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  • Elements of Runway — the Stage

    Presentation is paramount— a sentiment that makes no exceptions, especially in the Runway world. Now in the wake of a world presumably without the pandemic and travel welcomed once more, we look forward to the return of a fully immersive season. So in preparation for the upcoming shows, we've decided to break down the critical elements of a successful presentation: set design, sound design, and styling. Part one of the Elements of Runway trilogy dissects the importance of set design and how it serves as a pillar of Fashion Week across the globe. An ensemble with no stage means no show- while the backdrop to a collection completes a story. Before the sound comes and models populate the intentionally laid-out walkways, the audience is first alone with the stage. This is the first point of intrigue, a scene from a book that is actualized at their feet. Set design and production are unquestionably essential parts of the show, acting as a vehicle for how designers communicate a collection's inspiration, themes, and brand values.   During the height of the pandemic, many shows were brought to the audience digitally as fashion films took precedence and offered a new opportunity for expression. So, veering away from brilliantly directed films such as Dries Van NotenSpring-Summer 2022 (directed by Albert Moya) or Maison MargielaCo-Ed Spring-Summer 2022 Collection (directed by Olivier Dahan, known most famously for La Vie en Rose (2007)), we are giving priority to IRL stages. Understand this is no easy decision, but with the return of the presentations expecting an audience, we will highlight the stages that engage all of our senses.  The call to action was evident in recent years of Greta-Thunberg fever and fashion being named the second most polluting industry. Brands from every tier began greenwashing and recycling buzz words to accompany any and every release, but few were thinking of the impact Fashion Week and major productions had. With the exception of the pandemic leap year, one player using its arena to build upon the climate crisis is the luxury Italian label, Marni. For their Spring-Summer 2020 Act II, they collaborated with Berlin artist Judith Hopf, giving her the green light to create a wholly sustainable set design.  So, Hopf played with a bit of everything to create the ultimate upcycled jungle, paralleling childlike drawings and art assignments. Artificial palm trees made from PET polymers and reused plastic waste from the men's show were transformed, and cardboard elements with hand painted bark lined the walkways.  "The set is about how we think about those things we have already around us," Hopf explained. "There is no utopia or dystopia behind this concept – it follows the conceptions of diversity and difference in imagination." The creative director, Francesco Risso, was barefoot with his cheeks covered in tribal paint. And when he commented that the collection was a new beginning for the label, his words spoke true. For Autumn-Winter 2022, Risso was back with an industrial building, overtaken by time and mother nature, designed by Mario Torre. To match Torre's macrocosm of a shrub-filled tobacco plant, the air was a dimly lit mist that models needed flashlights to navigate. The collection was one of repair, of pieces given extra love and life through patchworks of different textiles sewn over worn areas; their crowns were also made from upcycled materials.  In an email of show notes sent by Risso, his insight was- The future came and went, leaving us alone, but together in the dark, but lighter than before. Where do we go after? Where are we bound beyond what binds us to each other?  Living through a pandemic filled with wars and invasions, the global sense of optimism was bleak. Yet, survival for those with a roof was rediscovering the objects and belongings that also lived with them under. Nearly 2,000 plants of bamboo, eucalyptus, carex, geranium, ivy, grass, musk, leaves and branches were all part of scenographer Mario Torre's overgrown vision, which could be interpreted as a grim hope for the future. All of the earth was returned to its respective greenhouses after the show.  Risso's indiscriminate cast tied together with his assembled collection of old and new could have only made sense on a stage as such. Had they found their way through an AMO set, the collection would have been confusing and undesirable chaos.  Imagine the original Sound of Music (1965) cast at a Sonar Festival; the script would have to be entirely adapted and no place left for war. But, again, the power of set design, the theatermaker's stage, brings a play together.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • The Balancing Act

