Chic For Real Use

On Kate Moss, Bottega Veneta shows that what is wearable can be far from mundane, but others pulled off the proposition better than she did

She does not open the show, but she is there. Appearing the sixth of a 72 line-up, she saunters out as if she just stepped out of a ranch home. Kate Moss looks ready to work in the fields, if not to actually round up the sheep or milk some cows, definitely to put away bales of hay. Or, get into a truck to go to town to get some flour for an apple pie she would bake later in the afternoon. This is definitely not the Kate Moss we’re familiar with, not the heroin-chic chick, not the vintage junkie, not the festival style maven, not the TopShop collaborator, not a skincare businesswoman, not a rock star’s former girlfriend, not Johnny Depp’s ex in court. She wears a shirt-jacket in shadow check over what could be a tank top and faded jeans, unbelted. Only her leather shoes—not quite heeled—give her away: She isn’t going to do field or barn work. Strangely, Kate Moss on the painted Bottega Veneta runway does not look an urbanite as the other models do.

There is visual trickery involved here. What Ms Moss wears may look like flannel and denim, but they are, in fact, made of leather. Matthieu Blazy, in his second outing for the house, is reprising what he did in his debut: make leather not look like leather. It is a complicated process. Ms Moss’s top requires prints layered 12 times to achieve the chromatic depth of the woven equivalent. Mr Blazy calls this “perverse banality”, but it sounds like something Demna Gvasalia would do for Balenciaga couture. Other seemingly Normcore-looking pieces that might not be out of the ordinary at Uniqlo are given this leather-looking-like-ordinary-fabric treatment. Which means that if one does not examine the finished pieces up-close or in one’s hand, one may not know that the T-shirt is not made of cotton jersey and the jeans not cotton denim. The commonplace is not at all. Thankfully, Kate Moss did not need to do a Naomi Campbell.

The press describes what Mr Blazy does as “wardrobing”, creating practical clothes that have real use and place in a wardrobe. It is not a plan totally new to Bottega Veneta. Even as far back as the tenure of Thomas Maier, BV’s first superstar creative director, the clothes have been easy to wear. Its quiet luxury led Vogue to describe BV fans as projecting “stealth wealth”. The brand’s ready-to-wear line is, in fact, relatively young; its debut appeared only in 1998 (some 30-odd years after parent company Gucci introduced their first pieces of clothing). It was designed by Laura Braggion, the ex-wife of the co-founder of the house Michel Taddei, who, together with Renzo Zengyaro, developed the unmistakable intrecciato weave used in the bags, wallets, even shoes. Bottega Veneta has never alienated their customers with designs considered too radical for a functioning wardrobe.

Mr Blazy has not kept that approach in his blind side. This season the tailoring is elegant, with none of the exaggeration of silhouette that still plagues many other brands; the dresses understated but just so, with some in prints that are graphic as they are offbeat; the leather wear supple and slick, with barely a hint of anything rock or ruffian. There is nothing too forward or too retro about the styling, even the fichu neckline—absent in fashion for so long—is a neoteric, tad folksy flourish, so are the scarfs floating in the rear, their single tip secured to baubled necklaces. Those slim, sheer, layered dresses with padded appliqués and decorative trims are evocative of Prada, but perhaps that’s a certain Milanese sensibility shared by those who design with a certain élan, just as some brands are unshakably partial to flesh and flash. Matthieu Blazy’s follow-up to his debut is a well thought-out and deftly edited collection. And, best of all, beautiful too.

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One That’s Twice The Bang

Gucci’s show is a parade of its usual motley group in a single file, but then it becomes a final reveal of freakish twins

Do good things really come in pairs? Are twos indeed couple the fun? Or double the dread? The latest Gucci show starts with a typical motley of models in a spaced, single line. They walk in a fairly dim space. On the walls are black and white portraits (presumably of those populating the runway). Then at the end of the show, before the models file past one more time, the wall opposite the audience rises, revealing a parallel runway on the opposite side. It is amazing that, according to social media, the show-goers did not know that the event was, in fact, two-sided. And then the finale: models from each side emerges. They are twins—identical twins. Who would have thought, even if you knew that there would be a dramatic element? Welcome to Gucci Twinsburg, Milan, not Ohio, where the yearly festival Twins Day is held.

