5. 12. 2020

English Version | Love is all around

by Pureza Fleming


What would become of the world without love? What would become of Fashion without the inspiration that floods it through love? And what would become of designers without sensibility towards love? Everything would become insipid, gloomy even. Life is (always) more charming with a touch of that crazy little thing called love.


It’s unlikely that there’s another name, in the History of Fashion, that rhymes as well with l’amour than the one of Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008). Just like the biographer Alicia Drake noted, “love is imprinted in the house’s DNA”. And if it is - because it definitely is - it’s because of Saint Laurent, the genius behind the maison YSL (now commonly known as Saint Laurent) and the responsible for the injection of high, and very necessary, dosages of love into the industry – at least the ones within his reach. The years between 1970 and 1971 were a good prototype for this conduct. It was around this time that Yves produced his first LOVE cards, which, on a span of 30 years, he would send to his friends and closest clients, every New Year’s Eve – except for the years of 1978 and 1993. The designer referred to these as the “loveless years”. It was also, during the cold season of 1970-71 that Yves created a velvet dress with heart appliqués and a non-conformed embroidered message, where one could read: Love Me Forever Or Never. Three decades later, the dress would arise on the runway again, in that would be his last collection, Haute Couture spring/summer 2002, that brought together 128 of his career’s most emblematic looks. Saint Laurent, who soon adopted the heart as a talisman, is believed to have said that “without the elegance of the heart, there’s no elegance.” This romantic facet of someone that loved love and made a point to show it the best way he knew how is evident: through his art. And precisely because of that, even if the “Yves” was taken away from Saint Laurent, we can still feel the vibrancy of the love encapsulated on everything that goes into writing those three little letters.


Fast-forward to Saint Laurent’s autumn/winter 2016 collection. The creative director was Hedi Slimane (Paris, France, 1968). In reality, that was the last season the fashion rebel presided as the head of the maison’s creative direction – today, we see him take on the same position at the French brand Celine. And what was seen was majestic. Let’s say Slimane orchestrated an exit in style. It was a hymn to the 80's worthy of putting the decade itself to shame. From one piece to another, we assisted, above all, to an honest homage to Yves Saint Laurent. One of the highest moments (and one that also counts as a tribute from Slimane to the founder of the brand) was the look that closed the show. More specifically, a red fur coat, in the shape of a heart, sartorially put on an ultra-thin model (Hedi’s signature), with wet-looking hair, combed back, with red lipstick on her lips to seal the deal (Yves’ signature). The same coat that later on ended up on every single Fashion editorial, and also on the red carpets all around the world. Yet, more than an item one could figure would cause an uproar in the outside world, that heart-shaped coat was the vehicle that would put love back on the runway. It was, without the shadow of a doubt, the way Hedi found to say goodbye to the honorable, and grand, French maison. And if due to his undeniable talent, we already nurtured a huge appreciation for him, after a gesture like this, we fell head over heels for anything sown in by Mr. Slimane.


Haute Couture was more charming when Jean Paul Gaultier (Bagneux, France, 1952) was still around in the Fashion circuit. We wrote this in the past tense because in January, Fashion’s enfant terrible – nickname that has always belonged to him, more than to any other Fashion designer - announced he would be retiring from the runway. That date also marked his 50th career anniversary. The moment became a huge farewell from the Fashion world. But weren’t Gaultier’s shows always grand experiences? Irreverent, transgressor, and subversive, the designer accustomed us to think of clothes as art, above anything else. And even the subject of love has always been portrayed in a very naked and raw way – hence, very artistic. In his Haute Couture collection for the colder season of 2003, we saw the powerhouse (even if ultra-slim) that is the British model Erin O’Connor storm down the runway, with a full bodysuit that matched her skin tone, where a heart and its veins – the entire circulatory system, actually -, were drawn with red sequins. It wasn’t exactly a loving heart, but it certainly was a living organ, with a soul. It was the heart of someone who lives intensely, unapologetically, just like we perceive Jean Paul Gaultier. And it’s because of things like these that we don’t believe for a second that the Frenchman won’t popup sometime again soon. A restless heart like his can’t just quit beating like this.


Hearts towards heaven for Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, because if there is type of fashion that makes us dream and sigh for romance, that is the fashion that comes to us by the hands (minds, souls and hearts) of the Dutch duo. Going through the collections signed by Viktor & Rolf – the maison was born in 1993, and a few decades have gone by totaling for countless proposals – it’s clear how love is a recurrent theme. The fact that this duo also creates wedding gowns is not merely a coincidence. In the midst of uncertain times, with some frustration, sadness even, like those we live today, the proposals that the designers brought us for their latest Haute Couture autumn/winter collection followed, despite the panorama, the romantic line that sets their fashion house apart. And we’re not just referring to the lyrical, more romanticized looks, which are explicit on the pieces’ majestic volumes, embroideries or on the choice of the utmost luxurious materials. We are referring to the hearts that took over the brand’s pieces, and took responsibility for infiltrating, into the collection, a wash of love that was missing: a silk dress with embroidered hearts; a second look constructed from a quilted fabric; and lastly, a look made out of a long coat surrounded by glittering hearts of different colors. On the collection’s video presentation, a voice-over read: “We all deserve love, regardless of our age, color, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation”. Because love conquers us all, n’est-ce pas?


