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amsterdam international fashion show

The Smirnoff International Fashion Show Awards in Amsterdam in 1991.
Photo: MTV

Season: 3 Episode: 9
Title: Summer '91
Original Airdate: 7/10/91
Appearances: Frans Ankoné, Joe Casely Hayford, Francesc Grau Tomás


There's so much going on in this clip and for reasons of weirdness, it's actually one of my favorites. I have one trillion individual beefs with the fashion industry but some of the pointier bits have to do with how designers' ideas are put under so much pressure to be commercially viable or be 1,000% red carpet fame-balls that so many silhouettes are compromised, boring and unimportant.

So when you remove any chance of mass production but provide a cash prize to dazzle some judges, the designing gets SUPER nuts. The Smirnoff Fashion Awards was a showcase that began in 1985 in the United Kingdom as a sponsored show in which student designers competed to win loot to either fund further schooling or provide seed money for a line. In 1991, the show went international with an event in Amsterdam that rounded up student designers from 25 different countries. I wish each of them had a blog because I would've read all about it.

It's actually frustrating how little information there is about the shows. If you look up the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards, you’ll learn that they were held anywhere from Cape Town to Toronto to New York City...until about 2003. The designs are zany and show-offy which is what you'd expect from kids with huge ideas and varying degrees of success at pulling them off. The shows look homespun and retain a “ball” feel because they were often held in nightclubs. Despite the dearth of information, we did discover that several of the designers and judges went on to fashion greatness. Alexander McQueen judged in 1995 and there's no way he would've granted points for anything less than extraordinary.

The designs in the 1991 show are scrappy and DIY-fancy. There is a disproportionate number of hoop skirts; see-through plastic things; dresses that jut out and are strung with so many dangling gewgaws that it makes the clothes look like mobiles or wind chimes. There are black-and-white jester outfits that feature dice as hats, and a series of models who walk out shrouded in giant, lumpy, elastic-gathered, bouffant surgical caps that are then removed to reveal the clothes underneath. I can't figure out a more elegant way to put it but basically it's like the body condom scene in Naked Gun. “The inspiration of the collection was artist Christo, the artist who wraps everything up,” says Vera Vandenbosch of Belgium. “I decided to wrap up the models.” OK, we're going deep in the nerd rabbit hole but Vera is a contender because she went to the Royal Academy in Antwerp, which is the same school attended by the “Antwerp six” (Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkenbergs, Walter Van Beirendonck and Marina Yee). Kris Van Assche (Dior Homme) also went there. So did Vincent Van Gogh. Vera did not win in 1991, but went on to become the director of e-commerce and design project management at the upscale furniture wonderland ABC Carpet & Home. She now lives in Brooklyn.

One of the judges that year was a lovely man by the name of Frans Ankoné. His résumé includes stints as the director of fashion and style at the New York Times magazine; a tenure as the Fashion Editor of German Vogue; and an appointment to the Fashion Director position at Detour magazine. Another judge, designer Joe Casely Hayford, went on to great acclaim. His impressive career ranges from dressing U2, the Clash, Seal and Duran Duran to making safari clothes from surplus tents in the early ’80s (not unlike Miuccia Prada, who put her family’s leather goods company on the map with black, parachute nylon backpacks a couple of years earlier). Ankoné also spent time as creative director of Savile Row’s Gieves & Hawkes. In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the fashion industry.

Of the assembled designers, the winner was Francesc Grau Tomás of Spain. Ankoné says, “We chose Spain—the whole jury did—because we thought it was a very new idea to use sculpture on clothes. He did it in a very nice and interesting way.” The winning design was a floor-length smock with hillocks that resemble egg whites whipped into peaks, with a long jacket over the top featuring a mask on the back in relief. “It was the mask of an African tribe in Zaire,” Francesc explains. “It was a look towards the past, towards the naturalness of primitive tribes. And it was a play on words—the mask hiding fashion.” The impressive part is that the topographical elements identifiably form a face, and none of it is cumbersome. The model walks smoothly, and the garment exhibits remarkable fluidity while maintaining its shape. The garment also very much resembles this Jean Paul Gaultier wedding dress that uses the same idea.

The use of added dimensions continues to be explored now. The mask is evocative of the polygons seen in the current “art realism” or “new aesthetic” movement, which explores how things in the digital realm become real by either creating the illusion of depth with patterns and projection mapping, or creating topography with innovations in 3D patterning and 3D printing. For further reading on the subject (with multiple Pinterest examples), look to Joel Johnson’s study of the new aesthetic as it ties together fashion and video games or take a look at the gorgeous series in the “Digital T-shirt project” that features a sculpted wolf shirt that seems to reference Francesc’s mask more than twenty years later. You can also download 3D patterns as well.

For his undeniably avant-garde idea, Francesc won an 11-month course at Domus Fashion Academy in Milan (Vogue Japan’s Anna Dello Russo went there). He now teaches fashion design at Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Barcelona.


Smirnoff Fashion Award Show | 'House Of Style' Collection On MTV Style


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jean paul gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier runway at Paris Fashion Week in 1996.
Photo: MTV

Season: 8 Episode: 48
Title: Paris Edition
Original Airdate: 4/15/96
Appearances: Ann Demeulemeester, Emma Balfour, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jerry Hall, Julien D'Ys, Jean Touitou


A couple of things make this segment extra-special for me: the fact that we have a rare interview with the incomparable Belgian genius Ann Demeulemeester, and that hearing model Emma Balfour speak so eloquently about her sent me into a weird fact-finding mission that led to the discovery that Emma became a poet! It’s not every day you hear from a model who has been compared to Raymond Carver. Seriously.

