Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Qasimi takes us back to his homeland

As I said before, I was unfortunately unable to stay for the whole of the Qasimi Homme show because I had booked an early Eurostar (although I still didn't get home until roughly 1am...).  It was really a shame because it looks like the show was a cracker.  However, I did have a chance to come early and take backstage shots, and Khalid himself facebooked me the official runways photos from the show from Cristofoli press, so we have some images to drool over.  On arrival I got a nice view of the models Khalid had picked out for the show, and couldn't help myself from taking some action shots...

 The backstage area was minute, but packed with sartorial gems, and the photos helped me get a good idea of what the collection would look like on the catwalk.  This season, Khalid turned his attention to an enigmatic nomad travelling across the beautiful but barren terrain of his Middle Eastern homeland, and produced quite a well-rounded collection of relaxed trousers, sleeveless shirts and jackets, graphic sweaters and the odd all-in-one.  

I really liked these black booties I spied - just the right combination of dessert boot and high-top that many a Londoner would be proud to wear with skin-tight trousers or some cut-off denim shorts.

The venue was the same as for Petar Petrov, but they had rearranged the seating to form a spiral maze.  From above, it kind of looked like those geometric patterns for which Middle Eastern cultures are famous.

From the runway shots, I have picked out some of my favourite looks.  Above, I love these two jackets - the first, for its relaxed simplicity and the second, for its novel architecture and intriguing use of zips.  Are they washed leather?  It looks like I could have a lot of fun with these!  I also like the playful side to the two looks below.  It's always good to see an injection of colour, especially in Paris where the fashion crowd favour black, black, black.  The semi-transparent coat over a sheer shirt is fun, and very sexy...

As mentioned previously, Khalid introduced abstracted graphic prints for the first time, with both geometric patterns and organic shapes and faces.  The yellow, grey and white sweater on the left resembles the ancient cave decorations you might expect to find when trecking through the Biblical wilderness.  The bright colours can be worn to attract attention either on their own or under a waistcoat, or can be used to subtly update a more traditional suited look.

It is difficult not to draw comparison between the sleeveless shirts and draped waistcoats below with what we saw on Dior Homme's catwalk, designed by Kris van Assche (who drew his structural inspiration from the neighbouring cultures of North Africa), but the two collections differentiate themselves in their uses of colour and texture, and somehow Al Qasimi's line takes a more relaxed approach to styling.  The grey sleeveless jacket/shorts combination is one I will definitely be trying to get my hands on come next season... 


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

It's all in the detail with Franck Boclet

The drama surrounding Estrella Arch/Lindsay Lohan's departures from Ungaro and their subsequent replacement with Giles Deacon (whose upcoming collection in October is hotly anticipated, by this fashionisto at the very least) is well-known in the fashion world, and beyond, but it overshadowed the changes going on in the menswear division where head designer Franck Boclet had decided to move on to create his own line.  This has left the classic brand without a menswear designer for the time being, but has also enabled Franck to create a new personal collection for us filled with affordable (a pair of trousers retails for around €200) but extremely high-quality designs.  I had the opportunity to view the collection last week at a very glamorous presentation at their showroom in Paris.  The pieces were explained to me one-by-one (believe me, there was a lot of detail to discuss), and there were also several models wandering around wearing the collection, who paused every so often in front of a screen for photo opportunities. 

Franck has designed a capsule wardrobe for the modern gentleman - a man who might work in an office during the day, but doesn't want to dress like his father did, and likes to have a little fun in his spare time.  The colour palette was black and white, and as always when a designer chooses to go monochrome, he needs to incorporate interesting details in the shape and finish to keep it looking fresh.  A feat which Mr Boclet has achieved with aplomb.  

There is a full wardrobe here, including suits, shirts, relaxed leather jackets, the currently ubiquitous dropped-crotch trousers and accessories such as footwear and a selection of ties.  There are also both daywear and evening wear looks. 

To break up what could be seen as quite a conservative colour-way, the designer also introduced some spray-painted knitwear, each of which has a unique pattern and so is special to the customer.  In fact, this is a trend throughout the collection as many of the more expensive pieces, and all the tailored suiting, come with personalised name tags for that added touch of exclusivity. 

