Tomas Maier—born in Germany, resident of Florida, stealthy commandeer of Bottega Veneta (the Italian Hermès, and the second resurrection parable under Tom Ford’s stewardship of the Gucci Group)—experienced his sensory awakening at an Yves Saint Laurent fashion show, where his gazed became fixed on a particular flowing dress. “It was just a piece of fabric,” he told Interview. “But, as the model was walking, you didn’t know how she got into it, how it closed, where the seams where, and that, for me, was perfection.” Roberto Cavalli once declared God to be the world’s greatest fashion designer for his mastery of seamlessness. Later, Maier and his artisans devised an ingenious way to splice crocodile skins in a manner that might dissolve the join (“I find it vulgar when you can distinguish how something is made,” he said). Now it seems, after investigating the ways in which fabric moulds itself so organically around skin, Maier has abandoned that ecclesiastical pursuit of perfection for something closer to earth. He seems just about done with trying to erase his clothes’ entry points: divine intervention shouldn’t supersede designer’s intention.
It’s curious, then, that his latest menswear collection was in total disarray. You had to wonder what his intention really was. Collars lifted haphazardly, jackets pulled to the side to mock the central axis of the spine. Colours seemed anything but natural: pinks, greens and mustards that might have been hatched in some confectioner’s whirring contraption, as were the names that followed them—purple was “byzantine,” orange was “persimmon,” and pink was “mallow,” as reported by Tim Blanks. But it was fun. And it was welcome flavour to a brand that commits itself to a notoriously essentialist existence, and a man, who, in the true slumped manner of a fatalist, once mourned that he “can’t get happy.” So it may be that loosening the silhouette and mixing these fabrics was a conscious choice to be happy. Or, at the very least, to dress like it. Never mind that Biblical doctrine forbids the cross-collaging of two entirely different materials. This reprobate went a step further to what many in fashion would consider heresy: sweatpants, a corduroy jacket, a polo shirt and a neck scarf—all in a single look. Maier doesn’t indulge in the objects of consumer fetish, nor does he think that luxury should lend itself to meretricious snobbery. He wants his clothes to achieve what he calls “a certain state of nothingness.”
Miuccia Prada is a kindred spirit. Her latest collection was inspired by uniforms—“elegant, very strict,” she says—for both men and women. She made a point of calling it her “men’s and women’s presentation” on a nylon square invitation, to avoid a clash in categories: she seems to see little difference between the two. This, despite the fact that her men still wear pants and her women still wear dresses. It’s neighbouring the impossible to read any review of Prada’s work without encountering the word “feminist,” politics that she quite literally wears on her sleeve, adorned with crystals, feathers, miniature plastic bananas—whatever flirts her fancy. But to call her that seems too easy, too expected. And far too absolute. Because, ultimately, Miuccia Prada is not an infallible feminist. Nobody is. Try to recall the last time Miuccia Prada sent a model over thirty down the runway (Lara Stone doesn’t count). Indeed, Prada admitted to The New York Times that she lacks “the courage” to test the limits of age before the inevitable accusations of tokenism. Consider, too, the last time she and Ashley Brokaw, her casting director, made a consistent effort to include models of colour. It’s a conversation that arises every season, and it’s a necessary one. Finally, though Prada may be credited with introducing the idea of ugly to contemporary fashion—skirts printed with disembodied lips, homage to the vagina dentata myth aligning with the monstrous feminine; as well as flames and hot rods and cartoon monkeys—it’s impossible to ignore the fact that her idea of ugly is always mobilised on a beautiful body. And some of them are just 15 years old.
It’s interesting that Prada chose to work so closely with uniforms this season, having spent much of her childhood trying to dispel (and at times, escape) its dowdiness. “I was so frustrated because I had to dress so seriously,” she told Michael Specter, in 2004. “I was a proper young girl and I was dreaming of pink shoes, red shoes, pink dresses.” Then, finally, she admits: “Exciting underwear.” As she grew older uniforms became an easy retreat. “You can hide yourself in a uniform; you can conceal who you are. Sometimes I like to hide myself behind formality. I think it’s attractive.” Attractive, and an equaliser, it seems. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that Prada is one of the richest women designers in the industry. For the same reason that she declined to run for Italian parliament (a billionaire purporting to represent the working class would have been grossly inappropriate, though it’s never stopped the Americans), it’s social reality that feminist ideology becomes quite murky in a capitalist superstructure, particularly one in which Patrizio Bertelli, Prada’s hot-blooded, hot-tempered husband, runs the show. Bertelli once questioned the need for creative directors at all, opining that plenty of brands do well without them—his brand of commerce to swallow up his wife’s brand (and let’s not forget that Prada is a brand, after all) of creativity. There have been recent reports of Prada’s decline, which analysts believe comes down to a lack of innovation. Perhaps so: this collection lacked any obvious evidence of new ideas, but with Prada it’s always been about spirit, rather than sensationalism.
