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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hooked: Rick Owens for Eastpak

Who else but the Dark Lord could fill Raf Simons' exacting shoes? Rick Owens is taking over the reigns at Eastpak for their next high-profile collaboration, bringing his unmistakable sensibility to their utilitarian staples. The capsule Rick Owens DRKSHDW Eastpak collection features eleven styles finished in perennial Owens shades of mud, slate and black. Our fave is the classic backpack in distressed canvas treated to look like kangaroo skin (like those sumptuous Owens floppy boots for fall). Morbid? Yes, but just as covetable—and ideal for packing all your candles and cauldrons for witching-hour séances. $296 at Oki-Ni

—Franklin Melendez

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Raf Simons

Ah, Raf, if only your show had begun really late. Instead I found myself on the other side of a firmly closed door just after it began, with the haunting piano from Eyes Wide Shut (Dominic Harlan's Musica Ricercata N°2) wafting over the garden wall. Why was I late? Just before, John Galliano had held Napoleonic court at the derelect Piscine Molitor in a sleepy neighborhood on the other side of town and there were no taxis afterward. That meant a harrowing, sweaty, doomed metro trip and, between shows the next day, a trek to Simons' showroom deep in the heart of the 9th arrondissement to finally ogle his wares.

First of all, suck it in because you will need a waistline to wear Simons' new suits, which come with their own wide, webbed belts, or feature incorporated leather belts (some with snakehead buckles) that twist around the torso like, well, a snake. Some jackets have a layer of satin lining fabric over the sleeves, which you can roll like, well, a snake. After browsing through the racks in the showroom, it became apparent that Simons has been struck with a slithery reptilian obsession.

The tailoring has body, thanks to high-tech constructions like a rough-edged overcoat—look ma, no hems!—in thin cotton fused with polyurethane. Imagine a filmy, slightly rubbery handkerchief. The raw-edged sweatshirts in Japanese jersey (currently Simons' favorite material, I'm told) are bonded, which stiffens them to give the wearer a chest he may or may not actually possess. The best one is in dusty pink like a blush.

The style, at times, is downright Cavalliesque, with white canvas jeans in a coiling snake print. Only, the canvas is workwear thick with industrial zipper pockets and the cut is square—so it's really Belgian, not Neapolitan. Simons appears to be toying with menswear's smarmy side. His stint in Milan as creative director for Jil Sander, and the Italian production for his own brand, has opened the door onto a world that makes the sincerely boyish clothes of his early days seem like a lifetime ago.

—Rebecca Voight

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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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Monday, June 15, 2009

Class Conscious

The fashion master class at Vienna's University of Applied Arts is in for a dramatic change with the exit of visiting professors Raf Simons and Véronique Branquinho. After nine years of Antwerp purism, Bernhard Willhelm has just been confirmed as Véronique's successor in the fall, making the university's 2009 runway show last week all the more sentimental.

Without a doubt the next darling of Vienna's fashion scene is Tbilisi-born George Beshanizhvili, who presented his second consecutive Devendra Banhart-inspired collection, earning him a spot in London's Graduate Fashion Week...

photos courtesy George Bezhanishvili

Though only in her second year, Aya Nonogaki is definitely one to watch, if surreal, Schiaparelli-style humor is your thing...

Aya Nonogaki, photos Shoji Fujii

Dimitrije Gojkovic made a convincing case for unisex minimalism, even if we've seen a lot of that lately. It'll be interesting to see what happens under Bernhard Willhelm's guidance...

Dimitrije Gojkovic, photos Shoji Fujii

Leave it to graduate Franziska Fürpass to create the only sophisticated ladylike look, incredible though it may seem...

Franziska Fürpass, photos Michael Dürr

Another graduate, Astrid Deigner sent out a high-waisted mafioso look with comically large hats. Dick Tracy says hello...

Astrid Deigner, photos Michael Dürr

—Daniel Kalt for Austrianfashion.net

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Game On

Reminding us there's more to being British than Posh Spice's perma-pose or Madge's faux accent, Fred Perry is celebrating its centennial in sportsmanlike style. Founded by the shrunken empire's most nimble tennis pro, Frederick John Perry, the label has been a pioneer in the world of sportswear, relentlessly cultivating that unmistakable gentlemanly pedigree (so that even if we don’t mind our Ps and Qs off the court, we can look like we do). Along the way, the label has evolved from tennis whites to full-on brand, recently enlisting fashion all-stars like Raf Simons to spruce up its image. Naturally this calls for a yearlong celebration and a special website to chronicle the festivities, show great moments from tennis history and, perhaps most importantly, peddle goodies. Our favorite so far is the limited-edition Piaggio Scooter—the perfect Mod accessory to any proper English look.

