Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rodarte Spring 2014: Seduced and Abandoned

Rodarte is more a story of Dorothy and her hapless sister in L.A, a poor substitute for Oz. Sort of a sloppy slacker version of "Wicked". People lament their painfully unschooled early work; the hand-knitted sweaters riddled with dropped stitches, employed with bits of their lunch and a few shredded bits of ideas all wrapped up and styled as fashion.With the exception of a couple of things later on that hinted at a future, it all flew right past me. These ladies  are indulged posers with the collective flatulence of the press carrying them further and further aloft. This season, like the past 3, only reinforces my feeling that this duo is adrift on a sea that has also lost interest. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Their mish mash of naughty Road House hussy and Main Street mom was confusing and ultimately devoid of a message. The dressy cocktails looked fussy and overwrought, like trying to appeal to a wealthy matron willing to wear an ersatz designer frock. Those pieces looked like the work of a hired hand with no relation to their biker babes of La Brea or their Ho's on the range. Asked to explain their motives both sisters were unable to articulate much, just like their  collection. They spout non sequitors like..."it's the L.A. we love..." Low riders scraping concrete shooting sparks or cowgirls on the asphalt? Obsessive focus on a very personal time and place is fine when it is something that grows in meaning and develops visually, which is what fashion ultimately is; something to look at, consider and possibly even wear.

Cut-off, tush baring shorts, fringed holster skirts with poorly crafted bandeau/bustiers tucked under de rigeur flannel "boyfriend" shirts and "smokings" traipsing down a featureless runway strewn with Dan Flavin-esque flourescent light bulbs laying flat on the ground made me chuckle. It reminded me of a story my twin sister told me. She was a dance major at the Boston conservatory and overheard a classmate's phone call to he mother after an audition for an advanced dance class. Donna, who auditioned for the same class saw the girl's performance and winced at her lead-footed attempt to dazzle. "Mom, they were shocked and thrilled", she breathlessly relayed on the payphone outside the studio.

Do girls even want to wear "boyfriend" shirts, jackets, pants, underpants, whatever....? That title "Boyfriend" started way back when from the lips of Charlotte Neuville. Remember her? I figured then it was a clever term for a jacket that didn't fit but had that cool quotient as it was spawned by another press darling (and has been exhumed and resuscitated by Cathy Horyn of the New York Times)... Do girls want to dress this way? Not even Tavi, their once grey haired tween/teen blogger, goes in for the joke. She's a budding starlet who's traded preteen angst for full blown young adult brand building. A tatty dress with little allure is not going to move her ambitions closer to their target. Oh, and Target isn't particularly interested any more either. Same goes for many of the editors, though they'd be hard pressed to admit it.

So back to the folding table where they can distress, destroy and diddle their way back to another fashion week.
One can almost imagine them driving the getaway Prius for the Bling Ring, only they'd be stuck on the side of the freeway arguing over whether to drive with or against the traffic. But, least their carbon foot print isn't much bigger than a pair of spangled Uggs.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Is this the face of misery? um, no.
Some of my favorite pieces I've written and shared with you appeared last year roughly around this time. Their titles were "Run", "Jump" and "Spin". The titles were important because they referred to things I love and things that were/are integral to my life. Lately, travel is an unexpected activity that seems to have come out of nowhere simply by chance, hence flying or Fly.

MBNY Fashion week....
The stories that I mentioned were all somehow connected to fashion and my thoughts at that moment. Flying is interesting to me because it is a nether world way up in the sky, an alternative universe. I'm neither here nor there, but somewhere suspended in between. I've discovered that it's a place I like very much. Not just because it's "no place special" in a very comfortable seat with whatever one might wish for just a subtle wave away, but mostly because I do some of my best thinking when there's no tug from here and not yet a tug from there. I'm free to let my mind roam and my dreams come and go with little if any interruption.

Undercover Fluff !
Only a few weeks ago I was on my way to Amsterdam to meet one of my very best friends Matt to ride shotgun in a rented car scouring the Dutch, German, Belgian and Danish countryside in search of his dream horse. I know, some of you think what a self indulgent, unrelatable exercise this is, but with the choice of going from tent to gallery to warehouse in search of moving, intelligent, inspiring and inspired collections over NY fashion week or to go couture shopping for the Hautest of horses, I chose 4 big strong legs over 2 skinny ones teetering on high heels. If you like horses like I love horses, this was a trip of a lifetime. Not just because of the horses we saw and Matt tried but especially for the farms and incredible people I met in the process.

