New York Fashion Week finally came to life Tuesday evening in the shadow of the valley of — well, not death exactly. More like a post-apocalyptic prairie seen through a B-movie lens. Toto, what happened to Kansas?
Raf Simons buried it under 50,000 gallons of popcorn.
Or, to be fair, he buried the floor of the American Stock Exchange building under 50,000 gallons of popcorn, trucked in for a wackadoodle Calvin Klein show. It piled up in drifts around the weathered sides of four skeletal barns hung with blood red Sterling Ruby mop heads and papered with spectral black and white Warhol reproductions. It was crushed under the shoes of guests, so little motes of popcorn dust blew through the air. They landed on the coats and skirts and hair of Michael B. Jordan and Nicole Kidman and Millie Bobby Brown (among many other famous people), making everyone look as though they had an unfortunate case of dandruff or had wandered into a Food Channel version of nuclear winter.
Then a model in a bright orange hazmat suit and waders appeared. Let’s rephrase: Welcome to the pop-calypse.
Since he arrived at the brand that bluejeans and minimalism built, Mr. Simons, who is from Belgium, has been fixated on defining his own brand of twisted Americana, largely built on the twin pillars of Laura Ingalls Wilder and “On the Road” (the Netflix versions) — after the rot set in. This season he took it even further, with women in giant tweed coats over sweeping lawn skirts and men in sweater vests that looked more like life vests over skinny suits and shirts buttoned tight to the neck. Everyone wore knit Fair Isle balaclavas and often big firefighters’ gloves in silver foil, which also was used in false-front A-line cocktail dresses trimmed in white lace that turned into camper-blanket sheaths at the back.
Also the two-tone cowboy shirts and placket trousers that Mr. Simons has used in every collection since his Calvin debut, and skinny striped sweaters and sweaters with Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner knit in, plus apron dresses with nothing underneath, so the breasts were exposed (a strange segue into Naughty Nellie from the general store). Quilting squares were pieced onto crisp white shirts and reworked as bias-cut chiffon evening gowns. The effect was all very survivalist. Simon & Garfunkle’s “Sound of Silence” played in the background. So did “California Dreamin’ ” by The Mamas & The Papas.
It was both a reductionist view of the country’s most accessible myths and also stomach-churningly right. That’s where we are now: drowning in a sea of puffed corn kernels and empty calories, appropriating the appropriators.
Why Are Fashion Designers so Obsessed With America Right Now?
Today, no matter where we come from, we’re all a bit American. Coca-Cola, Nike and Disney, blue denim, cowboys and roadside motels: these references are ingrained in the way people think, feel and consume worldwide. The references are universal and instantly recognizable, which makes them perfect working material for fashion brands.
Americana influences popped up in many SS18 collections, and they were overwhelmingly present in the recent FW18 men’s shows.
In Milan, Bella Hadid opened the Dsquared2 show wearing a denim shirt and red-and-black check cowboy jacket. An array of cowboy hats, string ties, studded leather trousers and belts with huge buckles followed. In blue LED lights, it was not Americana of the prairies, but Americana of the mall, which celebrated big money, reality TV and shameless consumption. The Dsquared2 collection was the tip of the iceberg in fashion’s current obsession with the cultural codes and myths of the USA. Whether it’s American tragedy, American horror story or American dream, everyone wants a piece.
America is the epicenter of mass culture. Its culture and aesthetics have been copied and reproduced so widely and so badly that they are rarely considered high brow — which makes them highly relevant in an era when bad taste makes good fashion.
But in fact, it’s not always the case, and one of the most poignant examples of the trend is exactly the opposite. Raf Simons’s work for Calvin Klein is built entirely on visual tropes of U.S. culture, with its shiny surface and underlying darkness. Simons’ collections for the brand featured modernist versions of sheriff shirts, blood-stained cowboy boots and plastic coats, which simultaneously channeled Twin Peaks, American Psycho, and plastic-wrapped couches. The designer also tapped into the history of violence in American art and film, by using prints of Andy Warhol’s “Knives,” “The Ambulance Disaster” and “The Electric Chair,” and of Dennis Hopper counterculture classic Easy Rider.
Simons’ Americana is refined, controlled and handsome, much like American Psycho protagonist Patrick Bateman, but his designs hit a nerve when the first lady Melania Trump appeared wearing one of CK’s red Western shirts. It was like the pop culture snake biting its own tail: Raf’s creations in the midst of the real-life political horror that inspired them. Back in the 20th century, the U.S. gave us the first televised war in Vietnam— and now we’re all living under the threat of wars started via Twitter. Right now, global politics are impossible to ignore, and contemporary fashion has picked up the agenda.
With its endless variety of tropes and references, the Americana aesthetics offer endless possibilities for different stories. Palm Angels showed a mixture of rough punk aesthetics and the American Midwest, completed with spiked balaclavas, tartan and Grant Wood’s cult painting American Gothic. In its SS18 womenswear collection, Versace had black leather cowboy outfits with golden studs and chains, straight out of an ’80s NYC fetish club.
N21 had shirts printed with a picture of a red motel sign against bright blue skies. Cow-and-red-floral jackets popped up at Marques Almeida, and Ashleigh Williams combined cowboy hats with hoodies and bomber jackets. Astrid Andersen created a young, urban version of a midnight cowboy, complete with puffer jackets and loose-filling tartan trousers. Dries Van Noten’s take was perhaps the most subtle and romantic, with aesthetics of the Western movies coming through in shirt collars, seams and snakeskin boots.
Translated into clothes, the Americana aesthetic is built on pre-existing stereotypes, and goes in line with fashion’s obsession with national identities and the nature of the local in an increasingly global world.
Gosha Rubchinskiy got the whole world hyped about post-Soviet cool, with tracksuits, football scarfs, cryptic messages in Cyrillic and underground Russian raves. In search of a rejuvenated look, Burberry tapped into the history of British photography and got Blondey McCoy posing in a classic beige check trench coat.
The journeys designers embark on — either to Moscow’s tower block estates, Britain’s bleak countryside or a highway in Arizona — are never about real places, but ideas of places, about looking for identity in politically challenging circumstances. It’s essential to question what it means to grow up in Russia under Putin, to be British after Brexit, or to be American in the era of Trump. And do these categories even make sense in a world where nationalities are gradually and irreversibly receding?
Americana works because it’s universal. The American Dream is a quest for freedom, success and love — and the spectacular downfall they could bring.
But today, the image of the all-white nuclear family is falling apart, and we need new images to stand behind. Young Thug toying with the aesthetics in the video for “My Family Don’t Matter“; and A$AP Mob, Kelela and Solange starring in Calvin Klein’s denim campaign are just a couple of expressions of what it means to be American today.
