Friday, September 28, 2012

Christian Dior Spring 2013: Iffy GPS

Surely everyone and her stylist was waiting with bated breath to see how Raf Simons would follow his debut at Dior. My first response with the couture was that it was a bit light on effect and somehow oddly safe. A couture collection , certainly one at such a venerable house as Dior, should give a designer the means to soar and explore. With atelier that are capable of unimagined alchemy, why such a slim, even alarmingly stripped down offering? I don't think the world would suffer any less without yet another rack full of Bar jackets. Still, over time I came to realize that there was something beautiful and compelling in his restraint. Perhaps, it was the walls and walls of blossoms that colored my thinking. Their profusion, incredible colors, scale and probable intoxicating scent seemed to upstage the show that paraded under their exquisite noses. The severity of the clothes seemed to pale in contrast to the setting. So I sat back and waited to see what would come next.

Today is the tomorrow we all dreamt about yesterday. With his first ready to wear collection for Dior Simons has nudged the envelope a few centimeters forward. I ran back to my hotel to get a look as soon as my IPhone beeped that the images were in. I'm hanging out in Montreal for the week while Anton attends a conference. It seemed fitting to be here as it's such a French environment, even though it's still on the wrong side of the pond. I digress.... So back I ran, and here I sit.

The first looks took me by surprise. I hate to jump to conclusions, though like most humans, whether slinking on four hairless legs, or walking on two, I am not immune to quick judgements. The parade of "Smokings" felt so familiar, but not in a Dior-ish familiarity. They were so (Yves)Saint Laurent. There was a bit more volume down below in a strapless version, and the white ones were a departure, but still they didn't strike me as Dior/Simons. With all the talk of a prize fight between Raf and Hedi Slimane, this beginning felt like a theft of the (Y)SL script, an odd sort of appropriation. As the new (Y)SL is yet to debut, I seriously doubt that Slimane will opt to ape the bible we all know as Yves Saint Laurent.

Next came interesting miniatures of vintage Dior-isms in metallic organza, all draped and tucked over little black shorts. They were sweet confections but the shorts felt too derivative of so much that's been shown the last several weeks. The metallic organza also felt derivative of Armani's over heated Prive' collections of the last few years. Again, I have to stress that I don't approach fashion in order to 'relate and tag' to preceding designer's work, unless it smacks of it.

The graphic color field dresses with asymmetric panels drifting off the sides and contrasting colors appearing on the undersides were beautiful as were the crisp satins with contrasting panels of color and the stripes in duchesse satin. The embroideries were the most satisfying with shocking yellow paillette linear patterns on floating black chiffon. The trapeze shapes of several of these later exits brought back the heyday of Dior/YSL A, H and trapeze lines, but without all the stuffing. Still some of the cocktail/evening looks with layers of frothy tulle skirts looked forced. What wasn't forced were a string of very spare dresses in black with little or no decoration. A jacket or two with a small smattering of floral embroideries dancing near the the bottom were smart, lovely and felt original.

The end of the collection was vintage Jil Sander/Raf Simons with full printed skirts and black second skin T shirts. Very pretty but not much of a stretch. I'm sure the rest of the planet is going to need smelling salts today like they did with his debut couture collection, that is until Hedi Slimane shows (Y)SL next. Then they'll most likely crown him king and need smelling salts all over again. The direction that Raf Simons is charting still feels rather vague, like the new IPhone 5 maps app. The land is clearly laid out, but how to get from one place to another is any ones guess.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kiddie Pool: NY Fashion week SPR 2013

  I put on my waders, bought through Filson's catalogue, and gingerly stepped to the edges of New York fashion week.( I know this is late considering London blew in and now we're sipping Americanos and wolfing pasta Putana in the miasma that is Milan, but I had to get this down. We all know and remember the kiddie pool. Whether it was your back yard blow up pool, the shallow end of the public/country club pools or the charming tidal pools at the beach's edge, no matter the temperature of the water, the kiddie pool, that safety zone your mother would allow you to wade and splash in, was always 30 degrees warmer. I often wondered as a kid why it was so warm, even hot. Then I figured it out.

