Miuccia Prada rarely makes specific references in her collections. That would be bourgeois. Rather, she conjures fictive narratives that either invite methodical contemplation or not at all. So, for her spring collection, we're left to wonder whether the lilac-colored sand dunes in the center of the runway pertain to a certain conflict in the Middle East or a tropical beach somewhere, or neither. What about the bounty of beautiful brocades, patched and pieced together, some with gold and silver thread and others with strange symbols drawn or painted on them? Are we to read into those wheat-like symbols and imagine hardy Bolshevik peasantry or laugh along as Miuccia pokes fun at the gluten-free fad, going against the grain yet again?
Not to be left out, those who appreciate collections purely in aesthetic terms — sans concept — will look at these pieces and find irresistibly off colors paired with rich black, sporty full leather skirts, stylishly unfinished hems, eye-catching diagonal seams and insets, slimming contrast topstitching, and cute strappy clogs over cute kneesocks. The generational mixing and matching of schoolgirl, college coed, and well-to-do grandma is a recurring, and always pleasing, theme for Prada. But, we're convinced, there is meaning to be had. Perhaps it is simply in her perennial search for beauty in unconventional places.
They're intended to shock, and shock they do. Here, our WTF picks from the London spring shows...
Ed Marler (Fashion East)
Ed Marler (Fashion East)
On the anniversary of 9/11, and on the eve of more engagement in the Middle East, Marc Jacobs sent out a military-informed collection covered in large buttons and baubles resembling macaroons. With the show's all-pink staging, the message seemed to be: let's settle our differences with tasty French treats and live la vie en rose.
Ok, not exactly, but not far off. Jacobs said he was thinking about uniforms and the anonymity, invisibility they provide. That thought process manifested as wool canvas cargo pants, short skirts, and oversized tops packed with pockets and decoration, though not in any fancy, historical way — rather in a standard-issue, army-surplus sort of way. Those macaroon buttons? They were resin cabochons.
And therein lies the meaning, or lack thereof. These are symbolic clothes alluding to many things, but are themselves devoid of meaning — as is fashion. A cynical view, perhaps, but these are cynical times. Meanwhile, on Beats headsets, an immersive computerized voice described random domestic situations. It didn't make gobs of sense, which was probably precisely the point.
"It's important as fashion designers not to reference fashion," Lazaro Hernandez recently told me, "because then you're just rehashing ideas.” That simple yet revelatory remark is at the core of the Proenza Schouler brand and the spring collection shown tonight, where nary a rehashed idea was to be found. Rather, the duo delivered several profoundly revolutionary leaps, among them a peekaboo argyle top and floor-length woven leather dresses that, around the waist, became unwoven, so that the entire skirt portion was essentially leather fringe that, with its weight, moved dramatically with each step. Not into fringe? How about a crocheted leather skirt, or a perforated leather skirt, or perhaps generously cut and tapered leather pants with a gathered waistband?
It would appear that, after twelve years — has it really been that long? — of innovative fabric development, the 'boys' are flexing their technical muscle. "I mean, we could just keep developing and developing [fabrics]," said McCollough, "but at a certain point, the changes become so subtle that...you have to stop." The result was an exoticism ever-so-subtly infused with sportswear, mostly in the form of parkas and preppy men's collars — a winning combination. Add to that the fact their accessories team is new and you have a label ripe for investment, perhaps LVMH investment, which has been the rumor — which the suspenseful music, that at times went so quiet you could hear the models walk, did nothing to quell.
Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, the newish design duo behind Marc by Marc Jacobs, looked to the euphoria and rawness of 90s rave culture for spring 2015. They combined spraypainted black polkadots, big kawaii-style sleeves, asymmetrical fan skirts, origami shapes, a touch of flannel, trippy graphics by house collaborator Fergus Purcell, tightly pulled fauxhawks, and lunchbox-reminiscent bags for a heightened Bjorkness circa mid-nineties. But...club kids these were not.
For spring, MM6 — a second line of Maison Martin Margiela — took a cross-cultural journey to Brokeback Mount Fuji, if you will. The collection freely sampled elements of the Wild West — fringed suede chaps, denim, bandanna prints — and added a Japanese element, like waists cinched with obi belts. Bindings were a running theme, with cutaway jackets tied with girly ribbons that hinted at straitjacket construction and one look that appeared to be encased in a plastic garment bag. Any hint of darkness, however, was tempered by a mint-toothpaste palette of green, blue and white.
If Maria Cornejo's intention was to "evoke a certain peaceful naivete in a world full of conflict," the designer succeeded in just that, creating a collection that would be perfect for an art-student heiress spending a languid semester abroad exploring museums.
The show opened with a selection of looks in white and dove stretch leather, before expanding to modish b&w looks that recalled Nicolas Ghesquière's later offerings from Balenciaga with their playfully ruffled apron-belts. For Cornejo's devoted followers, lightweight suiting with turned-in lapels presented a summery update to business attire, while peekaboo fabrics, dashes of denim, and easy, youthful shapes seemed to court a younger crowd.
In the great seasonal search for inspiration, sometimes all you need is a squeegee. After seasons of particular, if occasionally oblique, references—David Bowie circa The Man Who Fell to Earth, late-stage Soviet communism, the brief creative burst of Weimar Germany—Robert Geller wanted to "pull it back a little and work with less," he said. That meant getting a squeegee, some paint, and through trial and error (a lot of it, he stressed), arriving at the perfect representation of a brushstroke, the dominant motif in Geller's Spring men's collection.
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Thom Browne could hardly have picked a better day to show a collection seemingly made for royal babies and their almost-royal mother, with its rainbows of colors and funny little hats in the shape of blazers and handbags, extraordinary things by the extraordinary milliner Stephen Jones. Or was the royal machine that chose the day of Thom Browne's spring collection to announce another bundle of headlines on the way?
This was a show for the ages, employing his established quest for flamboyance and his menswear-linked tailoring skill. The mind wandered everywhere — from a game of lawn tennis to Monet's Impressionist gardens, from 19th-century botanical drawings to Brooklyn church ladies. To put it succinctly, flowers and formality. We're talking intense, crazy, saturated daisies splashed across a jaunty pantsuit, satiny orchids stitched into boucle, and clusters of petals buzzing all over a skirt and jacket combo. But the show was almost stolen by the still male models in stilts and flower costumes in the center of the box-hedged, grass-covered runway, which a model had 'mowed' before the show got underway.
It was trippy, to say the least. But Browne has been building up to this point for some time. He toyed with pastels in his last men's show and dabbled in bright metallics for his last women's show. Still, who would have thought the avant-purist would have fallen so hard for garish colors and bourgeois flowers? Of course, in his hands they weren't garish or bourgeois at all, but a walk in the park.