Thursday, February 15, 2007

Four Key New York Shows

Oscar de la Renta
New York fashion week is always a barometer for the rest of fashion. Many new designers start their careers here - to varying degrees of success. This season provided some interesting contrasts. However, there were four key shows, which are sure to be influential.
Proenza Schouler -
providing plenty to think about, Proenza Schouler sent all its models down the runway wearing cloche hats. The influence of the early twenties was not restricted to millinery. Many of the silhouettes seemed influenced by this time-period, from flapper dresses to slouchy double breasted coats. However, much like the Dior haute-couture collection, the Proenza Schouler show mixed historical influences with a modern sensibility - here, daring mixes of fabrics and textures. These fabrics were often extremely luxurious. Nonetheless, expect many of the themes to be replicated (to a degree, with less luxurious fabrics!) on the high street next season.
Zac Posen - as can be expected with Zac Posen, impeccable tailoring, opulent fabrics and a generous helping of subdued glitz ruled the day. There were plenty of reliable cocktail looks to please even the most social of butterflies. Coats provided an area of experimentation, both in fabric and style. There were also some key evening gowns, illustrating Posen's flair for the dramatic.
Marc Jacobs -
hats were also greatly in evidence at the Marc Jacobs show - expect Fall 2007 to be the season of the hat. Here shapes and colors were far more diverse than at Proenza Schouler and matched Jacobs' varied, sophisticated palette. Silhouettes were sleek, lean and pared down. Fabrics mainly matched the sleek outlines - embellishment mainly found expression in tailored details (pin-tucks, folds, belts) and color combinations, except for a few sequinned examples.
Oscar de la Renta -
the supreme embodiment of Upper East chic, Oscar de la Renta knows exactly what to do and how to do it. Key details were fur (collars, hems, cuffs, edges), rich colors (burgundy, midnight blue, imperial purple and gunmetal) and embellished evening wear. A versatile, luxe collection, it contained enough varied looks to please those of wildly differing sensibilities. Exaggerated hips shared space with twinkling cocktail wear. Plain, pared down evening wear shared space with fabrics rich in surface detail.

Five To Watch From New York Fashion Week

  1. Brian Reyes
  2. 3.1 Phillip Lim
  3. Tory Burch
  4. Rodarte
  5. Peter Som

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spring 2007 Haute Couture At A Glance

Christian Dior.
In order to be truly haute-couture, a garment must be made in Paris. Each year, only a very select group of designers present haute-couture collections in Paris. These represent the zenith of the creative and practical arts of fashion. Haute-couture is an art-form in itself and the pieces produced are wearable artworks. Of course, as with most artworks, the garments come at a premium. Haute-couture is unattainable to all but a small elite group of buyers. However, some of the themes and ideas filter through to the ready-to-wear collections. In any case, the haute-couture shows are worth studying for the sheer vitality and creativity of the designs. Here is a quick guide to some of the shows:
Dior - the most breath-taking and stunning of all the shows in my opinion. The collection was inspired by Japan, particularly by the story of Madame Butterfly, and featured influences from the clothes of geishas, delicate Japanese art motifs and origami. Nothing new here, you might think. However, what made the collection so interesting was the way in which these influences had been viewed through the lens of the New Look designs of the 40s and 50s (an influence also viewed in the ready-to-wear collection from this house, although in a far more utilitarian way). A collection at once nostalgic and breath-takingly modern, particularly in colour palette (acid pink, vivid green, electric blue) and the architectural form of certain details (shoulder, hips etc). Garments featured bold shapes paired with oversized motifs popular is Japanese art - waves, blossoms. This collection truly showcased the technical wizadry which the haute-couture "petits-mains" can employ in realising a designer's creative vision.
Chanel - by complete contrast, Chanel's collection featured designs with clean lines and a short, neat silhouette with a rigorous colour palette - monochrome, with splashes of colour. Suits and day dresses were given a decidedly 60s twist - mini skirts, round necklines and evening dresses were either short or long, featuring innovative combinations of materials, particularly organza and feathers. This may sound simple, but the collection was anything but: Lagerfeld is all about the details and the construction. What looks young and spontaneous, has actually taken many hours and many hands to construct - a case in point the stunning dress below (210 hours). This is the genius and enduring popularity of Lagerfeld, making the complex seem young and insouciant. Other key details to emerge from this collection are feathers, bows, patent leather accents and fingerless gloves.
Christian Lacroix - this collection bore all the hallmarks of Lacroix: bold colours, exaggerated shapes and prints. Yellow and electric blue were big here, as at Dior. Daywear again had a mainly short silhouette, with skirts being wide this time instead of streamlined as at Chanel. Inspired by flowers, the collection is a joy to behold. Lacroix clothes are for those who are not afraid of making a statement. It was in evening wear that this collection really excelled. Lacroix showed a magnificent selection of evening gowns, in a variety of different shapes and styles but all bearing Lacroix' s trademark precise, yet somehow whimsical tailoring. Frills, layers, large flower accents, ruffles and exaggerated sleeves all in the most delicate and flowing of fabrics.
Armani Prive - a collection inspired by India, although the inspiration manifested itself more in the cut of the garments and the texture of the fabrics than the colour. Armani's palette was mostly neutral - black, grey, silver, white. This allowed the cut of the garments and the subtle embellishments on the garments to really reveal themselves. Metallic, textured fabrics were key - either draped fluidly, or tailored delicately. The influence of the sari became apparent in Armani's evening wear - flowing lines, one-shouldered garments, draping - although given a sleek, typically Armani treament.
Valentino - Valentino showed an all-white (well, nearly, there were some very subtle hints of pink and yellow) collection, which was light and airy in its construction. Rich in detail, embellished fabrics, daywear was young and frivolous. Valentino is, of course, master of the red carpet gown. There were several key gowns, which could well appear on a red-carpet soon.
Givenchy - Riccardo Tisci presented a pared back, almost macabre collection for Givenchy. This wasn't to all tastes, but there were certain flashes of genius. Key features were a monochrome colour palette punctuated with splashes of bright yellow; deconstructed yet tailored naval inspired jackets; details applied to Edwardian inspired dress like sea-shells, anemones and other marine flora clinging to rocks.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Trend-watch - the upcoming season, part 1

