Last night I made my end of fashion week pilgrimage to the atelier of Azzedine Alaïa to see what he has been working on. As usual, Mr Alaïa did not have a show during the Paris collections; he was too busy.
Indeed, he’s got quite a lot to say about the time pressures on designers, and other industry professionals who engage in the catwalk game, to the extent that he’s planning a symposium on the subject. Stay tuned.
Anyway, there’s a lot going on over there.
Starting with the fact he’s not just busy making clothes: he is making the costumes for a French ballet, to debut in April, as well as for a Los Angeles Opera production of the Marriage of Figaro, which will open mid-May. Oh, and he’s getting ready for a major exhibit of his work at the Musée Galliera in the autumn. Read more
We used to do a column on the Style pages devoted to what we called “incredibly obvious innovations”: fashion developments that seemed so “Duh!” when you saw them it was almost unbelievable no one had thought of them before.
For example, straps on the outside of a tote to hold an umbrella so it doesn’t soak everything inside the bag. Or a light on the interior of a purse, so you can actually see what’s inside without having to take everything out first. Well, I have a new candidate, straight from Paris Fashion Week: Neil Barrett’s internal coat strap. Read more
Three years ago in the midst of the financial crash, Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent and a writer (she was awarded an MBE for it), in conjunction with the British Fashion Council, set up what she called “the London Showrooms”. A temporary salon during Paris Fashion Week for young UK designers not yet ready to pay for their own showrooms around the world, or organise them, but eager to reach those among the international fashion body who might not have made it to the London shows because of budget or time.
It was a big success, and since then she has introduced such showrooms in Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong, as well as another in Paris for menswear, and potentially one in Tokyo this year. Read more
Helen Hunt wearing an H&M gown on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday
On Wednesday H&M is having its first-ever Paris fashion show – in the Musée Rodin, the haute art ex-venue of Tom Ford’s Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano’s Christian Dior. Coming on the back of Sunday’s Oscar moment, when best supporting actress nominee Helen Hunt wore H&M on the red carpet, it seems to indicate more upmarket ambitions for the brand. So, is this a sign of the times or a sign of the decline of western fashion civilisation? Maybe a bit of both.
(Note: it doesn’t seem to be the unveiling of the group’s new, higher-priced brand collection & Other Stories – it’s H&M itself. So it’s not a move to elevate a line to, say, the Martin Sitbon level.)
On one level, it sounds silly. The whole point of great high street brands such as H&M is that it so quickly, effectively and economically translates high-fashion trends for the rest of the world without the frills, hoo-ha and elitism associated with the whole show system, its seating ranks, invitations and exclusionary velvet ropes. It led the revolution to democratise style, and its consumers love it for it. Read more
One of the more interesting additions to the Paris Fashion Week schedule came courtesy not of any big group, but rather a human rights lawyer named Paul van Zyl.
A native of South Africa now living in Brooklyn, Mr van Zyl has spent more than a decade working with Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and his experience inspired him to start…a luxury brand. It’s called Maiyet, and had its first runway show on Sunday.
Come again? Read more
After Fashion 4 Development, the UN initiative involving Michelle Obama and Carla Sarkozy and geared toward supporting industry in developing countries, after Fashion Ambassadors (where celebs and socialites are paid to wear a brand’s clothes out and about), comes…Ambassadors 4 Fashion, a new, unofficial initiative launched this week in Paris.
I say “unofficial,” because I just made it up. But what else to think after the quartet of invitations I have received. To be specific: Read more
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the best fashion week of all?
Such appears to be the refrain of the moment in Paris and Milan. Perhaps it is because of the historic rivalry. It’s like siblings: Who is better? Bigger? More creative? Who knows more powerful people? Who gets more attention? Perhaps it is because lately it seems as if every country is starting at least one, if not two, fashion weeks of their own, but Milan and Paris seem to be doing their utmost to add more designers to their schedule, thereby increasing their reach and power and asserting their primacy in this notably hierarchical world. Read more
Follow the FT’s latest reports from Paris Fashion Week. Read more
I spent my last night in Paris watching Azzedine Alaia getting ready for his show, and it was a very thought-provoking way to end this whole hoo-ha of a season. Fitting, you could say (pun fully intended).
You could also say, “But wait! The shows are over! Why is he only getting ready now?” To which I would say: “That’s the point. He is only ready now – actually, he’s not quite ready now, but he will be soon – and he only shows when he is ready.”
And here’s the interesting thing: Mr Alaia’s business is growing by leaps and bounds. He’s taking over the enormous former Prada space at Barneys New York, he has a 120 sq metre space at Harrods already, he’s getting a bigger place at Harvey Nichols, opening corners in China, etc.
This is, I remind you, someone who no longer plays the fashion game at all: shows when the press has left Paris if that’s how it goes (buyers are still there; someone is around), delivers when it’s ready, and doesn’t do pre-collections. Plus, his work is priced at the highest end of the fashion spectrum. All of which has served to make him…more in demand. Read more
Follow the FT’s reports from Paris Fashion Week. Read more