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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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Paris Men's Week: Dior Homme

Kris Van Assche is a realist. And the spring '10 collection he produced for Dior Homme is full of soft, flowing, even tempered modern classics for men who don't/can't/will never take it over-the-top. Transparency was the big statement, with the see-through appearing as layers, as in jackets over open shirts over tone-on-tone silk T-shirts—all in cool hues like dove grey and flesh tones. Sleeveless was the other statement. When sleeves do appear, they're in silk top shirts with rolled-up sleeves over a jacket to accentuate softness. The effect is ethereal and quite a contrast to the boldnes, or should I say brashness, elsewhere. I think this might be the guy who gets the girl after all his friends have overplayed it. Thanks to cool-hand Kris.

—Rebecca Voight

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Lanvin

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Was it only last January that Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz presented the fall 2009 collection for Lanvin in an old school courtyard: a marvel of flowing, pleated pants, billowy silk shirts, romantic neck scarves and cinched waist coats? That collection was a first response to the financial crisis and it was deemed appropriately somber. It was also very romantic.

This time Lanvin showed in the rococo gilt Salle Wagram, looking decidedly dance-hall louche, lit in lurid red with techno blasting at 11:00 am. Gone was any trace of somber romance as models emerged like a gang of toughs in skinny, sleeveless jackets and stovepipe pants with narrow, turned-up cuffs, hair in almost punk spikes topped with visor scarves in tie silk. These new Lanvin guys meant business and one suspects it was of the shakedown variety. There were knee pants with knee coats, confirming menswear's move to a more boyish silhouette, and still more louche details like black shirts with a sliver of white handkerchief peeking out from the breast pocket. Patterned T-shirts were studded with sequins and leather blousons showed up with matching leather shorts. The new coat was aggressively cinched and worn bloused for an hourglass shape, and there was a wider trouser which was very high waisted, marked with a narrow belt and offset with ample hips in a sort of Fred Astaire dance shape. The pants were paired with 50's patterned shirts with short sleeves rolled as high as they will go.

The end result looked like a lean, mean fighting machine, ready to seduce a younger, more body-conscious customer for Lanvin and not afraid of being pretty ferocious in the process.

—Rebecca Voight

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paris Men's Week: John Galliano

Deep in the heart of Paris' 16th arrondissement is the Piscine Molitor, a graffiti-covered carcass of an indoor pool, known for its deco décor and as the site where, in 1945, the bikini first appeared. Its resonance must have appealed to John Galliano, who staged another one of his epic men's shows here.

Galliano designs for men like a wide-eyed boy steeped in tales of daring heroism. There were two characters on his mind this season: Lawrence of Arabia, as portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the 1962 classic, and Napoleon Bonaparte in Abel Gance's haunting 1927 silent film. Galliano began with Lawrence, who went native in a mix of early 20th-century military tailoring and harem-like sarouel pants—worn out, distressed, exotic. And he ended up with a goth Bonaparte as the Emperor of France, a menacing regal figure in brocade evening shirts with jet black embroidery and great coats with still more shirts wrapped around them like sashes. Somewhere in between he slipped in a Sicilian escapade inspired by the pre-WWI homoerotic portraits of Wilhelm von Gloeden, whose juvenile models with wreaths in their hair evoked Grecian antiquity. Galliano's Sicilians, however, were in floral speedos and blousy scarf-print blousons—mama mia!

—Rebecca Voight

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Paris Men's Week: Tim Hamilton

Tim Hamilton is an American wunderkind. I was first alerted to this by the buzz preceding his first Paris men's show. Hamilton is from Iowa, but he's also slightly exotic (his mom is Lebanese and his dad is English-American). He's earned his design stripes with stints at J.Crew and Ralph Lauren. And, besides menswear, launched in 2007, he also has a women's collection that he debuted in Paris for fall 2009. That's pretty spectacular.

So what can be said about Hamilton's first menswear show in Paris? He touched all the current bases: a lab-coat trench, a tailored jumpsuit, a filmy nylon parka, long johns, cropped boy pants—in short, all the musts. And yet I found the proportions slightly pinched. There were also so many trends, but not enough Hamilton. Tim, Tim, come out wherever you are! This was a first which begs the question: what's next?

—Rebecca Voight

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Paris Men's Week: Hermès

It smelled liked horses, thoroughbreds of course, at the old refectory of the Cordelier convent, which had been transformed for the Hermès show with a pressed-earth floor. A dedicated team of men with these big green roller devices was on hand to constantly repress the floor until the models arrived.

