Started in a Dive Bar, Now He’s Here: Napkin Killa on His Next Moves

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Images courtesy of the Napkin Killa

Started in a dive bar, now he’s here, drawing for Fendi, Bloomingdales, Diesel, and more. Here’s what the Napkin Killa is up to next.

This fashion illustrator isn’t what you normally think of — unlike BlackBook’s own Joseph Larkowsky, Spencer Ockwell, who goes by Napkin Killa, isn’t about capturing the clothes; he’s more about picking up and documenting the personalities and quirks of fashionable figures. What started out as sketching patrons of a dingy dive bar, posting the portraits to Instagram, turned to a discovery of his work by an editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut, where he was commissioned to illustrate NYFW in the fall of 2014. That work eventually leading to commissions at events for Fendi, Bloomingdales, Diesel, Jack Threads, and more fashion clientele — all drawn on stacks of cocktail napkins.

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Working in fashion has so far gone well for the illustrator — after just eight months, he was able to quit his day job, going, as he says, “full-time Killa.”

“I still draw at lots of events and have been getting inquiries about flying me around the world to do my thing,” Ockwell said over email. “I’m starting to make my own merchandise, featuring my art. Right now I have iron-on patches, stickers, original art and printed napkins available on napkinkilla.com.”

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He’s not napkin-exclusive, and has also made a mixtape of comedic rap, rapping over artists like Drake, Snoop Dog, Rick Ross, and Ginuwine. Tomorrow, June 6, he’s throwing a carnival with Espolon Tequila, where he’ll be, comedic rapping and yes, drawing portraits on napkins. Those who’ll be in Brooklyn can RSVP here

Next up: the Napkin Killa wants to collaborate with brands on capsule collections, painting murals, and he has plans to self-publish a book later this summer.

By email he told us his view for the future:

“I plan to infiltrate the fine art world too, and sell my silly drawings for millions of dollars in a fancy gallery while sipping wine… I’ve been involved in creative projects my whole life; drawing, writing, painting, shooting movies, and animating cartoons. This silly Instagram gimmick has unexpectedly become a little soap box, so I plan to ride this wave and expand it into a brand, beyond napkin portraits, to house my creative endeavors. I dream of getting my own TV show (half cartoon, half live action). I aspire to have a cartoon published in The New Yorker. If I ever want to accomplish that goal, I might have to start wearing cardigans and playing the cello. They may sound like lofty goals but hey, if I can make my living off doodling on napkins at parties then anything is possible!”

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Sophistication and Sex Are the Key to Success at the NYFW Shows so Far

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It is -13 Celsius in NYC and I can imagine many of the editors and critics are yearning to get their hands on Jason Wu’s fox fur covered collection. Olive greens, greys and neutrals were cut into boxy shapes, t-shirt dresses and elegant but simple pants, many adorned with detachable fur collars and wraps. Spiked with a section of reds in the middle, Wu takes his brand to the next level this season. Once famed for twee sparkly Oscar de la Renta-style get-ups, he has evolved into a more rounded and sophisticated designer, showing embellishment in a more casual and understated way with more elegance and refinement this time around. Wu is leaving his Park-Avenue princess behind and sitting currently in the same realms of ‘rich’ as Calvin Klein and Michael Kors.

Joseph Altuzarra added more fur to the mix, this time more fox in oversized collars on top of cropped wool jackets and chubby furry pastel pink and blue looks, teamed with matching ruffled skirt. Altuzarra knows who his customer is. With sexy, daring and with legs ‘up-to-there’, many of his looks were not for the faint hearted — a full lace look, bra, see through gypsy blouse, and ruffled skirt being one of the more risqué looks. Velvet devore dresses and sparkles closed the show, but looking back, it was visible to see a similarity between Altuzurra and the work by Peter Dundas over at Pucci. A similar sexy vibe and silhouette, completed by knee-high lace books, inspired by the 18th Century at Altuzarra, became a little too forced. But with rumors Dundas is being groomed for a role at Roberto Cavalli, who’s to say Joseph couldn’t take on the Florence-based luxury house brand if the departure is true? If this collection was anything to go by, they certainly have the same customer.

Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, and whilst half of the world were gasping over 50 Shades, the other were crying into a bottle of wine alone, I was doing both over the Alexander Wang show. The little ball of American fun made me squirm and shiver after his overly trendy and excruciatingly forced show. Wang throws me each and every season. His innovation and ability to tap into the modern fashion consumer has been apparent for many seasons, with technical color changing fabrics, utility wear, and trainer fetish, he always has an interesting view on what’s new. Which is why I was so disappointed this season. A mainly black collection, most looks were hemmed with a silver ball chain usually found in Christmas discount bins or the chain on your bath plug. Bathroom attire also featured in the style of mink bathrobes and silk pajamas. Most of this was harmless from the ankles up, but the shoes… they were another story all together. Triple-stack moon boots had models bounding down the runway, reminiscent of Emma Bunton in her girl band heyday, almost as if Hedi Slimane was costume designer on ‘Spice World: the Movie’. Spending my teenage years growing up in London, I have witnessed first hand these boots clime the East-End-Trend ladder and plummet along with ironic cornrows and fake nose rings. Overall the show felt a little lackluster in actual interest and the less I think about the shoes, the better.

Victoria Beckham had her family front and center with Anna Wintour at her show on Sunday, which was certainly the most Instagrammed picture of the day. Beckham has come a long way since her zipper-backed form fitting dresses and grosgrain belts. A more organic and natural silhouette and feel were key to her Fall 2015 collection, with ruched and draped skirts, longer sleeves, and off drop-shoulder knit jumpers. A couple of the looks felt a tad similar to those seen at Céline from the past two seasons; wrap skirts in cream with straps across the lower thigh and large buttons on black wool crepe dresses were similar to those seen at SS15/FW15 respectively. The best looks were the color. A bright mustard yellow skirt and a beautiful burnt orange coat with raglan sleeves really resonate in my mind. So does the exquisite bias cut, belted, felted dress with turtleneck. Sophistication is certainly on the minds of many designers this season. The killer looks at VB were the outerwear, some teamed with clutches in the same fabrications, cocoon shapes, all easily plucked and able to wear in the bitter winds that rattle around the New York Streets.

NYFW trundles on for another few days, and we shall see more designers and trends emerge. As always outerwear will be the big story so far, but lets see how long everyone can go in the cold until a couple of pieces go mysteriously missing from backstage.

John Galliano Debuts a Wild Couture Collection for Maison Margiela

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Maison Margiela Spring 2015 Couture illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky

When Anna Wintour first stepped out at the British Fashion Awards in December in the first gown John Galliano designed under his new appointment as creative director of Margiela, the fashion world wrinkled their collective nose and shrugged their shoulders a little. I mean, yes, very pleasant. Lovely black floor length number with swirling floral detail, an almost mimic of a Galliano dress Wintour has worn previously from his Fall 1995 collection under his eponymous label. But for a world preview of what is to come, it was, by any standards, a tad mundane.

Cut to Monday afternoon in London. With tension building, and after the shocking news that Galliano would be showing there instead of the traditional French capital during the official Couture season in a few weeks, the fashion elite gathered for what turned out to be a complete barrage of ideas, intrigue, illusion, and amazing craziness.

Galliano was known during his previous employment for his extravagance, glamour, beauty, and eye for creating red carpet ready ball gowns for any Hollywood A-Lister. Margiela however, is not known for its Hollywood affiliation, but its constant play on the essence of fashion, fabric manipulation, frivolity, and raw ideas.

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It seems Galliano took advantage of this and really experimented with basically anything the designer and team could find. This was plainly explained by the first look, a beige paneled waistcoat outlined with sprayed black toy cars, racing around the neckline, pockets, and hem. Models wore two tone tights, with matching shoes sporting sculpted heels.

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Red made a prominent appearance, in skirts teamed with tiger skin jackets, a column halter dress and a 3D embroidered frock-coat and ball gown, the former covered in sprayed cabochons and seashells depicting a tribal Schiaparelli-esque face, the latter strewn with a golden bullion bib, and an eclectic mix of…stuff teamed with a golden scull mask, reminiscent of the Roman Catacomb Saints.

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Galliano’s trademarks raised their iconic heads. His affiliation and constant reinvention of the 1920/’30s saw the light in a scalloped fringe and loose, cropped opera coats, as well as the golden glittering hair caps, as well as bias cut skirts and sheer tulle appliqué gowns. He also touched on some of the ideas the House of Margiela had done previously; stonewash and black denim hot pants made an appearance, as well as a selection of masculine black suits, some double breasted, some encased in a tufty shrug of black hair.

