It’s Time to Quit the Fashion Nostalgia

Christian Dior illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky for BlackBook

Living in the past is sometimes your only choice. It may not be the healthiest choice, but for many it is the way to move on, to dwell, to grieve, and to reminisce. In my own personal experience, I never dwell. Resting on ones laurels is never a desired attitude and riding the wave of your previous victories does not make you stronger in the future. Get up, dust yourself off, and move on.

The fashion industry is a paradox. On one hand, referencing the attitude of the 1920s flappers, the wideness of the flairs in the ‘70s or harking back to the days of yore to influence a peasant blouse is fine. On the other, the eternal motto of “Keep moving forward” is the overarching theme of the industry. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “I’m only as good as my next collection,” ironically a phrase he coined from his predecessor, Coco Chanel.

But when in fashion, does constantly reminiscing about the “Golden Years” become a sterile, hostile, and pointless obsession? I am writing this just after the presentation of the Alexander McQueen Spring 2015 collection; Sarah Burton has been at the helm for half a decade after McQueen’s death in 2010. The collections themes came from empowerment, Geishas, and the feminine mystique. But was it the laser cut organza dresses or the Perspex heeled, laced up boots people were talking about? No, it was the fact that she STILL isn’t Lee McQueen. These are not, I hasten to add, opinions from the versed and credible. The cries of the collection being “tame” and “unimaginative” come from online blogs and forums. In a world where everyone is entitled to a voice, many seem to use their reviews of collections to dwell on designers gone, and slate the new talent for “not being them’.

“She has no idea what she is doing. Someone put her out of her misery,” said one. This is, as RuPaul’s Drag Race Winner Bianca Del Rio would say, BALONEY. Sarah isn’t Lee McQueen, that is impossible, but she worked every day for her entire career by his side. She is the closest thing to McQueen than the man himself. Burton frequently states that she did not have the troubled and tortured life that McQueen had, and she regularly bought the lightness and beauty to the collections, whist he had a tougher and more severe edge. Sarah earned her title as Creative Director, and therefore can do what she wants. She likes it, the buyers like it, the customers like it, and Kering likes it. If they didn’t it would not be this way.

The more romantic version of the brand we see today is not a bad thing. Fashion is, sometimes sadly, becoming less vision driven and more consumer driven. This equates in tamer collections across the board, as it’s more regularly proven that “A floor grazing halter neck column dress covered in razor clam shells collected from the Norfolk coast” does not sell too well. (Expertly proven by the closure of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Pret-a-Porter collections this season, as it just does not make any money.)

Similar unneeded emotions surfaced at the Christian Dior show earlier in the week. After John Galliano’s untimely and very public fall from grace almost overnight, LVMH appointed ex-Jil Sander designer Raf Simons as the new head of womenswear. Raf is currently sitting on 14 collections for the house, after being appointed in 2011, but still, each season, he gets bombarded with abuse and an online thrashing over the ‘state’ of his recent collections. The industry admittedly took a short sharp intake of breath when he was announced as the successor after Galliano, who is by far one of the greatest Couturiers of the 20th century. But, in keeping with the ideas mentioned previously, most of the industry gave Raf a chance to do his thing. The argument here is not about taste or style, it is just the constant unnecessary comparison to something that was, that no longer exists.

We are constantly told that change is good. Change is admired. There is no point in being haunted by ghosts of seasons past. The unfortunate and untimely demise of two of fashion’s greatest minds, McQueen and Galliano are sad, and poignant, however they cannot be reversed. The world has moved forward, the fashion industry has moved forward and we have new eyes in some of the biggest luxury brands in the world. After, in some cases, half a decade, do you not think its time to let go of your angst about Dior’s new visions and relish in the memories of your “Dior Not War” T-Shirt, or the magic of the ‘Armadillo’ shoe? (And on another note, Margiela has seemed to move on from Galliano’s past entirely, appointing him today, officially, as creative director.)

I feel it is time for the unnecessary hating and shaming of these talented, creative, and visionary people to stop. Stop comparing, stop harking on, and just…keep moving forward.

Major SS15 Trend Seen at Fendi + Marc Jacobs + More

Fendi SS15 illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky

Fashion month is nearly winding down…  We’re onto Paris, but during Milan, the Italian fashion capital kicked things into swing with Gucci and Fendi. After the Karl Lagerfeld headed Fendi, famed for its furry goodies, (and  after I looked through the crafted leather and denim jodhpurs and the smallest embellished bags I’ve ever clapped eyes on,) I realized that behind the pretty pastel organza and printed orchid culottes, there was an underlying edge of rebel teens, ready to light up a cigarette behind the bike sheds or sit at the back of the bus and intimidate the new kids. The more you stare at the shredded leather jackets, you realize it’s not a degradé fade, it’s a bold stroke of black spray-paint, or the metallic gladiator sandals, reminiscent of the gaggles of girls in London’s East End.

