FASHION FALLING APART

Fashion is often referred to as a big game, and lately the game of choice has been musical chairs. Designers have been ousted and hired like some higher force was having too much fun stopping and starting the music. But it's not some supernatural music-controller that's driving fashion as we know it to pieces, it's the very nature of current fashion itself. Fashion is a tricky industry because of the conflict of interests it's based upon: on one hand, the purpose of fashion is solely commercial because clothes are, indeed, meant to be bought, but on the other, fashion can be looked at as just another medium for art and ideas. I personally believe that art and ideas are just as, if not more, beautiful/powerful when they're worn on human bodies. Clothes should be ideas encompassing one who agrees with them; people should wear clothes as if they were words because often they say more. But fashion is also a terrible slave to me-too-ness, a plague based off trends and "success" that will eventually bring fashion to its end. 

Dior.

The latest trend, it seems, is kicking out (perfectly good) designers in hope of "rejuvenating" a brand, as shown primarily by Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Admittedly, the Gucci house was drying up under former creative director Frida Giannini, so a change was indeed necessary, and hiring the then no-name Alessandro Michele was the correct and called-for decision. But just because that risk resulted in success does not mean that particular formula is the success secret for all brands.

Gucci.

Almost exactly one week ago, the news broke that Raf Simons would be leaving Dior after only three and a half years, and one documentary later, with the brand. Commercially, Dior has been doing fine, but creatively, the collections were always an honest effort at creating aesthetically pleasing, intelligent, and salable clothes; not an easy task. Raf was perfect for Dior, but Dior was not perfect for Raf. I personally think that Raf is artistically above Dior and would do better, as in be able to show more of his talent, at a smaller, more independent brand that doesn't cater to such a broad audience like Dior does. 

While Raf's exit from Dior came as something of a shock to me, to say the least, Alber Elbaz's departure from Lanvin brought on a complete, metaphorical, heart attack. Alber Elbaz has been defining the Lanvin image for 14 years, as long as I've been alive. Although some designers' influence is clearly visible when they take over a house that's not their own, such as John Galliano at Margiela, Alber Elbaz has become Lanvin, and Lanvin Alber Elbaz. At this point they are one; I can't picture a Lanvin makeover like the one at Gucci, or the ones that will inevitably happen at Dior and Balenciaga, the latter of which will be directed by Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, the brand on everyone's lips in Paris this past season. 

Lanvin.

Vetements.

I can only imagine the reasoning behind many of these seemingly random departures to be either a desire to achieve the "Gucci Success Story" on the company's side, or the rejection of working like a dog on the designer's part. Designers today don't have time to properly find inspiration and and carry out ideas. They don't have to design, to create. If fashion continues in the same direction as it is, the most valuable skill for a design student to have is the ability to quickly produce fast, bombastic clothes, no actual ideas needed. Now, if I wanted fashion, and inevitably eventually, the world, to dumb down and move too fast to feel, I would hold my tongue. But I believe in nurturing and preserving potential brilliant ideas in any way possible, so I propose a change of system. Something needs to give because all the designers are. As it is, there are too many seasons and too little support. This "musical-chair" system of fashion is not working. The average tenure at a fashion house seems to be getting shorter and shorter, like Raf at Dior, or simply cut short, shown by Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. When in doubt, fashion should stick with an age-old rule of thumb: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Fashion should fix what needs to be (scheduling, seasons, work-load, and certain mismatched pairings between designer and house), but by all means keep what doesn't (perfect matches between designers and houses.) Fashion is going through a bit of nervous turmoil, an industry-wide fear of being left behind, but if it collectively keeps its mind all will be in balance. All can never be well in fashion, but instead balance is an attainable goal to strive for.



Photos by Vogue Runway.

One Does Not "Dabble" in Fashion

Fashion is all-consuming. Once you're in, there's no getting out. Once you've experienced a season (or in my case, exactly 10) of fashion shows, even closely following them online rather than fully-emerged in person, you can't un-see the trends trickling down into mainstream fashion months later. You can't ignore your non-fashion friends' clashing of prints, proportions, or plain runway knock-offs; their synonymous use of "fashion" and "style" and "trend", their ignorance of couture, craft, and real clothes. Put simply, once you're in fashion, your mind will always be thinking in the fashion world, while your physical being will be living in a very un-fashion world. (Unless, of course, you're lucky enough, or put enough work in, to be working in the fashion world, living in the fashion world.) It simply isn't possible to dabble in fashion; you're either in it or you're not. It's not something you practice for an hour and put off to the side until next time, you can't study and pass a test for it. 

