WOW. And in one fell swoop Raf Simons redefined what modern is. And that didn’t mean sci-fi futuristic or normcore anodyne.
What it meant was an incredible collection that continued on from where his couture show started off in July and gave us historical clothes and references like we’ve never seen them before.
“I started to think ‘What is modern?’” explained Simons in his show notes. “It was an idea of confronting what people now think is an aesthetic that is modern – it felt more modern to go to the far past, not the ‘modernised’ look of the last decade.”
And in doing so he managed to make history look new and modern look old. Never have frock coats or tapestry cuffs and turn-ups looked so appealing, relevant and real.
So he borrowed – and sweetly added a “strict” accuracy disclaimer in the notes – from the Eighteenth century onwards for a collection that somehow managed to combine the French royal court with the uniforms of pilots and astronauts, school girls and skaters and make it all cool, all utterly desirable and leaving the audience, frankly, wanting more.
Court coats in bright cerise or marigold worn with skate shorts; bar jacket dresses punctuated with poppers instead of buttons on the hip; high Edwardian collars that could so easily drift into the realms of scuba wear; vest-top dresses that revived his full skirt and top combinations from his first couture season even; languid night dresses; leather-laced jackets belted on an empire line; flashes of rich embroidery here and there and just when you least expected. This was everything and more, and on paper probably shouldn’t have made sense. Yet it did – it was a revelation.
“The challenge was to bring the attitude of contemporary reality to something very historical; bringing easiness to something that could be perceived as theatrical,” elaborated Simons. “It is the attitude that matters.”
There was drama, there was character and there was fantasy here – a collection that will appeal to Dior customers old and new (everyone’s wearing those bejewelled couture trainers of his right now). And there was tangibility.
CHRISTOPHER BAILEY loves to riff on a topper. In previous seasons he’s reimagined the biker, the aviation jacket, the gritty parka, the trench – of course – and this season, he turned his hand to the indigo denim jacket, that forever young wardrobe staple that’s imbued with good times and optimism.
Serenaded with a live performance by James Bay, Malaika Firth opened the show (fellow Burberry girls, Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne sat front row, alongside Mario Testino) in a fitted wasp-waisted jean jacket with white sheepskin erupting out from under its little peplum.
Varying versions were in never-ending supply. Some were lined in sprouting white ostrich feathers, others were fiercely cropped, another was clad in dusty pink mink, or rendered in grass green suede with a glossy plastic collar and breast pockets. You’ll be spoilt for choice. It wasn’t only those jackets that conveyed a young-at-heart appeal, every luxury house seemingly has a hit sneaker right now and Christopher Bailey debuted Burberry’s all-white style, the “field” sneaker with a bright striped foamy sole.
Under those jackets were tulle dresses as light as candy floss that were whipped around bodies in sensual swathes of bandaged twists or pleats.
The British countryside comes alive in spring and there were nods to that feeling, which arrive with the first signs of summer, rooted in this collection. From those fluffy soft lambswool accents, to that particular shade of grass green, to the oversized butterfly prints and enlarged and abstracted bumble bee motifs and slogans that screamed “insects,” “flower,” and “sun” plastered over trench coats and printed dresses, and yes, all further enhanced by Bay’s The Clocks Go Forward, and the sunlight streaming through the Burberry tent in Hyde Park – as though right on cue.
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At the end of the Issey Miyake show, there was a rare fashion moment as the audience stomped and cheered for designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae to take one more bow. It’s been a while since Issey featured as a must-see on the crowded fashion calendar, but anyone who goes to these shows regularly knows they’ll witness a special fusion of creativity, craftsmanship, intelligence, and plain old jaw drop. Well, maybe the special effects aren’t always jaw-dropping, but they usually elicit a heartily spontaneous reaction, as happened today when a handful of models walked onto the catwalk with organic portfolios that they rapidly unfolded and converted into springy, concertina-pleated items of clothing resembling the fun technical world of origami. The helpful explanatory notes on each guest’s seat described a process of “hand-pleating on the curve.”
Today’s theme was Miyamae’s excuse for a collection that focused on organic shapes and patterns to mesmerizing effect. Graphically abstracted prints created an almost Art Deco sense of movement, which was in tune with developments elsewhere in fashion this season. In fact, the graphics and silhouettes were generally more…what’s the best word for this?…familiar than they sometimes are: Tailored jackets and coats, slim pants tucked into boots, and oversize blanket wraps provided a context for the marriage of artisan and machine that creates purest Miyake. The technique du jour was steam-stretching, in which computers program steam heat to shrink jacquard fabrics into three-dimensional grooves. That mechanical process yielded gorgeously organic fabrics, patterned like tree rings, which Miyamae cut into poetic shapes that shivered sensuously as the models walked.
A line from the show notes, presumably endorsed by Issey himself, best defined the overall uplift of the show: “Cloth harbours the power of life: wrap yourself in it and feel an instantaneous metamorphosis into pure joy at the wonder of living.” Translation: For God’s sake, if it feels good, do it.
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