Sunday, November 23, 2014

Field Trippin

Let's go to the land of Céline. 

We start in France, 1945, mere seasons beyond the cessation of World War II. The brand, whose name nods at caelum (sky or heaven), is born not as a fashion powerhouse but in a humbler form, that of a child's shoe. Over the next twenty years the French house expands to the far reaches of the globe--to otherworldly Japan--and to include adult footwear and accessories before launching its first ready-to-wear line. 

Following a four decade stint, Madame Céline Vipiana is succeeded by American designer Michael Kors in 1997. When he leaves in 2004, the ill-defined brand changes hands twice before landing in the lap of Phoebe Philo, former Creative Director and designer at Chloé.

You may remember Chloé as the brand once helmed by a Beatles daughter, Stella McCartney. I remember so vividly the first time I realized it was she who sent pineapple prints and horses silhouetted down the runway. It may have been the advent in my interest in the designer, rather than the clothes alone.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Game Theory

Lifestyle plays a key role in determining a personal style. I learned that following a move from a small barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean to the dark islet of Manhattan. Not long after, I was reminded to dress for the unexpected, to budget for surprise and maybe even invest in a good pair of shoes that can carry you comfortably from downtown haunts to uptown meetings. Let's not take ourselves too seriously here, but there is a nice metaphor: Invest in quality—be it ideas, art that you love, books you will read a second and third and fourth time, in relationships of substance—and you will be the wiser woman.

Which is why this season has been so uniquely exciting. We've seen wardrobe staples reimagined for life in 2014printed furs, opulent evening dresses, simple black pants with satin folds that mimic garden roses, and sweaters, knits, and overcoatsthat are wearable (read: sensible), chic, and refined enough to retain their good looks over the next decades. You could picture yourself in Valentino's fur for the next forty years, imagine openings and galas and performances in tandem with Aquilano e Rimondi's silhouette, and countless meetings held in the company of Alexander Wang's Balenciaga knits. 


Aquilano e Rimondi


Simone Rocha

Glitz and Grunge

This season's Fashion Weeks have showcased some of the strongest collections in recent memory—strongest, of course being somewhat subjective. I'll rephrase: my personal style alarm has not stopped ringing since No. 21 sent a slew of nubby sweaters the color of moss down the runway paired with—what else—iridescent midi skirts and jewel-encrusted trousers.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


There are certain shows during Fashion Week that sweep you off your feet like a European lover. It doesn’t matter that neither of you shares a language. Ideas are expressed, the emotions of passion and seduction, the promise of adventure. To be honest, I have very little experience with pan-oceanic romantic pursuits (unless you count the hours I’ve logged ferociously reading of Countess Olenska’s doomed love of dreary Archer Newland), but I can imagine it quite easily. That’s because in the heat of Fashion Week—like the contact high you get making orbits around Chamberlain sculptures—it’s the image that sells; the idea that with a piece of art like that in your life everything else will fall in step and correspond, like angles on two parallel lines.

It’s then you find yourself at home, standing in front of a mirror in a deep pink satin Miu Miu top with three-quarter length sleeves and a V-neck low enough to require a well-toned stomach. The promise of candlelit cocktails, a trip to Barcelona, or a somehow less conservative theater night has wooed you. It’s the same way you ended up with a sixty-year-old ball gown in black, more than one pair of silk pants, and an armoire full of opera dresses without a corresponding subscription.

It’s also why I spent a moment longer with Band of Outsiders' Fall 2014 collection. The looks are more practical than I’m usually drawn to—and may I add that the picture open as I write this now does include arm-length leather gloves. More often this season, designer Scott Sternberg paired the perfectly cute with the perfectly undone office staple.  There were certain elements that seemed exaggerated—the bows, flower prints, and a few of the balloon-like pants—but for the most part, the look was sweet. Wearable.

But realistic isn’t a word I tend to quiver for. I’m drawn to adjectives like daring, inventive, or even strange. I love beauty, clean lines, and elegance—I do. But I tend to love them more on stage or on the runway than necessarily on me. Jason Wu’s FW14 collection was a beacon of this sort of gorgeousness, complete with luxe materials like devore velvet, sinuous tailoring, and a muted, elevated palette of lilacs and dark emerald greens.

I tend to go for looks that are undone or complicated. That may sound like a contradiction but the mood is quite similar. There is something more being said, or being left unsaid. Perhaps this is why I yearn for pieces that do not share my language—I’d like to learn from them, in time, or for the two of us to create a language all our own. 
The Row & Prabal Gurung

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Belgians are Coming!

I adore Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons. If we had to play favorites, they'd land side by side atop my list of designers. Though quite different in aesthetic, each of their styles is defined by innovation, cleanliness of line, and a play of color and shapes. No one can mix patterns--or make them look as luxe--as Dries. And Raf, at Jil Sander and now Christian Dior, has always been a master of silhouette. Their designs tend to be complicated but unfussy, as if the men had grown up in the company of Gothic spires and winding rivers, which they did.

Both designers hail from Belgium, a small country nestled among the Netherlands, Germany, and France. It is also the country where my father was born; whose fourth largest city shares its name with my hometown's most adorable corridor (Ghent), and the magical birthplace of the much adored Belgian waffle (which, like French fries, have been misattributed. Belgian waffles should really be known as Brussels waffles, though we've been calling them that since their stateside debut at the 1964 New York World's Fair. And of course, you know French fries are actually Belgian, right?)
That being said, it's a country worth exploration. The population is nearly halved by Dutch and French-speaking citizens, a political reality that has led to some tensions in recent years, resulting in laws that grant each of the regions autonomy and formal recognition (the country is home to the NATO headquarters and it's a country with not one but two official languages). You can find Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Flemish, Walloon, Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Modern architecture throughout the nation, which has been called the "cockpit of Europe" because of its central location and wide seacoast.

