Paris is widely considered to be the capital of the fashion industry. Thus our final stop of Fashion Month is in the home of some of the biggest luxury labels from Christian Dior to Louis Vuitton, and bright young talents too. Follow our recap of the best that Paris Fashion Week spring 2021 has to offer.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
Celine took a trip to Monaco’s Louis II stadium to create a lookbook and video for spring 2021, but the collection felt very in keeping with the classic American prep school look Hedi Slimane has been refining for seasons. From smart navy or tweed blazers paired with track shorts and denim cut-offs, toprinted maxi skirts with oversized track jackets and buttondowns with boyfriend jeans, it was all very The Official Preppy Handbook. Logos abound on oversized bags, hats, and cropped t-shirts. Slimane can tell a whole sartorial story on the runway and when you walk away from it you discover that he’s in fact given you a stellar rendition of any particular piece you can think of—from slouchy denim to a leather blazer and a pussy bow blouse.
Raf Simons is a cinephile. Most fashion designers are, really (see Chanel). But his view on the film industry isn’t as sweet and innocent as the rest; it is dark, a dash sinister, and filled with angst. Case in point: His spring 2021 collection, titled Teenage Dreams, referenced a slew of movies that come from different eras, but that all center on youths in revolt. From the the PVC bustiers of Barbarella (1968) and the psychedelic prints of Hair (1979) to the graphic tees and hoodies of high school classics like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Scream (1996), Simons took all these disparate elements and funneled them into a refined collection that not only pays homage to the silver screen, but also reflects the tension and sense of uncertainty that Gen Zers (and everyone, quite frankly) are feeling.
When things don’t make sense, sometimes you just have to go with it. That was the driving idea behind Rei Kawakubo’s latest, a clashing of materials entitled Dissonance. Various textures were woven and layered, sitting side by side in combinations you never saw coming (“illogical” per the accompanying notes). Sheets of plastic curtained down, around, and over while twisted ropes hugged necks and shoulders. The latter could be crucial to the garment’s construction or simple ornamentation—who’s to tell? Pop culture added to the soupy confusion, with expressive Mickey Mouses and Japan’s Bearbrick dolls as the only prints (plus a polka dot, though any Disney fan worth their spots could tell you it was Minnie Mouse’s). The entire collection was shown in red lights at the label’s Tokyo HQ. While the eerie effect might have been intended to capture the doomed feeling of 2020, you can also view it as a calming lens. Darkroom lights always tend to make things look clearer.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being part of an iconic music group, of shimmying or shaking or slithering to the mic stand, then your stage outfits have arrived. Junya Watanabe more or less crafted a world tour wardrobe for four fictional stars he sees in his memories, and even kindly gave us a name: The Spangles. The clothes are easy, fluid and light: jumpsuits, capes, billowing dresses. Even the things that should be heavier, like trenches and biker jackets, retain a feeling of lightness; in some cases they’re actually translucent. While it’s all the type of glamour fare that’s eternally versatile, working for black-tie events or with sandals somewhere simple, the idea of it being fit for The Spangles makes every single piece feel fun. The heavy dose of sequins certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Escapism played a major role in Bruno Sialelli’s spring 2021 collection. Not only did the designer present at Shanghai’s Yu Garden, a picturesque national landmark built in the 16th century, he also highlighted the prevalent styles of the 1920s—the decade of razzle dazzle. This journey to the past, however, was just the starting point: he took the motifs from the venue (exuberant floral prints and interplay of bright and dark colors) and the time period (drop waists, flutter sleeves, and the decorative signatures of furniture designers Armand Albert Rateau and Jean Dunand) and made them new. Think tiered, hoop skirts and opera coats with shawl collars paired with flat leather or sequined boots.
