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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hooked: Comme des Garçons PLAY X Converse

Never one to pass up a juicy collaboration, Comme des Garçons is joining forces (again) with Converse on a limited-edition line of sneakers. Following their 2007 debut with Junya Watanabe Man, the Chuck Taylor All Star line is getting the full Rei make-over. But rather than spinning into the conceptual outer reaches, the collaboration goes back to basics—and this time Comme's secondary PLAY line is getting in on the action. The four pared-down styles—two high-tops and two oxfords in black or white canvas—hark back to the original military classics, offered in various color-blocking combos and embossed with PLAY's slightly disarming, unblinking heart logo.

The shoes will hit the ground running at the end of August at Comme des Garçons boutiques worldwide, as well as select PLAY retailers. At just $100 a pop, the collection shows a commitment to recession-friendly prices—and we can think of no better way to spring into fall.

—Franklin Melendez



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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Paris Fashion Week: Junya Watanabe

Haidee Findlay-Levin...

When I think about what I miss most about living in Africa, there are a few things that immediately spring to mind: the quality of the light, especially in the early morning and after a summer thunderstorm, the sound of African men and women singing as they go about their work and the constant hum of crickets and chirping of birds in the warmer months. It was to this familiar sound of birds, followed by voices of women singing, that Junya Watanabe opened his show and his homage to the elegance of African dress. To this day, every morning I wrap a piece or two of African fabric around my body and remain like this until I need to leave the house. As I work from home, this form of dress has fondly become known to my friends as my African office skirt. So it was natural that I felt a pang of nostalgia for his deftness at tackling this very personal theme that so many designers get so horribly wrong.

A multitude of colorful Kenyan prints in cotton were twisted, bunched and gathered in his familiar and innovative ways, sometimes even pleated. What I loved most was the intricate shoulder detail or knitted yokes. These prints were also wrapped into beautiful turbans filled with wild grasses that the girls carried gracefully on their heads. He flirted a little with this spirit and also with some of these twisted or bunched silhouettes last summer, in bold block colors of pink and cobalt blue but most memorably in a variety of liberty prints. This season he exchanged those for the bold and colorful African prints, as well as a mix of leafy, leopard or zebra prints, fluorescent stretch jersey, bright ginghams, light men's suiting and faded denim. It seems he wanted to make use of accessible fabrics, those appropriate not only to Africa, but the developing world in general.

He revisited his deconstruction of denim, this time showing some fitted and peplum jackets but mostly as long ruffled skirts made out of men’s jeans and worn belted low on the hip. A zebra thong peeked out above one of them, a surprising and somewhat tacky gesture. Sometimes the denim was broken up with contrasting fabric ruffles in print, gingham or white eyelet—another accessible fabric that he made good use of combined with denim, and later in the show with natural colored linen.

While all the elements seem so familiar and commonplace, it sometimes takes a foreigner (Japanese is as foreign as any) with as deft an eye as his to appreciate the style of the culture and to see and show it from a different perspective. I do wish he had pushed it even further though, left those tiny touches of colonialism behind and let loose on the idea without any restraint or trepidation. All the same, he has already given my old African office skirt whole new meaning.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The third and last part of Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

RUN IN CIRCLES
It wasn't just the army of beautiful lips and bowl cuts that made our hearts leap at Yves Saint Laurent; it was the sharp, powerful, 80s-reminiscent tailoring, too. But here's what separates this season’s YSL and Louis Vuitton from Claude Montana and Gianfranco Ferré: the circular cutting and the curves in the jackets and skirts. In fact, some of the tulip and pod shapes we have seen at Vuitton and elsewhere this season are more Sebilla and Romeo Gigli—also from the 80s. I also noticed a variety of peplum jackets for fall. If the jacket was fitted, for the most part it had a sharp shoulder and a nipped or peplum waist, not only at Vuitton, but also at Yohji Yamamoto (left), where the peplum jutted out over long full skirts complete with a donut-rolled waist for an even fuller hip effect.

ARM YOUR ARM
The shoulder was the focus last season. Now it's the sleeve, such as those at Costume National that wrapped around the shoulder blade and formed a pod in the back, or those at Kenzo that draped into a cocoon shape or an origami-like envelope. We also saw sleeves originating from the neckline, as well as sleeves that separate at the back of the jacket, falling into a detached cape back, as at Véronique Branquinho and Junya Watanabe. At Lanvin, attention was paid to a single mutton sleeve—a remnant of the 80s!

EMBRACE LACE
Some designers chose to embellish areas of essentially monochromatic fabrics with jet beading, feathers, ribbon, fine pleating, ruffles and pasmanterie. But there was nothing superfluous at Prada (left), where the most startling form of decoration was the heavy tablecloth lace constructed into minimal and austere silhouettes, and made further monastic by the under-layering of high-collared shirts.

GET HIGH
The strength in Dries Van Noten this season came not only from the mix of dramatic prints, but that these potentially romantic dresses were offset by a simple high collar. Givenchy showed extremely high-collared pleated blouses, made less romantic by their coupling with leather trousers and military jackets. I loved it best at Yves Saint Laurent, where paper-thin turtlenecks were shown under tunic dresses, but extended well beyond into fingerless gloves. One known to take proportion to its ultimate extreme, Martin Margiela raised the collar so high above the shoulders as to become a cowl that almost completely obscured girls' faces.

