Chanel

July 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

A huge terrace with a fireplace—it has always been in Karl Lagerfeld’s mind as a beautiful idea, ever since he saw photos of the visionary architect Le Corbusier’s long-gone Paris apartment. “I just never found a place to do it,” he said after the Chanel show today. Until now, of course, when the gigantic forest-planting, iceberg-importing, supermarket-building extravaganzas of Chanel shows past were scaled down to mimic the stark geometry of Corbu’s designs. At either end of the catwalk were huge fireplaces stoked with digital flames. Above the mantel, a big old baroque mirror. Brutalist and baroque: A typically provocative union from a designer who skates across time like fashion’s answer to Doctor Who.

But it wasn’t simply with the setting that Lagerfeld indulged his long-cherished dream. Le Corbusier was the architect who made concrete a staple of modern design. So Lagerfeld made concrete the foundation of his collection. Concrete! In Haute Couture! When you turn it into tiny tiles, it becomes a beautiful mosaic. Who knew? Lagerfeld delightedly demonstrated the material’s unexpected lightness by dangling a string of concrete beads under the noses of journalists. “Tongue in chic,” he crowed. “Very chic.”

That twistedness was the key to the collection. The word couture implies cutting and seaming. There was none of that here. Everything was molded rather than seamed. “It’s Haute Couture without the Couture,” said Lagerfeld, tongue firmly in cheek. And yet there was look after look of a gorgeousness so exquisite it could only be achieved in ateliers that were accustomed to confronting the impossible—and mastering it. It must help that Lagerfeld always has the future in mind as he cherry-picks his way through the past. Take lace and coat it with silicone. Think pink, but think plastic, too. Tatter, shred, disrespect…and make something new. That was all in keeping with the much-touted youth-ifying of Couture. Sam McKnight’s hair and Maison Michel’s little hats perched pertly on the back of the models’ heads had the effect of a Haircut 100 cover from The Face circa 1982. The effect was compounded by Lagerfeld building his silhouette on shorts. There were coatdresses over shorts, jackets and skirts over shorts, plus the perfect shoes for shorts—sandals. Given the molded, sculpted nature of the clothes, Lagerfeld liked the ease of a flat. “The models can walk in those dresses like they’re nothing,” he said.

The show closed with a passage of long, chalk-white, almost penitent gowns, lavished with embroidery. The combination not only embodied the brutalist/baroque twinning of Lagerfeld’s inspiration, it also echoed the duality of Coco Chanel’s own life, the austerity of her professional self countered by the exotic orientalism of Coco at home. It made for a stunning contrast, matched only by the final foxtrot of Karl and his
seven-months-pregnant bride, the Kiwi model Ashleigh Good. “I like pregnant women,” he said, in keeping with his new cat-loving, godfather-ing public persona. “She looks so elegant, so noble.”
—Tim Blanks
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Bouchra Jarrar

July 20, 2014 by  
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Bouchra Jarrar‘s true love is tailoring. She is a master—both technically skilled and inventive. But we’re already well aware that she cuts the best pants in Paris, and we’ve ogled her Perfectos, in leather or hand-woven tweed, for seasons. The challenge for Jarrar going forward is building on this strong foundation; for her reputation to grow, she needs to build her repertoire. She took several steps in that direction at her show today: sampling from the world of sport; tweaking her signature Perfectos; and, most persuasively of all, because it’s so far removed from her usual formula, experimenting with flou.

First the sport: Jarrar’s silk track pants were as faultless as the pleated wool trousers that came later. Polos and jerseys made from metallic thread tweeds accented with black leather and finished with striped rib looked cool—more casual than anything she’s previously done. Fashion has been borrowing from activewear for a while now, but if this part of the show registered slightly familiar, it didn’t detract from the appeal of an outfit that teamed a black leather vest with a pleated full skirt boasting a ribbed athletic waistband. To update her Perfectos, Jarrar added sculptural fillips of fabric at one hip, as if your favorite biker jacket had gotten together with a hot little 1950s cocktail number and reproduced. The effect was sexy and charming. Newsiest of all the developments were the multilayer leopard-print chiffon plissé dresses. A single trapeze dress required an astounding 50 meters of fabric because of the layers and pleats, and yet it was completely effortless, with a buoyant sense of movement. We’re looking forward to more of this kind of thing from Jarrar. At the opposite end of the flou/structure divide: The black-and-white-striped pheasant feather vests were subtly spectacular.
—Nicole Phelps
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Armani Privé

