Tuesday, December 16, 2008

burberry's romantic garden of earthly delights

i've always loved and respected what christopher bailey has been able to accomplish at the house of burberry. its not easy to carry over a hundred and fifty years of tradition on a thirty seven year old shoulder. especially when the task he faced was not only to modernize the house's trademark accessories out of the duty free shop territory, but to also broaden the house's profile that would also include high-end ready to wear.
brilliantly he started off using the iconic visual trademarks of the house such as its infamous plaid and the classic trench coat as the starting point in his quest to reincarnate the brand into a commercial powerhouse. one that would seduce new consumers but at the same time not alienate the robust history of the brand. he managed to accomplish that by giving all of his collection a quintessentially english identity. whether it referenced ideas as diverse as london new wave, post war british "making do" approach to dressing, punk, the bloomsbury group, princess margaret, the swinging sixties, military touches that are perennially ubiquitous at the house, or the english countryside, bailey has managed to subvert and celebrate the essence of the house at the same time. and the thread he used to tie it all up was a sense of romance. a very english sense romance.
it is a romance that could be as joyful and almost comedic as the tension between elizabeth bennet and mr. darcy one season, and the next be as heart wrenching as the love affair between jane eyre and edward fairfax rochester. followed next season with a feeling like a nostalgic memory of youth in dickensinian proportions. or it could be something as pure as the soulfulness found in melancholy. despite such emotional overtones, bailey never once abandons the intellectualism that gives his collections a rhyme and a reason. he manages to have sense of rationality to balance the poignancy of the story he is trying to narrate through his clothes.
the romantic sensation the clothes inherently exudes are heightened even more by the show's soundtrack. for spring/summer 2009 which was inspired by english gardens and a continuing theme from his menswear show that referenced the sombre landscapes depicted by artist derek jarman, bailey opened the show to ambrose slade's "if this world were mine". a song about longing for love that cemented the mood of melancholic sensuality he was aiming for.

despite such heavy feelings brought about by some of his presentations, what bailey is trying to achieve is to provoke something out of the audience, and hopefully and eventually to the consumers. to instigate a connection between garment and its potential owner. clothes might just be things that we put on for a reason as basic as modesty or as complex as trying to find a mate. but the clothes we end up developing a close affinity for are the ones that has lived with us. the clothes that has gone through many of our experiences. from burgeoning romances to heartbreaks, or the first designer piece we saved six paycheques for, there are always clothes we would never throw away because its become part of what we use to identify who we are.
that is probably the reason why bailey's clothes always looks worn in. finished to look like something that has been lived in. but done in luxurious finishings and fabrics with the highest level of craftsmanship to ensure that although it was made to give the impression of being old, is made to last for a long time. coats were given the ombre effect at the edges giving it that appearance of being caught in the rain. shirts, trousers, and jackets wrinkled to give it some life. and coats made out of washed python skin with distressed floral applique that never screams the opulence of its fabrication, but makes a quiet statement with its almost humbling charm to be inconspicuous despite its expensive price tag.
the romance and the job might not last, and our youth is definitely not forever, but at least we know a burberry trench will always protect us from the rain. and just like our favorite pair of jeans, it only gets better with age. regardless of how ripped up it is. just like us i reckon.

p.s. yes i am extremely aware that this post is hella cheese. but i don't care.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

