The A-Z Of Fashion Month SS21
A is for... Audiences. The recent Spring/Summer 2021 shows were like none before them, so here we return with our Browns roundup of fashion month to make sense of it all. With social distancing rules, in-person audiences were a rarity, meaning brands got savvy about showing their new collections with a mix of ‘phygital’ (physical and digital) content.
B is for... Be real. The effects of quarantine comfort dressing on our wardrobes was a big talking point, but what to do when fashion runs on fantasy? Nobody was burying their head in sand but Molly Goddard, Simone Rocha and Dries Van Noten gave us a much-needed jolt of energy with optimistic collections full of colour and expressive volume. Those WFH joggers will pale in comparison.
C is for... Conversation, with a livestream, post-show Q&A between Miuccia Prada and new incumbent Raf Simons, a political and environmental symposium at the Roksanda presentation and video interviews with the models at Halpern, whose backgrounds ranged from train operating to nursing.
D is for... Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s lauded creative director, who went meta with a ‘Paris Fashion Week’ emblazoned hoodie in a collection complete with heels inspired by hotel slippers and one-size-fits-all shapes.
E is for... Edible fashion, with fruity-flavoured hues on the menu for SS21. Think fluorescent apple at Victoria Beckham, high-octane strawberry red at GmbH and purple grape at Tom Ford.
F is for... Fendi Fusilli, with a similarly delectable pre-show delivery of logo-shaped pasta served up to guests prior to the collection, which was inspired by family and the late Karl Lagerfeld’s vast array of bed linen.
G is for Gone to Earth - A proven mood-elevator, the great outdoors played host to wondrous Burberry and Erdem woodland shows along with a Jacquemus runway carved into a wheat field. Less pastoral but no less grounding was the Manhattan Bridge location of Eckhaus Latta, Balenciaga’s Paris set music video and Marni’s cross-continent livestream from cities around the globe.
H is for... Hobbies - Christopher Kane got painting over lockdown, the results of which formed the prints in a pigment-packed collection of brightly rendered dresses, shirts and jackets making any wearer a literal walking work of art.
I is for... Inner circle, where friends of the R13, Collina Strada and Paco Rabanne designers featured in their lookbooks and shows, with all duties going in-house and to the brands’ close knit communities - as much a nod to the teamwork involved in this season’s collections as to the restricted measures under which they were created. Over at Marni, designer Francesco Risso even painted words lifted from chats he’d had with his team over the past six months onto garments.
J is for... Jewellery. Fashion trends are more amorphous now, none more so than those for jewellery. Anything goes: heirloom-style earrings from Alessandra Rich, 2-inch thick chains at Givenchy and even a necklace with an in-built compass at Marine Serre.
K is for... Kitten heels. Not just your average shrunken stiletto, next season’s iterations come with an elongated silhouette and exaggerated detailing c/o Valentino, Kwaidan Editions and Prada.
L is for... Looking Glass - For those that can’t help checking themselves out in every reflective surface, there is now an easier option: glance down at your clothing. Mirror-finish fabrics were seen at Isabel Marant, where they came in shades of lilac, and Dries Van Noten and Acne Studios where they were juxtaposed with pared-back colours and crinkly textures.
M is for... Marionettes! The Moschino runway was staged entirely in miniature, with string-controlled puppets wearing gowns and tailoring that referenced the history of haute couture. Eviscerated frocks, seemingly sewn inside out and deconstructed suiting made up a collection that was both nostalgic and tongue-in-cheek. In gold damask and blue silks, it was a bit of fun when we all needed it most. Punch and Judy could never.
N is for... New Life - Breathing life into unused, deadstock and leftover fabrics is becoming an industry norm and we’re here for it. Brands from Chopova Lowena and Collina Strada (who pioneered the technique) to industry stalwarts like Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga and Marni looked to existing materials to lower the environmental impact of their collections, whilst Balmain used recycled denim across its denim-heavy show. What defines ‘luxury’ fashion and the trigger points of our desire for it have swiftly shifted; today we want brands to be responsible on our behalf as customers.
O is for... Over the top - Transparent overlay at Cecilie Bahnsen and Givenchy, hole-punched polos at Prada and off-kilter separates at Matty Bovan. Layering was key with sartorial strata of texture, colour and the skin beneath cleverly considered for full visual impact.
P is for... Prada. The most hotly anticipated show of the season, it saw the first collaboration between the legendary Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. Drawing on mutual design signatures including Miuccia’s own personal style, it featured A-line pleated skirts, slim-cut trousers, sleeveless tunics and reissued archival prints over voluminous coats. An exciting new beginning and a moment in fashion history.
Q is for... Quarry colours - Sandstone, marble, onyx and other stony-faced shades featured predominantly at Jacquemus, Rosetta Getty and Thom Browne.
R is for... Roots. Ricardo Tisci at Burberry returned to a childhood pastime of gardening with his mother, Salvatore Ferragamo designer Paul Andrew rewatched his favourite Alfred Hitchcock movies and Donatella built on the brand’s seminal ‘Trésor de la Mer’ collection for Versace. Looking back to move forward.
S is for... Serre, Marine - Apocalyptic but hopeful, sci-fi infused and honest… a complex and cerebral collection from Marine Serre whose message of sustainability is helping pave the way for an industry-wide shift (see ‘N’).
T is for... Time Off. There were some notable exceptions from the schedules, brands that either skipped this season or have chosen to show at other times of the year: Marc Jacobs, Saint Laurent and Gucci to name a few.
U is for... Unbuttoned (or buttoned up.) However you wear a cardigan, they were the easy throw-over outerwear at Erdem, Prada, Fendi and Batsheva. Grandfathers across the country are instantly á la mode.
V is for... Visage. After a 40 year hiatus, the runway return of 60’s supermodel Penelope Tree at Fendi heralded a season of exciting casting including a show of all ‘new faces’ at Prada and the stunning trio of Precious Lee, Jill Kortleve and Claire Alva at Versace.
W is for... Wallpaper - JW Anderson continued his ‘show in a box’ concept with a doorstep delivery containing wallpaper glue, a decorators brush and the SS21 collection printed out and ready to be pasted wherever you pleased. Continuing the brand’s codes of natural tones, handcrafted finishes and silhouettes not for the faint-hearted, the box also enclosed the sheet music for Tallis’s Spem in alium. A Tudor masterpiece requiring a choir of 40 singing independently and together at the same time - is there a better metaphor for what our communities should be aiming for right now?
X is for... X-Men - Collection reveals took a superpowered turn with Khaite, who used augmented reality to show their new season accessories floating telekinetically around your room.
Y is for... Your mouth, as in cover it up, wear a mask. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, designers like Richard Malone and Bethany Williams pivoted to sewing PPE for hospital workers, along with Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant of Coperni who shared instructional videos on how to make your own face coverings.
Z is for... Z-listers, or lack thereof. With a reduced, mostly digital schedule and less runway seating, we missed spotting those throwback stars or RHONY cast members appearing at shows… or was it them from RHONJ… no wait, it’s that one from RHOC?
Words by Ross Aston