Bag For Two

…and three. And other sartorial delinquents of Thom Browne

The autumn/winter 2022 show is for both people and bears—teddy bears. In the middle of the show venue, Thom Browne sat a classroom (or conference?) of hundreds of teddy bears, all togged in Thom Browne, naturally. Mr Browne has, of course, a thing for toy animals, and they are there, such as the dog-bag Hector—only this time, it comes with two handles meant for a pair! Toy, as metaphor, extended to his beloved New York, to which the show is also homage to, as well as its inhabitants. It isn’t a surprising expression of pride. Mr Browne has always found kinship through his work with those whose outward appearance we might call gila. He calls his home “an island of misfit toys”. And those outsider-oddballs are dressed accordingly, totting bags that are the plush-toy embodiments of pets, as well as those that are more vehicular. Quite a sidewalk of curiosities.

Mr Browne has largely pivoted his designs on the suit, which brandishes his flair for tailoring that is often described as “fastidious”. He is partial to shades of grey, and patterns and textures much tethered to menswear and is even more favourably inclined to include lots of sport coats, especially the uniquely British regatta blazer. But in his hands, they have less in common with those adopted for the sport of rowing than the blazing pieces worn by ringmasters of a cirque (this season, a madcap schoolmaster, perhaps?). Preppiness may also be the seeming effect, but subversiveness is clearly part of the equation, for the Thom Browne fan is no collegiate stiff.

The show could be considered a two-parter: the first, what would be ‘standard’ (not disparagingly) Thom Browne. The regatta blazer with a particularly constricted tailoring that is very much a part of the brand’s recognisability plays its versatile role. The pieces are designed to be gender-neutral—teamed with skirts, no-issue staples among the guys. Most are pleated, with inserts that could be club ties. Or, paneled with what could be fancy washing machine outlet hoses, in clashing fabrics. Some of the skirts are above the knee and worn over demure wide-cuffed culottes. On the whole, the outfits are enchanting, with a digestible schoolhouse prim that is possibly even more appealing, perhaps, in the US, where the wearing of school uniforms is not adopted.

But Mr Browne has to have fun too, and when he does, so do we. In the second part, the clothes take a fantastical spin, crossing too closely over to the absurd, tempered by their couture-ness. There is no denying the skill level required to make these outfits that defy the shape of the body: massive quilted coat with lobster pincer to glove the hands, giant golf ball-as-bodice for a sweater, bulbous protuberances on lean dresses, multiple sleeves on one-piece outers, a box shape of a toy soldier for a top, and the immense crinolines that even Scarlet O’Hara’s Mammy would find challenging to handle. Despite their wow-inducing effect, it does beg the question: would all these aesthetical aberrations be possible without the path layed out by stalwarts such as John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Conme des Garçons? Regardless, they are all in time for next week’s Gilded Glamour at the Met.

Screen grab (top): YouTube. Photos: Don Lecca/vogue.com

Balenciaga’s Optics Of War

Models are still fashionably togged, but can they escape artillery shelling in spiked heels?

As the Balenciaga show goes on in Paris, news reports comes forth that Russian artillery attacks continue to rain on Ukraine’s residential areas throughout the country. Agreements with Russia earlier on a humanitarian corridor have largely fallen through, and residents are evacuating in droves. Reflecting this grim reality is the Balenciaga presentation, staged in Halle d’Expositions in Le Bourget, the northeastern suburb of Paris. Models brave machine-created snowstorm and gust, trudging, even in heels and above-knee boots (who has time to put them on under the threat of approaching attack?), through a scene originally created to be a warning about climate change. But with the war, the set becomes a timely discourse and, to a considerable extent, memoir of treacherous escape from military conflict. As Demna Gvasalia (now preferred to be known mononymously by his first name), told the press, “But it turned into something else, which often happens with my shows, somehow.”

The audience sees the presentation behind a see-through panel/shield. Looking on, what stands before could be a massive snow globe, but there is no fairy-tale or festive cuteness within. Instead, a diorama of people in peril, with a soundtrack of Slavonic piano to augment its bleakness. It is tempting to say that fashion is inclined to make light the gravity of things, but we do not sense that here. Demna himself said, “To me, fashion somehow doesn’t matter right now.” But fashion, like any show, must go on. The designer was a victim of war—at ten years of age, a refugee fleeing Abkhazia, Georgia in 1993, and was sheltered in Ukraine, where he went to school and learned to speak the language. At the beginning of the show, in total darkness, he reads a poem in Ukrainian. It roughly translates as “your sons will save you”. Although the words are intended for those who understands the language, Demna does intone, “the message is love, always. And fashion has to assume that, at least in terms of taking a position on it.”

But the allusion to war is not an equivocal one. It it can be seen and felt. And many do see and are touched, such as Bryan Boy, who quickly Twittered, “I don’t think I’ve ever bawled in a fashion show until now”. The show may be about evacuation, but it was about defiance too. Demna wrote in the show notes that cancelling the show to say no to the war would have been “surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years”. The authenticity—a less-hackneyed word may be preferred aside—of putting together a show by someone who had been through what is happening concurrently perhaps adds to the poignancy of the production, and to the clothes that are not entirely visible in the precipitative blurriness. Still, there is a tad of incongruity, when freshly-single, always-visible Kim Kardashian, “friend” of the house, sat in the front row, all bound up—in caution tape, labelled Balenciaga no less!

It is not a show that’s easy to watch, not only because of what it evokes, but also because what is seen are mostly the teetering, and the mere silhouettes. These are identifiably Balenciaga silhouettes: beautiful but, at times, ghostly. In the fog of war and inclement weather, bagged-up shapes and floating trains could be either the bourgeoisie in escape or the peasantry in flight, or both. The models, with wet hair, appear to have just taken their last shower. There are the half-naked, covered by a blanket (or is that a towel?), plodding through the snow. Some of the outerwear look like there are taken off a neighbour’s clothesline. But others—the dresses—could be a refugee’s finest because even in fleeing, you’d want to look your best. Many of them carry bags that look like black versions of those used by hotels for laundry. Perhaps better to contain everything you wish to bring along at the last minute. As Demna told the press, he “made everything less madame, less bourgeois, less upper-class”. It is not hard to second that.

💙💛💙💛💙💛

Screen grab (top) and photos: Balenciaga

Let Leather Lead

Bottega Veneta’s new designer Matthieu Blazy allows the fabric used in the house’s signature Intrecciato weaving to pilot the brand he’s now in-charged forward

Leather really commands Matthieu Blazy’s debut for Bottega Veneta. Mr Blazy, who took over the creative reign after the sudden departure of his predecessor Daniel Lee last November, has allowed the supple cowhides to do much of the talking. Even the first two pairs of jeans he sends out, they are really made of leather, not cotton denim, but treated to look like those rather washed to death. And that singlet-looking white top, it is made of leather too. More followed: trench coats, car coats, suits, slacks, skirts (narrow and full), little black dresses—really rather a lot. When the clothes are not in leather, the leather accessories dominate the looks, sometimes in the form of bags as large as and in the shape of an ossuary. Or, in other cases, bedroom pillows. Even with the sheer, lacy looks, it is the thigh-high boots that draw the eye.

That leather should feature so prominently is perhaps unsurprising. Bottega Veneta found immediate fame in 1966 with their now-recognisable intrecciato, a leather weaving technique, used, at the start, on leather goods, mainly bags. Ready-to-wear did not appear until the late ’90s under the stewardship of the English designer Giles Deacon, but it was the German Tomas Maier’s first collection for the house in 2005 that the BV aesthetic of easy, logo-less, sophistication was established and became sought after. In some ways, Mr Blazy’s collection was reminiscent of the 2000s, especially the hunky coats and the re-glorification of the intrecciato, now used even on miniskirts.

Just as with Daniel Lee’s debut, it is hard for us to say now if this collection will go anywhere. We doubt it’d break the Internet, even if social media adherents may enthusiastically embrace some of the more flashy pieces. While an acceptable first season, it isn’t one that effects the proverbial bang. It seems that this is Mr Blazy putting to good use his training and aesthetical absorption at Raf Simons and Céline under Phoebe Philo. A sleek confirmation of his ability to make beautiful coats with the proportion of the day? Or, could this, perhaps, be a foretaste of a bigger, more impactful onslaught later? But with Ms Philo’s forthcoming return, is this some kind of prelude for ‘Philophiles’? To be sure, there are some technical finesse on show—the elevated shoulder strap of the shift-dresses, for example. And appealing ideas—the asymmetric full skirts, under which a fringed sister swishes. But are they enough to bring about viewer exhilaration?

Missing is the ‘parakeet green’ that became an impressive sales enhancer for the brand during Mr Lee’s tenure. Sure there is one dress in a colour that is close enough, but the ombré effect minimises its chromatic impact. Matthieu Blazy uses other greens, but they are not as bright and noticeable from afar as the one named after a bird. It’s the accessories, rather than the cloths, that seem to be conceived to have maximum impact on the retail floor, and to draw attention to their wearers: open-weave clutches, double-ended intrecciato buckets, shoulder bag versions of the Pouch, cushion-like clutches, handbags with branch-like handles, above-knee boots, exotic-skin platform Mary Janes, intrecciato clompers, and impressively more. For some brands, leather goods are still the main driver of sales, so it is possible that the clothes of Bottega Veneta are, at least for now, to give context to the accessories. Like on any stage, all leads need striking costumes.

Screen grab (top): Bottega Veneta/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com

Deftly Kolor-ed

With his masterful deconstruction, Junichi Abe propels Kolor from strength to strength

Kolor’s Junichi Abe has a way with deconstruction that is beguiling. It isn’t the same as what we have come to know as Japanese deconstructionism—at Comme des Garçons, for example, which can be rather confusing—but something quite different. The parts on the garments he makes are re-arranged, but they are recognisable: a collar, a sleeve, a placate. But the pieces do not appear as they should. More often than not, they seem constituents dismembered from other garments (even old clothes?) and then reassembled, as Victor Frankenstein might a sapient life form, to create necklines (especially), bodices, sleeves that are fetching, not freaky, amalgams of similar garments, rather that the hybridised forms that his wife Chitose Abe prefers for her label Sacai. The Kolor aesthetic is not so much a chromatic blend as a mash-up of parts, and therein lies the label’s irresistible pull.

Mr Abe did not always present Kolor in this manner, but in recent years, he has become more adept at this mixing of parts (not necessarily matching), and it reached quite a high in the spring/summer 2022 collection. He can, for example, fuse polo collars with the V necks of sweaters, and ribbed round-necks can be linked to other ribbed round-necks, all the while providing a comfortable opening for the neck. Graphic designers might recognise the work as cut and paste. But, now matter how many bits are assembled, there is always a balance in the form and silhouette of the garments. No one is going to mistake a sweater for a jogger, a blouson for a skirt, even if they look disjointed at times. In fact, it is the recognisability and wearability of the clothes that fans continue to visit Kolor for their beyond-basics.

This season, Kolor’s show is a digital presentation shared during Paris Fashion Week (whether there would be an IRL reprise in Tokyo later—as in last year—is not known yet). The runway is within a lab-like space with glass walls and ceiling that reflect the models’ images and what they wear, as in a house of mirrors. At some point, the viewer is given a glimpse of the outside of the rectangular tunnel, and it looks like rush hour in a Japanese underground train station, with uniformed men and women rushing to somewhere. And then it’s a return to the calm on the runway (although the soundtrack by Sakanaction offers no clue of this orderliness). Perhaps Mr Abe is saying that no matter how incoherent (rambling?) the externals of his clothing might be, there is an orderliness within, and a structure that is assuring and confidence-boosting?

Many of the pieces could be described as work clothes. But what fantastic work wear they are and how not belonging to any work site! Jackets have a mysterious collar unfurled onto the lapel—on one side; blazers appear to have the tail of an inner garment slipped through a vent, necklines of sweaters look like scarves crisscrossed on the collarbone; sleeves of outers are puffed on one side, as if the sewer did not get that side of the cut pattern; coats reveal portions that are inside-turned-out, and we could go on. There is a lot to see. And unpack, which may not be necessary at all. It is too easy to be pulled into the off-beat world of Kolor and remain within. There is no denying that Junichi Abe is an innovative designer, but perhaps even more appealing, he is one pushing boundary-within-boundary too.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Kolor

Back To Galerie Vivienne

Nigo’s first collection for Kenzo brings the show back to where it all began. A charming start for the founder of A Bathing Ape

Nigo taking a bow at the end of his first Kenzo collection. Screen grab: kenzo.com

A Japanese, designing a collection for a label founded by a compatriot, debuts where the brand began its journey is not exactly the stuff of emotional pull. Yet, there is something charming about Nigo—on his passport it reads Tomoaki Nagao—going back to where Kenzo Takada opened his first store, Jungle Jap, and staged his first show: Galerie Vivienne, north of the Louvre in the 2nd arrondissement. Not just the actual venue, but in the spirit of the clothes too. To be sure, there is nothing retro about the show and the men’s and women’s collection. Galerie Vivienne looks swanky, not the same space that housed a little shop offered to Mr Takada cheaply back at that time. And Mr Nigo is a streetwear star not from America. This is like a manga classic remade, and respectfully rendered.

Trace it to the outset, that itself is unusual in that so very few designers desire to reprise the house codes of the brand they’re tasked to revive or make more visible. Making a mark is more important for a designer’s debut collection than really revisiting the legacy of the label. Mr Nigo’s looking at the halcyon periods of Kenzo, specifically of the ’80s, is reverential without being duteous. There is a free spirit about the looks, just as there was back in 1970, a collection reportedly made from a puny US$200 of fabrics. Mr Nigo clearly had significantly more than that. But as it was in the past, these are clothes to live and move in. There is nothing precious about them, not a tad delicate either. Kenzo’s clothes in the early years were so fun-seeming and so not soignée that the members of two major fashion camps at that time—one aligned to Yves Saint Laurent, the other to Karl Lagerfeld—were willing to risk charges of disloyalty to wear Kenzo.

“Kenzo san’s approach to creating originality was through his understanding of many different cultures. It is also the essence of my own philosophy of creativity,” Nigo wrote on Instagram following his appointment as CD at Kenzo. Philosophy of creativity is not necessarily tenet of design. Although also an alumnus of Bunka Fashion Collage (he once said that what he learned from Bunka was “zero”. The best thing was meeting Jun Takahashi of Undercover), as Mr Takada was, both men’s approach, we sense, are quite different. Mr Takada had always worked a significant measure of romance into his designs, while Mr Nigo, if we go by what he has done for A Bathing Ape and, recently, with Louis Vuitton (together with the late Virgil Abloh), has always been, for a lack of a better word, street. Surprisingly, his Kenzo isn’t an amalgamation of A Bathing Ape, Billionaire Boys Club, Store by Nigo, and Human Made.

The men’s looks are, unsurprisingly, better conceived than the women’s, at least for now. Kenzo is synonymous with floral prints, bold graphics, and vibrant colours—not necessarily in that order. Nigo takes all that and mixes the prints and patterns (sometimes no mixing at all) with considerable ease, and, at the same time, not trying too hard with the necessary visual branding. There is something almost collegiate about the styling. Some observers think that this is not an impactful first collection. “Boring” is bandied about, even “awful”. Is fashion waiting for the next Demna? Look what happened to Mr Nigo’s predecessor Felipe Oliveira Baptista. Kenzo Takada was never a radical designer, such as Issey Miyake (whose Miyake Design Studio was founded in the same year as Kenzo, but the Paris collection didn’t debut until 1973, when prêt-à-porter was institutionalised). Nigo has never assembled a ready-to-wear line of this scale. That he has produced a collection of considerable joy and with heart is an encouraging start.

Photos: gorunway.com

Dior: Kim Jones The Soloist

Surprise! At Dior, Kim Jones offered no collaborations that set the tone of the collection

Kim Jones, the serial collaborator, is showing that he can have a go at a Dior collection all by himself (and with his design team). There are no artists or streetwear stalwarts to share the glory on the runway, no dead writer to inspire. (Accept, if you must consider them, the footwear with Birkenstock and the hats with Stephen Jones.) This is the 75th anniversary of Dior, and it is just Mr Jones and the legacy of the founder, or so it seems. Christian Dior did not design menswear during his time helming the house. Marc Bohan started Dior’s first men’s RTW collection in 1970. A decade later, there was a line called Dior Monsieur that, if we remember correctly, was mostly business wear. Then, in 2001, under the design direction of the then newish Hedi Slimane, the men’s RTW took off as Dior Homme. Kris van Assche succeeded Mr Slimane. It is not certain if his contribution to the development of Dior Homme is as sizeable as the former, but it would take Kim Jones to add considerable zing to the brand now mostly known as Dior Men.

This season, Mr Jones puts out a presentation that is Parisian in spirit, if not entirely in looks. A life-size replica of Pont Alexandre III, a deck arch bridge across the Seine that links the Champs-Élysées quarter and the areas of Invalides and Eiffel Tower. A fancy part of the capital, no doubt. It reminds us of the Chanel autumn/winter 2018 couture show, set against a fake walkway—sited along the Seine too—opposite the Institut de France. The Dior fellows breeze along the bannister, as relaxed as their finery are. We do not know if Monsieur Dior himself is partial to such casual styles (untucked shirts!), but he might approve the greys that dominate, especially a particular shade known as Dior Grey. Could this be Mr Jones at his most measured?

To us, some of the pieces look like they might have been designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri (perhaps it’s the beret?). She would have put out easy-to-wear blousons on top of round-neck sweaters, on top of shirts with the hem worn over slacks. The easy vibe aside, this could be Mr Jones’s most well-thought-out collection for Dior. Without aesthetical references from a collaborator, much of the pieces have to stand on their own. And quite a few do. Mr Jones has never been a careful-to-calibrate minimalist like his predecessor Mr Van Ascche. He has shown a soft spot for ornamentation, so pullovers are bedecked with flowers (purportedly as homage to Christian Dior’s own love for them) and blousons are petal-strewn. They are rather reminiscent of Raf Simons’s delicate blooms during his tenure with Dior women’s line. If you are not into florals, there is always the leopard print!

As with other houses this autumn/winter season, there is emphasis on the waist of jackets. Mr Jones, too, made them rather nipped-in. To be sure, his suit jacket is especially sharp this time, with lines of stitchwork and what seems like flocking (or frayed edges?) to augment the garment’s fetching trimness. And, soft too: There are those, as well as coats, that are gathered at the waist, creating a draped effect that relaxes the shoulders—tailoring seen more in womenswear then men’s. A certain body type is, of course, needed for guys to look good in them. The petite waist? Perhaps this is Mr Jones’s New Look for men. Will it be “quite a revolution”, as Carmel Snow remarked of the original in 1947? Hard to say, isn’t it?

Photos: Dior

The Swansong That Isn’t Supposed To Be

Virgil Abloh is reported to have finished the autumn/winter collection before he died. It is not certain he intended this to be his last

It is understandable why Louis Vuitton wants Virgil Abloh to be the most important and unforgettable designer in their employ, past and present. A month after his death in November last year, Louis Vuitton windows world-wide were dedicated to their star designer. Even Karl Largerfeld’s death did not yield a Chanel window on the same scale (not that Mr Lagerfeld would want to be remembered that way. Chanel organised a quiet funeral although, according to the late Andre Leon Talley, Mr Lagerfeld wished “not to be seen in death”). But it didn’t end with the “Virgil was Here” store-front memorial. In the same month, LV staged a show in Miami(!) where, as it was widely reported, Mr Abloh was “honored”. And now, for his final collection, honouring him seems more pronounced than showing the clothes. Virgil Abloh’s “profound legacy” is also Louis Vuitton’s profound legacy.

In 2019, Mr Abloh told Dazed, when asked what would be the fate of “the idea of streetwear” in 2020, “I would definitely say it’s gonna die, you know? Like, its time will be up”. That proclamation was met with dismay and even chagrin. He later told Vogue, “I didn’t say it to be polarising”. But he did say it, and now streetwear is not quite meeting its predicted demise, certainly not at LV, where it was brought to attention when Mr Abloh joined the house some eight collections ago. The numeral ‘8’ is, in Chinese culture, a lucky number, so his last might be an auspicious one for LV in this part of the world, but when ‘8’ makes a 90-degree left or right rotation, it is the infinity symbol, ∞. The collection is called The ∞th Field, “a place… something like a dream” (also dubbed Louis Dreamhouse), according to Mustafa the Poet, who appeared in the opening film, telling us that “When your imagination is a pulse, this sort of sparkle is formed. It lets you make things happen as long as you believe it will”.

Dream or not, the the streetwear sensibility, as seen through Black eyes and expressed by Black hands, is unmistakable. Although many attribute streetwear’s unstoppable rise to the Black culture of America, the streetwear of Shanghai or Tokyo is not the same as the streetwear of Los Angeles, or Chicago. Mr Abloh’s streetwear looks and, indeed, the tailoring, have an unmistakable Blackness about it—by now, all LV. This is not a collection in which to outdo what Mr Abloh had done in the past. After eight seasons, perhaps LV is really into the grove. There is no revolution to bring about, no creative point to prove, just reminding us what Mr Abloh was good at, as well as his intellectual bent, his predilection for art, his propensity to want to let the world know how far he has come.

A Louis Vuitton collection for men these days is incomplete without skirts. So there they are in various forms, including the asymmetric piece worn with what appears to be a football jersey (manlier?) and the sheer ones that would delight Maria Grazia Chiuri. The sports clothes, too, are still present, such as the varsity jacket that now comes with a cutaway collar. If a man has a weakness for openwork fabrics, but does not desire lace, there is the pantsuit with the overlay netting linked with LV floral motifs (as seen in their house monogram). This is not gender-bending; this is exclusive inclusivity that gives the LV shopper options. If you are planning to be a he-bride, there is something for you too, complete with trailing veil. And if it is an angel that you wish to dress as—an LV Angel, no less—there are assorted wings for you to choose. How pleased Virgil Abloh must be, looking at all this—and at all of us—from up where he is now.

Screen grab: Louis Vuitton/YouTube. Photos: Louis Vuitton

With Actors, To Entice Pursuit

Prada’s autumn/winter 2022 presentation includes “10 globally-renown Hollywood stars”

Kyle MacLachlan opening the Prada show

Jeff Goldblum closing the show

Prada courting Hollywood actors is nothing new. Many will remember the autumn/winter 2012 show: on the red carpet with patterns resembling those of the Navajo (although the stadium setting could have been some place in Red Soviet) were William Dafoe, Adrien Brody, and Gary Oldman. These were not your typical matinee idols. For cinema fans, they were (and still are) the best character actors of both sides of the Atlantic. And then, now, there are ten: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Asa Butterfield, Jeff Goldblum, Damson Idris, Kyle MacLachlan, Tom Mercier, Jaden Michael, Louis Partridge, Ashton Sanders and Filippo Scotti. Once again, not your average leading men. Prada would never use Tom Cruise!

“Actors are interpreters of reality, employed to echo truth through their portrayals,” Prada tells us. The reality of an actor, whoever he portrays is, of course not necessarily our reality. But in choosing older actors for the runway, is Prada also saying something about experience as part of that reality? Fashion, of course, knows no age. And Prada’s menswear have often shown that to be true, as seen in how Jeff Goldblum has embraced the brand, pre-pandemic. Even the pick of Morale… You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling from The Human League’s first album in 1979, Reproduction, to soundtrack the show seems to target an older, post-disco pack that would no doubt instantly hum to “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips/And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips (yes, originally sung by the Righteous Brothers in 1964—even earlier!)”.

Co-designers Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons are not literalists. Their references are often far more oblique. While both do look back, they do not bring to the fore a wholesale past. As per their collection communiqué: “Eschewing hierarchy, a dignity is proposed to pragmatic clothing, uniforms of reality, rematerialized in precious leather and silk tech as a mark of respect and value“. It is hard to imagine Prada not doing anything pragmatic, but there is always something a tad subversive to the pragmatism, even deviant. In case you are not too impressed with the spot-on tailoring, they’ve sneaked in something small, but so unexpected: dangling earrings! Sure, these are not in the chandelier style (they’re mostly geometrically-shape charms), but some are long enough to be, hmmm, shoulder dusters!

That is probably as far a feminine touch as Prada would go. Definitely no skirts. Or, should that be not yet?. In fact, we think this is one of the most masculine collections from Prada. The leather outers, with their hulky shoulders—they have an almost gangster quality about them, even in red. An SOTD reader messaged us to say that they reminded him of Claude Montana. Perhaps, but we were thinking of Demna (now, like his new best friend, going by one name) designing the costumes for a John le Carré movie (even the unlikely George Smiley!). And those one-pieces, with their suggestions of the the boiler room—workwear cool as sexy as military pomp. When Miuccia meets Raf.

Screen shots and photos: Prada

Do It Smartly

For the next autumn/winter, Fendi is hoping to get guys to really dress up

Silvia Venturini Fendi told the media she thinks that although there are so few occasions for occasion dressing these days, the habit of dressing well and smartly should “return in full force”, as WWD quotes her. That Ms Fendi is keen to promote and encourage men to dress up is understandable. As a luxury house, Fendi can’t be hoping to sell T-shirts and kindred garb—or more of them—to commensurate with the persistence of the pandemic that necessitates casual clothes (who goes for COVID testing or vaccinations and booster shots in a suit?). Or, to let guys be truly comfortable with donning T-shirts everywhere and every day to the point where the creature of habit in them takes over?

Ms Fendi’s solution is to bring back the “classics”, re-proportion them, and give them an overall softness. It is not immoderate to see them as feminine although that may increasingly be inappropriate an adjective to use to describe menswear. There are tunic shapes (to mimic a dress?), tented shorts (for winter?), and as it is de rigueur these days, a skirt (or what looks like one)—all happy friends with more convention shirts, sweaters, and parkas. Men, fashion presentation these days tell us, desire bottoms that are not pants. Still, we are not sure if the skirt is more option than must-have. Perhaps Ms Fendi is onto something when she refers to occasion dressing. There could be a time and place for men to don a good skirt, just not to meet the bank manager?

To defy convention (if it still matters), Ms Fendi tweaks the necklines too, but they are less minor adjustments than actually incorporating those usually devised to resemble a décolleté. Could the seen collar bone be the new mark of masculinity? Or is its exposure a sure sign that design details no longer distinguish roles according to gender? There is the inverted-triangular key holes on sweaters (one even appearing under a spread collar), and the split boat-neck of an evening jacket, on which a single-bloom corsage (they are too large to be called boutonnière, no?) is worn, just like Carrie Bradshaw is (still) inclined to. Pandemic-era dressing requires the projection of nuptial joy.

To further strengthen the gender-neutrality, the accessories appear to have—like certain contagions—made the jump. Sure, the Baguette has crossed over to the men’s camp for quite a few seasons now, and they still remain strong and handbag-like on masculine hips, but less expected are pearl necklaces, now worn over neck warmers, like an obijime (decorative cord) atop the obi. It is, of course, true that pearls under male chins, even unshaved, have not been unusual for awhile too, but as strap-ons for covered necks, they may preface jewellery for turtlenecks, mock or not. With surgical masks still necessary, and adopted by the fashionable set, is neckwear with their own accessories the next big thing?

Screen grab and photos: Fendi

Play It Loud

With Machine Gun Kelly behind the music, Dolce & Gabbana shows that you really can look deafening

Machine Gun Kelly performing on the runway

Bengdom has a new god. Make that gods: Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. Okay, perhaps not so new. They have held court in the Mount Olympus of visual excess for many years now, and those who come to worship at the foot of the giddy elevation can’t get enough of D&G’s boundless flashiness. Their shows are designed to top the excesses of previous presentations, the more dazzling, the better, the more gaudy, the merrier. Marketing missteps of the past be damned. They do not care what their naysayers think or post (although they did sue Diet Prada for what the Instagrammers shared online in 2018 that the brand claimed to have led to losses in revenue and deal). Over-the-top is their strong, showy suit. Dolce & Gabbana make Philip Plein look like a very minor deity.

Their autumn/winter collection emanates the sartorial energy of the time the two designers first met—in 1982, in a Milan discotheque—were eventually romantically linked. This time, their show is headlined by Machine Gun Kelly (aka Colson Baker), the American rapper/singer/actor, now engaged to Megan Fox, who is, expectedly, seated in the front row. Like MGK’s music, an ardent blend of hip hop and rock (as expected, My Ex’s Best Friend is performed), D&G is the visual fanciness to MGK’s aural fierceness. MGK struts down the runway to open the show in a white suit (one of three outfit changes) with pointy studs that form the outline of the jacket. As the camera zooms in, we see the ear, nose, and lip jewellery. Hardware is imperative and prolific. He dramatically pauses as he walks back, and cues the beat—a ringmaster ringing in the circus of fashion. And then closing it.

If the garish digital graphics and unrelentless flashing of disco lights are not enough, the clothes would definitely make up for the shortfall. Together, they provide a truly woozy viewing experience. So busy, in fact, is the sum of the show parts (including MGK!) that it is hard to understand what is really coming together in the massive display of the 107 looks. It is amazing how much one male body can don or need. D&G certainly shows the myriad possibilities and, in turn, the absurdities. Perhaps, they are inspired by Chinese New Year hampers (FYI, there’s a silver tiger print coat!). The designing duo has made outdoing themselves an art, although Mr Gabbana told the press before the show in more euphemistic terms, “We’re challenging ourselves; we’re questioning everything we’ve been used to.” The questionable, too.

There is no denying the free-hand approach to the designs: anything goes, and everything gets in. So what you see are clothes that are so exaggerated that unless one lives an outsized existence requiring sartorial extremes, they may not even fit—literally—in a typical wardrobe. Some of the puffers are really so large, the models could be wearing family tents. And, graffiti prints so packed onto fabrics, they make walls scrawled with spray paint look clean. In fact, pattern and prints dominate, but none more trying than the tedious repetition of two letter—yes, ‘D’ and ‘G’. They make LV’s appearances seem infrequent and tame.

Screen grab: Dolce & Gabbana/YouTube. Photos: Dolce & Gabbana