Saturday, 31 January 2009

Roving Reporter: Chanel

Chanel, one of the most anticipated of the couture shows, could easily be described this time as 'a bit of all WHITE'. This snowy collection brought together classic Chanel looks, with fine detailing and attention to craftsmanship.

The traditional Chanel suit was brought up to date with military precision. Epaulet detailing adorned the squared-shoulder Chanel tweed jackets, while little cap sleeves were complimented by soldier-like, stand-up collars. Piping details were used to create more uniform references, giving a refreshing and modern twist to the traditional fashion house.

The box-like shoulders were complimented beautifully with more feminine dress and skirt lines that scooted out into delicate A-lines and swished as the models sashayed down the runway.
This collection had all the hallmarks of Chanel, but to me felt much more up-to-date and modern. It was almost as if Chanel were reaching out to a new generation. The futuristic feel to the cutting was reminiscent of Balenciaga's current, edgier cuts.

Black was fazed into the collection to create detailing and focus. Buttons were big, black and shiny, while white full skirts were cinched with wide, sequined black waistbands to create a 50s-style hour glass. Chic jackets and skirts had a real Parisian feel, and for the first time in my life, I really desired to buy into the brand.

As the collection continued, a more oriental vibe was drafted in, with kimono-style collars that continued into simple (but again well tailored) shifts, this time in creamy lace. As if that wasn't delicate enough, sheer white ruffles and flower appliques also decorated a multitude of occasion wear.

Necklines were a real lynch pin to the collection, and as collars changed from deep V's to wide boats and kimono style, so did their detailing. One of my favourites was a wide, stand-up boat-neck collar, entirely appliqued in silk white roses. Such beauty and sophistication, yet with a wonderful simplicity.

Skinny, ankle-skimming white trousers (not a style for everyone) were worn under dress coats, lace-sequin tunics and even skirts to create a layered and grown-up look. Gone are the days of flesh flashing - now let us leave something to the imagination! This was truly laid-back-on-the-Riviera.

Sequins continued to detail the collection, both used to accentuate key areas as well as disperse decoration. We all know the ateliers in Paris are incredible, but the fabrics Chanel sent down the runway were so entrancingly beautiful, I wondered what could come next?!

By look 47, you may forgive me for wondering what else could still happen. But to my pleasant surprise, the old faithful bow popped up. This time black and sequined, the bow belts were used as front detailing to cinch in 'the new skirt shape', which although A-line in shape and stiffly formed in silk satin, has a bizarre front tuck. Neither sophisticated nor flattering, but definitely interesting.

You may remember that bows appeared at Stephane Rolland, and so appearing at Chanel too was a nice coincidence. However, when Chanel sent down a mosaic and sequin-clad dress, I was a bit suspicious. Are there secret couture-trend meetings?! Note that fingerless gloves were also the choice of styling here . . . hmmmm.

Black now became the main colour, and full-on sequin dresses were as glamorous as anything!
I also loved the skinny, ankle-skimming black trouser worn under a futuristic-looking, sequined-black tunic dress.
By the time the look number reached 53, I was beginning to lose count of where I was. So many dresses, and I now feel like I am waffling!

Monochrome prints (white-silk base, black petals) were formed into some beautiful and sculptured dresses, full of drapes and pin tucks and deliciously delicate ruffles. The floor-length versions were by far my favourite. But this is currently rivalling a place in my heart with polka-dot, 40s style dresses (where the over-sized, tear-shaped polkas were created through strategically placed sequins - Lagerfeld is a G-d!).

Finally, the last selection of dresses were of course couture's famous wedding-inspired gowns. The very last was short at the front (with skinny trousers) and had a train so long that a male model was on hand to follow the model down the catwalk.

And with that, Karl Largerfeld did his lap of honour to the ecstatic fashion press.

Favourite look: The teardrop, polka-style, floor-length dress. Simply cut, extremely elegant and quite ingenious.
The detailing /trend: Floral! Intricate flower sculptures and appliques. Sequins, their timeless glamour, with an extra little bit of magic.
Styling: Headgear, again floral hair tributes, flower sculptures and bonnets, oversized,
Very SATC. Little fingerless gloves a la Stephane Rolland.

