Couture Returns to YSL with a Twist

At one point, Yves Saint Laurent was the youngest brand to create couture; the newest member of this most exclusive of clubs reserved for the Chanel's, Dior's, and Sciaparelli's of the world, and their few but loyal customers. 

It's been more than a decade since the fashion house closed its couture line, but YSL's break from made-to-measure ended, officially, with an announcement made yesterday morning. Hedi Slimane, the creative director behind the brand, announced that Yves Saint Laurent was reviving their haute couture line. When I first read this, excitement grew in me as my imagination explored just the sort of sharp, cool, and well-crafted clothes that would be displayed at runway shows glamorous in the true Saint Laurent (by Hedi Slimane, of course) nature. But just as my thoughts were getting into the (made-up) details, I read that there would, tragically, be no show. The collection was displayed in the form of a monochromatic campaign, showing not only the clothes, but the character they created. 

But these clothes won't be sold to just any paying customer. Only select individuals (that is, selected and approved by Slimane) will be able to own these clothes, due to a "case-by-case" and "friends of the house" restriction. The labels will read, "Yves Saint Laurent", not "Saint Laurent" as Slimane had the label changed to when he took over. (For couture, brands will normally keep the full name, to stay true to the heritage and history of haute couture; e.g. Christian Dior.) Each label shows the number of that particular piece existing in the world written on it and the number of and to whom these couture creations sold is also recored in a special, gold book residing in Paris.

Hedi Slimane has created an even more elite level above the already-elite, small world of couture. The customers are the true reflection of a brand, therefore this move for Saint Laurent puts the legendary house back on top.



The Forgotten Spirit of the Runway Shows of the Past

I've been very interested recently in early McQueen and Galliano fashion, and the 80s & 90s fashion  scene in general. As I viewed what vintage fashion shows on YouTube I could find, the first difference from shows today that caught my eye was the format. You couldn't exactly call the catwalks in the videos plain, but they did look rather basic when one thinks about today's contesting fantasy worlds created by Karl Lagerfeld and Raf Simmons. Though the set of the vintage shows were undoubtedly simpler, they somehow felt more special, and not because there were only a handful of them published on YouTube.

The shows seemed to truly transform the viewer to the world of the collection. And not the world of the brand, but a concentration of the motifs and themes the the collection represented. There was more concern for the styling of the clothes to match the message that the designer wanted to get across, not to fit whatever would go viral on social media. They were extravagant productions, attended only by fashion people, as opposed to today where anyone remotely fashionable will get a seat and, if not on the guest list, anyone at all can see the whole thing on Instagram. The "share-ability" of shows today heightens the experience for someone who isn't present at the show, but vastly depreciates the value of the show and the value of being there in person. 

Alexander McQueen, 1999.

The aspect that struck me most about the vintage runway shows weren't the clothes or the set, but the models. Or, more specifically, their behavior. They were individuals with spirit and attitude and character - imagine that! Today's standard, plain runway walk and unsmiling faces may bring more attention to the clothes (considering the set or front-row celebrities haven't already stole the attention), but 90s models that personified their role added to the message of a collection; who the girl was, what she wanted, what the story was, etc. Depending on the collection, the models would give the finger to the audience, moon them, smile or cackle accordingly, or just simply go with the flow of the music and the feeling of the clothes, which was odd for me to see because the wildest gesture I'm used to seeing on the runway is a hand placed in a pocket or on a hip.

A character in the Maison Margiela fall 2015 ready to wear show by John Galliano.

We saw a glimpse of that past style of runway modeling in the Maison Margiela fall 2015 ready to wear show, where a few of the girls prowled the catwalk, scowled at the audience, and muttered restlessly, a little bit of acting that added miles to the depth of the mad characters. But acting on the runway hasn't been seen recently much apart from that, even though some runway shows would greatly benefit from a little personality. But I imagine that if runway acting did come back, brands would take it to the extreme and put as much focus on that as they do the scenery, which is to say, overpowering and just too much. 

John Galliano's graduate show at Central St. Martin's, "Les Incroyables," 1984.

Brands today are all about extremes, they seem to need the-very-best-most-extravagant-runway, but what they really need is the balance and perspective of the past. The balance between simplicity and extravagance, salability and artfulness, and between ordinary and individuality. What I feel most from watching the vintage shows is sorriness  and regret for the industry that the individuality seems to have evaporated with the turn of the decade, but, on another hand, fashion has made so many comebacks that I have hope for the return of a true runway show, a runway spectacular.

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If you don't agree with anything I just wrote, I recommend watching all of these, and then getting lost watching a bunch more on YouTube, and then go watch one of the latest Chanel or Dior shows. You will miss the vivid personality of the past.




