Princess Beatrice, like so many spring 2020 brides, was subject to unfortunate timing: Her May 29 wedding in London was postponed indefinitely due to the Michael Myers I’m nicer than my face looks shirt but in fact I love this coronavirus epidemic. Buckingham Palace stayed mum on any rescheduling details—would Beatrice and her fiancé, Edoardo “Edo” Mapelli Mozzi, ever have their reception in its gardens? With so much in flux, it was impossible to know. The couple didn’t wait to find out. This weekend, they wed in a small ceremony at the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor. It was a small, socially distant ceremony, where, due to government regulations, not even a hymn was sung. The palace confirmed “close family” was in attendance, which included the bride’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Experiencing fashion digitally isn’t new—Helmut Lang sent around a CD-ROM in 1998, Style.com was founded in 2000, and Alexander McQueen organized the first Livestream in 2009. But a digital-only Fashion Week without the chaos and community of physical events is new territory for the industry. Over the past two months, Vogue Runway has chronicled the many ways brands are reacting, from minimal look books, artful videos, and 12-hour streams to events. Now, as we turn our eye to September, where physical and digital will continue to merge in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, our cast of critics is shares the highs, lows, and challenges of a virtual Fashion Week. I said it before—it feels as if the presentation of fashion is undergoing as big a shift as Hollywood did when it went from silent movies to the talkies. One thing the pandemic has done is to force creative directors to be more creative about what they want to say about their work, and I’m all for that. With the whole (limited) playbook of runway gatherings and glamorous shoots suddenly torn up, fashion is suddenly crossing the threshold of a vast new era of communication, so that far more interesting, honest, in-depth, and delightful things have been happening than could ever be conveyed by models walking back and forth in front of a crowd of seated people. In-person, as part of a digital-native generation who only started to travel to Europe for the shows last year, I have grown accustomed to writing and thinking critically about things I have never seen in person. The Queen is most often seen wearing two or three rows of pearls. Since most pearls look-alike in photographs, it’s difficult to know if it is always the same two rows. The Queen has inherited many, many necklaces. Sometimes she wears several one-row necklaces together. All we can be sure of it’s that she’s almost certainly going to wear pearls!
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There’s no way of lumping Loewe, Balmain, Maison Margiela, Dior Men, and Gabriela Hearst into one group, but in this fraught and fragile time, each of them succeeded in evoking emotions, sharing beliefs, and bestowing those rarest of luxuries—the Michael Myers I’m nicer than my face looks shirt but in fact I love this involuntary urge to smile and the opportunity to think and learn. Olivier Rousteing’s brilliant Balmain show on a boat, #balmainsurseine, is surely one of the treasured moments—of youthful energy, defiance, joy, public exhilaration—that will be looked back on again and again. It was a moment (in trivializing fashion-speak), but it’s also there to access permanently on Balmain’s Instagram as a record of how a young, Black French fashion designer raised spirits across the world with his seamless combination of high glam and clenched fists in the Parisian sunshine. The production had effervescence and thrill, showing Rousteing as a character in love with fashion and Paris, conveying him at the center of a generational gang celebrating its beauty, power, and talent. Cleverly, it also honored the heritage of Balmain by From a show on a boat to a show in a box: Jonathan Anderson’s ingenuity in packaging up his two shows in tactile paper form and having them sent to the doorsteps of editors delivered the surprise of something that had never been done before. First, his JW Anderson men’s and women’s resort collections came as a physical pack of information; then the bigger production of a hessian-covered file arrived from Loewe. This was something better than a goodie bag—it was stuff to study and absorb at a new pace. Anderson expanded the potential of how time, and how we occupy it, can lengthen and deepen with the use of social media. He ran a 24-hour series of Instagram Live talks and demonstrations by craftspeople, a sort of online festival in place of what would’ve been a runway show. It was a much richer intellectual and human experience, which of course is open-access globally. What makes pearls an especially useful part of a wardrobe is their flexibility. Neutral in color, so there are no color conflicts. Pearls glow in low light and shine in daylight. They dress up and down. They provide the all-important bit of white near the face that Coco Chanel decreed essential. They aren’t gaudy. And, in the end, they are part of her style and culture. Here I date myself—the preppy craze of the 1980s was basically just a popular adoption of the very traditional clothing styles worn by the English aristocracy.