Friday, November 27, 2009

Finally, a bespoke suit for me?! (I)

I took a hard look at my closet and determined that I was in urgent need of at least one suit that would fit me really well. After seeing so many beautifully made men's suits on wall street, I realized that the suit options for women are pathetic: The best we can do are off the rack suits from designers such as Jil Sander and Gucci. Worse yet, at price tags of $3,000 and up, they are fused (the wool fabric is essentially glued with the canvas lining, as opposed to stitched to the canvas lining).

I went so far as to register at, a men's fashion forum, to learn the ins and the outs about a good suit. I understand that a good suit needs to be fully canvased and with the right fit, so obviously I, a French size 34, can never find anything in America that will fit me right. And I'm not even talking about the construction yet.

Then I paid a visit to Jil Sander where the sales associate assured me that I can order my made to measure suit from the men's MTM collection. Hmm......I like the idea, but I'm not sure how I will look in a men's jacket, albeit to my measurements. Can I handle the shoulder pads?

So now, Seize sur Vingt is my last chance.

To my surprise, the shirts at Seize sur Vingt almost fit me. The arm length is just right (first time in my career) and the collar actually comes with collar stays!

I went through their fabric swatches and liked some of the Super 130s. After being assured that they will make fully canvased jackets for women, I made an appointment for next Saturday. Let's see how the measurement process works. I'm excited.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Off topic, but I can't help - a review of our anniversary meal at Per Se

Since we splurged so much on a meal (comparable to a pair of shoes), I might as well review it on my blog...huh?

We had a great time at Per Se for our wedding anniversary. They personalized the menus for us with "happy anniversary" on the top. Sweet.

It was a nine-course, three hour meal, but we didn’t feel particularly stuffed. What impressed us the most was actually the vegetable dishes, because we both dislike vegetables and we haven’t found any restaurants that prepare vegetables like Per Se does. The veggies were absolutely amazing and we, as veggie haters, loved them.

The meat courses were fine, but less impressive. I can point out at least one restaurant that could make meat dishes better than Per Se. For example, I think that the Foie Gras could have been cooked slightly more thorough (although it was not the standard preparation they offered in the menu). The “Caesar salad”(basically a slab of lobster) though, was incredible. The lobster was the most properly cooked and the sweetest among all lobsters I’ve ever had.

The bread was delicious. The Parker House rolls were served warm (again, best we’ve had), but the rest were served room temperature. DH believes that the “proper” way of servicing French bread is room temperature, and I agree.

The dessert was fine, but nothing blew us away. The cappuccino though, was the best I’ve had. They’ve got a fantastic barista.

I didn’t drink wine (allergies) and DH asked the waiter to pair three glasses for him. He enjoyed them. Per Se uses some very exclusive small wineries from California and the results seemed surprisingly good.

The attention to details is certainly first-class. There was a little stool for my purse which was convenient. They remembered all the diet restrictions and offered alternatives. They are very patient and the waiter could be talkative if you want to chat.

Overall it was a very satisfying meal. But I feel that for people like us who do not like every single edible thing on earth, a regular 3-course meal will serve us better. In addition, it seemed a little comical to me when I see a giant plate with only a tiny bit of food in the center. (I guess that we are just less cultured to appreciate such sophistication.) Having said that, Per Se is a must-try for any foodie. We liked certain dishes, so we’ll return to the saloon for a la carte. But I’m not sure if we’ll go back for the nine-course meal: A nine-course meal takes lots of energy and dedication. Perhaps it was due to my exhausting week of work, I fell asleep in the cab on the way home. If we decide to return for the 9-course meal again, I’ll certainly pick a Saturday instead.

To make it relevant to a fashion blog, here is my outfit for the big night: I wore my favorite Sophia Kokosalaki dress. The dress was paired with Wolford tights with flower patterns and Balenciaga heels from this season. I kept jewelry minimal as usual with my watch, wedding band and my Chanel 2.55 reissue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen

Paris fashion week ended with the inevitable failure of the Yohji Yamamoto brand and the theatrical (as always) Alexander McQueen show.

