Beirut’s fashion designers show creativity in the face of chaos

– France 24

Lebanese couture is revered around the world for its flamboyance and artistry, with collections destined for clients based in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and the US. But in recent months, a crippling economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and of course August’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion have threatened the industry like never before. Some of the biggest names in Beirut fashion, including the likes of Elie Saab and Tony Ward, spoke to FRANCE 24 about their experience of the past few months.

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Gucci, Gus Van Sant challenge fashion cycle with film collab

By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press

MILAN (AP) — Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele has been looking to transcend the runway show, and the coronavirus pandemic has provided an apt moment. 

Michele teamed up with American film director Gus Van Sant to create a seven-part miniseries revealing Gucci’s latest collection, titled “Ouverture.” The videos will be trickled out a day at a time starting Monday in the format of a virtual film festival and following the addictive pattern of streaming services. 

Film and fashion have a long relationship, and Gucci is not the first fashion house to team up with a filmmaker, even during the pandemic. Ferragamo presented a film by Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director of “Call Me By Your Name” as the backdrop to its live show in September, while another Italian, Matteo Garrone created a film for Dior’s digital couture presentation in Paris in July. Prada commissioned five international video artists for its presentation in July. 

What perhaps makes GucciFest unveil unique is its episodic format. 

Michele announced in May that he was breaking with the tradition of the four-times-a-year runway show, often punctuated with an additional destination cruise show. Gucci will now roll out largely seasonless collections in November and April. It’s hard to say what he might have done if the pandemic hadn’t in some ways made a virtual presentation a necessity — especially as the virus makes a resurgence. 

But Michele’s notion of how to present fashion has been in evolution since he took over the brand six years ago.

“It has been in the air for many years, the need to follow a new narrative and a new communication. I like experiments,” Michele said. While the pandemic did not condition the project, “for me it created a speedier reaction.” 

A film buff since childhood, Michele said he was discussing another project with Van Sant before the pandemic and proposed the miniseries project just a month ago. Van Sant traveled to Rome, where he filmed part of “My Private Idaho” 30 years ago, to shoot on location. 

“It was a spontaneous idea to make something within just a few weeks. I sort of found that exciting and challenging, like something I had done before,” the director said, recalling his work on “Gerry,” “Elephant” and “Last Days,” which he said were filmed on tight schedules with loose screenplays. 

Michele said the project was more a collaboration than a commission. “I felt neither invaded, nor invasive,” the creative director said.

The film series follows days in the life of a woman, played by Italian actress Silvia Calderoni, as she and her Gucci tribe move dreamily through a rarified Roman landscape, from her shabby chic apartment to a theater, café and vintage shop. She is joined by Gucci models with cameos by friends of Michele’s, including Billie Eilish, Florence Welch and Harry Styles, all wearing Gucci looks that will be in stores starting next spring. 

“There is a cinematic fusing with commerce,” Van Sant said. 

The format allows all fashionistas a coveted front-row seat, removing some of the exclusivity of the runway show. Customers will be able to see clothes in real-life, if perhaps surreal, situations. Michele said the garments were “freed from their traps,” the idea that luxury brands like Gucci belong out of reach, only in certain boutiques or closets. 

In the videos, branding is highlighted, and thought is given to the experience of the garments: Calderoni stretches in a sheer lace pajama, a diaphanous dress is set aloft from a balcony, and pearl beads rustle on a skirt fringe. 

“The combination of cinema with exposing fashion ideas has a lot of potential, as cinema starts to get sucked into the computer screen,” Van Sant said.

Cultural Appropriation: In Their Own Words: Pierpaolo Piccioli

By Miles Socha, WWD

“I think it is essential to do as much as I can to immerse myself in that culture so I can try to understand the references as much as possible,” the designer says.

“Our emotions about African culture, the idea of beauty [achieved by] the interaction of different cultures, the idea of tolerance, this is the message we wanted to deliver,” Pierpaolo Piccioli told WWD in 2017, speaking about Valentino’s then widely praised spring 2017 collection.

The theme extended into the advertising campaign, lensed by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry in a Maasai village between Kenya and Tanzania.

Several years have passed, and sensibilities have changed. Here, Piccioli shares his latest views on cross-cultural inspirations.

