I’m calling it the Young Donna Sheridan Effect. This Fashion Month, as always, has welcomed a vast array of interpretations and predictions of the next Spring/Summer crazes. There are so many brands showcasing their new collections that, no matter how hard fashion journalists might try, it’s often pretty difficult to identify trends which span across designers. But the Young Donna Sheridan Effect has managed to weave itself – quite literally – into almost every piece so far this month. What, I hear you ask, is the Young Donna Sheridan Effect? Well, the answer comes in three parts: colours, clashes and layering.
The outfits donned by Donna, portrayed by the goddess that is Lily James, in Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, had an immediate impact in the fashion world. The domination of monochrome has characterised countless brands over the years, birthed during the hyper-cool 1990s when colour was put on the backburner. This trend was discarded a little during the gaudy naughties, then re-ignited about a decade later when ‘coolness’ became an elusive fashion goal once more, this time in the form of minimalism and androgyny. Black-and-white in fashion is polarising to say the least: perhaps most famously, it was deified by Lagerfeld, the late, great designer legend who never once threatened to inject a drop of colour into his own outfits – although his designs for Chanel and Fendi didn’t shy away from the colour wheel quite so much. On the other hand, the notorious editor of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, has famously criticised monochrome lovers – which is interesting, considering that her fictional double, The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestley, puts together some iconic black-and-white outfits during the course of the 2006 film. But if this is the Meryl Streep character who defends monochrome, Donna Sheridan is the character who condemns it. And when Mamma Mia 2 came out, James’ interpretation of the youthful Donna was pretty damn inspiring.
And that brings us back to the Young Donna Sheridan Effect. The film was released in July 2018, too close to the SS19 Fashion Month to have a tangible impact on designs. Instead, fast fashion and high street brands such as ASOS and Zara were influenced by Sheridan’s concoction of crochet and colour clashes. But luxury fashion houses didn’t forget about it, and after a year of musing on the way to incorporate these gorgeous vibes into their shows and designs, the result thus far this Fashion Month has been beautiful.
Let’s start in Milan. Versace, Prada, Moschino and Marni… these are just some of the brands who chose to channel Mamma Mia 2 in their own respective ways. The Versace show was quite the journey: outfits at the beginning combined androgynous cuts with super sultry textures, and it was beginning to look as though the house had put on yet another colourless show with very little experimentation or external influence. But, halfway through, something switched. It was almost as if Donatella had design 50% of her collection, taken a quick cinema break to watch Lily James and Amanda Seyfried on the big screen, then returned with a whole new vision and created the outfits of the second half. Greens, blues and yellows started seeping through and the catwalk became host to an array of jungle prints and pattern clashes, accessorised with gold, gold and more gold – classic Versace, but with a Sheridan twist. Of course, Donatella doesn’t do things in halves and the prints were all leading up to something: a jaw-dropping finale which saw Jennifer Lopez gracing the walk with a sexed-up homage to her famous 2000 Grammys dress. But it wasn’t a tribute to that event in isolation: 2000 was also the year that the fashion world decided it wasn’t entirely allergic to colour. And now, thanks to Donna, we’re re-living that realisation.
Prada SS20 takes a conservative approach to the Young Donna Sheridan Effect, showcasing mules, pencil skirts, shirts buttoned up to the neck, and wide brim hats which scream ‘upper-class mother-of-two vacationing in the South of France’. But even though young Donna’s vibe is pretty much the exact opposite of this – and Prada’s – aesthetic, the house still manages to experiment with light and bright colours, floaty fabrics and clashing patterns, acknowledging the trends set by the ABBA-inspired film. Similarly, Marni’s latest show explored the relationship between different colours through an experimental collection of block oranges, pinks and reds, as well as a beautiful selection of patterned maxi dresses. Aside from one oversized leather jacket, there wasn’t a single all-black piece in the entire show. Fendi’s flirty approach to high end fashion lends itself to the Young Donna Sheridan Effect perfectly, and the house treated us to an SS20 collection filled to the brim with short skirts, light colours, crochet and sheer fabrics made for layering. On the beauty side of things, Fendi also went for the messy beach hair look, extending Donna’s influence to the aesthetic of the entire show.