You can always count on Louis Vuitton to close out Paris Fashion Week with a bang. Fall featured a 200-person choir clothed in historical garb dating from the 15th century to 1950, and for spring the maison’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière made a powerful statement about fashion’s genderless future. What kind of cut can dissolve masculine and feminine? What wardrobe might s/he look good in?—these were the kinds of questions he asked himself. The answer looked a lot like the ’80s-meets-sci-fi silhouettes Ghesquière specializes in, but there was a new sense of DIY styling to the looks that walked down the runway in the futuristic LVMH La Samaritaine department store. Blazers came with expandable gussets, while pleated chino pants and wide leg trousers were cut generously and sometimes cinched with a thick belt. Belts also proved handy when paired with graphic printed dresses, helping “cheat” the A-line silhouette Ghesquière is famous for. It all read as very “you do you,” and the VOTE message tee that opened the show was certainly something all of the Americans tuning in virtually could get behind.
The world of Stella McCartney is one inhabited by working professionals with attitude—think smart oversized suits for the boardroom and sleek separates ideal for brunch dates. Her spring 2021 collection, however, was imbued with a greater sense of escapism. Fluid satin dresses in seashell and coral prints, clamshell shoulder bags, and flip-flops called to mind seaside destinations that, for most, are but a happy memory right now. Titled McCartney A to Z Manifesto—after an explainer she put together during lockdown about what her label is doing to reduce environmental impact, starting with accountability and ending with zero waste—the collection was made from 65 percent sustainable materials such as regenerated nylon and forest-friendly viscose. That focus on how fashion can address the climate crisis has alway been core to McCartney’s brand, and made her dreamy vision throughly grounded in reality.
It was a fest of volume on the Sacai runway. Stripes were large, dresses were boxy, and sleeves hung long. The genius, of course, was in keeping that sort of extra swoosh and drape from feeling messy or haphazard, and it’s a skill that Chitose Abe has in spades. The splicing, cutting, and combining that Sacai is known for is so artfully done that it’s almost impossible to tell what’s layered and what’s connected, what can be broken apart and what shan’t be torn asunder. Philosophically, the message of disparate parts becoming one hits you deeply, and the pure fashion motivating the pairings is something we’re all eager for a hit of. Standout looks included a white denim jacket merged with the bottom of a tailored overcoat; a tux jacket over a Canadian tuxedo; and the satin bodice from a proper evening gown fancifully attached to what appeared to be wide-leg trousers. Even if Abe is cast as the runway’s Dr. Frankenstein, there’s nothing monstrous about these creations.
It takes two to tango: that seemed be the message of the second and final chapter of S.W.A.L.K., the Nick Knight-directed fashion film Maison Margiela creative director John Galliano premiered during the digital couture week in July. Or as the show notes put it,“The reliance of one person upon another … is a vital pas de deux activated by instinct and trust.” Galliano has been thinking a lot about human interdependence during the pandemic, and how our collective future is inextricably bound together. For spring 2021 he expanded his Recicla offerings, a new green line of lovingly restored vintage pieces that carry a special white label. There were more of fall’s excellent wicker bags, as well lace tops, beaded evening bags from the 1960s, and red velvet tango pumps informed by the visual world of dance.
Miu Miu showed its spring offering on an elliptical stadium set built by AMO, a nod to the idea that both fashion shows and sporting events are “an arena of observation.” Leave it to Miuccia Prada to make athletics such a cerebral experience. The entire audience, alas, was a digital one, but they existed as part of the experience: three digital lounges of screens displayed women tuning in from around the world. That sporting motif continued to the runway, where evening meets jersey-inspired pieces. Short shorts and sneakers are topped with dress coats, rugby stripes meets mini skirts, and ultra short shorts exist somewhere between swimsuit and running costume. Is she the player or the observer? Perhaps a bit of both?
