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  1. by Alexander Fury .

    Haute Couture A/W 2011: Good Girls at Givenchy, Geisha Girls at Armani, and Coco Forever at Chanel

    As a couture newbie, the question I've been asked most at the shows over the past day is 'Oh! Isn't it different?' The answer is yes, and no. The people watching the shows are different for sure - the ranks of store buyers missing, and polished matriarchs dotted about the place, their proximity to the catwalk no doubt based on the strength and solidity of their orders (front row: half a dozen outfits a season; back row: two pairs of couture pants and a flick through the catwalk samples). The shows are also generally much smaller - a clutch of salon rooms for the Givenchy presentation, and just four rows of seating at Armani. By contrast, the Milan ready-to-wear is held in an amphitheatre the size of a football stadium. And they have to do two shows to fit everyone in.

    That proximity is presumably so you can eyeball the audience that much easier. And of course so you can appreciate the clothes. Even Armani, the maître of Minimalism, gets carried away with the money-no-object aspect of couture. I'd hate to see the bill for his towering Geisha girl headdresses or all that waterfall crystal beading he indulged in yesterday. I'm not sure what it was about the Armani show that unsettled me so. I often take umbrage with designers dolling women up as throwbacks to a patriarchical past, although if there's a place where that has relevance it's haute couture. Armani's arch, stylised vision of Japan was arresting, and often incredibly beautiful, but it seemed from another time and place. The silken printed trouser-suits were the only thing you could imagine women wearing about their daily lives - even haute couture clients have to walk around, and would probably prefer to do so sans hobble-strap.

    On reflection, I'm less impressed than I originally thought with Riccardo Tisci's latest collection for Givenchy. Crafting ten wedding dresses (yes, that's just what they looked like) isn't a couture collection - it's a bridal capsule, or maybe just a busy spell at the atelier. No doubt there will be many orders for these clothes, although as you're only allowed to make half a dozen variations of each style a 'best-seller' in couture-land is something of a misnomer. They were beautiful, but conventionally so. In his past two couture collections Tisci has tackled Japanese robots and skeletons and made them into things of beauty - his ready-to-wear has that throbbing, potent undercurrent of menace too. At times this felt saccharine, the Givenchy girl gone good.

    When you're talking bad girl, all fashion's roads lead to Coco Chanel. She's the blueprint for them after all. And, as ever, her life and style was Karl Lagerfeld's touchstone for a stellar Chanel collection. Ignore all that stuff about smaller shows - Chanel took us back to the Grand Palais, rebuilt a fair chunk of Paris and sent out an old school, full-length couture collection, daywear and everything. It was a flexing of couture might, no doubt about it. Maybe that's what couture is really about: survival of the fittest. The houses have been whittled down as we cut the wheat from the chaff, and offer fashion refined to its very purest form.

    Today, I'll be covering shows by Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab and Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli for the house of Valentino.

    Comments

    1. RosieLSJ
      09:46 6 Jul 2011
      Really enjoyed reading this, glad to hear some honesty as opposed to worshipping! Enjoy the shows today.
      Rosie
    Comment
  2. by Alexander Fury .

    Haute Couture A/W 2011: Let's start at the very beginning

    We're in Paris for the first day of our couture coverage, although the action kicked off in earnest yesterday with shows by Giambattista Valli, Alexis Mabille and of course Christian Dior. A major event in any season, this time the Dior haute couture collection was catapulted to front page prominence - the first created without John Galliano at the helm for fifteen years.

    Front pages aside, yesterday's Dior collection does not appear to have been well-received, the consensus being that the show lacked focus. A fair comment, given that this is the first Dior show without a single designer determining the vision, and indeed one that crops up in fashion whenever design direction is determined by committee rather than a sole leader. Givenchy passed a season without a creative head and offered a show that was equally criticised, and the team now in place at Maison Martin Margiela have received decidedly mixed reviews from a fashion press at best apprehensive and at worst openly hostile. Whatever Bill Gaytten, titular head of la Maison Dior, might insist, his is an unenviable task. There was even something of the sacrificial lamb on Gaytten's sudden thrust into the limelight, where other designers of far greater stature (read: Azzedine Alaïa) fear to tread.

