Friday, September 29, 2023

Rick Owens’s “I-Still-Believe-In-Love” S/S´24 Show

Rick Owens’s spring/summer 2024 show was a message of joy and hope, with highly romantic looks paraded through the courtyard of Palais de Tokyo, as fuchsia and canary yellow smoke bombs and rose petals shot out of canons. Fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen was there – read his breakdown below.

It was a message of joy

It has, paradoxically, been a season of joy. From the backstage areas of Milan to Paris, designers have used that word time and again. Current affairs considered – what with reactionary and warmongering waves washing over the world and all – it can seem a bit misplaced. You’d think Rick Owens – fashion’s faithful realist – would be a of a different disposition, but there it was, that word, popping up in his self-penned show notes: “Considering joy a moral obligation, I propose a stark elegance,” he wrote of a highly romantic collection veiled in fuchsia and canary yellow smoke bombs and rose petals shot out of canons across the courtyard of Palais de Tokyo.

It was majestic

“I use it because I’m determined to find joy in life. Because moping around is lazy,” Owens said after the show, referring to his use of the word in the show notes. Isn’t his moping around part of the reason we love him? “I know, and I’m good at it. That’s my superpower. But I can’t be lazy and just fall into it. You can’t be passive. You have to be a top,” he smiled. It generated a show that felt like a melancholy march for joy. Models with funeral veils wore narrow floor-length skirts elevated on platform boots, embroidered evening dresses that looked as if they’d been bandaged, and voluminous jumpsuits styled with majestic capes. A palette of black and delicate grey faded into lilacs, passionate reds and golden cognac.

Diana Ross sang about still believing in love

The soundtrack featured a remix of a Diana Ross song from 2021, the lyrics to which echoed the words “I still in believe in love” in the monumental courtyard. “The music, coming from Diana Ross whois a seventy-something legend singing ‘I Still Believe In Love’, that’s poignant. It’s moving,” Owens said. “I used to be afraid of being sentimental but now I’m kind of embracing it. Ever since the Mahler show when the war broke out” – his autumn/winter 2022 show – “I’ve said, f*** it, now is the time for sentiment. And she let me do a remix of that song, which is actually very cheerful and perky, but isolating her voice like that was so vulnerable. It was irresistible. It just made it extra poignant.”

It was about hope

Perhaps the collection’s spirit was simply founded in power-dressing: standing up in the face of conflict. For years, Owens conveyed in his work a deep sadness for cultures and environments in decline. Now, he’s being more constructive. “Well, that’s why I talk about hope so much. I allow myself to think about hope because in the history of the world there have always been evil forces, but somehow the good forces have always managed to barely overpower. Because we’re still here. We managed. So, you just have to have faith in the force of goodness.”

It was one of his most moving shows ever

Don’t think the Rick Owens show was all rose petal confetti and kumbayas for joy, though. “Everything dies,” he said, concluding his pep talk for hope. “Things do get destroyed and something else happens. Everything dies. We always forget that. We’re always trying to be immortal and have things last forever. ‘Oh, they’re [bringing] down this building and it’s a historical monument.’ Well, everything dies. And things replace it. So, that’s my hope-slash-doom message,” Owens smiled. As the underpinning of one of the designer’s most moving and ravishing collections probably ever, it was an empowering one.

Gabriela Hearst’s Final Show For Chloé

Chloé’s spring/summer 2024 show was Gabriela Hearst’s final collection for the house and it was a culmination of her work over her three-year tenure. “I mean, I am obsessed with this collection. It is my favourite collection I have ever done anywhere,” she said backstage before the show. Keep reading for British Vogue fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen’s verdict on the show.

It was Gabriela Hearst’s final show for Chloé

In early July, after three years at the helm of Chloé, it was announced that this collection would be Gabriela Hearst’s last for the house. Most often, those statements aren’t released until after those shows have taken place, but Hearst doesn’t play to fashion tradition. Her final bow for Chloé was an exultant display that celebrated her tenure at the house. There was nothing downcast about it. “I mean, I am obsessed with this collection. It is my favourite collection I have ever done anywhere,” she said backstage before the show. Overhearing the comments of guests leaving the show, they were inclined to agree. Hearst consolidated the sensual, empowered woman-of-the-earth language she has been cultivated at Chloé in modernist, sculptural silhouettes that brought a certain cool factor.

It was about the consciousness of flowers

The collection began with flowers. Backstage, Hearst produced a picture on her iPhone of dresses she had sketched in January, their silhouettes founded in those of flowers. From sketch to reality, the finished looks were exactly like she’d imagined. To Hearst, the flowers represented the idea of consciousness she wanted to convey: “The balance between heart and mind; to act in response and not in reaction,” as she put it, segueing into the sustainability that has been her defining feature at Chloé: “For our success in climate, we need to be mindful and that’s this balance. If you look at the different aspects of humanity, consciousness is always symbolised in flowers.” It became her farewell note to the house, like the letter an outgoing president leaves on the desk of the incoming one.

Hearst made Chloé sustainable

“I think I came in at a really specific time for the brand, to really transform. You can only transform when people want to change,” Hearst said. “I’ve been asked what I’m most proud of… When I came there was one person in the sustainability team. Now there’s twelve. Chloé is extremely committed for the future to creating beauty with the lowest impact for the environment. That, for me, shows that you can actually do beautiful product that sells and grow a business with a consciousness of the environment and a social component.” Poignantly, her final collection was her most accomplished demonstration of those facts to date, in no small part thanks to fact that she didn’t feel a need to put the sustainable factors in neon lights. Assured it’s there, her audience could focus on the clothes.

