everything is never quite enough (mikeijames) wrote,
everything is never quite enough

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what the water gave me.

Assess Your Relationships!

This interesting week gets going with a feisty Aries full Moon on October 11, and as much as you'll want to pay attention to your own needs at this time, you'll need to consider others' desires as well. As Mercury enters problem-solving Scorpio on October 13, you're set to discover valuable new information; meanwhile, the Sun-Saturn conjunction later that same day provides serious energy! Then, on October 14, your relationships get a second look as Venus opposes Jupiter.

every single time i sidle up to my laptop to begin to pen my livejournal post, i remark to myself that for a relatively simple and boring life, i have crammed quite a bit into the weeks i have stayed away. the feeling i've experienced mostly over the past couple of weeks borders on a fear and an excitement and an enchantment and a longing. and it's an image that has haunted me and seduced me. the saturday before last, i headed over to the brazilian's apartment after the brazilian had endured yet another long day at work. with the eighty hour weeks the brazilian has worked and the few overtime hours i've logged, getting together has proved a greater and greater challenge, and when i came over, the brazilian still had on the dark blue scrubs from the clinic and a weary expression that carried the weight of everything the week had put the brazilian through. so, i came in, bristled back, and asked whether or not the brazilian wanted me to join in or not. i had brought over a big bottle of wine and the brazilian had lit some candles. pretty soon the bathtub started filling with water and within minutes we both sat beneath the steaming waters decompressing. of course, because it's me, and because it happens even when i'm alone, my body registered excitement when submerged beneath the warm currents and it felt nearly perfect, despite the cramped quarters, to lay there in the heat with a true paramour. even with all the unaddressed shit between us, it just felt simple and good and delicious. we sat there for a half hour or so talking about silly things and eventually emerging into netflixed episodes of star trek enterprise, the ordering of delivery, and a little tumbling between the sheets. a tumbling which though enthusiastic did not culminate in the exchange we normally accomplish. and, i, with my mind that never leaves me, wondered whether or not this forced sexual ending meant something more given all the things i had racing through my mind with the thumping pulse drumming against my ear. was this the beginning of the end? was one encounter without the catapult to ecstasy the end of the affair? did the wine have anything to do with it? did the bloom fall off the rose? did it even matter? and since then the idea of this dalliance we have with the water, with the known unknown, with the beautiful danger of it, with the fairy tale mystery of it, really have some credence. i found that over the weeks with the brazilian that i found myself both comforted and frightened by that which i did not know. we had grown apart slightly. it happens in all things, no? we did not fuck each other like rabbits each and every time we saw each other. we had gotten to the meat of this thing. but we both seemed to recoil. to push back. to fall away from that inevitable place. resisting the gravity of the real. of the serious. of the commitment. but then, did it have something to do with money? we all know how over my head i can get and after the wedding in new york, i found myself particularly broke and expectedly so and on that sunday when we were tossing around the idea of going to one of the films that cost twenty five dollars a ticket, i made mention that i couldn't afford to treat this round and a layer of frost iced over our conversation from that point forward. not that it hasn't been there in the back of my mind: unlike my friend alex, i do travel and i do enjoy my life abroad as a trade off many times to my life at home. and the money spent in chicago or new york or boston does not sit in isolation while my life spins along in perpetual motion, it halts that cycle, it interrupts it. and it has for so long that i have lost touch with the p.r. girl. my sister and i had stopped speaking. and the extent of my social life circled around my schedule at work and the subsidy of the brazilian. but i tried to fight against it, but, as i discussed with my sister, i don't know if it's this way because of my brokenness or by design. i've offered to pay. i've offered to treat. but it's been batted away. my suggestions get overruled. they get sidelined. they get avoided. they don't get discussed. and so, after a while, i stopped suggesting. i can do things i like with my friends or my sister or when i go out of town, i reason. that's not what's important to me in a relationship. it's important to me in my friends, but not in a lover. and maybe that's where it starts. i don't know.

i guess i should start where i left off a few weeks ago. after having faux-emotional anxiety about the wedding, i used my next payday to pick up a new pair of tom ford specs and meet the brazilian at the mall afterward for a dinner date at the cheesecake factory. yes, the literal one. i know i sometimes use it as code when referring to my online dalliances and have often disparaged it as a place for only tourists and boozy saturday afternoons shopping with one too many glasses of cheap champagne, but i guess, in the end, it serves a purpose and i go anywhere with my rose-colored glasses on and besides, i could tell it's one of those ideas that stuck in the brazilian's head and there stood no sense in trying to resist that. so we had a nice enough dinner and a leisurely walk back into the mall and then we had to break because the brazilian "had to" take a friend home after work (because the buses don't run apparently.....not). so i went home buzzed and horned up, but resisted the urge to do anything stupid as i typically would. no exsomeone. no only bar in town. no nothing. just went home. put myself to sleep or some shit. the next night, i ventured out to my favorite haunt, cassis -- alone because my sister and i had been in a fight over her having to stay here for schooling -- and over a few espressotinis, chatted up with various other bar patrons including this rather delectable diner who sat there having birthday drinks with two girlfriends from work. and they thoroughly provided my entertainment for the night with drunken hijinks and sexual innuendos galore. alas. i went home alone and horned up but didn't do anything stupid. no only bar in town. no cheesecake factory. nothing. i put myself to sleep or some shit. i didn't want to repeat the episodes of the past where i got left with some semblance of guilt because i find myself incapable of having a simple conversation. too afraid of the stakes. too fearful of the outcome. too worried about the words. too unprepared for the aftermath. good or bad.

