Here Comes The Light. Fendi AW21 Couture

Kim Jones‘ second haute couture collection for Fendi was captured in an emotive film, which saw the likes of Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Malgosia Bela and Amber Valletta gaze enigmatically into the camera as they wafted around a Roman theater set in dresses evocative of the stone and statues of the Eternal City. It was shot by Luca Guadagnino and scored by Max Richter. In the age of social media when big, beautiful dresses go viral, the direction Jones is setting for Fendi epitomizes a popular understanding of haute couture as something the eye can easily identify: bold ballroom silhouettes, sumptuous surface decoration and (very) famous faces. “It’s being optimistic about being able to socialize properly. I thought it was a nice moment to say that,” he said. Couture clients, Jones pointed out, “go to Fendi for something extravagant.” Two seasons into his tenure, his couture expression is manifesting itself in decoration and fabrication above all. His glamorous evening dresses serve as canvases for this finery, like the mother-of-pearl embellishment and recycled fur mosaic work that graced this collection. Watching it unfold, it feels like a formative process, as if all that intarsia and all those embroideries have been locked inside him for so long, waiting for the day when they could burst out into bona fide couture. Comparing to his heavy, over-worked January show, this one radiates with lightness and elegance that isn’t forced. To me, it felt like the mesmerising ambience of Rome. The film was inspired by Pasolini’s neorealistic Roman cinema, every architectural era of the city visible on its mock horizon. The fabrics and textures were informed by the buildings and pavements of Rome, some employed in statuesque lines that underscored the theme. Jones’s evolving exercise in the decorative aspects of haute couture made for eye-catching effects like the allover petal work of Moss’s oversized dress, or the marbling of Valletta’s swathing gown. Most compelling were the silhouettes that really took form, like the hypnotizing construction of a mosaic bolero jacket that resculpted the body through the volume-specific grammar of haute couture, or the dress worn by Mica Argañaraz, which demonstrated a similar idea in flou. “We had a lot more time to work on this one. We’ve actually had a full season. So, it’s a lot more worked into, and I think people will see a lot of difference in it. The people here, when they see what we’ve been doing, they can’t believe it’s the second one I’ve done. They say it’s a lifetime’s worth of understanding,” Jones concluded.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Soft Pragmatism. Salvatore Ferragamo SS21

As I wrote earlier this week, it’s really all about pragmatism versus escapism this season. Designers seem not to even look for a balance between the two – they are either this or that, period. And in Milan, we see this division the most clearly. During lockdown, with time on his hands and having exhausted all of Netflix, Salvatore Ferragamo‘s Paul Andrew went on an Alfred Hitchcock binge. The Birds, Marnie, and Vertigo were at the top of his best-of list; he found out that the same obsession was also shared by director Luca Guadagnino, who in his film Io Sono l’Amore apparently referenced a lot of Hitchcock – the gestures, the lighting, the poses; a certain high-class look of enigmatic sophistication. Andrew wasn’t sure at that lockdown time if and when he would be able to stage a real show, so he decided to go for a short movie instead. Asking Guadagnino (I adore him!) to work together on a project for the spring collection was just in the cards – and a thrilling opportunity. The film, shot in an eerily empty and utterly Hitchcockian Milan at the beginning of August, opened Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show, which was staged in the open air in the hectagonal colonnaded courtyard of the late Baroque period Rotonda della Besana. Backstage before the show, Paloma Elsesser was looking intently at one of Andrew’s moodboards, wearing an hourglass black leather number that could’ve come straight out of Kim Novak’s wardrobe in Vertigo. The dress signaled a more sensualist, high-gloss direction for the designer; he tried his hand on less oversized proportions, favoring instead a shapely, more feminine, form-fitting silhouette. The color palette, inspired by the chromatic quality of Technicolor, also added a hint of sensual vibrancy, and visual punch. “That’s my favorite, Tippi Hedren’s green,” he said, pointing out a neat little tailleur with a waisted jacket in eau de nil; it would’ve actually looked slightly bourgeois, if not for the off-kilter intervention of a fluid sarouel, replacing the more conventional pencil skirt. While sticking to the refined linearity he has envisioned for Ferragamo, Andrew punctuated this collection with impactful highlights – think a seersucker checkered fabric with a tactile finish; thick knitted and knotted pieces with an artsy flair; quivering feathers sparsely scattered on straight cotton pants or on a pinafore. The co-ed collection was edited down by Andrew to just 30 looks, which was surely beneficial to conveying a convincing rhythm and a focused message. “Less but better, it’s our way forward,” he said. “I’m really into it.” The Andrew/Guadagnino connection also proved a winning creative combination, to be hopefully continued in the future. “Lockdown has been dark, surreal, and mysterious, like a Hitchcock movie,” chimed Andrew. “But strangely, like in a Hitchcock movie, the ending is always somehow beautiful. I’m trying to celebrate the beauty that is going to come out of it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Io Sono L’Amore. Zanini AW20

