The new wave of head-to-toe black looks in slick leathers and decadent fabrics casts a dark shadow over the season.
Twilight has fallen over spring’s garden of flirty ’50s looks, light-as-air fabrics and sugar-dusted pastels. Fall 2012 takes fashion in a darker direction, more easily defined by a mood than a trend. Black, in all its textural incarnations (patent leather, velvet, wool, fur, satin) rolled over the runways from New York to Paris like an impending storm cloud, urging us to take cover. But are these dark clothes for dark times? We haven’t experienced this level of sartorial sobriety since Fall 2009, when austerity reigned supreme as the result of a volatile stock market. This season, coverage is king (again) but there’s an underlying strength and sexiness to it this time around.
Call it the Rooney Mara effect: Gareth Pugh, Riccardo Tisci and Ann Demeulemeester channelled Stieg Larsson’s anti-heroine, Lisbeth Salander, with their strict, second-skin leather looks. No ink or piercings required, just confidence with a capital C. At Pugh, there were loads of skinny leather trousers; at Givenchy, a body-con turtleneck dress that flared below the hips looked like it was composed of latex; and at Demeulemeester, construction, shape and architecture leapt from the shadows into the spotlight. Part apocalyptic warrior, part goth, part badass hacker, this moody message also contains whispers of the erotic, as witnessed at Viktor & Rolf’s partial peep show. Jean Paul Gaultier brought street style to a dark place, pairing a deconstructed two-tone moto jacket with a razor-sharp pencil skirt. Donatella Versace resurrected the idea of protection with her lineup of crucifix-embellished coats and sweaters, chain-mail dresses and armour-like corsets. These sinfully good elements were reminiscent of her late brother’s final collection in 1996. Clearly, sex and religion never go out of style.
At some point during fashion month, these forceful winds changed direction, blowing a bygone era into present day. Victorian influences, from vintage-inspired lace to plush layered velvets, were infused with an element of dark romance, seemingly plucked from a dusty portrait long forgotten. Necklines ranged from high (Aquilano.Rimondi) to boxy and scalloped (Valentino) to off-the-shoulder (Salvatore Ferragamo), while collars were either starched (Giles) or ruffled (Oscar de la Renta). Capes made a comeback. How does one square of fabric possess so much power? The answer remains a mystery but the great capes of the season—at Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, L’Wren Scott, Valentino and Hermès—made this guessing game a sweeping success. Andrew Gn brought 19th-century decadence back to life with his elegant evening gowns, their voluminous sheer sleeves embellished with jet beads to hauntingly beautiful effect. Other looks were laced-up with strict authority or highlighted intricate latticework. The majority of Gn’s collection eclipsed the sun, but one particularly juicy plum creation, encrusted with a bejewelled black bodice and matching cuffs, managed to shine. Over at Bottega Veneta, black vines climbed their way up the top half of a sumptuous velvet column.
Designers continued this dark romance theme with sleek equestrian-inspired styles made to take the reins. Frida Giannini’s black-as-night jodhpurs were stuffed into sexy-ish over-the-knee boots at Gucci, while Tisci’s sleek capelets, tailored riding jackets and pony-hair boots at Givenchy seemed destined for a moonlit ride through the French countryside.
As for the statement-making extras, chokers have grabbed hold of the accessories world. At Yves Saint Laurent, Stefano Pilati chose the calla lily, the Roman symbol of lust, to accent his dark, moody collection. Dolce & Gabbana opted for the Baroque-inspired brilliance of sumptuous velvet and beads, and Salvatore Ferragamo encircled the neck with opaque stones. Night moves in so many wicked ways.
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