1. by Alexander Fury .

    Fashion Director's Farewell

    I've written many blog entries for SHOWstudio - 782 at last count - but this is without a shadow of a doubt the most difficult, being as it is my final post as Fashion Director of the site. Difficult not only because of the sentiments it needs to express, but also because of the limits of space and the people that deserve to be thanked. Anyway, let's make a stab.

    I would like to thank Nick and Charlotte for their faith, perseverance, patience and enthusiasm throughout our five years working together - never mind the inspiration they gave me each and every day. I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to have worked alongside them. The same is true of the SHOWstudio team. I would like to thank whole and warm-heartedly the team I took my first fledgling fashion steps with - Penny Martin, Pauls Hetherington and Bruty, Ross Phillips, Harry Hanrahan and Dorian Moore. There is a new team in place at SHOWstudio now - Carrie Scott, Amy Ireland, Sally Northmore, Marie Schuller, Neal Bryant, Jon Emmony, Niamh White and another Paul (Herron this time). There are also new Mayfair premises rather swankier than the Ironmonger Row basement I started in - but the raw passion of the team behind SHOWstudio remains. It is that passion that really drives SHOWstudio, and has made it such an exhilarating place to work, each and every day. The same is undoubtedly true of SHOWstudio's loyal bands of interns - many of whom have channelled that success into enormous success in the industry, with more than a few here at SHOWstudio (myself included). I am grateful to them for everything, from covering the collections alongside me, to brewing seemingly endless cups of tea, to the hard-put fashion week task of ticket chasing and keeping a frenzied fashion director sane (not necessarily in that order).

    A monolithic debt of gratitude is undoubtedly due to each and every one of SHOWstudio's contributors - larger than the SHOWstudio team, but no less dedicated, devoting their time and energies for the love of the art. My tenure here would have meant nothing without their collaboration. A huge thank you to all our contributing journalists and to the teams of and whose images have helped make our collections coverage world-class.

    In five years of working here, it's impossible to pinpoint a highlight - not because there were too few, but simply because there are far too many. A dozen could be pinned down, maybe - from live Fashion DJs radio broadcasts, to 3-D scanning Daphne Guinness in Alexander McQueen's finest, to interviewing the shy and retiring music megastar Lady Gaga (never mind fashion heroes like Lady Amanda Harlech and Suzy Menkes). Then there are the shoots, the night spent riding up and down escalators with Raquel Zimmermann naked except for a mink pom-pom (her, that is, not me), and the thousand or so fashion shows I've had the immense privilege of attending, upending, occasionally admonishing but oh-so-often adoring. I remember that spring 2009 Lanvin show that had me standing on my chair and cheering, with sheer elation. It's a feeling I've had quite often at SHOWstudio - and is my overriding memory of my time with the team, old and new. Thank you all.

    Recent comments

    1. 19:40 27 Apr 2012
      It is really sad to hear you are leaving SHOWstudio. You are one of my favourite fashion writers. I wish you all the very best for the future.
    2. amy.ireland
      11:22 28 Apr 2012
      Thank you for everything Alex. It's been an absolute pleasure working with you and I wish you every success at LOVE and beyond. Miss you already. x
    3. sally.northmore
      11:04 30 Apr 2012
      We'll miss you so much Alex! Wishing you the very best of luck at LOVE.
      Sally x
  2. by Alexander Fury .

    Raf Simons at Dior

    How could a fashion designer best round off a self-declared 'couture trilogy' (personally I prefer the term 'trinity', given the Easter overtones and a cheeky reference back to the Supermodels of yesteryear)? Well, with a high-profile hiring-and-firing that allows him to assume an haute couture mantle of his very own - that's the way Raf Simons did it. It's old news now (twenty-four hours is a lifetime in fashion, after all), but on Monday it was announced that the former Jil Sander head has been picked to lead the grande dame of French haute couture. His first collection will be just that - haute couture, created by a rigorous, almost religiously Modernist hand. There's something genuinely new for fashion to get all a-fluster about.

