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Finally, Some Fashion Films Worth Watching

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Jennifer Lopez crooning Blondie’s “Call Me” while writhing in a phone booth in a trench and logo tee. Michael B. Jordan strutting Shaft-like in the streets of New York in a sheepskin jacket and fine gauge turtleneck — “the sexiest man alive, looking even finer in those beautiful threads,” according to a voice-over. Keneti James Apa, a.k.a., KJ Apa of “Riverdale,” playing a news anchor straight from “Weekend Update” and revealing an uptick in “mysterious animals,” as Kaia Gerber opens a handbag to discover a nest of duck eggs.

Introducing Coach TV, the fall 2021 collection version. Finally, a fashion film worth watching.

This is the first all-digital fashion month. (Last season, there were a number of socially distanced live shows.) Originally, that didn’t seem like such a big deal. After all, fashion and film have had a long and ardent love affair since way before “Funny Face.” And besides, we’ve been heading in that direction for a while now, what with half of the front row viewing shows via their smartphones even when they were actually in the room, the better to broadcast them to the social media world.

But while all fashion shows may be filmed these days, it is increasingly clear that, halfway through the current round of ready-to-wear collections (officially, it’s Milan Fashion Week), not all fashion shows make good films.

Some of them may be simple information vectors, the close-ups functioning as detail shots to reveal, say, the high plush content of the quilting on a MaxMara bathrobe coat. Some may try to dress themselves up with extraneous special effects, like the smoke at Alberta Ferretti, which served mostly to obscure the extent of the protective layering: turtlenecks below sweaters below greatcoats and evening wear bristling with paillettes like porcupine quills. But most of them are also yawns.

Or they have been, anyway.

This week, a trio of films-cum-collections provided a different kind of viewing pleasure, mostly because they weren’t just training a camera on the same old, same old and calling it new. Instead they added the one ingredient everyone really needs right now: a sense of humor. It’s the best accessory for getting through the day — or getting to the next day.

So there was Coach, the most star-packed video of any collection thus far. (Also present: Megan Thee Stallion, flashing her nails and twerking, and Cole Sprouse, going all sexy QVC with a handbag, among other members of the brand “family.”) The opening variety show gave way to snaps of models in cities around the world posing and playacting in the nerd cool of the fall collection. And if the cast was ultimately more significant than the pretty ho-hum clothes, all grunge plaids and lace, character knits and sock hop jackets, together they created a juxtaposition of life and laughs (and a llama) that suggested levity could be a trend.

And there was Moschino, where an equally elaborate “adventurous little voyage into fashionland” featuring Maye Musk as a mistress of ceremonies, provided the conceptual framework for a tour of classic Moschino-isms. There were flying cloud and pastoral cow prints; wasp-waist safari survival suits for the urban jungle complete with pockets for brush and blush; and vampy evening gowns in satin and sparkle, all conceived as a fashion play inside the play.

The film put clothes in the story, rather than making the clothes themselves the story, and as a result, it showed how dress functions in life — an added benefit that runways alone cannot provide.

Case in point: Kim Jones’s ready-to-wear debut at Fendi, an unmistakably polished livestream of “real clothes” (as he said on a Zoom call) on models, wending their way through a maze of F-shaped glass boxes containing ersatz broken pillars and classical marbles of old Rome. There were plush furs dangling carrot-size tongues of fur fringing, slithery silk charmeuse scarf dresses and cool tuxedo shorts, all in the neutral palette of fresh starts.

The collection checked multiple boxes — house logo, upcycled furs, cool tuxes, references to Fendi work gone before — but had a paint-by-numbers whiff (not to mention the whiff of recent Bottega Veneta, at least when it came to the fur fringing). Mr. Jones unapologetically calls himself a commercial designer, and these were certainly commercial clothes, but in his other job as the head of Dior men’s wear, he grapples more deeply with the idea of masculinity and what that means in an evolving world. This women’s wear, by contrast, seemed rooted in the past. He could have used some laugh lines.

As Rem Koolhaas, the architect whose firm does the sets for Prada, said in a news conference after an eye-opening Prada video that combined a spray-paint palette with a proposition for what to wear to jolt yourself out of our current life on pause, you’ve got to “play” a little.

Miuccia Prada and her co-creative director Raf Simons did, with a set composed of various faux fur-lined romper rooms. Models strode through that set in graphic jacquard bodysuits (the women’s version of the long johns featured in the Prada men’s show in January), their Art Deco-meets-’70s-sofa prints layered under severe dark suits, which were themselves layered under fake fur wraps and coats clutched with cocoon-like elegance around the body.

Silk dresses were inset with knit panels at the neck and back, so what looked like more layers was, in fact, a single piece; single-breasted cloth coats provided splashes of turquoise and teal; and glinting, paillette-covered separates held the promise of decadence to come. If some of the looks seemed more Simons and some more Prada, they didn’t exist in opposition to each other, but rather in concert.

Toward the end, the flow of entrances and exits got spliced with some group dance scenes to demonstrate how the base layers moved (another editing benefit of a flick). Short answer: in all directions, especially forward.


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