Perry Ellis Children’s wear. Photo by Erica Lennard
Issue 3 Out Now!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
It’s always tricky when retailers launch their own wholesale label. They have to set their line apart from what they already stock while still embodying the experience of the whole store. It can go wrong for many number of reasons but often it’s because retailers treat the label like floor filler to plug the holes of their merchandising scheme and not as a separate and proper business that calls for proper clothes. When it goes right, which it surely did for Creatures of Comfort, you get an accurate synthesis of a retailer’s identity into a collection and, more importantly, a studied and developed offering of wardrobe solutions. They are retailers after all and you’d hope that any store with such a distinct point-of-view would have a strong and empowering idea of their patrons. And if they are doing their job correctly they should have a pretty good insight on what his or her deepest needs and dreams are. And if they have a handle on that they should probably cut to the chase and make the clothes direct. It must be said that the clothes at Creatures of Comfort were more than proper.
Who is the Creatures of Comfort woman? I suppose that cliché question is the first abstract to be addressed when looking at a runway interpretation of a retailer’s vision. The store gives you a strong idea but the new collection is far more expansive and precise. I had a hunch from the first look on the runway; a madras shirtdress with a wrap detail in the skirt. My mind immediately went to Claire McCardell (as it would) but it wasn’t until the second look, a silk tank and matching wide pleated pant, that I started to realize the bigger story. As the collection revealed itself it formed into a pretty persuasive proposition on world dress. The CoC woman is not quite a citizen of the world, but as a piece of prose provided in the show notes titled “A Wild Way Awhile” claims, she is “beyond cartographic delineation.”
I know the mere mention of “world dress” can send you into a Pier 1 Imports nightmare but fend it off and hold on. Consider something like Japanese dress, not the orientalist affectation of a cherry blossom kimono or a geisha, but rather its radical power to deconstruct and reconstruct fashion as designers like Miyake, Yamamoto, and Kawakubo did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then consider South Asian, Southeast Asian and all the vastness of African dress and you get the idea. As Western fashion exhausts itself through endless self-referencing, world dress provides a wellspring of solutions derived by other ways of life, some now extinct. That alternatives to modernized and Westernized life should be so appealing at this point in time is anybody’s guess. In the ‘50s American sportswear designers constantly referenced world dress, particularly costumes of Japan and Southeast Asia and they came up with, what was in their context and time, some pretty radical ideas. They were based on economy. Why have the extra cost and labor of buttons? Just tie it. Why bother with the resource-gobbling construction of traditional dressmaking and tailoring? Just wrap it. These designers sourced a great number of innovations from across the globe and adapted them for the Western mode which simultaneously critically reassessed the shifting paradigms of modern dress.
It was great go see Creatures of Comfort’s Jade Lai wrestle with the same ideas with her interpretation landing somewhere between McCardell and Issey Miyake’s Plantation with a good dose of British New Romanatics ala Westwood and Galliano mixed in. But my personal references aside, it actually read as a collection full of new classics. A skort with an extra-long wrapped panel was both a utilitarian and aesthetic adaptation of Southeast Asian wrap skirts keenly realized for urban life in New York. A long stripped linen car coat, sampled in a few covetable fabrications, seemed just as easy and necessary. There was a range of knit vests, skirts, and dresses that had ease and polish, particularly a knit dress with a placket running down the center back (it made for a memorable exit). And there was a major call for loose pajama dressing– novel today as fashion but obvious for its comfort and grace throughout the rest of the world. The collection shifted between familiar and foreign, always effortless and casual but highly refined with moments of splendor. It did not suggest a different world but perhaps a whole new one. It’s a pretty inviting one Lai has made for her and her customer which now exists well beyond the confines of her stores in L.A. and New York. “This is where I’m meant to be, she thinks” reads the ending to the prose, “where I’ll be for a while.” I can’t blame her and I don’t think many women will be able to, either.
Images by Shawn Brackbill courtesy of Creatures of Comfort.
The thing about Adam Lippes’s clothes, what makes them so striking to behold and what look book images cannot show you, are the details. Working in unison with his appropriately classic but deceptively modern shapes, they are a whisper of opulent restraint. No heavy-handed embellishment. No unruly color. And (thank the stars) no prints (they would sully the clothes). For Lippes elegance is, as Chanel said, refusal. What he decides to leave in the garment, what makes the cut so-to-speak, is so perfectly conceived, balanced, and finished that the entire garment emanates a perversely urgent feeling of desire.
One piece that illustrates this best is a simple silk crepe T in alabaster pink. It’s perhaps the most basic piece in all the collection, not anything especially new, yet, the proportion of the stitching along the hem and neckline was so cleverly spaced as to activate an even more flattering proportion with the slope of the sleeve and the width of neck that it could make almost any woman, be she slim or thick, beautiful or homely, young or old immediately look brighter, prettier, shapelier and possibly even smarter once worn. The fabric was so luxuriously lush, the bottom and sleeve hems were so perfectly finished and the cherry on top, the piece de resistance, was the buttonless henley-style placket with a single fringed silk tie looped through the top buttonhole. Lippes makes the mundane so magnificent. What else is luxury good for?
Another moment of micro drama was a row of hook and eye closures set in silk grossgrain on the side vent of a black sweater knit. It is, to the undiscerning eye, a nothing piece. But so beautifully knitted with the finest yarn, so smartly trimmed with the most classic notions, the whole garment is elevated beyond its ordinary functions. Its presence so striking I imagine one could wear it in lieu of an evening dress and very likely be the best dressed of the night. However, Lippes’s actual thoughts for evening are a just as potent. There was a white silk racerback floor length gown with a fringed tassel hanging from one shoulder strap. It had pockets (yes, pockets!) and the most wonderful detail yet: a single French seam running down the complete length of the center back. Is it a construction line he beautified? Is it purely decorative? I didn’t ask and I didn’t care. God was in the details and it was divine.
All the fringe came from inspiration taken from Moroccan textiles, namely carpets. And though this theme was iterated throughout the collection rather tastefully it had its most inventive realization in what was surely the masterwork of the entire collection: a silk tank dress bordered along its low waist by a floor length curtain of plisse silk. Yards upon yards of hand pleated fabric on such a simple silhouette, in most other designer’s hands this would be an abomination with the overwrought manipulated fabric destroying the natural ease and modernity of the base structure. But done by Lippes it is a quiet affair no more bulky or assuming than a slip, that is until the dress is in movement and all the layers of silk release and expand into a glorious flutter worthy of a bird of paradise. I could watch that dress in slow motion with a Philip Glass soundtrack and be very content for a while.
Lippes’s clothes are beautiful and immaculate. His hand loomed silk jacquards, his hand tailored jackets, his plisse gowns; they are the epitome of modern luxury but they are precious almost to a fault. His clothes are so fine that while it is easy to imagine any woman wearing them it was more difficult this time around to see her living in them. Lippes has a hand for luxury and leisure, one that will make this collection a sure hit, but it would have been nice to see clothes that might be improved with a bit of dirt and grime, something sturdier that wouldn’t be so out of place on a subway car. Perhaps I am asking too much, but I’d like to a see a woman dressed by Lippes for all of life’s occasions and I’m sure he would, too.