Crotchety in Westwood at Westwood

We strolled last week down Memory Lane. Not, to be sure, our own, but that of a visiting out-of-town friend, who worked in film in 1990s Los Angeles. Our template was Melrose Avenue, where we walked a reasonable length, (a contradiction: to ambulate in southern California beyond the mailbox is to be instantly declasse) from La Cienega east to Wasteland, a second-hand store we understand is largely unchanged from our friend’s prowling years ago. We noticed high prices, above end-of-season sale rates, for much-worn pieces. We noticed our age, too. The music was far too loud and the light too low. Girls wandered through the gloom in states of semi-dress, trying items on in mirrors fixed to architectural columns. Only as they departed, so meagerly clothed, did the intelligence of their efficient changing-room outfits become clear.    

The city’s retail transformations might, paradoxically, be more evident to recent and infrequent visitors to Los Angeles, like us here at Gyun Gyun. There are on Melrose and elsewhere long stretches of high-rent spaces empty, creating segregated and no-go spaces within the famously patchwork neighbourhoods of the city. The dialectic effect is of a hyper segregation of geography at the same time that, as we have remarked elsewhere in these pages, a much greater diversity of Americans are bravely patronising neighbourhoods historically closed—except as staff—to them.        

Our friend came of age and self with Vivienne Westwood, whose tall, light-stone store looms incommensurably on a corner lot arm’s-length from the self-consciously luxurious stores of Melrose Place. With its VIP space upstairs and rooftop garden, the store evokes a mistaken urbanity, of a Parisian atelier placed clumsily like a monument on the Washington Mall. 

We have had over the years similarly bewildering in-store experiences. Where other sellers of rebellious, liberating, and identity-transforming clothes have tended to be welcoming and encouraging (when not grooming), the Westwood staff have always been impressively cold and standoffish, with a remarkable, almost trained, consistency. Maybe it’s a “punk” thing?        

On one such occasion, we mistook such negligence for tasteful discretion, only to look up from a rack of clothes terminating behind the counter, where staff were idly scrolling the Huffington Post homepage. As we exited the store we loudly praised the Westwood/The Rug Company rug near the street entrance. Finally sure of an audience, we slowly dug our toe into its surface. “I have the bigger version.”   

This visit the staff were much more lively, showing consideration and efficiency to walk-in shoppers while they operated at much-reduced capacity, though not without that familiar suggestion of effortful patience. The clothes don’t quite work for us here at GG-like Punk music an artistic dead-end, at their best an Edwardian style and texture put to better, more progressive use by Burton at McQueen. Neither did the prices suit our guest. We each took home a neatly coloured pub/football towel at what we thought a fair 75 USD. One can never have too many towels near the beach. 

Before entering the store, we made a small queue with a young couple arrived shortly after us. The man, unusually tall and thin, wore a black, logoed, ironic-synthetic athletic warm-up suit. The sun was out and it was warm. He campily puffed a heavily flavoured cheroot, bringing to mind a clammy Jimmy Savile. His partner was heavily made-up, with a gyroscope eye which, though her head was invariably turned away, would at intervals fix on us a level stare.

“Who makes that bag? Lanvin?”

“You have a good…eye. Wow. Yes, it is.”

He nodded and half-turned his head to exhale. A mock-propriety amidst virus-shy regulations. 

“How much was that?”

We alternate between policies of inquiry and disclosure on cost. For a time we thought it a cutely anti-bourgeois line of conversation. On reflection it seems a dubious way to start a revolution. To his direct question we thought the only move a straightforward reply.

“21. Or 25?”

We cringed at our own abbreviation. Surely that is only on when there are at least two more zeroes in play.

He nodded. 

“Seen the new collaboration with Gallery Dept.?”

“In fact, I just read the email this morning…”

“Those are going to be rare. Expensive.”

“Oh?” Doubt concealed with quick agreement. “I’m sure. They looked interesting.”

“They’ll be hot.”

He nodded confidently.

Such genuity regarding fashion betrayed the man as an avid consumer rather than insider. And who, apart from fans of older Lanvin womenswear (we’re sure we’re the only ones who half-heartedly collected the old men’s) would spot their latest bags? Both a Paul Smith and a Loewe employee misidentified ours as Loewe since we started wearing it. We were impressed by this young man’s research.

The exchange raised questions for us on the future of legacy fashion houses. Here was embodied proof of the excitement of the drop/dump/collaboration. Hype for its own sake; utterly false rumour of limited quantities; truly dubious artistic merit. And yet, clearly this young man was a serious shopper: the future. What then, does that future look like for the big houses? Should they remove the fixed designer entirely, rotating as they do now between teams, like relief pitchers or football goalkeepers, and set up shop as so many art galleries, lending their logos to a changing cast of influencers, who will dump/drop/collab a remix on the hype-hungry?  

Bag Bumming

My new daily driver is Lanvin’s “Hook” Bag. It is large and structured, so that I can load it with all the necessaries of a full day out, yet also flexible enough for a tight space; between people or car seats. It is also thrillingly unisex, with a sturdy, comfortable strap that can produce purse, tote, and even backpack effects. Adjusting it is a pleasure, since it fastens with a tasteful loop stamped with the Lanvin text logo. The hardware has discreet house logos, too, and the eagle-eyed (a rep at the local Loewe store not among them; she thought it was one of their own) will note the “JL” stitching of the strap. 

The bag is elegant and luxurious, but not too “cutely” shaped. It serves very well on days we haven’t the strength to trade in “well, men’s bags aren’t pretty-deal with it!” defiance.

