Imitation of Christ. The name alone is designed to incite curiosity and to provoke a reaction, amused or otherwise. The collection behind the name is more likely to incite sighs of yearning among a particular type of young woman (e.g., those enamored of vintage-inspired garden party dresses, slinky tap pants and beautifully tailored borrowed-from-the-boys suiting). And designer Tara Subkoff would have it no other way.
A study in contradictions, Subkoff is an actress/fashion designer who specializes in turning expectations on their head, whether she's appearing in films like As Good As it Gets, The Notorious Bettie Page and Tanner Hall, or staging an incredibly realistic-seeming Fashion Week wedding (spring 2012), a mock Sotheby's auction (fall 2002), or a funeral-cum-show, complete with casket and IOC-clad mourners (spring 2001).
Since launching Imitation of Christ in 2000 (the label takes its name from a 15th century spiritual text by Thomas a Kempis and the Psychedlic Furs song), the self-taught Westport, Connecticut native has done a capsule shoe collection with Easy Spirit, enlisted pals Chloe Sevigny and Scarlett Johansson to walk her runway, showed during Paris couture and directed several IOC fashion films—all while continuing to act on the side. She was also diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2009 and took several years off to attend to her health before relaunching IOC in September 2011 with the aforementioned wedding show, which featured Lydia Hearst-Shaw as the blushing bride. The collection was immediately snapped up by Barneys, Opening Ceremony, Otte, Confederacy, Shopbop and Net-a-Porter, among others.
For fall 2012, Subkoff partnered with bespoke tailors Doyle Mueser on impeccably cut blazers, trousers and evening wear, giving traditional menswear fabrics and silhouettes a feminized, figure-flattering spin. The resulting collection, which recalled Bianca Jagger in her white suited Seventies heyday, was presented via a theatrical magic show during New York Fashion Week last month.
"I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be an artist, an actress, a fashion designer and a director/producer at age eight," said Subkoff, now 39, who has two feature film projects in the works and recently relocated to New York after years of living in Los Angeles. "She told me I had to pick one. Probably it was good advice but I didn't follow it."
Judging from her success in all of the above, she didn't have to. The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden spoke to the modern day Renaissance woman just before the holidays, when she weighed in on movies, makeup and having her Christmas wishes (the early arrival of spring) come true.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Raw food spiralina cereal and soy milk. Very healthy! And some matcha green tea.
What's your favorite method of communication?
Seeing people and talking in person. Old fashioned but truly the best.
Please tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
The boots I made for Easy Spirit years ago. So comfortable it's hard to let 'em go. They were the best design I ever did.
What's the last great movie you saw?
I just saw Mike Mills' Beginners on the plane yesterday. It's so sweet and sad and real and charming. I really loved it. I also liked Steve McQueen's last film, Shame. It's very dark but an incredible portrait about addiction and really moving. Michael Fassbender is great in it.
What song sums up your life right now, at this moment?
The Chipmunks' Christmas album? Sped up? I don't know why I said that. I think there's so much Christmas music being pumped in everywhere I can't really think of anything besides that.
What one thing would improve your life?
Springtime coming super early this year, like in the next three weeks! Right after the holidays. It would hit, tons of flowers and sunshine and, best of all, no more winter!
What's the one beauty/grooming product you can't live without?
Skyn Iceland's The Antidote cream! And also Hourglass makeup. Especially the Aura lip and cheek stain in Petal.
What's your earliest memory?
Jumping on the bed with my brother when we were two and four years old, so so excited 'cause my dad was coming home. I also remember a lot of images and patterns from childhood. My dad is an antiques dealer and I remember huge oriental rugs and crawling on them and their patterns and shapes.
What's the greatest/most important lesson your parents taught you?
To be kind to others and compassionate. Never to think I'm better than anyone, maybe more fortunate or less fortunate but never better.
Tell me about your pet(s).
Franny and Seymour! I love my dogs. They are a little over two years old. And I think mostly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel but might have something else in them as well that makes their hair not as long as the normal breed. They were abandoned and found outside a foreclosed home outside of LA. I was only going to rescue one of them. But I had to take both once I saw them curled up around each other and terrified. They survived somehow together and I think they should always stay together.
What's your favorite New York Fashion Week memory?
