Boston Fashion Week is now fully underway, and dropping in on today’s shows seems to me to have highlighted why Boston is prime finally to become a fashion center (of sorts).
It turns out that the leaked collaboration between Manolo Blahnik and J Crew which I posted about a month and a half ago is indeed too good to be true. And Blahnik’s denials of any knowledge of any collaboration may not have been a reflection of his lack of awareness of what’s going on with his brand, but of the fact that there was indeed no finalized agreement on a collaboration. Blahnik did design shoes to go with the J Crew Fall 2012 collection, but reports now say that they were simply one offs for the runway show.
The Joseph Altuzarra collaboration, however, did deliver, and just as Altuzarra seems to be hitting his stride as a designer. Sadly, as with the theoretical Manolo Blahnik collection, and unlike the fast fashion retailers, J Crew is not out to offer a bargain. It never really was anyway, it’s not fast fashion, so there’s no reason to start now. Still, I was somehow taken aback and disappointed when I saw the prices of the Joseph Altuzarra for J Crew pieces. My initial response to the collection was one of disappointment. While the collection does fit seamlessly within J Crew’s aesthetic, most of the items do not particularly stand out from the store’s general offerings. They are, for the most part, fairly simple and basic pieces for sale at rather high prices. Yes, the prices are less than “designer” prices and on par with the pricing of other well made name brand apparel, but they’re high enough to make me think twice about buying anything. The collection is growing on me. It was inspired by the kind of sexy French aesthetic embodied by Bridgitte Bardot, which is an apt description and adds a little je ne sai quoi, but meh …
1 Sabrina Dress $228 2. Odette Blouse $175 (a cute enough top, but side view suggests you have to be a twig to get away with it)
Picking up more or less where yesterday’s post left off, the flip side of H&M’s ability to produce incredibly refined looking clothing for low prices, is this vital role that styling plays in how we read the value in what we see, and how much poor styling can bring down truly lovely clothing. I know that sounds like a mouthful of justification for connecting two posts. I do think the connection is there. But the main inspiration for today’s post was a Chanel ad that I came across yesterday. I was blown away when I saw it — knew I had to blog about it — because I couldn’t get over how cheap it looked.
Generally, Chanel’s photography and ad campaigns are exquisite. The images themselves are so refined, that it’s hard not to think that you desperately want the clothes.
In contemporary painting, how to make “realism” relevant and engaging, is a particular challenge. So it is a pleasant surprise when you come across an artist who is able to transport the form to another level. Liu Xiaodong is a Chinese artist who was trained in the Socialist Realist style of oil painting. And Socialist Realism, while often vibrant and uplifting (as in the Moscow metro stations), as the sanctioned art form under Communist dictatorship, often tends toward kitsch. Part of its political mandate means that it is not allowed to be self-critical or self-reflective, and so its optimistic joy and exuberance easily reads as ridiculous (and, given the irony of that optimism, as heartbreaking). Liu Xiaodong, however, has managed to manipulate his socialist realist teachings to develop a new form which is incredibly powerful and moving, and provides a compelling critique of contemporary Chinese issues.
A number of terms have been applied to his artistic style and to the movement in which he plays a central part: Neo-Realism, Cynical Realism, and Neo-Academism. I particularly like Cynical Realism — I’m not entirely sure why, but it is such a blunt assessment of facts, and yet so barely scratches the surface of what’s going on in his painting, that I think it perfectly suits his work.
Two recent paintings capture the complexity of Liu Xiaodong’s approach in all of its fabulousness.
It’s unfortunate, but I find that art tends to be just that little bit more interesting when created in situations of strain, conflict or struggle. Street artists ICY and SOT, both from Tabriz, Iran, have a stencil based style which in much of their work bears remarkable similarity to the work of British street (and gallery) artist Banksy.