Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wonder Boy

The Italian label Pollini is a little under the radar here in the States. It's one of those brands whose ads you see if you read French or Italian Vogue, but don't run across often in American department stores. The man who's been designing Pollini since 2004 is Rifat Ozbek, a Turkish designer whose name is probably familiar to those of us d'un certain age, but probably unknown by most of the set buying skinnies at Barney's Co-Op. Under Ozbek, Pollini's design has been heavily influenced by what Ozbek has always been known for, which is rich fabrics and heavy tribal/ethnic/exotic influences, tossed with a healthy salting of 70's boho-etry.

The PTB at Aeffe, Pollini's parent company, could not have sent a louder signal that they wanted to redirect their line than when they chose Jonathan Saunders to become its new artistic director. Saunders -- a designer I like very, very much, mind you -- is Hot Young Thing. I think he is a Hot Young Thing with actual design chops, unlike some other Hot Young Things I might mention; but nonetheless his is a name much more likely to be found on the backs of Downtownistas, It Girls, Voguettes, and the like than Ozbek, a designer in his 50's who made his bones and his devotées in the 80's. Not that Ozbek is exactly a fuddy-duddy. Check out this suit from his last collection for Pollini, in Fall 08:

Caramba, that's fantastic. Why am I not wearing that RIGHT NOW???? Seriously, this whole collection was stellar -- I urge you to go and look at it. The coats will destroy you.

Jonathan Saunders is young, talented, and a whole different ball of wax. Saunders' thing is color and construction -- his work is much more pared-down and quote-unquote modern than Ozbek's. It's good, but it's simpler, in a way, and more user-friendly for a generation of young women for whom the display of the body is a major factor in whether or not clothes are attractive. It seems to me that hard-core fashionistas in their 20's and early 30's these days divide into two camps: those for whom fashion is about showing off their sexy bodies as much as possible, and those for whom fashion is about costuming to a degree that they would look right at home in any number of video games or science fiction movies. I'm basing a lot of this judgment on what I see on the Series of Tubes -- if I look at the fashion blogs, especially the personal style blogs, that garner the most attention and devoted followings, this is the conclusion I'm led to. (Not to mention the general and oft-bemoaned tartiness-tipping-into-sluttiness I see parading around on weekend right here in Austin, which, as I have said before, is not exactly a hotbed of cutting-edge mode.)

What a lot of younger people seem to have lost is the idea of the body inhabiting clothes and being ornamented by them, which is not exactly the same as showing it off. I would venture to say that the blue pantsuit above beautifully ornaments the woman wearing it, with that obi belt like a lover's arm around her waist, but very, very little of her is actually revealed.

I will say that I think Saunders has a lot of potential to explore this kind of design. His interest in fabric and color and the shape and flow of clothing lead me to beleive that there is much more to his aesthetic than showing off the shapely legs of the models & trustafarians wearing his dresses. And maybe Massimo Ferretti (yes, married to Alberta -- the woman is a major mogul besides being a designer: Aeffe = AF) & Co. saw this in Saunders before they offered him the job at Pollini, but that's honestly more credit than I'm willing to give them, given the way big-money fashion works these days. My guess is, they see that Saunders is young and hot (and talented, which is a bonus though not a requirement) and they want to re-align their company's base with the young and hot things that are buying his clothes. Everyone wants the Balmain lightning in a bottle these days. We'll see how it turns out.

That being said (and said, and said, and said... jeebus, I'm a windbag!), I loved this collection. It almost always comes down to color and shape and line for me and Saunders has a gut-level grasp of those things that speak to me time after time.

Obviously, Saunders' demo is younger than the one Pollini has been courting up until recently, and possibly some of it is too young for me, but I really love the off-hand ease of these clothes.

I would happily wear this dress. It's hard, sometimes, to parse out the clothing from the overall look the designers and stylists have tried to create in a photo. When you stick clothing on a girl this young and skinny and arrange her in coy, cutesy, pigeon-toed poses, the effect is that of extreme youthfulness. But I think that dress is simply lovely, fresh and young but not childish, and I could wear that without feeling mutton-y at all.

Checks & plaids are evidently going to be with us in a big way once Spring rolls around next year.

I'm okay with that -- I like graphic prints.

I'm still -- STILL -- on a mission to find printed tops. I completely love this one. Boy, could I have gotten some wear out of this this summer.

