Fashion and clothing. How we dress and present ourselves has always been about so much more than just the clothes. Historical context is easy to pinpoint and apply to the fashion of the past, but to analyse today’s fashion without either appearing pseudo-intellectual or overly smart is another matter altogether.
In 2018, sexual identity, rights, crimes, attitudes and viewpoints are simply one of a dozen or so themes we can see as of major importance. However, culture, religion, local identities, gender-blurring, women’s rights, and new definitions of masculinity all enter the list of subjects surrounding the purpose of designing a collection. Indeed, today we also demand that as we make a jacket and display it we consider cultural appropriation, who will model it, where will we display the jacket and how, to what music, and with which hair, makeup and accessories. Every tiny detail can spark controversy, infuriate a specific group, or misfire through lack of forethought and attention to detail —or simply by being a bit stupid. The other growing movement is to show menswear and womenswear together, thus blurring the model casting as well. So, where do all these leave fashion season?
Well, there are groupings which help us weave our way through this fashion labyrinth. The oddity of this method selected is that it throws up some very odd bedfellows, so I offer this up in the hope it makes you, the reader, think, argue and make your own variations of this project. Plus, of course, seeing where this all leads next season.
– Alternative Reality
Street-casting and personality-casting are the first things that spring to mind. How Gucci, Marine Serre and Koché, for example, cast —steering clear of models whose faces are familiar. This is in turn totally upended by Dolce & Gabanna, who use famous faces and all ages and sizes to similar effect. Calvin Klein under the brilliant, if erratic, guidance of Raf Simons is also in this group, as is the new and exciting Pyer Moss. And again, making us question what is “casting” about is Ralph Lauren, where a real mix was on view but quite different to that of Koché or Gucci.
– Artistic Leanings
Clothes that might be created by painters as much as by fashion designers are fascinating since, by nature, they are not always the focus of seasonal reports. There are designers who think about pattern, print, colour, silhouette and layering as a three-dimensional moving object on the catwalk as much as fashion. Roksanda, Mary Katrantzou, Jil Sander, Akris and Marni all direct their gaze to clothes that speak as much about the wearers’ attitudes as they do about fashion.
– The Purists
It’s not minimalism. It’s not classic. And it’s often seen as a bit dull. It’s great clothes designed with quality and a customer who invests, enjoys and endures in mind. Hermés and Max Mara both come into this group and, although at different price points, offer a restraint in creativity for each piece in the collection —offering either a top to toe look of calmness or pieces to be mixed with other seasonal collections. Christophe Lemaire, The Row, Monse, Agnona, Bruno Cucinelli, Derek Lam, 3.1 Philip Lim and Margaret Howell also belong here for their creative integrity and consistency.
– New Chic
What on earth does this mean? Well, this season a lot of collections looked back to look forward. Yet, it’s the new techniques, new methods, and new fabrics that brought a strong contemporary twist to the story. First and foremost was Balenciaga with its stunning silhouettes, colour, techniques and the revelation that Demna Gvasalia is over hoodies and into demi-couture. Also in this group are Y Projects, Rochas, Jacquemus, Proenza Schouler, Olivier Theyskens, Poiret, Eudon Choi, Victoria Beckham, Palmer Harding, Haider Ackerman, Lutz Huelle, and others considering how to dress women in the myriad roles they perform in contemporary society. Wardrobe options that are directly related to today and society without being political or over analytical, yet understanding that athleisure, sportswear and jeanswear are the only fashion possibility.
Matty Bovan and John Galliano at Maison Margiela are of course the key exponents of this style and are superb at it. This season, they were joined by Jeremy Scott at Moschino —love it or loathe it, it certainly is individual. Prada as a maison never fits into a neat trend box, since Miuccia Prada herself has always had her own voice; as does Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, and Marc Jacobs, never play it safe or match others views of the season. And now to this list, we may add Hedi Slimane, technically designing at Celine. Clearly, wherever he goes his personal declaration of fashion never wavers and indeed, it becomes no longer “fashion” but simply Hedi. He is definitely a very strong individualist.
– Cultural Imaginings
Starting in New York and following right through to Paris four weeks later are designers whose cultural roots are never far from their thoughts when creating a collection. In many cases, manufacture is in the homeland and heritage often plays a part in this work. Restoring or supporting traditional techniques is essential to these designers. We can also see this influence in designers who reside in their original country without presenting overseas or departing from an established business. Local versus global wins. Naeem Khan, Prabal Gurung, Osman, Duro Olowu, Stella Jean, Manish Arora, Rahul Mishra, and many others remind us that the history and inspirations of a specific place have huge resonances. Everything from local colours, traditional handicrafts or the simple drape of a traditional garment is grist to this mill. Interestingly enough, designers like Antonio Marras, Christian Wijnants and Etro also interpret this theme from a nonspecific personal perspective.
Erdem, Molly Goddard, Simone Rocha and Ryan Lo —all LFW-based— never waver from the enchantment and loveliness in their approach to fashion. The narrative is escapist and none the worst for that in contemporary urban society. Alberta Ferretti, Giorgio Armani, and Missoni join this group in Milan, and so does Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior in Paris, with a show that knocked out its spectators with a melange of the new look, dance and feminism. At Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli presented a standing ovation-winning collection that reinstated black as a fashion colour whilst introducing extraordinary exotic patterning and silhouette constructions that dazzle the eye. Dries van Noten has a truly beautiful approach to design, fashion and women. The vision and integrity of his work never waver, and he holds a very special place in fashion through his narrative of clothes designed for a romantic life yet lived in a real world.
Even if they downplay the sexual element within their seasonal collections, even if they deny it, this group —namely Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Philipp Plein, Dundas, and Tom Ford—likes sexy clothes, and so does their customer.
– Getting on with the job
Finally, at the likes of Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, we encounter a series of great women getting on with the job of designing. Each at a house founded by someone else. Each putting professionalism and the requirements of the brand and its heritage above their ego. Women in fashion do this all the time in literally thousands of roles. The arc from Madame Cheruit, Vionnet and Chanel through to today is getting stronger —especially in America women like Claire McCardell and Pauline Trigere have shown their strength. Look at Josie Natori, Kimora Lee Simons, Elie Tahari, Ulla Johnson, Donna Karan, Pamela Roland, Nicole Miller, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Carolina Herrera, Dian von Furstenberg, Rodarte, Rebecca Taylor, Anna Sui, Cynthia Rowley, Rebecca Minkoff and Rebecca de Ravenel. These are just a few of the names who have helped to give New York and American Fashion gravitas.
Multiple swinging movements and multiple swinging opinions. If we twist these —again and again— we’ll reach our own thoughts. Hopefully, these thoughts connect us to the approach to clothes each designer adopts, why they do what they do and, most importantly, where it sits in the current climate of attitudes and thoughts on women’s fashion.
words. Tony Glenville