Saint Laurent’s Mystery Tour

Saint Laurent headed north for its A/W 2021 collection. About the exact locale, nobody knows other than – as a scouting and modelling exercise – it can’t have been very cosy.

The ouvre of the collection video is reminiscent of the 2012 Tom Cruise movie Oblivion: sweeping shots across grandiose plateaus and charcoal vistas and climbs. Anthony Vaccarello’s explantion that, “It’s the idea of a girl in a landscape where she doesn’t belong” partly matches themes from said film. But where Olga Kurylenko and Cruise pursued a return to Eden-like innocence via sci-fi action, Saint Laurent‘s girls are anchored in the secular terrain, no matter how damn cold their steel capped toes may be.

As a fashion ideal, the sparse/nature narrative runs counter to the likelihood that only very wealthy ladies in manufactured environs will wear these clothes (Kurylenko had a jumpsuit and a spaceship).

But muted colours and slivers of texture are where YSL usually takes off; metallic and muted hues [chartreuse, daikon green, burnt amber] that intergrate with and bleed from the landscape as they would a modern city, with enough suffused shine and edge that it rubs against the zeitgiest or the wilds.

Perhaps a return to the elements or a simpler ‘Eden’ is the less-is-more conclusion. YSL has always been skinny and cropped but here it’s more bare bones. Vaccarello talks about fun, but this is skimpy as deconstruction of the superflous.

Even existenially stripping is still stripping though; Vogue‘s Mark Holgate posited the look somewhere between [rock] goddess and post-punk disrepute, but is doesn’t take much imagination to see Mika Schneider in underpants as a provocation on France’s new consent laws, or at least an aggravation of the politics of sexual power.

The line is fine: these ‘runaway’ girls – none of them beyond a size six, with miniscule busts – look like they want to challenge the Lolita paradox: that they are nothing more than desirable, and nothing less than all powerful.

Or maybe they simply want to do their own thing. Tailleurs are a middle finger push-back at any prude criticism. YSL’s eternal combination of the ‘debacle’ with the sophisticated teases us with models who may have eloped sexual or polemic definitions, but those jackets let us know who’s running the show. Layers of necklaces and other jewels consolidate the sense of grabbing what they can before they escape. Cold weather makes short thrift. This scene is only temporary


NYFW – Towards a New Kind of Fashion Show

In the absence of conventional shows at NYFW, a number of alternative presentation models have been adopted with varying degrees of success: film shorts (Christian Cowan), runway shows sans audiences (Jason Wu, Raisavenessa) and capsule-like videos in static locations (Epimonia, The Blonds).

What most of these shows highlight is the extent to which – under normal conditions – the full show adds value. We generally think we’re at the show for the clothes, but lockdown challenges this presupposition; most attempts at something like normality fall short now. What’s needed (and only been partly attempted) is a new visual medium.

C+ Plus Series attempted a digitally enhanced techno fest that matched the sci-fi garb of its Asian models. Christian Cowan broke the mould (and the fifth wall) with a comical sketch featuring Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman that seemed part camp send up and only part fashion show.

Marcell Von Berlin just sounds serious, and the show (at an abandoned Malibu pad with panoramic views of sky and ocean) was also (ironically) weighted. But with a heavy duty techno soundtrack you got pop sultriness, even if none of the models turned out to be Dua Lipa. Outstanding colours, fine materials, a lack of compromise or toning down. It even verged on vulgarity (if not actual ugliness) from time to time. This is what I want in a fashion show – fusion with film to provide a visual feast that can stand without a crowd.


NYFW – How we Dress and Who we Dress For

NYFW has been noticeable for a number of reasons this season, some of them obviously related to the pandemic (the utilization of big, empty spaces) and some of them corollaries of it: irrespective that bigger designers and fashion houses always have more money to spend on lavish shows with impressive locations, what’s interesting now is how much difference the lack of a huge crowd makes in neutralizing ambience, ‘importance’ and a sense of occasion.

