Origin Passion & Beliefs

Reinventing the Fashion Trade Show

Fashion trade shows are often dry, dreary affairs devoid of innovation and excitement. But they don't have to be. Case in point, last week we visited Origin Passion & Beliefs in Vicenza, in the heart of Italy's manufacturing base in the north, where thousands of family-owned mills, factories and workshops have called home for centuries. Conceived by Stefan Siegel of the online network powerhouse Not Just a Label (NJAL), in association with Fiera di Vicenza, the event — nay, "concept fair" — eschews the traditional trade show by doing something quietly revolutionary: bringing suppliers to the table as exhibitors.

Pairing NJAL's global roster of independent designers with the finest manufacturers in Italy, those that give meaning to the Made In Italy tag, is both novel and ambitious. "This has been an extraordinary experiment in cross-fertilization," said Matteo Marzotto, the effervescent chief of Fiera di Vicenza. "We're bringing together new talents in international design with the most prestigious super-suppliers in the fashion system, representing all the regions in the country."

Out of NJAL's 18,000 indie labels, a cross-section of one hundred were handpicked to attend Origin, now in its second edition, representing 37 countries on the home turf of some 70 Italian suppliers. The fact that this was even a possibility, to connect mostly underground and unknown designers with the cream of Italy’s manufacturers, those usually reserved for the black book of the fashion elite, is a feat worth applauding. But the four-day event wasn’t just a fierce networking opportunity; there were seminars, workshops, and a unique take on speed-dating that saw designers and suppliers thrust together on an hourly basis.

We were given a guided tour of the event, which, although it could only scratch the surface, nonetheless revealed some of the innovation on display: seventh-generation weavers; the silk-production process, from tree to worm and back again; shoes that could be worn multiple ways; bespoke techno fabrics; and wood that was so finely sliced it could be curved into handbags. It was a feast for the creative mind, and many of the designers were taking full advantage of the business advice on offer.

Indeed this was an inventive, progressive approach to the fashion trade show, blurring the line between professional and non-professional, designer and supplier, public and private, and generally abandoning all rules in favor of new, more egalitarian production models. The new generation of global tastemakers has a lot to learn from old-school artisanal Italian luxury — and vice versa.

May 28, 2015 12:37:00
Backstage at Martin Margiela (1990), photo Ronald Stoops

A New Fashion Exhibit Explores the Mysterious Belgian DNA

Expect the unexpected in an upcoming fashion exhibit in Brussels. It says so right in the show's title, The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story. Nor should you expect the scope to be limited on the famed Antwerp Six, the group of Antwerp fashion students — Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, Marina Yee — who rocked and continue to rock the establishment, even if some of them are now, 30 years later, retiring.

Curator Didier Vervaeren has assembled a roster of roughly one hundred designers, ranging from established rule-breakers Martin Margiela and Raf Simons to wunderkinds Christophe Coppens, Eric Baudouin, Bruno Pieters, Katrien Van Hecke, and KRJST. He's also found room for Haider Ackermann, Olivier Theyskens, AF Vandevorst, and Jan-Jan Van Essche. Honorable mention goes to Norine De Schrijver, who, founding her maison in the 1920s, was the first modern Belgian designer with a taste for the haute surreal.

The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story, June 5 – September 13, 2015, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium

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May 27, 2015 12:08:00
Tom of Finland

Tom of Finland Is Big in New York

It's been a long time coming, but the artist Tom of Finland — master of the bulge — is finally getting his first major survey. At Artists Space in NYC, the exhibition will include more than 140 drawings, rarely-seen watercolors from the 1940s, over 600 collages, and his early childhood drawings. 'Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play' is the first exhibition to analyze the historic role that his art has played in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, and class.

It may look playful — if graphic — now, but his work hasn't always been seen as such. Back when simply being gay was criminal, Tom of Finland (aka Touko Laaksonen) was exploring the outer, and inner, reaches of male-on-male art. As Billy Miller, editor of the hardcore gay-erotica magazine Straight to Hell, told us upon the opening of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland at MOCA last year, "In the 1950s, naked male bodies with only an outline of a cock seen through a posing strap were just as explicit [as gay porn]…probably more so."

Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play, June 14 - August 23, 2015, Artists Space, 38 Greene Street, NYC

May 11, 2015 18:16:00
Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant

Finally, a Courrèges Revival

Courrèges, the fabled French brand that helped ignite a Space-Age frenzy some 50 years ago, is returning to the launchpad. Following a revamp of its beauty line, today it was announced that the house had appointed Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant — designers of the emerging contemporary label Coperni — as artistic directors. They're the first to hold the position since founder André Courrèges and his wife Coqueline sold the company in 2011, and it's expected they'll inject the label with a youthful energy.

This is the latest triumph for the pair, who won last year’s ANDAM First Collections Prize and are among the finalists for this year's LVMH Prize. Courrèges' spring 2016 collection, shown this fall, will mark the beginning of their tenure.

May 06, 2015 11:13:00

Thanks for the Meme-Ories!

