17 May 2008

The Darker Side of Fashion

Roughly two years ago I attended a lecture at London College of Fashion in Oxford Circus called The Dark Side of Fashion. It was right about the time when all of the fashion industry was making a big fuss over model weight and the industry’s high expectations of them to be so skinny that led to the deaths of Luisel Ramos during Uruguay’s fashion week.

The incident caused a worldwide size zero debate, and LCF put together a debate featuring the topic The Dark Side of Fashion. Model Lily Cole, fashion designer Roland Mouret, and UK vogue editor Alexandra Shulman had a rather hot debate. The partying, drinking, doing drugs image of models were discussed with great passion citing Kate Moss’s drug incident as one of the prime examples of bad role modeling.

Lilly Cole defended the images of her fellow models claiming there are issues of drugs, partying etc in each industry not just modeling. The panel debated for an hour then took questions from the audience. Issues raised up at the debate were the more unglamorous and realistic side of fashion that contrast with its glossy pages and flashy catwalks.

But Alex Prager a photographer from LA explores the theme the dark side of through a different medium. Alex Prager’s shoots portraits of models in a dark light. Her images are so cleverly lit and sharp they look like cinema stills. The models in her Big Valley Series are so beautiful and the portraits are so powerful you feel like you are more than an observer but actually stuck in the situation the models are in. Even though the portraits do not show anything disturbing happening, she has shot them in a way that they are tense and filled with thrill. She draws on portraits of creepier side of fashion, by using the same models Vogue would hire and portray them in a Hitchcock themed light.

Prager received no formal education since the 8th grade (lucky her) and spends most of her time in LA, Florida, and Switzerland. She took up photography at the age of 20, and sites William Eggleston’s work as inspiration.

If you live in L-town you can visit her portraits at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in South Kensington. It is the first time Alex Prager is showing her work in the UK, and you can also catch her Polyester series which are follow along the same lines of her Big Valley series.

16 May 2008

Fashion In Motion - Ma Ke

I know I’ve been bubbling about the V&A in the last few posts, but today’s post is a good one! This month must be my lucky month because not only was I able to snag tickets to this month’s Fashion in Motion but I was able to snag them to view one of the coolest designers from China, Ma Ke.

To those of you who have been reading my posts regularly, you will notice I have developed a love/passion for theatrical performances and musicals. Not only is Ma Ke all about the clothes, but she and alongside a growing number of designers are crossing over to using art, installation, and performance when showcasing their designs.

Let’s back space for a second so I can tell you a little bit about Fashion in Motion, one of London’s best kept secrets in fashion. Fashion in Motion is a series of catwalk shows brought by the V&A which features designs from the greatest fashion designers in the world. Fashion in Motion previously featured Manish Arora, Gareth Pugh, Christian Lacroix, Hardy Amies, and Ozwald Boatang. Fashion in Motion aims to bring catwalk couture to a wider audience, so people like me who are not part of the insider fashion crowd can meet with prolific designers and appreciate their designs up close.

Ma Ke is a high profile Chinese designer, who graduated in 1992 from the Suzhou Institute of Silk Textile Technology who set up her own label four years later after she graduated. Her designs are a crossover of fashion and art. She established an artistic brand called Wuyong (Useless) in 2006 where she explores the concept of useless through contemporary art and fashion. But what really inspired me about Ma Ke is how she took Paris Fashion Week by storm when she presented her Wuyong collection for the first time. It’s very rare for a contemporary designer to be given a prime spot to show in Paris Fashion week and Ma Ke managed to nail her spot and cause quite the stir with her collection.

Today I was able to appreciate her Wuyong collection up close and personal. She didn’t opt for the regular catwalk stage but rather models were made to stand on large rectangular lit boxes. At first I didn’t know why but when I got close to the garments, I could see that they were extremely heavy and the models were barely holding themselves up. The dresses were made out of layers and layers of discarded items that created large balloon volumes which cascaded all the way down to the floor.

The garments were so heavy one of the younger models had to sit down on her box. But it’s only when I was able to touch the rich and heavy fabrics did I understand the big fuss over the collection during Paris Fashion week. I tried my best to capture the quality of the texture and the millions of layers that made the models work really hard to keep standing so still so I hope they can give you a feel of what it was like to be there.

Overall Fashion in Motion was a great experience as I haven’t seen such a textural and poetic collection put up against such a theatrical backdrop and I highly recommend you watch the Fashion in Motion space on their V&A website to see who they will be showing next. Fashion In Motion tickets are free but have to be booked in advance.

Street Style Hunt: V&A and Oxford street

Fashion Ambition Loves Mary and Blake

The last time I gasped when I saw a beautiful photo shoot was Kirsten Dunst inVogue US edition circa I don't remember. I just remember her wearing this amazing Galliano black haute couture piece and running up the steps of the Palace of Versailles. She was photographed by none other than Annie Leibovitz, photographer of the stars and it was a breathtaking shoot.

