A Thought for Fashion

A Blog for all Your Fashion Thoughts by George Fracasse

Tag: Clothing

The 100 Word Review: Lanvin Fall 2014

Texture, movement, darkness. These are the themes that resonated in Lanvin’s Fall 2014 collection. Alber Elbaz played with an alluring militant theme that wasn’t entirely obvious, but incredibly important.

 Hats adorned with marabou feathers were paired with ruffled skirts and frayed tweed jackets. This season, the tweed was oversized and nubby, shown in many sophisticated incarnations.

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 That feeling echoed throughout strong leather dresses, lax silk dresses, luxurious fur jackets, and skirts with enough flounce for even the danciest of wearers.

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The ending contrasted the staunchness of the beginning: fluid, poetic fringe dresses offered a cool factor.

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 The takeaway: darkened glamour.

Deee-Liteful and Deee-Gorgeous: Lady Miss Kier

Most people have heard of this infallible woman because of an iconic song her band recorded that rendered them a number one hit. Some have heard of her because of the iconic look she created for herself, subsequently effecting the current 90s revival that has taken over the music and fashion industries. Others, however, know her because she is the true definition of what it means to be a “forever icon.”

 I’m talking about legendary Kierin Magenta Kirby, better known by her stage name Lady Miss Kier, the music industries original first “lady.” Kier was the lead vocalist and creative director for good vibe inducing, deee-lightfult and deee-lovely, electro-dance pop band Deee-Lite.

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 Best known for “Groove is in the Heart”, an enormous hit in 1990 and beyond, Kier and the rest of Deee-Lite instantly became New York music royalty. Their work was set against the backdrop of a New York City that had the most incredible amount of gritty integrity offered by authentic artists, performers and designers who broke conventional rules of gender, sex and overall appeal. Deee-Lite brushed shoulders with the likes of Club Kids Michael Alig and James St. James, fellow icons like Diane Brill and RuPaul, and fashion designers like the wildly important Thierry Mugler, who instantly gravitated towards Kier and her distinctive style.

 Kier moved to New York City in 1982 at the age of 19 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, studying textile and fashion design. Kier go-go danced in nightclubs to support herself financially, which lead her to meet Ukrainian expatriate DJ Dmitry Brill. Brill would eventually place an order for silver platform boots and a glittery, blue spacesuit for performing in from Kier. The two hit it off, so much so they began dating, and with the addition of Japanese DJ Towa Tei, formed Deee-Lite.

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 Kier developed her look in a remarkable way that made her stand out from her peers. With her flaming red bouffant, often coifed in a short, elongated bob, and dramatic triple layer cat eye, Kier was highly distinguishable. Not to mention the revival of 60s and 70s trends that greatly mirrored Dee-Lites funky disco beats. Groovy flower power prints, John Lennon-esque sunglasses, flared pants, iconic Fluevog platform heels and the most ostentatiously bright Emilio Pucci jumpsuits all contributed to Kier’s aura. But perhaps the most important aspect of her look was the thick, 60s inspired Bridget Bardot like headband that you see Kier wearing in almost every picture, which inspired a craze of copycats from Chanel to Clueless.

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 Thierry Mugler began his journey as one of the most important and dramatic designers in 1973 when he presented his first collection dubbed “Café de Paris” which drew inspiration from the café society of Paris. His clothing garnered much attention and admiration for their cut and sophistication, which was typically shown in two pieces, such as a skirt or pant suit. His work was consistently ahead of it’s time, frequently pushing into boundaries of sexual and social extravagance that had been previously uncharted by other designers.

 Mugler’s women were often presented as severe caricatures of Hollywood vixens with a flair for the dramatic. Often combining that idea with a futuristic edge, the clothing had a corseted severity with dangerously exaggerated curves that elevated his work from prêt-à-porter to haute couture. The Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, which governs haute couture in France, asked Mugler to complete his first couture collection in 1992. His work as a freelance designer in the 70s delivered to him an abundance of success and he and his contemporaries, Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaïa, ruled the look of the 80s and early to mid-90s.

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 It’s really no wonder that Mugler and Kier were a match made in music meets fashion heaven. On August 7, 1990, Deee-Lite released their first studio album, World Clique. As summer collections are shown a year in advance, Mugler had the perfect opportunity to use music from Deee-Lite’s first album at his September 1990 Spring/Summer 1991 show. The show opened with Kier cooing over the backbeat of “What is Love?” The song is so irritatingly perfect for a fashion show, with its faux-French babbling and chic, onslaught of “ooh-la-la’s” that the show was instantly elevated to that of fashion spectacle.

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 Over the speakers came Kier, proclaiming her love of Mugler, stating “I love Paris, but unfortunately, I’m stuck in New York traffic.” The clothing was equally coy. The most coveted models, Iman, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, graced the runway wearing the chicest, most incredibly fitted army fatigue corsets. Some models had whip stitched, corseted safari jackets that were worn with tight, PVC like spandex pants. The girls paraded down the runway to Kier exclaiming, “Mmmm how do you say? / Deee-licious, deee-loveley / Deee-lectable, deee-vine? / How do you say? / Deee-gorgeous? / Deee-with it? / Deee-groovy? / Deee-vine?” almost as if asking the audience how to speak the chicest of French.

