Early last year, an image surfaced of Elon Musk at the 2018 Met Gala, wearing a pair of sneakers unlike any other. The so-called ‘CYBERSNEAKER’ was designed by RTFKT Studios, and was inspired by the launch of Musk’s highly divisive Cybertruck. The sneakers boasted a blocky, brutalist-inspired aesthetic that was reminiscent of the truck’s design, finished with an exaggerated sole unit and a Nike-esque swoosh along the side. Musk was the first person ever to have been seen wearing them.
Except that he didn’t wear them at all.
In reality, the sneakers were digitally applied to an existing photograph of Musk (who had, in fact, worn a fairly pedestrian pair of patent dress shoes to the gala). The modified image was shared to RTFKT’s 600,000 Instagram followers, many of whom believed it was a real photograph, and the post’s comments were quickly flooded with enquiries about where the footwear could be bought. Though the shoes do not exist — at least, not in the physical world — they were eventually sold for $15,000 USD. One bidder had even offered $40,000 USD for the pair, until they learned that they had not, in fact, been worn by Musk.
Welcome to the world of virtual fashion, where reality and unreality are hard to distinguish.
“We see ourselves as the new age Supreme, for a digital audience.”
RTFKT was officially founded in January of last year, though its founders — Benoit Pagotto, Steven Vasilev and Chris Le — had begun posting content a year earlier, creating digitally-manipulated images designed to spread like wildfire across the internet. On their Instagram feed, Air Jordans appear to levitate in response to a Gucci-monogrammed Infinity Gauntlet; Kanye West and DJ Khaled appear side-by-side in blown-up, tricked-out footwear, and a PlayStation 5-branded sneaker (no, not the awful Zara one) is taken for a debut stroll. Though the shoes defy all logic (and, in many cases, verge onto the IP of existing sneaker brands), RTFKT’s posts have swiftly amassed a growing audience, fascinated by these virtual products and eager to obtain them.
But RTFKT is more than a content creator: their imaginative and otherworldly designs can be bought as virtual products. The brand auctions one pair each month on their website, where customers can bid using cryptocurrency. The winning bidder receives exclusive use of a custom AR filter, which allows them to virtually ‘wear’ their sneakers on Snapchat, Instagram, and other social channels. RTFKT have also begun collaborating with various video gaming engines, which will enable players’ in-game avatars to wear their purchases. So far, every pair released by the brand has sold out, even at a price tag that averages $15,000 USD, and have sold for as much as $40,000 USD. The brand is now exploring a more accessibly priced version, which will retail for around $100 USD, and will be created in limited runs of 100 virtual pairs. A series of yet-to-be-announced fashion collaborations is also slated for later this year. As Vasilev puts it, “We see ourselves as the new age Supreme, for a digital audience.”
Their success — and the scale of their ambitions — is a testament to the growing power of virtual brands, which are capitalizing on our increasingly digital existence. And their ascent has been accelerated by the COVID-19 lockdowns, as consumers have been forced to spend ever-increasing amounts of time living, working and socializing online. “We got lucky with the pandemic, in a sense,” says Pagotto. “It reinforced our vision, which otherwise might have been a bit premature. Now the fashion industry is starting to take a deep interest in virtual spaces.”
As the boundaries between our physical and digital lives become ever more blurred, brands like RTFKT challenge us to consider which of those is the most important. After all, when so many sneakerheads are seeking the clout of copping a hard-to-find style, isn’t an online space the best place to show them off to a wider audience — even if they don’t exist anywhere else? “We’re creating a kind of metaverse where you can use these items,” says Vasilev. “And in some ways, it’s more real than reality. When we posted the Elon Musk image, the internet thought it was real,” he continues. “That image got around fifty million impressions. So if that many people saw the image, then what makes it real, or not?”
The virtual market has extended beyond sneakers, too. Tribute, a ‘contactless cyber fashion’ brand founded last year by designers Filip Vajda and Gala Marija Vrbanic, offers virtual clothing to its customers, with styles that are largely inspired by ’90s clubwear. After paying for a garment, customers are invited to submit an existing (and Instagram-ready) photograph of themselves, which is edited by the brand using CGI to digitally ‘dress’ them in their purchase.
“Virtual reality is becoming mainstream culture.”
Vrbanic, who was inspired to launch Tribute by the virtual clothing offered in games like Grand Theft Auto V and The Sims, has been astonished by the reaction to such a young proposition, even with prices that can reach up to $699 USD for a garment. “The sales have been really great,” she says. “When we started, we didn’t have any expectations. We thought we’d just put it on Instagram and see what the reaction was. But almost instantly we started getting a following and orders. It has been so far above our expectations.”
Vrbanic believes the brand’s success represents the rising power of a new — and growing — Gen-Z consumer, who has grown up at the intersection of fashion and gaming. “They are two worlds that have always been perceived as being very far apart from one another,” she says. “But look at me: I’m that consumer. Video games have become much more mainstream. And that whole aspect of virtual reality is really becoming mainstream culture.” It’s a shift that RTFKT also acknowledges, and one that has unearthed a largely overlooked segment of consumers. “It’s gamers with a streetwear mindset,” says Le. “It’s the kids who are collecting pieces from Yeezy and Off-White, but wearing them to flex on stream.”
“They are overlapping,” agrees Pagotto. “Yes, there are gamers who are into streetwear. But most streetwear kids are also casual gamers, at least: the kind of guy who’s playing Fortnite once a week. So they have a virtual life, too.”
Gen-Z aren’t the only consumers taking an interest. The 37 year-old pseudonymous collector known as Whale Shark was one of RTFKT’s first customers, purchasing their ‘X’ sneaker last year for 22 ethereum (approximately $27,000 USD, at the time of writing). Whale Shark was an early investor in Bitcoin (for what he describes as a ‘fairly sizable amount’) and is now a prominent figure within the ‘crypto-collectible’ community. For him, purchasing the sneakers was a “no brainer” as an appreciator of digital objects. ”It was one of the first ever digital sneakers,” he says, “so it was just an amazing opportunity to own a piece of history.” His own inventory of digital collectibles — which includes virtual sneakers alongside digital art pieces — has “skyrocketed” in recent months, and is expected to exceed $10,000,000 USD in market value by February.
Yet the wider market may take some time to catch up. “There’s a clear divide, I think, with people who ‘get’ it and people who don’t,” says Ryan Mullins, the CEO and Creative Director of the virtual sneaker company Aglet, which allows customers to acquire digital sneakers in an addictive, Pokémon Go-like format. “Some people still look confused when you tell them that people spend money on goods like virtual sneakers, or a virtual hoodie,” he says. “They say things like “that doesn’t make sense.” But it does make sense. It’s literally happening.”
For his part, Whale Shark believes that the complexity of purchasing digital products — which often involves crypto currency, and an understanding of blockchain technology — is currently a barrier to entry for many consumers. “I don’t think it can really gain wider adoption without removing that friction,” he says. Nevertheless, he is certain that these kinds of items will, eventually, become more mainstream, and views them as a canny investment. “The mass market hasn’t really caught onto these yet,” he says, “but it’s moment is coming. I think digital collectibles are actually more suited to the next generation of collectors, because they live more than 50 percent of their life online. We’re at the start of a very long revolution.”
