Marc Jacobs’ Last Louis Vuitton Show Dominates the Catwalks

The Louis Vuitton S/S ’14 show in Paris this year was undoubtedly the most spectacular of the season. As the last show created for the fashion house by Marc Jacobs, the extravagant display included all the highlights of the designer’s previous catwalk shows: the horse carousel, the fountain and the escalators were all there to remind us of how fruitful this 16-year-long relationship was. However, this time everything was black. From the stage props to every piece of clothing (save for the occasional mid-wash boyfriend denim), no other colour was showcased. Models walked solemnly with highly ornate, 5-foot-tall feather headpieces that echoed Native American themes, a look that was mirrored in the movement of the fountain water. Each garment was rich in details, with micro nets, polka dots, feathers, sequins and diamantes juxtaposed to create layers.

The predominant decade evoked was the 1920s, with tunic dresses, crew neck and demure shapes, with a nod to the Victoriana trend in the white, severe hair and make up. The whole show lent flashbacks to a derelict-yet-opulent, coal-soaked Dickensian scenery, which was strangely but perfectly offset by eighties-inspired pieces such as short, boxy blazers, circus leotards, tough boots and biker jackets. It is sad to see such a talent go, but it is time to see Marc Jacobs focus on his own brilliant lines and make room for his replacement, former Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière. Those are some big shoes to fill.

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Machines and Lights: An Interview with Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Last Thursday I attended a fashion exhibition showcasing Sarmite Ostanevica’s A/W ’12 collection called Automatic. The show was held at Testbed 1, a big ex-factory building in Battersea. It was organised by the designer herself and supported by my friend Melanie at the World Photography Organisation. The exhibition was very unusual, with the whole collection displayed in amazing pictures on the walls all over the venue, and a few sample pieces hung on a rail under multicoloured neon lights. I had the luck to interview the designer about this exhibition, and this is what she revealed.

Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Neon lights

DfD: How did you come up with the idea to hold a fashion show in such a different, innovative and exciting way, rather than having a simple catwalk show?

SO: I quite often get contacted by photographers who want to shoot my previous collections, so I thought why not use my newest material to create an exhibition with it! And what’s the point in having all the work in a portfolio which you only show to certain contacts and not to the public? You know, around here tonight we have real public. So much work goes towards it and it’s worth sharing it.

Photographs by Carine Ottou

Photograph by Gina Amama

Photographs by Johan Paul Hion

DfD: Does this exhibition include just your Automatic collection?

SO: Yes, it does.

The Automatic collection

DfD: And are you enjoying it here today?

SO: Yes, I am, because I hadn’t seen any of the photographers’ work until today so it’s very exciting for me.

DfD: I know you’re from Latvia. Can you give me a bit more background about yourself? Where did you study and why did you decide to move to the UK?

SO: I moved to London because I wasn’t sure what to study, and once here it didn’t take me long to realise that I should study fashion. And that was an adventure for me, to see how I’d get to study and learn in a foreign country. I worked with a lot of people for free to learn the trade. I studied at Kensington and Chelsea College, and took some courses at St Martin’s College.

DfD: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SO: In terms of this particular collection, the inspiration was quite unusual. Automatic comes from motors and engines, but inspiration can come from anywhere. It is something that comes from your mind, something that you want to discover and at this point I decided I’d discover something about mechanics and machines! (laughs)

Sketches for the collection

DfD: Why not! All the luxe and metallics recall that theme.

SO: Yes, I tried to keep colours and tones quite neutral, look on the obviously metallic colours and tried to play around with the combinations. But I think cuts and shapes are the most important aspect of this collection.

A few samples

Organza top

Bronze silk top

DfD: How do shapes relate to the theme?

SO: As a designer it’s quite difficult to explain how I got to the final products. You see some images, like I have, and they will reflect in the designs. I studied and looked at motors for many days, and to begin with it was really complicated to see something out of it but then after a week or so you choose some shapes from it which you’d like to use in your designs.

Round-neck sleeveless black top

DfD: Do you retail anywhere?

SO: I do retail in Latvia at the moment. I’m sourcing for retailers in Europe but I understand especially now with this economic climate that it’s not going to happen overnight. But I’m open to suggestions.

Detail from a silk top

Detail from a wool and silk top

DfD: What other projects are you planning to work on soon?

SO: Oh I have so many! I’m going to keep it as a bit of a secret. The fact is that I am social, I have hundreds of ideas and contacts and it’s hard to choose the right one. But at least that means I never find myself in a situation where I’m stuck and I have nowhere to go. I have hundreds of options and connections.

DfD: Are you interested in other forms of art and design?

SO: I do paint a little bit. I love various art directions. This time I chose photography to express the collection.

DfD: So we just need to watch this space really, right? You might use painting to showcase the next collection!

SO: Nice one, we’ll see…

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A Quick Look into the Italian Fashion Scene

I’ve recently got back from Genoa, Italy, where I went to visit my family. That little trip inspired me in putting together a super brief list of my very favourite designers who are either up-and-coming or established but still fairly obscure to the British audience.

PENNYBLACK is produced and distributed by Manifatture del Nord, one of the companies which belong to the Max Mara Fashion Group. Born in 1978, PENNYBLACK is characterised by a sophisticated yet easy-to-wear style. They utilise high-quality materials and pay great attention to detail, and their international team of innovative designers constantly create fresh looks which quickly become modern classics.

