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Fashion

Alexander Wang Autumn-Winter 2012

Тhere is nothing more fascinating to me than a concept of “Armour-esque” fashion right now. Yes, I always admired strong fabrics, simple cut and a sense of mystery some clothing brings; both visual and psychological. Yes, I habitually looked at Rick Owens or Gareth Pugh collections with great appreciation. Even so, could I ever completely relate to them? The answer is no. However, in the last few months my perspectives seem to have shifted. When and where did it start?

My best guess is that it kicked off this February in Hong Kong. After spending several weeks in hot and steamy Singapore, Hong Kong practically felt as good as Siberia. After thorough inspection of my suitcase I realised  that AA shirt and a wind jacket were the only “winter” items I was blessed with. Thus, as a matter of emergency I stormed to the lift; sixteen floors down and there I was – in the middle of Hong Kong’s major shopping district (Causeway Bay).

Usually I tend to stay away from big shopping malls – they simply wear me out. Be that as it may, there was no time to be hypocritical. Besides, Sogo was right there and it looked fairly cosy. After wondering for some time I came across a tiny section nicely tucked away somewhere on the second floor. It takes me exactly three seconds to scan the place (an ability that comes with time and practice) and decide whether I should linger for a further scrutinisation. One, two, th… Bang!

A sharp-looking fitted black jacket caught my eye. It was of heavy fabric and had a tall collar that covered the neck up to the jaw line precisely. Two sets or metal buttons were lined up in militaristic style. The jacket was designed by the small Japanese brand I do not remember the name of unfortunately. I tied my hair in the knot, put it on and lifted the collar. No mirror reflection was necessary. The feelings encountered in those short seconds were enough to be sure that I found something truly special. I paid for it and hurried to get out of the shopping centre. It was Friday night and knowing that I would not be able to rest in any case (sleep is generally unattainable in HK) I decided to take a walk down to Central District. A catch up with some friends over drinks was long anticipated. Plus, my newly acquired “armour” had to be tested.

I must admit that never before clothes had the same sensation for me. Yes, it was not particularly delicate item. At the same time, neither did it feel defeminising. On a contrary, in the reflections of window displays I passed by (catching a glimpse of now and then) it appeared elegant and chic. Most importantly, the sense of “protection” it gave me was supreme. Could I take any stare, any remark, any situation? In fact, it felt like I could even take a bullet if I had to.

In a half an hour walk I really started to comprehend something I only had a mere awareness of before. I realised that one can know fashion, one can love fashion, one can consume it as violently as he wishes. However, a hundred items of plain beauty or shallow attractiveness will never match up to a single piece that will impact you in a way I mentioned above. This significance may well be found in a designer’s piece or on the second floor of Sogo department store (like it happened that evening). The price tag or a label attached have no exceptional meaning here.  What does is the fact that it will help you to get from point A to B in life with your chin up, your posture straightened and your trod fierce and assured. Now that is the best possible “war” attire one can obtain and it is priceless. [Below are some visual references from current fashion designers and their recent collections]

Left: Yves Saint Laurent AW12 Right: Givenchy Haute Couture AW12

Balmain RTW AW12

Left: Rick Owens Fall 2012 Right: Maison Martin Margiela Fall 2012

Holding Shot Image Credits @Tokyo Dandy Catwalk&Detail Image Credits @Style.com

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There were many interesting things happening in Paris this Tuesday, but there was one that overcame them all. Ulyana Sergeenko, an auteur fashion designer from Russia presented her first Haute Couture Collection at the Marigny Theatre in Champs-Élysées.

Natalia Vodianova closing the show. Photo by Kamel Lahmadi at Style & The City

There are couple of reasons why I am using cinematic term to introduce Ulyana in this entry. First of all, her designs are quite theatrical. Second and the most valid reason would have to be her distinct style. When you see gentle lines, long ample skirts, retro floral patterns, Soviet inspired aesthetic – you know exactly that you are looking at one of Ulyana’s masterpieces. It is hard to be mistaken really. She sticks to her guns and it definitely works. Those may not be the clothes I would personally put on my back, but they are certainly clothes I can appreciate and admire. That is why when I heard the news about her debut in Paris I could not help it to be more anxious than excited. I wanted her to do well.

