As is in the business of show, fashion is following an everything must go on mentality, proposing reasonable and creative alternatives to the runway show that has quite honestly been needing a resuscitation from tradition as of late.
If you come to think about it, fashion has been right smack in the eye of the raging and rabid storm that is the coronavirus. Just as it was starting to unleash its fury to the rest of the world, it had already been quietly trailing the fashion capitals from eventual crisis hotspots such as New York all the way to Italy. Threatening to upend the typical grandeur of the runway presentations, several shows had to be scaled down last minute, front row mainstays decided to skip schedules entirely, and face masks were being handed out ahead of the standard press kits to go with their typically over-the-top looks. It was a sign of things to change significantly, and even then at the precipice of uncertainty and overturned economic climates, the industry coddled in the bigger, better, and bolder, as well as of the new, now, and next, had already begun to take a long and hard look at how things will never be the same again.
It wouldn’t be too long until productions came to a complete stop, the supply and demand chains to be caught in a knot, and the glitz and glamour of the runway shows to fizzle out. With brands and houses recalibrating their efforts to stay afloat and remain relevant, the cautiously optimistic wondered: What would happen of the travelling circus that is the month-long fashion extravaganza?
Already an exhausted tangent of the business of fashion, runway shows has been faced with many challenges over the course of the past few years. From justifying its purpose in the machinery to the speed of social media, it has managed to keep up, but not without heavy breathing and shots of spasms on its sides. So, in an odd twist of faith, the pandemic served as the equalizer that sought out changes from a system that was floundering. Without missing a beat, however, fashion was more than eager to be up to the task of reinventing the spectacle. Even in the context of limits, the clear indication was that when backed into a corner, something brilliant and creative could spring forth from the circumstance.
With the new season in full swing, which is now being rebranded as seasonless and will follow its own pace and schedule moving forward, the endeavors formulated in lockdown are now coming to the light. Unlike its exclusive past, the resilience of fashion proved to be fortuitous, as it is currently being democratized for a wider audience to appreciate. Whether it is digital fashion week in Milan or more intimate presentations akin to the salon-type runway shows of its heyday, brands have also taken to producing visceral short films, detailed documentaries, and itinerant trade executions.
There’s nothing wrong with tradition, but the times demand a shift in significance. Let’s face it, the world is not what it used to be, and we cannot stay stuck in the times, even if some would scoff and say it’s just fashion. It was about time for reinvention, and if the runway is a start, then who we cannot wait for the rest of the industry to follow suit. It may have taken quite the nudge, but hey, it’s progress.
With the impossibility of real-life runway shows in the middle of the pandemic, the irreverent Jonathan Anderson had to get creative at Loewe. For its Spring/Summer 2021 men’s collection, the Spanish luxury brand packed up a sensorial experience in a classic archive box, an almost non-descript in textured canvas, which opens up to a tangible exploration of the creative process from inspirations and ideas to the show setting.
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Packaged as a show-in-box, the diminutive travelling expo crafted in collaboration with M/M (Paris) is a tactile time capsule that is neatly layered with a letter from Anderson himself, an inspiration booklet, the key looks and bags in 360-degree view boxed format, postcards, perforated pop-up paper, real swatches for reference, a texture card reproduction of the woven leather of a signature top, a pattern of one of the key pieces, a recreation of the imaginary set for the show, as well as of a portable cardboard record player that encourages the simulation of the soundtrack registered at the Loewe Getafe Factory.
Of course, the star of the enriched experience is the collection, which delves into the story of sinuous swerves, manifesting itself in a poetry of curves, swings, and loops. Flowing through the rounded out realization, the playful imprint of Jonathan Anderson builds from the ironies abstraction and utilitarianism, offering a selection of looks that takes on blown up volume, ovoid shapes, and intrusions of webbing and weaving. The whimsy is not lost as the rest of the pieces feature extreme knits, ruched hems, and parachute details, all circling back to the dynamics of fluidity. Shining light on one of its key strengths, which are leatherware and bags, Loewe engages us even more with its new collection. From slip-on loafers, flow runners, drawstring backpacks, a quirky pineapple basket-woven tote, canvas bucket bags, knotted slings, and of course, the multifaceted Puzzle bag in multiple delectable colorways.
Embedded in its DNA, there is a bursting of jolly and jubilant spirit in the new collection of Loewe, which is a much-needed space to breathe in such turbulence and turmoil.
“It’s a finger painting technique. I just wear my gloves, and I have my colors, which will be umber brown and blue, and then I have some yellow and red, and I do magic with it,” explains Ghanaian-born and Vienna-trained artist, Amoako Boafo, as he takes us through his visceral and vibrant body of work in an illuminating behind-the-scenes look at the story of the current season of Dior. Pulsating with an electrifying energy from the canvas, his intuitive finger strokes are hypnotic to the gaze, which manifests itself in a shock of color that draws you in closer at a glance. “The people that I paint varies from friends to family, to people that I admire, to people that create space for other people to coexist in it.”
This season, Creative Director Kim Jones whisks us away to his formative youth, one that traces its origins across the continent of Africa in cities such as Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ghana, which was the seedbed not only for his apparent artistry, but of culture and connection as well. “I really, really, really love his work, and I wanted to work with an African artist for a long time, because I lived in Africa for a long time, and African art is something that is important to me,” he details. “And when we were in Ghana, we saw a beautiful new work of his, which had a guy in an ivy shirt. And that was the starting point for the ideas of taking the textures and the prints and the patterns from his work, and the colors, and really turning that into the portraits coming to life.”
The result was a portrait of an artist and his point-of-view brought to life in clothes. Far from just a hackneyed attempt of slapping on compelling artworks on high-fashion looks, this was an almost spiritual embodiment of the passion of Amoaka Boafa through the lens of Kim Jones. A navigation of identity and perceptions of blackness through Boafo’s venerated Black Diaspora, this couldn’t have been a more timely realization of expressive cultural fusion and deep-seated histories. A moving collection, there is a sense of surrealism that threads through the pieces, from the foliate textures in embellished motifs and singular placements, ranging from a saturating spectrum of blue, coral, green, and a jolt of fluoro-yellow. The rigor of tailoring is ever present, with its precision offsetting the dialogue of painted canvas, jacquard, and ribbed knit. There is also a presence of athleticism and function, as seen in the geometrical cargo shorts, parkas, suede bombers.
“Fashion inspires my work, and so, I tend to look at characters that have that sense of style. So, the interesting part for me working with a fashion house is how they were able to transfer my finger painting techniques onto the clothes,” says Boafo of the coming together of his bold strokes with the brave proposition of Dior Men. “We looked at the idea of focusing on his life and his subjects and his portraits, creating something that is very Dior but a portrait of an artist that I greatly admire.” The result was nothing short of a magnum opus, a peak of ebullient expression that furthers the claim that there is no greater emotive sway than that of art.
Taking its penchant for voyage closer to heart and quite literally, Louis Vuitton is upping and leaving its Parisian typical and setting sail for a great deal of Asia in a month’s time. Steered by its captain, the eponymous Virgil Abloh, the brand is making a departure from what it has done in the past, this time, approaching the discipline of fashion and festivities from an interdisciplinary, vibrant perspective. “This next show is probably the biggest leap that I’ve made in terms of proposing a new system, how it lives and operates,” he says. “It’s probably the most fully packaged from the clothes itself and the craftsmanship, to the things you’ll see with the films and how it activates.”
To illustrate, Virgil Abloh called on a colorful crew of animated characters to help ship out his Spring/Summer 2021 fare ahead of its proposed runway presentation, which he is calling, Message In A Bottle. In the Adult Swim-like drawn on short, The Adventures of Zoooom With Friends, the ragtag crew helps transport a crate from the legendary Asnières workshop north of Paris to Port Neuf before hiding as stowaways before departure. Set to the smooth and swaggy sound stylings, this is the introdcution to the next step of Louis Vuitton amidst the looming crisis. A hybrid of different disciplines, the future of fashion for the storied heritage brand is an imprint of how the world thinks, feels, and consumes, which its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Burke, concurs. “Excitement has to come from that element of being live in front of a live audience, but it’s more modern to not have a hierarchy as to who gets to see it,” he says in a statement to WWD. “The fundamental idea is that we’re getting rid of the straitjacket the industry has been operating under. You have to bring back fun because the last time we were together, it was sad and deadly.”
Apart from the kitschy, acid-tripped visuals, Louis Vuitton is taking a more conscious and mindful approach with a collection that also marks a new chapter for Louis Vuitton in terms of sustainability, with upcycling used in four different ways including recycled material, looks repeated from its Fall/Winter 2020 runway show, looks created during lockdown with recycled materials, as well as new looks created from existing ideas. Docking on its first stop in Shanghai on August 6 for a live runway show featuring an all-Chinese cast, it will then make its way to Tokyo for its final destination for the season. “By taking his show to sea, Virgil Abloh embraces the global community of Louis Vuitton and meets his clients in their own parts of the world. Throughout its voyage–which may add destinations along the way–the collection will transform in an evolving exchange across cultures and nations, reads a statement from Louis Vuitton. “It is a free and inclusive dialogue between the House and its audiences, which transcends the traditional rules of fashion and seasonality.”
We’re ready to go all aboard, Virgil Abloh. Sound off that fog horn, because as it stands, the rest of the world awaits of this mysterious message in a bottle.