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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Wanderlust & Relationship Goals at the Steampunk World's Fair 2017

steampunk fashion
Heading off to the Steampunk World's Fair is an escape from reality. Sure you're wandering the halls of two hotels, but it is the attitude of the Steampunk genre that provides the getaway. The overarching theme of this year's Steampunk fashion looks was wanderlust following all modes of travel. 

steampunk njAir travel, dirigibles, hot air balloons and dashing pilots have been a mainstay of Steampunk style. I also saw lots of sea travel, octopus motifs, pirates and captains with a huge range of accessories to match. Then I saw lots of couples that evoked the safari-exploring folk of 1800's. Many others who didn't follow the clockwork gears and test tube sci-fi look leaned more toward the "steam" aspect of the style and dressed in cruise or train traveling attire from earlier eras. 

Unlike some alternative fashion trends like Lolitas and mermaids, Steampunk is one adopted by entire families and couples. I saw many couples with coordinating outfits strolling the runway (parking lot) of the World Faire. Unfortunately, I didn't get to coordinate my look with my partner. He decided to put the "Punk" in Steampunk while I went for a fashion look.
I love how inclusive Steampunk style is. The Faire clearly drew and encouraged all shapes, ethnicities, ages to flaunt their style. It was very accommodating to guests of all physical abilities (one badass guest pimped out her wheelchair front into a Steampunk motorcycle).

Steampunk style has reached most of the mainstream. Many recent television shows and movies
have incorporated the aesthetic into their set design. Steampunk jewelry has worked its way into everyday fashion. Who doesn't like a little romance, history, and fantasy in your closet and your life?
Photos by Mariana Leung

Monday, May 1, 2017

Met Gala 2017 Exhibit: Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

comme des garcons exhibit
comme des garcons museum
I'm sure you have already inhaled all of the Met Gala red carpet photos. Yes, Rihanna KILLED it in that 3D Rei Kawakubo Comme de Garcons dress. That dress was also in the exhibit that actually is the reason for what the industry calls "Fashion Prom." The reason it was so spectacular was that it was an example of the artistic, intellectual fashion genius that is designer Rei Kawakubo.

I am always more interested in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume exhibit than the gala that celebrates it. Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between had about 150 looks, each more interesting than 95% of the dresses I saw on the Met Gala red carpet.

Kawakubo, in the last four decades that are covered in the show, changed how fashion was viewed. Instead of clothing designed to be flattering to the body, she redefined how the human silhouette was viewed by distorting it. Instead of constructed tailoring, she was one of the driving forces behind the DE-construction trend of the 1990s. The designer also introduced radical manufacturing techniques, pairings of near impossible materials and redefined fashion as an art form. 

comme des garcons met

This exhibit was certainly less theatrical in presentation than both the China Through the Looking Glass show and Alexander McQueen. I completely agree that the best showcase for these incredible wearable art pieces was to keep it stark and minimal to let the clothing shine. One assumes these are tough pieces for real people to wear, but many people at the exhibition preview wore their favorite Comme des Garcons pieces as fans. I asked one woman how it felt to wear these pieces. She said it was thoughtfully designed and surprisingly comfortable with hidden elastics and cozy fabric.

rihanna met gala

At the Met Gala, the winners of the red carpet are the guests who nail them AND manage to look great. Rihanna once again won the night in current Comme des Garcons. The color was great and showed off her legs. Nicki Minaj wore custom H& M that had Rei Kawakubo's face on it. Rita Ora wore a stunning Marchesa gown that was elegant but still looked edgy with the satin bows twisted and wrapped at unexpected angles. Katy Perry will no doubt earn the most memes this week. She took a chance on wearing John Galliano for Martin Margiela. This was avant-garde and unusual by a fashion bad-boy designer for an edgy label. However, the veiled look covered up Perry's usual charisma and was not flattering to her bangin' body.

Katy Perry was perfectly within theme though. Kawakubo mocked her own notions of good taste and bad taste, lumps, and bumps by designing outfits that were deliberately unflattering. It forced fashion fans to explore all of those cliches and appreciate each piece on its merits.

