One of the great pleasures of writing about fashion is that designers introduce you to such a wide variety of references—cultural, historical, anthropological. And one of the pleasures of being on the Karen Walker beat is that her seasonal references are pretty much always something you’re glad to know about, if you didn’t before. This time out, for instance, she was channeling the work of photographer Valerie Finnis, who captured midcentury English gardening culture. Posh biddies, at work on their lilac and rose bushes. The photos are terrific. And so was this collection. The graphic floral prints hit that exact Karen Walker sweet spot where chic meets eccentric. The dresses, tops, and jumpsuits with their whipstitched wrap belts were instantly relatable must-haves—the kind of seasonless clothes that endure in a woman’s closet. The patchwork suede pieces, with their swirling, Pucci-esque patterns, were a harder sell, but ultimately convincing. They seemed like the kind of items a girl yearns to find vintage, but never does, really.
Best of all, there were the pants. Valerie Finnis’ photographs weren’t the only thing that Walker dug out of the archive this season; as she explained after the show, her to-die-for, high-waisted, slightly flared trousers had a silhouette only marginally revamped from a collection she turned out ages and ages ago. In dark denim or weathered gray cotton, they looked like the right shape to go under pretty much anything come springtime. As one of those gardening ladies might have it, they were a perennial.
Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were inspired by love in its purest form for their spring/summer 2015 couture show – and took us on a journey through time exploring this idea.
The collection danced between the modern – with poems appliquéd onto dresses in “pure elemental colours” – and the historical in the form of a sea-foam-billowing velvet dress with a ruffled chiffon collar.
And this is a combination that has very much become the language of the house. The duo manage confidently to walk the delicate line between fantasy and reality, their excellent use of artisan technique never more apparent than at couture when you can feel the handwork in the embroidery just at a glance.
And among this all came standout pieces in the shape of sheepskin refashioned as a corset and skirt ensemble, and a red velvet dress adorned with embroidered angel wings.