The winged dresses were symbolic

Hearst interpreted her flower theme in the blooming gigot sleeves of coats, some constructed in leather as a contrast to the romance said theme inevitably creates. A jumpsuit with cut-outs was shingled in petal-like tiers of fabric, a dress came encrusted with naïve daisies, and winged shoulder panels nodded at an evolving motif during Hearst’s tenure at Chloé. “We’ve been doing wings since I started. I had to do my first collection in two months, and so it was amazing because we did it during Covid in the streets of Saint Germain, all closed down. It had our version of Nike – the goddess of victory in the Louvre – but she was a bit shy. Her wings now are really, really strong so I like to see that as symbol,” she reflected.

Hearst took her final bow with a samba

It was in the construction of wrap dresses and column cut-out dresses that Hearst most aced her swan song. Accompanied by cowboy coats and ponchos rooted in her Uruguayan rancher background – “you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl” – and leather tailoring that felt informed by that same world, they painted a good picture of the fashion Hearst will be remembered for at Chloé. She closed her show with a samba performance by The Mangueira School from Rio, taking bow in dancing, celebratory fashion. “There’s never been a samba school brought to a fashion show before. They’re like football teams. They compete every February in the carnival of Rio,” she explained. “And they’re the best in world.”

Givenchy’s Flower-Infused S/S´24 Show

British Vogue fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen delivers five things to know about the Givenchy spring/summer 2024 show in Paris, which saw Matthew M. Williams deliver a romantic take on Givenchy, with elegant skirt suits and floral motifs.

Matthew M. Williams tackled the flower

As an aesthetic in its own right, the historical codes of Givenchy are tailor-made for fashion’s current appetite for restrained elegance. Matthew M. Williams saw that wave approaching seasons ago and has steadily been reducing and refining his proposition at the house. This season, he infused his “new elegance” – as he calls it – with a sense of romanticism we haven’t previously associated with the designer, who became known for his way with industrial hardware and hardcore fabric treatments. Enter: flowers! “It may come as a surprise, but it’s actually something that’s super natural to me. I spend much of my free time gardening. I’m super obsessed with flowers. It’s literally my number one hobby,” he said, referring to the garden he keeps atop his Parisian penthouse amongst other pursuits.

It was a romantic take on Givenchy

“When you look at the common denominators of elegance, the flower is inescapable. I thought it was interesting to develop a floral language in a way that reflected both the Maison’s archives and myself,” Williams explained. He mined the floral archives of fellow keen gardener Hubert de Givenchy and re-worked and adapted them in hand-painted motifs and embroideries on dresses, porcelain-like prints on super fine fabrics and accessories, and in the metals of jewellery. The flowers brought a sense of lightness and buoyancy to the stark, dark sophistication that defines Williams’s wardrobe mentality at Givenchy – a spirit also in tune with the house’s genetics – and testified to the designer’s ongoing creative evolution at the house.

It proposed a contemporary take on the skirt suit

Within Williams’s exploration of romanticism, other tropes appeared: lace volants strutting out of the necklines of dresses, sculpted sashes swept around busts, and latticed pearl, glass and crystal dresses and skirts that brought the sparkle factor. Those elements entered into a conversation with the reality-driven pieces that created the frame for the collection. Tailoring took centre stage in either sharp and sculpted silhouettes, or oversized and soft double-breasted jackets that underlined William’s contemporary, comfortable approach to the Givenchy wardrobe. He made a case for the skirt suit in long silhouettes cut with a flattering curve at the back, a line echoed in the décolletages of dresses. Satin opera coats in the colours of flowers fused the tailored strictness with a romantic ease.

It was a reality-driven take on elegance

“It’s a dialogue between contemporary manifestations of elegance and the heritage of Givenchy, which in many ways helped to define our understanding of what that words means. In that sense, there’s something very instinctive about elegance when it comes to Givenchy. I want to apply that instinct to today,” Williams said. His collection reflected a present-day elegance that was essentially founded in a realness: one that the Givenchy woman can project herself into; a direct and simple desirability. Williams is increasingly showing himself as a designer in service of the house of Givenchy and what its clientele wants.

Williams reinvented the runway tent

Designed by the architect Gabriel Calatrava, the show set – erected within the grounds of the École Militaire – played with the runway tent familiar to anyone who’s attended a fashion show in the past four decades. Instead of building a classic square tent, Calatrava inverted the structure and created space by suspending fabric across skeletal wires. It made for a highly sculptural environment that also drew parallels to the collection itself. Williams showed stilettos similarly encased in fabric suspended around the heel, and bags mounted with architectural buckles and hardware that simulated the idea of structure and framing.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Marni’s Joyous Parisian S/S´24 Show

For spring/summer 2024, Francesco Risso staged his first Marni show in Paris in the home of the late Karl Lagerfeld. Here, British Vogue’s fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen reports on the joyful collection, which is a celebration of craftsmanship.

The show took place in Karl Lagerfeld’s house

The Marni invitation arrived in the shape of a long, handwritten letter from Francisco Risso. In it, he abstractly mused about his first visit to Paris as a teenager and what the city had grown to mean to him. He reminisced about staying at his friend’s house on Rue de l’Université. “Out the arched window two houses down lived the object of our daily obsession,” he wrote. “Our neighbour, Karl Lagerfeld.” For his first Marni show on Parisian soil, Risso staged in his show in that very house: the palatial Hôtel de Soyecourt, the late designer’s former residence, which he moved out of prior to his death, and which was recently restored and made available to events such as these.

Showing in Paris was an accolade

For Risso, presenting the show in Lagerfeld’s house represented a great deal. Not only was it the scene of his teenage fashion obsessions, but a kind of monument to the fashion establishment of which Risso has now made it to the top, even if his rebellious, DIY-esque creations keep flying a more rebellious flag. “It’s an honour for me to invite you to this celebration with me, Marni and my old-time loved called Paris, in a magical place, Karl’s house, to share with you a moment of passion, love and dedication,” he wrote. He presented a collection founded in the artisanal merit Paris represents, but conveyed it through his inimitable off-kilter aesthetic on character cast that personified Marni’s individuality.

