Can the little red dot stand shoulder to shoulder with the little black dress? A native islander and friends look at fashion (and such) in Singapore, and, occasionally, among her neighbours, and a little further afield
A three-sided figure—even right-side up—and repeated just recalls those of a very famous Italian brand
Uma Wang’s pantsuit vs Prada’s Symbole jacquard tote. Photos: Uma Wang and Prada respectively
Uma Wang (王汁) is a popular designer in China. And the Chinese are especially proud that she is one of the few among the dalu (大陆 or mainland) designers to show abroad with anomalous regularity. Recently, she shared images of the digital presentation of her spring/summer 2023 collection, A Gaze into the Wilderness, during Paris Fashion Week. Among the Central Saint Martin alum’s usual oversized, drape-y styles, two outfits stood out, but not for their exceptional designs. There is a coat and a pantsuit and both are in fabrics with a orderly repeated pattern that immediately brings to mind the jacquard used in Prada’s Symbole bags.
Prada is, in fact, rather late in the monogram-style pattern in place of all-over logos or logotype on clothing and accessories. Based on its familiar inverted triangle that frames its logo, the Symbole was introduced this summer, with a campaign in our part of the world that featured Korean stars Kim Min-ju, Bona, and others. Prada describes the pattern of the Symbole as “modernist”. And it is even minimalist, if seen with the more recent monograms, such as Burberry’s interlocking TB, introduced in 2018 (what would its fate be now, since its introducer Riccardo Tisci is no longer with the house isn’t clear) or Versace’s Le Greca, launched last year.
Modernist might also be how Ms Wang sees her rows and rows of triangles. If you look at the dominant black ones, they are isosceles, closed-plane polygons with sharp vertexes, just like Prada’s, but placed right-side up and are more condensed. The linear arrangement is similar to the Italian brand’s as well—the black alternating with the lighter-coloured, with a sum effect like the board used for the triangular chess (yes, there is such a game, invented in 1986 by American lawyer George R. Dekle Sr). In that scheme, even Ms Wang’s chromatic choice is similar to Prada’s: black and khaki. It is possible that she picked her fabric (known to be from Italy) before Prada launched the Symbole bags, but it is even likelier that the latter went into development much earlier. Since only too looks were created with the said fabric, would it have been better for Uma Wang to omit both so as to avoid being compared to Prada’s increasingly popular Symbole?
Holes are here. We saw them in New York at Marni; we are now seeing them in Paris at Off-White. Yes, gaping holes. Their appeal is not immediately clear. Perhaps it has to do with creating a porthole with which to view skin. Or, very specific part of the body, such as the cleavage or, in the case of Off-White, the stomach, which is punctuated with another, much smaller hole, the belly button. The holes of cold shoulders, once so popular, have migrated as a single framed aperture in the center of the body. We have said this before, and we’ll say it again: They seem to focus on something sexual, or reproductive. And Off-White’s larger (than Marni’s) holes could be twice the possibility. Perhaps we are allowing out imagination to veer to far off. Maybe these are just yueliangmen (月亮门 or moon gates)—passageways to welcome you into something.
The show is called “CELEBRATION” (the Abloh-esque quotation a must), and it requires no effort to guess who Off-White is celebrating. Ten months have passed since Virgil Abloh’s death. The world is still celebrating his legacy, not just at the brand he founded, but also at Louis Vuitton, where he had, many agree, changed menswear. Apparently this collection was already initiated by Mr Abloh before he died. The collection is now realised by the team installed at the studio and led by the stylist and EIC of Dazed Ibrahim Kamara, the brand’s Image and Art Director, who was appointed to the post last April. Why Mr Kamara was not made the creative director of the ready-to-wear isn’t clear, but it is possible that he is trying to postion himself as a ”multi-hyphenate”, as Mr Abloh invariably was thought to be.
One of the things he with the varied portfolio has to do is to keep things within Planet Abloh, and a signature colour is a good way to start. Unmistakable this season is the wash of blue that bathes the show and its venue to effect what Mr Kamara called “blue universe”, as he told WWD. This includes the by-now obligatory pre-show performance typical of Mr Abloh’s presentation, this time with dancers all togged in the chosen blue, with faces painted in the same colour. It is tempting to think they are members of the Blue Man Group, but they are not. The performers are reportedly from the French capital. They performed with palpable tribal spunk to the percussive music of Paris-based afro-punk musician Faty Sy Savanet, in leotards no doubt created by the Off-White studio.
