Classics. Alaïa AW21

Azzedine Alaïa‘s studio team respects the late monsieur’s aesthetic, techniques and silhouettes, and keeps on working with well-known codes of the maison. The brand consistently evolves, mostly in peace and silence (the rumours of big-name designer appointments are just rumours). Given Alaïa’s decades-old archive of tens of thousands of prototypes, patterns, samples, and unfinished ideas, it’s amazing the house manages to edit down about 40 pieces for the seasonal Editions line. “It’s difficult and horribly frustrating because every time I go through [it, I] see so many pieces I know and love,” explained the house’s Heritage and Editions director Caroline Fabre Bazin. Ultimately, she and Alaïa CEO Myriam Serrano decided to focus on pieces they see as “important for the house, important in the history of fashion, that also speak of technique and timelessness.” Alaïa followers will recognize such iconic designs as the body-con black dress with a wraparound zip, now in long and short versions. They may also recall the intricacy of a coat held together with a technique the designer extrapolated from woodworking and transposed onto leather for a coat from 2006. Called charnière, the French word for hinge, it involves interlacing leather seams by hand in lieu of stitching. A rose-beige knit dress recalls the time a supplier turned up to show Monsieur Alaïa new lacelike techniques; he took them all and used them together for a corset dress. Elsewhere, a wool that was accidentally overboiled became a mesh-like coat, and entered into the house lexicon. Every piece has not just a date, but also a backstory. Autumn-winter 2021 revisits house techniques in new treatments and combinations that sometimes rival couture-level craftsmanship. Fragility and strength meet on a tiered lace dress with a charnière construction on the neckline, waist, and skirt. African inspirations inform the weave of a graceful skirt in russet, beige, and black; the skater skirt is revisited in a sculptural Japanese fabric, and a white skirt picks up on origami techniques. Laser-cut leather features a new style of perforation named for Sidi Bou Said, Alaïa’s Tunisian hometown and final resting place. The snow white sheepskin jacket embroidered with arabesques is a showstopper. Classics that never get boring.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

My Body. AZ Factory SS21

Alber Elbaz is back in fashion! Oh, how I missed his fabulous, perfectly imperfect dresses, joyous colour palettes and chic femininity he delivered at Lanvin. Five years after an abrupt exit from the Parisian maison, he returns with his own brand, which won’t be playing along the industry’s dusty rules. His debut AZ Factory collection, which is part spring-summer 2021 ready-to-wear (available now on Net-A-Porter, Farfetch and the label’s site), part couture, proves Elbaz truly reconsidered many things before starting his new venture. “I was doing a lot of observation,” he told Vogue. “I needed to run away. Somehow, I didn’t want to do any more pre-collections, post-collections. I had to question the present, and the future. I had so many questions: the world, women, technology, needs changed…so how is the industry going to change?” He’s embraced tech; he’s stepped up to environmental-responsibility, he’s taking on body-positivity – all things that seemed like far-off improbabilities in 2016, when he took a break from fashion. After taking a good look around – pending his time teaching, reading, visiting Silicon Valley, listening to women friends, researching new fabric technologies, he concluded there’s a place for a totally modernized approach to fashion. “I was thinking: What is the purpose of design today? Thinking, but not being intellectual. How can I help women? I wanted to work on new technology to develop some smart fabrics with factories [to make] beautiful, purposeful, and solution-driven fashion. That is for everyone.” The first offering from AZ Factory is “My Body,” a set of dresses engineered to consider the ergonomics of all shapes and sizes. Its implications are super-modern, practical, empathetic – and kind. “I saw for five years, women I met for lunch how much women were struggling with their weight, and sometimes that was hard to watch,” Elbaz said. “ Even in the ’50s, [fashion said:] ‘This is right, and this is wrong.’ I think that there is no wrong! I took a subject that is taboo, that you almost don’t want to talk about, but I said: Yes I will. We’re not here to transform women; we’re here to hug them.” His dream, he explained, was “to build a magical dress that was made of knitwear: an anatomical knit. There are areas that are a bit thicker, areas that are finer. I released the tension in the skirt, so you can walk faster, or dance if you wish.” AZ Factory has all the flourishes and colorful quirks his fans will easily recognize from his Lanvin days – the volumes and prints he so fluently dashes off from his pen. But this time, rather than going in the French haute couture party-gown direction, the ideas are sprung from athleticism and servicing real life. Developing his own bespoke fabric has made him break the wasteful old fashion-y habit of splurging on multiple options. “I said: Be strict with yourself!” he laughed. “I’ll do one jogging suit in seven colors and a few duchesse skirts in recycled nylon.” It can all be hand washed, too, thus eliminating dry cleaning impacts (and bills), while cutting down on washing machine water and electricity use. Just one thing I’m not sure of are the pointy-toe sneakers. But in overall, everything works really well. It adds up to a new way of doing things, that’s for sure: a far cry from catwalks and shows, a break with some of the bad old habits of fashion, and a leap to launch purely online. “And everything is 230 to 1,200 euros!” Elbaz concluded. A price point which is much, much lower than the one at Lanvin, for instance. It’s a new space in between, where something with design integrity and modern thinking is finally happening. Welcome back indeed, Alber.

