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KNOTORYUS Best Of Womenswear Month AW19

KNOTORYUS Best Of Womenswear Month AW19

Another fashion month has wrapped, with a grosgrain ribbon on top. New York, missing the star power of certain players, had moments of (unexpected) lustre. London came out swinging. Milan did Milan, baby. Then Paris turned solemn after the death of an icon. The entire world did an about-turn and looked in, culminating in a chalet-studded finale, a moment of silence, a single white rose and a thousand think pieces pro and con. The next gen of LVMH hopefuls was revealed. A young Antwerp duo made their grand debut. A few major leaguers started competing in the Offense Olympics, recovering with promising projects (you’re still sitting this season out Burberry, Gucci and Prada - I don’t make the rules). Tailoring clambered back on top, favouring a bourgeois, big shouldered energy. At this point, February seems aeons ago. Time is an illusion waving sequined fabrics in our faces until it reveals The Ferryman leaning on his oar ready to guide us across The Styx. That took a dark turn. Back to fashion!

Christopher Kane

We all know kink-shaming ended when Walter officially eradicated the notion for AW18. It’s uplifting to see Christopher Kane affirm just that via his latest collection! London shines brightest when Kane is on his A-game and AW19 delivered. The Kane siblings – Christopher founded the label with his longtime creative partner and sister Tammy – sought to explore and uplift the most obscure fetishes out there. “We always do sexy in a different way from other people. Not obviously, but there’s always an undertone,” Christopher told Vogue about the-other-CK’s foray into people’s proclivities for balloons, rubber, food and liquids. Sometimes they took the direct route (through slogans like “Looner” and “Rubberist”) and sometimes less clearly so (oil spill droplet prints, rubber detailing) but always kept it elegantly kinky throughout. The collection excelled through the designer’s deft use of latex finishings - from elbow patches to pocket flaps - deep necklines and lace dresses encroached on by silk fabric like starved Rorschach prints. A hard-edged black rubber mackintosh was exquisitely juxtaposed by a precious blush pink duchesse satin coat and flouncy mini dresses with buoyant crinolines. Single lines of crystals clung from several pieces like decadent phone wires while balloon prints floated on dresses like iMessage birthday effects. Energising!

Jonathan Anderson and his team are indefatigable, so it seems. Between running his own namesake brand and creative directing Loewe (we see you in these shots next to Anna Wintour, LVMH Chairman & CEO Sidney Toledano), Anderson also oversees global collaborations with UNIQLO, Converse, Gilbert & George and more. Sleep is a social construct! As one of LFW’s marquee shows now, JW Anderson came with a dreamy vision for autumn. The cloudlike carpet lifted up the women striding forth in creations spilling over with fabric, from a taffeta polka dot bubble dress, square-shouldered jackets, gowns featuring mega-magnified looped chiffon stitches and gold link accessories, chunky knits, shirt dresses with panel detailing, oversized belts and kimono styles. Tulle trailed behind strappy sandal heels. A grand puce pink tassel dress was complimented by mature balloon-sleeved raincoats and tweed coats with capes attached. It was the height of sophistication and tailored to a tittle, uniting masc-femme tropes in a single piece. An elevated collection, literally so if you look at the hats. The instant appeal didn’t stop in London however, over in Paris at Loewe (lower carousel) the frenzy mounted even further. Anderson showed an instantly much-loved collection of simple silhouettes that magnified craftwork. Miniature Medieval and Renaissance portraits hung on the walls, drawing your eye in like the details on the runway. Every blouse, sleeve, neckline, hem and fabric was modernity epitomised.

 

Mary Katrantzou has made her name working around specific themes per collection and twisting them every which way through her signature blend of jubilant colour schemes, eye-catching prints and rich fabrics. For AW19, perhaps after watching a re-run of The Last Airbender, Katrantzou was compelled by the elements of nature. Earth, air, fire, water – only one of which you could safely expose your gorgeous Mary Katrantzou demi-couture to. Giant ruffles & ostrich feathers sprouted from coats and dresses like Gaia herself declared it to be so. Sequin-smothered gowns featured psychedelic collage visuals of nature – seemingly selected by an auntie on Facebook with a penchant for face-numbing motivational quotes. Fire and ice swirled together around the body like dark sorcery. The only word that springs to mind? *Monique Heart pitch* stunning!

