Unique Creature Alexander Wang: Haute-Hearted Downtown Darling

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few short years since Alexander Wang launched his eponymous label. He started out making unisex intarsia cashmere sweaters when he dropped out of Parsons in 2004 at just age twenty, selling them door-to-door to buyers until they caught enough attention for the retailers to come to him. The first full collection (styled by high school pal Vanessa Traina) came three years later — slouched-just-so black tees, biker-inspired cropped leather pants, carefree cashmere cardigans — more after-hours than after-school. Just a year later, the California-native took home the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award at age 24. There’s something so undeniably, so darkly effortless about Wang’s designs — it wasn’t long after he sent those inaugural tees down the runway that he started to dictate, not just embody, what it meant to be downtown, and for good reason.

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Visual Xanax: Monday in the Park

Pretend for a moment that the ponds and lakes of Central Park have taken to thaw, the sun shines golden, and there’s a young gent who would like to row you to the middle of the lake…

Photograph: Lara Stone and Edita Vilkeviciute styled by Alex White and photographed by Mert and Marcus for magazine, September 2009.

LFW DAY 3: London’s Got The Blues, But You’re Gonna Want These Bad Boys

Before you start to panic that it’s all gotten a bit much for us over here, let me just clarify: I’m talking about the overwhelming presence of blue on the catwalks today, not our general mood. The mood, in case you’re interested, has definitely taken a turn for the better thanks to the sunshine and blue sky that graced us with its presence finally. So you see, we do indeed have the blues.

Anyway, by the end of day one it was becoming clear that royal, cerulean, and azure could well be the colours of the season. But by the time Richard Nicoll sent his army of beautiful blue clad models down the runway Sunday morning, there was no doubt left in my mind.

Sticking not just to a single shade, Nicoll’s collection, seen above, included everything from the babiest of blues to a kick-ass cobalt. But we’re not talking a pop of colour here or a subtle detail there. Oh no, we’re talking head-to-toe, single shade dressing which proved not only visually arresting, but also surprisingly versatile. A powder blue slouchy, tailored suit offered a new take on tailoring; a cobalt blue bow-detail dress and knitted cape is a playful option for event dressing; while a Superman-blue, fur collared bomber and pleated mini is fun and sporty whilst still being super-chic.  Nicoll’s trademark sporty aesthetic was very much at play both in silhouette and styling (models wore sneakers or sporty loafers) but combined with sharper lines and crisp shirting details (another emerging trend) felt fresh and exciting.

Preen by Thornton Bregazzi also championed head-to-toe tonal dressing with ankle-length, tomato red oversized coats worn over dresses of the same colour. And though these eye-catching coats will no doubt spawn a plethora of copycat versions on the high-street next Autumn, it’s Preen’s unlikely Darth Vader motif that will likely start a frenzy among the fash-pack. Yes, you heard me right. Darth Vader’s head featured on a selection of digi-print dresses and tops to dramatic effect. One more Star Wars reference and three’s a trend (just see Rodarte for iteration one.) Slightly strange, but also a bizarrely successful marriage of floaty silhouette and sci-fi figurehead. Go figure? In fact, I predict a cult Darth Vader printed sweatshirt will start appearing on street-style blogs sometime in the not too distant feature. You heard it here first.

Screen shot 2014-02-17 at 11.23.27 AM

 

Moving swiftly on from sci-fi to the Tate Modern brings us to the scene of the much anticipated Topshop Unique show.  It’s come to be one of London Fashion Week’s hottest tickets for one simple reason: These are designer clothes we can actually buy. I’ll let you in on something. It’s probably the worlds worst kept secret that fashion editors and stylists are not the most, ahem, handsomely paid bunch. Relying on discounts and gifts is often the only reason you’ll see such sporting displays of $1300 sweatshirts and the like parading round the fashion weeks of the world. But give us authentic, original, exciting design in luxe fabrics and high quality that we can actually afford? Well, you’ve cracked it. Because if we can afford it, so can everyone else. Long gone are the days of Topshop taking inspiration from the design elite. Hell, they are the design elite of today. Fingers firmly on the pulse, trail blazing and initiating Unique has consistently come up with credible collections that we really want to wear. And AW/14 certainly did not disappoint. After all my banging on about the colour blue, it’s pretty apt that the first look out of the gates was, yep you guessed it, head to toe blue. The oversized just-so slouchy blue belted coat is already firmly on my wish list, but quite frankly, so is almost the entire collection. A fur-lined hood Mac-meets-parka is everything you could want in a stylish but practical winter coat (can I have it right now please?) With an overriding disheveled schoolgirl kind of vibe (think white shirts layered under sweaters and grey ribbed socks) the styling is almost as noteworthy as the pieces themselves. Layering was key– think polo necks (more evidence of neck-mania as I wrote about yesterday) layered under shirts, layered under sweaters layered under teddy bear fronted gilets. And anything that keeps you a) warm, b) stylish and c) um, warm in winter is a winner in my books.

topshop

 

Apart from the blue, the collection was mainly based around buttery yellows, ‘70s-inspired camels and muted greys. Warning: you will want all of this, so start saving now. Another day nearly down and I can’t wait to see what this evening and tomorrow will bring. See you on the flip side for your daily update from LFW.

Catching Up with Emerging Designer Karolyn Pho

When we met with Karolyn Pho this past October she had only just shown her first collection designed in New York and now, not even four months later, she’s preparing to present her debut collection at New York Fashion Week. Despite the usual chaos associated with Fashion Week, Pho is calm, cool and collected.  The obvious dissemination of this confidence into her clothing is probably what we love most about the eponymous label.

We stopped by to catch a quick glimpse of her mood board and discuss her inspirations, her design process and her plans for the future.

What’s changed since we talked in October? I am going to guess a lot.

A lot has changed since then. Spring/Summer was my first collection in New York. So that transition from LA to New York really affected that collection. This new collection is me being more comfortable here and having received a lot of feedback from this community, really trying to add it in and be mindful of it. Which helped me grow a lot as a designer and as a person in general. This whole transition phase has been a great leaning experience. And now I am here and I can’t believe it.

On the fashion calendar!

If you told me this a couple months ago I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s absolutely surreal.  I feel blessed and so thankful.

That must have been quite a change going from first collection in New York to showing at Fashion Week?

It’s so surreal. From last season, where I was just getting my feet wet and receiving feedback, to this.  And taking all of that feedback and infusing it in this collection but still keeping my concepts and aesthetics. That was the main evolution.  I took the community’s response and really tried to focus it and push it toward the collection. If the editors and buyers can see their notes from the last collection and compare them to the new collection and be happy, then I am stoked, because that’s exactly what I was trying to do. And that’s out of respect. Yes, you should have your own voice but at the same time you need to respect your community. These are the people supporting you.

How did that cross-country move from L.A. to New York affect your collection?

If anything it gave me more confidence in the collection. I was doing something similar in L.A. and I just don’t think the community there was as receptive to it. When I brought it to New York people were really feeling it. When the community says, yes, we’re into it, that’s everything, especially when you’re in New York. It really validated for me that I am doing what I should be doing.  New York really pushed me to my limit, pushed me to my edge. And I think New York does that for everyone, in whatever occupation. There’s a really fun energy here.

KPho FW14 Inspo board

What was your inspiration for this collection?

Well here’s my mood board (see above.) The way my mind works is kind of like a Venn diagram. I have two circles overlapping with two different ideas and whatever meets in the middle is what I take as the backbone for the collection. The left side is darker while the right is lighter with much more vibrant colors. These are clippings that I’ve gathered over the past couple of months and none of it really made sense until I printed it all out, laid them out and saw what my mind was trying to get to. And it all plays well together.

I am calling this collection “Self-Preservation”, as in the idea of protecting oneself for the purpose of moving forward; that ability to move to another life if you will, to whatever your heaven or your afterlife is. My collections always have some sort of religious undertone. I take a general interest in it. I don’t really know yet what I believe except that I believe in a higher power and all my collections have this feeling of what is purgatory, what is afterlife? My last collection was called “Unknown”.

Do you have any daily routines?

My daily routine is that I don’t have a daily routine. I don’t know what you call it because it’s not ADD or OCD. But like I have to be working on at least five different projects. And I like that. I don’t have to feel like I have to do any one of them right now because creatively I can’t force myself to do something it just comes. I just let it go when it happens, when I am feeling in. And that sounds super hippie-dippie but I don’t know how else to explain it.  My routine is that I have no routine.

What about if you’re in a creative rut?

I go for a really long walk and this is going to sound insane but I play the same song over and over. I walk seven miles listening to the same song and I don’t know what it is but the monotony of it all gets me thinking, Walking helps, music always helps. Movies sometimes too, I am by no means a cinefile but I do appreciate a really cinematic film.

Does your background styling for film still affect your design process?

I can’t say that what I was doing then is so much different than what I am doing now when I’m conceptualizing. You’re trying to tell a story and create a character and show how that character lives in the story.

