Monday, September 29, 2008

Paris S/S 09: Nina Ricci

When I was a kid, I'd somehow got the impression that Nina Ricci was for old people (yes, I got started into fashion very early). I am definitely much wiser now (either that or Olivier Theysken performed a miracle), because the Nina Ricci collection this season was anything but old.
There were lots of tulles and leggings. The color palette was a nuetral cream, pale and nude. The shape of the skirts, short and modern in the front, but soft and overflowing behind them, were beautiful. There was also a big shoulder silohoeutte thing going on that contrasted well with the soft flows of the dresses. I especially loved the white big shoulder leather jacket (left) over the super feminine dress.
The rest of the runway was interesting. There were lots of shorts and t-shirts, and leotard looking outfits (left), that looked more like day to day home wear (or ballet costumes) than ready-to-wear. Then there were super heroe inspired ball gowns. Perhaps this is an extension of Christina Ricci's gorgeous red super heroe dress for the Met Costume Institute Gala this year?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ctrl BG: A Shortcut to Financial News 9/28

Since I enjoyed writing the last post so much, I've decided to continue to do so. It has proven to be a great way to help me put everything into perspective and it's been fascinating reading what everyone else thinks as well. Again, feel free to correct me and put in your two cents, as obviously, I am no expert. I'm just a girl who happens to be interested in the current state of the economy.

Last Sunday night, Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) were approved by the Fed to become bank holding firms, officially ending the era of the independent investment banking model on Wall Street. They will now be able to open their own commercial banking arms and take in deposits, which they can then use to back up their investment banking operations- as JP Morgan, Bank of America (BofA) etc already does- thus ending investor concerns about the sustainability of their business model model. They now also have permanent access to borrow federal money (instead of within the window temporarily opened for them) and can become a FDIC insured bank, which insures indivisuals up to $100,000 of bank deposits. The following day, MS announced that they were getting as much as $8.5 billion of cash injection from Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) in exchange for up to 20% equity stake in MS, further fortifying their position. I guess the deal with China fell through (or were the Chinese getting too greedy and the US govt didn't like that?). This is probably a better move anyway, since MUFG is the world's No. 2 bank by deposits, so surely it will help MS's transition into commercial banking go more smoothly. MS apparently already has about $36 billion in bank deposits from their private wealth management (PWM) business and are looking to expand into Asia. Or so, that's what CNBC said, but I didn't know PWM deposits count as bank deposits, but if they do, I guess this means that MS are looking to expand their PWM business in Asia. Or perhaps this $36 billion comes from their Utah-base industrial bank, which will be converting into a national banking association, names the Morgan Stanley Bank, National Association? Goldman Sachs' approach is must easier to understand (or so I think). They currently already have two deposit taking subsidiaries, with about $20 billion in deposits, and plan to create a new one called GS Bank USA, that will have more than $150 billion of assets.

This conversion is not all good and dandy though. Becoming a bank holding also puts both banks under more intense scrutiny and regulations from the Fed, which will probably limit their proprietary trading capacities (the division where they trade company assets like a hedge fund, taking on great risks), which happens to be one of their most lucrative divisions. I don't know about MS but personally I'm feeling quite optimistic about GS. On Tuesday, Warren Buffet invested $5 billion in GS preferred stocks and will also recieved warrants to purchase another $5 billion in common stock within the next 5 years- effectively give him about a 10% stake in GS. They also raised another $5 billion from a public stock offering, all within a few days. This and Buffet's approval, which in the investment world is the equivalent of getting Anna Wintour's approval in the fashion world, make me quite optimistic. Besides, I have always had great confidence in the power of brand image, Buffet just likes to call it "franchise."

