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13/03/2014

At Sass & Bide, Gallery Girls of the World Unite

Art made with found materials is all very well, but you don’t necessarily want to find it in your living room. Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain” was, in the end, a urinal. Damien Hirst’s tanks of the 1990s leaked, the animal corpses within rotting.

Last year, I took the children to a workshop at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, that promised to turn our recyclables into couture, eerily presaging Karl Lagerfeld’s recent Stepford-Wives-in-the-grocery-aisles show for Chanel. (Also recalling that much-mocked scene from “American Beauty” during which the teenage neighbor of Kevin Spacey’s character is entranced by a wind-borne plastic bag.) Anyway, I’m still crossly prying the bottle caps out of their little pockets.

But the massive twisted white piece that dominates the architecture of the new Sass & Bide boutique in SoHo, the Australian label’s first American outpost, is undeniably impressive, even more so when I learned it was made from thousands of old T-shirts by Guild, a “design and build collective” based in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Miami and Portland, Ore., that has also worked on displays for Opening Ceremony and Proenza Schouler.

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Image:sale bridesmaid dresses

 

Credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

“Yup, it’s gotten a lot of attention,” said a saleswoman with bobbed hair, standing like a W. Somerset Maugham character a bit forlornly in the store where no one but I was browsing last Friday afternoon. Not so much the clothes, was her implication.

Now mostly owned by Meyer, an Australian department-store chain, Sass & Bide sprung from the fevered brain of two blondes from Brisbane, Sarah-Jane Clarke (“Sass”) and Heidi Middleton (“Bide”), whose major public-relations coup in America has been winning the favor of the actress and shoe entrepreneur Sarah Jessica Parker. I can’t think it’s a coincidence that they have set up shop directly across from another pair of gal pals, Sarah Easley (“Kirna”) and Beth Buccini (“Zabête”), but they cater to a younger, kickier clientele whose primary objective is to flash some flesh. Minidresses have emphatic triangular cutouts right over the solar plexus, there are at least a dozen styles of shorts, and $300 jeans are distressed to a condition that probably wouldn’t be accepted by the Salvation Army. As a nearby sweatshirt proclaimed in metallic yarn and sequins, this is “Totes Boges.”

The Sass & Bidettes are also bidding for authenticity and sincerity, though: collaborating with tribeswomen in Kenya to sell a line of beaded handbags in a program sponsored by the United Nations. Totes Nobles, in other words — though let’s remain mindful that buying such a purse does not make one Abebech Gobena, or even Angelina Jolie.

As in the art scene, practically everything for sale here bears a title, some mysterious, some perhaps ill chosen. “Think Twice,” a long silk dress with a mustard print ($550), seemed inevitably destined for the markdown rack. “The Way of the World” was drearily embodied by elastic-waist, saggy-rumped rayon “slouchy” pants ($190). “Leave It Alone” suggested a sleeveless top in that same sad mustard shade ($320). And so I did.

Continue reading the main story The dressing chambers have transparent doors, and I wondered if they had been salvaged from the famous unisex bathrooms of the defunct Bar 89 around the corner (now Vince, another clothing store that charges for distress, though slightly less). Those become opaque only when locked, but no — here, down came a white cotton curtain. Inside, before a vitrine containing smaller-scale sculpture, a Tweety Bird with discreetly downcast eyes, I tried and quite admired “The Testimony,” a faded-denim, Liberty-print lined number ($390) with a Stella McCartney feeling.

Christy, a more cheerful, Australian clerk wearing Converse high-tops under her maxidress, helped wrestle me into “Mister Blue,” a white woolen capelet with gold buttons that not unpleasantly brought to mind a spirited tussle with Fred Grandy on the deck of “The Love Boat.” “Look, it matches your beanie!” she said.

Like the Royal Princess, Sass & Bide has a first-class cabin. Its so-called gallery section contains items like “The Bank Roll” jacket: a slicker, ridged version of “Who’s Asking” for the artlike $1,200.

“Too space-cadety,” said a young woman who appeared to be browsing with her stylist. Along with its compatriots, Outback Steakhouse and Kylie Minogue, Sass & Bide can seem beamed from a strange other universe, but they come, piece by piece, in peace.

Aussie Having chugged away quietly but successfully since the late 1990s, a label from Down Under is now parked in downtown Manhattan.

Glossy Though its motto is “dedicated to the strong, the obscure and the beautiful,” the brand is featured regularly in magazines like Marie Claire and has been worn by the not-exactly-unknown Beyoncé, Madonna and Rihanna.

Gather-No-Mossy With flashbulb-courting metallic trim and racy cuts, the clothes seem designed for the footloose clubgoer who doesn’t know where she’ll wake up the next morning.

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10:17 Publié dans News | Tags : news, fashion | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

11/03/2014

Pakistan vs Paul Smith

Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper called it the “chappal of two cities”. How, the paper wanted to know, could a simple leather sandal, commonly available in Pakistan for just a few pounds, sell for £300 in a London designer store?

Admittedly, the sandals, or "chappal", found in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, are not exactly the same as the ones being offered by the British designer Sir Paul Smith. The pair being sold by Sir Paul, for instance, feature a pink neon trim rarely, if ever, found in those picked up in the bazaars of Peshawar.

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They were also being sold under the model name “Robert”.

But to many on social media, the shoes otherwise looked pretty much the same. How could, people cried, Sir Paul have the nerve to ask £300 for the shoes and moreover, how could he not be acknowledging their Pakistani inspiration and origin?

Such was the outrage over the footwear, that people were encouraged to sign a petition at change.org addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron and Sir Paul. “If some company wants to sell these footwear, [it must] show some moral obligation and courtesy and must use its original name,” said the petition, which by Monday evening had been signed by more than 250 people.