I really enjoyed Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between. Almost all of the pieces were new pieces at the museum for me. (Previous shows seemed to recycle looks from the past). The open plan, minimalist staging let you get up close to the pieces and really see how radical the clothing construction was.

Could you wear these looks? If they were not particularly flattering, would you still wear it for the artistic value?
comme des garcons gingham
Exhibit photos by Mariana Leung. Gala red carpet photos from Getty

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Matador Costumes in Madrid

matador costume
bullfighter costume

Hello from Madrid. I attended my first bullfighting event at the historical Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas arena. I was drawn to see the beautiful embellishments of the Matador costumes. They are called Traje de Luces, roughly translated as a Suit of lights.

They richly embroidered garb uses metallic sequins as well as gold and silver metallic thread. The overall look of the suits takes their inspiration from the Spanish dandies of the 18th century.  The black hat is called a montera and was added to the standard ensemble later.

The ritual of dressing for the bullfight is a production in itself. The star matadors have a squire to help them dress. The typical elements include the short, rigid jacket, attached at the shoulders, so the arms are free to be graceful with the cape. The incredibly snug (as in nothing left to the imagination) tights are also embroidered. I was surprised I didn't see scores of groupies stalking the performers on this item alone. Considering the danger of being gored by a 1200lb bull, I was surprised at how little protection the footwear provided. Little flat, ballerina-type slippers and thin socks provide little to shield your toes from big horns.

I had a very tough time with the goring and violence of the event. However, I did want to attend to see the costumes, the performance and to see what it was about this tradition that inspired work from composers like Georges Bizet, art from Pablo Picasso, prose from Ernest Hemingway and couture from Cristobal Balenciaga.

There is a deep pageantry in what they consider both a performance art and sport. Many bullfighters come for multiple generations of matadors. There is a lot of passion and respect for the culture from aficionados of the tradition. Is it possible to see only the beauty of the dance and the details of the Matador costume without the sadness of the kill?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Top Bonnets from the NYC Easter Parade

butterfly hat
flower bonnet
New Yorkers will take any excuse to dress up. The NYC Easter Parade is a tradition for the fashionable to flaunt their style that dates back to the 1870s. The head gear has evolved way beyond an elegant bonnet and has expanded to wearable art, fashion designer masterpieces, protest symbols or an afternoon of family crafts.

There's me in my butterflies that I made the night before. I was inspired by the Philip Treacy hat that was part of Alexander McQueen's Fall 2009 show. I was flanked by two gentlemen who created a headpiece of gravity defying ties. What a great way to incorporate menswear for masculine style if you're not into flowers! Otherwise, many parade revellers live by the "Go big or go home" motto. They created dramatically large hats to dominate Fifth Avenue.

easter parade 2017Unsurprising trends were outfits and hats that protested the current administration. One of the most popular was a pouting, childlike Trump mask. Another protested Trump's ties with Russia by incorporating him into Faberge inspired Easter eggs. Others used more generic protest imagery that corresponded to their outfit.
oz easter parade
nyc easter parade 2017
all photos by Mariana Leung and Adam Weinstein
A popular trend this year was The Wizard of Oz. I found lots of groups who were inspired by this story for Easter. Bonnets were depicting different scenes or characters from the story. There was a giant diorama on one person's head that included all of the characters. Different parade guests dressed as their favorite character from head to toe. I always thought Alice in Wonderland would be the go-to Easter story, but I was wrong.
As this is New York, some of the best looks were carried off with the appropriate attitude. There is my handsome husband in dapper tails and slick black derby and rabbit mask next to a Tim Burton-esque outfit depicting a hot air balloon. I love the multi-generational preppy duo at ease on the East Side. The older gentleman at the top right was a favorite of everyone at the parade for his sassy attitude with orange-dyed cigar carrots that he smoked and kept in his pocket.

The NYC Easter Parade counts as one of the best (free!) events of the New York. There is great history, celebrates fashion and creativity and inclusive to anyone who wants to watch or join. Which look was your favorite?


