A Lesson In Parisian Style. Bouchra Jarrar Couture SS20

So happy to see Bouchra Jarrar back at work on her name-sake label. After her traumatic time at Lanvin, one would wonder if she ever comes back to the industry. She did this couture season, quietly, yet with confidence. “I wanted to do fashion that resembles me,” Bouchra said moments before her intimate show. Staged in her own apartment, with a slender sheaf of wheat leaning against the wall and raw quartz crystals displayed under a glass dome on a marble mantel, the presentation of Edition n°1 brought together a dozen or so of her very recognizable signatures, primarily influenced by menswear. A backless gilet was ticked out with feathers and pearls. Ample trousers were grounded by a merch-style T-shirt. Feather Maasai-inspired bracelets reprised her sports stripes. Other standout pieces included a very pretty fringed bias-cut tweed top; a sublime khaki overcoat with silver buttons; a flawless perfecto with ribbed shoulders. The presentation was a lesson in Parisian style: take a white shirt, impeccably cut black trousers, and eclectic accessories (like a fringed Berber-weave scarf) and suddenly you’ve gone from standard to elevated chic. Jarrar called those Berber weaves “ethnic with a perfume of couture.” A Paris-based couture artisan with whom Jarrar has collaborated everywhere she has worked makes each one after Jarrar picks the yarn and the dyes. She chose a russet hue, for example, in tribute to her Moroccan roots. “These are my colors. They remind me of how my grandparents wore their shawls. They carry all the warmth of my origins,” she said. The loyal, couture-buying client base of Jarrar will be more than pleased.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Haute Upcycling. Maison Margiela Couture SS20

Upcycling the heritage of the craft to make something for the present that is beautifully creative: John Galliano tackled the challenge of our times with his glorious Maison Margiela haute couture collection. For a designer who began his career with a graduation collection about the French Revolution in a time when young people in London were chopping up vintage clothes from markets, this was almost a reclamation of all of Galliano’s first principles, elevated and reenergized amid the 21st-century youth rebellion against waste and overconsumption. Most of the collection was made from materials that already exist: “memories” of bourgeois classics, recut, turned inside out, dissected, collaged, and punched through in a riot of color. Galliano spoke in a house podcast about how he and his studio team had sat and decided “there are too many clothes in the world.” He reflected on the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism after the 19th-century Industrial Revolution. Next thing his assistants were out scouring thrift shops for materials to work into the collection. Haute upcycling is not just possible; it can look refined, intriguing, incredible. For instance, bedsheets were repurposed as evening capes, a delicate elegance found in wisps of pink and apricot chiffon draped and taped in place as in a spontaneous Madame Grès–like moment. The attitude of a girl in an emerald 1950s ball gown veiled with a black tulle cape seemed to symbolize it all. Striding forward in an echo of an Old World couture pose, she held one arm elbow out, her yellow-gloved hand in a fist. Cut, mix, create, amaze.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Big Romance. Givenchy Couture SS20

Clare Waight Keller’s spring-summer 2020 haute couture collection for Givenchy was rooted in her memories of visiting the garden rooms planted at Sissinghurst Castle by Vita Sackville-West and by reading the passionate love letters between Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. “It’s one of the most romantic places in England,” Waight Keller said. “I’m quite obsessed by the place.” Famously it was Woolf’s involvement with Sackville-West and dreaming through the Elizabethan history of the Sackville-West family house that inspired Woolf to write her time- and gender-traversing novel Orlando. Coming back to the collection: Waight Keller once again proved her strengths in tailoring. But what truly stunned the audience were the summer-garden colors and swirling 3D-petal forms of dresses. For the designer, it was “my own love letter to Hubert de Givenchy because I went into the archive for this collection and looked into the history of the house from the very beginning.” Photographs of the pristine flower-lace gowns he made in the era he designed for Audrey Hepburn were pinned to her inspiration board. Givenchy, as it happens, was dedicated to garden design too. The outside edges of the jacket of a neat black pantsuit were implanted with a halo of gypsophila embroidery – this one looked incredible. There was a bit of “couture” casual: multilayered tulle petal-pink skirt overlaid with Chantilly lace was worn with a sheer black T-shirt. Waight Keller finished up her show by sending out Kaia Gerber as the ultimate fantasy bride in an off-the-shoulder cut-lace white chemise and umbrella hat that swooped back over the shoulders, amplifying the volume of the entire look.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sublime. Schiaparelli Couture SS20

