Google’s not the only company that can play the tech-meets-fashion game. Last night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich announced the corporation’s new plan to produce functional tech accessories that are both wearable and aesthetically pleasing. Impossible? Not when you have Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim on your team. The duo will design a smart bracelet, which, currently under development, will be unveiled at a yet-to-be-revealed date.
But one bracelet does not a revolution make, so in addition to OC, Intel has tapped Barneys (who will sell the forthcoming wristband and future products) and the CFDA (who will help emerging designers get on Intel’s wearable gadget bandwagon) to assist with the project.
Earlier today, Ayse Ildeniz, Intel’s VP of Business Development and Strategy of New Devices, hosted a panel to discuss the push. She was joined by OC’s Bettina Chin (Director of Special Projects) and Su Barber (Art Director), the CFDA’s Adam Roth (Director of Strategic Partnerships), and Barneys’ Matthew Woolsey (SVP of Digital). The takeaway from their chat? While functionality is key, the products have got to look great (if you recall, one of the biggest complaints about Google Glass, pairs of which were worn on Diane von Furstenberg’s Spring ’13 runway, was that it wasn’t exactly the sleekest thing on the block). “If wearables are to take off, it has to be an industry effort, and fashion and aesthetics have to be involved,” Ildeniz told Style.com after the panel. Woolsey concurred. “The design element is paramount to the way in which our customer engages with [the product],” he said. It’s worth noting that, through this project, Barneys will become the first luxury retailer to carry wearables.
So can Leon and Lim do for wearable tech what they did for Kenzo—that is to say, make it the cool set’s new must-have? Unfortunately, some blizzard-induced flight delays prevented Lim from attending the conference and addressing that in person. However, with a little help from a smartphone, Style.com was able to catch up with Lim about why OC and Intel are a natural fit, how she plans to make wearable tech covetable, and how her collaborative device will not only allow people to plug in, but offer them the option to turn off.
Why did you and Humberto say yes to the Intel project?
Technology in all forms has been really important to us, not only in our store and our collections, but also in terms of online retail. We had been watching the wearable technology space for quite some time before Intel approached us. We’d been thinking about how to incorporate [wearables] into our collection, so when this project came along, we thought it was a great opportunity. Intel represents such a strong force in technology, so we were happy to lend our design sensibility, and it makes sense to partner with someone whom we consider to be the expert.
Do you feel confident that the end result will resonate with the Opening Ceremony customer?
Absolutely. If you look at how people operate today, they use so many devices and applications. I think [wearable technology] is the next step in terms of how people interact. Your phone’s generally by your side, but you don’t always get a chance to look at it, so I think this product is a natural progression.
As far as stereotypes go, “fashion” people and “tech” people are about as opposite as you can get. How do you hope to bridge this perceived gap? And considering you design for Kenzo as well as Opening Ceremony, do you see wearable tech translating into luxury fashion?
When Intel approached us, they basically said, “We’re experts in technology, and we would rely on you to be experts in the field of creating an item that can stand on its own—an item that is beautiful, and that people will want.” I think that marriage of two partners with different talents is going to be very interesting. And you’re right, the fashion industry has been slow to adopt wearable technology. But I think that’s because it’s usually coming only from a technology point of view, rather than a combination of tech and design aesthetic. Our focus will be to create a covetable item that someone would want to wear regardless of the tech aspect. So I think this collaboration with Intel will stand out from other devices. Continue Reading “Fashion and Function: Opening Ceremony’s Carol Lim Talks Teaming Up With Intel” »
On the surface, Madeleine Vionnet—the 1920s and thirties revolutionary known for inventing the bias cut and creating elegant, sculptural, corset-free looks—and Hussein Chalayan—the conceptual daredevil responsible for the bubble dress, wearable furniture, and, most recently, his Spring ’14 hat-umbrella hybrids—don’t appear to have much in common. However, upon further inspection, the grandmother of modern dress and the cerebral Cyprian designer are remarkably similar—namely in their obsessive attention to detail, forward-thinking attitudes toward femininity, and refusal to be slaves to the past. Perhaps that’s why Goga Ashkenazi, who acquired Vionnet in 2012, tapped Chalayan to design the storied house’s demi-couture range. “I can kind of see why they asked me, because of my, let’s say, architectural approach and my interest in geometry,” said Chalayan, whose first Vionnet collection will hit the runway on January 21 during the Couture shows in Paris. “I like to do work that looks new rather than referential. So I think it’s a good collaboration, to be honest.”
