Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Extended

To end the week on a high note, the V&A has announced that it has extended the duration of the forthcoming Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition by two weeks, taking its run to August 2nd this year. As if that wasn't enough, the museum has also released an additional 50,000 tickets to meet the huge public demand and revealed that it plans to open early and close late so to facilitate as many visitors as possible.

"With just two months to go, we are seeing an unprecedented demand forSavage Beauty but we also wanted to reassure people that there are still tickets available," said Martin Roth, director of the V&A. "We are committed to providing access to as many as possible during its 20-week run and so pleased to now offer many more opportunities to see this magnificent show in London."
Since tickets went on sale last year, 30,000 have been sold to date, breaking the museum's record for the most ever advance sales - and people will be coming from far and wide. So far, tickets have been bought online from McQueen fans from every continent and 57 different countries with the highest number bought outside the UK coming from America, followed by Ireland.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in partnership with Swarovski, supported by American Express, with thanks to MAC Cosmetics and made possible with the co-operation of Alexander McQueen, runs from 14th March - 2nd August 2015.

Rihanna Wins Topshop Battle

Rihanna has won a court ruling in London today, which bans Topshop from selling T-shirts bearing her image.

The garments, released in 2013, featured an image of the singer without her authorisation, and Rihanna subsequently won a legal battle with the store after the judge agreed that the items fell foul of "passing off" laws, and were likely to cause confusion for customers. Arcadia, which operates Topshop,then appealed this ruling in 2014, the result of which was passed down today.

"This judgment affirms the principle that use of a celebrity's image on a product could mislead the public into believing that it is officially endorsed by that person," Arty Rajendra, Partner at IP law firm Rouse Legal, said today. "It's a natural update of the law of passing off in the modern world - celebrity merchandising rights are extremely valuable, and huge investment is often made into cultivating and sustaining a particular image. It's right that unlicensed manufacturers should not be able to take advantage of that investment and that customers are not deceived into thinking they are buying 'authorised' products."

Topshop has one more right to appeal, through the Supreme Court, which could prove challenging and costly, meaning that Rihanna may have won the war as well as this latest battle.

Karl's Long-Lost Sister On Her Little Brother

Karl Lagerfeld´s older sister,Christiane Johnson, who he hasn't seen in more than 40 years, has spoken for the first time about the designer, asserting that she bears no ill will towards him for their lack of contact, conceding that he must be "really busy". The 83-year-old, who lives in Portland, Connecticut, revealed that Lagerfeld last visited her in the Seventies - arriving in a limousine which impressed the town's residents - but still writes to her to this day.

Comparing his relationship with the models that surround him to family in an interview last week, Lagerfeld clarified: "It's a choice, it's not an obligation. There's a big difference. I have a sister in America who I haven't seen for 40 years. Her children never even send me a Christmas card." But the grandmother-of-six has only good things to say about her little brother, and fond memories of their childhood in Hamburg.

Karl in the 1960´s
"As soon as he could hold a pencil he would paint," she told The Daily Mail. "He would love to find old pictures and paint on the other side of the canvas. He liked to read, he was intelligent and thoughtful. He would be up in the attic painting while I was playing in the street. He was obviously artistic but to me he was just a kid brother."

"I'm not angry, I know he's really busy," she said. "He lives over there and I live here - it's just one of those things. I have the phone number for his kitchen but that doesn't do me any good. Then there's the six-hour time difference. He's knows I've got grandchildren. My children don't remember too much about him. They would like to meet him again - we all would... Things are complicated. You have to have an airplane to go to France and when they come here it's so programmed that he doesn't have time for anything. He's very busy - how else do you make that sort of money? You can only do so much."

Lagerfeld's most recent letter to his sibling ruminated over the pair's ages and what he has achieved: "I just cannot believe that you will be 83 and I will soon turn 81. Yet I am busier and more successful than ever. That is really incredible. Normally, people like me are retired for a long time but all of my deals, Chanel, Fendi etc, are for life."

"I read the stories about him in the papers but I don't pay attention to the negative things,' she said. "He's my brother and I'm proud of his success."

Thakoon: Ten Years Later

TIME flies - when you work in fashion.Thakoon Panichgul celebrates 10 years in the industry this year (he was a fashion writer first) and to mark the occasion the designer has officially launched a full handbag line.

"I've been working towards this for a while but I wanted to do it right. For me bags are more subtle and even more a part of a woman's wardrobe than clothes - they're an investment. A bag has to work with the clothes," said the designer this week, making a whistle-stop visit to the capital to toast his anniversary before getting back to prepare for New York Fashion Week (for which he tells us he's in a fantasy mood).

"Ten years is actually a long time, but it's actually short in fashion, so it's really a second phase," he said, reflecting on the fashion moments - the highlights, the mistakes and oddities - that have joined him along the way.

"There have been so many. I think I'm a true fashion person at heart and I always loved looking at fashion magazines. To be a part of this is still humbling," he recalled - confessing that he felt like he was "poser" when he worked as a fashion writer and though he was adept at writing a caption or two ("Because you'd have to communicate so much in something short"), it was hanging out in designers' studios that he loved the most. Weekend internships with them, plus classes at Parsons School of Design and his fashion transition was complete.

"There was a moment when I went to the premiere of The September Issue and I didn't know what to expect and I didn't even know the role I had in the film. Everyone in the industry who I respect was there. Sitting there watching them watching me was a crazy moment," he remembered. Has he watched the film since? "I haven't, I won't watch it."

Film roles aside, Thakoon's focus is on the expansion of his much-adored label - bags the first step, more with his secondary Addition ine and a store eagerly in his sights.

"For me it's important to create a visual language to all customers over the world and a store would definitely do that," he asserted.

Alessandro Michele Confirmed At Gucci

IT is the news that we have been waiting for - even if we might have already guessed: Gucci has confirmed that its head accessories designer, Alessandro Michele, is its new creative director.
Alessandro Michele
"After a considered and thorough selection process, Alessandro Michele has been chosen to assume the role as Gucci creative director, based upon the contemporary vision he has articulated for the brand that he will now bring to life," Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci, said. "Alessandro and I are fully aligned on this new contemporary vision needed by the brand and we will be continuously inspired by that new identity in our respective roles and duties. 

Alessandro's talent and his knowledge of the company and the design teams in place will for sure allow him to move quickly and seamlessly in implementing his new creative direction for the collections and the brand. The Gucci men´s autumn/winter 2015 collection presented on January 19th which was realised thanks to a remarkable collaboration between the men's design and production teams, is a clear indication that the brand is ready to take a new direction."
Following the announcement that former helmer Frida Giannini was stepping down, names of prospective replacements abounded around the industry (with even Tom Ford being brought into the mix.) But after her abrupt departure one month early; the news this week that the autumn/winter 2015 menswear collection had been completely redesigned under Michele's leadership; and the very poignant fact that it was he who took a bow at the end of Monday´s show. Gucci's new direction appeared to be a done deal.

"Gucci is one of the leading contemporary fashion brands and whatever they do is both interesting and influential in both ready to wear and accessories," said Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman. "I am excited to see what Alessandro brings to the company in his new role."

Michele has been at the label since 2002 and worked closely with Giannini during her tenure. His first womenswear offering for the brand - which, presumably, will also mirror his change in direction - will be unveiled during Milan Fashion Week next month, with all eyes on the new graduate from the Gucci ranks.

"Throughout its history, Gucci has always created attention and excitement through its innovative and distinctive products and collections as it has become Italy's most renowned fashion house and one of the most iconic and prominent luxury brands in the world," François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, added. "Alessandro Michele has both the qualities and the vision necessary to bring a new contemporary perspective to Gucci and lead the brand into an exciting new creative chapter of its history."

David Beckham's H&M Wardrobe

We  know what David Beckham´s underwear looks like, thanks to his Bodywear collection for H&M, but what does his dream wardrobe looks like? Now we know, as the star has once again teamed up with the high-street store to create Modern Essentials Selected by David Beckham.
David Beckham
"I am thrilled to continue and extend my collaboration with H&M by selecting my favourite pieces from this spring's Modern Essentials collection," enthused Beckham. "Each piece is a new wardrobe classic that will update every man's spring wardrobe with great style. Marc Forster is one of my favourite directors - I can't wait to reveal the new campaign with H&M."

Forster himself is just as complimentary of the retired footballer.  "Most of us are familiar with David's innate sense of style and design, however, it was his acute eye for cinematic storytelling that struck me during the filming of this campaign," said Forster. "He doesn't make H&M clothing look good, he makes it look great."

The new edit - which also coincides with the release of Beckham's latest Bodywear collection - will be available at H&M from March 5. See him in action for Forster below.

YSL Comes To UK

The first ever Yves Saint Laurent exhibition to be held in the UK is coming to County Durham this July. The Bowes Museum and the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent - which is headed up by Pierre Bergé, the designer's partner - have collaborated to bring the retrospective, entitled Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, to British soil.

