“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.”—Eve Ensler (via delicatesoundofthunder)
Putting to bed the notion that Melbournians only wear black, strong, vivid neons were a running theme across the concrete expanse of Melbourne’s Docklands.
Model Alice Burdeu wore it best, pairing her flaming red hair with an equally incandescent coral skirt and tan-and-pink leopard print shirt, both from Melbourne label Kinki Gerlinki.
For the men, stylist Tine Vu looked dapper with his bubblegum-pink hankie, casually tucked into the breast pocket of his metallic suit jacket.
And while model Claire Quirk and blogger Anne Anchor represented a return to true Melbourne style in outfits that channelled edgy noir and indie cool respectively, blogger Lisa Teh showed up in a fabulous fringed cape, a headband of army figurines and a skirt composed of feathers channelling the colour scheme of the Care Bears, putting the fun back into fashion. It was a festival, after all.
So… I’m not really a big Hollywood fan. Red carpet glamour is all very nice, but seriously, who the hell are these people? And why should I care about what they’re wearing, when it’s not particularly stylish or interesting anyway? (The answer to that, of course, is because Tom & Lorenzo care. Duh.)
That said, it wasn’t like I was going to say no when I had the chance to speak to Aussie designer Johanna Johnson. It’s the second time I’ve interviewed her - last time I trekked out to her Paddington studio to speak about Christina Hendricks’ stunning art-deco gown at the Emmy Awards - and if someone’s going to get me to care about the brouhaha on the red carpet, it’s Johnson. Because seriously? I love her. Not only is she classy and beautifully posh without being pretentious, she also produces some of the most stunning bridal work I’ve ever seen in my life. Her designs display a kind of dedication to workmanship long forgotten, and her approach to customer service and just her overall business display some serious work ethic. Respect.
Hollywood stars have been snapping up gowns by Australian designer Johanna Johnson, thanks to her talent for translating old-school Hollywood glamour for modern sensibilities.
Felicity Jones, Maya Rudolph and Siedah Garrett all wore designs by Johanna Johnson to the Oscars and Vanity Fair Oscar Party this week, while former Victoria’s Secret angel Marissa Miller was also spotted at an Oscars viewing party in a gold vintage-finished silk georgette gown by the Sydney-based designer.
“I think [celebrities] like the fact that it’s made in Australia [and] the fact that we’re doing all the old-world hand-finishing,” says Johnson, whose main line focuses on red carpet-worthy bridal wear while creating personal relationships with customers. “We’re trying to give a very high-end product and service different to what’s out there.”
Johnson’s presence in the US has skyrocketed since Christina Hendricks wore one of her gowns to the Emmy Awards in September last year, as women stateside fall in love with Johnson’s almost artisanal approach to design – a typical Johanna Johnson dress often features meticulous embroidery and Swarovski crystal detailing, hand-finished in Johnson’s Paddington studio to her exacting standards.
No wonder Johnson says that each piece is “all a little bit a part of me”.
“They’re all beautiful to create,” says the designer, who personally searched for “the right leather, as soft as I could possibly find,” for Felicity Jones’ Vanity Fair Oscar Party dress and who worked with her team in Australia to turn around a custom Italian silk wool gown for Maya Rudolph in eight days to wear to the Oscars.
“[Maya’s team] approached us – they had seen a gown in our collection but wanted us to make it custom and in that particular colour [claret].
“I actually had to ask my staff to come in last Saturday and work all weekend; my team are so, so wonderful,” she says.
Johnson, who has held annual presentations in Los Angeles for the past four years, will be taking more frequent trips across the Pacific this year – she is hoping to open a head office in New York soon. “It really helps to be on the ground. I can approve fittings over Skype but it’s not the same. I like having my hands on them and doing the fittings myself,” she says.
But despite the time away from her husband and two small children, she won’t be regretting the extra travel.
Referring to the endless meetings, fittings and lack of sleep as she helps women, famous or not, look their most glamorous, she says: “This is what I really want to do. This is what our brand is all about.”
Summing up the ridiculousness and fabulousness of fashion:
If spending a bundle for your own train, as well as a collection of bejeweled clothes in rich fabrics, suggests imperial tendencies on the part of Louis Vuitton, you are quite correct. But Vuitton is in the business of creating preposterous fantasies around an object really just meant to hold your money and house keys. You could carry your stuff in a paper sack. But, ah … why would you when you can have a bag covered in what looks like the beard of a pink goat?
This is what separates fashion people from mere mortals. They know all about the beard of the pink goat. And those new petite valises and green hatboxes ….
There are, I’m sure, a limited number of people out there who would look at Sarah Burton’s latest collection for Alexander McQueen and think, “Ooh! I would wear that!” But wearable is possibly the last word one would use to describe the clothes seen on a McQueen runway anyway. Wearable they are not; what they are is a brilliant manifestation of the intersection of artistry, drama and the form of the human body.
Romantic, feminine and striking, for autumn/winter Burton took the darkness of the McQueen aesthetic and imbued it with a sort of nostalgic fantasy that manifested itself in dusky autumn flora. Close-up shots revealed the embroidery, the deft way in which the collars fell to subvert our notions of tailoring, and the intricate layers of chiffon that seemed to revel in artistry. This was fashion literally rendered as beauty. Methinks Alexander McQueen would be proud.
Some totally incongruent but standout looks I love from the Hermès show: a bouclé men’s suit, a scarf tied à la sexily undone tie, a peek of a leather collar and some crazy-ass prints in appropriately autumnal colours.
So perhaps Guillaume Henry’s latest collection for Carven isn’t going to change the [fashion] world. Relying on fairly standard shapes, even some of the cocoon-like dresses he displayed on the runway were nothing new, at least not this season anyway.