On receipt of it from Lanvin’s K11 Musea Hong Kong store, I didn’t think of reviewing or filming it. I just wanted to cram our things in it and use it. That process was a relief, too, as I transferred my cards to the attached wallet. For years now I’ve used a Valentino rockstud fold wallet. A pleasure to use and pretty, the studs nevertheless required careful attention to avoid scratching other leather accessories in a shared tote. The (permanent?) retirement of the Valentino and the personal revelation of the attached wallet-how many discarded bags have misshapen, abused, royal like the currency they nobly carried, these little flags separated from their bodies, waving in surrender?-gave me a delightfully carefree feeling. 

Perhaps too carefree. After a midweek lunch I stepped into a local Whole Foods grocery store for a single item: peanut butter for post-exercise smoothies. 

Whole Foods stores in this area resemble nothing so much as a singles bar. Shopping expensively, in their sexiest athleisure wear, the no-longer-quite youth here describe the very kernel of their souls by the food they (don’t) eat. There has always in this location been bouncers, too. They have since it opened nearly a decade ago had a preoccupation with imagined theft (of what?), and employ patrolling security at all hours.

So it was, dressed thus

that we entered for a precision grab of organic peanut butter. I picked from the shelf the nearest container and brought it to my chest before, superstitiously, remembering to replace it for an “untouched” container at the back of the shelf, no matter that I already handled the “dirtier” one. 

Quarry in hand I made for the checkout. But first, I made to extract the attached wallet from the Hook bag. Pulling on the leather strap it was rapidly reeled to the surface. My hands though, were still damp with hand sanitizer from entering the store. Concerned, unnecessarily, with the leather finish, I attempted to unzip the wallet while exposing it to the minimum surface area of hands and fingers.

Although I have long since lost any shame at the public display of “women’s bags,” I also feel no need to advertise this little gender rebellion in a “conservative” (that is to say, anti-cosmopolitan) locale. I half-turned for privacy, still by the peanut butter, to learn the best use of the wallet, struggling in a pinched chicken wing posture, sawing ineffectually at the string zipper.
Card in hand I waited in line behind a family of three, the father, trim and outdoorsy, negotiating with his daughter, whose head reached just below the terminal, about who should conduct their card transaction. 
“I can!”
“You will-one second.”
The father inserted the card, rather unsportingly I thought, while the girl stood with furrowed brow, her two hands poised around it. 
“Okay, take it.”

I gave a “wasn’t that nice” smile to the checker, a woman in her 30s. In my left hand the peanut butter; in right, shouldered bag and credit card. 

As I extended my arm to hand her the peanut butter she asked, “Is that all?”
“Yep,” I said, automatically, in the way a parent might affirm a newly speaking child’s identification of a passing object. 
“Is that all?” she said again, this time with a low tone to the final word.
“Yeah,” I said, with an apologetic chuckle, unsure whether she hadn’t heard us, or if she thought a single item unusual.
“Is that all?” she said, this time taking time over each word. 
“Oh. You think I’m shoplifting?!”
“I don’t know what you’re doing.”

I immediately understood why I was being accused-it was the fussing with the bag and the peanut butter swap. Nevertheless an unedifying scene followed.

*

Of the hand-wringing threats to the fashion industry-sustainability, diversity, retail/resale-the least threatening to us is the big resale websites. What is the benefit, when a live-feed of a purchase broadcasts our individual credibility, of buying a used bag at 80% of retail on the TheRealReal? Overproduction and year-round sales from all but a couple of the conglomerate labels mean it is possible to buy these items new for less than on consignment, where the buyer has to pay for two sellers. 

TheRealReal is useful as a well photographed archive, however. Searching for the proper name for our Lanvin Hook bag, a used version was advertised to us by Google. TheRealReal called it a “leather Hobo bag” (1125.00 USD). 

After our experience trying to buy peanut butter with it, we thought this an accurate description.

Or: was it to do with that double waisted Prada trouser? Does the sight of it anger people? You be the judge:

Gyungyun + Celebrity Collaboration!

During a recent fashion perambulation, inspecting the latest clothes as a pretext to showing off our collection of the old, we ran into an idol. Not, to clarify, an obsession. They were not the subject of white-hot adolescent infatuation. Neither were they the object of the more lasting, and therefore more complicated adult devotion: a figure responsible for professional or political conversion. These latter, the inspiration for our public and civic selves, almost require the cheery hand-pumping of a party conference. When life is stalled, a look of chilly resentment. We were at our encounter, by contrast, speechless. Starstruck. 

It’s mostly the fault of the internet. Public figures to whom we would in antediluvian times have cultivated a seasonal relationship, we now, thanks to the algorithm and push notifications, pass significant periods of each year. The artist we once confronted for intense but incidental review—a musician at the back of the CD case, returned to the light by a road trip; a painter in a coffee-table book at a holiday home—we now review with academic rigour, a websearch providing a detailed knowledge of the life and work. Thus we possess, by the standards of an earlier time, the knowledge of a superfan for artists of passing interest, and that of the near-homicidal hyperfan for those that truly interest us.

We were reminded of M.’s intoxicating and intoxicated dinners with Saint-Loup at Rivebelle during our narrator’s first visit to Balbec. Asked by the two young men to describe a fellow regular, a solitary diner at a neighboring table, the restaurant manager expresses his amazement: “you mean to say you don’t know the famous painter Elstir?” The boys don’t, though Elstir’s work has been recommended to M. by Swann.

So it is that “There are, in such restaurants, as there are in public gardens and railway trains, people enclosed in a quite ordinary appearance, whose names astonish us when, having happened to ask, we discover that they are not the mere inoffensive strangers whom we supposed but no less than the Minister or the Duke of whom we have so often heard.” 

