Monday, May 23, 2011

Trend : Shanghai Ladies

Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
 The charms of the past would never stop seducing the Fashion world. Thanks to Joan Harris, the 60s silhouettes are back, with their curves and their vitally kitsch dresses, hairdos and stilettos. Since then, the image fashion guru's want for the 21st century's women is quite arguable. While some are thinking that androginity is the future for human being, many people are trying to reassert the right to an assumed feminity. For these women, the post WWII's wardrobe is what suits them the best. Actually, it is genuinely elegant, cute and feminine. But Past has got its negative points too, and we did a long way since then, especially in term of social and sexual progress. Living in our modern world with pencil skirts and corsets is only appealing in the paper ... So, we need to search another model for our thrist of classic feminity.
Gene Tierney in The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
 I don't know what Marc Jacob had in mind when he launched the Summer collection of Louis Vuitton, but he certainly has felt that the fashion's wind was now blowing from the east. But, fortunately, the trend avoided the trap of the geishas' aestheticism and rather chose a vision of the woman which was more free. On the bounce of the American designer, the fashion world is heading to a city which is, in our westerner's mind, a synonymous with exoticism, sensuality and luxury : Shanghai. But the Shanghai which inspires Industry this Fall is the Shanghai of the classic black and white movies of the 40s. Indeed, the aestheticism chosen is very old-world, nearly cliché, with a lot of red silk, dark floral patterns and jazzy influences.
Gene Tierney
 The muses I suggest are American actresses Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. They have both played in movies with Shanghai in the title, the first one in The Lady from Shanghai (the presence of the Chinese city here was just a way to add mystery to her character) and the second one in The Chinese Gesture. If you are familiar with this one, you would agree that, first, Gene should certainly have deserved more recognition, and secondly, that her costumes, created by her husband and famous American designer Oleg Cassini, were not particularly chinese ... So, why emphasizing them in an article on Shanghai's fashion ? Because they embody the spirit of this Fall Chinese's influence. It's totally out of the question to bring back the traditional Chinese dresses. Mainly because Industry is looking for Chinese buyers, who want novelty, but at the same time, something that would reassure them  ... So, what they want is to instill the preciosity and the discreet eroticism of Asia's biggest country into contemporary and western garments.
Saffron Knight AW2011 collection
 This way, they offer us exoticism within our reach and to Chinese buyers, a taste of classic Hollywood which would fit their own codes. Clever, isn't it ?
The new Shanghai ladies are Amazons, they are lounge's warriors, with an independence and an intelligence similar (if not superior) to men, with seduction as their secret weapon. They are both sensible, like Elsa in The Lady from Shanghai and Poppy in The Shanghai Gesture, but terribly unreachable and almost living godesses. Many designers and brands have already played with those codes in their Fall collection. The one of Jamaican-British designer Saffron Knight is particularly accomplished. Very far from her usual style, this collection marry tradition and a cheeky modernity with success. The Dragon-lady is not dead ...
Topshop header for its collection 'Shanghai'
 The Shanghai collection from Topshop is less convincing. It's more difficult to recognize the Chinese influences in the offered garments, which are sometimes more Japanese than Chinese ... Looks like geography and fashion are still not studied in the same schools ... But some pieces remain in the spirit we've talked about. And I guess that we will see more interesting stuff in the next months ...
My personal pick would be a dress from the Fall catalogue of French online retailer 3Suisses, which offers a sexy silk dress (avaible in Chinese-like print or trendy colours) for only 29,90 euros (which is £25,90 and almost $42). This dress is genuinely in the mood of those classic 40s movies, full of exoticism and of strong heroines. The perfect answer to the desperate housewives of last year. Plus, there is travel with your past ...
3Suisses dress 29,90 euros, avaible in many European and foreign countries

Monday, May 16, 2011

My article on Papercut Magazine (part 1)

