Business really isn’t as usual in the times of COVID-19 (and even in the “post” moment that’s now in Europe). Traditionally, end of June and beginning of July is the the moment for all the resort and men’s collections, and in general this time of the year is a sort of “summer September” of fashion. But not entirely in 2020. Showroom visits for the press and buyers are done via Zoom only. Majority of collections feel very safe and are based on the brand’s signatures. Still, some of the line-ups impress, and moreover, appear to be some of the best work coming from the designer in a while. Glenn Martens‘ Y/Project is a great example of how crisis and chaos can bring new ideas and trigger a kind of brand evolution. Martens’ innovatively constructed, apparently woozily skewed garments whose conventional templates are drawn from across the demographic landscape of womenswear and menswear, are brain-bending at first glimpse, and often only make sense upon second look. “Obviously, these looks are distorted, and that is part of the fun of the brand. But most of them you can wear calmed down. Have you seen the video?”, he told Vogue. This season, instead of holding a menswear fashion show, Martens worked to create a video show-and-tell for Y/Project newbies that he said was partially inspired from the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons, in which Glenn Close is laboriously installed into her pannier dress. Here Martens and two colleagues show how looks from these jointly digitally presented collections can be worn; take a fitted, ruched-body womenswear jacket, pull a drawstring, and – ta-da! – you have a full-length dress. Or reach into the innards of a louchely cut suit and – voilà! – you have a double-layered look with a new denim foundation. Martens concluded: “It’s a kind of lava lamp of looks… showing how you can personalize your clothes and how you can make it look as crazy as you want or you can tone it down as much as you want.” The collections here are around a third the size of a normal-times Y/Project offering, and Martens said that the restrictions of lockdown meant that many of the pieces were hewn from deadstock. The collection includes past designs that have been redesigned and upgraded to be even more twisty the second time around. This is a virtue, as is that distorted adaptability that is at the core of Martens’s work – for what could be more sustainable than a single garment that you can wear in a multitude of ways? Also, as the press was informed, Martens discussed Evergreen, which is the title of a new all-sustainable collection of core Y/Project pieces that will start with a launch of 16 pieces online in September, and then be added to going forward. “It’s a selection of garments, which I believe can go into your wardrobe forever. And we also decided to only make them in the most basic materials which are not at all oriented to a season, so it’s really black, white, and denim.” These garments are not “basics” – the initial lineup includes Y/Project’s much-socialed, super-skimpy, jean/panty “janty” hybrid – and bear all the usual twisty codes of Martens’s design-eye, including rotating-collar shirts and hoiked-shoulder blazers. Looking forward to see it!
Collages by Edward Kanarecki.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Nicholas Daley’s keen sense for fashion is matched by his taste in music. After spring-summer 2020’s live jazz performance, he upped the ante for the autumn-winter 2020 line-up with a fashion show that kicked off an entire night of events at Earth, the landmark East London venue. His musician girlfriend Nabihah Iqbal came up with the title of the new collection, “The Abstract Truth,” and shared billing with U.K. dub legend Mala among other artists at the after-party. “I like my shows to be about community, it’s always a friends and family affair,” said Daley speaking backstage between sets. To warm up the crowd for the fashion portion of the evening, he enlisted a trio of young South London musicians – Rago Foot, Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu – to perform a live score. Borrowing from the world of experimental jazz and psychedelic rock, the music gave song to the wide-ranging references in the new collection, including afro-futurism and the black abstract art movement of the 1970s. He was particularly drawn to the work of Frank Bowler whose first major retrospective opened at the Tate this time last year. The Guyanese-born artist’s vibrant “pour paintings” came through most vividly in a show-stopping hooded poncho. Daley has a knack for spinning utility clothing with a sense of specialness. In place of camo, he used a handsome khaki green jacquard patterned with hand-drawn lines to elevate his fishing-style vests and Crombie coats. The designer’s commitment to supporting local craftspeople is ongoing. In addition to working with an English mill on the custom jacquard, he dug into the archives of Scottish tartan maker Loch Carron, unearthing two particularly striking mohair checks, both of which added a rich hand to slouchy button-down jackets and peg-leg pants. Those traditional British tropes were remixed with handfuls of neo-boho accessories – coin-trimmed necklaces and scarves, knitted crossbody bags and berets – and that magpie eclecticism felt fresh and contemporary. With models sporting Jimi Hendrix–inspired coifs, the groovier elements of the collection were nicely amplified. The musicians looked just as cool, dressed in all black and with Daley’s new oversize baker boy hats and genius coin-trimmed sneakers both made in partnership with Adidas.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
In the light of the extremely sad and disturbing events that have happened in the past few days – and not only – I would like to state that my site, my work and my outlook always stand with the black community. Racism is alive in America, and in the world, and we must be vocal about it (the way you personally choose to). I believe that educating yourself, having conversations (private and public) and spreading actual awareness is much more meaningful than just reposting a slogan on your social media feed (even though doing this little is better than nothing). I also think that in the creative industries – the one I can speak for – reflecting personal beliefs should be more than welcomed. Other than this, donate (click here and here), share links (here, here and here), support! You can even buy the dress Rihanna wore by Asai, and the entire 300 pounds it costs will be donated to three charities – just DM the designer with your order or send him an e-mail. In the domain I’m most active in – fashion – I feel like the situation should be highlighted as well, and more designers and brands should join that dialogue. On my side, I want to introduce you to the most exciting, emerging, independent black designers out there, who are often overlooked during fashion weeks or simply underrated. Their stories and visions shape and inspire today’s industry, we should all acknowledge that!
