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Monday, June 29, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Romain Kremer

Ever since Romain Kremer's fantastical world was first shown on a catwalk, he’s been watched with great anticipation—even by those who don't live in a computer game. His graphic sense of shape has done much to prove that Paris menswear can think beyond romantic reworkings of bourgeoisie classics. His spring '10 collection saw Kremer still focused on underpants. While this fear of trousers is interesting, and certainly spangly knit briefs are fun, it would be great to get a clearer look at his ideas for alternatives. Meanwhile, an almost-tuxedo jacket with a navel-to-neck circular opening that managed to look chic and futuristic was one of those how-did-nobody-ever-think-of-that-before moments.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Dunhill

One of the biggest misjudgments I've ever made was dismissing Stefano Pilati’s talents. Though I could see his early YSL collections were meant to remind us of the greatness of the brand, I was impatient for progress—which he's delivered in spades in recent seasons. Kim Jones’ position at Dunhill is similar. Transforming one of the world’s oldest and biggest global luxury brands—they make pens out of meteorites and black diamonds!—into a fashion label for today was always going to be a lengthy, difficult project. That Jones has so quickly created a believable base to build on is commendable.

New Order’s The Perfect Kiss, a love song to fearlessness in that optimistic 80's synth way, set the tone as boys stepped onto a revolving carousel heavy with polished aluminum luggage before traipsing down the runway. The shows predominantly blue-gray palette was modern and light, and materials were wow, but never crossed an un-English line into fey snakeskin vulgarity. It was a brilliant interpretation of traditional tailoring, military and safari blazers. Accessories included blue straw trilbies, hand-carved flint sunglasses and a holdall in carbon fiber, a material first used commercially in Rolls Royce aero engines. How absolutely right for modern Dunhill is that?

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Paris Men's Week: Thomas Engel Hart

Thomas Engel Hart has decided he "just isn’t going to make fashion that's about proving how rich you are." Engel Hart clearly wishes he could sell this approach to a skeptical fashion media, but their myopia only seems to make him more determined. And this season that meant acting on his lifelong love of punk. If London’s club kids, with their biker jackets and torn denim, are any measure, this looks set to be a smart move.

Engel Hart’s presentation consisted of a short film by portrait photographer Eric Nehr, screened in a tiny Paris gallery as the models, press and cold beer mixed in the alleyway outside. While Engel Hart’s pointy blazers and shirts looked more Johnny Lydon than Rotten, he managed to combine the energy of punk with his tailoring skills, producing barely-there knits and slim white jeans dotted with eyeholes—not for the squeamish.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Bernhard Willhelm

Conceptualism gets a rough ride, and deservedly so, but this show-installation hybrid was a real piece of theater. As people—including Willhelm's former tutor, Walter Van Beirendonck—were seated, no one seemed to know if the show had begun or not. Why? Because the models were being dressed in full view, amid the baroque magnificence of Paris' old Bourse. When the show finally began in earnest it became clear we were looking at a kind of mad artist's studio and the models were his works of art, slowly transforming into something more and more extreme. Some grew a giant Brothers Grimm-like dreadlock, others had lampshades or buckets on their heads, and all were given crazy prints and folksy patterns.

But strip away the heavy, clowny accessorizing and the main pieces were clean and sharp enough to work in the real world. Silhouettes and cuts were slim variations on tracksuits and pajamas. Willhelm is still meditating on ways to bare flesh, with increasing success. He himself looks hot, not silly, in his little shorts.

The show ended as it began, with the impression of chaos. Art and weirdness that resist the authority of menswear, with its rules about luxe and snobbery, are Willhelm's humanistic approach. The free-thinker is back.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Rick Owens

A particularly hard remix of Human Resource's Dominator, which sounds like a buzz accompanied by heart-vibrating break beats, played throughout Rick Owens' second men's show. The lyrics—"I'm bigger and bolder and rougher and tougher in other words, sucker, there is no other"—perfectly summarized the strong masculine pomp that defined the show. Even many of those in the audience were styled like members of Nitzer Ebb, Front 242 and DAF. Paris has been crying out for a serious, credible challenger to Raf Simons' hold on wearable cutting-edge. Rick Owens looks to be a contender.