This isn’t something just seen at Fendi. Marc Jacobs closed NYFW with a parade of military women, each of their looks becoming more adorned with cabochons, luxe materials and couture silhouettes. Selection of patch worked looks bandies together from swatches of fabric in oversized military jackets and nurses uniforms enforcing the idea of rebelling against the regime. Although it’s the spring season, there is something very dark and broody about the collections we have seen.

Back in Milan, Roberto Cavalli produced denim jackets, slit and slashed, worn and fading to reveal a punky, sequin covered second skin. Could the new trend for spring 2015 be “unleash your inner rebel,” or are these girls just pseudo rebels? Is the spray painting, the secret embellishments and the anti-normcore idea of it all a little too… twee in itself?

Donatella went full out punk a few seasons back, all PVC and spiked chokers. This season she did something we never would imagine, sports (or at least, Donatella’s version of ‘sports’). Underwear waistbands on slit skirts and a million miles of Swarovski-adorned fabric later, you have to wonder if Donatella has rebelled against her own aesthetic. Does the Versace customer want a pair of Medusa head track pants, or do they prefer the snake-headed dominatrix where she is normally seen, on crotch grazing mini-dresses? (There were still some of those, to be fair. The world hasn’t gone mad).

I can see how the idea of undercover rebels could be alluring to some. The Park Avenue Princess convincing her mother to buy her the Ralph Lauren black organza shirt, not letting it slip that the leather ties really do completely unlace…

But who am I to judge rebels? Anna Wintour just answered Vogue’s now infamous “73 Questions” in which she stated she hates seeing “all black’. I’m comfortable enough rebelling against Anna by continuing to wear the same black uniform I have for several years, but who knows, maybe next season I’ll pull a Karl at Fendi and spray-paint myself for the gods.

Paying Out the Wazoo for Fashion — How Much Would You Pay for Cara Delevingne’s Chanel Coat?

Cara Delevingne wears look 1 from Chanel’s fall/winter 2014 collection

Luxury fashion is expensive. I mean, it’s REALLY expensive. And, like most of us, the faint call from a Dior handbag whispering seductively “You want me,” isn’t enough to justify the four-figure price tag. So we admire from afar and make our peace with it, spontaneously finding ourselves drooling onto store windows.

With the extreme pace fashion is moving at, however, we barely have time to make a seasonal wish list before there is a whole new selection of clothes for us to choose from. The introduction of pre and resort collections into mainstream designer brands has escalated in the past five years. Once revered for the powerhouses amongst them, pre-fall and resort collections are now held longer in stores than the spring/summer and fall/winter collections. This means MORE LOOKS in the shows, to give the customer MORE CHOICE (Because let’s face it, we all NEED more choice).

But hang on, surely this means the clothes are more affordable, boosting the spring/summer and fall/winter shows to a demi-couture level? Well Sir/Madam…You are WRONG.

I recently discovered a coat from Look 44 from the Chanel Paris/Dubai pre-fall collection that retails at $145,400. It seems the expansion of mid season collections has meant the frontrunners like Chanel and Dior are hiking their prices up to an unfathomable amount, to a level, in some cases, as couture pricing. I understand Chanel is a very special case, and has the access to incredible craftsmanship, but this means the smaller brands think it’s okay to up their prices too. So where does that leave the rest of us? The rich get Chanel and the poor get…ousted?

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It’s common knowledge that the classic Chanel 2.55 has increased in price by nearly 50% in the past five years ($2,695 in 2009 versus $4,400 in 2013) and it is only set to go up. As I typed that last sentence I heard a buzillion teenage girls’ hearts break, as it’s now confirmed that their parents are not going to shell out the money for a bag, even if it is a special birthday).

With a mid-range designer handbag costing over a month’s rent in Zone 2 London, it’s hard to imagine where prices can justifiably go from here, but anyway, I’ll leave that in your knowledgeable hands… I’m off to marry a millionaire (R.I.P Lauren Bacall).

Say My Name: It’s All About Monograms

If you need to know, she is wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt, a Burberry shawl, a Louis Vuitton bag, Valentino shoes, and the rest is made up.