Indeed, the appetite for virtual products is already growing at an exponential rate. Recent research published by Statista suggests that consumer spending on ‘skins’ — which allow consumers to modify the appearance of their characters within video games — will reach $50 billion USD by the end of 2022. It was, perhaps, inevitable that fashion would infiltrate this world, even if it has been slow to capture the gaming market (with a few notable exceptions). “The dynamics of virtual fashion are no different than the social dynamics governing how one flexes in real life: it makes sense that people would want their virtual self to rock some heat, as that’s where they spend most of their time hanging with friends,” says Mullins.
Virtual fashion also has a few significant advantages over real-life clothing: for one, its sustainability. Aside from using no materials in their creation (aside from the electricity powering the machines used to build them), they also involve zero shipping, zero packaging, and zero waste. Plus, in their conception, they present an uncharted creative opportunity for designers. “There’s no limitations,” explains Le of the process behind RTFKT’s sneakers. “We don’t have to think about engineering, or how a sole unit should be constructed, or if it’ll work for an athlete. For us it’s a purely aesthetic challenge: how to make the sickest frickin’ shoes possible.”
Yet that presents its own difficulty: the prospect of limitless possibility can be a paralysing one. Vrbanic, when producing Tribute’s collections, found herself caught by surprise. “We thought the design process would be quicker,” she says. “But it takes the same amount of time, or even longer. It’s like, if you make a T-shirt, it doesn’t need to have sleeves, because there is no function for a sleeve in the virtual world. But then, is it still a T-shirt?” She believes there is a kind of ‘uncanny valley’ in virtual clothing design – meaning her creations can’t veer too far into the unrecognizable, and that the styles she creates need to have some rooting in the garments we know in real life. “At the moment, we’re making things that look like an enhanced version of physical items, so people can get more familiar with them,” she says.
Curiously, though, while the infinite space of the online world should allow for limitless quantities of their designs, virtual brands are largely opting for scarcity. RTFKT’s sneakers are currently only ever produced as one-of-one editions, while Tribute’s pieces are produced in strictly limited runs that will never be repeated. In that regard, the brands are taking their cues from their real-life streetwear counterparts. “It’s what we’ve seen with brands like Supreme or Louis Vuitton,” says Vasilev, “having collectible pieces that are hard to get – it drives value and status.” Vrbanic agrees: “It would be stupid to make digital clothing available in infinite numbers,” she says. “It’s nicer to have something that’s limited.”
That could shift, in time, as new brands enter the virtual space, and the landscape becomes more competitive. But for now, the brands are focused on expanding the possibilities of what they can offer consumers — hampered only by the limitations of what current technology can allow. RTFKT, for instance, hopes to develop a real-life shoe fitted with digital screens, whose color could be changed via the user’s phone. “Right now the technology isn’t there to create that,” says Vasilev, “but we’re working on the research now.” Vrbanic, meanwhile, is concentrating on expanding Tribute’s range, and refining its offer. “Really, we know what our customers want,” she says. “They want things that they’d never wear in real life.”
“Things that aren’t possible.”
93 Black-Owned Beauty and Fashion Brands to Support Now and Always
This brand was founded by certified aromatherapist Aba Gyepi-Garbrah and includes products filled with essential oils, resins, and plant and seed oils.
Shop it: Aba Love Apothecary Flower Crown Brightening Serum, $21, abaloveapothecary.com
Telfar is the eponymous clothing line of Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens. Founded in NYC in 2005, Telfar’s collections represent a unisex, universal, and democratic vision of new urban clothing.
Bevel was founded by Tristan Walker and is an award-winning men’s grooming line, including skin care, shaving, hair, and body products specifically for men of color.
Shop it: Bevel Shave Kit, $75, getbevel.com
Shop it: Bevel Skin Essentials, $35, getbevel.com
Founded in 2015 by Thebe Magugu, the eponymous label is a contemporary South African fashion brand producing women’s ready-to-wear and accessories, celebrating its African cultural roots with a modern approach.
Shop it: Thebe Magugu Zebramud tie-dye skirt, $473, farfetch.com
Black Opal is a legacy beauty brand founded in 1994 by the late Nikos Mouyiaris, his wife Carol Jackson Mouyiaris, and dermatologist Cheryl Burgess, M.D. The brand got a recent reboot under the ownership of Fashion Fair alum and former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, alongside Johnson Publishing alum, Cheryl Mayberry-McKissack.
Shop it: Black Opal True Color Flawless Perfecting Concealer, $8, blackopalbeauty.com
Shop it: Black Opal True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation, $11, blackopalbeauty.com
Mateo New York
Shop it: Mateo Duality pearl drop earrings, $575, mateonewyork.com
Lauren Napier Beauty
Founded by Lauren Napier, Lauren Napier Beauty consists of refreshing wipes that remove eye makeup and are irritation free thanks to ingredients like rosewater and vitamin K.
Shop it: Lauren Napier Beauty Flaunt Facial Cleansing Wipes, $46, laurennapier.com
Shop it: Lauren Napier Beauty La Rose Facial Cleansing Wipes, $50, laurennapier.com
House of Aama
Shop it: House of Aama paprika silk halter top, $100, houseofaama.com
Founded by Breighl Robbins, Ebi (meaning family in Yoruba), is a line of wellness essentials made with the fourth trimester in mind.
Shop it: Ebi The Tisane, $40, weareebi.com
Shop it: Ebi The Oil, $75, weareebi.com
Shop it: Hanifa Zaire denim set, $379, hanifa.co
Shop it: MOVITA Multivitamin Bottle, $38, movitaorganics.com
Shop it: MOVITA Prenatal Bottle, $41, movitaorganics.com
Founded in 2010 by Amaka Osakwe, Maki Oh is a womenswear brand that fuses traditional African techniques with detailed contemporary construction.
Shop it: Maki Oh silk satin Adire constellation shirt, $420, makioh.com
Shop it: Khiry Isha hoops with rose quartz, $465, khiry.com
Shop it: Kimberly Goldson Lizette wide-leg shorts, $99, kimberlygoldson.com
Daily Paper was founded in 2012 by three friends Hussein Suleiman, Jefferson Osei and Abderrahmane Trabsini. It is an Amsterdam-based menswear and womenswear fashion brand inspired by the African heritage of its founders.
Shop it: Daily Paper postcard repost shirt, $102, dailypaper.com
Shop it: Daily Paper postcard repost shorts, $79, dailypaper.com
Laquan Smith, founded his eponymous brand in 2013. His distinctive garments and eye for detail, instilled by his grandmother, created a passion, and he’s become known for his sewing and pattern making.
Shop it: Laquan Smith Animalia bodysuit, $300, laquansmith.com
Shop it: Phlemuns logo cloud sweater, $155, phlemuns.com
Shop it: Phlemuns sweatpant cloud, $155, phlemuns.com
Kenneth Ize, founded by Kenneth Ize, reinterprets traditional West African Fabrics by creating original luxury designs while collaborating with small communities of weavers and artisans across Nigeria.
Shop it: Kenneth Ize Jojo fringed checked trousers, $383, farfetch.com
Afra is a hair jewelry line created by Guyanese celebrity hairstylist and barber Nigella Miller. “I was inspired by ancient Egyptian royalty and how they wore gold in their hair,” Miller explains. “I want black people to feel like royalty every day. We deserve to look and feel as powerful as we truly are.”
Shop it: Mowalola indigo and green denim Xscape dress, $588, ssense.com
Stella Jean is a black Italian designer recognized for her multiculturalism and ethical clothing designs.
