Nobody Does It Like Paris!
A darkened room and strange, vaguely menacing flooring: Welcome to the Fall 2019 collections, which neared their gloomy, emo end this afternoon with Miuccia Prada’s showing for Miu Miu. This time, the black-walled corridors and felted carpet insulation led the way to a catwalk lined with illuminated photographs, video screens, and stacks of vintage televisions showing work by the young New Zealand–born, London-based artist Sharna Osborne. Disheveled teens in lingerie, blinking eyes, darkened windows, discarded Disney-theme toys, Dolly Parton, and roses, lots of roses: This is the bewitching mash-up of innocence and perversity, wonder, and loss, that speaks to fairy tales and allegories, and that has often defined the stubborn, soulful, and yet partial-to-sparkle Miu Miu girl.
Come Fall, that girl (or woman, although, warning, this is a collection that skews young) will wear a cape, be it tweed or crocheted, of faux leather or hearty canvas. It’s a diverse and plentiful assortment covering heritage, utility, artisanal, and evening; Miuccia Prada chose to highlight the cape because it is a garment that nods to both history and protection, and she sees in young people a desire to clothe themselves in something with meaning, given the perilous state of the world, and especially the environment.
And so, to stand tall in a profoundly harsh climate, a young person of today needs that swagger, as well as a floral backpack (trend item!), a baby doll or mini skater dress (loveliest in cherry blossoms), a chain mail collar (why not?), and a boot or sandal with a massive and humorously unsightly mountain of tread and sole. (These are the ugliest ugly shoes ever, and that’s a feat worthy of high praise in fashion land.) The stay-up tights are decorated with jewels and flowers, and there are glittery heels and velvet flats, all the touch points of the magpie Miu Miu wardrobe. The overall look is clever and romantic, and says something akin to this: I’ve been through the woods. I’ve gotten past the wolf. I like fairy tales, but I don’t live in one. I know the forest from the trees.
The sustainability issue has reached a tipping point. A quick pass through this year’s LVMH Prize showcase is proof of that: Most of the 20 young semifinalists are working with deadstock fabrics and materials that would otherwise be destroyed, or they are generally thinking along more earth-friendly lines. One is even constructing garments out of old airbags.
Stella McCartney is an industry leader on this subject—has been for years. But she’s never foregrounded her initiatives on the runway quite like she did today. To start, there was her rainforest conservation project. The idea is to dedicate a tree to a loved one and, in the process, raise awareness of the at-risk Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia, where many of the 150 million trees cut down each year to make fabric are logged. Love messages were printed on the catwalk, and they are also visible on Instagram via the hashtag #thereshegrows. It’s McCartney’s answer to the Ice Bucket Challenge, only its beneficiaries are elephants, rhinos, orangutans, and tigers.
According to a press release, the viscose McCartney uses for her collections is harvested from certified sustainably managed forests in Sweden. But that’s just the beginning of her work around the topic this season. She used strips of vintage tees as if they were yarn to knit a multicolor sack dress, and fabric from previous collections to create the quilted details that decorated the yokes or bodices of easy-to-wear frocks. The show-closing coat pieced together from those past-season materials was a real stunner. Cheeky jewelry, like shoulder-duster earrings made from paperclips and a long necklace embellished with rubber bands, reinforced McCartney’s endeavors around upcycling, as did a monumental woven belt made by the noted textile artist Sheila Hicks.
Rounding out her collection, McCartney addressed tailoring of the laidback and more polished variety, from an army surplus all-in-one to a form-fitting blazer tucked into high-waisted cargo pants.
A classic couture sensibility took the upper hand in the richly elaborated creations incorporating embroidery, printing and jacquard techniques in the surface plays of the garments at Shiatzy Chen.
Designer Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia’s recent shift to a younger direction was less obvious here. Sometimes the styling, like layering a harness over a white lace dress and finishing it off with chunky boots, felt a little awkward.
By contrast, a classic couture sensibility took the upper hand in the richly elaborated creations incorporating embroidery, printing and jacquard-weaving techniques. Surface interest ran high.
A romantic Victoriana vibe also came through strongly, including in the blouses with frilly upturned collars — paired with a long white pleated skirt with a school-girl feel on one look — and black embellished dresses, which were pretty.
Spins on the house’s roots included a short take on the cheongsam, a robe coat wrapped with a large silver belt, and a silhouette pairing a gleaming ivory top evoking an antique folkloric Chinese jacket, worn over a shirt with a Mao collar and shorts, all in the same pale palette.
As a metallic gold sheepskin jacket with pale pink cuffs was also part of this eclectic collection.
Layering was at the root of Chitose Abe’s Sacai process this season. Of late, the designer’s signature hybridizations have been asymmetrical; her garments have been different from side to side, which is a whimsical but quite demanding proposition for the wearer. For Fall, Abe took up
volume and proportion play. It made for her most winning and wearable collection in some time.
Backstage, Abe said she started the work by thinking about the clothes she wore when she was young; she liked to layer Ralph Lauren’s kids’ button-downs over vintage dresses. On the runway today, that small-over-large idea translated into a double-breasted herringbone coat clasped by a cargo-shirt corset, or a generous khaki trench made snug through the chest by a shrunken surplus green vest. Rather ironically, the young-girl experiments resulted in quite couture-like silhouettes. Still, what will appeal about these pieces is their practicality. A shrunken cable-knit puffer-parka combination is grandly statement-making, but it won’t fail to keep you warm.
It was a point Abe said she was eager to reinforce. Her print was based on the floor of the studio where Jackson Pollock made his famous drip paintings. “To most people, Sacai has an abstract philosophy,” she said through an interpreter.
Still, it was the outerwear that really connected. The marvel of Abe’s Sacai designs is, as particular as they are, that they don’t date. A Fall 2014 jacket, for example, looks as vital now as it did five years ago. That makes Sacai a clever investment.