And this is also dead useful and lots of fun.

And let's talk for a moment about those adorable shoes. When Aeffe brought Saunders on to be the creative director of Pollini, they also hired white-hot extreme shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood. This is a typical Kirkwood shoe:

This is not, as they say, your father's Oldsmobile. But these shoes

are adorable.

This caught me off-guard a little. Did Jonathan Saunders watch The Fashion Show?


Whatever his inspiration, I love this. I'll bet that's a perfect little flurry of motion when you walk in it, which I always love.

Speaking of perfect...

I could do so much with that little shift -- wear it by itself or as a layer over a top & slacks or another skirt, even open as a vest. What a great piece. I think it's leather, but given that I can't find any detail shots of this collection I can't be sure.

Good, streamlined, great lines on those slacks but what I'm really looking at, again, is THOSE SHOES!!! The all-black version are certainly a little more practical than the plaid ones.

I think this is my favorite look from the show.

I don't know what it is, but I've really been big into the slouchy the last six months or so, and I really love the way this hangs. Not to mention, of course, the play of the colors and fabrics. I'm not big into patchwork, I never have been, but this is a version of it I like. (Even with the asymmetric hem, something I usually disdain.)

Saunders hasn't given up designing his own label now that he's with Pollini, and I'll try to get a review of that up in the next couple of days. I'm quite behind the times, I know, but life goes on beyond my laptop screen and lately I just seem to be constantly in headless chicken mode. Plus, frankly, I can only dredge up so many Deep Thoughts About Fashion per week before I start to smell something burning -- the ol' cogitator just overheats.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wherein Style Spy Gets All Kinds of Excited

In case you can't read that, it says, "Opening October 22."

I believe the phrase I am searching for is, "WOO-FREAKING-HOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Surprisingly Good

I'm usually pretty skeptical about celebrity-turned-designer efforts. And that's because they're usually not very good. There have been occasional exceptions, and I'm really liking the Maria Sharapova Collection recently rolled out by Cole Haan. Now, I'm generally a great big fan of Cole Haan -- I think they do exceptional quality and design at what is a very reasonable price point; and their acquisition by Nike has been one of the best things to happen to feet in quite a while.

I don't know how much Maria Sharapova truly has to do with these shoes besides posing in lots of pretty advertisements, but whoever is designing them is cranking out some good work. I've already shown you these:

Maria Sharapova Collection by Cole Haan Women's Air Bacara Ballet
(click photos for links on all shoes)

A pair or possibly two of which I do plan on acquiring later in the fall. But I got an e-mail from Endless telling me that if you order a pair right now you get this free tote bag

which is danged cute. So I went looking around and I have to tell ya, I like all of the shoes in this collection. These booties, or example

Maria Sharapova Collection by Cole Haan Women's Air Milano short boot

are terrific. They're very much what is happening in fashion right now without being so extreme that you'll only get one season of wear out of them. That's going to be a great boot under a pair of jeans, but it's also going to be really, really good-looking with a pair of tights and a skirt. Loving it.

Maria Sharapova Collection by Cole Haan Women's Air Milano Tall boot

If you're more of a flat boot kinda gal, these are gorgeous. Click on the link to check out the detailing on this -- the back side of these boots are suede and the strap detailing is just edgy enough -- they're not boring old black boots. If you were planning on doing any traveling this fall and were going to do a lot of walking, these are your ticket right here -- they'll go with anything and still look chic.

We all need a good sexy sandal...

Maria Sharapova Collection by Cole Haan Women's Air Milano Sandal

These come in black as well, but I maintain (and I'm in good company) that gold is a neutral, and every woman should have a pair of gold sandals in her wardrobe. I love the platforms on these, they're reminiscent of the YSL Tribute sandal without being a carbon copy, and this is another one you should click on to look at the close-up: the buckles on all those straps are the little toothed slider kind, so you can make them exactly as tight or loose as you want them. Great shoe.

There's also a great flat suede over-the-knee boot and a beautiful almond-toed tie-front pump that's extremely elegant. Collect all six!

I hope someone will give some of these shoes a try and let me know how they work out. (Style Spy is on a bit of a shoe diet these days, or I'd give you first-hand testimony.)

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Pretty For Friday -- September 25

Good googly-moogly...

Stuart Weitzman - Scrinchable (Taupe Pizzo Suede) - Footwear

I am a little faint, and my clicking finger is twitching. Stepping away from the computer now...

