It's always fascinating how the women's and men's shows here in Milan always seem to synch - sometimes, to an eerie degree of deja vu. D&G trotted their picnic inspirations out once again, Prada's wire-mesh runway installation was a keep-over from the June menswear (ditto the stack-sole shoes), and in a carry-over from Raf Simons' Pitti presentation, Jil Sander have once again colour-blocked their invite (although this time the orange is on the outside) - possibly indicating another display of global hypercolor on the Milanese catwalks? Not quite sure if they will aspire to recreate the spectacular gardens of the Villa Gamberaia where that menswear show took place, but they certainly have the uncertain weather once again! Sander is up next.
It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Ross Phillips - a SHOWstudio.com veteran of seven years, first as our Head of Interactive, then Creative Technical Director before becoming Creative Director. Phillips is the hand behind innumerable SHOWstudio.com interactive projects, including - but by no means limited to - the seventeen-thousand image strong Taking Liberty's project (not to mention last year's Taking More Liberty's), our award-winning 2008 Replenishing Body, and this year's Mirror Mirror installation at Topshop Oxford Circus. But aside from Phillips' amazing technical wizardry (including the pedestrian but much-appreciated magic touch on many a malfunctioning laptop), he was also a wonderful member of the tight-knit creative team here at SHOWstudio.com, and will be greatly missed by each and every one of us. Phillips is going on to interactive pastures new with the British fashion brand Mulberry - a treat for all of us when A/W 2011 London Fashion Week rolls around! He will also be spending a great deal of time in his new home with his wonderful wife, Dominique and their new baby Elliot.
Alas, I am in Milan while Ross' final farewell is taking place at SHOWstudio.com HQ - and thus missing out on the celebratory cake and coo-ing over babies - but I salute his incredible interactive know-how, and wild creativity, as a colleague, as a friend, and as a representative of SHOWstudio.com as a whole!
Good luck, Ross!
Outside, after the Prada show yesterday, a loud and nasal nasal Anglo-American group were hyperventilating over Miuccia's latest:
'Wasn't that just so amazing, wasn't that just so beautiful.'
Well, yes and no. It was amazing, certainly, with models marching through what looked like a dissected fragment of a car-park in curvy fluoro frocks on sandwich-soled brothel creepers. But would they really have called it beautiful if it hadn't come from Miuccia Prada's hand? The flipside to my own argument is that, by any other hand, would it have been so great, so gutsy, so devil-may-care? I don't think so. There was an odd beauty to everything on that Prada catwalk - but let's not get all heavyweight. Last night, in the post-show flush of enthusiasm in which I write all my reviews, I said Prada wanted to have fun, and I still strongly believe that. God knows it's something we all need.
So, what next? Ferre for me, at 3pm (or 4pm - my ticket hasn't arrived so I'll be battling my way through the inevitable mob scene on Via Pontaccio possibly only to wait for another hour), and then Versace. Louise Goldin has designed knitwear pieces for them this season and Joe McKenna is working on the styling. I'm also feeling Ferre right now. I think it was the juxtaposition of Gianfranco's huge, feathered eighties ballgowns and eighteenth-century court mantuas that got my brain ticking over about just how fabulous his architectural fantasias were back in the day, and I loved Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi's British Raj meets American Psycho outing for their menswear show in June.
As I sat waiting for Frida Giannini's Gucci show - and hence the Milan collections - to begin yesterday, I cast my mind back to the late 1970s. Well, I didn't cast it back to MY memories of then, I was just a glint in the milkman's eye, but I thought back to the state of the fashion industry in that period. Milan had exploded in a blaze of talent: the virtuoso tailoring of Armani, redefining clothing for an entire generation; the razzmatazz of Gianni Versace, racking up consultancies for Complice and Genny and flooding the catwalk with the brilliant colours of Raphael; and the statuesque, architectural technique of Gianfranco Ferre. That's not even mentioning the likes of Krizia, Basile, Fendi, Missoni. It was a time when dominance of the fashion industry could easily be wrestled from Paris to Milan, to these new labels backed by the mega-bucks of textile manufacturers and specialising in ready-to-wear rather than the outdated, outmoded system of haute couture.
