Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Virgil Abloh Has Designed A Louis Vuitton Bracelet For UNICEF

Virgil Abloh is focusing on a great new cause. For Louis Vuitton, the designer is partnering with UNICEF and has created the Silver Lockit bracelet inspired by his Spring/Summer 2020 show. Available in four colors (black, orange, celadon green and blue with touches of yellow), this model, made of a cord comes with a Louis Vuitton charm and an engraved padlock.

The money raised from this bracelet will help UNICEF in their efforts to provide access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection to those in need all over the world (notably currently to help Syrian refugee children and their families, including those living in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey). The Silver Lockit bracelet, at 390 euros, will be available from February 21 on the French trunk-maker's website and in a selection of Louis Vuitton stores across the globe.

Dr. Martens Celebrates 60th Anniversary With Raf Simons Collaboration

2020 marks 60 years since Dr. Martens first released their now iconic 1460 boots – and to celebrate the milestone anniversary, the brand is releasing a new collaboration each month for the whole year. The mandate given to designers was to reimagine the boot with their own aesthetic stamp. January saw the release of the first collab with A Bathing Ape, and now FASHION can exclusively reveal that the second collaboration is with none other than Raf Simons.

Simons’ interpretation of the boot features a smooth leather upper, nickel rings inspired by the New Romantic/Punk club scene of the 70s, and a dual logo on the ankle cuff. The resulting design is described in a release as “a nod to rebellious punk culture with avant-garde design.”

Speaking of the inspiration for his design, the former Calvin Klein designer said, “The rings are a referral to the rings we used in our SS19 collection – that collection was very much inspired by the London club scene, more specifically at that time when punk transformed into New Wave. I was so inspired by how people dressed when I went out back then. It was so creative; it was also the time of the New Romantics. People would transform their look by cutting up their clothes, adding safety pins, rings, charms, etc.” He added, “This interpretation of the 1460 boot stimulates you to make it your own. You can personalize it by adding charms or keep it clean as it is.”

This isn’t the first time the pair has collaborated. Last year, Simons’ reimagined the Dr. Martens 1461 shoe as part of his F/W19 collection. It was a particularly momentous moment given that it was his first show since leaving the American brand. The pair share a deep rooted love of music, art and self-expression, and this latest collaboration only further proves the synergy between them.

As for the timelessness of the 146 boot, Darren Mckoy, Dr. Martens global category director of footwear & accessories, explained, “The 1460 is a rare piece of design that transcends trend: having been adopted by youth culture for the last 60 years, the boot has never been affiliated to one particular look, but loved by many for its durability and unique striking looks.”

It’s the boots ability to seamlessly blend into the wardrobes (and lives) of its wearer that Mckoy believes will help it to continue to stand the test of time over the next 60 years. “As people are looking to decrease their environmental impact, they are looking at true classics that stand the test of time from a style and durability point of view. This means buying fewer things, but cherishing the ones that you have.” The limited edition collaboration will be available form February 22 at drmartens.com and in select retail destinations.

Irina Shayk, Kendall Jenner & The Hadids Turn Out To Support Riccardo Tisci At Burberry’s LFW Show

“Riccardo is one of those people who you see for the first time in your life, but feel like you have known him forever,” British Vogue cover star Irina Shayk has said of her “real friendship” with Burberry’s chief creative officer. And so, at the British heritage brand’s autumn/winter 2020 show at London Fashion Week, Shayk was naturally among the coterie of top models flooding Tisci’s catwalk in Olympia National.

Kendall Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, Fran Summers and Ugbad Abdi also circled the two grand pianos positioned back-to-back on the raised runway, as Yolanda Hadid, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Campbell and Winnie Harlow took in Tisci’s latest interpretations of the house tropes – including trenches and checks – from the sidelines within the Victorian glasshouse. It was Shayk, looking radiant thanks to her failsafe 24-carat gold face mask treatments, who modelled one of the most directional looks. The Russian beauty made a black patent mac worn over a hooded monochrome collared dress with a star motif on the chest look as if it was already in her wardrobe.

“With every collection, Riccardo is opening a new dimension of his creativity,” she told Vogue recently of why Burberry is a highlight of the seasonal show schedule for her. “He does not just design great clothes, he delivers a message out there. What I love about Burberry is that the show is always major, with incredible light and music, and I love how Riccardo brings diversity to the runway. It is very modern, chic, young, classy and cool at the same time. Every piece of the collection has a soul in it.”

Shayk’s autumn/winter 2020 look is a departure from the last Burberry look she was photographed wearing at the Vogue Fashion and Film party. Tisci created a crystal-embellished mesh gown worn over a fawn body suit for his friend, who he said, “perfectly represents my ideal of a woman filled with beauty, love and intelligence at the same time”.

“She wanted to look strong, sexy and feminine,” he continued. The same characteristics could be applied to his latest collection, proving, as ever, that this pair is a match made in fashion heaven.

5 Things To Know About JW Anderson’s Optimistic A/W´20 Show

A pint of lager (and a packet of crisps)? JW Anderson read our minds with a collection that took inspiration from references as varied as beer cans and spatial concepts. “When you enter into the room, what do you say?”, he began, as the backstage mob descended on him post-show. “That’s what’s so strange about being a model, you have to walk into a space of strangers and how do you compete with the space?” The answer: “Textures and volumes, nouveau chic,” he continued, elaborating on his new-season offering. “I wanted something which is kind of optimistic.” Here, everything you need to know about JW Anderson’s autumn/winter 2020 show.

Some of those dresses were inspired by a Guinness can

The phrase “brewers of distinction” wasn’t something we expected to see on a JW Anderson dress – even when the dress in question is a cocktail number. But Anderson, being a good Irish boy, had been thinking about beer, and specifically about Guinness. “[The dress] was a beer can. It was kind of a fantasy brand, taking lots of beers and turning them into one,” he said, backstage after the show. “When I was younger, I was obsessed by the Guinness campaign, [the one where] there were horses running. That’s something I wanted in the beginning section, not to be cliché and Irish, but there was something nice in the typography of Guinness – there was gold, there was black, a little touch of silver and a burgundy colour. The iconography of that tin has been the same forever.” He also had crushed cans on his mind. “There was something I liked in the idea of taking a can, when you crush it, that sensation.”

Are your sleeves spooling?

Sleeves are a key trend for autumn, with designers using them as a locus for drama. Anderson made his spooling, like the inside of an old fashion VHS turned into ruffles. He was thinking, he said, “of this moment in the ’20s where everything kind of resurged again, everything kind of rebounded. We were using mixtures of fabric we have in the studio and things that we have explored before, these collage looks where it was like ruffles, the celluloid.” Make no mistake: these are the evening looks London’s cool girls will be fighting over for party season.

The accessories were zany

From balloon-shaped handbags inspired by speedball boxing bags to faux furry shoes with diamanté ankle straps (with a touch of Méret Oppenheim about them) there were numerous kooky moments on the accessory front this season. Anderson referred to them as “moments of excess” adding edge to the more classic looks, such as trenches, gently inflated overcoats and puffball dresses.

The sweater dress is back – but not as you know it

Rihanna has made it her mission to reboot the sweater dress, wearing her Fenty burnt orange number with strappy sandals for her store event at New York Fashion Week. Meanwhile, knitwear has been all over the catwalks, but Anderson’s knit dresses are some of the most innovative. “I liked this idea of an odd modular shape. We haven’t explored knit for a long time. So the large structures were built out of circular knitting.”

The soundtrack was throbbing

Four Tet’s “Angel Echoes” lent a sense of intensity to the show, which, as always, was held in the relatively cramped confines of Yeomanry House, with guests seated on black benches on beige carpet.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Is Fashion Ahead of Facial Recognition?

My instant of facial-recognition recognition, you might say—happened when I arrived late on a flight from Europe and carried myself to the Global Entry kiosks. For years the Global Entry process, an accelerated automatic immigration check for prescreened travelers, began with a passport and fingerprint scan. This time, the screen told me simply to stand in a frame for a picture: Click. The image was unflattering—or maybe very flattering of somebody who had spent eight hours in an airplane seat. It was with a chill, then, that I watched my personal information appear onscreen: name, passport number, flight. The computer, like a paparazzo stalking small celebrities, had recognized me from one awful photo. Unlike a paparazzo, it had linked this recognition to a governmental file.

And that was just one process that announced itself! Imagine how many opportunities the day presents for facial recognition. You walk your dog: There you are on the traffic cameras. You pay your sitter: Wink for the camera at the ATM. A trip to the Necessary but Embarrassing Aisle in the drugstore? Say cheese. That’s to say nothing of the many times we show our visage in the digital world, in ways both unavoidable (video chat, social media) and elective (consider the face-recognition login of the iPhone X). Stores such as Saks and Walmart have experimented with the technology to identify potential shoplifters; hospitals have begun using it at entrances to identify potential predators; and a software called Churchix, terrifyingly, uses it to figure out who actually shows up in church.

It is one thing to know that we are being photographed—the flaneur’s pleasure is to watch and be watched in public—and another to know that we are connected instantly to a digital depository that anyone, trustworthy or untrustworthy, governmental or commercial, might be keeping on our habits and our lives. The face is the new fingerprint. To today’s tech, each of us has grown as widely recognizable as an A-list movie star; our lives, if not our minds, have become open books.

