It’s been over ten years since Irene Albright first opened the doors to the Albright Fashion Library—the more than 15,000-dress-, 7,000 shoe-strong collection of contemporary couture, ready-to-wear, and accessories now housed in a massive 7,000-square-foot loft at 62 Cooper Square. “Irene was working with KCD and saw that people were running around chasing clothes, and she just decided to start buying [important pieces],” recalled the Library’s creative director, Patricia Black. “Eventually, people would come to her saying, ‘Oh, do you still have that sweater? Can I borrow it?’”
Today, after a decade functioning as a sort of dream closet for fashion insiders, the Library is feting its history, as well as the incredible individuals who have pulled from its continually evolving archive, with Albright Goes to School, an exhibition in partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology and MAC Cosmetics that opens this evening at the Museum at FIT.
“I wanted to celebrate Irene, the Library, the stylists—the people who were working on the inside—the shakers and tastemakers,” said Black. “Without them, we wouldn’t have what we have in terms of this colossal space just packed from floor to ceiling with clothes.”
The show—a first look debuts here—features individual looks that ten stylists (June Ambrose, Paul Cavaco, Catherine George, Tom Broecker, Freddie Leiba, Lori Goldstein, Kathryn Neale, Mary Alice Stephenson, Kate Young, and Patti Wilson) created using iconic wares from the Library. A Tom Ford goat hair jacket layers over a Comme des Garçons tank in Goldstien’s look; Balmain is mixed with Givenchy and the artist’s own choker and face mask in Leiba’s; and Patti Wilson utilizes a Lanvin body harness to sex up an otherwise high glamour Yves Saint Laurent and J.W. Anderson combo.
There’s a rich history to the institution, and Black, Museum at FIT director and chief curator Valerie Steele, and set designer Stefan Beckman were tasked with expressing that through a tight narrative. “There are some incredible stylists who pulled these outfits, but they each have their own different story,” related Beckman, who described the installation as a “gritty fire escape urban idea.”
Steele added that the Museum’s interest in the exhibition stemmed, in part, from a desire to champion stylists. “People tend to think, Oh, designers make fashion. So it was important to be able to bring in stylists and show that they also have a really important role in putting looks together.”
The ten ensembles will be on display through March 31. The show marks the beginning of a greater collaboration between FIT and the Albright Fashion Library. “Irene is such an eclectic collector of everything from fashion to art to houses to people. So who knows what she’s going to start collecting next and where we’re going to take that,” suggested Black. “[But] I’m excited about the beginnings of seeing how we get to work and inspire the new generation of kids who dream of becoming the next designer, visual director, creative director, fashion editor, stylist, or costume designer. I’m hoping that we can lend a little bit of light to them in this moment.”
Ever since Annelise Michelson exploded onto the fashion scene three years ago (and spawned a thousand copycats) with her Carnivore ring, she has gathered quite a following: Lady Gaga, Alison Mosshart, Eva Green, Theodora Richards, and Robin Wright are all fans of her bold, jagged aesthetic.
This Fall, Michelson spins her Carnivore design into one- or two-tiered chokers—a few of those caught our eye on the streets of PFW—as well as a “lobe cuff” (a spike holds it in place on pierced ears). Another femme fatale theme is déchaîné, a term that in French means cutting loose in a big way but also toys with the idea of chains. Here, oversize broken links are fused on massive chokers inspired in equal parts by the work of Helmut Newton and the jewelry Michelson’s mother sported back in the eighties. “I wanted something highly contemporary, slightly punk, but also timeless because that’s what chains are,” she explained. Elsewhere, the designer takes an equally bold but more organic turn with an algae-inspired collection of large pieces with curled edges. “I’d been mulling a marine theme and collecting shells, and all of a sudden I realized that algae would make a good bracelet,” she observed. Who knew punk and kelp could make such lovely bedfellows?
“We fancy ourselves storytellers in everything we do—that’s how we approach styling and designing,” Meritt Elliott says of what informs her and partner Emily Current’s work. The L.A.-based duo, formerly of Current/Elliott and now stylists to Mandy Moore, Emma Roberts, and Jessica Alba, among others, have put their fashion tales into print with their latest venture, A Denim Story: Inspirations From Bellbottoms to Boyfriends.
With a curated collection of images, A Denim Story categorizes and classifies denim, from overalls to American Summer styles, workwear shapes to the most loved, lived-in pairs. And since the team first bonded in college over their love of vintage Levi’s 646s, the book shies away from expected imagery of sexed-up models in tight jeans. Instead, it pays careful attention to pairs that feel timeless and slightly androgynous. “We definitely always gravitate toward the idea of a boy’s jean on a girl, something that’s a bit awkward—something from your dad’s closet or your boyfriend’s jeans,” said Current, whose original boyfriend jean helped to launch the still-strong trend. Along with photographer Hilary Walsh, Current and Elliott focus on imagery that highlights this sentiment, drawing aesthetic inspiration from masculine silhouettes, the Dust Bowl era, and the children’s series The Boxcar Children.
Inevitably informed by their successful design past, not to mention their close proximity to denim manufacturing in downtown L.A., Current and Elliott assert that their take on denim is unique. “In many ways, since we come from a design background, the book is our inspiration board—it’s the things that have inspired us in different chapters,” Current explained. “We love our sensibility to be dressed up sometimes, too,” Elliott says of their now signature look that’s equal parts fantasy and quintessential Americana. It’s that effortlessness that defines them, and their never-ending love affair with denim.
A Denim Story: Inspirations From Bellbottoms to Boyfriends will be available from Rizzoli starting March 18.
Just when we thought Paris had maxed out on its supermodel sightings, Freja Beha Erichsen caused us to audibly gasp when she opened Louis Vuitton on the final day of shows. Sure, seeing Gisele Bündchen close Balenciaga and the high-wattage cast at Balmain earlier in the week were definite highlights, but for true model obsessives, it’s difficult to top a surprise appearance by Erichsen, who has been absent from the runways since Spring ’12. Among the other noteworthy ladies in the LV lineup were Liya Kebede, Maggie Rizer, Marte Mei van Haaster (who took a break this season to focus on school), and scads of newcomers including closer Rianne von Rompaey and Julia Bergshoeff. While Bergshoeff also walked Miu Miu later that day, we wish she had done more shows and taken a less exclusive route. Her only other Fall outing was Proenza Schouler.
There were plenty more major modeling moments during the second half of PFW. Miranda Kerr turned up at Sonia Rykiel of all places—the brand stepped things up this time around by enlisting stylist Katie Grand and casting director Anita Bitton. Elsewhere, Sasha Pivovarova made a lovely cameo at Chloé, and Kendall Jenner convinced us to consider her a serious model at Givenchy and Chanel. But even doing those big shows won’t quite earn Jenner a spot on our forthcoming top new models list. The competition in that category is steep, with fresh faces like Lexi Boling, Ola Rudnicka, Waleska Gorczevski, and Harleth Kuusik each walking more than fifty shows. All in all, a very strong season for veterans and promising rookies alike.