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.

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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.


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.

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