THE FIRST PROOF
Every experience has a visual and experiential representation through photography, illustration, product, video, digital, and physical environments. THE FIRST PROOF is another look at the formation of these experiences, focusing equally on creation and creator. It serves as an analysis of the creative inputs and outputs, and its influence.

Observations on fashion, art, design, and creativity. 

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Wednesday
Oct112017

Creative Director Debuts S’18

We review the designer debuts for S’18. There are a few inputs to judging a new creative’s work - the history and codes, the previous creative director's impact, and where the brand and industry stands today. Those key influences determine how far they can innovate, not just personally but from a business perspective. Our thoughts, in order of success:
 
Chloé / Natacha Ramsay-Levi
Ms. Ramsay-Levi was previously at Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. She follows a slew of designers who have held the position at Chloé -  Martine Sitbon, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Hannah MacGibbon, and most recently Clare Waight Keller.
 
It looks like Chloé will continue with a new and reenergized person after a successful run with Clare Waight Keller. This was the debut of the season, no doubt. Was it groundbreaking, no. That is ok; it was a starting point that bridged codes and previous creative direction.  If one ever wonders how to make a house their own, this would be it. The brand codes of femininity and lightness were intact. There was no reversal Ms. Waight Keller’s work. But with the introduction of masculine and tailored elements, it felt youthful and new. There was a great balance. The Chloé girl felt a little tougher, a little more street. Certain moments echoed her previous positions (specifically the Ghesquière era Louis Vuitton) with the proportions and material combinations, but there were also moments that reminded us of great ideas from Karl Lagerfeld era Chloé. Ms. Ramsay-Levi will evolve, this is her first position as a creative lead for a brand and she shows great promise by building on a good thing. Because the brand isn't broken the important element isn’t what it looks like but how it feels - this felt confident. 
 
 
Jil Sander / Lucie and Luke Meier 
This couple has worked at the biggest and the best - collectively this list would include Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Supreme as well as establishing OAMC.
 
The quiet nature of the Jil Sander brand never left. Even under Raf Simons and Rodolfo Paglialunga, minimalism was maintained. With Lucie and Luke Meier, these codes remain intact with tailoring, shirting, suiting. But there was a lightness; it did not feel like uniforms. There was also a thoughtfulness to the inspirations which is lacking these days - the bible book bags, the fringe that echoed tzitzis, and monk-like sandals. It was a good start. The brand DNA of is about precision in detailing, fabrication, and silhouette. Jil Sander is not about trends and embellishments, and that takes guts and clarity to stay steady in a Gucci-fied world. Is there an audience for such quiet thoughtfulness? We hope so. The collection was a refreshing contrast to the pile on of details seen everywhere else. 
 
What they can do is take cues from Mr. Simons’ approach - modernity and quietness come in many forms, and so does the definition of femininity. Take a look at Jil’s Sander S’11 and F’12; it doesn’t have to be restricted to shirts and suits to tell the Jil Sander story or to enforce a sharper image of femininity.
 
 
Givenchy / Clare Waight Keller
Probably the most anticipated transition of the season. It is interesting to think about two brands and one designer - Chloé and Givenchy, and Clare Waight Keller. She had a very successful six-year run at the former, but she is up against twelve years of Riccardo Tisci’s success of the latter.
 
One of the core elements that Mr. Tisci injected into Givenchy was a connection to streetwear. It isn’t that he abandoned the richness in technique, he made some impeccable and intricate clothes when revisiting the couture collections under his direction. With Ms. Waight Keller, the streetwear approach is all about to change. It is going to be hard to imagine Givenchy ever partnering with an athletics brand under her direction. The closest connection was with the infusion of denim into the collection, a very big trend for the season.
 
It is important to discuss Chloé and Givenchy. Chloé in Ms. Ramsay-Levi’s hands got tougher, and Givenchy in Ms. Waight Keller’s more feminine. Oddly, both brands now focused on the same woman. They look to be interchangeable. Was there anything wrong with the Givenchy collection? There were no big mistakes. But it did lack punch. If a woman walks into a shop and sees both these collections, who would she buy? Maybe a little of both, or maybe Isabel Marant instead. That is unfortunately how safe this was.
 
Going back to Mr. Tisci, if there is one lesson that Ms. Waight Keller can learn is codes no longer exist for Givenchy - the Alexander McQueen period at the brand tried. Mr. McQueen kept closer to what is expected, and it didn't work. Archives do not matter here anymore - a lesson to be learned from Balenciaga as well. It is ok to rewrite the rules. She is going to have to push harder to find her voice at Givenchy. Would anyone ever have imagined Doberman printed sweatshirts and skirts on men at Givenchy? What Mr. Tisci also mastered is the ability to put on a show which becomes an event, this is now a part of the brand’s past that Ms. Waight Keller will have to contend with.
 
How well this collection does at retail is going to be the deciding factor. There is a more relatable quality to the accessories and clothes, specifically the women's collection. Does that make a vision? Not quite, but money talks. 
 
As for the men's portion of the presentation, we now have someone to fill Hedi Slimane’s shoes.
 
 
Cavalli / Paul Surridge
Talk about a reversal in direction. Peter Dundas and his seventies boho inspirations are completely stripped away. Things must have been troubled at Cavalli that they needed a palette cleanser this extreme.
 
Roberto Cavalli is Paul Surridge’s womenswear debut. He comes from a menswear background and has worked at Prada, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, and Z Zegna. The surprise here was the tailored and streamlined approach. The degree of change was attention-grabbing. It is the Narciso Rodriguez iteration of Cavalli. There is the power and sexiness of a very modern woman. The ostentatious components were sent packing. The only element that connected this to Cavalli's past are the prints which worked well with cleaner and more uncomplicated silhouettes.
 
Is the Cavalli clientele ready for something that doesn’t border on bad taste? We certainly hope so. Some brands need to take leaps to move the eye and change perspective, and that Mr. Surridge did, but it will be a re-education of their woman and a widening of Mr. Surridge’s vocabulary that will make this gamble succeed. We hope he is given the time to do just that.
 
 
Carven - Serge Ruffieux
Mr. Ruffieux is another designer with a connection to Lucie Meier and Raf Simons at Dior. He started with the Resort '18 season at Carven, but this is Serge Ruffieux's first presentation.
 
Let’s start off this review by saying, what is Carven? Carmen de Tornasso, aka Carven, isn’t a name that most people remember. Known for embellished sportswear with a travel inspiration is as much of codes that can be deciphered from history. But again, does anyone remember what these mean to the name? What is most remembered is Guillaume Henry’s recent youthful revival. He took sportswear and interpreted this in a modern contemporary way. It was of-the-moment. There was a sense of fast fashion, but it worked.
 
Mr. Ruffieux's collection did feel sporty at times (the draped polos specifically), and the prints brought a sense of travel, and had moments that were tricky and bordered on Marni territory. What were standouts were the playful accessories and shoes - the ethnic tassel details and printed bucket bags are great. In totality, it was not enough to build on what Mr. Henry made. What is worth considering - more personal input as there are none to reference. Of all the opportunities to make a mark, this one is a clean slate which Mr. Ruffieux can take advantage of.
 
  
Emanuel Ungaro / Marco Colagrossi
Giles Deacon. Esteban Cortazar. Fausto Puglisi. Just a few names who have taken a pass at Emanuel Ungaro. And there was Estrella Archs and Lindsay Lohan. Has time caught up with the brand to let Marco Colagrossi succeed?
 
Mr. Colagrossi’s experience includes working with Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. Femininity and soft tailoring come to mind. Ungaro is a brand known for florals, prints, draping. Did he bring all of this this to his first collection, yes. The second half of the collection was lighter and fresher. He does have to keep in mind that the brand (an eventuality for Lanvin as well) is at a point where the audience may not believe that there is relevance. And in a season where there was a mash-up of floral and other pattern pairings, Ungaro didn’t take advantage or reinvent their signature. When bubbles shapes were coming back, they forgot that too. Is he up on what is top of mind? Timing is everything. He may have consciously played down these components Mr. Colagrossi needs to realize that license to take these design elements and run where ever he wants is what the brand needs.
 
The best solution is to go against the grain. Take a cue from Roberto Cavalli and move the direction to the opposite of what is expected. Learn from the success at Balenciaga. Don’t hold on to what is supposed to be sacred. And by doing so Ungaro will send a message that something new is happening versus a variation of what has already been created.
 
 
Lanvin / Olivier Lapidus
Let’s get straight to the point; this didn’t feel like fashion, it felt like clothes. Let’s also just state the big question, where is this brand going?
 
Alber Elbaz established a modern hyper-femininity. Bouchra Jarrar brought a masculinity. Mr. Lapidus was not much of anything. On paper, Olivier Lapidus has a pedigree with Balmain Homme and his tenure at his father’s Lapidus house. But that was long ago. He was appointed the position in August, and for anyone who watched the “Dior and I” documentary about Raf Simons’ arrival at Dior, there are clear pressures. Not minimal enough, masculine enough, feminine enough. What is his point of view? Result - it just wasn’t enough. And given how much time Ms. Jarrar was given, Mr. Lapidus needs to make everyday count.
 
Romance was a component of Lanvin. Bows, pearls, pleats, georgette, embellishment, and embroidery. If Mr. Lapidus wants to negate these details, that is ok. He reintroduced logos, a more commercial element which informs us that he is aware of what is happening at this time, though we have to wonder if it works for Lanvin. Is there a commercial value in this and will it excite anyone to return to the brand. The answer is no. Mr. Lapidus needs to dig deeper. With something cleaner and minimal it has to be strong enough to erase the images that his predecessors created. Spring '18 was not that. Imagine if his clean shapes were fully encrusted with pearls. Take the bows and exaggerate these to a shocking level on pants or blouses.
Sadly the problem is also business and brand. It is an obvious solve these days to find a new artistic director but what is the brand and business goal?
 
Can they just bring back Alber Elbaz? Imagine the news and attention that this will create?
 
 

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