“Euphoric” and “erotic” – this is how one might describe Anthony Vaccarello‘s resort 2022 collection for Saint Laurent. It’s not only because you can imagine nearly every “Euphoria” character (have you seen the first episode of season 2? Mind-blowing!) wearing all the YSL feathers and sexy, body-conscious silhouettes to their quite dramatic parties (actually, Maddy would perfectly pull it off to school). The collection is totally hedonist and free-spirited, both wearable and spotlight-stealing. There’s a terrific, go-with-the-flow vibe going on here, all high-waisted, floor-sweeping flares, flower power sequins, and hippie headbands. There’s also a confident, palpable sense of sexual empowerment, with LBDs and not so little LBDs bearing all manner of cut-outs and cut-aways, breast-veiling, and other forms of transparency. The model casting also has a message – how smart of Vaccarello to showcase much of this on his long-time friend and house icon Anja Rubik, who has become a fearless advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights back home in her native Poland. The collection also mirrors how much the identity of the YSL women was forged through menswear. There’s definitely a heady whiff of those androgynous days when Yves Saint Laurent and muse Betty Catroux shared the same plunge-front shirted, narrow-hipped tailored approach to getting dressed. That was back in the late ’60s/early ’70s, an era iconic to YSL, in which gender fluidity was just one way the old order was rightly collapsing from the challenges thrown down by emancipation, counter-culture, and more bohemian ways of living. Vaccarello isn’t the type to talk endlessly about politics in his work, if ever, but politics are there, without a doubt. What he’s offering here is a clear and confident vision of dressing for a world today that’s equally in flux.
There are those collections in fashion history that just get better with time. For a while now, I’m absolutely obsessed with Louis Vuitton‘s autumn-winter 2010 – one of the best collections created by Marc Jacobs for the French maison. “And God Created Woman” announced the program, bringing up thoughts of the era of the young Bardot, of fifties-sixties wasp waists, and circle skirts. At the time, Mad Men was on everyone’s minds and TV screens (those were the pre-Netflix times…), and that same season, Miuccia Prada also went for the retro ultra-femininity. Jacobs’ collection was stark contrast casting-wise (lets not forget 2010 was peak time of the super-skinny-model standard) as the designer called on Laetitia Casta, Bar Refaeli, Catherine McNeil, Karolina Kurkova, and finally Elle Macpherson, all women whose physical attributes have acted as a disqualification for fashion show participation for years. The rehabilitation of the embonpoint was done with refinement. Marc framed it more as a fresh, feminine, ingenue look, with hair scraped back into high, bouncy B.B. ponytails; clean makeup; and square-toed, block-heeled pumps trimmed with flat bows. The show swung along prettily as a fountain sprayed and jolly fifties movie music played in the middle of the tented courtyard, creating that quintessentially Parisian atmosphere, a sense of all being right in the best of all possible cities to be appreciated as a woman. Not only the lady-like silhouette was the main focus – the charming details and trimmings exemplified the LV knack for classy detail, as in fur buttons, collars and glittery heels. I sometimes really miss Marc’s Louis Vuitton…
It’s nearly a year since Gabriela Hearst took Chloé under her wings, and it’s quite unbelievable how many sustainability goals the designer has already achieved. And those aren’t just words – numbers and statistics don’t lie. “To give you the exact facts, 70% of the product offer since I came in became lower impact. Compared to my first collection, (what) we did is up 40%”, she summed up. Women who are living under a cloud of post-COP26 anxiety might take some cheer from how openly Hearst is tackling the environmental and social problems inflicted by the workings of the fashion industry. The way she speaks of it, implementing the changes that lie within her power is as much her purpose as the mission to dress women in Chloé clothes. “Empathy, collaboration, lower impact – the right values need to come to the forefront. Collectively we at Chloé are working toward weaving that into the DNA of the company.” The clarity of style she’s brought to the house has become completely visible four seasons in. It’s streamlined and slick, a grown-up boho look infused with classic Chloé-isms and her own handcrafted, macraméd, whipstitched energy. She’s carefully corralled all the legacies that women designers have imprinted on the brand for decades: the reputation for a boot-cut, ’70s-ish pantsuit that Stella McCartney laid down; the balloon-y broderie anglaise sleeves that Phoebe Philo played with; and Chloé founder Gaby Aghion’s scalloped edges