Tuesday, June 30, 2009
there has been a strong feeling of romanticism during the paris collections. on one hand there are designers who are feeling the need to project a form of escapism by taking its audience to far away exotic landscapes, or presenting a collection where the lines between poetry and design seems to be thinned out. damir doma is one of those designers whose work invokes a specific type of poetry. there is a brevity in his work that is able to provide a new perspective on men's fashion. i guess if his work is to be put in poetic terms, it would a haiku. there isn't a lot of ingredients and his work is never over wrought, but it has a powerful impact. as complicated as his aesthetic might be to some, in many ways his work could be look at as a sort of new minimalism. not the austere, almost surgical approach of the nineties, but an evolved state of minimalism where it isn't all about function and utilitarianism, but also an expression. there is something about his clothes that breaths and provides the garments with a personality that is often missing in menswear. doma also has such a strong sense of presentation, that his clothes might appear to be too specific, or too directional for most consumers. but dissect each individual piece and the thought that doma puts into each garment displays a consideration for the life of his clothes after the runway. sure his clothes appeal to the more adventurous variety, but one of the things he does best is tweaking classics. such as his jackets that asymmetrically wrap around the body in such a fluid way that one side of the lapel gently drapes over. considering that doma has been one of the first menswear designer to experiment with draping and still use the skeleton of men's clothing, there are very few who did it better. it has been a watershed season for up and coming designers, and it appears that doma is one of the contenders to be the leader of the future pack.
mihara yasuhiro is almost like an oddity within the japanese cabal that show their collections on an international platform such as paris. sure there are some japanese trademarks that are consistent with yasuhiro's body of work, but what really sets him apart from his contemporaries is an unabashed, almost irrational romanticism. his clothes are emotive, but unlike yamamoto who is also able to unleash a well of emotion with his collections, yasuhiro takes his inspiration from points that aren't as grandiose, or at least not obviously. inspired by antoine de saint-exupery's beloved story "the little prince", the designer presented a collection that like the book, was both charming and poignant yet it never drowned in saccharine adulation. the author's personal life, which yasuhiro also used as a reference, grounded this collection and prevented it from turning into a fairy tale. what yasuhiro is able to do season after season is present a collection with a narrative that is so finely threaded together that he can combine something like a fairy tale about a boy who lives alone on a little planet and the experience of man who has lived through world war one and somehow find the common ground that relates one story from another. there are many great story tellers in fashion, hopefully in the very near future, more people will want to hear the magical tales of this criminally underrated minstrel.
it takes a cross cultural alchemist like ricardo tisci to combine polar opposites such as desert nomads and bronx boriquas into a collection that offers new hypotheses that sparks a heated conversation about the idea of what clothes represents to the modern man. while his critics will argue that such a highly romanticized and stylized vision gets a bit verbose, his supporters on the other hand can lay claim that since his inaugural presentation for givenchy homme a mear one year ago, the house has had a profound influence in the world of male fashion that might even surpass his influence for his contribution on the women side. perhaps because of the amount of idea and work that goes into the pieces such as his treatment of layering print on top of each other and his unusual choice of fabrication (lace and metal mesh anyone?) and an experimentation with cut and silhouette that challenges the traditional confines of the male wardrobe which is regulated by a much stricter code as opposed to his female counterpart that such renegade sensibility can be viewed as an almost vulgar disregard to traditions and concepts of male sexuality that can prove to be challenging and hard to digest for many. but men's fashion, needs someone like tisci. the perennial envelope pusher that acts as a conduit for new ideas and disperses it until it eventually percolates and become reinterpreted into a more diluted, understandable and eventually a more commercial form. and one has to be reminded that it has only been three seasons since tisci took control of the givenchy man. although he already asserted a strong personality for the house, just like with his womenswear it may take time for everyone to finally clue in on what he is doing. and in just four years he not only stabilized the future of the once uncertain house that has become a revolving door for designers, he also managed to give it a new sense of relevance and idenity that has become one of the most influential force in fashion.
