As the world turns and spins, so obviously does fashion; back in the 1970s we became obsessed with something called internationalism, where every city and every woman would look, dress and buy the same key trends and we would be one amazing homogenous family. In 2017, we are looking more closely at our culture and climate, our heritage and in many cases the preservation of our differences to celebrate them not ignore them. Across the globe designers are embracing the different visions of fashion which their families and cultures have naturally and emotionally instilled in them. Colour, shape, decoration, or even urban minimalism is as much a subconscious reflection of our heritage as it is an intellectual and analytical design motivation.
Akris is a Swiss fashion label and from the land of precision in watch making comes a collection whose precision in making, structure and fabric reflects this is fashion terms. Beautifully thought through, each piece is the best of its kind; leather jacket, slim coat, wrap dress, simple blouse, and so on.
MaxMara also creates this fashion perfection in Italy but with a totally Italian approach whereby it is sexier, more obviously seductively luxurious. Again each piece is a stand out, although, as we all know, a Maxmara coat is truly special.
Lutz Huelle is originally German. In the seasons since he established his label Lutz has developed a loyal following, and this season especially it is easy to see why. His clothes don’t look like anybody else’s, but they also are designed entirely as clothes. Catwalk tricks, one off pieces to grab headlines and seasonal jumps between looks are not part of his ethos. A steady development and a great regard for truth and integrity in his pieces seems to guide the designer. His treatment of classics appears to be the true designers instinct for taking the subject and re examining it, to then become totally fresh and reinvigorated.The blue shearling and denim, minimal coat and trousers, ski sweater insertion, split Hungarian military sleeves and were definite highlights.
Ryan Lo has his origins in Hong Kong. Pretty, pink, knitwear, cartoons and east meets west; nothing especially odd about any of those trends and yet in the hands of Ryan Lo his London sensibility mixes all the elements together, and like a brilliant chef the result is a new dish with familiar ingredients. His sense of proportion this season was so sure that with Sam McKnight on hair and Stephen Jones on hats he could show a sweater tunic extended way past the knees or a dress with brilliant hairpieces in curious tassel effects or pom-pom topped pearl embellished hats and make it work. Cool confidence has now been added to his work.
Veronique Branquinho is Belgian, as is Dries van Noten. Both designers display the same characteristics of interest in fabric, a desire to make clothes which cross ages, sizes and attitudes and a special aesthetic which is uniquely Belgian. Martin Margiela was perhaps the leading example of this fashion attitude and it’s hard to pin down, perhaps beauty with a touch of melancholy is how it seems. The clothes and the shows are perfectly pitched and this season each showed their strengths. Dries used models from his 100 past seasons and mixed and matched as only he can, plain and fancy, simple and complex, deep and bright. It’s the trick that across those 100 shows he remains totally true to his personal vision of fashion and thus remains strong in every possible way. Integrity is hard to find in fashion but it is deeply embedded in the work of Dries van Noten. The tailoring this season at Branquinho and the quality of the make was especially amazing but again, beauty and thoughtfulness are at the heart of what she designs and presents.
Rabih Kayrouz was born in the Lebanon: to appreciate the beauty of the work, it simply it had to be seen, and touched. In inky black, creamy chalky white and deep flamenco scarlet. Each piece was a sculptural work of art, with the weighting of the the construction and the quality of the finish adding to the brilliance of the collection. In a world where instant can seem to be the default mode of operation these were the designs ideas and production of calm reasoning, deep thought and a tranquility and resonance where the craft and art of fashion united for something special.
At the opposite end of the fashion spectrum is Michael Kors, a New Yorker, designing in New York, showing there and whose local customers can literally wear his clothes straight from the runway. When camel, grey and navy, with black and white form a solid colour foundation, where luxury fabrics are used for classic pieces with a seasonal update, where polish, glamour and timeless casual chic rules you know you are in New York. In the tradition of Bill Blass or other New York designers of the past 75 years Kors knows his customer, what they want and he delivers. It’s a design approach unlike anything in Paris, or London or even Milan. Evolution not revolution may sound dull, but it is a great deal harder to achieve than it seems; if it is that easy why don’t more people do it? In a season where real clothes seems to have made a huge comeback as a trend, Michael Kors delivers good clothes.
Manish Arora, Ashish, Rahul Mishra and Shabashaya all have their roots in India. Manish Arora made a huge leap of faith this season; Grand Palais venue, regular catwalk models and a straightforward fashion show; it worked. His audience needed no convincing on Manish’s talents as they piled in sparkling, smiling, twirling as they revelled in his colour and patterns.For this designer more is not too much, yet at the heat of the collection are pieces to collect, wear, cherish and mix as the wearer desires. His personal view of the season is a starting point not a dictatorship, the wonderful styling unique to that moment but the pieces also work work worn with sportswear, classics, tailoring or knitwear; truly clothes for self expression.
Ashish presented an uptempo but deeply thoughtful and considered collection.The sequins and the sportswear inspired easy pieces are deceptive in their versatility. Take it down to club and street level, take it up to Couture and soirée level; it works both ways. The quality remains and the thought and care taken by Ashish in each and every design from his amazing colour sense through to the placing of a stripe is exemplary.
Rahul Mishra is a designer whose aesthetic combines his native India and craftsmanship with a Paris twist of almost Renoiresque romanticism. Think Guingette, those dance halls by the Seine peopled with girls and women in ruffles and fluid silhouettes. Mishra makes the intensive craft work in his clothes look effortless rather than laboured, exactly as it should. Shabashaya didn’t show in Paris but brilliantly launched his couture collection on Instagram on 25th of February. The colour, the hand painted fabrics, the sense of, well “beauty” seems the weakest word to apply to his visionary reinvention of the heritage of Indian clothes. His imagery makes one long to enter the world he has conjured into existence through his alchemy.
Culture, colour, fabric, heritage, custom, craft and vision; celebrated by these, and many more, fashion designers who bring their unique personal vision to fashion in these turbulent times.