As for the collection, it is not going to benefit from what we have not already said about Virgil Abloh’s work. To note, again, is that Off-White is not quite the label it was before; the street tag of the past is mostly not applicable. After Virgil Abloh joined Louis Vuitton and had access to the maison’s vast resources, Off-White became more like a Louis Vuitton spin-off with a ‘couture’ component that also manifests in the present show, although not in quantity. The two outfits are presumably to bring the presentation to a close, with a bang. One is a coat made of what looks like petals (leather?), festooned to give it a vaguely cocoon shape. The other is less conventional, even curious—a lace chador, worn with the face left uncovered. Inclusive, perhaps, but would true chador wearers not take offence to the sheerness of the garment? Or, could this be what Sierra Leone-born Ibrahim Kamara told WWD: “I’m bringing my African point of view”?
Adidas’s design for Algeria is intensely disliked in Morocco
The Moroccans have filed a complain against Adidas for cultural appropriation. According to Morocco World News, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication has asked the president of the Morocco Lawyers’ Club to raise the issue with the German brand. What’s the score? Algeria’s football team’s new jerseys designed by Adidas have posed a problem. Seen on social media, the tops sport a colour-saturated pattern that, to the Moroccans, are similar to their zellige, geometric tilework of hand-cut mosaic pieces that are made from a clay found in Morocco. Adidas said that the pattern they picked is, in fact, inspired by those seen in the El Mechouar Palace in the heart of the city of Tlemcen, Algeria.
Moroccan Netizens were quick to couner that the El Mechouar Palace was renovated in 2010, “employing Moroccan calligraphy, plaster art, mosaic, and art,” Morocco World News reported. Arousing further disapproval was a video that went viral, purported to show a director who supervised the renovation of the Palace acknowledging the help of the Moroccans, even using materials from their land. The Algerians have not yet commented on the controversy.
According to the BBC, the letter sent to Adidas’s chief executive Kasper Rorsted stated that there was, in the new design for Algeria, “an attempt to steal a form of Moroccan cultural heritage and use it outside its context”. Additionally, Algeria’s 2022-2023 season kit for the footballers “contributes to the loss and distortion of the identity and history of these (zellige) cultural elements”. Zellige (also spelled zellij) tiles in Morocco is very much a part of its ancient architecture, as well as the modern. In fact, these tiles are used in Algeria too, although their tilework and patterns might defer. Such disapproval and disputes are not uncommon in regions with shared history. It sure brings to mind one nasi-lemak squabble of fairly recent time.
Dries van Note returns to Paris. He is still the master of controlled sumptuousness, even in black
We can’t remember when Dries van Noten showed this much black on the runway—17 looks in total inkiness (this season, we have been doing a lot of counting ). The not-colourful opening set, however, isn’t a mournful expression of something plaguing the world. Mr van Noten has not shown in Paris IRL for more than two years, communicating digitally in ways that were not necessarily illustrative of his predilection for the exuberant (if not stylistically, at least florally). This joyous return could perhaps be seen in the clothes, but rather than jump right into the 花浴 (huayu or floral bath), he chose to begin with those blacks that have between them the soft tailoring that Mr van Noten is partial to and the sculptural assymetry that he has shown to be adept at, allowing the raven sophistication to segue into spring-appropriate pastels before bursting into the summer flowers—print on print, too—that he is known for.
The show, set in a what looks like a disused space, opens to a soundtrack of a knocking beat that could have been produced by the muyu (木鱼) or wooden fish, the woodblocks used in Chinese temples to produce a hypnotic cadence that accompanies the reciting of Buddhist text. But, here, it is digitised and on reverb. The somewhat bleak beat, accompanied by the clacking of the models’ heels, soon builds into an urgent pulsation that crescendoes to the familiar refrain of Blondie’s Heart of Glass over an unfamiliar mix, which vaguely reminds us of Heart ov Glass, the remake by British electronica act Product.01 and remixed by the German techno producer Justus Köhncke. The tribal/festive percussive mix of electro and breaks is attuned to Mr van Noten’s trippy blend of rosettes and ruffles, blooms and more blooms. In a word (which we do not often use): delightful.
With Dries van Noten, the output is always a sensorial win. With the exception of some jewellery, there is no need for glittery ornamentation to make any of the outfits stand out or speak, even in the eveningwear. One loose-fitting, but still shapely jacket is bunched up in the front and secured by pins. A dramatic black top—worn with shorts!—is an asymmetric heave that looks like a fichu fluffed up. On a skirt, plissé swathes draw together in the front and cascade as an off-centre bustle. Pleated medallions sit atop gathered tiers in free-flow abandon on a top. Elsewhere, ruffles curve around the body and end on the hem, or meander and then become rosettes—and nothing flamenco about them. There are openwork knitwear gilets that could have been handicraft macrame bags repurposed. When it comes to the florals, there are more permutations that what you’d find in nature; the pairings and the layering, crumbly or crushed, sometime recall those from past collections, but no less arresting.