Andreas Helgstrand Dressage  Aalborg, Denmark

One moment I was at a 200 year old riding facility in Germany with as much history as there was ivy overtaking every square meter of brick and the next in Denmark at the "farm" of a member of the Danish Olympic Dressage team. He was not only the chicest rider I've ever encountered but the "farm" completely done in white and pale grey was the most pristine facility I've ever laid eyes on. 120 horses, each more amazing than the other in a series of barns and indoor riding arena that were so spotless you could eat off the floor. No flies, no dirt and no horse s%*t, ANYWHERE.

Matt and Qasanova
I kept thinking why couldn't fashion be as organized, focused, elegant and awe inspiring as this? Andreas Helgstrand's (the handsome Olympian) facility was the same as a fashion house except the clothes were replaced by horses. Everything there was in service to these magnificent athletes. It was not about Andreas or his spotless and spectacular team, but about the horse. All of the attention was on them. The people were merely vessels to bring forth the gifts and magic inside these unique and varied creatures. Isn't that what fashion should or used to be about? Wasn't it the clothes that we lived for? Yes, we honored, respected, worshipped and applauded the designers, but at the end of the day it was the clothes that stirred us.

Just another night in Amsterdam
So way up there above the clouds I still think about fashion and design and how it can be something that can move us. It can be one of the things that gives us confidence, pleasure and a kind of peace of mind knowing that we can face the harsh world thousands of feet below where the turbulence is so unpredictably rocky. It isn't about the persona of an editor or the manufactured allure and mystique of a designer but what they put forth. It's the clothes that count and the imagination of a gifted few that can make that dream real. These are just musings before the fasten your seat belt sign goes on.

Hallway of the hotel in Amsterdam... for real.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ALT's Latest Labor of Luxe: Numero Magazine

As the new International Editor-at-Large at Numero magazine, Andre Leon Talley has shed his Vogue skin of the last 30 years and taken the helm of a new and very interesting magazine for Russia. Upon first hearing of his departure and the ascension of Hamish Bowles, the arch new lady in waiting to Anna Wintour, I was puzzled and not the tiniest bit skeptical. Why leave such an august world, one that has entre' into the highest echelons of fashion, culture, art and that rarest of worlds, the beau monde? Then I realized that ALT is a card carrying member of that rarest of worlds and has been long before Vogue came knocking. Shifting from Editor-at-large to Contributing editor and the phasing out of "Life with Andre"one of the more amusing and informative columns of the magazine all felt like a jolt to the status quo. Why would he take such a drastic turn and leave a position that one would think was not only lucrative but also powerful in a business where walking tall (he's VERY tall) and carrying a big stick is the ultimate dream? It wasn't until I spied Numero magazine volume 001 with Naomi Campbell towering on the cover like an otherworldly Amazon looking down at the world and all of us who worship at the alter of la mode.

Opening to the very first page with the requisite ad and the following 4 with more ads I was struck by the beauty and variety of images by the advertisers. There was something strangely different. It was not so much an act of looking at the pages but actually seeing them. This curious pull to the eye and the senses continued with stories on architecture (interesting homes/structures not drowning in pedigree and provenance with a smug society doyenne leaning against a wall of ancient hand-screened walls a la Japonaise), art, artists, interviews with a slew of designers from Hedi Slimane to Gareth Pugh and Ulyanna Sergeenko the latest couturier to emerge from Russia. Now the fly in the ointment to a large degree is the fact that the issue is 9/10 written in Russian. Fortunately many of the interviews and profiles appear at the back of the book in English translation. Still, there is something powerful about one's limited ability to read text. One is instead forced to take the measure of the magazine purely on its aesthetic merits and they are many.

ALT is clearly in charge. It shows from the very first to the last page. I asked him how much of the editorial pages, the covers, the stories and sittings was he involved in and he said, simply "All of it". It brought to mind the days several years back when he would descend upon the house of Oscar de la Renta just days before the collection and style the complete show, add (copiously) looks and edit (at times drastically) the clothes to make a cohesive and exciting presentation. Those were the last days that Oscar de la Renta commanded the runway and press. Andre's unerring eye makes the stories fresh and surprisingly accessible. Each issue has several pages of shoes, jewelry and accessories shot alone in collage form showing only the item against a blank ground. Those images make you want to shop.

