Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Contretemps

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’ve been hearing for weeks the rumor that designer Stefano Pilati was about to get axed

Yves Saint Laurent in London

from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Now it’s been picked up by my friend Richard Johnson at Page Six:

The next fashion designer to get the ax could be Stefano Pilati, who replaced Tom Ford at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. “Paris has been flooded with rumors that Pilati’s position is under threat and that headhunters have been actively interviewing potential replacements,” Godfrey Deeny reports on Fashion Wire Daily…

“No surprise,” was the reaction when I ran the rumor past a fashion editor friend of mine last week. I agree. Besides not doing much for the house design or sales-wise, he is horribly unreliable. I had my own experience first hand when he stood me up for an interview for Newsweek back on a Sunday afternoon in June, 2007—after weeks of rescheduling it by his people and four days before my several-page-long story was due. I was told he didn’t show up was because he was too busy doing fittings. The real reason? He was attending parties at the Venice Biennale. After three more days of the press office promising me they would make the interview happen, he blew me off entirely. I begged the Gucci Group brass to produce Frida Giannini of Gucci as a replacement, and kindly and quickly they did. While I was writing the piece at record speed, a gigantic bouquet of roses arrived from Pilati with a note, not apologizing, mind you, but simply explaining he had missed our rendez-vous due to a “contretemps.” I wanted to send the flowers back, but was too busy writing to deal with it, much less get them in water. Once the piece was published, I sent Pilati a note saying I enjoyed seeing photos of him in Women’s Wear Daily at his “contretemps” and that it was too bad we’d never officially meet since I decided never to put myself in the position of getting stood up by him again. I have not written about Pilati or Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche since then. Until today.

Stephano Pilati

Back in the days when couture houses were small and family-owned and run, such

Hasegawa Kyoko wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 2003

behavior was excused, even coddled—particularly at Yves Saint Laurent. The only other designer who didn’t show up for an interview with me in my 25 years of covering fashion was Yves Saint Laurent himself: he slipped out the back door of his office at 5, avenue Marceau rather than meet with me. What is it with that house??

But these days, luxury brands are run by executives who want to make money and doing things like alienating the mainstream press and making clothes that don’t sell aren’t seen as charming, eccentric or avant-garde anymore. Business is business.

Which makes the industry talk that Olivier Theyskens—who was sacked from both Rochas and Nina Ricci for producing complicated clothes that don’t sell—is a leading candidate for the Saint Laurent gig an extremely puzzling thought. Doesn’t YSL CEO Valerie Hermann have Google?

Or maybe Theyskens simply has The Gilroy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vON_uWFyrgE

* Hint magazine is now reporting that Pilati has just signed a new three-year contract at Saint Laurent, after Raf Simons, designer for Jil Sander, and Hedi Slimane, the ever eccentric Frenchman who once designed the Saint Laurent men’s wear line, turned down the job. That should give Hermann plenty of time to find just the right person to replace Pilati.

Au Revoir Hermès

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Jean-Paul Gaultier said adieu to his designing gig at Hermès today with a sumptuous collection of smart Spanish gaucho-inspired of slim leather suits and soft jersey dresses that

Jean Paul Gaultier and Farida Khelfa

made editors and retailers alike wonder: how will his replacement, former Lacoste designer Christophe Lemaire ever measure up? “Jean-Paul Gaultier was one period of Hermès,” the company’s CEO Patrick Thomas told me after the show this rainy afternoon at the in the Halle Freyssinet, an old warehouse on the eastern edge of Paris. “And now we are entering a new period for the house with Lemaire. You’ll see.”

Perhaps he’s right. Each ready-to-wear appointment at Hermès in the last 15 years has made editors and retailers scratch their head in confusion. First their was eccentric deconstructionist Martin Margiela in 1997, who surprised us all by showing extremely demure lady-like clothes on older models, including actress and house muse Jane Birkin, in runway presentations in the company’s flagship store on the rue de fbg. Saint-Honoré. When Margiela left in 1999, then-company head and Hermès family member Jean-Louis Dumas, asked Gaultier, known as the Enfant Terrible of fashion*, to help find someone to design the ready-to-wear for the elegant 150-year-old French

leather goods house.

