Currently viewing the tag: "Contra"

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off wearing a hat–an amount that typically hovers above the (mostly hatless) heads of most Bostonians. Hats say: Look at me, damn it. Now. And: That’s right, bitch. I’m someone to be reckoned with. If not even sometimes: You know you wish you had guts enough to wear this. None of which are sentiments most New Englanders are exactly comfy with. The ubiquitousRed Sox cap notwithstanding, hats just aren’t our thing.

I’d reckon that was all changed last Monday night. The Boston Fashion Week show of Marie Galvin, milliner and longtime Boston fixture who for years has struggled with a local aversion to flamboyance, had just that kind of impact.

That’s largely because Galvin made two very smart decisions for the show: First, she went for wearability. Gone were her outrageous sculptural creations that may look beautiful behind glass, but would all but eclipse their wearer. (And have, in the past, emitted squawks of, “Where on earth would I wear that?“) No, she kept things earthly, unpretentious, and simply pretty with intricate fascinators festooned with netting and feathers; pom-pom topped wool caps; ’20s, ’30s, and ’60s-inspired numbers topped with petite poofs of feathers. The only hints at architectural derring-do–a fascinator of silk multi-curls here, a gorgeous, asymmetrical black meringue for the finale–were still sized well enough that they stayed proportionate to the models’ heads. Meaning they came off as daring rather than overwhelming or silly.

Her second smart move was tapping CONTRA to style the show, all the clothing and accessories pulled from Neiman Marcus with an eye toward elegance and streamlined refinement that still nodded to the runway. Gauzy blouses, python-patterned pencil skirts, silk shift dresses, and fur-collared coats–all of it a mostly neutral palette, and all of it as ladylike as it was edgy. They were the perfect foil for the hats–and arguably the most convincing argument for the hats themselves.

Together, Galvin and Contra showed Bostonians that not only are hats wearable every day; they showed them how to wear them–as an improvement to an already spectacular outfit. That’s the kind of equation capable of proving to the hatless public that style statements are nothing to be afraid of. And that, even as vintage-inspired as many of Galvin’s creations may be, is an idea that’s time has finally come.

For the premiere of StyleBoston’s third season, I partnered with an all-star team to bring you what I consider to be one of the best Fashion Forward features to date: a behind-the-scenes look at our Fall 2011 editorial shoot.

I’ll admit, as a whole this F/W season was wildly underwhelming for me.  Throughout the shows in February, it seemed as though designers were reacting to continued buyer hesitation by pushing aside designs that could or would have felt new and fresh. Instead, in concert they gave us collections that not only pandered to the last-standing dollar, but also diluted, with their severe safeness, the very essence of the brands which designers were scrambling to save from financial woes. Gone were the idiosyncratic signatures of each designer–the differences that distinguish one brand from another–and in their stead was a mild sea of sameness. The waves advanced but never broke, and if they ever reached the shore, well, I must have missed them from where I was standing.

As a result of this conciliatory consensus among designers, the editorial pages of America’s major fashion tomes–Vogue, Elle, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and the rest of their ilk–were chock full of predictable features hailing the neoclassicist revival as the next best thing since the no-carb diet. “Finally, designers have come back to reality and created sensible collections that every woman, in every city, in every country, of every shape, of every age, can wear!” Never mind that no fewer than twenty designers brought you nearly the same pencil skirt silhouette. Never mind that you most likely already own that very silhouette and have for over a decade. These are clothes you can buy, said the editors. And though seeing that tired phrase over and over again definitely annoyed me,  I could hardly blame them. After all, designers lose money when their more outlandish pieces don’t sell and their retailers scale back their seasonal buys. Designers losing money = designers having smaller advertising budgets = designers spending fewer advertising dollars with America’s paragons of print.  Either way, it was clear: the buzzword of the season was buy buy buy buy buy, and it was repeated ad nauseum.

My word was somewhat different: bored.

Of course, I enjoy a somewhat rare position: we at styleboston maintain a pretty strict separation between our sponsors and our editorial coverage, so I’m not beholden to tell you to buy buy buy buy buy whatever’s sitting on the racks at your nearest boutique or department store. That, frankly, just isn’t my thing. If you already have it, you probably don’t need another, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, you don’t actually need any of this. But fashion, at its best, is an incredible form of escapism, a bit of fantasy that you can put on and take off as you see fit. By my estimation, when a design hits that mark, it’s always a worthy investment.

All that in mind, the team and I selected our favorites from the Fall 2011 season for this feature. That labels like Comme des Garçons and Proenza Schouler made it onto that list is to be expected,  but there were certainly a few surprises, too: a diaphanous cocktail dress from Christian Siriano, for example. The designer himself dubbed the tulle confection the “ChaCha” dress because of the way the skirt floats and sways away from the body as you move, and frankly, who could resist a dress that makes you want to dance until you drop? I mean, damn, even I was tempted to purchase the thing, and I don’t wear dresses (they don’t fit) and I hate dancing (because I can’t dance).

