Avantgarde-ness. Vaquera SS23

Five years ago, with bold attitude and confidence, Vaquera started out in New York and quickly became the most-talked about and hard to classify emerging brand in town. In 2022, the brand opens Paris Fashion Week and is backed by Dover Street Market, and yet it’s still difficult to put a finger on it. Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee aren’t doing conventional, mainstream fashion, but somehow manage to keep their avantgarde-ness commercially attainable: think great, over-sized jackets and too-cool-to-be-true denim. “We’ve really been pushing toward having more commercial clothing and that is still really important to us,” Taubensee said backstage of the spring-summer 2023 fashion show. “But it’s also important to remain true to what we did this for, which is expressing ourselves.” Enter American flag dress, made from faded flags that were stolen by DiCaprio’s friends from houses on Fire Island, its construction more ambitious than the one from their debut. A deconstructed wedding dress – safety-pinned at the bodice, spliced down the middle, and worn over pink stretch satin athleisure and denim cut-offs – once belonged to DiCaprio’s mom. They aren’t likely to put these pieces into production, but they are representative of the Vaquera spirit, which is irreverently anti-establishment. That irreverence came across in metallic “polo” shirts stitched with a lassoing cowboy instead of a mallet wielding polo player. Meanwhile, the acid wash denim’s faint yellow cast came from what Taubensee described as soy stain; “we actually use soy sauce,” she explained.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Goth Summer. Burberry SS23

For Burberry‘s spring-summer 2023 collection, Riccardo Tisci seemed to have many ideas. But in the end, the overall result was messy and unedited. It came as a surprise, because his recent offerings for the British brand suggested he finally found the right track. After five years in England, Tisci (so often labeled “goth” by the fashion press) has gained a better understanding of the intricacies and eccentricities of British society – such as the beach and summer culture that inspired his spring collection for Burberry. “British summer is very different to anywhere else in the world, because Britain is basically built on big cities on the water. That means you really see people dressing on the beach, because you never know when it’s going to rain or when there’s going to be sun. The beauty is the goth on the beach, like these kids we filmed the other day,” he said after the show, referring to the show’s goth-tastic teaser filmed in Margate. “Or, you’ll see a wedding, or someone who’s gone there at lunch time to read. It’s all different personalities.” Since Tisci brought a more sensual spirit to Burberry, its swimsuits have risen to best-seller status. That fact, mixed with his homage to the beach-going goth, created a collection of swimwear fusions and hybrids. Press release is one thing; in reality, the concept looked too awkward and clumsy. The model casting, featuring Naomi Campbell and Karen Elson, didn’t help in elevating these clothes. Swimsuit elements like bikinis and bathing suit cut-outs were entered into dresses and tailoring, which simultaneously incorporated the trademarks of the goth wardrobe: lace, netting, perforation, gothic fonts, and crinkled negligees. De- and reconstructed outerwear evoked the dress codes of the industrial corner of the goth population, with dissected hoods and sleeves tied around the waists of trench coats and three-piece suits with big-buttoned gilets replacing the traditional vest. After Burberry canceled its original presentation during London Fashion Week out of respect for the national mourning period that followed the death of the Queen, Tisci squeezed the show in on the Monday between Milan and Paris. Presented in a naked warehouse in Bermondsey – the London Contemporary Orchestra lined up in the middle of the space – it unfolded in complete silence before the soprano opera singer Nadine Sierra broke out in a poignant aria. It wasn’t until the finale that the orchestra joined in. “It was a moment of respect. She was the queen of the world – every country respected her,” Tisci said.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Goth Diva. Versace SS23

Versace turned up the heat in the middle of very mild-looking Milan Fashion Week. A steady stream of Prince hits pumped through the speakers as the crowd assembled at the spring-summer 2023 show, and in the middle of the runway, scores of black candles glowed behind walls of glass. Reading the signs, it looked like Donatella Versace was going goth for spring. The first four models, who emerged together, seemed to confirm it. They slithered out in clingy black jersey with slash cutouts and multi-strap platform Mary Janes. Up next were another 10 black looks, from Adut Akecg in a fringed leather motorcycle jacket and micromini, to Binx Walton in a matching bustier and hip-slung jeans. “I have always loved a rebel, a woman who is confident, smart, and a little bit of a diva,” the designer said via press release. She might as well have been talking about herself. Then came monochrome color: electric fuchsia and Princely purple, cut into a liquid jersey number or a sheer dress over satin flares, and teeny party dresses in many variations—strapless with more fringe at the hips or slinky with a cowl hood. A leather teddy was laser-cut like lace and embellished with thousands of little metal studs. This season’s prints combined tropical flowers, zebra stripes, and the label’s all-caps logo on repeat. This section included a couple pairs of jeans. Shredded in precise diamond patterns, this was not your average denim, but it was a whole lot more casual than anything Versace has put on the runway lately, a sign of Donatella’s ambition to expand and diversify her offering. Before the end, the collection moved through the black-to-bright cycle again. Mariacarla Boscono’s black suit and sheer shirtdress mid-layer were sharp. The baby dolls, garters, and lace veils in pink, purple, and acid yellow looked torn from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”–era playbook via Stephanie Seymour in “November Rain.” For the finale, Versace had another pop-culture blast from the past, none other than Paris Hilton in pink chain mail. Rebels of all kinds welcome here.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Identity Crisis. Missoni + Etro SS23