While we’ve often looked to Chanel invitations for hints as to the way the Grand Palais would be transformed for the latest show, this season the house released a teaser video by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin. The film highlights French New Wave actresses Romy Schneider, Anna Karina and Jeanne Moreau in classics like La Piscine by Jacques Deray; Breathless, A Woman Is Woman, Contempt and Pierrot le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard; and Elevator to the Gallows by Louis Malle. The invite shows Chanel written out in lights like the Hollywood sign—making it crystal clear that Virginie Viard is inspired by cinema for spring 2021. “This collection is a tribute to the muses of the House .. .Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld dressed so many actresses in films and in real life,” Viard says, “I was thinking about them who make us dream so much. But without wanting to replicate. Without falling into a vintage citation. I wanted it to be very joyful, colorful, and very vibrant too.” The collection is joyful and decidedly youthful, with t-shirts printed with the letters of CHANEL like neon-lights, Old Hollywood worthy black and white gowns, languid denim, leather shorts and pink capri pants, and easy tweed suiting. Perhaps what an actress might need for an entire press junket, or every part of a woman’s life—if we’re looking forward with the kind of optimism that only Hollywood can champion.
Rokh raised an all-female army from the reaches of time, calling forth women outfitted in the collars, sleeves, and bodices of various centuries. These were valkyries in leather body harnesses, fierce and proud in billowing skirts, puffed sleeves, and wide lace collars. It was the sort of spectacle that reminds you why fashion shows can be such magic. The clothes won’t look like this in real life—the backdrop appears like a steamy battlefield after the fight, for one—but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t feel like this. Even if they become pretty dresses worn with sandals or blouses tucked into favorite denim, they’ll forever retain a bit of this magic, the idea that women have been and continue to be warriors. Wherever your fight is, and however you dress for it, wearing something that makes you feel powerful is key.
There was something for everyone at Xuly-Bët. Slouchy, oversized suiting? You got it. Bold graphic prints? Why not. Denim on denim? Of course. The range is partly due to Lamine Badian Kouyaté’s focus on upcycling, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s accidental. The energetic hodgepodge reveals a brand that wants to appeal to every “type” of dresser. Take, for instance, the use of the white button-up throughout. It’s worn primly to the neck in one look, unbuttoned nearly to the navel in another, and layered under a holographic gold catsuit in a third. There are clothes for club kids, prepsters, artists, or fill-in-the-blanksers. To be a Xuly-Bët person, you simply must be (and be part of the revolution: The show was presented over a soundtrack of activist-poet Michaela Angela Davis extolling listeners to lean into the reimagining and rebuilding happening around us).
An invitation to a Giambattista Valli show (even a virtual one) promises frothy confections, red carpet must-haves, and romance with a bit of edge. The latter was delivered in droves for Valli’s Spring 2021 virtual showing, but the frills, fuss, and grand gowns were nowhere in sight. Instead, petite skirt suits, gossamer dresses in a suite of pastels, and Valli’s version of streetwear (branded graphic tees, bucket hats, and oversized totes) were on the menu, designed to suit the woman whose sitting at home—but still wants to shop. It appears that fashion’s master of pomp and circumstance is reserving his riffs on volume for Haute Couture, transforming his ready-to-wear range into just that: clothes that are ready to wear—not to a gala, ball, or party, but in real life where travel and gatherings have been tapered down to the bare minimum. There may not be many places to wear over-the-top tulle ballgowns these days, but Valli is prepared to meet his clientele where they are in a mid-pandemic world. After all, while staying at home and hosting parties of much smaller scales, his woman still wants to look feminine, chic, and apparently, a little sexy and edgy, too.
Hidenori Kumakiri taps his pedigree at Comme des Garçons for his label, Beautiful People, which studies “the beauty hidden between two opposing ideas” every season. Spring 2021 focused on our discombobulated world, where we’ve been secluded to our homes, “like pieces in a museum.” Kumakiri asks: “What if the clothes became our habitat?” The result? New Look-inspired bustles and shapes, artfully tailored jackets in upholstery fabrics, and a bed linen inspired finale look, complete with a pillow chapeau. The pieces are intended to flow, reconfiguring themselves as the wearer sits, stands, and moves about. Beautiful People asks you to consider that when you sit, a skirt turns into a couch, a dress into an armchair—only to revert back to what it was once you stand up and bravely head out into the world. This collection felt equal parts couture and cozy, and allowed us to dream at a time when whimsy, fantasy, and drama feels fleeting.
