Wednesday, June 30, 2010

final menswear bits and bobs

I go back and forth between tepid love and hate for Miuccia Prada. I don't think I could stand her as a person; she's notoriously sizist and Prada's casting is some of the most white-washed in the business. THAT SAID, as far as a show is concerned, she can create one hell of an atmosphere, and her Spring 2011 menswear show was no different. The staging was imposing and futuristic: a giant, elevated runway of metallic grids and concrete columns under hot white fluorescents, an industrial setting that looked like the bunker of a spaceship. And the soundtrack by DJ Frederic Sanchez was extraordinary--as the lights snapped on, the models marched out to a pulsing, mutated remix of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" layered with two versions (Jeanne Moreau and Ingrid Caven) of "Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves." Hence the video instead of photos.
Oh, fashion shows are about clothes. Well, it was nice to see some vibrant colors in a season whose palette has been overwhelmingly dark and moody, and I liked the idea of a super-slim, aerodynamically athletic business suit, but...she made scrubs out of denim. Moving on.

Sarah Burton was, ultimately, the right person for the job. Anyone else (I know rumors about Gareth Pugh were flying around for ages) would have been too easily identifiable in their own style, and as Lee's right-hand woman for years, she knew the aesthetic and she was instrumental in putting together his unfinished Fall 2010 collection. Her first runway presentation was a no-fuss, shock-free collection that showed hints of McQueen's most memorable shows--vampire robes and Victoriana--the ever-present photo-prints, and his history on Savile Row. The degradé work was amazing, and I loved the new shapes and silhouettes, particularly in swinging coats. There's still a spark missing... but I have faith.

I've said before that I want every piece of Neil Barrett's Fall 2010 womenswear in my closet immediately. Minimalist, monochrome, a little sexy in skintight leather, and featuring NICK CAVE GRAPHIC TEES, it is the collection I would enthusiastically point to when asked about my day-to-day aesthetic. Menswear is no exception; a little more wrinkled and relaxed than Barrett's previous outings, it was nonetheless punky, sharp, with a great don't-give-a-fuck attitude. The layered sheer tops are a must.

Jarring to start with and clever in the end, Ann Demeulemeester sent out a collection of clinical, pristine white clothes stripped of layers, volume, and any accoutrements that would draw attention away from the body. And the show was over just like that.
Except when it totally wasn't, and the models walked out again sporting detail-for-detail duplicates in black, the cotton of the white half replaced by leather in the black. It was an interesting experiment that toyed with the audience's emotions; one would think that black leather would be far (metaphorically) darker and more imposing, but white is fucking sinister. Demeulemeester's white comes from fencing gear, straitjackets, and Patrick Bateman's raincoat. Intriguingly threatening, but definitely cool.

John Galliano is always fun. He knows how to give the audience a spectacle, and more often than not, it's genuinely enjoyable and thrilling. This collection was genius: part Charlie Chaplin (the super-tight jacket and baggy trousers seem to be a major trend for spring, and the Tramp's costumes brought the shape to its logical extreme), part Death in Venice (lit nerd time: both von Aschenbach and Tadzio are represented: overly made-up models in mosquito-netted boater hats and white suits for the former, Lido-ready bathing suits for the latter), part futuristic Hollywood in the finale's lace and leather...the man knows how to make movie magic.

...oh yeah, there's one glaringly obvious designer missing. It's a given that I loved Rick Owens, because there was tons of black, monster boots, sheer tops, and shrouded leather so hard it looked like body armor. So let's take a deep breath and bid adieu to what's been a fantastic menswear season. Hopefully womenswear will follow suit.

Monday, June 28, 2010

thin is in: in search of the perfect male body (from the guardian)

With Men's Fashion Week running wild (I'll get a few more posts up, I promise...Paris, you did not disappoint), talk has turned to what styles or themes we'll be seeing in men's fashion come Spring 2011. But Polly Vernon, deputy editor at the Observer, instead directs her attention at what she thinks is a shocking, perhaps worrisome trend: increasingly waifish, rail-thin male models.

