If the fall 2021 shows prove anything, it’s that emotion and poetry are back. At Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière, a designer who popularized total-look style with his stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé in the aughts and teens, pivoted to a more melange look, coupling tulle skirts with hoodies, crystal embroideries with leather jackets, and poet tops with mannish blazers. Over at Ghesquière’s alma mater Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia continues to reflect true street style back at his customers, playing up strange, sometimes surreal, pairings like medieval armor with jeans and sweatpants. Julien Dossena’s Paco Rabanne collection was glitzy in a real way, slip dresses with boyish coats and fluffy kerchiefs. Marine Serre’s upcycled tartans look more like the way real people might clash plaids than the refined Prince of Wales checks popular in the early 2010s. Collina Strada styled its collection in the vein of its designer, Hillary Taymour, while Ibrahim Kamara, arguably the stylist of the 2020s so far, put the Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini collection together with the calculated irreverence of a schoolgirl rebel.
Perhaps that glimmer of relatability is what will keep the runways, digital or physical, interesting for now. Aspiration and escapism tend to be presented as the enemies of reality. Why not have it all? “I have this theory that there will be two schools of thought post-COVID: Both will be born from the same wisdom of understanding how precious life is now we know how easily it can be taken away, but I think one will swing more conservatively and the other will let their freak flags fly. While I don’t think these groups are mutually exclusive, I identify more with the latter,” says Kim, “and I believe this will reflect heavily in the way we express ourselves through fashion. Even now, the one or two occasions over the last year where I’ve had the opportunity to actually dress up, felt really exciting. Stressful and foreign and uncomfortable, but exhilarating.” Especially now, why save the the best for later? If you want to feel good, look good.