Welcome Back, Céline

All the monochrome looks and white at Céline last year was stiff and dull; the large sleeves, wide belts and deconstructed peplum a disavowal of the "clothes-for-real-women" label that had been assigned to Pheobe Philo after her triumphant debut for the label. But by employing the magic of satin, this season all Philo's moves for "real" clothes and sophistication and understated luxury became, once again, a revelation. Céline lost its relevance over the last few seasons but I'm very happy to say that here Philo's shine has returned (sorry, couldn't help myself). I didn't realise it until I caught myself feeling absurdly happy at this showing, but for the past year and a half I'd been holding my breath before each Céline show, only to be completely deflated.

But honestly Pheobe, this season? Congratulations. I'm a real woman and I want to go into a real shop and buy those shiny pants, and buy those shiny tops, and fold my shawls and collars as if I were an impossibly sophisticated antiques dealer who specializes in Chinese folk-art and who has a companion instead of a husband. I want to be the woman that would wear these clothes.

Of course by itself satin isn't really an innovation, and those baggy pants have been around for a while now, yet it's Phoebe's treatment which feels new and relevant; those exact proportions, and that exact size of those twisted shawls, the seeming carelessness with which they've been twisted. And that's true of all creative disciplines isn't it? How new you can make something old feel, with a bit of actual new thrown in.

When a collection is innovative and fresh it also feels clean, as if it has wiped away the built up grime of disappointment and derivatives of past collections. And adding to the sense of cleanliness here was the simple, straight hair and clear faces. Although I think some of the models misinterpreted the instructions to look nonchalant and ended up looking corpse-like. But very fresh-faced corpses of course.

I'm also in that minority that think Ashley Olsen looks sophisticated in Birkenstocks, and in the larger minority that loved Christopher Kane's pool sliders in a totally non-ironic way. So of course, I loved the footwear at Céline!

The footwear also brings up another interesting point, that Philo's "clothes-that-women-really-want-to-wear" tag has its downsides. As soon as I had zoomed up on those fluffy soles and painted toenails I predicted it, every review would comment on whether woman really would want to wear them. It happened, and it was boring. Don't trap designers in the box that you created for them, critics!

all images from vogue.com


Ads, Beautiful Ads

Since it's well and truly the Christmas season now, I thought it would be topical to do a post on advertising and consumption (haha). But actually, advertising in fashion magazines is an interesting and contentious subject. We've all been there haven't we? Someone has picked up one of our magazines and scoffed, scorned us at the amount of advertising in its pages, something along the lines of "I've counted, and it's 167 pages before the masthead!". Now I ain't gonna defend that! It's true! There are a lot of ads in fashion magazines. But what these people (these people) don't understand is that unlike, say, an ad for Neutrogena, the ads that labels put in fashion magazines are much, much more than just ads. To put it simply, they are campaigns. 
There. In that one word they are declared as different. Because while these images from the new Heidi Slimane helmed Saint Laurent Paris are of course trying to sell us something, they are also a creative outlet for a fashion house to further express exactly what they are all about.

In these images, creatives have even more control over their image, or aesthetic ("aesthetic" sounds far more creatively driven than the commercial "image" doesn't it?) than they do at shows. They help show what the collection is all about, what the designer was thinking, what his influences were. This Saint Laurent campaign in particular is an excellent example of the power of fashion's campaign image. Sent down the runway, the clothes looked like above average examples of a stylish LA lady. To be honest I was a bit embarrased for Slimane. But here, here I get it. It's about being androngynous and slinky, and pared back but not minimal as we know the term, and about clean lines and black and white. The images also convey, very succinctly, that Slimane is making huge changes at this house, that he is placing Saint Laurent at the front of the new change towards the new-minimalism, simplified-but-not-simple luxury aesthetic. Just compare this latest campaign to Winter 2012, when Stefano Pilati was head designer - anyone could tell that with Slimane, something's afoot.

And it is absolutely no mistake that he released campaign images before he even showed his first full collection. Art and design isn't just about objects guys, it's also about feeling. 

