Essays, Fashion, Opinion

The Importance of Creative Directors to Musicians

I came across an interesting article on Billboard recently about how in the digital age, a musician or an artist having a creative director in charge of their branding is more important than ever. This makes sense, especially because being in the social media spotlight can be highly beneficial to an artist and the key to gaining this kudos is by having a clearly defined and well managed brand – something cool for people to look at and aspire to. Branding is everything nowadays whether you like it or not. We all even have a personal brand, even if it is not monetized. If we all have a brand, are we all creative directors? Maybe on a micro-level. An artist needs to hire somebody to direct their brand because it is the most important thing they have, arguably. Songs can blow up and become a summer jam but are easily forgotten about a year later. A brand leads to longevity – something that is vital, and often missing, for musicians today.

So what does a creative director do exactly? To my understanding, a creative director is in charge of how things look overall. A wide, encompassing statement, I know, but I think it all comes down to imagery. Creative directors control the vibe, the style, the look of everything. Whether that be the clothing worn by the artists (acting as a wardrobe stylist, deciding not only tour outfits for on stage but everyday looks in case of candid paparazzi shots or the all-important Instagrams), the style of photography used in Instagram shots or album covers, or the color schemes, products, and locations used in music videos. Anything that you see can be, and is likely, conceptualized by the creative director and brought forward to the artist. That’s not to say that the artist is not in charge of their own style in any way. It is more so that the creative director comes up with ideas and then work with the artist to make something that feels authentic and right for the artist instead of a singleminded vision: a collaboration.

Virgil Abloh and Kanye West

I think the importance of a creative director can be best demonstrated via Kanye West and his longtime collaborator Virgil Abloh, who has become a star in his own right in the past year. Abloh has his own brand (Off-White, formerly operating another brand called Pyrex Vision), he DJs, he hosts events and parties all around the world, and he has degrees in Architecture and Engineering. He’s a smart guy. He’s also partially responsible for keeping Kanye West so relevant as he knows exactly what people want. Abloh has his finger on the pulse and has no problem telling people that he listens to the kids on Tumblr and realizes their spending power and also their knowledge of fashion. No bullshit passes by Tumblr kids, especially the fashion ones (myself included) as we have been given the resource to learn everything online. Abloh understands this and uses it to his advantage. He has taken things that he has found on Tumblr and presented it to West in the past, as mentioned in one of the interviews linked below. It’s no secret that West loves fashion and has tried various times to break into the industry, with his Yeezy line for Adidas being extremely commercially successful but other ventures failing or floundering. West has also found great success in the merch game, perhaps solely starting the trend of people wearing concert merch as fashion items, beginning back on the Yeezus tour in 2013. We hit peak merch in 2016 with the Saint Pablo tour and the trickle-down effect with merch-inspired pieces being sold in fast-fashion stores like Forever 21 (who were accused of copying West multiple times) and Zara. H&M currently sell a range of “band t-shirts” with various rock bands’ graphics printed on them. Everyone jumped onboard – retailers and other artists alike. Now everyone needs to have merch, and to have merch that sells you need a brand. That’s where your creative director comes in.

West is not the only musician with a creative director. In fact, most of the biggest stars in the music world have one right now. The Weeknd has La Mar Taylor, a friend from Toronto who created the now iconic mixtape trilogy covers and continues to manage the artistic outputs. The XO brand, the collective of individuals associated with The Weeknd, has gone from being an underground icon, big on Tumblr with a cult-like following but not yet mainstream, to being an easily recognized symbol that is even tattooed on loyal fans. The Weeknd recently done a collaboration with H&M, featuring shirts with the XO logo prominently posted. That wouldn’t’ve been possible if he didn’t have the brand. Some other stars just have stylists. There’s a difference. A creative director’s role is much bigger, and arguably much more important. I could go on for days and days about this topic because one of the things I love the most in life is seeing how fashion intersects with other industries. In this sense, fashion and music and art all collide into one, and everything, in turn, becomes one commercial product. That’s not to say that art for art’s sake doesn’t remain, it’s just that everything nowadays is monetized. Pure artistic endeavors still exist, but creative direction takes something from that level and makes it something bigger. Something that can help you pay the bills for years to come.

The Weeknd’s brand is XO

Further Reading

“The Secret to Being A Modern Pop Star? A Creative Director Pulling The Strings” – W Magazine, September 2016

“Virgil Abloh: From Pyrex to Paris” – Dazed Digital, 2016

“The Life of (Virgil) Abloh” – GQ, August 2016

“From Kanye to Kings of Leon, Why Artists Need Creative Directors in the Age of Instagram” – Billboard, April 2017

 

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Fashion, Opinion, Personal

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garcons exhibition at the Met

I. don’t. get. Comme. des. Garcons. 

Really, I don’t. I went to the summer costume exhibition at the Met to check it out and, like almost everyone else who was visiting, I didn’t know what to think. It feels almost blasphemous to say that I didn’t like it or didn’t get it because there is this unwritten rule that if you are seriously into fashion (or claim to be) you must love Comme. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things from the brand I like. Dover Street Market is an amazing store with great merchandising techniques. The diffusion line with the little heart logo is branded perfectly. I can appreciate a really cool avant garde piece. I think they photograph brilliantly and I think they look really insane on the body (think Caroline Kennedy at this year’s Met Gala, or even Rihanna) but I don’t understand them and I know that the majority of people in my company at the museum felt the same way.