Other art forms have suffered similar modifications to the platforms and environs in which they are presented (film is the most obvious case in point – it was exclusively absorbed as a recorded medium and premiered in the public sphere) and pandemic restrictions have affected the communal aspect of much ‘artistic’ appreciation and validation.

The obvious point to take from this in fashion is that the ‘show’ experience is lessened, but also that the lack of an audience creates a more level presentational playing field, and draws the online viewer’s attention more directly to the clothes being presented.

Of course, a crowd, music and good lighting can help embellish and clarify themes that the designer wants to draw attention to. A lack of a crowd is also detrimental to those designers who don’t have a fortune to spend; smaller intimate venues (like studios or converted shops) need a throng of onlookers to create atmosphere in the absence of pricey production.

There’s also the argument that some designers –  like Prouenza Schouler – are better suited to a pared-down presentation because their clothes have an austere or simple vibe and/or because they’re more work-oriented. This is actually the case with a lot of New York designers.

Elsewhere this week, Bronx and Banco delivered a black-and-silver take on a girls-night-out that a Las Vegas Raiders cheerleaders’ party would envy. There was a sexy glad-rags element to the whole affair that would have been missing had a crowd been present.

So in general, I think that crowd-free egalitarianism is a good thing. But the absence of ‘external stakeholders’ (the press, buyers and public) poses additional questions about fashion in the digital, pandemic and environmentally conscious era: We’re moving into an era when many forms of travel for business and pleasure are becoming undesirable or unecessary; If we’re staying in more, and if nothing but a camera is physically present when we dress, then who are we dressing for? Eventually designers will grapple with this question through their clothes; until then, enjoy the show.


Spaced Out at NYFW Feb 2021

NYFW is very concerned with space this season. The shows are already notable as much for their choice of architecture as much for the clothes – Raisavanessa utilized post-modern metal and glass while Jason Wu opened his own ‘General Store’ in Noho. Both shows sans guests, of course. This emptiness only advocates a sense of iconography – models walking uncluttered catwalks (or in Wu’s case a showroom laid out like a vegetable market) have the effect of placing more emphasis on the clothes and of taking us back to a time when buildings in New York could be traversed – door to escalator – without having to turn to avoid someone coming the other way.

This works especially well at NYFW because the city matches – better than any of the other major fashion week –  its locations with its ideals. New York creates clothes for women who choose to work (why else would you be in Manhattan?) and Manhattan is physically, geographically right for fashion shows. Why use a purpose built gallery space or disused church when you can wheel the clothes hangers out and use your own studio or (during Covid) politely ask the cleaners and security to vacate and use an old bank.  

There’s a lot going on with designs too, of course. At RVNG the whole idea of bohemianism plays up the idea of having lots of time and money without needing to do anything. You could quite easily imagine these gorgeous creations being worn to a party in a time since-past or equally to the owner’s spare room. Of course people are still working, just not in their workplaces just yet and seeing beautiful people strut their stuff around Manhattan is something to behold.

Fashion Business Style Tips

5 Streetwear sites that actually represent the street

Generally the people at Vogue send a photographer to the shows each season just to snap all the trendy buyers and (fortunate) students on their way in.

These people are frequently wearing something notional from the country or label whose show they’re going to see – they’re dressed as an acolyte of Gucci or in the Chanel pants and floral tie they own, and – of course – they know fashion.

This is not strictly streetwear. It’s neither highly representational of what fashionable people wear around major city streets, nor is it especially inspiring (it is aspirational in a sense) or even true to the way the designers of those labels piece together their ideas – stealing, ripping and borrowing from their label’s respective history, what is going on in their head, what the client-base wants and what is happening on the street.

Streetwear that is informed by designer labels can be a valid contributor to a vital scene and to a vivacious sense of personal style. Sometimes it works in the opposite direction too: Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton has advanced a future synthesis by looking in all directions (geographically and chronologically) including the streets to create superb lines; The kind of collections that every authentic fashion follower dreams of achieving with at least one outfit.