Why anyone would need a two-dose Gucci is not quite clear. But the twins walk hand-hand, wearing the same clothes, the same accessories, the same shoes. Is this twice the usual budget for a Gucci show? Reportedly, the twins were invited from all over the world to participate in this runway pairing. It is conceivable that there are not that many body-ideal, good-looking, catwalk-worthy twins in Italy. The idea of having the 68 pairs do the show is to reflect the parturition truth that Michele Alessandro Michele’s mother is one half of twin sisters. In the show notes, Mr Michele said “I am the son of two mothers. Two extraordinary women who made their twinship the ultimate seal of their existence. They lived in the same body. They dressed and combed their hair in the same way. They were magically mirrored. One multiplied the other. That was my world, perfectly double and doubled.”

Yet, the twinning at Gucci does not necessarily mean twofold excellence. Or, wondrousness. We are supposed to read into it that even with a mirror image, self-expression of the individual can take place. The twins do not need to look like each side of a pair of scissors, spectacles, or chopsticks. Do they not? Isn’t this collection again Gucci seeing itself in the mirror installed by Alessandro Michele in 2013, almost ten years ago? To be sure, he has moved away from the deep-seated tapping of ’70s kitsch. But the mishmash from the world’s thrift shops is very jelak. Is that why Gucci needs the gimmick of getting twins to strut the runway? Can the brand distance itself from stylistic tricks?

The clothes require almost no description. Gucci fans know what to expect, and expectations are often met. To note are some stereotyping involved: that twins dress alike. And Chinese girls wear samfoos and cheongsums, but white girls can wear happi coats. Far-out, costume-y, and campy accessories have always been part of the Gucci look, so this season Mr Michele offers glasses (including shades) with fringing, garters for men, Gremlins to hang on bags (or wherever), beaded scull caps, beaded beards, hairbands weighed down the sides of the face with strands of beads (the little spheres are big this season), and face jewellery (again) that are Deepavali door hangings that drape from ear to nose to ear. Every season at Gucci is a festive season. Celebrate.

Inflatables In Times Of Inflation

Jeremy Scott has not lost his sense of humour and fun even when prices around us rise, and rise

With kids’ play things for the pool, Jeremy Scott shows he can do a theme, stick to it and do it well. Just as Karl Lagerfeld was able to expand on one idea into a collection for Chanel, Mr Scott is adept at taking just a single object and work it into myriad looks for Moschino that are incredibly fun. This is Milan’s best un-serious collection with some seriously good tailoring. Mr Scott makes really nicely proportioned clothes, and with much delicious humour and wit. Almost no designer has been able to make us smile this much when watching the presentation. We keep thinking he’s possibly the cleverest, let’s-not-take-fashion-too-seriously designer today.

As one stylist said to us, “What’s refreshing is that the clothes don’t look slutty.” Mr Scott was possibly enjoying himself so much to think of what might appeal to a tart. To be sure, he has largely kept to the lady-like, body-skimming aesthetic of Franco Moschino. As much as this was tramping high-camp territory, Mr Scott did not, as we see, execute a flashy swan dive into the swell of pool floats. The frolicking was measured, with the clothes not overwhelmed by the unlikely blow-up additions or appendages. But still, it is easy to marvel at how those inflated pieces are worked into the garments as a cheeky commentary on how things are vastly inflated these days, not just prices of consumables.

At Moschino, inflatable (via the included rubber mouthpiece) are pockets, necklines, lapels, peplums, welts (of pockets), cuffs, and hems. Wearable are puffed-up ring-sashes, shoulder straps, dolphin engageantes (false sleeves). There is even a cape formed by the word ‘party’; the left arm goes through the counter of the letter ‘P’. The vinyl pieces work with both solids and prints, which became increasingly riotous towards the end of the presentation. But regardless of the cute appendages and the tubular hoops that girdle various parts of the body, the clothes are themselves rather serious tailoring and dressmaking that recall an age when both were conceived with deep regard for the body and fit. No blind following of skin-baring and the ridiculously oversized.

