Saturday, February 22, 2020

Why A Cashmere Sweater Can Cost $2,000 Or $30

A plain, yet meticulously crafted, sweater made of the world’s finest cashmere can cost $2,000 or more from premier fashion labels such as Loro Piana. You can also grab a simple sweater of 100 percent cashmere off a discount rack at Uniqlo for as little as $29.90.

Made from the softest wool produced by a certain breeds of goats, such as the Zalaa Ginst white goat and Tibetan Plateau goat, cashmere was once reserved for the wealthiest fashionistas. (Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife helped popularise the fabric.) But over the past two decades, its cachet skyrocketed and cheaper garments flooded the market.

Nearly $1.4 billion of cashmere garments were exported globally in 2016, up from $1.2 billion in 2010, according to United Nations trade data. That's nearly 5 million kilograms worth of pullovers, cardigans, and other tops. Now it’s seemingly everywhere, at every price point. Ubiquity can spell trouble for a product as it becomes more of a commodity, especially one that’s been historically marketed as a luxury item.

So what makes one sweater better than another? The price depends on the quality of the yarn, where the garment was manufactured, the number of units purchased by the brand, and the markup.

The quality of the raw material often matters most. Lengthier cashmere fibers maintain their integrity for a longer time, allowing garments to retain their structure. Pilling — the small balls that form on the fabric as it chafes — is more common in garments made of shorter cashmere strands. These days, manufacturers frequently make the clothes out of a mix of lengths to balance quality with cost.

Ubiquity can spell trouble for a product that's been historically marketed as a luxury item.

The thickness of the yarn used for the fabric determines its durability. So-called single-ply yarn is the weakest and can quickly lead to holes in a favorite sweater. Higher-quality cashmere pieces are typically two or three strands thick.

Finer and smoother individual strands create softer garments, but they are rare and thus, cost more. American consumers value this softness above all else.

“The customer cares more about the hand-feel than they care about the durability or the color saturation,” said Matt Scanlan, chief executive officer of sustainable cashmere label Naadam. “They don’t even care if it starts to pill. We’ve just become used to it.”

Cashmere goats are bred in various locations around the world, including Australia, China, and Mongolia, but Scotland and Italy are known for cashmere-manufacturing prowess. Luxury fashion houses such as Loro Piana and Brunello Cuccinelli depend on the expertise of their workers to wash, treat, and refine the fabric. Cashmere, for instance, repels a lot of dye. Italy, however, has developed ways to achieve strong saturation.

Not every manufacturer takes such care. Blended versions of cashmere sweaters, available at most retailers these days, can contain varying quantities of the fabric. In some cases, as little as 5 percent of a garment is made from the good stuff, with the rest a combination of mass-market fabrics such as polyester or nylon. The product is still marketed as a “cashmere-blend.”

Shoppers have slowly gotten used to lower-quality product.

Occasionally, even fake cashmere makes it to store shelves. "There is certainly fraud on this front,” says Frances Kozen, a director at the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation. Deceitful sellers and counterfeiters sometimes create cashmere blends labeled 100 percent cashmere that contain wool, viscose rayon, and acrylic — and possibly even rat fur, she says.

The lower-quality blends, occasional outright fraud, and ubiquity has diluted cashmere’s luxe reputation, and shoppers have slowly gotten used to lower-quality product.

The industry is attempting to rehabilitate the fabric’s reputation by educating consumers as to where cashmere comes from. Naadam, Scanlan’s cashmere label, assures customers that it uses only the longest fibers, promising that this will make the garments last longer. The label touts its sustainable grazing practices and lack of chemicals or bleaches. Sweaters from Naadam aren’t cheap, going for $125 to $225, so the brand must show shoppers why it’s worth their cash.