when nino cerruti retired in 2002, the house which has earned a reputation for its high level of understated luxury struggled without a solid foundation and two years later declared for bankruptcy. in 2008 under new financial backers and designer paul knott at the helm, it marked a new era for the much beloved brand. with the ripple effect that started with knott's debut collection last year, spring 2010 saw the designer's reinterpretation of the house's heritage but injected it with a youthfulness that has been absent with his two previous collections. while the quality is still clearly visible, knott's played with proportions and volume and gave it a feeling of boyish naivete that places the brand on a more congruent level with what his contemporaries are doing. although the spirit of the collection as a whole is a much younger one, within in it are pieces that will still appeal to the traditional cerruti customers. impeccably tailored suits and coats in the most luxurious materials will without a doubt tempt quality connoisseurs. and as youthful as this collection is, it doesn't take on a personality that overshadows the history of cerruti. a proposition that will undoubtedly earn back the status the house rightfully deserves.
it wasn't that long ago when rick owens, the one time los angeles based designer began showing his eponymous collection during new york fashion week. and although he developed a devout following and became a cult figure in the world of fashion, it wasn't until he relocated to paris in 2003 where his avant garde and gothic sensibility found its spiritual home. it takes a city like paris to unleash the full potential of owens' romantic vision. in the few years that he made the city of lights home, his aesthetic has evolved and blossomed and ever since, his vision has become one of the most influential forces in fashion. it was owens, along with olivier theyskens who was responsible for the gothic trend that captured the zeitgeist of today's youth movement that eventually percolated onto the streets. spawning countless of imitators that through owens they found a sensei to lead the dojo of the urban environment. owens' success, like all successful and influential designers, lies on an extremely personal point of view. when all his collections are looked at as a whole, there is an obvious language that contains the words together so succinctly, yet each season he adds just enough to enrich and progress the vocabulary. this season all his trademarks came out in full force. the asymmetric layering, the blacks, the apocalyptic footwear, the playing of proportion. these are trademarks one always expects to see at an owens presentation but it was denim that gave this collection a new twist that kept it from feeling redundant. while this sense of slow evolution in an extremely fast paced industry such as fashion could be detrimental to other designers, owens flourishes because as imitated as he is, he still manages to beat out his countless doppelgangers because let's face it, he is the best at what he does.
considering that historically, japan was an introverted country that made no associations with the outside world, how ironic is it then that out of all the designers in the world, it is the japanese that has embraced the influences and ideas of other cultures, yet translate it in a way that retains a japanese identity? tatsuro horikawa, much like his compatriots in the industry, is one that can take such unorthodox references for a menswear collection, and turn it into a collection with such poignancy and relevance that it produces something rarely experienced in a menswear presentation...emotion. maybe because it is rooted in religions that has a deep focus on spirituality. the costumes of buddhist monks and muslim women was the major influence this season and what came out was cross between a mummy and a nun. consisting mostly of languidly draped white tunics and trousers only occasionally interfered with black, it provoked a a feeling of watching someone attain nirvana. there was a romantic serenity that lent its behavior to the movement of the clothes. this season in both paris in milan the art of draping fabric turned up in almost every collection. it was one of the few trends that was consistent in both cities but it was at julius where this trend reached it zenith. it was beautiful, fragile without sacrificing any masculinity. it provoked not only emotions but also a discussion of what can be part of a man's wardrobe today. considering this show incited such passionate discussion, it can only be a sign of greater things ahead for this label.
it is an exciting time in the world of men's fashion. the boundaries that once caged ideas of the male uniform in a suffocating box is collapsing with a certain sense of urgency fueled by young talents that grew up in a rapidly shrinking world where every information is collected and amalgamated together resulting in a new vision for the modern man. korean born designer juun j. is one of those designers that continuously pushes the sartorial direction every season with his innovative contribution to the male fashion vernacular. known for his modern take on iconic pieces of the male wardrobe like the trench coat which his first paris runway presentation was based from and this season re-interpreted into a one piece romper, most of his past collections had a sharpness and strictness that gave his clothes a more geometric, rigid silhouette. this season however there was a lightness not only from his use of sheer/semi-sheer fabrics, but also because of the billowing volume that added a new word to his growing vocabulary. the contrast provided by such opposing factors best exemplified by baggy, translucent knee-length shorts layered over drain pipe trousers gave the collection a tension that kept the presentation immensely intriguing. while his past collections talked to a limited audience, this collection proved his ability to combine his own sensibility with the concerns of retailers and consumers. giving this lesson learned, juun j. might just be that designer that suddenly sneaks up on the collective consciousness and be men's fashion's next wunderkind.