Saint Hill Von Basedow

For my second show, I went to an off-schedule couture production by Saint Hill & Von Basedow. It was all about asymmetric shapes. Huge folds, drapes and tucks created meringue-like peaks in the skirts. Bodices were shown in a variety of colours: hot pink accented with jewelledyellow, and pale mint green complimented by powder blue.

Unusually, the duo opted for an update of the duchess look with short, thigh-skimming versions. So the volume was intense and striking. Evidently strong pattern-cutters, most of the garments looked like they had developed on the stand, as the shapes were vast, yet well thought-out and executed. Bodice styles varied from strapless to the current, trendy, one-shoulder silhouette. The collection definitely had a period feel, as the dresses were complimented by tailored Capri pants and cropped sleeve jackets reminiscent of the 18th century.
With each music change, the collection developed and reformed, and although silhouettes were uniform throughout, each piece was unique. Block colours developed into print, with the colours being combined to create a floral print that referenced stately home decor in its style.
The final stage of the show concentrated on glitz and glam, with dresses decorated with intricate beading detail. This was worked into pleats, folds and carefully moulded bodices.

Like all good couture shows, the final piece was the wedding dress, which was met with great applause. And with that I fled Paris to return to gloomy, but creative, London. Au revoir!

Lesage and Massaro: Friends of Pilati and Lagerfeld

Confession: I almost missed the Francois Lesage and Raymond Massaro show at haute couture week because the concierge at my hotel gave some wonky directions. Thanks to an extra speedy cab driver and the good will of the fashion gods, the crisis was averted.

It's a good thing it all worked out because Lesage and Massaro know how to pull off a theme. With their show in an old, red-carpeted cinema, the two showed off everything from a mesh-chested wedding dress (not for the modest) to a seriously 18th-century whaleboned corset that would have looked perfect on Keira Knightley in The Duchess. The vibe was 1920s film noir, and though most of their line of corsets veered to the bizarre, they worked it.

Lesage and Massaro. Photo Credit: Jill Hilbrenner. All Rights Reserved.
Most of their show was a video presentation that featured a heavily eyelinered, bob-haired model on different imaginary streets in Paris. I'm assuming this was somehow funny, judging from the audience's laughter, but then again I don't speak enough French to get irony.

Lesage owns a 125-year-old embroidery company that provides textiles for the likes of YSL, and Massaro's shoemakers are a favourite for Unkle Karl (Lagerfeld)'s haute couture shows. Clearly these gents know the technical side of the biz, and it was all about details here. Their looks were more Dali/Schiaparelli out-there than many people would wear, but that's why it's so easy to respect what they do - each corset is a handcrafted piece of Surrealist art.

Lesage and Massaro. Photo Credit: Jill Hilbrenner. All Rights Reserved.
A few of my favourite parts of the show? Seeing the bajillion-pound, art-deco Cartier diamond necklace the designers managed to get, and realising in person what a freaking giant Ivana Trump is. Shall Rivkie and I plan on seeing you at ready-to-wear week, Ivana sweetie?

Friday, 30 January 2009

Roving Reporter: Find a Routine

I agree with Rivkie that the basis of London style is the freedom to wear whatever the heck you want, with some sense of direction, and to rock it like it's the latest thing Lagerfeld dreamed about. That was one of my favourite things about this city when I moved here from a place where a North Face and Uggs was a "cute look".

But no matter how much I love the fact that I can alternate between dressing like Kate Moss in the Doherty years, a depressed grandma as styled by Lily Allen, and sweet lil' Audrey Hepburn, there's something to be said for a routine. And where would one go to find the ultimate in style routines? That would be Paris, mon frere.

At haute couture week, I was particularly impressed by the Lefranc-Ferrant show. Maybe not as A-list name recognition as Gaultier, but this husband-wife duo has worked with the giants: ChloƩ (under Karl), Guy Laroche, YSL, Lanvin, Catherine Malandrino and Balenciaga.