Imagine your entire spring '10 wardrobe cast in tone-on-tone shades of leafy greens and dusty browns, like the color of shade under a big tree on a scorching day. Véronique Nichanian worked such a palette of natural hues, from verdigris and taupe verging on olive drab to apple and various bronzed browns. This gave the clothes an aged patina, as though they'd been plucked from an old photograph—which isn't to say there was anything retro here.

A blazer in solid taupe seersucker just looked like an interestingly wrinkled jacket rather than that old prep classic in blue and white pinstripes. All the pants had rolled cuffs. Calfskin shirt jackets and super-soft trench coats were practically cut with a scalpel. And the linen suit looked perfectly blasé. Sleeveless cardigans paired with sleeveless silk T-shirts over roomy trousers, or boxy Bermudas, were in such perfect French taste that one was tempted to ask, What ever happened to vulgarity? The answer is: Hermès just doesn't ever do that. Standouts were a chunky sailor-knot sweater in tart green and a windbreaker in paper-thin calfskin, as soft as a glove.

—Rebecca Voight

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Louis Vuitton

Maybe it's because Marc Jacobs has been baring his tanned legs in skorts lately that Louis Vuitton studio director Paul Helbers has picked up on menswear's current bike vibe in such a big way that he dedicated the entire spring collection to New York messengers—or, as they refer to them in the show notes, "Gentlemen Papillons" (butterfly men). Nigerian singer Keziah Jones, who I discovered I'm in love with after the Yves Saint Laurent show, was back, sitting right across the runway from me and looking sublime in a T-shirt, trilby and skinny suit with contrast edging, no doubt from LV because similar models showed up for the show's finale.

This was a great collection, an about face from all that triple-ply luxury LV has specialized in up until now. It's not that these clothes are any less elegant, but they're younger, less concerned with luxe and more interested in young men in their physical prime. The standouts: taxi-cab yellow racing jackets in washed linen, rolled-cuff shorts, a Taiga leather bum bag, an ottoman nylon trench coat, anything in tricky tech fabrics, a braided straw hat with a reflective band and those keychain necklaces worn with everything—even suits.

—Rebecca Voight

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Adam Kimmel

Adam Kimmel and his fiancée, the actress Leelee Sobieski, are heading down to the Camargue in southeastern France, where French cowboys herd bulls in the salt marshes and where Leelee's father, the painter John Sobieski lives. This couldn't be more timely as Kimmel has just finished one of his big dreams, a cowboy collection inspired by Roy Rogers and the Marlboro Man. Kimmel worked with Jim Krantz, the Marlboro campaign's original photographer, on the look book, featuring real-live modern cowboys, and video artist Meredith Danluck shot the making-of on the original Marlboro ranch with bull-riding champion Rocky McDonald.

What's particularly nice about Kimmel's westernwear is that it's actually wearable compared to the real thing, which is usually a bit heavy on the embroidery, or heading towards polyester. At Yvon Lambert's Paris gallery, where Kimmel held an informal collection fete, Charlotte Rampling, actor Gaspard Ulliel and the transatlantic art crowd picked out their favorite pieces while Stefano Pilati recalled his first visit to Texas at the age of eighteen. "I didn't know much about cowboy clothes when I was growing up. I just wore jeans," he said, "but later on I discovered it all in Texas—the boots, the shirts, everything—and brought it all home with me."

—Rebecca Voight

photo Karl Hab

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Paris Men's Week: Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier can't stop putting boys in girls' clothes. Following skirts, his new feminine preoccupations are bustiers and halter tops, which he pairs with broad-shouldered suits for men who want to show off their pecs and don't mind if they have to dress like a girl to do it. His sailor boys look kind of girlish, too, in pants so wide they could almost be skirts and school uniform-style midi blouses. The collection's masculine side comes through in 60s futuristic-style tailoring—à la Pierre Cardin or André Courrèges—in sparkling white, brights and candy stripes.

—Rebecca Voight

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Paris Men's Week: Dries Van Noten

Even Dries Van Noten, who has never been the flashy type, has toned it down this season. For spring, he's taken a megadose of prints and put them everywhere, from pocket scarves to thongs. The print parade works because they're quiet, often bleached out prints in muted colors, i.e. dark plaids for raincoats and faded ikats in super-thin cottons for his new three-pleat trouser. Like Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, Van Noten is perfecting a sharp-shouldered, double-breasted jacket that's cut very close to the body, giving the wearer a delicate, gangly look, like a young man who is growing too fast.

