This is going to be my first, and hopefully also my last, cynical blog about fashion. This week, the tenements in the lower east side were on the menu. The museum has many different sections to display different time periods and daily activities that would take place in this over-crowded neighborhood. The visit existed of two parts: 1) an explanation of the tour, including a breakdown of the historical events that accompanied the different phases the building went through and 2) the actual tour of the building.
The building is old, dating back to 1863, but surely showed signs of serious premature aging. My house is about fifty years younger, but the tenements look about two hundred years older. Patches of un-restored wallpaper, valley-like floor surfaces and dirt covered ceilings established a loud and clear image of exhaustion and neglect. To me, this translated the state of mind of its inhabitants more than anything – they did not concern themselves with the future much and did not invest in keeping the building functional on a long term basis, nor would I have to expected them invest in anything else that might benefit them later on. A highly likely option is that they simply did not have the funds for any type of saving, but another option is that they showed premature signs of the modern American “let’s spend it all on things for now rather than holding off to purchase one expensive item that will last longer than all of the others combined” movement. But maybe that is my inner, ruthless European speaking.
I’m getting a little off track here. In a one bedroom apartment, an average of 7 inhabitants resided. And it is safe to say this was not a one bedroom penthouse. Must have been pretty crowded in there. Then there were the home sewing factories – whoever decided to name these tiny spaces with one or two sewing machines a ‘factory’ could have thought of a better description, because these rooms were nothing like factories. 8 Employees running around trying to meet the quota, in a room that left no room for organization or clarity whatsoever, sounds like a complete and utter disaster and screams for slip ups.
I think the aspect that affected many others a lot were the small rooms, lack of beds and absence of any sense of luxury. So the inhabitants lived close together in severely limited spaces, essentially taking away any possibility of privacy. In the modern world, those conditions would be considered horrendous and unacceptable. But the situation is not one of today; it was one of many yesterdays ago. Things were different. People wanted and needed different things. From my point of view, people need privacy in this big city, because we live and move at a faster pace in an environment. Not in work, but in every aspect of our lives it is all about efficiency, and combined with the impersonal nature of the city, this creates a lot of stress and pressure, which can make someone feel disconnected from themselves. As a result, we need time to relax and time for privacy. Growing up in a tight knit and caring environment and working in that same climate, maybe people did not need as much personal time. On top of that, they never knew any different, so they would never feel as frustrated by- and annoyed with their living situation as we would with their setting.
I am aware that the tour should have impressed, as well as shocked, me, but it affected me a great deal less than I expected it to. I have seen so many of these old, ratchet establishments that dated from the industrial revolution before, that the building did not phase me too much emotionally. In England and France many restored and un-restored homes from the industrial times, including poor working and living conditions, and safety hazards. The end. Hopefully next week’s excursion won’t make me feel as heartless as this one did…
This week our designated area of exploration were the theatres of fashion and art, namely Chelsea’s 22nd street and the Meatpacking District. The first gallery that made a great impression of me was the one that displayed Leonardo Drew’s ‘Existing Everywhere’ exhibition. He presented what looks like a random collection of planks of burnt, almost coal-like, wood, but is in fact an expression of organized chaos. By placing the works all-over and around the gallery, I couldn’t help but to take a close look at his pieces. Each and every one of them being carefully molded and put into place made it clear that everything was done deliberately and with great precision. The controversy presented here- order and chaos, almost insinuates some sort of rebellion is intended, of which I am, as of now, still unaware. The amount of time that must have gone into creating such a large collection of individually and collectively molded pieces of wood is undoubtedly intense, and kind of makes me believe Mr. Drew has to be some sort of lunatic. It is refreshing though, because so much art nowadays is monotone and impersonal, telling you as much about the artist who created them as a picture of the Eiffel tower says about Paris. And what can I say, if we have learned anything from the past that the crazies are the most gifted artists known to man.
Next up, was Zachary Feuer’s gallery. His works are minimalist and modern, and clearly move with the fashions in art. Or that’s what it looked like to me initially: as little and emotional appeal to create a message as vague as possible. However, Feuer’s work –his twisted, blunt and dark take on modern minimalist art – addresses that topic. He humors it, and either kind of agrees that it is often characterless, or sarcastically humors the people who think so, by having his main piece express “whore museums – gutless collectors – blind dealers – alleged artists.” Once again, it’s pretty refreshing when an artist acknowledges these common and popular opinions, rather than brushing them off.
And last but not least, I really enjoyed Yayoi Kusama’s paintings. Fashion is art, but is art fashion? She made me think about this second notion, because I saw her mixing colors the way I saw them mixed at many fashion shows. I am personally a big fan of art that has visual appeal as its sole purpose. I enjoyed analyzing the works evaluated before, but in terms of having an art piece in my living room, all I want is for it to make me happy by looking at it. That was what her works did for me.
That being the perfect moment to transition from Chelsea’s art scene to Meatpacking’s fashion scene. First on our list was Diane von Furstenberg. Having always admired her work, I was a little disappointed by the collection. I didn’t like the colors as much as I hoped to, but as usual her use of fabrics was more than successful. One skirt, that especially impressed me, was made of a cheetah print and cheetah fur surface. The cheetah trend has been exploited by many, but hardly ever is the creation so purely taken from its inspiration (surface and print).
My last and most essential stop was Alexander McQueen. Two and a half years after the tragic death of Mr. McQueen, I feel confident saying that Sarah Burton has done a phenomenal job filling the genius’ footsteps. To anyone who hasn’t been to the store yet – prepare to be wowed. I had been there before, but I still admired every single bit of it. It smells good, the interior design is extremely aesthetically pleasing and then there are the clothes. O. My. God. The collection ranges from classic work wear, simple but not plain, to gorgeous evening gowns, to sophisticated coats. The perfect patterns, drapes of perfection and fabrics that feel like heaven, left me in a fashion frenzy. And with that I left the meatpacking district. Over and Out.
