Big Things. Diesel SS23

The energy at Diesel‘s spring-summer 2023 fashion show was… big. The brand’s creative director, Glenn Martens, claimed that the four inflatable human figures that straddled both each other and the middle of the monumental runway had been certified by Guinness World Records as the largest ever recorded. It was difficult to get an overview, but from my angle they appeared erotically intertwined. That Martens’s invitation came for the second season in a row accompanied by a sex toy – this time a big glass butt plug – further stimulated suspicion that this was their position. Another big statement was the number of people who could attend the show: about 3,000 people had bagged their free tickets online, while a further 1,600 were reserved for students. Most of the 200-ish remaining were there to work or influence. Since his first season at Diesel, Martens has been charged with revitalizing and democratizing Diesel. Fittingly enough, this is partially driven by Renzo Rosso’s ambition to take his company public. Whatever the motivation, this stadium show was powerful evidence of Diesel’s new audience.

Martens said the collection was divided into four chapters: denim, utilitywear, “pop,” and “extravaganza.” He added: “This is my recipe for Diesel; the four ingredients that I insist upon. Because this is only my second show here, and I think we need to keep showing it.” He said one overlying characteristic of the collection was distress: “All of the pieces are ‘imperfect’ through treatment and design. This is something I like, but it also goes back to that democratic instinct. We know Diesel is a brand for anyone who wants to relate, whoever they are, however they feel; everyone is individual and no two people are the same. Plus the piece is supposed to look ‘broken’ so that you can live with it forever – it is unbreakable.” Diesel’s denim expertise was on full display in this offering. It came layered in tulle, interwoven with lace and organza, or spliced into corsetry. The washes and treatments were manifold: Encrusted with croc-print overlays, reverse-sun-faded, garment-dyed into multiple colors. There was denim jersey and knit denim and flocked denim and fringed denim. Utilitywear included a two-tone olive bomber-and-pants menswear look and a long washed cargo dress, plus a series of nomadically postindustrial ragtag jersey ensembles – streetwear for the postapocalypse. Pop delivered acid-toned racer-back or spaghetti-strap minidresses sometimes garlanded with florals and contrast-colored lace. There was a hilarious black leather moto ensemble that seemed like it had previously been made to fit two wearers at once – back to those conjoined figures – before the second wearer had cut himself free to escape. Martens’s Velcro-fastened strap miniskirt returned in silver, as risky as before. A frayed logo jersey tank top and boob tube – both logo-printed and worn over some trompe l’oeil double-bonded denim pieces in black – signaled the extravaganza. This included two exploded bouclé coats made from torn and tufted Diesel-print fabric and a final, triumphantly tattered house-logo-print skirt south of a trucker.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Harnessing An Emotion. Simone Rocha SS23

Simone Rocha‘s collections are never just “pretty” or just “feminine“. There’s always an underlying, slightly dark, raw energy behind them. “This collection was very much a reaction to the last few years. It was very much harnessing an emotion that felt like this kind of powerful, feminine statement.” Her harnessing literally went into the parachute tapes threaded through dresses and big, bubble-bomber jackets. She demonstrated how the tapes can function to change the shapes of garments – making something long or short, or giving it a different volume, according to mood. There were lots and lots of airy, pale white-beige-pink layers of tulle, what looked like a pink wallpaper print of flower-wreaths contrasted with a punkier strand of army green, tough aviator pants, and deconstructed corsets. And then, there were veils. Rocha has used veils powerfully before, more in contexts that have hinted at weddings and christenings – echoes of her upbringing in Catholic Ireland. Now, they were flounced, tiered constructs covering the heads and shoulders of women and men. There was a strange coincidence of fate in that. Considering what to do as she was absorbing news of the death of the Queen, Rocha was afraid that the audience might take the reference as a last-minute reaction; but in fact they were part of her own creative origin story; part of her instinct for going back to reconnect herself with the forces she’d been channeling as a student – a rebel girl beginning to grapple with her attraction to history. “There’s definitely pieces within the collection that I think people will feel potentially a response to the current situation. Because my original inspiration, back at Central Saint Martins, was this old tradition of the people of the Aran Isles, where women would dye their petticoats red and wear them on their heads in a funeral procession. I almost took them out at one point. It was touch and go. Then I thought no; because to me they represent this idea of ceremony, but also the vulnerability of it.” She’d also recalled them because she was starting with menswear (yes, finally!) – throwing the veil over the head of a boy was an early gesture in her process. “I wanted to work into this beautiful masculinity, and really think about the juxtaposition to everything I’ve done within the last decade with women, and see how that world plays out in the crossover between the two.” The dynamic had men wearing fragments of petticoats, styled with utility pieces and black tailoring. As Rocha found, creative ideas can’t be contained; she let a sense of the toughness flow over into her womenswear. With great, and emotional, effect. That’s what brought the audience to its feet. “I think clothes are sometimes an escape and a release,” Rocha reflected. “ And then I think I think they’re the reality. What can they be in that reality? For me, it was about making something protective, and healing, and an urgent sense of wanting to go forward.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Exploration. Paria Farzaneh SS23