Miu Miu have also just released their Spring Summer 2013 campaign, and as with Saint Laurent, they have made everything make so much sense. Crinkly denim pencil skirts look so much more appealing now.

Still lifes! Or accessories advertising. Whatever.

Saint Laurent images from The Cut
Miu Miu images from Fashion Gone Rogue


We Need To Talk About Dior

Obviously, Dior is a show that needs to be discussed. I've been thinking about it for ages, and I still don't really know what I think about it, not really. Because, like, there were good parts, but then there were also, like, bad parts? It's confusing!

Me, still looking at Dior

But although it got reviews both good and bad, even the good reviews had a tinge of defensiveness about them. Like the reviewers know that there is something wrong with it, or that everyone else overwhelmingly believes there's something wrong with it. Because while there were aspects that I loved, there were some shocking moments too. And I have to admit, when I first saw it, I thought it was lacking one of my key ingredients to a strong collection: cohesiveness.

But let's start with the positives. It was the tiny details which tipped the collection into a success. They unexpectedtly popped up in dress-suits (the new pant-suit) and would have been completely lost on the viewer were it not for stage lights subtly glinting off them. These details, diamante lines and daisy embroidery, ranged from the relatively obvious:

To the very discreet:

Also excellent (I think. Not entirely sure) were the so-wrong-they-are-good mullety tails! Despite the odds, pretty elegant.

On the other hand, I have no idea what Simons was thinking here:

No no, seriously Raf, wtf? You think Kirsten Dunst or Marion Cotillard are gonna wear that on the red carpet? Think again.
So, a collection that doesn't entirely fit together, which sucks in places, yet... thumbs up from me. Maybe it's just that difficult things are more interesting than the easy. I'll be thinking about this for a while, so hats off to Raf for that at least.

all images from vogue.com


Screw Milan, How'd Paris Do?

Reviews of the rest of Milan were supposed to be here. But you know what? Milan sucked overall this season. Everyone did their thing and it looked nice and regular but nothing (apart from Prada) got me thinking or excited. So Imma cruise right through to Paris.

First up, Nina Ricci!
Lots of the reviews for Peter Copping's Nina Ricci were more than just a touch condescending, all along the vein of "awww, Peter Copping twied weally hard to make a tough, Fifty Shades of Grey collection". And sure the "toughness" was kind of adorable, and it wasn't his best, and sure Nina Ricci is more French heiress than whatever Copping was doing here - but regardless, I really dug it. All the folds and ties and zips and fastenings and, yes, harnesses, fell and fluttered in a beautifully haphazard kind of way.

Cardigans and skirts looked like they'd been thrown and tied on backwards, adding to the haphazard (but sexily haphazard of course) effect.

There was a wonderful thread of opposing parts throughout the collection, polka-dots with fishnets, pastel satins with sexy smoky eyes and bared nipples. Once again with Nina Ricci, I feel like we as foreigners have been served the most romantic, fictional version of the aloof/sexy/ultra feminine French woman. And that would make sense, considering Copping isn't French! He's not designing for real French women, he's designing for what the Brits see as a French woman. Which is not rooted in reality but in an inferiority complex and a curious obsession.

And I just wanna say, guys, that I'm really happy that I keep liking Nina Ricci's collections, and it's not just because liking something is nice. I was so sad when Copping replaced Olivier Theyskens back in 2009, he seemed like such a joke after Theysken's achingly poetic collections. As well as hating him on principle, his collections were, admittedly, nowhere near as good as Theysken's.

But now Copping has improved hugely, and is making me change my mind! And he did  it against a pre-existing bias! And while I love making snap judgments, what I love more is having my mind changed, or even being proved wrong.

Yes to this:

And no to this: First collection, Spring 2010, Peter has definitely won most improved player

all images vogue.com


Henry Diltz, the Seventies, and Beautiful Ugly Dudes

The Auckland Art Gallery (where I work) has this show on at the moment Who Shot Rock and Roll, and I was pretty skeptical and dismissive of it at first because it is so obviously a crowd-pleaser, and, you know, meant to draw in those crowds. I also thought maybe it would be a bit cheesy? Like embarassingly baby-boomerish or something (there is a lot of Mick Jagger in there). But then I saw it for the first time and, damnit, it's pretty cool. I'm slowly falling in love with Elvis Presley (who really reminds me of R-Patz!) and I wish this was the first photo I'd ever seen of Amy Winehouse, because she looks so tough and soft and mysterious all at the same time, and I would have thought to myself "who is this person? Man I really have to hear her stuff". Instead my initiation into Winehouse was a retail job where the other shop girls played her on repeat all day, every day. They ruined her for me before there was a chance.

