Business really isn’t as usual in the times of COVID-19 (and even in the “post” moment that’s now in Europe). Traditionally, end of June and beginning of July is the the moment for all the resort and men’s collections, and in general this time of the year is a sort of “summer September” of fashion. But not entirely in 2020. Showroom visits for the press and buyers are done via Zoom only. Majority of collections feel very safe and are based on the brand’s signatures. Still, some of the line-ups impress, and moreover, appear to be some of the best work coming from the designer in a while. Glenn Martens‘ Y/Project is a great example of how crisis and chaos can bring new ideas and trigger a kind of brand evolution. Martens’ innovatively constructed, apparently woozily skewed garments whose conventional templates are drawn from across the demographic landscape of womenswear and menswear, are brain-bending at first glimpse, and often only make sense upon second look. “Obviously, these looks are distorted, and that is part of the fun of the brand. But most of them you can wear calmed down. Have you seen the video?”, he told Vogue. This season, instead of holding a menswear fashion show, Martens worked to create a video show-and-tell for Y/Project newbies that he said was partially inspired from the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons, in which Glenn Close is laboriously installed into her pannier dress. Here Martens and two colleagues show how looks from these jointly digitally presented collections can be worn; take a fitted, ruched-body womenswear jacket, pull a drawstring, and – ta-da! – you have a full-length dress. Or reach into the innards of a louchely cut suit and – voilà! – you have a double-layered look with a new denim foundation. Martens concluded: “It’s a kind of lava lamp of looks… showing how you can personalize your clothes and how you can make it look as crazy as you want or you can tone it down as much as you want.” The collections here are around a third the size of a normal-times Y/Project offering, and Martens said that the restrictions of lockdown meant that many of the pieces were hewn from deadstock. The collection includes past designs that have been redesigned and upgraded to be even more twisty the second time around. This is a virtue, as is that distorted adaptability that is at the core of Martens’s work – for what could be more sustainable than a single garment that you can wear in a multitude of ways? Also, as the press was informed, Martens discussed Evergreen, which is the title of a new all-sustainable collection of core Y/Project pieces that will start with a launch of 16 pieces online in September, and then be added to going forward. “It’s a selection of garments, which I believe can go into your wardrobe forever. And we also decided to only make them in the most basic materials which are not at all oriented to a season, so it’s really black, white, and denim.” These garments are not “basics” – the initial lineup includes Y/Project’s much-socialed, super-skimpy, jean/panty “janty” hybrid – and bear all the usual twisty codes of Martens’s design-eye, including rotating-collar shirts and hoiked-shoulder blazers. Looking forward to see it!
Collages by Edward Kanarecki.
A big, big shout-out to ASAI, the London-based label by A Sai Ta, which has launched a micro-collection of two already cult dresses (all thanks to Rihanna!) with a truly admirable intention: by offering those piecec directly to customers, the designer is donating all of the profit (after the cost of production), to these charitable organisations: Black Lives Matter, Solace Women’s Aid, and The Voice of Domestic Workers. The Hot Wok RIRI dress and Hot Wok Hope dress are patchworked from 16 to 18 panels with the label’s signature overlocked seam detail with raw edges. The dresses are made from stretchable nylon fabric, in mixed pink, chili red and ivory tie-dye. Both of these summer-perfect dresses debuted at Arise fashion week 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria, and were worn by Elizabeth Osagie-Ero and Aderonke Akinyemi. Citing ASAI’s site, “AS An Intention It will be produced exclusively for the first time, in an effort to support, not to profit.” The suggested price for this dress is £333, if you are able and willing to contribue more to support the charities – further pricing options are offered. Also, you can get that A.S.A.I. poster!
