Category Archives: Collections

Back to the Twenties

Patou24

Patou

Chanel24

 Chanel

Lanvin24

Lanvin

All illustrations from L’Officiel 1924

The 1920’s. Finally, we made it

The 5th season of Downton Abbey which has just begun airing on PBS finds the Crawley family and servants in the year 1924, a time rife with change, a time when modernism ran rampant. It manifested in literature, in art, architecture, in industrial design, graphic design, photography and, of course, in fashion. The waist was dismissed, assigned to hover abstractly over the lower hip like a vestigial limb. The bosom was banished. Although a mere hint remained it was never obligatory. Western culture’s fashionable body, having been engineered to suspend from either the waist or the bust for hundreds of years, relocated to the shoulders. Common to most modes of dress found outside of Europe, this particular fashion innovation hadn’t been seen in Western costume since the Middle Ages, and more distinctly, the fall of Rome. It is why Diana Vreeland once proclaimed the 1920s as her favorite decade citing that it was the first time in history women wore their hair short. The first time their ankles were revealed. It’s the time of the Bauhaus, of Man Ray, of Jazz and Chanel. For women’s dress it was an utter schism.

The beauty of Downton Abbey is that it’s allowed us to follow fashion from the sinking of the Titanic through a World War and into the world of tomorrow — all chronicled through a fantastically written, superbly acted, lavishly produced and exquisitely costumed soap opera. And now with the 5th season beginning the timing couldn’t be better for fabulous 1920s styles to go on display every week for the next two months or so.

The ‘20s is one of the most misunderstood decades. It is consistently butchered and shortchanged, scantily summed up with something vaguely flapper-ish. But the ’20s saw one of the most radical shifts in dress of the last 300 years. While dress reform was already underway by the time Paul Poiret was ruling fashion in 1909 it wasn’t until his success that fashion was challenged directly. Poiret offered revolution in the guise of the exotic. His interest in global dress provided vivid contradiction to the status quo (his innovative though eccentric Harem pantnts were highlighted in Downton Abbey season 2). But World War I brought on many changes and Poiret could not follow up on the modernism he instigated. Credit is given to Chanel for inventing the modern woman’s wardrobe though it is likely her then rival and now virtual unknown Jean Patou who was a more impactful designer. Regardless, both of them made extremely modern, cleverly engineered and flawlessly styled sportswear — obliging the demand for a more active and confident means of dress for even the most fashionable woman.

The effect is not unlike what designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Phoebe Philo have been getting at in the last couple years or what Armani has been proposing for the last 40. As a sportswear revival goes underway, led by likes of The Olsen twins and Christophe Lemaire, Downtown Abbey offers itself as a compelling series of fashion plates granting a detailed and insightful peek into one of the most exciting and eternally relevant eras of fashion.

calvayrac

Chez Calvayrac

Raf Simons, 2004

“Life is, in itself and forever, shipwreck”

Before Simons did sneakers for Adidas. Before he did suits for luncheons for Dior. Before Raf Simons stopped having diverse castings. Before he was name-dropped in rap songs. Before he was fashion celebrity elite. Before all that he was doing some of the best collections of his career. There was a string of them, all tremendous and all even more so years later. Within the time he relaunched himself in 2001 to when he took on design duties at Jil Sander in 2006 sits a considerable body of work that stands today as one of the greatest dissertations on menswear of the last 30 years. One collection that feels especially worth revisiting is Autumn/Winter 2004-2005. Now as performance wear has entered not only the common lexicon of everyday dress but fashion as well, now as youth subcultures have gone mainstream, Simons’s ideas come full circle. Avant-garde in the truest sense, the collection could  be shown and retailed today and it would still give most designers something to ponder. Some call it his “surf” collection, inspired by the technical wetsuits of surfers as well as their more casual non-sporty dress: tailored jacket worn over a neoprene body suit, hoodies worn as dramatic capes. In a world of cyber terrorism and technology attached to the very core of our daily experiences, it’s as if Simons recast the surfer as modern shaman. The effect is almost spiritual, monkish, a fitting follow-up to his abstraction of Hare Krishna and south Asian spiritualism the season prior. Ten years after the fact you wouldn’t mind if some of these ideas could be made viable again, by him or anyone else.

Editor’s note: I’m not privy to  the original soundtrack but I like to pretend it could have been Orbital’s remix of Angelo Badalamenti’s theme from the movie “The Beach.” Try it for your own enjoyment. 

Adam Lippes Resort 2015: A Showroom Review

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One wondered what the future had in store for Adam Lippes after he narrowly escaped fashion purgatory and bought back his name from Kellwood two years ago. Since then he’s retooled his design manifesto and company culture, abandoning corporate ambition and distancing his clothes from a cannibalizing contemporary market. Today he runs a smaller and more familial operation, the kind required nowadays if a designer is to truly engage luxury clothing in a sound and sustainable manner. It’s certainly no easy feat but going by the clothes Lippes’s efforts have certainly been worthwhile.