Starting with Mowalola. The Lagos-born designer Mowalola Ogunlesi arrived to London when she was a kid. At first she planned medicine as her life path, but in the end she went to Central Saint Martins. Three years ago, she presented her diploma collection dedicated to contemporary Africa. She made waves – fashion insiders and international magazines were obsessed. Mawolola’s vision was completely one-of-a-kind: through sexy, at points kinky garments she managed to convey the power of erotic tension in the times of social uncertainty. “In my country, I grew up with sexuality being very judged. So I wanted to transform people’s ideas of what sexy is. That it’s okay to show skin”, she told Vogue Runway. To embrace her origins, the designer chose psychodelic rock from Nigeria as her main reference, and her music inspirations lead to creating the new romantic menswear. Mowalola models wore sultry leather jackets, low-waisted super-slim pants and skin-baring crop tops with assymetrical cuts. All that kept in bold colours, reminding her of the Nigerian landscapes and streets. For her spring-summer 2020 collection, presented with Fashion East, Mowalola expanded her unique take on men’s fashion. Her signatures were styled with belts buckled with sacred and profane symbols: a cross, a religious icon, the Stars and Stripes, the words “sexy” and “mother fucker”. “I base it on what I’m going through – I’ve just fallen in love for the first time; I feel as if no one talks about the horrific side, the dangers of love, of losing control of your emotions and feeling like you’re crazy. It’s like how I see a horror movie!” she related. “So this is as if I’m in a black Woodstock Festival, and someone has been murdered.” See selected looks from her collections below, I can’t wait to see what she’s up to in the upcoming seasons. Make sure to follow her on Instagram and take a look at some of the pieces available from her on ssese.com!
Collage by Edward Kanarecki
Timothée Chalamet attended Haider Ackermann‘s autumn-winter 2020, but that of course wasn’t the sole highlight of the entire event. Although there was no real explanation regarding the line-up (“I don’t like to define,” said the designer), the keys to unlocking the thought behind the collection appeared to reside in the track list upon the cotton quilt coat in one of the men’s looks. Under Ackermann’s signature and the headline “Private Dancer” was a list of songs, including Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners,” Yoko Ono’s “I Want My Love to Rest Tonight,” Underworld’s “Born Slippy,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. “These are all my favorite songs,” Haider told the press. “It was just an ode to everything I love.” The collection was also a mix that unfolded in groups of looks for both women (sometimes under space-age beehive hats that elevated the silhouettes even more) and men. From wearing shades of ecru to rich velvets to black, the models walked in packs. What united them was the Ackermann eye for the romantic, the poetic and the sensual. At the back of jackets, vents bled into extra folds of material that caressed the silhouette. Long and lean overcoats were contoured with collars and buttons in a series of masterfully produced arrangements. This show was a painstakingly tailored mixtape of all of Ackermann’s wearable passions and signatures. Simply speaking: beautiful.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
You wouldn’t know it from these photos, but the Acne Studios women’s and men’s collections took place together. Meaning, at the same time, in the same venue, with the same music. But instead of being shown together, they had been consciously uncoupled – separated by a featureless white wall running the length of the runway. Jonny Johansson, the label’s designer, explained that the men’s direction would be “forward” while the women’s direction would look back. More specifically, AI and algorithms contributed to the men’s designs, whereas Old Masters artworks and ornamental fabrics formed the basis of the women’s show. Beautiful jacquards, brocades, and velvets that might have otherwise been used for upholstery, theater curtains, or a mondaine’s corset were transformed into dramatic dress coats, cocoon-shaped tunics, and sumptuous suiting with edges frayed and tasseled to varying degrees of decadent distress. A series of twisted tailored looks, including a leather coat painted with a faded scene of classical nudes, reiterated a certain unhinged, arty attitude that comes so naturally to Acne Studios. A body-contoured dress enhanced with a burnout treatment that traced the acanthus pattern was gorgeous. The womenswear was, summing up, beautiful and really, really covetable. On the other side of the wall, thinks weren’t looking this great. The menswear was created in collaboration with a “generative artist” named Robbie Barrat, who writes algorithms to realize his projects. All Acne archives were filtered through Barrat’s algorithms to enable an AI-authored menswear collection. Definitely, a human hand had its part in the collection. However, the tech-authored designs looked clumsy and… overcomplicated? This time, the old way wins.