Mad Mien
December 17, 2009

Tell us how you really feel David Colman! In a story for the New York Times style section today (with delightful photo-illustrations, by the way, shot by Douglas Friedman), he celebrates the ’50s- and ’60s-style of young men these days – seen mostly in New York, natch – and lowers the sartorial boom on their elders:  “Young men are embracing the “Mad Men” elements of style in a way that the older men never did, still don’t and just won’t. The result is a kind of rift emerging between the generation of men in their 20s and 30s and those in their late 40s and 50s for whom a suit was not merely square but cubed, and caring about how one looked was effeminate.”

Whoa there, boy. Colman makes some convincing points about young men becoming entranced with the sartorial bounce of Rat Pack style as well as the dreary conformity of casual wear that has been adopted wholesale by our society because “it’s comfortable.” But his undisguised scorn for anyone older than (horrors!) 45, who Colman says, is always “the worst-dressed man in the room, wearing a saggy T-shirt and jeans,” permeates the whole story to the point of absurdity.

Equally absurd are some of his conclusions, starting with the one above that boomers find caring about fashion “effeminate” – his word, not mine. I don’t know where he’s been the last 20 years or so, but men of that generation have been as exacting about their style as they have been about their wine, their coffee and their cuisine – and somehow remaining secure in their masculinity at the same time.  And yes, young men may have rediscovered the suit, but the “olds” somehow spent millions of dollars on suits from Armani, Prada, Gucci, Ralph and Dolce & Gabbana since they came of age in the ’80s.

Colman also cites blogs like A Continuous Lean and The Trad to bolster his case but that works both ways – even a casual reader of the grandaddy of style blogs, The Sartorialist, will come away with a renewed appreciation for the often-dashing style of men in their middle years – and beyond.  Next to images like the one below, some kid rocking a ’60s sack suit in the name of “irony” looks like a rank amateur.

Colman does have one good point – yes, there are lots of men who couldn’t care less about what they put on in the morning, but unfortunately that malaise cuts across all ages. Here’s hoping his precious vanguard of hipster suit-wearers has some effect on the rest of their own generation outside of Brooklyn and Manhattan. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Cut and Pastie
October 5, 2009

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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.”)

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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.

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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.