Talk of the freeform and falling apart are still on the lips of those indulging in fashion weeks. You can still taste them. Clothes are intentionally falling off, attempting to connect with the body but failing and failing and failing to land anywhere. It’s anti-fashion and fun. These looks are atypical and exciting because they are new. Brands are exhaling together and taking off their bras, belts, ties, etc.
The lingering aesthetic underneath the anti-fashion collections are their being naturally ugly. They don’t want to be pretty. They want to shock and they want to make you question what nice fashion is. Ugly is the new pretty. The disorganized, the messy, and the generally deformed are the look. That memo’s apparently made it overseas too as a few London and Milan shows are very clearly going for a prettier, more colorful, more festive version of anti-fashion.
Yes, it’s still ugly. It’s feral and savagely awesome—but the lady base underneath the clothing is still a lady. London shows like Toga included dresses whose features had completely gone missing, cutouts cut like a kid making a snowflake of her school uniform. Pants and dresses were fabric scrap run-on sentences and pattern play was replaced with texture tension. The collection meant to feel slapdash which ultimately turned into modern art paintings interpreted by t-shirt scraps. You caught the moment where an artist decides to switch mediums, just to try it.
Fellow Londoner Christopher Kane hyperbolized the paint idea with his collection. Drops of spray paint pooled in accidental skirts. Yarn clung to sweaters and some clothing went liquid, shape shifting into fringe. Despite plastic fasteners trying to hold onto one idea or color, Kane kept slicing concepts together.
Like both Toga and Kane, Ashish seemed most fully steeped in messiness. With models on skateboards and gender blurred models, the collection was a cleanup party after glitter obsessed five year old tomboys went home. What you see are the pretty rags. Tops contained galaxies of sequins and some dresses were pin cushions for tiny jeweled brooches. Activewear was an influence but it was never not sweet, sophisticated, yet accidental. Ashish most directly hit the a subtextual note for both Toga and Kane: the texture tension is most fun when occupying the opposite ends of the spectrum. Dazzling denims go with sheer silk. Sweats get sweet. A nightgown turns into an evening gown. The wearable becomes writeable. Not naked is naked, inside is outside. Ugly is beautiful.
While the Brits obsessed with the mess to the feeling of feral fashion, the Italians opted to take the pretty and mash it into itself until it becomes ugly. They looked backward to look forward, using old forms and old movements to imagine the beautifully ugly now. First, Stella Jean. The overall feeling was Science major on vacation in Mexico at some point in the mid-fifties. Chiapas were all blended together, the parts of ten dresses becoming one. Painting techniques continued (more literally here, though) and came together as a mixture of mediums. Tacky bodega became tactile tablecloth ensembles. Jean’s interpretation of ugly was forgetting what year, what place, and what time of year women are in. Yes, they are beautiful outfits. They are just culled from fifty collections from more than fifty years and fifty places. The blessed mess is in the maximalism. (Jean also included an entire swim collection too. It felt like two different shows, connected by similar fabrics and a designer who didn’t want to leave anything out.)
Most shocking was Gucci. They began their collection innocently enough and quickly turned into 2D photographs of 1970s women. Not just one woman: a mashing of every one of them. The dowdy office worker was there. Towering lost librarians came too. She went on vacation, forgot to wear a slip, wore tapestries, turned into a doll, and melted into the couch. She often did all this at once. Gucci and Jean looked back to look forward. Both obsessed with time, place, and dimension along with pattern and texture.
It was all ugly. It was all colorful and fun. It was manic and composed. These European offerings were more complete and definitely easier to wear options for those that don’t want to go full Hood By Air. The new European woman is not necessarily brand new but instead a resurrected someone, a zombie of the past—of garbage, of feelings, of silhouettes—feeding on anything she can but mostly patterns and textures. It shouldn’t work but it does. Isn’t that what makes fashion fashion anyway?