City Warrior. Isabel Marant SS23

It’s one of those Isabel Marant collections which she might have designed with her eyes closed. And there’s nothing bad about it. This super chic, super Parisian, super effortless Marant look is eternal. For spring-summer 2023, she doubled down on that approach, with a look that was abbreviated, exuberant, and went from soft to tough – often in the same outfit. The designer clearly went back to basics, as it were, revisiting the moment when she started her label in the mid-’90s through to the dawn of the 2000s. There was a new mood in the air then, streetwise and raw, but also with a kind of world-weary, knowing charm. It was a moment when a different kind of woman – a little grunge, a little boho, a whole lot cool – made herself known. “I wanted to go back to a certain fragility of femininity, but still keeping in mind the Isabel Marant woman, who is a bit of a city warrior,” said the designer. She referenced the work of the brilliant late photographer Corinne Day, who pretty much photographed Kate Moss before anyone else, but who also, importantly, spent her sadly all too brief career photographing women as they would like to be seen themselves. You could also say that that’s quintessential Marant: a label where women can see themselves in it. The very personal era that Marant revisited was writ large in this collection. Racer cut tanks and swingy little dresses in patchwork configurations of metallic-threaded floral silk chiffon came with zippered leather minis and moto pants that had been washed and washed to get the perfect lived-in patina. Laser-cut suede jackets were as long as the shorts and fluttery skirts they were worn with. Camo looked as if it had been sun-bleached, cut into an oversized jacket or cargo pants, another from the Marant arsenal of killer trousers. And to underscore what makes Isabel Marant, the woman and the label, tick, there was a profusion of artisanal detailing, from the tiny seed pearls sprinkled across an organdy camisole, to the macramé threaded across an organza blouse.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Languid Elegance. Saint Laurent SS23

Those latest Saint Laurent collections are impeccable. And the spring-summer 2023 offering is to die for. “To me, the body says what words cannot,” Martha Graham, the revered, radical American modern dancer and choreographer once said. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that’s the kind of statement Anthony Vaccarello, Saint Laurent’s creative director, would concur with. His work for the house has always exalted a corporeal glory; his own view of physicality – strong, celebratory, unapologetic – and the legacy of the house merged to be totally in sync. Graham’s and Vaccarello’s orbits surprisingly spun into each other at his remarkable show, which was staged in the almost dream-like Parisian setting of a grand paved garden replete with cascading fountain. The result: a quietly epic examination of what happens when you both reveal and conceal the body – and the frisson you generate when you make your look long, lean and loaded with attitude. Backstage, just before the show, Vaccarello mentioned that he’d been looking at the groundbreaking way that Graham dressed her company in tubular dresses for her 1930 production Lamentation, costuming which audaciously emphasized every bit of physical agility from her dancers. Vaccarello first discovered Graham, he said laughing, by being a fan of Madonna’s in the 1990s, when the Material Girl had been busy singing Graham’s praises to the sky. But for spring Vaccarello looked back a decade earlier to YSL’s past – the mid-’80s days when models strode those old school elevated podiums in Monsieur Saint Laurent’s hooded, draped, capuche dresses. They were visions of languid elegance, dressed to the nines with myriad jeweled accessories, the maquillage as immaculate as the hauteur they were so gifted at projecting. Vaccarello riffed on all the draping and hooding for a slew of beautifully rendered dresses cut from jersey in two different weights, one heavier and opaque, giving a more constructed look; the other lighter and gauzier, gently veiling the body underneath. Some of these dresses were slipped under sweeping great coats and trenches which fell in narrow columnar proportions from big shoulders in leather or tweed or wool, or with more leather in the form of capacious blouson jackets which nipped inwards as their cut moved towards the waist. Vaccarello’s color palette was gloriously muted but definitive, taken from the clothes shot on Polaroid from YSL fittings back in the day: soft browns, purples, camels, olives and taupes, their tones heightened by the substantial jeweled or Claude Lalanne-esque gold cuffs. There were barely-there sandals and satiny pumps with high cut vamps and gleaming metallic shades. Everything came together to create a look that was finished, polished, considered, and done. But what drives Vaccarello is where we are right now. Despite the historical referencing, his push is to always exist in the present. You can trace that from this collection back through his last few women’s runway shows. It’s a thread which takes you from the bold shouldered blazers and latex of winter 2020 to the Belgian-y swaggering coats and floor-trailing skirts he did for autumn, to last night’s glorious offering. Let’s call what Vaccarello is doing empower dressing. It doesn’t rest on the outward gestures – the width of the shoulders, the height of the heels, or the length of the skirts. Instead, it reflects what’s within, unspoken, but undeniably powerful and potent.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Hotness. Magda Butrym Resort 2023

