Europe’s historic fashion houses are leaning into heritage this season, and Balmain is no exception. Olivier Rousteing has been excavating Balmain’s history over the past few years, notably surfacing a Labyrinth monogram that quickly became a strong franchise for the house alongside knitwear and its heavily embellished cocktail attire.
For fall 2023, Rousteing dug back nearly to the start of Pierre Balmain, established in 1945 with its New French Style, and also zeroed in on the founder’s pinch-waisted Jolie Madame silhouette from 1953, even providing archival photos and press notes laden with the couturier’s words of wisdom.
Taking a break from wide, pagoda shoulders and freaky Frankenstein boots, although he still wears them himself, the designer interpreted more demure, mid-century silhouettes with a deft hand.
He added his own flourishes — hacking off the shoulders of a Jolie Madame jacket to create a sculptural corset, and he finished off many looks with pants, either shoe-swallowing flares, like the ones he was wearing backstage, or velvet capris. There were also Dior-esque full-circle skirts, which have been popping up on many runways this season, even from so-called edgy designers.
This Balmain show was a civilized affair with free-flowing Champagne, plush banquettes, 250 guests max, and Frank Sinatra crooning — a far cry from its recent stadium spectacles with musical performers, mojitos in plastic cups, and exaggerated creations visible from the nosebleed seats.
“Intimacy,” Rousteing said, citing a wish to dial down the fireworks around fashion to focus on “the quality of the clothes” and timelessness. “So this is an homage to Paris,” he said, leading a visitor past the models backstage and pointing to the little capes, the moire patterns, the bows and other “codes of the house.”
Rousteing conscripted Stephen Jones to make the hats, interpretations of the founder’s most famous couture toppers. This heightened the period look of the silhouettes, and not always in the best way.
But seeing the clothes up close heightened appreciation for the atelier’s capabilities, and the quieter end of Rousteing’s design expression — the way a crystal minidress was reduced to one big fan of ruffles; the way he scattered polka dots haphazardly on silk separates, or pearls over cozy knits and a flaring velvet coat.
Humorous accessories — a PB-logo toolbox for the pussy-bow denim blouse and jeans; a bag shaped like a camera for a beret-topped velvet ensemble — added moments of levity and sly humor.
There was a perfume of Jean Paul Gaultier to the sculpted bustiers with their padded hips and conical breasts, a carryover from his one-off couture collection for Gaultier last July. “Gaultier is part of my history now,” he shrugged. “I learned so much from the craftsmanship there.”
A case in point was the nearly sheer, minimalist cape that closed the show, composed of faceted crystals strung together, like a couture version of a beaded curtain. It was truly dazzling.
FACE FORWARD: Yasmin Finney has been named YSL Beauté’s first U.K. local ambassador.
Finney is among the most influential actresses in the transgender community, and is known for her support of the LGBTQIA+ communities.
Finney’s breakout role was in Netflix’s rom-com hit series “Heartstopper,” and she was honored along with the rest of the show’s cast with the On-Screen Trailblazer Award at the Gay Times Honours 2022 event.
Finney will continue playing Elle Argent in the series’ second season and is to star in “Doctor Who,” for the show’s 60th anniversary this year.
In the U.K.’s House of Commons, Member of Parliament Luke Pollard said Finney’s visibility as a trans actor “has not only inspired me, it’s inspired young trans people across the world, and it has saved lives,” YSL Beauté recounted in a statement.
“To me, this partnership means hope,” said Finney in the statement. “It means all the younger Yasmins out there who’ve been told they don’t belong can finally see themselves represented by a monumental brand like YSL Beauté.
“It’s a real pinch-me moment,” she continued. “Not long ago, I was in Manchester, dreaming of better days. I’m so excited to be part of the YSL family because, to me, beauty comes from confidence. It all starts from within. You have to take that leap and tell yourself that you are beautiful, no matter what others think. Don’t try and fit in – stand out! That, to me, is true beauty.”