That, as we know, didn't happen: Paris is still the centre of international fashion, and this season Milan seems in the doldrums. Last season, the schedule was compressed to a frantic four days. This time, shows are thinly-spread to assert Milan's position in a crowded fashion month. So what is the problem with Italian fashion? Perhaps the answer lies in the above - look at those late seventies names, and they're still alive and kicking, filling up the Milan calendar with no space for newbies. Granted they were augmented by a few newer labels in the eighties, but no real big guns have broken the Milan fashion scene in the two decades since Dolce e Gabbana.
At the same time, we still see great things here - especially for spring, which the Milanese arguably do better than anyone else. It's pipped to tip 30 degrees here - London designers for sure simply can't understand dressing for that kind of temperature (Mark Fast excepted).
Frida Giannini's show yesterday was an example of rip-roaring Milanese fashion at its very finest. She latched, hard, on to seventies Saint Laurent, and reworked it in the sexy Gucci mould, trussed up with tasseled bronze python belts and sexy stiletto heels. It felt confident, upbeat and terribly sexy, which is essentially all we really want Milan to be. Today, it's the turn of a handful of the big guns to show us what they've got, namely Dolce e Gabbana's D&G line, Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi and Miuccia Prada this evening.
Think what you like about Italian fashion, but I for one cannot deny the shiver of excitement that still shoots down my spine when I crack open a hefty invite embossed with one of those monolith five-figure Italian powerhouses - PRADA, FENDI, GUCCI, PUCCI, FERRE, DOLCE (well, and Gabbana). The name alone is like a totem, a seal of approval and of quality, and an indication that what we're about to see is high-octane, big-bucks no-holds-barred Fashion. That capital 'F' is very important. Here's the first clutch of invites for my first day here in Milano. Fittingly, it's one of those five-letter juggernauts that opens the Milan collections for us, with Frida Giannini's S/S 2011 offering for Gucci up first.
Meanwhile, at the same time as I'm slogging and blogging my guts out over here, back in Blighty Hywel Davies is covering the final day of London fashion week, showcasing London's menswear mettle before the fashion crowd flock across the channel for the European leg of our world tour. More soon.
Our latest In Fashion interview with the iconic Anna Dello Russo will be re-streamed, unedited, this afternoon at 17:00 BST, following filming yesterday. I was lucky enough to spend a good chunk of my day with Anna, and to witness first-hand what I've dubbed the 'Dello Russo effect' - namely a magically materialising hoard of street style snappers descending on you as soon as you exit a vehicle/building. Anna evidently wears sunglasses as she in perpetually in a barrage of flashbulbs - here captured outside of the Mark Fast show before she jetted back to Milan.
This is the grumpy fashion week face usually only seen by PRs, fellow journos and the occasional unfortunate intern here at SHOWstudio.com. Stephen Jones, however, decided to turn that frown upside down by strapping half a dozen of his fabulous feathered mohicans to my bonce after the fantastic Giles show. I couldn't help but crack a smile even in the midst of a fashion week meltdown. One more day of London until Milan kicks off in earnest, and a couple more reports to file for today. Watch this space (and face) and click on our Collections for more live updates.
As you may have noticed, the ranks of our bloggers have swelled exponentially over this fashion month - we not only have the style-spotting talents of Style Bubble's Susie Lau and Val Garland's backstage view, but joining us for the rest of the season are manicure maestro Marian Newman and hairstylist Sam McKnight, sending live image, text and even video from the shows. Here is Mr McKnight's first offering from us, from backstage at yesterday's Twenty8twelve show. Let the shows go on - today we have Mary Katrantzou, Richard Nicoll, Vivienne Westwood and the solo catwalk debut of the much-fêted Michael van der Ham.
The New York collections culminated with Oscar De La Renta yesterday at 6pm - and roughly 12 hours later BST, our first show of London Fashion Week is slated to begin. That stands as explanation for any dazed, glazed looks you may see front row at today's shows (although apparently a tornado hit Brooklyn last night, so those front rows may be conspicuously empty). Today is a gentle start to proceeding, with Jean-Pierre Braganza, Felder Felder, Hannah Marshall and PPQ slated for today.
