Limitless. Valentino AW20 Couture

And again, Valentino‘s Pierpaolo Piccioli is the king of haute couture, even after months of confinement that could basically cancel the entire season. Entitled “The Performance: of Grace and Light, a dialogue between Pierpaolo Piccioli and Nick Knight,” the presentation played as a hybrid digital / physical event staged in a darkened void on the famed Cinecitta movie lot in Rome for local press and friends of the house. In a Zoom press conference, Piccioli explained he’d conceptualized the 16-look collection as “an extreme response” to the tough circumstances of lockdown; a determination to overcome the technical problems of socially-distanced working in the Valentino atelier and the impossibility of creating prints and lavish embroideries. “I didn’t want to feel the limitations. Couture is made for emotions, dreams,” he said. “It was super-emotional for us all to be here together to win this challenge. A moment I will never forget.” First came a pre-recorded screening of an artily glitchy video by Knight, in which projections of flowers and feathers played over meters-long dresses worn by women who appeared to hover in an aerial circus scenario. Cut to real time: curtains drew back to reveal the models, standing perched on ladders in a static tableau, their dresses – some of Pierpaolo’s biggest couture hits, elongated to the extremes, and revealed to be all-white – cascading to the floor, videoed live. INCREDIBLE. The idea of taking the show to Cinecitta, Rome’s “factory of dreams,” led the designer to add the concept of “the magic of early cinema,” evoking the silent movie imagery of with silver sequins and waterfalls of glittering fringe. To make it even more ethereal, Piccioli commissioned recordings from FKA twigs – her extraordinary voice soared poignantly as the models swung from trapezes and floated through Knight’s digital performance. Fashion communication on multi-platform formats has taken surreal twists and turns as designers have tried to conquer the dreadful problems of the pandemic. In Piccioli’s case, the surrealism was right there, embodied in the theatrical form of some of the most gorgeous dresses the world has ever seen.

Collages 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.

Clothed Bodies. Gucci Pre-Fall 2020

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Alessandro Michele‘s pre-fall 2020 collection for Gucci is the post scriptum of his vision he staged back in September. “It tells the same story about proportion, silhouette, and, above all, the balance between shape and color,” he summed up. Balancing contrasting bearers of meaning in the same outfit has always been a Michele’s skill. He simplified his looks – cleaning it up (aesthetically) definitely works for Alessandro lately. Shapes had clarity, with hints to the elegance of the 1960s (trapeze dresses in solid colors or in black with cutout décolletage; short capes calling to mind Pierre Cardin’s futuristism; bold floral ensembles with boxy-cut little jackets) and to the free-spirited bohemia of the 1970s (gorgeous kaftans in every possible length; flowing feminine chemisier dresses; floor-grazing linen tunics with contrasting macramé appliqués or geometric motifs). Decoration and embellishments, although reduced, were still idiosyncratic and full of appeal. Michele’s knack for cultivated quirk crept up also in his punctuation of lingerie as a subtly sexual message – a theme he introduced in the September show. Logoed brassieres and underwire bras peeked from underneath blouses or crisscrossed open tops, worn under leather blazers.

The lookbook was shot in Rome through the lens of  Bruce Gilden. The cast of characters was as diverse as can be, including model and advocate Bethann Hardison and fashion legend Benedetta Barzini, both fabulous in their age-defying charisma and presence. “At the core [of the collection] remains the relationship between clothing and its wearer, and everything that revolves around these ‘clothed bodies,’” explained Michele. “The set and the photography not only emphasize the look but also the characters, providing a viewpoint to delve into the relationship between empty and full spaces, between clothed bodies and the space around them—and therefore between where we are and what is happening.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Romans. Gucci Resort 2020

Another day, another resort show taking place somewhere in the world. Gucci‘s resort 2020 unfolded in the shadowy halls of the Musei Capitolini in Rome, where the legendary Capitoline wold statue stands guard telling the story of Romulus and Remus and the mythic tale of the Founding of Rome in the 8th century B.C. Where busts of Hadrian, whose love affair with Antinous peaks fantasies up to now, and Neron, who was one of the first dictators and mysogynists in the world, might look at each other in the corridor. Alessandro Michele‘s new collection was lots, lots of history, heavily inspired with loose sheats and tunics of Romans. And there was this notion of theatrical dressing up, something Romans loved a lot. Michele revisited this idea (as if he didn’t every season…) with more modern, pop references: Elton John (who sat front row), Bob Mackie’s iconic black peacock Cher look, 70s Gucci jet-set style, Mickey Mouse prints… well, lots of content. So much that you barely see the clothes, which is something we already got used to with Gucci shows. Alessandro also attempted to grasp something from the contemporary world – which is highly recommeded for brands with such huge platform of viewers. A uterus was embroidered on a pleated gown, sparking very mixed feelings on social media, and as the brand explained, “the piece reflects the creative director’s continuing vision of freedom, equality and self-expression. Since founding Chime for Change in 2013 – the global campaign that represents and advocates for gender equality – Gucci has a longstanding commitment to women and girls by funding projects around the world to support sexual and reproductive rights, maternal health and the freedom of individual choice.” Which is, shortly speaking, a comment on current abortion issues going on in USA (and not only). A blue jacket with “MY BODY MY CHOICE” slogan on the back was even more straight-forward. Still, I’m not a fan of this collection. There’s just too much going on. And with every ‘fantasy’ of Alessandro, it gets blurrier and blurrier…

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Rome Addresses

Planning a trip to Rome? You might want to take a look at the addresses I’ve discovered in this truly magical city.

Trattoria Al Moro is a proper, Roman trattoria with wood panels from the 1920’s, a very Italian, beautifully overcharged interior, and a chic ambience. Their daily specials are always a must, just like the signature Al Moro pasta. For the dessert take the profiteroles. You will ask for more, I tell you.

Vicolo delle Bollette 13

Origami is the best kept secret of the most stylish, Roman women. This unfussy boutique sells clothes of own production – think turtleneck dresses in geometric prints, gorgeous basket totes, loosely fitted cardigans, everything kept shades of ochre, rust and lilac – in very reasonable, affordable prices. The historic, wooden ceiling is an impressive addition to this spot.

Via dei Banchi Vecchi 144

Dana is a store located in a former church. Even the confessional stayed, and now it’s used as a dressing room. We’re in Rome! Independent, small brands from Rome are sold here.

Via del Pellegrino 167

I bet you won’t eat a better pizza in Rome. Pizzeria Da Baffetto is a simple, compact white-tiled restaurant specializing in Roman-style, thin and crispy pizzas. They are so, so good in here. If you don’t want to wait in a line (and they get really big) better come for (early) lunch at around noon.

Via del Governo Vecchio 114

Laity Mbaye’s Metissage atelier. While this man will surely hypnotize you with his look that is a beautiful balance between Italian tailoring and Senegalese origins, please do check out the garments he designs himself and the hand-picked artisanal accessories he sells at his store.

Largo del Pallaro 18

Lou Lou sells curated, very refined brands that all share a poetic, dark aesthetic. Uma Wang, Reinhard Park, Guidi, Sara Lanzi are just some of the labels you will find on the racks of this eclectically furnished store. If you’re looking for a gift, check out their fragrance display filled with niche, Italian names that specialise in true, olfactory experiences.

Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 113

Oh, and Prada‘s huge store that’s just across the Spanish Steps. I mean, how can you not go inside? Some of the leather goods and perfumes are exclusives available only here in Rome.

Via dei Condotti 89

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Photos by Edward Kanarecki.