Under the Radar Trend: Stars

Models backstage at the Dolce & Gabbana autumn/winter 2011 show at Milan Fashion week. Photo: betterthanstyle.com

Six months ago, during Milan Fashion Week, Italian fashion duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sent 64 ‘rockabilly’-style models down the runway, in ‘teddy boy’ suits accessorized with piano key ties, and star-printed dresses in a 50s-style collection. Fast forward half a year, A/W is (in fashion terms) upon us and a Dolce-style trend is finding it’s way into our hearts and wardrobes.
No, it’s not the piano key tie, but star-printed everything you can get your hands on. As per usual, it’s celebrities and fashionistas leading the way with the cute and quirky, but still sexy, Dolce & Gabbana dresses which have been cropping everywhere.
Smiling out of September’s Marie Claire, actress Anne Hathaway is wearing hers, while Kim Kardashian has been spotted out in two different styles. British actress Hayley Atwell has taken the starry trend on the premiere trail for her current release Captain America: The First Avenger, and both mothers-to-be Lily Allen and Jessica Alba, have turned to the trend to deck their bumps.

The thing with a trend that is under the radar is that–you have to catch them quick, because if you wait around they’ll have flown off the shelves. 

Couture Level Flow, It’s Never Going On Sale…

Second offering from, “Watch The Throne” produced by Kanye West dropped a few days ago.  The dynamic duo of Kanye West and Jay-Z set the music scene on fire with their previous release of ‘H.A.M’ from the long anticipated album a few months back.  This new release of “Otis” can only be described as dope.  Who can’t appreciate shout-outs to a history making rap duo giving a nod to fashion?

I made “Jesus Walks” I’m never going to hell
Couture level flow, it’s never going on sale
Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses
Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive
I get it custom, you a customer
You ain’t ‘customed to going through Customs, you ain’t been nowhere, huh?
And all the ladies in the house, got ‘em showing off
I’m done, I hit ya up mana-naaaa!

 Kanye twists a few seconds of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” into a Blueprint-style barrage, setting the stage for some slick collar-popping from Jay-Z.  They keep trading punchlines for three minutes, opting not to interrupt the fun with anything resembling a chorus. When the verses are packed with this much wit and style, who needs one?

Queen B Goes Under the Radar for her New Look!

Beyoncé’s music isn’t the only thing that has the fashion world buzzing about the release of her fourth album, “4”.  Aside from the fashion marathon that she took us through in her video “Run the world (girls)” that featured seven designer outfits from Gareth Pugh to Norma Kamali.  Queen B takes it a step further by showcasing a fold-out cover that looks more like a glossy fashion magazine spread than a record sleeve.

As with other leading pop music divas like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry, fashion has always played a big role in Beyoncé’s artistic persona. In her music videos, she uses outfits to take on different roles —from sexy diva lion-taming in a red Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 2010 printed mini and thigh-high heels in “Run the world (girls)” to joyous bride in a wedding dress for her latest video “Best Thing I Never Had”.

The difference this time, is in her choice of designers. Instead of sticking to major fashion houses like Versace, Gucci, Prada or Chanel, the singer has thrown the spotlight on a number of up-and-coming designers whose names are likely to be unfamiliar to all but the most diehard fashion followers.

Beyoncé’s creative director, Jenke-Ahmed Tailly, along with the singer’s stylist Ty Hunter, pointed her in the direction of these designers.  The album’s cover image showcases the singer’s embrace of under-the-radar creators and features Beyoncé’s wearing a fox-fur stole by the cult French designer Alexandre Vauthier embellished with Swarovski crystals by the Lesage embroidery house. Mr. Vauthier’s work also shows up inside the fold-out cover, as does a pair of “Daisy Duke” shorts by the young French designer Julien Fournié, who founded his brand only three years ago.  Beyoncé continues her fresh faced fashion showing by wearing a Maxime Simoens purple dress for her “deluxe” album cover.  Even student designers got a look-in: Leah Rae, who is studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, created a form-fitting lemon-yellow mini-dress for the album spread.

