Thursday, October 19, 2006

2007: A space odyssey

Space, at least according to Star Trek, is supposed to be the final frontier.
For the fashion pack however, clearly it's just another style milieu ripe for the plundering, with designers taking space age cues for the second time in four decades at the spring/summer 2007 shows.

Fashion's bout of '60s futurism was inspired by the romance of space travel, at a time before man had set foot on the moon. It was pioneered by the last wave of haute couture designers to emerge before handmade haute couture went on a 20-year hiatus as fashion's ideas engine room and took a back seat to machine-made ready-to-wear: Pierre Cardin, Andre Courreges and Paco Rabanne, with more than a little help from London's Mary Quant and co.

Their '60s futurist fantasy vision haunted the spring/summer 2007 collections. This was reflected in the omniprescence of silver, wet-look PVC and fashion's continuing must-wear silhouette – the dress – but specifically in this season's case, the '60s look, waistless shift dress and its more voluminous sisters, the sack and tent dresses.

Film references such as the Paco Rabanne-outfitted Barbarella as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey – both released in 1968, the year that influential couturier Cristobal Balenciaga closed his doors – littered show reviews.

But Nicolas Ghesquiere, Balenciaga's new creative director, said he was inspired by the androids in Tron (1982) and The Terminator (1984). Others deemed the collection reminiscent of Star Wars (1977).

"I don't think girls are going to run out to buy C-3P0 pants – space age won't fly," a nervous New York retailer told WWD of Ghesquiere's spectacular gold leggings, which were handmade from metal and, sources told the Herald, are valued at $US100,000 ($131,700).

That retailer obviously had not clocked the metal-look gold Lycra leggings sported on the last day of the Paris shows by one early adopter. Or the silver, gold and bronze versions already in store at American Apparel.

Spring/summer 2007 also featured a dalliance with the '80s, as well as an injection of the '20s, courtesy the plethora of fringed, waistless, flapper styles at collections such as Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Julien Macdonald, Basso & Brooke, Veronique Branquinho and Viktor & Rolf. The '60s shared with the '20s an obsession with youth – and the boyish waistless dress.

"I think that it was in a way the last careless decades, the '60s" Karl Lagerfeld told the Herald after the Fendi show.

"That's why people think it was magic. In fact it was not that magic. What you don't know from the '60s is that the materials were very poor. The dresses were heavy and ugly. We forget all that. It was the image that looked great, it was the first time things were different, it was less bourgeois, it was the explosion of freedom."

By contrast to the '60s, modern materials are not poor, but technology-rich and designers en masse opted to take full advantage of textile innovations this season.

High-tech, often performance-focused fabrics gave garments a "future sport" edge, as did a plethora of athletic-look racerbacks on everything from downtown singlets to uptown evening dresses.

In New York, Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa used super-technical stretch mesh, scuba fabric and perforated latex to create sculpted, athleisure-look body dresses and tunics.

Narciso Rodriguez showed carbon fibre shift dresses and wet-look black nylon sateen car coats and sleek, futuristic silk evening wear that featured glossy, armour-like fibreglass details. Rodriguez's armour-like, articulated seam work would later pop up in collections from Balenciaga to Dior.

The Australian Josh Goot dovetailed in with the future sport mood with his space age silver leggings, silver racerback singlets and Star Trek uniform-look contoured body dresses as did Karen Walker's fluoro nylon parkas.

Marc Jacobs said he had been inspired by "the '70s doing the '20s doing the '30s doing bathing beauties of the turn of the century".

But when his models emerged in their silver bomber jackets and trench coats, sequinned flapper tops and dresses layered over sarouel and tulip trousers, they looked like post-apocalyptic desert nomads.

In London, baggy trousers got another look-in courtesy the Australian Richard Nicoll. At Preen, volume took on a futuristic slant in a series of sensational, fluorescent chartreuse bubble micro-dresses.

Paco Rabanne's 1966 debut collection in Paris was called 'Twelve Unwearable Dresses'. Forty years later, London "club kid" Gareth Pugh looked to take cues from Rabanne – or the late, London-based, Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery – with a capsule "collection" of freakish-but-fabulous black/white and silver sci-fi-look coats and dresses.

Commercial Milan reinforced the "moon girl" mood.

Almost every collection groaned with silver shift dresses, with Lagerfeld deploying even black silicone at Fendi.

Although patchy, Matthew Williamson's second Pucci collection provided some of the season's sexiest sci-fi-look accessories: mirrored-and-clear PVC wedges and moulded enamel body jewellery, the latter a collaboration with jewellery designer Zenia.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's '80s rock tart D&G look with wet-look stirrup pants and black lace catsuits paled in comparison with the duo's Blade Runner-meets-Barbarella signature line show, whose android-look models were kitted out in sharply tailored pencil skirts and corsets using a maximum of PVC. In an extreme nod to fashion's current volume obsession, one moulded satin corset with exaggerated hips looked like it had been fashioned from stainless steel.

