With fashion weeks on the horizon in September – where next season’s collections would usually be displayed on extravagant runways to a full capacity of attendees – a large question mark looms over how we will want to dress in the coming months as we confront the ‘new normal’. Predictions range from those who are still living in loungewear, to those who yearn for the kind of fantastical fashion we’ve gone so long without; as Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele recently told The New York Times, we “will want beautiful things”. So, as the world tentatively enters a new phase in the pandemic – where, slowly, social events are resuming in some countries, and those who work in offices are making visits to their old desks – we’ve arrived at a transitional point in how we present ourselves to the world, too.
For now, it feels right to rely on classic pieces, with dependable denim being an obvious fail-safe. That isn’t to say denim is unexciting – on the contrary, the pre-fall 2020 collections reminded us of its vast versatility, as well as its ability to satisfy those seeking the uncomplicated and comfortable, and those longing for sophistication. “Denim has always been the veteran of our off-duty wardrobes, but for PF20 it inhabited a new, more refined mood,” observes NET-A-PORTER’s senior fashion market editor Libby Page. “Rigid and raw fabrications in tailored shapes and silhouettes gave this typically relaxed closet hero a sit-up-and-listen attitude. Straight-leg jeans, structured shirts with luxurious button details – need we say Bottega Veneta? – and even pencil skirts – courtesy of Balenciaga – suggest that denim can be worn almost anywhere.”
It is often referred to as the ‘French girl’ of the fabric world for its uncontrived, perennial cool; is it any wonder it’s been the backbone of our closets for so long? For Isabel Marant, the authority on Parisian insouciance, denim has always been a cornerstone of her collections. Many seasons ago, Marant invented a high-waisted, rib-skimming, peg-legged silhouette that blurs the lines between off-duty denim and pants that you want to go ‘out-out’ in. Of-the-moment yet enduringly chic, they chime perfectly with Marant’s PF20 motto, outlined in her collection notes, to create “good pieces that we can wear forever”.
“I design clothes for women who want to have style while keeping their own personality,” says the designer. “The kind of women who remain genuine but who are stamped with a hidden and remote sophistication.” Styled with a strong-shouldered knit and slouchy boots, the Isabel Marant uniform is indeed accessible yet aspirational – a look we can all agree on.
Modeled here by South Korean beauty Yoon Young Bae, these are the season’s most desirable head-to-toe denim moments – the essentials and the elevated – paired with PF20’s hero knits, which lend a softness to this urban uniform…
The white-denim rules
There are three attributes to look out for when buying white denim: an oversized fit, a straight-legged cut and, lastly, a slightly rigid texture. The reason being, white denim looks incredibly elegant when worn with a gamine attitude – anything stretchy or second-skin is less alluring. Keep the rest of the palette muted – think pale grays and soft beiges – and pair them with simple separates, such as a cashmere turtleneck or sporty tank top. Sneakers or flat sandals will also subvert the prissiness of pristine white.
In the ’70s, style muses Jane Birkin, Cher and Charlotte Rampling’s deep-indigo jeans were a hallmark of their bohemian style. With the decade of peace, love and rebellion evidently dominating many designers’ moodboards for PF20, seek out similar washes and pair them with pieces that offset their vintage feel, such as Saint Laurent’s fringed poncho and Isabel Marant’s white knee-high boots.
The chic way to wear shorts
Consider raw-hemmed Bermuda shorts and capacious culottes to be grown-up alternatives to classic denim cut-offs. Hitting just on or above the knee, pairing them with at least a mid-heeled sandal promises to elongate the legs and ensure the look is sophisticated. Dress things down on top with a casual knit or, if you’re feeling daring, play with the proportions and pair with a crop top – look to Jacquemus, the master of subtly sexy separates.
The new Canadian tuxedo
Double denim has gained fresh appeal as powerhouse designers from Balenciaga to Bottega Veneta are backing head-to-toe indigo. As a statement look in itself, the key to keeping things sleek is to mix only denims of the same wash and ensure the rest of your look is pared back: minimalist mules or ankle boots, plus gold hoops, equal perfection. In terms of shape, it’s important to find what suits you, and in a season where anything goes, there are ultra-flattering flares (see Chloé), straight-legged, tailored-looking styles (by Bottega Veneta), and even elegant midi skirts (courtesy of Balenciaga) to choose from. Find a silhouette that guarantees maximum confidence – a vital finishing touch to any look – and wear with a matching denim shirt. As a final tip, an unexpected pop of color will keep the look modern – try optic white or see Bottega Veneta for accessories with chromatic brilliance.
“For PF20, washes were dark – black, gray and navy blue – meaning if you blinked, was it really denim?” says Page of this season’s super-saturated hues. There is something innately ‘dressed up’ about darker denim; it feels closer to tailoring and therefore readily ticks the day-to-night box. While smart enough to pair with a crisp cotton shirt or luxe knit and heels for formal affairs, it still has that didn’t-try-too-hard nonchalance that goes hand in hand with denim.