December 2, 2018

Heavenly Bodies

I've been very upfront about my relationship with Versace. Never have I tried to hide the special place Versace has in my heart as the brand that ignited my lifelong passion back in 2007. Though it dawned on me there is one thing about this Italian house I have not yet talked about: Atelier Versace. So here I am today, ready to fully come clean to you about mon amour.

While the core Versace prêt-à-porter collections can at times come across as flashy and tacky, the haute couture arm of the brand, Atelier Versace, is consistently flawless. I first discovered Donatella Versace's brilliance in haute couture when I began to notice time and time again she was behind some of the most splendid red carpet moments over the years. Angelina Jolie is clearly a fan. Her statuesque emerald column at the Golden Globes? Her swipe of red the year after? Her iconic thigh high slit at the Oscars? All were thanks to Atelier Versace. And it's not just Jolie who looks jolie draped in DonatellaSelena Gomez deserved applause for her brazen gown with fluorescent accents, while Gigi Hadid struck a winning pose swathed in what looked like painterly strokes. Atelier Versace is like the Sia of fashion: it is the silent, underappreciated genius who makes other people look good.

But, of course, the red carpet alone cannot do justice exhibiting what Atelier Versace is truly capable of. For that, we must look to the collections themselves. Some of my personal highlights include...

Spring 2012 Couture: Gold metal splicing through with razor precision for maximum extraterrestrial glamour.

Spring 2016 Couture: Colour geometry and texture play pave the way for youthful yet thoughtful urban couture.

Fall 2016 Couture: This elegant dishabille, pleasantly reminiscent of Vionnet demi couture, encourages us to slip deeply into the folds.

Spring 2017 Couture: Deliberate use of mythology as a muse: the incarnation of Artemis through meticulous pleating and angular layering.

Fall 2017 Couture: Whether you see liquefied precious metals which harken back to Prabal Gurung, or a bronzed up Mystique in mid-transformation, this look is dripping with intrigue.

Fall 2017 Couture: A collection so strong I had to show it twice. With this embodiment of a winged crusader, Atelier Versace proves that perfection does exist.

Fall 2018 Couture: Natasha Poly serving up lewks which showcase the incredible workmanship behind the earnest art of embellishment.

What I see from years of couture is Donatella Versace has an acute awareness of shape and placement. She is able to gently trace intersecting lines across the canvas of the body in ways breathtakingly unexpected. She has honed her ability to carry out elaborate adornment by ensuring each and every bead serves a purpose. Wearing Atelier Versace is like indulging in that split second sensation after emerging from a dream where fantasy and reality are still lusciously intertwined. When it comes to haute couture confections, Elie Saab may be king but Atelier Versace is divine, blessing us with pieces crafted by the hands of angels in what may as well be the house of heaven.

Back when Versace was founded, Gianni Versace chose Medusa as the subject of his logo because it was believed the serpentine sister had the power to make people fall hopelessly in love with her. Turns out Versace had the foresight of a prophet, because boy, am I ever in love.

Image Source: Dutch Girl Chronicle, Vogue

October 3, 2018

Meme Review

Here I am again, in what has unintentionally become my third installment in a series of blog posts about the current state of fashion (click for Part 1 and Part 2). I feel like a peasant version of beloved YouTuber Shane Dawson, who has been killing it lately with his docuseries (love you, Shane!).

Speaking of YouTube, you may be surprised to learn I watch the video platform's most subscribed channel, PewDiePie. I actually don't watch fashion influencers, beauty gurus, or lifestyle vloggers...I watch comedy personalities. As someone who vehemently dislikes the comedy genre outside of YouTube (and Mr. Bean!), I realize this is an odd quirk of mine.

Earlier this month, PewDiePie posted a video about fashion.

In his video, PewDiePie speaks to what he considers the intersection of fashion and memes. He brings up various examples to support his claim, but as someone who is not immersed in meme culture, I'm left wondering, what makes a meme and how is fashion a meme?

I first went to trusty ol' Wikipedia for the definition of a meme:

A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.

In essence, pretty abstract. Memes do not have to be through a certain medium, they can convey any sort of concept, and they are not always very obviously a meme because only those who understand or have an awareness of the idea will understand the meme. One could say, however, that memes are most oftentimes humorous and flourish best on the Internet. With that definition in mind, I wanted to determine for myself whether fashion has become a meme.