—Rebecca Voight

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hint Tip: Gotscho

In this era of conglomerate-sponsored art, French artist Gotscho is that rare breed, a stylish loose cannon whose take on fashion consumption has a decidedly sinister tinge. Gotscho has been putting clothes center stage in his installations since the 90s, through collaborations with Maison Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons, to name a few.

For this month's Carré Rive Gauche, an annual group show of 120 galleries (antiques and fine art) on Paris's Left Bank, gallerist Eric Allart turned his space over to Gotscho to show his dark and mysterious "Ladies First" series (through June 19). In one piece, fragments of silk slip through fitting-room doors as though the customer has dematerialized through the looking glass like a repentant shopaholic desperate to get out. Nearby, a silver rolling rack sports a dozen seemingly banal garment bags with a row of identical black pumps ready for transport, one atop the other. It's only on closer inspection that you find the bags have an embroidered burkha slit at eye level, and the shoes are fused together in a permanent state of travel readiness.

Which begs the question: does Gotscho love or hate la mode? "I'm on both sides. I'm eternally attracted yet always looking for an escape," he says. "I was shocked the first time I saw a woman wearing a burkha. I didn't understand how it was possible, but I wanted to say something about it diplomatically. A garment bag is for travel and shoes are for walking, so both are about movement. What you have here is the possibility of movement, but the reality of immobility."

For the upcoming couture shows in Paris, Bruno Frisoni, artistic director of French shoe house Roger Vivier, will unveil his own pair of Gotschoesque-fused footwear, for those who prefer to look at stilettos than wear them.

—Rebecca Voight

Ladies First W10 (2007), Ladies First W31 (2007)

Odalisque (2007)

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 5

By Rebecca Voight...

Sunday began in the Jardin des Tuileries, waiting outside in a light rain while the 10 am Karl Lagerfeld show was still rehearsing inside the “Ephemere” tent at 10:15. Overheard, a conversation between two American department store execs: “Do you know how much they're charging for umbrellas at the Ritz now? Thirty euros—they used to be free!” "Well, do you get the money back when you return them?” “No.”

At least seeing fashion shows is still free. Lagerfeld’s show began with electro trio Metronomy strolling down the runway with the lead singing a snappy dirge into a vocoder. What followed were beautiful motorcycle helmet by Ruby, France's most stylish two-wheel gear purveyor. Only, in Lagerfeld’s hands, they were in fur to match square-shouldered vests and coats, some with fur sleeves. And he dipped into the Christmas tinsel to cover a jersey column dress like a band leader’s jacket, shown over Lagerfeld's familiar ankle-slit satin pants in dark gray or chocolate-brown. All this building up of luxurious materials and sport staples made for a rich warrior woman look.

Karl Lagerfeld

Dries Van Noten showed in the huge courtyard of the Lycée Carnot high school. And it's clear now he's moved on from ethnic embroideries and soft draping. His new structure is centered on a boxy, rectangular jacket which he takes through textured fabrics, snake-print and crocodile skin. He did a perfect camel trench and bathrobe coats, as well as a blouson turned into a dress. His large trousers are some of the most well-tailored in Paris and every girl sported a pair of thick-framed 50s-style sunglasses. While almost everybody in the audience was wearing black, Van Noten showed hot Moroccan colors for fall: persimmon, saffron, dusty pink and lime green.

Dries Van Noten

So, this has been a tricky, recession-deflated season, with brands scrambling to allot limited seating. The idea seems to be that since there are fewer journalists and buyers, it's best to show in a smaller venue to maintain a full house. Sonia Rykiel did the smartest thing and showed right in her Blvd Saint Germain flagship. I hung out with stylist Patti Wilson, who downed a striped bottle of Coke Light designed by Rykiel's daughter Nathalie, and we watched as models skipped around the store repeating phrases like “Under my sweater I'm nude” in English and French—with a mostly Eastern European accent. Patchwork, color-blocked ponchos, big Lurex-knitted sweaters and multicolored ruffles on hourglass black dresses were vintage 70's Sonia.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 4

By Rebecca Voight...

It was like a perfect Saturday morning in front of the TV as a child. Jeremy Scott‘s Mouse Trap collection was his best to date. He sent out a gang of Minnies and Mickeys that was cheap, cheerful and full of American staples like romper dresses, perfecto jackets and sneakers from his collection for Adidas in graphic black, white and red—with Rainbow Brites making guest appearances.

