In just a few seasons, Nicola Brognano (with Lotta Volkova’s styling help) has flipped and twisted one of the sleepiest brands in Milan and transformed it into a 2000s-era e-girl nostalgia heaven. Blumarine last had such success in the end of the 90s and the beginning of the millenium, when nothing seemed better than rhinestone butterflies, sexy ruffles and lots, lots of denim. It’s 2021, and ironically, that’s what the TikTok generation loves and needs in their lives. Yet when asked backstage about his inspiration for spring, Brognano said “no one in particular really“. He knows that what matters is inundating social media accounts with the brassy swagger of all the skimpy, hotter-than-hot pants trotting on stilettos on the catwalk today, as well as the risqué fringed and beaded bikinis barely covered by a cropped cardi trimmed in regenerated mink or crocheted in fluoro recycled poly, or the see-through chiffon cargo pants with midriff-baring matching tops in eye-popping Day Glo colors. The co-conspirator in Brognano’s implacable turnaround is Volkova, who was busy backstage before the show shepherding models into a not-too-orderly lineup. Dressed in a whisper of a dress in pale pink stretchy gauze and chaperoned by her gallant, elegantly groomed black poodle Dimitri, Lotta fired off a barrage of her own takes on Blumarine’s new fundamentals: “Military Fairies. Sexy Butterfly girls. Frivolous and fun early Y2K mood when social media wasn’t on the horizon. Denim patchwork queens. Trippy, psychedelic, neon girls. Red carpet denim prints, red carpet bandanas. Low-waisted mermaids.” Love it or hate it, but that kind of Blumarine seems to be timeless.
Lucie and Luke Meier made a life change this year – they had a baby girl in June. That kind of development can alter a designer’s perspective, and backstage they discussed their new point of view: “It’s about embracing a positive future,” Lucie said. “Yes,” interjected Luke, “kids are a material reminder that the future has to be better.” In their four years at Jil Sander the Meiers haven’t often talked about emotions; in the past, at least, they’ve been more comfortable discussing the cut and line of their clothes. This season the cut and line were, at turns, boxy and oversize or lightly nipped. Those details are important, they’re what separate the grownups from the kids, after all; but they’re only part of why people shop for and buy fashion. In the end, it often comes down to emotion. And tapping into personal emotions is bound to make a collection feel more connected. That’s what this Jil Sander collection felt: more connected to real life. Chalk that up to all the denim, which was cut loose and slouchy and in washes beyond basic indigo. Or chalk it up to the models’ mules and boots, which were chic yet still friendly. For spring-summer 2022, they experimented with a range of pastels and brights, and added in some zebra print for good measure. The purple-ish tone of the overheads made the colors shift as the looks came down the long runway. “We’ve learned not to take things too seriously,” said Lucie. That came across clearest in a couple of outfits at the end, which layered sequin-embroidered shifts over trousers and boots. Those sequined shifts count as a real departure for the Meiers: loose, playful, and fun.
Kim Jones’s spring-summer 2022 collection for Fendi was a line-up of classically-flavored silhouettes and color progressions played against an irresistible decorative sample of archive Antonio López illustrations. The models glided out from backstage down a runway whose arches echoed the house’s Roman home, the Palazzo della Civiltà. The big reveal of this collection, the decoration, rotated around the vintage Fendi logo drafted by López during his period of collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld. Said Jones of López: “He was a big, big fashion influencer for a lot of people, but is not so talked about. He had this relationship with Karl and with Fendi, and he helped shape so many strong visions of women, because he loved them: that feels very authentic and topical.”The illustrations drawn from the López estate’s archive originated, Jones said, as the 1960s transitioned into the 1970s. Here his work was introduced via oversized brushstrokes, then zeroed-in upon via one particular drawing, a rouge-lipped profile of Jane Forth that was abstracted into the pattern that contoured four vivid intarsia and jacquard looks. Color became more impactfully calorific as further illustrations of wavy-haired and cherry-lipped rainbow-framed women were worked into kaftans, a fringed tapestry-woven Baguette, intarsia leather thigh-highs and silks. Plexiglass jewelry by DelfinaDelletrez was shaped in gold-edged transparent lily leaves, another López signature. Many looks remained illustration free, yet even without the figurative signposting, these outfits echoed the aesthetic of the period in which López was working. Just like Jones’ debut collection last March, this was… a proper-looking collection. Quite dangerously, Kim leads Fendi to that type of predictably classy, beige-y, luxury Italian brand category, which Lagerfeld avoided at all costs.