Yohji Yamamoto is one of those cult brands that only a small circle of customers follow. However, when every other brand is creating a niche to support its vision, Yohji has failed to do so. Balenciaga has used its Motocycle bags and the capsule collections to make profit, Givenchy remains THE place for evening dresses following "Breakfast at Tiffany's", Lanvin's evening dresses make women feel sexy and special, YSL has a loyal following among the 40+ socialites and its bags are selling well, and the list goes on. Yohji has nothing but Y-3 yet it took on Limi Feu to burn cash. The price point is also off although it isn't a problem unique to Yohji.

McQueen, on the other hand, has learned to be theatrical yet maintain its commercial success. No matter how shocking his runway presentation is.

McQueen is a Savile Row educated master in cutting fabrics. This show is an apex of his work in past seasons: All he has been working on is to cut a piece of fabric and make it visually striking. The computer generated prints are cut, draped and sewn to enhance the 3-D like images. He also attempted to create very structured looks with soft fabrics such as silk chiffon. As crazy as the runway outfits look, his showroom was filled with adapted looks ready for a commercial success. His formula works.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Alexander McQueen - Show of The Decade
I will comment on this later, but please reserve half an hour and watch. This will be THE show people talk about in the coming five years, if not ten.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Paris Fashion Week Hits and Misses – Luxurious Paris, Minus The Avant-Garde

While Nicolas Ghesquiere of Balenciaga has returned to his roots, some avant-garde designers are cutting back amid their financial challenges. They want to SURVIVE.

Yohji Yamamoto is perhaps the best example. While the clothes are poetic as usual, the pieces are extremely commercial. It’s beautiful, but definitely uninspired. I later heard that Yohji has incurred some financial challenges, which explained the collection very well.

Junya Watanabe, whose collections usually raise eyebrows, is also playing it safe. Junya showed his (commercially) greatest hits: form fitting jackets and biased cut trousers. It’s another collection many retailers will be very happy with, but the hard core fans are hardly satisfied.

Comme des Garcons, Ann Demeulemeester and Hussein Chalayan also followed. There is nothing wrong with being commercial, but when the Belgians and the Japanese are playing it safe, Paris has lost half of its luster.

And here comes the other half: pure luxury.

Dries Van Noten showed his masterful skills mixing beautiful Southeast Asian prints and Ikat. All looks appeared to be styled perfectly with a unique Dries touch. His shoes have improved immensely in the past seasons and clearly that has brought more financial freedom.

Alber Elbaz wrapped all his girls with silk and leather, showing another ultra luxurious collection. It’s undeniable that Alber Elbaz spoils his clients to the max, yet the collection looks repetitive and I’m hungry for something new.

What blew me away is Haider Ackermann’s latest presentation. Haider has gained tremendous publicity after Tilda Swinton wore his clothes to award shows. Haider’s clothing is full of beautiful draping skills, yet it always comes with a bit of a dark mood. The only downside to me is that most of the outfits need a tall lady like Tilda to pull off, the clothes are emotional nonetheless.

The collection that moves me the most is actually Sophia Kokosalaki. She understands what a woman wants. A dress would beautifully drape around a model’s body, feminine, but not too soft. After wearing my Kokosalaki dress to a few special occasions, I’m ready to splurge on a cream color summer dress.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

SS 2010, Balenciaga Brings Back The Street Warriors

If nostalgia is Miucia Prada's prescription for a recession, Nicolas Ghesquiere is certainly looking forward and arming his girls with stripes of leather, bright colors and veggie dyed leather pants to fight the way out of it.

It was Nicolas' design in 2003 that brought me into fashion. I was attracted by his aesthetic of this lean yet energetic girl. It was natural for him to dive into the Balenciaga archives during an economic boom to study the old master’s work, but after the uber feminine drapy outfits shown for the FW09 season, it is about time for him to return to his true self.