Jason Wu
  The New york shows were for the most part one large kiddie pool. With roughly 300 shows over the course of a week, everyone and his style challenged sister was having a show. Though I didn't attend them all, I did spend a great deal of time on line and on the street watching the proceedings. From my vantage point there seemed to be an inordinate amount of kids splashing around in a standing puddle that rose to boiling by week's end. Not all of them were technically kids with some well past the age of consent. Those infantalized grown ups were probably the most distressing of all. Doubtless, some of you will disagree with my list, but hey, that's ok. Others of you may find my list wanting. That's the fun of a discussion...

  Jason Wu was one of the first I saw splashing around. He certainly was too busy doing his business to pay any close attention to the real business; namely his. Leather and Lace and the female as Domina was so spectacularly off base. I knew something was amiss when he opened the show with an unrecognizable Carolyn Murphy, trussed up in an ill fitting leather dress, Maria Braun hair and cheap shoes. Going to Wu for sex (appeal) is like shopping for fish at a hardware store.All the talk of his succeeding Oscar de la Renta is just a lot of mindless blather. Sad dressed as silly.

  Rodarte was another interesting pair to watch sitting up to their waists in roiling water. Shovels, matches, dull scissors and gargantuan egos couldn't get their collection to dry land. Out takes from Game of Thrones and some pilfered looks from sophomore and junior class school projects looked like the inspiration for this uneven presentation. Hell's Angels biker jackets over tortured dresses and decidedly unsexy cocktail dresses and gowns, shows that these sisters' fantasies of sexy and eroticism is limited to things they see on a saturday night at a Sacramento roadside joint or whatever forbidden treasures they unearth in sealed boxes in their parent's basement.When are people going to wake up and smell the...the tide receding?

Peter Som
  Peter Som is another water wing wearing junior lifeguard with little business being in the shallowest edges of the pool. Like Jason Wu, his clothes have always played the line between dull and pointless. His contribution to Hilfiger's women's collection is still a mystery. His own collection has been a case study of anonymity. What is a Peter Som collection? What is his identity? How can you tell a Som when it stares you in the face? Now with Spring he's chosen to take the Subway down to the land of the Hip. He proposes marriage between his Upper East Side Uptighty and his louche Lower Chelsea Gallery groveler. The end result by way of innocuous florals and awkward proportions is a confused girl, neither cool nor informed, stuck in some massive traffic jam.

Reed Krakoff
  Reed Krakoff is another repeat offender in the pool. He's simply too old to play with such small children. Its unhealthy and unseemly. I credit the rise in temperature to him, directly. The collection (I use that term loosely) is still a beard for his bags.
The bags work. The clothes just don't . Perhaps they are the filler for his shop in shops whose purpose is to fill racks. I think they are for the benefit of his muse/wife, Delphine. I can't forget the New Yorker article where he stated he couldn't live a moment without being close to her; jealous of any man who'd come before him. Blah blah blah. He protests too loudly to a room full of the deaf, the dumb and the blighted. If she means that much then design something she might wear, willingly.

Proenza Schouler
  Proenza Schouler were heralded this season as the new forces to be reckoned with. After a glowing profile in the NYTimes, discussing everything from playdates in their couture Teepee with (couture grade) shearling rugs to the "slushies" their new money Daddy whips up just to watch them carouse and coo, to their new boutique on Madison (impressive), we've been given a front row seat to witness their coronation. Well, it didn't happen. The show was an aggressively unattractive march filled with rat haired waifs dressed in last year's Balenciaga along with appropriations of Gerhard Richter's work printed on dresses riddled with grommets and pink nail heads. The splashing was so raucous I had to protect my eyes. I've seen collections by the duet in the past year that were far more mature and interesting. It's that same trap of where does the hunger go when suddenly you have "slushies" and "pigs in a blanket" any time of the day or night? The hunger and thirst were missing and in its place were some diapers in need of changing.

Believe me, there were many more people crowding that pool than I've taken time here to mention. But the list would go on and on and even if you didn't get bored I would be. The chatter that is the new "discourse" is so mind numbing that I marvel at the ease with which these and other designers dispense it. Listening to Joseph Altuzarra talk about the sensuality, empowerment and eroticism of his clothes left me puzzled. Sensual? Sure, in certain cases. Empowering? Well, anything you put on your back making it possible to walk out the door is in itself empowering. But, Erotic?

