Florals… for spring? There’s no surprise there. But the floral dress, your forever and seasonless staple, has had a restyle. Ditzy’s gone grunge: avoid yesteryear’s stiff full-skirted silhouette and focus on loose silks and chiffons teamed with Kurt Cobain cardigans and khaki jackets. You can thank Vetements, whose new wave approach has energised the classic floral tea dress every season with varying quirks – a deconstructed back here, oversized slouch there – and reignited our love for the blooming print. So too Calvin Klein, Gucci and Mary Katrantzou, whose maxis and minis are now more at home styled with fishnet tights, layered jerseys and stomping bovver boots.
Once upon a time, before you were born, or maybe before I was born, cheap clothes were just, well—cheap. You bought them in nasty, bare-bones stores, and even though you looked really great—because you are so beautiful that anything looks good on you!—when people asked you where you got that amazing thing, you were inclined to shrug and say vaguely that you couldn’t remember or that it was a gift or some other bad lie.
Now, of course, if you stop the chicest girl in the corridor and inquire as to where she found her perky pleats, her fringed fandangos, she fairly shouts out the 29th-floor windows that she got them in the most plebian shop on the high street, or fished them out of a bottom of a thrift shop bin. Even those among us blessed with a fat purse extol the virtues of mastering the mix, popping a Zara blouse over a Chanel dirndl or marrying a Topshop topper to Céline trousers.
Maybe this is due to the revolution in social media, where everyone can access images of the loftiest fashion shows a minute after they happen, making it easy to copy—oh, scratch that, I mean, create an homage!—to each and every runway look. Or maybe in our increasingly freewheeling democratic society, we are more than ever convinced that it is we ourselves who are the authors of our own signature style. And while it’s nice to have expensive things (I mean, come on, who doesn’t like expensive things?), it’s also wonderful to be able to put thrilling looks together without having to eat cereal for a week or, the way prices seem to be going (have you looked lately?), an entire month.
This season, with wild eclecticism reigning on runways—Victorian goth angels! Chic geek know-it-alls!—it’s easier than ever to animate your fashion fantasies without decimating your paycheck.
Simone Rocha must be the most romantic designer working today. The most, because she doesn’t interpret romance as surface prettiness; she evinces a real disdain for the lazy storytelling of rococo frills or wispy lengths of chiffon. Rocha gets at the emotional life of romance, its skipping heartbeat. This season, with a tip of the hat to Pina Bausch, and to Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong, she conjured the ways love can make you feel sideways and see-through, or like a floral bouquet, overripe, reaching out to be touched. Love making you feel languorous, impatient, and dark, dark, dark—as though that throb of constant longing must be so obvious it’s scribbled over you, or growing off of you, like moss. In its best passages, this strong show expressed the torch song tawdriness of romance. For god’s sake, there was even marabou.
Fabrication was key here. You could even say it was the central focus of this collection. Rocha has always been ambitious with her textiles, but what felt new this season was the sensitivity and specificity with which she deployed them: a light touch of embroidery on pink mesh, the graphic counterpoint of floral embellishment on a sheer white sheath, that lurid marabou snaking around a dress of silvery brocade. Black or white cloque introduced a tone of reserve, its tactility serving less as an invitation to be touched than as a kind of shell. Love can make you hard and aloof, too. Rocha’s genuinely weird looks merging nude mesh and white cloque seemed suggestive of the schizophrenia of romance—the vulnerability and fear of same. We are tender. We grow walls.
Those pieces will prove challenging at retail. Not so the breakthrough looks here: Rocha forged new ground with the gaudy red floral in the collection. This was her first significant use of print, and she entered it into her aesthetic vocabulary with real aplomb, making it three-dimensional via appliqué. The simple red floral dress appliquéd all along the hem and down either side was the standout look of the show. It made your heart skip a beat. It made you fall—at least a little—in love.
THE money shot at this morning’s Giorgio Armani show was the finale look: a shimmering, shining bejewelled being complete with a bob of beads. She encapsulated the glamour of Armani and the designer’s inspiration this season: the sea, the sand and the landscapes they shape.
He started proceedings with a short film directed by the Oscar-winning Paolo Sorrentino and in it, we saw a mystery couple lying on the beach, hand in hand, with only rope to protect their modesty. Had they come from the deep blue sea? Were they from this world of Armani that Sorrentino was introducing? Were they simply on a nice beach day out?
Regardless, when we did get into that Armani water world, the designer took his theme and ran with it – to create multiple dresses that riffed on jellyfish proportions, shapes and movement. Pronounced short skirts splayed over sheer trousers (still an idea that might need some time to catch on) to perfectly replicate the entity in clothes. Fringes trailed from long skirts to reincarnate fish tails and scales and trousers came with pleats that looked like sand ripples – just as though the tide had come in.
The trousers here were mostly cropped and tapered, jackets languid and loose – a series of white suits were particularly beautiful – and shoes flat throughout. This style note helped to keep the collection feeling fresh and youthful too – those glistening dresses somehow seeming less obvious as obligatory eveningwear.
Armani isn’t the only designer diving deep this season – Philipp Plein made his own splash in Milan last night while back in London Ryan Lo took the plunge in his own irreverent way.
To shop Spring/Summer 2015 Giorgio Armani click below: