Elevated Softness. Jil Sander SS21

Minimalism is integral to the Jil Sander brand, and Lucie and Luke Meier make it feminine, contemporary and distinct. And embracing a consistent, visually-recognisable signature is something that’s key to many brands this season. The designers have been back in the Jil Sander studio since May. They’re thoughtful about the lockdown and the changed new world that they returned to, but resolved. “We’re going about life in a normal way, just wearing masks,” Lucie said on a Zoom call. Their new collection for the brand, where they recently rounded their three-year mark, responds to some of the shifts we’re all living through, with more time at home and fewer social engagements to buy for. Luke said they emphasized daywear, for instance. To be sure, there are no stay-at-home sweatsuits in the Meiers’ new lineup. Instead, Lucie said, they “softened” their tailored silhouette and added sheer organza to the mix for a more “intimate” sensibility. In a video they filmed for the season, models clutched pillowy, unstructured bags designed to feel “comforting to carry.” The collection is enlivened by zingy shots of gold and yellow amid its neutrals: flat metallic leather boots that extend above the knee, a sunny dress that follows the line of the torso but flares gently below the hips. Clothes with a human touch are Meiers’ signature. That came across this season in the hand-crocheted overlays worn on top of slip dresses and in the way a shawl was tied voluptuously over the shoulders of a sleeveless tee. A pair of hourglass-y color-block sheaths were a surprise, a glimpse of a more carnal side that felt especially new in the context of Jil Sander.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Can’t Go Wrong With Classic. The Row SS21

In tough times, you can’t go wrong with picking the most classic of the classics. The Row is an example:  Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen‘s spring-summer 2021 line-up is all about their brand’s ultimate core, which is comfort, quality and understated luxury. The Row has always been a go-to label for women who favor discretion over bold display. This season finds the designers working especially within their minimalist framework, pushing new cuts and trying out unique materials. The suit of the season is oversized and mannish, with a double-breasted jacket worn over full pleated pants. Emphasizing ease and wearabiluty, they did a similar silhouette in knit. A V-neck vest makes multiple appearances in the look book, worn solo with a midi-skirt or teamed with a crisp white shirt and trousers. The palette is mostly monochrome neutrals, though there were two flashes of color in the form of button-downs in teal and rust. How about handspun organic silk made in single batches in Japan, which is exclusive to The Row this year? The white and black knit dresses they made with that silk are a sexy, body-limning counterpoint to the relaxed shapes of much of the rest of the collection. There is news in accessories. A 105 mm French heel pump counts as The Row’s highest ever, and a new Massimo drawstring backpack comes in that raw silk, as well as leather and suede. Naturally, there’s no logo-ing or hardware in sight. Timeless, investment pieces that will serve and please for years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Modern Goddess. Bevza SS21

The one good thing about this season’s cropped New York Fashion Week is that the small brands that show here for years, but stay always under the radar due to overcrowded schedule, get the spotlight they deserve. Svitlana Bevza’s designs may be minimal, but there’s deep meaning and history behind their simplicity. In her previous Bevza collections, she’s often referenced her Ukrainian heritage, specifically the country’s powerful women. This season, she created a narrative around her study of Trypillia, an ancient pagan civilization that cherished women. Harvest symbols also played a role in pieces like a delicately braided knit top and a silk dress with pleating at the bodice mimicking a “tree of life.” Paying homage to the Trypillia women, Bevza designed sharply tailored, corseted dresses, and a tunic with visible stitching outlining the female figure. Those pieces were soft and sensual but still strong, especially a hand-knit ivory coat. The earthily hued, subtly textured garments were accessorized by ceramic jewelry modeled on the statues of the Trypillia people. In the absence of a show, the designer created a film that further emphasized her aesthetic and passion for sharing her Ukrainian history. This collection is an example of how fashion can tell a story and educate us on the world.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Thoughtful. Jil Sander Resort 2021

If the pandemic has made us consider a more thoughtful, responsible approach to fashion consumption and an appreciation for the consistency of values expressed by a labels’ ethos, then Jil Sander’s Lucie and Luke Meier could find themselves in a good position. “In a certain way, the pandemic has just reaffirmed what we believe in,” they said during their resort presentation, held at the brand’s showroom in Milan. “This tragic situation has made people take a long, hard look at themselves, their habits, their values. It’s what we’ve done. We really still find that our path is a good one; our philosophy hasn’t changed.” The Meiers have built their fashion credentials around a care for quality, creating pieces that stand the test of time while being of the moment, with an emphasis on great execution. The human touch of craftsmanship is paramount to their aesthetic – just take a look at a clean-cut, pleated dress in butter yellow linen with embroidered jacquard inserts appliqued on the peasant sleeves, all woven by a family in Sardinia with traditional local techniques. For resort, the designers favored pure silhouettes, together with their flair for style opposites: strong proportions and sensible fabrics; a masculine sharpness of cut and delicate choice of colors. Shapes were kept sculptural but softer than usual; suiting was given a chic modernist feel, as in a sharp-cut masculine blazer in cream wool silk gazar paired with a circle-cut, cone-shaped asymmetrical matching skirt. Contrasting the restraint the designers favor, a comforting, pillowy padded blanket cape in high-shine white silk satin with baby blue inserts was thrown languidly over a feminine double-cashmere sleeveless dress. Meiers’ conceptual approach to the brand is all about consistency: “We don’t think that the Jil Sander woman really changes,” they said. “She cares about really good design, beautiful fabrics, pieces that are very well made; all these elements are now becoming more important than ever. People will probably consume less but better; they still want to treat themselves to a beautiful piece.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Minimalism With A Feel. Deveaux AW20

When Tommy Ton joined Deveaux as creative director two years ago, this New York-based label was a menswear line. Today, its business is in majority womenswear. All those years shooting street style outside the shows have paid off. Ton says observation is only part of it, though; careful listening to what his friends, customers, and friends who have become customers want is also essential. He hears women ask for sleeves that cover their upper arms, pants without pleats and skirts with specific made-to-be-flattering proportions. That may sound dry, but Ton enthuses about such details. He’s not in this for the runway glory, he seems to truly enjoy the nitty gritty of making clothes. After a couple of seasons of shows in New York, Ton and Deveaux’s designer Andrea Tsao opted for a showroom presentation in Paris (pre-corona times…) for autumn-winter 2020. The attractions of this brand aren’t editorial, their efforts are aimed not at magazine pages, but at women’s everyday wardrobes. As people running a small company, Ton and Tsao are practicing sustainability by using fabrics across categories. This time that means they made a shirt dress and a poncho anorak hybrid in the same khaki shade of water-resistant cotton nylon – pragmatic for the brand and for their often on-the-road customers. The New Yorkers are really good in tactile, soft minimalism: The Row, Gabriela Hearst, Khaite and Deveaux are a gang.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.