A lot has been said about the “ugly” trend in the world of fashion – Vogue’s last issue tackled precisely that. The opposite of what is seen as bluntly beautiful, or simply easy on the eyes, has been spreading around for various reasons – the fact that the world is currently upside down is just one of them. Perhaps that’s why the fashion industry is lacking names such as Alber Elbaz (Casablanca, Morocco, 1961). Not only due to his friendly face, nor for his kind eyes, but because of his relationship with the world and with what we call beautiful. Lanvin’s previous creative director (Elbaz spent approximately 15 years taking the wheel of the maison, after which he was asked to leave in 2015), argued that "if we inject a little bit more love into fashion and less fear — because today I feel it's more about fear and less love — we will have a beautiful reason to wake up every morning." In Lanvin’s autumn/winter 2013 collection, this loving tribute was exposed through the thick gold chains that appeared with the word “love” written on them, as well as hearts where one could read “you” – constructing “love you”. Elbaz explained to American Vogue how his collections always began with words he had written or said. And that his favorite ones were “love, “happy” and “help” – if before there was any space for doubt when it came to his preferred words, that collection engraved them for eternity.


To think of Burberry is to evoke all that is felt and associated with the many synonyms of polished. Sure thing. It’s about immediately hearing that British accent that, in itself, exudes civility. Hence why the collection inspired by Christine Keeler (1942-2017), the model and cabaret dancer known for her (scandalous) relationships with British politics and Russian spies, came as somewhat of a surprise. Let it be noted that Christopher Bailey (London, United Kingdom, 1971), who left the house in 2018 after 17 years as creative director, had already spent more than a decade retrieving inspiration both from the noble heritage of the British brand, and from his cultural values and icons –  doing everything “according to the rules”. Thus, when the designer presented Trench Kisses, the name for his autumn 2013 collection, hearts were the politest way to tone down the unexpected sensuality and irreverence. While managing to preserve Burberry’s DNA, Bailey brought forever kind of pieces onto the runway, but with stamped hearts on them, whether in blouses, trench coats, or even high-waisted underpants that risked it all when they peeked out behind semi-transparent skirts. “I liked the idea of emotions and love. Of making people smile. I liked wearing my heart on my sleeve”, the designer explained.


There’s no need to admire each and every look to understand how Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were in the mood for love when they idealized Valentino’s 2015 spring collection. It would have been enough to observe that ensemble of pieces, as a whole, to understand that romance was written all over it – conceptually, yes, but also literally. The thing is, this romantic atmosphere was already part of the genetic codes of the Italian maison, only in that season, love was bluntly assumed as the strongest link. According to American Vogue, the collection’s mood board was filled with Shakespeare quotations (speaking of romantics…), as well as of snippets of pictures from the theatre play Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, and also Marc Chagall’s paintings – all of them inveterate romantics. Maria Grazia Chiuri presented some good and valid points to justify the concept for the collection: “In a way, one floats when one’s in love”, she commented on a couple of tule dresses, a rainbow embroidery piece and another one of some clouds – the kind that take you to heaven. Embroidered and/ or stamped love notes could also be seen in numerous pieces, besides when the world “love” appeared by itself. Sentimentally aside, the reality is that some collections make us dream and others take us on a dream, as if we were really there. This collection, signed by Valentino, was without a shadow of a doubt, one of those.


“You’ve taught us that only love is real, and we can still feel it when we close our eyes. […] Gianni, this is for you.” In the year that made up two decades of the brutal disappearance of Gianni Versace (1946-1997), his sister, Donatella, decided to pay him a grand, and very deserving, homage. At the end of september 2017, the Triennale Design Museum, in Milan, dressed up in glamour to gift the world with Versace’s spring/summer 2018 collection. According to Sally Singer, one of the reporters attending the show, it might have been “the best show ever”. Even if it was exempt from embroidered or stamped hearts or garments, there was an emotional overflow throughout those 15 minutes of presentation. “This is the celebration of a genius. This is the celebration of an icon. This is the celebration of my brother”, was the message that opened the show. We could then see a group of models burst onto the catwalk wearing the collage-like stamped looks inspired by Gianni’s most iconic prints. Many of the collections presented that afternoon, including the unforgettable Warhol and Vogue ones (whose first appearance was in the spring of 1991), to the imponent Baroque (autumn/winter 1991), would mark his aesthetic forever. At the end of the show, after the runway had already seen some of the most charismatic models of today, lights went out for a second, and, out of the dark, the original supermodels stepped forward: Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford appeared to bring a full stop to this love letter to the Italian designer: and “Gianni, we love you”, echoed around the room, once again.

Translated from the original article from Vogue Portugal's Love issue, published in December 2020.