london fashion week: meadham kirchhoff

(images via wwd)

when it comes time to sum up the whole of the season, i’ll already know one of the labels i’m most grateful to: meadham kirchhoff.  although i suppose i ought have expected it, given their penchant for stepping things up as time has moved on, rather than slowly and commercially dialing them back (see f/w 2010, s/s 2011, f/w 2011, s/s 2012), the f/w 2012 season in london has represented many of that very same sort, the kind on which i felt i could always rely, suddenly going slack and rather lifeless, trembling lest they lose their backing (or whatever it is they’re so apparently afraid of) in the roaring tsunami that is this global recession.  but not so meadham kirchhoff.  things here were much the same as always, pulling ahead calmly as though the designers had no idea of what was crumbling around them. 

style described how “Kirchhoff described the new collection as being inspired by the club he wants to go to, if only it existed; he and Meadham used their slot on the fashion calendar not only to illustrate that fantasy but to enact it…There was a lot to take in here, and the obvious highlights included the rainbow-hued chiffon dresses, the sequin bustiers, and the showstopping, paradigm-shifting multicolored furs. The furs worked almost like an intarsia knit, with cartoon insignia made by piecing together various cuts of dyed fur. Yet the most impressive thing about this collection may have been its deep bench of accessible pieces, like the denim with cartoon appliqués, or the silvery brocade tailoring, or the nubby graphic sweaters, or the trousers in a yellow and black lumberjack check. There seemed to be a rationale beyond the commercial in these pieces; namely, Meadham and Kirchhoff are extending a hand to all the people for whom a dress made out of tinsel, say, is a bit de trop. It’s their party, and seriously, everyone’s invited.”

and playing up on this theme, us vogue quoted designer edward meadham as explaining “’I like imagining what it would’ve been like to go to those clubs in London in the early eighties, like Taboo and Kinky Gerlinky, where everyone dressed up and made themselves into something different every night. It all looked like such fun—all that almost obscene glamour.’ Thus the show he put on with his partner Benjamin Kirchhoff, was a mash-up of ‘vicarious’ influences, of glam rock and disco, as well as quotes from the way their young East End designer and Central Saint Martins friends dress, with a different-color hair and new hairdo each week, madly painted nails, and multicolored makeup and jewelry concocted from anything that glitters. You see them around the London shows—post-crash kids thrown on their own creativity and childlike exuberance to cobble something together out of a no-money, student-loan way of life.”

meanwhile, wwd declared that “After shaking up London with their runway hijinks for several seasons, Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff went for a more classic show this time — although the clothes were as quirky as ever. A real glitter fest, there were sequined pantsuits and patchwork furs, tinsel-fringed boleros, striped Lurex tights and sparkling Seventies platform shoes. The nontwinkling fare included childish patches on denim pants and jackets, and acid-colored pin dots on giant baby-doll dresses. This duo is really serious about not taking fashion, or themselves, too seriously.”  i’m not really clear what they meant by ‘classic’, unless it was to suggest that it was a return to form of old meadham kirchhoff favourites.  oh, would that it implied people dressed like this everyday…

finally, uk vogue chirped that “(i)t was a Seventies, funkadelic extravaganza complete with coloured lights under the catwalk and fabulous Underground heels sculpted in bright gold, silver, blue or pink glitter. ‘They are so brilliant because they really follow a theme through and this was truly, all-out disco,’ said Harriet Quick afterwards. ‘The thing is that disco originally brought all sorts of subversive groups together through music: different cultures, sexualities, attitudes – and this really was just like that with a massive sense of celebration.’ The Rocky Horror theme tune played us in before girls stomped up the catwalk – some throwing glitter as they went – pompoms in their glitter-sprayed hair and huge sequin earrings hanging down their necks. Some of the models’ faces had been sprayed to go with their tinsel striped silver and gold trousers, under chiffon dresses appliquéd with silk flowers, under sheepskin waistcoats.”

