Neu­tral Ter­ri­tory

For­merly short­hand for all things bland, beige now brings a soothing sense of respite.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market | Products - By Odessa Paloma Parker

what’s with all this oth­er­worldly iri­des­cence?” a friend texted me af­ter the fall 2018 run­way shows had wrapped. she’d no­ticed an abun­dance of spacey, oil-slick­ef­fect gar­ments at the sies marjan, mai­son margiela and bal­main shows and was hop­ing her fash­ion bell­wether (me) could ex­plain their ex­is­tence. right away i thought, “be­cause we all want to get off this planet!”

on Neu­tral the con­struc­tion pieces rely of the gar­ments them­selves— there are no colour­ful or print­based bells and whis­tles to dis­tract from shoddy tex­tiles or lack­lus­tre de­sign el­e­ments.

One of fash­ion’s pow­ers is its abil­ity to take the tem­per­a­ture of our col­lec­tive mood and man­i­fest it as a wear­able state­ment. From ex­ces­sive ’80s power dress­ing sym­bol­iz­ing an up­swing in eco­nomic pros­per­ity to last year’s pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal slo­gan tees worn as a re­sponse to civil un­rest, it seems that very of­ten we are what we wear.

At the Spring 2019 shows, I was ex­pect­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion of where we wanted to be six months down the line, and that place was a sandy vista that seemed to say “Hey, chill out for a sec.” Like a calm­ing sound bath for the eyes, colours like beige (a name that hails from a French word used to de­scribe the colour of undyed wool), tan, khaki, ecru and fawn cre­ated the soothing spec­trum of the sea­son.

On some run­ways, this wasn’t a sur­prise. Max Mara’s favouritism to­ward neu­trals speaks to the brand’s mas­tery of gar­ments that are el­e­vated but also have a sense of ease. Chloé de­signer Nat­acha Ram­say-Levi of­ten em­ploys a pared- down pal­ette to em­body the chi lled- out earth mother sen­si­bil­ity her bougie meets boho cus­tomer longs for. And Burberry is, of course, known for its sen­si­ble tan-coloured trench coats, which were in­tro­duced dur­ing an­other his­tor­i­cal time of duress: WWI.

Other brands used neu­trals to give their Spring 2019 col­lec­tions a new dy­namic. Miu Miu, typ­i­cally known for its off­beat colour­ways and outré sen­si­bil­ity, used the mild hues with un­ex­pected aplomb. Alexis Honce, stylist and on-air style ex­pert for The Mar­i­lyn De­nis Show, notes that the brand’s collection in­cluded “an ecru dress made of se­quins, which was re­fresh­ing and fun.” Honce adds that the idio­syn­cratic styling of these pieces—with white ribbed tights and prim Mary Janes—will likely win over Miu Miu’s quirky devo­tees and ex­pand fash­ion fans’ per­cep­tion of the shade.

In his de­but collection for Burberry, Ital­ian de­signer Ric­cardo Tisci re­lied so heav­ily on beige that it’s ac­tu­ally worth not­ing. (Tisci far pre­ferred the darker end of the colour spec­trum when he made a name for him­self cre­at­ing in­tri­cate, ul­tra­luxe looks for the house of Givenchy.) From de­mure pleated skirts to am­ply pro­por­tioned trousers to a sump­tu­ously silky take on the classic Burberry trench, the pieces were ar­rest­ing in their sim­plic­ity and sig­nalled a strong sense of self-posses­sion.

“It’s kind of the ul­ti­mate state­ment of who you are, to wear beige and still be no­ticed,” says Ali­son Matthews David, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Ry­er­son Univer­sity’s School of Fash­ion in Toronto. She high­lights how Kim Kar­dashian, a Tisci muse, typ­i­cally slinks around in neu­trals, si­mul­ta­ne­ously dis­creet and ut­terly vis­i­ble. (An­other of Kar­dashian’s favourite brands, Bal­main, went neu­tral this sea­son, too.)

Neu­tral pieces rely on the con­struc­tion of the gar­ments them­selves— there are no colour­ful or print-based bells and whis­tles to dis­tract from shoddy tex­tiles or lack­lus­tre de­sign el­e­ments. Aside from colour, the con­nec­tion be­tween Max Mara’s cov­eted coats and Burberry’s iconic trench is their el­e­gant, ef­fort­less silhouettes and lux­u­ri­ous fab­ri­ca­tions. This can also be seen in the slouchy camel­coloured suit of­fered by New York-based de­signer Adam Lippes as well as in the dun-hued di­aphanous frocks at Chris­tian Dior. “We live in such a sur­veil­lance so­ci­ety that we’re aware of be­ing con­stantly on the radar now in one way or an­other,” says Matthews David. “In a way, this idea of be­ing un­ob­serv­able might be pretty ap­peal­ing.”

Once a less-de­sir­able coloura­tion for cloth­ing (Matthews David notes that in the mid19th cen­tury, wear­ing neu­tral­hued cloth­ing sig­ni­fied you couldn’t af­ford dyed pieces), neu­trals now evoke an en­tic­ing feel­ing of re­lax­ation while still ap­pear­ing pol­ished. Some peo­ple might mis­take beige as be­ing aes­thet­i­cally bor­ing, but an ex­am­i­na­tion of the ar­ray of neu­tral op­tions this sea­son re­veals their un­de­ni­able sense of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and seren­ity.

The pal­ette is also a nat­u­ral (ahem) part­ner to other cur­rently trendy move­ments. “Raw beauty, nat­u­ral and or­ganic prod­ucts—beige gives a colour to that life­style, and In­sta­gram­mers are lov­ing it,” notes Honce. She points to so­cial me­dia stars like Song of Style and Livia Auer as en­vi­able neu­tral­adopters and adds that more celebri­ties are get­ting into the bis­cuit frame of mind, em­ploy­ing the hue to shun the glitz of the red car­pet. Con­stance Wu’s el­e­gant sand-coloured Vera Wang gown from this year’s Golden Globe Awards proved that soft can also be strong.

Even if you’re not an in­flu­encer, turn­ing to neu­trals this sea­son can pro­vide a bit of respite. Maybe we aren’t able to blast off the planet just yet, but at least we can hit the metaphor­i­cal “pause” but­ton for a minute.

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