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Archives for Fashion and Design

High Heels? Just for Slackers


Italians, often admired for a relaxed lifestyle, have become suddenly preoccupied with slackers.
It started with the Minister of Public Administration (the bureaucracy’s so overgrown it sprouted a minister), Renato Brunetta, who recently “outed” a record number of do-nothing workers.
Truly the elephant in the country’s room, it turns out that public-sector employees were so laid back, they weren’t actually on the job at all.
Now, the provincial government in Modena set out a rule that employees should not wear clothing that can cause injury. This means: no heels, signore.
They put it in black and white after two female workers tumbled from stiletto grace on the stairs at work — something unlikely to happen to a man no matter how stacked his cuban heel.
The reasoning: falling from those vertiginous heights means harm to the worker, which in productivity terms means time off and work left sitting around.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
This Teutonic zeal for productivity, however, clashes like orange on red with the whole dolce vita attitude. Italians are supposed to take it easy, enjoy their balmy weather, eat great food and, of course, look good.
Looking good for Italian women = high heels. And often a hairdresser blow-out, store-bought tan, a layer or two of jewelry and body-conscious clothes. But definitely the heels.
In a work situation, it’s a question of power. Since Italian-born French queen Caterina de Medici, women have tried to elevate their status by stacking their shoes.
On occasion, I have broken my usual ballerina-flat or sneaker stride just for that reason: here it seems that without bone-crushing shoes a woman is inevitably considered too young or too casual (sportivo, or sporty, is a polite adjective I’ve come to hate) to be taken seriously by the gray-suited, gray-haired types who hold the purse strings.
And, forget those women who claim they are comfortable, they are trappings.
Necessary ones, so it seems: a recent fashion article on the Wall Street Journal (assuming that whole concept isn’t an oxymoron) was dedicated to “comfortable power heels.”
Perhaps the shoe stumblers in Modena were silly, tick-tacking time wasters, hobbling between the café and their desks who will now have their minds more on matters at hand rather than having to concentrate while mincing down the stairs.
It’ll be interesting to see if a woman able to walk and move normally can have some clout or humble flats will be worn only by worker drones.

Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 5:30 PM | Permalink

Black Models Are New Black, Says Italian Vogue


This month’s Italian edition of fashion bible Vogue features black models on the cover. Pithily called “A Black Issue,” in English, and it was hailed as a stereotype-breaking move much heralded in the international press before it came out.
I read the articles, then forgot all about the controversy until I biked past a kiosk here in Milan urging me to pick up each of the four different “collectible” covers.
There is something more than a little dishonest about this particular fashion statement. For the Italian market, where foreigners, of any color, make up just five percent of the population, it’s more of a publicity ploy than anything else.
It is also more likely to sell here on the “exotic/novelty” ticket than it would in places where it would be more representative of the general population. As far as I know, there were no newsstand rushes to collect the issue in Italy.
Edgy-luscious photos by Steven Meisel – the cover on the photo story for the issue on Vogue Italia’s site offers up a topless Naomi Campell — certainly add to that impression.
The other three cover women of color are Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Sessilee Lopez. On all four covers, they wear decidedly conservative un-summerlike clothing, as if to exasperate the “timeless” and “collectible” quality of the shots.
No doubt, the fashionistas know their gimmicks: the issue reportedly sold record copies outside Italy, in the U.S. and Britain especially. If, after getting on the waiting lists, running around to every neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you managed to get your hands on one, let me know what you make of it.
My nagging doubt? Vogue Italia, as the name implies, is published in Italian only. So, to my mind, if people bought it just to see the pics, the hype was more important than the actual content. (Articles in the issue are all dedicated to black women, too).
Does one issue of a magazine — a minor edition in a language most people can’t read — even chip the French manicure in the racism of the fashion industry or society at large?
I’m going to say no, just like I did to spray tans and gaucho pants.
Perhaps the real problem is that we’re allowing the agenda to be set by a group of people who regularly aim to convince grown women to spend money on things like romper suits.
They set the barriers, they can break them — or pretend to break them to sell a few copies — and then move on to the next big thing.
Maybe they’ll do a Fat Issue next.

Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 9:40 AM | Permalink

Milan Seeks “Positive” Fashion Models


Freshman fashion house Premoli, best known for sticking relatively thin models in tubs of spaghetti, is casting about for human-sized mannequins once again.
Milanese designing duo Dario Di Bella and Giovanni Premoli, whose handsome youthful faces and carefully-waxed brows smile knowingly from the press kit, announced a new crusade for size 8 models to slouch down fashion week catwalks in June.
The casting call beckons models who “eat properly, demonstrate a good attitude and positivity in a size 8 (Italian 42)…..and along with these good qualities, height doesn’t hurt.”
Just how they will gauge a good attitude and healthy eating in models sized-out of the big-name shows as opposed to young women desperate to work during fashion week when these qualities are as elusive as a Hermès Birkin bag is beyond me.
“Being beautiful isn’t necessarily about being thin, it’s about being positive in body and spirit,” the clothiers said in a statement, adding that a typically curvy Mediterranean beauty also symbolizes personality and character.
And while size does matter, it’s not all about numbers. Flip through the fashion house’s two previous collections and you’ll see that while there are no haunted Flowers in the Attic faces and cry-for-help protruding rib cages, there’s definitely daylight shining between them there Valkyrie’s thighs.
The question is: do women who clad themselves in Gucci really care what size the models are? Or the ones who can’t afford Gucci — or can at best sandwich an arm into the leg of a size 0 — and buy the sunglasses instead care whether the models starve?
My hunch says no. They don’t care. And perhaps there’s a certain pleasure in seeing those giant-eyed lunar looking girls subsisting on apples to become the human hangers displaying this season’s retro print Miu Miu frock for them to purchase, vanity-sized, later.
All the hot-air government crusades will do little against this toothpick plague until the average Vogue subscriber gets involved.
We’ll keep seeing hollow, publicity-seeking initiatives like this one, which inadvertently shed some insight to the fashion world today.
Last season, Premoli had a hard time finding models to fit the shiny red satin frocks. Out of over 200 aspiring Giseles who came with portfolios, they sent away 60% due to physiques so scrawny only an anatomist could love them.

Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 7:44 AM | Permalink

Milan Crowdsources the Catwalk


Milan’s first public catwalk offered even average Giovannis a Right Said Fred moment.
Last Friday night in the heart of this business-like city — the stock exchange — anyone could strut their stuff on a runway.

Out of fashion but on the runway…

Called “Out of Fashion” (fuorimoda) it was one of the few events during women’s fashion week open to a public more likely to get hit in the head by Naomi Campell’s flying cell phone than invited to a hot show or glam after party.
The community catwalk is the latest attempt to make fashion week more palatable for locals who are pushed out of taxis and find all decent restaurants booked by Pradamatons who disdain carbohydrates.
Past tries – a big screen broadcasting the shows for schmucks heading down into the metro, a contest for the most elegantly-dressed local — have met with less favor than stilettos at the beach.
Out of Fashion, though, was another timely happening from non-profit association Esterni, whose penchant for organizing urban fun and games runs from the Couch Potato Strike (bring your remote control, get in free) and taking back normally unused spaces during design week for al fresco lounging and DJ sets.
This time, model citizens paid 5 euros to walk the public gauntlet — accompanied by a minimal techno DJ set — thus gaining admission to a “back stage” party in the square.
For courage, they were given anonymizing white jumpsuits (though you can see the hip young things hardly needed it). After walking the walk, they were encouraged to behave like famous mannequin counterparts, namely drinking and swapping clothes.
In a week when all we saw were inadvertently comical anti-anorexia initiatives and clothes we would never wear, it was a much needed runway moment.

Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 10:03 PM | Permalink

Milan Feeds Fat Fashion Myth


It’s fashion week in Milan, again, but this time women’s shows. Honey, that means strictly A-list celebs, fur coats, metallic dresses and double-finger snaps all around.
As usual, there’s much cause for crankiness. My beef this time is just to what lengths — micro-mini to floor scraping — officials have gone to address the plague of toothpick mannequins.
In an air-kissy kind of way, that is. To combat the endless procession of underage zombie girls on the runway, they held a fashion show.


Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 12:36 PM | Permalink

Fashion Flash: Thin’s (Still) In


It’s fashion week in Milan again. One of the four times a year when the average Italian city dweller — not an amiable sort to begin with — is especially cranky.

There are no taxis, traffic congeals to a standstill and you’re forced to settle for a kebab or Chinese take-out because any place worth eating at is booked. Local news taunts with photos of spacey jumpsuits or bathroom-carpet sweaters, there are interviews with minor celebrities pressed against the catwalk and swirling shots of after-parties that you have not been and never will be invited to.


Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 9:53 PM | Permalink

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