    'I am truly humbled and honoured to become Artistic Director of the most celebrated French house in the world.' said Raf Simons. He's a well brought-up Belgian boy, so of course he would be. And despite the press perception of Dior being closer to poisoned chalice than Holy Grail for its next creative head, the limitless talent of Dior's ateliers and (almost) bottomless coffers of LVMH make it a dream job. It's also a limitless challenge, something a designer like Simons will doubtless relish.

    My personal issue? I'm not sure Simons has the romance that so defines Dior. In itself that's not an issue - Cristobal Balenciaga  hadn't an ounce of romance in his clothing. They hung stiff with drama - which, of course, I mean in the best possible way (the man invented a fabric called 'super-gazar' that was essentially a cross between silk and cement: 'stiff' is the highest of praise). But if Cecil Beaton declared Balenciaga to be fashion's Picasso, then Dior was 'the Watteau of couturiers, full of nuances, delicate and chic.' One isn't better than the other. They're simply different. Simons did Picasso in his spring Jil Sander collection (with the approval of Pablo's estate, no less), and his winter womenswear (above) was nuanced, delicate and chic. In fact, that's the most concise and pricised summary I've heard of it. It remains to be seen how that will translate to the storied catwalk of Dior when Simons shows his first ever couture collection in July, neatly vaulting the quieter launch-pad of a pre-collection in favour of full-on French fash drama-rama. It seems that the waiting game chez Dior will carry on at least until then…


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  3. by Alexander Fury .

    Milan Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: The Fashion Carnival

    There was a carnival on the streets of Milan today: confetti, costumes, streamers. Someone told me it was the Milan equivalent of Halloween. When I asked why it was happening now, he shrugged his shoulders.

    There was something of a carnival feel after Jil Sander too, the press leaping to their feet and rushing onto the catwalk to congratulate Raf Simons on his final show for the label. You don't see that everyday. This was an exceptional show - the circumstances guaranteed that. The clothes were a considered conclusion to Simons' work at the house, quiet in their predominantly delicate pastel colours, and stately in their couture-inspired shape. In short, they were no carnival.

    The final show of our fourth day at Milan fashion week was Peter Dundas' Autumn/Winter 2012 offering for Emilio Pucci. If any designer was likely to overshadow a carnival, it's him but this was a remarkably restrained offering from Dundas' hands, opening with a trio of slashed black dresses and with a few less embellish-to-the-hilt slit-to-the-crotch numbers than usual. All the more impressive for it, too.

  4. by Alexander Fury .

    Milan Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: A Retrospective Mood

    Yesterday, I twice found myself in cavernous rooms looking at Prada frocks with an analytical eye. One time was at Palazzo Reale, for a presentation of the concept behind the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibition Impossible Conversations, due to open at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on 10 May 2012. The other was a re-see of the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection Mrs Prada showed on Thursday, held not at the contemporary art-jumbled showroom on Via Maffei but in the cavernous Prada show space at Via Fogazzaro. Maybe they want to get all the wear they can out of that gargantuan carpet?

    It was interesting seeing the two back to back, because you couldn't help but draw similarities between them. The purple and orange palette of Thursday's collection was reflected in a Prada skirt from Autumn/Winter 1999. Miuccia herself was wearing a geometric-print duster coat which could gave been new, or equally could have hailed from the 1996 'Ugly Chic' collection. 'Ugly Chic' is incidentally one of the concepts to be explored in the Met's survey, which will examine the aesthetic conversations between Schiap and Miuch pieces, looking at the way both designers used concepts such as surrealism, decoration and indeed ugliness to question the fashion conventions of their time.

    She may be another female Italian designer, but Donatella Versace has nothing to add to the ugly chic conversation. The Versace woman doesn't want to look ugly. She wants to look sexy. Donatella delivered that in spades last night, in a glittering re-imagining of the Middle Ages via mid-century Las Vegas. Everyone else saw Hollywood star Roony Mara in those blunt-cut fringes - maybe including Donatella herself. I saw Joan of Arc, albeit Joan of Arc at the disco. The technique behind the laser-cut leather mesh and chain-mail evening gowns were inspiring. The vision was old-fashioned (figure-of-eight voluptuousness sketched across the body through short and long dresses and flared coats worn over skin) but the tools with which it was rendered felt modern. It added up to a powerful if slightly unwearable whole.

