Shut Up and Take my Money Phil

Fashion is a unique creative art in that it has a second life as a practicality. One doesn't need to own art or books or movies to function in society, but as soon as you step outside without your clothes on you're going to get in trouble. But because clothes have two lives, as something functional and also as art or design, it can become confusing as to how they should be considered, critiqued, and to which social discussions they belong: commerce? Design? Art? The result is fashion journalism that, while rarely explicitly stating from which angle they are approaching fashion, takes a side nonetheless. Tim Blanks is my favourite writer in the fashion as design/art camp, his pieces are a joy to read in themselves and are incredibly insightful. If you want to "understand" a collection you better hope Blanks has been assigned to review it. On the other end of the spectrum are writers who list elements of the collections, usually accessories, like an inventory, and state things like "outerwear and dresses were the focus point of this collection". Major yawn inducing material.

However if I was one of those commercially minded critics, 3.1 Phillip Lim would have most definitely satisfied me. And by "commercially minded critic" I mean that outwardly I was saying things like "Lim has cleverly created a collection full of seemingly endless separates that will sit super comfortably on shop hangers and will disappear in a heartbeat", but inside I was just squealing and figuring out how many months it will be until I can price compare it all on Polyvore. I don't get this with The Row or even Proenza Schouler, which is partly because of the price point but mainly because there is something, something that I can't quite put my finger on, that is so buyable about Phillip Lim's collection. I can already see these coats and jumpers and dresses sitting on hangers and shelves so clearly. Here are some of the best looks of the collection, peruse the catalog and start your saving.


Octo Style/NY-JPN

This is a post about the highlights of New York's Winter 2013 fashion week, but I'm going to backtrack a bit to Pre-Fall 2013 to set the scene. Lately at The Row, Mary-Kate and Ashley have been veering occasionally from neu-conservatism elegance into regular old octogenarian elegance. Some of these looks remind me of the final page of all those Vogue "style at any age" features. And there is nothing wrong with advanced style, but rather than the theme of radical restraint of previous The Row collections, on twenty-somethings these clothes seem stale and conservative.

So with Pre-Fall 2013 as a precursor, it was with extra interest and slight apprehension that I took in F/W 2013. In some ways the octo-style theme was continued, with subtly textured creamy gold adorning practical pants and opera-ready shawls. Literally both my grandmas had pants like that.

But in many more ways my fears that The Row had crossed the line for good, from radically conservative to conservative-conservative, were assuaged. They've taken their usual Japanese motifs to new and glorious heights, their all-navy looks wrapped by pseudo-obis, coats nipped and flaring to perfectly shape the body, or tied at the sides, and everything always in a glorious symphony of textures. Of course every designer and his dog has been feeling Japanese lately, but when it comes to the cut and unusual shapes and silhouettes, Mary-Kate and Ashley are more meticulous, more focused, and simply better.

MK and Ashley explained the collection as a mix of Victorian and Japanese dress codes, and while the Victorian element can certainly be found in the modesty of these looks, the combination was even clearer in their set design. The location was an Upper East Side townhouse, and it was decorated in a hushed-elegance sort of way with carefully mismatched antiques and Japanese floral arrangements.

And if grand themes were to be found at New York Fashion Week, an understated and very serious interpretation of elements of Japanese dress was one of them. Proenza Schouler also riffed on the obi, and the folding and wrapping of Japanese dress. The looks which utilized these elements were some of the best, and emphasized the controlled movement of the clothes, a theme that ran through the whole collection. Even the gentle curves of jacket and skirt edges were completely controlled, and moved in a kind of erratic way rather than fluidly.

Many reviews noted that this comparatively sober show was very "grown up" for Proenza Schouler, but I thought the surprised tone was unfounded. Sure Proenza Schouler is synonymous with the young, thin It Girls, but they have always shown collections with undercurrents of the prim and proper, from Spring '09 to Spring '12. Maybe I just hate this particular cliche, but if anyone else claims that Jack and Lazaro have "grown up" I'm gonna get real mad.

The Row images from vogue.com
Interior image from Habitually Chic
Proenza Schouler images from vogue.com and models.com


Honorary Big Sister

As a girl, it's a real relief having Sofia Coppola around. It's gender-affirming to watch one of her movies, they're absolutely, positively feminine and about women, which is actually pretty rare. And I know that Somewhere's protagonist is a dude, but his daughter is also there, and she's like the driving life-force of the movie which really counts for more. Anyway, having movies about girls are so rare that they get classified as girly movies, rather than just, you know, movies. How come The Shawshank Redemption doesn't get called a dudey movie huh? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? No-one's ever like "son you should really watch it because it's about men and I think you'd relate". People are going to recommend it to anyone, because it's a movie and it's good. Same should go for Sofia Coppola! Boy now I'm getting myself mad, and slightly off-topic, I should get back to my point. My point which is that Sofia Coppola is great, the movies are great, and should really just be considered as such, but since us girls have such slim pickings we are going to hold them close to our hearts, write about them in our journals, put them on our mood boards, and watch them with our little sisters.

Aiding Sofia's place as the figurehead of all that has ovaries is that fact that she embodies that particular kind of big sister cool. I'm sure many girls feel she'd be an ideal big sister, aiding you in the ways of the world, but remaining so super hip that she will always be way out of your league. In this way she makes an ideal aspirational figure. Such is Sofia's legacy and reach that even Vogue recently acknowledged this. Janelle Brown wrote a 'Nostalgia' piece in the December 2012 issue about buying and falling in love with her first home, and it was framed by the story of her young self reading a spread about Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze's "chic modernist abode", to which she aspired. What I love about this is that I was able to seek and find the very spread she fantasized over back in 2000, and let me tell you, it will make your girly heart swell for Sofia even more.

Man since Sofia and Spike divorced this doesn't exist anymore, it's just gonna have to sadly exist in my imagination. Or maybe it's still there, intact, stuck in the limbo that is the divorce settlement. Maybe that ping pong table sits there today, weathered from the rain and the wind and receiving no warmth from the cold light of the winter Californian sun. Also of note is the amazing font used for the featured quotes. Eight years ago I wondered what visuals would define the early 2000s. Without a doubt we've got a member here.

If you want a nice large image so you can read the article, just ask and I'll e-mail it to you!


Oh So Right Altuzarra

At first when I saw Altuzarra I was like, this all looks too uncomfortable and stiff! And then with this photo I got it. It's sexy and uncomfortable and stiff! So stiff in fact that the dresses give empty air an hourglass figure. What felt off in the first viewing has morphed into something that feels so right, and that includes the pink eye/dripping blood makeup, and the clashing fuzzy fur and shiny leather. After all, perfection and easy beauty is too accessible to be truly satisfying. Prada understands that, and Altuzarra seems to too.

first image from The Cut
runway images from vogue.com