What I don’t like about February, it usually feels mediocre. The last month of winter is certainly not about the heavy snow, crispy frost, and going ice skating impromptu (yet the latter may still come). When it’s February, you already crave spring, while anticipation drags on… Fortunately, the month is relatively short, especially in 2021, which is non-leap, and it also has its nice things like St. Valentine’s Day. Anyway, it’s time to cheer up with a fantastic collection of fashion shows that took place this week, some of them as part of the recent Paris Fashion Week. A bit of inspiration, and the world around miraculously transforms. Just try ✨
F A S H I O N + A R C H I T E C T U R E
Architect’s dejavu: get inspired by Virgil Abloh’s reminiscences in Louis Vuitton’s new collection
Let’s be honest, Louis Vuitton Fall 2021 Menswear Collection is a genuine artistic statement. Launched by Virgil Abloh, who has covered the position of Men’s Artistic Director at the fashion house since 2018, the new collection explores the childhood’s aspirations, refers to the Africo-American social and cultural experience, and pays tribute to Abloh’s personal background in architecture, everything in the short film ‘Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light’. But first things first. Remember mentioning Virgil Abloh’s MA in Architecture in one of the December Art Digests? The fashion designer graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, where, by the way, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe himself used to teach in the 1940s—1950s. Abloh gratefully recalls it, setting one part of his fashion story in the green-marble interior, which reminds of the Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the Expo 1929.
The other locale shown in the film is a village in the Swiss mountains. The main character, a rapper and actor Saul Williams, pensively walks through the snowy valley. ‘I am no stranger anymore. The world is love to me’, he says, referring to the 1953 essay ‘Stranger in the Village’ by James Baldwin. Just like Baldwin reflected upon the history of American Negro and European relationship basing on his own life experience, Abloh incorporates the image of a wanderer and an observer into the piece. Williams’ character would later arrive at the already mentioned marble hall to meet other models, who are deemed to embody some male archetypes like the Artist, the Salesman, the Architect, the Drifter, the Writer, the Student etc (female archetypes differ, here is more). In the show notes the head of the LV Menswear Department asks: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. No doubt, the fashion designer calls on our childhood dreams and, thus, shares his optimistic outlook for the future.
Another component of the ‘Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light’ really worth mentioning is the 70-piece collection itself entitled ‘Ebonics’.
Apart from the businesslike yet invigorating garments for ‘all Jacks of Trades’, it’s a couple of the city architecture-inspired looks that immediately catches one’s eye. For example, the Paris skyline puffer jacket features such city’s landmarks as the Notre-Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumph, the Panthéon, Le Grand Louvre pyramid, and a section of the Centre Pompidou. In the New York City skyline puffer jacket, which primarily consists of the skyscrapers, Abloh also paid tribute to his beloved Chicago with its John Hancock Center. One more connotation that comes to mind contemplating the architectural carnival by Louis Vuitton, is the annual ball of the Society of Beaux-Art Architects, which took place in New York in the 1930s. Architects would dress as the buildings they had designed. Well, Virgil Abloh knows how to address the past with the brightest hopes for the future, and LV Fall 2021 Menswear Collection is the best example of this.
P U R E F A S H I O N
Iris Van Herpen SS 2021: explore the ‘magic mushroom’ effect
Presuming you’ve already heard of Iris Van Herpen. At least, we discussed her ethereal costumes for the ‘Biomimicry’ piece performed by Dutch National Ballet’s grand sujet JingJing Mao at the end of 2020. Well, the collaboration is over, but biomimicry remains. The 36-year-old Dutch couturier famous for fusing technologies with some traditional techniques of clothing design presented her ‘Roots of Rebirth’ SS 21 collection at the Paris Fashion Week a few days ago. It’s ‘the intricacy of fungi and the entanglement of life that breathes beneath our feet,’ which is at heart of ‘Roots of Rebirth’, says the official statement published on the brand’s website.
No, nothing like a carnival with its jocular fussy costumes, but instead, 21 highly delicate looks that allure with its alien energy. The contemplative ingenuity of the designer is worth admiration — Van Herpen managed to subtly embody the image of the branching networks of fungi underground into the garments without exaggerating the concept. Among the models showcasing the collection, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova and Iranian-Dutch singer Sevdaliza also appeared on the catwalk. All due fascination, the only question, which raises concern, is: ‘Are there any terrestrial reasons to wear such a dress?’. The answer is probably no, one has to wait to receive an invitation to a space party to put on something like that.
Escapism and high emotions in Spring 2021 Haute Couture by Viktor & Rolf
Pursuing the topic of Dutch vogue, it’s Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, the prominent duo of avant-gardists and conceptualists from the world of fashion, who have all eyes on them now. If not Viktor & Rolf, who else would astonish us by some elegant, witty collections with a drop of provocation in each of them (you know, that’s all how avant-garde works). Brand’s gowns featuring huge slogans like ‘I’m not shy, I just don’t like you,’ or ‘Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come,’ is already a common story and a secret crush object of the trendiest introverts. However, this time the designers decided to act in a more extroverted way, launching the Spring 2021 Haute Couture collection as ‘an escape into a party atmosphere’.
A genuine ‘couturier rave’, the latest collection by Viktor & Rolf follows an ‘anything goes’ approach and seems to be open to new experiences more than ever. Especially now when the world around doesn’t inspire the slightest confidence with human’s health at great risk, such a fashion statement sounds like a power shake or a vigorous protest against the discouraging reality. Patchwork textiles, separate balconette bras, fishnets, and signature floor-length tutus topped by omnifarious jewelry and harlequin capes create that sort of ‘party hard’ mood we all might be missing today. Alright, Victor & Rolf, the challenge is accepted. We’re ready for 2021, whatever it holds.
‘Show Fashion’ by Alber Elbaz to change your image of vogue
Having left Lanvin in 2016, Alber Elbaz was floating freely for five years. Now it’s time the fashion designer came up with something invigorating. Here it is, his new AZ Factory project, which is something between a fashion label and a membership club for all those enamoured of Elbaz’ ideas as a couturier. AZ Factory has recently proved itself, taking part in Paris Haute Couture Week with its hilarious ‘Show Fashion’ video. If you watch the piece, you will see: the designer’s decision to go beyond the format of traditional fashion shows is not a coincidence, but rather a consistent choice for the one who seeks to think out of the box in all spheres of life.
As for the AZ Factory Spring 2021 Couture collection, it turned out to be a true manifesto to body, comfort, and just joyful being without limits. But who can actually limit us, one may ask? What Elbaz implies here, are the socially imposed beauty standards. ‘I saw for five years, women I met for lunch how much women were struggling with their weight, and sometimes that was hard to watch, <but> we’re not here to transform women; we’re here to hug them,’ the couturier passionately explains. Just imagine a size range from XXS to XXXXL, with garments and shoes not only fitting, but also adapt to your lifestyle? Well, that might be more than fashion — something like a magic factory… AZ Factory, actually, that’s exactly what it is.
On the cover: Louis Vuitton Fall 2021 Menswear fashion show