Tuesday, March 24, 2009

autumn/winter 2009

as phlegmatic some try to act in regards to the global recession, the truth of the matter is that we are facing the worse economic crises since the great depression. the great depression however also gave birth to one of the most creative time in fashion. it was the era when elsa schiaparelli and the avant garde idea flourished side by side with vionnet's beautiful classicism. where hollywood glamour became the opiate for the people. but times have changed and in this day and age where hollywood has lost its mystery and aspirational beauty have become passe the only thing that really stands out now is individuality.
for most of us who are part of a generation that never experienced those situations first hand, there is obviously going to be a lot of uncertainties on how to react against it. those doubts, the fear of having the life we've become accustomed to for so long ripped from right under our feet creates a sense of panic that the world of fashion isn't immune to.
to fully summarize what the recent autumn/winter 2009 collections felt could be summed up into one word...confused. on one end of the spectrum there is this need to mask the gloom by painting it with over the top exuberance and opulence by channeling an era reknowned for its excess, the eighties. on the other end is this decisively aggressive movement that almost feels like a battle cry where clothes become metaphors for strength and tenacity. either way, both evokes an image of a woman who is in control of her destiny and sexuality and for whom fashion is the visual vehicle she uses to convey the confidence of her personality. and while these two muses, though aesthetically different, it still creates a potent image that can become quite overpowering. push one idea too much and it becomes a caricature of the past and do the same thing for the other and it could easily take away too much of a woman's femininity.
while the eighties and noughties power dressing will for sure be the two strongest trends for the upcoming season, the best collections to come out have been the ones that were so independent with their vision. it came from designers who have always traveled their own distinct routes. these designers went back to what their core beliefs are and they used it as the inspiration and the catalyst that resulted with the most provocative collections of the season. and because of its conviction, there is a confidence that comes through that is able to stand on its own regardless of the seasonal trends emerging.
it has been said that it is during these times that creativity is fostered and the best designers proved it this season. maybe finally after years of brand obsession and trying to have the latest "it" bag or "it" shoe everyone else will finally realize that fashion isn't about looking like everyone else. its about you looking like you, but the best you only you can look like. hopefully individualism becomes the silver lining during these uncertain times.

photos: style.com

Saturday, March 14, 2009

paris autumn/winter 2009 - miu miu

miu miu has always felt like prada's younger, and somewhat naughtier sister. this season however there was an elegance and a sophistication that was quite unexpected and turned the miu miu girl into a lady. since showing in paris, miu miu has managed to acquire a certain type of parisian character. there's a frivolity and sophistication underlined by sexual subtexts that is a hallmark of french fashion. and considering that nobody does subverted sexuality better than miuccia prada, miu miu has become no longer simply regarded as a secondary line, but a line that is beginning to forge its own identity totally individual from its older sister. while there are obviously going to be similarities that ties both collections together (this season it was the upholster fabric type prints), what this miu miu collection had on its own was its more graphic yet fluid shapes best demonstrated by the coats that opened the show and a lightness in fabrication and movement that was a direct contrast to the signature line's aggressiveness and structure. where in the main line prada used embroidered felt wool and leather to give the collection a harder edge, here she embroidered nylons and silk crepe skirts worn with a sheer blouse with a decolletage so low it revealed a nude coloured brassiere. while it didn't have the intellectual punch compared to what prada showed in milan, it did have an abundance of refined sex appeal that is guaranteed to temp consumers to pull out the old credit card and swipe blindly.

photo: style.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

paris autumn/winter 2009 - comme des garcons

so confident is rei kawakubo with her vision that a little thing like a recession cannot force her to sacrifice the integrity of her ideas. her singluar vision, the one responsible for forever changing the face and idea of what fashion is remains unnerved. even when other designers who have consistently been praised for their directional vision have decided to play it rather safe this season in comparison to their previous efforts, kawakubo is one of the few rare ones that continued to forge ahead and take fashion and the meaning of it beyond its suffocating box. fashion is, and has always been the vehicle in which kawakubo mediates her intellectual dialogue with the public. rarely speaking and notoriously reclusive with the press in this age of media saturation, her work is her speech. and this season it was perhaps the most provocative collection throughout the fashion calendar. its poignancy is in its elusive metaphors. there has been this combative atmosphere throughout the collections. an aggressiveness that is so defiant that it almost defeminizes the clothes. but here kawakubo wrapped all the aggressiveness of military uniforms in tulle. its reminds us that just because women need to be strong in the real world, especially now, it doesn't mean that they have to sacrifice their femininity. with everyone talking about how creativity is fostered during these troubling times, kawakubo is one of the very rare few to actually live up to that.

