Elegance. Thom Browne Pre-Fall 2020

Thom Browne‘s pre-fall 2020 is at his gender-blurring best. “I love the sensibility of it being so beautifully masculine; but on a girl, I think there’s something beautifully feminine about it too,” he said of an ultra-high waist held up by suspenders, pleats so sharp they draw shadows, and shoulders shaped with the gentlest slope. The black tuxedo, which closed the look-book, is most seductive look of the entire collection. But for those who aren’t always impeccably elegant suit & tie fans, Browne also shows his “fun” side: take the skirt and jacket incrusted with a giraffe worn with a matching coat for an example. Style the look with argyle socks and quirky shoes, and here you’ve got the edgy-snobby, polished-kind-of-look you can only get from Thom Browne.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Fluidity. Jil Sander Pre-Fall 2020

Lucie and Luke Meier‘s vision for Jil Sander is all about soft, tactile minimalism (which occasionally lets some eclecticism in). For pre-fall 2020, the duo once again showed their appreciation for craft. A skirt suit was padded and stitched with an abstract floral motif, while an ensemble in soft pink satin had a luscious, almost liquid finish. Fluidity of the silhouette is a big topic for the Meiers – they continue to master it, creating refined, feminine, yet magically comfortable forms. Please do note the feminine lines of the décolletages, borrowed from corsetry and delicately lined with inconspicuous embroideries (see the high-waisted ruched slipdress). Art references are also crucial in their vision for Jil Sander. Recently, the designers have been fascinated by the Viennese Secession movement, extensively researching the work of Wiener Werkstätte’s artists like Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and the textile designer Maria Lucia Stadlmayer. Their aesthetics, which flourished at the juncture of Art Nouveau’s sensuality and Japonisme’s sophisticated restraint, clearly appealed to the Meiers. For pre-fall, Stadlmayer’s graphic patterns were reproduced in their original proportions and colors on sheer organza layers, juxtaposed over sharp-cut silk twill or silk jersey shirts, skirts, and tunics, inducing a slightly kinetic, blurred chromatic effect. “We used the motifs on their authentic scale, because you have permission from the archives in Vienna to reproduce them only in the exact proportions and colors she intended to use,” they said. “We really cared about keeping the integrity of the design; we didn’t want to appropriate them in the wrong way.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Between Morocco and California. Saint Laurent Resort 2020

The theme behind Anthony Vaccarello‘s resort 2020 line-up for Saint Laurent is parallel to his spring-summer menswear show staged on one of Malibu’s beaches. For both, Vaccarello had been thinking about how Morocco’s glittering hippie/boho enclaves of the late ’60s and early ’70s (distinctly Yves) are mirrored by the today’s free-spirited California. So, a black velvet smoking jacket, worn with a long black leather skirt with a fastening running down its front; a gold sequin lace camisole with white jeans; a pleated lurex skirt styled with boots, a barely-there tank-top and a big, heavy pendant… in terms of fashion, there’s nothing innovative (or even fresh) in Vaccarello’s “day-to-day” vision of a wardrobe. It nods to Yves’ eternal chic, yes, feels very California, yes, but in the end it still  looks like Hedi Slimane’s work for the house from the (not so distant) past. Really, how do clients choose between a denim, maxi-lenght skirt from Slimane’s Celine offering, and a nearly identical one with a Saint Laurent tag?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Never Nostalgic. Azzedine Alaïa SS20

We try always try to have something that relates to our history, without being dated or nostalgic – Mr. Alaïa was never nostalgic,” said Caroline Fabre Bazin, Azzedine’s longtime right arm, during the spring-summer 2020 presentation for the maison. The look-book is a classic homage to the couturier’s outstanding oeuvre. One of the designer’s most iconic pieces, the perfecto, appeared in the collection few times, being the season’s key item. “He would always say ‘yes, okay’ and then he’d change everything, because he hated repeating himself,” said Fabre Bazin. “Practically from the beginning, he made them every season: short, long, with zip, without, in python, leather, denim; every time it was different.” This season, an early, pre-2000 biker jacket returns in Japanese denim or in python. Other throwbacks: a polka dot faille trench or a denim peacoat from summer 1992 (a nod to the Tati exhibition currently on show at the Association Azzedine Alaïa). The bow theme may nod to a collection from 2010, signature studs may return via 3D printing, a technical silk organza may be embroidered with an archival motif and then used on a different silhouette, or a print from 1991 may find fresh relevance on different materials – the studio working under the name of the master reinvents, revisits, reworks. Ultimately, “then” fuses with “now”. The Alaïa atelier has all it needs to keep shining for years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Valentino’s Night-Dreaming in Beijing

As I mentioned right here not a long time ago, Pierpaolo Piccioli is a gift to fashion. On the eve of the designer’s Valentino haute couture show in Beijing’s storied Summer Palace, Piccioli was walking through the improvised couture atelier where most of the house’s tailors and seamstresses have been transplanted from the brand’s Palazzo Mignanelli HQ at the foot of Rome’s Spanish Steps – pointing out the many wonders created by these “alchemists”. The 45 masterworks designed by Piccioli and executed under the direction of Valentino’s brilliant premieres, or heads of the ateliers (Alessandra, Antonietta, Elide and Irene) and their respective teams have been designed especially for this moment and with an eye to the bevy of glamorous, free-spending clients from the region. Piccioli, however, averred that it is “a real Italian haute couture collection—not anything to do with China. It’s important to keep your identity,” he added, “especially when you bring your culture to another world and use it to evaluate the diversities.” But alongside those diversities, Piccioli found dynamic synergies, too. His moodboard was filled with images of the masters of the early Italian Renaissance that he loves – think Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico – alongside photographs taken of the Summer Palace itself, and of portraits of the emperors and empresses who once ruled here, revealing unexpected aesthetic dialogues, “two moments of grandness of old cultures,” as Piccioli explained, “of history and heritage.” Some of the grand ball gowns, sheath dresses, and wide-leg pant ensembles were worked with elaborate intarsia and appliqué techniques to suggest the swirling brocades in a Bronzino portrait. Others took the leitmotifs of Valentino’s ultra-romantic work from the 1970s and 1980s: point d’esprit ruffles, overscale rose prints, and a passion for bows, as well as classic haute couture fabrics including gazar, cigaline, silk velvet, and duchess satins and failles. Here, they were amplified into the extravagant volumes and dimensions that characterize Piccioli’s haute couture collections. Now, let’s talk couture numbers. A dress entirely covered in hundreds of shaded pink bows of various sizes required 350 meters of fabric, for instance; a voluminous ball gown composed of ruffles of cherry red point d’esprit – 600 meters of tulle in total! – took 1,300 hours to complete; and a silvery dress and balaclava were entirely embroidered in more than 32,000 silvery sequins (for the show, beauty maestro Pat McGrath silvered the model’s face to match, creating an out-of-this-world effect). Meanwhile, an intarsia opera coat composed of swirling sections of Oz green sequins, ivory wool, and soft pink crepes (eight different types of fabric in all) worn over wide pants and a turtleneck top in a smaller-scale version of the pattern took a cool six and a half months to complete. Delightful.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.