Memes are... idea, behaviour, or style.

Fashion could clearly check off this definition. What we wear is a form of expression representing the ideas and beliefs of the time. So then, has fashion simply always been a meme throughout history, or is there something in particular about our current time that makes fashion a meme? PewDiePie seems to believe the latter. He points to how the loud, colourful clothing we have been witnessing lately is akin to the obnoxious style of memes. He shows us images of older Gucci and Louis Vuitton menswear collections where styling was more pared down and clean cut. While I appreciate his observation, I don't think being "loud, colourful and obnoxious" is necessarily what makes modern day fashion a meme. Fashion has always run along a spectrum of style, and elaborate dressing bordering on the unhinged has shown up countless times in the past. As I have written about before, what is different now is our anti-fashion attitude. I believe PewDiePie does actually get the same sense, and was trying to capture that point when he said fashion nowadays "doesn't take itself seriously. What used to be a parody is now reality." And that brings me to my next point...


People sometimes only see stone-faced models parading down the runways, the snobby air of the glamorous industry, and clothing that seems straight up cuckoo...and they fail to see the underlying humour. Us fashion folk like to have fun. We don't always take ourselves so seriously. I will gleefully snicker while wearing a cardigan that looks oddly similar to a burlap sack (hear ye, my potato brethren!), deliberately donning tasteless logos, and topping off with a free baseball cap my dad probably obtained at some random event. Tongue in cheek fashion has always existed (I'm lookin' at you, Vera Wang), but you could say it has reached a fever pitch in recent years. Ironic fashion has become a thing. Just look at the rise of hideous dad sneakers (the chunkier and more contorted the better, ladies!), Balenciaga's ongoing luxury parody of 99 cent items, and the plethora of weird and wacky "ugly" clothing. If memes are humorous, then fashion has memeing down pat.

...part of an inside joke.

While humorous, memes also gain value from jokes with obscure origins. You're only cool if you get the reference, hence the "random" humour of today's youth. Inside jokes in fashion are obviously harder to spot, but an example that sticks out to me is Prada's Flame Shoe bag. Back in Spring/Summer 2012, Prada released an It shoe: wedges with flames coming out the back. They were so iconic that after all these years, I still consider them one of Prada's most successful shoes. Lo and behold, for Fall/Winter 2018, Prada pasted its Flame shoe onto a handbag. If you didn't happen to be familiar with the shoe, you may have thought of it as just some arbitrary print -- but for those who were around in 2012, we remember. Another recent example we could consider an inside joke is Christian Dior's new J'adior moniker. Well, new-ish. It is of course a clever play on words with Dior's famed J'adore fragrance. 

...shared among many people or replicated in many ways.

Memes are meant to be shared. Sharing is arguably what the Internet was designed for: to link, to share, to connect. We have seen fashion shedding its elitist exterior and becoming more accessible in the past few years, but I have never seen luxury fashion as popular among the younger crowd as it is now. Suddenly, we have all these 20-somethings on social media coveting high-end labels. While I'm still shopping at H&M, my fellow Millennials on Instagram are flexing their Gucci slides, Gucci backpacks, Gucci loafers, Gucci tracksuits, Gucci belts, Gucci crossbodies... Luxury fashion has managed to go mainstream, making it more prevalent than ever before. Yet keep in mind there is a tipping point where memes are replicated so much they become stale and die. Not everyone can make a good meme in the same way not everyone can make a good fashion statement. I fear we will soon reach that tipping point where wildly popular high-end items will become so widespread they eventually lose their cool factor.

So after this assessment, have we decided whether fashion is a meme? I buy it. But I guess I still can't nail down with absolute certainty what makes fashion a meme -- though maybe that's the point. I'm not supposed to get it. In fact, I only make a jest of myself by trying to explain the meme and have probably already been ostracized from the exclusive community of people who simply just get the joke.

Edit: Following his initial video, PewDiePie posted another one listing out his Top 10 fashion memes. You can watch it here.

