Friday, October 29, 2010

Enough R and R.....(reading and rotating)

 It's been a while since I've been here and clearly too much has happened that I've missed commenting on. Honestly, the romp through the fashion capitals of the world left me exhausted and just a little dispirited. How much hyperbole can a person stand before going into saccharine shock? I did and it took some time to find my equilibrium. To be blunt, I questioned the value of the subject matter and wasn't convinced that it was the best use of my time. Mommie always said that if you don't have anything good to say then keep your mouth shut. The naughty boy in me can heed that warning for but so long before saying whatever comes to mind. So with that said, I think it's time to blow off a little steam.

I read some fantastic books in the last few weeks. Coco Chanel: The  Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie is a tightly strung powerhouse of a book. Between the photographs never before published and the trove of illustrations by Lagerfeld that accompany her dense prose I was up for 2 straight days. So much juice annihilated previous half truths of earlier biographies. The forces behind Chanel's herculean drive are broken down into bite sized pieces. The end result is a portrait of a lonely, woman possessed by a need to create order from chaos and beauty from ashes. Knowledge may be power but more than that I think it's a privilege. Diaghilev: A Life by Sjeng Scheijen is a choice read as well especially because he and Coco were close friends and together they changed the surface of this planet. Like Chanel, Diaghilev was a brilliant manipulator and an unlikely sexual predator. The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall was absolutely hilarious. An American in London taking the measure of the English is impossible to put down. The humor and insanity of the Brits layed out chapter by chapter explains why they have the Royals and we have Tea Baggers. My only question when all was read and done was,"What happened to Anna and Hamish's senses of humor?". There's nothing better for an existential crisis than a few murder mysteries and a heist book. Ruth Rendell and her alter ego, Barbara Vine can dish it better than most and I happily tucked into: Portobello, The Monster in the Box and The Chimney Sweeper's Boy. Each of them is fantastic. The Art Thief by Noah Charney was filled with simultaneous art thefts across Europe along with brilliant forgeries that stymie Scotland Yard. If only fashion was so multi-layered....

Fiction can only sustain me but for so long and I find myself diving into artist's monographs and magazines. Last month's Harper's was only good for glimpses of Drew Barrymore. She's a beauty that continues to intrigue and delight me. I even get excited when Cover Girl commercials come on just because she's so damn beautiful. She even makes chiffon look glamorous again. Not so Kim Kardashian on this month's W. When did low rent porn become the new high fashion? If this is what Mr.Tonchi has up his sleeve I'll take my chances with Redbook. He'll be transforming W into a Sears catalogue of Anna Dello Russo's closet next. ADR is a new syndrome that there are no drugs for. Like bed bugs, only DDT will eradicate her and that's outlawed at present. Some of you may think my comments on Ms. Dello Russo are the result of sour grapes. Maybe so. Nevertheless, she bothers me and everything she stands for I find suspect and grasping. She may be good for business but I find her act to be woefully flat, bordering on desperate. Her moment came and went with the Vogue Ball.

Enough ranting for one day. I'll be back once I'm situated on a hammock between 2 palm trees in the Florida Keys. That's later tomorrow. I'm excited to get out of here for a little more R and R.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Louis Vuitton SS2011: Turn the Beat Around.....

Hear the rap tap tap tap tap on the drum? I do, and it's really loud. I feel the bass thumping in my guts and God knows how I'm ever gonna make it to work in the morning. I'm working a major Love Hangover. Catch my drift? If not, just look a bit closer at these clothes and pull out your encyclopedias. This cover of the late seventies when Studio was "IT", full of Halstonettes and the ultimate wave of EuroGlam would make a great Diorama. Marc Jacobs is on a nostalgia trip that is fun on the one hand but irrelevant on the other. Steven is no longer at the door and neither is Mark (not Marc) for that matter. The velvet rope has gone the way of those cozy banquettes and no one is doing drugs downstairs or getting their nasty on up in the balcony. We've all moved on. I'm content with my memories and don't have a desire to relive them. I wonder if anyone living in the real world wants to either.

These thoughts race through my mind when I look at this Louis Vuitton collection. It feels like the last gasp from his Marc Jacobs collection that was way too literal YSL but with less of the beauty or irony. This girl looks smoky, tired and lost on the dance floor. Her dress is duller and more shop worn than when she arrived.

