Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2015 – Paris & Rome

Originally posted on CashinMyBag.com.

By Rachel Small

Last week, iconic fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Versace, and Valentino debuted their Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2015 fashion lines in Paris and Rome.

Often recognized as the modern fashion capital of the world, over the last few centuries, Paris has garnered the reputation as being a breeding ground for cultivating the newest, most popular, and lucrative form of artistic innovation. Whether fostering the 19th-century impressionist movement – which catapulted the works of painters like Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir into the permanent fine art canon – or the early 20th-century expatriate American writer era – featuring authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway – Paris has a certain je ne sais quoi of blending high art with celebrity and commercialism. Fashion designers, especially by separating their Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter lines, master this formula seamlessly.Haute Couture construction and design takes incredible artistic ability and vision. The process is very time-consuming, detail-oriented, and takes specialized sewing talent

Haute Couture construction and design takes incredible artistic ability and vision. The process is very time-consuming, detail-oriented, and takes specialized sewing talent since all the pieces are hand sewn.

Paris Fashion Week designers are more than aware of fashion’s tentative place in the art world – they derive inspiration from and pay homage to the artistic powerhouses of the past in their lines, arguably to place their work in the same avant-garde category. This year, Dior once again showed their Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2015 fashion line at the Musée Rodin – a Parisian museum dedicated to the works of sculptor Auguste Rodin and other Paris-based artists. The show itself was decorated with Monet or even Pointillism-esque stain glass panels.

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Image from Dior’s Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2015 in Paris, France.

The art world has already started to acknowledge Haute Couture as museum-worthy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC features various contemporary Haute Couture pieces – like the pictured dress by Alexander McQueen – in the Costume Institute of their collection.

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Image from Savage Beauty’s promotional imagery.

Fashion design is not just about making what can sell or what can be worn every day, but it is about what can be imagined and what can be created by artistic innovation and ability. The work by high-fashion designers might end up surpassing its self-imposed seasonal relevance and carve a niche for itself among classical masterpieces as wearable art.

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Image from Valentino Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2015 show in Rome, Italy.

Chanel Cruise Resort 2016 – Seoul

May 4th, 2015. The Chanel Cruise Resort 2016 Seoul fashion show took place on a white, glossy, circuitous runway punctuated with a trail of dots reminiscent of NECCO Candy Buttons. The setting of the show perfectly complimented the themes of the collection from the fashion powerhouse – South Korea, ’90s bubblegum pop, and unclear directions.

In the days of its conception, Chanel was founded upon the fashion philosophies devised by brand matriarch – Coco Chanel. Coco was known for her taste for minimalism, little black dresses, and bending the gender-normative expectations for women’s clothing.

In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld became the creative director for Chanel. With his leadership came a new way of maximalist thinking for the fashion house’s design criteria. Lagerfeld had a penchant for incorporating glitzy and glamorous elements into classic Chanel staples like refashioning the classic 2.55 bag with a gold chain and a monogrammed Chanel CC lock embellishment. Lagerfeld’s designs were innovative in a time where a booming economy afforded fashion enthusiasts large, disposable incomes and a desire to show off their opulent purchases.

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In the Chanel Cruise Resort 2016 line, Lagerfeld employs his old tactics through refashioning familiar Chanel silhouettes and staples like tweed Chanel suits and fabric, box chain bags, chunky chain jewelry, pleats, and square-toed Maryjane heels. Lagerfeld’s attempt at rejuvenating the classic looks comes from taking inspiration from current and ancient Korean culture, which through globalization and the internet has become popular with Western youths – especially the super trendy K-Pop phenomenon. High fashion is no stranger to taking inspiration from Eastern cultures – mostly borrowing from Japanese and Chinese styles.

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The Eastern influence is beneficial in ways other than aesthetics. Eastern Asian countries, especially their urban areas, have a reputation for seeming futuristic, which affords Chanel the opportunity to deviate from current trends in the name of innovation ahead of its time. Juxtaposing this element with classic Chanel designs and late ’90s colors, materials, and shapes comes off as jarring in the Chanel Cruise Resort 2016 show. The mismatching elements are highlighted via the production of the show, which featured discordant synth-pop over stereotypically Asian-sounding music, intentionally clashing hairpieces, and awkward fabric attached to the bottoms of clothing.

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Most coverage of the Chanel Cruise Resort 2016 show has focused on the celebrities in attendance and on Lagerfeld himself who is no stranger to controversy. The show’s foreign location and themes cemented the brand’s traditional and dated status as unattainable, and more recently, detached from current trends.