THINK BIG
Indulge in vast and unapologetic explosions of costume jewelry for fall. What we saw were statement pieces that were more sculptural than sweet or sentimental. Balenciaga contrasted latex and severe cuts with diamanté-encrusted collars, while the collars and cuffs at Yves Saint Laurent (left) consisted of Pace Rabanne-like chain mail with enormous crystal studs. At Louis Vuitton, the soft pastel palette was punctuated with heavy metal chokers and huge brooches. Lanvin ran with the trend and showed enormous Deco-geometric, mirror-glass pendants and wrist cuffs. This new form of armor added a needed toughness to clean silhouettes. The combination of heavy jewelry with extreme shoes could mean your chiropractor will be your new best friend.

TAKE A DIP
There weren’t a lot of overtly sporty references this season, so it's safe to say you can burn your velour Juicy Couture tracksuits—and please do, if you haven't already. But there was a prevalence of scuba references. Miu Miu shook off its naughty baby-doll reputation and showed a series of dark satin scuba suits complete with Esther Williams-like swim caps. Or sometimes the scuba suit morphed into a tunic dress with bright-colored cycling shorts and sports tops peeking through laser-cut, abstract versions of lace. The addition of sequins made for a wet look that worked perfectly with the scuba references Balenciaga introduced so magnificently last season. Even Rick Owens discarded his more familiar draping and embraced open zippers that circled the legs like a scuba suit that was being slowly peeled off. Upcoming Olympics aside, the news that Hussein Chalayan is the newly appointed creative director at Puma may signal a sportier trend for him next season, as well as all those he influences.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Part two of stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

FACE THE DARKNESS
Okay, I know I said earlier that color is back for fall. And it is, but so is black. Stop your groaning—the black dress never looked better. It was skillfully laser-cut at Balenciaga (left), skimmed the body at Sophia Kokosalaki and draped to the floor at Junya Watanabe. It was in divine Spanish lace at Givenchy and heavy tablecloth lace at Prada. The opening dress at Alexander McQueen, made from layers and layers of soft tulle, was reminiscent of a black crow, though it was hardly the only exquisitely gothic dress in the collection. The mohair-lace dress stretched over layers of tulle, like one of Degas’ ballerinas in silhouette, was especially to-die-for. But perhaps the most exquisite black dresses walked Lanvin's runway; my two favorites were a wet-look wrap dress and a one-shouldered silk satin shift with a heavy fur cuff on its one side.

GET A BLACK EYE
Brace yourself for black eyes this fall. And I'm not talking gobs of Amy Winehouse eyeliner, no matter how well she sang at the Fendi store launch party during Paris Fashion Week. I'm talking kohl eyes, the classic kind found at Givenchy, as well as the perfect cat eyes at Balenciaga. (When replicating, please don’t get carried away like one recent fashion show attendee who not only completely painted his face white—yes, he's male—but dons a Shirley Temple wig.) Blackened eyes do require a nude or beige mouth, like the kind found at Rick Owens, but if you have to have a layer on your lips, go all the way with ink-black glossy lips like those at Yves Saint Laurent.

FADE TO GRAY
If goth isn’t your thing, choose from the endless permutations of gray seen on the runways: slate, charcoal, heather, lilac and mauve. Junya Watanabe (left) committed fully to a collection of no-color to illustrate his deft cutting and draping, taking it so far as to completely wrap the girls' heads and faces in sheer gray fabric with mini-boxes piled high on their heads, to sculptural effect.

RIDE THE PONY
With the severity of cut this season, and the attention paid to minimalism and the back, the only hair to wear is a ponytail. Not the high, Blonde Ambition version, but a simple ponytail worn on the side and secured at the nape of the neck. Miu Miu even showed the ponytail peeking out of neoprene swim caps. The only other acceptable version would be a small knot or chignon, also worn low and tight. So no more Barbie hair or updos. And please no more big Oscar hair—ever!

TURN LOOSE
This has been one of the most creative seasons for pants in ages, with designers really experimenting with fullness. The best baggy pants came from Louis Vuitton, especially when slightly drop-waisted and pleated. Those in shiny black leather with a slightly pegged leg were absolutely stunning, reminiscent of that Grace Jones/Thierry Mugler/Claude Montana era. My other favorites were over at Yves Saint Laurent, shown slightly cropped and higher in the waist. Haider Ackermann pushed his baggy pants high above the knee, like puffy shorts worn over leather leggings. There were Houri trousers in velvet devoré, as well as printed chiffon versions, at John Galliano, and narrow gray flannel pant-skirts at Junya Watanabe, which ended in an extremely low crotch. Meanwhile, at both Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, pants were skinny, black and high-wasted and mostly in leather or brocade. Maison Martin Margiela went super-sexy and offered leather pants complete with zippers snaking up the back of the leg like seamed stockings. And how can we ignore his other offering, the asymmetric one-legged bodysuit in a multitude of prints?

DROP YOUR SKIRTS
I know it seems passé to talk skirt lengths in this day and age, but here it is: skirt lengths will definitely drop. I'm not talking red-carpet gowns here, but floor-grazing, skinny column dresses at Sophia Kokosalaki, which save their intricate detail for the collar. There was also the black dress that opened her show, seemingly suspended by a single diagonal strap and falling well below the knee. Dries Van Noten, too, showed high-necked column dresses that ended mid-calf, just short of ankle socks and heavy strappy sandals. At Louis Vuitton there were some knee-length bell skirts, but it was all about ballerina-length dirndls that stood away from the hips, while at Lanvin (left) the length was kept just above the knee with sexy and tight hobble skirts made up of bands of horizontal ribbon.

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