Honest to goodness

January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Working within the Fashion industry can be a lesson in disillusion. You love it, and the wonderful things it produces, but you see the flawed nature of it up close and in a way thats hard to ignore.

It seems though, that there is an answer…

Last night Belgian designer Bruno Pieters unveiled his latest project, HonestBy. After taking a sabbatical for a year, Pieters was struck by a burst of revolutionary inspiration while in India. Seeing how the locals wore clothing that was grown and sewn from sources around them, he considered whether such a system could work making designer products on an international scale.

So he creates a company where not only is every garment produced in a way that is entirely transparent (as in, every button, thread, stitch is traced back to its origin, and each garment comes with information on who it was made by and where) but the cost is broken down for the consumer. They even show the mark-up from production to retail. By allowing the business to develop naturally the plan is to expand the size and product range, and by using organic materials supports and encourages manufacturers and suppliers.

No animal products (fur, leather, shell, horn) are used with the exception of wool and silk. All wool however is either recycled, or organic and sourced from countries where the laws ensure the welfare of the animals. All silk products are also certified organic.

And it goes without saying, the products already available are just plain cool…

Each garment is available on the website as it is produced, and only 10-50 “editions” of any one style are made. “When they sell out they sell out.”  There are also plans to bringing in emerging and established designers in a few months (5th of April!).

At uni “sustainability” was always such a popular catchphrase, and people tend sometimes to apply it pretty loosely to things. But this, as a potentially successful concept is genius. It’s functional (in theory) both as a business, and as a design practice. And with the whole world slipping further into an increasingly dire economic-environmental-shitstorm, it’s nice to see someone actually doing something that has almost unbridled potential, not just to work in terms of growing as a business, but to change the way we as consumers and designers approach fashion.

I’ll leave you with some nice pictures, and a copy of the brand philosophy to mull over.

And should you wish to buy this stuff (highly advisable) have a look at the website.

WE WANT TO OFFER TOTAL CLARITY, BECAUSE WE ARE CONSUMERS OURSELVES.
WE WANT TO GIVE YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOP WITH COMPLETE AWARENESS OF WHAT YOU ARE BUYING.
ONLY THEN, EVERY PURCHASE CAN BE MADE CONSCIOUS OF ITS TRUE COST.
WE RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT, WE TAKE THE WORLD’S CLIMATE CHALLENGES SERIOUSLY.
WE BELIEVE IN THE HEALTH OF OUR SKIN.
WE WANT THE IMPACT OF OUR PRODUCTS AND ACTIVITIES ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN HEALTH TO BE AS SMALL AS POSSIBLE.
WE BELIEVE IN ANIMAL WELFARE. WE DO NOT WANT TO HARM OTHER BEINGS FOR THE SAKE OF FASHION. WE BELIEVE SUCH PRACTICES DO NOT BELONG IN THE WORLD TODAY.

Dancing to Your Own Beat

January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s a pretty well known fact that Azzedine Alaia is one of the greatest designers today. Apart from entering the world of mainstream pop culture courtesy of Alicia Silverstone aka Cher in Clueless, he recently showcased a collection at last years couture shows (his first in 8 years) that blew the collective fashion industry away.

If that’s not a reason to love him, he also referred to Kaiser Karl (Lagerfeld) as a “caricature” who “has never touched a pair of scissors in his life” and also had a dig at Anna Wintour, stating that “who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion? No one.”

That and the fact that Mr Alia run’s entirely to his own schedule. No bowing to external pressure, or trying to create stupid numbers of collections each year. He creates what he wants to, and shows when he’s ready. After recently reading a biography on Yves Saint Laurent, and seeing McQueen pass, not to mention Galliano-gate, I found this interview from Style.com by Dirk Standen a bit thought provoking.

Maybe Alaia has the right idea. If fashion wants to be seen as Art, then let it be without boundaries…

(Hopefully Style.com doesn’t mind me nicking/repping their article)

You are one of the only designers who have managed to work outside the system. What is your secret?
No, it’s not a secret. Today I believe that designers are asked to do too much, too many collections. It’s inconceivable to me that someone creative can have a new idea every two months. Because if I have one new idea in a year, I thank heaven. I pray, I do everything, but God doesn’t always give me ideas. [Laughs.] That’s why I’m always late with the collection.