If you had to pick a film for this collection, what type of film would it be? Who are the characters?

I can’t help but think of that movie I Am Love with Tilda Swinton. It’s the characters, the time, the movement, the space, the pace and the music in the film.

Favorite piece from the collection so far?

I can’t pick a favorite. Okay, that’s a lie I do have a favorite. It’s this rabbit fur tank top. It’s really the look in general. I am pairing it with a pair of slouchy, baggy tuxedo pants and it’s so formal but so andro and so masculine. I love that. I don’t think there’s a sexier, harder look.

We loved your exploration of textiles in your last collection. Has that carried into this collection as well?

I love experimenting with textiles. Every collection that I do has a similar silhouette. That keeps the consistency in the brand. Where I have room to play is in the color, fabrications and textures and I am really heavy on that. I love finding weird quirky things and adding it as trim, just a little touch of this and little touch of that. Everyone wants to wear something that they are comfortable in but at the same time they still want to be different and unique and those little touches really help with that.

Did you have a goal for this collection?

Industry approval sounds bad. But from the last collection I got so much feedback from the community that I really tried to keep that in mind and push that into the new collection and make it stronger and build it. That was my main goal. The concept is always there but as a designer I am still growing and that feedback helps so much.

What is the biggest different between this collection and collections past? 

I think silhouettes. There are certain silhouettes that I think are beautiful and conceptual but from a market standpoint maybe you can’t sell it. So I still have my conceptual pieces and I get to show them but they’re not the backbone of the collection rather they strengthen it and are building blocks for it. I feel where I’ve grown the most is in creating tangible relatable pieces that have the concept and idea but are so much easier to wear. I really played with different materials and different color ways. That was my main goal, making it more tangible to the people.

Do you have any advice for young artists?

Be true to yourself. This is so lame but I was drinking tea this morning and the tag on the tea said “know that you are the truth” and I was like wow, this is the perfect day to have this little tea bag. And I think what I want to say to young designers is you’re the truth. You are your voice and you are your concept.  Stay strong to that. Don’t waver. At the end of the day it’s you, and it’s your name and it’s your brand.

Do you have a strategy going into Fashion Week?

I am a control freak so I’ve always had a game plan but to be honest this time, I don’t. I’ve done as much as I can. And everyone I am working with is so on top of it and that helps so much. I am not worried, I am nervous but I am not worried. It’s all there.

What do you hope comes from this experience?

It sounds terrible but this whole act is totally selfish. This collection is for me. I obviously want people to enjoy it and there’s sales and yada yada yada but really at the end of the day I just want to see a beautiful show and I want to know that I can do it. It’s so rewarding even just to see the collection done and then presenting it is, I am lost for words. I may cry! I don’t know.

I can understand crying.

Yeah, there are heavy emotions. But I have to be honest after it’s all done, the designing that is, I immediately detach myself from it. Because when I start working with a stylist for instance who’s saying do this, do that, I can’t get my feelings hurt. And especially with a collection being shown on a runway, other people have opinions, and once it goes to sales buyers have opinions. And that’s something I have to be okay with listening to on the business side. I have to be receptive without getting defensive.

How do you do that?

I start thinking about the next collection. It’s like a bad break up. You just have to move on to something else and not think about. That way it doesn’t hurt so badly.

When we talked in October you described the girl who you imagined wearing your collection, is she the same girl for this collection or different? 

It’s always going to be the same girl and the same silhouettes. I don’t want to veer too far from off from that. That’s the consistency in the brand. I want people to be able to come and find that certain something. However, the colors and fabrications will be forever changing.

What’s that certain thing?

I want them to shop Karolyn Pho when they want something that will make them feel confident, comfortable, professional, classic and elegant on a day-to-day basis.  You should dress how you feel!

What are your future plans for your line?

I just want to continue doing what I love. And I want to be able show again next season!

Watch our film on Karolyn Pho here.

Visual Xanax: Bathroom Break with Alexander Wang

Make like an Alexander Wang model and hightail it to the restroom for a few moments of reprieve. Your boss, frenemies, and combative co-workers can’t get you there.

Photo: Alexander Wang Spring 2014 campaign photographed by Steven Klein.

Want more Visual Xanax? Click here.

To Mule or Not to Mule?

2013 was a year of controversial shoes. 2013 saw the return of Birkenstocks, the persistence of flatforms and the why-won’t-you-go-away wedge sneaker. Ardent advocates, zealots and haters came out in numbers to share their thoughts on the hottest footwear of the season. However, no shoe regardless of how maligned created a comeback quite as big as the mule in spring 2014 collections.