aurel schmidt

maybe its the just concluded art basel in miami, or louis vuitton celebrating the work of the late stephen sprouse, or my recent entry on keith haring, or my roomate's scattered drawings all over the living room, or the spectacular reincarnation of interview magazine and its current art issue with the divine cate blanchett on the cover, or all of the above plus more. lately it just seems like art is everywhere again and its been getting massive amounts of attention. not that it really left, but it hasn't really enjoyed this much buzz since the eighties. and some of that attention owes a debt to fashion with all the high profile collaborations that made household names of takashi murakami and richard prince. heck even donatella versace jumped into the collabo bandwagon by working with dutch collage artist tim roelofs for her fall/winter 08 collection. considering the amount of media attention fashion shows receive because of the world's current fascination with celebrity culture who occupies half the front row and can almost be blamed for the proliferation of counterfeit goods for the public hungry to emulate those stars, there are millions of people out there with fake stephen sprouse or murakami vuitton bags walking around acting as free publicity for art and its artists. why the sudden interest of something as banal as fashion to associate itself with art? perhaps its fashion's insecurity as being looked at as merely a craft compared to art that triggered this phenomenon. i mean if you can't be one of them, then just be a hanger on to it as much as you can. or maybe not.
fashion or not, one thing is certain, that there is suddenly a huge wave of young artists that are not only getting attention because of their ability to shock the establishment, but also because to put it plainly, they're pretty fuckin' brilliant and insanely original. and while fashion might've played a part in redirecting some of the attention back to the art world, ultimately its the artists that are responsible for maintaining some of that shine. and in my own personal humble opinion, artist aurel schmidt is for me personally one that shines the most.
i'm no qualified art critic or anything but i know what i like, and i dig aurel's work. its kinda dirty, kinda thrashy, downright weird and spooky, but done with the wispiest, most delicate lines from a pencil. its fucking ridiculous!! plus her collages she did with burnt paper makes me super excited and inspires me to be make stuff (only in my head because i have tons of ideas and no follow through). it reminds me of some of my other personal favorites like egon schiele. there's something dark about it, but its arrestingly, and hauntingly beautiful. you feel the work that's been put in and that's what really speaks to me. its easy to feel a piece if you can see the passion the artist poured in. plus she's canadian so i gotta show some love to that and some pride that one of us actually got out of this frozen tundra and found her way in new york city where she is now based. i'm just now imagining how insanely dope it would be if one day she ends up doing a collaboration with someone like alexander mcqueen. that shit would be so fucking off the chain.

for more information on homegirl you can click here, or here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

keith haring and fashion

keith haring and vivienne westwood

while old school writers and graffiti purists would be the first to argue that eighties pop artist/icon, the late keith haring as not being a graffiti writer in the truest and most technical sense, none of them would argue the profound influence graffiti culture had in contributing to the enormous success of haring, nor how he helped give graffiti a credibility as an art form that has enabled it to share wall space with some of the most influential artists in galleries around the world.
an offshoot of the burgeoning hip hop culture that emerged in the inner cities of new york city in the late seventies, graffiti was the visual language that youths from urban centers used as a form of expression. for them who did not have the means to have their art viewed by the public in galleries, the most efficient way for their work to be seen was by illegally painting the entire length of a subway train (burners being the term phrased for the act). guaranteeing these artists maximum exposure for their work. soon after everyone in new york city was suddenly questioning who dondi, daze, cos207, or zephyr was. giving these inner city kids a notoriety but not being able to capitalize on it and segregated to the realms of ghetto celebrities.
new york city in the early eighties had one of the most exciting art scenes in the world. it was in this era that artists like haring or jean-michele basquiat, both who were profoundly influenced by graffiti, started gaining a lot of attention. haring's pop art sensibility with his attention to the relationship of lines and graphic imagery made famous by his radiant baby, soon made him the darling of the art world. and since his work evoked such a positive response, it wouldn't be long until the rest of the world would fall under his charm. painting murals all over the globe and being commissioned by brands as diverse as swatch watch and absolute vodka. in 1983 he became part of fashion history when he collaborated with vivienne westwood for her now legendary "witches" collection.
vivienne westwood's "witches" collection is regarded by many as one of the most ground breaking collections of the twentieth century. it marked a new path for westwood for it would be the final time she would collaborate with long time partner malcolm mclaren and her first time showing in paris. it was her first real declaration of her departure to the punk aesthetic but without abandoning that punk d.i.y. attitude. she continued her exploration of mixing cultural references she explored a year earlier with her nostalgia of mud collections, but now westwood ventured into a darker, more pagan and primitive side and used haring's aztec influenced fabric design for what she described as "a magical, esoteric sign language". the resulting collection was a parade of oversized jackets, deconstructed knitwear, menswear inspired fabrics and suiting, and a somewhat eratic and spastic movement inspired by the rhythm of rap music mixed in with a traditional sartorial nod to english eccentricity and westwood's own anti-establishment sensibility. the witches collection would mark the time when westwood was seen as a legitimate force in fashion that had the ability to dictate its next direction. no loger was she secluded to the realm of merely a streetwear designer, but as an artist who had an thorough understanding of couture techniques and something that has proven to be one of westwood's most potent arsenal, an deep understanding of history and how to interpret the past into a modern vocabulary. even after twenty five years, the experimentation and the unrelenting force westwood displayed with this landmark collection still continues to be highly influential and the legendary talents of haring still manages to inspire some of today's most avant garde designers from alexander mcqueen to jeremy scott. proving once again the timeless quality great talent and an individual point of view possesses.

