Daniel Lee‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection for Bottega Veneta, which went public just yesterday, makes me wonder if the designer’s vision for the brand starts to get over-worked and somehow distorted. The collection was presented months ago at Berlin’s Berghain to a handful of house-friends, and as the label ambitiously went Instagram-less, the mist of mystery should have done its magic. But nothing works here, and I feel like nobody paid attention to yesterday’s release. Is the flop-era of “new Bottega” on the horizon? Looking at the hectic garments, Daniel Lee’s latest line-up is ripe with diversions which rather create a sense of inconsistency. The fringed shearling coats that are this collection’s showpieces look odd, but not good-odd, rather cumbersome-odd. Reportedly, the line-up emphasizes couture-level craftsmanship. The brand’s press notes revealed that the glass dresses here take between 135 and 250 hours to complete; a black and white zebra stripe coat, meanwhile, features 4.3 million stitches on an embroidery machine; and each of these colourful outfits have over 4,000 feathers, all hand-embroidered. It sounds spectacular, but in reality it just gets lost in all the noise (or maybe the foggy look-book shots are unfortunate…). The merging of the “fabulous” and the “functional” might be one of the smartest and most satisfying pandemic after-effects on fashion, but this season Lee gets it wrong.
“This collection is really about individuality, about the uniqueness of the person – we really cared about the human [aspect],” said Luke Meier on a Zoom call with Vogue. What we experienced in quarantine, he explained, was “the feeling of longing for special people in our lives, the interesting characters we missed, the importance of interaction.” The dialogue between fashion and art, “how they fit together,” as Meier said, isn’t just an important conceptual component in his and his wife Lucie’s fashion practice; it’s also one of the central topics of their course at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where they head the fashion department. “For us it’s always about how good design can enhance the individual life of a person and the beauty that surrounds that person. It shouldn’t be just about making an object that’s beautiful,” said Luke. “In everything artistic there should be something functional, and it has to be at the service of the person,” chimed Lucie. Given this line of thought, “the ideas and philosophy behind the Bauhaus movement became relevant references for us,” she said. Resort was about harmonizing artistic gestures of decoration with the clarity of design and purpose they’ve brought to Jil Sander. Each piece was given an individual character, in a sort of syncopated yet quite cohesive narrative. What tied the eclectic offering together was a sense of soft playfulness, smoothing the edges of sculptural silhouettes inspired by the graphic lines of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet costumes. Undulating ruffles, fringed tassels, feathers, studwork, and statement jewelry gave grace to neat, elegant shapes. A dramatic sleeveless black-top-and-round-skirt ensemble in guipure lace, a chic strapless trapeze dress in off-white silk gazar, and a sleek pantsuit with a detachable round capelet also in silk gazar – one of the collection’s main fabrics, “as it holds the shape beautifully” – all looked like they came out of a couture atelier. Lucie’s work at Dior as co–creative director after Raf Simons’s departure in 2015 seemed to gently resurface. “There are elements of couture,” she said, “but I like to keep them light and playful, with a more casual, lighthearted attitude.” The Meiers’ flair for the artisanal, which they integrate into their equal fondness for rigor, was in evidence in a deep-dyed multicolored summer dress with brushstrokes across the bodice. It signaled a more lively use of color and patterns elsewhere, as in a slim leather overcoat printed with a figurative motif of dancing women, painted by an illustrator friend. “It’s stark but jovial,” joked Luke. It was a rather accurate summing up of the collection’s mood – the joviality certainly induced also by the recent arrival in the Meier family of little Ella Rose, who made a sleepy cameo appearance at the end of the Zoom call.
