MMM at H&M

Oversized Pea

No, the collar stays are supposed to be under the armpit.

If you heard, or just thought that today, you were probably basking in the once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase from clothier Maison Martin Margiela at pennies on the dollar. For the sleepy fashionistas up before dawn this morning, the offer was a generous slice of surrealism, and the gift monger was H&M. And in case I fall asleep whilst typing, thank you, my Swedish friends.

trompe l'oeil dress

Felted Wool Dress

Narrow Shoulder Jacket and Oversized Pants

Perhaps the best aspect of this collaboration is that in making avant garde clothing less expensive, it didn’t find a need to water it down. I will be thrilled, yet somewhat surprised, if all of those behemoth Oversized Pea Coats were snatched off the rack on day one in San Francisco. This is a “best of” Margiela collection; it plays with shape and construction. Unlike much of H&M’s function, it’s not aiming to necessarily look cute for a first date. Much of the collection is very flattering, but some of it takes a more subjective approach. Some pieces might even be described as “challenging”. If a dress on the runway in 2005 had two decorative-only sleeves, it still does now. Cool.

Upside Down Dress 2005 and Horizontal Dress 2012

Having apparently left the label sometime in the mid 2000s, it’s hard to know whether or not the reclusive Belgian designer was in any way involved in the collaboration, or even what his opinion of it might be. The label continues to be incredibly strong, continuing to sell to those in on the “delicious private joke”.

Candy Wrapper Clutch

When I spoke to my brother about the sale, he was excited. As a Sak’s 5th Avenue display manager and long-term veteran of Barney’s New York, he knows and loves Margiela’s work too. He was able to complete the description of my new Glove Clutch. “We had it for $1,200, what did you get it for?” $149.

Glove Clutch

Leather Glove Clutch

Leather Bag

Even at dramatically reduced prices from the originals, finances were still the only reason to hold back. We watched as one woman required two sales assistants to help her exit the store with her twelve mammoth bags overflowing. With only a closely timed fifteen minute window from entering the boutique to check out, she’d done well. To underscore the notion of a tightly moderated window, I mean: man with a bullhorn in the women’s dressing room barking out the remaining number of minutes before threat of forcible removal in whatever stage of undress.

MMM Wristband

Rumor had it that the line began forming at 9pm the night before. My accomplice and I didn’t arrive until 6:50am, although in my defense, I’m no longer in peak shape for sidewalk habitation. Compared to me, the existing line’s demographic was half as old, twice as chic and about 80% more Asian. The store opened at 8am and while our fitted wristbands said “9:25 to 9:40”, the line moved at a pace quickly enough to maintain hope that a few things might be left on the shelves.

And they were! While Twitter and Instagram monitoring described frustration and disconsolation over garment-less hangers on the East Coast, a decent, albeit quickly disappearing, span of sizes and a nearly full range of accessories still existed and hour and a half into the San Francisco sale. (I know my new city is less label-conscious than New York, but even though the shorter line and increased stock worked in my favor, I still found it somewhat disheartening.)

Assistant 716am

I had readied my assistant (i.e., accommodating friend) with a cheat sheet of thumbnail photos and the corresponding acceptable sizes. We hunted and gathered for 10 minutes before I ran for the dressing room. After I was warned that I was making a one-way trip out of the boutique, my wristband snipped off and my items sorted and counted, I had 3 minutes left for the dressing room. Tragically, the first two articles were far too big (the nearest feasible sizes found) and when the third, the Horizontal Dress, came off the hanger, it became a puzzle too difficult to decipher in the remaining moments before Nazi Hipster came yelling and banging on the stall doors.

Horizontal Wrestle

Minutes later, I was forced to make a heart-wrenching choice between handbags. Sniff. I took both sizes of the Horizontal Dress that we’d grabbed, to decide between at home. Incidentally, having since tried them both on, I’m still not sure which to return. When the chest is the waist, and the skirt is the sleeve, the collar stays are supposed to be under the armpit. Right?


Breast Dressed

Gianni Molaro and the Eurozone Crisis

If Caesar, Vespas or the Pope can’t get you to go to Rome, here’s something that can: AltaRoma AltaModa.

Each January and July, the capital of Italy hosts its own avant garde fashion week. This platform for emerging designers is intended (per a translation of its mission statement) as a “promotion of excellence to neocoutur and, as the definition of a new language, a meeting place for tailoring tradition and cutting-edge research in an international context where it combines art, fashion and culture”.

Cutting edge? Indeed. While July 2012 was ripe with fresh neocoutur, it is impossible to overlook one particular designer’s runway show from January of this year. For the uninitiated, let me introduce you to Gianni Molaro.

Breast Coy …and the reveal:

Breast RevealedWhy, hello.

While the dress was, ehem, hands down, breast in show… there was also a live musical accompaniment performed by an electric violinist, whimsically dangling from a bellhop trolley.

Electric ViolinistThere were bicycle tires and broken hearts, golden feathers, spikes and umbrella dresses.

Umbrella Corset

Broken Heart

Bicycle Tire & Wings

And another big reveal:

Black Zipped

Black RevealUnfortunately, I do not know much about Mr. Molaro’s point of view, or what, if any, statement is intended by his Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2012 collection. While it is clearly a warm weather/spring rain collection… its cohesion is not automatically apparent. It is the intersection of Rome, art and fashion, or at least one Roman’s art and fashion, but is it good, or merely provocative?

We do know that Moloaro creates with purpose. In June of this past year, Molaro designed a wedding dress with a nearly two mile-long train. (Believe it or not, his only ties the record for world’s longest train.) The designer described the garment as a symbol of peace and hope.

Molaro Wedding Trainbearers

“This is the hallmark of couture Roman, a restatement of the contemporary style, declined through clothes and accessories together with the city”…

And from the city that brought you Fellini and Caligula, here are other selected showstoppers from Mr. Molaro’s January show:

Yellow Spikey Shoulders

White Gown

White and Yellow

White Yellow Pink


Gaultier at the deYoung

Welcome Jean Shorts Suit So much has been written about this show already, that I’ll just say that it’s great.

Galleon Headband 1998

OK, I’ll say a little more.


Jean Paul Gaultier is the always smiling, goofy, enfant terrible (avec les dents terrible) in the nautical stripes. For a while now, he’s had fun putting both curvy gals and heavily tattooed dudes in corsets and skirts.

Male Corset & Pregnancy Corset

You might forget how long Gaultier has been at this until you see room after room of his work. (His first prêt-à-porter collection launched in 1976 and he founded his own couture house in 1997.) The exhibition is huge, with rooms exploring six major themes from androgyny to multiculturalism. It includes 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs as well as sketches, fashion photography and videos that spotlight his collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers and musicians including: Pedro Almodóvar, Catherine Deneuve, Madonna, Helen Mirren, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Martin Margiela, Pierre Cardin, Dita Von Teese, Marion Cotillard, Kylie Minogue and Tom Ford, to name a few.

Ribbon Corset

Tube Dresses

The exhibition is very successful not just because of his showmanship, or the roster of celebrity collabs, but because among the dozens of mannequins on display, a sprinkling of 30 mannequins appear to be staring right at the viewer, blinking, talking, murmuring and/or singing. Discreetly hung video projectors and speakers give life to their faces. The videos of a dozen celebrities, including Gaultier, are among them. It’s disconcerting, but very, very cool. Even having anticipated the show for months, encountering the first, seamlessly animated, mannequin is disarming. “…Are…you talking to me?” In an age where museums struggle to adapt to shorter attention spans, this exhibit manages to make ordinary mannequins interactive. It’s a fresh way of keeping an innovative designer innovative, both to long-time fans and the newly initiated.

Virgins Smirk

JPG Nautical

I’ve always liked Gaultier, largely because of his ability to see a subgroup’s traditional garb and elevate it to shiny, fabulous, sacrilegious couture. He and Madonna have been perfect collaborators for this very reason (although in his case, the costume source seems to provide inspiration rather than straight up rip off. Where he riffed on London punk, or Hasidim, she moved to England, picked up a British accent and got her own personal Kabbalah rabbi). Among the vast collection of corsets on display, Madonna loaned two iconic cone bras from her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. Also exhibited, little Jean Paul’s childhood bear, outfitted in his first cone bra.

JPG Corsets

If you think of Jean Paul Gaultier as just an 80s phenomenon, then I especially recommend this exhibit. The show reflects his designs through 2010, and he’s still going. Even if he had retired twenty years ago, he really IS all that. He’s not just eccentric; he’s an excellent tailor who has made a lot of kooky, avant-garde getups actually look sexy.

Nude Dress


A few other personal highlights:


A Paris y'ala Tour Eiffel

Trench Coatdress & Bolero

Scuba Shoes

Virgins Detail

Mermaid detail

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is on display at San Francisco’s de Young Museum from March 24 to August 19, 2012