Valentino’s Night-Dreaming in Beijing

As I mentioned right here not a long time ago, Pierpaolo Piccioli is a gift to fashion. On the eve of the designer’s Valentino haute couture show in Beijing’s storied Summer Palace, Piccioli was walking through the improvised couture atelier where most of the house’s tailors and seamstresses have been transplanted from the brand’s Palazzo Mignanelli HQ at the foot of Rome’s Spanish Steps – pointing out the many wonders created by these “alchemists”. The 45 masterworks designed by Piccioli and executed under the direction of Valentino’s brilliant premieres, or heads of the ateliers (Alessandra, Antonietta, Elide and Irene) and their respective teams have been designed especially for this moment and with an eye to the bevy of glamorous, free-spending clients from the region. Piccioli, however, averred that it is “a real Italian haute couture collection—not anything to do with China. It’s important to keep your identity,” he added, “especially when you bring your culture to another world and use it to evaluate the diversities.” But alongside those diversities, Piccioli found dynamic synergies, too. His moodboard was filled with images of the masters of the early Italian Renaissance that he loves – think Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico – alongside photographs taken of the Summer Palace itself, and of portraits of the emperors and empresses who once ruled here, revealing unexpected aesthetic dialogues, “two moments of grandness of old cultures,” as Piccioli explained, “of history and heritage.” Some of the grand ball gowns, sheath dresses, and wide-leg pant ensembles were worked with elaborate intarsia and appliqué techniques to suggest the swirling brocades in a Bronzino portrait. Others took the leitmotifs of Valentino’s ultra-romantic work from the 1970s and 1980s: point d’esprit ruffles, overscale rose prints, and a passion for bows, as well as classic haute couture fabrics including gazar, cigaline, silk velvet, and duchess satins and failles. Here, they were amplified into the extravagant volumes and dimensions that characterize Piccioli’s haute couture collections. Now, let’s talk couture numbers. A dress entirely covered in hundreds of shaded pink bows of various sizes required 350 meters of fabric, for instance; a voluminous ball gown composed of ruffles of cherry red point d’esprit – 600 meters of tulle in total! – took 1,300 hours to complete; and a silvery dress and balaclava were entirely embroidered in more than 32,000 silvery sequins (for the show, beauty maestro Pat McGrath silvered the model’s face to match, creating an out-of-this-world effect). Meanwhile, an intarsia opera coat composed of swirling sections of Oz green sequins, ivory wool, and soft pink crepes (eight different types of fabric in all) worn over wide pants and a turtleneck top in a smaller-scale version of the pattern took a cool six and a half months to complete. Delightful.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / The Row’s Minimalism

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

The Row‘s minimalism.

Looking back at the 2010s, it seems to me that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are the ultimate owners of minimalism. With their sensivity for top knotch quality and craftsmanship, it’s no surprise that The Row is globally renowned among the richest women who, rather than drown in Gucci, have similar preference for clean lines, the comfort of soft cashmere and well, have nowhere else to go since Phoebe Philo left Céline (ok, there’s Lemaire, Jil Sander and Bottega Veneta, but… still, they choose The Row). Their collections don’t surprise, but warm your heart. Coats of the most perfect volume and silhouette. An over-sized ecru turtleneck-dress from the best alpaca yarn you can imagine. Masculine tailoring, beauutifully sculpted at the waist. Timeless, crisp shirting that’s getting better and better while wearing it. Eveningwear that’s pure refiniment and elegance without even one embroidery or print. You don’t expect newness with The Row, except for some unexpected lining detail or an antique embellishment on the bags – so, basically details you will notice only when the clothes arrive on the rack. Other than incredible collections the Olsens staged in New York (and in a French chateau that’s 45 minutes outside Paris back in 2015), the sisters created some of the most beautiful retail spaces (see them here) and an equally magnificent menswear line.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / Galliano’s Future at Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela AW18 Couture by John Galliano

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

John Galliano‘s vision of the future at Maison Margiela.

