Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Spectacle






Spring/Summer 2015






Spring/Summer 2015

As the dust of another Fashion Week settles, I am struck by the fact that the two designers with the most recognisably dressed followers had by far the most theatrical shows of the season - Thom Browne and Rick Owens. Thom Browne's influence is hard to miss, with the ubiquity of grey ankle-baring suits, suit shorts, and pebble-grained brogues with no socks. Rick Owens on the other hand is currently enjoying unparalleled success - you can see copies of his work everywhere you care to turn. Having already created one of the most recognisable womenswear uniforms of the past decade, it now seems that streetwear brands, eager to cash in on the all-black-everything hip hop trend spawned from a fusion of Owens and Tisci's work, are popping up quicker than you count them. The ongoing trainer collaboration with Adidas further emphasizes Rick's acknowledgement of the new audience he has gained (thus far them seem to be getting less interesting with each new design). 

Many hardcore Owens' fans lament the appropriation and reconfiguration of his work by the streetwear community, and the birth of (hopefully forgettable) brands such as Pyrex and Hood By Air. But it seems to my mind a natural progression for an aesthetic, lest we forget, originally inspired in part by hip hop culture (the baggy drop-crotch shorts, the elongated tank tops, the chunky basketball trainers, etc.). Indeed whilst Owens has created and refined his own clear aesthetic, these various diluted off-shoots are actually a testament to the power of his influence. Although we may currently be seeing a million and one streetwear brands ready to make a quick buck with their pleather and tacky printed t-shirts, the market is simply at saturation point. The very fact that it is everywhere means that it is by definition no longer a fashion, it is rather a diluted trend. Trends come, trends go, and thus, whilst waiting for the current vogue to boil over, I find myself wondering what will be next. The Rick fans will endure, but the majority will move on to something new, and it is that ebb and flow that fascinates me. 

As diverse as Rick and Thom's work is, there are still a number of recognisable uniforms to their canon - you can spot a head-to-toe Rick or Thom look a mile away. That is not to even mention the strict uniforms the designers themselves don. So how do catwalk shows, as both designers showed for Spring/Summer 2015, fit into this aesthetic framework? Thom Browne has long since figured that the catwalk is the place to make viewers think and to constantly examine the way we dress and consider masculinity. His work is artistic, it is creative, and although you can order some of the pieces, it is, for the most parts, unwearable costume. It is not the creative weirdness of Comme des Garçons, designed entirely to be worn, but rather an exercise in artistic expression (albeit still made with the same attention to detail and impeccable tailoring of the consumer clothing). After all, the designer sells the same suits season after season, so why not push the limits on the catwalk?

I do wonder whether Rick Owens is reaching the same point in his career. The staples sell season after season - at this point it would seem to be a leather jacket and trainer brand. For those who have been buying Rick for a number of years, they already have a perfectly serviceable wardrobe that does not really need frequent additions past restocking basics. So how do you get those consumers to buy more? Well Rick's answer would seem to be by continuing to sell the staples but introducing new colours - hence the likes of passport (dark blue). Of course the more complex pieces are still there for those requiring them, but in refining the basics with the introduction of new shades I think Rick is doing something quite clever. The very fact that he has such a defined range of basics means that he can go back to the use of colours in his earlier collections and reintroduce them to a newer audience who have only ever known him for creating in black. Spring/Summer 2015 was a prime example, with Rick pushing the boat with multiple colours, whilst looking back to older work, and thus shocking the newer audience (and of course it will be interesting to see how the streetwear communities react).

This self-referential style of design is central to Rick's approach (after all he is the designer who said that each collection is merely the continuation of the same story), but also one that I think is gaining traction amongst a number of designers in the contemporary sphere. With the rise of defined fashion tribes, propagated by the immediacy and prevalence of social media, it is no wonder that designers are beginning to look inwards. You already know that whatever you design will end up in H&M and Zara next week, so rather than starting from some external point, why not go back and refine? I personally think it is a far better way of designing, because in revisiting and rethinking, you create a coherent thread that allows you to pursue some idea of perfecting your aesthetic for the current moment. Self-reflexivity inherently allows for the formation of a clearly defined voice, and that is necessary for any designer wishing to be at their best (the difference between Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent being that Yves actually had a voice of his own, Karl never has done - I know I say this all the time, but Karl Lagerfeld is not a fashion designer, he is a stylist).   

