Fashion Week Ramblings – F/W 14

The men’s F/W 2014 fashion season is pretty much over, unless you hope that New York menswear will offer something worthwhile. Thom Browne, the most exciting American designer working today, probably does not, because he shows his menswear in Paris. His show pretty much closes the schedule for those who don’t care for Hedi Slimane’s inflated ego and his expensive Topshop imitations at Saint-Laurent aimed at people who clearly have too much money on their hands.

Browne’s show, as usual, could have been interpreted in several ways. It consisted of two parts, which could be dubbed flora and fauna (or fauna and flora if you care for the order of things). It could also be the hunters and the hunted. The point is – shock! – there were plenty of wearable creations next to elaborately designed Pillsbury Doughboy silhouettes. As usual, the construction and level of craftsmanship Browne presented were couture-like and looking at things crafted with great skill and care gives this reviewer a sense of almost silly joy.


Lionel Maunz Deluge

It’s often revelatory and requires a bit of self-discipline to step into a contemporary art gallery and take in the show without having first resorted to the gallery release to get one’s bearings. It’s revelatory because, every so often, the intellectual and emotional tenor of the art at hand is transparent and immediate without the guiding voice of the gallery release. It’s also somewhat unfair because it’s not saying anything new to note that the nature of the game in much contemporary art is the intellectual context in which the artwork was created and within which it was intended to be contemplated.

Ground FL Jewelry Space, ceiling designed by Rei Kawakubo

Dover Street Market in New York

Last Friday Dover Street Market, a mini-department store run by Comme des Garcons that has become a franchise in its own right, opened its doors to the public.

The new shop takes up seven floors in an imposing-looking building that used to house a bank on the corner of Lexington and East 30th St. It’s a part of Manhattan few people interested in fashion have ever set foot in. This was evident during the Thursday’s preview, as you could easily spot the attendees on the way to DSM amidst the office drone lunch crowd.

Comme des Garçons: Gilding the Flagship

This is the Comme des Garcons weekend in New York. The opening of the local Dover Street Market branch has been the talk of the town, but in addition to that the Comme des Garcons flagship boutique has reopened this weekend as well, with a completely new interior and concept.

I stopped by for a preview Thursday night. The crowd milled around the new, golden interior, checking out the freshly arrived S/S 14 merchandise. Rei Kawakubo was present, adjusting the mannequins just so.

CabinetCuriousities hc c

Guillermo del Toro: Cabinet of Curiosities

Recently there has been a surge of books about the macabre side of our world, particularly about cabinets of curiosities. Usually, they are mere collections of photographs of weird things that sit on dusty shelves in some corner of Europe we associate with aristocracy and adventure.

The new title, Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities (Harper Design, $60), is an entirely different thing. It offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an auteur. By definition the mind of an auteur is a singular thing and del Toro is the poster boy for this notion. Anyone who has seen his Oscar-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth, will understand what I’m talking about. The sheer level of fantasy that permeates just this one of his movies has made its mark on the history of cinema.


Daniel Andresen

When I met the German-born designer Daniel Andresen in his studio in Antwerp last month, he was looking at yak hair. The hair, spun into wool yarn at a cooperative in Mongolia, was a new experiment for this young designer whose understated knitwear is quietly sold at directional stores like Lift in Tokyo and DAAD Dantone in Milan.

Andresen is understated himself, a quiet, contemplative man who approaches his work without fanfare. “The yak might not work for the knitting machines,” he thought out loud, “it’s too uneven.”

This is the kind of know-how that shows Andresen’s hands-on nature of work. And when I say “hands-on,” I mean exactly that. Everything Andresen makes he makes himself using a couple of old knitwear Brother machines that are “programmed” by punch cards. “This is my production team,” Andresen pointed at his girlfriend, when I asked him where his knitwear is produced.


Burtynsky: WATER

The Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is known for his sweeping, panoramic photographs of human industry. And by industry I mean our antlike insistence on building things coupled with our desire to beat this planet into submission.

His new book, Water (Steidl/NoMa, $125), continues where his previous titles, Oil, Quarries, and China, left off. Burtynsky likes to tackle our complicated relationship with things we depend, that improve our quality of life and ensure our survival, often at the expense of everything else on earth, but he does it without any moralizing or sensationalism. He documents, we do the judging (and the lamenting). And, boy, does he know how to document.


Ryan McLaughlin: Raisins

The biggest of Ryan McLaughlin’s abstract paintings up at Laurel Gitlen in the Lower East Side measures 25 ¾ inches wide by 35 ½ inches long so, properly wrapped, you could probably manage to transport it by bicycle.  In that regard, the show as a whole is imbued with a humanizing scale and pace.  Eight paintings are on view, the biggest noted, the smallest comes in at 10 by 8 inches, all are abstract or, perhaps more accurately, levitating at the edge of the representational.  The palette is toned down, there are instances of color but as if sun-bleached, and a slight tobacco-stained hue hangs over it all.  There is no pictorial depth: all the action is on the surface.  These modest essayistic paintings invite and reward close viewing. From what I can gather, this New York show marks McLaughlin’s solo American debut.


Anselm Kiefer: Studios

One of the most powerful art exhibits I have ever seen was Brancusi’s reconstructed studio at the Pompidou center in Paris. The heaviness of the rough-hewn space was balanced by the ethereal light that permeated it through the skylight, which literally made me see Brancusi’s elemental sculpture in new light.

One of the most memorable things my friend Damien has seen was the fully reconstructed studio of Francis Bacon in Dublin. He wrote about the new insights into Bacon’s work that the exhibit allowed him. What impressed us both was the sense of being transported into a place where the artists worked, which in turn made sense of the artists’ work. Of course, Brancusi’s studio looked the way it looked. Of course, so did Bacon’s. That the workspace matches the art makes sense especially for those artists who try to tease out the essence of their worldview and embed it into their work.