Fashion: An Apologist's View

>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

I came across this article this morning in The Guardian - it's quite old, I know, but I don't think that diminishes its relevance any. In it, the writer Tanya Gold talks about how much she hates fashion - how she hates walking past shop windows displaying 6-inch heels, how she laughs at the "imbecility" of clothes on the runway, a luxury afforded to her, she says, ever since she put on some weight and decided that "even fashion wouldn't pretend it could fix me." She wonders why women can't renounce fashion and just "squeeze... (themselves) into a library and have an inner life instead", as if a love for fashion and for books can only exist mutually exclusive of each other.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course. And it seems to fit perfectly into the natural order of things that the more frivolous, the more seemingly vapid fashion gets, the larger and stronger grows the backlash against it. Certainly, there's much to berate about the industry - the list is long, from the use of underage, anorexic models to fashion houses' ironclad rules about lending clothes for editorial spreads, effectively killing all creativity, to the increasing number of products out there that simply do not justify their price tags (see post below).

The reason I find myself unable to stay away, however, lies in people like Alexander McQueen, Giambattista Valli, Azzedine Alaia, Nicolas Ghesquière. Looking at the things they create often moves me and sometimes brings a lump to my throat; the experience is not dissimilar to finding pleasure in music, or classic art worthy of the adulation it receives, or dance or literature or the joy of effortless eloquence.

The jury's still out on whether fashion crosses over into art, and I'm not entirely sure what my take is on the matter either - but I still find it is imperative to recognise the great creativity and often, the vision that many in the fashion world possess. We all want to be heard, especially when so many of us are so stifled and our voices silenced so much; the desire to create is most natural, most human and whether creativity finds its outlet in art, music, words, or just clothes, it deserves its place in the world just like any other.

I think it's unfortunate that Ms. Gold chose to filter fashion in the way that she did and take it as personally as she has. Fashion is, of course, an industry like any other - and one could say art is more about creativity for its own sake and hence entirely different from fashion, but surely a closer look into the art world would change anybody's mind - and the clothes mean nothing if there is no one to buy them, but that doesn't mean that there is no beauty to the madness, that all fashion is derogatory to women, that its sole purpose is to make us feel worse about ourselves, or that to buy into the dream of enchanting clothes is to declare yourself an exercise in frivolity to the world. I have a problem with extremes, especially when it comes to those in opinions and I don't believe that the right answer to anything lies in one or either polar opposite.

And that is, as they say, is my two cents.

p.s. That bit about wandering about Harvey Nichols like "an insect with a broken antennae" observing how "miserable all the shoppers look," and how shopping always involves "a kind of brief, bright burst of self-acceptance, which always evaporates" when one reaches home? Utter drivel. Tanya Gold has obviously confused a distaste for shopping with her right to a diatribe on fashion. I'm not sure what she meant about the miserable shoppers, because I certainly feel nothing but ecstatic when I'm in a store. And contrary to Gold's opinion on the matter, I think the best part of the entire experience is going home, unwrapping your new purchases, and hanging them up in your wardrobe.

In fact, the only thing better than that particular experience is wearing it all for the first time.


Erdem Wins the BFC / Vogue Designer Fashion Fund

>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ok so I'm being really naughty here since I'm really supposed to be compiling our annual It Guide to the hottest places to be / things to do etc, but I'm just so excited (I just can't hide it) and I wanted to share! Half Turkish, half Brit designer Erdem Moralioglu has just been announced as the very first winner of the Vogue / British Fashion Council Fashion Fund prize, which gives him GBP 200,000 (much needed for a young up-and-coming designer like him) and "access to direct level mentors across the industry", although I'm not entirely sure what that bit means. Either way, it's sure to bring him much attention and the added credentials won't hurt either.

He beat out some incredibly stiff competition, fighting off the likes of Nicholas Kirkwood and Marios Schwab for the title. I'm so pleased he won because to me this marks the triumph of beautiful, well tailored clothes that can be both otherworldly and inherently wearable at the same time. I say this with no exaggeration - every time I see someone wearing Erdem, my breath catches a hitch. His clothes have this way of making a statement for the wearer without swallowing them up or allowing them to hide behind them. It's the sort of beauty that enhances, not conceals, and I aim to one day have a few pieces by Erdem hanging in my wardrobe.