All kidding aside, I hope you’ll take a few moments to peruse the feature, Cosas Oscuras, and maybe, just maybe, remember that while fashion is a serious industry, it is not serious business. Consider some of fashion’s most historic moments… In 1947, Christian Dior rebelled against post-World-War-II fabric restrictions by using over 20 yards in a single silhouette. It was a perfectly pedantic whim, but in the process he débuted the revolutionary New Look. Yves Saint Laurent fantasized about a modern power woman, slick and in control. That fantasy manifested itself as the Le Smoking tuxedo. It was the first clear foray into menswear as womenswear, territory designers are still mining for inspiration to this very day. Or Savage Beauty, the Met’s Alexander McQueen retrospective, which not only drew record crowds, but was then extended, then sold over 20,000 new memberships as people vied to skip the four-hour lines. When it finally closed, the museum could hardly meet demand.  In short, a little fantasy goes a long way.

And for those who wonder at my admittedly pretentious title, Cosas Oscuras, I’ll come clean: the phrase was plucked from one of my favorite lines of Pablo Neruda’s verse, “Te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras…” I won’t bother translating it because, hey, this is the digital age. You, like me, have google.

So take it in, love it, hate it, burn it (difficult through a computer screen, but I admire persistence!). And, as always, please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section.

Much love,
JGC

The inimitable Nastasia and her lackey of a partner, moi, leaving Gloucester late last night. We spent the day along the shoreline, snapping some rather iconic New England scenes with photographer Conor Doherty, suffering sunshine in the name of fashion. [Photograph courtesy of Conor Doherty.]

I’ll admit it: I’m starting to really like living in New England.

August 18th will mark the 3rd anniversary of my move to Massachusetts. But I’m not big on anniversaries. Hell, hardly any of my friends even know my birthday because I find such celebrations contrived. Why ‘celebrate me’ on the day I was born? I didn’t have much to do with that event, really, and all things considered, would probably have done it a bit differently. But that’s neither here nor there. Back to that anniversary…

When I first moved to Boston I was a foreigner. The city felt new, fresh, alive and utterly alien–a city to be explored and discovered, on my own terms. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement of the situation. I was ecstatic. Then came the inevitable realization that I had uprooted myself in almost every possible way, and, not long after, a near-violent loathing for Boston and for its people.  What seemed like the best capricious decision I had ever made took a rather nasty turn to the contrary. How I had not considered that what was attractive to me about Boston also meant I would have to start over completely?

My greatest hurdle was not professional, it was personal: I couldn’t make a friend to save my life. Experience has taught me that my personality is a polarizing one: you either love me or you hate me. But Bostonians didn’t react that way at all. Generally speaking, they were perfectly indifferent.  Cold, even. I spoke to nearly ever stranger on the street, complimented more women for their hair or their handbag than bears repeating (this works wonders in California, LET ME TELL YOU), and made more futile attempts at friendship than I can suffer to share.  A lot of side eye, a lot of  “I’m sorry, who are you and what is that you are wearing?” And goddamn was it discouraging.

But I’m one stubborn SOB. I wasn’t about to pack up and head back to sunny Santa Barbara, no matter how many people told me to do just that. One man’s narcissism being another man’s determination, I decided I was staying. Whether you (or I) liked it or not.

Continue reading »

Yes, I realize how many people have used this tagline before. I don’t care.

The blistering heat of late inspired my latest impromptu shoot, focusing on easy, summer pieces with enough interest to keep you from the t-shirt doldrums, even when you feel like your skin is melting off.

Not feeling particularly up to trolling Newbury for an afternoon, I pulled exclusively from Marc by Marc Jacobs. 1) I was lazy and hot and sticky and miserable and hated everythingeveryoneGODDAMNITGETMEOUTOFNEWENGLAND, 2) they always have dope ish, and 3) their team is always super helpful and super goodlooking.  Legit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly person in that store, which only further confounds me because they are always so NICE. The combination makes me vaguely uncomfortable. I’ll let you speculate as to why. [Also, special thanks to Connor for somehow always tolerating my frantic visits. You’re a gentleman and a scholar and I like your shorts, but I told you that already.]

ALL THAT SAID (with nothing actually being said…), I’ll have the images up Friday morning. Just in time for you to run to the store, grab some ish, and get yourself to the nearest beach.

Teaser: I may or may not have included a pair of electric pink speedo boyshorts. If that’s not a reason to check back then I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

For our FASHION FORWARD segment this past weekend, we focused on the best and brightest (quite literally) of the Resort and Spring collections. And, as a nod to these interim months, we brought you a few of our favorites from the local haunts to keep you warm until, finally, we can all shed a few layers and declare it Spring.