Since the announcement of Chalayan’s appointment last week, his forthcoming take on Vionnet’s philosophy has been hotly anticipated. And it will be interesting to see how his presence at the house affects its stature. After laying dormant for more than sixty years, Vionnet was awakened in 2006, and saw a veritable revolving door of designers—some of whom, to put it nicely, didn’t do its namesake justice. Since buying the struggling brand, Ashkenazi (who, in addition to serving as its chairman, is the creative director of the label’s ready-to-wear line) has made a noble effort to restore Vionnet to its former glory. Could Chalayan’s twenty-plus years of boundary-breaking experience be the ticket back to the top? Here, Chalayan talks to Style.com about his debut Vionnet outing; making couture more accessible (if only a little); and why, despite his artistic approach, he’s not just a conceptual designer.
How did Goga Ashkenazi approach you about this project?
Davide Dallomo, who works with Goga, reached out to make the introduction. Then I met Goga in Milan just after the summer. We had a few conversations, and we signed a month before Christmas. Goga liked my initial sketches. We got along right from day one, and I was happy that I was able to realize a lot of my ideas with a few of Goga’s suggestions and changes. We had our first fitting before Christmas, and I’m pretty pleased.
Why did you say yes to Vionnet? Did you have any reservations?
I had to think about it, of course. But when I met Goga, she’s honestly such a life force. She’s got this amazing creative energy. She’s a great entrepreneur, and I thought, “My God, you’re only 33.” Also, she talks about how we’re all honoring Vionnet here. It’s not [Goga's] personal line. Vionnet is such an establishment. It’s got an undisputable heritage, so I thought it might be an exciting thing to do.
Vionnet was a revolutionary in the twenties and thirties, and her work has been inspiring designers for almost a century now. Is it intimidating to design clothes that bear her name?
No, because it’s not old Vionnet. This is a modern interpretation of Vionnet, and the whole idea is to keep her name going. I don’t think there’s pressure because we’re not trying to replicate what she did. We’re trying to work through her spirit. We live in different times. I’d like to think that she’d be pleased with it. It shouldn’t be seen as intimidating. I like to be positive about it rather than to think, “Oh, my God, how am I going to manage?”
In the last decade, several heritage houses have been revived to varying degrees of success. As a designer with a distinct point of view, what do you think it takes to respectfully work for and thrive at a heritage brand?
The whole idea is to look at what Vionnet would have done if she were living in this place and time. We are genuinely looking at the principles and the worldview that Vionnet had, and thinking about how that could be interpreted for now. There are already parallels in my work because of my interest in graphicism and sculptural forms and their relationship to the body. But it’s about honoring the brand. It’s not about my brand. It’s a different kind of responsibility from doing your own thing. The whole project is surrounded by a big sense of responsibility to do the right thing, and to respect Vionnet. Of course, my name will be associated with it, but honestly, it’s an honorary project.
While haute couture can soar into the six-figure price range, demi-couture sticks at a still daunting—but more accessible—five figures. Why is that? And can you speak to the difference between the two practices?
It has nothing to do with the nature or the preciousness of the garments. It’s to do with the number of fittings that the client gets. The fittings are what really raise the cost, so we will do one fitting only, as opposed to ten fittings.
What is the relevance of couture today, whether it be demi-couture or haute couture? How do you think it fits into the fashion landscape in this economic climate?