Finney will appear first as a YSL Beauté ambassador in the new Drop the Look campaign that is due out in April. — JENNIFER WEIL
ALL ACES: The Accessories Council will mark its 27th annual ACE Awards later this spring in New York City. The annual event, which marks excellence in accessories design, retail and influence, will take place on May 3 at Cipriani 42nd Street.
“The ACE Awards are a foundation event for the Accessories Council. The gala celebrates our industry stars, recognizes milestones and is an exceptional networking event. The AC is delighted to finally have the awards in the spring, a longtime goal that was a bit delayed due to the pandemic,” said Karen Giberson, president and chief executive officer of the Accessories Council.
In preparation, the council has revealed this year’s honorees. The Visionary Award will go to Mickey Drexler; Style Ambassador award to Julianne Hough; Emerging Designer to Dee Ocleppo; Hall of Fame to Judith Leiber Couture; Brand Innovation to Alexis Bittar; Brand of the Year to Wolverine (marking its 140th anniversary); Retailer of the Year to Von Maur; Retail Innovation to Fashionphile; Sustainability to House of LR&C, and the Legacy Award to Echo New York. “This year’s honorees are a powerful group of brands and individuals all with foundation roots in the United States,” Giberson said.
The ACE Awards were created in 1997 to celebrate those who have made great strides in raising awareness of the accessories industry. Over the past 27 years, the Accessories Council has honored and recognized global brands and pioneers, positioning them as trailblazers of the industry. Awards are presented to designers, brands, retailers, celebrities and media who have helped to enhance sales and promote all accessories.
Sponsors of the ACE Awards include Marchon Eyewear, FashionGo, Brosway Italia, Hammitt, Caleres, Informa — MAGIC, Project, Coterie, EssilorLuxottica, Judith Leiber Couture, Safilo Group, Signal Brands, Steve Madden and The Jewelry Group.
Tickets and table buyouts are now on sale and sponsorship opportunities are still available. — THOMAS WALLER
NEW IN L.A.: Westman Atelier is hosting its first West Coast pop-up in Los Angeles.
The beauty brand held an event inside Nordstrom’s flagship in New York in September as part of the retailer’s “New New York” initiative, but the L.A. presence marks its first stand-alone space.
Located at the Grove shopping center, it’s open Thursday through April 20.
Firstly, when it comes to buying behavior, it’s Westman Atelier’s second-grossing city after New York, according to the brand. But it’s also personal.
“I have a special relationship with Los Angeles since I lived outside the city as a child and started my makeup career there,” Gucci Westman told WWD in an exclusive statement. Westman, a professional makeup artist, launched the brand with husband David Neville in 2018.
“I grew up in an ashram outside of Los Angeles until I was 10, and I always appreciated the health and wellness movement that is so unique to L.A.,” she added. “It has inspired the way I live and the fundamentals of Westman Atelier….I’ve been dreaming of doing in-person events for so long, and now that we have this space, it allows us to host these exclusive activations that will bring our customers together as a community.”
Shoppers can expect weekly events with activities and product giveaways, including a meet and greet with Westman, a happy hour with complimentary mocktails, 15-minute makeup appointments, shade matching assistance and custom engraving sessions with purchase. The entire collection will be available, including bestsellers, which are currently the Skin Activator (the brand’s first skin care launch); Lit Up Highlight Stick; Face Trace Contour Stick; Vital Skincare Complexion Drops; Vital Skin Foundation Stick, and Baby Cheeks.
The brand also looks to attract new customers, said Neville, adding, “Since we launched, we have been a digitally native brand, and we have been thinking of the best way to bring the world of Westman Atelier to life.”
The L.A. customer has aligned with the brand values, he went on: “They are beyond savvy when it comes to clean beauty, and they are always finding ways to incorporate wellness and clean skin care into their lifestyle. They are on top of trends, even before it becomes a trend. Their overall skin care and makeup approach is very much our aesthetic — effortless, glowing, natural beauty. They appreciate when there is still an element of discovery.”
The Grove — with its “visibility and traffic” — was a no-brainer as chosen location, said Neville, as one of the “top shopping destinations in the U.S.” — RYMA CHIKHOUNE
GETTING A MOVE ON: Will digital artist Sam Shea — prized for his disquieting, liquid-like figures sometimes comprised only of limbs — disrupt the, ahem, staid mannequin market?
