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 MrPorter.com)

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.

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Color Recap For Paris and Milan Menswear S/S 12

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Milan and Paris shows took a different spin on the primary colors, turning reds into coral and berry, yellow into mustard, and blue into an icy cerulean. Designers mixed these with deeper neutral hues of browns and whites, creating a warmer and slightly more somber color palette. This was a shift from a spring/summer 2011 season that was heavy on saturated brights.

My favorite palettes of the spring/summer 2012 season were the corals at Commes des Garcons and Versace, and the dark blues at Armani and Gucci. Mustard, one of the new colors of the season, looked fresh and gave the collections a retro kick. Look below for some colors to look forward to next spring.

Coral

Clockwise from top left: Dries van Noten, Roberto Cavalli, Costume National, Versace, Canali, and Commes des Garcons

Mud Brown

Clockwise from top left: Bottega Venetta, Etro, Missoni, Z Zegna, Burberry Prorsum, and Louis Vuitton

Pool Blue

Clockwise from top left: Bottega Venetta, Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Canali, Burberry Prorsum, and Z Zegna

Shades of Grey

Clockwise from top left: Commes des Garcons, Bottega Venetta, Gucci, Lanvin, Hermes, and Calvin Klein

Midnight Blue

Clockwise from top left: Salvatore Ferregamo, Gorgio Armani, Gucci, Etro, Missoni, and Canali

Berry

Clockwise from top left: Canali, Gucci, Missoni, Commes des Garcons, Burberry Prorsum, and Lanvin

Bright White

Clockwise from top left: Commes des Garcons, Z Zegna, Calvin Klein, Dolce and Gabanna, Moncler Gamme Bleu, and Bottega Venetta

Mustard

Clockwise from top left: Alexander McQueen, Burberry Prorsum, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Raf Simons, and Z Zegna

The 5 Best Men’s Looks From Paris S/S 12

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

The menswear shows for the Spring/Summer 2012 season just wrapped up in Paris. Here are my 5 favorite looks.

5. Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten S/S 12 (via GQ)

Dries collections always have a softness about them. Even though the venues – parking garages or construction sites – possess a gritty quality, the clothes have a weightlessness, even femininity, that makes me think of dandelion seeds floating in a breeze. And the clothes are always complemented by simple styling. This season the models’s hair was gently combed to the side.

My favorite look from Dries this season is a black double-breasted blazer, white t-shirt, mustard sandals, and wide, flowy pants in red, white, and black stripes. The blazer has a calm elegance in its bareness, and the subtle design element of the one button on a double breasted blazer feels fresh. The pants, though reminiscent of a carnival in their color and pattern, are relaxed and comfortable.

4. Thom Browne

Thom Browne (via GQ)

Thom Browne collections are always a bit bizarre. Watching them is like walking through a row of funhouse mirrors –proportions are often shrunken or exaggerated, and there’s always an element of mystery lingering about. Why, for example, did models come down the runway yesterday with exposed sock garters and shrunken bowler hats? Were they clowns at a child’s birthday party? Did they leave their trousers at the dry cleaner?

Despite the strangeness of Thom Browne shows, they always have a way of pulling me in for a closer look. This happened with a slate striped blazer with bright orange shorts, round sunglasses, and grey suede shoes. I love how the stripes on the blazer, tie, and shorts go every which way, leading my eyes in different directions, as well as the unconventional proportions of the look. The blazer is long but with shrunken sleeves, while the shorts stretch from the knee to the belly button. It doesn’t make sense, but it somehow does.

3. Commes des Garcons

Commes des Garcons (via GQ)

Rei Kawakubo’s work for Commes des Garcon is an exploration of dyads: black and white, optimism and gloom, the classic and the modern. This season Kawakubo explored masculinity and femininity in menswear, creating a collection that contrasted black with hot pink, leather with lace, and blazers with skirts. The collection resulted in conceptually compelling and commercially covetable looks.

The best number from the collection was a hybrid blazer slash motorcycle jacket worn with a hot pink shirt and shorts. The blazer/motorcycle jacket hybrid was covered in a red and black checker pattern that brought to mind images of a Medieval court jester. I could easily see this piece on a k-pop star with a good stylist and a sense of humor. The pink shirt and shorts are a visual shocker, but I like the pop.

2. Lanvin 

Lanvin (via GQ)

I like the feeling of wanderlust in Lanvin’s collections; there is the vague sense that the models are like nomads circling the desert. I find the image romantic – unmoored but unafraid. And despite the luxury of the fabrics, there’s always a prevailing casualness to the overall look. To me, this is where the sophistication of the collections lie, in the idea that you can wear brilliantly crafted clothes and not have to brag about it.

The highlight of Lanvin’s latest show was a shiny, midnight blue blazer with a grey shirt, navy pinstripe shorts, and black leather shoes. What I love most about good monochrome looks like this is that they force the viewer to focus on more subtle design elements like texture and proportion. The blazer was made of a slick material that resembles molten metal, and it changes color with the light. The shirt and shorts have a feminine proportion – long shirt and short shorts – that works harmoniously with the tailoring of the blazer.

