Wednesday, March 30, 2011

All on the Line

Sundance and that "powerhouse" stylist/editor/media meister, Joe Zee have brought us a cutting edge fashion reality show designed to take struggling designers and through expert advice and tough love, showing them the way to success. The premiere was last night and I think this is a brilliant new reality format: fast paced edits, a cheesy music track best suited for flaccid porn and NO VOICE TRACK. (Due to a technical error the broadcast in Brooklyn Heights that night was was missing the voice track.)That's right, from the moment I tuned in and for the complete hour of this nail biter, I heard nothing with the exception of commercials where Joe imparted his wisdom on everything from coffee shop mugs and spoons he collects and the advent of the BCD vs. the LBD, fash-o-nyms for the little black dress (dead) and the bright colored dress (ALIVE).

This ultimate reality show looks to have tons of pathos, strangely passive designers and a wildly gesticulating host. Joe Zee's hand gestures are clear proof of his expert credentials as an editor of consequence. Even the way he holds his Blackberry or tips a champagne flute at a meeting between his pet designers and a team of Barneys Co-op buyers and a few king making freelance fashion writers drives home his unquestioned authority. At one point he hammers away at the importance of a hanger's aesthetic appeal, I think. The design company Radenroro, a struggling pair of designers whose names I didn't catch, seem to be suffering a certain malaise. Joe swings his arms alot and they stare dumbly, smile sweetly and weep (silently) throughout the show. They even design what will be a winning collection in under 3 minutes on scrap paper, without any fabrics and also waste more precious time repeating these sad sketches on state of the art computer screens with Joe looking on in grave seriousness. Can't he see the waste of energy if energy is the right word? What about thought? Imagination? Skill? Fashion design has worked its way down, down, down the evolutionary ladder at break neck speed.

The clothes look random and the quality, fabric and concept are mysteriously lacking in substance. The only unifying element is an inexpensively made over sized label haphazardly tacked on by a surly sewer who clearly hates her job. Joe's mission statement is to guide, cajole, educate and basically wipe the butts of these clueless savants so they're ready for their close-ups. He looks to be the only one on screen who's ready, I think.

The endgame is a meeting with the fashion director of Nordstrom's. These poorly constructed, ill-fitting and ill-conceived clothes are trotted out to their unwitting audience complete with an army of dressers, a sea of shoes and tables of accessories. The same bad stuff that is definitely the worse for wear-ing gets the nod and we see in the credits that Radenroro will be available at Nordstrom's this spring. I'm happy for them but can't help feeling I missed something, I think.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sorry So Silent.....

Dear Friends, Followers and Fashionmaniacs,

I'm sorry that I've been so absent from the scene. So much mayhem and fabulosity has been bubbling on a second by second basis and I feel awful to have been so woefully preoccupied elsewhere. My father's health has been failing since Christmas and on Friday very early in the morning he died. So I'm here in Massachusetts at my mother's house along with my big sister Pam helping to prepare his funeral and all the other attendant details that go along with dying. I have to admit I would give anything to be focused on the trivialities of the fashion scene with its all important shifts. Sooner or later real life intrudes and I'm forced to face the bigger music. I should let you know that he was an amazing man who devoted his life to music. He taught music, was a gifted tenor with his own choral group, the Leonard Gaskins Chorale and performed sacred music programs from the moment I was born til very recently. He lived to 82 years and was a passionate golfer, so much so that his will stipulates that his ashes "be scattered over the nearest golf course." I got my determination and love for all things aesthetic from him.I'll say now that I appreciate all of your sympathy and well wishes and thank you for my mother, known as Mommie and Pam and my twin sister Donna. I'm ok, a little sad and trying to get used to the idea, but all in all ok. I'm glad that Daddy didn't suffer and look forward to getting back to life and really living it. I'm more aware now how precious it is and all of the people and family and friends that make it so rich. You all have made mine so much sweeter by sharing in my gallows humor and reverence for a profession and art form that has made my adult life so interesting. Have a great day and week to come. Don't forget to enjoy getting dressed and put your best foot forward. I'll do my best to do the same. I'll be back in touch very soon.
My best to you all,
Eric, Fluff and Folks

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Would you cut off your c**k for a Victoria's Secret gig?

