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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Muse. Patou SS23

Just before the haute couture fashion week began, Guillaume Henry had his first IRL show for Patou at the brand’s charming headquarters in the Île de la Cité. Over the pandemic, Patou built up its identity as a playful young Parisian brand that’s popular with influencers with a collection that was early into the celebration of exuberant oversized shapes on French themes. Well, post-isolation years, it’s as if Patou has shed its chrysalis and emerged into the sunshine in super slimmed-down body-conscious shape. Tiny mini shifts, hourglass curve-clinging dresses, sexy high waisted bootcuts, little cropped tops. The voluminous flounces had more or less flounced out. And there was Julia Fox, beig THE moment of the spring-summer 2023 presentation. The fact that she topped off the show in a body-dress with an Art Nouveau print is an indication, perhaps, of how far the perception of this brand has penetrated. But Henry always said that his main way of designing is listening to what his coworkers and girlfriends say, clocking who they admire, who they’re talking about, and observing what they’re actually wearing on a daily basis. Which brought him around to the idea of muses – a classification which Fox has redefined in 2022. In Henry’s mind, it was deeper than that – considering that muse culture has very high art French roots. He found photos of young women students carving clay maquettes at the Beaux Arts school in the late 19th century, the time of the Belle Epoque and Toulouse Lautrec, and of female stage and cabaret performers. He wanted to capture something of that in a self-directed way for the worlds young women are inhabiting these days. Well, the collection hardly translated that message, and I honestly missed Henry’s exuberant take on the contemporary Patou wardrobe he has shown us in the previous seasons.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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On A Mission. Paco Rabanne SS23

A catwalk built of scaffolding, fenced with metal bars, plenty of grunge notions and kinky latex. Paco Rabanne‘s spring-summer 2023 collection had a surprising twist, as Julien Dossena, the brand’s creative director, departed from his signature romantic-slash-futurist aesthetic. This season, Dossena does not intend to pretend that fashion is detached from what is happening in the world. That’s also why he called this collection “On a Mission.” Latex and PVC, topped with leather straps and chains, looked spicy and highly fetishistic. All the skills of the house went into fabricating a collection which called on the traditional playbook of subversion: grunge slips, punk kilts, fetish rubber, and wipe-clean raincoats, intersected with the house signature silver chain mail. There were also lace, shiny metallic fabrics, experiments with texture and see-through materials that emphasized the power of femininity. The whole “angry Paco” look was crowned with badass, massive combat boots, which were the perfect additions to the tulle ball skirts (very Olivia Rodrigo). Dossena makes no secret of the fact that what’s happening in the world is having a huge impact on him and his work – the war in Ukraine, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. “It’s about this feeling that there’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to be a long one. So, it’s about expressing that passion and giving clothes for the moment to prepare to fight, because that’s what it’s about: no apologies.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Clean and Sleek. Fendi AW22 Couture

This haute couture season, it seemed that the collections’ backdrops were as important as the clothes. Immense theatralization of the fashion show was a recurring theme, from Schiaparelli to Margiela. So it was quite refreshing to see the total white-cube space as Fendi’s venue. But did Kim Jones‘ couture line-up stand up for itself? “Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress.” Karl Lagerfeld coined this permanently true aphorism – one of the sparkling fashion quotes he dashed off in a zillion interviews. Kim Jones didn’t drop it into backstage conversation about his Fendi haute couture collection, but he might’ve, since essentially what he sent out met the Lagerfeldian standard of t-shirt-y elegance; a show of uncomplicated, minimal dressing realized in the most expensive of materials. For starter, a trio of Max-Mara-like looks, two tailored trouser suits and a long turtleneck sweater dress with a slashed skirt and sash in a Vicuna brown. Then came tailoring, and a molded bustier in paler shades of slightly pink-tinged beige: Fendi’s specialty calf leather. And then, calmly on with the abbreviated lines of the t-shirt dressing. There were slim tank dresses, made of rolled metallic bugle-beads, asymmetrical long-sleeved patchworks of Japanese silk kimono fabric commissioned by Jones from traditional makers in Kyoto, and beaded deco-style pajamas. Jones explained in a preview that the pair of outstandingly lovely shimmery silver sequinned bias cut slip dresses had been made from swatches Karl Lagerfeld had commissioned which had been archived and never used. For the finale there were a few spicier, sheer “nude” dresses. In overall, it all looked like a proper couture collection. Not sure it felt like a Fendi one, though, even with all the subtle Lagerfeld references.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Fab, Fab World. Jean Paul Gaultier AW22 Couture

This show is an open letter to Jean Paul, an open letter of love,Olivier Rousteing announced in the Gaultier studio before the unveiling of the antic collection that Gaultier had invited him to design as the third iteration of the project that hands the reins of his couture house to a different designer each season. When the two designers first met to discuss the project four months ago, and right after Rousteing had presented his autumn-winter Balmain collection, he confided to Jean Paul Gaultier: “You’re my inspiration. And you broke so many boundaries for me as a kid.” Dressed backstage in a matelot striped top and an asymmetric kilt, Rousteing had clearly taken the brief very seriously. “Jean Paul wrote a fashion book with many chapters,” Rousteing explained. “And the reality is that you need to understand what chapter from Jean Paul is closer to you and the emotions that you obviously are more into.” For Rousteing, this meant a series of very personal snapshots. A memory of his father with Gaultier’s iconic Le Male fragrance in its tin can casing, for instance, or Madonna dressed by Gaultier in a nipple-freeing ensemble for a 1992 amfAR gala. “If you think about that today, we cannot [go there],” Rousteing noted, and in fact his iteration featured trompe l’oeil exposed breasts. “So he was ahead of his time about freedom of expression. Today, we talk about inclusivity, we talk about diversity, we talk about breaking boundaries, we talk about no binaries, no gender. Obviously, Jean Paul was the first one to do it.” Rousteing opened his show with menswear, inspired by the tattoo collection of 1994 that he considers a celebration of diversity, and then broke into one statement womenswear piece after another, playing on the Gaultier themes of corsetry, repurposed denim, and Breton fishermen’s sweaters, among others, many of the looks teetering on platform heels inspired by those tin cans.

And Rousteing reveled in the craftsmanship of Gaultier’s ateliers. In homage, there were garments fashioned from a dressmaker’s tape measures, a heart-shaped pin cushion bodice, and gloves with thimbles for finger tips. And noting the designer’s passion for the liquid draperies of Madame Grès (and the dressmaking genius who worked for her and now for Gaultier), Rousteing worked her iconic techniques into some looks that included a sweeping corseted pink sweatshirt that ballooned into an opera coat in back and draped into a siren skirt in front. Meanwhile, what appeared to be a woven menswear pinstripe was actually an illusion created with insertions of white crepe – a process that took 600 hours. Rousteing revisited Gaultier’s feathery interpretation of matelot stripes, another iteration of the Breton sweater that morphed into a Watteau train in back. In a further celebration of the craftsmanship of the house, the running order of the show listed each premiere main and modeliste responsible for the various elements of each look next to its description. Rousteing stepped out of the studios, however, to create a brace of molded glass bodices made by the expert responsible for the stained glass windows of Notre Dame, no less. Gaultier himself had wanted the collection to be a complete surprise. When the show opened with a soundtrack mashup of Gaultier himself expressing his design ideas to various media outlets through the years, he blushed bright pink. By the end of the show he was beaming. “Zat was fantastic!” he declared, “He took my things and then did it his way – and the technique – fab, fab, fab!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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