haring's omnipresent influence

acne paper #7

acne paper: autumn/winter 2008
photography: daniel jackson
models: guinevere van seenus, boris kolesnikov

this is without a doubt in my top five favorite editorials of 2008. this shit is fucking ridiculous. but then what else do you expect from one of the most directional and interesting magazine out there. leave it to those scandinavians and all their design superiority to come out with one of the most cohesive spreads of the year. yes there is a lot of nudity (which is why i just linked the site that has the whole thing rather than put it here) and you might think what does nudity have to do with fashion. well everything really. i mean we dress up to cover our naked bodies, but at the same time we make sure that what we put on accentuates what we're trying to cover as much as we can. or at least use clothes as an tool to give the illusion of having a better body underneath. what i really dig about this is that there is a severity and almost pristine coldness in the pictures that had references to pre-raphelite and religious iconographies, the works of jean auguste dominique ingres and jean vermeer, victorian portraiture, but held together by the juxtaposition of using the works from some of fashion's most contemporary avant garde designers such as junya watanabe. there is so much intellect and concept behind this idea that in many ways exemplifies the scandanavian approach to their visual language. its meticulous in its development but the end result is clean and appears effortless. i can't wait to see this magazine face to face and make out with it in my head.

Monday, December 8, 2008

the economics of beauty

with the countries around the world on the verge of panic of gargantuan proportions brought about by an economy within a knife edge of a recession, it will without a doubt have a profound influence on the spending habits of consumers who will not be as confident in shelling out their hard earned money as they have been for the past few years. if in a few months and the economy has still not been stimulated, every industry, retail and fashion included, will be bracing for an upper-cut to the jaw inducing knock out.
there are already speculations that come march when designers debut their collections for autumn/winter 2009 that the general mood will be that of restraint and sobriety. the focus on timeless pieces will be more apparent and displays of opulence and imagination induced indulgence will be few and far between. who can fault designers of multi-million dollar houses of not tickling their fancy when people aren't willing to spend on trend driven ideas when everything they buy has to be worth each and every penny plus have longevity to weather the storm? whether that eventually becomes the case is anybody's guess. while it is certain that certain designers will go that route, other designers like elsa schiaparelli during the great depression or versace in the early nineties can see it as an opportunity to lavish on their ideas and provide some unabashed beauty in a gray, sombre world. regardless of which direction they veer towards, they need a face to represent it.
looking back at the last period of recession that occurred during the beginning of the nineties and the unavoidable one ahead, it appears that in times of economic strain, the modeling industry shifts towards a classic, and text book definition of beauty to show potential clients girls that are more easily understandable and be able to promote their products to a wider set of audiences. because regardless of which way the economy swings, the most effective vehicle to sell a product is through beauty.