    That said, the idea of 'Modernising' Dior by looking back to the eighties and the fashion school cop-out inspiration of Memphis would strike one as half-baked regardless of designer; and I have no idea what anyone was thinking about by referencing Marc Bohan's lacklustre tenure for the house. Colin McDowell once referred to Bohan as belonging in the Couture Hall of Worthies rather than the Pantheon of the Greats, and that really says it all. This show wasn't great - but it was never going to be. We'll have to wait until next season for fireworks over the Avenue Montaigne, I suppose.

    Its a crying shame that the continuing/continual brouhaha over Dior overshadowed the haute couture debut of Giambattista Valli. We say debut, but couture's always been in Valli's blood: he cut his teeth at the right hand of Emanuel Ungaro, who trained with Balenciaga. That's pretty impressive lineage, and although Valli is no Cristobal, his first official couture show was as polished and confident as they come. That was expected, but the ease Valli brought to his clothing felt new and refreshing, basing his collection around the cotton smocks traditionally worn by atelier workers rather than their moneyed customers, and gently knocking the stuffing out of the stiff hauteur of couture. That has marred Valli's own work for ready-to-wear from time to time. Perhaps he now feels he has nothing left to prove? Whatever the reasoning behind, the collection worked. The same could not be said of Alexis Mabille's show - after a menswear collection where he stripped his boys down to the bare essentials (sometimes embarrassingly less than that), for couture he indulged his urge to pile it on. Ironically, both approaches came across as high camp rather than high fashion. Maybe that's just Mabille? Fairytale was the theme, but it was difficult to imagine any woman fantasising about overwrought, stifling ballgowns adorned with pantomimic decoration. Unless she's a masochist, of course.

    Couture continues today, with Armani Privé, Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.

  3. by Alexander Fury .

    Haute Couture A/W 2011: Haute Of Fashion

    Haute couture is dead. Haute couture is dying. Haute couture is booming. Haute couture is irrelevant. Whatever haute couture is, it certainly isn't boring. And today, the four-day, three-ring circus that is the Parisian haute couture shows begins for Autumn/Winter 2011.

    I'm always struck by the fact that many, many people don't really grasp what haute couture is all about, and that its difference to ready-to-wear doesn't just lie in those famously astronomical price-tags. Let's get technical: ready-to-wear is the design and mass-manufacture of clothes, showing collections geared for Autumn/Winter in February/March and Spring/Summer in September/October. These timescales are well thought-out, giving designers time to manufacture their collections and ship them to retailers to coincide with the seasons they are designed for (I won't factor in pre-collections for now). Haute couture, on the other hand, shows its spring creations in January and its winter clothing in July - the idea being that, if you are immensely wealthy, you can go out and buy the clothes straight away.

    Well, sort of. The one thing most people can't grasp about haute couture is that it is entirely, solely made by hand. That's a rule stipulated by the Chambre syndicale de la Haute Couture, the industry governing body. To qualify as haute couture, every seam must hand-sewn, every pattern hand-cut, every single garment made specifically for an individual client. The fabric cannot be cut before the client's measurements have been taken. Thus, the expense of haute couture is not only in the physical cost of the garment, but the time the clients spend in those laborious fittings, numbering two or three for a simple suit but sometimes seven for an elaborate evening dress, which are ironically the bread-and-butter of the couture industry. Add to that time-cost the five-star expense of staying in Paris for those fittings (although many clients keep a Parisian hôtel particulier for just such an occasion), and haute couture costs quickly leap ever-higher.

    There is, however, a justification for the expense. Haute couture is fashion's Formula One - a chance to see the best of the best, at their best, and to buy into a piece of fashion history. To parrot a well-known cosmetics brand (who put their pharmaceutical power behind many an equally well-known fashion brand), haute couture is expensive because it's worth it, with hundreds, even thousands of hours of concentrated work lavished on clothing that is about as close to art as fashion can get. Haute couture is a place for fantasy, where if a designer wants to individually apply forty thousand ostrich fronds to a chiffon dress, pluck apart a tweed and have the fibres re-woven into a braid, or hand-bead a perfect facsimile of leopard-hide (complete with tail) to the front of a taffeta ballgown, it can be done. Christian Lacroix calls haute couture a 'laboratory of dreams', and John Galliano always dubbed the couture the 'engine' of Christian Dior, a dynamo spinning off ideas for ready-to-wear, accessories and even cosmetics. Of course, Galliano's artistry is notably absent from this season's couture collections - his spring haute couture show, a virtuoso performance dedicated to René Gruau and magically capturing the lightness of his illustrator's touch, was the last pure expression of Galliano's vision for the house of Dior.