It is an uplifting collection even with the darkness of the opening set. Some people think that Mr van Noten’s clothes are typically not immediately joyous. While he is not inclined to go with spring-break ardour, as craft precedes frills, we can’t begrudge the palpable positivity of his re-entry to the Paris show season. Few designers today offer desirable clothes that are more than what they seem, that can boast designs that go along synergistically with dressmaking. Or, take what would be flowers-for-spring cliché to fields of desirable artistry. As before, these are clothes to wear and keep. And to wear again.
The pieces in Saint Laurent’s latest collection seem to mimic the leanness of Paris’s famous tower,but, perhaps, far sexier
How many variations of a lean, body-skimming silk-jersey dress can one squeeze into a collection without the garment looking repetitive? We counted about 38 of them out of the 49 looks that Anthony Vaccarello showed for Saint Laurent’s spring/summer 2023. And can hoodies be anything other than what they have been? We counted them, too, and there are 24, worn over the head in more ways than one. Some of the looks remind us of what Grace Jones wore as May Day in the one of the James Bond franchises, 1985’s A View to a Kill (in which Roger Moore was licensed to kill for the last time), interestingly partially shot in Paris. Her costumes were designed by the late Azzedine Alaïa. One particular burgundy hooded dress in the Saint Laurent collection is truly evocative of a purple one Ms Jones wore, which stood out like the Eiffel Tower against James Bond’s real love target, Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton, in hyper-feminine clothes that Virginie Viard would love. Perhaps, most unusual of all was the hood; it had never appeared on a Bond girl until then.
It is, however, unlikely that Mr Vaccarello was inspired by a fictional M16 secret agent’s nemesis-turn-one-night-stand, even if double-O-seven’s romantic interests are mostly clad in the styles of the day. The hoodie-dresses have a different lineage, one that can be traced to Yves Saint Laurent himself, when he introduced the capuche (literally hood in French) dresses in 1969, four years after the more famous and remembered Mondrian dresses were shown. Mr Vaccarello has, naturally, taken the ’60s out of the capuche and given it his own ’80s touch with what could be a ’30s slenderness and swish, and present-day sinew. Compellingly, the hoods are fashioned in different forms, many emerging from the bust, some criss-crossing the bodice, some draping one shoulder and extending to become a sleeve. These are, as redundant as the pointing out might be, not your garden-variety street-style hoods.
In this collection, Mr Vaccarello seems to want to reduce it to perhaps the essential, even if that risks sounding banal in this near-the-end-of-the-pandemic world. You get the slim maxi-dresses, the hoodie versions, the leather jacket and coats (some with pronounced shoulders, some not), a few blouses with pussy bows (by now a house standard), and relaxes trousers. And not a single bead, paillette, or embroidery, and yet even the jersey dresses look sleek and glamourous. The relatively small offering in terms of looks could suggest a preference for uniform dressing, perhaps; but not quite such as those adopted by folks of Silicon Valley, certainly not Elizabeth Holmes. Not for Mr Vaccarello a take on the turtleneck! Interpretive flair points to looking at the house archives and adapting judiciously, especially the colours. These are more muted than what YSL was known for, but no less seductive. Reportedly, Mr Vaccarello selected them from old Polaroids of the fittings of the past; hence, the lack of punch, but not without depth, and for those who require not the brightness of flourescent pigments in some modem dye jobs.
The restraint—chromatic and stylistic—in the collection seems to suggest a toning down, even if just for now. Perhaps this is the proverbial palate cleanser. There is, you could see, not even a single short skirt (what would Zoe Kravitz wear?! Or Blackpink’s Rosé?). Even the occasional torso-baring is overwhelmed by powerful coats, their shoulders accentuated, their hems grazing the floor. When we look at the models, walking daintily, as if they are confined in hobble skirts, as they pass the lit Eiffel Tower in the background, we wonder if the darkened figures could be the silhouette of the capital’s most famous tower, seen upside down! The favourite symbol of the city isn’t co-starring in a Saint Laurent show for the first time. Still, each continue to embody the spirit of Paris with certainty and, yes, undiminished élan.
Just two days after Riccardo Tisci presented his solemn Burberry show, the British brand announced that Daniel Lee would be joining the 166-year-old company. This rapidly confirms the rumours circulating then that it would be Mr Tisci’s last show. Daniel Lee’s name was repeatedly mentioned as the likely replacer. Such gossip rarely is mere chatter, not when journalists were sharing the speculation via Twitter and newspapers were reporting on the possibility of new employ with such fervour. Burberry had earlier refused to comment on what they consider to be speculative talk. Mr Lee now takes over as the brand’s chief creative officer, a position Mr Tisci held close to five years.
