Recently, Yohji Yamamoto has been uncharacteristically talkative. And today was no exception, as he waited backstage to greet people, and discuss (albeit cryptically) the show. He spoke of things being "under construction" and, reading between the lines, how people shouldn’t be afraid to wear one piece of fabric like the ancient Greeks. It brought to mind his famous quote: "I think perfection is ugly...I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion."
Disorder was certainly there tonight, as the show started in complete darkness, with no music, while people were still taking their seats. Photographers screamed for lights, and the audience hushed the people who hadn’t realized it had begun. In this simple moment, Yohji silenced the room. It was poetry in motion and, as it developed, one of his most powerful shows to date. Jackets were tailored through the body but de-structured in the back, with kimono-shaped sleeves. Whole outfits were seemingly made from one single piece of exquisitely draped fabric, much like those Grecian predecessors he talked about backstage. The color palette was for the most part monochromatic black, with flashes of deep greens and plums. Then, of course, there were the huge ballgowns, distorted into forms evoking broken umbrellas or fallen parachutes wrapped around fence posts, wearing their scars proudly.
The performance was soundtracked by a minimal piano, reminiscent of Morton Feldman, with chords that played out to their final hum. The hisses of the spotlights seemed to brighten throughout the show, searing the dark silhouettes onto our retinas. It was a fitting end to a mammoth show day, recalling Yamamoto's own words from a 2004 interview: “Sit down, calm down, you are turning in a carousel that moves too fast. Fashion has lost respect of clothing. My job is to regain the respect for clothing.”
Somehow it feels appropriate that John Galliano showed his first ready-to-wear collection for Maison Margiela — a paean, as it was, to faded, demented, schizoid glamour — nearly to the day that Albert Maysles, maker of the cult film Grey Gardens, passed away. You could almost hear Little Edie merrily murmuring something about nothing while wrapping and re-wrapping a scarf around her head.
Galliano's tribute to that particular delusional dame was spring 2008, and it lives in infamy. Here, "an ephemeral muse returns," said the show notes, unnamed but blissfully unawares nonetheless. Galliano appears to have envisioned the different stages of her life, from bright young flapper, so confident and svelte in her lace and ribbons, to hunchbacked hag, clutching her sad bag — fashioned after a brown paper sack — and squinting into the distance. Elsewhere we saw a rocker chick, a 60s student, and a leopard-clad cougar. All of them, at some point, had clearly chucked caution to the wind in a frenetic moment of velvety, fur-shod abandon.
It's no secret that Galliano loves paying homage to the great eccentrics of history, the strongest personalities. It's a method that is somewhat at odds with the reclusive Margiela ethos of anonymity. It'll be interesting to see how the schism plays out, whether common ground can be found of Galliano will cast that pesky ethos aside. As it was, in this collection, there was very little of Margiela's codes on display.
Last week saw the passing of John Fairchild, the legendary publisher and editor of Women's Wear Daily. In Fairchild's heyday, fashion was much slower, less crowded, and less accessible to the masses. Making headlines was much easier for designers than it is now. Nonetheless, there is perhaps no other contemporary designer who's made as many headlines as Rick Owens, and he's done so without summoning Hollywood or the current It-girl. Those now-infamous male parts of his men's show in January easily overshadowed everything else that happened that week.
But Owens has the shrewdness of a fox, knowing that surprises work best when they are, well, unexpected. So this time around, he eschewed gimmickry in favor of softer toga-like shapes inspired by Arcadia, the Grecian utopia — but, he said in the show notes, as might be worn in Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House. Showing in the underground space of the Palais de Tokyo, with its raw, scratchy walls sprouting tufts of plastic, he sent out models wearing cocooning tunics that formed cumulus shapes around the torso, or zippered alternatives that mixed velvet and felt. Flat, knee-high sandals completed the silhouette.
At times, the result recalled the Zen-like experiments of eighties' Japanese designers, although the esoteric gold or silver painted faces were pure Owens. The embroidered numbers sporting shimmering sequins in geometric patterns were absolute winners. If there was a downside, it may have been the one-note feel and the absence of more user-friendly items, which always give Owens' shows their unique balance.
The salon in the Hotel de Ville was gilded to the hilt, in quintessential Dries Van Noten style, with gold chandeliers and 19th-century mural ceilings. It was the ideal setting for the designer's celebration of iconic women, and what the show notes called "grounded glamour."
Backstage he spoke of addressing the women he admired who wore whatever they wanted, without compromise — and the outfits themselves clearly conveyed this sort of utilitarian luxury. The models walked strode out to a soundtrack of a cappella female vocals, opening with the achingly cool Elizabeth Fraser, followed by Bjork, Rihanna, Courtney Love, Debbie Harry, and Kate Bush, among many more.
