An Update from The Previous Request

October 13, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

Once again I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to respond to my question. All of your suggestions have been very helpful, and I will most definitely take them into account in my future posts. One thing I’m very happy to hear about is that you’d like to see more of my commentaries and opinion piece. As someone who continuously struggle with writing, that really means a lot to me. I shall do my very best to keep penning my thoughts, alongside more outfits experimentations.

In the meantime I would like to make one last request. Please do not leave any comments on my blog for the time being while I’m doing some thingamajig to it, as I fear they might get lost in internet oblivion. I promise I will be back reaaaally soon. I’ve also created a facebook page here.

It might be a more convenient way for some of you guys to receive updates of new blog posts, and possibly extra snippets of blog-related matters. Be back soon!

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Very Important Post – Need Your Response

October 6, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

Hi fellow bloggers, readers, lurkers, casual passerbys, infrequent visitors, I would like to ask every single one of you just one question: How do you keep tab of my blog? Do you use RSS feed, some third party sites (since Google Reader’s dead), or perhaps you use none of those but follow me on twitter and wait for my updates from there? Whatever methods you use, please let me know as soon as you’ve read this post. If you’d like me to consider using other methods of notification, eg. Facebook, do tell. It’s really important that I get as many response from you as possible so I can maximise my site according to your convenience. I’ll see what I can do from here.

Also while we’re at this, if you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see on my blog, or new off-sites you’d like me to run related to the blog, eg Tumblr, please feel free to voice it out as well.

Thank you for your time!



A Silhouette Experimentation

October 2, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

Wearing Comme des Garçon kimono blouse, Haider Ackermann trousers and Margiela faux wedge heels.

I’d like to take a bit of a space to thank everyone who has kindly left their thoughts in my previous post. I’ve enjoyed reading them and I will formulate my replies soon. Writing has never been quite my forte so I’d need some time to think of them. All I can say is that it’s been a surprising fashion week and thank god for this conversation to bubble up to the surface. One can only hope that it continues even after everyone’s gone home and dusted their heels.


Rick Owens SS14: An Analysis

September 28, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

I know that fashion week is not over yet, but I can wager that the most talked about fashion show this season is undoubtedly Rick Owens’s step troupe performance. If you haven’t seen the fantastic show yet, please view the video here:

Social media and forums are bursting with commentaries, most heaping praises for the unexpected approach (yet not shocking after the previous Men’s show). However, as with any transgressive actions, it’s bound to invite strongly divided opinions – which of course did happen. I personally loved the show, despite not being able to see the clothes very well because I prioritise an inventive spirit over conventional perfection, to a reasonable extent of course because one can still smell a turd even when it’s covered in glitter. While I think this show isn’t immune to criticisms (let’s face it, that’s what controversies are for – to encourage healthy conversations), what I don’t think is okay, is body policing and generally raining down on these girls’ parade. Let me list several such commentaries I have been reading over the Web, and I shall address them one by one.

1. This is offensive to black people

First of all, when it comes to social commentaries, we first need to ask the people who are involved, aka the girls who danced in that show. Did they seem unhappy doing what they did? Are they offended by Rick’s invitation? Judging from an interview with one of the dancers, I think the girls were honoured, they had plenty of fun on stage, and they were proud to showcase their culture to the rest of us whom I’m pretty sure hadn’t heard of step til today. Those scowls, angry faces – they were part of the performance and I cannot agree less that they satirise black angry women. Are the rest of us, who are not actually black nor belong to that subculture have a right to tell them to be offended? Honestly speaking, sitting on a high horse just distorts the pleasant view.

We need to remember that Rick has always been an outsider who loves to highlight the subversive,  niche subcultures we’d never ever hear of in our respective comfort zones. This is why we love his clothes in the first place because they make us slightly uncomfortable in that warm fuzzy way. Anyway, I reckon he cares less about making a social commentary than putting on a grand show.

2. The clothes are ill-fitting

Yes, I can see that some of the pieces do not fit as well as they should, but not all (I’d love to wear quite a number of looks actually). This may be more of a logistical problem, but at the same time, an interesting dilemma presented to high fashion designers. When we look at a conventional catwalk show, the girls are almost uniform shaped within XXS-XS, so it’s easier to create patterns that flatter a narrow range of sizes. When I actually watched the video, I could see that there was a much more diverse range of body size, most likely from S-XL. Not only would grading patterns for that large a range be significantly more difficult in a short time span, I do think that merging his aesthetics with body shapes his clothes are not very familiar with is an even more astronomical challenge. It also opened our eyes to how we view fashion design process, highlighting the fact that yes, most clothes designed for runways do not flatter larger bodies.

