Thursday, November 02, 2006

laura's v-spot

vionnet + valentino
note: I'm still making corrections. sorry about the mess.

My previous post focused on the specific pieces in Laura's runway show. (Click here to go to the first post.) In this post I'm going to discuss how Laura's style relates to two important fashion designers: Madeline Vionnet and Valentino. By the way, I don't discuss Laura and fashion history because I think she is derivitive or imitative. I talk about Laura and fashion history because she is better informed -- in terms of both style and technique. This knowledge makes her work more interesting (and her imagination less limited) compared to the other designers.
Note: I have already discussed Laura's runway show in terms of the flapper look and early twentieth century fashion designers, specifically Paul Poiret. If you want to look at these posts go to:
early 20th century fashion history :

1. vionnet

Madeline Vionnet (1876-1975) ) is the designer known as the "queen of the bias cut." She began work as a seamstress at age eleven and apprenticed for fashion designers Jacques Doucet. She had her own fashion house and a boutique in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, retiring in 1939.

She is admired for her distinctive draping technique and her innovative bias cut designs. Working primarily with chiffon, silk, and crepe, her designs allowed for greater stretch which provided greater comfort while moving fashion towards a greater fluidity of line and an emphasisis on the woman's body.

Madeline Vionnet was particularly inspired by the style of ancient Greece and the way that fabric draped on Greek statues:

Above left: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, From the permanent collection. Statuette of Nike (personification of victory), late 5th century B.C.
Above right: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. From the exhibit "Goddess"; Crepe dress by Vionnet. Vogue, November 15, 1931.George Hoyningen-Heune, Condé Nast Publications Inc.

Note: click here to go to my previous discussion of the role of ancient Greek art in how early twentieth century fashion reconceived the shape of the body.
Not all of Vionnet's garments were simple draped chiffon. She also used lace, velvet, net, applique, beading and sequins to make some of the most elegant and even extravagant dresses of her time.

Above images, left to right: 1. Laura Bennett. 2. Evening gown, 1939. Madeleine Vionnet Pale pink lamé and black silk lace appliquéd with black silk velvet. Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. 3. Laura Bennett. 4. Evening Dress, 1938 Madeleine Vionnet. Black silk satin and black silk net embroidered with black sequins. From the special exhibition: Blythe Spirit: The Windsor Set: November 1, 2002–February 9, 2003.
Madeline Vionnet is one of the most admired fashion designers and yet she is also the most elusive. She disliked public appearances. She thought attention should be focused on her work, not herself. She was particularly contemptuous of the faddishness of the contemporary fashion world where styles went in and out of fashion from season to season:
"Insofar as one can talk of a Vionnet school, it comes mostly from my having been an enemy if fashion. There is something superficial and volatile about the seasonal and elusive whims of fashion which offends my sense of beauty."
a couple of recommended books:

Madeline Vionnet by Betty Kirke

2. valentino
= a fashion house started by Valentino Garavani (1932 - )

Biographical information: At age 17 Valentino Garavani moved to Paris from his town in northern Italy and began his apprenticeship with Jean Desses and Guy Laroche. In 1959 he opened his first fashion house in Rome. One year later he teamed up with Giancarlo Giammetti who is the commercial manager of the house of Valentino. Valentino is an immediate sensation: he is the designer for the world of La Dolce Vita.

In 1968 he designs the wedding dress for Jacqueline Kennedy's marriage to Aristote Onassis catpulting him into the fashion stratosphere. Between then and now he has won every award possible and it is hard to argue that he is not Italy's greatest living designer. Valentino now has a broad fashion empire but the House of Valentino designs one thing: evening gowns. In that he is preeminent. I don't think any designer has more dresses, new or vintage, on the red carpet than Valentino.

A couple ideas for an advertising campaign for vintage Valentino:

Vintage Valentino:
A dress so memorable that they may even forget that the woman wearing it was a blithering idiot.
. . .
Vintage Valentino:
After the love is gone, the dress remains.

Valentino has also been known to admonish stars for going out into public looking sloppy -- if not sleazy. He believes that stars have an obligation to their public to be glamorous:
Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani slammed Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz for their fashion style, claiming they look like 'homeless bag ladies' compared with Hollywood stars from the past.

