Tuesday, June 26, 2007


the city that gave us some of the most directional ideas in fashion has spawned some of the most influential designers the world has ever seen. from the halls of london's prestigious central st. martins came the likes of john galliano, alexander mcqueen, hussein chalayan and most recently christopher kane. london's influence has always been based in its youth movement. vivienne westwood, the grande dame of fashion, basically invented the punk aesthetic with her then partner malcom mclaren. the new wave romantics of the 1980's was well represented by the likes of leigh bowery and boy george. while the avant garde became the niche so richly filled by mcqueen and galliano. and at the last half of the new millenium, the cycle has again stopped at london's heart. producing a new set of designers ready to take on the established institution. and although london will forever be the birthplace of the most ousider fashion, it has matured and imbued all the crazy conceptual ideas with a sense of reality, extremely well represented by the likes of giles deacon, jonathan saunders, and of course christopher kane. but asides from all that, a fellow by the name of gareth pugh comes along and reminds us that london always has an enfant terrible to satisfy fashion's wild side.

undoubtedly the most eagerly watched designer to come out of london the past decade. christopher kane continues his momentum with his latest collection. as a young designer, it's easy to see how his love for fashion grew out of his youth in the 90s. the earlier part of that decade in particular seems to be the catalyst that provokes his incredible offerings. it also doesn't hurt that young london seems to have finally grown out of the 80's and moved into the age of supermodels, celebrity designers, and the underground music that dominated london at that time. his abililty as a young designer to be so succint with the current trends of fashion is something to admire for a man only 24 years old. i would even be brave enough to say that he was the one who crystalized the versace, leger, and alaia references that has been so abundant the past seasons. adding to his briliance is not only his technical skills (pleating, and folding leather and his fabric mixes), is the important ability to produce a garment that actually sells. everyone from carine roitfeld, london socialites, and london club kids alike clamour to get a piece of action. its refreshing to see such a young talent who doesn't compromise his vision and practices his craft with such passion, conviction, and originality.

one of the new bright lights that has emerged from gloomy london this past few years and his strenght lies in use of prints, color, and as testified with this collection, using both combined with cut, can produce the most flattering shape. saunders has used graphic elements as his forte since he first started and has continued to evolve those talents to a higher level. particularly with his evening dresses. perhaps a continuation from the dresses he designed for last years autumn collection, these dresses had the same graphic sense of drama. but he replaced last years art deco inspired prints, with a more direct and blunt colour blocking. particularly ravishing are the ones with middle column inseart that elongated the body and in diaphanous fabrics such as chiffon, these are dresses that commands attention not because they are pieces of magic, but because only a certain kind of woman can have the class and grace to not be overpowered by them. also, his pieces for daywear were equally strong and also continued to use his ingenious sense of prints and color. the coats were particularly strong, with a hint of 60s courreges thrown in with those short bell sleeve. saunders is another example of a young talent maturing season after season and not only getting better at it, but also finding that elusive spot most designers search their whole careers for, their own niche. who knows, as time goes by and his print making technique becomes more and more legendary, we might just be witnessing the birth of a new pucci.

of course only london can come out with someone like gareth pugh. it might be easy to dismiss the young lad as a one trick pony who just happens to be a tremendous showman and nothing else. but let's not forget that the same accusations were thrown at galliano and mcqueen so let's not jump into conclusion with this one. and it appears that we wont have too. despite all the outlandish makeup and plastic styling, there was a glimmer of maturity that came out of this collection. he still experimented with shapes and exaggerated proportions, but there were extremely brilliant and wearable pieces as well. the fur coats were standouts in technique and aesthetics alone. it had enough avant garde attitude for it to carry his name, but it also had enough restrain and wearability that his name can end up being worn on someone's back. the intrigue continues.