Oh, and click here for a lovely piece in The Telegraph on Erdem's (much deserved) growing popularity.


Derelicte - Homeless Chic

It can sometimes be difficult to really appreciate fashion without wondering if knowing that those exorbitant price tags could be put to much better use elsewhere. On the other hand, I think fashion is the closest thing to art without actually being art - interestingly enough, I read a lot of press last week about the brouhaha created by the latest biography of Yves Saint Laurent, written by a Frenchwoman called Marie-Dominique Leliévre. Expressing her reservations on the widely accepted view that Saint Laurent was an artist, she writes: "An artist recreates, reinvents the world, a couturier only dresses it."

I'm not sure how much I agree with her, since great fashion designers change the way the world looks at clothes and their wearers, which makes them creators and perhaps, using Madame Leliévre's definition, artists in their own right.

Regardless, there are times when the boundaries between art, fashion and sheer ludicrousness get a bit blurry, especially when it comes to quotidian outfits using everyday materials to make products that are more often than not factory produced in China. Gawker seems to share my views and has put together a visual of what one could purchase for $15,000 in the quest for homeless chic (a concept I would find hilarious if it weren't a sartorial reality).

What do you think? Is spending almost $3,000 for a threadbare, geeky, falling-apart-at-the-seams sweater fashion, art, or just a subversive statement?


Red Carpet Garçons

>> Monday, March 8, 2010

Remember when the Golden Globes rolled around in January and I couldn't help but bemoan the sheer lack of imagination in the men's camp? As it turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Out magazine took my wishful thinking a step further and re-imagined today's famous male red carpet stars in some far more creative looks.

My favourite was the picture of Woody Harrelson rocking up in Japanese favourite Comme des Garçons. I can't say I can picture the entire outfit on him, but I'd love to see someone with a personality as offbeat as his rocking up to an event in Comme des Garçons.


Alexander McQueen Spring / Summer 2010

>> Thursday, March 4, 2010

I just watched the show on McQueen's website. Goosebumps all over. And when it ended it was like being sucked back to reality through a portal. Fashion like this is art.

Make sure you click on the enlarge button to see the show on the fullscreen.


You Won't See That Sort of Thing Here...

>> Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Mercedes Benz, London Fashion Week sponsors, put one of these hampers in the boot of all their cars that fashion folk used to travel to, from and between shows.

Jelly babies and awesome packets of what look like apricots and candy and seeds to munch on. What? I want to live in not-India.


Back to the Basics - Gucci's New Ad Campaign

>> Monday, March 1, 2010

Gucci has just launched a new ad campaign that focuses on their heritage, using two keywords: Forever Now.

My first thoughts when I saw pictures of the campaign, which hit international newspapers on 27th February, the day Gucci showed their F/W11 Collection, pertained to how similar the images from the campaign are to the images that Louis Vuitton sends the media of workers in the early part of last century at the Vuitton headquarters of Asnières.

The brand is obviously trying to focus on its heritage, which I think is interesting because they're currently positioning themselves as the epitome of cool under the helm of creative director Frida Gianini. They're also one of the few luxury fashion houses that have embraced modern day technology, with their iPhone app, free Wi Fi at their shows and live streaming of the collections on their websites and via Facebok and Twitter.

Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, have always stuck to their philosophy as the go-to brand for the true connoisseurs of travel, or aesthetes of travel, as heir Patrick Louis Vuitton once told me, and as a heritage brand, despite their trysts with everyone from Madonna to Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami.

Here are a couple of images from the campaign, taken in the 50s in Gucci's factory in Florence.

And some images from the Louis Vuitton archives (not campaigns).

Louis Vuitton is currently running a conservative ad campaign of its own, focusing on craftsmanship instead of heritage, featuring lithe, petite women straight out of a painting by Vermeer, working on unfinished products while bathed in golden light. I'm unsure about the actual volume of Vuitton products that are currently handmade (and even less so of the accuarcy of representation of the brand's craftsmen and -women - they can't all look like that!) but here are the images.

