The artisanal work of Raf Simons at the House of Dior is something we've tracked since the designer debuted his first haute couture collection in 2012. Ahead of the impending spring/summer 2016 season we take a glance back at last season which inspired our latest September Issue story, Making Tracks, photographed by Julien Vallon and styled by Marjorie Chanut, as model Milena Feurer showcases the autumn/winter 2015 collection from Dior.
Last season we referred to the Dior muse as a new age power woman. The focus on the autumn/winter 2015 season - as ever - was all about newness and the appeal of house codes. For creative director Raf Simons, that meant transporting the Dior woman away from tired iterations, and instead introducing her to a fresh avant-garde mindset. Simons's foray in print and abstract pattern wasn't unknown terriority for the designer, however. Over the past few seasons he has proved his potential as a fashion encyclopedia of sorts - referencing the old and the new, reinterpreting the classic bar jacket and forceably changing up how we, the consumer, approach haute couture as elevated streetwear.
When everyone was vibing Sixties eclecticism, Simons chose to approach the decade with a millennial attitude. Amid the amoeba motifs and plastic mesh explorations Simons married a sharp sense of graphicism – seen in the fully realised printed jumpsuits - with familiar archival silhouettes. A new riff on the Fifties belted skirts for instance, was reimagined in houndstooth and slashed at the hem, producing a ra-ra kick as models stalked the runway. The jacquard knits and tattoo-embroidered silks of last season fed into looks dominated by colour. Simons offered archival hues of vermilion, ochre and chartreuse alongside fresher shades of turquoise, cream and baby pink – counterbalancing the graphic nature of the clothes.
Simons brought this offbeat aesthetic into his Cruise 2016 presentation too - held at the impossibly strange Le Palais Bulles 'bubble house' owned by designer Pierre Cardin. In his attempt to forge Dior's Parisian elegance with the exotic mediterranean vibe of Monaco - which incidentally was the location of the house - Simons again re-referenced his past, drawing on autumn/winter 2015's abstract motifs and transforming them with watercolour washes, ideal for the coastline backdrop.
By Christopher Prince
From Kate Moss’ leopard print coat to Alexa Chung’s converse, even with an endless wardrobe budget, celebrities have that one thing they can’t help but return to…
By Susan Devaney
We’re well aware that Miss. Alexa Chung never puts a sartorial step out of line, but she’s truly claimed the American classic baseball boot as her own. Whether off to a muddy festival or to a lavish soiree, she adds a dose of fresh appeal to Converse every time she slips a pair on. She’s given her faithful black pair an update in all-out white.
Alexa Chung. All images courtesy of Getty.
There’s a host of women around the world who own a leopard print coat, thanks to Kate Moss. Thrown over her shoulders for a night on the town or for running errands, Mossy and her beloved coat will forever be as one. Opting for a shorter, lighter option for summer it fits every season.
Kate Moss. All images courtesy of Getty.
A loyal devotee of the denim dungaree, Keira Knightley has been snapped wearing hers for years. Sometimes paired with a leather biker jacket or petite ballet shoes – but she always ensures to have her Chanel bag in tow. Having recently giving birth to her first child, Keira is opting for comfy in her denims.
Keira Knightley. All images courtesy of Getty.
Sarah Jessica Parker loves her jeans. Fusing style with comfort this summer, SJP will always be seen rolling up her denims for a cool but cropped effect, and long may it continue…
Sarah Jessica Parker. All images courtesy of Getty.
She has many great features, but Taylor Swift knows how to show off her long toned legs. Regularly seen adopting a pair of short shorts around the Big Apple she struts her stuff with sheer style. During her recent tour she’s been spotted both on and off stage sporting a pair.
Taylor Swift. All images courtesy of Getty.
The latest release of Alison Chernick’s short, The Artist is Absent, a documented film on Martin Margiela, is just a footnote in the long line of fashion documentaries that have hit our screens over the past decade.
By Christopher Prince
In this transparent world of social media domination it isn’t enough to see one dimension of the fashion industry. Enter the fashion documentary - a pictorial 360-degree scope for fashion’s outsiders, preserving the past and propelling us into the future – taking us behind-the-scenes, into the design studios, through the wardrobes of style maven’s and inside the creative psyche of some of the world’s most influential people.
