Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shoegasm: An Explosion Of Cutting Edge Design

ISBN-13: 978193799401 Publisher: Race Point Publishing
Publication date: 10/13/2012

Claire Anthony's book Shoegasm, An Explosion Of Cutting-Edge Design, is a delightful history of the evolution of the shoe. The book traces the history of the shoe starting from the gold sandals entombed with the pharaohs of Egypt up until the current designers such as Laboutin and Blahnik. Platform shoes were worn hundreds of years ago in China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Surprisingly, in fifteenth century Italy platform shoes, called chopines, were as high as twenty inches, a figure that would make even Lady Gaga gasp. However, according to Anthony it was not until the sixteenth century that the high heel arrived in the West. These shoes were initially worn by men but slowly became a staple in the wardrobe of both sexes.

15th Century Italian platform shoes called chopines

Anthony's recalling of the history of the shoe is both informative and amusing. While high heels went out of style for women after the French Revolution, by the middle of the nineteenth century they came back. The first famous shoemaker was Jean Louis Pinet, whose shoes were sought out by rich aristocratic women. These vignettes provide an interesting framework for the next part of Anthony's book which examines current shoe designers from the early 1900's until today. The book contains hundreds of ornate photos of these wardrobe staples which adorn our feet.

Salvatore Ferragamo high plaform shoe

In the 1920's Andre Perugia came to prominence with his own footwear designs, and then partnered with Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930's. Perugia was the creator of the first towering heel-less shoe which appeared in the late 1930's. During this time Ferragamo introduced modern cork platforms and the wedge heel.The style of shoes in history is reflective of the events occurring in society, such as the advent of go go boots and flats worn in the 1960's exemplifying both the Mod trend and the bohemian era. Anthony notes that high heels came back into vogue during the 1970's by both men and women, although I can not recall my father wearing heels to work. Interestingly, Anthony points out that World War II technology was used to create needle thin stilettos in the early 1950's. Anthony's documentation of the use of technology to enhance and vary modern day shoe design is illuminating. While extreme shoes have existed for hundreds of years the variety and intricacy of shoe design is at its pinnacle today.

Alexander McQueen

The next section in Anthony's book details the most creative and illustrious modern day shoe designers providing their professional backgrounds with accompanying pictorials and analyses of their shoes. Alain Quilici, who grew up in Tuscany, views shoes as an extension and redefinition of the body. The pictures of his shoes and their construction highlight the necessity for meticulous detail in shoe construction. Anthony notes that many shoe designers, such as Anne Poesen and Julian Hakes, started off studying architecture and design before making shoes.

Julian Hakes

Hakes an architect with a specialty in bridge design decided to apply these skills to shoe construction Shoe making is not some trivial endeavor but rather requires significant skill and expertise. Similarly complex, McQueens shoes are lauded for their "exquisite craftmanship" helping to place British fashion design back in the forefront of the industry. The magnificent patterns of McQueen's shoes overwhelm the reader into a "shoegasmic" state. Some of the shoe designers Anthony highlights are not well known however, the pictures illustrate the extraordinary creativity of these craftsmen elucidating why they were featured in this book.

Chau Har Lee

The in-depth assessment of the methods used in shoe design, such as the use by Chau Har Lee of a 3d printer to build a shoe along with laser beams and liquid resin, were of special interest to someone, such as myself, who knows little about shoe design. Laboutin'scollection is examined along with the interesting anecdote of him painting the sole of the shoe with red nail polish after finding the back of the shoe too dark. Laboutin's professional history of employment at the Folie Bergeres explains the playfulness and glamour of his designs. However, it would have been interesting for Anthony to explain why Laboutin is considered such a giant in the industry justifying his labels exorbitant price tag and extreme popularity.

