It’s time to ask yourself again (yes, again) what is luxury. So it’s time to end your bubble and mineral bath: get out of the tub, put on your Charvet slippers, wrap yourself in your Pratesi silk dressing gown, sit down in your Majorelle chair and start thinking.
New year, new meaning? The beginning of 2020 may also have marked a start in the rethinking – again – of what luxury means. Over the past decade that we have just completed, a new and exciting definition of the term emerged and it was clear to us no, transparent as water: the great European fashion houses hired a new wave of very cool designers who were in charge of reformulating the rules of exclusivity and quality, freeing iconic and historical firms from clichés and stereotypes and redrawing what and who was considered indulgent, elegant and beautiful. Characters such as A$AP Rocky and Frank Ocean became the new epitomes of style and good taste, Alessandro Michele, Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones became international fashion stars and Supreme convinced the new generations that it is possible to buy products at a lower cost than the luxury brands but with the same sensibility. Those ingredients of the formula that until then had been a secret for many became very important material for the global pop culture: now a huge amount of people faithfully follow the novelties of Haute Couture and there are men who follow the men’s fashion shows as if it were a football match.
However, this has become a dominant sensibility that is beginning to disappear. The brand image has become inextricable to luxury – many people can now pronounce the term without being part of it. It seems that there are a lot of very expensive objects that are coming to us not from the mind, heart or hand of their creators, but from the urge to know what sells and what is cool at all times. The consequence of this modus operandi is that what is sold lacks meaning or exclusivity.
Luckily, there are a handful of designers who are embarking on a new path: we can now sense the effort of their pieces and feel their spirit and even sneak into their minds. There is humanity in their creations. Jonathan Anderson has elevated these values in Loewe to true virtues. Anderson not only has a lot of energy – he is always charming and illustrates his quips in the post-show interviews – but also a real vision.
If not, take a look at the collection he presented this past Saturday. “The concept of a stylish wardrobe,” he described after the firm’s show. The sewing of the jewels on the sweaters looked like a homemade task. The coats, which were several, had a simple shape, as if they were gowns and capes, as well as a coat with a camel-coloured skirt with a round neck. Several pieces were adorned with chains, an industrial material -only these were made of fur, a human glow and a comical impression of machinary efforts. Like Prada’s latest collection, the styling was very modest: even the Elephant bag was an XL version of the XS wallets the firm makes, which are actually the result of the remains of Loewe’s leather goods.
Anderson’s views were based on mixing the imagination of a great designer and the understanding of reality that many designers have to face today. Jonathan explained the party dresses that appeared on the catwalk as follows: “I looked at the party dresses from the ’50s and thought, ‘How would they look if a little boy tried to wear them and looked in the mirror?'” Every item in the collection had a purpose, everything meant something. There was nothing redundant or wasteful about the collection.
Anderson was introducing the world to a new concept of luxury: There is nothing more luxurious than being able to see directly the intentions of a designer in a collection handmade by artisans. Loewe moves away from technology and from expectation, away from corporate ideologies.
This intention is also the key to Emily Adams’ work for Bode. Her idea of dressing, whose origin seems to lie in reusing old quilts and antique fabrics, could be a simple idea that challenges the novelty of the season. However, she continues to develop new concepts and revolutionize her concept of beauty season by season, as she demonstrated last Tuesday through quilts, knitted sweaters, net bags and even a tailcoat, with which she closed the show. Like Anderson, Adams has a sense of humor that adds some benevolence to what he does. Her collections look just as good on posh men as they do on Trinidad James, who was part of the designer’s front row dressed from top to bottom in golden ballerinas and a red Yankees hat with devil’s horns.
At the end of the day, the first reference of French luxury arrived, Hermès, perhaps the driving force behind this new redefinition of luxury we’re talking about: its identity is based on the esteem for the artisans who make its products a reality. Véronique Nichanian pursues this vision without deviating, and this collection places her materials, especially leather, in the foreground. The consequence? The small details resonated with indulgence, like the panelled structure of a chocolate-toned bomber and the webbing buckles sewn into the bottom of the trousers. Everything has an intention.
Interestingly, a new cultural energy around Hermès (not unlike the sudden fixation with Yohji Yamamoto) suggests that this new obsession with craftsmanship is greater than that of these designers. The most famous bag in the house is perhaps the most important in men’s fashion right now, between Future rapping about “going for a Birkin” and Bryanboy’s new ‘it’ bag, not to mention Drake’s own secret stash for his legendary handbags. Forget about standing in line for a new release – the new luxury is slowly catching up with the idea that we need a Birkin.
Author: Rachel Tashjlan, GQ