last season was bruno pieter's first runway presentation for hugo. the visual assault he unleashed with all the bauhaus and constructivist references gave way to a collection that still owed much of its sharp lines from the past collection, but all the severity the palette of red/white/black and graphic prints contributed to dissipated into almost a feeling of clinical serenity. a cleanliness that almost burns like when you slather your hands with purel. maybe this was a way for pieter's to move away from last season but at the same time retain his trademarks. which is all about his tailoring and play with proportions. there was still a rigid angularity with the clothes but somehow to do it all in white, icy blues only momentarily interrupted by navy, red and gold gave it a sort of calmness which was only augmented by the clerical collars of the shirts and the nautical colours of the collection. and while the navy and white striped cropped double breasted jackets paired with pleated sorts somehow channeled the spirit of eighties montana and mugler, or even sometimes armani, pieter's vision is so identifiable that he actually managed to evade falling into any retro cliches. clearly hugo is a brand that is not catered for the masses. that is for hugo's older brother hugo boss. hugo is for boys who aren't scared to play expensively and confidently.
its a beautiful paradox, the old world craftsmanship of milan meeting japanese obsession for the future. and to see it realized by giuliano fujiwara's creative director masataka matsumura is a burst of fresh air in a city which is ground zero for houses steeped in decades old tradition and heritage. the offspring of such two diverse cultures is one that retains a certain level of romanticism and nostalgia with trousers and jackets full of volume and then combined with hi performance apparel one might don while mountain climbing. a bit schizophrenic perhaps, but somehow matsamura managed to make it work because he never took his inspirations too literally. what looks like a harness actually serves as a belt, braces, or straps with pouches. it didn't act as stylistic touches or mere decorations. they actually had a purpose and gave all the looseness a strict frame to contain it before it loses control. in a way it reflects the attitude of italian and japanese men. at one corner the archetype of robust masculinity yet are often called the most romantic men in the planet. and at the other, soft spoken and reserved yet bound to strict codes of honour and conduct. a sort of irony that when combined sometimes produces beautiful results.
Monday, June 22, 2009
count on prada to deliver the first real statement of the season. while season after season there is an element that defines a prada collection, whether be it studs, lace or this season's mesh which was transformed into everything from cardigans, gillets, or the humble t-shirt, at the core of each of her collections is the tailoring. particularly in her perennial re-interpretation of the suit. which this time around was limited to a strict palette of greys. while the variations of the colour varied, she also managed to give it texture by juxtaposing traditional fabrics associated with menswear. houndstooth ,herringbone and checks somehow, in prada's adept hands, managed to work in unison even when injected with a jolt of black and white floral patterns. the visual and intellectual punch of a prada show is never dampened by a wroughtness that can easily alienate because her ability to challenge generic assumptions about fashion is never hampered by unwearability. while the true force of the prada engine is miuccia's boundless creativity, there is also an acute sense of business that has made her a template to follow for many other designers. the range of the suiting alone she presented can easily translate to a plethora of age and body. it satisfies both the consumers who looks for a high level of quality, and the ones who appreciates fashion and design. there are countless who follow the beat of miuccia's drum, but there is still no one who can ever take the lead of the march.
last season, neil barrett, the designer known for tweaking the idea of formal dressing decided to detour his usual route and presented a collection that was an exercise in experimental tailoring. this season there was still that experimental spirit in the presentation, but this time it had more to do with the process to achieve the desired look of the garments, rather than the actual finished product. the result was leather and jersey seamlessly fused together on shirts, jackets, and a myriad of interpretation on the classic trench coat. despite all the fabric innovation involved with this collection, barrett also played with proportions, and volume. the now ubiquitous long tops that skims and moves around the body to create a sense of volume was paired with trousers that had bit of room that gently tapered around the ankles. offering a new dimension to the slim pant conversation that has been going on for the better half of this decade. the volume however wasn't limited to fine jersey tanks or trousers, it also appeared on more tailored pieces. the most interesting of all was a black double breasted jacket that had a swing in its movement it almost felt like a tunic. there is a confidence that is becoming more and more apparent in barrett's work. a voice that can eloquently convey his love for formality, and his new found interest in pushing that formality into something directional and maybe even something that is a lot more personal. a direction that is quietly making him one of the more interesting talents developing under the radar.