To keep you informed we’ve collated the best fashion documentaries to watch this summer from the new to the old, set to astound, inspire and ignite your creative flow.
The Artist is Absent (2015)
Directed by Alison Chernick
Given the media storm of John Galliano’s transition to Maison Margiela, Alison Chernick’s short, The Artist is Absent, has arrived within an ideal window of opportunity. Outside of the fashion industry there aren’t many people who know the maison’s founder, Martin Margiela – infamously difficult to interview and almost impossible to track down since he stepped down from the creative helm, selling a majority stake in 2002 to Renzo Rosso’s Only the Brave company and retiring a few years later. But Chernick’s work isn’t about that. Instead The Artist is Absent provides a glimpse of Margiela’s fashion’s archive, with accompanying accounts from designer’s, Jean Paul Gaultier and Raf Simons. It reasons with why Galliano was appointed, showcases runway footage and provides a commentary on not only the fashion industry, but also the system itself. Debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, The Artist is Absent is already available online, courtesy of its producer, Yoox Group.
Dior & I (2015)
Directed by Frédéric Tcheng
Frédéric Tcheng’s work crops up three times on our summer round up following his directional debut for Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008) and collaboration in the biopic Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011). But his most recent solo venture in this April’s, Dior & I, has cemented his status as a go-to fashion documenter. What Tcheng’s work provides is a human touch to the industry. On the surface Dior & I captures the honest commentary of Raf Simons in the brief eight-week period it took for him to create his first couture collection for Dior in 2012. Citing behind-the-scenes footage of the Dior couture atelier team, from the dynamic trio of the feisty Monique Bailly, head of the tailoring atelier, to the cheerful Florence Chehet, head of the dressmaking atelier, and Catherine Rivière, head of couture, Dior & I is a charming view of not only brand Dior, but also the family that lives within it.
Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)
Directed by Matt Tyranauer
Matt Tyranauer’s 2008 debut biopic, Valentino: The Last Emperor, charts the sensational career of one of the last original Italian couturiers, Valentino Garavani, simply known as Valentino. At the time of production Valentino was celebrating his 77th birthday and over 45 years in the business. Through Tyranauer’s eyes his legend is brought to life in a decadent display of fashion, arts and culture featuring 250 hours of footage with exclusive, unprecedented access to Valentino and his entourage throughout 2005-2007. Yet running simultaneously against the decadence of Valentino was the house’s financial woes. After nearly half a century Valentino was threatened with liquidation against a private equity group. Alas, they did not succeed. And Valentino today, under the creative helm of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, is stronger than ever.
(Untitled) Tiffany & Co. (2015)
Directed by Matthew Miele
Still in the process of development, Matthew Miele’s authorised untitled documentary on the legendary New York fine jeweller’s, Tiffany & Co. is set to hit our screens this summer 2015. Miele has previous fashion roots garnered from his 2013 documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs so this upcoming project should be familiar territory for the director. Tiffany & Co. has been the subject of many iconic films – the most famous of course is Audrey Hepburn’s brilliant role as Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). “From the trophy being hoisted at the Super Bowl, to the masterpieces adorning celebrities on the Oscar red carpet, all the way down to the design of the dollar in my pocket, the Tiffany & Co. reach is just so vast,” noted Miele.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdor's (2013)
Directed by Matthew Miele
Speaking of Matthew Miele, New York’s most famous department store was the subject of a 2013 documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, taking its title from the caption of a 1990 Victoria Roberts cartoon that cropped up in the New Yorker. The film’s central figure, Bergdorf’s charismatic fashion director, Linda Fargo, guides the viewer from the shop floor to the designer studio as she sets about creating the Bergdorf world for the store’s millions of visitors. Alongside Fargo is Bergdorf’s elite personal shopper, Betty Halbreich and the store’s brilliant window creative, David Hoey who showcases the painstaking process of creating Bergdorf’s iconic Christmas displays. Featuring accounts from Vera Wang, Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs this is one fashion documentary not to be missed.
