Colour, Volume & Fun. Bottega Veneta Resort 2021

From everything we’ve seen from Daniel Lee‘s Bottega Veneta, the resort 2021 collection is the most fun one. Was it the lockdown madness that let the designer take a more playful route? Lee has grasped that the world has changed dramatically and that the way we will want to dress has too. Hence the comfort and familiarity of that cotton and an emphasis on surprisingly homey knits, which represent an evolution of his thinking about all the stretch materials he used on his last runway. But there was no retreat into recuts or the safety of recent successes. “In the darkest moments creativity is so key,” Lee said. “It’s about making clothes you can’t find in other stores. Otherwise what’s the point?” Lee’s exploration of silhouette led him in a couple of different directions. His tailored jackets are sculptural in proportion with those full-legged pants, featuring nipped waists and a V-shaped construction in back that accentuates their shapeliness. Some of the garments look quite cumbersome, even if that exaggeration was intentional. But for all the emphasis on over-sized volumes, Lee also likes a lean, abbreviated look for women: say, a knitted top and matching fringed above-the-knee straight skirt, or a narrow minidress with one of the portrait necklines he’s made a signature. These leggy pieces have a straightforward sexiness, one that’s likely to be influential as designers and the women they dress search for the new post-crisis. But Lee undercuts the sexiness in these pictures with substantial lug-soled, lace-up boots whose vibe is cool and young. Another thing that won’t go unnoticed about this collection is its gorgeous, expressive, bold color palette, which seems to be taken straight out of Dario Argento’s Suspiria or an Almodóvar film. Lee matched a vibrant jade pair of his voluminous pants with a red tech mesh shirt, adding acid yellow pointy loafers and a chocolate brown bag for good measure. Then there’s the electric lilac hue of an A-line shearling coat, a color that reappears on a knit skirt suit and matching cardigan in what crafting circles would call the popcorn stitch, and the bubble gum pink of patent glove leather pumps with glittery acrylic heels. Fashion, at its most compelling, brings pleasure because it paints a vision of the future that looks fresh and new. If Lee’s playful printed dress in an intrecciato print of naked human bodies and the pouch bag in car seat cover wood beads the model carries with it become souvenirs of this strange lockdown season, it’s because they’re totems of a design team having fun. Who doesn’t want more of that in this moment?

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Team Work. The Elder Statesman Resort 2021

It’s interesting how two brands, of different scales and formats, emphasized the topic of team work in times of confinement. At Gucci, the resort 2021 collection reveal was an entire, 12-hour long social media event, where Alessandro Michele’s design team, no longer anonymous, modelled the clothes they have designed for not only the look-book, but the advertising campaign. At the same time, we’ve got The Elder Statesman from Los Angeles, where Greg Chait, the founder of the tie-dyed cashmere heaven, presented the collection on his team. But here, it wasn’t just about the studio designers. The whole The Elder Statesman family was here, wearing their garments in context of their work at the brand (from crotcheting to dyeing) and personal passions (farming!). The family aspect was even more clear once you take a glance at the clothes. The pen-and-ink artwork prints come from Greg’s grandmother, Thelma Chait, a prolific artist not acknowledged in her day. Chait and his cousin unearthed a storeroom full of Thelma’s drawings, books, and writings last year, with the designer planning on using them as a foundation for a collection since. The messages of unity, humanity, and love in her illustrations would feel right for any time – she produced much of her art in the groovy and turbulent ’60s and ’70s – but they weave into this collection for 2021 like a soothing balm. Her stick figure of a human, arms circled about its head like a halo, appears on a sweater, as a button, and as a brooch, while her rainbow pen strokes are interpreted as a tie-dye. A map shows fields, cities, deserts, and forests in a sacred geometric pattern on the back of a cardigan worn with ombré cashmere sweats. Making these pieces feel all the more beautiful is the way they were put together and photographed. Knitting, Chait told Vogue, was permissible during California’s lockdowns as a form of manufacturing at home. He and his team drove around Southern California delivering yarns, looms, and ideas for weeks. Already close, the team found a new camaraderie, he explained, and so it was obvious that Thelma’s collection should be represented on the people who made it. Benjamin, a senior knitter, opens the look book in a cashmere sweater with orange trimming, his loom in hand. Chait described him as “a legend,” and went on discussing the importance – both corporately and personally – of each of his colleagues. China, the brand’s VP of sales, models a matching knit set inspired by Thelma’s line. Ariel, the head of dyeing, poses in an ombré of her own design alongside buckets of dye and her dog. Jo, who did the collection’s hand-crocheted flowers, is shown in a gingham shirt-jacket mid-stitch. Chris, a sales associate from the West Hollywood store, wears a jacket made of the new “Cloud” fabric, a paper-thin 100% organic cotton. For the first time, Chait’s own daughter, Dorothy Sue, appears in the collection in a rainbow set made from a Japanese fabric that is 93% cotton and 7% cashmere. No offense Gucci, but my heart is utterly stolen by The Elder Statesman.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Gucci Team. Gucci Resort 2021

