Monday, September 30, 2013

Style Influence: Ozwald Boateng

Todays Story A Man’s Story
The Journey of Ozwald Boateng


A film about the passion one man has for his work, for his family, for Africa; all the while being stretched too thin to hold on to it all.

Director Varion Bonicos gives us an inside look into a 12-year journey of the famed Ozwald Boateng. Everything looks so glamorous on the outside, while Boateng globetrots, attends fashion events, conducts fashion shows for both Givenchy and his own Label, is married a beautiful woman and has two children who completely admire him. The highly inspirational documentary divulges Boateng as he pours his heart and sole into his work; and even when the world comes crashing down on him he continues to push forward.

The London Brute learned and mastered his design skills while working as the youngest and first black tailor on Savile Row, in Mayfair, London.  He became known for his exquisite tailoring as well as for his personal taste in fashion. He always dressed to impress in perfectly fitted bold colored suits, and his client list is that of some of Hollywood’s best dressed celebrities: Will Smith, Jamie Fox, Keanu Reeves, Don Cheadle, Daniel Day Lewis, Laurence Fishburn, Michael Bay, Wolfgang Puck, and the list goes on. His career hit a peak when he was awarded “The Best Men’s Wear Designer” at the 2000 British Fashion Awards. His most admired designer Georgio Armani complemented him as being one of the best tailors of our time. Clients have referred to Boateng as being the epitome of classic British tailoring, temperamental, and having an extraordinary African use of color. Boateng doesn’t stray far from his parents’ African roots. In 2007 he coordinated a fashion show in Ghana with the help of many successful American Businessmen and some African American celebrities. He even went so far as to contact many world leaders to get assistance in his charity, to expose the help that African countries need.
                                                           Ozwald Boateng Collection Spring/Summer 2011

This film really continued to tug on my heart while watching a man who is passionate about so many things but struggles to keep everything together. He is constantly beating himself up over every detail and puts so much pressure on himself to be perfect. The viewer is given a complete backstage view of a high-end fashion show. During his earlier years working as a designer for his own label he is a complete control freak. While on stage he is happy and full of energy while he directs his models on the catwalk, but back stage he is a total stress case, yelling at everyone and sulking in his dressing room. This is a reflection of what was going on in his personal life. In the end he is left with two failed marriages, a booming career and a thriving new store on Savile Row. Anyone who has hit rock bottom and needs an uplifting story should see this courageous film. Boateng teaches us that everyday is a new chapter and it’s what we do with it that counts.

Photographer Influence: Steven Meisel

Trailing Back Thick Dark Eyebrows 
Black Leather Combat Boots 

An American Photographer, born in 1954. He is famous for his work with supermodels, particularly his muse Linda Evangelista, during the late 1980’s and 1990’s. His controversial photographs have been clobbering every cover of Italian Vogue since 1988. He has also shot many covers and editorials for American and Paris Vogue, Mademoiselle, Self, and WWD. He has had campaign contracts with some of fashions elite designers such as Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Calvin Klein. Other work worth mentioning are his photographs for Madonna’s 1992 Sex Book, as well as his 1980’s and 1990’s group model work with the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Amber Valletta. His provocative work with the openly transgendered Teri Toye got him recognition as well. Models and designers from all over the globe have given him praises, Anna Sui raved, “Steven sets the stage for everybody else. Everybody waits for what he does.” While Linda Evangelista explained his work ethic, “His photos continue to shock and awe his eager audiences to this day.”

He has a knack for creating glamour through horrendous circumstances. In an interview from New York Magazine, 1992, his work was described as, “controlled, graphic, idealized, strangely beautiful, provocative and always artificial.” He was given a lot of heat from critics for his 2009 “Make Love not War” Spread, in Italian Vogue. Models were photographed along side soldiers in dire battle conditions, and made to look sexual. He’s had countless other controversies for his gruesome outlook on beauty, politics, social norms, and all things alike. He had quite a temper and a lot to say about the criticism he received for the shoot, “I hate war. I wasn’t trying to glamorize it. I hate violence. I hate violence against women. I am trying to make a statement against it and yet everybody then says that I am for it?” None of his photos are at a stand still, they are as lively and energetic as watching an actual film.