I know that sounds harsh, but would you? It seems like Andrej Prejic, a hot, in-demand cat walker would be willing to do just that. An interview quoted him as saying that he'd double down (add boobs, subtract bone) for a shot at Victoria's Secret. That is about the size of fashion mania today in a couple of weeks of some of the most depressing events to hit the headlines in a dog's age. All the rumors surrounding a psychotic game of musical chairs at the grandest fashion houses in Paris has me seeing a city that is on the verge of self immolation. I'm ok with some of the tweets but to hear that Alber Elbaz might replace Galliano and Jason Wu could take over Lanvin is just one toke over the line. Even Marc Jacobs taking over Dior is enough to make my gums bleed but LVMH has messed with the machine so much that it's a wonder they even bother with a designer. Actually, I don't think they do. They hire and promote people who ape what a designer does without getting their hands dirty. Elaborate staff and stylists step in to do whatever needs doing and the creative directors jet from city to city manning openings, galas and locker rooms. A recent picture of Riccardo Tisci with Carine Roitfeld attached to his side like a smokey eyed tapeworm was a veritable poster for the new age of fashion: a wildly acclaimed design poseur with his walking talking parasite; the hopeless hosting the hapless. All of this side show entertainment has cast a shadow on the proceedings making it difficult to concentrate. I have seen some beautiful collections but also some surprisingly tepid outings by houses that used to rule. Hermes was outstandingly off its game. The premiere collection by Christophe Lemaire who succeeds Gaultier was nothing short of abysmal. When you think that Gaultier could fill a runway with only accessories and send the audience to the moon says just how right his contribution was. I think Hermes will have trouble giving a note book away with the sad state of affairs there. Luckily, everyone still craves the orange box and shopping bag. They just need to come up with some clothes to put in them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Galliano: A Sober View

John Galliano's art is greater than the man behind it

Brian Sewell
4 Mar 2011

I don't like drunks - loud, boorish, unpredictable. Still less do I care for alcoholics of whom, among my friends, there have been three, all eroding friendship with their cheating, blatant lies and wheedling excuses, until affection has withered into hapless responsibility to which there seems no end. I have seen enough of both the drunkard and the addict to know that the loosened tongue of abuse does not speak the truth - Pliny, two thousand years ago, was wrong with his "in vino veritas".

The alcoholic, in loathing himself, expresses it by turning it on others, even the very friends who care for him. It does not matter that the object of the frustrated rage within is not Jewish, Chinese or Liverpudlian, he seizes on the dark distinctions of perceived difference, labels them and employs them for abuse - and if we thought these ancient prejudices were bred out of us, we should consider how easily our unguarded first response is of denial. "I am not a Jew," we plead, "I am not Chinese, I am not from Liverpool."

For John Galliano's for me literally unspeakable outbursts in a Paris bar I have no sympathy, yet I find it impossible to accept that they were in any way a reflection of his philosophical soul.

They prompt only one question, and that is for his employers, Dior, and his friends. Where were you with your concern and friendship when the first of these irrational outpourings occurred?

Did none of you notice that he had reached a stage at which he urgently needed help before the first of these self-destructive episodes? Did you not see how much alcohol, how many drugs, he was consuming? Were you blind to all the signs? Was it not obvious that you should see him to the door of the Parisian equivalent of The Priory?

Galliano's abuse - the dirty Jew, the gas chamber, the "I love Hitler" stuff - was abhorrent, and I perfectly understand the Jewish response to it, so raw is the memory of the Holocaust, but the hypocritical Pilatism of Dior, the handwashing for sacking him for anti-Semitism, is repugnant.

This man was their employee and their duty of care obliged them to protect him from himself. Instead, they let disaster happen and then, realising that they might lose every one of their Jewish clients, dismissed him, and in so doing, utterly failed to save face but quite certainly destroyed him.

Galliano will never, as Galliano, design again. If designing women's clothes is an art, then Dior has destroyed an artist.

Should we refuse to perform Wagner's operas because he is perceived to have been anti-Semitic? - even in Israel now, it is at last possible to play some of his less triumphal music. Should all Emil Nolde's great paintings be hidden in cupboards because he was for some years Hitler's supporter? Should Wyndham Lewis for ever be unmentionable and invisible because he too, at one stage, thought highly of Hitler's politics?

No, art that is not in itself political - and Galliano's is not - is greater than the man who creates it, and society does a cruel mischief when, in dispatching him as a scapegoat into the wilderness, it ends his life and influence as a creator.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Zac Posen Fall2011: Bring it.

For those of you who may have watched Charlie Sheen's twisted rant on every channel this past week, you are no doubt hip to his exclamations. His grand delusions can only be approached by the likes of John Galliano only more clearly articulated. If only Charlie had slurred more we might have escaped his unhinged interviews with something less than a crystal clear image of his particular brand of crazy. Between his bottom feeding "goddesses" and the attention he receives from every possible corner, I'm not surprised that he feels as though he has the tiger by the tail. After all, tiger's blood is coursing through his veins.

Zac Posen showing his collection in Paris is just as misguided. Both artists are on an ego trip to never, never land. The opening images on Fashionologie seemed promising as the black silk gown had a wonderful shape infused with a quiet drama and subtle detail. It was a few exits farther out that I started to think I was looking at the equivalent of a wax museum of greatest looks of deceased and/or retired designers. I have nothing against homages except when they are little more than plagiarized editions by way of cliff notes.