Beyond the jokes, some believed there was a serious point to be made.

“Extraction of surplus, of labour and of ideas is an age old issue in North-South relations,” Mosharraf Zaidi, an education activist and former diplomat, told The Independent. “However, we should also never shy from owning what is ours, especially on the rare occasions when the associations are entirely positive and aesthetically universal in appeal.”

He added: “These are Peshawari chappals. Paul Smith can make all the money he wants, but he should afford us the small courtesy of calling them what they are.”

Paul Smith failed to respond to questions today. However, it appeared that the virtual show throwing that broke over over Sir Paul’s shiny black leather sandals had made its point.

By Monday evening, the website PaulSmith was still advertising the shoes and was still charging £300. The pink trim also remained in place. However, an all-important sentence had been added which read: “Men’s high-shine black leather sandals with neon pink trims inspired by the Peshawari chappal.”

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07:13 Publié dans News | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

06/03/2014

Nicolas Ghesquière brings joy to Louis Vuitton at Paris fashion week

 

The autumn/winter 2014 catwalk season ended today with the show everyone had been waiting for, as Nicolas Ghesquière closed Paris fashion week with his first collection for Louis Vuitton. Ghesquiere is one of the most revered, talented and innovative designers of his generation; Louis Vuitton is the world's biggest luxury brand. From both commercial and aesthetic perspectives this catwalk show was a hugely significant moment for contemporary fashion. And with Ghesquière stepping into the role previously held by Marc Jacobs, one of the great showmen of modern fashion, it was taken for granted that nothing less than a grand, theatrical debut would do.

 

In the event, instead of pyrotechnics, we got sunshine. Quite literally: after guests had taken their seats in a dimly lit marquee erected in an internal courtyard of the Louvre, the chrome slats lining the walls opened like Venetian blinds, allowing natural light to flood. It was a neat, palate-cleansing contrast with recent shows by Jacobs for Vuitton, which were held in the exact same spot, but whose marquees contained complicated secret worlds: a stage set of a hotel corridor one season, station platforms with models alighting from trains another.

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(Image: bridesmaid dresses pink )

 

Everything about the presentation was happy, fresh and upbeat. Ghesquière seemed at pains to move on from the image that settled on him, during his years at Balenciaga, as a tortured genius creating clothes of savage beauty which only the bold would dare wear. That image was underscored, in the years since he left Balenciaga, by an ongoing dispute with his ex-employers, which will play out in a Paris court in four months' time. A letter was left on every seat, signed simply and informally from "Nicolas" and printed in a typewriter-style font, evoking a personal note rather than a business memo. "Today is a new day," it began. It expressed first the designer's "immense joy" on the occasion, and made warm mention of Jacobs, "whose legacy I wholeheartedly hope to honour." Tellingly, and highly unusually for a communiqué from a luxury powerhouse, the word "brand" did not appear once, with Ghesquière referring instead to "the Louis Vuitton philosophy". The natural light, the classically Parisian setting, the framing of the label as a home of great designers rather than as a brand: all these made a strong statement that Ghesquière's Louis Vuitton will hope to embody warmth and bring pride to French fashion. It is not incidental that Ghesquière's appointment has broken a run of plum design roles being awarded to foreign designers.

 

After the setting, came the clothes. Or rather, the bags, and the clothes worn by the models who carry them. Clothing accounts for only five per cent of Louis Vuitton sales, and even less of its profits, with leather goods alone accounting for 90%. The huge publicity generated by Jacobs' extraordinary catwalk outfits was channelled into generating desire not for the clothes themselves but for the more profitable handbags, wallets and suitcases. Analysts are watching with interest to see whether Ghesquière will try to raise the profile of ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton as he did at Balenciaga, where the commercial success of It bags such as the Lariat was complemented by critical acclaim for clothes influential silhouettes and colours.

 

Ghesquière's first Vuitton bags were highly commercial. A cute miniature version of an old-fashioned suitcase, referring to Vuitton's heritage as a luggage label, was the key style for the season, appearing multiple times on the catwalk. The same style of bag also appeared worn in the front row, on the arm of Delphine Arnault, daughter of Bernard and second-in-command at Vuitton, and the supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who is engaged to Delphine's brother Antoine Arnault. Other tried-and-tested Vuitton shapes were prominent, including the cylindrical "Speedy", now with the Ghesquière touch of a futuristic prism print, and a scaled-down weekend holdall in panels of monogrammed and patent leather. Ghesquière has said of his time at Balenciaga that, contrary to the impression of him as an ivory-tower designer, "right from the start I wanted it to be commercial". At Vuitton, he appears to have the same plan.

 

But when it came to the clothes – traditionally more of a strong point for the designer rather than Vuitton - Ghesquiere's Vuitton started to look more experimental and interesting. Leather featured heavily, linking the clothes to the bags, but there was an abundance of cracked patent leather, rather than the more obviously luxurious soft version. An artificially raised waistline, and jackets with chunky square collars reminiscent of 1960s car salesmen also brought a frisson of oddness to the collection. Silk-and-leather, panelled-and-zippered cocktail dresses were a delight, avant-garde in their conception but executed with a light and feminine touch. In the front row, three generations of Boulevard Saint Germain style aristocracy – Catherine Deneuve and daughter Chiara Mastroianni, Charlotte Gainsbourg and her toddler daughter Joe - applauded these warmly.

 

Backstage after the show, the mood was positively joyous. A throng of well-wishers surrounded Ghesquière as he posed for photographs with Delphine Arnault, who was key in hiring him and with whom he is said to have a strong relationship. Ghesquière has said of Balenciaga that "I never had a [business] partner, and I ended up feeling too alone." At Vuitton, he is doing everything he can to set the stage for happiness.

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08:02 Publié dans News | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)