Fashion is a way of living and a way of thinking. There's not a moment during my school day where some aspect of fashion isn't present somewhere in my mind, whether that be in observing/judging my classmates' style (or lack of it), doodling YSL's vintage, geometrical designs in the margins of my Geometry notebook, or thinking of yet another way to manipulate the dress code. For me, fashion is too central to be a hobby, but I'm also not infatuated with it enough to call it a passion. I decided, some time ago, that fashion is my distraction. But fashion doesn't act as a momentary distraction, it's a constant, nagging, Colin-McDowell-personified voice in the back of my head. Fashion attracts all types of people, with all different expectations of it. Because of fashion's rich and ever-growing history, one can never know everything about fashion (no, not even that seemingly all-knowing voice of Colin McDowell), but one can strive. You can never "master" fashion, like one theoretically can with sport or music, because fashion encompasses so much. The term "fashion" is simply too broad for one to become expert in all areas during a lifetime, though some have come close. Maybe it's fashion's fantastical nature that subliminally tricks people into thinking they can become masters, that there is a achievable end goal. Maybe it's fashion's open-endedness that keeps people intrigued. Or maybe we're just in it for the clothes. Whatever it may be, fashion is definitely not "hobby" material.

Lia and Odette Pavlova by Txema Yeste for Vogue Russia November 2015

September Fashion Month Recap: The Month of Discomfort

Gucci by Alessandro Michele, Milan.


Fashion is an industry built on consistent, constant changes. Right now, fashion is loving all things a little off, a little weird, and a little eccentric. Top models aren't ones with traditionally "pretty" features, but ones that are interesting to look at. Fashion is in a moment of appreciating the charming yet awkward character.

Fashion has always questioned the way people think, from Schiaparelli's surrealism to McQueen's often macabre shows, but this season, discomfort seemed to be an overarching theme across the fashion capitals, beating out even, I daresay, the usual priority of beauty. But that doesn't mean these thoughtful clothes lacked beauty. Something new and slightly uncomfortable is often more beautiful than a gorgeous gown we've seen a million times before. The discomfort is what makes an eccentric piece beautiful. Our minds, our eyes, aren't used to that particular combination of cut and color, and so it naturally sparks interest. With some of the eccentric design presented this past fashion month, like Gucci or Prada, I can see how it will fit into the world in six months time, when the clothes will actually be sold, or even sooner. But with others, like Margiela or Rick Owens, I doubt that they will ever be considered "normal," or anything near it, six months later and beyond. Gucci's lineup of "beautiful-weirdos," as they were originally dubbed, seem more beautiful than weird now, but John Galliano's sci-fi vision for Margiela still, and will most likely always, seems like he's seeing something we can't.

Rick Owens, Paris.

Maison Margiela by John Galliano, Paris.
Even with the seemingly random assortment of details and dramatics, John Galliano still remains a master craftsman above all things, as shown here with this decadent bias-cut skirt.

Charming quirkiness has been gaining steam for a while now, Molly Bair's exaggerated features on the cover of Dazed and Confused stands out as a milestone for the beautiful weirdo in my mind, but this season the concept really solidified. Perhaps it has something to do with the reincarnation moment that nineties nerds are having right now; an appreciation of originality and uniqueness brought mainstream by looking back to the original DGAF adopters. This season was about accepting your differences, not even attempting conventional beauty, and instead embracing your quirks. In this way, fashion is reflective of the world today, where instead of hiding and pretending, people are sharing and exploring their peculiarities. In today's connected world, people can very much become aware of others like them, therefore they don't need to pretend to fit in. Fashion is embracing that newfound sense of eccentric, uncomfortable, and unconventional beauty. While fashion-cliques still remain strong (#BalmainArmy), the power of the individual is quickly taking charge.


Prada, Milan.

Maison Margiela by John Galliano, Paris.


September Fashion Month Recap: The Month of Faux Youth

Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, New York.

