The eternal flora and fauna theme were Piotrek Panszczyk’s most obvious starting point for pre-fall 2022, taking hot pink duchesse satin and creating static floral poufs that could be sized up or down to create a crop top and mini skirt or an entrancing dress. Flowers also appear as spiked crystal tops and pasties, as sunglasses, as earrings, and as crystal pants that wind up the legs. Since Area’s last collection, its showgirl potential has become more fully realized; these experiments in fluttering crystal seem destined for Beyoncé, Olivia Rodrigo, Precious Lee, or any of the other larger-than-life women that swear by the brand’s devilishly saccharine clothes. Careful to not give it all away in a pre-collection, Panszczyk has balanced it out with sharpened tailoring in black, white, and brown houndstooth boasting crystal trim, as well as an extended section of leopard print pouf skirts and teensy bustiers. The disparate harmony of a blazers-to-pasties collection is justified by the Area books. According to Panszczyk and Area’s co-founder Beckett Fogg, the customer wants a crystal-strewn tee as much as she wants a Vegas-worthy headpiece. For seasons, Area has been reckoning with these two poles, daily use versus drama, but it seems the brand is on its way to a single more unified vision of something “dainty, natural, sultry, and thorny.” Per Panszczyk, “sexiness is just a byproduct of wearing Area.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
“I never gave up on being dressed, even when the trend was about sportswear,” says Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello of his pre-fall women’s collection, the until-now-unseen curtain raiser to his sublime and epic winter show, presented earlier this year. “I am glad that people want to dress up again, because for me nothing has changed.” Never let it be said that Vaccarello doesn’t have unerring instincts. When the rest of the world was letting it all hang out while being holed up at home, he was showing hyper-colored tweedy suits dripping with jewels on an icy tundra, or had marabou and pop-floral chiffon marching across a vast Sahara-like vista; big themes, big landscapes, big drama. In their way they were as much paeans to hope for the future as statements of intent about how you might want to dress in the present. Except change was to a degree part of the narrative: Vaccarello also took on board the prevailing desire for comfort and ease, he just didn’t do it in the obvious, cliched or un-YSL of ways; there were modern compact jerseys and fluid silks to move in and to feel free in. This pre-fall collection builds on that as much as planting the seeds for the aforementioned winter, which he describes as “lots of volumes, more rounded shapes, a bit of Art Deco, a bit ’90s and a bit of Poiret.” His trick is to take all of that and work it through some of the classic Saint Laurent-isms. The columnar line for evening that Yves loved so much now looks perfect for daytime, partnered with a tough belted leather jacket and an armful of bangles. The iconic le smoking also makes it to the other side of the dawn, as an eased up suit, a cape, or a sharp-shouldered coat. Those are just some of the strong outerwear statements on show here: oversized faux furs, cozily chic but with a casual flick-the-collar-up attitude; voluminous-shouldered cocoon coats and nifty leather trenches thrown over some particularly ravishing slithery lingerie slip dresses, a hint of romanticism given by their guipure or frothy lace edges. Finishing all this off: stretch velvet high-heeled boots; gilt-trimmed square-toed pumps; and frame topped handbags. Magnifique.
At the New York-based brand Bode, Emily Adams Bode Aujla’s collections have always been rooted in the persona. The lived histories of friends, family members, and even places all hold keys that unlock the fantastical trove of embroideries, embellishments, prints, and colors that have established Bode as one of the most exciting new American labels on the scene. For pre-fall 2022, now hitting the stores, however, Adams Bode Aujla turned inward, looking for inspiration to her own wedding to her longtime partner and collaborator Aaron Aujla, which took place in their newly purchased home upstate and brought together Punjabi traditions from his upbringing as well as ones from her mixed Southern/East Coast heritage. “The foundation of Bode is personal narrative and our emotional relationships to materials and material culture, so the wedding is very much an epitome of that relationship,” Adams Bode Aujla explains. “From a more pragmatic side, I love dressing people for weddings. A lot of the fabrics that we sell lend themselves really well to weddings: lace, eyelets, details like pearl buttons, working with people’s family histories and their initials and embroideries, so it kind of made perfect sense to make this a holistic idea.” She estimates she made over 250 pieces for their friends and family to wear to their nuptials, including matching tuxes for the groomsmen and dresses crafted from piano shawls for the bridesmaids, along with the various outfits she and Aaron wore throughout the four-day festivities.
