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July 30 2014

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Assessing Alexander Wang’s Fall Campaign

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Alexander Wang
wang

Coming soon to the billboard on the corner of Lafayette and Prince Streets in Soho: Alexander Wang’s new Fall ’14 campaign, which will also appear in select print publications. Similar to Wang’s Spring ads, the new images strike a balance between naïveté and explicitness, channeling a subtle, naughty schoolgirl vibe. Steven Klein shot the series at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. When it comes to models, Wang and casting director Anita Bitton definitely like to play favorites. This time around, they brought back Anna Ewers (the star of the label’s Spring ’14 campaign, who also turned up on the designer’s arm at the CFDA Awards back in June) and Wang’s new model muse, Vanessa Moody, who opened both his Fall show and Balenciaga. Other fresh faces appearing in the Fall ads include Lexi Boling, Katlin Aas, and Kat Hessen.

Photo: Steven Klein

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Not All One-Pieces Are Created Equal

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swimsuit-blogIt’s no secret we’re big fans of a good one-piece swimsuit. Most devotees will say that a woman in a maillot oozes elegance and class, and Princess Deena Al-Juhani Abdulaziz recently noted that, “historically, women who wear one-pieces have always had better taste.” However, last week we spotted some versions on the Miami Swim Week runways that were not so worthy of this favorable description. While many of the trends left us eager to grab our SPF and head to the beach, a barrage of questionable swimwear stomped down the runway, proving that not all one-pieces are created equal. Some renditions appeared to channel sexed-up rodeo clowns, and others would have made more sense in Fifty Shades of Grey than the beach. Sparkling stars and bondage straps at the shore? Try explaining those tan lines.

Via HuffingtonPost.

Photos: Getty Images

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The CFDA Acquires the Fashion Calendar

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2014 CFDA Fashion Awards - Inside Arrivals

The CFDA announced this morning that it has acquired the Fashion Calendar. The Calendar’s Ruth Finley and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb signed an agreement this past Tuesday. The move comes on the heels of show-schedule doyenne Finley earning the CFDA’s Board of Directors Tribute Award. Her decision to pass the reins comes after helming the famous pink biweekly paper for 65 years, dating back to her days as a student at Simmons College in the forties. “My original thought was to keep my business in my family, but it turned out I didn’t have any granddaughters who were interested in doing it,” Finley told WWD. “Therefore, as a family business, it wasn’t going to work. That basically changed the whole approach. I felt the CFDA was the ideal solution for keeping it going, and I hope it goes on for another 65 years.”

Finley will stay on in the capacity of an adviser, and the Fashion Calendar will continue to exist as a subscription service under the same name. The unified entity won’t make its debut until the Fall ’15 shows, formally going into effect on October 1 and allowing a few months for a smooth transition before February.

There’s cautious optimism that the merger will resolve some of the myriad problems with NYFW’s current chockablock agenda. A veritable minefield of nearly 400 events and overlapping shows, it leaves many an editor and buyer Uber-ing frantically from Milk Studios to the “tents” at Lincoln Center. Here’s hoping the Fashion Calendar’s weighty heritage and CFDA’s 21st-century capabilities make for a winning combo and a more streamlined schedule.

Photo: Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com

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Supermodel Liya Kebede Talks Lemlem’s Evolution

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Mothers Day Carnival in Support of BORN FREE Africa - Hosted by VOGUE, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, LIYA KEBEDE, JOHN MEGRUE, WANGECHI MUTU, and CLAIRE DANESHaving spent roughly half her life in the fashion biz, Liya Kebede has come a long way in the industry since leaving Ethiopia at the age of 18 to model in Paris. In the following decades, Kebede has established herself as a bona fide icon—not only as a “super” still busy with runway and editorial work, but additionally as a philanthropist/advocate for maternal health and an emerging entrepreneur. Back in 2007, she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Lemlem, as a way to create new opportunities for the traditional weavers and artisans based in her hometown, Addis Ababa. The word lemlem means “to bloom” in Amharic and is also a nickname Kebede gave her 8-year-old daughter, Raee. Indeed, the line itself—comprised of beach-ready wares that are handwoven and embroidered in Africa—has been flourishing in a big way: Just this week, Kebede was announced as a new member of the CFDA.

