The month-long round of women’s runway shows came to an end Wednesday in Paris, where designers heralded the return of clean, classic sportswear and searched for a new definition of luxury in the fast-moving digital age. Here are six ideas and trends — spotted in New York, Milan and Paris — that are likely to influence what women wear this fall and beyond.
COLOR ME CAMEL
If there was any doubt that camel is the color of the fall season, it was cleared up by designer Hannah MacGibbon. Her Chloe collection was a study in the classic hue and every other shade of beige, from caramel to bark to bisque.
Camel is a fresh alternative to black, reflecting fashion’s renewed interest in classic American-style sportswear, a trend that we saw on the runways in New York at Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Derek Lam, and in Milan at Gucci and Max Mara.
In Paris, nearly every designer had a camel coat on the runway. Chloe’s MacGibbon showed sturdy man-tailored camel’s hair coats alongside sleek high-waist trousers, dotted bow-front blouses or chambray shirts, and cowboy boots.
At Stella McCartney, the camel coat was sportier, more akin to an anorak. At Hermes, it was cut close to the body with a smart black leather collar. Lanvin’s camel coat had sculpted power shoulders.
Hussein Chalayan showed a camel’s hair poncho. And at Martin Margiela, camel came in the form of a classic turtleneck sweater, paired with a crimson red coat — a color combination that’s definitely worth trying on at home.
In just two runway show seasons, Celine designer Phoebe Philo has become fashion’s new pacesetter, cutting through the last few years of ruffled and bedazzled clutter, and ushering in a new era of clean minimalism, also seen at Stella McCartney and Chloe.
Philo’s sharp navy blue coat, wool A-line shift dress with deep-set leather patch pockets, glossy leather A-line skirt and crisp white shirt fastened with a collar pin look right for right now. It’s a look that points to the subtleties of good design, rather than an outdated idea of in-your-face luxury.
“I wanted to bring back the purity of design, but keep it emotional.” That’s how Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz described his decision to turn the page on his influential ruffled and grosgrain- embellished look and focus on sharp silhouttes and clean surfaces instead.
It was also refreshing to see designers turn their attention to grown-up working women and make a genuine effort to update their wardrobes with versatile day-to-evening separates.
On the streets, the Celinification has already begun. Not only are fashion editors clamoring for the clean-looking, natural-colored leather T-shirts, tote bags and wood-block-heeled wedge sandals from Philo’s spring Celine collection in stores now, Zara and H&M have their interpretations too.
This shift should also mark the end of fashion’s obsession with the more-is-more 1980s, and the beginning of a 1990s redux in the spirit of Helmut Lang and Jil Sander.
The military look has been on the radar since the spring runway season at Balmain and Louis Vuitton. And it’s still marching forward for fall, building momentum as an adjunct to the masculine tailoring trend seen in New York at Alexander Wang and Ralph Lauren.
In Paris at Dries Van Noten, utilitarian shirtdresses in navy and dark green came down the runway, alongside an anorak with embroidered sleeves, and pants with zippers or straps to cinch them at the ankles.
Yohji Yamamoto used nautical uniforms as his starting point, creating some of the most youthful and accessible pieces he’s shown in a long time. Highlights included a navy blue double-breasted, drop-waist coat with an uneven pleated skirt; a short bustier dress resembling a deconstructed pea coat with rows of buttons on the bodice and angled flap pockets at the hips; and a ribbed fisherman’s sweater dress.
Junya Watanabe brought grace to the military trend by marrying it with his signature Edwardian-inspired tailoring. It was all in the details, from the notched Velcro cuffs on a fatigue green hourglass-shaped jacket to the frothy crinolines peeking out from the back slit of a fitted camouflage skirt.
The camouflage print became camouflaged itself on micropleated and asymmetrically draped silk dresses, some shot through with Lurex thread, proving that this look goes way beyond what you can find at the local Army Navy store.
In a season largely defined by restraint, it was odd to see so much fur on the runways — even though companies such as Denmark-based Saga Furs give pelts to designers for free, as long as they agree to use them in their runway designs.
These furs were not the jewel-encrusted astrakhans and broadtails that we have seen in seasons past. They were furs with a sportier edge, and some of them weren’t even real.
At times, the use of fur seemed to be a defiant stand against restraint, as was the case at Rick Owens. He, more than any other designer, has changed the look of fur. And this season, he used it liberally, in draped kangaroo fur coats with the ease of sweaters and in full-length minks with helmet-like hoods.