On Thursday, Washington Mutual (WaMu), was seized by the FDIC, making it the biggest banking failure ever. Within 9 days, customers withdrew about $16.7 million in deposits from WaMu, literally breaking the bank. JP Morgan picked up WaMu's banking assets for only $1.9 billion. JP has had its eye on WaMu's operations in CA and FL for a while, and had offered for them in March, but was rejected in favor of a capital injection from TPG private equity (whoops!). It seems like JP got yet another bargain. JP is not the only one who got a sweet deal in all this however. It appears that Mr. Alan Fishman, WaMu's CEO for only 2 weeks, is eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance AND get's to keep his $7.5 million signing bonus. Not bad for two weeks worth of work.

It seems that the financial tsunami is expanding abroad too. Fortis,
the largest Belgian financial-services firm, just received an $11.2 billion euro bailout from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in exchange for 49% stakes in the Fortis in their respective countries. It's almost like the European version of AIG.

The next bank on the chopping block is Wachovia- funny since a week ago they were in talks to merge with MS. Citigroup and Wells Fargo are currently in a bidding war over a possible emergency takeover of Wachovia, since it's stocks dropped dramatically on Friday.

While all this was going on, politicians were hard at "work" trying to get the $700 billion bailout bill to pass Congress. I'm not that into politics, but even I tuned in Wednesday morning to hear Paulson and Bernanke defend their case to the people at Congress. I'm not sure how politics usually go, but to my untrained ears, it sounded like a verbal merry-go-around, placing blames and trying to trick each other into saying something wrong. A members ask a simple yes/no question, Paulson/Bernanke would answer in a very roundabout way which prompts the member to ask, "so was that a yes or a no?" to which they'd repeat what they'd just said again. This would go on until the time is up or someone finally gives up from the frustration of it all. No wonder it takes them months to get a bill to past.
I'd imagined it to be more diplomatic and sophisticated. Anyway, I think the gist was that people didn't think taxpayers should have to bailout Wall Street (and individual homeowners) for taking too on stupid risks. But they had to do something. So they moved onto putting clauses on the plan, for oversight to monitor the use of the money, a cap on CEO pays and for warrants in companies who will be using this plan, so taxpayers would at least get something back for the $700 billion they spent. There was a gliche, when a bunch of Republicans rejected the plan and proposed some other plan to privately insure mortgage backed securities (there was shouting involved!), but it sounds like they're back on track now and a bill will be voted on Monday.

Personally I don't know what to think about this bill. On one hand, I don't think tax payers should have to bail out people who took on unnecessary stupid risks and expect everyone else to wipe up their mess when things go down just because the mess is big enough. As if our future generations didn't already have a big enough debt to clear up already, with the war and the social security problem etc. but now we have this. On the other hand, just like a bad trend, someone has to step in and put a stop to it before it spreads through the population. With the newly added clauses, it's the next best step there is. By taking the distressed debts out of "weak" hands and into "strong" hands, they might even make money in the future when the housing prices go back up! Besides, if the likes of Paulson, Bernanke and Buffet, says this is a sound plan, who am I to gainsay the experts?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Claudine Pumps by Coach

My first reaction upon seeing this season's peep-toe winter booties was EW. That is just unnatural, completely against the laws and purpose of boots! Your toes will definitely freeze off if you wear this in winter! And so when I first saw these Coach Claudine pumps, I immediately put a no to it. Why would they ruin a perfectly nice pair of pumps and put a random peep-toe on it? I wasn't even swayed when I saw my favourite Gossip Girl, B, wearing them on the set. To be honest, this is not one of her best outfits. To begin with it doesn't look very flattering on her. Her waist looks big (even though it's belted) and the length of her skirt makes her look short (or is it this picture?). Her top looks summery while her scarf and skirt looks wintery. The shoes is just the child of both these looks.

But then I stared at the picture of these pumps some more and it really started to grow on me. The masculine Oxford style is made softened by the satin bow and the slim and elegant shape of the heel. The mini platform in the front makes these four inch pumps more comfortable and wearable (or so I hope!). The combination of suede, satin and patent leather is very clever. The patent is even neatly placed to wrap around the suede parts to protect it from dirt! The whole package is just very nice!

