Friday, October 28, 2011

Fanny Berger

One of the cool things about getting paid to write fashion blogs is, well, getting paid. And seeing my name on someone else's website AND knowing that at (probably) more than 2-3 people will read what I write.One of the cool things about having my own blog (that I share with the lovely Kiran) is being able to write what I want. Even if it's a little depressing. 

Upon the arrival of the Nazis in Paris in 1940, Jewish hat designer Fanny Berger was forced to sell her business to an “aryan." She evaded arrest until September 1942. She spent 9 months at an internment camp at Beaune-la-Rolande before traveling to Drancy and finally to Auschwitz. She was killed upon arrival in July 1943. She was 42 years old. Even more tragic is the fact that Berger was estranged from her family prior to her death because they did not approve of her independent lifestyle and career choices. 

Very little information on Berger is available other than a 2008 documentary made by her niece, entitled "Murder of a Hatmaker." Indeed, only a few photographs remain as visual proof that this woman ever existed. 

As Lisa Katzman writes: 

"Some of these details are related in a chillingly detached account by two French archivists, who, as the official custodians of the Vichy regime's census data and Nazi records, bear the burden of history with a disdain that seems equally directed at the Jews as the Nazi occupiers. It is an attitude that provides the subtext for much of what unfolds in the film, including the bizarrely self-reproaching admission of an elderly aristocratic acquaintance of Odette's, who claims he has no recollection of serving as a witness to the mandatory sale of her business to a gentile 'Aryanized' hatmaker, because, as he says, 'to send a person to her death, I think I would remember.' "

What's more than tragic, or depressing, is the infuriating fact that so little remains of this particular member of the Parisian fashion industry. Coco Chanel slept with a Nazi and a bottle of her perfume is sold every thirty seconds. Fanny Berger committed the crime of being born Jewish, and we've all but forgotten her. Sometimes depressing is necessary. 
Posted by: Carla 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This is McQueen: SS12

I've still be thinking (perhaps too much) about this concept of people designing under the names of someone else. I neglected to mention in my last post how this can sometimes go shockingly right instead of dismally wrong (or artistically into left-field.)

In the case of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the act of taking over a name and continuing to design under it has gone as smoothly as Burton could have dreamed. But what's interesting about her takeover after the death of McQueen is how much she has been able to adhere to his previous aesthetic. This, I believe, is the key. There is no point is carrying on a fashion name when the new designer creates clothes that have nothing to do with the clothes that made that name famous. That's not to say that designers are without artistic license-- the very point of art is to innovate, but if that's the case, why not (as I mentioned previously) just start designing under your own name instead? Of course, this is much easier said that done, especially when a name like John Galliano carries the weight that it does.

At the same time, does this mean that Burton is resigned to design collection after collection that looks just as McQueen's last works did? No. Her work has moved in new directions, but what she has held onto is that eerie elegance, the evidence of a haunted genius that permeated McQueen's work. Not a problem, the pair worked together for over a decade before Lee's suicide. And, its pretty important to point out that this is only Burtons THIRD stand-alone collection. With the genius she displays, it seems like there have been many, many more before this. So why am I quick to dismiss Gaytten's work for Galliano but embrace Burton's work for McQueen? Because Burton's work oooozes McQueen, while Gaytten's work could be anybody for any name, but it's not necessarily Galliano. (Cue Enid telling Carrie "This isn't VOGUE!")

Burton described the line as "a collection about excess--an exploration of ideals beauty at their most extreme." McQueen's official twitter described the line as "hyper-feminitity." It's as though Burton has explored the boundaries of femininity to test how far it can go, how it can be emphasized. It makes use of feather and bird motifs as well as the ocean, sea shells, anemones, (the entire underwater theme is explored expertly by Vogue's review.)  This mingling of the strange with the ordinary creates looks that are haunting and mysterious in their effortless beauty. It's pointless to fit McQueen (really, ever) in with the other trends of Spring. It isn't like anything else.

Posted by: Carla 
*All images from Style.Com

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Can Anyone Do What John Does?

