This Season, Designers Welcomed Us to the Dollhouse

spring 2021 moschino puppets

Dior: FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP via Getty Images; all others courtesy of the designer.

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Style Points is a weekly column on how fashion intersects with the world at large.

At one point this spring, Jeremy Scott indulged in a piece of self-care. Prompted by “how disgusting the news has become,” he turned off CNN and changed his TV’s default setting to Turner Classic Movies, where he stumbled upon a movie that stoked his imagination. Lili, starring Leslie Caron as a naïve who “befriends” a group of puppets, was one of the inspirations for her Moschino Spring 2021 collection (with the least TCM favorable Team America: Global Police.) When we spoke over the summer, Scott had reflected on the importance of bringing emotion back into fashion. His solution came in an improbable format: puppets, produced in collaboration with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which “paraded” on his on-screen show, under the gaze of a phalanx of puppet fashion editors.

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Scott may be particularly in touch with his inner child (the old Moschino collections were themed Barbie and paper dolls, and he proudly quotes that he was the first designer to dress Miss Piggy.) But he wasn’t. not the only one to turn to the spirit. to play in recent months. As part of Dior’s fall 2020 couture film in July, little hands worked on doll-sized versions of the house’s couture creations. JW Anderson’s “show in a box” in the spring of 2021 brought the runway home to the lucky recipients, with paper cutouts of models in the clothes replacing the real thing. Anderson’s performance notes called it “a celebration of fashion in its most frivolous, embellished, poetic; escape and liberating, even.” And New York label Dauphinette sent paper dolls to publishers this season instead of a lookbook.

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Using dolls and puppets wasn’t just a workaround for physical shows, though that’s sure to be part of the draw right now. It also felt like a playful throwback to a time in all of our lives when fashion was theoretical in a fun way: namely, childhood. One of the first ways I got involved with fashion was drawing paper dolls from imaginary collections that I would wear “someday”, and I’m sure countless designers cut their teeth creating designs. looks for their Barbies. Hobbies like this, now that time has slowed down in many ways, feel relevant again. (When was the last time many of us had had enough time to pursue something which literally means “to pass the time?”)

It evokes the Fashion Theater, a historical curiosity that Dior and Moschino cited as a source of inspiration. The original idea of ​​Nina Ricci’s son, Robert, was born in another time of crisis: France after World War II. Designers such as Balenciaga, Balmain and Schiaparelli created dresses for miniature models that were a traveling exhibition, a way of proclaiming the relevance of Parisian fashion to the world despite a lack of resources induced by rationing. If this was a very different historical moment, the aura of creativity induced by the rarity of the Theater is close to some of these 2020 experiences.

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Finally, the theme plays in our renewed obsession with craftsmanship. Between the many people who have embraced lockdown hobbies and the imperative, especially on the part of the Italian fashion industry, to celebrate artisans hit hard by the pandemic, the pattern of the doll looked like a extension of this larger motif of spring 2021.. Scott’s looks were deconstructed and returned to show off their craftsmanship. The collection, he says, was all about “seeing the inner workings and seeing the beauty in it,” whether it was the inside of a dress or the carefully crafted puppets.

“What we all crave right now is humanity. I think we desperately need it, “Scott says. Even when it comes in the form of a wooden doll. When” you see the strings, “he points out,” you know a human has created that and brought it to life. “

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