Get your hands on the first AZ Factory must-haves: AZ Factory stretch-knit leggings, AZ Factory stretch-knit top, AZ Factory stretch-knit mini dress & AZ Factory stretch-knit bodysuit.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Alber’s. Yves Saint Laurent AW00

All that holiday season is also a good time for induldging in the fashion archives. Many don’t know that (or simply don’t remember – or were barely born then!) Alber Elbaz worked as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent from 1998 until he was fired after three seasons when Gucci bought the company in 2000 and Tom Ford took over the creative direction. Autumn-winter 2000 was Elbaz’s last collection for the maison, but also his best. As Vogue’s Hamish Bowles recalls, “he finally hit the target with a controlled collection that proved a strong modern take on the house’s timeless chic. Elbaz elongated and chiseled the classic proportions of the trademark boxy jackets and pencil skirts, and showed them with black glove-leather shirts with matching narrow ties – a cool, modern spin for the classic YSL suit. With satin revers on an overscale man’s Crombie coat, he also gave a contemporary twist to ‘le Smoking.'” Looking at the collection now, it feels so relevant and distinctly YSL at the same time. Leaving ‘grand soir’ statements to the master Yves himself and the haute couture collection he continued to design at the time, Elbaz sent out a capsule of few, after-dark looks for his finale. Classic metallic lace looked chic again, in long-sleeved midi dresses styled with hip-slung crocodile belts and wrinkled ’70s cavalier boots. Great-looking tarnished brass lamé suits with black chiffon blouses, body-skimming cocktail dresses in black slipper-satin, and entrance-making flapper dresses were followed by a final stylish take on a YSL classic – the sheer black chiffon blouse with a skirt made entirely of ostrich feathers. No wonder why after this collection, Lanvin invited Elbaz to take over the brand… and he did wonders there for more than a decade!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Focus On: Husbands Paris

First of all, I’m not a suit guy. I usually hate ties and don’t feel comfortable in blazers. My personal style is rather this: a vintage cashmere knit, Lemaire-ish, over-sized pants (a big no to any sweatpants!), a big coat and Raf Simons sneakers. I yawn at all Zegnas and Brionis (although I respect them), as men’s tailoring is quite uninspiring to me. But there’s one exception. And it’s Husbands Paris. Whenever I see their posts on Instagram, I’m obsessed. Everything is a dream, really, from their signature knitted ties (they might be an ideal option that wouldn’t make me feel out of breath) to the most delightful trench coats. You’ll find Husbands between the orbits of tailoring and fashion, plucking the craftsmanship from the former and stories from the latter to fill an otherwise uninhabited space of the industry with culture and style. The mind behind it, Nicolas Gabard, is as clued up on the technicalities of suit making as he is on the depths of Francis Bacon’s art. This understanding of two worlds has allowed him to birth a bespoke identity of design. In an interview with GQ, he says “craftsmanship is the secret of styleHusbands comes from an obsession with the body – of precision and details. We keep the full canvas of tailoring and its construction because it guarantees a lasting garment. Technically, we offer a perfect piece, but its life comes when the wearer composes something with it.” That’s where the culture comes in. Gabard views fashion as an outlet for “phantasm” and, after stitching on the roots of tailoring through one eye, he seals his designs with stories through the other. They originate from expressive interests, like llistening to The Smiths and Joy Division or watching films by Eric Rohmer. Husbands is proposing the thread of forever intriguing style icons, like Serge Gainsbourg, and then using it as a hook to dig people into exploring the possibilities of their own identities. The label sources its materials from England and manufactures its suits in Naples, but Paris is the base that provides an essential interplay with the individual’s state of mind. As Gabard says, “you don’t have to live the life of other people and that’s the same for clothing – you have to wear your own garments with your body, your culture, your dreams, your past, your phantasm.

Discover the brand here or visit their store in Paris on 57 Rue de Richelieu (in post-lockdown times, of course…).

Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos sourced from Husbands Paris site and Instagram.

Chic and Cool. Ami SS21

There are seasons when I love Ami. And spring-summer 2021 is definitely a highlight in Alexandre Mattiussi‘s repertoire. “Doing a physical show is a kind of political thing,” the designer said, elaborating that amid the pandemic and crumbling political situations around the world, he thinks “fashion needs to find humility in the situation.” The Ami version of humility might sound quite dramatic: veside the Seine, Mattiussi held a fashion show on a black wood runway complete with a soundtrack by DJ Jennifer Cardini and a cast of famous models like Clement Chabernaud, Amalia Vairelli, Audrey Marnay and Georgina Grenville. To counter the evening affair, Matiussi sent out clothing with a relaxed spirit. He described his co-ed, spring-summer 2021 men’s and women’s collections as “sophisticated but not pretentious.” The slim plaid maxiskirts and black wool LBDs proved the point for women, the louche seafoam and chocolate suits and baggy shorts did it for men. A series of mesh tanks, styled throughout with vacation-y beaded necklaces, emphasized the chill vibes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.