Now that his cartoon prints are in their second season on Longchamp canvas bags—the favorite tote of every young girl in Paris—Scott has reestablished his connection to the City of Light, which is where he began in the late 1990s. Since then he has perfected his own print-based style. This time he put cell phone faces on taxi-yellow T-shirts and covered the bags with big telephone receivers. His style is basic, easy and recession-proof in second-skin black and canvas. For his finale, Scott paid homage to Patrick Kelly (the black American designer from the late 80s who also made his name in Paris) by reprising Kelly's multicolored button trompe l'oeil mosaics in bustier shapes and tuxedos.

Jeremy Scott

Ann Demeulemeester is more wrapped up than ever in clothes that are tied like presents. This season she produced silky ethnic embroideries in black on black, curvy fencer's jackets in what looked like wet seal and vests made entirely of little bells. The pants she has always done, low-crotch wraparounds, couldn't be more à propos in this harem-draped season.

Ann Demeulemeester

Veronique Branquinho, who's just been made artistic director at the storied Belgian leathergoods house of Delvaux, finished off Saturday in white satin fit for, as she described it, “a warm-blooded ice queen.” All the Branquinho standards were present: capes, faux bourgeois-pleated skirts and then she took off with Mongolian lamb fur, which puffed up the collars of wrap coats, took over the sleeves and even snaked up the back of spike heels. Branquinho's hot little ice queen is very night-for-day in satin sheaths with sequin insets everywhere, 20s' flapper wraparound dresses and leggings with diamond-shaped peepholes up the back.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 3

By Rebecca Voight...

Romeo Gigli, the designer who made stole draping and the erased shoulder his own in the early 90s, is back after a long hiatus, which began in 2004 when he slipped away from his own label. In January, his Io Ipse Idem line—which roughly translates as "always the same me, but never quite the same"—made its debut at Paris' fall men's shows. This time he brought the women's collection to the Espace Topographique de l'Art in the Marais, in a presentation he choreographed himself. Partnered with Catherine Vautrin (a former LVMH executive who worked closely with Marc Jacobs) and Luciano Donatelli (previously with Zegna and now working on the brand's production) and backed by IP Spa, Gigli is set.

And the clothes? Ever the romantic, Gigli brought back his cocoon coats, but lighter than before, as well as narrow scrunched-up, stretch-jersey skirts and fur stoles to throw over your shoulder for dress-up. And the best pieces of all were a series of jackets with backs cut out like stained glass—his saturated colors look like no one else's.

Io Ipse Idem

For Issey Miyake, two pairs of karate champions were put on the runway to test the strength of the house’s latest A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) collection—and there wasn’t a tear anywhere. The line is increasingly turning its attention to Japanese tradition and construction. All-over pleats are a Miyake classic, but its current designer Dai Fujiwara put the pleats in strategic places this season, to give the clothes bounce.

Issey Miyake

Yohji Yamamoto, also a black belt in karate, has started a new partnership with Salvatore Ferragamo and he wasn’t quiet about it at the show. Every model sported a pair of flaming red bottines with the usual Yamamoto flowing jackets and coats over floor-grazing skirts. The result was a fire-and-ice mix, which was oddly fitting in these times when no one seems to know just how to move forward.

Yohji Yamamoto

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Paris Fashion Week: Day 2

By Rebecca Voight...

Oh, the 80s ladies at Nina Ricci! In what just might be his farewell show for the house, Olivier Theyskens returned to his fetishistic roots—feet first. His bottines came in colors as bright as tinsel pink, and so high that the girls looked like they were perched on stilts. Faces were covered by half derbies pushed over the front and they were backless to show off gelled hair. But remove the shoes and the collection is full of 80s' standards: super-curvy skirt suits with peplum jackets, extra-wide skirtish trousers and skintight leggings and bustiers.

Nina Ricci

I wish Olivier Theyskens had a partner like Michele Lamy. Rick Owens' other half and the business brains behind his fashion house believes in talent first and foremost, which is why she also backs Gareth Pugh. Lamy’s calm strength is evident in the way Owens has been able to develop his style slowly but surely. For fall he continues layering earthy and cloudy tone tunics and leggings with blanket coats that look like wearable teepees in complex quilted and patchworked fabrics, plus a new silver foil that shines like a beacon.

Rick Owens

A.F. Vandevorst had a packed house—or rather, garage—for their collection of chestnut-brown wools, high-stepping shoes made to look like hooves and striped jockey blouses. Thick tights in flesh tones, huge feed bags and country-tailored pleated walking skirts had an earthy quality reminiscent of Prada's collection, with its backwoods women in thick, boiled wool suits and thigh-high rubber fishing boots.