Maxime Simoens, said it best : “She is a style innovator and an avant-gardist”.  I couldn’t agree with you more, especially since it takes a true style innovator to rock a Gareth Pugh metallic mini dress and make it look easy!

Fashions from Beyoncé’s Fold-Out Cover
Wearing a Black Fox Fur Stole Alexandre Vauthier embellished with Swarovski crystals on the album cover

Wearing a Red Fox Fur Stole Alexandre Vauthier  

Model wearing a Fox Fur Stole Vauthier embellished with Swarovski crystals by the Lesage -SP/SU 2009

Lemon Yellow Mini Dress designed and created by student designer, Leah Rae attending FIT in New York

Wearing Maxime Simoens purple dress on the “deluxe” album cover

Maxime Simoens Purple Dress-SP/SU 2010

Helpful Summer Trend Alert: Fans are Uber Chic & Functional!

The past few days in Chicago have been so hot, I’ve finally stopped complaining about working in an office with its AC set to “Siberia.” Every time I do venture outside, visions of last week’s couture shows and the resurgence of old-fashioned folding hand fans come to mind: Hilary Alexander churning up a breeze front-row at Chanel… Elena Perminova wielding hers in the sizzling hot Third Arrondisement (sub-division) outside Jean Paul Gaultier…

Speaking of, JPG sent models Frida Gustavsson and Andrej Pejic flapping fans of their own down his runway, and at Armani Privé, Philip Treacy combined several of them to create an ornate headpiece that channeled the Far East.

I’ll be scouring the city the next few days, looking to scoop up a fan or two of my own (I might have to wait until The Randolph Street Market at the end of the month on July 30th -31st to find a true vintage beauty).

Will you be joining me in embracing this uber chic & functional summer trend?

Andrej Pejic tickled his fancy with a feathered number, at Jean Paul Gaultier.

Frida Gustavsson created her own breeze after Jean Paul Gaultier.

Street Style Tip: Adding a feminine touch to a cute, tomboyish outfit.

Demonstrating they aren’t just for girls, in Florence.

Sitting front-row at Chanel, Hilary Alexander channeled Madame Butterfly.

Louis Vuitton’s decadent monogrammed lace fan, from the Spring collection.

A dramatic Philip Treacy-designed headpiece, at Armani Privé.

Elena Perminova’s accessory of choice at the couture shows was an old-school folding fan.

Dress Coats, Innovative Knitwear, Croc Leather: Azzedine Alaia’s Fall 2011 Collection Doesn’t Disappoint

Azzedine Alaia inspires devotion like no other designer in fashion, so it was small wonder that his first show in eight years should end with applause that went on and on… and on, until French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand scooted backstage and coaxed the famously shy designer out to face a rapturous standing ovation. And that was the only logical climax to a presentation that was punctuated throughout by involuntary squeaks of appreciation from a front row that included Donatella Versace, Sofia Coppola, and Kanye West.

Alaia is known to be an acolyte of Madame Grès. He loaned dresses to the exhibition of her work running right now at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris. The Grès show has become a cause to celebrate, not just because of the sublime workmanship, but because the clothes themselves are startlingly contemporary. They’re a testament to the “sui generis” power of Grès’ vision, which yields an almost eerie timelessness. And it was that same quality that came across on Alaia’s catwalk yesterday. Credit his absolute control of his craft. His focus was as sharp as the laser cutting that created the latticed velvet on his eveningwear. It felt like the designer was exploring all the possibilities of a tightly edited handful of ideas, starting with one that was newest for longtime fans: the coat-dress. Cut from the substantial felted wool that is an Alaia favorite, it had a rounded, slightly dropped shoulder, a bell-shaped flaring from inverted pleats on the hips and a padded texture to the skirt. It was a standout in the leaf green that is also an Alaia  fave.