Is it possible for young designers to follow your example?
I don’t know, to be honest. Because it’s not up to the designers anymore, it’s up to the places that employ them and demand this work from them. In my case, no one demands anything of me. When I decide to do something, I do it. But I make sure it works, too. The proof is that you sell.

Do you think it’s possible to change the system?
I don’t know, but something has to change. There are too many designers who are in a bad state, who are sick, who feel obliged to take drugs. Me, I’m high on life.

Did the stress contribute to the Galliano situation?
Yes, and [Christophe Decarnin at] Balmain. McQueen. There is too much pressure. If it ends up destroying people, it’s not good. A human being is not a machine. Especially when it comes to creating. You wouldn’t ask a painter or a sculptor to do an exhibition every two months… I even think it’s hard for the buyers and the journalists. They have to run from New York to London to Italy, Paris. And when it’s finished, they start again. They can’t spend any time with their families, their children. It’s not good.

It seems very important to you to be independent.
Even if I was in prison, I could be free in my head. I can adapt easily.

Is it true that you were offered the Dior job?
I don’t want to go into that story again. [Laughs..] No, they asked me a while ago, at the same time as Galliano, when he was at Givenchy. They asked me for Dior, but I couldn’t do it.

Do you think you would have been happy working for a big house?
Anything’s possible.

What do you think of fast fashion retailers?
I like them a lot.

It might surprise people to hear that.
It’s a very good system. Even if you don’t have money, you can still dress well. I shop at H&M and Zara for my cousins and my nieces.

You don’t think they copy other designers?
Listen, everyone copies.

You’re known for your devotion to technique. You’ve worked with the same knitwear factory in Italy for 30 years, for example. But do you think technique is dying out?
No, because there are people at the big houses who don’t know technique, but they are surrounded by great technicians. Dior wasn’t a technician. But he had a feel for fashion, he had worked for a number of years at other houses, and he was surrounded by great technicians like Marguerite Carré … Chanel didn’t cut but she had a feel for it… Balenciaga, he cut. He knew. Cardin, he knew. There are people like that. Vionnet was at the highest level. But at the same time there are other houses where the designer is surrounded by people who even today have a lot of technique and understand it.

You’re not concerned that young designers will lose the sense of technique?
No, because there are good schools, schools where they learn. These schools exist.

So you are optimistic about the future of fashion?
Fashion will last forever. It will exist always. It will exist in its own way in each era. I live in the moment. It’s interesting to know the old methods. But you have to live in the present moment. The evolution today is in the machinery. There are machines that did not exist before. It allows you to be a lot more of a perfectionist.

Does the Internet interest you?
It interests me, of course. When I’m looking for a singer or music, I do the search myself. [Laughs.] No, I don’t know how to use it. But all my assistants know how to do it. I ask them to look it up for me.

But you don’t have a BlackBerry?
I have one, but I leave it on the table and I forget about it for a week.

What is the role of the fashion press?
The press is important, very important.

Has that role changed with the Internet?
It’s changed a lot. At any second, the whole world knows everything. That’s why it’s important that fashion magazines work more seriously, that they take the time to do good subjects with good photographers that you don’t find on the Internet. With the Internet, fashion goes directly to the world the same day, the same hour. Whether you are a journalist in the room or someone at home, you see it at the same time.

Is that a good thing?
It’s good, but not for the newspapers. Soon people won’t read newspapers anymore. They go on the Internet for their news. I saw a television program the other day; at schools they don’t write [by hand] anymore. Pupils go to school with their computers. Learning to write will disappear. And when they asked the little kids about it, they said, Yes, I look on the Internet if I want a book. The brain worked better before because you were forced to use your brain more. But that doesn’t mean the intelligence is less. People are more advanced now. When I meet kids today, I think, my God, I don’t know anything. But every era is different. You shouldn’t think it’s good or not good. You must live in the era you’re in. Each era will be different and it’s important to follow it. You don’t want to grow old with the past.

You and Karl Lagerfeld have managed to avoid that trap.
You’re talking about two different worlds. He goes in one direction, I go in another.

But you respect Lagerfeld?
I respect all designers. No doubt he is a worker.

People would say that you are two of the greatest designers.
I don’t think I’m a great designer. I’m good, but great is another matter… I have a lot to learn.