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Being a small label, even an established one, might be even more nerve-wracking in the uncertain nearly-post-corona times, than when the pandemy striked in the beginning of spring and the whole population was equally confined and paralysed by the new reality. Just think of Sies Marjan, the New York-bsed brand designed by Sander Lak that seemed to thrive in its five-year existence, and then suddenly closed just a few days ago – due to the crisis. But then, not all young brands seem to be totally doomed. Cecilie Bahnsen, for instance, has a very distinct, signature product – her dreamy, ethereal cloudy-puffy dress – which has organically built a fandom around her small Danish label. She even released a resort 2021 look-book, something many labels quit or have delays with. And the idea behind this collection shows just how much the designer has grown and reconsidered her brand. Using 100% upcycled fabrics from previous collections – a response to lockdown limitations – Bahnsen created corseted and peplumed dresses and tops decked out with lace, as well as witchy black coats and jackets. Other pieces combine patchworks of quilting, embroidered organza, and sheer silk faille. One of the most dynamic looks in the collection was a canary yellow frock with a spliced-up cable-knit sweater and a caged floral overlay on the skirt. Another was a hybridized white sweater top and dress featuring no fewer than five different fabrics from Bahnsen’s archive. Moreover, the designer plans to continue experimenting with upcycling and will release smaller, monthly capsule collections made entirely from stockpiled fabrics under the name Encore. This month’s features not just dresses but also blankets and pillows. Speaking from her studio in Copenhagen, Bahnsen told Vogue she’s focused on accessibility: “I want the dresses and everything else to be worn in the streets, not just during special occasions. This was a creative challenge, as I normally work very clean and don’t like to mix too much. But I knew there were a lot of ideas hidden in these old fabrics, and I needed to reflect on them, to maybe be less precious and to give them new value.” Two take-aways from this small capsule: Bahnsen has a distinct point of view and it was satisfying to see her play around with it a bit more freely, mashing things up and giving new life to unused materials.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! The main points behind the Grace Wales Bonner‘s spring-summer 2019 collection weres spirituality and the seek for inner peace. Wales Bonner found Ram Dass, one of the first people who brought ideas of yoga and meditation to a Western audience, as the key for that relaxed, yet oozing with mystique line-up. Inspirational texts from the spiritual teacher’s book appear printed on loosely fit t-shirts, cotton shirts and over-sized yoga pants. Some read such profound quotes as: “The stillness. The calmness. The fulfillment. When you make love and experience the ecstasy of unity.” But the collection as well has a less laid-back, more celebratory side. Some of the pieces were hand-embellished with shiny sequins and were a nod to craftsmanship originating from India. More about the collection, click here. For more of the London-based designer, click here!
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! If you haven’t read my post on the Glemaud, the most exciting, New York-based knitwear label, take a look here. In the above collage, the simple, yet strikingly elegant purple knitted dress looks even more divine in Arthur Mitchell’s legendary Dance Theater of Harlem – here photographed by Lord Snowdon (and starring the one and only Iman!).
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Duro Olowu‘s bold fashion needs no introduction. Born in Lagos to a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother, Duro Olowu spent his childhood travelling between Nigeria and Europe. From an early age, his enthusiasm for fashion was inspired by the unexpected mix of fabrics, textures and draping techniques of the clothing worn by the women that surrounded him. The designer started his eponymous label at the end of 2004, and up to now he’s one of London’s favourite designers with a loyal, art-world-focused clientele (in a way, similar to Mona Kowalska’s now-closed cult A Détacher in New York). Alluring silhouettes, sharp tailoring, original prints juxtaposed with luxurious vintage fabrics in “off beat” yet harmonious combinations are Olowu’s signature. For spring-summer 2020 he drew on the work of Françoise Gilot, who is perhaps most famous for being Picasso’s romantic partner, though the 97-year-old French painter, art critic, and author is a creative force in her own right. Olowu came across a recently reissued collection of her travel sketches, and her colorful impressions of India, Senegal, and Italy from the late 1970s and early ’80s informed his new collection. One particularly eye-catching coat in that series was spliced with panels of pale pink made from vintage interior fabric that Olowu came across on a trip to Lille, in northern France. It was upcycling done with a sophisticated hand. Then, if you look at Olowu’s autumn-winter 2019 line-up, “cosmopolitan”, “chic” and “Afrique” were the three words that the designer used to describe the spirit the collection, which was inspired by Miriam Makeba, the fearless South African singer and civil rights activist. Makeba, who was known as Mama Africa to her fans, possessed a wardrobe that was purpose-built as a celebration of African pride at a time when her country was in the grip of apartheid. You could see her influence right off the bat, in a graphic knit coat with patch pockets and detachable snood (Makeba was rarely seen without a towering head wrap or hat). That motif was repeated to flattering effect on an A-line maxi dress that could have been pulled from her closet. The world of Olowu is eclectic and rich, and each collection tells a unique story. Induldge yourself in his idiosyncratic, feminine and timeless work by browsing his previous collections on his site. And if you’re in London, visit his boutique on 14 Masons Yard!
