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Fashion, News, Runway Review

Ronald van der Kemp: Couture, Spring 2016

January 29, 2016

The look book of Amsterdam-based designer Ronald van der Kemp has been among my favorite presentations thus far during Spring 2016 haute couture week. Here are three of my faves from a spectacular collection.

The strength of this presentation was especially in the superb styling of many of the looks, like this sleek and sophisticated jumper:

 

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The placement of the gold buttons on this skirt are perfect. I live!

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The picture below is of the back of a gown. The front was fantastic, but the back of it was absolutely ravishing!

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-edp

Fashion, History, News

Global Inspiration: Art, Fashion, and Spirituality (‘Fashion Conscious’: A Column)

January 21, 2016

by Dominique Michelle Davis (photo credit: Dominique Michelle Davis)

Over the holiday I had the opportunity to visit the Art Institute of Chicago Museum to view the Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings exhibit. The exhibit featured over 100 artworks from private and public collections in India and the United States. Unknown to me, this is the first major U.S. exhibition to showcase the unique visual culture of the Pushtimarg, a Hindu denomination from Western India. Founded in the 16th century by the saint and philosopher Shri Vallabhacharya (1479–1531), the Pushtimarg is a religious community dedicated to the devotion of Shrinathji, a divine image of the Hindu god Krishna as a seven-year-old child. What most captured my attention as I viewed the collection were the vibrant and rich colors of the mediums and textiles. The religious and artistic center of the sect is based in the temple town of Nathdwara (literally, “The Gates of the Lord”), near Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan, India. The paintings and pichvais (peach way).

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Within the past three years I’ve been drawn to spiritual teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism in search of meaning. This was an opportunity for me to explore and understand a part of Hinduism and learn more about what draws me to the teachings of Krishna. As I walked through the exhibition, literally going through the seasons within a Nathdwara year, I noticed the opulence of the pichvais (textile hangings, and miniature paintings). Gold, sequence, vibrant colors and detail of hand stitching captured my attention.

I was able to experience a story told through fabric, which brought me back to my original premise in a previous ‘Fashion Conscious’ column on Glamourtunist.com titled ‘Can Fashion Heal?’, of textile therapy as a therapeutic process for healing. Gates of the Lord comprises drawings, pichvais, paintings, and historic photographs borrowed from two major private collections in India, the TAPI Collection of Praful and Shilpa Shah (Surat, India) and the Amit Ambalal Collection (Ahmedabad, India). The textiles used to depict the Hindu god Krishna were not meant to be worn, they serve as a visual representation to be mindful of the teachings of Krishna and represent a depicted story of Krishna’s life. The elaborate detail that artisans use to construct the paintings and pichvais are time consuming because of the elaborate attention to detail that is needed to construct the pichvais.

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I wish I had the opportunity to interview one of the artists, but what I learned without such an opportunity was that the artistic practice in the Narthdwara community has been in existence for centuries. Currently, Parmanand Sharma, is the head artist called the mukhiya who works in traditional style of Narthdwara painting. Most artist in the Narthdwara community maintain a state of anonymity, however one artist within the community used his art to mass-produce paintings. Ghasiram Hardev Sharma was a mukhiya and also head of photography for the Shrinathji temple was a contemporary artist who has had great influence within the Narthdwara community.

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You never know how the muse will lead you in life, and where. This visit to view the Gates of Lord exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago has also inspired me to incorporate global awareness of artistic expression as a healing and therapeutic practice into my work. I was initially led to Buddhism and Hinduism following a chance discussion after attending the Puerto Rican Festival in the summer of 2012 with a close family friend. While there we came across a street vender selling various knickknacks. What caught my eye was a double-sided pendant. Each side of the medallion had different pictorials, one red and green, the other blue and red. Before purchasing the piece, I asked the merchant what it meant and she had no idea. I wore the necklace to work and was approached by a co-worker who immediately called out I was wearing the Om. I did some research and found that the other side was a depiction of Krishna, which led me to do further research about the culture of Buddhism and Hinduism.

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What initially attracted me to a religion of beauty were the visual aesthetics, the design, colors and gold. What may have been a superficial introduction has led me to find a deeper meaning for purpose. The power of beauty is real, and as superficial as that might sound, can have a much deeper purpose if you allow yourself to search for meaning in beauty. Inspiration can be found in all cultures and communities. This anecdotal story is just an example of how cultures may intersect, knowing or unknowingly, to provide a deeper understanding of life for the girl who just wanted a pretty pendant.