“I’m basically going to start manufacturing all my 3D work in real life,” he said at an event Tuesday during Paris Blockchain Week, where he displayed a video clip of one of his human-like creatures, its flesh stretching out in the wind, riding a horse across a beach. “The cool thing is my dad worked his entire life at a natural history museum, and his best friend made the mannequins.”
Shea, better known as Nude Robot, said his “surreal mannequins, like lucid dreamers” would offer a new way for fashion brands to animate their designs — and offer gallery-goers something to gawk at besides a screen. “That’s what I’m working towards.”
He was among about a dozen digital artists assembled for the launch of Itak, a new consultancy that helps brands navigate the new digital landscape and create immersive experiences with the help of cutting-edge technology.
Mado Scott, chief creative officer at Itak and one of three cofounders, said the firm helps fashion and luxury companies step into the Web 3.0 world “while staying on brand, and while having the level of craft they deserve as luxury brands.”
According to her, the “touch of the artist” is key, noting most employ video game and special-effects technology, along with AI, to create intricate, sometimes otherworldly visuals.
Indeed, artists like Shea, who studied fashion at Maryland Institute College of Art, is able to produce such compellingly lifelike digital effects thanks to his knowledge of cloth and costume design. “The way you drape in 3D is exactly the way a tailor would,” he explained.
Unexplored Fields, a creative collective that has already done work for Lacoste and Dr. Martens, displayed a mesmerizing video still of a ruddy-faced young man in a mullet hugging the nose of a giant yak, the camera panning slowly over his clothes: a leather jacket inspired by a 1982 design by Massimo Osti for C.P. Company, needle-felted trousers based on the motorcycle pants Swedish police officers wore in the 1950s, and sneakers inspired by a Balenciaga X Vibram collab.
No surprise that one of the three cofounders of Unexplored Fields, Virgile Brosa, studied fashion also. He tweaked the original designs and experimented with various textures. “3D is a good opportunity to do that, because you can relatively quickly change the design and have the result instantly,” he said.
The other cofounders of Itak are Massimo Moretti, whose background is in crypto, and Mariem Farhat, a Web 3.0 expert and marketing guru. Mado Scott was a finalist for the 2021 Andam Innovation Prize with her firm Acid Rays, which creates virtual and digital identities for fashion labels. – MILES SOCHA
Beginning March 30, vintage collector/filmmaker/author and Hollywood royalty Liz Goldwyn is auctioning off a time capsule of 1990s-early 2000s anti-fashion history: pieces from New York designer Susan Ciancolo.
Made using deconstructed and reconstructed upcycled garments and textiles, Ciancolo’s 11 Run collections produced from 1995 to 2001 were one-of-a-kind, handcrafted alternatives to the prevailing Gap khaki and slick minimalist fashions of the time.
Part of New York’s downtown art scene, Ciancolo produced her collections with a collective of family and friends, and presented them in shows akin to happenings with films shown, aerialist models hanging from the ceiling, or in a temporary restaurant in a gallery, as examples. Goldwyn produced some of those shows and walked one, alongside model Frankie Rayder, artist Anh Duong and actress Julianne Nicholson.
Goldwyn met Ciancolo in 1996, when she was working in costume and conservation at Sotheby’s New York, and the two became muses for each other. Together they created garments such as a tiered denim skirt now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute permanent collection, as well as a 1998 custom dress that was on view as part of the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibition.
Goldwyn and Ciancolo, who works as a fine artist now, partnered for the auction with the Bridget Donahue gallery and Special Offer Inc., an up-and-coming media company that produced a video with archival footage of the shows and commentary about those bygone days.
“You feel like you are seeing a love letter to New York in the 1990s,” said Goldwyn, whose most recent book, “Sex, Health and Consciousness: How to Reclaim Your Pleasure Potential” (Sounds True) came out in October.
Over the years Goldwyn has amassed a fashion archive with thousands of garments and accessories, with a special focus on Yves Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel and Ciancolo.
