Heroes. Marc Jacobs SS23

Marc Jacobs held his latest fashion show in the Park Avenue Armony, a week before New York Fashion Week officially begins. Even if the king of New York’s fashion scene doesn’t return to the event, the entire outing felt very New York. The giant room was pitch dark and almost empty, save for a single row of chairs and spotlights illuminating the space in front of them. A solo violinist, Jennifer Koh, played a portion of Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach.” Jacobs gave the collection a name – “Heroes” – and included a Vivienne Westwood quote in his show notes more earnest than irreverent: “Fashion is life-enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people.Westwood died in December at 81, and when she passed Jacobs posted a black-and-white photo of the legendary designer as a young woman. In it, she wears her bleached blond hair in spikes and a button-down stenciled with the words: “Be reasonable, demand the impossible.” At the time, Jacobs wrote that he was heartbroken, saying, “I continue to learn from your words, and all of your extraordinary creations.” This collection was an emotionally charged homage to the “godmother of punk,” from the top of the models’ peroxide wigs to the bottom of their platform shoes. Naomi Campbell, you’ll remember, famously fell in her platforms at Westwood’s autumn 1993 show. But Jacobs has learned much more than that from the late designer. The “tit tops” of Westwood’s Pirate collection circa 1981, in which she twisted t-shirt fabric into nipples, were reinterpreted as casual knit leotards and nipped and tucked sheath dresses. Here, the romantic silhouettes that Westwood lifted from old master paintings, with their bustles and bustiers, got a dressing down in military surplus, heavy on the cargo pockets. Jacobs recreated her signature volumes by turning a shirt into a skirt and tying its sleeves in the back, or by dressing models in upside-down jackets, hems dramatically framing their faces. A few of the models walked past with their arms crossed, pantomiming Westwood’s defiant audacity. Long-line coats with the geometric patchworks of quilts may not be of direct lineage, but their DIY-ness chimes with Westwood’s punk ethos. They’re special pieces, not precious because of the materials Jacobs used – they actually looked quite humble – but because of their remarkable handwork. Tinged with sadness, but also with moving, creative expression, this collection proves again that no one does it like Marc.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Why Do I Make Clothes? Marni AW23

Marni‘s autumn-winter 2023 collection by Francesco Risso felt like a big shift. Not only because it was presented in Tokyo (Marni travels the world – last season, the brand opened New York Fashion Week), although that certainly became a new context for comprehending what this Italian label stands for today. The Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the fashion show’s spectacular venue, was built by the architect Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Summer Olympics. It’s a structure, as Risso pointed out, “both rigorous and intimate – it looks to the future while keeping a feel of enveloping protection, like if you were in a womb.” This way of balancing discipline and humanity, cutting-edge design and domesticity, connects with the soul-searching Risso has been doing on the meaning of making clothes. “Here in Japan I’ve found a profound sense of patience, of stillness, of respect, something that in the West I believe we’re losing.” He continued: “We’re surrounded by futility. After three years of pandemic, where we all have been vocal about the changes we wanted in the system, to slow down, etc., we’re back to square one. We are again devoured by the brutality of the algorithm.”Going back to the love he feels for his metier keeps him grounded. At the show, on each of the paper-covered seats, he left a handwritten letter whose opening line asked: “why do I make clothes?” For the Marni creative director, clothes are living creatures, they touch, breath, move; it’s a love dance, a sentimental relationship: “Because they’re our companions, and there’s more to them than just air kisses. I don’t know if I make clothes that people need, or if I make clothes that need people, or if I make clothes for the people that I urgently need to need the clothes that need them… What I do know is that today we need less and less clothes that are needless.”

