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(This was originally posted on May 20th, 2015. Let’s revisit!)

Have you ever wondered who made that T-shirt you’re sporting? Jacket? Jeans? Until recently I hadn’t, nor had the film director Andrew Morgan. Then in 2013, Mr. Morgan was reading in the New York Times about the Bangladesh factory collapse in Rana Plaza. Shocked and horrified to learn of the conditions those factory workers (and many others) endure, he began to ask some basic questions: Who makes my clothes? What are their lives like? Are they better off?

In his new film, The True Cost Mr. Morgan helps answer these questions by traveling the world and talking to people in the industry from designers such as Stella McCartney to workers in far away factories. He interviews professionals about the business of fashion, globalization, consumerism and the toll all of this must-have fashion is taking on our planet and the people who make our clothes.

Mr. Morgan insists that his film is not a guilt trip but an opportunity to “… open our eyes and hearts to this idea that there are hands, physical human hands that touch the things that we wear and those hands are lives and they matter …”

Click here to watch the trailer. (It just might change your approach to fashion.)

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There are a lot of fashion looks strutting around the Cannes Film Festival – day and evening. Much of it not my cup of tea but here are several favorites:

 

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Cute and sassy daytime Moschino outfit worn by British model Cara Delevingne. The red beret makes the look.

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Androgyny in teal is the look of choice for model Aymeline Valade. Hard to pull off but the pop of color helps.  Dangle earrings soften the ensemble but I would switch out the Oxford shoes for a 1940s peep-toe heel in black and pull up the hair for more feminine/masculine contrast.

 

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Stunning in red is model Sara Sampaio. Dress by Zuhair Murad. A classic silhouette allows the color and fabric do all the work. I like her hair casually pulled back and no jewelry at the neckline is perfect.

 

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Elegant simplicity worn by French model/actress Lily Rose Depp from the Chanel resort line. I love the cap sleeves set off with unexpected detailing. It looks like the sides are partially bare, which adds interest. Soft ivory color with gold accents is perfect for spring and this event.

 

 

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Asia-Kate-Dillon -Billions-Premiere-Season-2--01Gender neutral clothing is often, for lack of a better term, bags on bags. A baggy shirt with baggy pants, that sort of erases any individuality, as opposed to enhancing it. I think that fashion is moving in that direction already anyways. I enjoy mixing hard and soft, masculine and feminine, finding those gray areas. But for me, if it’s comfortable I’ll wear it. And I’ve been comfortable in 6-inch heels before if you can believe it or not. 

Asia Kate Dillon, non-binary actor. This quote of from a Q&A with WWD.

Dillion plays television’s first non-binary character, Taylor, in the Showtime series Billions.

Non-binary? From what I understand, that means a person who does not identify with either female or male gender. (Click here for a better explanation by Dillion on the Ellen Degeneres Show.)

As far as fashion goes non-binary is definitely having an influence on the runways. This fall we’ll see gender neutral suits by Jil Sander and Raf Simons. Brands such as Brownie and Blondie are making strides in the unisex fashion market. There’s a certain appeal to the chic neutral look that Dillion sports – with the option to lean one way or another by adding jewelry, soft fabrics, etc. as we see in the above photo.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more shaved heads on women (remember Annie Lennox in the 80s? Sinead O’Connor in the 90s?) as well as some mixing of masculine and feminine fashion elements.

Sounds good to me. I look forward to seeing it all!

 

 

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Modern luxury, how we define it for ourselves, is about quality and great design, while at the same time offering the customer an emotional experience through great brands, its history and narratives. Modern for us is different from the traditional European groups … it’s about being inclusive, not exclusive based on price. It is not based on a country of origin, [nor] is it made in any specific market as traditional luxury brands are …

 

– Victor Luis, Coach, Inc. CEO

Last week it was announced that American handbag brand Coach, Inc. bought Kate Spade & Co.  for $2.4 billion.

The once classic handbag line, originally designed by Bonnie Cashin, seems to be shifting into a fashion conglomerate having also purchased shoe brand Stuart Weitzman for $524 million in 2015.

(More fashion news – Mr. Weitzman, who orchestrated the sale of his company to Coach, is retiring this year.)

