Monday, February 28, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--Giorgio Armani

As I wrote a few days ago about the Emporio Armani show here, no one does Armani like Armani. And this FW '22-'23 collection under his own name (not the EA branch of the house) showed more of what I love about his sensibility: an impression of history with silhouettes and jackets, coats, suits, and trousers bearing an echo of clothing from decades past, particularly the 1930s for this collection, all in Armani tried and true luxe fabrics and finishes that make me swoon.

While it is lovely to see references to times past in clothing, it is unfortunate that we are witnessing a repeat of history right now in Eastern Europe. Before the show, a voice read a statement from the designer in English: "My decision not to use any music in the show was made as a sign of respect to the people affected by the evolving tragedy." Later Armani said, "What could I do? I could only signal my heartbeat for the tragedy through the silence. I didn't want show music. The best thing is to give a signal that we’re not happy, to recognize something disturbing is happening. I think the clothes became even more powerful through the silence."

Writing for Vogue, fashion journalist Anders Christian Madsen astutely and poignantly noted: "Tailoring and dresses constructed in cubic prints and intarsia couldn’t help but draw the mind to the 1930s, a recurring symbol this season. As on other runways, the motif was perhaps reflective of Armani’s mindset during the collection’s design process, no doubt affected by the escalating fears of conflict, which culminated in this week’s invasion. For this designer, however, wartime isn’t simply a reference. It’s a memory. Born in 1934, Armani was eleven years old when the Second World War came to an end. He has experienced war on European soil, and the tolerance, diplomacy and elegance that embody his life’s work are products of a mind borne out of a wartime aftermath that most of us could never imagine."

While we all--Armani included--recognize the tragedy, threat, and severity of this moment in the world, it's during challenges like these that the arts become even more important. While it might be "just clothes" to some, as I have said before, beauty and creativity are balms for troubled times.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--Trussardi

I have not felt the need to pay attention to Trussardi (established in Italy in 1911 by Dante Trussardi as a leather glove manufacturer) since then-Creative Director Umit Benan left in a rather uncomfortable split many years ago now, but this 2022-2023 Fall Winter collection presented at Milan Fashion Week featured some pretty interesting winter outer wear. Current Creative Directors Benjamin Huseby and Serhat Işık (newly anointed as of 2021) created serious coats and jackets, some with a definite ecclesiastical flair, which is not a bad thing: I always say the church got at least one thing right and that is a sense of high drama. Look at the cassock-type silhouettes and the floor-sweeping length of some of these gorgeous coats. Drama indeed. And while not as grand and commanding as the long coats, the jackets give a similar sense with interesting cuts, proportions, and details like the "rings" at the hem, cuffs, shoulders and hood of the last look (if that trim is real fur, I will simply say Trussardi and Huseby and Işık are shamefully behind the times with nearly every major house giving up the use of real fur).

Saturday, February 26, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--Gucci

The last time I posted a Gucci show was their performance art presentation in an operating room, here. I like what Alessandro Michele has done for and at Gucci (its second revival after Tom Ford rescued it once before in the 90s), but...well, I don't know why I don't post about their shows more often. It's not that I don't like what he just feels, I don't know, more of the same. But I hasten to add "the same" is interesting.

So this Fall-Winter '22-'23 collection at Milan Fashion Week feels like it covers familiar territory even though the house collaborated with sportswear brand Adidas to incorporate the classic trefoil, three-stripe design on suits, capes, and shirts. Regular readers  know I am not a fan of the whole "athleisure wear" trend, so it is not the Adidas logo per se that interests me but the juxtaposition of the sport logo onto double breasted suits that is fun. I like the incongruity of it.

The first many collections Michele created for Gucci looked like French gender-fluid teens raided the closets and storage trunks of their grandparents and came out wearing a crazy patchwork mix of 70s and 80s fashion, a look that Michele himself has refered to as "attic chic." While this collection might still have a bit of that sense, it feels like it hangs together a bit more. But don't misunderstand: there is a wide variety of silhouettes here from tight, pegged trousers (some in leather!) to voluminous trailing trousers to culottes. Above it all stands the suit, well tailored, and presented in track suit colors, corduroy, or Punk-styled with studs and spikes. And it is nice to see that Michele is still a champion of prints that look as if they came off  a British sofa from 1975 (looks 24 and 35 among others)...and it is delightful. Note: Gucci is dedicated fur-free so the trim you see on coats, capes, and suits is faux. Thank you Gucci, for your commitment to a fur-free product.

