Avantgarde-ness. Vaquera SS23

Five years ago, with bold attitude and confidence, Vaquera started out in New York and quickly became the most-talked about and hard to classify emerging brand in town. In 2022, the brand opens Paris Fashion Week and is backed by Dover Street Market, and yet it’s still difficult to put a finger on it. Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee aren’t doing conventional, mainstream fashion, but somehow manage to keep their avantgarde-ness commercially attainable: think great, over-sized jackets and too-cool-to-be-true denim. “We’ve really been pushing toward having more commercial clothing and that is still really important to us,” Taubensee said backstage of the spring-summer 2023 fashion show. “But it’s also important to remain true to what we did this for, which is expressing ourselves.” Enter American flag dress, made from faded flags that were stolen by DiCaprio’s friends from houses on Fire Island, its construction more ambitious than the one from their debut. A deconstructed wedding dress – safety-pinned at the bodice, spliced down the middle, and worn over pink stretch satin athleisure and denim cut-offs – once belonged to DiCaprio’s mom. They aren’t likely to put these pieces into production, but they are representative of the Vaquera spirit, which is irreverently anti-establishment. That irreverence came across in metallic “polo” shirts stitched with a lassoing cowboy instead of a mallet wielding polo player. Meanwhile, the acid wash denim’s faint yellow cast came from what Taubensee described as soy stain; “we actually use soy sauce,” she explained.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Tableau Vivant. KidSuper SS23

Look 21 in KidSuper‘s spring-summer 2023 collection – a half-realized, elusive portrait on a pink sweater and pale cords – was based on an original painting called Con Artist. It was one of 23 Colm Dillane paintings, which in turn inspired the 23 looks in his KidSuper collection that were auctioned off by Christie’s Lydia Fenet live during his show. As each model walked, the audience had its chance to bid. The big spender was Russ – a close friend of Dillane – who apparently walked away with several paintings including the night’s headline sale, The Girl That Breathes Life Into The Inanimate (Lot and Look 23). After a fierce bidding war, Fenet eventually banged her gavel after Russ’s $210,000 bid went unmatched. In total, the paintings ‘sold’ for $529,000. This was all in itself a piece of performance art designed ingeniously to stretch the boundaries of the fashion show as visual theater. Dillane said afterwards that as he’d prepared for his first on-schedule Paris show, he’d been to some others and had been struck by the divide between audience and subject. “And I was like, how do I get people to interact and participate, and make it an experience. And I had always wanted to do an art show as a fashion show. And thinking about participation in an art show, that’s where the auction idea came from.” The auction was designed to animate the fashion show through artistic intervention. It was clever, fun, and funny. Apart from the clues to the process we were subject to in the names of some of the paintings, Fenet – who is absolutely masterful at extracting serious sums of money with the lightest of rhetorical touches – was apparently representing an auctioneer named Superby’s. We got no indication of her commission. When the final painting – named The Finale – emerged stretched on its frame, there was a hole where the on-canvas face of one of its subjects “should” have been. A model’s painted face loomed through it. Just as Fenet’s gavel went down, the canvas whisked from the frame to reveal itself as the upper layer in her tulle pentimento dress. This show raised many interesting ideas, including the notion of clothing reproduced with original artworks acting as wearable editions of those pieces.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Men’s – Motopapi. Courrèges SS23

The energy of the concise, item-driven modernity Nicolas di Felice brings to Courrèges is all over the spring-summer 2023 collection. “You know, back in the day, Andre [Courrèges] was speaking to the young generation. I knew from my first week that it was part of the house,” said Di Felice. “So I really want young people to be able to afford the clothes; to make it, let’s say, more accessible.” He grabbed a vintage zip-up scuba-fabric jacket which Courrèges had designed for men in the 1970s as an introduction to how he got started. “I found this in the archive, and thought, ‘This shape is amazing,’ but there’s no point in doing it again. So I wanted to mix this silhouette with a biker vibe, because I had a motorbike when I was young. I thought about how it feels to drive to the beach, or to a festival in the summer, or something,” he laughed. “I’ve been at the house for two years now, so I feel more comfortable to explore a bit more of who I am.” One thing about Di Felice is his knack for filtering lived experience into his minimal-seductive design. His collection captures all the features of young masculine body-con display that’s taken off this summer: tight-to-the torso leather jackets, twisted, cutaway T-shirts, slick moto pants in the house’s heritage-look black vinyl, gabardine polyester trousers and denims with a hint of bootcut flare. It’s his addition of the faux leather bondage straps across the front of jackets that adds a clever utilitarian twist. He demonstrated: “So what you can do is take off your jacket or poncho and hang them off your shoulder by the strap, like this. It came to me simply when I was one more time in a party, and it’s hot and there are not enough cloakrooms. I was like, ‘OK, um, so when I go in on Monday – I’m going do that in the collection!’” The lookbook shows the device in action – clothes gradually becoming cool-looking drapes toted from shoulders, until the last guy ends up naked, carrying all of his clothes. “Like he’s just come out of the water on the beach,” Di Felice grinned.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Je Ne Sais Quoi. Officine Générale SS23

In the courtyard of Hotel de Soubise, Officine Générale‘s spring-summer 2023 looks came out languidly, arranged in color stories that shifted slowly across the cobbles in the waning evening sunshine. This was the brand’s 10th anniversary show, and yet so many people discover it just now. It was also one of those shows where you end up playing fantasy personal shopping, because this was less an impactful fashion pop song than carefully conducted piece of apparel mood music. After this gentle show had come to its end, founder Pierre Mahéo emerged to deserved applause. Backstage, the designer pointed out that around 80% of sales are currently outside France, and was refreshingly pragmatic about the formula he’s found. He said: “I think there is an evolution in what we show today in terms of styling, and in terms of putting things together, but the base is the fit, the cut, and the fabrics… The formula is being fair by offering good material at a very decent price, manufactured in Portugal and Italy.” You can’t argue with that. Pretty much, this collection is perfect. Just take a look at all these great cotton knits, chino pants, effortless tailoring, quilted marine jackets and timeless trench coats.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Lady Chic. Thom Browne Resort 2023

Marisa Berenson came running into Thom Browne’s salon-like spring 2023 menswear show. Farida Khelfa and Dree Hemingway followed, and Sasha Pivavorova emerged last, rushing to get to her front row seat. The women wore fantastical suits from Browne’s resort 2023 collection, a small preview of what is being released this week, almost a month after Browne’s sexily tweeded guys hit the catwalk. “I knew the collections were connected,” Browne said, “but I didn’t realize how well it was going to work.” The women had the kind of bravado required to pull off a mannish floral jacquard blazer or a pastel color-blocked midi skirt suit. “They are women who have lived interesting lives,” Browne said of his muses, who also include artist Anh Duong and photographer Cate Underwood. “Accomplished, strong, and iconic in their own way.” That’s the Browne promise: even for those of us who live the most normal of existences, his clothes offer the opportunity to feel extraordinary and unique. There’s no way to slip into a white suit embroidered with children’s storybook scenes and not experience an almost instant mood lift or to pack your things into a giant sunflower backpack and not smile. This season, Browne has supersized some of his proportions and continues to play with pleated skirts, allowing his sometimes overly strict vision to attract people with different body types and ways of life. Still, the classics are always Browne’s favorites. “It’s true to what I did 20 years ago and it still feels so new and strong,” he said. “It shows there is still a way for us to go forward.” Going forward, trying new things, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in fashion – well, that’s just the Thom Browne way. It’s no wonder that many are drawn to his unconventional approach. “The love you see in these pictures,” he said, “was free.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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