Valentino, 73, who dresses famous actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and is often seen on the red carpet with her, declared that celebrities today should always look glamorous, not only when they are invited to parties or award shows.

The designer told German newspaper Die Ziet: "Today you see Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz running around looking unkempt in jogging trousers, they look like bag ladies, like homeless people. In the past, actresses had to commit in their contracts to appear in public like stars when they left their homes.

Given that Laura does not own a pair of jeans, what could be more Laura than that?

In addition to sharing the belief that glamour is not merely a fashion choice but an obligation, dammit!!Laura also shares Valentino's classicism. In a certain way (a perverse way, granted) there is a frugality to that idea of elegance in that it isn't faddish: if you are going to buy then make sure it is something that is going to be worn for the rest of your life.

When Heidi said that Laura's dresses are the kind that a woman has in her closet for the rest of her life she could not be making a statement that said more about how Laura takes her fashion cues from a designer such as Valentino.

But that doesn't make Laura completely imitative of Valentino as a designer. If you look at the two rows of dresses below what is most remarkable is that they seem so similar and yet each piece is completely different. Laura's pieces were evocative but not derivative.

a couple of recommended books:

Fashion Memoir: Valentino

3. vamp??

Did this dress remind anyone else of Morticia Addams?? (For the record, I consider the comparison to be a complimentof the highest order.)

It just seems like the perfect dress for the woman who would say:
"I'm just like every modern woman trying to have it all. A loving husband, a family. I only wish I had more time to see out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade. " (What a great line. All hail Paul Rudnick.)
You also have to appreciate the irony that it was Laura and not Jeffrey who sent the best goth look down the runway.

And forget the bikinis and babydoll looks: that dress' back with its slinky fishtail swish provided the sexiest look in all four shows.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

laura's collection

This post is just about the clothes themselves. In the following post (click here) I will discuss her work in a broader sense fashion history and the contemporary fashion world.

the collection
Here are the 12 pieces, in order of presentation:

The first thing that strikes me is the sense of balance and completion. There seems to be nothing missing, nothing out of place, and it is all of a piece. What it lacks in variety it gains in in coherence. The order of the pieces, the styling, the shoes, and the selection of the models, is exactly the right choice.

For some the fact that nothing is left to chance indicates a lack of artistic spirit. But I'm not so sure, especially for designers at the early stages of their careers. It is like the beginning artist who doesn't know the basics but throws paint at a canvas and calls it avant garde. (Echoes of Vincent.) Serious artists know what the traditions and conventions are before they challenge them. Serious designers must also be accomplished in creating work in traditional forms before they can deconstruct them. (Or send them out for someone else to sew.) Just saying that you don't do something because you are an artist not a craftsman (or seamstress or patternmaker) is, to my way of thinking, bullshit.

top row, pieces 1-4

I am not the first to comment on the "wow" factor of Laura's first dress (far left above and below). It was unexpected in color, neckline, sleeves, but it was still a quintessentially Laura dress. The model even had red hair, which was a very sly way of opening the show with an assertion of Lauras "signature" in a fresh new look. This dress is sort of Donna Karan with a bit more glamour. Or at least more sparkle.

Laura may not approve of the variations (above) but I wanted to see how they might look. I think this dress also proves the lie to the idea that her pieces are not versatile. It seems such a shame Laura didn't win if only because this dress strikes me as the quintessential INC garment. It's a missed opportunity for Macy's. (But I'm from Chicago so I'm boycotting Macy's but THAT is a matter for a full-blown rant.)

If there is one choice I'd consider changing with the models it would be the second and third: The second model is short and the third is tall and I think it might be better for the length of the dresses if they switched:

(I know my photoshopping is bad but I'm trying to get this post up as soon as possible so work with me people!)
The second dress does look nice short but I think it would be gorgeous at full length, as a ball gown. It would make a fabulous red carpet gown (above, far right -- a very rough paste-up.) Normally I don't like the deep V-neck but I particularly like the neckline of this dress (below, left). This notch has more coverage and the geometry is interesting.