The long-haired, high-heeled American hasn't sought to be another feminizing force in menswear. Instead he mines that adolescent love of tribal allegiances and rebellion. Think youth cults, i.e. skins, industrial punks and anarchists. Sure, there's an age limit to leather hoodies, just-below-the-knee denim shorts and sneakers that appear almost triangular in profile, but the sort of warrior men attracted to Owens' designs don't want to dress as feeble updates on their fathers. That’s not success, it's surrender.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Paris Men's Week: Walter Van Beirendonck

Some of Walter's shows have resonated in the fashion industry; others have signaled Walter's changing style. Spring '10 was one of the latter. Day-glo cyberwear was nowhere to be found, though pastel-acid greens and blancmange were still on view. Walter also used plus-sized bear models exclusively. Even if half that bulk was muscle, the show seemed to challenge the fashion media to separate good design from good packaging.

The collection concentrated less on Walter's imagination and more on the sort of clothes he, or the heavyset objects of his lust, might wish to wear. Baggy, loose lines dominated, with galabiya-style shirts and multi-pocketed jumpsuits very much in abundance. A blazer in a blue croc print proved Walter isn't short of ideas.

As if to push home the practical appeal of the collection, Walter modeled the last look himself. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of seeing certain fashion editors squeezing themselves into menswear’s edgier designers will be thankful for Walter's example. All this gave time for half of Walter's bears to gather on a stage previously hidden by a curtain and reemerge in Walter’s new line of underwear—filled out rather splendidly.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

London Fashion Week: Man Day

When the world imagines British fashion, they think of James Bond, Savile Row, Church's brogues, Dunhill, Burberry, Barbour, Fred Perry, mods, skinheads, Sid Vicious and so on—making London's first Man Day, a day devoted to men's collections, an idea worth exploring. On the last day of the week, it started with Topman and Fashion East's MAN group show, which included J.W. Anderson, James Long and Christopher Shannon, whose matching jersey trousers and jackets might look 90s-inspired, but didn't come off as retro—the more minimalist pieces were the best.

Christopher Shannon

Our favorites from the knitwear wunderkinds at Sibling ranged from knitted trench coats and biker jackets to leopard-spotted pieces sweaters with matching scarf and the sort of bow sweater Yves Saint Laurent used to wear.


New Power Studio's debut show lent credence to the idea that London can actually support a Man day. The all-gray conceptual collection fills the gap between Raf's spacey spring '05 collection and every teenager's Nike dependence. Together, New Power Studio and Christopher Shannon are making a convincing case for that very British love of sportswear as high fashion.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

London Fashion Week: Last but Not Least

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

You could say London Fashion Week's fortunes follow those of Fashion East, so good has director Lulu Kennedy's track record been. Hilariously, this season the group show was hosted by bearded tranny Johnny Woo. Of the three designers, perhaps Holly Fulton (formerly of Lanvin) stood out the most, showing a mix of armor-like, Swarovski crystal-encrusted, art-deco graphics, using a great color palette of black with mint, orange and mustard.

Holly Fulton

Blow, the PR company responsible for off-schedule collections, held a secret show that included the hardcore industrial leathers of Komakino, the Anglo-Japanese husband-and-wife team. Knitwear designer Craig Lawrence also showed. The 24-year-old only graduated last summer, but by then he had already worked for Gareth Pugh, with whom he shares KT Shillingford, the stylist behind Pam Hogg's collection. Lawrence showed his crazy, plastic, shaggy sheep-like knits on boys and girls.

Craig Lawrence

The celeb-packed, MisShapes-soundtracked House of Holland show opened with Agyness Deyn, naturally, who walked to RuPaul's campy Supermodel. Holland had crimped the hair to mimic the stripes that ran through the clothes, tights and bags. In a departure from seasons past, there were a lot of smartly tailored suits for both men and women, and overall it looked surprisingly grown-up, in a color-blocking 60's way. The Tibetan lambswool coats were unbelievable.

House of Holland

The last show of the day was 26-year-old hat and mask designer Nasir Mazhar, who held a candlelit presentation at the magical St Barnabus chapel. These were pieces spanning a range of historical references, from Italian Opera to Bauhaus. And luckily for us, he likes to show his hats on near naked-models. Yum!

