Monday, August 31, 2009

Best Resort 2010 Trends: Graphic Prints

Nowadays, there seems to be no rule as it relates to mixing pattens. As such, designers have experimented with some striking fusions and juxtapositions. The Resort collections from Prada, Erdem and Givenchy extended their printage beyond the usual floral clichés, showing us how fashion risks are done.

Best Resort 2010 Trends: Leather

Whether it is a minimalist jacket, or a mini-skirt, leather pieces popped up here and there on the Resort runways from Proenza Schouler to Balenciaga. Juxtapose it with lace or cotton pieces to really stand out.

Best Resort 2010 Trends: Nautical Stripes

Derek Lam used it, so did Marc Jacobs in his collection as well as for Louis Vuitton. Nautical stripes are hardly anything new in fashion, but give it, say a French twist, beret and all, and the look will certainly seem fresh.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Poiret, Orientalism and the Pre-Jazz Era

Born in 1879, Paul Poiret's contribution to twentieth-century fashion is likened to that of Picasso's contribution to twentieth-century art.
Poiret trained at the House of Worth and Doucet and set up on his own in 1903, making straight tube-like sheath dresses in 1908. The styles were known as directoire as they were similar to fashions of the early 1800's. The columnar style he introduced meant that women had to abandon their S-bend corsets and wear a longer straighter corset that almost reached the knees to achieve his early look. Later he encouraged women to free themselves from corsetry and adopt the bra.
Poiret was very sensitive to the mood of society and to trends among painters and designers. He was very influenced by Orientalism in Leon Bakst's Ballets Russes costume designs. He adopted an orientalizing style in the theatrical costumes he designed later for Nabuchodonosor, first performed in January 1911 at the Theatre des Arts in Paris; Le Minaret, performed during the spring of 1913 at the Theatre de la Renaissance in Paris; and Aphrodite, performed during the spring of 1914 at the Theatre de la Renaissance.
Over the years Poiret worked with several artists who drew fashion drawings and textile print designs for him. The artists portraying Orientalism included Paul Iribe (1908), Georges Lepape, Raoul Dufy and Erté. Poiret's influence on fashion illustration and fashion presentation was enormous and attractive prints by these artists are still used in interiors to set a mood.
Poiret loved bright colours and introduced brilliant hues whilst the sweet pea colours of the Edwardian era were still very fashionable. His lampshade tunic and turbans were all in vibrant glowing shimmering colours, with beaded embellishment.
Dominating Paris couture from 1909 to 1914, Poiret revolutionized fashion with his designs for the “new woman,” ending wasp waists and constricting corsets, reviving a simple, Empire-waisted silhouette, and introducing pantaloons. His first fashion house was on the Rue Auber in Paris. There he produced innovative designs such as the kimono coat, and enlarged his clientele of famous customers. The richness of materials, violence of colouring and style and taste for orientalism in such designs as that for the Sorbet dress all suggest a profound affinity with the Ballets Russes. In 1910 he opened a new salon in a large 18th-century house, in the Avenue d'Antin, where he created his famous 'hobble-skirted' dresses, drawn in at the hem. Poiret's major contribution to fashion was his development of an approach to dressmaking centered on draping, a radical departure from the tailoring and pattern-making of the past. Having liberated women by putting them into pants Poiret then sought to design extremes and became famous for designing a hobble skirt which drew the legs closely together as it was so narrow. To increase the hobble effect women needed to wear a 'fetter', a kind of bondage belt that held the ankles together and prevented the wearer from making any movements other than small steps in imitation of Geisha girls.
The hobble skirt was probably Poiret's last real success as new designers like Chanel and Lanvin opened up fashion houses and began to design nonrestrictive clothes that women really felt comfortable wearing.
At the same time the V neck for daywear was introduced and it was thought so shocking that it was denounced from the pulpit.
Poiret was influenced by antique and regional dress, and favored clothing cut along straight lines and constructed of rectangles. The structural simplicity of his clothing represented a pivotal moment in the emergence of modernism, and established the paradigm of modern fashion.
During World War I, Poiret left his fashion house to serve the military by streamlining uniform production. When Poiret returned after being discharged in 1919, the house was on the brink of bankruptcy. New designers like Chanel were producing simple, sleek clothes that relied on excellent workmanship. In comparison, Poiret's elaborate designs seemed poorly manufactured. It must be noted that while Poiret's designs were groundbreaking, his construction was not. Poiret was suddenly out of fashion, in debt, and lacking support from his business partners. In 1929, the house itself was closed, and its leftover clothes were sold by the kilogram as rags.

the cloth

Starting as a collaborative venture some 22 years ago, Trinidad and Tobago label, the cloth has been single-handedly maintained by designer Robert Anthony Young for the last 15 years. The label since then, has come to represent a unique, dynamic and always original Caribbean aesthetic. Fresh off the runways of Trinidad and Caribbean Fashion Week, and having garnered critical acclaim for both shows, Robert Anthony Young sits down with me for an insightful post-CFW interview.

