And There Are Panniers

Puffed and draped hips at Louis Vuitton. Is Nicolas Ghesquière (still) in social-distancing mood? Or status asserting?

Nicolas Ghesquière seems to derive some perverse delight in mixing up eras, decades even, a gleeful time traveller who can’t stop bringing the past back to the present, like some 15th century adventurer returning to Europe with crops from the New World. And he is doing it all again for spring/summer 2022, taking us back in time, although, according to the Louis Vuitton show notes, “time is of no consequence.” But they are also quick to add, “yet time is everything. It dissolves functions and codes. It unites wardrobes. Day becomes night. The humble uniform becomes sumptuous.” In the hands of Mr Ghesquière, nothing is ever that humble, not even a tank top. Under the row of packed chandeliers in the Louvre, where the show is, again, staged, near-costume clothes are shown, as if a party season is approaching, and the models are going to some extravaganza at some place not less dazzling than the Hall of Mirrors. Yes, we are thinking of the Yew Ball (le bal des ifs) of the 18th century, the mask dance where King Louis XV and his male courtiers reportedly turned up as topiary yew trees!

To be sure, in Mr Ghesquière “grand bal of time”, none of his models strut as plants clipped into fantastic shapes. But there are the harlequins. Or, those designed as eyewear, which seem to belong to bals of more extravagant times. And, undoubtedly, the panniered skirts, seemingly out of a Velázquez painting, only far much lighter. These could be what Maria Luisa of Parma (later the Queen of Spain in 1765) might have worn if she were the equivalent of today’s punk princess or crazy KOL. These are not the stiff, sofa-like contraptions of yore. Some of them look like flapper dresses given side hoops underneath. They bounce and swish with a lightness not quite evident in anything worn in the court of Versailles and the like, and are ankle-length to show off metallic-coloured, laced-up, open-toe boots, also not quite pre-Revolution France. Mr Ghesquière’s transposing of the robe à la française to (nearly) post-pandemic present-day is far more whimsical and technically challenging than other designers adapting, for example, the Greek chiton for modern use. Impractical these dresses are for sure, but the intrepid should give them a spin before they end in museums somewhere.

The ancien silhouette does not stop at the hip-extended skirts. There are details such as ruffles, too, like skirts for the neck (they aren’t exactly ideal for a date night of curry dinner!), as well as the staggering and striking use of passementerie, especially on the bodice, such as braiding and cording, galloons and gimps, showing the skills and artistry that the French were—and still are—known for: their elaborate and sumptuous metallic thread work. Such ornate ornamentation recall the clothing of the elite, especially before the 18th century, when royals, aristocrats, the military men, and the clergy required costumes of visible social distinction. Mr Ghesquière is bringing these back for the coming months, when social life, especially the fun-seeking, fashion-asserting fraternising, returns, presumably with a vengeance. These are decorative styles, no doubt, although they are not aesthetically in the same league as Fendace. Is Louis Vuitton suggesting that fashion not only returns to stand alongside pleasure and entertainment, but also wealth and status?

Other looks, too, suggest patrician life or those of the well-born. There are what seem like equestrian styles (or is it just the headwear?) worn with denim pants (jeans?), the mark of humbler status—a necessary pairing to temper the over-sumptuousness? In fact, denim goes with a tweed jacket and a cropped le smoking, and a laced slip dress. There are many capes too, with fabric manipulation (or treatment) on the surface, and they—like the pannier and the passementerie—were once worn to denote rank or occupation (think: a king or queen’s ermine-trimmed red velvet cape). Mr Ghesquière’s mixing and matching across centuries, and the social classes associated with clothes are not new. But this time, he seems to propose, let’s go all hip-sticking out. Let’s not hold back. After all, as Harry Winston said, “People will stare. Make it worth their while.”

Screen grab (top): Louis Vuitton. Photos: gorunway.com

CDG Does Mickey

Or, perhaps, the world’s most famous mouse can’t resist the charms of CDG?

As avant-garde as Comme des Garçons is, the brand is not opposed to collaborating with highly commercial names such as Disney. Their CDG sub-brand has just announced a pairing with Mickey Mouse for a capsule that is skate-inspired (read: loose silhouettes). This is not their first association with Disney, nor is this the first time they have teamed up with cartoons. Under the Japan-only Edited line, we remember, they have worked with Marvel Comics on T-shirts featuring the Silver Surfer (and possibly Spiderman) in late 2000. On the marketing communication front, there was the work of Katsuhiro Otomo (manga fans would know him to be behind Akira) in 2013. But tapping the world of comics—or manga—is very different from dalliances with Disney. One would entice hypebeasts, the other would not.

