The Age of Aquarius is Here!

Dries Van Noten spring-summer 2021

Today is probably the biggest astrological shift of our lives. It begins as Jupiter and Saturn are meeting in the sky, the closest they have been since 1623 – this part is called the ‘Grand Conjunction’. But what’s bigger is that they have both now, this week moved into Aquarius, an air sign which they haven’t been in for over 200 years. They will stay in air signs now for hundreds of years, symbolising the true beginning of the ‘Age of Aquarius’. So, what’s ahead of us? A time of evolution, social awareness, social justice and never before has it been more important to follow your life’s purpose. As @astrologyzone states: “this sets the tone for the ethos for the future affecting the arts, music, theatre, literature, entertainment, designer fashion, food, music, mathematics, science, politics, and the government agenda“. Pretty much everything. In other words, now is the time for some self-reflection and celebration of yourself. Take the time to meditate, appreciate and manifest – whatever makes sense for you. Think about where you want your life to go. Set your intentions, with purpose and love!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Revived Chic. Saint Laurent SS21

I loved Anthony Vaccarello‘s spring-summer 2021 collection for Saint Laurent. It was an exercise in ultimate chic, an escape from lockdown dressing as we know it. And the guest-less fashion show itself was a visual feast. The hypnotic film by longtime creative accomplice Nathalie Canguilhem of models walking in a snaking single file across striated sandbanks in… well, who knows where, exactly? On a call with Vaccarello a few days ago, he wasn’t letting on. It’s worth noting that the panoramic vista as far as the eye can see performed a similar trick here as it did in February: an uninterrupted backdrop the better to showcase his new streamlined silhouette. The line-up was surprisingly soft, hard edges rounded off, save for the punk-ish haircuts of the models. There’s a general air of relaxing, sometimes even playfulness – but nothing too loose. The months of life in and out of lockdown with the attendant desire for clothes with ease and softness didn’t leave Vaccarello untouched. “With everything that was going on in the world, I wanted something softer, warmer,” he said during that phone call from Paris. “I’ve never really done ‘comfortable’ before.” He found his answer to how to approach it by delving into the YSL archives, alighting in his usual resolutely left-field and non-historicist way on the fluid, pliable jersey dressing that Saint Laurent did in 1968. But the ultimate, refined loungewear was my my favourite here: sheer kaftan gowns and flou dresses, all of them denuded of any details, save for the accessories that accompany them: a hothouse bloom tied close to the throat via a leather thong, razor-sharp slingback heels and reissued versions of Claude Lalanne’s jewellery. Vaccarello’s success here is in answering the more intimate mood of the moment; being able to connect a house whose foundations rest on a particular brand of high-octane cool glamour – a very external expression of self – with our current deep inner need for ease and solace. Even his nods to the ’60s -they also include some very Valley of the Dolls florals and marabou negligee dressing, glorious exercises in kitsch, but just enough; and those geometric updates of the classic Vidal Sassoon five-point cut – aren’t nostalgic rehashes. Instead, it’s a wish to connect that decade’s optimism with his own sense of positivity; a sense that one can start looking again to the future. And who can blame him? By the time this collection is available to buy, Vaccarello will be celebrating the milestone of his fifth anniversary at the house. “I’m not the guy I was when I first came here,” he said. “I am more sure of myself.” So too it seems is the woman he has in his mind’s eye. “She was maybe more seductive when she started,” he said, “but now she has grown up. She has much less to prove.” It’s getting better and better!

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

Intimate Tactility. Bottega Veneta SS21

Here it is: one of the most anticipated collections of the season, presented publically three months after the usual spring-summer schedule. Daniel Lee came up with the most challenging and intriguing line-up yet, proving that his Bottega Veneta isn’t just about hype accessories. Back in October, selected guests arrived at Sadler’s Wells in London and sat on the stage immersed in light and sound as models wearing Lee’s new collection snaked through the socially distanced chairs. Had the pandemic not prevented it, Lee would’ve liked to take the concept around the world. “It was a bit like going backwards and thinking about how fashion shows began. This idea of salon shows,” he explained. “It felt extremely intimate and much more personal.” Throughout the show, which rather felt like an improvised happening, Neneh Cherry’s musings on style and clothes were the soothing soundtrack. The collection is defined by its tactility. Much of it is knit, sometimes in quite thick-gauge yarns. The jacquards practically pulsate, and there are dresses made entirely from car seat beads or tiny shards of pearlescent shells. Lee studied knitwear at Central Saint Martins, so no wonder why he feels confident with this medium. Case in point is the stretch-knit skirt suit in Bottega green that opens this look book. With its buttoned-to-the-neck cropped jacket and its mini-length carwash hem skirt, it doesn’t so much speak to our shut-in moment as it does gleefully anticipate our reemergence. “I wanted to create a world and a universe that felt very glamorous and done up, but also quite stripped and quite pure,” Lee said. “I’m always interested in this idea, of how you can feel done up and elegant at the same time as feeling comfortable. That’s really my kind of mission for Bottega.” Lee saved his boldest experiments for silhouettes. Many of the dresses are built up at the hips with padding. On a raw linen sundress the padding is hidden inside, but on a series of knit dresses it’s exposed as surface decoration. He explained that they were looking at the Tudor period, Henry VIII specifically. It’s a demanding shape, which will definitely keep the clients surprised and amused. And yes, all this creativity emerged from the early months of the pandemic makes it more impressive. On that subject Lee said: “A lot of us moved to Milan for Bottega, and obviously with the world shut down, all we really have is each other at the studio and the work. It’s almost like a therapy. It gets you through the darkest times because you can completely lose yourself in making a beautiful fabric, a beautiful garment.” So, not everything is becoming virtual, after all.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended. Gucci SS21