White is a non-color that speaks of absence, but also of clarity. It is a carte blanche on which new words are ready to be written. Wrapping the arena in white paper spoke of a desire for simplicity, for reducing noise and distractions. But Risso is no minimalist, and even if he preached rigor and linearity, the collection had presence, density, and punch. He traded his usual slightly bonkers decorations for starker, elemental graphics, and reduced the palette to a few saturated primary colors: yellow and red playing against white and black. Every look was an all-over proposition, and for both men and women in the mostly local cast (plus Marni favorites like Paloma Elsesser and Angel Prost), silhouettes alternated between slender and form-fitting and bulky and bulbous. Tailoring was offered in oversized versions, and knitwear, a Marni forte, had fuzzy mohair surfaces, as in the jumbo round-cut piuminos that were among the collection’s standouts. The swirling, magical motifs of sirens and unicorns of previous outings were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by kinetic grids and optical checks, and by slightly Yayoi-Kusama-esque bouncing dots of various sizes. Rectangular tunics and angular apron dresses contrasted with form-fitting, heart-shaped bustier dresses that were kept neat rather than sensual. Cocoons in padded leather or wool conveyed enveloping, comforting warmth. “It’s a collection with one foot in tradition and the other in a not-impossible future,” he said backstage. “It’s a sort of rhythmic alternation of proud normality and proud creativity.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Strong & Sexy. Blumarine Pre-Fall 2023

For this season I was thinking about punk rock, something strong and sexy, something provocative,Nicola Brognano said regarding his pre-fall 2023 line-up for Blumarine. So far, Brognano’s instincts haven’t failed him. He has put Blumarine on the map, creating a certain hype and some commercial blockbusters. He wants to keep the momentum going. The new item he’s resurrected from the Y2K-era that he was one of the first to champion are cargos cropped below the knee, the infamous knickerbockers that we all have happily pushed to the back of our wardrobes. But no, they’re back, and Brognano is responsible for saving them from oblivion. Proposed in délavé denim washed “with a dirty effect,” as Brognano pointed out. As an alternative to the sure-to-be-a-hit proposition, humongous flares made a reappearance, as did liquid mermaid dresses in viscose, this time worn under ultra-cropped, round-shaped piuminos, or with enveloping knitted coats mimicking a furry effect. Ruching replaced embellishments as a decoration, inserted in seams on denim fitted shirts or on denim trousers worn inside-out, and extended into sort of trailing ribbons dangling from hems or from voluminous knitted draped jumpers. Colors were kept moody, a far cry from the macaron coyness of candy pinks and nursery blues of the label’s beginnings. “She’s sexier, dirtier, her look is almost wrong,” said the designer. “A bit grungier, more grown up, more real.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Intimacy. Alaïa AW23

Azzedine Alaïa used to present his collections on 7 Rue de Moussy in Paris, the legendary address which wasn’t only the studio and flagship Alaïa store, but also his home. After the shows – or even on regular days – he invited his guests, from friends to models, to his kitchen, where he served his favorite dishes. This feeling of family-like community was fundamental for the designer and his independent brand. For autumn-winter 2023, Pieter Mulier took that notion to heart, and held his latest fashion show in his and his partner’s (Matthieu Blazy, Bottega Veneta’s creative director) apartment in Antwerp. The group of guests was small: a pack of fashion’s finest critics, the brand’s muses (like Tina Kunakey) and Mulier’s friends (think Raf Simons, Gaia Repossi and Dries Van Noten). The 1972 Brutalist landmark home was a fitting backdrop for the designer’s fourth collection for the brand: sophisticated, somber, very Antwerp. With that gesture, Mulier wanted “to share something of who I am” by pulling Alaïa’s culture onto his own territory. “It’s actually very simple. I didn’t want to do a big show – I didn’t want cold, distant glamour. I want to do something very intimate, small as Azzedine liked it,” he explained. His models had performed their long-leggedy Alaïa strides around his apartment in a collection that showed, in close-up, how the clothes fit to the body (rounded in the shoulder, wrapped, draped). The architecture, and the quality of the Flemish light has an effect on how Mulier sees and shapes his design, he said. “We work here on the beginning of every collection on the ground floor studio with the Alaïa team”, he revealed. “When I start, I always work in the kitchen. And when I’m in the kitchen, I look up to the cathedral, over there.” The conversation with his surroundings began a pursuit of a sculpted roundness, he said. “In our house, everything is geometric. In Alaia, everything is about the two extremes of masculine and feminine, and basically our house is very masculine. You put a feminine silhouette in it and it changes completely. Everything was sculpted on the body so everything is round; all the drapes are cut in circles.” Rounded shoulders, sculpted torso, narrowed hips, elongated silhouette: the beginning, in dense immaculately-fitted dark brown jersey, introduced it. There were bodysuits, jackets, bustiers, and flipped-out skating skirts. Eyes zoomed in to figure out the lines of glinting silver that were running down the backs of sleeves and undulating over hips. They were conceptual ‘pins’ – part homage to the dressmaking and fitting process, part perverse play on piercing; sharpness versus softness. Also a nod to a dress Alaïa once made.