“Silky gymslip dresses came over woolly orange leggings or glittering lamé tights,” they continued, “and huge fur coats featured enlarged cherry prints or bold stripes. More fur stoles were dragged behind the models in fuzzy snakes of red, black and yellow. One trouser suit of wide sequined silver, pink, red, green and gold zig-zags deserved its very own disco ball, while tailored brocade blazers, silver trousers and billowing chiffon multi-coloured baby doll dresses..Almost aggressive in their pursuit of fun, the Meadham Kirchhoff boys sometimes seem to want to hide their talent within the spectacle – their shy bows and non-committal attitude when you meet them suggest a very different persona from the one they design for – but the charm is in the closer look. For every explosion of disco glitter, there’s a beautifully cut jacket or a perfectly conceived chiffon dress that raises the bar of true fashion design. Combined, the result is nothing if not impressive” (see some additional images at t magazine).

(watch the complete collection video here)

milan fashion week: missoni

(images via ny mag)

missoni is one of those houses that seems to score the most devoted fans, the kind who rave and buy, with rapture, rapture, all the time.  and the rest of us…well, i don’t want to say that i dislike what designer angela missoni has done over the last few years (see f/w 2010, f/w 2011, s/s 2012), and in some cases i’ve even loved it beyond all measure.  but all the same, there is an aesthetic that i think you’re either inherently attached to, or you’re not really, and as i’m frankly not the type to start drooling at the sight of piles of knitwear in patterned rainbows, i’m tempted to include myself at the latter end of the spectrum.  and that’s what makes judging the collections difficult.  somehow it almost seems unfair that if one isn’t the type of person to fall into what ms. missoni is trying to do, they shouldn’t be allowed to so harshly critique. 

maybe it’s something to do with the fact that the house is quite old—living up to such a history, as we know (as stefano pilati at ysl), can be more difficult, paying homage to the archives and maintaining a sufficient connection, whilst always moving forward, keeping things contemporary, than those designers who have nothing but their own vision on their hands. so, i don’t know, it just feels like we have to have that caveat in there somewhere.  as i’ve said before, it doesn’t seem right to judge all designers on the same, equal playing field when their stories are so different.  and with that in mind, we’ll turn to missoni’s f/w 2012 collection at milan fashion week, which to be generous i’ll admit showed some promise, while also acknowledging we should hear the others because this quite honestly just isn’t my thing.

wwd, for one, reported that “’(t)his girl is a metropolitan heroine who has a fantasy of fusing herself with nature,’ said Angela Missoni…’She’s rebirthing from the earth but sometimes she gets stuck.’ The odds of that statement translating on the runway seemed slim, until Missoni proved it with a fantastic lineup that illustrated her dreamy vision with improbably wearable clothes…fall is prime time for Missoni knits, here presented in remarkable fabrications, many of which are nearly impossible to explain, and narrow silhouettes that captured the urban sophistication Missoni was talking about…Though the earthy nature of the clothes was obvious, they were grounded in sleekness. Some of that was owed to impeccable styling — long leather gloves, skinny belts cinched under the bust, shoulders wound in tight ballerinalike wraps, shiny Latex turtlenecks and rich fur collars — that reeled everything in with polished control. As Missoni said, ‘You can’t let her dream too much or she’ll fly away.’”

but uk vogue was less convinced of the success rate, writing that “(i)t was earthy and natural in colour but contained in creation, with belts cinching in almost every look (lengthy cardigans over pencil skirts), but not at the waist – more as an empire line. This same idea of strapping came in stoles, too,…over tight knitted maxi dresses, some with shine woven among them and others made to create volcanic paisley shapes…Patchwork leather trousers in red amped up the urban and earthy feel, as did a blingy dress which, with its copper jangling strands, you could hear before you could see…It was, however, repetitive – with lots of variations on a version of the one before and the one about to come up, and could have done with a tighter edit.”

meanwhile, the washington post explained that “(w)hile the sleeveless dress and lightweight wraps could easily transcend seasons, Missoni also fortified the collection with winter-ready items such as stole wraps that snake around the body, knitwear coats with fur collars and fur hats that swirl around the head. Missoni also glitzes up the collection with sequins — a trend on the Milan runways — reaching for more natural hues of copper and silver…Jewelry was chunky and silver. In keeping with the naturalist theme, Missoni complements outfits with large crystal necklaces. Thin belts are worn right below the bustline, suggesting an empire waist. Footwear included boots with decorative panels in the back extending down to the thick heel — creating accents in gold, faux wood or the Missoni trademark knit — or similarly adorned high-heeled pumps.”

