Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interview: Carine Rizzi, Carizzi

A few years ago London-based Carine Rizzi did something many fashion lovers dream of: After years working as a software engineer and project manager, she enrolled at the London College of Fashion with dreams of becoming a designer. In 2010, the dream became a reality when she launched Carizzi, a luxury swimwear label. Made in France with top quality Italian fabrics, Carizzi celebrates the designer's Mediterranean roots and long summers spent in picturesque Provence. The label exudes European glamour, recalling the spirit of the '90s supermodel era, with its glam hardware and bright prints (designed in collaboration with London-based designer Nova Chiu for S/S 2014 and Canadian designer Hamideh Abol for the upcoming S/S 2015 season). Most importantly, every swimsuit is designed with utmost respect for a woman's body, concentrating on exceptional fit and comfort, with attention to every minute detail. A great swimsuit from Carizzi is a well-worth investment. 

What was the most memorable swimsuit fashion moment of your childhood? 
There are so many! And they're such happy memories. Perhaps a key thing for me was how my mother used to make beautiful swimsuits out of crochet and liberty prints for my sister and me. I remember those times with pride and fondness. Being half Italian, we used to go on holiday in Italy to visit our family near Rome. There, I always admired those beautifully stylish Italian women turning men's heads. Then came the supermodels of the '90s -- I loved Cindy Crawford in her swimsuit shots.

S/S 2015

What made you start a swimwear company?
I grew up in Provence, by the French Riviera, in the south of France. We have the longest summers there and we can start wearing swimwear from March until end of September. For as long as I can remember, I have always been attracted by summer: it's a happy season. It's the time when the family gathers for outdoor lunches and barbecues under the olive trees. During those long hot summers, I loved wearing swimwear and enjoyed the water for as long as possible. There's a sense of freedom swimwear gives you. It's an enjoyable experience being so close to the elements. It isn't often that we get to wear swimwear, and when we do we should make the most of it. So I decided to create a brand clearly focused on shapes and quality that women of all ages would be happy wearing, Instilling comfort and confidence so that we can enjoy every minute of summer. Now that I live in London, it also helps me reconnect with the long summers of my childhood.

Swimsuits are some of the most feared garments by women. Can you offer any tips how to make the shopping experience more enjoyable?
Shopping for swimwear should be a little like shopping for a bra. To feel confident, the swimwear needs to fit well and stay put all day long. Also pay particular attention to the fabric: a good fabric is quick drying, has a dense elastic weave so that it hugs and flatters the body. Pick fabrics with a high elastane content (typically Lycra over 15% is good). These will really help to enhance your body shape and give you that extra bit of confidence. 

Try bikini separates instead of bikini sets. Just like everyday clothes, some shapes and cuts suit our bodies more than others so choose a brand that allows you to mix and match bikini tops and bottoms. That way you ensure you have the most flattering shapes for your body type. Avoid being tied-in to a fixed bikini set. Swimwear should be a liberating experience not an intimidating one.

S/S 2014

Should we be building a swimsuit wardrobe? What are some styles every woman should own?Definitely. Having a mix of shapes, colours and prints will help you make the most of beach and pool time. Diversity is the key.

It’s fun picking out the vibe/spirit of an occasion, for example a yacht party might call for a more intricate design or cut. The focus could even be cultural e.g. the vibe in St Tropez is very different to that at the Copacabana or Ipanema. The occasion could be as simple as beachside vs poolside so variety in your swimwear wardrobe just gives you more options to play with. A simple place to start is with colours, black/neutral tones will work for a more ‘dressed-up’ look.

What has been a career highlight so far?
When Carizzi appeared in an editorial of the British publication of Marie Claire.

What’s next for Carizzi?
The importance of shapes is our signature so we will continue work on perfecting existing shapes as well as adding more. I want to start looking more at cover-ups, and applying the same approach of using flattering shapes as the basis for them. We'll start to experiment with more fabric types, ensuring that we don’t compromise the support our swimwear offers.

We also need to increase our brand awareness and reach out to agents internationally so that more people can see and try our swimwear.

