Elusive Chic. Chanel Pre-Fall 2022

With a snip of her ribbon-looped scissors, Gabrielle Chanel released women from their corsets and put them in fluid jersey suits and loose chemise dresses. “Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the body,” she said. With sweeping synergy, this season’s Chanel Métiers d’Art collection by Virginie Viard was equally liberating, with a pinch of denim and CC logo added. Viard invited guests to Le19M, the newly opened building devoted to the workshops of the maison’s artisans, where she presented her most crafts-centric collection within the very same architecture that had informed its cuts and motifs. Named after the arrondissement it inhabits, the triangular Le19M was designed by Rudy Ricciotti whose “concrete thread” façade evokes the intricacy of embroidered haute couture cloth. Viard echoed those lines – as well as elements from the building’s interior – in a collection she called “metropolitan.” The pre-fall 2022 line up is a combination of Chanel’s craftsmanship masters’ work – Lesage, Montex, Lemarié, Lognon, Goosens, Maison Michel, and Massaro – whose painstaking, super time-consuming, beautiful pieces of artisan work are put into the world to contribute to a bigger picture: the full look. Placing these age-old practices in a contemporary context, Viard took that look to the streets – at least those left of the River Seine. Interpreting the Chanel branding through graffiti-like embroidery, she exercised her take on the logomania. A top nestled the double-C among floral appliqué, the same logo was playfully speckled on cardigans and trousers in fluffy silver embroideries, and the Chanel name appeared tagged in multi-colored crystals across the front pockets of a tweed blouson that evoked a sweatshirt. A major Chanel tip: top the tweed outfit with an eternally charming hair bow. It took Viard a while to find her voice at Chanel and make her offerings something more than just riskless sets of the brand’s signatures. Now, the Chanel woman personifies unforced elegance and easy chic fit for contemporary times. And she sure loves gorgeous details!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Chic Adaptability. The Row Pre-Fall 2022

This is one of these The Row collections that are just… perfect. And extremely relevant. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have never been the type to discuss the deeper meaning of their collections, and they’re not about to start now, but the opening look of their pre-fall 2022 offering definitely meets the turbulence of our current moment. It’s a grain de poudre jacket worn backwards, its single button fastened mid-spine and its lapels framing the shoulder blades. “Adaptability” is definitely one of their running themes here. Other tailored jackets can be worn inside-out, and on the accessories front there are reversible tote bags and cotton voile “protectors” for leather styles. After a season of more oversized, relaxed shapes, the waist has come back into focus for the Olsens. Their elongated and slightly nipped jackets cut an elegant line, and many of the looks are accessorized with leather belts featuring useful add-ons for cell phones and ear buds. Elsewhere, there are generous, pillowing volumes, as in the red nylon cellophane top and skirt of look two, which are cut with bubble hems to accentuate their material’s airy lightness. Extending a newfound interest in color, they showed metallic viscose knit separates in bright lilac or red worn layered and even wrapped around the head like scarves, and a trench in a crimped aqua tulle, shown with a matching bag. They also embraced humor. A couple of shrunken T-shirts (paired with excellent boned-waist trousers) are scribbled with children’s drawings; officially they’re part of The Row’s kid’s line, but they’ll be sold in women’s sizes too. The final look is the other side of that reversed jacket. It’s a back-to-front world, but The Row can help you hold it together.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Chanel, Chanel, Chanel. Chanel SS22

