They say in fashion that skirts are shorter when times are good, and grow longer when times are hard. While we won’t go in-depth into the correlation of hemlines and collective societal prosperity, it is worth noting that there was a glaring lack of short skirts for fall. Fashion has always been the best mirror to reflect what is happening in the world. While spring’s trends were all about a dreamy kind of escapism, undulating frills over pleasant pastels, and glamorous femininity were all the rage, fall is all about bravely facing our reality for A/W 2018. With the constant threat of nuclear warfare, the moral debate surrounding the #METOO movement, and the looming dread brought about by climate change on all of our minds — how does fashion stay relevant? How does fashion face the reality of our times?
On the runways, designers have responded by showing a united front. Protection was a massive theme from New York to Paris; with the return of the oversized protective blankets, wrap cardigans, padded puffers, and fluffy oversized shearling coats. Across the board, designers are giving women an extra layer of protection to help them face not only the cold winds of winter, but everything else in between.
In this context, the renaissance of the puffer jacket comes as no surprise. After a few seasons of being sculpted, stretched, and draped in every which way over at Balenciaga and Vetements, the puffer is further pushed to new heights — both literally and figuratively. Collars were raised to cover most of the face at Chalayan and House of Holland; and the usual nylon fabric was replaced with jewel toned silks at Huishan Zhang and invigorated with zebra prints over at Ashley Williams. Sarah Burton took the theme of protection to a decidedly symbolic level and used the quilted puffer to represent a metaphorical cocoon giving way to a fashion metamorphosis.
Purposeful layering also made a return this season, with designers foregoing traditional fur for faux and shearling alternatives. Roksanda presented a sumptuous collection filled with oversized checked blankets layered overa wonderful array of earthy camel shearling coats and quilted scarves. At Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, we saw luxe nomads and a thousand references to Mongolian and Tibetan dress. Voluminous shearling coats layered over shearling fringed chinoiserie, or translucent drawstring poncho layered over fringed open toe stilettos. Combinations that at first sight are seemingly mismatched, but invite us to peel each layer upon closer inspection.
Jonathan Anderson returned to the Foundation UNESCO for probably his best LOEWE show in recent years, Nicholas Ghesquiere returned to Louis Vuitton’s historical archives, while Paul and Joe closed off Paris Fashion Week with a nostalgic return to designer Sophie Mechaly’s youth. Beyond the warmth of shearling and multi-faceted layering; it seems that designers are also seeking protection by returning to what is familiar.
Speaking of that familiarity, it must be true that we often feel protected by what we know. Designers called back to the comforting familiarity of traditional patterns and fabrics. Heritage checks and tartans arrived in all sorts of iterations followed by archetypal floral brocades. Isa Arfen, Lacoste, Marta Jakubowski, Rejina Pyo, and Markus lupfer harked back to autumnal plaids checks and tartans; with the latter layering belted oversized patterned cardigans with oversized scarves. Mulberry on the other hand, took their heritage towards the future. Transforming Spencer house into an immersive event that explored archetypes of Englishness – featuring wide brimmed hats made to match gorgeous Edwardian wool coats.
Autumn’s brocades took inspiration from dark romantic blooms, as traditional jacquards remained mostly unchanged on the runways of Roland Mouret, (an outstannding show) Erdem, and Emilio de la Morena. Marques Almeida took over the cavernous tunnels of Leake Street with a Lacroix inspired collection urbanised for the now. The graffiti strewn underground arches of Leake Street serving as the perfect backdrop for their collection composed tie-dyed workwear, eighties brocade mini dresses, spliced bombers, and white punk platforms. On the other end of the spectrum, Edeline Lee made a case for restraint. Her beautifully crafted collection presented a number of highly wearable beautiful draped crepe dresses and a number of sleek suits, capes, and dresses with a Zen Garden inspired jacquard motif.
Familiarity also arrived by way of the rebirth of the logo. With the rise of logo culture in recent years, designers both big and small are capitalising on the power of their own brand. The trend almost feels like a juxtaposition from the protection theme, but does it serve as a reflection of the narcissism of today’s me society? After last season’s tribute to Gianni Versace, Donatella presented the iconic Versace Logo in every way, shape or form. Following the reincarnation of Burberry’s Nova Check last season, Christopher Bailey presented the Nova Check in a spectrum of rainbow colours for his swan song in Burberry. Meanwhile, Henry Holland looked back at his sprawling ten year archive and created an archetypal wardrobe for the House of Holland woman. Returning to the bold featuring florals, tartans, and camouflage prints — all of which are Henry’s signatures.