WWD: What has compelled you in the past to reference other cultures? How does this feed your creativity or design process?

Pierpaolo Piccioli: Every creative process is an open source that takes and gives back. Referring, looking, talking to other cultures, as you said, is what we do on a daily basis because it is part of the natural mind-set of our job. I think it is essential to do as much as I can to immerse myself in that culture so I can try to understand the references as much as possible. It is my job as a creative director to amplify the voices of that culture and try to give back as a way to thank the culture for the creative inspiration it has given me. Social media has dramatically changed the perception of what “other cultures” means to us, everything is global now. No matter how far you are you can be perceived as very close. But this is the trick, this where we should all be careful.

The point is to establish how to look at other cultures, without incurring in the mistake of “taking” without understanding. The big, huge difference is always based on culture, knowledge and awareness.

WWD: Do you ever take inspiration trips, travel with your mind, or do research in other ways?

P.P.: Of course. I constantly use traveling and theoretical research as a source of inspiration. Curiosity leads to movement, movement to discovery and discovery to reinterpretation, it has always worked in this way, at least for me.

I think that subtracting some “purpose” from the cultural trips and let reality strike you with no pre-conception of any kind helps gain a very privileged and natural point of view, preserving the wonder without which no creative process is possible. And of course places can offer a huge amount of inputs, but in the end what really inspires me are people, human beings, with their story, with their personalities, humanity is the real inspiration.

WWD: Have you ever faced accusations of cultural appropriation? If so, when, and how did you react?

P.P.: Every one of us has faced such critics. I remember a collection designed with Maria Grazia that was highly influenced by African cultures and even shot in that landscape, followed by skeptical comments. I listened carefully to the objections coming from external observers and reflected about the implications of our aesthetic choices: although they had been done with complete respect and creative freedom, we had the duty to consider their social and emotional impact.

WWD: Have you changed the use of cross-cultural references, or your methods, given current sensibilities?

P.P.: Yes, I think I modified my way of looking at diversity while becoming more familiar with it. Nowadays I talk about things that I know, mainly, and keep paying homage every now and then to some of the ones I love, but that are not necessarily part of my background. The caution I use toward different cultures does not only derive from others’ sensibility, but also from my personal consciousness and limits. I know myself better and enjoy the pleasure of this strengthening of identity. On the other hand, being more aligned with your own personality helps you dialoguing with others in a more natural and harmless way.

WWD: Does fashion risk losing anything, or gaining something, if designers limit themselves to their local culture?

P.P.: Those designers who belong to a very defined, limited, shaped society raise their hands. We may come from cultural specificities, we may love our background and be experts of our local traditions, we may preserve our heritage with pride and seriousness, but we live in a world that has loosened its borders, at least the mental ones. Which means we cannot stick to a confined reality while taking part in a universal imaginary and cultural landscape.

8 Face-Mask Mistakes I’ve Learned the Hard Way Not to Make

by ALLYSON PAYER, Who What Wear

It’s hard to say when the day will come that we’re all used to wearing face masks, but based on my experience, we’re not there yet. They can be very awkward and uncomfortable, but they’re also essential when going out in public, so I’m here to give some advice. We’re in it for the long haul, after all. With just a couple months of mask-wearing under my belt, I’m no expert, but I’ve had my share of trial and error, as I’m sure we all have. I’ve also read just about every article about masks that I come across, so I think I’ve gathered enough information at this point to be able to share some dos and don’ts.

Aside from the obvious mask-wearing rules, like making sure your mask covers from below your chin to above your nose and avoiding touching your face to adjust your mask, there are quite a few other mistakes that are easy to make while wearing one, so let’s discuss. Keep scrolling for the eight face-mask mistakes I made, and shop some of my favorite protective face masks while you’re at it.

I have a denim face mask, which is very stylish and protective since it’s quite thick, but I quickly realized that it’s far too thick to wear in the summer. It’s a fine balance because you want something that’s thick enough to be effective, but if it’s suffocating you, you’ll be tempted to take it off. Take my advice and look for masks that are made of breathable materials that you can handle wearing for long periods of time in the summer, like cotton poplin or double layers of knit.

