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Paris Fashion Week: The Raf Remix at Dior

Le 30 septembre 2014, 06:58 dans Humeurs 0

If there's one word that's overused in fashion it's "chic". The word, however, genuinely sums up that modern attitude of a Dior show and the Dior woman right now. No longer just the epitome of French elegance and femininity, under artistic director Raf Simons that spirit has been reworked into one that still references the past without being literal. Yes, that bar jacket shape and wasp waist are still here (although, thankfully, this season there is no sign of a strapless bodice), but when you juxtapose these classic Dior codes on models with laissez-faire hair walking at whip-crack speed, a mirrored tent and a thumping Parisian nightclub soundtrack from DJ Michel Gaubert, the results are to put it simply, nothing short of chic.


It's the perfect formula for Simons at Dior, but then a "modern" touch to everything has always been at the heart of his design DNA, from his tenure at Jil Sander to his eponymous menswear line.

(Image: vintage homecoming dress )


But what is modern? That's the question on the designer's mind when breaking down the past with the present. Continuing to democratise the traditions of haute couture, Simons embraces a sprawling cross section of influences that began last couture season in July where 18th century French royal court attire amalgamated with Edwardian long-line coats, embellished astronaut boiler suits and delicate 20s flapper dresses.


Despite the historicism of that and what was presented for spring 2015, the overriding memo is that rules are made to be broken.


"By beginning with the ingredients and the form language of the couture, I want the ready-to-wear to feel more modern, more dynamic, more real," Simons explains. "I want it to be made available to a wider audience."


Those embroidered Marie Antoinette-inspired pannier coats from the last couture presentation have been reworked in shorter lengths with a freer shape away from the body and worn with cool skater shorts and boots that have a hand-knitted overlay. There are plenty of dresses too, some of the best are deceptively simple. A brown silk and wool sheath dress with button-up pockets exaggerated at the hips and worn with a white knitted silk top underneath is a perfect example of elegant restraint. But it is the billowing white cotton shirt dresses with high collars that make a particular impact, reminiscent of crisp Edwardian smock dresses. In a season of plenty of sexy (Balmain, Versace, Altuzarra) and layered Japonism (Loewe, Marni) it is reassuring to see the single layer of a white summer dress can still make an impact.


"It is an idea of confronting what people now think is an aesthetic that is modern - it felt more modern to go to the far past, not the 'modernised' look of the last decade," writes Simons, "The challenge is to bring the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical; bringing the easiness to something that can be perceived as theatrical. It is the attitude that matters."


Those reflections on the past are what keeps the designer going, and as guests exit the mirrored tent at the Cour Carree du Louvre, their reflections stare back at them with the ancient grandeur of the Louvre in the backdrop. A fitting yin-yang of the past meeting the present, an optical illusion that eschews any historical accuracy. But then Simons won't have it any other way.

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Knitwear – a revival for high fashion’s poor relation

Le 25 septembre 2014, 04:33 dans Humeurs 0

Within minutes of visiting the Fashion and Textile Museum’s new exhibition, Knitwear – Chanel to Westwood, I was seized by a powerful urge to dig out my knitting needles. I had forgotten that knitwear can do that to you.


The exhibition, in Bermondsey, south London, focuses on highlights from a century of knitting in fashion and presents more than 150 pieces from the collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, on show to the public for the first time. Highlights include rare Chanel cardigan suits, 1930s swimwear, pieces by Missoni and Bill Gibb and more conceptual pieces by Comme des Garçons, Vivienne Westwood and Julien Macdonald. Giant wooden crates offer up a series of separate tableaux to the visitor with garments grouped according to style and in loose chronology. At the entrance, a knitted skirt is placed next to a woollen dress in the same pattern together with a waistcoat – one is from H&M, one hand-knitted in 1907 and the other at the time of the first world war. This startling and clever device puts you on notice to watch for how the past informs the future.


Whether machine-produced for the general market or hand-knitted during wartime rationing, the garments on display give a sense of the emotional investment that went into their creation. That is something almost unique to knitwear, in my opinion. An individual garment knitted by your mum over many long winter evenings confers an awareness of the time and emotion that went into it. The mum-knitted cardi is a portable hug. It is also a way of recreating the inaccessible luxe of the big fashion houses in your own home. How many of us attempted Schiaparelli’s knitted trompe l’oeil bow or Chanel’s revolutionary jersey in our living rooms?