    Today, after an excellent Bottega Veneta show by Tomas Maier, the must-see is Raf Simons' final collection for Jil Sander.

  5. by Alexander Fury .

    Milan Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: Subject To Conditions

    I try to avoid speaking in the first person when reviewing the catwalk shows for SHOWstudio. Something Suzy Menkes said to me during her In Fashion interview stuck in my brain like a wayward piece of shrapnel: 'I don't write about things that I like myself...  that's always been my biggest beef'. Indeed, it's not about what 'I' like - it's about fashion, and what's right for now. 

    At the same time, fashion will always be subjective. It's difficult to divorce yourself from... well, yourself. Try as they might, so many British journalists won't like Fendi's marvellous Autumn/Winter collection because of an almost inbred English aversion to fur. British magazines and newspapers refuse to feature it, so much so that the only place in the world Prada offered the faux version of their Spring/Summer 2011 humbug-striped fox stoles for editorial use was - you guessed it - the UK. Yesterday morning, when a springbok jacket turned on Fendi catwalk to reveal a truly beastly bustle-like protrusion of fur above the model's buttocks, I saw a number of British editors visibly blanch. I thought it was fantastic. But that's also subjective (and I was raised on the Eclect Dissect hijinks of Simon Costin and Alexander McQueen, after all).

    Equally, while I divorced myself from Gucci enough to appreciate Frida Giannini's glam-Goth direction for winter, it failed raise my pulse-rate. I'm sure lots of people will buy into that velvet-wrapped dark dream she's hawking, but I won't be one of them.

    That's sort of the issue with Milan. After London - where you have to dry-clean the blood, sweat and tears out of the clothes designers have lovingly crafted - there's too much product here and not enough soul. I remember an old story of Tom Ford editing his Gucci show collection by pulling garments he didn't like off their hangers and letting them slither to the floor. Next! A slightly younger Ford tale was of the Yves Saint Laurent seamstress who quit after Ford cut her dress from his first Yves Saint Laurent show. She'd been hand-embroidering it for four weeks straight. That's a fair bit of emotion stitched into a garment. They really don't make 'em like that anymore, and never did in Milan. That's why Ford didn't get her problem when he sent that gown slithering to the ground. His latest collection, presented in London by the Lord Ford himself, contained a sweater of stretch tulle with individually applied crocodile scales, retailing at £18,000. Wonder if he'd toss that onto the ground?

    The (subjective) highlight of Milan thusfar was an excellent Prada show last night, clean in shape with rich jewelled textures. There wasn't too much going on beneath the bedazzled surface, but you did want to wear this stuff, stat. The revived Prada geometrics from the Autumn/Winter 1996 collection were fun for fashion trainspotters like me. There was an original pair in bri-nylon on eBay that sold out an hour after the show. How's that for an instant market thumbs-up? Much more effective than a Facebook like.

    Today, in a break from catwalking, I'm attending a press conference on the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibition to open at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art thus summer. Then a re-see of last night's Prada collection and a presentation of the latest Sergio Rossi collection from Francesco Russo, before the Versace show.

  6. by Alexander Fury .

    London Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: The selling collection

    This London fashion week, perhaps more than any other, I seem to be considering the demands of commerce when writing about the shows. That's neither a good nor bad thing, generally. It's simply a fact of fashion. This season it feels like a fact that's forefront in designers' minds, sometimes deadening their creative impact but other times pushing them to ingenious new heights. I'm thinking of Louise Gray when I write that, whose show yesterday was a personal best. Then again she's always been ingenious: the big difference this time was that you could actually wear it. Christopher de Vos and Peter Pilotto's offering this morning may have been hardcore digi-print at its most eye-popping, but you could easily have imagined you were watching our twenty-first century equivalent of Tom Wolfe's social x-rays sashay their way to a penthouse cocktail do or the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Ball. Richard Nicoll (above) is the one I'm still thinking about, because rather than blandly accepting the idea of fashion as product first and foremost, his presentation seemed to question the illogical conclusion if our insatiable appetite for fashion. And, at the same time, offered desirable, wearable and (whisper it) saleable clothes. Christopher Kane is next.


    Recent comments

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  7. by Alexander Fury .