Barely a second after Rihanna swept into the Met Gala in a stunning crepe...sorry, cape with train by Chinese designer Guo Pei, piping-hot memes started rolling out of the oven. Because you haven't arrived if people aren't making food parodies...

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May 05, 2015 12:39:00
Yves Saint Laurent 1971

The Shock and Awe of Yves Saint Laurent in 1971

The most shocking element about a new exhibition at the YSL Foundation isn't the assortment of broad-shouldered jackets, flirty dresses with bacchanalia prints, and peep-toe shoes that recalled post-war, Liberation-era garb and, when shown in 1971, scandalized some fashion professionals. The idea of retro had yet to enter the mainstream, as it had by the time Saint Laurent referenced the look again in 1996.

No, what's most shocking is the fact that journalists were bold and free enough to run such headlines as "Saint Laurent Insults Fashion" or to write that it was "truly hideous," as the Herald Tribune's Eugenia Sheppard did. You'd be hard-pressed to find such directness today.

Aside from the startling journalistic rejection, the small exhibit — curated by Olivier Saillard — is a touching reminder of a bygone couture heyday. The reprinted show notes list 93 outfits, which sounds like eternity today, and use such quaint parlance as 'afternoon dresses.' A video of the show starts with a suave warning that no "photographic device" would be accepted and loud commentary was prohibited. Another video, from a TV program, shows the models larking and playing in what looks like a Coney Island arcade. They exude an endearing Parisian insouciance and (inevitably) recall the joie de vivre of Sonia Rykiel.

These outfits from 1971 that harked back to WWII — their original sketches are displayed in large format on the walls — were conceived after Saint Laurent saw the incandescent Paloma Picasso in flea-market finds. They mark the designer's most fruitful period, when his antennae captured the buzz around him, as well as elements from the past that he knew would shock his audiences. Hedi Slimane aims to shock, too, and certainly the invitation to compare the two is not accidental.

Yves Saint Laurent 1971, March 19 - July 19, 2015, Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

May 02, 2015 15:17:00
Patsy and Edina, Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous Drunkenly Crawls Toward a Film

Fashion victims par excellence, Edina and Patsy are headed to the big screen — as if even that were big enough for their hilariously bumbling egos. Jennifer Saunders — who played Edina Monsoon, a boozy and loony caricature of a fashion editor (not always far from the truth), on the smash-hit BBC sitcom that debuted more than 20 years ago — said on the British talk show Loose Women that filming will begin later this year.

“There is a plot and that’s the miracle," she added. "It involves all the main characters and virtually everyone that’s ever been in the series, all those characters. And we’re in London and sometimes we might go to the South of France...It could be anywhere. I’m waiting for the budget. if it’s a big budget, it will be the Bahamas.”

In a case of life imitating satire, we have Joanna Lumley — who played the scene-stealing Patsy Stone, a fashion-world never-was who spends her days sleeping off hangovers and coming on to anyone with a pulse and a Y chromosome — to thank for coaxing Saunders into the project. “I didn’t do it for a while because I thought, Wouldn’t it be awful if it was awful? But now we’re all so old. Joanna said, 'Do it before we all die.'"

May 02, 2015 12:21:00
Altaussee, Austria

Shallow Not Stupid

Call me weird, but I love a detox-diet. And where better to shrink than the new medical hotel Viva Modern Mayr in Altaussee, Austria? You go in fat and come out flat. It doesn't get more idyllic than that.

No alcohol, sugar, or calls from my mom until next week is easy, but I was worried about withdrawing from high heels, espresso, and Mr. Lash. At least stressing that I might be the fattest one there made me puke up enough calories to go down a dress size before I'd even started the prep work of cleansing my colon. Retoxing with pig on pita at the airport, instead of my usual breakfast of watermelon juice, was my tiny act of diet evil before drinking the Kool-Aid.

Mr. Lash doesn't understand why I can't starve at home, while Enery, my driver, offered to lock me in his garden shed until I've misplaced a few kilos. Imagine my ecstasy when I arrived at Mayr to find a bloody filet steak waiting for me instead of the glass of milk that's on the menu at the hardcore rival clinic across the Alps.

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May 02, 2015 11:30:00
Bertrand Guyon, photo courtesy of Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli Names a New Designer

The revival of Schiaparelli, begun several years ago, has hit its share of snags along the way. Owned by Diego Della Valle, the fledgling label hasn't managed to find its feet yet, nor even a designer. Its most recent creative director, Marco Zanini, did not return after a two-season stint.

But things seem to be looking up for the storied house. Today came the announcement that it had tapped Bertrand Guyon, a couturier hailing from Valentino, and Givenchy and Christian Lacroix before that, as its new design director. His first couture collection — or pret-a-couture, as Schiaparelli calls it — is slated for the Paris collections in July.

“Elsa Schiaparelli is an enchanting couture house," said Guyon in a statement. "I have always been fascinated by its exceptional legacy, its luminous and intimate story, its quirky and poetic world, its ultimate chic and its endless creativity. I feel honored to be part of Schiaparelli today and develop it further, respecting its heritage and tradition while adding a contemporary and modern take, something Elsa Schiaparelli has always demonstrated.”

Apr 28, 2015 11:20:00

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