Fashion meets heart for visionaries in the fashion world

Demna conquered the highest echelon of fashion with a spectacular revival of Balenciaga's haute couture. PHOTO: BALENCIAGA

This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The April 2022 issue is out on newsstands now.

SINGAPORE - In this day and age of information overload and product oversaturation, great clothes are just the starting point for designers who truly want to stand out.

To make a real, resonant impact - not just commercially, but also culturally - designers have to produce works imbued with not just smarts, but also heart.

Some do it by turning sleeping beauties and dusty brands into the industry's most exciting, most-watched names - like Daniel Roseberry at Schiaparelli and Casey Cadwallader at Mugler.

Others infiltrate every aspect of the culture compellingly, like Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. And then there are those who build a luxury brand unlike any other - think Jonathan Anderson and his idiosyncratic and soulful Loewe.

In the past year, Demna has demonstrated a breadth of vision that is simply stunning.

First, the Georgian designer conquered the highest echelon of fashion with a spectacular revival of Balenciaga's haute couture. His follow-up, though, was as accessible as it gets: a collaboration with American rapper Kanye West's Yeezy and fast fashion label Gap.

He has managed to tap the lucrative and considerable gamer community - first with a virtual-reality game to present his fall 2021 collection and then with a partnership with online video game Fortnite, through which products both virtual and physical were released.

Shortly after that, in September, Gvasalia and Balenciaga dominated the Met Gala, arguably fashion's most elite event, by dressing boldfaced names such as singer Rihanna and reality television star Kim Kardashian.

Less than a month later, Gvasalia upended the traditional fashion show and won Paris Fashion Week through a partnership with one of pop culture's biggest and most enduring brands, the animated series The Simpsons.

Disparate as all these ventures sound on paper, in Gvasalia's vision, they are all cohesive parts of one grand scheme.

As he told The New York Times: "My mission is to give people the best ingredients I can to create their own character and have fun with it. That's what fashion is about".

Like Gvasalia, Anderson is building a brand in a 360-degree manner. His approach is to place craft at the nexus of his every undertaking at Loewe.

It is why the brand can convincingly go from collaborations with the estates of textile designers William Morris and C.F.A. Voysey to partnerships with the likes of Japanese animation film studio Studio Ghibli.

Whether the inspiration skews highbrow or mass appeal, the result is treated with the same kind of reverence for savoir faire.

Even when the brand ventures into more accessible product categories - such as candles and soaps - craft remains the through line.

It is also why Anderson's Loewe is equally at home at Fashion Week as it is at Art Basel and Salone del Mobile.

And when there were no physical Fashion Weeks, the British designer still managed to make a splash. The clothes - full-blown and fantastical - were one thing; the medium of presentation was another, equally compelling as the message.

Loewe's Spring/ Summer 2022 collection made a splash even while there were no physical fashion shows. PHOTO: LOEWE

Again, it came down to craft. Anderson's pandemic-era collections were presented through beautifully put-together objects more immersive than any 10-minute runway show or fashion film could ever be.

That does not mean that the traditional runway has lost its power as the industry's most effective communication tool.

Miuccia Prada and Belgian designer Raf Simons redefined the collaboration model when they came together to co-creative direct Prada, and spring/summer 2022 marks the first time the fruit of their joint labour are presented via a live runway show.

And what a show it was.

Staged simultaneously in Milan and Shanghai, and broadcast side by side, it proved how collaboration - when done correctly and with the best intent - can result in a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Prada's spring/summer show was staged simultaneously in Milan and Shanghai. PHOTO: PRADA

The collection carries the imprints of both designers in equal measure.

From Prada came an exploration of modern womanhood and intellectual dissection of its most enduring tropes. Simons' hand, meanwhile, was all over the coolness, minimalism, sharp acidic palette, and streamlining of the message.

As Simons proves at Prada, sometimes, a fresh eye is what it takes to make something good even better.

Nowhere is this more true than at Schiaparelli and Mugler - two distinctive, but previously dormant brands that in recent years have been revitalised by the singular visions of their respective creative directors, Americans Roseberry and Cadwallader.

Though both brands are relatively small in the context of the contemporary fashion industry - neither belong to conglomerates or mega companies with a corresponding colossal budget - they have managed to create an outsized impact.

This is all the more impressive when you take into consideration that they do not even show on the traditional ready-to-wear calendar. Schiaparelli focuses its efforts on couture, while Mugler operates on a see-now-buy-now model.


Still, both have been dominating Instagram feeds and spotted on the high-profile personalities.

In the past year alone, Roseberry has won over stars such as singers Adele, Lady Gaga and Beyonce and supermodel Bella Hadid, while Cadwallader has dressed the likes of rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion and singers Dua Lipa and Miley Cyrus.

Both designers have leaned into the illustrious heritage of their respective houses without being beholden to it.

At Mugler, Cadwallader draws more from Manfred Thierry Mugler's love of powerful femininity rather than his taste for theatricality - filtering the late French designer's vision through a 21st-century lens of sexuality and inclusivity.

Mugler Fall 2021. PHOTO: MUGLER

At Schiaparelli, Roseberry riffs on founder Elsa Schiaparelli's penchant for surrealism and opulence, but in his hands (unlike some of his predecessors'), the results are chic and never costumey.

His latest couture collection, especially, is a breakthrough for how it trades in his earlier extravagance with silhouette and embellishment for a more refined take on the brand's codes.

Schiaparelli Couture Spring 2022. PHOTO: GORUNWAY

As he puts it: "I design in order to make people feel something. It isn't for the celebrities; it isn't for the likes; it isn't for the reviews. It's because, when it's done right, when it has something to tell us, it still has the power to move us."

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