Having spent part of my childhood in Seattle, I should be a downpour of information regarding all things Grunge. Sadly, the rain only drizzles in the Emerald City and so does my knowledge of this “state of being covered in unclean things;” at least that is how The Free Dictionary defines it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was too young to understand the musical movement. At the time, I was preoccupied with Super Mario Kart and a different bleached blonde, Zack Morris, and his sweaters. I also worshiped shampoo and conditioner — Salon Selectives were a ritual like bedtime prayer. Maybe those were reasons I could have cared less for Grunge; I did not “Smell(s) Like Teen Spirit” since I was still a kid, and I believed in showers. But despite over-conditioned hair, Grunge has re-bloomed during the 2013 fashion season like the florals on a granny dress (could be Bottega Veneta or perhaps Salvation Army,) so an education on fashion’s Courtney Love/hate relationship with the trend is in session. A double shot of espresso please!
In its very humble thrift-store beginning, Grunge was not a fashion statement. Music aside, it was more like a depression that plagued the youth stemming from feelings of helplessness. Grunge feared the future and in a way, it was a type of dissonant chord in the ascending socioeconomic melody of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The movement rejected materialism and gave the big “FU” to commercialism and corporations. Sorry Starbucks, but you sold out. There was a desire for freedom from the greed and glamour that had corrupted the moral and creative playgrounds — the music preceding Grunge was not about the dialogue between the artist and the audience but about the glam and pyrotechnics; just as coffee was no longer about the beans or the roast but about turning it into a frappuccino.
And so an attitude of not making a statement in itself became a statement, and being pissed off and depressed paved way for a culture that forfeited wealth and embraced an angst-induced sound. Think Pearl Jam or maybe Soundgarden. No, I am not talking about types of Comme des Garçons prints, but bands such as Nirvana that shot to celebrity-icon status like an intense rush of heroin. And like an addiction to caffeine, the stripped-down fashion of the stripped-down music became the fashion world’s drug of choice in the early 90’s. Thus, the so-called anti-capitalist movement permeated into the mainstream and found commercial success. Goodwill out. Marc Jacobs in.
Grunge aesthetes revolved around an “unkempt” look, and a subculture of flannel, ripped jeans, grandpa sweaters and granny frocks was brought to a mass culture by the fashion industry. I find it contradictory how obtaining a thrift-store vibe became sooooo costly, well, at least it was dry-cleaned! What I admire most about Grunge is its effortless, I don’t give a sh*t silhouette. I could literally layer mismatched prints, a hoodie, and Chuck Taylors and still be snapped by a Scott Schuman or a Phil Oh. (I have to admit that sometimes you have to move mountains to look effortless, at least for me since my interpretation involves a shower, a comb, and half a can of hairspray.) Pursed lips aside, I am excited how the trend has received a mature update for the SS13 and FW13-14 seasons. No more smelling like teen spirit, but smelling like Chanel N°5 or some other expensive l’eau de parfum. Now, the scent of Grunge has diffused into fashion industry nostrils with Dries Van Noten and Saint Laurent as this year’s Kurt and Courtney. Wake up and smell the florals!
Hands down Dries Van Noten’s SS13 collection is like the “Miss World” track off Hole’s Live Through This album. Mr. Van Noten has glamorized the so-called antithesis to glamour with a collection that reconceptualized dishevelment into effortless beauty. He brought the working-class flannel into the upper-class by applying the print onto luxurious fabrics like taffeta and organza. The collection was ultimately a romanticized vision of Kurt Cobain in a floral dress, but I believe his clothing extends beyond the bleached hair and dark roots — the show was a revelation of beauty. His pairing of plaids with embroidered florals and herringbone brought a freshness to mismatching and layering; perhaps it made some Vogue editors reconsider their hate for the trend back in the early 90’s. Van Noten took Grunge, gave it a shower, and brought it to a grown-up center stage. On the other hand, Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent targeted a youthful audience with his take on the Pacific Northwest aesthetic.
Truth be told that Hedi Slimane’s FW13-14 collection has somewhat of an Urban Outfitters vibe to it. I wonder if he has full artistic control of his designs at Saint Laurent — that is not an insult! After all, his collection favors the more safe and sellable as opposed to being a creative risk. There was just no OMFG factor when the models walked onto the runway. In my opinion, Mr. Slimane’s collection is a resurrection (not a revival) of the Grunge trend. He has infused the collection with the essence of Courtney Love constructing impeccable attire with a price tag to match. Perhaps Hedi’s feelings toward the fashion industry runs parallel to that of Grunge youth: does he fear the future of fashion and in turn reacted with a collection that was more nostalgic of the past instead of innovated for the future such as a Margiela or a Kawakubo? I mean he does socially alienate himself from Suzy Menkes which is characteristic of the Grunge persona, right? Although said Ms. Menkes was not allowed to see the show consisting of baby doll and floral dresses, slips and oversized cardigans, the collection became commercially successful nonetheless — a direct contradiction to the Grunge philosophy. But it comes to no surprise that fashion is a business and turns lemons into lemonade, or in this case a Jamba Juice franchise.
