Avantgarde-ness. Vaquera SS23

Five years ago, with bold attitude and confidence, Vaquera started out in New York and quickly became the most-talked about and hard to classify emerging brand in town. In 2022, the brand opens Paris Fashion Week and is backed by Dover Street Market, and yet it’s still difficult to put a finger on it. Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee aren’t doing conventional, mainstream fashion, but somehow manage to keep their avantgarde-ness commercially attainable: think great, over-sized jackets and too-cool-to-be-true denim. “We’ve really been pushing toward having more commercial clothing and that is still really important to us,” Taubensee said backstage of the spring-summer 2023 fashion show. “But it’s also important to remain true to what we did this for, which is expressing ourselves.” Enter American flag dress, made from faded flags that were stolen by DiCaprio’s friends from houses on Fire Island, its construction more ambitious than the one from their debut. A deconstructed wedding dress – safety-pinned at the bodice, spliced down the middle, and worn over pink stretch satin athleisure and denim cut-offs – once belonged to DiCaprio’s mom. They aren’t likely to put these pieces into production, but they are representative of the Vaquera spirit, which is irreverently anti-establishment. That irreverence came across in metallic “polo” shirts stitched with a lassoing cowboy instead of a mallet wielding polo player. Meanwhile, the acid wash denim’s faint yellow cast came from what Taubensee described as soy stain; “we actually use soy sauce,” she explained.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Goth Summer. Burberry SS23

For Burberry‘s spring-summer 2023 collection, Riccardo Tisci seemed to have many ideas. But in the end, the overall result was messy and unedited. It came as a surprise, because his recent offerings for the British brand suggested he finally found the right track. After five years in England, Tisci (so often labeled “goth” by the fashion press) has gained a better understanding of the intricacies and eccentricities of British society – such as the beach and summer culture that inspired his spring collection for Burberry. “British summer is very different to anywhere else in the world, because Britain is basically built on big cities on the water. That means you really see people dressing on the beach, because you never know when it’s going to rain or when there’s going to be sun. The beauty is the goth on the beach, like these kids we filmed the other day,” he said after the show, referring to the show’s goth-tastic teaser filmed in Margate. “Or, you’ll see a wedding, or someone who’s gone there at lunch time to read. It’s all different personalities.” Since Tisci brought a more sensual spirit to Burberry, its swimsuits have risen to best-seller status. That fact, mixed with his homage to the beach-going goth, created a collection of swimwear fusions and hybrids. Press release is one thing; in reality, the concept looked too awkward and clumsy. The model casting, featuring Naomi Campbell and Karen Elson, didn’t help in elevating these clothes. Swimsuit elements like bikinis and bathing suit cut-outs were entered into dresses and tailoring, which simultaneously incorporated the trademarks of the goth wardrobe: lace, netting, perforation, gothic fonts, and crinkled negligees. De- and reconstructed outerwear evoked the dress codes of the industrial corner of the goth population, with dissected hoods and sleeves tied around the waists of trench coats and three-piece suits with big-buttoned gilets replacing the traditional vest. After Burberry canceled its original presentation during London Fashion Week out of respect for the national mourning period that followed the death of the Queen, Tisci squeezed the show in on the Monday between Milan and Paris. Presented in a naked warehouse in Bermondsey – the London Contemporary Orchestra lined up in the middle of the space – it unfolded in complete silence before the soprano opera singer Nadine Sierra broke out in a poignant aria. It wasn’t until the finale that the orchestra joined in. “It was a moment of respect. She was the queen of the world – every country respected her,” Tisci said.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Character. Bottega Veneta SS23