“Steven sets the stage for everybody else.
Everybody waits for what he does.”

He didn’t always work as a photographer; he actually started out his career drawing fashion illustrations for Women’s Wear Daily. He learned his craft at the Fashion School: Parsons, where he later worked as a teacher. He had always been fascinated by fashion and by models figures. As a teenager he lived across the street from Saint Laurent-muse Loulou de la Falaise, and cover model Marisa Berenson; and would often stalk them with his camera. Steven described himself at an early age, “I was a stupid, fashion asshole! I loved the magazines and I just connected immediately at a very young age, probably in the fourth grade. I loved it. Later, in the sixth or seventh grade I used to take a camera, an instamatic perhaps, and snap models on the street.”

Like many of the fashion models he has shot, he himself is quite a fashion icon. His 1990’s Johnny Depp-esc attire almost confuses him for a biker pirate. The man was usually seen wearing a bandanna wrapped around his head, dark sunglasses, and long brown hair that sat at his shoulders. He was typically seen wearing black leather combat boot, turtlenecks, and his famous black rabbit hat with fur earflaps. He sported thick eyebrows and lashes, and his skin is always glowing. Lately he has been showing off minimal facial hair and a shorter haircut. He generally wears some sort of black jacket with a pair of ill-fitted jeans. It has been noted that he has worn all black since he was in high school. The openly gay photographer is a closed off celebrity, he often shy’s from interviews and photographs of himself. He was quoted in a rare 2008 interview for Vogue Italia describing his loath for being in front of the camera, “I hate it. I despise someone filming me. A picture at least is frozen. But with film, you have to listen to your voice and you see your gestures. I am way too critical. I hate it.”

Steven resume is one for the books he has worked under Grace Miarabella, Anna Wintour-whom he never got along with, and Franca Souzzani, and worked with Grace Coddington and Fabien Barron. He is credited to have launched many fashion careers, some being hairstylists Oribe Canales, Garren, Orlando Pita and Guido Palau, and make-up artists François Nars, Laura Mercier, and Pat McGrath. Other names worth mentioning: designer Steven Sprouce, photographer Herb Ritts, fashion editor’s Karl Templer, Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele, Edward Enniful, and Tonne Goodman, as well as Hair stylist Guido Palau and set designer Mary Howard.

 (Photo taken from Italian Vogue)

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Stylist Influence: Polly Mellen

The Woman with a Worthy Career to Discover

Harriett “Polly” Allen Mellen is one of the most iconic American fashion editors of all time. The enthusiastic stylist and fashion editor properly retired from Conde’ Nast Publications in 1994 but continues to work as a consultant for special projects. She has over 60 years of expertise under her belt, with a career at both Harpers Bazaar and Vogue. She worked under Carmel Snow, Grace Mirabella, and Anna Wintor. As well as with the infamous Diana Vreeland, at Harpers Bazaar, during the magazine's heyday as the most artistically-inclined of the glossies.  She followed Vreeland to Vogue later, but she is most well known for her incredible working relationship with some of the greatest fashion photographers: from Helmut Newton and Irving Penn to Richard Avedon, to more recent photographers- Mario Testino, Steven Meisel and Steven Klein.

She was born in West Hartford Connecticut in 1924 and raves about her four siblings and caring parents. She is a homebody by heart and loves spending time with her sister, husband and children. Polly currently resides in South Kent, Connecticut with her husband Henry Wigglesworth of 47 years. She was married once before, to Louis Bell for 10 years. It was during her first marriage that she had her two children. Polly may have changed her mind about her first husband but she never questioned her desire to work in fashion. From the young age of four she peaked an interest in dressing models, them being her dolls of course. She would spend her playtime dressing, sewing and “styling” her dolls. Her early influences were that of the young starlets in the movies, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo and, Marlene Dietrich. She often tried to channel the tomboy style of Katharine Hepburn. Her early education was attending Miss Porter’s School for girls in Farmington, Connecticut in 1940’s. After High school she worked as a nurses aid in a military hospital in Virginia during WWII.

