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.

Yayoi Kusama Retrospective at Gropius Bau

Berlin is alive and doing fine! And it blooms with great art events. Presented across almost 3000 m² of Gropius Bau‘s historic space, Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective offers an overview of the key periods in Kusama’s oeuvre, which spans more than 70 years, and feature a number of current works as well as a newly realised Infinity Mirror Room.  The retrospective focuses primarily on tracing the development of Kusama’s creative output from her early paintings and accumulative sculptures to her immersive environments, as well exploring her lesser-known artistic activity in Germany and Europe. Since the 1960s, the artist has been actively engaged in realising exhibition projects outside the former centre of her life in New York and showing her work in a European context. This has also brought to the fore Kusama’s role as a pioneer of personal branding, who early on in her practice intentionally staged and marketed her own artistic persona and multidisciplinary work. Within the exhibition framework, reconstructions allow viewers to experience the pioneering nature of her presentational forms and artistic subjects, making accessible Kusama’s early exhibition projects in Germany and Europe in the 1960s and central solo exhibitions in the USA and Asia from the 1950s to 1980s. It seems that everybody knows Yayoi’s art, but there’s just so much more to her work than the signature, XXL polka-dots.

Till the 15th of August 2021 / Gropius Bau / Niederkirchnerstraße 7

All photos 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.

Lust For Essentials. The Row SS22

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen are holding their course, even though most of the designers this season move towards a hedonist mode. Skimp is not in The Row’s vocabulary, and it isn’t likely to be in the future. None of us have been untouched by the pandemic, though, so how has the experience of lockdown changed the Olsens’ design POV and what does The Row’s take on re-emergence style look like? Something unexpected emerged most vividly midway through the lineup in the form of separates for women and men in shades of red and blue, the brightest colors ever to find their way into a collection from the Olsens, who prefer to work with neutrals and classic black and white. There were also the arty details here and there, like the delicate thread belt that accented the drawstring waist of a pair of casual pants or the fringed raw-edges of a fully knit skirt made with three different yarns. A few pieces were hand-painted, a nod, maybe, to the artists and art collectors that number among their clients. The accessories offering has expanded and there was a notable element of fun, as seen in the tiny card cases and coin purses suspended from belts and in the stretchy ankle boots that looked like a cross between scuba socks and wrestler shoes. Overall, the proportions are roomy and the silhouettes are layered – luxe comfort is the key. The Row fans will fall in love with a pair of pressed khakis whose low-slung, flared profile recalled the ’90s, and a jumpsuit with a tank top upper half that was the barest of all the looks assembled here. Pre- or post-pandemic, perfect essentials never go out of style.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.