Licentiate Column: The Soft Line

Usually, trends are easy to predict. Florals in spring, sombre patterns in autumn, pastels for sun, dark colours for sleet and rain. It’s a formula for prediction for Mystic Meg would snort derisively at.

There are trends that come out of left field, seemingly for no good reason other than a designer’s well-intentioned need to break us little people out of our fashion funk. That is why we have leggings. It may also be why we had such marvels of engineering as the crinoline and the bustle.

Cartoon by George Cruikshank

‘I know’, said the worlds foremost 19th century couturiers. ‘Why don’t we make women look like gigantic lacy bells instead of bipedal creatures? They’re just dying for a change in style. Or perhaps we should make them wear several pounds of horsehair padding on their behinds? Would their bums look big in this? I should bloody well hope so!’

When designers feel like breaking from the norm, they usually do it not in terms of fabric or pattern, but silhouette. This can have an unexpectedly gorgeous outcome (think beaded flapper dresses or block bright Mary Quant minis), but when the trend involves making a woman look unnatural or like she’s been stuffed into a lifesize sausage casing, then we have a problem.

The newest unwearable silhouette change has been dubbed by as ‘The New Soft Line’. This is probably because it will make you look like the squishy-soft Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

Stella McCartney A/W '11-'12

Vogue describes the trend as ‘soft, curvy and rounded – it may not sound like high fashion, but the new soft line is the silhouette for autumn/winter ‘11’. This, also, does not tell us very much.

A quick run through of the designers that espouse the soft line trend reveal a motley crew; Chanel and Moschino Cheap and Chic, Jil Sander and Burberry Prorsum. Stella McCartney leads the way, with a collection of pillowy garments.
All these designers and the soft line can be boiled down to this – it’s supposed to make you look like you have no joints. Wear a cocoon coat and presto! Your hips have disappeared! Bell-shaped sleeves? No elbows for you today.

It’s an unfortunate trend because it’s beautiful. It really does have soft lines, waving, undulating, alluring. The problem is that the human body, while in possession of such lines, also has angles, points, edges and relative straightness (ironically, mostly found on the slim models wearing such clothes). It makes a person wonder whether the human body is the best canvas for such an artistic endeavour.

Burberry Prorsum A/W '11-'12

Burberry’s winter coats have huge, exaggerated, cropped cape-like sleeves that could house a couple looking to get their first step on the property ladder. It’s rather unfortunate that on a cold winter’s eve this coat would be about as insulating as as Tesco Value toilet paper, despite the heft of the wool or the meticulousness of craftsmanship.

Stella McCartney A/W '11-'12

Stella MacCartney’s jumper dresses are a bit of a misnomer. You would expect a woolly dress to be comfortable, but here the fabric is stiffened, almost like card. This preserves the silhouette.

The sacrifice of comfort for a soft line is bordering on Victorian – full of restriction, austerity, exploitation and diminished mobility. It sometimes seems that we’ve already gone back there economically. Is that a time we want to go back to sartorially?

A full-on Van Gogh

Tai: Do you think she’s pretty?
Cher: No, she’s a full-on Monet.
Tai: What’s a Monet?
Cher: It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess.

There’s a Clueless quote for every life situation.  It’s official.

First stop on the Fashion Week tour is Rodarte.  As a rule, everyone loves Rodarte.  Their references are unlike any other designer’s, their attention to craftsmanship is second to none and they refuse to pander to conventional fashion structures (think about it – have you ever seen a Rodarte advertisment in a fashion magazine?  Or any magazine for that matter).

They are laws unto themselves – fashion’s answer to Emily Bronte, sequestering themselves away, working and weaving (and maybe Wuthering) their genius entirely for their own gratification.

So, it came as a bit of a shock to find that the Spring/Summer collection was *whispers* a tiny bit lacking.

It’s kind-of a reverse Monet; it’s achingly beautiful up close… but from far away, it’s not so great.

The details are amazing – the embroidery is so intricate and the prints, which have been warped and twisted and pixellated into a double abstraction have a modern echo of the sorrow of solitude and joy of nature Van Gogh painted.

Then the camera pulls out and you see the whole dress.

Thoughts?  Did you think the same or did you think it was up to Rodarte’s usual standards?

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Photos from (cropped by me)

Related #10: But is it art?

Haute couture is a higly protected term.  It’s not haute couture unless

  • Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  • Have an atelier in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  • Each season present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

Ah Wikipedia.  You always have the answers…

Everyone’s been gushing about Riccardo Tisci’s outing with Givenchy (and rightly so) but Alaia was another highlight of the season.