because the philosophy of the school of minimalism is rooted in the idea of subtracting elements to achieve the purest, most undiluted form, how raf simons has managed to continually expand on the very limited vocabulary of minimalism is nothing short of remarkable. and to do it for a house that has its own history and visual identity already established, where his own personal vision has to be respectful of the past and yet have the vision to successfully move the brand forward is a feat achieved only by the most talented of designers. as one of the most capable and innovative tailors, his usual strictness and sharpness gave way to a collection with a lightness that was so ethereal in the emotions it provoked that shone a new light into the belgian angst and melancholy simons is so closely associated with. the palette which consisted of mostly white and a hint of glacial blues and the palest of beiges further amplified the atmospheric lightness of the collection. there was also the work of artist tsugoharu foujita, faces that gave a sly glance or a waiting wink that appeared on semi sheer shirts that will without a doubt become a regular fixture on editorials come january. aside from such rare flights of fancy, this was a collection that will undoubtedly cement simons' reputation as one of the leading visionaries of contemporary men's fashion.
it is indeed a heavy burden to procreate a legacy that is over a hundred and fifty years old. christopher bailey however has managed to not only re-establish burberry's contemporary identity, but also expand it's vocabulary that makes the brand relevant in a climate that is so familiar and accustomed to houses that only retains a level of hype and attention for a few collections. regardless of how unfamiliar bailey's point of references are season to season, the one legible line he always draws from is an intrinsic english perspective that draws on all the history and tradition that is integral to a brand like burberry. last season's turn of the century industrialism with all its underlining dark romanticism was transformed into a modern utilitarian excercise of form following function. every design aspect adhered to a philosophy that it had a purpose. whether it be through jackets inspired by gortex outerwear or fishermen uniform some quilted or adorned with multiple pockets, in true burberry form, it was a celebration of the marriage between practical utilitarianism and luxurious details. a hallmark that bailey has always been consistent with since he was appointed as creative director of the house almost a decade ago. in the new millennium, burberry has transformed itself into a label that has survived predictable cliches into a brand that has forged a new identity in a manner that is congruent with a modern perspective on luxury that has its roots planted firmly with the needs of modernity. injecting it with the spirit of urgency and pertinency that is guaranteed to extend the lifeline of the house for years to come.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
about a year ago i finally decided to grow some balls and pursue this lifelong dream of mine to work in the fashion indusrty. granted that i live in toronto my choices of where to go was more limited than lady gaga's vocal chords. but there was one place that i've always wanted to work at, and that was elmer olsen. for those of you who don't know, elmer olsen was the one who put daria werbowy, amanda laine, alana zimmer, ryan taylor, taryn davidson, kori richardson, alex loomans and basically all the best canadian models on the map.
one day i finally decided to just go for it and i e-mailed elmer about an internship position. this was around paris fashion week so i really wasn't expecting a reply considering how busy he would've been and really who opens an e-mail from someone they don't know nowadays. but to my surprise i got a reply back the next day from tara who is the men's booker and they had asked me to come in the following morning.
after i cried a little and then worked up a massive butterflies in my stomach syndrome, i came in sweating like hooker at a police station and not expecting to meet the man himself when he came right around the corner, shook my hand and thus began one of the best working experience of my life.
you always hear so many horror stories about people in the fashion industry who are cold, ruthless, and downright nasty but everyone there are some of the nicest people i've met my whole entire life. i've learned a lot from working at the agency, but the best lesson i've learned is that being a good person is by far a lot more rewarding and sensible that having anna wintour's reputation.
the boys i put up are in europe at the moment for the milan/paris menswear shows. i've met most of them except for alex cause he lives out west and these kids are pretty fucking amazing. i don't wanna brag and all, but it was me who uploaded alex and rob on the website.
i can only imagine how tara is feeling right now. she must be beaming with pride. and she totally deserves it.