The speculation as to what London can bring to the table has already begun - last night at the launch of the new shoe gallery at Selfridges & Co. the members of the fashion press who stayed home for this season were smugly asserting that New York by and large wasn't worth the effort or the jet-lag. How many white garments do we really need to see, let alone hang in our wardrobes? That said, some were very lovely. Some even came in colours other than white. Calvin Klein was dubbed Calvin Clean for a reason, and Francisco Costa continues in the great grand tradition of stripped-back, pared-0down hyper-minimalism. His jackets didn't even have sleeves, that's how simple it was. Flipside? Oscar de la Renta, scattering three-dimensional nosegays across jade-green silk faille, embroidering raffia with field-fresh daisies, and tossing in a couple of puffy, ruffly, oh-my-God-I'm-never-finding-my-legs-again organza ballgowns fit for a letterday Doris Day (not sure SJP was made for that role, but she was front-row nonetheless). Proenza Schouler trod a fine line between those two extremes, offering stripped-back visions of ladylike propriety in fine bouclé, and maxi-dresses in the hyped-up Global Hypercolour shades of a Goa raver.
SHOWstudio.com's London coverage starts any second. I feel nauseous, stressed, bloated, tired (already) and very very anxious. In short, I really can't wait.
While the S/S 2011 collections have barely begun, many have already begun to look forward - nay, lust after - a collection slated for A/W 2011. Today, the news was made official - Nicola Formichetti is the new Creative Director of the esteemed and influential house of Thierry Mugler, confirming a rumour that has been doing the rounds since the label debuted its last (ill-fated womenswear) show back in March. The issue then was clear - to quote myself, Mugler is an enviable name to work under, but it takes a designer with a decisive vision to really make it work.
Does that really have to be a designer, though? If there's any man to challenge that preconception, it is Formichetti. He undoubtedly has a strong and singular vision all his own, and it has propelled him to the top of his game. He also has the essential ability to reinvent his aesthetic for other people - his work, for a slew of different magazine editorials, always stands out and yet is always different, while his work alongside Lady Gaga has helped not only to define but to create her image as a twenty-first century fashion icon.
Formichetti has already gathered his team about him: Sébastien Peigné, formerly of Balenciaga, as head womenswear designer, and Formichetti favourite Romain Kremer as head of menswear. Formichetti's own word on the matter? 'Thierry Mugler is about the power of glamour and walking straight into the future… I’d like to find new ways for a luxury brand such as Thierry Mugler to excite people.' Excited, frankly, is not the word - the new team is scheduled to show its first offerings for the house during January's A/W 2011 menswear collections.
The man may have departed from the fashion house bearing his name half a decade ago, but Helmut Lang's continuing influence over fashion is undeniable. Phoebe Philo's Céline put his name back on everyone's lips as first point of reference for her Reductionist redux, and designers have evidently been taking a good hard look at (read: stealing every look from) his late-nineties shows. If Lang was an undercurrent for A/W 2010, for S/S 2011 the New York collections have sent it overground. The shows so far seem a roster of Lang's greatest hits - check the clean spare shapes, techno fabrics that pretend to be nothing else (and a few that insinuate they're a bit more techie than they actually are), slashes of neon and above all white, white, white.
What is all this about then? I myself have often wondered how designers could continue the revival roundabout of the past two decades into the nineties, given the decade itself was largely comprised of rehash. There's some satisfying Baudrillard-ean paradox of reviving a revival, but in the real would what could it actually yield by way of interesting, and more importantly saleable, clothing? Reworking Lang's back-catalogue, often said to be outside of fashion, makes sense. Taking a different slant, it is hypothesised that in times of economic crisis designers tend to turn to simple classics or the faux futurism of Spocky space-age all-white to rebel against the built-in obsolescence of fashion.