Describe the the cloth line.

The line is an indigenous product of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the Caribbean. It uses locally available fabrics in colours that pop in sunlight while allowing its wearer comfort into the evening. International trends do figure a small part in my inspiration but with no slavish adherence to their representation. The lines are usually informed by my political thinking of the time, whether it be the economic crisis, apartheid, war or the environment. This, to me, is more important than showing a collection that is in sync with what is happening on the runways of North America or Europe. Protest is important to me as are the folk elements of Trinidad and Tobago, and of course the theme of revolution as the line is constantly in battle with the more pervasive imports that define the landscape.

How did you get into designing?

In the early 80's there was a lot of designing activity in Trinidad. I was around some of the best. Junior Bristol (deceased) produced some really great clothing. Seeing good design in magazines and seeing persons producing their own work pushed me. I attempted it, basically stumbling to where I am today.

Did you always envision yourself as a designer? If not, what did you see yourself doing as a career?

I grew up with a love for performance and presentation. My aunt Jean Coggin, entrenched in folk culture, was hugely inspirational to me. My parents were both heavily involved in the trade union movement, so the idea of expression and the right to express were always central to who I was. The irony however was that before designing I wanted to be a priest, somewhat evident in the construction of some of the earlier pieces of the cloth, which, back then, was a collaboration with Camille Selvon and Nathalie Phillips. There are still threads of that in my lines, and I guess without losing my initial ambition, I remain a man of the cloth.

Who does your line target?

The clientele is truly diverse and it is hard to imagine a client while designing. Ideally those who have grown to love my clothes will always find something relevant to them in my collections and as well I will always be able to attract the odd new customer. The generous use of fabric does attract a full figured woman who is as well a Caribbean woman. This is not to say that the line is geared to a specific body type but the cloth client is bold, and Caribbean at heart. I rarely sell men’s pants but the classic tunic has been a staple seller for years. I have recently started doing a good trade with classic collared shirts on which i have done my now signature appliqué. I do have a loyal clientele but due to the ad hoc way in which my business is run it is difficult to identify a critical mass of faithfuls.

Is designing a viable business? What would be your advice to those who want to design but don't know how to?

It is a viable business, perhaps moreso for others more than myself. I have made a career out of it and derive a great happiness from it. Has it led to great wealth and fame? I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I can't challenge the notion of capitalism and then complain that its not working for me. Its important to live well in the system and be well organized. I make those attempts every day. I have a brand that survives in a place that does not know how to grow small business that are home grown. What we have here is how to support large multi-million dollar industries. I have existed in between that. Integrity is more important to me than any of those things and I believe that I have that. That is what I would encourage anyone striving for a career in design to seek. Yes, there can be financial rewards but i have built a brand that has inspired many and withstood the test of time. You can make money for a while doing trendy clothes and supplying a niche but I have clients that have been with me from the inception and I continue to interest them and provide them with clothing that excites them while holding to my design philosophy. At the end of the day if I had made loads of money but lost myself along the way i'm not sure it would have been worth it. Seek inspiration in everything while aiming to be an original.

Have you always lived in Trinidad and Tobago? And how does living there affect the creative aspect of your work?

I have always lived in Trinidad and Tobago. The reality is that materials are limited but that has worked to the advantage of those who create here. The idea of creation is making something new, and we have been doing that. Carnival and the steelpan both represent the idea of creation that in some senses characterizes us as a people. My last collection dealt with the idea of bio-mimicry which is a phenomenon where creatures of nature morph and adapt and camouflage to survive. It's about using what is locally available to sustain yourself. This spawned the idea of appliqué which has now become a signature cloth feature. The limited availability of fabrics in local shops challenged designers to turn them into something unique not just for their sake but for the sake of our clients. So some of us do hand-painting, or tie-dye or silk screen, I create appliqués.

Do you look forward to doing Caribbean Fashion Week and why, or why not?