“I liked the artistry of it and she had a whole world which was kind of cult-like. I definitely fell under the spell. She had all these women artists, models and musicians working and collaborating alongside her, it felt supportive and we had an artistic shorthand,” said Goldwyn. “It was fun also to be in the world of Sotheby’s and having access to archival treasures, and taking something to her to see what she’d do with it.”
There are 56 pieces being auctioned at liz.run, including a corset-like “I Love New York” T-shirt, deconstructed dresses, a multipiece burlesque costume, and a set of Barbie dolls with miniature Run collection clothing. The videos and commentary will live on online after the auction ends mid-April, like a museum show that lives digitally.
“I don’t think anyone would see her clothes and think corporate suit, but there are some things in the sale that were my corporate, uptown looks. I would go from Canal Street where we both lived to Sotheby’s auction house looking like my dress was caught in the escalator,” said Goldwyn.
“It’s so funny to me how Gen Z and Millennials have this obsession with that time period, I think they are wanting to recapture a time before social media,” she said. “In terms of fashion it was so different…you didn’t have the shows online…and there was a scrappiness…it was pre-designers being traded like chess pieces by big corporations.”
All bids will start at $111. “I want it to be accessible because when I started collecting, it was a dollar a pound,” said Goldwyn. “I think there is something cool to having an entry point accessible to more people.”
Earlier this year the TikTok star “Tami Elizabeth” was more than surprised to see what appeared to be her likeness on a Shein dress.
In response to that, she claimed to have emailed the company inquiring about the artist and sending two cease-and-desist letters after receiving guidance about that from an attorney. The stylist and designer, whose given name is Tamara Strzelecki, said she was startled again after receiving an invitation to collaborate with “Shein Curvee” as an influencer.
The TikTok standout first spoke with WWD in January about the situation. On Thursday, she shared with WWD an email exchange from a Shein Curvee address that was dated March 16. The email read in part, “We @SHEIN are launching our newest clothing brand and we noticed you have been a fan of our work and we have observed your profile and you’re qualified for a collaboration with us.” In exchange for tags, the email offered Strzelecki free monthly packages of eight items of her choice, and discount codes to share among other incentives.
Aside from being a popular TikTok personality with 7.9 million likes, Strzelecki has a profitable online business, Sugs’ Shoppe. Although it has been up-and-running for 15 years, it became successful last year after one of her getting-ready videos — for a visit to her therapist — went viral with more than 1 million views.
Regarding the offer of a Shein Curvee collaboration, she told WWD, “I am a size 2, not curve material. I replied with a photo of me in the dress and stated I had reached out multiple times to request more information about the design and I get sent a collaboration offer?” and shared her email response to that address.
Asked about the offer, Emily Workman, director of corporate communications for the Shein Group, said Thursday, “While we can confirm there was no outreach to this individual regarding a partnership with Shein, we have been made aware of recent email scams falsely claiming to come from our company. We encourage others to stay vigilant regarding emails claiming to be from Shein offering or soliciting services.”
As for whether Shein would comment regarding Tami’s claims that her likeness was used for a dress and cease-and-desist requests sent to the company earlier this year, Workman said, “We don’t have anything to share at this time.”
Asked about Shein’s explanation, Strzelecki said, “I can’t verify if the company was really Shein or not. I just received the email with Shein Curvee, the one forwarded to you. It’s the only correspondence I have received from anyone at Shein.”
Meanwhile, Shein is gearing up to host the first Shein x Design Summit in Los Angeles on April 1. The fast fashion retailer plans to host hundreds of designers and artists for showcases, panels and networking opportunities with such fashion insiders as LaQuan Smith, Maeve Reilly, Oscar de la Renta’s and Monse’s Laura Kim and Hilldun Corporation’s chief executive officer Gary Wassner. The event is also meant to introduce scores of independent designers to the company’s incubator program Shein X. George Chiao, U.S. president of Shein, noted that the aim is to onboard 1,000 designers this year to the program. “Thousands” of others have already cycled through, since the incubator’s 2021 debut, he said.
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