Paris Haute Couture. Photo Credit: Jill Hilbrenner. All Rights Reserved.
Some of the most beautiful pieces on offer were black-patent corsets - fembot, super-sexy and dominatrix, yet clinging onto subtlety just enough to wear on an evening out when you seriously wanted to feel important. That corset would feel as costume-y as some of the pieces any of us wear on the streets every day, but the sense of control symbolised by putting this over a simple evening gown and keeping everything else plain is London Look x 1 kazillion.

Heading to Paris has inspired me to be a little less scatterbrained in the way I dress, so from now on I'll go for chic a bit more. (You KNOW that won't happen on Mondays.) The refined Parisians going to and from the shows - and even the ones floating around the city without the perks of car service and makeup artists - didn't have to be weird or different or over-the-top, but I can guarantee you they looked just as good for what they didn't add to their outfits as what they did.

Paris Haute Couture. Photo Credit: Jill Hilbrenner. All Rights Reserved.
I wouldn't suggest that London ditch it's quirkiness, or we would never end up with a Christopher Kane or a Louise Goldin or a Gareth Pugh (whom the Parisians would eventually steal, those thieves). But every now and then, it's OK to show some polish.

Stephane Rolland

The first six dresses entered the catwalk to a timed 'numero une'...

The crowd were ecstatic, and the electric atmosphere in Paris is miles better and more exciting than the feeling in London. You get the impression that the fashionistas really LOVE and APPRECIATE fashion.

The first selection of black dresses played on the theme of origami, with a mixture of pleats and folds, with some excellently cut shifts. Styling took the form of clean makeup and scraped-back hair with rock-chick PVC fingerless gloves. HOT!

This dress was stunning! You should've heard the cheers from the crowd. (I loved the Parisian mid-show cheers!) White bow, PVC belts, full elegant skirts, mosaic embroidery details. This piece was show-stopping!
Take note of the lady in giant sunglasses and fur! So Dynasty! Love it!

Sparkly! Love the bow belts. This could be a great trend!

Look at all the photographers and the concentration on the fashionistas' faces! This red, full dress was so beautiful and draped to perfection! Again, another bow! In love!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Fashion Bitch: Know Your F&@%ing Pant Size

Boys and girls, I was born in America and generally claim or deny my heritage in accordance with the political climate and how much or little Paris Hilton is making a fool of herself in the international news. But now I must break the silence on something that's been bothering me a long time.

What follows is an open letter to American males between the ages of 18 and 65. British men, ignore or take notes as you see fit. Some of this might apply, but do not be offended if some pop culture references escape you.

Dear Boys,

What's up, bros? How's it goin? I've got a little bone to pick with you and I thought maybe we could figure this out.

Bad Jeans. C.C. License. Photo Credit: Annie Mole.Let's just come out with it: What in the blue heck is wrong with your pants? (British men: I am using the American definition of pants and do not concern myself with your undergarments.)

My problem is not with the cost of your denim trousers, so please don't try to name drop your way out of this. That means you too, frat guys. I know I speak for more than just myself when I beg you to put half as much effort into picking your jeans as you do planning the lineup for your fantasy football team.

To solve your problems, I have kindly divided your sartorial problem into three areas: waist, leg room and length.

Let's start with that waist, yes? I once went out with a guy who probably could have fit in my jeans, yet he would buy pants that could fit Kris Kringle in his slightly skinnier off-season and wear one of several hideous belts to cinch the miles of extra fabric.

Please remember that this is not OK. If you're wearing a belt, stand up and remove it. There you go. Now start playing some smooth jazz. Just kidding. If your pants fell down after the belt came off, or if you can now reach one or both of your arms inside the waistband, you're thinner than you thought. Your nearest fashion retail associate can assist you with finding a smaller size.

Problem two is leg room. Your jeans should not be so tight that someone confuses you with Pete Wentz on a bad day, but they should maintain some contact with your bod. This will mean they take longer to get off, but more girls will check you out while they are on. On a related note, the carpenter jean is never OK.

Finally, jeans come in different lengths. This matters. No one wants to know how ample your leg hair is when you sit down, nor do they want to trip on one of your ratty threads when your jeans are too long. Dogs poo on the sidewalk, and drunks throw up there. Do you want to decorate your clothes with that?