The September Issue (2009)
Directed by R.J. Cutler
R.J. Cutler’s now iconic documentary, The September Issue, has been engrained in the hearts of fashion devotees for years since its 2009 release. Taking us behind-the-scenes of the US Vogue offices, Cutler’s fly-on-the-wall stance charts the creative process of producing the most important magazine of the year, the September issue. The film’s two driving forces, the brilliant editor in chief, Anna Wintour and the inspiring creative director, Grace Coddington, bring a synergy to Culter’s film like no other. With intentions of shedding light on the trials and tribulations an editorial team have to withstand during their busiest month, The September Issue is a perfect display of heart (Coddington) and brain (Wintour).
Advanced Style (2014)
Directed by Lina Plioplyte
If personal style is your calling then Lina Plioplyte's 2014 feature, Advanced Style, is an ideal ode to the fashionable woman. Outside the bubble of the street style world during fashion month are women who dress just as eccentric every single day. Plioplyte's portrait of Manhattan's most stylish is an extension of photographer Ari Seth Cohen's blog of the same name. The film charts the wardrobe evolution of eight women, who range from their early 60s to their late 90s - each incredibly individual, each with their own opinions of personal style. Throughout the film Plioplyte strives to discover the meaning behind why these women dress the way they do, is it for self-discovery? Or is it for self-expression? Is it both? The stories unfold as frantically as the women telling them, profiling subject who have shunned society's view of maturity to lead a vibrant and ultimately happier life.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)
Directed by Frédéric Tcheng
Much of what is written about Diana Vreeland describes the fashion editor as a visionary. It's with that lead where director Frédéric Tcheng in unison with Vreeland's granddaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, drew inspiration for 2011's, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. Charting the life of the Harper's Bazaar and Vogue fashion maverick whose career spanned from the late 1930s to the early 70s, Tcheng's documentary draws heavily on personal accounts, actual audio tape recordings and archival footage to imagine Vreeland's pop-culture legacy. For those looking to be inspired, this is a film that will work wonders.
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Directed by Richard Press
The quiet, unassuming Bill Cunningham featuring in his own personal documentary might come as a surprise to some, but he's considered one of the industry's most steadfast fashion devotees - with a career spanning six decades as the leading street style photographer. Like Cunningham, Richard Press takes the viewer on a solitary path, to the photographer's Carnegie Hall apartment where he lives between filing cabinets and magazines, to the New York streets - on bike, no less. We get to meet old friends and industry experts from the likes of Anna Wintour, Tom Wolfe, Brooke Astor to David Rockefeller. And we get to experience the work hard, play less ethic of a creative devoted to his work.
Power Behind The Print
April 19th 2017
Jonny Johansson drew his inspiration from the ongoing refugee crisis, considering the textile traditions of the countries ‘where many have been displaced’. “It is interesting to me that even though we live in a digital age with a free flow of information, there are many countries who want to close their borders,” the designer said. “I prefer to focus on openness and looking out into the world.” Oscar de la Renta also gravitated towards this globalised aesthetic, with embroidered overcoats punctuated by patches of monochrome paisley, and the print, which is now ubiquitous to the brand, prevailed throughout Etro’s kaleidoscopic collection. It’s been upheld as the ‘century-long fashion’, enduring the industry’s fickle tendencies. Many associate the mesmeric curves of the design with Indian Mughul culture or its namesake, Paisley in Scotland, but the print can actually be traced back to Shiraz’s Masjid-e Nasir-ol- Molk mosque. It’s a common misconception, as current discussion surrounding fashions in Iran often comes with a side of political subtext.
Since the 1979 Revolution, sartorial stories are dominated by emerging designers proposing clothing that fulfills religious obligations rather than breaking new ground, but the country’s fashion credentials run so much deeper. What is less talked about is the immense interplay between Persian culture and high fashion. Your high heels were first thought up by Iranian equestrians, who wore block heels to fix their feet into stirrups, while the word pyjama, or pay-jameh, refers to a loose-legged garment worn by men and women – the term was first coined in Iran. Kaftans, khakis, shawls, and pashminas are also products of Persian culture that continue to underpin and inspire our wardrobes today.
Since the 1979 Revolution, sartorial stories are dominated by emerging designers proposing clothing that fulfills religious obligations rather than breaking new ground, but the country’s fashion credentials run so much deeper.
