Which Way To Better?

With Carine Roitfeld in the game, is Givenchy scoring a win?

So Givenchy is getting reinforcement. After a few seasons (since spring/summer 2021, to be precise) of unconvincing output, Matthew Williams has enlisted the help of Carine Roitfeld, the ex-French Vogue editor, present EIC of CR Fashion Book, one-time accomplice of Tom Ford’s “heroin chic” for Gucci, and now, former stylist at Max Mara (as the rumour circulating in 2010 went, she borrowed a Balenciaga sample and loaned it to the Italian brand she consults for, which led to Balenciaga reportedly banning her). Ms Roitfeld is also the arbiter of ‘French chic’, an American obsession, known over there as ‘French girl style’. So her input is invaluable in assisting Mr Williams get the Givenchy look—which has been elusive, and more so under his watch—right. This is le chic Français for a brand that has lost its way, but all roads lead to America, do they not?

If you have been following Ms Roitfeld’s much-covered career (including her collab with Uniqlo), you might know she is partial to a lean, sexy-in-spades silhouette, build around a suit jacket (not too fitted, not to oversized) and slim skirt (preferably black), and finished with stilettos to give her vertical advantage. With Givenchy, she gives hints of what is identified as her style, yet concurrently submits to Mr William’s insistence on a street aspect to the collection, but now decidedly more svelte, and with midriffs still exposed. Ms Roitfeld’s love of lingerie (with its racy connotation) is there too, but now they are bra tops paired with unsightly, ripped, cut-off-at-knee, multi-pocketed biker jeans (l’élégance means there is a version in tweed). And papery slip dresses with raw edges that look like they won’t survive even the first wash.

Supposing, as many did, that Givenchy suffered from an identity crisis before, it still appears unresolved. There is a conscious tempering of Mr Williams’s initial streetwear-gone-luxe with sleeker dresses, and Ms Roitfeld’s well-loved slim skirts. But does Mr Williams really need the visual stimulus that Ms Roitfeld presumably could provide? And did Los Angeles native really benefit from it when he seems to be still tied to LA? Some pieces are puzzling and the antithesis of ‘French girl style’, such as the frightening oversized denim trucker and cargo shorts (they are cargo jeans too). Even Bella Hadid can’t save the denim bra-top and the dirty-looking jean-skirt. Some are sad clichés, such as the boucle skirt-suit or jacket with, gasp, bleached denim cargo jeans and the Chanel-esque round-neck jacket and straight-cut jeans. Others are just duds—military-style cropped hoodie and distressed fatigues or the PT singlet and khaki skirt.

Mr Williams seems to draw inspiration from the red light districts of LA too. There are cropped tops with a broad, flounced border (one comes with a limp ruff!), slip-dresses with half-assed half-drape along the neckline and one-shoulder gowns to show off the bland brassiere on the uncovered side. There is, surprisingly, a visible lack of the hardware that Mr Williams is known for, except the odd buckle that appears on bra cups and a strange two-buckle belt that goes on the waist of a ruched ebony dress. For someone who loves black, there is a curious green in a colour story that is generally muted. It led us to wonder if it’s the same shade at Fendi last month, even if a tad toned down in intensity? Seriously, is the maddening mash-up just Matthew Williams playing irrepressible DJ?

Screen shot (top): Givenchy/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com

When Bored Models Strut In Their Living Rooms

Do we really need fashion entertainment when staying at home? CR Fashion Runway just told us we do. Or is it a narcissistic exercise by a selected few for the not-select many?


Models CR RunwayModels applauding their own ‘runway’ performance

By Raiment Young

Being by oneself is so undesirable and unbearable during what Pierre Png calls on television “these trying times” that we seem to be in a state of desperation. The stay-home order across the world has been so hard to endure and detrimental to persons or families alone that people want to break free like caged animals. Home may be where the heart is, but it isn’t where fun and gratification reside. People need to be—must be—entertained, more so the confined. Survival is not part of the equation, entertainment is. Our digital life is characteristically one huge orgy of providing and being provided with all that amuses us or deems enjoyable. This has become, online or offline, instinctive need. Self-isolation has only amplified our requirement for entertainment, however unimportant, however stupid or banal.