I like the individual pieces of the fourth outfit: the jacket and the shorts (above, right) but I think this would have looked better with satin lounge pants in the cream/gold to match the top. I like the individual pieces of the fourth outfit: the jacket and the shorts (above, right) but I think this would have looked better with satin lounge pants in the cream/gold to match the top (See below).
There's really nothing wrong with this outfit but I just personally would want to have the pants. I think, however, Laura might see them as part of that slippery slide into sweats: you know, one day you are in silk satin harem pants and the next day you are in cotton sweats with Old Navy sewn across your butt.

The shorts do work with the collection as a whole. First, they provide a transition from the light to the dark section of the collection. It was probably important that Laura demonstrated a certain variety of types of items. Also there was a certain mix and match aspect to her pieces and particularly the shorts and pants below.

Note: I have no idea what the foofy stuff is doing on the jacket. (I'm suddenly blanking on what that is called.) It doesn't really bother me as much as it did some because it seems like the kind of thing that is put on for the runway and isn't really part of the design.

second row: pieces 5-8

This is makes a nice series together. It is Victorian with the black lace but also playful and sexy.

In addition to the lounge wear above also liked Laura's new take on the look (below) with the skinny pants and sheer lace curtain wrap (below). This piece has that architecural quality that I like in Laura's work. It may be a bit "Victoria's Secret" but I think that there is often a little wink in Laura's clothes. This also reminds me of Keith's story on the first challenge about how his dress showed how a woman can go out to a party wearing a curtain. Laura showed how a woman can use a curtain to outfit herself for an at-home affair. She selected the perfectly statuesque model to wear it.

Now that is an Empire State.

I think that Laura selected the best models for her dresses. She just has an eye for detail in every way. You see the sloppyness of someone like Jeffrey in those sorts of things. Some of his models were completely inappropriate for his clothes.

I'm going to discuss the second dress more tomorrow so all I'll say now is that I'm happy the shrug wasn't fur. That is a deal breaker for me I'm afraid. Frankly I'm not happy about the feathers either -- from a humane and a fashion point of view. I tried to imagine what it might look like with different sleeves because it truly is a beautiful dress. I am not sure that either of the versions I came up with are the solution. The feathers clearly balanced the proportions: ence you take them away you can see why they were needed. But I still don't like them. (Also the dress is so sheer you can see her underpants.) I like this dress but I think it isn't there yet. Perhaps because the fabric reminds me of scaffolding -- I think she could push the architecture of the form further.

third row, pieces 9-12

As we get to the end of the show we have a couple of black/silver flapper dresses that bring us back to the first dresses. This flapper dress (below) has that detailed work of beading -- thick on the top with some gold flash is a dress that could easily be a final piece itself. It is interesting that Laura waits until near the end before bringing out what the judges have come to think of as the classic "Laura" dress.

The movement of the ribbons on the shoes is also wonderful enhancement to the look -- which is something I noticed throughout the show.

The final gown (below) is a gun metal satin gown with thick beading on the top. The front is high and the back is open (I think of it as a swimmer's racing suit style) and intersected with a gold velvet belt. I thought the effect was stunning. And of course there was no model better suited for this dress than Camilla who has come to embody the cool sophistication and elegance of Laura's style.
The gold belt brings us full circle -- literally and figuratively to the first dress which has the beading on the bottom half instead of the top. Look below at the first and last dresses:

It is like a sun and moon. The symmetry is quite stunning.

Throughout the show there is a sensuality of movement and a play of light and dark created by the fabric choices, the cut, and the beading and other details.

It is a collection that also seems to be symbolic -- bird feathers, lace flowers -- of femininity without being too obvious or stereotypical. I'm not saying this is about some trite narrative about fecundity and birth. I think that might provoke morning sickness in Laura. I just think it is a very sexy and feminine collection that is about a woman being sexy and feminine.

I know I'm waxing bit rhapsodic but the more closely I contemplated these works the more I started to see the collection as moving more towards the world of art in its aesthetic: not just because each piece is so finely wrought but because when brought together they create something that is greater than its parts.