Botanical Gardens
Some said it with flowers, thousands of them, in exquisitely constructed displays that filled Paris shows with the colors and scents of a garden in bloom. There was a towering cascade of pink petals at Dries Van Noten, a canopy dotted with white orchids at Emanuel Ungaro, a runway of purple violets at Yves Saint Laurent: Paris was blossoming for spring. "It's Jack and the Beanstalk for my butterfly-inspired collection," explained Peter Dundas, Emanuel Ungaro's artistic director, whose hanging ceiling of wild foliage, scattered with rare orchids, took three days to construct and required three truckloads of 15 species of plants.

The runway at Yves Saint Laurent was sewn with thousands of violets as dainty as the models sent tripping tiny steps through them. They were cultivated in the Netherlands to bloom on the very day of the show, but the journey took its toll on many of the buds, which then had to be found last-minute in France.

At Van Noten, the decor was a prelude to the giant flowers printed on dresses. A team of 13 worked through the night before the show to place 130,000 dahlias, gerberas, hydrangea and lisianthus in varying shades of pink on a backdrop to the runway.

Conceived by Belgian floral designer Daniël Ost, the display was Van Noten's farewell bouquet to the Beaux Arts, where he has shown his collection for five seasons.

Armani Mania
All Armani, all the time. Or so it seemed, as the Maestro swept into London with a dizzying schedule of store openings, award ceremonies, a starry charity bash and his Emporio Armani show.

Back in Milan, he turned out a controlled Giorgio Armani collection that drew plaudits from critics and stores. The collection came after a few tricky seasons, and Armani describes spring 2007 as "the distillation of a style that has transformed our attitude to dress. I explored opposites and contrasts, and this is a more relaxed approach to elegance, a slightly androgynous slant on femininity."

Rather than burying his tailoring skill beneath excessive styling, Armani worked what he calls the "quintessential Armani taste." In other words, the daywear focused on the jacket—short and long, boxy and slim, unadorned or ruffled, soft or structured, you name it. Underneath, he slipped fluid silk pants or equally languid skirts, while soft fedora hats, a ribbon here or a shawl there, topped the looks.For evening, the designer didn't let his Privé couture line temper a desire for red-carpet sparkle, as layers of sequined blush pink and nude silks swooshed and swished down the runway.

For a designer who owns a $1.7 billion fashion empire, Armani's search for currency and his quest to meld the salable with the whimsical haven't always been a smooth ride, especially with the changing times. In the late Nineties, the fashion tide started to swing and power dressing to sink, as the changing currents delivered first grunge, then minimalism. Plus, a crop of young, unconventional designers such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano revolutionized the runway concept with theme-driven collections, framed by theatrical stage settings and masterfully tailored clothes worthy of opera fanfare. Meanwhile, Armani's styling risks began to overshadow his strong tailoring sense.

"I have the same courage I had in the beginning," Armani said backstage in March 2002. "You always have to do something more, and when you're creative, you risk a bit. Galliano, Gaultier, McQueen—my colleagues have fun. This is my fun. A black sweater is elegant, but who cares?"

The fun he is referring to was the fall 2002 collection filled with much-criticized, flowy stirrup pants and Kasbah trousers, topped with aviator hats.

Some seasons later came bloomers (fall 2005), followed by supertight suitings punctuating the hourglass silhouette.

Ironically though, and regardless of rough reviews, some of these tricky looks not only appeared on rival runways but trickled to fast-fashion makers. The much-criticized bloomers, for instance, helped stimulate the shorts fad (style icon Kate Moss was paparazzi-ed wearing shorts in every possible combination). And tricky pants emerged as one of this season's key trends, with flowy stirrup pants appearing at Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, D&G and Dsquared.

