Given the hardships of this year, it is little wonder that the way we dress has undergone something of a renaissance.
Gone are the stuffy business suits and towering work heels, cast aside as the world left the office and moved into work-from-home mode. Stuck at home during those early, unsettling days of the pandemic, people craved comfort and simplicity, and with no office dress code to adhere to, there followed a steady drift into sweatpants and slouchy tops.
Although many are now back in the workplace, the threat of Covid-19 remains, and people are still resorting to fashion that provides comfort. In reply, savvy designers are helping to shape this new clothing landscape, with offerings that fill the need for ease, without relinquishing on style.
A dressing down from Dior
As dressing down began to solidify into something permanent, Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative director of Dior, was quick off the mark. Long adept at anticipating women’s needs, the designer spent her lockdown crafting a relaxed wardrobe for the new pandemic-ridden world.
Entitled Dior Chez Moi, this loungewear collection sets aside the refined tailoring the house is famous for, in favour of a more easy-going aesthetic. Think pyjama sets, bathrobes, wide-leg trousers and comfy padded slides, in light and fluid fabrics.
The breezy pieces still carry the all-important Dior DNA, with references to the deep superstitions held by the maison’s founder, Christian Dior, here translated as celestial illustrations by Italian artist Pietro Ruffo, as heavenly constellations and a world map, laid over Breton-striped tops, roomy boat-necked hooded tops and wide palazzo plants.
Elsewhere, the quintessentially French toile de Jouy pattern appears across lightweight robes, head scarves and swimwear. Light, easy and playful, the collection is still, at its heart, classic Dior, and as such will work equally well once we do start venturing outdoors again en masse.
Wellness wrapped in cashmere
Synonymous with the finest cashmere, Loro Piana is already a dab hand at harnessing the soothing powers of lux materials. In a natural extension of that blanketing comfort, it has launched a wellness collection, for meditation and exercise. Building on the admirable idea that exercise is an expression of self-love, Loro Piana is wrapping gym essentials in soft, waterproof cashmere.
Exercise mats, a water bottle and even hand weights are all given a luxurious upgrade. To help bolster the idea, the brand has called on Christy Turlington Burns to front the new collection. As one of the original supermodels of the 1990s, Turlington Burns was arguably the most famous face of her era, and she turned to yoga as a way of dealing with the near constant travel demands of her job. Now an advocate of wellness, with her hard-won understanding of the need to look after yourself, she is well placed to guide us through these uncertain times.
From stilettos to sweats
Another name that has seen the need for a more relaxed approach is Italian shoemaker Giuseppe Zanotti. Best known for its towering heels, in response to the pandemic, it has shifted course, realising that today no one is interested in tottering shoes, regardless of how lovely they may be. In turn, Zanotti has unveiled a collection of sportswear that ranges from T-shirts to sweatpants.
In undemanding tones of black and white, this relaxed offering includes hoodies, tops and sports pants, to be worn in the gym, out running or, most likely, while hiding away at home. The only hint of the normal Zanotti style is a flamboyant signature picked out in gold on the left breast.
Calling all introverts
Lebanese designer Hussein Bazaza has also responded to the global sartorial shift, creating a new line that sums up the mood of 2020. Called the Introvert Project, it consists of airy robes, loose pyjamas and uncomplicated ponchos in comfortable fabrics that cover, hide and envelope. The Bazaza spirit is still evident, through colour-blocking, stripes and bold prints.
One kimono, for example, has three illustrated eyes down one side, while another slouchy fit tracksuit comes with the words “leave me alone” emblazoned across the back. A collection entirely devoid of zips, this is a celebration of comfort, with elasticated cuffs and drawstring waists. Even buttons feel too restrictive for this new ideal, and have been replaced with tie fastenings.
In a real sign of the times, fine jewellery brand Jacquie Aiche has teamed up with NSF, a name famous for its laid-back denim. Together, they have launched a collection of upscale sweatpants and tops, in white and black, that is familiar territory for NSF, but represents a bold new direction for Jacquie Aiche.
Fans of the brand’s handmade creations, however, will recognise the evil eye motif that decorates the collection, meaning it will be a hit with those who appreciate a nice piece of jewellery, but can’t be bothered to put any on.