It’s no secret that Victoria Beckham‘s brand had some rough time financially. Wisely, the company scaled-down to its main line, at the same time incorporating a lower price point and limiting the range of new products. Looking at Beckham’s pre-fall 2022 offering, this new approach has a positive effect on the designs. Less is really more. We’ve got great, business-ready tailoring, a fine balance of neutrals and neons (Victoria certainly understands that a wardrobe has to offer different attitudes, depending on the wearer’s ever-changing mood), and languid dresses that come with sexy zip details and erotic cut-outs. All the clothes have that kind of smart discipline about them, which makes it additonally appealing for clients who want to finally exit the too-easy comfort zone of dressing caused by months (actually… years) spent in the pandemic world. And even if the pandemic will last forever, at some point we will all want to dress up a bit more demandingly – even if it’s for another Zoom call.
People might find Thom Browne’s work monotonous, if they look at it superficially. Gray wool suit, pleated skirt, rakish tie – these distinct Browne signatures are always there. However, Browne rarely does the same thing twice. Sure, he has a very stable gray wool core, but each season he delights in trying out an outrageous new silhouette, a clever in-joke, or a cheeky rethink of an American staple. While this women’s collection carries over motifs from Browne’s men’s pre-fall, including lovely jade floral intarsias inspired by his bedroom wallpaper and a fixation with lobsters resulting in an exceptional Shetland wool lobster skirt – he introduced new whimsical proportions here. A cropped puffer was so short and bulbous it almost looked like a mushroom cap atop slender black trousers. Browne has never made a womenswear silhouette that exaggerates the upper body in this abbreviated way before. Elsewhere, khaki shorts do the opposite for a woman’s lower half; they’re cut wide, loose, and sexless enough to look dementedly funny. The signature Browne suit has evolved, as well: The shoulderpads and the canvas are cut out of the brand’s cropped blazer so that it’s as soft and snuggly as a cardigan, constructed from an elegant black-and-white tweed. The check gray skirt suit in look 28 might seem standard, but look closer and Browne is doing something strangely new: here is a single-breasted blazer with a vest long enough to be worn as a dress and a loose, almost shapeless skirt. For a designer with famously strict tailoring, silhouettes that skim the body and waft in the breeze are practically revelatory. Browne says the suit is “the most important look” of the collection, unlocking an idea that will carry to the silhouettes we’ll see in his autumn-winter 2022 outing in a couple of weeks.
In his second menswear collection, Erdem Moralioglu goes for streetwear – something you never see in his often dramatic women’s offering. “Utilitarian romanticism” is how the London-based designer summed up his newest creative venture. He has a point: in a world where people wear couture-house joggers to dinner, and even Moralioglu surrenders to sporty dress codes, streetwear is really just daywear. “It’s a boiled fleece hoodie with a tailored, nipped jogger,” he said of the collection’s most informal look, describing those garments exactly like he would his ladylike womenswear. But unlike that womenswear Erdem’s men’s world has a relaxed, almost light-hearted quality about it. The designer has been living in the spring men’s collection since he received the first pieces, and, as he confirmed, “it’s very personal.” While the first collection only started to arrive in stores in November, his recipe of ravishingly-colored knits, corduroy, and printed denim has seen great response from the yet-to-be-defined Erdem men’s customer, and has gone down well with his trusty female clientele, too. This season, he took inspiration from the work of two women, who may as well have played muses to one of his women’s collections: Madame d’Ora, a Viennese portrait photographer and contemporary of Picasso, and Madame Yevonde, a portrait and still-life photographer who worked in London around the interwar era. Together, their subjects, grading techniques, and the latter’s use of color inspired a 1930s-driven collection, which borrowed from the women’s wardrobe of the time, and fused those references in Moralioglu’s contemporary “utilitarian romanticism.” What emerged through Moralioglu’s second menswear proposal was a men’s wardrobe of conventional contradictions: feminine vs. masculine, formal vs. informal, Old World vs. new world. Those dichotomies are hardly new territory in menswear, but through the lens of Erdem – with all its history and romanticism – this menswear brand already feels unique and familiar in a way that gives it a character of its own on a very saturated market.
The heartbeat of Batsheva has always been designer Batsheva Hay herself. She started her brand making clothing she would like to wear, then friends in New York propelled her personal designs into an organically thriving business. In the four years since, Hay’s operation has grown immensely, with global stockists and categories like homewear, accessories, and fun collaborations. In Manhattan, she’s moved out of her home office and taken over two spaces in New York’s Garment District: one holds her studio and design team, just down the hall a room overflows with floral prints, ruffle dresses, and tiny tchotchkes in Hay’s ditsy patterns. How can a brand so personal evolve and succeed as its orbit grows beyond its iconoclastic founder? The good news is Hay is always – and has always been – willing to share her weirdness. Even if she holds up a block print checkerboard print, a bustier maxi dress in black, or a tank dress as items that don’t jibe with her personal style, she is quick to find ways a Batsheva acolyte could incorporate them into their wardrobe. Layering remains key. New dress shapes like a mod babydoll in black eyelet and a ’70s-inspired, A-line shirtdress broaden the offering and edge it, just maybe, into more quote-unquote normal clothing territory. Of course even a Batsheva basic comes with a little cheeky wink. Her chambray shirts and white blouses are predicated on giant pouf sleeves and adorned with excess eyelet ruffle trim. There is a new pajama set and a continuation of her pantaloons and ruffle-trim trousers, now in dusty caramel florals and navy moiré. The tenor of this off-beat, easy and somehow glamorous clothing feels right as we kiss 2021 goodbye and look forward to the first (we hope) good new year in a while.
For pre-fall 2022, Thom Browne‘s models sport inches-long falsies and tote leather lobster bags and backpacks in a display that is so provocatively Surrealist it recalls Elsa Schiaparelli’s daring 1937 dress with a crustacean across the crotch. Browne’s version relies less on the obvious pun of that exoskeletal creature – he says the lobster is just the latest of the animals he has welcomed into his zoo – and more an examination of the beauty of skirting on men. It’s a continuation of ideas he started nearly 20 years ago but have taken hold of late, with Dan Levy and Lee Pace wearing Browne’s skirts on the red carpet. This season he’s constructed half-pleated, half-straight versions of his classic kilt, worn with “one-and-a-half”–breasted blazers with self-tipped seams and covered buttons. Modular dresses in melton wool carry over from the spring 2022 collection, now in warm dove gray and mossy celadon. A selection of slim, sexy black-tie options, from midi-skirts to short suits, close out the collection. Saving the best for last, there are also jade green floral intarsias. Those of us who have followed Browne for the past two decades may think that he’s tapped all his personal references, but a wise designer always leaves himself room for more. Just before the pandemic hit, Browne and his partner, Andrew Bolton, purchased a new home in Manhattan, which they spent two years renovating. This fall they finally moved in, and their central aesthetic compromise was the hand-painted jade green floral wallpaper above their bed. The same flowers are cut in furs and wools, winding up on overcoats and embroidered into jackets. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as personal,” Brown summed up. The couple’s home, he says, will be off-limits to design mags, but this simple shared gesture is open to everyone to try on and try out. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that who you spend your life with matters.