It was the final stop on Marni’s world tour

The collection marked the third and final stop on Marni’s travelling trilogy, which began in New York two seasons ago and took Tokyo in February. “I feel like I’ve been like a flaneur throughout all these stops we’ve made around the world. And, in a way, coming here has been like acknowledging all the steps we’ve made and celebrating our belonging,” Risso said after the show, surrounded by Erykah Badu, Usher and Quavo, who had been sitting front row on seats made from a large inflatable sausage structure. Dressed like in the huge silhouettes and graphic polka dots of Risso’s last collection, they looked like larger-than-life cartoon characters – the personification of the joyous message he wanted to convey.

It cemented the spirit of Risso’s Marni

“Seeing things from different perspectives – New York, then Tokyo – gives so much knowledge to us, so in a way, this is a celebration of our codes,” Risso explained, referring to a collection that cemented the animated form language, naïve lines, and arts-and-crafts construction that has made his Marni a huge financial success. “Somehow, I keep thinking about the idea of joy. And joy doesn’t really come down with the rain. It requires a lot of commitment and a lot of sacrifices. So, I guess this a celebration of joy,” he said. Risso scored his joy ball with a live orchestra dressed in cream-coloured PVC skirts and tops, who played music composed by Dev Hynes.

It was super artisanal

Possessed by the savoir-faire spirit of Paris, Risso amplified the artisanal value of Marni in a collection that included patchworked sticker dresses and skirt suits made from hand-cut florals, and highly three-dimensional floral dresses made from tin cans. “There are pieces that took days to make from the tin cans to all the flowers that have been printed. It’s been a big research,” Risso said. When he and his Marni tribe return to Milan after their grand tour of the world, they will do so with new creative outlooks. Wonder what’s next!

Balmain’s Anti-Quiet Luxury S/S´24 Show

“What’s wrong with being happy and spreading joy and colour and print?” asked Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, before revealing a spring/summer 2024 collection that was the antithesis of fashion’s current obsession with quiet luxury. Anders Christian Madsen reports from Paris.

It wasn’t quiet luxury

A new climate of simplicity is setting the mood on Planet Fashion this season, calling for an unfussy essential wardrobe. “I know that everybody right now is about quiet luxury, which is obviously an important topic, but I think what people should care about is the strength of identity and DNA. Because there’s one thing you shouldn’t lose no matter what the trends are, and that’s who you are,” Olivier Rousteing said, before a Balmain show that blew a kiss at that toned-down mentality. Backstage, he emerged with a new look of braids. “You may look at me with this hair and go, ‘What happened?’ But this is who I am. I don’t want to try to play minimalist designer because at the end of the day, I’m not. And I always say I’d rather be hated for who I am than being loved for who I’m not.”

It showed off Balmain’s expert tailoring

The opening of the show could almost have fooled those who thought Rousteing might play to the new purified fashion tendency. A series of tailored looks demonstrated – without much surface decoration – the Balmain atelier’s expert cutting, expressed through the sculpted, ferocious lines of Rousteing’s hyper-Parisian aesthetic. “If you ask me what the show is about, it’s about French luxury through my point of view, translating Monsieur Balmain’s legacy, starting with strong tailoring: simple jackets but many hours of work to make sure the shoulder and lapel are right,” he said. “Maybe people know me more for my embroideries, but if I die tomorrow, I want to be remembered for my tailoring.”

It was all about flowers

Impressive as Rousteing’s tailoring was, his show will be remembered for something else. Quoting Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, the designer gestured at looks covered in flower embellishments and prints: “‘Florals for spring? Ground-breaking.’ Actually, she was right. But I tried to really continue the legacy of the house, which I started last winter, and just reminding people of this house from 1945.” Rousteing reworked Balmain’s archival floral motifs in metal flower encrustations, super bold prints, bags and shoes sculpted like bouquets, and made-to-order pieces like a bustier with sweeping bejewelled glass branches and rosebuds. A bustier and dress were adorned with flowers made out of recycled plastic bottles.

It was a message of joy

In a season of simplicity, Rousteing kept it real by keeping it maximal. “I want people to remember me like the light of the Eiffel Tower. But I don’t think I’m just a maximalist designer,” he said. “People love to put you in a box and make you follow one direction. I think I’m over it. I just want to be me. This collection is about happiness. I want to talk about joy and happiness, and that’s a bad thing in fashion where happiness is not the right word. Then you’re ‘superficial’. But what’s wrong with being happy and spreading joy and colour and print?” As far as Cher, Kylie Jenner and his many illustrious clients on the front row were concerned, absolutely nothing.

Robbers stole parts of the collection

Rousteing’s collection wasn’t all roses. Ten days before showtime, a truck transporting a number of finished looks from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Balmain studio was carjacked by armed robbers, who stole the collection. “What hurt me the most was that the driver had been traumatised,” the designer said. A few days ago, three out of the 50 stolen boxes were found near Villepinte. In the meantime, the Balmain studio had managed to recreate about 70 per cent of the missing looks. “It’s the nightmare of any designer, but thankfully I have a great atelier who work really hard,” Rousteing said.

The Star Of Paris Fashion Week? Erykah Badu’s Hat

The spring/summer 2024 Marni show in Paris this week was no place for minimalism. The VIP guests – including Usher, Quavo and Issa Rae – all embraced Marni’s bold, cartoonish vibe. But no one did this better than the legendary singer Erykah Badu, who stole the show in one of her signature big hats. Only, this hat was not big – it was huge. Of Seussian proportions.