So wade into that pool with caution. Don't for god's sake go barefoot and whatever you do, fight the urge to sit down in it. You have no idea the things that are swimming and multiplying in the blinding glare of some clueless camera man. In the event some splashes in your mouth or eyes call your doctor.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alexander Wang Spring 2013: The space between.

At the show’s opening, an army of models, all dressed in white, stood black light lit creating a space-aged electric green glow. Obviously, Alexander Wang was taking us on a trip to his own parallel universe. Gone were the downtown hipster T shits and leggings of yesteryear and in marched a vision of a new galaxy of COOL.

His idea was to play with volumes that not so much hew to the body but hover and float around it. He dissected shapes that are the vernacular of American sportswear: T shirt dresses, shorts, shifts and anoraks, but in his hands they were cut into planes that cantilevered by way of invisible fishing line and tiny worms of coiled thread. The effect was arresting and even more astounding as the whole collection pivoted on this technique. His message was clear and he never for a moment wavered….

 Alexander Wang at Hirshleifers ETC

Black, white, sand and silver were the sum total of his palette. Cantilevered leather jackets over crisp white shirts were paired with python skirts using the same floating panel technique. As delicate as these pieces appeared it was clear that they would withstand wear beyond the runway. Hand knit sweaters, one of his trademarks were unexpectedly sexy by way of large cutouts at the sides and peek-a-boo openings at the chest and torso. These sweaters were paired with faux croc skirts made up of individual scales attached to the others by way of invisible threads, like puzzle pieces not quite fitted into place. It was a bravura example of his imagination and technical skill.
Some of the most memorable pieces came near the end in shift dresses that were divided into planes covering the bust, parts of the torso and divided horizontally from hips to hem. Whether by means of fishing line or as appliqu├ęs on an invisible scrim of net, the dresses looked to be held together by his sheer force of will and vision. The show was a huge departure from his recent work and one of the clear standouts of the season. The negative spaces, namely the body beneath, were as artfully displayed as were the garments themselves. Alexander Wang’s spring 2013 collection was a very exciting and inspired New York moment.

Alexander Wang at Hirshleifers ETC

Sunday, September 16, 2012

marc jacobs spring 2013: redemptive

When reviewing a collection one is supposed to do it clear eyed, without sunglasses, and never with any personal or professional axe to grind. It's unseemly and unprofessional to comment on a designer's personal life, their foibles, quirks of dress, excessive tattooing, abuse of cologne, megalomania, obsessive body building, sparkling good health, their penchant for romantically hitching their wagon to rent boys and out of work porn stars. No, none of this sort of talk has any place in the discussion. After all, we all just saw from Cathy Horyn's unfortunate mishap, that commenting on a designer's collection beyond the actual clothes can get you publicly upbraided and can even hamper one's chances for future invitations to that designer's shows. The idea is to dish  (responsibly) and not get dished. That said, let's get back to the task at hand: Marc Jacobs' spring 2013 collection.
First, let me come clean and lay down this heavy burden. I've long looked askance at the antics of Marc Jacobs both on the runway and in the locker room. Am I envious of his physical vitality? Yes. Am I just a bit envious of his enormous success? Well, um... uh, ok... yes. I admit it. Yes. So is it easy to put that all aside and confess to you all what I'm going to say next? NO, but still... "I LOVED Marc Jacobs show". There, I said it. He had me with his first satin black and white striped short jacket and low slung pleated and striped skirt. "Hello, my name is Fluff and I'm an addict. I'm unable to resist stripes". Go through my closets, my chests of drawers and the evidence of my addiction will spill out for the world to see. Marc, like me, is a connoisseur of stripes. They must be intelligently scaled, colored and placed and must above all relate and interact with their fellow stripes in a compelling way. In the end, it is the active and not the passive stripe that moves the conversation forward. 

His army of models in black/white, tan/white, yellow/white, red/white, silver/black combinations of stripes, dots, spots and checks were so focused, smartly cut and elegantly proportioned. A silver/black leopard printed silk coat and dress along with its partnered jersey leopard spotted dress was just this cat's meow. I purred, I cooed, I sharpened my claws on the monitor's screen and begged for more. 