New York's new wave has lead the way. Prabal Gurung splashed neons across clinging mid-calf tank dresses in technical mesh, Ohne Titel did terribly clever things with chopped-up neoprene and a few Alaïa-alike knitted skater skirts, and the hottest hot ticket of them all, Alexander Wang, offered a collection dominated by white and drawled with Arte Povera scribbles. Think of it as an update on those paint-splattered Lang jeans we lusted after fifteen years ago: the models even had whitewash-caked hair.
We're barely four days into the week, but the most compelling iteration of this future fantastic feeling, for me, came from Joseph Altuzarra. The man took a risk - think outerspace Out Of Africa, Neil Armstrong meets Veruschka and any other conveniently pithy phrase to denote his collusion of sixties, space age and tribalism with a healthy dose of French chic. The results were undeniably up and down, love or hate, often walking that fine ugly-beautiful divide. But that's exactly what made them so exciting. Altuzarra confessed to me earlier this year that he reads the often vitriolic comments posted in The Fashion Spot's forums - no doubt he is blushing at the disservice already dealt to his pointed breast-cups, as reviled as they are revered. No matter, credit is due for Altuzarra's willingness to test the boundaries and chafe at restrictions in a season that already seems profoundly safe. I for one will jump for joy if I see any woman wearing his savagely chic snakeskin cone-bra - bravely pushing her breasts where no breasts have gone before.
This season, alongside Collections coverage and BLOG reportage from Indigo Clarke, Hywel Davies, Olivia Marks and my good self, we have a pair of fashion week heavies blogging their guts out: esteemed make-up artist Val Garland, and Susanna Lau - a.k.a. Susie Bubble - of Style Bubble. Susie's coverage for us kicks off with a jam-packed London Fashion Week, while Val has already begun sending updates live from New York Fashion Week, although the action has only just begun!
Stay tuned for more from all of us as the week(s) progress!
Today, our coverage of the S/S 2011 New York Collections begins in earnest, after a stuttering start of parties, launches and lighter-weight labels filling the schedule. Our first big show today is Jason Wu - appropriately enough, chiming with our SHOWstudio Shop show In Wolves Clothing: Re-imagining the Doll. Wu began his career designing fashion on dolls, hand-crafting miniature fashions that culminated in him designing a line titled 'Fashion Royalty' for Integrity Toys (still sold today), that helped fund his first collections. Certainly, their influence was discernible in the tufted tulle and lace of his last collection, with slightly dodgy doll-like proportions to boot. But Wu has nevertheless won plaudits - most recently, he received the 2010 Swarovski Womenswear Designer Of The Year award from the CFDA, and his profile has skyrocketed since Michelle Obama chose a design by Wu to wear to the 2009 presidential inauguration. It was a fitting choice - a wrapped, draped and very safe column of pale chiffon dusted with flowers. Terribly lady-like, indeed, terribly First Lady-like. Ladylike is an adjective often used to describe Wu's clothes, with hemlines sitting securely on or below the knee, jackets gently fitted and a taste for delicate decoration and pastel colour that sometimes veers into the saccharine. If his A/W 2010 collection was a mixed bag, his latest Resort offering was as fresh, sweet an universally appealing as a box of macaroons. The question today is whether he will succumb again to sugar overload or deliver what press and retailers (all $4 million worth of them) expect of his talent this afternoon EST.
I can still remember a time when New York Fashion Week was considered somewhere between safe and dull-as-dishwater in the fashion week creativity stakes, to the extent that an American businessman - faceless, but with bottomless pockets - paid to ship out Alexander McQueen's A/W 1996 'Dante' collection to add a bit of spice to the staid schedule. As Gareth Pugh commented in an interview with me earlier this year, those days of blockbuster big-budget fash-travaganzas are over. And so too are the days of New York representing fashion's creative doldrums. The New York collections for S/S 2011 are as highly-anticipated as any of the fashion capitals - and Contributing Fashion Writer Indigo Clarke will be providing inimitable catwalk coverage for SHOWstudio.com over the next week or so.
