Finding The Marvelous In Marni

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We once thought that Marni was the new Prada. That was in the mid ’90s, when Sex and the City apparently captured the zeitgeist. In that TV series, Prada was name-checked 14 times, just twice less than Manolo Blahnik (a respectable 16). So desirable was Prada at that time that we had hoped more labels with that familiar-yet-so-different-and-offbeat aesthetic would emerge and we found it in Marni, a brand forever associated with the art gallerist (as if only women ran art galleries, as if those who do mostly have a kooky sense of taste) and the art crowd.

Now, about twenty years later, we think Prada has possessed Marni. Francesco Risso, the guy who succeeded the brand Consuelo Castiglioni founded with her husband in 1994 has re-imagined Marni with the ghost of Prada, where he spent close to ten years, after time with Anna Molinari and Alessandro Dell’Acqua. Or maybe it was just us. Apparitions are difficult to make certain. Sometimes, you just sense it: a coat here, a skirt there, a touch of scarf, bits of fur.

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It was like Prada on a lull season. Not that that is a bad thing. One can never immediately and completely shake off one’s just-past near-decade. So for Mr Risso to bring along the not-quite-ordinary from his last employment to a house known for its alternative take on what constitutes modern elegance is possibly a good start for continuing the Marni brand of creative defiance. This first collection is interesting (even when we are generally reluctant to use that vague term) and will not alienate Marni fans, but we did feel that there was too conscious an effort in respecting the house codes.

Take some of the jackets, for example, specifically the one from the first look, in the colour of butter. Yes, the Marni shape was there, but the sort-of-cocoon back, while appealing, was a wee bit too deliberate. The back design was repeated, and slowly, the Marni boxiness emerged and stayed. We love the typical boxy cut of the Marni jacket, so naturally we were delighted that Mr Risso has opted to retain it. Of course, Prada is known for their sometimes boxy shapes as well. In that respect, it was perhaps synergy at work. Or was it just the apparition?

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By the time the prints and the mix of prints emerged, we found ourselves tugging at being convinced. Or could it be that, by now, odd pairings of patterns no longer fascinate? We can’t say for sure, but there’s something not quite art-crowd about Mr Risso’s prints and there is no surprise in the mix, not even when you run a length of decorative lace meandering down the skirt. Or the textures: what looked like terry with semi-shine leather (or PU, we can’t tell) just did not spell luxe. When look 45 (49 looks in total) appeared, the crazy cocktail of a floral funnel-neck blouse worn under a floral bra and matching outer and paired with a dotted skirt with drawstrings to create ruching, we had to commit the Marni we remember to the deeper recesses of nostalgia.

It’s not really been out in the open why Consuelo Castiglioni chose to step down. Rumours in fashion are always rife, and this one involves the brand’s owner Only The Brave (OTB), an Italian group that also controls Viktor & Rolf and Margiela. Could she have regretted selling it to OTB’s Renzo Rosso, who, according to W Magazine, is a “a flamboyant paterfamilias, who prefers provocation to political correctness”? We hope that Francesco Risso would be able to stand himself in good stead so that Consuelo Castiglioni would not need to make a comeback a la Jil Sander. And then disappear again.

Photos: Imaxtree

Oscar 2017: Safe And Sorry Made The Red Carpet

Has this been the dullest Oscar fashion put on show?

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By Mao Shan Wang

I woke up early this morning to watch the Oscars red carpet live stream. Thirty minutes into the ABC presentation, I wondered why I bothered. There I was, in a singlet and pair of netball shorts from Sec 4, staring at my PC screen come not-quite alive with Kirsten Dunst looking like a matron. Her dress could have been something left behind by the Bling Ring after they realized they’ve robbed the wrong house. As stars after stars take their obligatory camera call in front of the over-branded photo wall, I soon realised that there was more variety and taste in my muesli.

Still, I persevered so that I could see who wore what.

The Look-A-Likes

Nothing is worse that arriving on the red carpet after hours of preening, and the first thing you encounter is the mirror. That, for some women, is pure horror, even if that is a genre the Academy rarely ever honours.

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Poor Michelle Williams, the Louis Vuitton muse. I bet she left the choice of the dress to LV. And I bet she did not guess that a bi-coloured gown would be more bane than sane, nor that Emma Roberts would go to Armani Privé for a similar black and cream number. Even the evil step sisters wouldn’t wish this upon Cinderella.

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Silhouettes are always important, and actresses—no fashion plates, really—are known to go for the safest. That is why it’s not surprising that Charlize Theron, even a Dior model, would aim for a sort-of-goddess shape that has also caught the eye of Scarlett Johansson. To be fair to Ms Theron, she looked a tad better in the Dior. Ms Johansson wore Azzedine Alaïa, and I must say I was surprised. You see, even an Alaïa can look nasty on a wrong body. I don’t understand the saggy armhole that from the front made Ms Johansson look like she was hoping to have the breasts of Mae West. Or was it Salma Hayek’s? I wonder if they knew that somewhere on that red carpet, screenwriter Allison Schroeder also looked like them. Okay, let’s not draw her dress to their attention.

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Red lace, too, is always a safe bet, so safe that another actress might have the same thought. Perhaps Ruth Negga didn’t think of that. She’s been busy playing the fashion star of the award season, so it’s not surprising that she did not consider the possibility that another actress would upstage her at the Oscars. Until Ginnifer Goodwin arrives in Zuhair Murad, proving that Valentino isn’t the only go-to designer for some sheer and lace, and lots of red. Why any woman wants to look like they’ve emerged from the carpet really beats me.

