STYLE Bonkers? You’re so on trend right now, dar­ling.

Has fash­ion lost its mar­bles? Clara Young ex­plores this sea­son’s latest folly.

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Clara Young

the po­lite way to de­scribe one of this sea­son’s ma­jor trends is “ec­cen­tric.” Straight shoot­ers, how­ever, call it what it is, which is just plain screwy. Nutty. Whack. Non com­pos men­tis. The first tipoff that some­thing de­light­fully strange was hap­pen­ing on run­ways was the Big­foot bed­room slip­pers we saw at Mai­son Margiela. That these sprang from the freshly re­ha­bil­i­tated mind of John Gal­liano isn’t en­tirely im­plau­si­ble, but when they showed up at Gucci—a house that has never be­fore qual­i­fied as weird—it was proof of a full-blown fash­ion move­ment.

The new nut­ti­ness is not an easy look to pull off. You have to be pre­pared to go against your best in­stincts. It also re­quires wear­ing a lot of things at the same time: blouse un­der sweater over skirt un­der jacket over tights, all with a beret. And it’s im­per­a­tive that these items clash, or at least en­gage in a mi­nor aes­thetic skir­mish. Take as your cue the snake­skin on hound­stooth at Miu Miu and the fun­house pas­tiche of pat­terns and tex­tures at Gi­ambat­tista Valli. At Ni­cole Miller, cam­ou­flage jack­ets and mul­ti­coloured marabou-feather shrugs were paired with night­time-for­est prints and lad­dered stock­ings. “I like con­trasts and things that don’t ob­vi­ously go to­gether,” ex­plains Miller. “Shock ap­peal gets peo­ple in­ter­ested, but in the end you do have to be some­what re­al­is­tic. I’m not a fan of wear-once cloth­ing.”

The in­spi­ra­tion for many of these hodge­podge looks came from off­beat per­son­al­i­ties like Diana Vree­land (Marc Ja­cobs) and poet Edith Sitwell (An­drew Gn). In Gn’s case, it was a photo of Sitwell in a bro­cade coat sit­ting next to her dandy brother. The Paris- based Sin­ga­porean broad­ened the luxe-boho sto­ry­line to in­clude an im­pov­er­ished aris­to­cratic fam­ily, stylish but strug­gling. Gn’s mot­ley as­sem­blage of frizzy Mon­go­lian wool, shawl fringe and elab­o­rate pat­tern-on-pat­tern drap­ery coats is h

a re­bel­lion against safe neu­trals and to­tal looks. “The mood is about rich tex­tures and pre­cious em­broi­deries but treated in a fan­ci­ful and whim­si­cal way,” says Gn. “I was inspired by Venice and the faded splen­dour of its palaz­zos. The story be­hind this fall/win­ter col­lec­tion is of a noble and bo­hemian fam­ily. In or­der to keep warm dur­ing the win­ter months, they ‘re­cy­cle’ into coats and dresses the ta­pes­tries, bro­cades and trim­mings that once adorned their house.”

Yeny Oh, wom­enswear buyer for the French depart­ment store Ci­ta­dium, cred­its Vivi­enne West­wood with pi­o­neer­ing this outré style in the ’80s, adding that J.W. An­der­son’s styling for his fall/win­ter 2015 show was mas­ter­ful at throw­ing to­gether unique and un­ex­pected pieces. “They look like they shouldn’t be­long to­gether, but they look re­ally great nonethe­less be­cause it’s how very stylish women dress, throw­ing cau­tion to the wind!” says Oh. “The mod­ern woman doesn’t want to wear a uni­form. She wants to ex­press her­self and play with the un­ex­pected. Most of all, she doesn’t give a s*** about what’s proper or ap­pro­pri­ate.”

It’s not just women who are throw­ing cau­tion to the wind; whole fash­ion houses are too. Alessan­dro Michele, the new cre­ative di­rec­tor at Gucci, cat­a­pulted the Ital­ian house out of its safety zone into to­tally un­known geek ter­ri­tory. He chan­nelled singer Jarvis Cocker’s ge­og­ra­phy-teacher vibe into spec­ta­cles, pony-skin clogs and a forest­green leather suit. Silk dresses with ch­ester­field-chintz pat­terns had an ill-fit­ting thrift-shop look to them. A cu­rios­ity-cab­i­net sweater of ap­pliqué birds, ser­pents, coral and blooms went with a nude shin-skim­ming lace skirt and some Cro-Magnon Birken­stocks. The re­made Gucci girl, just like the one in the Guess Who song, has come un­done.

