Rejuvenating. Valentino Pre-Fall 2022

Keeping a consistent narrative is crucial for a brand’s credibility today; Gen Z customers, the demographic coveted by every luxury house, are drawn to designers whose work is creative and value-driven in equal measure. That dynamic isn’t lost on Pierpaolo Piccioli, who has rebooted Valentino for a new audience, amping up the brand’s cultural ethos to resonate with the zeitgeist. Pivoting on the label’s extraordinary couture heritage, Piccioli’s focus is to translate the codes of Italian savoir faire into an aesthetic that, while staying true to its high-style fundamentals, speaks to the attitudes of fashion’s younger consumers. This ongoing exercise somehow peaked, both visually and conceptually, in Piccioli’s spring collection last October, paraded in the streets of Paris with fashion students filling many of the seats. Models sported individual looks styled to suit their personality, further highlighting the intent to relate to the world of today. Picking up where that show left off, the words ‘real’ and ‘reality’ came up quite often in a conversation with the designer about pre-fall. Piccioli believes that the aesthetic codes of the maison can be given a different meaning by shifting the way they’re interpreted by the wearer. To that end, for pre-fall he worked on pieces quintessentially Valentino (so much so that some templates came directly from couture collections), but “shuffled the attitude,” as he said, and tweaked the styling to create a sort of dissonance and vitality.

Shot in the streets of London on young models, the lookbook images were conceived as a “portrait of a generation that wears clothes not necessarily different from those of 10, 20 years ago, but which are adapted to today’s lifestyle and our real social context,” said Piccioli. Case in point was the little black dress, a staple for cocktail receptions in a bourgeois milieu that Piccioli believes can be twisted into a sort of clubbing uniform. On the same note, an immaculate short white cape with matching pleated shirt that would’ve looked apropos on Marisa Berenson in the ‘70s if paired with high heels and a silk blouse, was given a cooler spin styled with a cropped marinière and chunky loafers. A sumptuous purple robe coat, lavishly embroidered with the Valentino atelier’s handcrafted couture techniques was turned into a citycoat and worn over a pair of distressed denim pants. The challenge Piccioli faces is to immerse into today’s complex reality a label whose imagery is rarefied and rooted in a world of privilege, twisting the references and techniques of couture to suit a modern way of dressing that favors personality instead of status. “I want to breathe life into Valentino,” he reiterated. “I want its idea of perfect beauty to be somehow stained, so to speak, by the reality of today’s life, and to make it alive and relevant for a community of people with no reverence towards fashion, but who inhabit fashion with sentiment and an attitude of personal creativity.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Tangible Form. Quira AW22

Veronica Leoni follows an instinctual approach to design. Her way with fashion is thoughtfully raw, direct and soulful – spontaneity is her signature. Quira, the Milan-based label, is Leoni’s solo endeavor, named after her seamstress grandmother, Quirina. The spontaneous urge of the project is sealed with a family tie, and a sentimental value is woven to the background. Quirina was the reason why Veronica Leoni’s path started. The brand captures that ever-present idea into tangible form. The autumn-winter 2022 line-up – Quira’s second collection – is lensed by Paul Kooiker and features the amazing Guinevere Van Seenus. Voluminous cocoon dresses worn over slouchy pants; thick knits in bold colours and fluffy textures you want to touch and feel; flowing, light pleats contrasted with chunky clogs (or rubber boots); draped capes layered on top of masculine tailoring and crisp cotton shirts. That’s a lot to love. But this isn’t the first time you see Leoni’s hand in fashion. Two work experiences fine tuned the designer’s aesthetic sense: first she acted as head designer of knitwear at Jil Sander, under Sander herself. After that, Leoni was head of pre-collection at Céline for four years under Phoebe Philo (well, now we know why Quira feels so good). Today she is the creative director of womenswear at 2 Moncler 1952. Milan is gradually becoming a hub for new-gen designers, and Quira is a very promising addittion!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Characters. JW Anderson AW22

Jonathan Anderson left London and showed in Milan this season… to some extent. In the latest in his series of ingenious pandemic alternatives to putting models on a runway, he made a surprise intervention in public. “We have dozens of trucks with billboards of the collection images circulating Milan all day. Juergen Teller is out photographing them with people at gas stations and other stops. Content becomes content. Image becomes pictures of pictures. Fashion becomes part of the landscape”, the designer explained. As a device for creating a widely seen, soon to be endlessly Instagram-replicated public spectacle, it’s just the latest of JW Anderson’s super-smart manipulations of media – right in the middle of the Italian city where the institution of the fashion billboard has been part of the competitive pride of fashion week for years. And this, simply with one photographer and one model, his friend Hari Nef impersonating four pop-cultural ‘characters’ in a Cindy Sherman-esque, and a fleet of truckers. “We don’t have thematics any more. We’re doing bite-sized, light-hearted things like this,” Anderson said. “We have a young demographic, and we’re a small contemporary brand. With all the multiple issues we’re facing – going from one crisis to another crisis – there has to be learning from that. New types and ways of doing things.” Since the pandemic hit Anderson has been acing communication by playing with printed matter in delightful ways. He’s also re-focused his own-brand strategy on “two main seasons, and two experimental ones. So this is one of those experiments.”