July 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

Given that he’s famous for greige and navy, Giorgio Armani sure knows his way around red. Through the entirety of his new Armani Privé show, there was a soft-focus back projection of a dancing lady in red, and the catwalk explored the contents d’une boîte laquée, a lacquered box that opened to reveal a feast of red, white, and black. Cresting on his ninth decade, Armani has been reflective of late. One of his most memorably odd early collections was a Japanese-influenced affair from 1981. There were subtle echoes of that here in the lacquer, the pagoda shoulders and origami effects, and the Kabuki-ness of the color scheme. But like his contemporary Karl Lagerfeld, Armani is also hell-bent on the future. Couture is an experimental playground for him. So there was a peculiarly appealing industrial edge to this collection. The coat of red vinyl strips studded with rhinestones was as unexpected as it sounds. The hard space-age cage that swaddled a torso was actually woven ribbon. The shimmer of a coatdress came from laboriously applied enamel studs. And all of it red.

The buzz around the Couture shows in Paris has been about young customers. Apparently nothing says youth like a pair of haute shorts. They were a major building block of Armani’s collection. But so were the A-line jackets swinging pertly off pointy little shoulders, and they were young, too. Likewise the careless confidence of breasts bared under polka-dotted tulle. And the fur that wasn’t fur (organza) and the mohair that wasn’t mohair (nylon).

But Armani wasn’t really chasing the youth vote. Another key factor in his collection was the huge swathes of net around head and torso. They blurred the silhouette, creating an air of mystery for clients who might be of the vintage of Sophia Loren, serenely seated front-row-center. And Kati Nescher’s finale moment, in a huge ball of organza atop a fishtail dress in silk crepe, echoed across the decades to Norma Desmond. That’s where the past and future collide.

It was the same with Armani’s front row. Aside from Loren, the entirely random cast of characters included Juliette Binoche, Jared Leto, Kate Hudson, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Pink. “I can’t wait to get my hands on that red dress with the black back,” the latter enthused. “I love to sparkle.”
—Tim Blanks
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Alexandre Vauthier

July 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

Some couturiers send out a wedding gown as their final runway look; Alexandre Vauthier presented a black body-skimming gown that offered quite the peep show from behind. A pearl-embellished band running diagonally across the right cheek functioned as a decorative bridge between the lower back and the upper bum, ostensibly holding the dress together. Such asset-flaunting bait will prove irresistible to Vauthier’s
mega-muses: Rihanna, Bey, Kim, Rita. But with this collection, the designer ensured that there was more than enough of his mastery to go around, from a jumpsuit in a laser-cut pony hair that mimicked lace, to crystal-studded leather pants, to a slinky minidress covered in ribbons of python stitched to tulle. Before the show, Vauthier seemed particularly excited about his foray into a print that appeared on a silk parka and high-waisted trousers; no run-of-the-mill geometric motif, this was a reinterpreted archive find from Clerici Tessuto, the century-old Italian fabric house.

It’s all too tempting to linger over a one-shouldered dress that sparkled like pomegranate seeds (the 196,000 ruby-red stones required 1,850 hours of Lesage embroidery) at the expense of Vauthier’s stellar tailoring—straight-edged but not boxy. Patent shin guards unnecessarily accented a few leggy looks, as if he hadn’t already offered enough aesthetic armor with a pearl and crystal cardigan (120 hours of embroidery) or a series of plush fox cabans. Of course, the designer knows there will always be an appetite for the Tom Ford school of sexpot, but his point of differentiation—his expert eye for fit—can get overwhelmed by glam. Vauthier described this collection as “excessively chic,” adding a rapid succession of “très” for emphasis. And to the extent that people will be apt to remember that right cheek most of all, this was très true.
—Amy Verner
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Engineered Garments

July 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

Since 2004, Engineered Garments has been the singular menswear brand in New York when it comes to vintage-inspired sportswear. With a discreet identity and an “if you know, you know” reputation for quality in fabrics and construction, there is as much mystique as there is obsession surrounding the label. The Spring 2015 collection is a testament to why.

