Why suits are the fashion of the moment

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So much for clothing comfort. All those predictions about elastic waists, leggings and flats and how the pandemic had changed clothing forever turned out to be not so true after all. When Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Donatella Versace (not to mention Dolce & Gabbana and Ambush) open their runways with a suit – dark, tailored, slightly oversized – something is clearly going on. And it’s not the pivot to party mayhem that was predicted.

But then, the world is not such a comforting place right now.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt myself getting very serious,” said Walter Chiapponi of Tod’s, who also began his no-frills display of plush tailoring with a dark single-breasted pantsuit under a dark overcoat. “I started cutting all the frivolous things.”

Costume – with its associations with power, status, gender conformity and non-conformity, armor and protection (not to mention adulthood) – may be the most appropriate garment of the times. .

It began its re-emergence on the runway in New York and now seems to be reaching critical mass.

It was the most dominant garment at Gucci, a brand back on the Milan catwalk after a two-year absence with a show held on a stage lined with playful mirrors and lit by flashing strobe lights. Out of the dissonance came navy and sky blue and chocolate brown double breasted suits; suits with tuxedo lapels and cowhide trim. Costumes covered in spiky spikes. Suits with thin ties and big bags and wacky accessories. Costumes that first reminded you of the appeal of this item: the way it could be put on, to immediately make you feel strapped in for the day. A suit for every personality!

So many suits, or styles adjacent to the suit (sometimes they involved shorts or blazers), the whole thing looked like a menswear show, even though it also featured women. Of 84 looks, only 10 involved skirts, dresses or, in one case, a lace teddy. It was the goal.

Seven years ago, even before he was officially named the brand’s designer, Mr. Michele staged his first show for Gucci, shaking up the brand’s image – and, to some extent, fashion – by filling it of traditionally feminine items like blouses, pastels, bows and filigree sheer, and start a conversation about gender and emotional inclusivity that still continues.

But while the trend is to focus on what it means in the context of men wearing what was once considered women’s clothing, in fact it’s rooted in the suit and how women appropriate it. decades into their rise to independence and power (a conversation that is, by the way, still ongoing). With this show, Mr. Michele was just reminding everyone the fact.

Obviously, the only thing as ubiquitous as the costume on the show — aside from the excited shoutouts about ASAP Rocky’s front-row presence and a heavily pregnant Rihanna, belly, and hairstyle — was a collaboration with Adidas. . The German sportswear label has become fashion’s favorite off-duty partner (a short list of collaborators includes Prada, Rick Owens, Stella McCartney, Missoni and the one who started it all, Yohji Yamamoto). And Mr Michele told a press conference after the show that he had been obsessed with Adidas since he was a child.

But rather than Gucci’s sporty classics, Mr Michele has reversed the tables and formalized the sporty stuff, adding Adidas’ signature three white stripes to the sides of his suits or the top of a corset and using his trefoil emblem as crest on the breast pocket of blazers, incorporating it into a print, plunging a puffy version on bags.

It was as clear and clever a message as any type of clothing that was truly the dominant type.

It’s probably no coincidence that Ennio Capasa, the founder and former designer of Costume National who made a name for himself with the slick black suit before leaving the brand eight years ago, chose this season to make his back with a new line, Capasa. Or that it featured (natch) an update to its trademark tailoring, but with some of the stiffness removed.

There’s a reason, after all, the suit lasted so long in the first place. (It’s not really a rediscovery of an old style by a vintage-loving generation; aside from the tech bros, in most halls of power the suit never quite disappeared.)

One reason it’s a classic, as Luke and Lucie Meier hinted at Jil Sander, sprinkling an assortment of Greek and Roman statues around their exhibition space, to better frame their sculpted felted wool miniskirts and their sleeveless coat dresses, falling to mid-calf and caught by a flat knot at the neck. There is a zen balance in their work between the minimalism of the line and the tactility of the materials (also really desirable accessories) that speak softly and pack a big punch.

When it comes to power dynamics, however, few designers are as tuned in as Ms. Versace. She had, after all, actress Julia Fox, who knows a thing or two about dominance (both headlines, thanks to her recent alliance with Kanye West, and as a front-row sideline), in the front row, and wide-striped trousers and pencil skirts, pastel satin capo overcoats and electric 1990s miniskirt suits in exaggerated houndstooth tweed on her catwalk. All were paired with corsets that spoke of both sex and body shields, and oily PVC pantyhose.

Paired with towering dual platforms, they made the models look like the masters – and mistresses – of an alternate universe. One worth exploring.

Certainly, one that was more immediately relevant than the animal print, surplus, and Silk Road parade at Etro. Or the jumble of striped and quasi-street knits at Missoni – a brand that seems so unclear about what exactly it stands for that even a runway full of famous models like Iris Law and Eva Herzigova couldn’t hide the confusion.

Or, for that matter, the high-concept spiel offered at Marni, where Francesco Risso has embarked on a quest to top his immersive be-in from last season with entirely different results.

Held in a dark, cold warehouse planted with weeds and dusted with dirt, with a kind of concrete mound/ramp in the center and without any seats, the show involved models weaving through the standing crowd (including Mr. Risso, who started getting into his shows last season, an initially charming surprise that’s starting to look more like a vanity project). Each was followed by a guide wearing a stocking cap and tattered jacket holding a flashlight to light the way, until they both climbed the ramp and back down into the desperately jostling crowd – and often in vain – to see.

It’s a shame, because Mr. Risso is a talented designer who truly manages to saturate his work with emotions. There seemed to be a lot of mending and mending. Some seams; some silky and embroidered dresses. Lots of wacky handmade headwear.

Afterwards, the audience fled into the sun and into the backyard, where it turned out the models were enjoying a feast of pastries and bubbles laid out on two long tables atop a scattering of sand cobalt; show after show, with Mr. Risso holding court with great enthusiasm.

He was talking about “courage” and “community”, and how all the models had brought personal talismans to incorporate into their outfits, seemingly oblivious to the fact that who in the world knew what they were? Or that instead of bringing everyone together, the staging had simply served to drive them away.

As a look, it really does not suit anyone.

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