Nasir Mazhar

There being no rest for the wicked, it was straight on to a party at the Double Club, where Tilda Swinton, Kate Moss and BF Jamie Hince could be found, as well as Craig Lawrence and singer Patrick Wolf, wearing an enormous bird-like leather top. Oh, and Peaches, the singer (not Geldof!), performed a set that included a cover of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart—mental!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

London Fashion Week: Pam Hogg

Some shows you report on because it's work and/or you meet shaggable people. Then there's those that excite on every fashion level, like Pam Hogg's fall collection. This is a woman who, while no spring chicken, is still very much rock 'n' roll personified - she's known to argue with her local police on the street (because she thinks they're profiling poor people).

The audience included Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, goth chanteuse legend Siouxsie Sioux and dirty self-portrait art stars Tim Noble and Sue Webster—all close friends. Gareth Pugh, who doesn't do other people's shows, was there, as was Terry de Havilland, who'd made some of the shoes, and Michael Kostiff, he of pre-punk green hair and the owner of World, the long-gone but seminal London boutique.

It-kids Alice Dellal and Daisy Lowe modeled alongside actress Jaime Winstone in multi-colored fur. The first half of the collection showcased Hogg's now signature space-age, rubberized, paneled suiting—as seen on Kylie Minogue and Siouxsie Sioux of late. The way the colors were put together, the quiffed hair, the floor-sweeping culottes, all seemed to mine that now-forgotten seam of rock 'n' roll futurism that the likes of Anthony Price, David Bowie, Roxy Music and even Malcolm McClaren fed off of. Acids and pastels were mixed with silver and gold, while skirt suits ran the 80s' Montana-Mugler spectrum of sharp, insecty tailoring. We even saw that greed-is-good, empowered-woman catwalk standard: exposed breasts. Hogg offers hedonistic alternatives to the party frock - wham bam thank you Pam.

— Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Monday, February 23, 2009

London Fashion Week: Giles

Giles' leitmotif for fall '09 was a celebration of New Butch, from the live music set by chunky girl rockers An Experiment on a Bird in the Airpump (currently the London band to namecheck) to the street-cast and tattooed models. Even the slicked-down hair suggested an aggressive new attitude. None of this is surprising when you consider that his best friend and the show's stylist, Katie Grand, has just featured queen dyke Beth Ditto on the cover of her new magazine, Love.

Reliably, Giles showed off his offbeat side with huge flying saucer-like hats by Stephen Jones (the subject of a V&A exhibit launching right after the show), a blow-up bolero jacket and spiked conical skirts. Then came a surreal interjection with no fanfare: a model dressed as some sort of furry Mohican crossed with a giant dildo.

Of course, Giles is still part of a wider industry at the mercy of trends. So there were lots of that very fresh blue-gray color that seems to be everywhere, here seen in rubbery silicone tops and patent leather. And lots of abstract prints and big fur, which Giles interestingly started halfway down the sleeves, while his take on the season's obsession with deconstruction saw exposed seams and detailing, bringing us back to that a less-processed woman. All things are relative, of course, as Giles' prices hardly allow for Earth Mother types.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi


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Sunday, February 22, 2009

London Fashion Week: Christopher Kane

Economic doom and gloom means self-justification is very much in vogue—cue spurious theories linking the shrinking economy with changing cuts and colors. In this spirit, fashion editors have even begun to embrace their role as critics and actually critique. (Although, ironically, the big advertisers seem to have had their best shows in years.) And so the predictable praise for Christopher Kane should be understood to mean a little more this year.

Kane's show started just fifteen minutes late, which in fashionland is waaaay early (ergo, the world's most nouveau fashionista, Kanye West, was left standing). The dedication to punctuality by one of London's biggest names indicates the level of professionalism at which Kane feels he needs to be operating. And while his status as yesterday's Next Big Thing is dangerous, his fall collection succeeded in elevating the designer beyond all that. He's even starting to grow out of his over-reliance on the party dress.

With the key trends already mapped out at the New York shows—most notably "classic" pieces in dark and neutral colors that supposedly everyone is going to want—Kane managed to work in his greatest strengths: cut, proportion and complexity. The result was a mixture of jackets, knitwear, tweed and lots of texture. Now there's a wardrobe change you can believe in.

Which isn't to say Kane's market doesn't have cravings. An abundance of cashmere, velvet, vinyl, geometric black detailing and a mix-and-match of metallics will quench any sartorial fixes that may crop up.