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This collection is still in its early stages; it’s been a while since we have seen such passion and interest in design, and especially couture. It is a grower, and it does require a closer look for anyone who may be skeptical. The details, the ideas, and the execution are all phenomenal, as blatant or as quietly concealed as they may be. It will definitely be a collection to remember.

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As for where to go from here, I’m really not sure. Galliano quickly becomes a master wherever he is. He harbors the passion and talent to apply it to any scenario, blatantly seen during his one season stint at Oscar de la Renta. His aesthetic and own personal style and taste will always follow him, and it will always be something his avid followers want to see. Whether the appointment at Margiela will be a long term fix, we don’t know, but as an initial mark-making exercise on the current consumer driven face of fashion, it was indeed more one made with a spray-can instead of a fine-tipped pen.

Collection images courtesy of Maison Margiela

Madonna and Justin Bieber Are Stealing Jobs from Hard Working Models

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Illustration: Joseph Larkowsky

Last night, as part of my quest for a better lifestyle after 2014’s debauchery and body battering, I went on my first ever sober evening date. No booze was consumed, I was elated. On my way home however, after checking Instagram, it felt as if I had fallen off the wagon pre-Prohibition and never managed to get back on. Was I drunk? Was I going insane? It turns out neither, and I realized it was actually true…

Lara Stone, model du-jour, was draped as luxuriously as a Prada mink stole over the body of teenage ‘heartthrob’ (using the term extremely loosely) Justin Bieber, sporting nothing much but a hint of denim and a body full of questionable artwork, lensed by indestructible duo, Mert and Marcus. Bieber had apparently been signed as the new face of Calvin Klein underwear and denim. God help us all.

Now, you don’t have to be a ‘Belieber’ to realize what a technically clever stunt this was from the branding team. Working with one of the world’s most talked about auto-tuned schoolboy, sweetheart Disney Prince looking. Screen-king turned DUI laden, protein shake guzzling, wannabe bad-boy extraordinaire, can only mean one thing; girls and flustered cougars alike are gonna wanna buy those pants.

The problem I have with this is that already, fashion is a cut-throat and demanding environment for some, mostly models, and the constant battles to land campaigns and deals to actually make a living means that modeling, as simple as it looks to outsiders, is one of the most brutal industries around. At least stock market traders already have money to throw about. Add to the equation that narcissistic (and again already extremely wealthy) celebrities, many of whom are trying to relaunch careers, are taking the jobs that are already very few and far between.

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Versace illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky

Case and point made with the current Versace Spring 2015 campaign starring none other than the over-photoshopped singer Madonna. Donatella made a serious effort to push the idea of youth and new beginnings backstage after her show in Milan last September, but hiring a girl like Anna Ewers or Lexi Boling who do evoke a young Versace ideal would be a ludicrous suggestion when Madonna is trying to launch a new album. Since when did someone else’s advertising campaign become the new platform to sell your own garbage? The debate over if Vogue should sport more models than actresses on its covers is a mundane and pointless battle which nobody will ever win, but when Nicki Minaj, a woman famed for her Gluteus Maximus and pink wigs lands a campaign for Roberto Cavalli, you have to really reassess the situation. Same is to be said for famed (half for nothing) super couple Kimye landing the Spring 2014 menswear campaign for Balmain, with BFF Olivier Rousteing at the helm. I just cant imagine how they landed that! (If you think women’s modeling is hard, don’t even get me started on the world of the male model.)

One of the brands that is actually famed for using celebrities in their campaigns is Miu Miu, but unlike the tabloid hungry powerhouses, the cast is a little more unpredictable than the cover of US Weekly. Up and coming actress Stacy Martin was picked to front the Fall 2014 campaign, with previous faces including Lupita Nyong’o, Bella Thorne, newly cited Bond Girl Adele Exarchopoulos, and most frequently, Imogen Poots for SS15. These girls are not household names, but are trying to forge out careers for themselves just the same.

Fashion constantly batters us with a barrage of “new talent,” continuously reminding us that they are ‘investing’ and ‘nurturing’, all key buzz words in the world of convincing consumerism; however, I feel it’s time to hang up the tawdry celebrity, leave them for the covers of numerous glossies parading as fashion magazines, and give back the campaign to the model! After all, it is their job.

