Chic, Chic, Chic. Alaïa AW89

A few days ago, I discovered this delightful autumn-winter 1989 Alaïa collection, and it’s unbelievable how timeless all those Monsieur Azzedine’s designs are. Actually, they even get better with age. The colours (especially all the shades of curcuma!), the cuts, the softness of wools and cashmeres used in this line-up, the body-conscious eveningwear, which looks both seductive and comfortable… it’s all so good. And of course, it was presented on the rue de Moussy – the live & work space Azzedine Alaïa built in the Marais district of Paris that would become a welcoming mecca to models and clients. What’s interesting, it was unfinished when the designer presented his winter 1989 show a month after the regular season ended (Alaïa famously presented on his own schedule, when he felt finished, and not according to a calendar date). According to The Los Angeles Times, the glass-roofed space was leaky, dampening the models as they paraded in a collection that underlined some of the tropes the designer had staked out as his own: sculpted leathers and clingy second-skin knits. The flowing bias-cut dresses in shimmering metallics definitely looked even more spectacular as they were slightly wet. Below are some of my favourite looks from this highly underrated collection.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The French Charm. Patou Resort 2021

Since the first season, I’m following Guillaume Henry‘s steps at Patou, and I must say that with every single line-up, it gets better and better. I can’t believe this Parisian brand-and-designer match is still so underrated! The label released it’s resort 2021 collection now, when the clothes are arriving to the stores. Patou’s team pulled off this collection during the most severe days of lockdown in Paris. “Everyone was at home, exchanging ideas on Zoom,” Henry says. “My magic team!” The look book models are the Belgian singer Tessa Dixon and some of the Patou people – a lovely nod to the power of team-work. What they’ve come up with – despite it all – is a continuation of the optimism and joie de vivre of the house, grounded in that French-girl taste for useful, classic tailoring – which is spring-summer 2021‘s signature. The gold brocade dress, the feather-trimmed trousers, and the multicolored, stylized 1970s prints must have felt like a shot in the dark when they were designing them. But the most charming pieces were the most grounded ones. Henry has a delectable way of combining the French vernacular of down-to-earth, traditional work with flights of fashion fancy. Part of it was inspired by looking at vintage photographs of Les Forts des Halles, the porters at the old Les Halles market in the center of Paris, who used to wear felt hats to carry crates of farm produce. That’s where the oversized, turned-back-brim hats in his collection originated; one of his charming side strategies for keeping French regional working-class culture alive and relevant for a new generation. Also, you immediately think of Émile Bernard’s “Breton Women” paintings while looking at Patou’s black and white silhouettes – like the brand’s oversized, cocooning duffle coats styled with a white, hand-cut collar. Love!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended. Gucci SS21

COVID-19 made fashion rethink many matters, from fashion week schedules to overproduction, but most of all, it accelarated the reflection on how to show a collection to wide audience, through the digital media, in the most appealing ways. Most of brands come up with a video or film. But the latest example takes notes from Netflix. Gucci‘s Alessandro Michele hired the one and only Gus Van Sant to make seven-episode miniseries that were shown one by one, for the entire week. At moments, the experience was bumpy. The poll I’ve made on Instagram mid-week suggested that 75% no longer paid attention to the digital Gucci event. While the visuals of Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended were striking, Silvia Calderoni’s acting was phenomenal and Gucci celebs appearances were amusingly witty (Harry Styles made a cameo wearing a pink tee tucked into denim shorts, and pronounced his improvised modern-day art manifesto: “when it comes to making art it’s about finding the thing you’ve always wanted to see that has never been made. It’s always an uncomfortable moment, I think, when you find the thing. You don’t know if you love it or hate it because you don’t really know what it is yet. But I think that’s the most exciting place to work in“; Florence Welch glided through a Gucci-fied vintage store and slipped handwritten notes into the pockets of jeans or the purse of a passerby; Billie Eilish performed her new song and danced with her pet robot dogs in what looked like the suburbs of L.A.), the focus on the clothes was hard to comprehend. Fashion films are pretty much always product-driven and lack substance, and here it was quite the opposite. There was plenty of substance, but I felt there was not enough of the collection itself. Maybe, as some editors suggested, the episodes could be shoppable? It would be great to find that golden balance. The miniseries streamed on Instagram and on a dedicated site dubbed GucciFest, where the brand also supported videos made by 15 emerging designers from around the world – which was a lovely gesture. Once you finally look at the look-book to see the actual spring-summer 2021 (and pre-fall 2021) clothes, you will be surprised (or not so much) that Michele decided to utterly focus on the core of his Gucci. The 90 looks saw some most distinct signatures, as well as Alessandro’s archives (especially pieces from his first Gucci collections). There was pretty much nothing new, and the collection was free of bizarre over-the-topness that made the label feel just too much for me in the pre-pandemic times. So, the brand’s customer will be pleased with all the vintage-y, wearable styles that are just the right amount of quirk, while the rest of the audience might use the line-up as an inspiration-filled portfolio. It seems to say: “shop your closet, no need to buy new stuff“.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Effortless and Warm. Proenza Schouler SS21

