kazakhstan fashion week: salta

(images via cosmopolitan)

as i’ve said before, because this is only opt’s third endeavor covering almaty’s kazakhstan fashion week, we don’t know any of the designers especially intimately, and thus, are still trying to figure a lot of things out.  for example, we’ve seen designer saltanat baymuhamedova (Салтанат Баймухамедова) with her label salta channeling the 1970’s yoko ono (s/s 2012), the model twiggy in the 1960’s (f/w 2012), and for her latest show, s/s 2013, something wholly different—cosmopolitan explained that (trans.) “(t)ource of inspiration [was] the male Arab dress,” leading to a range that “for the first time…
appeared unisex.”

now. i want to hasten to point out that i really liked ms. baymuhamedova’s work for spring, with its ethnic-leaning patterns and pops of bright in the headwraps the models sported, the long flowing robes, and asymmetrical hemlines, but by the same token, it was completely different from the prior salta work we’d witnessed.  indeed, had i not been told, i would easily have believed this to be the collection of a different designer, and although one could maybe argue certain boho leanings tying this show together with her spring work of a year ago, even that would be rather tenuous (and especially if bringing in fall’s presentation for comparison).

anyway, we didn’t get a lot of background on the collection, although the kazakh site hush hush did opine that (trans.) “(t)he collection immediately evoked associations with the photographer Yan Ray – all in his avant-garde style,” before relating that “accompanied by a mysterious shaman soundtrack,” we witnessed the designer “work(ing) with shapes and layers” and presenting such items as “dresses to the floor, capes designed with hoods, turbans, and pom-pom necklaces.”

admittedly, it didn’t make the most accessible array, particularly given the two prior collections of ms. baymuhamedova’s that we’ve lately discussed, and in a palette of taupe, black, moody assorted grayscale tones, white, and indigo accentuated with the aforementioned bold bursts of pumpkin orange, neither was it especially spring-like.  alors.  cosmopolitan reported that range materials included cotton and viscose, with the turkmen website look adding that leather and felt were used to fashion the accessories, which included (trans.) “bold leather boots and…hats, fingerless gloves, clutches and wide scarves.”

for the most part, i’d call the collection pieces fairly amorphous, seeking to cover and protect the body more than show it off, and although from a creative perspective, i think we can always find appreciation for cultural inspiration, it can be curious to draw on clothes that are so clearly created for functionality only in a situation that then pits these designer items against that which is…fashion first. does that make sense? now, i really don’t mean that to criticize, as, again, i liked what salta was presenting, but i also realize that i’m in the minority as far as appreciating the sartorial value of robes goes, and, especially when we put this show in the context of so many other kfw designers (as mikhail kravets) showcasing lovely evening gowns…well frankly, ms. baymuhamedova is likely to have a hard time of it.

yet that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate ms. baymuhamedova’s work from a purely aesthetic, artisan standpoint, and although her work in the past hasn’t particularly suggested she is that kind of designer, it doesn’t mean that’s not what she meant to explore for spring. with an ever-increasing number of designers seeking to destroy (or at least question) traditional gender roles through their work (many, though i’d say probably the german patrick mohr is the best well-known), it very well could be salta aspires to be the latest to join in the conversation, but we may well simply not have aspects of the dialogue needed to continue.  it represents an interesting thought, however, and i’d like to see more intelligent women designers’ takes on this intriguing discourse into the future (check out the lookbook photos at season & additional runway show images at mini kazakhstan blog).

(see a kazakh video interview with the designer here)

updated: with new images

chanel pre-fall 2013

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(images via style)

often enough over the past couple of years, we’ve seen karl lagerfeld at the house of chanel hit the various highs and lows that i guess we can probably expect out of one who has been at the helm of a top french label these many, many years now, and it has, quite honestly—though i always seem to get sent packages of shrapnel upon declaring so—left me wondering a bit whether perhaps homeboy has reached the acme of what he can do, and whether it might all be rather staccato in nature from here. 