On the London front, Armani unveiled his spring Emporio Armani collection during a made-for-TV extravaganza at Earl's Court that also featured performances by Beyoncé Knowles, Bryan Ferry, Razorlight and 50 Cent. Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Keys and Kim Cattrall were on hand to plug (Product) Red, the retail-driven organization that helps fight disease in Africa. During the week, the designer opened London's first Armani Casa on Bond Street, reopened the new-look Collezioni and Emporio Armani stores and popped up in the front row of Todd Lynn's show.On the academic front, he accepted an honorary doctorate from University of the Arts, London and pledged $300,000 for two bursary programs, at London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Milan's Istituto Marangoni. And, believe it or not, he was shocked that Londoners even recognized him. "I walk into a restaurant, and all of a sudden there's silence," said the designer, who dined at the new Nobu Berkeley and at Knightsbridge stalwart San Lorenzo. "I honestly didn't think my name was that well known here. I'm so flattered. London has been good to me on so many levels."

Front-row Rowdy
For some, the fashion week experience can be marred by a bad hair day, an ill-fitting outfit or a dismissive glance by a stylish editor in chief. But try going to a show and finding your front-row perch claimed by a seat stealer—after being pulled over in your Lamborghini by the police to receive four summonses for driving with an expired permit, an unregistered vehicle, without insurance and an unsafe lane change. That last straw must have melted a fuse with rapper 50 Cent, who, at the Baby Phat show, threatened a squatter who refused to vacate Cent's spot. The rapper then slapped him before security kicked the usurper out—amid boos from the photographers' pit. Perhaps Naomi Campbell can refer some anger management specialists.

Princely Performance
"It was like church!" uttered a sweaty David LaChapelle, who certainly looked like he was having a religious experience as he watched Prince's private concert at the new Versace Theater during Milan Fashion Week. Donatella Versace, who has known the musician for 15 years, was just as wowed as her photographer pal. "He was incredible. Wonderful," she said. Prince played for more than an hour, riffing from classics like "Kiss" and "Let's Go Crazy" to songs from his new album 3121 as his backup singers gyrated à la Tina Turner. The house was so packed it was difficult to bust a move—even in the VIP area. Still, that didn't stop In Style's Hal Rubenstein from shaking a tambourine or The Daily Telegraph's Hilary Alexander from perching atop her bench seat for a better camera angle of the petite star. Earlier that day, the artist, formerly and once again known as Prince, caused a stir at the Versace show. Traffic near the venue was so intense he had to walk the last stretch to the theater—in high heels, no less.Gucci's Birthday
Gucci was so intent about keeping the details of its 85th anniversary celebration secret that it didn't even build its party space until just days before the event. John Legend, clad in a velvet jacket, tickled the ivories of a grand piano for about 45 minutes in a private concert for partygoers. Then the dancing started in earnest. Throngs of retailers and fashion editors threw back the champagne and Gucci-logoed chocolates as vintage images from birthday tome Gucci by Gucci were projected on the walls. Actress Camilla Belle, wearing the same brown, green and fuchsia wrap dress she wore to the Gucci show earlier that day, provided a welcome shot of color into the gray and silver-chrome design scheme of the tent.

Hip Service
As Justin Timberlake declared on his latest hit single—and on oh-so-many runway soundtracks this season—sexy's back. There were bustiers and gams galore, not to mention plenty of peekaboo skin-bearing trappings. But perhaps there was no greater nod to the sexpot than spring's big—nay, gargantuan—hips, best seen at Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen. Yes, hips. What better symbol of sexuality and fertility? One only has to look to long-ago portraits of Venus and the Odalisque for evidence. Both designers, each courting a very different mood—one poetic and broody, the other, futuristic chic—reveled in this exaggerated hourglass figure and packed the pounds on their twiggy, angular models. (Take that, Madrid Fashion Week.) But it's certainly not the first time fashion's flirted with a wide girth. Cases in point: Rei Kawakubo's padded bump dresses, Thierry Mugler's Barbarella babes and even those outstretched 18th-century panniers. "You don't have to change your body with plastic surgery," says Dolce. "Just buy the bodysuit," quips his partner, Gabbana, noting that to these uberskinny models he and Domenico added on a bit of "pow, pow, pow."

Weighty Issue
London stuck to its guns in the great weight debate when the British Fashion Council decided not to follow Madrid's controversial and much-publicized lead to ban superskinny models from the runway. "The British Fashion Council does not interfere with the aesthetic of any designer's show," said a spokeswoman for the BFC before the shows began, leading into a debate that dominated headlines for the duration of the week. London designers were divided, with Paul Smith coming out in favor of weightier models and Bella Freud lambasting critics of thin gals."Sometimes young girls are thin, period. Why do they need to be penalized for that? We need to cherish young people, not criticize them." What's superskinny? According to Madrid's fashion establishment, anyone 5 feet 7 inches and above who's under 123 pounds.