    Let's dwell on that collection for a while, because Galliano's swan-song was a perfect summary of postmodern haute couture. Galliano's clothes were inspired not by couture originals, but by Gruau's renderings of them, transforming image into reality, which was itself then pixellated, broadcast live and transmogrified once more into image. Which is how the vast majority of us now consume fashion - and haute couture especially, given how rare it is for mere mortals to actually get our hands on these talismanic garments. It's also how haute couture operates, proud and protective of its own past, referencing its finest moments in the hope of them rising like a Lesage-embroidered Lazarus. Every couture house has its own history to mine - Karl Lagerfeld riffs on Chanel classics season after season; Valentino glances to the Sheik Of Chic's sixties origins and eighties power-dressing; Givenchy resurrects the spirit of Bettina Graziani and Audrey Hepburn. Dior, however, holds the couture trump card: that Willy Maywald shot of an impossibly poised, improbably preened model sporting the cinch-waist shantung jacket and vast pleated wool suit of 'La Bar', the keynote piece of the collection that came to be known as the 'New Look', and to many represents the apotheosis not only of haute couture but fashion itself.

    Of course, the entire fashion industry is still on tenterhooks as to the naming of the next heir to the Dior throne, which is expected to be postponed until September. That would mean that new blood flows into the house on the sixty-fifth anniversary of Christian Dior's New Look, never a birthday to be overlooked, especially by the French. Newspapers at the time hyperbolically bellowed that 'Christian Dior Has Saved France' with a collection that ranks as arguably the greatest 'fashion moment' ever, and the very zenith of haute couture. This season (in fact, this afternoon) the design studio at the house of Christian Dior will be presenting a couture collection that serves a very difficult purpose - dotting the design 'i's and crossing the 't's of Galliano's tenure, but also preparing the stage for the new Dior Dauphin.

    SHOWstudio.com's real-time reportage of the A/W 2011 Haute Couture Collections begins 5 July 2011.

    Recent comments

    1. la
      10:20 5 Jul 2011
      Yet another brilliant, informed and completely entertaining article by Alex Fury.
      I can't wait to read more of his coverage.
      A.Furys writing is a real jewel in SHOWstudios crown.
    2. MsLizzie
      10:47 5 Jul 2011
      I couldn't agree more! I enjoy reading Alex Fury's writing as much as seeing the actual collections.
    3. SAKIS
      19:01 5 Jul 2011
      The draw of Alex's writing is that he illustrates, through language, what Nick and the SHOWstudio project has been seeking to reveal about the inner workings of the fashion world.
    4. alex.fury
      13:47 8 Jul 2011
      Hi SAKIS, la and Ms_Lizzie,
      Thank you all for your comments - I'm glad my writing is illuminating, as opposed to a brainless preamble to some pretty pictures (which, alas, is what a lot of catwalk reports seem to be these days).
      I really loved what you said SAKIS, as I always want my writing to be accessible and to reveal something about the inner workings of fashion. Sometimes I wonder if it may be a little too 'insider', although I always try to avoid that. There's nothing more irritating than condescension in fashion journalism, I think.
    Comment
  4. by Alexander Fury .

    Resort 2012: Mugler

    A Mugler resort collection feels like a contradiction in terms. After all, this was the label that re-engineered a Harley chassis into a heavy metal bustier, that suspended chiffon frocks from nipple-rings and wrapped up a septuagenarian Cyd Charisse in crystal-crusted radzimir. That was for the couture-obsessed nineties, but new blood Nicola Formichetti has a similar sense of showmanship - he engineered his last womenswear show for online streaming, trussed his models on the highest heels we've seen outside of Wigstock and catapulted Lady Gaga onto the catwalk in a latex flying-saucer hat. What could the team of Formichetti and Mugler do to shock us next? Well, make some incredibly wearable clothes, maybe?

