Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Avant Garde, non?

I've neglected to mention that for the past three weeks the fashion world has been staging its biggest events of the year: NYFW, LFW, MFW and right now PFW. Yes, loads of acronyms but I'm pretty sure once I decipher them for you, you'll be kicking yourself. I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about:

Starting it all off (Sept 9th), on my side of the pond: NYFW - New York Fashion Week
Followed by the city that houses my heart: LFW - London Fashion Week
Next we went on a trip down to the tastemakers: MFW - Milan Fashion Week
And finalement, rounding it all out this week (Oct 7th) in the City of Light: PFW - Paris Fashion Week

These shows are for the next season: Spring Summer 2011. When I first figured out the fashion calendar I found all this advance previewing very confusing... I mean the Spring Ready to Wear runway shows are in September (when the biggest fashion issue of all magazines comes out with the fall preview), then the Spring/Summer Couture runway shows premiere in January, Fall/Winter Ready to Wear runway shows preview in February and finishing the cycle, Winter Couture runway shows occur in July... confused yet. This all makes sense in the scheme of things because when you buy your copy of VOGUE or Harper's or Elle they are always previewing clothes for the upcoming season: therefore you have an idea of which trends are in and then can buy those clothes in time for the season. 'Savy?

My absolute favorite designer's Spring Collection is being shown today (in less than 4 hours!) and I am waiting in such anticipation that everyone around me is treading on eggshells, lest I break into tears. I'm actually surprised I haven't done an individual post about said designer; but I shall reveal to you that my designer icon is, the one and only and exceptionally missed: Alexander McQueen. Last year, February 11th, I pretty much cried myself to sleep after his suicide and there are few days that go by where I don't mention or think about him. In my 'Pretty Proenza' post I had a slight tantrum about how much I lusted after his iconic skull print scarf... 

Well little did I know that I was to become the owner of this item only a week later on my birthday, and trust me. There were major waterworks.

So, yeah. Loads to look forward to for Spring 2011 when I get to the whole archiving. But SO excited about the McQueen show, the first without Lee. GOOD LUCK Sarah Burton!

On to today's agenda.... I have two, three hour art history lectures a week. One from 6:30 - 9:30pm Wednesday night and the other 8:30 - 11:30am Thursday morning. Talk about back to back. Anyway, last week in my morning lecture (Modern Art History) we were talking about the 'avant-garde' and attempted to define it, and we came up with this: Avant Garde: New, ahead of it’s time, aesthetically advanced, sometimes synonymous with ‘modern’. Art that attempts to achieve the goals of political revolution. I would like to add that it often pushes the envelope and exceptionally creatively charged. Keep these definitions in mind on our trip today, because that is exactly what this post is... a complete and utter mind trip into the world of Winter Couture a la 2010 style. Take a deep breath... seriously.

Bienvenue a Paris... July 2010. I did a post a couple months previously about what Couture is... a little refresher: it means 'high dress-making' and it is the uuber extravagant side to the fashion world, where the clothes are almost unwearable and and almost all conceptual.

This is John Galliano's domain and this collection is not without color or his sense of theatricality, 'cause when you're the Creative Director of a brand like Dior you need to be a little crazy. The collection was an ode to nature and if you didn't see the parallel between the flowered background and the clothes, you were crazy. The pretty models traipsed down the runway looking like exotic flowers from a tropical rainforest while donning Stephen Jones veils made to look like colored florist's plastic wrap. 

OK, I've given you a teeny tiny peek at what this visual assault, but before you become fully engaged I want you to keep the work of glassblower Dale Chihuly in mind, especially his fantastical potted plants below. I find colors, shapes and patterns are spot on and very similar. It is obvious both men, artist and designer, spent hours in intense study of plant life in order to articulate them correctly.

I also want you to look at some of these exotic flowers and draw comparisons as well:
You are now free to take a gander at the rest of John's fantastic collection:

Are your eyes exhausted yet? It's a pretty brilliant salute to nature and I couldn't choose a favorite look even if you paid me to. I'd love to see these dresses in a museum or gallery among other works of art with similar themes of nature and bright color. While some of the dresses are pretty literal in their allude to flowers (See: the white & purple flower print dress with the red raffia belt and the white sweater & blue printed skirt with the yellow gloves) others are more abstract and attempt to actually imitate the shapes and texture of flower petals (See: black & pink off the shoulder dress with the pink gloves - the material of the skirt ripples like curling petals. The last gown, black off the shoulder with silky draping. The silk imitates the inside of flower petals so perfectly it makes you want to stroke it.)

The more I look at this collection I think of Chihuly, who is renowned for his exotic shapes and colors. It's pretty amazing when you think about it: everything is made of glass. This boat installation is one of his favorite motifs. During his exhibition at Kew Gardens in 2005, Chihuly anchored a boat in the lake surrounded by hundreds of bobbing glass orbs. They're just absolute treasure chests of explosive color.

Chihuly mimicking a towering forest. The contrast between the slim, pointed, twisting stalks and the squat orbs creates great layers and the division of space gives the entire installation a realism.

