fashion week recap: parkchoonmoo f/w 2014

To the casual observer, fashion week collections can seem like a cryptic amalgamation of anything constituting a trend. But as any devoted fashion follower knows, the plethora of aesthetics offered during fashion week are varied and even contradictory. One designer might argue for minimalism and limited aesthetics, while the next will favor a world of sartorial opulence and frivolity. The clothes shown during fashion week are generally always beautiful but the values expressed in designers’ collections can overlap or even clash. Like most fashion week admirers, I find myself swept away by many well-made garments and collections, but the lifestyle values behind the clothes ultimately polarize my opinions. The best collections make me stop and ponder not just fabrics or colors, but the way we live our lives.

Most fashion week collections seek to evoke something beyond our day-to-day world, and designers frequently cite luxurious vacations or exotic locales among their inspirations. Clubs and nightlife offer reoccurring themes, as various fashion houses try to win over the elusive downtown girl. Other brands simply try to capture the general privilege of being young and beautiful and unencumbered, with flouncy dresses and girlish prints. Few collections elicit feelings of work or serious accomplishment because fashion, during its continual chase for ecstatic uplift, typically seeks to move beyond the trivialities of 9-5 jobs or per-hour incomes. Part of the beauty of fashion, in fact, exists in its disregard for the exterior accomplishments and ego-boosters that most of us so obsessively seek. To be fashionable is to be valuable within oneself and one’s outfit, regardless of external qualifications. It takes a certain kind of designer to make work and its outputs seem not only desirable, but glamorous beyond the matter-of-fact.

The PARKCHOONMOO Fall/Winter 2014 show managed to make work glamorous, and catered to a focused, edgy, and purposeful lifestyle. The collection was markedly absent of bright colors, with blacks, whites and neutrals serving as the dominating palette. The garments themselves— beautiful, well-made and layered— looked both tough but soft, edgy but practical, and architectural but flowing. Houndstooth prints appeared at the beginning of the show, adding a trendy relevance, while lighter all-white ensembles lifted the collection to a sleek and easy elegance towards the middle of the show. Bold reds and gold touches made occasional appearances that felt appropriate and strong, rather than flashy or attention-seeking. The garments looked neither loose nor fitted, neither modest nor needlessly provocative, and short skirts were balanced with high collars or long coats. Long monochrome silhouettes, high boots and rounded coats created a chic and easy armor, capable of energizing and calming at once. The cumulative effect, piece by piece, offered practical glamour for a determined and no-frills working lifestyle. PARKCHOONMOO’s collection, with its modern finishes and structural elegance, would look best worn by a serious, hard-working but thoroughly modern woman. The collection, both limited and purposeful, evokes a lifestyle so focused and individualistic that its fashionable appeal feels easy, natural and inborn.

There are certain staples that, between the numerous designers, are continually served up during fashion week. There are always showy collections for the party girls, artistic feats for the cool kids and luxe lines for the ladies uptown. PARKCHOONMOO presents a refreshing option for the more understated but still-edgy fashion fan. For the PARKCHOONMOO woman, the line offers a worth-while alternative to the passing whims and indulgences of more light-hearted collections. As the glamour of the PARKCHOONMOO aesthetic reminds us, a self-driven and focused work-life feels not only modern but untouchably chic.

Read the original review here for Twenty6 Magazine.

(Photo credits: WWD)


fashion week recap: lacoste f/w 2014

What, exactly, makes the cool kids cool? Cool can be hard to put into words, but you know it when you see it. Being cool is more a feeling than any one concrete attribute, and the Lacoste show, with blaring lights and a ground-shaking soundtrack, presented a collection more felt than seen.

The opening of the Lacoste show exemplified what we all wish NYC clubs would capture, despite their current state of in-authenticity: the show immediately felt epic, consuming and cool beyond the need to try. The music was baring and energetic, but too fashion-forward for a fast beat, and the soundtrack left the floor rumbling enough to set the tone. The mood felt monumental and insistent, qualities not unrelated to the admitted urgency with which we sometimes seek out the best or newest trends. The Lacoste models walked down the runway with a gliding stomp which evoked the graceful toughness that embodies so much of fashion now. Their expressions, laser-focused and intense, added to the sense of futuristic urgency that palpitated through the room.

The only thing that did not feel not urgent, however, were the clothes. The Lacoste color palette was limited, almost lazy, if “untrying” were not the hallmark of modern cool. While Lacoste is, historically, a bright and peppy French brand, this collection felt more laid-back than athletic. The models, young, pale and unfussy, were too self-assured to ever obsessively work out. The music and the models’ laissez-faire attitude, combined with easy styling and zip-up ensembles, created a sense of youthful purpose and sci-fi energy that dominated the first half of the show, until the music shifted and picked up.