The effortless mixing and matching, with little respect for the rules of fabrication, has become a signature of Van Noten's. Chinese embroidery sat alongside couture feather flourishes, rich brocades brushed shoulders with iridescent sequins, and batiks hobnobbed with Bloomsbury prints in chunky velvet heels. The Dries Van Noten woman is certainly a fascinating creature, even in her chinos, khaki trench coat, or bomber jacket.Read More
With his sophomore Paris collection, which emphasized the stark contrast between light and dark, Kunihiko Morinaga proved he's the latest in the long, proud tradition of Japanese conceptualists. Which isn't to suggest his label, Anrealage (a self-contradictory portmanteau of the words 'real' and 'unreal'), is in any way new. In fact, it's taken a decade to get to this point, with Morinaga slowly but steadily building a reputation for experimental design that he wryly calls "everyday" clothes.
It's hard to imagine what's "everyday" about his fall collection — or the bone or 8-bit themes of previous collections — although attempting to imagine in the first place is surely part of it. Models with an enlarged cranium emerged in all black with a contrasting white circle on their torso. By stripping away Western conceits, namely sex appeal, and focusing only on light as a concept, Morinaga effectively forced a spotlight onto the fashion and relegated its wearer to the shadows.
Later pieces introduced more colors of the rainbow, but it was this first segment that stunned the audience speechless, not only with the concept, but with the intense manipulation at work — or is it play? The knits and weaves, wefts and warps, all blending together and re-blending between black and white and shades of gray, was truly a sight to behold. A black trench that had been methodically transformed into a near-perfect circle and paired with an unassuming skirt and pumps spoke volumes about what it was not — typical.
Founded in 2012 by creative directors Ilan Delouis and Jenny Mannerheim, Each X Other moved from presentation to runway for fall. Taking their mission statement — art meets fashion — to heart, the show was held in the basement of Paris’ contemporary art palace, the Palais de Tokyo. Like a happening, we were seated to the sounds of Ai Canno playing violin, silhouetted against a video backdrop showing the collection being made in the Lazar Cuckovic atelier. This was replaced by a projection of a newly commissioned poem by artist Robert Montgomery, read aloud by Charles Derenne of the band 1982.
There were a few surprises on the runway, with the label's usual prints replaced by a focus on form and silhouette, showcasing the talents of new designer Masha Gard, formerly of Maison Margiela. This new fluidity and pushing of the masculine-feminine aesthetic was refreshing. Closing with a live performance by the concept band Liquid Architecture, fronted by the founder of the Palais de Tokyo itself, Jerome Sans, and voiced by Audrey Mascina, who declared "go free," it was a fitting statement as Each x Other has now flown the nest.
Miuccia Prada is once again toying with the ugly-vs-pretty paradox — perfect in its unanswerability — that she's built her empire on. The tension therein is what fuels her, and what fueled the sweet-and-sour fall collection. Pretty pinks were so pink as to cause tooth decay; a chartreuse shade of green alternated between sweetgrass and ectoplasm; vertical strips of fur were applied on the front of jackets, clearly intended to jar on the eye; and jeweled brooches on lapels took the exaggerated shape of twigs.
And the materials, there was something not quite right about them. Resembling neoprene or pressed foam, they glistened eerily, not to mention the ostrich leather — loads of it. With those bumps, is always a little disturbing. But the most curious element of all had to be the stylized splash print that evoked both nourishing water and digital artifice. Long ago Prada stopped asking whether or not things 'go' together or 'match.' The answer doesn't matter; attracting attention does. The outlier is always in.
It'll take some getting used to, and it'll need to be fleshed out much more, but Alessandro Michele's vision for Gucci — post-Frida Giannini — could very well be the retro-future, devoid of gender binaries and temporal distinctions. Judging from his debut women's collection today, after a harried men's show in January, he's clearly reaching out to a younger, bookish, spumante-and-Oreo set with a quirky, nerdy, shaggy, mumsy vibe. It's a welcome new day for the storied Italian house, following Giannini's seventies exactitude and Tom Ford's balls-out sex appeal.
You know this neo-Daria look. Think velvet culottes with a gathered waist, fur coats worn over prom-like tulle, men in femme-ish blouses, dirndl-y skirts (some with pleats, some with plissé, some with pleats and plissé), and pussy bows that post-millennials wouldn't touch if they didn't happen to be in bright contrast colors. Accessories likewise pointed to an haute-thrift mentality: off-trend berets, moppy shoes, snug beanies, and giant prescription glasses. So while it's an unfortunate step back for women at the helm of mega-brands, Michele may in fact take Gucci where it would do well to be — in that sweet spot between vintage Yves Saint Laurent and contemporary Prada.