So why, then, is knitting so often seen as the poor relation of high fashion? Dennis Nothdruft, the museum’s curator, believes the “basic functionality of knitwear” loses out against the glamour of couture. But with knitwear, especially if knitted yourself, every step and stitch in construction is known, seen and touched – the very same characteristics of haute couture, which makes it even harder to understand why knitwear suffers by comparison.


Almost in response to this stereotype, the exhibition covers all facets of knitwear, from the current crop of innovative knitwear designers, such as Sibling and Mark Fast, to the 1943 war pamphlet Make Do and Mend. Both serve as a reminder that knitting used to be a widely practised skill in homes across the UK (hands up if your mum taught you), whereas now it is the province of highly trained individuals. I’m sure many of my generation remember sitting with hanks of unpicked wool around our hands while it was wound up into balls for knitting into something else. I don’t imagine that happens much now.


Vogue shoot, February 1951.(Style: homecoming dresses 2014 )


The days when four-ply was stocked in every corner shop and you could have your chosen wool “put by” for collection are gone. Knitting wool is no longer the cheaper option.


Although there is hope: the museum’s Kaffe Fassett exhibition last year was hugely popular and proves that interest in the craft is far from extinct. It is, after all, a route to great versatility in dressing – you wouldn’t roll a couture jacket up and pop it into your bag but you might a 1950s-style cocktail sweater.


This unstuffy, creatively staged exhibition has a real buzz about it, not least because the Fashion and Textile Museum is a hidden gem among London’s exhibition spaces. It also has the best lemon drizzle cake I have ever eaten. I brought a slice home to have while I unravelled the pea-green sack I knitted a couple of years ago and attempted to turn it into something wonderful. As Nothdruft says of the exhibition: “I hope it inspires people to try.” In me, at least, it has.

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In Milan, the Bunga Bunga Has Left the Building

Le 22 septembre 2014, 04:02 dans Humeurs 0

MILAN — Where has all the sex gone?


The tango between dressing to please the Id and dressing to satisfy the Ego that used to define fashion in Milan, with a shimmy here met by a stomp over there, seemed, as the Italian ready-to-wear shows drew to a close on Sunday, to have turned into something of a line dance instead — everyone stepping in time to a more blandly choreographed tune.


It’s as if, in this brave new dawn of get-down-to-work Italy (or at least the promise, or hope, of such a brave new world), there’s no room for the flesh and fantasia of yore. The bunga bunga has left the catwalk.


How else to explain Roberto Cavalli’s decision to abandon his “we’re with the band” aesthetic in favor of a going-through-the-motions greatest hits tour of his oeuvre, from bright ethnic print maxi-dresses to sequin-paved leopard-print evening gowns by way of lacy white romance and distressed denim? Sure, there were a few moments of ostrich-trimmed rocker lust in there, but blink and you’d be on to a silver crocodile mini-suit. Mr. Cavalli is in the midst of negotiating the sale of a minority stake in his company and this was, it seemed, the runway equivalent of a pitch book.


And how else to explain the fact that at Versace, the brand that practically defined the idea of in-your-face Glamazon dressing (think: Elizabeth Hurley in that safety-pin dress; Jennifer Lopez in that cut-below-the-navel number), there were a whole bunch of ... jackets on the runway?


That would be suit jackets: single button, thigh length, and cut to mean business.


Granted, they came paired with midriff-baring tops and skorts, either brief or asymmetric, with one leg long and the other short in a style reminiscent of the artistic director Donatella Versace’s work at couture, and sprinkled among shift dresses with a graphic geometry, like a magnified version of the house’s famous Greek key pattern.

(Image: junior homecoming dresses )


But even the crystal-covered evening looks — miniskirts and halter scarf tops in pastel shades — and the long primary colored sheaths with a contrasting zigzag up the front had a Power Plate, as opposed to dominatrix, air. They got physical, it’s true, but it was the kind of physical that might burst into jumping jacks at any moment, as if Ms. Versace had been on an aesthetic cleanse and hit “refresh.”