Fashion, News

5 Black Designers Who Could Next Lead Christian Dior or Lanvin

October 30, 2015
(clockwise, top left: Olivier Rousteing, Tracy Reese, Carly Cushnie, Stella Jean, B Michael)

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Yesterday, I shared a commentary in which I argued that Black designers are not appearing on lists of designers who would be potential replacements as creative directors at historic ready-to-wear and haute couture houses, and specifically Dior and Lanvin after the sudden exits of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz, respectively. In a social media economy in which name recognition and visibility matters, and given the continued shifts among creative directors at the top houses, it is imperative to provide some direction for a future leader of Dior, Lanvin and the historic fashion houses to come who may be looking for leadership, and are invested in considering many of the very talented Black designers for such a position. Certainly this list risks becoming yet another among the long and ever growing wish lists of potential creative directors to be considered, but as this list centers the qualifications, contributions, aesthetics, and promise of Black designers exclusively and deliberately so, and as argued in a previous commentary Black designers rare (if ever) appear on such lists, this is a much needed addition to the usual list of those being considered. Also, I was to stress that these are my personal five favorites for the job, and stress that there are many, many other Black designers who have everything it takes to get the job done:

Stella Jean

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A rising star in fashion, the Milan based Jean is a favorite of fashion critics including Franca Sozzani editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, and fashion critic Suzy Menkes. Jean’s feminine, pretty aesthetic is very much so in line with that of Dior and Lanvin’s own design codes. She also has a European fashion sensibility in her clothes that would be appreciated by haute couture die hards.

B Michael

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With nearly two decades of experience of making glamorous gowns to order, B Michael would bring the skill set a historic house of haute couture would be looking for to fulfill this responsibility of the position. He also has an already impressive roster of clientele who come to him for custom made garments including Halle Berry and the Williams Sisters, and this would be a built in client roster Dior and Lanvin would be used to and continue to court.

Carly Cushnie

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Cushnie, one half of design duo Cushnie Et Ochs, is known for women’s wear designs with the hallmarks of strength, passion, sexuality as central themes of her work. Trained at Parsons School of Design, and a former assistant in the design studios of American designers Proenza Schouler, Donna Karan, and Oscar de la Renta, the London born Cushnie’s designs for Cushnie Et Ochs have been wor on many red carpets by celebrity clientele, including Rihanna the current face of Christian Dior.

Tracy Reese

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A favorite of FLOTUS Michelle Obama (above), Reese has almost twenty years of experience heading her own fashion label. Reese’s designs are known for their traditionally feminine flourishes, and bold use of color and print, both of which would be a good match for the visual vocabulary of  Christian Dior or Lanvin.

Olivier Rousteing

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The reigning fashion king of social media, Rousteing has managed to make Balmain a “must see” show during Paris Fashion Week, not only for his sexy, modern, and edgy designs, but also for a runway show front row of attendees who are also friends such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian – West, and Rihanna, while supermodels Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls and Kendall Jenner all stomp the Balmain runway each season. Just this week, Rousteing launched “Balmain x H&M” a one off collaborative collection bringing the luxury retailers aesthetic to the department store H&M and its more affordable price point. His current successes would give Dior or Lanvin attention from a generation of luxury brand consumers who would grow with the label.

Who would be on your list of potential replacements as creative director at Dior or Lanvin?

Fashion, News

Black Fashion Designers Must Be Considered to Lead Historic Haute Couture Houses

October 29, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Reports that designers Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz will exit their positions as creative directors of legendary fashion houses Christian Dior and Lanvin respectively, has been the talk of the fashion world. Fashion has played this steady game of musical chairs among the top fashion houses, as one house or another finds itself searching for a new artistic leader after another resigns about as often as a socialite is in search of her next couture gown. As fashion critic Robin Givhan notes, gone are the days when a designer takes over a fashion house for the duration of their career. The minute news of these resignations was reported much of fashion turned immediately to this question: who will be the next creative director of Christian Dior and Lanvin? While responses regarding Lanvin are just beginning to emerge, with Dior there has been a constant stream of names emerging as potential replacements for Simons, some more frequently than others, including American designer Joseph Altuzzarra, Phoebe Philo of Celine, and couturier Bouchra Jarrar. Each of these designers would be extremely exciting for everyone in fashion, and each of them offer the opportunity for Dior to take an important step by appointing a person of color or a woman as its leader for the very first time in its history. However, with the exception of Olivier Rousteing of Balmain (which no longer has a haute couture designation) it also remains true that the role of creative director at Dior, Lanvin or any of their peer haute couture or other historic fashion houses has never been held by a person of African descent, and given the frequent critiques of industry racism and the lack of diversity in fashion, this highlights yet another barrier that must be broken.

Perhaps more concerning is that among lists of potential new creative directors at Dior and other houses that have had vacancies in recent memory, Black designers are rarely (if ever) named on what are sometimes exhaustive lists of potential replacements. Google search ‘Black fashion designers’ and you will be directed to posts like “25 Greatest Black Fashion Designers” or “15 Black Fashion Designers You Should Know.” However, those same designers are never discussed as potential leads of historic fashion houses. The frequency of such lists show that Black designers appear in the historical and social imaginary of the fashion industry as being in a perpetual state of either people who did great work but who fashion history forgets, or contemporary designers who are doing great work but who are being overlooked as we speak. It is incumbent upon fashion to do better to make sure that Black designers are at least a part of the conversation when legendary fashion houses are looking for new creative leadership.