Halfway through the show, while maintaining intensity, the music switched from futuristic depths to the feel of summer beach pop on drugs. The lights brightened but the environment became only more intense, and the models walking down the runway began to hide smirks or delight behind serious pressed lips… the kind of hidden smiles that reveal that the straight-faced, unemotive cool kids among us might in fact, underneath tough façades, be having the time of their lives. Globalization and today's economic environments have made the overt glamour and showiness of the early aughts feel out of place, but as the Lacoste show with its laid-back attire advanced: the kids are having fun nonetheless.

While the show’s soundtrack and the models’ stance may have been intense, nothing by Lacoste should ever feel too heavy. The brand’s athletic roots require a certain sunny optimism— and so it was the very practical trendiness of the clothes that provided uplift and relief. The largely monochrome collection, which included light jackets, easy sweaters, trainers and unassuming prints, will perfectly augment the wardrobe of an easy-going NYC kid. This Fall/Winter 2014 show by Lacoste presented not a ground-breaking collection but rather an appropriate one. It fits into the rhythm of youthful fashion today, seizing onto the current preference for athletic touches, which has presented Lacoste with the opportunity to make itself young and fresh again. The Lacoste brand is doing what so many brands have done over the years in a process of continual reinvention: catering to a new crowd in order to again render itself timeless. For older members in the audience, Lacoste polos and logos of yesteryear have already established the brand within our consciousness. For younger generations, however, Lacoste is asserting itself, upgrading the attitude around its design-house athleticism with a new feel of untrying cool, so that the freshest batch of kids can take up the Lacoste brand into their jargon of relevance, too.

Read the original review here for Twenty6 Magazine.

(Photo credits:


fashion week recap: ruffian f/w 2014

There are two kinds of people who seem to dominate fashion: those who live for nostalgia and those who cringe at the thought of, even for a second, looking back. As such, fashion collections tend to be either active or reactive, as they seek to either promote singularly new aesthetics or dig up and re-embellish old ones. The Ruffian Fall/Winter 2014 collection, however, did a little bit of both.

The Ruffian show started somber but elegant, as models marched out against a subtly evocative but simple emerald-lit backdrop. The show began with relatively little fanfare, considering the theatrics that other NYC fashion shows sometimes promote. The lighting was bright and straightforward, and the clothes, colorful and in full view, were the focus.

At first look, the clothes appeared girlish and luxurious, harking back to bygone eras and the kinds of color palettes that a film like Anna Karenina, in its most recent 35 mm incarnation, might evoke. The clothes were marked by voluminous, feminine silhouettes, flourished collars and enviable, decorative shoes. The show’s lineup was a mixture of somewhat playful, doll-like silhouettes and almost austere, all-black ones, creating a combination that spoke, alternately seriously and frivolously, of the opulence and luxury of earlier times. There were light, full skirts, ribbon-tied waists and pouffed-out shoulders. These elements, taken alone, might sound more appropriate for China dolls than modern NYC ladies. Subtle details and styling, however, kept the collection relevant and in check.

The models’ hair was slicked back and their faces were painted with dark, almost harsh lipstick. Under the bright lights, despite their feminine frocks, the models took on expressions that seemed serious in a grown-up way. The overall effect served as a reminder that these clothes, like the women who wear them, are representative of a world of legacies. Stories of opulence, luxury and prosperity decorate our collective cultural pasts. Living in New York City, most of us are fortunate enough to experience reminders of this opulence regularly, as inhabitants of a prosperous city, and even those of us on limited budgets can wander into the Plaza Hotel now and then. Yet, even there, we cannot escape the realities of our newly interconnected world, where economic and social realities seem ever-present in our global consciousness. The Ruffian Fall/Winter 2014 woman, in all of her glamour, must know this. Thus, she is ladylike but somber, luxurious in shocking colors and ornate prints, yet somehow still serious and restrained. Luxury in today’s world, after all, would be outdated were it not self-aware.

It feels strange to call a collection like this restrained, yet after voluminous, this was the first word that came to mind. Restraint was found not so much in the silhouettes or fabrics as in the details themselves. Collars and all-black pieces dotted what could have otherwise been a light-hearted collection. Restraint existed, too, in the models' attitudes. The Ruffian girls did not pretend to be any happier than they were, and this is precisely why the collection, both opulent and sober, felt like a sigh of relief or even admittance.

The Ruffian girl may wear colorful clothes, but her attitude is up-to-date and informed. We live in a world where beautiful frocks like these exist, and yet where not everyone gets to wear them. Rather than delight in her privilege with the glitz and glam of more ostentatious brands, the Ruffian girl knows that it is better to be self-aware and thought-out. There is a timelessness to the Ruffian collection— a sense that things have always been good at times and bad at times— and that luxury, in its many forms, has persisted throughout.