Last February, days before the coronavirus crisis broke out near Milan, Alessandro Michele staged a Gucci show in the round that was spectacular and intimate at once. In retrospect, it looks rather prescient: in inviting the audience behind the scenes and exposing the backstage goings-on of the hair and makeup crews and model dressers Michele was celebrating the very things that we’re all missing so badly in COVID-19-time: human interaction, collaboration, being part of a receptive audience. “Fashion is not just what we decide to show,” Michele said on a WhatsApp video call earlier this week. “The idea that a campaign is just a piece of paper? No, there is another show in the show.” The concept for the 12-hour livestream the brand produced for resort 2021, which the designer named “Epilogue,” and staged at the glorious Renaissance-era Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome with a natural soundtrack of cicadas, is to document the advertising campaign, to capture that “show within the show.” Only this time, Michele explained, “it’s less theater. This one will be more dirty. It’s a few cameras in a very Andy Warhol way, maybe they’re looking at nothing interesting. The experiment doesn’t work if I plan too much.” The Gucci designers working in his studio modelled the resort looks they worked on. On the WhatsApp call, he remembered a time as a young designer when a piece he was making was pulled for a show or a shoot and he didn’t see it again. “It was like someone tried to take from you your son.” Spotlighting his colleagues was “something beautiful,” he said, “they were so happy.” As for the clothes themselves, Michele called them “a celebration of my point of view, things that I did in the past, pieces that belong to my aesthetic.” That aesthetic is as singular and idiosyncratic as ever. Min Yu Park, a men’s ready-to-wear designer wears a beaded floral jacket, a floral lace dress, and a turquoise necklace that matches her Jackie bag. Alexandra Muller, an embroidery designer, models a long filmy floral-print ruffled dress with clear sequins that pick up the light. David Ring, a celebrities designer, sports an embroidered velvet blazer, a striped tee, logo flares, and sneakers. Just taking a glace at the clothes tells you right away: Gucci. Back in May Michele announced Gucci’s reduced show schedule. This may be the brand’s last resort collection, but the name “Epilogue” might be a misnomer. The learnings of lockdown – the importance of his team, the value of feeling – will stick with him, he thinks. “It’s not just a way to close, but to say what we’ve done and put seeds of what will be in the next chapter. Yes, it could also be a beginning.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

L’Amour. Jacquemus SS21

After weeks of digital presentations, Jacquemus‘ spring-summer 2021 IRL show was a truly heart-warming sight. An audience of 100 guests – mainly French press, house friends and family of Simon Porte Jacquemus – were ferried to a gently rolling wheat field near Us in the French Vexin Regional National Park, about an hour outside Paris. After hundreds of Instagram posts, you surely know what the venue looked like. It was a visual dream, a bit like a more sober sister of last year’s lavender field fantasy. Before the lockdown hit France, the designer had been in touch with the dancer Alexander Ekman. Needless to say, everything changed at that point, but the reference remained. During a pre-show interview, Jacquemus said he wanted his collection to talk of love and celebration, “like a simple country wedding or a harvest festival.” Ultimately, he named the collection “L’Amour,” a declaration of love for his team and updated it with Provençal references such as hand-made ceramics, grandmother’s tablecloth and berry picking (actual strawberries were inside Aaron Altaras’ basket-bag). The collection itself was quintessentially Jacquemus: a variety of dresses that channel the Southern French girl, made in all sizes; for boys, Picasso-meet-Miro motifs and cut-out hearts on over-sized tailoring. A toned, sun-washed  palette of clay and ecru looked summer-perfect, although I must admit I love Jacquemus most when he’s induldging in bolder colours. As usual, accessories are the sure best-sellers: fun earrings (a bar of Marseille soap!), leather accessories like a harness for a single plate, or the new Chiquito Noeud, a variation on the house bestseller. Last year, Simon dialed down to two shows per year, and this decision was definitely a good one. It’s not only a sustainable step, but it also lets the designer execute his vision to the fullest. And a live show is a live show, after all. “For me, the runway can’t be a video. It’s at the heart of what we do; it’s not superficial. It’s important to all of us to continue, just like a restaurant that reopens. It’s like a movie of a summer day. It’s our life.” That’s an inspiring dose of optimism for the uncertain times.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Honesty and Intelligence. Prada Resort 2021 + Men’s SS21