As someone with a face that’s on the smaller side, I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding masks that don’t gap and fall down my face. I’ve tried folding them and knotting the ear straps, but the results usually aren’t great. For that reason, I’ve been shopping for ones that either tie at the neck, list their measurements, or have adjustable ear straps.

It’s inevitable that your mask is going to get makeup on it (if you wear makeup), but it’s really a recipe for disaster if you’re wearing a light-colored mask with pretty much any shade of lipstick. My advice is to wear a lip stain to minimize that, or choose a dark-colored face mask that day.

I realize this is contradictory since I just recommended a mask that ties if your face is on the smaller side, but on days when I know I’m going to be taking it on and off repeatedly (e.g., when I’m driving around running errands), I opt for one that I can just slip behind my ears. Trust me—it’ll make your life much easier.

Similar to my tip about not wearing a mask that ties when you’re taking it on and off a lot, another thing to think about is storage when you’re not wearing it. The last thing you want to do it toss it onto a table or in your handbag with your keys and such, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally drop it anywhere, so I advise carrying a plastic bag or envelope to store it in, or even better, opt for one of these chic sunglass chains. (I also love these mask chains from Donni.)

This obviously isn’t a life-or-death mistake, but since it covers half of your face, your mask is the first thing people will notice about you when wearing one, so you might as well embrace having a new accessory and opt for one that you actually look forward to wearing (as much as possible, that is) and that complements your wardrobe.

Even if you’re not leaving the house every day anymore, you’re probably going to need more than a few masks unless you like doing laundry every few days. You shouldn’t wear a dirty mask for obvious reasons, so stock up on enough to get you through a week, at least.

As you’ve probably realized by now, masks trap moisture (aka, humidity and sweat) on your skin, which isn’t doing it any favors. There’s not a whole lot you can do to avoid that, but opting for lightweight, non-dewy makeup can definitely help. Plus, having an acne-banishing face mask (the other kind) on hand is a good idea.

The Newest Thing in Fashion? Old Clothes

By Vanessa Friedman

Disposability is no longer chic. A new magazine joins a host of big brands in exploring the joys of upcycling.

By Vanessa FriedmanOct. 22, 2020

Display Copy, the magazine that debuted online and on newsstands on Oct. 22, looks, in most ways, like a typical magazine.

It has a well-known model/personality on the cover: Paloma Elsesser, the plus-size model, inclusivity champion and British Vogue favorite. It has glossy shoots by famous photographers: Katerina Jebb and Mark Borthwick. And it has clothing credits that include Helmut Lang, Paul Smith, Adidas and Balenciaga.

In one way, however, it is not typical at all. The credits for “where to buy” include the Salvation Army, Etsy and eBay. Display Copy may be a new magazine, but, as the editor’s letter says, it “doesn’t feature a single new fashion item.” Every item of clothing it pictures and promotes is vintage. Secondhand. Thrifted. Pre-loved. For resale.

“The idea was to make used clothes desirable,” said Brynn Heminway, the editor of the magazine, which will have a constant stream of mostly shoppable online content, and will be published twice a year as a limited-edition collectible. “Because I honestly feel nothing new is sustainable. Everyone told me I would never get any advertising support, or anyone to write about it.” But it turned out, the timing was perfect.

Saskia de Brauw, photographed by Amy Troost for Display Copy. Much of the upcycled apparel shown is shoppable.

Amy Troost, via Display Copy

A 1968 necklace in18-karat gold and pearls, photographed by Carlton Davis for the magazine.Carlton Davis, via Display Copy

After years of pushing only new, new, new (while behind the scenes scouring flea markets for inspiration), fashion brands are beginning, finally, to publicly embrace the old. Upcycling is reaching critical mass.

It may be the most concrete shift in the fashion system to come out of the pandemic: the one real product to emerge from all of the industry talk in May and June about change and sustainability and value systems.

The week before Display Copy arrived, Miu Miu introduced Upcycled by Miu Miu: a limited collection of vintage dresses from the 1940s through the ’70s that have been tweaked, refashioned and otherwise jazzed up for a contemporary customer. The week before that, Levi’s unveiled Levi’s Secondhand, a buyback and resale program that will allow customers to sell their old denim to Levi’s so it can be repaired, reinvented and resold (or recycled).

