December 30, 2012

"Hug Me" by Si Chan

Macao-based designer Si Chan got a little handsy with his latest collection, wittily titled "Hug Me." His small men's collection explores series of hand movements as an expression of different interpersonal relationships. The designer emphasizes a variety of keywords as the foci of the collection: hugs, communication, happiness, comfort, childhood, warmth (the list continues).

Perhaps the main reason as to why this autumn/winter 2012 collection is arresting is that it is sourced directly from the heart. These are not designs created solely for the sake of avant-garde identity but rather serve as an embodiment of Chan's colorful emotions. As singers translate heartache into lyrical poetry, Chan brings his human vulnerability to fashion design. It's rare to see such a portrayal of feeling in an art form often designated as strictly commercial. He wants his audiences to truly think.

The London College of Fashion alumnus sums up his work as thus: "I'm creating, not making."






Images from Showtime: London College of Fashion
Photography by Sara Pista

Visit the designer's London College of Fashion page for more.

December 21, 2012

Into the Color Chasm

I recently stumbled upon the work of Antwerp-born graphic designer and mixed-media artist Jonathan Lichtfeld on Tumblr. While Photoshop has come to evoke negative connotations in the fashion world for its airbrushing notoriety, the program has spawned a growing population of artists expanding on the idea of digital manipulation.

Illusions have always been part of the photography world. (I recently saw the photography exhibition Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was astounded by the many tricks photographers had up their sleeves.) I really love the ways artists have been able to transform their photography into avant-garde collages or surrealist images reminiscent of our most fantastical dreams.

Out of the Lichtfeld images I have explored over the past couple of days, the following work is my definite favorite. What could be more perfect for my blog than a black-and-white image of a figure falling into a whirlpool of color and pattern? I've deemed this final destination the color chasm, and I strongly believe that every fashionably-inclined individual should find his or her way into it.


Lichtfeld
Christopher Kane rainbow shift dress (available here), BCBGMAXAZRIA evening clutch (available here), Iosselliani necklace (similar style here), Erdem x Nicholas Kirkwood floral print pumps (available here).
My outfit interpretation contains its color chasm within the black panels of a Christopher Kane shift dress. Pumps from the Erdem x Nicholas Kirkwood collaboration represent the vibrant floral stripes, yet there is no risk of falling here with sturdy embellished heels.

View more of Lichtfeld's work on his Flickr.
Image rights belong to Jonathan Lichtfeld; image found via Tumblr.

December 11, 2012

Best Foot Forward

There seems to be a gap in our overflowing fashion emporiums. While our feet receive a myriad of sculptural blessings, which arch them infinitely upwards in a perhaps unnatural form of contortions, there have been few resources for those endearing fabrics that coat our feet within their hives. 
Decode the poetry and it is clear that I have not yet been satisfied in the way of socks and stockings. So much attention is put on footwear that it is shocking to see this lack of hosiery. There is so much freedom within the range of these small pieces of textile: whether scrunched atop a heel or pulled taut from within the neck of a leather boot, socks are a haven of color and pattern for even the most ordinary of dressers. Even when they are hidden from the naked eye, we often opt for pair with unabashed whimsy. 
When it comes to socks, we are unafraid.

Enter Strathcona Stockings, specializing in fine hand-printed socks and stockings. Each print is completely original, whether collaged or photographed, and each stocking is printed by hand in the Strathcona studio.
The vivid prints meet even my color cravings. The selection includes a combination of abstract designs and wallpaper-esque patterns for the imaginative dreamer and quintessential vintage-lover alike. Each pair has a sort of homebody quality about it, as if from a local store that remains your town's best-kept secret. 

I'd love to have a pair of Strathconas peering out of my shoes.







Images from Strathcona Stockings
Available for purchase here
Visit strathconastockings.com

December 09, 2012

JAU Label's Fashion Galaxy

JAU Label launched only last year, but designer Jessica Au has already garnered much attention for her  East London-based brand's conceptual aesthetic. Straying fashion's oft-consuming need for purpose, Au's work revels in its lack of a deeper meaning.