The sheen of croc-stamped leather felt like something new, too. Alaia used it in a trim green coat-dress, in a zipped sleeveless top, and matching pencil skirt in aubergine. The zips that defined the hips of the skirt were the designer’s latest take on the body-consciousness that has defined his career.

And that brings us to the miracle of his knitwear. Alaia has worked with the same mill in Italy for the last 30 years. Such an enduring relationship has allowed technical feats like this collection’s short fitted jackets, as well as evening dresses that hugged the body to the hips, dipped to cup the bum, then erupted into flamencolike tiers of ruffles. All in knit! Sober yet erotically charged, they were looks for proper grown-ups—of any age. “You just don’t see clothes like that,” one attendee was quoted as exclaiming at the show’s end. “There’s everyone else. Then there’s Alaia.”

Looks like Alaia’s mantra continues to reign true, and these key words by Catherine Lardeur, the former editor and chief of French Marie Claire in the 1980s, who also helped to launch Jean-Paul Gaultier’s career, stated in an interview to Crowd Magazine that say it all: “Fashion is dead. Designers nowadays do not create anything, they only make clothes so people and the press would talk about them. The real money for designers lie within perfumes and handbags. It is all about image. Alaia remains the king. He is smart enough to not only care about having people talk about him, but only when it’s relevant. He only holds fashion shows when he has something to show,  and only on his own time frame.”

Azzedine Alaia’s Fall 2011 Collection:
(Prepare for an AMAZING experience)

Azzedine Alaia’s "Semi-Couture" Fall 2011 Collection showing in Paris Fashion Week Today

Azzedine Alaia Couture


What is a Semi-Couture Collection? Some designers don’t fully fit under the category of Couturier but if their work is Couture quality they are given a chance by The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show a semi-couture collection during Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris France. It also means that the collection shown has to follow a lot of the guidelines that Couturiers have to follow including handmade garments and top notch quality.  Azzedine Alaia announced that he will show a “semi-couture” collection in Paris today as granted by the Couture powers that be.  The looks will be available in different sizes as opposed to the Couture sizes 2 or 4 and it will be an off the rack experience. This is a perfect entry level Couture collection for the almost explicitly successful business woman who is a size 6 that doesn’t quite fit into the Couture pieces from the runway collection. Oh, and for a certified Couture collection you WANT to fit into those sizes because the specific pieces that are actually worn on the runway are 40% off! That could literally mean a savings of up to $40,000.00! Talk about motivation to hit the gym.

Fashion Visionary, Azzedine Alaia

The amount of Couturiers is dropping and this is creating a gap between Couture and Ready-to-Wear. Perhaps Semi-Couture will be the next Couture and Couturier’s will be a thing of the past? I certainly hope not though as it is the truest form of fashion that exists from old world fashion designer to client relationship and if that leaves it will be a very sad day for all of fashion as Haute Couture controls what will be in style around the world.

Even after that scary thought I am excited to see the Alaia collection Semi-Couture fashion collection and I hope it is as good if not better than his Couture collection from Spring 2003.    If his celebrity following is any indication, it will be (Celebrity Fans: Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham, Michelle Obama, and Madonna to name a few).
Look forward to tomorrow’s recap of this long awaited showing! 

Fashion rivals: Sarah Palin vs Michele Bachmann

Is Sarah Palin a fashion icon worthy of imitation? Arch political rivals Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have too much in common when it comes to their style, says Bristol Palin.
Ever since Marie Antoinette decorated her three-foot high wig with a model of the Belle Poule battleship, fashion has been used to make political statements. The Queen of France wore a replica of the frigate to celebrate a French naval victory over the English in 1778, and from then on her wardrobe became a signifier of France’s place in the world (and her place in France).

Sarah Palin famously had her very own Marie Antoinette moment during the US presidential election in 2008, when it was reported she and her team had indulged in a $150,000 shopping spree at several high-end department stores; recession be damned-apparently talks of the recession didn’t include her over indulgent wardrobe. Michelle Obama promptly appeared on a television talk show wearing a high-street outfit bought online at J Crew: she didn’t need to utter a word.