alongside brit historical houses burberry and mulberry experiencing a revitilization, aquascutum is slowly, quitely and strongly making its own mark in todays fashion climate. one has a sense that this house is a closely guarded secret amongst insiders because out of all the great british houses currently basking in the spotlight, aquascutum has reletavely been flying under the radar. but i'm quite sure given a few more seasons, designers michael herz and graeme fidle will soon be projected to the level of christopher bailey. these iconic british houses shares similar pasts, like burberry, aquascutum also has a history of designing for the british military, been favoured as the brand of choice for aristocratic sports, and because of england's sometimes harsh climates, has a long history of producing coats. the collection the duo sent down the runway for this season channeled all those archetypes of the brand and infused it with modern touches beginning with the fabrics and the actual design of the garments. the clothes were streamlined, yet cut so that the pieces didn't hug the body, but more like skimmed close, more comfortable as opposed to restrictive. there was also an experiment with proportions borrowed from classic couture cuts like a modern interpretation of the peplumed waist, trapeze silhouette, and their own take with this seasons current fascination with exaggerated shoulders. even though there were some proenza schouler-ish touches with all those breastplate decorations, this was still a focused collection. one that would undoubtedly gain the house quite a bit more new devoted customers.

the city of lights will always be knows as the capital of fashion. this is the birthplace of haute couture and the only city to still fervently defends the art form. however, paris is no longer known just for its robust fashion history. it has become the center of where avant garde ideas are first shown that sends ripples as wide and shattering as when edouard manet first exhibited "le déjeuner sur l'herbe". the revival of paris as the fashion capital is closely linked to the revival of its most revered houses rooted in couture. led by the resurrection of houses like balenciaga, dior, lanvin, saint laurent, givenchy and most recently nina ricci, paris reminds us that fashion, although arguably the most practical of all arts, is also rooted in dreams. where the lines between fantasy and reality are thinned to the most intoxicating beauty.

the small powerhouse continues its vision foward with another blockbuster collection that guarantees its hi-tech lego inspired footwear the editorial coverage that would rival the towering platforms from last years fall/winter collection. ghesquière is one of those designers who's collection seems to be totally different from what was previously shown. aesthetically at least. but there's this clear vision and deep respect for the house cristobal built that makes all his collections, from his inagural, to this, his very latest, so convincingly condusive that every season my heart is always racing because i'm scared to be disappointed. this season there was a hint of the futuristic vibe from last season, but he injected it with the most suprising element, ethnic touches. warping the keffiyeh into dresses and tunics and replacing the traditional palestinian print with peruvian, ikat and even african. and nicolas, being the brilliant mind that he is, juxtaposed those prints with very anglo touches like jodphurs and the extremely well tailored university blazers. and with warrior makeup, these are clothes for assertive women, in control, on point.

coming off his much lauded dior couture collection and an extremely well received men's show, it seems like john is back in top form with a collection that was reminiscent of his mid 90's collections. complete with the requisite backdrop, props, and the new crop of models acting like the shalom and nadjas of the decade past. but it wasn't just in the presentation that was vintage galliano. it also marked the return of his infamous bias cut dresses, the sense of theatre, and a time so brilliantly researched and referenced that it gave this collection a sense of authenticity. while his old collections were constantly critcized for being too costume, and too unwearable in real life, his decade tenure at the house of dior has taught him that although his main occupation is to provide fantasy, they also have to be in one way or the other tangible. because real life requires money, and purpose. for a few years i lost confidence in john. those redundant runway presentations and kabuki make up was getting tired. i was jonesing for those old galliano days, where his clothes, models, and setting provided an evironment so much more inspiring that a boring runway. and thank god for this collection, and thank god for making me believe in him again.

cristobal balenciaga once said that he was obsessed with making the perfect sleeve. after this collection it seemed like balenciaga wasn't the only one obsessed with making the perfect sleeve. albert elbaz used jeanne lanvin's 1930s sketches as the starting point that inspired this collection which resulted in producing one of the most striking, and original silhouettes to come out for some time. the full, arabesque shapes, sometimes soft and drapey, and sometimes rigorously tailored shoulders permeated throughout the collection. elbaz has always lovingly referenced the experimental and traditional cuts of couture and he's always made in modern and feasable for todays woman. he does it in such a way that, regardless of the experimental cuts, it is always of the highest style level. extremely french, extremely feminine, extremely wearable, and extremely soulful.