Gucci Cruise Resort 2016 – NYC

Originally posted on Cashinmybag.com.

By Rachel Small

June 04, 2015 – the Gucci Cruise Resort 2016 show debuted in NYC on a sectioned-off street and a garage gallery in Chelsea. The runway was composed of worn Persian rugs and surrounded by exposed brick walls that complimented the trendy Williamsburg-esque designs. The famed Italian brand has recently created a lot of renewed buzz due to its new, younger aesthetic cultivated by the freshly appointed creative director and Roman native, Alessandro Michele.

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The new line marks a departure from Gucci’s typical designs that used to showcase glossy, glam, and modern luxury apparel and accessories defined under the leadership of former creative director, Tom Ford. The merchandise, especially during the ’90s and early ’00s, focused on the GG monogram as its calling card.

Post-Ford regime, the goal of the new Gucci image under Michele was to deviate from the former Gucci brand as much as possible – to create a new definition of “the Gucci Girl.” The brand was in desperate need of rejuvenation to appeal to the emerging millennial demographic that Michele achieves by focusing on the popular, hipster street style inspired by youth in Brooklyn.

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The Gucci Cruise Resort 2016 show pays a literal homage to the hipster look by taking the runway to an actual street. Deviating from contemporary designs, Gucci’s new looks are reminiscent of ’60s mod style in terms of silhouettes and patterns and throws back to kitschy, ’70s colors and embellishments. Fitting the models with faux, vintage glasses and comically ironic embroidery – like a giant tiger – matches the pseudo-intellectualism popular in Brooklyn culture.

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In the promo video released by Gucci, “Gucci Cruise 2016: A Fashion Story,” we initially see two models walking the streets of New York wearing the clothes from the Gucci runway as their everyday clothing. New York is famous for its unique and quirky street style, often documented at large in popular culture through street-style photographers like veteran New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham and the newly popular blog Humans of New York. In the Gucci Cruise Resort 2016 video, the models jump the barricades of the fashion show security and walk straight from the street onto the runway. This – and Gucci’s new creative direction in general – is a deliberate commentary on how the street style of Brooklyn is transcending into the high fashion world of Manhattan.

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Lily Allen reminds everyone of female objectification in music

Originally published in The Quad.

By Rachel Small

After a multiple year hiatus, Lily Allen has resumed her music career with a new, controversial single and music video. Allen returns to form by pushing the envelope through unapologetic irony in “It’s Hard Out Here,” which is an allusion to the hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia’s 2005 Grammy award-winning song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”

Allen has never been shy about including expletives in her songs. In her 2009 album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, she included a song entitled “Fuck You” where the chorus consists of repeating “Fuck You” over and over again. In 2013, Allen takes on a new dirty word sure to shock and appall her easily squeamish pop culture audience – “Feminism.”

Allen’s song has been hailed as “A feminist anthem through and through” by Rolling Stone Magazine with its catchy chorus “It’s hard out here for a bitch” and “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay/Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away.” Other lyrics provide examples of inequality and hypocrisy that occur between the two sexes. “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut/When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss.”

The song and music video serve as social commentary on the objectification of women in pop music, especially in response to this summer’s breakout hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which has been widely criticized for its misogynistic lyrics and music video depicting naked, rail-thin models parading around the male R&B singer. Allen makes parallels to “Blurred Lines” by including lyrics that directly question rapper T.I.’s explicit, violent lyrics in the song.

The contrasts between the two videos are very stark. In Thicke’s video, he is surrounded by naked women awkwardly dancing for him, whereas, in Allen’s video, she is dancing alongside her scantily clad, ass-shaking dancers who seem to have actual talent with their dance moves. Thicke’s video condones the use of objectifying female “dancers” in his video for the sake of appealing to a male audience, whereas Allen uses her dancers out of irony and female solidarity.

Despite the overarching theme of social equality in her song, Allen’s video has come under fire for its use of black, female dancers who are seen depicting the popular, hip-hop dance craze “twerking.” One of Allen’s lines in her song seems to talk down to women participating in rap videos and provocative dance. “I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains/Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain.” Taking this line out of context, it does appear as if Allen is against women expressing their sexuality but later in the song, she talks about the double standards women face about how many sexual partners they have, “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut.” Allen also doesn’t have a problem with looking sexy as she is seen in the beginning of the video with a full face of makeup while she is undergoing forced liposuction instructed by her misogynistic manager. Later in the video, Allen rips off her baggy hospital gown revealing a tight, black, leather and lace ensemble. What Allen is speaking out against is not female promiscuity or femininity, but forced sexuality for the sake of appealing to a male audience. Allen says she doesn’t need to shake her ass as a pop artist, not that she doesn’t want to, nor that she doesn’t want others to.