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 Again on March 13, 1991, the fashion world got another whiff of Deee-Lite and Lady Miss Kier. This time, however, Kier in addition to DJ Dmitry took to the runway for Mugler’s Fall/Winter 1991 show. Kier modeled one of the most ironic dresses Mugler ever created and what can only be described by modern standards as a “Furby” dress. Featuring two giant eyes that Kier controlled by pulling a lever, probably sewn into the corset of the garment, she had the capability to make the dress blink and wink at the audience. It was really brought to life, however, by the smoking lips purse that she carried with great enthusiasm.

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 Spring/Summer 1992 also included songs mixed exclusively for Mugler, like “Pussycat Meow”, which was from the bands upcoming second album Infinity Within, which would later be released on June 23, 1992. The song had a strong sexual undertone with Kier repeating “Pussycat, pussycat, pussycat, no! Pussycat, pussycat, pussycat ooh!” Deee-Lite said they were inspired by Mugler’s partial inspiration from the world of the Wild West and his infatuation with cowgirls, who made a number of appearances by way of tightly corseted, fringed out models. Kier and DJ Dmitry enacted the tease between two lovers perfectly on the runway, dancing and leading each other on in the chicest way possible, elevating their black, corseted looks to that of a musical performance on the runway.

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 Mugler and Kier continued a close relationship. Mugler continued to use Deee-Lite’s music on the runway and Kier continued to wear Mugler, most prominently in the music video for “Good Beat”, a song that literally forces it’s listener onto the dance floor, wherever that may be. And if the idea of a forever icon is someone that transcends both trends and time, then both Mugler and Kier were not only ahead of their time, but two creative geniuses that epitomize the ideals of a forever icon. Two people who always had a good beat in their head and groove placed firmly in their hearts.

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Dolce and Gabbana: Dreamingly Dramatic

Fashion is frivolous. There it is. I laid it out for you. You’ll never question the existence of it again. Plain and simple, it serves no real greater good. Feel bad yet? Well don’t. Sometimes even I find it hard to grapple with that very important fact. Fashion serves no real purpose other than satisfying our sartorial cravings for something so utterly disposable, it just barely makes sense.

It may seem like I’m contradicting my earlier assertions that modern fashion is driven by the idea of intellectual dressing, and as a trend, minimalism. While those two factors are significantly important, I may have lied. Just a little.

You see, with anything, what comes up must also come down. So it’s no wonder that trends, no matter how popular or unpopular, also come and go. What I’m not saying is that intellectual fashion and minimalism are headed for the guillotine. Quite the contrary. But at some point, excess will have to once again rule supreme. People are going to desire the drama and extravagant vision that poetic fashion can offer and once did.

Once upon a time, fashion was unapologetic. Fashion poised itself as the dream of unattainability, usually viewed through the grandiose runway expressions of a creative impresario. The dream of the designer was then the thrill of the hunt, leaving the consumer longing for the most delicious and frothy pieces that only so few could afford to purchase or even dream of locating. For others, the dream was museum exhibits or makeshift versions of runway looks, often left on the imaginary runway floor that one conjured in their hallways.

For me, part of the dream was fashion editorials. It offered an escape from reality. Models became characters, often masquerading as chicly coiffed nymphs laying around in the most dazzling settings wearing the most dazzling clothing. Flipping through an editorial was like watching a silent movie, each page telling a different story that left a memorable impression. For me, it was the February 2007 edition of Elle that left a lasting impression on my mind’s eye. The editorial was aptly named “High Definition” for obvious references to the future of fashion. The model in one image in particular was wearing a corseted bodice dress from Dolce and Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2007 collection. Turned away from the camera, and sporting a high ponytail, the image focused on the slick, metallic shine of her dress, reflecting the yellow background in a manner that enhanced the dress’s dangerous, unnaturally enhanced curves. And if sex appeal has ever been considered subtle, then it was in the thick black lace that held her so tightly compressed within her dress.

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I suppose it’s comforting to know that almost 7 years later, Dolce and Gabbana is one of few fashion houses still dreaming. Some may say that Dolce and Gabbana’s recent love affair with Italy and Sicilian cinema is overbearing, as the design-duo have been toying with the theme since 2010. But what’s so bad about sticking to a theme? Isn’t there something uniquely interesting about making the same shapes look different every season? I find that idea enduring. For Spring/Summer 2014, the duo designed a poetic nod to ancient Sicilian interaction with Greece. The ancient ruins turned column dresses into literal column dresses, printed with sepia toned images of the historic landmarks that turned the wearer into a walking history lesson.

