“For this collection, black is expressed through shadows,” said Kei Ninomiya in his spring-summer 2022 notes. “I wanted to express the ephemeral strength and beauty of things that are present around us although we cannot see them clearly.” The show was held in Aoyama, Tokyo, at the Commes des Garçons headquarters. Ninomiya has experimented with non-Noir color previously, most often via brilliant botanical worn installations that were absent today. Instead he expressed his notion of black’s shadow by creating a series of pieces in beige. The idea of something casting a paler shadow than itself implied a reversed polarity of some kind, and the paler procession of pieces did indeed mostly cover the still-breathtaking territory we have seen Ninomiya explore before. Sometimes, as in Look 15, they also looked to break new-for-Noir ground. Two more novelties were the use of woven hemp in rope-adjacent, wearable structures and the first written branding, beyond the garment label itself. The name of the brand was used to make rough white-on-black stripes and checks, which was fine enough on pants, shirts, and cycling shorts. When applied to a more sculptural piece, however, such as Look 9, this branding felt pretty extraneous. Noir Kei Ninomiya is a brand that doesn’t need logomania – those stunning, mushroom-y garments do the talking.
Early on in the pandemic, Bottega Veneta announced a new show model: Milan was out, and off-schedule, salon-style shows were in. Creative director Daniel Lee would take his collections on the road and engage with both local talents and local audiences in the cities where the brand posted up. First was London, his home base, last October. A show at Berlin’s Berghain nightclub followed in April. Salon 03 (read: spring-summer 2022) was staged at Detroit’s Michigan Theatre, a 4,000-something-seat movie palace built amid the city’s spectacular automotive-fueled boom in the 1920s that was converted into a parking garage during its even more spectacular 1970s bust. Mary J. Blige and Lil’ Kim were among the stars who jetted in to watch. From New York, a planeful of reporters, magazine editors, and stylists, plus the young designers Peter Do and Hillary Taymour, made the trip too. For many, if not most of them, it was their first time in the Motor City. Curiosity about Detroit, and about what Lee and company could get up to there, were the attractions. “I’m obsessed with Detroit,” Lee said after the show. “I first came here six years ago and fell in love with the place. I’m from Leeds; it’s the industrial heartland of the U.K., and Detroit being the industrial heartland of America, I feel this kind of connection.” Then there’s the music thing: “Detroit really is the birthplace of techno, and techno was the music that I was growing up to and going out to. I wanted to use my position to shine a light on all of that.” The day’s events included a culture tour that made stops at the mid-century Hawkins Ferry House in Grosse Pointe; the world’s first and only techno museum, Exhibition 3000; and the studio of furniture designer Chris Schanck, who is among the Detroiters who contributed to Bottega’s three-month pop-up shop at a decommissioned firehouse in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. The techno creatives Moodymann and Carl Craig were responsible for the sonic components of the show. Lee has made a strong impression in his three years at Bottega Veneta. Fashion’s first-movers were quick to pick up his softly constructed Pouch bag and wear his square-toed heels, and the trickle-down effect has been noticeable from the accessories floors of high-end department stores to the high street. That hemlines have risen and fashion has turned toward sexier silhouettes are arguably part of the Lee effect too. Given his choice of venue, he said he asked himself, “What’s American?” It was definitely the sportiest collection he’s shown so far, with tennis whites, dark-rinse jean jackets and skirts, and tracksuits engineered in a crosshatch check knit meant to imitate the house signature intrecciato motif. A pair of white dresses had the 1950s halter-neck va-va-voom of Marilyn’s famous Seven Year Itch dress, only Lee paired them with sneakers. In spite of the sportswear and workwear influences, there was a lot of interest at the level of the fabric. “For me,” said Lee, “Bottega Veneta is really a house of technique.” The season’s elevating, couture-ish details came in the form of intarsias and embroideries of a Tyrone Lebon photograph of Mica Argañaraz circa spring 2020 in nothing but Bottega’s sparkly pumps – a clothes-as-canvas kind of proposition. And much of the outerwear was shot through with metal threads, which gave the anoraks and blouson jackets and the pants they were worn with the glossy color and kinetic dimensionality of John Chamberlain’s old car sculptures.