According to eager media reports, the new guy will take his post on 3 Oct (next Monday), which means his predecessor will have to clear out of his office this week. The appointment must have been confirmed at least a month ago, or around the time WWD broke the news of the possible new hire, quoting “industry sources”. Burberry CEO Jonathan Akeroyd who picked Mr Lee, said via a statement, “Daniel is an exceptional talent with a unique understanding of today’s luxury consumer and a strong record of commercial success, and his appointment reinforces the ambitions we have for Burberry.” That sounds similar to what the former CEO Marco Gobbetti, who hired Mr Tisci, said of the latter in 2018: “He is one of the most talented designers of our time. His designs have an elegance that is contemporary and his skill in blending streetwear with high fashion is highly relevant to today’s luxury consumer. Riccardo’s creative vision will reinforce the ambitions we have for Burberry.”
There is no mention of why Riccardo Tisci decided to leave (no euphemistic reasons such as pursuing other interests). Was he asked to? It is not known either if Mr Tisci chose not to renew his contract, which expires next year, or if he decided to leave now, rather than finish what could be his final season. Mr Gobbetti and Mr Tisci are both Italians. They were colleagues at Givenchy, where the former was its chief executive. The designer—then relatively unknown—was hired in 2005 to join the French house. It is possible that the new CEO at Burberry wishes to work with someone of his own choosing, rather than inherit a name much associated with the previous top guy. The international press is also of the view that Mr Tisci’s hyper-modern, street-savvy, definitely sexy style, while appealing to younger customers (really? What about middle-aged politicians?), kept their long-time fans, particular those deemed unadventurous, away. Or, was it because Mr Tisci’s unduly expressive designs were just not luring shoppers into Burberry stores?
Looking at what he had achieved, Daniel Lee had a more measured approach at Bottega Veneta that balanced appreciable shapes with sensuality. However, his tenure—just three years—did not provide enough of the salient for us to make out a definitive, bankable style, although, to be certain, his bags, including standouts the Pouch and the Cassette, were refreshingly huggable in the wake of more structured luxury ones that followed the ‘It’-bag years. But, was influencer excitement around the brand sufficient? Mr Lee was born in Bradford, a wealthy city in West Yorkshire, England, where, interestingly, Burberry trenchcoats are manufactured. Before his breakout appointment at BV, he was a “protégé” at Céline, with a résumé that included stints at Balenciaga, Maison Margiela, and Donna Karan. It is often said that he “revived” BV, as if he had plucked it from the clutches of doom. Now, back on home turf, is he expected to bring about another such restoration to Burberry’s lost cool and pull? Let’s see. It’d be fascinating.
This season Maria Grazia Chiuri brings up her country of birth again, and reconnects with an Italian woman in history for Dior
It has been a while since Dior had dancers get in the way of the models’ display of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fussy, re-imagined Dior. The last was shown two years ago, during the Resort 2021 collection, staged in Puglia, Italy, where ten local dancers performed as a throbbing mass while the models walked on as if they were no obstacle. This time, Dior engaged a Dutch dance troupe formed by the siblings Imre and Marne van Opstal, dubbed “the hottest new dance choreographers in Netherlands”. The dancers, in nude-coloured costumes of tank tops painted with torsos, paired with plain underpants, executed a primal, writhing routine that could be seen as carnal. In the latest issue of Purple, the sister Imre van Opstal told the magazine, “We like to speak about the human body”. So does Ms Chiuri, who, through her love of sheerness, communicates her idea of body image, however the ideal body is framed for her culturally.
This season, with her woman-for-woman Dior, Ms Chiuri looks at the reputedly diabolical Renaissance proto-feminist Catherine (also Caterina) de’ Médici (of the powerful Florentine banking family). Like her, Catherine de’ Médici is an Italian transplanted to France, only in the latter’s case, by marriage—to King Henry II, a union few in court were thrilled with as the Médicis were of merchant class, not royalty. As Queen of France, she—not known for her beauty (she has been described as “homely”)—was patron of the arts and a fashion consumer, who, being “plump”, made corsets quite the fashion, as well as heels to make her look taller. When she left for France at age 14, she reportedly brought along a large retinue, including dressmakers, jewellers, and perfumers. While she was the embodiment of the dress politics of the time, it is arguable if she was a major contributor to French fashion the way Marie Antoinette later was (or her husband’s mistress Diane de Poitiers), unless the scented gloves she introduced in court is counted. The Sovereign was better known as a manipulative, even vicious regent (her three sons were consecutive rulers), who was hated by the Protestants for her supposed role in France’s religious civil wars of that era, in which many were assassinated. She was, to put it mildly, the political force behind the reigns of her sons. When she died in 1589, France mourned her with the same outpouring for a slaughtered hen.