    London Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: Sibling's Ribaldry

    Whirling myself like a dervish from show to show, I rarely get chance to plonk my carcass down and tap out an ode to a show that I unashamedly and unabashedly adore. More's the pity when you're confronted with fantastical phantasmagoria like Sister by Sibling - pom-poms, multicoloured goat fur, lashings of leopard and sequin-studded face-masks to boot. Just the thing to rob a terribly fashionable bank in - but you're bound to get caught. It warrants a second glance at the NEWGEN stands over the next few days. Incidentally, Katie Grand - LOVE magazine Editor in Chief and one of the most influential ladies in fashion - was the styling hand behind this blinder. She's up for Giles on Monday too, before legging it to Paris for Loewe and Louie Vouie. Busy G.

  8. by Alexander Fury .

    London Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: Starters for ten

    Forgive a touch of unashamed solipsism, but at the moment I am perched in the BFC Media Centre (far less swanky than it sounds) watching the slow and slightly painful start to London fashion week pan out on oversized flat-screens as I hunch over trying to make sense of a Windows keyboard. It ain't pretty: that is, neither the hunch nor the bunch of shows thusfar. Today, however, is the soft launch of London Fashion Week, a cushy ride of inconsequential and quite honestly unimportant designers to ease jet-lagged and New York-fresh fashion editors into the European leg of shows. Flitting past my face are rather artlessly engineered prints, bodged hems, a few lumpen seams. Luckily, these are by no means indicative of London Fashion Week as a whole, although they are a less-than-compelling riposte to Milan's choke-hold over next season's fashion month's scheduling. Do they warrant an extra day? Hardly - but, I hastily add, fashion journalists do, to get to do odd things like eating, sleeping and breathing which are normally on hold during fashion weak (sic). The excitement, in fact, starts right now - Central Saint Martin's MA show is the (un)official start to our London Fashion Week true, with an exciting newer-than-new generation of young London talent jostling for our attention. Considering just how many of the capital's key names are graduates, it's appropriate that it kicks off what we hope - and pray - will be another stellar week.

  9. by Alexander Fury .

    Off The Press: Band Of Outsiders Spring/Summer 2012 campaign

    It seems there are two sides to contemporary advertising imagery: one pushing posed, airbrushed perfection to the idealised extremes of Soviet propaganda, the other taking a decidedly lo-fi, low-key - dare we say wonky? - approach to commercial imagery. Band Of Outsiders' campaigns, shot by creative director Scott Sternberg himself on traditional, unretouched polaroids, epitomise the latter approach. As with Juergen Teller's work for Marc Jacobs, the focus is placed resolutely on the clothing, and occasionally on the names wearing it. The latest Band Of Outsiders campaign features boldface Hollywood name Michelle Williams in a pastel, pastoral flower-strewn frock sat on a river bank. Far from her acclaimed turn as Marilyn, or indeed tradition Hollywood cameo appearances in advertising campaigns - cue preening to the nth degree, alongside idealising and idolising in equal measure. By contrast, the simplicity of these shots reminded me of a twenty-first century take (well, more twentieth-century circa 1968) on Marie Antoinette's hameau, or Les Demoiselles des bords de la Seine by Courbet. Fine art references feel very appropriate, as the other campaign star is a less well-known face, but a very well-known name - American Pop artist Ed Ruscha, dressed in the understated, classic garments the Band Of Outsiders label is known for. Playing Sudoku in a nylon windcheater or cracking open a fridge/freezer in cotton pyjamas and bathrobe are hardly conventional representations of the Great Artist at work, or indeed conventional fashion imagery. It's advertising, yes, but it doesn't advertise it.

  10. by Alexander Fury .