Perhaps this is why Giorgio Armani, always the yin to Versace’s yang and a uniform of the executive suite, finally felt able to relax into his own signature instead of constantly contorting himself out of his comfort zone, as he has in past seasons.


He called his collection “Sand,” and started it with a short movie by the Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”) about nature on the islands of Lipari and Stromboli, including brief shots of an almost-naked man and woman bound by ropes and lying on the beach (which provoked a momentary shift of unease). But the clothes themselves were simply fluid examples of what Mr. Armani does best: washed silk jackets in multiple incarnations (cropped and swinging, three-button, embroidered or knit); straight, easy trousers; organza skirts silk-screened with images of rolling dunes, and expertly gathered silk chiffon dresses, all in the sun-bleached tones of the seascape.


At least until evening, when elegant beaded cocktail numbers were paired with sheer organza harem pants or a cropped tulle trouser (or, inexplicably, a pair of shorts and a cropped tulle trouser). As if it was really necessary to remind us that these are clothes made for a nomad of the corporate kind.


Yet thus it went, collection after collection, to mixed effect. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and all that, but so, it became clear, is a body.


At Tod’s, a meditation on gardens led Alessandra Facchinetti to squared-off or crescent-cut separates in forest green and white and mahogany hole-punched leather, meant to evoke the negative of the pebbles on the bottom of the brand’s famous driving shoes; palm-print silk trouser suits, and mid-calf skirts. The workmanship was impressive, with some skins so light they looked, and could be manipulated, like paper, and the concept was clever but the net effect was of an intellectual exercise: the garments neutered.


At Salvatore Ferragamo, Massimiliano Giornetti produced a polished play on texture within the framework of the brand’s standards: cape coats; bias-knit halter dresses; midi-skirts; all often trimmed in snakeskin. Touched not by an angel but an animal print, and producing a very genteel purr.


And at Jil Sander, making a well-mannered debut for the brand that was once the secret sauce of glass-ceiling breakers everywhere, Rodolfo Paglialunga found his connection to the house’s history in schoolgirl uniforms, from v-neck thin knit sweaters to crisp cotton button-downs, wrap gabardine skirts and hip-slung drop-crotch Bermuda shorts.


There was a suggestion of — well, suggestion, in the slit-back of a shirt, and a striking sparingly pixellated print, but it was hard not to think these clothes doth follow the rules too much. Letting the mind govern the body is one thing; letting it rule with an iron fist another entirely, as both Consuelo Castiglione of Marni and Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta have always well understood.


Though there was nothing seductive about the former’s 20th anniversary show, a celebration of craft and construction, it had a handmade, counter-intuitive appeal of its own. Oversize rough canvas schmattas were whipped into shape by judo belts, or came in the form of tunics over loose trousers and calf-length sundresses; blinding yellow and metallic versions of the same were splashed with painterly florals; and then it all got gradually gussied up with vintage ruffles down one seam, plus crystals and mirrors and other appliques de luxe. In disguising what lay beneath, the clothes nevertheless dangled the question of what you didn’t see.


Meanwhile, at Bottega Veneta, Mr. Maier said he was thinking of a “dancer’s walk” and how garments move on the frame, and that meant knit cotton bodysuits and leggings (ahem), covered by long linen dusters, which led him to sweats, but rolled up and slouchy, the sweatshirt tied in a big bow at the neck, which in turn gave way to a series of lovely dresses cut like a ballerina’s frock (sleeveless, tied at the waist, generous to mid-calf), crafted from raw-edged dark denim or strips of shirting fabrics or crushed gingham, occasionally covered by a veil of black tulle like a scrim, and sporting corsages of sequined and appliquéd flowers. They were smart, in every sense of the word.


“I’ll have one of those,” panted an audience member on the way out.


Apparently, one kind of desire is still around, anyway. The question is where has the other kind gone?


The fashion flock moves to Paris Tuesday, and the season’s final leg. Given the relatively colorful, and public, state of President François Hollande’s love life, perhaps we’ll find an answer there.

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