The Clothes On Their Backs

Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy couture offerings this season were all about Asian influence. It’s little wonder, because Asia and all the rich facets of it’s culture are slowly permeating Western consciousness. Asia also has a major commercial influence, what with Prada joining the ever-increasing ranks of companies choosing to list in Hong Kong as opposed to their home markets.

This collection draws on a LOT of Asian influences (butoh, Kazuo Ohno, anime, embroidery, cranes, dragons… the list goes on) but I’m really interested in (as far as my incredibly amateurish, untrained eyes can see) the samurai and origami influences.

Japanese samurai circa 1870

When you go on websites that feature this collection and the insano, day-glo Philip Treacy headgear, the comments section is inevitably clogged with cries of ‘VIKING!’ – you can really see the influence of the samurai helmets.  Irrelevant note alert – One of my favourite places to go in the V&A Museum in London is the Japanese section to look at all the samurai uniform.  It’s all so intricate and well crafted.  Every aspect of the samurai uniform is carefully considered; every colour, every fold, every image has a cultural or practical significance.  Perhaps it’s this attention to detail that aligns it so well with Givenchy.

Samurai circa 1880

You can really see the samurai and origami influences in the sharpness and angularity of the shoulders.  The pink motif above looks like it could be a representation of a samurai helmet (or a backpack in the shape of a bug if you think about it in a Rorschach kinda way).  I love the pristine whiteness of this dress.  It’s like a fresh piece of paper begging to be folded into all sorts of magical shapes.

Origami samurai helmets

The headgear made so much more sense when I saw these mini samurai helmets made out of paper.  I know that it’s supposed to be based on robots… but I like thinking it’s an origami samurai helmet.  Let me have my wrongfooted delusion, ok?  Here is a link if you want to make a tiny samurai helmet and wear it on your finger.

I’m not very good at conclusions, so let me just say that the Givenchy collection is beautiful and batshit crazy.  Just the way I like it.

Round Up/Links Dump… eh… thing

I’m not going to lie – I’ve been a bad blogger lately.  Inspiration has been low and I’ve come to the end of the broadband contract, so the flat is internetless.  And cold.  But that’s beside the point.  Most of the blog writing has been done in a very dodgy internet cafe near my flat, populated with sleeping winos and people conducting very loud arguments via Skype.

But, and this is a big but, I do have some cool and interesting stuff in the pipeline, which shall be revealed in due time.  Here are a few interesting links to show you that I’m still connected to the world in some way and tide the regular readers (thanks guys…) over ’til I get my blogging mojo back.

- I’ve got a facebook profile – fancy being friends?

- Disneyrollergirl revealed!  There goes my claim to fame of seeing the back of her head at London Fashion Week in September…

- Free samples of Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream.  This stuff is amazing – the offer is only open to people in the UK and Ireland.  Go forth and be moisturised (or accelerate the rate of burn recovery if that’s what floats your boat).

I’m really looking forward to watching this at The Pavilion, Cork tonight. The Way of the Crowd is about the Wigan Casino, which was the epicentre of the Northern Soul scene.  When Paul Smith is one of the talking heads, you know it’s going to be interesting.  I’m also looking forward to seeing some flash dance moves afterwards.  It’s what I imagine I look like when I’m drunk – the reality is much crueler.

- The-Coveted vs.thecoveted drama; get informed and weigh in with your opinion.

- Friend of The Licentiate, Jo Linehan of S-oh S-ew! is competing to be one of Elle Magazine’s next fashion interns – go throw her a vote if you have a spare moment (maybe this way she’ll hire me when she becomes a Big Shot Editor Type).

- I noticed that my column from last week didn’t recieve the same amount of feedback as the others normally do.  The views are the same, so I’m wondering if it’s the subject.  Do fashion and politics mix?  Or is Margeret Thatcher too evil/sacred to comment on? Let me know what you think.  Click here to read the column if you haven’t got the foggiest notion what I’m on about.

Licentiate Column 26/01/11

I’ll listen to everything that I’m told, but I almost never listen to a) my father or b) political news.  Both are fond of grand pronouncements, hyperbolic accusations and statements resulting in a sense of self-loathing the likes of which The National Enquirer can only dream of publishing.

