Thinking about starting back up. I’ll keep you guys posted.
Thinking about starting back up. I’ll keep you guys posted.
It seems like most of the fashion media world can’t fully articulate what they think about his appointment beyond the basic congratulations and cliche speculation about his sure-to-be-inevitable success at the helm of the house of Dior. The most I’ve heard regarding the situation is that:
And while all these are valid points regarding this sure to be historic appointment, it doesn’t address what I believe is driving the anticipation almost every person interested in this story is feeling. Raf Simons’ first collection for Dior, during couture week no less, is going to solidify an entirely new era in fashion. It will be a paradigm shift. It will ripple throughout the next decade or even further. It will change forever how people regard couture and the fashion industry or even clothing in general.
Or at least it has the potential to.
I’m sure memories of John Galliano’s appointment back in 1996/97 aren’t far from the minds of anyone lucky enough to remember them. And, in retrospect, from a fashion history perspective handing the keys of one of the most storied, respected, and revered fashion houses to an image-obsessed club kid from England set off a series of events that are, in many ways, still playing themselves out long past their initial impact. It’s clear to see what the Dior name and archive can do. In many ways it’s almost a tool, a stage, or even a plague. Taking John Galliano, who possessed an affinity for mid-century couture but delighted in tearing it up; turning it inside out; spilling paint all over it; and shipping it to Africa and back, and forcing that aesthetic into the lime-light almost immediately changed the industry. And really it’s not purely Galliano’s own fashion aesthetic that ushered in how people would dress at the turn of the last century, but how his aesthetic meshed with that of the house of Dior.
There’s almost no other fashion house operating today with an as recognizable founding aesthetic as Dior. The strength of the Bar Suit silhouette, as well as the many interpretations by Dior couturiers over the years, is as iconic as the Chanel jacket. An archive that is as strong, as vast (particularly after Galliano’s term) and with as die-hard a following as Dior’s is essentially immoveable. There’s practically no way a designer could take over the house and expect success by re-directing the house from it’s original direction, such as was done at Balenciaga and Givenchy. And yes, those houses’ designers do take inspiration from their founders’ work, but the inspiration has only a core focus. Techniques and shapes are whittled away at or borrowed from rather than entire looks or ideas. The designers’ own interpretations on dressing, style and external inspiration are heavily favored over perpetuating/updating archival looks because of the success the new direction has brought the name of the house. At Dior, where the success of a designer has historically only been guaranteed by his devotion to the archive, it’s not hard to guess that Raf Simons’ own debut collection will adhere to Dior looks that everyone is familiar with.
Much like how a Valentino show cannot exist without a red gown, Simons’ Dior collection will almost certainly contain a variation on the iconic Bar Suit. It is this look that will define the relationship Simons has with the house. It will signal how he sees the house, it’s current state, and the direction he believes it should go. It is this one look that has everyone aflutter. What will it look like? The very thing that has the media referring to Galliano’s last collections as “tired” and “out of touch” used to be the groundbreaking and intriguing distortion of the Dior proportions that was essentially a high-class embrace of ‘heroin chic’. Will Simons’ vision for the house be as bold and defining? Will the mesh of Simons’ pitch-perfect modernity with the lush, historic beauty of Dior be as revolutionary as when Galliano turned the entire couture world on it’s head? Whatever the case, it’s sure to turn heads.
The growth of Dior, in business and in notoriety, over the past decade and a half have defined it for this new century. It’s no longer the case of some tired brand for older ladies being taken over by a young upstart. This is a brand that has established itself as one of the pillars of the internet-age fashion industry. And while the growth was astronomical, it was a candle that was doomed to burn out too fast. I began to develop an interest in fashion around 2008, when Galliano’s effect on the industry began to die down. As I gushed over the past collections, the new ones walked and I saw less and less of what I had seen in old issues of Vogue and W. Of course I wouldn’t come to realize this until a few years later and the crazed influence of my obsession had almost entirely passed, but what I had witnessed was a change. A slight one, but a change none the less. Fashion, in the midst of my own, had abandoned its fantasy.
The fashion world now is one of seriousness, of style and personality. Clothes are clothes and are almost nothing more. ‘Costume dressing’, while technically still alive and well, is a tired and now outlandish mode of style. This new fashion frontier was not made for the likes of designers such as Galliano who, until his very last collection, clung to his fantasy world of fashion even if that last make-believe heroine was none other than the caricature of the Dior woman he himself had created. Having the house of Dior, and LVMH for that matter, turn it’s back on him shows just how out of place Galliano, as a designer, is in this new fashion environment that has sprung up over the past few years. Controversy and scandal aside, Dior decided it would rather continue with no creative director rather than stand by the man who turned them into the fashion megalith they are today. And you could hardly say it’s entirely Galliano’s fault. The collections losing steam and becoming more and more corporate controlled definitely crippled Galliano’s own creative development. Without the freedom to explore and grow with the industry, Galliano was stuck producing work that was derivative of his own, and there are only so many times you can make a copy of a copy before the contents of the page are illegible.