Shop it: Stella Jean oversized pineapple appliqué shirt, $247, farfetch.com
Shop it: Stella Jean tiered geometric print skirt, $601 farfetch.com
Asata Maisé ’s eponymous line is made up of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces inspired from classic films—she adds her own modern aesthetic to each design.
Shop it: Asata Maisé patchwork mini baguette bag, $170, asatamaise.com
Shop it: Asata Maisé terry cloth bucket hat, $95, asatamaise.com
Paskho, founded by Patrick Robinson, is known for its lightweight travel pants, shorts, trousers, and tops for men and women.
Shop it: Paskho merino long sleeve travel tee, $68, paskho.com
Shop it: Paskho insanely comfy long-haul flight pants, $98, paskho.com
Charlotte Mensah ’s eponymous beauty brand is infused with sustainably sourced vitamin E–rich manketti nut oils and delivers moisture, softness, and shine to Afro, mixed-heritage, and curly hair textures.
Shop it: Charlotte Mensah Manketti oil conditioner, $30, charlottemensah.com
Shop it: Charlotte Mensah Manketti oil, $60, charlottemensah.com
Suite Eleven, founded in 2015 by Arieal “Ari” Smith-Liburd, is a luxury nail care brand that offers vegan, cruelty-free and nontoxic options for beauty enthusiasts
Shop it: Suite Eleven nail lacquer, $11, suiteleven.com
Shop it: Suite Eleven seal the deal topcoat, $9.50, suiteleven.com
Brooklyn-based jewelry designer Bernard James is known for his craftsmanship and intricate attention to detail. Bernard aims to reinvent the standard of luxury by creating timeless pieces.
Shop it: Bernard James liberte necklace, $950, bernardjames.com
Redoux NYC, founded by Asia Grant, is a vegan skincare line made to nourish the skin with scents that change seasonally. The current line features a spicy citrus made up of geranium, bergamot, and “the bite of ginger.”
Shop it: Redoux NYC turmeric botanical bar – 3 pack, $30, redoux.nyc
Come Back as a Flower
Shop it: Come Back as a Flower oatmeal set, $175, comebackasaflower.com
Brandon Blackwood New York
Brandon Blackwood ’s label is known for its high quality detailing and timeless silhouettes.
Shop it: Brandon Blackwood Sophia shoulder bag, $350, brandonblackwood.com
Orange Culture was founded by Adebayo Oke-Lawal in 2011 and is based in Lagos, Nigeria. The clothing line combines classic and contemporary western silhouettes with Nigerian-inspired print fabrics, color, and urban streetwear.
Shop it: Orange Culture half ojiji hybrid shirt, $179, orangeculture.com
Shop it: Orange Culture Adesuwa easy on shirt, $275, orangeculture.com
Focused on bold forms, saturated colors, and subtle movement, Brooklyn fine-jewelry brand Octave Jewelry is inspired by the balance between sharp geometry and the soft organic form.
Shop it: Octave Jewelry trio drops, $430, octavejewelry.com
Coco and Breezy
Corianna and Brianna Dotson (better known as Coco and Breezy) are the twin sister duo behind their eponymous sunglass line, Coco and Breezy. The brand is known for its signature cutouts and bold frames.
Shop it: Coco and Breezy Zen-105 sunglasses, $285, cocoandbreezy.com
Shop it: Golde clean greens face mask, $34, golde.co
Best friends Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan founded Liha Beauty to create natural beauty products inspired by their African roots. Each product is handmade from vegan and ethically sourced ingredients, including shea butter, coconut oil, and moringa powder.
Shop it: Liha Beauty luxury layers, $66, lihabeauty.com
Michel Men is a New York City-based American Menswear brand founded by Whitney Michel. Michel created MM as an ode to her love for men’s fashion history and her upbringing as the only girl with four brothers in her Haitian American home.
Shop it: Michel Men MM masks 3 pack, $90, michelmen.com
JeBlanc is the brainchild of designer Jeniece Blanchet. The jewelry line offers multifunctional items that are one of a kind. Her use of hardware staples like ball chains, safety pins, and dog tags mixed with Swarovski crystals, glass beads, and gemstones are dominating countless Instagram feeds, and most recently have been seen on Chloe x Halle.
Shop it: JeBlanc mixed media, $140, jeblanc.com
Sammy B, founded by Project Runway alum Samantha Black, is a women’s ready-to-wear clothing line known for its feminine silhouettes and eclectic patterns. Black’s designs are a celebrity favorite and have been seen on everyone from Issa Rae to Beyoncé.
Shop it: Sammy B Dana Kriss Kross bralette, $42, sammybdesigns.com
Shop it: Sammy B Dane Summer pant, $78, sammybdesigns.com
Kubra Kay Skincare
Kubra Kay Skincare, is an L.A.-based brand, founded in July 2019 by biomedical engineer Khadidja Toure. Kubra Kay was born out of her passion for beauty and natural ingredients; her mom and aunties would share their beauty remedies using all-natural ingredients growing up, and her products pay homage to her West African heritage. The Razor Relief Cream is one of their best sellers, used by men and women alike.
Shop it: Kubra Kay Shea Butter Cream, $30, Kubrakayskincare.com
Shop it: Kubray Kay Razor Relief, $30, Kubrakayskincare.com
LIV Streetwear, founded by Olivia Anthony, is a New York–based athleisure streetwear brand that encourages its wearers to “LIV out loud” through its vibrant and graphic pieces that pay homage to ’90s nostalgia.
Shop it: LIV Baywatch crop top, $20, livstreetwear.com
Curated by Wilglory Tanjong, Anima Iris is an innovative handbag line that is disrupting the fashion industry by redefining the definition of luxury and including Africa in its narrative. All of the pieces in the Anima Iris collection are handcrafted by local artisans in Dakar, Senegal.
Shop it: Amina Iris Zaza red velvet, $174.90, animairis.com
Oui the People
Founded by Karen Young, Oui the People provides products that help you feel confident in your own skin, such as her best-selling razor for sensitive skin, along with a shave gel, body gloss, and bikini-line sheet mask.
Shop it: Oui the People the Sensitive Set in rose gold, $125, Ouithepeople.com
Shop it: Oui the People Featherweight Hydrating Body Gloss, $65, Ouithepeople.com
Zashadu, designed by Zainab Ashadu, is a leading Nigerian sustainable luxury brand that specializes in handcrafted leather pieces, including designer bags, that use the ancient Nigerian art of tanning and leather dyeing.
Shop it: Zashadu mini yellow snake-embossed leather, $375, zashadu.com
Created by identical-twin duo Soull and Dynasty Ogun, L’enchanteur is a concept brand inspired by the sciences, religion, color theory, magic and fairy tales. L’enchanteur seeks to communicate a story of craftsmanship behind each of its pieces.
Shop it: L’enchanteur SunGod earrings, $220, lenchanteur.co
Cofounded by Tolu Oye in 2011, Oye Green is an online retailer that sells African beauty and hair products. It was inspired by the Oye sisters’ mother, who would often extract shea butter to help her children with eczema and burns and use it on her customers’ hair.
Shop it: Oye Shea Butter, $10, Oyegreen.com
Shop it: Oye Denim Ankara Reversible Durag, $40, Oyegreen.com
Shop it: Oye Reusable Face Mask, $15, Oyegreen.com
Shop it: Grn Goods But First, Beauty Oil, $25, grngoods.com
Shop it: Grn Goods Butter Me Down, $20, grngood.com
Bit of Denim
Alexis Colby is the self-taught designer behind Bit of Denim, a line of reconstructed vintage denim pieces that range from patchwork skirts to frayed bustier tops. Her designs, available through custom order, retail from around $50 to $200-plus.
