Tag Archives: Issey Miyake

NYFW SS 2015: Creatures of Comfort

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It’s always tricky when retailers launch their own wholesale label. They have to set their line apart from what they already stock while still embodying the experience of the whole store. It can go wrong for many number of reasons but often it’s because retailers treat the label like floor filler to plug the holes of their merchandising scheme and not as a separate and proper business that calls for proper clothes. When it goes right, which it surely did for Creatures of Comfort, you get an accurate synthesis of a retailer’s identity into a collection and, more importantly, a studied and developed offering of wardrobe solutions. They are retailers after all and you’d hope that any store with such a distinct point-of-view would have a strong and empowering idea of their patrons. And if they are doing their job correctly they should have a pretty good insight on what his or her deepest needs and dreams are. And if they have a handle on that they should probably cut to the chase and make the clothes direct. It must be said that the clothes at Creatures of Comfort were more than proper.

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Who is the Creatures of Comfort woman? I suppose that cliché question is the first abstract to be addressed when looking at a runway interpretation of a retailer’s vision. The store gives you a strong idea but the new collection is far more expansive and precise. I had a hunch from the first look on the runway; a madras shirtdress with a wrap detail in the skirt. My mind immediately went to Claire McCardell (as it would) but it wasn’t until the second look, a silk tank and matching wide pleated pant, that I started to realize the bigger story. As the collection revealed itself it formed into a pretty persuasive proposition on world dress. The CoC woman is not quite a citizen of the world, but as a piece of prose provided in the show notes titled “A Wild Way Awhile” claims, she is “beyond cartographic delineation.”

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I know the mere mention of “world dress” can send you into a Pier 1 Imports nightmare but fend it off and hold on. Consider something like Japanese dress, not the orientalist affectation of a cherry blossom kimono or a geisha, but rather its radical power to deconstruct and reconstruct fashion as designers like Miyake, Yamamoto, and Kawakubo did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then consider South Asian, Southeast Asian and all the vastness of African dress and you get the idea. As Western fashion exhausts itself through endless self-referencing, world dress provides a wellspring of solutions derived by other ways of life, some now extinct. That alternatives to modernized and Westernized life should be so appealing at this point in time is anybody’s guess. In the ‘50s American sportswear designers constantly referenced world dress, particularly costumes of Japan and Southeast Asia and they came up with, what was in their context and time, some pretty radical ideas. They were based on economy. Why have the extra cost and labor of buttons? Just tie it. Why bother with the resource-gobbling construction of traditional dressmaking and tailoring? Just wrap it. These designers sourced a great number of innovations from across the globe and adapted them for the Western mode which simultaneously critically reassessed the shifting paradigms of modern dress.

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It was great go see Creatures of Comfort’s Jade Lai wrestle with the same ideas with her interpretation landing somewhere between McCardell and Issey Miyake’s Plantation with a good dose of British New Romanatics ala Westwood and Galliano mixed in. But my personal references aside, it actually read as a collection full of new classics. A skort with an extra-long wrapped panel was both a utilitarian and aesthetic adaptation of Southeast Asian wrap skirts keenly realized for urban life in New York. A long stripped linen car coat, sampled in a few covetable fabrications, seemed just as easy and necessary. There was a range of knit vests, skirts, and dresses that had ease and polish, particularly a knit dress with a placket running down the center back (it made for a memorable exit). And there was a major call for loose pajama dressing– novel today as fashion but obvious for its comfort and grace throughout the rest of the world. The collection shifted between familiar and foreign, always effortless and casual but highly refined with moments of splendor. It did not suggest a different world but perhaps a whole new one. It’s a pretty inviting one Lai has made for her and her customer which now exists well beyond the confines of her stores in L.A. and New York. “This is where I’m meant to be, she thinks” reads the ending to the prose, “where I’ll be for a while.” I can’t blame her and I don’t think many women will be able to, either.

Images by Shawn Brackbill courtesy of Creatures of Comfort.

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An Athletic Look, 2013

Armani1987At Armani, an alluring combination of casual athletic wear and classic tailoring, a seductive mix of two ’80s archetypes: the jock and the business man. Photographed by Aldo Fallai, 1987.

DKNY1994In a 1994 DKNY Active campaign Rosemary McGrotha and Marc Vanderloo define their ideal duo of the mid 1990s: urban, active, and in-shape. The graphic language of the runner uniform becomes the idea look for a hyper modern metropolis.

