Surreal Beach. Schiaparelli SS22

People are coming to us as an alternative to the mass luxury houses,” said Daniel Roseberry said of his extraordinary take on Schiaparelli. “They’re looking for something really strong.” So that’s what he’s prepared for spring-summer 2022. Schiaparelli’s Place Vendôme salons were organized by room, and first up was Roseberry’s wildly imaginative bijoux of body parts – ears, nose, eyes, lips, pierced nipples, and so on – and leather bags embellished with the same. His exaltation of the human form also took the shape of a gold-dipped resin bib molded from a model’s torso and suspended from a chain. There’s an inflatable black leather bolero and matching belt, as well as an inflatable parka, complete with air valves; a fitted knit dress with raised details in the form of Salvador Dalí’s famous rib cage dress; and cone bras à la Gaultier every which way: in leather, denim, and silk arranged in swirls like the petals of a flower. The vibe, Roseberry said, was “David Lynch holiday.” Tailoring and outerwear, meanwhile, were classically cut, but treated to all manner of gilded body part baubles. Many of the cocktail numbers had their beginnings in the couture, including a pair of sublimely draped black silk charmeuse dresses suspended from gold chokers. A cropped but boxy bolero with outsize lapels had a different starting point, Roseberry said. It was based on the jacket he made for playwright Jeremy O. Harris to wear to the Tonys last month. The words Schiap Hotel were stitched around the hem of a densely embellished bathrobe. I’m off to the plage de Schiap.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Désir. Ludovic De Saint Sernin SS22

On Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s runway, heat and sex are regular ingredients. For the young French pioneer of sex positivity in fashion, his steamy return to what the industry is calling “physical” shows was pulsating with a whole other layer of significance. “I feel like we were in such a digital world for like a year-and-a-half that it was really critical for me to reconnect with physicality and sensuality, in a way that you could almost grab it,” said De Saint Sernin behind his co-ed spring-summer 2022 fashion show titled “Désir“. He wove all of that pent-up tension into a collection that stretched tiny strands of leather into minuscule dresses and taut bodices equally across genders to eye-popping effect. “We wanted to showcase the artisanal feel of the collection,” he explained. “All these pieces are entirely braided, knotted, and laced by hand. There’s no sewing at all. It’s really body formatted.” De Saint Sernin has been well ahead of the generational game of blurring underwear with outerwear. His easy, elasticated-waist, pajama-like pants and shirts and leather bralettes are part of this. This season it also meant a semi-sheer smocking technique, used in dresses and shirts cut to cling and strain at buttons, and delicate, semi-transparent fabrics, like laddered knits. “Mermaid, California-gothic girlfriend” is how he described the inspiration for overtly glam transparencies in crystal-beaded fishnet: a one-shoulder dress, a couple of miniature sparkly sarongs. His two finale dresses hinted at either having been shipwrecked or wrecked from a long night of partying. De Saint Sernin has a burgeoning business in his flared jeans with eyelet-laced flies, shown again this season with split hems. The signature eyelet was also an unmissable feature on a black thong. It was, he remarked with a straight face, “just a little teaser,” because Pornhub sponsored his show, and he has a collaboration with the porn site coming next spring. Of course this makes complete sense. There’s just one thing the designer might consider for the future: inviting a wider range of body shapes to his model casting. Everybody want to look and feel sexy, right?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Red Carpet. Balenciaga SS22

Demna Gvasalia returned to Paris Fashion Week with his Balenciaga, and to all the others: game over. He won the week. Again, he’s a genius. “Well,” remarked Gvasalia, with a considerable amount of laconic understatement, “we needed something fun to happen.” For spring-summer 2022, he staged a fake red carpet celebrity-studded, movie-style premiere event and a real one. “I’ve wanted to do a premiere concept where the guests would be the show for many seasons,” he said. “It was nice to have a social occasion again. I hoped it would make people smile.” It was hysterical – in the best possible way. The regular fashion show audience was seated inside the Théâtre du Châtelet at 8 p.m., watching a big-screen livestream of the red carpet arrivals going on in a tent outside. Soon, it was clear that everyone was in on the joke: the familiar Balenciaga tribe of Demna’s house models, lining up to pose in character as celebrities; actual celebrities lining up to pose as models; celebrity models posing as celebrity models. Cardi B and Offset! Dev Hynes! Naomi Campbell! Juergen Teller and Dovile Dryzite! Ella Emhoff! Elliot Page! Isabelle Huppert! Live TV camera feeds zoomed in on faces, raked outfits, shoes, spiky boots, jewelry, and bags. Paparazzi bayed orders. Handlers moved people on in a perfectly performed real-not-real control of lens-hoggers. Inside, hilarity broke out. Numbered looks popped up on-screen. And everyone looked drop-dead glamorously amazing, each to their own, working gigantic gowns, severe-chic sequin columns, outsize black tailoring, skinny bodysuits, fan-pleated dresses, boas, oversized jeans, track pants, evil shades, angular printed-out loafers, monstrous cyber-goth platforms.