"The Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent is committed to the promotion of the work of Yves Saint Laurent internationally, and as such it is extremely exciting to work on this first exhibition in the UK," said Bergé. "The Bowes Museum is a natural destination given its exceptional work with fashion and textiles; the museum and its location also clearly reflects Saint Laurent's, and my own, passion for inspiring, timeless places. It is the perfect setting for us - a museum built as a French chateau, in the age of the Second Empire."

Comprising over 50 of the designer's most iconic and well-known garments, the show will give a comprehensive outline of his inspirations - and how he inspired - throughout his diverse and illustrious career, including his time as creative director of Christian Dior.

Yves and Pierre
"We are honoured to host the first exhibition in the UK of Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential fashion designers of all time," said Joanna Hashagen, the museum's fashion curator. "We are also thrilled to work alongside the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent on an innovative display that will introduce a dialogue between the designer's body of work and the museum's collection. This certainly is a great moment in the history of the Bowes Museum, as well as for fashion display in the UK."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Vogues Literal Living Dolls

Trust Vogue Paris to come up with this cool concept! Instead of displaying overly expensive designer wear on Barbie dolls, Vogue took models Elizabeth Erm and Magdalena Frackowiak for a fashion shoot to remember. Italian photographer Giampaolo Sgura snapped the models in designer gear from Valentino, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, and more, then used colourful accessories to create a mock-up Barbie doll background and box.

Some accessories even have those annoying white ties around them that hold everything in place on the box. That’s one of the most creative photo shoots I’ve seen in a while. And it finally makes sense why all models have those blank looks on their faces-they’re really trying to look like dolls.





Mick Jagger Donates L'Wren Scott Scholarship

L´Wren Scott may no longer be present at London Fashion Week. But a three-year scholarship programme in memory of the late designer has been donated to Central Saint Martins fashion school by Mick Jagger, L'Wren's long term partner.

The American born designer, who committed suicide in March 2014 at the age of 49, will be remembered by the fashion world for the elegance she carried in her person and her work.

It was a chance meeting at the British Fashion Awards between L'Wren and the late Professor Louise Wilson OBE that inspired the gift from Mick Jagger, who was knighted in 2003.

The legacy will be an award for one MA student each year to cover fees and part of their living expenses.

L´Wren Scott´s Legacy
Fabio Piras, course director of MA Fashion, praised this contribution. "I am very grateful to receive this extremely generous scholarship package, gifted by Mick Jagger in L'Wren Scott's name," he said. "Our students sacrifice much to take up this course and work extremely hard while they are here. I am very proud of the fact that this course, through its alumni, continues to be recognised as a major contributor to the future of the global fashion industry."

Although L'Wren first showed her collections during New York Fashion Week, she then moved her shows to London. I shall remember her both for her striking shows at the Gagosian Gallery in New York and the way that she brought an increasingly artistic vision to her work, channelling Gustav Klimt's paintings - but never forgetting to make clothes for a modern woman's life.

Karl Grants Keira's Wish

Deciding what to wear on the red carpet is not an easy decision - unless you are Keira Knightley, that is, and have Karl Lagerfeld´s direct line. For the  Golden Globes this week, the actress and Chanel ambassador chose a piece from the fashion house'smost recent Metiers d´Art collection and it was love at first sight. 

"As soon as I saw the Paris - Salzburg collection, I knew that I wanted to wear this fantastic dress!" said Knightley. "It is my absolute dream dress, so light and in this beautiful pale green colour. Up close, I was impressed to see the intricate embroidery work made into beautiful butterflies and feathers. It's just like a fairytale!"

And for Lagerfeld's part, he was more than happy to grant  the expectant mother her wish.

"I love Keira so much, she is such a talented actress, a sweet and beautiful person to work with," he enthused of the Oscar-nominated star. "Even pregnant, wearing that dress from Paris - Salzburg collection, she has the lightness of a butterfly!"

The dress in question is, much like its wearer, worthy of an award itself, with 86,000 sequins, micro pearls, peacock and rooster feathers, and 800 hours of embroidery work to its credit.

Cindy Crawford: Why The Supermodels Existed

Cindy Crawford  has employed her scientific skills (the supermodel was on course to study chemical engineering at university before the fashion industry got its hands on her) to analyse the dawn of the supermodel era, pinpointing the exact alchemy that allowed the supermodel phenomenon to occur.