It is understandable why Catherine de’ Médici would appeal to another Italian woman who designs for a company named after a Frenchman. According to the show notes, “women know how to explore magical territories since they have a privileged connection with nature and its vital force”. Thus blessed, Ms Chiuri establishes the link to the past, but however modern her attempts, the results bordered on the costume-y made current by today’s midriff-baring must. The corset is brought back, but not with the constriction of those that tightened Catherine de’ Médici’s waist. Ms Chiuri made them loose so that you can wear them like you would a singlet (oh, that, too, appears) with the shape of a stomacher curve at the bottom end (and what’s more modern than wearing them with elasticised-waist pants?), giving you the chance to boast a flair for sartorial historicism. And perhaps find kinship with the unconventional sisters of the past?
And then there are the mini hooped skirts (we already hear many say cute) in the shape of table food covers, showing off how exquisite Dior is with lace, also a Catherine de’ Médici fave. Clearly Ms Chiuri does not reference the past the way her predecessor John Galliano did. It appears that she went to the cutting table without humour or a vestige of wit. Still, rather funny are those flimsy skirts with hooped uppers that made them look like lanterns, or bird cage covers, or worse, mosquito netting over a baby’s cot. Pretty skirts means there are dirndl versions (in floral patchwork!), cheerleader skirts with smocking across the stomach, and those to be worn over shorts like capes for bottoms. To enhance the overall femininity, there are lacings for sides of bodices as well as neckline, or down the length of skirts; lace borders as seen on négligée: gathered trims like those on the edges of French maids’ aprons: and more open-work fabrics to delight your dry-cleaner. Oh, there’s also that much lauded print of the map of Paris., so you’ll know Maria Grazia Chiuri is putting Paris on the map.
Is Burberry pondering if Riccardo Tisciis stillthe right fit to take the brand soaring?
Riccardo Tisci with pal Kanye West after the Burberry spring/summer 2023 show in London. Screen shot: No Content/YouTube
Since the beginning of the month, there was chatter that the 166-year-old Burberry was looking to replace Riccardo Tisci, the Italian designer at the helm of the house since 2018. When August came to an end, Women’s Wear Daily reported that “Burberry is evaluating its options, and looking for a potential successor to (its) chief creative officer”. Mr Tisci’s contract expires early next year, so it is not premature for Burberry to go ahunting. But why was there not an excited announcement that Mr Tisci would be asked to stay on? Or was it he who did not wish to extend his contract? Despite the WWD story that quoted “industry sources” aware of the label’s executive search, Burberry said it would not respond to speculations.
When Riccardo Tisci was installed at Burberry in 2018, while the UK was messily moving towards Brexit, many observers and commentators were surprised by the appointment. Mr Tisci is not British; he is Italian. It was a time when national pride was palpable and placing a foreigner (one from an EU member state!) at a quintessentially British brand was not particularly ideal, especially after predecessor, the proud local lad Christopher Bailey, had reigned at the house (even serving as CEO) for 17 years (for Mr Tisci, it would be five when his contract ends next year). The Guardian described Mr Bailey as “the most successful British designer of his generation“. And now an Italian, formerly from a French house was taking over? But there was a non-Brit designer at Burberry earlier—an American-born Italian, Roberto Menichetti, from 1998 to 2001. There was never eye brows raised when Brits designed European brands, from John Galliano at Dior and now Margiela to Phoebe Philo at (old) Céline to JW Anderson at Loewe. They brought the brands they worked for critical and massive success.
Riccardo Tisci’s first Burberry show. Screen shot: Burberry/YouTube
Riccardo Tisci was thought to be able to bring a certain romance tempered by a punk sensibility (would the Rottweiler T-shirt for Givenchy influence his new work?) and his Catholic upbringing to Burberry. His first task was to introduce the freshly-minted TB logo (based on the initials of founder Thomas Burberry, and designed by Peter Saville), the brand’s first new symbol in 20 years. That was followed by the TB monogram (also designed by Mr Saville). Mr Tisci’s first collection for spring/summer 2019 was a staggering 134 looks on the runway. Why that many? Mr Tisci was quoted saying after the show that he was designing for “the mother and the daughter, the father and the son”. The plethora gave weak aesthetical clues as to where the designer was taking TB. Evening wear, not really associated with the brand, became a category to promote. By his second spring/summer collection (2020), the looks were modestly trimmed to 101, yet the collection could not scale the height of focus—still conceived to offer something for everyone. But were enough people blown over?