(l: dior homme spring 2007 | r: rick owens spring 2011)

This article is problematic for a number of reasons, from the petty to the more troubling: firstly, many of her cultural "icons" she accuses of promoting a new skinny male ideal are stuck in 2006. Is Johnny Borrell relevant anymore? Does he really have the power to shift the body image zeitgeist in 2010? But seriously, her discussion takes a very heterocentric turn in her informal polling of women's male body preferences, glossing over what is an equally important question of the gay male gaze--especially noticeable since, of the 9 men quoted at the end of the article, 4 are gay. She also doesn't hide her schadenfreude at the apparent rise of destructive body obsession; after mentioning that the percentage of eating disorder sufferers who are male increased from 10 to 20-5%, while female figures (pardon the pun) have remained relatively constant, she says:
What do women think of all this? I'll be honest: we have to work hard not to cackle, and scream: "Welcome to our nightmare, suckers!" We've been subject to these kinds of pressures for centuries, expected to grow and shrink and entirely redefine our body shape depending on prevailing diktats on what is and isn't hot. You, men, have not helped us with your endless, casual objectification, your porno-lite lads' magazines and your inability not to deliver a relentless commentary on every aspect of our physical being. We've struggled between polar physical ideals for decades: between the intimidatingly severe and extremely thin architecture of the catwalk model, and the super-tanned, curvaceous obvious pulchritude of the glamour girl. Relatively, you lot are amateurs at all this.

At another point, she also refers to "manorexia," a problematic and cringe-inducing portmanteau that implies eating disorders are for women alone, that men with EDs are merely a catchy, tabloid-ready craze. She's not-so-successfully fighting off the urge to point her finger at men and go "neener neener" throughout the whole piece, applying her perverse delight to the nebulous "we" of all women. Well, as a young woman who herself has recovered from anorexia, I say no. It sucks for anyone, regardless of gender or orientation. End of story.

While it is true that fatphobia does affect men, she seems to be conflating it with the "mainstreaming" of the bone-thin, slender look always prevalent in music and fashion. She points the finger at Hedi Slimane, receiver of pointed fingers since his first collection at Dior Homme in 2001 to his step down in 2007. He's the designer most closely associated with the so-called "skinny-man movement," not least because of his idolization of youth, pin-thin tailoring, and friendship with Pete Doherty. HOWEVER, I find it important to mention that a lot of Slimane's inspiration comes from the indie rock world, from his associations with Pete Doherty to his album covers for Phoenix to his projects with These New Puritans. Hell, he even put Bryan Ferry's son Isaac on the catwalk once.

Thing is, the "gobsmackingly lean silhouette" has been the norm in the rock world for decades; you run through a list of iconic frontmen from 1970 on (okay, we're actually going to run through my own charts) and you get David Bowie, Iggy Pop, pretty much every punk ever, Peter Murphy, Jarvis Cocker as mentioned in the article, Brett Anderson--all sex symbols (in part) because of their ectomorphic silhouettes. Thin White Duke, impeccable cheekbones, stick insect, snake their medium, it's considered sexy, even when it's the ravages of drug abuse, to be lanky and thin. Yes, ever since Slimane's Dior Homme, male models have been bone-thin (it seems like they're stuck on the "alien" trend the female modeling world went through a few years back). But is this really symptomatic--or, even more extremely, a direct CAUSE--of increased male self-disgust? Probably not. Most of the quotes at the end of the article express more personal dissatisfaction than an envy of emaciated alien boys ("I was fed up with having man boobs. I could see silverback gorillas looking at me with envy," so sayeth Stephen Fry). The worlds of high fashion and rock music appeal to only a small percentage of modern men; while women are dictated how they SHOULD look across all media equally--fashion, music, Hollywood--only certain media marketed to men include similar instruction. There's a trickle-down effect from high- to low-fashion for women; I highly doubt you'll see any of Jil Sander's neons or florals in the men's equivalent of Forever 21. It's all just a different kind of body scrutiny in my eyes; just as the Victoria's Secret big boobs/tiny-everything-else combination is just as or more impossible to achieve than being rail thin, so is the gigantic, muscular shape. It ain't good where anyone's concerned, but it still seems strange to me to talk about it now when there's always been an unachievable ideal. It's just that THIS decade's fashionable ideal isn't considered acceptably "masculine," so now everyone's uncomfortable.