As for the peep toe,
I guess in the world of fashion, there is no such thing as being weather appropriate. I can always wear colored stockings inside for warmth and some interesting color. And if you try to imagine these pumps without the peep toes, you must admit, it IS missing out something. Besides, it looks like peep-toe oxford booties are here to stay, judging from the S/S 09 Burberry Prorsum runway.

When it comes down to it, these are definitely trend shoes and not "investment" shoes. Personally, even though I'm coming around to it, I'm still not sure if they're not too weird for wear. What do you think? Is this an embraceable trend or should we shun it aside and hope it goes away?

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Milan S/S 09: Burberry Prorsum

I love Christopher Bailey. He revamped the Burberry checks and made them cool again and he's just looks like such a cutie! But even that didn't stop me from being disappointed in his latest collection. It was a depressing show.
The models with their long trench coats and floppy hats almost look like those creepy nudists on the streets. The dreary colors didn't help (I thought it was supposed to be a spring/summer collection?). I could see some bits and pieces of the effortlessly chic look here and there, with the long cardigans and skinny pants (left), but the rest kind of just blended together into a muddy haze. The designs were not bad, but it was just not very interesting or inspiring. It was like there were 52 versions of the same look. Oh wait, that's not quite true. One model stuck out in particular- in addition to being drenched upon, she looked like she took an extra role in the mud.... and accidentally got dead leaves and branches stuck on her coat (right).
Oh and check out the shoes. It appears that not only do we now have peep-toe oxford shoes, but we will have peep-toe-sling-back oxford shoes very soon too! More on how I feel about these later.......As for the
color of these shoes, it is absolutely ugh, but I suppose then you wouldn't have to worry about getting it dirty from rolling in the mud!

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Emmy Awards 2008

OK, honestly I wasn't interested in the Emmy's this year (because there is simply so many more interesting news right now, like the financial news and the China milk scandal.) But the one thing that I did want to know about the Emmy's was that Tina Fey, Alec Baldman and 30 Rock won four 'big' awards -so yay for them!

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ctrl BG: A Shortcut to Financial News 9/22

It’s not about fashion, but the state of the economy is still something that concerns everyone and I just thought it would be interesting to have something a little bit different on this blog once in a while. I’m sure I’m not qualified to comment since I probably don’t have nor understand all the facts of the situation, but it never hurts to share some thoughts right? So here are some thoughts on the last tumultuous week.

Personally I was shocked by the events of last Sunday. I knew that Lehman Brothers was in troubled waters, but I thought it was only going to be bought out like Bear Stearns was, by Bank of America or Barclays. Never in a million years did I think that it would go bankrupt (perhaps a strategy by Barclays so then they can buy the Lehman assets they want on the cheap, as they are doing now?). Instead of bailing Lehman out, BofA bought Merrill Lynch instead that night. At that point, I was vaguely aware that ML was not doing so well, but I didn’t know it had reached this stage yet. Apparently a sudden “evaporation of liquidity” (whatever that means), does that to banks. Who knew BofA was so strong? As I recall, they were the first to be hit by the Credit Crunch last year, with their takeover of Countrywide (another Fannie/Freddie-esque home loan bank) and huge write downs and lay-offs. As it turns out, Countrywide might be a good buy after all now that the competition has been weeded out somewhat and BofA is as strong as ever with the financial backing of their commercial banking side. With ML joining their team, their investment banking side is also going to strengthen up- by a lot. All in all, it was quite a traumatizing Sunday. It was like saying that Gucci went bankrupt and Prada got bought out and merged with Coach- all in one day.