People love Azzedine Alaia because he’s a fashion maverick. He speaks his mind, often to his detriment. He hates the fashion grind, which causes designers to take on too hefty a workload. He’s not a slave to trends or to money or to retailers.

I love this collection. Alaia really knows his way around a woman’s body.  The silhouettes, the details and the pure love that is poured into all of his designs are evident.

But is it art?  What do you think?

P.S.  Whenever I hear the word ‘Alaia’, I think about that scene in Clueless.

CHER:  Oh, no, you don’t understand. This is an Alaia.

MUGGER:  An Awhatta?

CHER:  It’s like a totally important designer.

MUGGER:  And I will totally shoot you in the head. Get down!

rodarte couture 5

Fashion and Art: Rodarte Couture

Peach crinkle chiffon and taupe georgette pleated and tulle gown, and peach feathers with pleated gold belt and shoulder pieces.

Rodarte recently unveiled their first couture collection at Pitti Immagine in Florence.  The ten gowns were based on the frescoes painted by Fra Angelico in the monks cells in San Marco and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture of The Ecstacy of St Theresa.

Understandably, I’m having a huge art history fangirl moment.

Rodarte are sticklers when it comes to detail, so setting and placement are very important, but I also think that the setting and placement of their Renaissance influences are important when it comes to interpreting their pieces (and these dresses are as close to art as clothing can be, so they beg a bit of analysis).


Even though Fra Angelico’s murals were painted for monk’s cells, occupants of these cells included members of the Medici family, who were the most powerful family in Florence and noted patrons of the arts.  Cosimo de Medici would use the cells for some incredibly expensive alone time.


Bernini’s sculpture is one of the most controversial art pieces of the Renaissance, with what can be interpreted as extremely sexual overtones.  Take a look at Teresa’s face.  Is it intentional or just out modern smutty minds.  The sculpture is flanked by two balconies of realistically-rendered observers, who are very interested in the action going on down below.  In both artworks, there is an element of being watched and of patronage, the rich paying out for art.  That’s the connecting line between couture and art – both are intricately one-offs made to detailed specifications for rich clients

Here are some of the gowns.  I love the belts and breastplates – They’re SOOOOOO Bernini (said in the manner of Kim Kardashian).


Pale and bright pink silk georgette and chiffon pleated and draped gown with hand beaded Swarovski crystals and a gold pleated metal breast plate


Lime silk georgette and crinkle silk chiffon Pleated gown with hand molded Easter lilies, feathers, and Swarovski crystals, Aqua silk georgette and sequin release pleat ocean gown


Cantaloupe pleated Silk, draped silk georgette, and taffeta gown with gold ray belt


l-r, Lapis Silk Chiffon Release Pleat Gown with Electric Blue Sequins and Lavender Silk Gauze. Off White Silk Georgette Pleated Gown with Off White and Crimson Crinkle Silk Organza, Silk Chiffon, Lace, Satin and Crepe Waves, and Hand Molded Easter Lilies decorated with pearl and Swarovski Crystals. Dusty Blue Silk Georgette Release Pleat Column Gown with Pink Silk Satin, Dusty Blue Gauze, Pale Pink and Dusty Pink Feathers, and Swarovski Crystal Element


Gold lame, silk and hammered sequin gown with feathers, a gold headpiece and Swarovski crystals

Rodarte photos from Autumn de Wilde

Licentiate Column 02/06/11: Made In Cork

Cork Fashion Week is a bit of a misnomer. A fashion week is industry only. In Cork, shows are ticketed and open to all. The clothes you see on a runway are shown six months ahead of production. What you see in Milan in February, you won’t see in Brown Thomas until September. In Cork, what you see is already, or very soon to be manufactured. Fashion weeks are intense, fraught and cloaked in mystique, albeit a mystique that dissolves a little bit as each season passes.

In Cork, we take a much more leisurely pace. It’s both our idiosyncratic advantage and the perpetual pebble in our shoe.

It was with that in mind that I went to ‘Made in Cork: A Prequel to Cork Fashion Week’ in the Woodford Bar last Sunday. As I was waiting to go in, a possibly drunk, possibly homeless man tried to climb a tall, spiked, wrought-iron gate opposite the bar. He made a decent go of it, but impaled himself in the groin over two spikes and had to be lifted off the gate by a bartender and a slightly wobbly passer-by, who managed the whole procedure with a cigarette clamped between his teeth.