Paria Farzaneh has built her platform London-based through a fiercely independent exploration of her Iranian heritage. The designer has used her brand as a means to challenge the western perception of Middle Eastern culture and aesthetic, by boldly blurring the lines between the two distinctly different worlds that have informed her experience. For her spring-summer 2023 fashion show, she invited her guests to Phoenix Garden, a charitably established community space. In a pre-show spiel there was talk of this collection reflecting Iran’s apparently 1.68 percent of citizens who are nomadic. Farzaneh mixes blatant ethnographic touches, almost costume, with highly sophisticated pieces that float above cultural codes; pants and shorts cut with a side-leg pleat, for instance, were fresh and new. The shroudy, geometrically cut lacy pieces were based on curtains Farzaneh remembered in her grandma’s bathroom. “I think in the fashion industry, utmost honesty is very lacking,” said the designer. So how to walk away from the table with a win in this dishonest business? The nomads of any culture who share Farzaneh’s roving curiosity, wherever they hail from, should understand her codes.

 

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Take Me To Church. Willy Chavarria SS23

Willy Chavarria took us to church (the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, to be precise) for a show that mixed his signature larger-than-life silhouettes with exquisite tailoring. It opened with a beautiful song performed a cappella in Spanish by Dorian Wood about the way borders keep us separated, which could be read literally but Chavarria meant it more metaphorically. “The song is about the division in our world,” he explained backstage afterward. “If you noticed in the show, the actors were divided by ethnicity, and that was not only to represent the division that we are experiencing, but to show the solidarity within the culture. To show the strength of people when they’re unified.” First, a group of men wearing extra-long T-shirts and Dickies walked out and placed bunches of roses on the altar. The first look was a navy tailored jacket with strong, wide shoulder pads that were situated ever so slightly beyond the natural line of the body, which worked to create a great amount of tension against the extra-long lapels that extended past the top of the torso. Its intersecting lines alluded to the Chi Ro symbol, also called a Christogram. The model, who wore a collared shirt and pleated wide-leg trousers as well, carried a cross at the center of his chest with one hand.

Chavarria, who recently won the National Design Award for Fashion Design, has always favored volume and extra-large silhouettes as a way to “reclaim [the] space that has been taken” from people of color, but there was a new level of softness and sensuality woven through his collection this time around. Though it was always played against more traditionally American masculine elements like varsity logo T-shirts and football jerseys, which he turned into short, princess-sleeve tops and layered over short-sleeve button-down shirts and paired with a skirt. Men wearing robes and dresses has been normalized on menswear runways, but it was interesting to see how, in the context of a church, the silhouettes completely changed meaning and were imbued with a sensibility that hinted at both a uniform as well as tradition. “The first piece I did [for the collection] I called the altar-boy cape, and I just had it on a mannequin in my studio for a long time as the rest of the collection came about, so it’s funny that the collection became as spiritually tied as it ended up being,” said the designer. The capes were worn by both male and female models who came out in a group halfway through the show. The absolute star of the show was a group of gorgeous fine-tailored pieces, like the slightly asymmetrical double-breasted silk tuxedo jacket with a giant fabric rose on the left shoulder, worn with fluid satin trousers. The rose also appeared on red silk taffeta trousers, complete with a ball gown–esque train and paired with a black leather tank, and again on a pair of extra-wide black satin trousers and matching button-down shirt, worn open at the chest and falling off the shoulders. “I felt like this was a show about good and evil,” the designer added. “Coming from a religious background, I’ve always been a firm believer that good out-wins evil, [but] I felt like there’s almost a loss of God right now in the world.” If it’s true that God is love and beauty, then this fashion show took us a little closer to heaven.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Hot Versatility. Peter Do SS23

Peter Do has delivered one of the most convincing, coherent and desirable collections of this entire New York Fashion Week. If Helmut Lang, the designer, showed collections in 2022, then this might have been the effect – it’s this good. What gave Do this sort of new confidence is the official launch of menswear. The spring-summer 2023 show was opened with a men’s look: the double breasted jacket fastened with a single button over a white shirt, both with a large triangle cutout exposing a flash of muscled back, over a pair of full satin pants with open side seams that tapered at the ankle over those signature boots. The model was Lee Jeno of the K-Pop group NCT who has 3.4 million followers on Instagram. Celebrity influencers will play their part, but more important: Do’s exacting, even methodical approach is equal to his ambition. As with his women’s, tailoring is central to Do’s aesthetic. In fact, the offering is more or less unisex, in addition to being quite sexy. “During the fitting process we try everything on both, 80% is pretty genderless,” he explained. For him, for her, for them: over the course of 60 looks – this was one of New York’s bigger shows – Do set out his vision. It involves deconstruction in the form of suits slit open at the hem to reveal their inner workings, minimal leaning ornamentation like tone-on-tone suture stitches over seams, and the two- or three-in-one versatility that he’s built into his work from the start. Waistbands can be adjusted to accommodate different sized hips and clever pleated skirts are attached to belts so they can be open and closed, almost like curtains. Shirts can play it straight, meaning buttoned from collar to hem, or they can be worn wrapped around the waist for the undone look he favored here. Another novelty, this one on the sustainable tip: a tank and pants in what looked like patent leather were made from discarded shrimp shells, a food industry waste product.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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