Friday, November 26, 2021

The International Woolmark Prize Announces Its Finalists for 2022

The International Woolmark Prize is fashion’s longest-standing award for young designers; Karl Lagerfeld took home the top honors back in 1954 at the age of 21. Challenging on-the-rise talents to create a collection made entirely of Australian merino wool, lately the IWP has become a study of sustainability, natural fibres, and responsible sourcing. In June, Matty Bovan became the second designer to win both the 2021 top prize ($200,000 AUD, or £108,000) and the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation ($100,000 AUD, or £54,000) for his collection “Ode to Sea,” which featured intarsia sweaters and architectural, pannier-like silhouettes rarely seen in knitwear.

While 2021’s theme was on supply chain innovations – Bovan worked with local suppliers in his hometown of York – next year’s competition comes with a more whimsical prompt: “Play.” In a release, the IWP called it “a true celebration of forward-thinking design and innovation, [calling on] finalists to experiment with textiles, design, and business practices to drive change and innovation for a brighter future.”

It’s an upbeat pivot after our nearly two year pandemic, which found the industry feeling anxious about its future (as well as the planet’s). Transparency is still at the heart of the competition, though, and this year’s group of seven finalists – Ahluwalia, Egonlab, Jordan Dalah Studio, MMUSOMAXWELL, Peter Do, Rui, and Saul Nash – will be expected to dive into their supply chains and find innovative ways to improve upon them.

“Sustainability is the ‘new black’ – today, too many people use this word for marketing purposes,” Florentin Glémarec and Kévin Nompeix of Egonlab tell Vogue. “Greenwashing is a real scourge for the fashion industry and others. This is why it is increasingly complicated for emerging designers to source ethically and sustainably. Thanks to its expertise and transparency in this area, the Woolmark Company is an essential ally,” they continue. “Egonlab aims to improve every aspect of its eco-responsible process. Protecting our home, the Earth, is essential, and we still have a lot to learn about this subject in order to find innovative and respectful solutions for all.”

Rui Zhou echoed a similar sentiment about learning from Woolmark’s supply chain experts: “As a brand that just started our journey, we’re young in experience,” she says. “But with the knowledge this program provides, we hope we can produce more responsibly in the long run, which requires us to engage in a healthy relationship with our supporters, environment, society, and economics.”

“Designers want to make meaningful change, but it all usually comes back to resources,” Saul Nash adds. “I’m incredibly excited about gaining a greater understanding of wool’s potential, particularly through the lens of performance-wear. I’m ultimately interested in function, so exploring non-synthetic fabrics which could perform for movement and sport is a wonderful opportunity.”

Over the next few months, the seven finalists will work with the IWP to develop their collections. The final projects will be revealed in April 2022, and a panel of judges (to be announced) will select winners for the top prize, the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, and the Supply Chain Award. The finalists will also have the opportunity to stock their collections in IWP retail partners, including, Ssense, Browns, and Net-a-Porter.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Matthieu Blazy Is Bottega Veneta’s New Creative Director

Kering has announced that Matthieu Blazy is assuming the creative director role at Bottega Veneta, following Daniel Lee’s abrupt departure last week.

The news that Lee was stepping down stunned the industry. He did more than revive the Italian luxury house; he set the style agenda, as anyone who’s browsed the racks at a fast-fashion chain can tell you. Blazy’s appointment isn’t quite as surprising. He was Lee’s number two at Bottega Veneta from mid-2020, and Kering has had enormous success moving behind-the-scenes designers into the spotlight, see: Alessandro Michele at Gucci.

Also, Blazy is not the unknown that Lee was. The Belgian 37-year-old has been widely respected and liked since he first attracted notice at Maison Margiela Artisanal, where he was head designer in the early 2010s. Though he maintained the anonymity that the influential house founder was known for, Blazy’s work was distinguished, both attuned to the Margiela codes and of its time. Kanye West famously co-opted the crystal encrusted masks from Artisanal’s autumn/winter 2013 couture show for his Yeezus tour.

From Margiela, Blazy went to work for the exacting Phoebe Philo at Celine, who is said to have headhunted him herself (he and Lee overlapped there). And after that he joined Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, where his partner Pieter Mulier was the creative director under chief creative officer Raf Simons (Blazy and Mulier met at Simons’s Antwerp headquarters).