In Paris and Milan, designers abruptly dismissed the controversy and said they'd stick with their tall-and-thin ethos. But the issue lingered on everyone's lips—including one of fashion's original waifs, Kate Moss. Moss, seated at Topshop's Unique show, leaned over to the person next to her and whispered: "She's too thin," as one particularly bony girl sidled down the runway.

Adding fuel to the fire, British Culture secretary Tessa Jowell dubbed superthin models a "bad example," while London newspaper the Evening Standard launched a weeklong campaign to implement a ban on size-zero mannequins.

However, it was Nuts magazine, an IPC Media-owned men's title, that contributed the most inventive approach to the debate. Outside the exhibition tents, the magazine pitched a stand emblazoned with: "Skinny models: Get your pies here!" and offered free pork pies—a full-fat English delicacy—to passing fashion packers and models alike.

Viktor & Rolf popped the champagne for Parisians, but in New York, a different kind of bubbly—of the barley, malt and hops variety—found its way to the front row. To promote its new Budweiser Select brand, Anheuser-Busch sponsored the Imitation of Christ, Erin Fetherston and Charlotte Ronson shows, freely handing out bottles of beer to the front row and forcing some fashionable types to confront their inner frat. Classy? Not really, but that's increasingly irrelevant in an era of fashion-show sponsorships. Those who refined their taste levels on Super Bowl Sunday surely didn't mind, nor would they confuse their Buds with their Peroni, the Italian brand that became the official beer sponsor of the shows in Bryant Park this season. How about moving the shows back to their original slot, after Paris, and renaming the week "Oktoberfest"?

Sweet Serenade
Sir Paul McCartney provided a misty-eyed moment to a small audience at the Stella McCartney party during Paris Fashion Week. After a private performance in a cozy suite overlooking the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where Pretenders' frontwoman Chrissie Hynde and Seventies French songstress Marie-France performed in duet "You Give Me Fever," Sir Paul unexpectedly took to the microphone to sing "The Very Thought of You," which he dedicated to his pregnant daughter. "The mere idea of you, the longing here for you," sang McCartney, slipping in the words, "my dearest Stella."McCartney managed to soothe the souls of even the most rambunctious rockers that night. "Isn't this just fantastic," said Marianne Faithfull, who sat next to Ringo Starr's daughter, Lee Starkey. By the end of the song, the audience was nearly as moved as Stella herself. "Oh, Dad, that was so sweet," she said. "I didn't expect it."

The Believers
Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy went on one helluva flight of fancy for spring. And as such, many New Yorkers felt as though they had seen a Paris-caliber show. But it had nothing to do with a dramatic setting and everything to do with the Mulleavy's couture-like imagination, rendered though impeccable hand-stitches, myriad rosette details and swaths of chiffon that all swirled into a romantic take on Gainsborough-painted ladies. The Pasadena, Calif.-based sisters pulled a gutsy move for young designers: eschewing the commercial route in favor of following their vision. "We just have to be strong in what we believe," said Laura after the show, while looking at a long gown covered in hand-done rosettes and incorporating 20 fabrics. "Maybe one person would buy it, and that's why we wanted to do it."

Still, the collection didn't sit well with the critics. The Mulleavys' effort seemed to elicit bipolar reactions, including a glowing review from Women's Wear Daily and outright dismissal by The New York Times. But the designers understand that a little controversy can be a good thing. "Critical dialogue, good or bad, helps to position the collection as one worth talking about," said Kate. And being new designers, they learn something from both. "A good review, after working so hard, brings clarity and a voice to the collection," she explained, while "there is always something to learn and gain from a review that stings."