For his first collection as Givenchy’s creative direction, Matthew Williams looked to the lost locks of Le Pont des Arts for inspiration. “You find the pieces of the puzzle for a collection, building it from symbols and signs,” the designer says, “but never forgetting the reality of the person who will wear it and bring it to life. The women and men should be powerful and effortless, equal and joyful, a reflection of who they really are—only more so. It’s about finding the humanity in luxury.” Williams explores unisex pieces like bold, tailored coats, set against ultra-feminine yet powerful, fitted silhouettes on form-fitting dresses, staying true to the codes of the house.
Julien Dosenna’s Spring collection began with a simple question, “What if an everyday wardrobe could be reimagined with an avant-garde attitude?” The designer tasked himself with taking Rabanne’s futuristic codes, its chainmail, and history of “unwearable materials” and making them somehow more casual, and, well, wearable. The question was answered in those chainmail dresses being reworked in long shapes that seem to flow, in denim, floral motifs, leopard prints, trench coats, lingerie and baby-doll dresses—Rabanne’s version of lounge-chic. Asked and answered.
Some designers are prepping for life at home, while others, like the always-imaginative Thom Browne, are dreaming of days spent 239,000 miles above the Earth. The setting is “the first lunar games…in a coliseum on the moon,” of course. The all cream and white collection is made up of tailored, sporty looks in wool, seersucker, cotton, and cashmere. Long pleated skirts, vests, cropped trousers, and top coats feel as much like a throwback as they do futuristic. Hey, anytime except the present sounds like a plan to us.
For fashion houses focused on luxury, there’s always a premium placed on the tactile. Fine-grade knits, supple leathers, silken blends that feel like handspun gold—these are labels that know the value of something looking and feeling divine. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski clearly spent part of lockdown thinking about the power of touch, using materials that beg to be stroked and crafting clothes that celebrate the body. There are beautiful smooth leather separates, suede whipstitch jackets, and rich cashmere aplenty. Sporty bodysuits use cutouts at the side to enhance curves and leather-edged cage dresses call attention to the body moving underneath. A sweater with a scarf rolled and buckled at the neck combines the best of both: It’s an extra dose of rich knitwear that’s always at the ready to cosset and comfort on demand. To touch and be touched is the ultimate luxury.
Joseph Altuzarra was inspired by science fiction and real life when creating this collection, referencing Dune and the at-odds emotions he cycled through during the pandemic’s various stages. The combination of both resulted in beautiful pieces that are loose and easy, but also pleasurable (the opposite of utilitarian pieces you suffer through wearing, these are delicious knits, soft leathers, and liquid-like silks you’d look forward to putting on). There’s plenty of suiting too, a staple for the brand, but it’s softer than previous seasons, oversized and boxy with an ’80s bend. This Altuzarra is still sexy and cool, but altogether warmer, the work of a man who spent the preceding months realizing how much joy and comfort can be found from the simple things.
The undone nature of what Yohji Yamamoto does is so sublimely skilled that from far away it appears to be haphazardly constructed. You need to get closer to see how beautifully the fabric is draped and arranged over a form. Spring opened with dresses of lightweight fabric that looked like wrinkled linen sheets torn from a bed and fashioned into on-the-fly couture. A spate of suiting in rich silk followed, including a few with white stitch marks that hinted at an unfinished piece plucked straight from the atelier. The end was the most perfectly undone of all, with exposed wire framing and sinister spikes of fabric jutting out like bewitched black flower petals. Peeling back the superficial is a handy way to showcase construction—a beautiful thing to study—but also creates an atmosphere of poetic destruction. In the battle of light versus dark, Yamamoto ended things on a high note: A quartet of models clothed in optic white closed out the show.