Badu is no stranger to a statement chapeau, of course. She wore a sky-high style to the Bottega Veneta show in Milan last week. But this latest one was a real scene-stealer, as it was covered in wool and large polka-dots. The exaggerated top hat silhouette was impossible to miss in the front row. Somehow, she totally pulled it off – mainly because she leaned into maximalism with her bright yellow checked suit. There were a lot of other eye-catching looks at the show, but Badu’s statement hat was the real star.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Saint Laurent’s Back-To-Epics S/S´24 Show

Short shorts may be a recurring theme this fashion month, but Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello is going against the grain. “Maybe I did too much mini-mini,” he told Anders Christian Madsen of a spring/summer 2024 collection that festishised the essential wardrobe. “I don’t find it chic anymore.” Find five key takeaways from the collection, below.

Anthony Vaccarello wanted to start over

Reduction, reduction, reduction. It was the radical statement made by Anthony Vaccarello in a Saint Laurent collection that went back to basics, quite literally. It fetishised the essential wardrobe: expertly-cut cotton separates, the perfect pencil skirt, an epitomic heel; et voilà. “In general, I think there’s a lot of very busy things right now. I want for Saint Laurent to go back to something very clean and basic, and start a new chapter in a way,” he said during a preview. “After last season – which was very tailored, very evening – I wanted a collection with no tailoring at all. It’s almost, for me, like starting again.”

It was quiet luxury through a megaphone

As part of his new direction, Vaccarello moved his show from its usual Eiffel Tower viewpoint at Place de Varsovie to the actual grounds of the monument. Here, he built an elevated open-air space decorated with marble structures similar to Mies van der Rohe’s interiors at the Neue Nationalgalerie, where he presented his men’s show in June. Everything was executed with millimetre-precision, from the space to the clothes that filled it. If this was Vaccarello’s take on quiet luxury – the current buzzword in a fashion climate that’s abandoning opulence – his silence spoke volumes. It wasn’t so much back-to-basics as it was back-to-epics.

It was about going against the grain

In his show notes, Vaccarello name-checked the pioneering female aviators and interwar-period style icons Amelia Earhart and Adrienne Bolland. “It’s not literal, but it’s the idea of those women who were the first to do something that women hadn’t been able to do,” he explained. “Today, I see a lot of things that look like Saint Laurent. I want to skip that and propose something new for that woman: to be the first one to set a new trend, to be different to what is around you.” The absence of the super-scanty hemlines that once defined Vaccarello’s work cemented his new mindset. “I can’t do that anymore. I did so many, and when I do them now, I feel that they’re wrong for me. Maybe I did too much mini-mini. I don’t find it chic anymore.”

It paid homage to the saharienne

Just as Vaccarello’s devoted fanbase has filled their wardrobes with broad-shouldered blouses and greatcoats, they’ll have to make space for purified cargo trousers and relaxed overshirts. It sounds madder than it is. From the evolving phenomenon that is Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent, an almost timeless wardrobe is emerging: something worth holding on to, much like the legacy of Yves himself. Within those cotton shirts and dresses was an homage to a garment that epitomises that timelessness: the founder’s saharienne, a design that fused fashionability with pragmatism and ease in a way that was reflected through every look on Vaccarello’s runway.

It came with ’80s make-up and motorcycle jewellery

“Today, I see so many complicated things: so many embroideries, so many decorative things,” Vaccarello said, referring to the fashion scene that surrounds him. “I want to take out these things that aren’t necessary and build a canvas, and start something new.” To counterbalance his reductivist proposal – something it requires guts to put on a runway as epic as his – Vaccarello turned up the volume on the elements that framed those clothes, not just on an emotive soundtrack that culminated in a kind of classical triumph waltz, but on the ’80s make-up and sculptural metal motorcycle jewellery that adorned his looks.

Demi Moore’s Best Fashion Week Accessory Is Her Dog, Pilaf

Demi Moore turned up at Versace’s spring 2024 show in Milan looking absolutely fabulous. The actor wore a plunging navy blazer embellished with beaded embroidery, gold beaded fringe trousers, and a pair of silver metallic heels. But her most exciting accessory this season has been her impossibly tiny dog, Pilaf, who is about the size of a Jacquemus Le Bambino bag.

The nearly-three-year-old chihuahua is rivalling seasoned fashion editors with his fast-growing status as a fashion week VIP. The well-travelled dog has most recently been spotted at Milan Fashion Week, enjoying the Versace show from Moore’s lap. Among other notable front row attendees (including Cole Sprouse, Dwayne Wade, and Gabrielle Union) was Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s dog, Miranda (whom Pilaf even tried to say hello to during the show).

Pilaf tends to get A-list treatment when he attends fashion events. He travelled with his owner to Stockholm earlier in the summer for Max Mara’s resort show. For the label’s Midsommar welcome dinner, Pilaf even got his own custom Max Mara sling, which Moore carried him in through the evening. When Moore attended Dior’s menswear show this past summer, the brand’s menswear director Kim Jones (Moore and Pilaf’s Versace seat mate) even created a custom pink and white pinstriped bow embellished with gems for the dog (who, sadly, did not attend).

While he may not always be invited to sit front row, don’t cry for Pilaf – he’s still reaping the benefits of his owner’s fashion week plans. Moore’s Instagram has chronicled her life with the chihuahua, including when he chilled in her shirt while she got a manicure in Milan before the Versace show. She also took Pilaf to see the Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before it closed.

Pilaf Moore is living a better life than most: he’s gotten a tour of the Louvre, attends horse races, regularly flies in style, and hangs on Jeff Bezos’s superyacht. While he may not be a welcome guest at all fashion events, perhaps due to his unpredictable tendencies to bark or poop, Pilaf is becoming something of a socialite. And hey, he just touched down in Paris, so there’s still time for another Pilaf and Demi Moore sighting at Paris Fashion Week.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Dior’s Bewitching S/S´24 Show

For Dior’s spring/summer 2024 collection, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri looked to female stereotypes in history, from witches to the Parisiennes of 19th-century France. Below, see British Vogue critic Anders Christian Madsen’s key takeaways from the show.