But by far my favourite inclusion in the exhibition is a slideshow of something like 80 photographs from Henry Diltz. I didn't realise before this exhibition, but Diltz is the author of some of my favourite music photographs of all time. He is special because he takes Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young!) - some of the ugliest dudes in rock ever (second maybe to Spinal Tap) - and can make them look angelic and serene.

Ok maybe David Crosby is always pretty hairy and goofy looking, but you don't notice so much in Diltz's photographs. Just look at these photos to realise what feats Diltz achieves in the portraits above.

Diltz took huge amounts of photos of Neil Young, who I am just going to go out and say is my number one favourite musician ever. And the first photo in this next series is my favourite photo of him.

Richard Pryor, David Cassidy and Jackson Browne are some of the others who were photographed by Diltz. Who knows how that David Cassidy photo came about but it's hilarious. And, well, Pryor could do anything and it would be hilarious.

He also makes those photos in which you catch yourself getting nostalgic for, and wishing you were in, the seventies. Which is all very silly for you to do because you never experienced the seventies and it didn't have the internet for god's sake. But still, it's a special kind of photo which does that to you. In these photos you can almost hear that folk-rock soundtrack.

Aaaaand let's finish with adorable animal photographs. What guys.

all images from Morrison Hotel Gallery


Miuccia Prada, Feminist

Miuccia Prada has done again what she did three years ago for Spring 2010. This show wasn't obviously spectacular, revolutionary or jaw-dropping. Certainly not in comparison to Prada's previous collections. And so people were disappointed. I think many people (regular internet people, not critics) were disappointed with this showing exactly because it wasn't, as Hamish Bowles puts it, "the radical season changer that Miuccia so often serves us". But the problem with holding such high expectations, of always expecting these radical season changers, is that quieter instances of genius are not appreciated. There is the sentiment 'if it's not big, it's not good', and for some this collection was a bit of a let down. But it really shouldn't be!

This collection was, in my opinion, fantastic. Let me list the reasons why:

1. It felt like Prada was getting out some of her feminist energy. It was there in that dichotomy between girlish sweetness and, to paraphrase Prada, a toughness and seriousness. To be precise she said that the collection's folding resulted from her wanting it to be tough, although I have no idea how folding is inherently tough or serious. But let's not get caught up in the details! Importantly I think that what really defines the current wave, or new generation of feminists (that I think can safely be said to be symbolically helmed by Tavi Gevinson) is the co-existence of stereotypical, traditional notions of girlishness (such as dressing up to look good) with feminist ideals. So here I am projecting that Prada has given us the modern feminist - tough, serious, self-possessed, and covered with pink, flowers, and short skirts.

2. In a kind of carry on from my last point, I could imagine Kathleen Hanna rocking everything (and there were total Courtney Love vibes)

3. Jessica Stam.

4. Guinevere van Seenus.

5. That amazing folding, which was also seen at Christopher Kane! Thanks to Hamish Bowles' review I've learnt how this folding also relates to this "new feminist" dichotomy. Prada talked about "the struggles women have between toughness and softness, the rigor followed by delicacy, and the poetic part of women", and this is reflected in the folding of the Japanese kimono, which is about "tough rigor, the delicacy after, and the folding". Hmmm, "tough rigor", maybe that's how folding is tough and serious.

6. Ribbed underwear, and coats in summer. Nothing more to add.

So overall, I felt the Prada spirit very strongly here, with all those wonderful tensions between femininity and feminism, and all those wonderfully uncomfortable details (like ribbed underwear). Everyone came around to Spring 2010 eventually (myself included), and the same slow-building appreciation may happen here again.

all images from vogue.com