But there was always one man at Milan Fashion Week who was going to take this trend to another level: Jeremy Scott. The Moschino show was as obnoxious and audacious as you’d expect, and every second was dripping with ostentation. Honestly, I wouldn’t even dare to suggest that Mamma Mia 2 had anything to do with Scott’s collection: he doesn’t need any sort of external cultural incentive to drown his clothes in clashing patterns and gaudy colours. Watching the Moschino SS20 show is like watching Alice in Wonderland on a runway, but with tackier jewellery. And the Donnas of the world are going to live for it.
If Fashion Month is on a Donna Sheridan spectrum, and Moschino is at one end of that spectrum, there is a brand which proudly sits at the other end. British fashion isn’t exactly known for being bold, brilliant and loud. We’re a modest bunch, even in the modern day, and no brand epitomises this cultural beige-ness more than Burberry. Aside from being remarkably boring, it’s also important to note that the SS20 collection was a little problematic. The inclusion of one – yes, one – Burberry hijab felt tokenistic to say the least. Had the brand designed an array of hijabs and reflected some sort of genuine interest in representation through its choice of models, it might not have seemed like such a glaring issue, but the religious headwear piece stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of white faces. Resolve this issue, Burberry: if you really are looking to celebrate the diversity of British culture, hire more than one hijab-wearing model for your show. Anyway, on top of this, Burberry did a stellar job of shielding itself from the colour trend, showcasing nothing but whites, greys and browns. Donna wouldn’t be caught dead in any of it.
ERDEM also kept things British and conservative, presenting a collection of seemingly Victorian-inspired dresses which almost ignore the role of bare skin in fashion. Choosing where fabric should not be is just as artistically important as choosing where it should be, and Donna’s skin-happy attire celebrated the ‘less is more’ philosophy in relation to summer fashion. ERDEM’s SS20 collection has a much closer relationship with the new Downton Abbey film than it does with Mamma Mia 2. But, to give credit where credit is due, the brand did play around with clashes, primarily through a succession of outfits at the halfway point of the show which took five different patterns and threw them together in different ways, in a great moment of organised chaos.
Flying across the Atlantic and landing in New York, the Young Donna Sheridan Effect was back in full force. Oscar de la Renta messed around with make-believe beach waves on a few of the models, who were prancing up and down the catwalk in a variety of heavily accessorised textures, colours and patterns. Coach brought these vibes down to earth – or, in fashion terms, ready-to-wear – with a carefree cacophony of casual and colourful clothes. Of all the shows I’ve seen this month, Coach was definitely the most coherent: every piece complimented every other piece, resulting in the most literal interpretation of a ‘collection’ that I’ve seen thus far. Meanwhile, Tom Ford had a similar approach to Marni, playing less with patterns and more with block colours, and focusing strongly on texture. Low cuts, loose fabrics and lots of skin: if she had the cash, Donna would definitely cultivate her more formal wardrobe around Tom Ford SS20.
We are living in an era of many collective moods. The climate crisis is terrifying us all, but it’s also giving us room to explore our relationship with the earth and with natural beauty. Donna Sheridan’s wardrobe is entirely dictated by her obsession with travelling, summer, and the world. She is characterised by curiosity. As a human race, we are beginning to exercise this curiosity again in our day-to-day lives, and it’s bleeding over into the way we design our individual aesthetic identities. Fashion is a way of designing our identities too, and this trend of curiosity is leading us to experiment with all the colours that the world has to offer. Through makeup, home décor, jewellery, clothing, even the food we’re consuming, the photos we’re taking and the films we’re shooting – colour is injecting itself into all creative facets of human existence. Yes, we’re living in an era of many collective moods, but the most important of all those moods is hope. And if hope was a wardrobe, it sure as hell wouldn’t be monochrome.