Men’s – Full Throttle. Celine SS22

As Phoebe Philo is coming back to fashion, the Celine wound seems to heal. Which doesn’t mean I suddenly love Hedi Slimane‘s vision – but at least I can tolerate it. Still, his men’s spring-summer 2022 collection left me with some mixed feelings. This season, we’ve got an action-and-item packed Celine show recorded by drones somewhere on the Archipel des Embiez in the south of France. On a black runway set up with freestyle motocross ramps and jumps, teams of shirtless Honda-riding boys leapt and arced against the Mediterranean sky. The location is apparently not far from where Slimane lives outside St.Tropez, and this was Slimane on home territory in more ways than one: capturing his endless obsession with male teen energy, studding the collection with multiple art collabs, and wrapping it all up to the beat of a mesmeric looped soundtrack. The FMX bikers belong to a community that invented its renegade free-riding sport in the hills of California in the early ’90s – Slimane has been documenting them since 2011, when he came across them while he was living in L.A. This time, he commissioned and co-produced the music with Izzy Camina, intersecting the long, slouching march of a black-leather and silver-sparkled collection with souvenir slogan T-shirts and prints made by 14 of the emerging artists he collects and promotes. Since the pandemic hit, Slimane has shifted his Celine productions into the open air and into spectacular French locations. Wherever he lands, though, be it a Formula One racetrack, a chateau in the Loire valley, or this time, on a rocky coastline, there’s always the same, recognizable atmosphere, the romantic-erotic stamp Slimane puts on a world inhabited by young men. His meeting of motocross daredevilry and neo-rave frippery nailed the current summer of spring-summer 2021 teen spirit – a full-ranging breakdown of XXL elephant jeans, mirrored bug sunglasses, scaled-up bombers, tour jackets, and draped tuxes. Black capes flew over black leathers; sequins, crystals, and silver western boots glinted. Slimane targets Gen Z, and he confidently thinks he knows what they want. But I’m not sure if his take on youth is actually that relevant today. To me, it feels like an over-done costume. And Gen Z look forward to the unforced sense of authencity.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Joviality. Jil Sander Resort 2022

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Curated Wardrobe. Maryam Nassir Zadeh Resort 2022

Contemporary, New York chic? It’s Maryam Nassir Zadeh‘s brand. The designer comes at her collections from multiple vantage points: as a designer, as a retailer (her Lower East Side store is set to reopen soon), and as a true lover of clothes. She has an epic personal archive filled with labels she discovered early on – Nassir Zadeh was one of the first New York stores to sell Jacquemus and Eckhaus Latta – as well as designer treasures and vintage finds she’s collected over the years. As for her brand’s archive, she’s been busy revisiting and editing every piece she’s ever made, plus dozens of prototypes and one-offs, to get it to a place that reflects her tastes today. Post-pandemic, she’s leaning more minimal, but not in a stark or staid way; there’s a delicateness to it, even in the menswear.  For resort 2022, she tried on almost every piece she’s kept, one by one, and re-cut the best ones to create the ultimate “curated” MNZ wardrobe. Her past few collections have followed a similar approach, initially due to the constraints of the pandemic; in 2020, her team didn’t have the resources to create brand-new samples with brand-new fabrics. But Zadeh didn’t think that resort would have turned out “better” if it was entirely new stuff. The time and care she put into hand-selecting the clothes – and occasionally redoing them in different colors or fabrics – amounted to a collection heartfelt and personal. Diehard fans might spot a few of her “greatest hits,” but Zadeh and her stylist, Thistle Brown, re-styled each piece so they’re hardly recognizable. Several dresses were transformed into skirts thanks to artful knots or belt bags around the waist, while a neon orange midi dress was shown with a full skirt underneath, sort of like a petticoat. Beyond showing you how to wear the new pieces, Zadeh hopes it will inspire her entire community to get more creative with their MNZ favorites at home. A few looks were styled with bikinis, now a brand signature, or asymmetrical bodysuits in mushroom-y colors. They lent an undone, balletic feeling to the skirts, sort of like a Lower East Side spin on a dancer’s uniform.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

La Grande Bellezza. Valentino AW21 Couture

What a show. What a feeling. What a symphony. Celebration of great beauty. Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli set his sublime couture collection in the Gaggiandre, or ship building yard, of Venice. He was drawn to the place’s haunting beauty which he likened to a De Chirico painting with its arches and robust columns. In Renaissance times this place represented the hub of the city’s trading machine, a sophisticated production line that was said to churn out a boat a day. This being Venice and the Renaissance, of course the place – now part of the Arsenale where the city’s art and architecture Biennales are showcased – is as beautiful as it was once productive, having been built (between 1568 and 1573) by Jacopo Sansovino, one of Venice’s most revered architects of the period. Piccioli set his snaking runway under Sansovino’s soaring arches where the ships were once sheltered to be repaired, so that it appeared to float over the water. Guests were bidden to wear white. Luckily everyone did as they were told, and the effect, as the golden light of early evening streaked the water, the stone, tile, and brick, was undeniably poetic. To add to the spine-tingling moment, the collection was serenaded by the British singer Cosima, whose plangent voice gave a powerful twist to Calling You from the 1987 movie Bagdad Cafe, that opened the show. Piccioli brings the ultimate level of gasping wonder to fashion’s color wheel, setting flamingo pink, chartreuse, violet, cocoa, and mallard green ball gowns one after another, for instance. Or he might throw a raspberry double-face balmacaan over darker pink pants and an orchid pink crepe shirt, or a lilac cashmere cape over violet pants, frog green sequin t-shirt, and pea green gloves, and then ground the look with eggplant shoes with the heft of Dr. Martens. These last two ensembles, by the way, are part of the menswear offerings in the collection, in case you were wondering, and very persuasive they were too.

