Fashion’s Mad Hatter Philip Treacy Takes a Cue from Mark di Suvero

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice sporting Philip Treacy creations

Thanks in large part to their abundance (and flamboyance) at last July’s epic Royal Wedding, designer hats are definitely having a fashion moment. Little-known Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie made headlines with their opulent Philip Tracey creations, one of which conjured an upside down octopus, the other which resembled a cross between a rose garden and a gaudy Vegas Showgirl costume. And for the last few months, the media has photographed recent style darling Duchess Kate Middleton with headwear resembling everything from a giant dumpling, to a Calder sculpture, to a vinyl record, to a very flustered bird. New York Magazine picked up on the trend last month, having a handful of its writers don garish hats and record the mostly confused responses of passersby in New York City, and for the first time ever, thanks in part to the fancy pants hat trend, London has surpassed both New York and Paris as the fashion capital of the world.

Headpieces from Armani's Fall Couture show

But despite London’s seeming domination of the hat sphere, the most impacting headwear statement of the season came from the Paris Couture shows last July. For Armani Privé’s controversial Japanese-inspired collection, legendary milliner Philip Treacy designed a small yet powerful set of hats that embodied the dually sculptural and delicate nature of the clothes. Some of his creations conjured high-fashion propeller hats, while others brought to mind origami forms sculpted from gobs of pink taffy. Among all of the beautifully crafted and evocative headwear from that collection, however, the pieces with the most resonance were a series of oversized tangerine curls that recalled both hair curlers and elegant ribbons resting on a present. They had an expressiveness in the way the ends reached outward as if they were being pulled by invisible strings or forcefully exploding.

Di Suvero's "Homage to the Seed (Hommage a la Semence)" (1987-94; via

In his work for Armani, Treacy found clear inspiration from the monumental sculptures of American artist Mark di Suvero. Di Suvero, who began his career at the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 50s, uses bright orange I-beams and scraps of steel to create multi-story sculptures recalling mechanized spiders, ancient measuring devices, nebulas, and industrial explosions. His work defies conventional ideas of movement, lightness, and beauty, and although they weighs tons, they have the visual lightness of plastic toys and the delicateness of a stack of toothpicks. This summer, the New York City government is staging a show of di Suvero’s sculptures to revitalize (and some say exorcise) the lush landscapes of Governor’s Island. The show features a collection of 11 di Suvero sculptures from as early as the 70s, including “For Chris,” (1991) an homage to artist Chris Wilmarth in the form of a highly-stylised bell, and my favorite, “Old Buddy (For Rosko),” (1993-95) a minimalist interpretation of his deceased dog. In punctuating the developing island’s greenery with di Suvero’s playful sculptures, the city hopes to breathe life into the somewhat spiritless space and shape a local identity that celebrates art, ideas, and the beauty of creation.

Mark di Suvero has changed the way in which we appreciate and interpret sculpture, and by extension, other sculptural forms like headwear. His forms and their emotive power led to the creation of Treacy’s ribbon hats for Armani, which have in turn, expanded the dialogue and creative boundary of hats. Both of these artists have pushed the visual and conceptual limits of their respective fields, and in doing this, they have given us new sight.


My Latest Obsession: Herrlicht Glasses

July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some describe the Alexander Wang look as “model off-duty.” In that vein, I’d say the Fashion Mole look (or “lewk,” as the lingo now goes) is “museum curator off-duty,” with the central elements of this style being slight myopia and the right pair of frames. Enter Herrlicht, a German eyewear brand that carves simple, yet wholly unique eyewear from a variety of woods: maple, cherry, walnut, or fumed oak.

I’m personally obsessed with the HL 09 model in maple. They contrast well with my olive skin, and the soft shape compliments my rounded face.

HL 09s in maple (via

Each pair of frames is hand made in Germany in a small shop overseen by founder Andreas Licht. He and his design crew keep individual wood grains intact on the glasses, which gives each pair a crafty quality.

Licht working in his studio

These frames are pretty elusive. The Herrlict website doesn’t offer online sales nor a stocklist. I did, however, find several pairs of Herrlict frames at Ic! Berlin in Taipei.

McQueen’s Art Nouveau Heels

July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Two pairs of Alexander McQueen shoes caught my eye from Tommy Ton’s street style photos for They were rough and carried a heavy visual weight – their heels and soles appeared sculpted from bronze – yet they channeled a femininity and elegance that’s seemingly essential to womenswear today. McQueen designed them for his F/W ’10 collection, reflecting his dark spirit in a whimsical way.

McQueen shoes at Paris Fashion Week (via Jak & Jil)

And some more (via

The shoes struck a resemblance to art nouveau metalwork from the turn of the 20th century architecture. Antoni Gaudí, one of the forefathers of art nouveau, often molded steel into organic, vegetal shapes to form columns, stair railings, and balconies, as he did at Casa Milá in Barcelona. In doing so, he hoped to create  buildings that looked and felt connected to nature.