Sensationalism—that’s very much a part of Gucci’s greatness. The kind of melodrama that could fill two story arcs of a hit soap opera, involving a philandering, loveless cad; an embittered housewife suddenly stripped of her family jewels (and the family name); a hired hit man, and a clairvoyant whose allegiance shifts without warning. Patrizia Gucci is currently on parole for ordering the 1995 assassination of her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, also the grandson the of the house’s founder, Guccio Gucci. It seems that Gucci may have found a new creative director in accessories designer Alessandro Michele, who came to the company in 2002, the same year Frida Giannini arrived (as an accessories designer, too). Collections typically take up to six months to produce, though Giannini’s work was supposedly discarded at the very last minute, leaving Michele just five days to put together a show. Impress work, really. His debut collection featured lace tunics, silky blouses squeezing through undersize sweaters; berets, neck scarves, and crocodile mules finished with mink. Michele’s feral features might belie a gentleness of hand. This was superbly clever work. Brevity may not just be the soul of wit, as idiom applies, but may also force designers to work on instinct. And all this in under a week? Underachievers, the rest of you.
Text Hung Tran Collage Christos Mouchas
The general complaint against menswear is that it doesn’t move fast enough, that gentleman prefer bores and stagnant signifiers of power. They don’t take many risks, they are comfortable where they are. They are too proud to take instruction, or ask direction, same old, same old. And yet, Craig Green’s work is the most compelling when he leaves direction to chance. His parachute jackets, with strands and bands swinging from the torso, could have ballooned on impact with even the slightest gust of wind. He once confessed that his “hands are too big to do womenswear”: a man’s hands, of course, as synecdoche for his greater manhood, even more so for one whose fingers weave magic with the fabric. And so we see these cottons and wools warped around erogenous zones, because it’s too easy for sex to be smothered when men are dressed to conquer something elemental with disregard for something carnal. Fashion has a tendency to glorify, at times even fetishize, the individual. The emphasis on “individuality,” to Green, has the insidious effect of isolating. “I feel like there won’t be any true subcultures again,” he mourned. “There aren’t people finding each other anymore.” He’s that old-fashioned dreamer, so it’s probably true: you don’t have to be an extremist to be an escapist.
Burberry Prorsum x David Bomberg
Funny, that. Burberry has a rich history of escape and expedition, if nothing else. Craig Green didn’t feature a single bag in his collection, whereas almost every single one of Christopher Bailey’s models came down the runway toting just that: totes, in every colour and hide. They’re always going somewhere. Original Burberry trench coats were equipped with pockets deep enough to hold a newspaper, but now they’re just deep enough to hold a phone, a wallet, and perhaps a set of keys. Thomas Burberry was ahead of his time, with the development of gabardine to scorn moisture of both skin and skies. Now, the company has embedded itself into its time. It tackled the digital problem with enthusiasm dwarfed only by effortlessness. Perhaps Bailey’s greatest virtue is that he’s one of the youngest creative directors and CEOs working in the luxury sector at the moment—he knows how the digital current behaves, and has never resisted the tide. But his propulsive work ethic hasn’t blinded him to the simpler, humbler truths of his craft. He’s possessed by an almost metaphysical appreciation for these clothes, having previously said, “People want the soul in things. They want to understand the ‘whys’ and the ‘whats’ and the values that surround it.” These shoes and belts were made from the finest leathers; the fringed blanket scarves weaved from yarns sourced somewhere far and remote, no doubt, with the worldliness of Britannia and the romantic spirit of a musty old attic, where this finery is doomed to expire. Because, ultimately, Burberry is clothing with history, and garb to be gifted to our children, and their children. Lovely, for sure, but that might also mean Burberry lacks any immediate pleasure. Who has the time to see these clothes reveal their charm? Or, more importantly, the patience?
