When a model hit a wall on Rick Owens' runway today, her head shrouded in a nimbus of mohair, I couldn't help thinking about that Chanel couture show back in 1994, when Karl Lagerfeld sent out supermodels wearing face-covering feathered headgear that made many of them stumble. Marion Hume, then the fashion critic of the Independent, wrote a scathing review titled Not a Way to Treat a Lady. Well, that was a while ago. Fashion was different, and so was fashion criticism.
Even after all these years, masking still feels esoteric. Yet, on Owens' runway, the trick looked almost sedate. That's because he's been staging a string of exceptional shows with outstandingly original ideas that have set a landmark in fashion history.
The invitations for the show were individually hand-painted by the artist Gill Button, whom Van Noten discovered on Instagram — over 1000 ink drawings, all showing the face of his season’s muse, the eccentric Italian heiress Marchesa Luisa Casati, were lovingly drawn in four days. And they, in turn, inspired the show’s heavy black eye make-up that every model sported on the catwalk. It was a meta-moment, which was underlined in the soundtrack, driven by a recording of a model's heartbeat from the previous night's rehearsal.
This referential approach is nothing new at Van Noten. We would happily watch the master churn out variations of the same collection over and over, as his vision is always so startlingly beautiful, but each season he seems to stretch himself, top himself, and casually nail all of the trends in his own inimitable way. The prints were informed by stories of Casati walking the streets with tethered cheetahs and attending parties with live snakes as jewelry. The silhouettes, too, were achingly chic, with Van Noten twisting the current trend of genderless fashion and recalling the classic Victor Victoria line: “I'm a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.” A feat that only he could pull off so elegantly.
John Galliano is still working out a shared vocabulary with Maison Margiela. More and more, however, the emphasis is on Galliano's familiar tropes — his eccentric women rather than Margiela's studied anonymity.
As with the latest couture collection, Artisanal, Galliano cobbled together seemingly found objects and thrift-store detritus to give the appearance of someone who'd gone through a hardscrabble stint, only to emerge victorious. Sound familiar? Colorful bangles, puffy iridescent bits, army-surplus scraps, and assorted knits were fused together in magpie fashion, with a sense of raggedy refinement and willful humor.
A sparkly nightgown attached to the front of a tank? Sure. A white shirt worn backward? Yes, yes, yes. A single puffy glove? Obviously.
Anything is possible in Jacquemus's surreal world, where toying around with perception is always the goal. While not on a par with great shape-shifters of our day, e.g. Viktor & Rolf or Comme des Garçons, Jacquemus' misshapen, mismatched, misbehaved creations can still stand on their own.
Jeremy Scott said his Moschino collection today had to do with medieval Dominican monks who, in their zeal to stop the Renaissance, burned every item of sinful beauty they could get their hands on. As if smoldering dresses weren't enough, he stoked the fiery motif for its full potential — cigarettes, candle chandeliers, and even a bad-girl biker theme. Cartoonish and madcap, sure, but at least he's bringing some high-camp heat to the rather staid Milan shows.
For her women's collection today, Miuccia Prada pursued her fascination with art appropriation, historical ambiguity, and gender swapping.
An avowed patron of the arts, she didn't have to go very far for those fantastic layered landscapes and filmic freeze-frames. The latter, prints by Berlin artist Christophe Chemin, were a carryover from Prada's most recent men’s collection — in the same venue, no less, a custom-built agora.
The mensy looks, too, hailed from the men's side. The sailor caps, the meandering thread, the oversized plaid overcoats all seemed to suggest travel through space and time — a worldly message driven home by charm bracelets and necklaces dangling with little souvenirs and diary books.
Gucci's new creative director Alessandro Michele isn't afraid of a little color, or a lot. Or shapes. Or materials. He utilizes them wildly, boldly, yet judiciously when called for. All of which makes for a sensuous bounty — a pleasure to watch season after season.
Perhaps his largest lineup to date, fall saw more of Michele's eclectic characters: his cocktail-party girls, gala-goers, retro-diggers, and his mousy, studious types. Cascades of rainbow chiffon, piles of brocades, layers of sequins, and a ring on every finger (as the designer himself wears) fit together like pieces from different jigsaw puzzles — mismatched yet so right. This is the art of randomness.
Christopher Kane likes to be boldly unpredictable. In recent seasons he's drawn inspiration from car crashes and outsider art, to name but two of his many creative forays. But he really outdid himself for fall, an unapologetic ode to faded glamour, decayed beauty, the lost and not found.
Here was thrift-store dressing hoarded to its logical conclusion. Corrugated beige leather resembled cardboard boxes; time-lapse photos of decomposing flowers were appliqued throughout; embroideries — some made by the house of Lesage — were piled high; and mink was lined with reflective fabrics. And Stephen Jones whipped up clear plastic headscarves à la Grey Gardens that would give Little Edie pause.