Somebody In California Loves You. Raquel Allegra AW21

Looking at her autumn-winter 2021 collection, it’s visible that Raquel Allegra has been spending most of lockdown in her garden – it’s the attitude, easiness and colours that say it all. You can even glimpse it in her look-book, filled with lush trees, towering leafy plants, succulents, and flowers growing every which way. Allegra has always strived to feel in communion with her surroundings, but the pandemic awakened a new urgency to bring this more fully into her work. “Human nature: We are of nature, not separate,” she wrote in a letter about the collection. Her artful clothes were a comfort to women stuck at home this year, but it’s easy to imagine wearing them out in nature too, whether you’re gardening in one of her tie-dyed jumpsuits or spending a week in the woods with a duffel of jersey separates and zero cell service. For autumn, she paid closer attention to how her clothes may unintentionally impact those surroundings – namely after they’re already in your closet. Going forward, nearly all of her garment tags will read “machine washable,” not “dry-clean only,” in an effort to avoid the toxic chemicals involved in the dry-cleaning process. Not many brands consider that. Now, her customer can choose her own detergent, ideally a nontoxic one. Allegra said the shift was just as much about streamlining our lives; dry-cleaning is simply a hassle, and it often inspires us to wear our favorite things less often than we’d like. Allegra’s clothes are ultrasoft, but they aren’t meant to be precious; she wants you to wear them every day, wash them when you need to, and repeat. The collection had a great balance of “masculine” and “feminine” details and silhouettes, with hoodies and mannish trousers on one end and sleek, sensual tank dresses on the other. A clever ruffled kerchief lent a bit of Victorian charm knotted over sweatshirts and blazers. And after the year we’ve had, who isn’t craving a little color? Allegra’s new season colour palette is super inspiring, from the shades of lilac to zesty yellow. The t-shirt with “Somebody in California loves you” is another favourite. Topanga coolness!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Surf and Quilt. Stan AW21

While New York Fashion Week feels very sleepy this season (due to quite understandable reasons), that state of slowness has has its advantages: there’s more time to discover the newcomers. Well, in case of Tristan Detwiler, he is new to the fashion insiders, but on TikTok, he has a following of over 133,000 users who watch him cut up antique blankets and quilts, some dating back to the 1800s, and transform them into chore jackets, Baja hoodies, board shorts, and cocoon coats. The videos offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process and reaffirm Detwiler’s skills as a maker; when he wasn’t competing on University of Southern California’s surf team, he was taking fashion design classes and customizing his own clothes. Upcycled quilted jackets are Tristan’s brand Stan signature, with boxy, unisex fits that accommodate a multitude of sizes, genders, and ages. To hear him tell it, he made his first one in college to replace the quilts he draped over his shoulders for chilly mornings on the beach, but fell in love with the story behind old textiles, quilts in particular. In 2018, he joined the Bumann Quilters of Olivenhain, a group of ladies who have been quilting for decades. In addition to sharing the stories of their quilts and teaching Detwiler their techniques, they’ve gifted him with textiles and heirlooms to use in his collection. The opening jacket in his autumn-winter 2021 collection was made from one of those gifted quilts, a 1920s ‘one patch’ style in a checkerboard motif. It was large enough to make a matching pair of pants too. The second outfit’s ivory coat, chore jacket, and pants were all cut from the same 20th-century ‘wedding quilt,’ while other looks had a more haphazard mix. A jewel-toned jacket made from an 1890 Amish quilt was paired with trousers cut from a 1980s screen-printed potato sack. It’s worth mentioning that these items are already available to buy on Detwiler’s website; since they’re one-of-a-kind, fashion’s usual production time-table doesn’t apply (similar way of doing things at Imitation of Christ!). Detwiler describes himself as a storyteller and a curator, not necessarily a designer. He doesn’t aspire to be the next American mega-brand. But joining the New York Fashion Week calendar places him in the context of the mainstream fashion conversation, and inevitably draws comparisons to his peers experimenting with quilts and upcycling. Emily Bode comes to mind of course, though it isn’t really worth comparing their work; Bode’s is polished and fully “designed,” while Detwiler’s has the messier, intentionally rumpled attitude of California surf culture. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a serious venture into fashion, the vision of a sun-drenched surfer in his DIY quilted jacket and crotchet knit is compelling, especially in the COVID era.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Team Work. The Elder Statesman Resort 2021

It’s interesting how two brands, of different scales and formats, emphasized the topic of team work in times of confinement. At Gucci, the resort 2021 collection reveal was an entire, 12-hour long social media event, where Alessandro Michele’s design team, no longer anonymous, modelled the clothes they have designed for not only the look-book, but the advertising campaign. At the same time, we’ve got The Elder Statesman from Los Angeles, where Greg Chait, the founder of the tie-dyed cashmere heaven, presented the collection on his team. But here, it wasn’t just about the studio designers. The whole The Elder Statesman family was here, wearing their garments in context of their work at the brand (from crotcheting to dyeing) and personal passions (farming!). The family aspect was even more clear once you take a glance at the clothes. The pen-and-ink artwork prints come from Greg’s grandmother, Thelma Chait, a prolific artist not acknowledged in her day. Chait and his cousin unearthed a storeroom full of Thelma’s drawings, books, and writings last year, with the designer planning on using them as a foundation for a collection since. The messages of unity, humanity, and love in her illustrations would feel right for any time – she produced much of her art in the groovy and turbulent ’60s and ’70s – but they weave into this collection for 2021 like a soothing balm. Her stick figure of a human, arms circled about its head like a halo, appears on a sweater, as a button, and as a brooch, while her rainbow pen strokes are interpreted as a tie-dye. A map shows fields, cities, deserts, and forests in a sacred geometric pattern on the back of a cardigan worn with ombré cashmere sweats. Making these pieces feel all the more beautiful is the way they were put together and photographed. Knitting, Chait told Vogue, was permissible during California’s lockdowns as a form of manufacturing at home. He and his team drove around Southern California delivering yarns, looms, and ideas for weeks. Already close, the team found a new camaraderie, he explained, and so it was obvious that Thelma’s collection should be represented on the people who made it. Benjamin, a senior knitter, opens the look book in a cashmere sweater with orange trimming, his loom in hand. Chait described him as “a legend,” and went on discussing the importance – both corporately and personally – of each of his colleagues. China, the brand’s VP of sales, models a matching knit set inspired by Thelma’s line. Ariel, the head of dyeing, poses in an ombré of her own design alongside buckets of dye and her dog. Jo, who did the collection’s hand-crocheted flowers, is shown in a gingham shirt-jacket mid-stitch. Chris, a sales associate from the West Hollywood store, wears a jacket made of the new “Cloud” fabric, a paper-thin 100% organic cotton. For the first time, Chait’s own daughter, Dorothy Sue, appears in the collection in a rainbow set made from a Japanese fabric that is 93% cotton and 7% cashmere. No offense Gucci, but my heart is utterly stolen by The Elder Statesman.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Yoga in the Morning, Oscars in the Evening. Tom Ford AW20

Here we are again: the fashion month has started. But it actually kicked off in Los Angeles, not New York, for a brief Tom Ford moment. The Oscars night is this Sunday, so Ford just couldn’t split between the two coasts – dressing the actors is his domain. And he has always mentioned LA as the city that reasonates more with his brand’s identity than the Big Apple. Rene Zellweger, Miley Crus, John Hamm, Jennifer Lopez and Demi Moore all took a rest in the front row last evening, and saw what you can always expect from Tom: sublime eveningwear, for both men and women. Will any of these lace dresses hit the red carpet tomorrow? Big hopes for the crystalline numer with double velvet bows. While the after dark part was great (or actually properly classic), the ready-to-wear definitely didn’t impress this much. Backstage, Ford was speaking about the Los Angeles way of life, which surely is all about Chateau Marmont, yoga and palo santo, but I’m still not sure if jersey sweat-pants, sweat-skirts and sweat-tops (with merch-like logos…) aren’t too lazy for a fashion show (and it’s not 2014 outside!). The floor-sweeping tie-dye caftans styled with all that athleisure-wear didn’t help either.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Clothes To Love and Live In. The Elder Statesman SS20

Post-fashion-month, now there’s time to look closer at the labels that aren’t looking for fashion show spotlight. The Elder Statesman is one of my favourite labels that are under the radar and its spring-summer 2020 is all about good vibes (yes, really, I used this expression – but it matches the collection perfectly!). Greg Chait has turned The Elder Statesman into the coolest of cool and the luxe-est of luxe: the proof is in the many copycats of his tie-dye knitwear and slouchy casual spirit. For summer, Chait offers body-cropped hoodies, shirtdresses in woven, dyed jeans, and the mentioned tie-dye knits. Chait takes great pride in the cashmere, cotton, and wool blends he uses, many of which he develops himself with his team. These products are beautiful, but they are also made to wear and to be lived and loved in.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.