Going back to magazines, do you look at fashion magazines?
I look at them. I don’t have time to read them, not at all. You buy them because [your clothes] appear in them. And if they don’t look good, it drives me mad [laughs]. I say, Don’t give them any more clothes to shoot, because it drives me mad. And it’s true, my team hides them from me. If the photos aren’t good, they don’t show me the magazine.

I hope our shoot turns out OK then.
When your magazine comes out, I’ll call you on the telephone. Be careful, because I like to play tricks, too. I play a trick and I let the person get upset, and after, I call them and tell them it was just a joke… There are too many editors who give their advice to fashion houses. It must stop, that nonsense. Everyone has their own métier and should stick to their mÉtier.

Is it important to you to make a woman look beautiful in your clothes?
It’s the most important thing. Think about it. You are married. You have a woman. You know that she buys a dress to feel good in it, to feel beautiful. My first thought is the woman’s body, how she is in a piece of clothing, how she moves. There are certain fabrics I refuse to use. If it’s going to crinkle, I say no. I hate that. Because today people are traveling so much, they don’t have time.

So the woman comes first?
I look at them. To stay in contact with the lives of women, I go down to the boutique and I watch them. How they try things on, how they act. Because the truth is there.

Is it important that actresses wear your clothes?
There are certain actresses where it’s important, because it’s their era. There are a lot of people who observe them, watch them. It’s important for a designer that his clothes are worn by beautiful women.

And fashion in general is growing?
It’s not dead, fashion. No, no, no. Just look at all the boutiques that are opening. People are buying a lot of clothes, more than ever before.

What impact have the emerging markets had on your business?
They didn’t use to come. But little by little [they started]. And now Russia is an enormous market. The number of women who come, young, young Russians. They have the buying power, and now China is starting to move. The Arab countries. They are some of the biggest customers.

And how big a role do the accessories play in your business?
The belts, the shoes, and now the bags are starting to become important, but the clothes are the most important here. There are houses where the accessories are the most important, but here it’s the clothes.

You like it that way?
Yes, because I’m a couturier. The accessories are something extra. But at the same time there are women who are crazy about shoes.

You always wear the same uniform.
I’ve been wearing Chinese clothes since I was 14. I can’t wear a suit. I’m small and when I put on a suit, it’s not possible. [Laughs.]

What does Paris mean to you?
It’s very important for me. Truly.

Could you live anywhere else?
Yes, I adapt quickly. I went once to New York on my own. I didn’t speak English. But even if you don’t speak the language, you end up finding a way around it. I’ve never felt ill at ease in another country. I feel good right away. I went to Africa with the Masai, and I was in conditions that people would find difficult, but I felt truly at ease.

Do you see differences between people in the East and West today?
Today there are no more differences. People are almost the same everywhere. [I notice that] when I see people at the airport, each time I go to the airport.

But what about the conflicts in the world?
It’s sad that today these wars exist. I would like to live in a place where you could live without problems of nationality or passports or religion.

How important is your Tunisian heritage to you?
It’s important because I was raised by my grandmother. And she was a woman who was very free for that era in Tunisia. My grandfather took me to the cinema every week. I’d watch a film four times in a day, and you can calculate how many times in a month. I learned by heart all the films that I saw, the costumes, the dialogue, and I would play each role. It’s true.

When did you first know you would become a designer?
I never did. I never thought I would at the beginning. I was at the École des Beaux-Arts. My father didn’t want me to go. He wanted me to study [at the lycée]. I couldn’t ask him for money because he thought I was going to the lycée with my brother. But not at all. I’d leave the house with my brother. He’d go the lycée. I’d go to the École des Beaux-Arts. And I started to think about how I could earn money so I wouldn’t have to ask [my father] for it. And it happened that there was a couturier in the neighborhood who put a sign on the door saying they were looking for someone to finish the clothes [at home]. I went to see them and I said I was there for my sister. My sister was going to boarding school and they had a course in couture… and I asked my sister to show me how to do it… and so I was able to earn a bit of money. And here’s where coincidence comes in. A family, who saw me going to this couturier with a package of designs, asked to see me. I told them what I was doing. And they arranged during the summer holidays for me to come to [another] couturier who was making copies of the couture houses. Dior and Balmain, I believe… And I learned a bit, and after, I wanted to come to Paris. But I wanted to come to Paris to be in Paris. I didn’t think I was going to become a designer.