The idea of a clearly defined voice returns us to considering the staples and uniforms. It is this that interests me most when it comes to my own relationship with fashion and dress. Although I am absolutely fascinated by the ebbs and flows of the fashion cycle, and the birth and evolution of trends, when it comes to what I myself wear, it does not really factor into things. Both designers provide ample choice for the creation and refinement of a small capsule wardrobe, and it is this idea that drives me - because in keeping my wardrobe intentionally small I am better able to examine my relationship with dress. The idea of having less may seem paradoxical to an interest in fashion, but I think it is actually intrinsic to my interest in fashion and dress. It is about constantly questioning and exploring the relationship we have, not only with the material object that constitutes dress, but with the idea of self-representation and social identity itself. In owning less it is easier to ask the numerous questions I have, because if it takes me two years to look for and buy a single white shirt, I am hardly wanting for more time to explore. But it is not simply enough to own less, you have to want less. Collections like these make me happy, because they force us to ask questions. But at the same time, you know you will see the usual variations of a uniform on the rails, and whilst that may bore others, I love seeing such focused design.  


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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Spring/Summer 2015: Part Two






Spring/Summer 2015

Lucas and Alber doing Saint Laurent better than Hedi at Saint Laurent. Slimane transplanted '60s pop iconography, replete with a Jimi Hendrix costumed model, to the catwalk for his latest collection. It was yet another confirmation of his skills now being confined to mere styling rather than actual fashion design. Yes he can be a master stylist, but he is hardly a fashion designer these days. The Lanvin collection was to my mind everything Saint Laurent should be producing if Slimane would like to continue with his current direction. It was more interesting, more elegant, more relevant, and an actual fashion collection. I doubt it will sell anywhere near the volume that Saint Laurent shifts, but then Ossendrijver and Elbaz hardly have the star power of Slimane, and as evidenced by the choice to boot Ghesquiere for Wang at Balenciaga, star power eclipses the need for talent these days. 






Spring/Summer 2015

Beautiful clothes for everyday life. Yes please.






Spring/Summer 2015

I was happy when I first heard that Umit would be moving his shows from Milan to Paris, and this collection, his second in Paris, was beautifully executed. Paris is quite simply where the best show, and so I am glad that Umit has made that leap. Although thinking of Milan Fashion Week, if Armani ever steps down, I would love to see Umit (or maybe Pilati) take his place. His tailoring skills are incredible, his collections are always masterfully narrated, and he has proven that like master designers of the past, he can change the story each and every season without losing the distinctiveness of his voice. I own two pairs of Umit trousers, one of from his '80s investment bankers inspired collection, and the other from his soldiers on the day after the truce inspired collection, and both are some of examples of some of the best construction I have seen, second only to my Yohji pieces. Umit is a storyteller at heart and this collection was no different, being based upon the idea of a tennis club in Cartagena, Columbia. An elegant collection as always and you had to laugh at the tennis shoes with pieces of fake gum molded on the soles as a nod to Umit's childhood. 






Spring/Summer 2015

Y-3 grows stronger from season to season as of late, and for me it provides everything I wish DRKSHDW and Silent by Damir Doma still did - nice casual sportswear for going to the gym or having a lazy weekend (odd how those two are interchangeable in terms of the clothing they require, but sportswear is darn comfortable). Obviously there are the bright prints and more overtly branded pieces for those who are into that sort of thing, but for me it comes down to the black and white garments. As long as you avoid the louder pieces you could construct a perfectly versatile and practical small wardrobe based almost exclusively on Y-3. I like the fact that Y-3 aims to cover all options these days, from casual suits to sweats, and the footwear is far more versatile than the majority of Adidas collaborations (the Rick Owens trainers are too bold for day to day wear, and the Raf Simons trainers are fine if you live in a technicolor world made of Lego, but otherwise happen to be a touch too loud). Y-3 seems to be my personal answer to sportswear, but looking at these images that is perhaps not much of surprise to regular readers.   









