By Marissa Lee

The digital fashionscape has made for a more level playing field between the heritage houses and the newcomer brands.

Fashion fanatics around the globe were delighted as the Fall/Winter 2021 Ready To Wear collections paraded down their respective runways, which continue to stray further from the image of the traditional catwalk. With the paradigm shift that came with COVID-19 restrictions, the shows’ style of presentation bear almost as much importance as the clothes themselves.

In the digital fashionscape that has arisen thanks to the pandemic, heritage houses and newcomer brands are now on a more level playing field. Certain presentations were absolute fun, from Marine Serre’s buzzing social tableau entitled “Core” to the arctic dreamscape and floating faceless paragons at Thom Browne, convincing audiences of yet another way to show a collection. Other presentations went down more artistic routes, such as the cathartic movements captured in the Dries van Noten collection and the silent and steady photo collection at Altuzarra.

Just as impressive, however, are the fashion pillars that proved they’re not going anywhere but forward. Thanks to Nicolas Ghesquière’s collection for Louis Vuitton, we no longer have to guess what the Louvre looks like when it’s teeming with models dressed to the nines in slouchy leather boots and tunics, brandishing bags decorated by legendary Italian artist Fornasetti. The time-capsule collection transports onlookers to a romp around ancient Ancient Greek and Roman statues, with bags featuring the aforementioned Fornasetti interpretations of familiar Grecian faces. Beyond the nods to ancient aesthetics is an odyssey of contemporary stylings: from the Carrie Bradshaw-esque tulle skirts that populate the first half of the collection to the oversized puffers that close out the show, Ghesquière has successfully evoked a sartorial conversation between archaic and contemporary glamour.

Similarly, Virginie Viard paid homage to the past in her “Coco Neige” collection, bestowing a dose of veiled historical spirit upon the typical tweed offerings. While the long, straight hairstyles and heavy hooded eye makeup screamed 1960s, the boyish silhouettes were reminiscent of 1920s flapper dresses. One dress was even outfitted with the signature flapper fringe, an overarching trend observed at other brands such as Isabel Marant, Loewe and Hermès. Chanel cites “cool Parisian chic” and “the ambiance of ski holidays” as inspiration, creating a junket of Belle de Jour-esque ensembles that mix fur trim with effortless tweed pairings. The intimate setting for the show, a nod to infamous Left Bank club Chez Castel, was vastly different from the brand’s usual Grand Palais dwellings, but essential to Viard’s vision. “I wanted to show in a small place, a club,” Viard explained during a Zoom preview. “I don’t like big rave venues; I prefer that kind of place that is more intimate.”

Less-than-intimate was the Miu Miu “Brave Hearts” collection, which saw models putting the pastel puffer sets and chunky knit sweaters to work in the frozen Dolomites. Miuccia Prada reportedly relied on her own love of the mountains as inspiration for the show, creating a collection rife with survivalist glamour. Knit bras and balaclavas sit adjacent to down-filled leisure suits and flowing slip dresses, with just the right amount of fur populating the selection. Monochromatic snowsuits made an appearance as well, one of many single-color winter outfits presented during this round of collections. (See the wool ensembles at Balmain, the electric party dresses at Versace and the delectable layered costumes at Patou.) Only in Miuccia’s world can a down-filled unitard flow seamlessly with olive-green ski pants, fur-trimmed clogs and elbow length mittens, the entire collection proof that fashion gambles surely can pay off.

This season’s selection of shows took us on a seamless journey to places we may never have imagined. Viewers can take an apocalyptic romp down the Venice Lido with Rick Owens’ “Gethsemane,” sit in on a chic après-ski at Chanel, stomp down a jetliner wing at Balmain, or indulge in a hotel staycation with Lanvin. The choice is yours; the only requirement is that you keep in mind that you are witnessing fashion sans status quo, in its best and unbound digital sense.

Image credit: Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Inez & Vinoodh/Chanel

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