>> From minus thirty temperatures to slushy sleet to cats-and-dogs rain to ten minute snow storms with a peek of sun in between and then back to frigid winds and showers, this month has been a weather obstacle to challenge even the most pro of fashion month packers.  Not to toot my own packing horn but I consider myself a nifty/smart-ish packer, fine tuned by the regularity of hauling suitcases out of the house as well as travelling to a multitude of climates during the year.  There may not be official censuses to go by, but it’s certainly the wettest/windiest/coldest combo of gross weather I can remember for the duration of a fashion month.  My friend Phil Oh can fly attest to this – he along with the most hardcore of street style soldiers do have to actually stand outside the shows and endure the conditions as opposed to the fortunate peeps, who swan in and out of heated venues and warm cars).

All in all, it made for some wayward layers.  Multiple dresses and skirts over multiple trousers.  Faux furs hiding underneath bigger parkas.  Wearing body conscious tops in dubious fabrics just to create some artificial heat on the body.     Doubling/tripling up on Uniqlo Heat Tech as well as a trusty Uniqlo Lemaire polo neck, which I’ve worn so much this month, it’s pilling like mad.  And when it did get mildly warmer, might have wanted of spring summer’s prints – namely Coach’s ditzy florals, Simone Rocha’s sakura, Loewe’s menswear manga and Miu Miu’s clubbing cruise collection to come out and play, having been obscured by outerwear.  Towards the end of the month in Paris my coat-induced hunchback could finally be banished.  Bring on spring I say.

NYFW-New_York_Fashion_Week-Fall_Winter-17-Street_Style-Susie_Bubble-Ph. Collage Vintage – Acne jacket, skirt and scarf, Junya Watanabe top, Waven jeans, TL-180 bag, Acne x Stephen Jones hat

0213-susie-lau.nocrop.w1800.h1330.2xPh. Koo for TheCut – Molly Goddard grey smock, Celine trouers, Robert Clergerie slip-ons, M. Patmos beanie, Raey jacket

ETS_4590Ph. Egor Tsodov for Fashion IQ – Dion Lee jacket, Altuzarra shirt and skirt, vintage Chanel trousers, Altuzarra saddle bag, Céline slip-ons

image (1)Ph. Victoria Adamson for Refinery 29 – Shrimps jacket, Tome shirt, velvet top, shredded Waven jeans, Dorateymur boots, TL-180 bag

koo-street-style-0217-susie-lau.nocrop.w1800.h1330.2xPh. Koo for TheCut – Mr & Mrs Italy jacket, Coach biker jacket, dress and shoes

01-phil-oh-street-style-lfw-fall-rtw-2016Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Loewe jumper, Loewe Puzzle bag, Fyodor Golan dress J.W. Anderson shoes

image (3)Ph. Victoria Adamson for Refinery 29 – Miu Miu coat, Roksanda slipdress, Prada bag

LFW-STREET-DAY2-2-1080x750Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Coach jacket and dress underneath Ashish dress

Day-1Ph. IMAXTREE – Vintage Chinoiserie jacket and shirt, Pucci scarf, vintage Chanel trousers, Gucci bumble bee slippers, Gucci ‘Tian’ GG Boston bag, Dior sunglasses

mfw-street-day3-1Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Raey jacket, vintage Jean Paul Gaultier Jeans top and D&G top from Pelicans and Parrots, Minki Cheng skirt, Gucci ‘Tian’ GG Boston bag

imagePh. Victoria Adamson for Refinery 29 – Miu Miu jacket, Christopher Kane skirt, Loewe Puzzle bag, Meadham Kirchhoff shoes

paris-str-rf16-7644Ph. IMAXTREE – Toga dress, Burberry rucksack

_14A2251_2Ph. Stefano Poletti – X-Girl t-shirt, Simone Rocha skirt, Dior shawl, Louis Vuitton bag, Diadora trainers

koo-street-style-0308-susie-lau.nocrop.w1800.h1330.2xPh. Koo for TheCut – Wearing Poesia dress from Opening Ceremony, Miu Miu coat, Gucci ‘Tian’ GG Boston bag and Vans x & Other Stories shoes

paris-street-day-5-25Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Acne jumper, Miu miu dress, Acne bag

paris-street-day6-9Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Céline suit and bag, X-Girl t-shirt, Vans x & Other Stories shoes

25-phil-oh-paris-street-style-day8Ph. Phil Oh for Vogue.com – Kenzo hoodie, Loewe mens cardigan, Loewe Puzzle bag, Maison Margiela boots, vintage Chanel tights from Resee.com

I’ve been thinking about the “magic of decoration”, a phrase used to describe Galileo Chini’s work at that epic Symbolism exhibition in Milan. It’s a phrase that has permeated the season.  I’ve lost count of how many shows where, key rings, earrings and hair clips have somehow been the main focus of a collection.  There’s also been many a rich and sumptuous surface – and in particular dresses that shimmer and shine with fronds – making these bedazzled frocks excellent to capture on iPhone’s slo-mo.  As I said in my Gucci post, surface decoration can often ring hollow for some, but when a designer coaxes out some nuanced depth, then voila… magic.