This shoot with Blake Lively is not really the same, but one image of her wearing this Swarovski crystal encrusted gown by Dior from the shoot An American In Paris in Vanity Fair definitely gave me somewhat of a similar impact.

A very cool store

The O2 Center has top notch restaurants, a multiplex cinema, shops, a gym, and massive indoor/outdoor spaces for invited entertainment like Chris Rock or Afrika! Afrika! But what they fail to mention is they also have the coolest O2 store in all of L-town.

The O2 store has a creatively designed work station for four different sectors; Games, Music, Video, and Photo. Each station is collaged with ancient/old/new equipment and most of it is donated or are found objects. You can also donate your old mobile phone to be put on display. The staff are super friendly and your more than welcome to sit down in one of their chill out zones and wait for some assistance or read a magazine and no the store interior did not brainwash me to switch from Vodafone to O2! Pshh!!

Afrika! Afrika!

Having seen the musicals Afrika! Afrika! and Lion King in the span of 2 weeks you can't help but get Afrika tribal wear fever! So even though I passed the chance to go to Gaucho's opening at the O2 center in North Greenwich I don't regret being inspired by colorful beaded and woven skirts, cloaks with elaborate motifs, and colorful jewelery made out of beads and copper for three hours. I especially liked the idea of double layered skirts, and multiple armbands with various prints! I have no idea how I would be able to pull it off without looking like the member of the plays cast but when I came across this weeks new collection from Net-a-Porter, I quickly put together an ensemble that I think shared that tribal spirit. Now if only Topshop made the exact same replica.

Dress on right:Dress (Christian Lacroix) Red high heels(Chloe)
Dress on Left:Silk tunic top (DKNY) Mini Skirt (By Malene Birger) Necklace (Kenneth Jay Lane)Knee Length Gladiator sandals (Topshop)

Afrika! Afrika! is showing until May 31st and is so worth seeing, its not Cirque du Soleil, but it comes pretty close. Minor tip though, the restricted seats don't really have restricted views so you can save about 20 pounds sitting there instead of the 60 pounds good ones.

The Classic Street Style Hunter

I know a little bit about Francois-Marie Banier. I know that he is one of the best connected fashion photographers in France, and that he photographed the likes of Yves Saint Laurent over the duration of 20 years or so, Jhonny Depp and other Hollywood stars, and shot an ad campaign with Diane Von Furstenberg.

What I didn't know about Banier was that he is a triple threat (person with not one talent but three) if not a quadruple threat. Banier is also a well known playwright, novelist, painter, artist as well as a photographer. And it was by browsing through his site that I came across his collection of beautiful street portraits whose faces are unforgettable.

Banier writes and paints on his photographs which I think make them more personal and more like a story than a single moment. But it was really the portraits of the anonymous street people that I am taken with. When I street style hunt I am just looking unconsciously for a person whose personality is evident in the way they dress. My street stylers usually have on well co-ordinated together outfits in an uncoordinated way and unique charisma which I try and capture as best as I can in the space of 30 seconds before they rush off to catch their bus. But Banier's photographs tell stories through people's faces and expressions in a single moment. I suggest a web surf through the very organized archive of his photographs on his website but if you’re not into photography he has quite a selection of novels available. Still not interested? A flick through his screenplay maybe? Paintings?? Anyone??? Truly the list is endless.

14 May 2008

Fashion Ambition Critiques

I'm still very new to the blogging world, which I am learning from everyday with much fascination. So it came as a good surprise to me when The Barbican linked my post Viktor & Rolf Are Coming To Town to their Critic Review section.

Critic?? Moi ? How exciting! And I did not conceal my excitement when I found I was right under such influential publications and ultra cool bloggers like The Times Online, vogue.com, Art is Alive(Blogs about fashion,art,architecture,and design), and De Telegraph Netherlands.

Just being side by side with Vogue is a good enough reason to be giddy all the day long.

Kicks for Liberty

If you look in my shoe rack, you will see many many flats. I practically live in my flats, I'd prefer flats to high heels any day unless I'm back in my home town, then I work the heels. (Walking does not co-exist where I come from) But when I heard the Nike Design team raided the fabric vault in the Liberty store(Wouldn't you so love to look through their fabric archives??) for their latest limited edition shoe, I re-thought the concept of adding sneakers to my lonely rattled converse in the closet.

Nike are not the only one to design such feminine footwear, but for any MTV fans, Rev Run's daughters on his show Run's House have a yummy sneaker line called Pastry alongside their family company brand Run Athletics that sell sneakers and accessories. Shoe names include Blueberry Creme, Strawberry Wafer, and Peanut Butter. These sneakers are really the first kind of shoe that make me crave something sweet when browsing through their site.