Many (Americans) have argued that this collection reminds them of Rodarte. This makes me chuckle because the Rodarte sisters were perhaps still in school when Nicolas commanded the world with the tough chic image. I have always believed that Rodarte has copied Balenciaga way too much, but without the elegance or refinement.

One major difference between excellence (such as Nicolas Ghesqiere) and mediocrity (the Rodarte sisters, I’m afraid) is that the former keeps evolving and refining one idea with great attention to details. One can compare the SS2010 collection to Nicolas’ old designs presented for SS03 and FW03, and hardly ignore the difference in material, color and construction. The silhouette is the same, yet the technique has been significantly enhanced: Patience pays off.

The following tops are another good example:

(FW 2006, FW2008, Rst2009 and SS2010, pictures from

It is the Nicolas Ghesquiere aesthetic, with Cristobal Balenciaga’s sense of luxury. I have no doubt that it will be a very expensive collection, yet the spirit is so straight forward that the commercial lines will do extremely well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SS 2010, Prada Gets Pretty

After seasons of ugly cloak for the sake of being ugly (intellectual, inner beauty, whatever), Prada finally returns to prettiness.

On the surface, this collection reminds me of the FW2004 collection. (Hands down, FW04 is my all time favorite Prada collection, and I pray twice a year that Prada pulls it off again.) Some of the looks influenced me in a great deal and a look like the following became one of my “uniforms”:

Looking closely, however, the 1960s beach prints look tacky and will last one season and one season only. Unlikely the more abstract prints she used in FW04 (and many other collections), Mucia Prada chose the tacky, if not borderline cheap prints. Here, cheap doesn’t mean inexpensive. Ms. Prada explained that she was doing nostalgia and interpreting rich and poor. She went so far as to ask the mill to weave nylon (a symbol of being poor) threads into silk duchesse (a kind of rich fabric that is often times used in couture clothing) fabric. It turns out that the "synthetic" fabric actually costs more than pure silk. How ironic.

Some, represented by Cathy Horyn, have criticized this collection as not sophisticated or intellectual. Tack prints aside, I do find the change refreshing: women don’t need to dress ugly to look sophisticated. Sure, those tacky prints won’t make any one look sophisticated, but the solid colors do. I am certain that the Prada boutiques around the globe will be filled with variations of the short jackets, with unfinished fringes hanging on the bottom, but in solid color. I found them refreshing and borderline office appropriate. There are simple little jackets that will just pick up your mood in a humid Sunday morning. Why not?

Some douches silk ensembles also reminds me of Cristobal Balenciaga’s creations, although one can be sure that corsets are absent. By the way, we’ve just watched the movie Coco Before Chanel, and I thank Ms. Chanel for liberate women from corsets. It was a defining event that made women more equal.

Mucia Prada certainly shares the business minds of Coco Chanel’s. I’m certain that the new collection will be a commercial hit. This will only help after Prada just gave up an IPO, for perhaps the third time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New York Fashion Week - They Didn't Give Up

Everybody understands how difficult the retail environment is in the middle (end) of this recession. Some designers simply gave up. Their line ups looked as if the designers no longer cared; Others showed fewer looks but much better edited compared to previous seasons. In fact, some designers didn't give up and they shined!

Marc Jacobs
I've stopped guessing what he will do next many seasons ago. He always gives fashion a good spin and surprises us. Marc Jacobs has made his point: pretty ruffles are in and 80s shoulders are out. Take notes my friends: DON'T TOUCH THE STRONG SHOULDERS you see in stores this winter. They will be out before next spring.

I know, I know. Balenciaga will only show in two weeks following London and Milan. What I am trying to say is that many designers were more or less inspired by Balenciaga's last end-of-recession looks from SS03 and SS04. There are many body-conscious and structured silhouettes. There are also printed A-line dresses. To me, they are all recycled Balenciaga looks. I like them and I can wear them all day long.

What does that mean? It means skinny jeans are still in and will stay. It also means that everybody needs to work hard to keep fit.