well, thankfully, for my finances, i had to work labor day weekend, but on that sunday, i had plans wiith the brazilian to hang out with the brazilian and the brazilian's friends for dinner and whatever else the evening held. well. i woke up and when i sent a text about when i should come over and the brazilian wrote back that they had already offed for lunch in tampa and that i should just meet them there. when i inquired where, it became clear that it would represent a foolishly long drive so i immediately became upset because i knew what happens next. i've been here before where chicks come before dick and i'm left sitting there fuming. so i said....well, have fun with your friends. and the brazilian made a point of saying that we could still hang out, but hours past, and after saying "well after dinner," then "after drinks," it became, "my friend is sleeping over on the couch," and that lead me to really blow up (over text message) because it became so flagrantly obvious that the friends had won out over me. i tried to reign it in, but i remained furious because when we made plans earlier -- and i have to make plans earlier as i have to alter my sleep schedule to accommodate anything that takes place during the day after a night i've worked -- it was "well we can just hang out at the apartment because i have to go to work early in the morning" so i bent over backward trying to not let our schedules get in the way of us and then i get burned and i look like a sap. well, what i tried to end on a not-so-angry note because of that whole "never let the sun go down on your anger" bit, but it got resolved through natural life happenings when i found out the next day that the brazilian got pulled over for speeding but then charged with a felony: driving with a suspended license. strange since i got a similar charge when i my insurance lapsed, but it certainly didn't result in court dates and felony charges. so, needless to say, driving privileges got curtailed so i leapt in as the good boyfriend, "let me pick you up from work! it's stupid to take a cab!" and i drove up and all the animosity of the night before had melted away as i felt even more included in the goings-on of the brazilian's life. watching the brazilian wrap up things at the clinic sitting there as "the man"....i don't know. it did something. so i spent the night. we probably screwed. who can remember? and then the next day, we spent all day, and i mean ALL DAY, in bed watching the good wife and cuddling with each other. i''ve never been so happy. i had to go to work that night and i struggled through but i thought we had something good in that moment.

that friday, i went to see "contagion" and reawakened all of my love for the soderbergh-ian flourishs on film but after the movie, i got to talking to the brazilian who miraculously still remained awake despite the midnight hour and having worked twelve hours that day starting before the sun rose and somehow i made my way over -- first stopping by a late night mcdonald's -- and we spent the night and the morning, but then i had to venture off to go shopping with my parents and sister to the outlet mall -- i mean, you know me and last minute things for new york -- and then i came back and i don't know how it happened, but i wound up back over the brazilian's and we went out for thai food and then grocery shopping. again, these are the things that make me cleave to someone. the routine. the oridinary. afterward, i spent the night. and, the next day, we went for lunch with the brazilian's best friend at a peruvian restuarant in tampa then we went to international plaza where we spent an interminable amount of time walking around and getting gelatos and boring me to death -- i don't like shopping without money -- so then we broke apart or i stayed over. frankly, i don't remember. all i know is that the next wednesday, after i got paid, and after i bought underwear and socks and things, i went over and we had a bon voyage fuck before i left for new york. oh yeah, and i added the brazilian to my facebook. seriously, i sometimes think i wasn't cut out to date this century.

that thursday, i got a ride to the airport and i touched town in new york -- in my silken scarves and cordoroy and fall finest -- and met up with jen at her apartment. this time, we caught up over cocktails at this old time new york bar where men smoked cigars and wore three piece suits and where we had stiff dry martinis and laughed about how empty our stomachs were. so we headed down to the lower east side for dinner at this tequila joint called mayahuel which had reasonable food but horrible cocktails -- i realized again that tequila just isn't my drink and really, truly, i should never drink it -- so horrible that we even tried the cocktails of the table next to ours and nothing did it. we did leave with a half-buzz and headed to another pub on the lower east side to meet one of her coworkers who always doles out equal amounts of trouble and fun and somehow we ran into her red-headed coworker who i knew from ohio state and who i have never really trusted and this coworker sat there with a hearing impared looker. i mean, looker. and they had met at some social group or something but we got into a fight about the sex ratio of the world which i knew i was right, but couldn't explain it and i tried to parlay that into something, but you know, this hearing impared something or other apparently liked girls which i didn't buy because why would this hearing impaired something or other hang out with my red-headed classmate from years earlier? but four or five rounds later, i found myself deep in conversation with a dreadlocked, hippy type who i had convinced myself to be a undercover cop and though i found myself radically attracted, i resisted all of the wiles because all of the advances came under the auspices of obtaining one specific thing which i would never do with someone that good looking without them saying the words which this dreadlocked person would not say. that simple.

so somehow, we wound up back at my friend's apartment where, it later got reported, i projectile vomited all over the bathroom and then passed out on the couch. well. i woke up to nakedness. not just the nakedness of my red headed friend, but also this personal trainer who my friend jen had brought home. they were sitting on the couch. butt naked. having a conversation about something stupid. like, tequila vs. vodka or something and holding in their hand the very thing i wouldn't share with the dreadlocked person and the very thing i would NEVER EVER trust the red head with let alone someone i didn't even recognize. so i went into my paranoid, "how did that get out of my pocket?" speech but somehow it turned into a naked party all around with my high ass stripping down and taking it too many steps forward. i mean, as i've explained to rob, i blame it on my own weak psychology. my silly little fantasies. for me, a great night out is very formulaic. it's dinner. then, drinks. then, more drinks. then, probably, dancing. then, decadence. then, after party. then, clothes-off after party. then, more decadence. then, disco nap. then, morning, regret, etc. very formulaic. it happened quite a couple of times during the live wire period. but not that much sense. the elements just never were all there. i had the dinner and drinks and then that's it. or the drinks and decadence and that's it. never has it gone from start to finish and boy did i regret it this time. somehow, all my feelings of attraction toward the red head came to the surface -- they had appeared the last time i was in new york, but they passed after i saw the red head out of the flattering coat -- and somehow we wound up spooning but i blame, mostly, missing the brazilian. so that's that. embarrassing. the next day, i slept all the livelong day because, one, i hadn't slept the day before and i had worked the night before that, and two, because i had basically stayed up all night. so it was eight o clock at night and i didn't want to move. not for rob. not for anyone. but jen forced me to hop the train to hoboken -- after stopping by this bar to fuel up. oh, did i forget to mention that the personal trainer was still there?! yeah, the red head disappeared (rightfully embarrassed), but the personal trainer spent the day eating take out, drinking tequila, and partaking in other libations that we had to stop by the bar to replenish -- and we went to a birthday party at the bar at the top of the w hotel. otherwise known as douche bag central. but i did sort of network with this advertising girl so not completely a waste. the next day, we had to scramble for the wedding, with alex flying in and jen forcing the personal trainer out, and i trying to equalize after two days of partying. well, we spent most of the morning being bitchy new yorkers -- when in rome -- and the ceremony turned out more beautifully than i could've imagined and cocktails afterward went swimmingly -- after we tried to crash the oak room before it even opened -- and then we went to flute where i got pretty toasted on five vodka cranberries -- i had had something called a "cranberry gosling" at the essex house earlier -- and then we ran home so i could change from white and black to black on black and then went to co-op to begin a night of celebration and forgetfulness. we had several cocktails called "the light" -- ironic only to me because of my post several weeks ago -- and after a fantastic dinner where i made many trips to the bathroom, i switched to belvedere on the rocks outright and my memory started to falter because i felt like i would cry over my best friend getting married so i began acting debaucherous and we decamped to go to "beauty and essex" but not everyone could get in so we went to verlaine which i've been to so many times i can't count with jen and then we went to this really edgy bar called "the dark room" which literally made me black out. i don't even know how we got home. apparently, i lost her keys but had them all along. yeah. so. alex left and i slept all day, then ordered take out then jumped on the e train and made it home in the wee hours of monday morning.