style, on the other hand, was back to the praise: “the collection was full of evocative details. One sinuous sheath was infested with beading that looked like pine needles. Another had a copper-colored design creeping across it, like a mineral seam running through soil. A dress was over-embroidered to look like wood grain, but it could just as easily have been the patterning produced over years by decaying leaves on a forest floor. The dégradé stripes on a shirtdress suggested sedimentation, another pattern evoked spreading mold. One of the most dramatic effects had a typical Missoni multicolored knit overwhelmed by creeping gray, like smoke spreading across a dawn sky.
A subtext to the story was protection. According to Angela, the Missoni girl needed to keep her heart warm, so there were stoles that tightly wrapped shoulders, as well as big fur collars.”

and us vogue proclaimed that “(t)here is always an independent spirit at the heart of a Missoni collection, and this season the rock in that girl’s roll was more an actual stone as opposed to The Stones. Everything sent down the runway had an earthy thread, quite literally, woven through it: A straight, knee-length skirt was knit in a pattern resembling tree bark, long-sleeved shirts had the color and markings of river rocks, and one fiery orange evening dress had a thick trim of beading that was intended to look like oxidation or as if some glittering, glamorous organism had attached itself to the piece. The accessories took a similar path. Giant quartz pendants on gold collars were there ‘to protect her and make her part of the universe,’ Missoni said, while the cool, tall boots had leather backs and stacked heels that were stamped to look arboreal. (If you were wondering what role the sleeveless, latex mock turtlenecks played, they were there to evoke water.)”

but only showstudio, i think, really got what i was feeling, and described it nicely, helping me to better understand the collection: “‘Like a heroine in a concrete jungle’. You hear some ridiculous things during fashion weeks. For instance, the idea that the Missoni woman ever encounters concrete – it may have been invented in Ancient Rome, but her fifteenth-century palazzo probably doesn’t contain any. The concrete jungle was, nevertheless, one of the inspirations behind Missoni’s…collection. One of very many – but the collection they combined to create had surprising chesty. Then again, Missoni’s heritage is one of the strongest of all in Italian fashion. Regardless of the season, regardless of the inspiration, you know the melange Missoni knits will make an appearance just as sure as the Missoni family will be massed on the stairs, clad in head-to-toe knits, ready to leap up and acclaim the models’ finale.”

“This time, those Missoni knits came in an autumnal palette,” they closed. “One dress whirled a selection of those together in three-dimensional velour embroidery that resembled that lacy knit-one purl-two. Texture offered the variety, from three-dimensional copper-sequin strewn knits through ponyskin and latex to ‘volcanic’ finale dresses where vermillion threads bubbled like lava through slate-grey stitches…Nevertheless, there was something about this show which dragged in a way that seemed out of place on the normally joyous and riotous Missoni catwalk. Perhaps it was all the rigour and control in those clothes which stifled the house’s trademark energy…But with the hindsight of a few hours, this collection looked great. It’s liable to look better and better as these very real yet covetable clothes hit the racks.”

(watch the full fashion show video here)

paris fashion week: anthony vaccarello

(images via ny mag)

certainly i’d like to celebrate the commencement of paris fashion week and all the sartorial delights it brings (it’s also a precursor to the delightful ukranian and japan fashion weeks), and i appreciate that the event planners or whomever have opted to allow things to begin with some smaller houses, letting them soak up a little attention before the big guns of lvmh and the gucci group get pulled out.  these things—and a remarkably stunning dress for s/s 2012 that recently appeared on the cover of harper’s bazaar—seemed to set the stage for good times for the gradually-fading-into-the-limelight belgian designer anthony vaccarello and his f/w 2012 collection. 

the problem, then (at least as i saw it) was the models.  now, some would argue that all publicity is good publicity, but with the well-known karlie kloss having taken the rest of the season off and suddenly appearing to open mr. vaccarello’s show—well, it essentially meant that no one was to talk (get a sense at the daily mail) of anything else (save the huffington post, which loudly proclaimed something about a newcomer falling during the final walk-through).  and although ms. kloss seems a nice enough girl, i have to say, i’m not sure what the big deal is.  true, she took a few catwalks off.  but she’s a model.  surely there isn’t something truly special in the idea of her turning up on the runway, especially considering the fact that we’ve repeatedly heard she might. 