 In 1949 she moved to the “Big Apple” and got a job, through a friend, working at Lord&Taylor. Her first official Magazine job was working as a fashion editor for Mademoiselle. Through the same friend she was introduced to Diana Vreeland and the rest was history. Vreeland took her under her wing for the next two years and together, along with Richard Avedon, they made fashion history. Mellon looked up to Vreeland as a mentor and acknowledges Avedon to be her greatest friend in the fashion world.  Some of the most iconic editorials to date were created during this era. She contributed to the early works involving Penelope Tree, Patti Hansen, Verushka, and Lauren Hutton. One of her and Avedon’s more famous works was that of a 1981 nude of actress Nastassja Kinski wearing nothing but a muslin bracelet and a live boa constrictor; thus proving that fashion wasn’t just about the clothes.
(Image taken from Interview Magazine)

June Influence: Designer Accessories

Designer Accessories are the New Black

We claim these high-end designers as masterminds, defend them as artists and award them the title of revolutionists to the fashion industry, all the while continuing to purchase clothing elsewhere. How can one be recognized as an amazing designer of the 21st century if we aren’t even buying the clothes they produce? I’m taking a step back to analyze why we are really groveling over these massive design houses.

Everyone wants to own a piece of luxury even if it’s a Marc Jacobs keychain in the shape of a rat. This is partly because of the world’s love of branding as well as the never-ending amount of conspicuous consumers. In recent decades designer handbags, shoes and cosmetic sales have skyrocketed. Many of the world’s most prestigious fashion designers have added or expanded several accessory lines and are continuing to make larger profits in these departments. What ever happened to a clothing designer just designing clothing?

I remember when fashion designers were acknowledged for their innovative and beautifully crafted clothing. I’m now realizing that this way of thinking is no longer the case.

Many fashion conscious women will gladly share who their favorite designers are but when it comes down to their purchases they are only buying accessories. While in conversation my fellow colleagues told me that the main reason they would rather invest in designer accessories is because clothing trends are moving too quickly. It doesn’t make sense anymore to purchase luxury clothing when the $600 trousers you bought will be out of style in less than a year. Sandy McDonald, who has been a personal stylist at Neiman Marcus for the past 25 years, told me, “Styles are constantly changing and women would rather purchase cheaper trendy clothing items. I remember when we couldn’t wait for the next designer collection to come out, and it consisted of only a dozen pieces. These items would get purchased instantly. Now it seems like a new collection of 60 pieces or so is coming out every few months!” As of the last few decades designers have multiple clothing lines running at the same time, the average produce six and some up to 16 collections a year. It’s all way too much to keep up with. With the rise of fast fashion and everything under the sun being accessible at our fingertips why spend so much on a designer blouse that will just be remade and sold at H&M three months later?

But somehow the coveted designer shoes and handbags have kept their glory. Women are willing to invest in designer accessories like the latest Louis Vuitton handbag or some leopard print Dolce & Gabbana heels versus an exquisitely detailed designer dress. The handbag can be worn for five years or more, same as a great pair of Prada heels. Shoppers have gotten smarter and they are becoming more knowledgeable about how products are being made and where they come from. They understand that it would be impossible for these huge international companies to continue producing all their products in house. Large quantities of designer items are made over seas. This process gives their products less value in return the customer buys less of their items and becomes a bit more choosy with their designer purchases.

While I understand this concept I can’t help but think that recent hype of accessories sales has to do with the brand marketing. By simply flipping through a stack of fashion magazines it is easy to see how many prominent handbag, cosmetic and perfume adds there are over clothing ones. This type of advertising is even done through the use of merchandising in the stores. It would be nearly impossible to go into a high-end designer boutique and have the majority of sales floor items be clothing. On a recent shopping trip to Louis Vuitton, at San Francisco’s Union Square, the interior is glamorous, but upon entry there are no clothes to see, just vintage suitcases and handbags. I walked upstairs and found a very small rack of clothes at the back of the store, about 12 pieces. So what is this telling us? We are worshiping a designer brand for simply the name and the accessories. The same thing happened at Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dior, and Chanel. More than half of the stores didn’t even have clothing in their window displays. Just abstract displays of purses, sunglasses, and shoes. When I asked one of the sales women at Prada why they mainly display accessories, she replied, “Because that’s what sells.” []