Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Copping to Oscar... Fall/Winter 2015

I suppose next to the shows of Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Proenza Schouler, Tom Browne, Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzzara and Jason Wu, the debut collection of Peter Copping for Oscar de la Renta was the hottest ticket of the season. So much anticipation and speculation roiled the denizens of Park Avenue and points farther east, south and west. What would he do? How would he handle the enormous pressure of moving the storied house forward. Would Annette, Oscar's still-in-mourning widow and all of her ladies in waiting give the nod to Mr. Copping? Forget the singing, the dancing, and courtliness of that legendary man of the world. Those arts died with him. Instead, what of Oscar's 6th sense for knowing precisely what his Ladies wanted, needed and craved? Could this Englishman schooled in the subtle art of French Haute Couture come to this raucous land of snap crackle pop and actually make an argument for the house's future? The answer to that question is a qualified yes.

Qualified simply because it was neither a triumph or a failure. The 47 looks added up to a safe, at times sparkling, but most often an almost quaint display of artistry. The first looks out with their lovely, weightless silk and lace trimmed blouses over short bias striped wool skirts had a youthful quality. So delicately wrought were those blouses that they looked untouched by human hands. That's technique at its best. Perhaps the absence of jackets or coats over those looks gave them that schoolgirl feel that every matron over the age of 60 craves. Though lengths were short, the high waists added that extra above that had so skillfully been excised  below. One detail seemed to cancel out the other and all in the same piece. Then came the suits, the suit and coat dresses and printed silk dresses. Sweet but redolent of the days of Jack Mulqueen and the $150.00 silk dress, a working girl's dream! With prim coats in plaids and fur trim circling the hems and cuffs, this was not so much a fashion question as it was a style statement; familiar and yet hackneyed.  Styling becomes a thorn at this moment as that sense of mad mixing and matching begins to color and underwhelm the work.

The Lady never slips off her pedestal. Instead that pedestal becomes crowded with the "codes" of the house we hear so incessantly about: sweetheart necklines, skinny belted uptight suits with little sex appeal, jeweled pumps and smart bags of indeterminate origin. Cocktail dresses abounded in racy lace, nude appearing bodices armed with boning to keep all that order in order. About now I started to yawn.

Gowns followed with many in black and white. For all those women who beg to have a dress with sleeves, well, come and get it. Copping showed his ability as a colorist with rich saturated mixes in short and long dresses. Nice. Where I found issue was that some of the colorations felt like timid YSL mixes and shapes smacked of older Oscars by way of new Diorisms. Nice but not great. Nicole Phelps of fame went further to question the fit of the clothes. The clothes fit. The studio there is so deeply schooled in the discipline of quality, make and fit that questioning that is utter nonsense. But like Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times, Ms. Phelps is a dilettante better suited to chronicling her own outfits than analyzing others, like the pot calling the kettle a plate.

Perhaps in time the collection Peter Copping wants to propose will appear without the weight of other's expectations, mine included.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New York collections Fall/Winter 2015: Wu, Altuzarra, Wang, Rosie Assoulin, Proenza Schouler,Prabal Gurungetc

Jason Wu
The mundane in fashion is like a floater. No matter how many times one attempts to flush the low, the pretentious and the banal that crowds the runways here, they all seem to congeal creating a scum trapping the new and the inventive below its ever multiplying mass.

Wes Gordon
That statement succinctly identifies most of what passes as fashion in New York, and not just here. There appears to be a dearth of little to say in many design studios around the city. Popular belief is that the fashion designer is something of an oracle, sniffing static spray, inhaling fumes from "new" developments in man made fabrics and suffering vertigo due to a lack of solid ground below. One is supposed to believe that with each collection there is a story told that identifies a designer's particular world view; the intersection of art/craft with real life loaded with an antidote to the poison of the past, the past being last season's prescriptives. The fact is there are few if any oracles in the fashion world other than the conglomerates who manufacture the fumes by means of blanketing the media, internet and stores with its toxic perfume. That's what it feels like these days looking at shows. Program notes by the designer is no help at all. It's just more gas floating in the air.

Prabal Gurung
I passed on attending just about everything I usually go to see. Instead, I went up to Massachusetts during NY Fashion week and sat through 8 solid days of snow storms with only the company of my sister's cat Tito. She and Mom headed south to Peru and Macchu Pichu. It disturbed me that I wasn't there to watch and worse, I didn't feel one way or the other about it. The New York Times can be found in my hometown so I trekked into town and got it to read reviews. Unfortunately, the new NY Times fashion editor at the wheel, Vanessa Friedman, was busily talking folksy and dumbed-downedly to the masses. A quip here, an aside directed at you or me there and all with such earnestness I thought I was being nursed at my mom's breast. Yet, no nourishment. Only burps and a lot of gas. Her praise of Jason Wu who changes stripes this season to stretch those arms and show us he can do a good rendition of sportswear ala Oscar and Kors. His collection along with Altuzarra, Wes Gordon and Alex Wang read more like a women's wear daily review issue. Short, sweet and empty. Not all were written by her. Some were from her team of editors, but the tone was distressingly similar. The customer be damned. These clothes are playing to the front row of editors. It's a branding game where the substance is overshadowed by the performance.  It's also a game of designers once noted for a preponderance of evening clothes have opted for sportswear as that is the category that wins one prizes....

Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler took the crowd on a romp that showed a degree of considered madness. Great jackets and coats have come out of there but the sheer grommetted and knitted bits are just that, madness. Unappealing shoes and derivative bags finished the look along with models whose look was all stringy, sweaty hair and a pallor just this side of jaundice. But hey, that's the look of love.

