Category Archives: Film

An Awakening

SKYWALKER

The Jedi look of the Star Wars universe is known even to those who have never seen a film. Ascetic with strong hints of Asia (and notions of Africa), spiritual, elegant, humble and at the same time grand, it is an aptly and often used reference in contemporary dress. Whether it’s cosplay at a sci-fi convention or a Rick Owens runway, it’s not impossible to find a real life context.

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Authored by John Mollo for the first Star Wars film in 1977 (Mollo would go on to costume Alien and Gandhi), the look elucidates George Lucas’s spiritually guided, space-dwelling wizard-knights from a time long long ago in a galaxy far far away. To bring them to life Mollo created a unique language of dress that has since become a part of popular culture and consequently fashion. Long flowing fabrics purposely but casually draped. Tonal palettes made up of white, cream, beige, nut and earth.  Shawl and wrapped collars. Wrapped everything. A strong sense of calm as well as power. A look to the future? A memory of the past? You can begin to see what makes it so appealing.

One of the most enjoyable and important interpretations of the Jedi look, and what is possibly one of the best fashion moments in sci-fi history, is actually in the newest Star Wars installment, Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

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Marni Spring/Summer 2015

The film was costumed by the legendary designer Michael Kaplan, revered for his work on Blade Runner. Kaplan also worked with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams prior on his well-received Star Trek reboot.  The new Star Wars costumes are entirely based on Mollo’s precedent however Kaplan is charged with the hyper-complex task of negotiating late ‘70s retro-futurism with the look of today. The costumes are worthy of his reputation except in seldom moments where the designs are not as convincingly carried by the actors. In these minor but noticeable breaks in suspension of disbelief it was difficult to know whether it was the costume or the limits of the actor.

It’s not significant enough to dwell on. Ultimately, Episode VII is easily the second best Star Wars movie ever made (possibly the best). The film is an amazing experience that Kaplan’s skill and creative invention worked to uplift.

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Lemaire Fall/Winter 2015

And there is one special moment where the story, character, and costume come together with such utterly thrilling results. In a gesture, a glance, in the glint of the eye, in the worn but robust fibers of humbly woven cloth comes a fashion moment few films contain. It stirs you. It shakes you. You are truly moved. The depth and significance of this moment is as much about the clothing as it is Abram’s storytelling or the talent of the actor who pulled it off. It’s possible you will begin to see things differently. It may change your eye.

But it’s impossible to tell you what that moment is without spoiling it for those who have not yet seen the film. Those who have know exactly the moment I mean. Those who still need to go, I can tell you only this: the timing is perfect.

Back to the Twenties

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Patou

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 Chanel

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All illustrations from L’Officiel 1924

The 1920’s. Finally, we made it

The 5th season of Downton Abbey which has just begun airing on PBS finds the Crawley family and servants in the year 1924, a time rife with change, a time when modernism ran rampant. It manifested in literature, in art, architecture, in industrial design, graphic design, photography and, of course, in fashion. The waist was dismissed, assigned to hover abstractly over the lower hip like a vestigial limb. The bosom was banished. Although a mere hint remained it was never obligatory. Western culture’s fashionable body, having been engineered to suspend from either the waist or the bust for hundreds of years, relocated to the shoulders. Common to most modes of dress found outside of Europe, this particular fashion innovation hadn’t been seen in Western costume since the Middle Ages, and more distinctly, the fall of Rome. It is why Diana Vreeland once proclaimed the 1920s as her favorite decade citing that it was the first time in history women wore their hair short. The first time their ankles were revealed. It’s the time of the Bauhaus, of Man Ray, of Jazz and Chanel. For women’s dress it was an utter schism.

The beauty of Downton Abbey is that it’s allowed us to follow fashion from the sinking of the Titanic through a World War and into the world of tomorrow — all chronicled through a fantastically written, superbly acted, lavishly produced and exquisitely costumed soap opera. And now with the 5th season beginning the timing couldn’t be better for fabulous 1920s styles to go on display every week for the next two months or so.