My first show in New York Fashion Week was the the very first Imitation of Christ NYC show, the funeral show. And I have this memory of having to put garbage bags over the models' clothes to take them from the space where we got them dressed and walk them down the street to the funeral parlor where the show took place. André Leon Talley was snapping pictures left and right and calling out with delight! There was very old school "couture" feeling to the whole thing, but with a real modern edge. Also we were really winging it and just hoping we could pull off having a real New York show with no money or sponsors or anything for that first one. And then we really pulled it off and Imitation of Christ got the cover of WWD the very next day! There was a HUGE picture of our model and the show with a whole article called Death Becomes Her! It was amazing to have pulled that off. And all from hand sewing old discarded Salvation Army clothes and vintage for months and months out of my ex-boyfriend's garage. It was a real dream come true. And it makes one believe that if you have a vision and work very, very hard, you can make anything happen. Magic does exist.
What never fails to make you cry?
Old movies. And especially sad movies on an airplane. That's the worst. Something about the altitude really makes the waterworks come on. And then it's so embarrassing, especially when you have someone ask you if you are alright. So mortifying!
When are you happiest?
When I'm with my friends and laughing. And usually that's a lot. I'm lucky this way.
I just covered the best of Milan Fall 2012 Fashion Week (think: Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Missoni, Prada, Marni, Giorgio Armani and Raf Simons' Jil Sander swan song) for Rue La La.
It's officially spring! Which means it's officially time to trade in your dark winter bag for something lightweight and—dare I say—cheerful. And what's more happy-making than these new leather satchels from Baggu? Available in mint, grapefruit and (my fave) a sunny shade of citron (along with black, white, taupe, natural and metallic platinum), these unlined carryalls come in two sizes, the larger of which can easily hold all your daytime essentials, along with a book or magazine. And, in keeping with Baggu's sustainable, zero-waste policy, the semi-circular castoffs from each bags' handle are used to fashion smaller zippered pouches that are perfect for stashing your phone, cosmetics and the like.
Though black is usually my color of choice, I'm really feeling color this season. Enter Brochu Walker's oversized color block crew. Fashioned out of barley-hued silk with scarlet raglan sleeves, and cut longer in the back than front, this luxe baseball shirt is made for layering and looks great with boyfriend jeans or slim pants. In short, it's the perfect seasonless basic in which to greet the early arrival of spring.
Although he's coiffed the likes of A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson and Tilda Swinton, Bob Recine is more of a sculptor than a traditional hair stylist—at least where his editorial work is concerned.
Take, for example, the shoot Recine did with Mario Sorrenti for Another Magazine c. 2003, in which the duo re-imagined the beautiful Jessica Miller as a frightening rainbow-bewigged clown that called to mind the late, great Leigh Bowery. Or the 1996 Numero images (also shot by Sorrenti) that utilized felt "makeup" and Play-Doh wigs to turn Vivien Solari into a not-quite-of-this-world living doll. Or the 2007 story that cast Natalia Vodianova as a modern day Lady Godiva-slash-Rapunzel.
These are just a few of the striking images to be found in Bob Recine: Alchemy of Beauty (Freedman|Damiani), the new book devoted to the work of this incredibly talented, inspirational and thought-provoking artist (for, as the many sketches, collages and paintings gathered here attest, Recine is much, much more than a run-of-the-mill hairstylist). No wonder he's Lady Gaga's go-to guy for OTT hairdos and headdresses.
While many of Recine's creations are decidedly beautiful—the floral headpiece worn by Eniko Mihalik in the April 2009 issue of W, for instance, or the delicate stack of topknots sported by Tanya Dziahileva in the Spring 2007 issue of V—the majority of images in this compendium are twisted and perverse in ways that force the viewer to confront their long-held notions of beauty, and of womanhood itself. And isn't that the purpose of all great art—to make you see things in a whole new light?
images courtesy Bob Recine Alchemy of Beauty
The Council of Fashion Designers of America hosted a party at CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg's Meatpacking District studio last night to announce this year's CFDA Fashion Awards honorees and nominees, with Carolina Herrera, Peter Som, Phillip Lim, Rebecca Minkoff, Reed Krakoff, Robert Geller, Rachel Roy, Johan Lindeberg, Narciso Rodriguez, Sophie Theallet, Gilles Mendel, Monique Pean, Jim Moore and Joe Zee (among others) in attendance. The winners will be unveiled at the ceremony on June 4th at Alice Tully Hall.