The F/W 1996 Ann D collection is pretty special. She’s such a master and cuts a mean, lean silhouette with this fantastically somber Antwerpian gravitas, yet there are off-kilter details like asymmetrical sleeves or meandering plackets that deliver tension in this wonderful contrapposto — it's the sort of bound agony you see in Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic period. It's great. This is what Demeulemeester says about the process: “When I start the collections, most of the time I start with a certain movement. So the movement of this collection is that I tried to work on a twisted body.” What? Can you just think about that? It's so insane to think that her point of inspiration is how fabric behaves on a screwy form. It shouldn’t be surprising, since she can command textile to do whatever she wants, but honestly, could she make the terrain any more challenging?

There’s a ton of excellent stuff in this season as a whole. HoS fave Jean Paul Gaultier is going through a sculptural period and is heavily into moving cubes and spheres. There’s this great moment with Jerry Hall, who remarks that she’s modeling as a madwoman who doesn’t realize she’s mad and sounds totally unhinged as she's describing it. From Rifat Ozbek to Romeo Gigli, there are mixed prints, velvet, skinny maxi skirts, sweaters, bright evening suiting, tartan ball gowns and fur stoles; on the beauty side, this is the season of the top-knot, fashion Mohawk, glittery face makeup that appears to have been cried into smears, and dark bars painted over eyes in place of liner.



julien d'ys

Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta visit hairstylist Juline D'Ys in Paris in 1996.
Photo: MTV

OK, I had never heard of Julien D’Ys so I didn’t have an appreciation for how wonderful this segment is and just thought it was cool that he invited Shalom and Amber over for some hair tips. Apparently, at the time of this taping, Julien is “one of the most revered hair masters working today.” Julien is the guy who, since 2005, has been doing all the head-dressing at the Costume Institute Exhibition at the Met; he’s also been collaborating with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons for over two decades, and you know how particular (and brilliant) Rei is. Most recently, you may have seen Julien’s flawless pin curls on Katy Perry’s Old Hollywood transformation for the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, but more importantly, Julien is also a photographer, set designer and a painter.

Last year, Julien had his first painting exhibition, and it’s so rad that we get to see all of his canvases from 1996 in his apartment while he teaches Amber how to use tinfoil and molding clay to curl her hair. He then puts wigs on Shalom and shows us how a cut-up piece of panty hose can act like SPANX for her real hair so that everything lies flat under the hair piece. All very cool and 100% applicable to life, but I just really liked the bit where he talked about his paintings because it’s so clear how passionately he feels about being a fine artist. Plus, the part where his blowdryer (and probably all of our camera lights) blows a fuse in his crappy New York apartment is super-relatable as well. That’s the magic of House of Style: You could go from knowing nothing to wanting to hang out with a person based on footage that was shot 16 years ago.



jean touitou

A.P.C. designer Jean Touitou in 1996.
Photo: MTV

On the topic of people I want to hang out with, A.P.C designer Jean Touitou is definitely one of them. Even if he sort of terrifies me. This reminds me so much of the Franco Moschino interview in that he’s so clever, quick and controversial that you can never tell if he’s mocking or goading you (“Cynicism is a humor that suits me” he’s said in a T magazine profile). It’s been eons since the artisanal jeans movement stormed the gate (denimgate?), so I’ll go ahead and presume you all know the brand A.P.C. (atelier de production et de creation). It started in Paris in 1986, it’s a line that makes jeans that you have to work very hard to break in, and "A.P.C." is the universally agreed-upon, male, fashblogger-approved response to, "What jeans are you wearing?"

All of this, obviously, is by design. Touitou has pursued music from the beginning as well and is just as unorthodox in that arena in terms of how he likes to do business. He releases his own music and creates compilations with like-minded friends. According to T, he even built a recording studio at A.P.C. HQ, a haven for employees who want to record with their bands, and where parts of the score for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox were recorded. I’m going to do that annoying thing where I just pull out some responses and cut-and-paste them, not (only) because I’m lazy, but because his quotes are great unmolested.

On A.P.C.’s iterative processes:
“Here we make the fabric, we design, manufacture, we mail order. It’s invisible work and it takes a long time to do.”

On fashion shows:
“The fashion show for me is purely a spectacular nonsense. It’s all related to how much hype you get at that period of time. Everybody’s going to think you’re fabulous or not and it’s not based on your work and your clothes.”

On releasing music:
“I decided to produce music when I had the means to do so. We decided to do a first album and to be totally independent. I’m sorry, but I do not want to talk to the music industry.”

On logos:
“Everybody wants to be a star very quickly, and so anybody will do a label and have his name on it. So I didn’t want no name at all at the beginning….The first collection was just the label with the name, with the date actually. The first one was called ‘Winter ’87.’”

On tawdry clothes:
“I don’t like the clothes too loudly sexy because sex, when it’s too loud, is not sex anymore. It’s an image of sex, and you don’t want the image to want sex.”

For more on Jean Touitou, follow his Twitter feed. Or watch this video. Also, read this.



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