Elevating a company insider suggests that we’re in for a subtle shift at Bottega Veneta, rather than the wholesale reinventions that have become the norm across fashion. The Puddle boots that became unlikely status symbols under Lee’s tenure seem sure to remain, same with the oversize intrecciato motifs that gave an edge to the brand’s long-held artisanal codes. Indeed, in a statement Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman & CEO of Kering, said, “I am confident that Matthieu Blazy’s wealth of experience and broad cultural background will allow him to bring his creative impetus to the task of carrying on the legacy of Bottega Veneta.”

Now There’s A New Label To Help You Shop Fashion More Sustainably

An industry-wide product label to identify clothes made with sustainable practices is coming. The Impact Index, created by the Responsible Business Coalition, Accenture and Vogue, and developed with major fashion brands and retailers including Saks, Selfridges, Capri Holdings and Ralph Lauren, is intended to make it easier for brands to communicate their efforts with customers and ultimately accelerate the industry’s sustainability progress overall.

The digital logo will appear on product websites for garments — it may expand to physical product labels eventually — and will show, once a person clicks on it, the environmental or ethical criteria the garment meets. The initial categories are raw materials, animal welfare, chemical usage and education and empowerment, but these are likely to expand. The Impact Index seeks to fill gaps in three main areas: defining and communicating sustainability at the individual product level; bringing clarity to the crowded certification landscape; and establishing effective methods for data collection across the entire industry. It will launch late next year, but is being piloted now by a major brand and a major retailer.

Over a dozen companies were involved in developing the index, including Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Bonobos, Capri Holdings, J.Crew, JCPenney, Kenneth Cole, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, PVH, Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges & Co., Shinola, Macy’s, Gap, Tapestry, Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren and VF Corporation. The goal is not to endorse any specific products or brands, but to increase transparency with consumers and enable them to make more informed decisions, says Frank Zambrelli, executive director of the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.

“It is not a green light or a red light. It’s merely a platform. Nobody's saying this is a better skirt than this one; we’re just saying, ‘This skirt was produced this way, with these certificates.' Providing consumers with information is part of the solution, says Cara Smyth, managing director and global sustainability lead for Accenture’s Retail industry group. “Every dollar is like a vote. The more consumers make their buying decisions on information about environmental and social issues, the more the industry reacts.”

In that sense, the label is primarily a communication and education tool. While the fashion industry has stepped up its environmental efforts in recent years, brands don’t always know how or whether to communicate their efforts to consumers. That’s despite it being increasingly important for them to do so. Consumers often don’t know which brands to trust or what many of the claims or certifications mean. Some experts think this could partially explain why consumers, despite saying they value sustainably-made products, have so far not been willing to pay more for them. The coalition behind the Impact Index wanted to establish a way to help consumers cut through the noise.

A number of platforms already exist with a similar goal, such as Remake’s Seal of Approval and Good on You’s ratings platform, but they have not reached the scale that organisers hope the index — by both engaging with some of the industry’s largest companies and collaborating with Vogue to maximise consumer reach — can achieve. Products that earn the label have met standards set or approved by third-party organisations such as Canopystyle, Bluesign and the Global Organic Textile Standard.

“We think it's going to be a game changer. We hope, as consumers understand the value, that they'll start supporting value, rather than the cheapest price,” says LaRhea Pepper, CEO of Textile Exchange, one of the independent nonprofits participating in the Impact Index.

While the consumer-facing label will be the most visible component of the index, the behind-the-scenes work being done to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the label will be critical to its success.

Smyth explains that while they were doing research on the consumer side to determine what types of information would be most important to provide and how, they were also working with brands, retailers and nonprofits on the backend to figure out how to reliably collect, verify and ultimately share the information publicly.

When the Impact Index launches with consumers, the logo will appear on a product’s website (and at some point, potentially also on a physical on-garment tag) if the garment meets any one of the four criteria areas. By clicking on the logo, consumers can then learn more about which criteria that product meets, including which organisation was involved for verification purposes. The creators say that expanded metrics for data collection, as well as stricter minimum standards required for participation, will come with time as the index gains traction with both brands and consumers. They also hope that the index will spark a positive feedback loop, increasing the pressure brands feel to participate and engage in more of the standards that consumers are looking for and that are needed for meaningful progress towards climate and other goals.