i coasted through the week and on that friday night, i went to see "drive" which basically stood as the masculine equivalent of "marie antionette," namely, a well-directed music video very long on style but very short on substance, which i love, although in a completely different way than movies like "traffic"/"syriana"/"contagion." i find soderbergh movies like a great risotto dish where i find movies like "drive"/"marie antionette"/"belly" like great cocktails. on that saturday, i hung out with the brazilian, we went to dinner at the brazilian steakhouse, we went to before (which tasted infinitely better since i could eat carbs!), and then, we came home and watched some suze orman episodes before we went to sleep. the next day, we had a late lunch with the brazilian's best friend at olive garden -- endless pasta! -- and then hung out for apple pie and ice cream later (there i found out that the day after my last post when the brazilian supposedly had a flat tire, the brazilian actually had it fixed, went with his best friend to the last supper social -- the one i've been trying to get involved with for years -- and then drank and smoked and that's when i came over for a screw afterward). well, i went home after that to watch the "good wife" and two days later the brazilian went to court and i don't know what happened but i know it wasn't good. that thursday (after an excruciating cleaning at my dentist), my sister and i made amends. first, at z grille where i had this raspberry lemonade that rocked just the right way, then to mandarin hide that convinced me to try that near cosmopolitan which again tasted nasty, and then at cassis which had a similar lemonade that rocked me further on the path to drunkeness, and then a vodka cranberry at midtown where she had a burger and then unknown drinks at the only bar in town where (weeks later) she told me was out of control and where she had fun because there were so many strippers and drag queens -- none of which i remember, but all i know, is that i was so drunk that i not only threw up, but i was so drunk that i was still hungover THE NEXT NIGHT. but thankfully, i didn't do anything stupid to jeopardize my relationship, but i did notice a little pain that got me to worrying. normally, i would let something like that just slide, but given the sexual relationship between the brazilian and i -- one without prophylactics -- i brought it up. well. it didn't lead to the "going steady" conversation i wanted, it ventured into this clinical direction and somehow i wound up going over that friday night on my lunch hour to get an antibiotic. so, since then, i feel like things have cooled off. in return, i did contact my lawyer friend about the felony charge, but nothing has happened with that.

that brings us to the saturday night with the bath. we, of course, fucked. then on the sunday, after we discussed going to the film festival, but then decided against it once i made mention that i couldn't pay for the twenty five dollar tickets, i decided to go to my parents' for dinner. well. in my haste, my car slid off the slick highway and hit a light pole. it damaged my car quite a bit and could've really hurt me, but it didn't. one two hundred dollar ticket, thirty dollar tow, two days of embarrassing commute to work, and seven hundred dollar (on going) repair later, i am without a car and i haven't seen the brazilian since. i went to the movies on wednesday alone to see "ides of march" and i hung out with my sister last thursday for a drink and sushi at vue19. and sure, the brazilian and i have talked, but we haven't seen each other. and i miss the brazilian and i feel like distance has had an impact on our relationship and though i've thrown out some ideas i could "treat" the brazilian to, i've had no bites. it's like i can feel the brazilian slipping away and i there's nothing i can do. i invited the brazilian to dinner tonight but we'll see if anything happens. if not, i'm guaranteed not to see the brazilian before friday night (the next time i'm off). it's really chilling how quickly something so peaceful and relaxing can become something menacing and inundating. and while i'd like to venture to the fantastic place where mermaids swim and seashells gleam, i'm left with a feeling of impending doom that i cannot shake. let's hope that this passes.

fashion by the zodiac
October 6, 2011

We were having the Versace starfish vs seahorse debate in the office this morning (naturally) and I came to realize that many designers have been inspired by the ocean for their spring collections. As I pondered aloud the aquatic inclinations of McQueen, Chanel and even Giorgio Armani, the (mostly female) team laughed at my fascination for such a niche and arguably tenuous trend… and somehow the fact that I am an Aquarian came up in the discussion. Prior to this I didn’t even know my star sign, but what if the stars do dictate one’s sartorial choices? If so, it’s very good news for any Aquarians this season, because there is a whole range of sea life floating across the catwalks.