The exhibition was in a different gallery than the Manus x Machina one was last year and I didn’t like the space as much. It was lit very brightly with everything on stark white pedestals and some pieces were displayed well above eye-level, meaning it was easy to miss things if you didn’t realize you had to look up. The pieces featured spanned decades of Rei’s work. The exhibition was split up into various different segments, each representing a different aesthetic expression (e.g Clothes/Not Clothes) and there was no text explaining anything on the walls, nor credits for the clothing’s season etc – all of this information was to be found in a paper exhibition guide that was available at the entrance. Because of this, I found myself going around the exhibition faster than I normally would when I stop to read things because I didn’t actually read the guide until I sat down at the end and compared the guide with photographs I took. I still feel like I need further clarification though because I don’t understand the meanings of the pieces. I am a very imaginative person but I cannot immediately see the meaning of these clothes.

Ever since I got into fashion as a young teen, Comme des Garcons was a name I’d seen thrown about always in extremely high regard. On Tumblr, nobody dared disrespect Rei, thinking of her as the high priestess of fashion. I guess this mentality was ingrained into me without realizing it and for years I’ve always thought that I liked Comme, without actually thinking too much about it. Now I realize that I don’t like Comme, not because I think the clothes are bad but because I just don’t understand it at all and I can’t see the depth that others do. That includes most of the designers in the Japanese conceptualist movement, like Yohji Yamamoto, too. This year at the Met Gala, I was hoping for more out-there pieces because what I’ve seen from Comme des Garcons in the past and I do stand by my criticism of that red carpet. It was boring and could’ve been so much more if people were willing to push the boat out and not worry about looking hot for one evening.

I have compiled a little video, linked below, which is a get ready with me where I do my makeup, then once I have finished that I have included a lot of shots from the exhibition. I actually got a new camera recently and I’ve been playing with it, trying to work out its capabilities. The makeup video was actually just shot for fun, hence the unprofessional set-up, but once it was done I actually quite liked it so I decided to make something of it. The shots from inside the museum are taken on the same camera. I’m impressed with the quality.

Overall, if you’re in New York I think you should check out the exhibition and see what you think for yourself. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t help me gain any further understanding of or appreciation for the designer, but I did enjoy seeing it. I’m a huge advocate for fashion exhibitions and preserving garments like art pieces, because I do think of fashion as a form of commercial art, so I will always go along and see things even if I’m not a huge fan as I will always find it somewhat interesting.

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Fashion, Opinion

Why Do People Think That Fashion is Frivolous?

As I discussed in a previous post, I went to a talk about sexuality in fashion that turned out to be a little bit more focused on sexuality in general. However, I’d like to bring it back to fashion as I think it is an equally interesting issue. I thought about more than sexuality but about gender. Men and women, and our differences. More specifically, I’m thinking about the dominance of female fashion and the trivialisation of it. When did fashion become thought of as frivolous? Was it when women got involved?

Fashion, like most businesses, is a male dominated world. In fact, merely a few hundred years ago fashion was more important for men. They wore high heels and elaborate outfits (just think of old paintings of kings and the get ups that they wore), and red heels were associated with a position of power. I found a parallel between this and the infamous Christian Louboutin red bottoms, and the level of luxury which they connote. They convey status, exactly how the red heels used to back in the time of Louis XIV. Male fashion is making a return in a major way, especially because more and more famous men, especially musicians, are embracing a strong look and are willing to experiment more. However, when you think of people working in fashion, going to fashion school, you think women.

There was a historical shift at some point in time between men and women and who had to dress up. At some point, male fashion dropped out of the psyche and utilitarian clothes became the norm. But maybe it was always like that in the lower classes who typically weren’t painted in portraits? When we look at history we almost always hear about the upper class and royalty. In the past hundred years or so, female fashion has triumphed. Look at a photography book and the changing styles of womenswear is always exciting. From the straight waisted dresses of the flappers, playing down the female form and creating a boyish figure, to the wasp waists of Dior’s New Look and everything that has come since then, the major changes in female fashion always relate to the body. We either look super feminine, with emphasised curves, or young and waif-like with no hips or waists. Fashion doesn’t often have inbetweens, especially not groundbreaking, memorable looks. It is all about extremes, whether that is hem lengths or silhouettes. And who decides on these changes? More often than not it is men.

Dior’s New Look (1947)

Even though fashion is typically associated with females, the people in the positions of power are typically male. Dior got its first female designer in Maria Grazia Chiuri, before that it was all men. Chanel is headed by a man. Calvin Klein, a man. Almost all of the biggest fashion houses, especially the historical ones, are headed by men who design clothes that doesn’t even work for their bodies. They design clothes for women, to be worn by women, to make women look good. However, there is a very different treatment of the female body by homosexual men than heterosexual men, and the large majority of male fashion designers are homosexual. The straight male designers can be counted on one hand – Rick Owens, Christophe Lemaire, Christian Louboutin and a few others.

Mr Louboutin has stated that he doesn’t care if his shoes hurt to walk in, as long as they make the wearer look good. I think a female designer wouldn’t have the same attitude. Women designing for women often make a point of creating clothes that they know others could feel comfortable in, and look good. It is possible to do both but sometimes males don’t understand the female body in the same way. This may be a rather ridiculous example but I was watching an old series of Project Runway a few days ago and one of the designers didn’t know how to create a look for a woman with D cup breasts. Women would understand that.

Josephine Baker in a typical flapper look (1920s)

The homosexual male designer’s relationship with the female form is often different than a heterosexual male designer’s. They look at it with adoration rather than lust. They often idealise it too. That is not to say that they cannot partake in the objectification of women though. They can still create ultra sexualised looks. I personally think, as long as their is no ill intent, that this is ok. It is important that people remember that runway fashion is fantasy, not real life. I am aware of this but I know that others are not. Often people don’t understand that what they are seeing is an ideal to aspire to, not an order to replicate. Honestly, even the models don’t look like that on a daily basis.

The point that I wanted to explore was the seemingly frivolous nature of fashion. I don’t think it is fair that people have to constantly justify the validity of fashion as a career, as an industry. It is more than clothes when it comes down to it. It is a business that employs millions of people worldwide. It is a large portion of many counties economies – imports and exports are important. It is an industry that makes billions per year.

Jennifer Aniston in a slip dress (1990s)

Was fashion always thought of as frivolous it is this a new thing? Was it always just women playing dress up or was it previously thought of something else? All throughout WW2, British Vogue was published, never missing an issue, as a way to keep up morale in the country. That is significant. In a time of great struggle and pain, fashion helped to keep people going. Sometimes you need a distraction.

However, for people like me and many others, fashion is not just a distraction. In fact, it is my life. I don’t know any other world because it has always been my primary interest since I was a young child. I’d almost say I’ve been known as the one who “likes fashion”, but sometimes that is just reduced to “likes clothes”, and I don’t think it is fair to have to justify the industry as more than clothes and shopping, because when you think about it, the fashion industry has so many complex issues just like other industries that are perceived to hold more weight intellectually.

Another issue that I think is important, and related, is that if fashion is thought of as for women and gay men, what happens to all the straight men who are interested? I often wonder if there are any young straight men, who would like to be involved in fashion (either work in it or go to fashion school) but are too afraid to jump in for fear of being called gay or stupid? After all, people consistently make jokes about fashion schools being filled of girls and gay men. What about all the straight male designers that want to design for men? Or even that want to design for women? Virgil Abloh is straight. The Gvasalia brothers are straight.

Grace Jones in shoulder pads (1980s)

I think sexuality is perhaps the most complex of issues relating to the fashion industry and I have really just scratched the surface of this issue, mostly relating to the difference between the male and female treatment of the female body. It goes much deeper than that. I want to explore that further too. There are subcultures that shouldn’t be ignored yet I haven’t even touched on that today.

I also think that a major problem relating to the public perception of fashion and its frivolity is that women are the main focus. That’s what it boils down to. It is like people almost don’t want women to succeed and have an area to thrive in. It has to be diminished, to be lessened, when really it is as valid a business as banking, for example, and being a fashion buyer is just as important as being in procurement for a construction company. All roles are essential, all industries are essential, and all of the sectors are important, regardless of what people may think fashion is like.

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Fashion, Opinion

The Return of Paco Rabanne

It’s funny how things work out. I made a note on my iPhone of things I wanted to talk about on my blog at some point and one of them said, I quote, “Paco Rabanne is so cool to me and they have been making cool, futuristic clothes since the 1960s”. This thought was initially spurred by seeing Emily Ratajkowski in one of the dresses from the most recent runway collection and thinking she looked incredible. I knew instantly from the chainmail design that it was Paco Rabanne and I proceeded to look up the entire collection on Vogue Runway. As I said before, I really didn’t manage to keep up with things this fashion month so I had only noticed sporadic updates on Instagram, depending on what outlet showed up at the top of my feed. This train of thought then developed further after I chanced upon a vintage design by Paco Rabanne himself during a tour of the Museum at FIT’s “Paris Refashioned, 1957 – 1968” exhibition. The exhibition highlights the revolution that occurred in Parisian fashion, starting from Dior’s New Look and moving into the 60s with designers like Yves Saint Laurent bringing out ready-to-wear, and Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin rising to prominence. It is easy to associate the sixties with London as normally when that decade is discussed, it is London based designers that are mentioned like Mary Quant and icons like Twiggy. However, Paris was in the same period of change. The exhibition ends in 1968, the year of the student protests and when Balenciaga closed his house. How ironic is it that the current creative director of Balenciaga is most definitely a streetwear designer when Balenciaga himself shuttered his business after feeling that he was unable to create couture due to the increasingly casual and ready-to-wear aspect of fashion. I encourage you to visit the exhibition if you can before it closes (April 15th) if you’re in New York City. Finally, the day I made this note on my phone I looked at Vogue.com, as I often do, and seen that on their homepage there was an article about Paco Rabanne and how the brand was having a comeback. After spotting that headline I knew I was onto something.