the recession of the 1990-1991 has been building up since stock markets around the world crashed on october 19, 1987. a day which will forever be remembered as "black monday". while the economy appeared to have quickly recovered from that event, in actually it planted seeds that would eventually, along with other factors such as the gulf war and the resulting spike in oil prices, contribute to the recession a few years later that saw unemployment rates soar, slowed the GDP (gross domestic product) growth, and a mounting government deficit. with such a strained economy, it seemed hardly the time for fashion's first celebrity designer since poiret to gain enormous popularity. or for a handful of genetically blessed girls to command millions of dollars for their work during a time when every dollar spent was given the utmost consideration.
gianni versace was known for his exuberant designs and opulent lifestyle. a lifestyle that reflected his work that gave his designs a vivacity and glamour that added a bolt of raw energy to a fashion calendar filled with restrain and sobriety. his unabashed and unapologetic take on fashion that referenced traditional italian craftmanship, baroque and modern art culminated into over the top clothes that had such a raw sexuality amidst a sea of modesty made versace increasingly popular. his work fulfilled fashion's fundamental purpose, to provide a sense of fantasy. a fantasy that wasn't being delivered by other designers during a time when it was needed the most. to further augment the potency of his larger than life vision, versace needed a vehicle to convey fluently his message. not satisfied with the models who at that time were specifically runway models, versace started hiring top models who worked primarily on print and paying them top dollars to appear at his shows. in effect versace is widely credited for instigating the supermodel phenomenon.
while there have been many models in the past whose popularity went beyond the fashion world like twiggy and verushka in the sixties, or pat cleveland and christie brinkley in the seventies, no one has ever been able to command the astronomical fees the supermodels of the early nineties did. it's even been rumoured that versace paid christy turlington a staggering $30,000 for a single runway appearance. quite nonsensical considering the economic environment at that time. so how was it possible for girls like cindy, linda, naomi, claudia, or christy, models that the general public now know on a first name basis, been able to command such high fees for what appears to be frivolous work? is them being beautiful simply the answer? considering that only about a minute percentage of the population have the basic requirements to be a high fashion model, and in that extremely small group to pick out the most beautiful amongst the beautiful, and then narrowed down even further to the girls with the best personality, the most photogenic, the best walkers, the most professional, and with that intangible "it" factor, then you have girls who are highly specialized and extremely good at what they are paid to do. and considering that it is their face that is able to push millions of products with billions of dollars in revenue, it seems logical for cindy crawford to be paid $3 million dollars for twenty days work when she was the face of revlon. even when times are rough, no woman would ever be willing to sacrifice their beauty.
and it is specifically because of those hard times why the supermodels were so successful. their beauty wasn't confrontational, or questionable. it was classic, universal, and aspirational. many likened them to the stars of the silver screen in the thirties. the time of the greatest economic strain, the great depression. these supermodels were the glamorous screen stars of that time. people wanted to see their perfection because everything else wasn't. their beauty was an escape, a fleeting fantasy that provided some respite to reality. casting directors who handled multi-million campaigns understood that and used these supermodels to represent their brand because they knew that their beauty was risk free. it could be appreciated just as much as a mother of two in suburbian iowa, or a cosmopolitan woman working in new york city.
as the economy started to recover and fashion was moving towards a more reality based sensibility, a new breed of models were beginning to share the catwalks with the supermodels. these new crop of girls weren't stereotypically "beautiful". the catwalk, which was once ruled by towering glamazons with perfect bodies now had another resident. at a mere 5'7 and weighing less than a hundred pounds, kate moss would challenge our perception of beauty and eventually become the unlikely poster girl of the nineties.
the initial success of kate moss was her timing. she crystalized the general mood of that year. it was 1992 and not only was fashion shifting towards another direction it was also a time when american economist alan greenspan defined the moment as a time of "economic exuberance". the economy was finally on the rise and it was time to get back to work and reality and people were too pre-occupied to busy themselves daydreaming about versace's fantasy ball gowns. when reality finally seems optimistic and there is money to spend and even take a risk with, that also has a huge influence on fashion. while kate was initially condemned for representing an unhealthy body image, casting agents used her resulting notoriety and landed her a multi-million dollar ad campaign for calvin klein. something that would have been deemed way too risky to even contemplate just a year earlier. it was a risk that eventually paid off and the revenue brought about by kate's scandalous campaign earned calvin klein hundreds of millions in revenue. kate was a risk that paid off in spades. it is because of her unconventional beauty in a time of prosperity that paved the way for models like guinevere van seenus, audrey marnay, alek wek, and esther de jong. girls who are not considered to be classically beautiful, but would eventually go on and represent other multi-million dollar campaigns and defined what it meant to be beautiful in the nineties.