They are both following in the footsteps of Maison Margiela, which put upcycling at the center of its creative process back in February when it introduced the Recicla line (Italian for “recycle”) — a collection built on garments the designer John Galliano’s team finds in charity shops and then deconstructs and reworks — and has since doubled down on the idea. Which itself came in the wake of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, a pioneer in the field.

The Italian actress Elisa Visari in a look from Upcycled by Miu Miu. It was worn to the Green Carpet Awards, 2020.via Miu Miu

Dominique Drakeford, a sustainability educator, in Levi’s SecondHand attire.Rachael Wang

In early October, Gucci announced a partnership with the RealReal, the resale site, for a Gucci-specific second life store on the platform, just as Stella McCartney and Burberry did before it.

And speaking of Ms. McCartney, she has created a new plan to upcycle her own samples and pieces that were made but never put into production — clothes that had been gathering dust in a storage closet or waiting to be sold off cheaply at sample sale. The upcycling will include adding some extra embellishment and handwritten notes on the tags and offering the pieces as one-off quasi-couture.

She is also plotting to reissue her most popular former styles, as is Michael Kors, who last season remade a cape from a fall 1999 collection and recently included a dress from spring 1991, originally worn by Anna Wintour to Grace Coddington’s 50th birthday party at Indochine, in his spring 2021 collection.

Add to that Cate Blanchett recycling her wardrobe during the Venice Film Festival in September.

Cate Blanchett at the Venice Film Festival in September. The actress first wore the dress, by Esteban Cortazar, to a premiere in 2015.Joel C. Ryan/Invision, via Associated Press

“We’re just trying to put the spotlight on wonderful things that last,” Mr. Kors said in explaining his collection during a Zoom presentation.

There is no “just” about it, though. Such a development is the inverse of the former conventional wisdom, which held that if you didn’t inundate people with a constant stream of fresh products, addling their senses and saturating their judgment centers, you risked losing their attention — and wallet share.

That was, it turned out, a short-term way of thinking that reeked of insecurity, relying on freneticism and white noise. It may have boosted sales, but it also led to not only a glut of stuff but also an erosion of the value proposition. After all, if the company that made a garment didn’t think it was worth hanging on to for more than a few weeks, why should the person who buys it?

Once that confidence and understanding is lost, it is unclear how it ever comes back. Upcycling may be the answer.

“I started being a fashion designer because I never found anything I liked,” said Mrs. Prada, who hates throwing clothes away and has a whole separate apartment where she keeps her old wardrobe as well as her mother’s.

“Before that, for 10 years I dressed in vintage,” she continued. “I always asked myself why I liked it so much, and I think it’s the history. Each dress represents a person, a piece of a life. For me, the past always had an incredible value because anything you learn comes from there.”

Yet not that long ago, during a discussion in early 2019 for Muse magazine about fashion’s role in the climate crisis, I asked Marco Bizzarri, the chief executive of Gucci, why his brand didn’t take back its own clothes once consumers were done with them so they could be upcycled and resold. Why, though fashion was increasingly grappling with the environmental impact of materials at the start of a product’s life, there wasn’t as much focus on its end of life, or second life. At the time, he said it was too complicated and systems weren’t in place.

Batsheva Hay in one of the “housedresses” she made from leftover fabric.via Batsheva

So what changed? First, the fact that, early in the pandemic when countries were in lockdown, many mills were not working, so designers had to turn to deadstock (fabric left over from previous collections and a word that in itself reflects the industry’s former attitude) to create products.

This helped break the “old” barrier, said Batsheva Hay, who used her leftover fabric to make a series of limited-edition “housedresses.” Traditionally, she said, fashion had been “afraid of anything last season,” even though consumers have positive associations with the word “sustainability.”

Add to this the realization that consumers themselves were, as Giorgio Belloli, the chief commercial and sustainability officer of Farfetch, said, “changing their behavior and starting to see more value in their items.” (This in turn prompted Farfetch to expand its Second Life program, which allows customers to offer old handbags for on-site credit in Britain, the United States and several other countries in Europe.) They’re changing because of pandemic-induced economic factors and the understanding, no longer debated, that the responsibility to address the landfill problem lies not just with fashion producers, but also shoppers.