      Ordinary relationships are an already interesting concept; the idea of sharing an everyday life is a fascinating self-imposed construct that people routinely find themselves in. Finding someone to love and be loved by isn’t tricky when seeking a short-term fix, but how we find people with permanence is many times reduced to the stars. Some couples can survive on traditional love, and others sustain their unions by building empires. So we’re going past the ordinary office romances and discussing two industry-leading duos sharing the head seat at the table for couples' sake. Michele Lamy and Rick Owens have been fashion's mystery love for nearly two decades, and their temperaments couldn't be more polarizing. Nevertheless, we will refrain from diluting Lamy's mastery by reducing her as Owens's muse alone. The Owens (we think) we know couldn't possibly spend a life dealing with someone only as a beautiful object. No, Lamy is a force equal to Owens, deserving as much applause under the namesake line.  They began as an affair staged at Lamy’s then line Too Soon To Know, where Owens was hired as a pattern-maker. Yes, there was a time when Owens worked under Lamy. She has a whole past, present, and future of entrepreneurship that would surprise many of us. The quintessential eccentric was once even a lawyer and restaurateur, but we digress. Lamy was married, and Owens was in a relationship, but as Lamy elaborated in 2014 with Sorbet Magazine, 'there is no personal life; it's all the same life.' The two quickly married and moved on. "We are not together to make babies or these kinds of babies," said Lamy.  While both are gifted visionaries from different backgrounds, Owens is a recluse, and Lamy is always on the move. Still, the element of understanding combined with a solid apparitional pull allows their one life total fluidity. Their love offers something of a different dimension, but when one cannot live in this world, one must build the next together in hand, whether or not they are both fire or air. Everything Owens envisions, Lamy exploits (positively). They allow each other the space to live and experience in all the ways necessary so that they may come together and co-create exceptionally.  Enters Luke and Lucie Meier, the husband and wife duo, doubling as Jil Sander's co-creative directors since 2017. In a New York Times piece published in 2021, the two were painted as an almost too-perfect pairing. "For us, it's about purity, not minimalism," shared Luke in The Designer Couple Revitalizing Jil Sander.  Pouring from the same beaker to the same cup, the premise of Luke and Lucie (even with the names) is their mutual ambition of showing Jil Sander's lighter yet more expressive side. Meeting at Florence's Polimoda fashion school first as roommates, the two have always been aligned, even when working for different brands. While the most significant difference between the two is their techniques, as Lucie was more haute couture, and Luke traveled the Supreme world. Still, their process was the same.  Now staged at Jil Sander, Luke and Lucie have transformed their environment into a space for honesty without fear of disagreement. There is an overly harmonious component to this pairing, all due to the mutual respect for each other. As cliche as it is, they are the finishing each other's sentence type, which makes one question if there is such thing as too much time together; in their case, no. Their experiences together and apart have led to exquisite calibration and compelling collections. They are not seeing each other's vision but instead have the same, and in a rather divine way, are the perfect pair to co-creative direct under the eponymous German label.  Building an empire is not an easy feat, but creating one with a significant other is even more of a task. Though not a case of total opposites, but rather extremes, you've either got to be affectionately mislabeled as each other's muses or precisely the same. As Lamy expressed, whoever one might be accompanied within this balancing act, it is one shared life, through and through– taking mutual respect, admiration, and trust. At times they may find themselves putting aspects of their intimacy on hold to execute a vision, while in other instances, the familiarity may be more robust. But the common theme seems to be that to work successfully with a life partner means that you share a visual love language; the love language and act less spoken about.  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • Big Willy Love Club