The Spring John Galliano collection differed from past lines when it was presented in Paris today. It was far less over the top than we might expect from a Galliano show, but the main departure was due to the fact that this this was the first John Galliano show with someone other than the brand's namesake at the helm. Bill Gaytten, who stepped in for Galliano when he was ousted at Dior and Galliano after his antisemitic tirade earlier this year. Dior has since been in the talks to find a new creative director (perhaps even Marc Jacobs) while the Galliano house seems to be sticking with Gaytten (despite a few less than savoury reviews.) 

It's difficult to help but wonder, in a line named for Galliano, can anyone do what John does? We've already mused the inherent problems of his genius when mingled with the fact that his actions have been, frankly, intolerable. But when we view art, and we know its been created by someone other than the man we've all lauded as a genius, can we still take it seriously? In a tangible sense, reviewers have noted that Gaytten's collections are simply not as outrageous as Galliano's, and that lack of ballsy genius is what makes them so much less exciting. Wall Street Journal blogger Christina Passariello muses that the less-than-lengthy legacy of Galliano's own brand (vs. Dior) allows Gaytten to branch out from what designers (in this case, Galliano) have done in the past. 

When viewing Gaytten's work, I almost find myself prejudicially dismissing it, because I know it's "not Galliano." That doesn't mean it's not good, but why, then, does the Galliano brand not just end with the demise of the shamed designer's career? Why doesn't Gaytten just strike out on his own, especially now that he must know he will never fill Galliano's shoes the way we want him to? In fact, it seems to me that Gaytten would garner more positive attention designing under his own name, because that "Galliano"-sized expectation would not exist. Indeed, it's not as though the two are strangers: Gaytten has been working with Galliano since his Givenchy days. And, obviously, there are millions of dollars to be made in Galliano's name, which is a shame, because this is not how art should work. 

Looking back at the designer brands that have survived from the early to mid 20th century, when international trade and fashion were flourishing, we still see names like Balmain, Rochas, Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Chanel and Christian Dior. But how many of the current creative directors of these companies design along the lines of the original Parisian creators? When Theyskin's took over the revived Rochas, he might not have known that Marcel himself was a reputed anti-semite, but what's more important is that articles discussing this revival said nothing about Rochas' original aesthetic and why that might be important to Theyskins (hence absolving him for overlooking Rochas' ideological shortcomings.) Sure, Olivier Rousteing is lauded for being a 25 year old design prodigy recently taking the reigns of Balmain, but what do his (albeit gorgeous) designs have to do with Pierre himself?

Does it matter what designers create in the name of someone else? Does the name stand for an aesthetic, or is it like fashion, changing with each day and season? Is it just about money? Is it as much an art form as we would like to argue or believe? Unfortunately for Gaytten, stepping away from John Galliano the brand, the name, and the man might be a bigger challenge than he can handle. 

Posted by: Carla 

Haider Ackermann Spring 2012: This Ain't Yer Mama's Dynasty

This morning, my mum dismissively commented, "ugh, '80s shoulder-pads are back." I replied, "Mum, check out thisss collection," and pulled up the slides from Haider Ackermann Spring/Summer 2012. She wasn't impressed. She told me to Google "Dynasty" and that'd show me the REAL 1980s. I still haven't bothered Googling. I watched Degrassi Jr High. I know what's up. The problem is, looking at legitimate 1980s clothing in its natural habitat--I can't tell who actually is supposed to look good and who isn't. However, 1980's inspired clothing lines work much better for me.

Ackermann's latest collection in a string of warm critic responses presents saturated colourful silks, chiffons, and shears. Ackermann's use of menswear inspired lines is explained by the thought of women who steal their clothes from their lovers and apply those lines to make an outfit that's effortlessly chic. Along for the ride are slouchy pants and scarves, oversized garments and boxy tops. Still, the styling works, translating into 41 incredibly fierce looks.