Unabashedly feminine and sexy, Magda Butrym‘s resort 2023 party-ready pieces sit in a league of their own – and continue to evolve in her new collection. The Polish designer delivers new off-shoulder necklines and the return of her signature, hot-red rose appliqués, now on separates, rendered in crochet and denim, and adorning an elongating pink number that exudes high statuesque glamour. She also introduces more coverage – most notably on a crystal-flecked long-sleeve gown in scintillating pale beige. The tailoring is sharp as usual, this time in an array of colours, from bold magenta to deep black. The pink long-sleeve floor sweeper with a dramatic side slit and floral-detailed high neck is the Aphrodite of Butrym’s latest eveningwear. These are clothes to dance in, all night, in the moonlight. No wonder why the collection is titled “Super Moon”.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Being Dressed. Saint Laurent Pre-Fall 2022

I never gave up on being dressed, even when the trend was about sportswear,” says Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello of his pre-fall women’s collection, the until-now-unseen curtain raiser to his sublime and epic winter show, presented earlier this year. “I am glad that people want to dress up again, because for me nothing has changed.” Never let it be said that Vaccarello doesn’t have unerring instincts. When the rest of the world was letting it all hang out while being holed up at home, he was showing hyper-colored tweedy suits dripping with jewels on an icy tundra, or had marabou and pop-floral chiffon marching across a vast Sahara-like vista; big themes, big landscapes, big drama. In their way they were as much paeans to hope for the future as statements of intent about how you might want to dress in the present. Except change was to a degree part of the narrative: Vaccarello also took on board the prevailing desire for comfort and ease, he just didn’t do it in the obvious, cliched or un-YSL of ways; there were modern compact jerseys and fluid silks to move in and to feel free in. This pre-fall collection builds on that as much as planting the seeds for the aforementioned winter, which he describes as “lots of volumes, more rounded shapes, a bit of Art Deco, a bit ’90s and a bit of Poiret.” His trick is to take all of that and work it through some of the classic Saint Laurent-isms. The columnar line for evening that Yves loved so much now looks perfect for daytime, partnered with a tough belted leather jacket and an armful of bangles. The iconic le smoking also makes it to the other side of the dawn, as an eased up suit, a cape, or a sharp-shouldered coat. Those are just some of the strong outerwear statements on show here: oversized faux furs, cozily chic but with a casual flick-the-collar-up attitude; voluminous-shouldered cocoon coats and nifty leather trenches thrown over some particularly ravishing slithery lingerie slip dresses, a hint of romanticism given by their guipure or frothy lace edges. Finishing all this off: stretch velvet high-heeled boots; gilt-trimmed square-toed pumps; and frame topped handbags. Magnifique.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Sublime Symphony. Saint Laurent AW22

Anthony Vaccarello delivered one of the most beautiful, sensational and elegant moments of the entire fashion month. His autumn-winter 2022 collection for Saint Laurent was sublime, a true symphony of chic, refinement and grace that even Yves himself would applaud. What will be remembered most? Purely the sight of a woman in a long, silvery bias-cut dress, with a perfect black low-buttoned double-breasted black peacoat over it, her hands thrust into the pockets. She opened the show. And then the line-up of flawless black tuxedos and a single, narrow black tux coat which came at the end. Of course, there was a lot more in between: fake fur coats and bombers; amazing overcoats with big (not too big) shoulders; narrow leather coats; elegantly nonchalant cocoon-back profiles. Then the punctuation of something as simple as an ecru floor-length turtle neck T-shirt dress, worn with deep stacks of dark wood and silver bangles on each arm. And the high glamour of 1930s and 1980s evening jackets with big bands of faux fur running around them.

More than anything, all of this went to show how Vaccarello has got himself in charge of the Yves Saint Laurent aesthetic, relaxed into it. That’s no mean feat – the sheer magnitude and magnificence of Saint Laurent’s oeuvre is mightily intimidating. In the face of it, the temptation as a designer is either to rebel against it with super-short shorts, slit skirts, breast-exposure and everything Saint Laurent didn’t do (which Vaccarello did at one time) or to just be too reverential. What the job really calls for is someone who knows enough about the playbook of Saint Laurent to be able to honor its quality, but also has enough confidence to be nonchalant about using it. Vaccarello hit that point of maturity with this show. In his own accent, with his own taste. With, yes, maybe something of his Belgian-born sensibility coming through: vague echoes of that period of deconstructed minimalism, the monochrome colors, saving the air of being easy to wear, but then again, bringing it up to the level of the modern Parisian elegance that we all dream about. The collection was emotionally-charged, as it was a powerful tribute to Vaccarello’s father, who has passed away recently.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.