madeinevora asked: Hi Hung, what do you think about the controversy about Julia Nobis on the cover of T magazine?
I personally think she looks fine on the cover but this video made me sick. Cenk Uygur is a misogynist and a horny pig. I wrote about it here if you wanna check it out, but here is a summation of my thoughts:
As a male, the thing that annoys me most is his trying to speak on behalf of the rest of us. I’m not the “red-blooded American male” he purports to represent, but I don’t think that he, I, or any other man should be able to dictate what constitutes a “real” woman’s body. That’s her prerogative. Cenk Uygur even has the audacity to say that he is “looking out” for women who are being bombarded by ideas that “in order to be appealing, you have to look like you’re almost sick, that you’re so skinny”. What I find even more ludicrous is that he puts Kate Upton on such a pedestal because, evidently, she looks like a “regular person who’s super hot”. Says who? What makes Kate Upton more of a woman than Julia Nobis? Is it because she has “curves”? Is it because she has bigger breasts? Is it because she adheres to the more typically feminine standards of beauty you’ve decided every woman should aim for, Cenk? I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that most women don’t do things in order to be “desirable” to men. Some women do things for themselves simply because they can and have the right to. It’s a thing that actually happens now, believe it or not.
Lastly, his pious diatribe against the fashion industry is the generic ‘look how righteous I am because fashion is for superficial idiots’ shtick . I’m not saying that he doesn’t make any valid points about the unrealistic standards set by the fashion industry; indeed, there is a laundry list of problems within the industry that extend far beyond models and magazine covers. But why does the fashion industry get blamed for the all these issues surrounding body image and eating disorders? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people who aren’t even conscious of fashion can develop eating disorders just as easily as people who read Vogue religiously. Maybe–just maybe–the issue can be found in male-dominated culture. Fashion is always responding to something. Maybe it’s men like Cenk Uygur who, in their holier-than-thou mindless rants about what a real woman looks like, are the root of the problem and perpetrators of the cycle.
Anonymous asked: how did raf have time to design his own menswear line and be at dior?
As far as I’m aware, Raf only presents two collections a year under his own name. He carried quite a burden when he was at Jil Sander, but Dior is a much more high-profile company, and as Bernard Arnault’s second gem after Louis Vuitton there are infinite resources to use. The brand has a lot of storeys and I’m sure that Raf has a great team in place to execute his vision when he has to fly around the world for meetings with press, buyers, clients, etc. So I agree that as a designer he’s doing way more work than some of his peers.
I feel as though you were leaning towards a different question: “why would Raf take on another job instead of focusing solely in his signature line?” And then we’d have to think about why ANY designers would take on two jobs.
The reality is that most designers will never become the next Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld, and the cost of running a fashion company is very high. In most cases, a designer can’t rely on ready-to-wear to earn a living. They need to sell handbags and accessories and perfumes, all of which require money to develop and market. So taking on a second job not only brings in the extra income for a designer who wants to develop their signature brand (and remember that Raf is a menswear designer so there is no competition/conflict of interest with Dior womenswear). And for a designer who is lucky enough to be recruited by an LVMH brand like Dior…it raises your profile tenfold.
Anonymous asked: It was on my mind and I wonder what you think. Why isn't Vogue China big like the other 4? With its billion+ population and surging luxury market one would assume greatness from its respective vogue issue, no? Yes US Vogue set precedents but the US has a population of 303 million and customers ready to buy at whim especially luxury and with the largest readership at 11 million subscribers. I feel populations of the countries back their vogue issue more? Why not the case with China?