I think I read that Lagerfeld commented on this epidemic of YSL covers as looking like Rive Gauche shopping bags. He asks if women really want to dress in one. I'm wondering the same thing. The best of this collection were looks that aped YSL from the color blocks to the Orientalist inspired pieces. They veered into the realm of the smoke machine with Siegfried and Roy tiger stripes on fabric that looked more Qiana than silk satin...alot like the fabled Nik Nik shirts my classmates wore. How scary is that memory? The coloration of those stripes in clashing purple and marigold left little to the imagination. This was a ride on the D train to a threatening neighborhood. Maybe I lost my sense of humor at the coat check or just got pissed off because I had to wait an hour too long to get in, but this romp was lost on me. Perhaps, this is all a very sophisticated coded message that I'm taking too literally when I should lay back and just let the music take me. Colors became so muted that they looked like they were buried under layers of film. It didn't feel alive or vibrant only heavy and static. It brings to mind that adult playground in the desert, Las Vegas. That all too familiar maxim can apply here: "What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas."
The work in itself is masterful but the message feels stilted and self conscious. This is one for the insiders.

Images: Courtesy of GettyImages

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Alexander McQueen SS2011

If there is a way for someone to touch this world from the other side, then that's what has happened at Alexander McQueen. This collection is so much his voice it seems like he's spoken through the hands of Creative Director, Sarah Burton and her team. This is not meant to take credit from her. She is deserving of the highest praise for work that far exceeds that of her contemporaries or the expectations of the world. What astounds me is the unbroken thread of his vision that seems stronger than ever in her capable hands. So many themes he was exploring have been developed and realized in the most fantastic ways. Feathers, butterflies and wheat, that symbol of good fortune are woven and applied to shapes that are at once other worldly and approachable. Burton has taken his vocabulary and softened it without distilling the message. Whereas the last collection was difficult to imagine in any other setting than a museum, this is made to be worn by many. As much as these clothes are offerings to the gods, so too are they meant to walk this earth. This shows you it is possible to keep the flame burning. I wish them all the very best of luck. Somehow, luck doesn't seem to be necessary. This last gown looks like the personification of his guardian angel. She's maybe among us which is an even greater gift than these beautiful offerings.

Images: Courtesy of GettyImages

Chanel SS2011: Chill Pill a la Parisienne.

Lagerfeld seemed to take a long relaxed exhale in this show. All of the tenets we've come to expect from Chanel were there for the most part but in a decidedly relaxed and unhurried way. The Chanel woman gets dressed for Spring but she does it in a supremely confident and unselfconscious way. Isn't that what style is meant to convey? A confident foot placed one ahead of the other with one's gaze set on a vanishing point..... That's what these clothes seem to be saying. She is beyond the fray of scrambling Fabulistas and off in a wider world participating in life, not trying to harness and direct it. The difference is subtle but worlds apart. Lagerfeld seems to be saying , "Get on with it before you waste the little time you've got."

The collection seemed integrated into the idea of everyday and high and low. Suits were varied in cut with and without embellishment to the tweeds that often were constructed of unexpected elements. What was consistent throughout was an ease and offhanded luxury. The idea of uptight was nowhere to be seen. Some chic jackets were paired with punctured jeans and chunky platforms. An interesting "boot" was a platform sandal with an attached leg of leather that climbed to the thigh. Not for everyone, but sexy. As low as skirts fell so did the waists rise. He has set a new height for empire lines that hover at the apex of the breast or just below it. This is not the easiest for fuller bosomed girls, making them look meaty, but in the best cases it created a look of nonchalance and innocence. Many of the dresses had a Heidi/Dirndl vibe with double layered skirts. These took me back to 1981 (yes, I know. I'm packing an AARP card in my "bill fold") when I saw my first ever fashion video of a Valentino collection at his boutique at Detroit's Renaissance Center while spending spring break from college with my friend Vicki Beekhuis in Grosse Point, Michigan. I was TRANSFIXED. The ladies running the boutique were so kind to replay the whole show 3 times. I could not get enough. I remember the music was Stanley Jordan with ALL the BIGGEST girls of the day: Dalma, Mounia, Iman, Tara Shannon, Kirat, Anna Bayle, and on and on. After that day I was sketching everything with a double layered dirndl skirt. (Vicki's father Dr. Jan Beekhuis was one of the preeminent plastic surgeons then and I foolishly said I'd love to see him day. He took me up on my request and next thing I knew I was standing over his shoulder in scrubs as he ripped through 2 nose jobs, an eye job and a macro dermabrasion in about 2 hours max. Needless to say, I got way more than I bargained for, but I digress.) Well, Lagerfeld was working a similar look but with nothing more than air giving it loft. Chunky, slouchy knits played a big part in the line up with one girl looking very Lee Radziwill in that self assured, world traveller way.

