Fashion this season is a déjà vu. Rewinding and fast-forwarding at once, spring is a cavalcade of the greatest hits from every decade. Join us as our savvy stylist Megan Kyle Bennett celebrates some of fashion’s earliest rule breakers and their enduring designs that influence this season’s runway
CLASSIC IS AS CLASSIC DOES
Time and time again, we hear people say, “It’s a classic,” a term that has evolved over the years. In my teens, that word made me cringe… the word “classic” was synonymous with boring and old, or repetitive.
A few years later, I indulged in vintage magazines and early Hollywood movies. It was then that I exposed myself to iconic fashion moments, like a silk, bias cut gown that was introduced to the world by screen sirens like Jean Harlow in the 1930s, and of course black Capri pants with black flats bring Audrey Hepburn in the early 1950s. But even if attire is associated with trends of an era long past, some of it is just too good to confine to the parameters of their respective decades.
Today’s best fashion houses are raiding history’s vaults for their collections this spring, keeping in mind the old Picasso adage: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” Modern designers draw influence from fashion’s forebears, but with a fresh spin of unexpected twists, resulting in the best key pieces for this season. Designers have brought the past to the present, so there’s no need to reminisce… the best of fashion is back in a big way.
Among the array of trends in the spring forecast, the 1970s Luxe look makes a big impression. Think Jerry Hall and Bianca Jagger. Lots of high shine fabrics, sheer, underwear (or swimwear) as outerwear, ruffles, romantic, fringe, etc. Then the 1960s come to play with that era’s staples of stripes, florals, and whites. These vintage looks make for fresh and unique ready-to-wear pieces.
DARLING, WE HARDLY SEE YOU THESE DAYS
It’s not uncommon to see the source of a designer’s inspiration while viewing their latest collection. Sometimes just a subtle reference pops up, but other seasons a dozen or more fashion creatives pay homage to the same designer. While viewing spring 2016, the latter was apparent. Over the past year the fashion world said farewell to two iconic designers, André Courrèges and Arnold Scassi, yet their legacies live on this very minute with the futuristic and lush runway trends.
On January 7th the world lost the innovative designer André Courrèges. His fashion moniker, simply known as Courrèges is hard to pronounce, yet his designs are easily recognizable. Just look for Twiggy in a minimal space-age mini skirt with mid-calf silver boots and you who will know to whom I am referring. His design work was part of the Mod and minimalist movement in the mid-to-late 1960s. He took it a step further, by adding a space age element. By mixing silver fabrics with high shine vinyl, Courrèges created clean, angular silhouettes that were minimal but visually arresting. Ironically this look is associated with the past, because his intent was looking far into the future. He never stopped designing and his classic signature pieces are still sold all over the world. Miuccia Prada looked to Courrèges’ early work as inspiration for her spring 2016 collection as she embraced two big trends of the season: high shine and bold color. Like Courrèges, Prada uses clean lines and metallic elements on simple boxy shapes. The incorporation of Prada’s signature quirky accessories and kitschy prints gave the collection the fresh take that only Prada could create. Meanwhile, designers such as Esteban Cortazar, Isabel Marant and Rochas gave a nod to André Courrèges by infusing their collections with modern metals and high gloss fabrics. Whether an intentional homage or just coincidence, it is fitting that his legacy has left its mark all over this spring’s fashions.
Legendary designer Arnold Scassi had a zest for life and a huge influence on American and European fashion that evolved through the decades. Most notably, his luxurious textiles, punchy prints and over-the-top silhouettes were definitive of the fashion forecast of the 70s and 80s. A variety of designers this spring, each with their own signature style, show traces of Scassi’s mastery this spring. Polar opposite dynamos, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs have Scassi running through them, but reincarnated in very different ways. Stacy Bendet of the contemporary fashion powerhouse Alice & Olivia presented a glam 70s gal for spring. The collection included day to night glamour using bold stripes, silk fabrics, and lavish details, in addition to evening trousers that also paid tribute to the late designer. The celebrated Scassi will not be forgotten, and his heady, high glamour designs he leaves behind shall remain classic, always ripe for a fresh look.
At Naeem Khan, a portion of the spring collection showcased bright sequined striped jumpsuits for evening, reminiscent of Arnold Scassi. Khan and Dolce & Gabbana brought the Jet Set chic of early 1960s Capri to the catwalk with bright colors, head scarves, statement jewelry and Italian, folkloric embroidery. Both collections cleverly included day to night looks that will be forever timeless. The seaside glamour and paragon prints of Italian designer Emilio Pucci were evident in Khan’s collection and though he didn’t use prints, the patterns of ornate embroidery echoed the lines of a classic Pucci scarf. Additionally, Dolce & Gabbana celebrated bright prints and stripes while taking embroidery to a whole other level. The fashion house never runs short on sex appeal, or their signature element of lingerie. Their signature sheer looks, alongside the underwear as outerwear trend, trotted down the catwalks while other designers followed suit.