"[It was] like the stars were in alignment," Crawford said. "The reason supermodels could come into being was because Hollywood actresses wanted to be taken seriously. They didn't want the red carpet to be a catwalk, which it has now become. And the models were like, 'We'll do that!' And all of a sudden fashion wasn't just about Vogue and couture, there was an explosion of coverage and we were the rock stars of that."

The Supermodel Trinity
Things are much harder for models now, she laments, with competition for major contracts coming from new sources all the time.

"I feel like I lived through the heyday of modelling," she told the Evening Standard."Models are not really getting covers now, and they're not getting the big cosmetics contracts and that's where the money is. It's actresses and singers and reality-TV people."

Far from the image of the fame-seeking reality television star is Crawford's long-time friend George Clooney, which is why many were surprised when his 2014 wedding became a very public affair, with paparazzi capturing every movement of the new bride and groom on Venice's Grand Canal. But, to Crawford, the move was perfectly logical.

"I think George decided - and Amal, too - which I thought was smart of them, typically, that either you spend all this time and energy trying to make it secret or you go, 'You know what? We're getting married in Venice and we're going to have this great party and we're going to do exactly what we want,'" she said. "So that's what they did and I really respect them for it."

LVMH And Simoens Part Ways

Maxine Simoens has parted ways with LVMH, two years after the fashion conglomerate invested in the designers eponymous label, which he launched in 2009.

The split is said to be an amicable one, with Simoëns telling WWD: "I'm extremely serene regarding my future, for my brand and other projects. I'm very confident in my company's future."

Before he decided to focus solely on his own label back in 2012, Simoens was the creative director of Leonard for six months and was widely rumoured to be a front runner for the top job at Dior  following John Galliano's departure and Raf Simons´s arrival - having previously interned at the fashion house.

Maison Margiela Minus Martin

Maison Martin Margiela is no more, as the label has quietly rebranded as Maison Margiela, dropping the first name of its eponymous founder.

The name change "reflects the evolution of the house", a spokesperson for Maison Margiela told the New York Times, also revealing that the rebrand "applies to the brand as a whole, not just the Artisanal collection shown on Monday."

Maison Margiela
The new name of the brand, which has been known as Maison Martin Margiela since its inception in 1988, coincided with John Galliano´s debut couture collection on Monday. However, typically of a brand that prefers discretion over loud declarations, no announcement was made, leaving fashion journalists to notice for themselves from the hugely coveted invitations that were sent out for the show.

It isn't the first time that a luxury rebrand has taken place. When Hedi Slimane took over as creative director at Yves Saint Laurent, the "Yves" was promptly dropped, albeit eliciting a much stronger response than has been seen thus far from the Margiela shake-up.

Tom Ford For Gucci?

It´s the headline that most fashion followers thought they would never read, and almost warrants another question mark or an exclamation mark at the very least, but the unthinkable has happened: Tom Ford is again being linked  with Gucci following Frida Giannini´s hasty departure earlier this week.

The company's creative helmer for a decade, from 1994 to 2004, Ford defined an era for Gucci, creating the brand that we know today. Taking a leading role within Kering, then called the Gucci Group, Ford also took creative charge at Yves Saint Laurent during his time with the conglomerate - and could do little wrong creatively or commercially during that time.

Tom Ford
The excitement that the Italian house generated among fashion fans under Ford was never replicated under his successor Giannini, who favoured dressing real women over Hollywood starlets - and Ford's controversial advertising campaigns kept the brand in the headlines where the subsequent, more low-key media approach has favoured philanthropy over shock value. When the partnership between Ford and Kering owner Francois-Henri Pinault unravelled - as it did very publicly - Ford retreated from public life for several years, before establishing his eponymous label in 2006.

So how much of this speculation is wishful thinking on the part of fashion watchers - and what might stand in the way of such a return? Well the short answer is, much of it and a lot of things. Firstly, Ford's hugely successful eponymous brand, said to be worth nearly a billion pounds, would likely not be compatible with the rigours of running Gucci. Secondly, Ford has been very vocal about the emotional and physical toll that the job took on him, as well as how pleased he was to have extricated himself from the label and taken control of a company the direction of which he governed autonomously. Thirdly, since leaving Gucci, Ford has admittedly switched the focus of his own life from business to family - marrying long term partner Richard Buckley and welcoming a son, Alexander, who is still just two and presumably very much in need of his dad. Add to that the fact that a Ford insider, rather amused at the suggestion, asserted this morning that there was "no truth" to the rumours.

Thanks to Galliano, 2015 is already the year of the fashion comeback, but a Ford for Gucci return really would make all our sartorial dreams come true.

