Re-New. Maryam Nassir Zadeh Resort 2021

If there’s one thing you should read this weekend, it’s Irina Aleksander’s strikingly sharp and realistic feature for The New York Times on how the fashion industry collapsed, even before coronavirus became the new normal. I still believe that in the end, we will want to wear something else than just sweatshirts and sweatpants. But one specific part of this text seems to be so easy to comprehend that it’s unbelievable that the industry has never caught up with this concept: clothes aren’t food. They don’t rot after a week, neither after six months. According to Aleksander, some brands have in plans to push the unseen and unsold 2020 collections to 2021 to avoid losses. As simple as that… and yet, there’s one big obstacle. “The fascinating part is that in order to do that – to give that aged inventory value again – requires killing fashion, that nebulous deity that says something is ‘in’ this year and not the next”. So, to make it work, it’s not just about the designer – who would definitely love to take a break from everything to refuel – but the corporate floor and the customer. We should learn to slow down with that love for the “new” and appreciate what’s “now” – or at least, try to take a second look at it. To my surprise (as I already thought way back in spring that it’s a logical step to make for a lot of brands out there), for the resort 2021 season, Maryam Nassir Zadeh is probably the only designer who actually did this. She actually made old… new. Here’s how. Zadeh didn’t cut a single new garment. Instead, she put together a “hand-picked” collection of items from the past, reimagined and recontextualized for now. Years and seasons collapse in many of the looks: a white button-down from autumn-winter 2020 was styled with an ivory leather skirt from spring-summer 2020; a pair of striped shorts circa spring-summer 2019 were paired with a autumn-winter 2020 knee-high boot, redone here with a black lace shaft. Bikinis and strappy bras, often styled alone as tops nodded to her swim-heavy spring-summer 2018 show. Well… that’s brilliant! Maryam resurrected these items not just because they deserve a second look or feel newly relevant, but also because it seemed like a more sustainable way of doing things. In their walk down memory lane, Zadeh and her team only chose pieces they knew they had enough leftover fabric to make. They didn’t want to invest in making new patterns or ordering silks and wools from Italy: “It isn’t even just about sustainability in recycled materials, it’s about sustainability of time,” Zadeh told Vogue. “We never have enough time to order new fabrics from Italy, and the turnaround times [between collections] are so short.” And back to the collection: it’s quintessentially MNZ. Her sensitivity to what’s “in the air” means we will all soon be obsessed – and other brands as well. On the list are: shorter hemlines, colorful silk button-downs, men’s shirts and tailoring, anything lace, and retro embellished belts, styled here as “spice ups” on otherwise simple jersey dresses. “There’s a real personality and style to the collection,” Zadeh said. “It’s easy and wearable, but still special, because we’re mixing these strong basics with novelty accessories.” In the past, Zadeh has described that MNZ balance as “odd elegance”, and that’s still true for her eponymous label. Take notes everybody.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Like a Bird. Lee Mathews Resort 2021

If you still don’t know Lee Mathews, the Sydney-based designer making some of the most summer-perfect clothes out there, here’s a catch-up on her gorgeous resort 2021 collection. Birdwatching has become the unofficial hobby of lockdown era. Thanks to reduced air traffic, the trees outside of Mathews’s studio have become wildly populated with birds. There are no literal avians in her spring collection though – instead, the creative director followed their path to a sense of freedom, joy, and movement. Mathews’s structured dresses have even fuller skirts and poufier sleeves as a result. Pants have added legroom, too, from a jodhpur-like cargo pant to silky, wide-leg options. The danceability of these clothes was put to the test in a performance choreographed by Eliza Cooper and filmed by Martyn Thompson. Thompson, a photographer based in New York, is a longtime friend of Mathews’s. “The experience reconnected me with people I’ve known for a long time,” said Mathews of isolating in Sydney, “and something new is coming from it.” That willingness to collaborate and try something new is the best possible outcome of a world isolated and apart. “Having to collaborate outside your usual sphere to make things that resonate more is what will propel fashion forward,” Mathews told Vogue over a Zoom call. Brands much larger than hers should take note.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Colour, Volume & Fun. Bottega Veneta Resort 2021

