Thursday, June 20, 2019

In Paris, Bode & Phipps show more than sustainable fashion. Plus: Heron Preston

In recent years, Paris Fashion Week has become less about the might of advertising titans and more about the glittering emerging talents that are springing up hither and thither. On day one of the Spring/Summer 2020 men’s season in the City of Light, the schedule was dominated by a cohort of young designers representing a host of international destinations. What many had in common was a focus on sustainability, the principle―not trend―that underlies much of contemporary fashion practice. 

Opening the week, there was Emily Adams Bode, a 29-year-old New York-based fabric whiz, who recently received the CFDA Fashion Award for Emerging Designer, and a place on the long list for the 2019 LVMH Prize. 

Her starting point was the Bode Wagon Company, a wagon building workshop based in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1824 to 1940. In the show notes, she said, ‘I envision how my family and their wagon fabrication studios were colourfully transformed by the great American circus.’ 

She sourced vintage textiles to form the basis for hued crochets, novelty knits, rich striped workwear, hand-painted silk shirts and canvas jackets, nylons, and linens with familial imagery. One pair of trousers were made from ribbons used at horse shows. Circus act prints added a delicacy and sense of humour to the recycled fabrics. 

Bode strikes gold with the way she breathes new life into existing fabrics without losing sight of the season’s narrative. This more personal project allowed her to plumb the depths of her family history. Sustainability isn’t a trend, it’s engrained in the brand’s ethos―fashion comes first. Where better for her to show than in Paris, where her slow process and dedication to materiality are prized qualities. 

The same can be said for Spencer Phipps who designs Phipps, another 2019 LVMH Prize shortlisted label. His show was about the ‘contemporary metamorphosis of geological and anthropological concerns investigating man’s relationship with planet earth since the dawn of time’ (whatever that means exactly). Phipps defines his practice as ‘applied garment-making’ with a focus on transparency and traceability. 

His outdoor pursuits-inspired work is sharp and ironic―there’s something slightly perverse, a smattering of bad taste, about his Western-influenced designs, inflected with camp counsellor spirit. (One sensed ‘Brokeback Mountain’ vibes halfway through.) On his runway, which took place outdoors at the Cité internationale des arts, models sported high fashion takes on high-performance outerwear printed with satirical graphic designs, inspirational climbing slogans and chronological calendar of Earth’s tectonic movements. Elsewhere there was a naturally-dyed, glue-free biodegradable suiting in British wool - double-breasted jacket styled with brown shorts, a bowling shirt, and hiking boots. Pragmatic chic.

The collection featured a capsule collection of high-performance outerwear with alpine brand Millet. Phipps’ team upcycled existing Millet fabrics from within the archives, fully equipped for rock climbing and extreme weather conditions. 

Heron Preston also expanded his mission to include a full-fledged women’s line. Model Gigi Hadid debuted a look from the front row. The streetwear practitioner, close with Virgil Abloh and Alyx's Matthew Williams, called his show, ‘Urban Jungle’. It opened with oversized tailoring, in an attempt to broaden his horizons and push the limits of streetwear. 

Preston imbued his work with a sense of environmental responsibility. He incorporated renewable materials such as pineapple leather, recycled nylon, and recycled tweed. Dattner Architects were appointed to create a set of recycled materials. Designer and influenced Sami Miró upcycled Heron Preston denim from previous seasons. 

In essence, Preston is one of the more prominent names pushing a more conscious approach to streetwear and, who knows, there could be a wider shift amongst his peers. But, what remains, is that fashion is more important to the concept. He should revise his spins on workers uniforms, reworked denim, and oversized tailoring for men and women next season. 

In 2019, sustainability and fashion are intertwined. It should be a given with emerging names that sustainability is interwoven in the very fabric of the brand’s existence. If not, how can they call themselves contemporary designers? Emily Adams Bode and Spencer Phipps exceed expectations in placing their identities as fashion designers on a pedestal: the focal point is in their design and the narrative of the season. Heron Preston could’ve benefited from a greater exploration of thematic influence because it felt as though his sustainable efforts were the most interesting thing in this collection―fashion is more than that. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

At Pitti Immagine Uomo, Searching for Emotion and Soulful Fashion

At Pitti Immagine Uomo, the biannual men’s trade fair held in Florence, Italy, now in its 96th edition, the central focus is typically on the guest designers who flock from around the globe vying for the attention of the international press and buyers. In the past, the event has attracted the likes of J.W. Anderson, Raf Simons, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White. 

Three native Italian brands chose Pitti Uomo in lieu of the ongoing Milan Fashion Week, leaving the schedule rather parse. However, a slot at Pitti Uomo maximises brands’ opportunities to receive much-needed attention. But did they move audiences?

The first attempt was Salvatore Ferragamo, set against the palatial backdrop of the Piazza della Signoria. Models circled the Fountain of Neptune, which Ferragamo recently helped restore, ‘as a mark of gratitude to the city of Florence.’ Ferragamo’s mainstay is Milan Fashion Week but the Pitti show was a homecoming. Ferragamo was founded in Florence in 1927, the eponymous founder died there in 1960, and the brand’s headquarters remain there.
Salvatore Ferragamo
British designer Paul Andrew oversees creative direction across the brand’s womenswear and menswear lines. This Florentine outing featured both lines which coexist beautifully in the same universe, a marvellous feat for a luxury house. The clothes fused workwear and formal principles in a varied palette that began with pale blues and earthy tones before progressing into shots of sky blue, lavender, and burgundy. The statue of Napoleon is reworked, appearing on lightweight shirts. Andrew, and his menswear assistant, Guillaume Meilland, played things safe. The edit was sharp, the clothes were nice, but the overall presentation could’ve done with some more emotion.  

Celebrating his tenth anniversary, Massimo Giorgetti’s MSGM benefits from a happy-go-lucky, endearingly quirky sensibility, and hence the show emanated a sort of bubbly charm. His menswear is punchy, fun―he doesn’t shy away from elaborate allover floral prints and explosive tie-dyes but he doesn’t simplify the presentation in terms of streetwear, either. MSGM is predominately rooted in tailoring, not streetwear, the clothes are jovial but he takes his clientele serious. For spring, he proposed brightly-coloured suiting, tie-dye sportswear, and light-wash denim. The finale consisted of scantily-clad models in t-shirts and briefs, a vision of the after-after party along the coast of an Adriatic town, from where Giorgetti hails. In that respect, things felt personal. 
In the rarified world of Marco de Vincenzo, tinged with a film-noir aesthetic, explorations of fabrication and silhouette have long been a personal project but, this season, his tenth anniversary and menswear debut, things were distilled to the point of sobriety. Yet his chequered suiting and high-waisted denim had soul.
Marco de Vincenzo
For Claire Waight Keller’s first full menswear collection for Givenchy, she channeled the soul and spirit of France and Seoul, South Korea. ‘We call it Nouveau Glitch, this fusion of Old and New World aesthetics. Baudelaire and then Asian street style now. The Art Nouveau with a post-internet glitch,’ said Clare Waight Keller of her early-00s-inspired outing. An international endeavour, Waight Keller, a British woman at a historic French house, showing in Italy, inspired by Asian cultures, the smorgasbord of cultural touchstones bled into something that was captured the spirit of Givenchy as it is today: distinctly French with an international appeal. 

She melded the formality of tailoring with the urbane reality of streetwear and sportswear. The ensuing collection could’ve used a sharper edit but Waight Keller’s desire to reflect the shifting landscape of masculinity could be deemed fresh. From her takes on oversized tailoring to the contrast of floral-printed vest tops with tracksuit pants, it was imbued with an air of modernity. She counterbalanced the tailoring’s elegance with an Onitsuka Tiger collaboration. In order to modernise Givenchy, and to connect with the style-savvy Asian customer, this collaboration made perfect sense. 

This iteration of Givenchy men’s looked like a polished take on what has come before. What it could’ve used was the same drama that Waight Keller exercised in her Fall 2019 men’s capsule―paying homage to the 1970s sleaze of New York City. Here, that was reduced to a few looks but the most impactful: a black coat with intricate embroidery slung over a sinewy model in white high-waisted trousers, a skinny silk scarf wrapped insouciantly around his neck. That was beautiful, daring. 
Hailed by journalist Suzy Menkes as ‘the best new-person collection I have ever seen,’ American multimedia artist Sterling Ruby issued his namesake stamp on fashion. In the past, Ruby has collaborated with Raf Simons during his stints at Christian Dior and Calvin Klein. Now, Ruby, who has been sewing since adolescence, has launched S.R. Studio. LA. CA. Described as ‘autobiographical, a chart through cloth of Ruby’s life, influences, fantasies and realities: his story,’ the unisex show touched upon Amish and Mennonite dress (see voluminous dresses, knit sweaters), from Ruby’s childhood spent in rural Pennsylvania, to his career as an artist in Los Angeles (paint-splatter and neon acid-wash denim). The personal element struck a chord, rethinking the pretension commonly associated with art and fashion as creative mediums.

Ruby’s entrance into the world of fashion - notwithstanding his previous collaborations - would hopefully serve as a precursor to a wider cultural shift in the fashion industry. As an artist, Ruby understands the concept of making, the artistic process, and the value of creation leading to a valuable outcome, rather than something solely driven by monetary gain. The dynamic collection, charting the familiar ground of Americana, wasn’t revolutionary but the idea is one that could revolutionise fashion: Ruby doesn’t intend to follow the conventional fashion cycle (some pieces are already available online; other items will follow later; there is no plan for the next show)―he’s playing it by ear. Where better to show than at Pitti, where anything is possible. By pushing against the binary fashion system, thinking on a collection-by-collection basis, the quality of the fashion, one would hope, will be stronger, more considered and inspiring. His debut, in that respect, was thrilling. Fashion and the art of making, front and centre. How it should be. 
SR Studio. LA. CA.
All images: Vogue Runway