and taste for pinkish orange, the color of the Egyptian desert of her childhood. Meanwhile Chloé’s horsey heritage is a natural for Hearst, who brings her own Uruguayan ranch upbringing to her feeling for caped coats, French-style riding boots, and the thick leather girth strap she’s turned into a belt. “I love this buckle that I found in the archive from Hannah MacGibbon’s time,” she said. “We oversized it.” It all looks a lot like Hearst herself: tall, strong silhouettes; a practical modern vigor; a touch of the hippie sophisticate. Yet the main imprint she’s stamping on Chloé is in becoming one of the very few luxury fashion creative directors who are making it impossible to detach the conversation about pretty clothes from talking about what’s in them and how they are made. Moving rapidly along the vectors of transparent reporting, partnerships with women’s employment projects, environmental certifications, Chloé’s freshly acquired B Corp status, and new membership in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (which champions circularity) – and shining a light onto the multitude of fashion’s hidden processes – is a business that continually brings up more questions.
Hearst is happy to point to several achievements in this collection. Botanical dyes are part of it—like the shade of Gaby Aghion pinkish orange in the merino wool skirt-and-sweater set. There’s also biodegradable denim, which Hearst cut into a pair of high-waist flares and a matching jacket. “This is the third season we’ve been working with Adriano Goldschmied [the legendary denim expert] on this project to resolve circular denim, following the Jeans Redesign Guidelines published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,” she said. The production of the new Chloé jeans eliminates rivets, which never break down, and the fabric is a mix of 70% recycled cotton and 30% hemp, “which is grown in France. Hemp and linen cultivation emit less greenhouse gases and require less water compared to cotton,” she noted. But to vegan and vegetarian customers – and anyone who’s read recent reports about fashion’s links with cattle farming and deforestation in Brazil – the noticeable amount of leather in the collection will raise eyebrows. “From the point of view of sustainability, I have a very specific position about leather,” argues Hearst. “Leather is biowaste of the meat industry. I am very against industrialization of meat – I’m really against the way livestock is being industrialized. I don’t think we can afford eating a high-meat-protein diet, and definitely don’t recommend it.” But while she accepts that moving toward plant-based diets “is better for the environment,” from her perspective, “the truth is nobody’s killing the animal for the leather. The price of leather is going down and people are wasting it.” That in itself creates an environmental disposal situation. “What are we going to do with the leather, other than just use it?”
The Chloé press release states how the sourcing of the Chloé leathers is certified by the Leather Working Group, which is “an international organization made up of stakeholders across the leather supply chain, working to promote environmental best practice within leather manufacturing and related industries.” The organization looks into the operations of tanneries, “meaning that the leather process is done properly, meaning not wasting water and not using harsh chemicals,” as Hearst puts it. Around 75% of the leather handbag offering is sourced from Leather Working Group–certified tanneries. Nevertheless, there is always further to look into. A report in The Guardian on November 29 spotlighted research by Stand.earth, a supply-chain research company partnered by the Slow Factory and Model Activist, showing that the Leather Working Group’s remit stops at capturing what happens in tanneries and slaughterhouses. Its visibility doesn’t reach back to what happens at the farm level, and therefore “does not ascertain whether hides are linked to deforestation.” Under normal practice, hides come into tanneries from multiple sources and are often mixed up, meaning that fashion brands – across luxury and mass manufacturing alike – are “at risk” of unknowingly buying into the destruction of the Amazon rain forest with the finished product. “As many Amazon leaders have warned,” the Slow Factory writes on its Instagram page, “this is a human rights/climate/biodiversity/public health crisis with consequences for the entire world.” That’s a much vaster issue than Chloé. It spreads across the entire industry and puts question marks over every leather bag, shoe, and coat we buy (it’s also an issue in the auto industry, which is the second-largest user of leather after fashion.) Only diligent and widespread normalization of tracing and labeling, and the development of sounder alternatives, can solve this. Knowing Gabriela Hearst, she’ll be among the first to step up to working on finding those answers.