    Off The Press: Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2012 campaign

    Proenza Schouler's tikki-inspired Spring/Summer 2012 collection was my sleeper hit of the season. It didn't really register as a hardcore must-have at first glance, but the more I dissect the layers of mottled Bakelite, Hawaiian-patterned bead-crusted tulle and PVC-alike eel-skin (real masquerading as fake masquerading as real), the more intriguing it appeared. 'It was the idea of these land-locked people re-imagining primitive Hawaiian life,' explained Lazaro Hernandez, one half of the Proenza Schouler design team, when I pinned him down for a phone chat in the midst of completing their latest pre-collection. 'Artifice, total fantasy.' That underlines the key theme not only of the collection, but arguably of fashion as a whole. The final incarnation of the collection - before, of course, it hits the all-important shop rail - is this campaign, shot by Willy Vanderperre, styled by Olivier Rizzo and starring Natasha Poly as postmodern pin-up on a few prime examples of mid-century modern furniture. Portrait-style and in a series of alluring, come-hither poses straight from The Notorious Bettie Page, they resemble a deck of naughty playing-cards, albeit highly fashionable ones. At least, that's my take on this fake...

  11. by Alexander Fury .

    Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2012: The global stage

    Couture grinds on: today there is the Margiela 'Artisinal' presentation, Gaultier, Ellie Saab and Valentino to finish. Tomorrow it stumbles on with 'haute joaillerie' presentations, a bit of pre-collection, and mainly magazines out shooting the couture warm off the backs of the mannequins. I sat next to Francesca Burns of British Vogue and Edward Enninful of W magazine, both of whom are capturing the couture as it happens for their respective publications before these dresses get embargoed and hermetically sealed in the vaults of les maisons.

    I was surprised to read a few journalists' disparaging reviews of the Versace presentation - that was the presentation itself, rather than the clothes. True, the altar did, at times, look like an open box of Terry's All Gold and the models' crab-gait down the steps in towering stiletto platforms was stilted (no pun on 'stilt' I swear), but the clothes were fine. Lindsey Wixon's Mugler rip-off bustier body was a particular highlight for me - her hips out, mane-tossed pose suggested someone had really, really forced the importance of couture onto her (maybe throwing a few Dorian Leigh Parker flashcard poses in for good measure) but it was fun.

    That's enough about seating plans and supermodel formation dances. What have I liked? Chanel, most certainly. There was something refreshing about a designer really engaging with the idea of futurism in fashion - especially in haute couture. The images above were shot backstage by Lady Amanda Harlech during the course of the two shows staged in an aeroplane mock-up in the Grand Palais. I've already said all there is for me to say, but I did love the narrow heels of the shoes - they reminded me of the fifties, when women in stilettos were banned from jets because their heels punctured through the floor.

    Dior was safe and sound - a bit dull, truth be told. Galliano played those games with transparency and x-raying the Dior silhouette seasons ago. He also redid the Bar suit in crocodile (his was the skirt though) for his first ever Dior haute couture collection. Rather than Galliano Dior, or even Christian himself, it reminded me of the quiet grandeur of Gianfranco Ferre's overblown ballgowns and crisp white shirting for Dior in the early 1990s. That didn't set the world alight back then, and these old-new clothes didn't have enough impact to forge a salient brand image in a new, digitised century.

    There are two ways to tackle that tricky problem: make your design gestures sweeping enough to register on a global stage (however pixellated your live stream may be), or allow the world to bury their heads in the intricacies of your craftsmanship. Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy seems to achieve the former through the latter - where Internet image or in the flesh, your mind is boggled by this work, by a crocodile hide painstakingly sliced apart and reassembled onto tulle or a slick, beaded column patterned by changes in direction of the stitches. The wonderful thing is how utterly relevant these clothes feel, despite the centuries of tradition stitched into them. It seems churlish to turn your nose up at there only being a dozen or so outfits when they're so perfectly realised and so perfectly suited to their setting: a small, discrete hôtel particulier on the Place Vendôme composed of small, circular salons that seem custom-made for the hushed showing of truly exceptional haute couture.

    It's all about the stage, it seems.


    1. 05:49 20 Feb 2012
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  12. by Alexander Fury .

    Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2012: Couture chores

    When did couture become a chore? That seems like the sort of wallowing self-indulgence fashion journalists often partake in - I watched the rather wonderful parody 'Sh*t Fashion Girls Say', and realised I have basically sat behind, next to and in front of that person. I have no intention of becoming them...