Daniel Lee‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection for Bottega Veneta, which went public just yesterday, makes me wonder if the designer’s vision for the brand starts to get over-worked and somehow distorted. The collection was presented months ago at Berlin’s Berghain to a handful of house-friends, and as the label ambitiously went Instagram-less, the mist of mystery should have done its magic. But nothing works here, and I feel like nobody paid attention to yesterday’s release. Is the flop-era of “new Bottega” on the horizon? Looking at the hectic garments, Daniel Lee’s latest line-up is ripe with diversions which rather create a sense of inconsistency. The fringed shearling coats that are this collection’s showpieces look odd, but not good-odd, rather cumbersome-odd. Reportedly, the line-up emphasizes couture-level craftsmanship. The brand’s press notes revealed that the glass dresses here take between 135 and 250 hours to complete; a black and white zebra stripe coat, meanwhile, features 4.3 million stitches on an embroidery machine; and each of these colourful outfits have over 4,000 feathers, all hand-embroidered. It sounds spectacular, but in reality it just gets lost in all the noise (or maybe the foggy look-book shots are unfortunate…). The merging of the “fabulous” and the “functional” might be one of the smartest and most satisfying pandemic after-effects on fashion, but this season Lee gets it wrong.
“This collection is really about individuality, about the uniqueness of the person – we really cared about the human [aspect],” said Luke Meier on a Zoom call with Vogue. What we experienced in quarantine, he explained, was “the feeling of longing for special people in our lives, the interesting characters we missed, the importance of interaction.” The dialogue between fashion and art, “how they fit together,” as Meier said, isn’t just an important conceptual component in his and his wife Lucie’s fashion practice; it’s also one of the central topics of their course at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where they head the fashion department. “For us it’s always about how good design can enhance the individual life of a person and the beauty that surrounds that person. It shouldn’t be just about making an object that’s beautiful,” said Luke. “In everything artistic there should be something functional, and it has to be at the service of the person,” chimed Lucie. Given this line of thought, “the ideas and philosophy behind the Bauhaus movement became relevant references for us,” she said. Resort was about harmonizing artistic gestures of decoration with the clarity of design and purpose they’ve brought to Jil Sander. Each piece was given an individual character, in a sort of syncopated yet quite cohesive narrative. What tied the eclectic offering together was a sense of soft playfulness, smoothing the edges of sculptural silhouettes inspired by the graphic lines of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet costumes. Undulating ruffles, fringed tassels, feathers, studwork, and statement jewelry gave grace to neat, elegant shapes. A dramatic sleeveless black-top-and-round-skirt ensemble in guipure lace, a chic strapless trapeze dress in off-white silk gazar, and a sleek pantsuit with a detachable round capelet also in silk gazar – one of the collection’s main fabrics, “as it holds the shape beautifully” – all looked like they came out of a couture atelier. Lucie’s work at Dior as co–creative director after Raf Simons’s departure in 2015 seemed to gently resurface. “There are elements of couture,” she said, “but I like to keep them light and playful, with a more casual, lighthearted attitude.” The Meiers’ flair for the artisanal, which they integrate into their equal fondness for rigor, was in evidence in a deep-dyed multicolored summer dress with brushstrokes across the bodice. It signaled a more lively use of color and patterns elsewhere, as in a slim leather overcoat printed with a figurative motif of dancing women, painted by an illustrator friend. “It’s stark but jovial,” joked Luke. It was a rather accurate summing up of the collection’s mood – the joviality certainly induced also by the recent arrival in the Meier family of little Ella Rose, who made a sleepy cameo appearance at the end of the Zoom call.