Farewell to Raf

dior1 dior2 dior3 dior4 dior5 dior6 dior7 dior8 dior9 dior10 dior11 dior12Did anyone think Raf Simons would be content at Dior forever? Obviously no. The man is too big and too talented to stay anywhere for too long. But did I think his Spring Summer 2016 collection, only three short years after he was appointed artistic director of the legendary fashion house’s womenswear line, would be his last? Absolutely not. But the intense demands of the relentless fashion weeks can prove to be too much for even the most disciplined talents.

The collection, as a statement of farewell, is sweet yet bold. The garments are stunning, their beauty a painful reminder of everything Simons has accomplished at Dior in such a short amount of time. I’m not sure who would make a better, more intriguing fit at Dior than Simons. But I, along with the rest of the fashion world, am certainly excited to find out.

Images via Vogue.com

Dior Haute Couture 2015

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As if a collection that looks like a glittery rainbow threw up all over it could be this elegant, sophisticated, and precise. But of course. It’s Raf Simons. The man, the myth, the visionary presented his Dior couture collection in Paris this past Monday, and it made a a massive impression on me. Dior, as one of the oldest French fashion houses, has long been synonymous with feminine style. Raf Simons, on the other hand, spent much of his career as a menswear designer and later on as creative director at the austerely minimalist Jil Sander. When the LVMH Group named Simons the new creative director of Dior in 2012 to replace Galliano after that whole anti-Semitism debacle, the fashion world regarded it with the same level of apprehension that they gave to news of Galliano’s recent appointment as creative director at Margiela. However, in the three years since his career change, Simons has proven himself to be quite adept at respecting the Dior brand and legacy, season after season, while still staying true to his own values and aesthetics as an avant garde designer.

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What this translates into for this particular season is a strong sense of futurism in familiar, lady-like shapes. Like a successful self-made businesswoman from the year 2095 (or so I imagine), the Dior woman of this collection isn’t afraid to experiment with style references from decades’ past and combine them using modern techniques and materials to create something new. She’s also into cool updos like this mystifying doorknocker ponytail that I still can’t quite figure out. The colourful vinyl go-go boots with cage-like heels reminded me of an updated Jetsons costume piece. The printed plastic coats might send couture purists into a disapproving frenzy, but it’s 2015. Let’s move on to newer, more interesting materials, shall we? The pleated rainbow chiffon skirts of the first couple of looks made my jaw drop with its obviously flawless craftsmanship, and the sequined 60s-inspired dress paired with a floor length coat was a mind-blowing ode to Edie Sedgwick.

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 This is a collection that grows more stunning the more you stare at it. To be frank, my immediate reaction was one of bewilderment. It’s a lot to take in. But the complexity of the layers and details form a bigger picture that’s ultimately unforgettable.

What did you guys think of it?

Images via style.com

Pre-fall 2015, pt. 2

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One of the best things about the in-between collections, namely pre-fall and resort, is the chance to see the clothes outside of a runway setting. Sure, big name designers with big budgets like Raf Simons for Christian Dior use their funds for big productions regardless of the season. But for smaller houses like Sally LaPointe and Samuji, seen above, they spend their funds on lookbooks instead. This is a plus, because it gives fashion editors and appreciators the opportunity to see designers communicate their aesthetic through more than the clothes themselves. Everything from the makeup to the styling, from the shooting location to the amount of light used in the photography, is an expression of the designers’ vision.

Sally LaPointe opted for late night office party vibes. Photographs featured flash, giving the model and background high sheen. Floors are white and furry. The result is off-kilter glam, much like the clothes themselves. MM6 looks like it was shot in an old fashioned elevator, which makes sense given the worker’s uniform look of the collection. I loved the soft, romantic look of the Samuji lookbook. The model’s styling is very gamine, but also seems inspired by vintage Hollywood. This was a thoughtful match for the classically cut, subtle femininity of the collection. Elizabeth and James went with a clean and classic, albeit expected background: hardwood floors and brick walls. It’s a bit boring, but exactly what you need to let such simple clothes shine.