    This was Mugler's first resort collection - not only under Formichetti, but ever - and the team seemed determined to tread a fine line between saleability and sensation. It's a wise move: the often-anodyne watered-down summer looks other labels proffer for Resort wouldn't cut it chez Mugler. After all, the Mugler woman isn't the kind to buy into a neat black suit or a beach kaftan. Nevertheless, there was an odd sense of 'resort' to this offering - witness the nude mesh panel in sharp knit dresses that seems outlined by silhouetted ferns, and the vivid shades of green - the same shade, which Formichetti dubbed 'digital blood', appeared in the menswear show. Indeed, there was a great deal of cross-over between Romain Kremer's menswear and this, womenswear head Sébastien Peigné's offering. All those fern-like shapes slashing their way across clothes and in the background of the press-shots reminded me of the lush yet controlled futuristic vegetation of seventies science fiction epic Logan's Run - and Formichetti used the music of Jessica 6, named after a character from that film, as a background to his x-rated menswear promo vid.

    Retro-futurism is a Mugler signature, of course. But Thierry's original sci-fi silhouette of popped shoulders and restricted waist can today often seem old-hat, especially as it's been being revived since about 1997. This time, Formichetti and Peigné softened his shoulders, implying a sharp jut with a tab front on tunics, jackets and jumpsuits that projected at each side without pumping the volume too much. That was a recurring theme too - the impression of something extreme in a wearable garment: skirts and trousers sliced low along the pubis to attenuate the torso looked hardcore, but the same impression was achieved with an elongated silk shirt swooping anatomically across the hip. It softened that Mugler look, but still kept it razor-sharp - and was exactly the sort of thing you could imagine an off-duty Dominatrix donning while her metallic bustier is being buffed to perfection.

  5. by Alexander Fury .

    Anthony Vaccarello wins ANDAM

    The first time I saw Anthony Vaccarello's work, I was perched on a speaker in a standing-room-only gallery in the Palais Royale as Irina Lazareanu opened an impromptu show of the shortest, sexiest twisty-turny anti-gravitational frocks since about 1989. You can now add 'award-winning' to that list of epithets, as Vaccarello is the latest recipient of the ANDAM prize, a cool 220,000 Euro award whose aim is to promote the French fashion industry. Vaccarello's star has been on the rise for some time, featured in major magazines and with his last Paris show packed with fashion week stalwarts from across the globe. The Brits may by-and-large choose to skip the first day of Paris Fashion Week in favour of a day back in the office (or in bed) before the season's final push over the top, but the Americans are in Europe for the long haul - thus, a bevy of USA eds saw Vaccarello's pieces up close and personal in his A/W 2011 presentation. Evidently, they liked what they saw. The interesting thing will be to see how this influx of cash and flush of new attention affects the young Belgian's next collection for S/S 2012, slated to be shown in Paris in late September.

  6. by Alexander Fury .

    Daphne Guinness and Shaun Leane Against The World!

    'Wearing' your jewels isn't exactly a new idea: I'm not going to trace it back to its origins, but it's somewhere between Ancient Mesopotamia and the first hieroglyphics in Egypt. However, its latest incarnation is something else entirely, courtesy of a unique collaboration between Daphne Guinness and Shaun Leane. Titled Contra Mundum - 'Against The World' - their collaboration pushes jewellery into an entirely new realm. In fact, maybe it's more of an old realm, that of armour - albeit eighteen-carat armour, hand-crafted chain-mail and five thousand pavé white diamonds. Guinness is in fine company - Charles V sported his own diamond-studded armour, as did King Clovis a cool millennium earlier, but Guinness and Leane's creation fuses the aesthetics of armour with the delicacy of an evening glove. The pavé diamonds trace a design not dissimilar to fine lace or a Coromandel screen across the forearm, combining decoration with protection and an appearance of delicacy (although the piece itself weighs over a kilogram in gold).

    How does such a collaboration begin? Guinness laid it bare in our In Fashion interview earlier this month: 'Shaun and I were standing in a corner at a party one night, about five years ago, and I said "I just want to make a suit of armour".' That declaration, however, was the result of a lifelong fascination with armour born on the pages of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and fed through trips to the armourial galleries of the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York and London's Wallace Collection (coincidentally the collection that also inspired Vivienne Westwood's A/W 1988 tweed 'Armour' jackets).

    The entire piece has been custom-made to Guinness' arm, a feat of artisan engineering from Shaun Leane that necessitated a cast of Guinness' arm in plaster and rubber as a reference between numerous hand-fittings over the course of half-a-decade. Kind of haute couture meets haute joaillerie, although 'joaillerie' doesn't seem to cut it, frankly, when confronted with Guinness' mail-and-diamond clad fist. 'It was always to do with feeling that the world was quite a dangerous place,' said Guinness. 'Also I dislike the idea of jewellery being like a price tag around someone's neck. It needs to be something else - and there is something extremely magical about armour.' Leane concurs that the project 'has pushed myself and my team to create the ultimate piece of wearable art.'

