Spring/Summer 2016 Valentino

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At this show, the Valentino count was high. Spotted – the white piped long sleeved black day dress, the fringed leather jacket, two tiger intarsia sweaters (one wearer sat directly in front of the other), the Aran knit, checkerboard dress and too many rockstud bags and shoes to tot up. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have a knack when it comes to understanding how women want to look.

Today, they left their Italian heritage and their beloved Rome behind (the city is their headquarters and is always a mine of inspiration, the rockstud for example was born from the humble pyramid studs that decorate the city’s doors) and instead they travelled to the wild plains of Africa.

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With hair braided in cornrows and piled up into buns, the opening looks were a tame beginning to proceedings: a series of plain black and exquisite empire line tunics suspended by metal necklaces. Yes, plain black, it sounds Roman enough, but the show developed in decoration from there. There were African prints depicting tribal scenes of leopards, rhinos, giraffes and elephants, kinetic geometric tribal markings, while cuffs and necklines exploded in quills and peacock feathers. Fringing is a mainstay here and it swished in tiered raffia to make up a coat, and from suede miniskirts and capes. A series of tie-dye pieces – a jacquard coat, cargo jacket and pair of flares were also standout. And then came the fragile lace maxi dresses, so delicate they could almost evaporate right there and then.

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Eyes were also on the new bags, which were garlanded in Masai beading and decked out in miniature African masks carved out of metal, and those white terracotta jewellery pieces were the result of a collaboration with artist Alessandro Gaggio, who designed the gold pendants at the couture show earlier this year. All in all, it was an epic body of work that women, from Rome to Africa and beyond will all be wanting a piece of.

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The Real Christmas Jumper | The Aran Jumper

Word to the wise: no one feels fun and festive in an itchy acrylic sweater with 3D felt antlers.

The Christmas sweater of 2015 is an altogether more appealing proposition: the Aran knit. That deliciously cosy, creamy coloured cable-knitted sweater that whispers good taste – and this season no cold-winter wardrobe should be without one. “It has stood the test of time because it’s chic and practical,” says Michael Kors, who included  an Aran with elbow-length sleeves and a sweet Peter Pan collar on  his autumn catwalk. “When the temperature dips, everyone wants a knit that looks good and feels amazing. The Aran is a lasting  design of beautiful craftsmanship and texture; it’s universally flattering and is incredibly versatile, too; it works well with almost anything.”

Michael Kors

Michael Kors

A brief history: the Aran sweater dates back to 1892 and takes its  name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Traditionally knitted by the wives of fishermen to keep their husbands warm and dry at sea (they are usually made from 100 per cent wool that retains its natural lanolin, making it water resistant), the various patterns signified the village where the fishermen came from. Also, every weave relates to the fishing world: the cable indicates a fisherman’s ropes; the honeycomb knit symbolises the hard-working bee; the basket weave represents a basket brimming with a bountiful catch; the zigzag stitch recalls the twisting pathways along the cliffs; and the diamond design is a sign of wealth and prosperity. Years later, the style crossed the Atlantic to Hollywood, where Aran sweaters soared in popularity during the Fifties and Sixties, endorsed by Steve McQueen and Grace Kelly.

The knitting needles went into overdrive this season. Arans were everywhere: spotted at Valentino, where creamy, slouchy styles boasted a graphic black triangle intarsia; at Altuzarra they took on a shade of dove grey and were tucked into racy pencil skirts; while over at Max Mara, toffee-coloured and oversized styles proved just the ticket under one of the house’s famous camel coats. There were highly worked styles, too, like those at Alexander Wang – the cool girl’s Aran – which were studded and threaded with silver chain; at Delpozo, where Josep Font whipped up a masterpiece bursting with shaggy fringe and woolly coral-like curls; and over at Sacai, where Chitose Abe concocted something entirely new from the humble Aran knit, splicing hers with crisp white cotton shirting and elongating the style into a sweet kick-skirted sweater dress. But if it’s tradition you’re after, look no further than & Daughter, the family-run luxury knitwear label set up by former fashion PR Buffy Reid and her father, which offers several Aran styles, from shrunken to outsize to patchwork, all in 100 per cent British wool yarn  and made in Ireland.

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Altuzarra and Valentino

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Isabel Marant and Sacai

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Alexander Wang and Max Mara

“There are iconic garments such as blue jeans, the white T-shirt and military jacket that are so well achieved you will never tire of them, and the Aran knit belongs to that category,” says Isabel Marant, continuing, “I love its efficiency; it’s warm, comfortable and made out of rough wool that lasts for ages.” Her redux this season takes shape as a shrunken sailor sweater complete with glossy black shoulder buttons. “My mother has always hand-knitted. Since I was a child she knitted me amazing Aran sweaters. I still have some of them and they still inspire me.”

