Veteran Affairs: Rick Owens Fall 2014

The first thing one noticed at Rick Owens' superb fall 2014 show was not the clothes — and this is meant as a compliment. What grabbed the attention was his casting, a bevy of strong women, their faces carved with character, often with a patina of age enhanced by a no-makeup beauty look.

Most of these women were runway queens of the 1990s and 2000s (Kirsten Owens, Madeleine Blomberg, Natasha K.), but there were also women from other walks of life, like Anne Van den Bossche, Owens' former PR, or Scarlett Rouge, the daughter of his wife, Michele Lamy. Others, shaved and tattooed, gave the show an unmistakable lesbian-chic edge.

What united all these women was the kind of unfussy beauty and serenely defiant allure the designer favors — hence the contingent of Belgian Belles that took fashion by storm in the early aughts: Hannelore Knuts, Kim Peers, An Oost, and Roos van Bosstraeten (the Times' Guy Trebay once described them as "the blahs"). Even the great Nadège Dupospertus, who had a cute gamine look in her 90's heydays as a Chanel and Versace favorite, looked surprisingly — and wonderfully — gritty at the magnificent Palais de Chaillot, where the show was held.

Thankfully, the models walked the runway twice, and a second viewing allowed a closer examination of the outfits, dominated by drop-crotch short overalls worn with high boots-cum-sneakers, and cocoon-like coats with an opening around the waist for the hands. This soft protective gear in chic shades of gray or aubergine was high luxury as stiff silks, leather (including crocodile), and other recurring materials.

Highlights included futuristic biker pants worn with jackets adorned with tiny pleats, and some bold, graphically patterned knitwear. Owens also came up with one of the most striking accessories of the season (besides long zippered gloves): a hat that looked like curved piping. Or was it an oversize curler?

After last season's unanimously acclaimed sorority spectacle, Rick Owens' show was one of the most anticipated events of the week. Following the plump silhouettes of those step dancers, this show explored a new kind of physique. The wonder of it all is that these two shows were not that different. We actually saw the very same determined woman. Her physical appearance has nothing to do with it, because her strength comes from within.

Mar 01, 2014 13:22:00

Graphic, Novel: Chalayan Fall 2014

What comes to mind when you hear the words “tear-away dress?” A scantily clad woman of the night, perhaps? Well, Hussein Chalayan made it the theme for his fall collection — in the least sexually provocative way possible, of course.

The collection commenced with a slathering of prints — geometrical and subdued in color. Silhouettes were boxy, from the angular blazers to shin-grazing pencil skirts. In fact, the thigh-high slits were the only hint of sexiness on the runway, until cocktail dresses hit the scene. Then, it was all semi-sheer organza this and shredded bodices that — all done with the utmost taste.

The Cyprus-born designer is no stranger to indulging in theatrics on his runway. After all, this isn’t the first time the Central Saint Martins graduate has used film and art installations to elevate his collection — and it probably won’t be his last.

Feb 28, 2014 15:20:00
Ann Demeulemeester, fall 14

Fade to Black: Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2014

The invitation was a flash of light in darkness, like the beginning of the universe. And in some respects it was: the beginning of a new universe, Ann Demeulemeester without Ann. In a shock move last November, she sent a scanned handwritten letter to the press, announcing her departure, declaring, “I trust the company and the people that worked hard with me. We prepared this step together and they feel ready to bring the brand further into the future.”

The mood was somber as we sat in the former monastery of Couvent des Cordeliers, that Ann loved so much. Of course, we didn’t expect fireworks, or the big bang that was implied; this had to be a slow burn. The brand decided to show both men’s and women’s on the same runway, no doubt to enforce the new vision for the house, in one swoop.

There was an understandable lack of the poetic drama that we are familiar with at Ann’s shows, and the palette was stripped and strict, with solid blacks, whites, and touches of metallic in the menswear. The new team put out a solid collection that had many an editor nodding in admiration, and will surely prove a huge hit with the buyers. They draped, and folded and twisted the house codes in all the right ways, and the final section was classic Ann with the flowing ties and fluid volume.

It was a strong yet safe new beginning, laying all the right foundations to build on the future of Ann Demeulemeester, the label. We are waiting in anticipation for the next chapter that will see them take it, in Ann’s words, “further into the future…”

Feb 28, 2014 09:40:00

Never Be Royals: Undercover Fall 2014

Jun Takahashi makes no secret of his love for early Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, and all things punk. He published the Seditionaries book in 2005 with his friend and collaborator Hiroshi Fujiwara, detailing their collection of clothes from this era, and between them they have one of the biggest collections in the world. The opening look was reminiscent of the iconic Westwood i-D cover from 1987, featuring Sarah Stockbridge in a crown, but something felt darker. Takahashi’s girls certainly had the punk attitude, but wore it with red contact lenses — a ruby zombified stare.

The regal theme was overpowering with crowns crafted from braided hair, and riffs on ermine stoles. Scarves fell around the models like sashes, traveling in and out of the clothes, through carefully positioned slits, and draped like fine robes. A particularly successful play on this had the backs slashed from shoulder to shoulder with full scarf detail hanging from the back like a cape. There were moments of sportswear infiltrating midway, that felt off kilter with the rest of the show, but they were certainly very desirable separates, and sure to please the diehard Undercover fanbase.

The final section was stunning, with all of the models coming out through falling red glitter, to the soundtrack of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. This time the prints looked like porcelain serving dishes, and the clothes were cut in full circles, as if they could be stretched out to resemble giant dinner plates. Some of the girls carried strange glowing apples, daring us to take a bite. It made for a magical end to a fairytale-like beautiful show.