There’s this tricky thing about Italian brands that used to be family-owned. Once a new designer, who never worked with that family, takes over the steers, a hard identity crisis begins for good. This Milan Fashion Week, on the same day, there were two such debuts: Filippo Grazioli at Missoni and Marco De Vincenzo at Etro. Both delivered highly uninventive collections that were strangled with some familiar style codes of the brands, but lacking any fresh perspective of what these two idiosyncratic Italian houses could be in 2022. Grazioli’s take on Missoni felt like yet another failed attempt of the brand to rejuvenate itself since the family no longer does the creative direction. The designer, who cut his teeth at Givenchy and Hermès in the past, offered a tight palate-cleanser collection which was a very plain interpretation of Missoni’s timeless zig zag and fiammato patterns. Most of the looks orbited between sleek minimalism and uninspired, 1960s retro. It would d be interesting to see Grazioli playing with the house’s codes with a freer, more daring approach, expanding his creative reach. Because if you are planning to design just good clothes, then don’t even bother – or at least, don’t show during fashion week. A range of similar problems appeared on Etro’s runway. De Vincenzo is a well-known designer in Milan, but when I heard the news of his appointment, I scratched my head. Etro’s most recognizable repertoire – the eternal paisley pattern, the fringed gypsy look, the romantic sweeping gowns – was nowhere to be seen in his debut. “I don’t really like fluid fabrications; I like structure and compact materials,” De Vincenzo explained. “I’m not really familiar with the boho world. It doesn’t mean that in the future I cannot interpret it my way, but for now I’ve been given this position to express my point of view. That’s why I’m here.” I really don’t understand his mission then. There’s no need for Etro to be something else than Etro. And definitely not a bunch of shallow designs, featuring lazy-looking dresses and silly crop-tops. The collection tried hard to appeal to a younger audience, but I guess it was forgotten by that very same audience the minute the show ended. Missoni and Etro are brands that truly deserve better. Either their new creative directors quickly find balance between their personal aesthetics and the houses’ style ethos, or they will simply fall into oblivion, just like many other Italian brands that never could find their way again without their charismatic founders (and their descendants).

Missoni spring-summer 2023:

Etro spring-summer 2023:

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Crude. Prada SS23

Finally, after two and half (fashion) weeks, a truly brilliant collection. Of course, it had to be Prada. Spring-summer 2023 might be the most sensual offerings to date coming from the creative dialogue between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. At a first glance, one might find it very simple, even straightforward. But the more you dig into the details, into its raw, yet cinematic effect, and the oddness of silhouettes and lenghts and material clashes, you realise that another word describes it better: “crude”. For the show, the Prada Fondazione was covered in black craft paper. Cut into the set walls were windows behind which short videos by the director Nicolas Winding Refn fame played: clips of a coat on a wooden dining chair, an empty kitchen, women in repose on couches. Were these scenes of domestic bliss? Knowing our protagonists, and understanding the two years we’ve all been through, that doesn’t seem likely. Instead, what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons seemed to be after was some sort of truth – peering behind the curtain for a glimpse of reality or its close verisimilitude. “There is a sense of the life of women,” Miuccia Prada said in a statement. “Life and humanity crafts the clothes – not superficial embellishment, but traces of living, leaving marks. This idea of clothes shaped by humanity excites us.” The first look, in its corporate anonymity, seemed to belie that statement. Where’s the humanity in a dour gray top coat and lighter gray button-down onesie? But before long, the layers came undone. The boxy tailoring of that coat, for example, was replaced with an old-fashioned nightie, the familiar logo triangle embroidered on its tulle neckline. Picking up on the craft paper of the set, they used paper – “the most simple, modest material” – for dresses whose color and print didn’t quite meet the edges. These were the most thought-provoking pieces in the collection. The white outlines at necklines and hems gave the sleeveless shifts an unfinished, work-in-progress quality, like an artist made clothes out of a freshly painted canvas, rather than putting it in a frame. Clearly, Miuccia had her autumn-winter 2004 collection as the reference, where a similar technique was used for dresses and coats. Knit sweaters and skirts, meanwhile, came pre-creased in places, and the skirts’ slits were left raw-edged, with the slips underneath following the same almost ragged lines. The white nighties and peignoirs over black briefs and the icy silk duchesse dresses tapped into beloved parts of the house archives. Trained for decades to see Mrs. Prada as fashion’s fortune teller, a mostly silent arbiter with an outsized influence, we come to Prada shows eager to know how we’ll want to dress next season. On that topic, the house founder and her partner had a new idea, and it goes back to that skinny legged, stripped of all excesses all-in-one. Many designers are thinking wider and fuller for spring – the overwhelming vibe is go big or go home. But here the silhouette was tapered to the ankle and punctuated with a boxy coat or jacket and chunky cowboy boot mary janes. A new Prada uniform? In his own comments, Simons said, “more than any other collection, this one is filled with different views… different bodies of work, within a single body of work – shifting between disparate form languages.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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