What do you do when times are tough? You play it safe. The markets are demanding it but so are consumers. Rather than extravagant, complicated clothes, people are focusing on simple fit, which is so rare as to have become an actual luxury. The truth is that we are now no longer accustomed to wearability, to clothes being linear and, for want of a better word, honest. In clothing terms, honesty is a well-cut overcoat, a hand-knitted sweater, a pair of trousers falling just right. It is about understated and well-made fashion, suitable for everyday wear and able to be worn in different situations and occasions. In short, clothes we can keep and wear for longer. It is clear that the real luxury goods are not the clothes or the accessories that we buy but what lies behind them, which represents what we are really looking for and need: simplification, clarity, comfort, space, naturalness.
This is what the Wearable trend is all about. Functional, practical clothes in which we can recognise our own normality, character and being. No frills. A style featuring sporty and/or utilitarian spontaneity in its basic elements with, in some cases, the addition of tailoring for extra safety. At times like these, some decide to take a perhaps less safe but more poetic and imaginative path, towards escape and travel. Voyages is for restless souls, for dreamers, for those imagining time and generational leaps, epic sagas and the lobbies of decadent old hotels. Here, textile weaves intertwine with complex histories, with mosaics and cameos, gold and silver, on dream outfits or simply ones that easily pack into a suitcase. Finally come flowers, and particularly roses large and small. Whether real or fake, embroidered or printed, at times they become one with the outfit. Flowered is expressed in different ways – in graphic black and white or in pale or bright colours. And it could not be any other way, because while it is true that some flowers blossom in winter, the vast majority are at their best in summer, which is when most of us want to wear them.
What makes a garment wearable? Comfort, of course, as well as its adaptability to everyday life, whether it is practical, functional and flexible enough to be paired with other pieces in the wardrobe. A variety of elements can play into this – from sportswear to utility – along with everything we consider as ‘daywear’.
Dries Van Noten mixes casual, sporty and utilitarian, while playing with motifs and materials such as rugby or shirting stripes, denim and chinos in his signature skilful blend of masculine/feminine. Oversize blazers or boxy jackets are teamed with sarongs and shorts or culottes, extra-long coats with men’s shirts, tops with sporty trousers.
How does the Hermès woman dress for a picnic? Comfortable yet deluxe, ça va sans dire. In intense shades of red, which later fade to a more basic, soft palette, crop tops and bra tops are worn with high-waist soft trousers, shorts or below-the-knee skirts and toe-post sandals. Fluid coats and trenches for cool evenings are slightly oversize and some feature slashed sleeves for a cloak effect.
Loewe also focuses on daywear, with pieces ranging from classic to casual in both style and colours, barring the odd bright flash. Polo shirts and blazers are worn with comfortable men’s shirts and Bermuda shorts for a very ‘boyish’ look. Extra-high-waisted trousers with hems puddling over the shoes are paired with chunky knitwear or more men’s shirts and jackets.
Miu Miu‘s ‘pantless’ fashion continues to influence many of the shows as well as the brand’s own latest collection, which has a markedly utilitarian feel inspired by uniforms and, more generally, a variety of archetypes ranging from students to security guards. So blazers, short or long-sleeved polo shirts, neck-scarf tops and shirts are styled with Bermuda shorts, pencil skirts, worn low rise, or micro-skirts (all with visible drawstrings) or an understated pair of men’s swim briefs with a decorative tie.
The travel theme is infinite, which is perhaps why fashion comes back to it time and time again when new ideas are in short supply. Putting talk of the creative crisis to one side, designers are moving confidently into this safe territory.
Maison Margiela showcases a generational transition represented by destructured clothes and the co-existence between masculine and feminine. A journey through time and space beginning with oversize coats, masculine suits and white shirts and continuing with a gradual dismemberment and flipping of the clothes: ‘peeling’ bustiers, skirts worn inside-out and plastic-coated dresses as if they were ‘vacuum-packed’ .
Rabanne‘s woman is also travelling in time but without knowing if she is going to the past or future, to the Middle Ages or the sci-fi age. Wherever she is headed, she dazzles in her little chainmail dresses, asymmetric tops and skirts with bling bling fringes, and her gold or silver hoods and sandals. The look is part Vestal virgin, part warrior and the effect is proud and powerful, just as creative director Julien Dossena wanted.
Giambattista Valli gives us a contemporary take on The Grand Tour, the historical rite of passage embarked upon by young European aristocrats from the 18th century onwards. Various types of dresses – bustiers, tunics, slip dresses – are used to reproduce prints inspired by Roman mosaics and cameos while others feature embroideries resembling folklore and traditional handcraft. Crop top-and-skirt sets also feature the same decorative style.
What better place to represent the idea of the journey than the hotel? The building on the Champs-Élysées where Louis Vuitton is soon to be based and where the show was staged, was originally the Élysée Palace, a hotel built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Nicolas Ghesquière was perhaps imagining a collection designed to be packed into a suitcase, with light materials such as muslin and crepon, soft, fluid pieces like oversize blouses, skirts and shirts worn with a crossover belt.
The popularity of flowers comes and goes, but there’s no denying they are a staple for designers.
Flowers and body-conscious silhouettes also feature at Balmain, on everything from buttons to bags, which resemble actual bouquets. Printed flowers in black or white or in colours appear on skirts and structured jackets, large and small floral appliqués feature on dresses, necklines and hemlines. Flowers also on the shoes, as if they actually sprouted on the feet and ankles rather than on vases or trellises.
At Chloé florals are referenced not in traditional prints but in the structures and silhouettes. These “crucial oxygenators”, as Gabriela Hearst calls them ahead of her final collection for the brand, are evoked by bubble sleeves and circular cuts but also by rows of sequins and wool fringes resembling roots, beads recalling stamens, and fabric pleats in the shape of a rose.
Flowers were always dear to the founder of Givenchy and Matthew Williams looked back at the brand’s archive for his floral embroideries, prints and hand-painted motifs on impalpable slip dresses and pencil skirts. The floral theme also features in the sculpted metal jewellery that discreetly accompanies the understated femininity on show.
From babydolls to bohemian dresses, 3D embroidered tops to masculine suits and all-over sequinned tunics, floral motifs are a constant on the Paul & Joe runway. This collection aims to pay homage to nature, outdoor living and countryside summers and the palette of pastel colours increases the feeling of being inside a Monet-style impressionist painting.