From everything we’ve seen from Daniel Lee‘s Bottega Veneta, the resort 2021 collection is the most fun one. Was it the lockdown madness that let the designer take a more playful route? Lee has grasped that the world has changed dramatically and that the way we will want to dress has too. Hence the comfort and familiarity of that cotton and an emphasis on surprisingly homey knits, which represent an evolution of his thinking about all the stretch materials he used on his last runway. But there was no retreat into recuts or the safety of recent successes. “In the darkest moments creativity is so key,” Lee said. “It’s about making clothes you can’t find in other stores. Otherwise what’s the point?” Lee’s exploration of silhouette led him in a couple of different directions. His tailored jackets are sculptural in proportion with those full-legged pants, featuring nipped waists and a V-shaped construction in back that accentuates their shapeliness. Some of the garments look quite cumbersome, even if that exaggeration was intentional. But for all the emphasis on over-sized volumes, Lee also likes a lean, abbreviated look for women: say, a knitted top and matching fringed above-the-knee straight skirt, or a narrow minidress with one of the portrait necklines he’s made a signature. These leggy pieces have a straightforward sexiness, one that’s likely to be influential as designers and the women they dress search for the new post-crisis. But Lee undercuts the sexiness in these pictures with substantial lug-soled, lace-up boots whose vibe is cool and young. Another thing that won’t go unnoticed about this collection is its gorgeous, expressive, bold color palette, which seems to be taken straight out of Dario Argento’s Suspiria or an Almodóvar film. Lee matched a vibrant jade pair of his voluminous pants with a red tech mesh shirt, adding acid yellow pointy loafers and a chocolate brown bag for good measure. Then there’s the electric lilac hue of an A-line shearling coat, a color that reappears on a knit skirt suit and matching cardigan in what crafting circles would call the popcorn stitch, and the bubble gum pink of patent glove leather pumps with glittery acrylic heels. Fashion, at its most compelling, brings pleasure because it paints a vision of the future that looks fresh and new. If Lee’s playful printed dress in an intrecciato print of naked human bodies and the pouch bag in car seat cover wood beads the model carries with it become souvenirs of this strange lockdown season, it’s because they’re totems of a design team having fun. Who doesn’t want more of that in this moment?

All collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Team Work. The Elder Statesman Resort 2021

It’s interesting how two brands, of different scales and formats, emphasized the topic of team work in times of confinement. At Gucci, the resort 2021 collection reveal was an entire, 12-hour long social media event, where Alessandro Michele’s design team, no longer anonymous, modelled the clothes they have designed for not only the look-book, but the advertising campaign. At the same time, we’ve got The Elder Statesman from Los Angeles, where Greg Chait, the founder of the tie-dyed cashmere heaven, presented the collection on his team. But here, it wasn’t just about the studio designers. The whole The Elder Statesman family was here, wearing their garments in context of their work at the brand (from crotcheting to dyeing) and personal passions (farming!). The family aspect was even more clear once you take a glance at the clothes. The pen-and-ink artwork prints come from Greg’s grandmother, Thelma Chait, a prolific artist not acknowledged in her day. Chait and his cousin unearthed a storeroom full of Thelma’s drawings, books, and writings last year, with the designer planning on using them as a foundation for a collection since. The messages of unity, humanity, and love in her illustrations would feel right for any time – she produced much of her art in the groovy and turbulent ’60s and ’70s – but they weave into this collection for 2021 like a soothing balm. Her stick figure of a human, arms circled about its head like a halo, appears on a sweater, as a button, and as a brooch, while her rainbow pen strokes are interpreted as a tie-dye. A map shows fields, cities, deserts, and forests in a sacred geometric pattern on the back of a cardigan worn with ombré cashmere sweats. Making these pieces feel all the more beautiful is the way they were put together and photographed. Knitting, Chait told Vogue, was permissible during California’s lockdowns as a form of manufacturing at home. He and his team drove around Southern California delivering yarns, looms, and ideas for weeks. Already close, the team found a new camaraderie, he explained, and so it was obvious that Thelma’s collection should be represented on the people who made it. Benjamin, a senior knitter, opens the look book in a cashmere sweater with orange trimming, his loom in hand. Chait described him as “a legend,” and went on discussing the importance – both corporately and personally – of each of his colleagues. China, the brand’s VP of sales, models a matching knit set inspired by Thelma’s line. Ariel, the head of dyeing, poses in an ombré of her own design alongside buckets of dye and her dog. Jo, who did the collection’s hand-crocheted flowers, is shown in a gingham shirt-jacket mid-stitch. Chris, a sales associate from the West Hollywood store, wears a jacket made of the new “Cloud” fabric, a paper-thin 100% organic cotton. For the first time, Chait’s own daughter, Dorothy Sue, appears in the collection in a rainbow set made from a Japanese fabric that is 93% cotton and 7% cashmere. No offense Gucci, but my heart is utterly stolen by The Elder Statesman.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Gucci Team. Gucci Resort 2021