The Spring/Summer 2013 collection is entitled νέον - Greek for new one - and is built out of experimentation with new techniques and recycled fabrics in conjunction with VVVintage. Influences ranging from Die Antwoord's "Zef Style" to Japanese street style merged with Au's passions for illustration and intricate artistic concepts for a truly avant-garde collection.
The clothing combines comic-book elements with a space-age vibe, yet the output feels modern rather than kitschy. Perhaps it's because the futuristic qualities call upon the past: a long-sleeved aqua top feels reminiscent of Art Deco, while graphic bottoms are distinctly Pop Art.

JAU Label has enlivened the upcoming collection in a corresponding fashion film, entitled "Schizolog" and produced by Rob Heppell. The video captures a digital dystopia, where a model clad in various neon-tinged ensembles defies the laws of gravity amongst a variety of trippy computer-generated galaxies. The result, it could be said, adds an extra dimension to the clothing.





Visit the JAU Label website at jessica-au.com
See more of Rob Heppell's work at robheppell.com 

Images courtesy of Jessica Au

November 27, 2012

Lust List: Bright Scarves

One of the reasons I'm so fascinated by color is that it can have such a powerful influence on one's mood. There has been a significant amount of research on the impact of distinct hues, but color as a whole seems to be universally uplifting.
As I am surrendering to a monotone formula of getting dressed in the morning, scarves have risen significantly in my wardrobe hierarchy. For me, scarves provide an easy way to counteract an all-black dilemma.

Bright scarves have been ranking high on my shopping list recently, so I've compiled a collage of my picks.

Lust List: Bright Scarves
Clockwise (from top left): J. Crew silk-cashmere wrap (available here), Friis & Company knit tube scarf (available here), Stella & Dot printed scarf (available here), Erdem scarf (available here), yellow scarf from Etsy (available here), Kate Spade abstract printed scarf (available here), Mary Katrantzou square scarf (available here), Tory Burch scarf (available here).

November 19, 2012

The Tribulations of Fashion

Belgian artist James Ensor is known for his important contributions to surrealist and impressionist painting. Upon a visit to the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon, I found his piece Tribulations of Saint Anthony to be a magnet to the eye. It is a recreation of the story in which Saint Anthony battles a world of temptations, shockingly rendered in a vivid color palette. Created in 1887, the painting brings together a fantastical world characterized by sharp pastel-colored strokes and the darker sins of Hell, suggested by the almost demonic expressions of the creatures that populate this alternate universe.

Ensor's depiction introduces a visual imagination unlike any other work I've seen from his era. His innovation now inspires my own Tribulations of Fashion.



Tribulations of Saint Anthony
Mary Katrantzou bodice (available here) and skirt (available here), House of Harlow 1960 box clutch (available here), Nicholas Kirkwood boots (available here), Alexander McQueen skull ring (available here).
The outfit creation merges texture and color to evoke the details of Ensor's work. Surrealist shoes draw the eye downward, as in the visual path of the painting that leads to the creatures in the bottom left corner. A skull ring is paired with Mary Katrantzou's petal pink garment confections: the perfect harmony between fantasy and darkness.

Ensor described his interpretation as one in which "the bizarre prevails." Here, too, the avant-garde fashion reigns supreme. 

Image from Biblioklept.org
Collage made with Polyvore

November 05, 2012

Holy Flowers

Leave it to Dazed & Confused to entrance me late at night, the house a chilly depression from the recent power outage. I'm a bit tardy to the party, but in my defense it takes some time for the publication to arrive in New York magazine shops and a bit longer for me to pick up an issue.

The October 2012 issue is emblazoned with a mantra, "Temptation" across the cover. Flip to the issue's most awe-inspiring fashion editorial, "Holy Flowers" and one is tempted not by springtime - as the floral theme may suggest - but by romance, seduction, mystery.

Floral-centric editorials naturally offer a garden full of floral print clothing and accessories. It never gets old for me (I with a self-proclaimed penchant for petals), but I am always anxious for a new interpretation. "Holy Flowers" incorporates its floral frenzy as props, a point of emphasis to the brooding feminine fashion featured on the pages, a mix of classic girlishness and moody Gothic styles. The focus is distinctly couture: frothy layers of tulle, a feathered Alexander McQueen gown rendered in deep fuchsia, an ornate embellished mask by Maison Martin Margiela.