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

Christopher Kane

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Walter Van Beirendonck

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

In many ways, Belgian cyber-bear Walter Van Beirendonck is a fashion prophet. His work was initially ignored by the mainstream press, then largely forgotten, but now he's fated as a demigod by anyone with aesthetic aspirations. He's also a teacher, another prophet-like quality. Then there's his bearded daddy look.

The earlier part of Van Beirendonck's fall 09 show, held at Boulevard Voltaire's Cafe Ba-Ta-Clan, consisted of mid-90s, almost Prada-like suits in brown tonics that proved he can cut. Then came metallic floral prints on trousers and extensive use of thick piping to construct hats, plus that graphic penis-equipped torso that's practically Van Beirendonck's logo. Among other retro-futurist moments were mega knitwear that looked crazy academic and a lot of burnt orange.

Most successful were the hybrid moments, like the mohair-y sparkle knits in chloroform green that looked seriously new, along with his trademark knitted hoodies and ponchos, as well as printed tees—all featuring that iconic torso with a penis or blown-up face design. Tracksuit bottoms with radar-like targets emblazoned across the bum made clear that Van Beirendonck retains his mastery of making cheek chic.

Walter Van Beirendonck

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Gareth Pugh

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

Before reading any further, you need to know this about Gareth Pugh: he's not a fucking goth, at least not in the traditional slash-your-wrists sense. His weirdness lies in his search for the emotively powerful, stuff that projects strength. Take, for instance, triangles. "They're a simple, powerful shape. They fit so many of my references," he said backstage at his debut men's collection. The sharp-looking yet soft-to-the-touch metallic needles—like a furry Eraserhead—was a logical step from the triangular, he said, adding, "We went further than sci-fi for something deadly new that doesn't look like it came off a spaceship."

The show was coat heaven, as in oh-my-god-I-need-to-be-rich-right-now coats. There were quilted and knitted leather coats, lizard-skin coats, coats with armor-like shoulders and so on. Pugh only deviated from black to do chrome and gunmetal, reworking leather, metal and wool to ever greater effect. Oh, and that hair wasn't gelled down—it was tar.

Pugh has gotten so good that rumors he's about to be awarded his own Parisian house are being taken seriously by those not normally victim to such things. In less than four years he's gone from catwalk debut to showing both women's and men's Paris collections. Wow! Or rather, !WOWOW!, the name of the art collective from which he sprang.

But don't think Pugh's designs are flights of unwearable fancy either. Pugh lives the life, dressing as extremely as he creates, not just for the benefit of photographers, but also on a regular basis. His studio and flat are in an area of London known for its crack dealers, scary boozers, stolen phone un-lockers and general air of malign intent. In short, Pugh has to be pretty fierce to dress the way he does. I mean, how many times can certain men's designers say they love Bowie without one wondering just what Ziggy Stardust should look like in 2009?

Gareth Pugh

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Paris Men's Week: Dunhill

By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

Lily Allen was so excited to see Kim Jones' first collection for Dunhill, she said, that she came on a private jet. And why not? Dunhill has more than a 160 shops and global name recognition, while streetwise Jones knows just how to give it his own understated twist.

Jones has said on many occasions that he feels it's his duty to present Dunhill's century-old excellence in luxury travel to the world. So yes, the show was a bit conservative, but ever-disciplined Jones did an amazing, almost subliminal reworking of the brand in expensive materials, like a duffel coat with mammoth-tooth buttons, Mongolian cashmere and rabbit fedoras—all hinting at Dunhill's older, wilder aesthetic. There were also numerous variations on the white shirt; we dug the box-pleating and poplins, as well as collarless blazers and paper-thin suiting.

Ingeniously, Jones managed to put tons of the accessories on the catwalk without sending out an army of handbags carrying male models: silver watches on key chains and tie pins, leather document cases, silver tie bars and cufflinks—even a woodgrain bag. The accessory design trend to watch? The knitted tie—Jones didn't show anything but.

Afterward, I headed to Gareth's show in the back of some rich German kid's leather-lined Range Rover. He told me he was a film student in Paris, obviously with money to burn. He offered me a cigarette—a Dunhill cigarette, naturally.

