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Most people who buy clothes are looking for friendly designers. Someone who’ll flatter them and make them feel empowered. Someone who is kind about your vulnerabilities. Who offers you a feeling of specialness, without making you self-conscious about the clothes you put on. Who might even help you look “directional”, but not too fashion demented.
Chitose Abe of Sacai is exactly that kind of designer. She founded her label in Tokyo in 1999, with “10 balls of wool and a pair of knitting needles”, and has since built an enviable, independent business making clothes that women love to wear.
According to Nancy Pearlstein, owner of the Washington boutique Relish, which stocks labels such as Dries Van Noten, Simone Rocha and Marc Jacobs, Sacai always sells well because of Abe’s design edge and the clothes’ longevity. The label’s brand of spliced and hybrid clothing is designed to go the distance. Plus, it’s really pretty. The Sacai SS19 show — a mash-up of tuxedo, trench, lace and military elements — was especially so.
Stella McCartney is also a friend — to women, for whom she made jaunty sporty separates for SS19; to men, whom she had dressed in linen tailoring and track pants; and to tie-dye enthusiasts, for whom she created a dozen summer looks.
She’s a friend of the environment, too. This season, her first since buying back her label from Kering in March, found her joining forces with the Fashion for Good network, an ecological organisation that embraces innovation to reduce fashion waste. Together, they have been working with a dye, Colorifix, which uses microorganisms to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of the dyeing process. The resulting blue dress wasn’t on the catwalk, though: it will be part of an exhibition at the Fashion for Good Experience in Amsterdam from October 5.
At Hermès, Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski is also a friend, even though, sadly, I never will be able to spell her name. Her gentle aesthetic and patient sensibility isn’t really fashionable in the conventional sense, but she takes painstaking care with her beautifully made collections.
This season, the design house headed to the Paris Longchamp Racecourse ( as Dior had done a few days earlier) and everyone was seated in the stands for the show. A huge mirror behind the catwalk, in which small plumes of cloud and blue sky could be observed, bathed everything in a beautiful evening light. The atmosphere also lifted the esprit of the collection, which felt far fresher and freer than before. It had breezy, wind-in-the-hair sensibility and a subtle maritime theme. There were nautical button details and lots of rope belts (the latest of many this season), pinafore dresses and skirts in sail-like fabrications, and leather sou’westers, zip-up jackets and sensible shorts of the sort that Jackie Kennedy might have worn on Martha’s Vineyard.
Vanhée-Cybulski’s design can sometimes seem a little solid. This was a far more carefree collection. I think she could afford to loosen up a little more, but I’m sure she will fathom it out.
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