Where in the World is Maison Valentino? Couture Season Gets Turned on Its Head

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Fashion has never been so focused on the customer before now. As the world changed, and the way people buy and interact with fashion enters realms never seen before, the design houses themselves have to tackle the growing international spectrum of clients and customers interested in their product. It was recently announced that Valentino, a house already having an amazing year, is adding another Couture show into the mix in December, completely different from the couture show the brand will present in January with the other handful of designers lucky enough to show in Paris in the official Couture Schedule. The show, held in New York, will celebrate the opening of the new Valentino flagship on 5th avenue, designed by architect David Chipperfield. But it’s not just for show; many of Valentino’s Couture Clients are based in the Big Apple, and it seems the Valentino crew are hoping hosting a major extra event in the city will engage them more. Jet-setting fashion shows are not uncommon, with Karl Lagerfeld shipping the industry’s great and good around the world to celebrate Chanel’s Pre Collections for many years now, soon bringing them to Salzburg this December for what sounds to be a very “Julie-Andrews-Dirndl-wearing-Lonely-goat-hurd-Yodelling-Sound-of-music-esq” affair, (seeing what he can concoct to insult the Germans will be fun, after the ‘Oil Can” Paris-Dubai debacle), But with Couture, a seemingly set-in-stone tradition, is Valentino being crazy or brave… or both? This isn’t the only change; the brand will also be holding ANOTHER Couture show in Rome, to celebrate another store opening. With fashion, and Couture especially, being about the power of the consumer, it only seem right that the brand would travel to them, but does this decamp from Paris mark a significant change in Couture schedule?. Year after year an article crops up detailing the exact moment the Couture industry’s life support will be cut and the art form will be lost forever. This is never the case however, as Couture has been seeing steady growth in the past half-decade and is set to only grow due to new customer bases cropping up in Africa and Saudi Arabia. It has also been plainly illustrated by Jean Paul Gautier closing his prêt-a-porter salon to focus on his ever growing list of couture clients. But is the evolution of couture meaning the Paris schedule will become sparser as the years go on? Valentino has said they will be back in Paris for the Spring/Summer 2016 couture season, but if the numerous global shows go well, it’s only a matter of time until they decide to buck the Parisian trend more frequently. Tom Ford, not a couture powerhouse but not a stranger to that world, announced the move of his Fall 2015 presentation to the golden shores of Los Angeles in February, as his usual spot in London overlaps with next year’s Academy Awards, and he is a big name in red carpet dressing, so for convenience reasons, Tom Ford will skip LFW for a season. Will the allure of an exotic, off-schedule location tempt more ready to wear designers in the future? Many brands are opting for unconventional ways to present their collections, with Style.com’s “Digital Fashion Week” in its third season and conceptual brands such as Gareth Pugh opting for fashion performance and films, it may be time for even Anna Wintour to log on to a livestream, where everyone can be front row. Fashion has never been so focused on the customer before now. As the world changed, and the way people buy and interact with fashion enters realms never seen before, the design houses themselves have to tackle the growing international spectrum of clients and customers interested in their product. It was recently announced that Valentino, a house already having an amazing year, is adding another Couture show into the mix in December, completely different from the couture show the brand will present in January with the other handful of designers lucky enough to show in Paris in the official Couture Schedule. The show, held in New York, will celebrate the opening of the new Valentino flagship on 5th avenue, designed by architect David Chipperfield. But it’s not just for show; many of Valentino’s Couture Clients are based in the Big Apple, and it seems the Valentino crew are hoping hosting a major extra event in the city will engage them more. Jet-setting fashion shows are not uncommon, with Karl Lagerfeld shipping the industry’s great and good around the world to celebrate Chanel’s Pre Collections for many years now, soon bringing them to Salzburg this December for what sounds to be a very “Julie-Andrews-Dirndl-wearing-Lonely-goat-hurd-Yodelling-Sound-of-music-esq” affair, (seeing what he can concoct to insult the Germans will be fun, after the ‘Oil Can” Paris-Dubai debacle), But with Couture, a seemingly set-in-stone tradition, is Valentino being crazy or brave… or both? This isn’t the only change; the brand will also be holding ANOTHER Couture show in Rome, to celebrate another store opening. With fashion, and Couture especially, being about the power of the consumer, it only seem right that the brand would travel to them, but does this decamp from Paris mark a significant change in Couture schedule?. Year after year an article crops up detailing the exact