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and yet!  couture aside, the ready-to-wear element of the label, however much we’ve seen it swung from clipped highs to lows (see a/w 2010, resort 2011, s/s 2011, pre-fall 2011, a/w 2011, resort 2012, s/s 2012, pre-fall 2012, a/w 2012, resort 2013, s/s 2013), i think i’ve learned that the designer can still surprise me yet.  with his pre-fall 2013 range, which was presented in the rather unexpected locale of edinburgh, of all places (linlithgow palace, to be precise), seems to suggest that he’s still got a few cards left to play (or who knows?  maybe a whole pack).

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and, as ny mag went on to describe of the venue, “Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, is now partially roofless, and there were snow flurries during the show. (To keep people from getting blue-lipped and shivery — not chic —  Chanel constructed a temporary wooden canopy over the audience and put lap blankets at every seat.) Meanwhile, there were crackling fires in what looked like large metal trash cans, and tunic-wearing waiters served whiskey and smoked salmon. “

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i suppose i ultimately find it so interesting because it feels like rather an upset for mr. lagerfeld, and one that suggests he may still have yet more of an artist’s heart than i’ve been inclined to believe. first, because many of the pre-collections these days have been valentines to those regions growing in wealth: china and india, for example, and i’m not necessarily just talking about chanel (we’ve seen christian dior, for example, do it, too), so i was more than a little surprised to see the house turning up in scotland; an area that may well be very beautiful and creatively enticing, but not necessarily thought of as where the ‘new moneyed’ class is living, either.

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and, furthermore, i find it a bit perplexing (as it is simultaneously lovely) because we these days aren’t as accustomed to seeing mr. lagerfeld mining…shall we saw, hmmm…less obvious culture for his collections? that isn’t at all to suggest he doesn’t create some magnificent clothes centered around some enticing themes—merely that i’m just more accustomed to seeing him pay his homage to more, er (and i know i’ll be roasted no matter how i say this), overt inspiration, like mick jagger, the ocean, or fritz lang. 

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and yes, children, you can tell me as loooong as you like that mary, queen of scots isn’t, like, unknown, and you’re certainly correct in that, but i’ll raise you one by suggesting that we haven’t exactly seen a lot of collections inspired by her, either.  yet how many have we seen based on mr. lang’s film metropolis, for example (besides other chanel collections, versace’s s/s 2012 hc, givenchy’s s/s 2012 hc, and jean paul gaultier’s a/w 2012 hc, to name but a few), and hopefully we shouldn’t even have to get into how much mr. jagger or oceanic themes have crossed the mood boards of various ateliers in the last handful of seasons. 

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and yeah, if you want to tell me the tudor period has been in the air for a while, with various books (both nonfiction and historical fiction) and films based on the era floating about in popular culture, i’ll grant you that.  but still, it wasn’t the most obvious choice for mr. lagerfeld, nor locale, nor aesthetic, frankly, for the show (what with the layers of cold weather wear, something that he doesn’t usually fervently embrace with the kind of zeal he has here), and for that, props are given courtesy of opt.  take it up with the complaints department if you’ve got otherwise to say. 

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and with that….let’s to the clothes, yes? alors.  according to style, “(t)he tweeds, the knits, the cardigans, the man-styled essence of Chanel all came from Scotland and the time that Coco spent there with her lover the Duke of Westminster. But tonight’s venue was Linlithgow Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was born almost exactly seven centuries ago, and her tragic life gave Lagerfeld the perfect opportunity to gloss Chanel’s easy pragmatism with an element of doomed romance. It was a fantastic combination.”

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“Maybe that’s because it was kind of personal for the designer. The first French poem he ever learned, at the age of six, was all about Mary. Then there’s that umbilical connection between Scotland and France, which history recognizes as the Grand Alliance…there was something quintessentially Scottish in the air. ‘Barbarian romance,’ Lagerfeld called it. Linlithgow’s courtyard was lined with flaming braziers, spitting sparks into the snow flurries. Guests made their way up spiral stone stairs to the palace’s great hall and chapel, open to the heavens since marauding Hanoverians torched the building in January 1746,” they prattled on.