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Bruno Sialelli seems to finally find his ground at Lanvin – even though I’m not sure if the customer is ready to come back to the brand’s stores. For the men’s autumn-winter 2020 collection, the designer took creative license from Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese series of comics. Corto Maltese began in the 1960s and it charted the progress of a tough but tender maritime adventurer who encounters some of the early 20th century’s most important figures and is a bit like one of Joseph Conrad’s questing captain protagonists. Sialelli likes seasonal graphics, and he incorporated this character on shirting and outerwear. It looks good, but I don’t see any connection to Lanvin. And we already have a bunch of designers who do eclectic, random style. While most of the garments were quite unamusing, they were helped by accessories (think beanies covered in sequins and necklaces with faux shark teeth). The one area in which this collection was somehow really attractive was the 1990s skate culture influences that included super oversized sneakers and voluminous silhouettes. Taking a look at women’s pre-fall, which was also present in the line-up, I have an impression that designers this season think that if they have Bella and Gigi Hadid as the models, the job is done.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Chitose Abe doesn’t have a formula for her signature hybrids; it’s mainly intuition, she insisted after her autumn-winter 2020 men’s Sacai show (and women’s pre-fall 2020 presentation). It turns out that the man who invented what is arguably the world’s most famous and universal formula, E=mc², was also a big believer in intuition, so Abe made his words her latest motto (and the line-up’s t-shirt that will sell like hot buns). Saca and Einstein is a genius remix. Backstage, she was wearing a T-shirt that read “common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18” – a quote commonly attributed to him. In her work, Chitose allows an arbitrary inspiration to motivate a shift in layers and volumes or a shakeup in color or pattern; but you don’t get the sense she sets out to radically alter her repertoire. Instead, she experiments, innovates and taps into a topical subject or feeling. This began with women’s looks consisting of suit jackets counterintuitively worn atop military layers that gave way to a fluid skirt and punk-ish platform boots. The men’s outfits included a few Mod-inflected ensembles, sweaters that unzipped up the torso and total looks in pink that corresponded to the romantic spirit of the season. Across both collections, the usual toggling of utility and fluidity played out in animal spots and cosmic-themed bandana sketches by the tattoo artist Dr. Woo. Elsewhere, Abe relied on denim, tweed, tartan, and fleece. A goodie!
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
At Loewe, things took a fun twist. That gesture of holding something in front of the mirror to see how it looks – we all know it. You could just see it the boys wearing draped lamé dresses fixed to the front of their tailored outfits on the autumn-winter 2020 runway. “I was thinking of ’50s couture—and a child, trying something on. What do you look like in the mirror?”, Jonathan Anderson explained. The two themes which have been running through this menswear season were bound together in one collection: carefree boyhood and the unprecedented presence of ideas about haute couture in menswear. “A fantasy wardrobe,” Anderson called it. “Playful. Optimistic. Pretty boys.” The dresses were a kind of signifying accessory, attached, apron-like, with leather straps. They said a lot about the way Anderson has always worked in the studio, experimenting with garments in free-association. The designer also put guys in coats which had “couture structures, on a woman’s block.” There was a white fit-and-flare shearling, a high-waisted princess-line coat. The zebra-print double-breasted caped silhouette, Anderson imagined, could easily become a superhero look. The childlike-couture perspective (also big at Francesco Risso’s Marni) led him to blow up existing Loewe mini-leather goods’ elephant shapes to become oversized tote-toys, to sprinkle crystal bling on sweaters, dangle diamanté jewelry on black patent boots, to weave a coat-dress from floral-print scarves. Anderson pointed out his own favorite—a shirt appliquéd with a pair of geese. Random and eclectic, don’t care. The point is that everyone, gender-regardless is welcome to pick and choose from what Anderson designs and delivers at Loewe.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.