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Amid a Fashion Month Like No Other, Scenes of a Not-So-Distant Past

Usually, by this time, fashion editors would have descended upon and bustled all around New York, and then London, Milan and now Paris, for the test of endurance known as fashion month. Not this season. During the past few months, designers have been quick to adapt to the constraints of the pandemic, hosting virtual presentations and navigating the logistical challenges of socially distanced events with characteristic imagination. And indeed, there are numerous persuasive silver linings to the advent of the online show — fewer flights, lower costs and a somewhat democratic bent among them — though something else is lost. As the designer Ulla Johnson recently told T, a live fashion show — that extravagant, expensive, but undeniably exciting spectacle — generates a “crazy, buzzy energy” that a digital image or video can hardly match. And yet the videos here do two things: They remind us of a freer time in both fashion and the world, and also that creativity exists in many forms, on and off the runway, whether on the street, at an atelier workbench or with a beloved pet.

You can’t rush Marc Jacobs. Once known for his extreme tardiness (in 2007, a show of his started almost two hours late; for spring 2019, a 90-minute delay sparked whispers that the clothes hadn’t even arrived), the designer retains a predilection for multitasking — or, as some might call it, procrastinating. Here, amid preparations for his fall 2020 show — a “nostalgic ode to the city itself,” according to the writer Laura Neilson, that closed last season’s New York Fashion Week — Jacobs manages to carve out a bit of time for himself.

Designers are a resourceful bunch. Take, for example, Jason Wu: Though his floral-inspired fall 2019 collection featured layers and folds of luxurious silk, when it came time to create an object with only basic craft supplies, as part of our Make T Something challenge, he reinterpreted one of his floor-length gowns using the front page of The New York Times’s Food section. His model of choice? A doll.

Named for the actress Grace Kelly, who popularized the style in the 1950s, and modeled after a tote long ago used to carry horse saddles, the Hermès Kelly bag requires between 20 and 25 hours of handiwork by a single artisan to create. Such attention to craftsmanship, as illustrated in this video, is representative of the 183-year-old French house’s respect for the time and care that excellence often requires.

“I never get fed up with color,” says Zandra Rhodes, who has been one of London’s “most charming and idiosyncratic designers since she began working in the mid-1960s,” according to the writer Hattie Crisell. Here, step into Rhodes’s vividly hued two-story apartment, located above the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London — a home, she proudly declares, that contains every color on the spectrum.

During the fall 2020 season in London, Paris and Milan, nearly 40 percent of the models who appeared on the runway were women of color — an increase from just 17 percent in 2014, according to the fashion news site The Fashion Spot. Dominican and Dominican-American models have been a major part of this shift in runway diversity, and earlier this year several of them, including Lineisy Montero, Hiandra Martinez, Annibelis Baez and Licett Morillo, spoke with T about shifting beauty standards. “That so many Dominican girls are here is synonymous with improvement,” said Morillo. “Ninety percent of us are from humble families, and that we’re here giving our best, it fills me with pride.”

Thom Browne’s miniature wire-haired dachshund, Hector, is his “best friend” and “muse,” the designer says. Like everyone in the office, Hector has his own uniform but, unlike everyone else in the office, he’s had numerous bags designed in his likeness. Here, join Hector (and Browne) for a typical pre-pandemic workday amid the fall 2017 season in New York.

A fashion house’s archive is a “petri dish for designs of the future,” says the critic Alexander Fury, a repository of the past that new designers at storied brands can mine for inspiration. In Paris, where “history has always been hallowed,” Fury says, garments undergo an especially rigorous conservation regimen. At the Dior Heritage archive, where over 9,840 pieces have been preserved since the label showed its first collection in 1947, a dress, such as the one in this video, is carefully enclosed in acid-free silk paper before it’s stored in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, and watched over by no fewer than a dozen conservators.

The quintessential donna Versace might just be best encapsulated in the designer Donatella Versace’s Jack Russell terrier, Audrey. Like so many fashion dogs, Audrey has earned the role of muse — even starring in a 2018 campaign for a Versace capsule collection — thanks largely to her strong personality and exquisite taste.

Joining the ranks of the No. 5 fragrance and 2.55 handbag as one of Chanel’s most archetypal creations, the brand’s J12 watch was first released in 2000 and updated in 2019, just ahead of its 20th anniversary. With its sleek athleticism and matte, monochrome ceramic band, the watch “rocked the buttoned-up world of luxury timepieces,” according to the writer Alice Cavanagh. “There was such authority to the design that you either loved it or hated it, but you could not be indifferent,” recalled Arnaud Chastaingt, who became the director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio in 2013. Here, observe the painstakingly detailed process of assembling the timepiece, which can take up to two months at the company’s Switzerland workshop.

Of all the famed fashion pets, there might not be one more iconic than Neville Jacobs, Marc Jacobs’s bull terrier. A frequent guest star on the designer’s Instagram, he is also the subject of his own account, which has nearly 200,000 followers. Here, he tackles a long to-do list that includes photo shoots, workouts, power naps, play dates and all the toil that comes with being a fashion influencer.

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