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Gucci magazine ad, 2019.

You can lose nothing to your beauty but you want to put more and more just to be crazy.

Alessandro Michele, Italian designer and creative director at Gucci.

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An early Michele design for Gucci.

Mr. Michele took over the iconic Gucci brand in 2015 and quickly turned it around with a 12 percent growth in the first year. Initially I liked the new Michele/Gucci look. It was elegance with a twist – mixed patterns, unexpected color combinations, chunky jewelry but not too much. The look was big – exaggerated but still this side of good taste.

Then it got to be too much, at least for me. Busy ensembles and mash-up of colors, textures, and patterns – plaids with floral prints in bright colors, stripes with checks, added lace and embroidery making everyone look like a clown.

He got carried away with “more is more” and this crazy idea to be Crazy. Still, I admire the designer’s talent and I’m hoping he gets bored and dials it back. We shall see.

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Designer Lida Aflatoony from University of Missouri, Columbia.

Part of the CSA Symposium was the Design Showcase where on display were unique fashions. These designs posed a problem, answered a question, or highlighted an historical period. One that I was drawn to was titled Tech and Craft Synergy.

Submitted by Lida Aflatoony and Jean L. Parsons from University of Missouri, Columbia the displayed jacket was made of white organza adorned with swatches of fabric decorated with floral motifs. Using traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, beading, and knitting the intent was to address the conflict between traditional hand craft and technology.  What was unexpected (to me) was that half of each design was done by hand and the other half by technologies like laser cutting and 3D printing.

 

 

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On each of these swatches, the left side was hand crafted and the right side was done by technology.

In their abstract Aflatoony and Parsons say: The design was created as an art piece that illustrates and recognizes the confluence of traditional handcrafts and current technology, with a transitional stage in the center. This concept aims to visually emphasize the transition from the handmade and craftsmanship to digital production. In addition, the aim was to suggest that craftsmanship as a precious heritage can fit hand in hand with emerging technologies. 

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Although there is nothing like something handmade, I like the idea of a crossover. And I wonder if as fewer and fewer people are learning traditional crafts, can technology play a role in preserving these crafts.

 

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Every year Costume Society of America hosts a symposium, where professionals gather to discuss historical and cultural dress.

Costume Society of America was founded in 1973. As a non-profit organization they seek to offer educational opportunities in historical dress. Their mission statement:

The Costume Society of America fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education, preservation, and design. Our network of members studies the past, examines the present, and anticipates the future of clothing and fashion.

This year I attended the CSA symposium for the first time. Held in Seattle, Washington it was four packed days of paper presentations, professional development workshops, meetings, exhibitions, and lots of chances to meet new friends among over 250 like-minded people. Attendees included professors,  historians, costumers, and museum curators. I’m not sure, but I might have been the only fashion writer. Although there were plenty of academic writers.

This year’s theme was The Pacific Rim and Beyond: Diffusion and Diversity in Dress. The keynote speaker Akiko Fukai from the Kyoto Costume Institute opened the symposium with an enthusiastic speech on the influence of Kimono and Japanese dress on western fashion.

Presentations varied and covered topics from costuming Shakespeare to pattern creation, from prison attire to clothing terminology, from modern Muslim dress to 1790s menswear.

My favorite presentations happened to be grouped together on the final day of the symposium.

Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century. Denise Nicole Green, Ph.D. discussed a multi-media exhibition at Cornell University that chronicled the rise and fall of union-made clothing in America.  The exhibit included union-made clothing, photos, sewing machines, ephemera, and artifacts from the the university’s costume collection and union archives. What a rich and fascinating topic.

Sustainable Clothing – Nothing New: Women’s Magazines Encouraged Clothing Recycling During World War II presented by Nan Turner, professor at University of California, Davis. We could learn a thing or two from fashionable women of the war generation. With all resources going to the “war effort” clothing was rationed both in England and Europe. Recycle, up-cycle and “Make-do and Mend” were a way of life. Researching fashion magazines of the period and interviewing women in Britain who lived through the war, Ms. Turner considered how women went about refashioning their clothing.  This paper is part of a book Ms. Turner is currently working on. I look forward to reading that book!

Corporate Fashion Archives and the Growing Role of the Historian: Using PVH Archives as a Case Study presented by Becca Love, PVH Archives. Ms. Love has a very interesting job – she manages part of the archives for PVH, a fashion conglomerate which owns brands Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and Geoffrey Beene, among others. PVH Archives launched in 2014.  In this paper presentation Ms. Love discussed this new avenue in corporate fashion houses for fashion historians. As legacy brands begin to tout their history, archives have become important for inspiration, research, and PR cachet. Growing archives create a need for professionals to manage these archives. With limited and competitive options elsewhere for museum curators and fashion historians, corporate fashion houses are an exciting option. I really enjoyed learning about this new and growing career path.

All in all it was a week of full immersion in fashion academics.

There is more to report so I’ll be posting again on the CSA Annual Symposium in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Arcopedico shoes have a long history since their debut in 1966. Made in Portugal, they are as unique today as they were back then. The uppers are crafted from a nylon mesh knit, allowing for breath-ability and stretch that can adjust to various foot shapes. The nylon is treated with a softener wax making it gentle on the skin. Additionally Arcopedicos have patented metal-free twin arch support soles that protect the arch and offer distribution of body weight. As soon as you put on these shoes you feel the contradiction of the soft cozy knit with the stable foot bed. It’s like you slipped orthotics into your socks.

I’ve been wearing the LS (pictured above) in Starry Navy daily for a couple of weeks. Since I stand at my writing desk, that was the first comfort test. I find in Arcopedicos I can stand for long periods of time without any foot or back fatigue. Out doing errands they are comfortable to walk in for short distances. I don’t know that I recommend them for long distance walking, but a few blocks, in and out of the car, plane travel, train travel, commuting to work – YES.

Now, on to another very important point – they are cute, cute, cute. The LS is an Oxford style with a nicely contoured black sole. Wear them with or without socks and pair them with jeans, shorts, leggings, or a  denim skirt. They have a unique sporty look, which makes a good alternative to the ubiquitous sneaker. They’re vegan, washable, and they come in many colors – red, pink, white, yellow, black … too many to list them all.

I have enjoyed wearing the Arcopedico LS and I’m happy to add them to my shoe wardrobe. They’re a great option for upcoming spring and summer events. I see them hopping on the merry-go-round at the fair; dancing at a music festival; strolling the farmers market; boarding a jet plane to faraway places.

Check out the entire Arcopedico line.  They make boots too!

 

 

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Traditional hanbok was worn for both everyday and special occasions by men and women from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the 1950s when western clothing took hold. The basic silhouette for women was a full skirt, often made of silk or ramie, and a short jacket in solid colors. Any embellishment was applied, embroidery for example, along the edge of the skirt or the shoulder of the jacket.

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Traditional hanbok.

 

While in Seoul, South Korea I had many encounters with traditional hanbok on the streets, in museums, and the fabric market but I was interested in seeing modern interpretations by local designers. I had first learned of this trend last year at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Couture Korea.

I heard about a shop that offers modern hanbok, so one day I set out walking through our neighborhood of Insadong and into Bukchon in search of Tchai Kim.

One hour and four tourist guides later (they had trouble too!), I found the elusive shop tucked inside one of the many little alleyways that are so much a part of Seoul. I was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff member, Kim Ujin.

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Kim Ujin standing with my favorite reinterpretation of traditional hanbok.  It’s the unexpected plaid that does it for me.

Ujin explained that the shop is owned by designer Kim Young-jin, who had learned how to make traditional hanbok from a Korean Master. For several years Young-jin custom-made traditional hanbok mostly for weddings but she began to realize that the label “traditional” was variable – hanbok in the 18th century was different from hanbok in the 19th century and so on. Traditional Korean dress was ever-changing until it more or less disappeared. Young-jin felt it was time to bring hanbok back with a modern update and in 2010 she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Tchai Kim (tchai means different).

I was given a tour of various silhouettes all inspired by traditional hanbok of past centuries.

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Deoksugung Palace Guards, or actors who play guards. There is no monarchy in South Korea but there are five palaces in Seoul that, since 1996, hold reenactments of the changing of the guards.

 

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Here’s the cheollik dress with over-skirt.

One such silhouette particular to Tchai Kim is a dress based on the traditional cheollik, a one-piece tunic worn by men over loose fitting pants that were tied at the ankles. You can still see that outfit today on the palace guards. Designed originally for ease of movement, the reinterpreted cheollik for women offers the same ease for a busy modern lifestyle. The dress can be worn alone or with a pair of wide-legged pants or with an over-skirt as we see in the photo to the left.