The new Gucci, designed under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, best exemplified the strong presence of the 1970s revival. The buzz that the spring 2016 show created reminds me of the excitement that Texas native Tom Ford generated for Gucci when he was new to the brand in 1994. This collection is bohemian, eccentric, luxurious, and glamorous much like the revolutionary British label Biba was in the 1960s and 70s. Biba’s wild op-art and psychedelic patterns, paired with sheer florals and art deco prints were groundbreaking to the world of fashion. A form of mania ensued, and spread from London to around the globe. The vintage-infused, free spirited attitude of Gucci’s current collection is wonderfully appealing and offers a mix and match spontaneity and accessible opulence, much like Biba in its prime.
AH, PARIS IN SPRINGTIME
The delectably, irreverent Hedi Slimane took Yves Saint Laurent (now Saint Laurent) for a spin in the 1990s, borrowing some of the genius glitz of Gianni Versace; and revisiting wild child John Galliano’s rock and roll couture made for the house of Dior. The power fashion houses of Dior, Givenchy, and Balenciaga are just as strong as they were more than half a century ago. It is the designs of the couturiers’ early years (circa 1950s) that inspired designers for this spring. The runways exemplified some key directives of these iconic, Parisian designers with cinched waists, crisp fabrics, ornate tailoring, couture textiles, and sculptural sleeves as major themes in ready-to-wear. Promising new talents like Area and Vyka Gazinskaya typified these elements; and similarly these ideas revamped into practical, but luxe daywear at the devil-may-care label Céline.
The perfect dichotomy of modest 50s and 60s and the racy idea of a sheer cocktail dress has been one of the biggest hits of the season. Credit should be given where credit is due, so I will give it. Though legend has it that the “bikini” came from the eponymous island and was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard in 1947, Réard was actually preceded by fashion, costume and swimwear designer Jacques Heim, who produced “the world’s smallest bathing suit” in 1946. This later was referred to as a “two-piece” and ultimately was generalized into the bikini. In the 1950s, the Parisian designer created iconic swimwear that was popularized by Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. The classic silhouettes of these bathing beauties were a runway mainstay this spring. Both Burberry and Balmain embraced the sheer look with Heim-inspired, chic briefs underneath. Balmain included well-tailored bolero jackets and matador ruffles, a Spain inspired attitude that was an undercurrent in a handful of collections.
Embracing the romantic trend, ornate and loose ruffles were adorned on almost every Alexander McQueen look that came down the runway. By adding pastels and delicate florals to the equation, a timeless and truly pretty collection was born. The young French designer, Alexis Mabille also used ruffles throughout his spring collection, but took things in a more relaxed direction and his vision was clearly informed by 1960s Valentino and 70s YSL. Bright, solid colors were artfully tempered with fluid lines that result in an effortless femininity.
EVERYBODY’S ALL AMERICAN
In addition to brights, pastels were momentous on the spring runway. The use of soft pastel colors and dreamy fabrics were beautifully executed through the artistry of Georgina Chapman’s Marchesa line. Chapman has not been shy about using the past as inspiration and one could easily conclude that Christian Dior ball gowns from the 50s were on her mood board this season. But more noticeably, the frothy, girly ball gown and dress designs from a bygone couturier of the same last name, Ceil Chapman. The under applauded, self–made designer from Staten Island understood the power of a beautiful dress, and found fans in stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.
Monochromatic use of all colors was big for spring dresses, as well as separates. Carolina Herrera used soft pastel colors with ethereal light and flowing fabrics alluding to the work of designer Pauline Trigere while Christian Siriano took to fluid shapes, and monochromatic ensembles, with cues more likely from Claude Montana in the late 80s and early 90s. Siriano successfully incorporated hoods, snoods, scarves, and capes by building them into his evening wear. This was reminiscent of Montana’s highly praised work he did for the house of Lanvin from 1990-92. The beauty, practicality, and ease of these garments, both then and now, make them a closet staple for now and many years to come.
When you hear someone say Jeremy Scott, the last thing that comes to mind is classic, but one of the first things is bright colors. In what many have said is his best namesake collection to date, he to looked to the past for inspiration by channeling the sensational 1960s concepts of masterful designer Paco Rabanne. His spring show was high on color and long on camp, which Rabane is not known for. But, every piece on the catwalk was adorned with palettes in the distinct material Rabanne used in his past designs. Scott’s collection was eye candy and a true valentine to Rabanne. Owning an item from either of these designers will never go out of style, because a conversation piece never ceases to talk in a gorgeous room.
Palettes of the Rabanne variety were not part of the first collection of 2016 by Thierry Mugler, but he did have some keys pieces that included chain maille that were referential to another of Paco Rabanne’s signature looks. As for the majority of the collection. Mugler created extremely wearable pieces that were both sporty and effortless and part of his spring collection is an homage to an American fashion maverick Claire McCardell. The style of the mid-century designer is just as refreshing today as it was in its heyday. In Mugler’s spring looks, McCardell’s influence is apparent in her nautical looks from the 1940s. These pieces are refreshed by using sharp tailoring and showing off a little more skin (two of Mugler’s strong suits), while embodying McCardell’s no-fuss philosophy. McCardell predominantly designed dresses, but will best be remembered for her beach jumpers and short shorts that became in vogue in the 1940s and 50s.
Designers who have embraced the past for the new mood of their gorgeous spring 2016 fashion collections have proven that anything worth revisiting must be worthy for now. Classic fashion is not necessarily a reminder from a bygone era, it is great fashion that can be renewed and updated now and in the years to come, which is truly classic style.