As facial recognition becomes ever more pervasive in daily life, the demand for anonymity is growing. Model Birgit Kos wears a Louis Vuitton dress. from far left: Models Jonas Glöer (in a Celine by Hedi Slimane suit) and Maike Inga (in a Miu Miu coat).Photographed by Steven Klein, March, 2020

Time for the dark glasses—which is another way of saying, Let the fashion begin. For years, the face was the fixed point at the center of the swirl of fashion. Sure, there have been moments of facial flamboyance on the runway (Alexander McQueen’s winged eyes and grotesque clown mouths or Matty Bovan’s warrior-like paint and Eckhaus Latta’s splatter makeup), but innovations usually played around, not with, the face. Suddenly that’s changing, from the Paris houses to the streets.

For high fashion, the signal moment came last year, when Demna Gvasalia worked with the makeup artist Inge Grognard to transform the faces of his spring 2020 Balenciaga models using prosthetics: a wry comment on the excesses of the beauty industry but also an extension of fashion’s fleeting transformations. If you don a dress this evening to redefine your shoulders or your bust, why not wear false lips, too, to redefine the face?

The ubiquity of facial-recognition tech gives such transformations a new, defiant edge. To alter the contours of one’s visage, to make oneself a bit unrecognizable, is to efface the facial fingerprint and—in fashion’s long tradition of fantasy and disguise—begin to close the open book. For those who quail at the idea of going to the office with prosthetic lips, there are now options in more traditional accessories. In 2004, the researcher and artist Adam Harvey became alarmed by the way club pictures were accumulating on the web. “People would go to the big parties and take provocative photos, and everybody would look at them in the morning,” he says. “I can write a script in an hour to download all these photos and tell me which you’re in.” He decided to focus his work on an antidote: anti-recognition fashion. In time, he invented a clutch decorated with L.E.D. lights: When a camera flash went off, the bag would respond with a counter-flash, washing out the photo and making it unreadable. More recently, he worked on a textile print, HyperFace, which can be used as clothing that interferes with recognition by adding visual noise around the face.

Harvey says that the people of the future may have a choice. They might favor convenience, adopting a clean-face aesthetic to help recognition algorithms. Or they can choose individuation and privacy, and embrace our new age with protective decoration. Surveillance is everywhere these days. But fashion has managed to run ahead of the new norm—and hide.

JW Anderson’s New Recruit Is Rising British Tennis Star, Holly Fischer

It’s not a name you’ll instantly recognise, but it’s definitely one you should take note of. Holly Fischer is the rising British tennis star who just swapped the grass courts for the catwalk at London Fashion Week. Joining a plethora of well-known models, including Kaia Gerber, the teenager opened JW Anderson’s autumn/winter 2020 show like a seasoned pro – despite only being told of her high-profile slot the day before the presentation.

“It just kind of happened,” the 16-year-old tells Vogue of her modelling debut for the British label. “I went to the casting in London and then I got a call back. There were so many girls at the casting that I never even expected to get picked for the show. When I heard that I was walking, I was so happy. Opening the show was a complete surprise. I only found out yesterday [16 February]. I’m so glad I got to start with such a cool brand.”

Fast-forward 24 hours, and the young Brit walked out in front of a star-studded FROW that included actor Billy Porter, musicians Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX ,and Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa. It’s certainly not the average day in the life of a teenager, but Fischer isn’t setting out to live a life like everyone else. “My average day involves getting up in the morning to play tennis for about two hours, usually from 9am until 11am,” Fischer says. “Then, I come home to eat lunch and do some homework. At around 2 or 3pm I usually do an hour of fitness. I then relax and get my homework done.”

Fischer, who divides her time between her hometown of London and Miami (her parents are American), has such a packed schedule that she made the decision to enroll in school online. “When I was in school full time and then training and travelling, it was a lot. It was too much, so I’ve been in online school for about two years now. It allows me to travel everywhere and still manage to do my work.” It’s a schedule similar to that of America’s Coco Gauff, another young female tennis player who is quickly rising up the ranks in the sport.

Thanks to the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Naomi Osaka, switching between the worlds of fashion and tennis is nothing new. “I really like Serena Williams because she’s such an amazing tennis player… in my opinion one of the greatest tennis players of all time,” Fischer says when pressed about her idol. “I would love to do something in fashion as well as tennis. Serena manages to mix the two as she always has different outfits on by different designers. Whenever she walks onto the court it’s super interesting to see what she’s wearing.” And who does she look up to in the modelling world? “I really like Kate Moss. I just think she’s the coolest person.”

Fischer may have found herself with two worlds at her feet, but she still has her eye on one prize in particular. “Wimbledon is a tournament I’ve watched on TV since I was five-years-old. Winning something like that would feel like I was in a movie. It would be the most amazing thing ever.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Niece on Her Modeling Debut

This season, Coach creative director Stuart Vevers yet again drew inspiration from the 1980s. While the spring 2020 runway interpreted this theme more broadly, with T-shirts and tank tops featuring famous Richard Bernstein portraits of the likes of Rob Lowe, Michael J. Fox, and Barbra Streisand, this season Vevers narrowed his sights to New York City in the ’80s, focusing even more intently on one particular figure: painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Vevers rendered a selection of Basquiat’s paintings into prints that appeared on trench coats (like the one that Debbie Harry wore as she closed out the show with a performance of Blondie’s “Dreaming”) and boxy leather bags. Appropriately, he cited Downtown 81—the film in which Basquiat stars in, and which Harry makes a cameo as a bag lady in the end—as an enduring influence. But he also went beyond simply working with the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat to get access to his paintings: Vevers enlisted Basquiat’s niece, New Jersey–based beauty entrepreneur Jessica Kelly, who runs the natural body-care line 4 the Love of All. “The four represents my daughter, myself, my mother, and my grandmother,” Kelly explained of her business’s name backstage following the show, seated next to her mother (and Jean-Michel’s sister), Lisane Basquiat.

Jean-Michel Basquiat had a singular sense of style, and Lisane confirms that he loved fashion. He walked in the spring 1987 Comme des Garçons runway show in Paris—his favorite CDG piece, a black overcoat, went on auction a few years ago and was expected to pull in close to $20,000. As for Basquiat’s everyday personal style, Lisane notes that he’d wear suits while working on his artwork, which would often result in paint-splattered tailoring. Kelly says that the beige leather trench coat (the one that Harry wore) feels, to her, most similar to the types of silhouettes he favored. “He just loved fashion. He wore it really, really well,” Lisane says. “I think he’d be thrilled about this.”

Kelly had done some modeling before in terms of photo shoots, but this show was her first official runway experience. “I can’t even call it overwhelming, because I think that I handled it pretty well,” she says, suppressing a giggle—but it’s undeniably the truth. Kelly looked as poised as the most seasoned runway models as she debuted new Coach sneakers, beige socks, a gray knee-length skirt cinched with a bow along the waist, and a leather cream button-down, all of which was topped off with a burgundy trench coat. She almost cried as she looked back at all of her uncle’s artwork on the pieces before the models walked out.

The bag that Kelly carried down the runway proved the most eye-catching element of her outfit, though: a petite brown leather handbag embellished with Basquiat’s signature crown motifs and a work by the artist from 1980 called Untitled (Car Crash). “I’m assuming it represents the time that Jean-Michel got hit by a car when he was seven years old,” Lisane says of that particular artwork. “It’s a beautiful work, and it’s absolutely beautiful on that bag. It just feels surreal to see my daughter walking a show wearing something branded with Jean-Michel’s work on it. It’s just incredible.”

Kelly had never met her uncle—he died before she was born—but she remembers the first time that the extent of his looming cultural legacy really set in for her. When she was in the sixth grade, Kelly, dressed in a Basquiat-modified hoodie, went to art class. “My teacher flipped out. ‘Where did you get that? That’s so cool. That’s my favorite artist.’ ” To Kelly, though, she knew Jean-Michel mostly through stories passed down from her mother and other family members. “The stories weren’t about art—they were about him pranking people and doing things like that, just really normal things at home,” Kelly says.

Lisane says that she’s asked all the time how it feels to be related to an icon like Basquiat, but she understandably doesn’t think about it in those terms. “The stories we tell are different. They’re stories of being at home; they’re stories of childhood. We’re not talking about Jean-Michel the painter as much as we’re talking about Jean-Michel the uncle, Jean-Michel the brother, or Jean-Michel the son.” When people ask Lisane questions about him, she often answers that anything you’d want to know about him is embedded in his art. “It’s almost like he left a journal. If you want to know what Jean-Michel thought about something, just look at his work, and I’m quite sure that you’ll find the answer to it.”

Is Streetwear On The Verge Of Extinction?

Is it time for the end of the streetwear reign? What trend will be taking its place? Here is the answer. “I would definitely say it’s gonna die, you know? Like, its time will be up. In my mind, how many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?" It was with these words published in Dazed & Confused Magazine that Virgil Abloh created a media tidal wave in December 2019, a month before his Louis Vuitton and Off-White Men's Fall/Winter 2020-2021 shows. With this statement, does the designer want to shake things up and make people react? Let's find out.