COVID-19 made fashion rethink many matters, from fashion week schedules to overproduction, but most of all, it accelarated the reflection on how to show a collection to wide audience, through the digital media, in the most appealing ways. Most of brands come up with a video or film. But the latest example takes notes from Netflix. Gucci‘s Alessandro Michele hired the one and only Gus Van Sant to make seven-episode miniseries that were shown one by one, for the entire week. At moments, the experience was bumpy. The poll I’ve made on Instagram mid-week suggested that 75% no longer paid attention to the digital Gucci event. While the visuals of Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended were striking, Silvia Calderoni’s acting was phenomenal and Gucci celebs appearances were amusingly witty (Harry Styles made a cameo wearing a pink tee tucked into denim shorts, and pronounced his improvised modern-day art manifesto: “when it comes to making art it’s about finding the thing you’ve always wanted to see that has never been made. It’s always an uncomfortable moment, I think, when you find the thing. You don’t know if you love it or hate it because you don’t really know what it is yet. But I think that’s the most exciting place to work in“; Florence Welch glided through a Gucci-fied vintage store and slipped handwritten notes into the pockets of jeans or the purse of a passerby; Billie Eilish performed her new song and danced with her pet robot dogs in what looked like the suburbs of L.A.), the focus on the clothes was hard to comprehend. Fashion films are pretty much always product-driven and lack substance, and here it was quite the opposite. There was plenty of substance, but I felt there was not enough of the collection itself. Maybe, as some editors suggested, the episodes could be shoppable? It would be great to find that golden balance. The miniseries streamed on Instagram and on a dedicated site dubbed GucciFest, where the brand also supported videos made by 15 emerging designers from around the world – which was a lovely gesture. Once you finally look at the look-book to see the actual spring-summer 2021 (and pre-fall 2021) clothes, you will be surprised (or not so much) that Michele decided to utterly focus on the core of his Gucci. The 90 looks saw some most distinct signatures, as well as Alessandro’s archives (especially pieces from his first Gucci collections). There was pretty much nothing new, and the collection was free of bizarre over-the-topness that made the label feel just too much for me in the pre-pandemic times. So, the brand’s customer will be pleased with all the vintage-y, wearable styles that are just the right amount of quirk, while the rest of the audience might use the line-up as an inspiration-filled portfolio. It seems to say: “shop your closet, no need to buy new stuff“.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Effortless and Warm. Proenza Schouler SS21

In the absence of a New York Fashion Week show, the Proenza Schouler designers – Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough – made their first-ever book with the photographer Daniel Shea. Shot in August, it pairs expressive model shots with even more evocative images of the city: the skyline at sunset, the Empire State building seen through a tangle of power lines, a super-tall tower on Billionaires’ Row. It’s an ode to their hometown in a year when they’ve spent very little of their time in it. In the early months of the pandemic they were up at their place in the Berkshires. They spent March and April on Zoom business calls trying to figure out how to make it through this unprecedented situation. When they finally turned to their next collection, their normal processes weren’t possible: no research trip, no dips into their archive, no silhouette studies on a model. “All we walked into the studio with was a feeling. We wanted something that felt effortless and warm; we wanted to get rid of the sharp edges. It just had to make you feel good. For us that’s what fashion should be at its most successful. It should make one’s life easier and feel good,” Hernandez said. “A forever quality,” McCollough elaborated, “something that lasts.” There are decorative treatments for both night and day here; allover sequins cover a straight-line shirtdress, and the shoulders of a button-down shirt and waistline of button-fly trousers are graphically dip-dyed. But the big story is really the attitude adjustment; without being boring the clothes feel simpler than what they’ve put on their recent runways. They emphasized easy-to-wear ribbed-knit separates and dresses, and stripped any artifice from their tailoring, which is just slightly oversized and mannish save for the suits’ soft pastel colors. Putting the accent on silhouette, they made a dress with a choker collar, a cut-out asymmetrical neckline, and voluminous sleeves, then cut the drama with puffy slippers. Those flat shoes are a key to the season’s new mood, a timely nod to our more circumscribed lifestyles and the renewed value that women are placing on comfort. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be staying homebound well into 2021. The collection’s knockout dress in stretch jersey with circular cut-outs on the bodice will be similarly comfortable, but the reason that women will really respond to it is because it looks like a guaranteed good time.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.