This is a really interesting question. I don’t think that population is necessarily linked to prestige, otherwise Vogue India, Brazil and Russia would be up there too. The answer is probably more cultural than anything else and there are a few factors to consider:
The most obvious one is that the four major editions—American, British, Italia, and Paris—stage large-scale fashion events twice a year for international press. Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week doesn’t have the same power, and because barely any Chinese designers can afford to advertise in VC (which means that, editorially, the magazine has no ‘obligation’ to promote the merchandise), VC continues to champion European labels. I think that in order to become as big as the US edition, VC needs to have a strong fashion identity charged by its own creatives, just like the major four publications do. Anna Wintour has already claimed ownership of the most popular Chinese designer right now: Alexander Wang. Angelica Cheung, Vogue China’s editor-in-chief, is currently sending her best talents to show in Europe.
China is also one of the worst offenders of counterfeiting which no doubt works against the image they’re trying to build. I recently finished Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre by Dana Thomas, a book that combines a series of investigative pieces she wrote over several years working as a fashion journalist. In one chapter she reveals that a number of European luxury brands (never specifically named because she could be sued) manufacture handbags in China because the cost of labour is 30-40% cheaper than what it is in Italy, then affix a “Made in Italy” label once the goods arrive in Europe. The manufacturer has to sign a confidentiality agreement and very few brands will admit they do this. If even the established European brands are scared to admit it then what hope do young Chinese designers, with small teams and no investors, have of destroying the “Made in China” stigma? How can China’s internal luxury market grow if even Chinese designers are scared to manufacture in China?
When European luxury brands came to China in the early 1990s, the market was non-existent and the people didn’t even have a word for it. As of March 2012, there were almost a million millionaires in China and an expanding middle class, most of whom Angelica Cheung says were “probably still digging mines three years ago”. So maybe I’m wrong about China needing its own designers to fuel the fire. Vogue China’s inevitable dominance will probably come as a result of the country’s massive buying power and improving industry.
Anonymous asked: After reading BoF's Nicolas Ghesquiere interview, what are your thoughts on his departure from Balenciaga?
I’m hoping that I can get System Magazine in Melbourne because that was such a good interview. I think he left Balenciaga in a dignified manner. Balenciaga was there before he arrived and it will continue after he’s gone (hopefully without turning into a glorified t-shirt company). He left of his own volition, not because the brand went bankrupt or because he’d been disgraced. He created a phenomenal body of work that I’m going to remember for a long time. I’ll definitely be referencing his work when I’m a professional fashion writer (*nervous laugh*).
I particularly love this part of the interview: “I didn’t actually see all the reactions straight away because I was in Japan at the time; one of my best friends had taken me on something of a spiritual trip to observe people who make traditional lacquer and obi belts; it was such a privileged environment with tea ceremonies. On the other side of the world, there was this violent announcement being made. When I got back to Paris I saw the press, and with all the commentary going on I actually learnt things about myself; it was quite beautiful in fact”.
That’s such a great image. It’s like that moment when you die and you’re able to see people’s reactions to your death. Kind of…maybe…right? Anyway, I wrote about it here.
Anonymous asked: what are your thoughts on fashion becoming an academic discipline?
Suzy Menkes brought up an interesting point in this interview for AnOther Magazine: “I think there’s too much mixing fashion and intellect. Fashion ultimately is designed to cover the human body, to give you joy, to make you feel better. I don’t think it has to have a great intellectual meaning. Yes, you can see meaning in it afterwards, because fashion history so often comes ahead of what happens in the world, so it is a precursor. But to intellectualise fashion too much, to me, is just going the wrong way”.
I love clothes and shopping gives me the same adrenaline rush that I imagine people get from drugs, but I don’t kid myself into believing that a new pair of Prada shoes is going to change my life. Have you ever seen The Rachel Zoe Project? It’s tragically entertaining. She gets so worked up over clothes (“omg I die”, “bananas”, “shutting it down”, etc.) and it’s almost ridiculous. Obviously it’s important to have passion for your job, and that’s no different in the fashion industry, but whether this stingray Balenciaga clutch “makes sense” with this Valentino dress is not THAT important. It’s not something worth having a panic attack over. People who work in this industry and think they’re saving lives are asinine.