It's interesting to see the shift companies make in their marketing strategies during a recession. Now is obviously not the time for unwarranted impulse buys and with consumers being exceptionally watchful of their consumption, profits of large design houses the world over have dropped steadily. By featuring marketing that focuses on the brand history, companies are sending consumers the message that they're buying into the company's heritage and brand values, reassuring them that their purchases are tasteful and above all, good investments.


Who is Hakaan? London Fashion Week Fall / Winter 2010

>> Friday, February 19, 2010

So it's 11:30 at night here and I'm meant to be in bed so I can wake up early and go for a walk in a bid to lose some of this awful weight I've put on after my trip to Malaysia (all on my face, what do you know) but London Fashion Week is on as I type and I am so excited! It's nice to be excited about a fashion week, I feel like it's been ages since that's happened - I guess London will do that for you.

Anyway so I was in bed trying to fall asleep when my phone literally exploded with news about Hakaan, this new Turkish designer who's showing at London Fashion Week for the first time. Apparently Kate Moss was meant to be at the show, and Vogue editor exceptionelle Carine Roitfeld is rumoured to have bought up his entire collection; it's odd I was just looking at the schedule and saw that Central Saint Martin's is showing tomorrow which made me wonder if there were going to be any collections that were bought in its entirety, like Isabella Blow did with Alexander McQueen all those years ago.

Anyway so no pictures at the moment but the descriptions sound great - lots of black body con and supermodels galore. All I've got in the way of pictures is this one of him:

In which he looks super cool of course, almost like Yohji Yamamoto - when I first saw it on the London Fashion Week website for a split second I thought he was Japanese - but he's Turkish as it turns out, hurrah! I like him already.

I'm not really one for major beauty trends - I think there are only so many ways you can paint a face, after all - and there are times when I think make up artists go overboard and forget that the face is not a palette, not really - so sometimes you see stuff like this, from backstage at the Hakaan show.

Er, Natalia? Is that you? What happened to you? Seriously, anyone who would willingly do that to a gorgeous model like her and then send her out on a catwalk is a bit off to me. Still, I am determined to fall in love with the collection as soon as I see it - I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and see the pictures!

Oh and in other news, if I wasn't already enamoured enough by Naeem Khan's designs, I am now totally in love with them, in an awestruck / little girl sees a movie star in the flesh kind of way. And speaking of which, I had a really nice conversation with him over the phone a little while ago, and I'm going to put the interview up as soon as I wake up tomorrow and collect my thoughts about Khan's new collection a little bit. Because if I say anything now it'll just sound like a bunch of gibberish.


The Future of McQueen

>> Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's been exactly a week since Lee Alexander McQueen passed away and amid the general sense of shock and mourning there have been the inevitable questions about the future of the company, which was bought by the Gucci Group in 2000 with a 51% stake. Given how close his death was to Fashion Week (McQueen exhibits in Paris) it was sort of a given that his Fall / Winter collection was almost done, but there was no news on whether they would be showing.

They will be as it turns out, according to Gucci Group president Robert Polet, who made the announcement today. The fashion house will also definitely go on without the founder, although there is currently no heir apparent.

Gareth Pugh is a name that has been tossed around and frankly I think that'd be an absolutely incredible fit.

I love Pugh's work, it's so surreal and fantastic in the truest sense of the word - I think that the two shared an exquisite sense of the macabre that might translate well into McQueen's legacy.

But what a legacy that is - whoever it is that steps in has some very, very big shoes to fill.


Rodarte Go Home - Rodarte Fall / Winter 2010

I've never been a big fan of Rodarte. I thought those threadbare cobweb sweaters were heinous to look at, the sisters have always come off in media interviews less like the quirky, eccentric, nonchalant designers they try so hard to be and more like annoying, nerdy kids, and blood and guts does less to describe the themes of their collections as it does my state of mind while looking at them.