it takes a certain kind of class and sublime intellect to head france's most beloved house. a trait devoid from tom ford's in your face approach to his designs, but abundantly overflowing in stefano pilati. like his contemporaries ghesquiere at balanciaga, and elbaz and lanvin, pilati also has enormous respect and humility being the creative director at such a luminous fashion establishment. after all, he is filling the footsteps of the designer who undoubtedbly had the most impact on the way women have dressed for the last part of the twentieth century. and how does pilati achieve such a tremendous task season after season? like saint laurent, they seem to have an inate talent to understand the hightest level a woman can be, and at the same time, make women realize it too. after all, pilati was one of the first to introduce the idea of volume in his early collections when everyone else was heading towards the slim as you can get silhouette at the other end of the fashion spectrum. his experimentations with volume continues with probably his best executed collection in the history of his tenure at the house. apart from the voluminous, couture inspired cuts so prevalent in this collection, pilati is continuing to prove everyone that he is a master of making women look extremely sexy in pants with his continuous reinterpretation of saint launrent's infamous "le smoking". however, pilati isn't just one to rest on the icons saint laurent invented. there is also that extremely intellectual approach to his work and it seeps out of every fabric, every cut, every look that comes out on the runway. opinionated, but composed. luxurious, but understated. sexy, but not vulgar. saint laurent, but in the loving hands of pilati.

while most of the fashion world almost had a heart attack when the revered house of rochas, after gaining unanimous praise for the romantic vision of its new designer olivier theyskens, was unceremoniously and ubruptly shut down by its parent company, another venerated house, nina ricci, found its next sucessor. i must admit, this collection did feel like it was threading too close to rick owens' aesthetic, but the more i look at it, the more i see the common thread, and the opposite vision. while owens' work is grounded on living in the concrete jungle, theyskens' approach veers towards a more fairy tale like quality. which explains the influence of the beloved children's story "swan lake" and probably the most ingenious hair and makeup execution during the whole of fashion week with those feathers sewn into the models hair. while theyskens' approach to rochas felt a bit more severe with all the victorian references with the high collars and long, almost strict silhouette, nina ricci was more free, it flowed like water with all the drapping and twisting of the fabric around the body. and no one can argue that with this collection, the young belgian showed promise in dressing women before dinner time. there were plenty of options here for the workplace. and although olivier might be living in his own shadow with his work at rochas, time will tell if eventually his shadow at nina ricci will eclipse his previous body of work. however nobody thought that the same young man who dressed madonna a decade earlier with the most gothic looks can end up being one of the biggest influencers ten years later. all we can do is sit and wait till his next collection and we'll probably only then realize where he was going.

the house of givenchy has been a revolving door for the "new" designer to watch. first was galliano's year long stint, followed by mcqueen's up and down period at the house, then by julien macdonald's critically hated phase. when ricardo tisci first took over the reigns of maison givenchy, it appeared he was to suffer the same fate of the designer right before him. however how many accolades he accumulated from his own collection that was only two season in, the critics were far from enthused by his givenchy premiere. but season after season his vision for the house started becoming clearer and clearer. the shows have been more focused, more organic and more dramatic. hubert givenchy, like monsieur dior, were great romanticists. after all, givenchy was the one who dressed the iconic audrey hepburn in probably the most iconic fashion movie of all time "breakfast at tiffany's", so tisci had some big shoes to fill. one thing he does share with the person who the house is named after is their grandiose fantasies. while mr. givenchy's fantasies fitted perfectly with the optimism of post war 1950s, tisci's romantic vision is fed by a more pessimistic, dark time of wars which was clearly reflected with a sombre, almost heavy collection. almost victorian in a way that both our time and the victorian era were times of uncertainty. uncertain towards a new century, and uncertain about the new millenium. but tisci offers a glimmer of hope by sending out airy pink dresses that maybe he wants to remind us that however sharp and severe our times are, our hopes, our romantic hopes, cuts the blackness with the sweetest of color.