CR Runway with amfAR Against COVID-19 Fashion Unites broadcast on YouTube earlier taps into this beastly desire. Touted as YouTube’s first fashion runway show, the digitally stitched up video of models sashaying in their homes (or surroundings) is spearheaded by Carine Roitfeld. After leaving her job at French Vogue in 2011, Ms Roitfeld has been re-inventing herself, with varying degrees of success. Her unimaginatively named CR Fashion Book, from which this show draws its title, is an attempt to keep her finger in the publishing pie and, at the same time—with publisher Stephen Gan—create an overly-thick title that merely crawls in the shadows of Mr Gan’s far artier Visionaire (now folded) and fashion heavyweight Italian Vogue (the partnership with Mr Gan ended in 2016). CR the runway, just as with the magazine, is ensnared in a fashion rut.


To borrow from a popular quarantine activity, half-baked is how this YouTube show appeared to me. Now that live fashion shows can be watched on video streaming’s favourite platform, as well as on not-video-centric sites such as Twitter and Instagram, any event titled as “runway” or, as host, YouTube’s head of fashion and beauty, Derek Blasberg called it, “a high fashion runway show entirely from home… essentially supermodels supporting superheroes (medical and front-line staff)”, needs to appear at least delightful. On the surface, it sounds glamourous, but when the show began, it streamed like other society-rousing, social-message patchwork, broadcast to galvanise the grassroots into action or support, now popular online. This was, at best, talk-show savvy. “Many of the beloved faces from the world of fashion” can’t save it from being what might be seen on The Wendy Williams Show.

CR Runway is a fashion effort not for a fashion audience. This is not even targeted at the Victoria’s Secret Show crowd. A crisis can spawn both the critical and inconsequential. CR Runway, also a charity effort, falls with the latter. Its pedestrian presentation and a perfunctory use of technology won’t do anything for the image of fashion, already considered out of touch and in dire need of hitting the reset button. I am not sure what Ms Roitfeld hopes to achieve with this lacklustre reveal. To be fair, she did not claim credit for the idea. She attributed the fashion show to her son Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, president of the company that publishes the magazine with his mother’s initials on it. This, as it turned out, was a family affair—his sister Julia walked the “runway” too.

Natasha Poly CR Runway 2020Natasha Poly in Paco Rabanne

CR Runway was not, of course, a catwalk in the traditional sense. It was more playtime than showtime, girls having fun than at work. Confined at home, the models were only mimicking what so many others have been already doing when bored and the fashion bug bit. After watching the ridiculously lengthy show, I found The Pillow Challenge oddly more compelling. Irreverence, wit, and irony were not choreographed into CR Runway, nor fashion. The nugatory quality of the show and the ensuing blandness was assured when, out of the roughly half-an-hour broadcast, 17 minutes were used up for mutual admiration and expression of gratitude among its participants. Tiresome bunkum! Each frame was so unimaginatively filmed that I wondered why the CR brand needed to be stitched to it. Even Carine Roitfeld, a stylist of some repute, could not light herself well enough to look the fashion doyenne she is supposed to be. Whatever it was that the show attempted to communicate, the approach was very IG, very influencer with a smartphone, very shoot-your-next-campaign-via-Zoom.

Now that models and, indeed, modelling have been demystified, what is there about models even at home, that is fascinating to watch? Worse, when un-styled and un-directed? We now learn and can ascertain that models away from an actual runway, without the hands that make them, well, models, are just like most girls who follow them: They dress similarly (so what if the models wore their own designer togs), they can’t do their hair, and—believe it—not even their own make-up. The collective sigh among fashion folks: “Even a nearly-bare face does not have be a I-just-woke-up look!” To be sure, everyone working in the front line against COVID-19 deserves support and encouragement. Would it not be more convincing and moving if models were in the act of actually doing something for those workers. Surely that would play down the belief that the fashion industry is predictably self-absorbed and self-indulgent?

Photos: CR Fashion Runway/YouTube

Carine Roitfeld: Do You Wish To Look Like Her?

