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  • The Balancing Act

      Ordinary relationships are an already interesting concept; the idea of sharing an everyday life is a fascinating self-imposed construct that people routinely find themselves in. Finding someone to love and be loved by isn’t tricky when seeking a short-term fix, but how we find people with permanence is many times reduced to the stars. Some couples can survive on traditional love, and others sustain their unions by building empires. So we’re going past the ordinary office romances and discussing two industry-leading duos sharing the head seat at the table for couples' sake. Michele Lamy and Rick Owens have been fashion's mystery love for nearly two decades, and their temperaments couldn't be more polarizing. Nevertheless, we will refrain from diluting Lamy's mastery by reducing her as Owens's muse alone. The Owens (we think) we know couldn't possibly spend a life dealing with someone only as a beautiful object. No, Lamy is a force equal to Owens, deserving as much applause under the namesake line.  They began as an affair staged at Lamy’s then line Too Soon To Know, where Owens was hired as a pattern-maker. Yes, there was a time when Owens worked under Lamy. She has a whole past, present, and future of entrepreneurship that would surprise many of us. The quintessential eccentric was once even a lawyer and restaurateur, but we digress. Lamy was married, and Owens was in a relationship, but as Lamy elaborated in 2014 with Sorbet Magazine, 'there is no personal life; it's all the same life.' The two quickly married and moved on. "We are not together to make babies or these kinds of babies," said Lamy.  While both are gifted visionaries from different backgrounds, Owens is a recluse, and Lamy is always on the move. Still, the element of understanding combined with a solid apparitional pull allows their one life total fluidity. Their love offers something of a different dimension, but when one cannot live in this world, one must build the next together in hand, whether or not they are both fire or air. Everything Owens envisions, Lamy exploits (positively). They allow each other the space to live and experience in all the ways necessary so that they may come together and co-create exceptionally.  Enters Luke and Lucie Meier, the husband and wife duo, doubling as Jil Sander's co-creative directors since 2017. In a New York Times piece published in 2021, the two were painted as an almost too-perfect pairing. "For us, it's about purity, not minimalism," shared Luke in The Designer Couple Revitalizing Jil Sander.  Pouring from the same beaker to the same cup, the premise of Luke and Lucie (even with the names) is their mutual ambition of showing Jil Sander's lighter yet more expressive side. Meeting at Florence's Polimoda fashion school first as roommates, the two have always been aligned, even when working for different brands. While the most significant difference between the two is their techniques, as Lucie was more haute couture, and Luke traveled the Supreme world. Still, their process was the same.  Now staged at Jil Sander, Luke and Lucie have transformed their environment into a space for honesty without fear of disagreement. There is an overly harmonious component to this pairing, all due to the mutual respect for each other. As cliche as it is, they are the finishing each other's sentence type, which makes one question if there is such thing as too much time together; in their case, no. Their experiences together and apart have led to exquisite calibration and compelling collections. They are not seeing each other's vision but instead have the same, and in a rather divine way, are the perfect pair to co-creative direct under the eponymous German label.  Building an empire is not an easy feat, but creating one with a significant other is even more of a task. Though not a case of total opposites, but rather extremes, you've either got to be affectionately mislabeled as each other's muses or precisely the same. As Lamy expressed, whoever one might be accompanied within this balancing act, it is one shared life, through and through– taking mutual respect, admiration, and trust. At times they may find themselves putting aspects of their intimacy on hold to execute a vision, while in other instances, the familiarity may be more robust. But the common theme seems to be that to work successfully with a life partner means that you share a visual love language; the love language and act less spoken about.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • Big Willy Love Club

      The Big Willy Love Club is fashion's latest contemporary brand immortalizing a sub-culture from the inside. While the last two decades birthed numerous designers putting on for their culture, Willy Chavarria is rounding out the representation missing in the high fashion world.  Before 'Black and Brown' was Black and anything non-White or Asian, Black and Brown meant African American and Latin American. These marginalized communities were often (and still today) reduced to societal stereotypes of rebellious, gang-affiliated, crime-ridden neighborhoods and a community rejecting assimilation. While this was an inaccurate portrayal, there is truth to the interlinking of the Black and Brown experience. Both are subjected and forced to fight structural racism while advocating for cultural solidarity, liberation, and empowerment. When the Black Power movement emerged, the Chicano Movement was in lockstep. Where there were the Black Panthers, there was the Brown Berets.   The history here is relevant because Willy Chavarria New York tells a story through his pronounced lapels, oversized silhouettes, and pressed creases. He brings the concept of intersectionality a step further to actual blood-line relations. His garments are transitional, embodying every member of a specific community, one with flare and more influence than accredited.  