The concept of youth is not a new fixation for fashion. Fashion is largely based on beauty; beauty is largely based on youth; so therefore fashion is based off youth (it’s basically math; a simple postulate.) But between fashion’s relentless cycle, unforgiving nature, and expensiveness, there is no room for the carefree youth it proclaims. The constant, desperate search for youth is actually quite aging. Only a tired, faux youth is present; not quite mutton dressed as lamb (as the models wearing the clothes are actually quite young), but more like mutton desperately pretending, wishing, to be younger by buying lamb’s wool. Fashion's obsession with youth isn't a focus on consumers; it's a fetish on false reality. Dior's show opened with 14-year-old model Sofia Mechetner, controversial for her age, wearing what will most likely be bought by women well into their 30s and 40s.

Jacquemus, Paris.

Maybe the obsession with youth, newness, is an attempt to occult the old concepts presented. As a whole, fashion lately is based off old ideas wrapped up in reused trends, draped over young girls, to be sold to a middle-aged audience. Fashion loves extremes, so it was inevitable for an understandable passion for beauty, and subsequently youth, to turn into the belittling of women. Maybe this misconception of old-youth seems so wrong to me because of my state of true youth. This season, a good chunk of the designers experimented in keeping their collections youthful, which resulted in vulgar, immature shows (such as Dolce and Gabbana), or infantile, callow ones (Jaquemus’ baby shapes.) I may be young, but these efforts at achieving youth do nothing for making the clothes “relatable,” “modern,” “hip,” or whatever other excuses they use. At the end of the day, they just make fashion seem more shallow, unimportant, and silly.

Burberry by Christopher Bailey, London.


Gareth Pugh, London.

The only designers that actually delivered youth were those that were, believe it or not, young.  Fresh talent carried London this season, with Christopher Kane, Gareth Pugh, and Christopher Bailey at Burberry. Christopher Kane was the name on everyone's lips this month, with his abstract concepts, unapologetic colors, and clear aesthetic, while Gareth Pugh delivered a dazzling ode to the young culture of London's SoHo. Christopher Bailey at Burberry, however, had the struggle of bringing modernity to an age-old brand, but his flowing silks and reinvented trenches quickly disproved any sign of struggle. Established, old designers are the only ones diminishing themselves and their designs through weak forms of false modernity. It's heartbreaking to see storied designers use such desperate and poor design as a call of help for a changing time that's already left them. I understand the FOMO (fear of missing out) fear that may be driving them, but I assure that good taste and good design will always be valued.

Gucci by Alessandro Michele, Milan.

Pleated street style, by The Sartorialist, Milan.

Prada, Milan.

Pleated street style, by The Sartorialist, Milan.

Thom Browne, New York.

Pleated street style, by The Sartorialist, Milan.

Pleated skirts were a building block for this season, from Prada to Gucci and almost every street style snap in between. For me, freshly coming out of a Middle School where they were mandatory, pleated skirts represent a school-girl type of innocence and immaturity. Although not carried out in the traditional dowdy nature of the pleated skirt, the youthful connections were still present. But they were also a step outside the box from usual, sleek slips and, lately, boxy normcore blobs. They represented an eccentricity and old-timey aesthetic that ruled this season.

... 

More on that eccentric part of this season in Part Two. Keep an eye out!


My reviews from September Fashion Month 2015:

Valentino Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear

An Italian brand showing an African-inspired collection in Paris can either be worldly, or a fashion-wide cringe. But that was the risk Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took when they decided to steer Valentino in a completely opposite direction from last season's fiercely loyal ode to native Rome. This collection was about proving Valentino's versatility and worldly sophistication; Rome may play a key role in Valentino's identity, but Rome does not define Valentino. This show's inspiration was a step outside of their usual that could have easily resulted in both cultural appropriation and a loss of character. But the the lineup, to Valentino's credit, turned out to be nothing more than their usual sleek silhouettes, with the odd print or embellishment here and there. That in itself may, indeed, be cultural appropriation, but the sheer beauty in the clothes proved its righteous intent. (Though the cornrowed hair and spiky details may have been pushing it a bit.) Too Western to be considered "exotic," but with that same, other-worldly Valentino charm, this collection proved Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli's mastery at manipulating the Valentino philosophy to fit all environments. 