Part of the traditional hanbok ensemble is the short wrap jacket, called jeogori. in solid colors. Young-jin has taken that idea and updated it with a v-neckline in cotton fabric and patterns such as plaids and polka-dots, shifting the look from youthful to sophisticated.

 

 

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There are many redesigns of the jacket. I tried on one that if worn in the U.S. would be considered very fashion forward but the inspiration behind Young-jin’s design makes the piece even more special. The pop of red embroidery (another Korean tradition) spelling out the name of the shop punches up the avant-garde factor. If I were to wear this jacket I’d mix it with vintage – 40s slacks and my signature suede shoes (look at my logo) and a grey or black beret with a red floral brooch attached.

The blending of traditional with modern is a marvelous way to move forward while honoring heritage and keeping it present.

Gamsahapnida (thank you) to Kim Ugin for taking time with me on that wonderful October afternoon! It was among the highlights of my visit to Seoul.

 

 

 

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Sketch of Duchess of Sussex wedding dress by Clare Waight Keller. Image by Clare Waight Keller.

We now have seen Meghan Markel’s (Duchess of Sussex) wedding dress and we know who designed it – British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the French house Givenchy.

I must confess that I did not get up at the crack of dawn to watch it all. Heck, I  like my sleep and I knew I’d catch up in the following days. I watched the BBC coverage of what Ms. Keller had to say about the dress. She went into some detail about the veil and how she suggested including flora and fauna of the Commonwealth. She recounted for the BBC reporter what she had said to the bride: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we took the 53 countries of the Commonwealth and embroidered a flower and some floral and fauna from each one of those and they would go up the aisle, the journey up the aisle with you …”

In wanting to create “a little bit of a wild garden” included in the veil were orchids, forget-me-knots, thistle, and so on.

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Queen Elizabeth II Coronation gown. Designed by Norman Hartnell.

Hmm … this was ringing a bell. British designer Norman Hartnell did something similar for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown in 1953. I wrote about it for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The coronation gown included hand embroidered flowers of each of the Commonwealth – Tudor Rose, Thistle, Shamrock, etc. –  on the bodice and skirt of the dress. Great minds think alike in Great Britain!

Back to Meghan’s dress. For my two cents, I think it was stunning in its simplicity. I love the unusual boat neck and the 3/4 length sleeves were perfection. It was made from a double silk cady fabric, which is very stable and that allowed for the shape of the dress. My only quibble was the choice of white. Perhaps a little color would not have gone amiss. A pale blue or green for spring. There may be royal rules about such things, I don’t know.

The platinum and diamond tiara (on loan from the Queen) originally belonged to Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother. Keeping it minimal, the bride wore diamond earrings and a bracelet by Cartier. Again, some color here would have been a nice touch – rubies or emeralds. The look needed a pop.

It really was all about the veil and the best perspective on that was from above. It took many skilled workers and many hours to create. I read that each embroiderer stopped to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the white fabric white.

But what an honor to be part of such a significant event.

Congratulations to one and all! Now get some sleep.

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Day-Lewis sports his own look for the W interview photo shoot. Navy blue suits him. 

In the case of Phantom Thread, when we started I had no curiosity about the fashion world. I didn’t want to be drawn into it. Even now, fashion itself doesn’t really interest me. In the beginning, we didn’t know what profession the protagonist would have. We chose fashion and then realized, What the hell have we let ourselves into? And then the fashion world got its hooks in me. 

Daniel Day-Lewis, British actor, starring in the film Phantom Thread.

This quote is from an interview with reporter Lynn Hirschberg for W.

To prepare for playing the part of couturier Reynolds Woodcock (a fictional character) Day-Lewis, like all good actors, did extensive research. He watched 1940s and 50s fashion show archival footage and spent many months apprenticing with Marc Happel, head of the NYC Ballet costume department. He learned to sew and even … get this –  made a Balenciaga dress.

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Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread. 

He found a photo of what he thought was a simple Balenciaga dress and decided to make it. Turns out it was not so simple but undaunted he sketched the design and went about draping gray flannel fabric on his wife, Rebecca Miller, who stepped in as a fit model. He says the hardest part was figuring out “a very particular gusset in the armpit.” By trial and error (always the way in sewing) he figured it out and lined the dress in what became Woodcock’s signature color, a pinkish lilac.

Very impressive!

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