Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In honor of the news that select Italians may be rescuing Signore Lacroix from his near bankruptcy, I scampered off yesterday to finally see the Valentino docudrama with my lovely and dearest friend, Colleen.

Valentino: The Last Emperor is impeccably titled. Not only does the film reveal the state of unbridled opulence in which this famously tanned designer lives and works, it also showcases an amazing relationship that has withstood the test of time. That is, the relationship between Valentino Garavani and his business / life partner Giancarlo Giammetti; a relationship which, at the time of filming, had just capped nearly five decades, as the couple (not to mention like 50 billion other people) celebrated Valentino’s 45th year career anniversary.

In the film we witness the adorable pair preparing Valentino’s final couture show and accompanying celebration / exhibition, set appropriately, if not necessarily ostentatious, at the Colosseum in Rome. And, while I could gush over their precious bickering, emotional hand-holding and obvious mutual love and appreciation, I will stop myself because, really, you should just go see it. (That is, if you haven’t already. I am really behind the times with this one.)

Instead, I will focus on some other very interesting relationships that became apparent as Valentino sashayed one last time down the runway, following the models cloaked in his dreamlike creations. With tears in his eyes and a wave for Miss Universe to envy, the impossibly young-looking designer was greeted with a standing ovation. Among the celebrity-filled front row (Gwyneth; SJP; Anne Hathaway; Elizabeth Hurley) are Valentino’s peers, beaming like parents at a school play.

Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Diane Von Furstenberg, Donatella Versace, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford and a gamut of others show support of Valentino with such gusto that I had to stop to think – in the new class of ever-evolving designers, who will be the cheerleaders of the next generation?

In effort to spread the love, I decided to play a fun game of mix ‘n match so our designer spring chickens can have BFFers, too!




Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez for PROENZA SCHOULER ~ Kate & Laura Mulleavy for RODARTE

Stacey Bendet and Rebecca Matchett for ALICE + OLIVIA ~ Marcus Wainwright and David Neville for RAG AND BONE

Those are just some initial thoughts. Being artistically inclined, they’re sure to bicker, break-up, re-align and get back together. Lest we forget the celeb-set, I must make additional note of my superstar matchings, because we can assume that those famous outside of fashion would stick together within.
Sienna and Savannah Miller for Twenty8Twelve ~ Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for

Gwen Stefani for L.A.M.B. ~ Kimora Lee Simmons for BABYPHAT

RACHEL ROY ~ Justin Timberlake and Trace Ayala for WILLIAM RAST
Now, if I only had paper dolls…

Photo credit: Image from VALENTINO: Themes and Variations by Pamela Golbin, Rizzoli New York, 2008. Red silk crepe batwing sleeve gown from Spring/Summer 1999 captured by photographer Ruven Afanador.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


There’s been buzz about Agyness Deyn possibly leaving the world of modeling. This news saddens me for several reasons. Not in the least is the fact that she is my neighbor, and the thought of her packing up her East Village digs and heading back to Manchester or somewhere random like Bangladesh (she would do that) is just depressing. I like bumping into her on the street and seeing her in Mudd and Veselka. She is like a walking work of art for the neighborhood; one which never fails to excite me upon sight. (Admittedly, I’ve followed her into bars, and twice changed direction on the street so I could walk near her. If only I’d been blessed with similarly 3-mile long legs, I’d have been able to keep up!)

Reading Cintra Wilson’s profile of Aggy in the Times last week (which took place at my favorite Ukranian diner – noted above!), I started thinking about the shift in cultural ideals of beauty, and decided that it just might be a good time for Ms. Deyn to take a brief hiatus from the fashion world – for her to record a cover album of The Clash greatest hits, or something.

Cintra got me thinking here:

When war fever cools, hot new looks become less sex cue-dependant, and “unconventional” models — Twiggy, Erin O’Connor, Kristen McMenamy, Ève Salvail (Jean Paul Gaultier’s skinhead muse) — are free to rise. Ms. Deyn’s look captures a collective desire to return to the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” pogo-punk unisex spirit of the irreverent and permissive early 1980s, when girls could wear combat boots and boys could wear eyeliner, and everyone could wear magenta.
While we’re still inundated with invariably edgy influencers like Erin Wasson for RVCA and JT’s William Rast, and while magenta is one color certainly not disappearing from the runways, there is also a brimming backlash.

We’ve seen it in the forms of Alexandra Shulman’s anti-size zero model crusade, and staring at us through the eyes of the Brigitte Bardot-reincarnation Lara Stone on the latest W magazine cover. Then there’s Christian Dior’s latest couture collection – a series of looks that could easily have waltzed through the very same salon in 1947 when Mr. Dior unveiled his heralded “New Look.” A real sense of femininity is creeping back to high fashion.

