Friday, June 24, 2011

Umit Benan's 'Ocean's Eleven'...

It was only a matter of time before one of the established European houses snapped up Umit Benan, the cosmopolitan 30-year-old Milan-based designer with a gift for sartorial storytelling, a sophisticated color sense, and charm to spare. The only question was, would it be a good match? What drew him to his new gig at Trussardi, Benan said at a preview a few hours before his debut presentation, was the fact that the Italian company's golden age was the eighties, the era that he continues to mine so assiduously for his own line. Though he didn't say it, you also suspect that he likes the idea that the house codes aren't necessarily set in stone. He sees the essential characteristic of the label as a certain mood—what he called the "charisma" of longtime driving force Nicola Trussardi. That leaves Benan with a reasonably blank canvas on which to weave his particular brand of magic.

The conceit he hit on today was to restore a little of the fun and luxury to travel. As editors stood squeezed into the Trussardi store, a series of fancy cars pulled up outside on the Piazza della Scala, their arrival first spied on video screens inside the shop. Benan's protagonists—men he described as an Ocean's Eleven-type gang or soccer players returning victorious from the World Cup—jumped out. Each toting a different set of luggage, they took a lap through the store before depositing their bags with a "doorman" by the elevators. There was an unreconstructed eighties feel to the clothes they wore. Mark Vanderloo, emerging from a low-slung Mercedes of the kind Richard Gere drove in American Gigolo, had on a white boiler suit and mirrored shades. A bearded model wore a navy duster coat that Benan had taken directly from the archives, adding a contrasting collar in crocodile. Other models wore rakish safari jackets or double breasted jackets in the sort of rich shades that the designer favors for his own line, albeit in a rather more traditional cut. There were only around 20 looks, but part of Benan's strength is his refusal to be pushed too far too fast. It's the same confidence that allows him to resist over-modernizing that duster coat.

In many ways, it feels like the designer's work here has barely started (he will tackle the label's womenswear too in the Fall), but he has already begun to transform Trussardi from an item-driven label to one with a story to tell.

Trussardi Men's Spring 2012 Collection

Brothers of Arcadia-Myth and Reality

Gods do walk among us.  At the second showing of the Mugler men’s spring 2012 collection in the vast hall of the GalĂ©rie de Mineralogie, creative director Nicola Formichetti gave a straightforward explanation in his press notes, which were placed inside a 4×6 black and white catalog entitled Brothers of Arcadia.

“I was interested in the idea of fantasy, dreams, and voyeurism. I also like the idea of modern and ancient myths. So I suppose this project is a combination of the two things: there are surfers, footballers, porn stars and classical gods all rolled into one here.”

Mugler presentation Brothers of Arcadia, a mini-magazine of sorts, art directed and styled by Mugler creative director Nicola Formichetti and shot by Branislav Jankic, starring impossibly buff, often entirely nude men, chiseled as Greek gods and modeled after the same, frolicking in the surf, entwining themselves in rope, and flexing in every imaginable position. Prior to last night’s show, Mr. Formichetti released a short black and white film by photographer Branislav Jankic with exclusive music by the band Jessica 6, featuring the models Travis Cannata, Matthieu Charneau, and Justin Barnhill. It depicts muscular men frolicking in black underwear on a beach, wrestling each other or shaving one another, as well as a staged Cleopatra scene on a bed with Jessica 6 singer Nomi Ruiz. An uncensored version debuted on user generated porn site XTube yesterday. It pays tribute to fashion’s endless robbery of gay porn and its ideals of masculinity since the 1970s.

After the show, Formichetti described the full mix of inspirations that fed this collection: the fabulists of Italian cinema, Fellini and Pasolini; Japanese comics; the heroic, masculine aesthetic of Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber; sports; Greek mythology. Formichetti says, "This season, I put more of myself into it" that's a lot of oneself to cram into any collection. Accordingly, Greek gods, muscle-bound frat boys, tattooed punks, and sylph-ish male models all took their turn down the catwalk, often spattered in glitter. The first boy out sported a pair of giant bronze Iron Man arms.

Despite all the trappings, though, the collection largely boils down to salable items: stonewashed skinny jeans, pleated shorts, T-shirts, swimwear. Formichetti spoke of doing something "a little more real," but the danger is, without the theatrics, they may also look a little more ho-hum. The strongest bits here coupled wearability with oddity, like the bifurcated tailored jackets that opened the show. Sliced open at the waist, their top and bottom halves held together by a strip of transparent latex shot through with a rip-cord drawstring, they married old and new. So did the green glow that surrounded the show—from the lighting to the collection's palette—an acidic, minty shade. "That green represented the blood of the digital era," Formichetti said. "If this technology has a kind of color, for me it was a neon green." Arcadia, electrified.

Provocations aside, whether on film or on runway, the show was grounded in reality–see the commercial viability of the new swim line. After all, in today’s fashion, it really does take an Olympian god to sell a pair of stretch lycra bikini briefs.

Mugler Men's Spring 2012 Collection

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bigger and Bolder-The Better!

Forget about asking 'Does my butt look big in this?' This summer's big question is 'Does this dress/skirt/tunic/balloon-parka look big on me?' And of course it will, silly. It's meant to.

Dresses as big as barrage balloons, skirts which undulate like breaking rollers on a surf beach, maxis billowing like wind-socks at North Ave Beach, cocoon parkas cagouls and anoraks with the dimensions of a small tent. Everything is over-sized.

As if that were not traffic-stopping enough, then add swathes of big, bright, bold color. No question of blink-and-you'll miss it; eyes wide open and you'll be blinded by the sheer, eye-socking, sizzling shade of it.  Blame it on Raf Simons, the Belgian avant-garde designer and creative director at Jil Sander, who ignored his normal urban minimalist muse and cut loose with maximum impact clothes for a bold extrovert in shocking pink, neon-orange, jade and cobalt techno-silk and gabardine, counter-balanced with the plainest of white cotton Tees.

Simons was not the only one. Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Albert Kriemler at the Swiss brand, Akris, also pumped-up the volume with the mother of all maxi-skirts in lipstick-red or electric blue, while Miuccia Prada's primary colors, marquee-stripes and prints of monkeys and bananas, all piled together in a hectic melange of big, square-cut, swing-back jackets and rumba-flounce skirts, were the ultimate in big, bold and beautiful.

Prabal Gurung, a favourite of Carey Mulligan, Blake Lively, and Michelle Obama, was just as daring with his clashes of red and pink or turquoise and yellow, and Marc Jacobs, in a voluminous homage to Yves Saint Laurent's 1979 peasant-chic collection, paired off-the-shoulder blouses in purple or pink with big, dirndal skirts in raspberry or tobacco.

So if there's one trend you embrace this summer, make it color done bigger and bolder; it's bound to cheer up the dullest of days... Especially if this Summer weather doesn't arrive soon!