    When it came to titling this one-off collaboration, Guinness and Leane settled on the Latin Contra Mundum, which translates to ‘Against the World’. Armouring oneself against the world, perhaps - but also running against the world in creating this utterly one-off piece, a riposte to the idea of mass-manufacture and minimalism. An objet d'art in the truest sense of the world, Guinness will be unveiling the piece this evening in an intimate setting to an invite-only crowd - but Nick Knight captured these images earlier this year whilst undertaking his latest 3-D scanning project with Guinness herself.

    Contra Mundum is being exhibited and represented via Jay Jopling at the White Cube Gallery, London N1.

    Comments

    1. MsLizzie
      10:50 5 Jul 2011
      Absolutely beautiful images!
    Comment
  7. by Alexander Fury .

    Resort 2012: Peter Jensen

    After two weeks of Collections crammed with machismo-oozing menswear (well, maybe a few too many skirts, 'skorts' and beaded kaftans to qualify as 'macho') it's pleasant to get back to good old-fashioned frock-watching - especially the newly-minted season of Resort, where rhetoric is abandoned for simple, honest-to-goodness saleability and wearability. Sometimes, it's nice when a dress is just pretty, without layers of hidden meaning.

    London's Peter Jensen never makes you delve too deeply into the inspirations behind his very many very pretty garments. In fact, he lays it out plain and simple in the title. This one was called Meryl - and yes he meant Streep, whose keynote characters provided the inspiration for 2012 Resort. Of course Jensen isn't channeling Mama Mia Meryl, or Streep as pin-neat Prada-toting editrix Miranda Priestly. It was Streep's earlier - dare we say kookier? - incarnations that inflamed his aesthetic. Her tone-on-caramel-tone Kramer Vs. Kramer wardrobe was one, reflected in the buttery Werther's Original colour of a glazed cotton mackintosh, the fluttery blouses sported in Manhattan emerged in creamy silk with tie-necks twinned with sensible knee-length tweeds, and even that fluttery lilac bridesmaid gown sported by Streep in The Deer Hunter was updated, the colour in a bib-fronted silk tea-dress, the ruffled sleeves in a sleek black number.

    As a palette-cleanser after an especially arduous and oft-overblown menswear season - to to mention an antidote to the pomp and schmaltz that will no doubt flow freely come next week's haute couture collections - it was perfect. I saw the clothes up-close but off-person, on a rack just prior to Jensen shooting these images in-house. They were charming, wearable and covetable - but these images give them added pizzaz. Credit where credit's due: alongside Jensen's fashion talent, Tim Gutt was the photographer changed with capturing Meryl Mark 2, and Iekeliene Stange the model channelling her look with eerie accuracy. A distinct and most-welcome change from the usual blank-faced lookbook stares and straight-up shots, it must be said.

  8. by Alexander Fury .

    Rei Kawakubo's Pearls of Wisdom

    The pearl necklace (no innuendo please) is a bourgeois stalwart - where would chic Parisian matriarchs and dowager duchesses be without them? Hence the staid pearl sautoir is ripe fashion fodder to be twisted by rebel intellectual Rei Kawakubo - so much so, she launched an entire line of Comme des Garçons pearls in 2006. Five years on, and the line has its first mini-exhibition (please don't call it a retrospective) at Kawakubo's Dover Street Market just around the corner from us here at Bruton Place.

    In the mid-eighties Vivienne Westwood bemoaned of the Italian fashion market 'They take cheap cloth and make it look expensive, and I take expensive cloth and make it look cheap. They just don't understand what I'm trying to do!' Kawakubo plays both sides of that coin: her fashion has always been about questioning the traditional codes of luxury. She was one of the first to put us in high-fashion synthetics, never mind her deep and meaningful sartorial reinvention of everything from moth-holes (A/W 1982), to flock wallpaper (A/W 1996), to the kind of scarlet-and-cerise, ruffled and flounced peepholes nothings more usually associated with shops purveying what we brits sometimes still primly call 'marital aids' (that's my take on the A/W 2008 'Amy Winehouse' collection, by the way).