Everything went down like dominos after that. The stock markets worldwide went down. AIG and Washington Mutual struggled to stay afloat. It was a good thing that the government stepped in with an 85 billion dollar loan in exchange for 79.9% of AIG, when they did (after Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan balked at the idea). With their wide range of businesses (mutual funds, insurances etc) worldwide, it would’ve been devastating. It would be as if LVMH declared they were in trouble! I’m not sure how I feel about the government using tax payer’s money to save a private institution, but I guess somehow had to do it. Can’t let LVMH fall! As for Washington Mutual (a.k.a. WaMu), I don’t feel too much for them, since they’re not exactly a household name (for me anyway, a bit like not everyone knows who Bottega Veneta is), but they’re currently trying to auction off some parts of itself.

The two remaining independent investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, were also under attack against their business model this week, even though both posted higher than expected earnings (yes, I mean profits!). It appears that many people now believe that an investment bank cannot survive without a steady cash flow from a commercial banking arm. Throughout the week, both banks said that they were committed to remaining independent, repeating that it is not the business model but the execution that counts. However, Morgan Stanley has been under pressure the most. It is as if because people believe it will fall, they are making it fall by shorting their stock, pushing down their stock prices (and thus the SEC ban on the short selling of selected stocks for two weeks). They are currently in talks with the Chinese government for a large capital infusion (they are going to need a BIG one) and with Wachovia to merge. I think a merger between these two would more aptly epitomize, “Target acquiring Neiman Marcus,” as Leveraged Sellout had used for the BofA and ML merger.

On the other hand, I am a sucker for brand image and I cannot begin to fathom the possibility of GS giving into market pressure and merging with a commercial bank. It’s not as if they are doing very badly. They’ve consistently reported profits throughout the economic turmoil so far- even if it IS less so then years before. At least it’s not a loss! I’m sure that there may be write downs cleverly hidden in their balance sheet (for both banks!), but it cannot be nearly as bad as Lehman and ML right? Yes, I do realize I am beginning to sound a bit naive, but it would be like Hermes giving into market pressure and start mass producing Birkin bags with machines! Besides, shouldn’t it be innocent until proven guilty?

Towards the end of the week, the SEC finally stepped in to temporarily ban the short selling of selected stocks for two weeks (to stop the prices from tumbling down) and the government came up with a plan to deal with this whole toxic debt problem. I’m not sure exactly how this plan is supposed to work but it sounds like they’re going to use $700 billion to buy back all the toxic debts and give financial institutions a fresh start. Sounds like a good idea, they can't bail companies out one at a time as they fall after all, better to target the root of the problem. Not that I know where the government is getting that kind of money from (aren’t they already in debt from the war?) and what they’re going to DO with those bad debt once they buy it. Surely they cannot just dissolve it and let everyone who did not meet their mortgage payments off the hook? Why were people lending money to people who clearly cannot repay the loan to begin with?

Ok, now I’m heading into territory where I really do not have a good grasp on. So I’m going to shut up now and go back to admiring the runways of Milan fashion week. Just thought I’d give financial journalism/blogging a hand.

Scratch that. It seems that Target is not acquiring Neiman Marcus anymore but Hermes is going to start mass producing Birkin bags- in their own way. MS and GS both just got approval from the Fed to switch from being an investment bank to a bank-holding firm i.e. they are now allowed to open up their own commercial banks and take in deposits. MS will probably not need the Chinese capital infusion anymore either. There are now officially no more major independent investment banks in the US. What is it with Sundays and groundbreaking news?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Top Shop A/W08 Lookbook

Top Shop's A/W08 Lookbook is out! While you may not be able to actually shop at Top Shop, you should definitely check the looks out. They're really great streetwear inspiration (albeit a bit too well-styled). The Wonderland collection is a bit too Miu Miu SS08-esque and the Punk Couture collection looks like they just piled all the plaid clothes into a group, but the Bandstand and Boudoir collections are definitely worth looking.
My favourite is the Boudoir collection -Casual, luxurious looks in a cute way.
These two looks are equally cute in a darker, edgier way.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

London S/S 09: Luella

I'm the first to admit, London fashion week is too fashion forward most of the time for me to understand. Luella is the exception. Mostly because she is quirky in a preppy way, which I can appreciate. Her runway gives me ideas on how I can twist and tweak the preppy pieces I already own to become more quirky and "new". This season, she doesn't disappoint.
I absolutely detest orange. But somehow Luella makes it work by clashing it with hot pink and a vibrant blue on the runway. The outfits actually look cute and girly, instead of pumpkin-esque! Hmm...maybe I'll get something orange next season. I already have a pair of black plastic rimmed glasses!