Shop it: Bit of Denim Skater Skirt, Custom Order, Bit Of Denim
Emilia Ramos, founder and CEO of Agrestal Beauty, has a mission of providing all-natural, organic, made-to-order skin-care products, carefully crafted to empower women on a journey toward self-love.
Shop it: Agrestal Beauty Hydrate Rose Hydrating Oil, $40, Agrestalbeauty.com
Shop it: TLZ L’Femme taupe windbreaker blouse, $198, tlzlg.com
Shop it: Riot Swim Maddox one-piece matcha, $91, riotswim.com
The Honey Pot Co.
The Honey Pot Co., founded by Beatrice Dixon, is a plant-based, chemical-free feminine-care brand with a plethora of products including 100% organic tampons with biodegradable applicators, menstrual cups, a soothing lavender vulva cream, and more.
Shop it: The Honey Pot Co. Post-Partum Herbal Pads, $8, thehoneypot.co
Shop it: The Honey Pot Co. Feminine Menstrual Cups, $22, thehoneypot.co
Diarra Bousso’s line Diarrablu merges Bousso’s love for mathematics and algorithms with her African heritage. The brand’s mission is to iterate for sustainability while highlighting the African continent’s rich colors and patterns through design.
Shop it: Diarrablu Zeena kimono, $175, diarrablu.com
Shop it: Diarrablue Finetti ndar mules, $135, diarrablu.com
Founded by husband and wife Intisar Mahdi and Rashid Mahdi in 2018, Browndages is a bandage company for people of color. Their products consist of bandages of darker hues, as well as bandages with animated characters for children. (The brand is currently sold out, but will be relaunching with new products later this year.)
Hope For Flowers
Founded by Tracy Reese, Hope For Flowers is an ecologically-sourced clothing company consisting of flowy dresses, skirts, and button-down tops inspired by the notion that clothing has transformative, confidence-inducing powers.
Shop it: Hope For Flowers Peach Tiered Maxi Slip, $378, Hopeforflowers.com
Shop it: Hope For Flowers Candy Stripe Tie Waist Shirt, $178, Hopeforflowers.com
Founded by Kimberly Waldropt, Terra-Tory is a hypoallergenic body-care brand centered around superfood-filled soaps that tap into Waldropt’s Jamaican and Trinidadian roots. It emerged in 2017 after her long battle with stress-induced eczema.
Shop it: Terra-Tory Fresh Aloe Detox Cube, $15, TERRA-TORY.com
Kendall Miles Designs
Kendall Miles Designs, a shoe brand created by Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based designer Kendall Reynolds, has been seen on the likes of Rihanna, Ebonee Davis, and Karrueche Tran.
Shop it: Kendall Miles Racy Sandals, $378, Kendallmilesdesigns.com
Shop it: Kendall Miles CEO Pump, $325, Kendallmilesdesigns.com
Ankh Care Co. is a natural, holistic hair and body care company founded by Adachi Sanders. Its clientele includes Ava Duvernay, Skai Jackson and Nick Ashe. Sanders realized “there were no natural, healthy products on the market for natural curly, kinky oily hair textures, so I became determined to help myself and others like me.”
Shop it: Ankh Chai Spritz Curl Enhancer, $30, Ankhcare.co
Shop it: Ankh Sanora Butter Hair Balm, $20, Ankhcare.co
Coach and All the Best Looks from New York Fall 2021
New York Fashion Week may look a bit different this year, but like New York itself, fashion is certainly not ready to sleep. Ahead, see what designers have in store for fall 2021. We may not know what the world will look like then, but we can know that we’ll look great in it.
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There are some brands so extricably linked to New York City that they can’t help but honor the Big Apple as she currently struggles. Cate Holstein hosted a drive in screening with views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn last night to celebrate her Fall collection with a film, aptly title, “KHAITE,” directed and edited by Sean Baker. “New York feels raw and exposed now, up for grabs in a way I’ve never seen before. It can be frustrating and even feel hopeless, but it’s also exciting, and to live here is to cycle through these emotions, rapidly,” says creative director Cate Holstein. “In talking with Sean, we both traced the intensity of this time to what first drew us each to New York—the intrigue, the edge, even the peril. No one moves to New York to play it safe.” The collection and the film honor New York in the late ’70s and ’80s—with leather jackets with faux fur trim, puffers as armor, lacy slip dresses, and even bold tulle. It’s a collection that exhibits ease, but still makes a statement—these aren’t clothes created for blending in. Sort of like the people drawn to the city itself. —Kerry Pieri
Ushering in the 40th anniversary of the Carolina Herrera brand, designer Wes Gordon decided to present a virtual love letter to the label’s fans. And to showcase the sentiment, he centered his collection around hearts, placing the symbol of love as embroideries on fitted dresses, intarsia knits, buttons, belt buckles, and sweetheart necklines. His silhouettes—from crisp a white shirts with pronounced sleeves tucked under a black skirt to a voluminous gown with polka dot prints—also highlighted the enduring styles that have been beloved by Upper Eastiders and beyond. It was indeed a great start to all the festivities that will no doubt arise throughout the year.—Barry Samaha
Fashion is entertainment, and Coach’s Stuart Vevers is heralding this message loud and clear. For the fall 2021 season, he presented a collection, titled Coach Forever Season Two, through a video with a star-studded cast that reimagined some of the most indelible films, music videos, and television shows in the zeitgeist. Michael B. Jordan, for example, embodied a modern version of Shaft. Jennifer Lopez channeled Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry. And Megan Thee Stallion oozed the sass of Regina George from Mean Girls. “I have always loved exploring the intersection of fashion and pop culture at Coach,” said Vevers. “I am excited to bring my latest vision for the house to life via Coach TV. I wanted both the collection and the presentation to make sense and resonate in these unique times, and I am excited to share both in a way that I hope will entertain and inspire. The clothes, indeed, reflected this sentiment. They included intarsia knits with Mickey Mouse and dinosaurs worn over corduroy trousers or grunge-inspired flannel skirts.—Barry Samaha
Every type of ’70s fantasy came to play for Zimmermann’s fall collection, an aesthetic smorgasbord inspired by Nicky Zimmermann’s love of an era-defining music program she watched in her native Australia while growing up. Texture and print, two elements the label always focuses on, spoke loudly this time too, from silky blouses and rich wool trousers to dresses that floated with soft petal cutouts and whimsical whips of small circles. Whichever ’70s heroine you identify with, whether femme folk goddess or take-charge raider, you’ll find a silhouette you gravitate toward.—Leah Melby Clinton
Even from the confines of video presentations, Proenza Schouler managed to create a newsy fall moment by showcasing Second Daughter Ella Emhoff in her “runway” debut. Splashy casting aside, the collection, a deep dive into soft tailoring and easy separates and dresses, is quietly beautiful. Closet musts like mélange knits, chunky cardigans, matching wool coats and trousers, and standout lambskin trenches and tops are set against pieces that just want to have fun like bold yellow dresses, fringe pieces, and tie-dye. Single-breasted suits feature cutaway tops in black, white, and deep raisin technical wool with lush double-faced cashmere coating. In other words, this is an offering based in luxury with an eye toward the future. One where everyone is dressed to the nines—paired with Tuscan shearling slippers, of course—without skipping a beat. —Kerry Pieri
Gabriela Hearst was inspired by Saint Hildegard of Bingen for her Fall 2021 collection, a woman so well-rounded that Hearst insists “if she were born a man, we would all know her name as we know Leonardo da Vinci’s.” Born in 1098, St. Hildegard was a composer, poet, mystic, philosopher, and more at a time where women were excluded from intellectual life. In dressing her woman for a more modern world, Hearst was most inspired by St. Hildegard’s work as a botanist, and noticed a resemblance in her 12-year-old daughter Mia’s drawings of flowers. Those flowers became embroideries, crochet appliqués, and more on a suite of looks in between Hearst’s signature tailoring, leatherwork, and killer coats.