All of which has helped bolster the much heralded growth of the resale market, which ThredUp has predicted will hit $64 billion by 2024, with the online secondhand market growing 69 percent between 2019 and 2021. And the fact that increasingly, Gen Z, or what Ms. Heminway of Display Copy calls “the Depop generation,” has turned away from the waste of fast fashion and, priced out of even contemporary fashion, moved toward thrifting.

Paloma Elsesser photographed in vintage clothing and accessories for Display Copy by Daniel Jackson.Daniel Jackson, via Display Copy

(Whether they will celebrate the fashion embrace of their shopping strategy is a different question; often, when the older generation co-opts the behavior of the young, the young get grossed out and move on.)

The result is a powerful combination of forces pushing fashion, and how we think about clothes, in a new direction. Though perhaps the most powerful force of all is self-interest — and not just commercial.

It turns out that the challenge of working with old stuff, of reinventing it, whether with technology or design (or both), has opened up whole new realms of intellectual and aesthetic possibility in the way that problem-solving often does. As Display Copy reads, “our intention is to celebrate the ingenuity we find in ourselves when we are determined to preserve the things we love.”

Mrs. Prada said working on Upcycled Miu Miu had been creatively inspiring. In a podcast about his Recicla initiative, Mr. Galliano called it “restorative.”

Who wouldn’t want to buy that right about now?

Designer Kenzo Takada, founder of Kenzo, dies of Covid-19 aged 81

By Martin Goillandeau, CNN

Paris-based Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, famous for creating the international luxury fashion house Kenzo, died in Paris on Sunday due to Covid-19 related complications, a spokesperson for Takada’s luxury K-3 brand said in a statement sent to CNN. His death came in the midst of Paris Fashion Week, which, through a hybrid of physical and digital shows, has forged ahead despite rising Covid-19 cases in France.

“It is with immense sadness that the brand K-3 announces the loss of its celebrated artistic director, Kenzo Takada. The world-renowned designer passed away on October 4th, 2020 due to Covid-19 related complications at the age of 81 at the American Hospital, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France,” the statement read.

Kenzo Takada at his Autumm-Winter show in Paris on March 10, 1998. Credit: Daniel Simon/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Kenzo Takada’s designs were a mix of loud colors and prints inspired by his worldwide travels. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

In 1970, Takada rocked Paris with the debut of his namesake fashion line. Sold out of his first boutique, called Jungle Jap, his designs were a chaotic mix of loud colors and mismatched prints inspired by his travels.

Prints master Kenzo Takada talks Paris, sketching and how fashion has changed

The world’s varied cultures would be a constant source of creativity — and everything from folk dresses to kimonos would be boldly reinterpreted for his runways. “There was much more of a cultural gap when you were traveling from one country to the next,” he told CNN in a 2019 interview, reminiscing about trips taken in the 1970s. “So that really drove me and gave me a lot of influence and inspiration to work on different things around my trips.”

On Paris, Takada would speak of its lasting influence. “A French way of working with fashion definitely influenced me and much later I started to blend other cultures into that specific fashion,” he said.

“Of course now, fashion is everywhere; in New York, Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, everywhere. But I think Paris stays very important.”

Models wear bright colored suits with matching turbans by designer Kenzo Takada at his Autumn-Winter show in Paris, 1986. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Getty Images

The designer accompanied by two models down his Autumn-Winter runway in Paris, 1983. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Getty Images

The designer inaugurated his flagship store in the city’s Place des Victoires by 1976, and over the next three decades, he racked up numerous accolades and accomplishments — including a slew of magazine covers, the launch of a perfume empire and, in 1993, his brand’s purchase by luxury conglomerate LVMH — before retiring to pursue other creative projects in 1999.

Kenzo during one of his world travels which later inspired the brand’s collections. Credit: Kenzo Takada

“Kenzo Takada was incredibly creative; with a stroke of genius, he imagined a new artistic and colourful story combining East and West — his native Japan and his life in Paris,” Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, CEO of Takada’s K-3 brand, launched in January of this year, said in a statement.

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“I had the chance to work alongside him for many years, always in awe, admiring his curiosity and his open-mindedness. He seemed quiet and shy at first, but he was full of humour. He was generous and always knew how to look after the people close to his heart. He had a zest for life… Kenzo Takada was the epitome of the art of living,” he added.

Kristen Bateman contributed to this story.