Monthly Archives: May 2016
Boring is not a word in the vocabulary of Vetements’ designers. The brand, now three seasons old, specialises in unremarkable clothes – the five-pocket jean, the hoodie, the bomber – but transformed into something new and unusual. “We give existing pieces new life,” says designer Demna Gvasalia, 34.
Vetements picked up nearly 30 stockists in its first season and in March celebrities including Jared Leto and Kanye West traipsed to a gay sex club in Paris for its autumn presentation. The clothes – a mix of industrial colours, exaggerated sportswear, grungy dresses and oversized macs – were pieces we wear all the time, but twisted to be just weird enough, and newly cool.
The label functions as a collective, a team of 13 including seven designers, many of whom, like Gvasalia, have worked at Maison Martin Margiela, which has a similar aesthetic. “Comme des Garçons, Margiela and Helmut Lang added minimalism and deconstruction to the fashion vocabulary,” he says. “We put those ideas on a modern frame.” While “there’s an aesthetic we like, we want to make something real people will wear”. Inspiration comes from “what young people are wearing on the streets of Paris. It’s about now and today.”
Next up is menswear: “We want to go beyond fashion boys and make clothes for normal dudes.” Sounds like an admirable – and totally unboring – ambition to us. Available at matchesfashion.com
Topshop Unique for autumn/winter 2015. Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images
At the Topshop Unique show in London, the biggest takeaway wasn’t the nice chunky knits or the potential return of the high-waisted leather trouser. It was the hair. Or, rather, the undone hair. In the place of last season’s knotty ponytail trickery (see Dior spring/summer 2015), this season’s shows gave us loads of straggly hair. The sort of unkempt look you get if you’re caught in the rain or have spent one day too many at a festival.
At Gucci, Topshop Unique, Burberry and Ralph Lauren, there were tangled locks. The natural afro appeared on the catwalk at Prada, Louis Vuitton and Céline, without a hint of extensions, relaxants or straighteners. And at Roland Mouret and Chloé there was the sort of long, uncoloured, untouched hair that reminded us of being 10 years old.
This is hardly the stuff of high fashion dreams, but the natural look grows on you. It takes confidence to just wash and go. Those scruffy curls, especially combined with fresh pink cheeks, just make us think of great drizzly walks in the countryside. And, without the need to buy hair products, you can spend the cash on clothes instead. Fashion does do us a favour sometimes.
This autumn, Shinola adds men’s bags to its delectable range of watches, bicycles and leather goods, all built in America. The range includes cycling bags, totes, briefcases and duffels which come not only in the expected black and tan, but also in bold orange and Aegean blue. Leather at its best. shinola.com
“We don’t necessarily want the clothes to scream ‘vintage’. For us it’s a building tool.” So say Alonzo Ester and Alex Carapetian, designers at emerging menswear label Longjourney. The pair set up in Los Angeles in 2012 and their signature style is creating modern clothes out of repurposed fabric and old garments – think bomber jackets, sweatshirts and duvet coats in tough, ragged patchwork. The materials are mainly locally sourced and the clothes are then completed by local craftsmen for a really unique finish. The duo are proud that no two pieces are ever the same. This season, inspiration came from the concept of “veiling” and “the wrapping of everyday objects – having the familiar morph into something surprising”. available at matchesfashion.com
Fashion loves to play with fetishwear, but the fact that polyvinyl chloride is back for autumn is still a guaranteed eyebrow raiser. See Christian Dior, where it was delicately latticed on trenchcoats worn with thigh-high rubber boots worthy of a high-class dominatrix. British designer Ashley Williams, who used the fabric on dresses and coats with faux fur, bubblegum-pink collars, is destined to get a lot of play on street style blogs where the magpie-like thrill of shine is always going to rule. Maison Margiela, meanwhile, looked more Matrix than dominatrix, with floor-length jet-black coats. Sex, or at least sex shop chic, is definitely back on the fashion designers’ menus for winter. PVC is shiny, sexy and – bonus! – wipe clean. Wear it to work if you dare.
