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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Collaborations...

Robert Geller for Levi's hits Bloomingdale's on 9/10...

Hussein Chalayan x J Brand jeans, shot in London's Design Museum...

Opening Ceremony for Keds & PRO-Keds debuts 9/10 with classic canvas styles...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Headline Trip

Anna Wintour to the guillotine? Not quite, but a financial consulting firm may put an end to her reign of decadence. Eat the cake while you can! [The Observer]

Threeasfour takes on a third wheel (or is it a fourth?), teaming up with Yoko Oko for their spring 2010 presentation. [Fashion Week Daily]

Donatella in her own words as interviewed by Christopher Kane. Those words are even better if you imagine them in the SNL accent. [Times UK]

Puma gives a sneak peek of its first efforts with Hussein Chalayan at the helm—a marriage made in tech heaven. [WWD]

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, GAP will unveil a concept shop on London’s Carnaby street—expect swinging exclusives from Pierre Hardy, Albertus Swanepoel and Pharrell Williams. [Vogue UK]

Hussein Chalayan for Puma

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Dream Team

Interactive art was all the rage at the 2009 Venice Art Biennale last week, and not just the marquee installations showing on the main strip at the Giardini. Set in a beautiful old palazzo off the beaten path was Ukraine's offering, titled The Steppes of Dreamers, where Ukrainian artist Ilya Chichkan collaborated with Japanese fashion designer Mihara Yasuhiro to produce a dreamlike setting, complete with a sand-filled entrance hall. (Not since Hussein Chalayan for Turkey last year has a fashion designer represented a country at the Biennale.)

Upstairs in the palazzo, a labyrinth of smoke-filled dark rooms lured one in with an interactive system of noises and half-human kinetic installations that moved or made sounds upon entry. Themes such as travel and consciousness were examined, looking at the past, present and future of the Eastern European landscape through various cinematic metaphors inspired by Ukrainian film director Kira Muratova. The installation was made all the more spooky by the palace's grand fireplaces, flock wallpaper and huge chandeliers with multi-colored bulbs. But stranger still, the piece was curated by Volodymyr Klitchko, Ukraine's world champion boxer!


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Final Thoughts

Style correspondent PLAY rounds up Paris Fashion Week...

The Mood
So yes, Paris had to tighten its belt in this nasty economic climate, which meant more presentations and fewer runway shows. But naturellement, everyone pretended they weren't personally affected. And actually, the reality for the average fashion editor is akin to Franz Kafka’s diary entry from August 2, 1914: "Germany declares war on Russia. Afternoon: swimming lessons."

Tweet a Trend
Like anyone else, I want to know what's new. But I never thought I'd be turning to my cell phone to read pedestrian chit-chat on Twitter. This was a case of the early bird getting the trend. In fact, the trend this season was Twitter.

Celebrity Fatigue
I first spotted Kanye West and entourage gatecrashing their way into Viktor & Rolf. It turned out Kanye was causing havoc everywhere. He was the new Bruno. Meanwhile, at Chanel, I almost got crushed by paparazzi surrounding Lily Allen, before swarming around Kate Moss in the front row. It left me wondering how more celebs don't end up train wrecks like Amy Winehouse.

Queen Beth
But the celebrity had to be Love cover star Beth Ditto, as if following the season's unofficial motto: It ain't over till the fat lady sings. Apparently her mission was to show the outside world that the old cliché of fashion being a gated community for diet-obsessed, humor-free folks is out of touch. Ditto's finest moment was performing with her band The Gossip at the Fendi party. I wanted to tweet: "OMGOMG!!! ditto does britney! nipplegate any sec!!"

She's Got the Look
Sometimes the best way to see where fashion is going is to follow a fashion editor. Based on my stalking of Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt and Anna Piaggi, you should think preppy, mix decades (i.e. 40s and 80s for a Casablanca-meets-Top Gun look), don double-breasted blazers (like Stella McCartney's), throw on a biker jacket and, I’m afraid to say, slip into harem pants. Key colors? Black, greige and noir tobacco, which is taking over for camel, now considered not crisis-appropriate—put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anna Piaggi (©PLAY)

Big Top
If designers have their say this fall, we'll be wearing plastic bags over our heads (Hussein Chalayan), bunny ears (Louis Vuitton), S&M masks (Jean Paul Gaultier) and Leigh Bowery sex-doll lips (Alexander McQueen).

Power Failure
As an early-adopter of Maison Martin Margiela's leather leggings and 80s' shoulders for fall 08, I'm all for power looks. But after witnessing editor after editor working huge shoulders and oh-so-fierce platforms, I got over it fast. It felt like Art Basel last year, when I counted 20 Louis Vuitton Richard Prince bags in under two hours.

Fur Alarm
What the heck was the idea behind the over-presence of statement fur? Was it to prove one’s immunity to chilly economic winds? Only very few got it right, like Carine Roitfeld, who strode across Tuileries park looking fit to squash the squeeze.