But where was the Belgian identity of Mulier beginning to be apparent? “The tailoring is very minimal. I told the team, I want it to be as minimal as possible, with the maximum effect. But it needs to be sensual, where all the drapes are circles,” he said. “There’s a white dress where we just cut it, draped, attached it – and that was it. So on that level it’s very Antwerp.Very simple.” The white dress, with its scarf over the head, serendipitously evoked the drape of the North African hoods Alaïa often referenced. But there was surely the hint of other Belgian street vibes going on. There was another kind of bomber-hoodie and a distinct echo of an army-surplus parka; then, Mulier’s choice of faded denim rather than Alaïa’s classic rigid version. Moving toward evening, Mulier’s drapes in black cotton were whipped around the body in a dynamic caught between sophistication and romance. Back views mattered: one dress had a low-down half-moon cutout that reverbed sexily from the showstopper Mulier sent out last season. He is not one to rush, but nevertheless, in his logical, emotional Belgian manner of doing things, Mulier is gradually putting his own stamp on the brand. Maybe this collection wasn’t as ferocious and bold as his first line-ups for the brand, but it certainly was the most emotionally-charged.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Mugler AW23

Back in the 80s and 90s, nobody did a (fashion) show like Thierry Mugler. In 2023, Mugler, the brand, lead by Casey Cadwallader, delivers an equal level of showmanship. “We’re showing during couture week because we’re bad. At Mugler we do whatever we want,” the designer stated before the choreographed mayhem kicked off. “We’re quite an outlier in the way we do things,” he added. What went down: a runway frenzy that idolized the talents and bodies of models and friends of the house simultaneously merged with live-captured dolly footage of said models and friends, which was consumed on a vast screen erected at the top of a set of stairs. And all over the internet, obviously. Crews of men on movie dollies slid on tracks filming the wildly whooped-at cast: Arca, Ziwe, Mariacarla Boscono, Shalom Harlow, Eva Herzigova, just to name few. There was hair swishing galore. A synchronized handbag-swinging lace-bodysuited dance troupe occupied some center steps. Then one by one, each Mugler supermodel climbed aboard another dolly, on which they could pose around a pole for the return journey. This second crew had a low-down camera which zoomed up crotch-wards, deploying a technique which might be termed up-skirting – had there been any skirts in evidence. Magnified on the monolithic screen, these oooh-aaah fragments were flashed in a live-streamed mix. What about the fashion content? Categorizing it as a collection of leather and lace doesn’t quite cover it. One thing to be said: Whether manifesting as baggy-topped leather chaps suspended under a hip-grazing heavy-duty chrome-zippered bodysuit, or a bisected one-leg, one-sleeve motorcycle suit, or indeed anything Cadwallader did with stretch black lace – it all miraculously stayed in place. And that is quite a technical achievement. It’s tricky to compare Cadwallader’s Mugler with Manfred Thierry Mugler’s original haute couture extravaganzas. In 2023, as far as being inclusive to bodies and identities, Cadwallader for sure outdoes the master. But Mugler was the outlier in his time: the man who foresaw fashion shows as cinematic spectacles. It’s a great continuation of the legacy.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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