The Magic Christian
December 3, 2009

So I’m sitting here this morning with a bit of delicious melancholy from Glee last night, which closed with a heartrending version of Smile (“though your heart is breaking…”) that seems to go hand in hand with the news that, for all intents and purposes, the House Of Christian Lacroix is over. Promised salvation to the bankrupt designer in the form of Ajman sheikh failed to materialize and so French Courts approved a plan to allow the owners, the Florida-based Falic Group of duty-free renown, to covert Lacroix to a licensing operation with only a skeletal 11 employees.

Lacroix made a heroic last stand at his ultimately final couture show in July with a somber but elegantly minimal (for him) collection pieced together with donated (mostly black) fabrics and the labor of volunteer workers – and provoked a lot of “why didn’t he do this before?” comments afterwards from fashion critics but I don’t think his heart was really in it. Lacroix was always a provocateur as well as a technician, starting with his audaciously outsize “pouf” dresses of the ’80s that made his name, and through the intervening years with an improbable arsenal of his own – a jumble of lush roses, polka-dots, improbable colors and mad prints. Somehow the forced juxtaposition of black and midnight blue couldn’t hold a candle to that.

No, it’s the previous couture for Spring 2009 (seen in the larger pictures), that confirms that Lacroix’s design derring-do was just as astonishing, even after roughly 25 years. It’s not that he couldn’t do minimal, in his way – I treasure a letter I received from Mr. Lacroix complimenting me after I styled an actress in one of his gowns, a black strapless, gilded with a jeweled brooch and oversize acid-green velvet bow. That was his idea of minimalism. Now, the postmortems have already started, suggesting an unwillingness to change with the times, an unhealthy reliance on couture profits, the lack of a blockbuster fragrance. All valid points, I’m sure, but I think Lacroix also suffered from  lack of a “story” in this hyper-media age – he didn’t run around with movie stars like Armani, he didn’t maintain a string of fancy homes like Valentino and he didn’t make himself over each season to play a runway role like Galliano. Without an illuminating narrative, it’s pretty hard to see those magical Lacroix colors in the dark.

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Stay, Little Valentine, Stay
December 1, 2009

Today is World AIDS Day and, to quote the character of Addison De Witt from  All About Eve, I don’t want to be “maudlin and full of self-pity.” On the other hand, when I saw the image of the White House today with its giant commemorative red ribbon, it got me thinking how very far we’ve come from those dark days of the early 80s when the Reagan White House wouldn’t even acknowledge the disease. It’s symbolism, I know, but it’s beautiful symbolism – especially when you consider the intentions of the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus, the New York-based creators of the Red Ribbon Project in 1991. They stipulated that the anonymously credited red ribbon be made freely available, without copyright, to raise awareness and mark the devastation of the epidemic, but also, according to Wikipedia, settled on the scarlet moniker  because of its “connection to blood and the idea of passion — not only anger, but love, like a valentine.” So with some sadness that will never go away, but also with a smile, I’m sending a valentine of my own today to all my friends in the fashion industry – lost so long ago – to Timothy, Jim, Claude, Robert, Roger, Brian, the two Doug’s, Terry, Bill, Kip, John from Lincoln, my assistant David, John from NYC, Daniel, Dennis, Jay, another Jay and his roommate JR, Yvon, Jeffrey and Timothy the models, Richard, Barry, Herb, David ….

“Sky”               Ross Bleckner 1999

The September Issue: Elle
August 27, 2009

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Elle, Elle, Elle…was it just last year that your fall fashion issue featured Jessica Simpson on the cover in jeans and a flannel shirt? Well this year, you’ve stepped up with a major “get” and give us Jennifer Aniston in black strapless leather (provoking a WHO-WORE-IT-BEST frenzy in cyberspace since tabloid rival Angelina Jolie, who likes to wear the same things over and over on the red carpet, has donned the same look at least twice.) There was also an artyJennifer-Aniston-Photos_inmagblock black-and-white subscriber cover with a tighter shot of her in down-home  jeans and biker jacket and a Sharpie-scrawled “JENNIFER!” headline.  I guess the leather dress shot was just a fashion tease, because the portfolio inside is just the usual “dressed-down” T-shirt, jean shorts and work shirt. But back up just a minute, because way before the feature “well”, Elle does what it does best – distilling current trends (all 25…numbered!) and the myriad ways you can find them across all price points. These pages are succinct and placed in the front of the book, not shunted to the back pages like Vogue does. Even if you don’t buy their exact suggestions, the pages are so crisp that the mental image of number 9. Deep V-Neck Blouses or whatever is seared on the brain for handy reference later when you’re in the mall. Elle also has a sense of humor – in their full-on ’80s trend pages they cite “The People’s Princess” with witty houndstooth shoes and a tartan Bo-Peep jacket alongside more-often seen memes like “Pretty in Pink” and “Brat Pack”.

So the front-of-the book pages are loaded with “merch” but it’s all so festive it comes off as great reader service not overweening commercialism. Farther along things get more problematic, when in the middle of endless bucolic outdoor portfolios (not one fashion shoot was done in studio), you linger over a beat-of-the-city-chic story and then notice all the clothes in the entire 10-page spead are by, um, Tommy Hilfiger.  This is directly followed by a four-page Marc Jacobs”beauty” portfolio touting Lola, his new frangrance, which includes the requisite portrait of Jacobs as well as a model dreamily lolling around in a blanket of roses with an oversized version of the perfume’s bottle.

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I guess it’s like those irritating pop-ups for this weekend’s rom-com when you’re just trying to read the LA Times online or like more product-placement wedged into your favorite sitcom since most people speed through the commercials when they get around to watching them on their DVR.  I know it’s tough out  there for magazines but I hope Elle at least got Tommy to chip in on the production costs of the “feature.”