Galliano For Margiela: The Verdict

There is very little the fashion industry enjoys more than a happening, which was exactly what took place at 4.30pm this afternoon in an office block near Buckingham Palace where John Galliano chose to show his first collection for Maison Martin Margiela. Little white chairs lined up along the industrial-style steel floor to seat the international fashion gang that had turned out on this dank Monday to support, report and in some cases simply to be where it was "at".

Christopher Bailey had dashed from his menswear show to join designers Jasper Conran, Alber Elbaz and Manolo Blahnik; photographers Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, Nick Knight and Craig McDean; stylists and editors arrived from around the world, and of course there was Kate Moss, husband Jamie and best friend Fran Cutler in tow.

Galliano's decision to mount his first catwalk show since 2011 at the tail end of London´s menswear schedule sent various messages. By staying out of the Paris couture calendar taking place in only a few weeks' time, he removed himself from going head to head with his old employers at Dior and from returning to the heart of Paris fashion. Instead it enabled him to piggyback off other shows (such as the afternoon's Burberry), which would have lured a number of top fashion editors and retailers to London, and allowed him to present his comeback in a city that he loves as his hometown and a long-time source of inspiration.

The irony of his showing so soon after the brutal murders at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket in Paris will have been lost on no one. Four years ago Galliano's drunken anti-semitic rant caused such offence that he was exiled and plunged into public disgrace. There are still those who don't feel able to forgive him and at this time of such heightened sensitivity about freedom of speech and religious extremism, I suspect had he the choice, he wouldn't have chosen to stage his comeback in the shadow of such events.

Martin Margiela is a designer who chose invisibility as his USP while John Galliano is one of the most high-profile designers of the age and a man who loves to experiment with his own image. This first show was exactly what you might have expected from the pairing of these opposites. The restrained number of outfits played with deconstruction and the tenets of tailoring, salvage and restitution, luxe and tatters. A breastplate of shells might have adorned a trash-can Boadicea, a dress of carved black leather ribbons fell away into a tattered train. While a Principal Boy opened the show in Harlequin leggings of black and flesh it was closed by a ghostly empress, veiled and silenced by a pearl and bronze mouthguard.

Yes there were a few clothes - a perfect black blazer, a mandarin-collared red velvet gown, an immaculate tuxedo suit to rival the work of any couturier and a single draped LBD but it wasn't a collection intended to scoop up orders (despite the humorous soundtrack of a remixed "Big Spender"). Instead it was a carefully calibrated marker of intent, from the white-coated attendants that littered the building (a Margiela legacy) to Galliano's blink-and-you-missed-him fleeting appearance on the runway at the end of the show (in contrast to his lingering, theatrical performances of old).

There will be some who will no doubt criticise the fact of Galliano's return but they will be the poorer for it. He is unquestionably one of the most imaginative designers of his age and he has done all he can to pay his dues. Not only he but the whole industry should learn from what went before and not invest him nor others too heavily with an unrealistic overload of expectation and adulation. With a clear head, his talent and passion for his work there is much to look forward to now he has got his first steps back into the limelight out of the way.

John Galliano´s New Legacy

With exquisite attention to detail, wild splashes of scarlet and intense decoration set against pure tailoring, John Galliano came back to the runway.

The brilliant designer, disgraced by anti-semitic remarks, stepped out for a micro-second in a white surgical coat at the end of his show for Maison Margiela, to generous applause for the models parading to the music of "Hey, Big Spender" - maybe a touch of irony at this first couture showing of the new season.

The designer's friends, fans and colleagues were willing to forgive, if not forget, and the sheer excellence and originality of Galliano's work brought appreciative applause from Kate Moss, who said "that red dress gave me the shivers"; Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, who had sent the designer a box of crayons and pencils; and Manolo Blahnik, who was decidedly not the supplier of platform shoes whose thick heels were carved like giants' teeth.

There was something raw and animalistic about an outfit where 3D eyes glowed at the waist or a breastpiece which looked like the sparking remnants from a queen's bottom drawer. A crown and skeletal teeth topped that outfit.

Yet somehow, in the mix of oddities and remnants - presumably a nod to Martin Margiela's idea of remake-and-mend - there was a sweet elegance. Another plain red velvet dress, cut away in curving, flesh-revealing spaces at the back, had the fashion audience sighing and dying, with Natalie Massenet of Net-a-porter the first to sing its merits and show her desire.