Boogying Bloom
When Jack White's new band The Raconteurs rocked the Prada store in SoHo, loads of downtown hipsters raced to the scene, with Orlando Bloom leading the way. The actor, fresh from his split from Kate Bosworth, arrived with a posse of pals including Liv Tyler. Bloom was exceptionally attentive to his Lord of the Rings co-star, calling her to his side in the front row before the show and even kissing her on the shoulder (Tyler's husband, Royston Langdon, was preparing for his own gig across town with his band, Arckid). Once The Raconteurs took the stage, Bloom wasted no time hooting and hollering and bobbing his head to the music. He wasn't the only one who was into the beat. A few rows behind, White's wife, Karen Elson, sang along to her hubby's tunes.Usher Chic
Designers have extended the branding experience to their ushers. At Emanuel Ungaro in Paris, guests were seated by women wearing bubblegum pink wrap dresses, foreshadowing the show's perky palette. Chez Yves Saint Laurent, it was all about the color purple to match a runway carpeted in violets. But you've got to hand it to Lanvin's Alber Elbaz—who also dished out clown-shape lollipops for guests at his show—for the cutest take on the trend: a gaggle of ushers sporting red PVC bow ties.

Flesh Peddlers
The New York season started off with a bang, but it wasn't clothes that had people panting. Au contraire. To drum up attention for the New York University School of Medicine Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group, Marc Jacobs and business partner Robert Duffy took their kits off for photographer Brian Bowen Smith and had their nearest and dearest—Julianne Moore, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Hilary Swank, Dita Von Teese, Selma Blair, Carolyn Murphy, Winona Ryder, Brandon Boyd and Rufus Wainwright—do the same.

Their most intimate parts were protected by strategically placed slogans, like "Protect the skin you're in" and "Protect your largest organ." Ts emblazoned with the images went on sale for $20 at Marc Jacobs' boutiques. At Jacobs' Gramercy Park Hotel postshow party, Jared Leto moonlighted as a DJ and spun a slew of bad Eighties tunes from the likes of Journey and Bon Jovi; Lil' Kim was followed around by a camera crew; Sofia Coppola lounged in an enclave of sofas, roped off by bodyguards, and Kate Bosworth cozied up all night behind a pillar with model James Rousseau. And everyone had an opinion about the displayed six-foot-tall prints of Marc, Robert, Naomi, Hilary, Rufus and Julianne in the nude. "Yes, it was airbrushed," Duffy confesses about his nude self.

How to wow the tired, hungry, cranky, jaded fashion crowd? Just ask the Calvin Klein team, which threw one of the best post-show fetes of New York Fashion Week in recent memory, following Francisco Costa's show. For the party, the fashion house transformed a raw, warehouse-like space on the 52nd floor of 7 World Trade Center into a hot, 30,000-square-foot mega-club, replete with two curved, 65-foot-long bars, lounge areas with graphic white sofas and armchairs, and eight aquariums with more than 800 yellow tangs and black-and-white damselfish. It was so vast and dark that finding anyone was like looking for the Holy Grail, but who really cares when the fun factor is flying? The drinks were flowing, hamburgers and french fries were being passed around, and hostesses Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natalia Vodianova and Drew Barrymore boogied with celebrity pals like Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber. When fashion's favorite DJs, the MisShapes, put on Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" at midnight, the crowd went completely wild on the dance floor. "You can actually feel the building shaking," Costa said.Blue Magic
In a unique homage to Yves Klein, the Place de la Concorde was lit up a vibrant Klein blue — a project the artist had dreamed up, but wasn't allowed to realize, in 1958. The exhibition, as part of Paris' fifth "Nuit Blanche," an all-night art festival, was sponsored by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which also funded the Yves Klein exhibition at the Pompidou center. Klein's widow, Rotraut Klein-Moquay, was joined by LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault and chief executive Yves Carcelle, each of whom pressed a sci-fi button to light up the surrounding monuments and then the obelisk itself. Hundreds attended the illumination. "It was very moving," Klein-Moquay said.

Rihanna the Tailor
Could a fashion line by rising star Rihanna be in the works? For the first time, the pop star alluded to such a possibility after the Just Cavalli show. "I'm thinking about it, and I've talked about it thoroughly, although nothing has been signed yet," she said. "I don't want to do anything rushed. I want to do it right, and I want [the line] to be classy."