Goga is the director of Vionnet, and its owner, but she’s also a couture customer. So one thing she was saying is that you spend endless amounts of money on the fittings, and that’s why she wants to do demi-couture. In this economic landscape, it’s a very good way of looking at couture—you are still offering highly refined garments, but customers are saving on the costs because of the reduced number of fittings. That’s quite a good move on her part. Continue Reading “Hussein Chalayan on His “Unobvious,” “Intelligent-Sexy” Vision for Vionnet” »
Sara Nicole Rossetto is proof that you don’t need to be famous or have an expensive wardrobe to become a street-style star. The 20-year-old Italian communications student was snapped by Tommy Ton during the Spring ’14 shows in Milan wearing a crisp white button-up, gold Zara skirt, and Miu Miu shoes. Her image earned the most votes—she beat out paparazzi fixtures including Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Giovanna Battaglia, and more—in Style.com’s 2013 Look of the Year poll. Of course, Rossetto’s model-good looks helped. Playing volleyball on the national level, her tall, thin physique recently landed her a spot on IMG’s local “development” board. While her dream is to work in fashion advertising, Rossetto wants to do more runway and editorial first, and loves dressing up for street-style photographers. Here, Style.com talks to Rossetto about her personal style, modeling career, and winning Look of the Year.
Congratulations on winning our Look of the Year poll.
I’m really happy about it! Everybody else was so famous, and I’m a nobody compared with them. I didn’t hear about the poll because I was vacationing in Switzerland for New Year’s and didn’t have any Wi-Fi, so it was a terrific surprise to learn that I’d won.
I have to admit that I didn’t know who you were before researching this picture. You do some modeling?
I am a model, but nobody knows me yet—I’m still “development.” Last year I started doing some modeling in Milan. I’ve always played volleyball and am quite tall and thin, so everybody told me I should try to do something in fashion, which has always been my passion. After high school, I sent some photos to IMG and they told me that I could go and visit them, and I actually signed with them! I’ve done a little runway and would love to go to London and New York. The thing is that I’m really Mediterranean-looking, and in Italy and Milan, that’s not so wonderful because they like blond hair and blues eyes, and I look Sicilian or Arab…
What are you studying at university?
I’m studying media and advertising. My ambition is to do a course in fashion communications, and then hopefully work in fashion advertising. They told me that it’s a hard industry, but I think I can manage that, and maybe modeling will help.
So you go to shows during Milan fashion week?
I really love going to the shows. A couple months before, I look for tickets. My dad used to do loads for shows, so he helped, and I’ve had the opportunity to see Emilio Pucci, Max Mara, Dolce & Gabbana…my favorite show last season was Pucci.
Who are some of your favorite designers? And how would you describe your personal style?
I love Miuccia Prada and the Valentino designers because of their elegance. Personally, I like to be quite simple when I get dressed up, and Valentino is sober but always elegant. Pucci isn’t quite my style because I’m quite sporty, but Peter Dundas knows how to make a woman look sexy, and the colors are amazing for the summer.
Do you dress differently for fashion week?
While I love fashion, I’m not trying to show off when I get dressed for university, so I usually keep it sporty in white T-shirts and jeans. During fashion week, I work on preparing my outfits and wear the clothes I like the most then—I’m already thinking about what I’ll wear next month. What I wouldn’t wear on a normal day I can wear to the shows. I love street-style photographers because they make me feel so important when they ask me, “Can I take your photo?” I’m not the kind of person who would say, “No.” But I don’t actually spend too much on what I wear. I mix Zara—my absolute favorite—with nice accessories.
Who are some of your style icons?
I like the simplicity of Audrey Hepburn and think Ulyana Sergeenko is so elegant—I love her couture line. The Russians are popular, and I like Elena Perminova as well because she’s tall like me, and Karlie Kloss, too.
Who’s ready for a glam-packed trip back to 1922? This Sunday, Downton Abbey—the British series that explores the dramatic lives of the well-to-do Crawley family and their staff—returns for its fourth season on PBS. And as the cast of lords, ladies, cooks, maids, and butlers enters into the 1920s, they experience a bona fide fashion revolution. With the exception of Maggie Smith’s uppity character, Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, the “upstairs” ladies begin to slip into the loose, beaded, embellished, and sometimes skin-baring designs of the pre-flapper age. Emmy Award-winning costume designer Caroline McCall is responsible for it all.
