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?
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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.
Today, as I blow out the candles to another year, I find that my phobia of big numbers rising exponentially — thank goodness I’m not a math geek! Though I do look quite young, increasing numbers outside of a bank account are just no good. Waist size and cholesterol, cavities and parking tickets, oh my! Some things are just best to maintain at lower levels. Like fashion, I am becoming more youth obsessed and find myself retreating to Hulu Plus to watch “My So Called Life” and Saturday morning cartoons just to hold onto bits of my childhood. But even if I have graduated to watching “Homeland,” (Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison is soooo cray-cray good), I believe that fashion still sees her as Angela Chase. Fashion has always had a fascination with youth, from models to bloggers (tweeting Tavi Gevinson), and it has become quite obvious with all the kindergarten themed apparel and accessories out on the Island of Misfit Toys.
For me the trend began during the Fall/Winter 2012-13 runway shows of Comme des Garçon and Jeremy Scott. Rei Kawakubo sent what looked just like paper dolls down the runway, while Mr. Scott’s models paraded around in a collection inspired by Bart Simpson meets Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony. Well, I did love “The Simpsons,” and I remember Rainbow Brite cereal tasting a lot like Fuity Pebbles. Since I was always running and jumping in the house, my mom nicknamed me “Pony” until I was about six-years-old. Perhaps I too belonged on the Island of Misfit Toys; a little boy called Pony is equivalent to a Charlie in the Box or a Spotted Elephant.
In my mind, the Barney’s ‘Electric Holiday’ campaign engraved that toys are not only for tots, they’re also for grown-ups. In the video, editors and fashionistas effortlessly assimilate into the world of cartoons. It is hard to believe that some of them are actual people (tweeting Anna Dello Russo.) In fact, Alber Elbaz who is also featured in the campaign is once again asked to design a new Lanvin dress for Minnie Mouse to wear to Disneyland Paris’ 20th Anniversary. WWD reports that Mickey himself contacted Alber. Who could say no to the Big Cheese?
Lanvin is not the only French house that has a play date with toys. Chanel has reimagined hula-hoops and Legos as clutches and minaudières. These accessories really defy convention, and since toys are manufactured to ignite a child’s imagination, Chanel’s by-products of childhood are successful examples of the trend. In fact, the hula-hoop bag playfully made its street style debut during the recent NYFW. While we’re still on the subject of NYFW, I find it funny that prior to the shows at Lincoln Center, the fashionistas could be mistaken for misfit toys, or rather clowns, by a passerby instead of editors or bloggers. Fact: the Big Apple Circus is in the exact location as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. BryanBoy better start practicing his trapeze act.
In some cases, fashion designers produce actual toys like a chess set (Prada) or a teddy bear (Alexander Wang), or they can be influenced by the chess set (Louis Vuitton checkerboard print bag) and teddy bear (Jeremy Scott Sneakers.) On the other hand, designers like The Blonds brought an iconic toy to life when they styled their models to look like Barbie for their SS13 collection. My favorite fashion/toy/cartoon fusion is the Pokemon x Fashion Tumblr. Francis Phommisai seamlessly integrates Pokemon characters into fashion editorials. I wonder if Pikachu is signed with IMG models.
After the candles have been put out of their misery, I wish for eternal youth even though I know it is as unlikely as me carrying the hula-hoop bag around the city. So as fashion holds onto the ankles of its childhood, I hold onto the fullness of my hair and the tightness of my skin before gravity kicks in and I am shipped off to the Island of Misfit Toys. After all, Forever 21 will only and forever be just a store.
I have always had a pout plumper than your average Joey. Sure, people nowadays spend good dough to have doughier lips, but lusciousness was just not trendy on the schoolyard. I will be the first to kiss and tell that I was often subject to the sound of smooching air kisses or constantly asked if I ate Twizzlers. So, I did what any twelve-year-old kid would have done and turned these Pisces lips inward to look less Angelina and more…hmm…Kirsten Dunst? The problem was that doing this made my lips always chapped, and this was before Sugar by fresh was invented. Well, now I know that ladies who lunch, grrls, and gurls please, covet these lip smackers. Above all (besides the fact that I ❤ RED licorice,) the lips motif is a fashion designer’s muse.
Without the inspiration of lips in fashion, what would happen to Lulu Guinness whose trademark is the lip clutch? In fact, before Bleecker St. became a zoo (thank you SJP,) I use to look through Lulu’s window after passing by Magnolia Bakery and admired the red Swarovski and the Great Britain clutches. Today the cupcakes at Magnolia can be envious of all the variations of lips sold at the boutique. And aside from Ms. Guinness, there is also Diane von Furstenberg who literally seals her envelope bags with a kiss, and Charlotte Olympia who literally kisses the feet of her clientele. I always thought people in the fashion industry were tired from overwork or dieting, but it might just be Mono. Kiss-kiss!
Before these women came Salvador Dalí who’s not only known for his ‘Mae West Lips Sofa,’ but for the jewelry collection he created that included a brooch constructed of rubies for lips and pearls for teeth — could this be where the ‘ruby red lipstick’ and ‘pearly white teeth’ descriptions come from? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Anyway, I had the privilege of viewing those lips this past autumn in Figueres, Spain in that building with the gigantic, well, eggs on top. I am sure Dalí influenced Sonia Rykiel when she designed a jewelry line of her own that featured a lips theme.
