Miuccia Prada may be a bit late to the party, but it was some party she threw for Miu Miu at the Palais d’Iéna in Paris tonight. Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton held their pre-season extravaganzas nearly two full months ago in May. The last time Prada showed a Resort collection for Miu Miu at all was three years ago, by appointment in London. But not even Mrs. P. can ignore the demand—from stores, from magazines, from her own PR department—for new material anymore.
On the eve of the couture shows, Prada staged a Croisière collection of her own, recruiting on-the-rise British singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama to do three songs during cocktails, and Jack White, who commanded the stage with his band after the three-course Italian dinner. In the crowd: Uma Thurman; Roman Polanski and his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner; the director Steve McQueen; Léa Seydoux; Nymphomaniac‘s Stacy Martin; Isla Fisher; Douglas Booth; the artist formerly known as Mos Def; Rem Koolhaas; and Marc Jacobs.
In between the two performances was the show itself—new material in the form of colorful suede micro-minidresses covered in crystals; mismatched paisley-printed blouses and flares topped with questionable hand-crocheted vests; spiffy, spongy military-button jackets and coats; and a loud, printed pantsuit of the sort seen elsewhere this season. The long, wispy scarves trailing some of the silk tops and dresses were a nice touch. You half wondered if Prada had spent the first part of the summer binge-watching the finale season of Mad Men. Nothing’s ever quite that simple with this designer, of course. But befitting the commercial implications of the Resort season, this was one of her more straightforward collections, groovy in its late sixties and early seventies vibes, and just retro enough to appeal to the youthful demographic that is the Miu Miu target audience. It should please all parties. As for the party, it seemed to please Prada quite a bit. She was spotted in the crowd well into Jack White’s hour-long, ear-splitting set.
There was no Rita Ora emerging out of a burning car or Theophilus London
atop a Jet Ski, but at a recent showroom presentation of Philipp Plein‘s
Resort ’15 offering, what was lacking in pageantry was counterbalanced by
the designer’s more-is-more credo in full force. Pop Art irreverence got
a big nod here: Pair upon pair of Lichtenstein-esque crimson lips studded
pieces from jeans to jackets to gowns. “Drunk in Love” and “J’Adore
Plein!” they cried through speech bubbles. Those pouts were mostly
crafted in crystal; it seems likely that Swarovski also “adores Plein,”
who could perhaps single-handedly keep the Austrian brand in the black
with his love of all things encrusted. Here that included velour neon
tracksuits embellished with his signature skull. Elsewhere the designer
served up pieces with a bubblegum punk flair, like generous zipper
accents alongside a flouncy mini, acid-hued leather bolos, and fitted
moto jackets with ample cutouts on the sleeves. This delivery is poised
to hit stores not long after Plein’s first New York boutique bows on
Madison Avenue in September; only time will tell if these pieces resonate
as lucratively with Manhattanites as they do Muscovites and Miamians.
Olivier Rousteing found a recent trip to Los Angeles endlessly inspiring. Not necessarily the landscape or the architecture, both of which are gorgeous enough, but the people and what he described as their generosity and playfulness. In L.A., he said, “they embrace fashion, not like in Paris, where they’re in fashion, so they run away from it.” Rousteing used the experience as a jumping-off point for his Resort collection, which blended the globalism of his Fall show for Balmain with a seventies vibe.
The season’s key item was the poncho, the outerwear of choice for all things wild and free. Rousteing’s came lavishly beaded in Native American motifs, or more low-key in sweatshirt fleece. If embracing different cultures and mixing ethnicities are important messages for the designer, diversifying the price point is essential for the company. That’s one reason you’ll find a big emphasis here on knits. Especially fab were a pair of graphic
black-and-white chevron-stripe high-waisted flares worn with a snug sleeveless shell. Stretchy knit lace separates were as body-con as anything Rousteing has done, but more covered up.
Discretion will never be the Balmain way, but hemlines are getting longer, and Rousteing seems genuinely jazzed about the prospect of his gals wearing their leather slipdresses over leather pants. It remains to be seen if they’ll go along for the ride, but it was satisfying to see the designer confidently stretching the boundaries of the brand.