Caribbean Fashion Week for a long time has been a main highlight of the regional fashion calendar. It provides an opportunity to come together as a fraternity and as well provides exposure to buyers, photographers and magazines otherwise not available. The professional staging of the event also allows for the clothes to be shown in a way that few runway presentations in the Caribbean do.

Do you see yourself still designing in ten years time? Is it a career path you want to stick to?

I may expand my line to include household items. It is an area I already work in. I do bed sets and cushion covers and drapes. It’s a matter of expansion not contraction or extinction at this point.

How can persons interested in purchasing your pieces contact you?

I can be reached at or at 1-868-721-7616

What do you think of the blog?

I like it, but do pay more attention to the south. There are great designers in India, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and of course the Caribbean; show more of that. It will make it important.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

Everything in fashion has a specific name; nothing is ever just a pant or a shirt. Fabrics, handbags, even silhouettes are steeped in history.
Here's a look at three of fashion's best known items:

Charles Macintosh and the Mackintosh

In 1817 James Syne discovered a coal tar extract that had the property of dissolving India rubber. He passed the formula to the Glaswegian firm of Charles Macintosh. It took Macintosh until 1823 and further trials to patent a method of layering naphtha softened rubber between a sandwich of woven woolen cloth. Factory works in Manchester carried out the invention and in 1830 Thomas Hancock, who was a competitor in waterproofed goods, became a partner. Hancock patented his vulcanization process in 1843. It made a more malleable single layer of rubber and cloth which did not go hard in cold weather and did not grow sticky in warm weather. Tailors hadn't liked working with the rubber layered materials so the partners manufactured their own garments called mackintoshes using a different spelling of the word. Early mackintoshes were drab green neck to floor affairs and quite voluminous and unwieldy. Because they were non porous the wearer became drenched in sweat in warm weather. Mackintoshes gave off an odour that could be smelt way across the street in stormy times. Although odour free variations were launched after an improvement by Joseph Mandleberg it took many years to produce a truly low odour fabric with a really good handle. Despite all the problems mackintoshes were quite popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today the mackintosh has adapted and moved with the times developing into the trenchcoat and the raincoat.

Thomas Burberry and the Burberry

Starting his business in Hampshire in 1856, Thomas Burberry considered the problem of waterproofing, from an agricultural point-of-view. Most of his clients were farmers and planters normally wore closely woven smocks tightly packed gathered material with a double yoke that kept the wearer surprisingly dry. Burberry grasped that keeping out drizzling rain depended on a close weave and voluminous fashioning. He began experiments on fabric with a cotton mill owner, producing long staple Egyptian cotton, proofed in the yarn before weaving. The resultant woven gabardine twill cloth used no rubber. The closely woven twill construction contributed to its waterproof nature as the diagonal twill wales aided the facility of surface tension. Water droplets first rested on the surface of the compact twill weave gabardine forming tight drops. Then the drops ran off rather than spreading between the interstices of the fibres as they might on a basic plain weave fabric. The weatherproof material he produced relied in part on the surface tension properties of the twilled surface. Burberry fabric was initially untearable and it didn't obstruct air. Burberry patented this cloth called gabardine in 1879. He then began making all types of gabardine clothes for field sports and items that are today country classics. He opened a shop in London in 1891 and then the firm spread to Paris, Berlin and New York. It has had the royal seal of approval for over a century and Princes, Princesses, Kings and Queens, cult film stars and celebrities, have all owned Burberrys. In its original form the trench coat was part of First World War airmen's military uniform. Today it is a classic garment. Throughout the 1990s the House Of Burberry has employed various well known international designers to update its image globally.

Lord Raglan and the Raglan Sleeve

Lord Raglan lost an arm in the Crimean War. To make dressing easier, his tailor made a short coat with a simple diagonal sleeve seam setting that extended from the neck to the underarm. It allowed much more mobility for Lord Raglan and so was called after him.
With its relaxed fit, it is a favourite sleeve for the less able bodied and those with fuller chests or busts. The easy to shrug-on sleeve style is used frequently on sportswear, jersey wear, knit cardigans and full length coats. Used on baby garments, stretch babygros and vests makes it easier to dress a small baby.

Vogue, September2009

You'd think that for the new Vogue, Anna and her team would have at least used a model for its cover, right? Wrong. Instead they use a glitzy Hollywood star. I'm not sure what the deal is with Charlize Theron, that is, if she has a new film or summin coming out soon (apparently she does- The Burning Plain), but one supposes that the Vogue team really could have done much worse with selecting someone else.
The 34-year-old actress, shot by Mario Testino, poses in a variety of designers from Carolina Hererra, Dior and Miu Miu while paying homage to artist Georgia O'Keefe at her ranch home in New Mexico.