Is Coach luxury? Kate Spade? Semi-expensive brands, yes, but I never considered either one luxury. I guess they are “modern luxury” whereas luxury is old-school European expensive, a la Hermes and Louis Vuitton.

I suppose it’s relative. One woman’s Vuitton is another woman’s Coach. Actually it’s all luxury, because we don’t NEED any of it … says the woman who owns a few Coach handbags herself (the classic silhouettes only).

 

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My mom has (jokingly) started calling me “Mom” …  since she now needs a little more attention. So, I say let’s celebrate moms of all kinds.

Happy Mother’s Day from us to you!

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Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 1997

What’s so inspiring about Rei is that for her the body has no bounds, and fashion itself has no limits. That to me is what her legacy is — the body and the dress body in fashion is limitless … When you think about what’s been achieved in the last 40 years and the types of things we take for granted now — the unfinished, asymmetry, black as a fashionable color were pioneered by Rei. But beyond the formal aspects of that, she has always rebuffed the status quo … I feel if Rei didn’t exist we would have to invent her to explain the last 40 years because her impact in fashion is that big.

– Andrew Bolton, curator of the current Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC exhibit, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. 
This quote is from an interview with Mr. Bolton for Women’s Wear Daily.
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Paired with ballerina flats. Look at the tight shoulders. Kind of like she’s wrapped up.

I was just reading about Rei Kawakubo in a book about avant-garde fashion (Fashion Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, Bloomsbury). She says there is no meaning to her designs and yet people seem compelled to find something behind (between?) the unexpected bumps, pads, layers and outrageous silhouettes.

I find her fascinatingly inaccessible. I don’t know what to make of her designs except that they are:

1. Completely noncommercial.

2. They look like they’re challenging to wear.

3. They remind me of Leigh Bowery, the British club kid of the 1980s who also came up with some wild unflattering silhouettes.
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Leigh Bowery original design, 1980s.

There is one very big difference between the two – Mr. Bowery played in a dark and freaky arena, by making everything larger than life. Not to mention his makeup and masks. Ms. Kawakubo stays within the non-freak zone by using (sometimes) feminine prints and colors and showing her clothing on lovely mainstream models. She certainly bumps up against freak (pun intended!) but with a light, quiet hand.

I would say that perhaps Ms. Kawakubo uses the body as a canvas, so to speak, for her sculptures. And in doing so she has, as Mr. Bolton points out, impacted fashion.
Fashion model Anna Cleveland, an attendee of the recent Met Gala calls Ms. Kawakubo’s designs, “Walking art.”
Click here for more information on Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between on now at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Fashions by Mainbocher.

While visiting Chicago last month I took the opportunity to view the exhibition Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier at the Chicago History Museum.

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A young Mainbocher.

Main Rousseau Bocher (1890-1976) was Chicago born and raised but as a young man he set off for adventure, first to New York City and later to Paris. He sported many hats before becoming a couturier, including an opera singer and a fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar.

Quite spontaneously in 1929 he opened his first fashion house in Paris calling it Mainbocher – pronounced mon-bo-shay. For that touch of French chic he blended his first and last names. Known for his embellished ball gowns and smart suits, he soon became the go-to designer for socialites and celebrities of the time. American Wallis Simpson donned a Mainbocher piece for her wedding to Edward VIII in 1937.

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Butterfly evening dress in silk crepe, 1945.

In 1940, the early days of WWII,  Mainbocher decided to close his Paris house and reopen in NYC. There he established himself as the first American couturier, attracting the attentions of the elite chic. Additionally he designed for Broadway plays and was commissioned by the American military to design uniforms for the women’s voluntary services.

And all this is just a brief overview! Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier follows the designer’s diverse career in detail and features 30 garments from the museum’s permanent collection as well as illustrations, photos, and audio interviews with some of his clients back in the day.

Located in a smallish gallery, this exhibit is just the right size allowing for a second and third walk around and a good gander at some of the fashions on display.

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Uniform for women’s voluntary services, WWII.

Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier is on now through August 2017 at the Chicago History Museum. Any fashion enthusiast in the area should check it out!

 

 

 

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