Surfaces that move you were epically in force at Comme des Garçons.  First a disclaimer: I will say I perhaps have unconditional love for Rei Kawakubo – her universe, her unwillingness to compromise, her ability to communicate so many layers with the cut of a cloth.  She’s a writer’s dream.  She gives you collections with emotive heft and weight that leave vivid impressions on your brain, so much so that late into the night as you’re filing words, you don’t have to refer back to images or press releases.  This season, there was no emotional avalanche. I didn’t leave with tears on my face or a disturbingly fast thumping heart. I did however physically skip outside the venue, high on having a) physically shook the hands of Kawakubo and b) having seen a mastery of decoration that would constitute a happy place for most vague aesthetes.

Kawakubo imagined punks rollicking in the eighteenth century.  Rococo revolutionaries.  Artful anarchists.  She took the florid decoration from this century of revolt and enlightenment and amped it up to the heroically unyielding proportions that we have come to expect from the now tightly-edited CDG shows.  The provenance of the fabrics was one of the most impressive aspects as Kawakubo had sourced the crème de la crème of haute couture fabrics from Lyon – brocades, silk jacquards, damasks. Lyon was once upon a time, Europe’s capital of silk, and is still home to elite fabric houses like Bucol and Prelle.  Kawakubo in particular honed in on the florals that look like they’ve been lifted from a Jean Francois Bony painting.  There was something particularly touching about this acknowledgement of Lyon’s formerly illustrious silk trade.

For me, it chimed in with Kawakubo and her husband Adrian Joffe’s championing of rooted designs in their burgeoning Dover Street Market empire, which is about to enter a new chapter as they move from their original Dover Street location to Haymarket in London.  Unearthing the cult, the unknown and the things that deserve to be celebrated in fashion has made DSM the intuitive barometer that it is. In this particular Comme collection, it’s the savoir-faire of these insanely expensive and labour intensive fabrics, that Kawakubo is bringing to light.  Those two words might evoke slow hands and doddering craftsmen but here, these supremely crafted floral fancies punch you in the face with their armour like structures, bondage trappings and almost grotesquely shaped cocoons.  When pitted against the pink vinyl, reminiscent of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX on Kings Road in 1974, the punk aspect of Kawakubo’s imagining gatecrashes its way in to fully disrupt this sumptuous display of finery.

Beneath the myriad of surfaces par excellence there’s a provocative message to use unquestionable beauty to combat mediocrity.  In amidst talk of an out of control fashion industry, hungry for profit and product, a form of combat could well be the elevation of quality, as in the case of these incredibly lavish fabrics.  They begged to be touched, fondled and yes, worn (especially in the less extreme iterations seen in the Comme showroom).  If we’re going to live in a world piled high with clothes, clothes and more clothes, let them be as beautiful as these ones here.

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As per usual during fashion month, things have gone a bit hush hush here because I’m moonlighting elsewhere with words, words and more words.  I’m worded out.  I can’t use nouns like “convey” and “evoke” for a good while after this month.  Therefore… time for a spot of fun.  American fun to be specific.  At the beginning of Paris fashion week, to celebrate the opening of their brand new flagship Paris storeCoach in bolshy American style took us to prom.  For some it was reliving a cringeworthy rite of passage.  For Brits like myself, it was a giddy experience of running through this fictional prom setup and marvelling over things like corsages, a jock’s trophy cabinet and giant bowls of punch. Stuart Vevers did inject some of his own Brit-isms though – like sherbet filled flying saucers and of course the abundance of mis-matched floral prints from the SS15 collection, which I gussied up with a navy tutu skirt. We also got to play at being prom queen and simultaneously at Coach’s flower-festooned throne. Oh, and Debbie Harry and Mark Ronson were the prom entertainment. In short, not any sort of a prom that you or I would have attended, even if we did have this tradition in the UK.

IMG_2412Being prom king and queen for one night in Coach jacket, dress and bag, with my own navy tulle skirt underneath and Dior boots

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Susie-Bubble-in-Coach-Spring-2016-Look-46-dress-and-47-Jacket

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Next day with a cracking headache and a calming respite needed, I popped by the new flagship Coach store on 372-74 rue Saint Honoré. Down in the basement, lies something altogether more quiet than the prom antics of the night before. A Craftsmanship Bar, where bags can be cleaned and maintained (they will rub the zippers on your Coach bag with beeswax should they get a bit rusty) and new ones can be monogrammed. A few letters imprinted on leather might seem like a simple task but Christophe, Coach’s resident craftsman takes time to set the lettering, align the bag in the press and finally emboss the initials. There’s an informality to being able to watch the process, suited to Coach’s accessible sort of luxury. Hence the name ‘bar’. Now add a bowlful of those flying saucers and that cheeky punch…

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Last Saturday, I did my usual Milan Fashion Week Montenapoleone scout, bouncing from store to store and then finding sanity inside the pistachio-hued Pasticceria Marchesi, where nothing bad could possibly happen.  Inside the Gucci store, a woman in her mid forties was trying on a deliciously pink quilted coat from the current cruise collection.  I couldn’t help but overhear the sales assistant, with her gentle powers of persuasion ask, “What does this coat make you feel inside?  Are you someone who is soft and feminine?  Or do you want to be more aggressive?”  The woman was a little taken aback.  She certainly looked like she had interacted with more than her fair share of luxury brand sales assistants but perhaps no one had ever asked her how she really FELT in the clothes that she’d be spending thousands of euros on.  Whether it was briefed from the powers at Gucci or not, this unconventional sales repartee struck me as one potent indication of how Gucci has so thoroughly and utterly changed as a brand – in its aesthetics and then everything in its universe that trickles down from Alessandro Michele’s direction.