There were 84 looks in the show, and each one was a different proposition, from puffball micro minis, (shaded with Philip Treacy’s giant trembling ostrich frond hats that moved like jellyfish), to trapeze silhouettes, skirts that hit the mid-calf or hovered above the ankle, and slinks of satin and crepe cut to spiral round the body like affectionate serpents. From ball gown to micro mini the effect was one of commanding elegance. The fashion history sleuth will find echoes here of Madame Grès, of Cardin, and Capucci, as well as note taking from Mr. Valentino’s own magnificent oeuvre, but Piccioli takes these iconic moments of design history and makes them uniquely and persuasively his own. Also unique were the artist collaborations, curated by Gianluigi Ricuperati, who assembled a roster of 17 painters, including Jamie Nares, Luca Coser, Francis Offman, Andrea Respino, and Wu Rui. Art and fashion have often united in symbiosis – think of Warhol and Sprouse, or Schiaparelli and Dalí – but here the effect was a celebration of creativity, the hand, and of the nonpareil Valentino workrooms whose talented artisans evoked the source artworks through various cunning means. There were elaborate collages of textiles, for instance 46 in all for Look 6, Kerstin Brätsch’s The If, 2010, (as the Valentino show program notes helpfully noted, alongside the names of the craftspeople in the ateliers who have made them). Meanwhile, the five pieces by Patricia Treib, combined in the ballgown of Look 68, called for 140 meters and 88 different textiles, and took 680 hours to complete. On close inspection even the fine lines of Benni Bosetto’s pencil strokes (Untitled, 2020), that appeared to have been drawn directly onto the pale satin of Look 46, turned out to have been suggested by subtle hand-stitching (a stunning 880 hours of work, if you are counting). The ball gown and cape that closed the show, Look 84, were scrolled with motifs drawn respectively from Jamie Nares’s It’s Raining in Naples, 2003 and Blues in Red, 2004, requiring 700 hours of work, 107 meters of fabric, and custom screens for the hand-printing as it had to be done on such a large scale. The effect was appropriately magisterial. Summing up: total magnificience.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Venice Boy. Saint Laurent SS22

With Venice’s winding lanes and piazzas relatively empty, not exactly overwhelmed with visitors, an army of very slender wraiths, confettied with tattoos, bristling with attitude, and wafting around the city’s fabled landscape, seemed even more conspicuous. These proved to be the (extra, extra skinny) models and brand icons of Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent, in town to walk the runway in the designer’s collection. In keeping with the city’s current focus on the possibilities of architecture, Vaccarello collaborated with the genre defying artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken (who won the International Prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale) on an environment to showcase his collection. Aitken created Green Lens, an amazing mirror-faceted structure that was assembled in a month on the Isola della Certosa, and planted with hot house jungle greenery. It serves as a response to the question posed by the Biennale, harmoniously blending futurism with the natural landscape. “All the sets of Saint Laurent I’ve always done myself in a way,” Vaccarello explained, at the magical post-show dinner set in the roofless ruin of an old brick structure on the island, “so it was nice to share a concept for the first time with an artist who I truly admire, and it was fun. That concept was supposed to be for the women’s show last year,” Vaccarello added, “and because of the pandemic we pushed it to now. In the end it made more sense to have it in Venice than in Paris, especially with the Architecture Biennale – and with that collection, which is a mix of a lot of influence of Saint Laurent and a lot of Venetian ‘New Romanticism.’ Not putting them into the historical, classical Venetian way, but in a futuristic environment. I think after COVID you want to look more into the future than the past – and I like that mix of the past in the references in the clothes, and the future in the setting.” During the fast-paced show the structure reflected the blue skies, dusk light, and dappled lagoon waters while Aitken’s lighting transformed the mood from moment to moment, suggesting by turns a flaming sunset or a glacial blue Scandinavian dawn. Refracted in those mirrors, Vaccarello’s tribe strode forth in lean jackets or billowing piratical blouses, and cigarette-leg pants with winkle picker ankle boots extending the slender silhouette further still. In a timely reversal of the endless womenswear borrowings from the traditional men’s wardrobe, Vaccarello also had fun exploring the unparalleled Saint Laurent archives for women’s wear pieces that could be appropriated by the guys, including jacquard crepe de chine blouses and shirts from the early ’70s, cropped toreador jackets and spencers from Picasso line-up, and a padded brocade bolero from the China collection reimagined as a bomber and worn with black jeans, as well as a number of variations on Le Smoking. In homage to the host city there was Venetian carnival drama too in the dramatic billowing capes, including one in brilliant yellow silk that evoked a faille example shown in Saint Laurent’s autumn-winter 1983 haute couture show. “I think it was fun to see how a young guy could assume it,” said Vaccarello of his gender fluid propositions, “And I have to say they assumed it very naturally, [whether] a lace shirt, or platform shoes.” With this most convincing menswear line-up to date coming from the designer, hope to see more of such moments coming from Vacarrello in the future.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.