Feathers were included in some tweed dresses for day and in an explosion that Carmen Kass wore. It was though he tossed them into the air and they landed in a cloud surrounding Carmen. She looked hot. Lace was part of the casting as well with a great dress on Stella Tenant that looked like geometry. Many of the girls were more womanly in shape which added to the "reality fashion" vibe of the collection. The icing one this cake was the inclusion of Ines de la Fressange the face of Chanel through the better part of the Eighties and one of the most elegant women of this age. What I appreciated most about this collection is that Lagerfeld didn't bother to preach. Why should he when the whole world is already converted?

Images: Courtesy of GettyImages and

Ungaro SS2011: Retreads in a flower strewn Junkyard.

Grim determination is the face of Ungaro, or more specifically of Anna Dello Russo who "walked" in the show. When does one draw the line at the excesses of vanity and step away from the gun? ADRusso is just one symptom of this disease. It was a parade of Giles Deacon's pals wearing his ideas of French fashion. They were pastiches of clothes shot through with ersatz glamour and hyperbole. All sheer laces, de rigeur draping and Lesage embroidery that came off looking like droopy, cheesy tweeds bought on 8th Avenue were the stuff of this collection. The principals have been flailing in the glaring light for direction and purpose only to come up with a dilettante designer with retread ideas. Reconnecting with the DNA of the house shouldn't mean TKO looks or nighties that are all T&A and no imagination. It was obvious that this was more smug wink at Deacon's fans who base their loyalty not on his ability as a designer but by his popularity as a personage de la mode. To my eye there is a huge divide there.

I liked the laces, I've always had an appreciation for cleverly designed lace that draws from the past and shoots towards the future. I'm just not a huge fan of clothes that lay women bare. In private no problem. In public I find that I don't know where to look. Its like walking into Abercrombie and Fitch and being confronted with all but naked young boys with only a pair of jeans on, riding about 1/4 inch above their "dangly bits". Know what I'm sayin' ? I get uncomfortable. The same can be said for women dressed in a filmy layer of nothing over bared breasts and a thong. I'm just not that kind of guy, I mean cat. There was a lot of that in this. What was good was a beautiful black crepe draped dress like a sarong over a lace skirt. It was the essence of Ungaro but refreshed. The same could be said for a gown that was all huge liquid skirt and deep V top with delicate appliques of blossoms. There was also an abbreviated shift with a surface of over scaled graphic sixties blossoms that was a happy dress. That's pretty much where the fun stopped. In its place were exit after exit of silly clothes with no sense of humor. Several of the models were women who had worked for Ungaro when he was at the wheel. Perhaps out of kindness or party-addled old age, they were quoted as saying they preferred this retread to the original. I find that disingenuous. Just because you're a model doesn't mean you're required to be an idiot. You guys check it out and draw your own conclusions. I'm sure my view will be a less than popular one but that's life in the slow lane. I've found that the fast lane on most highways is strewn with the bits and pieces of retread tires. Drive with caution.

Images:Courtesy of GettyImages

YSL SS2011: Oui, Oui !

Maybe Stefano Pilati isn't the rube I thought he was. Considering the effect the YSL retrospective has had on the planet, and not in a good way in too many cases, it was surprising that Pilati would take his inspiration from that show's essence and use it to fertilize his collection. I would have expected the same from Gucci, Marc Jacobs and countless others but instead they decided to let YSL do all the lifting with little or no effort on their parts. If I saw another ruffled peasant blouse or color combination of cerise and navy it would blind me for life. It was pretty exciting to see such a sure and complete collection where almost everything was a feast to the eyes. This company has been a non starter for me forever but I think now I was maybe a bit hasty.

