Rib as decoration: SABA AW 2011

I love knitting, so I’m always keeping an eye on knitwear in the shops. I guess the shops I’m walking past each day would be classified as the Australian ‘high street’ (whatever that term really means) or perhaps contemporary designer? Must say the knitwear I’m seeing has improved, compared to around 5 years ago when I first started taking note. I’m not seeing so many knits stretching and sagging off the hangers, these days.

Clever knitwear always makes me smile. Here, I like the idea of ribbing used as contrast and decoration, not just as utilitarian edging. The ribbing’s curved, even along the shoulders in a kind of boatneck style. I often appreciate fashion ideas that might be somewhat awkward to wear … but this isn’t one of them. The ribbing gives a little more style to an otherwise simple, neat jacket.

The photo is from SABA, about a month ago. The next day they covered the mannequin with an even bigger scarf, so I couldn’t see the knitwear detail anymore. I suppose the jacket’s probably on sale now or even sold out (I can’t see it in their online store).

SS2011 fashion weeks, introduction

I’m not one of the people who dismisses all fashion as irrelevant.  I don’t think it is.

I mean, there’s clearly a lot of interesting stuff that could be said about fashion from a sociological point of view.  And fashion, at least high fashion, is often about experimentation with shape, proportion, colour, pattern.  It’s the playing with shape, colour and pattern I enjoy most when crafting or making things for myself.  And fashion is an industry.  I absolutely adore understanding how industries work.  I don’t know why: I like having an overview, I guess.  You could talk to me for hours about the beer industry, for example, and I’d still be fascinated (I hate the taste of beer).

I used to subscribe to some of the myths about the fashion industry.  For instance, that gay male designers make clothes only suitable for skinny boys to wear, clothes that are totally unwearable for real women.  But then I thought again. There was a time when I was much younger, skinner and went out more.  I could fit, and have fun wearing, a lot of those “unwearable” “impractical” clothes.  At the time, I didn’t want to wear the latest fashions, but I could have.  It’s perfectly reasonable for designers to make clothes for people like I once was.  True, I’ve always been rather curvy.  Genetics, I presume.  But not everyone is like me, and why shouldn’t designers make clothes that look good on people other than me?

I’m not saying there isn’t a grain of truth in criticisms of the fashion industry.  There definitely is. Particularly the intersection of the fashion, magazine and adverting industries. I’m not denying that.  But I’m training myself not to reflexively greet the newest fashion with: “Ugh, that’s totally stupid and unwearable!”  I try to think over my initial responses, without ignoring them completely.

So this is by way of introducing a series. On Wednesdays, I’d like to review my favourite bits of recent big fashion weeks (NY, London, Milan and Paris).  You might have seen the clothes before, but I hope to add my own twist in the commentary.  And I don’t think those fashion weeks are irrelevant, even to us far away in Australia.  A few months ago, the shops in the city all had dresses similar to those in the Mad Men inspired Prada Autumn/Winter show.  (Yes, funny how her Autumn/Winter designs got used for Spring).  And there are so many clogs in the shops now, like Lagerfeld designed for Chanel in Spring last year.  Actually, I like clogs and hope to buy myself a pair soon (but not Chanel ones, obviously!)

Akris and the love of stocking stitch

My blog posts? I think I need to do some freeing up, stretching and shaking out. Possibly focus on my breathing too. My posts are too tense, too thought out.

Anyway. I remember a year or so ago discussion on Ravelry about “beastly” knits. Designers hating knit wear, making it look oversized, strangling, ugly. Since then, my eye has changed. My thinking too.

For me, this is a celebration of the stocking stitch. Its right side and, cleverly, a view of the wrong side as a simple collar. It’s huge stocking stitch, magnified. So you really look at it again with fresh eyes. In striking colour that you can’t ignore.

Oh, that giant cast on, and cast off! If you knit: how many times have you stared at those stitches, counting them? Now they’re plain for all to see, on the cuffs. And that slight sag, forming the peplum (restrained by a narrow belt, is it threaded through?)

Too bulky? Look, if you live in a really cold climate, I’m sure most of your Winter clothes are rather bulky. Makes you look too fat? … or doll like?

See, my eyes have changed.

Image used for review: style.com


Winter kimonosSo, the picture’s blurry, from behind.  Because I’m not a tourist here.  And it’ s totally normal to see people wearing kimonos in Tokyo. And because I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re an ethnographic exhibit.

From friends back in Australia, or guidebooks or websites I’ve read, have plenty of views about when or where people wear kimonos in Japan nowadays … mostly implying a kimono is rare sight, a curiosity.  It’s not.

I reckon I see a couple of people each day wearing kimonos … and chatting on mobile phones; drinking coffee; carrying shopping; catching trains … doing totally normal, daily stuff.  This is when I’m wandering ’round, doing my own daily thing, in Shinjuku or Shibuya (areas not noted for their traditionalism).

And no, it isn’t only little old ladies who wear them – in the Summer, I rarely saw an elderly woman in a kimono, it was always young people.  Now it’s Winter, perhaps middle-aged women wearing kimonos predominate … or perhaps not, I’m not being scientific about this, it’s just my impression.

True, I’ve seen more women than men in traditional dress.  But definately more young men, elderly men don’t seem to be interested.  It’s fun watching young men, with bleached, spiked-up hair, standing at department store mirrors advising each other on which kimono makes them look cool … actually, it’s a novelty for me to see young men clothes shopping together, getting each other the same jeans in a different size, critiquing the fit: men don’t do that in Australia.  No wonder the men’s clothes here are so good.

I don’t think wearing kimonos is in danger of dying out here, not yet, anyway.  All the department stores here have a kimonos section, with kimono displays in the store windows for Summer.  Even the department stores aimed at teenagers.  Most of the women’s magazines for December had a kimono feature in them (perhaps in preparation for New Year’s)?  Most boring little local shopping streets have a kimono store on them … and although I rarely see a customer inside, they’re also not closing down.  And there’s heaps of new books and magazines on kimonos, how to wear them, which colours and patterns match, how to make your own, etc.  And showing young models, on contemporary streets, clearly looking like they expect their Japanese readers to act on the advice.  My favourite, with a kinda arty flare, is Kimono Hime (interesting article).

P.S. Yes, I know Summer kimonos are yukata and there’s special names for everything, but I’m keeping it simple today.