In the last two seasons or so, Riccardo Tisci has recalibrated his approach to interpreting Britishness by adding, rather than subtracting, and by going more outré. But somehow he was not able to effect the cool—London or elsewhere—that Christopher Bailey had so charming conveyed with ease. Now, the talk is that the person to undo Mr Tisci’s over-design or predilection for putting out too-large collections is the Brit-gone-overseas (to Bottega Veneta until he left last November) Daniel Lee. Apparently, Burberry was recently “talking” to Mr Lee, who, was, according to some accounts, asked to leave BV (but Kering, the brand’s owner, said it was a joint decision). Mr Lee’s departure came in the wake of complains by staff members of unreasonable and disturbing behaviour. How this will affect the outcome of the talks is not clear. Perhaps working with his countrymen is a different condition altogether.
Update (28 September 2022, 15:25): It’s confirmed. Riccardo Tisci is out. Daniel Lee goes to Burberry.
With so many Yeezys to choose from, not to mention all the prototypes that did not go to production, Kanye West turned up for the Burberry show in London, wearing slippers that looked like the pair my makcik Aisha owns. She said she was “attracted to the ‘berlians’ (diamond)” and I believed her; my aunt is quite a magpie, you see. But Mr West has better resources than my aunt; and he is supposed to be a fashion icon. Well, maybe that is it. Fashion heavyweights can wear anything. Is Mr West reflecting some zeitgeist? Or is he, in sharing my aunt’s love for bedazzled flip flops, reflecting popular taste? I’d have thought that he’d want to promote his Yeezy slides if open-toe footwear is a must. Or are they too plain, too “pure”?
Mr West is, of course, known to wear things that do not correspond with the seasons or to “dress like winter when it’s hot”, as he professed on Instagram early this month, which justifies his layers of bulky puffers and heavy-guage hoodies in the middle of summer. Try wearing those here! Was he deliberately doing the opposite of Kim Kardashian? AccuWeather told me that it was about 10°C in London when he arrived for the Burberry show. He was bungkus-ed in a hoodie, again, and a button-down leather shirt and matching pants. The get-up I suspect was by Burberry. The extra sleeves, attached to the side seams and tied to the front, informed me so—they looked like those that appeared on the runway. Formidable Kanye West has to wear pieces from the season to come, not the present, definitely not before.
This footwear choice is well planned and thought out. Like his clothes, they previewed what Burberry would later show. And he was given a pair of black tabi socks so that the first two toes would better grip the also-black thongs, which are topped with a single row of clear, sparkly, squarish stones. They look like pasar malam crowns for feet. Mr West’s slippers are, of course, a notch above those we like to wear, even if he appeared to be inspired by the footwear of our nation. But the sparkles may proof a tad too terang (bright) for flip flop die-hards such as environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian. As much as the blink seemed to be saying something to curious onlookers (I have no idea what), it preferred to draw no comment. Mr West later shared a Yeezy-Gap-ish photograph of said footwear on Instagram, it was accompanied by “DON’T TALK TO ME”.
It is not at all hard to see this as a publicity stunt. The grumpy rapper/designer has been really geram (angry/disgruntled) this month, bleating about perceived improper practices against him by his business collaborators. I wonder if what he wore down there on his feet was just distraction from the problems he’s facing. For the moment, people would be talking about those slippers. His position as the incomparable superstar of fashion is strengthened, just like his ex-wife’s when she appeared bare-butt on the cover Interview. Frankly, I am not buying it.
The English label shows in London as Paris Fashion Week starts. Yes, it is disorienting, and the collection is, sadly, muddled
Burberry cancelled their London Fashion Week slot because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Their new show opens as PFW begins. Still, guests were keen to go to London—even if it may mean hopping back to Paris almost immediately—because the rumours have been rife for weeks that this could be Riccardo Tisci’s swan song for the brand. Is that why Naomi Campbell walks the runway, her celebrity presence overwhelming the Burberry outfit she is assigned to model? Ms Campbell is known to be an ardent supporter/defender of the designers she adores. This could be her last show for Mr Tisci at Burberry (interestingly, she did not walk Christopher Bailey’s final presentation for the house, although she did attend). The Italian, like his compatriots, does love the company of American celebrities, but there is no sign of one-time devotee of his Givenchy, Kim Kardashian, or equivalent on the runway or off (unless you count Leonardo DiCaprio’s ex, Camila Morrone), although Kanye West, Burberry-clad and shod, did show up for the front row.
If this is truly his final presentation for Burberry, Mr Tisci seems to have returned to where he started. The 81-look collection has something for everyone, as Mr Tisci was fond of suggesting when his early collections seemed to lack focus. This time, the clothes are inspired by the all-sorts who go to a beach, such a Margate, the southeastern coastal town of England (the teasers for the show is filmed here). So beach/swim wear is a theme, or woven into Mr Tisci’s idea of English eccentric. A sparkly triangular bikini top comes with just-as-brilliant arm floats (but are likely bags); a similar but one-piece swimsuit is worn over a pink gown with cut-outs on the crotch, sides, and buttocks; a black bikini set worn under a slinky gown with an ‘X’ for the bodice. These are the obvious references or “codes from the seaside”, as per Burberry. About British beach dressing, Mr Tisci said, “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… Or, you’ll see a wedding, or someone who’s gone there at lunch time to read. It’s all different personalities.”
The show opens eerily quiet in a warehouse with no set, unless you count the curtains, chairs, and platforms on which people stand. At first it seems that the sound of feet and guests coughing, clearing their throats, fidgeting and doing whatever noisy things fashion-show attendees do were to be the soundtrack. Then an operatic voice is heard; it goes on, somewhat forlornly, and then stops. Silence. Three minutes of stillness. And a live orchestra (yes, it is there all along) plays, and the finale begins. One senses that there is an attempt to appear respectful in the wake of the the Queen’s funeral. It’s almost ceremonial. But, is it necessary when the beach is where inspiration is drawn and sexiness is not omitted? Sure, there are all-black clothes, but these are supposedly goth-on-the-beach sombre, not royal-death solemn. If a wedding can be seen on an English beach, then perhaps a funeral too?
In his attempt to reflect the “different personalities” of littoral life and buzz, Mr Tisci shows he has the sand to build the fanciest fashion that the brand’s customers would want. But the result is as muddled as it is futile. He has a tendency to over-design, to pile on, and his latest (and last?) collection is replete with the unnecessarily elaborate, exaggerated, and expendable. One especially unneeded (even useless) detail or styling trick is the long sleeves from the back of dresses or trenchcoats that, in some, appear to be the bottom-halves of upside-down tops tied at the waist or hung loose by the side of the body. One halter-neck denim top comes with the tied sleeves when, above that, there is already a large floppy pussy bow. Even the Burberry check can’t subscribe to judicious tweaks. In one negligée-over-body-stocking look, the check seems to fade into what appears to be a stretched honeycomb pattern.
Last month, we visited the Burberry store at ION Orchard before it closed in the mall permanently. It was deathly quiet inside. There is a visible absence of chartering mainland Chinese tourists. The SAs were so in need of customer contact that two trailed us, doggedly. Nothing in the store called out to us, not even a possible It bag. There was a distinct lack of ambient pull. We sensed that the London cool of the brand that once distinguished its offering has turned quite tepid. The last big-scale promotional event Burberry held was to celebrate the Olympia bag. Nothing in the store then aroused curiosity, let alone stirred desire. If the rumours of Riccardo Tisci’s departure are true (and the chatter that the design reigns will go back to a Brit, such as Daniel Lee), perhaps they are indications that the time is right for a change of creative stewardship. Burberry needs it.
While sexy (and sexed-up) continues to be a big theme this season, Versace is not following a trend. They can’t be when they have been doing that all along
This fashion week season in Milan, celebrity is major. But not any personality known locally. Rather, Italian brands are using American stars of the West Coast, who made their name in reality TV, to headline their collections. Most talked about was Kim Kardashian at Dolce & Gabbana earlier. But a day earlier, it was Paris Hilton at Versace. Ms Hilton may not be as big a contributing fashion figure as Ms Kardashian (although she appears as a runway model frequently enough) and had no part in the Versace collection, but she is recognisable a name to let any label get cooking. And she is considered “a fashion icon”, at least in the US, where, as CR Fashion Book noted last February, “she fearlessly leaned into the fashion trends of the day, taking them to the next level and ensuring their prominence in fashion history”. Well, we have been living in a cave.
So there she was, the former “most iconic y2k teen” closing the Versace spring/summer 2023 presentation. On the runway, she sashayed with a distinctive gait as she normally does, and in a sparkly and drapey dress (chainmail, in fact) not terrible different from what she wore for The Blonds in New York last year, or even her show Cooking with Paris. Donatella Versace talked about the women she designs for in the show notes: “I have always loved a rebel. A woman who is confident, smart and a little bit of a diva. She wears leather, studs and frayed denim and she has enough attitude to mix them with chiffon, jersey, and a tiara! She is a strong liberated woman; she is gorgeous; she knows it. She is the Goddess of Freedom.” Was Ms Versace also referring to Kim Kardashian, if not herself?
What are clothes for goddesses, specifically “dark gothic goddesses”? If they are extraordinary women, not deities, they’d need the extraordinary—specifically those that celebrate sexuality, not demonise it; show more skin, in the process, not hide it. We know Ms Versace likes her goddess-pals to be sexy—not deific, so every garment you can imagine that would radiate sexiness were there on the runway. But the mini-est skirt, so brief that the front pouch pockets were longer, was not enough to communicate the rigorism that Ms Versace employs in her designs. Women need more than boudoir fashion outside (even if empowerment means she could wear those too, anywhere). So, added to the lingerie this-and-that were slinky slashed-across-the-torso dresses; layered frocks over skirts, over pants; every pair of slacks except sensible ones: cargo pants, motorcross pants, leather drainpipes, jeans with repeated slashed Xs; and shirts—sheer, of course, and laced and blinked-out with iron-on crystals. A gothic goddess needed to dazzle too.
Just as you want to notice her, you want to sense her. This season, Ms Versace desired a lot of movement, or, to be more specific, superfluous stuff that swing and sway around the body. There were considerable fringing—on almost every spot you can add the decorative border, including bags (when fringes were too much, there were the rolled-up versions—tassels). To make sure that there was a consistent show of these dangling lengths, there were cording and lacing too, all left too long so that they can hang and swing, and lash, at the slightest movement. And to be certain that you were looking at those descended from the pantheon, the strutting idols wore bracelets that identify them as “GODDESS”. Surprisingly, Paris Hilton did not find her place among those so worshipped during the finale, or take the customary end-of-show bow with Donatella Versace. Perhaps, two “Goddesses of Freedom” are not at liberty to stand side by side.
On Kate Moss, Bottega Veneta shows that what is wearable can be far from mundane, but others pulled off the proposition better than she did
She does not open the show, but she is there. Appearing the sixth of a 72 line-up, she saunters out as if she just stepped out of a ranch home. Kate Moss looks ready to work in the fields, if not to actually round up the sheep or milk some cows, definitely to put away bales of hay. Or, get into a truck to go to town to get some flour for an apple pie she would bake later in the afternoon. This is definitely not the Kate Moss we’re familiar with, not the heroin-chic chick, not the vintage junkie, not the festival style maven, not the TopShop collaborator, not a skincare businesswoman, not a rock star’s former girlfriend, not Johnny Depp’s ex in court. She wears a shirt-jacket in shadow check over what could be a tank top and faded jeans, unbelted. Only her leather shoes—not quite heeled—give her away: She isn’t going to do field or barn work. Strangely, Kate Moss on the painted Bottega Veneta runway does not look an urbanite as the other models do.
There is visual trickery involved here. What Ms Moss wears may look like flannel and denim, but they are, in fact, made of leather. Matthieu Blazy, in his second outing for the house, is reprising what he did in his debut: make leather not look like leather. It is a complicated process. Ms Moss’s top requires prints layered 12 times to achieve the chromatic depth of the woven equivalent. Mr Blazy calls this “perverse banality”, but it sounds like something Demna Gvasalia would do for Balenciaga couture. Other seemingly Normcore-looking pieces that might not be out of the ordinary at Uniqlo are given this leather-looking-like-ordinary-fabric treatment. Which means that if one does not examine the finished pieces up-close or in one’s hand, one may not know that the T-shirt is not made of cotton jersey and the jeans not cotton denim. The commonplace is not at all. Thankfully, Kate Moss did not need to do a Naomi Campbell.
The press describes what Mr Blazy does as “wardrobing”, creating practical clothes that have real use and place in a wardrobe. It is not a plan totally new to Bottega Veneta. Even as far back as the tenure of Thomas Maier, BV’s first superstar creative director, the clothes have been easy to wear. Its quiet luxury led Vogue to describe BV fans as projecting “stealth wealth”. The brand’s ready-to-wear line is, in fact, relatively young; its debut appeared only in 1998 (some 30-odd years after parent company Gucci introduced their first pieces of clothing). It was designed by Laura Braggion, the ex-wife of the co-founder of the house Michel Taddei, who, together with Renzo Zengyaro, developed the unmistakable intrecciato weave used in the bags, wallets, even shoes. Bottega Veneta has never alienated their customers with designs considered too radical for a functioning wardrobe.
Mr Blazy has not kept that approach in his blind side. This season the tailoring is elegant, with none of the exaggeration of silhouette that still plagues many other brands; the dresses understated but just so, with some in prints that are graphic as they are offbeat; the leather wear supple and slick, with barely a hint of anything rock or ruffian. There is nothing too forward or too retro about the styling, even the fichu neckline—absent in fashion for so long—is a neoteric, tad folksy flourish, so are the scarfs floating in the rear, their single tip secured to baubled necklaces. Those slim, sheer, layered dresses with padded appliqués and decorative trims are evocative of Prada, but perhaps that’s a certain Milanese sensibility shared by those who design with a certain élan, just as some brands are unshakably partial to flesh and flash. Matthieu Blazy’s follow-up to his debut is a well thought-out and deftly edited collection. And, best of all, beautiful too.