Balenciaga‘s spring-summer 2020 collection was really something. It’s quite clear that since Demna Gvasalia departed from Vetements, his focus is solely directed on the Parisian maison. For me, his latest line-up was as incredible as his debut collection – it proved again that his take on ready-to-wear is truly visionary. The collection was raw, properly odd, ironic and real (all the models come from different walks of life: there were nurses, actresses, super-models, lawyers, gallerists, engineers, etc.). But so, so desirable! Lets start from the beginning. He set the collection in a political arena – a faux “Balenciaga parliament or assembly,” which he’d convened to investigate the subject of “power dressing and fashion uniforms.” First looks: senior delegates in corporate tailoring. On their breast pockets were embroidered badges, two discs bisected with a Balenciaga logo (very Mastercard). Then came what Gvasalia called ‘the campaign dresses’. “We looked at pictures of women politicians, of what they wear campaigning. We took this type of tailored daywear dress and tried to make it cool – not an easy challenge, to be honest,” he said. His solution was to “make them more boxy and cocoon-y, which is quite Balenciaga. So many body types can wear it. Democratic and easy-to-wear volumes.” Later, he sent down a line-up of over-sized, turtleneck frocks in logos, perfume bottles and sneakers prints, and long-sleeved t-shirts with cliche slogans you see in cheesy gift shops (like ’18+’ or ‘Top Model\). In his latest interview with Jo Ellison for How To Spend It, he told the critic that not doing simple, commercial stuff is simply not honest at a brand like Balenciaga. And he’s right. Next: turtle duvet jackets (their construction is amazing – it’s modern day Cristóbal Balenciaga sort of thinking); hybrid, velvet garments that in front look like dresses, but in the back appear to have pants; coats, in faux fur or bold colours, with exaggerated shoulders; XXL, black, widow dresses (worn by Nadja Auermann and Renata Litvinova). If it couldn’t get any more eclectic, here’s the best part. The eveningwear, which instantly became the most memorable / meme moment of Paris Fashion Week. Specifically, crinoline dresses (two in lurex and with a huge, doll-like bow in the back, and three identical velvet masterpieces in different colours). “Ballroom dresses go back to the beginning of Balenciaga, when Cristóbal started in Spain. It was mostly this type of silhouette he did, from Spanish painting,” Gvasalia observed. “But we wanted to make sure they were wearable. If you take out the crinoline, you have a sort of goth dress.” True, there’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable while looking at the collection: maybe it’s the extreme blue of the venue? The prosthetics used as part of models’ make-up? The chilling soundtrack created by Demna’s boyfriend, Loik Gomez? Still, I can’t help but love it. Good fashion makes you want something for a moment. Great fashion makes you feel something and think about it for a couple of days.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
While the autumn-winter pieces hit the stores at power speed, it’s worth reminding ourselves of some of the best moments that took place during the last fashion month (I mean the one dedicated to AW19, back in spring, not the endless resort-menswear-couture marathon we just had). So, here are my top 10 collections, with excerpts from my reviews and accompanying collages. It’s not a ranking, the order is random!
“Marco Zanini, how good to see you back! This truly talented designer of Italian-Swedish origins had his stints at Rochas (those were truly brilliant seasons comparing to today’s state of things at the brand) and Schiaparelli, then did a few capsules for Santoni, and disappeared from the radar for a while. Now he’s back, better than ever, completely free, with his own namesake brand – Zanini. What it’s like to be on your own? Finally, independence! he told Vogue. Of course, it’s a gamble, but this way feels more conscious, more authentic. Zanini is thinking small, and proudly so – two collections per year, well-edited line-ups, quiet showroom presentations. But sometimes, less is really more. His debut collection can be described in one term: exquisite. Beautiful, beautiful tailoring and coats that you will make you drool. Cozy knitwear and beanies made in collaboration with his sister, Miki Zanini, who’s an avid knitter. The designer was in Japan last summer, and he came back with kimono silks that he’s cut into seamless bias dresses, airy and laid-back, but surprising with their construction. He can produce them in limited editions of two, a small number, but true to Marco’s intimate approach. A lot of us are looking for something special, not overexposed. That’s a fact”. More here.
“Marc Jacobs closed New York fashion week with one of his best collections in the last years – or even, career. While the past few seasons were brilliant, they slightly worried with being too exaggerated, too show-y. The autumn-winter 2019 collection is just the perfect balance of Jacobs, and what his brand stands for. New York edginess combined with this cool, ‘off’ glamour. There was drama, of course: the yellow gown worn by Adut Akech looked insanely gorgeous, just as the dresses covered in feathers, as seen on Christy Turlington (by the way, it’s her major runway return after 20 years and let me tell you – she is so, so beautiful). But there was something calm about this collection. Even sober. The venue was dark and absolutely minimal. Classical, live music played throughout the show. No killer platform boots or crazy hair – most of the models looked make-up free and wore beanies topped with a feather (that’s how Stephen Jones does ‘casual’). There was stuff that will sell, like the voluminous, lady-like coats in leopard print, stripes or checks, and hopefully this brings the brand back to the buyers. You might say that the collection is inconsistent: how does Sara Grace Wallerstedt’s minimal pistachio dress works with Guinevere Van Seenus’ ruffled, retro ensemble? They shouldn’t. And Jacobs is fine with that. They’re all very beautiful, but they’re all different. We have 40 girls and each one is slightly different… our vision of who each of these women are, is what the designer said about both, the collection’s diverse model casting, and the aim behind the entire line-up. A ‘wardrobe’ would be a bad term to describe this, as this is something much more broader. It’s rather a set of personalities, in the fashion aspect, but not only.” More here.