But then, nothing in fashion is new anymore - it’s all about the reinvention, and here Henry delivered, reimagining classics with quirk, humour and a healthy dose of personality. The colour! The shapes! The seemingly astrology-inspired laser-cut detailing! And the transformation of a metaphor-loaded Hieronymus Bosch triptych into a print on skirts and dresses for the girl who’s intellectual and cool - and she knows it.
I may not be either, but what I do know is that I’m going to start saving stat for every. single. one. of these Carven pieces.
It was Bordeaux-boy Olivier Rousteing’s second season at the helm of Balmain, and already, he is evolving from predecessor Christophe Decarnin’s wildly sexed-up rocker chic to create an aesthetic that also draws influences from couture techniques and ideologies.
The result was a collection that, although fairly cohesive, still had moments that were better than others. Marrying a sort of Byzantine excessiveness with tailored, androgynous shapes resulted in Karlie Kloss looking boss in a fitted sweater and gilded pants, and other models wearing jackets that, well, looked like tanks. Michelin Man-padded tanks. And no woman wants to look like that (although it would be very practical padding).
It’s fitting then, that Dries Van Noten shows at Paris Fashion Week. His subversive sense of style, courtesy of his homeland Belgium, blends beautifully with the city’s understated sartorial aesthetic – and it this skill for blending that shone through in this latest collection. Although the term ‘East-meets-West’ often brings to mind imperialist notions of ‘orientalism’, Van Noten proved that when done based on pure appreciation of aesthetic, cultures can indeed be married for a tasteful, and ultimately glorious, result.
Taking inspiration from traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese art as seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the colour, form and clean lines of Eastern art were appropriated into modern tailored pieces that carried a hint of the military and of masculinity. The Ming vase blues, vibrant oranges and reds and graphic shapes worked surprisingly well with the dusky khakis for an effect that was neither dreary, as khaki can sometimes be on its own, nor excessive, as the colours and prints could have been on their own.
Prints were cut and pasted into graphic pop-art forms, but balanced with black and white. Indeed, Van Noten expertly blended Asian iconography with wit and militant sophistication. The resulting collection was wearable and simply beautiful. Bold but not flashy, intellectual but not erudite, this collection is surely an example of what an acute sense of design, self and culture can result in.
“If a French girl has to go out, she is going to start by dressing up, then at the last minute, she’s going to grab the old jeans that she was wearing all day and say, ‘F*** it! I feel more me like this.’”—Isabel Marant (via gensdumonde)
For years you were my favourite season. A cheerful period of Christmases and New Years, fish and chips by the beach (or chish & fips), late-night sojourns in random places and time off from work/school/uni, time to simply enjoy - you were beautiful, and magical, as it were.
But then La Niña hit this year (well, last) and, well, it wrecked you. You were cold. Heartless. Downright bipolar, especially in your oscillation between days of 30-degree blazing blue skies and 18-degree London-style rains. I had waited for you all year, and this was how you rewarded me.
So I’ve had to move on. Autumn’s no you, of course, but then, autumn brings me apple and pumpkin pies, delicately scented with cinnamon and vanilla, and Easter, with all its religious and chocolate-y goodness.
I hope you get yourself some help and next year return with your usual searingly hot, sexy self. And even if you don’t - well, seasons change. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for you. But until then, I’m moving on. Bring on autumn!
Gary Bigeni gives both online and traditional retailing his love
Designer Gary Bigeni pays the same attention to detail to his luxe, draped-to-perfection womenswear as he does to running his burgeoning business both online and offline. Here, he talks about how he makes sure both his digital fans and his traditional bricks-and-mortar stockists receive the love they need.
You have your online store and a number of online boutique stockists as well. Why did you want to start selling online in the first place? I really wanted the opportunity to interact in a more direct way with my customers and make the Gary Bigeni label more widely available both through Australia and also internationally. I also believe it is important to continue to evolve your business and make sure you stay on top of how customers shopping habits are changing.
How have you handled selling both online and in retail? I’ve had a strong presence in both local and international boutiques for quite a few years now, well before I opened my online store. The boutiques are such an important part of my business and have been very supportive from the beginning. To ensure I continue to support these stores I deliver my collections to them a couple of weeks before I release pieces on my online store.
I have worked hard to find a balance between my existing stockists and my online store, as it’s important not to forget those who have been with you from the start.
What was the process like for setting up both sides of the business? I have been very lucky in setting up the wholesale side of my business as boutiques have had a genuine love for the brand right from the start. Launching my online store was a bit more challenging, simply because it took longer for me to get my head around the technical side of e-commerce. I wanted to make sure I understood every part of the process as it’s so important to get your online store right.
I’ve learnt so much along the way and I’m still learning. Online stores need constant maintenance, updating and love so I keep building on my knowledge as the store grows.
I’ve heard other designers say their own online store lets them deal more directly with the customer, without having to dilute their brand. What do you think of this? The direct dialogue with customers is my favourite part of the online store. Customer feedback is such a vital tool to help build my brand and I really enjoy finding out what women want from the label. It helps me get to know what kind of women my customers are and the more I understand them, the more it assists me with designing my collections. A lot of my customers send emails asking questions about fit, colour and fabrications and they seem to really enjoy getting emails back from me directly assisting them with their purchases and recommending pieces.
Online shopping – it’s the future. Agree or disagree, and why? Both. I believe in traditional retail and online shopping working hand in hand, rather than it being one or the other. I don’t see why we can’t do both. I see such value in the face-to-face customer service that boutiques can provide and love the in store shopping experience.
On the other hand online shopping gives me access to hard-to-find and international labels that I can’t get in Australia. Similarly I want everyone, not matter where they are, to have access to the Gary Bigeni brand. I hope that as online shopping continues to grow exponentially that it doesn’t mean we lose the personal interaction of boutique shopping.