Collages by Edward Kanarecki, look-book photos from different Duro Olowu‘s collections.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Thebe Magugu staged his debut presentation at Paris fashion week after scooping the prestigious LVMH prize last autumn. The first African designer to win in the competition’s seven-year history, Magugu paid homage to his homeland with a photo exhibition entitled Ipopeng Ext, after an area in Kimberley, South Africa, the city in which he grew up. Fittingly, the name itself translates as “to beautify oneself.” Elegant and evocative portraits of Magugu’s local community lined the walls of the museum; they had been captured by two of the continent’s most celebrated young image makers: South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman and Sierra Leone–born stylist Ib Kamara. “These people and places were my earliest references,” said Magugu gesturing to a picture of his cousin Smangaliso posing in his neighborhood church wearing a fluffy light blue sweaterdress. Exquisite reminders of Magugu’s childhood were threaded throughout the collection, including a photoprint of his aunt’s iron roof that was abstracted to look like distressed denim on a marabou-feather-trimmed button-down with matching pants. Inspired by a retro tablecloth, the carnation-print trench coat had a characterful charm that was just as striking. Magugu’s uncle Nephtaly was pictured on a motorcycle dressed in a collared shirt that was covered in an illustration of two black women consoling each other by the Johannesburg-based artist Phathu Nembilwi. Beyond telling a very personal story, Magugu’s clothes are often a form of social commentary, particularly as it pertains to women’s rights in South Africa. As the designer explained, the print was a subtle political statement on the country’s rising femicide rate. Perhaps equally radical is Magugu’s unwavering commitment to producing in South Africa. The new logo satchel was handcrafted by artisans in Johannesburg, while his latest knitwear offerings were all made in Cape Town. Magugu is poised to export his special made-in-Africa vision across the globe.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos courtesy of Thebe Magugu.
In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. I wrote about Christopher John Rogers not a while ago right here, and I must admit: I’m obsessed with his work! Here’s this gorgeous finale gown from the Brooklyn-based designer’s autumn-winter 2020 collection to brighten up your Tuesday.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Many dreams and plans had to be thrown away to the trash bin due to coronavirus. The Chanel resort 2021 collection was originally intended to be shown on Capri, the heavenly Italian island. Virginie Viard has a hard time with the critics, but I find her work attractive and purely Chanel. She’s focused on the essentials and signatures of the house – making each collection feel truly timeless. So maybe a look-book, photographed by Karim Sadli, works just fine for those clothes. Viard spent lockdown in her French country house, a time, as she says, for “rest and family time,” that was no holiday. In addition to preparing this resort collection (which she had begun before lockdown), Viard was also working on a capsule haute couture offering, which will likewise be presented virtually. Viard returned to Paris and the Chanel studio on May 4, when the city partially reopened, but in the depths of the countryside she was thinking and dreaming, as she told me, about “summer in Capri – or the South of France,” and the kind of destination wardrobe of “easy clothes” that “a sophisticated but also cool girl would want to travel with.” Her proposal includes swimsuits to wear as bodies under cardigan jackets, wide-legged pants, or handkerchief-hemmed skirts, and no-nonsense iterations of the classic Chanel suit or saharienne jackets in cotton tweed. “There are no evening dresses, no heavy things,” says Viard, who proposes instead some day-into-night options including those bathing suits printed with scattered trompe l’oeil Chanel costume jewels and worn with skinny cardigan jackets and wide pants in a fine-gauge knit or bandeau tops embroidered by Lesage with flowering branches of bougainvillea (the emblematic Mediterranean summer flower) that that can be worn under suits or veiled under sheer black chiffon blouses. No ground-breakers here, but I’m fine with that. It works. Also, I might say that the Chanel team had to have a closer look at Jacquemus and his mediterranean lifestyle for a while – I found echos of that light, playful sensibility in the resort offering with all the volumes, body-revealing cuts and mini-accessories. But the the most exciting thing about this collection is the least visible. Finally, at least some sustainable thinking at a house this big as Chanel. There was a new approach behind the works with supply chains compromised by the pandemic. The collection, as Viard explained to Vogue, was made using “all the fabrics we had in stock – all the buttons, all the galons – we had a shop in the studio, it was so cute!” Moreover, Viard pulled some staple pieces and accessories that are currently available in store, but that haven’t yet been shown in campaigns – among them some denim jeans and a very stylish woven wicker beach basket purse. “I love it,” reasoned Viard, “why would we have to do another one?” A silent revolution is going on in here.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.