Unlike Gucci or Christopher Kane, leaders in fashion today, I don't think of Valentino's aesthetic in relation to a particular "girl." There is no Valentino-Girl, no ideal muse or idol, but instead, Valentino is a way of thinking, a way of living. It's a certain charm and poise, a familiar freshness. Perhaps it's the beautiful quality of these clothes that seem to be foreign. Maybe it's the simplistic honesty of them; they aren't trying at all to be provocative or forward-thinking, but they spark intrigue just the same. There's always a sense of nostalgia when it comes to Valentino, without doting on the past. 

Through and through, Valentino's overarching theme this season was that cultures and countries may have their differences, but fashion speaks for itself and beauty is universal.



















Saint Laurent Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear

There was a lot of talk this past summer on Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. First, the normally reclusive designer gave a rare and revealing interview to Yahoo Style, which resulted in Alexander Fury, of The Independentto ask whether (or not) Slimane is dishonoring YSL's legacy, which then resulted in The Cut's Véronique Hyland retorting on why Slimane isn't dishonoring YSL, but instead is "carrying on his legacy." This small quarrel then split the fashion community almost completely into two clean halves: those who agreed with Hyland and Slimane, and those who did not. In my opinion, you don't need to be a journalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history (i.e. the genius that is Alexander Fury) to see that Saint Laurent and Slimane are are at two, incomparable levels of design and artistry. In fact, you don't need to look any further than his most recent collection for the house.

Yves Saint Laurent created. He created new silhouettes, new ways of thinking, a new structure of fashion. Hedi Slimane curates his shows out of styles already existing; his collections are more like the Pinterest board of an angsty teenager reminiscing about punk and grunge and glamor. (Trust me, I know an angsty teenager when I see one.) In Slimane’s defense, curation and styling are, indeed, forms of creativity, but just not on the same level of Yves Saint Laurent's creativity. Yves shocked his audience with his contemporary designs and challenged the times, for which he was very much criticized. Hedi Slimane, however, has not been criticized for being too outgoing, but instead for being mediocre, therefore the criticism they both faced are not parallel and, by no means, put them on the same level. Slimane has been using Saint Laurent as a canvas for cultivating his own aesthetic. There's nothing wrong with a glamorous, faux rock n' roll look. There's nothing (entirely) wrong with prioritizing commerciality. There's nothing wrong with unoriginal clothes, as long as they're not passed off under the name of one who worked so very hard at creating originality, and therein lies the greatest wrong Slimane has accomplished. These leather skirts and jean jackets aren't only terribly used goods, they're not even used Saint Laurent goods, in which case they may still be good. The fact that this tired aesthetic is standing in the house that created ready to wear, that is the disgrace, the dishonor. The investors may love Slimane, as sales have never been better, but Mr. Saint Laurent is most certainly rolling in his grave.












Photos via Vogue Runway.


Alexander McQueen Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear

Alexander McQueen, under the direction of Sarah Burton, has lost all the old, shall we say, scare-factor, to be replaced instead with lovely, poetic, and unquestioningly beautiful clothes. A new cascade of frills swishes down the runway every season; this year's being peachy and creamy and, occasionally dark. Classic Alexander McQueen motifs, such as birds or lace-y ruffles, were present, but done in a soft and lady-like fashion, not as powerful, strong, or dark as McQueen created his women. This past summer, reminiscent days in my memory as fresh and melancholy as Burton's designs, I spent quite a few days making my way through the McQueen runway archive on Vogue .com. I found and studied collections joined together not visually, but mentally, seemingly unconnected links of thought that shared only the rare, classic motif, but were mainly different themes each season. Only in retrospect, explained through numerous biographies and books (my favorite being Gods and Kings: the Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano), does the strand of runway spectacles show the relevant journey of discovery that Alexander McQueen's lifetime design process was. Sarah Burton's reign at Alexander McQueen is more a visual journey, developing a clear, visual McQueen aesthetic. In that way, today's Alexander McQueen is more predictable, and therefore financially stable. Burton's agreeable designs leave little room for the controversy and hoopla that seemed to follow McQueen. The Alexander McQueen aesthetic was stabilized under Burton, for better, and for worse. For better, because of the lack of spontaneity; and worse, for the same reason. The clothes may not be as thoughtful, but Burton's outsider perspective allows for focus on a single statement, rather than McQueen's broad spectrum.

This season, she brought a poem of previous season's floral Victoriana, with artfully embroidered denim acting as the fresh blossom to the eye in the bouquet of wilting blooms.


















Photos by Vogue Runway.