The Return of the Dry-Clean-Only Wardrobe | Kanebridge News
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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

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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The Strongest Protection for Your Online Accounts? This Little Key

Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense

Mon, Mar 27, 2023 4 min

Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.

Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.

I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.

Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.

Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?

I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.

Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.

Which security key should I use?

Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:

  • YubiKey 5C NFC ($US55) if you have a USB-C laptop or tablet
  • YubiKey 5 NFC ($US50) for devices with older USB ports

Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.

Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.

How do security keys work?

To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.

Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.

Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.

Why are they so secure?

Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.

Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.

Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.

You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.

In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.

What happens if you lose your key?

The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).

“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”

If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.

Where can you use a security key?

Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.

When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.

What comes after security keys?

Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.

You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.

Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.


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