Shiny black nylon has been synonymous with Prada since the mid-1980s, when the house’s groundbreaking – and widely popular – nylon backpack upended expectations about what luxury products should be. For her recent Milan menswear show, Miuccia Prada invited four fêted architects and industrial designers to create items using the material. One model wore a “backpack” on his front; it was designed by Rem Koolhaas and had neat rows of pockets to make it easier to find things. Another had a multi-pocketed fishing vest by Germany’s Konstantin Grcic slung from his waist.
Our favourite, however, was a folio designed by French architects and brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, which is a glossy take on the folders carried by architects and artists.
As I write this, fashion houses are preparing to show their cruise collections. Contrary to popular belief, these are not outfits for cruise ships or desert-island trips but trans-seasonal items that are more commercial than their spring/summer and autumn/winter counterparts. And while they fly under the radar, these collections are in many ways the lifeblood of the luxury industry.
Cruise shows, staged each May, are notably escapist. Unlike fashion weeks, brands are not shackled to Paris, Milan, London and New York. This year several houses are heading to the French Riviera; in 2017 Louis Vuitton went to Kyoto and in 2016 Chanel visited Havana.
These events offer a template for how all fashion shows might be in the future. At a time when people are questioning the relevance of catwalks and the industry is becoming more accessible (with shows live-streamed, for example), such gatherings allow brands to maintain their aspirational glow. “A luxury brand needs to make its audience dream. And a big part of what creates that is to stage exclusive events,” Alexandre de Betak, the runway-show producer, told Monocle recently. “Dreaming” is what cruise shows do best.
Cruise clothes are also cash cows. They are more wearable than spring/summer and autumn/winter and, crucially, are on shopfloors for longer: about six months versus three. Reports suggest that cruise and pre-fall (the other inter-seasonal collection) account for 70 per cent of brands’ total sales. Your wardrobe is probably already filled with cruise items; now you just need to book that island holiday.
As we dive into summer we’ve decided to round up some choice shirts to sport in the sunshine. Button-downs recall long summer days – just look at the recent film Call me by Your Name, where the characters can be seen lapping up northern Italy’s rays in an array of breezy Oxfords. We’re currently seeing the return of the camp-collar shirt, the 1950s staple that recalls tenpin-bowling outfits but, in the right shade, can embody retro cool. That said, nothing beats a regular crisp cotton shirt in white, pale blue or striped white-and-pale-blue. Just remember: big collars are good, tight fits are bad and fabric trumps all.
This Stockholm label specialises in roomy shirts made in Italy from super-fine Egyptian cotton.
Founder Nick Wakeman does a great boxy shirt. This Madras-checked model is a standout.
Cool nonchalance is Ami’s forte. Wear this striped poplin design untucked.
This brick-red camp-collar style from Tokyo’s Auralee is made from hardy cotton cloth.
A Kind of Guise
This “Bellagio” style is handmade and comes in a weighty cotton-linen blend.
Handmade in Paris, this women’s shirt comes crinkled and with a rounded collar.
Our Legacy excels at staples and this shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons is no exception. Wear it big.
The best thing about this gold number is its waxy, crinkly poplin fabric.
If you’re going to wear a short-sleeved shirt you might as well make a statement. This will do that.
Bottega Veneta, the Italian house known for its woven-leather bags, is famously averse to showing its logo on products – so much so that its longtime motto is “When your own initials are enough”. This season, creative director Tomas Maier has taken that mantra to the next level by launching a personalisation service enabling clients to have their initials stamped onto bags; it is the first such service to be offered by a luxury maison.
Fashion runs in Paloma Lanna Santaolalla’s blood. The Barcelona-based designer grew up helping her parents with their brand Nice Things before launching her own project in 2014. Paloma Wool is an eclectic collection of clothes, jewellery and accessories; all pieces are made in the Catalan capital and share a cheeky artistic flair.
There are red-tasselled earrings, alpaca-wool sweaters and corduroy trousers with matching box jackets, and handbags in ocean blue and lime green. Santaolalla’s products do not follow seasonal schedules but are released throughout the year; they are sold online and in shops, including Virginia’s Need Supply Co.