its been almost twenty years since the world plunged into such troubled economy as it did during the recession of the early nineties. while there have been many mini-recessionary periods, it did not have the impact as the recession of 1990-1991. all that is about to change come next year when the world is bracing for what would be one of the worst economic crises of recent time.
does this mean then that the modeling industry is about to undergo another change? a direction that would see the classical ideal brought to the forefront? perhaps it has already started. while it might not be entirely brought about by the economy that would be responsible for the pendulum swinging the other direction, it is unarguable that it does play a major factor. again, this is not the climate to be taking multi-million dollar risks on models that might not have the most universal appeal. an appeal that goes beyond those who regularly check the rankings on models.com or pay attention to who lands on the cover of the most recent vogue italia. it needs to be a face that appeals both to the fashion conscious, and the general public. and the world was given a preview on who those new faces are during the most recent spring/summer 2009 collections where there was an obvious lack of directional girls but prolific debuts of simply beautiful, pristine girls.
the further proof that the modeling industry is heading towards a more classic definition is when fashion's most consistently influential seer, miuccia prada, known for her irreverent choice of the prada woman that launched the careers of unconventional beauties gemma ward, hannelore knuts, querelle jensen, and sasha pivovarova, did a complete 180 and cast her spring/summer 2009 collection with a bevy of beauties that because of their classicism was able to provoke the same caught off guard reactions when she chose unorthodox models. this should have came as hardly a surprise considering she chose the most iconic of all models, linda evangelista to star on the autumn/winter ad campaign.
perhaps the choice of mega luxury brands to suddenly become nostalgic for things past started when marc jacobs cast supermodels of the nineties for the spring/summer 2008 ad campaign for louis vuitton that starred naomi capbell, stephanie seymore, claudi schiffer, eva herzigova, angela lindvall, and natalia vodianova. by autumn linda had nabbed prada, naomi bagged yves saint laurent, christy turlington starred in escada, and claudia schiffer had chanel. this sudden interest in a supermodel revival has seen "retired" models appear on some of the most important catwalks this season. jamie bochert and emma balfour walked marc jacobs. ana cladia michels who was part of the wave of brazilian bombshells that dominated the early two thousands (another recessionary period) opened givenchy where she shared the runway with another old time favorite frankie rayder and come back girl of the season anne vyalitsyna. even dsquared hired nineties supermodel and azzedine alaia favorite nadege to walk their show. after so many years of seeing girls that acquired a lot of hype only to quickly fizzle out the following season, the craving for someone who is able to stand the test of time and at the same time be able to push products because of their familiarity or straightforward beauty is proving to be the safest bet in the upcoming economic crises.

ash stymest

a couple of the weeks ago i was at my internship and we got into talking about male models and everyone else at the agency absolutely loves matt loewen and i on the other hand when questioned who my current favorites were i replied by saying something like "um i actually like the really young boys like lasse pedersen and ash stymest (16 and 17 years old respectively)". and then i suddenly realized that i sounded like a pervy old man i quickly added "but matthew avedon is my all time fave", which by the way is the truth. but i've always preferred models who aren't "classic" models. of course i won't deny the fact that matt loewen's lips are uber delicious looking, but i would rather hang out and drink pints with ash because he seems more fun and i like people who like to get crunk and disorderly. the first time i saw ash on the pages of i-d magazine i knew that this kid was gonna blow up. and next thing you know he landed on the cover of the very first issue of vogues homme japan shot by no other than one of the most influential prophets of current youth culture hedi slimane and styled by uber stylist nicola formichetti. ever since then he's become somewhat of a monthly regular at dazed and confused and even walked for the very first balenciaga menswear show presented with the houses highly influential womenswear line back in september. it hasn't even been a year since ash started working in the industry and he's already landed campaigns for top shop and silas, has built a book other models who's been industry much longer would kill for, and is part of the new breed of male models like josh beech, cole mohr, and luke worral that are embodying the urgency and excitement of being a young man in the dawn of the new century. with him recently landing in new york and its huge market, with girl friend and fellow model eliza right by his side, i'm looking forward to seeing the beautiful results of young love and the big apple will have on him.