‘Staying home’ was the theme for Vaquera AW19 and all I can say is: mood for life. The topic is hot with millennials who frankly don’t have a dime to spend outside of the homes they don’t own, so here’s to that! This ode to domesticity translated into muted colours, sensible shoes, models storming down the runway in everything from a starched button-down with built-in bra to a pussy bow pink satin outfit, a denim trouser skirt, granny curtain-style draping, tasseled trousers and a Peter Pan collar pillowcase dress. The tailoring is sharper than ever and their “WHY” monogram is certainly a future classic. Vaquera keeps pushing ahead.

Love looks good on Marc Jacobs. His most recent collection made people feel renewed excitement for the brand – which is 25+ years old at this point. One can’t help but wonder if his 2018 engagement provided the juice for a memorable show that was buoyed by great volumes and inflated proportions. We saw dresses fanning out through cutter knife-surviving tulle, a bubble bolero, fascinating Stephen Jones hats, tasseled scarves, voluminous coats and capes, A-line skirts and a glittery Prince of Wales suit. A literal burst of fresh air was blown into these garments by way of crinolines and eyes lit up witnessing a canary silk moiré gown on the season’s standout star, Adut Akech Bior. Christy Turlington closed the show, 27 years after walking in Marc’s Perry Ellis grunge classic. O tempora o mores. More Marc like this, please.

The intellectual and creative meet so perfectly in Grace Wales Bonner’s take on black masculinity. Anchoring the AW19 show was the designer’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery exhibition “A Time for New Dreams” (go see it before March 17), which merges music, fashion, art and design with the literary work Wales Bonner has been entrenched in. “Ben Okri and Ishmael Reed fully shaped my ideas about African spirituality, mysticism, and magic. It’s like a call and response. The new things that can come out of that dialogue have been so interesting”, the designer noted to Vogue. That influence came out loud and clear in a football shirt / tabard spelling out Ishmael Reed’s full name in a royal purple. Black spiritualism and HBCU history meshed via letterman jackets interspersed with voodoo tokens and feathers peeping out of hems and adorning tuxedo jackets as jewellery. A big tweed coat featured lining referencing the designer’s father’s homeland of Jamaica. The leather footwear was custom-made by Manolo Blahnik. The black experience is in the genesis, warp and weft of these clothes and it’s a delight to witness.

A Telfar show is no mere fashion show, it’s an EXPER-T-IENCE. New York’s Irving Plaza lit up with revelers as Telfar Clemens’ most devoted got together for a fashion-show-cum-mosh-pit situation. Inspired by the much-discussed Off-Broadway “Slave Play”, Clemens poured his thoughts on race in America into Black cowboy staples. Think boot-cut trousers, Western Americana vegan leather illusion-chap jeans and big buckle belts, sweaters with fringes and images of black women in riding gear.  Clemens came out wearing a Black Lives Matter tee, of which all proceeds go to the organization. As Solange has decreed and @blackgirlsincowboyhats reinforced, there’s nothing quite like that Black yeehaw energy. Though seemingly paradoxical, it’s very much real life. While punk band Ho99o9 blasted forth and Oyinda performed, the crowd ate this new collection up. Telfar is here to stay, buckle up.

Central Saint Martins alumnus Daniel Lee made his debut for Bottega Veneta and Milan took note. Coming in hot – but under the radar – from Céline, Lee made sure to retain the heritage deeply woven into the leather goods stalwart’s DNA, but added his own flavour. That leather would become the leitmotiv came as no surprise, but the way Lee handled the tricky material proved most deft. A lush quilted puffer coat paraded alongside a stark leather tank dress, laser-cut leather linked together adorning outerwear and skirts, biker looks appeared alongside cutout two-layer dresses with gold chain belt finishings. That double layering returned in several pieces, with trailing sleeves and arched shoulder lines providing futurist fuel on top of stomp-happy boots. It was a lot, but had chutzpah at its core and should push the house in a fresh direction.

Just when you think Glenn Martens and his small team of seven have hit their stride (January’s splendid Pitti Uomo presentation comes to mind), they layer a dollop of greatness on top. Because they can, continuously so. Complemening the beauty of the SS19 womenswear collection, the AW19 show didn’t dial down the chicness. Corduroy spaghetti straps, fake fur and tapestry scarves trailed looks with satin skirts made from deconstructed pants. Accordion bags swung as quilted strips worked together to form a trellis skirt and two-piece look. There were cleavage-skimming balloon dresses and double-layered shirts. Crushed velvet and peak-lapel long coats. A lot of look to be here for.  

Singing in unison with the AW19 men’s collection, Dries Van Noten kicked off his most recent women’s show with a pointed finger to tailoring. “Look at all of this and eat it. “ None shall protest, because the grey pantsuits, puffer stole and charcoal pinstriped jacket and trouser combinations – going all the way down to the matching heels – were as on point as ever. Then, something else blossomed. Photographs of flowers from Dries Van Noten’s exquisite garden (co-created by landscape architect Erik Dhont and garden architect Piet Oudolf, inspired by botanist Jelena De Belder) sprouted forth on the clothing. Picking the flowers in October 2018, Team Dries printed these blooms as they were onto the fabrics - shadows, imperfections, blackened leaves, spots and all. Lifelike. There was double-layered printing on both a veil and its underlaying piece, creating optical challenges. Sumptuous coats and shifts alternated with surprising faux furs. Yellow leaves fell on a satin coat. This was a show for Dries acolytes to run their fingers through and envision every single occasion they could wear each piece to, a complete experience.

Like a dab of toner to the temple after a busy day, AW19 Margiela wipes the slate clean. SS19 couture was all systems go, an enveloping blanket of print. This time around, John Galliano sent a beautiful line-up of outerwear down a white hall. Coats, skirt suits, cinched jackets, everything deconstructed, reconfigured, mesmerizing. Tailoring is the vibe du jour, that much is clear, and Maison Margiela offer their take on the concept as they only can. The non-binary casting, large student intern presence in the Margiela studio, John Galliano’s masterful restraint when necessary all stitches together in a collection begging to be touched. With consent only, of course, my Margiela matelassé puffer coat doesn’t suffer fools easily.

The eighties will never die. It’s all in the shoulders at Saint Laurent this season and AW19 doubled down hard on the power dressing, with Anthony Vaccarello and his team spending 6 months on landing the proportions of the shoulder pads. Who is this Saint Laurent woman, exactly? “She’s not making war; she’s not a combatant. But she is really strong; she’s fearless.” And she’s willing to shell out for tiny shorts and dotted stockings, tuxedo jackets, bead-heavy evening jackets, knee boots, cutout cocktail dresses and sheer gowns, all with matching menswear. And just when your friends - and Insta-fans - think you’re done stunting, you can flick a switch and floor them with the neon extravaganza you’ve been saving up for when the blacklights hit. With Hedi’s Céline taking a more vintage bourgeois turn this season, it seems the lane has been cleared for Vaccarello to party. For now!

D-day came for Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, as they presented their first womenswear collection for Nina Ricci in Paris. Longtime KNOTORYUS readers have been able to follow the ascent of BOTTER throughout these past years, as the designers went from creating Antwerp Fashion Department buzz to industry grants and now old world maison artistic directors. With carte blanche in hand, Botter and Herrebrugh took their time to research Nina Ricci and work on their own codes for this new era. The tailoring was omnipresent and sharp, going from couture-like shapes using gossamer-thin organza and monochrome halter gowns to more industrial metal grommet detailing and sportswear cording completed by logo turtlenecks. The towering cloche hats - the dernier cri accessory of the 1920s - brought an instant recognition factor, which a debut show packed into a high-drama fashion week schedule really needs, frankly. This is not the wispy faerie or towering glamazon of Theyskens-era Nina Ricci and some might have preferred just that, but it should be nothing less than fascinating to see where these two take the house next.

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The teaser videos featuring the stunning and smart “Pose” actor/model Indya Moore (get your high fashion things, Ms Moore!) set the tone with a sense of humour perhaps previously unassociated with LV womenswear. The show’s set was everything-boggling, fully inspired by the iconic Centre Pompidou. This was Louis Vuitton “geolocated”, inspired by the streets - most specifically those surrounding the Pompidou in the expressive Beaubourg quartier. Nicolas Ghesquière saw, drew and created looks for women inspired by subculture tribes of the pre-internet world. Unleashing full armour for the 2k19 woman, a patchwork of patterns, 80s belted waists, punk detailing, Damier check skirts, striking lines and big shoulders, this collection was perhaps most efficiently modelled by a frontrow buckling with celebrity brand ambassadors, including Jaden & Willow Smith (in thigh-high Arclights), Alicia Vikander, Laura Harrier and Indya Moore.

Kei Ninomiya is one of the most thoughtful, deliberate designers working today. Meeting Rei Kawakubo in 2008 during summer job interviews while studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp Fashion Department was the turning point for the designer. He took a job at Comme des Garçons and never looked back. Then he branched out on his own wit that Kawakubo stamp of approval - potent because it’s doled out most sparingly. Which also means: no limits. “At Comme des Garçons no one has ever said to me, ‘You can’t make this, because it will be hard to sell.”, Ninomiya shared recently. For AW19, Ninomiya took the concept of the rose and looked at it from every possible angle. A master of complex, darkly romantic, highly skilled design, his latest show spun out into pure poetry. The honeycomb coats, ruched leather gloves, leather wicker effect, rose-pricked wigs by Azuma Makoto, no-stitch rivet detailing, biker jackets and dusty pink puffs, exploding petal dress, padded leather apron dress. I could go on. This was a heady re-conceptualization of a womenswear trope few could improve upon. Rei knows what’s good.

AW19 gave us Demna Gvasalia’s view on the Paris streets, his ode to the Balenciaga 2K19 customer stepping out to wear out their credit cards’ magnetic strips. Clearing away all of the background noise, Gvasalia and his models – showing 109 looks in total – showed us the full spectrum of the season’s mens- and womenswear in a fell swoop. Deepening the house’s use of computer-generated moulding and fabric techniques, the show felt very stripped back for Gvasalia. The pinched shoulders also felt a stitch too 2018 Y/Project for absolute comfort, but the attention paid to the construction and tailoring of all of these pieces betrays a coming-of-age of sorts that feels very pertinent. Beautiful wrap leather coats and luxuriant turtleneck tunics, bundles of logoed shopping bags, slightly nipped sleeve seams, the square-toed gold logo boots, the lack of overt gimmicks and great denim zoned in on what clients have always loved about Demna’s Balenciaga.

Black is a colour Olivier Theyskens has made his own from the very beginning. As Wim Mertens, curator at MoMu Antwerp wrote: “Black is a complex amalgam of historic and contemporary associations and meanings. (…) It constitutes an inherent part of (Theyskens’) unique style, emanating from a complex creative process.” AW19 was soaked in its fair share of stern black, with jolting bursts of red and shocking pink. Though emotionally disconnected at the surface, there’s an intrinsic poetic quality to each garment leaping out from Theyskens’ sketch book. Even pops of popular culture rose to the surface. ‘Blade Runner’ was set in the year 2019 and Olivier Theyskens felt it was only right to pay homage with a retrofuturist offering for this season. Hourglass satin suit jackets, Replicant matron gowns, narrow skirts and sculptural shoulder lines. Slinky evening dresses cut on the bias, accentuated bust cups and Theyskens’ archival hook-and-eye fastenings. She walks in beauty but doesn’t chase pavements.



Images: Vogue Runway

Read the KNOTORYUS Best of Menswear Month AW19 here.

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