Speaking of shopping, which used to be the function of fashion magazines, the editorial pages are a feast of color, graphically dynamic mixes of looks and atmosphere that is at once foreign yet seductive. To say that the book has a friendliness to it would be an over simplification. It's effect is more like a visual seduction and stimulation of the senses. When was the last time you had that experience looking at a fashion magazine? There's warmth and an invitation to enter Andre's world. All 6 issues thus far cleave to the same formula, with each better than the last. He and his team of editors and photographers are more assured with each issue.

Andre' Leon Talley, with his various projects (ANTM judge, lecturer, writer, curator, university trustee) shows through Numero magazine that the world of Conde' Nast is perhaps too small a platform. This is a man in his prime with a lifetime of the most extraordinary experiences putting them all to use. Underneath those majestic robes and hyperbole is a man on a mission. The world isn't large enough for his contributions but that isn't stopping him for a second. Numero magazine is one more grander stage for him to share his unique gifts with the rest of the world.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ungaro Spring 2014: S*%T on a stick.

Ungaro has gone through more changes than that creature from the black lagoon, Senora dello Russo. Since Emmanuel Ungaro's departure there have been a steady stream of hopefuls and the hopeless. Either the purchase of the house by the CEO Mounir Moufarrige with questionable judgement, a total absence of fashion business acumen and an even greater lack of taste. We saw the likes of Lindsay Lohan with her ineffectual governess, Estrella Archs (the actual designer forced to take a back seat to this OOC hellion), humiliatingly deputized to shadow this train wreck who new nothing of design but had intimate knowledge of the hidden rooms and private toilets throughout the Maison, where she spent most hours guzzling vodka by the bottle and snorting 8 balls just to steel herself for the steadily retreating press. This train wreck, like the Denzel Washington film "Runaway Train", had disaster writ large on every billboard from the U.S. to Paris. Still the visionary CEO of the house viewed it all as a tempest in a paper bag, a clever bait for the international press and imagined a stampede of clients dying to do the Lilo two-step. Whether Lindsay was huffing on that bag filled with hairspray, while tearfully, with a running nose attempting to answer questions by the press on her inspiration or just on what her secrets were to getting up in the morning. To that, I imagine she chirped, "Easy. I never go to sleep!" Spoken like a real (fashion) pro.

Fausto Puglisi is the latest designer to climb onto the back of this bronking Shetland pony. With his own label in Milan this young up and comer who sees himself as a couturier, feels that his Ungaro collection is a "real life celebration and not just a couture celebration." You have to admire his confidence and if the press' embrace of this contrived and ill conceived collection is any indication, his confidence is well grounded on a bed of swampland. There was nothing real life or couture to celebrate. There was nothing to celebrate at all except that one more show was done and it was onto the finish line.

Chiffon printed, draped, wildly mixed and above all, infused with sex appeal was the Ungaro story of before. Those girls ruled whether it was your cup of tea or not. More women than not chose to wear those clothes simply because they made a celebration of a woman's body and displayed expert technique in the art of shape, bias cutting and drape. A woman in an Ungaro dress looked good enough to eat. Not so in the clumsy hands of Fausto. A ruffle placed here, there and everywhere along with an unsettling number of dresses with empire waists that suggested too much tummy or an upcoming delivery did nothing for the models. I shudder to imagine a woman in a dress with the wide clumsy straps over shoulders and crossing chests, paired with black patch pockets, floating layers of garish colored chiffon capped with riffles wired to keep there shape. Get the picture? Sexy black jeans cut like skin with a single row of wired ruffles running down one leg with a patch pocketed silk blouse on top. Polka dots on chiffon with a clumsiness to the scale paired with solid contrasting colors adding up to an institutional color story for for a psych ward just doesn't float my dinghy. Perhaps the fact that Anna dello Russo has championed his work by wearing it in public gives him the self assurance that he has in fact truly made it. But, hey...whatevahs.

The press's embrace of this collection and store buyers crowing that it will do well at retail must be mainlining the Kool-Aid. This is not what fashion is about. This is what has replaced fashion. Ersatz design based on scraps of ideas gleaned while racing through life from one tired party after another. This is what I'd call S%#T on a stick.

