Even though the cold has just set in, it’s once again sundresses and sandals time in the fashion world. The four major Spring/Summer 2011 fashion weeks – New York, London, Milan and Paris – came to a close this Wednesday in the gardens of the Palais-Royal. Generally, spring shows are disappointing because one can only do chiffon and short dresses in so many incarnations before it becomes tedious. But although spring fashion poses challenges for the avant-garde, some genius managed to shine through this fashion month. In sum, some well-proven designers spent this season riffing on their signature, others not quite at that level used this collection to solidify their aesthetic and one new designer gave a stunning breakout performance.
Rodarte (New York)
The Mulleavy Sisters, center of the Jason Schwartzman-Kirsten Dunst cool kid clique, are known for their oddly haunting, disheveled, multimedia layering aesthetic of the past two seasons. However, this time around the NorCal natives found their inspiration in their childhood, creating a collection in the colors and textures of 70s suburbia and the redwoods. This definite palate of suburban interiors allowed them to refine their layering using the structure of the wood prints and Ming vase embroidery to simplify the impact. Cut-out shoulders and peek-a-boo navels paired with vaguely 60s silhouettes allowed their quirkiness to be refined to creative acuity. We always knew they had the ingenuity, but the clarity of vision and maturity showcased this September truly solidifies their status as design powerhouses.
Mary Katrantzou (London)
The London-based designer delivered an unbelievable collection for her first stand-alone show. She found her inspiration to be 70s Helmut Lang photos in which the room had just as much of an impact as the model. From there, she jumped into architectural digest and produced a graphic miracle. Katrantzou took surreal prints of interiors and fitted them to perfect silhouettes, designing in three dimensions. Her use of depth in the perspective prints in harmony with the female form is incredible. A print of a windowsill extends into a flowing chiffon skirt, and wall moldings became necklaces. This is truly the breakout performance of the season.
Miuccia Prada is a veteran designer rock star, famous for her twisty and perverse genius that is always immaculately executed. This season she departed from her “Mad Men”-influenced fall and channeled the bizarre conflagration of Jazz Age-icon Josephine Baker with the concept of uniforms and baroque cherubs. Her crazy brilliance distilled all that into bold, simple and obvious. She marched intense monochrome ensembles, unadorned silhouettes, banana prints, wide horizontal stripes, graphic snakes and cherubs one after another, two or three at a time. Listen to Miuccia: “It’s time to be bold.”
Every woman loves Alber Elbaz, and he loves her right back. He has that uncanny ability to know exactly what women want. Elbaz designs for everyday women, granted impossibly chic and glamorous ones, of course. This week he focused on skin, imperfections and all. The collection featured gorgeous second skin dresses with huge billowing floor-length skirts offset by leather harnesses and big, exposed zippers. Elbaz, he knows what he’s doing.
Haider Ackermann (Paris)
The Colombian-born, Belgian-trained designer is poised on the edge of international fame. This collection was silk pajamas gone evening-wear. Ackermann managed the perfect balance in each gown between elegant and sordid. The models dazzled in languid floor-length gowns in rich colors, missing entire bodices that revealed navels, daring slits at the hip and almost uniformly bare backs. This collection achieved the impossible: effortlessly sexy, dramatic and tasteful. Of all the collections, these are the dresses I want to wear right now.
Alexander McQueen (Paris)
This spring marks the first collection after Lee McQueen’s untimely death. His long-time right-hand woman, Sarah Burton, made her debut as sole creative director this October, with huge and somber footsteps to fill. The concept was inspired by an exquisitely McQueen kind of Mother Earth, and the show did not disappoint. The pieces were immaculate and showcased the artfully exaggerated silhouettes essential to the McQueen aesthetic. However, the showmanship and darkness that were his signature were replaced by a bare floor with grass
coming up through the cracks in a markedly optimistic tone. Burton did an incredible job of maintaining the excellence and drama of the line, particularly with a dress blooming butterflies and a gown with a golden corn bodice erupting with pheasant feathers. I cannot wait to see how she continues to evolve with the house.
Louis Vuitton (Paris)
Marc Jacobs loves his self-aware kitsch. Last spring, it was afros and clogs with mustaches, and this time around, it’s a 40s Asian circus on acid. Goodbye lady-like luxury of the fall collection, hello camp. The show was fitted with huge stuffed tigers, red velvet curtains, heels in the shape of giraffe hoofs, sequined pandas and some very suggestively placed tassels. Cheongsam dresses were rendered sparkly and see-through or bedazzled with neon zebra print. It was ridiculous, but also fantastic. The humor in the revered house of luxury was refreshing; after all, according to Marc Jacobs, “Taste is subjective.”
Miu Miu (Paris)
Miucca Prada strikes again. While Prada is her day job, Miu Miu is her playground, and her “younger” line never fails to serve as a twisty commentary on youth. After the widely held “it” show of Lolitas and kitty cat prints for Spring/Summer 2010, the whole fashion world awaited this show with huge expectations. Of course, Miuccia delivered the final show of the season, closing fashion month with a clean, well-articulated piece of art. The concept: little girls who want to be famous. Firmly seated in multi-chronic pop culture, the show was placed to the soundtrack of screaming tweens and Simon Cowell blathering. References to Elvis, Ziggy Stardust and everything in between were sent through the Miuccia machine and delivered on neat little 60s dresses, pleated and knee grazing. The accoutrements of fame were distorted and layered on each other so intricately that it became something modern, as it was disturbingly presented on a stark black runway. Miuccia, she’s got it.