Maybe I wasn’t a total fan of every Maison Margiela collection under John Galliano, but one thing is sure: the designer’s vision for the brand is always thought-provoking. Moreover, just a couple of days ago, it was announched that after five years as creative director of the label, John has extended his contract. Galliano joined Maison Margiela in 2014, taking over the brand’s womenswear, menswear, accessories and Artisanal couture collection. Under his tenure, the revenues have even doubled (which is positively surprising!). John’s talent is matched by his understanding of today’s generations: its ways of thinking, struggles and dreams. And he is doing exactly what the label always did at its best: disrupt, innovate, and inspire. One of my favourite collections is the autumn-winter 2018 couture line-up. Collections like this make you believe in fashion again. Maison Margiela‘s Artisanal line is an outlet for Galliano‘s wildest ideas, which seems to let him explore his most dynamic ideas with the unlimited freedom. But when you listened to John speaking about the collection, you suddenly undertood it’s not just a mega-artist’s next epic fantasy. There’s a seed of reality in those multi-layered garments packed with utilitarian textiles, protective pillow-y elements and extreme colours. “We’re all nomads today. . . we do move in tribes.” That nomadic glamour, the term he coined after the show, refers to the contemporary state of things. On the daily basis, we absorb so much information through different, constantly booming media. At the end of the day, we want comfort – but is it even possible in today’s world? Rather, we need shelter or an armour – which can be constructed from tulle, felt wool or some sponge-y material, just as Galliano predicts. Even though we already exist in the hi-tech world, the vision of iPhones and iPads sticking out of our bodies like some kind of exoskeleton feels rather dystopian on the other note. But then, if the future will bring the humanity to “neo-digital natives”, as the designer called it, then at least our wardrobes won’t disappoint with boldness.

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s / Raf Simons (Times Four)

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Raf Simons (times four).

In this decade, probably no other designer worked as the creative director for three completely different brands, simultaneously presented incredible collections at their own label, and left such a meaningful body of work (and I’m sure will keep on expanding it in the 2020s!). I’m speaking of Raf Simons, the Belgian designer, who revolutionized menswear and elevated womenswear in a number of ways throughout the years. By the end of 2000s and in the beginning of 2010s, Simons brought Jil Sander back on track with his well-considered, minimalist sensitivity. Whether we’re speaking of the geometric colour block dresses (spring-summer 2011), all-leather suits for guys (autumn-winter 2012) or his forever great final line-up for the brand in 2012 – a parade of couture-ish, pastel pink gowns and cocoon coats – Simons’ tenure at Sander still keeps on being an inspiration for fashion today. Moving on, Raf was appointed as the creative director of Dior at 2012, and honestly, no other designer in this decade did anything as good for the maison (definitely not Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s current designer…). Simons made Christian Dior’s house-codes, like the bar jacket, relevant again; his haute couture felt truly modern; he manages to redefine the label into something intelligent and refined. Not speaking of the gorgeous show venues (the debut collection in 2012 – the flower walls) and show locations (Pierre Cardin’s Les Palais Bulles in Cannes for resort 2016 will always have a special place in my heart). Simons left the brand due to the industry’s neck-breaking pace and constant need for newness – factors that make even the biggest visionaries struggle. After a short hiatus, the news of his appointment at Calvin Klein struck everyone. His Calvin Klein 205W39NYC line was major in every meaning of this word – but not for the corporate, shallow and impatient owners, who parted ways with him after just two years. With Raf, the label could really stand for something. It brought spotlight to New York’s fashion scene. His four seasons there were filled with musings on American culture, from The Jaws and Andy Warhol to cowboys and university merch. Each collection was pure excitement. Also, his direction for CK’s apparel lines was far better than the influencer trash that’s going on now. And of course, Raf Simons, the brand. From the now cult Sterling Ruby collection to the remarkable “odes” (like the Robert Mapplethorpe or The Blade Runner inspired collections), there wasn’t even one ‘bad’ line-up that came from Raf for Raf – each is special, and all the pieces coming from them can be tagged as “collector’s item”. Will Simons work for another brand in the 2020s or stay home with his namesake label? Who knows. Whatever his next step will be, I’m definitely paying attention.

Jil Sander by Raf Simons

Dior by Raf Simons

Calvin Klein 205W39NYC by Raf Simons

Raf Simons… by Raf Simons.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.