SS16 | Controversy, Innovations and Beauty

This season’s fashion shows have been anything but dull. Those who had the pleasure of being at the Dior show, entered so, via a 5ft high mountain of flowers, 300,000 to be exact. Hussein Chalayan did what only fashion and textiles students dream of. In the sort of way that Alexander McQueen used fire, paint and projections, Chalayan, used a shower above water soluble garments. Where he once used laser beams, dissolvable coatings become the latest innovation.

Known more for its use in commercial machine embroidery, Chalayan challenged the traditional use of the fabric. Not one to be shy of technological advances in textiles, fabric innovations or the element of performance, the designer brought something more tactile to the catwalk. An element of studio practice, artwork and something symbolic of his work and collaborations. In talking with Vogue on his work with Swarovski, Chalayan said: “I try to think of it inside out, so I work with an idea where the crystal is integral to design rather than something you add on.” 

Despite the talk that surrounded the Chalayan collection, it was Rick Owens’ show that made headlines for the designer’s bold, performative and engaging collection. ‘Women worn as backpacks’, is something that inevitably causes controversy. And yet, Owens ability to create something beyond meaningless art is to be admired. 

“All the women in my life are formidable. I have seen them all step up to handle adversity with grace”

– Rick Owens

Whilst biases and subjectivities entwine, Owens told Dazed that the use of women as backpacks, was based essentially on the aesthetics of “sculptural compositions”. In addition to his interview, Owens took to Tumblr as part of the Answer Time feature. Aside from his creativity, honestly and humility are but two more of Rick Owen’s traits. As one Tumblr-user asked him on the affordability of his clothing and where that leaves them with their aspirations, he replied with “be a hungry real artist.” Another asked him about social media in the industry, to which he said “I think social media is a fascinating evolutionary phenomena and disapproving of it would be like insisting on using a rotary phone.  like any change its gonna have an awkward start but its inevitable and cringy  and fun  to watch develop…” But when specifically asked on the inspirations behind the women’s compositions in his show, he replied with:

“There was an Annie Leibovitz image of Leigh Bowery carrying his wife Nicola in a harness they would use for a birthing performance that i always loved.  it was transgressive and sweet at the same time. I thought doing it with women would be a nice interpretation and developed other poses from there.”

In addition to my own work, for The Upcoming, I covered a number of shows . Here are my write-ups, originally published for the British-based site: 

CONRAN

Jasper Conran, Photo via http://uk.glam.com/files/2015/09/JasperConran_SS16_Catwalk_1.jpg
Jasper Conran, Photo via http://uk.glam.com/files/2015/09/JasperConran_SS16_Catwalk_1.jpg

In tempting the public up until his SS16 show, Jasper Conran’s social media pages published insights into the collection. Pastel greens, woven yarns and a shot of the glimmering emerald sea enticed the the masses. What Conrad presented this morning, against a mirrored, sea-green backdrop and floor, was a print and stripe filled collection of cascading greens, bright whites and charcoal tones.

Chiffons were as welcome as thicker, thick blend fabrics, reflecting in the mirrored accents whilst the models took to the catwalk at this years BFC showpace. Gowns shimmered gracing the ankle, whilst balloon dresses with inserted pockets, hung delicately over gold sandals. Shorts had with subtle rounded edges and a balance between simple graphic cuts and soft cuts, added to the plethora of seemingly united styles and garments, ample in wearable choices.

The prints themselves were somewhat abstract, and no two green shades were the same. The cuts accentuated the prints, as dainty leaf-prints decorated inverted pleat-gowns, and harsh stripes exaggerated the sharper cuts.

The essence of the show was organic; organic structures, oversized elements and asymmetric crossovers, can all be easily identified against the natural beauties in nature. In looking at Conran’s previous collection, one can see similarities to AW15’s naturesque elements and warmer tones, whilst inevitably, summer holidays were a focal point for his SS16, creating a delightfully wearable and strong collection.

TOPSHOP UNIQUE

Zoe Huxford (Elite) backstage at Topshop Unique SS16 Photography Lucie Rox via DAZED
Zoe Huxford (Elite) backstage at Topshop Unique SS16
Photography Lucie Rox via DAZED

Anna Wintour took to the front row alongside Ciara, Alexa Chung, Suki Waterhouse and inevitably, chairman of the Arcadia group, Sir Philip Green. The show, which was running late, followed the success of their last, since its initial launch in 2001 (showing at London Fashion Week since 2005). And twenty-three seasons later, they introduced the SS16 collection at the Topshop showspace this afternoon.