It’s obvious that the Americana obsession has some dark undertones, both on and off the runway. In recent years, films like American Honey, Tangerine and The Florida Project painted a luminescent picture of America’s underbelly, with forgotten youth and invisible inhabitants of roadside motels. Contemporary art is also on it: Cali Thornhill Dewitt’s 29 Flags project rewrote the most horrific murders in U.S. history on American flags; photographer Jim Krantz put one of his cowboy photos on a Supreme jacket, and French artist The Kid got famous through making sinister life-like sculptures of American teenagers.
Kanye also chipped in: the zine for his Calabasas collection was a portrait of a new American frontier, an ultimate Californian non-place somewhere behind a nondescript gas station in LA.
In the end, fashion’s current obsession with Americana is multi-faceted. It’s a search for new national identity, a restless game of cultural references, and a reaction to news-infused paranoia. Fashion has a new way of being political, and it’s turning our fears and doubts into products.
With the Doomsday Clock ticking away, we can only hope that we’re not commodifying our own end.
Luxury travel goods manufacturer MCM finds a new Seoul in Berlin.
Everybody is speaking about millenials and Generation Z and it seems that they are responsible for the death of mainstream media with their very niche interests. At Achtung Mode we are highly specialized in fashion content only but more and more the luxury brands we work with have to execute crossover ideas often in conjunction with the art world to have reach. MCM is a leader when it comes to speaking to the fickle millennial audience. And here is why.
Oh boy, all the smart marketing moves they have to come up with to play favor with this audience. They are a shopaholic generation of travelers whose itineraries make those of diplomats pale in comparison and they only want the coolest. They are all over the place and all over the planet and know everything. But as every nomad, they like to belong to a tribe.
MCM is a leader when it comes to speaking to the fickle millennial audience.
If you want to have them buy your product and stay loyal you must make them believe in your roots and heritage and always keep them entertained. Sounds complicated, yes, and it is.
Still MCM, which is considered a hip brand with millenials, has taken a big step a few weeks ago. The brand was born in Munich and is doing well all over Asia for its German craftsmanship and savoir-faire reputation. But to stay on the edge, MCM, which is focusing on growth in Europe and Germany at the moment, has decided to declare Berlin as its new German creative hub with global influence. Munich is in the history books but Berlin and its Bauhaus tradition and now bourgeoning art and club scene is what makes the brand tick. Also, Made in Italy will start playing a bigger role for the brand.
To underline this new direction, MCM’s Sung-Joo Kim invited an eclectic group of international journalists and tastemakers to a few days in Berlin under the moniker Viva MCM, Viva Berlin. Events where kicked off at the Store at Soho House Berlin. The Store has slowly but surely established itself as one of Berlin’s best retail destinations next to the Corner and Andreas Murkudis and the Voo Store with its fine edit of top brands. Korean DJ Peggy Gou played and Berlin DJ trio Fjaak unveiled a USB pocket for MCM with tracks for traveling.
A new collaboration with Johann Koenig Souvenir and MCM which will premier at Art Basel Miami was unveiled.
MCM also organized a tasting menu at Tim Raue, Berlin’s best chef with Asian leanings and highlight was an evening at St. Agnes the Johann Koenig art gallery where Norbert Bisky explained his current exhibition to the audience. Needless to say, the space in the Brutalist church is amazing and other top artists like Anselm Reyle who shows in the same gallery attended. Also, a new collaboration with Johann Koenig Souvenir and MCM which will premier at Art Basel Miami was unveiled. On display was an exclusive preview of the KS x MCM collection of limited MCM editions curated by Koenig Souvenir, a label for unique objects of art founded by Johann Koenig and David Mallon: “For the Koenig Souvenir x MCM Travel Collection, we were inspired by the airport as a place of transition – not only for people, but also for art works traveling around the globe. We wanted a collection that recalls this modern way of travel and shipping, but also connects with art in its production process. The collection will be issued as a limited art edition of six travel items playing on the traditional MCM design,” says Mallon. The collaboration will launch at Art Basel Miami Beach this December.
So if you want to stay in with millennial, have roots, show them and make your branches grow.
“It starts with a small pink seashell painting and ends with the total rejection of history. Throw a wink in there and you have the tone I’m after.” It’s precisely the pairing of overly pretty aesthetics with acute power plays with dominant art world authorities that have pulled Maddie Reyna to the fore of Chicago’s alternative gallery culture. Last year, Reyna wrote letters to powerful galleries and museums around the country under the nom de plume Casey Goodman to initiate discussions about gender statistics in their exhibition programs. Printouts of the letters were shown at Julius Caesar in East Garfield Park alongside paintings and prints embellished with sweetly hued emoji. One of the ways that Reyna sees power shifting is in the move from attention toward the discrete art object to that of the exhibition, “Questioning these conventions of presentation, the way in which to exert or secede power over your audience became my number-one interest.”
Reyna’s investments in these issues of exhibition and audience aren’t solely those of the studio artist. In 2013, she joined the collective of artists who operate Julius Caesar just as the last of the founding members relocated to New York, and earlier this year a floridly floral installation by artist Chris Edwards inaugurated the new apartment gallery Dreamboat in a spare room of Reyna and
her partner Levi Budd’s Pilsen home. Along with her full-time position at the influential website Contemporary Art Daily, Reyna’s gallery endeavors allow her to explore what she describes as the complex “efforts of a group of people who think strongly, don’t like the same work, and fight hard for its right to have a platform.”
In her studio, Reyna is a shoplifter, an aspiring screenplay writer and a purveyor of saccharine sentimentality. In February at an artist residency in Reykjavik, Iceland, she wrote a screenplay based on a short story her mother wrote at age thirteen in which a class of school kids is murdered in outer space. For the works she’ll exhibit at Roman Susan opening May 9, she’s been shoplifting accessories from Claire’s and Forever21 that will be inset into painted displays. “The accessories I take are always selling an identity and secret ideology to young women… I’m stealing them because I see this act as also an unsuspecting protest of capitalism really fueled by the want of a pretty object.” Roman Susan hosts one of five exhibitions Reyna’s preparing work for this year; her busy schedule is another attempt to complicate what receives attention. (Matt Morris)
You have a lot of loose bits of paper and sketches in this office. What do you like to draw?
Sneakers, quick body sketches, architectural retail spaces. I’m dyslexic, so my first real language was drawing. Even at the youngest age I can recall, I wasn’t necessarily interested in the essay or the text, I was graphically designing the header. I doodled everything. That was the way I communicated.
I find that I listen better when my hand is busy. And I find that when I’m listening intently and I’m gesturally moving my pen, some interesting things come out. They’re not perfect, they’re not final, but they’re a glimpse of an idea. It helps me process, helps me stay focused. I came to this idea that my dyslexia wasn’t actually a burden — it was a gift because it made me look at the world differently.
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As part of SHOWstudio’s coverage of INNERSECT, Editor-at-Large Lou Stoppard hosted a Live Panel Discussion focusing on the importance of creative collaboration. Stoppard was joined by a selection of SHOWstudio favourites and industry experts; No Vacancy Inn’s Tremaine Emory, Ambush’s Yoon Ahn, ALYX’s Matthew Williams and founder of INNERSECT himself, Edison Chen. Watch this line-up discuss the prevalence of collaborations within the street-culture and the increasing influence of music merging with fashion.