Still, the Disney association has not impacted Comme des Garçons’s generally left-field leaning, yet. If they have survived, gasp, Frozen (in 2014) via the popular Play, Mickey is not going to mar the image of the just-as-commercial CDG line. And even less so, now that Rei Kawakubo has introduced Mickey’s mate Mini for her tribute dress, created in honour of Alber Elbaz a few days ago. Never mind that for many fans, the joining of forces between a (still) largely indie brand with a global entertainment corporation is rather disappointing. Perhaps, some cartoons are best left to Uniqlo.

To dumbfound fans even further, the collection of white/grey/black pieces have none of the usual topsy-turvy mash-up when it comes to graphics. There is the deconstructed face of Mickey and the rotate-right placement, and (for the hoodie) a tight crop of Mickey’s foot on a skateboard, but are those enough to appease fans and followers who are exposed to more? To be certain, CDG is an entry-level line. It does not need to be too outré, as as long as the three-letter logotype is placed conspicuously somewhere on the garment (this time, in the rear), in it full-sized, bold-faced, look-here glory.

CDG X Mickey Mouse is available at DSMS. Photo: CDG/Disney

What’s After The Tabi Split Toe?

How about the lobster claw?

Food: how they inspire shoes. After seeing Loewe’s egg heels, our appetites were aroused too. We were suddenly reminded of Y/Project’s lobster toes. There is no mistaking the inspiration. But we are not talking about the famous Schiaparelli print that the house revived in 2017. Or, something like the cartoon lobster plonked as upper on the Libertine heels from spring/summer 2019. We are referring to footwear that is quite a feat of engineering.

Y/Project’s Glenn Martin, announced last week as Jean Paul Gaultier’s next couture collaborator after Sacai’s Chitose Abe, has always turned the seeming innocuous on its head, or in the case of these heels, their impressively-shaped claws. How do the propodus become split toes? Can human toes actually fit into them? The dainty upper no doubt looks as hard as the marine crustacean’s exoskeleton, enhancing the shoe’s protective quality (even if only partly). And there is a sensuous grace to the entire toe box, even if they may appear sinister if you look long enough. Like bat wings!

There is no doubt this pair would be a major lure to shoe collectors who amassed such heels like they would with sculptures. Margiela may be the first to show the possibilities of the tabi split toe on all manner of footwear, but the maison won’t be the last to separate the big toe and its siblings inside a shoe. The Y/Project ‘Lobster’ heels, although a spring/summer 2022 style, are already sold out at many stockists, such as Farfetch. Claw your way to a pair elsewhere!

Product photo: source. Photo illustration: Just So

Crazy Celeb Crush

Balenciaga’s IRL show is a red carpet event, complete with shouting paparazzi. Be ready to dress like stars next season. Or, one cartoon family

It’s the red carpet of the Met Gala, the Oscars, the Bafta, the Emmys, the Tonys, the Razzies, the Grammys, the BMAs, the VMAs, the BET, all rolled into one. Outside Le Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Balenciaga staged a fake red carpet arrival, strictly in Balenciaga, of course, and complete with hordes of gawkers and a throng of photographers, shouting for the attention of arriving ‘stars’. Is red carpet fashion a valid category? Apparently, at least to Balenciaga. Designer Demna Gvasalia was, in fact, recently at the Met Gala, making sure Kim Kardashian’s outfit looked right and was ready for the camera. Could the Met Gala experience have been the inspiration behind the presentation for spring/summer 2022? Fashion and celebrity as one, conclusively? This could, of course, be social commentary, but also a reflection of the state of fashion consumption? The red carpet is still the runway (and it is often set up as one) to look to. What goes on on a red carpet does not stay there. Eventually, it will be picked up for the streets and will boost the participating brands’ red carpet and—and not far off—street cred.

Models and celebrities (they’re models too!) arrive as if E! Entertainment is covering this live (which makes the vibe more Hollywood than Paris). A motley group that includes gender non-conformers, hip-hop moguls, screen and music stars, one rapper-couple, one everywhere-he-is photographer, one powerful (still?) editrix, and even a pregnant redhead (or should that be carrot?). They are definitely dressed to the nines, even in street style. They cover the gamut, from couture-worthy gowns to shopping/dating/loafing-ready jeans. What could be different from the average red carpet could be that the guests are carrying handbags. There are even shoulder bags. Who’d think any of them would need one at a gala? Meanwhile, inside the theatre, invited guests were watching the outside proceedings on the big screen, reportedly appreciating what is looking like a “joke”. When the red carpet walkers finally take their seats inside, the audience is treated to a show: The Simpsons! A special screening, as it appears, with Homer and company invited to Paris to walk the Balenciaga runway. Marge Simpson, high on Balenciaga, has never looked so good (not even in that pink Chanel suit), in a gold gown from the spring/summer 2020 collection, with a bow in the rear, the size of a giant Sagami kite!

Marge Simpson trying her first Balenciaga dress

Mrs Simpson on the runway

Demna Gvasalia tells the media that the whole exercise is about having “fun”, something so missing and missed in our COVID-stricken lives that fashion is now placing the seeking of entertainment and mirth as prime. And in Paris, the Simpsons certainly are enjoying themselves. And the whole of Springfield, even if they are fish out of water. Homer, the last fashionista, wears his red Balenciaga jacket like a postman his uniform. Thankfully, outside toon town, the style is more sleek, ever kooky, Balenciaga standard. The charm (and now star quality?) of the brand is its ability—irony still dripping?—to compact both red-carpet elegance and off-kilter street style into a single look with rigour and discipline. Sure, these aren’t dresses a Bond girl would wear on a date with Double-O-Seven (nor are they the stuff of his wardrobe for jet setting and licence to kill), but for those who need to be validated as perversely cool, and directly connected to Mr Gvasalia, such as he who conceives Donda. In Balenciaga, one is not under-dressed or over-dressed, just dressed, statement unequivocally made. How convenient for most fashion-craving rappers and their inner circles.

Now that the Balenciaga couture is shown, and the house’s know-how, although never in doubt, is updated and proven, there seems to be a general sense of heightened raffinement. The dresses are less thrift-store, more cocktails-after-a-fashion-show. The hoodies less sportif, but still hoodies. The suit jackets still hunched, and still too big for most body types. The denim jeans still overwashed, but more up-cycled. And, the Crocs less unusual (now), but much harder… clompers! They are all still composed to better position Balenciaga as the unwavering height of subversive-simultaneously-worn-out cool. The look, by now, is no longer outré, but still unconventional enough for covetous eyes. Just one thing: enough of Naomi Campbell. In whatever.

Screen grabs and photos: Balenciaga

Poem Without Words

In a quiet presentation, Loewe holds one transfixed… and breathless

A large undecorated room. A perimeter of closely-seated guests. An opening in the floor in the centre of the fair-wood space. A gentle flow of spare, percussion-free music (While my Heart is still Beating, from the London-based Italian electronic act Not Waving and label mate Romance). Against this orchestral/electronic track—so stark, yet soaring in parts, it’s almost devotional—the models walk unhurriedly from the basement to to the open floor. Each measured step allows the clothes to be viewed in their structural or fluid brilliance. Nothing is as severe in simplicity as the music suggests. Each outfit evinces that there is a difference between dressing and wearing. Each, a study of balance, texture, and the unlikely. This could be Loewe’s strangest collection, and strongest yet. This is not an exploration of what having fun again would be like. This is fashion as if it never took a hiatus; expressive, as stylish life goes on. This is Jonathan Anderson reaching a climactic career apex.

The first dress immediately opens the eye. A sculptural beauty through the manipulation of form, less of fabric: a maxi-length tank dress, and it is from the back, until you are pulled in at the waist in front. There is a boxy protrusion, marsupial, with a flat top, like a shelf. Then another dress—this time the distention diagonal, across the torso. The next, the waist stretches outwards to the left, and ends with a point. The creation of bodily contours where none exist is, of course not new. We have seen them at Comme des Garçons, but these are not “bumps”. They are, rather, contortions inspired, as the show notes state, by the work of the 16th century Italian painter Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo, who was known for his ‘mannerist’ style, a deliberate disassociation with the naturalism of High Renaissance art. Perhaps more obvious are the petal-shaped shoulder-covers (they’re not quite capes) and the drapes on dresses that seem like fabrics mimicking random brush strokes.

It’s all artistic, with an artful choice of the structural and the soft. Although one senses a clerical purity to the collection, the clothes aren’t so serious that they can’t delight in what may be considered aberrant, even slightly mad, or, as Loewe states, “completely hysterical”, which, amid the season’s sex-as-pandemic relief, is antithetical and a welcome break. So few collections of the season here in PFW or elsewhere, really, push the limit of compositional possibilities. Hard and soft, ruffled/ruched and flat plain, all not confined by either or; they just pair, like heady romances. Similarly, Mr Anderson is not restricted by how fabric and body must come together with a certain spatial expectation. Check the bubble varsity jacket! Close to the body or protrude, or balloon, they all seem natural. He is fearless too in the order of things. The back-to-front outers may look switched, but when worn, do not look out of whack. Even a detail as common as the vertical slit in the skirt: He shows that high they might be, but by framing them with a simple flounce, they need not be crude inverted Vs—arrows pointing unambiguously to the genitalia!

And the footwear! A surrealist wink-in-the-eye. Jonathan Anderson kicks up his heels—quite literally—to reveal that in the rear of two innocent front straps are heels with a base of egg shells… broken and the white and yolk spilled out! Or, the whole heel in the form of a bottle of nail polish—red, no less. Or, even a striped birthday candle, complete with the flower-shaped holder! Are these Japanese shokuhin sampuru (food models), elevated to luxury fashion footwear or are they something more subversive? For all the seriousness of the craft that Mr Anderson feel Loewe should perfect and promote, there seems to be a playful, cheeky underside too. Even the most ardent of inventiveness could gain from smile-inducing humour. If the music of Not Waving that soundtracked the show is analogue sounds in swirling arpeggios, then Loewe is floating on similarly high notes.

Screen grabs (top): Loewe. Photos: gorunway.com

Non-Binary Finery

In a first season with no bifurcated bottom for even the guys, Raf Simons shows that a collection can be almost genderless

The first thing that catches our attention are the shorts. Or what we think are shorts, but they turn out to be quite different: they are not divide into legs. So these are skirts? Of course, it is increasingly apparently that men are welcoming non-bifurcated bottom and the like into their wardrobes, and Raf Simons seem to be catering to these guys (and those gals for whom pants are as dispensable). In fact, there are no trousers in the co-ed collection (or maybe there is just one?). Both men and women are attired to show off legs—if not entire limbs, definitely calves. Mr Simons, we do not think, is trying to feminise his menswear offering. They still look masculine, even when many of the pieces are mostly associated with womenswear. Yet these are clearly conceived and sized for a masculine body, not necessarily brawn. In fact, is doubtful a muscular fellow would look good in these somewhat vertically-linear clothes.

The skirts, to be sure, are not ‘skorts’. They also not too skirt-like, nothing similar even to, say, a tennis skirt. We are initially stumped because the silhouette of the skirts that are worn, at least on the men, are very similar to walking shorts—nothing micro about them either. Nearly all of them end at the knee. So do the tunic-like one-pieces. Is it appropriate to call them dresses, even after so many celebrities (American mostly, from what we have seen, not counting Harry Styles or Troye Sivan), are wearing them with some regularity now? To be certain, many folks—even Raf Simons customers—would not consider them synonymous with a male wardrobe. The boat neck with cap-sleeves or another, similar, but with a gathered neckline—could these be as all right, if not trendy, as they are for women, on whom the fall of the dresses, whether tunic or trapezoid, are a study in sophisticated simplicity? Or are they now simply more sophisticated on men?

Even the shirts are not spared elongate-to-skirt-lengths. But what’s particularly interesting are those that could have been a business shirt in a former life. From Arrow to allure? But these are not your company accountant’s button-downs, nor even Gordon Gekko’s contrast-collared dress-stripes. They are, for one, definitely larger, as if cut by a patterner who is anti-fit, but unlike, say, the boyfriend shirt, or what Dakota Johnson wore in 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, these are not sized for someone else. The collar circumference is not too large and the shoulders do not drop too much, even when the sleeves are longer than the standard up-to-the-centre-back-of-your-hand, with the cuff unbuttoned. They are like hanfu sleeve length, and even come with comparable handfu cuffs: extra wide. Despite the shirts’ business vibe, they are styled to look more blouse/tunic/dress (take your pick), even under sweaters.

This spring/summer 2022 fashion week season sees the ushering in of The Swap, designers taking the place of their designing chum’s to interpret the other brand’s signature looks. Given that there is more than a mere whiff of Prada in the Raf Simons collection, is it possible that Miuccia Prada was given some dresses to design? Surreptitiously? The navy or black A-line one-pieces, with their definite shape, modest lengths, and school-uniform-proper, but not girly styling seem a direct leap out of Ms Prada’s distinctive playbook. That Mr Simons would be influenced by her inspiring co-designer at Prada is hardly surprising. But if there is one thing the world needs right now is less of the similar with the other.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Raf Simons

Revolutionary!

The second item from the Gap YZY collection is launched. Excited about a hoodie?

By Lester Fang

Wow, Gap YZY has a second item to show! After what seems like an eternity! And after the collaborator Kanye West wore the first—a puffer jacket—to death! Okay, maybe just twice, but it was seen everywhere, so might as well have been really worn. I should add, in the middle of summer, which, in so many cities this year, was seeing record-breaking temperatures. Mr West must like his clothes to trap heat. Now, his follow-up to that puffer jacket is the less warm hoodie, but nonetheless warm (made of “beefy double-layer cotton”, according to GQ), although probably not warm enough for the approaching winter. How this product release schedule makes sense is beyond me. But, at least we get to see something. I was beginning to think the brand may be discontinued.

Why a hoodie, and a plain one? I have no idea. Just as I am clueless as to why a puffer jacket is required in forest fire season. By the front-side product shot, I can’t tell if it is better than those that the Gap is already selling. Its website does not allow me to go beyond the initial group photo of the top. A message tells me unapologetically that I “don’t have permission to access “http://www.gap.com/yeezy on this server”. I take that to mean that Gap has no desire to interest me in the line that they paid Mr West heavens-know-how-many-millions to design. I say that with some certainty because the same thing happened when I took interest in that first puffer jacket. Frankly, the hoodie is not my thing, but I was curious. And curiosity, as I found out, is not what Gap wants to reward.

Gap YZY was announced last June, and the first collection was supposed to drop in the “first half of 2021”, according to media reports. Surely someone at the Gap know we’re now approaching the last quarter of the year. The puffer jacket, aka the ‘RoundJacket’, in one colour (blue), was launched in June for a not-small amount of USD200. It reportedly was all gone in a few hours. Online shoppers were met with a “sold out” message, which, to me, is a lot better than “don’t have permission to access”. But according to Forbes, “the ’sold out’ message customers were seeing was a glitch due to high demand”. And now this hoodie, ‘The Perfect Hoodie’, which is cheaper, at USD90. But it is for pre-order in the US only, with the waiting time for delivery two months if one chooses the black. After a year, just two products? And one that you may not receive after buying until closer to Christmas?

So why the hoodie? Who knows? The real question is, do you need Kanye West to come up with that?

Product photos: Gap. Illustration: Just So

To You, Paris

Saint Laurent’s love of its home city is again illustrated, as it stages the spring/summer 2022 show under the golden brilliance of the Eiffel Tower

What’s more French than the Eiffel Tower? Or the maison Yves Saint Laurent built? The evening presentation of the house’s spring/summer 2022 collection is in the presence of the 132-year-old tour Eiffel, which reopened in July after being shut for nearly nine months as France dealt with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is anything that could signal a return to some semblance of normalcy, it is perhaps the towering grandeur of the symbol of Paris. The models walked in the open space, extending Anthony Vaccarello’s connection with the outdoors of the past two seasons, only now in the heart of the city and the home of some of the most recognisable brands in the world, especially those founded here, on which the identity of the brands hinge on. None more so than Saint Laurent, whose founder loves Paris so much, he named a perfume after her. But did the house not say they were opting out of the PFW calendar some two seasons back, even ‘showing’ away from Paris? So what could this presentation, right before the most symbolic of Parisian monuments, mean? Change of mind?

The inspiration this season, however, is not the city per se. Reportedly, Mr Vaccarello was particularly impressed by Paloma Picasso, the French/Spanish daughter of the artist Pablo Picasso. In the inner circle of Yves Saint Laurent, Ms Picasso is considered an important figure although much of the accolades went to Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise (deceased). If Ms Catroux was the tomboy and Ms a la Falaise the dandy, Ms Picasso was the femme fatale, completing the trinity of women who surround the man. When he first met Ms Picasso, he was said to have called out in delight: “It’s Dora Maar!”—the photographer/artist who was the lover and muse of Pablo Picasso (it is not known how the daughter felt when compared to a woman not her mother!). Ms Picasso would take a different path from the other two women: she went on to be a jewellery designer, whose name, like another European Elsa Peretti, is very much linked to Tiffany, now owned by LVMH. And also unlike the duo, she was never thought to be quite the designer’s muse, until now when Mr Vaccarello brings up her name. Is a muse still crucial to a house? Or, is that so many decades ago? In an inclusive society that we are supposed to be in, is singling one woman, even if she’s of international repute, to represent women in general advantageous to a brand?

Whether the inspiration came from a single city or a one woman, Mr Vaccarello is in what may be considered his finest form. Doing away the tiniest of skirts or profusion of marabou, he (re)engineered the chic that is so synonymous with YSL, and gives it a keen street posturing that recalls one Left Bank of the ’70s than the equivalent of today elsewhere. The masculine tailoring, for one, stood dependably tall as the tour Eiffel. Shoulders of suit jackets are pronounced, but not overly large or dropping too much, while sleeve lengths shortened to three quarters—a sum that is consistent with today’s love of volume, but also recall the jackets of the house in the past. One particular comes quickly to our mind, the pink, boxy, one-button single-breasted that was featured in the 1985 TV commercial for the perfume Paris, in which the model and her pronounced and straight shoulder was the embodiment of unattainable French chic. Mr Vaccarello’s own take is less feminine, but they are not diminished of the sharp elegance of tailoring associated with the house, and its story of the young heart.

Another piece was striking to us too: the double bandeau-bikini, which recalls the two bows on a bustier dress from the house’s autumn/winter 1988 haute couture collection, worn by “India’s first supermodel” Kirat Young. Sure, it’s been a skin-showing season, but Mr Vaccarello is able to take what is essentially decorative element of the past and reimagine it as a garment—skimpy as it is—that is a lot less bare than those now so omnipresent and destined to be worn in large numbers soon. Sexiness is also evident in the styling (and even concurrently adopted by very young stars such as Olivia Rodigo), but somehow Mr Vaccarello is able to throw a spanner in the works, so to speak, and temper the sexual strength by doing something quite unsexy: tucking a long wallet into the front waist of pants, not quite like a person doing so with a gun because he has no holster, but like a wet-market-bound auntie, keeping her hands free so that she can bring the bags of vegetables home. Since anything can be sexy these day, perhaps that too?

Screen grab: Saint Laurent. Photos: gorunway.com

The Fake Good

Lame designs can be instructive: they convince very few

The one thing consistent about Dior under Maria Grazia Chiuri’s watch, apart from unstoppable sheer skirts, is a design sensibility that does not arouse the senses. In a word, banal. Or, another, closer to social-media speak: blah. In fact, it’s hard to find a description not the opposite of dull. Fashion professionals always avoid using the three-letter B-word. So we shall, too. But when we run out of synonyms, what are our options, really? Sure, being Dior, the vêtements are not crummy per se. But as designs not more expressive than just clothes, even if they are well-executed, can we honestly resist the simple lousy? Dior’s spring/summer 2022 show is high on colour, but why is it so low on excitement? So young, but so without spirit? So sporty, yet so enervated? It can be imagined that many women would find much of the styles “cute”, but how does cuteness really advance the house that, for so long, has been associated with grown-up sophistication?

Ms Chiuri has been described as being at the “apex” of her career. A woman designing for women, a mother with a daughter as “cultural advisor” in the same office, a feminist unafraid to speak her mind, she has the ambassadorial advantage to effect a more design-forward influence. Yet, her output is largely a commercial exercise. It is mostly devoid of wit or flair, superscribed by big hits such as the seen-everywhere (and much copied) Book tote, and pitched for gushing reviews, whether they are truthful or not. Or, for the survival instincts of reviewers such as Suzy Menkes, who gleefully posted on Instagram that Ms Chiuri has “a particular skill in picking out the spirit of the moment”. Wow!

What could this “spirit of the moment” be at Dior for next spring and summer? Immediately discernible is the throw-back to the ’60s, with a go at the colour wheel. There are mini-skirts, complete with go-go boots, and whatever screaming girls used to wear when they thronged to meet their idol-band, The Beatles. But the reference point, to be more exact, is Marc Bohan’s Slim-Line collection of 1961. Youthquake(!), but nothing trembling with newness, let alone innovation. Wait not for the aftershocks for once the season is over, you’ll find it hard to remember any of the pieces. Definitely not those vaguely modish mini this, mini that, the numerous “cute” skirt-suits (some with shorts or culottes), and those ringer-style tank-dresses! Curious is the septet of unflattering separates that seem to mimic boxing wear (like in Milan, there are bras to go with the shirts and shorts, under which are unnecessary skin-coloured base garments), and even more baffling is the white union suit that could have been Baby Gap made for grown-ups. Or, to borrow from Karl Lagerfeld referring to sweatpants in 2013, “a sign of defeat”.

While other houses such as Saint Laurent proudly wear their Frenchness on their sleeves, Dior does not, and is, in fact, becoming more, er, Italian? Or Roma, the place of Ms Chiuri’s birth? Is this her strategy? Seems so. The scenography is conceived by compatriot, Anna Paparatti, considered a key figure in the Roman art scene of the ’60s, who created the set based on the Roman night spot of the same era, Piper Club (which still exists!), thought to be the city’s own Studio 54 back then, while the soundtrack is sung live by the Italian indie electro-pop band II Quadro di Troisi, attempting Italo-disco in considerably lesser beats per minute. What should we take away from all this? Viva Roma?

Photos: Dior

On The Border

The setting is rather otherworldly, a forbidding suburbia, but Riccardo Tisci’ Burberry is not for children of a dystopia

Burberry must believe that the majority of those who watch their livestream do so on their smartphones. It’s probably true. The brand’s spring/summer 2022 show is not only optimised for phone viewing, it seems to be filmed specifically for broadcasting to phone users, or TikTok habitués. Rather than in landscape orientation, the show is streamed in portrait. When you rotate your phone, the screen keeps (largely) to the north-south sizing. This is also rather true if you watch it on your notebook: to meet the landscape view, the image is half of the portrait! Even when you click your web browser to full screen, nothing is changed. Watching on the smart phone, especially in 21:9 screen ratio, is truly a reminder that fashion has become a digital experience, involving just the viewer alone, even when we’re told that it’s all IRL again. You can watch shows on the MRT train or in bed, even in the wee hours of the morning.

In terms of the feel of the presentation, the women’s is rather similar to the men’s presentation in June. Desolation is the setting. There is barely any soundtrack except the ambient sounds and, when the scene shifts to a sort of dance club (youth?!), music to move enthusiastically to. Multiple is the setting, from sand mounds in some void deck to empty echo-y rooms to corridors with speakers on one side to that packed dance space (a message there?!), where even the large, floppy-eared (no idea why some models need the prosthetic) can move un-hassled. The clothes do not seem to have anything to do with the somewhat cold surroundings: they are far less apocalyptic-seeming, more an exploration—a metamorphosis, even—of the things women might wish to wear when the pandemic is finally over, without stripping down to the underclothes. Which is understandable because, according to the show notes, Riccardo Tisci dedicated the collection to his mother.

If Christopher Bailey modernised the Burberry trench coat in the early 2000s and turned it into a fashionable staple, Mr Tisci has now made it sexy. They are, in fact, not kept whole: sleeves are removed, collars too, and in quite a few styles, the back—yes, entire backs! Deconstructed would be a strong word to use here (you can trace the garment to its original silhouette), but there is clearly a reimagining of what the trench coat could be used for. They could be worn as a dress, for instance, and with the rounded shoulders, look like a dress. And if you think that the Burberry trench coat is still too traditional for you, Mr Tisci dishes up some with geometric shapes on them, which could be discreet applications of tone on tone or something more eye-catching (that is key, isn’t it, when we embrace social gathering enthusiastically, again?), with contrasting colours of black and white on the more trad khaki. A garment can be so strikingly and effectively transformed.

Geometrical shapes are seemingly a new obsession with Mr Tisci, as if he was recently given a set square and a compass, and he is rediscovering the joy of their use. Curved shapes—that include the elliptic and parabolic—abound. Some are used symmetrically, and in sum look like creatures wearing gas masks or full-face respirators (did we also see a burka?). Some are more random in composition (abstract, really) and, in black and white, look like those on cows, but designed by man, not nature. Layered asymmetry is strong too. Sheer fabrics (netting?) over more shapes and, in some, with text (one reads “universal sports”). A low-front tailored gilet is a cape at the rear, a poncho has a vertical hoodie centre front and back, a top that looks like a blazer on the lower right half is a throw on the opposite end on the left. Relatively modest is the collection of 52 styles, but no doubt, visually compelling. And, best of all, there is a lot to see.

Photos: (top) Zhao Xiangji and (runway) Burberry

Remembering Alber Elbaz

Major names and labels will honour the late designer with a single interpretation of his work each in a tribute show to be live-streamed during Paris Fashion Week

The new entity that Alber Elbaz created before his death in April will organise a fashion event in honour of its founder. AZ Factory just announced on social media that the Love Brings Love fashion show, to be live-streamed on the brand’s website and Instagram, will feature designers from all over the world, totaling 44. It is not known if the organisers are aware that this number 4 in many parts of Asia is not considered auspicious. Probably not: four(!) designers will represent this continent: three from Japan—Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, Sacai’s Chitose Abe, and Tomoki Koizumi—and one from China—Guo Pei.

Each participating designer will present a bespoke work inspired by the legacy left by Mr Elbaz, according to AZ Factory’s press advisory. The concept of the show is based on Théâtre de la Mode, a travelling French fashion exhibition that toured between 1945–1946, just after World War II. It was spearheaded by Robert Ricci, son of Nina Ricci, and featured the top Parisian couturiers of the day, about 60 of them, such as Ricci (of course), Balenciaga, Lanvin, and Balmain. The clothes were worn on mannequins 70-cm tall, approximately one-third the size of their human equivalent, and were created by artists such as Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau.

It is not known how visually spectacular the AZ Factory show would be, or if dolls would be used, but Love Brings Love is now seen as the highlight event of Paris Fashion Week, just as the risible Fendace was. The show will be live-streamed on 5 October, 8pm CET, or 2am here on October 6. Staying up?

Photo: AZ Factory/Instagram

Fendace Is Verdi Real

It’s dubbed The Swap, but in a world with too many labels and too much clothes, are the Fendi and Versace I-do-you, you-do-me collections necessary? Are they at all nice?

It looks like Milan Fashion Week has its climax show to end the festivities. The “unexpected” Fendi and Versace or Fendace collaboration, or “hack”, to steal from present-day, pandemic-poised parlance, really took place after the initial rumour grew more heads than on Medusa’s. And rather than a reprisal of the Gucci/Balenciaga manoeuvre in April (or vice versa), Kim Jones (and design partner Silvia Venturini Fendi) traded places/brands with Donatella Versace to “interpret” the other house’s aesthetics and codes. The result is high on the marketing potential of the idea than the ideation itself, more brash than dash, more Versace than Fendi. It isn’t clear yet, which brand will stand to gain. Versace, fresh from a showing just three days earlier had already jog one’s memory about those ideas that make the house instantly recognisable, do they need another splashy retelling? Or, is this Fendi trying to go hipper, playing down Mr Jones’s banal muliebrity in his reimagination of the brand?

It is like his Shein moment, her Boohoo, all TikTok-ready, influencer-approved. Sure, we understand that we are living in such times, but must we see Fendi go from soignée a week earlier to meretricious now, Versace go from Versace to Versace Max? It is understandable that brands love mash-ups and, possibly, their customers too, but is it really time to blur aesthetic lines when no side gains? One SOTD reader was clearly dismayed when he texted us this morning about Versace’s interpretation of Fendi, “In the end, it just looked like two Versace shows; one better than the other! Apart from the monogram, there was sadly, no Fendi to speak of.” Make that three if you count the spring/summer 2022 show of the main line. “It’s the first in the history of fashion,” Ms Versace said through a media release. On both front, yes.

No one is mistaken that this is Sacai’s Chitose Abe doing Jean Paul Gaultier and certainly not, if a pop reference is preferred, Lady Gaga doing Cole Porter! It is all about the hype. Do we still remember that? Or has hype been so over-hyped that we are more immune to it than one relentless virus? Is hoopla so blah that we need to revive it. And throw in some old-time catwalk excesses (a revolving Medusa logo reveals the double F?) and other-era models to up the surprise factor (since there are none in the clothes)? Sure it is a delight to see Kristen McMenamy playing Donatella Versace, Mariacarla Boscono still looking good, and Kate Moss looking not, but when it comes to Naomi Campbell closing the show, it really is a bit jelak. Did she not just appear in the earlier Versace show, in the same swagger?

There is the laughable name too. Sure, the project can be cheekily referred to as Fendace (the lazy conflation of Fendi and Versace), but when it is actually spelled out as a real brand, it sounds like something you would find in Mahboonkrong Centre in Bangkok, among the Armanee jeans, Frid Perry polos, Adibas kicks, and Relax watches. Clearly ‘Verdi’ is not allowable—a national icon deserves far greater respect. Perhaps this is a dig at the Chinese counterfeiters who can’t spell. Still, could they not think of something less Qipu Lu, Shanghai? We have no idea if this would appear as a label on the back of the clothes, but since Fendace is already there as a belt buckle and on the bags (including those Book wannabes), so expect nothing less. According to reports, the project was brewing since February although the news broke that it would be a sudden coming together of the brands only this week. Designers taking over as new creative directors of other brands have precocious less to work with. A waste of resources, just to feed the empty hype?

The show opens with Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi doing Versace. One senses this is really the job Mr Jones was after, rather than the Fendi appointment. Loud is waiting to jump out of him, and he creates the chance to allow it to radiate, but could he do loud better than Versace has been? It is not hard to see that Mr Jones is not particularly adept at handling or mixing prints. Or squeeze out more. The florid Versace silk dresses and separates look like they could come from a lame season of the now-defunct Versus. Donatella embracing Fendi, a house so unlike the one her brother founded, conversely, appeared the more triumphant among the trio, leaving every identifiable Versace hallmark where they can be left, like a canine marking her territory. Even the Fendi monogram is treated to Versace-esque colours. No garment is free of Medusa heads, animal prints, Oriental frets, Baroque swirls… whatever could be squeezed onto a silk screen. If not, there is always the chain mail.

Is it because the show took place on Versace’s turf? Would it be different if it is staged at Fendi’s headquarters? Will it be there next? Would there be a next? Where would the clothes and accessories be sold? Both lines at each other’s stores? Just as the show was live-streamed on both brands’ website, on visually similar pages? High-high pairings (in this case, one French-owned—LVMH and the other by American upstart Capri Holdings) may be trending now, but how Fendace will pan out is perhaps too early to tell. The idea may not have been explored before, but the execution is nowhere near radical. And, it is hard to see the sustainability (in every sense of the word) of The Swap. It is a showy novelty set up to wane.

Photos: Fendi/Versace/Fendace