Unordered List

Sunday 29 September 2013

RICK OWENS: awesome, awesome, awesome.

I didn't post about this (AMAZING) show on HelloTailor because I was writing about it elsewhere. So...
Finally, a Paris Fashion Week show that gives us something to cheer about.
Until this week, fashion designer Rick Owens was mostly known for creating gothic, grunge-inspired clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But thanks to his Spring 2014 show at Paris Fashion Week, he’s now famous for introducing one of the most diverse and rebellious runway shows in recent memory.

Even if you make every effort to ignore the mainstream fashion industry, you’ll still have a fairly accurate mental image of what “models” are supposed to look like: tall, thin, expressionless... and usually white. This Thursday, Rick Owens broke the mold by employing a mostly African American cast of college step-dancers (a combination of cheerleading and military drill) to “walk” his new collection down the runway.

Compared to the size zero, predominantly white models of most womenswear shows, it was a shocking display of diversity. Not to mention a lot livelier than your run-of-the-mill fashion show where models calmly walk in a line from one end of the room to the other. [READ MORE]

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Marvel's Agents of O.M.G.

As a Marvel movie nerd, a Joss Whedon fan, and a person with twelve life-size cardboard cutouts of Agent Coulson strategically placed around their house*, I was somewhat looking forward to this show. "Somewhat", in that I've watched the trailer 470 times and basically spent the entire episode making muffled screaming noises. I thought I should get this caveat out of the way before we started, because I am 100% gonna be reviewing Agents of SHIELD from the perspective of a fan. Is it a silly show? Is it a low-budget spinoff of a movie that pretty much defines the high-budget blockbuster genre? Is it almost certainly going to be more child-friendly and populist than Joss Whedon's previous work? Yes, yes, and yes. But do any of these details have any negative impact on my enjoyment of the show? Take a wild guess.

*if only.
Just to provide the illusion that this is a fair and balanced review, here are the things that I didn't like about this episode:
  • People kept using the word "tech" like it wasn't a filler word. "Quick, hand me the Unobtainium, Agent Nolastname!" Stop this.
  • Idiotic line about "sweaty cosplay girls". Joss Whedon should know better.
  • Uninteresting costume design. But I'm willing to excuse this because a) it's a pilot episode, and b) most of the characters are secret agents who have to look as boring as possible for work purposes. Clark Gregg looked amazing though, obviously. Although I doubt they've retained the Dolce & Gabbana product endorsement from the Avengers movies. 
Other than these three minor quibbles, Agents of SHIELD was extremely enjoyable and I look forward to making muffled screaming noises throughout many episodes to come. 

Monday 23 September 2013

Spring 2014 Fashion Week: Victoria Beckham, Fausto Puglisi, Vivienne Westwood Red Label, and Chris Kane.

Previously on Spring 2014: Ralph Lauren, Theyskens' Theory, Duro Olowu and Tom Ford.

Fausto Puglisi
I love it when designers attempt to describe their new collection in one simple soundbite. It's Stonehenge meets The Hamptons! It's Hollywood meets Star Wars! It's Kraftwerk meets The Craft! Fausto Puglisi attempted to jazz up his first catwalk show by labeling it with the deliciously meaningless publicity soundbite of "Carolina Herrera meets Axl Rose". Thank you, thank you! These clothes are definitely just like a cross between an aging, unwashed douche-rocker, and a super-feminine couture gown designer. What a great description. (In that they are relatively normal-looking skirts and dresses, with a slight leatherwork element. NAILED IT.)
All images via

You may be shocked to learn that Fausto Puglisi is a man. He also seems to be somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of breasts. Like for example, this "harness bra" (LOL) may have been manufactured by Tuscan saddlemakers, but that doesn't mean it's very well-designed as an item of boob-regalia. Don't get me wrong! It looks pretty cool, in a bondage/punk kinda way. But there are some things that are just so uncomfortable-looking that, even as a fashion nerd, I have to take a step back and say, "Steady on, pal." First of all, only a tiny fraction of the female population are flat-chested enough for this whole harness bra idea to be a remotely plausible life choice. Secondly, why would you put a tight leather buckle strap directly over your nipples? I guess it would be slightly better if worn over a shirt, but I'm pretty sure that would be the socks-and-sandles of the bra world, and therefore kind of a faux pas.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Spring 2014: Ralph Lauren, Theyskens' Theory, Duro Olowu and Tom Ford.