Then there were streamlined but seductive black trouser suits. This being Galliano, many pieces had a sexual message, as a black dress, set at a cutaway angle, revealed the kind of teeny-weeny denim shorts that would accompany Kate Moss to Glastonbury.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, out came elegant evening outfits with floating chiffon and shapely transparency that took the audience back to Galliano's Dior days.

Without measuring how much of this show was designed as Galliano and how much for the Maison Margiela label, both were definitely present.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life - every outfit tells a story and we have been working for six months - so much time on each one," said Renzo Rosso of Diesel, whose aptly named Only the Brave company is behind Maison Margiela, as well as Marni and Viktor & Rolf.

For those of us who lived through the great years of both Galliano and Margiela, the memories threatened to submerge the reality of this show held in the ultra-modern glass building in London.

My first memories of Margiela were of an wasteground on the edge of Paris, where a crowd of curious North African children gathered to watch this show of clothes - all presented inside their plastic dry-cleaner bags.

For Galliano it was Les Incroyables - the fashion inhabitants of the French Revolution of the 1790s - clothes of a wild and wonderful madness that were part of his Saint Martin's graduation show in 1984 that immediately went on sale at Browns boutique.

Martin Margiela - Belgian, serious, the antithesis of extravagance and showing off - is the first designer I can remember talking of re-cycling at the sunset of the orgy of opulence and extravagance that was the Eighties. One of his shows was even staged at an indoor flea market, and I believe he told me that suits he showed were made over from his father's or grandfather's tweeds.

Galliano, of Spanish origin, came up with a down-and-out makeover at Dior, inspired by theclochards or homeless people along the borders of the Seine. The skills of the famous petites mainsused to create worn and destroyed-looking clothes caused outrage in Paris.

All of us who remember John when he was more or less down and out himself, but could create magic from nothing, think of 21 years ago, when Sao Schlumberger, the Portuguese-born art-lover and socialite, loaned Galliano her empty Paris mansion. John, with his then muse Amanda Harlech, created a fairy-like presentation of a few outfits around a shattered chandelier, lying in a pool on the floor like a symbol of broken dreams.

By 1995 - now 20 years ago - Galliano was creative director at Givenchy and went on to bring his extravagant magic to Dior. The swashbuckling outfits in which the designer took his bow each season were part of catwalk theatre.

Meanwhile, Martin Margiela, his head covered in a pull-on hat, was mostly invisible and always silent (although to my shame, he once criticised me in the early days for misquoting him). The shows were cerebral, inventive, often brilliant - like the twin shows in white and black, in separate venues, one in the dark and the other in candlelight.

Margiela's talent was never snuffed out - he just stepped away from the company after Renzo Rosso had bought it and the designer felt that he had nothing more to say.

Galliano may not have so much new to say either. But what he showed in London was a powerful mix of beauty, low-level provocation and the skills he has learned over the years.

In an era when fashion's high tide is ebbing, as a wave of dull normality rolls forward, the return of John Galliano to the catwalk must be welcomed by anyone who loves the glory of the extraordinary.

Male Fashion: The Influence Of Military & War

Military without the swagger and uniforms that say it with flowers - can British menswear take a fresh march towards masculinity? That is the question that has come up after a week of terrible violence in Paris and at a moment when Europe has been taking stock a century after the First World War.

The ceramic poppies that filled the moat at the Tower of London, as a remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for their country, have been incorporated into fashion. Poppy-shaped buttons from  JW Anderson and poppy patterns worked into the military tailoring at Alexander McQueen underscored the emotional reaction that the poppy "field" produced.

But London Collections: Men - a youthful addition to the menswear shows and with a roster of young male designers - raises a more general question: after androgyny, female aggression, belligerent femininity and return of hard-edged masculinity, where does the male/female war now stand for winter 2015?

I liked the attitude of  Sarah Burton at McQueen when she said of her Regency-style, body-conscious coats, with flower patterns sweetening the sharpness of the silhouette: "This is uniform - but not military."

Alexander McQueen

She turned the models' backs on war by inserting into pin-striped suits or tailored coats words of military gallantry such as "valour", "honour" and "truth", while sending an anti-war message with jacquard florals sprouting in the taut tailoring.

Alexander McQueen 
I started to search the weekend shows for their masculine/feminine traits. Jonathon Anderson brought out a man's (or maybe also a woman's) softer side by perverting the Seventies, mixing skinny sweaters with trousers un-zipped at the ankle to create a puddle of flares, and the same idea for dangling cuffs on skinny shirt sleeves. The big coats, the ruffs of fringe and the wild mixes of unexpected fabrics made the show seem ambidextrous in a twenty-first-century way.