Fresh off of the haute couture and menswear circuits (in Paris, she walked Dior and posed for pal Haider Ackermann’s presentation), Kebede joined Style.com to preview her new collection. At our appointment, the supermodel was the epitome of summertime casual in a gray T-shirt, striped Lemlem skirt, and canvas sneakers. While the has introduced new jersey and merino wool categories in recent seasons, Resort ’15 focused on best-selling gauzy tunics, caftans, and scarves in vibrant hues. Kebede personally gravitates toward some of the more directional silhouettes, including strapless jumpsuits, raw-edged maxi ponchos, and long boy shorts. Our takeaway? Both Kebede and her beachy clothes are beautiful in every way. Read on below for five things we learned about Kebede and Lemlem.

Lemlem

1. Kebede started Lemlem on a whim:

“The whole thing came about when I was at home in Addis [Ababa] and walking around with the mayor. He wanted so much for me to do something, and I initially didn’t know how I could give back. We went through this big bazaar in Shola, where all the artisans work, but the market hadn’t been doing well because Ethiopian people are wearing machine-made outfits on an everyday basis and saving traditional clothes for special occasions like church or a wedding. We were talking about how amazing all these incredible weavers are, and that got me thinking that maybe I could start a line.”

2. Lemlem launched with kids’ clothes but is now primarily focused on womenswear:

“I had my kids back then already and thought it would be cute to start Lemlem as a children’s line because every mom would love a nicely handmade little dress for her daughter. Then every mom—including me—loved it so much we decided to make the clothes in larger sizes, which is when things really took off.”

3. Kebede maintains a close relationship with Lemlem’s artisans:

“I was most recently in Ethiopia in May. I actually went for my foundation [Liya Kebede Foundation], but every time I go there, I’m always multitasking. So we do the foundation thing for a few days, and then the family thing, and then we see the Lemlem weavers. It’s mostly men that weave, and the craft is passed down generationally, from father to son, father to son. But it’s women who hand-spin the cotton and do all the sewing. It’s been interesting to see how our weavers have grown to see Lemlem. When we first started with them, we were so demanding and they thought we were these, like, neurotic New Yorkers. It took a while to really gel and understand each other. Now they’re so proud of the product and exclusively want to work for Lemlem. It was great to see them last time all listening to the radio and throbbing to the music while they weaved.

4. Kebede believes there’s room in the market for both fast fashion and more conscious design.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about fast fashion versus slow fashion lately, and I think there’s space for it all to exist. If you want a Zara shirt, you want a Zara shirt. But I also believe that more and more people are becoming increasingly conscious of how and where their clothes are made. Aside from the fair labor aspect, many of our customers are simply coming to us for something that’s unique.”

5. Lemlem will continue to grow, but will always keep its roots in Africa.

“I really see Lemlem as a lifestyle brand and something that can ultimately be quite impactful. The whole motto of Lemlem is “Made in Ethiopia.” That will always be our signature and what makes our story a bit different. Even now as we’re introducing jersey and new categories, we’re going to stay true to our original Made in Africa mission. We want to prove ourselves and prove to the world that there’s a new destination for clothing production.”

Lemlem ($135 to $325) is carried by retailers including Barneys New York, Net-a-Porter, and Selfridges. For more information, visit www.lemlem.com.

Photos: BFAnyc; Courtesy Photos

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Michel Gondry Talks His New Film, His Surreal Visions, and The Importance of Cinematic Humanity

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Michel Gondry & Audrey TautouIf Michel Gondry’s films such as The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are known for the liberties they take with reality, his latest, Mood Indigo, fairly flies in the face of it. Following the acclaimed indie The We and the I (and 2011′s somewhat less-than-acclaimed blockbuster The Green Hornet), Gondry has returned to his native France and pulled out all the stops when it comes to art direction and sheer whiz-bang whimsy. His CV directing sumptuous music videos for the likes of the White Stripes and Kanye West lends much of his work a kinetic feel, and Mood Indigo is no exception.

Based on Boris Vian’s 1947 novel L’Écume des Jours, the film chronicles a well-to-do man’s (Romain Duris) fanciful courtship and marriage to the girl of his dreams (Audrey Tautou). But it’s not all elastic limbs, trips through Parisian skies in cloud-shaped vehicles, and boxcar races to the altar; things take a turn for the tragic when the story’s heroine is discovered to have a water lily growing in her lung.

We sat down with the director to talk his new flick, parenting a young artist, and actors who take home Oscars for the wrong reasons.

Do you consider yourself a dyed-in-the-wool romantic?
I think so. My father called me a pervers naïf. That’s not very romantic! I am romantic, [but] with a bit of weirdness to it.

You first read the novel that Mood Indigo is based on as a teenager. What was your initial connection to the text?
It described the world in the similar way that I was feeling. Very intimate, very detailed, and very intriguing in the way it treated physical phenomena, like lightning, or what water sounds like—stuff like that. Very romantic and very obsessed with death. That was appealing to me.

