Even though breezy September is approaching, let’s keep that hot girl (and boy) summer attitude live. Tom Ford‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection, featuring meaty velvets, sexy silhouettes and intoxicating colours, is the right path to go.
As Phoebe Philo is coming back to fashion, the Celine wound seems to heal. Which doesn’t mean I suddenly love Hedi Slimane‘s vision – but at least I can tolerate it. Still, his men’s spring-summer 2022 collection left me with some mixed feelings. This season, we’ve got an action-and-item packed Celine show recorded by drones somewhere on the Archipel des Embiez in the south of France. On a black runway set up with freestyle motocross ramps and jumps, teams of shirtless Honda-riding boys leapt and arced against the Mediterranean sky. The location is apparently not far from where Slimane lives outside St.Tropez, and this was Slimane on home territory in more ways than one: capturing his endless obsession with male teen energy, studding the collection with multiple art collabs, and wrapping it all up to the beat of a mesmeric looped soundtrack. The FMX bikers belong to a community that invented its renegade free-riding sport in the hills of California in the early ’90s – Slimane has been documenting them since 2011, when he came across them while he was living in L.A. This time, he commissioned and co-produced the music with Izzy Camina, intersecting the long, slouching march of a black-leather and silver-sparkled collection with souvenir slogan T-shirts and prints made by 14 of the emerging artists he collects and promotes. Since the pandemic hit, Slimane has shifted his Celine productions into the open air and into spectacular French locations. Wherever he lands, though, be it a Formula One racetrack, a chateau in the Loire valley, or this time, on a rocky coastline, there’s always the same, recognizable atmosphere, the romantic-erotic stamp Slimane puts on a world inhabited by young men. His meeting of motocross daredevilry and neo-rave frippery nailed the current summer of spring-summer 2021 teen spirit – a full-ranging breakdown of XXL elephant jeans, mirrored bug sunglasses, scaled-up bombers, tour jackets, and draped tuxes. Black capes flew over black leathers; sequins, crystals, and silver western boots glinted. Slimane targets Gen Z, and he confidently thinks he knows what they want. But I’m not sure if his take on youth is actually that relevant today. To me, it feels like an over-done costume. And Gen Z look forward to the unforced sense of authencity.
With Venice’s winding lanes and piazzas relatively empty, not exactly overwhelmed with visitors, an army of very slender wraiths, confettied with tattoos, bristling with attitude, and wafting around the city’s fabled landscape, seemed even more conspicuous. These proved to be the (extra, extra skinny) models and brand icons of Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent, in town to walk the runway in the designer’s collection. In keeping with the city’s current focus on the possibilities of architecture, Vaccarello collaborated with the genre defying artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken (who won the International Prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale) on an environment to showcase his collection. Aitken created Green Lens, an amazing mirror-faceted structure that was assembled in a month on the Isola della Certosa, and planted with hot house jungle greenery. It serves as a response to the question posed by the Biennale, harmoniously blending futurism with the natural landscape. “All the sets of Saint Laurent I’ve always done myself in a way,” Vaccarello explained, at the magical post-show dinner set in the roofless ruin of an old brick structure on the island, “so it was nice to share a concept for the first time with an artist who I truly admire, and it was fun. That concept was supposed to be for the women’s show last year,” Vaccarello added, “and because of the pandemic we pushed it to now. In the end it made more sense to have it in Venice than in Paris, especially with the Architecture Biennale – and with that collection, which is a mix of a lot of influence of Saint Laurent and a lot of Venetian ‘New Romanticism.’ Not putting them into the historical, classical Venetian way, but in a futuristic environment. I think after COVID you want to look more into the future than the past – and I like that mix of the past in the references in the clothes, and the future in the setting.” During the fast-paced show the structure reflected the blue skies, dusk light, and dappled lagoon waters while Aitken’s lighting transformed the mood from moment to moment, suggesting by turns a flaming sunset or a glacial blue Scandinavian dawn. Refracted in those mirrors, Vaccarello’s tribe strode forth in lean jackets or billowing piratical blouses, and cigarette-leg pants with winkle picker ankle boots extending the slender silhouette further still. In a timely reversal of the endless womenswear borrowings from the traditional men’s wardrobe, Vaccarello also had fun exploring the unparalleled Saint Laurent archives for women’s wear pieces that could be appropriated by the guys, including jacquard crepe de chine blouses and shirts from the early ’70s, cropped toreador jackets and spencers from Picasso line-up, and a padded brocade bolero from the China collection reimagined as a bomber and worn with black jeans, as well as a number of variations on Le Smoking. In homage to the host city there was Venetian carnival drama too in the dramatic billowing capes, including one in brilliant yellow silk that evoked a faille example shown in Saint Laurent’s autumn-winter 1983 haute couture show. “I think it was fun to see how a young guy could assume it,” said Vaccarello of his gender fluid propositions, “And I have to say they assumed it very naturally, [whether] a lace shirt, or platform shoes.” With this most convincing menswear line-up to date coming from the designer, hope to see more of such moments coming from Vacarrello in the future.
