically superb and way beyond the scope of many in this field. But I can't help wondering how much more intriguing they would be if he would take it forward instead of listing in the harbor. There is a swing that seems to be one of freshness and debauchery. His woman teeters between prehab and rehab. She needs a fresh start. He needs to take a step back and make a leap forward into this century. The treasures of a past age have been strip mined. It's time for a new site.

Balenciaga Fall 2010: If only I were a Drag Queen!

Nicolas Ghesquière is not my hero, or let's put it like this: I'm not a senseless Trendzilla who's worshipped at his alter. I appreciate his talent and the fact that he has been a driving force behind what we now know as modern style. The last two collections for Balenciaga have captured my attention and have shown him to be much more than a one trick pony. There's been a romanticism to his vision that has all but realigned his power base as a designer with multiple sides to his aesthetic. It all comes down to maturing and growing into his metier. They use that word over there and it is too often unjustified. This collection opened my eyes and mind to a man with a message and a mission that has real value beyond his ability to merely seduce editors. Let's face it, editors are only one part of the equation. Clearly, Nicholas gets that when you consider that he uninvited Team Paris Vogue to even view it let alone use it, shoot it, or wear it. That takes nerve and his are made of titanium.

The first clue to the genius of the collection were not his attempts to tame Yeti, though his efforts were valiant. The big news were the knits that came in a parade of a brilliant striped dress and 2 piece looks in color combinations that said, "Buy me, take me, steal me if you must". They were so right and the mix of colors so audacious that I doubt they'll make it to the sales floor. Those looks will be sold off the back of the truck before Receiving can sign them in. They look just that right. The shapes are architectural in the Balenciaga oeuvre, which is no small feat for knits. There weren't any knits in any collection this season that for me were as beautiful, practical and absolutely modern. I could have watched ten more walk down that runway and not been bored. He created interesting 2 piece ensembles in knit that played on the Trapeze and both tops and bottoms resolving themselves at the hems as knitted lace. They were simple, feminine, masterful and effortless.

Suits were in padded, strict shapes that defined the body rigorously but looked comfortable referencing the next millennium. Even a couple of the suits that 'growled' were still beautiful in their technique and his ability to push forward an idea without shoving it beyond comprehension or delight. They were less primal Yeti, and more the Swiss finishing school species.In this case, we're talking real fur and not Fantasy fur, but it was handled with a very light and expert hand, something that many designers were unable to manage. The collection was not large and that added to its impact. There were quilted pant suits with crisp short jackets that paired with high waisted trousers that unzipped revealing a colorful graphic lining. Several of these came in succession and were for me a bit outre, but they made sense as part of the whole. These looks scream editorial but they also whisper masterful technique and a very fertile imagination. His use of jackets with sleeves to be worn or not was a clever device that worked well in some cases and not so much in others. All in all, I was happily surprised and felt like I'd learned and seen something new.

This was Balenciaga for the future and not one so easily identified with the past. The language was intact, but the poetry was fresh.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chanel Fall 2010: Sasquatch Serenade

Lagerfeld is never without an inspired take on what the pulse of the fashion masses are. He is a master at taking its collective temperature whether from above or below, in front (ahead) or from behind (the past). It seems that this time around Herr Lagerfeld was left alone to ponder the state of the world, the desecration of the rain forests, the destruction of whole land masses and their populations and the overall crisis we're facing with Global Warming. But looking deeper and much closer to home, I think he was in the mood for a bit of rough. With his toy boy, Baptiste Giabiconi, off making music or whatever he does when he's not the focus of KL, the Meister looked elsewhere for a muse and stumbled onto Yeti, the last word in rough, not to mention big, untamed and packing some major fur. This big fella was the perfect match for Karl in that he looks to have given as good as he got. Karl was tossed around his Hotel Particulier like some rag doll by the looks of him when he took his final bow. What a primal and potent collection this was and I loved every single moment of it.

To ship in 240 tons of ice, have it sculpted into an Ice berg and set it in an ice flow to melt (that's the warming metaphor) and subject the audience to freezing temperatures, send models wading through the river that surrounded it and dress them as the hybridized issue of Yeti and a man was just too absolutely amazing to behold. Then he tops it all off by incorporating fur into most outfits and accessories, including some of the most fantastic boots since Go-Go boots in 1968. When all was said and done, I discovered that all that seemed real was actually faux , or as Karl termed it, "Fantasy Fur". I was unable to tell the difference. With all the fur that has flooded the runways in Paris, Italy and New York, leave it to Karl to do it better and do it in Faux. Then to create these wildly animistic looks and do it in such a way that you know 1000% that it will influence and inform so many stores, consumers, designers and the press makes me howl at the moon.

His rigor, artistry, proportion and imagination was as finely tuned in this collection as with Chanel Haute Couture. This man is incapable of compromise. Every piece and detail, whether it's your cup of tea or not is thoroughly thought out. That's what makes it so much fun. The scale of the fur skirts were such that you could actually see them working on a real woman's body as much as on a model's. Haute Humor morphs into high glamor and nudges the paradigm of accepted "style" ever forward. I will illustrate this with a few images but the slide show is where you must go to see the whole story. I used to think that Chanel was best taken neat, but now it's on the rocks with a twist.

My question is: How has Karl found the secret when we all keep scratching around in the dark?