—Franklin Melendez

Raf Simons for Fred Perry

Fred Perry Piaggio Scooter

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Hint Tip: Jil Sander for Aloha Rag

Under the direction of Raf Simons for Jil Sander come two men's sneakers created exclusively for Aloha Rag's New York location (505 Greenwich). The label's first store collaboration is limited to 55 pairs each of low-tops ($325) and high-tops ($395). Public launch is April 2, VIP pre-shop party is April 1, 6-8 pm...

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Hooked: Jil Sander

Leave it to Raf Simons to transform the lowly utility belt—usually reserved for portly repairmen and outdoorsy lesbians—into spring's most daring accessory. But not quite a utility belt, and not quite a purse, fanny pack or holster, the inventive hybrid is made up of three various detachable compartments that give order to all those loose ends crammed untidily into your clutch or pocket: iPhone, concealer and credit card. Of course, in Raf’s expert hands the utilitarian goes full-on luxe with supple calfskin in shocking red, yellow and blue, as well as the more minimal-friendly black and white. $965 at Jil Sander boutiques worldwide.

—Franklin Melendez

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Raf Housing

Jil Sander heads downtown, and Haidee Findlay-Levin was there...

Before long you'll be hearing the names Jil and Howard thrown together like some sordid tabloid tale. Of course I'm referring to Jil of Jil Sander, whose slick downtown outpost launched last week on Howard Street. A block from Opening Ceremony and a stone's throw from the New Museum, this corner (at Crosby) is my favorite part of Manhattan. Every morning I walk to yoga along these streets, safely away from Canal Street mayhem and the overcrowded sidewalks of Soho, aka Slowho.

Entering the store for the launch, however, I felt completely removed from its location and context. The white-marbled space is split between a kind of exhibit area on street level—with a row of Grecian-like mannequins dressed in equally sculptural dresses—and the floor above, with more familiar racks and dressing rooms. The bilevel set-up allows customers to first absorb themselves in the world of Jil Sander, to ponder construction and contemplate design. In the back of the store, a wall of oversized, mirrored vertical blinds was opening and closing, alternating between reflections of the store's white walls and the fashion crowd's dark palette. Occasionally it would catch a bright color, like publicist Sylvie Picquet-Damesme from PR Consulting, who was wearing one of this season's Jil dresses in a fantastic shock-pink.

The art references don’t stop at the first floor. You then ascend a marble staircase to the second floor, complete with marble banister, where Jil Sander's creative director Raf Simons has collaborated with artist Germaine Kruip to create unusual fitting rooms with sides that close to form a four-sided, mirrored experience. That’s a lot of personal information to take in a state of undress. Personally, I'm quite happy being oblivious to my back side!

Julie Gilhart & Raf Simons, Germaine Kruip & Sylvie-Plicquet-Damesme, Ingrid Sischy & Sandy Brandt

Now, we've long known Jil Sander stands for impeccable quality and refinement, and we collectively exhaled a sigh of relief when Raf Simons took the helm (let's just pretend it was a short blip between Jil's departure and Raf's appearance), so I was very happy to see and speak to Raf himself, who I have known for years. We originally met in Paris when I was sourcing young designers for an Italian leatherwear project, Ruffo Research, for which I was creative director. In a smoky bistro, we talked art and fashion with his then girlfriend and budding designer Véronique Branquinho. Neither had worked outside of Antwerp until I proposed they collaborate with Ruffo (Raf on men's and Véronique on women's), which resulted in two definitive collections. It was the only collaboration they ever did together, and it preceded the idea of pairing designers with bigger brands—in this case, two in one.

Raf is a lot more on his plate these days, of course, but he told me he's figured out a way to focus on Jil while staying committed to his signature line (soon to have its own stores in Tokyo and Osaka). He does so by alternating weeks: one week in Milan, followed by a week in Antwerp and so on—with weekends spent in Antwerp. He said it's an easy commute, though it reminded me of a traveling man with a lover at each stop. Naturally I asked him if this was the case. "Absolutely not!" he replied, adamant that his schedule left no time for a relationship—besides those he already has with his two lines.

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