 

What I’ve always found most fascinating about Paco Rabanne are the various futuristic, radical styles that would’ve been oh-so-relevant during the space race of the 1960s. The concept of space exploration was so crazy at the time and the breakthroughs in science to make it possible were incredible and a real achievement that we tend to gloss over today (especially due to conspiracy theories about the moon landing). Fashion was inspired by the otherworldly and interpreted this through lots of metallics. Paco Rabanne was mainly known for his use of unconventional materials to make his pieces. I attended a lecture at FIT on the aforementioned exhibition and found out that Rabanne’s pieces were actually made of metal and some had real diamonds. They were very heavy, very expensive, and very unwearable. You see many iconic images of the looks but they were just images. Performers used to wear them on stage to make a statement.

Costumes from the unofficial Casino Royale

Nowadays, Paco Rabanne is overseen by Julien Dossena. I’d say this is his biggest collection for the brand yet in terms of buzz. Dossena’s work first came onto my radar a couple of seasons ago (after I’d heard that he was dating Nicolas Ghesquiere) but he has actually been working in the industry for quite some time, previously working under Ghesquiere’s direction at Balenciaga for many years. He commenced his role at Paco Rabanne back in 2013 so this collection has been a long time coming. Dossena began exploring the iconic chainmail designs last season but in this season’s collections it stood out greatly. It helps that the pieces were worn off the runway by models and influencers, and also that the timing was right in terms of giving the public what they need. We are at such a shitty time in the world that we need outrageous fashion, we need over the top impractical designs to serve as a distraction from reality. This wasn’t outrageous, per se, but it does mark a real shift away from the minimalist aesthetic that reigned supreme until perhaps two years ago. What made this collection distinctly different from Paco Rabanne in the 60s was that Dossena found a way to make the chainmail look fluid. It looked lightweight and almost liquid as it draped over the model’s body. The asymmetric cut was flattering both on the runway and on @emrata as featured below. These looks coupled with the high shine, reflective silver shoes hammered home the new trend. You know that chainmail is back. You know that silver is the color. Zara already makes little silver booties.

#GlamourGoals #20 | @emrata in @pacorabanne ❤such a #look

A post shared by Eve Gardiner (@bigbabyeve) on

I’m excited to see the Paco Rabanne brand being discussed again in such a mainstream way instead of confined to discussions about wacky fashion from decades long past. I think the Fall 2017 collection has given the brand the much needed injection of press and I’d like to see it in the spotlight for seasons to come, especially if the collections continue to be of the same quality as this one.

 

Further reading

“The Space Age Designer Making a Comeback Over All The Fall Runways” – Vogue.com | the article mentioned at the beginning of this post which reflects on Paco Rabanne’s influence on modern day fashion and how the Fall 2017 collection contributes to this

“Paco Rabanne Fall 2017” – Vogue.com | the review of this season’s show by Sarah Mower, click through to see the full collection too

“I prefer fast girls to cute girls” – The Telegraph | an interview with Julien Dossena about the house and his goals and inspirations (also the source of the Casino Royale image)

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Fashion, Opinion

Coachella Capsule Wardrobe – 2017

COACHELLA WARDROBE

 

On the back of my previous post about Coachella and the influence that the festival is having on retailers, I decided to style a set of what, in my mind, would be a perfect Coachella wardrobe. I tried to have as few pieces as possible, especially ones that I thought were interchangeable but still looked good as when you’re at a festival you don’t want to take your entire wardrobe. Some of the items I included were high-end (which is not uncommon at festivals nowadays) but they are also substitutable for fast-fashion pieces as well.
The first look is a lace bralet with lightweight flowly culottes and Puma sneakers. I could actually wear this look as I have most of the elements at home (besides these exact sneakers). My reasoning behind this was that you could wear the sneakers on all three days so your feet stay covered (no open-toe sandals at festivals), and the other elements were so you didn’t get too warm. Coachella is held in the desert and it seemingly gets crazy hot. I added bangles and a watch to this look because your arms would be on display so it added something fun. Finally, the crossbody bag is so you can be handsfree. The second look consists of the same shoes and accessories (minus the bangle) but this time with a mesh top and denim cut-offs. The same denim cut-offs would be worn the following day, this time with a spaghetti strap bodysuit (or tank). The final look has the matching kimono for the culottes from the first look.
Let me know what you think? Who could you picture in these looks?