Perhaps most captivating of all are Iran’s prints, the most prolific being Paisley. “The motif originally went by the name boteh [the Persian word meaning shrub] and originated millennia ago. It’s been likened to many shapes in nature, both real and imaginary: lotus, mango, leech, yin-yang, dragon, and cypress pine,” explains Jude Stewart, author of Patternalia. The print’s story began during the 15th Century, when Kashmiri ruler Zain-ul-Abidin enticed weavers from Persia and Central Asia to Kashmir, to produce shawls decorated in the boteh design. “These prized shawls featured prominently in a ritual known as khil’at, a robes of honour exchange between dignitaries during political- ceremonial visits,” says Stewart. Objects of immense desire, the shawls took an enormous amount of time to produce with rare raw materials, including the fine-spun wool that came from shahtoosh goats living high in the Himalayan mountains.
The print eventually crossed over into Europe during the late 18th century, when Kashmiri princes began including officers from the British East India Company in their shawl-giving rituals. Europe’s attempts at machine-made shawls never met the luxurious standards of the originals, but the trend amongst Europeans prevailed with Paisley, Scotland, becoming the leading producer, lending its name to the pattern itself. Skip forward to the Swinging Sixties, and yet more attention came to the design. Immigration from Asian countries where the print was prevalent collided with Europe’s zeitgeist for psychedelia, and Paisley’s swirling shapes soon became the staple associated with youth culture at that time. Since the Nineties, Paisley has appreciated regular acclaim. For spring/ summer12, Stella McCartney and J W Anderson adorned pajamas with its curves, while Lebanese couturier, Rani Zakhem, inflated the design to dramatic proportions. “Our spring/summer16 couture collection used a beautiful Paisley print chiffon from the acclaimed fabric manufacturer, Hurel,” Zakhem enthuses. “The chiffon base was black, with Paisley in gold lurex thread.”
Other prints of importance include ‘Cintamani’, a design closely aligned with the Ottoman and Persian empires. The pattern made from circles and wavy stripes is said to represent flaming pearls, but in Ottoman culture, it’s referred to as tiger stripes and leopard spots. Symbolising strength and courage, the pattern became a go-to motif informing Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic design. “It practically served as the corporate logo of the Ottoman empire for centuries,” notes Stewart.
Immigration from Asian countries where the print was prevalent collided with Europe’s zeitgeist for psychedelia, and Paisley’s swirling shapes soon became the staple associated with youth culture
One-of-a-kind, rarified Persian rugs enjoy their esteemed position as one of the most complex and labour-intensive handcrafts. In recent years, luxury fashion has called upon this tradition. Known for taking commonplace objects and reappropriating them for fashion’s purposes, Maison Margiela made the Persian rug the overriding theme for its spring/summer12 collection. Silk slip-dresses and skirts formed the shape of carpets wrapped around bodies, while shawls were covered in sequins in the unique patterns of Oriental rugs. In 2013, Hermès named their collection ‘Tabriz’ after the Iranian city; the designs drew upon Persian miniatures and rug designs. And, more recently in 2015, Riccardo Tisci gave both menswear and womenswear the rich Iranian treatment. Givenchy’s autumn/ winter collection embedded traditional textile motifs upon ruby-hued velvet dresses, while menswear took a more literal approach, placing carpet patterns squarely onto T-shirts, trainers, coats and trousers for overall impact.
The relationship between Europe and Iran is complex, to say the least, but in a time where powers seek to draw lines of distinction between cultures, fashion is one way of marrying them. More than just a trend in time, Iran’s exotic appeal endures, as today’s collections continue to capture Persia’s superb craftsmanship and storied history. Sadly, often passed off as Indian produce, Paisley prevails with one foot in the past and another in the present. And, while the lineage of the print might have become lost in translation, what unites the designs of Margiela and Tisci is a sense of narrative. By choosing to perpetuate the Persian rug, their designs reflect the historicism, value and sophistication of an age-old artistry. It’s a means to express our contemporary mood and fashion’s continued fascination with foreign culture.
Since being appointed creative director in 2011, Clare Waight Keller has put Chloé at the forefront of luxury fashion, with her polished yet free-spirited designs that embody an elevated bohemian aesthetic. As the House of Chloé begins a new chapter, we take a look back at some of its most iconic moods and pieces over the last six years. From faded denim dreams to cool girl athleisure ensembles, these are Clare Waight Keller’s greatest hits seen in the pages of MOJEH. Pick up a copy of our April issue to find out more.