The whole occasion somehow reminded me of 1981 when Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo first arrived in Paris. They were an “army” weaponed up with unfamiliar styles, all ready to carve Japan into the stone of the world’s fashion history. Okay, perhaps they did not think about it quite this way at the time, nevertheless it is exactly what happened. They came, they showed and they conquered. So, I began to wonder… could Ulyana repeat the same success for the Russians? Could it be the beginning of a new exciting era for Russian fashion on the international arena? Truthfully it was building up to it for some time now. After all, in the recent five years or so more talented fashion designers emerged than it ever did in the past century.

Ironically, the Army analogy ended up being a spot-on. After all, what are Russians truly good at? Aside from gas and oil… war and women! Well and literature too. So it seems without much pondering Ulyana took the strengths of the nation and masterfully applied them in her creative process. What a smart move that was. On a magic carpet no less, the collection takes me to the time of Leo Tolstoy, to the pages of “War and Peace”, to Romanticism, to the days when ladies were called Baryshnyas. Looking at the overcoats, voluminous skirts, uniquely executed scarves, traditional Russian cut and of course various furs, I do not particularly see a Russian fairy-tale. I see an officer’s mother, his bride, his wife, and his widow. Through those clothes I see their characters, their femininity and their strengths too. I picture their entire life stories. In a sense it is mind blowing. What can be better than fashion that has a meaning beyond itself?

I applaud the enormous effort those pieces entail (the wool and cashmere hand-embroidered coat alone required sixty days of work). I applaud the fabrics and the finish. I applaud the coordinator of the show or whomever it is I should be applauding for the fact that each ensemble worked in a perfect harmony with a model that wore it. At last, I applaud Ulyana and her teams who were brave and made it happen. There are things to improve; things to still reach out for of course. However that first battle was victorious. Now there is still a “war” ahead and many more battles to fight. Thus I wish Ulyana and all the other gifted Russian designers the best of luck and never to loose that strength of theirs.

Holding Shot Image Credits @ Style & The City Catwalk Image Credits @ Vogue.fr

The hardest thing to realize in fashion is that the future lies in the past. The second hardest thing is to forget the past.” – Cathy Horyn

“Raf Simons will replace John Galliano at the House of Dior!”. Do we all remember this news? People were so sceptical and so was I. In my personal case being sceptical is an understatement actually. I just could not quite see Raf Simons “in Dior“. I also could not quite let go of Galliano Era. I was sure Simons will never match up for Galliano. Perhaps it is true, perhaps he never will. Although, is it really… such a terrible thing?

Let me leave the controversial for later and concentrate on fashion for now. What do we have? We have sculptural suits, we have fur, we have tie-dye fabrics, we have old-fashioned grey ensembles and “Marie Antoinette” dresses. When I put it this way the collection certainly sounds like a disaster. And it might have been a disaster indeed, unless it was tied up with one ultimate concept – Dior iconic look. Paying respect to the founder, Simons employs three unshakable attributes of classic Dior fashion – corset, wide skirt and highlighted waist. Yet of course, as I would have expected from Simons, he simplifies them. He strips them down: the corsets are loosened up, the crinoline is mostly taken off and the waist is accented gently rather than vigorously. Somehow It feels like letting the fresh air into the lungs. It makes me want to take a deep breath. What a wonderful physical act, isn’t it? So simple, but so beautiful and essential. And that is exactly how Simons’ collection appears to be. Please, by no means my words should be taken from feminist perspective. No political implications intended; rather I am simply trying to find an allegory to define beautiful set of clothing.

Despite my eternal love and appreciation for Galliano’s work, once in a life-time I am thrilled to see Haute Couture collection that is wearable. In this particular case the word “wearable” as opposed to “Haute Couture” does not mean cheaper, simpler or lacking. Because as we speak my tumblr dashboard seems to be exploding with hatred coming from zealous fifteen year old fashion “activists”. They are insulted by the fact that Simons’ collection does not contain complexity and pompousness that supposedly determine Haute Couture shows. What am I doing? I am quietly munching on every detail of beautiful shapes, combination of fabrics, stunning hand craft and the mien of pure elegance. I feel there’s no need for me to comment on colours. As long as the qualities mentioned above are in tact, colour is the last thing I care about.

It seems to me that Dior made the right choice after all. So let’s release the past (not all of it), embrace a different (not better or worse) looking future and take a long deep breath. Once in while the change of air is truly healthy.

Catwalk Image Credits @ Style.com  Detail Image Credits @ Buro247.ru