Does the end justify the means? How yesterday’s influencers cut it!

MORE shocking, to me, than anything made known about the Fashion profession in The Devil Wears Prada, was the revelation of a surprisingly unethical approach taken by Piaggi, the Italian trendsetter, uncovered in the V&A exhibition, Fashion-ology, sponsored by Topshop in 2006.

She had happily written press releases for Missoni, while working as a journalist for Italian Vogue in the 1980s; an activity the well-regulated Public Relations profession in Britain and America would have regarded as rather unethical, at the time.

However, with Machiavelli’s dictum, ‘the ends justify the means’ as part of the Italian psyche, and Piaggi’s flair for creation, her double life, simultaneously, as both publicist and critic will not have damaged her reputation nor astonished her flocks of fans.

Piaggi.Blow

Piaggi and the English aristocrat Isabella Blow, who died in June 2007, were the champions of hatter Philip Treacy and designer Vivienne Westwood, and Blow was an actual assistant to Anna Wintour at US Vogue. When she died Isabella Blow’s extraordinary life story appeared everywhere, in the Fashion and style press and on radio and television.

She had moved to New York in 1979 to study Ancient Chinese Art at Columbia University and a year later abandoned her studies, to move to West Texas working in Fashion with Guy Laroche. In 1981, her big break came when Bryan and Lucy Ferry introduced her to the director of US Vogue, Anna Wintour.  She was hired first as Wintour’s assistant and then to organise fashion shoots under the discerning eye of André Leon Talley, then US Vogue‘s Editor At Large, and was soon befriending the likes of Warhol and Basquiat.   In 1986, Blow returned to London to become assistant to Michael Roberts, then fashion director both of Tatler and The Sunday Times and later as Style Editor at Tatler.

In a feature length piece in New York magazine, in 2007, Issie Blow’s meeting with Anna Wintour is described:

 On Wintour’s desk, there was a biography of Vita Sackville-West. “I’ve read that three times, and it always makes me cry,” she told Wintour. “Issie,” Wintour responded with her signature sangfroid, “there’s nothing to cry about”. But they were a match. “I loved coming to the office,” Wintour says, “because I never knew what to expect. One day she’d be a maharaja, the next day a punk, and then she’d turn up as a corporate secretary in a proper little suit and gloves.”

My descriptions of these two wonderful influencers, told to Anton Storey, resulted in these remarkably sensitive and charming illustrations.

 

SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS

RODARTE, the  American clothing and accessories label, founded and headquartered in Los Angeles, California by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, is going Goth on the catwalk.

Laura and Kate Mulleavy added to the vampire pantheon in their 2020 Fall collection in the dimly lit nave of St. Bartholomew’s church in Midtown, Manhattan, NY, providing a fittingly gothic stage as the Mulleavys sent their army of the ethereally chic, undead, out to stalk the night.

When designers work with influences from Art, Music and Cinema they are drawing on inspiration from Elsa Schiaparelli, the star struck twentieth century Surrealist clothes maker and  trend setter. She was however less likely to use images from the dark arts and more to be gazing into the galaxy. Rodarte

Midtown Manhattan audiences were wowed by the 17th look to parade into view.  It reminds me of a 1950s fine wool, black, shirt-waister patterned with white, miniature, dancing sailors, worn by my mother, Trixie Greenwood–Sparks, as she explained the wondrous life of the legendary Schiap.  Do the tassels look like comets?

Will also sell denim!

MY all time favourite jeans are Fioruccis!  And guess what?  The original need-to-know brand is back. Founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1965, it’s now reinvented, with its elegant intellectual property up for grabs!Fiorucci

I love it so much I needed to find out about blue denim. I knew it was everywhere and full of meaning.  Jeans began as work-wear in Europe; ‘bleu de Genes,’ the blue of Genoa in Italy and denim from de Nîmes in France, trousers worn by 17th and 18th century soldiers and workmen.

When Karl Marx, political economist and first human interest journalist, was formulating his theories about emerging groups in cities, Levi Strauss was making jeans for the Wild West workforce in America.

Denim is the most significant Fashion story of the last seven decades. Designers cannot make a move or invent a look without considering how to include the beautiful blue in their collections.

So important a trend is denim that there are an infinite number of blog posts on the topic. John Fiske’s the ‘The Jeaning of America’  should compete with the bible as a Desert Island Discs book choice!

There’s even a dedicated education site with a book by Thomas Stege Bojer ‘Blue Blooded,’  with ‘everything you need—and want—to know about jeans.’ His intention is to keep retailers on target, knowing the whole process and being in touch with teams of influencers and bloggers through  his sites.

When jeans are assigned to specific labels, manufacturers are able to compete with other makes in the market place. The social identities, the designers define, become the signature look of the clothes. Designer jeans speak to market segmentation and social difference; they move away from the shared values, away from nature, toward culture and its complexities.

No one can ignore the phenonomen and Georgio Armani is no exception. A significant change is happening  at the privately held multi-billion-dollar Italian firm still run by its 83-year-old founder, who launched the business 42 years ago.  Its restructuring aims to streamline Armani around three distinct labels.

Giorgio Armani Privé (ready-to-wear and couture) and Armani/Casa (home goods) now lives under the Giorgio Armani ombrello. Emporio Armani, more democratic ready-to-wear, will include Armani Collezioni and the pricier elements of Armani Jeans. A|X Armani Exchange, which competes with specialty retailers and fast-fashion purveyors alike in terms of price, will also sell denim. The dreams of Genoa continue!
Lucas

BlueArmani

Gathering Moss…

Is the ‘Business of Fashion’ a Moss conservative detractor? The last time they mentioned her was in Sept 2013, saying she had returned to her ‘first extracurricular activity’ – her design liaison with ‘Topshop.’ So far no boost from BoF for her Spring 2014 launch.