It started during Milan Fashion Week with a very literal interpretation by Versace, but we must admit that we didn’t think we’d see the diamanté seahorses and starfish elsewhere on the international catwalks. However, a matter of days later we turned up at the Grand Palais for the Chanel show, only to be confronted by a blindingly white underwater world, with giant coral, shells, seahorse and stingrays adorning the impressive set (not to mention the clam that Florence Welch emerged from, Venus-like, to sing her hit ‘What The Water Gave Me’.) It turns out Karl had been musing on the ancient forms of the sea — hence the conch-shell clutches (or were they just shells?) To be honest, whatever works — because it was one of Chanel’s most astonishing, light, young, cool and breathtakingly beautiful RTW shows in recent memory, with a delicious sorbet palette and brilliant finishing touches, such as the pearl piercings dotted on the on nose, chin and in the hair of many of the models.

Stella Tennant wearing bladderwrack, iridescent fish scales and a conch clutch (aka the cluntch - or clontch.. we can't decide!) and Daphne as a jellyfish
The artistic and creative interpretation of marine life continued at Alexander McQueen, where Sarah Burton wrought beautiful jellyfish hems in apricot degradé, and dramatic coral embellishment on floor-length gowns. My water-carrying instincts as an Aquarian, which had lain dormant for so long, were by now fired up, and every collection made maritime metaphors pop into my head. That dark purple at Prabal? Definitely a direct reference to the deadly Portuguese Man o’ War (see below). [Note that our writer, Rupert, is from England, and thus believes that all Australian animals are deadly.]

And how about those fish-scale sequins at Givenchy? So, I think it is only fair to extend this trend to Pisceans — after all, apparently I’m ‘right on the cusp’ myself, whatever that means. Having had a dip into the waters of astrology I’m quite relieved it’s all nonsense, but it certainly provides an interesting way of divining future trends. Next month: Taurus.
Words: Rupert Bickersteth


"What The Water Gave Me"

Time it took us
To where the water was
That’s what the water gave me
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us
Oh, my love, don’t forsake me
Take what the water gave me

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

And oh, poor Atlas
The world’s a beast of a burden
You’ve been holding on a long time
And all this longing
And the shields are left to rust
That’s what the water gave us

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones
Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

‘Cause they took your loved ones
But returned them in exchange for you
But would you have it any other way?
Would you have it any other way?
You could have had it any other way

‘Cause she’s a crueller mistress
And the bargain must be made
But oh, my love, don’t forget me
I let the water take me

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the over flow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

New music: Florence and the Machine – What the Water Gave Me
The new Florence single – which references Frida Kahlo and Virginia Woolf – has a lofty premise, but never collapses under the weight of its own drama

It's a cliche that usually involves a reference to Marmite, but Florence and the Machine divide opinion. You either – wait for it – love them or hate them, and because of Florence Welch's voice, an instrument that can flit between tremulous and strident in an instant. Their ubiquity last summer – festival appearances, radio play, TV idents – has meant that it's been hard to actually miss them and it was widely assumed a new album would probably surface in 2012. On Monday, however, it was announced that their second album would be out this November. This news was accompanied by a brand new song, What the Water Gave Me. With a title taken from a Frida Kahlo painting and a lyric referencing Virginia Woolf, it's a lofty premise for a pop song – Welch mixing images of suicide with declarations of undying love over fluttering harp and robust guitar. Co-written by Francis White, whose past credits include Adele's Chasing Pavements and Will Young's Leave Right Now, it also has enough melody to stop it from collapsing under the weight of its own drama. This delicate balance gives the song its edge.


Jules Verne? Wes Anderson? Georges Méliès? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea? This stunning recreation of the ocean floor, this immaculate white landscape of seaweed, stingrays, sharks and shells, daring the dream with candor and an optimistic, rather than desolate, idea of fashion.

So, captivated by an extravagant dream, enthralled, and traveling even before the show commenced, spectators awaited the various versions of the underwater theme throughout the collection.

It was a masterpiece: deceptively simple but never dull. Mermaids in slinky sheath dresses were not on the program. Instead, there were more youthful and light silhouettes than ever. Lots of long, tapering limbs, knee-revealing dresses and skirts, luxurious and loose knitwear, wonderful white sweaters worn over full skirts, the very image of elegance without pretension. We loved the mini-mini shorts in laminated denim worn under unstructured jackets, the little top embroidered like a bed of sea anemones, jackets sensually cut along the small of the back, the dress embroidered with bronze-colored scales. The collection seems to capture the shimmering light of the sun on the waves.

The tweed is iridescent with Lurex and mother-of-pearl applications chiseled onto suits. Extensive work on the materials reinforces the modernity and the energy of the profiles: rhodoid, neoprene and plastic accentuate the feeling of lightness. A silicon lace biker jacket designed by Sophie Halette is complimented by sinewy black plastic piping for the ultimate refined look. It is as though two hands had dived into the sea foam and brought back a jacket.

Subtle humour permeates the collection. The dress with embroidered shoulders bears a trompe-l’oeil of lacy seaweed below the waistline. Karl Lagerfeld has been having more fun than ever!

Heels shaped like coral branches or beaded shells, earrings and rings in the shape of sea urchins, shell-shaped clutch bags, rectangular quilted bags enchained like certain packages recovered by the sea customs… all enraptured the audience. The haunting black and white or silver-colored ankle boots gave movement and a subtle touch of the Swinging Sixties in London to the shapes.
The evening was sumptuous and youthful, with lengths remaining above the ankle, diaphanous volumes, lace, gemstones, sparkling embroidery, a spirit in-keeping with both the celestial and the aquatic.

Pearl, the iconic motif of the House of Chanel, was in its element! Assembled in delicate belts on some short dresses, it transformed into a sort of skin embroidery to create almost an almost surreal alignment down the spine.
Lightness, inventiveness and refinement for an intensely invigorating collection that ends with a Botticelli-style appearance of the singer Florence Welch, emerging from a giant shell to sing, accompanied by a harp player.

While her striking voice filled the Grand Palais, Paul Valéry’s words in ‘The Graveyard by the Sea’ came to mind:
“A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let’s run at the waves and be hurled back to living!”

This collection was exactly that, living!