It was the first show since Dior dressed Queen Camilla

There is always an air of ceremony to a pre-show audience in the salons of Christian Dior, but never did it feel as appropriate as the week after Maria Grazia Chiuri dressed Queen Camilla. For the state banquet at Versailles, Her Majesty wore a ravishing royal blue gown framed by a formidable regal cape that made headlines around the world. “It was cool, eh?” Chiuri smiled. “So majestic. I was very happy. The colour was perfect. I was obsessed with giving her this kind of colour.” The deep blue – a darker version of the colour created for Queen Charlotte in the 18th century – was inimitably Chiuri (in 2017, she designed an all-blue collection) and perhaps a departure from the more vivid blues favoured by present-day royals. In that sense, Queen Camilla’s Dior moment made for the perfect fanfare to a show founded in the idea of de-coding stereotypes.

The collection dealt with historical female stereotypes

Seven years into her own reign at Dior, Chiuri has looked at every picture held in the house’s archive. “When I look at the images of Mr Dior’s work, I remind myself that they were done probably with a male gaze. I want to translate this with a view that’s more contemporary,” she said, explaining the thought-process that underpinned this season’s collection. “It’s a reflection upon imagery and how much it affects our ideas of things.” Exploring that notion, she looked to female stereotypes of history: unconventional women, who were deemed dark or dangerous, from the witches of the Middle Ages to the Parisiennes of 19th-century France. “It’s the idea of transformation,” she said, not of the collection but the nature of her work at Dior. “Not to reproduce another stereotypical idea.”

Things were abstracted and obscured

Applying her anti-stereotypical gaze to clothes, Chiuri created a collection where everything purposely felt a little off, a bit abstracted, and kind of obscure. As a wake-up call of the associations engrained in our minds from imagery, decadent lace dresses, frayed-edge tailoring, tattered knitwear, and fleurs de nuit motifs – interpreted in prints and ribbon embroideries – evoked a perhaps classic idea of the witch. They appeared alongside shirts and dresses inspired by Christian Dior’s witchy Abandon dress from 1948, its skewed collar adapted in asymmetric tops half cold-shoulder and half construction. There were tea-stained denim pieces and ripped burlap coats and dresses, a bewitching silhouette continued in utilitarian takes on capes and aprons perfect for cooking up some drama. Chiuri tied it up in strap sandals spliced together from pumps and gladiator boots, which cemented her plays on perception.

The Eiffel Tower made a cameo

“It’s abstract but at the same time it’s the idea of changing an approach for the women who wear it. It’s about the attitude of the women who wear it. That’s what changes it. Because at the end of the day, it’s about the woman who wears the dress,” Chiuri said. As a figurative image of the message she wanted to convey – and as a nod to the Parisiennes of the 19th century, independent thinkers who were seen as femme fatales – she adorned garments with blurry photographs of the Eiffel Tower by Brigitte Niedermair, who has shot many of her Dior campaigns. A map of Paris was emblazoned all over a coat, making it look like witchy cobweb, once again illustrating the power of image-related association. “It’s the dark side of Dior!” Chiuri said with a perfectly witchy smile.

It featured a set created by Elena Bellantoni

Chiuri decked out her tent in the Tuileries with screens displaying artworks by the Italian artist Elena Bellantoni. Created for the show, they juxtaposed mock-advertising images of women seen through a macho gaze with feminist slogans that were often of a sarcastic nature. It made for a colourful backdrop to a largely black collection that underlined the seriousness of Chiuri’s eternal message of female empowerment, now even more urgent than when she joined Dior. “I’m very, very worried,” she said, reflecting on the political situations across America, Italy, Iran and elsewhere. “Artists help me. Without their voices, this would be impossible for me. It’s important to have a strong community of artists around you.” For the finale of her show, she played an upbeat version of Nothing Compares 2 U in memoriam of her fellow activist Sinead O’Connor, who died in July.

Milan’s Sustainable Fashion Awards Take Centre Stage At La Scala

Milan Fashion Week drew to a close on Sunday night with the sixth edition of the Camera Della Moda’s Sustainable Fashion Awards. Hosted by The White Lotus’s Sabrina Impacciatore at La Scala, the city’s iconic opera house, the event saw a who’s who of Italy’s fashion establishment gather to celebrate those who are spearheading environmental and social change through their work. There were also some visiting notables in the form of Julianne Moore, Jeremy Strong, and others.

Recipients included Edward Enninful and Donatella Versace, both honoured for their work to promote inclusivity and social change. Valentino received an award for its education programme in Rome, Kering for its regenerative practices, and Chloé for its fair trade supply chain. Gucci’s collection of recycled or regenerative cotton sourced denim earned it the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s award for Circular Economy, while Dolce & Gabbana’s development of its Alta Moda ateliers and promotion of homegrown craft through its pan-Italian shows earned it the Craft and Artisanship Award.

Candiani, manufacturer of biodegradable denim, and Manteco, a family firm that has been developing sustainable materials for three generations, were also worthy winners. Chloé and Enninful apart, there was a third non-Italian honouree: London’s Priya Ahluwalia was named winner of this year’s Bicester Collection Award For Emerging Designers.

As the night drew to a close, the highly entertaining Impacciatore reminded the audience of humanity’s infinitesimally tiny footprint in the vastness of the cosmos. It was a truth we chewed over as we headed out into the night, and onwards to Paris.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Natalia Bryant On Making Her Runway Debut

Natalia Bryant is taking a break from hitting the books at the University of Southern California to hit the runway in Milan. The 20-year-old student and daughter of the late Los Angeles Lakers all-star Kobe Bryant, walked in Versace’s spring/summer 2024 show during Milan Fashion Week – her very first catwalk since signing with IMG Models in 2021.

“I am beyond excited about making my runway debut. It’s such an incredible opportunity and I’m so grateful to Donatella [Versace] and am honoured that she has invited me to be a part of something so special,” Bryant told Vogue ahead of the show. The fresh-faced model was put at ease by Versace herself, whom she met for the first time the day before the show at her fitting. “She was just so welcoming and sweet and made me feel so comfortable, especially with it being my first runway,” Bryant said. “Meeting her definitely helped settle any nerves.”

