Spring/Summer 2017 is set to be a season to remember, what with Maria Grazia Chiuri as the first female head at Dior, couturier Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin, Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta celebrating its 50th anniversary with a joint menswear and womenswear show, Olivier Theyskens back at his namesake label after a 15-year hiatus, Alexander McQueen presenting a collection inspired by its founder’s Scottish heritage, Consuelo Castaglioni’s exit from Marni (which appointed Francesco Risso as its first designer-after-founder) and Sonia Rykiel’s unfortunate demise. From all that’s occurred in fashion thus far, two major narratives have emerged that will define the spirit of the season: '80s power and a new kind of sexy.
RESURGENCE OF THE '80s
Ah, the decade of power suits with exaggerated shoulders and tiny waists; ugly sweaters worn over brightly coloured leggings, and with neon socks, legwarmers and/or fingerless gloves; leotards, headbands and boots in one outfit; cropped tops paired with mini tutus; satin and spandex in all colours and patterns from zebras to planets; shirts six sizes too big with pants just as large; all manner of jumpsuits; prom dresses as daywear; and the crowning glory: the countless regrettable hairstyles, including side ponytails tied with scrunchies. As a whole, it looked like some bizarre fitness club on overdrive.
Subsequently, the late ’80s marked the dawn of skate culture and the golden age of hip hop – two phenomena that birthed streetwear and the notion of “cool”. Truth be told, these movements had anti-establishment origins. Rap music was used as call to action, while skate culture coined the term “rad”, short for – you guessed it – radical. At the time, western neoliberal countries, along with Eastern Europe, became increasingly hostile towards communist societies. Democracy triumphed. But today, we find ourselves in a questionable position with democracy. And being the postmodernists we are, rather than facing up to these present-day problems, we romanticise the past, hence this resurgence of the ’80s and the appreciation of its aesthetics rather than political ideologies.
And that is the reason we can now dub Chanel “streetwear” (with its current youthful direction), we see Thrasher shirts everywhere (even though their wearers never read the magazine) and ugly-chic sells like there’s no tomorrow (think Christopher Kane crocs, Miu Miu swimming caps, blinged-out Gucci eyewear and Céline’s granny-chic clasp bag). The Kenzo X H&M show alluded to popular ’80s freestyle dance, Balenciaga used George Michael’s Careless Whisper in its soundtrack, and Louis Vuitton’s collection looked appropriate for Blade Runner.
There is, however, a danger in constantly looking back – it begets a culture (in fashion, especially) that faces creative stagnation. As music and culture critic Simon Reynolds proclaimed: “The avant-garde is now an arrière-garde.” And being part of that rear guard – that is, out-of-date – is a complete no-no in the world of fashion.
Sexy will always be in, its simplest form being the exposure of skin and the focus on breastsand butts. That was clear this season with Saint Laurent’s mono-boob dress (echoing a famous 1973 Helmut Newton photo of Paloma Picasso, a muse of Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello for the current collection), Marc Jacobs’ daisy dukes, and Fendi’s sheer aprons. In addition, lingerie-inspired attire turned out to be another big trend – hello lace, bralettes, and loungewear. This type of sexy isn’t going anywhere, but it was clear at the SS17 shows that an evolution of sexy was taking place, a shift from the obviously risqué and blatantly sexy.
In the spotlight were alternative erogenous zones: collar bones, shoulder blades, the waist, the nape, to name a few. Valentino, for instance, was highly erotic: One look that seemed like a regular buttoned shirt from the front was actually cut midway behind, exposing the small of the back while a strap hugged the shirt in place at the waist. Meanwhile, Prada’s samfus cropped high on the forearm and trimmed with feathers, eroticised the wrist.
Then there was the sexiness of the brain, a little-explored but no less erogenous zone that was seen in more intellectual looks, like the bulky twisted dresses from Céline, which exposed the sides of the waist, and the collection of exaggerated shapes and masculine tailoring at Balenciaga presented on a diverse cast of models sporting pixie cuts, shaved heads, bobs, and long locks. Even the show notes at Louis Vuitton read: “Lovers of intellectual complicity, they sport fanciful T-shirts that reference the heads of the 18th-century fauns decorating the façade of 2 Place Vendôme.” The takeaway: “Sexy” sexy may be here to stay but truly, smart is the new sexy.
Check out the SS'17 Dossier in the February 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (out now on newsstands and Magzter).