Sherald, 44, specializes in portraits of black women. Although she, too, appreciates bright colors, her cheerful backgrounds and subject’s fashionable clothing contrast with the surreal figures, their skin painted in shades of gray.
For the last four weeks of the international Fashion Week marathon, we’ve been looking for a defining fashion moment. Was it Raf Simons’s Warhol-infused American horror story at Calvin Klein?Marc Jacobs’s souped-up, diva sportswear with turbans? Demna Gvasalia’s latest mix of streetwear and couture kitsch at Balenciaga? Or the bohemian fantasy of Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe, with its handcrafted textures and laid-back elegance?
It was not until the final show of the season, Louis Vuitton, that it became clear the moment had arrived at last. Models emerged wearing resplendent 18th-century men’s coats threaded in gold, matched with pastel silk running shorts and sneakers whose soles had been pumped up. By the time long chiffon dresses and nearly see-through, jeans-cut pants in silver, white, or sky blue with a tiny ruffle down the side arrived — again, with sneakers — it was as though a reset had occurred. Those other standout shows (to which we could add Céline and the ingenious Undercover) still had their merits, but none advanced a clearer vision of how to dress in 2018 than Nicolas Ghesquière.
Ghesquière said afterward that he decided on sneakers early in his design process, and didn’t consider a second option. That’s how girls move today, he said, and the shoes, with ankle-grazing tongues and beefy heels, did seem to propel the models slightly forward. For me, though, the most telling gesture was the jean-cut pants, with a side frill below the knees. Sports-inspired pants have been ubiquitous, except these were in stretch silk, so it made them just a little bit sheer and also polished. They’re sure to be widely copied.
The overall blend of the modern and the classical was not totally surprising, given Vuitton’s kingly approach to most things. The brand flew in a bunch of movie stars for the show, which was held on an illuminated white catwalk in a gallery of the Louvre lined with ancient stone, at the end of which was a sphinx. There’s a dinner at Versailles tonight for big spenders, and all week there have been VIP tours of the new Place Vendôme flagship, which features a huge, radiating metal sun on the façade, while inside, a contemporary rendering of young Louis XIV hangs amid new parquet floors, metal fixtures, and walls of the light-colored stone that dominates Paris.
My own tour of the elegant new store reminded me that Louis Vuitton is a huge luxury brand with an omnivorous clientele. Among the many novelties on display on the luggage floor is a steamer trunk designed as a kind of curiosity cabinet for collectors of Vuitton’s small box-shaped purses. It can be yours for roughly $100,000. Viewed in that context, Ghesquière’s fashion choices can seem awfully small and insignificant. But that’s the whole ballgame — it’s these small gestures of style that impart a sense of modernity and keep a brand relevant. He’s consistently been one of the few designers who understand that.
We caught up with skater Blondey McCoy in the final days of his debut exhibition Us and Chem, as he chatted with art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist about mental health, social media, and grannies mistaking you for another kid.
Skater and streetwear designer Blondey McCoy has just added another string to his already pretty stacked bow. With his debut exhibition Us and Chem, the multihyphenate swaps the grinding and designing for gallery walls. “This exhibition is the first artwork which was created without the prime intention of it being for the clothing.”
We caught up with him and Hans Ulrich Obrist — the artistic director at London’s Serpentine’s Gallery — as the pair talked mental health, social media, and the epiphanies sparked by the exhibition. It closes this Sunday 27 August, so get down there ASAP.
Blondey doesn’t care when your birthday is
“I just sacked [Facebook] off completely because it just kept on telling me when everyone’s birthday is, and I don’t care.”
He doesn’t just skate to skate
“There are certain skateboarders… which were just really creative and doing things outside of skating. And that’s as I say why I love it, more than I would love any other thing which would be considered a sport. Because there’s so much room to just do exactly what you want to do.”
Photography Wolfgang Tillmans
He really likes ordinary things
“I really like taking small objects and blowing them up massive. Everyday objects that you would look at twenty times a day but never really properly observe.”
His exhibition explores why we get out of bed in the morning
“I got on those, like antidepressants and mood stabilizers, which just turned into a total disaster for me, because I started really abusing them. Spending such a long time indoors with the curtains closed, not eating, not drinking, because I had quit them. I thought we need to incorporate the objects which I became more familiar with than I already was because they are in my bedroom, and have some element of domesticity in it. Because the whole ethos of the show is – is life worth getting out of bed – and what makes it worth getting out of bed.”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
His recent sobriety inspired the show’s name, Us and Chem
“I’ve been sober for seven months now. And it changes the way you feel in yourself. And obviously that inspired the name of the show. ‘Us’, because it’s self reflective, and ‘Chem’, because the impetus of the show is about chemical imbalance.”
His grandma is great with the backhanded compliments; not so great with recognising her own grandson
“My grandma came to see the show… and she want ‘oh, you used to be so beautiful as a baby. What happened.’ I said — ‘it’s not me.'”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
They almost filled a bathtub with prosecco. We are quite sad they didn’t.
“We were saying, do we just fill it with prosecco. But then we just thought someone’s gonna just come and pull the plug, or flood the show.”
He’s on first name basis with that very famous artist Damien (Hirst)
“Me and Damien met in Venice then met up here. He saw… Beautiful Chemical Imbalance and he just said it would look really good on a spin plate. He stands with a 15 foot wide canvas just spinning so fast and he just chucks house paint and pours acid at it and everything.”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
He’s transforming a chemical imbalance into creativity
“People have a chemical balance or imbalance, and you either have to deal with that or tamper with it. If you can be that dedicated to something that’s detrimental to your health, who’s to say you can’t transfer that skill to something creative.”
Art = therapy
“I’ve had kids come and they leave messages and they tell me, ‘I was looking at your work and it really resonated with me and I feel the same way.’ For me to receive that feedback and have interaction with the people that are interacting themselves with the work, really cements my epiphany that art [has] never been more necessary to prove to people that they’re ok.”
Theolus Jackson slouched against the stanchion separating him from the entrance of Supreme, the streetwear emporium on Lafayette Street in SoHo. He had registered on the company’s website to pick up a ticket assuring him a spot near the head of a line that by 10 a.m. that day spooled around the corner toward Broadway.
Wearing loose trousers, a football jersey and earbuds, he bided his time. “Most of the time I have my music, so I’m not bothered,” Mr. Jackson said. “I come every week — I like the vibe — and I just chill.”
The ostensible draw for Mr. Jackson and his comrades on that balmy June morning, the so-called drop prompting a couple of hundred fashion die-hards to snap open their wallets, was a jacket ($298) and companion shirt ($158), stamped with the image of a Richard Prince-inspired cowpoke, which sold out within moments after 11, when Supreme opened its doors.
Did it matter? Not much. Though upmarket streetwear — hoodies, sneakers, skateboards, ball caps, sanitation-worker boiler suits — is the ostensible lure for these hunter-gatherers, the wares are just part of the draw.