It's a harsh thing to say, I know. Maybe Rodarte caters to this niche subversive ugly-is-pretty aesthetic that I'm just not cool enough to get, but I don't care. Their clothes are often just plain ugly and that's not fashion to me. Their most recent collection did little to appease my indignation for their so-called aesthetic, based as it was on a horrifyingly fugly interpretation of their hankering for their Mexican roots. Somehow a drive from El Paso to Marfa in Texas got them thinking about their homeland, and more particularly the hazy atmosphere in what I believe is a particularly drug-addled town called Juarez in Mexico, and from that they arrived at sleepwalking as a theme.

So we have old blankety-looking garments whose mustiness I feel like I can almost smell through my computer screen, chunky layers adorned by tassels galore, and that horribly lurexy quality to the sleeves and leggings that makes my skin itch by just looking at it.

I couldn't click through the entire collection - if I had, I might have seen some of the more passable stuff, like this:

But there was nothing inherently wearable about most of the collection - unless of course you're hoping for people to gaze at you sympathetically as they whisper to their companions about the state of public healthcare, and why oh why don't they provide better treatment for the crazies? - and I'm not saying that all fashion must always be wearable, god no - but there's no art to this. There's no real beauty in the clothes, nothing that makes the heart beat faster, or justifies their existence. There is no reason for these clothes to exist.

When considering their theme, one thing becomes apparent - the Mulleavy sisters may not have captured the ethereal dreaminess of the actual act of sleepwalking, but they have certainly put forth a collection that looks like it was made in their sleep.


The Marquess of Dreams - Marchesa Fall / Winter 2010

I know it's been a while since I've posted on here - this is mainly because I've been practically incapable of doing anything productive since I got back from Malaysia a week ago and partly because all potential subsequent posts after the last one just seemed too frivolous for me to not be a little embarassed about having them up here.

Still, New York Fashion Week has been raging forth in full force, although I must admit that I haven't followed each collection as religiously as I probably should have. Maybe it's just that nothing really inspired me, although I think it's just that Fall / Winter collections rarely do. I love winter dressing, of course - but it can be a little difficult to get excited about pictures of layers and layers of clothing, especially when you're looking at them in the midst of an unrelenting Indian heat spell.

All that changed for me after Marchesa's presentation yesterday. They're one of my favourite design houses - I love their attention to detail, the fabulous textiles they use and the sheer beauty of their clothes. Notte by Marchesa is great too, but when it comes to the stuff little girls' dreams are made of, there's very little that beats Marchesa. I am also very envious of co-founder Georgina Chapman and harbour a secret desire to be her, even if for a day - all translucent skin and flowing chestnut locks. She looks like how I want to when I'm her age, which is - early 30s? That sounds about fair.

I fell in love with the very first image I saw from the collection:

And really, could you blame me?

As the collection went on however, I grew a little confused:

What on earth's going on here? It's way too fussy, the ruffles look like they're made from the sort of material that would ignite in the heat, and thanks to the length, the dress has accomplished the seemingly insurmountable task of making a 5'11'' model look like a dumpy Eastern European woman who seems to have just emerged, judging by the look on her face, from Dracula's castle. The latter is no reflection on the dress of course, but come on, Irina Vodolozova - it's not like you've had to parade down the catwalk in those godawful heels - it's a presentation, for god's sake. If you can't just stand around looking happy (or at least ever so slightly stand-offish) for a camera then I have no hope left in modelkind.

Then of course there was this:

Once again: What on earth's going on here? This is how I imagine Christian Audigier (designer for Ed Hardy, keep up) would imagine haute couture. I like the delicacy of the print, call me a snob however but the idea of a nude tattoo bodice just doesn't appeal to me. This look also marked the first of the white patterned tights, which I still have very mixed feelings about. They seem to be a growing trend though, unfortunately.

I love this one. The pleats and jacket look like they're made out of some kind of armour, and I love the delicacy of the pattern traced onto the jacket. Beautiful!

Some of the outfits reminded me a bit of Prabal Gurung's Spring/Summer 10 collection, like this one.

It's like the dress (which was actually a top and a skirt from the Gurung's collection) Becki Newton wore recently to an Ugly Betty benefit. Especially the aesthetics of the top half:

See what I mean?