Chavarria's demeanor is calm and collected, yet his connection to the different sectors within the Latinx community gives his character the likability to garner unanimous support. While his personal wardrobe boasts the same motifs of his eponymous label, Chavarria has a certain softness to his charm that offers even more juxtaposition with the attire.  "Instead of just having our identity taken from us and put into fashion and sold. Now we are actually a part of it." explained Chavarria in a 2021 CFDA interview, later adding, "Thinking future, gender is out the door. It's just clothes. It's just ultimately clothes."  Chavarria creates looks of someone you might run into at the corner store, or your grandmother's backyard, fighting in the alley, playing music from the car stereo while dancing in the street, at the club– the list goes on. The characters he creates are all real people, and the energy they bring to his runway makes it feel like they could, in all actuality, be someone's cousin or a neighborhood boy. While in conversation with Interview Magazine, Willy spoke to the layers of thought behind his ballooning forms. Reclaiming it as "a statement about the area of space that we take up," adding, "I think that it's really nice when brown people or people of colour are able to say, 'Yeah, this is my space.'"  He brings together a group of people who typically go unnoticed for their striking looks but are reduced to an animal attraction. Sexuality is heavily present in his collections, and even though they should be celebrated for their divine beauty rather than exoticized, Willy doesn't shy away from the sensuality. Instead, he embraces it with holistically full force. And with a stirring momentum, Willy is constructing a world where the unseen is now sought after.  "My brand plays with the ideas of heightened masculinity in a way that connects with my queer identity," he said to Office Magazine when discussing his FW22 show 'UNCUT.' "I like my Willy Boys to be all genders." His work is Spirit, fashion reincarnated. It's a love letter to the love letters sent between growing families and those serving a sentence, an ode to a 90s queer aesthetic in a masculated turf. It is a message for the celestial indigenous, championing their essence. Willy Chavarria's designs are a sewn promise that their flowers are finally on the way. Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • Demna Gvasalia and Pedestrian Glorification

      To be a creator is to be inspired both overtly and subconsciously. One could say that perception is the source of life. Without the brain’s unique perception of its surroundings, the world would be painted with one stroke and no varying tones. It’s the reason behind Picasso’s ever-evolving self-portraits of over 75 years. The way we internalize and the output birthed from even our reflections could be a leading example of this thought.  So when Demna Gvalsalia (now the creative director of Balenciaga) co-founded Vetements in 2014, his meta-line was an overnight sensation. Suppose one could liken it to modern art where brilliance lays in the idea and doing, only to be scoffed at by the viewer who casually remarks, “I could have done that.” But it’s the range in offering that usually gives artistic allure; one might have been classically trained and completely capable, but their voice runs contrary to societal expectations of, well, anything. Maybe not a popular belief, but to know Demna is to love Demna and key to truly appreciating the fire lit by “Clothing’s” recontextualization of a pedestrian lifestyle.  With a United Nations creative team, their internal dialogue is a vast pull of global references adorning mall-goth aesthetics, which the audience is bound to recognize as a graphic (or three). When Fall 2015 gathered an intrigued crowd at Le Depot, a notably marked Antwerpen souvenir tee caught some attention. Thirty years prior, the couple and owners of Handschoenmarkt 4 designed and printed this exact graphic for their little shop in the city’s old center, which still sells for a penny of the price. The reference was uncannily present, whether Demna himself or another Royal Arts Academy alumni, but was the respect fairly paid? To the blind eye and financially, presumably not. Not a new phenomenon in fashion– plagiarism, appropriation, and the robbing of small businesses’ intellectual property is a dirty business, though challenging to categorize Demna’s actions as the same. When contextualized, Demna was born in an ex-Soviet home, followed by a brief stint in Düsseldorf. The lack of Western capitalistic titans gapped the first ten years of his life, then an explosion of them with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. It could be that the late exposure to Coca-Cola and McDonald’s sparked curiosity’s fuse, planting seeds for the Spring 2020 runway presentation in a Paris McDonald’s. It wasn’t only Western goliaths but branding in general that flooded post-Soviet Georgian fashion. In a way, an $890 DHL tee could be interpreted as a homage to that history, and POLIZEI coats to his Düsseldorf blip. Besides, Demna doesn’t only come for civil servants, as Walter Van Beirendonck diplomatically pointed to his former student’s first collection and its drowning in Margiela’s influence. So, if everyone is treated equally, does that mean all’s fair in the environment and war? And just because one can, does it mean they should? Or is that the art subjectivity clause…  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • Run(a)way–Fashion and Politics

      Fashion has the unique ability to signify the times, social class, struggle and history on our very bodies. Whether we do our research to understand the messaging, it is something to be read like the headlines on our phones. Books, articles, essays have all been published, backed by centuries of research and data that outline the political motives of specific trends. There have been many statements like "Tax the Rich" reading on the trails of ball gowns. Something so obvious painted onto our clothing cannot be missed, but the element of surprise is fleeting. Then, there are productions that make us take to our seats, awaiting whatever play moments away from center stage. Across the world, Fashion Week sets a predestined, bi-annual spotlight on whatever rests in the designer's mind. A chaotic buzz grips the necks of the Big Four: Paris, London, Milan and New York. Whether or not in participation, guests and locals alike are subjected to see what must be seen. It is the opportune moment to nonverbally discuss the global crises and criticisms at hand. Fashion is politics, this we know. Whether discussing the ethics of how and where it is made, the conditions in which it is made, or the price we pay, we may lose consciousness. Still, Runway as performance art has a lasting place for those determined to give this medium more. Although unintentionally, the first show to speak volumes about the separation of the poor and elite was the 1989 presentation of Martin Margiela SS90. This evening was an explosion and is widely regarded as one of Runway's most iconic shows. It took place in Paris's 20th arrondissement, a location to reflect the deconstructed collection was the first visible act of distant worlds. But Martin Margiela, in all of his awareness, was not exploiting the emigrated locals where the show would take place. They decided early on that their involvement was crucial to the production's success and overall meaning. Being a house that often rejected fashion's traditional glamor, this night was one night where the absence of these communities would have genuinely been missed. From the children's erupting laughter while weaving through and tripping models, to the unassigned seating that was open to the public, fashion's elites were forced to coexist if they wanted in. And because Margiela was as mysterious as he was revolutionary, everyone wanted in. This concept of using the runway as a cultural stage was quickly popularized. A personal favorite of mine (for the messaging) took place a decade later; the SS98 Burka presentation by Hussein Chalayan. This became a historical moment, especially in fashion, that can now mark the ongoing war on Muslim women and their coverings worldwide. The juxtaposition of ivory-skinned European women sauntering down the runway at first wholly nude except for the boregheh (mask worn by Bandari women) slowly grew to a full-on burka by each passing model. This challenged the idea of what we consider 'free'. A misogynistic diction takes the stand that one's liberation rests in their nudity, implicating a much more sinister message. "It was about defining your space structurally and graphically," said Chalayan to The New York Times (1998). "It was supposed to illustrate a particular kind of position. This was about the cultural loss of self." Head coverings are still a topic of debate, both in politics and fashion, with no end in sight. If any veil is being pulled away to expose, it's the polarizing response to which women receive praise versus the women facing scrutiny. Over twenty years later, society has not progressed, only making matters worse. Fashion as a means of global perspective is an innumerable event. Today, peace of mind only seems achievable by going off the radar. The problem, though, with avoiding the world is that it keeps spinning. "Explicit Beauty" was the name of Walter Van Beirendonck's FW15 show, where he had much to unpack (as per usual). Many frustrations were expressed through beautifully embroidered phallic symbols or ones that hung around the neck to be seen. Walter was hopeful the world would become more tolerant of all the varying lifestyles in his youth, but as he aged, it was a sad realization to see the opposite. The first model to strut was draped in a plastic tunic that pleaded "Stop Terrorizing Our World." This was in response to the vandalizing of American artist Paul McCarthy's butt-plug-shaped Christmas tree the year prior at Place Vendôme. The attack on artistic expression is a grave offense to Walter, but so is every misdeed against humanity, and he condemns them all equally. So when his 15 minutes approach, we are always unmasked to his world, animating a dynamic connection between us all. Most recently, and poignantly, Demna Gvasalia, the VETEMENTS founder and now Balenciaga creative director, gave us a very thought-provoking and emotive Balenciaga Fall 2022 runway taking on climate change and the Russian-Ukrainian war. While he's not the first designer to speak to conflict and the refugee crisis, his show came with a very personal letter expressing his own trauma and the need for fashion to come together and resist war. Demna wrote openly, "... when the same thing happened in my home country, and I became a forever refugee. Forever because that's something that stays in you. The fear, the desperation, the realization that no one wants you. But I also realized what really matters in life, the most important things, like life itself and human love and compassion." His demonstration of resilience came in the form of an Arctic wasteland where the audience was seated outside the globular stage, looking in on a people being forced to plod through a heavy storm. Sometimes we as an audience can't begin to understand or feel what we should, at the news of others' pain and suffering. Forming an idea of relativity can be an impossible task, but (performance) art becomes a sort of cure in this way, drawing out our admiration and support, our longing for beauty's preservation. And so it remains. So long as the planet and humanity are both part beautiful, part under siege, Runway will have many stories to tell. When Vivian alleged in Oscar Wilde’s essay The Decay of Lying that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, I couldn't be sure I followed his scent. It's not that a poet convinced me how beautiful the sunrise was; I found the dawn beautiful from the first time I saw it. I did, however, agree with the sentiment that life's self-conscious aim was to find expression and that art offered beautiful forms to realize that energy. Runway as performance art, as a political and commentating weapon, does exactly this.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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