Christophe Lemaire for Lacoste

In the end, like Dick Cheney did as head of George Bush’s vice presidential search committee (also in 1999), Gaultier suggested could do the job himself, and unlike Cheney, he did it beautifully, taking his sharp suiting and sensual evening wear and combining it with the sumptuous materials available at Hermès—buttery suedes and leathers, light-as-air chiffons, the finest quality cashmere, silk and jersey. The collections were tasteful, affordable and extremely wearable, made for women over 40 who still wanted to look sexy and desirable in that conservative French way. “He gave me carte blanche,” Gaultier told me in 2004 about his boss at the time, Dumas. “The only thing he told me was, ‘Jean, I don’t want to see logos like we see everywhere else. Hermès is about discretion, refinement and subtlety.’” And at today’s show, he did that once again. As he did with his debut show for the house, Gaultier had a suite of eight cavaliers from the Calvacade Luraschi performing dressage under Saint-Louis crystal chandeliers (another Hermès group brand—synergy!) as the models—many of them Gaultier longtime favorites such as Erin O’Connor, Karolína Kurková and Angela Lindvall strode down the wood-chip covered runway with graceful authority in variations of the classic Gaultier couture suit and topped off with caballeros-style hats. Among the best: a skin-tight butterscotch suede jumpsuit and a brick red jersey smoking. For accessories, the Kelly made of woven willow and the tight chocolate flat-heeled boots stood out. And there were several waist-cinching corsets by Mr. Pearl. Gaultier closed the show with his former assistant and longtime muse, Farida Khelfa, dressed in a smart black tuxedo and white shirt, and dashed out to give her a long-stem red rose. A fitting farewell to a fine collaboration. * One of my favorite television programs in the 1990s was a U.K late night talk show called Eurotrash, hosted by hilarious French comedian Antoine de Caunes ** and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. Here’s a charming, gently blue clip of an interview they did with French First Lady Carla Bruni back when she was a top model. The program solidified Gaultier’s reputation as the

Hermès, Fall 2010

Enfant Terrible of fashion, and it’s believed to be the reason Bernard Arnault decided not to offer the Christian Dior couture job to Gaultier and gave it to John Galliano instead. Dior’s loss, Hermès’ gain. At least for a while…. Carla Bruni on Eurotrash ** If you ever have the chance to check out the best of de Caunes’s comedy sketches with French comedian José Garcia from their Canal Plus years, now aired on Canal Jimmy in France, do. They are the John Belushi-Bill Murray team of France. A choice moment:

Antoine Decaunes & José Garcia on Youtube

Karl & Inès Kiss & Make Up

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

More than two decades after Karl Lagerfeld banished his original Chanel muse Inès de la Fressange from the couture house for posing as the image of Marianne, the symbol of the republic of France—declaring, “I wish her all the luck in the world, just so long as I don’t have to see her any more or hear her spoken about”—he has welcomed her back into his court. This morning, Lagerfeld sent the 53-year-old French fashion model out on the runway of his Chanel 2010-2011 Spring-Summer women’s wear show at the Grand Palais in Paris in a modern reinterpretation of a 1937 Chanel black lace gown and embracing her warmly before the crowd of more than 2,800 as he took his bow. “She is beyond stunning,” Lagerfeld told Women’s Wear Daily before the show. “Also, she is the Parisienne.”

The show, set in a mammoth black and white jardin à la française with working fountains—which Lagerfeld said was inspired by Alain Resnais’ 1961 film Last Year in Marienbad —was a panopoly of ideas and eras run through Lagerfeld’s Chanel blender. For day, there were tweed suits with baby doll mini-dresses, micro shorts, A-line skirts and pencil skirts, in soft natural tones such as slate blue, dusty rose or goldenrod and occasionally flecked with sparkling crystals. For night, the dominate line was trapeze with an empire waist made of airy fabrics such as tulle and lace and decorated with feathers. (The trapeze, by the way, was invented by Lagerfeld’s archrival Yves Saint Laurent at Christian Dior in 1958). The overall look was light and feminine—except for the footwear, which was mostly wedge-heeled combat-like boots that gave a Bride of Frankenstein air to it all.

De la Fressange received an ovation when she stepped out onto the soft white pea-gravel runway and strolled through the gardens in her signature slouch to an orchestra playing The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” Besides walking in the show, de la Fressange will be featured, along with 1990s British model Stella Tennant and Danish newcomer Freja Beha Erichsen, in Chanel’s spring-summer advertising campaign, which Lagerfeld will shoot in the South of France. As de la Fressange smiled to the crowd, it was obvious she was pleased to be back at the house of Chanel.

Issey Miyake’s Latest

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Dresses from Issey Miyake's 132 5 collection, on view in Paris

Dresses from Issey Miyake's 132 5 collection, on view in Paris. Photos from Women's Wear Daily

Japanese designer Issey Miyake has long been a fashion innovator. Since handing over daily design duties at his Tokyo fashion house in 1997, Miyake has spent his time exploring new ways to make clothes more efficient, ecological and accessible while remaining stylish and modern. Today, he leads the Reality Lab, a consortium of young designers that, as he explains, “challenges, explores and celebrates the infinite possibilities of creativity.

Is Lagerfeld’s Reign at Chanel Coming to an End?

Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Francois Guillot / AFP-Getty Images

Karl Lagerfeld presented his 55th ready-to-wear collection for Chanel in March in typical over-the-top fashion. Staged at the mammoth Grand Palais in Paris, the show featured models dressed in fur-trimmed tweed minidresses and fur moon boots, sloshing around a giant iceberg that Chanel had shipped in from Sweden. The fashion press howled that Chanel was tone-deaf when it came to the environment—especially after Lagerfeld told reporters backstage that global warming might be “nonsense.” If the controversy was a planned exercise in media hype, it worked.