    What I mean is: when did couture become like every other fashion week? After the last haute couture shows, I met Daphne Guinness. When I asked what she thought of the season, she sighed and exhaled 'it all felt like ready-to-wear.' With her attuned couture eye, she got to the nitty-gritty straight away. The ready-to-wear shows have shot up in prestige (and, often, the garments have shot up in price) as couture has dwindled. Taking advantage of a rather slow-paced week, fashion houses have begun to cram European presentations of their pre-collections into couture: a couple of ready-to-wear designers have even begun showing their collections during the week also. Its all added to the dilution of the true spirit of couture: hand-crafted, one-off and truly exceptional clothing. I don't just mean bead-encrusted ballgowns - Christian Dior dazzled the world with a black-and-white suit; Chanel did it with a little black dress; Balenciaga awed his audience with a silk gazar gown with a single seam. Couture isn't about decoration, it's about perfection. That's what the label 'haut couturier' attests to.

    It also attests to meeting certain rules - minimum employees, an atelier in Paris. The title of 'couturier' isn't a right, its a privilege, handed out by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne. A glance down the schedule today, however, reveals that, despite a ten or more shows a day, very few are actually fully-fledged members of the haute couture clan. You see phrases like 'membres correspondants' for couturiers not based in Paris: the Rome and Milan-based houses of Valentino and Armani, for example. Some shows are designated 'membres invités' for ready-to-wear or demi-couture labels invited to show during the week. 

    Today's opening gambit - and the first show of the week - was Atelier Versace, their first on the official couture schedule since 2008. They've still been showing their hand-crafted, jewel bedazzled dresses to an elite few, however, and getting them on the backs of Hollywood a-listers. Today, a dozen frocks popped up out of a golden altar like something out of Aztec mythology. We were close enough to see the fragments of crystal flecking the silver rose-embossed skirts, but it was still a spectacle of the ilk of McQueen and Galliano's epoch-defining blockbusters at the end of the nineties. Heck, why am I meandering around all these words: it felt special. That's what couture should be about, no matter who or where the frocks are cobbled together (sorry, Donatella).

    Recent comments

    1. ericesquire
      12:45 23 Jan 2012
      "Couture isn't about decoration, it's about perfection. That's what the label 'haut couturier' attests to." troppo the pope innocent x said of his portrait by velazquez when presented in front of him.


      |eric esquire|
    2. Catherine Ka Wai
      19:20 24 Jan 2012
      With the ready-to-wear becoming more extravagance, perhaps designers need to make couture shows more intimate, to go the opposite direction, where it feels private, exclusive, personal, and exquisite, do away with the extravagant shows instead go for the most intimate feelings in the production of the show in order to protect what couture was about.
    3. alex.fury
      14:47 30 Jan 2012
      Hi Catherine,

      I think that's an interesting idea - but in reality, the couture was transformed from fashion into spectacle a long time ago. In Alicia Drake's book 'The Beautiful Fall' she hypothesises that, by placing couture on a pedestal (namely, a raised catwalk) in his Ballets Russes collection of 1976, Yves Saint Laurent transformed couture into a spectator sport. These were clothes to sigh over, but not to wear - extravagant, inventive, but ultimately indulgent fantasies of the designer rather than a wardrobe for women. Sometimes couture works better like that - and that is kind of what the ready-to-wear designers seem to emulate.
  13. by Alexander Fury .

    Day 1, Look 3: Chanel


    Lara Stone is clad in the most demure of pastel Chanel (with pearls) for our latest shot - alongside chartreuse Valentino bag and those Prada wedge sandals. Demure, however, is not the word for her actions - overpowering an attacker by 'grabbing the face, pushing towards the eyes and down, and stepping away.' A prime example of Krav Maga's focus on the most vulnerable points of an aggressor - such as the jaw, throat, groin, knee or indeed eyes - as a means of active defence.


  14. by Alexander Fury .

    Re-imagining Pitti Immagine

    I am writing my introduction to Pitti Immagine on the final day of this season's fair in Florence. Maybe that says it all: it certainly seems to underline the fashion system at the moment, whirring ever-faster, seasons spiralling out of control and even multiplying. When will fashion reach zero gravity and implode? Judging by the wan faces of designers and PRs alike, sometime in the next week.