1. neon brights - this season, it is the brighter, the better colour-wise: electric blue, pink, yellow are very popular. This is not a look for the faint-hearted. A good idea is to stick to accessories, such as bags, belts and jewellery.

2. super-high or flat as a pancake - for the second season running, there isn't much hope if you are a fan of kitten heels. Designers have continued their love affair with super (and I mean super!) high heels in the 4inches+ range. There are some amazing, sexy, chic designs out there but that doesn't make them any easier to walk in - so start practising now. Either that, or choose to go to the other extreme and pick a dainty, elegant flat. Look out, in particular, for the round toe flats and for some very exciting Roman and Native American influenced sandals.

Gucci (above) and Balenciaga (below).
3. architectural pieces - designers like Hussein Chalayan and Dolce and Gabanna showed some amazing, structural pieces on the catwalk, like this example with panniered hips, which looks a lot like armour. Pick a slightly pared-down version of this trend (for one thing, it'll be easier to get through doorways!), such as this dress by Fendi.

Dolce and Gabbana (left) and Fendi (right).
4. metallics - a big trend this season, almost everyone showed something metallic. If the idea of Balenciaga's gold robot leggings frightens you, stick with one of Marc Jacobs metallised jackets.

Check back soon for part 2 and for a look at the New York shows.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My Funny Valentine!

Photography copyright Louisa McKenzie.

So, Valentine's day is fast approaching: the one day of the year which strikes joy into the hearts of some and fear/abject desperation into the hearts of others. If you are worried about what to buy this year, here are some suggestions for unusual gifts:

1. spa vouchers - some would say a little boring and uninventive but they will always be popular with the person receiving the gift. You are giving them the gift of time and relaxation.
2. a rare book/record - a gift which is obviously dependent on the stage of the relationship (never too much too soon) and the personal taste of your partner. However, if your loved one has a favorite author or book, or has always been looking for a rare record or DVD, nothing says "I love you (and I was listening all those times you told me about it)" like this type of gift.
3. a well-planned event - this is the ideal gift if work takes up a lot of your and/or your partner's time. Plan something like a picnic (weather permitting), a special meal, a bike ride, anything which suits your partner. Make sure you have enough time to do it - don't worry if you can't manage Valentine's Day, pick a time you can both do.
4. "Good Gifts" - a reall great idea for a gift these days is to give someone a charity gift. Goats are very popular at Christmas, but there are many more to choose from and there is something for every budget. The companies often also have occasion-suitable gifts Just make sure the company is reputable. Popular and effective companies are: Good Gifts, Oxfam Unwrapped and Cafod World Gifts.

TOP TIP - pretty, well-thought out wrapping goes a long way!