Jay Ahr designer Jonathan Riss yearned for more fluidity this season, marking a departure of sorts from his recent exploration of form. While he didn’t abandon the now-signature Jay Ahr flounced “kick” skirt—never forsake a retail favorite—you could see how he had collapsed his silhouettes, drawing out a wearable ease that jibed nicely with a pre-collection offering. The label has closed the chapter on the zipper detailing that defined several previous seasons; in its place, a perforation technique of micro “lozenges” punched into sturdy canvas. Sometimes the motif disappeared into stripes; other times it was embellished by flat metal studs. Most often, it came backed in black tulle, which did double duty as structural and tonal reinforcement. That recalled Italian modern artist Lucio Fontana’s trick of adding depth to his slashed canvases, and Riss acknowledged that the granddaddy of spatialism is an ongoing inspiration.
Azzedine Alaïa appeared as a more literal reference, particularly in the leather latticework pants or the dotted pattern in relief across slouchy tops. At one point, Riss referred to the designer as a “master” while distancing himself from his work by touting Jay Ahr’s effortless sensibility. His glazed knits paired with cascading, higher-waisted skirts confirmed as much, and he also managed to make his asymmetric hemlines look uncontrived. Overall, the new fluidity led to more finesse, and the collection’s focus—from the repetition of just a few fabrics to the monochromatic palette accented by a Fontana-esque rose and cobalt blue—suggests that Riss increasingly realizes the impact of restraint.
Our review will be posted shortly. See the complete collection by clicking the image at left.
Raf Simons is not a designer obsessed with the past. He leaves the
decade-hopping to his peers, preferring instead to look ahead. And yet his latest Couture collection for Dior—his most completely realized to date, as beautiful as his debut of two years ago, if not as audacious as his
continent-spanning collection from last July—found him looking back. Not at one specific era, but rather at many. Simons was curious, the program notes explained, about the way different time periods informed and influenced subsequent ones. And more than that, he said afterward, he found himself thinking about Christian Dior’s fascination with the Belle Époque and asking himself, “If I had been [working] at that time, what would be my interest, conceptually or technically or architecturally? What would I be excited about?”
The show was divided into eight groups, hopping not decades but centuries—for example, from the Marie Antoinette-inspired pannier silhouettes of the opening to astronauts’ jumpsuits, back to embroidered court jackets and forward again to twenties volumes. Models from each grouping emerged onto the circular set, a launching pad like something out of a sci-fi flick, with curved walls covered in orchids by the thousands. They circulated there to the sounds of Sonic Youth, exposing the clothes from all angles and letting the intricacies and, at other times, the purity of the construction sink in.
Simons’ real feat was just how modern it all looked despite its historicism. He achieved that through lightness. You got the sense that the silk jacquard 18th-century dresses were every bit as weightless as the parachute-fabric flight suits. There was relatively little embellishment on those dresses; the sumptuous, shimmery materials and the voluptuous forms were the story. His flapperish dresses, meanwhile, were dripping not in heavy beads but in high-tech resin fringe.
The other thing that keeps Simons out ahead is his assertion that Couture need not be for special occasions. True luxury is spending five or six figures and wearing something not once or twice, but incorporating it into your daily wardrobe. Sweeping, long-line coats (Edwardian) and the familiar bar jacket (1950s), made unfamiliar with exaggerated shawl collars, will prove tempting to clients. Exquisitely detailed court coats and court jackets (in wool, velvet, even astrakhan) were equally believable as everyday wear, paired with classic knits and trousers. If the finale
dresses—outwardly simple, though, in fact, rather
complex—didn’t quite take off, it was only because of the power of what came before.
Nothing said “new Couture customer” like Giambattista Valli‘s collection tonight. Imagine the Alhambra Gardens. A girl wakes, maybe she’s still dressed from the night before, maybe she swathes herself in a striped sheet or slips into her beau’s pj’s. It’s bright so she puts on sunglasses. Her head hurts. She wraps it in a napkin from the champagne bucket. And she goes for a walk in the garden. There’s a dry, warm wind, blossoms are blowing, they cloud her
A pretty picture, and Valli did it justice on his catwalk. He visited the gardens years ago and filed the memory away for access at the right moment. It was the eclecticism of the Alhambra that appealed to him, the mix of Moorish and Spanish. That mix was entirely sublimated here, but there was still a feeling for the heat of the gardens, for the richness of the flowers, and even, at the end, a monochrome catholic strictness as a kind of cleanser before a finale of skirts fluffed into an extravaganza of feathery tulle. “They’ll be the best-seller,” Valli announced confidently, because they would lend themselves so well to weddings.