And now for the details...  Some of the leather jackets and suit jackets come with a special metallic thread within the hem, so that they can be twisted fluidly into a crumpled, modern shape or smoothed out for a refined, classic line.  The materials scientist in me wants to ask if this is a shape-memory alloy?  Perhaps, perhaps. 

The detailed thought process was applied to the choice of buttons, with one highlighted in white while the others blend into the background of black.  Even the button-holes are slanted, giving the jackets an unusual off-kilter appearance.  It is these subtle details which allow you to recognise a Franck Boclet design on the street.

These interesting shoes have been designed to replicate the shape of an eagle's beak in profile...

...and some of the accessories are shown below.  I particularly liked the knitted bow-tie.

I really enjoyed experiencing Franck's world, where small details in the construction are the most important aspects of his menswear.  This is a concept I have also discussed before with Khalid Al Qasimi, the designer of Qasimi Homme, who believes that menswear can, in actual fact, be more interesting for a designer to produce than womenswear, because the restrictions on shape, proportion and even fundamentally which items we can wear (most men don't don dresses and skirts on a regular basis, even if I do) give you more boundaries to work within - it is a constant struggle in menswear to produce something new for the customer.  I do hope, however, that future collections will include a little more colour, as my fingers are crossed that fashion's current obsession with the dark side will be over soon...


Monday, 28 June 2010

Going camping with Gaspard Yurkievich in 2011

I have been going through the photos I took at Gaspard Yurkievich's Spring/Summer 2011 show and picked out what I what were some of the best pieces.  The collection combined smarter suited looks with an almost boyish, care-free attitude.  Think a dapper grown-up boy-scout - neat jackets and slightly too short trousers are topped off with those caps posh little boys wear to prep school...

And of course, any modern school boy needs somewhere to put his books, slingshot and an apple for the teacher (or more likely an iPad nowadays), which is why Gaspard teamed up with EastPak for their latest designer collaboration.  There are some classic backpacks made in steel grey techno-fabrics, which come with those chest-straps which I do so love.  There is also a duffel bag, and a black oversized briefcase/clutch which is particularly stylish.

Shorts, trousers and suits came in a cool dappled blue graphic print which reminded ever so slightly of these orange shorts below which I have been considering, designed by James Long a few seasons ago (image taken from ASOS).  I especially liked the transparent navy fabric used on the shirts, although I didn't really understand what it was doing as a long under-short garment :-S

The colour palette of grey, tan, blue and navy lended itself to some very nice colour-blocking as well, which felt a little bit Comme/Junya...

More pics from Paris to come...

Paris Fashion Week: Day 4 - FIN

And on the fourth day of Paris fashion week, it was a Sunday, and our Lord Karl Lagerfeld said that we might rest. Well, not quite. The fashion world never rests, don't you know, dahhhling? But I rested a little bit considering I had a compounded hangover from the Grazia and Stüssy parties, a very swollen ankle from running around the city in boots whilst recovering from my torn ligament, and a total of about 10 hours sleep in 4 days. I took the morning off to relax, and enjoyed a delicious millefeuille de chèvre et son caviar d'aubergines just around the corner from the Palais de Tokyo, where some huge music event appeared to be occuring. I couldn't get close enough to see what is was and Google has failed me this morning. 

But later, just a few blocks away, I enjoyed my own little soirée at a private view for the new collaboration between French power photography house Harcourt and the avant-garde designer Romain Kremer. It was held in the legendary Harcourt studios – a place where all the great movie stars, musicians, politicians and sportstars have been photographed in classic film noir style. I decided on a hair of the dog cure and had a glass, or two..., of champagne while snapping the photographs. The style of shooting really suits the Romain Kremer look, whose clothes often go down that monochromatic path. It was quite amazing to be allowed into this studio – I even sat in the chair where Marilyn Monroe had her make-up done!

In the afternoon, Khalid Al Qasimi invited me along to view the set-up for his Qasimi show on the Rue Commines, the same space Petar Petrov had used, because I had to miss the show itself due my stupid train schedule... On arrival, I spotted the models smoking outside as per usual (who were later chastised by Khalid himself for trying to smoke once they had been dressed – very amusing!) and then went backstage to get a close-up view of the collection and the photographs of the total looks. 

It seems like he has gone for a slightly more wearable look than his Spring/Summer collection for 2010, while retaining the high quality production values that his couture approach to dressing demands. I particularly liked the introduction of quite bold, abstracted prints, which add another dimension and help to break up the otherwise slightly subdued palette. I look forward to Jenny from BLOW sending me some images from the show itself so I can share them with you today or tomorrow. 

I also met this fabulously cool artist/journalist, Clarisse Larousse/Caroline Lauzain (I haven't worked out yet which is her real name and which belongs to her cartoon alter-ego), who bears a striking resemblance to my good friend from undergrad days, Anna Horakova. I wonder if they are related...


On the third day of Christmas...

Sorry that was meant to be on the third day of Paris fashion week, but in some ways it really was like Christmas for me. And why? Because I got to spend the morning luxuriating in the wonderful world of Viktor & Rolf, who allowed me to visit their showroom for a good hour or so to view their latest collection up close. And what a gift it was! There were delicious fabrics and colours used to create an almost paradoxical combination of the relaxed and the formal, such is V&R's personal aesthetic. Signature twists included a bathrobe-style tuxedo blazer, graphic prints of the pair's little doggies and their infamous spectacles, as well as the use of novel materials and plastic crystals to create a very pleasant frosted look. It was totally chic and elegant, with just a smattering of wit. I was a little bit disappointed that there were not any showpieces we would expect from their womenswear line, but it was all very beautiful and very, very wearable. I have to point out that Karla Otto, their press company, was very helpful and refined – I have never been to a showroom before where everything was so slick and perfectly balanced. They even had two (pretty damn cute) male models come out for me to photograph, and I could dress them in any elements of the collection I liked! Heaven!

Later in the day, I attended the Petar Petrov show on Rue Commines, where the models had clearly been told to SMILE, because each one of them came out into the bright white glasshouse space with a cheesy grin plastered across his face. To me, the collection was very well balanced and relaxed (there's that word again...), if a little bit repetitive. I was glad to see colours on the models, since the colour of the day the audience had chosen was clearly black. Ah, you fash-hags... (I'm determined to make this a real word). 

Unfortunately, because Petar's show ran late, and because Modemline got the presentation timings wrong, most of us missed Bernhard Willhelm's happening at the Tranoi garden showspace. All that remained was this mysterious mound of foam... I would recommend checking out A Shaded View On Fashion for some photos of the presentation by Shoji Fuji. 

Et le soir? A party at Divan du Monde with my French friends Guillemette and Alice, to celebrate thirty years of the brand Stüssy. There were surprisingly cheap drinks and lots of hip-hop playing until our party was brought to an end after Guillemette had a tad too much of the old sherry...

I have just got back to London this minute, so I will be waiting until tomorrow to make a post about my final day in Paris because I'm knackered. And then of course, I can share with you all my detailed notes and photographs over the coming weeks :-)


Saturday, 26 June 2010

Paris Fashion Week: Day 2

I realise I didn't post any info about my day yesterday but it was pretty action-packed and didn't finish until the small hours of this morning, so I am making good use of the free time I have this afternoon before the Stüssy party by uploading all my photos and writing to you wonderful people.

The morning kicked off with Gustavo Lins' show just off the Rue Charlot, an area full of designers' and artists' studios as well as showrooms and sample-sale stores (Gaspard Yurkievich 70% off!). The venue they had chosen was far too small to accommodate all the guests, so only those with a coveted front-row ticket were allowed entrance. The rest of us formed a semi-circle in the street outside, and the models walked out amongst us right into the road. In typical French style, the traffic was stopped for a good 15 minutes with no permits or help from the police... The collection was relaxed, artistic and elegant. There was a range of textures and colours on show, including a neon yellow, and some more daring backless outfits for the adventurous gent.  It was also the spot of my first sightings of Tim Blanks and Suzy Menkes for the season.