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Read Magazines

A lot. Mostly, I read fashion magazines. I love 'em. I have entirely too many subscriptions and the reason I don't have more is that those dingdong furrin ones like British Bazaar and French Vogue cost a fortune to be delivered.

I adore magazines. I know there are a lot of great online ones out there now, but I still prefer good old honest-to-goodness glossy paper. This probably has a lot to do with my age and my teensy laptop screen, but there's nothing I love more than climbing into a nice fluffy bed with a brand-new copy of "W." Bliss.

Sometimes I read great stuff in the magazines. Some of them get surprisingly talented & reputable writers to throw down for them and in between the hypersaturated shots of prettypretty clothes & shoes you can find some really good journalism.

But sometimes I read things that cause me to lift an eyebrow. Like this from the September issue of Allure, from a cover story on young actress Amanda Seyfried (don't ask me who she is, I've already forgotten):

"Her elfin looks, which (despite her long blonde hair and tiny waist) are, she believes, inferior to those of, say, Natalie Portman. "I am surrounded by an industry full of beautiful actresses!" Seyfriend says despairingly. "They're everywhere!"

Hideous troll Amanda Seyfried

Yes, poor girl. Her movie star status is such a testament to Hollywood's tolerance for the ugly and imperfect. (Also, I've read more elegant sentence structure scrawled on the walls of public restrooms.)

Sometimes both eyebrows raise. I snorted out loud when I read this tidbit from an interview with model Erin Wasson in the September issue of UK Bazaar:

"Katie Grand rang me, and asked if I'd model in Giles' A/W 09 London show. I hadn't walked a runway in years. It was awesome -- and a bit surreal, being 27 and surrounded by 16-year-olds."

Ancient crone Erin Wasson in the Giles Fall 09 runway show

Poor old dear. I do hope they let her use her cane to hobble up onto the runway. (Not to mention that Erin Wasson was born & raised in Texas -- nobody rang her for anything. They might have called her up, but it's doubtful they rang

But occasionally I read something that makes me smile. A lot. This next was also in UK Bazaar. There was an article featuring interviews with the men who are the partners of successful women -- people like Taylor Hackford talking about Helen Mirren, and David Hare talking about Nicole Fahri. But far & away my favorite was from Andreas Kronthaler, who is married to the legendary Vivienne Westwood. Kronthaler was 25 when he met Westwood. She was 50. that was almost 20 years ago, and they are still, by all accounts, very happily together.

Kronthaler says, "Wherever I go with Vivienne, whoever we're with, I always fancy her the most out of everyone. Always. We were recently at a party in New York -- all these New York women were there -- and Vivienne just smiled and I thought, "Nobody is like her. No one is anywhere near...' I'd rather be with her than with all of them."

Original cougar Vivienne Westwood and husband Andreas Kronthaler

He's certainly got that right. There is no one like her. I want to be Vivienne Westwood when I grow up.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tasty Delight


It's a tricky word. Depending on tone & expression, it can be the highest of compliments or the meanest of sneers.

In 2007, Phillip Lim won the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent from the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America). Also nominated that year were Thakoon Panichgul and Kate & Laura Mulleavy, the designers of Rodarte. All of them are still in business; all of them, as a matter of fact, are thriving. Not all of them are "commercial."

The Sisters Mulleavy seem to have no interest whatsoever in being commercial. Their clothing has developed a nearly-cult following among the cutting-edgiest of fashionistas on our two coasts and abroad. My guess is that there are huge swaths of middle America who've never heard of Rodarte, and my other guess is that the Mulleavys don't care. Rodarte has gotten increasingly "design-y" over time. Their work is what we in the biz call "editorial," which means it looks fantastic in photos in W, but is not likely to be something an actual human would wear. (This does not mean it's bad by a long shot -- I think Laura & Kate Mulleavy are hugely talented, I love looking at their stuff.) Their prices, also, are not commercial. Astronomical, more like. Four-figure skirts are not uncommon. And good luck even finding any of it -- quite a lot of googling reveals only a few online portals that carry it, and the "stockists" section on their website is pretty meager.

Thakoon is perhaps a little better-known, although still not exactly a household name. His designs are a lot more accessible, and his prices are slightly lower, but his dresses will still often set you back close to two grand.

