Friday, August 26, 2011

Sophisticated Fashion Returns for Fall


MANILA, Philippines -- The enduring legacy of the late Yves Saint Laurent, who would have turned 75 at the beginning of this month, looms large over fall’s fashion landscape.

Fashion directors credit the masterful designer—along with Cristobal Balenciaga, whose recent museum retrospectives have wowed crowds in San Francisco, New York and Paris—with inspiring this season’s return to more polished, sophisticated dressing.

“The absolute return of an updated, ladylike dressing was on every runway, from New York to London, Milan and Paris,” says Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus.

“Dressing up is the new cool; dressing down is old school. Clothes need to feel they were designed together.”

Downing cited several key components in fall collections: saturated colors like bordeaux paired with hot pink; ensemble dressing rather than separates; and menswear-inspired pantsuits, with both full-cut trousers and slim cigarette pants.

Balenciaga’s aesthetic is seen in the cocoon-shaped coats and lantern-shaped sleeves on various runways, while versions of Saint Laurent’s famous Le Smoking tuxedo and cigarette pants are appearing in many collections. So, too, is Saint Laurent’s propensity for mixing intense colors, such as complementary or contrasting hues being put together at Celine under Phoebe Philo, Downing said, and the black, white and cobalt pairings at Balenciaga.

The skintight, body-part-baring looks of past seasons have given way to a more minimalist approach. “It’s really about the beauty of the construction, and a simple, shapely silhouette,” says Nordstrom fashion director Gregg Andrews. He saw it in Gucci, Lanvin and Michael Kors, and although the fullness may recall the '70s, or the '40s, the interpretation is modern, not costumey.

“As we stripped away a lot of the embellishment and ruching, we get this controlled volume.”

One practitioner is New York designer Wes Gordon, who, just three collections into his career, is aiming to “make luxury relevant for a younger generation” through emphasizing “old-school” tailoring and sumptuous European fabrics.

“I think there’s something so modern about a cool blazer or a great coat,” he says. His favorite fall piece is the double-breasted camel coat that he showed with a creamy silk tie-bow blouse and high-waisted wool pants with leather trim.

“These pieces are not inexpensive, so they should be the most gorgeous cashmere and perfect-shade-of-camel coat that you can literally wear till it falls apart.”

Also channeling the mood is celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, whose much-hyped first women’s collection with sharply cut fitted suits in cream, red and black (including a shorts version), high-waisted trousers and tiered long dresses debuted at select department stores this month.

Andrews thinks the combination will appeal to customers and Zoe fans alike. “You can see a lot of her vintage inspiration in the prints and colors she uses; you can see that whole glamour aesthetic. The beauty of that collection is that she was able to achieve that glamour, but make it look effortless.”

This season’s tuxedo jacket is not just for black-tie occasions. Bloomingdale’s Fashion Director Stephanie Solomon suggests wearing it “in place of the standard blazer that you would wear to work, and in the evening, throw it over a little cocktail dress, in place of a cardigan.”

Of course, the millennial shoppers who favor Ugg boots, flip-flops and the military look weren’t even born when Saint Laurent introduced the tuxedo for women, Solomon notes. But she points out there are younger trendsetters from whom they might take some cues.

The newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton and Prince William, and the duchess’ fashionable younger sister, Pippa, will have “a tremendous influence” on the way young women dress in the fall of 2010, sHe says.

“We’ve never had style icons like them in terms of their youth and good taste, but I think what’s more important is that they’re addressing a segment of the population that has never dressed up before, never worn anything other than a miniskirt,” Solomon says. “That’s profound.”

As Americans witnessed during the royal newlyweds’ recent North American trip, even when the duchess wears J. Brand jeans, they’re belted and paired with a tucked-in shirt, hat and Sebago shoes—“put together,” Solomon said.

Kate “never looks ‘casual’—the word ‘casual’ is just not in her lexicon, even going on a shopping trip.” She dresses up her off-the-rack dresses with those ubiquitous L.K. Bennett nude pumps and clutches.

It all might sound a bit familiar—haven’t we seen those Mad Men suits, sheaths and gloves already?—but there’s a crucial difference with this season’s ladylike looks: attitude.

“As we cycle through the Saint Laurent moment with a '70s feel,” Downing said, “we’re seeing a love of the '50s and '60s, very much the attitude of Balenciaga and (AndrĂ©) Courrèges.”

“When we did it before, it looked very prim and proper,” Andrews says. “It looked like it was very dictated by rules.”

“This woman is ladylike this season, but you’re not afraid to talk to her, and she’s not afraid to run down the street and grab a cab. The other one was waiting for the driver to bring the car around.”


The experts: Ken Downing (Neiman Marcus), Gregg Andrews (Nordstrom) and Stephanie Solomon (Bloomingdale’s)

The palette: Saturated color and jewel tones: cobalt, purple and plum, Bordeaux red, magenta, emerald and jade green, mustard. “Black is not a trend; the new neutral is winter white,” Downing says.

The coat: Outerwear in bright colors; parkas, ponchos and fur vests.

The pants: Wide legs, high-waisted trousers and skinny cigarette pants.

The jeans: Colored bottoms. “The biggest trend I have seen in my many years, colored denim and jeans,” Solomon says.

The blouse: Bow-front blouses. “It works for women of any age and almost any person’s style,” Andrews says. “It can look ‘sexy secretary’ or more bohemian.”

The bag: Structured, top-handle handbags in faux or real leather, with croc- or snake-print effects and minimal hardware.

The shoe: “The shoe of the season is a pump, coordinating back to the handbag,” Downing says.

The details: Lace, leather, fur as accents on sleeves, pants and dresses. (NYT)

1 comment:

  1. I like the fashion theme. But, it's still better to wear the clothes that you are comfortable with. By the way, lovely clothes.