The U.K.-based knitwear specialist Barrie has been quietly producing sumptuous cashmere for fashion’s top houses since 1905. But only since its acquisition by Chanel’s métiers d’art arm two years ago (remember that runway romp in a Scottish castle? Barrie had a little something to do with that) has the manufacturer begun a gentle transition into a stand-alone niche brand.
This week in Paris, we were offered an early glimpse of what’s to come via a Karl Lagerfeld-lensed lookbook featuring Lily Collins. Odile Massuger, who oversees knits for Chanel, proposes five themes and twenty silhouettes for winter. Key pieces include a bleu-blanc-rouge “romantic” camouflage cardigan, a soft pink delft theme, and bucolic landscapes. Scarves and fingerless mittens round out the offer. Those gloves and more will be available at Colette come June.
At the beginning of each season, I promise myself I’ll start fresh and only buy pieces that have longevity—classic items that will last in my wardrobe. But by the time the collections start arriving in stores, I give up my dream and begin what I call an “emotional, well-thought-out purchase.” Do I love it? Will I wear it a whole lot? If I answer these two simple questions with a sincere yes, I’ll most likely make the purchase and get tons of use out of it. It might not be the most practical piece I own, but it will be the one I’ll have the most satisfaction of wearing. This is how I feel about this über-sexy tie-dye denim skirt from Anthony Vaccarello. Is it office appropriate? Not really. But it will be the go-to garment for my nights out. Now I just need to get some parties on the books.
Anthony Vaccarello skirt, $1,546, Buy it now
Let’s be serious: Most of us stateside fashionphiles secretly (or in my case, not-so-secretly) wish we were un petit peu français. Well, this spring, Paris-based Zadig & Voltaire will both satiate and capitalize on our cultural envy by bowing five new U.S. stores. Having first opened in the States in 2009, the brand, best known for its edgy men’s and women’s basics with a twist, will add five locations—one in Miami, one in D.C., one in Chicago, and two in Los Angeles—to its existing five American outposts, four of which are in New York and one of which is in L.A. Thierry Gillier, Zadig & Voltaire’s founder, reports that the brand does about 15 percent of its sales in the U.S. “We wanted to take our U.S. expansion slowly—we opened one shop, then another, and we were lucky to get the corner in the Mark Hotel on Madison Avenue [in 2012]. But now we have some very confident American customers, so we are moving further into the market,” explained Gillier when asked why he decided to grow his U.S. presence. Another factor was that he wanted to scoop up prime retail real estate before it’s all gone. “Three years ago on Mercer Street [where Zadig & Voltaire has a boutique], there were only a few stores. Now you can’t get a space. It’s the same everywhere.” Gillier told Style.com that in its latest U.S. push, Zadig & Voltaire rented the last available shop on L.A.’s Rodeo Drive—not too shabby.
Set to bow between April and June, each of the five forthcoming stores will have a city-specific design. L.A.’s locations, for example, will boast a “white concept.” But the new shops aren’t all that Zadig & Voltaire has in the pipeline. At the end of March, the brand will launch the second edition of its Style Sans Frontières capsule, the proceeds of which go toward Doctors Without Borders. This season’s muse and collaborator is model Freja Beha Erichsen, who also happens to be the star of Zadig & Voltaire’s Terry Richardson-lensed Spring ’14 campaign (above).
Asked his thoughts on why Zadig & Voltaire is popular in the U.S., Gillier offered, “I think Americans have a little French in their hearts—and the design is a bit different from what American brands are giving them.” He’s got us pegged. Vive la France!
The foursome behind the new label Vetements, which means “clothes” in French, first met at Maison Martin Margiela. After a time, they all dispersed, but the backstory goes a long way toward explaining why, now that they’ve formed a collective, not one wishes to be identified by name. What we can say, however, is that it’s an international crowd with cred—they’re Austrian, Belgian, Ex-Soviet Union, and French, and they’ve done time at Balenciaga and Céline.
Regrouping has been “kind of like a high school reunion,” one of the designers said the other day. “But what we really want to do is just make clothes that are timeless, personal, and nice to have. It’s more a collection of ideas.”
The kind of woman Vetements is talking to is urban, but she’s into pushing it with not-too-basic wares such as vintage 501s reworked as a skirt with uneven, raw hems; boxy jackets in heavy biker leather; and conceptual pieces like garment bag shearling coats and sleeveless vests (these come with a separate set of sleeves). “Brutalist” basics cover a lot of ground, from T-shirts and sweaters to trenchcoats. These are offered in seasonal colors of charcoal, navy, taupe, bordeaux, and black, and the range is brightened by the occasional flash of aluminum nylon. Judging by the retailer response (and the clothes, of course), this wearable compilation of ideas is full of good ones—Opening Ceremony, Joyce Hong Kong, and Maxfield in L.A. have already picked up the brand’s debut collection.
“It’s not topical, we’re not talking themes,” the designer noted. “We’re talking pieces that work on their own and play off each other.” We’ll be keeping an eye out for what this mysterious quartet does next.
A singular color, Majorelle Blue, may be the starting point for Eddie Borgo’s Fall collection. But Borgo being Borgo, that was only the start of it. “I’ve always loved the color, I was familiar with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s home in Marrakesh, but I wanted to find out more. Why this property? Why then?” he recalled in the Paris apartment where he presented his collection. Unraveling those questions led Borgo to photos of Chefchaouen, Morocco’s Blue City; the life of Talitha Getty and her jet-set entourage; and ultimately to interior designer Bill Willis, a friend to Getty and YSL and the interior decorator credited with bringing traditional Moroccan decor—mosaics, sandstone, bells, tassels, etc.—to mainstream design culture.
For Fall, Eddie Borgo gives those bells, tassels, and colors—cobalt, marigold, blood red—a rock-and-roll spin. He combines his signature geometric links with knots on an iteration of a Berber necklace, works starry black sandstone into large drop earrings, and recasts fez tassels as plugs that dangle from behind the ears. Among the lighter, more everyday pieces are a little bell necklace and flat, Tuareg-inspired rings that come in mix-and-match sets of four.
Elsewhere, a cuff bracelet and choker recall snake mosaics Willis created for a few of YSL’s bedrooms. “It’s really about him [Willis],” said Borgo. “The attitude is really specific to that place and time and those people.” No doubt Willis, a man known for living large and suffering no one, would have felt honored.