Alexander Wang went sporty more than he ever has before, at least judging from his spring collection, a friendly match between his athletic impulses and his historical perspective as Balenciaga's newly appointed creative director. But instead of the two mindsets jockeying for position, we saw something resembling harmony, gentle sparring between active New York and chic Paris.
The pairing was often manifest as hybrids, such as running shorts that doubled as normal capris, a white tuxedo jacket tailored out of a neoprene material, and high heels made from a high-performance weave of colors — a little like track shoes with a stiletto. The battle for attention didn't end there. A series of high-waisted mini-dresses in bright team colors could have been very long sports bras or prototypes for a new athletic line from Azzedine Alaïa. Goddess gowns had modular-shaped insets, while sculpted leather bodices looked ready-made for gladiators of the future, though not when paired with classic cigarette pants with just a touch of contrast piping. A series of jaunty tennis whites did not seem to be cotton, but a tech fabric perforated for breathability. Perhaps they were tested at the US Open.
Toward the end, little black dresses were anything but demure. Rather, they had been garnished with tightly-knit, swirling weaves of bright leather. They were matched only by what came next and last, halter tops in swooping, swooshing colors seemingly taken straight from gym shoes. So who won the friendly match between new and old? Let's say it was a draw.
Tigran Avetisyan, the standout of the VFiles group show, had fun with one of fashion's cheapest conceits: duty-free shopping and the mindless gluttony it causes.
The recent Central Saint Martins graduate (on a scholarship from LVMH), who returned to his native Russia to start his mostly men's label, bought five bottles of different fragrances — i.e. Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana — from duty-free shops in airports. He mixed all the juices (just imagine the rank) inside one gangly franken-bottle that he fused together from all five. He then crafted paper-thin clothes printed with a crinkle pattern, or bearing the words Duty Free all over, to resemble cellophane packaging.
The effect was reminiscent of Raf Simons' collaborations with artists and appropriation of artistic elements, but went deeper in concept, exposing the ugly commercialism of an ever-expanding global market and not-actually-free free enterprise.
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They're intended to shock, and shock they do. Here, our WTF picks from the Copenhagen spring collections...
The sensational, futuristic warriors in luscious Saga furs at Wali Mohammed Barrech's show in February were clearly no fluke. For spring, shown this week at Copenhagen Fashion Week, the half-Croatian, half-Pakistani designer proved he's one of the most exciting new talents working right now.
As with his last runway, covered with a bloody liquid, there was something ominous about the underground parking garage that served as the venue. In the middle of the low-ceilinged space was a car surrounded by a gasoline-like puddle. The models sauntered around it, wearing a subtly unisex wardrobe of tight short onesies — recalling spandex bike shorts — with enlarged computer prints, terrific utilitarian ponchos and jackets, and hospital-inspired blouses that closed in the back. His use of athletic tech fabrics and his primary color palette mixed with cybernetic grays had a resolutely modern vibe, as did what will undoubtedly rank as one of spring's jaunty must-haves: platform flip flops.
Copenhagen is becoming a fantastic incubator of fresh talent (Astrid Andersen comes to mind). With this tour-de-force, the darkly handsome, polyglot alumnus of Antwerp's Royal Academy should be given a bigger stage. Indeed, in a recent interview, he revealed he had Paris on his mind.
Barbara í Gongini is anomalous in many ways. She was born in the Faroe Islands (between the UK and Iceland, loosely governed by Denmark), draws from a mix of Nordic and Italian influences, and aims to be a fully sustainable label.
To the last point, she abhors mass consumption and expects her pieces to hang in closets much longer than one season; she only uses byproducts of the leather and fur manufacturing process; and she maintains that the collections are unisex, for more mileage.
That is how her spring 15 collection, just shown at Copenhagen Fashion Week, should be viewed. In other words, she's not your typical black-on-black leatherwear designer...
Earlier this month, the 13th annual ITS Fashion Festival (Int'l Talent Support) in Trieste, Italy, culminated with a runway show and award ceremony that promised a "collective lucid dream." But a day before the event — which was hosted by the Italian actress Anita Kravos, who somnambulated down the dimly-lit runway while murmuring, "Are you there?" — a dream-themed art installation had already stolen the show. It featured a male model sleeping on a bed in immaculate white underwear, while a machine seemed to record the blond hunk's dreams — flying and, of course, sex.
But let's go back to the fashion. The festival, largely backed by Diesel, aims to showcase and nurture the best young designers in the fields of fashion, accessories, and jewelry — as decided this year by a jury that included Carla Sozzani. Other sponsors include Swatch, Samsung, and Swarovski, each handing out a prize. As a result, the 16 awards produced a somewhat excessive number of climaxes at the ceremony.
