The rise of OTT fashion
It’s the opposite of subtlety, and it’s everywhere! Get ready for bolder, brighter, wilder, shinier and more.
Headphones that resemble glittering Renaissance crowns, brocade ballgowns the size of a small car, glitter sunglasses, crazy retro mixes of turbans and trains – welcome to the maximalist trend! You need only glance at the catwalks, red carpet and streets to see that opulent, attention-grabbing ensembles that mix colour, texture and print in ways that would have once seemed ridiculous are now everywhere.
Leading the charge on the designer front, with flamboyant styling and exuberant mixes, are Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Dolce & Gabbana. And they want you to follow their lead with buys like bright coats, bejewelled turbans and sequinned jerseys. If, until now, you’ve lived by Coco Chanel’s maxim of taking one thing off before leaving the house, this is the season to do the exact opposite. Think riotous colour, pattern and texture – all at once.
“Fashion is all about fantasy, experimentation and individuality,” explains SA designer Suzaan Heyns. “And the maximalist trend is a fun way to express yourself,” she adds.
So what’s created this desire for OTT dressing? Part of it is a reaction to our political and economic environment. With all the gloom and doom around us, dressing for fun provides an outlet and a source of spontaneous delight. Then there’s the impact of social media, with its appetite for all things eye catching.
“Digital platforms like Instagram promote bold print and colour because the eye is immediately drawn to them on a small screen. That’s made us much braver,” notes designer Mary Katrantzou, whose potent prints fit perfectly into the trend. And, in turn, Instagram has added new style gurus to the mix – the expressively dressed bloggers and street-style stars who get 100 000 likes on just one photograph – inspiring the rest of us to follow their lead and dress in a bolder way.
Vintage Goth and Renaissance opulence
If the OTT trend began as a mere whisper a few seasons ago, it has transformed into a full-blown orchestra by now. A lot of that impact has been thanks to the appointment of a new creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, who captured the opulent mood brilliantly with vintage-vibe collections that included crushed velvet jackets, purple lace skirts and backless faux fur-lined dresses.
Marc Jacobs, another designer who has long been associated with exuberant style, upped the ante at this year’s New York Fashion Week when he sent Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga and Gigi Hadid down the catwalk in towering platforms, huge skirts and lavish coats, all worn with bleached brows, dark lips and pin-curled hair.
“I started the collection with an oversized jersey, and that led to an oversized jacket. Once the clothes got so big, the shoe needed to be fantastical, too. It all became fictionalised and blown out of proportion,” Marc explains of his collection.
From the front row to the red carpet
Cut to the fashion-obsessed front row, who glittered and glistened in embroidered dresses, ruffled sleeves and citrus-coloured coats paired with sweeping skirts. Maximalism has long been the domain of Italian icon Anna Dello Russo, but she’s not the only one.
Daphne Guinness, who is often referred to as the haute couture Cruella de Vil, wore a sequinned bodysuit and her signature heel-less shoes to the Global Fund event. Carine Roitfeld, the cult leader of French style for whom black is almost always the new black, swept to her seat at Tom Ford in leopard print. Rihanna smouldered in a salmon pink cape at Dior. And who could forget Grace Jones’ white hooded ensemble at the Cannes Film Festival.
“FASHION IS ALL ABOUT FANTASY, EXPERIMENTATION AND INDIVIDUALITY.”
And if ever there was a place where OTT style works, it has to be on the red carpet, from Rihanna’s enormous yellow train at last year’s Met Gala to Nicki Minaj’s busty dominatrixstyle offering this year. Even stars who are normally known for elegant restraint are going for it. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Kate Bosworth abandoned her usual subtle look for dazzling pink Dolce & Gabbana sequins, while Olivia Palermo opted for an orange and green geometric print by Delpozo at the Golden Globe Awards. And Lady Gaga paid tribute to David Bowie by donning a Marc Jacobs Ziggy Stardust-inspired outfit at this year’s Grammy Awards.
Here in SA, celebs are going all out, too. At the 2014 Channel O Awards, Pam Andrews wore a barely-there dress by Emmanuel Von Wiek; at this year’s SAFTAS, Nomzamo Mbatha was outfitted in a bejewelled sheer top and a spectacular satin train; and Lorna Maseko went all out with a multi– textured dress by Quiteria & George.
Tzvi Karp, the Joburg designer who sends models down the runway clad in yellow faux-fur jackets, cerise trousers and patterned turbans, believes SA is prime territory for gaudy-chic dressing. “Social media has made us braver,” Tzvi says. “We see crazy outfits going on in Tokyo, Berlin or Seoul, and realise that we can be just as daring. And in Africa, we’re already one step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to colourful dressing.”
International designers clearly agree. Valentino’s 2016 summer collection is an homage to African fabric and design, as is Missoni’s. Hermès is creating a series of African-inspired scarves, while at New York Fashion Week, actress Zendaya turned heads with her clashing leopard-print trousers and tribal-print coat, and musician Andra Day became an instant streetstyle hit when she wore a bright Masaiprint turban to a Marc Jacobs show.
But outside of wearing African prints, how do we incorporate these OTT looks into our lives? “Be brave, but also know your limits,” recommends Suzaan. “There are so many designers, colours and fabrics in SA that we have a lot to choose from. Play with your style, but remember balance: if the silhouette or texture is bold, then the colours shouldn’t overwhelm, or vice versa.”
“Don’t be afraid to mess up,” adds Tzvi. “If you want to be a fashion icon, express what’s unique about you by what you wear and in the way that you dress. Clothes are an easy way of telling the world about yourself – so make sure that you say something fabulous!”
Become an Instagram influencer with these four high-impact swaps
SWAP a neutral fedora for a tribal headwrap. SWAP
a classic black blazer for an embroidered bolero.
SWAP a simple gold chain for an opulent jewelled brooch. SWAP a single gold band for a set of cool stacking rings.