Hyper Expression. Noir Kei Ninomiya AW20

Today in the morning, out of the blue, I thought to myself: I need to look at Noir Kei Ninomiya‘s autumn-winter 2020 collection. I’ve got no idea how I missed it in my Paris fashion week coverage last March, but I’m happy to catch up on it. This collection was extraordinary. Ever since he first appeared during spring 2016, Ninomiya has slowly expanded his stitch-free wearable sculptures, building grander and ever more unsettling architectures. This season he again pushed forward into new territories, while working for the first time with Icelandic installation artist Shoplifter (aka Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir) as well as his long-standing floral art collaborator, Makoto Azuma. The magic of creative collaboration delivered something quite unforgettable. Shoplifter (an artist whose chosen material is synthetic hair, her works include the cover of Björk’s 2004 album, Medúlla, and the mind-blowing installation in the Icelandic pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale) added a fresh element to the interplay between Ninomiya’s materials and Azuma’s botanicals, specifically exaggerated hair extensions that made the silhouettes look and feel even more organic and out-of-this-world. In his usual enigmatic manner, Ninomiya had said this collection was mostly about the color red, in that as paint it can be mixed to create black. The metallic woven check fabric that was folded and whipped like air-filled ice cream around the body vaguely resembled a florist’s bouquet wrapping. The fronds of palm, succulent, tuber, and bamboo that nuzzled and nudged their way through and around Shoplifter’s hairy extensions created an impression of human and plant grafted together and slowly devouring each other. Ninomiya’s materials included golden wires that furled like unearthly waratahs around the wearer; interconnected safety pins built into pearl-linked globes or an entire dress; red feathers; strips of rivet-connected red tulle; and lengths of brass-colored steel wool frayed, then wrapped in transparent PVC and braided to resemble enormous Viking wigs. Those safety pins (also gracing a fine new shoe collaboration with Church’s) and the tartan section signified a punk undertone also present in the guitar: Ninomiya’s usual biker jacket motif was retired for the season, but he hit the fringe trend via a couple of apocalyptically enormous black pieces. The closing titanic fuzzball was at once hilarious and ominous – part dark cloud, part hyper-expressed protective aura, all Noir.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dries Dreams

Yesterday I had a second glace at Dries Van Noten‘s autumn-winter 2020, a truly magnificent line-up, and just like that, from one collage I’ve ended up with an entire story. After last season‘s collaboration with Christian Lacroix, it was clear that Dries would somehow continue with this over-the-top energy. The designer was thinking about “nocturnal glamour” and particularly the dressed-to-kill creatures of the glam 1970s and high 1980s, whom he glimpsed from afar as a young man in Antwerp, in the form of the high-gloss photography of the makeup artist Serge Lutens. Maybe she was heading for a night at the most trendy club in Paris (well… corona is out in the wild, but let’s dream!). Or maybe that was her, wending her way home in daylight, with a plaid coat shrugged over her glitter. “It’s about going out, enjoying life – having fun, that’s very important!” he remarked back in March. “I thought of this party girl. Something mysterious. Something dark. But I questioned how far it could go, while staying contemporary.” His solution was to partially casualize the glamour by applying his melee of acid green and fuchsia jungle prints to fluid pajama shapes, and adding ’90s grunge–influenced plaids and hip-tied shirts to the mix. Equally head-turning: a dress in a violent purple, streaked with silver embroidery. The look-book photos by Tommy Ton additionally convey the vibrance of the collection. Now, here are my favourite looks, immersed in the subverted world of the Expressionists and Symbolists…

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

The Charm of Hannah McGibbon’s Chloé

September – my favourite month – is coming with big steps, so I’m gradually looking forward to the warmth of autumn clothes – knits, trench coats, earthy tones… This sort of exhaustion with summer-wear made me dive into Vogue Runway’s archives, and just like that I’ve rediscovered a designer-and-brand tandem that would feel so relevant today. Hannah McGibbon was Phoebe Philo’s right hand during the latter’s creative directorship of Chloé between 2001 and 2006 – a period when the label helped to redefine the way women wanted to dress with a mixture of free-spirited, sun-kissed levity and feminine tailoring. Then from 2008 to 2011, Hannah herself took control, ramping up the label’s 1970s savoir faire. I can remember how slammed by the press she was with every season. Looking at her collections from that time – especially her autumn-winter 2010 collection – I’ve got no idea why her collections were met with such harsh reviews. They were beautiful – elegant, refined and super chic. And oh, how timeless! Just look at the below images. Pretty much the entire autumn-winter 2020 season has that take on soft minimalism, which might have been misunderstood a decade ago. As far as I know, McGibbon is now consulting different labels. If she ever forgives the press that once gave her a hard time, I can really see her taking on some houses that need a good creative direction. How about Rochas (which still hasn’t named it’s new designer)?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

5 Things To Love From Dries Van Noten’s SS20 Sale

I rarely write such posts (maybe I should change that?), but this is an exception. Taking one last look at my favourite collection of spring-summer 2020 season – the historic Dries Van Noten x Christian Lacroix line-up – and picking the ultimate five things to love from its sale. Why? Well, this collection continues to be my obsession. The details, textures, colours, Dries’ style combined with Christian’s sense of couture… it’s one of the dreamiest collections we’ve seen in years. You might not know that during the lockdown, Dries Van Noten opened two on-line stores, which are the digital versions of the label’s two flagship stores: Quai Malaquais location in Paris and Het Modepaleis in Antwerp. There, you can find nearly every item from this collection, plus get inspired by all the styling tricks from the look-book photos. So, here are my picks (note that a lot of other gems are already sold out!):

Embellished oversized coat with multicoloured sequin detailing thoughout. I had a chance to see it IRL in the Paris store (a week before corona became official in Europe…) and it’s a masterpiece.

Embroidered, cropped bolero jacket in black – it’s so rich! And you can style it in multiple of ways, pretty much with anything. That’s the magic of Dries (with a pinch of Lacroix!).

Love a big polka dot. This mid-rise one (with a foldover waist and grograin tie) is brilliant.

The collection’s signature florals made it to these denim pants. Again, wear them with anything!

Not sure if these boots are made for walking, but platforms and jacquard are always a good idea.

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Want more Dries? Click here!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Photos from 7-9quaimalaquais.com. 

The Look – Miu Miu Resort 2020

Remember Miu Miu‘s resort 2020 collection? And those floppy-brimmed sun hats layered over baseball caps? Assembled one on top of the other, their proportions conjured a vision of Ascot. A tweaked version of Ascot; Miuccia Prada said back then she’s never attended one. Here, the beautiful Ugbad Abdi wearing one of those in the enchanted, hydrangea-blooming secret garden…

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Back To Office (Someday). Louis Vuitton Resort 2021

For many people still working from home, the word “office” sounds abstract. Tailoring isn’t a novelty in the resort 2021 collections, but only the Louis Vuitton line-up by Nicholas Ghesquière makes you think that some day, the “business” dress-code will come back to our lives and replace the lazy Zoom homewear. Emphasizing the more everyday, less editorial aspect of his ready-to-wear, the look-book was shot on location in Louis Vuitton’s Paris headquarters. A photocopier stands at attention in the opening shot, and exit signs and fire doors appear in the background of others. The promise of gorgeous hourglass blazers and chic silk blouses makes the longing for “back to life” life even more intense… but this wasn’t the only aspect of the collection (which, by the way, was good without any far-fetched venue location). “I looked somewhere that has been calling out to me for a long time, somewhere I hadn’t taken the time to go back to. It was like a reset to uncover one inspiration after another, to imagine the next steps and how to create and work within this new context. I took the time to explore my creative identity and prepare the future.” Confronted with the unknowns of the coronavirus and the crushing recession it precipitated, designers have been revisiting their past successes. Nicolas Ghesquière is among them, though the search for lost time is not only a quarantine pursuit for him. On his autumn-winter 2020 runway, with the then as-yet uncanceled Met Gala and its theme of “Fashion and Duration” still on the horizon, Ghesquière held up a mirror to his own work. For this resort collection, he followed similar guidelines – lifting cargo pants from one collection and frilly rococo collars from another, and reuniting with the blouson shapes of the 1980s he likes – with results that read more easier than his runway outings typically do. Additionally, running through the collection is a playing-card leitmotif. When asked, Ghesquière claimed “the tarot” as his favorite card game, “because it can be used in many different ways. And the cards are full of symbols.” Nonetheless, he made effective use of the clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades of the playing-card deck. They bear more than a passing resemblance to the elements of the Louis Vuitton monogram, which Ghesquière made the most of by hybridizing them and then either adding them as decorative details on bags, or supersizing them as color-blocked patterns on streamlined mini and maxi dresses.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