We didn’t thrust ourselves upon our idol, whose work and ideas, always thought-provoking, we do know well. Not even a thank you, although we flatter ourselves that we exchanged with them a look of recognition. Why not? With adulthood comes risk and an appreciation of privacy. We are no longer like the boys at Rivebelle, impelled to scribble at note to Elstir from “admiration in the abstract, the nervous envelope, the sentimental framework of an admiration without content, that is to say a thing as indissolubly attached to boyhood as are certain organs which no longer exist in the adult man; we were still boys. Elstir meanwhile was approaching the door when suddenly he turned and came towards us. I was overcome by a delicious thrill of terror such as I could not have felt a few years later, because, as age diminishes the capacity, familiarity with the world meanwhile destroys in us any inclination to provoke such strange encounters, to feel that kind of emotion.”

And yet, we did share, at the sight of our idol, similar passions to M.’s at Balbec. During his first days at the sea, M.’s self-consciousness as a newcomer among the Grand Hotel’s circumspect regular guests is stirred to romantic fantasy at the sight of the daughter of a local nobleman, Mlle. de Stermaria. Tipped off by his friend Bloch to the hidden licentiousness of all women, M. imagines, with the help of a prestigious reference, assignations with the girl. 

His fantasies, however, are sustained by a trick. His dreams proceed not directly to sensual pleasures, but first of all to her home, her native region, the places and stuff of her memories. “Together we should have roamed that island impregnated with so intense a charm for me because it had enclosed the everyday life of Mlle de Stermaria and was reflected in the memory of her eyes. For it seemed to me that I should truly have possessed her only there, when I had traversed those regions which enveloped her in so many memories-a veil which my desire longed to tear aside…”     

The trick is to place the girl in the romantic historical context of her life in order to make the pursuer of sensual pleasures believe that there is more to the chase than the purely erotic: “by the illusion of possessing her thus more completely, they may be forced to occupy first the scenes among which she lives and which, of more service to their imagination than sensual pleasure can be, yet would not without that pleasure have sufficed to attract them.” 

This is of course, only a trick or an illusion the first time the man falls for it. After which, there is no excuse. He is a cad.  

Meeting an idol is similar. Our dreamland consists of all the experiences and places reflected in the memory of their eyes. The great shows, the creative output, fellow celebrities met and befriended, famous events which took place when we were small or ungestated. We are sure we celebrate them by our fandom and speechlessnes. But that too is a trick, and like M.’s, a very personal one.

We may not (though often we do, too) desire sensual pleasure with our idols, about which we are misled by a journey into their past, but we are almost always reckoning with a history of ourselves, of the life we have lived during our long attachment to them. In this autoerotic pleasure, a meeting which is an unexpected narcissistic thrill, the idol represents our own life and history as much as their own. The sensual pleasure—itself, as our narrator insists, a selfish preference transferred to the unnecessary canvas of another person—again is confused for more noble context.  

It is no wonder then that the most common pose struck by celebrities on meeting an insensate fan is of a half-turned, uncomfortably smiling silhouette, the look of a witness to a surprise and, to the bearer, unknown moment of nudity. This moment, they know, has very little to do with them. 

Commodity Fetish Hot Potato

Available now on our new (!) Youtube channel: a pilot episode for an innovative new unboxing series. We—well, health protocols mandate that a solitary associate intern shares—the thrill of making runway dreams a reality. 

Our intern reports strange sensations in the course of filming these productions. We expected to feel a diminished pleasure from the staging for public consumption of the private, neurotic pleasures of collecting. This has to a certain extent proved true: that furtive first unwrapping, in half-lit, not yet repossessed rooms, of objects half-forgotten in the journey home, has been held off, the amateur’s impulse deferred for a professional stoicism.

The pleasure is no longer our own. It must wait, for the calculated angles of daylight, camera, and sound equipment. Our private reification—the attribution to things of qualities and relationships usually reserved for human beings—has been displaced, transferred, to the viewer. 

To our surprise, the handling of clothes during filming, the consideration of how they are best placed before a camera, to demonstrate their features and different uses, all create in us a far more materialist relationship with the pieces, one that is closer to the ideal proclaimed by good designers: of repeated, creative, much-handled and thoughtful use.   

In our traditional processes of purchasing and not-at-all taxonomic addition to the wardrobe labyrinth, we rarely reached this level of practical relationship with new items, particularly when registering more of an already well-represented item (leather jackets). So that, what might appear, to the casual viewer passing the thumbnail frame, just one more example of our all TV must be an infomercial moment, is, in fact, someone unexpectedly working their way out of commodity fetishism.    

Our first episode looks at two pieces from Celine.

Southern California Fieldwork

Yesterday we sent one of our assistant content researchers to explore their local fashion ecosystem. Their official assignment was to compare the colours of Lanvin’s Bumpr sneaker there with our inventory in Asia. Afterward, with a two digit per diem—that’s 00.00, not 00,000.00—local observation for future features.

Turning into the Lanvin store we were greeted with: ‘Are you here for the Curb sneaker?’ After a rapid self-examination of our clothes, we drew ourselves up proudly. What gave the impression that we were contributing to the Foot Lockerfication of the most ancient fashion house? But of course, we were; for the other model, we explained. 

So very many colours! Slight variations of synthetic upper, the latest—we ought to have anticipated it—in full grain leather. Attractive on first release as a retro middlebrow athleisure reference, the lux irony loses its gild when the luxury house itself produces infinite on-demand variations. Thus our discomfort at buying, rather than simply admiring, luxury sneaker trends. 

