Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Lanvin x H&M

Lanvin x H&M campaign image; the collection was launched in Europe today.

Earlier today a friend told me off for perpetuating fashion snobbery with my views on the latest H&M designer collaboration. I don't think (at least, I hope) that snobbery alone is the reason why I take against H&M designer collobarations, though; rather it seems to be a certain aspect of the fashion system which the collobarations emphasise which really aggrieves me.

I have an enormous amount of respect for Alber Elbaz’s work at Lanvin, but as soon as I heard that he wanted to make H&M luxurious (rather than taking Lanvin downmarket) for the collaboration I was highly dubious. It is true that a large part of the appeal of Lanvin lies within the unbelievably high levels of craftsmanship and the fine materials, but when I went into H&M today during my lunch break to have a look for myself, none of those qualities were evident in the collection. The clothes felt just like, well, how anything in H&M normally feels, only the prices were vastly higher. Save for the money paid to Lanvin, I’d bet that the costs of a collaboration item and of a comparable regular H&M item are very similar, so the huge price mark-up on the collaboration pieces really irks me. There are a lot of issues associated with cheap, 'throw away' fashion, but it doesn't bother me as much when the prices are fair. Why not just limit the quantity (as they currently do), but charge regular H&M prices, especially if these collaborations are meant to be all about making fashion less snobbish and more ‘democratic’ and accessible?

I actually never buy the ‘democracy’ argument. If designers really want to assuage any guilt they may feel about producing clothes which only a tiny fraction of the population can afford, there are surely more original, interesting, and less hypocritical, ways to go about it than teaming up with H&M for one-off collections. How about selling old season’s stock of the ‘real’ brand at fair prices (not at some measly 30% reduction) in an accessible way, which is to say not on a Tuesday morning hidden away in some out-of-town location. Even just lowering the current retail prices by 10-20% would help. The thing is, though, H&M collaborations are abundantly more popular because they are not permanent (they are almost token gestures), they are all rather at arm’s length from the designer or brand’s core business, and crucially they generate a lot of publicity. Maybe it is snobbish to disapprove of H&M collaborations, but they hardly seem to be exercises in goodwill on the part of the designers. I would imagine that H&M pay their collaborators richly, and they generate a huge amount of publicity and buzz around the collaborating brand’s name. If I controlled a high fashion brand, though, I would seriously question how valuable this publicity really is. Perhaps brands take a long term view, reasoning that today’s collaboration customer might be tomorrow’s full price customer (the argument which keeps brands interested in publications like Teen Vogue), but it is debatable whether this justifies putting your name to products of very dubious quality, to be sold in a way which would make most high fashion designers wince.

The collaborations hardly bring affordable 'designer' clothing to the people anyway. Compared to regular H&M prices, the collaboration prices are steep, and it is only a lucky few (who are prepared to camp outside stores overnight, in some cases) who get their hands on the best items anyway, with others having to make do with the further inflated eBay resale prices. Something like the +J Jil Sander x Uniqlo approach is more sympathetic, with much less hype, better quality, more reasonable prices and a continuity so it’s not a ‘blink and you miss it’ scenario.

H&M designer collaborations pick out a few of the worst stands of fashion, from the absurd over-hype to the rip-off prices, and really emphasise them. There is something incredibly raw and primal about how people flood into the stores, frantically stripping the shelves bear and grabbing as much as they can hold, as if their lives depend on it. Of course the commodity is by no stretch of the imagination something needed for basic survival, consisting mostly instead of over-priced synthetics ostensibly designed by a famous name. I’m not even convinced that people truly enjoy the whole experience of H&M collaborations, or are genuinely making a free choice when they decide to camp overnight or queue from the crack of dawn to join the scrum early. The media and marketing hype machine is so powerful, constantly telling us that we must have vastly expensive designer clothes to be better people, to be more successful and to attract partners, so when a glimpse of this is offered at a relatively affordable price it all gets a bit much, and people are strongly drawn in. I’m not interested in judging people who queue for H&M collaborations, I just think that the whole thing is a perfect illustration of one of the worst aspects of how our western economies work. It troubles me not because I find it vulgar or distasteful or have anything against people who go crazy for the collaborations, but because it seems genuinely quite sad.

The final irony which annoys me is that H&M is constantly producing its own rip-off versions of designers’ work, often much to the high fashion brands’ annoyance, but this fact is completely ignored by both parties when it comes round to collaborations. How many ‘Lanvin inspired’ items have graced the racks of H&M over the past few years? Now, though, it would seem that Lanvin and H&M are the best of friends, illustrated clearly by the natty little heart which is placed between the respective brands' names on the publicity material and store bags. The funny thing is that because the Lanvin x H&M line is such a literal interpretation of certain Lanvin items, it really looks more like ‘H&M rips off Lanvin’ that H&M collaborates with Lanvin. The H&M collaborations which take elements from the designer's work and re-work them for the high street always seem more credible than the ones that either replicate existing designer products in a bad quality, poor value-for-money way (Lanvin) or create new products from H&M with very little bearing to the designer's work (Jimmy Choo).

In a sense it is amusing to laugh at people degrading themselves to get their hands on something with no real substance or longleivity to it, which fashion types can knowingly deride as being over-priced, low quality marketing fodder, but ultimately that gives me no great joy. I'd much, much rather the whole system didn't put so many people in that position in the first place.

Think I'm wrong on something (or everything)? Feel free to comment..

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Outfit Today

Today I wore a Miu Miu jacket (I miss Miu Miu menswear), Raf Simons SS07 foil shirt, Topman jeans, Prada FW09 shoes.