“These kids don’t come to go into the store,” said Jeff Carvalho, the executive editor of Highsnobiety, a content-and-commerce website and magazine focused on high-end streetwear. “They want to be in the line.” Casting an appraising eye on the restive Thursday morning scene, he drove home the point.
“The line is the new community,” Mr. Carvalho said. “When 200 to 300 kids are lining up outside of a store, it’s because they want to be part of something.”
Mr. Carvalho and Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety’s editorial director, make it their business to monitor the weekly drops at emporiums like Supreme, Nike Lab and Palace, the London-based skate-fashion store with a new outpost in New York.
On this day, they had offered themselves as field guides to what promised be a highly engaging hybrid of tribal rite and street theater, a latter-day alterative to the once-ubiquitous bands of adolescents raucously swarming malls.
“Come get your number — hurry before they pass you over,” a gangly guy in a tank top yelled to a companion. “You only have a certain amount of grace period.”
His shouts and those of companions volleying from one end of the street to the other pricked up the ears of hypervigilant store personnel ready to pounce on infractions.
Glancing at them furtively, one petitioner stammered: “I can’t talk to you. I’m going to get thrown off the line.”
But overbearing security and a building sense of pressure did not seem to ruffle the mood. For many of these strivers, the chance to swap insider intelligence and bask in camaraderie was, after all, the point.
“Those things make the kids more agreeable to doing something that on surface you think is a sort of absurd proposition,” said Noah Callahan-Bever, the editor of Complex, an online youth-culture magazine that has chronicled the evolution of the line phenomenon in a series of videos.
Absurd, for sure, when a “luxury” recliner can be reserved at the multiplex on an app like Fandango, and a puffer coat from Vetements summoned at a click at ssense.com, rendering the queue all but obsolete.
Yet the line persists, a global trend stretching these days from Tokyo to Tucson and Berlin to the Bronx. Its members, millennials and their younger Gen Z kin, share a mind-set, making common cause of a yen for authenticity. What’s more, they defy facile stereotyping.
“One time I saw a guy with a three-piece suit,” Mr. DeLeon said. “He was wearing immaculate Moscot tortoiseshell glasses. He told me, ‘I’m a lawyer meeting with a client, but I want first to get a sweatshirt here.’”
A mere half-dozen years ago, a shared lust for skateboard and locker-room gear sustained the community. “A limited-edition sneaker was so rare that when two people were wearing it, you knew something connected them — certain music, certain art, certain fashion,” said David Fischer, Highsnobiety’s Berlin-based chief executive. But time, as he noted, wrought changes.
Today, the queue is partly a resellers’ market: energetic young entrepreneurs snapping up wares in multiples, then flipping them at soaring markups on eBay or selling them for pocket change to finance their own buys. On this day, the spirit of commerce was lively on Lafayette Street, with vans lining the far side of the block, the trunks popped to display boxes and bags packed with limited-edition inventory from Nike, Supreme and other vendors — a lure for passers-by.
“Reselling, it’s an easy way to make money,” said a tank-top-garbed youth who goes by the street name Young Sin. “I do this every Thursday. You can’t get locked up for it.” Young Sin, Y S to his friends, planned to pick up a cap for himself and offer additional, marked-up items to all comers.
“I like Supreme,” he said, shrugging, “but they could be Old Navy as long as it helps pay my rent.”
For many others, though, the wait itself is sufficient reward. Some could have taken a page from Andy Warhol, who observed in his loosely structured 1975 memoir, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” that lining up for movie tickets offered distinct pleasures. “The possibility of never getting in is exciting,” Warhol mused. “But after that, waiting to get in is the most exciting.”
Traveling in packs has additional perks. “The death of the shopping center has created this void in kids’ lives,” Mr. Callahan-Bever said. “It’s being filled in part by this society of kids, some known to each other only from the internet, all of them into this niche product that acts as a social identifier. For them, standing in line for a T-shirt or baseball cap is a way of telling the world that you know about something that not everyone is hip to.”
Professed connoisseurs, plenty of these queuers like the kick of the chase. “You can’t find this stuff at Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s,” said a 40-something, suede-clad man at Supreme, too press-shy to provide his name. “I like the exclusiveness of people always seeing me and saying, ‘Wow.’ It’s kind of like being a movie star.”
As David Andrews noted playfully in his 2015 pop culture rumination, “Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster?”: “I can attest to the sense of togetherness that sometimes develops with the strangers around you in line.”
“We become a little band of survivors, with a grim gallows humor to match,” Mr. Andrews wrote. “We’re all in this together.”
Will Gamble, a student at the University of Exeter, is a regular at Supreme’s weekly drops in London. “The line,” he said, “is quite a sociable thing. I’ve made friends purely from going to Supreme every week and seeing what’s going on.”
Shared interests with his queuing companions vary from gallery hopping to sports to music. “We’re big fans of Radiohead, and we like a bit of art,” said Mr. Gamble, the preening owner of a “pill shirt,” a Supreme item influenced by a signature artwork by Damien Hirst.
“I meet up with one of my friends,” he said. “We wait, we take photos — it’s almost the whole day.”
What, after all, is the point of the wait if you can’t share? As Mr. Fischer, at 38 an old hand in this unlikely ritual, views it, “Standing in line and finally getting the product, that’s only one exciting part of the cycle.”
The peak experience: going social with your trophy.
“Once you have it,” he said, “you get to snap it a couple of times on Instagram.”
At a recent seminar for a business school’s executive program, I recounted some stories about workplace transformations. Each resulted from a dramatic increase in the involvement and self esteem of front-line employees. I expressed astonishment at the apparently limitless skills of even older workers in union settings, once they were allowed to “own” (psychologically, that is) their 25 or 250 square feet of the workplace. I fumed at our detached, machine-like models of organization that are hindering such transformations.
Upon conclusion, my dean-host thanked me genuinely for my thorough explication of the “emotional side of management.” He might as well have slapped me in the face. I was dumbfounded. But I shouldn’t have been, because for decades we have aspired to “professionalize” management. The new-look (circa 1950) manager is no hip-shooter, and management is not to be viewed as a second-class discipline. We applaud detachment and rationality. We aspire to perfectable “administrative science,” which its most devout adherents hope will assume a lofty place next to physics and biology.
All of this is wrongheaded. Management is not about administration. It is about emotion. Management requires empowering people on the basketball court or in the meatpacking plant to achieve continuous personal growth. Consider several elements of the business equation.
QUALITY. Effective leadership in quality improvement is moral, not statistical. Statistics, training for everyone, and systems are essential to quality improvement. But more important are care and love of the product or service. Quality is as much about aesthetics (design, for instance) and customers’ perception as it is about technical specifications. To achieve matchless quality, management must be emotionally attached to the product and must pass on their enthusiasm to every employee, distributor, and supplier—as well as the customer. I can’t imagine unemotional quality-centered management any more than I can imagine an Olympic-level skier who hates snow and skiing.
