Old And New. Acne Studios AW20

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You wouldn’t know it from these photos, but the Acne Studios women’s and men’s collections took place together. Meaning, at the same time, in the same venue, with the same music. But instead of being shown together, they had been consciously uncoupled – separated by a featureless white wall running the length of the runway. Jonny Johansson, the label’s designer, explained that the men’s direction would be “forward” while the women’s direction would look back. More specifically, AI and algorithms contributed to the men’s designs, whereas Old Masters artworks and ornamental fabrics formed the basis of the women’s show. Beautiful jacquards, brocades, and velvets that might have otherwise been used for upholstery, theater curtains, or a mondaine’s corset were transformed into dramatic dress coats, cocoon-shaped tunics, and sumptuous suiting with edges frayed and tasseled to varying degrees of decadent distress. A series of twisted tailored looks, including a leather coat painted with a faded scene of classical nudes, reiterated a certain unhinged, arty attitude that comes so naturally to Acne Studios. A body-contoured dress enhanced with a burnout treatment that traced the acanthus pattern was gorgeous. The womenswear was, summing up, beautiful and really, really covetable. On the other side of the wall, thinks weren’t looking this great. The menswear was created in collaboration with a “generative artist” named Robbie Barrat, who writes algorithms to realize his projects. All Acne archives were filtered through Barrat’s algorithms to enable an AI-authored menswear collection. Definitely, a human hand had its part in the collection. However, the tech-authored designs looked clumsy and… overcomplicated? This time, the old way wins.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Corto Maltese. Lanvin AW20

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Bruno Sialelli seems to finally find his ground at Lanvin – even though I’m not sure if the customer is ready to come back to the brand’s stores. For the men’s autumn-winter 2020 collection, the designer took creative license from Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese series of comics. Corto Maltese began in the 1960s and it charted the progress of a tough but tender maritime adventurer who encounters some of the early 20th century’s most important figures and is a bit like one of Joseph Conrad’s questing captain protagonists. Sialelli likes seasonal graphics, and he incorporated this character on shirting and outerwear. It looks good, but I don’t see any connection to Lanvin. And we already have a bunch of designers who do eclectic, random style. While most of the garments were quite unamusing, they were helped by accessories (think beanies covered in sequins and necklaces with faux shark teeth). The one area in which this collection was somehow really attractive was the 1990s skate culture influences that included super oversized sneakers and voluminous silhouettes. Taking a look at women’s pre-fall, which was also present in the line-up, I have an impression that designers this season think that if they have Bella and Gigi Hadid as the models, the job is done.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Intuition. Sacai AW20

Chitose Abe doesn’t have a formula for her signature hybrids; it’s mainly intuition, she insisted after her autumn-winter 2020 men’s Sacai show (and women’s pre-fall 2020 presentation). It turns out that the man who invented what is arguably the world’s most famous and universal formula, E=mc², was also a big believer in intuition, so Abe made his words her latest motto (and the line-up’s t-shirt that will sell like hot buns). Saca and Einstein is a genius remix. Backstage, she was wearing a T-shirt that read “common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18” – a quote commonly attributed to him. In her work, Chitose allows an arbitrary inspiration to motivate a shift in layers and volumes or a shakeup in color or pattern; but you don’t get the sense she sets out to radically alter her repertoire. Instead, she experiments, innovates and taps into a topical subject or feeling. This began with women’s looks consisting of suit jackets counterintuitively worn atop military layers that gave way to a fluid skirt and punk-ish platform boots. The men’s outfits included a few Mod-inflected ensembles, sweaters that unzipped up the torso and total looks in pink that corresponded to the romantic spirit of the season. Across both collections, the usual toggling of utility and fluidity played out in animal spots and cosmic-themed bandana sketches by the tattoo artist Dr. Woo. Elsewhere, Abe relied on denim, tweed, tartan, and fleece. A goodie!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Whimsy. Bode AW20

One of New York’s biggest menswear talents, Emily Bode, charmed the Paris audience with her autumn-winter 2020 line-up. The Education Of Benjamin Bloomstein sounds like a title straight out of a Wes Anderson film; and in aesthetic terms the director and Bode’s designer create similarly winsome worlds. Years before Bloomstein and the designer became friends and collaborators (through his design studio, Green River Project LLC), he had an idiosyncratic upbringing that made him an obvious protagonist for the ongoing Bode narrative. Briefly, as related in the collection text, he attended schools in a former Shaker village and on a biodynamic farm; he wrote poetry and immersed himself in agriculture; and perhaps most pertinent, he figured out how to alter his school clothes so that they would feel more comfortable. In adapting Bloomstein’s memories to her exploration of craft methods and sustainable values, Bode delivered a beautiful and whimsy collection. Her sentimental nods to the past included a quilted jacket and matching mittens that signaled outerwear from pre-duvet times; outfits covered in deadstock souvenir and achievement patches; shirts embroidered with farm animals and vintage athletic jerseys; delicate seed bead ornaments and necklaces strung with hand-blown marbles. Four years into her brand, Emily navigates the trap of historical costume by shaking up how she presents her repurposed and reproduced textiles and trims (be it the equine blankets that were the basis for the opening tailored look or the golden Appenzeller Gurt charms adorning various looks as well as the label’s new line of slip-ons). Big love.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Play. Loewe AW20

At Loewe, things took a fun twist. That gesture of holding something in front of the mirror to see how it looks – we all know it. You could just see it the boys wearing draped lamé dresses fixed to the front of their tailored outfits on the autumn-winter 2020 runway. “I was thinking of ’50s couture—and a child, trying something on. What do you look like in the mirror?”, Jonathan Anderson explained. The two themes which have been running through this menswear season were bound together in one collection: carefree boyhood and the unprecedented presence of ideas about haute couture in menswear. “A fantasy wardrobe,” Anderson called it. “Playful. Optimistic. Pretty boys.” The dresses were a kind of signifying accessory, attached, apron-like, with leather straps. They said a lot about the way Anderson has always worked in the studio, experimenting with garments in free-association. The designer also put guys in coats which had “couture structures, on a woman’s block.” There was a white fit-and-flare shearling, a high-waisted princess-line coat. The zebra-print double-breasted caped silhouette, Anderson imagined, could easily become a superhero look. The childlike-couture perspective (also big at Francesco Risso’s Marni) led him to blow up existing Loewe mini-leather goods’ elephant shapes to become oversized tote-toys, to sprinkle crystal bling on sweaters, dangle diamanté jewelry on black patent boots, to weave a coat-dress from floral-print scarves. Anderson pointed out his own favorite—a shirt appliquéd with a pair of geese. Random and eclectic, don’t care. The point is that everyone, gender-regardless is welcome to pick and choose from what Anderson designs and delivers at Loewe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.