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“After the show, they made their way back down a labyrinthine wooden construction to dinner in a tented fantasia that had hardened souls gasping with wonder. This was the irreality that a fashion show transported us to in December 2012. It sure beats coal mining for a daily crust. With impressive ease, Lagerfeld translated the sense of occasion into something that grandly allied Chanel’s original Parisian proportions with Scottish tradition. Picture Stella Tennant in a drop-waisted kilt-pleated coat. But also imagine that kilt in chiffon and lace. And the tartans and tweeds, the Fair Isles and argyles that would have garbed lords and ladies of the glen reconfigured in languid knits and patchwork, layered in swingy jackets, accessorized as delightfully with jewels, feathered hats, flowing scarves, and patterned tights as one could wish from a collection,” they continued. 

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and finally, the site concluded that “(t)rue, there were a few costume-y moments, in which it looked like the models had slithered straight off a canvas in the National Gallery of Scotland. A final passage of white wool gowns touched with lace and feathers, meanwhile, was an almost operatic exercise in pure technique. There’s always the sense with Chanel that Lagerfeld shows much more than he needs to, and that was the case here. Still, this was a sterling collection of clothes for a day you can only imagine being a hell of a lot better than the one that will greet you tomorrow morning.”

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“The words Lagerfeld used to describe the collection were simple: ‘Cruel romance.’ The reference was both to the history of the venue, which was the place that Mary Queen of Scots was born and lived before her half-sister Elizabeth had her beheaded,” chimed in harper’s bazaar. “‘Lets tweed again,’ Lagerfeld joked — referring to his use of the Scottish cashmere company Barrie knitwear, a recent Chanel acquisition — of a show that started in layers of knits and argyles and all manners of Scottish heritage dressing before wondering into a finale of cream colored dresses, each more fantastical than the next.”

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and they yammered on that “Lagerfeld was quick to point out; he didn’t want a costume element to the show. (That explained the lack of kilts in the show, which many assumed would be a shoe-in…) 
Also of note: it was a heel-less collection. ‘It’s a stiletto-free collection. In the highlands, it wouldn’t be right. Besides, the flat is, to me, a form of overt sophistication,’” before they went on to tell us how fabulous the after-party (that none of us were invited to, of course) was.  oh, aren’t we sorry to have missed it?!

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right, then.  anyway.  “Highland haute formed his Royal bloodline – from fur-trimmed moccasin boots to piles of slouch-knitted house bouclés, Fair Isles, tweeds, and cashmeres,” declared art info. “He also explored a vaguely Indo-Anglo terrain – gorgeously, in one case, with a kaleidoscopic pheasant-feather breastplate over shredded tulle shoulders and sheered bell-sleeves. It’s probably very easy to become sartorially defeatist in the dead of a Scottish cold snap, but Lagerfeld skated around the doldrums by imbuing both vivre and richness in his lineup – swinging his legs just over the castle’s edge, toeing the moated waters of costume territory.”

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“Lagerfeld pumped no breaks regarding his showmanship, exhibiting once again that surplus is to be expected…upon inspection, one couldn’t help but to notice Cara Delevingne’s loose-collared sweater, ringed in salmon yarn with a body of trellis-cabled ivory knit, or local Stella Tennant’s opening-look crystal embellishments on a nicely blocked tartan and navy overcoat. Romance was the key here (Karl even said so himself), but it didn’t feel steeped in anything archival – save for the show’s setting, the site of the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Rather, the romance inherent sprung from that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of coziness,” they carried on.