Did you always know you wanted to do something with L’Écume des Jours ?
Yeah, sort of. In fact, I had some images that stayed with me since I read it the first time, even though I had no idea I would become a director. Like this idea of the film starting in color and finishing in black and white—it’s the image I had when I read the book. But I had no ambition to make it a movie, because I had no idea how to use a camera at the time!

What are the greatest challenges of taking a text like that and turning it into a screenplay?
There were a lot of things that seemed to be overscaled, overly complicated, or technically challenging. I had to find ways to make them really come to life, to find an original way to construct them or to make them look in a similar way to the text. [The novel] was written by mixing words, sticking pieces of them together, so I did the same with objects. For instance, the car [a transparent limo in which the couple embark on their honeymoon]…it was a car stuck together, and it had to work. So making those physical objects based on these plays on words was really part of the challenge. It was really important to me. And, of course, carrying the love story of a tragedy through this crazy world.

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What is your process like with your production designer, Stéphane Rosenbaum? Do you come to him with ideas fully fleshed out?
I think I have a precise idea of what I want. Of course, he brings his vision too; he has a huge basement with tons of objects he collects, all these details and furniture, props, and we build a lot. So we try to imagine how it could work, then I have people working with mechanics or soldering—that brings them to life. It’s really fun to watch.

Did you always know this would be a film made in France, or did you ever entertain the idea of making it in the U.S.?
No, I think it had to be French, otherwise it would not be faithful to the spirit of the book. It’s a very French story. You can see the influence of American culture, but it’s important to see it through the eyes of the French author. You can tell there are some American references there, how American music influenced the way of life after the war in France. Jazz music was part of this particular heritage. This is really important to see through French culture. And surrealism was born in France, and even though Vian wasn’t really part of surrealism, he was on the edge of it.

Do have to be mindful to maintain a sense of humanity when you’re working with such fantastical stuff, or do you think that the storyline does that itself?

I think it’s very important for me to keep some humanity. We don’t shoot on a blue screen—we shoot with a back projection, a lot of lighting effects. It’s complicated, but it’s very important that I find a way of capturing the humanity of the actors. That’s been the most important thing to me since I started doing movies. Some directors, specifically from music video directing, they glorify the actor—they make the actor like a hero. That’s not what I do. For me, it was always the most important thing to feel as if the actor is my brother or my cousin; a very human connection that makes you feel natural and welcomed into a space with him, even if the film is being created from scratch. Some actors I’ve found are very renowned and very appreciated in America; I really don’t like them because they do too many tics and mimicry and imitations.

Can you name a specific example of that?
There are some actors who win Oscars for the wrong reasons, because they portray a character with a lot of transformation. I think a lot of times the Academy Awards get confused about what’s really important as an actor, all the effort it takes. They can’t appreciate a painting because there are a lot of details. Sometimes acting is like that, when they can do a lot of imitation, like when they portray a famous character, and it’s really an imitation. This is not acting to me. It’s a performance. You don’t bring a heart into the story. It doesn’t interest me.

MOOD_INDIGO_Underwater

Did you always have a clear vision of who would be your leads in the film?
In this film, yes. I always wanted to have Audrey, and then I had to find somebody who worked with her, and I thought my friend Romain would be perfect. But Audrey was the first person I imagined.

And I read that you’re working with her on another film; is that true?
Yes, she has a small part in my next project.

Can you speak at all about that?
It’s a movie I start to shoot in two to three weeks with two teenagers who are sort of outcasts in their school in France. They become very close friends and they decide to build their own car so they can drive across France for the holidays.

Your son [Paul Gondry] is an artist, yes?
Yeah. He makes art videos, and he has a collective called Tiny Leg, and they create movies and art and design.

What do you try most to impress upon him about the creative process, if anything?
I tried to stimulate him as much as I could when he was a kid, and he was super-talented at a very young age. I separated from his mother when he was 3, and I saw him regularly between 3 and 11. When he had issues with his mother, I said, “OK, you’re coming to New York to live with me, but there will be no TV, no computer games. You have to find other ways to entertain yourself.” So he started to do skateboarding, comic books, and he became super-creative. And now he’s very good with computers, but he didn’t waste his time doing video games. He’s always been creative. His mother works with us on movies—she’s a costume designer; she’s a great artist. I think he inherited [his creativity] from both of us. And he’s really a very accomplished artist. But I don’t try to interrupt him. Actually, I don’t really understand what he does; I think it has to go over my head, because he’s the next generation, so he has to be above me.

Photos: Getty/Courtesy of Drafthouse Films

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