Like many others who are evermore consumed with the world of fashion, I kicked off the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week by attending Fashion’s Night Out. Me and my good friend K made our way to Macy’s to catch a glimpse of Michael Kors. After about an hour of waiting in the midst of a pushy and anxious crowd, he appeared, and he was not alone. Anna Wintour. . I could not believe that the legend and long-time editor of Vogue was there. It was short but powerful. All over Manhattan important fashion figures were making appearances, and it made me realize the significance of being in and around the fashion scene constantly. Working in the fashion industry, work does not end at 5PM – after work you talk, socialize and mingle to remain in the inner circle. Once you are not talked about anymore, you are not moving up, and when you don’t move up, you move sideways and out of the picture.
Following, we continued our Fashion’s Night Out adventure to DVF. With a line reaching around the corner, we feared for the worst. But, with the glass walls allowing us to see the fabulous party with Solange Knowles as DJ, we were determined to participate in the festivities. I am not proud of it, but we succeeded at cutting the line and pushing our way in. And it was worth it. The music was loud, but the event was classy and filled with endless energy – in short; as fabulous as we expected it to be.
I couldn’t help but notice that half the appearances were not those of fashion icons, but of reality TV or movie stars. It kind of felt like betraying fashion and taking from its purity. I thought fashion’s night out was a chance for fashionistas to mingle and for designers and brands to present themselves in a different light, particularly an extravagant light. Yet I found that it was mostly just a fabulous night out that had fewer ties to the world of fashion than I thought. Yes, the majority of the crowd dressed up and I spotted some extraordinary and inspirational outfits, but there were many I perceived not to be interested in fashion at all.
I also attended a show during fashion week (Zang Toi, Sunday 9 Sept.). In an attempt to fit in with the people that actually purchased tickets or received invites, me and K did our very best to be at out most fabulous. Arriving at Lincoln Square and not knowing anything about how to get in or what it would be like if/once I did, me and K waited outside of Lincoln Center for about 15 minutes, debating a plan of attack. Eventually, we decided telling the truth would be our best bet. Talking to a security guard about being students etc., we figured out it is not getting into the hall that is hard – it’s getting into the show after that. Once inside, we found out that we had to wait in the standby line. Sipping on a skyy vodka mix drink, we waited, only to be told that there were only a few standby spots and that they would not be granted to us. Stubborn as we were, we sneaked behind the small group that was awarded those seats, and got in! I guess it’s all about eagerness and perseverance.
FIT is one of the biggest names in fashion and schooling, so I had high expectations for their museum. And, as we were visiting their ‘Highlights from the Collection of the Museum at FIT”, my hopes were even higher. First off, I don’t think I have ever seen this many couture garments together. From Balmain, to Comme de Garçons to Raf Simons - they were all fabulous. I couldn’t help comparing the FIT museum to our very own KSU Fashion Museum, and found that we were not far behind.
I liked that at this particular collection, the curators chose to show two garments from the same brand to allow comparisons between the two. A brand should keep the same brand identity throughout its lifetime, and the two pieces from Balmain and Burberry Prorsum illustrated this very well, which I admired. The pieces from Comme de Garçons appeared to do the same, but comparing the two styles from 2002 and 2005 to the brand’s past year’s garments, I found that a lot has changed between their fall 2012 collection and the pieces displayed at FIT.
One of my favorite pieces from the collection was a Dior dress by Yves Saint Laurent, from 1958. The dress had a bulk of extra fabric on the back, which was very interesting. It reminded me of a dress I own by COS (2009). To the contrary of popular belief, this bulk of fabric in the back actually accentuated the waste and adds visual appeal at the same time.
Another favorite of mine is the simple maxi dress by Raf Simons. At first sight it appears like a plain, striped dress, but it is more than that. His background in architecture is clearly expressed in the draping, striping and alignment of seams, as they all cooperate to accentuate the female shape.
A recurring theme I found was contrast. Nothing new, as fashion is often an expression of rebellion, but it was nice to see the art of contrast represented in this exhibition. Prada’s fall 2007 outfit was all about making ugly beautiful, and matching pieces that one wouldn’t expect to go together.
Overall, I would say the visit was a success. As a fashion admirer I was in heaving observing and being so close to these garments, as they are basically all the celebrities I will ever hope to meet.
Having moved into my apartment in the Upper East Side two weeks ago, it was definitely time to explore the wonders of Madison Avenue. The adventure began at Barneys. This may be defined as a department store, but is far from any department stores I have been in before. Walking into Barneys is different. Going into Nordstrom I am generally overwhelmed by the extremely large amount of merchandise and the small amount of space available to present things. Barneys, on the other hand, is an oasis of calmness mainly due to the clean and spacious interior design of the store. Simplicity is definitely key. Not only did I notice it at Barneys, but I found it was a tactic in many other luxury boutiques up the street.
However, this was not was impressed me most. My attention was undoubtedly mostly directed to the phenomenal fashion that I witnessed in these stores. The intricate weaves, patterns and fibers used in these intricate fabrics had me fascinated, especially at Chloe, Valentino and Hermes. I would have loved to touch all of them, to get a feel of the fabric, but I knew I wouldn’t really make friends there that way.
In fact, some sales associates were rather rude to me, after I explained that I was a student and that I would like to take some pictures. Not wearing on incredible expensive outfit probably didn’t help my case either. At Hermes and Valentino photographs were definitely not done, but at both Ralph Lauren and Chloe everyone was very understanding and nice.
Walking around in these stores, I tried to soak everything in. In each and every one of these stores I felt a little more sophisticated and elegant than I probably am.