Daughters Of Anarchy
March 14th 2017
In May, Chanel became the first luxury fashion house to hold a runway show in Havana, Cuba. Of course, controversy swirled. Karl Lagerfeld had never even visited the communist island until days before the event, and the label flew 700 guests to the mesmeric locale for a weekend-long sumptuous soiree to celebrate its cruise 2016/2017 collection, despite admitting that Chanel had “zero business” there. At the time, the average local wage was a mere USD 25 a month; and yet, palm frond-printed fedoras and sherbet-stained vintage convertibles swarmed the tree-lined Paseo del Prado, while sun-faded pastel mansions hosted an elaborate display of abundance and affluence.
Critics were quick to argue that Lagerfeld’s romanticised crash course in a country that has been devastated by rebellion and revolution was misleading, not to mention insensitive. The collection may have been infused with Cuban colour and style (think pearl-clustered slides and fuchsia-meets-turquoise sequined ensembles), but it’s not even available for purchase on the Caribbean island. The excessive extravaganza did, however, serve in focusing the world’s attention, if only for a moment, on the previously cloistered nation, and by doing so silently celebrated the country’s decision to open up its diplomatic and commercial relations.
Over the past year, the fashion industry has become a visually stunning melting pot for people on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Human rights and healthcare legislation have taken over our wardrobes, and clothes have become an effective campaigning tool that helps wearers peacefully express their views. While fashion has long been an impactful force for social change, a worldwide increase in the number of women holding government positions may explain the recent surge in protest fashion. “Fashion is still generally considered an inherently ‘feminine’ area and interest, and as a result, it tends to be trivialised and taken less seriously,” explains Dr Hazel Clark, who teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Dr Jane Tynan, a lecturer at Central Saint Martins in London, specialises in the politics of design and visual culture, and she agrees with Dr Clark. “Often, fashion and politics do not mix,” she tells MOJEH, “particularly with fashion’s reputation for appropriating a particular aesthetic without much sensitivity to its original meaning or context.” Historically speaking, brevity and ambiguity have prevented fashion from achieving significant and coherent political change, despite the industry’s success in bringing about societal advancements. “It is often a matter of style over substance,” adds Dr Tynan. “If fashion is widely thought to be simply entertainment, then it can easily be dismissed as trivial.”
Nonetheless, from the moment Beyoncé strode onto the field for the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, flanked by a devastatingly beautiful army of backup dancers in costumes that paid homage to the Black Panthers (a revolutionary African-American organisation formed in California in 1966 to combat white oppression), industry giants began to brainstorm garments that would leave a longstanding mark on society. The year 2016 was already set to be a fast-paced and politically charged hotbed, brimming with consecutive appearances and blood-boiling briefings. The world anticipated significant international change (whether that change was positive or not was yet to be decided), and the fashion industry was going to take advantage.
After all, government influence is no longer limited to the bluestocking elite. Once upon a time, the concept of dressing politically would conjure comical images of the flamboyant French court’s sartorial obsessions, such as Louis XIV’s insistence that his courtiers wear red-heeled shoes and Marie Antoinette’s piled-high, ribbon-bridled hairstyle – the pouf. Unlike today, these crusaders were not revolutionaries, but wealthy royalists. Their ensembles were worn in support of the ruling aristocrats, rather than a statement against the status quo. Today, just as punk’s origins are impenetrably tangled in ideologies that emerged from conflict and conjecture, protest fashion has taken on a far more anarchic and enigmatic aesthetic.
“Zoot suits were worn by African-American and Latino youth in the US in the 1940s, in defiance of mainstream society,” muses Dr Tynan. “And in the 1960s, hair became symbolic of black women’s struggle for equality. Social movements encouraged African-American women to give up hair straightening and embrace natural hair as a political statement. Through fashion, women reclaimed their right to challenge norms of beauty and assert ownership over their own bodies.” Expressive social commentaries and political rhetoric within modern collections are often subtler, she reveals. “The dark theatricality of Alexander McQueen’s beautiful visions and the punk fashion of Jean Paul Gaultier,” for example, “have both given fashion a political edge.”
