Thursday, February 26, 2009

London Fashion Week | ’90s, the New ’80s?

Show after show this week in London, the Y.B.D.’s were designing like it was 1995. Topshop’s Unique collection, in the hands of the stylist Katie Grand,

mined the junkyard-rave aesthetic of the cult classic “Tank Girl” to mixed results. Charles Anastase’s “autobiographical” collection paid homage to the unsung icons of grunge — think the D.I.Y. style of Kelley and Kim Deal, of the alt-rock band the Breeders, and Rayanne Graff, the too-cool-for-school character played by A.J. Langer on the teen drama “My So-Called Life.” Chances are that only the hipsters who crash his shows will be savvy enough to appreciate this.

Louise Gray, who for the past three seasons was a darling of London’s young designer launch pad, Fashion East, presented her first solo collection at the Soho House, but the show was the opposite of stodgy. Inspired by “body painting” — a favorite pastime of ravers, besides sucking on pacifiers — Gray’s use of devoré leggings and high heels (she collaborated with the shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood) was actually quite chic. Her two-piece denim overalls, adorned with shards of metal on the chest, had a surprisingly industrial edge to them.

Sadly, many of the other ’90s-inspired collections failed to offer anything new, sticking to a formula of sprayed-on dresses and chunky knits. Still, a number of fall collections in London were noteworthy for offering an idea of how British fashion might in fact move forward. Christopher Kane paired slouchy sweatshirts with paper-thin dresses anchored by thick black stripes, suggesting fragile tomboys. Richard Nicoll showed tailored lab coats with undone lingerie elements in shades of Storm Trooper white, cream and pale pink — as if George Lucas had art-directed Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour. Nicoll wasn’t the only designer blinded by science. Both the palette and the prints at Marios Schawb were based on the red-cyan spectrum of an anaglyph image. It was hilarious watching the audience use the show’s invite, a pair of 3-D glasses, to look for hidden meaning in the Technicolor prints.

In a green-lit, smoke-filled outdoor space, London’s only remaining provocateur, Giles Deacon, showed a collection that gave you goose bumps. The International Herald Tribune fashion critic Suzy Menkes complained of the loud noise, which was in fact a musical performance by the band An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump D-Bird C-Bird X-Bird (phew). But I think the ear-splitting sound was the point. Deacon combined the urgency of a punk concert with the craftsmanship of a Chanel show. Afterward, he said he had wanted to update some of the looks he had done throughout his career — his use of wool with fur, for example. But it all felt very new. And at the very least, he’s got his head in this decade.

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2009 collections show they're fashion forward

NEW YORK — Gloom is not in the fashion DNA.
It’s a world where every aspiring designer dreams of greatness and great designers know that if a collection is panned, redemption is only a season away.
Cautious optimism abounded at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where designers seemed genuinely interested in creating imaginative fall collections at lower prices and retailers seemed excited to find desirable items that will draw customers into stores.

With few A-list celebrities on hand last week , the focus was on the clothes. Isn’t that the way it should be?

“What I love about fashion is it completely and utterly reflects what’s going on in our culture,” said Glenda Bailey, editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

If that’s the case, here’s what I learned during fashion week.
Everyone is downsizing

While the schedule remained daunting — more than 200 fashion shows — some top-name designers saved money by presenting their clothes outside the Bryant Park tents. Vera Wang set up her show at her SoHo store; Carmen Marc Valvo chose a Chelsea bar for his venue; and Naeem Khan used his showroom, with models posed like mannequins. Zac Posen enticed Steinway to lend him five baby grand pianos and a group of virtuoso pianists, so he didn’t need an expensive backdrop.
Exception: the super-rich

A lot of designers, including Khan and Valvo, are cutting prices at the low end of their range but offering lavish items for the recession proof super-rich. Khan showcased an opulent $30,000 gown embedded with thousands of Swarovski crystals — the most expensive piece he’s ever created.

“You’ve got to give the rich something very special because they really don’t want to look like anybody else,” said Khan, who will show his collection in Houston at Saks Fifth Avenue next month.
We’re going back to basics

Top designers Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors featured basic items that won’t go out of style. Lauren’s collection included embroidered gowns in neutral colors, satin pants, tweed jackets and patchwork sweaters. Kors showcased gray flannel suits and simple black dresses toughened up with heavy silver chain-link necklaces.

The must-have item for fall from nearly every designer: a long cardigan sweater that covers the rear.
We’re bold

Kors punctuated his largely black and beige collection with bright bursts of pink, yellow and orange, which he called “safety” in his program notes. Marc Jacobs revived eye-popping fluorescents (an ’80s revival), while Oscar de la Renta created burnt-orange blouses, yellow bubble skirts and cocktail dresses combining fuchsia and red.

Electric shades brighten up our spirits, Bailey said.

“We need to stand out amidst the doom and gloom. That’s where optimism comes in. Fashion should be about being happy and optimistic and making everyone feel good about themselves. Right now we desperately need that.”
And we're tough

Store those frillies. Clothing with clean architectural lines predominated. This tough chic look often comes in black and features padded shoulders. Donna Karan revived her 1980s power suit; the shoulders aren’t as heavily padded as in the past but still offer a strong silhouette. Yigal Azrouel and Nicole Miller were among those offering dresses with peaked shoulders for a Star Trek look.
We want to shine

The runways dripped with gold. Just about every designer featured a metallic dress or evening gown. The look extended to accessories as BCBG showcased gold tights and Oscar de la Renta featured gold-plated heels.

Metallics historically have been a staple in troubled times, Bailey said. “It goes back to the theory that in war times you want to be shiny. It’s your modern-day armor.”
It helps to have a sense of humor

Isaac Mizrahi titled his show “Smile” and topped off several of his designs with hats that mimic purses. He seemed to be saying, “Don’t lose your head over the financial situation. Everything is going to be all right.”

That’s good advice.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

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Fashion,dress party