The shortlist for outfit of summer 2016 runs something like this. Simone Biles in a leotard at the Rio Olympics, all stars and stripes and extra sparkle. Uma Thurman in a polo neck in the forthcoming Pirelli calendar. Taylor Swift on the beach with Tom Hiddleston, wearing lace-up brogues and a mustard-coloured sweater. Bella Hadid, naked but for two carefully positioned red roses, in the September issue of French Vogue.
Notice what is missing: the bikini. For half a century, the iconography of summer and the bikini have been almost interchangeable. A bikini, a tan, a beach: that was what summer should look like. But the bikini is in decline. Retailers report a rise in sales for one-piece swimsuits – 30% year on year at Selfridges, 65% at online retailer Figleaves – while Victoria’s Secret are closing their “Swim” line, which was weighted towards skimpy bikinis, and plan to use the space in store to expand the athleisure offering.
In the wake of the burkini controversy, it would be easy to pin the demise of the bikini as collateral damage in the culture war currently being fought on Europe’s beaches. That the burkini represents a level of threat such that it must be resisted with armed police reflects how the beliefs around women’s bodies for which this garment stands are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a clear and present danger. But while it is temptingly neat to plot the bikini’s fall as a status symbol against the rise of modesty wear as a political issue, the reality is not that simple.
The problem is not that the bikini is too sexy for 2016. The problem is that the bikini represents a wholesome, respectable, entirely non-controversial level of sex appeal which simply no longer exists. This is not just about politics. It is about how the internet’s easy access to never-ending nudity rendered the bikini anachronistic: in the era of NSFW images, the sedate two-piece is losing its allure. And it is also about the escalation of hostilities in the field of body image, and how the very phrase “bikini body” has become controversial, representing an ideal we love to hate. The bikini triumphed for the second half of the 20th century because it represented an ideal of sex, summer, freedom and youth which was saucy enough to be compelling, but not fundamentally controversial.
To feel good in a bikini was an aspirational idea but – until the age of the photoshopped selfie and the Insta-model, when the body ideal became impossible – not an unrealistic or alienating concept. For all its flimsiness, the bikini stood for a consensus that is now under attack – and not from one enemy, but from all sides. The whole point of the bikini was that it was both gently provocative and entirely respectable, a line which it is increasingly difficult to walk.
The rise of the burkini was foreshadowed by that of the kaftan. As the power-tanning of the 1980s and early 1990s hazed into the bohemian, health-conscious millennium and noughties, the kaftan was added to the packing pile. Awareness about the dangers of sun damage rose, the need to maximise the surface area of tanned skin fell away, and a whole new industry of “beach fashion” – cover-ups, tummy chains, gold tattoos – grew to fill a space once occupied by the need to get brown. Simultaneously, the rise of paparazzi click-bait created a new, confidence-battering image bank. If you weren’t haunted by the photos of actresses looking ridiculously gorgeous, you were haunted by the photos which proved even ridiculously gorgeous actresses sometimes look awful on the beach. Suddenly, women were wearing more clothes on the beach. The high-street kaftan unwittingly drove modesty creep on the beach long before the burkini, but thanks to its more easily mood-boardable aesthetic – 60s bohemian Marrakesh, rather than 21st-century Saudi – nobody noticed, or cared.
You might not pay £280 for pre-dirtied trainers, yet people are and Golden Goose the Italian brand behind these scuffed and muddied trainers is making a tidy living out of trainers that look like you’ve traipsed through an alternative, dirtier life that is probably more fun and car-less than the reality. Lifestyle appropriation, if you will.
Distressed fashion, a vulture on fashion’s horizon, is not a new practice but it is problematic. Not simply because it mimics a lifestyle, or because it rules out the important rite of passage that results in distressed clothes (getting friends to muddy boxfresh trainers, looking down at that familiar cigarette burn and remembering who burned you), but because they fetishise an alternative lifestyle, one that’s often at odds with the price point. These are expensive trainers that look like their wearer has never taken a cab, to be worn with pre-faded jeans, that suggest your job is less office-based than it probably is, your location less urban, and worse this is presumably the reasoning behind these aesthetic tics.
There are, of course, acceptable exceptions garment factories have been using sandblasters to selectively strip dye from denim to create a unique colour rather than a worn-down look (although sandblasting is a fairly dangerous technique). Equally, in cinema, most recently in Spotlight, costume designers create the pre-worn shirt look by placing a tennis ball in the wash which wears down the fibres.