With Prada's supra-pubis skirts – which the designer later said were merely tops and tunics shown without the bottoms – micro became the major Milanese theme. Prada also showed modest, high-necked, long-sleeved tops that echoed one of her principal themes – uniforms.

Joining in Prada's "militaristic" mood this season were, in London, John Rocha, with his baggy, sarouel-like combats; Sinha-Stanic and their lab-look zippered separates and Jean-Pierre Braganza, with his metallised skinny pants. Even fellow Italian brand Missoni went combat with some of its spring/summer 2007 prints.

Raf Simons's signature skinny trousers and long-line jackets have long had a sleek uniform vibe. But this collection was peppered with electric shocks of eye-popping, almost fluorescent colour and a surprisingly high volume of cocktail dresses, including one knockout shift dress and draped gown, both in mother-of-pearl-effect clear sequins.

A "pretty punk" mood was seen in the hardware detailing of Burberry's silver stud-edged evening wear; silver grommetted black bikers' jackets at Gucci; grommetted gladiatrix dresses at Temperley; Aquascutum's heavily embellished trench coats; Balmain's grommetted cocktail dresses in the very uncocktail-like shade of fatigue green and Christian Dior's silver and copper chain-festooned cocktail dresses.

The athleisure mood prevailed at Marni, with wet-look trapeze jackets layered over sportif leggings. Lagerfeld also used a fluorescent pink athletic mesh-look perforated leather at Fendi. Jean Paul Gaultier's sport-nosed 30th anniversary collection boasted hooded silk leggings, tunics and bubble dresses; and Martin Grant's sporty collection featured one standout grey marle smock dress and a maxi grey marle tent dress.

But Paris well and truly nailed fashion's futurist mood via three key collections.

Balenciaga sent out a resolutely modern collection of skin-tight gunmetal grey and copper trousers and armour-like gold leggings topped with boxy, articulated jackets and moulded cocktail dresses in wet-look PVC.

Hussein Chalayan spent six months developing five mechanical dresses which self-transformed on the runway – providing the season's most ambitious piece of theatre. Chalayan's tulle-overlaid, colour-blocked cocktail dresses seemed moreover reminiscent of 1920s Italian Futurist artist Giacomo Balla.

At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz used high-tech/high performance fabrics such as parachute silk, metallised satin, wool mixed with silicone and cotton mixed with paper to create a graphic silhouette that included micropleated baby-doll dresses, lab technician-look, short-sleeved shift dresses and draped, metallised satin bubble dresses – many bearing hard-edged exposed zipper detailing.

"There is a huge feeling of freedom of women in the world and we all feel it, but it's not about the '60s – because then it was about the body, now it's the mind," Elbaz told the Herald afterwards.

"I am not about the powerful design, but about women that are strong, women that are independent, they are free. These are my women, these are my girlfriends, these are the women that I work for and I work with, and I think that when they are free they can dream about tomorrow. When you are blocked you go backward to romantic and I think that romantic is past."

However some designers did in fact feel very, very romantic.

Romantic, heavily embellished and detailed "demi couture" evening wear abounded in many collections, with several finale garments (for example, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen) literally festooned with hand-finished applique flowers.

Australia's Toni Maticevski slotted in here with his heavily embellished, romantic evening wear, as did New York's Rodarte and Zac Posen, whose fuschia satin puffball micro-dress with rosette-festooned hem was swiftly snapped up by the Parisian vintage retailer Didier Ludot.

Anna Molinari designer Rossella Tarabini told the Herald her collection of embellished rag dresses had been inspired by the late 1990s, when today's younger generation of women in fact first started raiding vintage stores.

McQueen's ashen-faced models in magnificent Edwardian evening gowns, some boasting trompe l'oeil tulle overlay and exaggerated padded hips – that approached the girth of Gaultier's plus-sized model Velvet d'Amour – seemed like the ghosts of couture seasons long past.

Two collections somehow managed to bridge the sci-fi and demi-couture genres.

The first, from London's new star Christopher Kane, was a single-note collection of banded, fluorescent micro-dresses that were heavily embellished with lace, lacing and applique.

The second, was Marc Jacobs signature collection, which segued into a finale of heavily embellished froufrou evening wear.

Jacobs followed through the romantic mood with an entire collection of voluminous, layered, pannier skirts and corsets for Louis Vuitton.

Inspired by Tinkerbell and co, Jacob's ethereal Vuitton muses seemed as much a part of the season's fantasy genre as Barbarella.

"Our inspiration was fairies and things that were other-worldly and magical and beautiful and fresh and full of good feelings and energy" said Marc Jacobs backstage.

He added, "I don't know, maybe something in the imagination a little bit, not something that's so real".

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