I am going absolutely insane for this dress. Even the white hose doesn't ruin it for me, which is the mark of true greatness. Honestly, this is perfection. I'm a sucker for all things black, this is true, and I love the rosettes and the perfectly sculpted silhouette and oh my god, that model's collarbones are making me a little green.

Then began the barrage of red carpet hopefuls, dresses so beautiful that I'd almost be willing to sell up and buy a ticket to Los Angeles and wait tables at a French restaurant while making lifelong friends with my boss who is kind enough to get someone to cover my shift while I sneak away to auditions (and who I will thank in my first acceptance speech at the MTV Video Movie Awards and the audience will laugh - oh, how they'll laugh!) and am finally discovered by a sleazy producer who I dislike because he leaves small tips but he's willing to bet that I'm the next big thing so what the hell and who introduces me to Michael Bay who casts me as a sexpot in his next film which catapults me to starletdom JUST so I can wear one of these creations on the red carpet. Because honestly, if the whole world isn't looking on in awe while you strut these beauties down the red carpet, you may as well be wearing them by yourself in your bathroom as you brush your teeth before you go to bed with your cats. These dresses are all or nothing dresses.

The sheerness on the last one does seem a bit unnecessary, making it my least favourite of all the gowns from this collection - still, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to wear this, I can't say I'd refuse, even if I don't really like dresses that can't make up their mind - saucy or sophisticated? Actually, it's the perfect little starlet's dress, come to think of it.

The more I look at this collection, the more I feel like this is the perfect party collection for every budding young starlet - there's something here for all her needs. There are the red carpet dresses, of course, which we've just seen.

Then there are the clothes that would fit so well into a budding actress' quotidian wardrobe. This, for example, would be perfect for an autumn fundraiser lunch. The skirt is one of the few examples of feathers not going horribly wrong, because it's been paired with that sharp jacket in a richer, darker colour.

This reminds me a little too much of Balmain over the last couple of seasons (while I loved it at first, that whole 80s power-partygirl thing got a bit old a bit fast) but it's the perfect look for a fun, casusal red carpet event. It's the sort of dress that almost expects its wearer to stumble out of the place five hours later, hair ever so askew (the stylists at Marchesa seem to agree), cigarette in hand, bouncers / leery boyfriends in tow. The model's even got the pouty expression of self-entitlement down pat.

Similar event, although perhaps slightly less boozey. The CDFA awards perhaps? No better way to prove your fashion savvy than by mixing a heady cocktail of trends together. Ruffles? Check! Muted colours? Check! White lederhosen? Check!

Dinner with friends at a pap-infested restaurant. I love it.

The jewel that crowned the presentation, however, was this gorgeous dress, all origami and ruffles (which should technically spell disaster, but it so doesn't), a dress I can imagine someone like Cameron Diaz or Diane Kruger wearing while the Fug Girls have a field day trying to think of fresh table napkin jokes. I don't care though: this is sheer glory.

When I grow up, I will wear Marchesa, even if I'm not famous. I'll put red carpeting in a strip down my bedroom if I have to.


Of Ghosts and Demons - Goodbye Alexander McQueen

>> Saturday, February 13, 2010

I found out about Alexander McQueen passing away on my way home day before yesterday via a text message from a friend. It's now been two days and I'm still a little shocked at the turn of events.

I always held Alexander McQueen's work in such high regard. It went without saying, always, that he was one of contemporary fashion's true visionaries; nobody every really questioned that his work would go down in the annals of fashion history, the stuff of textbooks and fashion courses for decades to come. It's just such a damn shame that he died so very young. Creativity is only secondary to happiness of course, in my eyes anyway - better to live a life of contentment than to suffer a tortured soul (I am not unaware that by this logic we wouldn't have some of the world's best artists to speak of) - but there was so much iconic talent waiting to see the light of day, and all of a sudden it's just - gone.

Most of all, it's very sad to think of how tortured one must be to be to willingly end their own life. Wherever he is, I hope that he is happy, and the fashion world thanks him for the body of work he left behind and will never truly forget him - in that sense, he has achieved what every artist dreams of.