But one of the problems with streetwear (or rather the term) is that it tends to encompass exclusively what street photographers are looking for when they prowl specific neighbourhoods looking for specific type of dress. It’s a little like creating a portfolio of New Yorkers with all of them being models; like expecting all of us to be able to afford and manufacture the LV look.

Yes, fantasy and costume has an important place in fashion and its streetwear incarnation, but the focus on brand-heavy, costumized clothing ideals is misleading on a number of levels.

It creates tropes about what ‘fashion’ people wear (and what non-fashion people can’t). It frequently expounds the virtues of dressing with money – a kind of philosophy of fashion in itself. And lastly and most harmfully, it creates a dialogue about fashion and the street that is completely out of tune with what the majority (and the extremely stylish minority) actually do wear, whilst placing an emphasis on extroversion.

Tokyo may have provided the underpinning for such a philosophy. The alleys of Harajuku are still a haven for streetwear afficionados and cosplay innovators, and the city as a whole is a place where moneyed working people will wear expensive luxury items well. Western streetwear practioners have, to an extent, embraced these values at the expense of their own cultural heritage and a more innate sense of personal style.

That’s not to discredit the immense value that Japan has brought to fashion; just that the West has misapropriated aspects of these forms of dress and self-representation, as I’ve outlined at length previously.

Street style is analogous to all style, as long as you’re wearing it on the street. It’s about an adherence to personal preferences of fit, colour and formality. It’s also a matter of attempting to maximize these elements without resorting to excess funds – in this sense it’s like a working project. It’s also never about following (either a designer’s philosophy or a crowd’s preferences), but leading.

The following five sites are examplars of promoting this particular philosphy of fashion insofar as they’re inclined away from showing only how people dress to and around fashion shows.

They are also interested to some extent in promoting the character and sense of personal style of the people wearing the outfits.

That’s not to say that there is anything particularly deep in this approach: all fashion is objectively viewed and subjectively experienced, but it’s important that fashion is not just allowed to parade as a name-checking exercise, and that people are shown attempting to style in a way that suits them (whether they succeed or fail in anyone’s eyes). Not partly succeed because they spent enough and tick the right boxes for a Vogue photographer.

Style Tips

Black – Out of the Darkness

Vivienne Westwood RTW Spring 2020

The equalizer, Black. The tone brings its own baggage and as well as you’ll say it (Saint Laurent says it best, for the record) – you have to say it right. Once a year it’ll get a glossy re-appraisal as if anyone really needed reminding what it might mean. This year, for example, Balenciaga were breathing like Darth Vader in an opium nightmare for Fall 2020. It didn’t bode well.

Black right now – bit of a faux depart. Looking back in time, for spring/summer it was the tone of political fermentation; clouds of discontent; contracts being forged against the common will.

You get the impression that when this things lifts, it’ll be colour that people are dancing to. But black will return, and may even be the best sombre re-entry point to a working world still trying to figure out how it feels.


Alberta Ferretti

You’ve been told a lot about contrast with black (black works best on those with darker complexions and hair), but understand that black and whatever colour your face and hair are provide their own form of contrast. The key to success is letting these elements play off each other and – if necessary – bringing something else to the show to help things along. 

Level of confidence is key. If you’re still a little self-conscious (with brown or blonde hair) then add some camel colouring to bring out your features or – better still – undo your top button and let your neck and upper chest be the paler frame. Shades or a tie can also bring out your natural colours.

In all honesty, those with jet black hair and olive skin do look better in black naturally, but they have less flexibility because all eyes refer to those monochrome essentials.

A problem with all of these inflections is that – eventually – you’re going to look like everyone else on the tube. With camel especially too, quality is of the upmost importance and – frequently – the people with enough cash to fork on camel look like bankers. Here’s a way to look different – buttons: for perhaps a total of £20 more you can snip of the generic plastic ones and go all black or metallic Swarovski or metal and look like you’re the kind of person who wears black because you have sophisticated blood, not because you want to look like you do.