Marchesa Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

NEW YORK, September 13, 2011
By Meenal Mistry

When Karen Elson walked out in her first look at Marchesa—a flapper-y number with swingy beaded fringe—you could have mistaken it for something she picked up at a great vintage shop. It was an early indication that, for their first runway show since, well, their first-ever five years ago, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig were opting for a slightly more earthbound approach than usual.

That's not to say there wasn't drama here. You could still "ooh" and "aah" over the designers' skill at sculpting horsehair and tulle, and a couple of final gowns had skirts that brushed over the front row's pedicures. But the change of format from models standing like dolls on museum-style pedestals to walking on a runway—in wedges, no less—seemed to add a dose of reality, a welcome shift. All that exquisitry can get exhausting, and you've seen it so many times here, it just feels worn.

Some of the standouts in this collection came when all that ebbed away and you could take a breath, as with the simple, unembellished, poet-sleeved chiffon dress that veiled the silver beading beneath. But the major statement was a colorful fish embroidery sparked by the Russian artist Ilya Repin's painting Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, and fringe inspired by Ernst Haeckel's drawings of jellyfish. The supremely elegant last look on Karolina Kurkova was mermaidlike in its swoops of fringe. Its gravity-defying illusion was made possible by a fine nude tulle. Perhaps it's not enough to drop jaws; sometimes, simply enticing and intriguing is much chicer.

Spring 2012 RTW

That the Marchesa duo of Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman chose to solely focus their idea of evening around a shimmering, glistening watery palette of petrol blue, lilac, and platinum that was as pretty as it was irony-free was a blessed relief after the last few days. So relentless has the onslaught of intense color been that the emergence of gentler, softer colorations were a joy to behold. They’re not alone in this: Quite a few collections have opted instead to tell their stories through white, cream, and ivory, but that’s another story. Anyway, it’s not that the endless visits to the vivid end of the color spectrum doesn’t have its appeal, but there have been times when it has felt too cacophonous and loud and distracting; please, turn it down, just for a second. Ditto to all those abstract, digitalized, exploded, and graphic florals. Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, not so good. Also, it has to be said, occasionally it felt like some of those that got the directive Go Big on Bold Hues and Big Patterns acted on it without really thinking through how to work them in ways that will be understandable and desirable to the women who will be buying the clothes. It’s like watching a Bollywood movie: You are dazzled by a lot of flash and color, but you’re not really sure what the hell is going on.

Anyway, that is not a problem chez Marchesa, because these girls clearly know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. It all comes back to that absence of irony. They know there are women who want evening dresses that are super-glamorous and opulent and make them feel like a million dollars back when a million dollars really was worth a million. For spring, Craig and Chapman were inspired by Ilya Repin’s 1876 painting Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, and this lead to hourglass dresses—some long, some finishing around the lower calf, that rippled and undulated with pleated tulle fronds, crystal beading, or silvery chains. The two prettiest, however, were also the quietest: a pale, pale, pale shell-pink bias-cut chiffon dress that veiled sparkling beading, and a pale ivory dress that flowed from a scale-like embroidered neckline. Some of these were accessorized with feathery purses, but Marchesa also had two better ideas. One model’s hair was dyed bright pink, and the hardness looked fabulous against all the ethereality. The other was to have four dapper guys help each model ascend and descend, oh, the few steps it required to get on and off the runway. So, there you have it: Dye or the guy: The choice is yours.

Versace Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

MILAN, September 23, 2011
By Tim Blanks

It's a Versace moment. The H&M collaboration is about to crush retail; designer kids everywhere are feeling the Versace vibe. But maybe the most interesting thing about the show today was that people left the house Gianni founded saying, "That was so Donatella."

The mood was set by the luminescent glow that illuminated the garden at the Via Gesù show space. It was like the light from a swimming pool. And into that glow stalked the tawny-maned goddesses who have roamed the Versace landscape since time immemorial. "The meeting of old and new Versace," Donatella said. That meeting could mean something as elemental as neoprene and plissé in the same outfit. Or shorts where a pelmet mini would have once sufficed. And the gold studs were clearly something Donatella felt an affinity for, if the outfit she wore to take her bow was any indication.

And that may be the collection's greatest plus. There is no way to judge it outside its own context—and that context is Donatella. Those Lucite platforms? Pure blonde. The fractured starfish that anchored Sigrid Agren's bifurcated gown? The plissé pastels? The Reggio Calabrian white with the Greek inflection? All of it an element in some way of Donatella's own design history. Which makes this collection a test of the power of personality in fashion. Cue the inevitable H&M madness.

Spring 2012 RTW

Could there possibly be a better moment for Donatella Versace? With the craze for nineties Gianni Versace baroque ’n’ roll prints at high tide—fashion kids are scouring every vintage source for shirts and scarves and flaunting them around the shows—and Donatella’s collaboration with H&M launching in New York in November, she’s surfing a mighty wave with excellent aplomb. Her show managed to net in all the classy values she’s been working the last few seasons—while also letting loose a happy, confident stream of Versace-isms: biker jackets; studded, second-skin pencil skirts; gold, sparkling summer pastels; mini-gladiator dresses; and goddess-y gowns. There was (if you haven’t guessed it already) a summery underwater theme going on. “I thought they looked like Botticelli babes, rising from the sea,” said Donatella’s enraptured protégé Christopher Kane, who belongs to the second generation of the Versace-obsessed. “And the girls, with their beautiful hair, bobbing along . . . I kept having flashbacks.” Versace almost had her own words drowned out by the ovation that followed her offstage. “I was thinking of sirens and mermaids, their hot sexuality. And everything I like, and Gianni liked,” she said, laughing.