Personalized gifts are few and far between but they are slowly making their way back into our lives. You can now prepare a birthday card with a humiliating childhood image months in advance to appear on your beloved’s doorstep on their exact birthday, accompanied by their mug splashed over a balloon (Happy Birthday, have a hot plastic sack of my breath). But in fashion, personalization has taken the form of monogramming. And now, you can get EVERYTHING emblazoned with your name, left right, and just off center.

Once revered for the likes of Lord Grantham’s socks and imported cotton handkerchief, monogramming is the ultimate in sophistication and glamour. It conjures images of Marilyn Monroe slipping out of her “MM” silk bathrobe or Grace Kelly reaching for her “GK” embossed Hermes bag. Current designers, however, are taking this to the new extreme. Christopher Bailey’s ‘Bloomsbury Girls’ were sent out in the finale for the Burberry Prorsum Fall 2014 show, each sporting a classic check shawl elegantly strewn over the right shoulder, each monogrammed in block capitals with the models initials, Miss ‘CD’ herself leading the way.

Valentino recently launched their personalized bags and accessories, threaded with your choice of letters around your ankle strap of your “Absolute Rouge” deep scarlet pump or on your new ruben-coloured boot-lets. And lets not start on the extra $500-ish you have to shell our for an artisan to hand paint your initials in dual-tone onto your new Louis Vuitton luggage, in a selection of colors, any of which I cant choose from because I always think I’ll regret choosing orange in three months.

But it makes you wonder, what is the point? Does one believe that once monogrammed, thieves will deter from trying to snatch your new $3,000 bag on a crowded commute because it sports your initials, or that the sales assistant will take more notice of your new wallet, only because it has your secret middle-initial stamped neatly in Times New Roman on the inside? Or that anyone cares your iPhone is encrusted with faux-crystal droplets, neatly screaming your name for the world to see when you answer your mothers sixth phone call in one day? Don’t get me wrong, personalization is just that little extra you pay on something you really love and cherish. An engraving on a ring or bracelet is sweet, $10 extra on a Cambridge satchel to get your initials stamped by the sexy, in-store ‘monogram-man’ is a no brainer, even if he only knows your name begins with a ‘J’… but when are too many letters one too much? In a world where every thought is shared through some portal for all to ogle, is there not something quite nice about wandering the streets anonymously, without people guessing what your middle name may be, or am I just jealous that most stores go up to three letters, and my name has four…

Yours anonymously,

J.W.K.L.

 

COLUMN 2 - SAY MY NAME 1

See more of Joseph Larkowsky’s illustrations for BlackBook here

 

Ice Bucket Madness as Bettered by Miu Miu Fall 2014

I’m used to ice. The feel of it on your butt as it seeps through your jeans when you slip over on the street trying to maneuver around with an enormous Sophie Hulme bag strapped to your arm in the mid-November rain, or the frosty looks you get from industry bigwigs. But alas, I am referring to neither of these when I talk about the fashion industry’s current fascination with ice. The world has gone ALS Ice Bucket Challenge crazy.

I really started paying attention late last week when Bee Schaffer challenged her mother to do the Ice Bucket Challenge. “Wow” I hear you cry. ”Shock horror…WHO?” Although they don’t share a surname, Bee’s mother is none other than Queen of the Icicles herself, American Vogue Editor in Chief and Creative Director of Condé Nast, Anna Wintour.  Now, I admit, I freaked out a bit on hearing the news. The idea of seeing ice-cold water being poured over the most important figure within the industry was rather exciting. The chilly water sliding off her bob like a downpour on a fresh gabardine Burberry trench, pooling on her Oscar De La Renta swathed lap as she sat, menacingly, glasses super glued to her face. I also didn’t think she would do it.

However, I was wrong and Anna is a good sport. She accepted with grace and dignity, letting out only a little wince as her family drenched her. (Victoria Beckham fared less well, literally being hurled from her knees, face down into the Astroturf, as her boys poured gallons of water over her petit frame.)

Watch Anna Wintour accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge here.

But it makes me wonder. It’s all very well watching your favorite celebrities as you’ve never seen them before, erect nipples and all, but how many of us actually donate because they have seen someone do it? Are we all waiting for an excuse to be nominated to show how well we handle having a bucket full of ice cubes hurled at our heads, and then donate the $10 we would normally spend on Wednesday-night-wine-for-one? I, for one, am looking forward to Donatella Versace accepting the challenge (nominated by Mario Testino.

Whatever happens, If I get nominated, all I know is that you’ll have to give me more than 24 hours to grab some Fall 2014 Miu Miu, because that show was waterproofed to the extreme. Thanks Miuccia.