london fashion week: mark fast

(images via style)

i’m not going to lie.  although i have come to appreciate mark fast’s skeleton claw-like tenuous strings of knitwear and requisite above-the-crotchline hems (hey, it would make a nice top for most of us), i was first drawn to the quiet young canadian designer thanks to the assortment of body types he regularly cast to walk his runway (see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, a/w 2011).  thus, i was crestfallen—to put it mildly—to see basically one type strutting down his s/s 2012 catwalk.  okay, maybe two: thin and thinner.  maybe there were a couple of girls who could have passed for ‘plus size’ in today’s ever-whittling-away industry, but there was nothing to speak of, that someone wouldn’t have found if not looking for it. 

and don’t get me wrong.  of course i’m still going to be fair to the clothes, and we’ll depart in a moment for more intense scrutiny on that front.  but if homegirl below is your best example on ‘curvy’, i have that desolate feeling of a child in a schoolyard with the looong lunchbreak stretching out before, at the moment of realization that their only friend is absent.  i know alyona osmanova, a one-time ‘sample size’ (and former marc jacobs, mcqueen, vuitton, and dolce & gabbana) model, who has, in the last year, gone ‘plus’, is still working the catwalk.  i think we would all have loved it had he given her a call.  but instead we’ve got the lady in the orange & yellow dress (with the orange armbands) possessed of a skinniness that just goes to a different level.  but okay, point enough, let’s to the clothes. 

“Dance, craft and the Batakari,” was how he described his spring inspirations to lfw, while the wsj described the range as emitting a “(d)esert warrior” feeling.  “Into the desert she moves, / Onwards with faith, / And something to prove, / To live, to love, is all she desires,” they quoted the show notes as saying, also opining that “(t)hese dresses may require a slip (or two), but like one black number whose voluminous skirt bounced in rhythm with the model’s gait, the knits showed Mr. Fast’s ability to expand his range. A few non-knitwear pieces were even added to the collection,” before cautioning that “(h)oley, long, fishtail dresses and heels do not mix.”  

“Mark Fast looked to the desert for spring,” said elle, “kicking of his with a clutch of crochet dresses in nude and gold, and progressing through to tropical pink, yellow and orange. Naturally the focus was on the knits and Mark’s signature figure hugging frocks were much in evidence form the floor length and plunging to the mini and sheer. There were, though, some more relaxed shapes for those less keen to have everything on show; an off the shoulder T-shirt shaped dress covered with metallic fringing a simple floor length jersey dress, albeit sheer enough to see the crochet underwear that it covered, and a chunky beaded and fringed shift in hot pink. But it was actually the knit free pieces that stood out – a printed pink dress with moulded sleeves, a printed pencil skirt and sporty cropped bomber and a mini skirt and cropped top.” 

and wwd wrote that the designer “took a more refined approach this season and channeled Thirties glamour. Evening gowns fit for a screen goddess came in cream-colored loose weaves while gold flapper dresses had tassel fringe. The designer continued to speak to his hard-core fans with plenty of thigh-skimming minidresses in his spring lineup. But he still needs to work on the wearability of some of his pieces as some added unnecessary (and certainly unwanted) bulk.”  however, the fashion spot was more successfully taken in, commenting that “Fast didn’t just stick with his steadfast tight and revealing knits but expanded into crochets and fisherman’s knits that added to the overall aesthetic change.” 

and vogue, too, was suitably impressed: “‘The palette originates from sand tones in a desert landscape, then moves into gold fringing. We wanted to create movement over the body to emulate the force of a sand storm,’ explained Fast in his show notes – which equally matched the sand tones in shade and possibly even texture. ‘We worked with yellow, orange and fuchsia and feathered printed neoprene to compose a tropical exotic surge of colour,’ he continued – these came as boxy little jacket and skirt ensembles towards the middle of the collection, then followed by gowns with a more gothic sensibility that came weighted down with ruffles at their hems. It was a mix of tribal and high summer – with gold bangles accenting those golden woven tassel gowns (some with plunging backs, others spiralling around the body to shape the silhouette), and the neon yellow and orange mini dresses – which were cuter and younger than we have seen from him before.” 

but style held aloof, spotting a number of difficulties, which it had no trouble pointing out: “it was nice to see Fast trying his hand at non-knit looks. He introduced a print—a lava-esque abstract rendered in blood red and in orange tones—and applied it to tailored dresses and skirts. He faces stiff competition here; there are designers in London who have built their careers around print, and they’ve learned how to construct a garment to highlight pattern. Fast hasn’t mastered that trick yet…Of more concern—and at this point, it’s a recurring concern—is Fast’s seeming disinterest in the fit and wearability of his clothes. The problem isn’t universal within his collections, but there were enough red-flag moments here—the shoulder that kept slipping off the first dress; the model hobbling down the runway in her long, skintight, crocheted number; another model who had to carry the train of her gown in her hand—that you really have to wonder whether Fast ever thinks about the real-life women who might wear his clothes. If that’s not something on his mind, it should be.” 