I guess my first reaction to the news sums it up better than this post can:

"I am so sad to hear about the passing of Alexander McQueen. He was among the few designers whose creations struck and immediate and intangible chord and it's sad to think of all the productions in the waiting room that we'll now never see - it's only fashion, but it's still art. If only tortured souls weren't so synonymous with exceptional creativity..."

Rest in peace Alexander McQueen.


Wangs of Desire

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I am totally crushing on these ridiculous glasses by Alexander Wang for Linda Farrow. They remind me of a pair of red ones I saw at a Ray Ban in Houston once but I didn't buy them because I thought, "Well, what am I going to wear them with?" Everything is the correct answer, but it's too late now.

I love the retro frames, the signature Wang fetishistic zippers, those steel-tipped frames. Not so hot for the third pair, but I'll take the top two any day!

While we're on the subject of Alexander Wang, I've just got to say I love his clothes. They're edgy and stylish and while I guess you could in all fairness say that those two terms are synonymous with pretty much every designer these days, it really is true with Wang's clothes.

I was on the Saks 5th Avenue website yesterday and it turns out that they've now got international delivery (which means India too!) and they were happy to display all the prices in rupees, which I thought was very nice of them.

I had three pieces in my basket, this gorgeous Alexander McQueen jacket:

and two dresses, both Alexander Wang:

and another one that I can't find anymore, but it was gorgeous, one-shouldered with a big billowing sleeve, orange silk, oh my...

And then I whipped my card out and clicked on checkout, and they told me that the dress wasn't approved for international delivery yet and would I please select something else.

No I bloody well would not! Why on earth would they lure you in with promises of international shipping and instant currency conversions only to turn you away at the zippered gates at the very last minute? It's atrocious.

Shame on you Saks. I shan't visit your website again.

p.s. call me when you've got your delivery options sorted out.


Golden Globes 2010 - Rain didn't spoil the ball, satin did.

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

What a thoroughly disappointing Golden Globes it has been. Nobody wore anything risky, there were no real fashion disasters (I love Tina Fey too much to say anything) and worst of all, there was satin galore all over the red carpet! Have celebrities, stylists and designers not learnt of the folly of wearing satin to an award ceremony? It looks great on the mannequin, sure, but once it's on a live breathing human, it's absolutely impossible to keep it from creasing horribly if you so much as move.

Case in point:

A perfectly lovely Alexander McQueen creation ruined - not to mention cheapened. Here it just looks like cheap flimsy satin, the kind you'd expect to find on a dress in Forever 21. Also, while we're on the topic of Cameron Diaz, couldn't she have gone a size up? There's no harm in doing so, you know. Nobody will really know.

See what I mean?

More satin disasters:

Leona Lewis in Roberto Cavalli

I'm sure this isn't the look she was going for when she chose the dress

Lauren Graham - another beautiful dress ruined by virtue of wearer not being a plastic mannequin

If you are a plastic mannequin, however...

Another satin dress miraculously uncreased. I know people are going to go wild over this lingerie peek-a-boo thing Cotillard has going on here, but I can't say I'm a fan. That divine face more than makes up for it though.

Looking at this picture however, I'm inclined to believe that there isn't a thing Cotillard couldn't make work, and work exquisitely. She is the quintessential Frenchwoman and I love her.


Diane Kruger, circa 1988

I've never been a huge fan of Diane Kruger's style as I think she plays it pretty safe so while I applaud the intrepid foray into colour, I hate the fact that this dress seems to have been dipped ever so lightly in an acid wash treatment as the eye progresses down. You may be trying to look all placid and sweet Diane, but I see the anguish through those eyes. And I don't blame you.


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About this Blog

I've loved fashion for as long as I can remember, so it only makes sense that I write for a fashion magazine. I find however that the experience of working in the industry is quite different from appreciating it from afar. That's why I chose to be a travel writer (I chronicle some of my travel experiences here) while staying at the magazine, albeit focusing more on the lifestyle aspects of the job. This means that I must find another outlet for all my sartorial web crawling - et voila! Monyet in Pearls was born.

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