Looks I liked from previous years

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Essays, Opinion

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo as a style icon is funny to me. I’ve never thought of her as fashionable. She was, however, known for being unapologetic about her heritage at a time when Mexicans were unpopular in America. In fact, it is not much different now than it was then. Ever since Donald Trump suggested building a wall, anti-Mexican sentiment that was often hushed has once again being exposed. The issue of race is so complicated in America, something that has become increasingly apparent in recent years with the abundance of murders and attacks on, basically, anyone who isn’t white.

Frida Kahlo, besides being a talented artist, was known for not liking white people. Despite this, she speaks to a lot of women, including white women, for her uncompromising nature. She painted herself in natural dress when women were shunning that look. She let her eyebrows grow into a monobrow, even though that is thought of extremely unfeminine. Was she a feminist because she did what she wanted or have we painted her as a feminist hero without her making any true statements? This is something I’ve wanted to explore.

My Grandparents, My Parents, and me (this is my favourite painting)

My Grandparents, My Parents, and me (this is my favourite painting)

I have always been drawn to her artwork because I find it visually appealing. On top of that, everyone knows Frida Kahlo as her image is iconic. I can understand why she is hailed as a style icon because her look is unique. However, there is more to the woman than that. For example, a famous painting of hers at the MoMA in New York explores her familial background. It has two sets of grandparents on each side, one white and German and the others Mexican, then her parents, then her. It is important that she chose to identify with her Mexican roots instead of the white side of her family. There is another self portrait that she did with her two selves, connected by veins. It shows the duality of her, as like many women she had an image that she presented to the public and an image of her true self. The painting is believed to represent two sides of her after her break-up from her husband who cheated on her. One side is broken-hearted and rejected whilst the other side is well-presented and still appealing to her husband.

The Two Fridas

The Two Fridas

Maybe it’s Kahlo’s spirit that makes her an icon. It’s nothing to do with clothes or appearance. It’s about attitude. A nonchalant way of living that many people strive to achieve, and often never quite manage to reach. One thing is for certain, Frida Kahlo stayed true to who she was and didn’t change herself to suit the male gaze or the typical white beauty standards. That is a true skill that all women should learn. Be yourself, not who someone else may want you to be.

Further reading on the artist & the cultural appropriation of her work (and her as a person)

“Quit Appropriating Frida Kahlo” – Resistance Always, WordPress (lots of good photos on this post too)

“Stop Bastardising Frida Kahlo” – a popular post that went around Tumblr

“Frida Kahlo would hate your Frida Kahlo shirt” – Golden Gate Xpress

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Fashion, Fashion News, Opinion

Tom Ford is moving to Los Angeles

A look from Tom Ford’s Spring 2017 collection, the last “see now, buy now” offering

Newsflash: Tom Ford is relocating his offices to Los Angeles. Why does this matter to you? Honestly, it represents the shift in the fashion industry from a highly structured, regimented machine to a more free-flowing, space-for-everyone kind of place that it is today. Think about it, nobody is sticking to a strict timetable now. Some brands are doing “see now, buy now”, some brands are doing “see now, preorder now” and some brands are just sticking to the regular old timetable. Then it comes down to fashion week scheduling. The official calendar, in New York at least, doesn’t mean much given that brands are choosing to show outside of the city (often in LA). Some are taking it even further than that and showing on a calendar entirely of their own (Vetements and Public School are the two most prominent examples). We are at a period of change in the fashion industry and who knows what things will look like in five years time.

Tom Ford moving to LA is exciting to me, because hopefully others will follow suit. LA began to have its moment when Hedi Slimane relocated the YSL offices there a few years back. Now that he has left his role there and creative control has been handed back to Paris, there was a slight void in the newfound high fashion spot. Tom Ford has filled it, quite literally, by taking over the old office space that the Saint Laurent team previously occupied. Off Highland, on Santa Monica Boulevard, the space is below Hollywood yet close enough to remember you’re in La La Land.

In the past, collectively people have associated LA fashion with surfers and beaches and maybe even denim. However, it is becoming so much more than that. Whilst it is true that celebrity reigns supreme in Los Angeles, the art scene is growing and the fashion scene is becoming a lot more legitimate. Other brands that have design offices here, or are entirely based in the city, include & Other Stories, the Swedish “atelier-based” chain under the H&M umbrella, Elizabeth & James (Mary-Kate and Ashley’s second line) and Rodarte. FarFetch, the e-commerce giant, has an office with 120 employees Downtown. I’d like to see a shift in the industry to more brands relocating to LA, or at least opening smaller satellite offices.

Personally, I’d like to move to LA one day. Sometime after I graduate I hope to live in California and enjoy the weather. However, a career is also insanely important to me and I wouldn’t like to think that I’d be forfeiting it by leaving New York. With more brands starting to make the switch to the West Coast, that looks less and less likely. Currently the Los Angeles fashion industry is very much celebrity driven. Most fashion stylists working out there are in celebrity styling/event dressing. Think of the Hollywood Reporter’s annual list of the Most Powerful Stylists. Everyone on there does red carpet dressing. PR companies based there are in the same field. It makes sense given that Hollywood is the center of the entertainment industry. I’d like the option of doing e-commerce or editorial styling, alongside celebrity styling too. It’s interesting to see what the future holds.