Much of mainstream fashion wants what Dimitra Petsa has – just look at the many major designers cribbing her wet-look, Greek-goddess aesthetic (one of the recent Dior collections comes to mind). But if 2020’s lockdowns and fashion’s subsequent recalibration has taught us anything, it’s that emotion can’t be faked and a new generation of fashion lovers and customers are looking for a personal connection to their clothing. Di Petsa‘s ready-to-wear, presented at Paris Fashion Week for the first time as a guest of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, contains the same level of passion and fury as her one-off gowns. The proof isn’t only in the sensitive way she drapes her jersey to cradle the bosom, slide down the hips, or pool on the ground around the wearer’s ankles – she describes her process both as “the body emerging from something” and as a method of “accentuating the naked body, not covering it up” – but in the many women from Greece and the U.K. who went to Paris to help make Petsa’s vision real. She’s called her collection Nostos-Touch; the touch part is obvious, representing the idea of wanting to be embraced but being wary of its consequences. Nostos is Greek for “homecoming,” sort of like Odysseus after a long journey through the Mediterranean. Petsa is less concerned with the trials of that mythic man and more with the Sirens he finds along the way. She tapped into this darker side of femininity, the idea of mermaids caught in nets, of constraint and dangerous freedom, with a moody palette of cobalt, navy, burgundy, and gold. Even with its complicated drapery and cutouts, this collection is her most wearable offering yet, made from cotton jersey and Tencel and adorned with custom marine blue rings, bracelets, and necklaces. At Paris Fashion Week, the Petsa Poseidonesses came together in a performance centered around the musician Lola Lolita. Models writhed, swayed, and lay down while Lolita commanded the ceremony. Petsa says she wants to move away from Western perceptions of Greek culture. Even those with a long memory and long scholarship of ancient cultures may be hard-pressed to remember the pre-Greeks, but many of those who do have hypothesized that the earliest cultures on the Peloponnesus were matriarchal. One hopes Petsa’s customers are willing to join her on this journey through time and womanhood – but if not, these are still some of the most beautiful sexy dresses and separates this season.
This is one of these The Row collections that are just… perfect. And extremely relevant. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have never been the type to discuss the deeper meaning of their collections, and they’re not about to start now, but the opening look of their pre-fall 2022 offering definitely meets the turbulence of our current moment. It’s a grain de poudre jacket worn backwards, its single button fastened mid-spine and its lapels framing the shoulder blades. “Adaptability” is definitely one of their running themes here. Other tailored jackets can be worn inside-out, and on the accessories front there are reversible tote bags and cotton voile “protectors” for leather styles. After a season of more oversized, relaxed shapes, the waist has come back into focus for the Olsens. Their elongated and slightly nipped jackets cut an elegant line, and many of the looks are accessorized with leather belts featuring useful add-ons for cell phones and ear buds. Elsewhere, there are generous, pillowing volumes, as in the red nylon cellophane top and skirt of look two, which are cut with bubble hems to accentuate their material’s airy lightness. Extending a newfound interest in color, they showed metallic viscose knit separates in bright lilac or red worn layered and even wrapped around the head like scarves, and a trench in a crimped aqua tulle, shown with a matching bag. They also embraced humor. A couple of shrunken T-shirts (paired with excellent boned-waist trousers) are scribbled with children’s drawings; officially they’re part of The Row’s kid’s line, but they’ll be sold in women’s sizes too. The final look is the other side of that reversed jacket. It’s a back-to-front world, but The Row can help you hold it together.
Rosie Assoulin is back. Well, not that she was actually absent – her delicious wine project, Vivanterre, keeps on growing, and her clothing line continuously keeps on delivering the wittiest eveningwear in New York – but spring-summer 2022 line-up is the first full-blown collection coming from the designer since the pandemic has started. Assoulin hasn’t shown a new collection since the eeriest March of 2020. That brilliant autumn-winter 2020 collection made it to Paris, but she and her husband Max, the brand’s CEO, made the wise choice to stay in New York as the virus descended on Europe. Eighteen months later, she was back in Paris working double-duty: taking IRL appointments in a courtyard showroom and Zooming with editors. She and her husband have been busy on the business side of things, too: In May, they formed a partnership with HIM Co. to scale the label in Europe and Asia. The most noticeable change for spring 2022 was the expansion into vegan leather shoes, like a preppy new sneaker, and new unisex sweaters intarsia’d with the brand’s graphic logo. What stands out most is the collection’s surprising anchor motif – a timeless symbol. Several looks feature bandeau tops hand-knitted in the curvy shape of an anchor, while a crisp white dress had one cut away at the ribcage. Other pieces came in watercolor anchor prints or with beaded fishing lures dangling from the sleeves; in a subtler twist, a white cotton gown had an oversized sailor collar fanning down the back. These summer-perfect pieces felt light and charming, delicate yet quirky, polished but with plenty of humor. There’s always a story behind Rosie’s curiosities, too: the sailing idea came from her kids’ favorite book, Amos and Boris. It got her thinking about going on a far-flung, care-free adventure again. The looks that captured that feeling best had a DIY feeling about them, in that you could twist and style them multiple ways. An ivory evening coat was cut with sashes in the front, to be left loose or tied in a bow, while a glittery one-shouldered gown was shown over black trousers, Assoulin’s signature twist on black tie. Other looks got more inventive: for instance, the skirt of that white cotton gown could be removed to become a shorter day dress. A shimmery coral bustier dress came with an attached matching shirt, inspired by the best-selling “one thousand ways” sweater Assoulin launched last year, which merged a cable-knit camisole and shrug. As for the dress, you could wear the shirt open, tie the sleeves around your waist or loop them around your shoulders, or remove the shirt entirely. It’s at least five looks in one. As the pandemic situation seems to calm down, smaller labels start to gradually re-emerge. Rosie Assoulin takes us on a dreamy sea cruise – I’m hopping in!