I want to work in fashion because I have an interest in it, in the same way that people are interested in cars and cooking. That’s it. I’m not performing brain surgery or trying to establish world peace. I don’t think that a dress can be ‘intellectualized’ in itself, but the great thing about fashion is that it’s a product of art, history, culture, music, and so much more. Those disciplines definitely bring an intellectual element to fashion.
In the end it doesn’t really matter if you think fashion is a serious academic discipline. The fact remains that it’s a global industry worth billions of dollars and people depend on it for their livelihoods. In some ways that more important than anything you can be taught in a lecture theatre.
stefanopilates asked: what do you think of Viktor & Rolf returning to haute couture?
Super excited! They have an interesting aesthetic and of the five couture collections they presented when they were first accepted, fall 1999 is by far the most beautiful. I think it’s strange that Christian Lacroix and V&R were both established in the late 20th century, and while one devoted his life to couture and went bankrupt, the other moved entirely into ready-to-wear and made mega bucks with Flowerbomb. Now they’re both coming back to couture around the same time. It’s a weird coincidence.
I believe that V&R make the most of what they have in ready-to-wear but haute couture will give them much more freedom. Designers are always worried that they won’t be able to justify such exorbitant prices in RTW, but there is virtually no limit when it comes to haute couture (besides time). Therefore I’m hoping that V&R go all out for this collection. I wouldn’t be surprised if they cast Tilda Swinton in the show. She could give birth to a dress dripped in Swarovski crystals, each moment of labour captured in a series of dream-like sequences.
Anonymous asked: what do you think is the most important aspect of the fashion industry? designing? modeling? marketing?
Think of it like this: what would the industry be like without fashion students? The schools would be empty, studios would have to operate without interns, and knowledge would be lost. Books in the Central Saint Martins library, a visual archive of its illustrious alumni and all the grand couturiers, would be collecting dust next to books written by Lauren Conrad. If fashion is an ecosystem, students represent the sun and the rain. They nurture growth in everything. They are absorbed by luxury conglomerates to maintain robust and powerful businesses. They plant new ideas and watch them evolve into remarkable formations. They weed, rake, and hoe so that this magnificent garden is protected against people like Kim Kardashian, who slaps her name onto everything and suddenly “becomes” a fashion designer. Models wear the clothes, magazines advertise, and retailers sell them. But who makes the clothes?
(I should write children’s books)
Anonymous asked: Wouldn't you agree thought most creative directors are not able to fulfill both roles as head designer and managing the brand itself? Why even give them the latter job as well when most are owned by large billion dollar holding companies such as LVMH & now Kering who can easily maintain marketing strategies, retail capabilities, and other business oriented issues. I say this because I feel most creative directors only fulfill design well. Ex. YSL by Pilati, amazing clothes, low revenue,now gone
I wouldn’t say that creative directors “manage” a brand; they simply manage the image of the brand. LVMH and Kering hire people who come from a business background (as opposed to a technical fashion background) to handle the numbers and data. Outside the studios and ateliers, creative directors participate in decisions regarding model casting, advertising, and store design. It rarely goes beyond that. After all, designers come from schools like Central Saint Martins and Parsons, not Harvard Business or Wharton.
But you did raise an interesting point. Fashion business has really taken a life of its own in the last 30-40 years (fashion became super corporate in the 80s when LVMH began to acquire brands from their founders…or their descendents), and fashion institutions that have traditionally taught technical skills are now offering business and communications courses. It isn’t enough to know how to sew two bits of tulle together anymore. Now you need to know how to run a small fashion business and, if you’re lucky, find an investor.
I think Yves Saint Laurent’s disappointing sales had more to do with faulty business strategy than dodgy design skills (I actually love Pilati’s body of work). There are some designers who are very good at the design aspect but lack the business know-how (Pilati), some who are good at marketing a brand but make terrible clothes (Hedi Slimane circa 2013), and some who were very good at both (Tom Ford). Overall, the corporate half and the creative half need to work together to be successful, and the creative director is moving between the borders at an unprecedented rate.