[The French actress] Arletty was an important person in your life.
She became a great friend of mine… In the film Hôtel du Nord, she has this very zipped-up dress. And I thought, you only see something like this in Paris, you don’t see it anywhere else. Because there was a tonality that was unique to Paris. It doesn’t exist anymore… A friend of mine who was a hairdresser was coming to dinner, and he said, I have to do Arletty’s hair first at the theater. She’s playing [a role]. I said, I adore her. So he took me with him. And when I went into her dressing room with him, he introduced me and told her I was a couturier. And she looked at me and said, “He’s small, but when you look at him, you can’t forget him.” [Laughs.]

HOLY (Erik Madigan) HECK!!!

January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you look at a large body of a musicians work its a “discography”. Is a photographers a Photography?

Probably not. But here is a selected “Photography” of one of my favourite fashion photographers, Erik Madigan Heck. Personal favourites being his newer work with Mary Kantranzou and Kenzo, as always I’m a sucker for over saturated colour.

Rodarte

Rodarte

Rodarte

Haider Ackerman

Haider Ackerman

Haider Ackerman

Mary Kantranzou

Mary Kantranzou

Mary Kantranzou

Mary Kantranzou

Mary Kantranzou

Kenzo

Kenzo

Kenzo

You can view Mr Heck’s entire website in all its glory here

Pre-ordering

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been perusing the menswear collections, now that I can go through them in a more leisurely than usual fashion, and picking out the highlights.

Also as my quarter-life crisis approaches, I’ve been re-ordering my life and vis-a-vis my wardrobe, thinking it might be time food a bit of a change in direction.

Some men get younger girlfriends and faster cars, I just want louder suits and more shoes…

So the following are pretty much my favourite menswear designers at the moment, and also a kind of wish list. So Raf, Dries, Ricardo, if you are reading this, I’m a 32 waist.

Dries Van Noten AW 2012

(the things I would do for this suit…)

Dries Van Noten AW 2012

Dries Van Noten AW 2012

Raf Simons AW 2012

Givenchy AW 2012

Givenchy AW 2012

Givenchy AW 2012

Uniform thinking

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Fashion is essentially the interpretation of symbols. The form, colour and decoration on a garment encompass a wealth of statements and ideals. However, there are certain symbols that are beyond personal interpretations, the meaning so specific that no other translation is possible. From the crucifix, synonymous with Christianity, to tribal masks and the bankers uniform, the suit; such iconic items are an immediate and easily deciphered code of dress.

The crucifix has long been associated with Christianity and Catholicism; in fact it is unlikely that any other meaning could be gleaned from this particular symbol. Although the crucifix is an interpretation of the Celtic Bolgar or Sun Cross, its’ interpretation within contemporary adornment has always acknowledged its Christian roots. Designers have used the cross in a variety of ways, and applied a multitude of meanings to the symbol, though its use is generally to create a gothic or macabre atmosphere.

Givenchy designer, Ricardo Tisci acknowledges the heavy influence of his Catholic background in his collections, the use of black and lace his own realisation of the traditional clothing worn by women in his hometown Taranto, Italy. Tisci’s collections for Givenchy often appropriate different religious and cultural symbols, drawn mostly from the Mediterranean part of Europe. His Autumn/Winter menswear collection for 2010/2011 was described as aspirational monasticism. He used such obvious iconography as the priestly dog collar, necklaces of thorns, with an austere palette of black and white. His Spring collection for 2010 again referenced Catholicism, but through the use of repeated motifs of middle eastern tiling patterns found in many churches both in Italy and across Northern Africa, and headgear that is distinctly reminiscent of the helmets worn by knights going to the crusades.

As well as having some clever cultural symbology in it, this outfit’s also pretty pimping…

Givenchy SS 2001

For a symbol so synonymous with religion, the cross turns up in a surprising number of mediums. Anyone who has seen Lady Gaga’s film clip for her song ‘Alejandro’ cannot help but notice the nuns’ habit, decorated with blood-red crucifix motifs across the crotch and sleeves that she wears. Deviating from the themes of man, nature and the macabre that defined much of his work, Alexander McQueens final collection carried a strong religious sensibility. The use of baroque patterns loaded with Byzantine and medieval religious symbols, gave the garments a ‘papal’ propensity that was enhanced by the silhouettes and cutting. It seems almost portentous that he created work that dealt with such strong religious elements so close to his own suicide.

