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211 posts tagged "Alexander McQueen"

Why I Loved Louise Wilson: Katharine K. Zarrella Remembers What It Was Like to Be Taught by the Fearsome, Brilliant, and Irreplaceable Fashion Educator

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Louise WilsonI woke up to a devastating e-mail from Roger Tredre, my Central Saint Martins graduate tutor, this morning. “Louise Wilson has died,” read the subject line. “This is a great shock,” the message continued. “A very sad day.” Wilson, the revered Central Saint Martins Fashion MA course director, passed away in her sleep on Friday night. She was 52.

It is a sad day. Not only for the Saint Martins students fortunate enough to have been yelled at by the at once feared and adored professor, but for the fashion industry as a whole. Wilson, who was known to have some, let’s call them “unorthodox” teaching methods (screaming profanities was the least of it), helped mold many of the most brilliant design talents of the last twenty years. Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou, and more all at one point stood (and probably cried) in her whitewashed office, the walls of which were covered in thank-you notes from graduates and heavy-hitting designers like Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz. He was a friend of Wilson’s who often came to speak at the school at her request. Such was the irreplaceable educator’s influence in the industry: While she was a force to be reckoned with—and a terrifying one at that—she was beloved by alums and movers and shakers alike. No one said no to Louise Wilson—not because they were afraid to, but because they didn’t want to.

I studied on the journalism pathway of the Central Saint Martins Fashion MA from 2010 until my graduation in 2012. And while I refused to admit it at the time, I was scared shitless of Louise. I remember the first day of my two-year stint at the school, when she walked into a room filled with aspiring journalists and designers and invited them to ask her questions about the course and the industry in general. It took a good while for anyone to come forward, thanks to Wilson’s famously intimidating presence. Eventually, I sheepishly raised my hand and inquired about her thoughts on a pair of American designers who were particularly hot at the moment. She leaned on the desk, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Not much,” before taking the next question.

That was Louise’s way, both in conversation and education. She was refreshingly blunt, funny in the borderline offensive way that only the English can be, and had the ability to teach you more about not only fashion, but life in one terse sentence than most could in a decade. All eight of the students on my course initially thought Louise hated us. And who knows, in the beginning, she may have. She told us that we were “visually blind,” that we spat out too many words without saying anything, and, as a classmate noted today, she taught us that we needed to go to the design studio, not just the classroom, to learn how to be good fashion journalists.

I’ll never forget when I walked into her office to present the first draft of our class newspaper, The Central Saint Martins Journal, which was set to be distributed during the Fall ’12 CSM graduate show at London fashion week. Needless to say, she had her reservations (we were visually blind, after all) and wanted to ensure our work was fit to sit alongside that of her designers. At first, it wasn’t. She told me that the draft looked like a “venereal disease,” and proceeded to scream about writers’ lack of attention to aesthetics and the poor state of journalism for a solid forty-five minutes before dismissing me. After weeks of deliberating and arguing, the class decided that Louise’s disapproval only made us want our paper more.

She was surprised to see us back at her office door two months later, a second draft in hand. With a little guidance, we finally got her stamp of approval (we weren’t allowed to use any images, and our cover was blank, but that’s beside the point), and the final result still sits on my bookshelf. At the CSM show’s after-party, Louise gave me a hug, put her hands on my shoulders, and said, “Did you see it? It was on the seats!” before walking up the stairs of the since-shuttered London outpost of Le Baron nightclub.

That’s another thing about Louise. She didn’t wash her hands of you after you stepped off campus. Until her death, she attended many of her students’ fashion shows—I’d always see her backstage in London offering praise and, sometimes, advice to the likes of Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll, and Simone Rocha. She may have tortured them at Saint Martins, but she was there for them until the end. “She was a truly brilliant teacher because she showed students how to make ordinary work into extraordinary work, and took them on the journey with her,” recalls Tredre. “It was tough love all the way with Louise, but that tough love was, she believed, the best preparation for the real world.”

But it wasn’t just that Louise wanted her students to be prepared for the unforgiving beast that is the fashion industry—she wanted them to put their whole selves, and their best selves, into each stitch of their designs. She hated unnecessary flash; privileged, unwarranted arrogance; and, most of all, laziness. Nothing but heartfelt, sweat-infused perfection was allowed on the CSM fashion week runway. And given the caliber of collections we’ve seen year after year, her high standards paid off.

While I wasn’t as close to Louise as her design students, I still can’t begin to list all that she taught me. We don’t have the bandwidth. One thing I will say, though, is that her approach was flawless. For instance, during my final year, I needed to interview her for a story. She thought my questions were absolute crap and, as punishment, gave me only one-word responses. (Even so, they were some of the best answers I’ve gotten in my journalistic career.) Ever since, when preparing for an interview, I think to myself, Would Louise answer this? before settling on a query.

“There’s a phrase, ‘All fur coat and no knickers,’” Louise told me during a 2011 interview for Style.com. “Saint Martins has always focused on the knickers.” With that in mind, I’d like to say thank you, Louise, for helping me, and so many others, find our knickers.

Photo: Dave M. Benett/ Getty Images

About Those V. Stiviano Visors…

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V. StivianoIt’s a funny thing, the connection between protection and clothing. On the most basic level, jackets, trousers, glasses, hats, et al. defend us from the elements. But sometimes, it’s the most superfluous accouterment that can make us feel invincible. Such is the case, to some extent, with V. Stiviano, the mistress of disgraced racist Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and her iridescent visors. No doubt you’ve seen photographs of her donning the accessory out and about in L.A. following the scandal in which Sterling forbade her from publicizing her friendships with black people. In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, Stiviano conceded that the full-face visors, which she owns in a myriad of hues, make it “easier to mask the pain.” Fair enough. And it’s not as though she’s the first visible public figure to hide behind headgear—you’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity, mid-scandal or not, who hasn’t shielded themselves from prying eyes via giant sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, hooded sweatshirts, or the like. But visage-enveloping visors are indeed an extreme—second only, perhaps, to the deeply bizarre black mask Leonardo DiCaprio sported at last year’s Venice Biennale. (Nothing says “under-the-radar” like channeling Darth Vader.)

“In the past, wearing things like visors or veils was more out of modesty, or maybe a sense of propriety,” explained The Museum at FIT’s associate curator of accessories, Colleen Hill. She cites the large-brimmed “poke” bonnets of the 1830s as an example. “In my opinion, they were an item of propriety. Not only did they shield the woman’s face from the sun, but they also provided a sense of security,” she told Style.com. “Today, [something like a visor], for celebrities in particular, acts as a psychological veil. Even if it’s something that’s transparent, it does create that little bit of a barrier. Making eye contact is such a personal thing, I think that is part of [face coverings'] appeal.”

Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen visors

Thanks to her shield, Stiviano has essentially been hiding from swarms of paparazzi in plain sight. But what’s funny is that while she’s sporting these visors as an invisibility cloak of sorts, they only make her more conspicuous. To wit, she’s more infamous now than before she broke out the accessory. And apparently, her Daft Punkian method of pseudo-protection has ignited somewhat of a visor boom. “We sold out this morning, and we’re waiting on a new shipment,” offered Gingie McLeod, the founder of Tribeca’s SaintChic store and label, which produces and carries Stiviano’s new staple, aptly dubbed the Paparazzi Visor. “They’re actually designed for tennis and hiking—for function. But people have been calling nonstop asking if this is the V. Stiviano visor and if it will cover their whole face or if anyone will be able to see them.” Before the craze began, McLeod had sold only four of the accessories.

Kanye west

Surely, Stiviano wasn’t aiming to start a trend with her quasi-disguise (or heck, maybe she was, though I seriously considered shelving my Chanel 2.55 after seeing a photo of her carrying a similar style). And certainly, part of this newfound visor obsession is in jest. (McLeod told us she just got a call from someone throwing a Stiviano-themed party.) But in truth, this perplexing “don’t look at me but do” mode of dressing has deep roots. Investigating visors alone, you might look back to Pierre Cardin or Paco Rabanne’s futuristic plastic shields from the 1960s, featured in numerous fashion shoots. More recently, there was Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga’s giant Spring ’12 visor (inspired by an archival 1967 Balenciaga wedding hat), which completely covered the face and eyes. However, those who wore it, like Anna Dello Russo, attracted hoards of street-style paps. Same goes for Alexander McQueen’s mammoth Fall ’12 shades. Maison Martin Margiela’s couture masks should also be considered here: On the runway, they create a sense of uniform anonymity, yet on the street, they allow one to hide in style. But do MMM mask fans like Lady Gaga or Kanye West really want us to look away from their haute veils? Unlikely, particularly since West often wears his onstage. More than a striking visual, it has been interpreted as his commentary on fame, and it seems apt for someone who is both more open and uncensored than most celebrities and yet also a man of mystery.