“You might know Molly Goddard for her voluminous tulle dresses, but it would be a mistake to say that her brand is nothing more than that. Goddard’s autumn-winter 2019 was one of her best, as it didn’t only demonstrate how she can expand her style, but also, it showed her signature in a new context. Dressed for the storm is how the designer describe the look of the season. If knitted balaclavas, utilitarian accessories and weatherproof knee-high boots didn’t exactly ring a bell, then the wind machines installed on the runway were a quite straightforward metaphor. The way Molly’s XXL tulles in green and pink drifted in the abrupt air was so, so beautiful, simply speaking. Rhombus patterned knits, easy-looking frocks and laid-back tailoring were as well something new, a nod to the English countryside style (I’m thinking of Stella Tennant and Isabella Cowdor’s style seen in their Holland & Holland reinvention). Goddard’s shows are always a delight, whether it’s a kitchen after-party, Mediterranean market or an imaginary storm.” More here.
“What Prada’s autumn-winter 2019 was like? Rebellious and romantic, dark and light, aggressive and soft. An entire anatomy of feelings and moods, masterfully presented through fashion. Miuccia Prada sent down a line-up of big, heavy boots mixed with ultra-feminine touches, like draped silk roses stuck on skirts and bags, rich crystal embellishments and very sensual cuts that made each of the wool black dresses a true show-stopper. Just like in this season’s menswear, Prada featured Frankenstein-inspired prints (specifically the film still motif of Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff in the 1935 movie ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’) and following her current mood for cult horrors, some of the models had literal Wednesday Addams’ braids. There was the usual clash between utility (this time it felt even military, noting all of the khakis and uniform silhouettes) and delicacy (classical, black lace appeared dozens of times, whether layered on Prada’s signature nylon or as see-through knee-length skirts and dresses). Quite visibly, Miuccia’s woman is full of contrasts, just like each of the looks that went down the runway: there’s tenderness, there’s fragility, but there’s toughness and assertiveness. Mrs. Prada is a genius – but that fact is nothing new.” More here.
“First thing’s first: stop calling Daniel Lee’s Bottega Veneta the ‘new Céline’. Should we really replace Phoebe Philo? Phoebe has her irreplaceable style, which is the ideal balance between femininity, minimalism and artistic quirk. Those who have her clothes, lucky you, cherish and wear them. Let’s all hope she will come back to fashion soon – that’s it. On Lee’s note, yes, he ‘grew up’ creatively in her design studio, but I’m sure he must be already tired with all that loud comparing and the Philophiles-generated pressure of being a Céline replacement. Now it’s his Bottega Veneta, and as his debut runway collection proved, this guy has a mind of his own. I’m saying this right away: his collection didn’t completely ‘wow’ me, at some points it was over-complicated. But that’s fine, because every debut has its ups and downs. The designer focused on leather, because Bottega Veneta has always been a leather brand. While the motocross look felt, simply speaking, like too much leather, accessories were the most compelling part of the collection (the shoes in signature Intrecciato weave are so, so good, just like all the heavy boots, geometrical handbags and fringed clutches, of course in leather). A future Bottega Veneta customer should definitely invest in one of those new classics. A sharp injection of modernity was as well brought to clothes. A square neck dress that opened the collection was sensual, but strong, just like the asymmetric knits (they looked extra on guys) and quilted skirts. But then, some of the coats’ shoulders were a bit too bold and kind of conflicted with all this tender, close-to-body feeling. Good things are coming to Bottega Veneta, let’s just all hope the designer will get the time he needs to fully establish his new language for the brand. And don’t mistake him with Philo.” More here.
“For autumn-winter 2019, Acne Studios’ designer, Jonny Johansson, considered what’s high fashion from the perspective of young people, and how it might change throughout time. All the power dressing that I consider iconic womenswear, maybe they are attracted to it, but in a different way. While doing the research, he also thoroughly examined Helmut Newton’s eternally chic photographs, and was amazed with the fact that those visuals are so relevant, and not getting old – even a day. All this gave birth to a collection, that’s quite different to Acne Studios we’ve seen in the last few seasons. Oversize pants were cinched at the waist and tucked into socks; coats had those refined-looking, rounded shoulders; draping, probably never seen at Acne before, looked sublime. The new season silhouette is sharp and chic, but there were also elements that felt distinct to the brand’s aesthetic: knits with raw finishings, eclectic jewellery (those XXL bracelets are gorgeous) and, other than the very seductive, Newton-ish pumps, heavy trekking boots. Worn with one of the statuesque blazers or a collared ‘office’ midi-dress, the elegant-slash-off-duty look would exactly be what Johansson worked on this time: power dressing, fitted for a contemporary woman.” More here.