The excitement here is the floral interpretation. A melancholy romantic tinge meets a darker, almost enigmatic exploration of the notoriously effeminate theme. The images draw you in; they come alive from the page.

The most ingenious of fashion editorials let the eye travel across a planned route. Multicolored petals flung at brocade Dolce & Gabbana garments carry one's vision to the fashion, up to model Zuzanna's impassioned expression. Clad in Marc Jacobs, she lies on a blanket in bloom across the bottom of the spread. And a spiral of flowers carries us into the floating chaos of a lilac Oscar de la Renta confection.

"Holy Flowers" sets the example for the innovative creativity that fashion editorials should aspire to. It's a glorious spread, and it has cemented a top spot in my list of favorite fashion editorials of all time.








Photography: Pierre Debusschere
Styling: Robbie Spencer
Florals: Mark Colle
Model: Zuzanna Bijoch

Images via eclectic-society.com

October 28, 2012

Surreal Florals: Annie Collinge's Collage Sketches

The work of London-born, Brooklyn-based photographer Annie Collinge has a tinge of dystopian fantasy. Her photographs find beauty in darkness and melancholy - or perhaps the other way around. The images are somewhat of a riff on the idea of paradise: from the haunting images of The Underwater Mermaid Theatre to the stills of doll heads in Unwanted Objects. 


As photography is a window, Collinge's Collage Sketches are the antique mirror, foggy and cracked in the corner of the attic. Her use of florals is breathtaking; few artists can successfully sever florals from their dainty stereotype.
For fall/winter in the fashion landscape, I am drawn to the idea of a moodier floral. Whereas flowers are tied to springtime and sunshine, these blooms do not emerge until after dark.

Annie Collenge
Sweatshirt from Etsy (available here), Dolce & Gabbana floral skirt (available here), Nicholas Kirkwood pumps (available here), Bottega Veneta box clutch (available here), Aldo ring (available here).


Visit collinge.com
Collage sketch credit to Annie Collinge

October 21, 2012

Grace Coddington's Fashion Wonderland

This weekend I attended Teen Vogue's Fashion University program with a few hundred other fashion enthusiasts. Much of the discussion was naturally hinting towards the future with an audience of teenagers to young 20-somethings who have yet to break into their aspired fields. Simultaneously, there was an air of dreaming as we spent a day and a half attending lectures with fashion's greatest from the storied and emerging scenes.
The opening keynote featured Vogue creative director Grace Coddington speaking about the evolution of her career, some of her most memorable shoots both as a model and behind the scenes, and answering a myriad of audience questions.
What I found most inspiring was her elaborations on the renowned Alice in Wonderland shoot in 2003 for Vogue. It is perhaps one of the most famous fashion editorials from our modern era, in addition to being one of Grace's favorite shoots from her career.

One reason why Grace is so successful is because of her ability to weave an imaginative narrative that guides each of her fashion stories (a name that now seems quite fitting). She admittedly loves fairy tales and whilst her take on Alice on Wonderland is loyal, the high-fashion spin brings the almost haunting mysticism into an entirely new dimension.

I find color choice in Grace's editorial to be quite intriguing. Alice's garments (she is played by then-rising model Natalia Vodianova) exclusively incorporate shades of blue. While this calls to mind much of the imagery of Alice in sky blue, blue itself represents something of a paradox.
Blue was a late arrival to art in ancient cultures because of the comparative complexity of the pigment, thus it was rare and considered prestigious and luxurious. Many royals throughout history donned blue garments; in 13th-century France, blue became the royal color with the reign of King Louis IX. It seems a fitting hue for couture.
Yet blue is many things at once: it commonly represents melancholy in our society, whereas it can symbolize happiness as with blue skies. Blue can be the color of mourning, but Egyptians consider blue a shield to protect the dead from evil.

Here, blue is a pattern of every characteristic. It is fantasy and reality, flavored by the tinge of nobility. Blue is Alice's innocence, and it is her protector in an unknown Wonderland. Each image takes on a different persona with a new blue frock, and this is in part what makes the editorial seem so real.