    Instead of making the cheap look expensive, however, Comme des Garçons Pearls make the expensive look cheap. Well, sort of. Remember kitschy, kiddie necklaces of hearts and bow-ties in pearl-beads or diamante from your pre-teen years? Kawakubo seizes on that aesthetic, but crafts hers from Japanese cultured pearls, or handpicked natural pearls from the Pacific - you'd never mistake. For traditionalists, Kawakubo offers choker styles in gobstopper-sized pearls in traditional cream or black - some swapping colour halfway through from pale pink to ivory.

    'The value of creation is diminishing, and very expensive things are not interesting.' That could have been Coco talking, but in fact it's a rare quote from Kawakubo. I've described her as 'less monosyllabic than than anti-syllabic' in the past, and I stand by my convictions. It's odd to think that two of the most influential female designers of modern times - Coco Chanel and Rei Kawakubo - both chose pearls to express their sartorial rebellion. After all, it was Coco who first popularised costume jewellery back in the twenties, filching from Fulco di Verdura and jumbling real gems with paste, priceless pearls with painted glass beads, until they all appeared one and the same. Kawakubo's pearls encourage the same financial nonchalance, in itself revolutionary at a time of still-tightened belts. As for the all-important prices? They run the gamut from £1,600 for a chain necklace with pearl details, to a cool £18k for that hefty heart. Perfect for pearly queens of all pocket-sizes.

    Comments

    1. atiarwong
      14:17 10 Jul 2011
      Excellent!It looks so beautiful.I think it will makes a fashionable girl so beautiful.
    Comment
  9. by Alexander Fury .

    Les Smokings - Totally Leathered

    When Giles Deacon decides to make a leather jacket, he really means a leather jacket - hence even the seams of our custom Giles tuxedo are interlinked using strips of bonded leather, rather than the usual needle 'n' thread. Whip and blanket-stitching fuses the pattern pieces together through specially-punched holes, and finish the hems of this one-off piece also. Of course, leather is second-nature to Giles - not only was his feti-chic A/W 2011 eponymous collection fairly heaving with the stuff, but he was head honcho at the esteemed leather house of Bottega Veneta from 2000-2001 before launching his own label. Remember their nappa puffer jackets, woven-leather blazers and five-figure mirror and ring-lizard sequin shift-dresses? I do, and I must confess rather fondly. Bit of a dream Le Smoking for me here today (where's my damned chequebook...)

  10. by Alexander Fury .

    Re-See: Prada S/S 2012

    Its always a feeding-frenzy at a Prada re-see - unlike the often-perfunctory visits to other purveyors, the editors and journalists at Prada are genuinely excited to see the wares up close, and more often than consider exactly what they'll be purchasing come next season. Miuccia Prada's spring menswear collection was no exception. Come the A/W 2012 show, you can expect to see very many catwalkside heads in the Prada audience sporting the pop-coloured, print-popped golfing caps, and lots of pairs of those crazy studded loafers tucked under whatever conceptual seating we're perched on. Interestingly, the bubbly sneaker-ish soles will be kept on those brightly-coloured shoes. They may resemble golf cleats, but I was assured they're actually soft and wearable. less wearable for summer, perhaps, were the boil-in-the-bag bri-nylon goose-stuffed down jackets, or the Prada putting gear for that matter. I'm sure both of them will somehow get an outing come next January back at Via Fogazzaro...

    Comments

    1. someonegreat
      15:21 25 Jun 2011
      I can't decide if this bodes well for womenswear or if I'm going to end up looking like Lucille Ball in 2012?
    Comment
  11. by Alexander Fury .

    Milan Menswear: We've Only Just Begun

    It's Milan, it's June, I am bleary-eyed at 1pm CET and drowning under a sea of paper. It must be the spring menswear collections! Here's is the customary dodgy cameraphone snap of our invite haul, the muted shades of which maybe say something about the collections ahead - I've got three (and counting) in nifty woodgrain effect, so looks like we'll be going 'au naturale' for spring. We'll be covering some twenty-five shows over the next four days with the sterling help of the wonderful Valerio Mezzanotti photographic team of NOWFASHION.COM. We have a relatively modest half-dozen today, including Roberto Cavalli, Burberry, Jil Sander and Dolce e Gabbana. The latter is our first stop, the invite is a laser-fretted paper palimpsest that resembles prince-of-wales check and comes with a pamphlet about Dolce's latest book, chronicling David Gandy. I'm not quite sure what it's chronicling about him, but I'm guessing the image to text ratio will be disproportionate to say the least. That's never a word that could be used to describe Mr. Gandy, the nearest we've come to a male supermodel since the good old days of Van Der Loo and Schenkenberg. He'll be walking (and maybe even talking!) at the Dolce show in about an hour. Better get my skates on...

