Retro-Futuristic. Versace AW21

Versace is launching a new monogram this season. Named La Greca, it’s a take on the brand’s heritage Greek Key pattern turned trompe l’oeil in the genre of Goyard’s Chevrons or Moynat’s infinite Ms. In the film Versace released, in the middle of digital Paris Fashion Week, La Greca had been blown up into a massive wooden structure that framed a runway-style show. Here, models walked through monograms wearing monogram clothes, carrying monogram bags, and accessorizing with monogram jewelry. Monogram, everything! But somehow, it didn’t suffocate the actual clothes. Donatella Versace came up with a convincing proposal for a post-lockdown wardrobe: easy, smart, and real. Sci-fi fabric treatments and styling stuff like harnesses fused with 1970s silhouettes in a slightly retro-futuristic expression were backed up by sculptural streetwear shapes and little bionic dresses (Bella Hadid, Rianne Van Rompaey and Mica Arganaraz looked gorgeous wearing them). Donatella thrives creatively lately, delivering collections that are super-Versace, but as well true to herself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Realistic. Valentino AW21

Approximately a year ago, COVID-19 hit Europe. Pierpaolo Piccioli was presenting his Valentino collection during Paris Fashion Week (who would have ever believed back then that fashion weeks will switch to digital?!) and the solemn, melancholic elegance he sent down the runway captured the first feelings of crisis. For autumn-winter 2021, you would have expected some sort of bold, joyful vision of future re-emergence most designers are desperately talking about this season. But surprisingly – especially having in mind his recent, extraordinary couture collection! – Piccioli decided to stay a realist, staying in the black-and-white colour palette. The line-up was livestreamed from Piccolo Teatro in Milan, as a gesture of love and support towards cultural institutions that are having a very tough time with all the lockdowns and limitations. The new season offering wasn’t exactly theatrical, but the dramatic lighting elevated the ready-to-wear silhouettes. Piccioli thought of a modern-day punk attitude with a romantic twist. From the sheer lace evening gowns to over-sized shirts worn as dresses, the collection looks towards the aspect of comfort, but not in a lazy way. Knitted capelets styled with heavy leather boots; ruffled blouses worn with simple mini-skirts (sexy is returning to fashion, as Tom Ford proclaimed); chunky cardigans contrasted with light pumps. Maybe this isn’t anything ground-breaking, but it’s a properly edited collection of clothes women will always want to wear. As for men, Piccioli leaves tailoring behind and decides for equally refined, yet easier wardrobe staples: an over-sized sweater, loosely-cut pants, a chic coat with a cape-like shape. The “net” motif comes in unisex turtlenecks and fantastic eveningwear. While the fashion industry is asking itself the million dollar question of ‘what will sell in the (close) future’, Valentino answers it with the right balance of stay-at-home, Zoom-ready classics and a sense of much-needed ‘dress-up’ for the better times.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Hot & Short. Tom Ford AW21

Tom Ford keeps it hot and mostly short. “The slight deconstruction of luxurious pieces is something that I feel will be a legacy of the pandemic for a few seasons to come,” he wrote in the press notes. Meaning, Zoom-perfect tops in lace and net were paired with bleached jeans, and dresses took their cues either from stretchy activewear or lingerie. Ford’s new hot pants, worn with turtleneck sweaters and puffer or aviator jackets bring that kind of sultry secutiveness he delivered in his Gucci days. Ford said the oversized jackets and underwear combos sprung from a lingerie ad he remembers from his youth. “It was also a very Edie Sedgwick thing to do,” he added. Another legacy of the pandemic he foresees will be the return of sexy. Meanwhile, the autumn-winter 2021 men’s look book includes three loungewear outfits that combine softly structured robes, button-front shirts, and elastic-waistband pants stitched with Ford’s logo (one thing I wish wasn’t there…). This is a distinctly Tom Ford collection – you want to be that girl or guy.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Space Odyssey. Salvatore Ferragamo AW21

For autumn-winter 2021, Paul Andrew delivered the most unexpected collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. His vision for the brand was all about a formal-meets-casual wardrobe, kept luxurious and upscale. However, suiting mostly failed, and COVID just made it even less in demand. So it was a smart decision to stirr things in an attempt to catch the attention of a new customer. Andrew took Ferragamo to the outer space. “I believe that at Ferragamo we weren’t pushing boundaries enough, as the founder did,” said Andrew. “He was an incredible, forward-thinking force. This collection is an invitation to introduce the label to a younger audience. Embracing the mindset that Salvatore had is our key to the future.” The designer basically made a sci-fi movie – the video presenting the collection was an elaborate affair. A tour de force shot in virtual reality and CGI, loosely based on pre-millennial cult movie Gattaca, it had illuminated tunnels reminiscent of those trespassed by Uma Thurman; space ships coming past windows open onto a futuristic city; a circular rotating platform on which a glass prism refracted rays of light into a rainbow. “The rainbow is related to Ferragamo’s past, as Salvatore became famous for the rainbow wedges he created for Judy Garland,” explained the designer-turned-director. “And obviously the rainbow is a symbol of new positive beginnings.” Clothes-wise, Andrew proposed a play on classics seen through a technical, futuristic prism; elevated, slender uniforms were given a ‘younger’ vibe, lifted by a luminous, fluorescent color chart. He called some of the pieces ‘bionic’ – tight-fitting stretchy bodysuits and all-in-ones inspired by motorcycle suits – and had them layered under elongated, heat-processed, chrome-free-tanned leather coats; under pants or ponchos in clear biodegradable PVC; and complementing suit propositions in rubberized wool. Some of it looked great, some felt quite unedited, and some – out of place. The chainmail accents (kind of felt like Paco Rabanne landed in Florence?) and shaggy mohair fringing are exciting new additions, but I wonder if they really match a Ferragamo kind of person.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

It’s Perfect. Zanini AW21

It’s always refreshing to see a Zanini line-up during Milan Fashion Week. While it’s mostly about who’s louder and bolder in Milan, Marco Zanini delivers quiet collections (the lockdowns in Italy prevented him from doing so last season, so he used his sketches to present his collection to buyers instead) that actually speak volumes and have true substance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a camp-y Moschino, but nothing beats a well-edited offering that includes a perfectly tailored, felted double-faced cashmere peacoat or a sartorial jacket made from ultralight wool flannel. Zanini is a place for women (and now for men as well) who seek timeless, investment pieces that aren’t plain, cold minimalism, but got the human touch palpable in every single seam. The autumn-winter 2021 collection is simple, but studied, while the materials are luxurious, but unshowy. “Fabrics inform everything,” he confirmed on a Zoom call with Vogue. The cotton of an elastic-waist full skirt and top with handmade buttons down its back was embroidered by specialists in St. Gallen. Scottish cashmere was used for a roll-neck jumper, and a chunky turtleneck was hand-knit from yak wool. A heavy-gauge rib-knit cardigan coat with a deep collar that Zanini showed with a pair of very well-cut pleat-front side-zip pants is another delight. Love everything.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.