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. 

Perry Ellis, 1983

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Mark Norklun photographed by Erica Lennard for Perry Ellis.

Perry Ellis, 1981

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Perry Ellis Children’s wear. Photo by Erica Lennard

The Return of John Galliano

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Garmento editor Jeremy Lewis regards John Galliano’s past, future and his new Job at the Maison Martin Margiela for Vice. Read it here.

above images by David Lachapelle, 1987.

Interiors, 1978

There’s a lot of talk about Annie Hall when it comes to cinematic fashion references. And while Diane Keaton, dressed in the film by Ralph Lauren, certainly is the eternal style icon everyone gabs about, when it comes to Woody Allen’s films his most striking in terms of costuming is neither Annie Hall nor even Manhattan but rather his 1978 high-intensity drama Interiors.

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Regarded in film circles as “Woody Allen doing Ingmar Bergman,” it was his first serious drama. Breathtakingly photographed by longtime Allen collaborator Gordon Willis and with impeccable costumes uncharacteriscially designed by Joel Schumacher (the director of the garish and insidious Batman & Robin and Batman Forever films), Interiors is perhaps one of the greatest fashion films ever made. The fashion message? A testament to late ‘70s minimalism; its softness, its austerity and its ease. All the hallmarks of the era’s refined lines and seductive sportswear are exalted and showcased with the scope and attention to detail worthy of any well-produced fashion campaign. Working off an overall tonal palette of pastels, beiges, greys, and browns rendered in lush tweeds, brushed wools, velvets, satins, and gabardines, the costumes exist in perfect harmony with the set design (by Mario Mazzola and Daniel Robert) and Willis’s photography to produce an endless stream of moving images that are as haunting in their beauty as any fashion image lensed by Deborah Turbeville.

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The plot centers around a family in turmoil; three sisters Renata, Joey and Flynn (Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffith) each battling their own bourgeois, intellectual and existential crisis while they deal with their neurotic mother Eve (Geraldine Page) whose depression and obsessive compulsive disorder is driving the family towards collapse. The film’s melancholic tone and script strangely adds to its visual splendor imbuing each image and moment with a humming anguish that is only put to rest at the film’s closing credits. The actors, who are all mostly flawless (the script does read both stoic and theatrical, though not surprisingly as it was based on the work of Chekov), excel as models making their lavishly art directed looks not only believable but charge them with a poignant artificial reality no fashion plate or fashion film could dare to attempt. Diane Keaton has never been more glamourous as she is backlit with wild hair, smoking a cigarette and lamenting her artistic struggles and dysfunctional family.

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Through the costumes you can begin to make out the key fashion players of the era. In the wardrobe of Eve there are nods to the silks of John Anthony, the dresses of Jean Muir and the suits of Halston. In the wardrobe of the sisters, far more casual and youthful, you can make out Ralph Lauren losing ground to Perry Ellis and the triumph of Donna Karan at Anne Klein: a turtle neck worn under a blouse, an ochre cable knit sweater, a khaki coat with the cuffs turned up. Even in Joey’s partner Mike (played by Sam Waterston) there is the semblance of Calvin Klein’s youthful and debonair style, dressed head-to-toe in beige, of course. In one scene set in a clothing boutique, a display of Emanuel Ungaro scarves sit in the background almost as an afterthought, though he had a big moment ten years prior Ungaro wouldn’t again be a scene stealer for another decade

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As a film Interiors is one of Allen’s greatest. As a fashion reference it is significant and profound. Made today you could imagine it costumed by Matthew Ames or Adam Lippes, perhaps Christophe Lemaire or Jesse Kamm for the sportier looks. Years after being made its fashion message remains contemporary. And as Autumn segues into Winter Interiors provides notable personal inspiration in getting dressed: a sense of occasion and beauty in the midst of tragedy and despair, a lightness and warmth to battle the quickly darkening days and encroaching bitter cold and a calmness to ease the disturbing stillness of a muffling snowfall and twilight night. See it for yourself, it’s currently on Netflix.

Matthew Barney, 1988

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Matthew Barney in Gianfranco Ferre, photographed by Fabrizio Gianni, 1988.

NYFW SS 2015: Eckhaus Latta

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In the three years Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta have been showing under the combined might of Eckhaus Latta they’ve developed a signature look rooted in offbeat textiles, a highly sophisticated use of color, and heavily deconstructed forms. Their post-Margiela/Kawakubo play on clothes has often made for some enticing if not erotic ideas on dress that seem pretty on point for these modern times. But deconstructing garments as a means to design is tricky and suffers as many perils as it does innovations. In the past the fruits of their experiments have not always bore and could be distracting on occasion. So it was exciting to see Eckhaus Latta switch gears and construct garments rather than “take them apart.”

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The show opened with a series of terribly captivating pieces made in a stiff light blue denim, each as sensational as the one before. There was a wide-leg pant with flared fins that collapsed down the side seams into architectural flounces. Though rigid they looked amazing in movement. There was a fantastic coat, vaguely reminiscent in cut of Issey Miyake and in make of old Castelbajac (when they called him the “New Hermes”). It was quite covetable. There was possibly the best piece in the collection; an apron dress constructed as a series of denim flaps that hung like curtains around the body. The curtains collapse and enclose you swaying gently to your step. It was sublime, I think I clutched my chest and deeply exhaled as it walked by. In fact, I held back gasps of marvel as that story played out and the collection turned its eye towards crisp white shirting expressed as a collarless white tunic, a rather perfect skirt with beautiful button closures at the waist, and a less identifiable caftan/jalabiyah with an interesting vent detail across the width of the garment below the abdomen. In succession they were quite powerful and heralded a breakthrough for the designers who have never realized such well-articulated and polished form.

You would almost think with all of Eckhaus Latta’s experiments in taking things a part that they have also learned through that process a great deal on how to put them together. They’ve come to it on their own terms with their own prerogatives and interests. Just as they have deconstructed fashion their reconstruction is critical and astute. They experiment and they question and they have rethought materials and the sewing of garments in a compelling way. It is overt construction, used not to foster any familiar ideas of a garment but to push more challenging and abstract forms into our comfort zone. These are not designers who will slap a princess seam and a bow on a shift dress and send it down the runway.

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The clothes did segue back to some of their more familiar rustic themes which was focused on knits but also featured denim, this time dyed and softened. It was more in line with the sympathetic side they are known for though the knits did not have quite the same deliberate hand as the wovens from before. Engineering knit is a whole other science but it could be interesting to see how their newfound ideas on overt construction might apply. I suppose there is plenty of time for that come fall.

You can’t help but feel upbeat and perky after seeing Eckhaus Latta’s clothes. With their daring and courage they exude an infectious optimism, a trait I hope they never lose. It’s pretty rare that new designers with such sure visions and bold talent come along but between Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, and Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver, it looks like New York’s downtown renaissance has some fashion megastars in the making.