Previously on Spring 2014: The Row, J.W. Anderson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Pilotto.

Ralph Lauren
I have mixed feelings on the topic of Ralph Lauren, mostly because I used to work for them and therefore lived through several months of semi-successful corporate brainwashing. Without the brainwashing, my feelings would be decidedly un-mixed, because their designs are largely dull as balls. As it stands, I know way more about Ralph Lauren than any other designer, which forces me to think critically about the brand as a whole. Ugh.
All images via
Ralph Lauren's high-end work (ie, the stuff you see at Fashion Week) is occasionally interesting, but their lower-price labels are generally an exercise in non-fashion. The purpose of Ralph Lauren clothes is to maintain a supposedly timeless preppy/equestrian/American royalty look, which primarily means a lot of v-neck sweaters, beige, faux prep schoolwear, and touches of feminised "menswear-inspired" shirts and blazers. The ideal Ralph Lauren woman is rich and vaguely sporty, but not really interested in "fashion" so much as interested in looking... rich and vaguely sporty. While other major labels like Dior and Chanel do rely on a certain amount of recycling in order to retain a recognisable brand style, Ralph Lauren is basically in a constant state of self-consumption.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Spring 2014: The Row, J.W. Anderson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Pilotto.

It's been a while since I did any fashion writing, so for new readers... My unscientific method of reviewing Fashion Week is that I only pick the clothes I actually find interesting, whether it's because they seem genuinely innovative/attractive, or just because they're so goddamn ugly. Sadly the vast majority of Fashion Week shows are so dull that I can't muster the spiritual energy to write about them. So without further ado: Some of my favourite outfits from the start of the Spring 2014 season.

The Row
It was a smart decision for the Olsen Twins to name their label "The Row" rather than, you know, "Mary-Kate and Ashley". By now they've proven themselves when running a fashion empire -- not to mention being famed for their personal style (which was mostly shaped by real-life Cruella deVille and professional eating disorder enabler Rachel Zoe, but whatevs). Any lingering doubts over the Twins' ability to run a fashion label are probably because The Row has now evolved past what the Olsens wear in real life -- which doesn't necessarily mean The Row is not still "theirs".
All images via
Designing for yourself is the easiest way to quickly hone a personal brand, which is why most celebrity designers (whether it's "real" designers like Victoria Beckham, or just glorified fashion endorsements from a Kardashian) tend to go that route, at least at first. The most successful celebrity fashion label is Jessica Simpson's, for the dual reasons that a) you always know what you're getting, and b) her label caters to plus-size women. While they are respected by critics, the clothes displayed by Victoria Beckham and The Row during fashion week are unlikely to reach Jessica Simpson's level of financial success because you have to be rich and thin in order to wear them. Luckily for her, nobody expects Victoria to cater to the commoners, while the Olsens have several lower-tier labels to fall back on.

Friday 13 September 2013

Harry Potter, costume design, and wizarding fashion in 1920s New York. (Part 2)

Previously: Part 1.

Most wizarding robes in the Harry Potter movies are a combination of bell-sleeved faux medieval robes, and old-fashioned suits. Gilderoy Lockhart looks like a 19th century dandy, Cornelius Fudge wears a three-piece pinstripe suit and bowler hat, and Remus Lupin dresses like an impoverished mid-20th-century academic. There's a variety of quite disparate looks in the wizarding world, but they all have a few things in common: mixed patterns, heavy fabrics, and multiple layers of tailoring. So even though most of the costumes incorporate elements of Muggle styles, they still don't look like something you'd often see on your morning commute. However, as I previously pointed out, they regularly rely on a late-19th/early-20th century aesthetic, meaning that the costume designer for Fantastic Beasts would be wise to go in a different direction. Personally, my first decision would be to radically alter the silhouette and fabric used for wizarding fashions overall.

The first thing you need to know about 1920s fashion is that everything uses a very flowing silhouette. The masculine and feminine ideals are very different from what we see today, right down to things like placement of muscle tone and fat, and general proportions. This is slightly more the case for women than for men, but men's suits are still pretty different in shape and cut from the way they look today. Also, the modern concept of flappers is pretty much a total fiction, which is one of the reasons why I never reviewed the latest Great Gatsby movie, and why I'm eternally frustrated by the concept of "flapper parties" and faux-1920s fashion spreads.

Costume design, JK Rowling's new Harry Potter movie, and the wizarding fashions of 1920s New York.

