1990s. Givenchy SS20

Givenchy‘s Clare Waight Keller tries new things, leaving behind her past aesthetic of flou dresses and flowing, feminine silhouettes. This English designer moved to New York in 1993 for a job at Calvin Klein. At the time, Kate Moss was on the runways wearing slip dresses and streamlined black tailoring, and studio assistants wore Birkenstocks. Helmut Lang was the city’s growing obsession. “When I arrived in New York, I was very much a tomboy, and there was this raw, boyish energy,” Waight Keller said backstage of her spring-summer 2020 line-up. Givenchy being a French house, she’s set up her new collection as a conversation between the minimalist New York she remembers circa ’93 and the much more exuberant Paris she visited at the time, which was still recovering from the couture excesses of the ’80s. Her new season line-up is good enough to exist without that background: slim jackets paired with Bermuda-length shorts; denim, from short shorts to holey jeans to a V-neck dress made from two different colored washes (the show notes described the jeans’ ’90s vintage upcycled fabric “pointing to a conscious future”); turtleneck blouses in shades of curcuma and lilac; beige leathers used in tank-tops, coat-dresses and maxi-skirts. Apart for florals, this was an unexpectedly minimalist version of Waight Keller. As always with Claire, I’m not sure what exactly her distinct Givenchy look is (the collection’s appeal is mainly caused by Suzanne Koller’s eternally chic styling). Still, it’s not bad.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Marie Antoinette. Thom Browne SS20

If you’re looking for a show (and equally spectacular clothes), go to Thom Browne. Just beware of killer heels he’s offering his models every season. For spring-summer 2020, the designer was drawn towards the unabashed decadence of France before the Revolution. With models in Marie Antoinette-esque wigs and powdered pink faces, Browne’s vision of the 18th-century silhouette aligned most closely with the historic original. Anna Cleveland walked down the runway in a dress that owed its waist-whittling line to traditional corsetry. There was often a layer cake of prettiness underneath the rigorous feminine architecture: petticoats and ruffled bloomers in the softest pastel shades, for example. Browne’s signature gray flannel suits were stripped back to their red, white and blue lining in places, revealing traditional men’s boxer shorts that were buoyed by suspenders. But mostly, those looks said one thing: “let them eat cake!”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Classics. Valentino SS20

There was something very calming and classical about Pierpaolo Piccioli‘s spring-summer 2020 offering for Valentino. The designer dedicated the whole opening section of the show to white, sending out 12 looks that rotated around the idea of a shirt. “I wanted to work on something universal, to get back to the essence of shape and volume,” he said. “So I worked on the idea of the white shirt, but treating it with a couture sensibility.” The dresses didn’t only look airy and feminine, but very comfortable. And one can’t help but notice the nod to  aesthetics of Renaissance. The collection as well had splashes of noen (the green, chiffon number is exquisite) for balance. Any prints? Jungle prints via the naive vision of 19th-century artist Henri Rousseau – perfect for summer. The line-up ended with couture-ish, tulle gowns. This wasn’t a ground-breaking collection from Piccioli, but a pleasing one. His consistence keeps on attracting customers, who know they will look flattering in a Valentino dress. While everyone’s re-inventing themselves to be relevant, it seems that Pierpaolo doesn’t have that problem.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Fashion Uniforms. Balenciaga SS20

Balenciaga‘s spring-summer 2020 collection was really something. It’s quite clear that since Demna Gvasalia departed from Vetements, his focus is solely directed on the Parisian maison. For me, his latest line-up was as incredible as his debut collection – it proved again that his take on ready-to-wear is truly visionary. The collection was raw, properly odd, ironic and real (all the models come from different walks of life: there were nurses, actresses, super-models, lawyers, gallerists, engineers, etc.). But so, so desirable! Lets start from the beginning. He set the collection in a political arena – a faux “Balenciaga parliament or assembly,” which he’d convened to investigate the subject of “power dressing and fashion uniforms.” First looks: senior delegates in corporate tailoring. On their breast pockets were embroidered badges, two discs bisected with a Balenciaga logo (very Mastercard). Then came what Gvasalia called ‘the campaign dresses’. “We looked at pictures of women politicians, of what they wear campaigning. We took this type of tailored daywear dress and tried to make it cool – not an easy challenge, to be honest,” he said. His solution was to “make them more boxy and cocoon-y, which is quite Balenciaga. So many body types can wear it. Democratic and easy-to-wear volumes.” Later, he sent down a line-up of over-sized, turtleneck frocks in logos, perfume bottles and sneakers prints, and long-sleeved t-shirts with cliche slogans you see in cheesy gift shops (like ’18+’ or ‘Top Model\). In his latest interview with Jo Ellison for How To Spend It, he told the critic that not doing simple, commercial stuff is simply not honest at a brand like Balenciaga. And he’s right. Next: turtle duvet jackets (their construction is amazing – it’s modern day Cristóbal Balenciaga sort of thinking); hybrid, velvet garments that in front look like dresses, but in the back appear to have pants; coats, in faux fur or bold colours, with exaggerated shoulders; XXL, black, widow dresses (worn by Nadja Auermann and Renata Litvinova). If it couldn’t get any more eclectic, here’s the best part. The eveningwear, which instantly became the most memorable / meme moment of Paris Fashion Week. Specifically, crinoline dresses (two in lurex and with a huge, doll-like bow in the back, and three identical velvet masterpieces in different colours). “Ballroom dresses go back to the beginning of Balenciaga, when Cristóbal started in Spain. It was mostly this type of silhouette he did, from Spanish painting,” Gvasalia observed. “But we wanted to make sure they were wearable. If you take out the crinoline, you have a sort of goth dress.” True, there’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable while looking at the collection: maybe it’s the extreme blue of the venue? The prosthetics used as part of models’ make-up? The chilling soundtrack created by Demna’s boyfriend, Loik Gomez? Still, I can’t help but love it. Good fashion makes you want something for a moment. Great fashion makes you feel something and think about it for a couple of days.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Orlando. Comme Des Garçons SS20

Rei Kawakubo presented a collection of unbridled opulence and transporting fantasy in the second of three shows themed on Virgina Woolf’s ever-inspiring novel, “Orlando“. The men’s show back in June was Act I, this is Act II. Act III is coming up in Vienna in December, at the premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s opera adaptation of the mentioned literary masterpiece. The narrative of the Comme des Garçons show ran in tandem with Woolf’s time travelling protagonist, jumping from Elizabethan times through the 18th and 19th century to the present. And, Kawakubo also added her own chapter: the future. The first part of the show, the Elizabethan period, was overfilled and stuffed with ornaments and details, and the garments seemed to be decaying with their splendour the same moment they appeared on the runway. With every look, the amount of decorations seemed to decrease. The last silhouettes – would never call them clothes – were all-black, minimal in cut and big. The future is unknown and uncertain. Or maybe black is the symbol of transformation, Orlando-wise? As always, Kawakubo raises many questions for you to answer yourself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.