Sunday, January 22, 2017

BEAUTY: Clothing--Yohji Yamamoto

The highly regarded and highly decorated designer Yohji Yamamoto has had a long and storied career, and at age 73, shows no signs of stopping. His Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection at Paris Fashion Week was lyrical and beautiful, awash with an insouciant, rippling sense of Romanticism worthy of any French Symbolist poet. But the original inspiration for the collection is surprising. The invitation to the show was an employee timecard in an envelope marked "WORKING 24 HOURS EVERYDAY," and the spring board for the show was the type of person who works hard at manual labor jobs. Yamamoto said "I admire those people who work seriously using their own body. We’re now at a time in the world where the most important business is money-makes-money. And I hate it." Yamamoto took worker staples like the coverall, the jumpsuit, and the overcoat (a few in white, perhaps referencing meat packers?) but rendered them in gorgeous jacquards and patterns, all in Yamamoto's signature, impeccable, asymmetrical, master tailoring. It is really a lovely, flowing collection (with inventive touches like elongated pointed collars, and some fantastic New Romantic boots) which ultimately has nothing to do with its inspirational source. I can't fault the end result. But there is something interesting about the intersection of his imagined laborers and the material and price point of the clothing.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Boris Bidjan Saberi

Clearly, this season's Hundredth Monkey moment is turning out to be the concept of mountain climbing. For his Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection at Paris Fashion Week, Boris Bidjan Saberi applied his customary apocalyptic-Gothic sensibility to the idea of ice climbing. Witness the deadly spiked boots to kick into the sides of glaciers, the ropes, the harnesses, the waxed transparent leather coat that looks like it is made by an Inuit out of seal intestine, and the long-haired Yeti coats. Wild. I wonder what is, psychologically speaking, about mountain climbing that is firing in the imaginations of these artists? An ascent towards something higher/better? An escape from what is below? Are those two yearnings the same thing?

BEAUTY: Shoes--Balenciaga

Balenciaga, the house started by Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1919, has seen a veritable revolving door of creative directors in the last five years. After Nicolas Ghesquière left the house in 2012, futurist Alexander Wang took over (see some amazing, sleek, collections previously posted here, here, and here) only for him to part ways with the house in 2015.

Enter Demna Gvasalia, a Georgian designer who has previously worked at Maison Margiela and at Vuitton. His Fall-winter collection was nice enough, all square cut suits and ankle-length boxy overcoats...pleasant enough. But the delightful spanner in the works was the amazing moto-cross boots he showed under the rather traditional suiting. The juxtaposition is SO cool...

BEAUTY: Clothing--Wooyoungmi

Another very interesting Hundredth Monkey moment: McQueen was not the only house motivated by Oscar Wilde!

The mother and daughter team of Madame Woo and Katie Chung who make up the brand Wooyoungmi cited a powerful set of images of Oscar Wilde as inspiration for their Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection shown at Paris Fashion Week. A recent exhibit at the Petit Palais focusing on Wilde and his life featured photographs of the celebrated and infamous writer by Napoléon Sarony, taken in 1882. These images were the springboard for poet blouses and cuts from the 19th which infused the rumpled streetwear look of today, bringing to mind the idea of the flaneur, the French word for one who idly strolls along, watching life at a calm, luxurious pace.

And here are some of the original Napoléon Sarony images of Wilde.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen unveiled a remarkable lookbook for the house's '17-'18 Fall-Winter collection. Inspired by Oscar Wilde and his love of peacock feathers which he used to decorate his living spaces, Burton used the dandy silhouette and love of filigree of Wilde's era and coupled it with the feather motif to stunning effect. Victorian paisley and an Oriental carpet coat complete the concept.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tired by Langston Hughes

by Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren't you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two -
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.

Friday, January 20, 2017


"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
--Theodore Roosevelt in an editorial written for the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

"A preening and vindictive strongman at the top, living in gilded opulence, and surrounded by generals and business cronies. Is this what a junta looks like? Or—with the Twitter-storms, the Cabinet-selection runway show, and the erratic broadsides at everything from the media and the C.I.A. to a local labor-union official—does the walk-up to a Donald J. Trump presidency seem like one long string of Onion headlines? Bit of both, actually. We’re on our way down the rabbit hole, and nothing is what it seems. Trump’s “Thank you” tour prior to being sworn into office wasn’t that at all. It was an ego-boosting victory lap. It was his “You’re welcome!” tour. Making vulture investor Wilbur Ross and Hollywood moneyman Steven Mnuchin the guardians of the nation’s economy? I mean, really? A climate-change denier at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency? An oil executive with no political experience but close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin at the head of the State Department? When the best-read member of the Cabinet is nicknamed “Mad Dog” you know we are in uncharted waters. Trump is draining the swamp of tadpoles and filling it with Gila monsters. We may look back on November 8 and January 20 as days that will live in infamy—the beginning of an era in America when the country turned a corner, and, with headlights off, drove down a very dark lane."
--Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. Milano Moda Uomo Fall-Winter '17-'18

Now that it's run and done, Milano Moda Uomo was fairly subtantial this year with a nice mix of really interesting collections, and several with some special details. Here are a few:

The power of positive words--to save us from the global spread of righteous darkness and the New Dark Ages--was on display at Fendi. For this Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection at Milano Moda Uomo, Silvia Venturini Fendi posted onto her mood board some inspirational lines from Ernest Hemingway about the positive strategies to try before letting the negative take hold. She said: "I want to be optimistic, need to be. These were simple words, universal words like love, listen, try. I was reading this and thinking it is so easy if you follow these universal rules." So we have in a clear, bold font the words LOVE, YES, THINK, TRY, BLISS, HOPE on head bands and calmly spelled out on jackets as a gentle but firm reminder to stay human in these trying times.