(jean paul gaultier | alexis mabille | rick owens)

I think, when we confine ourselves to the fashion industry, it's more symptomatic of increased androgyny in menswear, emphasis on more "unisex" clothing. Perhaps it's purely a zeitgeist thing; post-Slimane, the idea of über-sexual, predominately masculine menswear has faded away, and not just as far as model casting is concerned. You get the obvious example of Rick Owens, who uses a lot of drapery and skirting, and has definitely ushered in the trend of the "man-heel," but even the old guard has been doing it more subtly (for instance, fabric choices more typically used in womenswear. A YSL collection a few seasons ago used silk gazar, organza, crêpe de chine, etc. in garments which seemed entirely, traditionally masculine in construction until you touched them). You've got La Roux performing in a Monsieur suit at Viktor and Rolf (I dislike her, but that's besides the point), models looking like they rolled around in daisy fields at Alexis Mabille. Jean Paul Gaultier, who's always played around with varied casting, had some models who were ridiculously muscular, some you couldn't tell were boys on first glance. As far as fashion is concerned, it seems less about ushering in a new male body ideal than some designers, both emerging and established, blurring and subverting gender in clothing. From 19th-century dandyism to the 2010 waifs, it seems to be a reaction to mainstream masculinity as a whole, not just body image.

Friday, June 25, 2010

menswear milan, AKA flapping my hands with glee at burberry

Sometimes, I get more excited by menswear than I do womenswear. Perhaps it's because Men's Fashion Week has the added bonus of adorable male models (a little superficiality never hurt anyone) with razor-sharp cheekbones and skinny little waists; more often it's because, since I dress relatively androgynously in my day-to-day life, there's always at least a jacket, a top, or some shoes for me to covet. If I run through a list of my favorite designers or fashion inspirations (see: 1920's, the early 80's), they're all into a little gender-bending, lots of leather, and killer draping--perfect for my ruler-shaped body.

I'm late on Milan, obviously. To be honest, I only looked at a few of the collections; Paris has taken my heart already, and there'll be many more posts dedicated to my perennial favorites. But there were definitely three of note, and here's the best of the best...

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Studded leather. Need I say more?
I've already heard complaints from the holier-than-thou goth old guard...a luxury brand co-opting OUR style? Fuck you, man! It's a lifestyle! The only people who would pay $6000 for a PRE-STUDDED leather jacket are braindead fashionistas, okay?
Meh. I'm bothered by it too; it's kind of infuriating when you're swept up in a fleeting hipster craze when you've been dressing like this (and on a significantly tighter budget) since you were 15, and your prized leather smells like years-old stale beer. Tragic indeed. Fashion will always co-opt youth cult movements, and by the time you're done raging, it'll be something else. I'd rather bask in the loveliness of it all--the military and biker inspirations are spot-on, the tailoring, as expected from Christopher Bailey and ol' Booberry, is impeccable, and THIS BAG. THIS BAG, THIS BAG, THIS BAG. Quite frankly, I want to roll around with it and give it big hugs. I think it's worth the risk of injury.

Friday, June 18, 2010


So here we are. Real Fashion Blogging, where the internet is perhaps more intimidating than real life. For one, I think I look significantly better in person than in photos. For two, does the blogosphere (a word I'm shocked doesn't elicit the red underline of death) need another borderline hipster goth with close-cropped hair and a penchant for giant, unwieldy wedges? Hopefully, I can convince you yes.

I currently work as a writer for, covering NYC events, fashion news, and people who are taller and richer than I am. Before this, I was a professional music industry hanger-on, shooting gigs for IAMX, Jarvis Cocker, the Black Lips, Matt & Kim, Miss Kittin & the Hacker, and others; making a not-so-superstar appearance among 30 others in Patrick Wolf's "Hard Times" video (that said, he quite liked me afterwards); and goading tour managers into photo passes and soundchecks--getting a lot of beer poured on me, climbing over stage barriers, and crushing a few of my own teenage dreams in the process. I had a moderately successful college radio show at Oberlin called Methods of Dance, covering the best and most disparate tastes in 70's and 80's electronic music (and, later on, a lot of cheating because I liked them, damn it; just because they're from the early 80's doesn't mean that anyone would mistake the Birthday Party for a synth band). I stumbled into the fashion industry through a mix of encyclopedic, often unnecessary knowledge of trends, influences, and decades past, and what old-timers call gumption.

This will not be a "what I wore today" blog. That would become rather boring, since I rotate three pairs of pants, some shorts, a dress or two, and an absurd amount of tops every week (all in dazzling monochrome). I'll be fusing my interests in fashion, music, feminism, and Putting That Comparative Literature Major to Good Use, God Damn It--lots of conspicuous consumption and cultural theory punctuated by the occasional "gurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl" and Kylie Minogue song.

So let's see where this takes us.