About style

Martin Margiela, totally avant-garde

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Martin Margiela did not like to appear, but the label left a mark on 90s. Margiela worked for Jean Paul Gaultier before going solo in 1988. He didn’t give interviews or sit for portraits and became known as “the Greta Garbo of fashion.” As for his clothes, Margiela’s exposed seams and exaggerated shoulder pads, his upcycling of everything from plastic shopping bags to furniture, seemed to express the sense many had at the time that “the fashion system of design and manufacture itself [was] under fire.” An iconoclast, on the boundary between fashion and art. A totally different point of view that anticipated trends: he invented the first street casting. Stunning, oversized, unfinished, destructured garments, featuring a label with four holes, and focusing on white, that took on a conceptual value. The waistcoat created with fragments of broken porcelain, the iconic Tabi boots adorned with graffiti or the vintage sneakers painted in white.

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Phoebe Philo

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Few designers manage to dictate the sartorial choices of a generation. Phoebe Philo is one of them. The Chloé veteran has nearly single-handedly managed to influence the wardrobe of women of a range of ages since she took the helm of Céline in 2008.

Invisible. That is what Phoebe Philo’s clothes for Céline make you feel. Not romantic, like Valentino. Simply invisible. A woman in a perfectly cut shirt and a pair of pants. Despite Philo’s many best efforts, there is a Céline uniform: large, slouchy trousers; a collarless shirt; flats; a tuxedo jacket — preferably in navy, black or cream. The clothes are quiet and not meant to make a statement. And so you look invisible. Able to be viewed for more than your surface appearance. This is power dressing.

The Sixties, a love affair between music and fashion

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Between 1965 and 1972, political activists around the globe prepared to mount a revolution. While the Vietnam War raged, calls for black power grew louder and liberation movements erupted everywhere from Berkeley, Detroit, and Newark, to Paris, Berlin, Ghana, and Peking.
Rock and soul music fueled the revolutionary movement with anthems and iconic imagery. Soon the musicians themselves, from John Lennon and Bob Dylan to James Brown and Fela Kuti, were being dragged into the fray. From Mick Jagger’s legendary appearance in Grosvenor Square standing on the sidelines and snapping pictures, to the infamous incident during the Woodstock Festival when Pete Townshend kicked yippie Abbie Hoffman off the stage while he tried to make a speech about an imprisoned comrade.

The Sixties was also an important decade for fashion because it was the first time in history that clothing was geared toward the youth market. Previously, fashion houses designed for the mature and elite members of society; however, during the enormous social and political revolution that transpired in the mid-Sixties, the power of the teenage and young adult was too great to ignore. The music scene was the voice of this generation and heavily influenced the iconic fashions that were created during this decade.

“Why do you wear those outlandish clothes?” That was the provocative question asked of Bob Dylan during his 1966 Australian tour. “I look very normal where I live,” was his reply. 

During the second half of the Sixties, the infamous Woodstock festival and artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin influenced the “Hippie” movement that originated in San Francisco, Calif. The prevalence of free love, recreational drugs and psychedelic music became apparent in fashion. Clothes for men and women became loose and relaxed, with brightly colored prints and patterns influenced by other cultures.

Linda Loppa “I AM A BUILDER OF BRIDGES.”

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Behind some of the industry’s foremost talents stands Linda Loppa; the influential Belgian tutor who put Belgium’s progressive fashion apex on a global stage for the first time, while simultaneously reinstating its prowess. Loppa has established a superlative reputation for educating design students with a collaborative, solution based ethos and commercial savvy  attained from a solid grounding in retail. In 45 years, she has undoubtedly taken more different routes through the fashion industry than most of the contemporaries. She graduated from the Royal Academy in 1971; worked as a designer for a Belgian company; launched a high-end boutique in 1978 that sold fashion from designers like Helmut Lang and Comme des Garçons; was the head of the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts for twenty-five years.

What advice does Loppa have for the students’ self-self-representation without losing integrity? Integrity is key! First one has to work on integrity, understanding this means saying no to 99% of the requests you receive – in other words, saying no to losing your integrity and honesty. Then it becomes an automatic reaction in your body and mind. You will know what to do and when it is right…simple.”

Ann Demeulemeester

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When we talk about great painters, we talk about the integrity of the line –- the confidence, clarity and personality in their brushwork.  The same is true of a really singular designer. Ann Demeulemeester is one of these artists.

Born in 1959, Demeulemeester graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1981. Shortly after, she joined the avant-garde fashion collective Antwerp Six, adding a little artiness to fashion. The Antwerp Six includes Belgium’s six most influential avant-garde fashion designers: Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee. In the 1980s, they all received their diploma from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp. There they learned to create fashion under the supervision of Linda Loppa. At the time of the collective’s creation, the six designers’ work represented a radical breakthrough. Their vision was so different and unusual that it transformed Antwerp into a reputable destination in the fashion world, especially after their participation in the London fashion fair in the late 1980s. In 1985, Ann Demeulemeester started her own line of clothing, which was soon recognised as experimental but also wearable. Renowned for a poetic balance of shadow and light, the collections for women and men evoke romance, poeticism and a melancholic mood nuanced with a rock spirit. Entwined with classicism and the radical touch of music and contemporary art, each design captures strength and sensitivity in equal parts.