Lately, as I look out from my Hell’s Kitchen window, I see nothing but grey skies. Maybe the Seattle overcast has followed me — but I swear it rains more in New York than in Kurt Cobain’s hometown. By the way, television always depicts pouring rain in Seattle-set shows, I would like to go on record as to having no memory of ever using an umbrella in Seattle. Sorry Grey’s Anatomy, but your show is obviously fiction. And though I never considered myself Grunge (the closest I ever got was watching Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert,) my closet is like a venti, triple-shot, red eye of plaid, flannel, check, gingham, and tartan. I just need to add a floral dress and a pair of combat boots. Goodwill, Here. I. Come!
One of the many attributes of Grunge style is layering. The mismatched, the better. Take some of your favorite SS13 prints and wear them with ease. Just make sure you take a shower!! Can you assign a designer to each print?
A FASHION RAINBOW COMPOSED OF LOOKS FROM THE SS14 MENSWEAR SHOWS OF LONDON, PARIS, & MILAN
Heroism and heartbreak are several of the most prevalent themes in life, especially for a New Yorker. Let’s face it, if you have lived in any of the 5-boros during the last dozen or so years, then you have seen heroes and heartbreakers among you — they may have tugged on your heartstrings or even played music (cue Sarah McLachlan song.) Whether you survived Sandy or the Bush Administration, or even the ‘Sex and the City’ series finale, one way or another these events have affected and shaped the personality you have today. Nowadays, you can #breakup via a tweet or text without remorse, would probably never ever be caught dead in a scrunchie, and are almost always prepared the day before a nor’easter or designer sample sale strikes. Oh the New Yorker lifestyle!
However, New York can be a pretty lonely place even though we are surrounded by millions of people daily (the subway during rush hour, the line at Whole Foods, the Wicked lottery, etc.,) and although technology has produced a profusion of positives, it has carved grand canyons between human-to-human interaction and made all of us some sort of Kardashian — some people think a community is a thing you join on Facebook. Long gone are those days when you had to ride your Huffy or take the subway to tell your friend about Joey leaving Dawson for Pacey. Why the need to put on your shoes when you can just update a social media status? More and more I find that we pass the time Ecommerce shopping or binge watching Felicity on Hulu, and less and less are activities that involve people. And yes, I am guilty as a Winona Ryder!
I needed to get out of the 10019 bubble and not fuggedabout the love I have for New York, so I went on my quintessential Manhattan stroll that starts on Hudson and Bleecker and moves down to MacDougal where I detour until I find my way into Washington Square Park. Although I love fashion, I am not a big fan of the SoHo-fication of Bleecker St. I admit I fueled that flame by often patronizing Marc Jacobs (that day I needed a new iPhone cover.) Aside from MJ, I frequented my usual pit-stops like Magnolia (no line!!!) and The Cornelia Street Cafe. I dodged traffic and queues leading into pizzerias by meandering onto quiet blocks that transitioned into busy streets populated by Spa Belles and tattoo parlors. I ended up at a familiar place — the front door of The Joffrey School of Ballet. So, I asked the question: “are we Human, or are we Dancer?”
I remember having to climb “up the steep and very narrow stairway” just to reach that dark and dingy changing room — it was nothing like Center Stage. This was my second act of heroism with the first being the big move to the Big Apple. The Joffrey School of Ballet in the Village was definitely “Dance Ten, Looks Three” in regards to facility, but the instructors were classical technicians who taught you the movement and vocabulary to chassé and grand jeté your way onstage. It also takes a heroic determination and moments of heartbreak to be successful in the art of ballet. In the foreword of Carine Roitfelds’s 2nd issue of CR magazine dedicated to dance, she writes: “Ballet is hard work, and it is one of the last art forms that is done with pure motives — ballet stars rarely sign huge endorsement deals or become world famous. More likely they are real people giving themselves fully to one passion…Because ballet is an art form that breaks the body and the soul.” At some point, you make the difficult decision of continuing the dance or choosing a new partner. I love and adore the ballet, but in a way, it was my Noel Crane. Fashion is my Ben Covington.
