By the time a week of Paris ready-to-wear shows wrapped on Tuesday, you didn’t need to be much of a fashion sleuth to recognize the big non-color trend for spring and summer 2018 because it was right there in black and white – literally.
That oldest of old-school pairings was the palette of preference for a surprisingly wide assortment of luxury labels this time out, including Thom Browne and Altuzarra, two American brands whose women’s collections made their Paris Fashion Week debut. It was served up in everything from polka dots to the airport-luggage-tag-inspired collars and skirts at Maison Margiela.
And although the combination makes for the starkest of contrasts, there also seemed to be a sense of light and lightness running through many of the collections here, some designers created lighter-than-air confections from acres of tulle (Thom Browne again), others played peekaboo with the female form via lace dresses (Miu Miu and Alexander McQueen) or sent it down the runway in totally transparent plastic pants (Balmain) or luxury see-through rain boots, hats and slickers (Chanel).
While these weren’t the only identifiable trends on the Paris runways (denim was having a moment too, for example), they’re the ones we think are odds-on favorites for shaping the look and feel of women’s wardrobes in spring 2018. So here’s a closer look at the black, the white and all kinds of light.
Black and white and spread all over
Remember the big yellow school bus of color that came roaring out of New York Fashion Week last month? It was nowhere to be found on the catwalks of Paris. Oh, there were pops of color here or there. Valentino can always be counted on for a handful of red dresses, but it was the yin and yang of black and white that really stood out, from the checkerboard-patterned dresses at Dior and outsized zebra-print jacket lapels at Saint Laurent on Day 1 of Paris Fashion Week.
At Balmain, which was almost exclusively black and white, the more memorable iterations consisted of newsprint-style printing on dresses and trousers. At Givenchy, where Clare Waight Keller made her debut as artistic director, it was clover prints and leopard spots from the label’s ’80s-era archives. A different creature — the python — made for a slinky black-and-white print at Elie Saab’s Amazon-inspired collection. For his Paris Fashion Week debut, U.S.-based designer Joseph Altuzarra presented a collection inspired by the film “Princess Mononoke,” which included a range of black-and-white pieces such as a bandanna print dress, striped skirts and jackets and cow-print leather jacket pockets.
The traditionally low-profile black-and-white houndstooth check pattern seemed to be enjoying its moment in the Parisian sun, getting sliced and diced and rejiggered in different sizes at Alexander McQueen and blown up to fuzzy extremes for a wrap jacket carried by a model in Thom Browne’s dreamscape of a show on the final day of the shows.
A flock of feathers and a festival of fringe
Feathers and fringe were used for the same purpose through many of the spring and summer 2018 collections — telegraphing and accentuating movement. Anthony Vaccarello’s collection for Saint Laurent did the ostrich-feather thing right with delicate high heels accentuated with feathers that quivered at the ankle like airborne sprays of ink and knee-length “yeti boots” that despite resembling the Abominable Snowman’s hairy leg managed to be damn sexy. One that didn’t was the costumey gendarme-goes-to-the-circus Nina Ricca collection, in which the towering feathered headdresses made the models look like, as my seatmate put it, “a refugee from a Folies Bergère matinee.”
Fringe swung, swayed and swirled sensuously through so many collections we honestly couldn’t begin to list them all, but two of the standouts were Céline, where fringetastic bags, shoes and dresses bounced and shimmied down the runway, and Elie Saab, where the aforementioned rainforest-inspired collection included a jungle-flora-inspired dress on which the dangling fringe took the form of green, leafy vines.
Dressed to frill
Apparently the days of deep-V décolletage and miniskirts cut within mere inches of the navel — serving as signifiers of sexiness — are on their way out. (And to that we say: “Huzzah!”) If the designers showing at Paris Fashion Week have their way, dressing femininely will be all about more fabric, not less — and fabric that has been gathered into pleats, ruffles or frills and undulating around dress hems, shirt cuffs, bustlines and shoulder yokes.
At Saint Laurent, ruffles puff-balled into mini-dresses; at Balmain, they hemmed the edge of a black lace hobble skirt; and at Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne, sprays of multicolored tulle resembled fireworks captured mid-explosion and were shaped into skirts and dresses sheer enough to read a book through.
Tulle wasn’t the only tool in the transparency toolbox, though. Some labels sent skirts and trousers fashioned out of clear plastic across the catwalk, most notably Chanel, which filled its spring 2018 runway collection with an assortment of clear PVC rain gear, including over-the-knee cap-toe boots, fingerless gloves that nearly reached the elbow and see-through purses, totes and rain hats in a silhouette that would have been a hundred times more stylish in a more traditional fabrication.
Elsewhere lightness — both in terms of weight and opacity — was achieved by the liberal use of lace. Although most didn’t stray far from white or black, a couple of brands wholeheartedly embraced eye-catching colors. These included Valentino, where pops of bright yellow lace accented dress sleeves and ran down the sides of gowns, and Miu Miu, where lace dresses and skirts in pale pink, butter yellow and coral red were among the brightest colors of the week.
Another notable spin of the color wheel came from Thom Browne — notable because the New York-based designer is almost fetishistic about his use of grays. For his first women’s ready-to-wear show in Paris (he’s traditionally shown at New York Fashion Week), Browne augmented his usual palette with a circus tent full of bright color — greens, yellows, oranges and blues — for a dreamscape of a collection that not only ticked every box on the season’s trend list but also went one better by padding, enlarging and elongating the season’s silhouettes as radically as he’d hemmed and tailored them into submission in the past. Browne sent a tulle-hide unicorn down the runway in slow motion for good measure, creating one of the most memorable and oddly touching runway moments of the season.
“I wanted to do something light,” the designer said backstage after the Oct. 3 show, a wry smile crossing his face.
And you know what? As odd as it sounds, he had. For a few minutes, the tulle-fueled collection of dreamy colorful clothes, the mesh-bubble-headed fairies and the bizarre sight of a slowly galloping fashion unicorn transported us to a mythical place far from the carnage and chaos of the last few weeks. Browne had done his part to make the City of Light the City of Lightness.
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.