We haven’t seen a Jacquemus collection since last summer. Just like some other brands, Simon Porte Jacquemus decided to ditch the traditional fashion calendar even further, getting closer to the “see-now-buy-now” model. His autumn-winter 2021 collection is already available on the label’s e-shop. Another change? The designer seems to leave behind his favourite sun-drenched, South of France theme, and takes a slightly more serious, utilitarian path this season. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still undeniably Jacquemus. Just a bit more streamlined and approachable. “The smell was like fresh grass. There were sounds like little birds when you went in. I wanted to make it like a green and blue bubble—nature but unreal. Like you go in, and you find yourself somewhere else.” The IRL show was called “La Montagne”, a title which set up the anticipation that it might have literally taken a crowd to the French Alpes-Maritimes, or another outdoor spectacular such as the epic lavender-field Provençal runway show he organized in 2019. But, no. Porte Jacquemus exclaimed: “That’s exactly why I didn’t want to do a mundane location or anything. I think a lot of people are doing crazy shows outside and I didn’t want to do the race of the most crazy spots of the planet. Because I wanted to focus on the clothes and on the design, and not repeat myself, into like a perfect formula.” In other words: Porte Jacquemus is still young enough to want to be a contrarian, to be the person who never gets caught into a trend or a stereotype. There was a lot of lockdown time with his team to think about how that would shape up. Giantly and tinily was the answer, a surreally playful over-and-under proportioning of garments. “The collection started really with the frustration of corona,” he said. “We had the option, you know, to repeat ourselves, to do a perfect jacket and a nice linen dress and stuff. That’s nice, it’s beautiful, but we were super-frustrated, so we wanted to explore more.” Notionally, the Montagne of his title might resonate with everyone who’s been on that vertiginous, lonely hike through isolation from friends all this time. In practice, it wasn’t at all about athleisure. “Because I know Patagonia does much better hiking clothes than us,” he said, laughing. “Because we’re a small brand doing fashion, and we wanted to mix that with, like French couture elements. So it was between that, and the naive, happy Jacquemus of before.” It was shot in profile, video-wise, mini and maxi pieces in the same outfit, randomly framing lots of skin. Cropped puffers and abbreviated tailored jackets over bras strung together with widely placed clips – abs on show, triangular slices of inner knee on show, all popping with shots of fuchsia, orange, red. Cool, not overly demanding, easy – sometimes you just need that.
It’s an important time for the duo behind Jil Sander. Two-and-a-half weeks ago, Lucie Meier gave birth to a daughter. “It’s three of us now,” said her husband and co-creative director Luke Meier. Lucie hadn’t tried to hide her pregnancy, but since everyone outside her studio had only seen her neck-up on a Zoom call for the last nine months, no one realized. “I worked until a week before, but it’s good to be two,” she said. “Luke could take over.” They had begun working on their men’s collection some three months into the pregnancy, so, as Luke pointed out, “I don’t know if it’s conscious and present in the work yet.” The designers were, however, more reflective about the fashion world than normal. On a video call from Milan, Luke lamented fashion’s commercialization of parts of the sports – and streetwear that shaped him (he spent eight years at Supreme), and fondly remembered the eclecticism and individuality of New York street style in the early 1990s. “You’d see people on the street who’d be able to mix things like tailoring with an interesting piece of jewelry and something more functional like a parka. We were thinking about Jean-Michel Basquiat or Glenn O’Brien, these seminal New York characters,” he said. “Now, things are a bit uniform: there’s ‘this kind of person’ and ‘that kind of person.’ It’s nice to see people going for something that’s not considered the coolest thing of the moment.” While their collection was a reaction to uniformity, uniforms were undeniably present. Between utility suits, flight suits, strictly-belted tailored suits, and slender leather shirts with matching leather ties, there was an air of tonal, monumental dressing, which did go hand-in-hand with the industrial influences of the post-modern New Yorker artist wardrobe, but also evoked more symbolic uniforms of the post-war era. That wasn’t on the mood board, but the designers explained that the look they had in mind was about interrupting familiar or generic lines with pieces that express a certain individuality. That’s why colorful silken and fluffy foulards were tied around necks, why suits were bejeweled with jingly grape brooches, or why trousers were wildly magnified. It’s why a pink granny cardigan suddenly popped up, then a sexy cheetah print gilet, then a jumper motif that seemed to have zoomed in on a fragment of a multi-colored argyle pattern. Those graphic, color-block elements were nods to Donald Judd, whose SoHo building Luke would pass every day, admiring its Dan Flavin installation, when he lived in New York. After being stuck in the same places for so long, with the selfies of social media as our only real window to people-watching, this re-emergent period could trigger the individuality the Jil Sander designers are hoping to experience in the street once again. “I miss those characters and that world,” Luke said. “I don’t if it’s because we’ve been stuck inside so much, but I just want to see some interesting people.”