Thursday, September 17, 2009

Designer Spaghetti

I have been having a heck of a hard time trying to get a review written of the Marc Jacobs show. I don't quite know what to say about it, because I don't quite know what he's trying to say. Reviewers are reporting that Jacobs says he was inspired by the ballet and by musical theater, and also that he's tired of the downtown Goth look of black leather and studs that's been ubiquitous for a couple of seasons now. He wanted to give women more opportunities to express their individuality, he said. He just had fun, he said.

Is all of this designer-code for, "I dunno. I just threw a bunch of stuff out there"?

No, I don't really believe that. Jacobs is too thoughtful a designer for that. I think he's capable of truly great, truly groundbreaking design. I don't think this collection is it.

I couldn't even get a really good handle on how to present it to you. There were some great tailored coats

there were some ruffles,

(LOTS of ruffles)

and there were coats combined with ruffles.

Yeah, the pants... We need to talk about those pants. Because while I've heard my friend Plumcake advocate for the return of the bloomer/pantaloon, I think she's a lone voice in the wilderness here. I just don't see women going for these pants. I can imagine a few second-tier starlets being talked into them by their stylists while their common sense is otherwise engaged by amphetamines of various flavors, but I don't see these flying out of the stores.

These are a slightly less "WTF??" version, but still... I don't see it happening. If there's one thing we've learned in the last few seasons, it's that real-life women (the ones NOT in the fashion industry and over the age of 24) are extremely resistant to funny-shaped pants. You can narrow or widen the leg a certain amount, raise or lower the rise, crop or lengthen a bit, but basically? We want pants that look like pants. Not nappies or bike shorts.


There were several exits that featured the under-as-outerwear thing. Jacobs has played with this before, notably the Spring 08 "Deconstructed" collection, and I thought it was more successful there. Does it need to be explored further? Personally, I don't think so. It's SO hard to do this well. Occasionally someone hits it bang-on and it's marvelous, but most of the time it's just teetering on the edge of tacky and tipping over all too often.

I wanted to like the ruffles, but these

are just not the kind of ruffles I like. This kind of ruffled/pleated trim reminds me too much of tacky polyester little girls' First Communion dresses, or tacky polyester quinceaƱera dresses. And this dress in particular looks like a fallen tree that's been overgrown with some sort of lichen or moss or something. (Betcha that's the first and last time I ever use the word "lichen" in a fashion review.)

And don't even get me started on the shoes from this show

Yech. Those look absolutely impossible -- proof that just because a shoe is a flat doesn't make it wearable. They do point toward a Japanese influence, however. Often in a runway show you can get a better clue about what the designer is shooting for from the accessories and hair and makeup than from the actual clothes. Jacobs often mentions how influenced he is by Rei Kawakubo and other Japanese modernists.

You can really feel that in the proportion of these jackets, and the piece-y-ness of all the looks.

There were certainly some things I liked. There was a short sequence of looks where I felt like I was beginning to get my bearings a bit.

I liked the long, narrow shape here, the detail without clutter, the really, really gorgeous insets on that skirt. but then he tossed out this thing

and it all went to hell. Oh, lordy, I hate that.

This jacket, however

I do not hate. This jacket I loooooove.

If I were going to pull one thing out of this collection to put into my own closet, it would be that jacket.

I also really liked a section of long, handkerchief-y dresses

Love the suspension neckline on this, and the fabric, and the droplets of pearls around the edge. I think that's lovely. I like them in spite of their asymmetrical hems because the dresses aren't about the hemlines, the hemlines are just part of the dresses, and I like the movement and lightness it gives them. He played even more with the embellishment

I really like this dress, although I think I may like it in theory more than I like the idea of actually wearing it. I can't help but admire the work that's gone into it. Jacobs really went to town with the sequins -- we may be reaching the sequin apotheosis soon, friends, good heavens it must have been good to be a sequin manufacturer the last few seasons.

Again, I think I'm responding more to the cleverness of the way the sequins were used than the actual garment. And even more so here

Wow. That's just... wow. I love open-work, and sequins, and sheerness...

I hate the shape of those pants, and the gimmicky use of underwear. You are going to see a LOT of this in fashion magazines this winter, the editors are going to lose their stiletto-clad shit for this. I do not think you will see it anywhere else.

The editors are right, really, whether or not you want to wear the actual clothes. When the history of fashion for this era is written, Marc Jacobs is going to be an important name, but his influence can take a long time to trickle down into the mainstream. Is he ahead of the curve? Is he just lucky? Or does his influence have more to do with his endless capacity for self-promotion than his design talent? I don't know the answer to that. I do know that I often really love Marc Jacobs' designs. I also often don't like them much at all, and don't understand what he's trying to say with them. You can say, Oh, it's just fashion, why does it have to "say" anything? But if you view fashion design as an art form (and I do), you can't help but look for some sort of cohesion in the artist's vision. The great thing about fashion as an art form is that its artists have a chance to either scrap what they were doing and start off completely fresh every season (Miuccia Prada), spend a lifetime ongoingly refining and elaborating a defining vision (Ralph Rucci) or something in-between. Looked at with a long, looooong lens, Marc Jacobs' trajectory makes sense to me, with a few loops backward and forward as he goes. I think he does have a vision, but I don't think he's necessarily working
toward something; I think there's a good deal of spaghetti-against-the-wall stuff going on. That indecisiveness gives me a little aesthetic indigestion sometimes, but that's probably more my issue than his.