Audemars Piguet’s latest styles hit the runway at Ralph & Russo, marking the beginning of a new creative partnership between the Swiss watchmaker and British fashion house that celebrates their mutual dedication to artisanal craft. “We actually realized that our watches had already been paired with [Ralph & Russo’s] exceptional designs many times by clients in real life who didn’t need to wait for this partnership to match our two brands,” says Audemars Piguet chief executive officer François-Henry Bennahmias, of the collaboration’s origin. The Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon model, with its frosted gold case made using an ancient Florentine jewelry technique, beautifully complimented the dreamy lineup of fils coupé sunray pleated lace blouses, midi skirts cut from feather weight nappa leather, and pailette-encrusted column gowns.
At its core, a new fashion collection is about ideas. Thoughts the designer has explored and toyed with, finally settling on a physical representation of something that’s ready to be shared with others. Satoshi Kondo conducted at least five different experiments for spring, the results of which are pleasantly simple on the surface (your brain only starts to crank when you know what you’re looking for). Everything is meant to be disassembled, folded, or rolled, essentially creating the most intellectual carry-on-only wardrobe ever offered. Zippers and ropes let the individual both modify the construction of a garment and take it apart for transportation. Those pieces not meant to be disassembled are made of a spongy knit that gently hugs the body before shrinking to perfect, roll-ready suitcase proportions for that future moment when we can travel again.
Kevin Germanier’s fluorescent extravaganza for spring 2021 looks like it belongs in an upscale Las Vegas theater (but the exclusive, hidden-door type that requires a password to enter). The use of neon colors, high-shine satin, and Swarovski crystals seem to literally electrify, creating the type of daringly dramatic flair that can result in polarizing ready-to-wear. But for all the inherent decadence associated with renaissance sleeves and sheer fabric woven with crinkly metallic shards, Germanier is the opposite of wasteful, using upcycled materials exclusively. It’s not a matter of making do with pandemic limitations, either. Rather, it’s a commitment that’s been in place since the label’s launch in 2018, making Germanier feel like couture for the future in multiple ways.
Alexandre Vauthier has been having a love affair with bold, often bright, sometimes bedazzled ’80s influenced collections for seasons. Going into spring, the designer took a trip even further back to the ’70s, with metallic tiered dresses, simple maxi silhouettes, a denim look paired with a simple white cotton blouse, and more Studio 54-worthy looks. It feels apropos for the time, when in-your-face Me era shapes don’t fit with the moment, but no one is ready to abandon glamour altogether.
Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson makes showing remotely look like a creative endeavor with some true energy behind it. His resort 2021 collection came as a show-in-a-box containing paper dolls, and he evolved that concept for spring 2021 with what he termed a “Show-on-the-Wall.” It is, effectively, a poster presentation, made in collaboration with M/M (Paris) and artist Anthea Hamilton, and is full of movement and whimsy. An artist’s portfolio featuring giant fold-out posters of the looks was sent to editors, buyers, and friends of the brand. The special delivery also included a DIY set: a roll of wallpaper designed by the artist, wallpaper borders, wallpaper glue, a brush, and scissors. There was even a beetroot scent disc and a soundtrack by way of choral sheet music by Thomas Tallis to keep the experiential aspect of runway presentations alive and well via an entirely new approach. The clothes themselves speak volumes, with an emphasis on the theatrical and sculptural. There are balloon sleeves, crinoline skirts, and other bold shapes that send the message that even is this a moment where we’re hiding out, we can still be as big and as bold as we want to be.
Rick Owens’s spring 2021 show reached mythological proportions in more ways than one. He titled the collection Phlegethon after one of the five rivers of the Underworld in Greek mythology (and the river of blood in Dante’s Divine Comedy). And his lineup of tops and capes with line-backer shoulders; rigid, cocoon-like ponchos; and thigh-high platform leather boots was a showcase of sartorial exaggeration. It conveyed a sense of ell on Earth, the Twilight of the Gods—or in this case, of humanity. Indeed, Owens is no stranger to post-apocalyptic ideas (darkness, in both the literal and figurative sense, is embedded in his brand), but in the era of COVID-19, this dystopian display seems much more reflective of our times. To wit: every look featured a face mask.
Isabel Marant understands her customer: how she wants styles that are practical, but have that certain je ne sais quoi. From oversized blazers and yoke-front denim to ribbed sweaters with pronounced shoulders and ruched mini dresses, her stalwarts have come to define modern Parisienne chic. For spring 2021, however, Marant focused on fantasy (we’re still in the midst of global pandemic, folks!). She brought a Xanadu-esque quality—think ’80s roller discotheques with bright flashes of fuchsia, lavender, and candy red—to her signatures. Adding to this playful, escapist vibe were the heart scribbles and whimsical butterfly appliqués, and the lively cast of dancers from (LA)HORDE collective that bopped to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” throughout the show.
There’s a collaged, layered feeling to what Natacha Ramsay-Levi turned out this time that feels different, somehow heavier than previous seasons. Chloé has always been by women, for women, and the female gaze is examined here via silhouettes that play with the traditionally feminine and the not (thick belts worn at the natural waist and floaty dresses; wide-leg trousers and tailored blazers). Literal messages are also included via the work of American artist Corita Kent, whose ’60s-era silkscreens were focused on action and feel just as fitting over 50 years later. While it’s no surprise for a Chloé collection to outfit you for work and weekend, the thing that feels different here is a middle ground: clothes for work that happens off the clock, for getting out, speaking up, and demanding change. Stonewashed gabardine shorts might be too casual for the office, but getting-down-to-business pieces nonetheless. Consider this the uniform of work circa 2021.
Color—gorgeous, saturated, daydream-soaking color—is the first thing you see when looking at Kenneth Ize’s spring collection. Those fuchsias, turquoises, and rainbow stripes are already somewhat of a signature of his, seemingly surprising since he’s a relative newcomer (fall 2020 was his first time showing in Paris), yet not at all when you understand that his focus on sumptuous shades isn’t confined to his own vision. Rather, he’s committed to celebrating and supporting the heritage of weaving in Nigeria, using some of his first earnings to open a factory in the northern part of the country that created the fabrics he used. It’s special to hear a designer at the start of their journey lay out the blueprint they’ll follow, and in his case, it’s staying true to himself and his heritage. If anyone should doubt, just reference the Instagram caption he chose to accompany spring 2021: “A man’s as good as his words.”
Fashion, simply, is fun—or ought to be, should we all succeed in getting out of our heads and away from the stressors that mark a modern life. The mission of reminding all of us busy people to embrace the pure pleasure of getting dressed was one Guillaume Henry accepted happily when he took the reins at the iconic French house and has achieved with a handy knack at turning out pretty, peppy pieces that seem to have joie de vivre in every stitch. There’s a larger dose of fantasy here than what he doled out last spring, with the shiniest of satins, the fluffiest of feathers, and the puffiest of puffed sleeves all having a moment. Whether it’s a sign of Henry fully hitting his Patou stride or a response to what’s been a bit of a dreary year, we’ll take it. These are clothes for a “why not?” situation indeed.
The eternal uniform of the bohemian hippie is free-flowing, whimsical, and unencumbered; clothes ought to be loose enough to allow for total freedom of movement, open and ready for whichever direction one decides to head in. Acne Creative Director Jonny Johansson is outfitting the 2021 hippie, one who might attend “gatherings for a spiritual moonrise,” in slouchy pieces that are iridescent, pearlized, or otherwise apt to change when a moonlbeam strikes. The solo print comes courtesy of LA artist Ben Quinn who tapped into his experiences with the supernatural to create a star image that’s used on linen and organza. Even if full-moon parties aren’t quite your thing, there are stand-outs: the silky sheer layering pieces are divine, and an oversized blazer, made of suit jacket lining only, is the non-tailored tailoring you didn’t know you needed.
