(advertisement)
(advertisement)

The Zac Posen documentary, House of Z, which made its world premiere in April at Tribeca, has been acquired by Conde Nast Entertainment and will be distributed to rent on Vogue.com.

Directed by Sandy Chronopoulos, the fashion feature-length film chronicles the fashion career of Zac Posen, starting from his meteoric rise at the age of 21 to the glamour behind one of New York’s most distinguished brands.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Conde Nast Entertainment will distribute House of Z exclusively for rent on Vogue.com in September to coincide with New York Fashion Week.

“We see [Vogue.com] as the perfect fit for our audience while also giving us a chance to attract new viewers,” Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment told the Hollywood Reporter. “House of Z is a wonderful film and being able to exclusively provide it to our audience is a great opportunity for Condé Nast and we are very pleased to be working with Zac, Sandy and the iDeal team.”

The documentary showcases the ups and downs of his fashion label through archival material and interviews with Posen’s past and present team, as well as critics, journalists, fashion insiders and celebrities, such as André Leon Talley, Paz de la Huerta, Naomi Campbell, Claire Danes, and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

New documentary exposes the harsh reality of factory workers

A new documentary has exposed the harsh reality and often cruel suffering of factory workers who make the garments of some of the world's best-known high street brands.

The film, called Machines, highlights the life of Jain, a factory worker in India. In the first 13 minutes of the film, there is no dialogue, with the camera captures the contrast between the giant machines, which guzzle up fabrics like robots, and then the workers who are no less mechanical in their working as they mix dyes, stoke furnaces and handle the fabrics.

Days are filled with dehumanising physical labour and hardship

Director Rahul Jain takes the viewers into the reality of the factory worker's world, capturing the exhaustive monotony of their tasks. The film examines the dehumanizing physical labor and hardship in the factory, exposes the pre-industrial working conditions and the huge divide between first world and developing countries. Though “Machines” only portrays one of these factories, it also represents the thousands of laborers as well.

New documentary exposes the harsh reality of factory workers

When there is dialogue, we hear from the workers themselves – and at one point from their fat-cat boss, who matter-of-factly tells the camera that he shouldn’t pay them so well as they’re much more dedicated to the business when their bellies are empty. By “so well” he means three US dollars per 12-hour shift and most of the workers take just one hour’s break between shifts, such are the financial pressures of providing for their families, states Dazed & Confused. The men discuss the need for unionisation and strike action, as well as the dead-end any attempt at this inevitably leads to – “the bosses just ask who the leader is, and then kills them,” the viewer is told.

Delhi-born, U.S.-educated director Rahul Jain captured the footage in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state. According to Variety, the results are surprising; while the visuals are hypnotic and frequently beautiful, the stories jar with our concepts of poverty in the modern age, as it is revealed that many of these workers are already in debt, having taken out travel loans to work 12-hour shifts and earn wages of just 7,000 rupees (approximately 100 Us dollars) per month.

Photo credit: Film still from Machines

The secret lives of Cannes' Instagram queens

They dress like celebrities and can increasingly be spotted on the world's catwalks and red carpets. Meet the "influencers", the most famous people you've never heard of.

For 70 years, the Cannes film festival has been a key event on any A-lister's calendar. But move over Nicole Kidman, there's a new breed of star in town: social media personalities invited purely on the grounds of their huge Instagram or YouTube followings.

Sharing the red carpet with Kidman and Will Smith this week have been beauty bloggers like 17-year-old Amanda Steele (2.8 million YouTube subscribers) and Swiss Instagrammer Kristina Bazan (2.4 million followers).

Maja Malnar, who makes a living from her blog and 264,000-strong Instagram following, admits she's struggled to explain her job as a "social media influencer" to her mother back in Slovenia.

Years ago she started posting snaps of her daily outfits on the photo app and blogging about her travels. These days she's part of a growing industry known as "influencer marketing", whereby brands seek to harness the power of powerful web-users by slipping their products into their posts. "It's a good business, I can't complain," Malnar told AFP.

The petite blonde, who is in her twenties but declined to give her age, is set to walk the red carpet Friday in a tie-up with MasterCard and the designer who provided her dress. She'll then have to post about it.

"We're entrepreneurs. We saw a gap in the market and we capitalised on it," says her friend Lorna Andrews, a British ex-air hostess who modestly calls herself a "mid-tier influencer" with 464,000 Instagram followers.

Cannes is no stranger to those famous for being famous -- socialites like Paris Hilton have been turning up for years -- and brands have long recognised the festival's power as a marketing opportunity.

Top-end labels and jewellers have for decades dressed the stars for free at Cannes, knowing they will be snapped there by the waiting paparazzi.

But the arrival of the "influencer" at the world's biggest film festival -- and at international fashion weeks -- is a new phenomenon.

A post shared by Amanda Steele (@amandasteele) on

Ordinary Janes and Joes

About 18 months ago Edouard Hausseguy, a 27-year-old Frenchman, realised the money-making potential of people whose photos, restaurant tips and beauty tutorials are followed by millions online, even though most would not recognise them on the street.

He set up his agency Hemblem to represent anyone with a following of 30,000 and up -- negotiating deals with brands, and then taking a cut.

"Those people are people like us, but they speak to millions of people with one picture," he told AFP in an interview on a yacht moored at Cannes, where he's hoping his influencers will benefit from the presence of top brands and the media.

For the festival, Hemblem has filled a villa with influencers who are splitting their time between glamorous events and furiously posting online, whether it's about designer labels or a charity for Syrian children.

Co-founder Thomas Elliott said brands were catching on to the power of a recommendation from Instagrammers to shift products from the shelves. "Jane next door or Joe next door is probably better for product placement, as people can identify with these people," he said.

It's possible to get paid for a single post -- "the fee depends on the size of the following", said Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a rival agency based in Toronto.

"It could be $100,000 if you have over five million followers."

Compare and despair

With 13 million followers apiece, supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski rank as the true Instagram queens of Cannes.

A post shared by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

Their accounts offer red carpet glamour and a peek behind the scenes, like Hadid sipping champagne while preparing for a premiere. Partner brands are carefully name-checked: make-up by Dior, jewellery by Bulgari.

Further down the food-chain, posts by smaller fish in the "influencer" pond still tell of a life of cocktails and beautiful clothes -- but the reality may be a little less glamorous.

There are constant worries of where the next event or brand tie-up might come from, and some re-sell the clothes they are gifted to make ends meet. And behind the glitz there is a constant pressure to post that Andrews and Malnar say can be stressful.

A post shared by Bella Hadid (@bellahadid) on

Neither expects to do this job forever. Women aged 18-30 make up the bulk of their followings, and unless these shift there'll come a day when they won't match their young demographic.

Youngsters' heavy use of Instagram is a worry for mental health experts, who warn these glimpses into the glamorous lives of others encourage depression and anxiety by prompting a "compare and despair" attitude.

There's a constant stream of appreciative comments under posts by Hadid and Ratajkowski, but also wistful ones.

Under a video of Hadid wearing custom Roberto Cavalli, one user sighed: "Can I just be her for one day?" (APF).

Homepage photo: Swiss blogger Kristina Bazan poses as she arrives on May 22, 2017 for the screening of the film 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. - Credit: Valery HACHE / AFP

French fashion house Chanel has triggered an uproar by selling a luxury monogrammed boomerang with a price tag of nearly 1,500 USD, with critics saying the accessory is an insult to Australian Aborigines.

Chanel is accused of turning the hunting weapon, an important part of Aboriginal heritage, into a status symbol by offering a black wood and resin boomerang for sale in its spring-summer collection.

"When I think about Aboriginal culture, I think @chanel," Aboriginal activist Nayuka Gorrie tweeted sarcastically. "Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via @CHANEL."

He told the Guardian Australia that the item was "so wrong it is almost absurd"."Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful," he said, pointing out that indigenous people were the most disadvantaged in Australia and had to fight to preserve their traditions.

The furore kicked off when American make-up artist Jeffree Star posted photos online of the boomerang on Tuesday, sparking ridicule.

"@JeffreeStar, rather than paying $2000AUD for a Chanel Boomerang you should look into investing in one made by an Aboriginal Australian," tweeted user LSP.

Another said on Twitter: "@CHANEL your 'boomerang' is tacky and a gross appropriation of indigenous culture for your own profit." Chanel released a statement saying it was "extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended".

Boomerangs have played an important role in Aboriginal culture for thousands of years as objects of work and leisure. They have also become popular mass-produced souvenirs. (AFP)

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

Over the years Rei Kawakubo has addressed many of life’s big questions in her work––art, marriage, death, spirituality––and some little ones too. Here are her thoughts with images from the Met’s exhibition of her work.

On Gender:

“Spiritually, there are no more differences between men and women. What is important is being human.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Female Designers:

“The sexual overkill and exposed bodies in fashion are the result of men designing for women. I think that more interesting results arise when women design for themselves.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Feminism:

“I am not a feminist. I was never interested in any movement as such. I just decided to build a company around creation, and with creation as my sword, I could fight the battles I wanted to fight.”

On Punk:

“I like the punk spirit. I’ve always liked the spirit in the sense that it’s against the run of the mill, the normal way of doing things. Every collection is that. Punk is against flattery, and that’s what I like about punk.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Beauty:

“Fashion design is not about revealing or accentuating the shape of a woman’s body; its purpose is to allow a person to be what they are.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Black:

“I design in three shades of black… Color distracts from form.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Being Over Black:

“Red is black.”

On Geometry:

“To me the circle is the purest form of design in existence.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Form”

“All my effort is orientated towards giving form to clothes that have never been seen before.”

On Math:

“One plus one could amount to three or even four.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On her State of Mind:

“I am an adult delinquent, to the end.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Landfills:

“Instead of [people] buying three pieces of clothing in a month or a year, why not buy one they can afford and enjoy it. Rather than creating a lot of clothes, I wish people would value creativity so that the world will not be filled up with rubbish clothes.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Outsiders:

“The monsters I thought about are those that don’t fit in––those who think differently from the majority, the people of exception, outsiders. I wish that society would place more importance and value on these kind of monsters.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Spirituality:

“Perhaps because Comme des Garçons stands for a totality of thinking, a commitment to a whole, a faith in the strength of the individual and his potential, people can find a spiritual dimension.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Gold:

“Gold is the color of the Catholic Church… it is also the color of Dubai, of marble-floored shopping malls, and also of teapots.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Flowers:”

“Flowers are happy and positive. Flowers, when blooming, are in their peak of energy and strength.”

On Blood:

What flows through everyone is blood… [Blood] is the state of being alive.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Tailoring:

“I have always liked traditional English menswear.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On The Inner Child:

“…since I cannot be a child, I began to think, how can I make the kind of clothes children would make? How can I make childish clothes?”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Marriage:

“By breaking the rules of wedding dresses, by going behind the idea, there was born the information that marriage is not necessarily happy.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Balance:

“I’m more comfortable with off balance––the unbalanced and asymmetrical. But what I do is try to create a balance in the whole, because I’m aiming at presenting the total image, not a haphazard or random world.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All photos by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited. Words compiled from the exhibition’s companion book.

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

EXHIBITION REVIEW It wasn’t a regular Saturday morning at the Met Museum. Conflict erupted on the third floor, the antagonism cutting through the air in stark contrast with the sprigs of cherry blossom scenting the foyer. No one came to blows but the tension was palpable. Residual shade may still be thrown within this text.

Whose side are you on?

The Comme des Garçons exhibition may be entitled “Art of the In-Between,” but Rei Kawakubo does not reach across the aisle. So there we stood, divided.The fashion diehards on one side, awed into silence, feet planted in chunky shoes, wrapped in chains, flounces, and plastic, with blunt-cut hair; on the other The New York Times-toting, jeans-and-sneakers clad regular with brunch plans, whose voice travels all the way to The Dakota. Two tribes go to war, the first religiously devoted to Kawakubo’s uncompromising, absolute nonconformity to notions of gender, beauty, even design itself; the other, viewing exhibits displayed on mannequins and therefore expecting apparel. It can’t end well.

I sidestep a group of girls on the trail of “Rihanna’s dress.” The singer famously “won the Met Ball” according to Instagram when she showed up dressed in Comme des Garçons just a few nights before. One of the group misidentifies a veiled exhibit as “the one Katy Perry wore” when we of the tribe know Perry wore Maison Margiela, not Comme des Garçons. Novices.

Ducking fire from little monsters

Celebrity references form part of contemporary dialogue around fashion and particularly the Met Ball, so inevitably one visitor declared, like a clairvoyant experiencing tremors, “Ohhh I’m getting serious Gaga vibes.” While Lady Gaga has indeed worn a few of Kawakubo’s creations in recent years, it’s jarring for a longterm devotee to hear the Japanese revolutionary’s forty years of energetic disruption reduced to…Joanne.

The Comme des Garçons universe requires full immersion, no dabbling. But in return for your commitment, it offers the same joy and mind-expanding optimism experienced by lovers of modern art. Seeing the decades of evolution on display is like following Picasso’s journey from early sketches through his blue period to the various depictions of Marie Thérèse and Dora Maar, but this was not even a retrospective. And while painters or sculptors are permitted to be abstract and grandiose, visionaries working in clothing don’t seem to be offered that freedom. Kawakubo snatched it anyway, years ago, and holds onto it tightly. She doesn’t call herself a fashion designer, having no formal training in it; it’s only the rest of the world that labels her that way:

“I have never thought about fashion…I have almost no interest in it. What I’ve only ever been interested in is clothes that one has never seen before, that are completely new, and how and in what way they can be expressed. Is that called fashion? I don’t know the answer.”

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

A Bumpy ride

An older gentleman pulls away from the wall he is leaning against, muttering, “ I dunno, none of it does much for me…” His wife who had been staring at a display described as Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body, in particular a blue and white gingham nylon dress with bulbous swellings stuffed with goose down padding on the side, delivers her verdict, “Not an area I want to accentuate,” and trots after him. Why aren’t you reading the pamphlet? I want to call after them. She’s rethinking the hourglass

One of my favorite displays is entitled Child/Adult and many observers seem genuinely enthralled by the exuberantly patterned pieces on display. A crayola-colored floral dress with frills and tentacles can’t fail to put one in good humor and two ladies next to me are clearly under the influence of it. But then I realize they are in fact imagining their granddaughters in it. Age appropriateness is a convention that can be challenged, I want to interject, but decide to maintain my monk-like silence.

I enjoy hearing a woman explaining to her male companion, “It’s the same as if you look at a piece of Claes Oldenburg art, you know, his fabric sculptures…” “Or John Chamberlain?” he asks, hopefully. “Exactly, or John Chamberlain. “ They continue on, smiling. I’m smiling too.

Day of holey worship

I overhear the word “Homeless,” used to describe the “holey” sweaters of the early 80s famously captured in black and white by photographer Peter Lindbergh, and refrain from saying that fashion students at the time would have made themselves homeless just to get their hands on one.

“But there’s nowhere for your arms to go!” exclaims a voice. I spin around. Your arms might be trapped but your mind is free, did you ever think of that? “Who wears black to get married?” I spin back. Actually, everyone did before Queen Victoria decided to shift to white.

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

The display entitled Birth/Marriage/Death elicits plenty of interest. One lady jokes, “Well that about sums it up!” and her entourage laughs overly-loudly. It seems to be in relief that they have found something they can connect with.

Then: “Imagine a widow walking into her husbands’ funeral like that.” Would he have that much to say on the matter? I think. “That’s some real Miss Havisham crap right there.” Now you’re getting into the thinking of it. “I like the rose. But I don’t like the outfit.” No, you’ve lost it again: you’re using the word “outfit.” Leave that kind of low-down talk at the door on your way in.

Fade to grey

The most egregious remarks of the morning come from two out-of-towners guffawing loudly. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t fly in just for this!” says one, to which her friend replies, “Honestly, there’s nothing redeeming about any of this.”

Oh no she didn’t. Bouncer! Can we show this pair of troublemakers the exit?

But I’m fighting a losing battle. This is the art of the in-between, and that grey area is the very source of the conflict. Just because clothing is placed in a major museum setting doesn’t mean people will leave behind all the preconceptions they associate with everyday attire. Instead they will arrive (cross over?) armed with their knowledge of red carpet codes, utilitarian demands, sexiness quotients and apply them to Kawakubo’s avant-garde system of dress despite what the brochure explains of her intentions. Everyone owns clothing; it’s more democratic than other mediums of creative expression. So everyone feels qualified to opine.

Therefore I’ll leave the final word to Ms Kawakubo herself: “Personally I don’t care about function at all… When I hear ‘where could you wear that?’ or ‘it’s not very wearable’ or ‘who would wear that?’ to me it’s just a sign that someone missed the point.”

Point made. Signing off, flouncing my Comme…

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos taken by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited; header photo The Met Facebook page.

Rei Kawakubo gives us the art of in between

The first Monday in May marks the Superbowl of fashion: The Met Gala. Put on by Vogue's long reigning editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, a couple hundred celebrities and fashion industry insiders gather at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side. This year's event was chaired by Wintour, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.

The subject in question was Comme Des Garçons' designer Rei Kawakubo.

Kawakubo is the first living designer to be honored at the Met since Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. While her brand has become world famous, she is known for rarely giving interviews, and being very elusive to the public eye.

She has developed a huge following from those who love the Play Comme Des Garçons line to those who have been collecting her runway collection pieces for years, she never sought out for commercial success. After the conclusion of one of her runway shows she once remarked she wanted to scrap the whole thing because she felt she didn't do anything.

FashionUnited at the Met exhibit @metmuseum #fashion #fashionunited #met #exhibit

A post shared by FashionUnited (@fashionunitedhq) on

And yet, a woman who never set out to sell clothes managed to capture the eye of The Met and Wintour, along with the entire fashion industry since 1973, enough to give her the distinction of being one of the lucky designers that costume institute curator Andrew Bolton put on display.

The celebrities came out in droves, with surprisingly only so many wearing Comme des Garçons, with red carpet queen Rihanna shutting down the show as usual in an avant garde floral Comme Des Garçons number.

The genius behind Rei Kawakubo

What magic did Kawakubo bring that made the exhibit so marvelous? For starters, let's remember that Kawakubo is credited with inventing black. Yes, that might sound crazy but Kawakubo originally started off using no color in her collections, but, rather, opted for black as a color palette. During her 1973 runway show, attendees said you could actually see all the variations of the color black in her clothes.

Her personal fandom for the color black was on display with a selection of very gothic and witchy looks.

Then came the era of Thierry Mugler, when bright colors dominated the runway, and Kawakubo, to keep in line with the times, did a collection where the dominant color palette was red. When asked why she said, "Red is the new black."

#metkawakubo STARTS MAY 4. @alexandraagoston @roversi @juliendys courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A post shared by Comme des Garcons OFFICIAL (@commedesgarcons) on

For Kawakubo, it was never about trying to selling clothes, rather she sees fashion as art. She recently did an entire collection that featured no fabric, only industrial materials.

For this exhibit, it was important that it was not treated as retrospective of her collections over the past 40 years, but rather an homage to the art of in between. Kawakubo plays with the abstract, somewhere in between the realm of fashion and art, that leaves you with more questions after one of her runway shows than before it.

To your more fashionable museum goer, you would look at it and ask: is this anti-fashion?

Kawakubo, unlike many of her contemporaries, has no formal design training. She studied art and literature at university, and worked as a stylist before she set out to create the now famed Comme Des Garçons brand. Her anti-fashion approach appears to be rooted in the fact that she never aimed to be your traditional fashion industry insider. She was always that woman who was outside of the box.

This is reflected in her work and in the exhibit through pieces that gave no attention to the body and were all about protrusions and giving no concern to the human form.

Rei Kawakubo gives us the art of in between

Comme Des Garçons has gone through many phases throughout its history, from doing all black, to going red, and in 2012 where they chose to do all white.

Perhaps Kawakubo's genius also lies in her ability to be ever changing. She never gets stuck in her ways, as can be seen in her work. Although, there are things that are unique to her design aesthetic, such as the protrusions, playing with portions and lack of concern for wearability or functionality. However, every Comme Des Garçons collection is always uniquely different, all with the goal of Kawakubo trying to do or say something, and if she doesn't think she has, she wants the collection scrapped, though she has never gone that far to actually go through with never selling anything.

Through sheer talent and the industry's undying fascination with her, Kawakubo has become one of the most celebrated designers worldwide. Some argue whether she is an artist or a fashion designer, but either way, she is a creator, and create she has. From May 4 until September 4 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her creations shall be on display for the world to critique, ogle and enjoy.

Photo: via Emeair PR and FashionUnited

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

For anyone who might argue that fashion is trivial or frothy, its weight in literature cannot be underestimated. I have just attended the Franco-Irish Literary Festival where journalists from Vogue and Elle discussed with novelists and screenwriters the importance of clothing in storytelling. Clothes enhance characterization, place us in strangers’ shoes, allow us to inhabit alien landscapes. Speaking to its power Mark Twain said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Let’s count down the top seven most influential moments when fiction and fashion have collided.

7. Giacomo Leopardi

In Giacomo Leopardi’s poem entitled A Dialogue Between Fashion and Death, he explores the transience of fashion and parallels it with our own mortality: “Fashion: Do you not recognize me? Death: You must know that I have bad sight, and am without spectacles.” Fashion: I am Fashion, your sister…Do you not remember we are both born of Decay? We both equally profit by the incessant change and destruction of things here below, although you do so in one way, and I in another.”

Fashion is portrayed as a species of grim reaper aiding and abetting our demise, and although written in 1824, the sentiment is eerily applicable to both today’s fast fashion environment in which catastrophes like the Rana Plaza occur, and to our luxury industry in which designers like Alexander McQueen, whose work is celebrated for its dark and beautiful dance with death, succumb to suicide at age 40.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image:Orlando First Edition, The Hogarth Press 1928 source: www.smith.edu/libraries, and Burberry September 2016

6. Virginia Woolf

“Clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm; they change our view of the world and the world’s view of us” wrote Virginia Woolf in Orlando, the 1928 story of a nobleman who passes through time, flits effortlessly between genders, dressed in furs and laces, never aging. The 1992 film version called upon fashion’s favorite androgyne, Tilda Swinton, to fill the title role and that dapper gent Quentin Crisp to play Queen Elizabeth I. Woolf’s novel was a contemporary success despite the unusual subject matter for a female writer but its appeal endures setting the stage for today’s gender non-conformism. From Bloomsbury to Burberry, Christopher Bailey referenced Orlando in his September 2016 womenswear show.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Source Wikimedia Library of Congress, Photographer, Napoleon Sarony, 1882

5. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the razor-witted dandy-aesthete, a perennial favorite of fashion designers, was the central influence in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2017 menswear collection. Wilde’s words ”Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months” foreshadow today’s social media-hungry consumer who craves newness like never before. As editor of fashion magazine, The Woman's World, he predicted in 1887 that the dress of both sexes would be assimilated with women embracing masculine style. His wide-brimmed hats, long locks and sumptuous velvets drew as much attention as his novels and plays but it was his dalliances in the demimonde of male desire, unmentionable at the time, that landed him in Reading gaol. Still, he never forfeited style: ”If one is to behave badly, one should behave badly in a becoming dress.” Words to live by.

4. Margaret Mitchell

In Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s lifestyle in the Confederate South is under threat by the imminent freedom of her plantation’s slaves. But our sympathies lie with this poor little rich girl when she is forced to plumb her meagre resources and conjure up a dress out of…curtains. How else will she snag her hero, and the money he brings with him? Who hasn’t backed away from their closet on a Saturday night staring glumly about and wished such inspiration were at hand? When she turns to her long-suffering servant and says, “Scoot up to the attic and get my box of dress patterns, Mammy…I’m going to have a new dress,” we might bristle at her sense of entitlement, but in these times of fast fashion landfills, we can’t fault her creative repurposing, also known as upcycling.

3. Bret Easton Ellis

This passage from Bret Easton Ellis’s bestseller, American Psycho, which revolves around a discussion of the band U2 between the narrator, your average spiffily dressed serial killer, and a date invites us to ponder the passionate relationship of the 1980’s yuppie with Italian fashion:

"The Edge is wearing Armani," she shouts, pointing at the bassist. "That's not Armani," I shout back. "It's Emporio." "No," she shouts. "Armani." "The grays are too muted and so are the taupes and navies. Definite winged lapels, subtle plaids, polka dots and stripes are Armani. Not Emporio." I shout, extremely irritated that she doesn't know this, can't differentiate, both my hands covering both ears. "There's a difference."

Well, she’s clearly for the chop. Imagine not comprehending the gap between Armani’s diffusion line and his prima linea.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Trailer screenshot

2. Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s launched the beloved Holly Golightly on the fashion world. Although the industry might believe she was the product of the atelier of Hubert de Givenchy, the designer tasked with outfitting actress Audrey Hepburn for the movie version, his work was already more or less done as we can see by Capote’s lines:

“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.” Golightly’s urbane, nocturnal allure has been a go-to reference for designers ever since and cemented our attachment to “the little back dress.”

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Miss Havisham: Wikimedia By Harry Furniss from the library edition of Great Expectations, created 31 December 1909.

1. Charles Dickens

The ultimate “marriage” of fashion and fiction brings us back to where we started: Fashion = Decay = Death. I refer to the grand dame of Victorian classics, the ne plus ultra of spooky spinsterhood; bitter, skeletal, and locked away in her room next to her rotting wedding cake, Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. The passages describing her going up in flames represent possibly the most visually exciting imagery to penetrate many an impressionable young girl’s mind, certainly more powerful than any modern example of Hollywood special effects, but it’s the words used to describe Pip’s first encounter with her which have inspired designers for decades. It’s easy to see why:

“She was dressed in rich materials — satins, and lace, and silks — all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on — the other was on the table near her hand — her veil was half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone.

Header image from Wikimedia of Oscar Wilde: Unknown photographer, Held at British Library, 1875-1905 and Alexander McQueen Menswear Fall 2017

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Penelope Cruz will play her first major television role as Donatella Versace in FX's "Versace: American Crime Story," the third season of the hit show, the network said Monday. The Oscar-winning Spanish actress will be joined by Edgar Ramirez ("Point Break," "The Girl on the Train") who will play Gianni Versace in the series looking at the fashion designer's murder in 1997.

Filming is scheduled to begin in April and the show will air next year. "Cruz has proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses by playing a variety of compelling characters, and becoming the first actress from Spain to be nominated for and win an Academy Award," FX said in a statement.

The 42-year-old's Hollywood output includes "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001), "Gothika" (2003) and "Volver" (2006), for which she earned a best actress Oscar nomination. She went one better with a win for best supporting actress for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008) and was nominated again for her support role the following year in "Nine."

The first season of "American Crime Story" -- "The People v. O.J. Simpson" -- ended its initial 10-episode run as cable's most-watched new series of the year, pulling in an average seven-day audience of 7.5 million. It also won nine Emmy Awards, including for best limited series and acting statuettes for Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown.

The show, which took viewers inside the Simpson trial and explored the chaotic, behind-the-scenes dealings and maneuvering on both sides, is now available worldwide on Netflix. A second season focusing on the response to Hurricane Katrina is due to air on FX next year, shortly before season three. (AFP)

Fans of the late Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) and his astonishing designs have reason to rejoice, as a new retrospective entitled 'Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au noir' (Balenciaga is the New Black) opens its doors to the public today in Paris, France. Located in the Musée Bourdelle, the new exhibition focuses on the black garments created by Balenciaga throughout his career in Paris, from 1937 to 1968. Hundreds of designs from the 100 year old fashion house Balenciaga archives will be displayed, ranging from draped crepe dresses to perfectly tailored suits. FashionUnited shares a few images from the exhibition below.

Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'Sneak Peek: Balenciaga new retrospective: L’oeuvre au Noir'

Balenciaga: L'Oeuvre au Noir is open from March 8 to July 16, 2017 at the Musée Bourdelle, Paris. However it is not the only Balenciaga exhibition to open this year, as the Victoria & Albert in London is set to open another exhibit on Balenciaga later this year.

Photos: Balenciaga, l'oeuvre au noir. ©Pierre Antoine