5 Moments Not to Miss When Watching Dior and I, Out Friday

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Cinemas throughout the world have started to show one of the most anticipated fashion films in a while, and certainly this year. Dior and I, which already showing in Europe, opens in New York on Friday.

Debuting last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Dior and I, directed by Frédéric Tcheng (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,  2011), follows the story of the house’s current creative director Raf Simons embarking on his inaugural collection for Christian Dior.

A little history: After multiple seasons headed by Bill Gayten, post the swift and highly coveted departure of infamous creative director John Galliano, Raf Simons entered the picture. This documentary shows how Simons, former creative director of Jil Sander (and frequently known for his minimalism, modernity, and edited beauty), undertook the creation and execution of his first haute couture collection for Dior, presented in Paris during the fall/winter 2012 Couture season.

I remember vividly extreme hype and expectation that surrounded this particular show, and the constant speculation as to which direction Raf Simons would take the house of Christian Dior. Although now, Raf is fully established at the house, with his new, edgy and modern take on the Dior woman, and her experimentations with plastic, perspex, leather, lace and many materials in between, his first collection for the house was more subdued, but equally as crafted and beautiful as his predecessors.

At the time the film was shot, the house of Dior was in a very turbulent scenario. Having announced Raf the creative director in early 2012, there was still an air of mystery around the designer. Keeping his public profile and persona low during his tenure at Jil Sander, the publicly less  known designer was regularly queried as a big enough character to take on such a public power house — and its standing across fashion and popular culture — where former creative director John Galliano had firmly placed it. The worry and issues Simons faced when starting at Dior are all documented in this tentative film.

Tcheng’s ability to create frantic, romantic and prominent scenes in a matter of minutes makes Dior and I a must watch for anyone interested in fashion, and even those who are not, as it brings to light the craftsmanship, beauty and level of detail and research that is poured into a Haute Couture collection. From the initial talks about blowing an enormous Sterling Ruby painting onto a dress, which has many complications, to Raf’s mind-blowing idea to cover every surface in the set with flowers, each room covered with a different species, inspired by the Jeff Koons’s “Flower Puppy” (how Raf says “puppy” is adorable), and the wait for the approval from Bernard Arnault and Sidney Toledano.

5 MOMENTS NOT TO MISS: 

The Friendship
The beautiful connection between Raf Simons’ right hand man, Pieter Mulier, Premiere d’atelier flou, and Florence Chehet. A friendship formed quickly and organically, which is lovely to watch blossom with the collection.

The Heated Moment
You’ll know it when it happens. A growing tension between two key players at Dior during a fitting leads to a surprising and unexpected power play in the Atelier.

The Shoes
As much as Galliano was into the grandeur and performance of fashion, Raf Simons’ aesthetic is radically different. This is made very apparent when designing the shoes for the collection. Raf explains how he hated the idea of a woman being helped down the stairs by a man, but proceeds to put a 12 inch heel on a pair of pumps.

The Archive
Being able to glimpse at pieces from the incredible Dior archive in movement is worth every second of screen time.

The Love
Multiple moments throughout the film shows the true love and affection everyone had for the house of Dior and the passion and investment the Atelier have in Raf’s vision. The best moment comes when a seamstresses, a long serving member of the Dior Atelier, says how they are always working for Mr. Dior, no matter who the creative director is.

Above are five illustrations from Raf Simons’ debut collection for Dior. The modern take on the iconic Bar Jacket silhouette and full skirt were remixed and dresses came in bright solid colours including baby pinks, seville red, and canary yellow. A large pannier style skirt embroidered with crystals and royal blue feathers teamed with a simple sheer black knit top, and remakes of classic Dior ballgowns, cropped and shown with tailored black cigarette pants gave old ideas a new lease of life and reimagined use. This is also said for a fuchsia pink silk chiffon, corseted column dress, subsequently split to the waist and paired again with black cigarette pants. The finale dressed featured a split of embroidery, with a classic Dior archive embroidery on the back, and a reworked new version on the front, a literal but effective take on showing the history of the house as well as moving forward.

This collection was an enormous first step for Simons and a great starting block to mark his territory on a house in turmoil. Dior and I is an astonishing and rare insight into a designers first steps, proving again he is most certainly one to follow.