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 Three dresses in particular were a frivolous testament to the beauty of Sicily’s cherished almond branch flower. The dresses appeared in creamy chiffons embroidered with the most delicate flowers, appearing as if just hanging on by a thread, teetering with the possibility of being blown off it’s branch in the spring wind. You could easily see these dresses floating down the southern coast of Agrigento, where each February a festival is held in honor of the flower, welcoming the arrival of spring. One dress in particular featured an oversized Roman coin as a belt. Practical? No. But this type of fashion is made for one very important reason: dreaming.

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 One of the most stunning dress from those frivolous beauties was cut close to the body, with enormous dolman sleeves embroidered in the same almond branch flower as the frothy chiffon dresses. The only difference was that this dress was cut in a soft, off white cotton and trimmed with a print that harkened back to the symbols and motifs used in Italian Renaissance pottery and textile. Historically, the ancient patterns represent various ideals such as strength and wisdom. Perhaps it was a testament to the strength and wisdom of the Italian women who are empowered by wearing this type of dream-worthy clothing.

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But it wasn’t all a history lesson. Some dresses in the show featured a modern approach to dreamy dressing. Laminated and done in bright hues, such as lime green, the dresses were hand-painted with the likeness of the same almond branch motif that appeared on earlier dresses.

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This type of approach taken by Dolce and Gabbana didn’t make luxury and sophistication feel forced, but did succeed in offering a break from the overbearing thought of a world dressed like minimalists. And while the women who wear clothing from Céline and Dior may differ than that of Dolce and Gabbana’s muse, the message is the same: strong women, the kind of women whose strength is equal to that of a Roman colosseum.

Let’s Talk About Minimalism

Minimalism is one of the most important and impactful trends to come off the runway in the last four years. In my personal opinion and as a fan of Phoebe Philo, Céline’s Creative Director since 2008, her work can indeed be viewed as backlash to the frivolity that ruled the runways before global financial ruin.

 The people who could afford the designer look were no longer interested in wearing their wealth literally on their sleeves. Instead, they favored something with minimal logos and quiet sophistication that would render the clothing indecipherable. It may seem like a generalization, but they no longer wanted to stand out. What they wanted was to blend in. The only difference is that they wanted to blend in still wearing their designer duds.

 The irony is, however, that what Philo probably started as an understatedly chic venture has turned into a global phenomenon. Legions of fans covet her Phantom and Luggage tote bags, even those who don’t necessarily prescribe to a minimal mode of dressing. Kanye West wore her silk blouse from Spring/Summer 2011, which surely didn’t help her quest for quiet chic either:  it landed her and the brand she revived on the tongues and backs of every rapper in “the game.” Not exactly the type of brand loyalty Philo was cruising for.

 But none of that really matters. As a luxury brand, the commercialization of good, intellectual fashion is bound to occur. What really matters is Philo’s point of view for the women she actually dresses. Philo’s idea of minimalism for her Spring/Summer 2014 show was seemingly anything but minimal, however, and that may not be such a bad thing.

 If minimalism is about subtracting excess, focusing the attention onto cut and fabrication, then the prominent idea here was bringing minimalistic shapes into a maximalist perspective. Emphasis was given to one of the most interesting aspects of the show: oversized tunic tops paired with pleated handkerchief skirts. The tunics came in various incarnations: some featured enormous dolman sleeves, the model entering the garment through a small collared zipper. Others were as easy as pulling on a t-shirt to wear. What made them abrasive and difficult wasn’t so much the shape, but the addition of Hungarian photographer Brassaï’s wildly visual tribal graffiti prints found in Paris in the 1930s.

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 The knits in the collection were easily some of the most interesting and wearable looks to grace the runway. Knit polo tops in contrasting primary colors, often elongated and worn over a skirt, were the most simple and enduring ideas presented by Philo. One swing skirt received a modern transformation with the addition of softly folded fabric, cascading from the hip. Another knit top was shown in a halter style with a cobalt blue swing skirt, offering an ease and cool factor missing from other looks in the show.

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 Where the show felt cluttered and overwrought with idea was when we saw the introduction of asymmetrical tops and oversized, baggy sweaters. The asymmetrical tops were too much, pushing into a category of complex silhouettes that few women could even fathom figuring out how to wear. It can be said for one sweater in particular that seemed to swallow its wearer whole. Not a good look. Not even on a model.

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 My personal favorite look from the show was a tailored overcoat in black wool with grommets enameled in white, yellow, red and navy blue.  Worn with white trousers and a tartan turtleneck, the look picked up exactly where Philo left off with the smartness of her Fall/Winter 2013 show. It was chic and easy to wear, offering a lax sophistication in tailoring that would have been helpful had it been spread a little more amply throughout the show.

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 What we should take away from a bold show like Celine is simple: we shouldn’t be afraid of a challenge. The clothing may not be the most wearer friendly, but the ideas here are. Clothing isn’t something to be hung on a wall and admired like a piece of fine art. Clothing is meant to be worn, not put on a pedestal that aims to deem it more than it really is. In all circumstances, it should be treasured and loved, but not viewed as something holy. It’s the moments we have wearing our clothing that are the best and most enduring ideas.