There is a story behind this offering: Designer Daiki Suzuki looked to the now-defunct brand British Khaki by Robert Lighton and the image of the British army in India, their khaki mil-spec gear commingling with bright colors and kalamkari and paisley prints. The result was a collection of contradictions. Khaki, olive drab, navy, and gray paired with bright florals, printed canvas, and jacquard; Nehru collars, harem pants, and long shirts alongside British officer jackets and double-pleated trousers. Military and workwear tend to be sober by nature, but here much fun was had in mixing and matching patterns, in unlikely fabric combos, and in the contrast between informal and exotic with formal and traditional. More challenging pieces like the wrap-and-tie wide-leg fisherman pants added irreverent fun to a jacket and tie. Numerous riffs on safari- and military-style jackets, all executed with a balance of nuance and convention, were never quite what you’d expect. Suzuki’s design process begins with the fabrics, and so one of the greatest strengths here was in the materials—luxe tropical wool; soft, richly colored twill; bright nylon; linen blends; and more unique fabrics like a water-resistant striped cotton with poly backing.

But the British safari narrative is somehow too confining for the clothes; it too neatly categorizes the collection. Above all, this is the vision of a sportswear mastermind. Suzuki doesn’t design from historical archives or a template for what a collection should be. He finds inspiration and intuits his way through both vintage and entirely original designs. While there are staple pieces in the line—the brand’s cult following knows them well, the Bedford jacket and workshirt, in particular—every pattern is new each season, constantly being tweaked to improve and adapt based on what Suzuki feels is right. “This is something nobody else can do,” the designer said, standing in the showroom of his Garment District office. “Only I can do this.”
—Noah Johnson
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Maison Martin Margiela

July 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

The surrealists used to play a game called Exquisite Corpse, in which each artist would contribute an element to an image, fold it over, and pass it on to someone else who would then add his or her bit with no knowledge of what had been done before. At the end of it all, there’d be some screwball composite that would inevitably betray an unpredictable internal logic.

What better analogy for the house of Maison Martin Margiela‘s Artisanal collection is there than the Exquisite Corpse? The recombinant elements of today’s presentation strung together a grab bag of extraordinary bits and pieces that ultimately composed “a collective memory of Haute Couture” (or so claimed the show notes). But, typically, it was not the grandeur but the detritus of Couture—the fabric offcuts, the embroidery
samples—that the collection celebrated.

Artisanal’s modus operandi is alchemy: Turn a bagful of bottle tops into a shimmering skirt, stitch a handful of embroidered Van Gogh irises into an exotic sheath dress, and collage swatches of cashmere collected at trade fairs into a caftan. Or sew a mess of coins “sourced in various dressing-table drawers and from flea markets across Paris and Brussels” onto a flimsy wrap of fabric to make a jingly-jangly gypsy skirt. The ingenuity was enthralling; the fetishistic detailing of every hour, every bead or sequin slightly less so than usual, perhaps because the collection itself felt a little thin to begin with. It may be simply that the novelty has worn off. Or else the clothes themselves were less enthralling, more arbitrary than before. That was definitely the case with the lobster embroideries and the aluminum “I Love You” party balloon re-created as a crystal bustier.

And yet there was still a peculiar, irresistible romance in these clothes. A Paul Poiret coat trimmed into a gilet, a Line Vautrin brooch on a white cotton shirt…it’s like wearing history, which is, in a way, what Artisanal is all about. But it comes with a condition: You have to impose your history on the history of the materials.
—Tim Blanks
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Elie Saab

July 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

Daywear? Elie Saab has a ready-to-wear collection for that. At his Couture show today he was focused exclusively on after-dark. Saab made his point by lining the back of the runway with chandeliers, which were illuminated just moments before the first model made her grand entrance. The colors refracted in those chandeliers provided the palette: first blue, then pink, next blush, followed by black, white, and gray. For decoration, Saab preferred pearls. Tahitian blue for a navy chiffon goddess dress; white pearls on a long-sleeve princess gown; champagne-colored ones for a strapless cocktail number in a neutral shade of pink. The white-on-white looks were the prettiest, but damn if all those embellishments weren’t heavy. A few of the models really struggled with their gowns, and the bride, with her acres of embroidered train, didn’t fare much better. Surely one of Haute Couture’s pleasures should be the way made-to-measure clothes feel on the body.