Right out of the gate Olivier Rousteing’s latest felt like it was decidedly meant for a non-quarantining life. There was neon, cathedral shoulders, and so many sparkles, all high-octane elements that typically need an audience for maximum appreciation. While it’s no surprise that Balmain’s sexy attitude wouldn’t put up with being housebound, there were other concessions that made you think the designer’s gotten used to a slightly more casual life as of late (like bike shorts and sneakers). And in a really rather elegant styling moment, the entire set of sparkly evening pieces presented at the end were shown with bare feet, a choice that let the fluid garments take center stage but also felt touchingly real (black tie at home feels bohemian, but the vibe is best accomplished sans shoes).
The new Kenzo under Felipe Oliveira Baptista is made for the era of social distancing. The designer showed his debut collection for the French house last season inside a hermetically sealed plastic bubble, and the please keep your distance vibes continued for spring thanks to the giant netted beekeeper’s hats that covered nearly half the collection. “Beekeepers with their mesmerizing clothings and hats that echo so strongly the fragility and distance imposed and needed today,” Oliveira Baptista explained in his show notes, also noting that the collection was “an ode to the bees, the regulators of the planet.” That focus on nature’s all important pollinators—who are facing an existential threat due to climate change—also came across strongly in archival Kenzo poppy and hortensia prints given a digital “crying” effect.
The Dutch lockdown last spring found designer Dries Van Noten asking big questions: What’s going to be important in the future? Is there still going to be fashion in the future? The answer, according to the spring 2021 lookbook he shot on a beach in Rotterdam with artist Viviane Sassen, is a resounding yes. “I wanted really to make something that was ‘fashion optimistic,’” he says. That motive translated into a vivid profusion of mood lifting color; gone were the usual heavy heritage jacquards in favor of floating cotton organzas. Van Noten drew inspiration from the color-drenched experimental films of Len Lye, an early 20th artist who painted directly on celluloid, decades before the psychedelic movement. What appear as simple stripes on balloon sleeve dresses, belted coats, and bathing suits (a first for the brand) are in fact shards of light cast through a louver shutter, captured, and printed. Van Noten put it best: “The total look of the collection looks more simple but it’s more in depth.”
If Thebe Magugu’s spring 2021 Counter Intelligence lineup, which oscillated between sharp, tailored pieces and fluid dresses, seemed to have multiple style personalities, well, that’s because it does. “Our immediate picture of spies is largely informed by their portrayal in popular culture—slim, ostentatiously demure, fashionable and aloof,” says the Johannesburg–based designer and 2019 LVMH Prize winner. “Truth is, spies are all around us, they are our beloved teachers, friends and family members.” Magugu’s collection is an ongoing exploration of the traditions, culture, and racial dynamics of South Africa, and this season took its cues from a series of interviews he conducted with former spies who worked with the country’s old Apartheid government. Prints feature authentic documentation including a mugshot on a cotton blouse and and trompe-l’oeil polka dot pattern made from fingerprints.
As we all collectively look to the future of fashion, it’s become obvious that we’ll need our clothes to work harder and do more, but also up the level of pure pleasure we receive from wearing them. Coperni has met that two-fold challenge head on, revealing a technical jersey that fights bacteria, UV rays, and wrinkles while still allowing itself to be beautifully manipulated into slouchy trousers and tailored jackets. A sporty vibe runs throughout too, with zippers, paneled leggings, and high-shine shorts that would befit a boxer in the ring. Even though the collection was shown on a Parisian rooftop sprinkled with rain, there’s something decidedly California-girl about it (doubly so when you remember that built-in sun protection).