the quiet belgian house has been flying under the radar for a while now. an insider favorite amongst the fashion intellects, this season hackermann glammed it up a bit. although the asymetric cuts typical of the belgian designers were also prevailent with this collection, what was different with his take on it was that it was more polished. there were no unfinished edges here. there wasn't a sense of disheveled, it was more put together. even with the more foward thinking pieces, it was rich, ageless, a modern take on classic sophistication. although the palette stuck through the regular fall colours of dark neutrals and rich deep colours, he also injected it with the brightest of blues and pieces of metallics to liven up the collection. given the rich details and silhouettes, he intentionally muted the rest of the presentation. there were no accesories, elaborate hair and makeup. it was kept simple and unfussy, letting the clothes stand out in all their beautiful glory.

in recent years fashion week in new york seems to be a clash of two very different perspectives. the high society, decadent school of well established brands like oscar de la renta, to new schoolers costello tagliapietra and zac posen against the brooding, heavily urban image of downtown institutions such as daryl k and marc jacobs. two totally opposing aesthetic that can only work in a city like new york. the magic of this city is the designers' understanding of the woman who lives in that little island. as opposite the designers designs, presentation, and even styling are, it ultimately comes down to the individual pieces sent down the runway that is no nonesense, immensely understandable clothes that new york working women can manoeuver in around the fast pace, high energy city that never sleeps.

after last season dissapointing spring/summer collection, francisco costa returned to form with his fall/winter collection. channeling calvin klein's defining late '90s collections, he revisited the silhouette that made calvin klein synonymous with the stark, severe minimalism that defined the decade. and in a season where so many ideas were fighting to make its mark in the first decade of the 21st century, he did it by reinterpreting what made houses like klein and prada pioneers of the late 20th century. it was all there. the knee lenght skirt, the sombre colours, the austere lines, the "double breasted" jacket and the clean styling. this collection reminded me of klein's fall/winter collection of '96 after the summer olympian games. what was absent with the graphic high performance cutouts and graphic colour blocking was replaced with the cocoon enveloping funnel necks in the coats and jackets and a controlled sense of volume. and instead of kate moss and carolyn murphy, it was natalia vodianova and sasha pivovarova. projecting the house into yet another decade of relevance.

okay the 80's references has been played to death for the past few years now. honestly i don't really want to see anymore "flashdance" references with the off the shoulder, bat sleeve silhouette. however using run-dmc and photographs of jamal shabazz's early 80s flygirls and b-boys as a source of inspiration is a breath of fresh air to the new york collections. this felt more brooklyn than upper east side which most new york designers cater their collections to. the brilliance of this collection is using mundane pieces of clothing like the sweatshirt but using luxurious fabrics and a defyning cut that moves around the body like a bias cut dress. and amongst all the gold link chain necklaces and baseball hats were pieces that are on point with the trends coming out this season. the high waisted full leg trouser, the alai-esque short aline skirt with a nipped waistline, and the loose top/skinny leg form thats has become ubiquitous everywhere. pretty darn impressive for someone only 23 years of age.

a couple of years ago marc jacobs sent down one of his most controversial collections. it wasn't controversial because it had blatant sexuality, sensitive theme, or any political point of view. it provoked because in a time when the idea of lady-like, neo-conservatism prevailed on most of the catwalks, he sent down a dreamy, voluminous, sombre, and abundantly layered collection that challenged and directed a new idea of beauty. an idea that has trickled from high end to high street. as evident to all the baby doll, dropped sleeve coats and haphazard layering seen on mannequins at suburban malls. and although marc is one of those designers who continues to nurture the vision he instigates, he is also one of those designers to all of a sudden do a 180. this season, he did exactly that. gone where the volume, the fairy tale mood, and bag lady, super layered woman. she has now been replaced by the streamlined, graphic, art deco woman of the 1930s. a decade thats been highly influencial this season with references to poiret seen basically everywhere. what i found almost perplexing is that this collection would've been the archetypal louis vuitton collection. it felt almost too obviously luxurious. too correct. too chic almost. but i guess it was part of his 180 degree turn. and his element of suprise is one of those reasons why we're still glued on him.

