Mr Matsushita And Me

Detail from Mr Matsushita's Studio. Photography by Vassilis Karidis
Detail from Mr Matsushita’s Studio; Photography by Vassilis Karidis

A personal tailor is the height of luxury, for one reason: freedom. Having garments adjusted according to one’s desires sets one free from the hassle of trends that come and go—shoulders that inflate or deflate, hemlines that rise and fall, trousers that get narrower and narrower. (Lest you think this applies only to womenswear, consider how dramatically the shape of the tailored jacket has morphed since Mr Slimane arrived at Dior, or how ridiculously trousers have shortened thanks to Mr Browne.) Personally, I can’t stand it. Maybe it’s a matter of grumpy severity, or the result of a militaristic upbringing, or simple laziness. Whatever the reason, I have a fondness for the perfect stillness of the uniform, and a tailor can help you get one that really works. It is a fantasy—an old-world one, with heavy SM traits. A tailor makes you the master of your own wardrobe and I like being in control. Continue reading “Mr Matsushita And Me”

Kolor: Liquid Pragmatism

Photography by Johan Sandgerg
Photography by Johan Sandgerg

The clothes that Junichi Abe creates under the label Kolor have a magnificent just-rolled-out-of-bed quality. They are crumpled, lived-in and perfectly imperfect, and come in cocooning shapes that are as comfortable as they are precise. Trousers are loose, with raw hemlines that can dangle down or roll up; outerwear has the softness of knitwear; precious details—embroidery, frills, a satin ribbon—pop up on utilitarian pieces, adding nuance. A jacket starts life on top as a woolen bomber, only to morph halfway down into something else, and end up at the bottom as a cardigan. A knitted piece is treated as a tailored one. Colors are dense yet watery, like a gouache with a hint of fragility. There is a sense of endless morphing to Abe’s modular wardrobe, the kind of hazy fluidity that you might get when you are half asleep and cannot decide whether you’re in the real world or still in the realm of dreams. Continue reading “Kolor: Liquid Pragmatism”

Valentino: Modernists In The House

Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, creative directors at the house of Valentino, form a solid, unbreakable couple, even if only in professional terms. They’ve been working together since they met, and immediately clicked, at Fendi in 1989. Their creative dialogue is fuelled by mutual trust, complementary tastes and a great deal of sincerity and ease. “I am a very loyal person,” laughs Chiuri, all smoky eyes and bursting emotionality. Piccioli has the nonchalant demeanor of a true Roman—he never seems to register stress—and an insatiable curiosity. He lives in Nettuno, a coastal town not far from the città eterna, and proudly enjoys the detoxifying balms of provincial life. Continue reading “Valentino: Modernists In The House”

Edward Buchanan: An American in Milano

No one enjoys chaos more than Edward Buchanan. “The creative process, for me, simply consists of regurgitating everything that I see around me,” the Ohio-born, Milan-resident designer says. And by everything, he means everything: highbrow, lowbrow, tabloid, catwalk, sidewalk, street and elite collide in his high-speed brain, translating into a streamlined, pragmatic vision. Continue reading “Edward Buchanan: An American in Milano”

Sarrasine: Junya Watanabe and the Death of the Author

“My entire body of work should and can best be perceived by observing all of the garments that are presented each season,” the Japanese designer Junya Watanabe says. One of contemporary fashion’s most inventive minds, Watanabe is also one of the shyest. Pas mal: in the era of the fashion designer as tabloid megastar, such a rigorous focus on the clothes alone is admirable. Not that Watanabe inclines to the polemic; he is simply polite and reserved to the point of cryptic silence. Continue reading “Sarrasine: Junya Watanabe and the Death of the Author”

Robert Rabensteiner: All Power To The Imagination

Photography by Pierpaolo Ferrari

Wrapped in a paint-splattered coat in his painterly portrait, Robert Rabensteiner is, nevertheless, not a painter. A famously literate, literary fashion editor, he chose to be photographed in no ordinary clothing. The coat belonged to his hero, Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, better known as Balthus, and is tied with a rope in the style of the late Polish artist. (In Irving Penn’s raffish 1948 portrait, Balthus’s own none-too-clean overcoat is belted with a fiercely knotted piece of near-identical twine.) The brocade-upholstered armchair, too, was Balthus’; the photograph was taken in his vast, mythical chalet in Switzerland. Rabensteiner cultivates an aura in which it is difficult to tell where truth ends and myth-making begins. His wardrobes are poems where others’ are scribbles. Continue reading “Robert Rabensteiner: All Power To The Imagination”