Salvatore Ferragamo, a company founded by a cobbler in 1923, always has a lovely array of shoes to show in their collections, as one would expect. And for this FW outing, the house showed a shoe with a lug sole that splayed out, ending up looking like the wearer has webbed feet. I kinda like it...

And Prada had some truly funky shoes to go with a fun, funky, 1970s-by-way-of-the-Pacific-Northwest theme. Fur covered sneakers, loafers, and chukka boots are eclectic...

...and she had jewelry to match. Shells and feathers hung from chains while trimmed, bark-covered tree branches looked like pieces of coral dangling around the necks of models. And to complete the West Coast-New-Age-hippie vibe, large chunks of amethyst crystal, citrine, and quartz crystal were thrown in to gild the lily.

While we're on accessories, I think Giorgio Armani invented a new one. I know, right? How could anyone invent a new piece of clothing. But who knew: a sleeve-scarf? Here it is. A piece of knitwear with sleeves at either end, but with plenty of material in between to drape up an arm, a shoulder, wrap around a neck or cross a chest, and travel down the other side to become a sleeve once again. By description alone, it sounds ridiculous (and it is NOT a shrug!) but look...look! It is fairly fabulous and makes me wonder how I have stayed warm without one!

And while we're on scarves, we move from the sublime to the humorous with MSGM's take on the silk head scarf Queen Elizabeth II wears when not at Buckingham Palace. Whether driving a royal Range Rover on the grounds of Sandringham or attending The Royal Windsor Horse Show, the monarch often sports a scarf on her head along with quilted jackets or coats one would wear "in the country." MSGM hilariously sent models down the runway in such quilted and country outer wear...with a silk head scarf just like HRH. Proof that artistic inspiration really can come from anywhere.

Now, on to the Paris shows!

BEAUTY: Clothing--Etro

Kean Etro has been designing for his father's company for many years now and doing an absolutely glorious job of keeping the rich, sumptuous spirit of the house alive. The interest in classic paisley and other embellished patterns is always an important part of an Etro collection but this one seems particularly apropos. Fashion journalist Luke Leitch reports that Kean Etro has been obsessed by an unfinished French novel called MOUNT ANALOGUE by René Daumal which "charts an allegorical mountaineering expedition to enlightenment. Today, Kean equipped his models for that path, taking further inspiration from Reinhold Messner—the first man to climb all 14 8,000-meter-plus mountains—and his own in-built mysticism."

Kean himself said, "It’s about the sacredness of the mountains, mixing the idea of climbing and ascendere: ascent." Interesting that this is the second show of the season to riff on the idea of mountaineering (see the Moncler show Thom Browne mounted here).

The idea of Nepal and the Himalayas loomed large in this stunning Fall-Winter collection at Milano Moda Uomo. One of the reasons I appreciate the Etro aesthetic is that it is generally so Romantic, so sweeping, so lyrical. The show opened with etched velvet and velour suits featuring some gorgeous ethnic prints and patterns--all worn with some beautifully luxe hiking boots. Jackets were a combination of a Nepalese coat and the kind of toggled, quilted outerwear worn at Everest base camp. Indeed, some prints showed mountain ranges and snow-capped peaks. Kilts and delicious knits added texture.

The other part of this equation--the psychedelia--showed up in images of spirit animals, like bears or wolves with antlers. And it wouldn't have been a psychedelic reference without the appearance of Magic Mushrooms. The first look featured a pair of sunglasses that also covered the wearer's third eye. In fact, MOUNT ANALOGUE was one of the source materials for Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult film "The Holy Mountain" (previously here). It's exciting to think that Etro is using such heady, arcane material for inspiration.

In his novel, Daumal says:
"Alpinism is the art of climbing mountains by confronting the greatest dangers with the greatest prudence. Art is used here to mean the accomplishment of knowledge in action.

You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again...

So what's the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully.

There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know."

Monday, January 16, 2017

BEAUTY: Clothing--Moncler Gamme Bleu

Thom Browne truly knows how to riff on a single theme. His collections are breathtaking in their focus and the sheer amount of mileage that Browne can wring out of a solitary idea or moment. He has been creative head of the menswear division of venerable French outerwear company Moncler since 2008, but he seems to never be at a loss for ideas. Every season seems effortless, and, well, right. For this Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection, he went back to the roots of Moncler as a company producing down jackets for skiing the Alps and riffed on the mountain climber as inspiration. The old-time goggles and cute, paste-on beards on his models hearkened back to those early Alpine explorers like Karl Blodig, John Ball, and Thomas Middlemore. But more than anything else, this collection was about climbing ropes and carabiners which criss-crossed outfits, trussing them up, sometimes even cabling together the legs of models who had to shuffle through the artificial snow of the runway space...all on Moncler's classic down jackets and ski pants in Thom Browne-blue, white, and red, with a smattering of navy, cornflower, and of course black (Browne has been a champion of black in his own collections for many seasons now...stay tuned for the Paris men's shows!).