Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Nicolas Ghesquière Turns Photographer For Louis Vuitton

While we were all at home baking sourdough bread, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière took up a new quarantine hobby: photography. The result is a fall Louis Vuitton campaign that brings the designer’s friends and muses in front of his lens. Léa Seydoux, Dina Asher Smith, Marina Foïs, Sora Choi, Akon Changkou, Stacy Martin, and Noémie Merlant have all posed for Ghesquière in LV’s time-traveling fall 2020 collection; the shoot location was at his home on the Quai Voltaire.

A cross-pollination of not just ideas but also of communities is central to Vuitton’s fall ’20 collection, which crisscrossed time to pair passementerie jackets with moto-trousers and skirts with mannish blazers. “I thought it would be interesting to extend my work to photography, to follow through to the end of the creative process and give the collection its final punctuation.” 

Ghesquière wrote in a release. “In this portrait gallery, everyone is there for my own personal reasons, and I liked discovering new connections with people I knew already.… For me, moving into photography came from a desire to reflect the feeling we share when we’re working on a collection.” Maybe the designer-photographer mash-up is the 2020s answer to the model-DJ multi-hyphenates of the 2010s? Pierpaolo Piccioli did something similar for Valentino’s resort look book. Who’s next?

Japanese Designer Kansai Yamamoto Has Died At 76

Kansai Yamamoto, the exuberant Japanese designer, died on July 21, 2020, of acute myeloid leukemia. He was 76. Yamamoto was born in Yokohama, in 1944, a year before his city was firebombed in the war. He studied civil engineering then dedicated himself to fashion, a commitment that was deeply personal. “Design is self-realization,” Yamamoto told Kuniko Miyanaga, author of the 1993 book The Creative Crackly Edge: Emerging Individualism in Japan.

The August 15, 1970, issue of Vogue includes a street style snap of the designer, in the States from Tokyo, giving “folks a nice turn, wearing his creamy snakeskin suit”—accessorized with teased hair, cowboy boots, and a bag half as big as his torso. “I felt every day I was the model in a fashion show and everyone around me were members of the audience,” Yamamoto said in a 2018 talk at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. “There were many times people looked at me weird.”

Self-expression through dress was the designer’s rebel yell; he was a proponent of fluid dressing, and on a deeper level, he rejected rigid societal norms. (No wonder civil engineering held no interest for him.) “I disliked and resisted square clothes whose quality was in their expensive material and good sewing,” Yamamoto told Miyanaga, revealing a hippie-ish countercultural streak. It makes sense, then, that in 1971 Yamamoto would choose to make his international debut in London, the city that had been the beating heart of the Youthquake, in a country where it was still possible to épater le bourgeois.

Today Yamamoto’s name is indelibly linked to that of David Bowie, who, as the gender-bending Ziggy Stardust, was wearing Yamamoto’s work before he met the designer. The two started collaborating in 1973. Among the better-known pieces Yamamoto made for the pop star are a glam-meets-Deco space samurai one-piece with circle legs, and a one-armed, one-legged multicolor Lurex-shot knit jumpsuit. The two men, said Yamamoto at the Brooklyn Museum talk, were united in their dedication to “radical appearance.”

One of the ways the designer pushed boundaries on the runways in the 1970s and 1980s was through exaggerated proportions. He made use of quilting to give dimensionality to his garments and delighted in color, once saying it was “like oxygen.” Some of his strongest work has a Pop-slash-glam rock look. Yamamoto liked to give a populist twist to imagery taken from Japanese art, particularly Kabuki theater—and those were the looks Nicolas Ghesquière revisited with their creator for Louis Vuitton’s 2018 resort collection.

Yamamoto’s involvement with projects like Kansai Super Show Hello! promoted positive cultural exchange, but there were also times when his work was insensitively appropriative, gimmicky, and seemed to trade on tired, stereotypical ideas of “otherness.” He did, however, pave the way onto the international scene for Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto by showing in Paris as early as 1975, a few years after Issey Miyake. Even in photographs it’s apparent that Kansai Yamamoto was a man who pulsated with energy. He lent some of that to clothes that were bright, gaudy, tactile—and, for the most part, irrepressibly optimistic.

Missoni Home - Fashionising Joie De Vivre Filled Interiors

When Rosita Missoni handed over the reins of her world-famous fashion label to her daughter Angela in 1997, she had her sights set on looking after her grandchildren for a while. But only for a while. Why? Because this exuberant and lively lady simply can’t sit still. Today, aged 88, she’s the Artistic Director of Missoni Home, one of the first-ever Italian lifestyle brands to have grown from a fashion label. The adventure began in... 1997. In other words, just a handful of school runs into her false-start retirement. “It simply doesn’t feel like work” says the woman whose unbelievable get-up-and-go is universally admired. 

Missoni boasts a truly unmistakeable style. Multi-hued florals, graphic kaleidoscopes and zingy zigzags are all showcased by the brand’s now iconic knits. Those zigzags are no other than the herringbone motif that’s so well known not just in embroidering circles but amongst interior designers, too, being the design so often adopted for traditional parquet floors. That’s the fashion and lifestyle boxes both ticked. Rosita Missoni, née Jelmini, was born into a family of weavers in the northern Italian village of Golasecca in the Varese province. Her parents and their parents before them produced housecoats and bedspreads. Crossing paths with Ottavio Missoni, a handsome Italian athlete who was taking part in the 400m at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, proved to be decisive in shaping her destiny. As well as running at lightning speed, Ottavio was also an up-and-coming entrepreneur who had designed the Italian delegation’s uniform. They married and jointly founded a knitwear brand in 1953, which soon made it onto the radar of legendary fashion writer Anna Piaggi, before going on to become a firm favourite of none other than Diana Vreeland, star editor of American Vogue. Rosita and Ottavio crafted a legendary family empire with their own bare hands, focusing on the kind of Italian elegance embodied by the likes of Ferragamo, Versace and Prada. At Missoni, endless combinations of motifs and hues were rooted in joie de vivre, good times and fun. Not to mention art. 

Rosita’s decision to branch out into interiors certainly didn’t come about by pure chance. “She was one of the first to foresee a possible union between fashion and interiors” explains Patrice de Robillard, the brand’s French Sales Director. Just like fashion, “the home is a constantly evolving space of creativity”, Rosita can often be heard to say. An old hand at changing direction each time one prêt à porter collection made way for the next, she loved nothing more than giving her interiors a fresh new look each season. And for this well-seasoned traveller, no hotel stay was ever complete without flinging her throws over the chairs and adding her own finishing touches to the flowers. “I’ve always been passionate about interiors”, she says. It has to be said that life has given her the opportunity to enjoy some of the most stunning dwellings, including her 1930s apartment in Milan, her Parisian residence, and the family home in the Italian town of Sumirago, close to the Lombardian factory where it all began. 

The brand had already been producing a handful of rugs since back in the 1980s. But when Rosita decided the time was right to launch a full collection, she instantly turned to her brother, Alberto Jelmini, who had taken over the family firm T&J Vestor. What she was looking for was true technical expertise to create fabrics specifically for the home. Her homewares were set to mirror the fashion collections’ mix and match vibe, but what was needed, amongst other things, were fabrics that could withstand both wear-and-tear and ultra violet light. The designer delved deep into her own archives, proceeding to enlarge or adapt old sketches. She designed the perfect Missoni home as a colourful space packed with a profusion of artwork and a myriad of motifs. Large sociable tables were made roomy enough to seat children and grandchildren alike. 

Nature was invited into every space, notably through an abundance of all things floral. Clematis-like wild passion flower, the designer’s own favourite bloom, was singled out to play a starring role. The fusions of stripes, spots, flowers and colours for which Missoni was already so well-known were deftly transposed to rugs, sofas, cushions, poufs, curtains, loungers and bed linen, seeing Rosita sashay smoothly from the catwalks to the world’s biggest design fairs. Each January without fail, she makes a beeline for Maison&Objet. “The second our inaugural collections were ready, we booked a stand to exhibit at Maison&Objet”, comments de Robillard. “Milan is a very furniture-focused fair, where we exhibit because we produce furniture. But we simply couldn’t manage without Maison&Objet, which is the Mecca for interior design and the place where our collections are launched.”

Helmut Newton’s Controversial Career Spotlighted In New Documentary

Bowing today virtually, ”Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” offers a behind-the-scenes view of the lensman at work, interspersed with commentary from many of the bold-faced names he worked with. Divisive in life, his photos and their respective back stories remain thought-provoking or repulsive, depending on the audience, more than 16 years after his death at the age of 83 following a car accident in Hollywood.

Insistent about his artistic freedom, Newton’s voluminous archives include images of a naked woman lying in the mouth of a crocodile, another half-stuffed in a garbage bag on a rocky beach, a raw butcher shop chicken wearing high heels loaned from the doll museum in Paris and a teenage Claudia Schiffer ignoring his temptation of a piece of candy. In the 90-minute documentary from Kino Lorber, Newton advises a naked model smoking a cigarette shadowed by the Marlboro Man billboard on the Sunset Strip, “There is a kindness to your look. That is the last thing I want.”

Isabella Rossellini, one of the high-profile Newton devotees featured in the film, said, “Whether you work with David Lynch or Helmut Newton, they’re not photographing you. They’re photographing an idea that is in their heads and you are the vehicle. So you have to make yourself available or say, ‘No.’”

More than anything, “The Bad and The Beautiful” strives to portray Newton as a free thinker who loved women (he says so in one clip) and controversy. In the documentary, Vogue’s Anna Wintour reads from a grateful fax sent by Newton after the aforementioned heel-clad chicken shoot. “‘Look forward to the readers’ letters.’ He lovvved to hear about the readers’ letters — the worse they were, the better. As Kaiser Wilhelm II said in 1914, ‘More enemies, more honor.’”

Thorough in his craft, despite his father’s belief that taking photos was a weekend hobby not a career, Newton apprenticed with the photographer Yva. He notes in the film how “the great master” photographer Brassai influenced his approach to lighting. Effort was essential to Newton, who quipped on location, “Everybody remembers a bad picture. No one remembers the pain that everybody went through to get a good picture.”

Love them or loathe them, Newton’s racy and debatable photos exist. The documentary’s director Gero von Boehm told WWD, “These pictures are there and nobody is forced to look at them. It’s very dangerous to have a dictatorship of taste. This I am really afraid of. This should not be. We are overly politically correct. I understand every viewpoint, but everything has to be visible. It’s very important that things are visible. And the freedom of art is important. That’s why those pictures should be there and be seen.”

Asked about a Newton-shot magazine cover of a naked Grace Jones with chains around her ankles and another dominatrix-inspired photo of Schiffer standing with a whip as a kneeling maid puts her head in an oven, von Boehm said, “Nobody would print that any more. It’s not politically correct, but it’s Helmut humor.…Grace Jones saw it more as a sexual fantasy [referring to her explanation in the documentary]. Now we see it differently. I swear to you this photo couldn’t be done today. At the time, there was freedom. People didn’t care very much about political correctness. The term didn’t even exist. We have to see them as historical pictures actually.”

Newton was a contradictory character, who was “the combination of a boy from Berlin and also a real gentleman from the Jewish bourgeoisie of the Weimar Republic,” von Boehm said. “At the same time, he was a big provocateur, an anarchist and a great artist. He didn’t want to be called an artist, by the way. He didn’t like the word. ‘I’m Helmut. I’m not an artist. What I’m doing is not art. I’m just taking pictures.’ That’s what he always said.”

In 1938 at the age of 18, Newton fled his hometown of Berlin and traveled to Asia and later to Australia. After starting his career in London, it really took off in Paris, thanks largely to French Vogue. Living between Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, Newton was “constantly working, working, working,“ the director said. “He was absolutely obsessed. This is a story for a film. It’s a bit Hollywood, but I prefer documentary to fiction. I shot a lot with him in his life. I always thought his pictures and his personality needed the big screen.”

Beyond the beautiful essays and intellectual, analytical texts by curators, gallerists and art collectors, there weren’t any statements about Newton by women, so the director set out to change that. Jones, Rossellini, Schiffer, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, Nadja Auermann and Carla Sozzani were among the Newton fans who obliged. Unlike his many critics — who included the late Susan Sontag, who has a testy exchange with him about misogyny in the film — these women enthuse about his work.

As for how his jarring imagery may be received, von Boehm said, “Most of his pictures have to be re-seen in the context of the time, when they were taken. The sexual liberation had just happened at the end of the Sixties. That was his big time. The naked body was no longer taboo. Also, everybody was waiting for a revolution in fashion photography. At this time, feminists were against this development. The sexual revolution and the revolution in fashion photography came together.”

Coming of age in Germany between the two World Wars, the plethora of Nazi imagery influenced Newton’s photography, said von Boehm, citing how he played with shadows and photographed women from below. Suggesting there is some truth to Rossellini’s claim that Newton photographed women similar to how Leni Riefenstahl pictured men, von Boehm said the two photographers were friendly at the end of their lives. “They wrote letters to each other. They met. He hated her and he admired her photography in a way.”

Newton’s camera was a source of protection at times, his wife and collaborator June said in the documentary. She recalled overhearing two nurses en route to a hospital operating room. “One nurse said to the other, ‘What does he think he is going to do with the camera?’ The other replied, ‘He thinks he’s going to take photographs of himself,’” and the pair roared with laughter. (Newton of course did.)

Newton could also be disarming about his own personal life and body of work. One clip captured him surveying the installation of a joint photography exhibition of images he and his wife took of each other. Concerned about exhibiting such intimate shots, including nudes, Karl Largerfeld cautioned Newton, “Are you sure, Helmut?” He was and in the end Lagerfeld liked it as well, said von Boehm, who made two films about the late fashion designer. “Karl and Helmut were very friendly. They had the same sense of humor, a little bit sarcastic at times,” he said.

Despite having become fast friends after meeting at a dinner party in Paris in 1997, Newton was not always the most willing documentary subject for the just-released film. “Photographers don’t like to be filmed, so he was biased about it,” von Boehm said goodnaturedly.

However complicated and controversial Newton’s photographs could be, he maintained a playfulness, as evidenced by the many snippets of the jaunty photographer on set, jesting with the models, dancing uninhibitedly and mugging for the filmmaker. Critics’ insistence that Newton was a misogynist was off base from von Boehme’s point of view. “They think he was simply a macho and that’s why he photographed women in those poses. No, it’s not true. He wanted us men, and also women, to know how strong women are.”

Auermman, for example, refused to be photographed nude and subsequently did not work with Newton for a year or two. In the film, she addressed images of her appearing to be disabled — in a wheelchair in one shot, with a prosthetic leg in another and struggling up a set of stairs with two canes and the assistance of two male assistants. She implied the photos were more about how stilettos immobilize women. Newton’s Vogue photograph of her outstretched on a bed embracing a stuffed swan (borrowed from a natural history museum) led to complaints of animal cruelty and promoting sex with animals. What they missed, the model said, was an homage to the mythological story “Leda and the Swan.”

Noting several times that Newton was not a womanizer or the epitome of macho, von Boehm said his work was more complicated than that. “Women in his photographs are often objects, which is totally banal, because everything in front of a lens becomes an object. Men, who are attracted to women then resent women, because they make them vulnerable. This is an interesting thought. The vulnerability of men towards women is absolutely intolerable. Then they say, ‘Go away. I’m afraid of you.’“

That ideology reveals a whole culture, according to von Boehm. “You can call it a macho culture. If Helmut partially represented that culture, why not? What’s wrong about that? It exists and thank God artists were able to express it,” he said.

What Does A Modern PR Agency Look Like?

In January, American boutique public relations agencies Black Frame and Siren PR both announced they were closing their doors. Siren PR’s founder Winnie Beattie said in a statement, "the industry has changed dramatically since we launched in 1999, and I am sorry to say we could no longer operate the way we once did.” Black Frame’s Brian Philips was more blunt, telling BoF he no longer wanted “to be a PR guy.”

Being a "PR guy" is hard these days. Brands and the agencies that represent them are increasingly at odds. The clients want their representatives to be strategic consultants, social media gurus and data analytics specialists, all while still scoring clippings in top-tier fashion magazines like it was 1999. At the same time, large brands are steering a bigger share of their marketing budgets in house, leaving outside agencies fighting over the scraps.

Brands still need plenty of outside help managing their image and reaching consumers. But the most in-demand public relations jobs would be unrecognisable to professionals in the field even a decade ago: analytics, influencer marketing and content creation are the areas PR executives see growing fastest this year, according to a survey by the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, a trade group.

I think the idea of PR as an overarching descriptor is no longer relevant.

PR firms are having to adapt fast as they’re asked to do more with less. Agencies that once worked primarily to funnel clients’ advertising campaigns to the world now aspire to create the messaging themselves. Some even invest in the brands they represent. Relationships and media placement still matter, but they’re just table stakes.

“I think the idea of PR as an overarching descriptor is no longer relevant,” Phillips said. “It acts as a catch-all for other types of services that are separate specialities in their own right … everything from copywriting, deals with talent, sponsorship development, events.”

Phillips’s Black Frame closed its doors for good at the end of February, as its founder has moved on to launch a “creative direction studio.” But what about agencies still in the game? Read on to find out how some firms are pioneering a path beyond traditional public relations.

Develop a specialty

In the past, many PR firms were generalists, deploying the same media strategies for a fashion client as they might a tech firm. Now, they’re rebranding as specialists, stocked with experts ready to help brands navigate unfamiliar territory.

BPCM, an agency launched in 1999 with fashion and beauty clients including Brock Collection and Shopbop, started a sustainability practice last year, and a cannabis and CBD division in January. The agency hired Lisa Gabor, a founding editor of InStyle, to help the new division’s clients develop luxury branding, and to find opportunities for existing clients to enter the cannabis space.

“Diversify and start taking a deeper dive into all the opportunities to touch a consumer with a story that your clients are telling,” said Vanessa von Bismarck, BPCM’s co-founder. “[If] you stick with just sending samples to magazines and churning out press releases … that kind of PR is not sustainable.”

No. 29 Communications bills itself as “a communications agency with a mission,” and co-founder Erin Allweiss said she screens potential clients by asking whether they can have a positive impact (the TED conferences, a No. 29 client, is one example). With consumer brands, Allweiss and her team evaluate the materials they use as well as supply chain practises, making sure sustainability claims are “scientifically rigorous.”

I don't want to offer a service that makes us the jack of all trades and the master of none.

By taking on like-minded clients, the firm finds ways to “cross-pollinate.” For example, No. 29 connected the eco-friendly sneaker brand Veja with children’s book illustrator Oliver Jeffers, whose picture book, "Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth," offers children an explainer on the physical world and how people occupy it. The two clients collaborated on a sneaker collection that sold out in 24 hours, Allweiss said.

Compiling the right client list is more important than growing the longest one.

“[PR firms] just chase growth or sign every … client they could possibly get their hands on, which is a really short term strategy,” said Jesse Derris, founder of the namesake communications firm, which represents direct-to-consumer brands like Glossier and Everlane. “You need to be able to say ‘no’ to companies ... it's quality brands that are going to get your calls returned.”

Don’t be just a middleman

Few public relations executives will say outright that a credit in Vogue or a feature in The New York Times is irrelevant. The ICCO survey found the most common client requests are still for media clippings, and the right mention in the right publication can provide an instant sales bump.

But big media mentions won’t sustain an agency anymore. There are fewer big-name print publications, and with PR professionals outnumbering journalists six to one, press releases tend to get lost in an inbox black hole. Online, it’s Google and Facebook, rather than Condé Nast or Hearst, that dominate advertising budgets. And brands can always reach potential customers directly on social media.

The goal is to add value, rather than merely acting as the conduit passing along new products or advertising campaigns. Many PR firms now offer brand consulting services or have their own creative teams to develop advertising campaigns.

At Krupp Group, founder Cindy Krupp has built out a team of experts across services — including VIP and celebrity dressing, events, consulting and digital strategy — who present a unified strategy to clients, rather than one focused solely on media communications.

It's about how they are sharing the content that's created at an event to the world.

“When I was in the beginning of my career, there was a PR department and marketing department and an advertising department and they had nothing to do with each other,” said Krupp, who founded her agency in 2005. “There was zero crossover. And now those things are all morphed.”

Coyne PR, whose clients include Timberland, Longines and Lane Bryant, earned recognition at the 2019 Brand Film Festival for a Hilton commercial it produced with advertising firm BBDO. The Praytell agency, a hybrid PR-social firm, also has a film production studio that produces documentary and commercial films for its clients.

Agencies are moving quickly to embrace new forms of communication. Krupp launched an influencer marketing group called 28Row, which focuses on nano-influencer talent on college campuses.

To be sure, it takes significant resources to pull off this transition. Black Frame created well-regarded commercials for clients, including a Kenzo World fragrance ad directed by Spike Jonze and starring Margaret Qualley.

“I’m a bit dubious about the future of jack-of-all-trades agencies unless they are really large agencies with dedicated divisions to distinct business units for the various business needs that get grouped under PR,” Phillips said. “Smaller PR shops need to be quite focused on a narrower array of services that they do better than anyone else to thrive.”

Fashion PR powerhouse KCD in 2018 began expanding its events service, long focused on fashion shows and brand activations, including headline-making events like Apple conferences. More recently, KCD managed the front of house coordination for the opening of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards retail development, which hosted nearly 15,000 people.

Awards shows in particular — like The Tony Awards, which KCD has helped coordinate since 2015 — create the opportunity for KCD to have 360-degree control over an event; while a traditional PR firm might dress a celebrity for an event or send a publicist to a red carpet to facilitate press interviews, KCD’s reach now extends to consulting on the flow and feel of the red carpet, which media players gain access and how guests and celebrities arrive. In addition, over half of KCD’s PR event work globally comes from non-retainer based clients, said KCD partner and managing director Rachna Shah.

“The press value and the social value of doing an event has become greater and greater because of the fact that it's not any longer about just the people in the room,” Shah said. “It's about how they are sharing the content that's created at an event to the world.”

Follow the money

Some full-service agencies are going a step further and taking stakes in their clients.

The model was pioneered by Derris, who was an early investor in Warby Parker. His agency’s venture fund, Amity Supply, launched in 2017 and has taken equity stakes in, or helped secure pre-seed funding for, roughly 60 companies.

The biggest issue PR has always had is the ROI.

BPCM’s von Bismarck, who started her career in finance, launched Aligned Endeavors, the firm’s venture capital arm, in late 2019. The division invests in the brands it works with, creating incentives for both sides to work together and raising the potential rewards for the PR firm.

“The biggest issue PR has always had is the ROI,” von Bismarck said. “If I am an equity partner, I’m more likely to get insight into their actual sales figures, into their traffic to their website, whatever it may be.”

Find partners

For boutique and mid-size PR firms, scaling up may not make as much sense as finding the right strategic partners.

In Europe and the UK, for example, clients still expect a personal approach to PR, and networks and relationships may be more compelling than data. Lucien Pagès Communications, which operates as a traditional PR firm, specialises in facilitating big-name introductions. The firm opened a New York office in December 2018, but keeps its operation small.

“In New York, I feel our human approach works very well, and people are very receptive to it,” Pagès said, adding that the team often shares clients with American PR firms looking for a partner in Europe.

Derris acquired the London PR agency Sample in 2019, in part because Sample had strong relationships in the UK that would have taken years to build without an acquisition, Derris said. He added that the deal’s success has him looking at other European markets for future acquisitions.

Be realistic

While there’s certainly an arms race-style acceleration in PR to becoming, as Derris puts it, a “one-stop-shop” for all of a brand’s business needs, it’s just as important to take a careful look at where your expertise actually lies.

“I definitely feel like there are aspects of the full scope of communications like branding and performance marketing that we don't do,” said Krupp. “I don't want to offer a service that makes us the jack of all trades and the master of none.”

‘Fashion Is An Important Testimonial Of Our Time’: Stefano Pilati Debuts A New Film And Collection

Many of the films created as a part of Europe’s digital fashion weeks have been beautiful and personal, but few have done it better than Stefano Pilati, who debuts an off-schedule production, “Domestic (Between Wars), today. For the film for his brand Random Identities, Pilati enlisted performance artist M.J. Harper, director Konstantin Bock, and cinematographer Christopher Aounto to craft a meditative portrait of his clothing from current and past seasons, shot in his home in Berlin. “The narrative ... is evidently a reference to old haute couture shows formats: intimate and exclusive,” Pilati told Vogue over email. “Parodying it by mixing elements of diatonic harmony was what I found intriguing to pursue.”

With new music by Isola Music and saxophonist Mat Clasen, the film weaves together a calming narrative of personal style embodied by Harper’s intentional and delicate movement. The clothing is a best-of from Pilati’s Random Identities oeuvre, a brand radical in its thoughtful design and accessible price point. “From pattern cutting to styling, I’ve chosen the looks by their actual functionality from day-to-evening; a concept that can be updated to home-office-wear, which is revealed also in the choice of very light fabrics or almost no-accessories combinations,” the designer said, noting that most of the collection is made from jersey. “I think to insist on proposing beautiful sleeves on uppers as well as some sheerness and/or some beachwear combined with bottoms rich in fluidity and vibrancy could very well represent the mood I am in right now: to feel safe, chic, understated yet present, minimal, and expressive.”

The brand’s “Berlin baggies”—a blouson take on workwear trousers—appear throughout, as do new “club nostalgia” looks, as Pilati calls them, that harken back to a time when going out and getting capital-D dressed was the norm. “The tailoring, dear to me, I’ve avoided ... nevertheless, silhouettes to me have equal ‘uniform-authoritarian’ formality,” he says. “I find the result particularly chic: a word opposite of cool, which in my case I find obvious to make them co-exist.”

Here, Pilati discusses his new film and outlook on fashion.

Random Identities has existed mostly on its own schedule; why did you want to release a video project this summer adjacent to some of the Digital Fashion Weeks?

It was simply coincidental. Unfortunately, but fortunately in my case, some of the clothes represented in the film are from old productions partially on sale right now, some [are] new arrivals, and some [are] atelier-first-prototype pieces for future releases. The latter have been combined with some of our best-selling items for style and also to maintain “past and future” naturally balanced in the overall choice of looks. Therefore, I have discovered an interest in letting the process end in a so-called “ideal calendar” timing ... when the timing is right for me and for the brand.

