Monday, January 17, 2011

Carpet Remnants

The season of the Awards is in full swing and everyone seems to have a hair across their ass. No one seems to have anything good to say. What happened to the days when we all sat glued to the tube just waiting to be blown to bits by some incredible star in a dreamy dress? Where are those nights when you planted yourself in front of the telly from 3 p.m. on watching every pre-red carpet special all leading up to the first limo to spew forth its fare? Did something change or did we lose our child-like innocence?

Last night's Golden Globes was not unlike countless award shows before except it aired before an audience no longer in its thrall. When you have editors in magazines and news papers disassembling the whole institution of the Red Carpet, its hard to keep up your enthusiasm. The fashion nowadays is to trash and look down on this once sacred cow. The most fun to be had in this game is to be a lucky designer with your creation on the delicate shoulders of a glittering star. When that is the case, the evening is fraught with excitement and satisfaction. The night can be one that forever changes your life, at least until the next award season. I know of what I speak. I was once a contender and oh, how sweet the torture was. No thanks to Fashion Police and cretins like Joan Rivers, Kelly Osbourne and Julia Rancid/Rancic, who've hacked that rose right off the vine. These subspecies of humans have hosted on and helped to destroy fashion for their own personal gain with no care for our shattered illusions. A nasty bleach job and a partial stomach stapling, not to mention a face job so heinous that her venom is spat by the very thing she sits on is no license to dissect the work of people who are masters of their craft no matter how misguided they can be. There. I said it.

Sure, I saw some train wrecks and lots that was less than stellar, but I also saw some beautiful men and women in some great clothes. As opinionated as I am about just about everything, I know enough not to try to impose on you all what I think was good and what was less so. Those of you with truly good taste will agree with my choices and the rest of you are on your own. That said, it was an amusing night and the real point of the evening was the entertainment. Colin Firth won for The King's Speech and that's all I really cared about. Tilda Swinton put that Jil Sander "couture lite" ball skirt in play and I f%#@&?g loved it. Lanvin on Julianne Moore was the queeny mess I thought it would be and Oscar's gowns, though pretty, are a metaphor for a shaggy dog story. Jennifer Lopez looks better in Chanel couture and Hailee Steinfeld is one amazing looking kid...AMAZING. Hemming one's gown to an appropriate length is a concept that should be taught in school and Francisco Costa has an interesting way of making some women look so RIGHT that the all the others should consider sacking their stylists. Oh, and big-assed jewels are looking fake these days. It's not a good thing when your hair cut makes you look like one of the Rodarte sisters and your dress looks like one of theirs, too. So that's all I have to say about it. The Oscar's are coming so let's re-adjust our attitudes, call some friends to come over (assuming we still have some) and get that party started.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Balenciaga pre-fall2011: Any port in a storm....

Does fashion ever feel to you like a forced march? It does me and lately the terrain seems more pitted than usual. It used to feel like a field trip to some wondrous place that offered sights and sensations that you'd remember for a long time. Now many of fashion's forays supply little more than an unpleasant aftertaste or at worst a curious black out. Nicholas Ghesquiere's Balenciaga has that voyage to nowhere feel.

Last season was a line up of unappetizing androgynes in an array of hard plastic looking clothes. This season is a collection that plays musical chairs with garish prints better suited to upholstery than to raiment. Ghesquiere's woman is devoid of individuality or femininity. She is simply a vehicle for his constructions. Cumbersome, wooden shapes in wallpaper scaled prints are his idea of modernity. These clothes go a very long way to subvert the idea of beauty. Tunics over trousers under coats is the equivalent of trying to take it with you. One can try, but to what end? If the clothes can be appreciated for their technique that is about as far as I can go. This idea of designers having something other than a woman's interests at heart is a tired argument but one he gives new life to.

A collection with perhaps 2 dresses that say "yes" and a slew of suits and separates that say "not really" is a tough ticket to purchase. What I do like and what consistently shines in this collection are the coats he offers in everything from leather, to felted or double-faced wool and that forbidden material, fur. Considering this pitiless march, at least these girls have a solid coat to gird their otherwise unprotected loins.

In this case, "Any port in a storm...."

French Voguegate, continued.

This is the second installment I received from an interested reader. It is a bit stranger than fiction so I thought you all might find it interesting. This is a translation from the original that Anonymous was kind enough to supply, and no, I am not she. The first is attached as a comment to an earlier post and I'll include it when I find it.

