Saturday, 30 April 2011

NUMBER (N)INE | WAYNE THIEBAUD

T-shirt is Number (N)ine by Takahiro Miyashita (sadly the label no longer exists). Paintings by Wayne Thiebaud.

Wearing with Rick Owens SS09 jacket and Raf Simons SS11 high tops:

Wayne Thiebaud is one of my favourite artists...

YUMYUMYUM

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

THE YSL QUESTION

Yves Saint Laurent with his longtime muse, Catherine Deneuve.

Before the John Galliano saga kicked off, fashion’s favourite spectator sport was gossiping about who might replace Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent. Even after the brand’s owner, the Gucci Group, released a statement saying that Pilati was going nowhere, the rumours persisted (“well, they would say that”). It’s true that Pilati has not found the public (and, indeed, critical) acclaim that other designers in similarly plum jobs have enjoyed, but the task he faces at YSL is by no means easy.

Yves Saint Laurent was indisputably one of the greatest fashion designers of all time, and his legacy continues to live on, especially in France where it is an untouchable national institution. Any designer working at the house since Saint Laurent retired in 2002, and passed away in 2008, faces a massive burden of expectation and responsibility to somehow uphold Saint Laurent’s gold standard. Under these conditions, trying to produce collections which are true to the house’s heritage yet sufficiently modern and fresh to hold people’s attention today is surely no walk in the park. As Pilati himself has noted in an interview, it is very difficult for any designer at the house to establish their own personality through the collections. Neither Tom Ford nor Hedi Slimane lasted long at YSL.

And then there is the prickly issue of the relationship between the Saint Laurent estate (controlled by Pierre Bergé) and the brand. The memory and legacy of the late Saint Laurent dwarf the current reputation of the house itself. Stefano Pilati’s access to the YSL archives is limited (they are controlled by Bergé) and associations with the brand are kept scarce, to say the least. When the major Saint Laurent retrospective took place in Paris last year, bizarrely there was no invite to the opening nor offer of a private view for Pilati, who had to attend as a regular visitor, but became self conscious and left when people started to recognise him. This disconnect between the business and the heritage surely does not help matters, although I can understand why Bergé, who spend his life building up the house with Saint Laurent, is reluctant to welcome in the new guard.

Kate Moss, wearing 'new' YSL, posing against the entrance to the Yves Saint Laurent - Pierre Bergé Foundation in the SS08 ad campaign, which is rather telling given the relations between the brand and the foundation.

Still, doubters of Pilati, a former heroin addict who worked with Giorgio Armani and Miuccia Prada before joining YSL, will point out that his collections have often been critically panned, sales have been low and, anecdotally at least, the brand just isn’t that popular. How many people do you know who own anything recent from YSL, other than the one-hit Muse and Downtown bags, or the Tribute shoes? You rarely see a celebrity pictured wearing Saint Laurent, the brand seems to lack attention-grabbing editorial coverage which other labels enjoy, and the sales approach in the boutiques can verge on the desperate. An assistant at YSL in a major London department store once told me that they hadn’t sold a single thing for weeks, while other concessions had been buzzing; a friend bought some YSL shoes not so long ago, then received a phone call a few months later practically begging her to buy something else.

A look from Pilati's fall/winter 2011 collection for YSL.

An article in the New York Times from 2008 says that the brand had not been profitable for over a decade. The label’s financial results are available as far back as 2004 on the Gucci Group’s website. They are hardly glowing, but by some accounts they paint a much better picture of Pilati than the critics do…under his creative directorship, the brand has become profitable for the first time in over 10 years, and losses have steadily reduced since he became creative director in 2004:

2004: loss of €71 million
2005: loss of €66 million
2006: loss of €49 million
2007: loss of €32 million
2008: broke even (i.e. profit of €0)
2009: loss of €10 million
2010: profit of €12 million

Last year, 33% of sales were leather goods, 26% ready-to-wear, 22% shoes and 19% other. Even the rather more lucrative Yves Saint Laurent beauty division has been unable to counteract the house’s losses over the years. In 2006, for instance, the beauty division’s profits were €32 million, against the fashion house’s €49 million losses.

To compare YSL to other Gucci Group brands, last year Gucci made a profit of €765 million, while Bottega Veneta raked in €133 million. Both brands were profitable throughout the 2005 – 2010 period, despite the credit crisis.

I hope I haven’t bored with too many figures here. If you’re interested in the business of high fashion, you can find out all sorts of interesting things from the Gucci Group/PPR, LVMH and Prada annual reports, to name just a few. The economics of fashion never ceases to baffle me.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

STYLE INSPIRATION

| ? | backstage Jil Sander FW10 show | ? | ? | Paris, 2010 | image from Stockholm Street Style | DBSS high-tops | ? | product designer Achille Castiglioni | 'Supporters, Rotterdam, 1997' from the 'Exactitudes' series by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek | Undercover SS10 | Robbie Snelders wearing Raf Simons | Yuri Pleskun | Raf Simons SS07 |

|Jil Sander SS11 shoes | image from Stockholm Street Style | SS11 Prada Shoes (image from Jak & Jil) | Prada SS11 shot in Designare magazine | Jil Sander FW08 | ? (looks like Undercover) | still from 'Buzzclub' by Rineke Dijkstra | ? | Cassette Playa | Yuri Pleskun | Rick Owens FW09 | Raf Simons SS03 | Undercover shoes (pre-date the Prada's) | Robbie Snelders wearing SS00 Raf Simons | Maison Margiela Artisinal FW06 jacket | from the 'Brooklyn Gang: Summer 1959' series by Bruce Davidson |


When it comes to personal style, the things I like best are minimalism, futurism and bold/Op Art prints (in moderation), all served up with a slight disquiet and sub-culture edge (skinheads seem to feature often, primarily because of my obsession with short hair and the MA-1 bomber jacket shape). Heaven forbid anyone socio- or psycho-analyses that.

Tradition is anathema to me in regards to dressing. Most of the things I love are informed by the past only in the barest sense. Take a spring/summer 2007 Raf Simons short-sleeve shirt, half cotton, half metallic 'foil' fabric; although all of the components have been seen before, the way they have been assembled is totally new. In a world where so much of art and culture is rooted in the past, it is quite thrilling to me that no such shirt had ever existed before in a comparable form until Raf Simons did it. It baffles me why so many people (especially men) go out of their way to delibrately hark back to the past with their clothes, when fashion gives so many easy opportunities to be forward-looking for once.

The thought of dressing up in black tie evening attire horrifies me. I have a real problem with blazers, jeans (unless they're black), chinos, brown shoes, polo shirts, belts, and all number of other 'wardrobe staples' because they somehow seem too rooted in the past for me. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and I'm sure you could find contradictions in my reasons for liking some things over others, but I'm not trying to prove a point here: I'm just describing what goes through my mind when it comes to clothes. The funny thing is, I think all of the things I listed can look great on other people, even though I wouldn't wear them.

Overtly traditional references and visual clutter are the enemies. A tweed blazer on a young man, teamed with a tattersall shirt, pocket square, slim chinos or cords and brown brogues is my personal nightmare. Go out in east London on a weekend morning and you'll see it everywhere on all the cool dudes. Try as I might, I just can't see the appeal of a (closer-cut) version of what granddad used to wear.