Dunhill by Kim Jones

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Royal Flash

The run-up to the launch of Flash, a three-month pop-up restaurant in the Royal Academy of Art's regal new GSK space in London, has been well-publicized—as if its well-connected owners David Waddington and Pablo Flack, both of Bistrotheque fame, would have it any other way.

And with the launch on Saturday, the verdict is in: the hype is warranted. Not only were chef Tom Collins' creations delicious, but the guests—a tight-knit bunch—were in rare form. Giles Deacon and Katie Grand, who go back nearly twenty years with Waddington, were particularly chatty. Grand was likely still riding high on all the to-do surrounding Love, her new title with Conde Nast. But although she didn't let on if she knew who her replacement at POP would be, the rumor mill's list grows longer by the day, even if most people think trying to do POP without her would be impossible. But he/she who dares, wins. No?

Many of London's biggest fashion names were to be found across town at CSM course director Louise Wilson's OBE award celebrations, making Flash's pull all the more impressive. Arty types included everyone from the Int'l Herald Tribune's Alice Rawsthorne, megastar photographer Juergen Teller and his wife and gallerist Sadie Coles to the irreverent artist Simon Popper and trash art stars Tim Noble and Sue Webster. Also making an appearance was designer Bella Freud, daughter of the painter Lucian and great-granddaughter of the father of psychoanalysis. Rounding out the fashion contingent were Style.com's Tim Blanks, Nicki Bidder of Starworks, Dazed creative director Nicola Formichetti, i-D editor Ben Reardon, Arena Homme Plus' Jo-Ann Furniss and Lulu Kennedy of Fashion East, all of whom recognize that fashion is fueled by parties that aren't just big, but also big fun.

Following dinner, fashion's favorite bearded drag artist and playwright Johnny Woo hosted a spirited game of Gay Bingo. although everyone (see above) cheated. Woo and Grand's banter was funny, fashion types just don't argue with Grand. It's like having an inner policeman, Foucault-style.

—Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

London Fashion Week: MAN

Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

London Fashion Week concluded Friday with one of its biggest draws, MAN. In its seventh season, the Topman-backed group show spread its international wings, joining forces with Parisian store Colette, which brought French design collective Andrea Crews to the party and its conceptual Parisian take on the recycled-fashion/performance-art axis.

Cause for celebration—but also concern about the state of menswear—was Topman Design's easy dominance. Shouldn't someone underground be changing the game? If only more designers would follow Topman's lead. Not that there wasn't plenty of English street in Topman designer Gordon Richardson's collection, which was easily the most desirable, most wearable of the show. Proper and dandy, yet youthful and affordable—like Paris seen through a British prism—is exactly what the market demands. Just one objection: where do you buy Topman Design, a common and much repeated objection. Please, Topman, make it easier.

Best of the rest was James Long's second collection for MAN, though too many noted that, while it was great, they wouldn't wear it. Then who would? Probably someone in Primal Scream circa early 90s, and that's a compliment. James has something going on, something extraordinary, underscored by his dark-rock soundtrack, and something involving and leather shorts—always a good look but also transparent harem pants less so.

Christopher Shannon's collection was a tale of two halves, one which looked like a Kim Jones for Umbro rework (Christopher is a former assistant, after all). The other half elevated sporty suits to a minimalist luxury level, an enticing proposition. Men spend massively on coats and jackets, and the gap between their street phase and their suit phase is seriously under-served. Shannon would do well to keep his nerve.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

London Fashion Week: Christopher Kane

Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

Time to fess up. I've never worn a dress. As such, womenswear has always been a bit too abstract for me. It reads more like art, hence my love of Gareth Pugh and Balenciaga. (Some have even suggested I take fashion too seriously. Could this be why?) I also dig the celebrity aspect of fashion designers. Who hasn't asked, What would Raf do? Or argued when arranging the furniture, insisting that, no, the sofas are not too far apart because Karl Lagerfeld would have them like that?

The point is, I could well not know what I'm talking about. But I have noticed that, after Kane's first show, when he wowed the fashion world with his mix of Azzedine Alaïa references and the genuinely new, he's embraced, of all things, the circle—or scallops, according to the fashion crowd. Sometimes they're big circles, sometimes small, sometimes in leather and sometimes in cut-out paper chain style. It's his thing. And can we have moment for the gorilla face prints, with their dental close-ups? Okay, so they're not gladiator sandals, but they might just be the new skull motif.

