Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Some random thoughts about architects and fashion designers

I recently had a walk with an old friend and instructor of mine, L. Being an architect herself, she is the wife of a world renowned architect Y and THE woman behind a successful design atelier. I helped the L and Y on some little projects in my junior year at college when they had just returned to China to start their own studio. We had some interactions now and then, including Y's instruction on a design competition I participated in and his recommendation letter supporting my study at MIT. We didn't get a chance to talk after I came to Boston, however, due to our busy schedules and the time difference.

We finally met again in Boston. This time around, they are back to America to develop their careers further. I was so excited once I heard that they were moving over. Years after our first project together, I still respect their work and I am so glad that we are now closer.

Here we are, walking down Newbury Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon. L was in her signature comfortable yet poetic outfit and I was in my combat boots and Doo. Ri coat. I never talked about fashion with Y or L before, but surprisingly, our little walk was all about fashion. Maybe she was too tired at work to talk about it, or maybe it's a common interest we never discovered before. Going through racks of clothes at Alan Bilzerian, we both were excited talking about our favorite designers and designs.

I saw a couple of Y's pictures in publications recently, and I was always curious about what he wore in those pictures. He was once in this wrinkled jacket made of cotton or linen that seemed to be some exquisite designer work. I asked L about it, and she laughed and told me that she only knew one more person who was into fashion as much as Y does. As a matter of fact, the couple is big fans of Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake.

Somebody on theFashionspot made a comment on Yohji Yamamoto's work: they look like those outfits that 1980s architects would wear. They are things that architects love to wear, but not only the 1980s architects. There is beauty in the designs that only certain people can grasp and understand. Architects are sensitive to the beauty and respect it. Today's Y and L look so similar to the Y and L from eight years ago. Their styles didn't change much over eight years. At the same time, looking at Yohji Yamamoto's work, it didn't change much over the years either. There is certain eternity in it.

There are people who do not follow the trends but develop their ideas over the course of their life. Le Corbusier fully used the new technology to develop a column and beam structure and set the walls free. Frank Gehry was inspired by the system and fully utilized it: getting rid of the wild surface, what people will see is still the simple system. Why do walls have to be perpendicular? Why do the turns have to be ninety degrees? Ideas start from there. Same process showed in Rei Kawakubo's work. Why can't clothes be twisted? Why can't clothes be asymmetric? Designers challenge the conventions and break the rules. They have to be brave or powerful enough to design things like that, and sometimes it takes their entire life to be fully understood.

Luckily Y and L's work are understood and recognized by most people already. They no longer need to struggle. But looking back, who didn't have those difficult days developing ideas and empowering themselves? I quit from design because of my impatience to deal with the reality, but I am so glad that there are people who stick to it, and make it shine.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Prioritize purchase and the magical drawstrings

I normally look at what the designers offer twice every season. The first time is when they present the collections in the runway shows and sometimes trunk shows. I memorize the pieces I like and save pictures in my computer. I purchase a couple of them during the season, and then I look at the pictures again right before the big sale starts to prioritize purchase.

I just did my work for the FW05 collections. I'm always amazed by how much my list can change during a couple of months, and there is no exception this season. I fell in love with the controversial Marc Jacobs' collection because of its darkness. I tried a couple of balloon skirts and the cashmere jacket with lace overlays, and I thought that I would buy them when they were on the 70% sale. I didn't do that, however, when I hit the store last Friday for the sale.

Here is why: the jacket alone is cute, but if it is not worn with one of the dark looking bottoms, the jacket will look too sweet. The jacket alone costs $900 at sale, and I can't really wear it with most of my clothes in my closet. So I passed.

My interest switched to something more experimental instead - Junya Watanabe. The collection is too avant-garde at first sight, but months later, I found it versatile yet fresh.

A major element in the collection is the drawstrings. The tightened drawstrings create volume, and when they are loosened, the clothes can go back to the regular shape. Junya Watanabe experimented with drawstrings on jackets and skirts to play with proportion and volume. I ordered a white cotton jacket and a black wool dress, both with drawstrings. I found them even more playful when I put them on. There are drawstrings vertically on the front, under the collar, and horizontally on the back. By loosening and tightening different drawstrings, I created different proportion and volumes. It's a game, and the jacket is a toy.
Junya Watanabe - Jing's Fashion Review

The dress is also cut in a novel way to accentuate curves. The seams are not stitched together; instead, they are melted together with strings of rubber. The drawstrings are more like decoration in this case, and it makes the body like a corset. I can't imagine how Junya created the dress. It's just so brilliant.

Junya Watanabe - Jing's Fashion Review

It's not the first time Junya used drawstrings. Similar looks were seen in the spring '03 parachute collection although the mood was completely different. The '03 collection is combat trend in spring and the light fabric looks drifty. The fall '05 collection, however, is in a dark mood and the thicker material apparently helps to create volume. The girls look dark yet innocent. Junya wasnt afraid to use the same language, but the stories he told were totally different.

Junya Watanabe - Jing's Fashion ReviewJunya Watanabe - Jing's Fashion ReviewJunya Watanabe - Jing's Fashion Review

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Remote control

I had a very nice plan last weekend to go down to NYC for my Christmas shopping. I made my own maps with dots indicating the shops and I also organized the shops to three different groups based on the locations with detailed transportation directions. I put maps, cereal bars, a bottle of water, and disinfecting wipes in my bag. I even had my combat boots ready for the hours of walking. After getting ready for the trip, however, the weatherman said that it would snow in New England area on Sunday. Even worse, I got sick after a party on Saturday.

No trip to NYC.

It is my life after marriage: my weekends are filled with family parties, and as a result, I have no time shopping!

Plan B: remote control it is. Although I can't go to the shopping paradise physically, my cell phone can help. I am so fond of a couple of items from the Comme des Garcons collection and the Junya Watanabe collection that I decided to get them NOW. These collections are so beautiful and wearable that they will be gone within the first week of the initial mark down in department stores. It is indeed difficult to order clothes through phone calls especially something from the Rei and Junya. Their works are never conventional so are the shapes. How do you describe Frank Gehry's buildings? It's easy to describe them in general, but it is a mission impossible if there are a couple of them and every single item is "deconstructed". Both the SA and I tried very hard to communicate, but eventually we both just laughed. Finally, the SA was nice enough to find a couple of items in my size and she sent them over for me to try on (I don't even know two of them items…just imagined). I hope that all the pieces work out and I'll report back.