  12. by Alexander Fury .

    Band Of Outsiders at Pitti Immagine

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    Scott Sternberg's Band Of Outsiders was a highlight of Pitti Immagine - in fact, it may be a highlight of a still-young season. After all, how could anyone top a re-staging of West Side Story as centrepiece to a fashion show? Especially when said show is all about all-American sportswear and easy, wearable pieces - perfectly displayed by pirouetting dancers in amongst those ever-strutting models.

    Where did the inspiration come from? 'Right now it's always about doing what we feel,' says Creative Director Scott Sternberg by way of explaining where his inspirations came from for such an unabashed - and slightly unhinged - event. 'We never make serious clothes. It's about American sportswear staples reinterpreted with lots of imagination and humour, and fun, and really high-quality production. And we can make a really fun show.'

    Fun was indeed the first word that leapt to mind, but Sternberg is a savvy businessman too: every model (obviously) and every dancer (less conventionally) was clad in Band Of Outsiders from head to toe (rammed into a dayglo plastic Top-side collab, or Manolo Blahnik spike-heeled sneaker). That encompassed not just the menswear mainline, but the womens collections 'Boy.' and 'Girl.', making their resort debut. 'I made the decision to start doing womenswear which means that I made the decision to start utilising the fashion machine to grow my business,' says Sternberg, of the decision to start showing his collections more formally on the catwalk. That's not to say he's enamoured with the idea of the fashion show. 'This system of shows is just too much… editors are overworked, designers are overworked,' Sternberg states - an all-too-true fact considering designer have now geared up for four showing seasons instead of two, not including couture or secondary lines. 'But the flipside is: I get to put on a musical! I get to indulge all my boyhood fantasies, to a somewhat captive audience.'

    Not to coin a journalistic pun, but Sternberg and his team are indeed outsiders: West-Coast based, decamping to show in New York each season: 'We come to fashion week, do our thing, put on our jazz hands, then go back to LA and get back to work.' Ironically, that's exactly the same route taken by Band Of Outsiders' fellow Pitti Immagine guest designers, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, but the results couldn't be more disparate. The outsider perspective send Rodarte into romantic reveries; for Band Of Outsiders, it's preppy reality and a West Coast ease, albeit with a twist. Sternberg relates it back to the Goddard film the label takes its moniker from 'It's a gangster movie about a gangster movie, and these are preppy clothes about preppy clothes.'

  13. by Alexander Fury .

    Pitti Immagine #80: Designs For Life

    Jeans aren't generally known for design innovation - a bit of acid washing and taking a cheese grater to the knees is about as far as it usually goes. G-Star, however, look set to challenge that by collaborating with two heavyweight designers drawn from outside the realms of fashion, to create something fresh and new. The first is Marc Newson - having designed everything from cars, to restaurants, to bicycles, to private jets, Newson is now applying his design innovation to clothing. The tweaks were subtle, and geared for wearability - using industrial design techniques to simplify construction and line. The idea was to reinvent street-wear, so jackets came revisable, cargo trousers were reworked to sit sleeker against the body and camouflage was re-tooled as an overlapping star-print motif.

    If that's the wearable stuff, G-Star's other collaboration is slightly more esoteric. Working with the studio of legendary French Modernist designer Jean Prouvé, G-Star have formed the first collaboration with Vitra to reissue 17 of Prouvé's best-known designs, 9 of which will go into commercial production. Think of it as a 'greatest hits' collection of pieces normally only seen in museums, or the homes of the exceedingly wealthy. The Prouvé RAW range is no slouch when it comes to prices - but you'll be parting with thousands rather than tens of thousands for a piece of Prouvé.

  14. by Alexander Fury .

    Pitti Immagine #80: A Trip Around The Trade

    The whole premise of Pitti Immagine is as a menswear showcase, with thousands of brands pitching up in Florence to display their wares, take orders, and more often than not showcase anything exciting and innovative they may have in the pipeline. Of course, in fashion terms that's about flexing commercial and creative muscle - hence the plethora of custom-built pavilions housing dozens of new products.