1. Junya Watanabe 

Junya Watanabe S/S 12 (via GQ)

Junya’s presentations don’t always scream luxury. The models, for one, are decidedly un-model-y. Each looks like a poorly groomed hipster with a bad hangover and a slight paunch. The clothes aren’t made of luxe fabrics like lacquered reptile skin or vacuna fur, but rather, just cotton or even (gasp!) synthetic fabrics. But despite the lack of glamour and glitz, Junya’s clothes always shine.

This season, Junya, too seems to have been influenced by the farm-to-table movement overtaking Brooklyn. The men’s presentation took place in a garden, where models strolled around in overalls, jeans, patched shirts, hunting coats, and wellies. The highlight of the show was a denim shirt and jeans worn with forest green duck boots, and accessorized with a simple brown belt and a denim hat. Both the front of the shirt and jeans were covered in patches made of different colors and patterns like pale yellow paisley, blue plaid, and white stripes. The stitching around the patches varied as well, from bold reds to ultra-bright whites. I like the playfulness of this look. It’s a little bit country and a little bit hippie, but the thoughtfulness of the pattern combinations gives it a sophisticated polish.

Is Fashion Ready to Scout African Models?

June 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Yesterday, Italian Vogue Editor Franca Sozzani posted a blog entry titled “Why is it so hard to scout for black models?” In it, she discusses the disproportionate white-to-black model ratio in fashion today, which she attributes to model agencies’ heavy scouting in Eastern Europe and lack of scouting elsewhere. Franca, a steadfast proponent of diversifying fashion, offers one possible solution to increasing the number of black models: scout in Africa! “There’s a new generation of models coming from Tunisia and Morocco,” she says, so more aggressive scouting in these areas would increase the number of black models, right?

I have no doubt that scouting in Africa would result in greater numbers of black models on the runway and in magazines, but but I have reservations toward this idea because of the exotified way in which the fashion industry currently treats African, and more generally, black models. One way they do so is by physically separating them from non-black models in various fashion gigs. Take Lanvin’s S/S 11 show, for example, in which a cluster of 5 black models closed. Before this point in the show, the other models, almost all of whom were non-black, walked the runway as they usually do: one-by-one. In an interview with Robin Givhan, Lanvin’s designer Alber Elbaz explained that the gesture was purely aesthetic. The black models wore a group of prints he didn’t think coalesced with the rest of the show, and to work them in, he put them on a group of black models at the end as a visual addendum. “They would be separate. But equal.” Givhan writes.

Black models closing Lanvin's S/S 11 show (via jadorefashionblog)

The separation of black models is often seen in magazine editorials as well, and quite often, they’re dressed to look African, or at least African in the way the West conceptualizes it. This has happened in American Vogue several times this year alone. This past February, for example, they published “Gangs of New York” and dressed a group of black models in large head wraps and earthy Rodarte clothing. The head wraps were not part of the Rodarte show, but rather were a stylistic addition by Vogue. The other pages of the spread consisted of either all white or all Asian models wearing clothing that extended beyond ethnic costume: pantsuits, printed scarves, and playful cocktail dresses to name some.

"Gangs of New York" in American Vogue (via Models.com)

Another image from "Gangs of New York" (via Models.com)

Just one month later, Vogue published “The Life Rhapsodic,” in which a group of black models danced around in African-inspired looks. Some of their outfits were covered in animal prints, and those models with longer hair had dried plants woven through their braids.

Image from "The Life Rhapsodic" (via Models.com)

So what are the repercussions of separating black models and conceptualizing them as old-school African? One is that these models lose their individual identities. Last week, New York Magazine featured Sudanese-American Grace Bol on their “Meet the New Girl” series that features fashion’s latest up-and-comers. In her interview, when asked if people compared her to Sudanese model Alek Wek, she replied:

“All the time! People actually think I’m Alek when I’m walking down the street. Several people have chased me down just to get my autograph, and even when I explain to them that I’m not Alek, they think I’m lying!”

Grace Bol (via NYMagazine)

Alek Wek on the cover of L'Officiel (via Models.com)

To be fair, both models are skinny, dark-skinned, and have little-to-no hair. But still, repeatedly presenting black models in groups and styling them as tribespeople would encourage people to misidentify them. Why? Because it prevents black models from creating individual identities, or one that is distinct from other black models. We, as consumers, are taught to look at them only as part of an exotic group of “others.”

If modeling agencies begin to scout more heavily in Africa, I hope designers and editors dress them in more creative ways than animal prints and head wraps. I hope that they are given as much diversity in their work as their non-black counterparts, walk the runway individually, have their picture taken with models of different races, and get gigs that encourage personality and maybe even sexiness. This, to me, will diversity fashion in a way that feels genuine, and in a way that promotes real diversity.

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