6 posts tagged "Melitta Baumeister"
Unfortunately, The Hills‘ opinionated but not terribly enlightened Kristin Cavallari launches her new fashion show, The Fabulist, on E! tonight. This morning, Fashionista tapped into an interesting conversation: What on earth gives celebrities such as Cavallari the gall to knight themselves fashion experts? The story’s headline asked, “Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics?” And while the article went on to defend reputable, old-school journalists, like Style.com’s own Tim Blanks, it seemed to imply that the public may be inclined to turn to celebrities as their go-to fashion reviewers rather than, well, actual critics.
Celebrities’ fashion thoughts are often (but, of course, not always) molded by their skilled stylists and sponsors. And while Fashionista did not suggest that stars are the educated voice of fashion reason, it did refer to them as fashion critics. This caused me to raise an eyebrow, and it leads us to the question: What is a fashion critic? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a fashion critic is an informed, hopefully unbiased individual who can discuss a collection’s or garment’s merits and/or downfalls in both a broader fashion context and, more important, a broader cultural context. It takes a certain knowledge base to do that.
During a 2010 interview with Style.com’s editor in chief Dirk Standen, Cathy Horyn noted, “Right now we have a lot of people who are coming at [fashion journalism] from left field, and they can have some really wonderful insights into fashion and they can see it from their generation, which is fantastic…But then there’s also just the question of the knowledge about it, the span of time, so you can make judgments and conclusions that reflect the sense of history.” I hardly think that Kerry Washington can do that while judging Project Runway. Kelly Osbourne certainly doesn’t do it on Fashion Police, and even the savvy Rihanna doesn’t bring that kind of expertise to the table on her show, Styled to Rock. Celebrities’ commentary about the sartorial coups or disasters we see on the red carpet or reality TV are indeed entertaining, but criticism isn’t merely about cutting takedowns and gushing praise—it’s about the bigger picture.
“Traditional criticism set standards, so traditional critics wielded enormous amounts of power,” Tim Blanks once told me. “But the role of fashion criticism now is to express an opinion as lucidly, as graphically, and as entertainingly as you can.”
Stars are undoubtedly fashion influencers—just look at how Rihanna’s choice to wear Melitta Baumeister and Hyein Seo in Paris raised the up-and-comers’ profiles. But critics? Hardly. Now, I’m not saying that celebrity, or general, opinions are invalid or unimportant. I’m just saying that they’re not criticism. There is room for all sorts of musings—and all are welcome. The viewpoints of celebrities, consumers, style obsessives, critics, and beyond all work together to create a narrative, however, looking back thirty years from now, Cavallari’s comment during E!’s Oscars preshow that “Lupita has been killing it this season” won’t really tell us anything.
Will the general public gravitate toward celebrities rather than journalists for criticism? Sure, they’ll tune in to TV shows and celeb Twitter accounts to be amused (it is funny watching Joan Rivers rip apart red-carpet looks), but if they want the facts, they’ll come to the critics. As Vanessa Friedman told me in an interview last week, “There will always be a need for some sort of analysis and an informed opinion, and despite all the white noise and opinions we see on social media, people still want real information and facts.” I have to believe that this hunger for knowledge isn’t in spite of fashion’s increasing presence and importance in popular and celebrity culture, it’s because of it.
We need to be careful how we throw around the phrase “fashion critic.” Let’s not do to it what fashion writing has done to “iconic” or “chic”—that is to say, make it meaningless. Because what critics write does have meaning, and purpose, and I’d like to keep it that way.
Instagram has dubbed Paris fashion week #PaRih. Why? Because while trotting from one show to the next, the pop sensation has completely stolen the style spotlight. That sophisticated gray look she wore to Lanvin? That sheer fishnet number she rocked post-Balmain? The cherry red fur she donned at Dior? We’ll go so far as to say she’s been flawless through and through. Team Style.com’s favorite outfit, however, was the one she sported to Comme des Garçons. It was a mash-up of wares by three emerging talents: Adam Selman (her River Island co-designer), Melitta Baumeister, and Hyein Seo. The latter two were featured in the VFiles Made Fashion show in February, and Riri’s choice to wear Baumeister’s oversize pleather jacket and Seo’s faux-fur “Fear” stole will no doubt help catapult these up-and-comers to stardom. “I think it was our best look of the week,” Rihanna’s stylist, Mel Ottenberg, told Style.com. “Melitta’s coat was one of the greatest coats of the season, even if a lot of people haven’t heard of her yet. That whole collection blew my mind. And Hyein Seo; I was flipping through Style.com, showed Rihanna pictures, and she loved it. She was totally amazed and wanted to wear the fur with a look from Adam [Selman]‘s collection.”
Naturally, the designers are over the moon about bad gal Riri scooping up their Fall ’14 styles. “It’s a reassurance that you’re doing something that people are reacting to,” said Baumeister, who has also dressed Lady Gaga. “And Rihanna is such a great star to wear it. It really proves that the collection is relevant to what’s going on right now.”
VFiles founder and CEO Julie Anne Quay shared Baumeister’s excitement—after all, she helped select Baumeister and Seo for the fashion platform’s Fall runway romp. “Rihanna wearing those designers shows that she believes in the next generation and the future of fashion,” Quay said. “And the fact that she would go to a Comme des Garçons show in that, where everyone around her is wearing Comme or Chanel, I mean, that’s a statement.”
When asked if that statement was intentional, Ottenberg offered, “When there’s a great moment to chose something unknown, it makes us really happy for the designer. It’s fun to do something that not everybody else is doing. Comme des Garçons is a huge supporter of young talent, and it felt right. It was one of those chances to do whatever we wanted.”
As for the future plans of Riri’s rising stars, Selman is storming the fashion sphere after his breakout sophomore presentation last month; Seo is wrapping up her master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp; and Baumeister is aiming to hold her debut solo show next New York fashion week. “I hope it will be possible. I’m just going to have to make it happen somehow,” said the Parsons M.A. fashion grad. We have a feeling that she’ll persevere.
Back in September VFiles launched the raucous runway rave that is its user-generated fashion show. Last time around, the jam-packed affair afforded four emerging brands (chosen by the online community’s users and a panel of VFiles judges) the chance to present their Spring ’14 collections at New York fashion week. “We believe in the future of fashion,” VFiles founder Julie Anne Quay told us after the inaugural outing. “And the future of fashion is online.”
VFiles’ experiment continues for Fall ’14, and today, Style.com can exclusively reveal the three rising stars who’ve been voted into the sophomore show. First up is Melitta Baumeister. We initially met this German-born, New York-based talent last season when she opened the Parsons MFA runway with an impressive collection of sculptural white silicone looks. She’ll be joined by ASSK, a cerebral, Paris-based streetwear label by Australians Sarah Schofield and Agatha Kowalewski, and Hyein Seo, a South Korean womenswear designer who’s currently pursuing her master’s in fashion at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In addition to sending their Fall ’14 collections down the catwalk at Eyebeam Studios, the three lucky winners will be flown to New York pre-fashion week to receive mentoring from famed stylists Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele and Mel Ottenberg. Check back in on February 5 to view our full coverage of the VFiles fashion show—and if it’s anything like last season’s, we’re in for a wild treat.