For this reason, Kane is excellent at branding—branding recognizable from twenty paces, and that's worth big bucks in the women's game. After all, Prada's output often looks shocking six months before it becomes the norm. Kane also does not bore; each show is more of a departure than the last. But who is the Kane woman? His are clever party dresses, even envy dresses, but are they become-more-you dresses? Such questions didn't seem to matter at the show, at least judging from the oohs and aahs garnered by a layered op-art circle dress in black and nude, or the marabou-trimmed dresses, particularly firemen trousers in intense hazard orange. These were Kane at his best: girly yet sharp.

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London Fashion Week: Giles

Daryoush Haj-Najafi reports...

While Gareth Pugh is set to show in Paris this season, that hardly means London's talent pool has run dry. In fact, I'd venture to say that Giles Deacon has never, ever had a duff show—and not just because his former girlfriend, Pop editor and fashion colossus Katie Grand, works alongside him. It has to do with taste, a quality not mentioned enough in show reports. Only yesterday, Fantastic Man's Charlie Porter and I were discussing the surprising lack of taste in so many young collections, but this has never been Giles' problem. He has the stuff in spades: color, cut, everything.

Giles' spring collection yesterday reflected a shift from his modernist baroque aesthetic to his hard-edged and graphic roots, when he worked at Bottega Veneta and Dazed & Confused in the 90s. Back then, his own appearance was not dissimilar to the Pet Shop Boys' Chris Lowe at his most iconic—in fact, their videos were cited as an early influence. At one time, Giles was even a Bang & Olufsen model. Now his collections have gone from angular sophistication to the embodiment of the moneyed life you imagine his dresses dancing off to, but married with a cheery English charm, hence the happy Pac Man hats.

So that's were the show came from, then mixed with a multitude of ideas, enough to sustain some designers' entire careers. There were the new season's bright colors (not primary, not pop, maybe plastic), the full spectrum of skirt lengths, a few patent materials, clean lines and, with Prada-like contrariness, gray camouflage prints—a collection both pro and anti-commercial.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Banks' Statement

Daryoush Haj Najafi on artist Banks Violette...

Coincidentally, Maureen Paley's gallery in London is right next door to her Turner prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans' pad, although he was absent tonight. Which, anyway, was Banks Violette's night. And the uber-tattooed, Gary Oldman lookalike didn't disappoint, wowing the crowds with his hologram installation of the galloping TriStar Pictures horse. Taking it in was Fantastic Man's Jop Van Bennekom (and boyfriend), who told me all about his soap opera due to air any day now on American Apparel's Viva-Radio. They then chatted with music writer and Hedi Slimane's favored collaborator Alex Needham. Meanwhile, in the upstairs gallery, my accomplices—DJs Hanna Hanra and The Lovely Jonjo, looking a little like Children of the Corn—bumped into Useless magazine's Conrad Ventur, Tate Modern curators Stuart Comer, Catherine Wood and Sheena Wagstaff, as well as the International Herald Tribune's Alice Rawsthorn, in spiky padded shoulders.

In his work, Banks explores teenage angst, alienation, Death Metal, ritual murder and suicide, producing simple yet dark and spooky pieces. (In that sense, the horse is a departure.) But as good as Banks is, Maureen is an almost equal attraction. The art of parties, whether clubs or gallery openings, is a difficult one. Get it wrong and you end up with the vapidness of your average clipboard joint, but get it right and you have a place where minds meet. Maureen is brilliant at it; she makes it seem effortless. She's really curious and generous with her time, and can practically read talent in a hairdo. She also has a fantastic beehive and amazing shoes—Yves Saint Laurent, to be exact. She's hot, and that's coming from an XY kind of a guy.

Later, the party moved on to the Hix Oyster & Chop House for a carnivorous feast. Smoking outside was legendary Factory Records art director and all-around nice guy Peter Saville. I told him he's a hero of mine and bowed to him in a Wayne's World, I'm-not-worthy sort of a way, which he seemed to appreciate.