Nostalgia chimes with other designers, too. “During my late teens I would steal my father’s original Aran sweater,” says Louise Trotter, creative director at Joseph. “It was hand-knitted, heavy and slightly scratchy, but it could be styled with everything. Although my father is no longer here, his Aran sweater  is one of my few keepsakes. It’s  still in my wardrobe 20 years later,  a cherished piece waiting to be passed down to my daughter.”

Head to Joseph and you will find Louise’s latest design, which takes shape as a deconstructed layered patchwork piece complete with cables, cardigan stitch (a Joseph original) and stretched-out sleeves for a borrowed-from-the-boyfriend vibe. “Personally I can’t wait to wear it,” she adds. “It will be my winter comfort blanket.”

Felt antlers not included.

All Aboard

It’s a given that designers are drawn to the sea for their summer collections – naval blue and white look perennially fresh, after all. But now the modern surfer girl, riding the wave of sports couture for the past few seasons, has downed her board to meet her more refined deck-bound cousin. This summer, billowing dresses with a smattering of stripes and broderie anglaise have caught the imagination. Valentino, Balenciaga, The Row and Christopher Lemaire all felt the pull of starchy cottons and silk separates.

The essence of this new mood is a lightness that comes from clean lines and simple shapes; there is nothing precious about it. Replace your cashmere, for example, with a cotton fisherman’s jumper – then fly somewhere exotic and you’ll instantly look the part. On a quest for innovation, this time around designer administered a clever reboot, borrowing less literally from maritime uniform and giving details their own stamp. Stella McCartney’s Perspex anchor choker will dazzle with modernity in the sun, while Julien David showed a naval captain’s jacket. Meanwhile JW Anderson transformed the typically fresh look into a subversive bricolage, wrapping naval sundresses with loosely buttoned leather corset and mooring part storm flap, part rudder lapels onto sleeveless tops with rope.

“We’re going to Green Turtle Cave in the Bahamas, one of my favourite spots,” says Tbi designer Amy Smilovic, a keen traveller who showed crisp white cotton sail dresses, wide striped culottes and an azure off-the-shoulder top tied at the cuff. “We’ll sail to a deserted beach, build afire and fry fresh fish.” She plans to wear her popin sleeveless crop-top with side tie and loose-fitting lightweight culottes for the trip – an ensemble that will look just as good in the city come August.


Spring/Summer 2015 Sonia Rykiel | Spring/Summer 2015 Altuzarra | Spring/Summer 2015 JW Anderson


Valentino Street-Style | 02/06/2015

How Valentino Became an Unlikely Street-Style Phenomenon:

Think of the house of Valentino and the street-style circus—and its magpie-like, attention-grabbing stars—do not immediately spring to mind. But over the past few years, under the creative direction of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the label that Mr. Garavani built atop full-throttle, red-carpet glamour has become a mainstay of the professionally lensed, the Anna Dello Russos and Miroslava Dumas of the world. How did it happen?

 “Valentino is a couture brand,” says Piccioli, “and that’s something that we’ve really wanted to keep from the very beginning in our contemporary world. We’re concentrating on an effortless elegance, so it’s like wearing couture with a street attitude.” Case in point: the olive drab and camo jackets first spotted at their Spring ’14 men’s outing, embellished to the hilt with couture-grade butterflies and now ubiquitous on the backs of well-heeled menswear types. Think even of the designers’ decision to team their haute couture gowns with flats. Piccioli adds: “There are no codes—it’s a more individual attitude.” Women as wide-ranging as Dello Russo and Veronika Heilbrunner are regularly spotted in Valentino’s celestial frocks, embellished skirts, and lacy minis. Even sans logos, they’re instantly identifiable pieces, thanks in part to a level of craftsmanship the uninitiated could spot from space. “We think that now the designer has to find a new balance,” Chiuri offers. “Women now want something special, but to use every day—not only for special occasions.”

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That idea comes to vivid life with Valentino’s accessories, the department where Piccioli and Chiuri cut their teeth for more than a decade before ascending to their current roles. It’s a category that the aspirational customer can get in on—and is chomping at the bit to, as evidenced by the now-iconic Rockstud shoe, first introduced in 2010 and still selling out to this day. The brand’s sales have more than doubled since that year. 2014 saw the brand’s revenues up by 36 percent, with half of sales made up by accessories. “When we started, we were obsessed—and are also obsessed now—to create a style,” says Chiuri. “We never think to do something only for one season. We want to speak a language that speaks about style, and that becomes timeless. Our inspiration is to create something that you want to have with you for your life, forever. I think that if you are a designer, this is what you really want. Rockstud, camouflage—everything we’re doing is because we want to create a world, elements that you recognize as the Valentino style.” With a précis like that, Valentino is well on its way to becoming more than just a bastion of red-carpet dressing, but a brand with real-world, want-it-now appeal for the long haul.