In particular, pared-back simplicity has dominated collections from Donatella Versace to Phoebe Philo at Céline, and has frequently been interpreted as feminist – whether intentional or not. Challenging contemporary fashion and ideals of femininity in an attempt to achieve gender equality has long been practiced, says Dr Clark. “Women have used fashion as part of a process of emancipation,” she explains, “by wearing less bulky and restricting clothing, including trousers.” New York native and women’s rights advocate Amelia Bloomer introduced women to the phenomenon of trousers in the mid-19th Century. She promoted a style of clothing then known as ‘Turkish Dress’, which was inspired by the less restrictive and more comfortable harem pants of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. The garment quickly became known as a bloomer and, as Dr Clark explains, enabled “greater freedom of movement, playing sports, and riding bicycles”.
Another notable designer who used the industry as a platform to incite social reform was Katharine Hamnett, says Dr Tynan, whose infamous T-shirts “carried slogans that drew attention to various political issues of the day, including suicide, HIV and war”. The widely-circulated photograph of Hamnett meeting then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 wearing an oversized top declaring “58% DON’T WANT PERSHING” (in reference to America’s controversial Pershing II guided missile being deployed in West Germany) shocked readers worldwide. She was soon awarded designer of the year by the British Fashion Council, as well as menswear designer of the year from the Bath Costume Museum.
Whether you agree with what you see or not, in a world of white noise and contradictory media reports, clothes are a universally shared language. In June, British designers publicly declared their anti-‘Brexit’ stance, with one designer, Daniel W Fletcher, recruiting a group of friends to stage a demonstration outside London Collections Men. Meanwhile, standing onstage at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to be a major party nominee for president. Her carefully chosen white Ralph Lauren pantsuit was an irrefutable nod to the suffragette movement in 1913, which adopted white as one of their signature colours. And, in July, several Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) teams swapped their usual warm-ups for black shirts emblazoned with the slogans #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5 in remembrance of two men shot by police and the five Dallas police officers who were killed in an attack earlier that month.
Nonetheless, while fashion can benefit and stimulate society, social and political impacts differ significantly. “We might consider the way that clothes have attempted to bring social control or uniformity,” muses Dr Clark, “for example, in China, during the mid-20th Century and the Cultural Revolution in particular.” She’s quick to note, however, that there’s a difference between fashion and clothing. The former allows self-expression, while the latter can be imposed on a passive or unwilling population. Last year, France’s ban on the burkini, a swimsuit that covers the women’s body except for her face, made headlines around the world. In April, Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women’s rights, scolded designers for catering to the Muslim market by offering burkinis and high-fashion hijabs, and accused them of “promoting women’s bodies being locked up”.
The full-body swimwear embodied a secular country’s unease over homegrown Islamist terrorism, but also became a focal point in the debate over whether freedom includes the choice to wear whatever you want. Islamic women immediately demanded they be given equal respect and treatment when it came of their clothing choices. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab, while designer Anniesa Hasibuan gained global attention at New York Fashion Week with a decadent silk-smothered, bejewelled collection that was worn by models donning headscarves.
The last year has been a smorgasbord of sociological revolution and political summons, and it’ll forever be embedded in the framework of our social history. The fabric of cultural activism has long intersected with this industry, and 2016 (more so than any other year) has toyed with the thin line that ultimately makes or breaks a public opinion when it comes to politics. The industry has made enormous contributions to philanthropic causes, particularly through the hard work of projects like Gucci’s Chime For Change and Michael Kors with God’s Love We Deliver. So much has changed, will continue to change, and while we’re most likely ill-informed and ill-prepared for what’s yet to come, perhaps that’s why it’s more important that we have a creative platform to protest and protect now than ever before.
Instantly recognisable by her beautiful honey-brown mane, Amsterdam-based blogger Negin Mirsalehi is influencing women around the world, one selfie at a time. The Persian beauty boasts an impressive 3.5 million followers on her Instagram account, which chronicles her fashion, beauty and travel tips. During her trip to Dubai last week, Mirsalehi showed off her impeccable style to adoring Middle Eastern fans, while she hosted a S*uce event and launched her latest hair product by Gisou.
The fashion world is mourning the imminent departure of Michelle Obama from the White House, and whose farewell ends one of the most marvelous eras in First Lady style.