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Editorial, Fashion, Opinion

Vogue Italia’s e-Commerce cover reflects the future of fashion

Vogue Italia’s first cover under their new editor-in-chief, Emanuele Farneti, is here and it focuses on e-commerce. It’s almost satire, bringing to light the rise of the internet and the decline of brick and mortar stores in today’s modern world. It’s interesting and I appreciate the social commentary, even if it’s put forward in a humorous, light way. Shot by Steven Meisel and styled by Karl Templer, the issue is on sale now.

Vogue Italia as a magazine is always at the forefront of what is happening culturally, sometimes in an insensitive way (as critics said after the cover alluding to the BP oil spill in August 2010). The aforementioned cover featured Kristen McMenamy lying on a dirty beach, covered in oil and surrounded by rocks and sea-debris. At the time, the magazine and the photographer, Steven Meisel, caught heat for what was interpreted as mocking the Gulf Sea spill which devastated marine wildlife. The current cover, whilst not controversial in the same way, could still be interpreted as social commentary.

Almost once a week an email pops up in my inbox, telling me about the latest retailer to go into administration. The profile is generally this: American, mall-brand, no longer in favor with millennials, poor e-commerce. Think about it, staple stores where Americans went throughout their childhoods are now disappearing rapidly. Analysts speculate that Sears and K-Mart will be gone by the end of this year as well. Why is it happening? To bring it down to the most basic of levels, the rise of e-commerce and the decline of mall culture.

Quite simply, kids don’t hang out in shopping malls anymore. That’s not a cool thing to do. Teen movies of the 80s and 90s almost always featured a scene in a shopping mall – Mallrats, Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High – yet nowadays they’re not so prominent. Teens don’t want to all dress the same anymore. Individuality, or perceived individuality more so, is key. Thrifting is cool, fast-fashion is cool (although there is a sub-set of teens who are ethically opposed to fast-fashion retailers and its harmful effect, but they still make up the minority of consumers); mall brands are not cool. Abercrombie & Fitch, perhaps the king of teen clothing throughout the noughties, has undertaken an entire repositioning approach in order to recapture the millennial customer that was once their core shopper but has defected to other brands. In an attempt to do this they have changed their product offering (removed visible branding, used higher quality materials, gone with more design-led basics) and tried to overhaul their stores. While the brand is still struggling, they are managing. Many teen retailers have met a different fate. In the past year, stores closing down entirely include American Apparel (unrelated to the rise of e-commerce, internal politics killed this brand), BCBG, Wet Seal, and The Limited. Other huge stores like JC Penney and Macy’s are closing doors around the country. To summarize, brick and mortar stores are not doing well.

E-commerce, on the other hand, is only getting stronger. We may think that e-commerce sales make up the majority of revenue for brands as it can certainly seem that way, but really it is only around 10% of sales in the US. However, the e-commerce sector as a whole is growing, around 6% in 2016. E-commerce is a sector that I would prefer to work in, purely because the growth is exciting. E-commerce is the future. Some companies that do it perfectly are Moda Operandi and FarFetch.

Moda Operandi is a New York-based e-tailer, launched in 2010, that allows customers to order looks straight from the runway. It works on a pre-order basis, with customers buying their items straight after the runway shows and receiving them at the beginning of the delivery season. It is a way to guarantee that you get the piece you’ve seen before it sells out and also gives the customer that adrenaline rush that fuels fashion purchases. You have it, it is yours, but you have to wait. The company also holds online trunk shows which run for a limited time only where you pay a deposit on the item and pay the rest later. When I first came across the site I was immediately intrigued and honestly I still think it is one of the most exciting companies in fashion today. They have since expanded into having personal shopping consultants where you can try on pieces in person before pre-ordering. They also offer a “Boutique” service which has current season items as well, for those who simply cannot wait. There was talk about what would happen to them given the whole see-now, buy-now culture of fashion and the new system which is currently being trialled, but honestly I think they will succeed.

FarFetch is a wholly different enterprise. Started in 2008, the brand is now valued at over $1 billion USD. They began as a way to bring different fashion boutiques from around the world together under one united e-commerce site, giving benefits to both the boutiques and the consumers: consumers have greater choice, boutiques have greater distribution. It was another cool concept. The site has almost every designer brand you can think of, from luxury brands like Givenchy and Saint Laurent (categorized under Luxe) to younger, emerging designers like Protagonist and Sally Lapointe (classed as Lab). If you can’t find something on FarFetch, you’re probably not going to find it anywhere. Saying this, you’d think the site would be overwhelming due to the volume of products but you can filter things down so much that you can find anything you’re looking for. To make things better, in my opinion, the company has just been joined by Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, as their non-executive chairman. I personally think Natalie Massenet is one of the most interesting figures in the fashion industry, purely because her business acumen is incredible. She built one of the first huge, and still leading, luxury e-commerce sites in a time where e-commerce was a no-go for high end brands, and now every designer has their own e-commerce site or at least some outlet for online distribution. I’m interested to see what her role will consist of at FarFetch, given that she used to lead one of their competitors, but left her own company in 2015, shortly before it was bought by Yoox.

