Back to Care-Free Days. Chanel Couture SS21

There seems to be an attitude division in haute couture industry these days. The first camp challenges the couture conventions and focuses on creating phenomenal wonders, like in case of Daniel Roseberry’s Schiaparelli. The latter does “pretty” couture – and this season, Virginie Viard‘s Chanel stays in this safe camp. Her spring-summer 2021 line-up felt like a nostalgic memory of dreamy garden party somewhere in the south of France in pre-COVID reality. These are not, as Viard told Vogue, the conventional fancy nuptials one might expect from a Parisian couture collection, but instead “more bohemian style – more a wedding or a family celebration in a village than at the Ritz!” complete with “the mother and the aunt, and the 15-year-old girl dressing up for the first time” – the latter in a tiny little grown-up black dress of spangled black tulle worn with 1980s opaque white tights. A very fête galante vision draws in one’s mind. There are also boys at this wedding, or rather girls who, in Viard’s words, are “a little garçonne” and dressed in old fashioned boys’ clothes – tweedy Oxford bags, and waistcoats for instance, a reminder of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s appropriations of menswear in her designs, and her literal borrowing from the wardrobes of her lovers including Boy Capel and the Duke of Westminster. The mother of the bride, meanwhile, has some chic little suits in silvery embroidery and lace to choose from, or a skinny shrunken cardigan jacket embroidered by Vernoux, while more adventurous guests might opt for a lace jumpsuit or a tiny tweed coat dress with a ruffled overskirt to tie on like an apron. There are “a lot of flounces and petticoats,” Viard continued, as though the Gypsy Kings were playing at the celebration and the guests in those big tulle skirts were going to spin around the town square. “There is a masculine/feminine side to the silhouettes,” she added, and the fairy-tale grandeur of these pale net ballgowns is brought into the real world when those skirts are paired with white boyfriend shirts, or singlets of crocheted chiffon, worked by the embroidery house of Montex. While at a first glance the collection strikes with a certain, relaxing simplicity, the details are top knotch couture standards, of course. This season, Viard has also worked with photographer Anton Corbijn, whom she met when he shot her for the December 2020 Vogue profile, La Vie de Virginie, and whose music industry credentials – he has shot videos for U2 and Depeche Mode, among many others and directed Control, the magisterial biographical movie about Joy Division’s Ian Curtis – appealed to the rock chick in her. It’s a lovely collection, yes, but I really love seeing Viard doing something a bit more rough.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

She’s A Goddess, Hero, A Power-Female! Schiaparelli Couture SS21

Schiaparelli and Daniel Roseberry are a match made in heaven. The way the Texas-born designer plays with Elsa Schiaparelli’s codes is so witty and intelligent – and what’s most important, he makes it his and doesn’t try to mimic the maison‘s founder as his predecessors. Spring-summer 2021 couture line-up is his best yet, and truly, it transports the viewer to a wonderland. And since Lady Gaga wore a black fitted jacket, red silk faille ball skirt and a golden dove brooch of his design to sing the national anthem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration last Wednesday, it’s clear more people will pay attention to Roseberry’s magic. “For a house like Schiaparelli,” he told Vogue, “dressing Gaga for the inauguration speaks to capturing the moment. That’s what I’m trying to do with all of our celebrity moments: to nail the zeitgeist.” Daniel’s Schiaparelli is open to big celebrity moments (Kim Kardashian West and Hunter Schafer, for instance), but it also breaks couture conventions and says ‘bye’ to the haute stuffiness once and for all. He’d been pushing the house, which was quite straitlaced before his arrival despite Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous Surrealism, in a new direction. But the eccentricities of his earlier outings were just him warming up. “Ever since I came back from lockdown, there’s been a shift for me mentally here – a focus and confidence that’s come from my relationship to my own process and to the atelier,” he said. Synthesizing his point of view, he added, “it’s just something that’s not as polite as couture typically tends to be.” If there’s one piece that says his incubation period is over, it’s a Madonna and Child breastplate, but there’s no shortage of statement-making bijoux here, from the tooth pearl earrings to the fingernail rings. “It isn’t about being too perfect for me,” Roseberry said, “but it is about shutting the moment down.” On that note, the look book opens with another super-heroine bustier, this one in glossy black finished with a prodigious bow in Schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink. A different dress in the same electric pink hue accentuates not just gym-toned abs, but trapezius muscles and biceps. “If you want to look like a cupcake, you can go somewhere else,” Roseberry said with a laugh before getting serious. “I started thinking, is there something about couture that’s sort of misogynistic, that demands or expects that a woman wants to look hyper-feminine and dainty and ‘Bridgerton’ adjacent?” He clarifies, “It’s not about being a man at all, it’s about being a jacked woman.” A stretch-fabric dress knitted with more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals will appeal to clients whose own well-maintained physiques require no surface-level enhancements. Elsewhere, Roseberry made exuberant use of volume. A black column dress with ample folded sleeves would make a spectacular red carpet dress, but he also designed a couture jean jacket and a couture parka with grand hoods. The contemporary Schiaparelli woman is no longer just an arty party-goer. Now, she’s a goddess, hero, a power-female!

Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Feeling is Luxury. Lemaire AW21

I love Lemaire and I will acknowledge this a hundred times. I just don’t know how Christophe Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran do it every single time. This level of goodness should be illegal. The co-ed autumn-winter 2021 collection is a dream, from the clothes (drooling over each garment, really) to the model casting. Partially as a result of confinement, the designers framed the development of this collection according to shifted criteria of demand: feel was as important as look, and adaptability inside and outside our front door paramount. The result was a hierarchy of layerable garments that began with a base of pajama-like pieces in cotton, silk and fine knits, in typically evocative earthy tones. These were arranged under mid-layers of Mod inspired tailoring and workwear sourced pieces, softly rendered but structured in appearance, plus Shetland knits and turtle-necks that were themselves contained within a protective carapace of excellent outerwear choices. These included a supremely livable-in reversible shearling, and greatcoats worthy of the name. Parkas and Afghans came trimmed in Mongolian wool (those pieces are delightful…); trenches and macs featured beautiful abstract marbled print; billowing robe-coats in down or alpaca were enveloping and arresting. Tran noted her favored heel height had been reduced in slouchy uppered boots as a result of her appetite for walking as much as possible when the opportunity presented itself, while men’s footwear included commando-soled slippers and the usual impeccable boot. Bags had a pouch cut like a mitten for double usage. Tran said: “during the confinement we were fantasizing about going out into the streets of Paris, and we were inspired by the idea of the flâneur from Baudelaire; going in the street with no special agenda in mind.” Taking pleasure in a purposeless saunter is a purpose in itself, and this was a collection beautifully built to enhance mindful loitering in every milieu. Added Lemaire: “Luxury is more about how you feel in the clothes than the image you project to others: this we have always been convinced of. And it’s more relevant than ever today… the changes in the rhythm of life and our habits have encouraged us to be even more attentive.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Off-Kilter Glamour. Y/Project AW21

Y/Project‘s Glenn Martens makes his visual brand for the brand so distinct, that sometimes you wish he surprised with a completely new direction. But then, consistence is key to success, especially in times of global crisis. The  pandemic has pushed Martens to unify his men’sand women’s ready-to-wear collections into one. It’s a smart move for many brands. With his new post as Diesel’s creative director, showing less will allow Martens and his team time to refine their craft and push the boat out even further. But back to autumn-winter 2021: majority of the 64 looks on display are threaded with metal wiring which is integrated directly into the fabric, allowing the wearer to scrunch, swirl and bend their garments into whatever shape they desire. It’s a technique Martens introduced a few seasons ago, turning oversized shirts, opera gowns and the brand’s signature denim into ultra-versatile pieces. XXXL polo shirts circle around the models’s bodies; shirts appear frozen in a snapshot, mid-motion, like the wearer is trying to rip it off their torso. The art of distortion is Glenn’s signature – and it’s being knocked off by so, so many designers. My personal highlight of the line-up is the eveningwear, a territory Martens likes to gradually discover each season. Those draped column dresses and flowing skirts are glamorous, but in an off-kilter, Y/Project manner. The collection is tied together with the brand’s on-going collaboration with Canada Goose, which this season includes a couture-like rain cape. Topping off the look is some Cinderella-like glass slippers that are actually made of rubber, courtesy of sustainable Brazilian label Melissa.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Eclectic, Curated, Sustainable. Loewe AW21