1000graces asked: what do you think of all those (former) models/editors/photographers who speak about the dark side of the industry? (e.g. sexual harassment, eating disorders etc.,) do you think that what they're doing is right or are they just some people trying to make money/get attention?
I think fashion is one of those industries where you have to walk on eggshells and it sounds very exhausting. Part of it could be about money/attention or a form of retaliation, but I think it’s important to hear these things from people who have seen or experienced them first hand. I love that people like Jourdan Dunn are speaking out against racism. I love that Kirstie Clements debunks some of the myths about modelling. It’s refreshing. Fashion is quite a closed world and some of its participants think that they have immunity because they sit front row at Chanel. I’m sick of seeing people trying to be diplomatic about things that would not be accepted in any other industry. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. Racism is racism, and that doesn’t change because you’re friends with Anna Wintour.
Anonymous asked: which brands/which designers are you most looking forward to seeing in the future?
I would love to see a Chanel show in person. I actually spend a lot of time thinking about which designers I’d invite to my fantasy dinner party. Nicolas Ghesquiere would tell all the best jokes, Dries Van Noten would fill the vases with fresh lilies, and Tom Ford would bring the china. Miuccia Prada would insist on dressing all the guests. And just as we’re about to eat, Rei Kawakubo enters the room in a zephyr of black smoke. She eats her sashimi in the corner and doesn’t say a word to anyone for the whole night.
Anonymous asked: What goes in to making an editorial? Who decides to where to shoot, what clothing, the model, the theme, everything?!
It all starts with the magazine. The art or creative director will brief the stylist on the “story” of the editorial (e.g. jungle theme with lots of animal prints, beach theme with kaftans and swimsuits, etc.). The magazine chooses the location, but the stylist will have a say on which models, hair and make-up artists, and photographer will be used. Some photographers work with the same hair and make-up artists on every shoot. Steven Meisel + Pat McGrath + Guido Paulo are like the holy trinity behind high fashion editorials. The art/creative director will also advise the stylist on which brands they have to feature. Remember that most of the designers featured in editorials are the ones who can afford the high costs of advertising.
Once all those details have been figured out, the stylist needs to focus on getting clothes and accessories. They flip through lookbooks and decide on the looks that will match the “story”, then make requests to the brands’ PR firms. Sometimes certain pieces aren’t available because they’re in another country or being used by another magazine. The PR people will send whatever they have in the building, and then contact the designers’ stores to tell them that so and so needs this look for an upcoming shoot in whatever magazine. The stylist’s assistant then goes to the store and picks up the clothes. They are given an invoice of all the items they are taking from the store to the photoshoot. They may have to leave a deposit. If the stylist has a really good reputation and is well-known they may pull directly from the store without going through PR.
Sometimes clothes have to get dirty and there is no way around it. Steven Meisel has put clothes in swimming pools, through mud, oil, saltwater, and garbage. Sometimes clothes need to be cut up. Do the designers get angry about the clothes being ruined? Not really. If a stylist is pulling directing from a store, the clothes have to be returned in their original condition. If they aren’t, the magazine has to pay the retail price. However, if the stylist is working with PR they may be given clothes that were specifically created to be ruined in photoshoots. PR firms can only hold a limited amount of stock so designers don’t make a lot of samples for this purpose, and obviously the younger brands can’t afford to do this.
Special thanks to my friend Alex (a styling assistant) for his help!
Anonymous asked: I noticed you often refer to different fashion capitals as having different 'reputations' in the fashion world (eg. Paris is where fashion is seen as art). Could you elaborate more on this?