Describe your dream beach vacation.
I love Brazil for its happy and laid back attitude but also for its flamboyance. My dream beach vacation would have a bit of everything really, a mixture of fun and relaxing time with friends, good music as well as a good book.

Carizzi is available on carizzi.com.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Youthquake 2.0: The couture years

Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2014

Previously a land of luxurious suits and gowns, Chanel Haute Couture has gotten much younger in the last few years. This week the house presented us with very fancy flip-flops and bicycle shorts, and last season we got even fancier sneakers and fannypacks. The curious development in Chanel's collections is, of course, due to Karl Lagerfeld's genius, but it can also be credited to the recent phenomenon of a much younger couture client. They don't want their mother's suits and frocks; they want fun things they can pair with their favourite pair of jeans and accessories that will set them apart from the rest (no ubiquitous black 2.55s for this crowd).

Last year, France's youngest couturier Alexis Mabille told British Vogue that he has couture clients as young as 12. Whether it's old money with in-built family couture culture or whether it's nouveau riche, these young women are buying in bulk. Couture usually runs from $20,000 for a basic suit to $100,000 for an evening gown, and accessories (shoes and bags) start at $10,000 and can go up to millions. Do the math.

So, who are the clients? "Most of the Chanel clients are not here," Lagerfeld told Deluxe author Dana Thomas after a presentation a few years ago, "They have other things to do, you know? But the oceans are crossed for private jets for fittings." He also explained it was "new fortunes" and people who don't want to be identified (because they are probably kids!). Chanel's head seamstress usually flies to China within the few days after the show with the entire collection on a private jet. The most special pieces are kept for the top clients while only a couple will make it down a red carpet. "The women who buy couture don't want to be identified with actresses," explains Lagerfeld. It all reminds me of characters from Crazy Rich Asians.

While we can thank the young illusive client for keeping couture alive, gone are the days of impossibly glamorous societies like Nan Kempner and Jacqueline de Ribes and their many appearances in Tatler and Vanity Fair. Most of the couture purchased these days will never see the light of day, let alone a camera lens -- it is to be worn behind closed doors, at private gatherings, by the world's one percent.  If we're lucky, some might resurface many years from now as an anonymous museum donation. While not dead, there's no denying that the culture of haute couture is forever changed. The essence of couture is that of youth.

Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2014

Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2014

Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2014

Backstage and lookbook images courtesy of Chanel. Runway images courtesy of style.com.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fashion Archives: A Brief (But Important!) History of Dog Covers (1914-1947)

Vogue (March 1947), illustrated by René R. Bouché

Yesterday, British Vogue revealed their August cover starring Victoria Beckham and a special little puppy. I think it makes the cover fun, especially since Ms. Beckham never smiles. It also made me wonder about other canine models (or in this case, illustrations) that have graced famous covers. Aside from the above cover by René R. Bouché, my favourites are the elongated figures by illustrator Helen Dryden, who drew countless Vogue covers during her 13 year contract with Condé Nast from 1909–1922, and was once the highest paid female artist in America.

Vogue (January 1922), illustrated by Helen Dryden / Vogue (September 1924)

Vogue (March 1947), illustrated by René R. Bouché / Vogue (unknown)

Vogue (October 1922), illustrated by Helen Dryden

Harper's Bazaar (February 1916) / Harper's Bazaar (November 1916)

Harper's Bazaar (April 1944) / Harper's Bazaar (June 1942)

Vanity Fair (June 1914), illustrated by Ethel McClellan Plummer

P.S. Interesting discovery: Harper's Bazaar used to be Harper's Bazar.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ABCs of Canada

There is no shortage of talent in Canada, so on the nation's 147th birthday, I'm celebrating every home-based fashion and beauty label, from A to Z. Not to sound overly schmaltzy, but Canada really has (almost) everything: sexy lingerie, the world's finest activewear and streetwear, top caliber cosmetics, enviable accessories, and remarkable ready-to-wear talent. Some manufacture here and some overseas, but in both cases homegrown brands support our economy and nurture local talent. Our retail environment is filled with foreign brands and it's often difficult for a local label to stand out. In the last year, we've witnessed some of the country's best designers (Lida Baday, Duy Nguyen ) close their doors -- a sad reminder how fragile the idea of success can be in Canada. So, if you go shopping today, you can refer to this list of remarkable Canadian talent. Happy Canada Day!

