Eternal. Chanel Pre-Fall 2021

Virginie Viard‘s Chanel seems not to care about being “cool” or “relevant” – maybe that’s why her vision is often underrated and simply mistunderstood. Her Chanel is eternally… Chanel. And I think that’s why I learned to love it. This collection highlights the creative dialogue between Virginie Viard and the Maisons d’art, enhancing the creations of the house. This year, the Métiers d’art collection was held at the Château de Chenonceau, located in the Loire Valley and also known as Le Château des Dames. The show was nearly guest-less due to COVID-19 – there was only Kristen Stewart, the brand’s ambassador, in the audience (this had to be fun!). Le Château des Dames’s history is closely linked with the legendary women who alternately lived there: Katherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici, Louise de Lorraine, Gabrielle d’Estrées and Louise Dupin. In the second half of the 16th century, the queen of Italian origins, Catherine de’ Medici gave this residence the splendour of the Renaissance. As proof, numerous inscriptions of her monogram remain visible in the castle’s décor: two interlaced Cs that bear an astounding resemblance to the double C that Gabrielle Chanel presented as early as 1921 on the stopper of the N°5 perfume. Beyond the emblematic CC, echoes of the castle’s rich history meet the world of Chanel in the black-and-white hues of the tiling in the “Royal Gallery“, the appearance of the lion, Gabrielle Chanel’s beloved symbol, embroidered tapestries and in the ordered lines of the castle’s gardens. What about the collection? It’s pure elegance and craftsmanship, all created with the skills of Métiers d’art artisans: paruriers from Desrues, feathermakers from Lemarié, milliners from Maison Michel, embroiderers from Lesage and Atelier Montex, shoemakers from Massaro, goldsmiths from Goossens, glovemakers from Causse Gantier and pleaters from Lognon, in Paris and in France. The collection was a balance of princess style and something a bit darker. The chess board sequin miniskirts (and matching purses) worn over shiny lycra (or bejeweled stretch velvet) leggings, an amazing woven tweed ball skirt paired with a black sweater with Renaissance white flower motifs growing up the arms, capes, poet blouses, ruffled gauntlet gloves, and massaro’s D’Artagnan boots for a bit of 16th-century dress-up swagger. There’s a lot to love about this collection, especially seen through the lenses of Juergen Teller. Viard, as she explained, took inspiration from Lagerfeld’s fall 1983 trompe l’oeil “shower” collection for Chloé that featured embroidered faucets and showerheads spouting crystal water sprays. Her own playful trompe l’oeil, developed with the inventive embroidery house of Montex, reimagines the castle in Lego-like sequin bricks, used as cummerbund sashes that cinch the waists of full satin ball skirts worn with fragile organza blouses flourished with some of those Catherine de Medici–via–Coco Chanel ruffled collars. The chateau’s tapestries inspired intarsia knits and Lesage embroidered evening sweaters. Lemarie, meanwhile, famed for their feather and artificial flower work, are responsible for the trellis of black ribbons laid over translucent organza that evoke Chenonceau-era court dress with a light 2020 touch. That dialogue across the centuries is also expressed in the playful drama of a floor-length black velvet coat that opens to reveal a pale tweed body, gilt buttoned like a traditional Chanel jacket. Delightful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Balancing Act. Salvatore Ferragamo Pre-Fall 2021

Pre-fall 2021 collections are gradually popping up (yes, the industry still wants you to think about next year’s autumn in this year’s winter). Paul Andrew likes to put things in context; he has so far used films and historical locations to frame his fashion narrative. In keeping with that practice, he shot the Salvatore Ferragamo pre-fall lookbook in Florence at Manifattura Tabacchi, a former cigarette factory built in the modernist style of the 1940s, which was recently rescued from a state of disrepair to become Polimoda’s campus: “It’s a progressive, creative place full of life and enthusiasm, with lots of young people hanging around,” he told Vogue during a Zoom call from his Florentine studio. It proved an apt location to convey the collection’s feel. “I want to bring joy and beauty to this world.”Andrew isn’t alone in his desire for turning toward the positive; nor is he alone in the urge to contextualize collections within a larger frame. Social and cultural issues have become non-negotiable parameters for every fashion designer who wants his creative work to resonate with a broader audience. Customers more than ever buy into conscious creativity – ethical, responsible, value-driven. Andrew is playing his part, steering Ferragamo into sustainable territory and keeping his commitment to responsible practices – reducing waste by choosing deadstock leathers; using recycled nylons and certified natural fibers; editing collections with a tighter focus. Doing less but better has become his mantra, a belief that has him embracing a timeless, nondisposable aesthetic. Collections are built around high-quality investment pieces that have longevity and durability, while retaining a strong contemporary appeal. This pre-fall collection is a good example of his new approach. The chic purity of line and the slender construction Andrew favors looked timeless indeed; what made the offering distinctive was its focus on tactile leather dressing offered in many variations, highlighting the artisanal expertise of the Florentine house. Shapes and silhouettes for both the men’s and women’s lines conveyed a feel of ease and comfort, while retaining their sophistication. He didn’t shy away from the occasional statement piece either. Ample A-line and wrap dresses featured adjustable matching belts or scarves, changing them into more form-fitting shapes; slender tunics and elegant shirtdresses were often worn over matching trousers or lightweight cashmere leggings. A leather circle skirt patchworked in a bold geometric archival motif added a decorative flavor, as did the contrasting hand-painted edgings on a softly architectural nappa coat dress. “I’m really thinking of what customers will want and desire after this COVID nightmare will be over,” he mused. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be back in stores and eager to be dressed up and to buy and invest in fashion. But they’re not going back to the old ways.” Things have to be shaken up and changed, then. “My feeling is that people will continue to be more casual, after months at home Zooming in their pajamas I’m not sure they’ll be suddenly dying to be in form-fitting garments again,” he said. “So it’s a balancing act. Whatever you do, there must be some casualness and ease combined with high-values and sophistication, refinement, beauty. But mostly, it has to have a certain vibrance – and to bring joy.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainable Elegance. Proenza Schoulder Resort 2021

The whole crisis of 2020 appears to work well for some creatives. This sort of reset was really needed. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler have released their spring-summer 2021 look-book not a while ago, and it was brilliant. Now, as the new season clothes are gradually arriving to stores, the boys dropped their resort 2021 line-up, which is equally great. It seems that the designers took a deep breath, reflected on their work from the last couple of seasons, and returned to Proenza Schouler’s core, but in a contemporary, thoughtful way. The resort collection is very much a product of lockdown time. The designers spent the early months of the pandemic talking business. The fashion industry was essentially at a standstill in that moment and the new normal had them reconsidering the issue of sustainability. “As a brand with a voice it’s our responsibility to address these things,” McCollough said. Over the years, they’ve amassed a huge archive of fabrics and they created parts of this pre-spring offering out of those deadstock materials. “It’s not a patchwork vibe, but it’s fabrics we’ve done before, and it’s been game changing,” said Hernandez. They’re also introducing a core offering with this collection that won’t be subject to markdowns, and hope to expand it to up to 30% of their business. “It’s relevant now, but it’s not going to be irrelevant six months from now,” Hernandez continued. “It’s a black sweater, wool suitings, nylon gabardines. So it’s sustainable also in that regard.” Browsing the lineup, it has a certain earthiness, but it hasn’t lost its cool. The palette is warm, and the smocking details feel crafty, almost homespun even on leather. As with the main collection, there’s an emphasis on easy-wearing knits. But all that is counterbalanced by minimal, ’90s-ish tailoring, which is elegant and chic.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.