25-Sep, 20:45

10:34, February 24 242 0

2017-02-24 10:34:12
Fashion Review: Modern Potboilers at Prada and Moschino

It takes a certain amount of gumption for a designer to propose a collection that is “the antidote to the unsustainable cycles of consumption.”

After all, fashion arguably is responsible for those cycles — the constant stoking of desire for the new and the next; the endless influx of stuff thanks to the pre-collections and special collections outside of the traditional twice-yearly ones; the move to see now/buy now created to take advantage of the desire for immediate shopping gratification.

And while we are used to designers complaining about the unsustainable demands on creativity such cycles create, it’s not so common to hear them complaining about the shopping problem (most brands are more than happy about that, since it serves their revenue stream). Or even admitting that there is a shopping problem.

But who among us hasn’t looked at the latest order from amazon.com or netaporter.com and thought, “Don’t I have enough stuff?”

Enter Jeremy Scott, creative director of Moschino, with an answer to this peculiarly modern crisis: Recycle!

Or at least look as if you have.

“I’m interested in things people don’t find beautiful, what they discard,” he said backstage before his show, resplendent in a “Couture Is an Attitude” white T-shirt. So he found inspiration in a cardboard box, remade not only as his runway, but also as a little camel skirt suit, the seams picked out in transparent tape.

Also in brown paper sacks (a literal sack dress) and moving blankets (coats crafted from flannel padding) and Bubble Wrap (cocktail dresses in transparent plastic). In glossy magazine tear sheets that became a riot of prints and duct tape that encircled stiletto boots for shine. And in the detritus of the everyday: leather gloves that formed the fringes on an evening dress; a shower curtain draped into a cascading skirt with a trailing bathmat boa; a tiny metallic strapless sheath made from countless gold watches sourced from thrift shops and flea markets.

This isn’t a new idea. Maison Martin Margiela did it years ago in their Artisanal collection, which was all about repurposing quotidian objects in the argot of elegance. But it’s one worth revisiting.

The stumbling block: In doing the above (save for the watch dress et al), Mr. Scott mostly wasn’t practicing what he preached. When asked where he got the Persian rug remade for the finale gown, he said, quite cheerfully, “We wove it.” It was, in other words, a new dress only made to look like it once lay on the parlor floor.

And wither the dress, so the collection. It wasn’t providing a solution, it was perpetuating the problem. That it did so with a wink and some wit — that it raised the question and made you think — does not change the inherent contradiction.

Yet the situation isn’t that insoluble, when you really think about it. What would stop the endless cycle of consumption (or at least, to be fair, slow it down, as stopping it altogether would be the end of this industry)?

Really good clothes, the kind that are satisfying over time. There just aren’t enough of them. So designers keep dangling their promise and we keep buying and buying in an endless quest for the perfect dress or suit or what have you.

Which was not, in any case, what Massimo Giorgetti offered at Emilio Pucci: a queasy-making mix of highlighter green and orange, hot pink and brown in a disco/loungewear fiesta that included, inexplicably, hats with fringe completely obscuring the face and hanging down to the waist in the front. Plus animal print trouser suits in crushed velvet with rhinestone buttons, and a geometric version of the house’s swirling signature logo printed on a catsuit and picked out in crystals on a transparent vinyl raincoat.

Yes, this is a brand that celebrated color, but once upon a time it did so with joyful sophistication. This was a look-at-me heave.

At least at Emporio Armani, things started off promisingly enough, with a multitude of variations on black tie in training in (yes) black and white and red, polka dots and stripes, all worn with lots of sneakers. But then transparent vinyl came into play (in a tartan print, worn over white tights; in pockets appended atop otherwise tailored trousers) and then multicolored hands and cartoon heads appeared on classic jackets, and violets on velvet. And by the time coats started dripping paillettes over pipe-cleaner pants, the recipe was lip-bitingly confused.

Instead it was at Prada that taste achieved real clarity, amid a set pitched as a series of private bedrooms, differentiated by winding wood partitions, the outer walls plastered with posters advertising “The Demure Defendant,” “Some Like It Cool,” “The Velvet Knife,” The Glass Cage” and so on. Potboilers with a twist, that is to say. Which is not a bad way of describing the show.

We were in, said Miuccia Prada backstage later — her face lit by the eerie light of multitudinous cellphones recording her every word — “The City of Women,” but not as Federico Fellini envisioned it in the 1980 film; as she sees it, now. A place that, according to AMO Studio, the Dutch company that made the set, “identifies the intangible centrality of the contemporary female role both at the domestic and public scale.”

That’s a little portentous, but its expression — a meditation on the relationship of seduction and smarts in 47 looks — was uncomplicatedly compelling. Building on the vocabulary of the femme fatale (fur, beads, feathers and satin sheaths) as well as the homemaker (knits and mohair, “hairy” fabrics), she built from a base of 1970s ERA-era corduroy suiting and patchwork snakeskin and leather coats and buckled boots.

Then came knitted bralets under mohair jackets and atop mohair pencil skirts, floral boiled-wool coats with big fur collars, sweater-girl sheaths and satin party dresses dangling beaded fringe or finished in puffs of fur and topped with marabou hoods, in a candy-colored parade of stereotypes remixed in the ambiguous parlance of today.

“It is the usual argument about how women can’t be intelligent and interesting and seductive, too,” Mrs. Prada said. “Which is never finished. But I thought, we need to have it again.”

So she did. Rigorous, with each detail carefully chosen, the clothes were also lush with emotion; rich enough in form and content to fill the eye and the mind.

You could consume only one. It would be enough.