In her last solo “show”, before Raf Simons enters the role of co-creative designer in the September collection (I really, really, really can’t wait for this match to finally happen!), Miuccia Prada delivered a collection that was absolutely 100% Prada vocabulary. “As times become increasingly complex, clothes become straightforward, unostentatious, machines for living and tools for action and activity.” So said the press notes for The Show That Never Happened, which was a digitally delivered group installation of five Prada-facing films by Willy Vanderperre, Juergen Teller, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, and Terence Nance. They were all made at the Fondazione Prada, the company’s museum of contemporary art collection and the place of all Prada events. The film – which ran consecutively with the addition of a quick final walk at the end before Mrs. Prada’s usual fleeting, half-lateral bow – came to 11 minutes, the ideal duration of a live fashion show. The collection was all about pure elegance, simplicity and a sort of detox from fashion noise. Many looks were identical to Miuccia’s autumn-winter 1995 show, which forever became the image of 90s Prada. Architectural, 1950s silhouettes mixed with a touch of feminine cliché (of course, done in Prada’s ugly chic manner) for resort, and smart, business ready tailoring with a touch of nylon for men’s summer – ta-da, a collection that really got me obsessed in the last few weeks of digital presentations. The press release continued with more food for thought chez Miuccia: “I think that our job as fashion designers is to create clothes for people, that is the honesty of it. That is really the value of our job – to create beautiful, intelligent clothes. This season, we focused on that idea: It is about clothes, about giving value to pieces. The clothes are simple, but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication. This is a moment that requires some seriousness, a moment to think and to reflect on things. What do we do, what is fashion for, what are we here for? What can fashion contribute to a community?” As Prada and her peers (plus Raf Simons, of course!) work to anticipate how change alters the specifications of taste and clothes it will be fascinating to watch the architecture of fashion change too.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

As Always, It’s Perfect. Lemaire SS21

I don’t know how Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran do it, but their collections always reasonate with me the most in terms of ready-to-wear. I can be obsessed with the most over-the-top dress and feel inspired by the most thoroughly planned visual production. But in terms of clothes, my heart belongs to Lemaire. Their spring-summer 2021 presentation, of course audience-less, is co-ed, as the designers depart from men’s and women’s division. Also, from now on, we will see their collections twice a year, during men’s fashion weeks. “We’ve been frustrated for a while by the timing of the schedule,” said Lemaire. “You know, showing the pre-collection for women together with the men’s and then waiting two months to show the second half of the women’s collection. For many different reasons it was complicated and frustrating for production and also buyers. So it’s obvious that this was an opportunity to show everything together, even though it was a big challenge for the team to develop the collection in time.” Well, it’s as effortlessly refined as usual – no marks of backstage rush visible. One of the ways they met that challenge, said Tran, was by working more closely than ever before. She added: “The men’s team and the women’s team worked hand-in-hand, choosing fabrics and colors in common… we focused on what was common between the man and the woman, and then we added more specifically women’s volumes and more specific men’s volumes.” The result was a highly coherent collection in which that commonality was evident but resulted in subtle gradations and hints of contrast, rather than the monotony of a monogamously unisex collection. As evinced in the lookbook shots where womenswear and menswear looks are shown in the same frame, a close affinity looks like complementary dressing rather than couple-coupling. There was a stirring marine green, a palest of yellow, a dash of denim. Many of the garments were in a kaleidoscope of neutrals – shades of clay, ochre, wheat – whose delicate differences became apparent and increasingly rich the more attention you paid to them. Men wore smocks and women boxy suiting either plain or in a beautiful Martin Ramirez landscape print. Tran concluded: “we build the collection as a wardrobe. The idea of being able to enrich the wardrobe is very pertinent to us.” Lemaire’s newly co-ed articulation shows that the designers do what they realy feel like is the most suitable for them – and this even more strenghtens mine – and other fans’ – love for the Parisian label.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Kim Meets Amoako. Dior SS21