The most obvious way the wedding influenced this collection is in the emphasis on formal wear, something that she has dabbled in since opening the Bode Tailor Shop next door to her Manhattan flagship. There are classic shapes like tuxedo jackets and tails done in traditional black and white that will find wide an audience, but it was the Bode-fied versions that had the most appeal: a dark brown three-piece suit embellished with gems in the shape of flowers, a linen marigold single-breasted suit with tonal fringe appliqués and vintage marbles decorating the sleeve vent. The colors she used – “depression-era” green, tobacco brown, and purple, and marigold – all held personal meaning for the designer and her husband. It’s her exploration of what formalwear silhouettes can be that is really exciting. A lightweight tropical wool wrap jacket with a gathered waist may resemble a traditional women’s blouse on a hanger, but when worn over a crisp button-down shirt and matching trousers, it transforms into a smart alternative to the structured suit, lending an air of ease and comfort. A similar feeling was evoked by matching sets of shirts and trousers, inspired by Aujla’s penchant for pajamas. “He wears pajamas even with a tux,” Adams Bode Aujla explained. “It was really important to him that he had [them], especially for morning prayer.” Here they run the gamut of materials and fabrications, from simple versions done in white cotton voile to intricately embroidered styles. The concept of “home” was also present in the collection through the use of crochet fabrics and embellishments, as in a white shirt covered with brown popcorn chenille, which is typically found in bedspreads, and a matching shirt and trouser set appliquéd with animal shapes in various prints, which was a reproduction of a baby quilt originally made from feed sack scraps. “During the Great Depression, companies were noticing that women were making clothing from feed sacks and grain sacks, so they started printing on the fabrics to encourage people to do it.” Adams Bode Aujla is keen on the importance of research and preserving history through the things that she makes, tracking down names and provenance. “When we do historical reproductions, we can tell that narrative in a much broader scale, and it got me thinking about how you can encourage people to preserve something, not just by mending o repairing things like that, but preserving it in the idea that they’re preserving culture and the techniques,” she said. It’s easy to see how Bode has found success; her customer understands that when they buy one of her designs, they are buying a little piece of history for themselves, a shirt (or pants, or a jacket) imbued with meaning and ready to be passed on to the next generation.
Keeping a consistent narrative is crucial for a brand’s credibility today; Gen Z customers, the demographic coveted by every luxury house, are drawn to designers whose work is creative and value-driven in equal measure. That dynamic isn’t lost on Pierpaolo Piccioli, who has rebooted Valentino for a new audience, amping up the brand’s cultural ethos to resonate with the zeitgeist. Pivoting on the label’s extraordinary couture heritage, Piccioli’s focus is to translate the codes of Italian savoir faire into an aesthetic that, while staying true to its high-style fundamentals, speaks to the attitudes of fashion’s younger consumers. This ongoing exercise somehow peaked, both visually and conceptually, in Piccioli’s spring collection last October, paraded in the streets of Paris with fashion students filling many of the seats. Models sported individual looks styled to suit their personality, further highlighting the intent to relate to the world of today. Picking up where that show left off, the words ‘real’ and ‘reality’ came up quite often in a conversation with the designer about pre-fall. Piccioli believes that the aesthetic codes of the maison can be given a different meaning by shifting the way they’re interpreted by the wearer. To that end, for pre-fall he worked on pieces quintessentially Valentino (so much so that some templates came directly from couture collections), but “shuffled the attitude,” as he said, and tweaked the styling to create a sort of dissonance and vitality.
Shot in the streets of London on young models, the lookbook images were conceived as a “portrait of a generation that wears clothes not necessarily different from those of 10, 20 years ago, but which are adapted to today’s lifestyle and our real social context,” said Piccioli. Case in point was the little black dress, a staple for cocktail receptions in a bourgeois milieu that Piccioli believes can be twisted into a sort of clubbing uniform. On the same note, an immaculate short white cape with matching pleated shirt that would’ve looked apropos on Marisa Berenson in the ‘70s if paired with high heels and a silk blouse, was given a cooler spin styled with a cropped marinière and chunky loafers. A sumptuous purple robe coat, lavishly embroidered with the Valentino atelier’s handcrafted couture techniques was turned into a citycoat and worn over a pair of distressed denim pants. The challenge Piccioli faces is to immerse into today’s complex reality a label whose imagery is rarefied and rooted in a world of privilege, twisting the references and techniques of couture to suit a modern way of dressing that favors personality instead of status. “I want to breathe life into Valentino,” he reiterated. “I want its idea of perfect beauty to be somehow stained, so to speak, by the reality of today’s life, and to make it alive and relevant for a community of people with no reverence towards fashion, but who inhabit fashion with sentiment and an attitude of personal creativity.”
Dancing and the beauty of the body in motion definitely had to be on Rosie Assoulin‘s mind for pre-fall 2022. The pleated celery green ensemble looks even more phenomenal when you’re twirling in it, while the watercolour blue ball-skirt in plaid just begs to dance the night away. These ultra-feminine silhouettes feel so light and expressive, but are far from non-sense. Actually, this collection is a harmonious balance of the dramatic and functional. Even though she’s known primarily as an evening wear expert, Assoulin is a master of convertibility. “I like the idea that a woman might at some point change her mind later on,” the designer said. Examples? The white cloqué henley dress with a black bra insert can be buttoned up or down to show as much of the undergarment as you wish. A plaid blazer comes with removable sleeves that can give the look of opera gloves. Assoulin’s commitment to convertibility and adaptability under all the glamour prevails in her new season designs. “The appetite I have is definitely for exciting graphic, dramatic pieces, but it’s not my life,” she said. “So I have to find how I can bring [ease and drama] together.”