Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Footpath Cracks - Bettina gets 'em young

Welcome to the first of an occasional series. Footpath Cracks are my bitchy fashion news briefs, and they'll come up when I feel some style-related issue in the press deserves a good snort of derision.

In today's inaugural crack, Bettina Liano has announced she's designing a range of children's wear. I am a little alarmed. I suppose the "ruffled tops, tulle skirts and jersey pieces with mini versions of Bettina's celebrated denim garments" won't be too much of a stretch. But isn't there something a little wrong about producing this clothing for kids? After all, this is the same designer who said in 2003,
"It is important for women to feel amazing in my clothes and feel sexy but comfortable in my jeans."
And as The Age noted last year,
"Her designer jeans (generally falling into the "spray-on" category of fit) are incredibly saucy."
I also wonder if this is her attempt at buttressing brand loyalty among mums who may have "sagged out" of her target market, so to speak. If so, you have to applaud her for thinking laterally. But by far my favourite thing about this article was that:
"The clothing will come in size 3 to 10 ..."
Just like her adult designs, then!

Winter of the deconstructed hoodie

Photographed in Nolita district, New York. (Picture: Shannon Skillem, Nylon magazine)

At the risk of sounding like the Late Show parody of The Sharp, hoodies - are - back! Not that they ever went away. They're one of those things that instantly makes you look hipper, even if you aren't. But this year, we won't just see plain old hoodies. 2005 is going to be the Winter of the Deconstructed Hoodie.

I want to look at three ways of deconstructing the plain hoodie: adding words and images; cutting it up; and reconstructing it. The most obvious way to customise hoodies is to create slogan hoodies. Chris has a wonderful hoodie, which he created himself, that has "Baudrillard" appliqued across the front. Last year I was researching an article about the explosion of specialist t-shirt labels (that my editor butchered so it merely said "whoa, ain't slogan t-shirts subversive!") and I discovered Neighborhoodies. The idea is genius. You tell them what you want on your hoodie, t-shirt, etc, and they'll sew or print it on and deliver the finished garment with a personalised note. It's a business model that I plan to emulate, with modifications, when I finally get Melkwear off the ground.

Then there are cut-up hoodies. Everyone tells me that the Flashdance 80s look - raw-seamed sportswear - is 'over', and people are now wearing tailored or 'ethnic' clothes. But that's not what I see people wearing, and those aren't the hoodies you see in the shops. Industrie has some great 80s-style hoodies with ripped-off sleeves this season (they call them "Raging Bull"), which you can check out online if you can get over the Kevin Federline-esque model.

I think Industrie is the Sportsgirl of menswear. They do some great basic menswear with a slightly edgy quality that always looks quite sharp in the catalogues and the shop windows, but never looks as good on real men. Possibly this is because the layered, structured way that stylists (and hipsters!) construct outfits seems completely alien to the approach of your average dufus: "Duh, I will put some pants on. And then I will put on a top. And then some shoes. I dress me real good."

But Industrie possibly plays the same role for men as Sportsgirl does for women - as a signifier of "fashionability" (or "fashion-ability"!) for those who aren't otherwise adept at fashion semiotics. Just as any chick can go to Sportsgirl and know that she'll be "in fashion", men can go to Industrie, safe in the knowledge that whatever distressed garment they buy will be considered "fashionable".

Here it is worthwhile differentiating between several linked ideas: "fashionable", "cool", "stylish". I should perhaps devote an entire post to this. "Fashionable" implies being on the crest of a wave of deliberate obsolescence; knowing that what you're wearing now won't be acceptable within the symbolic and actual economies of fashion. "Cool" is an ephemeral, aloof form of affect that trades on exclusivity and otherness. The cool person is always the other, because it is fundamentally uncool to call yourself cool. "Stylish" implies a more permanent and idiosyncratic dress sense that works aesthetically in a variety of contexts and fashion cycles.

According to this brief and problematic schema that I've just sketched, Sportsgirl and Industrie are fashion stores. If you pick and choose garments to fit with your own aesthetic, they can also be stylish; but their ubiquity makes them uncool.

But anyway. I also saw a wonderful men's hoodie in a shop on Little Collins Street, which had large circular cut-out panels in the sides. It was designed to be worn with a singlet or something underneath. I was so excited by this look that I went to Savers to try and find a cheap hoodie to cut up and experiment with, but there weren't any I liked. I bought a spotted t-shirt instead.

The final winter hoodie trend I want to point out is the one illustrated by this New Yorker - reconstructed hoodies. I'm fascinated by his Frankenhoodie - it appears to be constructed from two separate garments sewn together. It makes me wonder whether he has a doppelganger wearing the opposite-coloured hoodie. Industrie is doing a version of this, too. Particularly, look out for the pink one that they somewhat alarmingly describe as the "savaged zip" hoodie.

The main characteristic of the reconstructed hoodie is that it toys with the basic hoodie construction. The cut-up hoodie pulls the familiar form apart and creates dynamic absences that are only enhanced by the small traumas of their curling, frayed edges. But the reconstructed hoodie draws its dynamism from the slightly askew way it puts the hoodie form back together - the things it adds, like extra colours and zips.