Fashion can easily seem out of touch at the best of times. During a global pandemic, that understanding is more acute. However, the creativity exhibited by designers during the recent autumn/winter 2021 season locates the shopper in this new world.
Ultimately, some of us still want to get dressed, defy the sombre mood, and for others, they want simple wardrobe solutions to contribute to their new normal. The mood this season is varied: some, like industry pioneer Jonathan Anderson, have big plans for the months ahead, while others like The Row and Lemaire are paring things back to simplicity. Meanwhile, the likes of Prada, Molly Goddard, and Erdem are optimistically preparing us for the return to glamour.
We compiled the top 5 trends from fashion week.
As we prepare to re-enter the world, at some point, Jonathan Anderson wants to make you believe in self-expression like never before. At his label, JW Anderson, he decided to “boil everything down to beauty, silhouette and pose”. Look to bulbous knit dresses, silk jumpsuits with overlong sleeves, sweaters with cutout details, graphic print silk shirts, and coats that resemble flowers in bloom with layers folded inward, for inspiration. It was a wonderful playground of ideas that invoke an optimistic mood for the future.
Over at Loewe, the Spanish leather goods house Anderson has been designing for since 2013, he reworked suit jackets in cotton with an elongated silhouette inspired by 1920s horse riding uniforms, suede jackets in ink blue with boyish shoulders; bold sleeves with the pomp and ceremony of 18th-century costume; draped fabrics, knotted and twist and punctuated with discs to give a sense of artistry. Forget sweatpants, this could be the future of fashion.
Similarly, Prada offered a jolting proposition for the way forward. The Italian brand, with creative direction from Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons (a fashion coalition that would not be unlike Porsche joining forces with Aston Martin), created clothes for the real world. Forget Zoom: graphic print onesies, oversized coats in primary colours, and an emerald paillette dress adorned with purple knit trim and styled with a shaggy poncho, were crafted with the sole purpose of invigorating a wardrobe full of pyjamas and tracksuits. They built the strongest case for dressing up again.
Envisioning a world replete with glamour and exuberance is a buoyant path forward. It might seem frivolous to dress up but, according to designers, we need more of that. For one, Roksanda’s paean to the polychromatic and patterned with louche tailoring and exuberant gowns in glorious shades of sienna and celadon, vermillion, and lilac. Another, Halpern’s leopard print catsuits and shimmering multi-coloured sequin mini dresses “created in a time of restraint, for a time of unrestraint”. Newcomer 16Arlington proposed an unfettered, defiant display of glamour with a collection bursting from the seams with sequins and ostrich feathers in shades of ice blue and saffron.
For a more adaptable and immediately workable wardrobe, try Erdem who juxtaposed his typical floral brocade dresses and sharply tailored coats with soft knitwear, some crisp shirts embroidered with jewels and knit leggings.
Colville hopscotches between ruffled blouses, plaid oversized cardigans, a matching brown corduroy number, and beautifully-cut plain trousers, and visually striking patterned dresses and all-over print two-pieces with rounded shoulders, ruffled details, and nipped waists.
“If you’re going to buy something, you want to put your money that has a longevity to it and something you fall in love with. You want something that enhances your life, that adds colour and flavour, and makes you feel better about the world,” said Lucinda Chambers, the former fashion director at British Vogue and the co-founder of brand Colville, over Zoom.
Molly Goddard had some similar thoughts too. A practitioner of saccharine confections cut with a dry hand, she offered her signature vibrant tulle creations in red and blue but overlaid with Fair Isle sweaters and vests, prim A-line coats in powder blue and pale pink, grey tailoring. As soon as we emerge from social isolation, there should be a joyful spring in your well-soled step.
That being said, not everyone is ready for daring or unexpected endeavours. Instead of being attired in sweatpants, the season presented ample opportunity to think about minimal gestures in a muted palette with a focus on the fabrication to update one’s wardrobe.
“Our lives are so digital and distant at this moment, I wanted the fabrics to be a contrast. When you put on a piece from the collection, I want you to feel the beauty of the fabric, to be comforted by it. This sense of comfort is my idea of luxury,” said Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen who is urging her customers to pair soft mohair sweaters with voluminous dresses in quilted silk, fil-coupé wool decorated with floral embroidery, and pleated organza. The mood is romantic and personal, spelling practicality and comfort.
Ports 1961, Fendi, and Max Mara did the same with luxe neutrals.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s label, The Row’s double-felted wool coats, wool flannel suits, and fur-cashmere knits are about as luxurious as one can get. The vision can almost seem puritanical but the tactile finish to trench coats and funnel sweaters diminishes an austere feel. Minimalism should never be dull. Also, note their devotion to tailoring, an enduring wardrobe staple to continue to invest in. (Both Hermès and Zanini had a similar sense of unfussy propriety with their insouciant suits and elegant day dresses.) These clothes, as Lemaire’s quilted fabrics, second-skin dressing, and swishy shapes, give a sense of reassurance. Lemaire designs clothes like a chocolatey merlot: supple and delightful in their material indulgence. While your colleagues mightn’t be able to perceive them over Zoom, these details are personal, just for you.
Jil Sander has done this for years with its minimalist vision and intuitive fabrication. Think: oversized shirts over pleated satin skirts, structured wool dresses, refined takes on pyjama and lingerie dressing; understated elegance at its best. At Valentino, in a rigorously strict palette of black and white, one can deliberate between crisp white shirts, geometric print dusters, and abbreviated hemlines via cashmere sweaters worn as dresses — it gave things a sensual flair.
Skiwear emerged as an unlikely trend of the season. Perhaps the crisp mountain air will provide our wardrobes with a refreshing blast of cool clarity. Thom Browne fused his elaborate eveningwear with extreme sportswear — the result was part goth-Bridgerton, part Olympic skier with down jackets. (Lindsey Vonn starred in the video that accompanied the collection.) It was fashion fantasy at its finest but the message was clear: come winter, we have to look our best for our outdoor pursuits which means no more casual styles.
Chanel showed chiffon dresses underneath tweed coats, quilted salopettes, and cropped knitwear combining “the ambiance of ski holidays and a certain idea of cool Parisian chic, from the 1970s to now.” Miu Miu, filmed at the Dolomites, achieved something similar with quilted puffer jackets in pastel tones, fur coats, and knit dresses.
You got the sense that the oversized puffer jackets at Rick Owens and Marni and the extravagant fur coats at Givenchy and Fendi were similarly made for glamorous doyennes in cooler climates.
As ever, the Irish find themselves at the forefront of fashion representing the country on the world’s stage with aplomb. As you know by now, Magherafelt’s Jonathan Anderson offers directional, forward-thinking clothes. Wearing Irish is one way to preserve Irish craft and support our names on the international stage.
Dublin’s Simone Rocha tapped into her rebellious streak as a teenager which skewered cropped leather jackets over black tutus and lace tights, black pinafores with a sheer yoke over white shirts, leather harnesses embroidered with pearls worn over tulle dresses. Her look is singularly decorative, never overwrought. The crown princess of dark glamour, Rocha’s collection is set for success following the launch of her H&M collaboration last week.
Elsewhere, Paul Costelloe defaulted to his typical fare of 60s-inspired check skirt suits and flouncy bubble dresses, alongside some second-skin bodysuits in painterly floral print and Rixo used their LFW slot to show a bridal collection with mostly relaxed options. Richard Quinn, whose parents are from Ireland, and Wexford’s Richard Malone went off-piste, abandoning the traditional calendar. Malone’s impressive, meaningful sustainability efforts are second to his slick suiting and figure-flattering silhouettes. Quinn’s glorious, exultant creations are expected this month.