The first seventy-five-plus degree day of spring in New York City brought out an array of characters, but #LookOfTheDay definitely went to the super friendly South Korean Buddhist Monk pictured above. Between the neutral palette—hat and backpack included, the drape of the bias cut lightweight wool, and THAT ever-so-nonchalant/obi-esque half tie, I may have found my zen place.
The guests at the Lanvin show in Paris had all been waiting more than an hour for the presentation to begin, and they were getting restless. This tardiness was out of character for Alber Elbaz, widely considered to be one of the most talented designers around—as well as among the most hospitable. He refrains from trussing models into unforgiving silhouettes that prohibit walking and make the consumption of anything more caloric than Saltines a wild-eyed risk.
It would turn out that the reason for the delay of his Spring 2011 show was a matter of shoes. Elbaz’s original choreography had the models sashaying down a concrete walkway, about the length of a New York City block, wearing perilous stilettos. Apparently, during rehearsals, the skyscraper heels brought some of the models to tears. So Elbaz dispatched staff to retrieve kinder footwear. The result was a tardy show, but a beautiful one, with virtually half the models—an ethnically diverse lot—in flats.
This was all typical Elbaz. So it was with curiosity and confusion that I, one of a handful of black fashion editors, tried to absorb his show’s odd finale and the disorienting audience reaction. In a presentation that had (philosophically) been about female power and (aesthetically) about layering, the final moments were punctuated by a group of black models all dressed in tropical fern prints. The flora had nothing to do with any other element in the show. And frankly, the clothes were hardly showstoppers. But that didn’t seem to matter, because when the five models marched down the runway en masse—the five black models—large sections of the audience broke into applause for the first and only time during the presentation.
They were cheering the black women, but not because they had performed dramatic runway pyrotechnics. They were cheering the women for the great accomplishment of simply being black, which, one might argue, in an industry that remains stubbornly homogeneous in many respects, is a feat worth getting excited about. In fact, when the black model Jourdan Dunn appeared in 2008 in what had been up until then a relentlessly all-white Prada show, I marveled in my blog: “Black girl walking!” It was the first time in more than a decade that I recalled seeing a black model in one of Miuccia Prada’s shows. My enthusiasm and dismay were a throwback to the sixties, when, I am told, black folks called up friends and family to exclaim whenever a person of color was spotted on television. Whoop-whoop! Black people on TV! Black people on TV!
But was the group of five a political statement? An attempt at consciousness-raising? What was Elbaz thinking? And, more important, what did it say about the fashion industry?
According to Elbaz, the decision was purely aesthetic—a solution to a creative conundrum. He adored the prints but knew they posed a jarring juxtaposition with the rest of the collection. A more disciplined designer, he said, would simply have edited them out. So, in his search for a way to display them that would make sense, he hit upon the idea of using the black models. They would form a visual addendum to the main collection. They would be separate. But equal.
“I was trained by Geoffrey Beene and Yves Saint Laurent,” Elbaz told me at the time. “They both worked with African girls, black girls. Not because it was a political statement, but because they were beautiful girls.”
In short, Elbaz’s decision had nothing to do with race. And yet, it had everything to do with it.
Few actresses have Tilda Swinton’s panache. Her sartorial choices are as varied and thought provoking as her award-winning performances, yet there’s a strong through line that’s all her own—an acute sense of modernity and keenness of all things to come (case in point: butter cream Jil Sander at 2011 Golden Globes).
Ingeniously fearless and favoring the likes of Haider Ackermann and Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin, Ms. Swinton exudes a quiet confidence, poise, resolve, and attitude, putting her at the forefront of high style androgyny. She manages to effortlessly combine both the masculine and feminine aspects of dressing, flirting with the rigid and the fluid.
Upon reviewing Dries Van Noten’s FW 2011 collection, I couldn’t help imagining my #SilverScreenGoddess slipping into the glorious patchwork silk print and gold lamé T-shirt gown for an evening of dancing. With any luck, it’s already hanging amongst the glory of her enviable wardrobe, pleading, ‘DRIES, please.’
In a perfect world, soon-to-be Princess Kate Middleton would eschew all tradition in favor of the CHICness. Bring on the British (obvi.), bring on the French, Italian, and American, too. She has it all: the man, the ring, the legs…all that’s missing is a noteworthy makeover causing all to surrender. For a royal visage, look no further than Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2005.
Sophisticated ladies ‘round the world know that it’s all in the BROW—thick, sumptous, and oh so perfect; straight with the slightest bit of an arch, complemented by a flushed, healthy glow, the slightest bit of rose dust upon the cheek and semi-gloss nude lip.
No tiara? No problem. While the female (and some male) guests in attendance will vie for Most Towering Crown of Glory, Ms. Middleton should opt for the ultimate in quiet elegance: a closely cropped FEATHERED WIG and mile-long silk tulle veil to trail behind at Westminster Abbey. A tad over the top, perhaps. But then again, how often does one become a real Princess?