Feb 26, 2014 23:50:00

Wildest Dreams: Yang Li Fall 2014

Yang Li is a relative newcomer to the Paris runway, this being his third season on the schedule. But if you look at the collection he presented today, you'd quickly realize he's here to stay (not to mention the London-based designer interned with Raf Simons).

His clothes had an effortless feel to them, with a louche silhouette reminiscent of the 90s. Fabrication was high luxury, with double-faced cashmeres, pony skin, duchess silks, and furs worn with consummate ease — a tour de force. Standout wide-leg pony skin trousers slashed at the knees fell perfectly, and impeccable raw-edged tailoring.

He called the collection The Dreamer and said he wanted people to believe anything was possible. With Bruce Springsteen’s insistent Dream Baby Dream on the soundtrack, we were inclined to agree.

Feb 26, 2014 22:40:00

Master of the Unexpected: Dries Van Noten Fall 2014

The only clue as to the theme of Dries Van Noten's show today was the similarity of the invitation to that for the men’s show in January, which saw the designer in an uncharacteristically youthful mood. No doubt he's been floating on air as he prepares for his major retrospective at Musée des Arts Décoratif, opening this week. But, tonight, it felt like a youth we were unfamiliar with, a reach into the past.

Often when a designer quotes the past, there is a certain nostalgia, but Dries is a master of the unexpected. His 60’s Op Art-inspired prints looked every bit as fresh and startling as they surely did in the 60s, with a beautiful handling of texture offset by the hand-painted look of the florals. It felt like the screenprinted brights of Andy Warhol clashing with the flat precision of British artist Bridget Riley. It was all so brash and wonderful.

Backstage I got chatting with Ingmari Lamy, a model who rose to prominence in the 60s, gracing the covers of both Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. I asked her what decade it felt like to her, and she replied that it had a feeling of the 20s. And on closer inspection, she was right. There was a heavy dose of deco in the shimmering sequins and the overt elegance. Juxtaposed together, the references were so elaborate, so deftly balanced, and so unexpected that it felt completely new. 

Feb 26, 2014 18:42:00
Cédric Charlier, fall 14

Snake Charming: Cédric Charlier Fall 2014

Those looking for high-concept would not have found it in Cédric Charlier’s fall 2014 collection in Paris. At first glance, the garments seemed like minimalist blocks of color — been there, saw that, got the souvenir. But here was a case for actually attending shows, because if you looked closely, there was a feast of texture, pattern, and shine.

Monsieur Charlier churned out another one of his sleek and hypnotizing collections, which was forgivably reminiscent of his past garments. What made it spectacular was the Zen-like place the Belgian designer must have been in when selecting his exquisite fabrics. Literal and abstract snake prints were the breakout motif — although Charlier also charmed us with clever uses of satin and lambskin.

And though there was the occasional awkward accessory — such as a fur bag that seemed like more of an afterthought — Charlier’s swoon-worthy coats more than made up for it.

Feb 25, 2014 18:32:00

Concept Meets Cabaret: Prada Fall 2014

Judging from recent shows, Miuccia Prada is shaping up to be a Germanophile. Hints to 20th-century German culture abound — the more avant-garde, the better. So, even though she'd never be so obvious as to have a muse, she drew heavily from the German actress Barbara Sukowa for her fall collection.

Not familiar? She played the title role in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lola, a 1981 classic of New German Cinema (a genre that ended a year later with the director's death, at the age of 37). In the film, set in the 50s, Lola (who in a previous version was played by Marlene Dietrich) is a cabaret singer who's linked with prostitution. As in the film, Sukowa is also a singer — who's linked only with her husband, the artist Robert Longo — and she proved as much by belting out a few songs during the show, while an orchestra performed a selection from German composer (and socialist) Kurt Weill.

It all makes for a thick, evocative theme on which to hang a conceptual fashion collection. Large and heavily trimmed statement coats and jackets dominated — as they have in so many collections this season and last. And, while not packing the punch of Prada's spring collection, its bright faces appropriated from Latin American murals, the outwear nonetheless commanded attention by way of bold shades of blue, orange, red, and gold — some with brash color-blocked shearling or fur. This represented the performer side of Lola, decked out and ready for the stage. The space, too, was envisioned by AMO as a cabaret, with an elevated runway and spotlights.

What lie beneath the coats were much more subversive, and they spoke to Lola's other profession — see-through dresses. Essentially they were lingerie, though not the kittenish Playboy Bunny sort, but rather the mannish post-war Teutonic sort. As with Prada's last men's collection, each model also wore a necktie fastened at the side of the neck instead of the front, supplying still more sexual ambiguity.

Feb 21, 2014 08:11:00

Heavy Metal and Garden Delights: Giles Fall 2014

Giles Deacon decided to show his fall collection in East London’s Old Truman Brewery, which also houses his studio, as opposed to a grand institution like the Royal Courts of Justice, where his shows have been staged for years. It seems interesting then that the collection was a step removed from an aesthetic that Giles has become synonymous with; namely, OTT gowns with all the trimmings and the headwear to match.

Instead, these rock-star girls stormed down the runway to a rather different tune. Highlights included blue and orange motorcycle pants that opened the show and a myriad of cocktail dresses alluding to an exotic garden theme: prickly thorn prints, hummingbird embroidery, streams of 3D beetles, and elongated orchids recreated in sequins or sculpted into the fabric.

It was a high-voltage affair and the synergy between the set — a dark runway lined with pulsing strobe lights and a heavy-metal live band — and the clothes was undeniable. This was a side to Giles that felt younger and fresher than ever, reflected in the electric line-up of models, which varied from punkish tomboys like Cara Delevingne to Jourdan Dunn and the rest of stylist Katie Grand’s coterie.

Feb 18, 2014 19:36:00

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