There’s no way of lumping Loewe, Balmain, Maison Margiela, Dior Men, and Gabriela Hearst into one group, but in this fraught and fragile time, each of them succeeded in evoking emotions, sharing beliefs, and bestowing those rarest of luxuries—the Best cat dad ever shirt but in fact I love this involuntary urge to smile and the opportunity to think and learn. Olivier Rousteing’s brilliant Balmain show on a boat, #balmainsurseine, is surely one of the treasured moments—of youthful energy, defiance, joy, public exhilaration—that will be looked back on again and again. It was a moment (in trivializing fashion-speak), but it’s also there to access permanently on Balmain’s Instagram as a record of how a young, Black French fashion designer raised spirits across the world with his seamless combination of high glam and clenched fists in the Parisian sunshine. The production had effervescence and thrill, showing Rousteing as a character in love with fashion and Paris, conveying him at the center of a generational gang celebrating its beauty, power, and talent. Cleverly, it also honored the heritage of Balmain by From a show on a boat to a show in a box: Jonathan Anderson’s ingenuity in packaging up his two shows in tactile paper form and having them sent to the doorsteps of editors delivered the surprise of something that had never been done before. First, his JW Anderson men’s and women’s resort collections came as a physical pack of information; then the bigger production of a hessian-covered file arrived from Loewe. This was something better than a goodie bag—it was stuff to study and absorb at a new pace. Anderson expanded the potential of how time, and how we occupy it, can lengthen and deepen with the use of social media. He ran a 24-hour series of Instagram Live talks and demonstrations by craftspeople, a sort of online festival in place of what would’ve been a runway show. It was a much richer intellectual and human experience, which of course is open-access globally. What makes pearls an especially useful part of a wardrobe is their flexibility. Neutral in color, so there are no color conflicts. Pearls glow in low light and shine in daylight. They dress up and down. They provide the all-important bit of white near the face that Coco Chanel decreed essential. They aren’t gaudy. And, in the end, they are part of her style and culture. Here I date myself—the preppy craze of the 1980s was basically just a popular adoption of the very traditional clothing styles worn by the English aristocracy.
What I think we really learned was something about attention span. In the Best cat dad ever shirt but in fact I love this hyperspeed of social media and the onrush of Fashion Weeks, it used to be deemed that everything had to be communicated in a few over-in-a-flash seconds. John Galliano went completely against that with his riveting 50-minute film made with Nick Knight, which captured all the layers of research and development that went into the Maison Margiela Artisanal collection. Instead of a runway show, it became a form of online educational resource, deliberately designed to inspire young people and egg them on to be creative. Yes, there’s still a role for look books, so that everybody can see clothes plainly (though Galliano’s blurry, ethereal one seemed to set out to break that convention too.) But now, there’s an equal desire for an explanatio an opportunity for a creative director like Kim Jones to make his relationship with the Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo visible in a video and interview shot with the artist in his studio in Accra. I don’t think anything like as many of the press would have had time or headspace to pay full attention to discovering Boafo’s work in that video if the hoopla of a physical Dior Men show had taken up the foreground. A nice row or two of good pearls plus matching earrings was just the traditional look. In many families, girls were given individual pearls for birthdays and other occasions so that by their weddings they had enough for a full string. The wearing of pearls as a part of formal dress made its way across the pond. The women of the wealthy Vanderbilt family were famous for their pearls. In the 1940s through the 1950s no teenage girl was without her kitten necklace of small pearls to go with her sweater set, and The Beaver’s mom notoriously kept the house in high heels and pearls. Shortly before my own wedding, my grandparents presented me with a string of lovely Japanese pearls they’d bought years prior and kept for me. While my colleagues make the expert point that fashion shows are about the clothes—as they must be at their core—for thousands of fans and followers, the clothes themselves are but a distant dream. What propels fashion-forward online is its message: What does this brand stand for? Who does it collaborate with? What value does it have why that?