McQueen’s work was often an interpretation of cultural symbolism and identity. He has consistently used manifestations of indigenous icons as a method for his exploration of the experiences of ethnic-cultural identity construction through different periods of social change and destruction. This idea was most notably obvious in his Autumn/Winter 2001 presentation entitled Eshu. By creating a physical manifestation of the experiences that have shape the social and ethnic identity of the Yoruba tribes people of West Africa, McQueen provocatively drew attention to issues of ethnic-cultural identity formation and further contextualize them through his own aesthetic adaptation.

Alexander McQueen AW 2001 “Eshu”

His depiction of the Orisha-Ifa tradition of the West African Yoruba (a process of divination facilitating communication with their deities) was free from any cultural appropriation of identity. The collection, although a non-stereotypical celebration of the deity Eshu, was seen as somewhat confronting. Nevertheless, it was an optimistic reflection of West African mythology that physically portrayed the economic sources of agriculture and craft directly in the clothing as a way to depict the Yoruba as they may have been prior to Christian conversion. The bodily deco- rations consisted of heavy steel and wooden bangles, pierced septum and lips, pubic aprons, and traditional Yoruba tattoo scarring called Kolo, all representing the body modification aesthetic of the Yoruba belief that scarification is pure and natural. Powdered glass beading was applied to transparent horsehair tunics to represent traditional forms of decoration, while effigies of the trickster god Eshu were depicted in the form of carved horsehair headpieces.

Fashion symbols with a single interpretation are often found more in uniform, and cultural dress. Militaristic references have been especially popular in the last decade, perhaps as many commentators have claimed, in reaction to the continued global unrest. Elements of militaristic dress have been ever apparent, reappearing in collections repeatedly for the past few years, whether in the tailoring and silhouettes, or in the use of materials and decoration.

Esteemed Savile Row tailors, Gieves & Hawkes have a history that is steeped in uniforms, producing bespoke battle dress for the crowned heads of Europe for some 200 years. An iconic heritage that is preserved in the archives, and still referenced today in much of their work. The bespoke nature of their suits is reflected within their past, and the collection of uniforms serves as a source of inspiration for head of design Frederik Willems and his team, whether created for the officer classes or royalty. The archives are not only a historical timeline, both of the house itself and the evolution of military dress, but a repository of technical knowledge that is still relevant today.

Uniforms have an obvious language, both empowering and disempowering, designed to easily distinguish one persons allegiance to a certain group from another. It is after all, the function of uniforms to create conformity out of individuals. The school uniform is one every person dons at some point. In the context of an educational institution the uniform serves to remove difference and identity. Defining features are added with successes, whether the colour of a shirt changing with prefectship, or badges to denote academic or sporting achievement. Similarly prison uniforms function to remove identity, just as the garments worn by the police and legal system serve to enhance their position of authority and power.

Essentially all clothing can be seen as uniform in one way or another. Unlike formal uniforms, how an individual links themselves to a particular career, by dressing in the suit and tie espoused by bankers and other white-collar professionals, or follows a particular style such as punk, he or she is making a statement, telling the onlooker much more than a style of clothing. Dress denotes social and political beliefs, or lack thereof, that encompass a set of symbols that are essentially the uniform of the particular social group. Individuals use dress, to stand out or blend in as a way of legitimizing their existence with their society.

 

This is turning into a Tumblr…

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

While I’m not that into the idea of endlessly posting just photos, I have a recurring dream where free sharing of ideas across the inter-web is no longer possible. And with the US Congress’ SOPA bill only just overturned, it seems like a frightening possibility.

So I figured I’d just make the most of free speech/picture pillaging while I can.

Besides, this makes a great online workbook…

 

Cant get it out of my head…

January 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the name of sharing, here are some images that have stuck with me over the past couple of months…

I seem to have a serious preoccupation with floral prints/embroidery/applique/anything-else-you-could-ever-concievably-do-to-fabric-to-make-it-more-outrageous(including covering it in multicoloured palette sequins)

But I think it’s healthy

Where Am I?

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