The newly-minted Creative Director of Chloé’s passion for sustainability, innovation, and trailblazing doesn’t seem dissimilar from her source of inspiration this season. And her collection, which seemed to redefine power dressing, will dress her devotees to be Rennaisance women in their own rights come next Fall. —Carrie Goldberg
Domesticity does not mean that we have to sacrifice style, and Batsheva Hay is highlighting this sentiment with her fall 2021 collection. The New York designer presented a look book of models and real women in their kitchens, outfitted in her signature prairie-inspired dresses. Journalist Amy Fine Collins, for example, poses over her stove in a seafoam green trapeze dress with a print of pretty pink ribbons. Actress Maude Apatow stirs a pot while wearing a black-and-white frilly frock with mutton sleeves and a bow tied at the waist. And chef Tara Thomas stands in front of her oven, sporting a princess-cut red vinyl dress. Shot by Hay’s husband, photographer Alexei Hay, the series of images reflects what many experienced in quarantine—cooking at home with the kitchen tools and appliances that (at least for girls about town) seldom used pre-lockdown. But instead of the custom sweats that have been de rigeur, Hay shows that dressing up, even with nowhere to go, can be the recipe needed for brightening one’s mood.—Barry Samaha
After 2020, none of us could ever claim to not know a superhero. From frontline workers to parents who somehow managed to make full-time work fit alongside an unpaid gig as a teacher’s aide, they most definitely walked among us. Theophilio’s Edvin Thompson sought to explore the idea with a look at what modern heroes might wear, but far from capes and armored plates, this hero’s closet is populated with sculpted jackets, knits built to move, and a few beautiful cutout pieces that read as mock guipure lace. The lean silhouettes might reference The Matrix, but this Neo draws energy from a healthy splash of color (and would get bored of that duster fast). —Leah Melby Clinton
Erin Beatty was all about identifying what sparks joy when designing Rentrayage, looking inward to figure out what she wanted and then bringing it to life. “Comfort, beauty, and something a bit strange and perfectly off. Unexpected functional beauty seems a most pressing sentiment right now,” she wrote. Her version of joy, tactilely speaking, is all about happy hybridization—denim jackets mixed with satin bombers, doily collars laid over crewneck sweatshirts—and plenty of color. The collection is made to mix and match, and wear in different ways, with ties that cinch or release and the aforementioned collars popping on and off. Even if it’s a very personal look at what one person wants right this instant, there’s universal appeal. —Leah Melby Clinton
3.1 Phillip Lim
Phillip Lim is known for reworking essentials, tried-and-true silhouettes and classic styles, with subtle twists every season. For his latest collection, the New York designer showcased slick ’70s-inspired suits, mid-length accordion-pleated skirts, ribbed knit dresses, and elegant camel Chesterfield coats and parkas—pairing these stalwarts with turtleneck sweaters that featured eye-catching cutouts. His daywear will remain de rigueur, and his evening pieces—sublime sequins and silk dresses—follow the same sentiment. For Lim, it is the details that truly make the most impact.
“I believe in just small gestures to just really evolve a conversation,” he tells BAZZAR.com. “My unofficial title of the new collection is The Dance with the Pandemic Devil, because every day is a new move. It’s almost like we’re learning how to dance with our reality of the situation. I love aspiration, but I’m deeply rooted in reality.” —Barry Samaha
Anna Sui’s love of ’60s styles, from Carnaby Street mod-girl to Woodstock hippie queen, continuously shines through in her collections. She didn’t stray off the beaten path in her latest offering, but she did focus on one person in particular: Penny Lane, the psychedelic model played by Jane Birkin in Wonderwall. The 1968 film is filled with an eclectic cast of characters, and to bring her vision to life, Sui enlisted a merry band of her own. The knee socks were provided by Atsugi; appliquéd suede knee high boots were produced by John Fluevog; hand-painted denim came by way of Anna Castellano; tortoise glasses were supplied by Fellow Earthlings for Mondottica; the peacock and snake graphics on the crushed velvet tops were designed by Monika Forsberg; and t-shirts were patches created by Golden Daze Illustration and Olivia Sui.—Barry Samaha
Jonathan Simkhai found himself flipping through a coffee-table book as so many of us are wont to do, but rather than closing it a few mindless minutes later, he ended the session with an inspiration that would direct his fall collection. The image that made the lasting impression, a Tseng Kwong Chi photograph of a Keith Haring work, stuck in his mind for its echoes of connectivity and creativity—two factors always important to artists and in high demand after the isolation we’ve all grown accustomed to. Inspired, Simkhai focused on elements that required a deft touch, and the results included a custom lace and fringe hand-woven into pieces. Fabrications mixed, too, with knits against vegan leather against washed silk, creating a luxurious mélange that makes you yearn for real-life mixing and mingling all the more. —Leah Melby Clinton
Fashion can be at its best when there’s a heavy dose of fantasy involved, and there’s no time like the present to get a real dollop of it. Collina Strada designer Hillary Taymour went for broke when it came to playful, debuting the newest collection with a quirky video and GIFs showcasing a cast of characters morphing from human into exotic animal—and that doesn’t even start to touch on the clothes. Prints clashed with exuberance and colors blended loudly (the boldness might come down to the supplies: Taymour continues to work from a sustainable place with deadstock and repurposed pieces). Closer consideration revealed classic pieces, the silhouettes only stepping outside the box due to artful layering. All in all, it’s a fun collection at a time when that’s sorely needed. —Leah Melby Clinton
The term modern sportswear comes to mind for Rosetta Getty’s fall collection. A term that feels like it has staid retail connotations, but truly means cool clothes you can wear all day and feel chic in. Hoodies in luxe fabrications, poplin striped shirtdresses, turtleneck dresses, suiting, and maxi skirt/bralette top combinations fit the bill. Getty is a playful minimalist. She designs things simply, which should never be confused with a lack of true interest and surprise twists. Sign us up for what she’s serving. —Kerry Pieri
Svitlana Bevza showed her fall collection in a literal tabula rasa. “Removing the unnecessary … the emptiness of the background symbolizes hope for the future and what it might bring for us,” she explains. Inspired by Ukrainian royalty, Olga of Kyiv, who ruled in the 10th century, the pieces embodied a strong femininity. The traditional balaclava was the center point. “This particular cut is special because it symbolizes the significance of women as represented by Olga.” In keeping with the brand’s emphasis on sustainability, the mélange cape was made of recycled plastic bottles, hand-knitted vests were upcycled from the fabrics of Bevza’s previous collections, and the “fur” coat was made of technical hemp grown and produced in Ukraine. —Kerry Pieri
Marina Moscone celebrated pre-fall and fall with a new short from director Stefano Ortega, and hidden clues were tucked within for how we ought to interpret the collection. Take, for starters, the format. Shot on Super 8, that go-to throwback from the ’60s, there was nostalgia seeping out of every frame, a fitting lens for the touches of school uniform tailored throughout (like plaid, pleats, and an artfully arranged rugby shirt). The soundtrack accompanying the mini flick was an energized drumroll, prepping us for, well, who really knows what’s to come anymore? Compared to September, when designers seemed intent on showcasing answers to the “new normal,” her fall had a get-set-for-anything attitude, with clothes for staying in and options for going out. No matter what’s on the docket for next fall, we’ll be dressed and ready. —Leah Melby Clinton
Prabal Gurung presented a love letter to New York City with his combined collection for the pre-fall and fall 2021 seasons. He began with a single rose, a “bodega beauty” from the corner store, which he says is “too often overlooked or deemed unimpressive.” This floral motif found itself on fitted ruched cocktail dresses, voluminous evening gowns, and the lapels of sleek blazers. Gurung stuck to a color palette of black, white, red, and shocking pink, focusing on eye-catching silhouettes that blend downtown cool and uptown chic. Polka dots, too, featured prominently, but it was bouquets that, as he explains, really served as “a reminder that amidst uncertainty and darkness, we find light in the true expression of our most real and authentic selves.” —Barry Samaha
It’s been about a year of sitting at home in our new-normal uniforms, dreaming of what we’d wear post-lockdown. And Sandy Liang brought both reality and fantasy to her collection for 2021, considering not only what her client wears every day, but what she dreams of wearing in the future. Per the designer’s show notes, it’s “a marriage between what I really wear, and what I wish I could wear.”