All photographs belong to Vogue

As an aftermath of this weekend's event, I have been thinking a lot about the future and about fantasy. There are many differences between the two, yet there are points at which they meet.

Every fantasy has a narrative - more than one, I should say. There is no right path to the future we may hope for, but we can find a fairy tale and bring it to life in our own way.

October 13, 2012

Three Ways: Biker Boots

Boots have been on my mind.
As someone with a petite frame, it is difficult to find the perfect pair of biker boots: a design that is tough and sturdy, but still tailored to the foot so as to not overwhelm a smaller size. These Madewell biker boots appear to strike the perfect balance.

This shopping struggle incited the thought of how I would style said shoes, considering the desire to add color to each ensemble.
In compiling a collection of outfits to satiate my thoughts and perhaps inspire others', I was able to validate the versatility of this style of boots. Contrast, it turns out, really is everything.

1
Rag & Bone sweater dress (available here), Erdem scarf (available here), Dannijo bracelets (available here), Elsa Peretti for Tiffany ring (available here), Madewell biker boots (available here).

2
J Crew sweater (available here), Madewell skirt (available here), Chan Luu scarf (available here), Madewell ID bracelet (available here), Madewell sparkle cuff (available here), Madewell biker boots (available here).

3
Vanessa Bruno Athe jacket (available here), MSGM floral print blouse (available here), AllSaints jeans (available here), Alexander McQueen skull ring, Madewell biker boots (available here).

Where are you shopping for boots this fall season?

October 09, 2012

Dream Day

I have been drowning in everyday obligations. I am stuck in a cycle of schoolwork and cuffed jeans and Converse. I think I have worn the same vintage cashmere sweater five days in a row.
Needless to say, a vacation would be nice. The sky is increasingly pessimistic, which does not encourage the best in anyone.

Fashion has naturally provided the thesis to my yearning. Italian label Leitmotiv endearingly dubbed their Spring/Summer 2013 collection "Dream Day."
My broken English translation aside (quotations here are rephrased to fit our grammatical rules), Leitmotiv's provided autobiography is beautifully written. It perfectly captures the essence of the clothing, designed by duo Fabio Sasso and Juan Caro.
Leitmotiv is likened to a music box, "leaning on a bare gray dresser in a dusty room" that, when opened, "leaves a melody that is somehow colored with all shades that do not include sadness and melancholy."
I am sold.

Dream Day is "the desire to journey without a destination."
Here, we discover loose garments stemming from a rainbow of colors. Prints incorporate whispered inspirations of Baroque and Gothic styles. Graphic depictions of billboard lettering and resort pools simultaneously call to mind a barren Los Angeles and 60s-era Miami. Modern stripes in bright hues finish hems of simply shaped dresses.
The end result is a combination of past and modern moods, and it incites a sort of nostalgia for a summer we never had.







All images via Letimotiv
Photographs by Matteo Felici

October 07, 2012

Youth Without Youth

reverie & mystique
Fall 2012's sophisticated fashion is a call to arms for the modern-day woman. Even continuing into Spring, we see sharp tailoring in crisp fabrics. Prints lean towards avant-garde rather than playful or childish.

In the midst of this I ask, where do I fit in?

I recently read a thought-provoking blog post by Jennine Jacob on The Coveted on what it means to dress your age. Whereas some consider this to be a debate about fashion and sexuality, I encounter a different conflict as a teenager absorbed with fashion. Rather, I feel as if I come with two separate fashion personalities. How can I successfully interweave them?

I had to describe my style using three words for an upcoming feature on Material Wrld and found myself at a loss. 
I instinctively consider my style to be sophisticated and colorful but also simple, with minimal accessorizing. At the same time, I envision myself in my casual/put-together formula for schooldays and weekends. I have a penchant for brightly printed vintage and new blouses, but these tops never see the light of day around my age group.
Is style what you like or what you wear? To me, these are two very different cliques.

My hope is to mesh my fashion personalities: the teenage with the adult. Fashion outings will see more from my youthful self; school days will see more of the sophisticated fashion that makes me swoon.

I suppose that, ultimately, dressing my age means wearing whatever I like and not limiting myself with a two-digit number.