Valentino and Chanel Spring2014: Overkill

At the risk of appearing harsh, Valentino and Chanel put on spectacular shows. Grand, sweeping, prolific and in many cases arresting, these 2 houses have a firm (death) grip on what luxury looks like. Besides shoes, glasses, bags and a million other things that sell widely and wildly across the universe the clothes in these collections set standards that precious few can match or even approach. So why the Overkill? It comes down to numbers. With one clocking in at 70+ exits and the other just shy of 100, one has to ask when is enough enough? Is it possible to send an audience into anaphylactic shock just from too many ideas and too many repetitions of those self same ideas? Carolina Herrera refuses to subject an audience to any more than 45 looks. Her belief is that if the point can't be made in that amount, a barrage of 45 more looks isn't going to get that point across. Her feeling is that the audience will become bored and stop "seeing", which is very different from "looking". The lady has a point. Since when is editing a dirty word?

Valentino started out on a curious note with the first exit bringing to mind Pocahontas in couture. The suede, the turquoise beading, the fringe and the severely restrained hair all conjured a Native American vibe just this side of the derivative. It looked as though a character from a diorama took the side door and headed straight for the street. 

From there beauty reigned in fantastic gowns bathed in prints engineered with the hands of the divine. Pleats abounded at once concealing then revealing contrasts, sheer panels and in some instances the most delicate lace. Long sleeved, covered decolletage almost reminiscent of a nun's habit, their sensuality was in the expert dressmaking and the unseen. These gowns that came at you by the dozens were statements of assured style, real live chic.

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Picioli have leapfrogged to the head of the class with collections that propose the most modern romanticism in the formal and classically cool unstudied sportswear. Last season was an absolute day to evening feast for the senses. What woman wouldn't like great in their clothes? 

This time around it seemed that there was too much sauce in the pot. Pocahontas changed into Maid Marion and then thought again and morphed into Empress Theodora. Though it only took her 15 minutes, it looked and felt like 150 years. From the back woods to Byzantium, that's a hell of a lot of changes. Too many to my eye. The technique on display was as staggering as the multitudinous iterations. Valentino needn't preach to the choir when it's a tent filled with converts.

Herr Lagerfeld is another case in point. Chanel is the undisputed Queen of the County Fair. And for anyone who's not clued in it's time to leave the side show tent and head for the main arena. The bearded Lady and the 2 headed baby are fine if you like fakes (seems like the whole world including every major magazine, newspaper editor and store buyers and let's not forget all the pilot fish chasing after these fashion troop ships can't get enough ersatz) but the Queen who rules with ropes of pearls, a Boucle' jacket and swinging a chain-strapped, quilted bag is undeniably the main event.

It never stops to amaze me how many ways Lagerfeld can cut a jacket. This time he did something no one else thought of. With all this epidemic tossing of jackets over skeletal shoulders making the wearer and the worn look awkward and uncomfortable, he cut the jacket with rounded shoulders and a front that is little more than a band that rests across the chest. Imagine a cape without a front and sleeves that swing from the sides. Practical and eye catching. When Joseph Altuzarra was asked last season why he designed so many jackets and coats that rest only on the shoulders, his response was, "Because that's the way editors and my close friend Carinne like to wear them." Only his weren't cut nearly as cleverly as this. Karl encorporated this "new" jacket liberally throughout the collection paired with skirts, over dresses and as a part of dresses. Presto.

The delicately hand woven and embroidered Boucle' gets lighter and lighter until it weighs little more than the chain that encircles the hem. His skirts were almost all opened on the sides and a tabard effectively hung from dresses, tunics and skirts adding a layer without it actually being a layer. And it went on and on. Great bags like chic multi-colored Lego pieces and knits over trousers that had plenty of swing came in black and white and an array of rich pastel shades. 

A personal favorite were exits 41-43 where cardigans were tied at the shoulder and like aprons at the waist in a color play of saturated pastels that were absolutely delicious. YUM with a capital Y. But by the 70th exit it really was something of a forced march. By the time we were looking at dabs of muted primary colors on chiffon dresses and gowns and separate pieces one after the other, all of them shredded, twisted and draped my eyes began to cross. I asked myself, "Just because one can, should one?" It was a similar situation that Mozart faced in the court of Emperor Joseph II of Austria. After debutting an opera commissioned by the Emperor, Mozart asked Joseph II how he liked the composition. Joseph II responded, "It's a pretty piece but there are too many notes." Perhaps I'm tone deaf.