A.F. Vandevorst

Lutz Huelle's leggy girls defy that dusty old dictum that lean times bring hemlines down. The collection he showed was an ode to the gam with plenty of fall's hooded blousons, wrap-around tailoring and flag dresses—a simple and graphic column of silk designed to wear loose and open to show off all a girl has.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Day 1

By Rebecca Voight...

Gareth Pugh cranked up the smoke machine before presenting his fall collection as a short film, picking up where he left off from his wicked men's collection in January, including pointy-nail studded leathers—ouch! Pugh’s always favored balloon shapes—he once had his models walk down an inflated catwalk—and this time the puffed-up looks, as well as cropped jackets and cape-like coats, came in bronze, worn by model Natasa Vojnovic.

Gareth Pugh

Kris Van Assche sent out billowy silk jumpsuits in various shades of charcoal, as well as transparent military shirts—all of which looked lighter than air. And for the girl who can't decide whether to wear a skirt or pants, he somehow managed to combine both in one piece. A skant? Pirt? Pulotte?

Kris Van Assche

Martine Sitbon had all Paris' It-girls sitting front row for her Rue du Mail show, including the lovely Zoe Cassavetes, who's currently living in Paris. Sitbon showed flesh and cream-colored hooded jackets over leggings worn with silver foil hot pants. In fact, the collection was full of hoods and black-on-black matte and shine—tough, chic and elegant.

Prada wound up its four-city Iconoclasts series with snake-charmer Carine Roitfeld's “rethink” for Paris' Avenue Montaigne store. Roitfeld, who never goes by halves, cleared out the entire place and turned it into a reptile shelter. “I thought about the snake prints in the spring collection and based the whole thing on real versus fake,” she told me. That meant live fat snakes encased in small plexi-cages and fashionably creepy snake-print rubber flooring throughout, with green lighting that gave everybody in the room a reptilian glow. The focal point was model (and dancer) Karlie Kloss, in an up-do and snake-print unitard, who slithered around the room in a hot and bothered way.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Prada Placement

By Rebecca Voight...

It's two down and two to go. For a series aptly called The Iconoclasts, Miuccia Prada picked four fashion editors—W’s Alex White, Katie Grand from the soon-to-be-legendary Love, Olivier Rizzo (who styles for V, VMAN, Another and Arena Homme Plus) and French Vogue’s editrix Carine Roitfeld—and asked them to “rethink” Prada stores in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

This week Alex White invaded New York’s Soho store, while London’s Old Bond Street Prada was turned into a skate park by Katie Grand. The lowdown: White went heavily for liquid Lycra leopard-spot and snakeskin stockings in a red-light district mood, while she left Prada’s spring pumps in a delectable, chaotic heap. She also worked Mickey Mouse ears into hats and put a few of Prada's mannequins in white blindfolds—a signature touch?

Meanwhile, Grand—along with David Sims—installed a plywood skateboard ramp in the Old Bond Street store. Presumably shoppers will bring their decks and forego those dangerous six-inch platforms that sent a few pretties tumbling during the last show. "I wanted to do a film with David Sims and we talked about having a girl dancing," says Grand, reached on a shoot the day after the London launch party. "We only had 2½ weeks and David was on vacation in Costa Rica, so we worked it out over a few desperate email conversations. Eventually he said he wanted to have girls skateboarding so we looked for models who knew how. But then I thought about Prada's display mannequins. They're so beautiful, so we put them on the ramp."

Now back to Love. After a sneak preview at London's Dover Street Market and Harvey Nichols, Grand's new Condé Nast fashion mag will hit newsstands on Thursday, but for the moment she doesn't even have any copies left in her office. After several Valentine's launch soirées, she says she planning a bigger bash a bit later at Harvey Nicks. Love's first issue features ladies and gents who "don't have model-like dimensions," says Grand, who put a sumptuous, nearly nude Beth Ditto on the cover. Iggy Pop—who Grand points out "is a women's sample size"—and the statuesque Anjelica Huston appear inside.

Prada New York, rethought by Alex White

Prada London, rethought by Katie Grand

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Maison Martin Margiela

By Rebecca Voight...

It has to be said: Martin Margiela is so full of great ideas, it's almost painful to watch. The first pain was just getting all the way to the show venue, La Maison de Métallos. The Paris cultural center is located way, way out in Paris's bohemian 11th arrondissement, which, despite the hike, is turning into a primo spot for groundbreaking fashion shows—yesterday it hosted Romain Kremer and Julius. Equipped with flashlights, Margiela's white labcoats led the audience, convened in small groups, into the theater, and there we stood as MMMs men’s collection appeared in a series of police line-ups in a narrow, glass-enclosed space. As usual, Margiela presents real clothes for men, not fashion statements.