As Always, It’s Perfect. Lemaire SS21

I don’t know how Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran do it, but their collections always reasonate with me the most in terms of ready-to-wear. I can be obsessed with the most over-the-top dress and feel inspired by the most thoroughly planned visual production. But in terms of clothes, my heart belongs to Lemaire. Their spring-summer 2021 presentation, of course audience-less, is co-ed, as the designers depart from men’s and women’s division. Also, from now on, we will see their collections twice a year, during men’s fashion weeks. “We’ve been frustrated for a while by the timing of the schedule,” said Lemaire. “You know, showing the pre-collection for women together with the men’s and then waiting two months to show the second half of the women’s collection. For many different reasons it was complicated and frustrating for production and also buyers. So it’s obvious that this was an opportunity to show everything together, even though it was a big challenge for the team to develop the collection in time.” Well, it’s as effortlessly refined as usual – no marks of backstage rush visible. One of the ways they met that challenge, said Tran, was by working more closely than ever before. She added: “The men’s team and the women’s team worked hand-in-hand, choosing fabrics and colors in common… we focused on what was common between the man and the woman, and then we added more specifically women’s volumes and more specific men’s volumes.” The result was a highly coherent collection in which that commonality was evident but resulted in subtle gradations and hints of contrast, rather than the monotony of a monogamously unisex collection. As evinced in the lookbook shots where womenswear and menswear looks are shown in the same frame, a close affinity looks like complementary dressing rather than couple-coupling. There was a stirring marine green, a palest of yellow, a dash of denim. Many of the garments were in a kaleidoscope of neutrals – shades of clay, ochre, wheat – whose delicate differences became apparent and increasingly rich the more attention you paid to them. Men wore smocks and women boxy suiting either plain or in a beautiful Martin Ramirez landscape print. Tran concluded: “we build the collection as a wardrobe. The idea of being able to enrich the wardrobe is very pertinent to us.” Lemaire’s newly co-ed articulation shows that the designers do what they realy feel like is the most suitable for them – and this even more strenghtens mine – and other fans’ – love for the Parisian label.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Kim Meets Amoako. Dior SS21

While the digital fashion month of men’s spring-summer 2020 collections is full of sleepy look-books, there are some line-ups that make my heart skip a beat. I was quite on fence with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior, but the new collection is brilliant. And it redefines the word “collaboration” in 2020. Jones invited the 36-year-old Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, whose stunning huge-scale portraits of Black subjects – partly richly finger-painted – have a skyrocketing reputation in the contemporary art world. “It’s a portrait of an artist who I greatly admire,” Jones said. “[The gallerist] Mera Rubell introduced me to Amoako last year in Miami. I really loved his work and wanted to work with him because of my own links to Africa. He lives between Vienna, where he studied, Ghana, and Chicago. So we sat down and discussed.” The first results – a collection fusing Boafo’s art with Dior artisanship, a look book, and a documentary film shot at the artist’s studio in Accra and at Jones’ home in London- are launched in a more intimate, in-depth and intelligent way than could possibly have come across in front of the usual roar of the crowd and show hustle of the Paris collections. In the video, Boafo is in his studio in Ghana as he paints and describes how he captures friends and family, “and people who create spaces for others to exist.” He speaks about the flat colors he uses to silhouette his figures, and, he explains, “how fashion inspires my work. I tend to look at characters who have that sense of style.” Friends hanging at Boafo’s place are wearing pieces from the collection, and the artist is working in a faded wallpaper print Dior Men shirt, whose pattern has bounced back in a creative arc from portrait to garment. The collection is smaller and more edited than it would have been – which actually works better than nearly 100 looks shows Dior has every season. Jones was working out of his Notting Hill house with a small team and long distance with Dior ateliers in France to get it done over the past months. The result: clothes saturated with uplifting color and print, which pinpoint Boafo’s signatures within the language the designer has established for a Dior man. Celebrating and platforming Boafo’s work for a luxury fashion market meant, among other things, transferring the tactile energy of his finger-painted heads into two intensely embroidered sweaters. The pattern from a semi-sheer fil coupé jacquard shirt sprang from a close-up Jones had taken of Boafo’s brush work. He also lifted subtle inspiration from haute couture – the gray taffeta blouson being a renewed, more youthful and summery iteration of the opera coat which opened his last show.

Still, even without the Black Lives Matter uprising which is fundamentally changing the way all institutions are being interrogated now, a collaboration like this was always going to demand detailed explanation. This one is tooled differently from the usual artist-brand collab. Behind it is an exchange with Dior which was stipulated by Boafo. “He said he didn’t want a royalty [for himself], but help to build a foundation for young artists in Accra,” Jones said. A donation made by Christian Dior (the sum was not specified) backs up Boafo’s activism. In using the leverage of his market power to lift up African art and artists, he is one of the new generation of Black artists who believe in the transformative empowerment of cultural education. In May, Boafo raised $190,000 (three times the estimate) with an online auction of his painting, Aurore Iradukunda, to benefit the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. The initiative will consist of a building that will host Boafo’s studio, a residence, and an artist-run gallery, supporting young artists in Ghana and their studio practice. “The change needed right now is to support young people through college and training to give everyone equal opportunities,” Jones said. The focus of this project is close to his heart, and, he says, to part of his own upbringing as the son of a hydrogeologist who worked throughout the continent. “We moved to Ethiopia when I was around three years old, spent time living there, and then moved around east Africa and then Botswana. I’ve kept going back for the rest of my life.” Underlying his motivation – using Dior’s fashion broadcasting capabilities to enlighten a broad audience about the vitality of contemporary African art, as well as facilitating a project with cash – is a quieter salute to Jones’s father, who recently passed away. “The fact that we are working with Amoako Boafo, from Ghana, which was one of my father’s favorite African countries is,” he said, “a fitting tribute to the man who introduced me to Africa and the world.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki; artworks by Amoako Boafo.