Thanks to brands like Aries, Palace and Union NYC, streetwear and its subcultures have made their way to the forefront of the fashion scene, and have become intrinsic to its history. One label in particular has been shining in this vein for many years: Supreme. James Jebbia, its founder, knew exactly how to make a superbrand by creating limited editions, intense branding and an iconic bold logo. The hype of Supreme remained reserved for a circle of insiders for about two decades, before spreading with a bang, just like Stüssy, to a wider audience with the help of social media. Having become a real cult and even the object of a sociological analysis, giving rise to several books and viral documentaries, the brand excels at creating desire among “kids” by offering the feeling of belonging to an elite straight off the streets, an idea that comes straight from the founder. The Supreme branded pieces, recognizable by their vibrant red color, create excitement and wonder as a tribute to cool. More than just a trend, streetwear has become a real state of mind and luxury houses have understood this.

We have to go back to 2017 to fully understand the craze and the impact that streetwear had on the whole fashion and luxury industry. For the Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2017-2018 show, then under the artistic direction of Kim Jones, the house unveiled a men's fashion show that created a huge buzz because of the surprise collaboration between the French trunk maker and the streetwear titan Supreme. And for good reason, it was the first time that a luxury house had lent their know-how of their famous workshops to a street brand to create a collection of ready-to-wear and accessories.

Since then, luxury houses have been using street brands as one of their spearheads, like Dior who, for their pre-fall collection presented in Miami, showed their collaborations with Shawn Stussy and Jordan Brand on the runway. For the collection, a pair of Air Jordan I High OG Dior sneakers was born in Italian leather that merged the logos of the two brands. Another great example is Balenciaga who, since Demna Gvasalia took over as creative director, breathes an underground twist into their collections, despite not undertaking collaborations often. The brand features oversized puffer jackets, coats with dramatized shoulders and military thigh boots which shows how the designer reinterprets the archives in a luxury version but also inspired by the street creating a new aesthetic of which is exclusive to Gvasalia and Balenciaga.

Sneakers are now a popular choice everywhere: in the world of sport of course, but also in the workplace where they can be found on the feet of pretty much every outfit. This piece of sportwear has contributed to the streetwear boom. Houses have taken on sneakers and completely reinvented them by infusing them with normcore inflections, screaming logos and intriguing details.

On the luxury side, Balenciaga remains the master in creating the it-sneakers of each seasons. For example, the Triple S sneakers (those 1990s UFO style sneakers spotted on the Fall/Winter 2017-2018 runway) are now spotted all over the world. In fact, the house (with Demna Gvasalia at the helm) ranks fourth behind Off-White, Nike and Alexander McQueen in the ranking of the most coveted sneaker brands in 2019 according to Stylight with men paying an average of 302 euros for a pair of designer sneakers according to the same report.

Several houses rich in heritage and know-how have decided to rely on designers with a street background: Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton mens, Kim Jones at Dior Men, Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. All of which is enough to surf along the trend that sells. However, during the last Men's Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020-2021, we saw a real return to the roots of menswear.

Was Virgil Abloh's prediction true? For his latest Louis Vuitton show, we said goodbye to oversized hoodies and UFO style sneakers. This season, the multidisciplinary designer plunged into the archives of the French trunk maker, getting out of his comfort zone as he took to the opposite style to streetwear by looking at traditional mens dress. The result was a plethora of classically elegant models highlighted with innovative details including half a patchwork vest over a tailored jacket, pieces made entirely of cut-outs for a deconstructed style, a shirt and tie sewn directly onto a coat along with a total leather look which was full of elegance.

Right now, it is impossible to say if streetwear is dead. Although it is no longer at the centre of designers' inspirations, it remains present and infused in just the right dose either subtly reinterpreted or completely metamorphosed through clothes with a more classic style. While we are witnessing a strong comeback of tailoring, with well-tailored suits, oversized coats and ties sneaking into collections, streetwear has been a springboard that has allowed luxury houses to make their way into the wardrobes of millennials but has also broken down boundaries between luxury houses and the customer.

Canadian Brand Moskal Makes Its Runway Debut In London Today

After leaving Toronto to pursue her Masters at the London College of Fashion, designer Stephanie Moscall-Varey is ready for her turn on an international runway. “It’s been absolutely thrilling,” she talks about the opportunity to hone her skills abroad. “One has the ability to collaborate with such an array of people across the UK and EU for their collection. I was able to collaborate with welders, weavers, sound engineers, coal mining museums and material researchers.”

Moscall-Varey isn’t a newbie when it comes to catwalks; her Fall 2018 collection was showcased at Toronto Fashion Week. But today’s curated graduate event opens up a whole new world to this emerging talent. The 26-year-old, who is also an inaugural fellow of the Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute, was chosen as one of 10 womenswear designers to be featured in the LCF show thanks to her fashion-forward vision and ingenious approach to textiles.

Her newest collection was inspired by her family’s heritage in the coal industry, and includes 100% biodegradable textiles made from a charcoal foam composite which was crafted as “a prototype for a faux leather alternative”, according to Moscall-Varey.

“The Fall 2020 Pit Brow collection is so dear to my heart,” she says. “It channels heritage from my great grandfather, a coal and gold miner; my father, a coal power plant engineer; and myself, a charcoal fabric innovator. The collection has an emphasis on respecting and acknowledging the anthropocentric evils of the past while recognizing the call for innovation and progression.”

To create the unique materials used in her designs, Moscall-Varey worked with Bonnie Hvillum, founder of the Danish company Natural Material Studio. The designer’s favourite piece from the collection is in today’s final look, and it’s made from a fabric that Moscall-Varey describes as a happy accident.

“[It’s] a patterned apron created from our charcoal foam composite,” she says. “The striped print you see is actually a mistake! The fabric got stuck to a piece of particleboard and when Bonnie ripped it off, we had this stunning etched and excavated pattern which became a major focal point for the collection.”

Virgil Abloh And Evian's New Sustainable Collection

Flashback: at the dawn of 2019, Virgil Abloh collaborated with the mineral water label Evian for an environmentally conscious project. From it, we got the Soma reusable bottle that was 100% eco-friendly, and printed with the bright pink inscription "RAINBOW INSIDE", one of the designer's signatures.

One year on, the duo are reiterating their collaboration with a new limited edition collection titled “Activate Movement”, available from February 14 2020. In the collection are a signature Evian bottle, plus two Soma bottles in a minimalist aesthetic. The new idea? “Activate Movement”, an initiative set up to support design and “provide a platform for people to express themselves, and come up with solutions to be environmentally conscious,” Virgil Abloh told Vogue in an exclusive interview.

This competition of sustainable innovation divided into three themes (waste management, energy consumption reduction and recycling) is open to people aged 18 and 35 and applicants must propose an audacious and pioneering idea for an eco-friendly project. The person with the most innovative project will be awarded 50,000 euros by a panel of judges made up of the American designer himself and members of his studio, Alaska Alaska. Visit www.evian.com/actmov to enter.

For the occasion, Virgil Abloh reveals exclusively to Vogue the details of this new collaboration, of the “Activate Movement” project, and also of the importance of these collaborations for creative output. Take a look.

What was the inspiration for this new collection?

“The inspiration was to give generation, give the public an opportunity to sort of suggest ways to express themselves around the idea of sustainability and water.”

What have you learnt from the collaboration?

“For me I think it’s important the idea of water and sustainability, providing sustainable solutions. Give the opportunity to investigate and learn new things. For sure, for me, I learnt that collaboration doesn’t have to be a one-to-one exchange, what I like about the modernity of this concept is creating a space that encourages the customer to input their ideas and give them a chance to come out."

What do you think makes you unique as a designer?

“I’m authentic to myself, I would hope to think that all designers are authentic to themselves and I think we are all individuals so everyone has a different metric for how they create and I think that what makes me unique”.

What primarily inspires you?

“I'm inspired by everything. It could be a young person in my studio, it could be someone well known, the news of the day, I like to keep my mind open. I'm largely inspired by the past too."

Can you give us some eco-friendly actions that we can start on a daily basis?

“For me the most important is being conscious, you know, conscious of your everyday actions, your mode of consumption and recycling; to be environmentally conscious is the start and the most important".

Could This Playful ’90s Accessory Be Poised For A Comeback?

Traditionally, It bags have been the status item to carry around New York Fashion Week – and that’s certainly been the case this past week. Street-style stars moved from one show to the next carrying the latest designer handbags. (Bottega Veneta bags were a particular favourite.) However, stars such as Rihanna, Bella Hadid, and more rocked novelty hats, particularly faux-fur styles that took cues from the ’90s. It’s official: say goodbye to the status bag, and hello to the statement chapeau.

The throwback hat trend was first spotted on Rihanna. A day after hosting a party for her new Fenty collection, the business mogul was seen hitting the streets in a green faux-fur topper by Emma Brewin, which she paired with a Metallica tee and jeans. It was a whole lot of hat to pull off, but her trainers dressed down the ensemble and made the accessory feel totally effortless.

A few days later, model Hadid also emerged with her own fuzzy hat, hers an affordable printed Asos bucket hat. She elevated the quirky piece with an orange leather DROMe blazer, cropped cardigan, black jeans, a Dior backpack, and Dr Martens boots.

The surprising look even made its way to the red carpet this week. On the other side of the pond, FKA Twigs attended the NME Awards in London this week: she hit the green carpet in a huge, wide-brimmed Benny Andallo faux-fur hat by a self-described “silly crown designer” in London who makes crazy hats. The colourful style was similar in hue to Rihanna’s, though she styled it in her typically offbeat, FKA way with a lace-trimmed pinstripe coat and wide-leg trousers, which were both vintage Jean Paul Gaultier pieces from her own collection. Clearly a theatrical hat looks good on just about anyone. If that’s not an investment piece, what is?

Alexander McQueen’s Material Archive Becomes An Eco-Conscious Gift To Fashion Grads

Sarah Burton may be one of the most discreet designers on earth, but on 14 February, 2020, what amounts to a big, thoughtful Alexander McQueen gift from her to future designers will begin to become visible on the first day of London Fashion Week. A scheme to distribute unused McQueen fabric to fashion colleges throughout the UK will be threaded through students’ collections at University of Westminster and Central Saint Martins graduation shows. “I was so lucky, because when I first worked at McQueen, Lee helped me source fabrics for my final collection,” Burton said in a statement. “It’s even harder today, at a time when we all feel precious resources must be properly used.”

The fact that there is so much in the archives — hundreds of metres of everything from nude chiffon to tweed, to shirting and silks in a rainbow of colours and weights of silk — comes back to the fact that, since Burton arrived to work with McQueen in 1996, “we’ve never thrown anything away!”

Fourteen colleges from all over England, Scotland and Wales have been the recipients so far, meaning that cash-poor students now have some luxurious free resources to use, which academia can’t supply. “You go into studying fashion fantasising about making your final collection, but you have no idea what it’s going to cost,” says Steven Stokey-Daley, a student at Westminster, who speaks for a generation of young people facing the prospect of deep financial debt. “It’s only when you’re two years deep into it that you suddenly realise that people are spending £10,000 to £15,000 on their shows — and how am I ever going to be able afford that?”

Essentially, a warehouse of material – accumulated over 10 or 15 years of McQueen’s growth – is in the process of being offered up to students who are studying throughout Britain. It’s available, in large part, because of the fabric mills’ industry-wide practice of over ordering.

The ethos of meticulously archiving and storing every scrap of research, every pattern-piece, toile and fabric sample has been Sarah Burton’s way since the early days. Everything McQueen did at the beginning was scraped together from virtually nothing, but wasn’t simply a case of not being wasteful. One of her multiple roles as a 23-year-old Central Saint Martins graduate (she was first an intern) was as a self-appointed storer, making sure she knew where everything was in case McQueen called for it, as well as being on her knees handing pins to him in his miniscule studio in Hoxton Square.

The knowledge that the vast in-house archive exists, carefully built on every season since, triggered Burton’s idea for setting up a cycle of installations at the Alexander McQueen store last year. Her open-access shows open up the unseen intricacies of the design and teamwork, an initiative that has developed into a study programme, which reaches out to bring students into the store for structured learning sessions. Currently, the Roses installation reaches back to reveal the making of flower-inspired designs, from Burton’s summer 2020 show of flax-flower dresses to Lee McQueen’s floral hand-embroidered dress from spring/summer 1999.

Now the idea has progressed into donating practical help to students in realising their own work. In a way, it’s an example of bigger companies making an effort to eliminate the unseen over-production that builds up all over the fashion industry. Pre-consumer stocks of virgin materials are lying dormant everywhere in factories and storage facilities across the industry. Rather than dumping resources, which have already used up grown materials and all the carbon-emitting processes that go into manufacturing, philanthropic redistribution is a constructive step towards creating the more responsible circular economy that fashion needs to put into action.

It’s to be hoped that Alexander McQueen might not be the only company to be doing this — but going public with it sets a precedence in a widespread industry culture that typically keeps its secrets invisible. By recycling fabrics on a regional basis through a British system renowned for educating students who come to study fashion from throughout the world, the McQueen initiative has a potential to reach further than the UK. Really, though, it’s a support system that resonates on an international level — meshing with the current generation’s climate activism, which is radiating from fashion faculties everywhere. Beautiful, original fashion can be created from that which already exists; students and emerging designers are already the best advocates of that. When corporations join hands with them, it’s a step towards enabling the revolution that needs to come.

Amber Valletta Is British Vogue’s First Contributing Sustainability Editor

Amber Valletta is joining the British Vogue masthead as the magazine’s first sustainability editor. The 46-year-old model and activist has dedicated herself to speaking out against the industry’s environmental evils throughout her career, and in her new role will report directly to British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, leading the editorial agenda when it comes to sustainability issues.

Valletta has always seen good environmental practices as equivalent to positive business decisions. “We have the opportunity to really influence society,” she said, of the fashion industry, in an interview with British Vogue’s Critic Anders Christian Madsen in 2017. “It should just be smart business: if you’re less wasteful, you’re going to save money. If your factory is capturing energy and reusing it, or recycling water, you’re going to be much more profitable. Instead of making new fabrics, recycling and using biodegradable fabrics is just logic.”

Today, commenting upon her new role, she says: “British Vogue is disrupting the entire fashion industry and it’s never been a more exciting time to join Edward and the team as Contributing Sustainability Editor to support the positive conversations happening across the industry right now. I look forward to driving the momentum forward on sustainability at British Vogue.”

Edward Enninful, cognisant of the myriad environmental conversations taking place across the industry, knew Amber would bring a unique voice to the magazine. “I’m thrilled to have Amber Valletta join British Vogue as Contributing Sustainability Editor, honouring the British Vogue values of challenging the status quo, where she will help to shape and change conversations around the most pressing issue of our time: sustainability. Amber’s expertise around key environmental issues mixed with her love of fashion makes her the perfect voice to drive these conversations forward.”

Valletta is committed to promoting responsibly made fashion through the lifestyle brand she founded in 2013, Master & Muse, in partnership with Yoox. She co-founded A Squared Films, whose first project was “Driving Fashion Forward”, a series of documentary shorts on the topic of sustainability in the fashion industry. She serves as an advisor to One x One, the Conscious Design Initiative in partnership with the UN. And since 2015, she has hosted and acted as an advisor to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

“[Sustainable fashion] needs to be accessible to people who are working hard all day just to put food on the table,” she told Vogue, in 2017, of her mission to make sustainability part of people’s every day. “It’s not for the elite.” Watch this space for her regular eco fashion highlights.

Inside The Jean Shrimpton-Inspired Couture Archive

During the weekend of Oscars 2020 celebrations, Hollywood’s new darling Kaitlyn Dever dressed older than her 23 years. The Booksmart star chose not to bow out of awards season wearing one last custom confection, but rather to wave the flag for a greener fashion future. With the aid of stylist Karla Welch, she went rummaging through the online vintage archive of Shrimpton Couture, and came out proffering serious red-carpet treasures.

Dever took her turn posing at the Women in Hollywood luncheon wearing a sweet pale silk Christan Dior by Marc Bohan couture dress with sequined bodice and hand-dipped feather hem. She followed up her ’60s frou-frou with a black velvet Pierre Balmain couture gown flecked with crystals, dating back to the late ’40s, for the Academy Awards after-party. Shrimpton Couture founder Cherie Balch’s inbox flooded with support for Dever’s fresh take on Old Hollywood style, and its underlying message that fashion should live longer than a specific season, because quality clothing holds its value.

“The great thing about being a young actress is you don’t have to be nailed to one look or style,” Welch told British Vogue earlier this year. “You can have a lot of fun on the red carpet.” Welch has worked with Balch, a former corporate employee with a knack for sourcing rare fashion, for several years. “Most stylists only want to see vintage that does not look like ‘vintage’,” Balch tells us. “Karla has the foresight to see how something classic can still look modern with the right styling. She puts a client in the best look regardless of who it is by, or when it was made.”

Balch, who tries to only work with like-minded creatives with an appreciation of vintage, says that the rise in archive fashion looks on the red carpet hasn’t come without its logistical hurdles. “A vintage dress has to fit straight off the rack and every detail must work,” she explains. “For celebrities with access to any looks in the world – including pieces not even produced commercially yet – the thought of few alterations can be off-putting.” Seeing Dever, as well as Tracee Ellis Ross, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Rihanna, wear Shrimpton Couture pieces for public-facing events feels like “a mini miracle has happened”, every time.

This awards season has afforded Shrimpton Couture the most visibility yet, but Balch says she has had a consistent stream of interest since quitting her desk job and turning her archive into an e-tailer in 2008. The difference is, Hollywood is waking up to the role it can play in promoting a “buy less, wear more” message. “More celebrities than ever are committed to saying, ‘enough’ to the ridiculous idea that a woman can only ever be seen in public wearing something once,” says Balch. “Clients used to request vintage because it guaranteed no one else would be wearing the look. Now, they just want to normalise the process of making better fashion choices.”

The name of Balch’s e-store– which typically holds 600 to 1,000 pieces, with thrice that amount meticulously catalogued and stored in a temperature-controlled unit – also transcends the fashion cycle. “I love the timeless style of Jean Shrimpton and the free spirit of the ’60s,” she says. “I used to get called ‘little Jean Shrimpton’ for wearing vintage to the office, so I took the negative teasing and turned it into a positive by adding ‘couture’ to the shop name.”