Rhymes With "Witch"...

Who is that skinny woman in a blond bob, black sunglasses and a fur coat? Chances are it's one of the most powerful women in the world, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, for the last 20 years, and appearing in R. J. Cutler's The September Issue movie. According to Cutler, in an interview on NPR, all Anna has to do is walk away from a conversation, and you know you've failed. There's no flaring of the arms or throwing things to make her point. She's just that powerful.
"People are scared of fashion — because they're frightened or insecure, so they put it down...There is something about fashion that can make people very nervous," said Anna Wintour as reported in Jezebel.
Rumor has it that Miranda Priestly, the "devil" in the 2003 book The Devil Wears Prada, written by Lauren Weisberger, is really Anna Wintour. The Daily Dish reports that Wintour had attended the premier of The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, but she chose not to pose on the red carpet with Streep.
It is important to note, however, that many would say that Anna Wintour, in a recent appearance with David Letterman, did not come off anything close to a Miranda Priestly. So what to think?
Until now, we've had to go by what we heard about the great Anna Wintour. Maybe now with Cutler's new documentary The September Issue, that will change. But, why is it called "The September Issue"? Well, the Vogue issue that comes out every September is that huge magazine that fashion enthusiasts wait for. It is the largest and heaviest magazine available, weighing in at four pounds, and containing some of the most beautiful fashion photography you'll see all year. Much of it can be credited to Vogue's creative director Grace Coddington.
Of course, it also contains over-priced sandals and blouses, what most everyday people are unable to afford. So why the universal appeal? Well, for starters, the September issue of Vogue is like a dream book; like a work of art. Still, in this economy, a four pound book full of beautiful advertisements and over-priced clothes may be a dream book for more than just the broke. It may be the last of its kind.
The September Issue movie, staring Anna Wintour, follows Anna and her flock through nine months worth of planning, shooting, and laying out for Vogue's 2007 September issue- the publication's largest issue in history. Premiering August 28 in New York, and September 11 everywhere else, it also looks at Grace Coddington, the creative director over at Vogue and new designer Thakoon.

i-D Magazine, September2009

It's always refreshing to see black models in fashion. Whether in ad campaigns, runway shows, editorials it hardly matters to me- the exposure and inclusion is never a bad thing my opinion.
It's even greater when black models are on the cover of a major magazine. Which brings me to the latest i-D magazine. Featuring not one, but FOUR (count 'em and weep!) gorgeous ladies, the magazine not only repositions itself as one of the most cutting edge fashion purveyor.
Jourdan, Chanel, Arlenis and Sessilee look absolutely STUNNING, and considering this is a September issue, this has to be considered a major event!

Cassie- Fashion's Newest Designer

After Cassie ordered clothes off sportswear label DimePiece's website, the brand wrote her back and suggested they collaborate. Cassie, in typical celebrity fashion, said yes. Her DimePiece collection will include only black and white clothes. So far she's only designed T-shirts and tank tops. But according to People, "there will be nothing basic" about those.
Being one of three female singers (all notably black) to have shaved off their heads recently in search of personal reinvention, Cassie has been in the blog and media spotlight receiving flak and praises for her new look. In a recent interview, she claims "When I did the hairstyle, I hadn’t seen it on anyone else. It was just crazy, punk, off the wall."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gaultier Leaving Hermès?

Reports have surfaced suggesting that French designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, and head of the luxury label Hermès will tender his resignation in coming weeks- and that his spring/summer collection in Paris this October will be his last for the luxury house.
Gaultier assumed the role in 2003 following the departure of Martin Margiela, bringing the label critical acclaim and commercial success.
In July, the company released an exceptionally positive earnings report, announcing a 12 per cent increase in second-quarter sales - with leather goods up 33 per cent and ready-to-wear 12 per cent, The Daily reports. Hermès's patronage of Gaultier began in 1999, when the brand invested $23 million in the designer's eponymous collection in exchange for a 35 per cent stake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gucci 2010 Spring/Summer Menswear Collection

The Gucci collection didn't display or require a lot of thought. But this is no surprise- this is a label most noted for their commercial accessibility than for anything art-sy. In any field, this isn't a necessarily bad thing, least of all fashion. After all, what is fashion if not bought and worn? That said, where I was impressed with the collection was with the bags and the texture of the pieces- using nylon, cotton, even croc and snakesin, the collection looked at turns tough, suave, even street-smart. Oh. And VERY cool.