The Characters of the 2015 Royal Welsh Show

I was scrolling through Vogue.com in search of inspiration and expecting to see the usual mix of celebrities' groundbreaking sartorial decisions, rules to conquer the new (fashion) season, and reasons why so-and-so is the new so-and-so. But to my intrigue and surprise (Vogue always keeps me on my toes) I found something that stood out from the usual model pics. Portraits from the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show: a collection of photos depicting proud British farmers their animals (or, in some cases, plants.) It doesn't seem like the type of event a fashion magazine would cover, but the photos were undoubtedly Vogue-worthy. The pictures showed real-life, hard-working people in modest, practical clothes, working selflessly for their livestock and happy in doing that. 

The photos captured the individuals, human and otherwise, the farm show scene they made up, and the patchwork of green and sky that is the beautiful country of Wales.


The first photo was of a man and his goose; the picture looked so much like a caricature I couldn't help but whip up a cartoon in Adobe Illustrator. 






I've got a spark for country living inside of me, I ride horses and pay a visit to a local farm show every year, so I particularly appreciated these photos. 










These rustic, of-the-moment photos were more charming and better styled than the usual high-expense, styled-to-the-last-thread editorials that Vogue normally shoots out.

Something Creative #1: Simple Does Not Mean Basic

I've felt rather uninspired to comment on fashion recently. This past week has been rushed, as will be my next one. My mind hasn't been and isn't settled enough to form actual opinions, and without a fashion week, event, or opinion to write, I've decided to put my mind to something creative. I'd been wanting to do a photo/creative writing/something creative post for a while, so here's the first one.

Today, I took to my scissors and old magazines and cut and glued and styled until a college of sorts started to appear out of the clutter of sticky, shredded paper. The finished project was a Céline-clad Daria Werbowy mosaically outlined in gray shapes. With this newfound inspiration, I attacked Pinterest and Tumblr in search for images that communicate the minimalistic simplicity and understated beauty that Céline stands for: the Phoebe Philo - Céline mindset.


This is not Céline; it is Christophe Lemaire, a designer that shares a similar point of view.

















What Is the Purpose of Fashion?

When something has a dual purpose of practicality and artfulness, its meaning becomes blurred, especially when it's an umbrella term such as fashion that can be so common, yet also so elite. Fashion is a combination of clothing and art, of necessity and excess. In theory, clothes should ideally lie in the middle of the fashion spectrum, instead of pieces that fall more towards the clothing and necessity side than the art and excess side, or vice versa. But just because a piece of clothing isn't practical, or even wearable, doesn't mean it shouldn't be fashion. Fulfilling its role as a segment of art, fashion should evoke ideas, feelings, and images visually. The fact that those ideas need to be conveyed on fabric in some way remotely wearable is just part of the art of fashion. Fashion is personal because of its connection to the wearer, and therefore is a form of expression. And like any form of expression, there are the small opinions, and the big statements. 

Sometimes, the statements mean more than the clothes. Sometimes, the purpose of a piece of clothing is not to be worn, but to evoke thought or even action. Sometimes, just sometimes, the purpose of fashion is to share ideas more meaningful than the superficial world that is fashion itself. The fashion industry is constantly building up its commercial empire while simultaneously pining for the return of aura, story, and idea promoting creations. What fashion needs to do is accept that not all clothes are for wearing, or, more importantly, buying.



Lots of Alexander McQueen's work wasn't for wearing, it was for producing an image or idea.


Comme des Garçons.

YSL.

Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen.

John Galliano for Maison Margiela.




Italian Fashion Shines at Paris Couture Week

It's been a good week for Italian fashion. The biggest events of couture week frayed from the standard Paris shows and instead went to celebrate history and heritage in Italy. Valentino's Mirabilia Romae show/presentation and Dolce and Gabbana's Alta Moda Midsummer Night's Dream extravaganza were both highlights of couture week, and I don't say that lightly because couture week is basically, by the nature of couture, made up of highlights. Both designers represent two very different sides of Italy: Valentino, the elegant, and Dolce, the extravagant, but those are just two of multi-faceted Italy. What about the culture or allure of Italy compels its designers to so highly embrace and return to their roots? Or should I be asking what about the designers compels them to revisit and glorify their heritage? Giambattista Valli and Elsa Schiaparelli are both Italian, but are well rooted in Paris fashion. I suppose it's just a matter of aesthetic and character. Some fashion houses choose to fiercely represent their country, and some are only technically associated with their homeland. But Italy is a key component of both Valentino and Dolce and Gabbana; they chose to represent different sides of Italy, enriching their brands, their shared country, and the fashion world so intently obsessed with "Parisian style" and that special je ne sais quoi. I wouldn't be surprised or sorry if the fashion-focus shifted to Italy, a land conveyed with quality, style, and a certain tradition, or in other words, just what fashion is missing.



Top: Italy interpreted through Valentino; Bottom: Italy through Dolce & Gabbana
Both photos via Style.com.