Allen also doesn’t have a problem with looking sexy as she is seen in the beginning of the video with a full face of makeup while she is undergoing forced liposuction as instructed by her misogynistic manager. Later in the video, Allen rips off her baggy hospital gown revealing a tight, black leather and lace ensemble. What Allen is speaking out against is not female promiscuity or femininity but forced sexuality for the sake of appealing to a male audience. Allen says she doesn’t need to shake her ass as a pop artist, not that she doesn’t want to, nor that she doesn’t want others to.

The racism claims against the video stem from Allen showcasing black women twerking and having champagne sprayed on their slow-motion, jiggling butts. All of these images have happened in male hip-hop artists’ music videos but without the social commentary attached. Allen’s use of her hip-hop dancers is ironic; its depiction in her non-hip-hop music video used to illuminate what kind of dancing and objectification is seen as acceptable in a different context. Furthermore, the claim that Allen is being racist for including black dancers is unfounded since she does not just have black dancers but white and Asian dancers, as well. Allen has responded to the racism criticisms about her video with an official statement entitled “Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions.”

The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all … I’m not going to apologise because I think that would imply that I’m guilty of something, but I promise you this, in no way do I feel superior to anyone, except paedophiles, rapists murderers etc., and I would not only be surprised but deeply saddened if I thought anyone came away from that video feeling taken advantage of or compromised in any way.

Whether or not Allen accomplished portraying her social commentary through satirical means is up for debate, but no one can say her time away from music and having two children has softened Allen’s diatribes against injustices in pop culture.

The song itself is witty and catchy, which indicates that more of Allen’s upcoming work will be of the same caliber.

Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, enhances the story’s flimsy political conflict

Originally Posted in The Quad.

By Rachel Small

After over a year and a half wait, the new movie in The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire, was released nationwide Thursday, November 21, 2013.

The Hunger Games series is about a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future society called Panem that holds a nationwide, mandatory competition every year where they pit district – region – teens against each other to fight to the death. The film stars Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence in her most famous role, protagonist and Hunger Games tribute – participant – Katniss Everdeen. The film also stars Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Katniss’ secret admirer turned fellow tribute; Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, a former winner of the Hunger Games competition who serves at a mentor to the tributes; Liam Hemsworth as Gail Hawthorne, Katniss’ best friend from home who is also her love interest; Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the antagonistic leader of Panem; and new to the series is Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays Plutarch Heavensbee, the veteran Game Maker of the Hunger Games.

The film also stars Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Katniss’ secret admirer turned fellow tribute; Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, a former winner of the Hunger Games competition who serves at a mentor to the tributes; Liam Hemsworth as Gail Hawthorne, Katniss’ best friend from home who is also her love interest; Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the antagonistic leader of Panem; and new to the series is Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays Plutarch Heavensbee, the veteran Game Maker of the Hunger Games.

For its late night Thursday openings, the film grossed approximately $25.2 million, making it the seventh-biggest first-night grosser ever, the top spot dominated by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The first movie was released in March 2012 with an opening grossing $19.7 million and was met with critical and commercial success.

The movies are based off the novels of the same name by Suzanne Collins – also known for her work in television writing and her first YA (Young Adult) fantasy book series, The Underland Chronicles). Collins’ Hunger Games series has been met with critical acclaim. However, some reviewers criticized Collins for her weak allegorical critique of a dystopian realm. Dystopian novels are not just an element found in the newly popular YA genre but have some pretty iconic
predecessors like the satirical 1984 by British political commentator George Orwell. Orwell’s work served as a social warning for future government takeovers. Orwell notably and convincingly spread awareness about social injustices, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to social democratic socialism.

The Hunger Games uses a dystopian society and an oppressive government as a supplemental theme to the novel, sometimes serving as simply a backdrop to the main plot, characters, and action scenes. This works within the YA genre because a lot of young readers are able to overlook the superficial, “lazily” developed, and ultimately solutionless political commentary of the novel in favor of YA genre elements like love triangles. The movie, however, has been praised for delving deeper into the political conflict within Panem. Much of Collin’s prose is devoted to describing action and Katniss’ thoughts. When translated into film, visual aids assist in eliminating a lot of the dense, action-packed prose, which frees up more exploration of political unrest. Scenes not depicted in the novel arise on screen, many including President Snow (Sutherland) and his motivation for his antagonistic actions. This serves to not only depict what happens behind the scenes in a dictatorship scenario, but it also shows Snow as not only an evil
villain but a human being as well. The scenes with his granddaughter especially showcase the tyrant’s soft side.