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Marco Zanini‘s small, name-sake label launched a year ago, and though the challenges are constant, he now finds himself with a roster of top boutiques around the world and the kind of personal satisfaction that comes from doing precisely what he wants after many years of working for other companies. This also is reflected in the garments: there’s no compromising at Zanini. Not on materials, not on the finishings on the inside of the garments, and definitely not on his silhouettes. For autumn-winter 2020, Zanini’s interest turned to traditional English wool flannels, which he cut into mannish two- and three-piece suits that he lined in white linen. Another wool jacket and matching full skirt were lightly hand-quilted. The thick cashmere knit worn with another big skirt looked just perfect, worn with a cameo necklace and a cotton poplin shirt underneath. Very, very Milanesa. This collection made me think of Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece “I Am Love”,  starring Tilda Swinton as Emma. I can see Zanini’s delightful silk eveningwear worn around the wonderful Villa Necchi Campiglio and his daywear being Emma’s day-to-day basics. And in our reality, Marco’s brand is gradually stealing hearts of clients who don’t need logos and one-season statements, but want a garment that will forever feel luxurious and beautiful.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Luca Guadagnino and Gardening. Fendi SS20

When Luca Guadagnino does something, I just can’t ignore it. The A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director got invited by Silvia Venturini Fendi to be the guest artist behind Fendi’s spring-summer 2020 collection for men. Fendi and Luca have a long-time relationship: the brand notched associate producer credits on I Am Love, for example, and the two worked on a short film for the label. Guadagnino loves fashion and puts focus on it in his films (remember those Dior by Raf Simons clothes Tilda Swinton wore in A Bigger Splash?). So his vision for the Fendi show felt as if he put his signature, sun-drenched filter on it. Presented  in the gorgeous garden of Milan’s Villa Reale, the collection was a nod to gardening and being close to nature. The gardening looks are too pretty to work in, but still, you can fantasize about wearing one of those outfits to check on your carrots: olive-green outerwear with detachable pockets and delightful short-sleeved overall with suede patches, accompanied by clipping baskets, watering cans, and garderning gloves (all with barely visible, Fendi logo). There was a utility vest in botanical-print-organza-clad strips of shearling teamed with a multi-compartment tool bag in leather. Luca and Silvia also came up with soft tailoring with split-hemmed pants arranged around floral-print ties, swimwear teamed with slashed cut-out knits and washed workman’s denim that came sometimes leather-patched. Brilliant.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Suspiria. Undercover AW19

When I saw Undercover‘s autumn-winter 2019 collection, I was literally like: “OMG. It’s an ode to Suspiria. OMG!”. Yes. Jun Takahashi really did a collection that’s in majority all about Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s cult horror, Suspiria. First, you’ve got to know I’m a mega-fan of Luca and all his films. But his Suspiria transported me to a completely different world. So I was really impressed that somebody in fashion finally went crazy for this film and did a proper collection based on it. The mood of 1970’s, Cold War-era Berlin and a world-renowned dance company controlled by powerful, elusive, sadomasochistic witches… it’s such a good source of inspiration. Not only the collection’s colour palette was completely inspired with the film. Takahashi wanted to use the film stills for prints (Guadagnino gave his permission for this – he’s a film director with an incredible sensibility for fashion) and here we are with a line-up of bomber jackets, hoodies, dresses and skirts that picture some of the most standout moments from the remake. Tilda Swinton – who played three roles in the film – and her character of Madame Blanc in a floor-sweeping, red dress appeared in two ways: as a literal print, and as skirt-pant hybrid in the same colour. I think no other designer can make a collection look so good, using just one reference and focusing so much on it. The theme doesn’t feel tired or invasive. It’s for fans, but not only – I bet any Undercover client will rush for the collection’s garments, without even watching Suspiria. You haven’t? Please do!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.