"Off Topic a bit, a follow up on the French" Voguegate"
Translation from another insider, same from "Jane".
All Vogue employees received an email December 17, informing them of the dismissal of Carine Roitfeld.So she was fired and will not run the French Vanity Fair as suggested.
An inquest is set to take place by Jonathan Newhouse on certain shadowy business such as enormous expenses for shootings that went to certain production companies which in turn would send a thank you payback to the interested. People are starting to talk. Emmanuelle Alt upon her hiring as editor had to forgo any consulting she had such as Marantz, Balmain and others. If any doubt comes up on consulting she will be fired immediately. Carine Roitfeld 's children also profited wildly from their mothers' reign. Roitfeld was known to call certain fashion houses, asking them to help her son now an "art dealer"with financial help disguised as sponsoring/promotion/PR during fashion weeks, such as the one by Armani costing $ 100.000. A small donation to the Roitfeld family ? also her daughter was doing consulting for Prada and MiuMiu, first class plane tickets all over the world, just to give her opinion on a collection ? Also all the clothing deliveries to her hotel room that were never returned, but then Ms. Roitfeld would make a personal phone call to thank the designers for their personal donation to her daughters' closet and maybe an editorial in Vogue. And we all know that it was worth quite a lot to them.So Emmanuelle Alt lived in that environment for 10 years, are you going to tell us she is different ? Voila'. "
Personally, I am not a huge follower of conspiracy theories or hearsay. Considering the "Jane" behind these opinions is someone in French fashion it doesn't seem that much of a stretch when you consider how small these worlds are. Another voice in the crowd........

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No.21 pre-fall2011

Some of you may be wondering what is No.21. I was wondering the same thing when I stumbled upon it at It appears that Alessandro Dell'Aqua has started a new collection named for his birth date as he's no longer in possession of his name. That old curse is still in evidence with bright young talents that go too fast, too soon and make unholy marriages with fortune hunting swains. It sounds like a plot twist in Downton Abbey but is unfortunately real life, not to be confused with reality life. This new collection is a fresh start with a few surprises that make it something unlike so much that we see. His silhouette is more structured than liquid with the employment of fabrics such as nylon faille, loden, wool and brocade. Though he worked with more languid shapes in the past this collection is all about shapes that stand away from the body, a silhouette he refers to as "bourgeois". I'm confused by that when you see parallels to people like Givenchy, Balenciaga (the real one as opposed to the reality version) and Saint Laurent whose aesthetic never appeared bourgeois. Sometimes I wish designers would just do the work and stop the talk, but I get ahead of myself.

This collection is really very beautiful with so many parts that make up the whole. The pieces which are mostly in a sportswear vernacular are filled with outerwear, sweaters, trousers and skirts. What there is of dresses and evening dresses is so spare and essential that it looks like the definition of a perfectly balanced collection, one that spreads the wealth evenly. I noticed the elbow length gloves in a neutral shade that matched the neutral shoe first. They are emphatic and subtle in the same breath. Neither skin tight or overtly sexy in height, just the perfect accessory to move the dialogue forward. Look and see what you think. The loden parka in faille with the sack dress affect is dreamy as is the look with the almost stiff short sleeved grey sweater and full abbreviated faille skirt in a shade of dusted pink. As shy as this woman appears she has a back bone as solid as a steel rod. A steely self assurance that, for me, is mesmerising.

The dresses and cocktails seem to bring back a shape that has always excited me; the chemise, all ellipse and suggestion. Whether he cuts it in silk crepe or faille, it just dances around the body as though it's all some amusing game, and it is or at least it should be. I was reminded that these clothes could be the development of an Oscar de la Renta or an Ungaro if those collections were less self conscious or confused, as is the case with Ungaro.

A fantastic black crepe cocktail with inserts of tulle and a skirt embellished with a controlled explosion of froth looked like an homage to the master, Ralph Rucci. Its time that someone referenced one of our greatest living couturier's assuming one has the chops and the balls.... With the one lone gown in the collection I was startled to remember one of the greatest creators who rarely is mentioned, referenced or remembered and that's Mainbocher. This gown almost screams Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, that grasping, unscrupulous, insatiable adventuress.

What brilliant timing. So, as you can see this collection and Mr. Dell'Aqua looks like a star that's back on the rise. The game gets interesting just when you thought fashion was stiff, cold and starting to smell.

Lanvin pre-fall2011

Alber Elbaz , a very talented designer from the school of self deprecation, is a tiny bit disingenuous if you take the time to stop and listen. One minute he poo-poohs the "internets" and claims to abhor anything smacking of high technology including email and in the next he creates a pre-fall collection of day clothes inspired by the likes of ADR and her cocktail dress addled diet for daytime. Where else would one come across such sartorial madness than by virtue of the "internets"? I like his clothes and find them beautifully cut, gorgeously colored and cleverly styled. What I don't quite get as time passes is their own signature. Last season there was a strong whiff of Michael Kors in the air and there is still a trace of that aesthetic in this collection. I'd say these clothes are more generous in their scale and fluidity like a luscious mocha gown that almost invades one's senses. His blouses in a couple of exits have the most ingenious scarf that becomes a sleeve. This one bit of magic makes this offering special and important. If only more designers found ways to invent and dig deep the landscape would be so much more exciting.