For the first time, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons let some warmth and a sense of spontainety to their creative dialogue. The Prada man for spring-summer 2022 appears to be a slightly naive beach-boy, who wears his yellow windcheater (nothing underneath) and matching bucket-hat all day long. Which I instantly love, of course. As co-creative director Miuccia observed in a quote released shortly before the collection video: “A sense of the utopian, the ideal, of hope, positivity. To expose yourself to nature, to go to the beach – it’s freedom. It is utopian. That is really a primary need – an intellectual need, too.” This translated into a skin-heavy rendering of a reemergence that was tantamount to a rebirth. The film opened with the models negotiating a “meandering red tunnel”, ready for the world ahead, but not yet in it. Very directly we were presented with some of the key motifs of what looked like a commercially strong Prada suite: bucket hats with almond-shaped brims at the back (a bit British policeman’s helmet) with triangular logo pockets, and some with the awesome functionality of slits at the front to allow sunglasses to be slipped in them. Romper suits with turned-up short hems were presented in corporate-worker charcoal cotton or sailor-boy white, the latter printed with tattoo-ish nautical motifs including octopi, voluptuous mermaid/sirens, anchors and anchor fish. Around two minutes into the film, Prada’s boys finally hit the beach. The scenes were filmed at the south-eastern point of Sardinia, on the coast of Capo Carbonara, an area where the house is funding the reforestation of marine ecosystems. By coincidence, it is also where I’m booked to spend my summer holiday. It was in this setting that the presentation changed from formulaic runway walk into something more apparently spontaneous and free, in order to evoke an essence described by Raf Simons in his pre-show quote portfolio: “The primary feeling is one of joy. It’s almost like that memory of a child, the joy of a child going to the beach. The simplest and most honest of pleasures. In all its simpleness, it’s also something very meaningful and timeless.” Beach-ready were the floral-shorn terry hoodies, the skorts of course, the beautiful bucket bags in cracked leather and rowing stripe cotton drill, and those awesome hats. Away from the water, highlights included a biker jacket in yolk-yellow or show-set-red which felt like an unusual template here; double-waisted pants made to be worn loosely and tantalisingly adrift at the front; plenty of tailoring with (again) rolled up sleeves; and multiple full-look-izations of the skorts via teaming them with matching tank-tops. These looks seemed like summer iterations of the last-show long johns. “This collection and this show is very much about capturing that, the joy of the everyday. The notion that living your life can be a euphoric experience. Much joy can come out of something so simple: when times are complicated, we are searching for simple, direct joys. An innocence“, concluded Prada.
It’s no longer just Hot Girl Summer season. Now, it’s Hot Blumarine Girl Summer. Nicola Brognano is entering his third season at Blumarine, and his brand revamp (together with Lotta Volkova’s phenomenal styling help) keeps on getting hotter, sassier, bolder and certainly desireable. “When I came on board, they were all skeptical,” he told Vogue. “I’ve been grilled by critics. Now they love what I’m doing. The message was strong, different, fun; it was a clean cut with the past but I’ve kept a certain Blumarine spirit. Gen Z followers immediately reacted; girls on TikTok started to replicate Blumarine furry skirts and tops from day one. We have dedicated fan pages.” For resort, Brognano is riffing on the new repertoire he’s established for the brand: a girly, sassy, mischievous take on the early-2000s pop star glam of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Christina Aguilera that he worshipped as a teenager in Southern Italy. “Inspiration for me doesn’t mean a thing. We have to live in the now,” he said. “I’m inspired by social media, by the young girls dressing for real life on Instagram and TikTok. I’m not looking to the past. But I never forget what made me love Blumarine in the first place: its romantic sexiness, itsmalizia.” Brognano’s Blumarine girl is guilt-free sexy and a bit of a badass. She’s playing dress-up, but then “fucking it up with something revealing and wrong,” adding a fake fur stole over a skimpy crocheted minidress, or wearing slouchy cargos in luscious pink satin together with a slim-fitting hot pink leather blazer and a midriff-baring bandeau top. And she loves butterflies, tattooed as embroideries on pieces like this season’s bright green strapless minidress and signifying frivolity, lightness, and whimsy. “The butterfly is becoming a sort of new Blumarine logo,” Brognano concluded. “Versace has the Medusa. We have the butterfly.”
Etro‘s resort 2022 has that solar power (yes, I love the new Lorde song). If you’re looking for the summer-perfect wardrobe for post-confinement life full of sunny adventures with friends, breezy beach walks and getting in the groove at concert festivals, this collection is it. “My father Gimmo founded the house of Etro in 1968, so we as a company were born at a time of barricades and youth revolution,” Veronica Etro told Vogue. “As much as we value tradition, there’s a rebellious spirit which runs in our family, a flair for adventure, open-mindedness, and eccentricity.” It’s a mindset she’s been making good use of lately, steering the label on a stronger, younger course. And it works. Special stand-alone items like intarsia-ed ponchos, embellished waistcoats, richly embroidered miniskirts, and fringed blanket skirts were combined with easy wardrobe staples rendered à la Etro. Less bohemian and more concise than usual, the everyday offer comprised a series of gender-fluid shirts, tunics, oversized blazers, and pajama suits that emphasize the masculine/feminine synergy and code-swapping going on between the Etro siblings. Paisley patterns got a punk-ish treatment with skulls, snakes, and safety pins; prints were bolder and used in patches on nylon anoraks and quilted indigo denim sets; and skintight black leather pants and zippered jackets were intended as a nod to biker subcultures. “After celebrating Etro’s 50th birthday in 2018 I wanted to turn the page,” said Veronica. “We’re building a new following of young customers who are asking for a stronger twist on our traditional style. The pandemic has taught us to not be afraid, to enjoy taking risks and to embrace change. It isn’t time to hold on to our comfort zone.”