now, you can smirk at the fact of my bringing it up too, and call my hypocritical, but my point is this: it’s troublesome when the runway models overshadow the designer himself, to the point where it’s difficult for me to find actual articles detailing the collection.  sure, i like some girls better than others, finding them especially adept at the work they do, but that’s because i find them good accessories of a sort—comfortable with taking a backstage position to the clothes, as it were.  and frankly i’m quite sad that more aren’t actually talking about mr. vaccarello’s designs, because they’re very good.  so much so that even ‘tired of sexy’ ol’ me was quite drawn in by his asymmetrical wonders that draped and spliced their way around the body, like little architectural feats with bits of rich colour and metallics for extra flash. 

anyway, as the oft-long winded vogue reported, “(b)ackstage before the show, Vaccarello said he was ‘thinking of a more tailored look, more covered, and then I found this bleu marine satin, and suddenly I just wanted to do the whole collection in it.’ Vaccarello certainly made wonderful use of a notoriously tricky fabric, allowing its richness to simultaneously soften and polish his lean, lean, lean look. He took archetypal masculine pieces—the parka, the blazer, the shirt—and reconfigured them so they retained the sense of the body underneath. Then he anointed them with all manner of subtle detailing, like utility zippers, banding, and seaming, and teamed them with skinny pants and narrow all-in-ones. (And he made use of a standout accessory, a gold-buckled bracelet that looked like a metallic version of a black leather fetish wristlet.)”

“Vaccarello,” they went on, “also said he had been considering classic fifties underwear, with beautifully worked corset skirts in that satin and black lamé with bands of black patent leather and silver fasteners, and incorporated the era’s pneumatic pointy bras into a series of tops that cleaved to the body with an array of straps. By that point, Vaccarello wasn’t only feeling blue, but also a gleaming, emerald-green techno synthetic and gold lamé, which managed to look both glamorously molten and effortlessly cool in the combination of a simple shirt and column skirt. This is a designer who loves a high-octane, ultra-sexy look, but—and this was much in evidence for fall—no matter how short, or tight, or skin-revealing it becomes, it always carefully walks a line that never becomes vulgar.”

meanwhile, style related that  “‘I wanted something more masculine, more strong,’ he said of his navy satin suiting pieces with their military vibe…the buttoned-up shirt, blouson jacket, and high-waisted pants [ms. kloss] wore prove that he’s not a one-trick kind of designer. Suits have gone mostly missing on the Fall runways, which gives Vaccarello an edge…The task he set up for himself for evening—marrying that tailoring with 1950’s lingerie shapes—was more difficult. To start with, his daring jumpsuits and dresses absolutely demand supermodel-caliber physiques. But even if you’ve been blessed in the bod department, their elaborate construction and cutouts make it tough to get the fit right. A too-tight hem meant a miniskirt rose scandalously high on its model’s thighs, and on some pieces, fabric bunched and puckered where it should’ve been smooth.”

“Still, his clothes are sexy as all get-out and modern-looking, too,” they summed up.  “The right magazines will want to shoot them, and the best celebrities will ask to borrow them. Couple those facts with the more commercial but still connected tailoring and we’d say Vaccarello is on his way to building himself a brand.”  these are excellent points, as is the part about a very select group of women being able to pull many of the pieces off.  but like those designers who opt for particularly conceptual creations, sometimes it’s not really about who will wear them as much as it is about respecting the craft of the designer, the skill in producing a garment we can marvel at much the way we would a painting.  and that’s what i like about mr. vaccarello’s collections, even as i frankly hope i won’t see some of these numbers in action about the city.