Many would argue that the elaborate period costumes worn by the show’s aristocratic characters, like the rebellious Lady Edith (who experiences somewhat of a coming of age this season), Lady Mary Crawley (who spends the entire season mourning the loss of her husband, Matthew, and thus exclusively wears frocks in mauve, black, and purple), Cora Crawley, and her mother, Martha Levinson, are one of the series’ biggest draws. “I think the romanticism and the glamour of the show attracts people,” offered McCall of Downton‘s international success. “Of course, the clothing helps with all that. The costumes help you understand who each character is, but would people still enjoy it without the costumes? I think they probably would.” Maybe so, but certainly not as much. Here, McCall talks to Style.com about how icons Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, and Paul Poiret influenced Downton‘s looks, the perils of working with vintage clothes, and why she chose to dress Maggie Smith in the image of a queen.
Seeing as this season is set in the twenties, the characters are experiencing a fashion revolution. How are the new costumes different from what we’ve seen in the past?
Downton began in 1912, and now we’re in 1922 and 1923. In terms of fashion for women, that’s probably the most change we’ve seen in any single decade. It’s quite extraordinary to see the transformation from how covered-up women were, how uncomfortable and corseted they were, to how completely different they’re dressed in season four. I always tell the actresses that their characters would never have imagined in 1912 that they’d be able to go out like this. We’re not in the flapper period yet, but there are all sorts of designer influences going on in the early twenties. A lot of Lady Mary’s [played by Michelle Dockery] wardrobe is inspired by Vionnet. Lady Rose MacClare [played by Lily James] has a lot of knitwear because the argyle craze was beginning due to the fact that the Royals were starting to wear their knits in day-to-day life, instead of just for sport. Then there’s a lot of Lanvin-influenced dresses. And Edith [played by Laura Carmichael] has all sorts of influences, because of her being in London. She’s a journalist and she’s trying to be more sexy and womanly, so for her, I looked at lots of illustrations by George Barbier. Poiret has also been an influence throughout.
It sounds like Lady Edith’s wardrobe changes pretty drastically this season.
Yes, it’s really the arc of her story. When you come back in series four, Matthew has been dead for six months, and it feels like the house hasn’t moved on. The whole house has been in darkness since his death, and Edith is desperate to get out. And when she returns to London, boy does she go for it. She’s decided that she’s a new, independent woman of the early twenties, so her wardrobe has changed to reflect all that.
Are any of the characters’ wardrobes inspired by historical figures?
Well, for Violet Crawley—she’s played by Maggie Smith—we looked a lot at Queen Alexandra and what she was wearing. She was the same age as Maggie Smith’s character in the same time period, and she was very glamorous. But she had a particular style. Queen Alexandra was an Edwardian woman, and her wardrobe and her silhouette remained as such during the twenties, but she still had a little pizzazz about her. That’s what I’ve tried to give Maggie. Alexandra always had stunning hats, and she always wore a high collar. Maggie’s silhouette has been more or less the same throughout the whole series—the fabrics and the trims have changed, but the silhouette of her clothing will not. However, a character like Martha Levinson [played by Shirley MacLaine] is desperate to keep up with fashion, even if she’s slightly older in years. She wants to stay young.
How important is historical accuracy when you’re designing these costumes? Do you take any liberties?
We try to create something that’s as true to the time as possible. There are looks this season that people will think are not right, they’ll think they’re ahead of their time, but they’re not. We do a lot of research—I look at books and magazines from the time, and I visit Cosprop, a costume house in London where they have a museum of original clothes. Going through original pieces helps me understand the way things were constructed and the differences, the little nuances, that changed from one year to the next. But obviously you can’t be slavish to the period because you can’t only use original clothes. The fabrics are too fragile. However, when we make new costumes, we make them as closely as possible to what they would have been. Continue Reading “Caroline McCall Talks Dressing Downton Abbey for the 1920s” »
From the time she launched her new, self-titled album at 12:01 a.m.—without any warning, press, leaks, or buildup buzz—today has been the Day of Beyoncé. The new Beyoncé features fourteen tracks and a full seventeen videos. One in particular has caught the attention of the Bey Hive: “‘Yonce,” which stars not only Bey, but also three of the fashion world’s top models—Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, and Chanel Iman—in an homage of sorts to George Michael’s famous supermodel-filled “Freedom ’90″ video. Director, video artist, and co-head of creative at Supreme, Ricky Saiz, shot the video over two days in Brooklyn. “When I started to propose ideas and put together a visual narrative, Beyoncé responded really well,” he said. “She was open to me pushing a bit, and to trying new things, and I didn’t want it to be overproduced. I didn’t want a performance video, which is like jazz hands. This was more like an upskirt.”
