Have a Hauntingly Beautiful Halloween…

The weekend of the 31st October is historically huge in my calendar.  I live to dress up, am a dab hand at pumpkin carving, and wear black lipstick all year round anyway, so the transition is really rather a seamless one.

Halloween 2007; bucking the trend to dress as a Christmas present

Halloween 2008, Disneyland Paris in leopard print

Halloween 2009; the Glorious Undead, complete with corpse bride side-kick

And so for Halloween 2010, I will again be resurrecting my blood-spattered finery, my cobwebs and lace.  To encourage you to do likewise, I have delved into the deepest of cauldrons in order to dredge up some outfit inspiration from the recent SS/11 shows.  It seems that fashion has finally fallen in love with Halloween…

One may be forgiven for assuming that the prevailing mood for all designers orchestrating a spring/summer collection would be breezy and bright; the colour palette light to reflect a young world emerging from the dark chrysalis of winter.  However, a sliver of darkness remains for spring, acting as a sober foil to all the acid hues and colour-pop pastels emerging for next season.  So embrace it early.  Think vamp and gothic heroine; plump for ghoulish draping and spiderweb lace.

Jean-Paul Gaultier SS/11

Halloween isn’t just about bats, you know.  Why not go left-field and channel that chilling bird of ill-omen, the raven?  Hoarse and spooky in Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost stories and Shakespeare’s macabre tale of witchcraft, Macbeth, even Karl Lagerfeld  appears to have obliquely referenced the bird in all its malign, black beddraglement.

Chanel SS/11

Pay attention to spiked hardware sharp enough to impale a vampire on, and don’t underestimate the dark machismo of leather as all-out body armour, teamed with a Wednesday Adams dark mop of hair and grim scowl…

Burberry Prorsum SS/11

Maison Martin Margiela, SS/11

Highlight your head.  Negate your sense of human self with a non-face, as seen in the otherworldly alienness of the models at Junya Watanabe, or opt for the cruellest of metal-work headpieces, à la Ann Demeulemeester.

Junya Watanabe, SS/11

Ann Demeulemeester, SS/11

There was a disturbing eerieness at work at Comme des Garcons, where the random shapelessness of bag-like draping was part Poe-raven, part gothic-scarecrow.

There is something unsettling about girl-twins, perhaps since The Shining, and Kawakubo’s conjoined pair are faintly horrifying, with their wispy black umbilica and the slight fascism of those regimentedly-stepping shoes.  A strange, almost atavistic nightmare is whispered at here, or some dark and twisted version of the tale of Tweedledee and Dum, and that monstrous crow…

Comme Des Garcons, SS/11

John Galliano sent his models out in Paris as strong sirens, with a blanched pallor, sunken cheekbones and vampish lips.  Some resembled haunted film noir heroines, and there is a gothic froideur to his billowing vision in navy and black.

John Galliano, SS/11

At the opposite end of the spectrum was a wraith shrouded in white; all colour drained, robe swirling like a banshee.  The gauzy veil, bizarrely bridal and funereal at once, recalls the flickering flames of Hades, or Dantesque fiery tongues…

Orange is huge for SS/11, with all sorts of shades from tangerine to coral to deepest cinnabar flaming down the runway.  Forget black for a moment and go trailblazingly bright, like Jil Sander or Prada, or imitate the more muted tones of pumpkin, and mingle with overlaid black lace to achieve the fantastic textural play as envisioned at Proenza Schouler.

Jil Sander SS/11

Proenza Schouler, SS/11

Off with her head!  Acephalous bodies at Hussein Chalayan were downright creepy, especially the ghostly apparition in white.  They called to mind spooks and zombies, and even the terror of the gallows…

Meadham Kirchoff played with the concepts of dressing up and delivered a witty critique of the costumes we choose for everyday, opting to steer away from certain trends (minimalism, monochrome) whilst taking others to parodic extremes (romantic, ladylike).  We were treated to gothic lolitas with Halloween hair, whilst a dramatic Victoriana gown of ash-grey semed to precisely encapsulate a ragged uniform of neglect and decay for some wraith-like Miss Havisham…

Meadham Kirchoff, SS11

Each and every model sported a crimson collar about the neck; I couldn’t help but think of the gruesome fashion for red ribbons, encircling female throats in post-Reign-of-Terror France, to mark the deep cut of the guillotine.

