While the question of what’s going to happen in fashion after quarantine has become somewhat of a yawn, it nevertheless remains pertinent. Meaningful changes to the industry’s landscape have been punctuated, among other things, by calls to slow the bracing cycle of seasonal collections amid environmental concerns and rethink how collections are presented. Fashion week has always been a bit campy in the sense that there’s always at least one degree of removal from the idea, or the utilitarian intent, from which a collection is created. It’s always the concept of a woman at tea, of queered masculinity through the 20th century, of mountain chalet Barbie. From everyday mundane to Putain de Palaces, ideas are best executed with an awareness of their excess and a will to run away with it.
During a time when most have little more than the fantasy of lived experience to sustain themselves, fashion week’s audience finds itself in a unique position to consume shows from a similar mental space to the teams of designers responsible for their creation. The possibility of deluding oneself into bridging the gap between truth and invention or putting oneself in any given model’s handmade shoes is all but gone — and if that’s not a silver lining I’m not sure what would qualify as one. If fashion is a funhouse mirror held up to everyday life, we’re living behind the glass with it. It’s a dreadful, captive existence, but boy are the clothes good.
I’m not sure if the death and destruction of this past year has given designers and artistic directors a renewed ability to dispense joy in the face of unfathomable loss or if people are just starved for a temporary respite in the form of marabou-trimmed suiting and pentagram briefs. What I do know is that the gods of cutting and sewing are shoveling nuggets of gold down my gaping maw, and I’m loving every second of it. Below is a non-exhaustive list, with brief summaries, of five of my favorite looks from this season.
Palomo Spain, Look 32
Palomo continues to outdo itself each season. Set against a backdrop of solar panels, the surroundings juxtapose the Victorian-esque-meets-early-aughts-genderfuck-dandyism that Palomo Spain is so well known for. Corsetry meets outlandishly voluminous trousers, feathered headpieces, sewn-in CUPS … you get the idea.
Look 32 is a culmination of all the threads. The model wears a tan bucket hat almost entirely obscured by an absolute embarrassment of dodo bird yellow feathers. The feathers nearly cover a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses, too, which are a fitting cat-eye shape. A trio of delicate chokers finished off with a small, centered bow lay above a sheer, black polka dot top with an exaggerated square neckline that evokes an Elizabethan gown. Slight gathering through the midsection, flared cuffs and matching gloves tie the look together, which is met by a pair of gigantic, gown-like low-rise pants with — yes — a sewn-in sort of exoskeleton cup that separates the pants into three parts. The look is equal parts royal, homoerotic and anthropomorphic dandelion, and it’s everything I needed to see this month.
Dries van Noten, Look 31, 58
Dries does cabaret! I chose these two looks from the collection because, at least when looking at the stills they bookend each other with a not-quite-done, hair-still-wet-post-shower beauty look that’s offset by showy garments just begging for … whatever the chic translation of a jazz hand may be.
The show is centered around movement, and most of the shots from Vogue Runway reflect that. The stillness of these two photos adds to a powerful directness that the models wield. The first look is a gorgeous royal blue suit with a wide but clean notch lapel and a feathered trim along the shoulders and arms, perfectly accentuated by a crossing of the arms at the waist. The look is only featured for a fraction of a second in the video presentation, but the second look gets its full shine.
Opting again for a punctuated stillness, a slow-moving close up of the second look’s cherry-red sequins is followed up by a full length of the model, completely expressionless and looking directly into my soul, wearing a perfectly strange below-the-knee, long sleeve, low-cut v-neck dress with a polo collar and thigh high slits at the sides. Red sequins cover every inch of the matching silk sheath underneath.
Under the dress are a pair of satin blushing pink heeled boots with an almond toe, which feel like they shouldn’t work but do. As the camera eeks leftward, the hem shifts around, reflecting the jarring halt that the edit communicates. The show has a raw, frenetic energy to it, and it pulls off the assignment without presenting it as gimmicky — an accomplishment! We love to see it.
Miu Miu, Look 51
Of all of the pandemmy-friendly social distancing fashion show adaptations that took a more traditional format, this one was by far my favorite. Models schlepped through the Dolomites, a mountain range in Northern Italy, in piles of retro futurist garb — slips with crocheted accents, box-cut party dresses, beautifully cut quilted outerwear and knit stockings and headscarves — almost all of which are paired with Chewbacca boot fits for the most vigorous of Hoth trips. The models slinking around this mountain in Miuccia Prada’s vision of ski lodge opulence give off a Tiffany-Pollard-standing-alone-by-Flav’s-staircase type of energy.
Above is the finale, the only still taken at night, very Bigfoot-spotted-after-raiding-Carrie-Bradshaw’s-closet, and who doesn’t live for that? Who doesn’t live for me stringing three loose cultural threads together in one fell swoop? What fun for us all.
Thom Browne, Look 4
“… the most angelical and fantastical dream that led me home… / in the land of grey skies … / our story begins … under spruce trees in snow … / we begin with goodbyes … I I so love it here … / with you, my friends … / but i do so love being home …”
The accompanying poem to Thom Browne’s runway presentation sets the tone for its surrealist, Wizard of Oz-based theme — a woman (played by Lindsey Vonn) is surrounded by animatronic doodles as she is guided into a modest cabin in the mountains before drifting off to a dream state. The scene is completely black and white, with the exception of her gold puffer worn by its harness and a pair of patent leather heeled boots that she clicks three times.
In the next scene, we see her skiing down a slope in a classic Thom Browne look, and she is confronted by human slaloms in extravagant winter dress. The slaloms are dressed in black and white with black orbs obscuring their faces, channeling a Freudian uncanniness to great and unsettling effect. I chose Look 4 because it’s the first of these figures, and maybe the most affecting due to its slightly comical nature.
The model wears a woolen houndstooth bolero with a grosgrain-trimmed lapel, which is worn over a massive, bell-sleeved tuxedo blouse, matching gloves and wool skirt with thick stripes and a quilted puffer accent at the knee. The amusing touches of a beagle or dachshund-shaped leather bag and a penguin-toed stance in heeled hiking boots make the model look all the eerier as they hover over the snow.
Daily Arts Style Columnist Sam Kremke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.