All images via style.com

Pre-fall 2015

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Raf Simons for Christian Dior

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Oh pre-fall. That stylistically ambiguous season between Autumn Winter and Spring Summer. Is it late summer? Is it post-winter? Or is it all just a made-up season in between the massive production of AW and SS runway shows—much like Resort—designed to increase sales for brands while not adhering to any season at all?

Judging by the wide variety of looks seen above, I’m willing to bet on the latter. Pulled from a few of the better collections I came across, these looks run the gamut from luxe furs to barely-there crop tops. Raf Simons even presented his Dior runway show with fake snow. As ridiculous as the idea of snow before fall is, it’s important to judge pre-fall for what it is—seasonless collections that stay on the shelves longer than AW and SS collections, which means it’s even more important that these pieces make money.

As such, designers tend to experiment less with pre-fall and resort collections, which can be good or bad. For brands like 3.1 Philip Lim, Chloé, and Derek Lam, going back to classics worked in their favour, as all three collections were elegant and wearable without being bland. The Dior collection not as successful, in my opinion. Although there were some stunning textures (that patent blue coat tho) and the sequin layers were a bold touch, there wasn’t a whole lot from the collection that I actually wanted to wear. I wasn’t a fan of the exaggerated hips, which screamed “a man designed this”. Not many women want to wear a garment that accentuates their hips, even someone with a shapeless body like me. The runway show itself, which took place in Tokyo last week, was spectacular, as was the eye make-up, milkmaid braids, and soundtrack. Simons employed a lot of techniques that were historic to the House of Dior, but it felt like he spent more effort on the process and the presentation than on the designs themselves. I will say that the clothes look a million times better in motion though, so be sure to check out the complete runway show. Maybe I’m just complaining because I much preferred Raf Simons as a menswear designer and creative director at Jil Sander.

Stay tuned for coverage of more collections in the coming days.

All images via style.com

This Fall: Wear… anything!

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Above: No. 21 A/W 2014

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Above: Christopher Kane A/W 2014

It’s Fall! Everyone’s favourite cozy layering season and fashion media’s cue to dig deep, back into its collective memory to try and remember what went down the Autumn/Winter 2014 runways way back in early Spring. It used to make sense for the fashion-concerned to take care to follow trends, find It-pieces, and look forward to runway influences eventually trickling down to mass market retailers once the seasons had lapsed. I can remember a time not so long ago when fashion was slower and toed the line of designers’ visions and editors’ seasonal picks. Especially vivid is the stranglehold boho-chic’s particular vapidity  had on the fashion industry — I remember it so well because it coincided with the year I started my first real adult job. I saved a lot of disposable income steering clear of shop after shop filled with the same bland faux-hippie offerings. I remember wishing I had bought more basics during the seasons previous when mod reigned supreme at Club Monaco and on the sales racks at Holt Renfrew Last Call, worrying about the scarcity of miniskirts and turtlenecks in the brave new boho world.

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Above: Sharon Wauchob A/W 2014

Then the recession happened and the fashion industry catapulted into a fevered pitch of consumerism. Fast fashion picked up speed, online retailers started making their presence known, streetstyle photography and the proliferation of fashion blogs satiated the fashion-hungry masses, events called Fashion’s Night Out spread across big shopping cities around the globe, and all these moving parts contributed to the massive, churning contemporary fashion industry and what is too often coined its “democratization.”

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Above: Emilio de la Morena A/W 2014

Ceding power to mass retailers and hobbyist fashion enthusiasts did not bode well with industry insiders until they learnt to use amateurs to their advantage and made aspects of accessibility through social media and designer collaborations incredibly lucrative. At the height of recession panic, designers were interested in reforming the established fashion week schedule and the timing of retail clothing delivery to better coincide with consumers’ pace of consumption of not only goods, but also information about fashion.

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Above: Marchesa A/W 2014

Now half a decade since Donna Karan heralded the fashion industry’s own demise, you can really see the incredible changes that mass retailers have wrought on an unresponsive fashion establishment.  Just today, November 12, 2014, I received an email (that went straight to spam, mind you) from Style.com entitled “45 of Spring’s Best Accessories!” Ok, that exclamation was my own addition, but, seriously. 45 accessories for Spring [!]. Are there even enough days in Spring to wear all of the featured accessories? Do readers have enough untold millions to spend on them? Furthermore, unless the accessories you’re trying to hock via email in mid-autumn are keeping my cheeks from getting frostbitten, your content is utterly irrelevant and will be completely forgotten by Spring.

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Above: Tod’s A/W 2014

While the fashion industry continues its loopy scheduling, it risks being completely overshadowed by a maniacally efficient fast fashion industry that regurgitates runway looks and has garments in consumers’ hands before designers might even begin mass-producing pieces they’ve just shown. Zara stands out as the most monstrously zealous of all the fast fashion companies – it designs 40,000 new products annually and produces about 10,000 of those in a plethora of colours and sizes. While the fashion chain keeps prices relatively accessible, its constant pushing and pulling of products encourages impulse purchases and drives a kind of exclusivity — shoppers know items won’t be there long and opt to buy runway looks long before their mimicked original even gets to luxury department stores. The pace of fast fashion is what has perhaps most influenced fashion media and the inane “45 Best Summer Heels that go with the Season’s Hottest Hemline” listicles we read in the dead of winter.

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Above: Christian Dior A/W 2014

As a result of not only the current over-saturation of fashion marketing and commerce, but also the incredible lag in time between the presentation of designers’ lines and the seasons they’re meant to be worn in, the idea of any kind of definitive guide to fashion seasons has become obsolete. In my own attempt to look back at my meticulously plotted out Excel spreadsheets tracking trends from A/W 2014 fashion weeks, my efforts to put forth any kind of guide were quashed by fuzzy memories of lines I was surprised to revisit, it’d felt so long ago. Among my neatly kept list of favourites (all of which I’ve captured pictorially in this post) there is no real abiding trend or style. Bulky coats in every fabric under the rainbow is the closest I could come up with. How about “45 Bulky Coats in Every Fabric under the Rainbow for Fall” – damn, I could write content for Style.com!

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 Above: Anthony Vaccarello A/W 2014

Ultimately, in attempting to survey Fall trends we’ve ended up taking stock of the utter dysfunction embedded in an industry that attempts to court artists, but lets corporations get away with the merciless over-production of copied goods. And ultimately, I’ve surrendered: this Fall (and every season after), wear anything!

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Above: Honor A/W 2014

Credit: If you’re interested in the business side of fashion (as well as the history, culture, and theory that envelopes fashion), you would do well to subscribe to Jason Hirschhorn’s FashionREDEF daily newsletter. The impeccably curated links come to your inbox every morning and broach a range of subjects that inspired this post.

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Above: Zimmermann A/W 2014

Resort Trend Watch: Asymmetrical Hems

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(L-R: Ports 1961Balenciaga; Cedric Charlier; Rosetta Getty)

Remember scarf skirts and bandana tops? They might seem like distant early-2000 boho memories or the mainstay uniform of neo-hippies, but for Resort 2015, designers want you to get reacquainted with those golden era Olsen twin memories. Asymmetrical hemlines were all over the Resort presentations and done in an array of ways. Ruffly, sculptural, flowy, and sporty – no matter the look, the hemlines were overwhelmingly crooked.

Take it from us, the scarf skirt no longer conveys one’s enthusiasm for slacklining or juggling.  I’ve been wearing a white denim (duh) scarf-cut asymmetrical mini this summer in non-boho ways and it’s felt great.

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Abstract Parallel

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Full disclosure: his handwriting is carved into my arm forever. Much of the visual culture I consume gets me rolling back to his work. Cy Twombly came to me via my attempts to tag Toronto in my late teens and early twenties. Freely scrawled, abstract and discomforting to critics, his paintings overwhelm in the best way with massive canvas and repetition. Some sects of graffiti worship him; I’m of that camp.

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