Jealousy, no doubt: we have been delighted by the resort ‘21 collection, which suggests some of Bruno Sialelli’s range. We wish there was as much of it in our local store as there are sneakers. The resort collection, making use of prints from the twentieth-century Russian artist and designer Erte, is much more grown-up. The preferred wider cut of Sialleli’s trousers are a natural fit with these more formal, wide cut blazers for men. Did we say wide? They aren’t in fact; and this is an attractive conjuring trick of Sialelli’s tailoring. Fitted at the chest, with slim and elongated drainpipe sleeves similar to the women’s, the monochrome colouring, square shoulders, and play with buttons all add a formidable, martial punch to an otherwise androgynous look. It appears that the suit will be as masculine or feminine as its wearer, or better, their mood at the moment. An achievement.

Finally, Sialelli’s preference for warm weather wear doesn’t look quite so sweaty. These clothes might be worn to a glamorous dinner. The womenswear is all about the hardware: gorgeous metal, self-fabric and leather buttons, fixed to jackets and coats (the leather lapelled peacoat is particularly good) with variations of balloon and rounded sleeves, all combined skillfully with refreshing Erte printed silks, scarves and blouses. This, not a hoodie and a bag of Cheetos, is what we aspire to after lockdown. Note the Erte collaboration in our blouse below, bought at Harbour City, Hong Kong.            

*

Cross the way at Louis Vuitton, a dozen shoppers wait in line. So, down the corridor, at Gucci. Elsewhere, including Saint Laurent, empty. Black people now shop at South Coast Plaza, something which, before the renewed publicity of the Black Freedom Struggle, was not the case. It is not without shame that one imagines the discomfort that kept them away in the past. 

We explored emerging and underappreciated designers at feel-good local French-owned boutique Please Do Not Enter and, extinguishing our allowance, bought socks. 

Then, to Bottega Veneta, to get, for the first time among our American staff, hands on the latest collections by Daniel Lee. It was, in our brief glimpse, impressive. Despite BV’s apparent resurgence, there was no line at its door, which was moreover, open. Losing ourselves in the moment, we entered, noticing one employee reviewing an accessory with a pair of Chinese women. 

As we paused at the sunglasses, we noticed a tall, lean, bespectacled man polishing a jewelry case in the center of the store. His suit, at the second half of its laundering cycle, brought Dickens to mind, its colour no longer quite black. As we made our way to ready-to-wear he grasped the shoulder-width sides of the jewelry case, as if bracing himself before fainting. Doubled forward over the glass, his neck was peeled stiffly back, like an opened tin of sardines, over which his head lolled heavily. He gasped. 

“It’s ok,” we said, forgetting the times, hoping in this way to indicate a “browser.” 

It’s no wonder Daniel Lee has overseen the label’s retreat from social media. Short on logos, he makes use of impressive combinations of textiles and leather, as with, for example, the Plat Lace-Ups, which looks like an elegant if slight ‘50s football boot with asymmetrical lacing. The woven upper is in fact, to the touch, ingenuously structured, with a beautiful contrast leather tongue. Neither would be evident digitally. 

Examining the shoe, we heard a breathless sigh. “..Lisa…” 

We looked up at the still-stricken store minder. He leaned further over the jewelry case, his back by now as flat as its illuminated glass. He spoke again, this time the syllables stretching to a moan: “Lisaaaa!” 

Unaware, from too much unbroken lockdown, of the agony we were inflicting on the man, we assumed, at best, that he worried of a missed sale; at worst, of theft. 

We had our eyes trained on the curious Quilt sneaker, imagining its proper use, when we heard a dry, halting whisper at one ear. 

“Excuse me, would you leave?” said the polisher, who had silently liberated himself from the liferaft of his jewelry case. His speech, like all which pass through the turmoil of a body suffering from harmless unsociability, was utterly royal. 

Horrified, immediately, on recognizing our violation of health protocol (all of us to a man are devout rule-followers), we fled, giving the polisher, by now perhaps rising at the chance to express a long suppressed occupational wish, our quickest and sincerest apology. Taut with personal anxiety, the polisher’s face softened as we departed to one of sacerdotal benevolence, of commiseration at our recklessness unchecked.

Meanwhile back (far) East, we have added a few BV pieces to the wardrobe labyrinth. About which, more to come. 

*

Whenever staff undertake such assignments, we ask—with gyungyun HR staff present—what they are wearing. Our assistant researcher wore a Haider Ackermann sweater styled with BV necklace (unremarked on in-store), Lanvin shoes, and a pair of jeans which were incinerated between research and publication. 

The Erstwhile Influencers and Fashion

High fashion is in an abusive relationship. In this caper, the fashion industry occupies the peculiar role of the infinitely patient parent. The big money labels, on the strength of accessory sales, advertise for big money in what few extant non-specialist publications will take them. Rather ungratefully, these publications, when they do take notice of fashion, in the form of seasonal summaries or designer profiles, adopt a singularly apologetic tone, as if the subject could only ever be of passing or embarrassed interest to its adult readers. I can think of no other industry with this kind of arrangement. Public asset-stripping unprofitable rideshare apps; wildcat fossil fuel extractor and refiners; criminal national champion airplane builders; all reported in earnest. Fashion by contrast gives (more), but gets questionable loyalty in return. 

A few such apologetic articles in the Financial Times. Lauren Indvik, a friend of fashion, summarized the spring couture season with the headline, “Who needs haute couture?” This seems on reflection only reasonable. 2020 was a dreadful year for the industry, with the quickmarch development of remote working forcing a reconsideration of dressing not only today, but in the many imagined futures of labour. And yet, what industry, with even the smallest trade organisation and advertising budget, would encourage such a discourse? Would the auto industry countenance an article headlined “who needs another car?”, or question competition and elite client programmes that are expensive, exclusive, beautiful, and push the limits of science and the market? Highly doubtful. For an industry responsible for such a substantial slice of the global economy, wasteful indeed but by no means irreparably or the worst, it’s a very unique identity the fashion industry has permitted for itself. 