Finally, an honorable mention in the e-commerce category goes to Matches Fashion, a London based retailer which began as a small boutique in Wimbledon and grew into one of the most prominent luxury e-commerce sites. British Vogue did a great profile on the owners, Ruth and Tom Chapman, in their most recent issue that I encourage you to read if you get the chance.

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Fashion, Fashion Week, Opinion, Shows

Fashion Month – Fall 2017

I’ve been really terrible at blogging for the entire month of February. I have a zillion drafts saved with various titles about events that happened throughout the month, yet I have no desire to write about them now because it’s just too late. Like, aren’t we all over New York Fashion Week? Hasn’t the shock of Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy departure worn off? I feel like instead of typing out my thoughts on these events, I’ve discussed them in person, either with my friends or in school. That being said, I’ve kept a long-running note on my Macbook with various observations that I’ve made throughout fashion month so instead of breaking my posts up by city, I’m just going to put it all in one post in a rambling post. I hope you enjoy!

NEW YORK

Ok, so the exciting thing about New York Fashion Week was the fact that Raf Simons was back. Even though he had only been gone for such a small period of time, it seemed like an eternity in fashion when everything moves so quickly and a few seasons feels like 4 years. I personally liked his debut ready-to-wear collection for Calvin Klein, especially the transparent plastic over the trench coats (reminded me of the Doom Generation which I was obsessed with when I was fifteen) and the heavy focus on outerwear. However, I can see that the #mycalvins will be a thing of the past and that sucks but the Moonlight cast underwear ads are incredible so we’re all good. Alexander Wang was another show that I really liked, especially these two looks (a and b), and the venue was cool. The long leather coats at The Row were super cool. I loved this suit at Jason Wu. A theme I noticed throughout NYFW was grey blazers, in some form of check. This made me mad at myself because I used to own the most perfect vintage Ralph Lauren one a few years ago but I gave it to charity because I rarely wore it. Big mistake. I normally love Area’s lookbooks but they moved to a show format this season which was kind of sad actually but it does show growth for the brand. I’m obsessed with this coat from Proenza Schouler. Anything that combines vinyl-looking leather and fur/shearing, I’m onboard with. Narciso Rodriguez’s collection was very much how I wish I dressed on a day-to-day basis.

Alexander Wang

LONDON

By the time London Fashion Week rolled around, I was in LA. During that time I barely touched my phone for social media or email purposes. I just used the Maps app for directions.

MILAN

I didn’t like the runway at Gucci because I think it was too distracting for the actual showgoers, plus there were too many looks. The standout ones were a, b, and c – I’m so happy about the return of snakeskin boots. The colors at Max Mara were perfect. Honestly everything about that show just looked so good. The styling was sublime. I was so into the red boots at Fendi. I want a pair already, it was an instant sale (if only I could afford them). This coat at Prada is to die for. The dry-cleaning theme at Moschino was hilarious, they even put a wire hanger in the model’s hair.

Prada

PARIS

This dress at Jacquemus is so beautiful, it reminded me of vintage Chanel with a twist. This brand has the best IG. I love the new Saint Laurent, even if it’s just 80s redone. I’m so desperate for a pair of the logo earrings. From this collection I loved the sparkling mini dresses (a and b), the latter of the pair being a better version of the one I wore on New Years. Surprisingly I found myself liking a lot of looks at Off-White. I say surprisingly because although I like Virgil Abloh and admire his work ethic, I have never been the biggest fan of his clothes. However, this collection was interesting to me, even though it was entitled “Nothing New” I thought it was different for him. I want to wear this look, but I also like a, b, and c. This coat at Mugler was 80s power shoulders to the max and I thought it was so fun. Balenciaga was actually interesting to me. Normally I’m not a big fan of Demna Gvasalia but this collection was great, particularly a, b, and c. It was sad to see a Givenchy collection without Riccardo Tisci (I wasn’t ready for his departure to be a real thing) but I do like how they directly referenced pieces from his tenure. It was a nice tribute. Louis Vuitton rented out the Louvre for the show and honestly this is an instance where the design standard matched the location. I loved it. In particular, a and b.

Off-White

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Opinion, Personal

LA – February 2017

I took a trip to LA this past week. It was unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. From what I’d heard over the past few years, California was experiencing a drought. Rich people were getting derided for using sprinklers to keep their lawns green when most vegetation was turning brown. However, when I went we were hit by a storm so bad that we spent the entire Friday inside, lying on the sofa watching the rain pour down. The infinity pool in the back yard rippled and began to overflow. One minute you could see the mountains in the distance, the next they were obscured by a wall of cloud. I was in the Valley.