Banks Violette & Tony Sylvester

DJs Hanna Hanra & The Lovely Jonjo

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Your First Look: Vogue Hommes Japan

Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

As a special treat for Hintsters, here's a sneak preview of the forthcoming debut issue of Vogue Hommes Japan. This samurai-inspired cover shot was taken by Hedi Slimane, with fashion direction by Nicola Formichetti, who sent us these photos. You've seen a lot of Nicola's work. He first appeared in Dazed & Confused as a model in 1999, but his early signature style of mixing sportswear with the cartoony, the graphic and the slightly kitsch on smiling twinks came to be the Alpha aesthetic of millennial menswear, a counterpoint to the Hedi's and Raf's darker Omega.

These days, Nicola is more in demand than ever and his list of titles—Dazed & Confused creative director, Another Man senior fashion editor, Vogue Hommes Japan fashion director and so on—reads like a particularly fierce drag ball competitor entering the editorial realness heat. He also consults for Uniqlo, Prada, McQ, D&G, Kim Jones, Gareth Pugh, Levi's and Romain Kremer—phew, you could break into a sweat just thinking about it.

Nicola preparing for the shot below

Photo by Oliviero Toscani—yes, he of Benetton political advertising fame

Photo by Josh Olins, fashion editor Kim Jones using Dunhill

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Monday, July 14, 2008

You've Got The Look

Last Wednesday, Topman launched its newest line, The Look Presents, at London's swanky Tramp club, one of London's longest-running celeb hangouts where Peter Sellers, Joan Collins and Liza Minnelli held wedding receptions. And while Amanda Lear's Fashion Pack might have always smiled in limousines, I arrived with designer/filmmaker/DJ Pam Hogg via the 38 bus. (I've spied Kate Moss' latest fling and The Kills' guitarist Jamie Hince on that particular route, so no apologies.) Maybe people were staring at Pam's peach hair or perhaps they remember her from her early '90's semi-household name, appearing on prime-time talk shows, but they were definitely staring.

The Look Presents was inspired by Paul Gorman's gripping book The Look, a chronological record of each of London's key stores since the '50s and their respective links to the music business and wider undergound culture of that period—so good it should be required reading in schools. For anyone seriously interested in fashion, youth culture and/or music, the book is impossible to put down. For its The Look Presents series, Topman will collaborate with Antony Price's Priceless on a capsule collection of suits, coats and ties, as well as Wonder Workshop on tattoo and animal-printed T-shirts and Nigel Waymouth, of '60's cult store Granny Takes A Trip. Price, who hails from the theater business, found fame designing for the likes of David Bowie, Steve Strange and Duran Duran, as well as styling Roxy Music's record sleeves and Lou Reed's Transformer.

The dinner launch was filled with those who feature in the book, including social columnist and BFF-to-the-stars Nicky Haslam, seminal style commentator Peter York, former Playboy bunny Pippa Brooks, Michael Kostiff (whose store World has been revived at Dover Street Market) and Steven Philip of Rellik, every London fashion editor's favorite vintage store. Press included Style.com's braniac Tim Blanks (talking about the apocalypse, 2012, India and China), The Telegraph's Claire Richardson, Arena's Andrew Davis, Arena Homme Plus' Luke Day and Man About Town's Way Perry. Also present were amazing old-school drag queen Lady Bunny and Kevin Rowland of '80's music group Dexy's Midnight Runners, who penned an essay for The Look on suedeheads, as well as Kylie Minogue's best friend and B*boy underwear designer William Baker. Meanwhile, Topshop's billionaire owner Philip Green sat at the head table with Price, whose most famous customer, Bryan Ferry, hung off his every word.

Peter York and friend, Andrew Davis and Tim Blanks

Antony Price and Bryan Ferry

Lady Bunny and Steven Philip

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

MAN Hour

Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

MAN, the Topman-backed group show and one of few genuine must-sees at London Fashion Week, is launching a range of tees and bags designed by those appearing in MAN's forthcoming show in September: Hans Madsen, leather specialist James Long and hotly tipped sportswear tailor Christopher Shannon. MAN has even gained a French contingent with fashion and art collective Andrea Crews, chosen by Colette proprietress Sarah.