(watch a short collection video here)

berlin fashion week: dawid tomaszewski

(images via mbfwb)

and so…with this it would seem dawid tomaszewski’s transformation into the late alexander mcqueen continues.  in the past (see s/s 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012), i didn’t like to acknowledge it—largely because the former appeared to be steering clear of some of the latter’ signatures, but okay, this time—his a/w 2012 collection presented at berlin fashion week—i’ll admit homeboy had them going strong. of course the house of mcqueen doesn’t have exclusive rights to theatrical drama, as some people seem to want to contend, but mr. tomaszewski’s work for the fall went further than that, reaching into the very british elements, like smart tailoring and tartan, that constitute part of the lifeblood of the other house, coupled with the kind of bold styling and hair designed to shock, fluster…and eventually, awe. 

and interestingly enough, though i often see blog writers claiming one or another conceptual designer has similarities to mcqueen (when they often share no more than a bold and highly arty approach to fashion), i really think mr. tomaszewski flows in the same veins, thanks to his impeccable construction.  in other words, there’s really talent here, not just some lavish pretense at amazing with a lot of streamers and a kazoo, but an actual creative story to tell through clothes.  and although i certainly do see similarities between the houses, i don’t want to sell mr. tomaszewski short for the true craftsman he is. 

anyway, the the autumn show, titled ‘apocalypse,’ the blog rene schaller explained, was set against a projected backdrop of menacing clouds and a thunder-ridden lightening storm.  meanwhile, the german site open pr got hold of the label’s press release, which explains to us that the designer was especially inspired by the british artist john martin’s ‘apocalypse’ series of paintings, on display at london’s tate gallery. “John Martin vividly portrayed the destructive power of the world. The force of nature, but also the escalating progression of self-destruction, and the subsequent reflection and the understanding that we are destructive even by our actions. The destruction is followed by a fresh start – clean and clear,” (trans.) it read.

“Deconstruction as a concept also played an important part in the collection, ” it carried on. “Simple shapes can be manipulated by taking them apart, broken up into pieces, and as something new, modern rebuilt – The creation of new shapes and silhouettes. The reception of the earth with their colors and shapes completes the list of influences. Themes here were inspiring, the photographs of Hans Strand, whose works the violence and the beauty of nature. There was also the drama of the film ‘Tony Takitani’ by director Jun Ichikawa (based on the story by Haruki), took the impact on the collection. The story describes the feeling of loneliness and unhappiness. The film itself convinces with its own unique image aesthetics, composition and movement. The posthumous feelings are reflected in the collection. The Apocalypse, which has no religious connotation, as the end of being, as enlightenment.”

and as i suggested above, it was often the rich tartans mr. tomaszewski employed that evoked mcqueen for me, and the lovely colour palette seemed to find something in common as well.  i suppose i would call them earth tones, but they had a feeling of opulence about them, probably thanks to the rich pewter, slightly dulled gold, and silver sparkling between shades of olive, camel, black, gray, forest, and ivory (the blog fashion victress suggested ancient greece, and i can understand a bit of that, thanks to the bold neckpieces and hues the designer employed).  materials, writes german site news max, included leather, wool, cashmere, latex, knitwear, tartan, silk, metallics, and feathers, while swarovski crystals were applied as accents.

and like the house of alexander mcqueen is frequently eager to do, mr. tomaszewski went for some of the more lavish beauty looks i’ve seen of late.  the site primer & lacquer describes the elaborate braiding and twisting that went into the buns styled atop models’ heads, while they were given pale, washed-out and almost ghostly (or perhaps heroin-chic is coming back) faces.  meanwhile, i thought derzeit described things rather nicely in stating that “I’d describe this evening as a meeting of Alfred Hitchcock…with Grace Kelly…and Sherlock Holmes..As usual, Grace Kelly has an elegant and sophisticated style. The clear, cool architectural lines meet warm muted colors.” to be sure, there was a smart and classical quality to the clothes, and though there were plenty of smart, and almost preppy brit-style pieces, the styling almost belied this fact. 

and so, we faced a lot of refined structure coupled with decay and asymmetry, like a beautiful woman in a once-dramatic dress, now falling to holes and becoming quite ragged.  the designer spliced additional fabrics into his pieces, played with textures, transparency, colour-blocking, and geometric elements to help bring his city down about us, even as it prospered.  as with a traditional mcqueen show, what i so liked was that the collection offered something for practically everyone, from the likes of kate middleton to daphne guinness, and every sartorial need in-between.  if there was a problem, it was those tired leggings, which i rather find a forward-thinker like mr. tomaszewski ought have left behind a while ago. but overall, it was a beautiful story told by a clear and compelling voice, and ruminating on where his rise and rise will take us feels like a fitting way to thus close berlin fashion week.

(check out a short collection video here)