Comparing to his chaotic debut collection last June, Daniel Roseberry‘s take on Schiaparelli for spring-summer 2020 is sublime. S-U-B-L-I-M-E. For this couture line-up, the American designer decided to focus on the “double fantasy” of Elsa Schiaparelli’s style. He began planning the collection by looking at images of Elsa at work in her studio dressed in her inventive, but pragmatic daytime outfits. These he contrasted with “the incredible Surrealist parties that she used to throw – this idea of the woman who dresses for herself during the day but then there’s this duality at night where it becomes performative. I became obsessed with the contradictory personality, the introvert-extrovert idea,” he continued, “trying to embrace those two different extremes and remove all the middle, and do something that feels uniquely Schiap and personal.” Roseberry also looked at the designer’s 1930s friends and collaborators, including the minimalist Deco Moderne furniture and interior designer Jean-Michel Frank (for a daytime palette of cerused oak and parchment that he mixed with navy and cigar brown) and Alberto Giacometti (for the skeletal jewels and rhinestone “bone” embellishments that also referenced Schiaparelli’s own shocking padded jersey skeleton evening dress of 1938). Roseberry has had the opportunity to focus on tailoring (always important in Schiaparelli’s own work) and the collection opened with some stylish options for the couture client who actually works. The “psycho chic” day clothes, as Roseberry described them, morphed into evening pieces that evoked Schiap’s dreams (dreams that his program notes explained “were active, propulsive, exuberant, extravagant, rebellious, ambitious”) and nodded to Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix’s ’80s and ’90s couture work in striking ultramarine, scarlet, viridian, and of course the brand’s own shocking pink. Schiaparelli is finally back on its track. Roseberry is a wonder.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

L’Année 97. Jacquemus AW20

Last season‘s Provençal dream is hard to beat. So, in a way, Simon Porte Jacquemus didn’t intend to make his autumn-winter 2020 even more extraordinary and Instagrammable. Not meaning it was modest or small – showing at La Defense stadium with Laetitia Casta, the Hadids and a pack of supermodels isn’t really a quiet gesture. But design-wise, Jacquemus returned to the core of his style: it’s sleeker, cleaner, less quirky, toned (except for the brief splash of bold pink). And incredibly sexy (without being vulgar): the body-conscious fit, cropped cardigans, wrapped micro-skirts, thigh-high boots are just some of the “hot” piece. Guys followed girls in pants, which appeared to have their flies open (a trompe l’oeil). There were oversized blazers and roomy coats for both women and men, creating a sense of concealed sensuality. While we all got used to Jacquemus’ sun-drenched, French flavor, it’s good to see designers go out of their (already succesful) comfort zones. The backstory behind the collection was as personal and profound as it could be: “I was seven when I made a skirt out of a curtain for my mother, and she brought me to school wearing it.” The linen pencil skirt, which opened the show on Casta, was a personal memento of that, and the reason the fabric was an anchor for the collection. But business-wise, Porte Jacquemus realized that he could use his buying power to change things with his fabric manufacturer. “We’ve been working with them for 10 years, but they didn’t have a sustainable fabric that we wanted. Now, they do – because of the size of the order I can make. But you know,” he said with a smile, “what I want to say is, it isn’t just for ecology, it’s also people—their rhythm of work also has to have sense. I don’t say I’m a green brand or anything like that; it’s not marketing. But I think we have to think more like my grandparents did: like, we have tomatoes in the garden, so we eat tomatoes.” Wise words for the industry to consider.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.