"My favorite has to be Samantha Tyler's article My Generation, so loved that we split it across this issue and the next -read the first half, you'll love it too." Hayley Maybury, editor of Papercut. (click on "Expand" to read it ; or, see the screencaptures in the Who's Sam section at the top of the blog. )
Go to page 62 to discover the said first part of my article on the new generation of designers, artists and fashion leaders of today and tomorrow. I hope you would enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it ...   
In order of appearance, you will meet : 
Thor actress  Jaimie Alexander is also gracing the cover, and there are great photoshots and articles you will certainly like to see ! Happy Birthday Papercut, you're the cutest one-year old baby I've ever seen ! ;-D

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Decoding : Cute Overdose

A facebook group found out freaky similarities between a Disney wedding and those of William and Kate
 Most of the people I met think that I am no fun. They say that I didn't kept my children's soul because I don't know by heart the song of the opening credits of the Japanese cartoon I've watched when I was a child. They say that I am a cold heart because I ask them to stop sending me YouTube videos of kittens while at work. And they call me an alien because I have main interests and joys different from them. As you can see, in our modern society, grown-ups still behave like kids in the freaking sandbox ... In France, the phenomenon is clearly visible with people in their thirties, and I've observed some similarities while in the USA too. They seem to suffer from the Peter Pan's syndrome : they refuse to enjoy themselves like adults, so they keep doing kids activities, using kids references and most importantly, dressing with kids accessories, this, past twenty. Is this one of the symptoms of the 11th September's trauma ? I think it is rather a new response to the punk "No Future". But while punks were sinking into sex, drugs and good music, this new generation prefers sweets, teddy bears and facebook groups. Harmless ? I'm not sure. But irritating, definitely.
T-shirt Uniqlo £7,99 - Necklace Vivienne Westwood 220euros - Shoes Jeremy Scott for Adidas $250
The day Kate told "yes" to William, I was quite happy. Everyone was behind its TV, and I could enjoy my city, being the only one outside and not obsessed by a wedding that didn't touch me at all. But the avalanche catched me up the following days with intensive press coverage and, above all, web invasion. Oh yes, they were cute, love is great, the princesses had ridiculous hats ... People around the world were acting as if this event was personal to them, calling the bride "Kate" as if she was a close friend. It was an earth-scale version of  movie Muriel, without the good tunes of ABBA. Yes, see, I like joyful music. But I must miss the namby pamby allele on my female chromosome, perhaps the same one which prevents me to like heels ( see my article I'm not Cinderella ), because I don't do idiot little cries when I see a baby or an animal. Something you're now told to do in every fashion magazine that respects itself. Really.
As everything mainstream, the "Cute" quickly became a good tank of inspiration for fashion, and some designers have started to suffer from the syndrom, or mostly, to think that idiots would be delighted to buy their regressive creations. It is certainly the case of Jeremy Scott, who even admits that creating his teddy bears sneakers was the dumbest ideas he had. But thanks to the trend of wearing kids' toys as fashion accessories, he will make a fortune without any regret. Many others were precursors, Moschino and Sonia Rikyel, for example, which quickly assumed a change for exhilarating fluo colours and  models acting like little girls.
Paul&Joe : jacket 295euros, lipstick 21,65euros
But the Golden Palm at Cannes Festival would certainly go this year to the childish prints. Mickey is struting about in both Uniqlo and Topshop, with many of his closest relatives. But now that everyone has got the new book of Jonathan Safran Foer on the bedside, the supreme IT is to show love for animals. Forget about the fuddy-duddy of wearing sweaters with horses designs ! But you will be even trendier with lobsters and penguins in your tees and scarves, signé Charlotte Taylor. The cat is a sure value : it always will be cute. So, brand Paul&Joe was certain to make a hit with their lipstick in shape of the pet. Adorable, admittedly, but how stupid when you have to use it and the cat disappears ? As usual, consumerism didn't stop to strike ... But you don't only wear animals as prints, you also have to wear them as accessories themselves ! The trend has been launched in the catwalks, where models started walking their dogs. Then Natalia Vodianova carried a lamb for lingerie brand Etam. And then again, the escalation couldn't be stopped. On the cover of the magazines, you cannot see the girl without the beast, not dangerous anymore. Even Robert Pattinson showed that gators were cute, and Bulgari offered a big cuddly toy to its new muse Kirsten Dunst ... If Givenchy and Wildfox are still trying to sell drooling fangs, they are totally out of the time. The wild animal inside us has been tamed and it is now as peaceful and sweet as a lamb.
Moschino 683euros
It is not great anymore to be rock : the skulls start to become fun, as for jeweller Aurélie Bidermann, and we'd rather take the sweet necklaces of our childhood out again, because they're the new studs !
Smileys, peace signs, cheerful messages are blooming everywhere, and even the Queen of protest, Vivienne Westwood, have teddy bears in her Summer 2011 collection ! Suddenly, we are all told to dress like Katy Perry and to live on Sesame Street  ! I know that the world is scary, my dears. But I don't think that spending your evenings and nights watching series could help when you're desperately single. Same, I don't think that losing your time watching YouTube videos of pandas could solve your problems of unemployment, neither a t-shirt could fight your angst of nuclear disaster, even made by the interesting label Mother of Pearls. And don't kid yourself : if the richest prescribers of the world are showing you cats with bags, it is not a way for them to bring you something cute and relieving : it is because they are taking advantage of your need for reassurance. Did you see the price of the items shown in this article ? Except for the t-shirt, everything is so indecently expensive. Stella McCartney has taken her last collection directly from your childhood wardrobe and she tries to sell it for a fortune. Blog The Fashion Police ( ) has found a very appropriate expression for that : Daylight Armed Robbery.
V Magazine
Yes, my children, while you are dreaming that you could live forever in your wonderland of childhood references and dreams, the nasty capitalists out there are still planning to eat you in the wood when you will take honey to your grandmother ... And if no t-shirt could repels the troubles of the adulthood, they are also good things about growing up. Believe Aunt Sammy ...
So, put away your Barbies and start looking for them ...
Mother of Pearls

