A nostalgic music video introduced Lanvin’s FW 21 collection this morning. It is a cheering piece, offering an unconventional look, de rigueur no thanks to the pandemic, of the variety of ways fashion designers can play with the inspirations for their collections.
Bruno Sialelli’s first menswear collections didn’t impress us. They looked a lot like Loewe, his previous gig. The clothes had the by-now definitive sailor-prep look of Loewe menswear: light sand and sky colours, white at collar or cuff and hardly anything, apart from long wool nautical coats, that could be worn to a restaurant that takes credit cards. It was a worrying suggestion of limited range that both the 2020 shows were beach themed.
But there were promising elements, too. Sialelli is strong with prints and patterns, making use of both to emphasise, not a single logo, per corporate requirements, but a great many, including the very old and beautiful mother/daughter signature of the house, used as an all-over print, and also collection-specific artistic rendering of text, the house name emblazoned on top and trousers like a holiday advertising hoarding.
We at gyungyun like from our designers coherence and specificity above all. We want to feel that we are enjoying the fruits of an artist’s obsessive labour of love, not a moonshot at a logo or influencer that will save the bottom line. And thankfully Sialelli is showing some of that, too. His menswear, particularly from the waist down, shows a keen eye, an almost obsessive understanding of an epoch; in this case late 1990s alternative sportswear.
If that embedded cult anthropologist of American youth Hedi Slimane produced collections inspired by the eternal return of the coastal surf boy, Sialelli is inspired by the slightly more athletic American skateboarder. For even when Slimane appears to be showing skateboarders (SS21 Celine) he still cannot let go of the Vans wearing surfer.
Sialelli’s references to the skater-athlete are much sharper. His cropped pants, a carry-over from Loewe, paired with the successful Bumpr sneaker, are a gesture to the summertime saturation of major American sportswear brands during the late Clinton years. Starting in Fall ‘20 Sialelli began exploring some of the fringes of the 1990s norm, with exaggerated width trousers, belted a little too low, and fat tongued, short-bodied skateboard sneakers, reminiscent of a pair by DC or Etnies. If Slimane looks, perhaps in vain, for the grotesque beauty of the affluent coast, Sialelli seems to understand the less-fashionable, but no less loved, transformations of the high-corporate as worn in the suburbs. These, one imagines, are the looks of the demigods of the designer’s youth, the beloved teenagers of his own childhood: friends of older siblings, no longer playing sports but still hiding an unmistakably athletic body beneath saggy pants; a DJ when they were provincial, talented, and cool.
It is no surprise, then, to see a similarly accurate historical approach to the music video introducing the new collection. To the happy surprise of those of us who feel uneasy at the marriage of (too) casual wear and fashion, we learned that the future is formal, and that dinosaurs like us will show the youth the way.
The film is in fact a music video, set to (in its most recent adaptation) Gwen Stefani’s If I Was a Rich Girl. An international group of young people disembark from an old Lincoln limousine and check into the Shangri-La Paris. In a measured reference to the limitations of our current social lives, the kids arrive in formal wear and, apparently restricted to their accommodations, make the best of a rough job, tearing through rooms littered with Lanvin branded shopping bags in sexy, luxe fabric dresses and animal print casual wear.
The film is a delightful send-up of the 1990s hip-hop music video, a suggestion that the app idols aren’t as revolutionary as they imagine. There is the same self-referentiality, of riches and wealth and goodies unavailable for use; the clothes so much rapper money, unspent, probably unreal, thrown sterile at the camera. Like an old episode of MTV Cribs, these glamorous residents trot out their luxury car collection, too. But they are children’s electric toy cars, on top of which models in low-cut dresses and opera gloves do donuts in the hotel ballroom . These aren’t the slightly cringeworthy diversions of lonely popstars, after all. They are the waking dreams of a generation of youth who want to be able to live theirs. “If I Was a Rich Girl,” I would give it all away to live, this film seems to say.
And accurately, too. It’s pitch perfect in places. Who recalls the flimsy storylines of music videos during their peak? One was either, and rarely both, a viewer of the dancing in the video, or of the slightly vague love story narrative, an attempt no doubt, at cross-branding, which is here, too. Inevitably our hero/performer would be met by the character from a contemporary film or show, often minor, and we have that here, in a dancing concierge. An influencer, surely?
The clothes? Hard to say without a lookbook. The best luxury designers today sell menswear in two categories: the ever more youthful streetwear—here leopard print tracksuit, those baggy pants and skate shoes—and tailoring with varying degrees of reference to the first category. The streetwear depends for sales on hype (and therefore of limited artistic or critical utility); the second, on designer talent.
Sialelli’s men’s tailoring is uniquely androgynous. It is soft, monochrome, and gently oversized, with narrow piped sleeves. It is reminiscent, in the pastel colours and frequent recourse to a double-breast, to women’s postwar day suits. The jackets reference the 50s and 60s in colour and material, in contrast to Gucci’s 70s high-camp fabrics and the earnest masculinity of Kim Jones’s athletic (‘80s?) Dior runway suits. If “cool French girl” could be found in men’s suits, we might find it at Sialelli’s Lanvin.
Midway through the video, a giggly girls’ bathroom moment is interrupted by a video call with Eve. Also celebrating in anxious isolation, in black dress and clutching a black pencil bag with gorgeous oversized hardware, Eve delivers a few lines of verse, as if to affirm and kickstart the value of youthful desire. It’s a lovely intergenerational touch, speaking a too-often obscured message of these times, of hopeful (for once) universals, and of promise born from diversity.