Aside from all the lip-cessories, the pout became more prominent on my fashion GPS with Christian Dior’s recent couture show in Paris. It reminded me of so many Friday nights hanging out with Edi Carlos and JR on Avenue A when Opaline was still open, and I would notice Richie Rich’s lips were often a Dorothy red that really sparkled under the streetlights. And of course, whenever Ms. Heatherette was around there was always the inimitable Amanda Lepore and her iconic lips whose “red lipstick kisses” were and are still fabulous.
This Valentine’s Day, if you do not have that special someone to smooch, there is always the option of avoiding drunken bar-kisses and instead purchasing a lip-themed fashion accessory in the Village, Meatpacking District, or even Saks that you could kiss forever until you decide to put in on eBay. There are the chocolate kisses too, and these will definitely not give you Mono! xxx
Bill and Ted, Ebenezer Scrooge (McDuck), and Eric Bana in that Rachel McAdams chick flick were all able to jump back through the portals of time. Now Stefano and Domenico, Oscar, Stella, and a Fendi “Baguette” full of designers are looking to days long, long gone and use fashion as a medium for time travel. As I flip through the stacks of September issues on my Swedish coffee table, I feel just like Owen Wilson in “Midnight in Paris.” However, instead of the Parisian Jazz Age, I am transported into Velasquez’s Las Meninas to observe the Infanta Margarita strut her stuff; since everyone is so short, I have a Karlie Kloss moment. Appliqued flowers bloom on silk tulle and lace ball gowns, precious stones like ornaments accentuate bodices, hairpieces gleam in the light like a Virgin’s halo. Though this may seem like a description of the Infanta’s head-to-toe look, in actuality, I am thinking about Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall/Winter RTW and alta moda collections. Fashion is art. Duh! Art is fashion. Molto duh! And fashion is having a rendezvous with the Baroque Era.
The nostalgia for things Baroque is the period of the Italian Reminiscence. (No, not the Italian Renaissance in case you think that was a typo. For the non-history buffs, the Renaissance precedes the Baroque.) And since this is fashion, the only things that should be enlightened are gold foil motifs on Marni shifts, opulent gems and studs embellished on a Marchesa clutch, perhaps a Chopard ring, and most of all, my nostalgia for Italy — for Rome. Oh FYI, I am a Pisces, and the Fall/Winter 2012-13 fashion trend is my “Cinema Paradiso.”
From my point of view, Baroque is tapestries and golden chords (a Jason Wu dress,) velvet the color of Communion wine (a Ralph Lauren Collection suit,) and i putti, the little cherubs that populate ecclesiastical works of art (Dolce & Gabbana earrings.) Epiphany! It is very possible that Pope Benedict XVI might be a private consultant – after all, the little devil wears Prada. These themes are also influencing the runways of Stella McCartney, Lanvin, even an Urban Outfitters look book, and they ignite in me a misty-eyed flashback — I am in Rome during my junior year of college staring in awe down the multi-colored and metallic corridors of the Vatican Museums. That is the true power of a Balmain sweater.
Perdonatemi, but allow me to sidetrack my thoughts on Baroque to reminisce a little on my time abroad in Rome. This period of time had been the seed that grew into a love affair with fashion. It was there that I was first introduced to L’Uomo Vogue, and I began to notice these uomini in their slim-fitted, dark-colored suits, with tan oxfords and blown-dry coiffe checking their reflections in tinted car windows or the side-view mirrors of their Vespas. I sat on the Spanish Steps with gelato (cioccomenta of course) in hand and thought why the Italians made the pilgrimage to Via Condotti instead of St. Peter’s. Was Adonis the real God? Could there be a Da Vinci Code symbology in fashion? LV, D&G, MIU MIU… I pondered. Thus, I instinctively adopted the ideology of “cleanliness is next to godliness” or rather, “perfect beauty is next to godliness.” Before I knew it I acquired the Roman tendencies towards fashion. I wore Benetton with Prada shoes and had hair like one of those Pasolini boys in the religious capital of the world getting closer to God. I knew that it was just a fantasy, but since fashion is fantasy, I still went on pretending. Amen.
Fast-forward to today. Although living in a Dolce & Gabbana Italian fantasy may seem quite nice, the reality of the Baroque trend is that it is quite decadent not only in design but in price tag. The trend is like a Counter-Reformation to the current economic state. Maybe fashion really is being commissioned by the papacy. Boh!? Did you really think a pair of Roger Vivier gilded boots would be under 1K dollars? Remember the idea is to go Baroque and not broke. Since we do not have the transports to go back in time a la Bill and Ted and bring back Baroque garb (it would be too costumey anyway,) we have to manage our non-fake designer brand pocketbooks. If you can shop on Moda Operandi, let the power of the gods be with you. But if you are a pilgrim of fashion and must rock the trend, check out the aforementioned Urban Outfitters, asos.com, or the past ADR line for H&M on eBay and give Tyra something to smize about. Just make sure you do NOT leave the house looking like Caravaggio’s muse.