SERVICE. Service, too, should be measured and quantified; we don’t do enough of that. But service is principally about intangible product traits and the painstaking construction of long-term customer relationships. A recent Wall Street Journal story described Pratt & Whitney’s loss of leadership in aircraft engines to General Electric. P&W’s aircraft engines are about as good as GE’s, but, over time, P&W became less attentive to customers’ nontechnical needs.
INNOVATION. Fostering innovation depends on the percent of gross revenue devoted to research and development, as well as scientists’ educational credentials. But that’s about 10 percent of the story. More important, innovation success depends upon listening intently to the needs of innovative customers. It also is a product of the company’s ability to nurture committed champions. Innovation, a low probability affair, comes less from a great “technical strategy” than from irrationally dedicated new-product or service teams.
PEOPLE. Thoroughgoing “people programs” include progressive monetary incentives and brilliant training curricula; we are woefully deficient on both scores. However, more important are respect, trust, a sense of partnership between union and management where applicable, a belief in the virtually unlimited potential of every person and a willingness to let go of debilitating controls. Specifically, we must realize, for instance, that superb training is not so much a button-down curriculum delivered in million- dollar classrooms as it is a commitment to lifelong learning by all.
LEADERSHIP. What is leadership? Good strategic planning? Financial wizardry? Both. But more to the point are intensity, involvement, the ability to create and bring to life an inspiring vision, a belief in the product and genuine enthusiasm for the work of the front-line bench scientist or checkout clerk. The chief criterion for managerial promotion should be the degree to which a candidate takes his or her greatest pleasure in helping others develop and grow.
Across the board, then, it turns out that the essence of management is its emotional side. The legendary General George Patton is purported to have said, “I’d much prefer an OK plan executed with uncommon vigor right now to the ‘perfect plan,’ executed in a humdrum fashion next week.” Likewise, a landmark Harvard Business Review article
by consultant Amar Bhide, titled, “Hustle as Strategy,” concluded that vigor in execution is more important than excellence in strategic positioning in determining business success.
James Gleick’s bestselling book, Chaos, chides hard science for having ignored the “nonlinear,” or messy, parts of natural phenomena. It turns out that traditional, linear models explain a surprisingly small part of reality. So too with our misleading pursuit of a linear administrative science. What management now needs, which the practitioners of chaos are starting to provide for the hard sciences, is to attend to the irregularly shaped pieces of the business puzzle—people, emotion, and implementation.
As a practical first step, consider shifting your reading agenda strongly toward fiction. Ironically, most nonfiction ends up preserving the fiction of an emotionless, linear world, while fiction examines the non-linearity of real people who determine the real-world course of our organizations.
It was a Chanel Haute Couture collection that was as finely engineered by Karl Lagerfeld and the skilled petites mains of the house’s legendary workrooms as the giant model of the Eiffel Tower that rose above the sand-and-gravel runway into a dry ice–misted sky in the highest reaches of the dome of the Grand Palais.
“I’m feeling very out of it,” confided a jet-lagged Katy Perry. “I wasn’t sure if they’d chopped down the Eiffel Tower for Karl!”
The city of Paris may not have gone that far, but after the show, the audience remained seated as Anne Hidalgo, the city’s dynamic mayor, did the next best thing and presented Karl with its highest honor, the Médaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville.
“To say that I was impressed is too weak a word,” said Hidalgo in her stirring presentation. “Your imagination is boundless, and your ability to transport us into a different universe. You are a universal person,” she added, “but you are also someone who makes Paris more beautiful and more creative. You are a Parisian.”
“I am a foreigner,” said Karl, pointedly, “and strangers see things through different eyes, with a detachment. Vive la France!” he added, “and above all, Vive Paris!”
Thom Browne’s golden baby shoes sit center stage, encased in a glass vitrine. Each model will stare at the shoes as they walk past, Browne says. “It’s an homage to their childhood,” he explains. “They are really reminiscing on when they were in childhood — before deciding to go one way or the other.” The gold-plated flat men’s shoes and the heeled brogues are similarly encased, like art objects.
Vogue Editors React to Paris’s Spring 2018 Menswear Shows
Four down, one to go, with Independence Day in between—New York’s menswear shows get underway on July 10. With the Paris shows still fresh in their minds, Vogue’s reviewers Sarah Mower, Luke Leitch, Amy Verner, and Nick Remsen discussed their highlights via email. Read on for their Paris takeaways.
Sarah Mower To get to the and from the Paris menswear shows, I drove to and from over the Westway in London, close by the appalling sight of the charnel house where more than 79 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The week before, on the way to catch a plane to Florence to see the Pitti Uomo shows, it was still burning: a violent funnel of white smoke, which we now know contained lethal hydrogen cyanide from cheaply procured cladding, spiraling hundreds of feet into the air. It feels impossible to push this fact into the background of consciousness, just as it’s not possible to be unaware of the present danger of terrorism, and the rising death toll of fellow citizens throughout Britain, France, Germany, and the Middle East.
What the hell has that to do with men’s fashion shows? The reaction of creative people cannot be unconnected to the times—and fashion, which moves faster and more visibly than art, movies, or theater, is the quickest response medium of all. On one level, it was all right there, the second I arrived: the celebration of the ordinary, the tender, and the human in Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga dads and kids’ walk in the woods. It was more complicated than that—there was an unnerving look about some of the childless men—but some of the clothes, commonplace hangovers from the ’80s and ’90s, were about as non-fashion as high fashion can be. Nevertheless, Gvasalia said, not disingenuously, that he saw hope in the children and their potential to think big about the future, as one of his slogans read.
It won’t have the slightest effect on the price of things, but this round of collections was really not a showcase for the power of old elites. Rick Owens literally elevated his proud alternative tribe of freaks to a grandstand walkway in the air above the Palais de Tokyo: a vast piece of theater that sent emotional chills even in the melting heat. His elegant tailoring had formality and presence, but the suited man from Owens’s civilization could not be further from a banker, hedge funder, or corporate titan.
Owens has a messianic ability to message hope in humanity in the midst of the apocalypse. That is exactly the kind of leadership young people are looking for now. While we were in Paris, the British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, took to the main stage at Glastonbury, his every phrase about social equality cheered to the skies. In France, Emmanuel Macron, the unheard-of outsider turned 39-year-old president just swept the ancien régime of the old left and right. Neither was ever taken seriously on the way up by what Corbyn called, jeeringly, “the commentariat.”
I was constantly into news feeds while I was away, anxious to know what was happening on the ground in London in the midst of the chaotic absence of government assistance for the Grenfell homeless and bereaved. One thing has struck me powerfully: Out of this tragedy, ordinary people, young and old, are being seen, heard, and respected in a way I have never before witnessed in mainstream media. Even during the recent election campaign, young and working-class people were never asked what they thought. Big surprise: They voted and knocked back Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s government from a majority to a minority.