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Over the last several seasons he has distilled a design vernacular built on the tenets of the best of American fashion: ease, sportswear, classicism, timelessness. For many designers working in New York these tenets can  become tenuous, reduced to corrupted clichés haphazardly spat out to journalists, conflating the words “classic” and “uninspired.” Should you ever forget what it means for a garment to be timeless, for it to truly evoke that rare sensation of imperishability, Adam Lippes serves as a refreshing reminder. The new resort collection reads like a “best of” of American fashion in the 1970s when its designers, armed with a minimalist rigor, soft fabrics, sportswear separates and a fashionably fluid line, championed a new modern woman. That those ideas, updated with a thoughtful and utterly contemporary sensibility, that they can look so new and bold today as they surely did then is a testament to their infinite appeal and Lippes’s adept ability in handling them. The spirits of Zoran and Halston are present in the floor-length monastic dresses, coats and square cut tops. Fabricated in the most luxurious silks and cashmeres they are no less minimal or exquisite than what those minimalist masters managed in their prime. The flirty but pragmatic appeal of a paper bag-waist in a striped cotton pajama pant and in a leather skirt echo Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio’s seductively sensible efforts for Anne Klein. The trapunto stitching used on collars, waistbands, and belts throughout the collection, notable on a v-neck Korean do bok top (rendered in fine silk and chambray) brought to mind the worldly explorations of Bonnie Cashin, a designer who never shied away from adapting an idea from the other side of the globe if it could coax a modern innovation.

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To mention that the clothes Adam Lippes designs are impeccably crafted and finished is redundant as quality workmanship is necessity when addressing simplicity and minimalism. But, from design to construction, Lippes’s clothes are beautifully thought out. Every line, stitch and fold is crafted and considered. And whether it be silk, cashmere coating or humble cotton poplin, each fabric represents the most refined of their genre. It stands to be reiterated: the clothes are impeccable. And they must be, the customer Lippes addresses is a discerning one. She is a woman who demands the best and is to willing to pay for it. She can’t be bothered with trends or fashion shenanigans, she is too sure of herself for those. She expects her clothes, like all the best clothes do, to enhance her own natural appeal, not obscure it, and to grant her ease and therefore elegance as she gets on with her life. One could say after such a bold move to relaunch his name and under such risky auspices that Adam Lippes has come out a winner. Working out of an enchanted townhouse in the West Village, a real modern maison, he has escaped fashion’s distracting din, enabled to toil on his beautiful clothes with integrity. Indeed, Lippes champions forward, but the real winners are the women who get to wear his clothes and live in them.

Giorgio Armani, 1984

“The Armani look of studied simplicity has such strength it tends to make conventionally designed women’s clothes look overdone.”

– BERNADINE MORRIS, 1983

Calvin Klein, 1991

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“Calvin Klein has put a new spin on minimalism. Everything that could possibly be distracting is pared away. Makeup is natural. So are the coiffures. So are the clothes.

‘I feel so good about the collection,’ the designer said yesterday after his spring show. ‘I feel it’s for the modern woman. It’s all about softness.’

It is also about restraint. Those who feel clothes have to be elaborately decorated and vividly colored will not find much here to admire. This is probably the coolest, most understated collection of the season.

Since it is for warm weather, the coolness is not inappropriate.

Consider the colors: parchment, platinum, celadon and, of course, white. In this company, aqua stands out as a vivid hue.

Consider the shapes: a gently cut dress, with a high round neckline, camisole straps or no straps at all, is the key to everything.

The fabrics are equally self-effacing: washed silk, silk or wool crepe, linen and cashmere.

The clothes are the kind that show off a great figure and make one not so great look better than it is. The models skim along on flat beige T-strap shoes, looking totally at ease.

While those shapely dresses are the main event, they receive support from softly tailored jackets (often the same mid-thigh length as the dresses they accompany), skinny pants and shorts. Wrapped effects maintain the soft treatment in blouses.

There are just a few variations to the dominant look: a trench coat or two to cover everything up; a shot of navy as a change from all the pale tones; some all-over beads.

But the collection has a cohesion and a directness that is rarely achieved. All the ideas have passed through the designer’s sensibility, and he has worked over them until he got them just right. If it’s flash you’re looking for, this may not be the right stop. But if it’s elegance and style, it’s a real treat.”

– BERNADINE MORRIS, 1990

Nicolas Ghesquière Hearts Koos

Tim Blanks reports on Nicolas Ghesquière’s Koos Van Den Akker inspired Spring/Summer 2002 collection for Balenciaga.

Bonnie Cashin, 1962/Tom Ford, 2014

unnamed-3Bonnie Cashin for Sills, 1962

TomFordTom Ford, 2014