But what seems banal at a glance is finely styled, down to the "wine stain" print shirts and “after-party” coats. As each unusual suspect came forward, one of those twangy, insincere American telemarketing voices boomed out what they were wearing. Within minutes I was laughing out loud, and it didn’t take long for the rest of the audience to lose it as well. Some of us laughed so hard we cried. Like I said, Margiela is painfully good. This season's Incognito aviator glasses, limited-edition python shoes, suede Postcard Holder vest and jeans with a subtle “rained on” look, via print and resin applications, are sterling examples of late '70s trashy dressing, as interpreted by a tongue-in-cheek maestro.

Maison Martin Margiela

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Adam Kimmel

By Rebecca Voight...

Gerard Malanga's black-and-whites of artists, poets, musicians and general hangers-on in the late '60s Warhol orbit—Gregory Corso, Billy Name, a very young David Byrne, Patti Smith posing on the fire escape with her boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe and Ed Hood—wouldn't be out of place in one of American designer Adam Kimmel's seasonal look books. Kimmel has been asking his downtown friends to pose since he launched his collection with shammy jumpsuits in 2002. They inspire his design and he's their label of choice.

While Kimmel isn't the show-off type, his presentation fête last Thursday night at Galerie Thadeaus Ropac in Paris, billed as a "remake" of Malanga's "screen tests" from The Factory days, drew a throng of Paris and New York artists, models, actors and fashion folk. Malanga took Kimmel's look book pictures for fall 09: Glenn O'Brien, Aaron Young, Slater Bradley, Dan Colen and the voluptuous Leelee Sobieski couldn't be more timely in American-flag long johns, boxy corduroy jackets and plenty of denim and plaid flannel.

Waris Ahluwalia, in town to present his latest bird-inspired jewelry collection during couture next week, was so busy with Leelee Sobieski and Lou Doillon that he nearly forgot he had a dinner date with Kanyé West. Waris is doing press in Europe and recently found himself interviewed for the evening news in Sweden, which reminded him that it was the first country he wanted to visit as an exchange student when he was sixteen. "My parents vetoed that right away though," he admits. "They knew why I wanted to go to Sweden and it wasn't for the culture."

Adam Kimmel with the NY Times' Cathy Horyn and i-D's Terry Jones

Adam Kimmel with Paris Vogue's Carine Roitfeld and Olivier Lalanne

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Day 1

By Rebecca Voight...

Why worry about your shrinking bank account when the really big problem is what to wear to the financial crisis? On the first day of the Paris men's shows for fall, there were enough men in plaid flannel shirts and work boots to fill all the lumber yards in Canada. Desperately seeking sartorial propriety, the boys (and girls) of menswear are determined to face hard times with New Deal grit—not unlike Dorothea Lange’s black-and-whites of migrant workers fleeing the Dust Bowl.

But while radical change is in the air, not all designers are working workwear. At Hugo by Hugo Boss, Bruno Pieters appears to have been beating the financial blues by listening to a whole lot of Kraftwerk, especially 1978's vocoder-ific “We Are the Robots." Allowing his taste for razor-sharp tailoring and dueling checks to go wild, Pieters also veered into Devo territory with Clockwork Orange overtones. The response was either love or hate; others just had to close their eyes.

Number (N)ine's Takahiro Miyashita opted to escape reality by time-traveling to the early 17th century, invoking D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers in tattered brocade frock coats, britches and grandfather shirts. I’m not sure how, but several of Miyashita's musketeers even managed to look like Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Number (N)ine

"When the going gets tough, just stay in bed" is what Yohji Yamamoto appeared to be saying in one of his best men’s collections in recent memory. Striped pajama sets and bathrobe coats worn with ski bonnets, oversized cardigans and leggings crumpled at the ankle like droopy socks are ideal for the laid-back, laid-off life.

Yohji Yamamoto

If Henrik Vibskov didn't stay in bed, à la Yamamoto, he only ventured as far as the hamper. The Danish designer capped the day’s shows with his “Human Laundry Service” performance at the Espace Saint Martin, one of those mysterious spiritual guidance places where people attend self-improvement seminars. I checked out a couple of their meetings, but unfortunately they weren’t doing anything seriously spiritual like channeling or flapping around on the floor. They should have seen what was going on upstairs!

