being in hong kong in the 80’s, all the cool magazines were talking about east meets west. it seemed like an interesting concept back then. i was thinking maybe that was hong kong, a place where all the westerners would wear cheongsam (qipao), all the chinese would drive their mercedes benz in suits, and all the 5 stars hotels would have some vintage chinese teak furniture somewhere.
by late 80’s early 90’s, i got to study abroad at the states. and i could not find anyone talking about west meets east in new york. there are all different kinds of cultures coming and melting together, but everyone maintains their identity. the sushi restaurants were packed with westerners, but you would not see them wearing kimonos. then, what is my identity as a designer from hong kong? i realized that the marketing plot of east meets west is very damaging to the sense of belonging of all the hong kong people. maybe it could help selling a few more pieces of silk dresses from shanghai tang, but it could not be the foundation of an international brand. comparing it to prada, and you can easily see something missing in the dna of shanghai tang.
what is the east and what is the west anymore? modern technology and the internet in particular is making the world a much smaller place with information travelling with the speed of light. thus, the meeting of the 2 is no longer as interesting as it was 30 years ago. it is far more important now to maintain who we are in the east then to meeting the west. it is far more exciting to get to know more about our avant-garde artists in beijing and their works then to research about impressionism. and it is far more joyful to travel within the greater china area to gain a better understanding of us as a people then to visit the static european countries. we have been very curious about the outside world for the past 20 years, and it is time to keep that curiosity and turn it inward. what we might see could surprise ourselves.
(first published in the oct. 2010 issue of his life magazine)
thai film ’uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives’ won the top prize palme d’or at cannes today. it is a story about a dying man who engages in a conversation with an apparition of his late wife and his son who has reappeared in the form of a red-eyed monkey. i am sure it’s a pretty good movie. but i am also pretty sure there are more factors at work putting it over the top.
coco chanel once said: ‘i set the fashion for a quater of a century. why? because i knew how to express my own time’. the reverse is also valid. i am convince that the raise in the popularity of the korean movies, soap operas, and celebraties had more to do with north korea than people think - the whole (still ongoing) nukes episode had forced not just the north, but also the south korean onto the world consciousness.
writer/director apichatpong weerasethakul should have thanked the ‘red shirt’ demonstrators and his (idiotic) prime minister in his acceptance speech for making all these possible for him.
on the left, we have past tees from junk food.
on the right, we have the summer ’10 ut all stars by uniqlo.
i am pretty sure that’s not a co-incident. but uniqlo never claimed to be original. indeed, their mission statement is ‘to continuously provide fashionable, high quality, basic casual wear at the lowest prices in the market – casual wear that anybody can wear whenever and wherever.’ if you are in their way, then good luck to you.
do you know: uniqlo is short for unique clothing warehouse, and it was supposed to be uni.clo. when they commissioned their hong kong agent to register the name for hong kong and the greater china area, he made the mistake. however, when it was reported to tadashi yanai san, he thought the ‘q’ instead of the ‘c’ more unique, more lively, and more ‘cute’. and he renamed all stores to uniqlo.
when he was establishing himself in the global world of fashion around the time he got chosen for the gig at givenchy by bernard arnault himself, i was in school learning the craft of making clothes. every one of my classmates that was hip and cool admired him for his obvious talent. the cover of bjork’s homogenic album, the car-robots spray-painting white cotton dress on shalom harlow, the usage of double amputee model aimee mullins in his show with carved wooden legs all confirmed mcqueen’s genius. pure creativity. his fashion shows were really a show with such strong identity – strong, dark romantics, and always a bit tragic.
let’s look at it at a different angle. mcqueen once famously said: “i’m mad in the front of my mind, but business-minded in the back”. in that regards, we have to mention tom ford, who took a 3 millions us dollars gucci business and grew it 1000 folds within 10 years. creatively, not many people are missing ford’s creations. however, holistically, ford is every bit a genius designer as all the great ones in the past. the same can be said about reed krakoff of coach.
gucci already announced the continuation of the label. outsiders such as the financial analysts are betting that it will be closed in the future, insiders are optimistic that it will go to the next level commercially since now there will be less dreams and more reality. labels survives pass its founder, but there are not many yves saint laurents in the world to save all the dior, and there are not many nicolas ghesquieres to resurrect all the balenciaga. for me, mcqueen the label is now just a skeleton with no soul.
