Jeanne in Shanghai. Lanvin SS21

Is Lanvin‘s choice of showing it’s spring-summer 2021 collection in Shanghai a surprise? Not really. It’s financially and commercially a wise thing to do. Lanvin is owned by Fosun International, the Chinese conglomerate with such eclectic subsidiaries as the Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cirque du Soleil. Also, as far as fashion is concerned, there’s beautiful irony to the fact that China was the first country to return to a sense of normalcy after the coronavirus outbreak. Pre-pandemic, China was the new shopping center of the world. Post-pandemic, staging your fashion show there is pretty much a win-win scenario. “We can do a proper event there with hundreds of people,” Bruno Sialelli, Lanvin’s creative director, said during a preview in Paris, two weeks before he shipped his pre-styled Lanvin show to Shanghai and live-streamed it from the historic Yu Garden. “And to be very pragmatic, this is the market that is going to drive growth in luxury in general. It’s good for us to federate our community there.” What about the collection? The designer seems to be leaving behind his Loewe style and induldges in Jeanne Lanvin’s rich, Art Deco heritage. The opening looks were sublime: from those golden trinkets to the reimagined Jean Dunand motifs that graced garments and accessories, and the Armand-Albert Rateau pieces and Georges Lepape illustrations that inspired them. The show started with Sialelli’s interpretations of Lanvin’s robe de style, the dainty drop-waist silhouette she loosely revived from the 19th century. The first – black with a crystal bow across the hip – was virtually a replica of its 1920s embodiment. Somehow, it looks relevant in 2020. “Lanvin was at its strongest in between the World Wars. It became a huge company with hundreds of employees, ateliers, cosmetics, and everything. It’s interesting to observe the pendants between the 1920s and the 2020s,” Sialelli reflected. “Art Deco’s three words were order, geometry, and color. I think it expresses something that’s interesting to re-contextualize today.” Discussing his silhouettes, he mentioned “a certain rigidity,” explaining, “from the beginning, I’ve thought about characters like Maggie Cheung or Anna May Wong, who have this put-together attitude; very neat. I want to translate that character.” The collection has its ups and downs (the daywear felt whatever…), but finally, the new Lanvin takes shape.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

For Her, For Him, For Us. Maryam Nassir Zadeh SS21

And just like that, it’s mid-autumn, and we all dream of (a care-free, mask-less, never-ending) summer. Maryam Nassir Zadeh made that desire even more burning with her spring-summer 2021 look-book, which she shot in Turkey this September (skipping New York Fashion Week altogether). But this season is different for one more reason: there’s Nassir Zadeh’s debut menswear, which is as good as her womenswear. Which basically translates to ultimate heaven. In general, the designer has been feeling a more relaxed, unprecious look these days, usually involving a men’s button-down, silver jewelry and her dad’s vintage leather jacket. It’s an easy, just-odd-enough mix that feels right for the moment. Surely there are guys (me!!!!!) who want that, too – vintage-tinged treasures and refined basics, without logos or sky-rocket price tags. She explained that she’s long been inspired by the men in her life – her father, boyfriends, husband, and longtime stylist Thistle Brown, whom she worked with this season – and dreamed of making men’s clothes for years. The uncertainty of the pandemic made her stop waiting for the “right” moment. The debut line is fundamentally MNZ – the tweaked proportions, soft fabrics, and touches of sensuality – but without the occasional metallic flash or neon blazer of her women’s line. It’s quiet, almost delicate menswear, the kind you’d like to swipe from your boyfriend’s closet and keep forever. That was intentional, of course: Zadeh designed it with guys in mind, but also her close female friends. What kind of shirt or pant or jean could live in both closets?A few pieces were shown on both her female and male models to drive the message home: she wore the hip-slung pleated khakis with a baby tee and shell bra; he wore them with a beige button-down and sandals. Both wore the V-neck sweater vests with nothing underneath: her with a mini skirt, him with over-sized pants. And those enveloping leather jackets were tossed over jeans and lace dresses alike. Buttery-soft, free of hardware, and perfectly anonymous, they might be the ultimate investment piece of 2021. The best part: You can split the cost with your partner.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Joy! Christopher John Rogers SS21

It’s good to finally see some delightful, statement dresses this season – thanks to Christopher John Rogers and his spring-summer 2021, which is as joyous and vibrant as Róisín Murphy new album, Róisín Machine (personal association I had in my mind the moment I saw the looks). The pause provided by 2020’s COVID-19 stay-in-place orders led many designers to rethink how they’ve been doing business, but for Christopher John Rogers, all the hours spent indoors allowed him a moment to appreciate what’s been working. Since launching his brand in 2016, Rogers and his team have been working nonstop, moving quickly from inspiration to execution. The breakneck pace did little to impede their success – he’s fresh off a 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund win – but Rogers appreciated the chance to reflect. “In the past, there wasn’t time to think about why we’re doing the things we’re doing,” he told Vogue. “Part of the reason why the collections have been so well-received is that they’ve been quite visceral in terms of the way they were conceived. [Our team] has been like, ‘This feels exciting, we enjoy this’ instead of investigating why. This time it has been nice to parse through the reasons I’m attracted to certain things and how that can serve where we want to take the brand.” After the bombast of his autumn-winter collection, Rogers stripped things down, designing not just for the A-list celebrities who’ve been drawn into his sphere, but the everyday people looking for a luxury mood booster. Colour and embellishment were used to elevate closet staples into something that feels fantastical. A button-down shirt was upgraded with rainbow crystals, while white suiting received vibrant topstitching on cuffs and lapels. Away from the studio and unable to do some of the draping he’s become known for, Rogers took things old school and pulled out the Crayolas. “I was away for four months and couldn’t do anything physical with my hands, so I just bought crayons and color pencils and started scribbling like I was a kid,” says Rogers, who has a background in fine arts. “I wasn’t trying to create anything specific; I just wanted to have fun and express myself. It’s about getting back to the way children see the world through very simple shapes. They put energy on the page when they draw, so this was about simplifying and translating that energy into the clothes.” Tapping into the vitality of naive art doesn’t mean making clothes that feel juvenile. Rogers struck a balance between the more whimsical elements of the collection and the glitz that has put him on the speed dial of Hollywood’s top stylists. Having mastered voluminous ball gowns, he gave slinkier fare a try with a sequin catsuit for body-conscious clients. The silks and satins were replaced with easier to wear cotton and taffeta fabrics, but the aesthetic shifts were slight. “It’s nice to know that all these different types of people with differing interests, body types, and personalities can find themselves within this aesthetic,” explains Rogers. “Ultimately, that’s the point.” This might be the official end of fashion month, but some brands which have skipped the schedule will pop up sooner or later – staying in tune!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Elevated Softness. Jil Sander SS21