Sometimes a little restraint doesn't hurt. With the outrageous cost of a Chanel bag, shoes, accessories or the clothes themselves there is a moment when too much is just that. Better to leave them wanting more than turning them off. At a certain point it all begins to look self indulgent and nobody likes a showoff, particularly one with a powdered pony-tail, too tight black jeans, high heeled boots, way too many rings and dark shades first thing in the morning. Even if he's old enough to be your grand father.

But, hey... I could be dead wrong. Just puttin' it out there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Louis Vuitton Spring2014: Marc Jacobs' Swan Song

It's with mixed feelings that I view Marc's departure from Louis Vuitton. The collection shown a couple of days ago strikes me more as an homage to his tenure there, the incredible shows he staged, the creation of a luxury clothing business where there was none before his arrival, the buzz he created in a city of staid fashion houses no matter their appearance to the outside world and the incredible success that Louis Vuitton and the LVMH Group enjoyed from his labors. 

I was never a big fan of the work as it struck me as uneven, sensational, too often mired in its own self-consciousness. Still there were moments, recently, where the work resonated with wit even brilliance. The sets and production values too often over shadowed the clothes but that was ok when the clothes benefited from that overshadowing. The fact that some of his most memorable sets were present for this final defile' helped to underscore just how incredible a mark he made.

This last collection is hard to judge as it feels more like a statement than something for the selling floor. Sure there were beautiful dresses in the beginning with beaded lace inserts. The chiffon tops sparingly scattered with jet crystals artfully covering breasts and baring all else over jeans with fantastical headdresses by Stephen Jones were dramatic but more costumes than clothing. The jackets with a profusion of embroideries will certainly become collector's items and treasured forever. The total blackout of the sets, the clothes and the environment was hauntingly beautiful and in some ways more dramatic than the productions of the recent past. They added a gravity to the proceedings that was a class act from start to finish.

It can't be denied that Marc Jacobs succeeded as an American in Paris more profoundly and for much longer than any who came before. If you remember Michael Kors at Celine and Oscar de la Renta at Balmain, neither of them lasted for more than a few years each. Their presence there was exciting and successful but didn't extend long enough to leave a footprint. Perhaps, that is due to the fact that they were burdened with existing collections loaded with baggage that at the end of the day were too cumbersome to overcome. Marc's unique advantage was that there was no collection other than hand bags and luggage leaving him free rein to create the fashion from scratch. 

The most success of his 16 years were the revitalization of the handbags which have become ubiquitous the world over. There isn't one subway car in NYC that isn't stocked with at least 10 versions on any given day. So too are the streets of NYC, Paris, Milan, China and Japan, not to mention Peoria, Kansas City, Jersey City, Tulsa and beyond that are jammed with Louis Vuitton bags of every shape and size. That's the true success story. I've rarely seen the clothes on the street, only in magazines. Nevertheless, his footprint is large and his international name recognition and stature is the stuff of a fashion fairytale.

I'm reminded of a Marc Jacobs show many years back where he bowed/knelt before Anna Wintour at the end of the runway asking, "Did I do alright?" Her benediction and act of almost knighthood surely helped pave the way. That fawning obsequiousness had a lot to do with his trajectory certainly. His adoption by Anna along with that of Proenza Schouler, among others, has been the guarantee of a future both bright and lucrative. That doesn't cancel his obvious hard work and singular focus despite the schizophrenia of the work from season to season. Some say he captured the zeitgeist and wrestled it into big bucks and big trends. A mind reader and a great designer are not necessarily the same thing. His gifts in my eyes were more as an idiot savant with a styling wand. Only last fall with his Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton collections with all their graphic bombast and beauty did I start to warm to his design vision. Hopefully, this move back to NY to focus on his own eponymous collections will bring more of the magic he's shown of late.

Marc Jacobs, like a good musician, has taken us to the bridge again and again, now it's time for him to bring it on home.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Saint Laurent Spring2014: P minus

In case you're wondering what P minus stands for, it is a grade that was used in my Junior High school. It stands for Passing but below grade level. It's better than an F but not quite a D and certainly a long way from a C. I got that grade once. It was for shop class or something along those lines. Put simply, I wasn't that great working with wood and Hedi Slimane to my eye isn't so great at working with cloth. But in all fairness this collection was an improvement on the last.