Carine Roitfeld (©PLAY)

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fur Helmets and Leather Bums, Oh My

While locals had the luxury of sleeping in, the fashion elite braved the Paris rain on Sunday for another kind of luxury: fur helmets! To the synthesized vocals of Oslo band Metronomy, Karl Lagerfeld's fall collection started with giant, statement-y fur hats and helmets, followed by witchy, wide-collared black dresses and jackets with the exaggerated shoulder that has been the defining Paris trend. As if to reassure the clutch-pearls set, the Kaiser came out for the finale in his trademark white-powdered coif, tanned skin and fingerless gloves.

Karl Lagerfeld

At the Carousel du Louvre, Esteban Cortazar set the mood Emanuel Ungaro with crystal chandeliers and girlish pink-orange lighting. Missing from many of the Paris shows this season, a crush of paparazzi accosted the front row before a parade of ruffled polka-dot blouses and shirred dresses came down the runway. True to the Ungaro tradition, Cortazar kept the colors bright, but updated the collection with voluminous tweaks on pleated miniskirts.

Fresh from his retrospective at the Design Museum in London, Hussein Chalayan also favored thigh-baring minis. But in Chalayan's case, girlish fun was pushed aside in favor of powerful sexual silhouettes and molded neon leather bustiers and bums, created by the studio of Patrick Whitaker and Keir Malem. As usual, Chalayan also experimented with synthetic materials such as wood sequins.

Hussein Chalayan

—Bee-Shyuan Chang

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Your First Look: Hussein Chalayan

Pics from last night's launch of Hussein Chalayan's retrospective at the London Design Museum, spanning fifteen years of mystifying genius. More later...

Hussein Chalayan and his CEO, Giorgio Belloli / Erin O'Connor

New Young Pony Club's Tahita Bulmer / former supe Saffron Aldridge / Róisín Murphy

"How exactly is that made?"

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hooked: Hussein Chalayan

If you find yourself in a 70s chrome 'n' wood mood this February, Hussein Chalayan has a shoe for you—a tan leather mule, to be exact. It reminds us of our family station wagon (sans grape juice stains), which makes sense since speed, and the inevitable crash that goes along with it, was the theme of his spring collection. Hussein, how do you always get inside our heads? $1100, exclusively at Opening Ceremony in NY and LA.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Hussein Chalayan

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

I joined Fantastic Man editors Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers to see the Hussein Chalayan show. They weren't there to see menswear, but to lend their support to Jody Barnes, their new fashion director, who was stepping in to style the show in place of a pregnant Jane Howe.

There were the usual high expectations from Hussein, who seldom disappoints, usually presenting one of those shows that makes Fashion Week memorable. I have been there for almost all of them, ever since his student days. And sometimes I have been in the trenches, too, filling in for Jane or offering my loyal friendship and support. Last season, in all honesty, was my first disappointment. It just never jelled for me, so this season my expectations were especially high, in light of his new position at Puma and their financial support.

The runway was the familiar circular format, this time revolving. The narrow window in the back revealed a row of wine glasses. This became the stage for a live percussionist, who added further eeriness to the soundtrack by passing his hands rhythmically over the glasses.

The first look was a gray bodysuit, and from that point on we saw many variations of intricately cut bodysuits that revealed décolleté, legs and even a fair amount of butt. All this seemed very much in keeping with the season. But at a Hussein show?! This was dangerously close to the amount of flesh he showed in his controversial show of naked women under truncated chadors.

Some of the suits were fitted with small fins or wings at the hip, others had surgical corsetry or what looked like the inner workings of a vehicle, while others were embellished with shards of glass. Space travel and aerodynamics is a subject that greatly interests Hussein and although this immediately puts him in the “futuristic" camp, he insists this is not the case. In fact, he is adamant to shake free of the label and insists that it is the now that really interests him. After all, the future quickly becomes the present.

Besides a few touches of fluorescent yellow, the gray palette transitioned into blue photographic print, another theme that has recurred in his work. This time, it was a collage of car graveyards and car wrecks, complete with fragments of license plates. Narrow trousers were given the same treatment, as were softer layers of shroud-like chiffon or a harem jumpsuit that was cut out at the hips to facilitate the protruding fins.

Another interesting addition to the line-up, and for Hussein in general, were sunglasses with little panels or shutters in place of lenses, which seemed both retro and futuristic. In fact they seemed inspired or adapted from a series of glasses prominent in the 60s, originally designed by fellow Brit, Oliver Goldsmith. There was one style with vertical panels shown in a few bold colors and another with pinched holes, a style Goldsmith also introduced with smaller holes, known as the Alice Band, as it doubled as exactly that when popped up over the head. The shoes were really the only downside, steel heels which looked a little buckled and beaten up, interesting aesthetically but treacherous for the girls who had that revolving catwalk to negotiate.

For the finale—and there is always a much-anticipated finale at a Hussein show—four girls stepped onto the revolving platform as wind machines were fired up like twin plane propellers. The print of their dresses morphed into rigid fins in the back, like those of a classic car. As the wind blew, sending their loose hair into a frenzy, the screech of the musical glasses rose before ending in a crash, as the lights dimmed and the window snapped shut.