If Burberry boasts quiet charm, Jil Sander—a decades-old office wear brand now spearheaded by Rodolfo Paglialunga—is more about artificial asceticism: the kind you might find in a library, or a hospital. There’s a clinical element to these clothes, sharp cuts, deliberate proportions, constrained colours. Jil Sander once compared her process to that of a prima ballerina, where dazzling technique disguises hours and hours of tortuous labour. This autumn/winter collection is Paglialunga’s first foray into menswear, having only worked on womenswear with the Prada group—from the time it first acquired Jil Sander and beleaguered her brand (twice). “Simplicity is minimalism,” he told The New York Times. “I work on simplicity.” So explains the series of nondescript coats and sweaters in this collection. Wearable, but wearisome, if I’m honest. What few interviews he has given so far are riddled with fractured thoughts and incomplete theorizations. What does he want to do with the brand? Hard to say. Does so-called minimalism have a future? Impossible to know. Sander herself rejects the “minimalist” label, choosing instead to call her work “pure” (also the name of her fragrance). For Paglialunga, these brief and abrupt thoughts might reveal a talent for synthesising. Refinement and reduction, really.
“Oh my god, who wants to date me?” Donatella Versace asked Lauren Collins, of The New Yorker, in 2007. “I’m so complicated. People have a low perception of me, men especially. They think, This woman, she’s a nightmare.” Look up any picture of the designer backstage with her models—some wearing suits, others wearing tight shorts, most wearing next to nothing—and her claims seem dubious. These men surround her, like tanned gladiatorial guardians to fashion’s ultimate custodian of camp. You get the feeling that they would do anything, and wear anything, to ingratiate themselves into the gilded inner circle of the Versace clan. Some had it easy this season, in Versace power suits with pants that clung to the crotch; others, sporting leggings and hoodies and sunglasses as avatars of anonymity—a kind of middle finger facetiously designed for the paparazzi outside the palazzo. There was, to only mild disappointment, very little skin on show. And when it did make that fleeting appearance, it wasn’t that of a man, but of a nubby mountainside mammal (so far unidentified) hanging languidly over an otherwise generic suit. A little known fact about Donatella Versace is that she studied literature in university. Collins stated that Versace’s life story is “punctuated by near-gothic excesses of the body and privations of the soul.” Her estimation of sex is often called vulgar and monstrous, at once supernatural and superlative, though she might also point out that when men do it, they’re hailed as legends (see: Tom Ford). Still, it seems that what Shakespeare did for English, Donatella Versace did for the ultimate universal language: sex. She weaponized it and made it bend down to her whim. And these men did, too.
Photography Angelika Wierzbicka Styling Grace Alexander Model Clarice Vitkauskas (Premier Model Management)
Text Hung Tran Artwork Christos Mouchas
There are few designers who are as disillusioned by the tired tropes that plague fashion on an editorial level as Jonathan William Anderson. The “rags to riches” fables that have been written about him continue to support an insidious form of classism—that an idealist who “came from nothing,” as he describes himself, was able to break the bulwarks of luxury fashion is anathema to an industry built on big names and even bigger spenders. Never mind that three of the most influential designers of the 20th century—Chanel, Vionnet and Balenciaga—were born poor. Then, of course, there’s the “gender bender” descriptor that follows Anderson’s name like an increasingly malignant shadow, because what he does with his clothing can no longer be trapped in such a hollow, harrowing box. He doesn’t seem so concerned about bending masculinity, for fear of its brittle body crumbling in his bare hands, as he is about uncovering a utopian idea of dissolving the spectrum of sex and gender into new form. New form and new feeling.
Anderson’s fall/winter 2015 menswear was led by sobriety: a black mid-length coat with a wide collar, sweeping to the back of the neck. Button holes—or where one expected to see buttons—were adorned with rusty trinkets that carried the flash of royal jewels without the decorative fervour. Nothing looked punishingly expensive, and that seemed to be entirely intentional. Pants were flared and slit at the hem to reveal impish shoes that beckoned mischief. Glossy leather trench coats and scratchy suede tunics might have been a reactionary slip into the hedonism of 1970s Halston, who, had he lived to see Anderson’s ascent, would no doubt be his most receptive client. And, then, a fuzzy coat made out of teddy bear hide (or something) was more kindred of pimp’s boy toy than boy’s plush toy. Anderson’s menswear is more assuring, more articulate in its finery: “I’m cutting out the fluff,” he said last year. “You have to push because in ten years that will be normal.” He’s wearing down the institution of masculinity by upping its wardrobe.
And, if so, it’s a welcome death: masculinity in its current guise must be met with wildfire so that idealism can sprout in the wake of its collective conflagration. Where flowers bloom, Sarah Burton seems sure to follow. One of my favourite collections by Alexander McQueen, Sarabande (spring/summer 2007), demonstrated the late designer’s very burning fascination with fatality, of every kind, and the conceits of his tortured artistry that ultimately swallowed his life. He dressed his ghost-faced models in clothes adorned with wilting flowers, which shed and fell to the floor as the models meandered around a broken chandelier. Lights out. Those flowers inevitably returned this season with a darker nature. Silken petals with serrated edges. But with the number of protests surging through France, where McQueen was later based, and London, where his genius was borne, perhaps Burton was inadvertently making a statement about the mythicized liberty, equality, and fraternity of French heroism, despite Charlie Hebdo’s racist and xenophobic offences (and McQueen never really felt like he belonged in Paris to begin with, like a weed growing in a garden). Burton made martyrs of her models: floral panels that mirrored decorative sashes and wreaths, distinguished in darkness, but allowing them to retreat into the shadows of glory.