Perhaps I have been coloured by an impressionable teenage decade where Messrs Galliano and McQueen and Dame Westwood reigned supreme, reading home-grown journalism so biased and patriotic it makes 'Rule Britannia' sound like a rallying-cry to a single currency agreement. There have always been great designers in New York - Calvin Klein's Minimalism marked the nineties, Ralph Lauren has had a turnover equivalent to a (not so small) African nation for decades, and Marc Jacobs' creativity was never in question. This is the designer, after all, who as a young upstart reinvented the notion of vintage from a flea-market anti-fashion statement to arguably the single unifying designer movement of the past fifteen years. His show takes place Monday evening - and, as with the last five seasons, it will no doubt be bang-on time.
Marc Jacobs' show is always a high-point of the week - but he's New York establishment now, albeit with the ability to still ruffle a few feathers. In fact, scratch that, he's the fashion establishment, his show is the most eagerly-awaited of the American fashion capital and one that sets both the tone and the pace for the season ahead. Jacobs can never be predicted - after a Spring season inspired by theatre and opera for his own label and grungy New Age travellers at his other design post, Louis Vuitton, for winter he switched pace to serene ultra-classicism and va-va-voom voluptuousness respectively. We can only wait with baited breath to see what his febrile imagination will conjure up this time.
If Jacobs is now establishment, the young guns of NYC are now lead by Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler - their label is now almost a decade old, but they still head up the charge. Last season they looked back to the nineties, fresh stomping-ground also picked up on by their contemporaries, fired with their nostalgic memories of teenage years and a healthy jolt of cinematic license. Look at Alexander Wang, the other hot new label in NYC that has already begun to turn his name into a megabrand for the new millennium. Personally, I'm most interested and excited to see the latest offerings from Joseph Altuzarra, a French-born New York-based name with an eye for detail and a taste for dark luxury. Last season was Edward Scissorhands, the season before Little House On The Prairie. Unpredictable is never a term bandied about much in New York fashion, but it feels especially appropriate now.
Our Collections coverage of New York Fashion Week - and the S/S 2011 season as a whole - begin today
With Vogue Fashion's Night Out fast approaching - indeed, it's barely five hours away - the install of our latest SHOWstudio Shop show In Wolves Clothing: Re-imagining the Doll is entering the final stretch. The precise positioning of the pieces may still be in flux, but those on display run an impressive gamut, from paper-doll cut-outs created by artist Laurie Simmons and Danish designer Peter Jensen, to Lone Siggurdsson's plasticine recreations of key catwalk looks from the past decade, to a suitably violent vignette of toy soldiers from Jake and Dinos Chapman. I'm never one to play favourites, but my personal pick of the bunch are Andrew Yang's painstakingly exquisite miniature renderings of some of Alexander McQueen's most memorable catwalk moments. They put me in mind of an anecdote of another fashion great, Yves Saint Laurent - when asked how he saw women, an interviewer thought Saint Laurent replied 'As dolls', until the maître repeated his reply: 'As idols'. Guess which category these mesmerising (re)creations fall into, for me?
In Wolves Clothing: Re-imagining the Doll opens tonight with a private view 18:00-23:00 BST at SHOWstudio Shop, 1-9 Bruton Place
As fashion shuts down for August in preparation for a bumper S/S 2011 season, so too does our Object Fetish series - for A/W 2010 at least. Dissecting and digesting creations from fashion's great and good over the past four months, our sixteenth(!) obscure object of desire comes from Marios Schwab, the thinking thinking woman's designer who this season looked back at his cultural heritage, his teenage Austrian schooling and the enduring trademarks he has established during his career to create this utterly contemporary reworking of the humble and often-dowdy dirndl. Sleek, simple, but above all incredibly sexy, it is a fitting underline for a season where designers overwhelmingly chose to realign themselves with what women wanted to wear - whether that be escapist baroque fantasia, curvaceous tailoring or no-fuss Minimalism. Think of this as the epitome of Schwab's much-fêted body con tailoring, the acme of the little black, and simultaneously a palette cleanser for the season to come. All in all, this dress managed to get me worked-up about fashion again - just in time for the next round of fashion weeks!