For spring-summer 2022, Virginie Viard delivered us the pure essence of Chanel – especially the 1980s-slash-90s one. If not for the contemporary models, you could mistake this collection with a 1992 line-up. Back in the day, supermodels came bounding down the high, raised runways exuding joie de vivre as they twirled and vamped for the photographers who had jostled for prime position, not only in the mosh pit at the end of the runway, but all along its length. Viard wanted to replicate that ambience, and she succeeded. “I used to love the sound of flashbulbs going off at the shows in the ’80s,” the designer recalled in the press notes. “I wanted to recapture that emotion.” Viard attempted to channel that energy and joy in a collection that not only referenced the era in the clothes, staging, and accessories (purses shaped like N°5 bottles; piratically flared Louis heels), but even the soundtrack: George Michael’s anthemic “Freedom! ’90” – in a contemporary cover version by Christine and the Queens – got the models in the party spirit. At the end of the raised runway, for instance, the photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, now deeply enmeshed in the Chanel world, played old-school show photographers, snapping the models who stopped to pose and preen for them and seemed to be having the time of their lives, flashing smiles and flicking hair rather than assuming the habitual look of sulky disdain. The show also opened à la Karl Lagerfeld – who sent shock waves when he put Chanel-branded underwear as outerwear on the runway for spring 1993 – with a black-and-white sequence of briefs, swimsuits, and sports bras, occasionally veiled in spangled black net pants or shown with above-the-knee skirts. During an accessories fitting a couple of days before the show, Viard pointed out the crocheted effects she had worked on with braid company Bacus, and the spin on the bright spring pastel tweed suits – think of Chanel-clad Naomi, Linda, and Carla, shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue, March 1994 – that she had given the twist of a longer skirt or jacket flap in back, suggesting a traditional tailcoat. “Karl was always doing fake jeans,” recalled Viard, shuddering at the memory. “In the ’90s they always seemed to be with pink tweed – ugh! For me it was horrible then, but now j’adore!” Her own reimagined denim propositions this season included a pretty, summery deck-chair ticking stripe cut into stiff little 1960s-looking dresses with bold bands of black sequins, creating the trompe l’oeil illusion of a classic Chanel cardigan suit, and charcoal denim wafted with a butterfly print. Those butterfly wings were amplified as prints on drifting chiffon pieces that swirled as the girls twirled, providing another charming throwback to a moment that celebrated the happiness the fashion flock is feeling in a season of cautious reemergence and optimism.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Paris, baby. Saint Laurent SS22

We are in Paris, baby! Paris Fashion Week started with a bang, all thanks to Saint Laurent which returned to the usual schedule. There was a magical moment towards the end of the spring-summer 2022 show when Anthony Vaccarello’s towering waterfall structure rained softly on his guests’ faces as the last models made their way off the runway to Zimmz’s entrancing “Eclipse”, the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the distance. “I was kind of sick of listening to all those people talking about the future of fashion. For me, we just had to switch off. That was it,” Vaccarello said before the show, recalling his early lockdown decision to leave the Paris schedule. “I knew that once the pandemic would become a little bit better, it would be impossible to totally change this way of showing. It’s part of fashion.” Picking up where he left off – the autumn-winter 2020 latex collection that hardly needs a recap – Vaccarello put his softer, more pragmatic collections of the lockdown period behind him, and forged ahead with the look he believes in for a 2020s wardrobe. “For me, this collection is the continuation of the latex collection: it’s a style that I want to establish,” he told Vogue. “The latex collection was a liberating collection for me. I was feeling free. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone else about what I was able to do for Saint Laurent. I relate that collection to the Scandal collection of Paloma.” The collection in question was Yves Saint Laurent’s 1971 tribute to Paloma Picasso, who wasn’t one of his most famous muses but one of the most influential ones, nonetheless. “Pierre Bergé told me that Paloma Picasso was the only woman who inspired a collection for Yves Saint Laurent,” Vaccarello said. We tend to always talk about Betty Catroux and Catherine Deneuve, but Paloma was the only one who really changed Yves Saint Laurent’s perception of fashion, Vaccarello explained. “Before, he was really into couture – really into this cute, very perfect silhouette – and when he met her, with her huge red lips, dressed in vintage, she was really new for him. It changed his own style. In my mind, I want to have the same change after the pandemic.” His instinct made for a spirited collection that amplified the signatures of Picasso’s look. The shoulders of jackets broadened into rigorous silhouettes, the necklines and slits of dresses grew closer together, and leggings and jumpsuits – some wrapped glamorously around the contours of the body – proposed a new take on eveningwear for the post-pandemic decade. Curiously, in a scantily clad season that’s coined the “new sexy”, Vaccarello’s collection was decidedly covered-up for a Vaccarello collection – something the skin-tightness of it all balanced back into sensual territory. What does a designer known for legs and miniskirts make of this “new sexy”? “I hate the sexy I see. It looks like the sexy I did 10 years ago,” he quipped. “Everyone can do sexy, but for me it’s about assuming what you are, not trying to seduce others. It’s being confident in what you are. Paloma is very sexual but not the kind of woman you want to mess with. You wouldn’t bother her in the street, for example.” Perhaps that was Vaccarello’s 1990s sensibility talking: the mindset of a boy raised on the sophistication of supermodels, immaculate music videos, and an approach to sex that felt a lot more intelligent than that of the 2000s, a decade many designers are referencing this season.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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.