While the digital fashion month of men’s spring-summer 2020 collections is full of sleepy look-books, there are some line-ups that make my heart skip a beat. I was quite on fence with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior, but the new collection is brilliant. And it redefines the word “collaboration” in 2020. Jones invited the 36-year-old Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, whose stunning huge-scale portraits of Black subjects – partly richly finger-painted – have a skyrocketing reputation in the contemporary art world. “It’s a portrait of an artist who I greatly admire,” Jones said. “[The gallerist] Mera Rubell introduced me to Amoako last year in Miami. I really loved his work and wanted to work with him because of my own links to Africa. He lives between Vienna, where he studied, Ghana, and Chicago. So we sat down and discussed.” The first results – a collection fusing Boafo’s art with Dior artisanship, a look book, and a documentary film shot at the artist’s studio in Accra and at Jones’ home in London- are launched in a more intimate, in-depth and intelligent way than could possibly have come across in front of the usual roar of the crowd and show hustle of the Paris collections. In the video, Boafo is in his studio in Ghana as he paints and describes how he captures friends and family, “and people who create spaces for others to exist.” He speaks about the flat colors he uses to silhouette his figures, and, he explains, “how fashion inspires my work. I tend to look at characters who have that sense of style.” Friends hanging at Boafo’s place are wearing pieces from the collection, and the artist is working in a faded wallpaper print Dior Men shirt, whose pattern has bounced back in a creative arc from portrait to garment. The collection is smaller and more edited than it would have been – which actually works better than nearly 100 looks shows Dior has every season. Jones was working out of his Notting Hill house with a small team and long distance with Dior ateliers in France to get it done over the past months. The result: clothes saturated with uplifting color and print, which pinpoint Boafo’s signatures within the language the designer has established for a Dior man. Celebrating and platforming Boafo’s work for a luxury fashion market meant, among other things, transferring the tactile energy of his finger-painted heads into two intensely embroidered sweaters. The pattern from a semi-sheer fil coupé jacquard shirt sprang from a close-up Jones had taken of Boafo’s brush work. He also lifted subtle inspiration from haute couture – the gray taffeta blouson being a renewed, more youthful and summery iteration of the opera coat which opened his last show.

Still, even without the Black Lives Matter uprising which is fundamentally changing the way all institutions are being interrogated now, a collaboration like this was always going to demand detailed explanation. This one is tooled differently from the usual artist-brand collab. Behind it is an exchange with Dior which was stipulated by Boafo. “He said he didn’t want a royalty [for himself], but help to build a foundation for young artists in Accra,” Jones said. A donation made by Christian Dior (the sum was not specified) backs up Boafo’s activism. In using the leverage of his market power to lift up African art and artists, he is one of the new generation of Black artists who believe in the transformative empowerment of cultural education. In May, Boafo raised $190,000 (three times the estimate) with an online auction of his painting, Aurore Iradukunda, to benefit the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. The initiative will consist of a building that will host Boafo’s studio, a residence, and an artist-run gallery, supporting young artists in Ghana and their studio practice. “The change needed right now is to support young people through college and training to give everyone equal opportunities,” Jones said. The focus of this project is close to his heart, and, he says, to part of his own upbringing as the son of a hydrogeologist who worked throughout the continent. “We moved to Ethiopia when I was around three years old, spent time living there, and then moved around east Africa and then Botswana. I’ve kept going back for the rest of my life.” Underlying his motivation – using Dior’s fashion broadcasting capabilities to enlighten a broad audience about the vitality of contemporary African art, as well as facilitating a project with cash – is a quieter salute to Jones’s father, who recently passed away. “The fact that we are working with Amoako Boafo, from Ghana, which was one of my father’s favorite African countries is,” he said, “a fitting tribute to the man who introduced me to Africa and the world.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki; artworks by Amoako Boafo.