He opened with the ubiquitous trench and travelled on into suits and separates that all had something he's lacked in the past: clear, defined lines. The long skirt slit with the askew piped pocket was a statement and not a suggestion. Blouses in silk charmeuse and very crisp cottons had the essence of YSL's lantern sleeved blouses and peasants of the past but non of the verbatim details. These were a hybrid of sorts that expressed the freedom and romance but in a different translation. The dresses that followed, some in thumb printed chiffon , others in tan crisp cotton with bared midriffs were classic ,elegant and modern. These pieces were timeless in the same way so much of what Yves did in the past. There was real dignity in this work which has sorely been missing in the past. I found myself musing that we probably wouldn't see these clothes on Anna Dello Russo's shoulders precisely for those very reasons. She doesn't do dignified.

The setting of the show was a stately hotel particulier with gilt ceilings and uber-elegant rooms which seemed appropriate for such a cool, clear and refined presentation. I'm sure the audience loved the proximity to these clothes they wouldn't have had at a venue like the Grand Palais. This setting only added to the seriousness of Pilati's efforts which is a stark contrast to many many outings in the past. He seemed to have lost interest in shocking people with flaccid attempts at irony. Even his decision to limit evening gowns and focus more on jumpsuits, draped silk evening pants with chiffon blouses and re-imagined "Smokings" was an inspired choice. It seems he has taken his place among the greats of Paris this season. Even Stefano looked invigorated by this collection as seen in his bow at the end.

For everyone who yearns for a rehash of the greatest hits of YSL they will be able to find them at Gucci, Jacobs and lots of other houses and no doubt at trickle down emporiums as well. But for those who want fantastic clothes that are the next generation of the master's oeuvre they only need to return to the source.

Images: Courtesy of

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lanvin SS2011: French for Kors Lite.

What a sublimely elegant collection in the most unexpected colors.The palette hit me over the head like a lead pipe dressed in ethereal chiffon. Talk about neutral shaded colors mixing with each other like some drunken orgy. Each and every color except maybe the acid green was suffused with a big puff of smoke creating a visual calm like an expert dentist with masterful technique.

I loved all the high tech stretch fabrics both sturdy and light as well as the silk chiffon and feather weight silk crepes that danced in gigantic circular skirts. What was most impressive about this display was the absolute minimum of old school construction. Almost every piece of this collection could fit into a modified IT bag with room left for a passport and titanium Amex card. You most certainly get your money's worth at this house.

The "suits" which are comprised of a jacket with this new, larger raglan shoulder and fuller sleeve paired with a skirt AND pant together is certainly giving a woman her cake and ice cream at once. Techno jersey dresses with attached chiffon swags were an interesting study in form and flourish. As somewhat studied as this look is I thought it was very fluid and poetic in its way of going. That's a way to describe the beauty of a horse's movement when on the one hand one is appreciating the creature's physique and at the same time the elegance of his movement. Well that's what struck me about these concoctions. The fact that the chiffon was tethered to the dress by means of harnesses and collars was certainly in keeping with the horse metaphor. Why one would harness a woman or a man for that matter is another question altogether.

One dress was the visual equivalent of a two-for. One side was all grecian-draped chiffon and the other was crisp constructed jersey. The browns, taupes and greys of these looks was pretty powerful. Alber Elbaz's color sense is one of his greatest strengths. Several dresses were in amazing colors like ink, oxidized steel and bronze, as well as greige (love that color and word), muted celadon green and blue black. Separately they sang but together they roared. No one so far has sent out color to get under your skin like he has. Keep the prints and stripes when you can have a dish of these treats. He also let the fabrics speak without too much unrestrained fuss. There was a purity to this collection that was very smart and grown up. Women are seduced by beautiful clothes. They don't need Cirque de Soleil to feel right.

The very simple mix of clean shapes whether hard or soft with spare leather accessories was effective but also the thing that made me scratch my head. What was it about this collection that felt familiar and at the very same time different from a typical Lanvin collection? The hyper-clean shapes in jersey with all those liquid skirts and cleverly incorporated leathers looked oddly like Michael Kors. I don't feel compelled to connect dots in order to diminish or discredit, but this was a one-way street to Chez Kors. Perhaps, the colors separated it from Michael and perhaps not. The chiffon were delineations from the garbage bag caftan he did for Tilda Swinton at the Oscars a while back but were also very much in the feeling of Her Holiness, The Donna of KNY. That's cool. If this was an unintended homage to Kors and Karan, then bravo. They certainly deserve a hand even if one is a bit stuck in her groove and the other has become a bit too glued to the Tube. Check out the collection. It's really very beautiful.