Monday, June 1, 2009
i've had this little corner in cyber space for a couple of years now and since a lot of you kats are new readers i figured i should re-post some old ish that i had done when nobody read it, and also cause i'm way too busy to constantly post new things all the time. for reals i need a job where i don't have to fold clothes eight hours a day. this entry was posted just over a year ago and i thought it was still relevant. because i still don't see any of my asian kin properly represented.
hye park, philip huang, ling tan, han jin
du juan, devon aoki, ai tominaga, daul kim
considering that the two strongest emerging markets in the world are china and india, one would assume that to target these enormous potentials, advertisers would obviously use asians to promote their products. so why is it that mega fashion houses like gucci or louis vuitton, companies that owes more than half of its profit as a result of asian consumption, never uses any asian models? as someone who grew up in an asian country and where i spent the better half of my childhood and has experienced first hand asian society, i think i'm allowed to say this: asians in asia don't want to see people who look like them. they want to look at what everyone else considers as perfection. ergo, like the rest of the world, they want to see alabaster skin with angelic blue eyes and golden blonde hair. in asia, the west is this dream, a fantasy world they all want to be a part of. a utopian society where money grows on trees and everyone is beautiful. just a look at young people in asia today and you see the complex influence western culture has had on them. they dye their hair blonde, dress like over zealous western teenagers, and in more extreme cases go under the knife to acquire a more prominent nose, or something as banal as a crease on the eyelid. there is this tug of war that pulls them from one side the tradition of their families, and on the other side, the hedonistic allure of the freedom the west promises. most of us who actually lives in a western society knows for a fact that things on our side of the world are far from utopian. i can honestly say that my parents had a way better life back home where they had maids and drivers and where my mom didn't have to commute two hours to work every day. but i digress. in asia the standards of beauty strives to be the one closest to western ideals: the fairer skin, the wider eyes, the slimmer body, the perfect symmetry. they want to project themselves in a form based out of western images. the idealistic hope they naively believe is readily available on the other side of the world is really what they're buying. logos become status symbol to let everyone know that they to have managed to achieve the great western dream. as a result they become on par with the very images they are seduced by. as much as the image of the west can be intoxicating to the east, the east is as seductive to the west. the power of eastern art and imagery has provided inspiration to movements that gave birth to modernism. what would the paintings of van gogh or monet have looked like if they never encountered traditional japanese art? or where would have the ballet russes derived inspiration for their costumes for? granted that many of western interpretations of eastern ideas are exploitative, there are some artists who have really shown an earnest appreciation for eastern beauty. in fashion, the early mavericks of modern fashion were the first to use asian models in their fashion show. pierre cardin, one of the most influential designers of the sixties chose japanese model hiroko matsumoto as his muse. cardin, courreges, and saint laurent were among the first to use models of all ethnicity in their runway presentations. during a time of optimism and an urgent need for change, these designers envisioned a world where fashion has been democratized into something not reserved for white european and american socialites, but to a woman of any nationality. as saint laurent's popularity rose during the seventies, his universal appreciation for beauty flourished and he continued to use black and asian models for his shows. eventually more designers followed the direction of saint laurent and during the eighties a fourteen year old of asian and black heritage by the name of kimora lee became the face of chanel. the eighties was also the time of philippine's (yes i'm being patriotic) anna bayle. the model who was widely touted as "the model of the eighties" with an infamous walk that graced the catwalks of gianni versace, oscar de la renta, thiery mugler, carolina herrera, chanel, valentino, lanvin, jean patou and worked with photographers from helmut newton to gilles bensimon. when the waif movement gained momentum in the nineties and the demand for fairer skinned girls rose, asian models were once again few and far between. but during the end of the decade, malaysian model ling tan, navia nguyen from vietnam, irina pantaeva, the striking russian with mongol heritage, and the other wordly beauty of devon aoki reminded the fashion world that asian models can offer something to the camera their white counterparts could not. recently, the fashion world has witnessed a succession of asian models in the business. tom ford launched the career of ai tominaga, and miuccia prada cast korean hye park for her normally all white runway. chinese model du juan has been in high profile ads like yves saint laurent and roberto cavalli and has walked for basically every designer that matters. and in the world of male modeling, philip huang is one of the most recognizable models in the business right now. as fickle as fashion is, and it does appear the fad for asian models are quick to come as it is quick to go, hopefully the realization that beauty isn't reserved for western archetypes will finally seep in and more importantly, one day an asian can represent the market the big houses are aiming for. but it'll take asians demanding to be represented for any change to manifest. will an all asian vogue italia make a difference? i would buy it. but to be honest, i don't know if it'll sell in asia. i mean, they did need gemma ward sandwiched between asian models for the first two issues of vogue china.
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- damir doma: menswear - spring/summer 2010
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