Dries van Noten Men SS23

Our traditional staff confabulation about a new Dries van Noten men’s runway show was cut short this week. A sweeping assessment, lobbed into our group huddle by a passerby, gave us pause. Could we better this reading of the Belgian master’s latest Summer offering? 

“It looks like those TikTokers. You know, the boys.” 

We didn’t. Interns shifted on their heels. A senior (paid) game-changer asked for more. 

“They wear boots with big heels, and flared pants, or girls’ clothes. And dance.”

And probably it’s true that the most remarkable aspect of this show for an American audience, who pass hours, in the midst of the death of Roe v. Wade, of leisure and pleasure in TikTok self-study of queer art, is its overt gestures to androgyny. But the selection of girls’ clothes, and they were for girls—bodycon dresses; camisoles—are the least interesting of the show, lacking as they are remarkable colour, print, or pattern. In this respect, there is, like an automaker fitting a gratuitous coachwork embellishment or producing numbers of a colour for a special export market, a carelessness to the play with gender in this season which could fool a viewer unaware of a career studded with brilliant explorations of the limits of binaries. 

We live in a challenging moment, even for papers specialising in fashion criticism without the aid of label press-kits. Thus the unwelcome interjection about the inspiration for the show. We have had to let some of our office space to a cryptocurrency company fallen recently on hard times. The young man who offered us his reading was typical for his type: swaggering, touchy on matters of (his) giving offense, and devoted to declaring the root of a thing. In common with his colleagues (all paid), this cryptomaven displays a remarkable self-education in criticism which took our unpaid interns years, several degrees, debts, and much fuss over the Frankfurt School to learn. While gyungyun staffers query the why and how of culture and society, the cryptoboys skip right to the tenure-track, by a brilliant back-to-the-basics reversal: they question the what. On the topic of a recent global health concern, we were (sort of) asked: “Monkeypox. Do you think it’s real?”

Unwilling to yield to such a simple explanation for a show by a designer whose works have  reached such thematic heights as Romania, the Piano, and Gypsies, our staff set to work placing the show in context. It is, after all, a parade of hybrities, but one which, to the relief of the long-term fan hoping to add to an established collection, offers plenty of familiar pieces. Set on a rooftop in Paris and accompanied by ominous masculine epic/conquest music, the models suggest the messy gender signalling at a fresh colonial outpost. 

We have the forever impressive tailoring in dark blues and deep blood reds, often pinstriped, occasionally with an all over print, shown brillianty here in a red double breasted suit with lighter floral pattern: a typical masterclass of cut and colour. But suits and long coats are combined with unexpectedly casual components; a long tailored shirt, untucked with tie, its sleeves removed. A utilitarian trench coat is paired with wide checked trousers but also lacks sleeves, as if in improvised solution to an unexpectedly extreme climate. Formal attire is incomplete, disassembled, or, characteristic of a far-flung province, sacrificed to lust. 

Perhaps rather than a colonial outpost becoming, we are viewing its unravelling. A wonderfully double breasted blue pinstripe suit, on closer examination not quite matching, is thrown into further confusion by an exaggerated text print scarf, reproduced throughout the show-including a long blue jacket-as if from a cafe’s advertising hoarding, the rougher section of a football team’s supporters, or a political slogan. 

Recalling the Paris-Dakar desert rally, another travelling circus of masculine temporalities on-location, a third motif is the motocross or racing suit. Here, though, we have a study of what makes Dries van Noten special. Where another designer might repurpose a kind of ur-example of a racing suit by using an easily researched template, adjusting logos, and scaling back colour to create a cheap irony, these pieces are much more closely integrated into the world of the designer. Leisure pants styled on moto prints in this show use, it’s true, some of the more garish aughts vernacular prints of the genre, but they are lightly feminised in a prettified pattern, or reproduced in a deliberately incorrect quilted fabric familiar to fans of the label. The most effective example of this series is a shining sequined bomber with contrasting dark blue cuffs. The activewear print is transformed by a slight magnification of pattern, gorgeous colour, and the jewel-like effect of the material. Smart. 

The Dries van Noten die-hards among us have bristled the last spring seasons at an encroaching collage print. It makes use of a deliberately under-styled (for Dries) pattern, like a piece of handsome upholstery or curtain fabric. Not quite of the sumptuousness or detail typical of the brand, these are applied in a collage effect, as if fabric samples have been tossed onto a floor for consideration. In t-shirts, long tunics and scarves these seem to us a rare misstep. We found most comestible in this group a parka, where just two contrasting prints are given space to develop their colour. It looks like the flag of the US state of Maryland. 

The show’s themes are reducible to its best look. A femininely-fitted light black sweater with a uniquely notched deep v-neck shows a simple, gender-contrasting maroon diagonal varsity stripe. So far so hybrid. The pants are of the best print of the show, a luminescent red feather on a darker red background, cut in a slightly oversized fashion amplified by the fitted top. A thick belt doesn’t match either, its palette somewhere between the top and the pants, which of course means it harmonises brilliantly, which is not to speak of the buckle, since it asks not to be seen. It is a gorgeous anti-logo belt, relying on a perfection of shape and harmony with the tailoring, the meeting of slim top and heftier pant, reflected in the large shape of the buckle which is cleverly made from a thinly shaped metal. Completing the look are the exquisite black top-leather mules which are a highlight of the collection. We don’t need all the looks of this latest show, but we anticipate snapping up this complete look, which is timeless and fluid Dries van Noten. 

Yohji Yamamoto Men SS23

What makes a Yohji Yamamoto summer season?  Absence of socks. An open collar exposing neck. Visible toes too, in a glimpsed sandal made, tellingly, like a blown-out leather shoe.  In a show of mostly black tailoring, including wool jackets and overcoats, these are minor seasonal cues evident only to the initiated, the converted, the already incarcerated. A school child bolted to a desk noticing with the turn in weather a schoolmaster’s unfamiliar tie. 

And there is a drowsy school day afternoon’s familiarity to these pieces.  An opening tailoring lesson is a pageant of the label’s evergreen standards: black suits with fitted breast and embellished shoulder (strap, contrasting material) widening to a just overlong hem meeting beautifully draped baggy trousers.  Second, a review lesson on print. A series of hazily figurative drawings blown up against an eerie green background, others disarmingly pair theatrical blood reds with corpse greys. These bruised renderings, applied to soft yet structured leisure suits, recollect aged, no longer distinct tattooing. Yamamoto’s conception of beauty is of colour, figuration and form in the process of becoming or unravelling.  It is a dialectic of gestation and decay.  The beautiful adolescent, stealing around to a loading dock where perfect cheeks concave greedily around a cigarette. 