Last February, days before the coronavirus crisis broke out near Milan, Alessandro Michele staged a Gucci show in the round that was spectacular and intimate at once. In retrospect, it looks rather prescient: in inviting the audience behind the scenes and exposing the backstage goings-on of the hair and makeup crews and model dressers Michele was celebrating the very things that we’re all missing so badly in COVID-19-time: human interaction, collaboration, being part of a receptive audience. “Fashion is not just what we decide to show,” Michele said on a WhatsApp video call earlier this week. “The idea that a campaign is just a piece of paper? No, there is another show in the show.” The concept for the 12-hour livestream the brand produced for resort 2021, which the designer named “Epilogue,” and staged at the glorious Renaissance-era Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome with a natural soundtrack of cicadas, is to document the advertising campaign, to capture that “show within the show.” Only this time, Michele explained, “it’s less theater. This one will be more dirty. It’s a few cameras in a very Andy Warhol way, maybe they’re looking at nothing interesting. The experiment doesn’t work if I plan too much.” The Gucci designers working in his studio modelled the resort looks they worked on. On the WhatsApp call, he remembered a time as a young designer when a piece he was making was pulled for a show or a shoot and he didn’t see it again. “It was like someone tried to take from you your son.” Spotlighting his colleagues was “something beautiful,” he said, “they were so happy.” As for the clothes themselves, Michele called them “a celebration of my point of view, things that I did in the past, pieces that belong to my aesthetic.” That aesthetic is as singular and idiosyncratic as ever. Min Yu Park, a men’s ready-to-wear designer wears a beaded floral jacket, a floral lace dress, and a turquoise necklace that matches her Jackie bag. Alexandra Muller, an embroidery designer, models a long filmy floral-print ruffled dress with clear sequins that pick up the light. David Ring, a celebrities designer, sports an embroidered velvet blazer, a striped tee, logo flares, and sneakers. Just taking a glace at the clothes tells you right away: Gucci. Back in May Michele announced Gucci’s reduced show schedule. This may be the brand’s last resort collection, but the name “Epilogue” might be a misnomer. The learnings of lockdown – the importance of his team, the value of feeling – will stick with him, he thinks. “It’s not just a way to close, but to say what we’ve done and put seeds of what will be in the next chapter. Yes, it could also be a beginning.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Back To Office (Someday). Louis Vuitton Resort 2021

For many people still working from home, the word “office” sounds abstract. Tailoring isn’t a novelty in the resort 2021 collections, but only the Louis Vuitton line-up by Nicholas Ghesquière makes you think that some day, the “business” dress-code will come back to our lives and replace the lazy Zoom homewear. Emphasizing the more everyday, less editorial aspect of his ready-to-wear, the look-book was shot on location in Louis Vuitton’s Paris headquarters. A photocopier stands at attention in the opening shot, and exit signs and fire doors appear in the background of others. The promise of gorgeous hourglass blazers and chic silk blouses makes the longing for “back to life” life even more intense… but this wasn’t the only aspect of the collection (which, by the way, was good without any far-fetched venue location). “I looked somewhere that has been calling out to me for a long time, somewhere I hadn’t taken the time to go back to. It was like a reset to uncover one inspiration after another, to imagine the next steps and how to create and work within this new context. I took the time to explore my creative identity and prepare the future.” Confronted with the unknowns of the coronavirus and the crushing recession it precipitated, designers have been revisiting their past successes. Nicolas Ghesquière is among them, though the search for lost time is not only a quarantine pursuit for him. On his autumn-winter 2020 runway, with the then as-yet uncanceled Met Gala and its theme of “Fashion and Duration” still on the horizon, Ghesquière held up a mirror to his own work. For this resort collection, he followed similar guidelines – lifting cargo pants from one collection and frilly rococo collars from another, and reuniting with the blouson shapes of the 1980s he likes – with results that read more easier than his runway outings typically do. Additionally, running through the collection is a playing-card leitmotif. When asked, Ghesquière claimed “the tarot” as his favorite card game, “because it can be used in many different ways. And the cards are full of symbols.” Nonetheless, he made effective use of the clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades of the playing-card deck. They bear more than a passing resemblance to the elements of the Louis Vuitton monogram, which Ghesquière made the most of by hybridizing them and then either adding them as decorative details on bags, or supersizing them as color-blocked patterns on streamlined mini and maxi dresses.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainable Practice. Gabriela Hearst Resort 2021