Apparently the show Vibskov presented was only half of what he wanted to do because the room was too small to hold his entire Human Laundry Service apparatus, which originally involved water, of course. But he did manage to squeeze in five giant black-and-white striped treadmills manned by models dressed like surreal Tyrolean Elves. Oversized plaid shirts, bright and baggy long johns, shawls, blanket coats and candy stripe suits are for the man who combats economic adversity with joie de vivre.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lacoste of Fame

Captain Hook isn't the only one with a croc that won't stop ticking. There's plenty of air sur terre for Lacoste, which opened its umpteenth shop last Thursday on rue Vieille du Temple, the main drag of Paris' Marais district, where the boys are in the City of Light. Boys at the jam-packed opening tended to be in the hot young, champagne-loving French actor category, notably Stanislas Merhar, Saïd Taghmaoui and sloe-eyed Andy Gillet, who plays Celadon in 88-year-old French New Wave director Eric Rohmer's latest (and hopefully not his last) opus, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon.

The new store's windows were full of Michael Stipe's photo polo, designed by R.E.M.s frontman to give your near and dear the impression they're performing to a frenzied, sold-out stadium crowd. The shirt, third in Lacoste's Holiday Collector series, after Tom Dixon and Michael Young, is in a "limited" edition of 12,000. And for those who didn't get a chance to hang out in Zaha Hadid's Chanel Mobile Art Pavillion (too late now, it's been grounded), her croc-inspired, ergonomic, undulating foot gloves—er, shoes—for Lacoste will slither into stores in June. That's a bit later than previously announced, but hey, it's art.

—Rebecca Voight

Andy Gillet / Saïd Taghmaoui & Zoe Felix / Stanislas Merhar & friend

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chanel on the Brain

More from Rebecca Voight's convo with Karl Lagerfeld at the Monnaie de Paris...

Lagerfeld says he "helped out" Anna Mouglalis with her costumes for the role of Chanel in the upcoming biopic "Chanel and Stravinsky, L'Histoire Secrete," directed by Jan Kounen. But he's much more excited about his own Chanel opus, to be screened in December as the opener to the house's Paris-Moscow Métiers d'Art pre-fall collection at Paris's Ranelagh theater. He cast Lithuanian model Edita Vilkeviciute (seen here), his latest discovery, as Chanel, along with the house muse Lady Amanda Harlech and her actress daughter Tallulah.

"It's a little Max Sennett type film," Lagerfeld explained to me (think flickering black and white silent slapstick), "about the life of Chanel from 1913 to 1923. And I've spliced in newsreel footage of WWI because I think it's interesting to juxtapose fashion with the horrible images of the trenches." He had originally planned to put the show on in Moscow, "but they (Russian customs) wanted to have the clothes three weeks in advance, which means we wouldn't have been ready and the situation seemed risky, so we cancelled."

Lagerfeld has recently returned from a visit to his new 1843 home away from home in Vermont, where he shot the Chanel spring campaign. He said he loves the house, which friends scouted for him. "It's perfect for all my Biedermeier furniture from my childhood days," he added. "I had to find somewhere to put it."

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Showing the Money

By Rebecca Voight...

At least somebody's still making money these days. The Monnaie de Paris, the storied mint that churns out France's euro coins, went into full birthday mode on Wednesday to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, issuing a solid-gold coin with a face value of 5 euros, in reference to the house's iconic N°5 fragrance. The 5 oz. coin, limited to 99, features a Lagerfeld-made portrait of Chanel in trademark hat and pearls on one side and a quilted 5 on the other.

The cost for a gold coin is €5,900, but for those who find the price a bit steep in these copper-pinching times, the news from the mint is the coins have all been pre-sold—and we have a good idea who to. Anyway, the smaller silver coins are only €45. In total, the mint is issuing 11,900 pieces of Chanel money, which goes on sale December 1.

And so workwear-clad coin-makers milled with Paris paparazzi and fashion fanatics deep in the old Monnaie's workrooms while the gold heated up in the minting machine as we waited for the ever fashionably late Lagerfeld to arrive with France's Minister of Culture.

"Money sells," Lagerfeld later mused, after the first piece popped out of the machine. We then followed Chanel's Marie-Louise de Clermont-Tonnerre upstairs to the mint's gilt ballroom to quaff champagne before noon, of which Gabrielle would no doubt approve. As Karl Lagerfeld pointed out, "After 125 years, it's high time to celebrate."

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Comming to Blows

Rebecca Voight bought Comme des Garçons for H&M and lived to tell about it...