New York Fashion Week is considered the most athletic (and therefore practical) because Americans pride themselves on sport culture. Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein can all be traced back to sporting traditions. I can only think of a few anomalies in modern American fashion, like Roy Halston (fabulous minimal jersey dresses), Donna Karan, and Marc Jacobs. Oscar de la Renta is also an obvious exception. He spent most of his life working for French couture houses like Balenciaga and Lanvin, and his style is still very “high society”. He’s based in New York because dressing rich American ladies and having credits in American Vogue is very lucrative compared to, say, French Vogue.
London is considered to be the most cosmopolitan of all the fashion capitals. It’s the most eclectic and more hospitable for younger designers, which no doubt has to do with the fact that Central Saint Martins (the world’s best fashion school) is in London. Despite its reputation for being an inexhaustive source of creativity, London doesn’t get as much press because nobody cares about young designers who can’t afford to advertise in magazines. It’s only recently that people are starting to take London seriously.
Milan Fashion Week is about keeping it classic with superior fabrics, textiles, and leathers. I always see a lot of upmarket Australian brands tagging their clothes with the words “Fabric from Italy”, and shoes that are made in Italy carry extra weight in people’s minds. Maybe Giorgio Armani is using a similar fabric in his suits, or your shoes were made in the same factory that manufacture Ferragamo pumps. Versace is an obvious exception and has always been a bit of a black sheep in the Italian fashion industry, as was Pucci 20 years before it. They were both relatively flashy for their time and context, a tradition that DSquared2 is carrying on. Prada is Prada, and has continued to morph continuously throughout its history and can’t be confined.
Paris. Ah. Haute Couture. Louis Vuitton. Hermes. Christian Dior. Hubert de Givenchy. Coco Chanel. Jeanne Lanvin. Cristobal Balenciaga. Yves Saint Laurent. Jean Paul Gaultier. It’s like reading the guest list to a fantastic fashion party. Think of any great movement in fashion history and I’ll bet that a French company was behind it.
Anonymous asked: So what is your opinion on fur in fashion?
Interesting question. I eat meat and I wear leather shoes so I feel as though taking an anti-fur stance would be hypocritical in a way. But looking back on recent collections and thinking about some of the animals that had to die for Versace and Pucci made me feel…guilty. I love and breathe fashun and it runs through me like an intravenous drug, but even I know that it’s important to recognise the limits. It’s getting harder to defend the fur industry when fashion seems so wasteful nowadays. A vintage Dior fur would be a beautiful piece to own, but now that some designers are presenting 6, 7, and even 8 collections a year, animals are dying in the name of hideous and superfluous fashion.
So what’s the alternative to fur (and leather)? I don’t know. Going faux might seem like a good idea, but isn’t it just as unethical to make clothes out of hazardous petrochemicals and charge thousands of dollars for plastic? *side eyes Stella McCartney* Fur is good because it’s using what nature has given us (or rather the animals around us) and is a wise investment when it’s designed to last forever. However, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Fur is no longer designed to last forever. It’s designed to be fashionable one season and replaced the next, and as the machine keeps turning a lot of animals will keep dying for something transient.
Personally, I would only buy an animal product that I know I’ll be wearing for years and years.
crone-d asked: What do you think of this? "One school of thinking says that once a designer is installed at a house, he dictates its identity, and not the other way around."
Interesting quote! Many designers have entered fashion houses to successfully create a new identity from scratch. What was Gucci before Tom Ford? Lifeless, sexless, and almost bankrupt. What was Celine before Phoebe Philo? It was mildly successful under Michael Kors but it didn’t have a strong brand image. There’s a reason why nobody talks about Kors’ 6 years at Celine, and that’s because it wasn’t memorable. I think that’s essentially where Kors fails as a designer. His clothes aren’t memorable. But when you’re famous for American sportswear you don’t really need to make bold statements. His company had a turnover of $1.3 billion in 2012 so he must be doing something right. Anyway, my point is that Phoebe Philo completely revolutionised Celine and made the brand relevant in ways that Kors couldn’t.
The quote you mentioned comes from an article about Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane so I guess I should talk about that, but I’ll compare it to the case of Celine.
