The New York Woman. Puppets And Puppets SS23

In just four years Puppets and Puppets has evolved from a fashion project by an artist to a bona fide fashion brand. Carly Mark’s Eyes Wide Shut-inspired spring 2023 collection was arguably her most wearable. What seems to be happening is that the designs are becoming more aligned with Mark herself, concurrent with her development as an entrepreneur. The designer made the switch to fashion because she was feeling isolated in the art world. “I like interacting with humans,” she explained at a preview. “So I knew I wanted to do something creative, but it needed to be in a way where I was interacting with other bodies and having conversations.” The name she gave the brand is a reference to a cyberpunk anime called Ghost in the Shell; over time her inspirations have become ever more cinematic. And there is a shift from a more illustrative take on clothing to a more photographic one, both in a metaphorical and literal sense. The “demon” print in the spring line-up, which looks anatomical, is actually a manipulated still from the movie Scrooge. If that seems random, you might recall that Eyes Wide Shut is set at Christmas time. This print shares space in the collection with a jacquard based on Gustave Doré’s engravings of Dante’s Inferno and a sweater with an abstract orgy theme (another reference to Stanley Kubrick’s film). The final look features moonbows that call attention to the bust at the same time that volume emphasizes the hips. One of the reasons the designer took Eyes Wide Shut as her inspiration was because Nicole Kidman was such a powerful presence. In one of the scenes in which the actress revealed her strength she was physically vulnerable, wearing only high-cut panties and a camisole. “I’ve been thinking about Nicole Kidman specifically this season because I just turned 34 and I’m growing a business and I’m growing my confidence; I have to in order to run a business,” Mark said. “So I think about being a woman who is sexual, and business minded, and living in a city, and trying to hold my own, and trying to be intelligent, and trying to connect with other people. It’s hard, and it’s funny, and it’s fun, and it’s difficult – and it’s all the things.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Mayfair Lady. Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood AW21

 For Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood, one unintended consequence of lockdown was a passionate rediscovery of My Fair Lady. Combined with a timely refurbishment of their 1980s vintage couture store on London’s Davies Street, the result was a collection and video titled Mayfair Lady. “It’s an incredible place,” said Kronthaler of the area. “It’s full of history, and you can feel that it was once the center of the world’s most powerful country.” In the autumn-winter 2021 collection’s film, the couple and their talented cast (headed by Caroline Polachek!) showcase Kronthaler’s collection in and around the store, strolling giddily past the London streets. The collection is a joyfully haphazard collage of references (flower girl headpiece, professor’s robe, and so on) sprinkled within a typically anarchic Kronthaler context. Many of the pieces were upcycled, and the designer said his shapes were sometimes dictated by the scraps of fabric available. “We express ourselves in clothes when we dress up,” said Kronthaler in his press notes. Timeless truth.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Smart Femininity. Chloé SS21

This was a classic Natacha Ramsay-Levi collection for Chloé, meaning smart femininity that works everytime. Which doesn’t mean that there was no novelty about her spring-summer 2021 collection. There is a number of cliché topis and questions that pop up every moment during the post-lock-down fashion month: what will we want to wear after a year spent in confinement, should face masks be a fashion item, are socially distanced spaces a necessity? For Ramsay-Levi, those questions triggered some far bigger ones: How does our wardrobe affect the way we move and behave in the public space? How does it impact our body language? She staged her Chloé show within the monumental courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo. On three massive screens, live footage captured her models making their way to the runway – which was really, really good. Wearing the collection, the Chloé women were scattered around the streets of the area engaging in normal situations. Some were strolling down the bank of the  Seine, others were seen crossing a street or chatting on the steps of a building. Eventually, they stepped into the imposing courtyard with a different purpose to their step, visibly adapting to new surroundings. “The idea was to pick them up within their own intimacy of real life,” Ramsay-Levi said, referring to the cameras’ zoom lenses. “It’s about showing something that’s more attentive, more spontaneous, and more intimate, and taking time to look at a woman and the way she moves and acts in a much more natural way. Rather than just say, ‘Okay, you should walk like this.’” Her point was to study, evaluate and define the values of the everyday wardrobe Chloé provides for its customer. Since Ramsay-Levi joined the house in 2017, she has gradually been doing just that, editing and refining her expression to determine an idea of the essential. The answer to her questions this season clarified that approach to a further extent. “Things take time. We need to repeat things before we understand them. When I look at fashion, sometimes I only start to understand the point of view of a designer in the second or third season. I think it’s important to be committed to what you do,” she said. Her philosophy was reflected in a collection that largely built on elements introduced in previous seasons, and reduced them – in cut and decoration – to a sense of the universally desirable, and the more affordable, too. She loosened her Chloé silhouette, touching on the post-quarantine theme of comfort dressing, and toned down her embellishment in favor of a focus on colors. “A question that was very strong in confinement was: How long does a product last?” Ramsay-Levi said. “And it’s not enough. Basically, until we can change that rhythm, it’s important for me to be able to say ‘for a while,’ and not change my mind all the time. As far as being business-driven, it’s about being truthful and consistent. Some products only last three months maximum in a boutique. If you keep arriving with something new that makes that outdated, I think that’s not valuable as a position.” Food for thought for many, many in the industry.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.