Hot Dystopia. Balmain SS23

I might not be a Balmain kind of person, but I can definitely appreciate it, when Olivier Rousteing does something intriguing with it. A lot happened on the spring-summer 2023 runway, from a haute couture capsule offering to Cher closing the event. Over-saturated with prints featuring (very naked) Renaissance painting and a heavy dose of leather weaving and jersey draping, it was clear that Rousteing was still high on his Jean Paul Gaultier collaboration we’ve seen this summer (by the way, I can’t wait to see what Haider Ackermann will cook up for the brand in a couple of months!). But what truly sparked my attention in this Balmain outing was the melancholic, even dystopian mood behind it – and also it’s sustainability aspect. “We all saw climate change this summer. We all saw fires around the world. And coming back with a show in September, thinking about whether our pants are going to be high-waisted or low-waisted – it seems a bit futile to me.” Dressed like a samurai messiah, Rousteing told the press backstage that while he could not claim this collection was 100 per cent sustainable, he’d used fabrics made of paper, of banana, and of wicker (in the couture) to be as much so as possible. He added: “I have friends who tell me they don’t want to have kids, because what will our world be tomorrow? And at the end of the day it’s not about taste. It’s not about aesthetics.” When faced with the hardest proposition – that all fashion is essentially unsustainable for its inherent ephemerality – he convincingly riposted that his ongoing project is to radicalize his supply chain for the better. So props to him.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Crescendo. Dries Van Noten SS23

Dries Van Noten‘s spring-summer 2023 collection was a rather calm return to the womenswear runway. Opening a collection with about 20 all-black looks is quite a surprise move coming from the Belgian designer. Van Noten said he’d been thinking of Malevich’s 1915 painting The Black Square, an infinitely readable and to many terrifying abstract black vacuum. But these looks were no void: by enforcing the rigidly all-black rule we were forced to consider the texture, structure and silhouettes, all highly-designed, that passed us. These started with an oversized jacket in a technical, spongey, meshed material that was fastened with a glass-headed pin to create a furled, succulent gather. Slowly, against this structure, emerged a tentative undergrowth of decorative foliage: a ruffle bag trailing fringe, a floral brocade on a fitted dress with a tendril of ruffled jersey on the right shoulder, a ruffled shoe worn beneath a soft-shouldered jacket with a bomber jacket hem, a fringe-hemmed coat. Then an eruption of fractal, myriad, pleated ruffles encrusted like some dark barnacle on a dress, and at last the first glimpse of color in a strata of indigo paillette on a crop top. Phase two introduced color, mostly pale and washed at first, in rustling paillette pieces, and some extraordinarily embellished cotton jersey T-shirts and skirts. The third phase leading to crescendo came, inevitably by now, with the injection of floral patterns against the previously established color and structure. These patterns were drawn then redrafted from past Van Noten collections and mashed sumptuously against each other. And because of that slow build of all that had preceded it, you could appreciate the composite elements beneath the dazzling pattern. So, to recap, what was that theme again, Dries? “Optimism,” he replied: “Because life can be really beautiful.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Unobvious Sensuality. Acne Studios SS23

This season, Acne Studios celebrated 10 years of showing in Paris. But also, the spring-summer 2023 offering suggested a new direction for the brand. “Sexy” and “sensual” aren’t really keywords that affiliate with Acne Studios. Jonny Johansson decided to explore this new territory for the label – but don’t expect anything too obvious. We’re speaking of “sexiness” done the Acne-Studios-way: oddly-fitting, raw, mysterious. The Palais de Tokyo venue was carpeted a light pink, and here and there shell-covered candelabra stood at attention among a maze of beds covered in matching satin duvets and pillows. There was a wedding-slash-honeymoon vibe about it. The ostensible bride wore white embroidered tulle in the shape of an elongated pillow case, the corners creating drama around the shoulders, but Johansson said that he was less interested in the affianced than in the crowd of nearest and dearest that might assemble to celebrate them: the bad brother, the mother who lets the bad brother get away with everything, the tipsy aunt, etc. “Weddings are kind of kitsch,” he pointed out. Surely, the pink satin bed sheet dress qualified. Ditto for the pastel bows trapped between layers of lace and tulle, and the gingham suits with bra tops worn over the jackets, each cup boasting a blooming rosette. All that sweetness met its opposite in thrashed leather blazers trimmed with metal spikes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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