Rolled out (literally) around Milan were pictures designed simultaneously to provoke lots of fun and push Gen-Z memory-buttons. “We’re playing with this media paradox in pop culture where there’s this constant going to the past, and bringing it forward. So things are just as valid as they were, but in a different context.” One set is around the movie posters for Carrie – original graphics from Sissy Spacek’s classic 1976 horror role as the awkward teenager who turns out to have gory telekinetic powers of revenge at the school prom. No random choice, that: “I feel like that movie is such an influence on teen TV series being made now,” Anderson acutely observed. Apart from the obvious T-shirt, sweatpant, and pajama-set graphics, there’s a one-shouldered silver silk satin prom dress. Quite ingeniously, it’s photo-printed all around the hem with “hyper realistic” balloons from Carrie’s own prom.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Spiritual Wanderer. DsQuared2 AW22

The Dsquared2 spiritual wanderer is a peace and love messenger. “Times are calling for something coming from the heart,Dean and Dan Caten said. “Let’s come together in harmony and unity, protecting freedom. Peace, love and freedom, that’s the only message.” The Catens have perfected the maximalist mashup, with layering elevated to an art form. Describing every look of the autumn-winter 2022 collection would take ages, as their mastery of fashion combination is not only inventive but meticulous. “Every outfit hides a memory, a talisman, an amulet found during a journey,” they said. Charms, dangling bell chains chiming at every step, and healing crystal necklaces were part of a hippy wanderlust wardrobe grounded in great oversized outerwear, puffy, outdoorsy, inventively engineered and hybridized. There’s lots of method in the Catens’ apparent madness. Knitwear was one of the collection’s standouts, chunky, enveloping, mostly proposed in striped folksy patterns. It was worn over flowy short apron dresses layered over tartan kilts or cargo pants, or over ultra-washed, extra-fluid denim pants. Blanket coats and ponchos, fake fur coats, and an array of tops, printed dresses of various lengths and unspecified layering pieces were mixed together with creative abandon. It made for a fun, lively outing, a welcome jolt of energy and optimism.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Where Do We Go? Marni AW22

Francesco Risso’s Marni show for his autumn-winter 2022 collection, an ode to the handmade, the mended, the crafted and the tailored, was somehow fitting in the current, violent circumstances. The show’s guests definitely felt a feeling of anxiety once they saw the venue: barely lit cavernous space, fit for a rave, the entrance shrouded in foliage, enormous concrete breeze blocks where a runway would usually be, and yet more foliage framing this picture of dystopian revelry. Last season’s show, set to a soundtrack by the genius Dev Hynes and art directed by the equally genius Babak Radboy (both Dev and Babak were involved in this season’s proceedings too) was a joyful, cathartic gathering, bringing people together as physical shows returned. Then Risso offered a moving and sincere treatise on events in the fashion world an captured the moment beautifully. This time round, Risso was questioning what’s next, according to the emailed show notes. “The future came and went, leaving us alone, but together in the dark, but lighter than before,” Risso wrote. “Where do we go after? Where are we bound, beyond what binds us to each other?

It’s become a thing for fashion to speak of community, but with Risso’s casting, it was a disparate and unconnected band of individuals who made their way via flashlight around the venue; nothing slickly and self-consciously unified about this group, wearing looks from autumn 2022 that suggested communality: anyone could be wearing anything – and who cares? They might be in dresses in washed mottled pastels which had then been patched or cut into strands or glistened with beads; long shearling coats wrapped on the bias across the body, as much naive gesture as practical fastening; irregularly checked (and snappily cut) pantsuits; full skirted deb dresses, overdyed, as if tried at home and then gone a bit wrong, but in a good way; and raggedy sweater sleeves trailing to the floor from under the cuffs of trad Crombie coats. Almost everyone was bearing some kind of crown of twine and twigs, or elaborate head wraps, which were actually jackets folded and twisted, as if in preparation for some magical, arcane ceremony (you can always on Julien d’Ys to deliver amazing headwear). Risso himself appeared in the show, his now dirty platinum hair surmounted by a fine pair of tiny horns. That he walked speaks volumes; a denial of the idea that designers have some divinely ordained remove from the same shit and the same joy that the rest of us are going through. His Marni has increasingly shifted – and now, with this show and the last, decisively so – into a world less of fanciful fashion remove, but instead reflective of all the ecstasy and confusion and disillusionment and love and kinship that we can all recognize and empathize with. It’s a pretty brave step, to not want to just keep offering up a familiar and reassuring idea of what a high-end brand can do, retreading the same ground, especially at a time when the fashion industry, despite proclaiming the need for change, has snapped back to business as usual pretty darn quick. In the end of the show, those wandering around in the dark eventually found the light. They came out blinking into the bright and glorious Milanese sunlight to an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s tea party, long tables set up in the rough hewn industrial courtyard, their tops groaning with fruit tarts and elaborate cakes and jello in hallucinogenic shades. Risso’s cast milled around, ate, laughed, chatted and hung out. Hopefully, our future will look as carefree as this moment.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.