So it’s for the best that Galliano has left the helm of arguably the most influential fashion house in the world. It’s definitely time for a new player to take the field. It’s time for someone who understands how people see clothes now. Someone fresh. As a relatively young designer with little baggage himself, Simons really is a great fit for Dior. His attitude towards design is such that could result in a decades long career at the house. There’s so much potential for him and for the brand following this shift. But no one will be able to gauge for sure just what may become of Simons at Dior until this July, when he finally presents the world with his plans for Dior and for the entire fashion industry.
Thank you for the feedback :) It’s nice to know people actually read what I write.
Well, first of all, regarding the dress, I don’t think Alexander McQueen was the right choice for Kate Middleton. For “The Duchess of Cambridge” and potential Queen of England, yes, but the McQueen brand, even under the direction of the much more effeminate and soft Burton, was much to severe and theatrical a brand for Middleton’s personality. A much more subdued romance and modernity would have fit her personality and look much better. The McQueen dress, while beautiful, ended up looking like the costume it was.
And on another level, how underwhelming was that dress? I mean really. I know people say this wedding shouldn’t be compared to Diana’s, but when you go from an 80ft. frothing train to the rinky-dink butt-flap that was Middleton’s train it just doesn’t feel worthy of the audience it had. If the train had been extended by 5ft more (or the flounce on the back of the dress just 5inches bigger or the veil floor-length instead of waist-length) the issue of whether or not the dress fit Middleton’s personality wouldn’t matter because the dress would have fit the occasion perfectly. Since it didn’t, it opens up the entire event to more scrutiny.
Basically, the dress needed to be more than what it was or it needed to not have existed at all.
(For what it’s worth, she did look beautiful)
At this point it seems almost impossible for Zac Posen to produce clothes that could be considered anything other than redundant and cliche.
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2012: Christian Dior
Let it go on record that I actually defended Bill Gaytten’s last couture collection. It was a mess, but I was actually quite entertained by it. It’s amazing what 6 months can do. This season, the collection looks drastically different from the Mardi Gras parade that came barreling down the catwalk just last year. Ever since Galliano’s dismissal, I knew that it was time for the Dior woman to take on a new silhouette. Galliano’s distortion of the original New Look would have to undergo a taming and find a way to be presented not just in it’s own category but in contention with other increasingly popular couture houses (such as Givenchy and Versace). Bill Gaytten was thought to be completely unworthy and incapable of such a task, but the talk nowadays is that he’s the perfect person for the job. I would have to agree. Despite a few overzealous looks and construction elements, Gaytten has proven this season that he can produce an attractive collection that draws on the progress Galliano has made with the brand while still pushing Dior’s original formula towards the head of the pack.
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2012 - Givenchy
I will admit that I’m swept up in the neo-goth phenomenon that is Ricardo Tisci’s vision for the house of Givenchy (as well as it’s influence on street style and accompanying manifestation in newly minted Hollywood A-lister Rooney Mara). I have to say that I wasn’t completely won over by this collection at first. The gigantic nose rings seemed like a gimmick and the earrings reminded me too much of John Galliano’s jewelry work for Christian Dior at the end of the 90’s. The dresses as well seemed to lack the statuesque, carved-out-of-marble feel the looks from Tisci’s prior collections have consistently maintained ever since he decided to forgo runway presentations for ones more museum-like. Tisci’s reduced treatment of detail, although making for a slightly less impressive presentation, was most likely a choice made in order to produce a more wear-able couture collection. And indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever heard as much talk about actually seeing Givenchy couture worn as I have after this collection’s presentation.
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2012: Chanel
Is there really a need for that many looks in a haute couture collection? Maybe for the vast clientele of a house as renowned as Chanel, but it makes for an exhausting runway show; especially when said runway show is completely devoid of the usual dazzling distractions. To be honest, Karl completely lost me when the sleeves on the jackets and dresses went from sleek, tailored and extra-long to short, draped and ballooned. The collection was said to be partially inspired by flight attendant uniforms from the 60’s and 70’s but the entire collection came off as a bunch of 80’s prom dresses with an underwater theme. I don’t understand why this was nearly everyone’s favorite couture collection.
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2012: Alexis Mabille
Every single dress in the collection felt dated, and not in a ‘winking-at-the-past’ or ‘revisiting-previous-styles’ way. Even the pieces that seemed more modern are practically reproductions of designs Mabille has presented in the past. The featured design elements across the collection were so haphazardly inspired and put together that the color presentation came off as nothing more than a gimmick to try to keep all of the dresses together. It made for quite the spectacle, but the overall impact of the collection was as flimsy as the gigantic flowers on the models’ up-do’s.
There is a difference between having a sense of style and simply being stylish.
Blip. That’s she sound she makes across the fashionscape , an extremely brief episode of noise emitted in that one great first season of hers. Blip . Her little squeak lasts about as long as a strobe or a flash in the studios of Meisel or Mert & Marcus or Inez and Vinoodh, or any of that select group of 8 photographers who eat the majority of the advertising and editorial work every season. They’ll shoot her once. Or twice. For a multi-girl Balenciaga ad, for US Vogue or Vogue Paris. But she will bore and then she will never be rebooked. She might have a lifetime of lesser bookings but they will be solidly sub-blue chip. We shouldn’t sob. A blip could still make 250K a year in that back catalog work, picking up a Numero here or a Pop there to still seem slightly relevant. But maximum relevancy? Long gone.
