“Elemental” was how Nellie Partow described her fall 2021 collection. In some ways, she meant it literally: Her first capsule of hand-molded jewelry—silver and gold collars, cuffs, and hoop earrings—brought a sleek, mineral touch to her usual tailoring and daywear. A silver collar was tucked under the twisted neckline of a blouse in one look, and set above a mannish blazer in another. In her Chelsea showroom, Partow showed how it can be worn backwards, too. In any other designer’s collection, such a slight piece of jewelry might go unnoticed, but Partow’s clothes are subtle and intentional to the point that a bit of flash is practically transformative. Dresses in poplin shirting felt less preppy with their touches of silver, and an exploded blouse was more precise with its gold band.
Still, the lookbook opened with a close-up of Hanne Gaby Odiele in a narrow gray coat, barefaced and jewelry-free. Partow was thinking about getting back to the elements of fabric, silhouette, and life itself; in our increasingly digital world, she felt drawn towards the natural and tactile, starting with organic fibers. (The Polaroids, too, read intentionally low-res and grainy). The paper-y cotton of her voluminous button-downs felt easier than the 9-to-5 shirting in past collections, but the most exciting development was the corduroy trousers: wide-leg, pleated, and in rich shades of aquamarine, navy, and chocolate. From afar, they looked like any velvety, semi-heavy corduroy pants—but up close, they were unbelievably light, with a surprising drape and dry hand. Partow mentioned the yarn actually had three fibers woven together, including a particularly earthy linen. Women who have traditionally shied away from heavy cords will be delighted to find a pair that’s really, truly wearable (and highly distinctive, too).
The vibrant, super-saturated palette felt invigorating against all those natural yarns, lifted from jewels like sapphire, amethyst, and ruby. In the coming seasons, Partow is planning to experiment with those actual gems in her jewelry, a development that was delayed by workshop closures in New York and Italy. With her eye on 2022, Partow is confident that fashion is about to be bolder, more exuberant, and more uplifting than ever: can you think of a better reason to wear a little color and shine?