It’s fortunate that the one time I actually did listen to my father was in regards to politics – a double whammy that filled up my aural assault quota quite nicely, thank you very much.  He told me that the population of Ireland is close to the population of Manchester, but we have as many political representatives as country ten times Ireland’s size.  The result is a tin-pot government, unable or unwilling to pull itself out of the country’s present funk due to a lethal combination of corruption, ineptitude and a misguided sense of self-entitlement.

Ireland needs a Maggie Thatcher.  Calm down now, put down your pitchforks and Poll Tax paraphenalia, I’m not suggesting for a nanosecond that Ireland needs a woman who refuses people a fair wage, denies small children their calcium and plays with the power grid as if it was a tricky dimmer switch.

Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady, a politician that you could legitimately hate for legitimate reasons.  With her navy blue power shoulders and impervious helmet of hair, she personified the cold, steely, uncaring gaze of an impassive statue, unflinching at the chaos she was causing.  Our politicians bumble about more than the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers in a bouncy castle and retain the slightly greasy sheen of stress-induced sweating as if was going out of fashion (which it is).  The rumpled suits of Brian Cowen only add to his frazzled ‘Whoops, there goes the Central Bank!’ aura.  The shoulders of his suits are cut exclusively for faux-contrite shrugging or incredibly defensive prognostication.  Ireland’s politicians are every bit as as bad as Thatcher; their shambolic, pseudo-apologetic clothing is the only thing to dictate otherwise.

We need politicians to smarten up and fly right.  The adoption of Margaret Thatcher as a sartorial National Treasure in Britain despite the deep well of public hatred (she was photographed for Vogue by Mario Testino in 2008) should draw attention to the power of the right suit in the face of gross ineptitude.  We need a decisive leader who can take charge, preferably with a swift jab of an Aquascutum handbag and the flash of a well-turned out ankle (Brian Lenihan or Enda Kenny, I’m looking at you).

What we really need are some good politicians, but since that’s a near impossibility, we should just tart up the terrible ones that we have.  Give them some small veneer of public professionalism with the right clothing and attitude, and we’ll have reason to double our complaints.  Backcomb Mary Harney’s hair and cement with a pint of hairspray into the eponymous Thatch, pop her into a pair of suitable Ferragamos and presto!  We have a new Maggie.

A term coined appropriately at the apex of Reaganism and Thatcherism, ‘politics is showbusiness for ugly people’ still stands strong today.  And if that really is the case, then we’re all watching Eastenders – not Questions and Answers.

John Galliano – or is it?

What fashion blogette worth her salt doesn’t have Fashion Gone Rogue on her reader?  Everyone has their reason for clicking; their favourite models, labels, stylists and photographers are all there.  I’m not the biggest fan of editorials, but I do love their Morning Beauty feature – chock full of notable picks that you might not have seen the first time around.

Here’s part of a shoot from Vogue Paris’ Dec/Jan ’06/’07 issue – Dans la Peau de John Galliano, photographed by Peter Lindbergh, styled by new Vogue Paris editrix Emmanuelle Alt and starring Sasha Pivovarova as, er, John Galliano.  The resemblance is uncanny.

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I Heart Shen Plum

I’m having a serious girl crush moment on the work of Toronto-based illustrator Shen Plum, whose line drawings are a mix of storybook perfection (anthropomorphic animals)and gorgeous, brightly-hued girls with prismatic rainbow accents

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Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O
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Pics 2-4 from Girls Girls Girls (hopefully nothing to do with the Motley Crue song)

Mournful but not morbid, ethereal without being wishy-washy and dreamlike without veering into cliched ‘fairy-Lula-girl-in-a-wood-with-a-floaty-dress-on-a-tyre-swing’ territory.  Just my cup of tea.

Shen Plum shows her stuff mainly in Toronto, but you can buy jewellery and other bits from her Etsy shop, prints from ES Illustration and super-cool badges from Stereohype, which are getting nicely settled into my wish list as I type.

I want to be a Teddy Girl

Before Ken Russell was shocking us with his films and I was astounding the world with my poor command of Photobucket (hence the higgledy-piggledy pictures), he was a photographer.  You could probably say that he was one of the first street style photographers.  His pictures were brought to my attention in a guest post by new Licentiate fave Vagabond Language.  His documenting of the working-class Teddy Boys and Girls in the 50′s are a source of endless inspiration.

Throw in a viewing of Nowhere Boy, where the young John Lennon mixes with all kinds of Teds and Julies, and an obsession is born.

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Fancy some swag?

 

I’m giving away a copy of the Isabella Blow bio ‘Blow by Blow’.  Written by the late, great stylist’s husband, the books is relevatory and revealing in equal measures.  Entering the giveaway is uncomplicated, you just have to be a fan of The Licentiate on facebook.  Click the link or the sidebar on the right, then leave me a comment on the facebook page telling me why you want the book.  G’luck.

Licentiate Column 20/01/11

Have you been watching Mad Men? I was unaware of the hype surrounding the acclaimed American drama until this Christmas, when I was presented with the first two seasons of the show. On Monday, I sat down to watch an episode. A few days, and the development of some very square eyes later, I have finished the box set.

It is an excellent programme; smart, funny, knowing, genuine, mysterious, well-written and excellently characterised. And stylish, incredibly so. Interweaved into the lives of the Mad Men, the ad men in the grey flannel suits, waft three very different woman; Betty, the highly-strung, neurotic ex-wife of leading man Don Draper, Joan, the sexually voracious, va-va-voom office manager and Peggy, the token woman copywriter in a man’s man’s world.

It’s unsurprising then that the style of Mad Men has become a source of inspiration for shoppers and designers everywhere. Prada’s A/W ’11 collection was lifted heavily from the strict, ultra feminine silhouette of the show, incorporating cat’s eye spectacles, sinched-in waists, circle skirts and bouffant do’s. ‘Mad Men’ has become one of the most searched terms for vintage clothing vendors on the internet – for women in search of that perfect ‘downtrodden housewife’ look.

Every aspect of the show is carefully considered. Even the books that Don and Betty read reflect their personalities and periods of mental stasis in some way. This attention to detail is no different in the costuming; designer Janie Bryant has very specific colours and patterns assigned to each female character. Betty has pretty floral dresses in classic shapes á la Grace Kelly, Joan wears jewel bright tones and form-fitting shapes and Peggy gets the short end of the stick with checks, plaids and a particularly nacreous shade of mustard.

It makes perfect sense that women who emulate the Mad Men style are characterised as either a Joan or a Betty. In one episode of the show, a Playtex campaign is pitched with the conceit that a woman is either a Marilyn or a Jackie. One is straight-up-and-down, the other has an abundance of curves. One is a wife struggling with her husband’s numerous infidelites, the other is a fleshpot with a more pragmatic view of human couplings.

In truth, the only difference between Joan and Marilyn or Betty and Jackie is the colour of their hair. Yes, they look great, but would you really want to be either of them?

I like Peggy best. She’s smart, she’s savvy, her character is the one who has evolved the most consistently, from timid secretary in little-girl dresses to a no-nonsense, helmet-haired boardroom babe in navy fitted suits. She works hard and tackles all obstacles head-on. It’s a testament to her character that her wardrobe is the least appealing to the viewers but she manages to retain an aura of chic. I may have a vintage plaid dress or two hanging up in the wardrobe in homage to this particular proto feminist (just not in mustard, my admiration only stretches so far).

In the Playtex pitch meeting, Peggy counters that she is neither a Marilyn or a Jackie. Her male equivalents variously describe her a Gertrude Stein or a young Irene Dunne. In truth, Peggy is neither, but is unequivocally herself. Neither Jackie nor Marilyn, but inimatably Peggy – individuality is a Mad Men style that will always be in fashion.

I’m a bad widdle blogger…

I’ve been known to repost the odd blog post.  I’m extremely gratified that views for this blog have increased and so I like to show new readers a few bits that they might have missed.  But this is different.  This is a repost of a repost. I have gone that far.  Revoke my blogging license, for I have broken all the golden rules!

This originally surfaced on my first blog, which was terrible.  I reposted it on The Licentiate in March and I’m reposting it now, because, frankly, who doesn’t like to watch how miserable Karl Lagerfeld is on Blue Monday?  Enjoy…

To quote the big K himself:

“I hate birthdays, … It’s more like a new starting point in New York. For me, it’s an evolution. I don’t celebrate the past. I like the present and tomorrow.”