There were gloves and hats and A-lines frolicking down the runways of Fall Couture 2009 – but some shows had the power to transport me to another world. Elie Saab created an ethereal wonderland of white gowns and cocktail dresses – what Jessica Michault wagered may be “a youthful haute couture alternative to the shimmering, after-dark ready-to-wear made popular by Balmain.”

Valentino and Givenchy may have kept it dark, but the gowns shown were long and luxurious – oozing with ruffles and girly accolades – none, however, were quite so decadent as those dreamt up by Mr. Karl Lagerfeld. Chanel’s couture collection embodied all that it must have been to be female circa 1950. Gloves and tights made of lace; suit after perfectly tailored suit in varying shades and textures of tweed; LBDs to make even Coco swoon; plus hats and hair bows and winged eyeliner to put the frosting on the proverbial fashion cupcake. And, lest we forget the gorgeous white ruffled concoction that was Lagerfeld’s Lara Stone finale!

Even hard-assed Jean Paul Gaultier – whose collection vacillated from futuristic diva to 1920s flapper – seemed caught in the midst of our schizophrenic fashion shift. If, like Ms. Wilson wrote, our perception of feminine beauty is guided by the effects of war, then perhaps it is President Obama’s domestic focus that’s wreaking havoc on a collective vision. War may still be raging abroad, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Photo credit: Photographers Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin for V Magazine, September/October 2008.

Friday, July 10, 2009

HANGING BY A THREAD: Haute Couture Holds On

My version of cruel and unusual punishment was realized Monday when I read Suzy Menkes’ special report on the haute couture collections presented this week in Paris.

“In the closeted world of satin and sequins that is Parisian haute couture, there is uncertainty about the future.”

You may as well tell me there is uncertainty about the future of oxygen. Suffice to say, I was not appreciative of Suzy’s assessment, but I decided to cut her some slack and read on. Suzy’s article confirmed what we’ve been hearing for quite some time: The couture climate is looking bleak. No matter what John Galliano’s recession-resistant ranting and his gorgeous collection of Van Dyck-inspired gowns told us in January, one thing is for sure: High fashion is losing its foothold.

Christian Lacroix may very well be hawking fashion sketches beside the Seine before the seasons change; the models at Christian Dior walked shortened runways sans pants and John Galliano romanticized this year’s in-house show as an “intimate” gathering of 120 guests, notably minus the presence of one Anna Wintour.

“The change [to show in house] was made to express the spirit of couture rather than as a belt-tightening exercise,” writes Menkes, quoting Sidney Toledano, Dior Couture President and Chief Executive. Yes, yes, dear Sidney, of course it is. Does he think we’re blind, deaf and suffering from mild concussions? We’re not talking about a Marc Jacobs off-site show at The Armory here; this was inside Dior’s very own Avenue Montaigne salon. Sure, the show reportedly used some 4,000 roses as a backdrop, but think about what they saved on overhead.

Couturier Stéphane Rolland – who “gravitates to obvious glamour with plenty of artsy embellishment,” according to Women’s Wear Daily – was interviewed by Reuters before his show this week. His estimation of today’s market was thoroughly depressing: “The collections of the 1990s, the 2000s, which were all about spectacle – that's over." Instead, Rolland muted his latest work to a palette of soft white, grey and black, with the simplicity of draped dresses and tailored jackets, allowing peeks of decadence in exaggerated shoulders and pleated collars. This is still couture, after all, so the fabrics remained sumptuous and the shapes precocious, but Mr. Rolland was notably restrained.

"I think couturiers have understood that haute couture has to be about sellable, commercial pieces, exceptional ones of course with a true Parisian savoir-faire," Rolland said to Reuters. To that end, Dior’s Toledano also said he expected “very few haute couture houses to be in business in a decade's time.”

Sellable? Sure. Commercial? Ouch! Gentleman, you are making me sad.

Do not fear. In fashion, there is always someone showing silver lining. Gaultier, Givenchy, Chanel, Aramni Prive and plenty others put forth collections that appeared unaffected by the buzz surrounding the impending death of a fashion master. And, thankfully, the UK’s Daily Mail, whose tabloid-esque version of news is my guilty reading pleasure, jumped in to alleviate some worries about our dear friend Mr. Lacroix:

“If the reaction to Lacroix's show is anything to go by, the flamboyant designer will soon be back. Nearly all the 24 looks garnered a raucous round of applause, and loyal fans unfurled a banner reading 'Christian Lacroix forever' as the genial designer took a final lap around the catwalk.”

Long live Lacroix!

Photo credit: Getty Images of Christian Lacroix Fall 2009.