photo: style.com

paris autumn/winter 2009 - junya watanabe

count of junya watanabe to take one of the most banal things in fashion and turn it into an intellectual exercise one just how desensitized westerners are to clothes they've been accustomed to all their life. this season, watanabe's object of affection was the down filled jacket. true to form, he took the idea of a puffa and deconstructed it in a way that it became dresses, cocoonish capes, scalloped skirts, or even a ruffled trench. all done in black that gave it a slickness like spilled oil. his ability to re-interpret garments that we have long lost affinity for because of its ordinary-ness and forces us to re-examine on how we can so easily disregard certain things is enough to make you feel guilty of taking those things for granted. but that is what makes watanabe so special. to make something sublime out of something so utilitarian as a down filled jacket justifies his immensely original talent and vision. and to do all that and still retain the spirit and original purpose of a down jacket gives his work a ground on reality. not only did those clothes look like exalted winter coats, they actually looked and i'm positive functioned the part. its no question that everything in fashion is done and really everything that can be done, has already been. the only thing we can do now is to reinterpret the past. and especially this season when the reality is that many designers aren't interpreting the past but basically plagiarizing it, watanabe is a reminder that while the past is a brilliant source of inspiration, as with all things it isn't perfect, therefore it can be made better. and he proved that again this season with resounding success.

photo: style.com

paris autumn/winter 2009 - haider ackermann

columbian born designer haider ackermann has been one of those designers who has for the past few seasons been flying under the fashion radar. for those who hasn't failed to notice this antwerp trained designer, they are familiar with the sensual way he has managed to drape fabric into romantic, sinuous dresses that is able to combine a certain type of latin drama with a melancholic sensibility that is a hallmark of belgian design. this season, when there is no real confident trend emerging and other designers are maniacally scrambling for ideas, ackermann's distinct aesthetic signature is able to stand above other designers who seems to be confused as to how to react to the current climate. hackermann's response in these dire times is to up his own ante. the confidence in his own vision was so apparent in the way he elevated all his distinct trademarks like the said draping and his ability as a tailor to produce some of the most coveted jackets come fall. there was a fluidity with this collection where one look moved so effortlessly with the next. where an intricately folded sequined gold jacket paired with high waisted slim trousers can follow after a boiled wool floor grazing skirt and then continue on with a one shoulder evening dress with a thigh high slit. there was such a rigorous effort in this collection but without looking too worked or too thought out. he simply made the effort to produce the best work he can using his own vocabulary. the result was that not only were the clothes exceptionally beautiful, but the confidence that showed through the pieces is what might possibly and finally take ackermann out of the underground and into foreground.

photo: style.com

paris autumn/winter 2009 - lanvin

from new york to milan to paris, the fashion pendulum has either swung to an eighties revival or to something quite dark and aggressive. leave it to alber elbaz to remind everyone that in these times when everyone is trying to answer the question on how to confront the gloomy economy, the answer lies in the simplest, purest purpose of fashion...beauty. its the same formula he's always referred back to since becoming creative director at the oldest surviving house in paris. and it is that formula that turned a what was once almost forgotten house into one of the most successful brands of the new millennium. and it owes it all to the sincerity of its designer. he's never once ventured away from what the true purpose of a designer is. and that is to enhance the innate beauty that lies in all woman. this season he sent down a parade of clothes that bears the now unmistakable signature of lanvin through elbaz's hands and did so by giving what most of the collections lacked this whole entire show season, clothes for every occassion. there were forties inspired suiting with a peplumed waist line worn with a knee length pencil skirts that attenuated the woman's silhouette and cocoon coats for day. and when the sun comes down there is of course the beautiful cocktail dresses that seems to dance around the body with the lightest movement. all done with the luxurious sophistication that comes with everything elbaz touches. and while the colour palette was sombre, this collection erupted with optimism. but not in a blatant excessive way. it didn't need bright colours or sparkles and big shapes to achieve it. as always he was able to express all the strengths of a man, but with all emotions of a woman. elbaz managed to accomplish that by giving it what he's given every single collection he's designed. a soul. a commodity more precious now than ever before.

