Friday File – Needing a Break

This week has been tough for the whole country, and so much tragedy takes a real toll. We need a respite from the news. There’s nothing I can say that can magically erase everything that has happened this week, but I am hoping things can turn around for all of us soon. Stay safe.

Some links from this week that can hopefully bring you a little break:

folding lamp by Issey Miyake, from Architizer Blog

Of course Issey Miyake created folding lamps made of recycled plastic. The man’s 2D to 3D-design concept cannot be contained to fashion.

I can’t believe the word fashionista has only been around for 20 years! Writer Stephen Fried coined the term in a biography of the model Gia Carangi. He was looking for a term that quickly referred to all the types of people who work in the fashion industry because he was sick of spelling out all their roles.

This article on the eight hour workday and modern capitalism really struck a chord with me. This theory that our work/life balance was designed so that we would be the ideal consumers is both disturbing and fascinating. It’s made me feel a lot more conscious of how I’m spending my spare time and my money since I read it.

Most of the time I wish they would just let old fashion design houses alone. There are too many revivals. Let the designers’ legacies stand, and don’t taint them by hiring a new designer to attempt to fill their shoes.

This is exactly how I’ve felt since it was announced that the house of Schiaparelli was going to be relaunched. Schiaparelli was an artist and extremely unique. I couldn’t imagine anyone reworking her designs and having anywhere near the same impact. But two days ago word came out that Christian Lacroix is going to design an haute couture collection for Schiaparelli. You know, I think that could actually work!

Exhibition File – Walter Van Birendonck

A couple of weeks ago I heard him speak in Chicago, and now Walter Van Birendonck is the focus of a recently opened exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. The show, Walter Van Birendonck: Lust Never Sleeps – Silent Secrets, is an art installation of his winter 2012/2013 and summer 2013 fashion collections.

Van Birendonck is an avant-garde menswear designer. He hails from Belgian, and is known as one of the Antwerp Six, a group of desigerns who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp during the 1980s.

In the show, the two most recent collections are installed in an open gallery on round, white platforms. Van Birendonck’s winter 2012/2013 collection called Lust Never Sleeps was inspired by Tahitian voodoo. In an interview with Fashionista, Van Birendonck described the collection saying,”I wanted to create a future dandy silhouette almost, but with a very strong tension. That’s why I was using these masks inspired by Papua New Guinea and the canes — a lot of elements to create a tense atmosphere.”

The summer 2013 collection, which is currently in stores, refers “to what’s going on the social networks today, that everything is so easily spread and there is no privacy anymore. Images are taken from everybody, they are sent immediately, also you can’t keep anything secret anymore.” Van Birendonck went on to add, “It’s also referring to secret societies — their dress codes and the hidden underground feeling of secret societies. The collection from summer is also formal inspired, like formal clothing with a twist and with my typical ingredients.”

Walter Van Birendonck: Lust Never Sleeps – Silent Secrets runs until August 18.

Address: Dallas Contemporary, 161 Glass Street, Dallas, Texas
Hours: Tuesday- Saturday 11-6, Sunday 12-5
Admission: free

Miyake’s Newest Innovation

Are you ready to have your mind blown? Mine was when I first started looking into Issey Miyake’s new line, 132 5.

Issey Miyake is a Japanese fashion designer who has been working with experimental design since the 1970s. And he still is coming up with ground-breaking design as evidenced with 132 5.

In the new line, Miyake worked with an in-house research and development team, Research Lab, led by textile engineer Manabu Kikuchi and pattern engineer Sachiko Yamamoto. They collaborated with Jun Mitani, an origami inventor and computer scientist.

From Miyake’s website: “The process by which the clothing is made is groundbreaking, using a mathematical algorithm: first, a variety of three-dimensional shapes are conceived in collaboration with a computer scientist; then, these shapes are folded into two dimensional forms with pre-set cutting lines that determine their finished shape; and finally, they are heat-pressed, to yield folded shirts, skirts, dresses etc.”

We have a 132 5. shirt in the fashion study collection I manage (the gradated coral to white one above), and it is amazing to watch it unfold into life. Everyone who sees it flat can hardly believe that it is indeed a garment that can be worn on the upper body.

I frequently get asked where the name 132 5. comes from. The Design Museum explains it well, “one piece of fabric, a three-dimensional shape reduced to two, and the fifth dimension, which Miyake describes as the moment the garment is worn and comes to life.”

Additionally, the fabric used is made out of recycled plastic (PET) into polyester. The process is said to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions about 80 percent.

