Licentiate Column 13/10/11: Gucci Gucci

Last week I talked about the Mod look and how much we love looks from the past. But what happens when we love a look from the past that is already recreating a look from the past? It gets complicated. More complicated than we need shopping for clothes to be.

This is the kind of generation-jumping, time-leaping fashion situation where Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap would really come in handy. Let me explain.

Last February, at Milan Fashion week, Frida Gianinni debuted an Autumn/Winter Gucci collection that would cause photographers and editors to go into raptures of unmitigated worship. It was beautiful, all of it.

The collection was basically an amped-up harkening back to the days of Studio 54. Each model looked as if she had been styled by Angelica Huston on her way to a hot date with Jack Nicholson, seen through the lens of Helmut Newton.

The women looked statuesque, powerful, immovable. The clothes were typical 70’s – wide-legged trousers, knee length boots meeting skirt hems, huge sunglasses. Leather, fur and chiffon were everywhere.

The collection had been given a modern twist. The furs were dyed from their natural state to bright, just on the right side of jarring colours; lavender, aquamarine, violet, Pernod green and a particular shade of yellow that can only be described as a tad Big Bird-y. The python was dyed similar colours. Because of the nature of fur and snakeskin (real or artificial) those colours took on the kind of multi-hued texture and dimension that is easily compared to precious jewels.

The original sombre colour palettes broken up with one or two bright colours to an outfit were not represented. Instead, an effusion of bright contrasting colours. A purple fur collar and muff was matched with a baby blue wool jacket, blue and purple sweater vest, red bow blouse, red trousers and accessorised with a black belt, midnight blue shoes and a burgundy velvet fedora trimmed with violet satin ribbon. Wear that in 1979 and people would assume you were colourblind. Today, it’s high fashion. It wobbled towards bad taste, but in a very good way.

What we conveniently forget is, at the time, the Studio 54 look was a twist on a previous decade – the 1930’s. The fur, the fedoras, the burgundy lips, the lowered hemlines, the sweeping gowns and the pussy bow blouses were all leftovers from another fashion decade.

Perhaps the trend was the echo of excess in a decade that was an economic disaster. Protected inside their bubble, the revellers in Studio 54 were temporarily exempt from the chaos going on outside. In the 1930s the rich left unscathed by the Great Depression continued to live excessively, oblivious to the mass migration and joblessness that stretched around the world. And this decade, with NAMA, bankrupt countries and an ever-shrinking population of young, skilled people… You can see a pattern forming, surely. It’s fashionomics.

Backstage: Meadham Kirchoff

I’ve never been a big fan of Meadham Kirchoff.  There.  I said it.

That is, until I read the relavatory and surprising interview given by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchoff in the most recent LOVE magazine.  Their work consumes them, a sliver of self-referential sadness, obsession and neurosis runs through their work, often projected through a decidedly Nineties lens.  Their solitary lives mean that their collections are often genre-defying flights of pure self-expression.  Oh, and they’re hardcore feminists. Read the interview if you can.  It’s well worth the twenty minutes or so to pore over it.

Now I look at their shows and think, ‘Oh. Now I understand.’ It’s probably not the best reflection on me, to be honest.

These backstage photographs of their S/S ’12 show were taken by Rachel Hardwick, a CSM student and freelance photographer who was ironically (and depressingly for those of us who can remember the Berlin wall, however fleetingly) born in the decade the Meadham Kirchoff designers draw their inspiration from. A Nineties baby taking photos of Nineties women – I like the parallel.

I think my favourite is the row of Courtneys.

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!


Dior couture: Whose dress is this anyway?

So… what did we think of the Dior couture offerings?  All eyes are on the French fashion house after Galliano’s famous ejection from the fashion house a few months ago.



The good people at Dior are deliberately making a statement by pointedly referencing the work of Marc Bohan, who helmed the brand from 1961 – 1989, sandwiched neatly in between Yves Saint Laurent and Gianfranco Ferré.


In terms of intent, I think that this collection falls a little bit flat.  Even though the collection is based on the work of Bohan (and the silhouettes really do echo his Sixties/Seventies work) it smacks of Galliano.  It’s like coming home to your boyfriend to find the bitch next door’s perfume still evaporating on his shirt.  The way that Bohan’s work is cheekily referenced, the quirky details, the vintage aesthetic, even the cat eye/red lip make-up combinations.  It’s so Galliano, and specifically Galliano, not just Galliano at Dior.


You can’t fault the work done at Dior – the craftsmanship is routinely perfect as ever.


The designs… perhaps not so much.  The waters are muddied slightly by all the tumult that Dior has gone through.


What do you think?


Photos by Fashion Gone Rogue


P.S  I’ve done another post for RTE’s Red Radar blog and I’d really appreciate it if you gave it a click!  It’s all about my fashion memories as a young ‘un so if you’d like to see a pre-adolescent passport picture of me, well, you know where to go…

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: London Fashion Week A/W ’11

Here’s another extra super-duper, handy-dandy guide to Fashion week. Last one was New York, Milan will be posted in a few days. Here’s some of my favourite looks, with a bit of trend prediction thrown in under the guise of journalistic integrity.

from l-r
Row 1 – Deep Red – Betty Jackson, John Rocha, Saloni
Row 2 – 70’s Granny Patterns – Christopher Kane, Henry Holland, JW Anderson Woman
Row 3 – Twisted Brit Heritage – Burberry, Paul Smith, Pringle
Row 4 – Bright Pattern Clash – Jonathan Saunders, Louise Gray, Mary Katrantzou
Row 5 – Grown-up Prints – David Koma, Erdem, Jonathan Saunders
Row 6 – Bonkers Tailoring – Jaeger, Jean Pierre Braganza, Krystof Strozyna
All pics from


  • Asymmetrical lapels – lapels as dresses, lapels as scarves, lapels as trousers.  We’ll be wearing lapels as bikinis next – this can only be a good thing.
  • Blue and green – the ultimate optical aquamarine colourpop.
  • Heavy materials – I there’s something I love, it’s going out with he reassuring weight of a blanket around my shoulders (actually, that might be something I need to see a psychotherapist about).
  • Sherlock Holmes coats – full length or cropped, as seen at Pringle.  All I need now is a tweed hat and a pipe.  I already have a sidekick called Dr. Watson.
  • No… Can’t think of anything.
Pics 4 and 5 – Who knew that Granny’s blankets would be back in fashion – and I don’t hate it…
Pic 6 – Paisley has finally been given it’s due in JW Anderson’s first womenswear collection.
Pic 8 – Paul Smith’s collection was probably my favourite catwalk show thus far – there was not one thing that I didn’t want to wear.  And the models!  Like tall, willowy versions of Daria .
Pic 18 – Off-kilter draping deserves to be all over the place come this Autumn

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?

Licentiate Column 17/02/11 Colour Blocking: A Guide

Colour blocking is a little bit like nuclear fusion. We all have a vague idea of what it is, but only people with specialist knowledge can explain it coherently or know how to work it properly. Colour blocking isn’t the driving force behind the most powerful explosive men has ever known, but still, if you make one wrong move, everything is very liable to blow up in your face.
This particular trend has been all over the catwalks and in shops for several seasons now, but it has been hovering around the fringes of decorating, graphic design, home interiors, visual merchandising and art for much, much longer. If someone wants to draw your eye to something, be it a window display or a bathroom wall, colour blocking is one of the most effective ways to do it.
And yet, it is damnably hard to explain in simple, linear terms. I’ve spent a solid week researching and trying to write synopses, but the only one-line answer to colour blocking that I can come up with is this: If you look like a Fruit Pastille ice pop, then you’re doing it right.
Colour blocking should be easy. In it’s most basic term, it’s the wearing a few contrasting colours in one outfit. Yep, it really should be easy – but it isn’t. It’s the sartorial equivalent of a sixteen year old trying to unhook his girlfriends bra. The swaggering confidence as the task begins soon turns, first to frustration, then crushing disappointment, insecurity and finally, an unsatisfactory conclusion for everyone involved.
There are a hundred and one simple rules for working colour blocking like a pro, but I only get five hundred words per column. I’ve wasted two hundred of them already joking about how difficult it is, so I’ll just give you the basics. This is the fruit of reading about a hundred articles and embarking on some terrible wardrobe experiments, one of which resulted me going shopping in town resembling a human rubiks cube.
1) Only wear two or three colours at any one time. See rubiks cube statement above.
2) Pretend that you’re colour blind. Remember ‘blue and green must never be seen’? Rejoice, for the restraining order between cerulean and emerald has been lifted. A detente has been reached and the good news is ringing out all over your wardrobe. Red and pink are similarly jarring bedfellows.
3) The Clash is more than just an band. Red with blue? Yes please! Purple and green? Don’t mind if I do! Yellow and teal? Why, I’ll have a double portion. Please sir, I want some more!
4) Patterns are not your friends. Red and green is fine, if a little festive. Red and green stripes are a no-no. You’re not Bosco, but wear that combo and you’ll be sent back in your box. Patterns are generally eye-catching anyway, so they tend to have an America’s Next Top Model-worthy fight for attention with contrasting trends. Remember, colour blocking = blocks of colour. That means no patterns allowed. No exceptions.
5) Neutrals are a welcome relief. If your multi-tonal antics are on the verge of inducing seizure, break up the colour party by introducing a neutral shade. Grey works well with cool blues and greens, tan and beige colours can look unexpectedly striking with warm tones. It makes an on-trend twist to all the boring basics.
So now you know the rules. Go forth and block your colours like there’s no tomorrow. And if you find yourself looking longingly at stripes, just think to yourself – what would Bosco do?