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meanwhile, the predictably chatty vogue declared that “(t)he interweaving of the threads of a double history—gutsy, outdoorsy, layered casualness played off against high Elizabethan-accented ruffled necklines, doublet corsets, and ballooning sleeves—gave the ‘Paris-Édimbourg’ collection a multidimensional groundedness and authenticity. All the girls walked in flat boots, wearing modern variations on kilts, tartan trews, and Chanel suits, the shapes recalibrated with short puffy skirts and the necklines tied in chicly exaggerated silk cravat bows. Broken down, there were tons of shoppable bits and pieces, too: chain-circled, tam o’shanters, bags shaped like miniature sporrans, hip flasks or poacher’s pouches, funny argyle tights, chunky Fair Isle scarves, and gauzy plaid throws.”

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For anyone with an eye for a Scots lassie, the show had another sub-twist: it was opened by the daughter of a Scottish sheep farmer—none other than Stella Tennant….A born tweed freak, Stella is passionate about the craftsmanship of the old established cashmere makers of Hawick, near her home in the Scottish borders. Chanel has just bought the Barrie Knitwear factory in the town, ensuring the employment of 180 local workers.  The purchase of Barrie Knitwear secures another foundation from which Lagerfeld can dream up wondrous special effects, like Lesage embroidery he used to mimic Fair Isle stitching on mousseline twin sets for evening, or the cabochon jewels set into belts, chokers, and brooches by Goossens gold jewelry, or the pheasant-feathered breastplate by LeMarie.”

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and they concluded that “for all the surrounding spectacle—with the castle, the pipers, and the glass citadel built for dinner, it was of an order to boggle minds—the best thing was that the clothes simply served as a reminder of what’s made Chanel great all along. That started, of course, when Coco Chanel’s lover the Duke of Westminster initiated her into tweed hunting and fishing jackets and cashmeres, Fair Isles, and Shetland knits in the twenties—she often purloined her lover’s clothes to wear on their Scottish Highland holidays.”

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and finally, children (although vogue australia does have a nice formula on how to achieve the show’s beauty looks, should you so desire), wwd announced that “‘It’s the idea of Scotland, the mix of Coco Chanel and Mary Stuart — two queens of fashion,’ Lagerfeld mused in his witty fashion, hastening to add that the French designer “had a better end” than the Franco-Scottish monarch, who was convicted of treason and decapitated in 1587. ‘The idea of the 16th and 17th centuries, and modern sportswear,’ Lagerfeld said of his freewheeling mix of Renaissance silhouettes juxtaposed with jaunty shorts or plus fours, argyle-patterned hose and Dr. Martens-style boots.”

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“Lagerfeld played with iconic Scottish styles like the kilt, transforming it into peplum jackets, coats with swagger and soigné evening skirts in black crepe de chine, banded in lace. Robust tweeds came in exploded patterns and multiple textures, always custom-made to Chanel’s specifications and often embroidered to make it well-nigh impossible to copy. Lagerfeld made them young and fetching in blouson and cardigan shapes, either billowing or taut. The show climaxed with a parade of sleepwalking damsels in ivory sweater gowns and lingerie-inspired tops, dresses and skirts in peach satin. An ivory sweater with a stand-up collar and tufts of feathers at the shoulders was shrugged over a frothy lace gown.” and it was absolutely spectacular.  non? (see additional runway images at w magazine)

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(enjoy the full show video here)

moscow fashion week: yulia nikolaeva

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(images via intermoda)

so i’ve had an ongoing love affair of sorts (okay, it mostly just involves me pining over her clothes from afar) with yulia nikolaeva (Юлии Николаевой) since opt was first introduced to the brand almost three years ago (see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012), and when faced with her s/s 2013 range presented at moscow fashion week (or one of them; there are so many, i have trouble keeping track and tend to lump them together as one lone entity), i found myself disappointingly less enraptured.  i mean, it’s yulia nikolaeva, after all, so there was still plenty for me to love, but…maybe i found this, save for a couple of fantastic exits, her least thrilling of the above stated grouping of seasons.  sigh.

