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.

Can’t Go Wrong With Classic. The Row SS21

In tough times, you can’t go wrong with picking the most classic of the classics. The Row is an example:  Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen‘s spring-summer 2021 line-up is all about their brand’s ultimate core, which is comfort, quality and understated luxury. The Row has always been a go-to label for women who favor discretion over bold display. This season finds the designers working especially within their minimalist framework, pushing new cuts and trying out unique materials. The suit of the season is oversized and mannish, with a double-breasted jacket worn over full pleated pants. Emphasizing ease and wearabiluty, they did a similar silhouette in knit. A V-neck vest makes multiple appearances in the look book, worn solo with a midi-skirt or teamed with a crisp white shirt and trousers. The palette is mostly monochrome neutrals, though there were two flashes of color in the form of button-downs in teal and rust. How about handspun organic silk made in single batches in Japan, which is exclusive to The Row this year? The white and black knit dresses they made with that silk are a sexy, body-limning counterpoint to the relaxed shapes of much of the rest of the collection. There is news in accessories. A 105 mm French heel pump counts as The Row’s highest ever, and a new Massimo drawstring backpack comes in that raw silk, as well as leather and suede. Naturally, there’s no logo-ing or hardware in sight. Timeless, investment pieces that will serve and please for years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

In Between. Louis Vuitton SS21

I’m really unconvinced by this Louis Vuitton collection delivered by Nicolas Ghesquière. It just felt so clumsy and messy. Which can’t be said of the show’s venue, which nearly each season looks better than the actual clothes on Vuitton’s runway (sorry…). Interspersed among the live audience in the freshly remodeled-by-LVMH La Samaritaine department store were 360-degree cameras that allowed viewers at home to swivel in their chairs, watch models coming and going, and see who did and didn’t score a better seat. It was almost like being there. “This season is very new in every way. The conditions that we’re facing are making us think differently. We came up with the idea of different degrees of presence.” In addition to the 360-degree cameras, green screens lined the walls and, in some places, the floors of La Samaritaine. Viewers of the livestream – the third way to watch and hear the show (there were live mics) – saw footage from Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire. Beyond the ’80s-ish silhouettes that have long been a touchpoint for the designer (and I think that’s the problem!), the connection between the Wenders movie and Ghesquière’s collection, was angels, which have two wings, but no gender. “My question this season was less about one theme; it was about this zone between femininity and masculinity,” he explained. “This zone is highlighted by nonbinary people, people that are taking a lot of freedom dressing themselves as they want, and, in turn, giving a lot of freedom to all of us. I found it inspiring to explore what the items are that represent this wardrobe that is not feminine, not masculine. I wanted to zoom in on that section in between.” The show began with a look that combined a timely Vote t-shirt (his absent American friends appreciated that) and baggy pleated chino pants cinched with a thick belt. It was emblematic of a collection that felt more spontaneous and street-ready than some of Ghesquière’s more glamorous outings. Basically, the entire line-up was kept in this sporty style. I’m intrigued by Nicolas’ take on the genderless fashion hitting such bourgeois brand as Louis Vuitton, but the clothes just don’t express that to me.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Girl. Miu Miu SS21

Is Miu Miu the “old Prada” now? After Miuccia Prada‘s first Prada collection with Raf Simons, which left the audience polarised, this seems to be a good idea for Miu Miu. But them, this was a quintessentially Miu Miu outing – really, the spring-summer 2021 collection is one of the best in a while coming from the brand. Livestreamed from Milan during the last day of Paris Fashion Week, the show set imagined a cyber-spacious sports arena covered in screens with the – also livestreamed – faces of Miu Miu poster girls watching the show, including Elle Fanning, Chloé Sevigny (one of the checked tops was the original piece she wore in the brand’s ad campaign shot by Juergen Teller!), Małgorzata Szumowska, Susie Lau and other Miu faces. Opened by Lila Moss, the collection captured the accidental uniforms of young people. It’s a wardrobe suspended between the extremes of the hyper-casual and that stilted sense of formality you get from a prom photo. “Polarity. These are polar times,” as Prada said in a statement after the show. “The reason why people dress is sometimes to please, sometimes to be sexy, sometimes to be socially relevant, sometimes for a job. The way you present yourself – the clothes are important because they define you in a second. Clothes are a tool for that message,” she continued. “The first spectator of yourself is you.” The Miu Miu show read like the Euphoria generation’s guide to effortless dressing: the things you wear through the process of learning the messages Prada wanted to convey about the role of clothes in life. Prim and pristine low-riding track pants, sharp track jackets, micro skirts, and kitten-heeled tennis shoes embodied the dress codes of sports activities. Sporty blazers, little bowling jackets, neat shirts, and plaid skirts evoked school uniforms. Conceived in the teenage dreams of perfect party outfits, there were techno-fied halter-neck shell tops and oscillating techy dresses. Then, some dream prom scenarios as well, like a white dress with a draped bow on the back that curtained dramatically to the side to reveal its pink lining. Prada’s show notes talked about the institution of the fashion show as a unifying event – something she wanted to convey through her livestreamed experience. Carried by the young women on her runway, that sentiment reminded some of us of the time we fell in love with fashion shows in the first place; in our teenage bedroom, chunky laptop at hand, waiting for the first runway pictures from our favorite shows to come in.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Lights, Camera, Action. Chanel SS21

I really start to appreciate Virginie Viard‘s vision for Chanel. The spring-summer 2021 Chanel show set, in Paris’s Grand Palais, spelled the brand’s name in giant letters, evoking the iconic Hollywood sign. Did this suggest that creative director Viard was thinking of the movies? “Less movies than actresses,” Viard explained, and particularly the modern life of actresses, from the high production values of the red carpet, to a staged off-duty look whilst getting a Starbucks in the certain knowledge that a paparazzo might be lurking in the parking lot, “the whole process!” Meanwhile, the accompanying movie teasers, produced by Inez and Vinoodh, literally brought Paris to Tinseltown, with the Sacre Coeur nestled proudly in those Hollywood Hills – symbolic of Viard’s marriage of Parisian cool with laid-back Los Angeles style. And of course, Coco Chanel’s love affair with film industry played its crucial role. Coco, who began her career as a performer singing saucy music hall songs, later made over a handful of actresses in her own image, just as she did with such beloved models in her in-house cabine as Marie-Hélène Arnaud and Jackie Rogers. The designer, for instance, transformed Romy Schneider into a baby-faced version of herself, and Luchino Visconti immortalized Schneider’s new look in his 1962 short movie Boccaccio 70. Chanel herself is even said to have found the new stage name for the Nouvelle Vague actress Anna Karina. Viard, who has all these references at her fingertips, is also drawn to femme fatale Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle’s 1958 Elevator to the Gallows, and she looked to some on-screen Chanel moments in her collection. The show itself felt like a cinematic experience, and the clothes matched that elegant, yet unpretentious ambience. Viard had jumpsuits, flowing gowns and eternal tweeds as she was evoking the real life wardrobes of contemporary actresses using her own cabine of models, including many new French faces and the sophisticated Louise de Chevigny. All of them were encouraged to do their actressy best on the runway. The collection is quintessentially Chanel, nothing overly innovative – but absolutely consistent and reassuring with all its Chanel-isms. Maybe a bit less logos next time? That understated, relaxed, yet chic style Viard does so well, without all the forced decorations, clearly speaks for itself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.