Enter Michele Bachmann, the latest Republican to announce her candidacy for the 2012 presidential election, and another fashion catfight begins (never mind how she proposes to halt job losses, repair the economy or deal with the Middle East).  Bristol Palin has a book to promote and this past Tuesday weighed in on Bachmann’s wardrobe choices, claiming the candidate has been aping her mother’s style all too much.

“I think she dresses a lot like my mom,” Bristol said . “A lot of women have done that over the last few years. I think it’s odd, you know? Seeing people with red blazers with their hair up with glasses…. I don’t know if [Bachmann’s] wearing glasses, but you want to be like, hmm, ‘Do you think that people don’t notice you’re dressing like my mom?”’

Is Sarah Palin a fashion icon worthy of imitation? According to Bristol, the answer is yes.

Say what you like, but at least the debate about female politicians’ fashion choices goes beyond party lines.

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s February interview with Harper’s Bazaar was most memorable – and criticized – for her cooing over a hot-pink Ferragamo handbag. 

Umit Benan’s ‘Ocean’s Eleven’…

It was only a matter of time before one of the established European houses snapped up Umit Benan, the cosmopolitan 30-year-old Milan-based designer with a gift for sartorial storytelling, a sophisticated color sense, and charm to spare. The only question was, would it be a good match? What drew him to his new gig at Trussardi, Benan said at a preview a few hours before his debut presentation, was the fact that the Italian company’s golden age was the eighties, the era that he continues to mine so assiduously for his own line. Though he didn’t say it, you also suspect that he likes the idea that the house codes aren’t necessarily set in stone. He sees the essential characteristic of the label as a certain mood—what he called the “charisma” of longtime driving force Nicola Trussardi. That leaves Benan with a reasonably blank canvas on which to weave his particular brand of magic.

The conceit he hit on today was to restore a little of the fun and luxury to travel. As editors stood squeezed into the Trussardi store, a series of fancy cars pulled up outside on the Piazza della Scala, their arrival first spied on video screens inside the shop. Benan’s protagonists—men he described as an Ocean’s Eleven-type gang or soccer players returning victorious from the World Cup—jumped out. Each toting a different set of luggage, they took a lap through the store before depositing their bags with a “doorman” by the elevators. There was an unreconstructed eighties feel to the clothes they wore. Mark Vanderloo, emerging from a low-slung Mercedes of the kind Richard Gere drove in American Gigolo, had on a white boiler suit and mirrored shades. A bearded model wore a navy duster coat that Benan had taken directly from the archives, adding a contrasting collar in crocodile. Other models wore rakish safari jackets or double breasted jackets in the sort of rich shades that the designer favors for his own line, albeit in a rather more traditional cut. There were only around 20 looks, but part of Benan’s strength is his refusal to be pushed too far too fast. It’s the same confidence that allows him to resist over-modernizing that duster coat.

In many ways, it feels like the designer’s work here has barely started (he will tackle the label’s womenswear too in the Fall), but he has already begun to transform Trussardi from an item-driven label to one with a story to tell.

Trussardi Men’s Spring 2012 Collection

Brothers of Arcadia-Myth and Reality

Gods do walk among us.  At the second showing of the Mugler men’s spring 2012 collection in the vast hall of the Galérie de Mineralogie, creative director Nicola Formichetti gave a straightforward explanation in his press notes, which were placed inside a 4×6 black and white catalog entitled Brothers of Arcadia.

“I was interested in the idea of fantasy, dreams, and voyeurism. I also like the idea of modern and ancient myths. So I suppose this project is a combination of the two things: there are surfers, footballers, porn stars and classical gods all rolled into one here.”

