FA2L is for anyone who cares about beautiful things–clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings–and the interconnected tribes of those who make, sell, market and desire them. If something speaks to you, buy it now or hold your peace: there are links in each story, so the item you want is just a click away. I'd like to hear from you, too: please view my profile, use the email button and send me your comments.MG

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gird Your Loins: Fashion Straps on the Armor

2009 was a turbulent, sometimes terrifying year, whose aftershocks are still reverberating around the world. Now, in the aftermath of the economic meltdown, global conditions resemble a medieval landscape created when companies tossed thousands of hapless workers over fortress walls, raised the drawbridges and left roving bands of fugitives to fight it out amongst themselves.

Fashion folk reacted to this cultural shift in wildly different ways. Some brands panicked. Others hunkered down. More than a few went out of business. At the same time, plenty of savvy young designers took a different tack: they listened to the chatter of international distress signals and turned out clothes and accessories offering protection (or, at the very least, escape) from the harsh new world. Many of these kids share a sort of guild mentality that fuses Project Runway fantasies with cooperative group dynamics ("all for one and one for all
" or, perhaps more accurately, "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"). And the undisputed Queen Bee of this busy fashion hive is Lady Gaga.

FA2L loves Gaga, but this post isn't really about her, beyond the fact that seeing her recent show at Radio City reminded us about armor, or–as it's called now–metal couture. Over the years, we've toured some of the world's great armor collections and stood in awe before leather-and-bronze breastplates from ancient Greece; head-to-toe steel casements topped with ostrich plumes from 16th-century Spain; and spectacular Samurai get-ups from feudal Japan. We've even met an eccentric Englishman who so firmly believes he's a reincarnated 15th-century cavalry officer, he's collected–or made by hand–all the gear he wore in his past life (and continues to use in this one)!

Of course, when it comes to armor, we're not alone in our fascination: Diana Vreeland was obsessed with the stuff (and famously charmed the Metropolitan Museum of Art's resident expert into allowing a valuable Spanish breastplate, filled to overflowing with frothy, handmade lace, to stand in for Velásquez at the center of her legendary Balenciaga exhibit). And, to bring things up to date, it was exciting to see 21st-century armor in Lady Gaga's video for Bad Romance (center photo, above) and onstage during her current tour.

The chin guard in Bad Romance, and the arm guard and headpiece in the third photo, above, are the work of Spanish designer Manuel Albarran. His intricate designs have been featured in recent editorials and advertising campaigns, often thanks to the keen eye of Nicola Formichetti (who also works with Lady Gaga). FA2L is eager to see some of these items in person, and we'd also like to (gently) suggest
Albarran find a way to increase production. If the fashion industry continues to face an uphill battle, its creative legions will need to suit up. And we're not talking about grey flannel or navy pinstripes.