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.

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.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reverie With SUNO

SUNO, a young New York-based brand that is the brainchild of designers Max Osterweis and Erin Beatty, was recently honored at this year's CFDA fashion awards, and for good reason. Their looks often invoke characters at home in alpine vistas and on honey-colored African prairies and international cosmos. You're more likely to find ample cuts, exquisite prints and intricate embroidery than a simple black sheath on their lively runways.  

In the past, I've always thought of them as more hippy than haute (then again, they've only been around since 2008, so it's not like I have too much to go on), but their resort collection for 2014 had me turning my head so fast I practically got whiplash. I blame this look in particular: 

Some past covetable looks:
Yet another reason to love and respect SUNO: Their wares are made by artisans in Kenya. Following post-election violence there in 2008, Max (a longtime visitor whose mother owned a business in the Sub-Saharan country) worked to establish the brand as a way to encourage both local talent and economic growth. Since then, the SUNO duo has set up fair-trade workshops in places like India and Peru.
All collages are the work of Francesca Soroka.
First pic background: Franz Kline
Second pic background: Yuko Someya

Friday, June 14, 2013

CFDA Royalty

Last week, fashion's most well-respected designers and the insiders who support and wear them huddled under the slanted roofs of the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall for this year's CFDA Fashion Awards. It poured outside, but inside fringe and silk columns the color of spring bouquets blossomed on attendees who paraded on a real world runway all their own.

The big winners this year were:
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez
Menswear Designer of the Year: Thom Browne
Accessories Designer of the Year: Phillip Lim
Let's take a short stroll through Proenza Schouler's history with this post. And let's start at the very beginning: The name Proenza Schouler is actually a mash-up of the designers' mothers' maiden names (though they admit it's one of their biggest regrets). But such decisions can be rushed when Barneys is knocking at your door with a request. In 2002, Parsons students Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez sold their entire senior thesis to Barneys New York. Since then, the duo has earned high acclaim for their modern takes on femininity--always edgy, expertly chic, and bold. They're quintessentially New York, if you ask me. Their women are unafraid of mixing influences and require a certain armor when dressing which just so happens to kill every time.
All collages are the work of Francesca Soroka