Womenswear Designer of the Year nominees
Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for Proenza Schouler
Menswear Designer of the Year nominees
Accessory Designer of the Year nominees
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for Proenza Schouler
Swarovski Award for Womenswear nominees
Chris Peters and Shane Gabler for Creatures of the Wind
Max Osterweis and Erin Beatty for Suno
Swarvoski Award for Menswear nominees
Swarovski Award for Accessory Design nominees
Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award
Scott Schuman and Garance Doré
Fashion Icon Award
Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons
"Though Shall Sing in the Kingdom of Love." So reads the legend on Scosha's Feather & Shield necklace, which boasts a tiny black diamond, a slightly larger moon stone, and the words "Free as a Bird" emblazoned across the back of the feather. I love the inspirational message(s) and rough hewn beauty of this chunky sterling silver and 10kt yellow gold pendant, and have worn mine pretty much every day since discovering it at TG170 on the Lower East Side last year. Equally cool—and not yet in my jewelry box: Scosha's solid sterling, 14k rose gold and diamond Nugget ring, engraved with the phrase "Fly, Fly, Fly Said the Bird, For She Knew She Was Free." Something tells me I'll be heading over to Williamsburg soon…
London Fashion Week ran the gamut from boy-meets-girl suiting and louche pajama dressing to artfully singed eveningwear from designers Burberry Prorsum, Paul Smith, Aquascutum, Roksanda Ilincic, Giles, Mary Katrantzou, McQ by Alexander McQueen, Peter Pilotto and Stella McCartney's London Evening collection, the last of which drew an A-list crowd (Kate Moss, Anna Wintour, Bianca Jagger, Shailene Woodley, Rihanna) and a flash mob of dancing supermodels. Missed the action? Not to worry. I covered it for The (Style) Guide.
I recently spent a delightful afternoon hanging out with Lynne Hiriak, the designer of Cardigan, at her Williamsburg home/office, which you can read about over on Rue La La's The (Style) Guide.
The Label: Pret-a-Surf
Based In: New York City
Designed By: Jillian Demling (entertainment editor at Vogue) and Karen Mulligan (studio manager for photographer Annie Leibovitz), who've been friends—and surf buddies—for 10-plus years. Frustrated by the lack of sophisticated women's surf gear on the market, they decided to create their own and in 2010, Pret-a-Surf was born.""Everything was all logo'ed out, hot pink, or had big psychedelic or Hawaiian flowers on it," the duo told The Fashion Informer of the fateful shopping trip that inspired them to launch the line, which is made in New York. But their collection is designed with all women in mind, not just those who hang ten. "We wanted to make stuff that actually fit well and looked good regardless of whether you were a surfer. You can wear it in the waves or with jeans for a night out. You can be an active woman, a woman who just wants to look chic on the beach, or someone who wants a great pair of waterproof, quick dry shorts they can throw on when they get out of the water."
Looks Like: Modern vintage (think: Mondrian-inspired prints, floral-sprigged hoodies and boy shorts, striped bikinis and coverups, polka dot maillots and toile rash guards, all in old-school cuts and state-of-the-art fabrics). "Bathing suits are made of thinner microfiber. For surfing, you need a thicker fabric that protects from the sun and the roughness of the board," they explained. "We found that a lot of the fabrics that exist right now for rash guards are very thin, and they're not very flattering. We researched different fabrics, and found a mill in Italy that was doing high-performance, quick dry, breathable activewear. They bill it as swimwear, but it's thick enough to surf in—it's all about the percentage of microfiber in the fabric." In the end, PaS is all about giving women what they want—and need—without sacrificing their sense of style. "We love fashion and we love sports," said Demling and Mulligan. "We want women to look like women and feel good even when they are playing with the boys." For spring/summer 2012, they added tennis togs and collaborated with George Esquivel on chic flip flops. Next up: Pret-a-Snow, a line of custom-made surfboards and snowboards, scented surfboard wax, and Pret-a-Storage bags to carry it all in. Your weekend never looked so good.
Sold At: Pret-a-Surf retails for $150 to $385 and is available at Opening Ceremony, Jeffrey, Shopbop, Barneys, Blue and Cream, Isetan, Elizabeth Charles and Net-a-Porter.
I attended the press preview for the FIT exhibit, Impact: 50 Years of the CFDA, just before New York Fashion Week, which drew the likes of Tory Burch, Reed Krakoff, Isabel Toledo, Tracy Reese, Carolina Herrera, Narciso Rodriguez and CFDA presidents past and present, including Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Stan Herman and Oscar de la Renta. If you want a master class in the diversity that is American fashion, Impact delivers.
And in the second installment of my fall 2012 trend roundup for Rue La La, may I present calf-length skirts and flippy minis, fur accessories, the color oxblood, OTT hats and headgear, and shiny metallics for day and night.