it was the latter which stood out most in my mind, along with the idea that, though charming, some of the grassy-looking dresses reminded me a little of what we’d recently seen from topshop unique’s cleopatra-girl garb: cute, but weren’t they a too costume-y?  and the way that lovely long, goldfish-orange fringed dress fit on its model was a point of concern: aren’t these clothes supposed to cling?  if so, we have one of two problems: the fit (which is probably likelier), was just plain off, or these girls are so thin they’re no longer offsetting the clothes well (which is a problem unto itself).  in-between there were plenty of fetching numbers, and i liked the way the designer embraced the season’s themes while making them his own, but ultimately, i’m not sure he’s evolving enough to keep things going for years (or even seasons) to come.  he needs to work on learning new things, too, not just rehashing what he does best in new colours each show.  and today, unfortunately, felt a bit too much like that for us to really have anything to celebrate. 

(watch the collection video here)

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mcfw: lydia lavin

(images via planeta ellas)

i have a tendency to gush pretty much the same thing each time (see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, a/w 2011) we take in a mexico city fashion week show of lydia lavin’s: traditional mexican aesthetics and colours!  with sleek and modern elements and silhouettes!  combined in the same garment!  oh my stars!  and maybe that sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s also the reason that the designer holds a continual allure for me.  okay, she’s not always successful, but at her best she manages to carefully blend the old and the new in such a way as to preserve the traditional elements with a hint of vintage (for the girls who like the past) with contemporary flair enough to ensure that none of her customers appears like a village girl in costume.  it may not create a lot of variance, but it’s consistently good, with another round for the s/s 2012 season. 

this time her show was titled something like ‘textures of a mexican hacienda’, with the mexian l’oreal site noting that the designer’s ideas were (trans.) “reminiscent of the architecture and history of the great houses where much of the history of Mexico developed.”  additionally, the happening points out that (trans.) “(t)he entire environment of the place, from the blown glass…to the furniture and curtains and tablecloths,” informed ms. lavin’s show, and for spring she was striving to impart the feeling of the place, with its (trans.) “colors and textures” to her clothes.  there were, at times, a few touches that felt almost asian (rather curious; i would have liked to know if there was any japanese history to these haciendas): obi-esque belts on several of the dresses, and rosettes and draping that was rather origami-like. 

the colour palette then, typical of her shows, was quite bright: neon orange, lime, blazing lemon, lilac, peach, hot pink, buttercup yellow, cerulean, magenta, aubergine, and aqua sat alongside neutral shades of white and taupe.  some colour-blocking, stripes, and little floral motifs were present, but she prefers her embellishments bigger, so fringe, elaborate draping, rosettes, ruffles, and ric-rac piping were incorporated into the pieces.  materials, said the mexican site planeta ellas, included silk, linen, gauze, cotton, lace, and silk, alongside some fishnet overlays.  these fabrics were sourced from various parts of mexico, and included shawls made in villages and according to indigenous techniques. 

dresses were, as per the norms, the main focus of the collection, with a wedding dress included in the 24-look show, although the designer veered into early nineties-territory with some cropped tops that gave a good flash of the girls’ stomachs.  it was younger and more contemporary than some of her ranges have tended to be, as were some of the sexy little cocktail dresses, although her longer evening gowns were, unfortunately, a little convoluted and frumpy (especially when compared with some of her other recent outpourings).  it was a fun exercise, designed to please, if you’re a fan, but i’ll admit there were a couple of times i wished she’d pair it back a bit.  or play up on the multiculturalism of the asian associations—her line is ripe for some of that, and i think it would go over brilliantly, as, perhaps, we’d seen at the odd molly show in stockholm.  sure, it’s all in good fun, but that doesn’t mean she—or we, incidentally—don’t need a challenge from time to time.  after all, what’s the point in buying new clothes if you’ve already got a closet of similar looks already?