Zambrelli recognises critics’ concerns that brands have been too involved in deciding their own sustainability credentials, but says that’s why the nonprofits were so crucial in developing the index. The process involved significant pushback and debate from all sides, he says. “Without the brands and retailers, this wasn't going to go anywhere. We all know, an NGO without the intervening industry is a lovely organisation saying wonderful things, but unfortunately never getting the platform to disseminate that information.”

Wider consumer engagement may be key to unlocking the ability of brands to scale their use of more sustainable materials beyond the limited seasonal collection, says Pepper at Textile Exchange. Using those materials does cost more, and in order to do that at scale, experts say, brands need to communicate openly so consumers know what they’re paying more for — and to foster trust and support in making the transition.

In its corporate fibre benchmark survey, Pepper says Textile Exchange has found that the brands with the greatest increase in adoption of “preferred” fibres are also doing the most consumer education.

“It's a really important step if we're going to get to that 45 per cent,” she says, referring to Textile Exchange’s 2030 goal for the industry to reduce emissions from fibre production in order to align with a 1.5°C pathway. “A small percentage of consumers are aware and are asking for [more sustainable products], but we need to do more. We need to get consumers to send that clear market message: ‘We're ready to shift out of a price-only paradigm, to really paying for the value of that product.’”

Friday, November 12, 2021

Daniel Lee Exits Bottega Veneta

Bottega Veneta and Daniel Lee have announced that they are parting ways. Lee showed his first collection for the Italian luxury goods maker for fall 2019.

Leo Rongone, CEO of Bottega Veneta, said in a statement: “I would like to thank Daniel for his dedication... He provided Bottega Veneta with a fresh perspective and a new sense of modernity, while remaining respectful of the brand’s 50-year heritage. The remarkable growth of the brand over the last three years bears testimony to the success of his creative work.”

Bottega Veneta was Lee’s first creative director assignment; he was plucked from the Celine studio, where he was womenswear director under Phoebe Philo. Lee’s first runway collection received mixed reviews, in part because his Bottega Veneta aesthetic was rougher-around-the-edges than the one he helped hone at Celine, but his accessories hit almost instantly. The buttery leather Pouch bag sparked a trend for softly structured leather bags and his square-toed pumps and sandals had a similar agenda-setting effect in footwear. Thereafter, he was embraced by the fashion establishment. At the 2019 Fashion Awards, held in London in December of that year, Lee was nominated for the four top prizes and won them all. Rihanna and Hailey Bieber were both seen in his statement-making fringed shearling outerwear for the label.

The pandemic slowed Lee’s roll, as it did the entire fashion industry’s. With the traditional runway show system in question, Bottega Veneta adopted a salon concept in which the house would present its collections off-calendar to local audiences; Lee said he didn’t believe in digital fashion shows. London was first, and not long after that show the brand deleted its social media accounts. A second salon in Berlin was a showcase for his studio’s experimental knitwear silhouettes and flair for colour and unlikely embellishments, but an after-party attended by unmasked and unvaccinated revellers attracted negative press. Last month, Lee and his team showed his spring lineup for the label at the Michigan Theatre in Detroit. The collection was a pivot to a sportier, more casual sensibility.

In the same statement, Lee said: “My time at Bottega Veneta has been an incredible experience. I am grateful to have worked with an exceptional and talented team and I am forever thankful to everyone who was part of creating our vision. Thank you to Francois-Henri Pinault for his support, and for the opportunity to be part of Bottega Veneta’s story.” The release said that “a new creative direction” for the house will be announced soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Silvia Venturini Fendi Invites 20 Craftsmen To Interpret Her Baguette In A New Exhibition

In a fashion climate obsessed with limited edition merch, can rare hand-crafted objects spark the same desire as a pair of sold-out trainers? “I’m not sure, but these kinds of projects can help educate young people about it,” Silvia Venturini Fendi said during a preview of her new exhibition Hand in Hand. Open to the public at her Roman headquarters through November 2021, the interactive experience sees artisans from 20 regions of Italy interpret Fendi’s Baguette handbag using craftsmanship passed down through generations. “Limited edition isn’t just about small quantities. It should be limited because it’s made from limited materials, or because it takes time, or because of the person who is able to do it,” Venturini said.