Carine et CarineCarine Roitfeld (left) and her doppelganger (right), model Lexi Boling. Photos: Uniqlo 

Carine Roitfeld is, by many accounts, a sexy woman. She shouldn’t be, but she is. At 60 (maybe 61), she’s a mother and a grandmother, and she is sexy. Those smoky eyes, those pencil skirts, those fishnet stockings, those teetering heels—they’re sexy too, and they are usually associated with women half Ms Roitfeld’s age, but, in her case, they aren’t. These items of clothing are what make Carine Roitfeld sexy. She knows it, so does Uniqlo.

Uniqlo X Carine Roitfeld is the Japanese fast fashion brand’s third collaboration in one season, and the third, too, with French names after Ines de la Fressange and Lemaire. To say that Uniqlo is having a French moment is rather understating it. The Tokyo-based brand, with sales of USD$13.61 billion (as of May this year), subscribes to a largely Western aesthetic and silhouette, tempered with a Japanese sensibility. Their collaboration with Mr Roitfeld allows them to go beyond their utilitarian approach with something that has sartorial heft.

Uniqlo has always broadly channelled their collaborations via two aesthetic visions: Japanese twists on European/American classics such as those by Kiminori Morishita  and Jun Takahashi’s Underground, and Euro-centric minimalism such as those by Jil Sander and Lemaire. With Carine Roitfeld, they have taken what they do best and given the collection a fashion editor’s singular vision. Although Ms Roitfeld, by her own admission, is no designer, she has influenced the outcome of the collection by insisting on the finer points she feels make a garment different and stronger. As she told the WWD, ““I love the details. There are pockets everywhere, including on tight-fitting skirts. It’s a no-brainer but I love it.”

Uniqlo X CR 5 key piecesFrom left: silk shirt, S$79.90; pencil skirt, S$59.90; tights, S$14.90; silk camisole dress, S$129.90; jacket; S$199.90. Collage: Just So

Tempting it is to compare the Carine Roitfeld collection with those by compatriot Ines de la Fressange, always described as one of France’s most beautiful women. Like Ms Roitfeld, Ms de la Fressange has a long history in fashion, but both women traipse very different sartorial paths. The two cater to clichés about what constitutes effortless Parisian style, but one is quirkiness built around an old soul with clothes you’d likely wear to the office in La Defence, the other is striking chic rooted somewhere between the 7th and 8th arrondisements.

It’s rather intriguing that women who have access to the unhurried world of haute couture would wish to put their name to a brand that embody the swiftness of fast fashion. But, as Ms Roitfeld has been saying, “I am not someone who believes that fashion should be inaccessible.” Her collection, as seen in the press preview last Friday, is, indeed, accessible and surprisingly well pulled together. Here is a capsule—40 pieces, which isn’t small—that women are very likely to love. When they appear tomorrow at Uniqlo’s Ion Orchard store, you’ll think they belong upstairs, in one of the expensive, unapproachable shops.

Uniqlo X CR with Lexi BolingMore ways to look like Carine Roitfeld. Photo: Uniqlo. Collage: Just So

As out of place as they may be in a fast fashion environment, these clothes are better than anything H&M and its ilk have done… combined. Impressive are her signature pencil skirts, two-button tailored jackets and camisole dresses, all clearly have passed the most rigorous design and production processes. These are clothes you’d buy to wear till you forget where you bought them. There is a certain edge and timelessness to these separates that will not, many years down the road, bear the imprint, or remind you of a grandmother.

Of the collection, Ms Roitfeld told French Yahoo News, “J’y ai mis beaucoup de moi (I put a lot of myself).” Despite her predilection for a sexy turnout, hers is not Kardashian-sexy or Rihanna-sexy. Her sexiness is alluring due to its lack of skin. You’ll not find a single torn or illogically abbreviated garment among the separates. “It’s more sexy [to be] covered than totally naked,” she told the media. “When I see the girl with a miniskirt and a deep V, it’s too much.” Some people think her look is a bit as-you-are, a bit dishabille, a bit dirty (blame it on her hair!). But if you forget her public appearances and aim, instead, for the clothes, you might just find the French ease and elegance you have been looking for, but have yet found.

Uniqlo X Carine Roitfeld, from S$14.90, is available at Uniqlo Ion Orchard