Siki Im Talks to Angelo Flaccavento

Photography by Erik Madigan Heck

Born in Germany to Korean parents, educated at the Oxford School of Architecture and now an adoptive New Yorker, Siki Im is a master of cross-pollination. After a stint at the radical New York firm Archi-Tectonics, he moved into fashion, first as designer for Karl Lagerfeld and Helmut Lang, then striking out alone with his eponymous menswear label. Since his official debut in summer 2009, he has quietly forged his own sartorial and conceptual niche; it did not take long before he secured the coveted Ecco Domani award for emerging talent. A sharp mind with even sharper scissors, Im works by a process of subtraction, charging architecturally pure forms with an eerie intensity. His mixture of strict tailoring and challenging conceptualism brings to mind the anthropologist Michael Foucault, who once said that the work of an intellectual is “to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re-evaluate rules and institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will. Continue reading “Siki Im Talks to Angelo Flaccavento”

Rei Kawakubo talks to Angelo Flaccavento

Photography by Vassilis Karidis

Rei Kawakubo is, without a doubt, the high priestess of the avant-garde, and Comme des Garçons is the cult she has created. Not only does she possess a religious following and a body of work that spans four decades of uncompromising radicalism, but her cryptic silences, black-clad persona and commanding bob make even her most absurd style declarations – men in skirts being a favorite – sound serious rather than ridiculous.Since Kawakubo arrived in Paris in 1981 with monochrome designs that radically challenged common perceptions of beauty and completely rewrote the staid relationship between clothing and body, nothing has ever been the same again. Hiroshima chic was the not entirely complimentary descriptor bestowed on those early, allblack, hole-y, asymmetric efforts. In hindsight, though, it is apt; Kawakubo’s debut was akin to a creative atomic bomb. And she accomplished all of it without sacrificing commerce on the altar of creativity. Forty years on, she is still the president and owner of her own independent, profitable company. Notoriously a woman of few words, Kawakubo knows how to deliver a resonant sentence. She never draws, preferring words to brief her team. Her latest men’s collection, which features tutus and skeletons, bears the jolly riddle of a title Skull of Life. Continue reading “Rei Kawakubo talks to Angelo Flaccavento”

Dries Van Noten Is A Romantic

Photography by Vassilis Karidis

“Gentle” may not be the most fashionable adjective in the intense, often harsh fashion world. Dries Van Noten, though is an exception: he, and his clothes, are most definitely gentle. Cacophony is not his thing. The subtle blend of romanticism, exoticism and eccentricity that exudes from any piece of clothing with his label on it; the cozy atmosphere of his eclectic shops, conceived not as temples but as houses or bazaars; the dreamy air of his shows, which are forays into a parallel dimension of pure, multi sensory joy: all of this comes from someone who expresses himself in whispers rather than shouts. “There is so much of myself as a person in the things I create, it’s almost scary,” he says with a laugh. “Sometimes I feel like I am baring it all in front of the audience.” The serene flow of his speech is accented by a piercing Belgian “r”. When he talks, he looks straight into my eyes. This is the first time I have met the famously reserved Van Noten in person, and it is the man, not the designer, who I hope to get to know. Continue reading “Dries Van Noten Is A Romantic”

Lucas Ossendrijver: L’etranger

Photography by Vassilis Karidis

Lanvin shows are a joy. Everything this venerable French house – pardon, maison – puts its stamp on, from the set to the music to the catering (not to mention the clothes), seems conceived to convey a sense of happiness, frivolity and legeresse, with an unmistakably French quirkiness. A few seasons ago, it served framboise and cassis macaroons – oh, those hyper-calorific, Technicolorful, Marie Antoinette, cream-filled meringues from paradise that generate the eternal stampede of super-sized tourists outside the Ladurée shops on rues Royale and Bonaparte – that were exactly the same shade of pink and purple as the clothes unleashed on the catwalk a few minutes later. Another season, the theme was the circus: sweets and drinks were served from a striped tent. Yet another season, it was cheesy disco and mirror balls – at 10am! PartiaI as I am to macaroons (indeed, to the French pâtisserie in its entirety), I confess that what gives me the greatest joy at each and every Lanvin show is the finale. Men’s shows are the best. Here you have creative director Alber Elbaz alongside designer Lucas Ossendrijver, together on the catwalk, taking the bow. You should see: they are Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Where Elbaz is round, short and clad in a Chaplinesque, all-black ensemble of floppy jacket and rolled-up trousers, Ossendrijver is tall and lanky, all jeans, unpressed shirts and skinny jackets. Both shy and a tad goofy, they’re as far from the designer-as-Hollywood-star à la Tom Ford as can possibly be: a breath of fresh air. “Me and Alber, we are totally complementary,” says the softly-spoken Ossendrijver. “We are both similar and different. Work-wise, we function together perfectly: we talk a lot at each and every step of the collection’s development, but we need not be together all of the time. In fact, we don’t even share a workspace. We can see each other from the window – Alber’s studio is right across the street from mine”. Continue reading “Lucas Ossendrijver: L’etranger”