Friday, August 15, 2008

"Faster than a speeding bullet"...

Even though New York Fashion Week is just weeks away, it’s impossible to think of anything other than the Beijing Summer Olympics these days. That said, because I am well…admittedly fashion obsessed, I can’t help relating everything I see (while I stay tuned to the television coverage of the Olympic events), back to fashion. And since fashion is a part of everything in life, including the world of sports, (especially when it’s on such a grand scale with lots of money to be made in advertisements, endorsements, etc.), that’s easy to do.

As I watched the glorious Opening Ceremonies last Friday evening, and the massive world stage that was on view, I kept thinking how the world of fashion, much like the sports arena, is one place where different cultures and ethnicities are routinely celebrated, and come together and find a common ground. Dries Van Noten has built a reputation on his ability to successfully tap into an international, ethnic chic; Donna Karan’s traveling wanderlust is always evident in her collections; Ralph Rucci, among others, has long looked to the far East for divine inspiration (and after the Beijing games, you can be sure that China will be a point of reference for spring 2009).

The global equation is something that is always very much apart of fashion design, even when it brings with it, a degree of controversy (as in Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1993 ‘Hasidic’ Collection). And how else can you explain the love affair many fashionistas had or have with a tasseled neck scarf which bore a resemblance to the traditional Palestinian Shemagh, (including those of the Jewish faith: I should know…I’m one of them), other than to say it was ‘proposed’ by Nicolas Guesquiere for his fall 2008 collection. Well, okay, so his version, shown with crested schoolboy blazers, crisp button down shirts, and skinny jodhpurs, was much more couture, and much more costly…but still.

And speaking of the Opening Ceremonies; it was hard NOT to notice Ralph Lauren’s pronounced and over scaled white logo sewn onto the natty navy blue blazers worn by the members of the U.S. Olympic team as they marked into the arena. Worn over crisp white shirts, and white pants, and accessorized with white athletic shoes, a jaunty white jockey cap, and a scarf which bore a red stripe (the only hit of color in the ensemble), the pieces exemplified the idea of classic American sportswear. And since we all know that it’s all about advertisement, branding, and commerce these days, many of the aforementioned pieces are available at www.ralphlauren.com, where the homepage gleefully announces: “An official outfitter of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team”.

Talk about life imitating art. When Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, first toyed with the idea of the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” exhibit, the premise was “extreme sportswear, performance clothes that literally transform you to a superhero”. Well, what could possibly be more illustrative of that concept than the Speedo LZR Racer speed suit (www.speedousa.com), worn by Michael Phelps in his quest for 8 gold medals?

In the days, weeks, and months following the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy” exhibit back in May, I have seen kids, adults, even dogs, wearing Batman and Superman t’s and there have been endless openings of Super Hero themed movies. But these are only fictional and none can compare with Michael Phelps, a bona fide, real life Superman and Superhero, if ever there was one. And at a time when the fashion world can’t get seem to get enough of heroes, or anything gold (especially if it’s in the form of massive gold necklaces), isn’t it refreshing to see someone wearing them, who actually deserves a medal (or two, or three, or four, or five, etc.?)

Oh, by the way, remember when I said that China will probably be a huge source of inspiration for spring 2009? Well, I think you can assume that swimwear (and perhaps performance sportswear in general), will be a major theme at the upcoming collections.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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