Posts Tagged 'fashion'

alexander mcqueen

I was always aware of Alexander McQueen reputation as an extraordinary designer, but for some reason his collections were always on the periphery of what I looked at closely during fashion week. Revisiting his women’s collections today season by season starting 2001 (the earliest available on has been fascinating, mind-blowing, shocking.

The sheer volume of production is incredible. Compared to the usual 30 some looks that most designers send down the runway, McQueen’s 40-50 looks per season seems completely mad. How does one even have time to think when there is this level of production twice a year? And this is in addition to his work for Givenchy and resort and pre-fall collections.

I am equally astounded by his understanding and imagination of woman and their bodies. He loves the hourglass figure and is not shy about accentuating, exaggerating and admiring it. Clothes that accentuate the hourglass silhouette especially with a belt usually look typical and tired, but McQueen manages to create the hourglass with a level of toughness, never dainty. With him, the hourglass silhouette is empowering rather than stereotypical or overly idealized. I can’t identify how he does it and why others can’t replicate it.

The hourglass is never the same with McQueen. Pictures from

The list goes on. Insane detail, incredible volume, pure creativity in presentation, referencing the past but never repeating it, ability to create unexpected textures.

Detail, volume, the austere and the extravagant. Pictures from

When it came to textures and materials, I particularly appreciate what McQueen did with furs (or faux-furs?). He always manipulated them such they were not just a puff of material to get lost in. Or rather he does not just let fur speak for itself, he fashioned the fur to convey what he wanted.

Pictures from

Truly beautiful work.

54 collections later

This week in Paris a handful of designers showed their couture collections which showcase what is supposed to be the best and most extravagant masterpieces in fashion. They explore the fantastical, the ridiculous, the unimaginable. The techniques they employ are the most advanced and detailed oriented. It is in a different class entirely from the ready-to-wear collections during fashion week. To the untrained eye (that is me), the technique reveals itself through the extravagant details like beads, feathers, fur, ruffles but the aesthetics of the over-the-top usually turns me off couture. Like a lot of fashion, it’s a strange acquired taste.

Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Chanel this week is the first time I have been stunned by the beauty of couture and the first time I have appreciated Lagerfeld’s work for Chanel. Chanel’s fashion shows are hard to swallow because they are overdone with lace, bows, pearls in a sea of pastels. The gaudiness of ceiling height models of cake or purses distracts me from the clothes and I can only wonder why this decor and setting? But if you can get over all of that and just accept the pastels, the clothes are beautiful.

There have been many draped dresses, but few that ripple as elegantly and naturally as these from Chanel’s spring 2010 couture collection. The seams of the dress disappear and it looks as if fairies descended and draped the cloth on the models.

Dresses that flow like water. (Photos:

Cathy Horyn, the NYTimes fashion critic, wrote on her blog, ” Karl Lagerfeld said he had been thinking for awhile about how to do a seamless dress and only recently found a method that satisfied him. He said he thought this collection might be his most interesting in terms of technique. “It took me 54 collections to get there,” he said.”

Also impressive is Lagerfeld’s innovation and creativity in working with the iconic classics of Chanel. The quilt, the tweed, the black dress, the suit. It is incredible that in Lagerfeld’s 27 years at Chanel, he has started almost every collection couture or ready-to-wear with a few new variations on the Chanel suit and in doing so, has kept the look contemporary and relevant.

Variations on the Chanel suit in Lagerfeld's couture collections from fall 2006 to spring 2010 (photos:

fashion, it is irrelevant

I am putting off Chinese homework, diagramming the uses of my building, reskimming S,M,L,XL (a canonical architecture book), scanning for thesis because I just received The Sartorialist by Scott Schumann. It is the first compilation of his work as a street style photographer and it is a bible, treasure chest, a gem, an encyclopedia, a wunderkabinett of style . Too many cheesy words come to mind.

I discovered The Sartorialist the summer after freshman year in college and it has since held my absolute loyalty and respect. Within the first week of discovery, I had gone through 2 years worth of the blog’s archives. There was some inexplicable magic in Schumann’s photographs that revealed the thoughtfulness and true skill with which these people dressed, but also conveyed, somehow, that good style was easily within reach. I remember thinking “Of course, I can do this too”. Over the course of the summer, I went from being superficially interested in fashion to completely being fascinated by the details and grammar of style.

Studying the diverse range of Schumann’s photos gave me a language with which to understand style. Suddenly  I realized that a good outfit which I previously understood as a lucky, magical set of matching clothing, could be dissected into the choice of proportions, choice of fabric/texture, and choice of color (there is much more variety than you think). Schumann’s work has been and still is one of the greatest influences on my ever changing ideas about ‘good style’. The magnitude of his influence is up there with St. Andrew’s preppiness, a handful of fantastically and individualistically dressed friends and the T style magazine.

Despite my complete admiration for his work, I do have some criticism. After two years of following the blog,  I find the proportions and silhouettes he captures too repetitive  and his photos compositionally look too much the same. Ironically, someone who does these two things very well is his girlfriend, Garance Dore, who constantly shocks me with the beauty of her images. What Schumann does consistently well, and better than any other blog, is capturing the texture of clothing. It’s obvious that he is obsessed with it and if you look closely enough, his blog is an encyclopedia of matching textures, contrasting textures, unexpected textures, everything textured.

