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.