Monday, January 5, 2009

2008: a year in review

first off, my apologies for not posting for the past couple of weeks. the holiday season usually involves loads of drinking and as a consequence, my regular sundays off have been spent like a vegetable in front of the 'puter watching such great hits as willow, thundercats, and the harry potter series. and last week-end, after chowing down some grub at china town in the wee hours of the mornin', my mate accidentally poked my eye and as a result it was hella swollen and was too sensitive to the abrasive glare of the computer screen (and the tele for that matter). but now i am back and although my opinion doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, here are my two cents anyways.
as i was doing my research and watching hours of videos of the past year on youtube and, the one word that was ubiquitous from every major fashion editor's mouth was "optimism". the economy is undoubtedly the most concerning issue of the past year and even though the stock market crash didn't actually happen till the spring/summer 2009 presentations, it has been a topic that has been at the forefront of everyone's mind for quite some time. considering that the fashion industry is one that is based on, for lack of a better word, frivolous pursuits, it would seem to be the obvious industry that would feel the initial brunt of penny pinching consumers. but from couture's ostentatious flights of fancy, to pret-a-porter's sky rocketing price tags, to the towering heights of today's "it" shoes, not only does fashion seem to be challenging the heavy hood of the recession, its doing it through sexed-up, vamped-up, rolled-out, blinged-out, no need to apologize beauty. sometimes at the sake of practicality. but for fashion to turn its back on its real purpose, which is to augment its wearer's beauty, and follow the path of sobriety to match the economic climate is to abandon the service that designers provide. to look at something beautiful, resplendent, and optimistically defiant in these troubled times, even if it is only in a dress.


it's been three years since ricardo tisci has been appointed as the successor at the house built by legendary designer hubert givenchy. a relative unknown when he landed the prestigious job, tisci's ascent as the savior of the venerable house did not fully manifest itself until his watershed collection for fall/winter 2008. inspired by religious south american iconographies, tisci managed to capture the romantic ideal of the label, but infused it with his own gothic sensibility and rock and roll edge. it resulted in one of the most influential collections of the year. spawning countless high street knock-offs and thrusting the young designer as one of the most influential voices in fashion. it might not be a coincidence that religion played such a vital role with this collection. after the house had become somewhat of a revolving door for designers who found it difficult to balance their own vision with the legacy of the house, tisci's gaining confidence is nothing short of divine intervention. he followed his critically lauded womenswear presentation a few months later with his first menswear collection for the house that became one of the most directional collection of the season. proving that not only is he a highly talented designer, but one who is worthy of carrying the givenchy torch. it took a while for tisci to finally find his footing, but the house has seemed to have finally found a rightful heir.


the past year can be remembered as a year when designers took themes and concepts to the extreme. pushing and developing ideas to its limit and in the process forcing us to take a second look at things that we wouldn't normally associate with fashion that has a directional objective. case in point, and the one who is famous for taking the banal into the sublime is miuccia prada. for her fall/winter 2008 collection, prada based her entire collection on lace. a fabric that has no connotations with modernity but in prada's intellectually adept hands, not only did she managed to use a fabric she has no natural affinity for with phenomenal results, she also, as only miuccia knows how, to manage to turn something "ugly" into something desirable. and for the first time in quite a while, prada managed to steal the "most used shoe for a fashion editorial" title from balenciaga with her surreal ruffled leather concoctions whose arabesque lines balanced out the austerity, and razor sharp quality of the clothes. it is her drive to challenge herself by tackling and using things she has no inherent affection for that inevitably challenges our own perception of fashion and eventually she, as always, manages changes our mind.
and in the realm of menswear, belgian designer raf simons is one of the few menswear designer that is really challenging the traditional sartorial rules that has governed the male species for hundreds of years. what is surprising is that he is accomplishing this daunting task by using what has been the cornerstone of the male wardrobe to begin with, tailoring. with this age old tool, simons has managed to give a new form to menswear. taking it not so far away from slimane's still influential silhouette, but defining it. making the lines sharper and stronger and more linear by experimenting with proportions and toying with the idea of a controlled sense of volume. in many ways raf simons brought back the idea of minimalism with his own eponymous label and with his work at jil sander. this however is not like the minimalism of the nineties. it doesn't posses the sterile quality of the previous decade. simons' work is goverened by an intellectual mind rationally at work. where every pattern, every cut is done with surgeon like precision but avoids losing its soul by using the energy of youth as its consumate inspiration.


the issue of race has been one of fashion's not so dirty little secret for years. the lack of representation by models of colour on the major catwalks has been an issue openly addressed by naomi campbell, and model agent bethann hardison. however, for the most part been largely ignored by not only designers, but the editors of top fashion magazines. in july, fashion's most influential monthly bible vogue italia devoted a whole issue entirely to models of african descent all photographed by fashion's top image maker steven meisel. the magazine sold out accross the globe within hours and conde nast promptly hurried to have forty thousand more issued re-printed. finally breaking the long standing belief in magazine publishing that black models on the cover do not push sales. but the real milestone of this landmark issue is not the amount of issues sold, it is at the base about representation. that beauty is not inclusive to sixteen year old eastern european models, or brazilian bombshells, or the american girl next door. the scope that defines beauty is also present in the ebony of alek wek's skin, or in liya kebede's regal air. from beverly johnson becoming the first black woman on the cover of american vogue to this vogue italia edition, models of colour on fashion editorials, runways, and ad campaigns are few and far between. and only time will tell if this watershed edition has any resonance.