Backstage, Hussein spoke about the concept of the show. You can be sure he will never talk skirt lengths or trends, but is usually intrigued by some philosopher whose work feels contemporary and relevant today. This time he spoke about the world in a state of flux, pregnant with the anticipation of change brought on by an outside force. This change can be physical, shown here in the shapes and forms of the clothes themselves, or as a natural, social or political event. If all change looked as amazing as it does in the hands of Hussein Chalayan, bring it on, I say!

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Hurricane Hussein

André do Val rides on the gale-force winds of Hussein Chalayan's spring show...

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Your First Look: Hussein Chalayan at Dover Street Market

Check out Hussein's new shop-in-shop at Dover, a collaboration with British design firm Block Architecture. Intended to be permanent, the space "was based on being in a garden," says Hussein, "an interplay of indoors and outdoors." Five looks exclusive to Dover, together with key pieces from the fall '08 collection, are available for purchase or perusal. Either way, take time to stop and smell the racks...

Photos by Morgan O'Donovan/Diamond Rodgers

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

André do Val takes in the sights and sounds of Paris...

With the Eiffel Tower sparkling outside, the blue glow of Hussein Chalayan's runway had people fumbling for their seats at the Musée de l’Homme on the Place de Trocadero. The obscure ambience—designed by lighting guru Philippe Cerceau, with set direction by Alexandre de Betak—was to be the designer's fashion interpretation of the Big Bang, articulated by a crystal-encrusted dress of expanding lights orbiting the body.

"What should I say if they ask us if we are sisters? Should I just pretend I don't speak English and keep walking?" asked Carol Pantoliano (below right) of her model friend Daiane Conterato—both Brazilian—on the way out of Dries Van Noten's show. “Just smile. People ask me that every day. I think I'll just say yes," answered Daiane.

—André do Val

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Haidee Findlay-Levin catches up with Hussein Chalayan...

The last time I met Hussein for breakfast in London, breakfast turned into lunch and then into tea. In fact, it was a glorious and sentimental Sunday affair, one that still left me feeling nostalgic for London and for some of the special and lasting friendships I had while living there. Hussein was and is one such friend. We developed an immediate bond when I first wrote a feature on him as a St Martins graduate student. I subsequently worked on his earlier shows and collaborated on some of his first exhibitions. I was one of his earliest supporters and remain loyal to my belief in his talent. To describe him as conceptual or intellectual is to miss something. To me, he is someone who will take a day out of his insanely stressful schedule to hear about the details of my personal melodrama, usually firing off rapid questions before any of my answers come to mind.
Meeting him for breakfast in New York this week, the day after he received an award from the Fashion Group International, was not that different. This time I was determined to get my questions in first, to find out how this most respected of designers was feeling. It always amazes me just how humble and modest Hussein is, how unaware he is of his notoriety and position within the international fashion world. He was truly flattered to have won this award, surprised even that his reputation had reached these shores. Believe me this is no act! 

What evolved in our discussion was just how difficult it is to realize most of his innovative ideas, not for the ideas themselves but for the expense involved. Aside from his costs in silks and linens, we're talking the finest rosewood, advanced laser technology, LEDs and film production, not to mention research and development. Why an investor, institute, patron of the arts or technology tycoon hasn't jumped at the opportunity to support this genius is beyond me. We have witnessed what he has created on next to no money; can you imagine what he could create with some money?

What seems harder for most to recognize is his talent for making modern, real, beautiful and, yes, wearable clothing. His process may be complicated and/or difficult to follow, but strip that way and you have a beautiful and elegant cocktail dress, which most retailers and department stores (even in his own city, London) fail to see.

It is only once his designs (or those of other forward-thinking designers like Martin Margiela or Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons) are appropriated by other more popular or mainstream designers that they become "wearable." This brings  to mind a jacket I have been wearing all week and have received many a compliment for, including one such compliment from Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz. The jacket is by Margiela, from the first of his four over-sized collections, the proportions of which are scaled up by 72%. Many years ago the show brought laughter and smiles to the faces of the fashion pack as they pronounced his clothes good for pictures, a great concept, but unflattering and absolutely not wearable. And now they pronounce Mary-Kate Olsen as the under-sized trendsetter of  "the over-sized" herself.

This kind of situation often forces the originators of good ideas (as in the case with Hussein) to even plagiarize themselves. By creating a second or "more wearable" diffusion line, they water down their own ideas, hopefully, before others do. Sometimes it's these diffusion collections that are the success and driving force of their businesses.

As we left, I said goodbye to designer Thom Browne, a Pastis breakfast regular. I thought about how many men were wearing their suits shorter these days. Could they all be wearing Thom Browne originals, or at the very least his more accessible Black Fleece line for Brookes Brothers? Unfortunately not. They were probably wearing some further watered down version by some lesser-known designer or brand, shortened ever so slightly above their sockless shoes. They were probably walking with their girlfriends wearing a cotton shirt dress by Doo.Ri for the Gap or a similar incarnation reminiscent of that "impossibly unwearable" collection of Hussein's several summers ago.

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