Bryant tried to enter the modelling industry with zero expectations. “I wanted to start fresh and do my own thing without having to worry about comparing myself to anyone or setting myself to anyone’s standard,” she said. “Thankfully I’ve only had positive experiences and I’ve been so happy to see how supportive and welcoming everyone has been.” Though, while she’s been keeping true to herself, she of course has some very famous figures to look to for inspiration – namely her mother, Vanessa Bryant.

Having a very stylish mother has been a boon for Bryant, who goes to her mom for style advice. While she maintains that Vanessa encouraged her to develop her own personal style, she still provided a much-needed dose of tough love. “I can always go to my mom and get her honest opinion. She keeps it real, and I know she always has my best interests at heart,” she said.

Her mom also gave Bryant some key advice about her strut. “She encourages me to have my own walk and establish my own way of doing things,” she said. “I’ve always loved watching videos of Naomi walking down the runway along with videos of other iconic supermodels I look up to. My mom says, ‘Walk like Naomi but remember to be yourself, put your own style to your walk and always with your head held high’.”

Although Bryant was staying mum about her outfit ahead of the show, she did say it had taken the top spot in the list of her favourite Versace looks: “Up until today I had a few favourites, but my look for this show has got to be my new favourite by far. I’m excited to wear it.”

Giorgio Armani’s “Good Vibrations” S/S´24 Show

Giorgio Armani’s spring/summer 2024 runway was infused with an infectious cheerfulness and was entitled “Vibrations”. British Vogue’s fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen brings you five things to know about the show straight from Milan Fashion Week.

The collection was about vibrations

On Sunday afternoon, in the subterranean runway room of his personal residence on Via Borgonuovo, Giorgio Armani set himself a challenge: to create a collection where every weave, every drape and every decoration felt as if they were vibrating. “I am more interested than ever in techniques and in what can make even the simplest garment special. This collection plays with undulations,” he said after the show. “The finished collection is the result of our overcoming a considerable technical challenge with typically Italian savoir-faire.” It was a vibe.

Vibrations were interpreted in every garment

Armani embellished surfaces with embossing and inlay to make them move, mirroring the idea in accessories. He created vibrations through the irregular lines of piping, surface decorations and belts. He chose oscillating fabrics like shantung silk and chiffon to conjure constant movement within garments. In prints and jacquards, he evoked his vibe through geometric trompe l’oeil patterns. Prints on shimmering jackets looked like vector art. All-over sequins made of fabric added a similar intrigue as surface decoration. And Armani’s beloved filtrage of sheer overlays brought the vibrations, too.

It closed with a show-stopping gown

With the gusto of a 1990 Harlem ballroom scene – and much to the delight of Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche on the front row – the show concluded in a theatrical exit: a multi-layered transparent dress sheathed in a sparkly sheer overlay was given a show-stopping moment by one of Armani’s in-house models. It was a moment – a vibe – but when it comes to looks, Armani doesn’t pick favourites. “It is difficult for me to choose a favourite piece: I try to convey the mood of the season in all the garments I show. In this collection, I am particularly fond of the coats with undulating surfaces, as well as the jackets, trousers and the bags with vibrant patterns,” he said.

It was optimistic

Maybe it was the title of the show – Armani called it simply “Vibrations” – or perhaps it was the intimacy of the show, but it felt like a more optimistic outing that normal. Armani talked about the collection as a re-interpretation of his own aesthetic through a new prism. “I would say that this new approach is lighter and more joyful. I have been a little severe at times in the past, but this collection is extremely fresh, carefree and summery in every way,” he said. Was that the same as optimism? “Yes, this collection is optimistic, alive and abounding in good vibes. Never excessive but with the discretion that has always defined me.”

Armani gave us the excitations

When you’re the last appointment on a brutal Milan Fashion Week schedule and you title your show “Vibrations”, expect the congregated fashion crowd to be signing ‘Good Vibrations’ as they’re walking down Via Borgonuovo. Is Armani a Beach Boys fan? “I don't know if I would call myself a fan, but I do like their songs,” the 89-year-old designer confessed. “That infectious cheerfulness takes me back to the carefree times of my youth.”

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Designed By Depression: When The Runway Lights Go Dark

For some, the high-stress, highly competitive and highly critical industry of fashion can be too much — but it doesn’t have to be.

Artists, designers and musicians are sometimes portrayed as the “tortured artist”, someone who wears dark clothing and lacks social skills. As with most stereotypes, it focuses on appearance. The fashion industry also focuses heavily on appearance, and unfortunately, it has developed stereotypes all of its own. It’s known as being a fast-paced, high-demand world full of glamour and glitz, where dreams become realities and a culture is cultivated.

But what happens when the spotlight fades and the runway goes dark? There has always been a hidden aspect of the fashion industry that includes excessive misuse of drugs and alcohol. Designers and models involved in fashion have also been known for developing mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to eating disorders.

The problem could be that creative people, like designers, are more vulnerable to mental health disorders.The Creating Brain by neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen, argues that people who are less creative are more likely to accept what they are told by authoritative people and typically view situations in simpler terms. Andreasen contends that people who possess a more creative mind, view the world more ambiguously, complex and fluid.

Mental Haute Couture

The fast-paced, heavily public nature of fashion could be one of the many contributing factors to the higher-than-average amount of mental health disorders among people associated with the fashion industry. The time between seasons or collections used to be around six months, now a cycle lasts only around three weeks. The decreased duration between collections is mostly in part due to “fast fashion” corporations. Companies like H&M and Forever 21 are constantly mass producing clothing in third world countries to keep production cheap and ensuring they end up profiting on quantity over quality. Designers who design high-fashion or couture take more time to create and produce their collections, because their product is more quality over quantity.

Designer John Galliano, who has worked with companies like Givenchy and Christian Dior as well as creating his own label, expressed feeling the pressure of production in an interview with Vanity Fair, “I had all these voices in my head, asking so many questions. I was afraid to say no, I thought it showed weakness…I was going to end up in a mental asylum or six feet under.”

The combination of high pressure, expectation and an impractical workload can be a recipe for destruction, causing many designers to misuse drugs and alcohol and develop mental health disorders. In a world where confidence and ambition books you jobs and gets you noticed, mental health is usually the scraps that remain on the production floor. These scraps of an unhealthy and sometimes damaging lifestyle are being swept under the rug by the industry and this handling is labeled as the norm.

Creative people have long been associated with mental illnesses. Regarding people like Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Robin Williams and Amy Winehouse: are these types of people attracted to the creative industries or do these industries create them? According to scientists like Andreasen and other researchers, it’s the former. People who are more creative tend to think more about small details, making connections and replaying images and scenes in their head to gain a better understanding of their world. This kind of thinking allows them to produce new and innovative ideas.

Although rumination can enable creative people to create and produce original work, research has suggested that ruminating in all aspects of life can be damaging to a person’s psyche. Going over small details in every aspect of your life can lead to feelings of hopelessness and ultimately depression.

One Day You’re In And The Next, You’re Out

In addition to other mental health disorders developing, substance use disorder can be a co-occurring disorder. It’s difficult to say which disorder develops first, but because designers are stressed or depressed they may look for a release or find comfort in drugs and alcohol. Designer Marc Jacobs has sought treatment for addiction at rehab facilities twice so far, “I had been running around with models, stylists, fashion people and I would spend nights drinking and partying.”

The fashion world is fairly divided on discussing the stigma of mental health that exists in the industry and in general. In fact, while Jacobs acknowledges his substance use disorder behaviors, he doesn’t necessarily blame the state of his mental health on the fashion industry. “You don’t think bank tellers have problems? You don’t think people in the middle of the suburbs have problems? Blaming is such a complete waste,” he said. “ I mean, it’s so pointless. To say, you know, my mother was absent and therefore I ran amok, it’s ridiculous. It’s a self-destructive nature, it’s a mental, physical and a kind of spiritual malady…people who are happy and healthy and spiritually well don’t do things to hurt themselves.”

Photographer Mert Alas somewhat agrees with Jacobs, in that he doesn’t believe the industry is responsible for people’s poor mental health. Alas remarked that, “I’m the kind of person that I live under pressure, but I enjoy the pressure, so it very much relates to your own personality. Of course, we’re all under pressure. The bus driver is under pressure. But, you know, it’s how you come out of it. If you can make good fun with it, pressure can be enjoyable.”

However, not all designers can relate to Jacobs and Alas, and they don’t find pressure to be enjoyable— or productive. Instead, they may find that it can be damaging to their mental health.. The purest purpose of the fashion industry is to create, once you stop creating, you’re forgotten. As the saying goes, one day you’re in and the next you’re out.

Even some of the most famous designers like Tom Ford recognize the very basic problems with the industry, “Fashion is evil,” he said, “ You stay out for very long and people forget who you are. And your name loses power.”

Feelings of depression or anxiety can lead to suicidal thinking. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Devil Wears Depression

Treating mental health disorders have typically been unfamiliar territory for society. People don’t really understand what depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation can feel like until they’re suffering through it. People who commit suicide are often referred to as “selfish” and according to people who knew them, this choice to take their life was “sudden.” The signs and symptoms of depression are fortunately becoming more apparent — that is, people are becoming more aware of these signs so that they can reach out to people who are struggling with their mental health.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 123 Americans take their life each day. Every year 44,965 people in America die by suicide and for every death by suicide, 25 other people attempt to commit suicide.

“She Leaves a Little Sparkle Wherever She Goes.”

The most recent death of a fashion icon to devastate the fashion industry was Kate Spade. According to her sister, Spade had been suffering with her mental health for years. Spade was found in her Manhattan apartment hanging from a red scarf.

“I just want to be known for what I do, not who I know.”

Four years earlier, in 2014, designer L’wren Scott was found dead in her Manhattan Apartment. She had hung herself as well. Scott suffered from depression for years. Her long-term boyfriend, Mick Jagger, announced in April of 2014 that he had created a three-year scholarship fund in Scott’s name for fashion students at the London-based design school, Central Saint Martins.

“Fashion Should Be a Form of Escapism, and Not a Form of Imprisonment.”

In 2010, Alexander McQueen’s suicide rocked the fashion world. His death came days before fashion week and he did leave a note that read, “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.” A close friend, David LaChapelle, said that McQueen, “…was doing a lot of drugs and was very unhappy.”

“Young Designers Don’t Grow on Trees.”

McQueen’s death came just three years after his dear friend and mentor, Isabella Blow’s suicide. Blow was a famous English magazine editor who also did some work in the U.S. as well as being the muse for hat designer, Philip Treacy. Blow and McQueen became very close but he left her behind when he took a head designer position at Givenchy. After a lifetime of struggling with mental health disorders, Blow ingested a weedkiller called Paraquat during a house party.

She was found by her sister collapsed on the bathroom floor and Blow told her, “I’m worried I haven’t taken enough.” She was later pronounced dead at a Gloucester hospital, it was later revealed that Blow had ingested several times the lethal dose of poison.

The Show Must Go On

How many tragedies must occur before people in fashion address the lifestyle that the industry perpetuates? The pressure can begin as early as fashion or design school, fashion students have reported that instructors made them feel guilty if they weren’t creating, producing or working every second of the day.