Friday, December 5, 2008

chanel - m├ętiers d'art: paris - moscou

twice a year karl lagerfeld marries chanel's parisienne chic with a specific destination's visual language. for his latest metiers d'art collection, lagerfeld took the house of chanel to moscow. delving into the moscovite history of traditional russian costume and folklore, the byzantine era, communist uniform, the ballet russes, and constructivism, lagerfeld used them as an inspirational launching board to showcase the decorative arts of some of france's most renowned embroidery, millinery, cobblers, silversmiths, feather, and jewelry ateliers that the house purchased to ensure the survival of the dying art of the couture passementerie. russia has always seduced designers. from yves saint laurent to jean paul gaultier, the allure of russian iconography is such a potent image that has the ability to enrapture anyone's imagination. in lagerfeld's hand, one of fashion's most competent alchemist, he was able to translate traditional french decoration into a russian vernacular that, asides from the elaborate head dresses, never verged too close on being costumey. opening the collection with a group of sharply tailored black suits and dresses that was obviously inspired by the severity and angular sharpness of russian constructivism, he organically evolved the collection into an exploration of all the elements that people closely associate with russia. the craftsmanship the house displayed was breathtaking. surprising even because considering that in a month from now the house presents its actual haute couture collection. surprising because in a few weeks the detail and laborious work involved with the haute couture collection actually becomes even more elaborate and intricate. which does not mean that the metier d'art collection as being merely sloppy seconds. it actually serves as a precursor to showcase the high level of craftsmanship the house is capable of. although it might seem incongruous with the world heading into a recession that idea of producing a demi-couture collection seems a bit insane, but for the extremely few who has the luxury of being able to afford some of these pieces, who can say no when you are presented with beauty on this caliber?

photo: style.com

Thursday, December 4, 2008

royal academy of fine arts graduate show

i've always ranted about how incredibly lame the fashion industry is here in toronto. toronto fashion week is lame. ninety five percent of the designers who shows during toronto fashion week are lame. the people in the toronto fashion industry are almost all lame. and even though ryerson has produced such amazing designers such as jeremy laing, erdem moralioglu, and todd lynn, to put it bluntly, their annual graduate show is ridiculously lame. embarrassing even. let's face facts, canada in general doesn't support or nurture its artists' creativity. here its all about commerce and trend fucking because heaven forbid that people from other countries would look at them as not keeping up with global trends rather than being an individual or creative. perhaps ryerson should start looking at belgium's royal academy of fine arts as an inspiration on how to effectively run a program that can produce some of the most influential designers in the world but doing it in a way that is extremely sensitive to each individual designers point of view. in a world that is continuously shrinking, an individual voice with its own point of view becomes louder and louder and its resonance is felt by a wider audience. and even though some of the collections you are about to see are from first, second, and third year students, some of those collections was able to produce some of the strongest reactions i've had from ANY fashion show i've seen in a long time. and i would even go as far as ranking antonin tron and glenn martens' graduate collection as two of my top ten collections of 2008. i hope you guys and dolls enjoy this shit as much as i did because i'm fucking sure that one of these dudes is going to be the next margiela or van noten.

FIRST YEAR: skirt, dress, experiment (frame)

the first year collection was divided into three parts. using the dress, the skirt, and frames as the basis for inspiration, students were challenged into taking such a basic idea and developing and stretching it to its limits. an exercise that forces the students to confront traditional notions of fashion and interpret it in a way that is personal, conceptual and in a way that demands the student to invent new levels of technique to achieve their goal. if only all basic 101 classes started off like this then just imagine how less generic the world could be. which totally explains why toronto well canada in general is suffering from an advanced state of bandwagon jumping syndrome.

SECOND YEAR: historical costumes and collections

THIRD YEAR: ethnic costumes and collections

FOURTH YEAR: graduate collection

i told you guys you would love it. its fascinating how the school is able to develop the talents and personal vision of each designer and be able to integrate the native cultural backgrounds of its students and apply all those diverse factors into a body of work that is innovative with a signature point of view from each designer. there is a passion in the work that is unquestioned and that passion easily communicates the runway presentation to the audience. and from the basic reference of the first year exercise to the historical and ethnic inspirations from the second and third year, it is easy to see those elements utilized by the graduating fourth year class. there is that tension between the romance of the past and culture with the speed and ethnic hybrids of modern life that belgian designers are renowned for. the royal academy, along with schools like central saint martins' fashion program should be emulated by schools around the world so that the designers of the future can inject some much needed individualism back to our lives. i can at least appreciate seeing some dude or gal walking down the street with some fucked-up shit than having to deal with another winter full of ugg boots, suburban emo crap or the new cool thing the hipster kids are into. i really need to move. i'm totally in the wrong continent.

photo: etienne tordoir, catwalking.com