In comparison to other collectors, Balch is extremely selective of her edit – “I only buy the things that really take my breath away” – because scrolling down a webpage doesn’t encapsulate the true feel of a vintage piece. It can be a tougher sell than trawling through a warehouse for unexpected gems. “I will literally go anywhere for the right pieces,” she enthuses. Luckily she has a network of global buyers she has “wooed” to help her truffle out looks. “The hunt is not so much about where, but how I can find the places that vintage might possibly be hiding!” she smiles.
The “golden moment of securing a piece that makes [her] heart soar”, and then matching it with the perfect owner, is what Balch lives for, not profit. “When you wear vintage you are not only making a great choice for the planet, it gives people a glimpse into who you are and what you are really about,” she explains of the moral thrill. “When you fall in love with something no one else has, it says as much about you as it does about the dress. Wearing vintage in the spotlight makes a statement, which is exactly what the red carpet is supposed to be all about.” At the Oscars 2021, Dever will be joined by many other actors swayed by the storied power of vintage.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Miley Cyrus Makes A Surprise Appearance On The Marc Jacobs Runway

If you take as your theme “the intersection of chaos and form”, who better than Miley Cyrus to make a guest appearance at your New York Fashion Week Show? Marc Jacobs invited the singer to walk his catwalk at the Park Avenue Armory on 12th February, wearing a black bralet, tailored black trousers, a crystal collar necklace and dragging a zebra-print coat, and Cyrus willingly obliged. She captioned one Instagram post showing a video of her walking with the word, “included”, and a second with the phrase “genius design and execution.”

Cyrus has previously referred to Jacobs as her “fashion mentor”. In 2013, she gave an interview in which she discussed how the designer had “brought me into fashion...when I was 16.” She continued: “[My look] has to be sexy and strong and that’s what I feel like with fashion, I feel like Marc does that so well. There’s definitely something amazing about being so lady-like yet being so punk.” 

The two teamed up last year to release a sweatshirt, with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. The memorable imagery captured Cyrus licking a cake iced with the words, “Abortion Is Healthcare”. In 2016 they collaborated on a limited series of portraits by the New York-based artist Marilyn Minter, which made thousands of dollars for the women’s healthcare organisation.

Miley is no stranger to the catwalk, having previously walked at New York Fashion Week for Jeremy Scott. And the singer had the modelling seal of approval: Naomi Campbell posted hearts underneath her feed.

Why The Christian Louboutin Exhibition In Paris Is A Must-See

From February 26th to July 26th 2020, head to the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris to see an exhibition dedicated to the world-renowned luxury shoemaker, Christian Louboutin. A key figure in the world of fashion, the exhibition will offer a journey through more than thirty years of creation in about ten chapters. "This exhibition showcases the precious relationships that have marked my journey, through working with craftsmen who possess unique expertise as well as collaborations with artists who are dear to me," Louboutin commented in a statement. This unmissable fashion event retraces the designer's journey, from his earliest youth to the highlights of his career, through his most beautiful encounters.

Audacious, inspired, and open-minded are all fitting adjectives for Christian Louboutin’s accomplished career… Remarkably, the Parisian shoe designer has been creating sketches of his designs since he was 12 years old, the first of which was inspired by the architectural beauty of the Palais de la Porte Dorée. On February 25th, 2020, in the very same place that inspired the young designer, an exhibition will open honoring the designer’s career and his larger-than-life imagination.

Following a path dreamed up by Olivier Gabet, curator of the exhibition and director of the Museum of Decorative Arts, visitors are invited to discover the inspirations behind the designer to whom we owe the iconic red sole. “Where ever I go, there is always a garden to see, or a museum, a church, a concert, some element of architectural design. The main tool I use to stay inspired is open-mindedness, I try to go where others won’t.” What to expect? A showcase of the designer’s most prized shoes, some from his personal collection, and a look at exclusive collaborations, some of which have never been shown before. 

As a testament to Christian Louboutin’s dedication to craftsmanship, some of the pieces reveal exclusive stained glass creations by the Maison du Vitrail, silver Sevillian palanquin, and a cabaret carved in Bhutan. In addition, the exhibit will feature original collaborative projects between the designer and some of his favorite artists. These collaborations include projects with director and photographer David Lynch, the New Zealand multimedia artist Lisa Reihana, the English designer duo Whitaker Malem, the Spanish choreographer Blanca Li, the Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi, and a host of others…In short, this exhibition marks a new sense of excitement for the Palais de la Porte Dorée, it’s not to be missed under any circumstances.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

5 Fresh Names-To-Know From New York Fashion Week

Despite the shorter schedule, the absence of blockbuster New York Fashion Week mainstays – CFDA chairman Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger among them – this season has created additional light for a new generation of rising design talents. Rather than make overt political statements about the looming presidential elections in October and the state of other current affairs, these designers have instead chosen to harness the power of fashion as a means of escapism.

From Susan Alexandra’s musical extravaganza to Kenneth Nicholson’s nostalgic tailoring and the divine comedy of Puppets and Puppets, five rising stars of NYFW share the inspirations behind their latest collections and the series of events that led them to a career in fashion.

Susan Alexandra

In September, Ohio-born New York-based designer Susan Korn, known by her brand name Susan Alexandra, gave her fans – notable mentions include the Hadid sisters and Barbie Ferreira – what they wanted: ready-to-wear. Made in collaboration with designer and drag queen Steak Diane, Alexandra’s pencil skirts, crop tops and babydoll dresses with embellished fruit prints are an extension of her fun, beadwork bags and jewellery in rainbow colours.

For autumn/winter 2020, Alexandra staged a 20-minute musical, rather than a conventional runway show, starring Larry Owens – a lead in one of 2019’s buzziest off-Broadways productions, A Strange Loop – and Sasha Spielberg, actress daughter of director Steven. “I wanted to turn up the volume on what I've already done,” explains the 34-year-old, pulling out an accessory she is particularly excited about: “A bag that looks like a firework – it's an explosion of beads!” Other pieces you’ll want to immediately shop (Susan Alexandra is stocked at several international retailers including Saks and Selfridges) include a “more demure” pouch made from seeds, and paint-palette earrings that pay homage to Alexandra’s “eternal muse”, Frida Kahlo.


Senegalese designer Omar Salam credits the late Sonia Rykiel with having taught him everything he knows. After graduating from Parsons with a degree in fashion design, he worked for the queen of knitwear for seven years and subsequently Christian Lacroix. In 2012, he established Sukeina and it wasn’t long before the likes of Naomi Campbell and Natalia Vodianova were endorsing his elegant designs.

Salam is a storyteller first and foremost and at one time had ambitions of being a screenwriter. “I’m fascinated by the power of communication, but it wasn’t until later that I looked beyond words and into visuals,” says the 42-year-old, before stressing the imperative of establishing a brand only when the time is right. “If one has as a goal [of contributing] to the palette of fashion, then create a colour that hasn’t existed before.” This season Salam continues to strive for originality and authenticity, combining like breathable neoprene from Japan with luxurious silk organza, chiffon and feathers. New fabrications – braided, embroidered and beaded textiles – developed in his Brooklyn atelier, meanwhile, pay homage to the Bassari and Fulani people of west Africa.


Born and raised in Rome, a graduate of Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona and now based in New York, Prisca Franchetti doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel with the arrival of each season. The 29 year old was drawn to fashion design she says for its “pursuit of the perfect balance between creative and commercial.”

“This collection is about the [type of] woman I admire and [providing her with] what she wants and needs,” she adds. For autumn/winter 20, some of the pieces on the Priscavera woman’s wishlist are straight-leg jeans, hand-painted with illustrations of goldfish; slouchy silk suits in plum and magenta; a hooded long-sleeve minidress cut from a double layer of Italian jersey (Franchetti’s answer to the little black dress); and glossy puffer jackets, deliberately misbuttoned. There was a studious undertone to the show, staged in the The General Society Library, with some models sporting thick-rimmed glasses and backpacks slung over one shoulder. “I listened to my friends and asked them a lot of questions,” Franchetti says of her working process. “I observed what women wear on the street... I aim to give them the tools to express themselves, feel comfortable, powerful, professional, naughty, sexy, tough or simply have fun.”

Kenneth Nicholson

Los Angeles-based Kenneth Nicholson regards himself as an artist who makes clothes, rather than a fashion designer. “It’s the most real way of expressing art in the sense that it’s worn; one can [communicate] their internal [feelings] externally… the ultimate version of performance art,” explains the 37-year-old.

There is a widespread belief that great art comes from struggle, and that seems to be the case for Nicholson, who describes his upbringing in Houston, Texas as “difficult”. “I was bullied at school and my father – an army veteran – didn’t understand my desire to create fashion as a teenager,” he says. Nevertheless he pursued his calling and went on to study fashion design at San Francisco's Academy of Art University. Titled ‘Grandmas Couch’ – inspired by the “view” from his grandmother’s couch that encompassed “florals, crystals, figurines, sounds of gospel, sports imagery” – Nicholson’s AW20 coed collection presented during NYFW mens was a poetic collage of colours, textures and patterns. Think Seventies-style tailoring in pastel hues, refined frock coats for the 21st century renaissance man, a skirt suit cut from what looked like houndstooth carpet and sweaters and vests made using a latch-hooking technique passed down through generations.

Puppets and Puppets

Launched last year and showing off schedule, Puppets and Puppets have already made their presence known with their theatrical and humourous creations, as seen on the likes of model-photographer Richie Shazam and artists Chloe Wise and Jane Moseley. This season took a sci-fi turn, with colour palette and cuts inspired by Jean Giraud’s elaborately illustrated storyboards for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed adaptation of Dune. Established by Carly Mark and her former assistant Ayla Argentina – trained in the fine art at the School of Visual Arts and fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology respectively – Puppets and Puppets is a confluence of disciplines. “My main focus is the show itself and I oversee the art direction and decide the theme of the collection,” Michigan-born Mark says of their working process. “It’s 50/50 creative input, but Ayla has garment construction ideas and fashion history knowledge that I wouldn’t think of.”

After graduation, Mark got gallery jobs to gain a better knowledge of the market, but grew increasingly disillusioned by the art world. “I discovered it’s more corporate and commodity-based than I had originally thought; you grow up looking at art and it seems like this transcendental thing, but really it’s just a business and I was really disheartened by that,” she says. “Art pretends to be visceral and emotional, fashion doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a business, so I feel they almost do the inverse to what they’re meant to do. We spend months putting together a show, it’s here and then gone and we do it because we love it, not because it makes us rich.”

6 Ways To Be Greenwashing Vigilant

Eco-conscious, environmentally friendly, sustainable — these are just some of the buzzwords being used to promote the green credentials of brands and corporations. But while the surge of companies responding to the climate crisis is hugely positive, it can be difficult to know whether you’re being a responsible consumer or buying into greenwashing.

Coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westervelt, greenwashing — or ‘green sheen’ — is when a company uses misleading or false claims to suggest it’s doing more for the environment than it actually is. “It’s easy to say something is sustainable and not have to prove it,” says Amina Razvi, executive director of Sustainable Apparel Coalition. “It’s not always backed up by real, credible data. It makes it difficult for consumers to make smart choices.”

This common practice means it’s important that consumers do their research and ask questions. “Don’t just listen to the marketing,” comments Harriet Vocking, chief brand officer at sustainability consultancy Eco-Age. “Look at the company’s website and read what they are doing.” 

Here are six ways to spot greenwashing in the fashion industry and become a more environmentally responsible shopper. 
Look for numbers, not words

The easiest way to work out whether brands are greenwashing is by looking for figures that support their claims, rather than taking them at face value. “Companies use words such as ‘sustainably made’ or ‘eco-friendly’,” says Razvi. “[But] what percentage of their products are made with recycled materials?”

Find out whether brands have measurable targets set out on their website. “What quantifiable goals do they have listed publicly?” Razvi adds. “Companies truly committed to sustainable practices are setting ambitious goals that can be backed by science. They measure and are committed to reducing environmental impacts [every year].” 

Natural isn’t always more eco-friendly

Natural materials such as viscose, rayon and bamboo are promoted as eco-friendly, but it depends on how they’re sourced. For example, 150 million trees are cut down for viscose production every year, according to Canopy. “Viscose is responsible for deforestation, unless it comes from a certified source,” explains Orsola de Castro, founder of campaign group Fashion Revolution.

Meanwhile, bamboo is a fast-growing fibre but it’s sometimes grown with pesticides and chemicals are often used when it’s turned into fabric. “Unless it comes from an organic source, bamboo is incredibly polluting,” de Castro continues.

Doing your research is key. Tools such as the Higg Materials Sustainability Index can help, which compares the environmental impacts of different textiles. “The more you can learn about how and where materials are sourced, the more informed you can be on how sustainable they are and any potential trade-offs,” says Razvi. 

Vegan doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, either 

In fashion, vegan can mean products are made from synthetic alternatives to leather and fur. “[These] are touted as sustainable as they are not from animals,” comments Vocking. “But they are [often] made from oil, which [can be] very bad for the planet.”

Check what any listed alternative materials are made from. “Both vegan leather and faux fur can be made responsibly or they can have detrimental impacts on the environment,” Razvi adds. “Consumers who typically shop [for] these are concerned about animal welfare, but there’s an environmental cost also associated with this solution.”

Find out who is making your clothes 

Brands are increasingly publishing more information about their suppliers, but offering less transparency about the actual treatment of their factory workers. “[The information] doesn't necessarily lead you to best practice, it leads you to a factory and you don’t know what is going on,” says de Castro.

Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index highlights information released by top brands about their supply chains, production lines and social and environmental impact. Meanwhile, Fair Wear Foundation and Worker Rights Consortium provide reports and updates on their investigations into the treatment of factory workers around the world.

De Castro also advises finding out whether workers are allowed to form unions and if they’re being paid a living wage. “If [they] have an opportunity to be part of a union, [they are] asking for things in unison and there is safety in number,” she explains.

Check for certifications 

Look for industry-standard certifications that verify any claims being made. These include but are not limited to Bluesign®, which covers environmental health and safety in the manufacturing of textiles; Cradle to Cradle Certified™, given to products that are fully biodegradable and compostable or can be used repeatedly; and Fair Trade Textiles Standard, which ensures workers are being protected throughout the supply chain, including their right to unionise.

When buying organic cotton, look out for Global Organic Textile Standard and Organic Content Standards. Both ensure the cotton meets approved standards across the supply chain.

Invest in brands with a holistic approach

Finally, invest in brands that are adopting a holistic approach by looking at the bigger picture rather than focusing on individual issues. “Leading companies are integrating sustainability into everything they do — not just one collection or a handful of pieces,” Razvi says. “Sustainability touches every aspect of the business and should be integrated as such, from headquarters, to design, manufacturing, shipping, and sales.”

“A brand that is openly transparent and communicative about its steady sustainability journey is always a better bet,” concludes Vocking. “[Rather] than one that uses sustainability slang with little to no evidence to back it up.”

Demna Gvasalia On Balenciaga, Haute Couture, And Why He’s Staying Put in Zurich

It is the rare designer who can mock, shock, and unsettle the fashion industry while becoming one of its breakout heroes, but over the past decade Demna Gvasalia—the iconoclastic designer of Vetements and, since 2015, the creative director of Balenciaga—has turned insurrectionary energy into a constructive, covetable force. In 2014, Gvasalia cofounded Vetements, whose style (voluminous hoodies; ankle boots with cigarette lighters for heels; upcycled and repurposed denim) attracted a hundred imitators and admirers as different as Kanye West and Hailey Baldwin. It wasn’t just the droopy-sleeve refinement that won buyers’ hearts; it was the gritty, declarative see-what-I-see confidence of Gvasalia’s approach. Instead of following street style, the practice of creative urban peacocking, he got ideas from the ways that normal people wore clothes on the street. Against the modes of the moment, he employed opaquely personal references. 

At Balenciaga, some coats have a mysterious long, narrow inside pocket—an answer to his observation that people going to friends’ dinner parties with wine would invariably hoist the bottles precariously into their arms while dealing with phones and doorknobs. Others, for the house’s fall-winter 2018 collection, deployed seven layers of different fabric as criticism of rich, overconsuming fashion buyers. Gvasalia’s combination of anthropological observation and industry ambivalence has made him a paradox of a creative director: an original, refined, often unsettlingly avant-garde designer who works from the plain sights of the everyday.

Over the past five years, Gvasalia’s aesthetic has changed Balenciaga from one of several jewels in fashion’s high firmament into a kind of magic stone—strangely shaped, completely hypnotic. Under Gvasalia, the house has made a path unique in the industry and a future rich in speculation.

“It’s different from most luxury brands, which aim to be more exclusive—something that not everyone can have,” says Karen Van Godtsenhoven, an associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and a specialist in Gvasalia’s work. “He makes outfits for a raver, a businesswoman, a security guard, and it’s a more democratic approach, saying that these are all equal types.” Often his garments explore the semiotics of branding in a way unusual for commercial fashion—in 2017, he sent a take on the Bernie Sanders logo down the Balenciaga runway—and this tone has resonated with younger buyers.

The approach also draws on Gvasalia’s training in the craft. In 2009, recently graduated from fashion school, he got a job at Maison Margiela and began to work at making clothes. Traditionally, garments are draped and cut in basic materials such as muslin and wool. At Margiela, though, the practice was to drape old garments that had already been made. “We always used very cheap pieces, vintage, or old prototypes,” he recalls; they’d throw these on the form and start cutting, draping, and pinning. To the young Gvasalia, trained to design in two dimensions, this approach of walking around and around the piece, slicing and remaking, was a revelation, and he has used it ever since. “The first time patternmakers work with me, they’re quite surprised, I think, at how much I cut things and pin them, manipulate shapes in order to make new things,” he says. The process captures the essential gesture of fashion: breaking up what now exists, then slowly, tenderly reassembling the pieces into something beautiful and unlike what came before.

The past three years have found Gvasalia, once thought to be a wild child tearing at Paris’s gritty edges, in his own reassembly phase. In 2017, he married the French musician and composer Loïk Gomez and moved to Switzerland to gain creative distance from the fashion crucible of the French capital, where Balenciaga is based. He became a vegetarian, began to exercise, and, this past autumn, departed his post at Vetements, leaving the enterprise in the care of his brother (and cofounder) Guram. In early winter, when I visit Gvasalia at his house, set on the outskirts of a hilly village that’s itself on the outskirts of Zurich, I find myself standing in pastoral silence after ringing a bell at the front gate—until a yellow DHL van nearby pulls out from its parking space and zooms off down the little road.

Gvasalia greets me warmly. Like many people who live their public lives behind a self-protective scrim of enigma, he is privately voluble, with a hint of geeky shyness. We descend through a simple downward--sloping garden to his front door. The property is at once boxy and open, all rectilinear geometries and wooden floors. “They built it, as they say in German, a Gesamtkunstwerk—a total piece of art,” Gvasalia tells me after I step inside. He alerts me to a lifelike dummy by the American artist Mark Jenkins standing behind the front door, dressed in a black Gvasalia hoodie and, terrifyingly, clutching a black baseball bat—a nightmare in peripheral vision. “I have to warn people: There are human-like figures all over the house,” he says, deadpan.

As it happens, Gvasalia is dressed similarly, in a black sweatshirt, sleeves reaching down over his hands. He has a chestnut beard of medium length and hair buzzed short; he wears silver hoop earrings in both of his ears. All his adult life, he says, his style of dress has proved a liability for him: People have tossed him out of fancy restaurants because he wore a cap indoors; he once had a can of Coke thrown at him because he looked too “other” and weird. “I probably like provoking that reaction—I realized this recently,” he says. In Switzerland, though, the incomprehension is more genteel. “There is less judgment; it’s the way of Swiss people,” he says. “I feel safe here, and safety has been a big issue for me all my life.”

Gvasalia, now 38, grew up in Georgia, on the Black Sea. When he was 10 years old, the region fell to violence; his family fled to the capital and, later, to Düsseldorf. Since then, he has been a stranger everywhere he’s lived, a sense of displacement that only increased as his success grew. “I wanted to have stability, and to have a life quality that was lacking for me before, when I was juggling two jobs and there was always a Fashion Week somewhere,” he says. “I didn’t want to fall out of love with fashion. You know: ‘Oh, God, another pre-collection to make!’ ” So why not Zurich, a place it wouldn’t be unfair to call the most unfashionable leading city in Western Europe? “It’s the opposite of fashion,” he says with a laugh. “People don’t really care about what you wear.”

“I feel safe here,” Gvasalia says of his new home of Zurich, “and safety has been a big issue for me all my life”

Here, on the edge of the woods, Gvasalia has found a vast imaginative space and a rhythm of life that he says has given him a creative second wind. I wander through the living room: a well-lit furnished space that, with its high ceilings, rectangular form, and full-length curtain-bounded window, has the dimensions of a dance studio. It is sparsely furnished with a gleaming grand piano, a couple of stylish sofas, and a long side cabinet. In the dining room, we sit at an extended black table with legs made of railway ties—Gvasalia’s own design because he couldn’t find a table he liked. At the far head of the table is another “human-like figure” in a gray hoodie, this one a seated woman with her forehead on the tabletop like a depressed teenager. Gomez, wearing a white buttoned shirt cheekily embroidered with trompe l’oeil lederhosen straps, brings over a blue-and-white china plate of gorgeous Swiss confections, and Gvasalia eventually has a Coca-Cola in a lowball glass mysteriously embossed with the White House seal. The kitchen flows off the dining room and is cheery in the traditional European style: black and white checkered floor tiles; a high, glass-fronted china cabinet; a marble island in the middle, catching the cool winter light.

Once a month, Gvasalia takes the train to Paris, where he spends a week doing fittings, going to meetings, and seeing friends—of whom he has, by choice, virtually none in Switzerland. (“With social media, whenever you meet people in real life, you already know everything: what happened to them, where they hang out,” he says with a quick, high throttle of a giggle. “It’s kind of good not to be there all the time, so you have things to talk about.”) In Zurich, he keeps the mornings for himself and Gomez. They eat breakfast together, do chores, listen to music loud. In mid--morning, like a Romantic hero, Gvasalia goes for a long walk in the woods, and by the time he returns, at 11, he feels creatively charged and ready for his job. Upstairs he has an atelier, where he works up the current collection, giving each garment an average of five fittings, but a lot of his work is done on his laptop or phone, which he uses to crawl through social media, news sites, and archival images. He files away material that he plans to use in his collections now or later. “I realized how many ideas had disappeared, vanished, never become a product just because it was not the right moment for them,” he explains. “Now I just put them aside.”

I ask him how he thinks his work has changed since the move to Switzerland. “I got rid of those insecurities that I used to have, the need to prove something. I just started to listen,” he says. “I always thought, Oh, you cannot be that selfish; you need to work for others—for your brand, for your team. But maybe I’m getting older, and I realize it is kind of inevitable to connect to yourself so you can be a better designer. I’m a different designer now than I was five years ago. I’m no longer on the dark side of the world.”

This, he says, is the reason why he felt he had to leave Vetements. The label had been conceived as a restive, angsty young man’s project—that was the source of its urgency and appeal—and he no longer felt like a restive, angsty young man. “When I started it, I was angry, and I wanted to express myself,” he says. “I called it Vetements—I didn’t call it my name—because I saw it as a project in my becoming a designer.” Success caught him off guard. “I never really believed in myself doing something that, in this brutal and ruthless industry, would have that kind of reaction—if I had realized it, I would have done it much earlier,” he says. “But I started the brand in a period where, through the internet, the anger of the youth became relevant again.” Now he is more experienced and less rageful, and the option, in his view, was either to take Vetements in a very different, big-dog--designer-who-walks-in-the-woods direction or to let someone else lead the brand on its hungry, youthful course. “I realized that, as with any project, Vetements had a deadline for me and my expression there,” he explains. “The archives and the brand DNA there are vast and full of ideas and products that I no longer need to associate myself with. I’ve changed since I started, and fashion changed in general, and Vetements can lead its own story without me being behind it.” Since then, he has focused on Balenciaga.

“Demna maintained the distinctive creative approach that the house has cultivated throughout its existence, based on the observation of a woman’s body, experimentation, rigor, and innovation,” says François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and CEO of the luxury group Kering, which owns Balenciaga. Calling Gvasalia’s approach “radical” in the spirit of the house’s founder, Pinault says he was impressed by the designer’s tapped-in approach and pragmatic head for business. “As he is careful to create clothes that people actually want to wear, he has engaged with a new generation of clients, who are more open to mixing and experimenting,” he says. The bet—the gamble—has proved a good one. Last year, Balenciaga crossed a billion dollars in sales, more than doubling its size from when Gvasalia took over, and it has added 70 or so new stores. Products like the chunky Triple S sneaker and the wide--collared, long-sleeved “swing” shirt have somehow managed to become both indie, counter-“fashion” products and global bestsellers; millennials account for 70 percent of Balenciaga’s current sales. In an age of faster cycles and ever more instantaneous delivery, the brand has focused on accelerating its distribution channels, yet recent products have eclipsed even old standbys.

During our conversation, Gvasalia reveals that Balenciaga will relaunch its haute couture line, dormant since the retirement of its founder. “To me, couture is above all trends,” he says. “It is an expression of beauty at the highest aesthetic”

The steady churn of popularity is all the more impressive given the openness of Gvasalia’s current schedule. Today he works three days a week for Balenciaga and spends the rest of his time at his own pursuits: going to concerts, seeing art exhibitions, embroidering for fun, grocery shopping at the nearby mega-market. (“In Switzerland, where everything is closed after, like, 6 p.m., it’s a great luxury to be able to go and buy a carrot on a Sunday afternoon,” he says.) “The other day, I was at the osteopath being twisted and cracked in many directions, and I had so many ideas during it!” Gvasalia tells me. “It’s just how my mind works.”

Some of this freewheeling focus is about to fall away. During our conversations, Gvasalia reveals that Balenciaga will relaunch its haute couture line, dormant since the retirement of its founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga, in 1968. The line will debut in Paris this July, where it will almost de facto be the explosive event of Couture Week. Balenciaga made his reputation on couture; restoring it elevates the house to the standing of fashion-art giants, such as the houses of Chanel and Dior, with Gvasalia at the helm. “When Demna and I came onboard, the idea wasn’t quite viable yet, and we had other priorities,” says Cédric Charbit, who became Balenciaga’s CEO in 2016 and led the expansion of the house. “Thanks to the success and magnitude of Demna’s creative vision, we have now the resources and the platform.” The house will have a dedicated couture atelier, modeled after Cristóbal’s. “Since haute couture is so deeply ingrained in our DNA, much of the savoir faire has been retained internally over the years,” Charbit says. Gvasalia will keep his Switzerland schedule and devote part of his time to couture.

“I’ve been thinking about it since my beginning at the house, but I never felt ready enough until now,” Gvasalia, who calls couture his “holy grail,” admits. “To me, couture is above all trends. It is an expression of beauty at the highest aesthetic.” And he has been studying the old master closely. “I looked over and over the documentation of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work and tried to feel the beauty, the architecture of the shape and the human body,” he says. “This is not going to be a tribute or reedition of his work but a modern interpretation.” For years, Balenciaga has shied from red-carpet dressing, which has become coterminous with contemporary couture; the house has not yet decided whether, with the reopening of its couture wing, that will change, but Gvasalia is enthusiastic regardless. “I can have even more fun,” he says.

Vetements Collections were famously presented with the functional, box-checking disjunction of a Uniqlo floor: trench coat, puffer jacket, suit, trousers, sneakers. With Gvasalia’s arrival at Balenciaga and his marriage, he says, he began to think about collections differently. “When I met Loïk, my whole life changed,” he says. “I started to connect to myself more, to really hear and feel myself. I realized I really needed a narrative in my work. I had a story; I had things to express.”

In particular, he began to think in terms of movement, not merely static concepts; he started to be interested in following ideas through the theater of their progress. The spring-summer 2020 Balenciaga show, set against blue carpeting and a swirl of seating banks that many people took to be a reference to the European parliament, was based on the idea of power dressing. He’d had the notion in his idea box for a long time—he recalls his Georgian grandmother stuffing her shoulders—and, with the power of women and the specter of the 1980s alike emerging at the fore, he thought its moment had come. What started with a take on the classic corporate-political power suit ended with a study in great, billowing ballroom dresses.

“The transition between the two—that was the working process,” he says. “I didn’t have ballroom dresses in mind when we started the season, but it’s part of power dressing, too.” The haunting show that resulted followed conceptions of power through fashion, culture, and politics as models spiraled dizzyingly through the blue-carpeted room: a true Gesamtkunstwerk and a fashion collection that seemed to overflow the boundaries of its form.

Gvasalia’s own first act of power realized through fashion came when he was seven years old: He persuaded the Greek tailor who lived next door to shorten his trousers by five centimeters. The school called his parents to see whether they harbored capitalist views. “I just wanted to have cropped pants, but that was not part of the narrative that was dictated by, you know, Vladimir Lenin or whoever,” he says. Money was tight, so his parents always bought him clothing a few sizes ahead, and this extra cloth became more comfortable to him than well-fitted clothes. He wasn’t skinny—he liked to hide inside the extra material—and in adolescence he was acutely self-conscious about the hair on his hands. He liked long sleeves, in which he could bury his hands. At 16, too, he and all his friends would slump their shoulders forward: It was the bodily fashion of the day, and it made them feel secure and cool.

For a while, all of that fell out of his designer’s mind, although he never stopped loving volumes and shapes that seemed to defy close tailoring. After taking a degree in international economics at Tbilisi State University, he enrolled in Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which then offered the most affordable of the good European fashion courses, and trained in the old crafts of patternmaking and tailoring. It wasn’t easy. “Making a single-breasted men’s jacket was the biggest challenge of my life,” he says. He learned to do it, though, and can still do it; in Vetements’s early days, he used to cut patterns himself to save money. At first, in Antwerp, Gvasalia would make geometric, flamboyantly daring garments; as he matured, that changed.

“They could explode in shapes and colors and whatever, but when they came to me, in the fourth year, they were more mature,” says Linda Loppa, the towering fashion teacher who ran the program. “He knew exactly what he wanted,” she recalls. “That made it easy. I remember giving him remarks like ‘Why five pockets if you only need two?’ because I felt he was up to that.” Gvasalia himself describes this focusing as a turning point: “The teacher told me, ‘Well, you know you’re making it for someone. Do you actually know anyone who would wear that?’ And it hit me: Oh, God, I don’t know anyone, myself included.” Something clicked then, and he began returning to a personal idea of fashion. “This is priority No. 1 in my approach—whenever I’m doing a fitting, one of the first questions is, How do you feel in it?” Gvasalia says. “Does it make you feel ‘Don’t talk to me’? Does it make you feel ‘I’m sexy tonight’? Does it make you feel ‘I’m the boss’?”

When he arrived at Balenciaga, he found that the house’s founder had shared this focus. Like Gvasalia, Cristóbal Balenciaga had designed at the virtuosic front edge of draping and volume in an age of fitted forms. Like Gvasalia, he liked to work outside the box of predictably proportional models and took pride in designing couture to make stooped women appear straight or rounder women look waiflike. Balenciaga, back in the day, was known to employ some of the oldest models in Paris; after facing early criticism for an absence of diversity on his runway, Gvasalia now has one of the most diverse casts in the business, both in ethnicity and in age. Balenciaga’s spring-summer 2020 show included a model wearing an “18+” logo on his sweatshirt—an apparent stance against the hunt for nubile models. The same show featured gray-haired models—not just fashion-gray but true older people. “It’s important for a modern brand to have age diversity; it makes it more authentic,” Gvasalia explains. “When we walk down the street, we don’t necessarily see people all of the same age in groups.”

And, like Gvasalia, Cristóbal Balenciaga was fascinated by the way that a certain attitude, a certain bearing, could be built into a garment: You could feel insecure but put on a dress that made you look nonchalant simply as a consequence of details like the shaping in the shoulders. “He would choose the challenging situation, where he would have to work with physiology that needed to be visually altered to make them look better,” says Gvasalia, who has himself become a master of shoulder craft, and who famously designed a Balenciaga parka that splayed swaggeringly open across the chest when you put it on. “Now, we can argue about this—about whether it’s actually making them look better—but I think that what’s important about it is that it creates an attitude.” This power to bring a specific person into focus through her clothes is what Gvasalia tells me he is most excited about in couture. “It is less about ‘fashion’ and more about amazing, beautiful—from my point of view—clothes,” he says. No trends, no seasons, no clustering of cool; each garment about the individual, and made to suit. “I spent my holidays behind a sewing machine,” he tells me with delight.
After a while, Gvasalia suggests we go for a walk. He dons a coat, Wellingtons, and a black Balenciaga cap, and we head on a path through the woods. The snow has not come, but it’s chilly and the ground is moist. We cross a little bridge and pass a lawn where dogs are playing. “It’s unusually busy here!” Gvasalia exclaims, and begins studying their owners from afar. “Sometimes I cross through the highway, and there is a gas station, and they have stops for people who cross through Switzerland,” he says. “You can see people traveling. You see what you usually see on the street but in an extreme way because they don’t expect to be seen. You see the reality of their dress.”

Reality, for Gvasalia, has long been both an inspiration and a weight to bear. For a long time after he became known as a designer, he was reluctant to discuss his past as a refugee. “That’s why I once did a collection at Vetements that was dedicated to the subject—I needed to have it out there,” he says. “Now I see the positive consequences of it as well in my evolution. In hardships like that, you learn that it’s fine to enjoy a lot of material things, but they don’t really matter.” One of his causes right now is sustainability, not just from brands but as a buying habit. “We have to question ourselves: Why do we consume the way we consume? Do we need to buy this other thing?” he asks. “It’s a bit ironic for me to be talking about this, but it’s something that I ask myself.” Instead of getting better, he thinks, consumption has grown worse. “Sometimes it makes me angry. Yes, we can make a more sustainable product, but if the only reason to do that is to sell more, it makes no sense,” he says. “I believe in the next generation. My niece, who’s 10 years old, is vegan. She doesn’t like to buy things, and she doesn’t want to take a plane.”

Fashion has the potential to be a vector of change, more than ever in its great global age. Gvasalia comes from a world more eastern than many designers at big European houses, and he admits to being closely attuned to the Asian markets—one more thing that he shares with Cristóbal Balenciaga, whose unorthodox shapes drew heavily from kimono forms. “You need to get into details,” he says. “You need to understand what’s going on with the Chinese New Year. You have to know what’s going on in America—sociopolitical issues are important.”

The international lesson came early to Gvasalia, who, at 17, got a job translating Reuters copy for a Georgian television station, to be read on-air. He was working there on September 11, 2001, after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. To his terror and then his horror, the high-strung teenage Gvasalia was tasked with live simultaneous translation—something he had never done before—bringing news of the attacks to Georgia as the details trickled in. Such experiences were his coming of age both as a man and a designer. Although Gvasalia speaks French with Gomez and Russian with his family, he thinks in English: He can’t really talk with Georgian people about fashion, he says, because he doesn’t know the words. More than most designers, he remains a close student of global sociopolitics in his work. “We’re more and more controlled, more manipulated, more surveilled,” he says. “This is the time to fight for things, but it’s a dangerous time to do that, too, and that’s what’s scary.”

And yet despite the tenebrous moment in the world, Gvasalia carries a certain optimism and says he feels lighter than he has ever been before. “I used to think that the moments when I was depressed and my life was kind of brutal to me were the most creative moments,” he says. “But I cannot relate to that any longer, because I’ve discovered the other side, the bright side, when you can be good with yourself and 10 times more productive.” He adds, “I think falling in love was one of the most important things for me, because it made me realize how important it is to love yourself.”

It is starting to get dark out, but we have made it back to the house just in time. Inside, his husband greets him, along with their two small, nervous chihuahuas, Cookie and Chiquita. It is almost dinnertime. Gvasalia wanders toward the kitchen.

“We socialized them,” he calls cheerily behind him as I stoop to pet the dogs. “Before they used to bark, but now they’re greeting everyone.”