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.