Read the original review here for Twenty6 Magazine.

(Photo credits:


**model of the moment: sui he

I am so excited to write about Sui He because she will be the first Asian model that I have featured on this blog. I remember when using Asian models became "a thing"... in fact, my Asian roommate at the time was working as a FORD model and experienced the trend firsthand. The overwhelming and sudden use of Asian models, I have to admit, felt inauthentic to me. I remember when the casting directors for the Givenchy Haute Couture presentation in Fall 2011 chose to use an exclusively Asian cast, only to return to their usual casting ratios in the seasons following. Although I will not exclude the possibility that the casting director had thematic rather than racial motivations, casting models in such a way is not only gimmicky but objectifying. Race should not be used as an accessory, like bangles or platform shoes, to throw into a collection one season in order to make an amusing statement. I believe that beauty across racial lines in fashion media should be celebrated, not trivialized, and in order to do this we must respect the individuality of the women themselves. Beyond this, talent and talent alone should be used to define the appeal of any good model.

And talent, first and foremost, is why I have decided to feature Sui He here. I have noticed her face in photos over the past year, and when I recently saw an image of her against a bold red background, I knew I had to write about her. I love her strong but delicate, feminine appearance and her stunning beauty. Sui He's photos never feel cutesy and if anything, she has the ability to be intimidating right through the magazine page. Her images prove that femininity can be owned and worn proudly, and she emanates a natural sense of pride that seems to require no additional justification. There is no apology in Sui He's expressions and stance, and even seductive poses come across as purposeful and empowered. This self-ownership reminds us that to be an empowered woman does not have to mean striving for a tomboy-like toughness, as has been a trend in fashion over the past few years. Rather, to be an empowered woman means to define for oneself what femininity is and what it means, with no external validation required.

To interpret so much from the photos of any young model might seem like reaching, but most people will never know Sui He in person or even hear her interviews. Her contribution to our culture exists first and foremost within her photographs and the image of womanhood that she portrays therein. Sui He's real-life persona is not without merit: she is known within the industry for being gracious, patient, polite and friendly, and she seems like the type of model you would want to work with on the job. But her images reveal an inner strength and beauty that can be applicable to us all: within her photos, Sui He becomes the type of woman you would want to be.

Considering the current casting trends, a discussion of Sui He would not really be complete without an acknowledgement of what her racial identity means on a wider cultural scale. As much as I love Sui He for her talent as a model, I realize that Sui He's career in the industry represents something more symbolic for other women. As a white female, I cannot pretend to understand the experience of being a racial minority in media imagery, but I do understand the importance of inclusion. I have written before about how fair-skinned girls were something of a minority in fashion media imagery when I was a teenager, and although that has certainly changed now, the inclusion of Coco Rocha among the bronzed Brazilian models of the time offered a promising visual alternative for a girl raised in sun-tanned Southern California. For me, Coco Rocha's work allowed for one depiction of female beauty alongside what I assumed would become an increasingly diverse ideal. Today, however, fair skin tone and traditional Caucasian ethnicity are again being presented as more of a standard than a unique example of human individuality. Standards like this are both limiting and uninteresting, even when they might favor us, because they lack the diversity of expression that is so essential to respecting our inherent human commonality. I hope, then, that Sui He's foray into the modeling world represents not a temporary visual trend but rather a joyful and lasting inclusion. Upon seeing the photos produced by a model like Sui He, I think we cannot help but wonder at how such stunning incarnations of female beauty were ever excluded from the fashion model cast. More pictures below...

Sui He began modeling in 2006 at age 17, but only took local modeling work in order to focus on her education. In 2010, she signed with New York Model Management and began modeling full-time. Sui He has since appeared on the covers of Harper's Bazaar China, Elle China, Muse, W and i-D, and has walked in numerous runway shows. She is currently working as the face of Shiseido cosmetics for the Spring/Summer 2013 season.

In Vogue China November 2011, photographed by Hans Feurer...

One of the most interesting feats of Sui He's career is her work for the Ralph Lauren brand. The Chinese model was the first Asian model to ever open a Ralph Lauren runway show, and in 2011, she became the face of the brand. Her photos for Ralph Lauren perfectly encompass the class and traditionalism of the brand.

In Black Magazine #18 in Dec 2012, photographed by Michael Schwartz...

In Numéro #134 in July 2012, photographed by Sebastian Kim...

In Marie Claire US March 2013, "Spring Forward" by Alex Cayley...

In Vogue China March 2013, "Laser Cut Leather" by Sharif Hamza...

My favorite editorial... In Harper's Bazaar US May 2013, "The Best of Couture," photographed by Katja Rahlwes...

Backstage photo...

(Photo credits: The Fashion Spot, Fashion Gone Rogue, Fashionemia,, Fashion Scans Remastered)