Luxe croc was cut to resemble McQueen shapes with Mugler proportions a timely impact. Bias-cut charmeuse gowns looked like Galliano creations from his early days prior to Dior and still other looks resembled Rochas, Mugler, Balenciaga and Nina Ricci. Color appears to be one area where his imagination is challenged. Throughout the collection color was flat, dull and depressing which may have been a deliberate choice. Still the styling did little to lift the pall which settled over the presentation.

That is all fine as fashion is an excercise in reinterpretation but to show a collection that followed those lines so closely seemed unwise in the very city that gave birth to them. Overall, there is a feeling of lifeless, rote design that is meant to command the attention of the press and an international audience. Instead, like Charlie, Posen is merely winning his own game of solitaire. Like Charlie, Zac's mantra is "Defeat is not an option".

Paris is burning.

This season is getting darker by the day. Every time you think it's safe to go back in the tents some new piece of bad news is posted. There's a riptide just past the water's edge and designers seem to be getting dragged under to an alarming degree. Balmain announced that the house's designer, Christophe Decarnin has been hospitalized since January for an apparent mental collapse. The house's design staff and an outside stylist have cobbled together the collection that was just shown minus Decarnin's input. This is another blow to a fashion week in Paris that has been crippled by the revelations of John Galliano's dismissal from Christian Dior, his departure to a rehabilitation facility somewhere out west and the announcement that his eponymous collection will not be presented at week's end. I'm sure that though editors and camp followers are trudging from one venue to the next, their eyes and minds will most likely not be on the spectacle before them. It is a pity that so many regrettable events have coalesced at this moment driving a huge stake into the proceedings. We can only sit tight and wait for more news to come thundering this way. One thing is sure, it will all get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Up, Up and Away.....

I'd just like to say that this story is for me, not pleasant. The last thing I want is to gain traction from someone else's misfortune no matter its stripe. Unfortunately, the problems John Galliano faces at this time are not ones that will go away quickly or be easily buried. It is also unfortunate that those problems are all being exposed in the press right at the very moment that so many designers in Paris are trying to show their collections to an audience that is extraordinarily distracted. I feel sorry for those designers as it's hard enough to hold the attention of an attention deficient crowd on the best of days. Suzy Menkes has just reported in the NYTimes that Galliano will in fact face trial in Paris later this spring and has departed for a rehabilitation facility as I write. His close friends Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell persuaded him to go though it's unclear the location of said facility. Menkes speculated that it may be The Meadows in Arizona as it is the facility of choice for such fashion luminaries as Donatella Versace and Elton John. At this point I have to admit I read that line with a most jaundiced eye. The cynic in me leapt from its locked closet and started howling at the gathering clouds over head. Of course it is a good thing that he's headed for help but to be counseled by two people whose personal lives are so murky seems just a little bit suspect. It is not my place or anyone else's to judge but this situation is making a bee-line towards the bizarre. LVMH's decision to go ahead with a collection that is unfinished to date is another curious choice. Why not fore go the presentation and let buyers and press see it in the show room? Why knowingly stage a 3-ring circus with most of the animals running loose in the streets? I'm beginning to feel that it is a situation of the blind leading the blind. Out of respect for everyone concerned, LVMH should take this debacle off the radar screen for the moment, let others do their jobs and leave Galliano to start his long road to where ever.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Peanut Gallery

Sure enough, before John Galliano can get comfortable in his suite at Chateau du ReHab the twittering hordes are tweeting about who will succeed him. What no one seems to realize is that this is the virtual end of an era. Sure, we have Karl Lagerfeld and Ralph Rucci as the last standing couturiers and not ones who will disappear into ignominy any time soon. But purely as an artist working in the grand, classical tradition of the couture, Galliano has no other peer. All of the others have retired or expired. The news of his immediate plans for rehab is for him the best news so far and his career should take a back seat to his compromised mental health. I am saddened that the whole idea of rehab has been re purposed as a veritable drive-in car wash for people in the public eye; washing and waxing the exterior with little or no time taken for detailing the interior. I'm not for a moment condoning his pathetic rants or obvious madness but I'm also not remotely fascinatedat this moment by who might replace him. The public's morbid fascination with the next "victim" for this dull bladed meat grinder we all know of as Fashion is equally disturbing. This event is a blight and a tale that cautions precious few. It feels like a perverse game of musical chairs with players scrambling blindly for anything that resembles a chair. I mourn the passing of an age that we will shortly only be able to access through coffee table books and videos. Perhaps the cheap seats have a more preferable view than the front row.

Galliano out at Dior

The news is not good for John Galliano as a Dior press release has just stated. He is officially out as Design director for Christian Dior with the ongoing investigation of his racist and anti-semitic outburst at a Paris cafe last week. More reports have surfaced since then of previous outbursts at the same cafe complete with a video of that exchange. This disturbing tape has complicated matters culminating with the house's decision to sever all ties with him. Dior and its parent company LVMH have a zero tolerance for anti-semitic/racist behavior and have held the line. Its a sordid business as Galliano has been one of the most prolific and important couturiers working today. Nevertheless, his troubles have derailed his career. Its a sad commentary.