Friday, February 25, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--Emporio Armani

I love Giorgio Armani. There, I've said it, but it is no secret. Every season for his own eponymous label or for his Emporio Armani line, the more causal and sportier version of Armani, I swoon at what his house creates and sends down the runway. I respond most to designers, designs, and shows that have a strong inspiration and concept, and a near-performance art presentation. But Armani does not need concepts. He has been creating his own sense of easy luxury for nearly half a century now, and it's still fresh and relevant today.

He deconstructed the men's suit in the 80s, turning it into something soft and sensual, something sexy and flowing, without altering the basic concept of what it was. He removed layers of felting inside suits, making them relaxed and able to behave like thin silk. Just take a look at the iconic clothing from the film  "American Gigolo" and you will see what I mean. It was soft and casual with a sense of effortless power. This revolution rippled out into the industry and we see its waves even now: designers still grapple with ways to make suiting less stiff, to make clothing more luxe without being precious, and to make pieces with more innate ease without being sloppy. In short, to make clothes more Armani. But no one does Armani like Armani. Clean lined and impeccably tailored, Armani's sensibility is about luxe fabrics and the way a garment hangs and drapes on the body (of both men and women). But there is also something else that I really respond to in each Armani collection and that is a vague sense, a shadow, an echo of historical fashion. The way a jacket or coat is cut or its stance, the inclusion of waistcoats, belted outerwear, loose cut and high waisted all reminds me of...what, the 1920s and 30s? The 1880s? The 1940s and 50s? Yes to all of it.

And this Fall Winter '22-'23 collection for Milan Fashion Week held that elusive memory of fashion details from long ago, from a dressier time, a more formal time, but of course in insanely luxurious materials and finishes. Look at pretty much every piece below and see what I mean. The inclusion of thigh-high leather boots in black and grey and worn with shorts imbued the historical sense with a touch of right now (it almost feels a little Rick Owens-y!). And the sidebar of winter sports wear included clear acrylic snowboards and skis with see-through backpacks! But still...those jackets, those flowing trousers...*sigh*. Beauty is a necessary balm for the current state of the world.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Sunnei

Simone Rizzo and Loris Messina, founders of Sunnei, presented a fun performance of their FW '22-'23 collection for Milan Fashion Week. But this design duo is practiced at weaving social commentary into their collections. "We wanted to make people stop for a moment and reflect on what’s happening, especially today, which is such a delicate, disquieting moment," said the designers.

On the outskirts of Milan, lined up on metal bleachers facing a non-descript concrete wall, the audience of industry insiders watched taxis pull up and deposit a model at the end of the block...who then proceeded to sprint the length of the "runway." One after the other, they ran. And ran. This harried, frenzied running motif said a lot: that the calm that fell on the world during the start of the global pandemic is offcially over now that the same push and shove has returned to our lives, or perhaps models were symbolically running from the pandemic which seems to drag on and on thanks to those who refuse to believe in a virus or wear a mask, or perhaps we are all running from the insane destruction of democracy that has been happening for the last decade and has now (presumably) come to a head with the impending possibility of World War III. Who knows.

What is known is that this collection, while minimalistic, was all about texture. Along with fuzzy felt-y wools and a chenille blown up to macro proportions, Sunnei used some amazing new technical fabrics, some that seem to behave like liquid. "We’ve used a new technical fabric that extends and stretches, perfect for layering," they stated. I really love how wide legged some of these trousers are, looking more like floor-length gowns. And the enormous looped chenilles (like an Ikea bath mat!) are a hoot. Finally, check out the incredible boots and running shoes on each model...

Ultimately, the whole outing seemed to speak to a future and that future is in a hurry. Do we want to stick around long enough to find out why?