In other cases, designers seemed to be using fur in such an over-the-top way that it had to be a joke about the industry’s dependence on fur as an easy shorthand for luxury and glamour. At Martin Margiela, for example, the Russian-style fur cap was rendered so enormous, with flaps hanging down over the arms, that it looked as if it might swallow the model whole.
But the biggest news in fur on the runways was that it wasn’t all real, and the fake stuff is what looked the most fresh and new.
For those anti-fur advocates out there, Nina Ricci featured faux fur trim on a slouchy moleskin coat and soft knit cardigans. It was an even bigger surprise to see fake fur at luxury powerhouse Chanel, where the runway was a winter wonderland with real icebergs imported from Sweden.
We’re not talking a little fake fur trim here and there. There was fake fur everywhere, from the moment the curtain went up on four models, covered head to toe in the shaggy stuff, looking like friendly beasts moored on a melting iceberg. There was fake fur trim on boucle suits and fake fur waders, bloomers, mukluk boots and puffball purses.
The “fantasy fur,” as designer Karl Lagerfeld described it, fit into the show’s global warming theme. (Invitations came with a sketch of a polar bear drawn by Lagerfeld himself.)
Now that Chanel is behind the animal rights cause (at least this season), it will be interesting to see if the rest of the industry follows.
For the fall, sweaters on the runway are a no-brainer. But what was different this season was the range of creativity designers brought to knitwear — both in how it was crafted and how it was styled.
Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquiere took knitwear into the future, with a knit crewneck and skirt ensemble that had raised bumps laser-punched into the surface, bringing to mind bubble wrap.
At Christian Dior, the collection’s entire libertine equestrian inspiration was distilled into one fabulous cardigan coat, in creamy white cashmere laced with French blue grosgrain ribbon.
Chanel’s knitwear had a more rustic feel. Sweater coats were a patchwork of earth-toned fringes and yarns, while curve-hugging sweater dresses were spun from mohair shaded with Arctic blue. For evening, dresses came in a mélange of textured winter white knit, making the models resemble ice queens.
At Louis Vuitton, a cable knit dress was layered over a 1950s fit-and-flare dress. Junya Watanabe also showed the layered look, using a knee-length ribbed sweater to rein in a crinoline skirt.
And, building on the strength of the knitwear in Milan at Prada and Missoni, this could suggest that we are in for a return to sweater dressing.
Too bad I threw out those sweater dresses all those years ago.
As the debate about model size and weight rages on in fashion, several designers showed collections that celebrated a woman’s curves. The more classical, rounded vision of the female form was not only a comment on body politics, but also its own kind of answer to fashion’s frenetic obsession with the new.
The trend appeared three weeks ago in New York at Marc Jacobs’ namesake show. It made its way to Miuccia Prada’s collection in Milan too, where she used a few fuller-figured models to showcase her retro designs.
In Paris at Louis Vuitton, Jacobs staged a Parisian love story set around a shooting fountain, with clothes designed with voluptuousness in mind. Fifties fit-and-flair dresses, or pinstripe wool bustier tops worn atop pleated dirndl skirts, pushed the bosom up and out.
An hourglass-shaped jacket came with crystal buttons, and a girlish popcorn knit sweater with tiny fur pompoms at the collar. Add pointy-toed pumps with bows on top, and structured handbags embroidered with sequins and lace, and it made for a scene out of a Fred Astaire movie.
There were no sharp angles or lines at the Giles Deacon show either, where the designer worked with a silhouette based on the pronounced bust and bum of the “Mad Men” era. Bustier dresses had flying-buttress-like pleating accentuating the hips, and skirts rippled with scallop-edged layers.
At Comme des Garcons, Rei Kawakubo added bulk to the parts of the body most women spend their lives trying to slim.
Lumps and bumps of padding rounded out the hips, stomachs, bust lines and backs of frock coats and tartan dresses, suggesting the body was so pumped up, clothes could barely restrain it.
Other times, placement of the padding evoked the hip panniers on dresses fashionable during the 18th century, when a woman’s status was proportional to how much space she occupied, not how little.
Was Kawakubo addressing body image as a feminist issue, the epidemic of obesity or plastic surgery? The only thing for sure is that fashion’s great size debate won’t be ending any time soon.