The combining of chunky ribbed tights to the picture stuffed into evening sandals looks like Prada from last fall and does not do much for the models besides adding unwanted bulk. This detail does little to ground the romantic quality of these dresses to a daytime vocabulary as much as it acts as a dead weight. Silly tricks are boring and beneath a designer of his stature. His mix of the sporty with the glamorous is very effective in the grey chunky knitted sweater over the liquid ivory long skirt. Jewel covered tweed jacket over a lurex shot blouse and floor length skirt just echoes "Chanel-ish". The platinum charmeuse dress, all bias cut, draped and drawn to within a centimeter of its life is a celebration all on its own.
The shoot for these clothes in a claustrophobic space adds an interesting tension but all the taxidermied creatures as props are creepy, especially the stuffed dove on the floor on a glittering leash.

Pigeon in a black dress.

Over the holiday I saw lots of films. After my close encounter with a snow drift I found myself happy to snuggle under the comforter with a good movie, actually several. I watched The Tourist (a trip), The Fighter (a knock out), Tangled (so cute, so blond), True Grit (a feast), Somewhere (nowhere, slow) Downton Abbey (all 7 episodes and I'd do it again...) and Black Swan (Angry Birds minus the suspense). Of them all, Black Swan was probably the least entertaining. Natalie Portman is a great actor and a real beauty which this month's cover of Vogue convincingly illustrates. There were lots of things in the film that were interesting, especially her portrayal of an obsessed ballerina bent on a self destructive perfection. There was something about her guileless innocence I found really affecting that kept me watching waiting for the toe shoe to drop. Eventually, it did and I spent the remainder of the film fluffing my pillow and checking my phone for email. The noise that accompanied this film from the fashion flock extolling the brilliance of Rodarte's costume design did more than spark my curiosity. I sat hungrily waiting to see if they would make cinematic history much the same way they've scaled the heights of 7th Ave. Unless, they are special effects wizards able to make women sprout wings or grow unsightly feathers that poke through livid flesh their tutus were only just that, tutus with feathers. The only thing that seemed obviously theirs was a lonely hand knitted arm warmer that adorned Natalie's right arm in a scene that came late in the film. All that for one bit of mohair fluff on one arm. Where was the other? I would imagine that they'll be nominated for the Academy Award for best costume design. The King's Speech, True Grit and a host of other films better watch out. Just before Christmas I was walking through Bergdorf Goodman for the first time in ages and stumbled onto their area. It consisted of a lonely rack with their name above etched in plexi with a handful of depressing dresses in bits of chiffon, calico and knit all on hangers tethered to the rack with security chains. Each had been lovingly mangled with a heavy hand or a dull scissor, none of them for the better. Right next to them was a room full of Azzedine Alaia without a security chain in sight. I'm still wondering what the store was trying to protect... the unwitting customers or the clothes? Oh, and this last image is NOT from the film, though I wish it was.

Friday, January 14, 2011

...and God created fashion.

On the first day there was light. Then came the universe and our world. God did all that and said it was good. On the fifth day, I believe that was a Friday, he created Fashion. It was set to appear at noon but for some unforeseen reason it opened at 2:30. Nevertheless, he was pleased with it and declared that it was “Fabulous”. That’s it in a nutshell. Ever since that fateful day we’ve had one fabulous fashion moment after another and this season’s Nina Ricci Pre-Fall 2011 collection is no exception. Peter Copping, the house’s Creative Director has concocted a dish so nuanced and alive that it has called other collections into sartorial question. Perhaps, his secret is simply designing a collection in the spirit of the house free of affectation and contrivance; a novel approach.

For seasons now, Copping has capitalized on the strengths of his imagination and the legacy of Nina Ricci. Historically, Ricci has stood for quality, glamour and a woman at ease with luxury. That ease with which she inhabits a world of heightened refinement has informed the very nature of the clothes. Instead of banishing this perfect vocabulary and exchanging it for one that bears little relationship to the DNA of the house, Peter Copping has built on it adding new ways to express established ideas. The clothes have become ever more sensuous in shape, texture and most effectively, with color. Nature is his palette in all of its subtle shades and hues. A simple cashmere sweater in the green of a still pond is paired with a cerise knit skirt designed to look like a cardigan buttoning down the front. This is his idea of a “Twin set”. It’s no longer content to be worn as a sweater but now embraces the whole body. Delicate lace and chiffon cocktail dresses are the last word in feminine understatement as is an undulating column of dotted, tiered chiffon an unexpected shade of tobacco.

This collection is perhaps the harbinger of a new way to dress. Not new in the sense of strange and fussy, but one that harkens back to a time when a women’s aspect could seduce with mystery and an almost lost art, romance.