I had lunch in a little café on the gorgeously French Place des Vosges, my mother's favourite square, where I had my first salade chèvre chaud of the season and a selection of dainty macarons. Yum scrum.  Later in the day I caught up with my friend from university, Antonia Eraud, who is working in publishing (recently, she helped with Luella Bartley's new book on fashion tribes – hopefully it will be more financially successful than her ready-to-wear brand). She took me to the librairie de la mode, a fascinating book and magazine store dedicated to all things fashion. They had every fashion magazine imaginable, books on style, and hundreds of trend collections. It really is a place you could spend a very long time indeed...

Romain Kremer held his show in an old theatre, and used a raised runway which is actually quite a rare thing nowadays, despite what all movies and TV shows about fashion portray, because it makes harder to get a clear shot of the models and the audience often can't see very much. The clothes were typically futuristic, with lots of strapping and blocked colours, and, as usual, the footwear was particularly strong. I really love his take on the sandal. I was surprised by the variety of colours which also included a few fluoros – perhaps this is going to be a new trend in menswear next year? Generally, it all felt fresher and as if Romain is trying to take the brand somewhere new. 

The Viridi-Anne is a designer I had not heard of before, but their presentation in an abandoned church tower was very entertaining. The ominous surroundings suited the ninja-goth aesthetic of the Japanese brand and the models were styled as pseudo corpses/vampires/ghouls. It's not exactly my style of dressing (…), but I can see the appeal, and I always love a good show! 

I finished the night off at a party held by Le New Black, Thomsen, and French Grazia, where we drank vodka and citrus Schweppes in a stunning old apartment building and garden. It was like a very glamorous house-party. Antonia recognised several French actresses, but naturally I had no idea who they were. Our other friends, Guillemette and Alice, came too and we eventually took the party back to Antonia's apartment, along with several other guests and some Moet et Chandon which Guilemette had brought with her (she works for them!). As you can see, we had a lot of fun, and I got to wear my new Castelbajac t-shirt, although I'm paying for the fun a bit today...

Hot and hungover loving from France,

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Je suis arrivé!

That's right, I survived my nightmare journey to Paris, which has involved a £100 taxi-fare, being threatened by a security guard who thought I had mugged someone because my handbag was "too feminine for a guy" and getting caught up in some sort of protest on arrival in Paris (of course).  I now have 20 minutes left of my 1hour of wifi in the hotel (it's extortionate) before I go grab something to eat.  You'll be happy to know that several of my invitation have arrived!  But sadly some for tomorrow have not, which will mean arguing with PR people at the door...  But to end on a happy note, I managed to do some blog-blog-blogging sur le train, where my mind was still back in Milan where the menswear shows wrapped up today.  I thought now would be a good time go through what I thought were the highlights (including a few surprises...) of the Milanese collections, while I have time to process what I see here en France

The first major surprise of the week was Burberry Prorsum, which is not a brand I would normally be seen dead in. It often seems stuck in the past (don't get me started on trench-coats, or the dreaded 'plaid'), and even though I can see Christopher Bailey has brought the brand forward, I think this is the first menswear collection which has channelled the Zeitgeist I'm feeling in London. The Burberry boys looked very cool in their shrunken leather jackets and vests, given a slightly harder edge than normal with metal studding (I know, I know, not exactly original, but hey, they've got to keep their existing client base who are slow to move with the times). There is a very similar biker-style leather vest in Browns Focus right now that I have my eye on... The skinny tight leather jeans were another step in the right direction for me, although probably a step I won't actually be taken given the state of my thighs at the moment!

Not much to say about Calvin Klein except that I loved the crop-tops. They bring back fond memories of bad 80s movies, and the 'young, dumb and full-of-cum' hunks they hung them on are more reminiscent of the stars of a whole other genre of DVD... 

I am currently lusting after one of these sheer tops from Costume National. They come in various shades, but I especially liked the nude version with black strap. There is something quite Ann Demeulemeester about them – shame I can't say the same about the rest of the line. I'm also lusting after a body I would feel comfortable showing off under one of these!

Raf Simons designed a knock-out collection for Jil Sander, with eye-poppingly bright colours, sharp cuts, and just the odd floral print to spice things up. I love the idea of matching your vibrant suit colour to the tee underneath, and this is a look I might be trying come the end of the summer months. It's great that Raf is really making his mark on the Jil Sander brand, while maintaining the clean lines and palettes for which the original designer herself was celebrated. Talking about bright colours, I also enjoyed Missoni's experimentation with slightly more luminous colours in their infamous knitwear pieces for men. 