The ‘20s is one of the most misunderstood decades. It is consistently butchered and shortchanged, scantily summed up with something vaguely flapper-ish. But the ’20s saw one of the most radical shifts in dress of the last 300 years. While dress reform was already underway by the time Paul Poiret was ruling fashion in 1909 it wasn’t until his success that fashion was challenged directly. Poiret offered revolution in the guise of the exotic. His interest in global dress provided vivid contradiction to the status quo (his innovative though eccentric Harem pantnts were highlighted in Downton Abbey season 2). But World War I brought on many changes and Poiret could not follow up on the modernism he instigated. Credit is given to Chanel for inventing the modern woman’s wardrobe though it is likely her then rival and now virtual unknown Jean Patou who was a more impactful designer. Regardless, both of them made extremely modern, cleverly engineered and flawlessly styled sportswear — obliging the demand for a more active and confident means of dress for even the most fashionable woman.

The effect is not unlike what designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Phoebe Philo have been getting at in the last couple years or what Armani has been proposing for the last 40. As a sportswear revival goes underway, led by likes of The Olsen twins and Christophe Lemaire, Downtown Abbey offers itself as a compelling series of fashion plates granting a detailed and insightful peek into one of the most exciting and eternally relevant eras of fashion.

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Chez Calvayrac

Interiors, 1978

There’s a lot of talk about Annie Hall when it comes to cinematic fashion references. And while Diane Keaton, dressed in the film by Ralph Lauren, certainly is the eternal style icon everyone gabs about, when it comes to Woody Allen’s films his most striking in terms of costuming is neither Annie Hall nor even Manhattan but rather his 1978 high-intensity drama Interiors.

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Regarded in film circles as “Woody Allen doing Ingmar Bergman,” it was his first serious drama. Breathtakingly photographed by longtime Allen collaborator Gordon Willis and with impeccable costumes uncharacteriscially designed by Joel Schumacher (the director of the garish and insidious Batman & Robin and Batman Forever films), Interiors is perhaps one of the greatest fashion films ever made. The fashion message? A testament to late ‘70s minimalism; its softness, its austerity and its ease. All the hallmarks of the era’s refined lines and seductive sportswear are exalted and showcased with the scope and attention to detail worthy of any well-produced fashion campaign. Working off an overall tonal palette of pastels, beiges, greys, and browns rendered in lush tweeds, brushed wools, velvets, satins, and gabardines, the costumes exist in perfect harmony with the set design (by Mario Mazzola and Daniel Robert) and Willis’s photography to produce an endless stream of moving images that are as haunting in their beauty as any fashion image lensed by Deborah Turbeville.

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The plot centers around a family in turmoil; three sisters Renata, Joey and Flynn (Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffith) each battling their own bourgeois, intellectual and existential crisis while they deal with their neurotic mother Eve (Geraldine Page) whose depression and obsessive compulsive disorder is driving the family towards collapse. The film’s melancholic tone and script strangely adds to its visual splendor imbuing each image and moment with a humming anguish that is only put to rest at the film’s closing credits. The actors, who are all mostly flawless (the script does read both stoic and theatrical, though not surprisingly as it was based on the work of Chekov), excel as models making their lavishly art directed looks not only believable but charge them with a poignant artificial reality no fashion plate or fashion film could dare to attempt. Diane Keaton has never been more glamourous as she is backlit with wild hair, smoking a cigarette and lamenting her artistic struggles and dysfunctional family.

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Through the costumes you can begin to make out the key fashion players of the era. In the wardrobe of Eve there are nods to the silks of John Anthony, the dresses of Jean Muir and the suits of Halston. In the wardrobe of the sisters, far more casual and youthful, you can make out Ralph Lauren losing ground to Perry Ellis and the triumph of Donna Karan at Anne Klein: a turtle neck worn under a blouse, an ochre cable knit sweater, a khaki coat with the cuffs turned up. Even in Joey’s partner Mike (played by Sam Waterston) there is the semblance of Calvin Klein’s youthful and debonair style, dressed head-to-toe in beige, of course. In one scene set in a clothing boutique, a display of Emanuel Ungaro scarves sit in the background almost as an afterthought, though he had a big moment ten years prior Ungaro wouldn’t again be a scene stealer for another decade

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As a film Interiors is one of Allen’s greatest. As a fashion reference it is significant and profound. Made today you could imagine it costumed by Matthew Ames or Adam Lippes, perhaps Christophe Lemaire or Jesse Kamm for the sportier looks. Years after being made its fashion message remains contemporary. And as Autumn segues into Winter Interiors provides notable personal inspiration in getting dressed: a sense of occasion and beauty in the midst of tragedy and despair, a lightness and warmth to battle the quickly darkening days and encroaching bitter cold and a calmness to ease the disturbing stillness of a muffling snowfall and twilight night. See it for yourself, it’s currently on Netflix.

