Focus On: Nicholas Daley

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Nicholas Daley’s keen sense for fashion is matched by his taste in music. After spring-summer 2020’s live jazz performance, he upped the ante for the autumn-winter 2020 line-up with a fashion show that kicked off an entire night of events at Earth, the landmark East London venue. His musician girlfriend Nabihah Iqbal came up with the title of the new collection, “The Abstract Truth,” and shared billing with U.K. dub legend Mala among other artists at the after-party. “I like my shows to be about community, it’s always a friends and family affair,” said Daley speaking backstage between sets. To warm up the crowd for the fashion portion of the evening, he enlisted a trio of young South London musicians – Rago Foot, Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu – to perform a live score. Borrowing from the world of experimental jazz and psychedelic rock, the music gave song to the wide-ranging references in the new collection, including afro-futurism and the black abstract art movement of the 1970s. He was particularly drawn to the work of Frank Bowler whose first major retrospective opened at the Tate this time last year. The Guyanese-born artist’s vibrant “pour paintings” came through most vividly in a show-stopping hooded poncho. Daley has a knack for spinning utility clothing with a sense of specialness. In place of camo, he used a handsome khaki green jacquard patterned with hand-drawn lines to elevate his fishing-style vests and Crombie coats. The designer’s commitment to supporting local craftspeople is ongoing. In addition to working with an English mill on the custom jacquard, he dug into the archives of Scottish tartan maker Loch Carron, unearthing two particularly striking mohair checks, both of which added a rich hand to slouchy button-down jackets and peg-leg pants. Those traditional British tropes were remixed with handfuls of neo-boho accessories – coin-trimmed necklaces and scarves, knitted crossbody bags and berets – and that magpie eclecticism felt fresh and contemporary. With models sporting Jimi Hendrix–inspired coifs, the groovier elements of the collection were nicely amplified. The musicians looked just as cool, dressed in all black and with Daley’s new oversize baker boy hats and genius coin-trimmed sneakers both made in partnership with Adidas.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Focus On: Mowalola

In the light of the extremely sad and disturbing events that have happened in the past few days – and not only – I would like to state that my site, my work and my outlook always stand with the black community. Racism is alive in America, and in the world, and we must be vocal about it (the way you personally choose to). I believe that educating yourself, having conversations (private and public) and spreading actual awareness is much more meaningful than just reposting a slogan on your social media feed (even though doing this little is better than nothing). I also think that in the creative industries – the one I can speak for – reflecting personal beliefs should be more than welcomed. Other than this, donate (click here and here), share links (here, here and here), support! You can even buy the dress Rihanna wore by Asai, and the entire 300 pounds it costs will be donated to three charities – just DM the designer with your order or send him an e-mail. In the domain I’m most active in – fashion – I feel like the situation should be highlighted as well, and more designers and brands should join that dialogue. On my side, I want to introduce you to the most exciting, emerging, independent black designers out there, who are often overlooked during fashion weeks or simply underrated. Their stories and visions shape and inspire today’s industry, we should all acknowledge that!

Starting with Mowalola. The Lagos-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi arrived to London when she was a kid. At first she planned medicine as her life path, but in the end she went to Central Saint Martins. Three years ago, she presented her diploma collection dedicated to contemporary Africa. She made waves – fashion insiders and international magazines were obsessed. Mawolola’s vision was completely one-of-a-kind: through sexy, at points kinky garments she managed to convey the power of erotic tension in the times of social uncertainty. “In my country, I grew up with sexuality being very judged. So I wanted to transform people’s ideas of what sexy is. That it’s okay to show skin”, she told Vogue Runway. To embrace her origins, the designer chose psychodelic rock from Nigeria as her main reference, and her music inspirations lead to creating the new romantic menswear. Mowalola models wore sultry leather jackets, low-waisted super-slim pants and skin-baring crop tops with assymetrical cuts. All that kept in bold colours, reminding her of the Nigerian landscapes and streets. For her spring-summer 2020 collection, presented with Fashion East, Mowalola expanded her unique take on men’s fashion. Her signatures were styled with belts buckled with sacred and profane symbols: a cross, a religious icon, the Stars and Stripes, the words “sexy” and “mother fucker”. “I base it on what I’m going through – I’ve just fallen in love for the first time; I feel as if no one talks about the horrific side, the dangers of love, of losing control of your emotions and feeling like you’re crazy. It’s like how I see a horror movie!” she related. “So this is as if I’m in a black Woodstock Festival, and someone has been murdered.” See selected looks from her collections below, I can’t wait to see what she’s up to in the upcoming seasons. Make sure to follow her on Instagram and take a look at some of the pieces available from her on ssese.com!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki

Men’s – Corto Maltese. Lanvin AW20

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Bruno Sialelli seems to finally find his ground at Lanvin – even though I’m not sure if the customer is ready to come back to the brand’s stores. For the men’s autumn-winter 2020 collection, the designer took creative license from Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese series of comics. Corto Maltese began in the 1960s and it charted the progress of a tough but tender maritime adventurer who encounters some of the early 20th century’s most important figures and is a bit like one of Joseph Conrad’s questing captain protagonists. Sialelli likes seasonal graphics, and he incorporated this character on shirting and outerwear. It looks good, but I don’t see any connection to Lanvin. And we already have a bunch of designers who do eclectic, random style. While most of the garments were quite unamusing, they were helped by accessories (think beanies covered in sequins and necklaces with faux shark teeth). The one area in which this collection was somehow really attractive was the 1990s skate culture influences that included super oversized sneakers and voluminous silhouettes. Taking a look at women’s pre-fall, which was also present in the line-up, I have an impression that designers this season think that if they have Bella and Gigi Hadid as the models, the job is done.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Intuition. Sacai AW20

Chitose Abe doesn’t have a formula for her signature hybrids; it’s mainly intuition, she insisted after her autumn-winter 2020 men’s Sacai show (and women’s pre-fall 2020 presentation). It turns out that the man who invented what is arguably the world’s most famous and universal formula, E=mc², was also a big believer in intuition, so Abe made his words her latest motto (and the line-up’s t-shirt that will sell like hot buns). Saca and Einstein is a genius remix. Backstage, she was wearing a T-shirt that read “common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18” – a quote commonly attributed to him. In her work, Chitose allows an arbitrary inspiration to motivate a shift in layers and volumes or a shakeup in color or pattern; but you don’t get the sense she sets out to radically alter her repertoire. Instead, she experiments, innovates and taps into a topical subject or feeling. This began with women’s looks consisting of suit jackets counterintuitively worn atop military layers that gave way to a fluid skirt and punk-ish platform boots. The men’s outfits included a few Mod-inflected ensembles, sweaters that unzipped up the torso and total looks in pink that corresponded to the romantic spirit of the season. Across both collections, the usual toggling of utility and fluidity played out in animal spots and cosmic-themed bandana sketches by the tattoo artist Dr. Woo. Elsewhere, Abe relied on denim, tweed, tartan, and fleece. A goodie!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Whimsy. Bode AW20

One of New York’s biggest menswear talents, Emily Bode, charmed the Paris audience with her autumn-winter 2020 line-up. The Education Of Benjamin Bloomstein sounds like a title straight out of a Wes Anderson film; and in aesthetic terms the director and Bode’s designer create similarly winsome worlds. Years before Bloomstein and the designer became friends and collaborators (through his design studio, Green River Project LLC), he had an idiosyncratic upbringing that made him an obvious protagonist for the ongoing Bode narrative. Briefly, as related in the collection text, he attended schools in a former Shaker village and on a biodynamic farm; he wrote poetry and immersed himself in agriculture; and perhaps most pertinent, he figured out how to alter his school clothes so that they would feel more comfortable. In adapting Bloomstein’s memories to her exploration of craft methods and sustainable values, Bode delivered a beautiful and whimsy collection. Her sentimental nods to the past included a quilted jacket and matching mittens that signaled outerwear from pre-duvet times; outfits covered in deadstock souvenir and achievement patches; shirts embroidered with farm animals and vintage athletic jerseys; delicate seed bead ornaments and necklaces strung with hand-blown marbles. Four years into her brand, Emily navigates the trap of historical costume by shaking up how she presents her repurposed and reproduced textiles and trims (be it the equine blankets that were the basis for the opening tailored look or the golden Appenzeller Gurt charms adorning various looks as well as the label’s new line of slip-ons). Big love.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Play. Loewe AW20

At Loewe, things took a fun twist. That gesture of holding something in front of the mirror to see how it looks – we all know it. You could just see it the boys wearing draped lamé dresses fixed to the front of their tailored outfits on the autumn-winter 2020 runway. “I was thinking of ’50s couture—and a child, trying something on. What do you look like in the mirror?”, Jonathan Anderson explained. The two themes which have been running through this menswear season were bound together in one collection: carefree boyhood and the unprecedented presence of ideas about haute couture in menswear. “A fantasy wardrobe,” Anderson called it. “Playful. Optimistic. Pretty boys.” The dresses were a kind of signifying accessory, attached, apron-like, with leather straps. They said a lot about the way Anderson has always worked in the studio, experimenting with garments in free-association. The designer also put guys in coats which had “couture structures, on a woman’s block.” There was a white fit-and-flare shearling, a high-waisted princess-line coat. The zebra-print double-breasted caped silhouette, Anderson imagined, could easily become a superhero look. The childlike-couture perspective (also big at Francesco Risso’s Marni) led him to blow up existing Loewe mini-leather goods’ elephant shapes to become oversized tote-toys, to sprinkle crystal bling on sweaters, dangle diamanté jewelry on black patent boots, to weave a coat-dress from floral-print scarves. Anderson pointed out his own favorite—a shirt appliquéd with a pair of geese. Random and eclectic, don’t care. The point is that everyone, gender-regardless is welcome to pick and choose from what Anderson designs and delivers at Loewe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Classics. Lemaire AW20

When in doubt, turn to classic. Specifically, Lemaire’s classic. For their men’s autumn-winter 2020 and women’s pre-fall 2020, Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran offer a sober take on masculine wardrobe. A coat with wide shoulders, relaxed wool cardigans you might wear on a bare body, over-sized, thick cotton shirts, black leather pants with a loose fit (they also come in  denim). The workwear-inspired jumpsuit, belted at the waist, is probably one of the best pieces I’ve seen this entire season. The entire collection is kept in warm, earthy colour palette that always works. Just perfect.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Organic Forms. GmbH AW20

We wanted to go back much further than just our heritage for our inspiration: to the birth of the universe, basically, when all matter was created.” GmbH’s Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby don’t pick one-dimensional inspirations, that’s for sure. They called their autumn-winter 2020 collection Ylem, after a term for the primordial sludge of the universe pre-Big Bang. What they did in the first half of this collection was present coat and pant shapes that had been very laboriously cut not to follow any precedent, the proportions of the human body apart. The shapes they came up with first in seam and drape and then with an interplay of mixed materials were interesting – a warped arm shape was impressive and apparently took three months to achieve. The jewellery, made in collaboration with Panconesi from different mineral stones, were a matching accessory to those organic silhouettes. In the second half of the show, the line-up expanded into colored patches and versions of the mixed link chain print (reminding DNA spirals) that had been monochrome in the first. Silk zodiac prints well addeed up to the scientific-slash-magic mood.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Classico. Junya Watanabe AW20

Junya Watanabe had one word to sum up his show in praise of Italian men: classico. A group of immaculately grizzled dudes, in different ages, not necessarily models, had nonchalantly strolled his runway, most in trilbies and flat caps. Some of them shook hands, back slapped, even talked to each other. Tweeds were implanted with racing car jackets, gold chains flashed at their necks, paisley scarves were tucked into unbuttoned shirts: Watanabe’s eye-catching guys were off for an aperol meet-up or some very Italian business talk. Anyone who spends time in Italy recognizes these sorts of guys. They are in Milan, Parma, Portofino, Torino, Florence, in every Italian town, possessed of an enviable, effortless style. Italian racing cars were also an inspiration for Junya. Retro-revered typefaces were patch-worked into fragments of padded souvenir jackets on tailoring and they came from Pirelli, Brembo, Abarth and many other companies. Practical, affectionate, good-natured, real – the Watanabe men are exactly that.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.