(watch the show video, complete with the designer speaking about the collection, here)

updated: with new images; i apologize that they’re not the highest quality, but they were the best i could find, and i’ll be on the lookout for better images in the future

paris fashion week: loewe

(images via ny mag)

like the houses of louis vuitton or salvatore ferragamo, the spanish label loewe, which was founded in 1846, is a leather goods proprietor, and, whatever pretenses they might like to drop on their commitment to ready to wear, accessories will always be at the forefront.  this doesn’t always have to be a bad thing—in fact, perhaps because they’re not depending on the sales of clothes as heavily as other labels based around that concept, one could argue this permits them to experiment more.  true, the current house creative director, stuart vevers, will always be beholden to the archives, but, all the same, he was able to create a s/s 2012 range, presented at paris fashion week, that didn’t push the same agendas we’ve been seeing all-but-everywhere. 

so, for spring, said wwd, one of the more skeptical of the critics, the brand “offered a neo-Bourgeois lineup, featuring some new takes on silk scarf dresses and shirts, using geometric prints inspired by Spanish tiles. A terra-cotta dress patterned with small lizards and bold white chevron stripes at the neckline was particularly nice. The geometric theme carried over to pencil skirts, jackets and dresses with graphic seam construction and geometric perforations. But the collection, particularly the metallic leather skirts and suede dresses and suits — looked very hard.” 

but vogue was more impressed, writing that the designer “took southern Spain as the starting point…so the clothes this time had a more relaxed zeal than sometimes previously: silk jersey dresses carried prints of scurrying lizards or lovely red, black and white tile prints (inspired by Dutch mathematician M.C. Escher’s visit to the Alhambra in Granada, where his sketches of architectural tiled patterns informed his greatest work, we were told), that brought lazy Spanish sun-filled days into modern, everyday life. The clothes always come across as accessories to the incredibly luxurious bags – this time in the classic Loewe shapes but in what Vevers calls ‘the noblest materials’: suede, calf, crocodile and lizard – and fabulous shoes that were two-toned to match the dresses above them with block platforms and subtly curved block heels.” 

The heritage of this house,” they continued, and much the same as i’d just opined above, “is always in the forefront of these collections – its zig-zag striped scarf prints were repeated on punctured leather dresses, while button-down pencil skirts, oversized tailored jackets and dresses featuring splits in the leather to show off horizontal slices of contrasting chiffon beneath made up the wardrobe of today’s moneyed Loewe woman. Sleeveless, zip-front dresses had a younger feel – some with metallic rivet fastenings that were repeated on their matching accessories – while soft gold brocade dresses and wide knit cable knits with skin peeping between each knot were summery translations of the Loewe look.” 

and style, too, was a little skeptical about the range: “Escher’s maths-influenced motifs were reproduced in engineered prints on silk skirts and tops or cut out of leather pieces. Lizards, another of the artist’s visual signatures, also appeared as prints or beaded in black on gray suede. They didn’t really say Loewe-style luxury. But with the core of Loewe’s business being leather goods, Vevers’ challenge with a Spring collection is always going to be how to make skins lighter. He was proud of the fact that the Loewe workshops had come up with a reversible nappa that was the lightest yet. He cut it into a shorts suit or a button-through shirtdress. He also laced leather with tiny perforations, as in a skirt and matching sleeveless top. But something about the long lean silhouette conspired against the lightness Vevers sought. Paired with the vintage-looking platform sandals, there was a vampish, film noir-ish edge to the Loewe woman this season, especially when she zipped herself into a gold leather pencil skirt with a substantial kick pleat. Un peu old-fashioned.”  

however, jessica michault of the nyt was also suitably wooed, asking a decent question in the process: “How do you sell leather goods in the hot summer months? The designer Stuart Vevers came up with a few astute tricks, stripping leather down to the bare essentials — like jackets without linings and reversible coats — and then cutting them back to let even more air in. A leather top came perforated with microholes; one ensemble was crafted out of an open-weave knit of leather and suede; and a few pieces showed up with graphic cookie-cutter-shaped chunks missing from their edgings. “

“Patent leather bands,” she continued, “stacked with strips in cool black chiffon and suede or lace was another airy option. When Mr. Vevers stepped away from leather, he embraced the brand’s Spanish roots. Graphic prints that echoed the architectural features of the Alhambra in southern Spain came out on slinky jersey dresses in colors of red earth and blue sky, and the inclusion of a new lizard mascot was a fun way to give the ladylike looks a touch of youthful vigor.”

and as far as beauty was concerned, there was a classic strength to the looks, with, as fashion gone rogue points out, the “dark red lip” forming the centerpiece.  lead hairstylist guido told the site beautylish, “(t)his is a very wearable, natural look. It has a center part so it’s quite clean looking but not severe.  This season it felt like down hair has been more relevant- it seems quite startling to see hair down because the clothing is more controlled. It’s a very modern look.”  there was a slight seventies appeal to the long hair tucked behind the ears that bounced with its own natural movement and texture as the models walked.

the brand, says forbes, has now packed up the entire team and decamped for hong kong, repeating the runway show and lavishing other attentions on chinese buyers in the hopes of carving out some profit in this post-apocalyptic wasteland of scrimping-and-saving.  harsh criticisms aside, i don’t know how they wouldn’t do well there.  i sincerely enjoyed the loewe approach to ladylike feminism this season, seeing their woman for spring as an utterly sophisticated business woman (or occupying in some other high-powered position)—the type who wears little kid gloves while driving.  and, okay, we may not all be that, but it’s nice to have a bit of her ideals, especially with all the schoolyard bells and loud, clashing, child-experimenting-with-colour ideas most of the rest of the designers have.  i can understand that to some, this completely refined approach would seem a little old school or odd, as style suggested, but it feels that now is as good a time as any to resurrect it. 