Rick Owens

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In the last 15 years, there are few people who have captivated the worlds of fashion, art, and design as strongly as Rick Owens. Richard Saturnino Owens, better known as Rick Owens, has turned his darkly glamorous, post-apocalyptic take on gothic grunge into a globally-renowned fashion business, built largely around his signature leather jackets. Owens’ menswear collections always feel like a work of art on their own: distancing himself from regular ready-to-wear and tailoring codes and traditions, Owens analyzes, dissects and intellectualizes the garment and the design result is often something completely new, unexpected – and unique.

The designer has been honoured by the CFDA twice, first with the New Talent Award in 2002 after his debut catwalk show in New York, and again in 2017 with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Other accolades include the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Perry Ellis Emerging Talent Award, which he took home in 2002, as well as the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award and the Fashion Group International’s Rule Breaking Award, both of which he was awarded in 2007.

“Le Smoking” Suit

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Watching from the front row, the fashion editors attending Yves St Laurent’s “Pop Art” collection in August 1966 weren’t overtly enamored with what they saw.

The slim-line fur coats and dresses inspired by the contemporaneous art of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol drew the most attention with a lukewarm response. Fast-forward 45 years, and it’s clear that what was actually unveiled that day at 5 Avenue Marceau, Paris was one of the most influential and iconic designs in 20th century fashion history.

We’re talking about Le Smoking, the first tuxedo tailored for women which was debuted by Saint Laurent  in 1966 – it became an instant classic for women who wanted to appear equal parts glamorous and strong. Entering the cultural consciousness at a time when many second-wave feminists avoided discussing fashion directly, it radicalised eveningwear and irrevocably transformed the way women dressed. Made iconic by famous devotees like Nan Kempner, Betty Catroux and Bianca Jagger, the look told the world that if women are ever going to wear the trousers, they should be able to wear them to their wedding day and Studio 54 alike.

Haider Ackermann FW17

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There’s a belief in Japan, called wabi sabi, that the smallest flaw, crack or imperfection only adds to the beauty and uniqueness of an object. Haider Ackermann must be a devoted student. In one of the most beautifully diverse runways, Haider Ackermann quietly yet effectively proved the power of a tuxedo and precision tailoring featuring a single graphic line that looked like cracks.

He gave himself a strict palette to work within – black an white, with a shot of electric blue and metallic details. Ackermann wanted to be graceful, and on the whole he succeeded with a collection that had a sense of something simmering under the surface. A Liberated Haider Ackerman.

Bianca Jagger

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The enduring style legacy of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart

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After it makes it mark on the NYFW runways, we explore how Lynch’s road movie is his most stylish.

What David Lynch’s Wild At Heart has is style, man. From the opening scene where Sailor (in a monochrome blazer) and Lula (wearing a coral dress with choker and Ariana Grande hair) cut through the samey crowds, the lovesick duo dish out lewk after lewk all while thwarting the clutches of Lula’s disapproving mum Marietta. Wild At Heart is a road movie. It’s about a Bonnie & Clyde twosome with a few screws loose and their larking about to elude the hitmen sent after them. More than the illogical non-sequiturs and legit barking by some characters, the film is Lynch’s perfect marriage of weird characters and weirder threads. Much like the passionate screams of Lula Fortune in that first of many gruesome murders on the stairs of the opening gala, Wild At Heart has an enduring style that rings loud and true long after you watch it. It’s without a doubt David Lynch’s most stylish film.

Recently, designers have tapped into that retina-searing style for their own collections. New York designer Joseph Altuzarra cited Wild at Heart as one of the main touch points of his SS17 collection, saying the collection was “a modern take on romance and kitsch.” He interpreted Sailor’s snakeskin jacket with the python coat one of his models wore – the same one that spawned the unforgettable Nic Cage line: “Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?” Many of the girls in the show were facsimiles of Lula Fortune.

Belle de Jour

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This month London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts is celebrating one of cinema’s most beloved surrealists. From sliced eyeballs to women having mud slung at them, the dark imagery of Luis Buñuel’s work troubled the lines of taste, blending the blasphemous or straight up banal with deviant sexuality. No more so was this true than in his 1967 film Belle de Jour, where iconic beauty Catherine Deneuve plays Séverine, bored housewife and sexual masochist who takes a job working afternoons at a brothel to satisfy the darker desires left unfulfilled by her picture perfect marriage. Her costumes, key in the creation of her character, were designed by Yves Saint Laurent, marking out the start of a long relationship between the pair.