The music livened up and the spotlights danced as Imaan Hammam walked out first. Blazers, knotted belts and polka-dots opened the show, soon followed by rivera-style sleeves. Oversized earrings, off-the shoulder jackets, dresses and light chiffons fluttered, whilst blazers were all the rage.

Heavier leathers hung over dainty fabrics, contrasting against faux furs, bright heels and embroidered floral bomber jackets. The SS16 Topshop Unique girl, is a woman torn between the city and the glistening coastline. With the music becoming more lively, the fashions did too. Pastels went head-to-head with the occasional bright tone. Leathers were twisted, knotted and plaited, much like one would expect of a lighter fabric, yet these delicate and pristine manipulations, added a high-end element to one of the most loved high-street brands.

The collection mirrored something vintage, retro even. Transparent dresses, denim skirts and ruffled chiffon shirts. Pleated waistlines, the occasional drop waist, with belted kimono jackets that followed. Knitted vests were paired over light slips. Transitional dressing was seen in abundance.

Occasionwear, or clothing for those not afraid to dress sumptuously, cascaded down the runway. Floral-embroidered dresses ended the show on a classical, opulent high. Against the backdrop of the cities buildings, the final walk was led by Binx Walton against the spoken words “we want to be free”, and effortlessly faded into music past floor to ceiling windows. One thing Topshop does well, is wearable trendwear, with a decadent whimsical side.

BALMAIN

Kate Grigorieva (OUI) backstage at Balmain SS16 Photography Virginie Khateeb via DAZED
Kate Grigorieva (OUI) backstage at Balmain SS16
Photography Virginie Khateeb via DAZED

Ecclesiastical music soon becomes modernistic, and the lights rise to illuminate an orange Suede outfit, accessorised with gold and soon followed by emerald greens, and a lot more suede. This year, is Olivier Rousteing’s year. 

Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, is one of the industry’s hottest names at the moment. His youth and background at Roberto Cavalli, seems to be working wonders with next month seeing the Balmain X H&M hit stores; but it was Balmain’s SS16 collection which excited the fashionable following.

Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, were but some of the shows highly anticipated models and consequently, all are part of the #BalmainArmy, that which have assembled for the Balmain X H&M collaboration; but it was Caroline Ribeiro who opened the show.

The colours were vivd, initially at least, beginning with a soft but strong orange. Soon, green and black began to bleed effortlessly into the collection, firstly with minor accessories and details, before becoming fully integrated into the collection. Then browns, black, blue and white dominated the looks. The colours were still within a tight palette, as were the menagerie of garment styles. The seventies is the era that comes to mind, especially with the vast elements of suede, but Spring/Summer is definitely on the cards. 

Billowing tiered flounces aside, the collection was that of structure. High necks, pencil skirts, and tight pants were all sharply and cleanly cut. Ruffles and flounces were anything but dainty, and instead, were robust and alluring. Midriffs were out and transparency added an element of sex appeal, as did anything skin-tight, but nothing was raunchy nor distasteful. 

Rousteing may still be within the early years of Balmain, having served as creative director since 2011, but the legacy in which he has begun to set out, is already a great one.

ROCHAS

Lineisy Montero (Next) backstage at Rochas SS16 Photography Chloé Le Drezen via DAZED
Lineisy Montero (Next) backstage at Rochas SS16
Photography Chloé Le Drezen via DAZED

Paris’ Palais de Tokyo was the backdrop for the ninetieth anniversary of Rochas, and Alessandro Dell’ Acqua showed yet another collection under his watchful eye. Since February 2014 , Dell’ Acqua has been creative director for Rochas and now, in his fourth season, the SS16 collection was unveiled.

Opened by Marjan Jonkman in a shimmering foliage adorned skirt-suit, it soon became apparent, that a collection moderately floral, would ensue. Beneath bare faces and relaxed hair, large floral prints were scattered amongst heavy co- ordinates, whilst bows were large, embellishments were heavy and sheer fabrics muted opulent decorations and bold, more graphic prints.

