Thursday, October 8, 2009


There's a line by Jane Austen, from her novel "Emma." It goes something like, "Vanity working on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief."

Also, in some cases, really, really bad clothes.

The guy who is the CEO of Emanuel Ungaro is named Mounir Moufarrige, and not long ago he replaced Esteban Cortazer, who's been designing the line since 2007 (Ungaro himself retired in 2002). Actually, he was forced to replace Cortazar, who stepped down in the face of one of the most controversial hirings in the fashion world in the last long little time. Moufarrige & the PTB at the company he works for hired -- of all people -- Lindsay Lohan as "artistic adviser" for Ungaro. Whatever that might be.

Well, let's be honest -- what that might be is an extremely ill-considered bid for publicity. Ill-considered not least because not only is Ms. Lohan no longer the hot celebrette du jour, but she is not and never has been considered a stylistic force or innovator in the way some young actresses have been -- Sienna Miller, for example, or the Olsen twins. Lohan is chiefly a product of the Rachel Zoe School of Non-Style, with a soupçon of faux lesbian tossed on in an attempt to add spice. (Dude -- I've known a lot of lesbians in my life. One publicity stunt "relationship" with another girl doesn't make you a lesbian. Or even bisexual. Puh-leeze. Ask Anne Heche, she'll tell you.)

Long story short, Sr. Cortazar said, "No, gracias," to the idea of an arranged marriage with a muse (If you have a muse forced upon you, does that make you "be-mused"? Because he certainly wasn't "a-mused." Get it?? HAH! I crack me up!) and took it on the ol' heel & toe. So Moufarrige hired a Spanish designer named Estrella Archs to replace Cortazar and, presumably, aid Ms. Lohan in bringing her artistic vision to life. (::ahem:: For those of you who may not know, so far Ms. Lohan's artistic vision has been applied to a brand of self-tanner, and a line of leggings. Yes.)

Now, Ungaro has never been my thing, strictly speaking, but I appreciate Emanuel Ungaro's work and I thought Cortazar was getting his feet under him and heading in the right direction. (I like him even more now that he's displayed some rarely-seen-in-the-fashion-world huevos, and I hope he finds a design home with people who appreciate him soon.) Cortazar was the house's fourth-count-'em-fourth designer since Ungaro himself retired. (Before him came Peter Dundas, now wreaking havoc at Pucci, someone called Vincent Darré, and Giambatista Valli, who is enjoying quite the hot little career on his own.) So. These guys at Ungaro are either insane, idiots, or in desperate need of some Ritalin, because that is NO WAY to carry forward an established house after its namesake retires. Find someone, give him the job, and then let him sit on the egg for a while, for pete's sake. Sure sometimes a miracle occurs and you get Ghesquiere at Balenciaga (POOF! Instant success!), but mostly you gotta give a guy a minute. Especially when the namesake in question has such a strong identity from the past -- for most of us over the age of 30, when you say, "Emanuel Ungaro," what pops into our head is something like this:

Because even though Ungaro started his career at Balenciaga (with the actual Balenciaga), what most of us remember is his exuberant party-girl 80's stuff, full of color and frills and ruching and the borderline abandonment of good taste. And having looked at Archs' website, I can definitely see why she was considered for the job -- there is a lot in there that makes me think she could pick up the Ungaro baton and run with it. Dresses like this:

Which is pretty and has that same come-sit-at-our-table-and-share-our-champagne flirtiness you look for in Ungaro. She does lose the plot occasionally

but I think there's potential there. And since this was the first dress that came down the Ungaro runway the other day

I thought maybe we were on the right track. This dress here isn't going to turn the fashion world upside down, but it's filled with classic Ungaro elements. This next dress was also fun

Although it would have been better had it fit better, and I'm wondering if it isn't just the dress above with the ruffle-that-ate-Pittsburgh removed. (I don't usually go here too much, but dayum, that model is skinny. She's even skinnier than the usual model-skinny. Someone give that girl a taco!)

So, a decent start, but then everything went to hell:

What on earth?

Ungaro was famous for his use of color -- he adored fuchsia -- and I love color, too, but...

No. Lord, no.

This dress is fine

but this is not

If you can't make something as simple as this shrug fit properly, you are in trouble.

And where the hell did this come from? This looks like it dropped in from someone else's colection entirely.

Gimmickry. Gimmickry is a terrible thing in clothes.

And pasties. There were several looks featuring sequined pasties. ::sigh:: I probably don't need to say this, but if at any point in your life you find yourself seriously considering appearing in public in pasties -- sequined or otherwise -- go pour yourself a good stiff drink and go directly to bed until the urge passes.

I guess they had extra pasties and it seemed a shame to waste them. Or it's an homage to Eddie Munster? I dunno. Just terrible

It's a shame, really. The collection has been pretty universally panned and apparently all the editors and buyers (the ones who bothered to show up, that is) left the show holding their noses. Scuttlebutt has it that you will not see these clothes in either fashion magazines or retail outlets next year. The clothes aren't good enough for me to feel outraged by that, but I can't help wondering if the reaction would have been quite so negative without the Lohan element. A lot of folk in the fashion world seemed to take this appointment almost personally and there was quite a lot of huffy umbrage and expectations of failure expressed. The cool kids are definitely not ready to let Lindsay sit at their table, and I fear Ms. Archs' career is going to suffer from the association. Hopefully she'll pass quickly through the revolving door that Ungaro has become and emerge without too much damage, and given their record over the last few years that seems likely.

And Ms. Lohan can return to artistically expressing herself in spray tan.


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dana said...

The gladiator sandals are nice!

dots said...

Just sat and read every word of this brilliant piece. Now I can goof off for the rest of the day, having learned my one thing for the day. I had never given Ungaro a thought, frankly - I didn't even have a firm image of his clothes - but you're right, he was perfect for that 80s excess. I thought at first with the top shot you were going to say something good about it, and I mean, that look is so wrong wrong wrong on so many levels. For one thing: most women hate their hips, and even on this model, it gives her.. thunder thighs.

I disagree with you on one note: that fuschia jacket with the orange leggings/trousers & black heels. I happen to love that combination and they could be bin bags, if it's that combo of fuschia, the perfect tangerine, and black, added to skin tones, to me it says 'Ole' as it's exactly the colours I've seen at real live bullfights. (apart from the red of the blood, of course).

You write so brilliantly, Amy. Your pacing, your anger-with-a-twist, because I can tell that, like myself, you get all worked up but you're doing it with your tongue held firmly in cheek.

Listen better run, but came to say hi & ended up... writing a novel. Which, by the way, you really should do!! You have such a way with words. Oh and I loved the faux lesbian thing. I've noticed that in young girls in the past, say, 5 years: it seems to be a new novel way to attract boys attentions: kiss a girl in a club. Or pretend to. But it's all about looking good for the guys, or doing what they think the guys fantasize about. But hey: it must work, right? Those kids today.


Belle de Ville said...

Thank you for posting about this abomination at Ungaro so that I don't have to.
Lindsey Lohan as pathetic.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

I've never been a fan of Ungaro and I absolutely despise Lindsay Lohan. So now I have one more reason to eschew the brand.

Toby Wollin said...

Ouch. My eyes hurt.

The Photodiarist said...

Oh Wow. You had me rolling on the floor (not really but almost) with laughter. This piece is awesome. You are a good writer. And I agree with you WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Lindsey should concentrate on becoming a better actress and on keeping her life together. She has no business at Ungaro. None.