PENNYBLACK

PENNYBLACK

Claudia Tacchella is a young designer who lives and works in Milan and currently collaborates with Flashstone, another name to make note of. Her latest standalone collection was called Chromophobia, and it featured monochrome contrasts, elegant cuts in faux leather, black sheer micronet and crisp white silk. Different textures and contrasting fabrics are juxtaposed to highlight curves and blazers feature strong, structured shoulders to balance hyper-feminine hips wrapped in tight skirts and leggings. Claudia explains that inspiration for this collection was drawn from the apartheid and the contrasting roles of the white and black races. The designer said the aim of this collection was to recall through the garments the feeling of the rigidity of the segregation and, at the same time, the freedom that ensued.

One of Claudia Tacchella's designs.

Giuro Che Domani Smetto (GCDS), literally ‘I swear I’ll give it up tomorrow’, was developed from an idea by Veronica Massa, Walter D’Aprile e Vincenzo Paccone. GCDS is a journey through one-night parties which are accompanied by a clothing line. Every party tells the story of each one of us, who after excess drinking and ‘good times out’ reflect on the possibility of quitting the party lifestyle. These parties take place in Naples one Saturday per month. Tailored videos are created for each party, which encourage the people attending to take part in the next event. The clothing line that accompanies the events is GCDS’s second means of communication. Through the T-shirts, which are becoming increasingly fashionable, they communicate the main message of each event. They are ironic and mock many of the classic situations that take place during nightlife and partying. Next to the simple black or white Tees features also a more complex, edgy line: Giuro Che Domani Smetto Wardrobe, which is like a little trunk filled with unisex clothing through which men and women alike can swap clothes.

GCDS

Max & Co. is by far and away my favourite, favourite Italian brand, and every time I go to Italy I spend a small fortune in their shop in central Genoa.  Max & Co. also belongs to the Max Mara Fashion Group and was born in 1986. The lines are clean and fuss-free but at the same time edgy and stylish. The designs are classic and modern at the same time and extremely easy to wear. These guys know how to do justice to the Italian sartorial tradition with a very high attention to detail and only the best materials. The quality is outstanding and the designs are always on trend.

Max & Co.

Max & Co.

These are my top four favourite Italian designers/labels. Which are yours? Do you have any new names to suggest?

Glossing Over Retail

Fashion magazines in the US have started selling the clothes they review. At the same time, just as you are now able to purchase the latest Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs pieces from the website of Vogue magazine, the opposite is also happening. Nowadays, every respectable online and brick-and-mortar fashion retailer worth a fashionista’s glance, has a magazine. From high-street to high-end fashion, ASOS, my-wardrobe.com, H&M, all have an online or printed magazine.

ASOS Magazine

As the US Vogue site mentions, “Vogue may receive a commission on some sales made through this service”, which clearly shows that magazines are getting into retail, and they mean business. Meanwhile, ASOS magazine showcases articles about the latest cool personalities and musicians while cleverly squeezing among those pages several features tailored on the season or current trends, listing their own products. This is the latest trend for catalogues that seem less invasive or pushy and, in turn, are more effective in selling the stock. If before you needed to walk into the shop to be sold a skirt that could be paired with the sales assistant’s suggestion of a certain top and shoes at, for example, your next Christmas party, now you need only to flick through the pages of ASOS’s glossy to see features about what to wear for such an occasion from head to toe, nails included.

Moda Operandi website, with links to trunk shows.

Magazines used to help designers sell, at times even guaranteeing coverage to those who buy advertising spaces in their pages, but now they are starting to represent competition to traditional retailers and high-end department stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. There are no more boundaries between these two industries. Vogue recently teamed up with the new online luxury catwalk looks retailer Moda Operandi to get closer to the consumers and Style.com has also started selling clothes.

Style.com website with a link on the top right to purchase a Rebecca Taylor top.

A technique widely used by both gloss magazines and online retailers is the Editor’s recommendation. Websites such as my-wardrobe.com and Net-a-Porter.com often feature Editor’s Pick pages, which lure the consumers into feeling “if a fashion Editor has picked this product, it must be good”.

Designers' picks and links to their collections on Net-a-porter.com.

Indeed, these two business trend changes are related by the fact that retailers started producing catalogues that look more like glossies than mere marketing products paired with the fact that magazines have been experiencing advertising losses for years now, due to the threat constituted by online competition and recession. The readers and consumers have changed their expectations too, in the last few years. It is so common these days to have links through to whatever object we covet and wish to purchase, that if a magazine or website shows us a great frock, and then does not let us buy it, we get frustrated and are, in turn, unhappy readers/customers.

However, Lauren Santo Domingo, a contributing editor at Vogue and Moda Operandi co-starter believes that her site, which provides an online version of a shop’s trunk show, has in fact a positive impact on designers’ sales figures, offering a real service by enabling them to understand, before the clothes are produced, which styles customers are interested in buying. Through the website, designers are also able to sell high-fashion, super-expensive and eccentric pieces which traditional stores would normally steer well away from. Although the site was only created about a year ago, Aslaug Magnusdottir, the other half of Moda Operandi, expected to gain 120,000 subscribers in the last quarter of 2011. More than 40% of their customers went back to the website to purchase more items after their first buy and the average transaction is about US$1,500 (ca. £950).

Aslaug Magnusdottir, left, and Lauren Santo Domingo at their The Madison Avenue office of Moda Operandi. Source: http://www.nytimes.com.

Ms Magnusdottir said that “the consumer becomes the buyer”. That sounds like a good way of putting it, however they are a buyer who is still heavily biased by trends dictated by glossies, be it a catalogue magazine or a traditional publishing one.