Thursday, February 24, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--No.21

Leaving London, we head to Milan for Fashion Week. Now, Milano Moda Uomo, the dedicated men's show already happened a few weeks ago in January so I thought this might be womenswear only but I am happily surprised to see some collections featuring women's and men's wear. So let's dive in and start with a look at a brand that has been around since 2010, No.21 but called by its Italian name, "Numero Ventuno."

Founder Alessandro Dell’Acqua has always been interested in the craft of tailoring and here focuses this Fall-Winter 2022-2023 collection at Milan Fashion Week on the idea of deconstructing classic tailoring into slightly different proportions, slightly different silhouettes. The results, while not revolutionary, are just, I love the wide-legged trousers and the drop shoulder coats. But I am especially smitten with the trousers with kilt-like pleats (fifth look). A recurring motif in both the women's and men's wear pieces is a jacquard featuring palm trees, an ironic touch considering it is a Fall-Winter collection. More in keeping with the season is the use of recycled and repurposed old mink coats which Dell’Acqua discovered in a cheap surplus store. These one-of-a-kind pieces are lined with the palm tree jacquard and netted in a sheer chiffon. Very interesting.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Diesel

While clothing brand Diesel might be known as a "denim" brand, newly-crowned Creative Director Glenn Martens (who is still heading up Y/Project previously here, where he twists and folds excess fabric into voluminous slouchy puffy silhouettes) decided to take the humble and ubiquitous material beyond its traditional bounds. What results are some pretty amazing creations. This Fall-Winter '22-'23 collection at Milan Fashion Week starts off innocently enough with some ripped jeans on a model in a beautiful sheer top, but quickly morphs into denim bonded with neoprene for a cool, glossy look. From there, the rest of the collection is an exploration of experimental pieces crossed with the sense of classic denim: avant garde and street-wise at the same time. The most amazing pieces in this collection are the "fur" coats: no actual fur, just the cut, frayed, and fluffed edges of denim. Awesome. Also of note are the pretty cool cross-body bags imprinted with the Diesel logo "D" that look like gas tanks from a motorcycle (in black in Look #5 and in silver in Look #9).

Martens is very dedicated to the sustainable and ethical fabrication movement in the fashion industry and he is not just paying lip service. Here he has used off cuts of denim as well as upcycled, layered, bonded, distressed dead stock jersey from Diesel tee shirts to create some of the tops and wide-legged pants that seem to be made of hide. Proof that sustainability and using leftovers can be beautiful. "We want to make more handcrafted pieces and make them locally, out of whatever we have at the factory," Martens said. And that is admirable.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. London Fashion Week

Well, London Fashion Week wrapped up yesterday and I am still mourning what it once was, back when it was London Fashion Week: Mens. At that time there were more designers, more names, seemingly more creativity--and it was a dedicated event for men's fashion. Now the men's/women's hybrid or genderless schedule is populated with young talent who are still finding their footing...many are good and will, judging from their blossoming brand output, become better. But overall, and certainly compared to the past, it is disappointing. And it is most specifically disappointing to see the retreat of menswear collections.

I just didn't see much that truly inspired me. And there were precious few Fall-Winter '22-'23 collections that presented interesting details.

However, Stefan Cooke created a humorous accessory: a crinolined cummerbund that ends up being a sort of smaller version of a tutu but for men.

And Indian designer Kaushik Velendra showed some stand out pieces that riffed on the idea of ancient (Greek? Roman?) battle armour updated for today's sleeker, minimalistic sense--as if the armour had been engineered by Apple.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Djokic

Stefan Djokic is Swiss-Serb designer who graduated from Central St. Martin's in London in 2019 and presented his first collection last year. This current Fall-Winter 2022-2023 collection presented for London Fashion Week is full of very interesting cuts and draping in some yummy, luxe fabrics including what looks to be a soft type of Lurex. But I am particularly smitten with the color palette: in addition to the blacks and chocolates and the deep claret and cranberry tones (all delicious autumnal hues) are colors that I can't quite describe. Is it a rose gold? Is it a grey pink? Whatever it is, I want it.