Kobi Levi

Kobi Levi, a shoe innovator who creates shoe sculptures which he crafts from start to finish, is another eccentric shoe designer highlighted by Anthony. His shoes require about a month to complete from sketch to prototype. Levi's eccentric designs which feature animals, coffee cups and chewing gum are a feast for the eyes. The title of the chapter on Manolo Blahnik, refers to extravagant comfort, and recounts how Blahnik started off as a set designer but was then urged by Diana Vreeland to switch careers and the rest is shoe history. I am not sure I agree with the term comfort to describe Blahniks nevertheless, the shoes exhibited in the book are both extremely beautiful and somewhat pragmatic.

Manolo Blahnik

Claire Anthony's book is highly instructive to a novice in shoe design. Her examination of the shoes' history from its incipient stages as a rudimentary functional object to its current extravagance as viewed on the runway, in magazines, and on the street is both an informative and pleasurable read. The book is a perfunctory history of numerous shoe designers yet provides us with enough information to better understand the design and construction of their shoes. This book has earned a spot on my coffee table as a delightful reminder as to why I adore fashion - the vibrant colors, the exquisite designs and the eccentric playfulness is the reason retail therapy is the most effective antidote to the winter blues.

-Lieba Nesis

Friday, December 07, 2012

Museum of FIT New Exhibition

High (Fashion) Tech

Gareth Pugh dress in silver mirror finish 2011 & Louise Gray dress 2012 inspired by bar codes

Much of the world is on-line almost 24/7, and every aspect of our lives (including fashion) has greatly benefited from a wide variety of technological advances (where would we be without them?). This is precisely the subject of "Fashion and Technology" a new well edited exhibit at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was organized by Ariele Elia and Emma McClendon along, with Colleen Hill and Lynn Weidner.

Pierre Cardin space age design & Courreges pink wool dress 1968

To best illustrate the changing concept of fashion (especially as it relates to textiles), and the technological innovations that have had the most impact on fashion, (in terms of production, materials, aesthetics, and function), 100 objects were chosen, all culled from the museum's costume, accessory, and textile collection. The introductory room begins with digital technology, as visitors are greeted with a video of Burberry's 2011 holographic runway show, projected life size, along with a monitor featuring a live Twitter feed. Across the way, there's a dress and bag which was created by Dutch design studio Freedom of Creation, (the company is based on cutting edge 3D technology that makes use of a computer controlled laser to seamlessly sculpt the garment layer-by-layer). It was made solely for the Museum at FIT and. as such, has afforded MFIT the distinction of being the first museum to accept a 3D printed textile into its permanent collection.

Issey Miyake 1996

The exhibit spans 250 years, (it ends with fall 2012 to be exact), and there are many early, unlabeled pieces that are under the radar if not surprising (for example, an 1860's purple and black silk afternoon dress from England, is made of synthetic analine dye, and the striking and brilliantly modern art deco 1920's jacket emblazoned with the New York skyline, is an homage to skyscrapers and illustrates the way in which technology had transformed the urban landscape- literally). But the best and most highly visual items (and the bulk of the exhibition) can best be described as somewhat obvious, if not iconic, bearing names of designers who were known to push the boundaries of fashion and became synonymous with innovation.

Paco Rabanne dress in plastic, metal and jersey 1965 & Emilio Pucci jumpsuit in stretch shantung

Notable examples include a Paco Rabanne dress made of plastic metal, and black jersey, 1965; an Emilio Pucci jumpsuit made of synthetic stretch shantung (the fabric was called Emilioform and it was developed by Emilio himself); a Pierre Cardin PVC hat, and a dress made of fuchsia Dynel (the fabric utilized heat set technology rather than needles and thread to permanently mold it into a 3 dimensional form); a pair of space age inspired white leather Courreges boots, 1965, and a pink wool dress, 1968 (his space age designs were inspired by the 1960's International Space Race), a Rive Gauche YSL dress from 1964, made of yellow PVC cotton; examples of permanent polyester pleats from Issye Miyake,1996 (he introduced the fashion industry to a new generation of fabrics).