“Cashmere still has a lot of meaning for people, even though a lot of brands have bastardized what a lot of words mean,” says Shilpa Shah, co-founder of clothing and accessories label Cuyana. The brand’s cashmere sweaters are manufactured in Scotland and Italy and cost from $155 to $495. They don’t match up to the quality of what you’ll find from designers at a much higher price, but Shah insists they get close.

As for the lesser-quality cashmere being sold, Shah has an optimistic view: At least shoppers are trying some kind of cashmere and may seek out better versions. “In some sense, I should be thanking them,” Shah says of the cheap cashmere sellers, “because it’s an introduction to what the material could be.”

Ludovic De Saint Sernin Is Behind The Sexiest Men's Collection Of Winter 2020

He has made sensuality mixed with poetry the key theme of each of his collections. For Fall/Winter 2020-2021, Ludovic de Saint Sernin has designed a collection directly inspired by the heartbreak he experienced at the end of last year. One symbol returns: the broken heart, echoing the name of the collection, Heartbreak, which is found in the form of ceramic belt buckle and on buttons. 

This collection reveals the body through genderless pieces such as semi-transparent shirts and trousers, satin shorts, body jewelry and a reimagining of the designer's signature leather briefs. Ludovic de Saint Sernin invited the artistic couple, photographer Vlad Zorin and model Yulian Antukh to immortalize the collection for the 2020 Woolmark International Prize. Yulian appeared in suggestive poses as an intimate expression of love.

Giorgio Armani Speaks Up

“I am tired of hearing about trends. They are nothing. I want to improve the woman who lives now. There’s all this musing about the past as a trend, but I don’t agree with it at all,” said a feisty Armani. “So please stop writing about trends,” he urged the journalists assembled backstage for a briefing about the collection. “Write about what [Alessandro] Michele did at Gucci, what Miuccia Prada did at Prada and what I am doing, but let’s not play this game. You should get to the bottom of it, what is the thinking behind what we do. Stop being dominated by raving about the Nineties [as an example]. I am at a moment when I can say what I think,” he added with a knowing smile.

“There is so much talk about women being raped, but women today are regularly ‘raped’ by designers,” said Armani, meaning that they are pushed to wear clothes that can be inappropriate and not fit for their age or size. “I am thinking of certain ads where women are shown in a provocative way, half naked, and many women feel pressured into looking like that. That for me is rape. It’s unbefitting. Look around, they think that by wearing black leggings and a bomber they become modern. Excuse my outburst and the strong words, but I felt like I had to say this,” he concluded.

Friday, February 21, 2020

This JW Anderson Model Is One Half Of The Duo Tipped As Britain’s Answer To The Hadids

Before the JW Anderson autumn/winter 2020 show, 18-year-old Grace Clover was backstage learning her German vocabulary. By the time she was ready to make her catwalk debut as an exclusive for the brand, she had 40 adjectives down pat. No mean feat considering the hustle and bustle behind the scenes.

“Everything was moving towards an end goal but with a slight lack of structure that surprised me,” Clover tells British Vogue of her first London Fashion Week experience. “I’m sure I’ll learn that this is the nature of the business, as there are ever-changing artistic visions before shows and some 30 models to get ready.”

On the runway itself, Clover – who was first scouted at the age of 14 as one of the “tall children” at school, but only recently signed to IMG – describes experiencing “a lovely moment of calm and clarity”. “I was very focused on my walk,” she explains. “I did realise about halfway round the room that I’d let my lips come open a little, and had a flashback to my run-throughs where I had practised not doing this. I remedied it straight away.”

Post-show, she digested the “surreal” experience over lunch with her mum at Leon in Russell Square. Clover’s background as a ballet dancer had prepared her for how to hold herself on the runway, but she admits she had to loosen up. “The strength, posture, and balance that you develop through dance are invaluable to modelling,” she says, “But I had to relearn how to be less held, which contradicts my training.”