Rosie Assoulin

Prabal Gurung made a good collection after a few seasons on listing in the shallows. When he does what he does best, real and glamorous clothes, and not the collage/construct looks that say "forced", then the outcome can be pleasing. Still a collection should rely on more than just a change of fabrication. There can be a variation in shape, as well.

Rosie Assoulin

Rosie Assoulin is a gem. Not even a diamond in the rough, but polished, expertly cut and gleaming. Her ideas all are based on the idea of scale. Shapes, colors, graphics are designed to make the grand statement. Her message appears simply as one of glamour, mystery and a celebration of women. With expert craftsmanship and a love of the finest in fabrication and technique sets this designer apart from the little boys scrambling to be king of the hill. No designer is without a Waterloo in most every collection and she is no exception. Though I liked her most recent Spring and Resort collections more, the beauty of this rare talent is that she continues to develop and explore themes from the previous seasons.


Bring It ! *some of this is foggy as I don't remember the facts or care.... Like Fashion.

 One night several months ago I was watching some of my favorite escapist television shows: the reality juggernaut of (un)Real Housewives from hell and worse (Orange County, Miami, Sydney, Jersey, New York and Beverly Hills, oh, and Atlanta). Nothing new ever happens except maybe a husband cheats, dick-tates, and even commits suicide. The wives do pretty much as they please and all under the guise of self empowerment, sisterhood, and brazen uncontrolled self delusion. In short, this is a documentary on the lives of Americans with not enough of one thing and way too much of the other. Visually, it's all the same no matter the zip code or their nationalities. Cheap clothes, joke jewels and houses parading as homes. By sheer accident, I found another show whose characters watch these shows and are filmed reacting to the action/inaction. It's called The People's Couch....something or other. A few of the families watching are really fascinating. Actually, they're all fascinating. Much much more so than the crap they're watching. The mom and dad and their 2 precocious sons all crowd into the parent's bed to watch with food and withering commentary. That the teenage sons sit between mom and dad and have an acute understanding as to how the world of fucked up TV works is in itself disturbing. At the same time, their parents show love and understanding for their sons, who act more like daughters, giving their reality a refreshingly nonjudgmental aspect.

There are 2 other characters who hold my attention almost as strongly as say a State of the Union address or a winter storm warning: namely 2 women, both white, one a lesbian and the other not...? or at least a sympathetic/empathetic BFF. These women never fail to make me choke on my popcorn or blow a mouthful of Root Beer straight out my nose laughing. The  matter of factness of their reactions are almost completely impossible to dispute let alone ignore.I have this very same feeling when I look at the collections. Hang on....this is getting to the collections. (indulge me just a bit longer, please.)

On one evening the girls were watching a dance show, called Bring It! or Dance Moms or something, and the teams were doing a medley of Beyonce' songs with seriously athletic death defying moves. Kind of a pissing contest in tights and outfits of questionable taste. Team one was given a rousing pep talk from their no nonsense coach. She impressed upon them that their lives, reputations, futures, even their self esteem, and hers by extension, were on the line. All the money, hopes and dreams were riding on the next 2 minutes or so and if they failed there'd be no more potato chips, fruit, hair straightener or even a bus to get them back (I'm paraphrasing and clearly driving without a Poetic License) if they didn't BRING IT! Watching the bathos their coach spews in that dingy dressing room is enough to make even the most hardened cheer leading dance squad weep into their pom-poms.

Their moment comes, the routine revs into high gear and their 2 most ardent supporters on the couch with their drinks in hand and their hearts in their mouths, cheer them on, pray them on and plead to the heavens to bring them through this valley of (dance off) death. Like an army of divine believers they face their opponents in formations and drop face first like a forest of felled (black) pines and fallen face first onto the ground and all at the same time. The lesbian on the sofa declares it a total triumph due to their signature move "the Drag Queen Death Drop". Well, I certainly was convinced that these little girls had done the job, rescued their dignity and would bring home the prize on a bus that had waited full of hopes, dreams and yes, popcorn. In short, these little soldiers of song and dance had done nothing less than "BRING IT!" but there was still the other team's turn; The Baby Dancing Dolls and the Divas of Olive Branch.

With a name like the Rudettes (Dancing Divas) or something this team stepped forward in answer to the question and started their routine. It was all provocation. Some neck waving, hand gestures, barely there costumes (on 13 year olds....) gyrating to a very "grown up" beat, these (little girls) had clearly been given a different pep talk altogether. These girls twerked, gyrated and teased to the point of embarrassment. It was actually hard to watch. One would imagine it might even be hard for their parents to watch. This routine was well past the border of propriety and firmly in that netherworld of questionable taste. I call this world Conde' Nasty. But unlike the previous team with their quaint naivete, the Raunchettes wore very little and all carried a CHAIR. WTF was the chair for? Well, these girls had a mission and it was punctuated by that chair; the coda and exclamation point to their routine. If I said they mounted more than sat on those chairs gives you enough information. At the end as the judges tallied their scores, the 2 BFF on the couch were appalled at the vulgarity of team 2's display hoping against hope that good taste would win out. Well we all know having watched the collections from here to Paris and all points north and south east taste rarely carries the day, Chanel, Valentino, and a few exceptions excluded.

As I feared, but knew deep in my gut, Team 4 the Little Vixens of Vacantville (The divas of Olive Branch) stole the trophy. All the lesbian could say in defense of the first team was that "We did what we had to do. But they had chairs...". She's right. All the collections in this land and farther afield that managed to twerk their way to reviews utterly devoid of comment, analysis or fact  (a big hand goes out to Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times) had one thing going for them...they all came with a chair. A chair that fits neatly under the table at Cafe Conde' where the menu special each day and night is "Nasty in Asspic"! Now that that hairball is up and out, I can get specific.