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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters

death angel

I am giving you a dose of stylish spookiness today with Guillermo Del Toro’s At Home With Monsters exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This was the perfect art show for October, with the film director’s personal collection of monster, art, and film memorabilia.

The auteur behind movies like Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone has been obsessed with Frankenstein, insects and creepy art from a young age. He loves comic books and empathizes with the outsider and freaks. The exhibit was a beautifully curated cabinet of curiosities, inspired by the mansion/museum that he keeps this amazing collection in. There are antique pieces of mourning photographs and jewelry. There are contemporary comic and storyboard art from his work and others that inspire him.
jessica chastain costume

For fashion, there was a vignette of the stunning costumes from his Gothic style masterpiece Crimson Peak. It let you examine all the delicate details that helped tell the story’s characters. Antiqued applique leaves down the front of the teal velvet jacket. The exaggerated lacing down the back of the vivid red dress worn by Jessica Chastain to emulate the spinal column and herald death. My favorite piece (costume? Sculpture?) was the Angel of Death from Hellboy 2 (top). There was something elegant about this horrifying character. Del Toro explains one of his signature tricks is to relocate eyes to unexpected areas of the character because it instantly disturbs and makes people uncomfortable. This method was used very effectively with the Pale Man of Pan’s Labyrinth. The director describes how this beast now represents the toxicity of white male superiority to him.
steammpunk hellboy

There is a bit of Steampunk style in Del Toro’s work. Look no further than the character of Johann Krauss in Hellboy 2. Check out all the gears and gadget that go into just one arm. Lots of mechanically inclined creatures make their way into his films and art.

Unlike some artistic directors, Guillermo Del Toro has a great sense of humor. The art, the characters, the monsters are not to be taken too seriously (just take a look at the musical number of Hellboy 2). The creepiest of monsters have a charm to them that makes you smile. He even has a rain room in his house where his special effects expertise has rigged an office to be lit and sound like a rainstorm whenever he wants to work.

How much fun was this? Guillermo Del Toro’s At Home With Monsters was the perfect dose of high/low culture for your Halloween inspiration.
Photos by Mariana Leung

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NY Comic-Con Cosplay Report

nycc xmen

Another NY Comic-Con has come and went. I love the geekery news of course, but I am really there for the fashion show that is NYCC cosplay.
For the first year since I had begun attending comic-con in 2010, Harley Quinn was NOT the most popular female character (but a close second). Wonder Woman took first place this year, helped by the popularity of the movie and upcoming Justice League release.
While the majority of the costumes for Wonder Woman were inspired by the movie, my favorite version has to be the puffy dinosaur dancing around as the Amazonian superheroine.
I really enjoyed the diversity of cosplayers this year. The media and marketing "experts" love to pigeonhole who they think the fans are and what their demographic is.

There are, of course, the cosplay celebrity models with professional deals and mega-followings.
However, more grassroots, appreciation was shown for great costume executions by people of all shapes, gender expressions, and ethnicities.

I would say the most significant trend in cosplay is gender fluidity. It was so common to see male and female versions of any of your favorite characters that you only appreciated the creativity. Fans weren't doing drag. Instead, they adapted the essence of the character and made it their own. Take a look at these great looks. This woman styled traditional modest fashion into a great Joker cosplay. Strawberry Shortcake brought joy to fans in the form of a gentle giant with a full red beard and the scent of strawberries.

Hollywood's lack of diversity in casting blockbuster films seems even more out of touch when you see the NY Comic-Con floor. You see cosplayers of all ethnicities and sizes rocking the top superhero looks while being cheered on by other fans. You know, the same fans that buy the merchandise and movie tickets?

The diversity in comic books and the creators who exhibit at NYCC also do not represent what gets picked by Hollywood to be made into movies. Even so, it doesn't stop the fans from flocking to their booths. Again entertainment industry, take note.

So does NY Comic-Con tell us something about the population shift as a whole? Do cosplay trends show more about where society is headed more than the fashion industry does? Can Strawberry Shortcake save the World? Stay tuned.
photos by Mariana Leung

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Zang Toi Spring 2018

zang toi ss18
I only attended a few shows this New York Fashion Week, but the one show I had to attend was the Zang Toi Spring 2018 show. I can always count on this Malaysian designer to take me away on an escape somewhere wonderful. For spring, Toi took us to Lake Garda Italy, a locale appreciated for its vivid blue waters and intense green beauty.

Both colors were center runway this season. Zang Toi uses the richest fabrics, silk crepe, silk gazar, silk twill. Emerald and watercolor blues flowed down the catwalk with a more relaxed attitude than past shows.

Luxurious tunics, easy jackets, shorts, blouses made up the daywear portion of the show. There were a few signature ballgown and fitted column dresses with opera capes, but still more relaxed. Did the design team actually get a few rest of sleep this season? Or just dreamed that they did? They all deserve a posh vacation after every NYFW.

