ITS Fashion Festival's Dream Team

Earlier this month, the 13th annual ITS Fashion Festival (Int'l Talent Support) in Trieste, Italy, culminated with a runway show and award ceremony that promised a "collective lucid dream." But a day before the event — which was hosted by the Italian actress Anita Kravos, who somnambulated down the dimly-lit runway while murmuring, "Are you there?" — a dream-themed art installation had already stolen the show. It featured a male model sleeping on a bed in immaculate white underwear, while a machine seemed to record the blond hunk's dreams — flying and, of course, sex.

But let's go back to the fashion. The festival, largely backed by Diesel, aims to showcase and nurture the best young designers in the fields of fashion, accessories, and jewelry — as decided this year by a jury that included Carla Sozzani. Other sponsors include Swatch, Samsung, and Swarovski, each handing out a prize. As a result, the 16 awards produced a somewhat excessive number of climaxes at the ceremony.

The big winner was the British designer Katherine Roberts-Wood, who took home the Fashion Collection of the Year award for her intriguing laser-cut outfits that peel off the body. The Icelander Anita Hirlekar won the Great Prize for her textured dresses using an antique needle technique. Zoe Walters, another Brit, deservedly won the lucrative 25,000 euro Diesel award (and a job with the company) thanks to her wearable, loose zippered biker-inspired jackets. Particularly compelling were the voluminous coats by Alexander Beznekritis, a Royal College of Art graduate who was inspired by contemporary relations between Africa and China. The highly-promising Ivana Damjanvic, meanwhile, won two accessory prizes for her beautiful space-agey bags.

Most of the designers showed outfits that stood away from the body, thus hiding its curves, perhaps due to the enduring legacy of Nicolas Ghesquière and his architectural Balenciaga designs of the previous decade. Or maybe a new generation doesn't have sex on its mind like our sleeping hunk does.

Jul 23, 2014 13:06:00

Rock, Reimagined: Saint Laurent Men's Spring 2015

The atmosphere in the Carreau du Temple was electric, with the front row again populated with Hedi Slimane’s bright young things, and just as many crosslegged on the floor in front of the front row. It set the tone perfectly for what he called, in the show notes, "Psych Rock’s new rising."

A spectacular light installation pulsated and undulated like a glistening sun, before settling into a strongly checkered backdrop. It seemed we weren’t missing Glastonbury after all, as Slimane sent out 68 impeccable music festival-ready rock stars and their model girlfriends. The silhouette was uniformly svelte, with Jim Morrison-like gaucho hats and cowboy boots, and one model looked every bit the young Jimi Hendrix.

Slimane was in magical form, riffing on the classics of the psychedelic rock era, deftly applying couture-like touches with beading and metallic threads on ponchos and blankets, fringing and studs on leathers, and fully beaded exquisite evening jackets. The forms were beautifully cut, and unexpectedly on trend after so much this season has leaned towards a softer 70s feel. His unflinching love of music continues to inspire painfully cool, desirable pieces for the legions of Saint Laurent fans. The music was created by Mystic Braves exclusively, and was the perfect hazy psychedelic garage-rock soundtrack for the show, which feels more and more like a performance each season.

The cult of Saint Laurent is unstoppable, with retailers reportedly up almost 30%, and the mobs outside the venue are testament to the power of its allure. He is unwavering in his unique vision for the house, and the evolution this season was remarkable. Hedi, the ultimate fan, is creating the ultimate fan base.

Jul 03, 2014 15:05:00

Letter Perfect: Dior Homme Men's Spring 2015

A card greeted us on our seats at Dior Homme, a reproduction of a handwritten letter from Monsieur Christian Dior, which read: “Traditions have to be maintained so they can be passed on to future generations. In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions which are our luxury and the flower of our civilization.” Kris Van Assche, for the second season running, looked to Monsieur himself to inform the collection.

While scouring the letters in the archives, he became interested in Monsieur Dior’s propensity to escape Paris to the seaside, spending time with prominent artists of the time. These three points became the main focuses for the collection: tradition, art, and the seaside. He opened with classic pinstripe tailoring that quickly hinted at the nautical with a toggle-fastened suit jacket — a classic ‘hybrid’ for Kris Van Assche.