photo: style.com

Sunday, March 8, 2009

paris autumn/winter 2009 - nina ricci

olivier theyskens is to fashion what john keats is to poetry. both share a profound romanticism that wells with passion and emotions that transcends beyond its occupied medium. like the great romantic poets of the past, one feels that theyskens uses emotional intuition rather than intellectual rationalization to provoke some form of elevated aesthetic experience with his design. since he burst into the collective fashion consciousness over ten years ago, theyskens's highly romantic and gothic sensibility has won him fans such as madonna during her new age/spiritual phase, to eventually being universally lauded by the fashion community when he revived the dusty house of rochas and made him one of the most influential designers of the noughties. when the house was suddenly closed down, theyskens was immediately hired to revive another iconic french house, nina ricci. in the two years that he has been at ricci, the general opinion of his work has been, for lack of a better word, uneven. while his collections produced some of the most beautiful and ethereal creations we've seen in the past couple of years, as a whole it seemed to lack the coherence of his work at rochas. for his final collection for ricci, theyskens not only produced one of the strongest collection of his entire career, he also created his most commercial collection for the house. which is rather ironic considering that it was probably the criticisms he got for being too fantastical during his tenure that it was no longer understandable from a consumer point of view that was most likely the cost of him being let go. but instead of sabotaging next season and presenting an intentionally bad collection, theyskens instead bowed out gracefully and gave the nina ricci customer the practical based fantasy they've been waiting so long for. it reminded the world of the promise that this young designer is capable of fulfilling. that is translating all his grandiose romanticism into clothes that don't only exist in theatrical fashion editorials or runway presentations, but on the most emotional stage of all, reality.

photo: style.com

Saturday, March 7, 2009

paris autumn/winter 2009 - balenciaga

nicholas ghesquiere has never been a revivalist. while he helms one of the most revered houses in the world with a history that involves revolutionizing the modern women's wardrobe, ghesquiere never takes the balenciaga ideals literally. instead he has managed to adapt balenciaga's legacy and philosophy into a modern vocabulary that while hints at the past, is stoically moving into the future. the way he can reference the great master's work and infuse it with his own sci-fi/futuristic sensibility has been one of the most influential factors in contemporary fashion. making him one of fashion's north star that other designers use as a compass to look for direction. for his latest collection ghesquiere again used the house's archives as the beginning of his story. particularly balenciaga's use of draping. although balenciaga's work is synonymous with architectural forms, him being one of the most proficient couturiers in history was also superb with the art of draping. after so many season witnessing ghesquiere push the atelier's tailoring techniques to its limit, this season he presented his softest, most feminine collection yet. to witness this versatility done in the most sophisticated way and still retain the ghesquiere identity is a testament that this heir apparent of paris fashion is a venerable well of ideas that shows no signs of drying out. and while it is balenciaga that ghesquiere always goes back to, this season he also paid tribute to another designer who asides from chanel, has had as much impact on modern fashion as balenciaga himself, yves saint laurent. there were echoes of saint laurent's rive gauche chic with the ruched, diaphanous printed chiffon dresses, the rich colours, and the play of masculine and feminine best demonstrated by the pairing of grey wool trousers with a floral top and a lace bandeau worn undereath. it had saint laurent's sexually subversive touches that was able to combine something feminine and sexual without being vulgar. this collection also had something many of ghesquiere's runway presentation never really had. while they were all rich with ideas, its commerciality was not its strongest point. everything that came out of this collection was understandable, sellable, profitable, and most importantly, beautiful.

