Sweatpants Are Not Forever

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Hello, Hanako Maeda, whose Adeam collection marries Zen, work wear and multifunctionality with meditation and a certain forward momentum. Nice to see you, Alabama Chanin, and your organic, locally sourced haute homespun not-quite-basics again, splashed as they are with the ghosts of flowers past.

Once under the radar, they are now in the spotlight. And while those left showing aren’t exactly rejecting the whole sweatpants-and-PJs swamp so many of us have been wallowing in, they aren’t embracing it either.

Comfort is officially a core value. But there’s nothing casual about it. Athleisure is getting dressed up.

Think that’s an oxymoron? Think about Rodarte, where Kate and Laura Mulleavy offered up a look book of pastoral fantasy fashion football: rose-festooned, ribbed-hem silk sweatpants and sweatshirts; handkerchief print pajama suits, peignoirs and negligee dresses.

Indeed, PJs have largely ceded space to nighties (it’s a step forward): See Anna Sui’s signature filigree housedresses, best paired with graphic chore jackets, and the Tulum-meets-TriBeCa striped caftans and elastic-waist cotton picnic frocks of Jason Wu’s contemporary line — one of the handful of collections shown live and in socially distanced person this week.

Or think about the sculptural minimalism of Maria Cornejo’s Zero + Maria Cornejo line, with its egg-shaped day dresses, oversize athletic shorts and slouchy-chic jumpsuits. Or the shirred stretch sheaths (the evening equivalent of leggings for the body) and the nubby, enveloping knits of Khaite, whose designer, Catherine Holstein, supplemented her digital presentation with a home ambience kit, including a scented candle, record and fabric swatches for a multisensory D.I.Y. dress experience.

The point being to take the hallmarks of the garments that have been our refuge for the last few months, but make them Fashion, the better to ease re-entry into the world when (and if) it comes.

Which is why the simultaneous bicoastal guerrilla happenings in New York and Los Angeles engineered by Tara Subkoff for Imitation of Christ, in her second collection after a seven year fashion hiatus, were so on point.

Filmed on a group of California skater girls doing their thing with gusto in a park while wearing IOC’s trademark upcycled “glamorous activewear” — T-shirts, sports jerseys and jeans spliced with vintage ruffles and tea dresses — the line was created in collaboration with three young designers.

Them the video was projected in New York onto the side of a building at Bowery and Houston as an opera singer serenaded the rare passer-by (in Los Angeles the skaters performed live) and the clothes were sold on the RealReal at the same time, with part of the proceeds going to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. The presentation took the confusion and longing for meaning of the current moment and made it cloth.

It’s a statement of faith.

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