Now, fashion is suddenly listening to a new generation, right enough. After the surprise emergence of the international teenage boy club fixated on buying Gosha Rubchinskiy, Vetements, and Supreme, the big houses are visibly waving to them in the hopes they’ll come up with items the kids will stage a run on. Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton already did it by collaborating with Supreme last season. Triggering them with logo fonts and trainers is one line: Both Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino and Kris Van Assche at Dior took that tack. Others too numerous to mention seem to believe that teens will be dying to pose in tiny tailored gym shorts next summer. Of course, anything can happen these days, but it looked more like a case of middle-aged fantasy projection to me. It’s athletic heroes who dictate the length boys will wear their shorts, not fashion designers.
It was Rei Kawakubo who went with the realistic short—the wild and baggy basketball shape in which her bunch of teens had a great night out loping around her disco floor. Her pitch to the mood of kids was perfect: glitter escapism against the gloom. Fashion does a valid public service that way when things are down.
But what about the realistic, normal man? My favorite sightings were the men of all ages, builds, and races, who wore durable blue-collar workwear elevated as eternal classics by Junya Watanabe. They were the kind of clothes that give fashion a good name: non-disposable, non-trendy, built for purpose. Otherwise, what I remember most coming out of this “everyman” set of collections is the Hawaiian shirt and the chino. It’s the uniform every dad lighting up a barbecue at the weekend this summer will relate to. In our times of trouble, it’s the super-ordinary, safe domestic life of a dependable man that has become the fashion fantasy. Over to you, Luke. How did it look through your eyes?
Luke Leitch Hi, Sarah. Well, I’m still here in Paris, lingering to finish up a Resort appointment or two, so the bubble that is being at the shows hasn’t quite yet burst for me. Staying within that bubble, one thing I think that ran through them was tension between fit and discomfiture:Are masculine clothes a tool for reinforcing masculinity or reassessing it?Could they even be a catalyst for breaking it down and building it up anew and improved? That kind of depended on which designers you paid attention to, but the most interesting collections were about clothes that prompted men to untether their assumptions about their place in the world.
Chief among these was Rick Owens, who took menswear back to its rudest, most basic state before building up an alternative paradigm of tailoring—these were suits for Yeats’s rough beasts, not so-called masters of the universe.Similarly, sort of, Thom Browne cast convention adrift by questioning the way we allow clothes to shore up gender roles. He imagined a world in which one’s gender does not dictate the colors and the clothing you wear from birth, dressing his models in heels and skirts and dresses. This was not just a theoretical exercise—all of it will go on sale—and it was fascinating to observe.
At McQueen, Sarah Burton sent her initially buttoned-up, martially inclined man upriver to a Scott of the Antarctic confrontation with paganism, pattern, and the tree of life. Particularly atmospheric, at least to this former newspaperman, was a Dries Van Noten show set in the sold-off office of the French paper Libération. They’d clearly left the offices in a hurry: There were still old PCs and desks and clocks and a picture library and manila files full of information carefully collated by long-gone specialists in an age when certain jobs gave you certainty. This, I confess more than the clothes, made me reflect that the traits most needed for working life today are flexibility, adaptability, and multiplicity.To be willing to do lots of things rather than assume you will spend your life doing one thing. Lucas Ossendrijver touched on this in a Lanvin collection that spliced and grafted many different forms of male uniforms together to create an attractive kind of camouflage for now: clothes that send out so many signals that it’s impossible to categorize the wearer.
Other collections seemed to be about escaping it all. At Louis Vuitton’s Archipelago collection and Acne Studios’s Swedish summer house collection, both Kim Jones and Jonny Johansson seemed to be pining to get away—not so far away that they lose their bearings only to discover new ones, as at Owens, Browne, and McQueen—but just to somewhere chilled and loose and beautiful. To me, that sounds just the ticket—so I’ll punch mine for another season and hand it over to you, Amy. Hey, it was good to finally bump in to you at Y-3 yesterday: Did you learn anything new about men at Paris menswear this season?
Amy Verner Luke, you’ve segued perfectly because I learned that Yohji Yamamoto takes hour-long walks with his Akita dog, Rin! Don’t we also want to know master designers are just like us? But he actually did say something after his show that put so much into perspective: “Men need a shirt, jacket, and pants, but there are many things to do. We need to put air between the fabric and the body—how big or how tight, how long or short.” From these elemental considerations comes fashion, and the fact that so many labels took an anti-fashion stance this season intrigued me. The irony, of course, is that each time I hear a designer say they “just want to make clothes,” especially when they’re speaking French, they’re saying they just want to make vêtements (lowercase), which even though they’re not referring to Vetements (uppercase), is kind of how we landed here to begin with.
But then, when Pierre Mahéo wrote in his preshow letter to guests, “Officine Générale promises total devotion to the clothes and their quality,” I absolutely believe him. In the photos, you see the direct appeal of his approach, if not all the fine details. For the time being, what he does remains as relevant and as values-driven as anything out there. I also remain impressed by Luke Meier at OAMC, who continues to embed his collections with codes—these ones happened to come from Ginsburg—in way that never feels arbitrary. As in, he seems hyper-aware of the challenges that come with using clothes to both stand for something and to stand apart from everything else. I suspect all of this is starting to sound similar to my thoughts from last season, which leads me to Études, which I was glad to finally discover—not just because I always hear people praising the collective, but because I sensed their passion for Paris at a time when the city exists in a sensitive space between vulnerable and re-energized. The public transport system’s color scheme has never looked as good!
Lastly, when I asked Jean Touitou in what way his low-key presentation featuring low-key clothes were a reactive statement against fashion itself, he replied, “I’m totally reacting to the fact that there is too much fashion victimism [sic] in men’s fashion. To me, fashion victimism is as bad as testosterone, so I’m trying in the menswear to incorporate femininity; I just want something a little delicate in the guys.” I suppose this could relate back to Sarah’s point about dads at the barbecue—how much are guys trying to measure up to expectations of fashion today, no longer just expectations of masculinity. Nick, you took in an insane number of shows. Where do you stand?
Nick Remsen I loved Paris. And I loved it not necessarily because of the hard product—the clothes, and there were lots of good clothes—but because it finally felt like fashion overall was transportive again.
Fashion shows have not of late held the gravitational pull that they once did. I don’t think this is because of any waning personal interest in the subject matter—I still want to go to the shows, and if I can’t make them, I click through Vogue’s slideshows as I did with Style.com’s slideshows back in my freshman year of college, now over 10 years ago. I do think, rather, that it’s because the separation between the catwalk and the crowd has narrowed to the point that the specialness of witnessing fashion has eroded (blame social media, blame see-now-buy-now, blame a lack of innovation by the designers and their producers, blame “influencers”—I’m not the only one who thinks the game has become too familiar). But where once the dream was to step into luxury, it’s now about experience, and the experience doesn’t need to be luxurious at all. There needs to be some space—a distance, really—that stirs in the watcher a want to traverse it. The runway should represent a getaway. And Paris was a composite paradise.