Neat, stylish and even borderline prim, Séverine’s outfits are the pinnacle of feminine, Parisian taste – there are none of YSL’s famous Le Smoking suits here. From the ski resort (where she’s in knitwear, with precisely rolled cuffs) to the tennis court (pristine whites, complete with a girlish headband) and even the home (a bubblegum pink dressing gown) her wardrobe speaks of a bourgeois domestication, finished off with neat blonde hair and perfectly applied make up. In one scene shortly after she first arrives in the brothel, she wears a shapeless beige creation, which strangely enough is quickly admired by her new co-workers, the contrast between her buttoned up good taste and their lacy lingerie a visual virgin/whore parallel – until they help shed her bourgeois skin by stripping her to her underwear, undressing her not only of her clothes but also of any remaining sexual propriety. After all, Saint Laurent (according to longterm partner Pierre Bergé) was himself in possession of a “contempt for all that is bourgeois” – making his consciously proper clothing a perfect fit for the film.

Belle de Jour remains to be a film decades before its time, especially when it comes to female sexuality (really, it’s only let down by the implications that our heroine’s lusts are the results of childhood abuse). Saint Laurent and Deneuve became close friends, and the designer would go on to create costumes for several of her later films, from New Wave director Francois Truffaut’s La Sirène du Mississipi (1969) to 1983 vampire flick The Hunger, where she starred opposite David Bowie. Deneuve became an icon of French fashion in her own right, starring in campaigns for Chanel and, more recently, Louis Vuitton. At his final, triumphant fashion farewell in 2002 before his retirement, she appeared on stage with the designer, clasping hands. They remained friends until his death in 2008.

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Changing Fashion Campaigns

The power of the fashion advertising campaign is not to be underestimated. While we may often leaf past them idly while thumbing through a magazine, there are some campaigns that have had a more serious impact over the years. Certain images are destined to define a particular mood, or to reflect a new idea, in a way that only truly iconic pictures could do, thanks to the creativity of some of the world’s most talented fashion insiders. Delve back through style history with us as we revisit some of the most influential fashion campaigns.

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Patrick Demarchelier’s first campaign for Calvin Klein, after Bruce Weber’s long tenure shooting for the brand, would be an important debut. But the job only fell to Kate Moss after Klein’s first choice, Vanessa Paradis, turned it down. So it became Kate’s ticket to stardom, beginning a long and illustrious career that included eight years working with Klein.

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Kate Moss for Calvin Klein, 1992 Photography by Patrick Demarchelier, Courtesy of Calvin Klein

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Never one to shy away from a scandal, Tom Ford again turned heads with his Gucci campaign for Spring 2003, styled by Carine Roitfeld and shot by Mario Testino, in which Louise Pedersen pulls down her blue knickers to reveal a Gucci G manicured carefully into her pubic hair. Ford later maintained in an interview with Tina Brown that he was personally responsible for the manicuring on set. “Why? Because we like to do things, we like to be in control,” he explained. “I even had to fill it in with an eyebrow pencil so that we could read it on camera.”

Jane Birkin, Parisian-meets-boyish style

The legendary Jane Birkin is the free-spirited ’60s sex kitten whose casually eclectic chic, androgynous style has influenced generation after generation. She made us dream with her incomparable Parisian-meets-boyish style. Her approach to dressing was never ostenanious or overdone. Whether it was a metallic Glomesh dress or a pair of faded blue flares worn with a t-shirt and bare feet, Jane managed everything look perfectly appropriate. Her style is timeless; her choice of garments can be worn in any decade. She continues to inspire designers today with her minimalistic, elegant bohemian and Parisian style.

Black is the only genuine color

Van Gogh noted that Frans Hals painted with 27 shades of black. In terms of fashion, no wardrobe is complete without the black color.Every woman should own a simple elegant black dress. This opinion is staple since the 1920s,when Coco Chanel published a picture of a short, calf-length, straight dress decorated only by few diagonal lines. Vogue called it “Chanel’s Ford”. Later, in the 50s and 60s Audrey Hepburn was dressed by Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in trousers and evening gowns all in black. Black was the color of the end of the twentieth century and its popularity goes from strength to strength. Designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Helmund Lang, Nicole Farhi have black at the heart of their colors. After all, Black is an absence not a presence.

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Minimal & Classic

In the 1990s it was no longer the done thing to follow fashion slavishly, a share contrast to the highly a la mode 1970s and 1980s. The phobia of being undressed was finally completely displaced by the fear of overdressing. When the designers Yohji Yamamoto, Issaye Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garcons, became the toast of Paris fashion week in the early 1980s, their relentlessly monochrome, asymmetric and intellectual vision of clothing was a revelation. Since the early 1990s the collections of Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, Hussein Chalayan, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons have emphasized simplicity of shape and realistic form, focused of aesthetics over function and employed repetitive structures and serial systems or progressions. The principles materialize in the designers’ interpretations of deconstruction fashion, defined by Barbara Vinken as the demonstration of constructedness.Today’s Minimalism movement in fashion continues its futuristic slant, with a stronger emphasis on geometric structures and artificiality. Where the old Minimalism sees the human body as a primary structure, it has now become a network of fractured places dissected by lines. There is also a stronger focus on the creation of futuristic beings, or cyborg lookalikes, inhibiting a post-gender world, continuing the conversation of removing gender out of clothing. Aesthetic still trumps function, but with an emphasis on fluidity and simplicity over intricacies.

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