BCBG showed many cute and wearable clothes on the runway. I was intrigued enough to search on their website, but I was disappointed by the disconnection between the runway looks and the final products. The FW09 clothes only looks 1/3 as good compared to their runway looks. I'm not certain what the causes are, but fabrics might be the reason. Or perhaps the models they used for their commercial website are somehow a little off?

Calvin Klein

The winner of the week. Francisco Costa has been playing with structure and volume for quite a few seasons. In the latest season, he also combined volume with some very interestingly crinkled fabrics. Fabrics were sewn in some exquisite method and that creates not only volumes but interesting moves when the models walked on runway. Models appeared to be sweaty but very fresh. This creates an interesting juxtaposition between sexiness and the futuristic nonchalance. The collection is mainly comprised of different versions of T-shirt dresses, but the volume and the construction interest me extremely. When is the trunk show?

Helmut Lang
Wearable, cool and affordable. I can see myself buying most of the clothes off their runway looks, and this is pretty rare. They actually use pretty decent fabrics, so that separates them from their competitors on the Barneys co-op floor. Yeah you'd better make nice clothes with that name!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The September Issue

I’ve just seen the new film featuring Anna Wintour and the process of making the September 2007 issue of the US Vogue. While many discussions have been focused on Anna Wintour the editor, the movie, along with all the concerted efforts to promote fashion in recent months, has exposed fashion’s fragile status in the new deleveraging world.

Vogue has been extremely influential in the fashion world, and the movie showed us the behind the scene story. In one of the retailer breakfast events, Anna commented that they have talked to Mrs. Prada about making a lighter weight jacket so that it’s more wearable. I was a little surprised by the degree in which Vogue is involved in the commercial process and I was actually very impressed by Anna’s influence. In situations like this, Anna is a spokes person creating a win-win situation for both the consumer and designer.

Have you wondered about the release time of this film? This movie is about the making of the September 2007 issue. Why did they wait for two years to release the film? It’s clearly a carefully chosen time as the world experienced a financial earthquake late last year. We’ve all heard of the stories, the 75% off sale at Saks, the series of department stores getting liquidated, delinquent shopping malls and the drained home equity lines as financial resources. What Vogue is trying to do now is to push the market again, but in a stronger force and from a wider angle. This campaign is not about a jacket or fur, instead, it’s about sending people back to the stores again.

Indeed, Vogue is hosting a “Fashion’s Night Out” event on September 10th and even the mayor is participating. (Anna stalkers, she will appear in a Macy’s event in Queens with mayor Bloomberg.) In addition to the release of the film, the September 2009 issue has just hit the magazine stands. As you might have noticed, this issue includes a lot more affordable pieces to make the magazine more relevant. Anna also appeared on the David Letterman show to promote fashion. (No, I don’t think that Anna accepted the invitation to promote herself.)

It’s nice to see all the events leading to the fall fashion scene. At the same time, I feel that Anna is worried and the fashion industry is worried. After laughing at Andre Leon Talley’s tennis moves and the camera man’s belly, I smelled desperation and little irony in the film. (Did I say I strongly recommend it?) After all, it is the consumers who feed the entire fashion industry including Vogue and Anna. Where is the money when people don’t shop?

No matter how hard they try, it’s going to be another tough season for the retailers before it gets better the next spring. I’m one of the pessimists who are convinced that the consumers are still deleveraging. With the rising saving rate, disposable income dedicated to fashion will continue to decrease. That means designers will have to edit further and produce less.

The fashion industry is lucky that there are magazines like Vogue actively involved in the commercial process. I’ve been spending the past year decorating our condo, and it’s my feeling that the same push by the magazine editors doesn’t exist in the home “fashion” industry. I thought that Domino would possibly become the “Vogue” of home magazines, but unfortunately it was closed. So who is going to take the role in the interior industry, possibly a bigger business?

I’m convinced that Anna is God in the fashion industry, like it or not.