photo: style.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

paris autumn/winter 2009 - gareth pugh

what gareth pugh has achieved with his most recent collection is the goal that has eluded many unconfident young designers, maturity. with his latest collection, presented through a seven minute film, pugh's concerted effort to established his house as a money making brand and not simply a fashion event has allowed the young designer to meld his own dark references with a commercial sensitivity to produce a collection that was rich with clothes that are a viable option for consumers with the signature pugh aesthetic. while his previous efforts were based on strict and precise geometry, this collection played on the contrast between softer silhouettes anchored by more structured pieces. best displayed on a tailored shift dress overlayed with chiffon whose attached sleeves acted as soft, diaphanous wings that moved like water in the video presentation. this softer, delicate touch is a reflection on how the city of lights have affected this young man. since showing in paris, pugh's dark and gothic influences that used to be expressed through something quite aggressive has become more soulful and feminine without relying on hyper exaggerating the female form. also there is the fact that luxury goods powerhouse LVMH is now financially backing the young designer. affecting and adding pressure to pugh to translate high concepts into profit in order to continue having the support of bernard arnault. and last january he presented his first separate menswear collection. now that he has the luxury of showing a collection for both sexes each with its own identity yet share the same spirit he can establish a real, and distinct identity for his male and female customers. although there are many visible similarities with the menswear show he presented last january such as the reappearance of the pin head sweaters and trousers and a flattened out pattern of geodesic domes, there was nothing androgynous about this collection at all. that being said does not mean that this show was short on strength. actually, it might've been been his strongest effort to date.

photo: style.com

Monday, March 2, 2009

milan autumn/winter 2009 - prada

undoubtedly one of the most anticipated collection throughout the entire fashion calendar where everyone has been wondering with heightened anticipation as to how one of fashion's most intellectual and renegade minds would respond to the global recession. miuccia prada's response was surprisingly not surprising. as the woman notoriously known for being impossible to predict, her collection with all its aggressive, dark, and slightly primitive references had all the hallmark pradaisms one expects from a prada show, but without the sexual overtones from her last few collections. it was a decidedly stronger collection that was a welcome respite from all the eighties revival that's been rampant in milan, london, and new york. the collection was full of forties references most evident on the coats with wide peaked lapels and nipped in waists. there was an interesting use of fabrics with the way she combines something masculine with something feminine such as a dress with a tweed skirt and the top half made of luxurious mustard coloured velvet. and of course, quirky and charming touches from a stylistic point of view and with her accessories. in short it was a textbook prada collection. prada when its not about the lady-like chic she pioneered many years ago, but the one who ingeniously mixes utilitarianism with an intellectual luxury that never loses its sense of clothes with a purpose. that being said however doesn't imply that this collection did not deliver the same amount of provocation as her previous collections. perhaps because of its obvious response to the economy that her answer becomes even more provoking. for one of fashion's most influential minds, the reply that in these times women need to confront the reality in an aggressive manner as oppose to reliving the excess of the happier pasts is a profound response to what other designers are doing. prada is after all one that is focused on reality and the ever changing needs of modernity. this collection is for the woman who is not looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. she knows that these are dark times and rather than escape it, she puts her game face on and tackles the challenges head on.

photo: catwalking.com

milan autumn/winter 2009 - jil sander

minimalism characterized the nineties. it was surprising that in the beginning of the boom in the luxury goods industry it would be this sparse, undecorated aesthetic that would eventually define the decade. and considering today's economical climate when designers are either referencing eighties opulence or a protective and aggressive sensibility, raf simons proposed the idea that especially in these times, the understated, unpretentious confidence of the minimalist ideal is not only a valid option, but also the most sensible choice. but as practical and functional minimalism is, raf is also one of the most directional minds in fashion who has always pushed the limits with his eponymous menswear brand. so what do you do when you need to be respectful to the house's identity and at the same time stay true to your own convictions? raf's answer is simple, split the show in two. the first sequence was an homage to the house's founder herself. it was a parade of monochromatic and exquisitely tailored pieces paired with flats that added a jolt of colour to the otherwise neutral palette. proving that the perfect execution of pure design and craftsmanship has as much impact as the most decorated couture ball gown. as the lights dimmed and flashes of coloured strobe lights hit the runway the second act demonstrated simons' adept hands at handling the jil sander tradition, and injecting it with his own personality. inspired by the seductive and arabesque lines of ceramicist pol chambost, simons twisted, draped and folded fabric around the body giving the clothes a sinuous, languid sexiness where underneath the fold or inside a neckline are shots of colour that referenced chambost' pottery. while the house of jil sander is not one that is traditionally associated with high concepts, raf's unyielding vision and sensitivity with the house's history gives the label a new sense of contemporary validity that will undoubtedly continue to exalt its influence in the years to come.

photo: style.com