Balconies at Gaudi's Casa Mila (

The gold, vine-like heel in the first pair of McQueen shoes calls to mind columns seen in the work of Belgian architect Victor Horta, who pioneered the art nouveau movement alongside Gaudí. In his most famous building, Horta House (now Musée Horta), Horta used what look like gold ribbons to form dynamic columns and light fixtures. The motif was echoed on the walls, ceiling, and floor, where the forms were painted or recreated with mosaic tiles.

A staircase in Musee Horta (via

Light fixtures at Musee Horta (via

Columns from Musee Horta (via

The invention of reinforced concrete (concrete supported by steel beams) toward the end of the 19th century allowed architects to construct buildings at larger scales, eventually leading to the skyscrapers that dominate skylines today. Some interpret art nouveau as a response to this. While technology brought people further away from nature and toward dehumanizing concrete jungles, art nouveau’s vine-like forms brought people a bit closer to it.

Now Trending: Painted Stripes

July 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Like every other summer in recent memory, I’ve been seeing a lot of stripes around. But retailers have spiced up the pattern by giving it a subtle painted effect. Rag & Bone has done the best take on this, applying navy painted-effect stripes on everything from women’s tanks to men’s sweaters and shirts.

Rag & Bone women's tank (via Rag & Bone)

Rag & Bone men's sweater (via Rag & Bone)

Rag & Bone men's t-shirt (via Rag & Bone)

Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen offers a great weekend/beach bag with a similar effect, though the stripes are less dense, wider, and sky blue. Also, Toms Shoes offers their classic espadrille covered in black, painted-effect zig zags.

Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen (via Oak)

Toms zig zag espadrille (via Toms)

For the D.I.Y. inclined reader, this could offer an afternoon of fun. For everyone else, just look online – these items are bound to be on sale soon.

When did Toms Shoes Jump the Shark?

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Haven't we crossed a line here? Pink Glitters via

Was it the Glitters line with pink, gold, and silver sequined Toms? Or maybe the Wedding Collection? Or was it the revelation that founder Blake Mycoskie is associating himself with right-wing nutcases at Focus on the Family?

I’ll admit that last summer I owned a pair of Toms – their “traditional” shoe in blue (Mycoskie copied/stole/”drew inspiration from” the Argentinian alpargata design which he saw while he was a contestant on The Amazing Race). It was a simple slip-on that was easy-to-wear and perfect for summer. At the time, Toms hit that hippie intersection of feel-good consumerism and cultural appropriation. “I’m helping children and it’s ethnic!”

Mycoskie working with Focus on the Family actually makes pretty good business sense. First of all, Toms’ “one for one” model – a pair of Toms given to a needy child for every pair bought in the First World – fits pretty well within the evangelist model of saving “uncivilized” peoples. More importantly though, the move signals a shift away from the hippie, West Coast feel that first launched the brand and towards the heartland. Unfortunately though, the problem with any brand (I’m looking at you American Apparel) going Middle America, adding nonsensical products, and opening more stores ultimately means losing your cool factor.

Earlier this summer, my poor Toms popped a seam and ended up in the waste basket. I think the Fashion Gods were doing me a favor.

My Latest Obsession: The Cap Toe Sneaker

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ever since I stumbled upon these Lanvin cap toe shoes in Cheongdamdong, I haven’t been able to get them out of my head! I love their rich colors – forest green, inky black, chocolate brown. They look saturated to the point of oozing dye if I pricked them with a needle. The cap toe is also nice. To me, it recalls melted wax and elevates what could be a pedestrian suede sneaker into an elegant piece of luxury.

In grey suede with forest green patent leather details (via Bergdorf Goodman)

in chocolate brown (via

In black (via Bergdorf Goodman)

They retail for up to $500 at Bergdorfs and Mr. Porter, but expect since they’re part of the S/S 11 collection, expect them to be on sale anytime now.

For Better or For Worse, Pacino Rocks a Headband at the Tony’s

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Fashionably speaking, as a man at an awards show, it’s hard to separate yourself from all the other men wearing tuxes on the Red Carpet.  But at last night’s Tony Awards, there was one man who did it well: Al Pacino.

Ok, so maybe a headband wasn’t the most appropriate accessory for an awards show.  And maybe it makes him look like an extra from Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” music video.  And I didn’t particularly like it, but at least it followed the “rebel” trend that dominated runways for S/S 11.  In a way, Pacino was the trendiest man at the Tony’s!  Take a look at Robert Geller’s S/S 11 show which was chock full of headbands.  It was inspired by student protests from the 60s, and he accessorized his models  with headbands to infuse the runway with a sense of fashion-y rebellion!

Headbands evoke rebellion on Robert Geller's S/S 11 runways (via Stylesight)

Headbands evoke rebellion on Robert Geller's S/S 11 runways (via Stylesight)

Headbands were also seen at Byblos’s S/S 11 presentation in transparent black and green fabrics.

Headbands at Byblos S/S 11 (via Stylesight)

More headbands at Byblos S/S 11 (via Stylesight)

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