Cut and Pastie
October 5, 2009


No it’s not the Paris Las Vegas casino you’re looking at but actual Paris, France, where newly-named “artistic director” Lindsay Lohan, along with heretofore-unknown-and-maybe-she-should-have-kept-it-that-way designer Estrella Archs, debuted their first collection Sunday for the formerly fabled but slowly expiring house of Emmanuel Ungaro. Leggings Linds, hired for her purported cool-girl factor (and, let’s face it, her ability to bring exploding cameras in her wake) made her big design statement by reviving the pastie, in heart-shaped glitter no less. Maybe she heard the show was at the Carrousel de Lido rather than its actual setting at the Carrousel de Louvre (which WWD dubbed “the geezer venue.”)


In addition to the pasties, which, call me crazy, do sort of seem relevant 00020mgiven this underwear-as-daywear runway season, the designing duo also offered skirts so short that one apparently exposed the rump of one of the models, crayola-bright silk harem pants and Lego-heeled footwear, topped off here and there with white fur stoles slung over the shoulder. Classy. Fuchsia minis at the top of the show were about the only vague reference to Ungaro of old, although who could remember what that even looked like, given the revolving runway of four previous designers who have tried and failed to revive the house in recent years.

Mean-girl editors silently fled after the show but the press pile-on was brutal, with the New York Times noting that Lohan’s task was “something akin to a McDonald’s fry cook taking the reins of a three-star Michelin restaurant.” But Ungaro’s head, Mounir Moufarrage (once notorious in fashion but ultimately vindicated when he abruptly replaced Karl Lagerfeld at Chloe with then-untested Stella McCartney in 1997), stubbornly insisted that controversy, not couture, was the name of the glam game in the face of a recession.


Depressingly, that’s only the half of it. Ungaro has lost so much ground at this point – when was the last time you saw a piece in the stores? – that it’s hard to remember, as former WWD publisher John Fairchild wrote in his cranky but tenderhearted ’80s memoir Chic Savages, “whatever purity there is, in look and concept, it is the creation of Yves St. Laurent, Giorgio Armani and Emanuel Ungaro.” From that dizzying height, the designer, who first apprenticed with Balenciaga and Courreges and went on to dress all the society boldface names through the ’90s, faded out, quietly giving up his couture collection in 2002 after he had designated Giambattista Valli as his successor. Valli was later ousted, as the company was sold and then resold and haplessly cycled through several designers.

The fashion landscape is littered with doomed attempts to replace a house’s original designer (Blass closed; Ferre and Valentino are teetering); somehow it’s especially challenging if the designer is of recent vintage – it seems to work better when the work is only a dim memory – so, say, the luxurious simplicity of a Lanvin can be embraced and updated or else the sumptuous dressmaking of a Balmain can be junked completely for an avant-garde new image as in the case of Paris’s towering men of the hour, Alber Ebaz and Christophe Decarnin, respectively.

harpers-bazaar-2008-dec-lindsay-lohanUpdating the clothes of yesterday’s maestros to appeal to today’s customers is a thankless task, unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, effortlessly creating clothes both mothers and daughters would kill for. But the money men like Moufarrage keep thinking they can strike gold too, betting the bank on a celebrity and her pasties.  They’re not the only ones to hitch their star to the famous; magazines led the way. In the Times piece Harper’s Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey won’t comment on the collection, she’s “running for the door.” But she didn’t run so fast when it came to putting Linds on her cover.


The September Issue: Harper’s Bazaar
August 24, 2009

Bazaar 1004In honor of this Friday’s release of the Anna Wintour documentary, The September Issue, I thought I’d take a look at the current September or fall fashion issues currently on the stands. When I was working as a fashion editor, I was always employed at general-interest magazines  so I had to produce stories that functioned as both fashion content for the already stylish and entertainment for the style-challenged reader. That was the first thing I thought of while flipping through the fall fashion issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Each of the best portfolios has a vastly different look, from Jean Paul Goode’s pictures of Naomi bonding with the great beasts of Africa (including wrestling with an alligator!) to show off clothes in animal prints to Karl Lagereld’s Peggy-Guggenheim-in-Venice fantasy to Terry Richardson’s subscriber cover and portfolio of Agyness Deyn as a style tribute to the King of Pop – in sparkle-plenty styles from Dries, Balmain and Stella. Since we’re in the second round of Michael Jackson covers (GQ has a Michael Jackson cover this month too) and they still seem to be selling, it’s curious that on the newstand the Bazaar cover is yet another starlet on standby, Leighton Meister of Gossip Girl (though seemingly dressed from Jennifer Lopez’ s closet).  Bazaar 1005Maybe it’s just the concept of two covers that I don’t get – like a tree falling silently in a forest, is a cover really a cover if it’s not out there on the newstand competing with all the other covers?  And that’s where I think the Deyn cover would have shined, by looking completely different than all the other business-as-usual fashion covers of celebrity portraits. It’s almost a pop-art poster it’s so stylized an image and that’s a good thing for covers – they’re really an ad for each magazine, saying “Buy Me!”  That’s why I think the current uproar in some circles about cover retouching (unless it’s so bad that the person is rendered unrecognizable) kind of misses the point – a cover is not really supposed to be a a documentary photograph. It’s an advertising tool and if you have to slim out a celebrity’s arm or clean up their complexion to get somebody to look twice, pick the magazine up and buy the damn thing, then the cover has done its job!

3SHORT TAKE: I picked up the fashion issue of New York magazine last week on a newstand but I didn’t end up buying it because it largely consisted of text pieces – notably a full-bore dissection of Annie Leibovitz’s financial implosion and a halfhearted dissection of Christian Lacroix’s  – that I had already scanned online. But the real letdown was looking at the portfolios – of which there exactly two – one an array of arty b&w images backstage at fashion shows (how fresh, how new, as a friend of mine used to say) and second a portfolio of a few runway photos (!!!) grouped by trend, hugely blown up over several mind-numbing pages. Since I  (and everyone else in the world)  had seen this type of thing on the web for months already from on down the blogroll, you have to wonder what were they thinking? It hardly needs to be said, but if a fashion issue doesn’t offer something visually compelling in its print version, then why bother?