Monday, February 29, 2016

Who's Afraid of Kanye West?

Kanye's Army
Silly question but it seems like just about everyone is. Even his Kardashian family other than his long suffering wife are afraid to voice their opinions showing up in public wearing those chewed up rags and re-purposed, re-dyed and re-labeled American Apparel merch. To look in the stands of Madison Square Garden and see Anna Wintour nestled with his homies/family is to understand the degree to which he's cowed the general public. COW is the operative word here. Cathy Horyn is one of the few journalists to call it for what it is: dreck. To give him any more attention is only to encourage him. I for one won't. Make music not t-shirts and while you're at it spare us all your frustrations for having been born witless.

Alber Elbaz and the neutering of Lanvin

* this was stuck in draft phase and then i decided to tie it up and send it on. forgive the old news-ness of it, but it still rankles, maybe for you too....

what can i say? everybody else has said it already. the firing of Alber Elbaz came as a surprise. to me anyway. hadn't he just been given a big deal award at someplace in nyc just a couple of weeks ago after having shown his Lanvin collection to rave reviews a week or so before that?  wasn't the world feeling nothing but love for the designer considered by many to have the biggest heart and one of the greatest talents for keeping the world guessing and wanting? hadn't he turned around the oldest remaining french house of fashion from a sleeping beauty to a lively robust force? he of the exposed zipper, artlessly tugged, twisted and tacked cocktail dress. the chunky, naive jewels that celebrated humor, caprice and iffy taste. the jersey dresses in moody color combinations, draped, and held in check with unexpected leather leashes. inverted seams, raw edges, the dressmakers version of dangling participles.

those are just a few of the things that made Lanvin special. the other thing was a sense that the message came through loud and clear. a message that didn't so much change as become deeper and more emphatic and consequently more clear. clarity in fashion is in short supply and when you find it you absorb it. think chanel, rick owens, Ralph Rucci. crystal clarity. in a sea of murk with sand falling away under foot it's refreshing to witness a designer who can string together ideas, moods and propositions that go further than from just A to B. Alber is one of the rare few who does. though i am guessing, i'd say he looks like the consummate team captain. in the press he appears almost without ego and self deprecating to a fault (that humility and sad clown Pagliacci-ishness got old, but whatevs...) which in itself is novel, even rare. so with all the years he invested, the popularity of the brand, his 10% ownership stake, and the presses' support and the publi'c's embrace it seems such a waste. but all is waste now. the throwaway generation where the next idea is tossed aside for another and another til the idea of ideas is no longer the idea. now just shake, bake and fake.

i started this months ago and then stopped in disgust. now it seems there's a storm in the courts between Elbaz and the company's owner. certainly, he'll be fine and land again on his feet. it could be dior or saint laurent, again, or perhaps his own eponymous label. either way, the system has broken and we have people like anna wintour and her ilk to blame. as they say," a fish rots from the head down.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

RR331 Fall 2016: Return of the Master

Ralph Rucci is back. Actually, he never left but instead, took a sabbatical, regrouped and cleansed his soul. With humility and a simple desire to create, Ralph Rucci has returned to his chosen metier and like the moon setting and the sun ascending, a new day is upon us. His exit from the company he spent the last 35 years building shook many of us with its inexplicable timing. Why would a master of Haute Couture exit his house from one day to the next after having created a language that defines luxury here and abroad? The answers are many and at the same time painfully singular. That modern phenomenon of teaming talent with money is the cautionary tale that is playing out to disastrous and destabilizing effect. And despite the "marriage" that took him from the sublime to a quagmire of ridiculousness, Rucci has risen far above the petty wars of his recent past to begin again. With not a word of rancor or accusation, Rucci has done what he does best: design.

This season RR331 (which stands for Ralph Rucci and 331, the number of steps in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony) eschewed the runway for a still-life presentation in a gallery space on the far West side. Approximately 25 looks were shown on mannequins throughout the space. The crowd of well wishers, clients and press were a crush making the event more of a celebration than your typical static fashion show. It seemed people were there just as much to show their respect and appreciation for the master as much as to see his new collection. 

Without the ubiquitous front row it was a decidedly democratic event with the big guns, his friends and admirers having to line up to get the chance to greet him. Gone were the annoying security phalanx with their myopic way of handling the pilgrims. The crowds were so thick it was difficult to get close enough to the clothes to see the intricate, mind boggling details. Even from a distance you saw the double faced wool suits and dresses with his signature details employing his suspension technique, slivers of silk tulle exposing the contours of the body, tissue taffeta with snaking zippers to define and abstract the shape of a gown and the Infanta dresses of digitally printed Gazar and Duchesse suggesting antiquity in its most modern iterations.

Unlike some collections in the past with their hyper technique this time there was an almost palpable desire on his part to draw the viewer in. Like the true artist Ralph is, he consciously engages and challenges us to approach his work, to take its measure. I watched as people shyly touched the velvet of a sweater and full trouser and weighed the stone printed chiffon as if it might have weight. 

The sable coats and trimmed pieces were impossible to view at a distance. Their color, texture and details were like siren songs. One sable coat in particular was inside out with the fur as the natural lining. The hides were stitched together and inscribed with calligraphy by his own hand. It wasn't the first time he employed this medium, but the audience lingered over this artistic masterpiece as they did so many pieces in this exhibition. And perhaps because Ralph has walked away from the fashion system as we know it, he has freed himself to express himself more fully as an artist. He's an accomplished painter, sculptor and designer of clothing. He is a man obviously at ease with himself and his gifts. He no longer seems driven to prove something. His mere presence is proof enough. Fortunately, Ralph Rucci no longer must toil under the ham fisted hooves of an industry whose only aim is to stare at its reflection in a pond dense with scum.