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Curvy women like big skirts, spread out from the natural waist. If the shape of the skirt isn’t large enough to draw the viewer’s attention, then add surface ornamentation such as feathers or lace or embroidery. Octavia Spencer and Ava Duvernay are perhaps soul sisters, but surely they did not wish to look like mother doves from the same tree?

The Confectioner’s Delight

The tendency to show off is never weak on the red carpet. Sometimes you need the boast to play up something you do not have, such as innate style. Your best chance then is to seek inspiration from the baker of wedding cakes. You’ll be the centre of attraction, waiting to be sliced.

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Janelle Monae is an attractive woman, which means she could have offered more with less, but she chose a lot more—an Elie Saab overload. I can understand the desire for embellishment and exaggerated shape on a night like this, but surely all that boob show, embroidered birds, excessive frills are quite enough, even when together they are the stew that won’t sell. But add that pannier and you’re definitely in prom-queen-thinking-she’s-Marie-Antoinette territory. As for the black, have you not heard of charcoal cake?

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Although it was reported that Los Angeles was cooler than usual, it was still ideal weather to show that you know spring is near. But, in the case of British actress Cynthia Erivo, she looked like she had just emerged from a flower bath that had tar for water. The dress, by Australian label Paolo Sebastian, appeared to be splattered with flowers, leaves, curlicues, and lattice cutouts from some fey decorator’s garden. Since we’re on the topic of baking, we remember that most cakes decorated with all-over flowers are made of butter cream. Yes, the topping that, after more than a mouthful, is very jelak.

The Fichu And Other Evening Standards

Websites from E! to Elle enjoy trendspotting on Oscar night. Trend—by a simple definition—could mean what is popularly worn, and not on one night, but on those other nights of an annual event. So trends are easy to spot. Unsurprisingly, so many Oscar attendees are on trend.

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The one-shoulder of Halle Berry’s Versace gown is, or course, a standard. But what exasperates is not knowing which direction that sheer fabric emerging from the shoulder plans to flow. But perhaps that is less bothersome than her hair. I heard that she decided to go natural this year rather than getting her locks meet Tangle Teezer. But, seriously, a bird’s nest kept by a swiftlet with poor housekeeping skill is never a good do.

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The sweetheart neckline is always a safe bet, but one that looks like an outline of shrinking Playboy Bunny ears? Brie Larson chose this Oscar de la Renta to show that it’s alright to salute a certain mascot on Oscar night. The only thing is: the cotton tail has transmogrified into a swirl of black flounces that looks like oversized pencil shavings. Mind you, discards for the red carpet are eco-friendly.

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Okay, we know you have a near-backless dress, but do you really have to put chin to shoulder to pose? They don’t even do that on RuPaul’s Drag Race! Or was that a way to create a small ‘i’ with the rest of your just-as-bare arm? Or perhaps that was to draw attention to the withered flowers cascading down your discernible rear? Hailee Steinfeld in Ralph and Russo, as a 20-year-old Oscar veteran, you’re forgiven.

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So this is what it looks like when Meryl Streep ditched Chanel for Elie Saab. Quarrels never end well. Or, as Jimmy Kimmel wondered, “Is that an Ivanka?”

The White That Is Not A Bride

They love white on Oscar night, presumably for the suggestion of purity the non-colour affords. Sure, a pure actress is always more appealing than a slutty one. Still, white isn’t always a vision of wholesomeness, not when it has the same appeal as hotel towels.

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I am thrilled that a Raf Simons outfit made it to the Oscar red carpet, albeit in the form of a Calvin Klein dress. Naomi Harris stepped onto the red carpet in a bustier dress by the new guy in charge that made her look she just stepped out of a shower. As she stood for the cameras to feast on her, I really thought that the dress was made while she was having a shoot in a photo studio, and the only material available was the background paper. Unfortunate girl.

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So who says a bustier bodice cannot look like the back of a chair made from auntie Elsie’s quilt? Priyanka Chopra, in Ralph and Russo, showed what Hussein Chalayan always knew: a dress can be transformed from a piece of furniture. If it needs to be more convincing, use a quilted fabric. The Chesterfield can have a mate.

The Metallic Shimmer

The fashion police has been quick to identify all the gold (and attendant metallic) dresses a trend of the night. Gold is gorgeous, but as it is often pointed out to me, all that shines is not necessarily gold. It could be champagne, which, as we all know, very quickly becomes flat.

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I always pay attention to Nicole Kidman, not because she’s an Oscar regular, but because she did look good in that chartreuse Dior Couture (by John Galliano) dress in 1997, exactly 20 years ago. And I am hoping that could be repeated. Is there a red carpet equivalent of a one-hit wonder?  In Armani Privé, Mr Kidman looks lovely, but lovely does not red carpet fashion make. Lovely is easily lost… and forgotten.

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For someone who could not dance in a musical for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Emma Stone wore a Givenchy dress that made her look like she was about to break into the Charleston. Or, maybe that, too, would be difficult for her. There’s nothing wrong with the dress, of course. It’s all good for Ms Stone to reign as the American sweetheart everyone loves.

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Sofia Boutella wore Chanel. I am sure Karl Lagerfeld did not mean for her to go as a sequinned paintbrush. But who really knows?

Photos: oscar.com