there is probably no one else that shows during new york fashion week that represents downtown new york more so than daryl k. for over a decade she has been the go to girl for downtown girls who prefers hanging around the lower east side as opposed to the upper east side. her silhouettes are almost always the same, tight. but this season she also experimented with volume for the top half of the body. she also played with fabric. much intriguing is her use of shiny techno fabrics that contrasted well to the matte fibres she put them up against. and the end result, as expected, pure urban and quintessentially new york. a look that has now become the staple of young urbanites all over the world. and you should thank daryl k for that.

in milan fashion is business. it is the place where you won't see the fantastical whimsy in paris, the avant garde of london, or the hyper conceptual ideas in tokyo. what is presented here are clothes that will sell and for the international buyers and the press not get tired of seeing clothes that are made to function, the designers are therefore made to compensate for what it lacks and other cities have. fabric for one, is key in this city. and it is home to some of the industries most foward inovators. prada and jill sander are just two that comes to mind. milan is also the city where designers that show in other cities produces their garments, because when it comes to technical abilities, no one knows quality better than the italians.

for the past decade, miucca prada's signature line has been the bar to which every collection is measured up against. the conceptual stew prada presents each season is, for fashion editors and buyers, the hardest crossword puzzle they would have to solve till her next collection. at first glance, the designs appear to be simple enough to understand, but on closer inspection the question "why" appears all over the place. the "why" being, "why did she decide to go to that direction". and the answer season after season is that she's always ahead of the game, so the direction that she ventures to is the direction most will follow the next collections. and when that time comes, she's already somewhere else. the 90's reference has been everywhere this season, however, there seems to be dynamic difference to how its represented. some designers go for the early 90s flashy, over the top look, and some opts for the restrained, almost severe minimalism of the late 90s that prada herself pioneered. there were very strong 90s elements to this collection, particularly the knee lenght, the one that just grazes the knee. a lenght that prada, along with calvin klein first showed during the fall/winter 93-94 collection when everyone else was showing a-line miniskirts. it instantly became the ripple that triggered the 90s look. and here she showed it again, but this time using a sense of the savage she's been toying with since last fall/winter. she also visited some of the colours from her 90s collection. particularly the muted, 70s color pallete and colour blocked it in the almost same ombre finish she experimented with a few seasons ago, but this time gone were its over decorated, lady like elements. this is for women who are assertive, beautiful, savage in a sense that they know what they want, and they will get it. and who better to dress them than the woman who not only knows what she wants, but she gets everyone else wanting the same thing.

once again christopher bailey reinterprets burberry's trademarks with one of his strongest collections ever for the house. the once staid house has been rescued from the realm of duty free airport shops by bailey's knack for reinvention. in bailey's adept hands, everything in the burberry vocabulary is modernized. from its heritage of blue blooded sports like hunting, and to a darker episode in its history when it was commisioned to make garments for british soldiers during the first world war. and it resulted in producing the company's second most iconic symbol (second only to the infamous plaid), the trench coat. this season the coats have been transformed to quilted leather armour like jackets. the warrior element further accented by richly detailed, quilted leather gauntlets that looks just as ready to hold a lance as to carry, surely, some of this seasons most covetable bags. there was a new sense of spirit with this collection. something darker, and harder that was not absent from his previous shows, but definately not the main focus. although there were hints of the hard rock and roll life with the slim silhouettes he's shown in previous seasons, here it was up front. from the make-up, the hair, the styling, and the attitude of the girls down the runway. it represented the other side of england, the rebellious side. presumably the england that influences bailey himself. but this being a company that he works for, he has to show homage and respect to the history of the house that writes his cheques. and this is why it works. you have a company basically rescued from banality by a young man who takes his job seriously and who has the ability to exercise his creativity without compromising the spirit of the house. rosemarie bravo should be thanking her lucky stars she's got him on board.

