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Fashion, News, Runway Review

#NYFW Fall ’16: Alexander Wang Redefines “Beauty and Taste”

February 14, 2016

The only thing that says f*** the fashion establishment better than sex worker chic, is sex worker chic done through fabrics, separates, and styling that are the status symbols of said establishment. This was the Fall 2016 show of Alexander Wang, unarguably himself part of the fashion establishment, after a meteoric rise from his eponymous label to the head of legendary French house Balenciaga, and back. And so it was fitting that in his first show since leaving his Parisian perch, that Wang would give a collection that remixes those establishment symbols with his own signatures – especially that hardware – to make a clear statement that there was life before and after Balenciaga for him, and that fashion and style has a life that is bigger than the establishment and its symbols.

With this intention, Wang’s collection outfits a couture street fight in which the models looks prepare them for battle with the establishment: studded boots to kick its ass, stockings already ruined with labels emblazoned on them so one doesn’t have to worry about the running while they “fight the power.” Wang did struck me as the kind of thing Hedi Slimane has attempted to do at Yves Saint Laurent since he took over that house, much to the chagrin of many fashion critics, though the YSL customer seems to love it as Slimane’s work brings in lots of coins. Somehow, however, Wang’s approach went down a bit easier than Slimane’s grunge girls and Hollywood pilgrim looks at Saint Laurent. Maybe this supports the overall takeaway from Wang’s Fall 2016 collection: the taste and beauty standards of the industry that the establishment desires is no sustenance for the 21st century fashionista who insists on being and dressing free.

Here are three of my favorite looks from Alexander Wang Fall 2016:

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Fashion, History

Rewind, 1970-1999: A (Bill) Blass from the Past

November 12, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard (photo credit: Richard Avedon)

“Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” – Bill Blass

“When in doubt wear red.” – Bill Blass

The proof is Lauren Hutton, photographed by the iconic Richard Avedon, wearing a gorgeous Bill Blass red handkerchief dress in georgette, a dress that is timeless, elegant, and indeed for any style ennui (that’s french for boredom!) we may be suffering now or ever.

This month, fashion wunderkind Chris Benz’s long awaited debut has creative director of legendary American fashion brand Bill Blass finally came true. And from the looks posted in stories in the fashion press, and the items currently available for purchase on the company’s site, Benz, did not disappoint. I’ve already eyed a piece I will be buying as a gift for a friend.

Blass, the son of a dressmaker mother and a salesman father, had been obsessed with style and designing his entire life. Indeed, the double-B logo for what would become his company emerged from sketches he had done from as early has his pre-teens. In 1970, after working in fashion since 1959 and eventually becoming the head designer of the fashion house Maurice Rentner, Blass purchased that brand and renamed it Bill Blass Limited, formally establishing a brand that would go on to great success for the next three decades until Blass’s retirement in 1999. Following his retirement, several designers were installed as the head of Bill Blass Limited and charged to keep the fashion brand’s legacy going starting with Steven Slowik (who was Blass’s choice to succeed him), Lars Nilsson,  Michael Vollbrecht, and finally Peter Som (a former assistant to Blass). Blass passed away from cancer on June 12, 2002, and  Som’s leadership would be the last big attempt at keeping Bill Blass Limited alive until, in October 2014, when it was announced that Benz would be the creative lead of a relaunch of Bill Blass, the latest chapter in a story of returns for a fashion house that once epitomized the ideal of American sportswear. This chapter, however, looks to be the perfect combination: Blass’ chic, attainable glamorous Americana aesthetic, and Benz’s irreverent, sophisticated, and whimsical approach to design.

With the roll out relaunching Bill Blass underway, it is both imperative and impossible not to take a brief, though glorious trip down memory lane with some of the best in the company’s history under its founder’s creative leadership.

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Blass in his element

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Blass also designed menswear his career, his own personal style is a glimpse at that part of his career.

 

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Get into the sofa pillow with the Bill Blass logo on the sofa. Blass had a fondness for interior decoration, and his impeccable taste was also evident in his Connecticut estate.

 

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Socialite, designer and Anderson Cooper’s mama, Gloria Vanderbilt, wearing a giraffe print Bill Blass tunic and pants in the 1970s

 

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A beautiful Bill Bass turtleneck dress, and also a beautiful model with the most glorious afro. I live!