What do you think about "dressing for your age?"

Photograph by Petra Collins

September 09, 2012

Lorry Newhouse Spring 2013

New York designer Lorry Newhouse appreciates quality craftsmanship and materials, stemming from her personal collection of historical and contemporary couture pieces. Newhouse's signature is evening attire; the Spring 2013 season marks her foray into ready-to-wear.

The pastel confections at the designer's intimate presentation on Friday afternoon subscribe to the same meticulous technique as the evening looks: they have a high-fashion, couture essence that makes for an elegant form of daywear.
Pieces were charmingly feminine and quite elegant, as if tailored for a debutante's entrance into the adult social scene. The effect mirrors the arrival of the RTW collection itself; Newhouse is known amongst friends for her style. (One attendee remarked, "She was always so well-dressed, I knew she was meant to design clothes.")

The collection's romanticism fared well in its environment: magenta carpet and painted backdrops based on a wallpaper design. (Lookbook shots took place within the walls of an ornate mirror.)

Pastels incorporated into paisley-style embroidered dresses and separates and gingham gowns veered towards quaint garden party rather than haughty prep. 
Silhouettes remained on the simpler side, allowing intricate textures and detailing to be the focus. Long-sleeved shifts were beautifully designed and an ivory suit was perfectly tailored. The stand-out shape (and my favorite piece) was a bell-shaped embroidered skirt in shades of pink and green.
The collection's prints were less affecting than the embroidery yet pleasing to the eye. A painterly garden floral print rendered in ivory and pastel green was a crowd pleaser.

The designs straddled the line between ultra-femme sophistication and Lolita-esque innocence. Evening separates like the two baby blue floor-length skirts leaned towards frou-frou and may not have won over harsher critics, but I took a liking to the more subdued, layered version.

That is not to say that the presentation was without an edge: shades by avant-garde optical brand A-Morir brought a wonderful touch of whimsy that could have been used more generously.




I am interested to see where Newhouse's future in ready-to-wear design will take her. Her aesthetic has much potential to flourish with increasing refinement and experience.

I am grateful to have been able to attend the presentation. 


Lookbook images courtesy of Lorry Newhouse

August 31, 2012

Mati Klarwein's Surrealism

The late Mati Klarwein is the artist behind a new species of surrealism. His initial art training surrounded him with the works of Salvador Dalí, later a friend of his, and the fantastic realist painter Ernst Fuchs. The psychedelic heyday of the 60s served as the backdrop for Klarwein's multifaceted paintings, which were considered a reaction to the movement.
Whilst the American era was a revolution in itself, Klarwein's works were radical in their own right. Inspired by a varied European upbringing and extensive travel, the artist was inspired most by non-Western deities and symbolism. Yet despite religious controversy, Klarwein was able to cement his status within the culture of the time; high-profile projects included a portrait of John F. Kennedy and album covers for Miles Davis.

The paintings that most intrigued me fall under the category Visionary, and it is a simplistic yet fitting label for some of Klarwein's greatest pieces.
Although many of the religious connotations are masked by my inexperience in such matters, the paradoxes are not lost.
Case in point, Klarwein's painting "Walking on Water" depicts a sunshine blond Marilyn Monroe character drowning in a cacophony of colors and florals.

I love to draw out fashion inspiration from the far corners of the art world. Mati Klarwein's paintings offer an abundance of ideas, and here I have created two outfit manifestations that stem from two different Visionary works.

Bavarian Angel (1970)
Mische technique (layers of oil and tempera on primed canvas)
Bavarian Angel
Issa silk jersey dress (available here), Jimmy Choo pumps (available here), Lulu Guinness lips clutch (available here), Delfina Delettrez earrings (sold as singles, available here).

Walking on Water (1961)
Mische technique (layers of oil and tempera on primed canvas)
Walking on Water
Rag & Bone sweater (available here), J. Crew floral brocade skirt (available here), Nicholas Kirkwood for Erdem tweed-print ankle boots (available here), Matthew Williamson embellished clutch (available here), Lulu Frost circle drop earrings (available here).