Perhaps the trend is a sign of the times—not unlike our social media avatars, these outré shields afford us the opportunity to put ourselves out there without any risk of full-frontal exposure. They’re a superficial cushion—a buffer between the wearer and the outside world. Or maybe they’re just an ever-so-slightly less obvious plea for attention than the selfie. If that’s the case, let’s hope for a total transition—I’d rather look at an off-the-wall mask than an ill-angled iPhone snap any day.

Photos: Getty Images; Indigitalimages.com; Tommy Ton

Shop The Look: Eyelet Awakening

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Eyelet

Though we’re hesitant to use the word “normcore,” our summer shopping list consists of pure, easy basics. Think straight-leg white jeans, crisp popover shirts, and the perfect flat sandal. Simplicity is the move. However, we’re also the first to admit that summer presents an opportunity to have fun with your wardrobe—who can say no to the bold colors, lush prints, and embellished bags to accent those sleek warm weather wares? Everyone needs balance in their lives, so for simple basics with a little something extra, we’re inspired by girly, retro eyelet styles. From a navy broderie skirt to a must-have laser-cut bag, the sweet design is a fun and youthful departure from the expected. Shop our favorite eyelet pieces by Alaia, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Madewell, and more, below.

1. MICHAEL Michael Kors eyelet-cotton top, $100, available at net-a-porter.com

2. Madewell oversized Hepcat shades, $55, available at madewell.com

3. Alexander McQueen bonded laser-cut cotton skirt, $4,088, available at matchesfashion.com

4. Tabitha Simmons floral Leticia sandal, $695, available at editorialist.com

5. Alaïa New Vienne laser-cut leather bucket bag, $1,365, available at matchesfashion.com

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Catherine Middleton: Duchess of the Decks

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The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Tour Australia And New Zealand

More pseudo-news—sartorial and otherwise—unfolds as the Royals continue their Australian tour. Today, Kate Middleton joined the ranks of social butterflies-cum-music mavens like Chelsea Leyland, Hannah Bronfman, Harley Viera-Newton, and Mia Moretti after being taught how to DJ at an Australian youth center. Naturally, this all happened while she was donning a baby pink McQueen suit. Maybe The Misshapes will ring the Palace if they’re looking to turn their trendy trio into a titled quartet. Then again, maybe they won’t.

Photo: Getty Images 

Happy Birthday, Dear Outnet: Celebrating Five Years of Designer Deals

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“Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” Thanks to The Outnet, that phrase rarely leaves our lips—when it comes to shopping regrets, at least. The designer discount site operated by Net-a-Porter brings you the best pieces from seasons past, meaning not only can you snag those Alexander Wang shoes you sorely missed out on, but you can get them for a bargain, too. To celebrate its fifth birthday, The Outnet is reissuing some of its top designers’ greatest hits—think Alexander McQueen’s patent bow clutch, J.W. Anderson’s paisley top, and Roland Mouret’s iconic wool dress. It also put together an adorable video, above, debuting exclusively here on Style.com. Chic shoppers like Alexandra Richards, Leigh Lezark, Garance Doré, Leandra Medine (who just filmed her own video series for Style.com), and Harley Viera-Newton discuss their favorite pieces while grooving to our new favorite jam, “Love Letters” by Metronomy. “Balmain for me is the Parisian brand,” Doré insists. As for Viera-Newton, “Oscar de la Renta is the dream” and Jason Wu is for “the confident, strong woman.” If you want to look “adorable,” Lezark suggests Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s pastel pencil skirt. We’ll take it from the experts. The full collection will be available only at TheOutnet.com starting April 29—killer dance moves not included.