But then there are the pieces that spin absurd yarns about their wearer: Japanese brand Zoo Jeans’ ripped denim suggests you once handled lions. The Adidas’ 7X750 trainers, made in collaboration with artist Ryan Gander, implies you believe in ‘handcrafted’ mud. Zoltar the Magnificent’s pre burned tees exposed you, an athlete, to actually be a 40-a-day man. In the late 90s, and just as the property boom kicked off, if you wore Helmut Lang’s paint-splattered jeans you led your friends to believe that you have had the money to buy a house and a pair of expensive jeans, but that didn’t quite leave enough capital to get it done up, too.
Alessandro Gallo and Francesca Rinaldo launched Golden Goose Deluxe Brand’s footwear in 2007 to go alongside their streetwear. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Off-White founder Virgil Abloh all wear them, which, says Abloh, “makes them unique”. The other issue is precisely how distressed your trainers should be (regardless of the brand, white trainers just look better when white), and these versions suggest a solid two months skateboarding is the optimum in distressed-ness. With distressed clothes you can be whatever you want to be without putting the hours in.
Sometimes if I’m having a bad day, I Google Image River Phoenix and study his hair. It’s like therapy and momentarily sends my brain somewhere better. This obsession is partly to do with the film My Own Private Idaho and its beautiful portrayal of youthful confusion and unrequited love. But it is also because Phoenix’s hair was at its absolute peak of amazing. Big and beautifully dishevelled, in many ways it was the embodiment of his character. Essentially, hair mis-en-scene.
Over the years, it is not just River’s up-top tangle that has reeled me in. Hair obsessing stretches from my own, which grows fast and outward, often resembling a giant mushroom. But also to (very) specific catwalks (the Raf Simons wet-look partings from spring/summer 2012 are an all-time high), via a roster of celebrities. This briefly manifested itself as a Tumblr starring the likes of actorsBen Whishaw, Jake Gyllenhaal and Andrew Garfield, the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Strokes singer Julian Casablancas. I even barraged my late boyfriend (himself a man of much hair prowess) to file relevant images in a specifically labelled HAIR folder on my computer desktop.
Outside work, he has a wife and two children, and I’m a single man. I might go out and have some drinks and dinner. But if it’s a barbecue at his house, we’ll hang out.
He hates the way I eat sometimes, but we were in Tokyo recently in a sushi restaurant. It was really quiet and he was taking a sip of wine. He’s not a big drinker and he was going like this [slurps and sighs]. You know when you’ve known someone for so long and it’s like a new thing? Him drinking wine… It was so weird.
I remember meeting him really clearly; he came to drop something off in my office. Max has a really good spirit and it was infectious. I remember saying to myself, “Ah, that kid’s got good energy… and what the hell is he wearing in the back of his pocket?” It was a tie.
When we first started, we did pretty much everything together – design, branding, we shipped our first two seasons by ourselves from a friend’s warehouse. Now as the business has got more complex, we’ve learned to divvy up our roles. Max oversees men’s, I oversee women’s, then we’ll collaborate on everything else, from marketing to sales strategy.
Most of our disagreements come because of the difference in age and lifestyle – I think that impacts us most in terms of where we are in our lives, what we want, and our responsibilities outside the business. Ultimately, because we’re seen as a unit, we affect each other’s outcome, so all those decisions you make together, it’s like being married. It gets heated but we both know that the intent is always coming from a good place. You never have to worry about a hidden agenda. Going into business with your friends is probably not the best idea. It weighs on a relationship for sure, but we figure it out. I smacked him once with spit in my hand – he didn’t enjoy that.
Max is good at making people feel included and welcome – something in my old age I probably could do more of. There’s a good yin and yang. Max is calm; I let my emotions get the best of me. I’m more proud than Max is. Sometimes we’ll make decisions based on whether we’ve been fairly treated by someone outside the company; Max will try to see it from their point of view or he’ll be a little hesitant to pull the plug just yet – he’d rather figure it out. I’m more impetuous.
I think Max is good at the finer details, like an idea for a pocket shape or a flange on an armhole, which is his favourite detail of all time. He can look at a little thing and make it feel like a big thing.