suicide is never right, but some people are hard to be imagined growing old: james dean, leslie cheung, and now alexander mcqueen. einstein, stephen hawking, and leonardo da vinci live well into their latter years, but some geniuses do die young. being british, mcqueen chose to hang himself. i guess there is some sort of tradition. american tends to employ guns, such as the case of kurt cobain. and carbon dioxide poisoning is more popular in some asian countries. they are probably saying something about each culture and its history.
one can be talented, creative, and / or commercial gifted. however, as a designer, the most important is to be true to oneself. lee mcqueen was.
we have been compiling a helpful designer list of who’s-in and who’s-out of all the major fashion houses with their ceos and their parent companies for the past 6 months. it is in .html format for your cut-and-paste convenience.
on the left, we have the classic birkin bag by hermes.
on the right, we have the brand new peekapoo bag by fendi for spring 09.
the birkin is an iconic bag with a history. but, it’s not the most user friendly bag to carry around – you can barely put it though your shoulder, and that closure is not form-follow-function to say the least. (how many times have you seen the bag wide open with 1 strap on the shoulder with the other falling off?) well, one thing for sure – the waiting list is more than 2 years.
now, why would fendi referencing such a thing? they don’t need to be on the coattails of hermes long history, heritage, nor their projection of quality (leave that to the chinese, like me). and it’s not even a great functioning bag. is that any truth to the karl lagerfeld retiring rumor then?
on the left, we have a hermes bag dated before 2003.
on the right we have a comme des garçons louis vuitton crossover bag from 2008.
of course, we don’t dare to say our beloved rei kawakubo was copying (oh my god!). but for someone who is widely and blindedly admired for her originality, this simply shouldn’t have happened. it was a lazy design in her high standard. the collaboration was disappointing in not realizing its earth-shaking potential. it was a business-as-usual project, and that is just unusual for comme des garçons.
After a long break from fashion, Isaac is back and strong for a few years, first with Target and now LizClaiborne. That’s the 2.0 version. Let’s revisit my paper written in the late 90’s.
This essay is about how fashion design related to the issues of art in the 90’s. The subject is a Parsons School of Design alumnus Isaac Mizrahi (who inspired me to go studying there). We will look at some facts and his profile, following by his relationship with art, and close by discussing a few samples of his works. (more….)
a man is nothing without his views and knowing where he stands on issues. and lincoln had both firmly in place. feb 12th marks the bicentennial of lincoln’s birth. and other than his history-defining and world-changing view on slavery and the union, we want to bring this up:
‘while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.’
he never lost sight of the goal: economic freedom for individuals — the right to rise and prosper. can the same be said for the fashion industry?
yves saint laurent not only left us with lots of revolutionary fashion ideas, but also made sure we are in good hands by handpicking then-little known hedi slimane to continue his menswear and alber elbaz to carry on with his womenswear. we all know that elf sanafi sold ysl to the gucci group in 2001, then tom ford took over and forced both to leave. what a mistake; it turned out that yves’s talent valuation matched his design genius.
comparing alber’s works today at lanvin and yves’s achieve, and we could see alber not only references yves’s work, they also share something deeper. what if alber were still at the realm of ysl? how far would he have taken the label? what are we missing in all this?
mr. elbaz is getting his last laugh; mr. saint laurent might be smiling up there as well.
t-shirt is a staple of streetwear. it’s hard to imagine streetwear could exist without it. i mean, could you see all the street kids just wearing a cap and a shirt with jeans?
t-shirt is made from cotton jersey (named for the island of ‘jersey’, between england and france). the fabrics was originally made of wool. back then, it was only used in underwear for the longest time, until coco chanel unearthed it and use it for soft, clingy dresses on the outside. ever since then, jersey the fabric had never looked back and gained popularity with time. it seems natural now, but she was the first one who see the potential and the future in jersey, and thus, the t-shirts as fashion. like a lot of the trends and fashion existing now, chanel had a hand on most of them.
being original was very important to me and my classmates when we were in parsons school of design in the late 90′s. however, i came across an interesting article on design addict a few years back. it opened my eyes and formed part of my aesthetics. with the author’s permission, here is the original piece:
Many people, both on the active and on the consuming side of the design community, share a restless fascination for “originality”. This fascination is more than the usual form of design entertainment provided by design magazines and exhibitions. For nearly a century, originality has been closely linked to creativity. It is often seen as the inevitable result of (more….)