The other innovation on the runway was the asymmetrical tiered skirt. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet, I've always been a fan of symmetry. But it is definitely quirky and different, it could even be cute and fun (there is an even more asymmetrical skirt than the one shown here on the runway- this is the less adventurous version). And of course, there was the usual Luella floral prints all over the runway- I love how she somehow makes it appear edgy instead of old fashioned.
Another thing I love about the Luella show is how she mix and matches prints. That soft pink floral top totally works with the bold pink stripe pants! And that lavender floral dress is just adorable. In fact, the poofy skirt and the tulles even gives it a prom-like quality (not that you would not look completely darling and perfect wearing this to a more sophisticated occasion!). Anyone need an updated prom dress?

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Luella spring 2009

Ive been following Luella's career for quite some time now
every time I'm into something
its usually whats shes into
my old lady hat obsession with veils


p.s. looking at just Christopher Kane and Luella
primary and secondary colors are in


My childhood-self would be proud

Hat outfits

I have to wear hats
if there isn't anything on my head
I think I'll have a problem
Global warming decides
what I will wear

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Christopher Kane Spring 2009

My friend just sent me a text saying
Have you see the new Christopher Kane collections're going to die

I'm dead

Christopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-WearChristopher Kane Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear

They interviewed Christopher
he says its all about
Planet of the Apes

what was actually created was
colored animal print
tall compact shoes
rich secondary colors
natural colors
thick and thin
giant ape heads

Pretty much it would be a great honour to work for or with him.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New York S/S09: Project Runway

Is it just me, or did Project Runway pick up a bit this season? It was kind of interesting to see what kind of crazy, wild creations this set of designers put onto the runway (consistent perfection is so *yawn*). But anyway, this post is not a review of the designs on the runway (well maybe a tiny bit), but more of a rant on the way the show is ran.

One of the main goals of this show (besides the Saturn, the money and the publicity) is getting to show at Bryant Park. How many times have we heard the designers on the show say that they WILL make it to Bryant Park? Only the top three is supposed to make it there. But because the show started late this season (for whatever reasons), SIX designers made it to Bryant Park as a decoy so the viewers won't know who made it to the final three in the show. Personally I feel like this kind of undermines the show. What is the point of elimination and survival of the fittest when 6 instead of 3 designers get to share one of the most coveted prizes? What is the point of a "limited edition" bag if everyone on the streets own one too?
Back to the show, I think it's obvious who is in the top two. Korto and Leanne have been consistently good. And they have good taste (which is a big plus, given the "taste" level of the show thus far). Personally I am vouching for Leanne. Her designs are always very simple but interesting and flattering.
My second favourite is actually Kenley. I just love the whole pin-up girl look she has going. But I must say, she's made quite a few wrong turns and it is unsure whether she'd make it to top three.
But then again, I certainly hope none of these looks make it to top three..........

Image Source: Kansas City Star

London S/S09: Top Shop Unique

I have to admit that I've never been hip enough to like or understand Top Shop Unique's collections. But this is the first time I've seen stuff on its runway that I've wanted.

I'm a fan of mini-dresses in general. These both look colourful and young -the one on the left great for a night out and the one on the right good for a fun daytime look.