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anyway, interestingly enough, when i turned to the inet to find the various critical rejoinders, it was surprisingly lacking, especially given that i generally find these kids wanting to babble on about this particular designer’s work.  is it because they too were a little disappointed? for instance, the russian site prekleem rather cryptically remarked that (trans.) “(e)ven a wise man stumbles,” before going on to say not much else.  so, like…yeah.

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for the upcoming spring, ms. nikolaeva opted to line her catwalk with grass, a charming enough proposition, especially as she’s human enough to allow her models to tote their footwear along in their hands, rather than force them to stride along in heels or something (although this being yulia nikolaeva, there aren’t a lot of those about, anyway), and although no one really addressed theme in their write-ups, it felt a lot like one of stella mccartney’s picnic stagings or something, yannow, her signature ‘appreciating nature, friends, and family,’ or that sort of thing she so loves to do.

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so.  as the russian site adensya reflected, we were in for (trans.) “(a) riot of colour, brighten(ing) the image, and adding charm.” as we are all aware, homegirl loves patterns, though she never strays far from simple cute, and this time around, her signature nautical-esque stripes (in assorted thicknesses and running both vertically and horizontally, often in the same look) were teamed with cheery florals, plaids, and some kind of handwriting print.

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these were all cast alongside some major colour-blocking, in a bevy of hues that basically touched all the springlike ones we can think of (green apple, aquamarine, cotton candy), plus the various neutral shades (beige, white, pale gray, black) we see so frequently chez nikolaeva. as ever, the story felt breezy, and much like her girls were on their way to chillin’, lazing along as they went, with the pieces all quite appearing as though they were meant to be worn together, regardless of whether we’d have known to do so going in.

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anyway, the proceedings were nicely summed up by the russian website modnyj-mir as full of (trans.) “(s)imple silhouettes, contrasting blocks of colour and the usual ‘sea’ strip – almost autograph of the designer. Light, comfortable clothing that permits movement and allowing a woman to feel free. Even the image of a modern dandy reading in Yulia Nikolaeva gets a kind of aristocratic relaxation: a wide jacket, slacks and untucked shirt.”

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indeed, as ever, the collection was filled with a bevy of classic separates, all done up in nonchalant yulia nikolaeva fashion: trousers with just the right amount of slouchy, lightweight springy trenches, easy summer dresses, button-up shirts and breezy t-shirts.  some of the jackets appeared to have the same sort of raffia fringing that adorned the hoods and collars of similar pieces at the s/s 2012 burberry show. and to coordinate, of course, were, as face-2-face mag points out, those (trans.) “wooden sandals, which models were carrying.”

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on the subject of accessories, as of course, we are aware that’s something of a strength for the designer, intermoda related that (trans.) “(i)ndividual attention [was give to] accessories – ‘wood’ bags and clutches on the side, which were ‘eco-friendly’ and stylish. Necklaces (not all, but most) were also, and the wooden sandals.” and really, upon further inspection, i did like the accessories—in particular the larger and medium-sized wood-grain looking totes, and the chunky ringed necklaces, while i can see other nature-type girls being all over those wooden sandals and bracelets and the assorted clutches.  the perfect thing to wear with your reusable water bottle, right?

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in the end, although there were a few occasions to really get me out of bed—i especially liked that black-and-green blocked dress with the long, striped black-and-white sleeves, which reminded me a little of something a pissy little mid-nineties eighth-grader would wear thinking she was just the coolest (and honestly, so totally would i)—i guess i just couldn’t get up the passion for the range as in seasons past because a lot of it looked like stuff we’ve seen before.  true, ms. nikolaeva never really rocks the boat with totally avant-y creations, but then, she usually puts her own quirky little spin on things.  and here, i felt like she was just phoning it in with separates she drudged up from old navy and goodwill circa 1995. and i expect more from her.  but then, she won’t disappoint for long, i don’t believe, and i’m still madly looking forward to next season.  and until then, i’ll have that one rockin’ dress, right? (see additional runway snaps at procapitali$t)

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(watch the full collection video here)