A Garda van pulled up, obscuring the view. Then, the sound of denim ripping and a very loud, sharp intake of breath. It was time to go inside. An inauspicious start in any circumstance.

I hoped that this wouldn’t be the marker for the event. Taking a seat inside the smoking area afforded the best views and elbow room, so that was where I sat myself, with a notebook, an unfortunate looking BIC pen and an endless supply of fizzy pop.

The crowd was a mix of models, photographers, fashion lovers and one small, very bored looking boy in Communion garb. Unlike London fashion week, where everyone is stressed beyond belief, the attendees looked genuinely happy. They were smiling, greeting each other with hugs, buying pints (of champagne), trading bon mots and making plans for the evening.

It was as if they were actually glad to be there (with the exception of Communion Boy, who had a pout that Andre Leon Talley would spontaneously combust with jealousy over). This is not the fashion week the world was used to. I was bamboozled. Pleasantly bamboozled.

The first half of the show was excellent. Trends were expertly curated. The preppy looks were a particular favourite – all white jeans and jumpers casually knotted over shoulders, ready for a game of tennis in the Hamptons. The vintage dress selection from Miss Daisy Blue was excellent as usual, with a mix of psychedelic print maxis, prom dress and LBDs that looked classically and contemporary.

It’s always good to see something grow and expand. I’m very proud to have been a witness of such growth from Cork Fashion Week’s inception. This September promises to be the most diverse and exciting Fashion Week yet.

Each year it gets a little bit bigger and, as Cork become even more creative and focused on fashion niches, the community at large adapts and rallies around it. Even if it’s something as ridiculous as lifting a stuck wino off a gate.

If you wear a ringer, you’re Indie Rock. Period."


Wise words, Daisy von Furth, wise words.

X-girl is the sister to Japanese label X-Large and, as I type, is only available in Japan. In 1994, when the label was launched, the brands directors were Daisy Von Furth and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth *cue fangirl squeee*

While is lasted in it’s RIOT GRRRL format, it was pretty darn cool. With all the clean lines and simple tailoring, it reminds me of a no boys-allowed Fred Perry.

X Girl editorial for Vice Magazine

Did you notice a very young Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola in the video? And Chloe Sevigny was their original fit model. ANDandand and and… *fades into silence*

EDIT – While we’re on the subject of music in fashion, you can watch a video of myself and Dawn of Skinni Peach talking about fashion in music with our playlist on the Teen RTE (think Irish BBC) website .  The video will be on the website for a week, so have a click and see what we like!  You’ll get to see me move and speak (a bit like an Irish Daria Morgendorffer) and display abysmal posture.  What an incentive.

Distilled: Paris Fashion Week A/W ’11

This is the last in the series.  Paris, following on from New York, London and Milan, is probably the most-hyped fashion week, with a record number of high-profile designers showing collections (and a lot of monotonous flicking through photographs on for me).

Here are some Parisian picks, arranged by trend – I use the word ‘trend’ in the loosest possible terms, because I’ve just made most of them up.

all photos


Row 1 – Anne Demeulemeester, Cacharel, Haider Ackerman
Row 2 – Chanel, Maison Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen
Row 3 – Jean Paul Gaultier, Miu Miu, Tsumori Chisato
Row 4 – Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Valentino
Row 5 – Carven, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Sonia Rykiel
Row 6 – Chloe, Christian Dior, Lanvin
  • Row 1 – Absolutes – Make outfit statements in one colour (or two) – emphasis is on texture and silhouette.
  • Row 2 – Come together, fall apart – Deconstructed, zipped and ripped apart outfits.  I shouldn’t love this because these are oriented towards the willowy of body, but I do anyway.
  • Rpw 3 – Little old ladies – Pour talcum powder in your ‘do, amp up the boxy silhouette and invest in a furry shopping trolley, as seen at Gaultier.
  • Row 4 – Night porter – Leather trenches with very little little on underneath for the dominatrix vibe.  Christian Dior jokes optional.
  • Row 5 – Plaid – pensive plaid at Carven, Playful plaid at Castelbajac and Sonia Rykiel – it’s all good.
  • Row 6 – Textures with pattern – wooly snakeskin at Chloe and flower print gazar fabric at Lanvin.
  • None – though when it comes to Paris, I have rose-tinted specs.  Perhaps there was an overabundance of fur, but that seems to have been an overarching trend covering all four weeks.
What are your PFW picks?

Distilled: Milan Fashion Week A/W ’11

First there was New York and London, then there was Milan…

Soon, there will be Paris and I can stop annoying my boyfriend into making me more of these photocollages.

L-R (in convenient alphabetical order)
Row 1 – Alberta Ferretti, Blumarine, Bottega Veneta
Row 2 – D&G, Dolce & Gabanna, Etro
Row 3 – Fendi, Gucci, Marni
Row 4 – Missoni, Moschino, Versus


  • Milan didn’t let us down on the glamour front; colours are richer, pants are shinier and a sense of humour is always apparent.
  • Mixing textures – leather with tweed, wool with silk, hand-knits with aforementioned shiny-pants material.
  • Intense colour pops – from crayola brights at Blumarine to cloying candy colours at Missoni.


  • Milan’s glam does have a flip side – and that’s it’s (debatable) overuse of fur and snakeskin, evident on the Gucci catwalk.  I’ve stated before that I’m fairly ambivalent towards fur, but seeing this much is a bit like eating too much rich chocolate cake; you feel a bit of disgust at the overindulgence.
  • A distinct lack of trousers.  Case in point: no pants at Prada.

Pic 4 – Can’t you picture MIA wearing every single item from the D&G show?
Pic 8 – Apart from the whole ‘fur-discomfort’ thing, the Gucci show was beautiful.  Drawing inspiration from 70’s era Angelican Huston and Helmot Newton = WIN.
Pic 9 – Marni was my favourite show, which came as a bit of a surprise.  Pattern mix-and-matching from the masters.

What are your thoughts on Milan?

I have two words for you…

..and those words are ‘CLEAR MACS’!

It seems that Jeremy Scott was definitely on the right track.  Now give me a plastic rain mac and let me splash around in some puddles, Burberry Prorsum-style.
To watch more, visit catwalkreport_v2.aspx?seasonid=23&seasonday=2011 02 21&day=4

Press play to watch the highlights of Day Four of London Fashion Week, which has been the best so far (in my incredibly inflated, self-important opinion).  An LFW round up will appear on the blog on Friday.

*Apologies for the shortness of this post.  Have you ever been so tired that you look at what you’re writing and it’s total gibberish?  Not badly-written or poorly thought out sentences, just actual unintelligible burble, like a toddler mashing the keyboard with his fists.  So, in a way, I’m doing you a favour by writing a twitter-length missive.  You can thank me later.

Distilled: New York Fashion Week A/W ’11

Here’s a handy-dandy pocket guide to New York Fashion Week – Favourite runway looks, trend predictions and the stuff that didn’t go over so well.  I’ll be doing one for London, Milan and Paris every week so if you like this, make sure to check back next Friday for more catwalk overanalysis.

From left to right, per row
Tartan galore: 1 – Y3, 2 – Rag& Bone, 3 – Libertine
Slick monochromatic tailoring:  4 – Jason Wu, 5 – Michael Kors, 6 – DKNY
Print clash:  7 – Proenza Schouler, 8 – Rodarte, 9 – Preen
Left-field details:  10 – Jeremy Scott, 11 – Marc Jacobs, 12 – Prabal Gurung
70’s trend:  13 – Diane Von Furstenberg, 14 – Marc by Marc Jacobs, 15 – Rodarte
Trends from New York for Autumn/Winter 2010/11
  • Red – and LOTS of it.
  • Pattern clashes – intricate patterns based on maths/science (as seen on Preen with their uniform polyhedra prints)
  • Polka dots – as at Marc Jacobs.
  • Texture tastic – not only will we be mixing patterns, we’ll be mixing textures as well.  As seen at Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler,
  • Thigh-high split skirts – my legs say no, but my brain says YES!


  • Sheer tights – Is it just me or are they a bit, erm, Maggie Thatcher?
  • Fur – on everything – on cuffs, on hats, skirts, everything.  I guarantee that someone will manufacture fur underpants and make a profit.  My personal stance on fur is pretty non-committal but the sheer amount of fur on the catwalks in NY seemed incredibly self-indulgent.  Some of the most original collections didn’t use fur at all.
Pic 10 – Where would we be without Jeremy Scott?  The world would be a much duller place (and Katy Perry would have a yawning chasm in her wardrobe).  I think that his collections are best viewed on individual merits.  Example; this bikini/clear mac combo.  Not something I could ever pull off in real life (and the world breathes a sigh of relief) but pair the crystal-encrusted mac with some monochrome tailoring?  WIN.
Pic 11 – Marc Jacobs also works the clear clothing look, but this blouse is much more subtle.
Pic 15 – If you can hold a pair of knitting needles, you could easily knit this Rodarte jumper.  I wonder how much the retail will be?
What were your NYFW highlights and lowlights?