I really like these two looks too. The dress on the left is classy yet still cute. And the look on the right is a bit too 80's for me, but still looks cool.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

New York S/S09: Marchesa

Marchesa has always produced pretty dresses on the runway, but this collection blew me away. It is every girl's dream wardrobe! There were sweet and cute cocktail dresses that are youthful and glamorous. I love how even though the shapes are so simple, the designs are so unique- in a good way. The silhouette is familiar, but I've definitely not seen these dresses before! There were elegant evening gowns, complimented by heavy oriental embroideries. I've never liked the whole fringe thing, because I think it looks creepy- like Cousin "It." But this black dress is definitely an exception to the rule. It looks more like a black waterfall flowing down her legs.
Then there were exquisitely beautiful pieces that just makes you want to stop and stare. And admire. They are more like pieces of art than ready-to-wear, further perpetuated by their method of presentation- with the models standing atop white cubes like sculptures (must be tiring for the models!). Indeed, I believe that most of these pieces are one of a kind. I wonder what they'd sell in their store then...
This dress is my absolute favourite. I love the barely there lilac shade. I love the orchids strewn artistically down the dress (it is apparently made of feathers!). I love the artistic folds of the top, contrasted with the frothing lilac waterfall that is the bottom. Everything. I can just stare at it all day!
And this comes in a close second. The sharp contrasting black and white color with the soft layers of the skirt creates the perfect balance that is absolutely striking!

The SS09 collection was definitely a feast for the eye!

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New York S/S09: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Yay! The Marc by Marc Jacobs S/S09 collection is bright in a tasteful and fun way -just like it was a few collections back. After a few seasons of dark and murky colours, it's good to see lighter colours. It's just so much easier to buy the light-coloured pieces when they hit stores.
Marc's signature cute, girly dresses! Loves them! Look at the layers -this collection's dresses seem to have another layer under the skirt. And I'm so glad the dresses aren't long because maybe I've been corupted by The Hills, but shorter (-not indecently short of course,) dresses seem so much easier to wear and buy now!
Simple layering. The styling is great as usual. There are so many young, stylish pieces in these outfits. Don't they make you just wish it would be spring again?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NY Fashion Week SS09 Wrap Up II

Proenza Schouler
The designers of all those super pretty and cute dresses last season (and that of the model silhouette of this blog's FW08 banner!) did a 180 this season and went hardcore on us, and maybe a little bit punk.
The one thing that stood out from this collection though was the silhouette. It is definitely unique and edgy. It is not an immediately ew. But it sort of looks like the models are pinned onto a wall with by their sleeves. Or like those flying chipmunks (or whatever they are) we see in cartoons. The model in the cream suit jacket looks like her left arm is disjointed. I highly doubt this unique silhouette will be as well received as the pretty dresses last season (or I hope not!).

Cynthia Steffe
The Cynthia Steffe collection on the other hand is very wearable and pretty (as usual). I've always had a liking for them ever since I picked up something from this brand during Thanksgiving sale at Neiman Marcus.
Two things I love about this collection. First, it is very put together and neat, like this very chic dress here (left). This black/white circular print is is interesting and very versatile (it was used very prominently on the runway). Second, I love how wearable every piece is. Not only is this all white outfit (right) gorgeous in it's own right, but individually these pieces are incredibly versatile. Besides the neat and the structured, they also offered the flowy and the floral. Ok, I probably wouldn't pair the blue floral outfit (right) as it is, but I'd definitely wear those two pieces seperately. And I'm simply LOVING those genie capris!

Jill Stuart
The Jill Stuart collection is not exactly the most original or fashion forward show on the runway this season. Admittedly certain looks even reminds one of the Marc by Marc Jacobs runway a few years back (remember the long sleeved ribbed thermals layered with a very colorful array of other ballerina-esque items?). But this collection has its charm.Mostly because I am a sucker for flowy, flirty, girly ballerina-esque looks, which this collection is the epitome of. That simple white dress is gorgeous. And I love those genie pants. They are like the pant version of a pretty flowy skirt.

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