Last year 132 5. won the Design Museum’s Fashion Design of the Year award. It beat Kate Middleton’s wedding dress by Sarah Burton.

Friday File – Fashion Week

gown by Oscar de la Renta fall/winter 2013, photo by NOWFASHION, from SHOWstudio

New York Fashion Week is finally over and my twitter feed is relieved. Of course we still have London, Milan, and Paris to go, but I find that the reports and tweets from the international fashion weeks aren’t quite so overwhelming.

A friend posted this piece on feminism and fashion week and it’s spot on:

Aesthetics aren’t the enemy of feminism; social codes that require women to meet certain aesthetic principles, and to be constantly putting in time, effort and money in the service of femininity, are the enemy. Fight the system, not the people who do their best to operate in it, or, God forbid, take a little pleasure where they can find it. Gendered fashion requirements are bad. Enjoying the self-expression and aesthetic appeal of clothing? Girl, go ahead and enjoy your new shoes.

Amen! Man, I just want to quote the whole thing.

I’ve also been searching for flights to New York this summer in order to see Punk: Chaos to Couture at the Met. On Monday, curator Andrew Bolton and others involved in the exhibition (you bet Anna Wintour was there) hosted a media preview that was covered by the New York Times, Vogue, and Fashionista. Fashionista has a really good slide show of musicians in their punk attire next to the high-end designer looks they inspired. If you only check out one of those links, take a look at that.

I was mesmerized by this 1922 footage of actresses on film in color striking poses. It’s kind of amazing. You have to see it for yourself.

This hairstylist turned archaeologist has spent more than 10 years trying to figure out how ancient Greeks and Romans styled their hair. Her theory based on experiential research is gaining a following among scholars who study ancient times.

One of my favorite fashion writers, Raquel Laneri, compiled a slideshow of fashion shoots inspired by fine art paintings. I think my favorite was the shot by Joel-Peter Witkin for The New York Times in 2006 made to look like Edward Hopper’s The Automat.

My mom will be in town this weekend, I am hoping to see Picasso and Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago. This weekend is just a members’ preview (another good benefit to becoming a member of a museum), but it opens to the general audience on Wednesday. I’m excited about this new take on Picasso. Have a great weekend!

Exhibition File – Material Translations

Chicagoans are pretty lucky lately because fashion exhibitions are becoming more plentiful in the Windy City. There’s a couple currently on exhibit, and the future holds more.

Today I want to tell you about Material Translations: Japanese Fashion from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). Running through April 7 in the Ando Gallery, groundbreaking fashion from Japanese designers glow from behind glass.

The garments and accessories on exhibit are all taken from the Fashion Resource Center (FRC), a special collection of avant-garde and conceptual fashion for students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While a grad student, I worked in the FRC and was able to see most of these amazing creations in person. The unique thing about the FRC is that students do not need to make an appointment. They can walk right into the collection and examine the garments themselves. I’ve never come across another fashion collection that is as hands on as the FRC.

In the exhibition, however, the garments students normally get to touch are now mounted exquisitely in a glass case and lit with golden light. Visitors will see garments that radically changed what was considered fashion from the 1980s through the 2000s. For instance, Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons 1983 sack dress that “characterizes the aesthetic of poverty—concealing, not revealing the female form in muted color” and a sculptural Yohji Yamamoto’s 1991 red wool dress are just two of the innovative assortment on view. Other designers included in the show include Junya Watanabe, Issey Miyake, Jun Takahashi of Undercover, and Naoki Takizawa.

I was thrilled to see this exhibition and look forward to the AIC showing more fashion in its hallowed galleries. If you can’t get the the exhibition, there’s a great slideshow of these influential Japanese garments on

Address: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 10:30-5, Thursday 10:30-8, Friday-Sunday 10:30-5
Admission: adults $18, students and seniors $12, children under 14 and members free

Exhibition File – Kitty and the Bulldog

Originating in Japan, Lolita fashion is influenced heavily by British culture. The V&A takes a close look at this relationship in its exhibition Kitty and the Bulldog: Lolita fashion and the influence of Britain.

The shows looks at how Victorian, punk, and gothic cultures have impacted the development of the Lolita subculture and its style. Nine Lolita ensembles from Tokyo, which were recently added to the V&A’s permanent collection, star in this exhibition.

Kitty and the Bulldog runs until February 24.