 

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It’s time to play “Name that fashion decade …”

 

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Chris Benz at work for Bill Blass today. Good luck, Mr. Benz and so far, so good. We’ll be watching.

 

 

Fashion, Runway Review

Chicago Fashion Week: Alexander Swain (Review)

November 9, 2015

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

The 2015 Chicago Fashion Week presented a runway showcase called “Fashion Focus: Style Bias, Street Style.” The event was held downtown at Block 37. This was my first year attending this particular event for Fashion Focus Chicago. What intrigued me about this event was the platform to highlight and promote Chicago street style, local designers and boutique owners. In addition to presentation of collections there were performances by Huey Gang.

Artist Alexander Swain designed what I found to be the most intriguing collection. The collection included the repetition of multicolored patchwork as a detail in many of the garments, paint splatters on vests and pants, and really wonderful accessorizing on men’s and women’s looks, including some really chic hats and a unique make-up looks on many of the models, some of whom appeared to have face jewelry and other make-up looks that gave texture to the face. Among my favorite looks was the long patchwork shirt dress (pictured above).

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What I found most provocative was a garment with an illustration of a caricature in black face. Initially this detail gave me pause, and I wondered about the inspiration behind this collection given this reference of what is racist iconography. The look was a shirt with the face of a person that accessorized with bandanas and handkerchiefs put you in the mind frame of the antebellum south and the ways gingham bandanas and head scarves were often depicted as being worn by the Mammy figure, a representation of enslaved Black women and free domestics as popularized in films like “Gone With the Wind” wherein Hattie McDaniel played a character named Mammy, a role for which she became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940.

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Hattie McDaniel, Actress

Hattie McDaniel, Actress

My awareness of Swain’s artistic commitment to fashion being seen as on par with other visual arts, and the other ways in which race and diversity were so deliberate in this runway presentation, made it clear to me that this reference of a painful racist iconography was not a haphazard reference, but deliberately trying to evoke a  conversation about the complex relations between race, art, and retail or commerce.

Despite the ways Swain’s historical reference transported one to the past, the music kept one consciously anchored within and aware of the present. To that point, in 2015, in light of the culture of frustration, distrust, and anger many people (including African American Chicagoans) feel for Chicago’s political scene, and with Chicago widely known to be one of the most segregated cities in the United States, this collection was timely in its provocative commentary. Alexander Swain’s collection spoke volumes and created the appropriate context for intersecting conscious art and fashion. I would definitely rock his collection and add a piece from his collection to my wardrobe.

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In addition to Swain, other collections presented in the showcase include the following fashion labels: Ameerah Vania, The Albert Ray Collection, Royal Apparel, Bornmade, House of Lerenn, Daniel Jacob, Urban Threads Studio, Stefan Meier and Aqua Vita.

Fashion, Runway Review

Valentino: Paris Fashion Week, Spring 2016

October 19, 2015

Valentino followed very impressive Fall’15 collection with equally gorgeous one for Paris Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2016. I liked the cornrow hair look selected for the show, and want to especially highlight the Black models for the show given this cultural origin, though the show did feature it on all models as well.

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Chanel: Paris Fashion Week, Spring 2016

October 19, 2015

You know I can’t let Paris Fashion Week pass without sharing my favorite looks from Chanel. Coco would haunt me!  All my faves for Spring/Summer 2016 in these three looks: color, volume, a perfect length, prints,and chic.

Fashion, Runway Review

Elie Saab: Paris Fashion Week, Spring 2016

October 19, 2015

A loosely tied ribbon at the neckline was a reoccurring detail on looks by Eli Saab for Paris Fashion Week. And Kendall Jenner slaying this entire runway situation, and I live! All looks are gorgeous and deserve it have a red carpet moment as Elie Saab frocks are prone to deliver! Paging all you celeb stylists!
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Fashion, Runway Review

Jil Sander: Milan Fashion Week, Spring 2016

October 19, 2015

The jackets/vests were star at Jil Sander show for Milan Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2016. Placement of cutouts among favorite details. I also love the hats used throughout the show, reminiscent of Pharrell Williams’ famous hats of recent memory.