Liang’s signatures, like her almond-shaped cutouts, comfortable shoes, sporty-but-not-sporty vibes, and statement outerwear continued to be through lines this season, but alongside new additions like frothy skirts, floral appliqué, and whimsical accents. A good designer gets their clientele, and Liang knows hers well. Most importantly, she’s equipped to dress them in and out of lockdown; apparently, it’s all about being comfy yet dressed, without ever looking too dressed up. —Carrie Goldberg
Staud celebrated all the joys found at home for its fall 2021 collection. From board games to dainty bouquets to all things comfy and cozy, designer Sarah Staudinger took elements that many of us have experienced in quarantine and placed them in an assortment of sleek separates and elegant frocks. An intarsia sweater, for example, featured a tic-tac-toe pattern. Fitted knit dresses came in exuberant colors, with one standout displaying a heart-shaped cutout on the neckline. And chic puffer coats were covered in Neoclassical florals. Staudinger also showcased her signature leather dresses and coats in a range of pastel hues that, in this crazy time, beckons us to look on the bright side. —Barry Samaha
Interior design has been on our minds lately, and Tanya Taylor shares this sentiment. For her fall 2021 collection, the New York designer was inspired by the work of illustrator Jeremiah Goodman, who painted the living rooms of couturier Elsa Schiaparelli and society swan Betsey Bloomingdale. These fashion doyennes were celebrated for their keen senses of style, which were equal parts whimsical and elegant. Taylor sought to reflect this vibe in flowing frocks, tiered drop-waist dresses, plaid separates, and knits that feature patterns done in Goodman’s painterly style. —Barry Samaha
Hanako Maeda once again looked to her home country of Japan for inspiration—and Japanese artists in particular for fall ’21. Maeda visited the “STARS” exhibition at Mori Art Museum, which showcased the works of six artists who shaped Japanese art from the 1950s to present. They included sculptor and installation artist Yayoi Kusama, photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Takashi Murakami. The latter’s “Superflat” references modern anime and manga, as well as the classical Edo period woodblock prints, ukiyo-e. It’s that melding of current and old world that spoke most strongly to the designer, who put a strong emphasis on tailoring, classic shapes, and beautiful fabrications for this offering, while also having fun with shape, color, and proportions. —Kerry Pieri
Ulla Johnson is the reigning queen of boheme cool. The Brooklyn-based designer has free spirits on lock, with airy tops, printed gowns, a standout shearling, and crochet for days. That handcraft is integral to the Ulla Johnson vision—which supports female artisans across the world. Those braided crochets are created locally in Brooklyn. Linens are hand-embellished in India, and space-dyed crochet is crafted by artisans in Uruguay. This kind of attention to detail, with an eye on global awareness, is the modern definition of luxury. —Kerry Pieri
Victor Glemaud was well ahead of the knitwear curve before it became a mainstay in 2020—and he’s not about to give up the lead. The designer created his fall ’21 offering as an Ode to Hope. The mainly merino wool and cotton cashmere collection utilizes innovative knitwear techniques that bring the fabrics to very cool places. He developed a patchwork knit jacquard designed as a single piece with no linking, as well as a knit pinstripe fabricated in cotton cashmere and recycled rayon stripe. This season also brings a hat collection and Glemaud’s first shoe collaboration with Nigerian accessories brand Shekudo, designed by Akudo Iheakanwa—which will be available on TheRealReal at launch. Those knit bucket hats are sure to be a hit—these thoroughly wearable but comfort-minded pieces are exactly what the market is in need of. —Kerry Pieri
Maisie Wilen staged a virtual runway where models actually walked on water. No audience members were in attendance, leaving the whole affair with a sense of eerie strangeness. The clothes themselves offer a bit of optimism though. Pastels and bright pinks are found in easy-to-wear skirt suiting and coordinating sets. Florals are overlaid with scannable QR codes, and trippy swirls are trimmed with lace. It’s not loungewear; it’s not minimal. It feels like a breath of fresh air with a youthful eye toward the future—and a bit of nostalgia for the early ’90s. —Kerry Pieri
Like so many others during the last year, Jason Wu has also returned to his roots, his hometown, and a more bucolic setting. The designer was inspired by his New England upbringing for fall ’21. “I was feeling nostalgic for my school days … and the very idyllic Americana backdrop of those years,” Wu explains. Wu also fell in love with cooking and food shopping in 2020, putting that new passion into play by building a set that was also a real-life general store based on one from the 1950s—a collaboration with Coca-Cola really drove that idea home. The second showing of his contemporary collection included stripes, blazers, dusters, and knits in navy, gray, and black with hits of bold yellow and red—a nod to true American sportswear. —Kerry Pieri
Heron Preston presented his collection via look book, several weeks before the prescribed calendar dates for New York Fashion Week. His early-bird lineup considered the current climate, landing on OSHA-certified uniforms and giving them a high-fashion spin. “It’s about listening to my athlete, so to speak,” said Preston. “What does it take to bring fashion into real, applicable, usable workwear?”
It’s an idea he has touched on in the past, with his 2016 partnership with the New York City Department of Sanitation. This latest collection, titled Between Two Worlds, however, is a less literal, much more elegant take on the garbs worn by maintenance professionals. The bright, bold colors used for safety measures are cast on slick jackets with pronounced hardware and his signature patches, along with trousers that feature clip-buckle belts. He also used camouflage to great effect, refining the pattern and placing it on a fitted top, gauzy gown, and minidress under a cropped puffer. —Barry Samaha
While the fashion calendar has become about as topsy-turvy as just about everything else now, The Row’s decision to drop its fall offering a couple weeks before the New York Fashion Week, aligned with Men’s Fashion Week in Europe, makes a good bit of sense. After all, both collections leverage sumptuous fabrications in smart cuts and muted colorways (black, white, camel). The women’s collection leverages shoulder pads (removable), oversized knits, skirt suiting, and draped coats and tops that any true fashion lover would want to curl up in. If comfort is going to continue as a mainstay in style well into the future, make it cashmere coats and oversized jeans à la The Row for us. —Kerry Pieri
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New to the Milan Crew: 6 Emerging Brands to Watch
With Milan Fashion Week kicking off today, WWD met some of the promising names on the city’s fashion scene. While most of them cut their teeth at prestigious houses, including Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Givenchy, they’re now all ready to make their own mark on the global fashion map.