“Talented women with their distinct style rule in London. There’s Marta Jakubowski and Molly Goddard. There’s Victoria Beckham and Mary Katrantzou. And there’s Simone Rocha, whose autumn-winter 2019 was one of the very best collections I’ve seen this season. Rocha designs for women – and women love her. Seeing her runway graced by women of different ages, colour and body types was a female power moment, yes, but also an ode to the brand’s clients who trust Simone every season. Chloë Sevigny, Tess McMillan, Kristen Owen, Lily Cole, Sara Grace Wallerstedt, Ugbad Abdi… whether models or not, runway veterans or bold newcomers, all those faces are amazing individuals and characters. And, also, it’s an ultimate proof that full-skirted dresses and coats aren’t only meant for 20-somethings, just like organza see-throughs, bras worn over trench coats and opulent headbands. The collection was a study of female eroticism, a debate between being the object of desire and owning it. As the designer put it in her own words, it was a about intimacy and privacy, security and insecurity. Rocha looked at Michael Powell’s disturbing films (like ‘Peeping Tom’, the voyeuristic horror), but also returned to her long-time inspiration – Louise Bourgeois. The artist investigates the subject of sex and tenderness in her works, which as well often takes a darker turn. I found her series of weavings which she’d made with fabric from her own clothes particularly beautiful, Simone said. The spiderweb embroideries and prints Rocha used for puffball coats and dresses were made in collaboration with the Louise Bourgeois Foundation – could you wish for a more heartwarming artist appreciation moment? Still, while the themes behind the collection might be not exactly joyous and lightweight, the models – we see you, Chloë – were all smiley and visibly proud to be walking that outstanding show.” More here.
“Alessandro Michele‘s Gucci is kile an endless rollercoaster – sometimes, you just love the craziness of the entire thing; sometimes, you’re near puking. This time, however, I felt the first. In a venue covered with more than 120,000 LED lightbulbs and a 100-meter long mirrored runway, a tribe of beautifully eccentric individuals made an appearance. Rich in tailoring, pattern and opulent decoration, many of the looks were worn with masks of all sorts. Spiked, coloured, one in the form a of an eagle, the masks represented showing and hiding who we are, and to protect the kindness and beauty inside. Fantastical shapes, faux fur accessories in the boldest shades and gold metal ear coverings inspired by the 24-karat gold work ‘Fashion Fiction #1’ from 1968 by artist Eduardo Costa were all here, matched and mismatched in true manner of Michele. Those elongated jackets, wide trousers, ornate robes, dresses with puffed sleeve (and whatever else you see here) are no longer for women or men specifically. Alessandro wants to create clothes for individuals, who no longer limit themselves through gender boundaries. He does so, with his eternal love for untamed eclecticism.” More here.
“That’s a fact: Demna Gvasalia delivered the best coats (outerwear, even) of the season. Literally every coat that appeared in Balenciaga’s autumn-winter 2019 made me drool! Those volumes. The designer focused on the streets of Paris and how Parisians really dress (forget the Jeanne Damas and Caroline de Maigret archetype of Parisian chic). He thoroughly investigated outfits people wear in their metro commute, to the parties, on a dog walk, for groceries. And here we are with more than 100 looks, featuring faux-fur, floor-sweeping coats in Cristobal Balenciaga-esque architectural silhouettes to vintage-y leather jackets and quilted belted robes in satin. Tailoring was strong, too, just as the dresses. From the polished, sleek mini-dresses that closed the show to flowing, maxi-gowns (like the one Stella Tennant had on, made from some fancy, metallic fringes), each looked was distinctly Gvasalia – sharp, ironic, delightfully confusing. I really loved this one ‘super-nornal’ outfit that featured a black turtleneck, leather slouchy pants and a pink, polka-dot shopper bag. That’s exactly how editors dress in Paris. Again, this collection was extremely Paris, but not in this fashioned-up manner we often get to see. As the designer said backstage, It’s real. When I’m on the streets of Paris, that’s what I see.” More here.
“I could write and write about each and signle look coming from Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran‘s autumn-winter 2019 collection. Everything’s just so beautifully balanced and refined. Lemaire might be defining elegance this season – I mean, just look at this all-knitted look feauturing a sweater with big shoulders and waist-highlighting button-down skirt. From masculine coats to evening dresses, there isn’t a thing about the collection that isn’t compelling. The blouson jackets with leg-o-mutton sleeves have this chic, slightly vintage-y Parisian feel about them, just like leather jackets or business-ready blazers. Some things don’t change, like Lemaire’s season-to-season goodness – and I’m fine with that.” More here.
All collages by Edward Kanarecki.