The Return of the Dry-Clean-Only Wardrobe
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The Return of the Dry-Clean-Only Wardrobe

Organza blouses, cashmere overcoats and tailored skirt suits: Fashion’s Paris forecast signalled an end to washable WFH-wear

By RORY SATRAN
Tue, Mar 7, 2023 8:55amGrey Clock 4 min

PARIS—With the frisson of a downturn in the air, designers at fashion week here better known for drama battened down the hatches, sending out streams of polished, functional blouses, jackets, skirts, pants and pumps.

Above all, however, they sent coats. Some highlights: strictly cut propositions at Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, luxe puffers at Schiaparelli, and today’s belted, no-tricks camel-coloured overcoats at Louis Vuitton. Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at British retailer MatchesFashion, praised Paris Fashion Week’s notably beautiful coats in an interview and rated them the “number-one investment” for customers who, in a change from their usual habits, might be choosing between luxuries this year.

And those buying habits are indeed changing. At a dinner for his independent Vienna-based brand, Petar Petrov told me that his clients are no longer searching for the comfort-forward attire of post pandemic life. Instead, women are again craving silk dresses and blouses, things to be worn to appear soignée at work, dinner, on dates (and then dry-cleaned… unthinkable in 2020).

Button-up blouses, a neutral palette, androgynous coats—if it sounds familiar, that may be because Lydia Tár pretty much foretold the fall collections. Although Cate Blanchett’s problematic composer in the Oscar-nominated movie “Tár” was not exactly an aspirational figure, her impeccably tailored wardrobe resonated well beyond the film.

Ms. Wiggins said this season was all about “more tailoring, cleaner looks and what I always call ‘real clothing’—but with added value and details that mean you will have it in your wardrobe forever, and it won’t feel too trend-heavy.”

Here, five brands that made persuasive cases for “real clothing”:

Loewe: Where ‘innovation’ is not just a buzzword

Jonathan Anderson, the designer behind Spanish LVMH brand Loewe, is one of the rare designers who uses innovative techniques and materials to make clothing that is supremely wearable. Without last season’s dependence on surreal elements such as exaggerated anthurium-flower tops, the fall collection focuses on more realistic pieces, like long leather coats and proper trousers.

That realism was imbued with tireless experimentation—the kind that people who love clothing will want to pay for. The seemingly simple silk printed dresses were printed with faded images of dresses from decades past, giving the contemporary pieces a sense of history. Shearling coats were moulded into hourglass shapes. Cropped leather jackets and skirts were vacuum-stiffened into firmness.

Mr. Anderson also excels when he considers and updates familiar and functional pieces—like last season’s Barbour jackets, or this season’s work boot. The Loewe representative who took me around the showroom said that the house’s employees—both men and women—were all excited to wear fall’s comfortable work boot, with its large toe box and nubbly texture.

Balmain: An approachable elegance

In recent seasons, the Balmain show has been an over-the-top spectacle bringing together thousands in stadium-style shows, often with live music. Last season, a raised runway showcased nearly 100 looks, Cher sang and there was a hamburger stand. The styles—as befits a brand beloved by Beyoncé and the Kardashian sisters—prioritised drama, including wide hats and sculpted pieces in unorthodox fabrics like banana leaf. But the show was late and chaotic, and attendants complained (a Vogue reviewer bemoaned his soggy bottom).

So this season the brand swung back to basics, or as close to basics as Balmain gets. In an interview, creative director Olivier Rousteing stressed the importance of looking to the house’s founder Pierre Balmain’s “legacy, and the power of the distinctive tailoring, structure and spirit behind his ‘New French’ style.” The term “New French” was coined by Gertrude Stein’s partner Alice B. Toklas after seeing the brand’s first collection in 1945. It’s a moment—as crystallised by a famous Horst photograph of Stein with her poodle Basket and a Balmain model—that Mr. Rousteing referenced with this collection.

That resulted in a collection full of elegance, like jackets with nipped waists, capes, full skirts and reworked tuxedos. Many looks were worn with simple black velvet cropped pants, the kind of piece that could augment any wardrobe. One guest—74-year-old model Maye Musk (Elon’s mom)—nodded her head in approval.

The Row: Creature comforts, from cashmere to chocolate

The Row, the American design house founded by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, has found a spiritual home in Paris, where it has an office. Like the Japanese brands Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, both of which show their collections in the French capital, the Row’s pure and formally inventive clothing makes sense when seen against the backdrop of Haussmannian moldings and herringbone floors.

This collection did not stray from the brand’s specialties: Lydia Tár-like suits, shirting and Serious Coats, spare evening wear, elbow-length gloves, flat boots perfect for city walking. But it felt particularly right in the context of a season of realistic, investment-grade fashion—as if the world synced up to the Row than vice versa.

At the show’s conclusion, young men proffered green juice, green tea, perfectly ripe pears and hunks of dark chocolate. Along with great knitwear and flat shoes, these are the keys to many women’s affection.

Balenciaga: A postscandal return to ‘the art of making clothes’

The most hotly anticipated show this season was Balenciaga’s, but not for the usual reasons. With a hint of schadenfreude, editors gossiped about how creative director Demna would react (or not) to the uproar around the brand’s recent campaigns that some interpreted as endorsing child pornography. Demna has apologised for featuring children in the campaign, and Balenciaga’s owner François Pinault last month said “we’re allowed to make mistakes in a group like Kering.”

In his show notes, Demna declared a return to the purity of design: “Fashion to me can no longer be about entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes.” That manifested as elemental forms and silhouettes, starting with sweeping black lace dresses punctuated by crested shoulders. Blazers, denim jackets, overcoats and trenches were all oversize, dwarfing their wearers. Demna applied his contemporary touch to ladylike Balenciaga signatures like bows and florals.

But under the designer, Balenciaga has always been about far more than clothes. Stunt shows commenting on current events, a Simpsons collaboration and Kim Kardashian mummified in danger tape made it a part of the zeitgeist. Are clothes alone—even ones as thoughtful as this—enough?

Saint Laurent: A powerful vision of business-not-very-casual

When was the last time you saw someone wearing a proper skirt suit—outside of a retro movie or TV show? Chances are, you’re scratching your head, but if Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent show has anything to do with it, the skirt suit will be on the ascendant come fall.

The show’s vision of a powerful businesswoman—albeit one who still values comfort and sex appeal—began Paris Fashion Week with a slap of chicness. Some fashion obsessives on Twitter used the occasion to compare Mr. Vaccarello’s early work—characterised by micro party dresses and lots of leather—to his sophisticated forays of recent years. The brand has grown up with him.

Although the extreme shoulder of the blazers and the deep décolleté of the camisoles will not be for everyone, the pinstriped wool suit separates and blanket coats are future classics. And Ms. Wiggins of MatchesFashion pointed to the show’s organza blouses, with their dramatic streaming neck ties, as the perfect tops for a dinner date.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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