Phillip Lim, on the other hand? Well, by the time he won the above-mentioned award, he was in 300 stores, and I'm guessing it's more now. And his most expensive dresses price out at about where Thakoon's start. Phillip Lim? Is commercial. He and his business partner Wen Zhou are determined to keep their production costs down and by doing so keep their clothing more affordable. You will usually find Phillip Lim's clothes in the "Contemporary" or bridge section of a high-end department store. His price tags would look very out of whack hanging with the Lanvins and the Posens and the Proenza Schoulers.

His clothes would not.

You do not have to reinvent the wheel every four months to be a good designer. You just have to make attractive, flattering clothes that have a point of view.

Phillip Lim knows how to do this. He does it really, really well. I'm crazy for the shape of these pants. They're trouser-y and slouchy without being ridiculous. I have one pair of 3.1 slacks of my own and I absolutely adore them. Kate Hepburn would have loved Phillip Lim's pants.

Red patent trench coat? Sign me up. If you don't love that, your heart is made of stone. (Or PVC.)

Season after season, Phillip Lim comes up with a collection of clothes that are somewhere in between basics and thrillers and even in this economy, he is King of the Sell-Through. ("Selling through" means that all the stuff you send to a store gets bought. By actual customers. With real money. Which is a phenomenon that a lot of designers haven't experienced in quite a while.) As much 3.1 as you see on the floor in a Neiman Marcus or Barney's store, there's surprisingly little of it at those outlets. (Random thought: You know what there's always a lot of at the Austin Last Call? Escada. Really blah, dowdy Escada.)

I'm really feeling like I need to pick up a few leather pieces for this fall/winter. Leather is really big this year. This skirt would be a great start.

As would this very, very perfect tuxedo. Think how much even sexier that would be on a woman who looked older than 12!

There were bags in this collection, I think for the first time. It will be interesting to see what their price points are -- whether Lim will succumb to the allure of the easy money to be found in the It Bag, or whether he stays true to his ethos of making affordable clothes.

If he does keep the prices reasonable, that bag is going to be really hard for me to resist. That's fantastic.

If he's good enough for Christian Louboutin, who's evidently doing his shoes, he's good enough for me.

This is the second show I've reviewed with a big emphasis on the two-tone, spectator-flavored shoe. I love it. And oh, these are so good.

Helloooooo, nurse!! Good googly-moogly, those are FANTASTIC.

There were a couple of missteps, of course. Remember what I said about women not liking their pants to be too funny-shaped?

I guess technically they're leggings? Maybe? Leggings are HUGE right now in the fashion-y world. Every possible permutation you can imagine are showing up -- sequined, zippered, shredded, leather, lycra, lace... you name it, someone's finding a way to incorporate it into a legging. Whatever these are, I'm not thinking I love them.

And this, while plenty interesting, is a little too familiar.

It's way too much like this and other dresses from Rodarte Fall 08:

Although I do really like it from the back. Lim is a big fan of the exposed zipper.

This next is great from the front and back. Easy, fun, slouchy sequined t-shirt dress from the front:

Sexy double-take maker from the back. This one will sell through, and do it fast. Great dress.

I love the combination of the sequined fabric and the easy-to-wear shape.

More good sequins.

Another shape I love:

This boxy jacket is a bit reminiscent of the 80's, but it's not so extreme it's costume-y. (If you're in your mid-40's like me, the 80's are a time in fashion viewed with cautious fondness.) And again, I really love the shape of those trousers.

There was a whole section of dresses that managed to be really cool and yet really pretty.

I like the combination of fabrics and I just love those crystal pleats -- that's one of my favorite textures.

This one was my favorite:

See what I mean about the leather? Tellin' ya -- it's everywhere.

Lim's clothes do skew a little young, as befits his place in the Contemporary section, but there are always plenty of pieces in every collection that a grow-up can easily work into her wardrobe. Like I said, I have a few bits of 3.1 in my closet and I plan on acquiring some more. I predict a long and successful career for Phillip Lim. I think he will continue to be rewarded for trying to keep real women and their budgets in mind when he makes clothes. His stuff is wearable but hip, well-constructed, and his sizing is reasonable and consistent (it shouldn't matter, but we know that it does, don't we?). He's one of my current favorites, and I live in fear of the day I see a headline telling me that he's being bought by LVMH or the Gucci group.

I continue to plow dutifully through all the runway coverage. It's slow going, but keep checking back here for more!


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