It’s getting sultry hot in here! Casey Cadwallader, the young American designer, has reignited the Mugler flame since his arrival at the label in 2018 by adapting the brand’s curvy, body-con aesthetic for the athleisure generation. Where Mugler’s corsets were rigid – his iconic 1992 motorcycle-chassis corset was made from plastic, metal, and Plexiglas – Cadwallader’s are built with two-way stretch. “You can tie your shoes, sit in a taxi, you can breathe,” he said in a preview of the autumn-winter 2021 collection. Material innovation and an embrace of extremes are essential to Mugler’s current success. There’s a pair of ass-less pants in the new lineup, but Cadwallader indicated that he might not have designed them if customers weren’t already wearing the part-sheer, part-opaque (read: mostly sheer) tights he’s been making for the last couple of seasons “without clothing.” The news at Mugler this time around is how he’s evolving his hyper-sexy vibe. In previous collections he’s leaned on black, but here he played with stretchy knit color-block layers to great effect, mixing emerald, ultramarine, bordeaux, and bright orange in one look and highlighter yellow, navy, and orange in another. His other experiment was born from a vintage Mugler bauble with a spray of flexible gold snake chains that he found at a flea market. “I loved how the chains moved,” he said. “I was looking for movement this season.” He sourced modern versions of the chains and made body jewelry from them. Bella Hadid models an intricate necklace top with a bodysuit in the brand’s new video, though Cadwallader’s fans are just as likely to wear it solo.
Daniel Lee‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection for Bottega Veneta, which went public just yesterday, makes me wonder if the designer’s vision for the brand starts to get over-worked and somehow distorted. The collection was presented months ago at Berlin’s Berghain to a handful of house-friends, and as the label ambitiously went Instagram-less, the mist of mystery should have done its magic. But nothing works here, and I feel like nobody paid attention to yesterday’s release. Is the flop-era of “new Bottega” on the horizon? Looking at the hectic garments, Daniel Lee’s latest line-up is ripe with diversions which rather create a sense of inconsistency. The fringed shearling coats that are this collection’s showpieces look odd, but not good-odd, rather cumbersome-odd. Reportedly, the line-up emphasizes couture-level craftsmanship. The brand’s press notes revealed that the glass dresses here take between 135 and 250 hours to complete; a black and white zebra stripe coat, meanwhile, features 4.3 million stitches on an embroidery machine; and each of these colourful outfits have over 4,000 feathers, all hand-embroidered. It sounds spectacular, but in reality it just gets lost in all the noise (or maybe the foggy look-book shots are unfortunate…). The merging of the “fabulous” and the “functional” might be one of the smartest and most satisfying pandemic after-effects on fashion, but this season Lee gets it wrong.
Area’s Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg continue to push the envelope with their made-to-wear glamour. Since launching the brand in 2013, the designers have done so much introspection and recalibration that it’s hard to know if it’s the go-to brand for haute space bitches, haunting Dadaist ghouls, pop star glamazons, or former first ladies. Ask Panszczyk and he’ll answer that the label has always been for everyone but the clothes didn’t always show it, seasonally skewing in favor of one audience while cutting out the rest. Panszczyk and Fogg took 2020 to recenter themselves and their brand, choosing to show in season and to make salability and creativity equal parts of their process. Not either/or but both. As Panszczyk explained over a Zoom call, their shoppers have just as much desire for a couture-grade crystal pantie as they do a pair of crystal-studded jeans. To meet their needs, Area presented its own kind of solution dressing this season, injecting glamour into normcore and normalcy into high-gloss glamorama. Jeans enter the picture in a medium-wash straight-leg style adorned with crystals and paired with a bitchy little bustier. Tweed suiting is cropped and shrunken, with rhinestone fringe falling from hems. A classic LBD comes in vinyl, and the brand’s famous pale pink lamé returns in the form of iridescent minidresses, corsets, and skirts. Knitwear is growing too, with pink and lime pieces dotted with tiny crystal bows. This new Area wardrobe captures the vixenish nature of the label without compromising on wearability; exactly the branding exercise a company needs to push it from emerging to established. But Panszczyk and Fogg are smart to not let their good business sense totally overshadow the weirdness that makes Area special. During the pandemic they connected with Chinese designer Dingyun Zhang, whose enormous puffer jackets have also caught the eye of Kanye West and his Yeezy team. After a couple DMs, the trio decided to collaborate, cropping Zhang’s puffers into cloudlike vests, bralettes, and skirts, and then tamping them down with Area’s crystal harnesses. The results are delightfully kooky, heavenly, and sensual all at once. Area’s year of questioning has yielded some good answers.
Even though breezy September is approaching, let’s keep that hot girl (and boy) summer attitude live. Tom Ford‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection, featuring meaty velvets, sexy silhouettes and intoxicating colours, is the right path to go.
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.