Everything Looks Different Now – The New York Times

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MILAN — Backstage at the Moschino show on Thursday, the day Russia attacked Ukraine, the designer Jeremy Scott was standing amid models dressed in clothing made to resemble the furnishings of a grand manse — a lampshade hat that was an actual lampshade; a satin bedspread coat complete with pillow as collar; a grandfather clock gown — and discussing what happens when crisis and fashion collide. Nearby, the milliner Stephen Jones was attaching an entire candelabra to one model’s head.

“I’m just trying to bring some reprieve, some joy and beauty to our lives,” Mr. Scott said, by way of explanation for the whole show-will-go-on stance. He wasn’t unaware of how it might seem. “We still need that,” he said, pointing at his sweatshirt that read, with levity that wasn’t entirely convincing, “Gilt without guilt.”

The fashion bubble, that world-within-a-world that moves with a rhythm and a language all its own twice a year during the ready-to-wear shows (or did, pre-Covid), can feel discombobulating at the best of times. When a global confrontation occurs, however, the contrast between life inside and life outside is particularly jarring.

On the one hand: the stuff of fantasy and frippery; on the other, feeds and headlines filled with threat and fear. It can seem almost impossible to reconcile.

Yet fashion, like other expressions of humanity, can be a tool for getting through even the worst of times; can be used to feel stronger, safer, more confident, more efficient, more able to deal with the day.

The problem is how to think about clothes that were made for one world, but will be viewed, and worn, in another. When reality shifts, how something looks, the purpose it serves, can change overnight.

The Max Mara team, for example, name-checked Sophie Taeuber-Arp, the early 20th-century Swiss abstract artist in its show notes, and sent out models swaddled from head to foot: in enveloping cashmere and puffer coats, teddy bear trousers, balaclavas, knit opera gloves, thigh-high mohair sock boots.

In an emerging-from-Covid world such garments might smack of comfort clothing and the cuddliness of home, but in a sanctions-and-shelling world — one where a guest clad in a little black dress toted a cardboard sign scrawled with the message “No War in Ukraine” — they seemed more like protective gear, shielding the bodies within.

Then there was Sunnei, where the designers Simone Rizzo and Loris Messina imagined a mini-commentary on the rush of every day life, with models running down a side street as if late for a very important date, their eclectic mélange of popcorn knits, wide trousers and color block stretch tops flying all around. It was a witty scenario, but it was hard not to see the people careering by (some also in balaclavas, a trend that is taking on a whole new cast), overstuffed backpacks bouncing behind, and think that they were fleeing.

Context matters.

This was the problem for Mr. Scott, whose double fashion entendres has turned his work into social media catnip and made him the industry’s resident postmodern prankster. A few months ago, when he conceived his collection, a manic take on the stay-at-home nature of the last two years when all of us had to find inspiration within our own four walls probably seemed like a fun idea. Especially when crossed with the ubiquitous promise of space exploration, in the form of a set based on the ornately decorated bedroom in the final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“It’s ‘2001: A Space Opulence,’” joked Mr. Scott backstage. He was referencing the suits and trench coats sporting faucet and cutlery buttons, and a ruffle-trimmed little black dress with the motto “maid in Italy” and a feather duster for a hat — not to mention one gold gown bearing a full-size harp with crystal strings on the back, although the film that first came to mind was Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Often, Mr. Scott’s sartorial puns serve as cover for a stiletto-sharp jab of cultural commentary, but this time they seemed less wink-wink than irrelevant.

What, exactly, was he skewering? It could have been the oligarchs (that would have been shifting on a dime), but instead it seemed to be … the interior design industry.

As it happens, Mr. Scott’s first Moschino show, held eight years ago, took place during the beginning of the 2014 Ukrainian uprising. Then, as now, it made for a jarring contrast.

Another: Just outside the Prada show — where throngs were shrieking to catch a glimpse of the celebrity guest Kim Kardashian (in leather trench and jumpsuit from the January men’s show) and Hunter Schafer of “Euphoria,” who modeled — two women unfurled a Ukrainian flag.

Which is why the fact that contrast at the core of what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons have been exploring at Prada ever since they joined forces two years ago is so suddenly apropos. Its power lies in the designers’ willingness to grapple with the push-pull of different points of view. This season was no different, with tensions strung between the masculine and the feminine, the hidden and the exposed, the very ornate and the very essential.

A basic ribbed white tank was paired with a sheer skirt in a sort of metallic fabric, made so it crinkled and gleamed, sometimes sliced by inserts of pink satin or gray flannel, sometimes dangling petal-like paillettes that seemed to weigh more than the material itself.

The skirts reappeared as shift dresses over more tanks and boy-short underwear, paired with graphic 1970s knits (the kind Prada made famous years ago), oversize blazers and leather coats with jutting shoulders and feathers sprouting from the elbows. Every once in awhile there was an interregnum of black, like a palate cleanser: coats and wool dresses with chains strung around the neck and secured on one shoulder; knee-length silk frocks with built-in corsets.

It wasn’t revolutionary; most of the pieces (or their forebears) had already appeared on Prada runways in another time. But then, the designers were exploring the brand’s own past. If you don’t learn from history, et cetera.

As a point, it was particularly on the nose.


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