There were a proliferation of dresses that were in stark contrast to the little Home Ec confections of the last season. He made huge leaps from the spangled Baby Doll dresses. There were many cocktails with a twist here and a pouf shoulder there. But just when you started to warm to these looks out came the scissor and there went the skirts. Everything was chopped well above the knee. When the skirts traveled south of the mid thigh they were cut at severe angles that brought to mind the sorts of looks one finds in design school. 

The opening look of a paillette covered little shift with a broad shoulder and slim skirt looked promising and then the next look appears in a wrap dress covered in a print of red lips. Saint Laurent doesn't need a dose of DVF no matter how dire the future looks. There was a little black strapless number that looked so sexy. There were several draped and swinging skirted cocktail dresses that had some kick. It just didn't feel like he really cared.

The suits which are his strength looked good if not very much the same as the first and second collections. The suits in leather and black wool, Smokings from here to next Tuesday, felt like they had a pulse. Smart tailored jackets and slim trousers got the "Oo la la" treatment with sheer chiffon blouses that are sure to be hits at retail. When in doubt, give them some T***. I loved the Prince of Wales suit simply for its simplicity. That purity of purpose was in short supply elsewhere. Mad mixes of a leather jacket (smart) over a striped sequined top in pink and black (cute) with a leopard printed skirt (umm) added up to a stylist's free (heavy) hand. This formula of 'some of this and that' occurred again and again but with the same result: flat and forced.

With evening there were some hot little dresses buried under jackets which left them a mystery. The styling of sparkling anklets stuffed into forgettable shoes was jarring. Chic is demode in his eyes. The paillette covered one shoulder black gown looked awkward as did many of the looks near the end. The suits buoyed what was to a large degree a listing raft. There was a little black strapless number that looked very sexy. There were several draped and swinging skirted cocktail dresses that had some kick. It just didn't feel like he really cared.

Still, I have to say it was an improvement but not what one might expect from such an important house. Maybe LA is just a bit too far from the epicenter of fashion. Hollywood Boulevard is maybe too far from Avenue Marceau. Too much gets lost in translation. Perhaps in the shops it will look better when you can see the clothes without the annoying styling. Quality doesn't appear to be in doubt only the paltry quantity of things to make one want to spend the big bucks.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dior vs. Balenciaga : Spring 2014

Looking at 2 legendary houses whose creators helped to change the face of fashion and in doing so changed the way people dressed, moved and acted. You could characterize one as the ultimate romantic (Dior) and the other the ultimate intellectual. One's passion flowed from his heart and the other from his head. Still they both reached a similar point. Both were all about shape, volume, architecture.

With the passing of these giants, their successors have an enormous  responsibility to, in some fundamental way, honor the house's traditions while advancing the conversation. It can be argued that Nicholas Ghesquierre did just that as did John Galliano at Dior. I, for one am in agreement on Galliano's tenure, despite his untimely dismissal. Not so with Ghesquierre. His aesthetic I always found too hard, flat and forced. He is for me a stylist with a range that is neither very broad or deep, for that matter. All bark and no bite. Galliano on the other hand was a mad scientist; a theorist, brilliant storyteller, magician and above all a designer with more than  100 tricks up his sleeve, which brings us to this moment. Raf Simons is now at the helm of Dior and Alexander Wang is driving Balenciaga.

shoeHonestly, I had little faith that either would add much to their new gigs but in one instance I was wrong. Alexander Wang appears surprisingly adept at steering that bus. I'd go even farther and say that he's quickly transforming it into a sleek sports car with 4 on the floor and a convertible top. If his first collection was rather tentative and safe honoring the master with a collection that tread the shoals with many shapes and references to the past. This spring is another matter.
With the opening exits he looked very assured with suits of woven braided leather sculpting short jackets with round shoulders and flared short skirts that never lost their sharp clean line. Added to that, leather pieces that came after, laser cut, buttery and substantial in subtle colors he seemed to be saying that he was clearly up to the challenge. There were some snoozey sections that if anything were a bit too contrived and stiff.