Having a bit of fun has never done any harm to fashion, and Jeremy Scott has no qualms providing some mirth that is not at odds with the nearly 40-year-old Moschino. Even the models sashayed down the runway with a fountain in the middle as if they too were enjoying themselves, some hamming it up to go with the camp of a few gowns and their attendant blow-up play things. It is not known if the final garments available in the stores next year will come with these extraneous inflatables. And if they do, what would the use of that much long-life plastic really mean, fun as they are?

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Impeccable Ease At Prada

Miuccia Prada and RAF Simons really show that they do not have to try so hard

It is hard to achieve the balance between accessible and sophisticated. Harder still to place intellectual and sexy side by side. And even more so to temper conventional dressmaking with creative tweaks that could be construed as finishing oversight. Prada has found that harmony. Even in the co-working of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. There is not just balance between the two of the world’s most forward practitioners of their craft; there is synergy too. And admirable—and appreciable as well—is how easy both make their output appear. Nothing is ever over. ’Effortless ease’ may sound like a phrase Boomers use, but it is germane to what Prada has achieved and continues to be.

Ms Prada said in a statement that, in this collection, there is the attempt to free the garments of “unnecessary complication”. She added, “the clothes are about simplicity, with no unnecessary complication.” While they are indeed simple (has Prada ever been otherwise?), the designers did not take the edge off the clothes. After what was seen in New York and London, Prada’s simplicity is the proverbial breath of fresh air. Or, petrichor, that welcome smell after a rain. If one could put a aromatic note to Prada’s collections, that is it. But, have we not caught a whiff of this before? This almost-nothingness has been discerned in the air of Prada’s runway (does it smell like CDG’s Zero?) before in the Prada Fondazione. Ms Prada told The Cut in 2019 that the Resort 2020 collection was “all about simplicity” (!) and that “simplicity is a provocation; simplicity is rebellion.”

However often Prada reprises their simplicity or exercises their restraint, they would not leave a line that straight. The clothes this time are supposed to reveal the life spent in them, but not in conspicuous ways, underscoring the fan belief that with Prada, there’s always more than meets the eye, to the extent that only a close examination of the selected pieces in the store satisfies even the feeblest curiosity. This season’s creased bust-dart on slip dresses, warped slits of skirts, ragged neckline of cardigans, crinkles on suits, random pinching on the waists of short dresses, the snagged necklines and sagged hemlines of shifts—they begged a visit to the boutiques for their close-up. And one item too deserves in-person view: those long johns with shirt collars and cuffs. Are they the answer to this season’s underclothes-no-more singlets?

Since its womenswear debut in 1988, Prada has been the consistently talked about label following each showing during Milan Fashion Week, even when ordinarily the brand hardly draws a queue at their stores (certainly not here). Ms Prada told The New York Times back in 2013, “I hope they don’t just buy because there is a logo, but because the object is relevant to them.” In fashion weeks increasingly overflowing with meretricious clothes, Prada’s hyper-fuss-free pieces are honest, relatable, and definitely relevant. Even when sheerness is employed as part of the brand’s fascination with opacity, contrasts, and textures, it comes, as it does now, without the evocation of the sleazy. Simply put, Prada just can’t serve anything visually rude. And therein, for many, lies their strength and enduring influence.

Screen shot (top) and photos: Prada

Fendi Goes Green

Not quite, but there’s that green and not any green

To be sure, there are other colours in Fendi’s spring/summer chromatic proposals, but it is that green that bothers us. Two weeks ago, Kim Jones dabbled with the blue of Tiffany for the resort 2023 collection. They appeared on clothing and accessories. That particular blue is so associated with the brand that it bears the name of the company. And it is so identified with the retailer’s boxes and paper bags that it’s hard to imagine it for boiler suits and, harder, for the Baguettes. Yet, the colour was used sufficiently. And now for the Fendi RTW, there is that what-do-you-call-it green. To be sure, this does not have the same visual impact as Bottega Veneta‘s eponymous green, introduced under former designer Daniel Lee’s tenure, during the spring/summer 2013 show. Still, it perplexes us, especially when a model in a pair of platform slides in that green nearly fell and, out of her own safety, decided to remove them, and hold them in her hand. Are they uncomfortable slides? Are they hard to walk in? Is it the green that should be on kindergarten walls, not clothes or footwear?

