Another big question: Is it that a designer either has to be a celebrity—like Marc Jacobs or Rick Owens or Abloh—or use a celebrity? I’ve also noticed Bottega Veneta dressing more rappers—Migos at this weekend’s BET Awards, for example, and they put Scott on the cover of their most recent zine. Fashion’s relationship with celebrity isn’t by nature problematic: it seems mostly good that Jay Z wears and invests in Rhude, and Harry Styles wears Bode, and Travis Scott buys those out-there A-Cold-Wall warcore vests. But is there a way to stage a blockbuster fashion moment without forcing those kinds of connections?
In fact, the designers who are thriving right now are the ones who are thinking small and personal, and who are in the process of fundamentally rewriting the role of the fashion designer. Hedonism has always been in Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe DNA—he’s a cute guy who grew up partying in Ibiza, after all—but this was pleasure-seeking in its purest form. The power pink of his gauzy knits and little space boots practically yelled at you to put them on, especially as shot by David Sims, who casted a pugilistic mechanic peeking out of a circus tent and mulleted hunk in big shorts and tube socks and other awesomely strange faces who blurred the line between sideshow freaks and skatepark fixtures. Like JW, it was gnarly, but more daddy.
Anderson, like other designers who also show womenswear, suggested he’d probably return to the shows in September, though he said he already felt anxiety thinking about the backstage scrum. And why wouldn’t he? He is now not only a designer but an image director and a bookmaker and a worldbuilder, creating the clothing he wants to see in a David Sims photograph. This new multimedia has become a crucial and likely permanent way for brands to talk to their customers—fashion designers are now creative directors, magazine editors, priests, style guides, and life coaches.
Some designers believe the change is less about the clothes than their audience. Thom Browne got extra ambitious with his collection video this time around, making a 30 minute mini-epic about a long distance runner in the American West. The point was less actual clothing—he’s showing men’s with his women’s in a live show in New York this fall—than the “mood” of the brand, as he put it.
Matthew Williams, who presented a positively gorgeous video for an unusually Californian 1017 Alyx 9SM collection, told me the biggest change he’s seen this past year is in the appetite for video. “We’ve always made films for Alyx,” he said, but “the industry, buyers and customers are much more open to looking at fashion film as a way of presenting. They’re really watching these videos.” I’ve noticed that when I go to, say, Dover Street, groups of twenty-somethings move from section to section like pilgrims on some kind of religious journey, checking in on the various collections and genuflecting. They’re not even there to buy anything—the knowledge, and now all these books, videos, and content, are just as much products as the clothes themselves. ““People are taking the time to embrace and watch and really look and feel,” as Williams put it.
So with all that in mind, seeing something that just grooves is a relief to the eye and mind. No crisis here—we know exactly what we’re doing. Both Lemaire and Hermès are brands that always stick to their guns. This can be held against you if you’re a novelty act, but if you’re a designer like Christopher Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran, or Hermès’s Véronique Nichanian, consistency is a sign of integrity. When every brand is trying to reinvent itself, return to some other era, or get Cactus Jack to send you, there is an extremely satisfying serenity in clothing, like Lemaire’s, that is designed for the grounded sophisticate, and like that of Hermes, which makes objects for living well. Lemaire in particular lacked a certain crispness this season, but in a very good way—these were the simple cottons and khakis that a brand like Banana Republic is trying to take mass with just a few drops of fashion. Not too much. And Hermès, one of the only brands in the world with a sense of humor, showed a bit of that with very cool big shorts and tie-dyed sweaters. It was blissfully hype-free.