“Upskirt” does set the racy tone. Saiz was inspired by Daido Moriyama’s erotic photographs as well as the iconic George Michael Video—and styled by Karen Langley, the cast dons an array of revealing outfits, including a black Anthony Vaccarello dress (for Dunn) and a bondage-inspired molded bodysuit from Tom Ford’s tenure at YSL (for Beyoncé).
Here, Saiz talks to Style.com about the singer’s most smoldering video to date, what it was like working with the one of the world’s biggest stars and a trio of supermodels, and that time on set when Smalls decided to lick Beyoncé’s breast.
How did you come to work with Beyoncé on this in the first place?
It was very all of a sudden, actually. I have a working relationship with Todd Tourso, her creative director. We worked together on the 2011 Lady Gaga for Supreme campaign that we put together. He called me out of the blue and said they wanted me to do a video for them. Four days later, we did it. It was very fast, all of a sudden, and fun. I think Beyoncé is an incredible artist—she has ability, reach, and doesn’t compromise. She’s always kind of done her own thing. But the project that they approached me with was very much in my lane, and my aesthetic. If they had me do a big, drawn-out, cinematic production kind of video, I probably wouldn’t have done as good of a job.
What was the brief that Beyoncé and her team gave you? What were they asking for?
They came with a pretty broad concept. They had the models in line, and wanted something pretty simple. The brief was in the direction of George Michael’s “Freedom” video. And I kind of took it from there. I felt like doing something really simple, handheld, lo-fi. It felt like an interesting way of doing it. It could come off so bland if filmed the other way. And again, I wanted to explore her transgressive imagery. Things that were sexual and erotic, but not cliché. I didn’t want to see Beyoncé with her tongue out, you know?
How is this display of sexuality different from what Miley Cyrus does in “Wrecking Ball”?
Beyoncé is so sexy without having to do anything. I felt like she didn’t need to be wet, or need to twerk. It was more about a mature sense of eroticism, like what Madonna expressed in “Human Nature” in the nineties. A lot of the inspiration came from still photography. Like Daido Moriyama’s really tight close-ups of fishnets—things that felt abstract but still resonate.
What was Beyoncé’s reaction to your creative process? Was she very hands-on?
She’s incredible. She was very hands-on, and everything was a collaborative effort. I think once she saw my aesthetic and references in the styling and art direction, she had full trust in my ideas for the video. I’ve never worked with anyone that gave so much, and was so willing to try new things. For example, the styling; Karen Langley brought this Tom Ford [for YSL] molded-breast bodysuit with the pierced nipple, fishnets, and things like that. It was exactly the references that I was looking for, but in my head I was like, Yeah, right. We’re never getting Bey to put that on. And Beyoncé’s so incredible, she was like, “Let’s do it.” I don’t think anyone’s seen her like that. She was into it.
Do you have a sense of why Beyoncé tapped Jourdan, Joan, and Chanel for this project?
They came to me with these three women in mind. It just felt very of-the-moment, very iconic. You know, they’re all supermodels, they stand on their own, they’re such powerful women. And when brought together, it created a whole dynamic. We definitely weren’t trying to put together a “girl group.” But the chemistry on set was amazing. People just came in really excited about the project, and I tried to keep things loose and fun. I wanted you to see something you maybe weren’t supposed to see.
The “Freedom” video worked because the girls were supermodelséthe first generation of so-called supers, in fact. Do you see these women as the new generation?
Absolutely. I think that in addition to being extremely beautiful, they have their own characters, and their own personalities that they brought to the table. They were anything but casted models.
Did you have any favorite moments on set?
When Joan Smalls licked Beyoncé’s boob. I’m probably not going to forget that anytime soon. To be honest, I didn’t even see it happen. I was in between monitors. I saw it in playback. My director of photography came up to me and was like, “Oh, my God, did you see that?” It was totally spontaneous. [Smalls] just went in. It was fun. We had a good time.