Am I missing anyone? (Yes, I do realize that I'm missing an X, so please help me.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Screen Style: The Last Days of Disco (1998)

Before we get into anything, I realize that Whit Stilman films are an acquired taste. I love them, of course, and while Metropolitan -- in all its Gossip Girl-esque glory -- is my favourite, The Last Days of Disco is his most stylish. The clothing is necessarily representative of the disco era (the film takes place in the early '80s), but really a nod to American (yuppie) minimalism and '90s Calvin Klein era. It's easy for me to fall in love with anything attached to Chloë Sevigny's face and body, as I adore the way she wears clothes. Her character Alice and her frenemy Charlotte (played by Kate Beckinsale in her more adorable days) are recent college grads with dreams of climbing the book publishing ladder and a penchant for nightlife. They are both wonderfully flawed people, with Charlotte taking on the sort of an accidental mean girl role -- in which she is flawless, of course.

As all the Stilman films, The Last Days of Disco is filled with punchy dialogue about pretty much everything from the meaning of life to the anti-feminist plot behind Lady and the Tramp ("He's a self-confessed chicken thief, and all-around sleaze ball!"). As ridiculous as they can be, the characters are smart and well-educated individuals, and their clothing reflects that. There are no over-the-top disco goddess ensembles or ostentatious eye makeup of the era. In the world of the Upper East Side, the little black dress rules the nightlife. Take for example the crisp one-shoulder number Alice wears during her one night stand with Robert Sean Leonard's douchey Tom. It's sultry, yet cute enough to let her get away with uttering the "There's something sexy about Scrooge McDuck" line.

Alice: I think it's much better to wait until things happen naturally. Forcing things never works.

Charlotte: That's not true. Forcing things usually works beautifully.

The film was released as part of The Criterion Collection a couple of years ago, along with Metropolitan. I suggest you watch them back-to-back and on repeat.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In the Mood For: Cowboy Hats

Audrey Hepburn in Green Mansions (1958)

Maybe it's the nostalgia of my teenage years in Calgary, but I'm really digging the cowboy hat lately. Or perhaps it's Cushnie et Ochs and their F/W Bardot-eque take on the classic topper, or Lara Stone channelling the legendary bombshell on the cover of Porter. If Bardot doesn't convince, then Audrey Hepburn certainly must -- this hat shape is surprisingly feminine. For those of us in Canada, Holt Renfrew enlisted some of the country's best designers to create cowboy hats in honour of the Calgary Stampede. #HoltsHatsOff toppers are sensational, from lighter designs by Smythe and Ela, to the dark and broody offerings from Paige and Mackage. Giddy up!

Lara Stone in Porter (Summer 2014)

#HoltsHatsOff: Smythe & Ela

Brigitte Bardot in Les Petroleuses (1971)

Cushnie et Ochs F/W 2014

#HoltsHatsOff: Paige & Mackage 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fashion Archives: Swimsuits in Vogue (1941-1959)

photographed by Horst P. Horst (May 1941)

Swimsuits are making a splash in every magazine, and since I find a lot of contemporary editorials ether too sexy or too fussy or over-ccessorized (I mean, who goes to the beach wearing piles of jewellery with socks and runners?), it made me yearn for the simpler times. This breathtaking collection of images are from the Edna Woolman Chase (1914-1951) and Jessica Daves (1952-1963) eras of Vogue, the two editors who were at the helm before the equally awesome Diana Vreeland took over in 1963. 

I adore the dessert composition by photographer Clifford Coffin and the playfulness of Richard Rutledge's work. There is noting overtly sultry here -- just fun in the sun. 

photographed by Clifford Coffin (June 1949) 

photographed by Richard Rutledge (December 1952)

photographed by Karen Radkai (July 1954)

photographed by Richard Rutledge (January 1956)

photographed by Richard Rutledge (January 1958)

photographed by Tom Palumbo (January 1959)

All images courtesy of Vogue.