There’s referencing the past, and then there’s nostalgia. Keng Yang Shuen spotlights the names who are reviving history in a big – or novel – way this F/W ’17, making looking back fashion’s new way forward.
Designers are celebrating the good old days, referencing past collections and bringing back the iconic elements that made them famous.
Often, brands are eager to erase the marks of its most recent creative directors. Not this French luxury label. For its first womenswear collection after Riccardo Tisci stepped down, all 27 looks – the work of its in-house design team – resurrect the greatest hits from his 12-year-tenure in full cardinal red, the brand’s signature hue. (There are also commercial versions in black or nude.) What this also means: You now have another chance to get some of his most memorable pieces, which never failed to sell out. These include the F/W ’13 Bambi print pullover that ignited the fever for luxury sweatshirts, and those F/W ’12 sheathed boots that every fashion girl then wanted to be seen in.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
Prints have become a shorthand for this Belgian, who is also one of fashion’s most romantic designers. So how else does he celebrate his 100th show? By bringing back his favourites from his expansive catalogue, which spans Japanese blooms to Indonesian ikat, of course. But Noten is also progressive. Instead of simply reviving the prints, he’s mashed them up – overlaying or embroidering two or more atop one another – to create 50 new motifs that energise staples (like men’s-style coats and jeans, and sinuous sheaths) the way a milestone celebration should.
One can always count on Miuccia Prada to bring back a heavy dose of vintage influences, then transform or mix them up to result in a bewildering yet charmingly sophisticated blend of old and new. Her F/W ’17 collection is one of the boldest and most playful examples of this, zigzagging across decades to conjure up – in her words – “the madness of glamour in front of an uncertain future”. From the ’20s: seductive drop-waist slips festooned with oversized flowers; the ’50s: embroidered schoolgirl knits and A-line midi skirts; the ’70s: psychedelic printed separates and furry mushroom hats – and that’s only a fraction of the references. Now imagine them all mashed up under Mrs Prada’s artful eye.
If the number of prints artistic director Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski uses is any indication of her confidence, she is growing from strength to strength. What you also need to know: that many of these prints – now blown up, spliced and reinvented – belong exclusively to the brand’s archives. This time, she brings back five, the most we’ve seen since she joined in 2014, all dating back to the ’60s and ’70s. Among them: a painterly paisley by Louis Boquin that adds hippie chic to floaty silk blouses and maxis, and the 1965 Cles et badines scarf print by Cathy Latham. With a key motif that pays homage to locksmiths, the latter has been remixed by illustrator Virginie Jamin for a vibrant, pop art-like effect.
Among all the prominent females who have helmed the label, it’s Clare Waight Keller who’s best reminded us of the joyful camaraderie that founder Gaby Aghion championed. The collections in her six-year tenure have often been jaunty affairs and F/W ’17 is no different, even though it’s her swansong. Inspired by “psychedelic optimism”, it includes light, swingy ’60s-style dresses and oversized patterned knits. Colours range from cherry red to cobalt, and the prints – a playful mix of flowers, butterflies and mushrooms. During the finale, the models didn’t walk so much as bound down the runway a la gal pals. Playing over the sound system? Feel-good synth-pop group The Human League.
First, there are the political undertones that hint at Miuccia Prada’s own past as a social activist. “Fashion is about the everyday and the everyday is the political stage of our freedoms. We have decided to look at the role women have had in the shaping of modern society,” read one of the posters at the show venue. Reflecting this, the collection spanned ’70s tomboy-influenced corduroy suits to gloriously feather-trimmed cocktail dresses. Then there are the pop cultural throwbacks – easily the most fun of the season. Cue illustrator Robert McGinnis’ saucy work for ’60s pulp fiction novels turned into motifs on tops and pencil skirts, and the prints displayed all over the set design. Inspired by that of vintage films, they helped renew – in this age of Instagram – an interest in poster art.
Into his second season as creative director, Anthony Vaccarello seems to have found his groove when it comes to mining the brand’s illustrious archives by zeroing in on less obvious historical elements. Largely absent from the runway in recent years, the signature poppy motif (it was Monsieur YSL’s favourite bloom) returns and in close to its original form, adorning chokers and ankle-strapped sandals to match edgy minidresses. All hark back to the brand’s 1971 “Scandal” collection, so nicknamed for being politically and sexually provocative for the time. The differences now: The flower is in patent leather, not plastic; and the accessories slinkier – in other words, hotter and more relevant for today.
Kirsten Owen – Gen X face of Helmut Lang – strode (coolly) down the runways of Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and The Row. Carolyn Murphy – seemingly ageless all-American beauty – walked for Mugler, Isabel Marant and Dries. Wonderbra pin-up Eva Herzigova did catwalk duty at Bottega Veneta. And over at Balenciaga, an audible gasp was heard as Alek Wek (she also did Dries) took her regal turn in an all-black bustier gown and neon green sock boots. Not for seasons has there been such a strong showing of models from the ’90s and early 2000s (Dries Van Noten cast a whopping 54 industry veterans), making us hanker for the original age of the supermodel.