I stayed in LA for four full days, but 5 nights in total. In that time I seen almost everything I wanted to see. I seen the Valley, I seen the mountains, I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, through some canyons, down Sunset at sunset and various other times throughout the day, I ate the best food, I browsed in many stores, I seen the ocean, I put my toe on the sand, I drove to the top of a hill and observed the entire city below me, looking to Downtown and across to the sea. I really loved it. I cannot fault the trip.

The differences between New York and LA were so striking to me. It’s a completely different way of life. I’ve thought about moving there after graduation a few times and it appeals to me in some ways but not in others. Now that I’ve visited I’m more sure of the positives of the city and what it has to offer. I still have my concerns though. In my mind, LA is rather isolating. Everyone drives. I worry that it would be difficult to meet people because it’s not the same as New York where you just walk around everywhere and bump into new people. I think socializing would require more effort and making new friends and trying to build relationships would take a lot of work. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable making the switch to the west coast until I knew a couple of people out there, at least as acquaintances to meet up with initially. Overall, everything just felt more chill. Less rushed. Even when we were backed up in traffic on the 405 I didn’t feel stressed out. Normally if I stop for a minute in New York I’m antsy. I can’t even wait at a traffic light for the walk sign without pacing halfway into the flow of oncoming cars. I think the pace of life would take some adjusting to, especially coming from New York. However, thousands of people move from New York to LA and vice versa every single year and manage so it must be doable.

The best element of my trip was the food. I feel like I ate so damn well. We went to Spago on Saturday evening for a meal and it was the best thing that’s ever passed my lips. The portions were perfectly sized and the pasta I had was so full of flavor that I finished it all and ate slowly to savor every piece. The steak was also perfect. Brunch at Chateau Marmont was another experience as the food was tasty (and gluten free for some reason), the surroundings were iconic, and the fellow diners were somebodies. I feel like I could look the part and somehow make people think I was a somebody too. It would’ve been funny. Johnny Depp’s daughter was two tables away from me and just as beautiful in person as the Chanel ads, but she has fantastic genetics. Mel’s Drive-In on Sunset was a good lunch option too. I ate a lot of lamb on the trip. A random snippet of information but strange if you know me as you’d know that I order bolognese at every restaurant I go to, yet nowhere I went had traditional bolognese and this was always my closest option. I had a wonderful pasta dish with lamb sausage and red peppers which tasted like Hungarian goulash to me. It was also delicious. Oh, and of course I had an In-N-Out burger. Of course.

I went to almost every store in LA and, whilst I enjoyed browsing, all I bought on the entire trip was a black zip-up hoodie from the men’s section of H&M (it got cold in the house), a new Beauty Blender sponge, and a bunch of random supplies from CVS (e.g. Intensive moisturizer as my skin just dies after travel, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition for $10…). Disappointing really when you consider some of the stores LA has to offer. There were certainly a few experiences to be had. Fred Segal was interesting because it’s such an iconic store but I found the merchandise carried different than what I’d imagined. Nasty Gal in Santa Monica was strange as the entire store was on sale, literally. You could buy the fixtures, plants, mirrors, everything. Wasteland (the vintage store) was disappointing. I’d first heard of it a few years ago, randomly stumbling across their website one time when looking for high-end vintage clothing and I remember being so amazed by it. Going into the store was a slightly disappointing experience as I found everything to be so overpriced. I think they grew too big perhaps. I went to Rodeo Drive and Abbot Kinney (but didn’t shop) and I went to the Grove (where I almost did) and I went to the Beverly Center (where I actually did). I didn’t yet make it to Decades or Elyse Walker; I’m saving them for next time.

The most interesting store to me out of all of these places was Maxfield. I loved Maxfield. It’s somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for years now and I’ve been interested in potentially working for in the future. I just loved it. The store was so conceptual but not in an annoying and pretentious way. The merchandise selection was spot-on, a mix of high fashion, uber luxury (like vintage Hermes) with young brands like Off-White and Enfants Riches Deprimes, the visuals were cool, and the assortment of art books and coffee table books was cool – like a perfectly curated gift section really. Cool. Everything was cool. The staff, the customers, everything. If I had the funds I could’ve done some serious damage there. To make things even cooler, the Vetements pop-up was still outside. I wish I could’ve gone inside but it was closed when I was there. If you haven’t already seen images online, the Vetements pop-up was like a dry cleaners. It was so funny. To see it in person was a really cool experience for me because normally I’m an outsider to these things, just seeing it via Instagram. Across the street in the gallery space was the Daft Punk pop-up exhibition. It was the first thing like this that I’ve ever waited in line for. It was also really cool, but I think I may write about it in more detail in a separate post so I shall leave that for that.

Besides shopping, I spent most of the time on this trip as the passenger in the car. I was just chauffeured around, being the human GPS system and occasionally taking a nap but more often than not just taking in everything around me. It was really fascinating to me. My fondest memories from the trip are from places I seen whilst in the car and conversations I had on the journey. I love the palm trees too. Really, I think I would like LA. It has a lot to offer. Plus, 9 times out of 10 the weather is perfect. I look forward to my return, whenever that will be.

I wish New York had palm trees lol 🌴🌴🌴

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