The logo mania didn’t stop there. Faustine Steinmetz, who always has fun playing with her logo, veered away from her denim comfort zone and created a series of loose wool outerwear looks stitched with her name. The design duo at Fyodor Golan, on the other hand, took athleisure references and a fitting collaboration with MTV, to create an energetic collection filled with stunning colour blocked looks in billowing technical fabrics.
Beyond the logo, designers also returned to the nostalgia of the branded luxury silk foulard. Luxury houses like Gucci and Hermes have reinvented their silky signatures, which in their heyday gained just as much brand recognition as their logo-heavy streetwear counterparts today. In the sensory overload that was the Gucci show, Alessandro reincarnated the iconic Gucci floral silk scarf. Sending down matching sportswear separates, oversized draped button downs, and sculptural headscarves, all in beautiful flower patterned silks.
At Toga, we saw the familiar spliced reversed blazer decorated with the lush colours of classic vintage foulards. Whether it revealed itself the inseam of a dress or coat, or worn to add flair to a leather belt; the gorgeous silk scarves became an overarching theme that unified yet another strong offering from Toga. At Peter Pilotto, silky bias cut dresses, and opulent pantsuits shared the same silky inspirations. Richard Quinn took inspiration from one of the Queen’s traditional silk scarves, and created a visceral explosion of silky foulards and floral prints for one of the most exciting shows of London Fashion Week.
It is worth mentioning how these very same silk scarves were styled this season, often used as head covering for yet another layer of protection. From Calvin Klein to Gucci, and whether it be by form of silk scarf, balaclava, full face printed spandex or even prim linen bonnets designers have embraced the decorative and maybe even symbolic value of head covering. Following from Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s ode to the Scarlet Letter last spring, the head covering trend seems to indicate a leaning towards more puritanical aspirations. Does the call for modesty serve as a counterbalance to the loudness of logo culture? It is hard to tell. We ask ourselves why programs like The Handmaid’s Tale have captured our collective imaginations when women’s voices are louder than ever before? Maybe it is the feeling that, despite the seeming irrationality of it all, we are only a few steps removed from this parallel universe.
In the face of all these bleak realities, it seems there is always a place for statement making fashion. On the runways, there was no lack of glitzy occasion wear and neon sportswear pieces that feed our need to shine through these dark times. Neon has returned to be one of this season’s most eye-catching trends and for more than one reason. Prada took one of its most famous icons, the Prada nylon bag, and expanded it into a futuristic collection full of reflective synthetic workwear, rubber nylon walking boots, black tulle, and florescent plastic fringes — undeniably one of Prada’s most memorable shows in recent history. Across the pond, British designers also jumped on the neon trend. Nicola Formichetti presented a hodgepodge of different references with his ultra-cool streetwear label NicoPanda and, Natasha Zinko, challenged traditional corporate dressing with a fluorescent fantasy of her own.
Whether its lamé, tinsel, foil, or metallic plisse — if we are gonna shine, we might as well make a splash out of it. Osman presented a loungey collection filled with lush metallic pieces; two pastel toned metallic crushed leather looks, and a billowing bronze tunic made for perfect party dressing. Paula Knorr literally presented her collection on metres of sequinned fabric. Her pearlescent numbers hugging her models in all the right places, no matter what their age. Over at Temperley, Alice Temperley presented a collection that combined the utilitarian appeal of military khaki and gold lamé. Julien Dossena sent down the signature chain mail looks at Paco Rabanne – but reimagined for women of 2018. The iconic mid-length chain mail slip worn over a striped jersey t-shirt dress is a refreshingly modern take on Paco Rabanne’s signature, with Julien looking back whilst still moving forward.
Finally, we finish off fall 2018 by crossing new frontiers. On the runways of Miu Miu, Chloé, Isabel Marant, David Koma, and Louis Vuitton we saw a fantastical flurry of Western references. Looking to the barren landscapes and gun slingers of the Wild west for inspiration, designers presented fringed leather jackets, bronco style silk shirts, chunky earth toned ponchos, and embellished cowboy boots. The Wild West makes for one of this seasons’ most entertaining trends, but also foreshadow our underlying state of mind. Is this an emotional journey towards uncharted territory? Similar to how early pilgrims settled on the plains of America, are we also settling into new frontiers?
People often question the relevance of fashion in front of all the uncertainty we face in 2018. And while fashion can be seen on many levels, from what buzzy brands dominate your Instagram feeds to the trends that inform consumer behaviour, fashion is and always will be the greatest mirror of our time. So for all of us in the know — here’s to hoping for shorter skirts in 2019.
Words by Hannah Tan