The launch party, Brit Disco, took place during Paris men's week at Rive Gauche club, a massive improvement over the usual Le Baron, where I once witnessed Gareth Pugh get booted for making out in the toilet. London DJs Disco Bloodbath provided the tunes, disco being the musical micro-trend of the summer, especially of the Italo and Cosmic varieties. The air was hot with impossibly twink-like fashion editors and talk of new appointments, such as Dazed & Confused's Nicola Formichetti's new title of fashion director of Vogue Hommes Japan. He sat with Arena Homme Plus' Jo-Ann Furniss and V newbie Jay Massacret, while on the dance floor, throwing mad shapes, was Charlie Porter, new deputy editor of Fantastic Man and now i-D. His boss at Fan Man, Gert Jonkers, said of Romain Kremer's men's show earlier that evening: "Helmet Lang, new rave." While it wasn't meant enthusiastically, it should have been, as it cleverly summed up the Clockwork Orange-referencing, codpiece-featuring collection. Meanwhile, in queue for a smoke, rumors of an upcoming Teen V bounced around.

Also in the house was Seven New York's Joseph Quartana and former Lindberg designer and model-cum-DJ David Lindwall, who managed to bag a Seven order for his conspiracy-theory tees earlier that day, joining Dover Street Market. At the end of the night, Cassette Playa's Carri Mundane—yet another Seven favorite—introduced me to Kanye West's ever-present front-row pals and Paris Fashion Week sensations Don C and Taz Arnold whose style was described by the New York Times' Cathy Horyn as "fascinating" and "cubist." His TI$A solo project's infectious, Ice Cube sampling, new release Vote Obama. Don C declared my Justice tee, "Fresh to Death," making my night. They then left to go to a strip club with Carri, who told them they should definitely check out Bernhard Willhelm's show come Sunday. They did, with Kanye in tow, so if he's sporting medieval tights in his next video, you'll know why.

Fantastic Man's Jop van Bennekom & Gert Jonkers, Carri Mundane of Cassette Playa
photos by Debbie Bragg

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Friday, March 21, 2008

If anyone hasn't realized how cashed-up Sweden's Acne Jeans is—with stores in Scandinavia, Germany, France and the USA—holding a champagne-doused party to release the latest issue of its magazine, Acne Paper, at a place like Claridge's is all the proof one needs. The eclectic turnout included Chrissie Hynde, performance artist and writer Johnny Woo, stylist Jeanette (in £6000 Balenciaga boots!), model Liberty Ross and assorted members of London's gay mafia. British menswear high-flyer Deryk Walker (pictured here with the aforementioned Jeanette on his right) insisted I introduce him to designer Aitor Throup, he who makes girls swoon at a thousand paces and who's probably the most imaginative tailor of his generation. Fantastic men Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom were also there, always a good sign. And holding court in an opulent corner sat Jo-Ann Furniss, the fearsome editrix and creative force behind Arena Homme Plus, in an uber-talkative, stay-a-while mood—further proof that this was the place to be on this cold and rainy Wednesday night.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

London Fashion Week: MAN

Daryoush Haj-Najafi reports...

First, a disclosure. This correspondent is on MAN's panel, which also includes i-D editor Ben Reardon, Dazed & Confused fashion director Nicola Formichetti and, for the first time, the mega-talented fashion writer and party animal Tim Blanks. As you may know, Tim is a menswear authority and pens the men's reports for Style.com. His brainstorm with the rest of the MAN panel was as energetic as any previous MAN meeting, but as you just can't argue with Tim (he's too knowledgeable!), this season saw three fresh names—James Long, Kesh, Hans Christian Madsen—in the line-up with Topman.

Of James Long, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and his incredibly complicated leathers and sheepskins, British GQ's Charlie Porter (another panelist) says, "The commitment and effort put into James' collection was just extraordinary, which makes it even worse that his whole collection was stolen later that night. Hopefully the industry can rally around him, because he deserves the support." Kesh's aesthetic, meanwhile, could be described as Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club designed by Bernhard Willhelm—the difference being that Kesh is a women, who, by the way, is the subject of a BBC documentary currently in the works.

Lulu Kennedy, director of Fashion East and MAN, was also enthusiastic, saying (while trying on James' designs backstage), "I'm in love with this show. And most of the models." Yes, let's not forget the models. Her favorite? Ryan (of D1 agency), a platinum-haired boxer on the English team and—you knew this was coming—a total knock-out.

James Long (images 1 & 2), Kesh (3 & 4)...

Hans Christian Madsen (1 & 2), Topman (3 & 4)...

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