MYTHOLOGIES TODAY

For Harrods and House of Fraser in Grazia For Harrods and House of Fraser in Grazia

Match made in Britain Match made in Britain

A debate on Kate Moss stirs strange passions.  Young women either love or, a few conservative detractors, hate her.  British ‘Vogue’ in May is ecstatic over the continuing success of our British Fashion models, whether from the landed gentry or the street.

Moss, featured on the cover, is placed with other contemporary model successes and the long-running story of the Brits as a ‘punk nation!’

Writer Chloe Fox says, “we’re constantly challenging notions of beauty. Kate Phelan, the stylist and ‘Vogue’ contributing editor believes, “Our cultural heritage is hugely influential. We constantly challenge the norm and the fashion industry wants to harness that spirit.”

Kate Moss has hit the zeitgeist over decades, a heroin waif in the eighties, the face of London in the 1990s, high street sensation Topshop, and currently for Kering’s wild boy, Alexander McQueen.

A…

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SUCH FUN!

Do any of us have enough ‘fun’?

The last time we can be sure we were glimpsing the idea of fun’s potential seems to have been the 1960s.  So now the word is the super signifier for that decade.

Used by Barbara Hulanicki on her ‘Desert Island Discs,’ by Miranda Hart’s fictional mother, often in interviews with Mary Quant; it expresses the possibility of freedom  and pleasure.

Fizzing with the excitements left over from the take-up of Modernism, in the 1950s, by the 60s for the first time in history the young had money to spend.  Quant, Hulanicki, et al were there waiting for their Art School educations to liberalise the rest and so we began to spend every night, ‘out’!

The moment when it was possible to be having the most fun is surely when Modernism morphed into to its ironic younger sister, the multifaceted, ducking, dodging, diving, diva, post-Modernism.

The revolutionary, tone-setting, Biba brought in well-designed clothes and accessories for a new object-of-desire-hungry demographic.

Brighton Art college graduate Fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki opened a mail order clothing company with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.  Their Postal Boutique was overwhelmed with orders for a sleeveless gingham shift dress featured in the ‘Daily Mirror.’

Image

Weaving and wearing the clothes, who’s that girl?

Doing what we do best - bodices, ruffs and crowns. Alexander McQueen Paris 2013
Doing what we do best – bodices, ruffs and crowns. Alexander McQueen Paris 2013

Fit for a queen!

Suzy Menkes and her sparky writing, don’t you just love her?

Currently saying, “As the fashion carousel spins ever faster, the concern is that, while the stream of newness never runs out, there’s going to be a good deal more crash and burn among designers in the future.”

Although she’s a complete oracle, I can’t help feeling she’s a bit over anxious at the moment.

It’s sweet Suzy’s concerned for the artistry and creativity of it all.  But  Industry, including Fashion, is not just about making  people, who can afford the products, more democratic.  It’s about providing ever more opportunities to create, innovate, and sell: making everyone part of the process.

What we are currently seeing is an inventive work-force keeping up with changing technologies.  Sarah Burton, especially, as a woman designer is an example of democracy in progress.  Trained alongside Alexander McQueen she’s able to keep his legacy going with her professional team, and their devoted followers, working with new chances to enchant us.  If only Prince George had been a girl they’d have had the perfect collection to conjure with!

CHUCK OUT THE DIRNDL, THE WALTZ AND THE WIGS

Dusseldorf airport travellers
Dusseldorf airport travellers
If everyone wore a dirndl there'd be no ugliness!
If everyone wore a dirndl there’d be no ugliness!

IN Vienna’s streets there are no musicians.  Just attractive girl students in brocade breeches and 18thC wigs, handing out leaflets on Mozart and the Strausses. Not even Richard, at that!

Playing lead roles in the creation of a city, Fashion shops draw on the identity of designers and promote emerging talent. It hasn’t happened in Vienna. The sharply dressed Viennese couple, photographed here, at Dusseldorf airport, were shopping for clothes in Italy.

Observing the conservative internationalism of Vienna’s shopping quarters it seems it’s the dirndl and the waltz which stops Vienna becoming a Fashion city.  It’s trapped by its history.

In the plush red restaurant at Hotel Sacher there appears a couture dirndl in soft red wool, with broderie anglaise blouse, sported by slim, elegant, still blonde matron. ‘Wanderlust and Lipstick’ sells the whole kit, the Alpine coats, the edelweis motifs to absolutely everyone; worn for parties, weddings, national celebrations by all the young dudes!

Although Fashion is about status, money, and pleasure, in Austria’s capital, with its history of political upheaval and revolution, home of psychiatry and modern erotic art,  there’s a more measured, less frenetic, approach to our seduction to shop.

With the ‘glittering’ German designer Phillip Plein, Mondial, COS, Musette, Girbaud and True Religion on view and on sale,  script-writers hope that avant garde Fashion, represented by Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, will be setting the scene alongside a ‘steady stream of young designers’.

Yet  set up to please middle-aged, middle-brow tourists from home or abroad, not even Westwood’s post-modern ‘if only everyone wore the dirndl there’d be no ugliness!’ influence,  on her protegee Lena Hoschek can halt the old world, ‘Austrian-ness’ celebrated everywhere.  Hoschek’s clothes are probably not ironic enough.

Klimt does wonderful business in ties, scarves, trays and books outside the Imperial Palace in Belvedere but Austria’s lasting legacy for the Fashion world might be Sacha Baron Cohen’s camp, lederhosen-wearing travesty Bruno –  the world’s most foolish Fashion critic.