ON WITH THE SHOW!
While New York showed only a handful of live shows and presentations due to Covid concerns, at London and Milan fashion week it was almost business as usual. London designers staged over 30 live shows, presentations, fashion events or personal appointments, while Milan blended 28 physical shows with 24 digital ones, making Milan, thus far, the city with the most in real life showings. As American buyers, the fashion press (and the rest of us) virtually crossed the pond for London and Milan fashion week, we all got to watch some pretty amazing spring 2021 fashion in the privacy of our home, sitting on our pandemic-safe couch. Gotta love technology!
Stating that all live events would adhere to social distancing and hygiene g regulations, the British Fashion Council kicked off LFW on September 17th and wrapped up on September 22. Burberry opened the season with a live-streamed outdoor show to rave reviews. Throughout the week 80 designers took part in London Fashion Week – 30 IRL (in real life) and 50 digitally.
The week hosted a mix of womenswear and menswear designers, but what really stood out was that the season will no longer be known as Spring 2021, but rather “London Fashion Week September 2020,” in a move towards a more season-less approach.
Here are the highlights:
Riccardo Tisci opened London Fashion Week with a bang. The influential designer live-streamed his Burberry show in a hauntingly beautiful forest. His theme: “a love story between a mermaid and a shark.” The dark theme was the perfect parable as to how we’ve all felt the past seven months locked in quarantine and working from home. Tisci’s under-the-sea analogy was anything but kitsch. The collection was rather chic and sophisticated with beautiful shades of blues; “Blue is the new beige,” Tisci teased in an interview with Vogue Runway, name-checking Burberry’s signature color.
Being in quarantine with his 92 year-old mother and relatives in his childhood home near Lake Cuomo was a breath of fresh air for the designer and gave him a new sense of appreciation for life. According to his Vogue interview, the rootsy surroundings of his quarantine made him reconnect with his childhood and the innocent mindset with which he pursued those dreams. “You open the drawer of your past and see how far you’ve gone as a person, how much you’ve done for yourself, and for others. Your dreams have come true,” he reflected.
His collection for Burberry was filled with sea-centric references – from illustrations to embellishments – that were innocent and raw. Tisci’s shark motif has been a signature of the designer from the start of his career. As for his mermaids, Tisci worked with peplum shapes, glistening dresses, and spliced trench coats.
Tisci perfectly infused Burberry’s classic aesthetic with his signature street-style. Sometimes, going back to your roots is what a designer needs to find their footing again, as his mother would say, Bravo Riccardo!
There is no doubt about it, 2020 will forever be known as the year of the sweatsuit. But as Duro Olowu puts it quite simply in an interview with Vogue Runway, “Ease doesn’t have to mean track pants.”
Olowu presented his collection to a handful of editors and buyers in his London boutique. The joyful collection was filled with bold colors and striking prints that were inspired by Emma Amos, an African American painter who died in May of this year. Olowu infused bold hand-painted striped prints that were chic and sophisticated, case in point, the elongated tunic over wide leg pants, gave off an elegant loungewear vibe.
The designer is also experimenting with new shapes, focusing on sarong-like midi-length silhouettes that feel fresh and new. His line-up was filled with 1950s lean looks that were refined yet youthful. These clothes are a promise to brighter days ahead and they definitely will put a smile on your face.
Molly Goddard held intimate appointments in her studio as she presented her eclectic spring collection filled with bright, frothy, tulle confections. Mannequins were scattered throughout the space, each wearing one on Goddard’s jubilant looks. The collection was filled with ruffled, voluminous skirts and dresses, all in vibrant colors, as well as checkerboard neon sweaters, an A-line anorak dress and even floral printed denim pants.
Also, for the first time, Goddard decided to offer many of her unique dresses in white, which would make the perfect wedding dress for the cool young bride who wants an anything but traditional dress.
With all the COVID-19 U.K. regulations set in place, Simone Rocha held an intimate presentation at the Hauser & Wirth gallery. The cavernous white walls were the perfect backdrop for Rocha’s beautifully, intricate looks to come to life. In an interview with Vogue Runway, Rocha stated “I’m not going to lie: I’ll be the first to say I love runway shows, now that the pace of shows has been stripped away, I wanted to find a space to represent that. It’s important to me to find a way to physically share the collection, just for the silhouette, texture, and weight of it. Clothes are made of cloth, and emotions, and they come to life on a body.”
Rocha’s collection was filled with voluminous, rounded shapes in gilded brocades, rich cotton embroideries, delicate pearl embroideries, and intricate scalloped edge cottons. Close up, the layers held little messages: on tulle veiling, patterns of castles; in the broderie anglaise, SR monograms. “Castles in faraway places,” Rocha laughed. “I think that’s the escapism we’re all craving.”
Just like Riccardo Tisci for Burberry, Erdem Moralioglu was inspired by fantasy for his spring 2021 collection and also opted to hold an audience-less runway show in the English forest. Moralioglu spent his quarantine time reading. His collection was inspired by a Susan Sontag novel, The Volcano Lover, Sontag’s portrait of the 18th-century beauty Emma Hamilton who married a volcanologist obsessed with Grecian vases and had a passionate love affair with Lord Nelson.
Moralioglu, like his inspiration, looked to beauty during this fearful time. The designer featured regal 18th century-inspired floral jacquard dresses with puff-sleeves juxtaposed against cozy cardigans, military-inspired outerwear and an embroidered admiral jacket.
In an interview with Vogue Runway, Moralioglu stated, “I get asked the same question: Are women’s tastes and wants changing now, given the situation? On the contrary, we have a customer who’s still buying special pieces. It’s the want for something you can wear in five and 10 years. As I enter my 15th year doing this, the most thrilling thing is seeing someone wearing your work from 10 years ago. I’ve always been obsessed with permanence. When it feels like the end of the world, doesn’t someone need a pink moiré hand-embroidered gown?”
If this pandemic has taught us anything (other than the importance of wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing and social distancing) it’s a time for reflection, a reminder not to put off things that bring you joy. Christopher Kane did just that in his spring 2021 collection. The designer revisited his love of painting using multicolored glitter that he experimented with as a kid. Kane’s flagship store was turned into an exhibition space for his collection presentation, with easels and canvases featuring his paintings that he’d created during lockdown.
As for the clothes, which were displayed on mannequins, Kane recreated his artwork onto coats, dresses, and tops. Key looks included a brushstroke print long sleeve midi dress, a paint dot splatter shirt, and a brush-stroke striped sweater. With this charming collection one thing is clear, Kane had a lot of fun creating these pieces.
Leave it to the Italians to add a new word to fashion’s lexicon. Milan’s Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana billed the city’s spring 2021 shows as a “phygital fashion week.” Phygital fashion week is a portmanteau, a blend of physical, in person shows, and a digital show, a format that has become essential during COVID. Milan’s phygital fashion week took place from September 22 – 28th.
Everyone in the fashion community is asking themselves…is this hybrid model of phygital shows and presentations the future of fashion week? Only time will tell.
Prada was hands-down the most anticipated show of the season and rightfully so, since this was the debut of the Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons collaboration. The partnership was announced last February, pre-pandemic lockdown, and it was probably the most celebrated fashion news of 2020. The designers staged a digital runway show that was viewed on Prada.com and then opened up to a conversation with Prada and Simons answering questions that were submitted online. It was a genius move, giving Prada consumers the chance to listen to their “backstage-conversation.”
As for the clothes, a new Prada ‘uniform’ was introduced. You may remember that in the ‘90s Prada’s minimalistic uniform looks launched Miuccia Prada into fashion stardom. According to Miuccia and Simmons, the new Prada is all about paring back and the streamlining of excesses to get at what’s essential. The collection’s 40 looks were composed of long, narrow trousers; a sleeveless, tunic-length tee with the famous triangle logo; statement making outerwear with clutched coats; full skirts; holey (not the religious kind) knits; all worn with pointy-toed slingback kitten heels in a contrasting color. “How Miuccia dresses is very often a kind of uniform one way or another, and that was direct inspiration for me for the show,” Simons said in the interview.
The collection was filled with past references that became signatures for both designers. Case in point, Prada’s spring 1996 show of “ugly prints” reemerged on hoodies and matching full skirts, as well words and graphic silk-screened motifs on pastel shift dresses, a representation of Simmons’ personal work.
Miuccia and Simons lived up to the fashion world’s anticipation and thus far was the show of the season.
Fendi opened Milan Fashion Week with the first in-person, live, runway show, featuring both their men’s and women’s collections. And the fashion crowd couldn’t be happier. The show opened with photographic prints taken by Silvia Venturini Fendi from her bedroom window during lockdown. These soft graphic prints were found on everything from transparent shirt dresses, to tailored blazers and men’s suits.
As Italy was the first of the European cities to suffer from Covid 19, spending several months in lock-down mode, Fendi believes this will forever change the way we dress, and answered the call with sophisticated alternatives for WFH (work-from-home) looks. The collection had plenty of chic loungewear and pajama fashion, as well as floaty wood-printed caftans. Fendi closed the show with bedding-inspired looks that ranged from cozy satin quilted outerwear to pale lace embroidered linen tops and skirts. “This reminded me of Karl [Lagerfeld],” said Fendi pre-show in an interview with Vogue Runaway: “He had a love for bed linen, he had a big collection.”
This collection marked the final transition of Silvia’s decades long collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld, and her latest collaboration with newly appointed creative director Kim Jones. This announcement will surely make Fendi the most anticipated show for the Fall 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult and terrifying time for us all, but if there is any silver lining to this nightmare, it is that the lockdowns have brought many families back together. This is the case for Veronica Etro, as she spent her time during lockdown at home with her mom as they listened to old Neapolitan songs, “we were bewitched by the serenity, the timelessness, and the elegance” Veronica Etro stated during her pre-show press conference. The music made her reminisce about her “2019 trip to Ischia, Capri, Naples, and Positano, and—maybe because we were so patriotic during that period—I thought, okay, let’s make the collection all about Italy.”
Veronica dug deep into her family’s print archives and turned out a youthful and vibrant collection filled with effortless vacation looks that ranged from a sexy scarf print bikini worn under a glamorous open front maxi skirt, to charming marinière knits. There were plenty of effortlessly chic printed dresses; flirty nautical themed bra tops and shorts; as well as youthful paisley shorts worn with menswear inspired shirts.
This charming collection was the perfect beach escape for next summer and beyond.
Alberta Ferretti also opted for a live, in-person show this season, as she held her runway extravaganza in the open air in one of the courtyards of Milan’s Castello Sforzesco, as guests enjoyed the sunshine. The perfect backdrop to Ferretti’s signature romantic aesthetic.
The collection was a stark contrast to the state of the world. In a pre-interview with Vogue Runway, Ferretti stated, “In this difficult situation, so harsh and unforgiving in many ways, my gut instinct was to embrace kindness and a certain seductive softness. I believe that it stems from self-confidence and from the acceptance of the natural power of femininity.”
Ferretti’s approach to the season was practical, as she offered her women a wardrobe that fits all of their needs. The designer showed a variety of feminine dresses that ranged from ethereal, flowing, maxi dresses to flirty macramé lace mini dresses – all with a bohemian yet sophisticated hand. The collection also featured plenty of every-day pieces, such as pastel denim pants, high-waisted fitted trousers paired with bralettes, embroidered tops and cropped blouses. Overall, Ferretti’s collection was a sophisticated and fresh approach to femininity.
Always with a flair for the dramatic, Donatella Versace literally took her viewers “under the sea” for her spring 2021 collection: the aquatic theme being a reoccurring motif for many designers this season. Versace staged a full on live-streamed show, with no audience, just her team. The runway’s backdrop…the imagined ruins of Atlantis with a water current streaming down its projected walls. The mythical backdrop was the perfect setting for Versace’s provocative ocean-themed collection.
Ever since the Versace label launched in 1978, by her beloved brother Gianni, the brand has always been known for its sex appeal and its loud and vibrant prints and colors. For spring 2021, Donatella embraced the DNA of the house and it was a joyful ode to life, featuring both menswear and womenswear looks. Versace started off with a maritime motif with tailored navy blazers and shorts. Then the collection took on a Malibu Barbie twist, with vibrant prints in pumped-up colors. Starfish print dresses that ranged from sheaths to baby-doll silhouettes; coral reef motif and ocean themes made their way onto everything, from skirts and tops to shorts and swimwear. Versace also showed moments of ingenuity with micro-pleated dresses trimmed with twirly ruffles, which resembled a graceful jellyfish swimming in the ocean.
Versace stated that her archival sea collection was also a metaphor for a new world of wonders, which translated to a diverse runway. The co-ed show was cast with a variety of ethnicities, as well as diversified sizes, embracing her message of body positivity and gender-nonconformity. Brava Donatella for such an inclusive representation of the world.
Let’s give it up to Jeremy Scott for producing the most creative show of the season. The digital masterpiece was an elaborate puppet show with marionette replicas of his favorite models walking down a runway and doll replications of his audience. It was a visual delight that eased the stress of a world gone mad. In an interview with Vogue Runway, Scott stated, “The best thing I could do for everyone who’s stressed about the election, the pandemic, social unrest, and the future was to give the gift of fantasy and take us away from all of it for a few minutes; let us enjoy this little fashion world of ours.”
Scott’s whimsical show may have come at a huge expense, but it was a much needed spectacular visual experience. As for the clothes, they were each re-proportioned to fit the dimensions of the marionettes without losing their authentic properties. The collection was an homage to haute couture and brought Scott’s masterful construction to the forefront of the collection, case in point, a cocktail dress that was sliced open, revealing another dress under it with a photograph of an inside-out embroidered dress. Other key looks included a feather trim gown with an exposed bone corseted bust, deconstructed cocktail dresses, as well as spliced outerwear.
When asked if fashion is still relevant, Scott stated “People are like, ‘Sweatpants forever!’ But I love exciting things that are one-of-a-kind and refined. We’re all desperate for that. I constantly kept getting dressed up every day even if I wasn’t seeing people. It’s part of who I am.” The London and Milan shows seemed to prove that point.
So far it looks like NYFW, LFW and MFW are all channeling happier times. Reminds us of the old 1920s song by Jack Yellen & Milton Ager, Happy Days Are Here Again, became the the theme song of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidential campaign in 1932 and is still played at Democratic conventions today.