What brought on the applause wasn’t just the heady goodwill following all things Versace: It’s the clever, modernized clarity she has brought to this label. Everything she did for summer was clean, bright, brilliantly made, and to the point. Prints of seahorses, starfish, and scallop shells, playing over neoprene biker-jacketed suits with tiny, tailored shorts and abbreviated dresses were complex but un-garishly pretty and melded seamlessly into a palette that ran from ice blue to lavender, lemon, and pistachio. The mini-goddess dresses, with streams of pleats running down one side of the body (the Gianni-flashback section of the show), were still reined in from out-and-out vulgarity. And even the mothers of the Botticelli babes—the customers Donatella has been carefully courting with fitted shift-dresses and decorative coats for the last few years—weren’t left behind. The white, zippy suits with knee-length skirts will do them very nicely.

Where, though, you might ask, were those desperately sought-after multicolored patchworks of prints? Wasn’t Donatella going to take advantage of that? Not to worry. Cleverly navigating the crest of the trend every kid wants, she’s going for the accessible route: “That’s for H&M,” she said, smiling.

Giorgio Armani Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

MILAN, September 26, 2011
By Tim Blanks

Giorgio Armani is obsessed with light this season. His Emporio show sparkled with hard starlight; his signature show shimmered with the translucent glow of the moon on the sea—or the mother-of-pearl lining of a seashell. Armani excels at translating such abstract notions into fabric. Here, there were bias-cut silk jackets that did indeed look like nacre. And the three graces that made an awkwardly stately exit at show's end were so drenched with beads and crystals, they looked newly risen from the ocean.

There is always a very particular dignity in an Armani show. Equally, there are also times when he introduces a design flourish that compromises that dignity. The unique touch in today's show was the slit that bifurcated pant legs—only in this case, it wasn't a compromise moment. Instead, it had the vaguely Far Eastern flair that characterizes so much of Armani's work, especially when the pants were laid under a skirt and jacket whose shoulders extended into pagoda points. Perfectly serene.

In that spirit, Armani took the lapels and buttons off his jackets, using a single toggle or an invisible hook-and-eye as an alternative closing. You can feel him continually paring away, reducing to some fundamental element. As long as that element is water, he'll do just fine.

Giorgio Armani
Spring 2012 RTW

If further proof was needed of what Giorgio Armani has given to women of the world over the years, it occurred a few minutes into his show Monday morning. The theme was aqua—or perhaps more accurately, what happens to aqua when moonlight hits it and causes all sorts of ripples and reflections. In short, we’re talking silvery blues and greens, a touch of mother-of-pearl, and plenty of silks and satins, some printed to look like marble and swirled with blossoms. All of which were utilized for his latest idea of the Armani silhouette: a longer-length jacket set with small shoulders, before flaring out Empire-style and then finishing at the hips, and worn with a new pant shape, which is cut with a slight kick to above a side-slit ankle.

Okay, so you’re getting the picture. Anyway, located among his variations on those were two superchic suits, one dark pearl gray, the other a marine blue. Both were cut with the skill and refinement that you can achieve only if you’ve been manipulating fabric for five decades and counting, and they moved with the kind of sinuosity you’d normally associate with slippery little nothings of lingerie. The jacket was cut on the bias, draped across the body with the merest suggestion of a closure, the skirt cut too on the bias, the slightest hint of a dip in the hem. (And thankfully only that. There have been so many up and down hemlines this season, it has been like looking at the performance of the financial markets on the pages of the International Herald Tribune—that is to say, deeply worrying, and leaving you desperate for a moment of even keel.)

Later, as a complete contrast, Armani offered another twosome that felt just right: Peplum tops and the aforementioned cropped trousers, in color combinations of mineral blue and gray, a look perfectly pitched between sharp and urban, soft and sensual. He then went on to abbreviate his trousers even further, finishing them at the knee and slipping them under the likes of a couple of killer crystal-encrusted short evening dresses with décolletés so deep they’d make a grown man blush. Well, this one almost did anyway.

Givenchy Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

PARIS, October 2, 2011
By Nicole Phelps

Other designers may be going print-crazy for Spring, but Riccardo Tisci—he of the ubiquitous rottweilers and panthers—is moving on and focusing on tailoring. The designer claimed surfers and mermaids as influences, but we've never seen either species in sexy suits quite like these: jackets that were sharp and soft at the same time, with strong, confident shoulders, and, for contrast, suggestive, undulating lapels and come-hither peplums trimmed not in leather but eel skin, shark, or stingray. Speaking of exotic materials, the jackets themselves weren't exactly cut from workaday fabrics. Chiffon sequins and lasered leather cutouts recalled the most stunning creations in his July couture show.

The bottom half of the looks is where Tisci's hypothetical water babies came in. The second-skin tight pants could've been wet suits. And as for the satin short shorts and narrow little skirts, which revealed miles of bronzed leg perched on shark-tooth heels? Hang ten, baby.

After last season's kinky ode to Bettie Page and Amanda Lear, we're tempted to call this collection, with its focus on suiting and little polo dresses, the most accessible that Tisci has ever done. Gisele Bündchen in sequins and silk as tawny as her hair-—how could you go wrong? But close inspection revealed plenty of the designer's provocative inclinations. Truncated shirttails and pelmet belts—posterior fins, if you will—directed all eyes to his models' rear ends. It's not hard to picture the sea creatures from this powerful collection replacing the omnipresent Givenchy panthers come Spring. Tisci is riding a wave right now.

Spring 2012 RTW

How long has it been since a show was opened by Natalia Vodianova and closed by Gisele Bündchen? In the general run of things this season, who’s modeling at which shows has scarcely been noticed. All the interest has shifted to outside where there is a stakeout of street-style photographers, snapping editors and assorted new personalities as they make their way in; it’s a fashion genre that has swiftly acquired its own set of rules and poses. But I digress. At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci is a designer who can command full attention for what—and, incidentally, who—he puts on a runway. And this season, quite unexpectedly, he left off his darkly ornate panther-prints and black patent leather (wildly successful as trophy pieces parading around outside Sunday night’s show) and dove under the sea for inspiration.

The oversize shark-tooth pendants and use of eel skin and sea wolf (a dappled, exotic fish skin) were the most overt pointers to his watery theme. In fact, the imagery in this show was only used in an allusive way. Call it a sea change: The approach was less about the cool, street-inspired T-shirts and sweatshirts for young insiders than casting the net wider to catch grown women who are in the market for tailored, quite dressy, looks and a subtle, optimistic use of color.