Horizontal stripes were everywhere, from a subverted pinstripe suit to bold primary-palette color blocking, recalling the classic French Breton fisherman top. The prints were varied with free graphic lines, and multicolored scribbles covering everything from tailoring to jacquards, while the words of Monsieur himself were reproduced all over garments, creating a delicate repetitive artistic flourish. The denim was particularly noteworthy, in what is proving to be a great season for denim in Paris, with the printed lettering and artistic scribbles prints that are sure to make a big impact editorially. 

There was an overall calm and delicate feeling to the meeting of art and fashion in the collection, and the continued exploration of the life and character of Monsieur Dior is proving to be the perfect muse for Kris Van Assche’s Dior Homme.

Jul 03, 2014 14:55:00

Tourist Class: Kenzo Men's Spring 2015

The Kenzo invitation was hilarious: a wire frame covered in kitsch metal Eiffel Towers that are sold all over Paris at tourist hotspots. It made us feel like a tourist; specifically, Americans in Paris. The rain was pouring at the outside venue by the Pont Alexandre III in the 8eme, which they took full advantage of, giving away tourist umbrellas, the see-through ones you get at tourist stores, emblazoned with a Kenzo Eiffel Tower and a Kenzo Statue of Liberty. Rain wasn’t going to spoil their parade!

The music heralded the arrival of the boys, and an exclusive collaboration with garage duo Disclosure really got everyone moving with their fantastic When a Fire Starts To Burn opening. The collection was fun and bold, in beautiful macaroon colors — an ode to tourists and everything they love about Paris. Huge polka dots, mixed with Eiffel Towers and Kenzo logos on heavy cotton twill, incredible neon intarsia technical knits, mint-green fine suede sweats and vests, rubber applications, and perfectly washed denim — a dash of Americana in the mix. The two figureheads were, of course, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to America as a symbol of their friendship.    

The kitsch and tongue-in-cheek references worked perfectly, as clothes were expertly crafted and hugely desirable. The homage to Paris and its indelible chic was heartfelt. A triumph over the rain, because “When a fire starts to burn, right, and it starts to spread, she gonna bring that attitude home.” Kenzo hit a homerun.

Jul 02, 2014 21:22:00

Right-Hand Man: Ann Demeulemeester Men's Spring 2015

After Ann Demeulemeester’s quiet departure from her label last November, this was the first full men's show with the new team. They showed several men’s looks during the women’s AW14 show, but they weren’t especially strong. We saw a change here, as the aesthetic was more fully developed and Ann’s man was in some ways back.

They referenced artist’s smocks, and ‘the hand’ with beautiful hand-embroidered black floral abstractions on shoes and boots not dissimilar from the shoes in Ann’s last menswear show, and tonal corn on parkas and patchworking. Most of the layers, and there were many, were left raw-edged for a rough yet delicate effect, veering towards a romanticized grunge.

The palette was strict Demeulemeester black and white, with flashes of naturals and metallics in the embroidery. It was quiet, and respectful to the house codes, with only a touch of rebellion in the soundtrack as Brian Eno’s Passing Over declared, “All pastness gone, To the crumbled dogma-ing past, Can never be recollected.”

It was a solid collection, which will ensure the buyers and customers are kept happy. But the new designer of Ann Demeulemeester, Sébastien Meunier, who took the bow at the end, could really let loose next time.

Jul 02, 2014 21:16:00

Two In One: Kris Van Assche Men's Spring 2015

The invitation was an empty envelope with the word ILLUSION embossed in gold on the back, and NUMERO 20 on the front. It was indeed an anniversary for Kris Van Assche, as it marked his twentieth show and, in turn, ten years in the business.

He chose to celebrate by continuing his signature explorations of the hybrid garment. Nothing was quite what it seemed, and new forms arose from his illusory gameplay. First, jeans collided with suiting, with cotton printed to resemble snow washed denim, and suit trousers slit to the knee, mimicking classic jean distressing.

Then he tackled the MA1 classic bomber, lengthening it through the back like a parka, creating a whole new hybrid form. It was the classic MA1 too that lent itself to the color palette, with the khaki and orange becoming the focus colors of the collection. Knitwear, too, played with expectations, and the Fair Isle was exploded and knitted in sheer yarn through bold striped sweaters, and monochrome forms.

The music was, as always, banging, with a great remix of Depeche Mode’s Master and Servant. Kris was in good humor after the show, reveling in familiar territory. The collection was a fine distillation of the codes he’s set out.