SteveJobsThe late Steve Jobs is pragmatically dressed in an Issey Miyake mock neck pullover and New Balance sneakers, sporting a look as integral in synergizing technology and lifestyle in the midst of the Information Age as any of his Apple innovations.

Sports1Looks from the Fall-Winter 2013 season by Tim Coppens, Damir Doma, Patrik Ervell, Issey Miyake, Kris Van Aasche, and Lanvin.

It’s no secret that active wear has steadily made its way into fashion semantics over the last 20 years, just as sportswear became a part of everyday dress decades before. From Nike to Northface to the genre defining Y-3, clothes designed for comfort and performance have been readily adapted into symbols of status, community, and progressive lifestyle. For fall 2013 some of the keenest menswear designers in the U.S. and Europe took inspiration from the world of athletics and its contemporary uniform: zippers, nylon, heathered grey jersey, running sneakers — no longer for the gym or the track field, they aspire to a modernism based in practicality and necessity and an acceptance and admiration of technology as a means to better one’s life. The last time this spirit got such a potent and fleshed out treatment was maybe in the mid ‘90s when DKNY pursued the active look to define their urban centric ambitions. That this language enjoys such a fashionable revival just as we come to terms with our totally engrossing technological dependence, just as dial-up modems and affordable personal computers offered the startling appeal of a bright bold future almost 20 years ago, is no surprise. It’s the look of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, of computer tablets and smart phones, a look that puts stock in intellectual stamina and a body that works in tandem with the mind, not against it. It is the idea of the Jock flipped on its head as athletic wear becomes a part of everyday dress, worn by a generation who seek solutions in all aspects of their life, or, at least for now, the look of it.

Alternatives, 2012

The Men’s Dress Reform Party, London, 1937

One of the many factions advocating radical change in conventional Western dress in the early 20th century, the Men’s Dress Reform Party pursued a softer, easier look based on comfort and aesthetic principle. Soft collars, shorts,  breeches, and even sandals were prized for their sartorial freedom and their parallel political reflections.

Raincoat designed by Issey Miyake, modeled by Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura

Miyake found no discrepancy between East and West, believing that the two could combine into an amalgam of a modern world. In his design of a raincoat the binary of traditional Japanese clothes making and modern technology only compliment each other.

Yohji Yamamoto, circa 1984

Yamamoto utilized his native dress  with no less fervor bringing essentially Japanese shapes and forms to fashionable attention, facing head-on world dominating Western dress. While it would not reshape the modern wardrobe it would help put it into perspective and offer at least one divergent direction forward.

Giorgio Armani, 1990

Armani’s relaxed attitude, burgeoning into ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took its inspiration from dress of the Middle East and Asia. A softer silhouette, still in cahoots with the oversized masculinity of its time, was sensual and seductive.

Raf Simons, 2005

Simons’s fall 2005 collection was an anathema to men’s fashion of its time. Sending out street casted boys in oversized silhouettes, owing as much to 1980’s Yamamoto as it does  the decades’ science fiction narratives ala Blade Runner and Brazil, the show struck a note that would vibrate much longer than a single season.

The spring 2012 men’s wear collections from Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, Issey Miyake, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, and Lanvin.

The Spring 2012 men’s wear collections in Milan and Paris are not so easily defined through rock‘n’roll, iconic heritage, or some kind of vague sartorialism – the usual language that gets bandied around from season to season to describe men’s fashion. The collections this time had a lot more to them. Trying to clearly express what it is, what these clothes really are, is much trickier, muddled in their ambiguity and contradictions; at once soft and strict, synthetic and natural, ancient and modern. There are no easy references to rely on but there is a means forward.

Issey Miyake, 1979

And on an entirely diffrent note, Issey Miyake lends his terribly handsome looks to one of Japan’s finest whiskeys. If it seems incongruent to the more philosophical expressions that we have come to know from the designer it only goes to show just how far reaching and effective his appeal was. Bottoms up!

Issey Miyake, 1983

An earlier iteration of Miyake’s unique futurism.

Issey Miyake, 1999

Issey Miyake’s last collection, replete with his futurist yearnings.

Issey Miyake, 1985

Quite the colorful ensemble photographed by Irving Penn.