As a result, fashion student suicide rates and mental health disorders are increasing. The Antwerp Fashion Academy opened up a discussion about the program and the methods that are used to teach at the academy.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, employees in creative careers like fashion are 25 percent more likely to experience and develop mental health disorders. Models, designers and other professionals in the fashion industry are usually subjected to long hours and high-stress to meet demanding production deadlines. It can also be difficult to maintain a healthy mental state when you are involved in a highly competitive industry where your work is constantly being criticized.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study comparing the suicide rates among occupations and the study found that there was a strong correlation between working in the fashion industry and the development of a mental health disorder. The CDC compiled a list from the study and the fashion industry ranked seventh on the list following police officers, factory workers, mechanics and farmers. The fashion industry outranked doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Make It Work: The Future Of Fashion Culture

For some, the high-stress, highly competitive and highly critical industry of fashion can be too much — but it doesn’t have to be. Designers can choose to leave the sometimes dark world of fashion in a less tragic way, with the proper treatment of course. For example, fashion house Viktor & Rolf which specializes in producing conceptual and avant-garde designs, left the fast-paced world of ready-to-wear fashion solely to focus on couture, which is typically a garment or collection of garments that are designed specifically to a person’s specific requirements and measurements.

Similarly, Tunisian designer, Azzedine Alaïa makes his own rules relative to releasing collections. Alaïa refuses to show according to fashion week’s calendar, instead he presents his collections only when he feels that they are complete. Scottish fashion designer, Christopher Kane, believes success in fashion lies not in the pace of producing collections but in an alliance between the creative and commercial cannons. Kane thinks that more business-oriented people should work in the fashion industry.

The culture of fashion should be redefined and thrive less on unrealistic expectations and recognize how damaging these expectations can be. Justine Picardie, a biographer of legendary designer, Coco Chanel, said, “People often think about fashion as if it’s just about the surface of things. But there’s often a very dark side to the life of a designer. The reason clothes are influential is because of what they are covering up.” Designers and every professional involved in the fashion industry should be able to work in a healthy environment and not feel pressured to create and produce as quickly as their competition is. They also shouldn’t feel the need to cover-up how they’re feeling.

The Human Issue

In addition to addressing mental health and offering other options for designers, Humans of Fashion and the Fashion Law Institute have partnered to launch an app that will help people in the fashion industry connect with a therapist or lawyer to assist them with sexual harassment or mental health concerns. Humans of Fashion was created by a former model, Kristina Romanova and Antoniette Costa, an attorney specializing in Fashion Law.

Costa explains that anyone in the fashion industry can use the app to be connected with a lawyer or therapist to schedule a face-to-face meeting to receive the help they need. “They don’t want to feel as though someone is passing judgement on them. This app provides a safe and confidential space,” she says.

Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, the president of Give an Hour, a mental health resource provider that has worked with veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder nationwide, believes that conducting more studies and research regarding the work ethic and environment of the fashion industry can help redefine the culture of the fashion industry. She believes the research can help the industry discover how people cope and thrive, what works for them and how they care for themselves could offer them more support in constructive ways.

“The fashion industry focuses on the superficial,” Van Dahlen said, “It’s about what we wear, how we look, how we act.” She explains how people who have a vulnerable mental state are more prone to developing mental health disorders like depression and anxiety in creative fields because their work is so closely associated with their value, worth and identity.

Costa hopes that with the development of the Humans for Fashion app, the stigma of mental health in the fashion industry and ultimately in general can be removed. “This has been uncharted territory,” Costa said, “Just having the conversation is a priority, too, so that those around the people suffering will know to say something or act when they see changes occurring in the other person.” The goal of the app is to educate people on the importance of their mental health, which is not only an issue for the fashion industry but a very human issue as well.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental health or substance use disorders or suicidal ideations, help is available. For immediate assistance, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Karoline Vitto’s Body-Positive S/S´24 Show

The London-based Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto brought her body-positive vision to Milan Fashion Week with support from Dolce & Gabbana. There were tears. Below, Vogue’s Anders Christian Madsen breaks down five things to know about the show.

The show was supported by Dolce & Gabbana

Every season at the women’s shows in Milan, Dolce & Gabbana provide a platform for a young designer. This season, their gesture of goodwill – all expenses paid – went to Karoline Vitto, a young Brazilian designer based in London, whose practice is focused on the beauty and enhancement of the female body. Her work is a reaction to the body image she grew up with in Brazil as part of a local Y2K culture focused on a certain kind of physique to which she couldn’t relate.

It featured a full curve cast

Staged in the Dolce & Gabbana Casa building on Via Giuseppe Broggi, the show featured a body-positive cast. “We wanted a full curve cast. We didn’t want to have ‘sample size’ models,” Vitto explained. “We started from a size 10 [and went up] to a size 24. We had to fly a few girls in from London. My studio is based there, so in order to make these pieces we needed to start fitting some of the girls in London. We started much earlier than most brands.”

It centred around jersey and metal

Vitto largely expresses herself in jersey and metal rings. The collection revolves around fluid deshabillé garments that followed the curve of the body and accentuated its contours through the addition of metal rings incorporated into the construction. “I love the malleability of jersey and the materiality of it, and working with it in terms of stretch. It’s something I like design-wise, also with the addition of metal,” she said.

Ashley Graham opened the show

After the show, Ashley Graham – who opened the show – hugged a crying Vitto. “You should be crying, it was incredible! We just made history!” the model told her before tuning to the reporters. “It feels normal. You want diversity? This is diversity. More designers should be doing this. We need more curves on the runway, we need to have this be the normal. If I’m feeling normal on a runway with this many girls, it means that there’s something that doesn’t feel normal on runways everywhere else.”

It was the power of clothes

Backstage, Vitto was greeted by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. “This is the power of clothes. Keep going. Call me if you need anything,” Gabbana could be heard telling her. “For me, it’s very natural,” Vitto told the press. “It shouldn’t even be a question of why it’s important or not, it should just be. Because the majority of us are not sample size so we should have that representation on the catwalk. I just think it’s how it should be.”