Firstly, you can’t deny that Hedi has been given an unbelievable amount of freedom in design, advertising, website layout, casting, etc. I think this privilege comes from the fact that Saint Laurent is one of the most prestigious brands in the Kerring (formerly PPR) portfolio, and people are still going to buy it even if it looks like trash. Saint Laurent is the kind of brand that can withstand Hedi’s obnoxious blows. It has such a strong history and such a firm image in people’s minds (“classic”, “chic”, “dramatic”, “powerful”) that, unless Hedi can somehow be linked to Al-Qaeda, nothing he does will shake sales. I don’t think that Saks and Bergdorfs can just stop stocking Saint Laurent. Customers will notice and the store will lose credibility. Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga are the holy trinity of Kerring after all.
Celine, on the other hand, has never been known for strong ready-to-wear (Yves Saint Laurent was actually the first to introduce luxury RTW when people were still making couture). It’s part of the LVMH conglomerate, which has always favoured its two shining stars, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. That’s one of the reasons Michael Kors left the brand in 2003; he didn’t feel as though Celine was getting enough attention from LVMH. When Phoebe Philo came along, nobody expected her to become one of the strongest forces of the second wave of minimalism. All the old minimalist brands, like Prada and Helmut Lang, had moved on. Raf Simons was still making incredible stuff for Jil Sander (one of the original members of the minimalist movement) but editors were rooting for a woman to take control of creating the clean, streamlined clothes they needed. They went insane over the fact that she was also a working mother and moved the studio from Paris to London to be with her family. She was perfect.
Okay, sorry I rambled a bit here. What I’m ultimately trying to say is that sometimes designers like Phoebe Philo come to brands and do wonderful things They create beautiful products that lead to beautiful profits, and pull the brand out of underdog status (LVMH now worships Phoebe Philo). They create a new identity that’s an extension of their owns lives e.g. clothes for the working woman. However, designers like Hedi Slimane come to a storied brand and lose touch of what it’s about. They try so hard to make a brand edgy, cool and young, while keeping the high-end price tag, that it all seems like a big joke after a while.
P.S. How many people have been photographed for the Saint Laurent campaigns now? I’ve lost count.
Anonymous asked: What do you think about the "dark" side of fashion? Do you think that it is plagued with depression, drugs, ED's, and other such matters? Obviously it's a terrible thing but I was curious as to what you thought about the fashion industry's reputation of at times being a dark thing. (I guess what I'm trying to ask is why do you think people in the industry -- Alexander McQueen and Gia Carangi to name a few -- have such terrible fates? Is it from stress from the industry or what?)
Money makes the world go round and it’s particularly true in the fashion industry. I actually feel sorry for designers. Once your brand grows to a certain size you’re expected to make more than just ready-to-wear. You’ll start making pre-fall and resort collections, and then collaborating with mass market retailers, then you license out your name to make sunglasses, perfumes, accessories, etc. It’s very expensive and there’s a lot of pressure on you. I guess that’s why some designers, like Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang, take two jobs. It’s not just about the prestige of having creative control over a historic French house. It’s about money; more specifically, it’s about making enough money to develop and realise the vision you have for your own brand.
The fashion calendar is so rigid and failing to meet deadlines, especially at New York Fashion Week, creates a whole backlog. Marc Jacobs had to postpone his f/w 2013 show and there were a lot of annoyed editors and buyers who were forced to stay til the last day of New York Fashion Week when they should have been on a plane to London. Suzy Menkes had to watch the show at the airport.
People deal with stress in different ways, but in such an exclusive/closed world the usual method is to abuse alcohol and drugs. Fashion designers are answerable to a lot of different people. You’re really only as good as your last collection. There’s no vacancy at the top of the fashion food chain, and once you’re there you have to really fight for it. Everyone is allowed one or two off seasons, but I think it’s important to remember that there is always someone who is willing to do your job for cheaper.
How horrible does that sound?