On with the Show
"I don't like that word ‘theatrical.' That should be used for shows where people pay for their seats," scoffed Alexander McQueen. "I am not succumbing to a paying audience." He doth protest a bit too much, because his spring runway show in Paris had many of the elements of a West End spine tingler: stirring music, a compelling narrative and dramatically beautiful clothing. And the way fashion folks fought their way through a driving rain to get to the Cirque d'Hiver, one could easily imagine legions paying scalpers for the chance to witness some of McQueen's runway magic.

How does he do it? "I pull it off by having a team of people who I have been working with for years and who have an understanding of my head," the designer said, mentioning such collaborators as Sam Gainsbury, his executive producer; Joseph Bennett, his production designer, and Philip Sheppard, who arranged the music, a saraband performed live by the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields orchestra. "My shows are always biographical and depict the mood I am in.In a word, that mood would be romantic, with only the faintest whiff of McQueen's sinister side. One hat constructed of a mound of blackened toy soldiers—reminiscent of a Jake and Dinos Chapman sculpture—was produced but never made it onto the stage. Instead, a mood of elegant decay played out as McQueen took his audience on an eclectic and thrilling fashion trip, referencing Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, the portraits of Goya, Marchesa Luisa Casati, indigenous Mexican dress and garden flowers, which decorated the breathtaking finale dresses.

"What I create is second nature to me and is on a more personal level," the designer explained. "The collection and the set work hand in hand—it's always about a concept, but the whole point is that you never know what to expect." And that's why people might gladly line up for tickets next season.

Holmes Sweet Holmes
Mademoiselle Katie Holmes, soon-to-be Madame Tom Cruise, might be established paparazzi prey, but she's still a novice when it comes to fashion's front row. The actress, here for the Paris collections with pal Victoria Beckham, asked, "What could be better than two women spending the weekend in Paris attending fashion shows?" And then answered herself: "There's nothing I like better than taking care of my girl." Rumor has it she had to be talked out of bringing her newborn daughter along. Never mind the fact that a fashion show is no place for a baby—especially given that four million people went online to see closely guarded Suri's first photos.

Holmes and Beckham nixed rumors that Katie is to play Posh in an upcoming film, but their matching styles during the Paris shows made such a casting suddenly seem much less improbable. Oversize shades? Check. Killer heels? Check. Glossy pouts? Check. At a party thrown by Karl Lagerfeld, Holmes was a model of almost unnerving politesse. After excusing her way past revelers to greet Karl Lagerfeld, she exchanged compliments with Kate Bosworth—not to mention inviting her to "call us." Will do, Katie.

Top Moss
Kate Moss, fashion brand? You bet. One of the biggest stories to pop during the shows was the supermodel's groundbreaking deal to design a line for Topshop. Of course, everyone wondered why, exactly, Moss and Sir Philip Green, owner of Topshop's parent, Arcadia Group plc, arrived together at the Topshop Unique event on the Sunday before the London shows opened. A few days later, Green unveiled a long-term agreement with Moss to design an exclusive collection that will launch in the spring. "She's a fashion icon in terms of the U.K., probably the best-known model, and is what Topshop is all about in terms of fashion," Green told WWD. "Our customers identify with her."Moss said she's always been a fan of Topshop and regularly shops there. "It's going to be great fun," she said. The Topshop deal was the crowning glory in Moss' comeback year. Twelve months ago, she was facing an altogether different kind of media frenzy that hinged on allegations of drug abuse. But the model got help and, since returning from rehab, has appeared in no less than 14 advertising campaigns, including Agent Provocateur lingerie, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein Jeans and Burberry.

Taking the Cake
Paris Fashion Week witnessed enough candle blowing to bring on a serious case of lockjaw as eclectic trio Jean Paul Gaultier, Japanese couturier Hanae Mori and French sportswear brand agnes b. each celebrated a 30th anniversary in the biz, joined by Jeremy Scott, who turned 10, a baby by comparison.

For his brand's 30th anniversary blowout, Gaultier sent 30 retrospective looks down his runway before his spring 2007 styles, then hosted a party with magic tricks as the centerpiece. These had International Herald Tribune scribe Suzy Menkes mincing on the stage in a kimono and twisting the head of Daily Telegraph critic Hilary Alexander, who was caught in an uncomfortable contraption, while Figaro Madame's Nicole Picart thrust four gigantic swords into a tiny basket containing her husband, Jean-Jacques. The designer himself had a Houdini moment as he levitated Le Figaro's statuesque Virginie Mouzat and ran a hula hoop around her suspended body.