Shell-pink was the color vehicle Tisci used at the outset to reinvigorate the silhouette—a combination of jackets, skintight leggings, and buttoned-up shirts, the last nailing an unrevealing, slightly boyish point of style we’ve been watching on the stealthy rise all season. Should you look hard at the curvy lapels, their low-slung shapes might bear some relationship to the dorsal fins of sea creatures, while the shiny reverse side of some black tuxedo suits was covered with eel skin.

Still, for all its potential fierceness, the overall impression was balanced with a femininity that came from the play of softly fluted volumes in peplumed jackets and intricately pieced dresses made of white lace and chiffon. Somewhere in here, there are plenty of outfits to be fished out by women in need of formal attire for summer weddings. And, though the hipsters might mourn the absence of last season’s ornately casual tops, there’s a glittering catch for those who want to push the boat out in head-to-toe silver sequins.

Here endeth the puns. The underlying message about Tisci’s shift with this collection is that it nudges Givenchy nearer to its Parisian couture heritage. And having Natalia and Gisele in the house in outclassed the “outside” modeling by miles.

Chanel Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

PARIS, October 4, 2011
By Tim Blanks

For today's Chanel spectacular, Karl Lagerfeld recast himself as Prospero, conjuring a magical underwater world from the raw stuff of fashion. The Grand Palais was transformed by huge, blinding white sea shapes—corals, shells, sea horses, stingrays—and Florence Welch arose like Botticelli's Venus on the half shell to sing "What the Water Gave Me." It was a bravura performance all around.

What the water gave Karl was the kind of acute overview that only he could turn into a dazzling collection. He'd been musing on the fact that forms as modern as anything designed by the architect Zaha Hadid have been shaped at the bottom of the ocean by natural processes taking millions of years. Chanel hasn't been in existence for quite that long, but there was an impressive, graphic modernity shaped by lengthy natural processes (Karl's thoughts) in most of the 80 or so outfits that strolled around today's massive set. Lagerfeld said he wanted lightness. He'd used new fabrics even he didn't know how to define. They brought an iridescent mother-of-pearl shimmer to the collection—the lightness literally shone through. That was also why Lagerfeld strung pearls, instead of belts, around waists. And Sam McKnight dotted pearls through the models' slicked-back hair, too.

Lagerfeld's aim was nothing too "Chanel" because, he sagely noted, there are already so many other people doing that style. Still, he insisted on something that was recognizably within the codes of the house. So there were boxy tweeds, drop waists, mille-feuille pleats, and an ocean of prettiness for the fans. It was enthralling to watch the way he insinuated his underwater theme into this traditional Chanel lexicon. The ruffles on one dress looked like sea sponges, the iridescent streamers flying from another like seaweed. It wasn't always successful—one of Stella Tennant's outfits sprouted unfortunate seaweed panniers—but how many other designers are there who are prepared to take such risks after six decades in the business? Strike that. Who has this much energy and creativity at any age?

Spring 2012 RTW

Beneath the soaring glass domes of the Grand Palais, the Chanel set transported us to the undersea world of Karl Lagerfeld; an aquatic wonderland of gleaming white stingrays and sea horses adrift amongst coral branches and shells on a sandy sea bed. Lagerfeld had promised “the ground of the sea, but in a very poetic way,” and his models, meandering through this dramatic set to a techno soundtrack abstracted from Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” looked like magical deep-sea sirens, from the pearls scattered in their hair to the sea- urchin shells that propped up the heels of their sandals.

Lagerfeld deconstructed some of the house symbols. Coco’s iconic pearls were used as buttons or as belts to girdle his round-shouldered dresses, and Lagerfeld banished her signature braid trims altogether in place of fine black ribbon set in geometric blocks across pale suiting, a detail inspired by the “fabric paintings” of German abstract artist Blinky Palermo that he had admired in a recent exhibition at Dia.

Lagerfeld worked with innovative techno fabrics to create the effect of light through water. Airy waffle-textured organzas and iridescent synthetics, open-weave tweeds and knits, and a palette of sea foam, shell pink, and mother-of-pearl (anchored with the inevitable black) created an otherworldly effect.

And the details brought a whisper of the haute couture to the ready-to-wear season; changeante organza ribbons were appliquéd to trail across little shift dresses like seaweed swaying in a riptide; silvery embroideries or a frosting of nacreous sequins spilled down black dresses like the phosphorescence on a moonlit sea.

Swimsuits were anchored by pearl clasps or veiled in clear plastic “virtual jackets” printed with a tracery of fine black swirling lines like seaweed washed up on a seashore.

The technical mastery of this house was also revealed in the elaborate pleating and draping techniques that transformed diaphanous organza and (specially commissioned) seaweed motif lace into shapes and formations that recalled corals, seashells, and waving underwater algae, and provided the most complex takes on the pleated skirts that have become such a strong trend of the season.

As the final short evening dresses appeared (frothed with ruffles at the hips like lightweight eighteenth-century panniers—or reduced to a single flounce), a giant oyster shell opened to reveal Florence Welch (in a silvery dress trailing strands of seaweed ribbon), whose plangent tones brought the show to a spectacular end.

Screen Siren -- 'It's been nice to rediscover myself,' says Theron. Alexander McQueen silver glass-and-metal beaded dress.Fashion Editor: Camilla Nickerson.  Photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

Alexander McQueen Ready-to-Wear Spring 2012

PARIS, October 4, 2011
By Tim Blanks

If the day began with Prospero's aquatic sorcery at Chanel, it ended with a different kind of underwater magic at Alexander McQueen. Lagerfeld's models were nymphs; Sarah Burton's were goddesses. She based her collection on the three Gs: Grès for the pleating and draping, Gaudí for the architecture, and Gaia for the sense of all-encompassing oceanic life that infused the clothes, like the outfits composed of coral or shells. Or the incredible engineered matelassé jacquard in a barnacle pattern. Or the silk chiffon in an oyster print, which had been layered, cut into circles, and ribbed (though that hardly even begins to explain the complexity of the result). And if you carried the analogy still further, the black leather appliqué that infected a lace dress could be an oil slick; the Fortuny-pleated organza woven with copper, silver, and gold was like a pirate's buried treasure.