Through the run of the exhibition, the artisans will demonstrate in person the delicate artistry that embodies their respective crafts, and create their visions of the Baguette as guests look on. A captivating display, it is loaded with history and knowhow: take the looms of the Su Marmuri women’s cooperative from Sardinia, or the lacework of Dodino in Puglia, or the gold-plated silver bezel adornment of Massimo Maria Melis from Lazio, or the tarsia sorrentina inlaid woodwork of the Stinga Tarsia workshop in Campania – to name but a few. Interpreted across techniques like metalwork, coral embellishment, leather sculpting and mosaic tilework, every Baguette stands out like an object of curiosity and wonder. Only, they are actually for sale, made to order through Fendi’s stores.

“We’ve sold more than 100 bags already. Some are incredibly expensive, but our customers love exceptional things,” Fendi’s CEO Serge Brunschwig explained. “This project makes tremendous sense. In the end, the artisans get paid for it, and if a bag sells – and some sell very well – they have to make another one. But some of them will also be inspired by this: they’ll get publicity, clients, and – I hope – young people interested in joining them. That’s the main goal of all of this.” Above all, Fendi wants to encourage a new generation of artisans to learn and save Italy’s heritage crafts. “Many of these people we have worked with for years, and you see the product, but you don’t know who is behind it. There’s a need to talk to these skilled people. I want to put them centre stage,” Venturini said.

It took 18 months to curate the exhibition. “It’s not like there’s a big directory that you just pick from. We had to search in order to find the right techniques, the right people, and the right creativity,” Brunschwig said. “They’re not on the internet. Some of them are at risk of disappearing because they don’t have enough visibility, or don’t have interest from the next generation in taking over. That’s why the project is interesting.” One of them is Bottega Intreccio from Marche in central Italy, a wicker workshop run by a 23-year-old, who has decided to carry on the willow-weaving tradition of his father and grandfather. He serves as an example of the generational effect Fendi would like to create.

“I’m fascinated by what the cooking industry has done,” Brunschwig said. “Before, it was the same situation: who wants to become a cook? It’s the toughest job on earth. Now, they all want to do it because there’s been the right communication: the restaurants, the TV shows, Masterchef. How can the fashion industry do the equivalent and attract the young generations to these jobs?” One way is to make savoir-faire as covetable as the “collabs” and capsule products Fendi is more than familiar with. Over the last month alone, the house has launched collaborations with Donatella Versace as well as Kim Kardashian West’s Skims. But in the age of awareness, young generations are becoming increasingly discerning not just about which brand created something, but how it was created. And what could reflect that mentality better than a one-of-a-kind bag handmade with rare savoir-faire passed down through centuries?

As Venturini acknowledged, there is still some way to go for that to become a reality. “I’m so happy when I see young girls wearing their grandmothers’ or mothers’ Baguettes. It’s a very healthy approach to fashion,” she said. “But I still see a lot of kids who are ‘disposable’ in their consumption of fashion. It’s important for people like us and you to spread the word and make the change happen.” It reminded her of how she gained her own appreciation of craftsmanship as a child. “One day I asked my mother, ‘Can you please change the sofa and the two armchairs? They are very uncomfortable when we watch television.’ They were made of wood. No pillows. She said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t change them. Those chairs are made by Arne Jacobsen.’ From that moment, I understood that an armchair is not just an armchair. There’s a story behind it.”

Bottega Veneta’s Detroit S/S'22 Show

For the third instalment of Bottega Veneta’s Salon shows – following the brand’s ready-to-wear presentations in London and Berlin – Daniel Lee staged a Detroit takeover inspired by his love of the technical and creative spirit at the heart of the Michigan city. Here’s everything you need to know about the celebrity-filled spring/summer 2022 show.

Detroit’s where it’s at

Car superfan (niche intel for Bottega fans) Daniel Lee set up camp in Detroit, the heart of the US automobile industry, for spring/summer 2022. Specifically, the Michigan Building, a former theatre turned parking space and now a multi-faceted co-working venue – as is so often the way. The former club-night hotspot pays homage to another of Lee’s loves: techno (second piece of trivia for Lee acolytes). Music nerds will know Detroit’s reputation as the original “Techno City”, but for anyone simply watching the Moodymann-soundtracked live stream of the show, it was a throbbing reminder of what clubbing used to be like. Sigh.

Bottega Firehouse will make you want to book a trip to Michigan

During his time in Detroit, Lee also pooled his efforts into Bottega Firehouse on 1201 Bagley Street. The creative hub, featuring an Underground Music Academy, a reading room by Asmaa Walton, design works by Chris Schanck and Aratani Fay, textiles by Substudio, furnishings by Donut Shop, ceramics by Hamtramck Ceramck, relief sculptures by Sophie Eisner and a selection of printed matter curated by Ruben Cardenas – as per the press notes – will be open until January. Similar collaborations with other US cities are reportedly in the pipeline.

Naturally, big names flew in for the show

Bottega’s Salon shows have become a who’s who of music’s elite (Kanye, Neneh Cherry and Stormzy have FROW-ed in the past), but spring/summer 2022 was a true party. Mary J Blige, Lil Kim, Burna Boy, Kehlani and Selah Marley joined Zazie Beetz, Slick Woods and Sasha Lane at the Detroit takeover. Just imagine the after-party.

As always, tactility was at the core of the collection

Last season’s undulating micro feathers have been swapped out for equally painstaking (bio-based) rubber beadwork, which must have been thrilling to see IRL in the Michigan Building. From the shimmering paillette-covered dresses (again sustainable), to the parkas stitched with metal thread to manipulate their silhouettes, Lee’s treatment of fabrics is never anything but a delight to behold. Packing light for your trip to Detroit? Spring/summer 2022’s high-performance daywear, inspired by the engineering expertise of the city, can be “squashed and crushed”. Next season is all about function – as well as looking fabulous.

Of course, there were accessories to salivate over

Hailey Bieber’s neck must have been craning over the live stream to see Lee’s latest accessory proposition. At this point, it’s a prerequisite that the delightfully squishy, supple bags and sculptural yet wearable shoes will be a stratospheric success. But somehow Lee still manages to reinvent the wheel. New triangular sandals, sling-backs and colour-pop trainers come in “spongy technical towelling”, and the intrecciato Cassette bags, too, are treated to new textiles. For anyone concerned about their emotional support purse options for next season, Lee assures, “puffy and comforting bags are reassuringly soft to hold”.

Kim And Kim Unleash Fendi X Skims

Just one month on from Kim Jones and Donatella Versace’s “job swap” – which resulted in the star-studded, monogram-tastic “Fendace” runway show at Milan Fashion Week – Fendi’s artistic director has joined forces with fashion’s other Kim, shapewear queen Ms Kardashian West, on a new power collab.

Rumours of the partnership had been floating in fashion circles, and on 25 October friends Jones and Kardashian West confirmed on Instagram that they have indeed collaborated on a limited-edition capsule.

According to the two Kims, the project “unites the luxury of Fendi with the innovation of Skims”, and as is now customary with her Skims drops, Kardashian has modelled the pieces herself. In one campaign shot, captured by Steven Meisel, Kim is joined by Precious Lee, Tianna St Louis, Jessie Li and Grace Valentine, all of whom are dressed in zingy purple dresses, separates, leggings and gloves.

More shots of Kardashian West find her in tights scattered with Fendi’s Zucca emblem and the Skims logo, a matching bralette and Jones’s cult F-heeled shoes; or a sculpting khaki bodysuit worn under a monogrammed puffer.

Macaulay Culkin Is Now A Gucci Model?

Seeing an actor on the Gucci runway is nothing new. Creative director Alessandro Michele’s Gucci family is nothing if not star-studded. But while no one watching was surprised to see house muses Jared Leto and Jodie Turner-Smith on the Love Parade runway, the arrival of former child star Macaulay Culkin was something of a plot twist.

The Home Alone star strode along Hollywood Boulevard in the suitably nostalgic combo of a Hawaiian shirt under a floral bomber jacket. The finishing touches? Seventies-style tinted sunglasses and a pair of horsebit clogs. It was all rather Romeo + Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann take, which fittingly marks its 25th anniversary this year.

Has Culkin, who has kept a comparatively low-profile since a string of smash hit films made him the most famous kid on the planet in the ’90s, witnessed the world’s growing obsession with his little brother and decided to take back the limelight? Kieran Culkin, who demonstrated his comedy chops at eight as Macaulay’s cousin Fuller in Home Alone, has won an army of fans as Roman Roy in the critically adored HBO hit Succession. 

Elsewhere, guest of honour Gwyneth Paltrow turned heads wearing the red velvet suit Michele debuted at Gucci’s centenary show earlier this year. It was an ode to Paltrow’s 1996 VMAs look, which was Tom Ford-era Gucci. The actor complemented her retro suiting with a pale blue Oxford shirt and her hair slicked back into a low chignon – just as she did 25 years ago.