Pre-collections are collections too: last resorts from Stella McCartney, Lanvin, Balenciaga and JW Anderson
Fashion is demanding. Especially now we’re working on a four-season system instead of two. That’s my take-away thus far from the pre-collections. Actually, let’s stop that ridiculous terminology straight away. If Nicolas Ghesquiere’s excellent show last month in Monaco proved anything, it was that pre-collections are collections too.
During a preview of their preco (as they’re calling them now), a London designer comment “It’s almost too good for a pre-collection.” That wasn’t arrogance, but it was a slightly outdated point of view, harking back to the time – circa, well, twelve months ago – when the furore had only just started to fizzle about pre-collections, when they were still seen as something bridging winter and spring, a prequel and a post-script unsatisfyingly coupled together, then made with fewer seams in cheaper fabrics.
The latest crop of pre-spring pre-collections are noteworthy because of their comparative complexity. There’s nothing simple, design-wise, about Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin collection for pre-spring. The evening dresses, thick bows knotted and fat cabbage roses pinned at waists, looked barely ready-to-wear.
Likewise JW Anderson’s offering, with ticking-stripe poplin pleated to the stripe and a collaboration with young London textile designer Jessica Mort which yields hand-painting and mind-boggling knotted-up swatches of shredded jersey woven through mesh. “Resort for me is never just about making money,” commented Anderson, on the complexity of ideas and treatments crammed into these clothes.
As a counter-balance, I often wonder why Stella McCartney makes such a song and dance about showing her pre-collections, as they often when her pragmatic talent shines brightest. This time, she had pretty, peppy summer dresses and interesting contrasts of print that warranted close examination. But she obfuscated them with gimmicky theatrics – a literal fairground, replete with alcohol and a live band (tricks a few designers pull out to liven things up), and living statues (rarer, and a personal bugbear).
For preco, McCartney doesn’t try to make her clothes awkward and unbecoming, as she is sometimes wont to do in her biannual Paris shows. Often that comes off not as brave or new, but as a designer tenuously trying to justify her garments’ place on the catwalk. She doesn’t need to. McCartney makes money. Her brand advertises. If that is all the justification H&M needs to show on the Paris catwalk, McCartney shouldn’t fret. When they’re attractive enough, her clothes actually sell, and her ideas, on the whole, make them worth the fuss her surname will always generate.
Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga is all about the hard sell. Why then make a catwalk song and dance about such a limp, lifeless rag-bag bunch of clothes? The “pre” in “pre-collection” refers to the drop time – for this round, in mid-November, a good two months ahead of the spring/summer 2015 ready-to-wear.
For Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga, however, that “pre” implied ideas half-baked, embryonic at best, and poorly-formed both physically and thematically. You hoped for something more intellectually stimulating, not just from a house historically renowned for clothes that challenge but from a designer as frequently feted as Wang.
And so, the pre-collection season continues. Elsewhere, I enjoyed Erdem’s inventive prints, embroideries and questionable use of ruffles (a bold choice that paid off), and loved the fact Fausto Puglisi described his pre-collection as ”Jackie O meets Andre Agassi” (he also enjoyed wayward ruffles in his Emanuel Ungaro pre-collection).
I also liked the ungainly shapes, odd fabrics and sickly combinations of colour in Roksanda Ilincic’s collection, although it’s most notable aspect was its gargantuan proportions. That doesn’t refer to the voluminous sweaters and skirts, which were the collection’s most interesting outfits, but to the number of looks showcased – 48 in all. She has a capacious new London boutique on Mount Street to, inaugurated with a glitzy party on Tuesday and called simply “Roksanda.” I thought she may have wanted it to sound like a trendy wine-bar circa 1991, but apparently she’s rebranding, or something.
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