The details of the clothes were so obsessively conceived and realized, they could have easily sunk the clothes. That did, after all, happen with Lee McQueen now and again. But Burton has already won kudos for her woman's touch, which has literally lifted the collection. The raised waist here was an exaggerated Empire line of ruffles, which undulated as the models walked, "like a jellyfish moves in the sea," said the designer. It was most striking in an apricot baby doll, one of Burton's personal favorites. In the same vein, she compared the movement of a trapeze dress to swimming. Another dress, as pale, ruffled, and fragile as a peignoir, rolled like surf.

But this collection proved how hot-wired into the core of McQueen Burton truly is. The color palette—as translucent as the inside of a shell—had the kind of unambiguous prettiness that McQueen himself might have felt inclined to disrupt in some way. Burton duly injected the glossy black leather—a sinister barracuda slipping through the shoals of shimmer, like the spirit of her erstwhile mentor. She'll never escape him; nor, it seems, does she want to.

Alexander McQueen
Spring 2012 RTW

Before we go into describing the content of the Alexander McQueen spring collection, here’s something of what happened afterward: Emmanuelle Alt, editor of French Vogue, first backstage—ahead of a 200-strong throng of congratulators—went down on her knees and pawed the ground in front of Sarah Burton, laughing, “Thank you!” In the background, an army of English interns jumped around and hugged another; a publicist briefed everyone, “She even had some of those ruffles hand-massaged, you realize!”; and Burton, who was losing her voice, croaked to journalists, “It’s all about Gaia, the wonder of nature, the sea.” Behind her, dresses constructed of encrustations of beading and mother-of-pearl, rivulets of microscopic pleats, filigrees of leather, cascades of ruffles, and miles of lace were painstakingly peeled off models by a phalanx of dressers.

Observing it all somewhere a little further off, David Burton, the designer’s photographer-husband, remarked, “When you think about everything that’s happened to her in the past eighteen months, you just couldn’t make it up, could you?”

No, you could not. Three measures of exactly how speedily time zips past in fashion are these thoughts: a) that Alexander McQueen died only in February 2010, b) Catherine Middleton was married to Prince William this year on April 29 in a Sarah Burton for McQueen dress, and c) the Alexander McQueen exhibit in New York broke records at the Met before closing in August. Those events have so swiftly passed into history that it’s incredible to realize: This is just the third collection Sarah Burton has designed on her own.

With this one, she, like Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, made her theme aquatic. Burton, however, must have thought long and hard before taking that plunge though, because the underwater world was also the ominous, apocalyptic theme Alexander McQueen explored in his last show, “Plato’s Atlantis,” for his spring 2010 collection. He saw the world drowned by global warming and women morphing into sea mammals with crustacean feet.

But Burton’s way of looking at clothes is lighter than that of her former boss in both senses. Her collection—despite the fact that it honored McQueen’s classic silhouette in the strict, suited opening, and his aggression in the lace-masked heads and gleaming, fetishy black leather—is actually far more life-affirming and free of constriction.

But there is not one iota of slipping back in the question of quality. In fact, this show, with all its allusions to coral, sea anemones, barnacles, frondy seaweed, silvery mother-of-pearl, and bone-white seashell, was practically at the level of a Parisian couturier—but created out of the McQueen London studio, with the help of those many interns and their chiffon-massaging fingers.

Rich and imaginatively extraordinary as it was, it also elevated the McQueen identity to a diplomatic fantasy-plane beyond which questions can’t be asked. Speculation as to exactly which dress the Duchess of Cambridge might choose from this fantasia are impossible: Like most women, she never dresses this opulently in real life. Any woman who wants a translation of the froth and the curviform peplums which appear here will without a doubt find it in the parallel commercial collections Sarah Burton has sorted out just as beautifully.

Spring 2012 Trend: Under the Sea
By Emily Gyben 10/07/11 at 04:25 PM

Spring 2012 looks from Chanel, Versace, and Alexander McQueen

Perhaps The Little Mermaid was the Netflix movie du jour for designers, because the realm of Ariel was inspirational fodder for everyone from Chanel to Alexander McQueen.

In Milan, Giorgio Armani had a subtle take on the trend, with an entire collection in a pearlized pallette and watery shades from pale turquoise to deep, shimmering navy. Prints were mostly abstract, but they evoked swirling water and all things oceanic.

At Versace, Donatella went for a she-sells-seashells approach. Seahorses and shells were rendered on pencil skirts in gold studs, while prints showed mermaids, starfish and seashells. (If we really wanted to get analytical, we would mention that in Greek mythology Medusa, the figure in Versace’s iconic logo, was turned into a monster after her affair with Poseidon, the sea god.)

In Paris, Karl Lagerfeld turned his models into Chanel sea creatures (albeit beautiful ones), with pearls pinned into their hair and adorning their faces, ears, and backs. Dense ruffles on some dresses evoked coral reefs, while simpler dresses were decorated with pale streams of water. And of course, on the accessories front, clutches were shaped like spiral shells. (Speaking of aquatic accessories, notice the shark-tooth necklaces chez Givenchy?)

And Sarah Burton put her signature showstopping spin on the deep sea for the Alexander McQueen collection, with bunches of bright coral on shoulders and necks, swirling strings of pearls, shell-like ripples on fabric, and, for her breathtaking finale look: a metallic, scale-y gown with a flowing, mermaid-esque tiered skirt.

We're officially calling it: The deep sea is fashion's new frontier. And maybe, just maybe, we'll revisit that Ariel costume for Halloween.

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