Assemblage. Marni AW20

While the topic of sustainability seems to be utterly dormant in Milan, at least you’ve got Marni‘s Francesco Risso that takes some steps in order to address it. The collection used what appeared to be fragments of existing garments: take the cardigan dresses created from several different pieces of knitwear, each element linked with the crude stitchery of a child in a craft workshop. The remnant scraps produced in their manufacture, Risso noted, had been regenerated to create smaller elements such as the purses shaped like Victorian carpetbags or the old-fashioned wrestlers’ shoes. Risso described the effect as DIY, and the deliberate naivete continued with the magnificent finale pieces made using scraps of humble cotton fabric patchworked together with shards of cut velvet woven by hand in a factory in Venice on looms that were originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci – a vanishing, time-consuming craft that Risso understandably wants to “protect and exalt.” “They are basically our new furs,” he said of these precious garments. The collection, as the designer explained, was “collaged from the beginning to the end – from macro to micro to fractal. It’s about putting together remnants.” Julien d’Ys gold and silver dust make-up and lacquered hair on the models added even more spark to Risso’s wearable assemblage. Gorgeous.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainability (For Real). Gabriela Hearst AW20

Gabriela Hearst’s autumn-winter 2020 line-up was beautiful. And it managed to be really sustainably made, without making a fuss about it. For Hearst, enviroinment is a priority. And she can translate that passion into luxurious, softly minimal, super high quality clothes. Antique remnants of Turkish rugs were puzzled together in outerwear pieces lined with cashmere. The hand-made knitwear was done by Manos Del Uruguay, the non-profit cooperative female artisans, and Magdalena Koluch, a New York-based knitter – the multi-colored, fringed poncho is one of the many gorgeous results that came from this collaboration. Existing pieces of cashmere outerwear were deconstructed and re-assembled with blanket stitch creating a fantastic colour block pattern. Most of the used wools in this collection were re-printed and reused to create new pieces. Gabriela and her team really pushed the envelope this season in terms of sustainable fashion and creating out of waste products, and simultaneously made it look refined. Just see the biscuity, cashmere corduroy tailoring or the flowing eveningwear. Delightful!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Close To Nature Wherever You Are. Phipps AW20

The American brand named Phipps might not be the most “Parisian” and “fashion” of them all. But Spencer Phipps seems not to care. More importantly, since starting his label few years ago, he has been seriously devoted to sustainability (before it was “thing” for the industry). This season’s “Treehugger: Tales of the Forest” collection caught everyone by surprise with a collaboration that has to be Smokey Bear. Even the authorities at the U.S. Forest Service were perplexed at first, the designer said. But once the deal was signed, Phipps had decades of archives to riff on: Smokey turned 75 last year. Despite teen-camping nostalgia and authentic lumberjack style  – one of the models was, in fact, a lumberjack! – the designer noted that this collection was “a big step up in terms of luxury.” Placing a concern for nature within the luxury space is a serious challenge. To get there, Phipps said he tried to focus on suiting in a very smart way, sourcing cloth in northern England and paying close attention to details such as linings and buttons. He also used Steiff (the teddy bear brand) materials for sweatshirts and embellishment. “It’s biodegradable, very artisanal, and it has a luxury appeal,” he mentioned. “It’s not faux fur made from plastics. It’s a more traditional way of working.” Another favourite: the forest shaman spirit behind the huge blankets worn as shawls and whimsy, wooden “accessories”. Phipps’ commitment to slow fashion also prompted him to introduce what he’s calling his “gold label” – a range of curated vintage pieces, embellished and elevated to “treasure items” with a stylized gold star or forest ranger patches. That studied mashup included market-found jeans and flannels, heirloom pieces, and even a pair of jeans Phipps’s mom made back in the 1970s. “I’m just focusing on the lifestyle of sustainability. I’m not making you a new plaid shirt because there are so many out there already, and they’re beautiful,” the designer said. If only the big brands got the memo…

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainability At Its Best. Marni SS20

While one would think that the entire fashion industry wouldn’t really acknowledge the climate strike that happened across the world yesterday, it’s a relief to know there’s one designer who really cares. It’s Marni‘s Francesco Risso. Not only was the show’s setting considered in a sustainable way – guests sat on recompressed-cardboard benches under a recycled plastic jungle (made of reclaimed waste) – but also the new season clothes had a lot to do with this important topic. In his collection, Risso used upcycled textiles, organic cottons, and “recuperated” leathers in the most impressive ways. Balloon-smock tops paired with flared skirts, naive prints hand-painted by Francesco’s team, 1950s couture-inspired silhouettes that delivered a touch of eccentric elegance, chunky knits which hung asymmetrically. I also loved the fact that many of the pieces were aprons (that created an illusion of dresses) and were paired with full skirts. A novelty to try out next summer. All this was kept in a bold colour palette of orange, magenta and green, and was topped by Julien d’Ys’ incredible hair-styles that used dried flowers. Risso wanted to create a “joyous protestan homage to nature and our sense of humanity”, and he succeeded. It’s truly reassuring to see a major Italian brand putting sustainability as its priority. And makes it look so good!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Community and Our Planet. Collina Strada SS20

Hillary Taymour’s brand, Collina Strada, is another line-up from NYFW that will make you smile. This label is all about sustainability, but not in a shallow, ‘trendy’ way: each season, it focuses on community, a balanced life and our planet. The invitation listed a number of points that would help Mother Earth: eat less meat, start a garden, grow your own food, learn to compost, buy vintage and plant many trees were just some. The runway was staged on a street, along stalls of home-grown vegetables and fruits, free for pick-up (and perfect for a in-between-the-shows brunch). The models weren’t actual models, but friends of the brand, at different ages, sizes and races. They walked along their babies and pets. This was a raw and truly “real” fashion show. And the fashion was equally laid-back: it had the signature Collina Strada D.I.Y. feeling about it, full of tie-dye and garments made out of upcycled textiles and fabrics. I love New York’s small, independent brands.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.