Jonathan Anderson‘s Loewe universe is a wonderland of eclectic, curated – and sustainable! – things. And the autumn-winter 2021 collection for men is like a treasure chest of details, curiosities, textures, crafts prints and colours. But to organize what we’ve got: this Loewe lookbook actually feautures two collections, and the one at the bottom is produce from the company’s Eye/Loewe/Nature sustainable-practice department. This time, the communication came as a show-in-a-book, wrapped up in a coffee-table sized monograph on the queer New York artist Joe Brainard, and as a show-on-a-shirt – a huge T-shirt printed with all the sustainable-practice pictures. Why Brainard? “I remember zines he’d done in the ’70s. We remade a book on him which we’ll be selling in bookshops, and the proceeds will go to the charity we work with all the time, Visual Aids, to help artists who have suffered from AIDS,” says Jonathan Anderson. “I felt like Brainard is so important. He was part of a huge movement, with his writing and his pansy collages – his work is now at MOMA and the Pompidou. I like his writing, it has huge optimism, questions sexuality and things like that. But he’s one of those underground figures.” Anderson talks through the collection in an open-access video on the Loewe website, where it’s easy to see the assembly of charming pansy patterns made into big cardigans, or vast rectangular trousers, or inset as leather marquetry on Loewe Puzzle bags. You also get to understand how the panels of a patchwork shearling are pieced together from reproductions of Brainard’s canvases. And how a tote bag is decorated with the artist’s painting of a whippet on a green background. It’s all adorable and completely wantable. And the extra kick to the feel-good sensation of buying it is that your money is also going to do some good in the world. “I think the whole thing now is about clothing and something else,” says Anderson. “I think the customer wants more than just the clothing now. They want to make sure you have a unique viewpoint and, at the same time, a moral viewpoint.” A joyful vision and a bit of a mad-creative take on fashion are also rare luxuries to enjoy vicariously these days, what Anderson calls “being imaginative with clothing.” His current work on extreme trouser shapes delivers all that. Besides the multi-strapped leather and grommeted punk trousers, the pieces that might read as maxi-skirts actually turn out to be pants too. “I did a lot of wide, wide, super-wide trousers. Kind of performance trousers – this idea of being in your bedroom and dancing on your own.” Which we know is an actual social phenomenon in these days of lockdown.

Amongst the collection is also a huge, cosy multi-patterned Shetland-cum-Norwegian type sweater, knitted together from upcycled yarns. It links directly into the work on sustainable research that’s been going on for four years with the Eye/Loewe/Nature collection. It’s much more than an isolated side-project, Anderson explains. “We set it up as an incubator inside Loewe to try to work out a long-term solution to sustainability. It’s where the entire design process is monitored from start to finish. Every year we try to chip away at something – buttons, zips, hardware, plastic clips – so that what was a problem becomes less of a problem. Because it then means that your supply chain can deal with it, manufacturing know how to deal with it, and the design team knows how to design within that framework,” he says. “And from those learnings, working with suppliers, we can disseminate elements into the bigger workings of Loewe.” In practical terms, it’s meant “buying a huge bulk of used knit sweaters, or denim, and working them into garments. The great thing is that the whole company is involved. What I like about the industrial side is the idea of talking to suppliers like YKK about a problem – and actually making it not a problem. The trouble is when you’re impatient, like me, you want to be completely sustainable tomorrow – but you have to realize it takes time. It means turning an industrial revolution into a new eco revolution. Ultimately, the big picture is, we all have to do it,” he says. “It’ll probably be an ongoing thing throughout my entire career.” If luxury goods companies ever worried that customers would baulk at buying products made of upcycled or non-traditional materials, then the testing ground of the Eye/Loewe/ Nature collection is beginning to prove them wrong. “This is the third collection now,” says Anderson. “And, you know, it’s becoming very, very popular.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.