Meanwhile, agnès b. counted rockers Patti Smith, Placebo and Sonic Youth among her party guests. The musicians performed at an exclusive anniversary festival for the brand. Smith was making the rounds, and also read a poem live during Ann Demeulemeester's show as a present to help the Belgian designer mark her 20th anniversary.

Elsewhere, Italian sportswear behemoth Benetton celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Pompidou center with an eye-popping show of knit wizardry and a party featuring such bold-faced names as Spike Lee.

Vera Carries On
The culmination of months of hard work and sleepless nights, runway bows are an emotional moment for any designer, but seldom do they carry the gravitas of Vera Wang's finale this season. After receiving a call that her father, C.C. Wang, was failing, Wang rushed out to Southampton at 1 o'clock that morning to see him. He died several hours later, and the designer returned to Manhattan for the show. Wang dedicated it to her father with a note on every seat. But nothing could prepare the crowd for the emotional moment at the end of the show, when a visibly shaken Wang, who usually peeks out from backstage for a second, walked the entire runway, tears rolling down her face. Her beautiful and moody collection seemed poignant, given the circumstance, and a visibly moved audience gave her one of the few standing ovations of the week.Farewell Yvan, Hello Paulo
It was a season of transition at Chloé following Phoebe Philo's resignation last January, so retailers and editors could be forgiven if they weren't exactly sure who came out at the end of the show and waved to the crowd.

Let us explain. It was, in fact, Yvan Mispelaere, a key member of Chloé's design team since January 2005, who took the bow. He was given solo credit for a spring 2007 collection radiating the brand's signature youthful charm, if not exactly moving the needle of fashion. It was also Mispelaere's swan song at Chloé, as he had already resigned to accept a job under Frida Giannini at Gucci.

This is where the other guy comes in. WWD broke the story during Milan Fashion Week that Paulo Melim Andersson, the design director at Marni, would be named Chloé's chief designer, ending an almost yearlong search to find a successor to Philo, who exited to spend more time with her family and new baby. It was the latest example of an industry trend to hire unknown number twos at successful brands. Melim Andersson, 34, will make his runway debut for Chloé in Paris next March.

But Chloé's hard-to-keep-up-with personnel changes also prove that designers, however famous or important, are not necessarily as powerful as the brands they front. Despite unrest in its design department, starting with Philo's maternity leave in October 2004, Chloé's business galloped ahead. Sales more than doubled in 2005 and vaulted nearly 90 percent in the April to August period. Who said fashion doesn't thrive on change?

The Real Deal
Sometimes it takes a while for reality to set in. Especially when the designer of a series of gray skirt suits is John Galliano and the name on the door is Christian Dior, which has in the past sent trailer-park babes, bruised boxers and rockabilly types down its ready-to-wear runway.

"There is no change in direction," insisted Dior's chief executive Sidney Toledano. "John himself has decided to show the product more."

And that decision goes back two years to the spring 2005 season, when Galliano reined in his theatricality in the rtw, reserving his full-throttle showmanship for the couture. Toledano allowed that Dior's show for spring 2007, with a runway setting and tailored clothes in the house's signature gray, took the brand closer to the signatures of its house founder. That point was echoed on the sound track, Christina Aguilera belting, "Going back to basics/Where it all began." But the collection still incorporated several ideas from Galliano's armor-clad July couture, from jackets trimmed in chain to metal-mesh evening bags. Toledano said the bestseller was a white jacket decorated with guipure and molded, armor-like layers at the hem. "We continue the link," he said. Galliano has always walked a tightrope with his critics, sometimes damned for being too crazy, at other times for staying too tame. His signature collection, with a similar focus on straightforward skirt suits and cocktail dresses, made it apparent which side of the fence the designer is working these days. But should the viewing audience get bored with reality shows, you can bet this tough-to-peg designer will be among the first to sense it.

To continue reading this article...

To Read the Full Article

Tap into our Global Network

Of Industry Leaders and Designers

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus