Run To Me

JW Anderson beckons with a collab that features the vintage South Korean cartoon character Hany

The titular character from the South Korean cartoon series Run Hany. Screen shot: KBS Archive/FaceBook

JW Anderson introduced Japanese anime to Loewe with two Studio Ghibli classics: My Neighbour Totoro in 2021 and Spirited Away in 2022. This year, Mr Anderson brings the South Korean cartoon Run Hany (달려라 하니), also spelled Hani, to his eponymous label. Followers of his use of animated characters for Loewe might find the latest familiar, especially in the graphic treatment of the bags, but the present version is no less charming, even if the central character Hany brings to mind the equally spunky Chihiro Ogino (Hiragi) of Spirited Away. Both are girls in search of something and, in turn, themselves, but both are delineated rather differently, with Hany clearly bearing a retro vibe and the vividness of the characters of Japanese cartoons of the past, such as those by Macoto Takahashi, especially the big eyes and the prominent lashes.

Run Hany is a Korean TV animation series from the late ’80s, based on a popular comic from the manga mag Treasure Island. It tells the story of the titular 13-year-old, middle-schooler, who grew up motherless and quite alone (initially; her father was away in the Middle East for work). She is plucky, energetic, oftentimes boisterous, with a talent for the sport of running—a tomboy, as girls with an athletic streak tended to be portrayed. Her talent is recognised by the school coach, a handsome, stubbled, and somewhat uncouth fellow, who offered to train her. As can be imagined, Hani’s adventures are found in her becoming an athlete and, at the same time, the overcoming of adversity and the coming to terms with her mother’s death.

JW Anderson X Run Hany capsule. Product photos: JW Anderson. Cartoon screen shot: KBS 2TV. Collage: Just So

The shoulder bags featuring the title character Hany. Photo: JW Anderson/Instagram

It is easy to understand why JW Anderson is drawn to sporty Hany. What she wears is rather what many girls still don today: T-shirts, blousons (the green one!), sweatshirts (the red with pink hoodie!), camp shirts, track tops and track pants (not necessarily together), and jeans—skinny, to boot. Hany is not depicted wearing skirts (not counting when she was a little child)! Yet, in the JW Anderson capsule, there is a dress—sort of, in the form of an extra-long T-shirt that serves as a dress. Her pair of slim-fit blue jeans is replaced with white ‘workwear trousers’ that sport faces of the protagonist all over. In fact, if Hany were to have first dib of the clothes, it is doubtful she will find anything she likes, as the pieces are a wee bit feminine. There is even a pink ‘peplum top’!

Hany is known for her pink heart-shaped hair clip. She even wears them (sometimes singly, sometimes a pair, on each side of her head) while she competes. That heart shape is reprised, but only as a coin purse and a key ring. Bags come in the brand’s familiar ‘Bumper-Moon’ leather shoulder bag, with images of Hany on the front. The runner’s recognisable pink satchel is not recreated. Nor her red-and-white high-cut Converse-like sneakers. Rather, there is a pointy-toe booty with a print on the quarter of Hany tying the shoe lace of her blue running shoe. In her pursuit of sporting excellence, it is doubtful that Hany would consider being a fashion icon. Perhaps, therein lies her charm.

JW Anderson Run Hany Capsule is available at Club 21 and jwanderson.com

Two Of A Kind: Angel Wings

With Louis Vuitton following Victoria’s Secret’s footsteps, now the guys can have theirs too

Louis Vuitton Angel versus Victoria‘s Secret Angel. Photos: Louis Vuitton and Getty Images respectively

When Louis Vuitton’s multi-flap angel wings appeared on the runway back in January, we told ourselves that LV was joking, and happily forgot about them. And then there they were again, in the “spin-off” Bangkok show two days ago. The Thai audience were totally taken by them, recognising the wings’ immensely camp value when they saw it. Some applauded: The show was, after all, appropriately taking place in the City of Angels. There were three sets of the winged outfits. The models did not look happy in them, presumably because they knew they looked ridiculous. They walked as if the flapping appendages were not part of them, and the patterned pennons were simply ridiculous. Were they heavy, we wondered.

(Among the delighted audience, chatter had emerged, prior to the show, that there was “drama mak mak“ with the casting. Non-Thai models were engaged, including some from Singapore, but work permits for them were somehow “forgotten”. The casting team “scrambled”. They had to use inexperienced local models—some of the boys had never walked on a runway before, it was shared. One chap reportedly went for the casting seven times. To make matters worse, five of the models were said to have tested positive for COVID-19 on the day of the show!)

Victoria‘s Secret ditched their angel wings and Louis Vuitton picked them up

Who‘d thought modern menswear would come to this? Victoria‘s Secret ditched their angel wings and Louis Vuitton picked them up. The lightly fluttering rear flaps left the VS catwalk for good, only it seemed, to decamp for the LV runway. While they were no longer “culturally relevant”, as the brand said last year in response to the nixing of their famed Angels, the wings have become germane to fashion for guys now. Or, is menswear so open to the unconventional that it is receptive to what women have discarded and have considered them to be nothing but the constructs of heterosexual male fantasy?

This time in Bangkok, on the slow-moving models, we did have a closer look at the wings. They looked to us more like 京剧背旗 (jingju beiqi) or the rear flags of Beijing opera costumes. These 旗装 (qizhuang) or flag costumes are usually worn by actors playing the part of military generals. The flags are attached to an armour (or coat of plates) known as the 靠 (kao); they are also called 靠旗 (kaoqi) or armour flags. Seen this way, perhaps the late Virgil Abloh intended for the models to be flagged than winged. And what—indulge us—is more masculine than the striking figure of the 战神 (zhanshen), god of war, 赵子龙 (Zhao Zilong)? Never mind that the Louis Vuitton show was no Beijing opera.

Reprised in Bangkok

In the Thai capital, Louis Vuitton’s “spin-off” show reminded many in Asia the greatness—and overkill— of the late Virgil Abloh

It did not rain. Fon mai tok! Louis Vuitton was blessed with dry weather in Bangkok this evening. The Thai capital played host to the brand’s “spin-off” of the Virgil Abloh-helmed autumn/winter 2022 collection, The ∞th Field. This is the second full-season LV show in Southeast Asia. The last was the women’s spring/summer 2021 presentation, staged here in March last year, when, to the dismay of LV, it rained, or, to be more precise, it poured. The Bangkok show was a belated one. Last year’s wet SG affair was, reportedly, supposed to have taken place in krungthep, but our island became the substitute when the COVID and political situations in the City of Angels were not conducive to an IRL show of a French luxury brand. So it’s back to tuk-tuk land, where, this evening, the weather was 28 degrees Celsius, but, according to Accuweather, felt like 33. In this heat, but in air-conditioned interiors, the models donned layered winter wear, so did the guests. But, do not tell the local attendees that there is no winter in their country. The Thais will disagree, vehemently.

The show was staged at Icon Siam, the massive shopping complex across the Chaopraya River from downtown Bangkok, and livestreamed from there. Louis Vuitton has a store here, so it it not surprising that the presentation was sited in the building. Some industry observers had hoped that, with LVMH brands showing in far-flung places this past month (read: cruise), a more local audience might lead to a less problematic carbon footprint for the luxury group. Sure, the usual Thai actors (Metawin “Win” Opas-iamkajorn, Mario Maurer and Pakorn “Boy” Chatborirak, who appeared in the just-concluded TV series on Channel U, Barm Ayuttitham [or Eternal]) and model/actresses (Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund and Araya “Chompoo” Hargate) were there, together with the usual bedecked hi-so fashion event regulars. But a show in Bangkok must at least be a regional event. So stars from neighbouring lands were invited too. Sighted were the Filipino model/influencer LA Aguinaldo and Singaporean show producer Daniel Boey and the Mediacorp artiste Desmond Tan, but it was the recently-out-of-the-army Korean actor Park Bo-gum (of Love in the Moonlight fame) who made the most watched and cheered entry as he was escorted into the show venue, the mall’s cavernous Suralai Hall.

Like most Virgil Abloh presentations of the past years, the show began with a filmic introduction, this time shot in Thailand by filmmaker Sivaroj “Karn” Kongsakul (of the award-winning 2010 feature Eternity). While the presentation unfolded in the gleaming Icon Siam, dubbed “The Pinnacle” of the city, the short (not costumed by LV) was filmed in a beach-side community with a boy lead that regular Bangkokians will likely call baan nok (country folk). While it hints at the obscure—even pretentious—themes of the version that went with the original Paris show (which the brand says “consolidates the eight-season arc Virgil Abloh created for Louis Vuitton), it was oddly grassroots in its delineation of a boy with dreams. Was this deliberately playing up Thailand’s less-developed aspects, no doubt qualities that lure tourists, who the country now desperately needs? An earlier video teaser shared on social media to publicise the show saw gaily-lit tuk-tuks race through the city’s Yaowarat (or Chinatown)—further exoticising Bangok’s old-world appeal?

This was yet another posthumous tribute, just as last year’s Miami show was, and the many more since—protracting his association with the brand without, perhaps, needing to remunerate the man. Similar to the American event (the first on Mr Abloh’s home ground), it was not a total facsimile of what was seen in Paris four months earlier. Mr Abloh, to his fans, has never brought the world unturned to LV. To underscore how upside down he has made of the house, the Louis Dreamhouse², a surprisingly simple abode of the designer’s imagination to accommodate his fantasies, was erected—actually, hung—from the floor, up. Previously, only the gabled red roof was visible. The models walked out (not danced) from a cave-like opening and onto what seemed like some kind of train track (toy?). This show was far more immersive as a visual treat, with its immense set and movable prop, than the show here, where there was truly nothing at the ArtScience Museum to enthrall, except the downpour.

Louis Vuitton announced earlier that the Bangkok show would feature “unseen” looks. Whether these were omitted in the January Paris reveal to be saved for this evening’s presentation, it was not made known. There were supposed to be nine of them, but it was near impossible to know which ones were the hitherto unrevealed among those already shown if one does not have the habit of committing to memory every single piece of an extensively merchandised collection. By now, Mr Abloh’s pastiche of high and low, the frilly and the plain, elegant and sporty, masculine and feminine, costume-y and elemental, Black and not is so familiar that it would be unfair to test the show goers’ power of recall to suss out the previously not shown. The audience seemed more amazed by the angel multi-wings than anything as prosaic as mere clothes. Bangkokians love spectacles on the runway. It is uncertain if the inclusion of these nine not-yet-seen and not-identified looks would make any difference to the impact of the show.

LV’s golden goose Virgil Abloh has a huge fan base and it is understandable that those who adore his work would want to continue to wallow in his prolific output that sometimes flutters rather closely to visual clutter. But how long more will Louis Vuitton keep his name so alive, so in conversations, and definitely so in shows? Six months after his death, he is still so visibly and splashily honoured. If fashion is urgently about the next, why is LV still hanging on to the before? In times of shrinking trend cycles, some of us are truly ready to move on, khob khun, krab.

Additional reporting: Nah Kwamsook. Screen shots: louisvuitton/YouTube

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