One can’t help tracing some of the cause of this apologetic discourse to the dubious, often unquantifiable connections between art, artists, and femininity. Consumerism and feminism really ought to team up.  

A related disservice to the industry is the habit popular publications have of presenting clothes and fashion as, first of all, a discipline. Clothes by this logic are like cricket: a set of complicated rules the pursuit of which, especially for beginners, obscures and threatens to overtake the pleasurable purpose of the activity. Helen Barrett opened a FT advertorial for spring 2021: “An inherited sartorial rule is hardwired into most of us.” Robert Armstrong wrote an entertaining and schoolteacherly article in May 2020 titled, “Cancel that cravat: my rule for retro dressing.” Good clothes, we hear, with a wrap on the knuckles, “do not have to be fashionable…But if they are not, they have to be timeless. This rules out sentimentality…” and so on. 

The hyperbole is all part of the fun. After all, what are rules, and listicles of rules, but scrutinized, obsessive shopping lists? But the humour rests on a fixed rubric for thinking about clothes. Don’t tell anyone you like this stuff! Don’t do this! Don’t mess it up! Who could blame the punter for wondering why to bother at all? It’s no wonder that when Americans think of luxury brands they grasp the liferaft of a blameless belt or safely traditional print bag. 

There are harsher approaches to fashion among mainstream publications, even among those that publish the occasional fashion supplement. A contributor to The New York Times in January suggested the cancellation of talk about clothes tout court. During a live commentary of the video feed to the Presidential nomination one staffer posted, “I don’t want to be sexist by talking about clothes, but the first lady’s…” etc. And clothes were studiously avoided in that coverage, to be picked up in memes (Bernie Sanders), and rather bizarrely, by conservative outlets. Something is most definitely wrong when the curious have to resort to the rebarbative New York Post to learn who is the person in that spectacular Miu Miu coat. Doesn’t Prada advertise in the Times

Talking about clothes isn’t sexist. Assuming, imposing, or limiting the purposes of another person’s body certainly can be, though for many of us, the very act of spurring the viewer’s mind to action is a large part of why we dress. 

Clothes are one of very few harmless ways we can escape from our selves: from last year, last childhood, yesterday, even a slow, sloppy, self-loathing morning. Clothes are a source of liberation, their daily (re)iteration a process of healthy diversion and renewal. It is perhaps symptomatic of our modern media moment that the big tents of high-circulation newspapers don’t know quite what to do with fashion. To which reader should these papers appeal? We have on the one hand a business-friendly clientele battling with self-imposed Weberian Protestant sumptuary codes. We all know this rich, constipated Dad. On the other, an aging group of progressives tentatively mouthing “cancel?” at young readers who, in fact, wouldn’t at all mind luxury goods, if they could find work to pay for them.     

There is no shortage of new fashion writing. Great quantities are produced for the increasingly siloed digital world. But the loss of the legacy papers would be a blow to fashion. Where else should a lover of clothes read about their passion in correct serif font? Free from “ironically bad” photo collages of product, from think-pieces on the perils of consumerism, and sentences like this: “For artists working across eras, what they make is often a collective effort: to remember and honor what was almost forgotten and cannot be.” 

While the old papers last, fashion ought to reset the relationship. Stop apologizing and back itself as the industry of new beginnings. In our ticker-tape world of horrible news, fashion doesn’t deserve its self-flagellating identity. 

What are my top rules for dressing? Chuck out the rule book.               

Lanvin Fall Winter 2021 First Look

A nostalgic music video introduced Lanvin’s FW 21 collection this morning. It is a cheering piece, offering an unconventional look, de rigueur no thanks to the pandemic, of the variety of ways fashion designers can play with the inspirations for their collections.  

Bruno Sialelli’s first menswear collections didn’t impress us. They looked a lot like Loewe, his previous gig. The clothes had the by-now definitive sailor-prep look of Loewe menswear: light sand and sky colours, white at collar or cuff and hardly anything, apart from long wool nautical coats, that could be worn to a restaurant that takes credit cards. It was a worrying suggestion of limited range that both the 2020 shows were beach themed.      

But there were promising elements, too. Sialelli is strong with prints and patterns, making use of both to emphasise, not a single logo, per corporate requirements, but a great many, including the very old and beautiful mother/daughter signature of the house, used as an all-over print, and also collection-specific artistic rendering of text, the house name emblazoned on top and trousers like a holiday advertising hoarding. 

We at gyungyun like from our designers coherence and specificity above all. We want to feel that we are enjoying the fruits of an artist’s obsessive labour of love, not a moonshot at a logo or influencer that will save the bottom line. And thankfully Sialelli is showing some of that, too. His menswear, particularly from the waist down, shows a keen eye, an almost obsessive understanding of an epoch; in this case late 1990s alternative sportswear.

If that embedded cult anthropologist of American youth Hedi Slimane produced collections inspired by the eternal return of the coastal surf boy, Sialelli is inspired by the slightly more athletic American skateboarder. For even when Slimane appears to be showing skateboarders (SS21 Celine) he still cannot let go of the Vans wearing surfer. 