Friday, April 7, 2017

Eddie Bauer Collaboration With Ilaria Urbinati Fall 2017

eddie bauer bowery hotel
Does Eddie Bauer make you feel rugged? Woodsy? Ready to take on a bear? Growing up, this brand was the practical staple of outdoorsy guys. With celebrity stylist Ilaria Urbinati, the collection for fall has been revamped into an elegant example of rustic chic inspired by pioneering active women.

eddie bauer wifeThe main inspiration was Christine Bauer, Mrs. Eddie Bauer herself. She was an avid outdoorswoman. She pursued hunting, fishing and made it look like a sophisticated pursuit. A more contemporary muse was Margot Tenenbaum of The Royal Tenenbaums movie. Urbinati imagined how the emo heiress would dress if she were out in the woods.This is the look the stylist herself was projecting this week at the collection press previews (above).

cyclops actorThe capsule collection itself had great plaids in soft wool in cropped stylish silhouettes or a longer, modern A-line with faux fur. Another jacket was a super fluffy cream fleece that felt like being hugged by a baby lamb. I also loved the faded, vintage hunter's print in flannel and Pendleton blanket inspired scarves.

Ilaria Urbinati is responsible for the hunky red carpet looks of your favorite guys like Bradley Cooper and James Marsden. She was also the woman behind Shaileen Woodley's transformation into fashion force.  Her first collaboration with Eddie Bauer was to revamp their Men's offerings. The brand has been celebrating their heritage of posh outdoor pursuits and the wardrobe to complement it for awhile now. With women's fashion, that usually doesn't sound exciting unless the silhouettes and fabrics are given the injection of style that Urbinati gave.

Her male charges appreciate her style guidance. Her intimate launch party drew clients James Marsden and Mr. Robot's Rami Malek to support her at the Bowery Hotel.

If you are looking for cozy and fierce offerings this fall, look no further than Eddie Bauer's collaboration with Ilaria Urbinati.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fools! 5 Times The Fashion World Punked Us

Between fake news and horrible political reality, I can't stomach April Fools pranks this year. Instead, I would like to give a shout-out to some of the most entertaining pranks the fashion world pulled on us that made us smile.

Legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour has made her ambivalent feelings toward the Kardashians visible over the years. She expressed disapproval at Kim's pregnant Met Gala look. Her tight-lipped tolerance of the West children at a fashion show was photographed by many. Kim Kardashian and family responded with the sincerest form of flattery in 2014. Kim dressed as Wintour for Halloween, with daughter North West dressed as editor Andre Leon Talley.

Street artists Kidult tagged (defaced) the exteriors of several Marc Jacob's boutiques. It was allegedly a comment on the obscene price of the t-shirts sold inside. Jacobs gave a sartorial middle finger to the artist by selling screen printed t-shirts with imagery of the graffiti, $686 "unsigned" and $430 "signed." as an additional insult. The tongue-in-cheek response prompted many to wonder if this was actually a collaboration instead of a feud. 

Alexander Wang loves his fans. In 2013, he invited his biggest fans to a mystery event. Some speculated it was a secret fashion show, some hoped it would be a private sample sale. The reality was better than they had imagined. When the doors opened, the designer announced the warehouse full of his collection was free for the taking. The resulting video documenting the event was both exhilarating and terrifying.

One of my favorite museum fashion exhibits of all time was the Jean-Paul Gaultier show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014. One usually expects beautiful fashions presented on mannequins and pedestals. This exhibit, the mannequins were animated, occasionally with voices. While you looked at the mannequin, thinking it was stationery, they eyes would spin around and glare at you. Others were placed on a moving runway. While you watched them, the mannequins behind you would whisper "I'm beHIND you!" creepily in your ear.

In 2015, posh retailer Barney's introduced a dogs only menu in their elite restaurant. Dishes offered included grain-free spaghetti and meatballs as well as the Bark's Madison avenue salad. This was the department store's April Fool's offering. Most people saw through the hoax, but the photos were adorable anyway.

photos from Instagram, Barney's, fashionista.com, Mariana Leung
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