The other element that is further fleshed out is the reluctance of heroine, Katniss, to become the face of a resistance she didn’t mean to start. We see more of her posttraumatic stress and her fear – whereas, in the book, she comes off as a stubborn and selfish teenager who can sometimes be hard to sympathize with. This is helped by the likability of the actress who plays Katniss, Lawrence, who is widely adored by audience members. What also helps is the flashbacks seen on screen that affect Katniss’ ability to live a normal life post-games. Overall, these additions make the film a more polished adaptation of Collins’ story.

The next installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay Part 1, is poised to be released next year, on November 21, 2014. The final film, Mockingjay Part 2, will be released a year after that, on November 20, 2015.

Catching Fire is currently in all theaters, nationwide.

Carrie remake fails to live up to cult horror classic

Originally posted on The Quad.

By Rachel Small

After a delay from March – for the sake of reshoots that caused most to make unfavorable judgments about director Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 remake of Stephen King’s first novel and Brian De Palma’s cult classic film – the new Carrie was released on Oct. 18, 2013.

Reviews of the movie have been mostly negative to average with most saying it pales in comparison to Brian De Palma’s original version, which became a cult favorite due to its ’70s era, campy theatrics and De Palma’s advanced ability to portray suspense.

De Palma’s version was able to create a scary, nail-biting story that was simultaneously funny due to its cheesy, dated direction and nonexistent special effects. Peirce’s Carrie is not only devoid of any humor, but lacks any artful suspense tactics, choosing instead to rely on its smorgasbord of CGI in the last 15 minutes of the movie, which is more boring than frightful.

Stephen King, when first learning there was to be a remake, remarked, “The real question is why, when the original [movie] was so good?” The Carrie remake was justified via the guise of the studios, MGM and Screen Gems, wanting to create an adaptation that more closely resembled King’s original novel. Right away, this does not seem like the real reason, because King’s novel –published in 1974 – takes place in the then-future 1979.

Peirce’s Carrie takes place in present day. The new rationale for the reboot changed to not only doing a version that was faithful to King’s novel but also adapting Carrie for an internet-savvy, CGI-capable world. Though, when watching the movie, audience members and fans of the book may note that 2013’s Carrie – played by popular actress, Chloe Grace Moretz – resembles the original film’s star (Sissy Spacek) who was an unconventionally pretty, thin, and blonde girl versus the novel version where Carrie was chubby, pimple-prone, and brunette.

Moretz, though a competent actress, fails to be convincing as a lonely, awkward outcast due to her prom queen looks that scream “well-adjusted” and rational arguments against her mother’s (Julianne Moore) zealot-tinged insanity. 2013’s Carrie is not brainwashed by her mother’s fantastical religious practices and instead wilts as an innocent wallflower who is unjustifiably shunned. Only a quick mention of Carrie’s own unusual behavior is brought up when school bully, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), and Carrie-sympathizer, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), have an argument in the gym about how Carrie deserves her torment, because Carrie and her mother have been telling everyone they are going to Hell since the sixth grade.

Aside from her disheveled hair, makeup-less face, and bland clothing, Moretz appears much prettier than the overdone and aged Doubleday and Wilde. While De Palma’s movie paid homage to Hitchcock classic Psycho with its chilling slasher sound effects, Peirce alludes to recent, C-rated horror films by choosing to cast actors and actresses in high school roles even though they look like they are in their thirties – this is especially noticeable with Moretz in the role of Carrie as she was fifteen at the time of shooting.

The whole movie drags until the next to last scene at the prom, which happens so quickly that it could be easy to miss or zone out during it. There is no element of suspense or discomfort like in 1976’s version where the bucket of blood falls just when you feel like you can’t take it anymore. After being drenched in blood, Moretz takes up the role of orchestra conductor as she flails her arms around, indicating where the CGI masters should fabricate turmoil. It is an awkward display and is supposedly where we are supposed to feel discomfort, though it comes in the form of secondhand embarrassment.

The Carrie reboot wasn’t a bad movie; it stayed true to the original almost scene to scene with some technology and extra scenes thrown around. However, it did not add anything to the Carrie legacy and recanted much of the superficial aspects of the well-known, high school revenge story. There is not much depth to this film, but it serves its purpose as a Halloween movie for teenagers who have not seen the original to go see on a Friday night.

Carrie is currently in theaters, but it might be wiser to wait until it comes out on Redbox or to watch the original on Netflix.