With every season, I’m enjoying Gabriela Hearst‘s collections more and more – and the entire process of sustainability that occurs backstage of every single garment she produces makes the brand even more worth of you attention. Hearst sent over a resort 2021 box to the press with about 35 fabric swatches, one more sumptuous than the next, and many of them recovered from deadstock supplies. Hearst’s plan is to prove the mutual compatibility of luxury and sustainability, the thinking being that the more you normalize the likes of repurposed silk cotton voile and recycled stretch polyester, the more you problematize materials such as standard issue cotton and polyester, which require obscene amounts of water to grow, and virgin plastic to manufacture, repsectively. That said, there’s nothing normal in the least about Hearst’s materials. You need only brush your hand against the multi-ply of her handknit cashmere sweaters or take a longing glance at the fiery tie-dyed cashmere flannel of a coat. The designer produced a short Zoe Ghertner-lensed video for the collection in the California desert in which she appears alongside her sister, riding a horse bareback. On the voiceover Hearst says, “my sustainable practice is exactly what that word is: it’s a practice. You never achieve perfection, but you have to start. We don’t have an option.” The spring line-up’s ultimate stars are a black leather trench with hand-painted white leather lace “stripes” down its back, and another coat in that fire tie-dye, with a spectacular matching blanket shawl. Rounding it out is Hearst’s minimalist tailoring, made a little less minimal this season with a knotting detail on the lapel, and dresses and separates in cotton voile and denim-look linen with elevating metal-trimmed leather collar details and belts. Her new boots come with metal toe caps that took her seasons to get right. It’s a wardrobe for some good times ahead. “We have to dream,” she says.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Honesty and Intelligence. Prada Resort 2021 + Men’s SS21

In her last solo “show”, before Raf Simons enters the role of co-creative designer in the September collection (I really, really, really can’t wait for this match to finally happen!), Miuccia Prada delivered a collection that was absolutely 100% Prada vocabulary. “As times become increasingly complex, clothes become straightforward, unostentatious, machines for living and tools for action and activity.” So said the press notes for The Show That Never Happened, which was a digitally delivered group installation of five Prada-facing films by Willy Vanderperre, Juergen Teller, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, and Terence Nance. They were all made at the Fondazione Prada, the company’s museum of contemporary art collection and the place of all Prada events. The film – which ran consecutively with the addition of a quick final walk at the end before Mrs. Prada’s usual fleeting, half-lateral bow – came to 11 minutes, the ideal duration of a live fashion show. The collection was all about pure elegance, simplicity and a sort of detox from fashion noise. Many looks were identical to Miuccia’s autumn-winter 1995 show, which forever became the image of 90s Prada. Architectural, 1950s silhouettes mixed with a touch of feminine cliché (of course, done in Prada’s ugly chic manner) for resort, and smart, business ready tailoring with a touch of nylon for men’s summer – ta-da, a collection that really got me obsessed in the last few weeks of digital presentations. The press release continued with more food for thought chez Miuccia: “I think that our job as fashion designers is to create clothes for people, that is the honesty of it. That is really the value of our job – to create beautiful, intelligent clothes. This season, we focused on that idea: It is about clothes, about giving value to pieces. The clothes are simple, but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication. This is a moment that requires some seriousness, a moment to think and to reflect on things. What do we do, what is fashion for, what are we here for? What can fashion contribute to a community?” As Prada and her peers (plus Raf Simons, of course!) work to anticipate how change alters the specifications of taste and clothes it will be fascinating to watch the architecture of fashion change too.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Dress for Yourself. Balenciaga Resort 2021

The latest Balenciaga show by Demna Gvasalia was unforgettably apocalyptic (and ironically realistic), with the first two rows of seats in the amphitheater submerged underwater and scenes of climate apocalypse on the screens above. All eyes will be on him in October – I really, really can’t wait to see how will the designer recycle all that happened in 2020 so far. In the meantime, for resort 2021, Gvasalia and his team came up with a clever, low-concept way to showcase the collection, playing up the lack of IRL appointments by including in these photos all of the line sheet information an e-commerce buyer might glean in a showroom, virtual, or otherwise – all the way down to the garments’ and accessories’ material compositions and product IDs. Gvasalia admits that Balenciaga’s pre-collections aren’t really about newness. The pre-seasons are chances to elaborate on what he calls the house’s “archetypes,” pieces like oversized car coats and parkas, the tea-dress, logo denim, all kinds of tracksuits, hoodies and t-shirts, and cult accessories (think the “Knife” panta-shoes). This time around, the styling was done completely on-screen. “It was an experiment in showing you don’t always need the new,” Gvasalia told the press. “Fashion has become a race, running after novelty, and more and more. And here we did the opposite. We looked at what we have and asked what we can do with it so it looks different for the customer.” And how did the confinement affect – or inspired – Gvasalia? “The theme,” he continues, “was dress for yourself. In this lockdown we understood what’s important for people who like fashion and like to dress up: You do it for yourself first and foremost. Working from home started with me wearing boxer shorts and pajama pants: very lazy. I thought, I don’t have to make an effort to make my look every morning, but then I started getting depressed. When I started to dress up every morning, it changed my whole mood, I started to feel good about myself. This is the task that fashion has,” Gvasalia concludes, “to bring this excitement or goodness to the person wearing it. That’s the least we can do.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.