    Pitti Immagine, however, is a welcome break from the conventional fashion circuit - it opens the year, and the season, catching the press and designers when their minds are still fresh and excited by the new, as opposed to burnt-out by hundreds of shows and thousands of garments (see any of my blog posts from the middle of Paris womenswear for an insight into that). In its eighty-first edition this year, Pitti Immagine offers designers the opportunity to dream, ironically something that has been missing from fashion, the ultimate dream factory. Pitti is a tradeshow first and foremost, but it's the meat-and-potatoes aspect of that (and certainly the money it generates) that opens up the possibilities for designers at Pitti to push the boundaries in the presentations of their collections. Last season, Kate and Laura Mulleavey of Rodarte installed their demi-couture 'Fra Angelico' dresses like Renaissance icons in a burnt-out shopfront; in 2010 Raf Simons showed his Jil Sander collection amid lush greenery, before a well-timed electrical storm (I must confess, I thought the lightning and rain at the show's finale was just clever catwalk showmanship. Maybe I've already been in the business too long). 

    For the Autumn/Winter 2012 instalment of Pitti Immagine, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli erected giant LED screens in a sixteenth-century Doge's palace as the backdrop to an 'old meets new'-themed Valentino menswear presentation. Olympia Le Tan, meanwhile, created a selection of her signature trompe l'oeil 'book bags' inspired by Italian literature's greatest hits and showcased them in eerily lit glass cases in the Museo Bellini - another of those omnipotent, gilt-encrusted palazzos. If you're willing to wear your Machiavellian affiliations on your wrist, she has the tote for you.

    The catwalk debut of the Hardy Amies menswear collection was, understandably, a rather more British affair. Well, debut is the wrong word - Sir Hardy showed his menswear on the catwalk half a century ago. But this was the first collection from new Hardy Amies blood Claire Malcolm. Inspiration came from the houses' founder's time in Berlin during the roaring Twenties. Perhaps that's why I saw shades of Helmut Berger as Martin von Essenbeck in The Damned, shrugging on his mother's fur stole and dressed in head-to-toe dove-grey. The face was a matte base with an eyebrow, said make-up artist Petros Petrohilos post-show. 'Like no make-up make-up.' No Dietrich impressions here then: the Deco echo on the Amies was as subtle and sophisticated as the steel-to-slate grey palette and the geometric jacquards that resembled especially intricate parquet.

    My highlight, however, was Marc Ascoli's contribution: Vestirsi da Uomo - Dress Like A Man. Last season, Olivier Saillard of the Musée Galliera dressed women as men: this time, Ascoli dressed the Villa Favard as the man. Well of a type: the villa became the inside of Ascoli's head, a series of quasi-psychological, slightly hallucinogenic vignettes that blurred the line between dreams and reality. That was expressed not only through the Lynchian vision of rabbit-masked men, a ghostly brass band and a truly terrifying 'dancing shadow', but the clothes themselves, combining fantastical pieces created by the fashion students of Florence's Polimoda with ultra-trad menswear brands like Barbour, Brooks Brothers and Borsalino. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it twenty-four hours later. Hopefully I'll have it unravelled before Milan kicks off tomorrow...

  15. by Alexander Fury .

    Future Couture - Shoot broadcasting live now!

    The live stream of our latest shoot, Future Couture, has now begun! Over the next two days, Nick Knight will capture half-a-dozen of fashion's finest on film and through 3-D scanning, the results destined to grace the windows of Paris' Le Printemps department store come February. Nick Knight's model today is Daphne Guinness, an internationally renowned style icon and haute couture maven - and a perfect fit for a shoot inspired by a forward-thinking vision of fashion. Guinness is also styling herself for the shot, combining cutting-edge Spring/Summer 2012 creations with pieces selected from her own enviable haute couture archive. Philip Treacy has been on the phone to organise the headgear, Antony Price has sent a selection of feathers plucked from his own Yokohama hens and we've called in looks by the crème de la crème of twenty-first century fashion, including Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Junya Watanabe, Paco Rabanne and Maison Martin Margiela. And, of course, Daphne's wardrobe is second to none - I almost had a heart attack when she unfurled a few pairs of the Lesage-embroidered tights from Christian Lacroix's winter 2006 couture collection. I'm expecting many more flutters throughout the day. Our first outfit will be Paco Rabanne.

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