It's hard to completely appreciate the details that go into clothes this ornate when you're seeing them from a far and in photos so I've included some close ups of the gowns, shoes and headgear. It also makes the whole affair into an abstract art exhibition.
The gown on the left is constructed of layer upon layer of tulle (similar to Viktor & Rolf's Spring 10 collection) and the top layer of satiny material is printed with a Hibiscus-like motif but look at the hem and you'll see where the real creativity is: Galliano has cut it to imitate the fringed ends of the petals and you can even see what look like the veins of the petal going up the dress. What else can I say about the look on the right, but that orange has never looked so good and electric blue is my new crush.

I'm looking at these shoes and thinking that they're microfiber suede strips that have been laser cut and then arranged together to create something vine-like. This is the most Edenic part of the show for me, especially the black twisted heels that add the only dark side to the overwhelmingly joyful presentation.
The headgear is pretty fabulous by itself. Pastel colors twisting up over the models' beehive sky high hair. The entire package makes the girls look actual like flower bouquets. The one downside to these veils is that you can't see the amazing make up as well.

Speaking of make-up...
There is none of the neutral, dewy-ness that we have come to expect of this Winter season. If I didn't know better I would say that this collection is made for Spring (although you'd sweat to death in some of the woolly fabrics and coats so, in that case, no). The color palette is no departure from the color of the garments: electric oranges, blues, sea greens and vibrant pinks. Please tell me you see the correlation between these make-up looks and this Bird of Paradise plant...
I'm going to draw another comparison and that is to these sketches by Chihuly for some of his potted plant pieces. While the backgrounds are slightly pastelly the overlapping colors pop out at you.

Moving on, meet Karlie:
This girl is what every designer dreams about, every fashion editor would sell their soul for and what every guy is petrified of: tall, stunning, amazonian, with a power charged walk and bone structure you could slice bread with. Named as one of the top 30 models of the 2000's by VOGUE FR, Karlie Kloss is going far and did I mention the statuesque beauty is just 18...? Anyway, she often opens Galliano's shows for both Dior and his own name brand and in this one she came out in a rich purple coat/dress that I think looks like a thistle... to each her own.
And so you believe that I'm not insane in peddling Galliano's wares, look who was in his front row that day: left to right Grace Coddington (Creative Director of American Vogue), the ever fabulous Anna Wintour (if you don't know this you have been living under a rock, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue), next is another fashion icon and an editorial one as well Carine Roitfeld (Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue) and lastly Patrick Demarchelier (one of the world's foremost fashion photographers).

And to top off an amazing stop on our Couture trip... Mr. Galliano himself, as over the top and fabulous as ever. He always manages to steal the spotlight... even after a fantastic show.

Pretty freakin' fabulous eh? Hope you're not Dior-ed out! Oh did I not mention we've got more to cover today?....Hehehe evil cackle of immense proportions.

Next stop: Giorgio! Now, this next man is a fashion GIANT, I am not exaggerating, he probably puts out over 20 runway collections yearly for lines like Emporio Armani, the original Giorgio Armani and his haute couture line Armani Privé. In addition he has more commercial lines such as Armani Collezioni, Armani Jeans, Armani Junior, A/X Armani Exchange, and Armani Casa. Do you have any idea who I'm talking about? Of course it is the legendary Italian Mr. Giorgio Armani. He has built one of the largest privately owned fashion houses on the face of the earth and it is so highly respected... I just can't handle it.
For this season Armani Privé focused on a highly glam Old Hollywood that carried on with the winter theme of pared back styles and colors, we saw a lot of beige and camel and brown in a collection that featured many luxe suits and skirts and his amazing evening wear that will have current Hollywood leading ladies in a frenzy.

Just so you know, not all these models are blonde... You've already met the brunette Karlie (above right). This blonde whole wig business leads me to believe that Giorgio is pretty darn serious in portraying his idea of Old Hollywood babes and my first thought was pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe. This connection led me to compare Giorgio's girls to the Andy Warhol screen print Marilyn Diptych (created several months after the star's death). This piece of art actually came up in my modern class; we were trying to decide whether it was Modern or the beginning of the Post-Modern movement. Regardless this image is Avant-Garde and I believe it is meant to be a social commentary: the left half of the image features 25 garishly colored Monroes in varying states of vibrancy while the right features 25 black and white Monroes in varying degrees of degradation. The difference in color is meant to symbolize life and death and the mysterious circumstances of her death. We only saw a colorful facade of Monroe in life, while now in death we see the ugly side of stardom. 
My point in this whole charade... do I even have one? I was just trying to draw a parallel between Armani's Old Hollywood girls and the first lady of Hollywood glam. I could definitely see her in the last outfit, the long sleeved, sequin, body con dress. I still think the curled blonde tresses are a little bit of a teaser. Below we see Armani carrying on the minimalism and a literal example of amber in the eye makeup (this collection was called A Play on Amber). Anyway... bye bye Giorgio, you've been stylish as always.