Jul 01, 2014 21:59:00

Lost and Found: Yohji Yamamoto Men's Spring 2015

The envelope that contained the invitation was an art in itself, a complex folded sheet with a still image from the movie Tokyo Story by Ozu Yasujiro inside. Yohji said on his Facebook page before the show: “Films don't have to be always about drama... This is a story that could be summarized in just a few words.” The same could be said for the collection, and those few words were emblazoned in silver threads across the clothes: YOHJI YAMAMOTO, MADE IN JAPAN, and NO.1.

The silhouette was an assured steady evolution, with a dose of typical humor. The runway was splashed with yellow paint that the models dragged on the soles of their shoes up and down, gradually covering it in a yellowed mess. Prints were mandala-like and floral, with Americana on the agenda, soundtracked by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. The big surprise came with a full denim section, beautifully washed in 70s blue tones, with bleached trompe l’oeil reparation marks. A full denim look with a denim cape was the highlight, showing Yohji can reinvent that most staple of fabrics and garments, and show it through his eyes.

The final exits were sun-bleached and dry-brushed, with posters pinned on the back of the jackets. Posters for missing pets, and missing people, the most potent was a photo of Yohji himself, proclaiming Perdu (Lost). Yohji was lost in his own world and that’s exactly where we love him most, with a singular vision that is so important in fashion right now.

Jul 01, 2014 21:41:00

The Dancer Within: Dries Van Noten Men's Spring 2015

A wax seal on the envelope revealed a cryptic cut-out gothic letter R sandwiched between transparent sheets. Nothing seemed evident, but after last season’s rewriting of the Dries rulebook, we were surely in for something different.

The show began with a brutal flash of light, and a hard industrial metronome-like tick-tock soundtrack began as the models raced out. The big reveal? Flesh. The first look was flowing cotton, a naked torso, an embroidered holster and a hybrid ballet shoe, giving us the keys to unlock the whole process: the R referred to Rudolf Nureyev, the dissident Soviet maverick ballet dancer.

Dries said backstage that he wanted to take away the rock ’n’ roll, and focus on sensuality. The clothes were certainly sexy with body-conscious knits, after-hours robes, strapped holsters, and that hybrid ballet shoe, with its leather base and elasticated strapping felt almost kinky. It was a new interpretation of the athleticism that has been haunting the men’s shows, and this Dries-ian twist of elegance was a welcome addition to the slew of tracksuits and sweatpants that we’ve gotten used to.

The unrelenting soundtrack, Rosas danst Rosas, by Thierry De Mey & Peter Vermeersch, was a subtle reminder that Rudolf, like Dries himself, was an innovator. Both are celebrated for their reinvention of the codes, bringing the worlds of modern and classical together, producing something startling and fresh. Dries is in perfect form.

Jun 30, 2014 23:02:00

Flowers and Pearls: Givenchy Men's Spring 2015

A plane, one of men’s favorite toys, throned at the center of the circular runway that hosted Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy collection for next summer. The handsome 1964 aircraft (a Reims Cessna F172E), was a commission to the Dutch artist Paul Veroude, who spent more than a month dismantling the plane, painting its parts in black, and then suspending them on steel cables. This could actually serve as a metaphor for Riccardo Tisci’s approach at Givenchy: stylized masculine symbols.

This formula has allowed him to enter menswear history, as his carefully dosed mixture of sportswear and tailoring has now invaded the streets. Maybe he wanted to claim that territory, but there was a best-of feel to the collection — as is often the case at his men’s shows. The disciplined black tailoring he loves was made more graphic this season by contrasting white ties or collars, and Doc Martens-style boots laced up in white. His favorite hoodies were offered in a terrific sheer chiffon version. Athletic stripes left over from last season’s basketball fare adorned polo shirts and tank tops. Multi–pocket jackets alluded to the faint aviator theme. The expected hip-hop tinged testosterone was provided by prison caps worn by his almost robotic beefcakes (interestingly, Tisci never really went for the beard trend).

The all-over star print of the season looked like flecks from afar, but was actually flowers — gypsophila, to be precise. They made for a spectacular finale, pearlized and embroidered in a couture moment Monsieur himself would surely have approved.

Jun 28, 2014 21:22:00

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