Michele’s ro­man­tic kook­i­ness is an about-face sig­nalling that a new man is in charge. But he is also in lock­step with an in­dus­try-wide phe­nom­e­non that even in­flu­enced the clas­si­cally stylish Dior and the hereto­fore bea­con of min­i­mal­ism, Cé­line: Phoebe Philo adorned her sen­si­ble shoes with vintage gew­gaws, and her dresses and coats were fes­tooned with rib­bons and pom-poms.

The fash­ion is max­i­mal­ist, and so is the emo­tion. A thread of drama and lu­nacy runs through the col­lec­tions— one pull and the whole thing falls apart. The hints are broad: the torn stock­ings at Ni­cole Miller; the girl des­per­ately clutch­ing her pa­per-bag purse to her chest at Mai­son Margiela; the Norma Desmond tragedy of long lace

gowns and tar­tan coats with mis­matched bal­loon sleeves at Marc Ja­cobs. Mad­ness hangs over the fall/win­ter run­ways like the cob­webs in Miss Hav­isham’s din­ing room. The sar­to­rial sub­text of break­down is ev­ery­where, in the un­done Mary Janes and loose threads at Mai­son Margiela where trousers looked like they were lit­er­ally com­ing apart at the seams.

Although Lit­tle Edie Beale and Big Edie Beale, hero­ines of the 1975 doc­u­men­tary Grey Gar­dens, weren’t specif­i­cally named by any de­sign­ers this sea­son, no one ex­em­pli­fies this run­way spirit of style in the face of ad­ver­sity bet­ter. Through the ’70s, Lit­tle Edie and Big Edie lived in se­cret squalor in a de­cay­ing man­sion in East Hamp­ton, N.Y. Though they were close fam­ily re­la­tions of Jac­que­line Bou­vier Kennedy Onas­sis, mother and daugh­ter lived an un­hinged, hand-to-mouth ex­is­tence amid stray cats and piles of garbage. Yet the Beales re­mained un­err­ingly stylish in their big sun­glasses, brooches and ratty furs. “You can al­ways take off the skirt and use it as a cape,” says Lit­tle Edie in the film.

With her head done up in Her­mès scarves to hide bald­ness, Lit­tle Edie has a re­silience that is fas­ci­nat­ing and clearly nur­tured by mad­ness. It’s a wack­i­ness that has a spe­cial draw­ing power this sea­son. “I’m rather in­ter­ested in celebri­ties who melt down and have to rein­vent them­selves,” says L.A.-based Ger­man de­signer Bern­hard Willhelm. “Take Brit­ney Spears. She got in­ter­est­ing again be­cause she had a break­down and had to start over. I feel the same as a de­signer.... [De­sign­ing a col­lec­tion] is like psy­chother­apy. You have to get it out.” Willhelm is a long-time con­nois­seur of crazy; his fall/win­ter col­lec­tion is a fab­u­lously weirdo mish­mash of colours, fringe, muk­luks and XL zip­pers, all staged as a theatre of the ab­surd.

The moral of this sea­son’s new sar­to­rial story is “All is not lost when things fall apart.” We flirt with dis­as­ter be­cause it’s lib­er­at­ing. Mad­ness is cre­ativ­ity, one of the most en­dur­ing tropes in the history of art, and fash­ion has turned de­li­ciously folle again af­ter many sea­sons of sober ra­tio­nal­ity. Trend tracker Lidewij Edelkoort fore­saw mad­ness in the cards last sum­mer: “We’re fed up!” she said. “We need to go bonkers! We want to be happy.... Af­ter the ‘bland’ pe­riod, it will be­come invit­ing to be ec­cen­tric again.” In other words, it’s time to let your wardrobes run wild and fly your freak flag high. This sea­son, weird is won­der­ful. n

The fash­ion is max­i­mal­ist, and so is the emo­tion. A thread of drama and lu­nacy runs through the col­lec­tions—one pull and the whole thing falls apart.

Turn to “We’re All Mad Here” (page 145) for our ec­cen­tric-inspired fash­ion shoot.

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