An American in Paris

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Designer Ralph Lauren, arbiter of American classics, is looking to conquer Europe and Asia. How? With Uncle-Sam-style amenities.

The designer, at center, celebrates the April 14 opening of his Paris flagship with his family.

The designer, at center, celebrates the April 14 opening of his Paris flagship with his family.

Paris may be the capital of fashion, but Americans are masters of retailing, as Ralph Lauren proved last week with the opening of his new flagship store on the Left Bank. The store is a staggering 23,000 square foot space in an 18th-century city mansion that includes everything from made-to-measure men’s suiting to RRL Western wear and a 128-seat American-cuisine restaurant aptly named Ralph’s. “My heart beats faster now,” Lauren told NEWSWEEK the day before the opening. “I’ve been smiling for four days.”

Farewell, Alexander McQueen

Friday, February 12th, 2010
Alexander McQueen at the opening of his first boutique in London in 1999.

Alexander McQueen at the opening of his first boutique in London in 1999. Photo by Tim Jenkins.

The Eccentricities of a Couturier:
The son of a London cabbie became a designer phenom before taking his own life. A look back at his life and legacy.

The first time I met Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide Thursday in London at the age of 40, he was sitting at his desk at Givenchy, days before his debut show for the legendary French couture house. He was 27 years old, having made a name for himself in a few short years after his graduation from Central Saint Martins in London by staging outlandish shows filled with really smart clothes. I was about to interview him for a cover story for NEWSWEEK, and minutes before the shoot, he decided to jazz things up a bit and shaved himself a mohawk. There were bits of hair all over the white Formica desk where the ever-elegant Hubert de Givenchy himself used to work.

“Nice, eh?” McQueen said with a laugh, rolling his spooky ice-blue eyes. “I love to do things spontaneously.” He spoke frighteningly fast, readily admitting he knew next to nothing about the house that had dressed Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jackie Kennedy. For him, Givenchy was “quite twee—that’s what we say in England for something you don’t really notice, that remains in the background,” he told me. “I knew Givenchy existed, but it wasn’t any great shakes in relation to the 1990s.” He looked around the studio. “It’s going to be a tornado here now—me, my mohawk, and I.

Fashion Disaster

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

How the House of Versace went from rags to riches—and back again.

TONI THORIMBERT / SYGMA-CORBIS

TONI THORIMBERT / SYGMA-CORBIS

Donatella Versace, tiny, sculpted and forever blonde, was standing backstage after her menswear show at the Teatro Versace in Milan in June, receiving polite congratulations from a handful of editors and friends. The scene was positively dead compared with Versace shows a decade ago: no celebrities posing with Donatella for paparazzi, no bodyguards holding back the throngs, and no pals swilling champagne. Donatella’s brother Santo, in his usual charcoal suit with black turtleneck, came back for a few minutes to shake some hands. Her husband, American-born Paul Beck, tall and tan, stood alone in the corner; no one even noticed him. It all felt feeble, pathetic—a sad, soulless charade to promote something that no longer exists.

Failing Upwards

Monday, May 4th, 2009

olivierCan someone tell Harvey Weinstein that if he wants to run a fashion company, he should read WWD instead of Variety? There’s talk that Halston, the brand Weinstein owns with a bunch of bankers, may hire Olivier Theyskens as its new creative director—he who managed to kill Rochas’ fashion line and put Nina Ricci on life support.

While Theyskens may be a talented costume designer who can whip up crazy fantasies for actresses to wear on the red carpet, the 31-year-old Belgian has proven repeatedly that he is incapable of creating clothes that women who pay actually want to buy. And in this economy, with the fashion trades announcing company bankruptcies and closures almost daily, trying to sell might be a good idea.

Yet, WWD is reporting that Vogue Editor Anna Wintour wants to find Theyskens a new house to take down—guess she likes those red carpet fantasies in her magazine too. Schiaparelli–the 1930s French house sked to relaunch next year—apparently talked to him. And Weinstein, who is friendly with Wintour, and his partners are said to be listening to her and inexplicably considering offering Theyskens the Halston job. Proof again that private equity should not be in the fashion business….

A Touch of Whimsy

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Photo by E. Deroo

Photo by E. Deroo

Stopped by to see Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s new jewelry collection in her shop on the rue Tournon today. De Taillac, a lovely, quiet French woman with beaucoup de gout, has designed her new collection with the economic crisis in mind. She’s veered away from record-priced gold and platinum and is currently using lower cost materials such as quartz and crystal that evoke the 1980s-revival fashion trends—bangles and beads—without the 1980s opulence. (We forget the 80s were opulent too!)

There’s loads of whimsy and humor in her designs, such as little crystal butterfly pendants studded with tiny spinels in bright colors or smoky drop crystal earrings flecked with little brushed-gold hearts. My favorite: a one-of-a-kind giant quartz bangle studded with pale sapphires, which runs $12,000 and weighs a ton. Are you listening, Santa?