There’s always a disconnect between reality and the runway, but it is much more exaggerated this season. There’s been an ongoing discourse about how much the world, and all of us, have changed since the advent of COVID, and how that might affect fashion.
Yet, many designers are not focused on moving the needle forward or creating clothing for our “new reality”, unless of course, you’re looking at reality from the viewpoint of Zendaya, Beyonce, Duo Lipa, or the Kardashians. I hope to be inspired but tend to reject much of what I see. Maybe it’s because I’m jaded?
Many designers appeal to the young generation by sexing it up, with the results often being disastrous. They are trying too hard to be edgy, au courant, or avant-garde. So much is overthought, gimmicky, costumey, and unnecessarily complicated. It is all too exhausting. There are parts of Louis Vuitton that look better geared for a Halloween party than real life. Indeed, Comme des Garcons almost looks ‘normcore’ this season.
Speaking of complicated; tailoring, peplums, transparency, corsetry, and ruffles, sometimes all showed up in the same outfit at Givenchy. Matthew Williams, who first caught the eyes of the fashion world with his label, 1017 ALYX 9SM, has yet to find his footing at Givenchy. He is all over the place.
Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia is undeniably brilliant. But, Demna is at his best when he goes into his Haute Couture mode and channel Cristobal’s voluminous shapes and magnificent fabrications. Unisex streetwear is another story. The oversized coats, hoodies, distressed denim, elongated black tunics, always look the same. And, they hardly warrant the high price tags that go along with them.
And sorry to say, I cannot warm up to Virginie Viard’s Chanel. It is hit and miss, and I often feel it just does not look luxurious. Another once-iconic Parisian label that has all but lost its identity is Lanvin, designed by Bruno Sialelli in 2019. Sialelli is the fourth designer to take the helm since Alber Elbaz was unceremoniously let go in 2015.
It’s easy to be wowed by Rick Owens’ strangely beautiful artistry and the creative experimentation of Jonathan Anderson at Loewe. But let’s face it, not many women are going to run around town in sheer tattered spider web sweaters, body distorting clothing with oversized gilded breastplates and ill-placed projectiles. I sure won’t. And really, I need a dress with a pronounced hole in it, like I need a hole in my head. So, what are we going to wear?
Like many other women, I am looking for those perfect elevated wardrobe basics exemplified by The Row. I want to look chic and pulled together in an easy, effortless way. My taste is classic with a touch of boyishness, and I am always drawn to tailoring. And after the craziness of this past month with so much that is demeaning, objectifying, overdone, or just plain awful, classic is precisely what’s starting to look better than ever to me.
The program notes that accompanied Tom Ford’s over-the-top spring 2022 runway show held during NYFW had this pronouncement: “Increasingly, people don’t dress in fashion for the day but only for the night. Or for social media. Instagram may be what saves fashion in the end. People now seem only to get dressed up in a major way for a red carpet or to fill their pages with shots of themselves in powerfully stylish clothes.”
That is a preposterous assertion. My philosophy and I dare say that of many others, is more in keeping with Bill Cunningham’s assessment: “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” A daily uniform, which allows you to feel pulled together without spending hours doing so, is the modern basis for that armor. It’s really not that complicated!
I keep going back to an article written by Guy Trebay, “The Uniform Cool of Charlie Watts” August 25, 2021. It speaks to me. In Trebay’s discourse, he notes that the late Rolling Stones drummer cultivated and perfected an elegant, serene and impeccable personal style. His signature uniform of Savile Row suits and custom shirts differed markedly from that of his bandmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and it set him apart.
Having that rigorous and finely honed sense of style and sticking to it, regardless of what designers are proposing or others are wearing, is even more critical and appealing now. Nili Lotan is a well-priced label that consistently delivers chic wardrobe basics.
Coincidentally, Miu Miu, easily one of the best and most directional collections of the season (along with Prada), is an ode to uniform dressing. Held on the final day of Paris Fashion Week, Miuccia calls it “Basic Instincts.” The designer takes unisex, collegiate, preppy, wardrobe basics – chinos, button-down shirts, carcoats, pleated shirts, cabled sweaters then subverts them by deconstructing and tweaking proportions and chopping off the fabric to reveal a lot of skin. There are also couture-like heavily embroidered shift dresses, skirt suits, and some fantastic leather separates.
It is often provocative and sexy, but in a way that is boyish, wholesome, and fresh, not raunchy. Miuccia accessorizes with black or gray knee highs, penny loafer flats, and pointy-toed penny loafer, kitten heel slingback pumps.
With its cool offhanded perversion of classics, offbeat combinations, and androgyny, not to mention the great camel coats and chino trousers, Miu Miu conjures up images of Phoebe Philo at Celine. Philo, who admittedly embraced an unapologetically tomboyish style (I don’t think I ever saw a picture of her wearing a skirt), is, of course, returning to fashion with an independent namesake house in January 2022. Boy, can we use some of Phoebe’s magic now?