Minimalism is integral to the Jil Sander brand, and Lucie and Luke Meier make it feminine, contemporary and distinct. And embracing a consistent, visually-recognisable signature is something that’s key to many brands this season. The designers have been back in the Jil Sander studio since May. They’re thoughtful about the lockdown and the changed new world that they returned to, but resolved. “We’re going about life in a normal way, just wearing masks,” Lucie said on a Zoom call. Their new collection for the brand, where they recently rounded their three-year mark, responds to some of the shifts we’re all living through, with more time at home and fewer social engagements to buy for. Luke said they emphasized daywear, for instance. To be sure, there are no stay-at-home sweatsuits in the Meiers’ new lineup. Instead, Lucie said, they “softened” their tailored silhouette and added sheer organza to the mix for a more “intimate” sensibility. In a video they filmed for the season, models clutched pillowy, unstructured bags designed to feel “comforting to carry.” The collection is enlivened by zingy shots of gold and yellow amid its neutrals: flat metallic leather boots that extend above the knee, a sunny dress that follows the line of the torso but flares gently below the hips. Clothes with a human touch are Meiers’ signature. That came across this season in the hand-crocheted overlays worn on top of slip dresses and in the way a shawl was tied voluptuously over the shoulders of a sleeveless tee. A pair of hourglass-y color-block sheaths were a surprise, a glimpse of a more carnal side that felt especially new in the context of Jil Sander.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Beautiful Drama. Maison Margiela SS21

I’ve always been kind of on fence with John Galliano‘s Maison Margiela. But this season, I’m completely moved by it. Spring-summer 2021 is 100% pure Galliano, the one we love and adore, conveyed through a delightful visual experience. Yes, maybe it has pretty much nothing to do with the well-known image of Margiela (even though the “inside” approach is very Martin), but it’s truly a rare sight to see a brand giving its designer so much creative freedom. When Galliano teased the word magical in a conversation ahead of the reveal of the collection’s film (by the way, if there’s one film of SS21 you’ve got to see, then it’s this one!), he wasn’t overpromising. Epic, explanatory, intimate, and dripping with suspense, it cuts between design sessions and rehearsals in the Maison Margiela studio and the acting out of a gothic South American wedding tragedy, danced out to the strains of the tango. Demonstrating the nitty-gritty of making clothes while showing what they actually are and at the same time conjuring imagined scenes from a designer’s mind is a huge achievement. All the terms that John Galliano has been speaking about passionately for years – “creative process,” “teams,” “themes,” “inspirations,” “techniques” – are suddenly made visible and explicable, brought to life in this fashion-docu-fantasia of a film by Nick Knight. The glee and the seriousness he puts into his work are palpable throughout – as is the effect of the eye-opening participation of the Maison Margiela models on his creative process. Galliano vividly describes the memory of seeing the tango being danced in a dilapidated Buenos Aires warehouse. Then he hires a tango teacher, and the performances of the models, the way they move, actively start to shape the clothes. One thing leads to another, and soon it’s turned into a full-ensemble wedding scenario, with bride and groom and guests dancing toward a doomed, underwater destiny. The fevered action runs with a mysterious spoken script, written by Kier-La Janisse. But we also see Galliano methodically dissecting the gauze wedding dresses, the 1940s suits, the tailored coats and bias-cut silk skirts. We see how each section fits into the numbered Maison Margiela lines. Understand, in detail, how the Recicla upcycled pieces are made into composite garments, and how each of these one-offs are “stringently tested,” ensuring that the materials meet safety standards for sale. Watch the expert skill Galliano applies to cutting away jacket shoulders and inserting tango-shirt frills into slits in classic coats. Interspersed is footage of the manufacturing processes: the screen-printing of the wet-look patches on suits; how traditionally loomed Venetian brocades are made into the dancers’ mary jane shoes; the combination of laser-cut leather and hand-finishing behind the making of bags. None of this could ever have been laid out in a runway show. It makes for a multilayered piece, capturing the drama and the depth of the collaborative work at Maison Margiela, for millions of online viewings and endless commentary and analysis. And the best thing? It’s not an event which is over and done with in the standard 20 minutes it takes for models to file out from behind a white screen, and back again. “Yes,” Galliano  mused, “You can put your feet up, have a cup of tea, and watch it anytime.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.