The subject line that accompanied Vanessa Friedman’s ‘Open Thread’ column on Friday, November 13th, was “Let’s Talk about Cool.” Vanessa acknowledged that cool is an elusive element. It is highly subjective and means different things to different people. It’s one of those things that may be hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
Vanessa observed that in 2013, The Atlantic wrote an article entitled “Joe Biden Is Not Cool.” I would argue that 7 years later, the President-Elect, who has overcome his share of hardships along the way, assuredly qualifies as cool. Ms. Friedman ended the article by inviting her readers to weigh in on what they think qualifies as cool these days.
The pandemic is ruling our world right now, so, what immediately comes to my mind as the personification of cool, are Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the German-Turkish couple who are on the brink of claiming the first effective coronavirus vaccine. They are not interested in fame or fortune, and they ride everywhere on bikes. They are reportedly happiest working together in their white lab coats, even on their wedding day. Now, that is cool!
As it applies to fashion, the word cool implies a certain ambiguous “je ne sais quois”; being “of the moment” while somehow rising above it. Coco Chanel, Diana Vreeland, and Bill Cunningham are past fashion figures that are the real deal; forever cool. Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaia, and Roger Vivier are among those labels that remain cool regardless of who is at the creative helm. Phoebe Philo, who has not designed a collection since 2018, is still on our minds and highly influential. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Marine Serre, who is thriving despite the pandemic, according to WWD, is one of the new breed of “cool” designers. Marine focuses on innovation and sustainability, and the 28-year-old always finds new ways to recycle discarded materials. Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean–Raymond began challenging the fashion system long before Covid. Instead of 4 shows a year, the 33-year-old designer made the decision to stage only one. And, his presentations are bonafide ‘happenings’ that celebrate Black history, Black culture, fashion, and music.
Jil Sander’s approach to fashion design is inherently cool, modern, and right on the money. In a recent interview with Vanessa Friedman, Jil opined: “To me, it seems less important to express your sex than to show by the way you dress that you respect yourself.” She went on to say: “I am stupefied by the nostalgic turn fashion continues to take. Dressing in yesterday’s styles depresses our capacity to deal with present problems.” Touche! FYI, Jil’s recent collaboration with Uniqlo, which is completely interchangeable between the sexes, sold out in less than one day. I guess that’s not “cool” for those who missed out.
Meanwhile, Zara just launched a very Uniqlo + J-like “Concept” collection for men and women. It comprises well-priced, minimal wardrobe basics played out in a chic neutral palette of white, ecru, black, and navy. There are dark washed high waist baggy jeans, puffer jackets, boy coats, trench coats, relaxed pullovers, fitted knit dresses, and well-cut trousers, many of which are unisex and sized from XS-XXL.
Rick Owens and wife Michele Lamy are uber cool. So are Rick’s designs, which flout tradition, are instantly recognizable, and in a class of their own. Rick’s puffer coats are always exceptional, and he recently worked his magic on Moncler’s classic duvets.
The unisex Moncler + Rick Owens collaboration, which launched last month, highlights the designer’s signature stark gender-fluid shapes, exaggerated proportions, and architectural influence. Rick’s unique and sophisticated designs bring a distinctive touch to the otherwise sporty and casual.
Taking common elements and making them extraordinary is the utmost in cool. Take chains, for example. The market is flooded with iterations, but JW Anderson’s unisex chain mule loafer is one real standout. They were first seen in the JW Anderson fall 2020 menswear runway show and instantly became fall’s coolest “must-have” shoe.
The mules combine the comfort of a classic Birkenstock clog with something far more decorative and special. Also, they have a playful sensibility, which is Jonathan Anderson’s signature. Black leather is the most popular version (they are a favorite of Marc Jacobs). Still, the slipper-like loafers are available in ivory and brown leather and various muted suedes. They are priced at $640 and are available for both men and women on the JW Anderson website and e-commerce sites Mytheresa, Ssense, and Farfetch.
The new cool uniform is a crisp white shirt worn with cuffed black Bermudas. Roger Vivier’s Viv Rangers Patent Buckle Loafers on a chunky 2.5-inch heel are a sturdy update on the iconic Belle Du Jour pump and provide the perfect accent. The loafers sell for $1200, the Saint Laurent Bermudas are $950, and the perfectly cut crisp white shirt, $790, is from The Row. They are all available at bergdorfgoodman.com.
Treating sequins in an unprecious, offhanded way is very cool now. You don’t need a special occasion to wear unique pieces, even if you are just staying home. Junya Watanabe’s spring 2021 show, was exemplary. Instead of the sparkly embellishments looking garish, the overall effect is light, comfortable, and relaxed. One can imagine wearing many of these outfits for both day and evening, lounging on the sofa, hosting a socially distant party, heading out for a walk, or in the future, attending a gala. Simply brilliant!