Eventually, Demna himself – in a full black face veil, hoodie, and jeans, brought up the rear. “It’s more like a music or movie business, in the way you can convey things,” he said. “I like exploring these borders.” That’s the attitude designers should have in 2021. What the Balenciaga audience didn’t know: the red carpet performance of the spring-summer 2022 collection was the buildup to an actual film premiere of The Simpsons/Balenciaga, in which Marge and Bart (not to spoil the plot) end up modelling in Paris. “Because I’ve always loved The Simpsons, for its whole tongue-in-cheek nature and the slightly romantic-naive side to it” he approached the producers without much hope that they would ever want to collaborate. “But in fact they did. They saw the blue show – the Parliament one – and liked it. Matt Groening’s been amazing,” he said. The fame of Demna and Balenciaga has spread all the way to Springfield. After this, who knows what worlds he’ll conquer next. Whatever he does, I’m in awe.

Collage – or rather fake magazine layout! – by Edward Kanarecki.

Ero-Chic. Christopher Kane SS22

This might be the season of “sexy”, but nobody does sex in fashion like Christopher Kane. Never vulgar, but always elusive, enigmatic, multi-faceted and exciting. For spring-summer 2022, the designer shot a show in a darkened London warehouse a couple of months ago and released in the middle of Paris Fashion Week. It opens with strong, black patent: straight to the point of a furious kind of erotic chic. Kane girls don’t necessarily want to serve things up on a plate: his talent is for designing ways that play wickedly with all kinds of covert suggestions. Right through the collection there are devices for revealing skin – necklines in little black dresses that hint at fetish but are banded with protective metal; unconventional slits or port-holes in otherwise perfectly proper, covered-up dresses; a sporty crystal mesh miniskirt with a zippered slit. Kane experiments with form, too – and that leads to all kinds of modern-looking techniques. One this season is his play with corrugated shapes – like a scarlet bra top and matching skirt armored with zig-zaggy 3D geometric frills. The thing is, you never quite know where Kane’s references come from – but his career-long insistence on short, leggy going-out dresses means a glut of choices for original-minded girls who are finally, finally out and about at parties and whatnot. One of the inspirations he did allude to is the life of ’50s sex-bomb Jayne Mansfield. She of the overspilling breast – a controversial star who blatantly flaunted her sexuality and incredible body at a time when all that was highly disapproved of. You glimpse her energy behind a diaphanous dress with a pink satin bra formed into sharp geometric satin points: provocative, yes, but also armored with self-confidence.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Celebrate Life. Valentino SS22

In his brilliant and vibrant spring-summer 2022 collection for Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli celebrates life and all its beauty. To mark the return of Valentino’s ready-to-wear to Paris, he took over the old marketplace at the Carreau du Temple, and a row of neighboring cafés and restaurants opposite, to put on a joyful all-gendered show reunion symbolically blurring the distinctions between insiders and outsiders. “It has been such such a tough moment. That’s why I decided to get Valentino into a new dimension: life,” he said, amidst a backstage scene packed with young people who were getting ready to walk along the street for everyone to see, before filing back into the market space where the regular invited audience were seated at café tables. Piccioli, much loved in the industry for his warmth and down-to-earth lack of snobbery, felt the rupture of the past two years meant it has finally come time to put words and fine intentions into action. “I’ve been talking for a long time about making a shift, embracing a new generation, a new world,” he said. “And also to be leading a change. You know, Mr. Valentino took part in engaging with youth in the ’60s. That was a revolutionary time. So I think this is my way of doing that today: keeping the codes and the couture values, and talking about a beauty which is about humanity and a shared wardrobe.” With refreshing candor, he said he didn’t really want to speak about clothes, inspirations, and narratives. “Fashion is about clothes – but it’s also about people wearing clothes. If I had to add words to talk about the storytelling, maybe my mission was not accomplished. Because I want to talk more about our community of people, sharing values – rather than a group of individuals that share the surfaces of a lifestyle. It’s more about celebrating diversity in a joyous way. “ He pitched the production towards embracing Gen Zers with a proposition of a beautiful, casualized couture wardrobe designed to float between genders: lightweight taffeta tailoring in vivid colors, plethoras of dresses from minuscule and cutaway to sweeping, embroidered caftans. There was also classic Valentino symbolism dotted through the collection. The opening look, an organdy flower-embroidered blouse and tiny skirt, referred to Valentino Garavani’s all-white collection of 1968 – immortalized in a photograph of Marisa Berenson. There was a reproduction of a slim, tiger-striped maxi coat, famously worn by Veruschka the following year – and to end with, a pair of floaty, flower-printed dresses from the ’70s. “Well, this is how I used to relate to Valentino when I was a kid myself – I came from far away from it. I dreamed about it through seeing fashion photographs, never the clothes, or the shows themselves,” Piccioli said. A personal memory of his own youth was immortalized in the relaunch of a pair of high-waisted jeans: “This is from the first denim collection Valentino launched in the ’80s, which I had,” he laughed. On the back of the jeans was the very fashion advert – likely Bruce Weber – which had brought Piccioli to buy into the brand in the first place. Democratizing and making a high-flown brand relatable to a new generation of consumers is of course the task and responsibility of pretty much every creative director today. Pierpaolo Piccioli is doing that with grace. It was a sociable, relaxed, celebratory moment where the future he believes in felt real.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.