In the absence of a New York Fashion Week show, the Proenza Schouler designers – Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough – made their first-ever book with the photographer Daniel Shea. Shot in August, it pairs expressive model shots with even more evocative images of the city: the skyline at sunset, the Empire State building seen through a tangle of power lines, a super-tall tower on Billionaires’ Row. It’s an ode to their hometown in a year when they’ve spent very little of their time in it. In the early months of the pandemic they were up at their place in the Berkshires. They spent March and April on Zoom business calls trying to figure out how to make it through this unprecedented situation. When they finally turned to their next collection, their normal processes weren’t possible: no research trip, no dips into their archive, no silhouette studies on a model. “All we walked into the studio with was a feeling. We wanted something that felt effortless and warm; we wanted to get rid of the sharp edges. It just had to make you feel good. For us that’s what fashion should be at its most successful. It should make one’s life easier and feel good,” Hernandez said. “A forever quality,” McCollough elaborated, “something that lasts.” There are decorative treatments for both night and day here; allover sequins cover a straight-line shirtdress, and the shoulders of a button-down shirt and waistline of button-fly trousers are graphically dip-dyed. But the big story is really the attitude adjustment; without being boring the clothes feel simpler than what they’ve put on their recent runways. They emphasized easy-to-wear ribbed-knit separates and dresses, and stripped any artifice from their tailoring, which is just slightly oversized and mannish save for the suits’ soft pastel colors. Putting the accent on silhouette, they made a dress with a choker collar, a cut-out asymmetrical neckline, and voluminous sleeves, then cut the drama with puffy slippers. Those flat shoes are a key to the season’s new mood, a timely nod to our more circumscribed lifestyles and the renewed value that women are placing on comfort. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be staying homebound well into 2021. The collection’s knockout dress in stretch jersey with circular cut-outs on the bodice will be similarly comfortable, but the reason that women will really respond to it is because it looks like a guaranteed good time.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Uniform. A.P.C. SS21

Many brands release their spring-summer 2021 collections right now, a month after the fashion month frenzy. For many, it’s the season of uncertainty. While the clothes will be produced, will anyone buy them? Will there be a reason to shop again? Will 2021 be saved by the vaccine or doomed by the total lockdown? This is a pack of questions that disturb everyone, from small labels to big players. And of course, the present times are also full of anxiety. On a video call with Vogue, Jean Touitou predicted that 2020 will “end up not as catastrophic as we thought at first” for brand A.P.C. Naturally, he had a theory as to why. “Is it because we do clothes,” he asked, “instead of just images of clothes?” Not waiting for an answer, he commented, “Reflection counts for more than substance” in this industry. These days, Touitou is coming around to the idea of content, “as long as it’s ‘very personal’ and ‘matter-of-fact.’” He said he’s considering a podcast series in which he and his three kids play a song and talk about its maker; episode one may feature “Arnold Layne,” a Syd Barrett tune off This Is Pink Floyd and the band’s very first single. “Playing music with our kids, nobody can do that but me,” Touitou reasoned. It’s thanks to Jean and Judith’s daughter Haydée that Tim Elkaim shot this season’s look book. She hired him for her magazine, The Skirt Chronicles, before he got this gig. “A virtuous circle,” Touitou called the familial give-and-take. What about the clothes? There’s lots to love, pretty much as usual with A.P.C. The oversized jeans with off-center button flies that first made an appearance last season returned here, and the same treatment was applied to a raw denim mini. All of the button-downs were buttoned up to the top and finished with a thick gold chain worn high under the collar. In one case, a chambray shirt was accessorized by three chains. Cool classics that have that Parisian soul – this just can’t go wrong.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.