The message, something that precious few designers have or even consider, was crystal clear: God is in the Graphics. No need for silly digressions or a section of leather and lace, just bold, brash, bravura graphics delivered at a strong and steady pace. The show was a mere 7.5 minutes with a ton of looks. A spotlight followed each model as she paraded the enormous runway. Even the shoes and bags were a perfect marriage to the clothes.

Jacobs was just as clever with a series of plaid and checks in jackets and coats over dresses and skirts. Everything was handled so masterfully, that it felt as though he had traded in his cloying cleverness for a kind of brilliance. It wasn't until near the end when long jersey columns in enormous snaking stripes of black, tan and red on a white ground with cut out necklines, front and back, did I really start to pace. The engineering of those stripes, playing games on the surface of the body just had me begging for more, more, more. ( I told you...I have a problem with stripes...)

When the lights fell and the show was over, I expected the usual tedious parade, but the models disappeared behind a wall of mirrors. The wall then opened like a thousand doors showing the entire collection lined up across the width of the stage with everyone advancing like an army of bold, bi-colored beauties. They took position in a large triangle with every look visible individually and the lights were extinguished. Damn....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chado Ralph Rucci Spring 2013: Summiting

How to describe something there are only paltry words for? Modern? that's too banal... Rich? that simply overstates the obvious... Singular? that is an under-statement of the obvious.. Inspired? that's a baby step in the right direction. Exquisitely conceived and presented? now we're getting somewhere... A vision that alters the eye; the perception of what fashion can mean and a master's approach to technique, a laser sharp focus and an established oeuvre from which he never ever strays? that begins to describe Ralph Rucci. A brilliant showman who knows the power and conviction of his message and just the way to share that with the world is the magic of his work. All of these qualities are precisely what separate him from the masses. And that includes the greatest names in fashion in this country and internationally. Sitting in his audience last night was not just an entertainment but a privilege. And still, that pales against the trove of beautiful, soul stirring clothes that paraded down a runway of glistening white patent.

The audience is made up of the usual retailers and press, but it is the army of his ladies paying homage to him in hundreds of designs from yesterday to yesteryear and all strikingly chic, seductive and assured in their Chado dresses, suits, coats and gowns. It was hard not to stare. Despite some of their high wattage celebrity, it was their sartorial choices that mesmerised. How often does one see a theater filled with women with extra-ordinary style, allure and consequent beauty? This was a phalanx of Couture clients at a ready to wear show in the circus tents of Lincoln Center.Talk about contrasts.

The music started as an explosion sending the first looks out in white so vivid that they roared. From the first, it was his cuts, all planes of crisp fabric with seams that defined the shape and in turn created the detail. Not one inch, angle whether from the front, the sides or the back was left as an afterthought. A zipper placement whether vertically placed or spiralling from side to back possessed the same integrity as insertions of clear plastic or horsehair in contrast to the color field of the piece. Hems of horsehair or tulle with applied lines of contrasting color created a frisson as much as the dresses they punctuated. The explosions of music with a ticking beat repeating and building added to the mood of heightened, rising crescendos perfectly paced as the clothes and their story unfolded.

Colors emerged like blooms as if forced in a hot house: Shocking pink, cerise, canary yellow, flame orange, lime green and all playing off of fields of white and accented often with the thinnest stroke of black matte crepe or patent leather. Each look elicited an emotional response. Whether it was the most subtle black crepe shirt dress with a tie belt faced with cream and completely lined in cream or a dress in electrified pink with a back in icy white with black patent lines dividing the planes and running up the back of the dress, I was stunned that simplicity mathematically measured could pack such a potent punch. The same for a gown with a short sleeved caviar beaded shocking pink tee shirt with an attached long black controlled a-line skirt with the same minute lines of pink dividing the plane in 3 places descending the skirt.

Color came strong and pulsing on monochromatic coats over dresses with his signature insertions of hand tied braid or contrasting lines of color shining against the matte bodies. These lines sometimes echoed the ribcage of the body or in the case of a sober black crepe pantsuit, the back was scored and opened with patent leather piping, a sheer scrim of tulle with abstract planes of black tossed onto the surface like the canvas of an Expressionist painting.

Expressionism by his own hand is a passion of Rucci's with a number of jackets, coats and most dramatically his "Infanta" gowns near the end that were flowing, asymmetrically cut panels covered in bold strokes of yellow, black and rose with stones scattered across the color. And where they opened in back a column of minute glistening pailletes spilled down like the last traces of an intense dream.

Feathers appeared but not in profusion even when they covered bodies beneath in shimmering lime and shocking pink lame'. You saw through the fluttering feathers to a ground of lame' that looked to be on fire. The feathers attached upside down from stem to tail causing them to roll over and bob  as the model walked like a mist of intense color floating around the body.

The black beaded evening skirt with a feather enshrouded top and bolero was a web of intersecting lines whose ground of chiffon one could peer through. Deliberate, hand drawn and lined in minuscule jet crystals drew the eye to this map of the model's body. In short, the detail was at once hypnotic and exquisite as a whole.

Ralph Rucci's brand of bravura couture design is as subtle as a kiss, but one you long remember. The same can be said for his whisper; a faint murmur that continues to roll around in your subconscious long after the lights have come up and the masses move on.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fashion Week Spring 2013: B.O. Booze and Bad Breath

Guess which one is mine...
 You wonder what I'm talking about? You probably think I've spent one too many days in East Hampton. Truth be told, I'm referring to the great unwashed crowds of Fashion Week. On the very first day back to school, pinched in my seat between a very well known personage and someone who's known somewhere by someone, I was overcome by smells, both noxious and pervasive.Thinking the cloud was coming from the left, I tried as best I could to shift a little to the right. I must of caught my fellow guest on an exhale as I hit a wall that forced me back to my original position. It didn't take long to figure out that despite the haute-est fashion being worn by lots of folks in the crowd, despite Scott Schuman, the diminutive force behind The Sartorialist lurking and zooming in on people to my left and right, and despite the relatively early hour of the day or lateness of the night (you choose) there were a few people who needed more than a strong cup of coffee, a splash of cologne and a tick tack.
The Sartorialist
 I stopped breathing through my nose and scanned the crowd to see what this season has wrought. First trend alert: tote bags. They were everywhere, on every arm and nestled at the feet of everyone. From distressed, D.Y.I. paint splattered L.L.Bean bags to very fancy, spare luxurious leather ones. It was hard to tell what was what. The Sartorialist was busy shooting bags, skinny suited guys and eccentrically dressed women. Sun glasses were worn by too many, as well. The implication of self importance and an inflated self regard, endemic to the fashion flock, makes this particular tick really unattractive. Particularly, when watching front row friends reuniting with exaggerated peals of laughter, air kisses and expressions of surprise and all for the sake of hovering photographers. Like fashion today, so much appears hollow and forced as if the creature died long ago and we're left with its dried and brittle shell.

Its the children that give us hope. The standing room section is always the most interesting one to study. That's where one finds the novices, the saplings who one day will grow to be the Redwood trees of the fashion jungle. For the most part, these fresh faces hew to the idea of fake it til you make it. Tote bags and sun shades predominated in standing, along with preening and posing in hopes that Scott Schuman might notice. One young man caught my attention for opposing reasons. He had an innocence in his face that one rarely sees these days. He looked so fresh, bright eyed and happy to be at the show.

Despite being herded with the rest of the people standing on either side by determined P.R. assistants, he looked unbothered and cheerful. This was some one's kid who had run away to the big city to make it, like so many of us. It wasn't until that standing room crowd shifted that I  got a clearer picture of what he was wearing. It was all white with the top cut like a sleeveless vest with cascading panels and trousers also in white. His clothes looked to be of his own design. There was a naivete and charm to their generous fit on his overly thin frame. Like so many in the room, this young man had a key accessory that drew the eye and punctuated his look. Around his neck was a narrow leather choker from which tresses of human hair fell to his waist.

There are a lot of gimmicks out there, from beauty marks, excessive foundation, drawn on eyebrows with magic markers and a re-do of Gloria Vanderbilt's hairdo (the combed back tight flip at the base of her neck) and all of this employed by a man of a certain age. Its no wonder that a kid who's barely crossed the threshold of puberty would feel compelled to sport a neck beard. Well, gang, It's On! Fashion week is in full swing. Grab your tote and shades, take a couple of Xanax and don't forget to bathe. Let's compare notes as we go!