moment the Couture industry’s life support will be cut and the art form will be lost forever. This is never the case however, as Couture has been seeing steady growth in the past half-decade and is set to only grow due to new customer bases cropping up in Africa and Saudi Arabia. It has also been plainly illustrated by Jean Paul Gautier closing his prêt-a-porter salon to focus on his ever growing list of couture clients. But is the evolution of couture meaning the Paris schedule will become sparser as the years go on? Valentino has said they will be back in Paris for the Spring/Summer 2016 couture season, but if the numerous global shows go well, it’s only a matter of time until they decide to buck the Parisian trend more frequently. Tom Ford, not a couture powerhouse but not a stranger to that world, announced the move of his Fall 2015 presentation to the golden shores of Los Angeles in February, as his usual spot in London overlaps with next year’s Academy Awards, and he is a big name in red carpet dressing, so for convenience reasons, Tom Ford will skip LFW for a season. Will the allure of an exotic, off-schedule location tempt more ready to wear designers in the future? Many brands are opting for unconventional ways to present their collections, with Style.com’s “Digital Fashion Week” in its third season and conceptual brands such as Gareth Pugh opting for fashion performance and films, it may be time for even Anna Wintour to log on to a livestream, where everyone can be front row. Fashion has never been so focused on the customer before now. As the world changed, and the way people buy and interact with fashion enters realms never seen before, the design houses themselves have to tackle the growing international spectrum of clients and customers interested in their product. It was recently announced that Valentino, a house already having an amazing year, is adding another Couture show into the mix in December, completely different from the couture show the brand will present in January with the other handful of designers lucky enough to show in Paris in the official Couture Schedule. The show, held in New York, will celebrate the opening of the new Valentino flagship on 5th avenue, designed by architect David Chipperfield. But it’s not just for show; many of Valentino’s Couture Clients are based in the Big Apple, and it seems the Valentino crew are hoping hosting a major extra event in the city will engage them more. Jet-setting fashion shows are not uncommon, with Karl Lagerfeld shipping the industry’s great and good around the world to celebrate Chanel’s Pre Collections for many years now, soon bringing them to Salzburg this December for what sounds to be a very “Julie-Andrews-Dirndl-wearing-Lonely-goat-hurd-Yodelling-Sound-of-music-esq” affair, (seeing what he can concoct to insult the Germans will be fun, after the ‘Oil Can” Paris-Dubai debacle), But with Couture, a seemingly set-in-stone tradition, is Valentino being crazy or brave… or both? This isn’t the only change; the brand will also be holding ANOTHER Couture show in Rome, to celebrate another store opening. With fashion, and Couture especially, being about the power of the consumer, it only seem right that the brand would travel to them, but does this decamp from Paris mark a significant change in Couture schedule?. Year after year an article crops up detailing the exact moment the Couture industry’s life support will be cut and the art form will be lost forever. This is never the case however, as Couture has been seeing steady growth in the past half-decade and is set to only grow due to new customer bases cropping up in Africa and Saudi Arabia. It has also been plainly illustrated by Jean Paul Gautier closing his prêt-a-porter salon to focus on his ever growing list of couture clients. But is the evolution of couture meaning the Paris schedule will become sparser as the years go on? Valentino has said they will be back in Paris for the Spring/Summer 2016 couture season, but if the numerous global shows go well, it’s only a matter of time until they decide to buck the Parisian trend more frequently. Tom Ford, not a couture powerhouse but not a stranger to that world, announced the move of his Fall 2015 presentation to the golden shores of Los Angeles in February, as his usual spot in London overlaps with next year’s Academy Awards, and he is a big name in red carpet dressing, so for convenience reasons, Tom Ford will skip LFW for a season. Will the allure of an exotic, off-schedule location tempt more ready to wear designers in the future? Many brands are opting for unconventional ways to present their collections, with Style.com’s “Digital Fashion Week” in its third season and conceptual brands such as Gareth Pugh opting for fashion performance and films, it may be time for even Anna Wintour to log on to a livestream, where everyone can be front row.

It’s Time to Quit the Fashion Nostalgia

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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

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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.

Say My Name: It’s All About Monograms

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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

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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.