 Then Wang woke up and sent out a series of beautifully tailored jackets in white with precise tailoring and a row of delicate buttons. All of this was paired with a film of chiffon that floated over them like a mist. They were simple and superb. So many of the shapes had great flyaway backs that kept your interest coming and going. The more artful evening pieces with stark corsets anchoring draped and tucked silk cloque' with blown out short skirts banded with what looked like wide satin ribbon. They were new, sophisticated and beyond what one would expect from such a young and relatively inexperienced designer like Wang. Let's be real here. The street rarely gives way to the boulevard without a slew of pot holes and construction cones along the way. In short, he was full of surprises and almost all of them welcome.


The Dior show was a very different affair. One would come to expect greater things from a designer like Simons who has had years of experience at Jil Sander as well as designing his own collection. The set was yet again a cavern of abundant flowers both real and fake creating a space that looked claustrophobic. Like his debut collection I couldn't help feeling that the set was a foil for the clothes. Unintentionally or not he seemed to fall back on the same formula of presentation. You could squint and imagine you're cruising on a chic glossy surfaced superhighway with lush rolling hills covered in all manner of flowers real and imagined. So fast and so intense is the passing landscape until the camera pulls back and you realize the only thing moving is the backdrop. The actual vehicle you're supposed to be in is just a side window a partial hood and no seats at all.

This time the clothes were more adventuresome with jackets, the strongest statement throughout the collection, paired with all manner of skirts pleated and printed. There were beautifully cut coats with oblique shapes and eliminated details like closures and collars, pockets, etc. Underneath were stretch tanks with asymmetric cut out in back and askew cut necklines front and back giving the combination of coat and top or jacket and top a dynamic game of hide and seek. It was a chic game of graphics catch with beautiful saturated colors given to each player. It reminded me of how seductive Galliano's haute sportswear for the house had been in the past. Talk about a frisson. Then the heavy hand of self consciousness creeped from behind the bushes and sent it all to... well, off the highway and onto the shoulder.

Printed and pleated floral dresses with black bands circling the busts, wrapping around the high hip (to show a division, some clever redefining of proportions) with word embroidered bands of cloth saying things like"Whisper" and "Primrose Path"the pleats were arrested and so was our imagination just as it was about to be set free. This annoying trend of words printed on clothes and dangling from necklaces and plastered on bags is less than imaginative. It does for me the exact opposite. It forces the issue making you react and respond in ways that is as stage directed as the clothes. I can't imagine a woman with personal style wanting to walk into a room like a bit of graffiti, essentially a sandwich board advertisement for designer's stalled agenda.

Once the audience was passed that detour the show with a dizzying number of exits (70+) continued with more and more variations on shapes that either Dior or Simons had introduced previously but in those all important "new fabrics" that the press craves. I don't think the consumer really gives a shit about new fabrics. She just craves new and beautiful ideas. When the ideas are rehashed but worded in a way that is over the heads of the most curious of consumers and then re-interpreted by editors imposing all sorts of cultural, political and implausible meanings to the dress, jacket, bag or skirt we all end up in a crowded ditch.

 Seriously, most designers just want to design something that for them is beautiful. Beautiful means different things to different people. But statements about the human condition, the bashing of tropes, the annihilation of notions and the Nobel prize for most humanitarian IT bag, are not really thoughts swimming in the heads of most designers. Its more like, who will come to the show? Can I get so and so for my front row? Will Anna let me close enough to kiss her ass? Can we get Karlie to open and close? Do these short shorts make my ass look big? You, know, stuff like that. Oh, and if we send this fur to Mrs. Roitfeld will she keep it, maybe even wear it? You know, shit like that. Still there was a dress in multi-colored stripes that was great. In fact there were 2 of them back to back that looked fresh ans sexy and unforced. A few of the Diorisms in stiff metallic silk with fitted bodices and dropped waists exploding below with skirts held aloft by means of some serious underpinnings. I loved these dresses though like Oscar de la Ho Hum they have become to look like a recipe and not a bold new nibblet.

So in the final analysis, when you look at these 2 shows your conclusions be counter to mine. Fine. But you also may see that Balenciaga has a powerful punch. Great clothes with real style and an elegant aspect that will make some women and others swoon. Dior, in contrast, is a whole lot of synthetic noise with little bite, just a cloyingly artificial aftertaste.