Here are links for the curious mid 90′s doc “Karl Lagerfeld Is Never Happy Anyway”, which must have the worst soundtrack of all time. The audio for the last part is disabled, ostensibly because of copyright, but we all know that it’s really disabled because the world would be a much crueler place if it was not. Plus there are subtitles for those short on brain and/or German language skills. We all know what happens in the end anyway; he loses a pile of weight, becomes the voice of Fabu in the new Totally Spies film and also becomes the subject of the fantastic ‘Lagerfeld Confidential‘.

Happy Evolution Sir Lagerfeld.EDIT:  The  person who uploaded these videos have made them private for some reason.  Here are a few screenshots from a VICE Style article.  Read the article.  It will tell you everything you need to know about this documentary.  And I’m sorry about not noticing earlier.  This is what comes out of being a lazy bum.

Licentiate Column 13/01/11

I’d like to thank everyone who has voted for me so far as one of Ireland’s most influential bloggers .  The competition is ending tomorrow at 6pm Irish time, so I’m going to make a final (very annoying) push for more votes.  If you’ve voted before you can vote again (it’s every 24 hours).  The instructions for voting are on the page.  I’m just about creaking into the top ten and I’d love to stay there but I’m neck and neck with another blog – so I really really do need them votes.  Click here - I’m number 42!


*Public Service Announcement over – on to this week’s column…*

Today I picked up a nice, shiny magazine. You know, the kind of nice, shiny magazine full of nice, shiny clothes with nice, shiny prices. The kind of magazine that issues the most hallowed and anticipated of all biannual supplements (barring Heat Magazine’s soul-crushing celebrity swimsuit pull-outs) – the catwalk report.

We’ll just call this magazine a generic, vaguely evocative French word. Let’s call it Haute. I love Haute because it is cover-to-cover with beautiful people, fairytale settings and clothes you and I can never afford. It is pure escapism. It inhabits a world totally inaccessible and separate to our own, albeit one that we can peer into just by briefly licking our thumbs and flicking a page corner, like a version of Alice and the Looking-Glass for shopping addicts.

Magazines like Haute publish the catwalk reports as a way of imposing themselves into our world. Haute has picked up the Looking Glass and smashed it over Alice’s head. It’s less assimilation – more indoctrination.

The idea is to pick and choose which aspects of which collection appeal most to you and blend it into your wardrobe; simple things like (a) bold block colours or (b) simple tailoring or (c) a pair of flared jeans. You’re not really supposed to wear the catwalk look from head to toe, because if you did, you’d look a bit like (a) a lego brick, (b) an extra from Logan’s Run or (c) a Studio 54 reject for whom the party has long since ended.

This season Haute is championing the Luxe Sportswear trend. ‘Luxe’ does not mean ‘luxury’, rather ‘Luxe Sportswear’ means ‘Expensive Tracksuits… In Impractical Heels’. Popularised by designer Alexander Wang, Luxe Sportswear has been around for a few seasons and is defined by distressed shrunken leather biker jackets with leggings, oversized t-shirts, lace-up heeled boots and enough grey jersey to swaddle a million coltish-legged prepubescent models. Nothing we haven’t seen before.

Luxe Sportswear is perverse; it pairs the practical with the impractical. Waterproof neoprene, traditionally found in wetsuits, is used to construct soft, shell-like bodycon dresses. Joggerbums are worn with towering heels.

The neoprene dresses I can understand. It’s an unorthodox material and, because it’s such a stiff fabric, it can hold it’s shape and produce some unexpectedly beautiful results. The heel and tracksuit pants? Oho no.

Today I saw a woman walking down the street wearing a pair of billowing khaki jersey pants. The cuffs of said pants were tucked into spindly McQueen-esque lace-up heels of the same hue. Her gait was circumspect, possibly because every step she took would inflate a pant leg like a runaway wind sock in a wheezing gale.

Apart from that segue into the risible, Luxe Sportswear is fully representative of it’s beloved grey jersey. It’s boring.

Even the ringleader of the bland, sorry, grand circus, Alexander Wang, is getting tired of the monsters he has created. He is quoted in interviews, saying “If I see another distressed black leather motorcycle jacket, I’m going to shoot myself in the face”.

That’s a bit harsh, Mr Wang. Perhaps you should make your weapon a water pistol instead. When the time comes for that fateful splashing, pray that you’ll be wearing neoprene.