Mugler presentation Brothers of Arcadia, a mini-magazine of sorts, art directed and styled by Mugler creative director Nicola Formichetti and shot by Branislav Jankic, starring impossibly buff, often entirely nude men, chiseled as Greek gods and modeled after the same, frolicking in the surf, entwining themselves in rope, and flexing in every imaginable position. Prior to last night’s show, Mr. Formichetti released a short black and white film by photographer Branislav Jankic with exclusive music by the band Jessica 6, featuring the models Travis Cannata, Matthieu Charneau, and Justin Barnhill. It depicts muscular men frolicking in black underwear on a beach, wrestling each other or shaving one another, as well as a staged Cleopatra scene on a bed with Jessica 6 singer Nomi Ruiz. An uncensored version debuted on user generated porn site XTube yesterday. It pays tribute to fashion’s endless robbery of gay porn and its ideals of masculinity since the 1970s.

After the show, Formichetti described the full mix of inspirations that fed this collection: the fabulists of Italian cinema, Fellini and Pasolini; Japanese comics; the heroic, masculine aesthetic of Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber; sports; Greek mythology. Formichetti says, “This season, I put more of myself into it” that’s a lot of oneself to cram into any collection. Accordingly, Greek gods, muscle-bound frat boys, tattooed punks, and sylph-ish male models all took their turn down the catwalk, often spattered in glitter. The first boy out sported a pair of giant bronze Iron Man arms.

Despite all the trappings, though, the collection largely boils down to salable items: stonewashed skinny jeans, pleated shorts, T-shirts, swimwear. Formichetti spoke of doing something “a little more real,” but the danger is, without the theatrics, they may also look a little more ho-hum. The strongest bits here coupled wearability with oddity, like the bifurcated tailored jackets that opened the show. Sliced open at the waist, their top and bottom halves held together by a strip of transparent latex shot through with a rip-cord drawstring, they married old and new. So did the green glow that surrounded the show—from the lighting to the collection’s palette—an acidic, minty shade. “That green represented the blood of the digital era,” Formichetti said. “If this technology has a kind of color, for me it was a neon green.” Arcadia, electrified.

Provocations aside, whether on film or on runway, the show was grounded in reality–see the commercial viability of the new swim line. After all, in today’s fashion, it really does take an Olympian god to sell a pair of stretch lycra bikini briefs.

Mugler Men’s Spring 2012 Collection

The Bigger and Bolder-The Better!

Forget about asking ‘Does my butt look big in this?’ This summer’s big question is ‘Does this dress/skirt/tunic/balloon-parka look big on me?’ And of course it will, silly. It’s meant to.

Dresses as big as barrage balloons, skirts which undulate like breaking rollers on a surf beach, maxis billowing like wind-socks at North Ave Beach, cocoon parkas cagouls and anoraks with the dimensions of a small tent. Everything is over-sized.

As if that were not traffic-stopping enough, then add swathes of big, bright, bold color. No question of blink-and-you’ll miss it; eyes wide open and you’ll be blinded by the sheer, eye-socking, sizzling shade of it.  Blame it on Raf Simons, the Belgian avant-garde designer and creative director at Jil Sander, who ignored his normal urban minimalist muse and cut loose with maximum impact clothes for a bold extrovert in shocking pink, neon-orange, jade and cobalt techno-silk and gabardine, counter-balanced with the plainest of white cotton Tees.

Simons was not the only one. Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Albert Kriemler at the Swiss brand, Akris, also pumped-up the volume with the mother of all maxi-skirts in lipstick-red or electric blue, while Miuccia Prada’s primary colors, marquee-stripes and prints of monkeys and bananas, all piled together in a hectic melange of big, square-cut, swing-back jackets and rumba-flounce skirts, were the ultimate in big, bold and beautiful.

Prabal Gurung, a favourite of Carey Mulligan, Blake Lively, and Michelle Obama, was just as daring with his clashes of red and pink or turquoise and yellow, and Marc Jacobs, in a voluminous homage to Yves Saint Laurent’s 1979 peasant-chic collection, paired off-the-shoulder blouses in purple or pink with big, dirndal skirts in raspberry or tobacco.

So if there’s one trend you embrace this summer, make it color done bigger and bolder; it’s bound to cheer up the dullest of days… Especially if this Summer weather doesn’t arrive soon!