And so that is what we’ll call that kind of model now. The Blips. There’s no need to be cruel enough to name names but we all know exactly the kind of girl we’re groaning about. The 80’s/90’s gave us supermodels. In the 00’s girls could still ride the horse of longevity into iconic status. Think Natalia and Daria and Raquel. And now this era of ours, the 10’s, is simply for Blips. Staring at the shortlist of this season’s Top 10 Newcomers, gut instinct is signaling that there’s going to be a lot of blipping in these ranks. This is not to cynically damn this mob of freshly scrubbed newcomers to oblivion. It is simply to acknowledge that somewhere along the model-tracking line, the game has changed. Runway. It used to mean something. It once was a prestige platform, a kind of auditioning space for new girls to show what they were made of before an audience of the very top editors, stylists and photographers as well as the directional designers canavassing for fresh inspiration. The track had a logic and meaning, from which you could deduce and calculate a likely index of success. The opening slots and exclusives of Prada…so coveted and precious, a first exit in that space meant a star was born. That is until Prada itself (for we must imagine Prada an entity, and a very mercurial one at that) seemed to grow annoyed with all this pedestrian star-is-born drama and swung as randomly and mercurially as it wished. To the point that its Fall 2011 campaign featured 4 girls who not only did not set foot on a Prada catwalk, these girls had hardly set foot outside the little farm towns and villages they seemed to have been gleaned from (hmm vag_breath did you write this?). Beyond Prada it is the tone, everywhere on every runway. Every designer is doing as he or she will with these roaming bands of awkward new girls and every show increasingly a hermetic and self-enclosed statement of a single designer’s current whim. There’s very little connection or continuity. One moment the system emits an Arizona Muse and then the next it does not. The fact that Arizona blasted into stardom and did not blip is very much due to Arizona’s will and Next’s management smarts, not to some pre-set formula of success. Opening slots and after that closing slots now mean nothing whatsoever in the scheme of things. Exclusives are hardly a commitment to a career. They are frankly, a well played game of oneupmanship with the model’s career being the last thing on the list of concerns. The look or the importance of the outfit probably being the first. As such I’m hoping this post is a pre-emptive strikes to bookers sending emails touting that Girl X just closed YSL. Yeah …and…?
In many ways the designers have succeeded in a steady policy of returning fashion modeling to its pre-supermodel mores. Back then there were runway girls and they were a distinct and separate breed from the editorial and campaign super-stars. When the naughty conspiracy of Versace/Meisel/Lagerfeld and a clique of super-smart managers like Gerald Marie and John Casablancas converged on Linda, Christy, Naomi and Claudia to make an event of editorial stars stomping the runway, it seemed that momentum would last into eternity. But that strategy has been steadfastly erased season after season by very smart designers who are certain in their stance that all they need that very long and sleek girl to do is walk to the end of the catwalk, turn and exit in The Look. Nothing more. No Name. No Fame. Blip.
I’ve frequently said it in interviews that the supermodel died because of the beat down she used to give to clients. She took it there and now it has been taken back. That clique of very bad and very brilliant girls gave Fashion some of its most stunning and emphatic imagery but they were also spoilt young girls who behaved as all spoilt girls were wont to do. Well Kate and Kristen and Carolyn are emeritus now …almost like ancestral aristocrats of model privilege. But for new girls looking to test the limits? In this our modern day of an over-flowing model market with its ceaseless scouting (for casting directors are scouts too now) the supply so exceeds demand that for a girl to transcend the blur and blip she will have to necessarily be an extraordinary model.
The modeling industry has always been driven by a battle for balance of power and once post-recession clients snatched all the power, they weren’t going to give it back. It remains in the interest of the power brokers to retain control using that cynical strategy of one-minute models .And of the marketing device that is Top 10 Newcomers, the truth is only 2 or 3 of those girls can ever find relevancy. Being a runway powerhouse doesn’t guarantee a compelling presence in a picture. You never had to be that photogenic to book a runway show anyway and a very great model manager taught me the trick that “the body comes first”. That’s the fact. The bodies are coming first with personality and presence running distant seconds and thirds.
That is not to say that there is not brewing in the margins, some unlikely girl brimming with presence and personality and the ability to take historic fashion pictures. In scanning for a Top 10 Newcomer maybe the new trick to celebrate girls with some awareness of their career opportunities. At this point Joan Small gets a spotlight and a drum roll. But how do you tell from a picture or a runway walk if the girl can stand up to further scrutiny? At the end of the day its all gut instinct and passion. Would you have bet on the iconic possibilities of Lara Stone 3 years ago? Lara was a Top 10 Newcomer way back then and star quality married to genius management has taken that girl very far. Trick is , if there is a “The Next Lara” in this year’s pack, she’s going to look at first glance, like a Blip. Which is why maybe we should never underestimate anything with a flash of brilliance.