Men’s – Forever Timeless. Bode AW21

Autumn-winter 2021 marks the first collection Bode has shown since lockdown, though it’s technically spring (arriving in stores this month) and autumn rolled together. For the occasion, Emily Bode invited New York-based editors into what appeared to be a teenage boy’s 1960s bedroom, preserved in all its clutter. Newspapers and LIFE magazines were scattered on the tables; a vintage Monopoly set was splayed on the floor; desks were pinned with comic strips and old photos; and, of course, there were clothes everywhere: spilling out of a hamper, piled on the floor, dangling from coat hooks, draped over the bed. Each item was painstakingly arranged by Bode and her team, but it was a convincing replica of her uncle Bill’s college dorm room at the University of Vermont (or at least Bode’s impression of it, based on his recollection). In 1969, he tricked his parents into thinking he was back at school when in fact he was taking a year off to explore the East Coast, race cars, and play games. Bode explained it was also the last year before Bill’s wife, Mahri, came into the picture; they met in 1970, married, and were together up until 2019, when Mahri passed away. Suddenly, 2020 was Bill’s first “year off” from the life he knew, and he found himself reminiscing about 1969 again. Bode related his story of love, loss, and reflection to our own “year off” during the pandemic. Sifting through the piles, you could find all the familiar Bode-isms: silk button-downs with prints lifted from vintage postcards and handkerchiefs; embroidered camp shirts that are the expert work of Indian artisans; patchworked merino suits, an evolution of her quilted jackets; and her most refined knits yet, from a space-dyed pullover to a stunning hand-crocheted cardigan. A few pieces nodded to Bill and Mahri, like a souvenir jacket with a pug embroidered on the back, while others seemed happily arbitrary: an intarsia’d camel sweater, a pair of shorts chain-stitched with line drawings and funny phrases, a sweater crocheted with 3-D grapes. A small group of tailored pieces trimmed with rows of real pearl buttons spoke to Bode’s particular passion for preserving crafts and techniques. She bought them in bulk from a closed-down button factory in the Midwest, and pointed out how each was individually hand-carved, hand-sanded, and one-of-a-kind. They may have been thrown away or relegated to some dusty warehouse if Bode hadn’t purchased them; the same could be said of the quilts, table cloths, and scraps of fabric piling up in her Brooklyn studio.

If it’s tempting to lump Bode in with other “sustainable” or “upcycled” brands, it’s actually more of a coincidence that some of her materials – not all – were already made. Bode cares about sustaining traditions and stories, not just reducing her carbon footprint, and she understands her role as an employer. She couldn’t have scaled her business to its current size if she hadn’t found a pragmatic, sustainable way to mass-produce certain garments with new materials, like her camp shirts and chore jackets, nor would she have been able to hire her teams of craftspeople in India, Peru, and New York (many designers canceled their orders in Garment District factories during the pandemic, but Bode made it a point to support them.) Bode’s brand-new tailoring shop, located next to her flagship in the formerly-turquoise Classic Coffee Shop, is a more apt reflection of her sustainability ethos. Her tailors will alter your brand-new Bode suit or mend an old quilted jacket. Even if you just picked up your first Bode shirt next door, there’s a comfort in knowing you don’t have to be precious about wearing it; when the time comes, someone will be there to fix it up. On the long list of things that separate Bode from her peers (and her many imitators) is that she absolutely intends for her clothes to be worn – and would rather fix the hole in your shirt than sell you a new one.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Familial Affection. Jil Sander AW21

Lucie and Luke Meiers‘ soft minimalism also applies to their menswear collections at Jil Sander. This time, however, the designers seem to be a bit more serious than usual. Between their enveloping wool coats, elongated tailoring, roomy knitwear, fluid overshirts and comforting knitted collars, a more abstract interpretation of our wardrobe mindset than mere ‘comfort-wear’ took shape. Clinical wellies in dusty tonal colors evoked those worn with quarantine suits in science fiction and leather sashes easily conjured visions of spaceship uniforms. Most expressive of the feeling were woven metal necklaces and breastplates, and primitive pendants that spelled out “Mother.” References aside, the pieces spelled out the emotions of solitude and loss of familial contact the designers perceived over the time. “The letter forms are very simple. It’s the feeling he could have just found the metal and made it himself. But it’s very close on his body,” Lucie said. Sewn onto coats and knitwear were panels of frayed canvas printed with photographic portraits of flamboyant young female art students at the Bauhaus shot by Florence Henri in the 1920s. Worn by the un-eccentric young men that made up the cast, the effect wasn’t camp but very human; the male idea, perhaps, of missing a formidable female family member or friend. “It’s a show of familial affection,” Luke noted. The Meiers’ earnest design practice can feel stark or cold, but between its muted colors and themes of loneliness and longing there was an expressed emotional core to this collection that gave it warmth. “There’s a certain personal approach here. I try most of the things on, and I wear most of the pieces,” Luke said.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Eclectic, Curated, Sustainable. Loewe AW21

Jonathan Anderson‘s Loewe universe is a wonderland of eclectic, curated – and sustainable! – things. And the autumn-winter 2021 collection for men is like a treasure chest of details, curiosities, textures, crafts prints and colours. But to organize what we’ve got: this Loewe lookbook actually feautures two collections, and the one at the bottom is produce from the company’s Eye/Loewe/Nature sustainable-practice department. This time, the communication came as a show-in-a-book, wrapped up in a coffee-table sized monograph on the queer New York artist Joe Brainard, and as a show-on-a-shirt – a huge T-shirt printed with all the sustainable-practice pictures. Why Brainard? “I remember zines he’d done in the ’70s. We remade a book on him which we’ll be selling in bookshops, and the proceeds will go to the charity we work with all the time, Visual Aids, to help artists who have suffered from AIDS,” says Jonathan Anderson. “I felt like Brainard is so important. He was part of a huge movement, with his writing and his pansy collages – his work is now at MOMA and the Pompidou. I like his writing, it has huge optimism, questions sexuality and things like that. But he’s one of those underground figures.” Anderson talks through the collection in an open-access video on the Loewe website, where it’s easy to see the assembly of charming pansy patterns made into big cardigans, or vast rectangular trousers, or inset as leather marquetry on Loewe Puzzle bags. You also get to understand how the panels of a patchwork shearling are pieced together from reproductions of Brainard’s canvases. And how a tote bag is decorated with the artist’s painting of a whippet on a green background. It’s all adorable and completely wantable. And the extra kick to the feel-good sensation of buying it is that your money is also going to do some good in the world. “I think the whole thing now is about clothing and something else,” says Anderson. “I think the customer wants more than just the clothing now. They want to make sure you have a unique viewpoint and, at the same time, a moral viewpoint.” A joyful vision and a bit of a mad-creative take on fashion are also rare luxuries to enjoy vicariously these days, what Anderson calls “being imaginative with clothing.” His current work on extreme trouser shapes delivers all that. Besides the multi-strapped leather and grommeted punk trousers, the pieces that might read as maxi-skirts actually turn out to be pants too. “I did a lot of wide, wide, super-wide trousers. Kind of performance trousers – this idea of being in your bedroom and dancing on your own.” Which we know is an actual social phenomenon in these days of lockdown.

Amongst the collection is also a huge, cosy multi-patterned Shetland-cum-Norwegian type sweater, knitted together from upcycled yarns. It links directly into the work on sustainable research that’s been going on for four years with the Eye/Loewe/Nature collection. It’s much more than an isolated side-project, Anderson explains. “We set it up as an incubator inside Loewe to try to work out a long-term solution to sustainability. It’s where the entire design process is monitored from start to finish. Every year we try to chip away at something – buttons, zips, hardware, plastic clips – so that what was a problem becomes less of a problem. Because it then means that your supply chain can deal with it, manufacturing know how to deal with it, and the design team knows how to design within that framework,” he says. “And from those learnings, working with suppliers, we can disseminate elements into the bigger workings of Loewe.” In practical terms, it’s meant “buying a huge bulk of used knit sweaters, or denim, and working them into garments. The great thing is that the whole company is involved. What I like about the industrial side is the idea of talking to suppliers like YKK about a problem – and actually making it not a problem. The trouble is when you’re impatient, like me, you want to be completely sustainable tomorrow – but you have to realize it takes time. It means turning an industrial revolution into a new eco revolution. Ultimately, the big picture is, we all have to do it,” he says. “It’ll probably be an ongoing thing throughout my entire career.” If luxury goods companies ever worried that customers would baulk at buying products made of upcycled or non-traditional materials, then the testing ground of the Eye/Loewe/ Nature collection is beginning to prove them wrong. “This is the third collection now,” says Anderson. “And, you know, it’s becoming very, very popular.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Outsider Intellectual. Wales Bonner AW21

Grace Wales Bonner is one of the most convincing (and educational!) story-tellers in today’s fashion industry. Her latest collection showcased the final chapter in a trilogy, begun last January, which explores the cultural and sartorial threads that interlink Britain and the Caribbean. “This subject is the starting point for why I’m interested in creating,” said the designer, who is British born but of Jamaican heritage. “During this time I feel like I’ve really been grounding myself in this framework, and refining myself within it. These collections are about consolidating and reinforcing what is timeless to me; representing the breadth of what Wales Bonner is, and can be.” Thus far in the series the designer has looked to the second-generation Jamaicans who established London’s 1970s Lovers Rock scene to inform her designs, and then the dress of Jamaica’s dancehall and reggae stars. Here she started by exploring the wardrobes of Britain’s Black scholars in the 1980s: those who traveled from across the world to study at the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. There was a reimagining of their academic attire – of tweed blazers and knitted scarves, well-worn chinos and striped jumpers – but within that historicism, “I was thinking about how in certain spaces people create a language for themselves,” reflected the designer. “About how you might disrupt an institution from inside.” It’s a subject that has long fascinated Wales Bonner, whose brand was established with the intention of disrupting the luxury perspective, redirecting it from its often singular focus on Eurocentricity. So poets like the Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite and the Saint Lucian Derek Walcott appeared as more than just aesthetic character studies; rather, they were catalysts for considering a post-colonial movement that explored “what it is to be in another place, or from another place.” The resonant words of Braithwaite, who left Bridgetown to study at the University of Cambridge, were spoken over the immersive film directed by Jeano Edwards which accompanied the collection: “You had not come to England / You were home.” In terms of clothing, Wales Bonner imagined what she termed the wardrobe of the “outsider intellectual,” considering the structure of British traditions and wondering “within that framework, how do you create something new?” She found her answer by imbuing her distinct take on sartorial eclecticism with a gently liberated, multicultural sensibility. The designer worked with Savile Row tailors at Anderson & Sheppard on tuxedo suiting inflected with Afro-Atlantic flair and elsewhere she softened Oxford shirting, printing cotton cashmere with Jamaican “flowers of resistance” from the photograms of artist Joy Gregory. Boating striped overshirts simultaneously channeled Oxbridge classicism and West African dashikis; brushed denim was cut into crisp suits. A sense of ease was injected into even the most traditional tailoring. Woodblock prints and Indian embroidery drew on the diasporic nature of her research, and a deliberate diversity was instilled throughout. “What I was trying to connect with is a sense of expansiveness and possibility,” said Wales Bonner. “For example, in Derek Walcott’s The Gulf, he has a poem about different Indian gods. You think you’re looking at Caribbean thought, but then there are all these other influences. Once you start researching anything, you realize that nothing is simple. Nothing is one thing. So I didn’t want to make anything too neat.” That expansive notion was echoed, too, in the latest iteration of Wales Bonner’s Adidas collaboration – a partnership that has recently taken fashion by storm. “I was trying to imagine a fictional university that is a lot more multicultural,” she said of its new evolution. “Maybe what their team kits for a track program might look like.” Referring to “the origins of sportswear – when it was made in a beautiful, crafty way which feels almost tailored,” Wales Bonner leaned into Adidas’ technical resources to revive specific fabrications like ’60s jerseys and lived-in wools “to make things feel authentic,” she said. A T-shirt printed with the emblem for “Wales Bonner Adidas Originals Literary Academy” offered a tongue-in-cheek nod to the extensive footnotes which typically accompany each of the designer’s collections. But what has been proven by the sell-out success of her tracksuits and trainers is that, even without related reading, there is something uniquely compelling about Wales Bonner’s designs: the heavy-duty weight of her research injects something intangibly compelling into her clothes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Peter Doig. Dior AW21

While everybody is obsessed with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior… I’m still on fence with it. In overall, I love how he implements couture traditions of the maison and, at least, makes his part amusing, comparing to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s womenswear. But his autumn-winter 2021 collection just feels regular. Maybe it’s the side-effect of working on the Fendi debut? Again, Jones invited an artist to collaborate. This time, it’s the Scottish-born painter Peter Doig, whose roving background – an upbringing in Trinidad, study in London in the 1980s, success in the ’90s, a move to Canada – is exactly the stuff that brings out the fanboy in Jones: “Peter was at Central Saint Martins with Stephen Jones, and knew all the people I’m obsessed by – Leigh Bowery, Trojan, the London club kids at that time. Stephen introduced us. He really became part of the studio for the collection, and started making things, painting hats, and designing the set, which is based on the speaker stacks he’s collected.” Stephen Jones, Dior’s resident milliner confirms: “Yes, Peter was always hanging out with us fashion-y types at school. Then all of a sudden, unlike us, he went off and became a major international artist.” The line-up is full of Doig references: yellow anoraks, orange coats, and lions; paint-dabby patterns on sweaters – that’s all material replicated from Doig’s oeuvre. “His work is autobiographical. We looked at his paintings of men, of skiers, ice hockey players, and the night sky,” said Jones. “I think he was fascinated by how closely we could replicate his brushwork in textiles and knitwear.” The cheerful shots of citrus color – translated into some of Jones’s subtle merges of casual and luxurious street-wearable outerwear – are the making of the collection. Other than that (fashion-meets-art dialogues are always compelling), I wasn’t really convinced by the whole picture.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.