Inside out: a deeper look at Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Craig Green
I think good fashion should intrigue you. The catwalk impact is one thing – and very important – but the best designers make you want to grab a garment, turn it inside-out to try and figure out how the damn thing is made. That’s what I mean by intriguing. It should make you want to learn more.
The trouble is that so many designers today create clothes purely for their immediate visual impact. Of course, some people do that very cleverly – look at the visual play of Miuccia Prada’s spring 2011 multiple multi-coloured stripe sweaters on style.com. That’s no coincidence.
Oddly enough, the words Miuccia Prada used to describe her womenswear collection that season, “Minimal Baroque”, were echoed by Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche today (that’s just an interesting aside).
You got the feeling Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy was just playing to the crowd – the crowd of baying, rottweiler-branded fans, rather than the fashion crowd. There was a mixed reaction to his print-heavy offering. Some saw it as a commercial goldmine, but I don’t think anyone, honestly, could see it as fresh, new or really exciting.
I had no urge to find out anything more about those garments. It was all there, they were all surface. There’s a clever Baudrillardism about male objectification I’m sure, but that would be to over-intellectualise. Broken down, this was a show of sweatshirts, sweatskirts, sweatshorts. Who gets that sweaty? I’d rather exercise my mind.Givenchy jarred with the season because that idea of getting inside a garment, underneath its metaphorical skin, has been a persistent and recurrent motif. I’ve lost count of the number of inside-out jackets we’ve seen, exposed seams decoratively bound to force their prominence. Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons peeled layers away, panels fraying and falling at the shoulder to expose other fabrics, like wallpaper layers separating. There were also multiple lapels, double jacket fronts and many layers of shirts dangling at the back. You couldn’t really figure out what was going on. You’ll have to put them on to wrap your head around all that wrapping.
It’s been especially interesting to get up-close with two collections this week – Kim Jones’ Louis Vuitton show, and the collection presented in London by Craig Green, which is now in Paris as part of the British fashion Council’s London Showrooms for sales.
Jones’ Vuitton is of course the height of luxury, but his instinct is to make luxury do the work, rather than just weighing a garment down with garish details. As always at Vuitton, the bags provided a neat summary: inspired by sports bags, leather hold-alls had a Damier pattern drilled into them by hand. The idea, Jones said, wasn’t just visual, but to make the leather breathe, to make it behave like a nylon sports bag. I also loved the tiny gewgaws Jones had expert craftsmen create. Unfortunately the exceptional feather field-flowers by Lemarié weren’t present at the press re-see following the show, but you could inspect the silver harmonicas inlaid with semi-precious stones, and the tuffetage embroidery on the seemingly-simple field jackets. You could also paw at all the crocodile.
Up close, there are surprising details in Craig Green’s collection – the differences in the way fabrics have taken his tie-dyeing technique, for instance, or the subtle variations between fabrics dyed on the roll or when crafted into garments. His artfully unravelling sweaters, for instance, were dyed in their entirety, to get the loose threads right. And the ribbing detail is knitted separately, tacked on by hand to appear unravelling. There’s something really great about a designer considering those tiny details. They make the difference.
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