In a 2010 interview with Dazed Digital, Dries Van Notes said, "Working in fashion, the maelstrom of color, fabric and collections that one puts a lot of thought into, incites a reflex for a need for simplicity. This is why I find respite at home in Antwerp in my house and garden, where things are calm and relaxed." I think when one lives a life seeped in history, in the exploration of art and human creativity, you don't need much else. Your thoughts define you. Perhaps it is the elegant fold of a jacket that draws you to its design, the quiet, rather than the noise.

All collages are the work of Francesca Soroka.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spring 2014: Prada

Almost two months after Miuccia Prada debuted her Spring 2014 runway show in Milan, it's impossible to brush off the enormity of her artistic statement.

Let's start from the very beginning: Fashion is going through a rebirth. Thanks in part to the immediacy of the internet, the ubiquity of retail giants like H&M and Forever 21, and infamy of bloggers, fashion has become, as some have called it, a carnival. (Suzy Menkes made the claim as far back as 2010.) On the red carpet, the sidewalk, and web we see the same looks rehashed again and again. With the click of a button and few bucks, anyone just about anywhere can Xerox an idea.

What's at risk of being lost, of course, is the exercise of individuality in dress. You could easily point out that unless you shop vintage or make your own clothes exclusively, each purchase one makes is directed by some Wizard of Oz of fashion behind the capitalist scrim. And there's truth to that, but the point of this article is to highlight the fact that there has become, seemingly more persistent than ever, an actual desire to look a certain, very specific part.

But that's where Prada comes in. In the midst of a sea of white and pastel spring looks from other talented designers (looks that I must say, I still loved), her show was a shock. The walls, painted with murals of "multi-visions of womanhood," as Tim Blanks explained, worked in tandem with the clothes that were anything but demure. They were bold, colorful, edgy, and sometimes pretty in their ugliness. If a woman were to recreate any of these looks on her own, she would exude sex, resilience, and intensity. She might wear a bustier atop her shirt, athletic socks and a gown, olive wool and a killer bag.

Plenty of individuals and designers have sung their own songs--Betsy Johnson, Isabel Marant (who, yes, has teamed up with H&M so that her designs are accessible to the vast majority of fans who may never be able to afford her otherwise), and Oscar de la Renta come to mind. But women--especially younger ones--who have grown up with fast fashion and Instagram and insta-celebrities, may never have considered dressing any way other than fashionably. And Prada simply offers another idea. Why? And what does that mean?

Side note: I am a humongous fan of Garance Dore, of her sensibility and genuine nature. In one of her Pardon My French installments she interviewed [beloved] designer Dries Van Noten and he, with similar grace, told her that his shows are not meant to inspire the audience to go out and buy his sweater, exactly. He offers the idea to pair a grey sweater with a gold, diaphanous skirt. It is the spark he presents, not the flame.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Raf Simons Blooms at Dior Haute Couture

Just when you think you can safely bet on Raf Simons, he throws a fringed and beaded wrench into the mix. Case in point: Monday's Fall 2014 Haute Couture collection in Paris. Where only months prior, the Belgian designer sent spectacularly pretty and feminine silk dresses and pants down a garden path runway, this round he showcased a decidedly more forward perspective, influenced by the seemingly infinite iterations of the modern woman. Perhaps Simons found time to read de Beauvoir in his scant free time.

There was a tiered dresses in red silk that conjured the image of a twirling matador; and an off-white and striped dress with a hemline like a Mexican tablecloth. Collarbones were often decorated with tubular necklaces that seem to reference sub-Saharan designs, while cloaks and kimonos morphed into outwear.



Only six months ago, Raf Simons' genius bloomed at Dior's 2014 spring Haute Couture presentation, a benchmark in the designer's prolific inaugural year at the storied Parisian house. Crops of svelte models, their hair doused and slick like petals after heavy summer rain, maneuvered their ways down a white runway edged with shrubbery, flowering with looks that evoked the unfurling of exotic fauna. Simons' designs honored the legacy of Dior and the innovation of silhouette that has made the name eponymous with tempered elegance.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Calvin Klein Collection Men's S14 Runway Show

Monday morning saw the manifestation of Calvin Klein's Creative Director Italo Zucchelli's interpretation of the modern man in summer. Presented in the company's European headquarters in Milan, his Spring 2014 collection was awash in hues of blue, which he translated to athletic standards as mesh and panelled letterman jackets, sleeveless vests, and monochrome silhouettes. The latter wavered somewhere between internal medicine-chic and Bal Harbour uniform--for years, my physician grandfather wore the same powder blue jacket and matching pants with a smart polyester polo.

You might interpret the look as updated suiting. Integral then, would be the tee or sweatshirt (supplanting the need for a fussy oxford), which Zucchelli provided with Rene Magritte-like prints of hot desert skies punctuated by dark black rectangles or blocked-in clouds. These were the standouts.
The stiff oxfords with shiny buttons that conjured up images of wayward urban cowboys and hippy sandals or matching creeper brogues (sometimes in a redundant baby blue) didn't feel as necessary.