Spring/Summer 2015

Two words = HECK YES.
Will no doubt have to do a proper review, including photographs of the back of the garments, in the near future, but needless to say this was Yohji at his best. I am so excited to see this in store and try it on.


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Friday, 11 July 2014

Spring/Summer 2015: Part One






Spring/Summer 2015

I think it is safe to say that for many this collection was seen as being make-or-break for Ann Demeulemeester. Following Ann's shock departure in Autumn it was revealed that she had been training her team to continue on the label without her. Her final collection, Autumn/Winter 2014, was shown as a joint collection in Paris earlier this year, and was in all respects a case of her slipping away quietly. However now stepping into her shoes is Sébastien Meunier, known previously for his menswear at Maison Martin Margiela, who has apparently spent the past four years learning by Ann's side. I think like most Ann Demeulemeester fans I breathed a sigh of relief after seeing the first few looks, followed by a quickening of the heart so readily apparent with the best of Ann's work. Meunier did an amazing job, and it was by far one of my favourite shows of the season. I am already looking forward to trying on everything once it hits the stores, and, unlike the Rick Owens collection, I am assuming the buyers were busy in the showroom.






Spring/Summer 2015

A return to form for Boris. I absolutely loved this collection, especially his use of the olive drab and khakis. As aggressive and powerful as his aesthetic is, there is in my mind always a certain romance, or perhaps better described as a softness, to his vision of the urban warrior - the washed leathers, the subtle shading and fading, the extended and layered sleeves, the open weave knits. It was a short collection, but the detailing was gorgeous to look at. I think last season felt a touch too clinical for me, it was not necessarily a bad collection, but it was very safe. In comparison this collection felt like a refinement rather than a recollection of his work, and I think that will always make for an interesting collection. Again another collection I am excited to see in stores, and I must say I am rather looking forward to trying on the shorts.  






Spring/Summer 2015

Simple. Clean. Yes please.






Spring/Summer 2015

I always love Dries Van Noten's work on the rails and when trying it on, but the collections tend to be a touch too busy and fiddly on the catwalk to make me overly excited. This was however a beautifully choreographed collection. Inspired by ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and featuring illustrated prints by Richard Haines, this collection was elegant and sensual. But unlike the heavy-handed sensuality of Ackermann's recent menswear work ("more silk, more silk...it still feels like it's missing something...I know, more silk!"), Van Noten balanced the layering and combination of fabric and skin perfectly. It is ordinarily with womenswear that one speaks of balance between fabric and exposed skin, but with this collection the dramatically lowered necklines and exposed (albeit strapped and supported) torsos gave an undeniable seductiveness to the styling. Ballet is always tricky to reference, it can cross over into costume far too easily, but here, I think Van Noten hit the sweet spot.  






Spring/Summer 2015

If you follow me on Twitter on Facebook you will already know of my (shall we conservatively call it) distaste for Hedi Slimane's work at Saint Laurent Paris. Needless to say I think Pilati was far better suited to Saint Laurent (although in a perfect world I would rather see Theyskens at Saint Laurent), and to say he is wasted at Ermenegildo Zegna is an understatement. If I was after the skinny and strung-out-on-heroin rocker aesthetic that Slimane so aggressively peddles it would hardly be difficult to find, especially at a vastly lower price point. Slimane's work is undeniably impeccably constructed and the fabrics are gorgeous, but given the pricing anything less would be ridiculous, especially given that the designs themselves are hardly worth paying for. Slimane rant aside, Pilati's work at Zegna was impressive simply because of how much he has transformed the Zegna man. There is undeniably the spirit of Pilati's Saint Laurent man here, especially in the last look I have posted, and although it is not an aesthetic I myself pursue, seeing it at Zegna filled me with a sense of nostalgia, and further disappointment with Pilati's successor at Saint Laurent (and don't even get me started on Wang replacing Ghesquière...go back to sportswear Wang, let an actual fashion designer take the reins).


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