(watch the full collection video here)

japan fashion week: plumpynuts

(images via jfw)

still a relatively new label—it was founded in 2009 by designers miyuki omichi and ayumi kita—the plumpynuts s/s 2012 show was held as a public event, in an outdoor area of tokyo’s midtown.  in some respects, it is rather obvious that the duo has a lot to learn with regards to shaping a proper collection, but the youthful enthusiasm poured into the garments was nevertheless obvious. 

as wwd pointed out, “it was difficult to pinpoint a specific theme, something the designers themselves acknowledge. But there were some well-executed, nice looking clothes like a punchy floral blouse and color-blocked green shorts, a tailored pantsuit with lace insets and a mini dress contracted from a sleeveless blazer with feather trim.” 

titled simply ‘the plumpynuts show’, the collection’s colour palette began with cool hues, such as heather gray and blue, before swinging into deeply-saturated tones of hunter green, indigo, pink, and red, alongside floral washes and stripes, eventually ending in soft sand and white.  embellishments, too, were all over the map—ruffles, colour-blocking, pleating, feathers, and some fancy drapes, while materials ranged from what looked like leather to some paper-light sheers. 

the site tokyo fashion was suitably impressed, writing that “The collection was extra-feminine with a sexy edge. The brand – and indeed most of the items in this collection – fall into what the Japanese call ‘real clothes’, meaning things that young fashionable girls want to – and can afford to – wear on the street. This collection would have been right at home on the runway at the uber-hip Tokyo Girls Collection.” 

meanwhile, the japanese site fashion snap commented that the theme was, among other things, (trans.) “I want people to enjoy looking at them” (the clothes).  thus, the inconstancy of the colours was meant to create an excited feeling, while another japanese site, fashion press, stated that the designers’ purpose was largely to invigorate fashion.  thus, it seems that they were less concerned with their creations, per se, than people’s reactions to them.

that, of course, is actually quite an interesting concept, but it’s unfortunately not the type that sits well with editors.  i think we can probably tolerate one ranging, meandering show, but it’s clear from the individual looks that they’ve got some talent, so it would be nice to see them execute it with discipline, rather than lounging back on some vague, post-modernist explanation.  in other words: yes, we’re happy, but we’d be happier if you told us a story next time!  enough said?

(see the collection video here & good additional images at just another typical night in tokyo and tokyo fashion mag)

lafw: dear creatures

(images via can)

dear creatures showcased one of my favourite looks from los angeles fashion week (the little navy sailor girl dress, above), thus it was something of a disappointment that i wasn’t able to find a proper gallery for the s/s 2012 collection, presented as a part gen art’s fresh faces segment.  therefore, we can’t really assess the whole show, but can take a moment to learn a bit more about the brand, which maybe wasn’t breaking any major design barriers, but nevertheless had some particularly charming pieces. 

designers rob sinclair and bianca benitez were interviewed about the range by style section la, and although they weren’t particularly forthright in laying out their explanations, the site nevertheless summed it up a bit better, in writing that it is “a whimsical line that weaves modern sensibilities and vintage attitude into one pretty little package.”  meanwhile, papermag opined that it was “a well tailored collection containing flirty dresses and pleated detailing.”  

the range was rife with nautical details throughout, while embellishments such as bows, ruffles, and ruching added interest to the pieces.  the designers told style section la that they chose “a lot of cotton and cotton blends, as well as more drapey, light-weight materials. We wanted to make comfortable, stylish go-to dresses that you’ll want to wear all season long,” and opted for a classic, if appropriately spring-y palette of navy, white, gray, beige, and chalky pink, with stripes, polka dots, and piping. 

what i found to be especially enticing about the collection was the way it would integrate into a vintage or more eclectically-styled wardrobe; the pieces had a lot of versatility, and while they weren’t particularly loud on their own, one could spice them up quite easily with some funky accessories.  and while i shouldn’t like to go into full analytical mode, i would have liked to have seen a few more ‘professional’-style looks, taking their aesthetic to a slightly more elegant level.  that said, it was sweet, fun, and one of the highlights of a difficult-to-probe event. 

(see the collection video here, a short video interview with the designers here & additional images here)