Trussardi was channelling the cool looks of Burberry, but with a slightly less military edge – a little bit more Grease. Not a stand-out for me by any means, but some nice leather pieces there. Unusually, Versace also included some items I could bear to put on me (I haven't bought anything from them since a pair of silky black trousers when I was 16), like these black sheer shirts, which, with the help of some silver jewellery, have an almost religious bent à la Stefano Pilati's YSL womenswear collection last season.

The major surprise of the weekend was, without a doubt, Emporio Armani, who sent out a platoon of leather- and pvc-clad neo-Nazi-esque sexual warriors (wow that's a lot of hyphenation), no doubt inspired by Mr Armani's recent collaboration with Lady Gaga for her Alejandro video (he also has been designing her stage costumes, as well as several red carpet outfits). There were metallic harnesses as well as full-on gimp suits, all paired with slicked back hair (Crisco anyone?) and a dark, but alluring, grimace. I want it all, the mens (by the way, it only works if you say it in a 'Jersey Shores' accent) included. I'm not completely sure where Armani is going with this, but I'm loving the journey so far...

And for now, à bientôt


Gay Paris

I'm just finishing packing my bag this very, very sunny morning and soon I will be off to gay Paris for the menswear shows.  Unfortunately, my cheapo hotel does not have complimentary wireless, so I may have to run to the local mac-do to log on.  This means my posts may be a little bit irregular, but I will definitely be trying to get an update up every day.  Then when I get back to London I can process my photos and give you a nice detailed analysis :-D 

Enjoy the fabulous weather!


Monday, 21 June 2010

Popping colours for Spring/Summer (/Autumn/Winter...) aka PROCRASTINATION

I'm sitting on the floor of my living room, surrounded by the contents of my wardrobe, attempting to edit it down to 4 days' worth of Paris outfits.  I need Mary Portas to come round and sort me out.  Headache.  Ergo, I'm back on the blog...

It was such a sunny day here in Oxford today, and I'm feeling inspired by the summertime weather, having finally escaped from my standard winter SAD syndrome.  Since the whole country is beaming with sunlight, I thought it was the perfect time to post about a bargain I got recently, which may or may not be accompanying me onto the Eurostar on Wednesday.

Alright, so I keep buying womenswear, but I promise I'm not trying to look like a tranny!  Honestly.  But seriously, how can I turn down a gorgeous Jonathan Saunders top for 50% off just because it's really designed for my female friends?  Especially when it's essentially a straight-cut tee!  And ESPECIALLY when he just won the Scottish Fashion Awards :-D  Even though it was only a month or so ago that I realised my entire wardrobe was becoming dark and black, I am already starting to revert to my colourful magpie ways, and feel myself continuously drawn to shiny, bright things, like the graded blue and green circle on this delicious silky top.  And it's a perfect transition piece for me, as under a black jacket paired with some skinny trousers and army boots, the little burst of colour will just peak through, until the day comes again when I can wear ridiculously bright clothes as below:

Of course, having seen the Jil Sander Spring/Summer collection for next year, it really won't be very long at all until we are all sporting the day-glo look.  Oh, and as a further justification (as if I need it) for my continued obsession with buying womenswear, the sales assistant in Liberty told me when I bought this top that her boyfriend is forever pinching her Christopher Kane atomic t-shirt.  Perhaps we should be tee-buddies...

Talking about bright colours, I highly recommend checking out Basso and Brooke's A/W collection (I blogged about the catwalk show at LFW here), especially their collaboration with London-based Finnish shoe designer Finsk, whose footwear creations regularly find themselves on the feet of fashion blog royalty such as their Highnesses, the Princesses Bryanboy and Susie Bubble.  They retain the unusual architectural shape for which Finsk is famous, whilst incorporating the eye-wateringly bright and colourful digital prints which Chris and Bruno used so well in the rest of their clothing: 

Runway photos from New York Magazine.  So between Mr Saunders and the Mr's Basso and Brooke, we have a bright year ahead of us.  It seems a shame that recently Jonathan has apparently moved away from brights...