JW Anderson
"I like the idea of floppiness," JW said backstage. Although some of those looks hovering between male and female fell too far on the girly side.

JW Anderson
For Jeremey Scott, his vision for Moschino was more or less bisexual, but with pecs and abs on show for men taking the wintry mountain trail, while girls covered up bare skin with bearskin. Were the men's looks - such as a silvered padded jacket decorated with orange flowers - more Hollywood than wild wood? Not really. Jeremy Scott greets male and female bodies with the same colourful separates, making for sportswear with a wild-as-wolves edge.

The world of motor racing has passed me by, but I understand that it can be a way to channel male - and maybe female - aggression.


Belstaff got its message across by staging in an oily, underground garage a meeting of hipsters who had parked their bikes to hang out in a cool café. Shearling blousons, butter-soft leather jackets and even waxed cotton looked much too classy to fit with this low dive. Yet they did seem like symbols of masculinity, in a sumptuous style. And maybe it is a luxury for today's male to find something that stands clearly on one side of the sex divide.

In a more practical way, Christopher Raeburn´s show was a statement of pure masculinity. The concept of the collection started with a raft and what the designer called "survival, endurance and immersion - a group of men adrift on the open ocean." Although he also designs for women, parkers and bomber jackets, re-made from a section of a survival raft, seem designed for the active male.

Most dramatic of Raeburn's offerings was the latex inflatable outerwear, flat to pack, but blown up to give authentic meaning to the "puffer" jacket. Other offers include sharks patterning merino sweaters - everything that might dress an alpha male.

Masculinity with a modern twist is the message so far at the London Collections: Men. But there are brands with a more relaxed vision of menswear. John Ray, the creative director of Dunhill, looked not at the military but at the artistic bohemians of the late Fifties, including artists Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. I felt that this collection had included touches from the wartime code-breaking film of the moment, The Imitation Game.

Here was a collection of a kinder, gentler masculinity, with casual tailoring in rich "off" colours, from amber through russet to orange. Tactile fabrics and easy shapes suggested that Dunhill's look was not only avoiding military influence, but also cosying up to a look that while not androgynous, might have a female appeal.

Coach got the hard/soft, male/female just right, with lush shearling jackets for a glam take on the great American outdoors. With russet and berry orange, well-matched to the backdrop of autumnal woodland, designer Stuart Vevers added another irresistible soft touch: shoes with shearling uppers, surely designed for masculine-feminine co-habitation of the feet.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tomas Maier: London Calling

Tomas Maier creative director of Bottega Veneta has set his sights on London - bringing his own eponymous line to the capital for the first time as a shop-in-shop at Harrods.

"Over the next five to ten years, we will be expanding our wholesale and retail network internationally," Maier told us. "It will be interesting to serve the clients directly in different countries and see how they respond to my aesthetic."

Business aside, just what is it that Maier - who launched the label in 1997 and commenced a partnership with luxury conglomerate Kering in 2011 - finds so appealing about London?

"The good manners - such an easy way to make the day-to-day so much more tolerable. I think the lifestyle we promote corresponds well with the London lifestyle… You also have some of the best museums in the world."

Thomas Maier
What is that lifestyle that he is promoting?

"The Tomas Maier woman is unfussy, active, smart and self-assured. One who is confident enough to know what works for her," elaborates Maier, for whom the brand is about a sense of "me-time".

And what does he do in his own "me-time"?

"I like being outside, walking on the beach. I prefer to go to a museum exhibition if I am in town."

Giannini Leaves Gucci One Month Early

Fashion watchers expecting to see Frida Giannini take her final  Gucci bow following the label's autumn/winter 2015 show next month will be disappointed, as it has emerged that the designer has left early. Despite announcing her departure with a measured and appreciative release - giving the impression of a very amicable split - the house confirmed today that Giannini is "no longer in her role as creative director".

"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contribution that Frida Giannini has made to Gucci's legacy during her nine year tenure as creative director," said Marco Bizzarri, the new president and CEO of Gucci - Bizzarri replaced former CEO, and Giannini's partner, Patrizio di Marco late last year. 

Frida Giannini
Although the company has not explained the move, many link the hurry to remove Giannini with the urgent need to replace her at the helm as Gucci strives to improve profitability. The rumour mill has already begun to swirl with potential replacements: first up, Giannini's deputy Alessandro Michele. Currently head accessories designer, Michele is an old hand at the Italian label, having joined in 2002.