Sialelli’s references to the skater-athlete are much sharper. His cropped pants, a carry-over from Loewe, paired with the successful Bumpr sneaker, are a gesture to the summertime saturation of major American sportswear brands during the late Clinton years. Starting in Fall ‘20 Sialelli began exploring some of the fringes of the 1990s norm, with exaggerated width trousers, belted a little too low, and fat tongued, short-bodied skateboard sneakers, reminiscent of a pair by DC or Etnies. If Slimane looks, perhaps in vain, for the grotesque beauty of the affluent coast, Sialelli seems to understand the less-fashionable, but no less loved, transformations of the high-corporate as worn in the suburbs. These, one imagines, are the looks of the demigods of the designer’s youth, the beloved teenagers of his own childhood: friends of older siblings, no longer playing sports but still hiding an unmistakably athletic body beneath saggy pants; a DJ when they were provincial, talented, and cool. 

It is no surprise, then, to see a similarly accurate historical approach to the music video introducing the new collection. To the happy surprise of those of us who feel uneasy at the marriage of (too) casual wear and fashion, we learned that the future is formal, and that dinosaurs like us will show the youth the way.

The film is in fact a music video, set to (in its most recent adaptation) Gwen Stefani’s If I Was a Rich Girl. An international group of young people disembark from an old Lincoln limousine and check into the Shangri-La Paris. In a measured reference to the limitations of our current social lives, the kids arrive in formal wear and, apparently restricted to their accommodations, make the best of a rough job, tearing through rooms littered with Lanvin branded shopping bags in sexy, luxe fabric dresses and animal print casual wear. 

The film is a delightful send-up of the 1990s hip-hop music video, a suggestion that the app idols aren’t as revolutionary as they imagine. There is the same self-referentiality, of riches and wealth and goodies unavailable for use; the clothes so much rapper money, unspent, probably unreal, thrown sterile at the camera. Like an old episode of MTV Cribs, these glamorous residents trot out their luxury car collection, too. But they are children’s electric toy cars, on top of which models in low-cut dresses and opera gloves do donuts in the hotel ballroom . These aren’t the slightly cringeworthy diversions of lonely popstars, after all. They are the waking dreams of a generation of youth who want to be able to live theirs. “If I Was a Rich Girl,” I would give it all away to live, this film seems to say. 

And accurately, too. It’s pitch perfect in places. Who recalls the flimsy storylines of music videos during their peak? One was either, and rarely both, a viewer of the dancing in the video, or of the slightly vague love story narrative, an attempt no doubt, at cross-branding, which is here, too. Inevitably our hero/performer would be met by the character from a contemporary film or show, often minor, and we have that here, in a dancing concierge. An influencer, surely? 

The clothes? Hard to say without a lookbook. The best luxury designers today sell menswear in two categories: the ever more youthful streetwear—here leopard print tracksuit, those baggy pants and skate shoes—and tailoring with varying degrees of reference to the first category. The streetwear depends for sales on hype (and therefore of limited artistic or critical utility); the second, on designer talent. 

Sialelli’s men’s tailoring is uniquely androgynous. It is soft, monochrome, and gently oversized, with narrow piped sleeves. It is reminiscent, in the pastel colours and frequent recourse to a double-breast, to women’s postwar day suits. The jackets reference the 50s and 60s in colour and material, in contrast to Gucci’s 70s high-camp fabrics and the earnest masculinity of Kim Jones’s athletic (‘80s?) Dior runway suits. If “cool French girl” could be found in men’s suits, we might find it at Sialelli’s Lanvin.                       

Midway through the video, a giggly girls’ bathroom moment is interrupted by a video call with Eve. Also celebrating in anxious isolation, in black dress and clutching a black pencil bag with gorgeous oversized hardware, Eve delivers a few lines of verse, as if to affirm and kickstart the value of youthful desire. It’s a lovely intergenerational touch, speaking a too-often obscured message of these times, of hopeful (for once) universals, and of promise born from diversity.   

Cite your source(s)!!

Denouncing plagiarism can be a mug’s game but…yikes! 

Here is Casablanca, borrowing one of Prada’s established logos.

Prada:

And again, from Dries van Noten’s SS19 Verner Panton collection. That makes it a double “borrowing.” Well done!

Dries van Noten SS19:

Don’t retailers have a duty to tell new labels, you know, hey “we work with Dries, with Prada, with Gucci? We like them, can you do something else?

For more see Casablanca’s tennis series, based, it would appear, on Gucci’s recent collections on the same theme. 

Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta Menswear

A reliable source informs me that Bottega Veneta’s sales were up 18% in the second half of last year, the only Kering brand that grew. That’s no small feat in a tumultuous year for the industry. Is this the expected honeymoon period for Daniel Lee, the label’s new(ish now) designer, the numbers reflecting a second (or first hard) look for buyers after nearly twenty years stewardship by Tomas Maier, the man who made the brand relevant today?

Or do the positive numbers illustrate Kering and Lee’s successful bet on a clean break of image and demographic for BV, to a millennial and younger group with cash, enough world-weariness about them to see through the “sneaker drop,” and the patience to invest in the long-term quality projects which traditionally have justified the label’s elite pricing? Does this person exist?

But first a confession. I am not certain that BV’s great numbers aren’t mostly because I’ve scoured the outlets for all the Thomas Maier era menswear I can find, lots of womenswear, and some of the “heirloom” (for me) accessories, i.e., luggage etc.

I liked the Maier BV. A lot. Many of his collections are worth a review on the Vogue website, especially the womenswear “details” photos. Maier’s work wasn’t as understated or as fogeyish as the advertised shift to a younger audience might suggest. The Maier era menswear ranged widely, but at its best produced a lovely cross between the colour and patterning of Missoni, traditional Italian business-leisure silhouettes, and an elevated feeling of luxury—evident in embroidery, or metallic and leather patterned details—that brought the work in good seasons quite rightly near to Hermes status. Conservative yet casual, the best winter collections inclined toward an autumnal Art Deco palette (something about those intreciatto shapes), made elegant and louche with glinting details that suggested an interwar streetlamp on a foggy night, the driver sent on ahead. With its slightly too obvious suggestion of expense there was a youthful swagger in these clothes.