What has made me think of this age-old problem, dear men, is a fine member of your species called L'Homme. This would be the French man, and if you keep acting the way you do, natural selection will take over and you will become extinct.

The French men I spotted on my way to and from the couture shows in Paris did not have these problems. Even the trinket salesman who proposed to me near the Eiffel Tower had better dress sense than a good deal of you. I think you see where I am going with this.

Please address these problems at your earliest convenience. I should hope that the next time I fly to North America I will be able to tell if you have been hitting the gym or not.

Yours truly,

Seen and Overheard: Skipping School

Naughty, naughty. Two side-by-side front-row seats sat conspicuously empty at the Lefranc-Ferrant haute couture show this Tuesday in Paris. What did the reservation cards say? Hilary Alexander from the Telegraph and Suzy Menkes from the International Herald Tribune.

Was it the lack of two guests of honour that held the show up 45 minutes?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Roving Reporter: Couture week, a Parisian diary...

Paris is often described as the centre of chic, the home of fashion and the place to be: the only country to hold a week dedicated to couture, the true art of fashion.

This is by no means my first time in Paris. It is, after all, my spiritual home, yet I still get lost in the magic that Paris conjures up.

Firstly, let me start with the look and the ambiance. The look in London can often be described as ‘eclectic’, ‘unique’, ‘creative’ or for those outside of fashion ‘weird’. The London look is one of spontaneity and, in many ways, showing off. Colours are bright, looks are loud, and everything screams ‘fashion’.

Paris, on the other hand, is pure class, down to the last lick of mascara. The age range is different, too. Though you have various generations at LFW, the overall vibe is very young, and uber-trendy.

Paris, however, is very mature, sophisticated and took my idea of Parisian chic to a whole new level. As one companion at the shows told me, 'In Paris, they take fashion VERY seriously'.

The scene was like something out of Dynasty: tightly coiffed hair, heavy makeup, and dare I say it, a slight overload of Botox describes the true Parisian fashion crowd.

Outfits were nothing short of exquisite, but with a much greater feeling that these woman always look like that, unlike their London counterparts (for whom LFW means abandoning the Ugg boots and jeans combo).

Smart trouser suits (evidently designer, by their beautiful attention to detail), well cut dresses and simple yet elegant prints were the rule of the day.

Also, shockingly in abundance was fur. There were very few front-rowers not wearing skin, and whether you are for or against, there is no denying how simply incredible they looked.

On the men's side, lets just say I wouldn’t mind a Parisian man as a souvenir. If only boys in London dressed like that! Suits were incredibly sharp. Coats were very dressy and, again, of excellent quality.

With just a pond in between us, how have we managed to dress worlds apart?

Paris is a lot stricter than London, but the fashion crowd here also have a lot more cheek. I enjoyed taking a step back and observing the air kissing and challenging of the poor security, who often raised his eyebrows at the fashion crowd's own self-importance. But it is these Ugly Betty moments that make me love fashion more.

I don’t affiliate with that crowd, but boy to I love to observe them!

Though the shows certainly do run more on time than London, there is a much more organised, yet laissez-faire approach. There is no pushing or shoving. The Parisians are far to classy for that...after all, they might just scuff their Chanel.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

PARIS! : Roving Reporter

Well folks, they let me out the country (and into France - no border guards you see!) and I now type to you from my quaint (slightly un-glamorous) Parisian lodgings.

Tomorrow, yours truly will be entering the world of high fashion and Parisian couture, possibly the most exciting thing since actually being able to navigate Paris on non-existant French. I swear I was better at school!

Entering the world of couture, one is floored by the true fashionista's question: what to wear?!

Seeing as this is just a tiptoe into the way the other half live, and my journey truly was fleeting, I decided to go very un-fashion and pack light (though I still had enough stuff for a small army). I've been reading up on fashion cities, and Paris is apparently where evening and day wear are at one (my kind of city), but I'm afraid I was in no mood (well, if truth be told I went for a new net book over a dress - I hear your gasps) to get all dressed up, and when for what I call simple, chic and instantly fashionable, ALL BLACK!

