McQueen Reconnects with Reality

“I felt the need to slow down and enjoy the little things, taking back the little beautiful moments that we are missing with the speed of our daily routine,” explained Sarah Burton, Creative Director of Alexander McQueen, before the show. “We went away from the noise of the city and reached the Irish countryside where we rediscovered the ancient processes of manufacturing linen. This is an incredible fabric, unpredictable and alive, and you can work it only using water, sun, and moon.” Actually, this is not just a romantic vision by the designer, but as natural fiber it can be worked without any other process than rain water to grow it. In Ireland there still exists the old techniques to bleach it through the light of the sun and even the moon, for the rarest version. You can produce an array of varieties, from the softest version to the thickest, through the beetling process which lasts for three days; then the material is painted with potato starch to create a strong and shiny material. This is a beautiful example of how, if we go back to the roots using simple techniques, the production chain is simple and really sustainable. Every procedure will take longer, but it will limit the manufacturing of the unnecessary. The collection was almost all about linen, in fully signature McQueen dramatic romance: long dresses with balloon sleeves inspired by Irish pirate queens, tablecloth skirts, and embroidered dress with endangered flowers that were juxtaposed with leather dresses (even if mixed with precious lace), and the sharp tailoring made in linen and mohair. Burton’s style has settled nicely in with the routine of the maison, and she really handled the brand codes of a powerful woman with a romantic heart. But the aesthetic is becoming a bit cliché, and this risks frustrating the beautiful and meaningful research related to fabrics and traditions that the designer cleverly does every season.

The phrase “One nation under a groove” was printed on three t-shirts that Chitose Abe designed for her last collection for Sacai. There was not just a Funkadelic (the American band which was at their zenith during the 70s) nostalgia but also a message of unity and brotherhood as a reaction to the difficult world in which we are living: the show opened with dresses and a trench with cartography prints as another symbol of friendship. Everything was easy, yet in keeping with Abe’s signature all-in-one complex designs for items that mixed blouses, pants, and shirts in a single garment in order to explore every season in new possible forms. The weightless foulard dresses were beautiful, and thus it became the intriguing silhouette that linked modern tailoring with antique costume-inspired cuts: oversized jackets with balloon sleeves paired with ultra-skinny pants defined a shape that was feminine, yet strong. Abe is part of the second generation of Japanese designers that are taking their modern designs around the world, celebrating her roots with unmistakable traditional details in cuts and shapes but without being too literal – making her clothes desirable and modern. She fenced in her work with controlled, recognizable designs, turning it into a reference point for many; but she moved around the creative space with great ability, sometimes pushing the limit by experimenting, other times elaborating on the brand’s existing DNA codes.

It’s no longer a matter of trends and clothing; it’s a global issue that pushed Stella McCartney to do her job. The British designer expanded her devotion to the environment almost to the level of activism. “Every day is a new chapter for me,” said the designer backstage. “I want to reach the goal of having a 100% sustainable wardrobe. Garments for everyday life that are desirable but that don’t harm our nature, that women want to wear and feel beautiful in.” In fact, she’s going straight to the point as this was the most environmentally friendly collection she’s ever done, as she reached the goal of making 75% of the prêt-à-porter collection fully sustainable. But even this is still not enough for her: the same day she launched a prototype of a faux fur material named “Koba” that contains recycled polyester and, more importantly, can be recycled again in order to avoid disrupting a smooth-running circle of life of the products. The collection was focused on an urban lady, who is confident and feminine. Here, Stella McCartney rediscovered the tailoring memories from her Savile Row past with pleated skirts and opened-up cut trousers. At the same time, the typical romance was also very present – with long dresses featuring scalloped hems and rounded silhouettes.

Giambattista Valli is sure about what he wants, so he doesn’t chase the impossible to reinvent his own style (which made him famous) to chase possible customers in the current unpredictable market which seems to be losing its vision. He just sticks with what he does best: making women dream. No revolutions nor coups de théâtre. The first drop of his last collaboration with H&M was the most successful ever for the Swedish brand, said the Italian designer backstage before the show. “Every season it's a new chapter for the book of my life, but I don't want to turn my brand upside down every time; I just want to make woman feel beautiful,” he explained. The collection fully reflected his vision, presenting a female gardener, the pure embodiment of luxury, with references from iconic women and their gardens from the past and present. No sustainable messages, just a focus on his own creative inspiration: “I expressed my obsession for flowers, thinking about how I could turn a garden into something more extraordinary,” he said. So, the Valli trademark was there: little dresses with cute small flowers or plain pastel color with ruches, long weightless silk and chiffon gowns, delicate white lace dresses, and the reinterpretation of the gardener’s cotton overall. An evolution, not a revolution. Indeed.

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