Monthly Archives: July 2009

Dame Vivienne Westwood talks climate change, boxer shorts

I’ve been running around these past few weeks, checking out the OFF Festival in Quebec City (and dancing till the early hours to TMDP) and shoe shopping in  Toronto. But I wanted to share this video of the always charming Vivienne Westwood on Jonathan Ross (one of Britain’s best late night tv chat shows) talking about making a towel into a statement piece, wearing your boyfriend’s underwear and most importantly her Active Resistance Manifesto, in which she talks not only about climate change but also the need for individuality and DIY in day to day life.

Part 1:

Part 2:


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Filed under fashion, TV

Valentino: Decline of an empire?

valentino-haute-couture-08-9valf-w-08e41b3555012dadw 10

Last Thursday, July 9, the Valentino couture show walked in Paris. The following day Valentino: The Last Emperor the documentary that captures the last two years of Valentino’s career, opened in wide release and the reviews for the couture show were all over the Internet. The timing, to my mind anyway, was perfect.

I’d seen the documentary a few days earlier and reviewed it for the publication I work for. The film opens with brief clips of Valentino Garavani, the designer and founder of the House of Valentino, talking to the press at various events. In every clip he’s being asked questions like “What do women want?” and “Why do you design?” and to all of these he answers with one word: beauty. “Women want to look beautiful.” “I love beautiful things. A beautiful lady, a beautiful dog, a beautiful piece of furniture. I love beauty.”

Valentino’s kind of beauty, however, is a particularly romantic one, one that could as easily be labelled old glamour as old fashioned, though it went beyond both of these descriptions. His goal was to make women look and feel beautiful and that’s precisely what he did throughout this 45 years in fashion.

For this latest collection the new designers of the house Ms. Chiuri and Mr. Piccioli, who previously designed Valentino accessories, took the brand in a decidedly younger, edgier direction. And it’s one that doesn’t seem to sit right with the history of the house.

Fashion houses nowadays are a brand and as such they can just as easily be re-branded. This has worked for older houses like Balmain and Balenciga, both of which were resurrected by creating a distinctly youthful, rockier outlook . But there’s a danger in doing this, if you go too far in one direction you lose the original essence of house. And this is what Valentino is in danger of going.

In her review of the couture show the New York Times’ Cathy Horyn lamented the loss of the delicate dresses Alessandra Facchinetti, who over took the house when Valentino retired, created for her last collection. In Ms. Horyn’s view of Facchinetti’s creations were much more akin to the essence of the house, than those created by Chirui and Piccioli and I have to agree.

Though never huge fan of the house, the documentary reminded me of the aesthetic purpose of the house and the extremely beautiful garments that defined the style. It would be a shame to loose the essence of the House of Valentino so quickly after the designer exited the business. His vision is a fundamental part of what haute couture means and its a tradition that deserves to continue—the film is a testament to that.

From right to left: A look from Valentino’s last haute couture collection ’08-09. Alessandra Facchinetti for Valentino couture. Ms. Chirui and Mr. Piccioli take the house in an edgier direction a/w ’09-10.

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Filed under Documentaries, fashion

Forward thinking

Griffe Quebeccomplex

Last week I checked out Griffé Québec a new exhibit that looks at the evolution of Quebec fashion. It’s a small show, divided in to two different locations, one in the city, the other in St-Lambert. Suzanne Chabot, the curator of both the exhibit and the Musée du costume et du textile du Québec, who produced the show told me they had a tough time finding pieces to add to the exhibit. “A lot of this work wasn’t preserved,” she said, “and what we do have, is mostly from private collections.”

The work on view (at least at the Écomusée in downtown Montreal) isn’t mindblowing, you’re not going to find anything here that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the Western world (unsurprisingly a good deal of Quebec designers studied in France). But what I think is interesting and worthwhile about the exhibit are the questions it raises.

Quebec fashion (and by Quebec, I pretty much just mean Montreal) has become a paradox. Once seen as the most stylish city in Canada, it’s now known for its own brand of bizarre quirkiness, one that involves multiple patterned fabrics, unnecessary layering and asymmetric cuts. It goes without saying that there’s some great stuff coming out of Montreal, complexgeometries and Rad Hourani are two excellent examples, but when it comes to the majority, it’s more about quirk than class. Montreal continues to have a thriving, creative center so why is fashion outside of this? This exhibit reminds us of a distinctly stylish past and serves as a road map of where we should head next.

Above right a wedding dress by Colpron D’Anjou (at back) and an evening gown by Renee Chaumont.

Above left, a look from complexgeometries a/w 09 collection.

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Filed under Art, fashion