Address: Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
Hours: Monday-Thursday 10-5:45, Friday 10-10, Saturday-Sunday 10-5:45
Admission: free

Rachel Rose on Of a Kind Collections

I’ve professed my love of the site Of a Kind before. And now they are moving into designer collections rather than just limited editions. Still focusing on independent and on-the-rise creators, Of a Kind Collections currently has women’s apparel and accessories by 12 different designers.

Last week I checked out Rachel Rose’s section to see what new pieces are available. I love my Rachel Rose tee that I bought as an Of a Kind edition, and I really like the new stuff that’s for sale.

Rachel Rose Gray Dot Tee, from Of a Kind

I was really interested in the way Of a Kind styled the new tees. Each has a basic shot of the tee on the model, but also includes a shot of the tee mixed into a stylish ensemble. I thought some of the outfits were cleverly done, and they gave me some new ideas about how to combine my silk tees with other pieces in my wardrobe.

What do you think of the styled ensembles?

Exhibition File – Little Black Dress

installation photo of Little Black Dress, from Artinfo, courtsey of SCAD Museum of Art

Nowadays the little black dress is ubiquitous in women’s wardrobes. It’s considered a staple, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Little Black Dress is an exhibition at Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art that “explores the evolution of a definitive yet democratic style that, for more than a century, has embodied the shifting social tides of the modern world.” The show, curated by Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley, contains approximately 80 examples.

Little Black Dress closes in a month on January 27. If you can’t see it before it ends, there’s a book available for purchase.

Address: Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, 601 Turner Blvd., Savannah, Georgia
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday 10-5, Thursday 10-8, Friday 10-5, Saturday-Sunday 12-5
Admission: $10, seniors + military $8, college students + SCAD alumni $5, children under 14 + SCAD student/faculty/staff free

Dissecting Interesting

Rei Kawakubo, photo by WWD

Yesterday Women’s Wear Daily published an interview with Rei Kawakubo, designer for Comme des Garçon. She founded the house in 1969. Kawakubo is a Japanese designer with the mind for invention and the avant-garde.

The interview has been bouncing around in my mind since I first read it, and I felt like it might be worth discussing here a bit. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me! Please go read the article, if you haven’t already, and then come back.

There are a few lines in Kawakubo’s succinct responses that stuck out to me, but maybe none more than, “I think the media has some responsibility to bear for people becoming more conservative. Many parts of the media have created the situation where uninteresting fashion can thrive.”

As someone part of the media (thanks blog), it made me think about what I present and if I’m part of the problem that Kawakubo sees. I would agree that there is a lack of criticism in the blog world, which probably leads to a lot of “uninteresting” fashion being propped up. Elsewhere, particular magazines are loyal to their favorite designers regardless of what they show each season. It’s rare for Hollywood to take a fashion risk.

But what is interesting? I assume that Kawakubo thinks it means things that have never been done before. As she also said in the interview, “I was only trying to make something completely new” when referring to her most recent collection. Kawakubo’s work is avant-garde, which is attention grabbing and makes you think, regardless if you like it or not.

Interesting can be unusual, different, odd. Those are easily attention-catching characteristics. But it can also be more subtle. Interesting fashion can be found in the details, like a piece by Ralph Rucci, who is famous for jam packing tons of intricacy in the tiniest of details of a piece.

I think interesting can be found in the mass-market fashion industry, but it is rare. Well-made clothes can be called interesting. A clever print, a seldom-used color, and a silhouette that enhances or edits the body can all be interesting. But Kawakubo is on to something about newness. Popular trends quickly fade out of the realm of interesting when they begin to reach market saturation. They aren’t new anymore, and therefore don’t peak curiosity.

Fashion and its carnivorous nature means tried and true looks keep coming back. They sell, so the industry is eager to put out what it knows it will make money on. And maybe this isn’t entirely bad, but it does mean that a person who has been in the fashion industry for more than 40 years can get bored quickly by seeing the same things over and over and over again. I can’t blame Kawakubo for her sharp remark.

So what do you think? Must “interesting” fashion contain a level of newness? What does that word mean to you? And what can the media do to stop perpetuating “uninteresting” fashion?

First Looks of Maison Martin Margiela for H&M

I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat since they announced the Maison Martin Margiela and H&M collaboration. And now the first lookbook has been released. Bless my heart, it looks good. Really good.

These four are my favorites. I’m digging the asymmetry, the deconstruction, and the oversized silhouettes. Fingers crossed these look as good in person as they do in photographs.

Can’t wait until they hit stores November 15. Maybe I should take the morning off of work.

If you haven’t seen the whole lookbook yet, zip on over to Refinery29.