Feel Good. Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2021

There’s always irony to what Demna Gvasalia does. You can tune into the pre-fall 2021 “Feel Good” Balenciaga video and not see any fashion at all – just a stock compilation of heart-warming running horses, kittens, children, and dreamy landscapes. But the most radical content in this Balenciaga outing is actually invisible to the eye. “When I started this collection,” Gvasalia told Vogue, “I said only show me sustainable fabrics. I don’t want to look at anything else.” So everything here, beginning with the pink hoodie to the black dramatic puffed-sleeve gownlike silhouette at the end, is made from recycled and otherwise certifiably okay materials. That’s big from a brand as powerful and as influential as Balenciaga, one of the major fashion actors of the universe which calls on suppliers who do significant volumes business with them. “As creative directors, asking for this causes a chain reaction, and we have to use it,” Gvasalia continued. Taking action on absolving shoppers’ anxieties about the damaging consequences of how their clothes are made ought to be the norm. Gvasalia promises that what’s gone into this collection isn’t a one-off gesture – because who isn’t suspicious of the greenwashing promo tricks of fashion these days? He started asking for better, more sustainable alternatives a while back, he attests, and began putting some of them into the collection in September. Now to the clothes: a photoshopped lookbook, posed against a wish-we-were-there travelogue of the famous backdrops of the world. Design-wise, there are just as many familiar Balenciaga-universe destinations here: the oversize hoodies, sweatshirts, tailoring; tweaked takes on signature floral-print dresses; recycled leather and denim things; magnified utility-worker jackets. A lot of the garments, Gvasalia said, are constructed as joined-together all-in-one pieces “trompe l’oeil, so what you see isn’t what you get. A lot of dresses which are actually coats.” So, too his lookalike ‘furs,’ which aren’t either animal pelts or petrochemical fakes. A brown chubby jacket and a coat are the results of hundreds of hours of chopping up and embroidering recycled cotton. They’re lavishly time-consuming hand-made pieces. Obviously, Gvasalia is keeping his creative powder dry for the long-deferred launch of the Balenciaga haute couture collection that he’ll show sometime this summer, pandemic willing. Meantime, predictive minds might leap to the elegant silhouette in black – full length, balloon sleeved, quilted and lace-trimmed drama that Gvasalia swears was inspired by the shape of Princess Diana’s wedding dress. It’s actually a coat. “ She’s wearing a t-shirt and jeans under that.” The Gay Pride hoodie worn with the padded stole (consciously a Demna-for-Balenciaga adaptation from Cristobal’s matching ensembles for couture customers) is another highlight of the collection. “I’m gay. I grew up in a society where I couldn’t have worn that, and there are places in the world that you cannot today,” the designer said. “It’s important to push through against homophobia. I’m not someone who goes out in the street and shouts. But this is the political fashion activism I can do.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dress Up With Ease. Proenza Schouler Pre-Fall 2021

My first ever “live” collage, which I’ve created having TikTok on my mind… just playing around and checking out the app everybody’s buzzing about! Search @designandculturebyed, because I might stay there for good! Still, I think I will always feel much more confident on Instagram.

Proenza Schouler boys continue to work with soft minimalism in the era of WFH. But for pre-fall 2021, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough try to elevate the stay-at-home style. According to McCollough, the line-up “celebrates the joy of dressing up, while injecting a strong sense of ease.” A halter dress in fine gauge crochet with graphic stripes tracing the neckline captures the vibe. Other hands-on touches include the deep lengths of fringe on knit skirts and asymmetrically placed mismatched buttons on closely fitted, unstructured blazers worn with puddling bell-bottom pants. In another look, the designers used a gold chain to gather the hem of a dress to its midriff, looping the fabric through hoops to create a decorative slimming detail at the waist. It’s all good, but I wish most of it didn’t feel like a moodboard filled with Phoebe Philo’s Céline and new Bottega. In a normal year, these maxi, tank-dresses would be destined for summer weddings and other special occasions. Nobody knows if those dates will hold, if the vaccine will be widely available by then or if we’ll still be waiting. That’s a lot of uncertainty to wrestle with for pretty much everybody in the industry, going forward into 2021. Still, dressing up for an attitude boost is never a bad idea, even while staying at home, so why not stay hopeful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Refined and Personal. Marina Moscone Pre-Fall 2021

I’ve been following Marina Moscone‘s work since her first line-ups in 2018, but to be honest, pre-fall 2021 collection is the first time I’m truly convinced. There’s something spontaneous, truly artful, yet absolutely refined about it. Moscone has always liked the idea of a uniform, yet she doesn’t wear the same thing every day. It’s more about figuring out the foundation of her style so she can build upon it. For the designer herself that often starts with a shirtdress over trousers, or maybe a curvy suit with flat sandals, and she’ll experiment from there. Pre-fall found her thinking more literally, though, with familiar nods to school uniforms: pleated kilts, rugby shirts, shrunken blazers.  The opening look was a twist on her signature overcoat, now spliced with box pleats at the hem (and styled with socks and loafers). Other tunics and blazers had plaid panels tacked to the hips, like trompe l’oeil skirts. What you can’t glean from the lookbook is that those collaged items were all cut from the same material: The olive wool tunic, for instance, was backed with the same emerald and yellow plaid that appears on its “skirt.” Moscone created those double-sided wools in spite of the fact that most people won’t notice their detail on an iPhone; more importantly, it’s the kind of refined touch her customer appreciates. Another detail will be more obvious: the patches and embroidered quotes on a blazer and a duvet-like “art coat” in ivory satin. There’s a bird of paradise flower, Moscone’s favorite South African bloom; an elephant, symbolizing wisdom and persistence; a honeysuckle rose flower, which Moscone’s grandmother used to call her; and two portraits of a little boy and girl, Moscone’s parents as kids. The coat is quilted over in places and has scribble-like printing and fringe, as if a child went crazy with a box of art supplies. Moscone hopes it will offer both comfort and uplift – a combination also found in her new crinkly tops and pajama pants, a welcome WFH update. Look forward to this collection once it hits the stores!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Domestic Chic. Batsheva Pre-Fall 2021