23 Oscar Fashion Superlatives: Who Really Won Last Night

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emma stone

1. BEST DRESSED WOMAN/Elusive Chartreuse Chanteuse:

Emma Stone in ELIE SAAB

2. Could have done better IMO:

Julianne Moore in CHANEL COUTURE

3. Unexpected but I’m not against it:

Dakota Johnson in SAINT LAURENT

4. The less said about the bottom the better:

Felicity Jones in ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

5. Back Sack and Whack:

Marion Cotillard in CHRISTIAN DIOR COUTURE

6. If someone decided to dress you, make sure you tell the reporters:

Reece Witherspoon in TOM FORD

7. Statement Necklace TREND ALERT.

Cate Blanchett

Margot Robbie

8. Just don’t get the hype/mardi gras appropriate:

Lupita Nyong’o in CALVIN KLEIN

9. Thank god it’s not a matador Onsie/best Givenchy:

Rosamund Pike in GIVENCHY COUTURE

10. Thank God it’s not a matador Onsie/ Worst Givenchy:

Jessica Chastain in GIVENCHY COUTURE

11. In accordance with California State Law:

Meryl Steep in LANVIN

12. How sweet, a little sickly:

Keira Knightly in VALENTINO COUTURE

13. A dress that didn’t make the runway shouldn’t make the carpet:

Naomi Wattsin ARMANI PRIVÉ

14. Does your dress have jet lag/best designer debut:

Sienna Miller in OSCAR DE LA RENTA.

15. Risk Taker (if you put it in context to previous looks):

Jennifer Aniston in ATELIER VERSACE

16. Dressed like a tube of glitter lipgloss:

Nicole Kidman in LOUIS VUITTON

17. Baby got BATCH/Best Pregnancy:

Sophie Hunter in LANVIN

18. “I’m trying to scoop a Period Drama, look how good I look in chintz”:

Chloe Grace Moretz in MIU MIU

19. “Nobody will realise it’s several seasons old right?”:

Margot Robbie in SAINT LAURENT

20. Attention stealing much?/Still not sure who let you in:

Rita Ora in MARCHESA

21. Creatures of the Blue Lagoon:

Scarlett Johansson in ATELIER VERSACE

22. Maid in Manhattan, Princess in LA:

Jennifer Lopez in ELIE SAAB COUTURE

23. BEST DRESSED MALE:

Wait, there were men at the event?

 

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.

versacejosephlarkowsky
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.

Faux for Show: What is Ethical Fashion Really All About?

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Fashion is energizing. It is extravagant and engaging and sometimes exclusive. But can it truly be ethical and ecological? If your favorite label decided to start using ecological materials, would you roll your eyes, or applaud? Whilst some designers still believe in using the sprightliest goat for their emblazoned arm candy, or parade models down the catwalk, pelts of various unidentifiable protected species draped across their shoulders, who is making a point of the efficiency and encompassing factors that surround sustainable fashion?

Stella McCartney brought luxury ethical and eco fashion to the mainstream eye. After father Paul, a singer apparently, and mother Linda, the poster girl for eco warriors across the changing landscape of celebrity at the time, decided to focus more on the sustainability of life and the impact we have, it seemed only a natural fit when daughter Stella decided to swing into view with her range of non-leather, 100% polyester bags, made and engineered to feel as supple as possible, and lining made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. The “leather” didn’t stop there, later came shoes and jackets, her subtle nod to eco fashion has been a constant undercurrent from every collection, her natural and simplistic modern aesthetic complements this, but when a 100% Plastic bag is the same price as a leather one from a matching brand, you have to either be truly dedicated to her aesthetic, or truly against the use of skins in design. The only other issue is, when vegetarians shape their food into shapes synonymous with meat products, it surely defeats the point, if you are making the point at using Polyester, why try so hard to make it identical in touch to leather?

In March 2010, Karl Lagerfeld, a man whose motorcycle gloved finger is so on the straddling pulse of life, made Cara and Gisele stage a semi-feminist protest last month, hit the headlines with the presentation of his Fall/Winter 2010 collection in Paris for Chanel. After a 265 tonne iceberg was transported to the Grand Palais, a trio of models emerges, trudging through the pooling ice water that surrounded the berg. Although none of this completely out of the ordinary for a Chanel Show so far, alas, the models were just three of many to be completely covered in fur, apparently sliced from any and every animal that made it onto the ark. Some were intrigued by the brash statement, some were outraged, and as the images spread across the world, outcries of obscene cruelty and unnecessary slaughter for a 15minute spectacle were heard. As the final model, Freja Beja Erichsen dragged her off white, feathered tulle and stripped fur mullet hem through the icy residue and the fash-pack ran for the usual scrum after a Chanel show, Karl let out his secret that he has been playing the media for the entire time. All the fur in the show was faux. Expertly crafted to resemble panoply of animals, he decided to test the consumer and the buyer in one, however the clothes still had the real fur price tag.

As more designers, mainstream and luxury are heading into a new era of consumerism, it will be interesting to see who rides the eco-wave, especially the icy one after Karl’s 2010 extravaganza. If fake fur can now be manufactured to an extreme quality and life-like texture, how long will we need to carry on with pelts and skins? With high-street stores launching eco-collections, H&M’s Conscious being a major player, you have to wonder how “Unconscious’ the manufacture of other clothes are. But will eco-conscious clothing, across the board, ever lose its ‘Hippy, hemp-t-shirt, earth warrior’ label? Well with Stella McCartney following in her mother’s footsteps, the 21st Century Eco Warrior may be swapping Birkenstocks for PU Stilettos sometime in the near future.

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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.

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

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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).