Another revisited lesson is Yamamoto’s brilliance with the men’s collar.  The designer’s career could profitably be reduced to a study of his collars.  In this show we have a simple silk/viscose elegantly parted to reveal neck; endlessly foldable high collars which permit the wearer any number of sober, extravagant, and ornamental flourishes; a soft, almost Elizabethan standup collar like an aged garden border; and a series of incandescent indigo contrasting collars paired with black fabric. There is in this diversity alone, in these closures, the germ of dozens of fashion careers.  

Finally, these themes are combined to produce the most covetable looks of the collection. For example, a long beautifully collared heavy blue coat in silk with asymmetrical fan skirt. A sportier look combines those gooey art colours with patches of contrasting solid colored fabric. Elsewhere a striped black and white jacket and parachute pant combination suggests animal hides or a vintage automobile seat. Elegant, beautifully cut and as formal (or not) as one likes.


Fashion today reflects our present age of “resistance.” Faced with unwonted legacies of supremacy and underrepresentation, American fashion media has promoted new, diverse, and historically excluded personalities and narratives. These efforts are evident from marketing to staffing, including, and especially, the models in our lookbooks. And yet, still we have just a handful of signature “super” models, and still, they are siblings. This is the product of an industry’s collective corporate strategy for global and social change: a hungover boardroom’s approval for a charity measure. 

Meanwhile, Yohji Yamamoto, an old punker making self-plagiarising clothes in runway shows which appear at first glance so similar that this reviewer supposed the video stream to have accidentally presented archival footage. What on earth could a stubbornly unchanging designer have to say to us now, when our futures depend on a radicalism of consumer novelty? 

A great deal, it would appear, given the evidence of this runway show. Continuing a look from the previous men’s season, the models appear para, sub, or just-post human, with greyed hair frozen askew, the just distressed fabrics those of a Georgian era bohemian after a night under a bridge or a zombie’s debut. There is in this play with the down-and-out nothing new. But in that unique way of a solitary artist of genius, uninflected by the tides of commercial and political pressures, Yamamoto’s doggedly individual vision offers infinitely more hope for a human future than the gestures to sustainability from other fashion houses, which offer a dry collective vision in the service of private profit. 

The inspiration is most evident in the construction of the show itself. The models are the first indication of a radical rethinking (though for artists of Yamamoto’s quality these are always and forever an initial step, an original orientation that never fades. Audiences are simply obliged in the course of the years to catch up to it) of the runway. They represent a remarkable diversity, from the young and beautifully jawed to, in a most successful departure, a series of non-traditionally aged models, these a roll call of influential Japanese film and television stars. Stepping on the runway these actors were met with eager applause.

As they proceeded in their circuit they halted to leer with confusion or unfriendly recognition at the audience before proceeding to a camera at the end of the runway where, staring menacingly into its lens, they offered us at home a similarly intimidating assessment. This interactive element is surprisingly powerful. The actors provide an additional dimension for the show’s message, one necessarily absent from a traditional model’s medium of clothes and make-up. Stopped mid-walk, these swaggering (or swaying) men transform a linear runway route into a global stage, in the process creating a community: of fans, of the suspicious, or the besotted. For what is more tempting than the image of the gangster or dandified thug, represented here in white, Prohibition-era suiting with matching tie? We are reminded of a young adolescent’s first play at dissent by wearing a coat on a summer’s day. Likewise the gangster takes strength from eschewing seasonal dress. Contemporary of course, too, is a series of suits of varying levels of distress and fit, a gesture to past eras of hope and extreme privation: the American Depression; urban blacks photographed in suits during the Great Migration; Southern sharecroppers in sturdy overalls.

Yamamoto’s preoccupation with individual resistance and freedom insists on the importance of self-cultivation and study, on the deep countercultural research of the uncool youth who develops a provisional position before stepping into the world. On the street they are prepared to recognize and embrace others, just as these models, worse-for-wear from some experience, make a connection with the audience, a naked gaze of appeal which no PR department’s set of values could possibly inspire. 

Bottega Veneta Fall ’22

Two weeks ago we received at headquarters the first of a steady trickle of deliveries from an unfamiliar source. DSW: Designer Shoe Warehouse? Familiar to us from unhappy suburban interludes, DSW sells made-for-outlet pieces produced by fading middle class brands long since sold for their logos. Sniffing misappropriation of company funds, we descended the service stairs and entered the intern breakroom cum cleaning closet. “Ooooh. Open one,” stammered a faceless voice, the dim light revealing beneath an old card table two white Gucci sneakers, scuffed, not intentionally in Italy, but from knocking about in our dim corridors, the lateral angle of a worn heel the only distinguishing feature of this nameless creature. “Please, open one.”

We prized open the box and found inside a white soft cloth bag. Spying a few green letters printed on it we supposed the bag to contain a summer sports accessory. In fact, folded as if in surrender in this expedited wooden trunk was the furled white standard of Daniel Lee’s bag and garment covers, introduced during his highly publicised and wildly uneven tenure at Bottega Veneta. Lee’s time at BV revealed his gifts: for interesting and luxurious fabrics, innovative tailoring, and skillfully synthesised street and athletic references applied to shoes and bags. This first DSW shipment revealed a stocky polyester drawstring cylinder wrapped in thick black bands of leather exoskeleton. A typically intelligent combination of material and implied purpose.       

Further deliveries arrived. First, a light blue athletic anorak with exaggerated ripstop cords and heat appliqued zipper channels. Later a matching pair of trousers in nylon gabardine. Both of them interesting tech fabrics, but none implausible as a capsule collection from Lululemon or Rapha. Both shipped from DSW for under $300 USD. A worrying sign, surely. Was this the endgame for Bottega Veneta, or simply a hard departure from Lee’s spell? Less pessimistically, was this simply the orphaned clothes of the long COVID pandemic? Despite all the talk of BV’s revival, was this a sign that they weren’t actually selling all that much? 


Although Daniel Lee’s gifts were quickly evident, he seemed more comfortable offering them, in a multitude of looks so variable that they could have supplied several sub-labels, than he was demanding anything from BV buyers in return. There was no sense of what Lee might want or expect from his imagined women, or if he had any at all. His Spring ‘22 show for BV revealed a Simonsian degree of obsession with a cultural moment-motown, was it?-but without any clear narrative connection to the clothes themselves. Instead we had white clingy tennis dresses. Too often, as with his withdrawal of the brand from social media, Lee was exacting about irrelevancies. 

Matthieu Blazy’s first show promised, in its degree of continuity or change, perhaps the clearest explanation yet of Lee’s departure. 

Continuities. Blazy has in many ways continued Lee’s shift to a more demotic Bottega Veneta. The show’s opening looks were a women’s cotton tank top and parent jeans followed by a matching men’s look with button-down shirt. Streety and trendy rather than conceptual, the viewer is expected not only to marvel, but also to pay Dior/Hermes prices for these looks because the ironic cotton tops are doubly so: they are made of expertly cut and draped leather. Fortunately, this gambit was, despite being our first taste, not the presiding theme of the show. It was one of several ideas, like a gorgeously tailored oversized boyfriend work shirt cut large in the arms and back, which revealed a crescent, kicked-by-a-horse silhouette. And yet, the neck and bust are gorgeously fitted. Paired with black thigh high leather boots and a pillow bag, it was an unexpectedly sexy look.

Nevertheless, the post-Maier BV era has placed far too much pressure on the surprise fabric. The fabric has so often needed to be a surprise because the look was so conventional, especially given Lee’s, and to a lesser extent Blazy’s, preference for monochrome pieces/looks. Eager to appeal to a less stuffy demographic, Lee swapped the playful colours and patterns of the rich-Dad looks of Tomas Maier for streetwear essentials in rich-Dad materials. The resulting clothes are far too serious. Making streetwear collectible or desirable is so much more work-for designer and pressed to do their research consumer-than a playful or beautifully coloured cashmere top from the Maier era. The old BV tried far less hard. Gimmicks are stressful. It is far more rewarding to dress down or camp up adult fundamentals, where you have a chance at a range of ages, than it is to luxe up undergarments. 

Departures. This debut from Blazy revealed several promising points of departure. Blazy’s woman, so far, is a more historically oriented woman than Lee’s. Where Lee preferred monochromes, flat ‘70s colours and clingy and cropped boucle, his models tended to rely on their bodies and indigenous sex appeal. Kate Moss, not modelling but partying, in a dim ’90s club. Blazy’s women by contrast seem to appreciate the history of dressmaking and clothing. They understand the power of dress to simultaneously attract and conceal. 

A series of lingerie-strapped semi-transparent dresses (looks 61,63,65,68,69) combine a bold sensuality with classic formality. Visible undergarments paired with gestures of feminine formal dress—opera gloves, thigh high leather boots, elaborate print and embellishment—suggest a more productive play with high and low dress codes than Lee could muster. Even if Blazy’s woman could rely solely on her shape, she nevertheless appreciates the transformational, rather than amplifying possibilities of dress. Bruno Sialleli got off to a great start at Lanvin by similarly appealing to the traditions of femininity and dressmaking at his historic fashion house. 

Another welcome change is Blazy’s willingness to combine colour in a single look. The best looks in this show use colourblocking, rather than monochrome, like men’s look 23: a classic Maier era use of colour. Gorgeously cropped purple leather pants paired with a perfect high shine black boot. Blazy should pursue these playful combinations, reminiscent of pre-Lee BV, rather than the latter’s shaggy tailoring, which suggests a single coloured uniform for a firm or operation about which the viewer still is not clear. These combinations of colour also offer a pathway out of the skinny moto pant and thick soled shoe pairing that again offered a hollow futurism: all the bad style without spelling out the utopia. Surely that future isn’t Kanye West, who loved this look, which served his disruptive desire to implode fashion which did not look good on him (all of it). 

An emphasis on tailoring, for both men and women, represents a happy return to the elevated status BV once claimed. The men’s suits are a marvel, particularly a narrower silhouette evident in look 62, composed somehow of larger cut sections which are tidily joined to form a petite, girlish waist. This beautifully androgynous look is shaped as if the suit was preeminently a women’s garment repurposed here rather than the other way round. An excellent look. 

Bottega Veneta after Tomas Maier have had ideas, but they must, in order to keep pace with a marketplace that resembles much of the West in eating its own middle-class, avoid the utterly gratuitous loss of their luxury identity. By making hotted-up colloquial clothes, the brand came in for criticism in some markets for the pricing of its leather goods. Streetwear consumers were queasy bag-buyers. It is far easier and appropriate to make fun with luxury, by making play with print, colour, and cut to surprise the banality of getting and keeping, than it is to disrupt with an eclectic mix of working class images. Often such gimmicks are insulting and subject to cancellation. Blazy, by his commitment to the luxury and glamour of dressmaking with clothes of varying fabric and colour, suggests a much more universal (and international) concept of cosplay, of the idea that feminine clothes ought to inspire transformation and fantasy, to suggest rather than simply reveal the human body.    

Dries van Noten Men A/W 22-23

Dries van Noten’s men’s Fall/Winter ‘23 campaign is a study of liminality. The “Video Fashion Show” which accompanies the collection presents a number of youths in a decaying high-ceilinged house with distressed, on-label wallpapers. In that conscious blend of formal and leisure wear that has characterised recent seasons, these boys (and from the look of it, girls) appear to be exploring a spooky abandoned house, rifling old wardrobes. Or perhaps a formal event has just concluded. We have pointy patent leather derby shoes, sequined pants and neck scarves; the younger guests having swapped into a comfortable garment to wind down. 

The video opens and concludes with a couple kissing; elsewhere a young man in a quiet reverie is roused, happily or not we aren’t sure, by the touch of a man standing behind him. Was he unaware of the latter’s presence? Or surprised at the gesture? The lyrics to the film’s music come to our aid. “Dream, baby dream…” These hazy images of fantasy—a kiss? These days?!—representing so many of the imagined intimacies of the Age of Lockdown. It has taken a global health pandemic to produce an antidote to our modern pop media-as-softcore-pornography. An uncontextualized kiss today is profoundly kinky. But was it real? Or a dream? 

There is uncertainty in the show’s gender play, too, a talking point about which Dries van Noten hardly needs to flash a credential. It is a men’s show with several female models, a more literal, spelled out (in this way very contemporary) variety of his traditional, and for us preferred, approach to androgyny: embedding it in the clothes. In this collection the tailoring is flared, with waistcoat-tight jackets and exaggerated—both width and length—trousers. The shoulders of the more interesting fitted jackets are squared-off, the sleeves cut to a princess/mutton shape. It’s an unlikely, and entirely successful, combination. The androgyny is self-evident, which is why we found it surprising that two suchs suits were modelled by women. The tension, it seems to us, is better displayed by a model with pretensions to masculinity. The risk here is that a woman in women’s directional (slim top to flared bottom) tailoring looks like a woman modelling women’s clothing. 


The collection’s lookbook contains 73 images. That’s a lot, and there’s a great diversity, too. In fact, it’s difficult to see in this season a unifying thread, a narrative that could, in the manner of past shows, supply a title for it: Paris; Gypsies; Sports, etc. This is no bad thing. It is, on the contrary, a bold reaction, and a statement. We saw this departure in the last men’s collection , an Antwerp-themed grab-bag of the label’s past work and a critique of the fashion industry’s cash-driven obsession with classification and categorization. We mean the logo. The variety in that archival show, continued here, arrested a concerning trend among recent Dries seasons (spring shows in particular), focused as they were on a named contemporary artist, whose work supplied a close template for variations of colour. These looks were often pretty and increasingly popular. But: people on the street began to name check the designer of our clothes. Indeed, recognizable Dries patterns were becoming their own kind of logo. In our current branding moment, of, for example, the CELINE logo (and don’t be fooled, LVMH didn’t hire Hedi Slimane because of his unwillingness to go there), the diversity of these last two Dries shows represents a welcome refusal to be so easily marked. 

We are happy to return to the old modesty, regardless of the eye-catching nature of the garment itself, of Dries van Noten. Either too handsomely tailored, too club-wild, or too exotically embroidered, surely, to be Dries van Noten, there is an elusiveness among the collected work, undergirded by a sober mastery of texture and fabric, an elusiveness to billboard-style classification that bewitches both observer and wearer. We are reminded of the inventory at Modern Appealing Clothing (MAC), a longtime San Francisco stockist of the label. Against the far wall of the store, hidden behind the eye-catching season’s items, rested a series of dark winter suits. In dark blue and maroon wool, a few with modest Oriental-inflected patterns, all with uniquely small designer labels inside, they represented the noble foundation for the freakier items we steadfastly collect from Dries. The flashier pieces in a Dries collections like an “it” boy with a title.  


Although the emphasis is on variety, we can nevertheless trace continuities from recent seasons. The leather footwear is the industry’s best and most innovative. Bulging blister leather shapes from last Fall are supplemented here by a new medical overshoe that will test concerns of “wearability.” We believe we notice a second slightly less swollen and wrinkled variation, however, that is just right. Wider pants are evident not only in suits: casual pants in nylon satin and black cotton/wool, are big, too, some with Juicy Couture velvet and cargo pocket, each with artful interpretations of the elasticated waistband. Who knew that could be made sexy? The dark leisure pants look like Yohji Yamamoto. 

Wants: this season’s suiting produces an uncomplicated lust rivalled only by Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Yes, the suits, and today that is not an easy thing to pull off. Just as the menswear newcomer dips his toe into fashion with a designer sneaker—”I don’t know what else I’ll be doing, but by God, these shoes will look fresh”—these suits are an invitation not to fear (how do I pull off a suit?), but to suiting’s first principles: come what may, this look will carry me through. A beautiful armor. The genius in these suits is the avoidance of the costuming effect of Michele’s retro nostalgia. Rather than referencing a look from a compromised past, these suits are a conscientious mash-up of lines, suggesting a pleasurably uncertain future. 

Prada Men’s FW 22

Frederic Tcheng’s Dior and I (2014), on Raf Simons’ first ready-to-wear collection for the fabled couture house, offers a revealing insight into the working methods of one of the industry’s most likeable designers. Quiet if not introverted, Simons must add to the perennial challenges of renewed inspiration and tight deadlines a series of additional difficulties: turning out a compelling debut show after his recent appointment; establishing trust among Dior staff after the departure of incumbent John Galliano’s 15 years at the house; and, more practically, getting work done. Simons’ French is poor.

We feel the tension in the Dior offices as Simons develops his idea for the season. His process is a stubborn, solo endeavour, his concepts like the secreted passion of an adolescent. Simons returns inflamed, almost jittery, from a Parisian gallery. A contemporary non-figurative artwork has struck him, Dior staff are excitedly informed. They nod encouragingly. Surely, the palette and theme will provide an excellent foundation for them to do their work. To their bemusement, and much shifting of feet, Simons is having none of it. Could we reproduce it in facsimile on a giant printer? A typical piece of Simons’ self-effacing charm: utter confidence in his ability to spot genius, without assuming any of his own, or anyone else’s. How, he seems to ask Dior’s collective of the very best artists, embroiderers, and dressmakers, could we approach anything like the brilliance of this artwork? How indeed, the staff grumble.       

To share his inspirations would be to distort them, subject them to dilution or wounding ridicule. Simons’ men’s looks, especially for his namesake label, are in this way so many collages, the application, unchanged, of photographs and images, like a teenager’s pegboard above the bed, that site of dreams and unrealised promise. In this way, by applying his inspirations—photographs, album covers, text resembling signage—virtually unchanged, Simons seems to embrace those of us who cannot always obtain the runway pieces we desire. By applying his seasonal inspirations unaltered, they remain unconsummated, not subject to the sloppy adult detumescence of having been there and done it. A Peter Pan effect that we might consider clever if it weren’t so obviously the kernel of Simons’ character.       


A futuristic spacecraft mezzanine preceding the models’ runway circuit gave us pause. Kyle MacLachlan and Jeff Goldblum bookended the show, suggesting a fin-de-siecle sci-fi noir storyline. Simons’ strict inspirational rubrics always threaten to oversaturate a collection: if the viewer isn’t into (anymore) a particular reference, there’s very little to do. And this is where the partnership with Prada has greatly benefitted his collections. His stubbornness—brilliance does not exist in its absence—is still evident, but is leavened by some of the excellent prints and artwork that Prada produced in the seasons preceding his arrival. The only nerdy monotony in this show was the insistent Numan/Bowiesque vocals. 


Raf Simons menswear rates poorly on our proprietary wearability scale. Remember, user results will vary, but from where we write, modern Sparta, Simons’ most dependable code, the oversized jacket, is a tricky proposition. We find that in the field an outrageously feathered and/or coloured number with swiss cheese holes will generate less of a fuss than Simons’ more subtle play on the suit. The former can on the American coasts be diffidently ignored; in the South the subject of shameless glares. But a not-quite-conformist suit produces outright hostility among the American bourgeoisie, an unforgivable send-up of conservative proprieties. As a statement and concept they work—they’re quite skillfully tailored with a power-curve shoulder and almost modular join to an oversized sleeve. But the narrow lapel is the tell: this is play. Intelligent, trenchant, but not exactly pretty

There is plenty of this tailoring here, which serves as the traditional outer shell for Simons’ blushing preference for colour, a method queer boys from the sticks will recognize from their first adventurous accessories, those wrongly coloured gloves, hat, scarf, whichever of the least costly designer items made up the first items of a collection. Of a life. Baselayers since SARS-Covid have been the site of Simons’ colour, peeking from wrists, neck, and leggings. Easter egg shades in satinized nylon—a fabric of the moment—shirts and pants in this show bring some of this colour closer to the surface, and skillfully too: we find, in our era of off-and-on lockdowns, that for a quick takeout food retrieval the kind of synthetic ski pants offered here, capable of standing up to repeated wears, are just the thing.

And yet the feeling has persisted, our hopes raised, that the partnership with Prada would at its best see Simons challenged to move beyond this restriction of colour, from necks (a key site of this show) and wrists to full ensembles of colour; to, as it were, turn the Raf Simons look inside out. And, indeed, we have that here, with mixed results. A series of sci-fi inflected shirt and elasticated waist uniforms in monochrome pastels, from a 20th century space mission or nuclear reactor are well cut, paired with leather shoes. The leather versions offer a smart texture contrast but will be skipped due to the preference of a certain talent-free celebrity for this kind of thing. A dark purple one-piece jumpsuit with intelligent conventional button fastening is that rarest of things: a men’s jumpsuit with high want factor. The tailoring is exceptional; the collar gorgeous. All this colour is welcome, the uniforms striking a slyly appropriate note of caution for recent utopian projects. How many of us now clinch at a friend’s reference to a podcast/program with all the answers!? 

The concluding model Jeff Goldblum brilliantly teases at these complications of sci-fi futurism. In an ankle-length coat with cat-shaved-from-surgery fur patches Goldblum approaches the runway with arms swinging and the decisiveness of long-held authority. Yet a closer look shows his eyes attempting first to focus, then occasionally peering about him, in one instance nearly stopping, as if at an apparition, of an acquaintance perhaps, but whose ghostlike state oughtn’t be investigated, either from fear or a sense of duty to fashion. He is propelled forward. At the conclusion of his circuit Goldblum looks briefly at the lights above him, as if finally taking the measure of his surroundings. A mad aging sovereign. Or a robot? 


Wants: hungry for contrasting colour and prints, we will collect the lovely dog-collars in the now-traditional Prada prints and the related turtlenecks with print accents. We plan to skip most of the tailoring since, the jackets being cut to a certain frontal bulk for Simons’ preferred coloured baselayer contrast, the jackets in effect are made as coats. So why not go for a proper coat instead? We have in mind the spectacular coloured leather trenchcoats, perhaps the best and most natural fusion of Simons and Prada yet, combining the ash and dark coloured leather of recent Prada coats, but with Simons’ unmistakably contemporary cut, the leather here creating a slightly pinched effect, harmonizing shoulder, chest and arm.

Raf Simons’ work rarely brings “sexy” to mind. Archives, the inspiration and practical effect of his pieces, rarely are. Archives are those jealously guarded dreams stuffed under the bed, shyly debuted for our first trusted avant garde friend. A good friend will send this treasure scattering across the bedroom. “Come, let’s go out.” It shouldn’t be surprising then, that the best suit from a show full of them was not on the runway, despite the often charming contrasts of colour and fabric. The best of the lot was on Simons himself. Flowing, utterly unaffected trousers and just-right signature jacket. That was sexy. Get that one. 

Fendi Men’s Fall/Winter 22/23

Today’s Fendi Men’s Fall/Winter 22-23 show put us in mind of English actor David Niven (1910-1983). A photograph from the 1970s shows Niven posing in the kind of informal clothing suitable to a summer in the Cote d’Azur: open necked striped shirt with rolled sleeves, fitted trousers with a micro flare, light cashmere sweater tastefully folded around the neck and, utterly contemporary for us, a Celine frieze logo belt. But is that the man? Public school and Sandhurst educated, a veteran of the second World War, the image captures the elusiveness of Niven’s real character, of his automatic military bearing combined with a willed casual elegance. Fendi’s new collection reveals a similar tension, a foundation of martial codes overlaid with Niven’s forced holiday informality. The charm is in the lux: we even have in the Fendi show a version of that frieze logo belt buckle.     

What was profoundly informal in Niven’s era makes up the majority of the clothes in today’s ready-to-wear runway shows, a brave rearguard action against the athleisure occupation. Like the best shows from the legacy fashion houses, this show is nostalgic-aspirational: it aspires to return society to a past commitment to formal elegance, the turned heads these clothes inspire when worn representing both a naughty individual thrill and an indication of social work to be done.

There are, broadly, three themes in the show. The least successful comes (mercifully) first, a series of sand coloured monochrome shirt/jacket and trousers combinations in the style of Lemaire or recent Jil Sander. There was what appeared, from our distant seat, to be a new print on one of these lighter looks, but it was difficult to to be sure, and anyway it resembled some of the vintage styled Gucci text prints of Michele’s last few seasons. Unsurprisingly, this light monochrome theme was most effective when combined with colour, for example with oxblood leather trousers and matching patent leather shoes, all covered by a darker shaded coat revealing its contrast Fendi Forever print lining. It is telling that the best of this section of the show is a triumph of styling rather than the pieces themselves.

The second theme is much better: in fact, it is something of a triumph, blending as it does layers of military inspired layered coats, schoolboy iconography and even references to early Modern leggings, with all the ensuing happy complications of androgyny. The leggings, along with the institutional references, suggest a theme of service and duty. Even the baseball caps, present throughout, which offer a welcome sense of humour to otherwise quite formal casual wear (this is ready to wear, after all), in their modesty suggest the humble supplication of tourists as guests subject to the unpredictable customs of a foreign place.

This series of looks relies on an attractive check fabric in white/black and that dark blood red, beautifully cut to oversized yet elegant coats, elsewhere as gorgeous collared shirts which serve as the base of a narrower tailored look. The must-have look of the show comes from this section, a beautifully fitted ankle length coat with exaggerated collar covered, without any indication of the bulk of stacked wool, by a second jacket of the same check print, a pea coat with draped sleeves. Beneath is a spectacular cream baselayer, one or two pieces we aren’t sure—a turtleneck and tight leggings above gender busting black leather Mary Jane shoes. 


This is not an easy look to describe, since the patterns and layers combine to make it a difficult look to see. This invisibility, by contrast with other forms of direct gender inversion at say Gucci (pearls) or less farther afield, in this very show (also pearls), seems to us like a striking way to play with masculinity. We are reminded, in this inability to quickly identify these clothes (“Is there one, two? The leggings attached to the…?”) of a slipperiness of classification, an elusiveness which characterises most desire, of what we, for a given moment, consider beauty. This remarkable effect reminds us of Proust’s Saint-Loup, an elegant young aristocrat and soldier, war hero and halfhearted intellectual. Apart from the fact that he is romantically attracted to men (Saint-Loup is a hero-who-is-gay if not a Gay Hero), Saint-Loup is described by our narrator as an embodiment of the very best of France. Each time we meet him in the text, in an elegant cream suit at a beach resort or leaving a brothel in uniform, he is a dizzying series of points in space, a dynamic and uncapturable body: 

“Something, however, struck me: not his face, which I did not see, nor his uniform, which was disguised by a heavy greatcoat, but the extraordinary disproportion between the number of different points which his body successively occupied and the very small number of seconds within which he made good this departure which had made good this departure which had almost the air of a sortie from a besieged town.”

Readers come to love, and eventually mourn, Saint-Loup. We love his endless generosity and his “ubiquity.” This excellent look from Fendi suggests Saint-Loup’s ubiquity, the “different points” that ask us to not see as much as see. Rather than demanding that we see this or that identity in old or new or predictably transformed ways, perhaps the best fashion should challenge us to see less, for in that confusion lies the love and desire which are produced only in the imagination. 


A third theme is conventional for Fendi shows: a series of pieces in a playful artistic wall cover print. A few are present in black combined with dark red. These are desirable. The remaining are white/black, and on the runway combined too often with monochrome white. The lack of colour is disappointing, and too reminiscent of Kim Jones’s work at Dior Homme. A highlight of the Fendi season was missed here. The greatest shortcoming of the show, however, especially given the brilliance of the spats inspired leather shoes, are the sneakers: a no-man’s-land of ugly sneaker and norm-core New Balance. A big miss.   

Great emphasis is placed on bags and purses in the show, many of them beautiful, ranging from more conventional masculine leather totes to silver jewel boxes. Together they suggest the catholicity of a boy’s matchbox car collection (and some of the adult car collections of the husbands of Fendi clients), compiled before that toad social convention convinced men that we needed tools for every occasion, rather than handbags. Of all the manifold and variably successful nods to identity-play in this show, this one we are firmly behind. 

15 January 2022

Gucci Los Angeles!

Alessandro Michele and Hollywood consummated their long courtship Tuesday night with Love Parade, Gucci’s latest show. Michele is the designer of the moment, a binary-buster whose runway clothes take inspiration from a benighted gendered yore in order to blend, swap, and exaggerate the familiar into dizzyingly unrecognizable and liberatory forms. Hollywood was slow to recognize Michele’s project, but, as gender play began to become big business (again) and an essential part of contemporary narrative, the film industry recognized in Michele a familiar approach. 

It takes extended residence in Los Angeles to recognize among its residents an abiding respect for its history with film. Noteworthy filming locations and ex-houses of dead stars, far from ignored, are piously pointed out with the quiet respect characteristic of a company town. As an old factory of progressive values, there is perhaps a natural affinity between the city and a designer who prefers a dialogue with the past as a means for moving forward. 


The models performed a small circuit of Hollywood Boulevard, emerging from The Chinese Theatre and proceeding down a section of the the Walk of Fame, where the show’s celebrity audience sat in branded director’s chairs. Proceeding across the eerily empty street to reach the sidewalk opposite seemed like space wasted until the end of the show when, emerging again from the Chinese Theatre, the models swarmed the street together for their final bow. So many Hollywood images, emerging as if at the wings of a stage, on a break (remember though, the Chinese theatre was always a movie palace), a (better) reflection of the showbiz celebrities who made up the audience. Hollywood always finds this kind of thing flattering. 

So too are celeb models, but Michele took care that they weren’t obvious. Jared Leto is a longtime supporter and muse of Michele’s. He walked in a signature check jacket and white leather pants with cowboy boots, looking sunburnt, small and ordinary, a reminder of what freaks runway models are. Macaulay Culkin was a clever middle finger to the influencer generation, a recluse dressed here like the guy at a Palm Springs restaurant who bullies the waiter: “Take the menu away and order me exactly what you like.” His shimmering sports jacket was beautiful and fitted his short square body perfectly. A tailor’s inclusiveness. 

This LA show is appropriate for Michele in part because of the failures of his concept. A gorgeous retrospective of twentieth-century typecasting, the titularly women’s pieces include decadent variations on stock feminine roles: the seductive Oriental in a chainmail fitted cap; baselayers in sci-fi synthetics paired with horse blinder glasses; the musician St. Vincent in sexy leather, a feathered cape and finned glasses as the sinister suburban subversive; and a great deal of play with lingerie, an innovation no doubt given new life by Hollywood and a reminder that suggestions of the body used once upon a time to shock. These looks throughout the show are mashed-up and combined, the different eras and references together suggesting a lark in a studio costume department. 

But it is precisely because Michele’s clothes have always looked like costumes that we have always struggled to wear our Gucci pieces, the beloved suits in particular. The costume effect plays a large part in Michele’s success in this collective gender fluid moment. For all the talk of discarding binaries, there is, as always, a desire to push at the boundaries of gender categories without exceeding them. Young people seem to want to announce their desire to be/not be a girl or boy today, rather than dismissing the categories entirely. Retaining the references gives license to play and irony. What, after all, is a costume but a garment temporarily donned and just as quickly discarded, a personality or idea rented? Contrast this approach with Daniel Lee’s most recent show at Bottega Veneta, where an androgynous futurism prevails. The choice between glam Dickies denim and monochrome clinging fringe tennis dresses, however tempting, both point to a danger of a future without reference to our gendered past. There is less opportunity for the play and exchange that Michele understands. Here instead we have the monotony of an unloved uniform.  

The trouble is that these Gucci clothes are for sale, and not inexpensively. When we leave the house in a Gucci suit, headed for a civilian dinner outing, we do so in our thickest skincare products. It is always a challenge to be the only one in the room living the open-minded future. Celebrities have developed a workaround for this. They are photographed in safer logo “essentials”—shoes, knitwear, belts, the logo serving like the watermark on a banknote as a tacit, unspoken assent to the label’s values. All the benefits then, and none of the work. It is those of us who brave the streets in our runway pieces that are the real heroes. Onward!

Gucci + Lanvin: Not a Collaboration

They appeared some days before opening. The incomplete stage, situated beneath the grand dome and visible from balconies above, was at the ground floor covered in black shroud. Like the members of a traveling theater troupe, staff in performance dress stood outside it with arms crossed, speaking earnestly. Of what? Peculiarities of acoustics? The customs of patronage in this region? In gold tracksuits they resembled nothing so much as off-duty members of a 1970s Formula One team, the offhand glitter of their clothes producing in the rural circuit-town a longing for urban glamour. And it is precisely to honouring this decade, and this desire for a material memento from these otherworldly jinn—a sticker, a used sparkplug, a cap—that Alessandro Michele has committed his Gucci.

We have all, for the most part, been with him, too.

American media have thrilled to the gender-bending qualities of recent Gucci collections. Famous rich young men appeared on magazine covers wearing pieces from women’s collections. Less famous younger people on younger media platforms embraced and embellished this aspect of Michele’s Gucci, part of this country’s ancient insistence on manifesting some—any—kind of destiny. In the face of economic and environmental apocalypse, we shall meet it, we learned, amidst gender and sexual freedom.  

And what could be a more relevant reference to our dizzying present, more flattering to the intelligence of the masses who line up at Gucci stores (like no place else now save Louis Vuitton) than the American 1970s? Frills, bell bottoms, lacy collared shirts and pointy lapelled jackets, yes, but also messy imperial wars with disastrous withdrawals, stagflation and liberatory politics fractured by questions of inclusion.

Michele’s lookbooks, of sumptuous Victorian/1970s hybrid interiors in freshly faded colours, point to a simpler explanation of his preferred references: these chaotic years, as translated by Michele, involved a maximalist interpretation of colour, print, and cut. There was more, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty. Subsequent decades made more space for irony, for slick monochromes or a deliberate dowdiness, which we see renewed, for example, by Demna Gvasalia. But who would pay for that garbage? Michele, by the play involved in his—admittedly not very revolutionary—nostalgic return to an earlier decade’s preoccupations, can have his cake and eat it: make pretty clothes without taking a previous era, or our own, too seriously. After all, surely some bullies wore bell bottoms, too. 

Who better than Michele, a virtuoso of liberatory lateness, to celebrate 100 years of Gucci? The anniversary Gucci pop-up at South Coast Plaza contains marvels, though on entrance a soberly suited employee couldn’t confirm quite what. 

“I write on fashion. Could you tell me the inspiration for that green installation? A train station?” 

A blank, but nevertheless widening smile. “Yes it could be.” 

I wondered if this was affected mystery or the inoffensive (and thus offensive) enforced open-mindedness of our times. Inside, however, I was given by a second staffer a beautifully measured tour of the collection, including the archival details which represent the efforts of past collections and designers. The women’s patterned trench coat is stunning, the more archival and baroque shoes a joy, and the wool men’s jacket (light of colour yet double-breasted?!) in anniversary tapestry particularly covetable. The latter we learned integrates references to pop music lyrics which label-checked the house.


It is easier to have nostalgia for a period one does not deeply know. Anyway, it’s a familiar furrow. Celine, and its cover band Saint Laurent (we knew it was the idea all along but didn’t imagine it would come off so easily) are also firmly embedded in a ’70s aesthetic, though this is shifting as Hedi Slimane plays with a bolder language of logo streetwear. For consideration of an alternative epoch, Bruno Sialleli’s Lanvin has interested us since his first men’s collections swerved, unlike Slimane and Michele, not from the 1990s, but to it. Reflecting on this period of superficial socio-economic consensus, of the end of history, but also of irony (which Michele has had to inject back into his cherished references-Slimane doesn’t use it), Sialleli crafted a composite tailoring which examined the ’90s prehistory of athleisure: oversized and athletic but paired with slightly too cute prints. This frisson, that the forever loungy jeans and Footlocker look did flatter some boys, and can look really good on really pretty models, was a brave move in a market with a wariness of artistically addressing recent decades of pop culture.      

The men’s looks in the Spring 22 show baffle us. If Sialleli in his first shows at Lanvin hovered over an innovative combination of post-Loewe sailor boy and forbidden straight boy ‘90s nu-nostalgia, he appears in this show to have yanked hard on the stick, pulling out of the landing. The pieces here are monochrome, gone are the contrast collars, all of it in Kim Jones Dior purples and blues. Jackets, in the previous shows matching oversized trousers with thoughtfully piped sleeves, are wider now all over, thus eliminating their distinctive internal tension. Half-hearted shaggy dog and boucle numbers look a lot like Daniel Lee’s first shows at BV. There are a few graphic prints, which seem fine, but in a not unisex show with 11 men’s looks, we have no story for them. The meat of Lanvin’s men’s collections, that interesting tailoring and play on the unconscious athleisure boy, is buried on the website and on the racks in-store. For the men, then, why even bother with the show?         

Celine Men’s Summer 2022

Among the fashion designer “heavies,” Hedi Slimane—photographer, filmmaker, music obsessive—would seem the least likely, in this era of digital-only shows, to display a clinginess to the rubric of the runway. His men’s collections are some of the least fashion-referential going, his modern business miracle the translation of a connoisseur’s recursive, selfish passions into equally indefatigable sales. The early, pre-pandemic Celine shows involved the lowering onto conventional runways of spheres and boxes, containers of Slimane’s comprehensive worlds, the venue largely incidental. A suburban bedroom wall is, after all, the site of the most vivid and enduring dreams. And yet his pandemic shows have revealed a preference for circuits: at the Circuit Paul Ricard; the athletics track at the Parc des Princes; and in the newest film, of the men’s spring ‘22 collection, a motocross ramp circuit cum runway perched on the coast of southern France.        

The English language website offers a tripartite name for the film, “Cosmic Cruiser/Riding a New Age/Restless Dreams of a Cosmic Teen.” Ambitious claims. American viewers will indeed recognize further evidence of Slimane’s intuitive understanding of youth culture. Several major American cities in recent years have been regularly overrun, without warning, by hordes of young men and boys on motocross and quad bikes, a series of lawless but mostly (though not always) harmless (save for eardrums) expressions of youthful enthusiasm. For the urban doomsdayers, these youth represent an alarming new urban dystopian futurity. 

Check your parochialism! Given the film’s specific credit to fmx and motocross riders “FMX4EVER” and “Team Honda SR,” we would instead appear to have here classic Slimane. A chance encounter with a subculture, an image of youth, glimpsed in transit, a picture of that reluctant conjunction at the bloom of male youth: of awkward clothing and the unselfconscious preference to cast it off. So it is that we have shirtless motocross riders and a collection inspired by riding leathers. 

Slimane’s single-mindedness, at length, can pall. One yearns for a touch of irony, of selfconscious play. Slimane’s ideal subjects, even when self-styled, are unconscious of their viewership; a runway audience, after all, is not made up of their teen peers. And in a rare misfire, this show is ripe not for humour, but for send-up. What is a more familiar graveyard for unintentionally camp dystopias than motorbike futurism? See the Mad Max series, or Waterworld. Smoky two-stroke motocross bikes, unchanged for nearly a century, as a bellwether of our future? The up-to-datedness of the rider’s helmets and glasses (translated for the show into desirable sunglasses, not incidentally) seems to eliminate the small chink of selfconscious play in this storyline. A miss.

To the clothes. Slimane’s summer collections have always been weighted for an unseasonably cool Scandinavia. Wool tailoring, leather. Even so, this season, preoccupied as it is with the motorcycle motif, appears to depict a radically alternative future, in which temperatures are due not to rise, but cool, and drastically so. 

Quick buyer’s guide: if you are in need of leather—conventional jacket with a runway embellishment, an oversized sleeveless jacket, trousers—any of these pieces will do. They have Slimane’s nerdy accuracy on design, a variety difficult to find in leather clothing anywhere else and the (admittedly dubious) patina of rarity/collectibility that comes with Slimane’s runway pieces. A buyer will not find themselves with a dad’s leather jacket.

Here lies part of the secret of Slimane’s success. For a show which is ostensibly about an image of adolescence, with complete looks of teenage rebellion, each piece, considered alone, is crafted from costly, adult fabrics. Viewed on a rack in-store, they look, in leather, in grandpa wool, much more grown up. When tried on, (we, ahem, exclude fitted trousers here) they produce that aha! Lust effect that might appear unimaginable from viewing the shows which are, quite rightly, so many concept kitchens for mature buyers. 

Wool suiting, well represented in the summer ‘21 collection, has been largely replaced by the glut of leather but also by the most interesting series of pieces in the show, which, like French porcelain (think Hermes/Puiforcat) makes use of a circuit/line tracery print, put to beautiful effect in lighter, billowy pieces. Much more inclined to vintage-stylized text logos and palm trees, these are a welcome detour for Slimane. This tracery is also present in a stud application on a denim jacket. The one to buy. 

Trousers are baggy, the denim too “Jnco” for us but in the cotton/linen print (see above) and in an interesting selection of soft leisure pants, impressive. With correct (which is to say, lousy) application of logos, these sweatpants will sell in the United States.  

What suiting there is is cut in an approachable style, not nearly as baggy as the denim but neither is it at the Slimane extreme of rail-thighed rocker slim. We didn’t get on with SS21, which seemed, with the launch of ‘80s basketball sneakers and other informal looks, a decline toward logo streetwear and, we feared, a lack of interest by Slimane. This collection, by contrast, is exciting for Celine collectors. We own versions of everything on sale here (save the capes and the bucket hat visor thingy), but these clever variations on traditional Slimane don’t make us want the new stuff any less. When Slimane’s collections appear preposterously unsuited to the seasons they purport to outfit, we know he is in form. Just let him do his thing.  

Must Haves: All of the look at 10:19; stud denim jacket in tracery (and anything else in the print); leather and silk capes

Dislikes: We loathe hoodies and loathe logos. There are lots of logo hoodies here. 


Natural Break

Astonishing to see the neighborhood cat in the backyard, where he surveills, hunts, and sleeps, all at once. Directly he enters the property, dropping silently from a bordering hedge, from our window after accepting (the pleasure, we aren’t allowed to forget, is ours) a piece of hospitality, and the resident family of birds establish their defence. First an invisible sentinel emits a constant, mechanically regulated shriek, a loud, unwavering Geiger counter. The cat half-raises an ear without looking at the alarm, like a bully, a corrupt cop, quietly exulting in the power to effect. He raises his paw to his mouth and begins a cleaning. Before long he snaps smartly to attention, suspending a Teddyboy coiffed forearm and raising his vibrant green eyes to a second bird, which conducts an aggressive low warning flight, its wings spread, showing the national colours on its fuselage. The pilot lands equidistant to his now visible compatriot, who persists with the original alarm. Together these soldiers form a triangle with the cat, who observes this arrangement, rises, and retires to an old chair with cushion for a more comfortable long bath. Ablutions done he folds his paws underneath his body and rests. The first bird cuts the tocsin. The cat is a persistent threat: to carelessly placed nests, a fallen chick; victims of aggressive boredom. And yet, the cat needs these birds, too, for these same defences, as the cat dozes, warn of threats from predators big enough to make a meal of him. Last week a hawk, its claws the size of my own, landed on one of the trees and calmly surveyed the yard as I worked in it, unfazed by my movement and noise.