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.

Italian Summer. Valentino Resort 2021

This is the ideal summer state of mind: Mariacarla Boscono dancing, laughing and sun-bathing at the Italian sea-side, wearing Valentino and being photographed by her friend – and the brand’s creative director – Pierpaolo Piccioli. Italy was the European country that was first tragically hit by COVID-19, and to many it seemed that good days aren’t coming back anytime soon. Now the country seems to gradually revive and the dream Italian summer is back on track. Optymism is winning. “I never stopped working,” Piccioli told Vogue during a Zoom call. “I profoundly love what I do; this is my passion, something fundamental for me – it isn’t just work.” The resort 2021 collection is the byproduct of the time spent alone drawing and painting, while remaining connected with his team. “I wanted to convey spontaneity and truth, even imperfection—but it’s the feel of human imperfection you long for right now,” he explained. “The collection was born out of flat drawings – paper and pencil, no styling, no mood board, just researching on paper shapes that linger in your head. A pure fashion process, as it should be done.” The human quality of creativity is paramount to Piccioli’s practice. He has imbued the rarefied world of couture with emotional values – exposing and revealing its craft and handmade processes, and shining a light on his team of seamstresses and artisans as essential players behind his fabulous creations. This center still firmly holds. “I wanted [to communicate] something even more personal, very close to myself. Conveying a sense of intimacy, a sentiment of individual connection, of emotion. I decided to photograph the collection myself because it seemed more coherent in this moment to send out a message with no filters, no manipulation, no other interpretation or mediation. I didn’t want the usual glamour of a fashion shoot,” he continued. “What I was interested in focusing on was what I’ve missed most in this confinement – the simple feeling of human connection, of shared love and friendship. This is what I wanted to bring about in my images.” Not surprisingly, simplicity is the collection’s key word. “It’s a radical simplicity though,” reflected Piccioli. “I wanted to be even more radical, in that the simplicity I’ve tried to achieve in shapes, volumes, and construction comes at the end of a process of resolved complexities. It’s a study and a project on cut, proportions, balance. Reducing and subtracting to reach the core, something essential and pure – but not more banal. Simple, not simplified.” There’s an ease and a fluidity of movement, a feel for freedom and effortlessness exuding from the lean silhouettes of caftans, elongated shift dresses, capes, and separates. Defined by strong, solid colors inspired by Mark Rothko’s chromatically powerful palette, pure shapes were infused with a vibrant, joyful flair. A few prints inspired by 18th-century tapestries were rendered as inconspicuous abstract strokes of color, as if they were just traces of memories, or shadows of the decorative motifs’ former selves. And what’s more special than a dear friend you’ve known and loved for years? “Mariacarla and I, we go back a long way,” he said. A spontaneous energy radiates from the images, shot by Piccioli in the natural surroundings of his home: a lake where he goes swimming; a sulfur mine where Pier Paolo Pasolini shot some scenes from his 1964 movie Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo. There’s a palpable sense of intimacy and of a familiar bond between photographer and model. Again, individuality and humanity are the pivots around which the collection, which was designed to appeal to both genders, came alive.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Love’s in the air. Valentino AW19

Pierpaolo Piccioli makes people get emotional (and Celine Dion shed tears of joy) over his couture. Does his ready-to-wear for Valentino spark the same reactions? Pretty much yes. His autumn-winter 2019 collection was an ode to love. A theme that might be so easily clichéd in fashion got beautifully poetic on Piccioli’s runway. “I feel that people are looking for emotion and dreams—but not distant dreams,” he said today before the show. “I want to create a community for Valentino. I mean something different from ‘lifestyle,’ which is about owing objects. It’s about people who share values.” Valentino’s community has many faces, and this season Pierpaolo made them even more vocal. First, the choice of models who walk the Valentino runway as of late utterly cement the normalisation of inclusive casting. You’ve got Adut Akech open the show in a voluminous coat, and Maria Carla Boscono wear a gorgeous black gown. Then, we’ve got artistic individuals that leave their mark on Piccioli’s fashion. Jun Takahashi of Undercover started collaborating with Valentino’s menswear last season, and his contribution goes on here as well. This time the designers morphed together a print of a 19th-century neoclassical sculpture of kissing lovers with an image of roses. It appeared on pretty much everything, and wasn’t necessarily a subtle detail. And then there are the poets. Poetry in fashion always seemed to be a good idea just in case of Ann Demeulemeester and her long-time friend, Patti Smith. In case of Valentino, the concept wasn’t overly intellectual or profound, but digestible for the eye. Picciolli commissioned the Scottish poet and artist Robert Montgomery and the three young writers – Greta Bellamacina, Mustafa The Poet and Yrsa Daley-Ward – to contribute to a slim volume, Valentino on Love, which was left on seats for the audience. An illuminated billboard with lines by Montgomery stood at the end of the runway, reading, “The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.” The words carried on to live in Piccioli’s designs and the lines were printed (or embroidered) inside coats, tulle dresses, inside of bags and boots. In terms of fashion, this was a line-up of incredible matchings. An orange jacket with feathers was worn over a hoodie – refined, yet fresh. There were as many couture-ish silhouettes (like the yellow cape-coat or the finale dresses) as sublime daywear (think soft tailoring, flared mid-lenght skirts and classical little black dresses). Love’s in the air, in every single aspect.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Boys in Paris. Proenza Schouler SS18

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Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are the boys, who for years defined the contemporary chic of New York’s fashion scene. Hearing about their unexpected departure to Paris last season was quite a surprise. Everybody asked: what will New York fashion week be like without Proenza Schouler? Well, one thing’s sure – the Big Apple undoubtedly sobs that it didn’t witness one of the couples’ strongest and most beautiful collections.

But why Paris? And why so early for spring-summer 2018, while it will be presented by other labels in September? First, the brand decided to expand its recognition internationally, as Paris, not New York, is the place where all eyes look at. Second, the designers decided to dissolve the pre- and main-collection into one, consistent line-up, leaving more space (and time) for their intimate, creative process. Vetements done it, with success; Burberry has a similar business model; Rodarte, which presented its collection the same day in the French capital, takes the same risk this season.

But lets talk about the clothes, which in the end are the most important. As I’ve mentioned earlier, that was a truly impressive collection. Form low skirts and ready-for-everything blazers to statuesque ruffled dresses and stark red florals, Lazaro and Jack searched for a balance between arty edginess and comfortable elegance. Wait, we’re in Paris, just on time for haute couture shows – this explains the last looks, pimped up by the local petites mains. Looking like moving fluffy clouds from a distance, those were intricately inserted feathers on Sasha Pivovarova’s art gallery owner jacket or Mariacarla Boscono’s show-stopping evening dress à la Black Swan. Actually, each look is worth a paragraph. Also, please take a look at the low-heeled shoes with pointy-toes, kept in simple black or embellished with colourful beads. An instant need.

I think that a warm ‘bienvenue’ is the right term to greet Proenza Schouler at their new, European home!

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki (backdrop: combination of different installations and artworks by Kate MccGwire).