Far from needing a household name to take charge, Gucci is known for promoting talented creatives, and in fact plucked Giannini from within Tom Ford's team following his departure in 2004. The possible ascension of Michele underlines Gucci's commitment to reassert the focus on to accessories, as well as the need for a safe pair of hands in tumultuous times.

"[Michele] knows all the inside mechanisms," a source told WWD. "With a brand such as Gucci, creativity is tied to industrial development. It's a very scientific machine, where marketing has its say. It's creative only up to a certain point. Calling in a designer from outside can bring an added touch of allure, but a designer from the inside may work better in the long run."

British Couture Comes To Harrods

British couture label Ralph & Russo has opened its first retail boutique, and it is inside Harrods. Despite boasting a rapidly expanding client list, the label - like all couture houses - previously only acquired new clients through word of mouth and recommendations, but the space has opened the forward-thinking company up for a new customer to discover organically.

"In a league of its own aesthetically and commercially, Ralph & Russo is an outright contender amongst the world's best-known luxury fashion brands," Helen David, Harrods fashion director, told us. "I couldn't be more thrilled with our launch at Harrods of their first boutique, where clients can browse their extensive archives and commission unique designs - gowns, shoes and accessories."

The location of the 150sq-m space - within Harrods's new Superbrands area - also says much about the label's growth and evolution as a fashion force to be reckoned with. The only British label chosen to sit within the offering, alongside fashion's global superstars - from Gucci and Prada, to Valentino and Dior - Ralph & Russo is thereby ratified as one of the big boys, and visionary CEO Michael Russo has no intention of stopping there.

Ralph & Russo
"Haute couture is a 150-year-old industry that has reinvented itself over the decades, against all odds," Russo said. "In order for it to remain relevant, couture has had to evolve and endure the present pace. Ironically, accessibility - which has always been its antithesis - is key. As it is first and foremost a lifestyle, couture needs to be in touch with the lives and attitudes of today's clients, who are no longer what they used to be 30 years ago. Our clients are modern women with demanding careers and schedules that don't always allow for endless fittings. With completion usually taking several weeks, sometimes months, we had until now been unable to cater to an increasing number of clients wanting pieces available within a shorter time frame. The opening of our showroom at Harrods will satisfy such clients' needs."

As well as allowing clients to make appointments to attend the atelier for the full couture or  bridal service, the space will hold pieces made exclusively for the boutique, which can be purchased immediately by the time-poor customers described by Russo.

Also on display and available for immediate purchase are the label's new shoes and accessories collections. Handcrafted in Italy, the delicate eveningwear pieces will give most Harrods customers their first taste of couture - but, careful, this Brit brand's confections are dangerously moreish.

Monday, January 12, 2015

John Galliano Returns

I’m not going to spend half-a-dozen sentences here endlessly comparing John Galliano’s Maison Martin Margiela debut which took place today in London, to the original designer’s work. I’m also going to try my hardest to stay away from referencing Galliano’s past efforts. There are already plenty of detailed accounts floating around the Internet that deftly illustrate those points.

Here’s what I will say. #MargielaMonday was maybe more thrilling than even Galliano’s greatest supporters could have hoped. The house calls this collection “artisanal,” meaning -- in this context -- handcrafted clothes made from found objects. But couture by another name can smell just as sweet.

Galliano’s demons were out there for all to see, a jumbo-sized devil’s mask boldly encrusted on the front of a red exaggerated-cuff swing coat, worn with rubberized red leggings and hoof heels. A ghost bride felt similarly cathartic, decorated with mounds of flowers and crystals and ribbons, her faced covered in the old Margiela way with a sheer wisp of red tulle serving as a base for the elbow-length gloves. Many of the looks were like beautiful innards twisted outward, as if Galliano was using this collection to purge himself of his demons.

John Galliano
Now that "commercial" is no longer the biggest putdown in fashion, it’s okay to say that there were some exceptionally wearable pieces in there, too. The first look, a suede high-neck vest jacket piped in what looked like pieces of black plastic, was surprisingly easy. As was the finale’s inside-out cargo jacket.

Couture is always the right place to start over, because there is far less pressure. (Galliano’s greatest enemy.) No one at Only the Brave, Margiela's parent company, is thinking about whether or not this particular collection will sell. (Although there will surely be buyers of the multiple exhibition-worthy pieces.) Instead, it’s about identity. Galliano is fortunate that his predecessor departed six years ago, the legacy softly slipping away. It allowed him to come into this as boldly and as unapologetically as a man in his dark, miserable circumstances could. The best fashion shows leave you excited for what’s next. And that’s exactly what Galliano did today.