This was the last exit in the show. It's a dress I'm not really crazy about as a dress, but I do adore the effect of it.

Like scribbles on tissue paper. Beautiful. As with so many things Jacobs has made, I don't want to wear it, but I do like looking at it.

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get this review up, and that I haven't gotten more out there about the runway shows happening. It takes me a while to write these silly posts -- longer, I'm sure, than their merit justifies, and I'm having a busy week or two right now. Please bear with me, I'm hoping to get some serious work done over the weekend.


Stumble Upon Toolbar


Madame Suggia said...

Well, I have to say that I love the big silver bag (in the shot with the long insert-y skirt) and the pale bluse suspended dress with the pearl trim but everything else? not so much. I think I'm kinda over MJ for the moment...I used to love his work but I had a blinding flash of realisation when I worked out that-doh!-his shapes wouldn't work on me. At all. Ever. Add to this the fact that as a plus size I'm never going to be able to even try his stuff on. So yeah, kinda over MJ for now. and those shoes are VILE.

teteatete said...

Those shoes do indeed look impossible, but I was arrested more by the poor model's tooties than I was by the shoes. I hope they give these girls pedicures and soothing salves whenever they want them.

Deja Pseu said...

Apparently harem pants are all over the place in Paris; I've seen three different non-fashion people remark on this on various travel websites.

I LOVE that silver ruffle-trimmed jacket. Gorgeous. Frankly, sometimes I think Mr. Jacobs just throws a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. He gets away with it, too.

Denise said...

Don't want to be offensive, but I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I saw those shoes AND the bloody toes and scabby heel. Yikes.

Deja Pseu said...

Actually meant to say "most of the time" he's throwing stuff against the wall, without any cohesive vision. Or maybe it's just over my head.

kelly said...

This post needed a warning sign. In order to scrub out all the ugliness that was in that collection, I had to revisit the dior show photos.

The Haute-Shopper said...

I was underwhelmed by this collection. Is it me or are more designers creating pieces that are simply unflattering to the female body? Ruffles are a dangerous thing if you don't know where to place them (the same applies to the ruffled mess at Preen). I also think MJ's 'concept' behind this, i.e. the 'this is for those who don't want to dress goth' is a little silly. If I didn't want to wear goth, there are already plenty of designers out there who never went for this trend (everyone from Vivienne Tam to Cavalli). And if I'm not mistaken, his previous collections weren't about this either, so it's not like he's doing anything revolutionary.

I agree with bloomers not catching on and despite Deja Pseu's statement, the harem look never really did catch on in Paris (unless you count the fashion people... I don't), though I saw it everywhere in Barcelona.

StyleSpy said...

Madame S -- Vile is a good word. Those shoes are just a mean trick to play on people.

teteatete -- Yep, those girls get a workout during fashion week. Hopefully the ridiculous pay and endless supply of free booze makes up for it.

Deja -- I can see that jacket on you, yes. And well, French women. They get away with everything.

Denise -- which was worse? The feet or the shoes?

StyleSpy said...

Kelly -- LOL. Glad you had a reliable palate-cleanser to turn to.

H-S -- absolutely. In the wrong hands, a ruffle is a dangerous weapon. All design students should study Valentino's ruffles. That guy? Knew his way around a ruffle.

dana said...

Not to worry about the posting, Style. Your reviews have so much careful editing and thought going in, that there's always something there for thought, even a few days later! This kind of analysis is hard. They don't give degrees in literature or art history for nothing.

Belle de Ville said...

OK, I'm not going to mince words here. This collection was bad, really bad.
MJ has been drinking his own koolaid way too long.

Gauss said...

Oh, that poor model's feet! Is this what happens if you spend too much time in "high fashion" shoes? The shoes, by the way, look impossible to walk in.

StyleSpy said...

Dana -- Thank you! You're very kind!

Belle -- When do you ever mince words? But really, I don't hate it as much as some do, but I do agree about the kool-aid a little.

Gauss -- Actually, I think that's more about what happens when you wear shoes that don't fit you. Those models take what they get for the runway shows, and if they don't have shoes in their size (it's easy to alter a dress to fit a model in a studio, but shoes is shoes is shoes), too daned bad for them & their poor overworked hooves.

Anonymous said...

Those shoes are absolutely gawdawful. The entire show reeks of "wtf?" to me. Except for that jacket...and the sequin work is nifty, even though I don't think it works in execution.