In preparation for her launch as a model, she worked with movement director Ryan Chappell and switched up her look courtesy of hairstylist Syd Hayes, who IMG also introduced her to. The side-swept bob Anthony Turner gave her for the JW Anderson show, made her “immediately sense a character that I needed to channel”. And the look – “I particularly loved the stunning black leather heels with a jewelled ring attached” – gave her the oomph to not “look too tense or studied”.

Her rigorous ballet schedule (upwards of 11 hours per week) has also prepared Clover for what a life juggling university (she plans to study history and German at Wadham College at Oxford – “the results of my A-levels permitting!”) and modelling could look like. Her family has been supportive since she “happily modelled some very unstylish purple trousers” aged seven at a charity catwalk event. It was when her younger sister signed to IMG last summer (she hasn’t been launched by the agency yet) that modelling started to seem like a viable prospect for two tall siblings who had grown into themselves.

Indeed, as well as the comparisons to British Vogue cover star Fran Summers, there have been industry murmurs that the Clovers could be the new Brit model dynasty on the rise. Their name certainly has a nice ring to it, but Grace admits she “is focusing on the present, and taking each day at a time”. Watch this space.

Fendi Turns The Headband Upside-Down For A/W´20

Just when you thought you’d run out of ways to style the statement headband trend that dominated 2019, Milan Fashion Week autumn/winter 2020 served up a novel take on the turn-of-the-decade’s favourite headgear. Fendi’s autumnal spin on the preppy accessory? The upside-down headband, worn beneath a decoratively woven bun (imagine a film noir heroine appropriating runners’ headphones).

Cast in quilted pastel leather, ruched teal silk and butterscotch suede, Fendi’s delectable headband was styled with everything from printed tea dresses to swaddling knits and a show-stopping biker jumpsuit. The latter, modelled by autumn/winter 2020’s breakout star, Hiandra Martinez, caught the eye of fellow Fendi star Gigi Hadid and her ever-present disposable camera. Keep your eyes on the super’s side account @gisposable for the ultra-inside take on the accessories trend that’s about to send the street-style set into a tailspin.

Strap In—The Harness is Officially Happening This Fall

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since Timotheé Chalamet broke the internet with his jeweled harness. The look has remained so influential, and is still talked about so frequently, that you’d almost swear he wore it to this year’s Golden Globes, not 2019’s. It’s become the ne plus ultra of modern men’s style, and an early indicator of (hopefully) more exciting, gender-bending red carpets to come.

We may not be there just yet—this awards season was pretty dull—but thanks to Chalamet, the harness has lingered as the requisite “cool” accessory for guys. Not long after the Golden Globes, Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman wore harnesses, too (also by Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, who made Chalamet’s), and more recently, Lil Nas X wore a neon pink Versace harness to the Grammys. None of those looks reached the viral status of Chalamet’s sparkly accessory, but they still caused a stir.

It isn’t that harnesses are exactly a new concept; Michael Jackson famously wore them, and Helmut Lang, Vivienne Westwood, and Rick Owens have all designed their own versions. In Chalamet’s case, it was the “feminine” embellishments, the touch of kink, and his status as Hollywood’s next-gen golden boy. I’d argue it was also because he didn’t look like a fashion victim; his look pushed the envelope, but it was still kind of relatable. Under his harness, he wore a black shirt and trousers, two items you’ll find in every guy’s closet. Similarly, Jordan and Boseman wore their harnesses over classic, monochromatic suits. In every case, the addition of a harness didn’t completely throw you off or require a jarring shift in perspective; it was simply a tweak to an existing formula.

That might help explain why the accessory has trickled up to the most influential women’s runways of fall 2020. At Gucci, Alessandro Michele buckled leather harnesses over his ruffled ball gowns; Christopher Kane’s harnesses came in jelly plastic with giant rhinestones; Richard Malone’s cotton straps dangled over dresses; Michael Kors wrapped narrow leather straps around a plaid prairie dress; and Vera Wang toughened up her floral gowns with fringed and grommeted harnesses. These were capital-F fashion takes on the trend, but there was still the element of modularity: Wear the full look, or don’t; layer the harness over a T-shirt, or don’t; swap the harness for a blazer over the dress, if the mood strikes. It’s less prescriptive than what we’re used to seeing on meticulously-styled, themed runways.

