Last week Raf Simons left Dior after only three and a half year tenure. Some weeks before that, Alexander Wang exited Balenciaga. Both designers cited the desire to concentrate on their own brands as the main reason for leaving and made the obligatory public statements of gratitude to their corporate employers. But some in the fashion press took the opportunity to voice the old refrain – the fashion system is broken and it needs to be fixed.
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It used to be that when a designer showed an item in a particular season and you did not get a chance to buy it, you were out of luck. And if you really wanted it, a hunt ensued. You would call stores in other cities. You would pray that the item would pop-up on Ebay or Yoox in your size, or at your local consignment store. Or you would have to accept defeat.
But as designers have become savvier at business, they realized that if the customer wants something, they should give it to them, again and again. Perhaps they learned the lesson from watching luxury houses fling it-bags season after season with great commercial success. If it could be done with bags, why not with clothes?
I first came across the work of the Belgian art collector-dealer-interior-designer-manufacturer-real-estate-developer Axel Vervoordt when I reviewed his 2011 book, “Wabi Inspirations.” I was struck by how the interiors Vervoordt conceived reflected the beauty of simplicity, decay, and aging that are championed by the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. It was not anything I expected from a major European collector, raised on Louis XIV furniture and antiquaries, whose roster of clients includes major celebrities and the old-time aristocracy.
ABYSS – with Chesea Wolfe. Shot on the Red Hook waterfront in Brooklyn, New York. Photography – Ellinor Stigle, Styling – Eugene Rabkin, Hair – Nero (Yuhei Nerome), Makeup – Takahiro Okada, Photo assistance – Melissa Lopez-Leach | Styling assistance – Jenni Hensler & Patrick LaDuke
I first met the singer Chelsea Wolfe at an understatedly swank, dimly lit bar in downtown Los Angeles a year ago. The place looked newly minted and was completely empty. Over drinks and small bites Wolfe and her collaborator Ben Chisholm, talked about their work and life in the desert (they recently moved outside of LA). Wolfe’s forth studio album, “Pain Is Beauty,” came out the year before. It was well received by critics and has found her a new audience. Unrelenting, Wolfe was already working on a new album, “Abyss.”
Last week marked the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11, a tragedy that radically changed the political landscape of the world. There were memorial services held in New York and across the United States. The Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 show was another unlikely place where 9/11 was invoked. The show was held at pier with a view of the new Freedom Tower, and was art-directed by Marina Abramovic. The presentation was supposed to pay respects to 9/11 and celebrate the spirit of human unity. The entire thing – from having an Italian designer who works for a Parisian house preaching to New Yorkers to Givenchy offering special guests tours of the 9/11 memorial – was tone-deaf, if not insulting. There was not a shred of the political in the clothes he presented, making the show’s art direction even more jarring as mere trappings.
Several days after his Spring/Summer 2016 men’s show Haider Ackermann was in his showroom, which was buzzing with buyers. Ackermann came down from the top floor of the building where he was already shooting the looks for his e-commerce platform, to be launched soon.
I meet Veronique Branquinho on the 21st floor of a high rise in Chelsea where she’s showing her pre-Spring 2016 collection. She’s in a corner suite with floor-to-ceiling windows that glance out over the Hudson, where industrial barges and cruise ships coarse by in clouds of spray and vapor. The evening is pearly grey and the room feels weightless, suspended up here in a box of steel and glass. Weightless, too, is the effect of the collection: dresses, all white and long, draped on a sparse cluster of forms with a lone live model at their center. Her dress is black with leather straps and falls to the floor. I think of Greek columns and their counterpart in ancient draperies, where the cloth is suspended simply from the shoulders and takes shape only with the moving body.
“Nothing,” answered a prominent New York buyer when I asked her what she liked during this past men’s fashion week. While I wouldn’t go this far, the Spring/Summer 2016 season was decidedly mixed. The overarching question, which began forming in my head during the first day of shows in Paris was, “What makes a good collection?” Is it the theme or its execution? Do we look for a designer to tell an interesting story, to interpret a theme worth exploring through clothes, or to produce beautiful, interestingly constructed garments? Ideally, both.
Bookshelves line the walls of the American sculptor Barry X Ball’s compact office and, while walking me through the blueprints depicting his new Greenpoint, Brooklyn production facility and studio, he directed my gaze up to some palm-sized sculptures resting on them.