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Interview : DimePiece, Welcome to Paradime

 There's still a fortnight before the release of my article on young designers, and I thought that another teaser would please you. This interview  was supposed to be included in the article, but unfortunately arrived too late. I thought it was unfair for the two adorable girls who have taken the time to answer, with a lot of humour and freshness, so I've decided to make it as a 'bonus'.
DimePiece is one of those brands, like American Apparel, which are very proud to sell products entirely manufactured locally. At its head, two "chicks on pills" (one of their recurring pattern), Laura Fama, 24 and Ashley Jones, 26, both graduates in Fashion and "dwelling in the colourful and adventurous garment district of  in downtown Los Angeles", who want to fight the reign of the foreign-made clothes and its quality and human damages. "We design and manufacture all our garments and accessories here in Los Angeles. We favour this decision in working domestically with our contractors so we can watch exactly how our garments are assembled day to day. It feels good knowing that our sewers, graders, patternmakers, etc are all getting paid fairly without a middleman. Plus it helps create more jobs domestically and stimulates our economy. Win-win." The label is their baby, and they handle everything from scratch. Their products are incredibly trendy and desirable, a mix of rock aesthetic and Californian bohemian lifestyle.
Each season’s line is expressed by modern pop art-themed prints and t-shirts with the cheekiest and most feminist of phrases, along with hoodies, sweatshirts, leggins and tanks. Now in its tenth season, the young designers add another solid installment to Dimepiece, and go from strength to strength as trendsetting Fergie, Nicki Minaj, The Kardashians, Amber Rose, Juliette Lewis, Pink, M.I.A., Katy Perry and Estelle have emerged as fans.”
Indeed, L.A.'s A-list has quickly integrated their list of clients. Their prices, though, are still affordable, but I strongly regret that their delivery prices for Europe are mostly equals to the price of their garments ... Of course, it is a detail in front of the quality the girls offer and their philosophy. Their soap box ? Women empowerment. "That’s always been what we’ve stood for, and always had a positive response from, and so we’ve never felt forced to translate it through our designs. Women, power, and how the two interconnect was originally the motive that our brand was based on and so it works its way into each season naturally. We use most of our graphic tees as a way of communication to state our opinion on various things. This is a passion of ours and so it’s important to us that we keep creating statement tees with each collection."
The picture of a spitting cat, with this catchy statement on, "One Pussy you can't fuck with" : the message is clear enough ... But you can't reduce the label to provocation and feminism.
 The girls are quoting Alexander McQueen, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Vivienne Westwood as fashion models, designers who also tried to convey social messages through art and insolence. They took risks, and the girls praise them for that : "People nowadays are weary what others may think or judge them if they step outside of acceptable guidelines.[They] took risks in their designs in the infancy of their careers… The industry finally embraced it and favoured [them] for their unique style and vision." Three appealing destinies which won't stop making imitators, but Laura and Ashley are now wishing to follow their own path, with the risks induced. Ashley told me : "There is a quote [which] has always stayed with me, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” [we are owing this gorgeous sentence to actress Judy Garland] Innovation is key, as a brand we take pride in doing what we feel, we try to do only what we like and what we think is ‘us’. In turn it keeps the brand innovative and fresh, it preserves our own ideas that make us independent from older legacies."
The influences of the two ladies can be found in our modern society : model Agyness Deyn, for example, is one of their muse and T-shirt's pattern, and more generally, we can feel a true respect for contemporary artists, especially streets ones.
 But Art, like Love, doesn't pay the bill (another of their slogans) : "Aesthetic is important, but sometimes we just want to say how we feel and put it on a tee." These girls are level-headed and you would not loose them into the game of Art for Art. They describe themselves as businesswomen, but that doesn't mean that they've lost their sense of humour ... "Finding a balance between art and trade would be incredible but we have to work hard towards that perfect symmetry. In general though, fashion should be closer to art, of course. Fashion is in itself art. It’s creative and fun. Trade is money, consumerism, business! commerce! AH GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
This sense of reality also allow DimePiece to stand independant and unique, while other young labels have already lapsed into exorbitant pricing and mainstreaming. The girls are really proud of their freedom : "we lean more towards a democratic point of view but overall we are a liberated brand that is self-governing." But they are still prudents. Crisis have affected the young label, and many of their shops were forced to close. Luck has nothing to do with it : indeed, talent has been stronger than difficulty, and now, they can breathe easier. Not surprising with such a motto : "Always making a way when there was no way" ...
Internet is also a strong weapon for Laura and Ashley, who own a very attractive website. It allows them to go deeper in their thirst of experience. "It’s interesting to watch designers and artists release work into the internet world and see how quick and easy it is to receive an emotional response from someone, good or bad…via Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. I think it’s encouraging for designers like us to share our new collections and art projects with the masses to view, especially on a worldwide/global scale. Blogs and web-zines have opened a new chapter when trying to reach new consumers and shoppers from around the globe. Click, click, scroll and you can watch someone’s art or project unfold right in front of your eyes, it’s so instant, so much information at your fingertips and a lot (to say the least) to keep you encouraged."
If they are aware that their American aura is what makes them so attractive worldwide, they also confess an attraction for Europe and Japan. "We’ve spent time in both [countries] and think there is a dynamism there that the U.S. doesn’t understand. There’s a unique sense of vigor for art, fashion and creation. Tons of personal style, people who take risks, and innovators that are more open to being unique. I can’t get enough of that." says Ashley. It is maybe the dream of the ladies of DimePiece, but it is definitely ours : more DimePiece stores on the other side of the Atlantic and the Pacific ... That would resolve my delivery's issues ...  Meanwhile, you can shop their sexy dresses, terrific collars, graphic bags and cheeky tees on ...