Image Source: Fashionista, Popsugar, Browns Fashion, Ryland Adams 

September 11, 2018

The Remaster Artist

These have been a surreal 10 days. I took time away from the office to volunteer for and attend an international piano competition hosted here in my city. Even though I stayed squarely within the borders of local soil, it felt like an escape -- an escape to a life where I could fulfill my romantic visions of being a woman of grace and refined tastes. Every day (and oftentimes twice a day), I dressed up, made my way to the concert hall, and observed some incredible talent perform on stage. I felt so content surrounded by the music community and its exciting creative energy, and it was a pleasure seeing how each of the semifinalist pianists added their own unique artistry to time-honoured classical compositions.

Speaking of artist interpretations, is that not what fashion is nowadays? Trends can cycle as plainly as the economic cycle. They boom, they bust, they boom again -- but each time they boom, they flourish in a different environment, politically and culturally. In my previous post, I wrote about my belief there is a new order in fashion. However, if you read carefully, you will note I don't believe this newness to be revolutionary. What has changed is the attitude we share -- not the actual clothing. The trends we wear today continue to draw on decades of fashion; what is different is our mainstream embrace of subculture and the unorthodox. As Nick Remsen so accurately describes in "Remixed and Remastered" for Vogue July 2018, "Newness in fashion, then, is becoming less about some notion of the never-seen-before and more about seeing something familiar in a new and unexpected context."

With that in mind, I present you with this blog post. I was scrolling through my long list of unpublished drafts, and came across an editorial photoshoot I had wanted to share many years ago, titled "Lady in Waiting", from the Winter 2014 issue of Fashion Magazine. What drew me to the images initially was the sumptuous glamour punctuated against the archetypal musty, mobster motel. Each outfit was flawlessly composed and gorgeously executed. Yet, in our days of immediacy and evanescence, so many years have passed since this editorial was published that most people would consider it no longer relevant to speak to -- which is why I have come up with a way to make it more pertinent. I trawled the latest collections from the past year to show you how each of the looks displayed in "Lady in Waiting" continue to inform our sense of style today.



Vivetta Spring/Summer 2018 RTW

A feathered top and skirt paired in colour blocked fashion appear almost sensible next to the spectrum of colour we pile onto our bodies now (#pride). Why limit yourself to one, or even two, when you can have three. The more the merrier.


Fenty x Puma Spring/Summer 2018 RTW

Lacy underthings peeking out from the opening of a mannish coat make for one sultry come hither. Yet the modern woman waits for no man; she's too busy getting from A to B. A utilitarian wind breaker may be formless, but a sporty boudoir dress that clings tight means you can move and groove without sacrificing sexiness.



Max Mara Fall/Winter 2018 RTW

A bold blush topper is just as apropos today as it was back then. Border on the saccharine with pink in the texture of sheepskin, alpaca, or shearling. The more disarmingly dimensional, the better to eat you with.



Chanel Cruise 2018

It's a Roman holiday! The drapes of a goddess gown are timeless, as is the pairing of gold and white. Update the look to MMXVIII with palazzo pants instead of a pencil taper for ease and breeze while on the yacht. Get ready for your odyssey.



Alberta Ferretti Spring/Summer 2018 RTW

Believe it or not, a full ostrich feather dress has staying power. The latest renditions might be more flyaway and feminine, but any woman who wears this statement piece remains one who roams wild and free. Catch me, you can't.



Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018 RTW

Girlish sequins toughen up with a metallic sheen worthy of the bravest dame. Show you mean business by replacing the clutch coat with a sharp blazer that brings down the gavel. You don't have time for games, but that doesn't mean you aren't fun.


Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2018 RTW

Sheer genius comes in many forms. Steampunk edits allude to the vampy glamour of yesteryear, while exhibiting a far more complicated interplay of characters. In present day, we acknowledge the complexity of human nature and expression, realizing that one who enjoys sheer frills can still get a thrill from rugged companions. Dissonance is not disturbing. It is sign we are whole and complete.

August 12, 2018

Time's Up

I have been following the fashion industry for ten years, yet it has only been in the past few years I have truly sensed a seismic shift in our attitude towards fashion. Trends have come and gone...and come back, and technology has been a persistently disruptive force shaking the industry to its core (a topic I touched on back in 2010), but I believe what we are witnessing now is different. We are in the midst of a cultural change. Fashion tends to have a distinct characteristic every decade, and I wouldn't be surprised if we are right on the cusp of defining our current conviction. The present-day zeitgeist might not be revolutionary, but I would consider it revelationary -- an aha! moment where we realize, yes, fashion can be like this.