Thank Mademoiselle Chanel and Monsieur Saint Laurent for introducing menswear-inspired looks to the demi monde. Helmut Newton’s provocative black & white imagery of Saint Laurent’s iconic le smoking suit on the dark streets of Paris will forever be cemented in fashion history, and lest we not forget the original pant wearers, Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, who opened doors for other girls who often ‘borrow from the boys’ [cc. Tilda Swinton, Jennifer Connelly, Janelle Monáe].
Leave it to Kanye West to don a Céline Spring ‘11 women’s blouse during the Coachella music festival. It’s no surprise West (an avid fashion week month front-row enthusiast) is a HUGE fan of Phoebe Philo. Want proof? Just listed to his latest album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Between the haircut, friendship bracelets, jeans and ‘how low can you go’ unbuttoned FIFTH button, it’s the perfect high/low mix. Part street, part catwalk; 80’s Queens (see ghetto-gold chain linked necklaces circa Coming to America) meets 70’s North African adventure (see abstract Islamic tile print on fluid silk).
Gentlemen, let Mr. West inspire you to borrow something from the girls…after all, it just might WERK!
Jenna Lyons, President and Executive Creative Director of J. Crew (and super FLY girl-about-town), lambasted by various conservative media outlets for the catalog image of her with five year old son, Beckett, above.
It was obviously a slow week in middle-of-nowhere-USA if young Beckett’s pink toenails made headlines. When did boys who favor PINK become a threat to society? Perhaps they would’ve preferred a nice blue hue or a natural buff…ya know, for boys.
Suggesting a mother is pushing her own leftist agenda one-pedicure-at-a-time or better yet, linking a five year old’s painted toenails to his sexual/gender identity is simply juvenile and pathetic. Kids like bright colours. And it’s okay for boys to like pink. At twenty-five, Schiaparelli pink is still my favorite colour and I even wear it on the streets of New York (albeit, at the risk of being harassed by girls in gown-length down coats, nonetheless).
As an avid mani/pedi-goer myself (Essie’s #chinchilly is the BOMB), I applaud Ms. Lyons for embracing her son’s inherit CHICness and allowing him to march to beat of his own drum. Perhaps this charming image will influence more ‘adults’ to get over themselves and show their true colours.
Do Yourself a Favor and listen to some Old School WHITNEY (as in Houston). The voice is crisp; diction, tone, vibrato—GOLDEN. The other night at the neighborhood bodega, the anthem from The Bodygaurd, I Will Always Love You, played softly enough not to disturb anyone’s late night run for cookies (ahem, TT), yet audibly enough to conceal the gentle hum of refrigerator generators. Scratchy stereo speakers and street noise notwithstanding, one could hear a pin drop…correction: hear a mouse scurry across the cold cement floor.
Everyone in the store—from the florist at the entrance, to the butcher slicing the thinnest prosciutto, or the cashier to my left, and even two chorus boys ‘lip synching for their lives’ in the Produce section—listened in awe as they pondered what the next day held in store. I dare you to break out your cassette tapes (or download from iTunes), open a bottle, and listen to WhitWhit in her prime—because if you’re anything like me, I Wanna Dance with Somebo-daaay. And with that, I Have Nothing else to say. Shoop!
ps. I totally own a swimsuit similar to the one shown above…except it’s black. Armani.
Do Yourself A Favor and slip into a pair of LUXE skivvies in a neutral palette—taupe silk tulle, vanille voile, dove grey cotton canvas or even black French lace or point d’esprit.
No mater how many bouclé leisure suits you own by Coco and/or Uncle Karl, corsets will never go out of style. However, instead of going for the obvious #MaterialGirl look, opt for a smart embroidered jacket or cardigan, super slim cargo pants and Chrylser Building height heels. Better yet, try a shrunken tuxedo jacket or navy schoolboy’s blazer, a LONG/slim skirt (think Vionnet or Madame Grés) and brogues for a day-to-evening look.
Like everything else in the revolving door of fashion history, corsets are making a comeback for MEN, too. Let Napoleon, Beau Brummel, and Alan Cumming be your guide.
If you’re feeling really brave, pull a Dave Salmoni (as seen by Tony Duran for Flaunt Magazine). The 30’s Strongman-esque hairstyle really takes this look to the next level of HAUTEness, but there’s something quite alluring about this MANX (man Spanx…act like you knew) predecessor.
However, if you’re anything like me and seeking a little more coverage, try John Galliano’s S&M take on Charlie Chaplin’s classic bowler look. The epitome of high style (or rather, states of undress). For starters, a crisp white shirt looks good on EVERYONE and the dark tie paired with leather gloves scream #MajorFashionMoment…just make sure it’s audience appropriate.