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For all the ladies (& fellas) who love a beautiful shoe, have we got a film for you! Opening Friday, September 22, 2017 is …

MANOLO: THE BOY WHO MADE SHOES FOR LIZARDS

A Manolo Blahnik shoe can make any woman swoon. In this new documentary fashion journalist Michael Roberts gives us an up-close look the unassuming Mr. Blahnik and his journey from a little boy in Spain with a thing for lizards to world renowned designer. Included is commentary from fashion celebrities such as Anna Wintour, Rihanna, and Naomi Campbell just to name a few.

Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards (Music Box Films) runs at the Landmark Opera in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley, September 22-29. Check theaters for show times.

Click here to watch the trailer.

 

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Photo: Alexi Lubomirski for Harper’s Bazaar, August 2017. 

I like it when I see people dressed on the street and it looks like Gucci but it’s not. It means you are doing something right. If you want to go to the store, that’s fine. If you want to go to the market that’s much better. Or if you want to buy just a pair of shoes and then you want to go to the market, it’s better than better. 

Alessandro Michele, Italian designer for Gucci.

A great message – mix it up. Expensive with inexpensive – vintage with modern – brand with no-name. Get creative!

Speaking of designers, fashion week is coming up in NYC September 7-13, 2017.

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img_20170724_161221288.jpgEvery female student in Iran wore the same uniform, which consisted of pants, a manteau, and a scarf that covered the hair and neck. Imagine a throng of one thousand teenagers in the same color uniform only showing face and hands. We looked like replicas of one another … I hated blending in with the rest of the crowd, and most of my friends felt the same way. This meant that our shoes, backpacks, and jewelry really mattered. They were the only way to showcase our fashion sense and individuality … My friends and I usually wore matching colorful friendship bracelets, trendy backpacks, and funky shoelaces; we rolled up our sleeves and opened up our manteaus to reveal our shirts underneath. Being fashionable trumped any other responsibility. 

(A manteau is a loose fitting gown or cloak.)

Tala Raassi, swimwear designer.  This quote is from Ms. Raassi’s memoir, Fashion is Freedom (Sourcebooks, 2016).

I picked up this book at the library because I can never resist a fashion story. But Fashion is Freedom is more than that. It’s a compelling read about Ms. Raassi’s struggle to overcome restrictions in her homeland of Iran and the fascinating ups and downs she faced in the American fashion industry.

Oh, and there’s a very interesting section about Ms. Raassi’s experience as the swimwear sponsor of the Miss Universe Pageant in 2010 – it wasn’t pretty!

An informative read.

 

 

 

 

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Fashion sketches by Virginia Johnson published in Descant.

I paint all of my designs by hand. I use watercolor on paper. This is my most cherished part of the creative process. I welcome accidents in my sketches. In the manufacturing process, I try as much as possible to maintain a hand-crafted feel. I welcome print flaws in the fabric because this allows the presence of the human hand to show through.

Virginia Johnson – artist and designer.

This quote is from an essay Ms. Johnson wrote for the fashion issue of Descant, volume 38, number 3, fall 2007.

I agree with Ms. Johnson’s idea of slight imperfections in anything handmade. I’m reminded of something Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York (is she still a duchess?) said when she was asked if she was nervous about modeling for an upcoming fashion show: “No,” she responded with a grin. “I think perfection is overrated.”

A perfectionist myself, that really struck me and I’ve remembered it ever since. It can be very liberating when working on any creative project to let go and see where the craft leads. (I admit my quest for perfection still plagues me when it comes to some of my writing projects.)

If we worry less about the outcome and just enjoy the process, that’s where we find art.

 

 

 

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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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The fashion industry has always been a reflection of what America is all about … inclusion and diversity. It will continue to stand by these standards. I am personally horrified to see what is going on.

– Diane von Furstenberg, Belgium-American fashion designer.

This quote is from an article in The Business of Fashion by Imran Amed.

For Mr. Amed’s article many fashion industry professionals were asked to comment on Trump’s recent executive order to halt the current refugee program and (temporarily) ban travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States. Ms. von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, chief executive of CFDA were the only ones willing to make a comment. Others declined to say one word.

Isn’t that rather odd considering the outrage expressed around the country and around the world? CEOs from Apple, Facebook, Starbucks, and Nike just to name a few, are all unafraid to take a public stand against Trump’s actions.

Why so quiet on the fashion front? I surmise that (assuming most designers actually disagree with Trump) they might be afraid to alienate Trump supporters, many of whom could be their customers. Let’s not forget that Kellyanne Conway was sporting Gucci at the inauguration. Brands such as Isaac Mizrahi and Lori Goldstein sell on QVC, a magnet for middle-of-the country shoppers. Also, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka is an influential member of the fashion biz.

It could be that designers and corporate brands are nervous about offending all the wrong people (customers and Trumps). If they say nothing, they’re safe.

But SAFE is not fashionable right now. SPEAKING UP is what’s trending.

 

 

 

 

 

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