If a bright green is not your thing, there is that pink. It is not a Barbie pink or a Millennial pink. It is one that could be considered grown-up pink perhaps, not too sweet, with just the right amount of brightness that, like the green, would draw attention, or stop traffic. In fact, the green and the pink (some call it flamingo) remind us of those used to distinctively colour Tyvek wrist bands—the ones cuffed on you to identify you as guest, paid or invited, at festivals, raves, or private events. And then there is the blue, the final of a trio of key colours. The blue is not as eye-catching as the other two—somewhere between lapis and Miranda Priestly’s favourite cerulean (after the Tiffany blue, they do not need another that bright?). These colours give the pop to an otherwise rather neutral palette, one that perhaps underscores the wearability of the collection. If the clothes are a no-brainer, then perhaps the colours could pique?

Kim Jones most definitely created many wardrobe friendly pieces with the 66-look collection. These are clothes for the pandemic-over world, when you are out and about, when you want to be dressed to mark a return to fashion and fashionable company. For quite a while we’ve been confined to not just our cheerless existence, but our drab clothes. With our social life back in full swing, the clothes must reflect that too, with more than a hint of the late ’90s and what we increasingly identify as models’ off-duty looks. Easy cardi and combat pants: How not off-duty are they? To be sure, there are on-duty looks too. White shirts under sweaters and teamed with slim skirts: How not on-duty are they? But if you are a socialite and that your duty is bound to that, there are plenty to delight those who desire a fashion language to communicate with those who might benefit from the knowledge that the wearers they are looking at are rich.

But if you need that message to be loud and clear, there is always the double-F logo of Fendi. Designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld in 2000, the broad, blockish, almost brutalist logo was primarily used as a buckle for accessories. But these days, they can appear anywhere, as seen in the resort 2023 collection, staged in New York to celebrate the 25th year of the Baguette, a bag that was wildly in demand also because of the double-F buckle. This time, the oblong metal with the two short lines within appears on straps to secure pocket flaps. But if that hardware is just too subtle, even obscure, how about sweaters with hems that can be turned from inside out—and up—to reveal another version of the double-F logo followed by the rest of the letters that spell Fendi. Perhaps that is more confidence-boosting than a shot of colour.

Screen grab: Fendi/YouTube. Photos: Fendi

Quinn And The Queen

Richard Quinn is the only designer who had the late Queen sit in the front row of his show. Now, he salutes her with a ‘royal’ collection, the first of a brilliant two-parter that closed London Fashion Week

In 2018, something unthinkable in London happened. At the Richard Quinn autumn/winter presentation in February that year (only his second exhibition), the late Queen Elizabeth, at 91, attended her first very fashion show. The Monarch, in a fetching baby blue tweed suit, was accompanied by Anna Wintour in the front row, but she was not there to enjoy a fashion event the way the Vogue editor might or even to pick a dress (did Mr Quinn’s mad but magical mélange of prints overwhelm her?); she was there to give out the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, and Mr Quinn was the first recipient—an affirmative nod for British fashion. It is not immoderate to assume that the meeting of the Sovereign left more than an indelible impression on the novice designer.

Four years later, Mr Quinn honours the Queen in return with one-half of a collection that leaves no doubt to its royal inspiration. Rather than cancel his show or add a token dress to salute Her Majesty, he conceived 22 all-black looks as effluence of emotion, respect and creativity to preface the show that he had originally planned. Mr Quinn admitted that he and his team had poured the “emotions of mourning into it (the first part)”. The raven gowns illustrate that even without colours or a riot of prints—the “ditzy florals”, Mr Quinn is masterful at assembling sumptuousness. The textural delicacy within almost traditional shapes could have been Christian Dior in partnership with Balenciaga—if collaborations could be coaxed out of the old masters—reimagined on a character from the past, such as Anna of Austria, Queen Consort of Spain. And then mantillas and floor-length face veils (rather than gimp masks) remind us that it is Mr Quinn who loves obscuring faces. There is much to enjoy in what could be mourning clothes.

