Identity is important in fashion – especially today, when there are so many clothes that all seem to look the same. The important thing for designers is distinguishing themselves and their wares from the rest of the flock.
So, no more Donna Karan. The company announced, via a press release on Tuesday night, that Karan herself would be leaving her current role as Chief Designer of the LVMH-operated brand that bears her full name, rather than just her initials. There will be no replacement: Donna Karan International will suspend its collections and catwalk shows (though not licenses). Who will fill Karan’s gaping slot on the calendar of New York Fashion Week? Well, someone already has, by default – there are about three simultaneous shows an hour on that sprawling schedule.
It’s fascinating that two of the most successful houses in contemporary men’s luxury are, possible, two of the most opposing: Givenchy and Hermes. There are similarities: neither are eager to change much, sticking to their established formulas and turning out collections that tick boxes, please the punters and rake in new devotees. But the latter has pitched itself as the epitome of luxury, appealing to a market so niche it’s barely a nick in the bedpost of modern menswear; whereas the former has the rag-bag quality of the mass. It’s like comparing a glass of Chateau d’Yquem 1789 to a glug from a bottle of the popular (and populist) British sparkling perry brand Lambrini. They’re different beasts, they appeal to different customers, but in the end they both just get you drunk.
Raf Simons is often eerily prescient. He couldn’t have known that truculent protestors would derail half the British press travelling to Paris on the day of his spring/summer 2016 show, by setting a fire at the French mouth of the Eurostar tunnel. Yet somehow, it fits. Simons clothes are about unrest. I don’t mean they’re physically uncomfortable, but they do have a sense of unease about them, even if its just in the watching. For spring, trousers swamped skinny legs with excess fabric, bodies were smothered in oversized coats peppered with buckshots of eyelets, and faces all but concealed by hoods tugged tight, pulled all the way down, in the fashion banned by many suburban shopping centres to avoid anti-social behaviour.
There’s still an odd, lingering Anglo Saxon puritanism, in Britain, where menswear is concerned. I couldn’t help but also notice the gangly unease with which the models in Topman Unique – the opening show of the four day London Collections Men calendar – gamboled down the catwalk, sinewy legs drowned in wide baggy trousers or sticking out of painfully abbreviated running shorts. They seemed a bit reticent, embarrassed even – which is sometimes the case with the menswear shows as a whole, lacking the confident swagger of the Milanese collections, for instance, which are set to begin on Saturday.
You know what I like about the pre-collections? Not the travelling (I’m lazy), nor the dinners (I’m anti-social), definitely not the jet-lag, frequently not the clothes – they’re often simple-minded, and, generally most aren’t any good from a critical standpoint. What I like though is the time. The time to look at said clothes, to ponder them, frequently to turn them inside out. The fact you get to step off the increasingly frenzied fashion treadmill and actually spent a chunk of your day thinking about what you’ve seen, rather than rushing to the next.
I’m never a fan of fashion journalism that talks more about the show than the clothes. It smacks of a writer reticent to offer an opinion, lest it offend (or perhaps, just unsure of what they really think, or what to really say). But, with the newly-minted Around The World In Eighty Looks format of pre-collection presentation, it’s unavoidable. Fashion houses want journalists to be awed by the financial might that can shift an entire industry across the world on a creative whim. Moreover, they want them to communicate that to their readers, reinforcing the strength of the designer and, perhaps most importantly, the security of the brand as a whole. That not only sells clothes – it also drives the share price up.
Despite a 5.30am alarm for a flight to Palm Springs Tuesday morning to see Nicolas Ghesquiere’s latest Louis Vuitton Cruise show (at the Bob and Dolores Hope Estate and inspired, in part, by The Hunger, apparently), I spent most of Monday late night engrossed in documenting and dissecting the fashion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala. As with many things, the primary arena for this is Twitter – a pithy 140 character rant about a like or, more often, a dislike, accompanied by a picture. Then onto the next. It’s become something of a yearly tradition in the fashion fraternity.
It’s really difficult to get fashion on film right – because it means so much to the people who love it, and is worthless to those who loathe it. Nothing will change those points of view – not extolling the hours of work poured into intricate clothes, not bandying about awe-inspiring figures about fashion house turnovers, not filming seamstresses weeping with emotion as their work is showcased, or possibly ripped to pieces. I personally fall into the former camp, so no matter how much you question the worth versus the cost or roll your eyes with puritan disgust at the vanity of it all, I won’t be swayed.
In Paris, food for thought at Miu Miu, Alexander McQueen and – maybe – Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane
Prada’s Miu Miu label have commissioned an ongoing series of film shorts, titled “Women’s Tales”, by leading female filmmakers. The latest is by Alice Rohrwacher. It’s number 9. The intention, Miu Miu say, in the lavish literature that’s issued out with each, is to answer a few timeless questions. “How do women appear to themselves? How do they appear to each other? Isn’t appearance also a political and intellectual issue? How should a woman be today?”
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