Men’s – Humanity and Craft. Loewe SS21

What Jonathan Anderson orchestrated yesterday around the launch of Loewe’s men’s spring-summer 2021 collection (and women’s pre-collection) felt like a long-needed quantum leap into the new world of open-ended possibilities. Where would a designer who’s always talked about Loewe as ‘a cultural brand’ and his links with artists and artisans go? How can the truth of tactility and emotion be felt when digital is the only option? On one level, what he came up with felt like dipping into a 24-hour Jonathan Anderson-curated worldwide live summer festival of arts, crafts, and conversations on Loewe’s Instagram page and website. “My whole thing is to do something in each time zone,” he told Vogue from his London home via Zoom. The program rolled from Beijing time onwards, connecting with (amongst others) crafts-collaborators Kayo Ando, who showed the art of Shibori, paper artist Shin Tanaka from Japan and the basketweave artist Idoia Cuesta in Galicia, Spain. There was music curated by Adam Bainbridge (aka Kindness), who showcased a calming ‘medley’ comprising different versions of Finnish musician Pekka Pohjola’s Madness Subsides, performed by Park Jiha in Korea, performer and producer Starchild, French-Malagasy pianist and bandleader Mathis Picard, and American harpist Ahya Simone. Lots more roved through live chats between Anderson and the actor Josh O’Connor, and, later, a conversation with contemporary textile artists Igshaan Adams, Diedrick Brackens, Anne Low, and Josh Fraught. And on another level, there was the Loewe Show-in-a-Box, a cache of paper-art discoveries delivered as a tactile substitute runway experience to the doorsteps of the industry insiders (it was a grander follow-up to the JW Anderson show-box he sent around last week). Inside was a pop-up show set, a flip-book of photos of the clothes on mannequins, a paper-pattern of one of the garments, print-outs of sunglasses to try on, textile samples, a set of paper pineapple bags and looks to stick together to make your own 3D ‘models,’ and a pamphlet listing Anderson’s art history inspirations. Slipped alongside was a packet of cut-out paper portrait silhouettes he’d had made of Loewe staff members. “I like that they’re kind of immortalized in this moment,” he said.

What about the collection? With their sculptural volumes, twisting, looping, and wrapping forms, the line-up read as Anderson’s push to convey the 3D presence of garments through the limitations of a flat, 2D medium of communication. Some of his references had been taken from El Greco and Velázquez, and his absorption of high Spanish art in the Prado in Madrid; others from his admiration of Issey Miyake’s pleats, and from wanting to showcase the painstaking handcrafts his collaborators bring. The leather-workers helped him evolve a basket-weave top and a soft, suspended bag that folds itself around one side of the body like an apron. The Japanese Shibori print radiates from the side of a tunic.“I have actually really enjoyed this process. It has made me be way more humble about who I am in this industry,” he concluded. “If I look at before the pandemic, I was slightly struggling. I was going out to prove that we are doing something. I think what’s been good about doing this is that I’m closer to the people who make the bags, to the pattern cutter.” Holding it all together in the digital space is turning out to mean more sharing of the glory, less behind-closed-doors mystique, more proof of the humanity, time and ingenuity that goes into making things, he believes. “I think that fashion now has to get rid of all the layers and just say, ‘This is what this brand does, and we’re going to do it with conviction.’ It has to be real. I think it’s bigger than the collection. I’m really proud of it because it’s very honest, it’s our humility. And it’s actually about finding that I love what I do.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Stay Curious. JW Anderson Resort 2021 + Men’s SS21

From all the resort and men’s collections we’ve seen so far this summer, it’s JW Anderson‘s take on a fashion show presentation in the times of COVID-19 that feels most different and somewhat suited for the current circumstances. Is it possible to convey feeling and tactility without being physically at the show? Of course yes – just see those marvelous press-kits that Jonathan Anderson has sent out to all the press and friends of the label. He also tells the entire logic behind them in this video. Created with available resources in rather limited conditions, men’s spring-summer and women’s resort 2021 are a playful celebration of what being restricted can mean and spawn in creative terms. The divide between wardrobes is intentionally blurry, but still present. What in menswear takes a slouchy feel in womenswear gets a classic sense of poise and elegance (something Anderson examined so masterfully in his show last February). Presented on fictional characters – enlarged personalities with heads illustrated by the super talented Pol Anglada or masked by Bertjan Pot – the collection juxtaposes notions of pragmatism and playfulness within a context of cozy domesticity. Volumes are round and enveloping, or elongated and sleepy, with blown-up details that keep their function in off-kilter scale, and unexpected touches providing jolly, frivolous diversions. Dresses, capes, pillow sweaters, cropped trousers, elongated jumpers and loafer mules reiterate and recon-textualize tropes of the brand’s DNA. Patchworked jockey coats sprout patch pockets as roomy as bags. Sleeves get excessively long, trailing to the floor. Military capes spawn an excess of buttons. Long knits have an home-spun immediacy and a cozy intimacy. Slits create movement on tailored pieces. Pompoms (!) draw the giddy contours of a plain sleeveless jumper. Blanket stitching underlines the addition and accumulation of elements. Texture, either real or suggested by way of print on fabric as well as knit, adds another layer to the story: brocade impressions, tapestry motifs, targets, stripes, flowers, Anglada’s erotic, blown-up faces. A sentiment of youthful, care-free amusement is here – and that’s we all really need right now.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.