The collection was feminine with pastel hues, delicate touches, ruffles and pleats, but it was all certainly strong. Leathers, collars and brocades fabrics came together for an androgynous touch, giving lace-covered shoes and floating gowns a bold contrast.

Gala Dalì, the late muse of Salvador Dalí, amongst other notable creatives and writers, was a stimulus of inspiration for Dell’ Acqua. The embellished blazers, yoke-embezzled shirts and opulent details, mirror the style that which Gala was most stylistically known for. Nevertheless, the Rochas aesthetic remains, and coats, an always important, noteworthy and much awaited element of a Rochas collection were present. Five coats and jackets made it into the collection, with supporting blazers.

One can not think of a colour not covered in the collection. Warm mustards, mint-green, black, and touches of red and blue form some part of the collection, enhancing our love of the Spring/Summer months. And, other than shorts, every style was covered with a plethora of skits, dresses, shirts and pants, a Rochas woman, will be one well dressed next spring.

AF VANDEVORST

AF VANDEVORST Photo via sonnyphotos.com
AF VANDEVORST Photo via sonnyphotos.com

A.F. Vandevorst’s first collection under the brand name in 1998, won them the Vénus de la Mode at Paris fashion week. This year, at the second of their collections to be shown in Paris this year, the collection was identifiable to the duo. It was bold as An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, brought a modernistic-meets-oriental-costume element to a show which was dramatic from the onset.

In the courtyard of the Université Paris Descartes however, it was the models making an entrance, on motorcycles nonetheless, creating an all inclusive live experience for the crowd. Helmets, sometimes held, other times worn, took the performance effortlessly onto the catwalk.

Black carried the entire collection down the runway, whilst burgundy was rich and fleeting, blue was seen less often, sometimes mistaken for black, but seen in the abundance of a beautifully full flowing skirt and mixed with a suit-like outfit and print of a dress. Pale pink threw the palette of centre for a single look, whilst white led the garments closer to the finish. Despite the harsh colour palette, used especially in blocks, the collection wasn’t shy of femininity, grace or sophistication. Waistcoats with simplified aiguillette-style toggles over pleated skirts, and bare-bodies covered in crochet-knits, encased at the waist by twisted and knotted fullness of fabric, show the delicate side which entwined with drama.

Military, motorcycles and Oriental dress was ever-present in some form; that, and something reminiscent of a Maison Margiela mask, but this was merely a fashionable take on the standard helmet-liner. A collection not missing any intricacies with the detail of pleating, twisting, shaping and fabric manipulation. A plethora of fabrics were worked together in both contrasting and complimenting shape, embellishment and structure.

The elements of the collection were essentially wearable, whilst the luxury of ready-to-wear was still habitual to the show.

LANVIN

LANVIN, Photo via i-d-images.vice.com
LANVIN, Photo via i-d-images.vice.com

Rue Bonaparte is the street where the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts lies. And Lanvin’s SS16 collection, had the interior of this beautifully ornate building for Thursdays evening show. Amongst the crowd, Eva Chen, Solange Knowles, Jared Leto and Carine Roitfeld, made up just a small proportion of the star-studded FROW.

Since 2001, Alber Elbaz has been creative director of Lanvin, and in that time, every collection has been dedicated to the comfort, silhouette and wearability of womenswear. This collection, continued the tradition, with an element of androgyny that we have all come to expect within the metallics, heavy reds and flowing fabrics. 

The white-shirt made a bold entrance into the Lanvin collection. Oversized sleeves and tucked into skirts, with knife-pleat extensions and accented with red shoes or a neck-tie was a beautiful way to start. And, for at least the first thirty-two looks, the collection appeared to be that of a fairy niche colour palette. A more classic set of looks seemed to be in the running, with the Lanvin touch of course, however, more suddenly than one may have expected, the collection took an eclectic turn.

Sequins, which made a big splash in Lanvin’s Spring 2014 collection, made yet another comeback for this SS16 show. Partnered up with various layerings, multiple accessories and a set of multicoloured looks, the brand’s love of layered textures and fabrics made up a large proportion of this seasons looks. Whilst raw-edges, visible stitching, the odd loose thread and the occasional shard of hanging fabric, made the collection somewhat more charming. 

This collection proves to be a more colourful and expressive progression from Elbaz’s Autumn/Winter collection; a beautiful follow-on and a collection which shows that the SS16 season, may be one for flamboyancy with a little edge and lots of character. 

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