Gucci’s Alessandro Michele reoriented fashion towards individuality, and he blasted gender norms wide open, giving us Jared Leto in a dress-over-pants in the process. Not least of all, Michele is a showman nonpareil. And the show he put on today was harsh and destabilizing in the extreme, not unlike the world outside the Gucci hub, complete with lions gnashing their teeth on the soundtrack and lights pulsating brightly enough to make your retinas scream.
Then there were the masks: Jason Voorhees masks, fetish store masks with 2-inch-long spikes, a stupendous brass eagle with talons clutching the jawline. At the press conference afterwards, Michele explained his fascination, saying, “A mask is hollow but also full.” It conceals and reveals; it’s a defense and a welcome sign; disorienting and its opposite. Subtler, but just as thought-provoking: the metal ear coverings. Hearing enhancing? Or hearing obliterating? The masks were runway artifice, not for sale, Michele said post show—not with those 2-inch spikes. But he sees clothes in the same way; they’re the means by which we become what we feel we are, an open possibility.
The collection was as “full of little things” as always, many of them deeply personal—there’s comfort in the familiar, even for a guy as free associative as Michele. He emphasized the sober ’40s tailoring of his grandmother’s generation in jackets worn by men and women: shoulders sharp, waists nipped, and trouser legs full above ankles cinched with cord. Many of the pieces were unfinished, with basting stitches tracing seams or the outline of outsize lapels, and raw edges elsewhere. Pierrot collars, in contrast, seemed to speak of childhood whimsy and innocence, as did the nonsense words ice, lolly, and sucker that appeared throughout. Different identities to slip into and out of as easily as a woman changes her Gucci sneakers for mismatched gold and silver platforms. A few of the models carried trainers from the laces, like handbags.
Silvia Venturini Fendi said, “Now is not the time to be sad,”, noting that Lagerfeld supervised every look in the focused collection that revealed what she called “those facets of him”—the signatures that he had embedded into the brand’s DNA since he first met the quintet of Fendi sisters, including Venturini Fendi’s mother, Anna, in Rome in 1965.Those signature touches included the stiff, high Edwardian collars that Lagerfeld himself wore and riffs on the scissor-sharp tailoring with geometric seams that he returned to every season. This time, those seams defined a strong, sharp pagoda shoulder line or the A-line panels in a perfectly fitted coat. There was also a play of layers and translucency that included laser-perforated “fishnet” leather. The interlinked double F logo (dubbed “Karligraphy”) that Lagerfeld himself invented in 1981 was reimagined in the copperplate font of his own handwriting and woven into hosiery or used as an intarsia on shearling. (The classic Fendi brown-and-beige stripe, worked in shearling for an overscale frame-handle bag, was one of the accessory hits of the collection.)
In the weeks before his death, Venturini Fendi remembered, Lagerfeld’s mantra remained: “I have to work on my collections.” During the fittings, he would interrupt his stream-of-consciousness observations and bon mots to politely admonish the tailors and dressmakers, explaining that the garment in front of him was not exactly like his sketch; “I’m sorry,” he would say, “but it’s a millimeter off just there . . .”Backstage, Lagerfeld’s longtime collaborators and the models whose careers he had helped nurture were all in tears. “I just feel so lucky I got to meet him and be a part of it,” said Bella Hadid, who, like many other girls, had to fight back her emotions on the runway.
After the traditional viewing of the runway video, Venturini Fendi, thanking her distraught team, punched the air and echoed the words that Lagerfeld repeated after every collection: “And now, the next!”
Alberta Ferretti should be credited for trying to get out of her comfort zone; her style has moved away from the ethereal occasion dressing she has always favored to land on more consistent daywear territories. “Times are constantly changing, and women’s needs are, too,” she said. “We have to keep up with today’s fast-paced reality.” No arguing with that, and it seems to be a smart move: Aeffe, Alberta Ferretti’s parent company, apparently posted a 10.9 percent uptick in sales in 2018.
This collection certainly offered plenty of daywear options. The show’s first look was an assertive head-to-toe winter-white outerwear statement: an ensemble of leather wide-leg pants and a sporty jacket layered under a voluminous mohair coat, accessorized to the nines with matching white suede cowboy boots and a wide-brimmed felt hat. If Ferretti wanted to make a strong point, she did. “Fashion is all about daring to express one’s own unique personality with courage and eccentricity,” she stated.
The designer upped the eccentricity factor with au courant mix-and-match styling attitude, while the actual pieces, taken individually, were mainly wardrobe staples designed with Ferretti-esque imaginative flair. There were high-waisted, ’80s-inspired washed denim or intarsia leather pants over frilled, chunky-knitted sweaters; soft tailored masculine pantsuits; metallic leather and suede patchworked trench coats.
Carolina Castiglioni launched her label, Plan C, only last season, yet the outing has already proved successful. The collection has been picked up by major international retailers, and a flagship store just opened in Tokyo. Yet at today’s presentation, Castiglioni didn’t boast and kept her usual cool. Dressed in one of her creations, a long, techno taffeta tiered black skirt and a dark chunky knit sweater, she said: “I just do what I like and what I’d like to wear.”
The Castiglionis (a fashion dynasty, since Carolina’s parents, Consuelo and Gianni, founded Marni in 1994) are passionate about art and design; their taste, albeit cultivated, isn’t bourgeois or chichi in the least, but rather tinged with an idiosyncratic streak that the designer has inherited and translated her own way. Her aesthetic is artistic and expressive, and a touch experimental in its penchant for big, at times challenging, volumes and its high-tech–meets–artisanal take on elevated streetwear. The playful boldness in the use of saturated, vivid color-blocking and the consistent, thick-verging-on-stiff Japanese fabrications that she favors are becoming somewhat of a signature, showing that behind her composure, the young Castiglioni has chutzpah. Fashion today is looking for distinctive voices, able to stand out and surprise with a unique, personal vision. Plan C seems to be on the right path.
MSGM’s Massimo Giorgetti dug up something refreshingly analog for Fall: Flash Art, the Italian art magazine founded in 1967 by Giancarlo Politi. Vintage covers were turned into prints for a button-down, a T-shirt, and jeans. It’s an obscure reference, and that pleased Giorgetti. Logomania is cooling, and the magazine covers gave him the graphic element he favors. Also: He’s had “insane” success with the Milan shout-outs he’s put in recent collections; the Flash Art pieces were an elaboration on the formula.
That wasn’t the only cultural anthropology going on: Lifting bubble-skirted party dresses with fitted velvet bodices and puffed shoulders out of the 1980s qualifies, too. Tutto Milano seems to have fallen for the decade. Something the Costume Institute’s Andrew Bolton said at the “Camp: Notes on Fashion” preview this morning is apropos here. Camp, or the love of artifice and exaggeration—Giorgetti’s bubble skirts and pouf sleeves surely qualify—becomes the mode of the moment during times of social and political upheaval; times like the 1960s, the 1980s, and our current decade. Sontag’s agenda-setting essay and Flash Art are likely to go straight over the heads of Giorgetti’s young clients. Or maybe not. Ultimately, those party dresses look like a good time. Really, that’s all that matters.
Toussaint Louverture was a talented strategist and soldier who played the Spanish against the British against the United States against the French (his biggest ally, as France had abolished slavery) to create the conditions for sugar-rich Haiti’s independence in 1804 (although by then he had perished from yellow fever). Today he starred on the sweater in Look 6 of this Stella Jean collection. The designer played fast and loose with Louverture’s narrative by presenting him as a woman. In 2019, why not?
This interesting and attractive offering looked at narratives cultural, colonial, and (in that sweater) gendered, and then presented them—as is any author’s privilege—from a subjective point of view. What authenticated that point of view (something especially important in Italian fashion right now) was its anchorage in Jean’s own identity as a Haitian-Italian.
As she said backstage: “In this collection, our bourgeois young lady made an inverse grand tour—the kind of cultural trip made in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. But here she starts from tropical destinations like French Polynesia and Haiti, and then she arrives in the Old Europe, which you can see through the still lifes inspired by the Dutch artistic tradition.”