Probably the most anticipated debut of Milan Fashion Week, Daniel Del Core, former special projects and VIP designer at Gucci, will unveil the first collection for his namesake brand with a physical show today at Cittadella degli Archivi del Comune di Milano, a location in the northern area of the city where all the municipality’s official documents are stored.
Del Core established his women’s wear brand, with support from an anonymous private investor, in December 2019. Raised in a small village in Germany’s Black Forest, the designer moved to Italy as a teenager for a cultural exchange and then settled in the country, where he studied fashion and graphic design.
Prior to joining Gucci in Rome, where he collaborated with creative director Alessandro Michele on the creation of a series of spectacular looks donned by stars including Björk and Lana Del Rey, Del Core worked for a range of other houses, including Dolce & Gabbana and Versace in Milan, and Zuhair Murad between Paris and Beirut.
As he revealed during an exclusive interview with WWD last December, the designer aims to present two collections a year, transcending the idea of seasonality and including a mix of ready-to-wear and couture looks, identified by different labels.
During an interview a few days ahead of his debut show, Del Core said “the starting point for my first collection was nature and the organic realm. My inspiration came from the morphing and the mutations that take place in the plant kingdom.”
According to the designer, a study of different personalities will be central. “I like the idea of glamour and conceiving each dress for a specific personality. Every woman leads her own life,” he said.
Silhouette wise, the designer said he kept that sleek and sculptural, and that it will be counterbalanced by the richness of fabrics and decorations. “Much research and thought went into the materials, including our jacquard and fil coupé. And I also put emphasis on the embroideries, applications, intarsia and 3D techniques.”
Tailoring will stand out with sharp and graphic suits worn over lace underwear garments, as well as jumpsuits, including one crafted from a fabric showing a corrosion print.
“Working on eveningwear gave way to multiple interpretations of nature’s hidden beauty,” added the designer. “From an allover embroidered dress to a gown designed in different weights of jacquard to create both sculptural and fluid effects around the body.”
The collection will be completed by a range of accessories, such as shoes, including a pair of feathered sandals, bags, and jewelry pieces, such as gold chokers. — Alessandra Turra
For anyone familiar with the Milan creative scene, Christian Boaro is not a new name.
With previous experience in-house at Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, MSGM and Gianfranco Ferrè, fashion remains Boaro’s first love, but he’s also explored different areas, training his camera on a series of Polaroids for an exhibition called “The Naked Truth” in which he explored today’s youth movement: Vocal, creative, gender-bending.
A multifaceted talent, throughout his 15-year career Boaro has dreamed of establishing his namesake brand but found one reason or another to delay it, until late last year when he launched his CHB fashion brand imbued with sensual femininity and a glamorous take on contemporary fashion.
“I’ve worked for different established fashion brands and I was always dedicated and absorbed but at a certain point I felt the need to have something of my own. After my mum passed away, I suddenly realized how uncertain and volatile life is and did not want to waste a minute more,” Boaro explained — his eyes moist — during an interview at his home-turned-atelier in central Milan.
After his debut collection last October unveiled via Instagram images and a look book release, he is set to present his first full lineup on Feb. 28 during Milan Fashion Week.
“This collection builds on the first one launched last year and which served as a manifesto for everything the brand is about: seasonless, genderless fashion,” the designer said. “They are both concepts that are dear to me and really ingrained in my professional and personal story. They are less of a trend and more values that I strongly believe in.”
Blending references that nod to traditional tropes of men’s wear and old-school feminine glamour, he designed gender-bending pieces that more often than not can be worn by women and men. “I think that since the metrosexual aesthetics came to the fore [in the ‘90s] men have started to fine-tune their taste and women have been embracing a mannish style,” he noted.
The collection is filled with desirable pieces, from lace-trimmed slipdresses to lace tank tops — one featuring attached gloves; black tuxedos; a wet-look vinyl trench, and a silk duchesse duster coat in butter yellow lined with cotton, an example of the high and low approach the designer is charting.
Boaro said the collection is rooted in minimalism but without looking stiff or out of date. “I don’t think a designer can really innovate anymore, and you would probably find references to the history of fashion in my collection, however you can always offer something new by presenting the clothes in a contemporary way,” he explained.
To wit, he cast a circle of close friends to appear in his look book images, including model Marie Sophie Wilson, a Peter Lindbergh favorite. “I don’t want to build a tribe of fans and followers, but rather a community that shares my vision,” he said.
Currently self-financed, Boaro is looking for a distribution partner and working on setting up his own e-commerce. — Martino Carrera
Geneviève Xhaët has been charming her customers with her surrealist take on headgear since 2013, finding inspiration in everything from artist Dora Mar to the mountains and ‘20s glamour. Now she’s ready to expand her brand’s offering.
Whereas many creatives were feeling pressured by confinement, Xhaët decamped to Sicily and found time to let her creativity express itself. For her Flapper brand’s fall 2021 collection she is introducing a knitwear capsule collection that is radical in its minimalist approach.
After years working alongside knitwear guru Pierangelo D’Agostin and for Malo and Dhrumor, Xhaët wanted to leave her own mark on the category and build on the interest her headwear has generated.
“My goal was to provide women with a Flapper uniform, complementing hats with a ready-to-wear capsule,” Xhaët said. “It is really in tune with my hat collection and because of its minimalist approach it can also be easily thrown into the mix of a boutique’s offering,” she noted.
Inspired by the uniforms of ‘70s professional skiers (the designer herself had a gig as a professional skier), the knitted pieces span from bras to floor-length, body-hugging dresses, tactile sweaters and soft pants, reminiscent of retro-tinged ski suits but way more comfortable. Adding her characteristic off-kilter touch, Xhaët translated the geometric details on the ski suits worn by the likes of Maria Rosa “Ninna” Quario, Anne Marie Pröll and Rosi Mittermaier into intarsia decorations on her fall pieces.
Xhaët largely employed cashmere and a ladder proof blend of polyurethane and elastane, nodding to the sportswear, high-performance trend in fashion. “Both yarns captured my attention because they are long-lasting and can stand the test of time, and there’s also a sustainable bent to them,” the designer explained, adding that the capsule is intended to be worn throughout the year. For her headwear creations she has already used a range of eco-friendly materials, including Econyl’s regenerated nylon.
While the designer is not planning to make a full foray into clothing, she said retailers have given the thumbs up to her knitwear offering, setting the foundation for a further expansion of the category, which retails between 200 euros for bras and 700 euros for cashmere dresses. — M.C.
For Alessandro Vigilante, presenting his namesake brand as part of the Milan Fashion Week official schedule is “a surprise, a gift and an opportunity” as he described the occasion as a “channel through which I can communicate my personal stylistic vision.”