I lined up in front of H&M's Blvd Haussmann flagship in Paris half an hour before the 9:30 am opening yesterday and found myself surrounded by, and bonding with, a United Nations of Reiettes, as in devotees of Rei Kawakubo. A French girl in a black down jacket and red ballet flats, who'd been through this before when H&M collaborated with Viktor & Rolf, had already pre-shopped and priced her wish list online. A Japanese girl who works in Alber Elbaz's atelier at Lanvin, but who had the day off, worried she might collapse in the battleground we were about to enter. And during our entire vigil, a chain-smoking Belgian in head-to-toe Chanel, obviously part of an eBay gang, called friends in line in other European cities to compare conditions and fine-tune her buying strategy. Then a brawl ensued near us when a couple of Comme “fans" tried to crash the line and were ejected by the ferocious crowd.

Once inside it was like being on the set of Caligula. And, by all accounts, this year was tame compared to last year's Cavalli for H&M launch as apparently Comme des Garçons fans possess more decorum. But clearly that's relative. I witnessed clothes being trampled on by a diverse gaggle of style hounds and usually timid Japanese girls stripping between the racks of the men’s department to avoid the impossible lines for the fitting rooms.

Despite this, everyone in the store was happy. It was a slightly delirious happiness—like laughing gas. It wasn't long before the Metro was full of happy, mostly Japanese, customers clutching bags bursting with enough polka dots to make Yayoi Kusama jump for joy.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Alexis Mabille Takes Another Bow

and Rebecca Voight is tongue-tied...

Alexis Mabille, he of the wacky bow ties, is officially the Bright Young Thing of Paris couture, so anointed by style.com's Sarah Mower. She didn't write about his collection when it made its debut at the spring couture last January. (Click here for Hint's coverage.) But Mabille mania has gained steam since. Bzzzzzz. Luckily, the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes and Women's Wear Daily have been on to this upstart from day one.

Mabille said he was inspired by his dream of the ideal co-ed academy, but those expecting mad schoolgirls and boys were surprised. Elegance prevailed. And despite his penchant for delirious accessories, he's turning out to be a refreshingly clean and simple designer when it comes to womenswear. For men, it's another story. If Little Lord Fauntleroy were alive today, he'd be thrilled with those curvy suits and jackets in Easter yellow and baby blue. But this is a look very few men can pull off.

Mabille turned dress shirts into evening columns in black with a white piqué bib-front. And he made a simply scandalous statement with a silk sheath that turned out to be nothing but nude tulle in the back. The most beautiful piece of flesh-tone embroidered silk was left to speak for itself in a simple shell top. Ditto the embroidered pants covered with embroidered tropical flowers. Several dresses with box-pleat skirts in odd pinks and royal blue looked intriguingly off-kilter, and he had fun with lace in peek-a-boo undersea blue. All these simple pieces were a great backdrop to accessories like satin pumps with matching bows running up the back and silver belts that looked like they'd been made from grandmother's dismantled tea set.

—Rebecca Voight

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Out of the Bleu

It goes to show how appearances can be deceiving, especially under blue lights. At Lanvin's Blue Soirée at the Hotel de Crillon last night, I was certain I saw Inès de la Fressange in a tight jean jacket and denim short shorts. She looked statuesque—almost larger than life—with that stunning boyishness about her and the thick, wavy brown bob, her trademark. And those legs! De la Fressange was Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel muse when she was in her late 20s; now, at 50, she's the ambassadress of Roger Vivier shoes—and the recent recipient of France's Légion d'Honneur for being spectacular on all fronts. It's couture time in Paris, but it dawned on me that I'd recently read an interview with de la Fressange, who said the only thing she's given up at 50 is short shorts. Ah yes, the eye had played tricks on me. The Ines look-alike was really a boy. In fact, the party to celebate Lanvin's new denim collection with Acne Jeans was full of leggy young men in very short shorts—denim, of course. Alber Elbaz was in his usual bow tie and artfully rumpled suit. "I like to look at people in jeans on the street," he said of his reason to put the Lanvin label in denim, "and I love the people at Acne. Working with them reminds you that there are still nice people in this business." Johnny Johansson, Acne's creative director and founder, concurred: "We did this in a very short time and we don't even have a contract. Who needs lawyers?" Sounds like true love. Liv Tyler—on a couture-viewing trip to celebrate her birthday (she's 31) with her sister Chelsea Tallarico, Eva Mendes and French actress Roxanne Mesquida—spent the evening posing with balloons and the men in blue. Ah, Paris…

—Rebecca Voight

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