Beach Rave. Courrèges SS23

I was on fence with Nicolas di Felice‘s take on Courrèges since his debut collection. But his truly cool spring-summer 2023 offering proved that the designer is capable of making the brand truly his own – without falling down the rabbit hole of Courrèges’ archives. First of all, Di Felice knows how young people want to dress everyday, especially for parties: in body-con separates and dresses that reveal as much as they conceal. His spring show conjured morning-after-a-beach-rave vibes. The set helped tell the story. In an otherwise unremarkable white studio far out of town, a circle of sand had been installed. As the music cued up, more sand began streaming from the ceiling like an hourglass, slowly at first and then faster, so that the accumulating pile started sinking as the models made their slow circuits around it. Having made the house Re-Editions into big sellers, Di Felice is looking beyond the obvious at Courrèges. He dug a vintage scuba jacket out of the archive and used its ergonomic lines to inspire a leather motorcycle coat, for one example, and he’s broken free of the starchy mod shapes so closely linked with the house history. The sensation Di Felice was after for spring was fluidity, thus the surf and scuba motifs, a recurring theme this season, and a “coral” dress made out of silicone. And thus the silhouettes draped and wrapped around the body. Since it was the morning after, models carried their slingbacks in their hands, or wore their jean jackets around their waist like a makeshift shirt (buttons down the back and exterior straps made that possible). Other pieces came with similar built-in straps to make them easy to carry when they come off on the dance floor, on the commute, or at the desert rave.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Motopapi. Courrèges SS23

The energy of the concise, item-driven modernity Nicolas di Felice brings to Courrèges is all over the spring-summer 2023 collection. “You know, back in the day, Andre [Courrèges] was speaking to the young generation. I knew from my first week that it was part of the house,” said Di Felice. “So I really want young people to be able to afford the clothes; to make it, let’s say, more accessible.” He grabbed a vintage zip-up scuba-fabric jacket which Courrèges had designed for men in the 1970s as an introduction to how he got started. “I found this in the archive, and thought, ‘This shape is amazing,’ but there’s no point in doing it again. So I wanted to mix this silhouette with a biker vibe, because I had a motorbike when I was young. I thought about how it feels to drive to the beach, or to a festival in the summer, or something,” he laughed. “I’ve been at the house for two years now, so I feel more comfortable to explore a bit more of who I am.” One thing about Di Felice is his knack for filtering lived experience into his minimal-seductive design. His collection captures all the features of young masculine body-con display that’s taken off this summer: tight-to-the torso leather jackets, twisted, cutaway T-shirts, slick moto pants in the house’s heritage-look black vinyl, gabardine polyester trousers and denims with a hint of bootcut flare. It’s his addition of the faux leather bondage straps across the front of jackets that adds a clever utilitarian twist. He demonstrated: “So what you can do is take off your jacket or poncho and hang them off your shoulder by the strap, like this. It came to me simply when I was one more time in a party, and it’s hot and there are not enough cloakrooms. I was like, ‘OK, um, so when I go in on Monday – I’m going do that in the collection!’” The lookbook shows the device in action – clothes gradually becoming cool-looking drapes toted from shoulders, until the last guy ends up naked, carrying all of his clothes. “Like he’s just come out of the water on the beach,” Di Felice grinned.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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Crash Course. Courrèges AW22

Nicolas di Felice discussed what sparked his latest Courrèges collection: it was the discovery, after much Googling, of a circa 1973 brand video set not in a Paris salon but in a car junkyard. Di Felice liked it for the way it challenges assumptions about Courrèges. Yes, the house founder André Courrèges was a couturier, but he was also plugged into the street. Di Felice is negotiating that divide quite fluently a little more than a year into his run at the brand. The first step was hooking a young Paris crowd on his minimal, sexy basics. These nod back to Courrèges’s Space Age stylings without being overt; it’s helped that di Felice’s arrival here coincided with the return of mini lengths. You see those minis on showgoers this season, along with his updates to the snap-front vinyl jackets that are another brand signature. Mission completed as for Courrèges’ commercial thriving. Now, having caught the industry’s attention, di Felice is playing with more experimental shapes – and here it gets a bit more difficult and demanding. There was a strapless shift dress made from two circles sewn together and a couple of others whose backs were large fake leather squares spray painted to conjure the vibes of that 1973 junkyard – body-con bi-stretch jersey in front, avant-garde in back. Jackets and coats exhibited the same inventiveness. In addition to circles and squares, he made some with large triangular sleeves, including a vinyl puffer whose proportions looked new. These were experimental cuts, but not complicated, he made a point of clarifying. “I really have an obsession with simple patterns, they start from geometric shapes.” Back to the body-con – Di Felice reproduced the geometries of John Coplans’s paintings on shiny vinyl dresses as streamlined as those triangular-sleeved coats were voluminous. The diamond-shaped cut-outs that climb up their sides could become as recognizable as the house’s curvy AC monogram. Di Felice has got the brand-building aspect of the modern creative director’s duties down and now he’s trying to make the brand not just merch, but actual fashion.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.