After all, the Obama White House has done more for luxury designers than any other in living memory. The First Lady’s elegant tailoring, refined accessories and modest eveningwear paid attention to the potent symbolism Obama has consistently strived to emulate during her husband’s presidency.
The New Power Dressing
July 17th 2016
What went through your mind when you opened your wardrobe this morning? Did you pick your outfit for an important meeting, lunch with friends, the gym, maybe a date? What you chose almost certainly affected how you approached and interacted with the world today. What if what you wore could even affect the outcome of an interview, exam result or an important business decision? Researchers at Northwestern University studying the phenomenon of enclothed cognition found that people show heightened attention to tasks when attired accordingly (participants in white lab coats that they believed belonged to a doctor made half as many errors in tests as their peers). “The clothes we wear have power not only over others, but also over ourselves,” notes researcher Dr. Adam Galinsky, “there seems to be something special about the physical experience of wearing a piece of clothing.” This means that our clothes are not simply a visual expression of how we want to present ourselves to the world that day - our social armour - but a way of enhancing our cognitive processes. Our clothes have power.
If clothes can affect body and brain, altering our psychological states, as well as the opinions of those whom we encounter, traditional power dressing takes on a whole new meaning. “Let's not forget why people spend time thinking about what they're going to wear,” said Business of Fashion founder Imran Amed in a debate with AFR Magazine’s Marion Hume, “it's because clothes are the most democratic form of self-expression, one that almost every human being has. We can't lose that.” How we perceive what we wear is crucially important and therefore allows us to do away with outdated notions of power dressing – matching suits, dark colours and concealing silhouettes, in short, dressing like men - in favour of a modern approach that makes us feel a whole lot more authentic, and without a shoulder pad in sight. “I think power dressing is feeling comfort, both physical and mental, and also self-expression,” says Yara Flinn, self-confessed utilitarian tomboy and designer of minimalist New York label Nomia. “I have always been fascinated with clothing as a visual and sociological form of communication, I think women should wear clothing that represents their personality and not worry about how it might come across to others. I think the more genuine you feel, the more confidence you exude.”
Women in the public eye are particularly astute when it comes to picking the right outfit for the occasion, whether the red carpet, a talk show or press tour. Michelle Obama’s eye-catching jewel tones, feminine dresses and statement accessories help her identify with her audience, from a graphic floral dress courtesy of South American designer Carolina Herrera on the first family’s seminal trip to Cuba, to the marigold Narciso Rodriguez shift she wore to President Obama’s final State of the Union address, which not only shone like a ray of sunlight in a sea of dark suits but sold out before the end of the speech. It’s a move that speaks volumes about Obama’s confidence, purpose and style, and in that moment a yellow dress wielded the strength of a dozen clichéd pinstriped suits. She’s helped generations of women reject the notion that the clothes we wear in serious settings should hide womanly curves or minimise individuality. “I think I struggled a lot when I worked in an office to feel ‘office appropriate’ and still maintain a sense of personal style, which is what I strive to balance with Nomia,” says Flinn. “I am aware of the office atmosphere, but I aim to create clothing that can live both inside and outside an office.” A wardrobe without arbitrary divisions might just be the true barometer of personal style.
Our clothes are not simply a visual expression of how we want to present ourselves to the world that day - our social armour - but a way of enhancing our cognitive processes. Our clothes have power.
And when the subtle messages our clothes exude need a little more punch, we can always turn to the slogan. Actress Lena Dunham has made no secret of her support for Hillary Clinton in the current Presidential race, publishing an interview with Clinton in Lenny Letter, and joining the Clinton campaign trail in Iowa to address voters directly. All while wearing a series of red-white-and-blue dresses, denim jackets and sweaters emblazoned with Clinton’s name, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Marc Jacobs Americana-inspired spring/summer 2016 collection. Curated by Dunham’s stylist Shirley Kurata, the custom-made pieces have the effect of visually aligning Dunham with Clinton in the minds of a demographic more likely to scroll Instagram for their politics, as well as maintaining Dunham’s quirky-cool feminist influence on current affairs. "I was never going to see the change I wanted to if I were half-hearted about showing up to the polls and half-hearted about saying what I believed in," said Dunham. The truth is that Dunham’s fans, including her 2.5million Instagram followers, may not recall her exact words in support of Clinton that day, but they will certainly remember her outfit.