I would like to dedicate this post to Ballet (Noel,) because time and time again it has beautifully danced a pas de deux with Fashion (Ben,) and I am very Felicity Porter. The collaborations between Christian Lacroix and the Paris Opera Ballet and the recent assemblé of Valentino and the New York City Ballet are examples of the synergistic rapport between the two artistic mediums. Both worlds do not exist without the body. The dance is an expression erupting from within, and the cloth enhances the narrative by adding layers to the character.
Recently, ballet has been influencing fashion offstage, and I don’t mean wearing your Capezio tights as meggings. Project Runway’s fourth season winner Christian Siriano’s SS13 collection is directly inspired by ABT’s (American Ballet Theatre) The Dream. It is his version of an “off-duty ballerina” and girl be “fierce!” And although deprived of silk chiffon, colorful tulle and layers of organza, Nicolas Ghesquiere’s final SS13 collection at Balenciaga was influenced by dance if not specifically ballet. Many of the looks in his collection included midriffs and leotard inspired tops. I am sure some fashion forward girls will be wearing these to an Ailey Extension class. However, the most apparent union is the ballerina flat. From Chanel to Chloé, almost every major label has made it a staple.
As in Swan Lake or Giselle, the ballerina is the embodiment of heroism and heartbreak in one. (S)he is the epitome of grace under painful pressure, and rigorously works to give you an effortless performance only for the bravos and the bravas onstage at the Metropolitan or at a performing arts center in Omaha. That’s the benefit of being a New Yorker, incredible dancers are your friends and neighbors, and watching an inspiring performance at Lincoln Center or at the Joyce is a chassé or subway ride away; you really don’t have to YouTube it. Get away from a Kardashian or a Real Housewife and force yourself to be among the humans. So are dancers human? Maybe, but they’re definitely heroes among us. And yes, “everything was beautiful at the ballet.”
Pick the perfect flat to plié in. A Nude Ballerina will help elongate your legs and create a clean line.
Since ‘Homeland’ has been on hiatus, I have to admit I am suffering from Carrie Withdrawal. Who would have thought that a mental illness could be so chic? My so-called Mathison life compares to the same feeling I had with the realization that ‘Sex and the City’ was truly over. I find it strange how a Carrie can have such an affect on your psyche. In that event, as I impatiently wait for Season 3 of ‘Homeland’ to start, I might as well binge on ‘Sex and the City’ reruns on Hulu. I have always enjoyed the straightforward approach of the dialogue, especially when it’s in the context of fashion. I honestly believe that SJP brought Manolos into mainstream vocabulary. So, in an ode to Carrie, here are a handful of my favorite fashionista-esque quotes that I like to call Sh*t Carrie Says and my Charmin-fresh commentary.
Carrie: When I first moved to New York I bought Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.
Me: When I first moved to New York, I took advantage of the Grey’s Papaya Recession special and read leftover Marie Claires and Cosmopolitans at the laundromat.
Carrie: I’m thinking balls are to men what purses are to women. It’s just a little bag, but we feel naked in public without it.
Me: It’s not just a little bag; it’s more like a Louis Vuitton limited-edition luggage set. Set being the operative word.
Carrie: Men I may not know, but shoes, shoes I know.
Me: No comment.
Carrie: You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat in a cuter outfit.
Me: Little furry things are not cute in any urban landscape even if it is wearing a little Burberry scarf.
Carrie: Shopping is my cardio.
Me: Crossing a busy avenue when the counter is down to 3 forces me into a sweat.
Carrie: I fell. I fell in Dior.
Me: Poor thing, I never experienced that. But I totally wiped out right in front of everyone sitting inside Five Napkin Burger when the streets were so icy last year.
Carrie: I like my money right where I can see it…hanging in my closet!
Me: My wallet is bulimic.
Carrie: I have this little substance abuse problem…expensive footwear.
Me: I have several: Sephora VIB gifts, watching every Broadway show available on TDF, and Topman T-shirts.
Carrie: The odds of bumping into the one who broke your heart are incredibly high. The odds of bumping into him when you look like sh*t are even higher.
Me: That is some deep sh*t Carrie. TTYL!
And last but certainly not least, some memorable phrases from her BFFs…..
Charlotte: My marriage is a fake Fendi!
Miranda: You can take me out of Manhattan but you can’t take me out of my shoes.
Stanford: Oh, my God, she’s fashion roadkill!
Samantha: Hi, I need something that’ll make a guy cum in his pants as soon as he sees me.
So, if you have some Sh*t Carrie Says that I may have overlooked, then please share them in the comments.