It is perhaps characteristic of the imagined menswear consumer today that Maier’s replacement has gone simpler, cleaner, attempting to create a signature not from a galaxy of colours, patterns, and detail strung together by excellence in fabric and construction. Instead we have from Lee a consistent sculptural monochrome, a kind of sleeping policeman, hands always clung to the body, a very English postwar modernism. We have, mercifully, no logos, but there is a concept that will be at once recognizable on the street, an effect not true, outside of accessories, for Maier. A logo, then, of another kind.

The new clothes aren’t so much postmodern—that must be something like Balenciaga or Y/Project—as, in the first few seasons, post-apocalyptic, the most profound departures the big structural suits, exaggerated rubber soled shoes and sci-fi armored leather jumpsuits. These have since softened, nicely. BV after all, surely must be a wearable label? In Fall ‘20 we saw a very appealing angled tailoring, more fitted now, retaining a boxy look but with tapered sleeve and leg. For Spring ‘21 the pants ballooned, like similar offerings at Bruno Sialelli’s Lanvin and Dries van Noten (Fall ‘21). This suggests a willingness from Lee to play with proportions in order to find, or make clear an unwillingness to fix, a single trademark cut.

The big news in accessories is the explosion of the signature intrecciato leather treatment, the weave swollen to broad patchwork proportions, which works in some instances but not against the thin leather lip of the tote version. This appeared initially to be a more systematic overhaul than the current website offerings indicate. There are more of the traditional intrecciato dimensions than the “bruised” bags. The new textile bags of mixed technical material, on the other hand, are a head scratcher. Maier made some lustworthy leather and textile backpacks in his last seasons, but these new technical colourblock bags, in an era of ever higher-end sportswear brands, look like they are made by Rapha. Tim Coppens also used to make jackets and leisurewear in earthtone technical colourblock. A notable shift from leathers to textiles in shoes and bags can feel like a move downmarket for fans of the old BV, but then again, it isn’t the elegance or costliness of fabric that sells out Dior’s buzzy sneakers.

Fittingly perhaps for a one-time understudy of Phoebe Philo, one emerging code during Lee’s brief tenure has been an insistence that each garment contain a single colour, and no more. This is particularly noteworthy in the fresh and diverse shapes of knitwear, a diversity one could imagine being reflected in its buyers. There’s something there for everyone (in funds). But our heart aches for some variety in print, pattern, and colour as well. Monochrome is, after all, the uniform of that zombie American reality/social media couple that a truly progressive label should be eager to leave behind.

*

Anecdote:

I spend holiday afternoons each year at the home of a friend, who I met through a hypermasculine hobby. We have a friendship that skirts any reference to fashion, in consideration, I think, of the other guests at his gatherings, all “conservative” voting, who might take issue with such a dissipated interest. There is nothing more unforgivably wasteful, after all, than costly pleasures unrelated to our own.

Although sharing their confusion about an interest in clothes, my considerate friend cares less for these guests’ feelings, of longer acquaintance and so equipped to handle a little rough treatment, than mine, of my horror at upsetting anyone, or being insulted by them.

I am a people-pleaser with (thus) thin skin—is this the majority of fashion people?—so I try to dress at these gatherings with a casual sobriety, though not too diffidently, for fear of producing a closeted costume effect, since I have a voice of high pitch. Tomas Meier’s BV was the best I could do on these occasions. Sober and classy, these were pieces from a Continental resort novel, with an unnecessary stitch or cashmere collar serving as armour, a private reminder that after all, it’s still me. On the whole I do okay, but there is always the proverbial bracelet slipping out from cuff moment, when I’m just not plausible as a guy’s guy. Some of the male regulars at these events, wife and kids in tow, simply don’t speak to me.

But Halloween comes every year. And each year I’m the same character. One of these guys, standing before me, of flabby body and invariably attractive and alert wife, sheds for this one moment his aloof pose and stretches his forefinger in front of his face, a sobriety test, an incantation, one classmate recognising another across the years. “Austin Powers.”

And on this holiday, just this once a year, my friend our host, observing this game between his guests, attempts to break the barrier. He looks me up and down: a broadly striped or monogram Gucci suit, Elizabethan collar shirt and Chelsea boots. “Huh? This is just his ‘Tuesday.’”

*

Daniel Lee’s collections take BV from a broad Church that served equally well at an in-law dinner and a lunch with art types, to a label that some could only wear to see the first group on Halloween. True, BV has continued to fill out store and website with safer non-runway pieces, where the less brave can pick out a collared shirt here, one half of a suit there. But that isn’t how I shop. I am a Romantic completist, and I want the whole of the most glamorous looks. Otherwise, why bother?

There’s nothing at all wrong with the new look. In fact, most of the clothes in our wardrobe labyrinth are of the statement—demand people embrace their funky side—kind. But the passing of the Maier BV means we have lost a brand that satisfied those of us who felt too young and weird for Zegna or Brunello Cucinelli but too sophisticated for trendy and logoed streetwear. Daniel Lee’s work combines a limby, stretchy monochrome reminiscent of Rick Owens via a late 60s and 70s palette with highly structured, futuristic, power tailoring. It is an often uneasy compromise, as if we aren’t quite sure whether the next generation will be a liberation in casual diversity or, after the apocalypse, a world of imagined leisure controlled once again by men in big suits. Each garment, however, taken singly, shows merit and thought. It will be a pleasure, following the company’s delicious withdrawal from social media, to follow the new BV in-store.