The leading designers of high fashion often discover inspiration within the realms of art history. On the other hand, those of us who take the most interest in getting dressed each morning will look to past eras to inform their styles. But we can still take a cue from the specifics that catch our eye: whether a painting or a building passed on the way to work, the most interesting ensembles will sprout from our everyday creativity.

Paintings belong to Mati Klarwein, from the artist website.
Visit matiklarweinart.com to see more.

Please do leave a comment below with your thoughts.

August 23, 2012

The Complexities of Embellishment

Embellishment has been distinguished thus far as one of the major trends of the Fall 2012 season. And for good reason, with high fashion's biggest names having walked ornate designs down the runways in February and every major fashion magazine putting their own spin on the embellished garments everyone has to offer.
I often receive the question from my non-fashion-absorbed kin of how designers know what will be trendy, as they marvel at different runway shows showcasing the same ideas as their fashion brethren. There are many forces at play, but I am always intrigued with cultural and societal influences that show up subtly in the shows each season.

I've been reading Elizabeth L. Cline's book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, which has been fascinating for me as a consumer who feels guiltiest shopping at H&M. (I won't get into it.) This is where embellishment comes in: the influence of fast fashion.
I define fast fashion as lower-quality and trend-focused, in other words, fashion that is made to last one season and then be discarded. Though the idea may be touchy for some, fast fashion mostly depends on copying (or near-copying) the designs of high-end and contemporary designers.
There is currently no way to prevent designers from stopping fashion design piracy, so instead they must find ways to combat it. Embellishment is perhaps a subsequent solution; such ornate detailing can hardly be transferred into a $30 dress at your local chain store.

Cline goes into many points to support her argument that I won't list here, but she also presents the theory that the growing influence and domination of fast fashion is actually driving the luxury market further into the zone of elitism. (I could talk for ages about this, but I'll restrain myself.)
Anyway, here comes embellishment once again. To further their high-end appeal, designers are reaching to extremes. Both Spring and Fall 2012 RTW runways showed dazzling details. Intricate embroidery, beading and gem-incrusted garments were all signatures in a host of shows. Naturally, because lavish embellishment epitomizes a regal air - and has done so for eons.



Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2012 incorporated vibrant stones and crystals.

Designers have kept with heavy embellishment for two main seasons now, so it will be interesting to see how the "trend" progresses.
Fall 2012 took a turn towards neo-Baroque, enlisting the notoriously luxurious color gold for the most complex designs. The subsequent looks felt as if they waltzed out of a Renaissance-era palace.




From top to bottom: Marni, Balmain, Bottega Veneta.

I'll conclude my over-conscious analysis by saying that I truly love embellishment. I adore the three-dimensional textures when I graze my hands over designs at nearby boutiques and the exotic feel that such details lend to today's fashion.
I'm a huge supporter of fashion as an investment. Although many of these garments are extremely pricey and perhaps not as timeless as a black leather bag, per se, I think one can find an incomparable joy in owning such a one-of-a-kind piece. Not so much in the materialistic side, but simply in reveling in the beauty of the craftsmanship and design, two characteristics that are growing sparse in fashion today.

I will say that the dry cleaning bill would be ridiculously expensive. 
So, although I write this the night before I plan to visit Barney's Warehouse Sale (I think you see where I'm getting at), I'll try to resist the pull of heavy embellishment in favor of finding these details in a more practical position.
Embellished garments will lead to equally exquisite accessories, of course. And I know few females who can resist a stunning handbag. I've selected some colorful (and extravagant) clutches:

embellish
Clockwise, from top left: Matthew Williamson embellished suede clutch (available here), Santi Bags Aztec embellished clutch bag (available here), Anya Hindmarch metallic glitter and leather Valorie clutch (available here), SANTI Mykonos sequin clutch (available here), Alexander McQueen embroidered satin box clutch (available here), Forever New Madeline embellished clutch (available here), Blackfrangipani bead-knitted purse (available here), Lanvin Sea Breeze embellished satin-covered metal clutch (available here), Kotur multicolor sequin Epsey clutch (available here).
Well, these aren't much more practical.

I'd love to hear your opinion on what I discussed in this post. Let me know if you're a fan of embellishment this season.