Of all contemporary designers, it is perhaps the house of Alexander McQueen that most delights in the symbolism of horror and the occult; the motif of the skull, for instance, has become synonymous with his legacy.  Yet this season, the debut of the label’s new creative director, Sarah Burton, marked something of a subtle sea-change.  Lee’s hallmarks endured; his immersion in fantasia and fairytale; but Burton’s focus was firmly upon our natural world, not some other realm beyond.

Alexander McQueen SS/11

This stark dress, managing to be both fluid and erectly static at once, resembled some choking Chinese creeper or poison-ivy.  Dramatic, beautiful, and the perfect inspiration for a Halloween ball.

If Hussein Chalayan has already showcased a ‘living dress’, is there, however, anything more spectacularly alive than this breathtaking creation?  The shifting, questing tendrils are like a cross between fern fronds and tentacles; the entire piece, with its various patterns and hues, reminds me of a sea-creature straight from the murky world of myth.  Alien rather than frightening, McQueen nevertheless encapsulates the true spirit of All Hallow’s Eve; transformation, otherness, and the whisper of communion with the unfamiliars that breathe and move and stalk, for one night only, on the other side of the veil…

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Not So Unique At Uniqlo

 

After the merry-go-round of the past month’s fashion shows, with all their colour and noise, brilliance and bravado, it is customary to retreat with some relief to the relative normalcy of the high street, and to crave simplicity in quiet tailoring and seasonal staples.  Uniqlo is one such haven: a calm, ordered arena of basics and fail-safes, well-made and affordable.

The latest Jil Sander for Uniqlo collection, Uniqlo+J, which launches today, is the sort of high street/designer collaboration that sets the pulses of fashion editors, style journalists and general clothes-horses everywhere racing emphatically upwards.  Megastores such as Topshop, H & M and Gap are famed for their partnerships with elite fashion houses, and these limited edition collections are the subject of feverish countdowns, wild internet rumour, and tend to sell out in just a few short hours.

 The most recent installment of Uniqlo+J is bound up in the same sort of fanfare, but does it deliver?  Collectively, the clothes comprise a mood-board of the moment; a lesson in minimalism, they are understated in shape, in muted tones, referencing the season’s love affair with colour-blocking, utility wear and, um, beige.

Sander presents us with utilitarian workwear, in honest, no-nonsense colours and fabrics.  However, far from suggesting itself as a modern and clever uniform for daytime, as seen recently at Chloe and Celine, Uniqlo’s latest offering is surely too drab, sparse and insipid to constitute anyone’s wardrobe of choice?

These are pared-down basics; stern, unremittingly stripped-back, and eye-wateringly dull.  Super-sensible tweed and wool skirts are paired with an uninspiring parade of plainness; cable knits, coats and cardigans.  Woollen accessories are functional rather than directional, and generally come in a blurry ‘whatever’ shade of dire monochrome.  The colour palette of nudes, navy and grey is muddy, lacking the clarity and warmth of autumnal ochre, caramel and toffee, seen elsewhere all over the high street.

 There are so many boatnecks and funnel necks one would almost think there were some sort of steamship theme going on.  Alas, there is nothing ‘full steam ahead’ about this collection.  It resembles instead a shapeless mass slowly drifting into a drab horizon, blending indifferently with a slate-grey sea.  That, or a sinking ship…

This navy blazer, fluid and expressive in shape, is one of the few saving graces in an otherwise graceless tide of overwhelming mediocrity.

Sartorially, Uniqlo+J is a far cry from another collection that launched this week, Burberry’s ‘Winter Storm’ for A/W 10.  Lean, mean and much more magnetic, it hinges upon pieces of complex texture and craftsmanship, from plush quilted biker jackets to a thoroughly modern update of the classic and quintessential trench, in a shimmering oil-slick of patent black.

It is with a giddier impatience than ever that I look forward to November, for the grand unveiling of the stratospherically exciting Lanvin collection for H & M.  Here’s hoping for drama and theatrics, velvet and luxe satins, exquisite, deep-throated jewel tones and gorgeous embellishment courtesy of the great Alber Elbaz.  Just keep it as far removed as possible from the current Uniqlo collection, and I’ll be over the moon…