The Trend Report: AW2011

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Highlights from London, New York, Milan & Paris Fashion Weeks.

The finale of the A/W11 Christian Dior show in Paris last week: rather than the extravagant bow we’ve come to expect from former designer John Galliano, the entire atelier team appeared on the catwalk in an act embodying the creative heritage behind the house’s name and values.  In the wake of Galliano’s arrest for an alleged anti-Semitic rant, followed by the emergence of a damning video in which evidence against him was further corroborated, the international press had waited with bated breath for this moment.  In light of everything, the House of Dior has handled the matter with a grace and sensitivity fitting to such a sensitive subject.

A year ago, with the suicide of Alexander McQueen, the fashion world was faced with the loss of a similarly unique and incredibly personal talent.  With the ascension of Sarah Burton to head designer, the theme of heritage has never been so current.  In a serene collection, echoing the silhouettes that McQueen made famous, she maintained the aesthetic of his legacy while allowing her own inspirational and deeply feminine vision to sit dichotomously side by side with his spectral presence.

Heritage is key to understanding the trends that have surfaced in the A/W11 collections.  At Versace, Donatella emblazoned the brand’s gold medusa on everything from gold buttons on military style coats to jewel-toned cocktail dresses.  Thanks to Christopher Kane looking to the future of Versace with the resurrected Versus line, Donatella is taking the opportunity to commemorate her brother’s legacy.  At Givenchy, Ricardo Tisci channelled Gianni Versace with a gold-chained panther motif, characterising a girlish collection with more than a hint of S&M, a trend that was explored by Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton.  While Karl Lagerfeld explored the connotations of androgyny in a collection that was far more commercially relevant than anything else that has been on the runways this season, at Meadham Kirchhoff the Chanel heritage was picked apart in an apocalyptic drama studying uniform with references to traditional dress and craft.  Meadham Kirchoff is just one in a string of young designers preoccupied with creating their own brand identity and a strong, individual look.

Proenza Schouler pioneered the craft trend this season, mixing an interest in American textile production with fashion’s increasing focus on the importance of technology to the industry.  Navaho prints were pixellated and exploded onto tactile velvets, expanding into the trend for texture that was so pervasive this season.  At Rodarte, a similar interest in the American folk tradition as a means of creating new American heritage brands was seen in the American Plains theme.  The screen-printed silk cornfield dresses and leather appliqué showed the same developing interest in craft, and vibrant red dresses were the first display of the season’s most popular hue, seen to best advantage at Gucci in Milan.  Colour and print played a huge part in this season’s shows.  Particularly at LFW, vibrant William Morris-style prints were acclaimed at Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou, who based her collection around Fabergé eggs, underlining the pinpoint sharp focus of the inspiration for collections this season.

Shape was once again a hot topic.  70s shapes are still very in, as seen at Chloe and Gucci, but as usual, following Miuccia’s lead, the womanly trend that has dominated the past few seasons is out.  At Prada, a fusion of 20s and 60s girlish modes, and a silhouette that was all about innocence, sat in stark contrast to the luxurious furs, snakeskins and sequins that made up her collection.  At Miu Miu, a looser take on the 1940s created an easy sensuality.  As a statement on femininity, Miuccia Prada’s new vision fit in well with a season that embraced the boy-girl, as seen at Dolce and Gabbana, Paul Smith and Celine.

Once again, Phoebe Philo had the fashion world falling at her feet as she exhibited the insouciant minimalism that has revived the archive brand.  Stella McCartney followed suit with a collection low on eveningwear, but that displayed beautiful tailoring and the on trend cocoon shape.  At Jil Sander, Raf Simons made a natural progression from his S/S collection, creating a modernist vision that expanded on volume with the use of feather-light padding.  Unusual texture was, perhaps, best seen at Marc Jacobs where use of latex fetishised 1940s styles, and at Balenciaga where Nicolas Ghesquière balanced out a looser silhouette with faux leather plaited jackets.

With all eyes on Dior and Galliano, Christophe Lemaire’s first collection for Hermès slipped slightly under the radar.  Yet, with the focus so closely zoomed in on heritage, this was a debut that really dipped into the archives – archery and aviation references and a colour palette that was so luxuriously relevant to the brand’s history completely eliminated any comparisons with his predecessor, Jean Paul Gaultier.  In light of such a perceptive handling of heritage, despite the tact and delicacy that has been employed to protect the Dior legacy, the house must now look to the future.  Suggestions for a new head designer include Alber Elbaz, whose collection for Lanvin was awash with colour, Stefano Pilati who explored the season’s trends for dotting and texture at Yves Saint Laurent, and Haider Ackermann, new kid on the block, whose talent for cutting makes him a frontrunner as Galliano’s successor.

Georgia Lurie

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