Once the regal beauty ends, we are back to familiar, flower-packed, colour-saturated territory. This is indeed spring. Apart from the recognisable floral swing coats, tented dresses, bell-shaped capes, and oversized bows, there are now strange bodysuits in egg shapes from the waist up, some with the raised bumps reaching the ears—their forms no doubt would have baffled the award-bearing Queen of 2018. Were these Fabergé-eggs-turned-bodices given a floral makeover? Heaving chests in placed of augmented bustiness! These are, naturally, in keeping with Mr Quinn’s predilection for exaggerated shapes, or reimagining the line of the shoulder, as he did last season, confounding viewers with the question: Where does it begin or end? Or, are these for the potential mates of Elihas Starr, Marvel’s villainous Egghead?

However unconventional or conventional Mr Quinn’s shifting silhouettes are, they are pivoted to some place more grounded—haute couture at its height in the ’50s. This stands him in good stead against others in his home city who are inclined to go full-hog outré for the sake of affirming the capital’s standing as the rebel among fashion weeks. And for that, Mr Quinn’s clothes truly stand out and beckon inspection, as well as admiration. Even when allusions to the Queen may one day not matter any more at Richard Quinn, the label will continue to create thoughtful and romantic clothes that will, perhaps, sooner rather than later, draw the attention of some couture house across the English Channel, where Mr Quinn will bring out the best of the petit mains.

Keyboard Warrior

JW Anderson loves incorporating everyday objects into his clothes. This season, the keys that you type on are not spared

We use it almost everyday (at least for those of us who still work on a PC or a notebook), but the keyboard is not quite on our minds when we think of clothes. Yet, that has not stopped JW Anderson from using keys from a QWERTY keyboard to adorn his clothes. Of the 26 alphabet keys, he chose—unsurprisingly—only J,W, and A for two slim-fitting dresses. Another, an almost backless top, is festooned with too many keys to count. They look like a mosaic arrangement; the keys here seem to have been plucked from a de-commissioned keyboard, scuff marks intact. The keys themselves in fashion are, of course, nothing new. Accessories featuring single square keys or a string of them as a charm have been available for a while. And like these, Mr Anderson’s selected keys are from older keyboards (even the wired ones), not the slim peripheral preferred by the desktop-bound.

Mr Anderson seems to be expressing his geeky side. The show is staged in a games arcade. This could seem flippant when at this time, London is mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and thousands are queuing to walk pass the coffin that lies in state in Westminster Hall. But about two kilometres north, in the lively Soho neighbourhood, the JW Anderson show went on as planned in the Las Vegas Arcade, right next door to his own store at the corner of Wardour and Brewer Streets. There is, of course, nothing terribly unusual in a fashion presentation staged on operational business premises. Balenciaga showed their cruise collection last May in the New York Stock Exchange. While the NYSE may have been a coup of sort for Balenciaga, Mr Anderson’s venue in a commercial heart of the West End is less awe-inspiring but speaks more than the others of the season that the show must go on, just as computer games do. Game arcades (we also know them as entertainment arcades) go back to the early ’70s. But there is nothing even vaguely retro about the JW Anderson collection. The geeky is accompanied by the goofy.

Despite the colourful digital lights coming from the screens of the game machines that line the wall, the clothes look like they belong elsewhere. One ellipsoidal dress, with a reflective metal surface, could be very much a good companion to the Forster and Partners-designed London City Hall, along the Thames. Could this egg-shaped outfit be a symbol of fertility and what was it doing in a game arcade? And how is it worn? Can you sit in it? Is this a body helmet? The sculptural element did not end there: Two dresses with orb-shaped skirts illustrate that silhouettes need not be restricted to those that strictly follow the body. Or conform to what is discernible as a dress, such as the pair of one-shoulder shifts that look like a plastic bag with a fish in it that you get when buying your swimming pet in a fish shop at the market. Another fish appears too, such as the dolphin, but the mammal is just a print on a bodysuit. What aquatic creatures have to do with the movable parts of keyboards is anyone’s guess. It can’t be said Mr Anderson isn’t having fun.

To be certain, Mr Anderson wants to remember this very LFW that unfolded after the British Monarch died. To mark the occasion (even if it could be construed as cursory or, worse, flippant), he sent the last model, a male(?) with blond, vaguely QEII-ish hair down the runway in something the Sovereign probably never wore—a T-shirt. The oversized black top appears singly, sans pants. On the chest are printed the simple words: “HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN 1926—1922 Thank you” in the same font as the announcement of the royal demise seen on bus-stops throughout London, as shared by the British press. How significant that detail is, we are not sure. But a black, nonedescript T-shirt is probably more appropriate than a shiny metal egg.

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Is It Time For Tom Ford To Retire?

Stuck in the disco age and unwilling to skimp on sequins, Tom Ford should consider withdrawing from his own fashion label until he comes up with something truly fresher

Last July, Bloomberg reported that Tom Ford appointed Goldman Sachs to “explore the potential” of selling his company. No reason for the exploration was shared by Mr Ford or CEO Domenico De Sole. But Bloomberg did note that the growth of top-tier luxury brands had been hampered for unsurprising reasons that include inflation, continued lockdowns in China, escalation of energy and logistic costs, as well as those in manufacturing. There was no mention of whether the fashion of Tom Ford is still desirable. Or, if there is demand outside his circle of celebrity friends. That question is even more pertinent after watching his spring/summer 2023 show, staged during NYFW. We sense that Mr Ford is unwilling to move forward amid the hurtling speed of change in our crazy world. He is happy to be caught in the past, in a groovier time that is soundtracked by Studio 54, lensed by Guy Bourdin.

That the former CFDA chairman would go down the disco route is a predictable track and tact that should not baffle us, but we are still, truth be told, disappointed. Dullness maxed out is dullness amplified. How many times do we want to be reminded of the glory days of the ’70s (and early ’80s)? Even the styling isn’t fresh. Gigi Hadid, with the fake blond frizzy hair and pregnant hoop earrings, in that hooker-savvy sequinned dress, is a bad parody of the campy past that Mr Ford adores. Although the soundtrack is a mashup of ’80s pop and latter-day rap, we had Dan Hartman’s Instant Reply in our head. Wasn’t Tom Ford singing, “got to have it… got me floating on a cloud, got me dancing all around”?

Mr Ford has redefined the sexy that is very much his aesthetical lexicon. Of late, it is regrettably meretricious. Perhaps it is in keeping with the prevalent mood in American fashion, which has significantly shifted from sportswear to something more suited for seduction or to express the confidence of an unapologetic sexual self. For the present Tom Ford season, scattered is the focus, from gaudy, sequinned, fringed Western shirts (even gaudier than what they might wear at the gay rodeo) with micro-running-shorts to bras that are just the perimeter of the already skimpy garment to sequins-all-over evening dresses that accentuate the derrière and expose the rump. Eckhaus Latta meets Dolce & Gabbana?

Perhaps there is real interest in the decade (and a little later) that, for some (rather than many), “taste forgot”. Or, the hope that Mr Ford would bring back the hits of his Gucci years. The satin shirt, worn unbuttoned to the navel, certainly did, even if less shiny. If shirts are not worn, underwear must be served. Here, even the guys get the lace in a boxer (Victor’s Secret?) that would make Calvin Klein’s look severely avuncular. Almost every garment shown appears to be for the pursuit of fun under lights that would make each piece glitter. It’s luster that lusts for attention just as the nipple-baring bras begs to be noticed. But these days, vain and shocking are hardly the traits that would make trying fashion striking. Even if he resists going any place without a disco beat, Tom Ford needs to dial down the tacky amid the showy.

Photos: Tom Ford

What’s That Hole?

Marni in New York is not quite the Marni we’re used to. And there is that strange gaping aperture

Marni has been, for quite a while, dancing in the realm of the weird. The brand isn’t, of course, known for being typical, but looking downright freaky (probably funky to some) is rather the domain of Francesco Risso. This season, he’s moved the RTW show to New York and shown it below the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn end, in the Dumbo neighbourhood. The under location aside, the clothes look positively under too—as in underclothes, not that that’s extraordinary. Perhaps it is not surprising that Mr Risso decides to show the spring/summer 2023 collection in New York, home of the Black Tape Project, in which designer Joel Alvarez uses not cloth to dress the body, but strips of adhesive. Sure, Mr Risso employs a more traditional way of dress making, but the scantiness is hard not to notice.

Or, the curious circular opening on the chests of knitted (mostly cropped) tops, repeated 19 times, out of the 58 looks that were shown. That’s one-third of the collection. Is that sufficient to constitute an emphasis? Or, a motif? This may sound crude (or, to eager censors, indecent), but they look vulval to us. It doesn’t help that most of the openings are framed by a ring of red, also hinting at something that could be labial. Mr Risso has not explained what he is suggesting, or what the wide, ringed aperture could mean that is not sexual. Could it be a mouth, sliced squid, the rim of a basketball hoop? Or, the fearful eye of Sauron?

There are other holes too. A squarish one appears on the front of a tank top. Others look like they are the result of unconventional tweaks in knitting machines. Filled holes are there too. Full moons (in some cultures, they are fertility symbols!) sit on the torso, with the upper portion stretched across the bust. When the models walk, the rounds look like pursed, moving lips. The sexiness is further augmented by the slinkiness of the clothes. Short and long shifts have no sides from the waist up, exposing more than side boobs. A long skirt, slit in the middle to up there, has a bifurcated hemline that becomes gloves/sleeves that reach the biceps. Even Mariacarla Boscono, in a red, leather, similarly slit dress, looks ravished, rather than ravishing.

The theme of the show, we would later learn, is “sunset” (under a bridge?). The dusty colours appear to suggest those that do not scintillate at sundown. They seem to mimick the hues of riverside festival seasons in Varanasi: earthy and primal. Mr Risso told the press that “a sunset is someone else’s sunrise… a physical phenomenon that sets fire to the sky”. It sounds like he was not describing riparian spiritual festivities, but some rave, when the goers eventually emerge into daylight after a night of expressive physical indulgence. A sunrise, conversely, could be someone else’s sunset. These garments are party clothes to better suit bodies that do not wish to be encumbered. Moreover, skimpy goes hand in hand with how Americans speak (or text) these days—for example, outfit, one syllable too many, is now reduced to “fit”. Is it a wonder that, over there, they are just wearing less and less. Francesco Risso certainly gets it.


Preppy, Cutesy, Ahoy!

Kenzo seems intent on staying firmly approachable, and rather juvenile at that

The opening electronic strain of Firecracker, the 1978 track from Yellow Magic Orchestra’s eponymous debut studio album, truly has us washed over with nostalgia. That Tomoaki Nagao, aka Nigo, is inspired by Kenzo’s halcyon days also reminds us of the shows Kenzo Takada himself staged back then, when the latter, too, used the techno-exotica of YMO (was it Tong Poo, or La Femme Chinois, or both [in the album, the former segues into the latter], we can’t quite remember now). But our reminiscing stopped there. Mr Nagao told the press that he took the idea of the show, set in a school gymnasium, from a Kenzo presentation of the ’80s, then conceived to evoke a school sports day. But rather than connect that to something akin to, say, the atheleisure style of the present, Mr Nagao has chosen to base his designs on those details usually connected to the uniforms of sailors.

But the clothes are not what Querelle of Brest would wear. Jean Genet’s sea-faring protagonist was portrayed in far sexier togs, at least according to the daring illustrations of Jean Cocteau, which accompanied the first (limited) print run of the book in 1945, then anonymously published. Kenzo’s naval chic is much more in line with the sailor-style school uniforms—or seifuku—of girls worn in Japan since the 19th century that have become quite the symbol of the country itself. Many Japanese are proud of their school uniforms, so much so that the seikufus frequently appear in mangas, even with characters based on their naval-style dress, such as Akebi-chan no sailor-fuku (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform). The most obvious details that Mr Nagao incorporated are the hats and flap collars, which seem to be modelled after the Nagoya collar of seikufus, with the designer adopting, if this was indeed school, a more flexible discipline level to dress. Sailor collars over blazers?!

Under the maritime styles, we see something mundane: The looks are so surprisingly unsurprising that it is hard to imagine them desired by the hipsters that Kenzo seems to be targeting. These are not clothes to stand out in any given crowd, unless in a sea of actual seikufu wearers. There is no reimagining of the sailor suit (or collegiate wear) in ways that would render them not looking juvenile. Shirtless with just a vest littered with Kenzo labels and a pair of jeans? An aviator jacket with the initials KP (Kenzo Paris) and leggings? An off-shoulder, smocked top and A-line denim skirt? An ankle-length sundress and floral broach on the shoulder? Clothes that will delight Shein to no end? Sure, these are not John Galliano’s sailor boys and girls for Maison Margiela, circa spring/summer 2020, but we have been hoping that Mr Nagao would be less The Bathing Ape in his approach. Sure, there is nothing erroneous in paying attention to the school yard for ideas, but much of the pieces look like they would work for the cast of Grease. Or a prim High School Musical.

Yellow Magic Orchestra’s seminal first album used catchy oriental melodies to spoof the West’s obsession with the ‘exotic’ sounds of the Far East at a time when bands exploring the newly emerging futurist electronic music of the late ’70s and early ’80s (later termed ‘synth-pop’) were inspired by the German band Kraftwerk. YMO’s cheeky fusion of arcade game bleeps/blurbs and Chinese classical or folk music was new-sounding and totally delightful. Or, in the case of Tong Poo (the only track of the album entirely written by band member Ryuichi Sakamoto, and recently used by Junya Watanabe for his  spring/summer 2022 and reissued), sonic mish-mash imagined as music the Beijing Symphony Orchestra could play. Mr Nagao’s second collection for Kenzo has no such glimmer of brilliance. Just like Firecracker, in actual fact, a remake (of American composer Martin Denny‘s music from the 1949 album Quiet Village), adapting the familiar for the unfamiliar. Whether the clothes pander or please, we can’t say for sure.

Screen shot (top): Kenzo/YouTube. Photos:

The Beauty Of Injury

Fashion needs to be so inclusive that even if you have somehow hurt yourself, you can still be part of it all

This is not just getting your cool friends to draw on the cast that you need over your lower right arm after you fell from skateboarding and broke your wrist. Nor, on a smaller scale, is this the Hello Kitty plaster you used on a cut after you nicked yourself while shredding cucumber for the bimbimbap lunch. Heck, this is not even Jean-Charles the Castelbajac using hospital bandage (a luxury version!) for his BandAid dress of the ’90s. This is making actual ligature a part of the look. And that is what Finnish designer Rolf Ekroth, who—as his corporate profile tells us,—“champions utilitarianism”, has done. Strictly speaking, that should be synonymous with functionality. And what is more functional than gauze bandage used to secure a dressing applied to a wound?

Apart from the bandaged lower arm that appeared in one of his looks (T-shirt with contrast sleeves and illustration on the chest, and paper-bag jeans), there is also the sling (worn with a millitary-ish boiler-suit): Yes, a hanging bandage usually placed around the neck—as it is in this case—in which an injured arm or hand is supported or rendered immobile. Only now, Mr Ekroth has made his sling in a fabric with floral prints that could have been abstracted from Marimekko. As we do not know for sure if the models were indeed hurt, it would be unnecessarily barbed to consider the swath and support mockery.

Mr Ekroth, a psychology and social work major who once played poker professionally before embarking on fashion, is big on the tactile. He has caught the attention of fashion folks outside Finland with immensely intriguing surface treatments of the three-year-old label’s mainly gender-neutral collections. Hand fraying of fabrics seems to be a signature technique. Perhaps, the bandaging by hand as well. In a world that has so much going on that could be injurious to the craft of fashion, the binding up could be a confident sign of healing too.

Photos: Rolf Ekroth