One counterargument to the lack of Black designers on the list of potential players for the top job at Dior or other historic haute couture houses is that whoever is selected will be required to design haute couture. Haute couture, or “high fashion,” is an original garment made custom by hand from beginning to end by a designer. In France, where the most historic haute couture houses were born, the label haute couturier is a heavily policed title, and is bestowed only by invitation of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Unless Chambre approved, a garment is not considered haute couture. With so few designers of any race or ethnicity holding haute couture recognition, one might argue that this is the reason why Black designers are not on the list. But this argument only highlights the need for fashion to make an even greater effort to invest in the careers of Black designers in order to be solvent around the lack of diversity at the leadership at historic houses of haute couture. In 1988 designer Patrick Kelly from Vicksburg, Mississippi was admitted into the Chambre making Kelly the first person of color, first Black person, and first American so admitted. Since that time the number of haute couture houses led by Black designers has remained extraordinarily rare. In 2011, as previously mentioned, designer Olivier Rousteing was appointed creative director of the historic fashion house Pierre Balmain. However, though Balmain is historically recognized as a former haute couture house, it has not produced a haute couture show in at least twenty years. Thus, Rousteing is the sole Black designer working at a legendary fashion house among the many that exist, but is doing so without a haute couture designation.

As many have stated, fashion is about art and commerce. Making a historic statement of selecting a person of African descent makes good sense on both counts. As many designers of African descent come from a lived experience wherein Black cultural aesthetics are part of their background, a sense of what the Dior archive or the archive of any historic haute couture house would look like through such a dimension could prove rewarding in more immediate and lasting ways than much of the fashion industry may imagine.

 

Beauty, Fashion, News, WERK!

Adele Returns, and on latest i-D Magazine

October 28, 2015

She’s baaaa-aaack! And on the cover of the latest issue of i-D Magazine. The photo is, of course gorgeous. My only wish – and this is not a critique of i-D because they generally do mostly feature only head shots of their cover subjects (see a previous post I did about their gorgeous Rihanna cover) – is that fashion magazines in general would stop only photographing ‪#Adele‬ in head shots and show her wonderful, voluptuous, full figure. I think this would set an important precedent for featuring plus size women on fashion magazines in general, and hopefully more often. Not doing so sends a bad message about body type, beauty and plus size women, and that’s not a message anyone should want to send. ‪

Beauty, Fashion, News, WERK!

Jessica Chastain covers November W Magazine!

October 28, 2015

Loving Jessica Chastain’s complete style transformation on the cover of the November W Magazine styled by Edward Enninful and photographed by Steven Klein. The ‪‎fashion editorial‬ inside the magazine is equally stunning and appropriately titled “Transformer,” as clearly evidenced in the beauty look Chastain wears on the cover and in the editorial. I literally had to look multiple times and then check the name on the cover to even recognize her. Fabulous!

Beauty, Fashion, History, News, News, Pop Culture, Television, WERK!

Taraji P. Henson on ‘CR Fashion Book’; Channels Vintage Cicely Tyson

October 20, 2015

Empire star, the incredible Taraji P Henson was photographed au naturale in gorgeous cornrows, by legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber for latest issue of the Carine Roitfeld’s magazine, CR Fashion Book. Generally, Henson is photographed and filmed wearing a wig or weave.This photo reminds me of vintage photos of another powerhouse Black actress, the incomparable Cicely Tyson. Tyson has said in interviews how personally imperative it was for her to be photographed with her natural hair and to wear it as such in particular roles back in the day.

Fashion, News, News, Pop Culture, Television

“Empire” Style for Vogue Magazine’s ‘September Issue’

October 17, 2015

Lee Daniels and the cast of “Empire,” with supermodel castmate Naomi Campbell, model “It Girl” Jourdan Dunn and pop music’s The Weekend, slay a show themed fashion spread photographed by the legendary Mario Testino for Vogue Magazine’s famous ‘September Issue.’ The Kehinde Wiley painting in the background “Judith Beheading Helefernes” (2012) puts emphasis on the word slay! But I am LIVING for this photo. Taraji P Henson is lovely and fierce as always, and the men of Empire look yummy as ever too. And I want those pants Jourdan Dunn is wearing immediately, they’re beautiful!

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Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn (above). Naomi is wearing a Givenchy fur chubby over a Nina Ricci gown. While Jourdan is wearing Proenza Schouler. Somebody say “Gla-Mour!”

Books, Fashion, History, News, Pop Culture

‘Gloss’: New Book about Chris von Wangenheim’s Fashion Photography

October 17, 2015

So excited to get my copy of the Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha book “Gloss” about the wok of fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim. Here is a 1971 photograph by Chris Von Wagenheim of faux fur (minus the dog’s fur which is of course real, haha!). I love how luxe this looks, how the tone of the dress she’s wearing is so close to her complexion and drapes onto her so closely it first like skin and that she’s wearing fur and a bikini. And those sunglasses!