In that regard, you might consider the harness a distant cousin of the removable collar, and maybe the dickey, too: These are detachable, endlessly mix-and-match-able styling pieces that can spice up a brand-new dress or the oldest sweater in your closet. In lieu of adopting an entirely new “look,” a harness or collar requires you to wear it your way; it’s an item to enhance your style, not rewrite it. We’d venture to guess there will be more harnesses in our future as the shows ramp up in Milan and Paris (and probably more collars, dickeys, belts, and other add-ons, too). A Timotheé Chalamet sighting is less likely, but a girl can dream.

The Artist Behind Balenciaga’s Dystopian Campaign Video Talks About Warping Reality

Balenciaga under creative director Demna Gvasalia casts an eerie image, teetering in between what is real and what is warped. Its latest campaign, released earlier this week, is presented as a fashion-infused newscast with a dystopian feel. (On Twitter, a version loops for 24 hours.) Newscasters are reminiscent of robots with glitchy marionette mouths. In the Gattaca-style world, all of which is outfitted by Balenciaga, the mood is apocalyptic and carefully calculated to be both familiar and unsettling.

 One news item is about how traffic jams have been replaced by a stream of clone cars seamlessly tailgating each other at a rapid speed in full Human Centipede mode. Another story reports that the planets are aligning, causing some kind of eclipse that presents an opportunity to show off Balenciaga’s slender black sunglasses. Perhaps the most chilling part of the video loop is the meaningless ticker blips of info juxtaposed with headlines like “Where is all the water going?” The inane, incorrect factoids—a bevy of fake news, if you will—include: “Researchers match on Tinder in Antarctica,” “Rodents gnaw because their teeth never stop growing,” and the oddly deep-cutting line “One in a million isn’t that rare.”

The concept behind the newscast came from the Paris-based artist Will Benedict. His prior work floats in between reality and distorted fantasy. One of his videos includes Charlie Rose interviewing an alien. While most of the imagery from the Balenciaga campaign seems plucked out of a science fiction movie, much of it is based on actual images. “I try to find things that are very real, and very much a part of our very much real lived world,” says Benedict. “In the end, you don’t know where you are standing. I like that unstable kind of place.” At one point, there is a revolving whirlpool accompanied by the aforementioned question “Where is all the water going?” It is the largest drain hole in the world, the Monticello Dam Morning Glory Spillway in Napa Valley.

Other images include pedestrians, all in hulking Balenciaga coats, walking across the street, along with a plastic bag joyfully pacing next to them. “The plastic bag carries a lot of meaning right now. It is an object that carries our problems in it,” he says. “As soon as you activate a plastic bag as a thing, the idea that it could take care of itself, that it is sentient…is the part that would make people scratch their heads.” For Benedict, the idea of adding in these oddities makes for a Twilight Zone newscast that is more digestible than the actual news. “It is a funny job to figure out what will be the intent of the news report,” he says. “If you were to really do what was on the news you’d scare the shit out of people, so it can’t be as hard-core as the real news.”

Balenciaga is no stranger to tinkering real life into a semi-nightmare. (For the spring 2020 collection, the house sent out models with cheek and lip prosthetics, a seeming nod to the culture of exaggerated social media filters, which have now been mirrored in plastic surgery.) To create an authentic but off-kilter world, Balenciaga has a history of using non-fashion photographers. The fictional politicians in the video were captured by Laurence Chaperon, who has photographed real-life politicians such as the German chancellor Angela Merkel. In spring 2018, Balenciaga tapped the paparazzi to shoot its paparazzi-themed campaign, while using the portrait photographer for the portrait-themed spring 2018 men’s campaign. In other words, it’s Balenciaga’s world and we’re just living in it.