Trashy Flexing

I am one of those extreme pet lovers. So certain I offer, when called, unparalleled happiness to all animals—feral, domestic, and unborn—that, like all professionals, I don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t pet people’s dogs, inquire about unfamiliar breeds, or smile at them in the way it was once permitted to smile at small children. In fact, my assurance, indeed arrogance, on the point is manifested by a certain hostility to pet owners. 

Is this the way with all caring professions? We recall Dr. Cottard’s esteem for his colleagues. 

All are suspect. I yell at owners who take their dogs on trails that disallow them. I mutter to myself about people who don’t walk their dogs. I grumble over people who walk their dogs too much. What if they (the owner) is hit by a car? That animal will live a sad nostalgic life thereafter. Dogs without discipline are a poor reflection on the owner. Far worse though are the owners who, presented with an audience, force their animal to halt and, in sight of bushes, trees, scents, parks, arrest its innocent enthusiasm in order to satisfy the owner’s sadistic compulsion to publicly perform rituals of mastery. 

Likewise I don’t love it when pet owners use my yard as a litter box for their pets. It is especially testing when the animal is of a size which qualifies for small children-on-the-horsey gags. And then there is the delicacy of the product itself. This week I attempted the brisk removal of a pile from the yard which, from its charcoal colour, must have been resting overnight. To my surprise it had the quality of a fine creme brulee. Its thin and crisp outer layer when handled split delicately, revealing a still warm, indeed steaming, moist brownie center. 

…these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting like one of Shakespeare’s fairies) at transforming my chamber pot into a vase of aromatic perfume.

No, it isn’t these culinary miracles that inflame my pet lover’s judgment. It is the more alarming whiff of negligence, of unpreparedness, which their giving-to-me-a-shit symbolizes. What other fundamental accommodations are refused these poor animals? 

My disgust is further piqued by the neglect of one of this world’s few true class levelers, that vanity destroying rite of bagging the waste. A furtive glance over a shoulder, as if at a man’s lewd whistle, face opening in a prayer of recognition, then a cutthroat cowboy’s quick draw to a pocketed plastic bag. The dog, regal, uncharacteristically patient, even meditative, waits patiently, casting a dull and superior look at owner (realtor, banker, judge, anti-vaxxer school board troll, all equally), kneeling now with sewn lips, exhaling (only) audibly, almost sensually, until the prize is wrapped in its military matte receptacle. 

When it was dead, Francoise collected its streaming blood, which did not, however, drown her rancour, for she gave vent to another burst of rage, and gazing down at the carcass of her enemy, uttered a final “Filthy creature!”

Still, when a neighbour patrols my yard with absentminded deliberation, I try, in order to interrupt and arrest scent pathways, to offer a bemused greeting. “Hello!?” I say, as in, “Can I help you?” This is mostly effective. We are urban enough here that most residents fear an unwanted conversation. 

This week I had two such encounters with what I now believe was the same person. The other evening, tidying above the yard, I sent my passive-aggressive hello, to which a middle-aged woman, in my driveway with dog, responded, “Have you talked to Pete and Kathy lately?”

These were the previous owners, who designed and built the house. 

“No, I never met them,” the accumulated challenges of home maintenance and dignity giving my voice an edge. 

“Oh. We used to come here a lot when they lived here.”     

I thought for a moment of our interactions with the previous owners, including a sharply worded and inappropriate letter of disagreement when we changed gardeners. H had been rightly upset by it. 

“Yea I-” my loyalty restrained by commonsense and a motto, never apologize, never explain… 

“I don’t talk to them.”

“Oh.” 

This morning the trashman was late. After tidying up in the kitchen I took a handful of waste to the can on the street, to be taken away with it. I turned the blind corner from my steps and stopped in my tracks, as we do now when unexpectedly meeting someone while unprotected. 

Caffeinated, I sang, “Good morning.” Just passing the trashcan was a middle-aged woman with a medium sized, stocky and fluffy golden dog of Asian breed. She warmly returned the greeting and walked a few paces ahead before pausing to allow the dog to approach me. Since, no doubt, I had been cordial. 

It was I felt sure not the same woman who had asked about the previous owners a few nights before. The dog, now sniffing up the skirt made by my Missoni robe—fetching I thought, in its androgynous clinginess and signature print, though the dog’s rooting wasn’t quite sexy—was the subject of the standard exchange. 

“I’m trying to train him.”

“Oh he still has growing to do?”

“I think so, he’s only six months old.” 

“Ah, I guess those big paws are the tell, huh?! And he handles the heat alright?”

“So far!”

“Well,” I said, straightening, “take care.”

“Bye!”

“Colby” took a natural line from my position a few steps from the street back to the road. In a tone of private commiseration, as at a promised diversion inexplicably forsaken, an ice-cream shoppe or swimming pool on a stifling summer’s day, the woman spoke to the animal. 

“They don’t live here anymore.” 

We have lived here five years. 

Suddenly my father would bring us to a standstill and ask my mother-”Where are we?” Exhausted by the walk but still proud of her husband, she would lovingly confess that she had not the least idea. He would shrug his shoulders and laugh. And then, as though he had produced it with his latchkey from his waistcoat pocket, he would point out to us, where it stood before our eyes, the back-gate of our own garden, which had come, hand-in-hand with the familiar corner of the Rue du Saint-Esprit, to greet us at the end of our wanderings over paths unknown. My mother would murmur admiringly, “You really are wonderful!”