JK Rowling announced yesterday that she's teaming up with Warner Brothers to make a new series of Harry Potter movies, instantly causing the the top of my head to flip open with excitement. The HP books shaped my childhood, and my love of the series was recently rekindled when I got to report at LeakyCon London Harry Potter convention last month. The prospect of an entirely new story set in the wizarding universe already has me grinding valium into my martini. STAY CHILL, SELF. IT WON'T BE OUT FOR ANOTHER TWO YEARS. We need to set up a Harry Potter-related group therapy session, stat.

The new movie(s) will focus on Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the definitive textbook on magical creatures. He already seems to me like an ideal choice of protagonist, because he has a strong connection to the wizarding universe but no real link to the events of the Harry Potter series. I'd be very leery of a Harry Potter spinoff that seemed to act as a prequel or sequel to the series itself, but I feel like JKR is pretty unlikely to do that anytime soon. Most interestingly, the Fantastic Beasts movie will take place 70 years prior to Harry Potter (ie, the 1920s), and begins in New York. I'm already brimming with speculation over what this means in terms of worldbuilding and, of course, how the costumes are going to look.
The Harry Potter books are so utterly British (and JK Rowling is so amazing at writing about the British class system) that I'm already enthralled by the idea of a story about a former Hogwarts student in New York City. We learn virtually nothing about American magical culture in the books, which is probably on purpose because it's best not to think too hard about the concept of an international wizarding community. Like, why do other countries never intervene when a tiny racist cult is going around killing people and taking over the government in the UK? My personal assumption was that Britain is seen as so backward and eccentric compared to the rest of the wizarding world, that other countries have a total non-intervention policy. Considering Britain's disastrous muggle/wizarding conflicts, class system, and inexplicable decision to segregate all children by personality type at age eleven, it hardly feels like a place that's very in touch with the outside world. Well done, you put all the ruthlessly ambitious kids together in a school house that's known for producing dark wizards and racist fanatics. What could possibly go wrong? Without the "benefit" of the Hogwarts house system, who knows what wizarding society would be like.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Stargate: Watch it. Love it. Learn educational info about real "Egyptian" "archaeology".

Rewatching Stargate for the first time since I was 14, I suspected that it would turn out to be terrible. Partly because my 14-year-old self was not the most sophisticated of movie critics, and partly because I've gained a degree in Ancient History & Archaeology since then. That kind of thing tends to put a dampener on appreciating any media that attempts to be "historical" about "Egypt". Happily, Stargate is so far away from both history and Egypt that it's basically fanfiction for everyone's favourite aliens-built-the-pyramids conspiracy theory, Chariots of the Gods. It's kinda like how most paleontologists love Jurassic Park because FUCK YEAH DINOSAURS, even though the entire movie is like, "OK, we've decided to make Velociraptors 15 times their natural size, For Reasons."
The most surprising (and vaguely depressing) thing about Stargate is how well it holds up when compared to most family-friendly action blockbusters from the past ten years or so. Obviously cinema history is written by the victors and the good movies are generally the only ones to survive, but I still feel like Stargate represents a kind of 80s/90s blockbuster high point that no longer exists. Looking at things like Jurassic Park, The Goonies, The Mummy, Die Hard, etc, probably the only recent adventure movie that measures up is Pirates of the Caribbean. I realise this is cutting a ruthless swathe through a decade of Hollywood, and I'm not saying there haven't been any excellent blockbusters in that time. But compared to something like Stargate or Jurassic Park, recent box-office successes like Avatar or The Dark Knight Rises seem almost tragicomically bland and formulaic.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Dressing for the Apocalypse: How to build a believable dystopia.

This is actually the sequel to a post I made in 2011, way back when this blog was still a baby. My love for dystopian/post-apocalyptic movies never grows old. And so today we're gonna look at some dystopian sci-fi movies that somehow have even less believable premises than "dragons erupt from the London Underground". (Seriously: Reign of Fire. Watch it. Dragons.)
I'm talking about the Uncanny Valley of filmmaking. This term usually refers to robots, in that the closer a robot gets to looking "human", the more unsettling it becomes. Roombas are cute because we can anthropomorphise them into being sweet little cartoon pets, while mannequin-like humandroids are totally creepy because they're not quite human enough. And the same thing goes for sci-fi worldbuilding, kind of. Unless your worldbuilding is 100% on point, going into too much detail is a recipe for disaster. It just gives audiences more time the audience has to think about how much you're failing to explain.