Amid the tone-on-tone embroideries and the ombré effects, a sweeping ball gown in pink with tiny blue embroidery stood out. So did a couple of dresses that featured a lavish rose print. Saab should keep experimenting with print. For one thing, it’s a whole lot lighter than pearls.
—Nicole Phelps
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Michael Kors

July 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

It’s tempting to use the hybrid phrase “normkors,” and the designer couldn’t resist doing just that when presenting his Spring 2015 men’s collection. It was fitting, not just because the clothes mixed classic American styles with Michael Kors‘ vision of global luxury, but because riffs on hybridization ran throughout the collection.

“Amalfi Americano” was the theme and that cultural mash-up found its way into almost every look. A sharply cut three-button suit was punched up by polished denim, sneakers became “snespadrilles” thanks to a rope detail on the sole. Fabrics weren’t what they seemed—a hemp-linen anorak was gessoed for a less rigid waterproof finish. Sharkskin was rendered from cotton and mohair. The ultimate normkors look, a riff on a T-shirt-and-jeans look, was done with 8-ounce denim trousers and a linen T-shirt sweater. If anything, the collection was a bit heavy on the norm and light on the Kors. Subdued plaids failed to pop, and striped knits didn’t stand out from other similar offerings in the mall. But even the most basic pieces, like the double-pleated pants and zip-up blouson, had an undeniable populist appeal.

Sandals and white linen shorts suit notwithstanding, Kors’ Spring collection was a mostly seasonless affair. That’s a good business decision—”It’s January when we ship it,” Kors remarked—and it affords a glimpse at the kind of smart, consumer-first thinking behind his vision of comfortable luxury. It’s not for nothing that he’s one of fashion’s few designer billionaires.
—Noah Johnson
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Vionnet

July 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

If Hussein Chalayan has one thing to prove to the world at this point in a career that has helped define fashion’s outer limits, it’s that he can do glamour. For his new Demi-Couture collection for Vionnet, the models had starlet hair, swept to one side. And they were wearing red-carpet dresses from start to finish. It looked like something new for Chalayan, yet at its heart was his same old fascination with the attraction of opposites.

Start with stillness and movement. One dress was a lacy white number with eruptions of red pleating. There were other dresses in which the pleats were exaggerated with fountains of fringing. A simple strapless bias-cut silk sheath toted a swatch of fabric like a wrung-out towel. That was the kind of strangely sensual flourish that distinguishes Chalayan’s own collections.

Chalayan is a fiercely technical designer. Here, for instance, there were a handful of gowns with a three-dimensional spine curving down the leg or over the shoulder. It was so weird that it shouldn’t have worked. But it did, because everything was in the same fabric. The bias swags of contrasting fabrics were less successful. But at least Chalayan never rests. And, with the best will in the world, you could imagine Madeleine Vionnet recognizing herself in the work he is doing.
—Tim Blanks
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Zuhair Murad

July 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Fashion News

Beirut has been undergoing an architectural renaissance, with Herzog & de Meuron, Norman Foster, Steven Holl, and Zaha Hadid among the starchitects making their mark on the Lebanese capital. Zuhair Murad, who is based there, saw the potential for a Couture collection built from geometry—particularly Hadid’s extreme forms. To most eyes, Murad’s interpretation might seem tenuous; dresses generally adhered to classic cocktail or gala silhouettes, with an occasional angular bustline, displaced hemline, or enhanced-volume overskirt. But look closely at the surface detail and you could see how the stretched, encrusted wave patterns; guipure macramé; and puzzle-piece prism motifs expressed a certain neo-futurist edge—especially when rendered in black, white, and silver (the result of hammered metallic sequins).

In trading last season’s precious garden inspiration for a modern cityscape, Murad nudged his aesthetic forward, even if only incrementally. To his fairy-tale wedding dress, he added a 5-meter-long veil; yet the crosshatched embroidery evoked the distinctive cladding employed by various architects today. The designer could have pushed further beyond his signature glamour comfort zone—but perhaps his clients (well-evidenced by the primped-up women sitting front-row) don’t demand this of him. He mentioned that his couture customers are younger and younger—in age and also in spirit, and maybe the beaded, multicolored jump-short number will be purchased less because it represents a good investment than a youth-affirming indulgence. The penultimate look, a shimmery belted caftan, was an outlier in its Art Deco vibe; its unstudied elegance was the most modern statement of all.
—Amy Verner
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