The 2021 woman is a self-made queen. Far from traditional, she adapts without rules or restrictions, reinvents herself in the pandemic, rejoices in a party, runs across a room in smocking couture and sturdy shoes, dances in the femininity of frills and stuns in a tailored suit. Impressive and impeccable, she’s the fashion inspiration for several designers who showcased their autumn/winter collections virtually for second year in a row. Though laptop viewings are nowhere close to the wild thrill of live runways – the key message here is re-invention. As the runway collections adjust to mirror our times, they embrace the vibrance, warmth, drama and authenticity of the strong woman that isn’t afraid to show her skin or cover it up.
Demna Gvasalia is a past master at extraordinary dress-making. Balenciaga’s artistic director has managed to branch into the pinnacle of exclusive craftsmanship – haute couture – for the first time since its founder stepped down in 1968. The silhouettes and structure of Gvasalia’s pieces are nothing short of magical. Tailoring is intentionally creased and silhouette-hiding, and the appeal is equal parts timeless and casual.
The pandemic has been a great leveller for Burberry’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci. Unlike his previous expansive collection which had something to please everyone – he presents a focussed, tighter edit in 2021 – an ode to the strength and femininity of the modern. The series of reconstructed trench coats which open the show, the cinched shimmering gold against Burberry’s iconic beige, the studded and the shredded looks are a perfect amalgamation of the Italian designers sensuality and brand’s iconic heritage.
The opulence of Chanel’s iconic catwalks of yesteryears was amiss but the strong, wearable fall-winter collection makes up for the magic. The line – a mix of masculine cuts and feminine silhouettes – oozes joy and warmth. Muted clothes with new logo prints, pastel shades of pink, vibrant tweeds, mashups of sequins resembling paint strokes, metallic party dresses with knee-high boots made for a whimsical viewing, because what is Chanel if not exaggerated fantasy?
Layers of tulles, shimmering lamé, flowy gowns washed in oceanic shades, harlequins, mermaids, debutante’s and a closed catwalk held at the magnificent Château de Versailles – the Dior collection was quite literally a fairy-tale for grown women. Creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri set out to explore the world of fantasy not as a “means of escape” but to “challenge and revisit stereotypes and archetypes”. Ethereal yet somehow suited for a walk in the park, the collection is set in a territory where craftsmanship reigns supreme, dimensions of time and space are erased, delicately woven dresses in tweed, plaid or feathered trim interspersed in dark palettes give form and contours to a modern interpretation of femininity.
Dolce & Gabbana
Dolce & Gabbana’s catwalk – replete with cyber punk-inspired models and artificial intelligence-controlled runways – is as futuristic as it gets in the world of luxury fashion. Loud and proud, the line packs quite a punch – dripping with technicolour fabrics, rainbow wigs and eye-popping accessories.
Minimalist and elegant, Designer Kim Jones takes a spot at fashion’s highest table with this collection. His latest line-up of supermodels and ball gowns in neutral palettes – beiges, browns, blacks and greys – is a tribute to timeless codes of the house and the powerful women of the Fendi dynasty. Grounded in the Roman era, the stellar casting of the catwalk sees famous faces like Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, and Amber Valletta waft around in fine, glamorous couture.
Rich in elongated, flowy, feminine silhouettes, exuding shimmering ocean hues, abstract prints and playful spiral ruffles – styles which could be worn decades before and decades later from now. That’s the timeless appeal of Armani. Comfort is paramount in 2021 and reflected in the relaxed yet elegant line-up – unstructured jackets with raglan sleeves, flat shoes and geometric design bags – all form a unifying feature of the show.
For its latest seasonal collection, Givenchy has embraced a riot of textures, fabrics, cuts and prints. Here, rigidly-structured coats and baggy trousers war with flowy skirts and flirtatiously see-through gowns for attention, with each design meant to be “sensual, elegant and show female empowerment.”
The French label’s 100th anniversary show, titled Gucci x Balenciaga, was expected to be an ambitious crossover in fashion, but creative director Alessandro Michele’s vision brings the collaboration to another level in a powerful explosion of crystals, glitter, unabashed glamour and sleek tailoring.
French designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s classic, trans-seasonal line is less about the whims of trends and more about highlighting supreme atelier skills. In keeping with tradition, the pants are straight, sharply tailored and almost androgynous, while the dresses are easy and relaxed. Chunky chains and silver studs add to the affair without overwhelming the assemblage.
A bright feast for the eyes, the Spanish fashion major unboxes creativity and flips over the traditional minimalist lines which defines Loewe. Creative director Jonathan Anderson embraces the optimism of “colour therapy” and presents a dazzling line of avant-garde cuts, eccentric zigzag shapes, technicolour splashes and playful accessories.
Nicolas Ghesquière presented his Louis Vuitton collection at the Louvre in Paris in an extraordinary journey into the past reminiscent of Golden Age. An impactful, remarkable line with graphic-print tunics, colour-blocked outerwear, sack-shaped jackets which echo the Roman era, tailoring which has sometimes been deliberately left undone, voluminous skirts with layers of gilded lamé.
There’s a space between the elegant and the practical, between the contrasts of simplicity and complexity – Prada’s current line falls somewhere in that range. Cracks of colour peak out of layered sober clothing, work wear formals get a chic uplift, the drop-shoulder coat in yellow particularly stands out and long fluffy fur coats are one for keeps
For its FW2021 line, the house of Ferragamo takes a conceptual leap into the future, courtesy of creative director Paul Andrew. Revisiting the tropes of uniforms – business, military and sportwear – the structured lines have been given a youthful flourish through dashes of shimmer and flashes of fluorescent colours.
Full of energy, psychedelic patterns, dramatic silhouettes, Stella McCartney’s new collection brings the party back! The designer shuns the stay-at-home clothing, infuses her line with joy and extravaganza where colours, skin and glitter are paraded. When it comes to sustainability, the fashion house is a trailblazer – 77% of the collection is made with sustainable materials.
Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli sets an example of true subdued decadence and a return to simplicity in this show. Staged at the famous Piccolo Theatre in Milan, the designer went for a quiet runway. Monochromatic looks interspersed with gold, sharp tailoring was uniformly reflected in the long gowns as well as the modern work wear. Piccioli’s love for the white shirt continues, he has a very 70s take on it with mid-length fittings and large collars.
“I have realised that this is the future, the new way of communicating collections,” Donatella Versace remarked after the autumn winter show. The fashion house flipped the narrative for the Fall 2021 line trading the signature baroque and medusa prints for a newly reinvented Greca motif and splashed it on everything. A VIP roster of Gigi and Bella Hadid, Irina Shayk and others carry the strong collection with unrestrained Italian glamour that is a part of Versace’s DNA.
Shaking the bourgeois code, hanging in glitzy imperfections of the classic structure of the 60s wardrobe with the colours of 80s, set against the backdrop of gloom, creative director Anthony Vaccarello’s jaw-dropping collection is like a surreal odyssey. He recreates the ultimate post-pandemic party line with tiny leather miniskirts and under tailoring, ultra-long boots, metallic stretch leotards with glossy chandelier earrings and chokers.