That's right boys and girls, I've noticed in recent years that unless you are uber-famous, at fashion week the important people wear black, and so I have adopted these camouflage tactics in the vain hope that I can convince people I am really and truly part of the 'fashion pack'.
Unfortunately I failed on the shoe front. Not yet of Elle-editor status, I have to Metro it to my shows, so it's flats all the way! I will be rocking my black dress (Burberry rip-off) with gothic-like studs, black long-sleeve top (it is winter, after all), black tights, a vintage gold leaf cuff (to add a bit of glam) and finally black knee-high patent flat boots.

Outerwear-wise, I've ditched the oh-so-London, jewel-bright trench and traded in for a Parisian-chic wool cape. The look would not be complete without suitable makeup, and I have subsequently plumped for (if I can really pluck up the courage) red rouged lips. Watch Out Paris, FASH PACK is about!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Seen and Overheard: Big Hair and Pop Stars

What did Daily Telegraph Fashion Director Hilary Alexander think of the LCF master’s runway show?
“I loved all the big hair and makeup,” she told her extra-fashiony group. (Well, Hillary, we agree! And let’s hope we see models like Irina Kulikova sporting the same look next Fashion Week.)

Who does sequiny superstar Manjit Deu want to see wearing his dresses?
“Oh, so many people – Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga…” (We say: Just Dance, Manjit.)

Which looks at the MA show captured Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts’ attention?
“I loved the dresses with all the big knits,” she told the Pack. (But Nicola, we love your nude-and-neon Richard Nicoll mini-dress!)

Runway Roundup: And the winner is... MANJIT DEU (WE LOVE YOU!)

It should be noted that Fash Pack were officially invited to this show by Manjit himself, and let me tell you, I'm so honoured!

I was told about 6 weeks ago that this boy on the LCF graduate course was outstanding and had created a final piece to end all final pieces. But I have to tell you, I didn't expect what I saw...

Manjit, 24 years old, hails from West London and completed his BA (Hons) at Winchester. Manjit said that a year and half ago, he never dreamed this moment would ever come and when I spoke to him (post-announcement that he did indeed -as we all knew the second we saw it - have the collection of the year), he was visibly shocked (and crying a little bit).

Inspired by Miami South Beach, Art Deco and a love of sequins (and I quote: 'Sequins have always been within me'), the collection was truly more outstanding than I will be able to describe to you. Oversized sequins adorned mini dresses that were excellently executed. Draped over and protruding like feathers, rectangular sequins created stronger squared shoulders and hips on garments that were cut close to the body.
There were pink, ice-blue and white versions on various scales.
There was also a fabulously draped 50s-style full skirt that was adorned in huge sequins. It was truly a red carpet fest of looks. Manjit's personal favourite piece was the short pink dress, again covered in large sequins that swished as the model walked. I, however, was torn between the final piece and a perfectly tailored powder pink trench coat that fit the model perfectly. It had an oversized and manipulated draped cape that was totally plastered in pink sequins and was truly fantastic!
I want one!!

The collection had its sequins hand sewn in Bombay by embroiderers who regularly work with McQueen, Dior and Gucci, perhaps already signifying that Manjit was destined for stardom.
The piece that sealed the deal for Manjit must have been the final piece, which had a Tilda-Swinton-meets-Dior feel to it, such was its presence. The audience gasped as this final piece made itself
known. A floor length white dress, with structured box shoulders and body that was draped,
manipulated and tucked in all the right places, making a perfect Oscar style dress.
Covered in sequins, the bodice part of the dress was like liquid gold. As the sequins dispersed over the skirt it was like watching a red-carpet event, only more beautiful, creative and exciting.
When there was confusion over the winner's name (a typo or bad handwriting) you could hear the rumbles of 'it has to be Manjit' with Fash Pack sure it was, but still crossing all our fingers and toes, we were relieved that justice was done, and the fashion crown went to the most deserving and worthy head.Manjit, we predict great things. Don't let us down (and keep sparkly)!P.s. I assume my new trench is in the post?!