Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Unexpected All Change at Gucci: Men's AW 15/16

Alessandro Michele (and Team) Takes A Bow At Gucci

I've wondered why, since women have borrowed from men so often in the last century, why there seldom seemed any 'reciprocal arrangement'.  Exceptions of course, for years I've known (male) friends buy women's jeans and T shirts, occasionally and deliberately for the fit, but more for the variety, especially colour, finishes and prints. And of course everyone is screaming 1970s references at Alessandro Michele's Men's collection for Winter. Doesn't anyone remember Kurt Cobain in a dress, the androgyny of utility-wear, and unisex fragrances?  Far more grunge than glam, this show had all the hallmarks of generation X in their heyday. A few more designers now seem to be questioning the devisions between menswear and women's wear, Slimane and Prada included, and so Michele is not alone. The HUGE rise of interest and sales in men's RTW has led to more focused and experimental thinking altogether, perhaps about time, now roles in society have changed so much.  From that point of view I welcome Gucci's collection, why shouldn't a man wear a pussy bow around his neck? However there was a whole lot of unfinished business about this collection, and I'm not just talking about Giannini's early exit.  

Dare we raise the question of who will buy this collection? There are plenty of hipsters, artists and wannabe artists of all kinds who would buy pre-loved women's wear in charity shops (goodwill) but hipsters and my thrifty friends are not going to be buying Gucci, and Gucci's regular customers won't go near anything from this catwalk, so I hope Gucci will have their usual shirts 'at the back' (I'm sure they will). In a way, and maybe sadly, that will make this collection redundant.

No doubt there is also a pressure on designers to concentrate on bottom lines, and I'm not talking about trousers.  Hedi Slimane has taken Saint Laurent back to its bohemian routes in many ways, and with it we are told, huge profitability. Valentino has gone rock star crazy, and Kenzo has re-awakened to the cash tills roaring approval of everything tiger. Obviously, rock n roll, no matter how mainstream is still a money spinner now we can all be Stars for 15 seconds on YouTube. Will it work at Gucci? Only time will tell. Gucci has always been about sex and sensuality. Tom Ford or Frida Giannini, the focus has always been on confident femininity and masculinity, no matter the sexual predilection of the wearer. Butter soft leather, feathers or crisp wild silk, there was never an air of ambiguity and self doubt about the Gucci woman or man, Gucci was never street fashion but a fantasy, light years away from the mundane. The vibe for AW15/16 is entirely different. 

As for the '5 day' wonder collection.  With all the will in the world, Gucci's huge budget and their own factories those clothes were NOT designed, developed, made and styled in five days.  The women's-themed menswear was more style-ploy to join a lot of previous year samples and 'found' clothes together and present it as a show. Michele obviously went shopping from Gucci's own closet plus perhaps a hunt in Rome's own thrift shops (kidding). I can see those trousers have had the hems let down, some of the coats are women's (just look at the black Astrakhan!), the rings are cast offs . I think it was more a case of cast the model and see what we've got that fits :-D

All pictures from 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Storing Silk Scarves

Storing Silk Scarves

La Femme aux Semmelles du Vent Carre* 

Scarves were obviously made to be worn, but if you, like me, have quite a few (publishing no figures here LOL) where do you put the ones you only wear in Summer/Winter/Christmas/For best until their time comes around again? Or perhaps you are a collector of fine vintage designer silks, when condition is paramount rather than access. It would be lovely to have the resources of Catherine the Great and design something purpose built in collaboration with your finest cabinet maker to be housed in a vast annex the size of an average room at the Hermitage but alas we are not, so we can't. 

I'm not talking about the cold-weather muffler types here, as they are an altogether different category, the scarves I'm talking about here are the more delicate scarves that are given as gifts and collected as prize possessions. Today's good quality silk scarves are actually hardier than one might imagine. Whilst no one in their right mind would wear one in a torrential downpour without an umbrella, wear it to pig-out with over all-you-can-eat in 30 mins 'restaurant' or teaming it with a barbed-wire necklace they won't mind a gently handwash, few spots of rain or using as an impromptu belt or strap.  There are many blogs that show you DIY storage solutions or their own fabulous walk-in wardrobes, and we are all probably aware of all the contraptions sold as scarf storage. Let's go through the challenges and solutions of storing your silky accessories:

Different needs, challenges and solutions apply to all people, so I have just tried to look at the most popular possible solutions. Obviously, the endless various shapes, materials and sizes will present different challenges. 

> Most people leave them in the boxes they were first given in. That's fine if you never wear them. Just stick a label on the outside of the outside of the box or write directly on it what's inside so that if you have a few in the same sort of boxes you'll know which one's which.

< Storing in boxes for scarves in use is not ideal but many, including myself think it's better than losing them or storing in a place where something can get at a range en masse. Crossed-wires about the suitability of packaging for storing seems to have happened because of Internet auction sites, people assuming that since collectors want original packaging all manner of things should be stored that way. That is not the case. Hermes SAs do not recommend leaving scarves (or bags) in boxes, the boxes are just sold as part of the packaging. Scarves, like their bags should be hung. 

< Once you've worn a scarf you should let it air. Hang it over the back of a chair or on a rail from the diagonal or however best to let the creases fall out. This is much better for the scarf than constantly ironing (always a clean towel between the iron and scarf) or steaming.

> Folding up in a draw, probably the way the way they were displayed in the store. Again, fine for brand new (and I don't mean new-to-you here) and absolutely newly clean scarves. Make sure the draw is lined and checked for any snags (including all edges) before storing. 

> Folded in a shelved cabinet is a good idea especially if it has a glass front. 

