Courtesy of the designers; Getty Images; Fendi: Pascal Le Segretain; Valli: YANNIS VLAMOS
Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
The worlds of sci-fi and couture might not, initially, seem to have much overlap. Except, of course, for the fact that both are rarefied realms with obsessive devotees who gather periodically with Comic Con-level enthusiasm, and where the most minute details are endlessly fixated upon. But that’s where the similarities usually end. Which is why it was such a delightful surprise to see references typically reserved for the D&D table pop up at the most recent couture shows.
Take Fendi, where Kim Jones cited the house’s home city (“the eternity of Rome, the spirituality of Rome, the celestial Rome”) as his primary inspiration, but also drew on the lore of Dune and Star Wars. Jones recently made his way through the 800-page behemoth that is Frank Herbert’s book, and, he told WWD, “I’ve always loved Star Wars. I still have Star Wars toys all over my study.” The show opened with a glittering cassock-like gown that Padmé Amidala might’ve worn, backgrounded by a moody sci-fi set.
Another Dune convert was Daniel Roseberry of Schiaparelli, who took the house’s trademark Surrealism in a sci-fi direction with his first physical show since the beginning of the pandemic. “After two years of thinking about the Surreal,” Roseberry explained in his show notes, “I found myself instead thinking about the empyreal: The heavens as a place to escape from the chaos of our planet, but also the home of a mythical high priestess, at once goddess and alien, who might in fact walk among us.” His alien goddesses wore Barbarella-by-way-of-Madonna pointy breastplates, or massive disks around their heads and wrists; a Saturn-like ring of gold literally orbited one model.
Science fiction is the ultimate escapist genre (and it helps that lockdown gave many the time to finally pick up volumes like Herbert’s.) With the recent remake of Dune, the latest chapter in the Matrix saga, and upcoming releases like After Yang, we seem to be in a boom time for the genre at the multiplex. For moviegoers, the appeal of imagining alternate worlds right now hardly needs explanation—for designers, whose job is in a sense to create their own fantasy realms, it’s no surprise that reference points from Blade Runner to 2001: A Space Odyssey pop up all the time.
But science fiction, for all its escapism, has also smuggled in metaphors for some of the darkest parts of our existence, from climate change to American imperialism. Roseberry found himself pondering how to create in such a fraught time, explaining that his last couture collection, an exuberant yawp of gold and otherworldly florals, “was conceived in a brief period of hope: It was April. Vaccines were becoming widely available. Travel was becoming a possibility once again. We could begin to imagine that our collective nightmare was behind us, or at least would soon be.
“And yet, now, braided with that hope is a sense of loss. The loss of people, most wrenchingly. But also, the loss of certainty; our loss of surety; the loss of our collective future. There is also the pervasive sense of exhaustion we all feel: That churn of red-carpet appearances, award shows, even fashion presentations—something about it feels lackluster. Aren’t we all exhausted by all of it? Fashion has insisted upon its relevance over these past two years, and yet I can feel that even some of its practitioners are no longer convinced. What does fashion mean, what does fashion have to say, in an era in which everything is in flux? And, with regards to this Maison, what does surrealism mean when reality itself has been redefined?”
When imagining the future feels so charged, sometimes it’s comforting to go back to rosier past visions of what it would be like. While Jones and Roseberry delved into the planetary darkness and uncertainty of this time, other couture collections time-traveled to a more optimistic era, namely the ’60’s embrace of space travel and its attendant Space Age design. The ’60’s-fest we saw at spring 2022 ready-to-wear continued here, with Mod white suits at Dior, space cadet cutout leggings at Valentino, and a ruffled gown at Giambattista Valli that was spliced together with a silver leg—Princess Leia meets C-3PO. Remember optimism? Excitement? Technology filling us with a sense of hope as opposed to existential dread? Not since NASA-wear briefly took over fashion circa 2016 has the space race felt this au courant.
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