The big winner was the British designer Katherine Roberts-Wood, who took home the Fashion Collection of the Year award for her intriguing laser-cut outfits that peel off the body. The Icelander Anita Hirlekar won the Great Prize for her textured dresses using an antique needle technique. Zoe Walters, another Brit, deservedly won the lucrative 25,000 euro Diesel award (and a job with the company) thanks to her wearable, loose zippered biker-inspired jackets. Particularly compelling were the voluminous coats by Alexander Beznekritis, a Royal College of Art graduate who was inspired by contemporary relations between Africa and China. The highly-promising Ivana Damjanvic, meanwhile, won two accessory prizes for her beautiful space-agey bags.
Most of the designers showed outfits that stood away from the body, thus hiding its curves, perhaps due to the enduring legacy of Nicolas Ghesquière and his architectural Balenciaga designs of the previous decade. Or maybe a new generation doesn't have sex on its mind like our sleeping hunk does.
The atmosphere in the Carreau du Temple was electric, with the front row again populated with Hedi Slimane’s bright young things, and just as many crosslegged on the floor in front of the front row. It set the tone perfectly for what he called, in the show notes, "Psych Rock’s new rising."
A spectacular light installation pulsated and undulated like a glistening sun, before settling into a strongly checkered backdrop. It seemed we weren’t missing Glastonbury after all, as Slimane sent out 68 impeccable music festival-ready rock stars and their model girlfriends. The silhouette was uniformly svelte, with Jim Morrison-like gaucho hats and cowboy boots, and one model looked every bit the young Jimi Hendrix.
Slimane was in magical form, riffing on the classics of the psychedelic rock era, deftly applying couture-like touches with beading and metallic threads on ponchos and blankets, fringing and studs on leathers, and fully beaded exquisite evening jackets. The forms were beautifully cut, and unexpectedly on trend after so much this season has leaned towards a softer 70s feel. His unflinching love of music continues to inspire painfully cool, desirable pieces for the legions of Saint Laurent fans. The music was created by Mystic Braves exclusively, and was the perfect hazy psychedelic garage-rock soundtrack for the show, which feels more and more like a performance each season.
The cult of Saint Laurent is unstoppable, with retailers reportedly up almost 30%, and the mobs outside the venue are testament to the power of its allure. He is unwavering in his unique vision for the house, and the evolution this season was remarkable. Hedi, the ultimate fan, is creating the ultimate fan base.
A card greeted us on our seats at Dior Homme, a reproduction of a handwritten letter from Monsieur Christian Dior, which read: “Traditions have to be maintained so they can be passed on to future generations. In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions which are our luxury and the flower of our civilization.” Kris Van Assche, for the second season running, looked to Monsieur himself to inform the collection.
While scouring the letters in the archives, he became interested in Monsieur Dior’s propensity to escape Paris to the seaside, spending time with prominent artists of the time. These three points became the main focuses for the collection: tradition, art, and the seaside. He opened with classic pinstripe tailoring that quickly hinted at the nautical with a toggle-fastened suit jacket — a classic ‘hybrid’ for Kris Van Assche.
Horizontal stripes were everywhere, from a subverted pinstripe suit to bold primary-palette color blocking, recalling the classic French Breton fisherman top. The prints were varied with free graphic lines, and multicolored scribbles covering everything from tailoring to jacquards, while the words of Monsieur himself were reproduced all over garments, creating a delicate repetitive artistic flourish. The denim was particularly noteworthy, in what is proving to be a great season for denim in Paris, with the printed lettering and artistic scribbles prints that are sure to make a big impact editorially.
There was an overall calm and delicate feeling to the meeting of art and fashion in the collection, and the continued exploration of the life and character of Monsieur Dior is proving to be the perfect muse for Kris Van Assche’s Dior Homme.
The Kenzo invitation was hilarious: a wire frame covered in kitsch metal Eiffel Towers that are sold all over Paris at tourist hotspots. It made us feel like a tourist; specifically, Americans in Paris. The rain was pouring at the outside venue by the Pont Alexandre III in the 8eme, which they took full advantage of, giving away tourist umbrellas, the see-through ones you get at tourist stores, emblazoned with a Kenzo Eiffel Tower and a Kenzo Statue of Liberty. Rain wasn’t going to spoil their parade!
The music heralded the arrival of the boys, and an exclusive collaboration with garage duo Disclosure really got everyone moving with their fantastic When a Fire Starts To Burn opening. The collection was fun and bold, in beautiful macaroon colors — an ode to tourists and everything they love about Paris. Huge polka dots, mixed with Eiffel Towers and Kenzo logos on heavy cotton twill, incredible neon intarsia technical knits, mint-green fine suede sweats and vests, rubber applications, and perfectly washed denim — a dash of Americana in the mix. The two figureheads were, of course, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to America as a symbol of their friendship.
The kitsch and tongue-in-cheek references worked perfectly, as clothes were expertly crafted and hugely desirable. The homage to Paris and its indelible chic was heartfelt. A triumph over the rain, because “When a fire starts to burn, right, and it starts to spread, she gonna bring that attitude home.” Kenzo hit a homerun.