Another idea is that the clothes might have been made before the idea of the step dance was conceived, in which case, it’s a slightly different problem altogether.

Regardless, one can only hope that this will be a stepping stone towards creating more inclusive clothes. Instead of just blowing up a size XS dress 3-5 times bigger to fit a larger body, maybe designers should include the diversity mindset from the first step by drawing a less distorted body proportions on paper. It requires a huge paradigm shift considering that the nine-heads body is the first thing taught in Fashion Drawing 101, but big changes start with a small step, or a voice, or a performance.

3. These girls can’t even fit into Rick’s size 48

Preface: Smallest size for Rick’s women is 38.

I facepalmed so hard at this one my flat Oriental nose just got flatter. Runway shows have never been this inclusive in terms of body shapes. Like what I mentioned previously, the video clearly shows girls ranging from S-XL (or 40-50), yet some people chose to concentrate on the bigger girls, and proceeded to make a sweeping statement as if all of them are overweight, unfit slobs.

Yes there are no glamazons, but they have always been the outliers in any given population graph. Also can we just think for a second that size is merely a number? It’s not up to us to decide how big a size 42 should be, that’s for Rick and his team to decide. Skinny girls have been so normalised on the runways that we forget the majority of women don’t really look like them in the first place, to the point that people are so quick to make hurtful statements like this. Perhaps thin privilege does exist after all.

4. This will only encourage obesity 

One moment full-figured girls invade the runway, the next everyone completely ignores their health and be bed-ridden obese cows. I don’t know about you but I think that’s a rather simplistic way of looking at things, and frankly quite derogatory.

How does one even respond to this one without pulling one’s hair? Firstly, there’s an implicit assumption that larger people are unhealthy because they linked body size to obesity. Noone, and I mean noone, can infer accurately a person’s state of health simply by looking at him/her, especially when most of us who are judging aren’t medical professionals. Those girls were not even obese. Plenty of them had fucking biceps for fuck’s sake. Did some people not notice that they’re dancers, and dancers move a hell lot? To draw similarities between these girls and people who can barely get out of their chairs does nothing but undermines their hardwork.

Secondly, have we forgotten that we still have a whole slew of body image-related health issues at the other extreme? Anorexia anyone? That is a far worse problem we’re having right now because the fashion industry is still conditioned to think that ONLY size 0 is beautiful, everyone else can get lost. 

5. I can’t fucking see the clothes!

Yeah, I know. I feel you on this one, but we can always wait for the lookbook, store photos, or do the legwork to the stores for some of you who are more privileged. One thing we know for sure is that these clothes can take a beating.

So that’s my 3AM rant, obviously riddled with angst and frustrations. I don’t expect everyone to agree completely with my sentiments, but you’re more than welcome to express your opinions. In the meantime I will leave you with Rick’s comment to his show.



Defining Minimalism in Fashion: Part 2

September 21, 2013

by Gracia Ventus

In the previous segment I have introduced the central tenets of formal Minimalism in the field of fashion. The second segment will look into its evolution, as well as the common misconception of this aesthetic.


Like any art movement, Minimalism was bound to undergo a shift into what is broadly termed as Post-Minimalism, encompassing all the styles related to Minimalism that have branched out from the 1960s, almost right after its birth.

In the previous section, I have included Deconstructionism under the umbrella of Minimalism. Quite a number of people who read what I wrote were skeptical of the validity of Deconstruction being included in this artistic movement, often citing the complexity of the garments that do not appear to be reductive. There are two points I’d like to raise with regards to this statement. Number one, I would like to stress that reductivism is not just about creating simple geometric shapes in monochromatic tones, it is also about minimising the idea of a garment, eg. A leather jacket.

Number two, reductivism that extends beyond the aesthetics, ie out of the surface and into the design process itself, is possibly a product of Post-Minimalism, because it borders on a metaphorical stance that formal Minimalist artists were fighting against. Here is where I should probably say that Post-Minimalist ideas do include opposing ideas that are related to their parent movement.

The reason why I have included Deconstructionism in the previous segment was because the book devotes an entire chapter to it, and it makes no distinct difference between Minimalism or Post-Minimalism with regards to Deconstruction (the title In the Post-Modern Era was a big clue that I missed, it seems), and it’s only after many hours of contemplation, I came to the conclusion that there are elements of both Minimalism (repetition, exaggeration of form, extreme reductivism) and Post-Minimalism (nature of material dictating character of object) present in Deconstructionism, points which I have laid out in the previous segment.