Rick Owens’s show, as you’ve read in the paragraphs above, was straight-up fucking excellent. His rogue-tailored sylphs spun downward into the Palais de Tokyo’s courtyard, their big pants and their bony chests blurring in the heat wave against the polished chrome scaffold. I have Luke to thank for reminding me that this show was happening—I’d otherwise have stayed writing in the lobby of the Prince de Galles up the street. I’m happy I ran: It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen—and it didn’t take a far-flung destination or even something all that elaborate to make it so. This was Owens putting his ever-creative muscle to work, turning something intrinsically fundamental, really, into something utterly fabulous. It made me want to step back, swim back, soar back into the freakiness of his singular world.
The same goes for a number of others—and it extends to presentations, where, despite the physical closeness of the audience to the garments, there can still be wanderlust apparent. This was true at Heron Preston, who was inspired by the chintz-drab decor of model homes—it made me want to explore cookie-cutter suburbia. Louis Vuitton, a show, spurred thoughts of jetting west to Hawaii, like, right now, so that I might post up at the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki, headphones in, listening to Drake, drinking a mai tai (or four). Kim Jones’s Spring was more appealing than the hype (and, in my opinion, flame out) of last season’s Supreme drop—the Louis Vuitton–text printed Hawaiian shirts induced more of a euphoric, giddy reaction. In a much more ridiculous vein, newcomer SSS World Corp. also made me think of Hawaii, with its aloha-apocalypse theme, and in a more serious channel, Balenciaga did, too, with Demna Gvasalia’s anti-fashion, more-normal-than-normcore island shirts. That Balenciaga’s show was held in a park, mimicking day-to-day life, only compounded the wish—it put paradise within reach, stripping the rarefied and stepping up the real. Now, everyone get out of here and go hit the beach.
It’s interesting to contemplate what a fashion reveal is in these accelerating days of social media. Kim Jones teased his new collection on the company Instagram @louisvuitton and on his own @mrkimjones account for days before his show along with, among other previews of the shoes and bags, a note thanking Drake, aka @champagnepapi, for his collaboration. The message was overlaid on a red Hawaiian print. When the audience arrived at the show in the Palais Royal this afternoon, the same prints were being sported all over the crowd, prominently worn by Naomi Campbell and others. So, no, it wasn’t a total and utter surprise to see that the collection had those self-same Hawaiian shirts in it, some veiled in organza, as Naomi was demonstrating in the front row. Nor was it a surprise to learn that the soundtrack was a song inspired by the collection that Drake had written. It had been pre-shared.
Vuitton is having its cake and eating it with its menswear these days. After the global blanket coverage of its collaboration with Supreme last season, there is one company narrative that says “super-fast” engagement with youth, while the other one—the oft-told story of its heirloom quality products—says “slow-slow” and “you must wait to have it.”
The company is lucky to have a designer in Kim Jones, who is able to move Vuitton forward at both of these speeds. In a preview, he talked about the halo success of the last show, but put the Supreme effect down to “the 10 percent.” Though not authorized to specify precisely how company sales figures have been stimulated, he talked about the direct conversations that have been sparked between himself and the new generation of teenagers who are fanatical about fashion in every detail. “I’ve found a lot of kids—16- to 18-year-olds—are researching what I did when I had my own label,” he said. That was quite a while ago, in London, in the early aughts, before fashion reporting documented everything via the Internet. But with their computer skills, these kids can harvest things that even their originators didn’t realize exist.
So Jones—even without a massive celebrity-designer image—is watched and revered as a cult figure. Inside fashion circles, he’s also rated for the deft way he can nail a broad-strokes idea that most men will get—the Hawaiian shirt is okay again, guys!—while also having a super-sophisticated hand with fluid tailoring, convincing proportions, and advanced fabric techniques. In this collection, for instance, there is paper-fine leather made to look like plastic, leather bonded onto neoprene, and rubberized tape used to seal surfer appeal into the many bags, micro to major, that were on accelerating show.
According to Prada Men’s Wear Spring Summer 2018; the lonely, hollow ring accompanying the virtual noises ceaselessly sent into the ether, sounds without echoes: These were some of the unlikely themes linking a bunch of disparate designers here over the past week.
And — surprise! — philosophy and politics are of concern even to those who favor sling-back sneakers and satin for day.
Consider the case of Miuccia Prada, a designer whose sometimes banal efforts come dressed in big ideas. For her show on Sunday, she and her collaborators at Rem Koolhaas’s research and design studio, OMA, restructured and decorated the exhibition space at her headquarters with Ollie Schrauwen and James Jean’s large-scale illustration — rushing locomotives, giant ants from a ’50s horror movie, an ape beaming cosmic rays — inspired by graphic novels.
The stated theme was the urgency of narrative in the virtual age. “If storytelling is the root of all communication,” as the show notes said, “the manner in which we choose to tell them — abstract or complex or simple or direct — is significant.”
Ms. Prada’s métier dictates that hers is an image language. This is a challenge, since, in the stories she tells, translation is often required. There is a limit, of course, to how much one can read into a topcoat. That there were a number of these in herringbone, camel, bird’s eye tweed, in a show of summer men’s wear, was a tale all its own.
Perplexing in other ways were the trousers with high gathered paper-bag waists, vaguely emasculating short shorts, creepy Cliff Huxtable cardigans tucked into waistbands, fanny packs worn at the small of the back, shirts with popped collars reminiscent of Ming the Merciless. Blanche McCrary Boyd, a gifted novelist pal sometimes obliged, like most writers, to take on the occasional well-paying bit of journalism, used to joke of those pieces that they were “not for the collected works.”
You might say the same of Prada’s show on Sunday, were it not for the shirts and assorted garments ornamented with panels repeating the irresistible graphics drawn on the walls. Those were the collectibles, the surefire Prada moneymakers. In a certain sense, that’s all the story you need.
It is an image burnished by one of the biggest advertising budgets in the world. The Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) luxury group spent $4.4bn (£3.45bn) last year on marketing its portfolio of top labels, which range from Moet & Chandon champagne to Givenchy, TAG Heuer and Louis Vuitton shoes, adorned with the LV logo that is a global badge of wealth.
This is, however, far from the full picture. Many of the shoes and boots it sells for between £500 and £1,800 a pair and stamped as “made in Italy” are mostly made in Transylvania, a region better known for vampires than any tradition of luxury craftsmanship.
The factories are a well-kept secret, their identity closely guarded. The management says it has taken pains to ensure they do not turn up in a Google search. On the outside there is no mention of the brand – just a shadow of the Louis Vuitton checkerboard print, painted in grey on the factory walls. The name on the gate is Somarest, a little-known LVMH subsidiary.
A French TV documentary team was turned back at these gates in 2014. Anonymous workers said entire shoes were made in Romania before being sent to Italy, where the soles were added. Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chief executive and France’s richest man, rejected the claim.
Now the Guardian can report from inside the factory for the first time, and can confirm that thousands of Louis Vuitton shoes leave their doors every week, complete in most details apart from the soles.