Much like its mammal namesake, the mule is a hybrid of two different shoes, fusing the high heel of a pump with the open back of a slipper. Over the years the mule has been the favored heel of popes and pop stars alike. Once gracing the feet of ancient Egyptian queens and ladies of the French court, the mule is now synonymous with Hollywood starlets such as Marilyn Monroe. The mule of the ‘50s was dainty and oft feather-pompom adorned.

Despite their rich history the mule faced heavy adversity when they first started reappearing on runway collections back in 2012. Former Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld condemned the shoes as a fashion blunder, really letting ‘er rip.

“I hate mules. I hate the noise when someone walks with mules. Clomp, clomp, clomp. I think it’s very not chic.”

Many on the mule opposition cite the impracticality of walking in a shoe without a secured heel. Also an overall distaste for the aesthetics.

However, after this spring’s runway collections there is no longer any denying that similar to its barnyard counterpart, the mule is stubborn, and despite vehement resistance, isn’t going anywhere soon. The shoe found its way onto Celine, Chloe, The Row, and Altuzarra runways.

This season’s mule is modernized with a higher vamp that offers improved stability, and even the dreaded clomp, clomp, clomp is eliminated. Technology!

The more covered versions are less girly and less dainty, the higher heel feels cooler, sleeker, and more modern. These spring stunners are fresh, young and truly chic. Best worn with just below the knee skirts and dresses or heck, even cropped pants, they look flirty, fun and carefree. They have the support of the young (Ashley Olsen) and the older (Anna Wintour). Mademoiselle C recently said that she loved them.

Style Resolutions for the New Year from Joan Didion to Annie Hall

The nature of the New Year lends itself to reflection and resolution. One looks on the tangible past with a certain tenderness for the good times and a desire to resolve the bad for future betterment. We write lists of goals as a response to society’s overwhelming call to action on the first of January, and we carry these lofty goals with us as we proceed into the future hopeful that these resolutions will re-inflate our egos and protect us from making the same mistakes that we made in the past.

However, too often our resolutions are too lofty, too overwhelming to really stick to past January 5th or so, when our lives returns to their crazy, busy normality not buffered by the holidays and PTO days.  So this year I decided to make resolution that were doable that I could work on right now and every day go forward, little things that I feel I could stick to even when life gets crazy again.

One of said daily intentions is to reinvigorate my personal style and not in a way that requires the purchase of a whole new wardrobe. So in sticking to the customary reflection and resolutions I turned to the past, gleaning inspiration from my sartorial heroes in order to improve my future style choices and make old pieces feel new again. I’ve learned that you can definitely teach an old skirt new tricks.

The following women, whether fictional or real, inspire me on a daily basis to dress in a way that articulates a specific story.

Joan Didion

Joan Didion published her first novel at 29, wrote of the human experience with objective truth that divulged the denigration of American morals, drove a Corvette, clocked time at Vogue, was bicoastal and took a similar approach to dressing as she did her writing. Valuing simplicity, elegance and restraint, her personal style revolved around oversized black shades and refined sentences lines.

Didion

Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin epitomizes the Parisian boho-chic of the 1970s, channeling the innocence of Lolita and the sex appeal of a femme fatale. Famous for her blunt cut bangs, mile long legs, mini skirts and peasant tops, she undoubtedly posses that certain je ne sais quoi. There is no question as to who I hope to be emanating when I wear a white t-shirt, loose jeans and a single gold chain.

Birkin

Anna Karina

Anna Karina, née Hanne Karin Bayer made innocence sexy, paving the way for the likes of Alexa Chung and Zooey Deschanel. She is all bangs and feline-inspired eyeliner. Her style can be distilled to knee-length plaid skirts, frilled collars and ballet flats.  Widely considered the French art-house brunette equivalent to Brigitte Bardot’s blonde bombshell sex appeal, she is both enchanting and intelligent, ingénue and sophisticate.

Karina

Annie Hall

Annie Hall’s slouchy trousers, vests and bowler hats were a welcome change to the era of metallic hot pants and flared bellbottoms.  She single handedly re-introduced the idea of menswear-inspired fashion to the public.  She made layers of tweed and buttoned up shirts feminine and sexy with her charm and confidence. Her free-spirited and effortless style is as brave as it is organic. One can’t help but admire the Charlie Chaplin meets crazy cat lady perfection that is Annie Hall.

Hall