‘Fashion is as much about beards as it is about clothes’

Molly Goddard is one of England's bright youngsters (Jason Lloyd-Evans)

Molly Goddard is one of England’s bright youngsters (Jason Lloyd-Evans)

Today is the last day of this year’s spring/summer fashion shows. Usually by now, that means I’ve driven more than 3,000 km, worked in four different wardrobes, ate about 345 couches, and completely depleted my repertoire of vague chatter. I would also dream of sleeping in my own bed, wearing a pair of cashmere jogging pants, and not seeing another soul for at least two weeks.

Yet this year, I watched almost the entire trial alone, in my cashmere running shoes, and on one rare occasion (the Dior spring/summer show) from the confines of my sickbed. So fantasies should stay where they explode – in your head – because the whole Covid-induced “new fashion landscape” (translation: a series of live shows, a series of digital presentations, and some brands like Saint Laurent bowing out completely to show) are all pretty, not miserable, exactly , but … it was flat.

Brands have tried to make digital shows without an audience in the past, and they’ve never really worked out because the truth is that fashion is as much about the response from others as it is about the clothes in front of you. (The only thing worse than being called rude in fashion is not being called at all). While watching a show, you watch the reactions of your friends in the front row as well as the clothes in front of you. But it all feels pretty lost as it isn’t the frown celebs and the fashionistas standing on their toes in the back, whose face sprains are always a litmus test of what will fly in a younger audience.

It’s nobody’s fault, of course. Covid meant travel restrictions for everyone – all the front rows, barking fashion priests and influencers risking their life and limbs, posing “I’m right on my phone in the middle of the Arc de Triomphe”. But this means that many of us watch and predict from our computer screens what the world will wear next season; right in front of you, at what point… well, you get the idea.

Molly Goddard Spring/Summer 2021 (Jason Lloyd-Evans)

Molly Goddard Spring/Summer 2021 (Jason Lloyd-Evans)

At least in London, the editors gave face-to-face presentations with the designers who showed us their collections. This was pretty awesome for me, but I dare say it was painful for them as they had to keep their grins up for the endless press they invited into their studio.

Designers are looking boldly at everything, but the last few months have been particularly deadly for mid-range brands that either don’t have the power of a luxury goods group behind them or have passed the “brilliant young thing” point. Press. There are many of them in England – Simone Rochas, Michael Halperns, Erdems and Molly Goddards. Their brilliance comes from their ubiquity, but that’s also their problem right now and that’s why we should support them.

Of course there were benefits. Covid has been a saving grace for the planet to begin with. And I’ve saved a small fortune in fashion week outfits that usually waste a lot of time, worry, and money.

Meanwhile, the designers really pushed the creative ship in terms of show invites: A DPD driver showed up at my door with a four-foot paint kit from Loewe, a can of Fendi pasta from the Italian fashion house, and now a real painting. A VR headset from Christopher Kane and Salvatore Ferragamo hangs on my wall to provide the most intimate viewing of their collections imaginable.

Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2021 (Balenciaga)

Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2021 (Balenciaga)

But as always, one of my favorite shows this season was Balenciaga’s. Designer Demna Gvasalia has always taken a eerie approach to prophecy, and has in the past exposed her audience to prosthetic-affected models, freezing temperatures, and catwalks of apocalypse. (This means that most fashion editors are just a breath away from a mild panic attack).

Their collections are always rooted in bold realism, and so it was no surprise that Corey Hart chose to put on a show outside of the set of a music video for the Eighties track Sunglasses At Night.

The models walked alone through the deserted streets of Paris in oversized coats and slipper/heel hybrids. It feels sad, lonely and helpless… fashion is not going anywhere. Until I realized that every model was walking towards meeting each other.

This is the first time I’ve seen Balenciaga models smile. It was wonderful and above all, promising for a time when fashion would meet again.

Farrah Storr is the editor-in-chief of Elle UK.

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