And just like that (no pun intended!), Demna (note: from now on, Demna (Gvasalia) uses only his first name, distinguishing an artist title from a birthname and therefore separating creative work from personal life) does it again. He’s the modern-day fashion genius, we know it by now. Also, good bye to the Y2K trend – the 1990s are back. The Balenciaga pre-fall 2022 presentation comes in the form of a message from the past about what could have been and never was. It recalls a time when clothing that was alive with raw ideas – anti-fashion, deconstruction, and monochromatic minimalism – could be found anywhere from an industry spectacle to the active underground. “On The Lost Tape“, a fashion show is characterized by the people and things that defined this late-90s era, filmed using a VHS camera by the one & only Harmony Korine. The collection symbolically fills a gap from Balenciaga’s forgotten years. Raver and post-grunge silhouettes are pushed to their limits. Proportions are played with, creating new silhouettes and evolving others, including Balenciaga signatures like the Basque waist jacket and the track suit. Front-to-back pieces are studies of classic suiting and tweed dresses that question closure placement, reverse-engineering constructions to become tailored. Ultra-stretchy knits make these and shrunken twin sets easy to put on. Vintage slip dresses are disassembled and pieced back together. Five-pocket jeans are cut up to create a three-piece silhouette that can be worn as a miniskirt, pants, or XL thigh-high boots. Fluid tailoring gives a deconstructed suit an unlined raglan sleeve, in the collection’s Belgian avant-goth tones. A Couture-like bell-shaped puffer’s detachable bow can be used as a scarf. Wrap closures use DIY ways of fastening, like oversized safety pins. And what’s the designer’s dream 90s look? “Me, my favorite looks are the flared raver jeans with the crop tops,” he told Vogue and chuckled wistfully. “Couldn’t wear it now, but reminds me of gay Soviet Georgia underground clubs.” Worth adding: Demna’s commitment to responsible production continues, represented this season with 89.6% certified sustainable plain and printed ready-to-wear fabrics as well as pieces of upcycled leather used in garments and accessories.
With a snip of her ribbon-looped scissors, Gabrielle Chanel released women from their corsets and put them in fluid jersey suits and loose chemise dresses. “Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the body,” she said. With sweeping synergy, this season’s Chanel Métiers d’Art collection by Virginie Viard was equally liberating, with a pinch of denim and CC logo added. Viard invited guests to Le19M, the newly opened building devoted to the workshops of the maison’s artisans, where she presented her most crafts-centric collection within the very same architecture that had informed its cuts and motifs. Named after the arrondissement it inhabits, the triangular Le19M was designed by Rudy Ricciotti whose “concrete thread” façade evokes the intricacy of embroidered haute couture cloth. Viard echoed those lines – as well as elements from the building’s interior – in a collection she called “metropolitan.” The pre-fall 2022 line up is a combination of Chanel’s craftsmanship masters’ work – Lesage, Montex, Lemarié, Lognon, Goosens, Maison Michel, and Massaro – whose painstaking, super time-consuming, beautiful pieces of artisan work are put into the world to contribute to a bigger picture: the full look. Placing these age-old practices in a contemporary context, Viard took that look to the streets – at least those left of the River Seine. Interpreting the Chanel branding through graffiti-like embroidery, she exercised her take on the logomania. A top nestled the double-C among floral appliqué, the same logo was playfully speckled on cardigans and trousers in fluffy silver embroideries, and the Chanel name appeared tagged in multi-colored crystals across the front pockets of a tweed blouson that evoked a sweatshirt. A major Chanel tip: top the tweed outfit with an eternally charming hair bow. It took Viard a while to find her voice at Chanel and make her offerings something more than just riskless sets of the brand’s signatures. Now, the Chanel woman personifies unforced elegance and easy chic fit for contemporary times. And she sure loves gorgeous details!