Below is a few excerpts from Schumann’s book of my favorite ‘texture’ photos. (Sorry for the terrible quality. In fact, I’m not sure you can see any texture at all. This will be fixed later.)


Giorgio Armani. To pull of monotone is all about getting the weight of the materials right.


(Right) Rubber, cotton, knit, tweed, silk, canvas. He's got it all.


(Right) This is probably my favorite. I love the lightness of the shirt dress in contrast with the kind of bag I would normally categorize as a 'winter' bag. It's perfect because the thick texture of the bag makes her shirt seem even more weightless.

A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.

(Left)A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.


(Right) A heavy jacket with smooth light + pajama looking pants.


(Right) Denim vest and tweed jacket? That is daring. And corduroy pants on top of that!

fashion and/or architecture

It is both frightening and exhilarating that after 6 continuous semesters under the constraints and demands architecture studio, we will next year be designing our thesis, an entity completely of our own ideas and obsessions. This fall we have started to define, research, and edit our interests, architectural and otherwise, into the beginnings of a thesis. Under the guidance of Yung Ho Chang, the head of the MIT architecture department, the thesis prep class has taken on a more architectural/physical angle than in recent years past. His approach has been a source of debate. In Yung Ho’s mind, a design thesis goes like this: define an architectural/material/physical question that interests you, then from the exploration of that architecture some greater idea, purpose, “world benefit” emerges. But some prefer the reverse: an idea that is realized through architecture. To me, the emphasis on physicality/materiality is a good and useful constraint that (hopefully) leads to more thoughtful design rather than the long, convoluted discourse that too often results in lukewarm architecture.

Perhaps I enjoy Yung Ho’s approach because the only constraint I gave myself at the beginning of the semester was to avoid any serious social, political, environmental, economic issue in my thesis and his assignments never asked me to put my ideas in a more ‘worldly’ context. Our first assignment was to define our thesis in three words: a critique on what exists (RESTRICTIVE), a physical material (SOFT), and one other word (ENERGY).  Explanation – My thesis questions whether building materials can be something besides the typical concrete, steel, glass, brick, wood. The almost universal use of ‘hard’ materials is restrictive to how we experience spaces and the kind of architecture we create. An alternative is textile or ’soft’ architecture which can provide a different way to think about space and also a new way to incorporate the technical needs (energy, ventilation, insulation) of a building and its users.

The turning point for my enthusiasm for my thesis was when Yung Ho suggested that fashion could be incorporated into my work somehow. Since then it has infused itself into all aspects of my thesis. For the first draft of our thesis proposal, we turned in a page with three words (above) and three phrases with three explanatory sentences as well as a page of sketches. Here are some excerpts:

1) Tool+ Method for initial research into our thesis
Re-stitching the Membrane – Can the fashion industry’s innovative use of textiles inspire architects to think beyond a thin membrane roof?


The idea is that I will actually create (scaled down) clothing that explores a variety forms. This is partially an architectural exploration into rethinking how ventilation, enclosure, energy amongst other things can be enhanced/reimagined with textiles, and partially a practical necessity to be familiar with sewing/patterning/(laser)cutting fabric.

2) Site for the building
Softscape/Hardscape – Hunts Point and Bruckner Avenue, Bronx, NY and/or Near Fordham University, Bronx, NY

The decision to site the building in the Bronx is completely arbitrary. It is driven solely by my desire to actually learn about the borough where I grew up but never knew. Both sites are near commercial centers in the Bronx, but the Fordham site would be an infill while Hunts Point is more free form. Perhaps both sites will be used as a way to explore the adaptability of a textile enclosure to different site conditions. Obviously siting in the Bronx brings up issues of contrast between softscape and hardscape and maybe issues of textiles as effective building security.

3) Program is architecture jargon for building use
House of Street Style – The popularity of low cost, well designed clothing from stores like H&M and the omnipresence of street style photo blogs have ‘democratized’ fashion and challenged notions of fashion as a top-down system.

The building has three uses: one part clothing exchange store, one part concept store, one part workshop.


The exchange store is in essence a thrift store, but people receive store credit for the clothes they bring in, so it is more of a barter system than a commercial store. The clothing would be curated to some extent, so that only the ones worth keeping are in the store (i.e. not Salvation Army, more Beacon's closet). The clothing collection would begin before the store opening and for the first week after opening, the clothes are displayed as an exhibit of Bronx style. Exchange happens afterwards.


The concept store is for a brand heavily worn by Bronx residents to publicize and get feedback for the newest lines of their clothing. They would also be the main financial source of the whole project (if it were real). Brands like North Face, Nike, Ecco, Adidas, Timberland etc. etc.


In the spirit of the innovative textile building, the workshop also teaches about working with interesting textiles and hopefully provide underprivileged aspiring fashion designers with skills that would be difficult to get elsewhere.

As much as I would love to dwell in the world of intersections between textiles, fashion, and architecture, it’s now time to do real research + cataloging and actually create these articles of architectural clothing I keep talking about. But on the blog, at least I can continue to dwell in this conceptual architecture/fashion world and talk about how Yung Ho completely floors me every week with his extensive knowledge of contemporary architecture, how I have come to have more appreciation for Rei Kuwakabo’s clothes, the mind-blowing book from MoCA’s exhibition Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, and the pretty badass blog, Street Etiquette, about Bronx influenced style. To be totally honest, I could forget all the architecture and just do the fashion…..

like a pro

Standing out in today’s shows were:

Oscar de la Renta — Solid. Stunning.  It is always appealing to accentuate the waist, but he manages to not make it look repetitive or like a flash back to some other decade. Also another thing that stands out is the variety of types of clothing which is different from some more conceptual designers. Rodarte had almost only dresses + a few other items. Oscar, on the other hand, has  covered with almost everything you need. This is both a commercial move and probably just what he wants to do. What’s impressive is even when he creates a range of clothing that matches daytime/nightime/whatever occasions, the collection still manages to read cohesively.
Prozena Schouler — Unlike some people who became popular around the same time, Prozena Schouler is always produces beautiful items. Whereas Zac Posen is a hit or miss and generally missing for the past few seasons.  PS just churns out cool dresses obviously targeted at young women who party. I like that they are always  playing with textures. Last season is was a lot of chiffon like fabrics.  This time its leather with cotton (or jersey),  leather with wild prints, and feathers. It looks kind of weird and crazy without being messy and because of that it stands out.

another fashion month

I usually await the beginning of fashion week(s) twice a year, but this time I barely noticed that it began. It is easy to be so far removed from the world of fashion. My google reader of mostly fashion blogs is at 210 unread entries right now, a record high.

In most ways, fashion shows are irrelevant to my life and the lives of most of the world. It’s a display of outfits that I cannot  afford, many of which I will never have the right occasion to wear to, and some of which are just so bizarrely strange that one wonders whether the human body is even relevant in fashion. Yet, I think despite its outrageousness, impracticality, I still manage to draw some kind of inspiration from it. I love the strange mixing of colors, the exploration of proportions even if they seem/are wrong,  and unexpected the pairing of fabrics.

I am determined to follow fashion week for the next 3.5 weeks (NY, London, Milan, Paris) even in the midst of a coming wave of studio/thesis prep work. Mainly because I am tired of my closet and feel like I am wearing yesterday’s clothes  and using yesterday’s inspiration.  Putting on clothes that feel like just another stock outfit no matter how simply stylish it may look is an uncomfortable and uncreative way to start off the day. What I want is not more shopping, I just want to rediscover everything in my closet  and to mix them around yet again to find something new and something inspired.

Some favorites from NY fashion week so far:
RodarteTheir aesthetic is largely crazy patterns and textures mixed together and strategically cut tight fabrics. Their clothes go from dreamy (with an edge) to tough season to season. The season it’s tough, hard, and kind of dirty looking, but still so incredibly femine.
Marc by Marc Jacobs –Marc Jacob’s fun commercial, and sometimes even affordable line. It’s nothing unique and the collection with appeal to an Urban Outfitters shopper who takes colorful risks in clothing. I like it because it’s a good reminder of all the strange ways you can mix things.

the anatomy of style

collagepersonI have a theory: the single most important element of an outfit is exactly how a pair of pants or any legwear meets the shoes. It’s not completely the pants or the shoes, but that moment where they join. Yes, yes, colors, fabrics, patterns, the rest of the proportions of the rest of outfit are important, but the pant/shoe moment is far more telling than anything else. And of course, there are always exceptions.Maybe this is also an architect or designer’s way of thinking of things. “It’s all about how the materials are joined, how they meet”, says Chris Dewart’s voice in my head. But what do you think?

Consider this, when we think of stereotypical outfits we think of: tight black pants with Converses, baggy jeans with Timbs, skinny jeans with ballet flats, flared jeans with rainbows, baggy sweatpants tucked into Uggs but spilling out a little at the top, leggings fitting cleanly into calf height boots, pants rolled up mid-calf with nice sneakers for urban bikers, straight fit jeans partially tucked behind the tongue of loud sneakers a la Kanye, Thom Browne’s entire market of men’s suit pants ending above the ankle.

In other words, people dress to fairly specific looks/attitudes/trends that are not as much defined by shirts or jewelry but very much defined by the proportions of the clothes they wear and for a large part, the proportions of your outfit are dictated by the shoe/pant moment (I need to find a term for this!). I am obsessed with this detail because it seems to have so much control over how everything else in an outfit works, everything adapts to the fit the right moment between the pants and shoes. But this is still a continuing thought….

Streetstyle bloggers whether consciously or not seek out the same sort of details. Here is a catalog of shoe/pants moments mostly from street style blogs, some good and other just standard. See for yourself that variety and possibility of proportions that are out there….


[photocredits: the sartorialist. cafe mode, stil in berlin, f&art, jak & jil, stockholm street style]

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