while lara stone, and mathias lauridsen aren't exactly new to the modeling world, 2008 did see these two genetically blessed humans seem omnipresent on all the major runways and glossies. lara stone, the dutch sensation who have bewitched everyone from ricardo tisci to carine roitfeld (who is so enamoured by stone that she is dedicating the whole entire february 2009 edition of french vogue to the model) has managed to, with, her more buxom figure, basically bumrush the size zero girls outta the water. with her bleached eyebrow, gap-tooth pout, and her womanly "curves", lara is representing a more healthy ideal body in an industry that has recently come under fire for promoting an unhealthy body image when the standard modeling size has gone down from a size 4 to a size 0. she also has that awkward manner of walking the catwalks that made her a runway sensation. walking on over sixty shows during the last round of collections. with the lara stone edition of french vogue right around the corner, 2009 might just be even bigger for the dutch sex-pot.
mathias first made a name for himself a few years ago when he was personally chosen by jil sander to be the face of the brand when she returned as its creative director. while he was never short of work the following years, 2008 saw him land an extremely lucrative ad for gucci fragrance pour homme, and campaigns for missoni, givenchy, hugo boss, and swedish retail giant h&m. he has also become a regular fixture on directional magazines such as AnOtherMan and v-man and has been parked on the number one position of top male models on for the better part of the year. charismatic and polite, this great dane will go down in history as one of the most successful male model of his generation.


"it" bags has become a plague in the fashion world for the past few years. stealing the spotlight from the actual clothes, these instant status symbols has overshadowed actual collections for their instantly recognizable logos, celebrity associations and highly publicized designer/artist collaborations. the accessory of choice to emerge out of 2008 is one that is fetishized above all others, the shoe. the past year saw the shoe reach almost ridiculously vertiginous heights. whether it came as a platform, a stiletto, or a wedge, the shoes designers sent out the past year could rival any frank gehry monument. perhaps the sudden shift from bags to shoes could simply be explained by people becoming bored of the "it" bag craze. it wasn't bound to last because bags does not carry any sexual overtones. shoes however is a different story. and no matter how high the heels get or how difficult and impractical they would be to walk in, a woman would never sacrifice heels for comfort and risk losing that wink of subverted sexuality.


like the mythical bird who rose from the ashes, andy warhol's once seminal monthly magazine has over the years lost some of its brilliant luster but experienced a triumphant re-birth towards the end of 2008. released at the end of summer, the re-launched edition of interview magazine for september under the new editorial direction of fabien baron and glenn o'brien with a brand new layout, touched on provocative topics that harkened a new golden age for what used to be one of the most influential voices in monthly publication. a renewed focus on the arts, highly conceptual fashion editorials, and a focus on the city and its inhabitants that was integral to the spirit of the magazine has made interview magazine in just a few months suddenly become a power player in the world of visual communication. its only been four issues since the magazine has been relaunched and 2009 will prove to be a banner for this magazine.


okay nicola formichetti also has my vote as stylist of the year with his ridonkulous editorials for dazed and confused, vogues homme japan, and for AnOtherMan. the latter with which in my opinion he has produced some of the dopes shit my eyes have ever seen. i dig editorials that has a story and is not stuck within the box of a studio space. and boy did this dude not only come outta the box, he filled a whole mountain range with some of the most insanely amazing fashion spread the world has ever seen. this was a perfect marriage of concept, fashion, and execution. it would've been very easy for the clothes to get lost inside all those ideas, but mr. formichetti and photographer norbert schoerner managed to find that synergy that instead of exploding into one big hot mess, resulted in bar none the best editorial of the year. this might even make it to my top five of all time, actually it does. if you don't believe me just click here to see the whole thing. and if you still don't think its that gravy then you can go eat a dick.

well boys and girls, thats what i thought about 2008. will it go down as one of the most memorable fashion years for me. i doubt it. not to say that there were no good fashion that came out of it. i'm sure there were. what i would remember about this year has nothing to do about fashion. i met some really good friends this year and we started 2009 with some of my oldest and dearest friends being silly and dancing in my best friend's living room to lil' wayne having so much fun and not realizing that we totally missed the countdown. i guess what i'm trying to say is that i'm glad i'm not gonna remember 2008 as the year prada made a whole collection out of lace, but as a year that i met people that i pray to god i will always know for the rest of my life. and although i am extremely thankful for having met those people i am also greatly sadden by losing someone i've never met, but has been one of the biggest inspirations in my life. here's to you yves.

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