I am a sucker for fashion illustration, especially when it is incorporated into the collection itself. My favorite day look was a flirty handkerchief hem skirt printed with Zang Toi fashion sketches like a scarf print. No surprise, my favorite evening look was the ballgown hand beaded with his illustrations.

I knew the Zang Toi Spring 2018 would be a reunion of my favorite people at New York Fashion Week. With the crazy NYFW schedule scattering editors, photographers and celebrities all over an Uber-clogged New York City, it was great to know I would finish out fashion week among friends. Notable guests included Patti Labelle, socialite Ivana Trump and supermodel Carol Alt.

Zang Toi was the posh escape into elegance, beauty and civilized fashion I needed!

Runway photos by Mariana Leung

Also on Ms. Fabulous:Wildfox La Dolce VitaSalvatore Ferragamo - Lo Splendore Dei Meistieri

Monday, October 2, 2017

National Consignment Day

Happy October my darlings! October second is National Consignment Day. Cheap, fast fashion is disappointing. More often than not, it comes at the price of knocking off independent talents or substandard working conditions for the workers involved. 

Luxury brands with history are in an identity crisis. Sometimes I love finding pieces from past collections I missed. It's kind of sad that designers are forced to forget and brush off great designs every few months than in other creative industries, would be considered art cherished forever. 

Consignment is great for redeeming past poor purchases. There were a few pairs of shoes I bought from designer sample sales that I realized later I couldn't wear without pain after 15 minutes. I saw those Burberry and Prada heels go to homes more deserving than mine to feet who loved them. On luxury-specific consignment TheRealReal, I purchased a few handbags that I loved, but couldn't afford when they first came out. The Prada Doctor's bag above, a little Gucci number, a rich purple Marc Jacobs that matched a jacket I couldn't coordinate with for years found their second home with me. 

Let's face it, fashion and shopping are really not a sustainable pursuit. Buying and throwing away leads to excess consumption. Consigning or donating extend the life of a great piece. There are consignment apps and sites that cater to different shopping styles. The RealReal is the most selective, with luxury designers only, with lots of sales and coupons. Poshmark is app-based and sells brands at all price points. Material World will donate the clothes you don't sell. 

Donation-wise, there are so many outlets where your fashion makes a difference. Goodwill comes to mind first for most people. Local help centers and shelters are great choices. Dress for Success is specific for professional attire to help women help themselves. 

Finding a second life for your designer favorites is fashion's answer to anti-aging. #Neverthrowaway

Friday, September 8, 2017

NYFW: Greta Constantine Spring 2018

greta constantine ss18

greta constantine nyfw

We're back at NY Fashion Week. Like last season, I start the reports with Toronto-based designers. Greta Constantine is a label founded by Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong, self-claimed "Jersey Boys of Toronto".

Their Spring 2018 collection was a celebration of bold, sexy women. While the clothes aim for the future, There were a lot of retro influences. Backless tops, flowing skirts reminded me of 1970s disco. Constructed shoulders in jackets and ruffled skirts brought memories of 1980s glam, glittering in sequins and lame. Lots of legs, lots of skin were shown. The fabrics were quite luxurious. Silk tulle, satin and silk wool were the top fabrics among the sequins.

Greta Constantine, named after Wong's mother and Pickersgill's grandfather, has earned a celebrity following. The designers call Taraji P. Henson, Frieda Pinto and Tatiana Maslany as fans. The collection is sold all over the world, including boutiques in Qatar, Ireland and native Canada.
photos by Mariana Leung

Thursday, September 7, 2017

NYFW Preview - Fashion Designer Sketches

Welcome to another season of NYFW! Spring 2018 launched this NY Fashion Week. Here are a few fashion designer sketches to give you a taste of what the shows have in store for you.

Designer Taoray Wang's collection has the theme of Baroque in Shanghai. Her muses were musicians Purcell and Handel. Irina Vitjaz looks to have designed lots of body curve-hugging sleek silhouettes based on the sketches I have seen.

The design team behind Cushnie et Ochs were inspired by the painted flowers of Frida Kahlo. Also inspired by painted flowers was the designer Mijia Zhang who looked to the art of Marc Quinn. Both Pamella Roland and Adeam were inspired by recent travels. Roland with Monaco and Adeam with Hong Kong.

Bibhu Mohapatra and Han Chong both incorporated graphic stripes into their looks. Ji Oh took simple tailoring to redefine the woven shirt.

As you can see, there is something for everyone this NY Fashion Week for the Spring 2018 season. There were many changes this time around as far as format and location. I myself am only attending a few presentations as they are all over the city. Many designers opted not to show a full runway, preferring intimate presentations or appointments. Luckily, for every designer taking it easy, many up-and-coming designers will take their place.
Sketches provided by the designers.
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