Although, a fashion schedule (in a digital moment, if not an era) still seems like a constriction to have to put energy towards [it] simply to be “different” in establishing new formats.

How did you meet the many collaborators on this project? Why did you want to work with them?

Berlin is a city of crossing paths and souls, I’ll state. Part of its charm is being able to appreciate encounters between people more than “role-keepers” and work-related interests. Exchanges are created to support synergic passions and the legitimate freedom to express them. The remaining space is left to individual taste and ethic. I wanted to work with them because their skill is phenomenal and culturally aligned with my aesthetic.

How has your relationship to design or making clothing changed over the past couple of months? Are you finding that clothing has a renewed purpose (or uselessness) in life?

I questioned and still question the role of the fashion system at large, the concept of fashion and its role in society, including the meaning of it. The symbolic aspect of fashion is what I cannot help to abandon (despite the inevitable feeling of pressure from an irrational load of skepticism and hopelessness which tries to desensitize us from the importance of beauty all while trying to appear positively grounded in the simple habit of “dressing up”). I still believe fashion is an important testimonial of our time.

These are the reasons I actively started to aim at developing Random Identities’s brand strategy. Old systemic mechanisms should change as in politics and economics: inevitably, creatively, or strategically. The pandemic is something that caught me off-guard personally, but not professionally.

What do you want this video to communicate to your clients and fans?

I always start a brand project or design confident that I will reach a certain number of people that have the good taste to appreciate and understand the brand, my style, my work. I prefer, instead, to focus the research for quality in documenting my work well and to share my vision on beauty, fashion as a societal vehicle and, ultimately to please any eventual audience, for which I am always grateful.

What have you learned or gotten better at during the period of self-isolation? What has this experience taught you?

I wouldn’t have any form of self-esteem left if I hadn’t practiced a certain personal questioning and introspective observation way before the pandemic’s lock-down. It is an important process which instills the vital principles of how I conduct my own navigation through these hard times. Facing our relevance and role in society shouldn’t be an individual issue to address in an emergency. Facts and information are there for everyone to process for the good, even when facing a reality that we never expected to be. I did slightly increase my activity on social media though.

The Nominees For The 2020 CFDA Awards Are Revealed

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (more commonly known as the CFDA) has today revealed the nominees for the 2020 CFDA Fashion Awards. For the first time, this year’s awards won’t have any honoree awards, however two new international awards have been introduced. The awards were scheduled to be held on June 8, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed indefinitely. Now, the CFDA has confirmed the event will go ahead virtually on September 14 instead – marking the official start of New York Fashion Week. 

Speaking of the shift, Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the organization, said, “In lieu of the in-person event, we will be prioritizing new and existing programming to support our designer community during the global pandemic – by redirecting efforts toward next generation scholarships and making important changes to bring racial equity to the fashion industry. The annual gala serves as our largest fundraiser and our hope is to continue raising money to support this work through industry contributions.”

Discover the 2020 CFDA Awards nominees below:

American Womenswear Designer of the Year

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row
Brandon Maxwell
Gabriela Hearst
Marc Jacobs
Tom Ford

American Menswear Designer of the Year

Emily Adams Bode for Bode
Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss
Thom Browne
Todd Snyder
Tom Ford

American Accessories Designer of the Year

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row
Gabriela Hearst
Jennifer Fisher for Jennifer Fisher Jewelry
Stuart Vevers for Coach
Telfar Clemens for Telfar

American Emerging Designer of the Year

Christoper John Rogers
Kenneth Nicolson
Peter Do
Reese Cooper
Sarah Staudinger and George Augusto for Staud

Global Womenswear Designer of the Year

Daniel Lee for Bottega Veneta
Dries Van Noten
Miuccia Prada
Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino
Rick Owens

Global Menswear Designer of the Year

Craig Green
Dries Van Noten
Jonathan Anderson for Loewe
Kim Jones for Dior
Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton

Catch all the action live on CFDA.com on September 14th.

Runway360 Is The CFDA’s Answer To A Mostly Digital New York Fashion Week This September

With few, if any, in-person shows or presentations likely to take place during New York Fashion Week when it happens in mid-September – the city has entered phase 4 of reopening, but indoor gatherings of substantial size are still prohibited – the CFDA is building a new digital platform, Runway360, to connect American designers and brands with the media, retailers, and consumers. “Think about when we centralised Fashion Week with the tents 25 years ago, said Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s president and CEO, during a Zoom presentation of the new concept. “This is similar to that, we’re just creating this centralised hub.”

Like ye tents of old, the online platform is a one-stop-shop, housing brand pages where users can find designer profiles, livestreams and other digital activations, collection content, and press notes. It’ll operate according to the NYFW calendar, with time slots and appointment viewing, only it won’t go dark when New York’s shortened Fashion Week is over. “It’s really open access and democratic,” Kolb explained. “Whether you’re doing a video or a photo shoot or VR – or whatever it is your budget or your ability creatively to produce is – our platform is meant to be plug-in.”

What it isn’t is an editorial site, which is one way Runway360 diverges from some of the other platforms built for the digital fashion weeks in London, Milan, and Paris. “We’re not going to have content that is an interview between Marc Jacobs and a muse about his new house upstate. It’s not a panel discussion with three models talking about trends,” Kolb said. It’s really more of a business tool. Virtual showrooms will allow buyers to place orders, and while e-commerce is not part of the offering, emerging designers could take pre-orders that would help them cover their costs of production, and they could also gain useful data about what’s being watched and liked.

“Just like you have at New York Fashion Week there’s a collective energy and vibe. It’s the same approach here, bringing it all together in one place,” Kolb continued. With brands posting their content on their own websites and social channels, and increased interest on the part of the Instagrams and YouTubes of the world in featuring digital fashion shows, it will take time to draw a critical mass to Runway360, let alone create a vibe, but the service is free, and, as Kolb points out, it will create critical infrastructure for brands that need it. NuOrder, the virtual showroom is providing free services to BIPOC designers. The key word is community.

Glamp At Home In A Louis Vuitton Tent

I have only nostalgic memories of tents. Every summer, my father would let me and my brothers indulge in the great American pastime of camping – in our yard. The funny thing was, we had a summer cabin that was pretty rustic already, as it lacked electricity and was two miles down a dirt road. We didn’t let that stop us, though. As soon as summer heated to the appropriate sleeping-outside temperature, we would be taking on the great outdoors, Coleman lanterns in hand, setting up our large orange tent mere steps from the front door of our house. And, like clockwork, it was only a matter of hours before we were back in the house, sleeping in our own beds, letting our dad bear the brunt of the mosquito bites I’m sure he woke up with the next morning when he found the tent abandoned.

Fast-forward to 2020 and I have never really developed a love of spending an entire night in a tent. As much as the smell of one can instantly transport me to being snuggled in with my family reading books, camping has never really been my thing. With Covid-19 restrictions meaning summer vacations are shifting, I’ve been hearing many coworkers and friends wax poetically about fabulous campsites or various glamping opportunities. As tempting as it all sounds, and as desperate I am for fresh air, I can’t help but think my treasured August vacation days will be spent as a staycation – perhaps with my cell phone resting quietly in a bowl of water. The last thing I thought I’d be interested in was a tent. Alas, just as you think you have it all figured out, the universe intervenes. Today is the day I fell in love with a tent – a Louis Vuitton glamping tent.

The ultimate splurge, Vuitton has launched Monogram Cloud and Monogram Mirror Trunk Backpacks as part of its autumn/winter 2020 menswear collection from designer Virgil Abloh. With an optional tent attachment, these trunks are billed as being a part of the brand’s “nomadic spirit”, but I can’t help but think that these treasures are speaking to my inner homebody. What better way to celebrate a staycation than with a glamping tent? These trunks are made to order and sure to transform any room, apartment or house into a vacation paradise (or 5-star hotel, resort fee included). For me, I’m ready to add a luxe pair of pyjamas, a plethora of books, and a couple of key beauty products to my home tent glamping experience. I might even throw in a pine-scented candle or some flowers to bring the outside in. I have a feeling I might finally make it through a whole night in a tent after all.

Remembering Zizi Jeanmaire, The Dancer Extraordinaire Who Inspired Yves Saint Laurent

Zizi (Renée) Jeanmaire, a supple dancer and chanteuse who bridged the gap between classical ballet and popular revues, died in Switzerland at 96 last Friday (17 July). She was also a style star celebrated for her pixie haircut and marvellous gams – even better than Dietrich’s, according to some. Off the stage, she preferred simple, short monochrome looks, adding texture and pattern to her outfits with fur collars, printed scarves, and Goyard luggage. Also deserving mention is the fact that Jeanmaire and her husband, the dancer and choreographer Roland Petit, had enviable, often complementary couple style. Together, noted The Guardian, they “represented the height of Parisian chic, elegantly dressed, often by their friend and collaborator Yves Saint Laurent.”

Balletomanes will know that Jeanmaire frequently worked with the designer, but she remains a somewhat overlooked influence on YSL. When his muses – Betty Catroux, Catherine Deneuve, Loulou de la Falaise, Mounia, Paloma Picasso, and Victoire Doutreleau among them – are discussed, the lists never seem to get to Z. This even though Jeanmaire led the applause after the designer’s first show under his own name. Unlike the costumes Saint Laurent designed for Deneuve in Belle de Jour, which read as fashion and influenced trends, those the designer made for Jeanmaire often had a frothy showgirl style. He covered her in spangles and framed her with feathers in ways that seemed to nod to 19th-century nightlife as documented by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and popularised in the movie Moulin Rouge.

The New York Times obituary of Petit noted that his close collaborator Irène Lidova once allowed that the choreographer “could fall into a ‘Champagne style’”, a phrase that likewise describes the effect created by the smiling, energetic, gamine, Saint Laurent–attired Jeanmaire.

Underneath all the froth and effervescence, though, there was a deep connection between these three birds of a feather. Saint Laurent was direct about the influence of both Jeanmaire and Petit on his work. This is how the designer responded in a 1983 Vogue interview when Joan Juliet Buck asked if recurrent themes in his work, such as corsets and camisoles, were connected to the designer’s personal biography: “First of all, I think one should want to undo something that a woman is wearing. From the point of view of seduction, it can be a dress that’s laced up the front or an open back or something knotted on one shoulder so that one thinks, ‘If I pull it there, the whole dress will fall down.’ The laced corset is of course the very emblem of sexuality.

“Another thing that struck me enormously,” Saint Laurent continued, “was Carmen, the ballet that Roland Petit did with Zizi Jeanmaire in 1950. She wore two extraordinary corsets. One was black and blue, one was black and white: the left white, the right black. Zizi had very short hair – no one had it cut that short then. The production was a scandal at the time. The cigarette girls all came on smoking. I have an enormous tenderness for Roland and Zizi. They really marked my youth artistically.”

Petit and Jeanmaire brought heat and passion to the traditionally cool and formal ballet, and then made a bridge between this high form of dance and its more popular expressions. As Vogue noted in 1949, Petit’s Carmen was “exciting even for those who know nothing about the ballet, since its close sister is the music hall”. Saint Laurent would similarly veer between the bougie and bohemian, couture and prêt-à-porter. In fact, his first experiment in marrying such opposites preceded his fall from grace at Christian Dior. His 1960 show for the house included a mink-trim crocodile jacket dubbed Chicago that was a sort of elevated take on the black leather Perfecto. Despite its couturisation, the jacket symbolised rebellion, youth, and artsy Left Bank beatniks. It ruffled the fashion establishment’s feathers and communicated that Saint Laurent was a designer with his own new-gen agenda. It’s no wonder that he was so in sync with Jeanmaire, the woman who could dance a fiery Carmen and, more icily, sing, “J’suis un’ croqueus’ de diamants” (“I am a diamond eater”) with a sparkle in her eye.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Versace’s Flash Collection With AJ Tracey Had All The Magic Of A ’00´s Music Video

Leave it to Donatella Versace to ace the fashion film format. As part of Digital Milan Fashion Week, the designer presented a so-called ‘flash collection’ starring the British musician AJ Tracey, a cool cast of models, and of course, herself. Versace’s idea was the obvious answer to the makeshift digital show format: a music video, the way we know and love it from MTV in the 1990s and early ’00s. It had minimal production, minimal fuss and a storyline that mainly involved Tracey and his friends arriving at a photo shoot for the collection’s campaign and performing a new track, ‘Step On’. But in all its simplicity it was perfect for a format that brands are still coming to terms with.

What is a flash collection, then? Well, Donatella spent the lockdown in her Milan apartment – accompanied only by her dog – thinking about how she could contribute to a better and more sustainable fashion industry. Boggled, like many, by the disharmony between fashion seasons and weather seasons, she found a solution in the concept of flash collections: smaller collections that can be presented more often, and produced and delivered to stores faster. The intention is to reduce overproduction and waste, and the disadvantages associated with the current sales cycle.

It was also a celebration of music. As Donatella disclosed via email: “Versace and music have always had a special relationship, especially when it comes to young talents. All my life, I have looked at the music world for inspiration, I have enjoyed discovering new, sub-cultures and seeing how they have grown into strong cultural movements. On top of that, I wanted to give to all of us a few minutes of distraction and joy. I think we all need a bit of that...”

Prada Proves Digital Fashion Week Works With Its Standout SS´21 Film

On the first day of Digital Milan Fashion Week, Miuccia Prada used the format of film to an advantage you rarely find on the runway. In a series of chapters of editorial imagery entitled Multiple Views, shot by five different photographers, the designer showcased her men’s spring/summer and resort 2021 collections through visually diverse lenses and aesthetics. Prada, who announced her hiring of Raf Simons as co-creative director in March, took a bow on her own at the end of the film, signalling that the collaboration hasn’t yet begun – at least not formally.

Photographers Terence Nance, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms, Juergen Teller and Willy Vanderperre each presented their cinematic proposal of the two collections, the first glimpse of Miuccia Prada’s vision for the post-pandemic fashion market. Both lines featured an industrial silhouette with men’s suiting playing with conventional ideas of tailoring through sporty interpretation. The women’s collection added exuberant moments of drama in couture-like volumes and elements borrowed from lingerie.

“Prada evolves and changes every season; this season, the part we were shooting and filming felt like an honest collection. Stripped from fashion ideas, which turns that idea into fashion again,” Vanderperre said, reflecting on a short film that paired a sense of purity with music reminiscent of horror films. “I enjoyed looking at Miuccia’s vision and trying to make sense of it as honest and direct as possible,” commented Teller, who mixed stills photography from a factory-like setting with close-ups of those surroundings.

Piotrowska explained that gesture and physicality “play a big role in the conceptual and compositional aspects of my work”. Her film was the most sensual of the chapters, and showed the Prada universe from its most seductive side. “I’m inspired by the way screens have come to make and unmake us, and what it means to be living, breathing, moving, fleshy things in a world full of them,” said Syms, whose film was a clear response to the digitalised reality of the lockdown.

“The film that came through was born of speed and play, I have no words through which to decode what the meaning is and was and will be but it may be about ‘time’ – and keeping your organs in that vessel we call a body while it contorts itself to love each second as it goes bye bye,” teased Nance, referring to by far the most surrealist view of the Prada collection in the multi-chapter arc.

Prada’s digital presentation was testament to the possibilities of the digital show format, and a terrific build-up to the reveal of her first collaboration with Simons in September.

Milan S/S´21 Digital

When fashion went into lockdown, industry debates soon began to fill the digital forum. Was this an opportunity to reform the pace of the industry, its incessant show cycle and complex infrastructure? While most proposals may have been in vain, the discussions appeared to have had a meta effect on designers. This week’s "digital shows" saw a number of behind-the-scenes films, which seemed, to me, intent on demonstrating the industrious internal structures that fashion brands normally hide from public view.

Officially, it was men’s Digital Milan Fashion Week, but the digitalisation of the summer shows has created a schedule where films on haute couture, cruise and menswear – from Milan, Paris and elsewhere – are dropping in one big jumble. Maison Margiela released a 50-minute fly-on-the-wall documentary about the making of its haute couture collection. When the atelier opened after lockdown, John Galliano fitted each of his team members – and his dogs – with GoPro cameras and had drones flying around his studio for over a month. The result was a rare glimpse into the painstaking practices of his haute couture collection.

“This is about the highest form of dress-making!” Galliano reminds us in the film. “It serves a bigger purpose than dressing the elite. It fuels a fashion house!” What may seem like a never-ending promotional game of shows to some is an all-important organism to a designer like Galliano. His film was an illustration of the significance of what he calls “the creative pyramid” where haute couture isn’t about vanity or elitism, but about developing a tone-setting language that informs the ready-to-wear and pre- collections that account for the bulk of business. “I thought this would be a wonderful time to reinforce the ethics of Maison Margiela, and record it some way that would appeal to Generation Y and Z,” Galliano explained.

At Gucci, which has announced a new season-less approach for the future, Alessandro Michele showcased his cruise collection – re-titled the "Epilogue" – in a 12-hour live stream from its own campaign shoot, which featured staff from his design studio in place of models. At Versace, Donatella Versace also documented her campaign shoot, turning it into a music video with AJ Tracey. The productions were different, and the clothes worlds apart, but reading between the lines of Galliano, Michele and Versace, I saw a similar subliminal point: if there is no runway show to work towards, the creative process becomes the show itself. If the industry that feeds off designers’ collections wants to debate how often those collections are shown, then we at least have to understand the effort that goes into creating and transmitting them.

In Salvatore Ferragamo’s cruise presentation, which outlined the history and ethics of the brand in a film that culminated in moving editorial imagery, I thought that the message was largely the same. While many brands produced films that echoed the campaigns-in-motion clips we normally see on their social media channels, others took advantage of the makeshift film format. Prada handed its men’s and cruise collections to different photographers and asked them to interpret it through their lens. “We are used to doing fashion shows. But the moment you can’t do a physical show, you have to invent another work. It is not what we know,” Miuccia Prada admitted. “So instead, we decided to give five different people, five different chapters, and complete creative freedom. The concept is something I have always believed in: that once I create clothes, they belong to the life of people. They belong to others.”

Prada’s was a great and well-executed idea, and one that illustrated how different a collection can look depending on its context. Looking at the stills pictures after – and this case has been the same for every digital presentation – it demonstrated how much the format of film can manipulate the expression of a collection, which isn’t the case on a runway. No matter how theatrically you frame a collection – mega sets, super-stylists, confetti cannons and what not – clothes seen from the seats of a fashion show, in movement on a runway, are hard to manipulate. But the digital shows in Milan weren’t all confined to cyberspace. Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna and Etro all presented real-life runway shows to intimate audiences.

For Dolce & Gabbana, returning to the runway wasn’t a desperate move to revert to the old ways, but an acknowledgement of the human and economic structures that feed on the organism of the runway show – especially in Italy, a country so dependent on fashion and tourism. It also came from a place of philanthropy. “Slowly, we have to start over, totally respecting the safety regulations in force. We are even happier and proud to be here in Humanitas, a truly special place made up of people who give their lives for medical research and study,” Domenico Dolce said, referring to the location of the show. Set in the courtyard of the Humanitas Research Hospital, the designers staged it to raise money for the institution’s Covid-19 vaccine program.

Like the Paris online events that preceded it, the presentations of Digital Milan Fashion Week unmistakably revolved around the idea of the runway, or indeed the absence of it. Whether you believe in the traditional format of fashion shows or belong to those who hanker after a new digital approach, it’s hard to deny how powerful and integral the runway is to designers and their expression. Few things can showcase the presence of a garment and its connection to a broader collection like a parade of looks wafting right by you on a runway. Except, of course, for a 50-minute documentary that shows you the painstaking process that went into making them. Perhaps Maison Margiela’s approach points towards the future needs of fashion: a little more focus on the human effort that goes into all these shows.

Balmain’s Couture Show On The Seine Promises Socially-Distanced Fashion At Its Best

On the evening of Sunday 5 July, Balmain will take to the river Seine to bring Paris a socially-distanced haute couture show of epic proportions to mark the 75th anniversary of the house. “From the beginning of the lockdown in Paris, I wanted to do something when it was over,” creative director Olivier Rousteing said in a phone call on Sunday morning, “to celebrate fashion and the fact that we feel kind of free in Paris now after two and half months in lockdown.”

At 7.30pm CET, the artistic director will sail by the Eiffel Tower on a péniche – a river barge – carrying 21 models wearing looks from Balmain’s haute couture archives. At 8.00pm, the show will sail under the Pont des Arts, where 50 dancers (choreographed by Jean-Charles Jousni) will be joined by the 25-year-old French signer Yseult, who will give a performance. The barge will continue towards Notre-Dame cathedral, inviting all of Paris to watch the show – from a distance. Safety is a priority. “Backstage, all the rails are distanced. We made sure there’s a two-metre distance between all the models on the boat. There’s going to be a big mirrored floor to reflect the sky,” Rousteing said. “I hope it’s not going to rain.”

During the lockdown, the designer began to draw parallels between Balmain’s history and the experiences surrounding the pandemic. Pierre Balmain founded his fashion house in 1945 amid the destruction of World War II. His “Jolie Madame” silhouette became a symbol of hope and restoration alongside Christian Dior’s “New Look”, and would go down in fashion history as a moment of optimism, epitomising the fighting spirit of the haute couture industry. “We’re not going through a war,” Rousteing acknowledged, “but we are going through a pandemic. Fashion is in a tough moment. I don’t think the answer to it is to not do anything, it’s actually to try to respect the world we now live in and give some hope.” 

From his Balmain barge, he wants to convey a gesture of inclusivity, both by making his impromptu Balmain retrospective public but also by proxy of the values Rousteing stands for at Balmain. “I want to show people that this was a classic French house and today I am the artistic director of it. Being half-Ethiopian and half-Somalian, I show the difference between now and before. You can see the evolution, not just through the clothes but how the world has changed. I think that’s a message of hope: what we have done together. The world is changing and it’s important to remember the past as well as the present.” Rousteing will mix his own Balmain archive – dresses worn by Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian-West and Cindy Crawford, although not technically haute couture – with looks by Pierre Balmain, and former creative directors Oscar de la Renta and Erik Mortensen, whose work covers Balmain’s history between 1946 and 1990.

“It goes from the most romantic [Pierre Balmain] to the most glamorous [Mortensen] to the most Hollywood [de la Renta], showing the brand’s international vision from the beginning,” the designer said. What would the house’s founder have thought of his vision for the house today? Rousteing laughed. “Haters would say, ‘Oh my God!’ But what I would say is: I’ve built the Balmain Army,” he noted, referring to the diversity initiative he set up for the brand. “Monsieur Balmain dressed women, who, at the time, were not conservative: Brigitte Bardot, Josephine Baker. I think the Balmain Army I’ve built will be remembered in 20 years. And I think he was really pop, in his own way. He dressed singers and princesses. I dressed Michelle Obama but at the same time I can dress pop culture. We have the same ambiguity between bourgeoisie and pop.”

Paris Men´s S/S´21 Digital

You could, not unironically, draw one conclusion from the first-ever Digital Paris Fashion Week: the most powerful menswear designers in the world have no intentions of abandoning the runway any time soon. Over five days of fashion films, the houses of Paris largely interpreted that format in clips teasing collections to come, in classic moving editorial or in mini documentaries. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh set the tone with an inspired animated short film that announced his spring/summer 2021 runway show in Shanghai on 5 August – the live, very real-life kind, that is. The teaser starred a crew of cartoon characters dubbed Zoooom with Friends, who run riot in Paris and end up hiding as stowaways in Louis Vuitton containers, which are shipped off to faraway lands.

In all its cuteness, the film was loaded with Abloh’s messages of diversity and inclusivity, the animated characters a representation of himself and his infiltration of the fashion establishment. Abloh is determined to use his massive Louis Vuitton platform to positively influence his audience, and big shows – like the ones via which he earned his own fashion education, watching them online – are the most effective way to make that impact. You got the feeling Hermès shared a similar sentiment. While Véronique Nichanian’s film for the house included a collection – albeit reduced due to the broken supply chain – the ghost of the runway show was very much present.

Hermès worked with the artist Cyril Teste on a choreographed live production that revolved around “that moment backstage before the show,” as Nichanian explained; “the boys biding their time, some goofing, others in thrall to their phones.” In times of physical constraint, nothing could have romanticised the thrill of the runway show more. Except, perhaps, for the idea of seeing those delectable Hermès garments IRL. There was an effortless lightness and optimism to Nichanian’s collection, which seemed to permeate the Paris internet connection. At Dior, Kim Jones mixed interview footage with moving editorial in a film about his spring/summer 2021 collaboration with the Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. “It was the time for me to celebrate an African artist like we have American artists, or Japanese artists,” Jones explained. “I wondered, what would Mr Dior be looking at now?” 

Between clips of Boafo’s work, Jones offered beautiful glimpses of the clothes they had inspired: light and vibrant and so fine-tuned with delicate textures and imagery that you wished for a VR headset, or indeed a real runway experience. If Jones gets the chance, these pieces deserve an outing beyond the borders of cyberspace. 

You could say the same for the explosion of colour that jumped through your screen at Berluti, where Kris Van Assche presented his collaboration with the American ceramic artist Brian Rochefort in a documentary-style film. It had been produced in the same way that the collection had during the lockdown: via Zoom meetings and imagery sent back and forth between Van Assche’s home in Paris and Rochefort’s studio in Los Angeles. The Berluti designer had covered superlight silk shirts with photo prints of Rochefort’s hyper-colourful “slap in the face of traditional ceramic art” sculptures, and woven their textures into larger-than-life knitwear. Soundtracked to audio from one of their Zoom calls, the film showed both creatives at work illustrating their processes and the similarities between their practices for the camera. But, as Van Assche said at the end, “it’s good, it’s interesting, and it’s nice to be able to explain stuff to people. But I will miss emotions. So, as soon as we can go back to fashion shows and storytelling, I will definitely do that.”

For Rick Owens, the digital format also became an opportunity to showcase his process. In a CCTV-style video, the designer captured himself styling each look from his collection on his friend and colleague Tyrone Dylan. Owens titled the collection Phlegethon, “one of the rivers in the inferno described in Dante’s Divine Comedy, not quite the centre of Hell but on the way there,” he quipped. “Romanticising doom has always been an adolescent mood, but it’s a classic way to confront fear and instability – hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

He went on to describe how nearly every element of the collection was either upcycled from previous ideas or indeed recycled materials such as plastic. This was resourcefulness in a time of limitation. Dries Van Noten painted a similar image, albeit with just one look: the model Jonas Glöer pictured at an imaginary set of drums, tapping away while bathed in romantic lights. The designer was behind an early (and very reasonable) lockdown proposal to change the dates of future fashion weeks in order to match up fashion seasons and weather seasons a little bit better. Van Noten’s ambient but restrained proposal for Digital Fashion Week reflected a similarly pragmatic sense of moderation. Come September, we’ll surely be in for the full monty.

Meanwhile, Wooyoungmi amped up the digital showmanship. The Korean designer presented her Pina Bausch-inspired collection of genderless Seoul-centric tailoring in a choreographed dance production set within the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, which only needed an audience in order to pass for a real-life show. “This year, around the world, we came together in a virtual dance of unity,” Woo wrote in an accompanying text. “Now, we join hands and dance our way into the future, unified by the power of diversity, inclusivity and hope. We are all connected.” With the natural free-for-all that comes with digital fashion week, those words were true on many levels.

If Wooyoungmi activated her garments through movement, Jonathan Anderson made his Loewe collection come to life through the very volume of each piece. In an interview video, the designer personally presented some of the key pieces in his collection, including a top fashioned as a basket, which felt entirely made for bursting out of the computer screen. The sculptural loudness and emphasis on craft – a big theme during the lockdown – were reflected throughout the collection, showcased quietly on spot-lit spinning mannequin.

Lanvin, conversely, broke out of the studio and took a trip to Lyon where Bruno Sialelli captured a look book and a short clip for his spring/summer men’s and resort 2021 collections. The designer chose the Palais Idéal for his backdrop, a trippy structure erected by hand by a postman over three decades in the late 19th century. The single-handed realisation of one individual’s ideal building was an appropriate reference for post-pandemic fashion, where parallels have been drawn to the way in which designers like Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain rebuilt the industry after the war. But Sialelli’s excursion – clad so elegantly in boyish sailor tops, dainty butterscotch coats and a gap year cape adorned with Erté illustrations – was also a resourceful take on the destination shows and resort spectaculars that currently seem like a faint memory in fashion. Like the rest of the digital Paris men’s shows, it was nice to see fashion in motion again and get a glimpse of the glamour that so desperately craves an audience.

Will Live Shows Go On In New York In September? Unlikely

New York Fashion Week won’t have heavy hitters such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tory Burch or Tom Ford.

Although IMG seems to be making plans to have physical shows during New York Fashion Week in September, as reported in WWD on Wednesday, most of the major designers contacted aren’t planning to have a full-blown runway show in New York. Most said they would do small presentations or show virtually.

In addition to Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs saying early in the game that they were not planning to show in September, Lauren said Thursday he was not planning a live fashion show during NYFW. Nor is Hilfiger, according to his spokeswoman. Ford, chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, also said he wasn’t planning to have a formal fashion show, but is planning something digital, said his spokeswoman. Burch isn’t planning to do a live show and is still determining if she will do something digital, and if so, when, said a spokeswoman.

Gabriela Hearst has already said she plans to show during Paris Fashion Week, which is moving full steam ahead with a mix of physical and digital shows.

Meantime, Rebecca Minkoff said she is working with IMG to create a physical event during NYFW. While details are still being worked out and the location hasn’t been decided, she said the idea is not conducive to an indoor space. She is planning an outdoor event. She is working with Eyesight Fashion & Luxury, which has done the brand’s last two presentations. She said they can do the work remotely, and the casting and styling will be done in New York. Simultaneously, she will also do a digital experience.

Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard, sisters-in-law and partners in Veronica Beard, told WWD, “We’re planning to unveil our spring 2021 collection during NYFW in September, but we won’t be holding a formal presentation or show this season.” While exact details are still being worked out, they said there won’t be any in-person presentation.

A spokesman for Badgley Mischka, said the designers are just starting to weigh their options and see what direction they want to go in September. Jason Wu hasn’t made his decision yet for September. Wes Gordon, creative director of Carolina Herrera, plans to hold some kind of in-person event during NYFW, but said it will not be for a large number of people.

It appears that many designers are still figuring out their plans for September and told WWD they weren’t able to speak on the record about their intentions for now.

According to a spokesman for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, “The CFDA organizes the Official New York Fashion Week Schedule and therefore the official NYFW dates. As part of this role, we have been in communication with designers looking to show on the official schedule, which, for this season only, is set from Monday, Sept. 14 to Wednesday, Sept. 16. Of those, the majority is looking to present their new collections digitally, although some are considering small, salon-like presentations with 10 or less attendees.”

As reported last week, IMG, which owns and operates New York Fashion Week: The Shows, sent a deck to designers to gauge their interest in having a show during NYFW, which they say runs Sept. 10 through Sept. 17. They gave different options both on and off the official footprint of Spring Studios, outlining a slew of health and safety measures, and subject to government regulations.

At that time, Matthew Orley, vice president, designer relations and business development, IMG, told WWD, “We recognize the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had on the fashion industry in New York and around the world, and we remain committed to providing a variety of resources for designers during one of the most critical marketing and selling periods of the year. As we do each season, we are working closely with designers to determine their needs and how we can best support their visions. For September 2020, we have created a variety of new options that include live and virtual presentations, digital content and distribution, programming and experiences, which will continue to evolve based on the government’s latest health and safety guidelines.”

Reached for comment Monday, Fern Mallis, an industry consultant and creator of New York Fashion Week, said, “I haven’t heard about anyone wanting to do anything. I applaud them [IMG] for doing that [gauging interest], if they think they have people who want to do it.” In addition to the galleries at Spring, IMG is offering spaces on the Spring rooftop and two other venues at Pier 25. “Weather could be a problem and getting in elevators to get to that roof could be a problem,” said Mallis, although she heard they would be using the freight elevators. She said there were sponsors who were interested to stay involved and that’s likely the impetus.

Mallis also questioned whether foreign editors would come to New York to spend two weeks in quarantine. “Nor do we want anybody coming in from any other state right now. Yes, there are diehards, and fashionistas who will go to anything, I suspect. I frankly don’t think it’s going to happen.

“I just trust that the creative people will come up with interesting videos and digital presentations and we’ll learn which ones people like and which ones are working. I think anybody who thinks there’s really going to be any semblance of a fashion week is mistaken. People are asking me if I’m planning to stay out in the country through the winter? It’s frightening…I applaud them [IMG] for trying to do something but have no idea who’s going to participate. We’re living in a really bad science-fiction movie and the director’s terrible. It just won’t end,” she said.

What Happened To Rethinking The Fashion System?

Back in April, Saint Laurent was the first to make a move, announcing its intention to skip Paris Fashion Week and reshape its schedule for showing collections for the rest of the year in a break with the conventional fashion calendar. Soon after, Kering stablemate Gucci threw its weight behind change, announcing that it was going seasonless and scaling back the rhythm of its fashion shows to twice per year. “I will abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows to regain a new cadence, closer to my expressive call,” said designer Alessandro Michele.

Around the same time, a group of designers and retailers fronted by Dries Van Noten published an open letter calling for changes to the timing of deliveries and discounts. Almost simultaneously, another group, facilitated by BoF, issued a proposal for “rewiring” the fashion calendar more extensively, including the timing of buying periods and shows.

But some of the industry’s largest brands, with more traditional mindsets and significant vested interests in the status quo, have since thrown cold water on the idea of a system-wide reboot. Chanel’s president of fashion activities Bruno Pavlovsky has made clear he has little interest in changing a fashion system that is working so well for the French luxury giant, which surpassed $12 billion in sales in 2019 and plans to double down on its traditional six shows per year.

Dior and Fendi have also signalled their plans to stage shows on the traditional calendar this autumn. Owner LVMH is likely to announce shows for more of its megabrands and seems uninterested in upending the industry’s current system. (The councils that organise Paris and Milan fashion weeks have their own vested interests in the status quo and are somewhat resistant to change, too).

To be sure, rethinking the inefficiencies of the traditional system is most urgent for smaller brands, which are currently under pressure like never before due to their heavy reliance on third-party retailers and lack of financial cushion to absorb shocks brought on by the pandemic. But fashion’s current approach to showing, delivering and discounting collections is fundamentally out of sync with today’s globalised, digital world and ultimately destroys value for the entire industry, megabrands included.

Some of the industry’s largest brands have thrown cold water on the idea of a system-wide reboot.

Traditional runway shows are incredibly powerful in the way they harness the physical presence of the “right” people — editors, celebrities, influencers and other tastemakers — to get fashion’s dream machine whirring, turning dresses into objects of desire for millions of consumers. But the months-long gap between these marketing spectacles, consumed online in real-time, and when collections hit stores has long been a problem for brands of all sizes.

What’s more, these collection deliveries follow archaic, Eurocentric “seasons” that have been warped by the demands of major department stores for so long that they no longer correspond with real-world weather patterns even for European shoppers, let alone fashion’s increasingly global customer base, whose clear desire to “buy now, wear now” is perennially thwarted.

Then, there’s the matter of discounting. Ever-earlier seasonal markdowns — exacerbated by the internet, where competitors are just a click away and price comparison is common — may help to drive short-term sales bumps. Ditto broad-spectrum, mid-season sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day. But in the long run, the entrenched practice of offering discounts without discipline erodes profitability and brand equity for brands large and small.

A rethink would offer value across the sector.

The initiatives seen thus far lack industry-wide consensus. In any case, we may not be moving from a past world of “model A” to a future world of “model B” where all players take a one-size-fits-all approach to shows, deliveries and discounting. In fact, we’re more likely to see the emergence of models A-to-Z, with labels doing what’s best for their own businesses.

Yet, the industry calendar does require a degree of coordination to function, across activities from department store deliveries to fashion weeks. And small brands with the most incentive to update their approach will find it difficult to press ahead unless the big players come on board.

Change clearly won’t happen overnight. While coronavirus has proven a catalyst for the conversation on systemic change, it has also created huge uncertainty that may simultaneously create obstacles to reform.

The fashion cycle that starts in September is likely to be highly unusual, with uncertainly set to continue well into 2021, as companies brace for the possibility of a second (or third) wave of infections. With so much up in the air, it may take 12 to 24 months for things to settle and the system to evolve.

But if it is going to keep pace with a globalised, digital world, evolve it must. Big brands with vested interests in the status quo should not stand in the way of change, as ultimately rethinking fashion’s traditional system is good for them, too.

Are Digital Fashion Weeks Really More Sustainable?

It’s no secret that the endless cycle of fashion shows taking place pre-Covid, often in far-flung locations around the world, was bad for the environment. According to a report by Ordre, fashion buyers and designers alone contribute 241,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year by attending fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan — more than the total emissions of a small country such as Saint Kitts and Nevis. And that’s not even counting all the models, press and other members of staff working behind the scenes to make fashion weeks happen.

Now, though, we have entered a new age of digital-only shows as a result of the pandemic, which began with London Fashion Week in June and Couture Week this month. Milan Fashion Week Men’s and Paris Fashion Week Men’s have also gone virtual, while Stockholm Fashion Week will be returning with a digital event at the end of August. The move to digital has been championed by sustainability advocates at a time when key industry figures, led by the likes of Dries van Noten, have written open letters calling for less travel in fashion and for the industry to “review and adapt fashion shows”.

But just because shows have been taking place digitally doesn’t mean there won’t be a carbon footprint created by these fashion weeks. “There’s a very big misconception that when you go digital, it’s automatically sustainable,” Evelyn Mora, founder of Helsinki Fashion Week tells Vogue. “But that’s really not the case. It’s really important to understand that.”

Being such a new phenomenon, there is currently no data out there on the environmental impact of digital fashion weeks. That’s why Mora has enlisted the help of tech company Normative to calculate the carbon footprint of this season’s online edition of Helsinki Fashion Week, which will run from 27 July to 1 August. “Having our [digital] footprint measured and compared to physical events will give us a lot of information on how to do things differently,” Mora explains.
Calculating the footprint of a digital fashion week

Considering that the information and communications technology sector is responsible for two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions — making it just as harmful as the aviation industry — it’s important not to forget the invisible infrastructure behind a digital fashion week. The production of video, and the massive data centres and servers required to host those videos online, all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As more brands embrace 3D and virtual reality (VR) technology, this digital environmental impact is only likely to rise.

“That’s the first thing that surprised me: the scale and the operations behind the digital fashion week,” comments Morten Rosén, head of partnerships and sales at Normative. “We’ve spoken to about 45 developers working on this project and gathered data from all the designers and digital partners. There are a lot of computers running, and a lot of logistics that go into running all these computers.” The number of virtual attendees is an important factor, too. “Now we’re waiting to calculate the bandwidth from the event itself; how many megabytes are being used, how many users?” Rosén explains. 

While the final results won’t be published until after the fashion week takes place, initial findings suggest that the digital Helsinki Fashion Week will have a higher overall impact on the environment — although more people can attend virtually. “The preparations are much heavier in carbon footprint during the digital event than the physical events,” says Rosén. “If you look at only the carbon footprint, then the digital has a larger footprint than the physical. But if you take into consideration how many [people] can attend a digital fashion week, then the carbon footprint is substantially lower.”

It shouldn’t be about digital versus physical

Despite these direct comparisons, it’s unlikely we’ll move to digital-only fashion weeks beyond the pandemic, with designers such as Chloé’s creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi highlighting the value of a physical show during a Vogue Global Conversations panel in April. “Fashion shows are special events, I believe, they are here to inspire and engage conversation — and they have a meaning and they must feel authentic,” she said. “There’s a human dimension to it, which I’m very keen to keep.”

It’s a view shared by the organisers of Milan Fashion Week. “Online shows can’t replace the physical event forever; the emotions that a physical show brings could never be replaced by a digital experience,” comments Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. “In addition, we can’t forget the economic side of the issue. Having physical shows brings income and jobs to the city.”

Meanwhile, digital — together with the carbon footprint that brings — is already a crucial part of most fashion weeks, allowing brands to reach a wider audience. Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit revealed that fashion shows, for example, have a reach of 10 million viewers globally compared to the 600 guests that physically attend Paris Fashion Week. Others such as Copenhagen Fashion Week (9 to 12 August) are already planning hybrid physical-digital (or “phygital”) formats, which will likely be emulated as we gradually move out of lockdown.

Going forward then, the focus needs to be reducing the carbon footprint of both the physical and digital elements of fashion weeks — whether that means holding fewer shows, cutting back on travel, or switching to renewable energy sources. “I don’t think digital can push away physical, or vice versa; it’s a balance,” Mora concludes. “The point for us is to do it in the most sustainable way [possible].” 

This Icelandic Knitwear Designer Is Making the Trippiest Masks You’ve Ever Seen

You're unlikely to forget Ýrúrarí Jóhannsdóttir’s fantastic slobbering masks once you’ve seen them. The Iceland-based knitwear designer has been churning out 3D tongue masks that range from a balaclava-like piece—complete with a headband and a face mask—that has long, curled tongues popping out of them. Another is an enormous red mouth with knit-in braces (gaps in teeth, as well!) that spans from ear to ear. On the more extreme end (yes, there is a more extreme end), lips take over the full lower portion of the face to reveal a monstrous massive pink tongue that extends all the way down to the chest, complete with little tongues that appear to be growing off of it. They’re trippy and cozy in equal measure.

Jóhannsdóttir, 27, has been using tongues in her designs for almost two years. The Reykjavík-based designer started knitting from a young age and eventually pursued it during her studies in fashion at Scotland’s Glasgow School of Art. “I do love machine knitting, but I love knitting with my hands, and I always go back to strange faces,” she says. Before masks, Jóhannsdóttir had mainly focused on clothing, which included chunky knit sweaters dotted with 3D tongues, or sleeves embellished with faux mouths and teeth. Her more extreme pieces have been exhibited at Iceland’s Gallery Port, including a traditional Icelandic sweater in a lopapeysa print with a gaping, toothy mouth in the middle and two flopping hands protruding from it. And while Jóhannsdóttir has experimented with other types of body parts and appendages in her knits, tongues have been her main obsession. “Maybe because they are kind of rude, sticky, and strange,” says Jóhannsdóttir. Her creations have caught Erykah Badu’s eye—the musician personally purchased a few of Jóhannsdóttir’s sweaters this past January.

Jóhannsdóttir began to translate her love of tongues into face masks when COVID-19 began to appear in Iceland. Currently, there is no government mandate to wear a mask, but citizens are still covering their faces as a precaution. “The government has only asked us to clean [our hands] well, keep our distance, and wear gloves at the supermarket. We also covered our mouths around people but used more scarfs or fabric,” she says. “Some people have been wearing masks, though.” It took her about two days to create her first mask, a simple-knit mouth plug that included a lone tongue sticking out, which she marketed as a cheeky add-on to a regular mask.

As time went on, Jóhannsdóttir’s knit masks became more outré, like the cartoonish mouth of a green monster with jagged teeth, and then a lopsided mask with a squiggly tongue that reaches up across the face and touches the eye. At first, she received messages that her masks were unsafe to wear, but Jóhannsdóttir views her coolly grotesque tongue masks as solely an art project—more sculpture than clothing—that encourages mask-wearing and self-expression with masks. So far, she has received encouraging messages from people in Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, London, and the United States. Though the message of the masks is supposed to be fun, the ultimate point of her creations is a funny take on bad-mannered body language: sticking one’s tongue out. “The masks have been used for promoting the idea that using masks can be fun, and I’m very happy they’re being used as awareness,” she says. “Everything we put on us can also be fun if we want it to, and bringing smiles to peoples faces in times like these is also important.”