I could have merely banged on about the many MANY (an impressive seventy looks) pretty and adorned surfaces that graced the dramatically staged runway last week.  Against an immense digital screen backdrop of crashing icebergs, blossoming flowers and white noise and behind a black veil that makes some of my photographs of the show, look like I was watching it on a not so clear TV screen, there was more, more and MORE of those retro-tinged, globe-trotting and mega intricate ensembles, that have now so indelibly made their mark on not just Gucci’s cash registers but also the industry at large (Michele’s Gucci-isms have been flourishing this season on the runway as well as on the high street).

On a Gucci PR’s cue, I went to see the recently opened exhibition entitled Symbolism: Art in Europe from the Belle Epoque to the Great War at the Palazzo Reale.  It wasn’t a specific reference in the collection’s press notes, which instead focused on French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s, joint-penned tome Capitalism and Schizophrenia.  But the overall idea expressed in the exhibition – that artists, who drew upon internal dreamlike musings and thus found their own reality, could easily be seen in tandem with what Michele is doing at Gucci.

Walking through the eighteen themed rooms, you could see the parallels between Michele and early 20th century artists such as Odion Redon and Fernand Khnopff, in their depiction of subconscious imaginings, mythical creatures and muses.  Their mission was to escape reality and oppose contemporary civilisation and similarly, Michele’s clothes go against the mainstream fashion grain to be pragmatic, commercial and adaptable.  You can’t levy any of those qualities on say, a dress that sweeps the floor with pastel ostrich feathers and is embroidered with Michele’s chosen codes of hands and shooting stars.  Or on a Chinoiserie-flecked brocade coat that comes lined in pink satin and embroidered with a secret dragon, just for the wearer to enjoy.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition were the impressive painted panels by Italian artists Galileo Chini and Vittorio Zecchin, that owe their debt to Gustave Klimt.  These visual feasts of pattern and colour celebrate the magic of decoration, which of course is a huge contributor to what Michele is doing.  Some might say that it is all merely surface but upon closer inspection, like the Symbolist painters before him, Michele’s rendering of say a serpent, a tiger’s head, a pair of hands or even a kitty cat have deeper connotations.  Women are part animal, mysterious sphinxes and showing their strength through Gucci’s newfound language, as devised by Michele. The finale mint green gown featured a black panther beaded on thee front, with an American football number on the back – a latent inference to the Black Panther Movement, but more likely a follow-up to Beyoncé’s epic Super Bowl performance of Formation (the video of course features a visible support of Gucci).

Symbols are of course a fancier way of describing the brand traits and signatures that consumers can identify and covet.  And to most of the Gucci clientele, not much of this parsing of symbols will resonate, nor does it need to.  What remains is an emotive appreciation of the clothes, which going by that conversation I overheard in the store, seems to be something of a priority at Gucci under Michele.  And as other designers enter in the conversation of broken systems and socio-economic discontent through their collections, Michele shuns these sort of reflections of reality, by creating clothes that give internal pleasures, even if on the outside they shimmer, shine and catch the eye in every way possible.  Mining these surfaces becomes a treat when you give them the time they deserve.

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ferdinand-hodler-the-chosen-oneFerdinand Hodler, “The Chosen One” 1893-94

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magnolia-wilhelm-list-1900Wilhelm List, “Magnolia” 1900

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Giulio-Aristide-SartorioGiulio Aristide Sartorio, “Pico, roi du Latium, et Circé de Thessalie” 1904

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Gaetano-Previati,-Notturno,Gaetano Previati, “Night” 1909

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Pierre-Amadee-Marcel-BeronPierre Amédée Marcel Beronneau, “Salome” 1905

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Galileo-Chini-SpringGallileo Chini, “La primavera che perennemente si rinnova” 1914

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Odilon_Redon_002Odilon Redon, “Muse auf Pegasus” 1900

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Pierre-Bonnard-–-Model-in-Backlight-(1908)Pierre-Bonnard, “Model-in-Backlight” 1908

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Zecchin-VittorioVittorio Zecchin, “A Thousand and One Nights” 1913

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Le-printemps-de-la-vie---Giorgio-KienerkGiorgio Kienerk, “Le printemps de la vie” 1902

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Gustave-Moreau---The-SirensGustave Moreau, “The Sirens” 1872

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Franz-von-StuckFranz von Stuck, “The Sin” 1893

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Leo-Putz---ParzivalLeo Putz, “Parzival” 1900