He first gave it a try in 2007 when, after graduating in fashion design at IED Moda Lab in Milan, he won the My Own Show contest promoted by the school and the late Vogue Italia’s editor in chief Franca Sozzani, which gave him access and visibility during the fashion event.
But Vigilante opted to return to the starting blocks and cut his teeth at different fashion houses, piling up experiences and different skills over time. After spending seven years at Dolce & Gabbana, particularly overseeing eveningwear and embroideries, he moved to Gucci to manage special projects. There, he worked under Alessandro Michele, a designer “I admire a lot not only for his powerful and personal creative vision but also for his ability in catalyzing everybody’s attention and curiosity on the brand in such a short time, completely revolutionizing the label,” said Vigilante.
After working with Lorenzo Serafini on Philosophy from 2015 to 2019, Vigilante eventually decided to focus on developing his brand, through which he investigates the duality between femininity and masculinity via a minimal aesthetic.
In particular, his exploration of the human body and its movements is rooted in his long-time fascination for modern dance, a discipline he practiced in the past and that became a constant source of inspiration during his career as a designer.
For fall 2021, he looked at Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham. Of the former, he praised the inclusive approach and the exaltation of humanity and imperfection in her work, while he revisited her personal style filling the collection with oversize tailoring.
Cunningham’s innovative cross-pollination of dance and technology and his penchant for technical perfection inspired Vigilante’s rigorous shapes and the contrasts in fabrics, as traditional wool, jersey and silk georgette are combined with neoprene and vegan latex in the range. In particular, sartorial jackets and coats, which often reveal sensual cut-outs on the back, are styled with wide pants, as well as high-wasted leggings and bike shorts. Feminine frocks with deep slits and leotards with seducing transparencies and geometric cuts contribute to the body-hugging silhouettes that counterbalance the generous proportions of tailored pieces.
The enhancement of the human body is also the main theme of the video the brand produced to introduce the collection. Directed by Attilio Cusani, the short movie has a voyeuristic approach in portraying a woman as she observes and studies her body while alone in her apartment.
“I would like to make women feel self-confident both when they wear my masculine suits and ultra-feminine dresses,” said Vigilante, whose ultimate goal is to “create an authentic and personal aesthetic, [one that is] sensitive and receptive of the world we live in, and to convey it in a way that is precise, recognizable, unique and courageous.” — Sandra Salibian
Take two women, blend their shared passion for shoes with their commitment to sustainability, add a generous amount of Italian craftsmanship and spice everything up with symbolism: luxury footwear label Iindaco will be served.
Named after the indigo color that marks the transition from day to night — a nod to the brand’s mission to dress women throughout the day — Iindaco is the venture of friends Pamela Costantini and Domitilla Rapisardi, who met in 2014 when both worked at Roberto Cavalli.
After Costantini’s stint at Givenchy in Paris and Rapisardi’s experience in a consulting firm working for brands including Emilio Pucci and Max Mara, as well as at Tod’s, in 2018 the two women ended one of their usual chats over the phone with the idea of establishing their own brand as an answer to a stalling industry in terms of environmental sustainability.
“For Iindaco, new luxury is responsibility,” said Costantini. “This is why Iindaco is committed to creating 360-degree sustainable collections: from the design to the realization, from the materials to the distribution.”
In particular, the brand, which made its official debut last year, sources excess fabrics and leather leftovers throughout Italy’s warehouses and stockists, diverting and reusing scrap materials in their creative process while reducing waste. Recycled and recyclable ABS heels, regenerated leather insoles, and certified linings in biodegradable leather are also deployed in the manufacturing of the shoes, while the founders are additionally eyeing scraps from fish markets, such as eel and salmon skins, as the next ground for experimentation.
In terms of aesthetic, Costantini and Rapisardi are influenced by the ’90s in their work and find “beauty and femininity in the seduction of the girl next door, a clean face, and naturalness.” This approach informs the essential silhouettes and no-fuss attitude of their offering, in which flat and midi-heeled styles play a big role.
Inspired by rationalist architecture, the fall 2021 collection comprises just one, four-inch heeled pump named Pegaso and the three-inch heeled Circe d’Orsay sling-back shoe, both featuring squared toes. The range includes the Persephone sandal and Ade mule with midi heels covered in crystals; the masculine Adone loafer embellished with the brand’s logo clamp on the front, and the Argo lace-up boot — a standout style, especially when crafted from Iindaco’s signature moiré silk and rendered in colors like mustard, red or emerald green, in addition to black.
All styles are also available in calfskin, often studded with rhinestones, while other details include splits on heels and soles winking to the two “Ls” in the brand’s name. The double use of the vowel nods to the two founders and forms the number 11, which recalls the month of November when they were both born.
Debuting on Milan Fashion Week’s official schedule, Iindaco will present the fall collection through a virtual showroom filled with photos, videos and details on the assortment intended to approach buyers in “a clean and direct way.”
Retailing at prices ranging from 390 euros to 690 euros, the brand is available at Rinascente in Milan, LuisaViaRoma in Florence and Bloomingdale’s in Dubai and Kuwait, as well as at its own online store.
“In the future we would like to expand our product range and have the opportunity to open the first physical stores [continuing] to collaborate with retailers through exclusive capsule collections,” concluded Rapisardi. — S.S.
Longevity is something that Pia Zanardi cares very much about. Probably because she loves to wear her grandfather’s shirts and her grandmother’s dresses.
Born and raised in Italy, Zanardi lived for two years in China, where she studied Mandarin, and during that period she fell in love with the country’s craftsmanship and textile heritage. Aiming to combine Chinese garment culture with a color and aesthetic sensibility rooted in her Italian origins, when after college she moved to New York, she decided to establish her own brand, Yali.
Zanardi started her entrepreneurial adventure in a space in SoHo, where she conceived a jacket, available in a short and long version, that immediately echoes the Chinese tradition but infused with a modern appeal.
“I basically launched the brand because I was getting very good feedback from the people around me, who started asking me to make one of the jackets I was wearing,” Zanardi explained. “I basically started with door-to-door selling and that’s how the Yali community was established and grew.”
Employing at the beginning exclusively high-end Chinese textiles, including raw silk from Suzhou and Nankeen linen, Zanardi has slowly and steadily enlarged the collection, which now includes also Made In Italy styles, such as refined silk pajama sets. “I call them the ‘Everyday Tuxedo’ because you can wear it to go to work and you don’t need to change to meet friends for drinks and then for dinner,” explained Zanardi.
Along with silk wrap dresses, Yali’s fall 2021 collection also offers a range of cotton quilted jackets and pants, which are filled with a silk padding. “I didn’t want to use goose feathers, so I opted for silk, which has incredible natural thermo-regulatory properties,” said the designer, who also introduced cute little bags.
Colors and textures play a key role in the development of the collection. “When I was a child I suffered from dyslexia and they treated me with textile and color therapy,” Zanardi said “That really helped me a lot and especially showed me the importance that colors have in the development of memories.”
For fall, Zanardi mainly focused on a palette of colors inspired by the nature surrounding her family’s countryside house close to Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region. Warm tones of brown are juxtaposed with emerald and pine green, rust, terra-cotta, as well as baby pink and fuchsia.
Yali collections, retailing from 500 euros to 900 euros, are available at the brand’s online store, as well as at a select network of stores located across Europe and the U.S., including LuisaViaRoma in Florence, Tea Rose in Milan, as well as Just One Eye in Los Angeles, and Aerin in the Hamptons, to cite a few. — A.T.
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