Dior And I: A Movie Review

Dior and I, a new documentary by Frédéric Tcheng, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last night. The film follows Christian Dior creative director Raf Simons as he puts together and shows his first collection for the legendary couture house. Tcheng presents Simons and his experience as a conversation with the house’s namesake, juxtaposing his intimate and candid footage of Simons and his team with clips of the legendary designer and excerpts from Dior’s 1957 autobiography Christian Dior and I.

Published just two months before his death Christian Dior and I is filled with Dior’s meditations and confessions about his career, his maison, and his legacy as a fashion designer. Regarding himself in the third person, Dior addresses “Christian Dior” the couturier as a separate entity, a being independent of his real self that threatens to usurp his identity and trap him with the impossible expectations of his talent and fame. In 1947, just two years after World War II ended, Dior revitalized French haute couture with the New Look; a highly constructed and overtly feminine silhouette that reestablished Paris’s international influence and helped to define the dress code for the next decade. It is said that Dior’s immense impact haunted him, taunting him to exceed his initial success and constantly revolutionize fashion with each coming season. Ten years after he founded his maison Dior died of a heart attack, apparently brought on by increasing amounts of stress.

Tcheng observes Simons and his own struggles managing the larger than life myth of Christian Dior, though in 2014 it’s a much different relationship. While Dior’s maison was a juggernaut business that at the time of his death included a myriad of accessory and perfume licenses as well as a pret-a-porter collection, it was a far cry from the gargantuan size it would balloon up to nearly 60 years later through the management and support of luxury kingpin Bernard Arnault and his behemoth conglomerate LVMH. And while the pressures for Dior’s first successor, a 21-year-old Yves Saint Laurent, must have surely been great as he emerged from the shadow and into the spotlight after his mentor’s death, they pale in comparison to the global empire and vast product lines Simons is now responsible for — his first test being the flagship haute couture collection in which resides the brand’s last remaining connection to its history and heritage.

How Raf gets along designing haute couture for the first time while balancing his duties as the mega brand’s frontman is something anyone interested in the legacy of Dior or the talent of Raf Simons should watch for themselves. But as it is revealed by Tcheng, and as it is unfolds in the context of Christian Dior the man and Christian Dior the legend, it makes for a rather poignant and dramatically beautiful elucidation of the truths of fashion myth and how they must be reconciled for modern machinations, contemporary commerce and an ever-present past.

Garmento Presents: Andre Walker’s “Other People”

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“That show is everything that I love, everything that represents me. And it’s still crisp, it’s still hot. It doesn’t look dated. You can actually see some of these looks sold today.”

– Andre Walker in Garmento Issue 3

To celebrate the release of its third issue, Garmento invites you to a special screening of Andre Walker’s Fall/Winter 1999-2000 runway presentation titled “Other People.” Staged at Purple Institute and featuring only 12 looks, this extremely rare video footage offers a special look at the designer’s creative manifesto during his second tour in Paris. Designed and presented when fashion was at an impasse; a time when the edicts of ‘90s minimalism were under attack and a slew of upstart talents had begun to forge a new discourse, the show exists as an incredible record of the designer’s expression that, considering the ambiguous future fashion faces today, is as revelatory now as it was 14 years ago. “Other People” along with a selection of videos from throughout Walker’s career will be screened at 6:00 pm and again at 6:30 pm. Complimentary copies of Garmento Issue 3 will be available at the screening.

Saturday, November 2nd  5:00 – 8:00 pm

Jack Chiles, 481 Broadway, 4th Floor

 Kindly RSVP to: info@garmentozine.com

Charles Kleibacker, 1978

“Yes indeed I think design is mathematics, I think it is engineering, I think it almost approaches a science. And perhaps if we could think more of fashion in that way rather than the fads and gimmick we would arrive at how this is indeed a dedicated, disciplined, marvelously imaginative and exciting world — the world of fashion. “

– CHARLES KLEIBACKER

Garmento Issue 2 Launch/Anton Perich Screening at Jack Chiles

Photography by Joe Jagos