I have become increasingly obsessed with a minimal approach to dressing. That is to say aesthetically minimal, not minimal on clothes themselves (nudism does not beckon). I have adopted a minimal approach to hair too. At the moment I can't bear having much length to my hair at all. It has got to the point where it actually looks quite ugly it's so short, but it is how I like it. Soon I'll probably end up shaving the top too. I cut it myself every couple of weeks; it's quite therapeutic.

Clothes wise, my minimal manifesto involves a total ban on any accessories other than glasses, and that necessary of evils, a bag. Male jewellery, piercings, scruffy festival bands, and fussy badges and scarves are my absolute anathema at the moment. Even the idea of a watch seems like an unwanted intrusion (I haven't owned one for about 10 years). That's not to say I don't think these things can look good on other guys (often the do), they're just not for me. Patterns are disallowed, unless they are very strong and graphic, and colours are generally restricted to blacks, greys, certain blues and splashes of white. I suppose my weakness is for crazy shoes, high tops in particular.

Minimal dressing is much harder than you might imagine. Because there is so little on which the eye can focus, the items which you do wear have to fit perfectly and be of very good quality, otherwise you start to look minimal of style, rather than the embodiment of minimal style. This is where what I wore today falls flat. Topman jeans do not posses the necessary quality (Jil Sander is calling) and the t-shirt material on the bottom of the Raf Simons shirt makes it very difficult to tuck in without some awkward 'puddling' over the waistband. Still, as with most things in life, I'm working on it.


Above: Moschino Couture, 1988

In the 11 years between founding his eponymous fashion house in 1983, and passing away tragically young in 1994, Franco Moschino firmly cemented himself into the twentieth century fashion hall of fame, and left a lasting impact on the fashion world which is still felt today. And what an impact it was. From his political messages to his deliberate and unerringly effective subversion of the traditonal codes and values of couture, Moschino never failed to shock, scandalise and, above all, delight his audiences.

There is something utterly joyful and uplifting about Moschino's work, which at the same time was always highly technically accomplished and often carried more serious messages too, beneath the jaunty styling and upbeat energy. Aside from railing against trends, the fashion system and the stuffiness of haute couture, Moschino never missed an opportunity to spread pacifist messages or to raise awareness about AIDS, racism and environmental issues. Moschino's designs frequently seemed to be as much 'art' as they were 'fashion,' and were always heavily embedded in bright, colourful pop culture (the rave smiley, for example, is a perennial motif throughout Moschino's work).

Moschino had a cracking sense of humour, jauntily perching a model miltiary aircraft atop a model's head in place of a traditonal couture hat being just one example, while he also had a fascination with the surreal; the designer was sometimes referred to as the 'Dali of fashion,' with good reason. Moschino once said that "fashion is something you can laugh about forever, but in the end, it's the most difficult thing to laugh at because people take it so seriously." The battle to stop people taking fashion so seriously may not have been won, but without a doubt Moschino's attempts made the fashion world a richer, more joyful place.

Franco Moschino is one of my favourite fashion designers, along with Jean-Charles de Castelbajac who often worked in a similar vein to Moschino. In this post, I have put together the visual content which I have gathered from around the internet exploring Moschino's heritage.

Lampshade top:

Peace dress:

Needle dress:

Eyes top:

VIP top:

Dress constructed from a man's jacket:


Trompe-l'oeil jacket:

Embroidered jacket:

Stop the fashion system, from 1990:

Suit with mini-suit pockets, also from 1990:

Fantastic bags:

Spring/summer 1990 collection shots:

From 1989:

Military jacket with new age patches, available from Swank Vintage:

Teddy bear couture dress..this incredible piece is on eBay at the moment:

These scans are from Style Bubble; I've got to get my hands on this book..

Cheap & Chic campaign..I'm actually not sure if this is from the Franco era, possibly looks more recent:

Smiley seat in the NY store:

From the V&A archives (along with the 'chocolate sauce' bag pictured earlier):

Hilarious lingerie.. tape measure, sight test, and the more poignant 'safe sex' message. Moschino was one of the first big names in fashion to die of AIDS-related illnesses.

'Garment bag' coat from the LACMA archives:

Camouflage suit:

Moschino even satirised fashion's 'made in Italy' obsession, with this irreverent Maid in Italy dress:

This Moschino Couture Christmas jacket is literally one of my favourite pieces of fashion EVER:

Nautical dress:

Trompe-l'oeil dress:

VagabondNYC are selling this brilliant NATURE-FUTURE suit:

Bustier with mask buttons:

Moschino offshoot lines (like Jeans and Cheap & Chic) have always been an important part of the brand, with their bright, upbeat prints (often featuring the Moschino logo as a motif) retaining a cult following even today. Loud Moschino pieces had a good showing in the mid to early '90s series of Absolutely Fabulous, alongside all the Lacroix and Gaultier:

Spring/summer 1990 CD print:

Moschino collaborated with Persol to make eyewear, with predictably incredible results:

With in-built comb:

Says 'out of sight, out of mind!':

Along with the 90s Versace revival which I blogged about a while back (here), vintage Moschino has been having quite a moment in London recently, largely thanks to the amazing Zone 7 Style, that specialises in 90s designer vintage. They have one of the best selections of Moschino print pieces around; all of the items below are, or were, available from them.

Seriously wild Monopoly print jeans (imagine wearing them with the Monopoly print shirt, pictured above):

Mind-blowing Apple Mac print jeans:

10th anniversary show video:

He was uncannily spot on with predictions for 21st century fashion, and an increased obsession with ecological awareness.