Milan Fashion Week had a strong finale in form of Matthieu Blazy‘s second collection for Bottega Veneta. Don’t let the first impression of eclecticism, or even incoherence, fool you – the collection had a truly convincing plotline. It was about character and personality, which are conveyed by the clothes of the wearer. Knowing Blazy’s great affection for art, you could be sure to receive a full visual, as well as sensual, experience from his new season offering. To start, he set a fabulous scene, enlisting the 82-year-old Italian design pioneer Gaetano Pesce to create a site-specific installation that included a colorful, swirling poured resin floor and 400 unique chairs (all will be sold during the upcoming Design Miami). As the crowd filled the space, it appeared to be a meeting of unique personalities: Cicciolina circulated, Erykah Badu posed for pictures with Raf Simons, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee chatted with friends, and Pesce soaked it all in from the front row. “Unique” is really the operative word here. Backstage, Blazy said, “the collection started with meeting Gaetano. I went a lot to visit him in New York and we had a lot of discussions about diversity. He worked on his side and I worked on mine and we did a juxtaposition. The idea was ‘the world in a small room.’ We went full on,” he continued. “The idea was to represent different characters and put them in the landscape of Gaetano.” Picking up the thread from last season, the opening looks, though they looked like denim, flannel, and cotton tees, were all leather. Modeled by Kate Moss herself, a flannel shirt required 12 layers of prints to achieve the depth of color Blazy was after. “It’s this kind of casual comfort and we put it to an extreme and we call it perverse banality,” he said. Speaking of Moss, she looked as effortless wearing that ensemble as back in the 1990s, running from one show to another show, wearing the same look, not all-leather, rather all-thrifted. Blazy also revisited the “dynamic” silhouette he established last season, exaggerating the sense of clothes-in-motion by adding what could be described as fins to the back of pant legs. Similarly, the storm flaps on trench coats seemed to have caught a breeze and stayed there. The curving funnel necklines on jackets and shirts gave them a streamlined profile. These are subtle details, but if they’re missable by the uninitiated, they matter a lot to fashion obsessives who watch for such changes. This was a highly resolved collection, a reminder in a Milan Fashion Week (that included some shaky debuts and tedious tenures) of the importance of experience. Blazy has a lot of it, and it showed in all aspects of this show, including in the knit jacquard dresses and separates – “highly technical,” he said, “but the results are not technical, they’re emotional” – and in the trio of fringed finale dresses in colors lifted from Pesce. “It’s a new technique where you weave with fringe integrated into the fabric and they’re all knit by hand. That’s also very technical,” he laughed.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Excavation. Trussardi SS23

Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby‘s vision of Trussardi takes shape with the designers’ second season for the Italian heritage brand. Presented in the gilded salons of Palazzo Clerici, the spring-summer 2023 offering gave hints of how they’re easing into their role, after a strong first outing which was a break with the past, clean to the point of subversion. “This time it was more about trying to develop a wardrobe that makes sense for Trussardi,” they said backstage. “It may sound boring, but we’re bringing our own vision, mixing modernity with history.” Digging into the brand’s archive was “excavation work,” they explained. “There’s lots of richness there – the exceptional leather work, the ’80s and ’90s sexy and cinched silhouettes, the sensuality, the femininity, but also a masculine glamour.” Some of these elements were brought back for spring. Sensuality was played out in fluid dresses in liquid jersey with twisted necklines and cascading hemlines; floor-length satin gowns were wrapped around the neck, draped and ruched; slits and cut-outs opened to reveal bare skin. The best representation of leather work was a faux embossed crocodile bomber, round-shouldered and cinched, paired with a ruched miniskirt. The designers also tried their hand at denim, one of the house’s signatures, offering sculpted pieces glamorized with crystal appliqués. “It’s a learning process,” they offered. “Absorbing and adapting to the Milanese culture is a sort of anthropological exploration. We’re learning to work with things that we don’t always like, or which make us slightly uncomfortable. Our view of history isn’t linear, rather it’s often chaotic“.

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Luxe. Ferragamo SS23

Maximilian Davis‘ energetic collection for Ferragamo was the best debut we’ve seen this Milan Fashion Week. It was the right balance of luxe and contemporary – something both old and new clients of the brand will appreciate. The 27-year-old, London-based designer seems to be just what this lately conservative, sleepy Italian house needed. The signifying grande geste of Davis’s new beginning included dropping the “Salvatore,” switching from a cursive font to something much more in line with contemporary design consensus, and laying claim to a new house color: a specific tone of arresting red. This was unmissable, dyed into the damp, rain-spattered sand that floored the courtyard and painted on the boards that backdropped the arcaded arches of this 17th-century Milanese seminary venue. The spot is currently being transformed into a hotel by the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno group. The red represented Davis’s own (now on hold) eponymous label, where it had echoed the flag of Trinidad and Tobago and his heritage. It also speaks to the heritage of Ferragamo, one of whose many famous archival shoes is a beaded red pump made for Marilyn Monroe by the founder in the 1950s. How about the clothes? Said Davis, “I’m developing new fabrications and introducing new silhouettes to the brand, and trying to understand what the younger client needs to make it a success.” There was a strong play for top-to-toe color in athletic-inspired bodysuits and technical field jackets and pants for men. One full look in red, a five-pocket pant and turtleneck, was beaded in homage to Monroe’s pumps. Inspired by the founder’s early incarnation as shoemaker to Hollywood, Davis riffed on sunset and sunrise via dégradé, bleeding-print fabrics that were themselves inspired by artist Rachel Harrison’s Sunset Series. Tailoring was presented in chunky, stolid shapes given twist and movement through the addition of sash details or the removal of sleeves. It was often realized in a delicately finished double-bonded crepe. There was a “playful and slightly perverse energy,” Davis suggested, in leather and suede short shorts. Accessory-wise, the house Gancini hardware was reflected in the heel of a handsome new strappy sandal and the bracelet-like hardware of a small clutch bag. It was also traced in the neckline of a regal charcoal evening dress. Davis spoke of “reenergizing” Ferragamo. The applause that greeted this first installment of his tenure suggested he’s on a good path.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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