“The secret of my girls is that they’re always eccentric,” he said before his show. “They don’t play it. They are.” So you could say that there was eccentricity in a skirt in pink fluoro lace laid over a striped body. But the strength of this lineup was that Valli didn’t, for once, actually cater to that waywardness. Skirts were pencil thin and below the knee, and right away that gave the collection a long, elegant, grown-up line. They were paired with crop tops, tanks, or a capelet situation that Valli liked. In the case of the full-skirted frenzy of the finale, he used tiny piped pajama tops as a counterpoint.
There was something old Hollywood about such a look, an impression Valli effortlessly compounded with dresses in a wisteria-printed mousseline that begged for Norma Shearer. Hardly the apogee of a “new” Couture customer, but entirely emblematic of an aspirational age of elegance.
Leave it to the Swedes to take all of menswear’s familiar tropes and distort them into something strangely beautiful. For Spring 2015, Stockholm-based Our Legacy infused suiting, workwear, and streetwear with both Scandinavian oddness and references to earthly elements. The result is a collection of twisted, artful minimalism.
This season the brand found new ways to reduce uniform pieces to their most basic concepts, then tweak them in unexpected ways. Most noteworthy was the inventive approach to fabric—a leather shirt, stiff enough to stand on its own, was indigo dyed so that it brought to mind tropical seawater; coated linen gave basic suiting an out-of-the-ordinary feel; and textured nylon was tie-dyed to look like an oil slick and cut into boxy outerwear. Traces of the earth’s creative (and destructive) power could be found throughout the collection. Double-layer linen was distressed to resemble cracked earth. Pure raw silk gave a soft, mossy feel to shirting. Synthetic outerwear pieces were permanently crinkled into glacial forms. Prints looked scorched and rust stained.
Most items stuck to traditional shapes, made slightly off-kilter with unconventional details. Zippers were used in lieu of buttons on shirting, trousers fastened with drawstrings, and windbreakers were cut as
crewnecks. Fit was a tricky proposition. Boxy jackets and wide-cut pants aren’t for the styling novice’s wardrobe, but these aren’t clothes for the thoughtless. Now 10 years in the game, Our Legacy has established itself as a brand that makes menswear more interesting, not easier. For that we can be thankful.
“What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.” That Susan Sontag quote provided Alexis Mabille with a starting point for his new Haute Couture collection. Mabille’s general idea was to incorporate some element of a man’s wardrobe into each of the outfits. Nothing groundbreaking as far as concepts go, but it did produce one of the designer’s most restrained and accomplished offerings in some time. First out was a “tuxedo” consisting of a double-breasted jacket and long, narrow skirt, the wool on both pieces fused with lace to create a tempting bit of peekaboo at the waist. Elsewhere, the neckline of a black lace gown was accented with lapels, and a white bib-front shirt was extended into a dress. As a rule, the more masculine the look, the more compelling it was. A frilly dress embroidered with naive parrots on a vine lost the plot. But an emerald green strapless number, the torso of which was built like a jacket with lapels peeled back to reveal the creamy satin corset underneath? We’d bet Mabille’s star client Dita Von Teese already has that one on hold. It put proof to the Sontag maxim, and then some.
“The Southwest is a little bit of a challenge,” said Michael Bastian at his studio in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. “I really wanted to avoid all the clichés—no cowboy, no poncho, no fringes. You know, how real guys in that part of the U.S. would dress, or my dream of how they would dress.” For Spring 2015, Bastian took his collection of sportswear to Arizona. “Maybe because I grew up in Rochester, but the desert Southwest to me is exotic,” the designer said.
Clichés were mostly avoided, but not entirely. There were embroidered Western shirts, suede outerwear, and bronze feather accessories from the George Frost x Michael Bastian collaboration. The best expression of the theme was in the dusty hues, soft, textured fabrics, and faded denim. As always with Bastian, the tailoring stood head and shoulders above the rest of the collection. Sharp suits in a linen-blend “denim,” plaid, herringbone, and windowpane were the highlights. All kinds of trousers were reimagined in typical Bastian fashion. Riding pants and cargos were stripped down; motocross pants were made summery in faded canvas and denim; and slim, tapered sweatpants were done in gray piqué.
Bastian’s vision for guys in the Southwest favored glamour over ruggedness. There was something louche in the mostly unbuttoned shirts, short shorts, and, of course, the quintessential Michael Bastian racer swimsuit. But the ease of the collection was almost too easy. The designer might have successfully avoided clichés, but all of the softening and fading seems to have removed the grit that makes the Southwest special.