In an interview for his Fendi SpringSummer 2011 show Karl Lagerfeld said one of the coolest things I've heard in a while: 'There are two things I like in life; what I haven't done yet and what I haven't witnessed'. Pretty genius and this man is another fashion GIANT. With three lines to command every season: Chanel (who we will be looking at today), Karl Lagerfeld and Fendi Mr. Lagerfeld is one of fashion's heaviest hitters. He can make or break a model's career and can skyrocket Hollywood actresses to international fame in one second. This collection demonstrates why Karl is the only person to design for Chanel. Have I mentioned that he does theatricality in his sleep? Check out the set...
Every Chanel show is OTT, extravagant, fantastical, beautiful and moving and especially his Couture shows. This show is so detailed it's almost unbelievable that a human designed and created it... I'd definitely say it was Avant-Garde, hands down.
I see so many of the winter trends in this collection: Sleek tailoring as demonstrated through the first two looks, earthy tones: browns, maroon, cream and camel, ornate opulence as seen in the two outfits above (all those sequins! It's enough to drive a magpie crazy) and minimalism in the form of pared back make-up with only a bright lip to spice things up.
Again I needed to throw in some close ups so that you could see how ornate everything is:
Not only are the bracelets works of art in themselves but look at the weight of the fabric used in the coat on the right. It's proper winter wear (looks like a new version of brocade) and then on the left we see an example of his pure craftsmanship. The flowers look like embroidery from a far, but AHA... they include sewn on beading and sequins.
This collection is a ton more vibrant than his last Chanel Couture collection that seems as though it would have fit with the more minimal color theme of this season. Last was all pastel and pretty and this season is all edgy, hard and almost dark... I love it. It is so opulent and ornate, I see some McQueen in here (the show has happened, I'm just waiting for photos and then my life is complete).
Oh, my, gosh! I mean these pearl crinkle, Robin-Hood-meets-Maid-Marion boots are so... so.... bloody awesome. Look at the carved heels on the right. Two words... DE-TAIL. I'm usually not a huge fan of heavily embroidered and fantastical clothes like these... I'd love to say my style is Devil-may-care, London chic grunge with a cup of indie electicism but I'm more casual conservative (in the monotone, sleek cut tops with jeans or plain trousers sense, plus I find it hard to actually look fashionable when I look like a drowned pool rat most days) but I would actually wear this stuff. Shocker for some, I know.
Again, the make-up is barely there with only a light berry stain on the lips. This provides a clean palette for the clothes who do all the talking with no background noise. When you're at this caliber of fashion you don't make mistakes.... like, ever.

Next we take a small detour to someone who makes dresses that every girl would salivate over and then ruin. To be frank, these clothes are beautiful and Elie Saab is one of my favorite dressmaking brands but I don't see this collection as being as Couture as the previous three. DO NOT GET ME WRONG, these clothes are of the highest quality, I just think that John Galliano has enough theatricality for 50 designers and Elie Saab needs to rent some.

If the volume of photos didn't make it obvious, I love this show and had a real hard time choosing my favorites. All of these dresses are red carpet worthy (he's a red carpet master-dresser) I just debate the use of Couture to describe this collection. It was apparently inspired by Venice's opera house La Fenice and you can see that in the red dresses, made to mimic the ornate velvet curtains and also the gold and glitter encrusted gowns to allude to the gilding. It's a fantastical idea, but the execution is lacking conviction. You need to go all out or go home if you wanna do couture. No offense Mr. Saab. I still love you.

I feel pretty horrible belittling a collection (I haven't really done that yet, I usually ooze awe everywhere) so I hope my adoration of this next collection kinda makes up for it. Riccardo Tisci has done wonders for Givenchy and this couture collection is a complete wonder. It is one of the most stunning collections I have ever seen and this is because of the intense workmanship of all the pieces. The only word I can use to aptly describe it is 'encrusted'. These clothes are dripping with crystals, embroidery, fringing, feathers, lace, zippers... etc. I get a slightly skeletal theme from the clothes. The embroidery creeps up the models legs and arms like bones and arteries of pure white. Craftsmanship... 
I will draw one comparison to this collection and that is the last collection created by my beloved Alexander McQueen. His Winter 2010 presentation consisted of 16 pieces that he had hand crafted on the stand before his suicide. The only reason I bring them up is that they were presented in a very similar environment - guilded halls, staunch white with gold trim and the nature of the embroidery and craftsmanship employed. These three gowns are also dripping with beading and decorative appliques that are reminiscent of what Tisci has used in his engineering. Kudos, if I'm comparing you to McQueen, it means I really really really really like you.

This post is already epically long so I'm gonna cut it short with only two designers left. We can cover them on another day. I've been refreshing the Style.com homepage for hours now because I'm waiting for them to upload the McQueen photos. I'll leave you with a little teaser for what's to come.

Listening to: 'Let the Sun Shine' - Labyrinth
Observations: The constant refreshing of Style.com
Craving: The release of the McQueen photos, I am so excited... I will burst into tears when I finally get to see em all.

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