Many brands that start with one, sharp, distinct, signature piece, quickly reach its peak popularity… and equally fast fall down the cliff of oblivion. Just think of all the bag labels that had that singular “it bag” and couldn’t maintain the momentum. But Batsheva is a different story. First, Batsheva Hay‘s dresses just don’t get boring – how can such versatile must-have ever become outdated?! – and second, the designer gradually expands her universe, making old clients come back and new ones feel attracted. And the brand’s pre-fall 2021 look-book makes it even more relatable and relevant to our lockdown lives and habits. In her work, Hay has taken the symbols of femininity, domesticity, and intimacy and made them things for women to be proud of, not ashamed of. Typically, the industry rewards designers who offer more modern, minimalist takes on female style or versions of womanhood that are so fantastical and exaggerated they can only be described as “whimsical” or “dreamy.” Hay’s work is neither: it’s quirky, messy, funny, and embraces the chaos of a woman’s life. And in the new season, the Batsheva woman even cooks in Batsheva. The collection’s fantastic look-book stars real women, from club legend Susanne Bartsch to actress Gretchen Mol, wearing her latest wares in their own kitchens. Hay and her husband, Alexei, the photographer, traveled around New York taking the portraits, discussing the recipes with each woman, and eating each meal. The results will be published in a cookbook next year. “Seeing the way other people wear the pieces is so important,” Hay says, stressing that each piece must feel like “a wanted garment.” If it doesn’t elicit love from her ladies, it doesn’t get made. The garments that did get made continue to recast the possibilities for ruffles and floral prints. Hay is leaning into big 1980s graphics and piecrust collars à la Princess Diana. Those developments, she explains, were designed with an eye to Zoom routine. From the waist up, she’s offering a new bolero jacket, added embroideries and details on yokes, and expanded her offering of gorgeous crocheted tanks and hooded pullovers. Pants, skirts, and a new wrap dress round out the offering. “When I started, I thought I would run out of things to do with ruffles on dresses pretty quickly,” she told Vogue with a smirk. But trying to define what it means to be a woman in this world is an endless journey – and one of constant reinvention.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Revisited Classics. Givenchy Pre-Fall 2021

You might be on fence with Matthew M. Williams‘ style and aesthetic, but you’ve got to admit one thing: this guy knows how to shake up a brand and make present it all over the place (even if that revamp isn’t overly ground-breaking). Talking about his first pre-collection for Givenchy, he evaded questions of the specific visual references that may have inspired it, choosing instead to focus on nerdy things like cuts and fabrication. No mood-boards here. “I don’t really work like that, actually. I’m more on the body, touching materials. Sometimes there’ll be imagery that inspires things, but it’s very instinctual,” he told Vogue. Williams is emblematic of a new wave of designers for whom fashion is often less about producing the flashy statement piece than about perfecting the unassuming wardrobe staple – of course, with an endlessly-studied twist. “What I find exciting is often things I would wear myself,” as Williams said. “As somebody who shops, if I’m buying a suit and I want to wear a t-shirt with the suit instead of a button-up, I want that brand to have a nice t-shirt for me to wear.” His new collection for Givenchy proposes a series of wardrobe staples subverted through his soft-versus-aggressive lens. A classic letterman jacket chopped into a bolero and realized in a super luxe, tonal red knitwear; a rather normal long-sleeved black day dress hacked up at the waist like a little piece of architecture; business-ready blazers with complex lapel and collar structures seemingly morphing in and out the fabric. “For me, it’s really finding that tension between my real world – how I wear clothes on a daily basis – with this magical dream world of the maison,” he said. The knitted, slightly figure-hugging dresses continued to outline his womenswear silhouette for Givenchy, which debuted in his first line-up, while silk leggings and EVA-soled suede sliders represented the elevated sportswear element of the collection. Interestingly, Williams’s take on Givenchy isn’t too sporty. “I do wear suits,” he reiterated. “It feels more like me.” Of course, that’s not to say that a generous amount of logos – another pillar of the social media generation – didn’t find their way into the collection. This kind of makes Williams’ vision feel like Riccardo Tisci’s logo-heavy Givenchy off-spring. Williams latticed a lace dress in Givenchy’s archival four-G logo, embossed them on bags and forged them in bag chains. Well. While every fashion magazine has a new Givenchy special in it, 500 million people were reached in October with the brand’s social media campaign featuring everyone from Kim Kardashian to Julianne Moore, and first designs designed by Matthew are hitting the stores, time will show if that “perfect” recipe actually works.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.