    Today I had the chance to trip around a few of the exhibitors, snap a few pictures and generally get a feel for the ambiance of the 80th edition of this Italian tradition. My first stop, ironically, was a batch of all-American traditions - Arrow shirts, and Brooks Brothers, veritable bastions of modern menswear. Arrow actually invented the modern shirt as we know if - before them, the shirt and collar came separated, the latter often made of easy-to-clean but hard to wear celluloid that sliced into the wearer's skin. The handsome, square-jawed 'Arrow Shirt Man', illustrated by J.C. Leyendecker for the company's turn-of-the-century advertising, epitomised the clean-cut masculinity the label wished to express: the fact the man idealised in these images was Leyendecker's long-term homosexual lover Charles Beach is besides the point. Arrow has revived this imagery for a re-launch, showing archive advertising sketches alongside their new line of shirts. There's nothing overly fancy about them - it's the classic button-down dress-shirt, perfectly proportioned, in a myriad of fabrics and finishes. It's nice to see someone who doesn't feel the need to pile on the bells and whistles.

    Brooks Brothers is another age-old brand renowned for preppy staples - but over the past few seasons they have upped their ante with the Black Fleece collection designed by Thom Browne. At Brooks Brothers' Pitti Uomo stand - a well-aged slice of Ivy League heritage transported, weatherbeaten leather wing-chairs and all, into the centre of Florence - Browne's offerings were skilfully mixed with the mainline, with outfits offering a slightly twisted view of classic menswear. A polo-shirt came in sick, distorted shades of pea-green and baby-pink, an otherwise staid mainline outfit ended in shorts embroidered with a repeat-motif of tiny badminton racquets. That's a Browne signature - another pair, in seersucker, had tiny navy embroidered ants scrambling across the thighs. Is 'ants in your pants' too obvious a pun to pull-out? Well, it works - and people will be itching for these all over the world.

    Comments

    1. Denisha
      14:36 10 Apr 2013
      I'm quite pleased with the inomfraiton in this one. TY!
    Comment
  15. by Alexander Fury .

    Pitti Immagine #80: Walk Like A Man

    Women have been filching garments from men's wardrobes for centuries - eighteenth-century riding-habits, nineteenth-century shirt-waisters and most of the iconic garments of the twentieth century (the trench, the tuxedo, the pea-coat and the rest) find their roots in mens rather than womenswear. Last night, however, we saw a twist on the established format, in 'Vestirsi Da Uomo' (Dressed Like A Man). When I say twist, I mean just that - as a selection of men's garments from established firms such as Church's, Nigel Cabourn, Pimobo and Haversack were revised and remixed by esteemed fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard, director of the Musée Galliera and curator of the sensational Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle.

    A selection of iconic eighties models-cum-muses - Violeta Sanchez, Amalia Vairelli, Axelle Doué and Claudia Huidobro - prowled the catwalk in Saillard's rejigged menswear: a shirt twisted into a pencil skirt, a double-breasted jacket buttoned and noted into a cape, a pair of trousers turned into a bolero. All very well and good - they're the kind of tricks a five year-old plays in the dressing-up box - but with these results, you'd expect it to be an infant Jacques Fath or Hubert de Givenchy. Both of their spirits came alive on the catwalk, as shirts were twisted into taut strapless dresses, jackets were worn upside-down to from cropped spencers with high peep-over collars, and one especially lithe model teetered out wearing a single trouser leg as a skirt - the other forming a dramatic train. It felt fresh, invigorating and exciting - not least because evoking fifties couture so accurately with men's attire was entirely unexpected. And it was done with humour: a bunch of handkerchiefs became a bustle Dior would have been proud of, half-a-dozen ties formed a bandeau skirt, and a pair of Church's brogues were strapped onto a model's head to form a graphic chapeau Balenciaga would have adored.

    Much credit to Saillard's ingenuity - but the models really made this event into something special, striking arch poses halfway between a couture catwalk way back when and a Vogue Ball. A mesmerising opening to Pitti's unique mix of men's and womenswear. Tonight, it's the turn of Scott Sternberg to wow us with his Band Of Outsiders show - and with a womenswear line named 'Boy' (alongside the slightly more conventional 'Girl'), there's plenty more gender-bending in store.

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