In addition to having impressive racial diversity on the runways lately, we have seen a move towards a new kind of look: one that is comfortable, casual, and even crazy. Labels which specialize in skate and hip-hop streetwear, such as Yeezy, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, Supreme, Vetements, and Fenty x Puma, have experienced meteoric rise. Our growing focus on health and wellness has brought activewear to the forefront, with Nike and Adidas actually rivalling the major fashion brands in footwear. Moreover, there is a deepening acceptance of 'anything goes' fashion, evoking crazy cat ladies, eccentric vagabonds, and hippie activists. Led by powerhouses Gucci, Balenciaga and Maison Margiela, layers and layers of clothing are thrown together to hide and obscure the lines of the body -- avant-garde style with urban sensibility. At what point in earlier years could we have thought to send such ugly clothing down the runway and still have people lap it up? Let's face it, the cool kids nowadays are wearing oversized hoodies, slip-on mules, laidback culottes, chunky runners, fanny packs, embellished slides, patched-up denim, socks with Birkenstocks, micro shades perched low on their noses, and yes, even platform Crocs (thank you, Balenciaga).

It is no coincidence this new aesthetic coincides with today's volatile sociopolitical landscape, where on the regular we encounter actions and speech crawling with undertones of intolerance, disrespect, and hate. What we are seeing is a response to our current reality with clothing that can become a canvas to bear our manifesto. A battle cry for diversity in the face of adversity. We climb up high with our megaphones but before we even have to speak up, what we wear declares: We don't have to look good. We just have to feel good -- about ourselves, about others, and about the world we live in.

To illustrate this modern mentality, let me take you for a walk down memory lane and chronicle the ascent of athleisure.

Our story starts off with American sportswear in the late 20th and early 21st century, fronted by designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors. This approach was exemplified by relaxed, unfussy separates which -- although influenced by the ease of sportswear -- were still appropriately dressy enough for social occasions. There had not yet been much focus on actual athletic gear...until 2005. That year, Adidas released Adidas by Stella McCartney, a collaboration I believe to this day remains highly underrated. McCartney was truly ahead of the times. She achieved the unfathomable: she changed my perception of gymwear and convinced me it was possible to exercise both my body and sense of style at the same time.

Shortly after, Lululemon began to gain traction with its derrière-defining yoga pants and zip-up hoodies with a distinguishing omega, and the brand became famous (or infamous) for making it socially acceptable to sport activewear casually outside of the gym. Perhaps, too acceptable. Being decked out in head-to-toe Lulu eventually became an object of ridicule. The way I see it, our obsession with athleisure sincerely started when Karl Lagerfeld outfitted his models in sneakers for Chanel Spring Couture 2014. At that time, who in their right mind would have ever thought to combine runners with the runway?! For Chanel, no less. And for haute couture, no less. Yet when the Kaiser speaks, we listen. The moment became a movement, and the movement became our #currentmood. Cool kicks started cropping up everywhere on both the streets and the runway, and soon enough, they stole the title for most pervasive trend. Even I caught the bug. I initially swore off rubber soles in high school (I did choose to identify with red soles, after all)...but now I own nine pairs of sneakers, most of which were acquired within the past year or so.

In 2018, sneakers are our stilettos, sports bras are our lingerie, and putting Ariana Grande's "God is a Woman" on repeat with a chia bowl and fresh pressed green juice in hand, a healthy mind and body are our mantra. One day, there will of course be a return to classic fashion. Elegance is eternal. But right now, we really need this new order. We really need the world to take notice. In our baggy logo-ed sweaters, our sleeves may be long, but our hearts are loud. The fire burns brightly within us and to those who think they can weaken our flame, you better listen up: times are changing, both in fashion and beyond.

Image Source: Team Kanye Daily, Something About, The AustralianTrend Hunter, AOL

August 3, 2018

Nine West Gone South

Well, it's been a minute. Having taken a week off work for a staycation, I thought I would finally have more time to hunker down and blog. But of course, me being me, I scheduled myself full this week and haven't actually had a single day at home.