When first contacting Somarest, the factory’s communications officer hung up at the mention of Louis Vuitton and did not respond to any further attempt to contact her. Emails were forwarded to the head office in Paris. “We don’t open the doors of our workshops due to internal policy,” the company said.
But Louis Vuitton has not been able to prevent clues about its Romanian operation from leaking on to the internet. A painstaking search through Romanian websites, including staff selfies on Facebook, eventually led to the factory door.
At the centre of the room is a trunk, a piece of the brand’s history. Louis Vuitton made a name for himself creating these trunks for aristocrats in the 1850s. Today they are made to custom order on the outskirts of Paris, and cost upwards of $30,000.
Exclusivity did not, however, make Louis Vuitton the 20th most valuable brand in the world. In the 1980s the company expanded to cater to a growing middle class, and now the brand makes most of its revenue from selling large amounts of product to the middle market.
As a business model, mass-produced luxury has made Louis Vuitton so successful that it has now acquired 70 luxury houses.Just a few weeks ago it took control of Christian Dior.
To keep profits high, the company had to lower production costs. This is what led it to Cisnadie, a pastel-hued town where EU flags fly from the lampposts along the main street. At one end is the kind of fortified church for which Transylvania is famed. At the other end is the Somarest factory.
LVMH established its first plant here in 2002 to make the most of Romania’s low-wage labour. By 2004, it was producing 1,500 pairs of shoe uppers a week, according to the online CV of the company’s director at the time.
Somarest was not willing to discuss how many shoes it currently produces, but the online CV of its operations manager claims production has increased 70% since 2007, which suggests annual output of well over 100,000 pairs. A second factory was built in nearby Avrig in 2009, also to make components for handbags and suitcases.
A spokeswoman for the factory finally agreed to meet to discuss details of its production. Senior managers, she said, are French and the materials used are likewise imported from France. After assembly, she explained, the factory exports the goods to France and Italy, where they are “finished” so that they qualify for a “made in France” or “made in Italy” label in accordance with EU law.
The European parliament voted for compulsory “made in” labels in 2014 to untangle the knotted thread of globalised production. For goods produced in more than one country, the country of origin is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing”. Accordingly, the soles of the shoes are always added after they are exported.
The Romanian factory affords visitors both a real and metaphorical window onto the production process, as a glass wall opens up the offices to the factory floor.
Beyond the window, the work environment is clean and bright and the staff work sitting down. “Here in Romania, these are things that the workers appreciate,” the LV spokeswoman said, referring to the poor working conditions elsewhere in the country that have led campaigners to describe Romania’s substantial garment sector as “Europe’s cheap sweatshop”.
“In Europe’s low-wage countries, workers rights and human rights at work are publicly a taboo and not protected at all,” said Bettina Musiolek of the Clean Clothes Campaign, which works to improve conditions in the industry.
Louis Vuitton’s factories give workers weekends off, pay for overtime and use non-toxic chemicals, the spokeswoman said, facts confirmed by the Inspectoratul Teritorial de Munca, the labour inspectorate in nearby Sibiu. Somarest is a point of pride in this community, the inspectorate made clear. “There have been no complaints, ” said Enciu Dumitru.
The factories employ 734 local people who, according to the spokeswoman, are paid average Romanian garment worker wages. According to Clean Clothes Campaign, that is about €133 (£116) a month. At that rate it would take a worker nearly six months to earn enough to buy a single pair of mid-priced Louis Vuitton leather court shoes.
At such wage rates, garment production in Romania is cheaper than elsewhere in the EU, but lower prices do not mean lower quality, according to Ioana Ciolacu, a leading Romanian fashion designer. “Nor should it be mistaken for child labour, sweatshops and all those horror stories we hear now and then happening in let’s say China or Bangladesh,” she said.
The products at Somarest are moulded and stitched by hand, just as they are in Louis Vuitton’s advertisements, but the craft is not handed down through generations. Most of the workers are trained on site.
Ten years ago the brand opened a store in Bucharest . Shoes produced in Romania can therefore be soled and labeled in France or Italy and then sent back to the Romanian capital to be sold as goods made elsewhere.
The start of this process can be seen through the big glass window that overlooks the Somarest factory floor and the hundreds of workers inside.Visitors are closely watched, however, and it was a matter of just a few moments before a senior manager appeared to usher the Guardian away from the glass – and to direct the spokeswoman into an office for a conversation that appeared terse and stern. The factory visit then came to an abrupt end.
Keith Richards’ former partner of 12 years, Anita Pallenberg, died at the age of 73 on Tuesday evening, reports The Mirror. The pair was together for more than a decade, from 1967 to 1979, and had three children together. In Richards’ autobiography, Life, he writes of Pallenberg, “I like a high-spirited woman. And with Anita, you knew you were taking on a Valkyrie—she who decides who dies in battle.”
Pallenberg was an actress, model, and designer in her lifetime, not to mention a muse to the Rolling Stones. Perhaps her most memorable on-screen role was in Performance, staring alongside Mick Jagger.
Richards wasn’t the only member of the Rolling Stones that Pallenberg took an interest in at one point or another. The Mirror also notes that she dated the band’s former guitarist, Brian Jones, and was rumored to have had a short relationship with Mick Jagger—though that remains unconfirmed by either party. Richards mentioned the latter affair in his autobiography.
i-D’s playful take on pronunciation teaches you how to speak your international fashion alphabet, from Azzedine Alaïa (AH’ZE’DEEN AH’LAI’AH) in Paris to Zegna (ZEN’YA) in Milan. I am missing Louis Vuitton especially for my friends in the Far East. But you can always say: “el veeh”
Virgil Abloh Gives a Tour of His New Hong Kong Store
OFF-WHITE has just opened its fourth location in mainland China and its second store in Hong Kong. The Milan-based label has enjoyed quite the rise since its launch in 2013, and you can take an exclusive look inside the brand’s latest store above. Like every other OFF-WHITE store, it’s designed by Virgil himself and it’s the first store to focus solely on OFF-WHITE’s womenswear offerings too.
The creatures of the art and fashion worlds have been crossbreeding for so long now, it’s hard to tell them apart. But this year’s Frieze New York Art Fair underlined some differences in the presentation style of the two species. Fashion creatures always carefully peacock to appeal to the parasitic clickers that flutter around them.
For decades, at least since her Paris debut in 1981, Ms. Kawakubo has forged her own path, a durable antagonist of established norms and received wisdoms. Her line Commes des Garcons has gone into and out of favor over the years, but she has been at the forefront of important developments in fashion all along. She arrived early to ideas still potent and percolating within the fashion ecosystem: androgyny, artificiality, the pop-up shop, the luxury group (she has encouraged several former assistants, most notably Junya Watanabe, in the creation of their own separate lines under the aegis of Comme des Garçons).
“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past forty years,” said the Costume Institute’s curator in charge, Andrew Bolton. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”
The show will open May 4th at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.