< Folding is also a highly contentious issue. Many collectors only accept puffy hemlines and original folds. That is a hangover from only accepting mint condition scarves that have never been worn. Actually, the silk will weaken and sometimes permanently discolour in the folds. If you have to fold, either do it loosely or take new/clean acid-free tissue paper, lay flat on top and fold the 2 sheets within the scarf. Even better roll the scarves with tissue paper in-between. 

> Poles/barres are an easy DIY solution and you will see your scarves better than in a draw but it means that your scarf will always have knot marks somewhere before you wear. Much easier for the larger or long scarf shapes as if you have to tie a knot at all it can be much looser. 

> 'Pegs' or pincer systems should be scrutinised for any rough edges and the closure mechanism should not be too strong or it will mark the scarf. Never pull the scarf from these, even in a tearing hurry (pun intended) open the peg and let the scarf fall out.

> Scarf hangers with holes are a great solution for scarves used in heavy rotation. Make sure the holes are absolutely smooth on the inside as well as the rest of the hanger, this especially applies to the wooden ones. The ones covered in velour or velvet are soft and the scarf has less chance of slipping. Again, don't tug or pull a scarf too quickly if in a hurry in cases the scarf finds a snag before you do and don't over fill these hangers or the scarves will look a mess . 

> Scarf hangers with bars are the original scarf hangers, again look for any possible rough edges and perhaps look for the ones that have thick rolls over a bar as they are easier, metal only bars will not hold your silk carres well, you will be forever picking them up off the floor. Another possible issue, is unless you only have 1 scarf per bar, you may not be able to see all the scarves.

< Any scarf hangers should have plenty of room around and not stuffed in a wardrobe, better to hang on the back of a door although some people find that too messy looking.

> Hooks and knobs will not work for silk scarves unless you hang them by the care tag and most of us would not want to do that. Even hooks with rounded or ball ends are not advised. 

Any other posh scarf storage solution/challenge please let me know 

I suppose my next post should be on how to store/what to do with a lot of empty scarf boxes :-D

*This is a picture taken by me of my scarf and bangle. If you see this picture advertising this scarf either item for sale anywhere else, with or without the watermark, it won't be me, this scarf, and most likely nothing like the scarf you will receive (KWIM?). 

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Power of Charm(s)

Cara Delevingne and a Fendi Karl Bug 

The picture above is not of a child's soft toy but of an uber expensive fox and mink handbag charm. Big enough to cover model Delevingne's face (should that be her fancy) it would dwarf nearly any bag you would care to place it on. That was last year's prize. This year it's all about the Hermes Rodeo horse charm, the GM would be bigger than most children's first teddy bears.

Charms are going through a revival at the moment, maybe it's a backlash against all the handbag minimalism. Ten years ago, in the thrall of fashion's maximalism, bags were multicoloured, had bits all over them along with their logos and were undressed without a scarf and tinkerly doo-dah hanging from its handle. For a few years major fashion and leather goods houses have removed all but their name from their 'stealth chic' bags on pain of fashion death. So forgive me for thinking it is strange to have most companies remove all defining features and hardware from their bags for reasons of (commercial) aesthetics and simplicity only to have their customers hang 1, 2, 3 or more huge bright fluffy objects on their bags.

The Fendi Bug up-close, was a beautifully made little creature, comprised of little bits of otherwise useless very expensive fur that probably graced the cutting room floor of Fendi furrier. On the positive side, it was nice to see Fendi recycling and the limited numbers available, and on the negative, the millions of cheaper copies, there is a part of me that has found the craze for pretend animals made from real animal's fur disturbing, even though the originals were made of leftovers. That was last year's craze, this year we have the multicoloured Hermes Rodeo, a similar shape as their baby toy Herpluch (no eyes for baby's mouth to munch on) but for adults. The Grand Model will blot out most of your 35cm bag, of course, handy for hiding those stubborn stains or scratches. These have taken over as the new VVVIP contraband in stores, and people are exchanging large (over retail) amounts of cash for these bright leather horses (or should that be ponies) on the re-sale market.

What do I think? I think there is a time and place for everything.  Some of the most celebrated handbags came with their own intrinsic charm. The Hermes Kelly and Birkin with their cloche and padlock, the Gucci New bamboo Top-handle with it's removable tassel, both good examples of matching or coordinating danglies that dress the bag to make it look more chic. Nothing wrong with a Fendi Bug, a H Rodeo or whatever will be the next 'it' charm either, on the right LARGE bag. Notice I wrote 'a' denotin singular,  a whole herd of Rodeos or whatever the collective name for monster bugs on a bag and the funny farm can only be one step away.

Choosing for your charm offensive:

1. Charms shouldn't scratch your bags or make 'smiles' as they swing
2. A charm should echo the 'personality' of you bag not clash.
3. The plainer the bag the more eye-catching the charm will be.
4. Scarf OR charm. If you need twillys/ribbons to protect costly/vintage/light coloured handles perhaps wrap in the same colour as the bag or wear gloves instead.
5. For expensive charms think about whether you will still use it if it goes out of fashion and whether you could add it to a number of bags.
6. Like everything, don't get 'carried away' (no pun intended) only buy what chimes with your own character, fashion should never dictate.
7. Be careful around children and pets, they will love to play with your costly/beloved charm.
8. Think about the shape and proportions of the bag and buy a charm accordingly. Getting the shape right is just as important as the colour
9. Allow the charm/s to make your bag more versatile, even the same charm in a different colour will change your look.
10. Don't 'borrow' a child's toy as tempting as it maybe. You may have bought it but it's not actually yours ;-).