Rive Gauche YSL dress in PVC cotton 1964

Other examples include a Mary McFadden, 1977 (her permanent pleats were created by using heat set technology rather than hand pleating silk, as had been done before); a Kenneth Richard ensemble,1996, made of printed blue vinyl was juxtaposed next to Jean Paul Gaultier's second skin jumpsuit in nylon and spandex with a cyber graphic print, 1996 (it was from a collection that was inspired by the Cyber Age.  Also there was a copy of Time Magazine, spring 1995, bearing the cover lines "Welcome to Cyber Space" was in clear view); a 1970's Missoni sweater and culottes made using a Raschel machine which enabled them to create zig zags in dynamic color combinations, and allowed them to re define knitwear; a Gareth Pugh silver mirror dress with slashed polyurethane finish, from spring 2011, shown alongside Louise Gray's dress and tights in black and white from fall 2012, which was inspired by QR codes (they were a step in the evolution of the barcode: an ideal marketing tool for the digitial age).

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Lookonline Celebrates 18 Years Online

The Godfather of Fashion Websites

Front of original invitation to the launch of December 1, 1994 is the longest running online fashion publication in the world. Before there was,,,,,,, and even, there was us. We have not always garnered the attention, funding or the notoriety of other fashion sites, but those in our industry who have followed Lookonline's development over the years, know we helped pioneer the use of the Internet in providing real-time coverage of fashion events, regularly scheduled video reports, fashion blogging (DFR: Daily Fashion Report has been in blog format for almost 9 years and is recognized as the first fashion blog), market reports, editorial cartoons and original runway and event photography long before there were sites like or Fashionweekdaily.

Our site currently has 2,794 subscribers. Most of who come from magazines and newspapers. Our readership garners the most informed members of the fashion press from such publications as Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, People Magazine, InStyle Magazine, The New York Times, LA Times and The Daily Beast among many others. Other subscribers include fashion directors, publicists and educators as well as students and others who have a real interest in NY fashion.

Since our official launch was on December 1, 1994 as a BBS dial-up service (does anyone remember what a BBS service was?), the Lookonline has been online "officially" for 18 years. However, we were already a BBS service by subscription in early 1993 (our first subscriber was Harper's Bazaar), and it was not until December of 1994 did we began publishing a website (hosted first under another domain name) in addition to our BBS site. Then, in early 1995, we discontinued our BBS service and concentrated on developing our website using our own domain name ''.

For the record, our official launch was as a party/benefit called "CyberTaste" for the "Charge Against Hunger" program from American Express and Share Our Strength on December 1, 1994 (see above copy of invitation) The event was held at Sony Plaza at 550 Madison Avenue in New York. Over 850 members of the public and a small group of press (WWD did not show up) attended the opening that featured 13 chefs from top New York restaurants serving their signature dishes; a designer auction, wine tasting, desserts, and a live 20 man jazz orchestra. According to officials at Sony, it was one of the largest, if not the largest event ever held to that day at the Sony Plaza's Atrium. (Rhonda Erb put the whole event together for us). Major sponsors for the event included American Express, Food & Wine Magazine, Tourneau, Romana Sambuca, Coca Cola Bottling Company of NY, Georgette Klinger, Colorite, and Sony Plaza.

I want to personally thank (again) our many contributors who, over the past 18 years, helped support our site. First and foremost my editor-in-chief, Marilyn Kirschner, whose fashion expertise, wit and determination has set the tone for our editorial coverage; senior editor Bernadine Morris, who lent her name, expertise and a guiding hand for many years. Also special mention goes to Randy Brooke, an exceptional photographer who was always there when we needed him; Diane Clehane for providing us with first class coverage of major fashion and entertainment events, and Rhonda Erb for special reports and her wonderful shopping column Better Bets. Also special thanks goes to Susan Sommers for her timely suggestions; Adrienne Weinfield-Berg, L:ieba Nesis and Stacy Lomman for their special reporting; Isabelle Erb and Muriel Geny-Triffaut for their contributions, and finally a real thank you to Grace Mirabella for hosting our first three 'Master of Fashion' video interviews'.

Of course a special thanks goes to my wonderful wife Deborah Brumfield, without whose constant support and encouragement nothing would be possible.

- Ernest Schmatolla