SADLY, THE AVANT-GARDE DESIGNER COLLABORATION MAY BE TOO MUCH TO SWALLOW.
Gearing up for Boston Fashion Week, Thursday night my husband and I attended the Rotten Banana show at the Liberty Hotel. I am reluctant to criticize Boston Fashion Week because a) I’m glad that it exists, b) I admire the organizers for pulling it together, particularly in a city like Boston and c) I think that, with all of the components and players involved, a good fashion show is a particularly tricky event to pull off. But, for me, the Rotten Banana show highlighted just how far we have to go in Boston if we hope to make this city a relevant fashion player.
It was a fun event. It was nice to be in a bar with my husband on a Thursday night – something we, along with dare I say most Bostonians, should do more of. Clearly some do. There was a fairly hopping scene at Clink on Thursday night, with the requisite cluster of hipsters, who clearly make a habit of spending Thursday nights in swank bars, in attendance. But most of my friends were curled up at home on their respective couches. So I’m glad to have attended the show, and would consider doing it again. Yet the overall effect, sadly, did not do the clothes themselves any favors.
I had decided to attend the show in the first place because I like what I have seen of the Rotten Banana fall collection. At the show itself, remembering that required looking past the presentation which left a little bit to be desired. A lot of the problem was in the styling and the unfortunately amateurish models. God modeling is hard! You got a sense of just how hard watching these girls. But there is a very fine line between edgy and goth, and cheap, and sadly this show tipped the balance a bit toward the cheap. On the Rotten Banana tumbler (http://loverottenbanana.tumblr.com/), the styling is kept to a minimum – with sometimes avant-garde hairstyling, but little in the way of accessories or environment. And that works. The clothes come across as chic, a little tough, and very wearable. With their stick straight sleek hair, heavy makeup, and come hither poses, the show at the Liberty Hotel read more like a scene from a back alley behind a sleazy dive.
Fashion shows are often highly stylized and bear little resemblance to anyone’s comportment in daily life. When the effect is an evocative drama that signals “this is art here”, when it seems like you’ve been transported into another world, it can be exciting to tame a little corner of that world and bring it into your own reality when you wear a garment. This show, however, felt perhaps too much of this world, just a corner of it I’m reluctant to pay designer prices to move into. That is not to say that I won’t run out and buy any of the clothes from the show. One dress, with pleating at the back, was particularly cute. The show itself, however, only comprised 5 looks, while the collection on the Rotten Banana tumbler includes some additional pieces, including some fabulous coats, that were missing from the show.
A bunch of things I’d like to talk about – but I’m afraid it’s kind of getting down to the wire to mention the upcoming crop of Shops at Target hitting stores this Sunday. And even as it is starting to become part of the normal course of things, so that you think we’d all stop falling all over ourselves and acting as if it represents a once in a lifetime opportunity, I can’t resist a good designer x fast-fashion-retailer collaboration. The funny thing – to me at least – is that I found the last series of Shops at Target pretty easy to resist. There are, after all, no “Designers” involved. The designers are store owners collaborating with Target’s design team. And as great as your eye for fashion may be, and as fabulous as I’m sure your store is, it doesn’t mean you can design your way out of a box. The girls at Kirna Zabête, however, have done a fantastic job. Everyone seems to be jumping to point out that this is a chance to get, for less than $100, clothes from the folks who generally bring you a $2600 dress from Giambattista Valli or a $1700 dress from Lanvin. Flawed thinking, to say the least, since what you are getting for less than $100 is certainly not a Lanvin dress. It is, however, an awfully cute dress, perfectly on trend, which at $39.99 is still an incredible steal.
I cannot mention this collaboration without pointing out that Kirna Zabête is a seriously problematic store name. I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to pronounce (even to myself in the privacy of my own brain). But this collection is strong enough that I have gotten over my discomfort with the name and am now sold.
In addition, I have to make a confession up front. I never thought I would say this — and I’m kind of shocked that I’m saying it out loud — but after a few seasons of the fashion industry trying to foist it upon my, I am loving the jumpsuit/playsuit thing. I still don’t know who can actually pull off the look besides a few blessed souls. You will certainly never catch me in one. But it’s too bad, because a jumpsuit can be kind of cute. In fact, I’m not even going to show you the Kirna Zabête for Target jumpsuit until later in the post in order to let it flow seamlessly with my other favorites from the collection.
Fall has just begun. My kids haven’t even been back to school a full day yet. And I already feel like my entire fall clothing budget is spoken for several times over. While this is causing me a major anxiety attack, I suppose it is a positive comment on the state of fashion. Among other things, not only are there some great collaborations set for this fall, but the prices are even a tad more modest than some of spring’s designer collaborations. I hate to pick favorites, but … ok, why not. There are a lot of clothes I LOVE this fall, but the designer collaboration I am most looking forward to is JW Anderson x Topshop. The lookbook posted recently on Vogue UK includes 55 pieces, but these are the ones that scream to me “Must Have!” — the Irish designer, on trend with a seeming surge in fascination with all things Scottish, has some killer plaids, and he is at his best when layering patterns:
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)