Today, however, I am here.

I have many things I'd like to catch up on, but the most recent of them is the bankruptcy of shoe retailer Nine West. In April 2018, Nine West filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and shortly after, began the widespread shuttering of its American and Canadian stores.

To say I was surprised would be an absolute lie. For years and years, Nine West stood out like a sore thumb (toe?). It attempted to mingle with the likes of Aldo, Town Shoes, and Call It Spring, but realistically, it was the awkward mother trying to fit in with her daughter's friends. There was something indescribably off about Nine West shoes. They appeared almost too stiff, as if their designers tried to sketch out the perfect shoe, but in the process, ended up trying too hard to draw within the lines. What I didn't see when I looked at a pair of Nine West shoes was the innate talent of someone who knew how to make a good shoe.

Nine West straddled an odd line between classy and trendy. It would take classic silhouettes -- stiletto pumps, ballet flats, penny loafers -- and plop on one or two crazy elements. Pumps fully covered in a floral print. Black flats with enormous bow ties. Loafers in metallic pink leather. Conceptually, I think Nine West was aiming to make quintessential shoes more unique and interesting -- good on them for that. In execution, however, they failed to rope the design elements together into a cohesive shoe. Like blindly pinning a tail on a donkey, the final result was disconcerting.

I never had the desire to walk into a Nine West store because in the few times I did venture through, I left feeling thoroughly uninspired. In light of its bankruptcy though, I decided to give it one last chance. I visited multiple stores over the course of a month, revisted the same stores in case the inventory was refreshed, and willed myself to find one, even just one, pair of shoes that I might consider buying. And yet I still came out with nothing.

Having monitored Nine West so closely for a month, I realized how poor the quality was relative to the price. The majority of footwear was made from synthetic materials and lacked the soothing lines of a well-shaped shoe. I picked up a few items, but as soon as I tried them on, they looked ungainly. The toe box was too wide, too stunted, too curved...the shoes just didn't look natural on the feet.

Nine West's bankruptcy only served to remind me why I never shopped there. In some ways, you could say it is sad to see so many giant retail chains closing down, but frankly, I think consumer spending speaks loud and clear when it comes to identifying which stores are underperforming. If you don't sell what people want, the truth is your space can be better utilized by someone else who does. The constant refining of the retail landscape is an inevitable response to the way of the world as defined by you, by me, and by us.

Image Source: Butterboom, BMG, Coloribus

June 6, 2018

R.I.P. Kate Spade

The news came unexpectedly -- not because of timing, but because suicide was not something I ever imagined would befall fashion designer Kate Spade.

I had admired her namesake label since my early days of following fashion. Her vibrant, feminine designs dripped with sunny optimism. She became the go-to designer for women who wanted punchy, youthful handbags. Although Spade sold her company in 2006, her legacy remained with the brand and up to this day, Kate Spade continues to invoke childish glee in shoppers with fun, adorable accessories. Standing its ground against the industry's haughty exterior to declare a smile as the greatest accessory of all, Kate Spade truly is the candy of fashion.

So never did I expect Spade to have harboured such deep suffering. She is now the third prolific designer to have committed suicide in the past decade, following L'Wren Scott and Alexander McQueen. In a sense of renewed urgency, what Spade kept hidden has now shed light on the shadows of depression and mental health.

To the woman who spread happiness to others through her creations, may you R.I.P.

Image Source: Hello

June 2, 2018

An Ode to Fashion

I greet you in the morning. You stay with me throughout the day.
You let a part of me go in the evening, but I stay to wish you goodnight.

I am punk. I am classic.
I am glamorous. I am conservative.
I am minimal. I am decadent.
I am feminine, androgynous, and masculine.

I am unique.

You use me to express your moments of greatest elation.
I help you express your moments of deepest grief.
Whether to hide, or to highlight, I change when you change.

I am a tabula rasa, for the young mind, or the old soul.
I am a woman. I am a man. I am neither.
I know no boundaries, for my love reaches all.

I was there during your first kiss. I was there during your final goodbye.
I will be there for you, always.

I am extravagant, but essential.
I am ephemeral, yet everlasting.
I am anything and everything you want me to be.

I am you. I am fashion.

Image Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy