How do you do Fashion Week without the illustrious guest list and lavish brand-sponsored after parties? We learned the answer this year: creatively and with a good attitude. In an article for The Times, Stephen Heyman reported that New York Fashion Week typically showcases collections from about 300 different brands and hosts over 100,000 guests total (this metric includes invitees, press, and buyers). The very nature of this cultural behemoth leaves no room to realistically social distance, so designers and their creative teams had no other choice than to take on the challenge and get refreshingly untraditional.
Chanel for One
Since 2002, Chanel has hosted its December Metiers d’Arts show as a tribute to the many ateliers, artisans, and craftspeople that make the brand, well, possible. It is an homage to the Metiers d’Arts’, or art professions, decades of imparted traditions and adroitness in all things French couture. This year’s show was hosted at Château de Chenonceau (former home to Catherine de Medici) and the pre-Covid list was expected to be one of about 200 people. However, following a second lockdown in France, revisions ensued and the audience was condensed down to one, supportive and endearing, Kristen Stewart. While bed hair, moody tweed co-ords, and punctiliously constructed accessories paraded down the runway of the 16th century palace, K-Stew sat alone on a bench cheering on both the models and artists that executed this wonder during a very difficult year.
Knock knock, it’s Loewe.
In collaboration with French design agency, M/M (Paris), Jonathan Anderson chose a more literal delivery method for Loewe’s SS21 men’s collection: a Show-In-A-Box. What, you may ask, was enveloped in this dynamic package? A deconstructed pop-up book style runway featuring: an invitation to the show, a thin catalogue of each look, cardstock cut-outs of leather basket weaving details, psychedelic paper glasses, silhouettes of the Loewe team that participated in this project, and even a cardboard phonograph that played a soundtrack compiled of noises from the Loewe leather studio in Spain. The execution was in part inspired by Duchamp’s boîte-en-valise, or box in a suitcase, which was made with the intention of being able to carry his works everywhere. Show-In-A-Box is simple yet so conceptually impressive, I have nothing more to say except: I’m speechless.
Blinded by Balmain.
Olivier Rousteing, a forward-thinking disruptor, was unorthodox in his SS21 runway in more ways than one. For starters, there was a strategic cadence to the show which was set up in 3 acts: Community, Heritage, and Optimism—the last one touching upon the optimism with which Pierre Balmain founded his eponymous brand during similarly uncertain times. Rousteing’s show began with himself taking a modest seat on the edge of the runway while 10 older models started the show. The crowd featured 3 front rows—which would have typically been filled (physically) with high profile personalities, but were instead crowded with 53 LG screens displaying would-be attendees tuning in remotely. The show otherwise went as one would expect; tunes provided by The Weeknd, loud Grace Jones-adjacent tonality, and statement-making winged shoulders.
Not your grandmother’s handbag!
Unless, of course, you are Simon Porte Jacquemus. The young and lovable French couturier brought things home this year by featuring his grandmother, Liline, in his summer 2020 campaign. While Jacquemus’ model choices usually lean towards the likes of the Hadids and young, spritely influencers, the decision to feature an older woman was refreshingly unmissable. The photo shoot was unpretentiously conducted from his iPhone and in person at Liline’s chateau in Southern France and, by the looks of it, she’s incredibly chic just by nature of being a French woman. Her grandson’s campy approach to designs and staging made it both fun and intimate. The caption on one of his posts read: “(ONE OF THE MOST SPECIAL STOR[IES] FOR ME)” and this sentiment is fully reflected in the images.
Brought to you by Gucci Studios.
What can’t Alessandro Michele do? A Da Vinci level juggernaut, Michele, in collaboration with American film director, Gus Van Sant, chose to launch a 7-part episodic titled An Ouverture Of Something That Never Ended, in order to showcase his latest collection to the public. The title itself is a nod to the seemingly endless nature of quarantine, and the pace of the short films is far too relatable in its painfully sedated, haunting, and dreamily monotonous execution. The video collection is centered around Silvia Calderoni, a non-binary Italian performer, and their quotidian happenings—lounging at home, stretching while watching television, going to the post office, getting coffee, dealing with neighbors—while dressed fully in Gucci. The wardrobe itself is, to say the least, enviable, the cast: diverse and semi star-studded (I mean, Harry Styles is in it), and the general attitude of the series: glamorously over it.
If there’s any takeaway from these interpretations of the traditional runway, it’s that there’s more than one way to make a collection public. This year, we really got the opportunity to see how creative and resourceful our modern day designers are and, personally, I hope this new level of accessibility and deconstruction is here to stay.