Of course Dunham isn’t the first to use her outfits to quite literally spell out her message. Vivienne Westwood has been doing it for years, campaigning on everything from climate change to anti-fracking, the preservation of rainforests and austerity measures, and most recently participating in Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic photo-campaign, shot by famed photographer Andy Gotts MBE and enlisting 60 celebrities wearing Westwood designed t-shirts. In a similar vein the Fawcett Society’s campaign ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’, challenging prejudices around feminism in collaboration with Whistles and Elle, and Otherwild’s The Future is Female t-shirts, recreating the original shirt worn by folk singer Alix Dobkin in 1975, have tapped into the trend for wearing our hearts on our sleeves (or handbags, chests or backs for that matter).
Westwood in particular has a passion for political activism, using her clothing, shows and public platform to raise awareness of the issues important to her. Her s/s16 red label show ended with a placard-wielding model protest in the name of the Politicians ‘r Criminals campaign, addressing climate change and in opposition of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. For her, power dressing goes beyond slogan t-shirts, it’s in practicing what she preaches (she says she is currently streamlining her business to make it more efficient and self-sustaining), using her voice, and in quality over quantity (one well-made dress rather than ten sweatshop produced t-shirts). “What I want people to be able to do is buy well, by first choosing well and then making it last,” she said at the time of the Arctic project’s launch, “And I also believe that if everyone wore just a few beautiful things, there would not be such a climate change problem.”
Style, as an expression of our opinions, decision-making and sophistication is seen by a post-feminist generation as an asset, not a liability. “Style helps distinguish you,” Michelle Obama told Kate Betts for the American fashion journalist’s book, Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style. “It’s a great potential opportunity that people tend to leave by the wayside.” For anyone following Obama’s advice, the current collections offer plenty to demonstrate that style and gravitas are not mutually exclusive. Dior’s a/w16 collection proved a master class in work wear with a twist, even in the absence of Raf Simons at the helm, proposing high-waisted pencil skirts, softly tailored jackets, vintage gems and dresses with just the right amount of flounce. Where there was volume, there was a calming lighthandedness with colour and print and where shapes were simple, brocade, print and metallics stepped forth. Pieces that reveal a little surprise in design, a nod to a certain aesthetic intelligence are the essence of the new power outfit.
The collections of Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo and Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni are linked in our minds with free-thinking, intellectual women: attributes that affect our perception of ourselves the moment we don that slick Prada raincoat or Céline shift dress. “Our slit back blazer (which we reinvent in modified silhouettes every season) is a very important piece for us as it has a signature architectural detail, but it is in the back of the jacket, so it is subtle and easy to wear,” says Flinn. “It looks great over a pair of skinny trousers or even a jumpsuit.” If there is a lesson for power dressing in today’s age it’s as much in what isn’t there (Coco Chanel’s advice to remove one accessory before leaving the house) as what is. “The juxtaposition of masculine/feminine is one of my most important design inspirations so I think it's nice to mix the two together,” notes Flinn. “I think wearing separates is much more modern and easy and allows one to dress up more casual pieces with a refined layer on top.”
Esteban Cortazar also channeled a well-edited collection of graphic shapes, eye popping tones and laser cut python and leather for a/w16. The vibe was youthful and tough but in such luxurious fabrics as cashmere knit and metallic jersey, elegance prevailed. “The past two seasons I was building her universe,” said the designer backstage, “this season I just wanted her to be brave.” Being brave, comfortable and conscious about what we are wearing sounds like a failsafe formula for creating the perfect power outfit. The old notion of power dressing can languish in the past with the flip phone and dial up. What we wear is no longer a rhetorical question about what we might achieve but a statement of who we are now. Whether it’s written out loud for the world to see our political leanings, or quietly stated in our Miuccia-inspired confidence, our clothes are the new power play.
Design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli ended their tenure as co-creative directors of Valentino at last week's couture show. Following the announcement that Chiuri will leave her role to become creative director of Christian Dior, leaving Piccioli alone at the helm of the Italian house, MOJEH looks back over memorable moments with the brand.