Shadows. That’s where Margaret Howell seems to claim residence, having successfully evaded the glare of the industry. Her clothes make it that much easier to retreat into the shadow of uniformity. Howell’s favourite artist is John Constable, born in Suffolk (where Howell has a home), whose delicate countryside landscapes reveal a freshness and generosity of light fractured, of course, by expanding shadows of the overhead trees. Generosity—that’s the right word to describe Howell’s proffer, because they are really clothes designed for every occasion, and without discrimination. Miuccia Prada, in a New Yorker profile published over ten years ago, said, “You can hide yourself in a uniform, you can conceal who you are. Sometimes I like to hide myself in formality.” Howell’s predilection to purity and process seems just as humbling. Often, though, in our rituals of reticence, we slip too far into the crowd for fear of ever having been on display. Howell’s clothes offer an assurance to temper our unease: her tweeds, linens, knits and soft cottons are rich enough to make us feel there. They make us aware. Yet, Howell lacks any self-assurance. “I suppose my taste is quite conservative and I think fashion colleges can encourage madness,” she said, of her decision to skip a traditional, or rather institutionalised, education in fashion design.
And nobody, it seems, embraces madness like Jeremy Scott. “Anonymous fashion has no place in my heart,” he had said. “I want to be a people’s designer.” This means going mass. He’s done McDonald’s and pre-wrapped confectionery, something to satiate the stomach but often void of any nutritional value. It’s a far reach (or a tiresome dig) trying to scrounge the intellectual heft in Moschino, and it’s time better spent elsewhere. Trudging through thickened fields of snow perhaps presents a worthier challenge. Oddly enough, that’s where he took Moschino this season: his recently unveiled Barbie might be finding her husky hunk of a Ken here, his metrosexual bend surrendered to raging virility in the layers of cat skins and coonskins. Of his move to Moschino, Scott said, “It’s the only other brand that uses humour in a way similar to mine.” But whereas Franco might have used Chanel-esque chains and quilted bags as sartorial satire to undermine the dominant currents of European taste, and the class divisions inherent in consumers’ behaviour, he only tiptoed to the border. He enjoyed the thrill of luring the establishment to outrage. Scott has covered himself in glorious figures, most of the fiscal type—his designs sell like mad. He leaves those other glorious figures to Barbie and her play thing, hyper femininity granted life in plastic and peroxide. Still, one has to mourn the death of irony as Scott ushers in the age of the innocent spendthrift.
Moschino x David Hockney
Photography Virginie Khateeb Model Victor Petit (16 Men) Location Paris, France
At home, at my friend’s flat, at a square – everywhere!
What was on your Christmas wish list in 2014?
I would love to have a car, a boat or a nice trip somewhere but I got a bike!
Do you have any fitness regime?
Is eating lettuce a fitness regime?
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Kind, funny and friendly.
What are some of your 2015 resolutions?
Stop smoking and drinking!
If you could turn back time, what advise would you give your 10 year old self?
No, I would just give myself a hi five!
Photography Brad Elterman (7 Artist Mgmt) Styling Richie Davis Model Emily Jean (Next)
Photography Mariona Vilarós Styling Nickque Patterson Makeup Mai Kodama Hair Fumi Maehara using Bumble&Bumble Model Isa (M&P Models)
What are the Top 3 websites that you have to check daily?
I only check my mails and Facebook daily. I try not to waste too much time and energy for that… when I’m on holiday I try not to be online at all!
If you could be a superhero for a day, who would you be and why?
The Flash! Being the fastest man alive and even time travelling would solve many problems especially in a busy city like London.
Tell us some of your beauty regiments or share some personal beauty tips!
To be honest I don’t really have any… but I always give others’ beauty tips a try
When travelling, what are the Top 5 essentials that you have in your bag?
Music, camera, a good book to read, my sketchbook, a warm jumper cause I’m always cold!
If you could be talented in anything, what would it be?
I’d love to play the piano cause I really like the sound of it and my sister is not always around to play for me
Shirt Tara Gurisik Bomber Jacket Stylist’s Own
Shirt Tara Gurisik Pants Vintage Puma Bomber Jacket Stylist’s Own
T-shirt Matthew Francis Burns