The idea that Deconstructionism has a place in Minimalism isn’t an opinion of mine, but it’s a point that has been extracted from the book itself. To determine whether such and such movement is included in such and such field is beyond the expertise of a non-art historian such as yours truly. As a reader what I can do is to extrapolate the rationale behind its inclusion. However I can safely assume that act of its inclusion says more about the strong relationship between Deconstructionism and Minimalism rather than the former being a complete subsidiary of the latter. Now that I have laid out the most common misconception about Minimalism – that design object has to be clean and sparse – let us move on to the Post-Modern American Minimalism.

The mainstream fashion of the 90s era was marked by the shift of focus to the female arena, in which designers such as Calvin Klein and Donna Karan made easy clothes for the modern working women. Klein himself identified his version of Minimalism as ‘an indulgence in superbly executed cut, quiet plays of colour tones and clean, strong shape.’


Although formal Minimalism discouraged figuration, Post-Minimalism allows casual references to the human body, as long as they appear in reductive a manner as possible, notably exemplified by Klein’s nondescript slinky slip dresses. One can argue that Donna Karan’s and Halston’s pursuit in creating functional and portable clothing went against the anti-figuration element of formal Minimalism. It is of course not surprising because Post-Minimalism does include opposing views which I have alluded to previously.

In fact, this American brand of post-modern Minimalism was bordering on generic, so much so that it could not be separated from mass market offerings from Gap, Levi’s etc, other than through its label. In essence, the label itself became the sole compensating factor for the lack of fashion, because it was often found that the quality of the offerings did not correlate with price tags. The logo had ironically become the centerpiece, elevating mass market quality products to high-fashion level, which then begs the question: how little is too little?

A major critic of Minimalism, Michael Fried, claimed that arranging identical non-art objects in a three-dimensional field and proclaimed it art, didn’t necessarily make it so. Art is art, and object is object. In the same vein of reasoning, can one then argue that some of the so-called Minimalist fashion of the 90s, which was so easily copied by high street retailers to the point of being of lesser quality, did not deserve its Minimalist title after all? That the creativity behind the clothing was emptied, and became solely dependant on the status of the logo to elevate its value? Indeed, the question that I have been asking myself is, where do we draw the line between Minimalism, and not-Minimalism?

One can’t help but to wonder if this minimal-clothing movement – spearheaded by mostly American designers – was called Minimalism simply because it was such an easy title to attach to, also perhaps exacerbated by the stark contrast between that and the gaudy, glittery shoulder-padded Dynasty of the 80s. It was also a sharp departure from the futuristic 60s when Minimalism first emerged. Unlike the European (Helmut Lang, Margiela) and Japanese (Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake) version of Minimalism of the 90s, instead of pursuing the purity of anti-figurative designs, the American brand of Minimalism focused the spotlight on the body more than the design object, which in this case of fashion, is the clothes.  The clingy nature of the garments failed to reshape the human body but exposed the natural curves, as opposed to the artifice created a la Comme des Garcons et al. 


This very literal interpretation of the word Minimalism, i.e., literally reducing clothes to almost nothing, is perhaps the reason why the term has been through so much abuse. Everything that is monochromatic and stark, even when it comes to t-shirt and jeans ensemble are now deemed Minimalist. It is also one that is most often emulated today by plenty of fashion bloggers, albeit with a slightly sporty touch à la Alexander Wang, perhaps because it is far easier to digest and reproduce.

As much as I’d like to agree with the fashion critics, I simply fail to see how we can slap the term on this aesthetic. Minimal – yes, Minimalist – not quite. On a visceral level, it feels more like a regression to a figurative approach rather than the pursuit of modernity.  I do not find my intellect nor perspectives challenged with regards to these minimally-dressed bodies when I look at the seminal Calvin Klein campaigns of the 90s, in contrast to the other works that have been discussed so far. Then again this is probably a good example of post-modernism throwing its shits at any artistic movements, incorporating consumerism in just about everything it can get hold of. Having said that, I am more than happy to hear your perspective on this matter.

Minimalism Today

Today’s Minimalism movement in fashion continues its futuristic slant, with a stronger emphasis on geometric structures and artificiality (Gareth Pugh again). Where the old Minimalism sees the human body as a primary structure, it has now become a network of fractured places dissected by lines. There is also a stronger focus on the creation of futuristic beings, or cyborg lookalikes, inhibiting a post-gender world, continuing the conversation of removing gender out of clothing. Aesthetic still trumps function, but with an emphasis on fluidity and simplicity over intricacies (remember that Minimalism can still be intricate, it’s just that we tend to equate Minimalism with simplicity).

Ultimately Minimalism, regardless of its iterations, “seeks to challenge perception of space and matter, ensure purity of design, and to reduce form to its cogent, accessible essence.”