regardless of all the versace influence spilling out into the runways this season, there is still only one versace. donatella continues the momentum she's been riding on for the past couple of years since her own, highly publicized battles and subsequent triumphs with another extremely strong collection. for a while after gianni's death, donatella struggled to maintain the level of success that her brother worked his whole life for. although donatella herself is a gifted designer, it felt that her old collections were coming from a place where she thought the house should be, instead of trusting her own womanly instincts on what women want to wear. so she regrouped, hired a new business manager to the house and now she's creating clothes that women dream off. gone are the ornate elaborations and has been replaced by probably the best cut pants in milan, luxurious furs, and replaced the old versace multi colored scarf prints with one striking color such as the electric blue that creates more impact that those gaudy scarf prints. however there are some old habits that are hard to break, and thankfully so. the show closed with the highlite of every versace show, those drop dead sexy evening wear that has now replaced the opulent almost secretly vulgar woman of the decade past, by a softer, yet extremely more confident woman who knows the importance of the power of seduction. and versace is her costume.

a round of applause is greatly deserved to those in charge who has finally realized that replacing iconic designers with celebrity designers is not the right way to go. and the prada group deserves a standing ovation for putting raf simons in charge of the house with one of the most loyal customer base. this is a house who doesn't rely on celebrity endorsements and "it" accesories for its bussiness. almost 70% of sales from the house is made through its clothes. a rare achievement nowadays granting the public's insatiable appetite for the next new thing. which is probably why the young belgian is so well suited for this position. his interest isn't about the next new thing. his is an idea of evolving the brand and himself in it. jill sander has always been a house known for its innovative fabric technology. along with helmut lang and prada, jill sander was one of the first to use synthetic fabrics with natural ones during the 90s. and fabric is still raf simons most important focus for the house. but a brand cant stay afloat on its fabrics alone. consumers today also needs clothes that are reliable, but fashion current at the same time. the brilliance of raf is that there is probably no one else right now doing minimalism as strong as he has been. his every single presentation for jill sander, both men's and women's, has been extremely muted. no accesories, no loud makeup, no elaborate stage sets. and it's because there aren't any of those distractions, the clothes becomes the focus. the severity of its minimalist cuts and shapes, contrasted to his suprisingly use of color, and as evident with this season, a lighter, deft hand was at work. there was willowy dresses so light and diaphonous they seemed to dance around the models. it is with those suprises, that raf continues his evolution and keeps the rest of the world intrigued.

the brand which first started out as a fur based brand has catapulted to one of the most original fashion houses without the aid of advertising, celebrity endorsments, or theatrical fashion shows. it has achieved it's success through word of mouth alone by some of the most devoted customers around. consuelo castiglioni knows her customers. she understands what products to produce to make them salivate. her strenght lies in her original, all herself quirkiness. this is the woman who along with phoebe philo and miucca prada popularized folk art inspired jewelry, enormously slouchy bags, inventive colour blocking, and basically all the offbeat pieces sold at all the highstreet store. what differs her from miucca and phoebe is that the pieces she makes feels like it is special only between it and the one wearing it. maybe its because consuelo herself is such and individual character, devoid of all pretention and overt intellectualization, women are drawn to her sincerity, which translates to her clothes. they are easy, gracious in the movement, luxurious fabrication (after all marni did start out as a fur based brand, hence the brilliant fur mittens), and extremely feminine. this brand is a text book case of a house that knows how to develop its signature and evolve it season after season without losing its old customers, but gaining one continuosly.

photos: style.com