      The Big Willy Love Club is fashion's latest contemporary brand immortalizing a sub-culture from the inside. While the last two decades birthed numerous designers putting on for their culture, Willy Chavarria is rounding out the representation missing in the high fashion world.  Before 'Black and Brown' was Black and anything non-White or Asian, Black and Brown meant African American and Latin American. These marginalized communities were often (and still today) reduced to societal stereotypes of rebellious, gang-affiliated, crime-ridden neighborhoods and a community rejecting assimilation. While this was an inaccurate portrayal, there is truth to the interlinking of the Black and Brown experience. Both are subjected and forced to fight structural racism while advocating for cultural solidarity, liberation, and empowerment. When the Black Power movement emerged, the Chicano Movement was in lockstep. Where there were the Black Panthers, there was the Brown Berets.   The history here is relevant because Willy Chavarria New York tells a story through his pronounced lapels, oversized silhouettes, and pressed creases. He brings the concept of intersectionality a step further to actual blood-line relations. His garments are transitional, embodying every member of a specific community, one with flare and more influence than accredited.  Chavarria's demeanor is calm and collected, yet his connection to the different sectors within the Latinx community gives his character the likability to garner unanimous support. While his personal wardrobe boasts the same motifs of his eponymous label, Chavarria has a certain softness to his charm that offers even more juxtaposition with the attire.  "Instead of just having our identity taken from us and put into fashion and sold. Now we are actually a part of it." explained Chavarria in a 2021 CFDA interview, later adding, "Thinking future, gender is out the door. It's just clothes. It's just ultimately clothes."  Chavarria creates looks of someone you might run into at the corner store, or your grandmother's backyard, fighting in the alley, playing music from the car stereo while dancing in the street, at the club– the list goes on. The characters he creates are all real people, and the energy they bring to his runway makes it feel like they could, in all actuality, be someone's cousin or a neighborhood boy. While in conversation with Interview Magazine, Willy spoke to the layers of thought behind his ballooning forms. Reclaiming it as "a statement about the area of space that we take up," adding, "I think that it's really nice when brown people or people of colour are able to say, 'Yeah, this is my space.'"  He brings together a group of people who typically go unnoticed for their striking looks but are reduced to an animal attraction. Sexuality is heavily present in his collections, and even though they should be celebrated for their divine beauty rather than exoticized, Willy doesn't shy away from the sensuality. Instead, he embraces it with holistically full force. And with a stirring momentum, Willy is constructing a world where the unseen is now sought after.  "My brand plays with the ideas of heightened masculinity in a way that connects with my queer identity," he said to Office Magazine when discussing his FW22 show 'UNCUT.' "I like my Willy Boys to be all genders." His work is Spirit, fashion reincarnated. It's a love letter to the love letters sent between growing families and those serving a sentence, an ode to a 90s queer aesthetic in a masculated turf. It is a message for the celestial indigenous, championing their essence. Willy Chavarria's designs are a sewn promise that their flowers are finally on the way. Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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  • Demna Gvasalia and Pedestrian Glorification

      To be a creator is to be inspired both overtly and subconsciously. One could say that perception is the source of life. Without the brain’s unique perception of its surroundings, the world would be painted with one stroke and no varying tones. It’s the reason behind Picasso’s ever-evolving self-portraits of over 75 years. The way we internalize and the output birthed from even our reflections could be a leading example of this thought.  So when Demna Gvalsalia (now the creative director of Balenciaga) co-founded Vetements in 2014, his meta-line was an overnight sensation. Suppose one could liken it to modern art where brilliance lays in the idea and doing, only to be scoffed at by the viewer who casually remarks, “I could have done that.” But it’s the range in offering that usually gives artistic allure; one might have been classically trained and completely capable, but their voice runs contrary to societal expectations of, well, anything. Maybe not a popular belief, but to know Demna is to love Demna and key to truly appreciating the fire lit by “Clothing’s” recontextualization of a pedestrian lifestyle.  With a United Nations creative team, their internal dialogue is a vast pull of global references adorning mall-goth aesthetics, which the audience is bound to recognize as a graphic (or three). When Fall 2015 gathered an intrigued crowd at Le Depot, a notably marked Antwerpen souvenir tee caught some attention. Thirty years prior, the couple and owners of Handschoenmarkt 4 designed and printed this exact graphic for their little shop in the city’s old center, which still sells for a penny of the price. The reference was uncannily present, whether Demna himself or another Royal Arts Academy alumni, but was the respect fairly paid? To the blind eye and financially, presumably not. Not a new phenomenon in fashion– plagiarism, appropriation, and the robbing of small businesses’ intellectual property is a dirty business, though challenging to categorize Demna’s actions as the same. When contextualized, Demna was born in an ex-Soviet home, followed by a brief stint in Düsseldorf. The lack of Western capitalistic titans gapped the first ten years of his life, then an explosion of them with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. It could be that the late exposure to Coca-Cola and McDonald’s sparked curiosity’s fuse, planting seeds for the Spring 2020 runway presentation in a Paris McDonald’s. It wasn’t only Western goliaths but branding in general that flooded post-Soviet Georgian fashion. In a way, an $890 DHL tee could be interpreted as a homage to that history, and POLIZEI coats to his Düsseldorf blip. Besides, Demna doesn’t only come for civil servants, as Walter Van Beirendonck diplomatically pointed to his former student’s first collection and its drowning in Margiela’s influence. So, if everyone is treated equally, does that mean all’s fair in the environment and war? And just because one can, does it mean they should? Or is that the art subjectivity clause…  Text by Shahrnaz Javid

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