Posted by: Carla 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Balmain's Gold Glitters: SS12

One of my favourite bits of university research has been reading snippets of Pierre Balmain's autobiography My Years and Seasons. Balmain wrote about designing through the Occupation, working for Lucien Lelong and meeting another budding designer, Christian Dior. He talked about how they would hang out with Christobal Balenciaga and how he eventually decided to create his own fashion house. Balmain and Dior worked together at Lucien Lelong, and during Balmain's going away party, Dior had to leave because he was so upset. Nearly 70 years later, the House of Balmain is still going strong.

I feel as though I've said this a few times but Olivier Rousteing's Spring 2012 collection might be one of my favourite collections of the season. It was only April of this year that the 25 year old Rousteing was named designer at Balmain, replacing Christophe Decarnin. At this young age, Rousteing already had 5 years experience at Roberto Cavalli under his belt (as well as 2 years working under Decarnin.) Among others, New York Times magazine demonstrate some apprehension as to whether Rousteing would experience as much success has Decarnin has done as head designer at Balmain, but this Spring collection shows that Rousteing has the talent and the guts to pull off a well-tailored and ambitiously adorned line of women's clothing. 

At the same time, Rousteing isn't taking any huge steps away from Decarnin's previous aesthetic. Both are masters of cutting a fierce jacket, have a propensity for edgy rocker style, and Rousteing seems to be carrying on the smatterings of gold that Decarnin's made use of for a few seasons. (We all remember that infamous gold bathing suit that made covers on at least 3 international women's fashion magazines, yes?) 

Rather than give into the omnipresent colour and floral trends popping up all over spring runways, Rousteing seems to have instead opted to display a number of different textures and techniques. His work demonstrates an amazing amount of detail, rich use of gold, minimalist yet elegant use of blacks and whites, and even denim and quilting. Decarnin and Rousteing's Balmain lines have often been described as "rock and roll," but for some reason, both seem to have the ability to make rock and roll look effortlessly rich and put together. 

It was incredibly difficult to choose favourites, but here they are: 

Posted by: Carla

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free Flowing Fashion: Bottega Veneta Spring 2012

If you cast your mind back to this past summer, you'll remember Emma Watson's fabulous Bottega Veneta gown she wore to the premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. This Italian house, now headed by Tomas Maier, has been around since the 1960s (an influence evident in the latest line) but has really only been on my radar, I'll readily admit, since Watson's dress made its appearance.

German born designer, Maier's, latest offering displays a wide range of colour that we've seen in a number of Spring/Summer 2012 collections. But rather than give into the impulse of designing a line of over-the-top fluorescent shades, Maier sticks to saturated, rich tones in silks and chiffons. At the same time, the shear plastic applique found on a few of the looks was less than appealing.

And still, I feel as though the garments this season that have excited me the most have been the red-carpet worthy dresses. Maier churns these out in spades. Like any great show, he's left the best for last: four (in the words of Nicole Phelps) "glorious chiffon goddess gowns, each one more vibrant than the next." 

I couldn't have said it better myself, Nicole. 

Posted by: Carla 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Crop Top (Where my witty titles at???)

When I was about 10 years old, my best friend at the time's mother bought us matching peasant skirts with black crop tops. We called them our "Thailand Skirts" which I assume is where they came from (clearly I've developed some form of early dementia since then, because I don't remember what happened of these outfits or if they were ever actually from Thailand.) BUT ANYWAYS, I remember being slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of pairing a skirt with a crop top at the age of ten, and its still something I'd never wear.

Having said that, I'm LOVING the crop top trend on just about everyone else. Its something that's been on my radar since at least last August when Glamour Magazine came out with this amazing shot of actress Grace Gummer wearing an adorable H&M crop-top.

As mentioned, this look has been popular for some time, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. As the Spring 2012 shows come out, the crop tops are still holding their own amongst the other prevalent trends. Below are some of my favourite crop (and, indeed, almost bra-top category) tops. Thoughts?? 

Nanette Lepore
 Oscar De La Renta 
 Jeremy Scott 

Posted by: Carla